Monday, February 28, 2011

Am I the Man?

So I found myself in a couple conversations last week where I felt distinctly like I was arguing for 'status quo', which, if you know me, you know ISN'T ME... but I still think I had a point... Let me e'splain...

ABNA System

I spoke too soon when I said everyone was a good sport... People (apparently every year) pout and say things that offend OTHER people who are defensive for understandable reasons... the arguments of people who are SAD that it is all basically a lottery... make it look like the people who MADE it didn't deserve to...

Now there are a ton of voices of reason there, both among those who made it and among those who didn't, so I don't want to sound like it's all bad, but the discussion I am referring to here was about the ABNA system being innately flawed. The argument was that we were being judged on our PITCH rather than our writing. (erm... did we not write our pitches?)

But I remember feeling this way... querying agents and feeling put out that my pitch didn't give a good feel for my story. And I think it's true that the pitch is a different skill than writing the book. And some books are COMPLICATED and hard to describe in a few paragraphs.

But think about it this way... a pitch gives the reader a broad feel for what the story is about. And an AGENT wants to know if it's an appealing story before deciding whether she wants to read more. And this makes TOTAL sense.

For ABNA, the trouble is it is a crapshoot for which 'agent' screens. As writers we can target agents who we know represent the genre of our book. THIS is the luck part for ABNA. Now I suspect screeners KNOW if it sounds like a 'pretty good story', then even if it isn't their genre, they should pass it through (in fact I think they assign number ratings on several parameters, so it becomes (sort of) an objective comparison, but the appeal of the story will definitely be colored by the reader's preferences.

That said, though, a bad pitch will not make it through. Some portion of these are inadequate pitches for good stories, but some are also inadequate pitches for inadequate stories. (I happen to believe this is where I was last year. The story hadn't been adequately edited and so I was accurately screened OUT. This year my story is tighter, but in reality, I will eventually be screened out, also... I just learned (and got help) and my pitch was good. (so that gives the portion of screened IN that maybe should not have been--good pitches for not good (yet) books)

The NEXT step is the first 3000-5000 words... just like an agent... and they can see how the writing is... so they judge based BOTH on the story, and on the writing of the story... Now a fair few get passed on here... 250 in each group... Yes, that is only a 5% chance from initial entry... and in both cases people will have their stories weeded when they are GREAT books. But here, while not everyone passed on will have a great book, the query proves a good story and the excerpt proves they can write... everyone to pass on is capable, in my opinion. They (like me) may not be quite done, but I think stories going on at this point are mostly stories that are eventually viable.

That does NOT say stories weeded earlier are NOT. It means stories weeded earlier maybe need to work on their pitch or first few chapters (never bad advice) or in a few cases, have hit bad luck on the match or who read one or the other.

Now at this point, the books are read (and rated...) and again, there might be a mismatch... GREAT books may not get through. But my POINT is, the books that DO get through at this point either ARE great, or have enough proof of potential for greatness.

And isn't that the point? Amazon wants to find a book that will be successful. This is a commercial venture at no cost to the entrants. So can we really cry foul? I don't think we can...

And then the Self Publishing Discussion

I happen to think self publishing is getting more and more viable, and think there are a lot of authors for whom this is a GREAT option. But I ALSO think it is a vast, tempting quagmire for new authors... think about the Dead Marshes in Lord of the Rings... the lights tempting people into the wrong place. It is FAR too easy to press submit LONG before a book is ready.

I don't think this HAS to be the case, but...

Okay, so a writer friend of mine who I hadn't even realized was done with a book posted something about self publishing her book... She wants feedback to see if it is viable for traditional publishing. Are you spotting here all the pits she could fall into. I think the growth of self-publishing makes it way too easy for someone to just think 'I'll see' and think they really WILL see. The reality is, it will be a friends and family venture anyway, unless they do all the networking groundwork... but even WITH the networking groundwork, if the book isn't properly polished, it won't be ready, and there is no gatekeeper to tell us when it IS properly polished.

Now a great step is to hire a professional editor, but that editor STILL works for US, so when they are done, they will believe the BOOK is done. That may be true. It may not.

See... the thing is, I've come to believe in the hoops that it takes to get to traditional publishing. Now I have friends who have gotten through all but the last step... that it is the editorial board buy in that is giving trouble... if an agent and a publisher love it... AND think it's done... then it is probably ready. If a professional editor has seen it and then a panel of readers ALSO do not find significant problems... it is ALSO probably ready.

I had somebody argue with me not too long ago when I stated that novel drafts typically made the teens before a book was 'done'. Now I am talking for a first time (possibly second time) writer... but the person argued '4' for the first book? Seriously? I am willing to believe SOME people can do that, but on AVERAGE, to actually be clean enough to publish? I'm not buying it. I say it is in the double digits before it is actually ready... ON AVERAGE.

