Sunday, January 31, 2010

Plot Masters

I don't have nearly as much time to read as I used to, largely because part of the time I used to read, I now devote to writing, so the reading comes on my commutes and in five minutes bursts here and there when for some reason I have a span of just a few minutes to kill, but I find I am reading much differently these days than I used to. Maybe it is that I now have four books under my... erm... lack of belt [a belt is only an accessory, so theoretically I COULD wear one, but they are really better left to strapping my muse's hands together so I can tickle a plot out of him... bondage is all they are good for, after all].

I'm watching movies differently too. I find I am appreciating truly masterful storytelling in a more... technical way.

So what is this metamorphosis we go through as we finally get our writing legs? And does this process happen to all writers? Or have some of y'all always BEEN plot masters?

Character Fetish

See, I've historically been all about character. I wanted character growth, and character experiences, and experience BY CHARACTERS of irony... but it was always about the people meandering through my stories. I really don't want to lose that, because I still love books that do that well. But perhaps I can do more than one thing well... I can hope.

Iain Pears

Under recommendation of two fellow Burrowers, when I asked for books about art thief stuff, I heard about a series by Iain Pears... Now NOTHING is more plot intensive than mystery. And Pears' books are shortish... I like his characters fine, but they aren't terribly complicated or developed, but I still find myself enjoying the books (and the Rafael Affair taught me about Icon forgery, which will be VERY useful in my rewrite of Illusions (book 2 of the trilogy)). I like the way sometimes a bad day leads to an unexpected coup. I like the way vices provide alibis. I like a bumbler or two.

My Reading to Replot

I am rereading LEGACY and finding my characters a little too competent... they're kids... I really ought to give them a little rougher time in solving things... (though frankly, I think writing it without and then adding those in is probably the more expedient route—so I didn't lose track of the story and all).

I have also spotted a dozen details I'd intended to be important or come up later, and CONSPIRACY, as I wrote the first 10 chapters completely missed that... it was my detour, methinks... writing DENIABILITY... though ANY long story is bound to have those. CONFLUENCE did, and it was a single book... The only books that don't have them, I think, are those written in a mad frenzy where the plot all sits in your head... that has happened to me ONCE, and I know it only happened because the book (LEGACY) was a PREquel to a book I'd been plotting for months.

I find I like this process though... reading to write the plot of the later books... only trouble is, I'm catching up with what has been typed. Making corrections and changes to the hand-written is probably going to be more difficult... need to find my red pen... the green might do...

To Loop Back Around...

So I am curious about the process by which the rest of you have developed... Did anyone else go through this plot epiphany, or was plot originally your strength and it is the other stuff that comes later? I'd love to hear how abnormal I am *snort*.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Scaling Back

Man, have I had a week of it... The shining beacon though, is I managed to stay (mostly) on plan and the scale is down—not a lot, but after the huge loss last week, I am okay with any loss and my two pounds down make me happy.

The Challenges

My husband went to the emergency room at 3 a.m. Tuesday. He'd been sick and the doctor on Monday said if he woke up unable to breath, to not screw around... just GET TO THE HOSPITAL. They admitted him and he spent 36 hours there, the first twelve under quarantine before they ruled out Swine Flu (felt like I was in a Michael Crichton book!--I love those viral stories...)

Where that left me was as single mom who still held a full time job, plus had to run things to my husband at the hospital and visit a little (my daughter thought it was not NEARLY enough—she may occasionally be a pill, but she is FULL of empathy... “Poor dad. I feel so bad leaving him there alone.”) She visited with me (illegally, as she is 14 and the rules during this epidemic are no visitors under 16—you know the deal on me and rules though...)

Probably don't even need to TELL you that I didn't get up to exercise at 5 a.m. after being up in the middle of the night... And because I called in sick, I also didn't walk to and from work. To add to that, ALL WEEK I failed to do my strengthening/flexibility stuff.

But I DID do my other days of eliptical and all but one other walk (it was only 0 on Friday morning, so Bob gave me a ride—exercise is good, freezing is NOT.

What I Managed

Amazingly, I ate in point range all week. It was the top of my range, and there were times it was REALLY hard because I was sort of flying by the seat of my pantslessness to pull everything together, but I managed.

What helped? Having a few freebies around for when I had to munch (bought peppers, which I love, and cucumbers and tomatoes—kids and I like those as a salad with a little feta. Allowing myself a couple 'allowed' but not normally indulged in splurges (I had 3 Diet Cokes this week, when normally we don't BUY individual soda servings—in fact usually the only soda I have is if I can fit in a mixed drink and have a rum and lemonade—the Sunkist lemonade is carbonated.

I guess it all comes back to planning and making it easy. A new week starts today and I can get back to my check list of kinds of exercises besides just the calorie burning ones. I survived a hell week, on plan and with a small loss... (even lost two inches off my hip bone line! Yay! That was the one that hadn't moved at the 2 week mark, but now at 4 weeks it did—it is the one that means though I am not in my next size down of jeans, I can only wear my fat jeans once before I have to wash them or they get too stretched out to really wear... PROGRESS!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Back to it...

I'm herding my ducks and in theory, they are in the process of scurrying back into line...  though some seem to be laying down on the job from time to time... but still laying is better than some other things they might be doing...

Let's just hope one lays the golden egg, though I won't hold my breath as... they're ducks... not a goose among 'em.

I suppose I could wax poetic about how badly I hate January, and how GLAD I am to be seeing its backside, though you all KNOW how I am about back sides, and that hating something isn't necessary for me to be pleased to see it...

So all I've got at the mo is a little news:

MY LAPTOP IS HOME!!!!  I had a NASTY virus/worm/parasite thing that each time I'd finally succeed in getting rid of would morph into some other form, so I took it to the vet... erm... computer version of the vet anyway... you know... for computerized ducks... and they reloaded my hard drive... Then it took me ages to remember how to reconnect the wireless to the DSL...

My Husband is Home

Note that was NOT all caps like the computer... you see, a fixed computer has no downside (even gave me an opportunity to reorganize my files).  A fixed husband who is trying to quit smoking is improved, but not without its drawbacks...  I REALLY want him to succeed and be healthy.  I REALLY want him to live a good long time (spent some time this week consoling a daughter who worried he wouldn't see her graduate from college or get married)--those are real fears if he doesn't succeed.  He may be 47, instead of old, but he had been VERY hard on himself for a LONG time.

My Deadlines are Met

In addition to the sick husband which meant I had to take a total of 2 sick days (one and two halves, but I know how to add fractions) I also have a deadline Monday that my boss will prefer to see the product on before I submit, so today was the day.  I made it (barely) but it meant that I've been absent from the internet until NOW.

It doesn't mean next week I can get back to playing at my desk for some portion of the day by any means--I've let other stuff fall to the side to get this done, but at least it helps.

The Wonky Duck

The writing is going to take a while to get back in line.  The book was going slow and I realized it was because I'd forgotten so many details, so before I finish, I am reading the first and second and making a brief outline (about two sentences per chapter) plus making notes on things I know I intended, but have forgotten to include until now.  It will all be better for it.

Oddly, there was a blog today on the agent view of this... just write the first and don't bother with the later ones unless someone wants them.  ARE YOU INSANE?  It is completely infeasible in my mind that three books could flow as a trilogy unless they were ALL done before the rewrite starts.  The point is taken--that if one of these doesn't cut it, you don't want to lose all three, but I refuse to believe a GOOD trilogy can possibly be written in isolation of it's counterparts. 

I recognize I am revealing reading and writing snobbery here (on probably a grandiose scale), but any trilogy written so disconnected from its brothers can't be written WELL (it might be entertaining).  I suppose those super-outliner types might succeed--or a VERY experienced writer--someone super-organized.  But I think most efforts undertaken this way are just books, not literature. 

There... my foot's in it now.  But I suppose if it weren't, you might not believe it was me...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Brief Hiatus

I normally try to blog every day, but I sent my husband to the ER last night in an ambulance and he's going to be in the hospital for a couple days.  They are testing, as it is either pneumonia or Swine Flu, so for the 3 days I have to be all things to all people in my real life, I am taking a brief blogging break.  I should be back Friday, or at the latest Saturday.

You people are fabulous!  Don't forget to spend a little naked time in my absence... can't have you reverting to old pants habits.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Deadlines? WTF?

Nobody pays me to write, at least not yet. I have no agent, no publisher, no master, so to speak, when it comes to my writing (other than me, anyway). So how the heck did I stumble across all these looming deadlines?

The Burrow

My writing family has a website where we do features of Drabbles—we do it monthly, but about half the time we do it as an actual 'production'. These productions include images and drabbles (a drabbles is a story told in exactly 100 words). For February we have a love theme (of course) and TODAY is the day our images are due.

I am not nearly so responsible as to claim I am part of the production team—I haven't had tons of time to be the project manager and I don't have the skill set for coding or image manipulation, so (and I am SO thankful) Jason and Natasha end up with the big jobs each time, and Chary managed the Advent Calendar (Natasha is managing the February feature). But I DO commit to participating every time—I will write 5 Drabbles for February, so needed 4 images (plus the group one we all do)...

I am bad though... I knew this was coming, and I'd even looked a little, but I want to do one on the 23rd about my dad (that would have been his 65th birthday, but he died at 31)... so THIS MORNING I finally took the pictures I'd found up to my office to scan so I could submit my images... flying by the seat of my pantslessness, as I seem to do with everything these days.

I still have my drabbles to write, but heck, I've got a couple days for that!


I have committed to this insanity, for better or worse, but have gone into a strange mode on my WiP (trying to pull together the three novels so they are consistent, which requires reading and notetaking) that leaves me little frivolous writing time... So here I am, on the day I need to post an update, with no update written... oh, it will be done, but again... winging it here...


Not sure when I decided daily was necessary, but I did... so there you have it, blogging about no time to blog.


I've decided to Amazon... still no word from those dangling queries, but I figure it's all good. That means I need to get my 300 word pitch JUST RIGHT, and do a proof of my Chapter 1 (which conveniently has 4000 words, more or less, so is perfect for the 3000-5000 word window for our 'opening' we are supposed to fit. And I need to format a version of the book a little differently (they don't want your name in the header, is really the biggie...

So somehow, in spite of my current amateur status, I find myself swamped... Ah well... just keep swimming, just keep swimming...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I'm a Big Loser

Seriously... Remember last week I grumbled about being up a little and all the reasons I suspected it was a fluke... an anomaly... well I was right. It apparently WAS a fluke, because this week it appears I lost an impossible amount, even with using all my banked points YESTERDAY (Chinese food and a couple cocktails--has Chinese EVER not caused water retention?  It's a first). In fact, in three weeks I've lost 15 pounds. You figure last week was a small gain and then do the math... two of these three weeks have been rather phenomenal. (I consider ANY week with over a 5 pound loss phenomenal, mind you, but I think this is only the second time I've ever lost this much in a 'non-first' week. The last time I was 24 (yes, I have a freaky memory for such things) and it was 9 pounds (that would be the REASON I remember).  So this is apparently something that only happens every other decade.

Now it's tempting to NOT believe the scale when you don't like it, and to believe it when you DO, but I am holding out some skepticism this week (did last night's Merlot(s), bought with banked points dehydrate me?). It just seems too big a change, so I am doubting the scale will move much (if at all) next week

How it Goes

I guess my wealth of knowledge, scored from MANY rounds of this, is that for ME, weight and body size changes seem to alternate weeks. This morning, out of disbelieving curiosity, I measured just a few points, and there is very little going on (you'll remember last week I said every week was too often to measure anyway), but dollars to doughnuts, next week, with baby weight loss (if any), the measuring tape will move. I have no clue if everybody is that way or not, but it seems to me there may be a tissue memory or something that keeps us a certain shape through daily fluctuations and takes a little while to say “Oh, that fat's not coming back, time to adjust”.

Any of you scientific types are welcome to refute me, but I'm not probably going to buy it unless you explain why this really happens, because it DOES happen.

Turning Back Time

So in terms of weight gain progression, this morning's weigh-in puts me at about what I weighed when I broke my hand at the end of 2008 (I mildly sprained my ankle at the same time and had to give up my walk to work for a week, and the POWER walking for about 3). At the very least, I've erased all of 2009's toll on my body, so that's something.

So I Don't Appear Ungrateful...

While I remain skeptical, I also am THRILLED. Part of it, is I am about to roll under another '10' marker which seems significant for probably arbitrary reasons. The loss of 3 pounds from 139 to 136 somehow seems less meaningful even than say the loss from 142 to 139... I know in my head three pounds is three pounds, but those markers that roll you to the next... erm... decade?  I know that's not the right term, but I don't know what 10 pounds of weight is, yet somehow it seems significant all the same--changing TWO numbers of weight, instead of one.

AND THIS JUST IN! I LOVE being able to say I've lost a stone (and I have) so there. A stone is 14 pounds and sounds like an extraordinarily heavy amount... Never mind that I want to lose 5 of them... one is gone, and it pleases me. I will probably always be an anglophile... The stone terminology is just a bonus...

So I am celebrating with a Diet Coke. It isn't the grand fiesta it will be when I get to my next size down on jeans (I've got a REALLY cute pair of jeans that needs me to lost ANOTHER 15 pounds--daughter approved even--"Mom, wear those, they look good"), it is STILL a fiesta.

I know I have a lot of friends on the journey too, so I want to REMIND YOU—last week was bad, scale-wise, in spite of ME being good (well... eating and exercise good... I won't give up being naughty) which might have discouraged me, but I persevered, and it TOTALLY paid off... just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming...

Friday, January 22, 2010

To Amazon or Not to Amazon

Being an Amazon Queen, one would think this was an easier decision, but I am coming up on the deadline (Monday is when it opens and it stays open two weeks 'or until they have 10k entrants', which, for all I know might be fifteen minutes in, though I honestly believe I should have all day), and I am completely stumped as to whether it is a good idea or not. I thought maybe I should do a list of pros and cons and see if it got me anywhere... and because I am contrary, I will start with the cons...

Before get on with my personal reason's though, want to point you to Helen's December Post on the topic which is much more thorough, and a better guide if YOU are making this decision than my post will be (which is limited by the issues I find relevant to my situation and my miniscule knowledge on the topic).

Good Reasons NOT to Amazon

Stuck with their Contract: Now I don't really have issues with the $15,000 set 'advance'--if the book sells more, you'll make more, so this doesn't bother me. Sure, I have dreams of a book going to auction someday (who doesn't?), but I have my doubts that I am that one writer in 20k [/shotinthedark] for whom that happens on their LONG debut novel. Somehow it even seems to jinx me more to live in the same town as the last woman to do it that I know of (Elizabeth Kostova). What isn't really clear is how the rest of their royalties are set. The current status quo on eBooks for instance seems damn unfair to authors because the cost for the physical production has gone away—it seems to me authors should get an equivalent share of the REST of the things that go into it (so 30% instead of 15% if half the current book cost goes to the physical BOOK) if you know what I mean. At the moment, the PUBLSHERS (sellers?) are getting to keep that extra.

Counter: This is only my first book-- I have lots of books in my future to try to do better with. My eggs are not all in this particular basket, and an Amazon win would be a nice resume note.

Queries out there: What happens if, right after I submit, I get a request for a full? Even requests for partials I feel obligated to disclose on (or do I? Sheesh, what's the protocol?) And I do have that partial out there (plus the requested chapter)... two requests for more are thus far balanced by only two rejections with almost a dozen 'haven't heard a peep' still looming, and by submission opening, I am only 3 weeks out. Is that enough time to give those queries their chance to work? (obviously NOT, but were they going to work anyway?)

Counter: How likely ARE these queries to work... I mean really...

The Good Ship Amazon

Book Length: I've been wrestling my book length since the first time I finished this puppy, and I currently believe, for better or for worse, that about 80% of agents see ANYTHING longer than 120k and tune out. It's possible that I'm not getting that discrimination to the same degree now, but Amazon is a rare opportunity in being perfectly content to read such a high range of word counts. There will undoubtedly be longer books, and my long book, happens to not be as cumbersome as some long reads (at least I believe that's true).

Review opportunity: the opportunity to get feedback from within the industry is something I just haven't had an opportunity for elsewhere... sure you need to get past the first two tiers, and it's possible I won't—tier 1 is based on a pitch, and I feel like I'm getting there. Tier 2 however, is first 3k-5k words and I run up against my 'not quite fast enough first chapter' (though the criteria look like I should fare well—prose, character development... none of it mentions 'fast dive in' though it DOES mention hook) and if you pass those two tiers, you get feedback!... if you get to tier 3 you should get manuscript feedback. (in fact to ME, this might be considered 'winning'--getting this feedback but not being strapped with their contract. (though a sure thing contract is pretty darned nice, even at less than ideal terms—somehow I think Amazon winners sell at least a respectable number of books...)