And I know my own self well enough to know I would never have waited that long if I hadn't committed to traditional publishing. Traditional publishing ensures that very few 'not done' get through, where self publishing, I'd bet only about 5% are actually done.

That isn't just a problem for those publishing too early though. It's a problem for everyone self publishing, as discriminating readers know there is a LOW percentage all the way done, a medium percentage not QUITE done, and a pretty large percentage (people not HERE because I think this group gets it) but there are a lot of people publishing FAR too early. This means that a lot of people aren't willing to sort the difference. It means people will opt NOT to read because there is too much noise.

My friend ALSO didn't seem to understand that being 'published' meant it was far harder to 'publish' if sales weren't really great. Those of us in this for the long haul, need a long-term plan.

So what is that... when a naked world dominatrix buys into a system?  I'm not sure, but I suppose I do.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Time Travel...

So you know how I SAID I was at Denise's blog yesterday?  But I wasn't... well TODAY, I actually am.  Sorry for any confusion.  And since today is my buddy Leanne's birthday, I will leave you with otters.

Hope it's an Otterly Fantastic Birthday for my favorite Super-Beta!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Words for Strangeness

I feel... erm... rubbery? Squiggly? Altogether not quite normal... but before I get to THAT, I should tell you THIS:

Denise Verrico (remember, the kinky Vampire romance writer?) is hosting me today where I'm talking about keeping it FUN. Surely I will be more coherent THERE than here (as I wrote it earlier), so I'd love it if you wanted to check that out, too!

As for here... why so strange?

ABNA (the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, for the unititiated)

They posted the lists of those passing to the next round yesterday afternoon. It was a manic day, hard to work... checking the page frequently, camaraderie among participants as we fretted and panicked... then, about one o'clock, the list went up.
 If you have friends in the contest, you can check for them here. Without even looking, though, I can tell you there is some FABULOUS news on there... several of our bloggie friends have made it. Last year I knew maybe 3 or 4 people who made the cut. This time I'm sure I know two dozen, and it isn't that I've spent that much more time on the boards... though it IS maybe, that I've nurtured a number of friendships over the last year of people I've come to learn are ABNA people.

What IS an ABNA person? Well, those of us with FOMS aside... they are a mix, but I think a great many of them are people who tried it once, before they were probably READY to have book luck with an agent, but they fell in love with the contest (or rather contestants) and so keep coming back, even though their writing has progressed and they are perfectly suited to go more traditionally... Some of them are a bit shy about the agent rejection thing, so in spite of doing well in the contest, they don't promote themselves as well... it's not in their nature. Whatever the case, it is a FUN group, a kind group, and they were 99.9% superstars yesterday, win or lose, in the sportsmanship department.

I know what it feels like to lose at round one. That's what I did last year. I loved my book (I still love that book) but I now know even if I'd had a coherent pitch, which I really didn't) the excerpt wasn't ready EITHER... it starts too early in the story. But even LOSING was informative. Last year I learned the benefit of extensive feedback on the pitch... and I learned something else.... for a mass market contest like this, you need to have a coherent, easy to present, catchy idea that can be presented quickly. It's why I was set on Kahlotus Disposal Site, even though it hadn't had an edit before January (and so in spite of 2 edits before entering, still isn't quite cooked).

And because I know what it feels like to NOT make it, part of me feels really BAD about making it... I feel sad for friends who didn't.

That said, when I opened the Young Adult List... I looked for ME first, of course (I'd hardly be normal if I didn't)--and there I was... I looked for
Michael (because I'd read his excerpt and wished him well)--THERE. I looked for Erica because she is a blogger buddy... THERE... I looked for
Tracy because she is one of my ABNA friends from last year... THERE... my percentage of first names I looked for was 4 for 4! Cruising that end of the alphabet, I saw
Roland (I hadn't even known he was entered because I can be clueless that way). In adult... Barbara is in! Donna is in!

Any new blog buddies or friends I didn't know to look for, if you're IN, give a SHOUT! Because right now we are pulling out the RUM, we are starting the Jamaican Steele drums, and we are going to LIMBO and PARTAY!!!

And congratulations to my friends who made it, and while I'm sad for those who didn't, maybe learn what I think I did... this is a FABULOUS contest, but it isn't suited for all genres, and certainly not for deep nuances or complexities of description—I ENCOURAGE people to enter, but maybe choose the work to enter with that in mind.

And to anyone who DIDN'T make it... don't get discouraged... another year, a polished pitch, another judge... we keep improving and learning, and  everyone will get their turn if they don't give up.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Crusader Challenge-ma-bob

This is a Blogger Crusade Challenge, as presented by Rachael at Rach Writes.