Winners go to Seattle! (I have friends and family—lots of them, in Seattle). And many more live drivable distances. This is just a fabulous opportunity for a party, should I get into that elite final group. I think though, the finalists who DON'T win are in a tough spot—Penguin gets first dibs at contract if they want it, but there is no dollar value. It is sort of hazy language to my non-legal mind—if I were to pass to this round, I definitely will want an agent maneuvering it for me.

So there I am, in a conundrum on the matter. I will probably remain in a conundrum until/unless I impulsively do something next week because I have a very hard time doing NOTHING and this contest entry is at LEAST doing something, and something that takes the whole thing off the table for a good long time at that. (which has definite appeal—being done for a while, I mean...)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tart Endorsement

Brought to you by NAKED THURSDAY!
And dedicated to the GURU of Snuggie, Kevin.

I’ve been on the fence for a long time on the Snuggie. As a dedicated nudist, I hold firm that clothes, particularly PANTS are evil (I even recently joined the pants as a swear word group on Facebook!—you can join too!), but I have to be honest. I run cold. I particularly run cold when I am trying to eat fewer calories than I burn (read: diet).

And it’s the dead of winter… the odds are stacking against me; can you feel it? So I look for options, if youknowwhatImean.

This just in! Slippers and Mittens are NOT Clothes!

They are ACCESSORIES, and therefore, okay by me. Though you should always be sure not to choose slippers that clash with your tiara.

So for some time now, slippers and a blanket have done this nudist just fine, except the blanket has these GAPS at the side that let cold air in! Man, I hate that—being 90% warm and having a strip up the side of my thigh freeze because the blanket has gaped.

Enter Snuggie Option

Now the benefits to this are obvious… It is enclosed on all sides except the head and arms… and it seems to me I see people walking in them, so perhaps the feet can exit when necessary.

But I was a skeptic… I mean REALLY, if you are entirely covered, isn’t that almost like CLOTHES?

And so, while holding warmth as GOOD and clothes as BAD, I have remained undecided about the Snuggie, until now.

SnuggieSutra —your answer to getting around all that fabric… to taking advantage of one of NUDITY’s advantages from the comfortable warmth of you Snuggie.

I could hardly withhold an endorsement with this new information, so there you have it… the Tart’s first official product endorsement. The Snuggie is Naked World Domination Tour friendly and strongly preferred to clothes.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What Makes a Writer?

I normally try not to borrow content too much, but yesterday, Moonrat did a Myers-Briggs Survey with her readership and I was STUNNED with the results. Let me e’splain…

Affinity for Fellow Writers

It isn’t hard to notice the kinship writers feel with each other. Some even feel compelled to start a band together *cough* We are alike in fundamental ways. We approach the world similarly. We enjoy similar activities. But this has never seemed to me a concrete thing before. I’ve always fancied us a group that is eclectic and hard to pin down. We simply have maybe… a common approach or something…

My Psych Background

I LOVE psychology or I wouldn’t have studied it through two degrees, but I have always held out a little skepticism for any systems of classification. I prefer to look at social influences—predictions of behaviors or outlooks that are situational or perceptual—NOT personality. I am definitely a nurture gal… nature deals us a set of inclinations and abilities, but in my opinion what we do with that package has a broad spectrum of possibilities.

That said, the Myers-Briggs, because it is multi-dimensional, because it can wiggle a little in response to all that nurture stuff, is more appealing than most.

The first time I took the test (in grad school), I got INTJ. My Professor had said that was what he had, so when I said, “me too,” he told me how rare it was. At that time, my I-E ratio (introversion, extroversion) was 55/45—pretty middling, but introverted. The others were all well into their range.

Oddly, though I didn’t take the test again for many years, the next time I took it, it wasn’t the I that had changed, but the T. I’d gone from being a Thinker, to a Feeler… I attribute that to having children. There are several things that changed in my life between those times, but that, and the difficulties worked through with my spouse are the only things that would predict a shift from thinking to feeling (possibly not being a student anymore, but I WAS an academic)… everything else would work the other direction.

So What’s All this Crap Mean?

I-E—Introversion Extroversion: seems pretty self explanatory, but… it says it is actually a means of cognitive functioning… whether a person sort of deals in terms of behavior, action, people and things (extroversion) or reflection and ideas (introversion). It’s a little different twist on how we normally think of these ideas (others oriented, versus solitary)

S-iN—Sensing versus Intuition: these are about information gathering and what we trust. Sensing people like their ‘evidence’ to be present, tangible and concrete. Intuitive trust information that is more theoretical or abstract. (this is the pair that is about PERCEIVING)

T-F—Thinking and Feeling are about decision making. Thinking is more detached and objective, feeling is more through empathy. (This is the pair that is about JUDGING)

P-J—Perceiving and Judging is a distinction for which TYPE of information is dominant in how a person processes—so which of the above pair takes dominance in a person’s personality.

Here is a description of what the 16 combos mean:

Common Personalities

In the general population the sensing feelers have it… the whole column that has SF has 8% or more, with the SFJ’s being the most common types on the board, whether introverted or extroverted. The STJs are right up there, too. Among those 6 personality types you get 64% of the population.

On the other tail are the NTs, not adding to 10% for 4 types. Intuitive thinkers are apparently rare, but also rare are the NFJs.


And this is why I have bothered with all of this… it would have amused me anyway, but what actually happened, was I was stunned, shocked, knocked off my chair in disbelief…

The least common and third least common personalities among the population made up 49% of the people who took Moonrat’s quiz (people, because Moonrat is an editor, who are predominantly WRITERS). Among WRITERS these are the most common personalities, and not just by a little bit.

So writers are introverted… no real surprises there—dealing with reflection and ideas rather than the external world? Sounds about right… Intuitive rather than sensory? Again… this is not surprising that we like the theoretical and abstract better than the concrete… that we are willing to believe without evidence…

We are equally split among thinkers and feelers and I would bet good money there is both a gender split and a genre split here (higher percentage of men thinking, women feeling)—but also I bet the thinkers are our ‘plot wonks’—thrillers, mysteries, where our feelers are the romance and the character driven stuff.

This final summary amused me greatly. Seems maybe, with my world domination plans, I am an INTJ after all…

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Getting Loopy

[She’s already loopy] I heard that.

The kind of books I write, because they are the kind of book I like to read, inevitably loop back on themselves… What do I mean? I mean I like all the subplots to head back into the main thing eventually, I like foreshadowing from early on to be relevant to the final action sequence.

But I have reached the point in this trilogy where I’m looping, and MAN is it a lot of work to keep everything straight! In the first book I had some events that need to be gone through from a different perspective (and place, usually) but carefully keeping them in line so it’s not inconsistent. In the second book I introduced characters that I now need to give a ‘how they came into play’. It is a mad mess of things to keep track of.

My Primary Failing

I’m not the world’s most organized person. In fact as I type that, I can hear my husband across town laughing. I’m pretty darned bad at it. When I was younger I didn’t really NEED organization because I had a FABULOUS memory, but two pregnancies and 20 years later, that memory is no longer what it used to be. (I usually blame Sam—my pregnancy with my son caused a noticeable drop and it has never rebounded—since he is SMART, I generally just say he got a major portion of my brain, including the part with the memory storage)

I know in my HEAD that I should keep notes (in fact when I wrote DENIABILITY—my NaNo novel, and the only one I’ve written at the computer) I at LEAST kept a character file—it’s easy in Excel. When I am hand writing though, taking the time to take down notes really throws me off. The only time I do it is to note FUTURE things I want to come out of something… ideas for later.


When I wrote CONFLUENCE I handled all this stuff in my rewrite—I didn’t worry about it as I wrote. It made some sections of the rewriting a little tedious, but it seemed okay, possibly because I had a really clear vision of where things were happening and that didn’t change over the book.


The problem now is I am dealing in a realm I am less familiar. I’ve mentioned the art theft (think I’ve worked out my organizational structure with names and everything, so that will help), but the mystery here is more convoluted. In LEGACY the characters were kids and teens, so I was okay with not entirely understanding everything—it was truer to voice that way. ILLUSIONS I had a teen and an adult who is trying to help find some answers (so somewhat clueless). CONSPIRACY though, is from the perspective of two people who’ve known for the most part, what is going on… so now I have to figure out what is going on… Oi!

In LEGACY Athena found ‘clues’… now I have to go through the thought process behind LEAVING those clues… The whole thing just feels a lot bigger than it did in either of the other two books.

It’s possible I shouldn’t have written any of it until I knew, but that isn’t really how I work. I write with a general ending in mind (which is still in mind) but not the detailed path by which it is reached. So now, a third of the way into the last book, when I am to the point in ‘backstory’ where it all becomes clear, it is time to really pound it all out and make it work.

Keep in mind this isn’t entirely unexpected… I’ve said from the beginning that LEGACY would not get edited until all three were written because I knew I may have to adapt to things in the later books (heck, even names have changed!).

But it doesn’t change the fact that I think the next half dozen chapters are going to be hell to pound out… then the end will fly—since I sort of know how THAT is supposed to work…

Anybody have fool proof methods for keeping complexity straight? I’d love to hear them, especially if they don’t require me to get organized…

Monday, January 18, 2010

Calling All Art Thieves!

Though my own art skills ceased to develop after about kindergarten, I actually know a fair few artists, but I don't know a single person who steals the stuff! And honestly, what I REALLY need, is someone in the administration branch of a RING of thieves.

Writing What you DON'T Know (and can't really figure out how to find out)

This is the second book in a row where I am finding myself leaving blank spots because there is a large gap in my knowledge base and I just can't wing it because too much depends on getting it right.


[hmmmm... am I the only one for whom that keyhole looks suspiciously penis-like? Too much time at Accidental Dong, perhaps...]

Anyway... The two central characters in DENIABILITY are a Psychiatrist and a 'Spy' (sort of). The Psychiatrist I can do a fair job with. It's a job I considered having until my freshman chemistry lab taught me that people in pre-med are a nasty lot (by and large—I know a few docs who are fabulous, and must note the exceptions) and under no circumstance did I want to spend twelve years with them (as a collective). I've watched shows, read books—probably most importantly, PAID ATTENTION.

Spies though... while spies interest me from an entertainment perspective, all the movies and books show spies... SPYING! I need to see a spy being TRAINED to spy. In fact REALLY what I need is to see a Bounty Hunter, or maybe a (non-religious) terrorist of sorts be trained. Those are the pieces this book is missing and could really benefit from me getting just right.


With CONSPIRACY, it is the art thieves. I know HOW they are stealing art—that isn't too difficult... well, stealing the art would be difficult, but these guys have a system—my imagination supplied that one alright, so they're set on that. But this organization requires a relatively large group of intertwined people. To top it off, about 75% of them need to have realistically Romanian names, so from the bathtub I am having trouble conjuring what to call my various people...

The Problem Clarified

So what does one do when encountering something important to a plot that you've worked out that is unlikely to have a few nice, clean hits on the internet? My instinct is I need to find a couple books to read (love an excuse to read!) and maybe a few movies to watch, but I need to be careful they get at the angle I WANT and not just the more commonly seen 'theft itself'. Thieves are so often made out to be buffoons, and I am not interested in that, at least not at a collective... these guys are smart enough to have pulled one (several) over on some smart characters, so they need to be written well, organized well, and believable. Same for the Spies or Bounty Hunters.

So I am throwing out two topics I would LOVE feedback on.

Do any of you know of any great books that show 1) art thief rings from the inside, or 2) the TRAINING of spies or Bounty Hunters?


How do you writers approach topics you know nothing about that elude traditional research?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

How Long Is Yours?

Some of you may recall my list on Friday of blogs that got me thinking... One of them is a blog topic unto itself... possibly a rant of sorts... not that I have a goal of pissing anybody off, but it is something that has irked me since I started into this publishing morass. Rules, Rules and DAMN Rules. Of all the rules, the one that irks me most is book length. The reason it irks me so badly, is I believe strongly that the length of the book should be determined by how long it takes to tell the story—no more, no less.

And you know what? I don't CARE what genre it is! I don't CARE if romances and mysteries are supposed to come in at under 300 pages. It's crap. If the story isn't complete, then it takes more time to tell.

Predictability Peons

I get that there are some readers who are afraid of a nice fat book. And I myself am a reader that can't bring myself to pay good money for something that looks like I could finish it in a day—takes everything I have, no matter HOW highly recommended, to actually pay money for a book less than 300 pages.

And that's a damn shame. Had I not had a coworker with a copy, I never would have read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It's become one of my favorite books, but I just wouldn't have done it because I have a length bias.

I suppose it is we tarts who like 'em long...

But what I HEAR, is that the genre readers have an expectation and won't buy something that falls outside of that. Now I get how tempting a sure thing is, really I do. But what about appealing to a NEW market? There have got to be people like me who prefer our mysteries with some meat on their bones. I LOVE mysteries... when I can buy them in the mainstream section and they have a nice 400+ page count, because THEN there is character as well as plot.  (I  like them otherwise, but I LOVE them when there is more to them)

I will be honest and say I am still darned picky about my romances, but the handful of romances I've LOVED in my life have been books like The Thornbirds, or Five Smooth Stones—big books that get into deep issues.

So when I read the advice that an Urban/street/literary mix can't go long, even when it was a clean read, it made me want to cry.

We are living in a time when War & Peace or A Suitable Boy could not have been published. Are you KIDDING me? Leo Freaking Tolstoy could not publish a book? And I just have to cry foul, both because this is my favorite author ever, and because I think it means we risk losing something really important if the decisions rule out such works.

My Vision... such as it is

What I would REALLY like to see is a cooperative effort by WRITERS to get some of these worthy works 'approved' in some way that the authors could self publish without the stigma. I get it—publishers can't take the chance because readers really ARE cautious about these rule breakers. But these are the books that stand the test of time—the books that last into the next generation, and longer. There has to be SOME route to get them out there.

What I'm NOT saying, is this is an 'easy way'--self publishing's problems are endemic--the easy way allows through a lot of crap, and I don't want to give credibility to THOSE books that haven't been traditionally published because they aren't ready yet.

I believe the process of peer review is a tough road. I don't think authors should 'be easy on their friends'. I don't believe in a 'tit for tat' system. I think it should be anonymous and VERY tough, but a panel of... say 3-5 authors making a recommendation whether something is ready for publication or not--giving feedback on places it could be improved, regardless of whether any publishing house is ready to take the chance or not, seems like a nice screen so that readers can trust it enough to order a self published book.

I publish scientifically, and it works for that—only sound science, backed up by thorough review of the context, told in readable language is published. Most manuscripts take 3 or 4 rounds before they are accepted. There are actually tiers of journals, with a few only accepting 'the best'--so maybe we have a tiered process here, too. I'm not sure how it would work. I don't have masses of published writers I'm in contact with to get something like this going, but doesn't it seem like in a tightening market, when traditional publishing seems to be getting harder and harder, that something like this might be necessary?

That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Don't Weight Up

The scale nudged up this week—so depressing when I'm doing everything right! I wasn't at the 21 or 22 points of week 1, but that isn't something a person is supposed to stick to ANYWAY. My real recommended range is 22-26 points, and I am allowed to eat all 26... yet I never did, which means my points were on target.

I exercised all the days I was supposed to. The only thing I fell down on was I didn't stretch as often as planned. I promise you, being a day short on stretching, should NOT cause weight gain.

So what to do...

I could spend a lot of time analyzing why...

In fact I'm pretty sure I KNOW what the problem is... the pizza last night, that though it WAS within points FEELS like it is STILL sitting in my gut—some things process slowly. Tuesday night we had Quiznos, which is similarly slow...

It's a rare week when we get take-out twice, and in the long run, so long as I've REALLY counted points (as opposed to the pseudo counting it is easy to do if your heart isn't in it) then it should just process like normal food... in the short run however, high sodium, lots of cheese... those things stick with you longer... won't get into a repulsive intestinal convo, but you know it's true. It is lingering... I've felt heavier since eating each of those things.

So I am not believing my current tip up is real, or rather, it's real, but it will go away.

Another option is I've been doing some strengthening this week (last week too) and muscle weighs more than fat. I have a hard time thinking I gained MUCH in terms of muscle, but maybe in fact I did. Even a pound would explain it (except that I behaved in a way I should have LOST, but never mind).

Then again, possibly last week was a fluke that it was DOWN so much and maybe this is where I am... And that's not terrible, after all, being down 7 pounds after two weeks isn't the end of the world. It just SEEMS terrible because I was down a little MORE last week.

Do you see how the scale might drive a person insane?

So HERE is the real point of this blog. I have a back up plan.

On day one I measured. I measured EVERYTHING. It was sort of silly, but all are places I'd like to lose (well, one, not so much, but best know what happens there, as it always comes off anyway)... I didn't measure again last week, figuring every two weeks is closer to how inches move (as opposed to those pesky pounds that jump around all the time)

So in two weeks I've lost an inch across the bust and waist, nothing across the hip bone, but the BIG one, is my butt is two inches smaller. A person with butt issues can hardly complain when she gets evidence hers is shrinking. So THAT is what I will cling to going through next week (that, and the fact that if the scale was falsely high this morning, then next week's weigh in might indicate BOTH weeks' loss).

Shrinking butts also mean eventually smaller pants... yet ANOTHER measure I try to keep track of.

So I guess my advice, or recommendation, is don't put too much stock in just one measure, because it WILL at some point depress you. Far better to keep your eye on a couple different things.

And to let anyone KNOW... I started a FB group to support people trying to lose—it is 'closed' because I didn't want it to get unruly with a ton of people I don't know, but if any of you wants to join—it is called Hopeful Losers, and it is for weight loss OR fitness gain support, so just give me a shout if you want to join and I will send you an invite.

Friday, January 15, 2010

This & That

My writing mojo has returned, and that’s a good thing. In the last two nights I finished chapters 7 and 8 of CONSPIRACY, so I am officially ¾ of the way through the trilogy (both chapters had sat half done since about Christmas when I decided to get my NaNo and CONFLUENCE off my plate… Bad idea to edit a different work mid-book… won’t do that again unless I am under deadline. It REALLY threw me off.

I’ve written some silly stuff in between… Ondway is going well, and I’ve got some fan fic stuff written (that is what I do when my WiP Muse refuses to show her face, because it is easier to slide into for me… gotta write no matter what, eh?)

But my Blogging Muse seems to have vanished since the return of Xavier, so since I can’t think of anything entertaining to say MYSELF, I am going to share with you a few great things I’VE READ this week.

A Blog that tickled me

I love someone who calls it as he sees it. The Rejectionist is just such a guy... I find it so reassuring that all the rest of the queriers out there are nutters.

Blogs that goosed me

Jan and I became friends because she’s a fellow Tart. I noticed her blog title (Tartitude) and we struck up a conversation… turns out we have a fair bit in common. Also turns out SHE CAN WRITE! This amusing little story is a parody romance featuring Sarah Palin and Nathan Bransford (I kid you not *snort*) She wrote it a while ago, but I just discovered it this week.

My friend the Beer Wench went to an adult trade show (she writes erotica, so I think she is writing it off)—there are some hysterical pictures, my favorite being the bucking penis ride (BUWAHAHAHAHA!).

Edie is the literary agent I am pursuing by sending a gigalo name Raoul every Thursday. She is still not responding, but one day she will be mine. It’s darned hard to get representation though. Here’s why.

Blogs that just made me think, so I thank the authors

Jan (different Jan… what do you know… if you want to write blogs that appeal to me, one option is changing your name…) is going through the Buddhist paramitas this week and relating them to writing. I’m not much on ‘inspirational’—most of it rubs me the wrong way, but I LOVE this stuff. Buddhism is so much gentler in their life prescriptions, and the recommendations really make sense, and Jan applying them to writing is right on.

Natasha is my Thursday Twin and my first friend to REALLY encourage me to write… like write for real. She is so often encouraging me, that I sometimes forget she is also just getting started with all this writing stuff. This is a blog you should FOLLOW, because at least once a week, she gives me something to really think about—most often what I take for granted, living in the US like I do. Reality in India is different. This week it was this post, but there are a couple EVERY week.

And then this one from Blood Red Pencil got me thinking about RULES. Damn, I hate rules. (not BRP’s fault AT ALL, they are just the messenger and doing a huge service helping writers, but…) I particularly hate rules when they are prescribed by people who are trying to get rich by formula, which is I think what this whole “well this genre has to follow these rules’ things boils down to. Why can’t we just write good BOOKS and have them published?

When I rule the world, the only rule for publication will be that it is a fabulous read.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Argument for Delusion

There are people all over the world who would argue delusion is a bad thing. These are the same stuffy people who always color in the lines, have never streaked and make their beds every day. The world is, in reality, more random than these people would like to believe, and it is easier to cope if we are just a little bit nuts.

Today my argument, is for delusion as a writing tool.

First… How it can help you keep going…

Delusions of the gorgeous men you keep locked in your basement can cheer you from any slump.

Delusions of eventual fame and fortune fit fabulously with thoughts of revenge when you receive rejections.

Delusions of muses dragging their trunks back up your front walkway can set you back on track after a slump.

Delusions of fanciful romps with porn stars can just go straight into the book.

But the real strength of Delusion…

You see… it’s an exercise… Let me e’splain…

Once upon a time, on a forum not so terribly far from here, I met a band of marauders… LADY Marauders… set on taking over the world. They initiated me into their membership… okay, so possibly I was among the founding members if we are getting technical… with a mission of total world domination (the nudity was my idea *waits for gasps of shock*). This is where the basement dungeon idea was first communicated, and then I learned about Planet Spankmenow, and life has never been the same.

Delusional Thursday: A History

Anyway… we got to thinking about our reign… how we could influence others… and you know how people are hesitant to say… move somewhere without visiting first? Take on a religion without investigating the required practices? Start writing a book with no clue... Well I thought (yes me… this is my marketing background *puffs up*) maybe BABY doses… a little TASTE of it all… might help people dive in and embrace it.

I chose Thursday because… well… I was born on a Thursday. Isn’t the saying ‘Thursday’s Child is Loony as all get out”? You know the saying I’m talking about, right? So Delusional Thursday was born.

Now this forum was for ‘predicting what would happen’ in the final Harry Potter book (but it doesn’t need to be—y’all know I’m a geek that way, but the lesson holds anyway). And my premise was, on Thursday, anything goes—no matter HOW far out and nuts it was, Thursday predictions were for entertainment and stretching our imaginations. It was to shake things up and keep things fresh.

And do you know what was born out of Delusional Thursday? A writer. (at least one). Because that process of trying to rationalize the absurd, fit in the bizarre so it was believable and plausible was an incredible lesson in what is fresh and interesting. It led me to some theories I may never otherwise have voiced, and trying to PROVE them (never mind I originally professed them as delusional) resulted in the first long stories I ever wrote.


I spent some time at a website yesterday reading ‘successful query letters’ and then the agents reasons they thought the letters were so good. Do you know what the most stand-out feature was of those letters? Some KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF strange idea. Somebody had thought of something so INCREDIBLY novel, and written a book about it.

Now I’ve read some books based in these very strange ideas and the ideas aren’t always so strange when you get down to the BOOK, but they are fresh and interesting because they are tales we haven’t seen before. I’m coming to believe that is how you break in… nailing a normal story onto a very strange idea… Or at LEAST including enough really unique elements—things that make a reader sit up and take notice.

So I am advocating for the practice of spending a little time each Thursday thinking of really bizarre things and then ways those could actually fit into a REAL story…

Go on. Delude yourself.  It's good for your soul.  It will make you laugh.  And while you're at it... it may just give you your next great idea.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Missing 24 Hours

I have a really swamped work day and a stack of typing at home a mile high, so I thought I'd share a piece of my 'roots' with all of you... Harry Potter Fan Fiction... you should easily be able to follow if you've read even the first book--that is the only one this one is dependent on.

This is part of my Epilogue for Awakening, which is an extremely long story about the redemption of James Potter—you see, I feel like the James we see in the books is sort of a jerk, but I would like to believe he doesn't stay that way. This piece stands alone as a short story, though. In the Wizard War, we used to talk about the 'Missing 24 Hours'--that day between Harry's parents dying and Harry turning up on the Dursley's doorstep when all the wizarding world seemed to already know what happened. This short is what Dumbledore was up to.

There are a couple details from the long story a person needs to follow, but only a few...

1) Dorcas Meadows in my story is an Unspeakable who Lily studied under for a time (before the war got bad enough she decided to delay her studies)--Dorcas left Lily her professional papers when she died.

2) DD's watch works very much like Mrs. Weasley's clock. He added hairs of Harry, Lily and James when they went into hiding.

3) Dudley's life was at risk the summer prior and DD and Lily save him. In exchange, DD extracts a promise from Petunia that if Harry's life is ever in peril, she will protect him.

4) Peter stuns Harry briefly while he retrieves LVs wand and

5) Even though the Potters only cast the Fidelius Charm a week ago, there was a Confundus spell that protected them in Godric's Hollow prior to that, so they've been there since August--it was a family summer home of the Potters.

Without further ado

The Missing 24 Hours

Albus Dumbledore, first as Professor, then as Headmaster, had had his life entangled with others for more years than he cared to count. Yet not since Grindelwald had he felt so completely subsumed by the fact of someone else, so completely responsible, and yet so helpless.

The Potters were lovely. Mischievous, loyal James had become a respectable, loving man. And Lily had always been extraordinary. But Harry… this really had everything to do with Harry, not even born when his own role became the central feature in Albus’ existence. He supposed, truth be told, it boiled down to the prophecy.

Two couples had defied Voldemort three times. Two couples who both gave birth to baby boys at the end of July. Somehow Albus had known, no matter that the Longbottoms were spectacular, well-loved, pure-blood aurors, that Voldemort… no, that Tom Riddle, half blood himself, would find Harry Potter the threat.

Lily Potter had won the respect and loyalty of Dorcas Meadows. Dorcas had a kind nature, but she did not effuse lightly. Yet she had believed Lily had amazing gifts. And then James had descended from the same Peverells who were connected with immortality… and the unbeatable wand. Yes, Riddle had probably done his homework.

And there, from the very beginning, things got complicated. The prophecy had been heard by one of Voldemort’s minions. A minion, it later turned out, who had a soft spot for Lily Potter… a minion who, when he realized the result of his own role, had been willing to spy.

There was confirmation of a spy in the Order, and insight into the workings of Voldemort’s army, neither of which were as fascinating to Albus as the generous, open mind of Lily Potter.

As Albus met with her, tutored her, he confirmed not only her intelligence, but his own failings. Lily loved not in the abstract, but in very tangible terms, saw people compassionately and pointed out how their flaws led to their strengths. Her read of Dorcas Meadows’ papers gave him insight because he had never once before considered that love had to be quite so… personal. It made him sad not to have it in his life, yet she had it, even for her casual friends… a deep, loyal, profound love.

When the Potters had gone on the run in earnest was the first time Albus had considered the Peverell myth might be true. His discussions with first Lily, then James, on the Invisibility Cloak had been quite intriguing. He knew he personally held the ’unbeatable wand,’ but the idea that the whole story might be true opened old wounds that began to fester. The cloak, fascinating in its own right, might prove the possibility… the resurrection stone…Ariana… his guilt ate at him. He wanted to see her badly, yet he feared her. If anyone in his life had a right to judge him, it was she.

And so as Albus worked with Lily so she could learn the Fidelius Charm, he debated with himself whether or not he wanted to know… did the resurrection stone exist? The answer was as easy as proving the cloak was the cloak… but would he then waste his remaining years searching for the stone, neglecting his other obligations?

And then he remembered how he had stumbled across Death’s other Hallows. It had been quite accidental. He could convince himself to wait… but only if he knew.

And so the moment approached. Lily had learned the Charm. The couple had chosen their Secret Keeper. Albus was sure it was Sirius Black. It could hardly not be.

The watch had been a last minute inspiration. He hadn’t kept track of anybody for many years, but this entanglement had grown very personal. And so he had added the hairs of the Potter family members for peace of mind… if only it had worked that way.


The Fidelius Charm was performed on October 25 and the following day intelligence was received regarding the personal threat to Millicent Bagnold and her expected guest, Russian Minister Fyodor Tolstoy. Albus, knowing the local Ministry would believe no such intelligence, had gone himself to Saint Petersberg (Leningrad would never exist in his mind) and gave the warning to the Russian Ministry. He assured them the Order of the Phoenix took the threat seriously and would be guarding, but suggested they also take precautions. They appeared grateful.

He returned to Hogwarts on Halloween morning and found Hagrid dragging his giant pumpkins into the Great Hall.

“Went to the Potters for dinner while you were gone.”

“Did you? I’m glad both that they had the pleasure of your company, and that you can get there if needed.”

“I could take you there.”

“No, it wouldn’t work. You’d arrive happily, and I’d be slammed into a wall of protection,” he smiled, “but I do appreciate the offer. I’ll let James know in the morning though, that he can bring me the secret.”

“Tha’s good. I think ‘e could use that cloak.”

“Did he mention it?”

“Lily said she planned to go see old Bathilda, but couldn’t cross the street.”

“Oh, yes… tomorrow, first thing.”

That conversation would give him nightmares for several months. He’d known staying in was safest for the Potters, but of course there were a dozen times a week they could have found use for the cloak without undue risk, yet here it sat in his own office. Its study had been fascinating, actually. He thought he may have even discovered from it a spell for personal invisibility, temporary of course, but far better than being dependent on a cloak. He would teach it to Lily. He was sure she could master it. She was, after all, a very gifted witch.


And it was with those thoughts that the Great Hall began to fill for the Halloween feast. He had always enjoyed Halloween, but tonight the Minister was under threat and his mind was elsewhere; he really felt he could be more useful elsewhere. His speech was rather rambling and even he had trouble paying attention.

When he invited everyone to eat and sat himself, Minerva McGonagall leaned over to him. “Are you alright Headmaster? You don’t seem quite yourself.”

“And that might be a good thing,” he joked, but it didn’t fool her. He glanced at his watch.


Three Potters in danger. He wasn’t sure if it had said that before and he cursed himself for not paying better attention.

He scooped food onto his plate, ate a few bites, made polite conversation and looked again.


It hadn’t changed. Surely he was imagining things. Dinner plates disappeared. He scooped up his dessert.

And then something happened that had the entire hall rapt and time stood still. A large silvery doe charged into the room and Lily’s voice rang in his ear. He’s here. Help! He looked at his watch as all three Potter hands moved to mortal peril, and then within seconds James’ hand disappeared entirely. Albus stood for a moment, stunned, and then began to make his way quickly out of the Great Hall, eyes on his watch, when Lily’s hand also vanished. He stopped, disbelieving, watching the ‘Harry’ hand, frozen, for some seconds before he shouted, “Hagrid! I need you!” And then oddly, Harry’s hand slid calmly away from ‘mortal peril’ to ‘home’.


Hagrid followed Dumbledore into the small chamber off the Great Hall. As soon as the door was shut Albus turned, “James and Lily are dead. Hagrid… Harry is not. He needs us. He needs you!” He willed his gamekeeper to hold himself together.

Hagrid gave a large snuffle.

“Hagrid, I need you to fetch Harry. Take him, invisibly if possible, to Bathilda Bagshot’s house across the street. Wait for me there. I’ll be there in two hours time.”

Hagrid nodded and left, blowing his nose on a blanket-sized handkerchief.

Albus had to alert the Order and find out if their warnings for the evening had amounted to anything. He also needed to ask some people to have some information ready for him for later.


It was as he thought; the Minister attack had been a ruse, a decoy. News of it had come on the 26th, only one day after the Potters had performed the Fidelius Charm. Sirius Black had wasted no time.

He arrived at Bathilda’s just after midnight.

“Albus,” her face was sad and Albus just nodded, confirming James and Lily were dead. “They’re in the back room,” she said sadly.

“I’ll need a little time alone with Harry,” he warned.

Bathilda frowned, “what, to ask secrets?”

“In a manner of speaking…”

Bathilda rolled her eyes, annoyed now.

Albus thought she perhaps blamed him for this. It wouldn‘t be the first time, and it would also not be the first time he partially shared her opinion.

“I’ll set tea for Hagrid.”

“Thank you,” Albus went back and asked Hagrid to leave he and Harry momentarily.

Hagrid also frowned, but only shrugged and left.

“So Harry…” Albus picked up the child and sat with him. “I hate to do this when you really aren’t old enough to give permission…” It was true. It seemed horribly invasive. And to do it, he had to bring the thought to the front of Harry’s mind. “Harry, can you show me mumma?” He looked in Harry’s eyes and then put his wand to Harry’s temple.

A long silvery strand came out and Albus put it in the pensieve he had recently freed from his cloak, then he took Harry to Hagrid for Harry’s comfort.


Albus entered the memory as James handed Harry off to Lily. He followed Lily and Harry up the stairs as Lily asked Harry what daddy taught him. “No poopa. Siy daddy!”

Lily laughed. She then gave Harry Eskimo kisses, butterfly kisses, and kitty kisses as she changed him. He giggled and tried to give some back, pressing his eye to Lily’s cheek.

Then there was a crash downstairs. Lily turned to look, nearly starting for the stairs, returning and setting Harry in his cot, and then starting again before she heard James yell.

“Lily!” He shouted, “take Harry and go! It’s him! Go! Run! I’ll hold him off!”

‘Him’ could only be Voldemort. There was a pause as Lily paced just three or four steps. Albus watched as Lily’s jaw set. She came to Harry and looked him in the eye, “Harry, mummy and daddy love you more than anything in the world. Please, always know that.” And she kissed his brow, wet tears marking his forehead. She went to the window then, threw it open and sent her Patronus, Albus knew it was to him. Then, there was the flash of green light; Lily began to scream, recognizing the curse for what it was, knowing James was now dead. She tried to move a chair, then several boxes in front of a door to barricade she and Harry in.

But as it became clear she couldn’t hold him out she picked up Harry protectively and turned to face the creature entering. When he easily cast aside the blockade her eyes grew wide, as if the sight of Voldemort was too much. She changed her mind and turned to replace Harry in the cot; he was protesting, tugging at the back of her robes. She spread her arms in front of her child and her words were tortured.

“Not Harry, not Harry. Please, not Harry.”

“Stand aside you silly girl… stand aside, now!”

“Not Harry, please no, take me. Kill me instead--”

“This is my last warning--” Voldemort raised his wand.

“Not Harry. Please… have mercy… have mercy… Not Harry! Not Harry! Please-- I’ll do anything!”

“Stand aside--stand aside, girl--”

Albus watched, transfixed, as Lily bargained for her son’s life. It was remarkable that Voldemort had offered to let her live. He wondered if she had Severus Snape to thank for that.

And then the curse on Lily… and she fell.

Harry, more curious than upset, pulled himself up on the bars of his cot and looked at Voldemort, wondering if this were a game. But when Voldemort drew closer and pointed his wand at Harry’s forehead, the boy began to cry, recognizing the danger.

What happened next was confusing. Voldemort said the words, “Avada Kedavra’, just like he had with Lily, and there was green light, but rather more diffuse than Albus had seen and it caused a massive explosion around them. Within it, Voldemort seemed to evaporate, robes and wand falling to the floor, part of the roof crashing, Harry crying. The child was partially covered in debris and he cried and cried. Albus didn’t know how long the child’s distress lasted, it seemed hours, though it was probably fewer than fifteen minutes.

Then there was brief muttering and all went black. Albus stood for a time in nothingness, and then he heard, “Harry!” In Hagrid’s booming voice. Things came into focus again. Harry began to cry again and Hagrid came up the stairs. Albus looked around. Things were subtly different. Voldemort’s robes still lay on the floor, but his wand was gone. Someone had come to retrieve it… had taken the time to make sure Harry didn’t see them, so it had to be somebody Harry would recognize.


Albus debated not returning the memory to the child. It was a truly awful memory, yet… it was perhaps the most loving act Albus had ever witnessed, and he felt perhaps having the memory in there would help Harry know how loved he was.

Albus looked at the child again. The lightning-shaped scar that marked the curse was on the exact spot his mother’s tears and kiss had marked him earlier that night. He wondered what sort of conduit of protection Lily Potter had managed to create, her love, her tears…her life…

He pulled himself out of the memory.

He went back out, “Hagrid, stay with the child. I’ll send word where and when to bring him.”

“Shouldn’t he go to Sirius Black? He’s the boy’s…”

“No!” Albus didn’t elaborate for a moment, then calmly said, “I believe I have a protection that will be the most safe.”

“Can I take ‘im to Hogwarts?”

Albus looked at his watch, “yes, perhaps that’s best, but come back by dark tonight. It will be easiest to travel from here… and… don’t the Potters have a cat?”


“Perhaps fetch her, too. She will need a home. Bathilda, do you mind watching her in the short term?”

“Not at all.”

Albus left, looking at the destroyed house across the way. Such heroism and the town wouldn’t even remember them.. or would it? The Confundus Charm should have worn off. All they needed was a reminder. He walked the few blocks to the town square and stared at the war memorial. He concentrated hard and then raised his wand.

The white hot light shot forward, reforming the marble into man, woman and child. A perfect likeness. It would only be visible to wizards, but then, only wizards would understand their unique heroics.

Albus then set to work consulting the texts he’d seen regarding blood protection, researching the surviving family of Lily Potter, and reaching the sad conclusion that the strange oath extracted in August would be necessary. Petunia Dursley and her son were Lily’s only remaining relatives aside from Harry. At the very least however, the promise had been given. Harry would be taken in.

Albus set to establishing additional protections on the physical location of the house, and then set about searching who might be of assistance in the area who might go unnoticed by Lord Voldemort‘s allies.

He finally stumbled across the answer in a rather arbitrary way. He’d been desperately thumbing through old correspondence for something to trigger an idea when he found a thank you note sent by the daughter of an old friend. The daughter was a Squibb and had sent it after her father died, as Albus had helped with several of the Wizarding World details she could not manage. This Squibb happened to live in Surrey.

He sent an owl. Thankfully the woman was both home and gracious. He explained the situation to her as he scratched one of her dozen cats, and begged for assistance.

“Professor, my father always spoke highly of you. And you were very helpful to me when he passed. I’m pleased to have a way I can be of assistance. And I’m honored to keep an eye on the boy.”

“Thank you, Arabella. It’s important though… these relatives of Harry’s are difficult… you cannot be direct with them or they will shun you, as they do anything connected with the magical world. I’d advise, for the first few years, to just be a friendly but distant neighbor. Get a feel for them. And please, keep me informed.”

“Of course.”

“And Arabella… the Potters had a cat… you wouldn’t have room…”

“To take in a kitty who’s lost her family? Of course I have room!”

Watchperson established, Albus sent a return Patronus to Remus. He felt very bad for the man. Albus had received word earlier that morning that Sirius Black was in custody and that Peter Pettigrew was dead. Remus Lupin had effectively lost all three of his close friends in the last twelve hours, four if he counted Lily, and he felt sure Remus did.

Once that was done, he stopped by the Ministry to make a formal statement regarding the Potters and their Secret Keeper, and then began final preparations that would protect Harry Potter at his aunt’s house for the next sixteen years.

It was old magic, based in blood, and he was very glad he’d done the preliminary magic months earlier in hope Petunia might protect the whole Potter family. It might be too late for that now, but at least she would protect the child. She had sworn, after all.

When Albus arrived at Privet Drive to meet Hagrid that night, he had been awake forty-two hours, but he was sure it had been time well spent. The only thing left was the evasive explanation to an impatient Professor McGonagall, the arrival of Hagrid and the child, and the explanation left next to the bundle.

Petunia, remember your oath. Harry’s parents, your sister Lily and her husband were killed this night. Harry needs you to protect him as you swore you would.

Harry Potter was safe.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Growing Pains

MAN I hate life lessons… Forced growth is just no fun. I mean I don’t hate it all afterward, but during the process, it can be SO humiliating… painful, even. So I hate them, but I love them.

I’m going to tell on myself a little, just to get across how LITTLE I knew…

The Bio Snafu

I blogged about this a little last week: Agent that requested pages, synopsis and author bio: so I spent time on a bio that looked like the BIO we send in with grants. (Can you spot the source of myconfusion? Bio, in the two contexts has different definitions). An AUTHOR bio is apparently the book jacket variety. Who knew? *snort* Okay, so apparently everybody but me. When we send in grants though, we are required to submit a Bio that includes our education, publications and the kind of work we’ve done that is pertinent to the project… (doesn’t sound so bad, does it?) Except it is formatted like a resume. That was what I sent the first time… I sent an email with the corrected sort of bio, explaining where my misguided idea originated, so hopefully I am cute, instead of pathetic… Not that cute tarts are the most appealing kind, but they are better than idiot tarts.

To compound matters, a different agent, because I mention I publish scientifically, asked what kind of scientific writing I do… I proceeded to detail the CONTENT, instead of saying what I now believe she wanted… “peer reviewed, scientific journal articles”. This one I just didn’t have the heart to correct, since it was such a quick correspondence (it was the agent that asked for a chapter). Oi!

My DAY JOB brain caused big giant fails in two different domains… or rather the same domain in two different ways. I was asked questions and my academic brain put me on auto pilot. Not going to let THAT happen again!

Now I know. Never let it be said that the Tart can’t take her knocks…

The Query

I am so amazingly grateful to the agent who took the time to say “I don’t get it” to me. I’ve been using the same query for two rounds now (about 30 agents have gotten it), and because I’d gotten a few nibbles, I really thought it was working. Form rejections give you NO CLUE what the problem is. This woman, in two sentences, guided me to make it a much better grab for the next round…

"I have to tell you that from this query, I really have no idea what your book is about or who the main protagonist is. You might want to take another crack at this."

Hmmm… the last person to feed me a lesson like this was ALSO a Colleen… seems maybe that is a name destined to give me lessons I don’t know I want but I need… but I digress…

Unfortunately, she then passed on the manuscript, suggesting that if I am aiming thriller, it really needs to still be tightened more. So THERE my mistake was in ever mentioning thriller… just like with my other mistake… I think it’s okay to have a thriller underlying, but if I say the darn WORD then they are expecting genre-thriller, which it is not. (and I don’t really want to rewrite it so it is, as I think the family relationship is the heart of this more than the thriller plot--I NEED all that darned character stuff.)

I figure though, that is only the first rejection this round, and it wasn’t an instant reject… progress…

Now to debate who GETS the next round and whether I am up to doing it right now or not…

Man, I hate querying.

One lesson I DON’T have yet, is when it is okay to reQuery… I feel like I might be well within my rights to retry the people I INITIALLY tried (who got the version about the 200K book) because I am pretty sure they saw that number and didn’t read a single other word. The query was also a lot worse at that point… But do I even want to go there? There are LOTS of agents out there.

And I still don’t have a feel for whether I want to join this Amazon contest or not… If only one agent is really looking at a partial, I think I may go ahead, but if I have a couple requests for more, I’ll hold off… I think…

Shaken Confidence

When I was first blogging, I would see these writers comment on moments of feeling like they couldn’t write. I was baffled, because I’ve always felt rather a lot of confidence (probably too much so… I have a nice, healthy ego). But the query process sure takes the mickey out of you, doesn’t it? I’m doubting CONFLUENCE. I’m doubting everything I try to write in my trilogy (and making stupid mistakes—writing things that mess up the timeline and such). When I type up what I’ve written I’m thinking ‘well that’s stupid, what was I thinking?’

I keep trying to decide if I am getting more discerning or am just in one of those moods… a mood that had never really struck me until recently. I am still going with that though. I know my writing will improve, and as it does I’ll have less tolerance for mistakes, but I just really can’t think what I’ve done already is BAD, especially the fourteenth round of a book that was a good story to begin with…


Monday, January 11, 2010

Communicating Complexity

As most of you know, I’ve been sending a few queries, trying to find an agent, eventually a book contract… come to think of it, maybe that is what’s up with my writing mojo, which seems to be on shaky ground… but about those queries. The query body I’ve been sending looks like this:


CONFLUENCE is about the family of a new PhD, relocated to a rural college town. Fifteen-year-old Jessie is Mac’s daughter from his first marriage, so originally, difficulties the family experiences are masked by the internal tensions of a teen who didn’t want to move with the father and step-mother she has never lived with. Only five-year-old Hannah seems to adjust easily; she is thrilled to finally live with her older sister, but she also makes friends with a homeless man who lives in the woods behind their new home, a friend believed by her parents to be imaginary for several months.

Strange occurrences begin, like the placement of threatening signs in their yard, and the hanging of a dead chicken in Jessie’s locker at the high school, but these things are attributed to a community divided between scientific and religious underpinnings, until Hannah is kidnapped, forcing the teenage Jessie into heroism and the family to unravel the real reason they were brought to Clear Springs.

CONFLUENCE is rich in relationships and character, a strength stemming from my background in social psychology. It holds quirky characters and humor, despite the dark story tract; the language is fast and approachable, and the conclusion is a chilling statement on what is possible when arrogance collides with zealotry.

CONFLUENCE is complete at 137,000 words (chapter 1 pasted below). As high-market commercial fiction suitable for book-club discussions, I believe it will appeal to people who love family crisis mysteries and conspiracy theory.

This is a query letter that has gotten a few nibbles (two ½ requests for partials), so I was sort of pleased with it…

On Saturday, within half an hour of sending it, I got a response that said:

I have to tell you that from this query, I really have no idea what your book is about or who the main protagonist is. You might want to take another crack at this.

Also, your word count is really too high for adult fiction.

Hit me like a load of bricks, it did…

I’ll tell you why.

Who is my protagonist? Well you see, there are four, and it alters viewpoints… *cough* So what do I do? Pick one? What I WANT to do is explain that all four are in a way, but that is a long story, and I’m thinking long stories don’t hold an audience at this stage of the game. My original instinct was Mac, the patriarch. But in reality, the heroine, is Jessie, and I’ve been told by multiple readers she is my best character and strongest voice… go with that…

What is my story about? Well it’s sort of complicated…

I’ve known from the beginning this monster is hard to talk about. It is a complicated story about what happens to a family when they are immersed in somebody else’s insanity. I suppose it’s time to really put the work into my three line summary about what this book is about… I decided to take another crack at this agent though, since she was so kind as to suggest it was okay with her… (something that either makes her really a stellar person, or means she saw enough to think she might like it—in my dream world, both.)

Query Revision:

I appreciate so much your bluntness paired with a willingness to read another version of my query. I've given it another attempt, hopefully more clear in the plot of the story. I should be clear that the point of view includes all four 'verbal' Rawlins, but Jessie is the strongest voice and the primary protagonist in the end.

Forty years ago a group of arrogant young academics decided to conduct a social experiment to see how a set of fictional works might attain power for them, to see how gullible people were. The experiment however, has grown beyond their control and a young family is about to pay the price.

Jessie Rawlins is relatively content, as teenagers go. She is active in a theater group, attends an arts high school, and her father has even returned to town after being absent from her life for five years while he was getting his PhD. She is set to spend the rest of high school in Seattle, until her parents turn everything on its head.

Her father is offered a job as a professor hundreds of miles away and her mother takes the opportunity to accept a job in Hong Kong, agreeing that it would be good for Jessie and her dad to live together for a few years. So Jessie is stuck moving with her dad and his new family, where she doesn't believe she fits in.

To top it off, Clear Springs is small, overly-quaint, and dull—or so she thinks until very strange things start happening to her and her family. She learns of local lore and a supposed cult to the north of the town, but that is the stuff of slumber party tales. Locally, she experiences harassment (because of her dad's job), and the disappearance of a boy she meets at a party. Adding to the tension of these events is the family tension caused initially by her own presence in a previously defined family unit, and then by a homeless man who has befriended her younger sister, a man her parents attribute as 'imaginary' for many months, only to learn he's been living in the woods behind their house and is very real.

Jessie manages though, to make a group of good friends and meet a variety of helpful people along the way, so when her sister is kidnapped and her parents seem to be falling apart, she is the person with the resources in place to figure out what has happened to her and to attempt a rescue.

CONFLUENCE is mainstream fiction (with an underlying thriller) complete at 137,000 words. While I recognize this as long for a first work of fiction, the original draft was over 200,000 words and this has been significantly tightened. I don't believe it can be shortened much more without losing important strands of the story. The article linked in your email mentioned Kostova's The Historian as one of the rare exceptions, and one of my first readers actually mentioned that work as one this reminded her of, though I think CONFLUENCE is more approachable, both in language density and because it is a modern setting with modern family issues—but the family layering and trying to solve something larger is a comparable idea.

So there we have it. I have no clue if I succeeded or not, but like Terry mentions today (see sidebar blog list), it is important to listen and learn. Sometimes we should change and adapt, sometimes not, but it is still important to try to understand what someone else has taken from your work.

I would really love feedback as to whether the second version has addressed my questions... I'd love to know whether any of my first readers think it is now misleading... I don't feel like it is, but I also wanted to turn this back around quickly...