The rules governing this challenge: 300 words or less, in any format, must utilize the words bloviate, fuliguline, rabbit, and blade. Also must include:

one secret: I don't verbalize it (in fact this may be the first time), but I periodically have moments of panic about my son. Just this week, he was fevery (flu, I think) and took a bath and it took everything I had not to go in and check every five minutes. He's 12, but he was born early and not quite cooked (jaundiced, feeding tube, lights), and then had the flu at 14 months and had to be hospitalized for dehydration. I can still see him with his cozy stuffed rabbit (aptly named Cozy Bunny) he carried everywhere as a toddler—so sweet and fussy... only ever really liked us. It's hard to believe we're lucky enough to have the smart, social, healthy boy he is now, but that fear lingers.

• one lie (hidden among my peers, though I cheated... it's a detail, not a whole thing)

one interesting quirk: I walk to work... and I read while I'm walking... in fact of late, I've taken to EDITING while I walk, though it's hard to write and walk, especially in gloves, but I manage (except when the temperature drops below about 20 and my ink freezes), but this is not without risks... I've been knocked in the head by low hanging branches many times (especially after a rain when they hand lower) and twice I've had serious enough falls to have injuries—once I knocked my jaw out of alignment, and once I broke a finger and sprained my ankle.

one annoying habit: While my childhood friends might tell you it is my fuliguline imitation; the walk was amusing but for over a year my (darned good) Donald Duck imitation in my speech was the norm. Currently though, it is that I am a TERRIBLE stacker. HWMNBNOTI (He Who Must Not Be Named On the Internet for the uninitiated) thinks there is a single place for a thing to go, and it should always be put there, and I don't disagree, but HE thinks it is 'away' and I think it should be where it is most likely to remind me to attend to it.

one of your best character traits: I'm not one to bloviate, but I think the single most important trait for a writer is one I have in spades... Tenacity. Call it persistence if you will, and I have that, too, but tenacity has a sense that of... even if it's delusional... and I sometimes think this writing business requires that... determination no matter HOW absurd it seems. (though I also like my silliness, even if it scares some people away)

one of your favourite things in the whole world: Going to a Harry Potter movie with both of my kids. As they get older, there aren't a ton of things they want to do WITH me AND with EACH OTHER and without other friends... Harry Potter has been an experience we all had together and because I am the serious nut about it, but they LIKE it, and their best friends aren't nearly as into it... it is something the three of us go do together (in fact I think they feel obliged, but secretly like it). We had a blast at the midnight showing of the first Deathly Hallows. (I can pull off a near approximation for Pirates of the Caribbean (*envisions Captain Jack peering through his blade* mmmm, Captain Jack...) so there will be two this summer)

erm yeah... incapable of a 300 word post (I need much more time to write something that short), but there you have it...

SQUEEEEEEEEE:  This just in!  Made first cut at ABNA!!!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I know. It's cryptic, but all will be revealed.

First I need to say that today I am ALSO at East for Green Eyes and My Writing Journey, talking about my... erm... unconventional path toward publishing.

And besides that... yesterday one of our fellows had a SUPER-helpful post on all the things we sort of need to have in mind on the off chance we ever get that infamous elevator ride, and then a chance to expand on our tale...  I've actually archived Roland's Nazca lines for Writers, as I will want to come back to it, but I also wanted to share it with you.

Okay, so What's with the 44.66?

Let me e'splain... I am 2/3 of the way through my 45th year... 4 months exactly to my birthday, so 44.66 is my age today.  66 also would have been my DAD's age today, had he not died many years ago (he is 23 in the pic; I'm 2)... so I can get a bit morose, but what I really want to focus on is this:  In 4 months, I will be 45 and I have some cleaning up of my act that needs doing by then!

My writing goals are going along FINE. I am on target with my timeline--all the editing has taken just a little longer than planned, and I have not queried yet, but it was a rational decision, because the changes were bigger and I want to make sure they indeed made it ready (or near ready) before I jump in there.  But I have STARTED my next Gardening Cozy--had the first couple scenes bugging me so I went for it, even though I need to sort the plot. My cast of characters has been ready for a while now (though I added a new one recently who I think has a lot of potential).

But there is a big elephant in the kitchen who just needs to be dealt with... erm... and sadly, I am starting to look more and more like her... you heard me... it is TIME to get on that ignored-to-this-point fitness plan.  I can do it now though... let me tell you what is different:


This is a biggie for me... WHY do I want to do this? Why put myself through the suffering life style change, if there isn't some shiny fabulousness to be gained? I'd like to tell you I want to do this for my health, but that would be a lie. My health has NEVER been an adequate reason to take on something like this. No... the only thing that has ever worked is SHAME. I don't WANT to be the elephant in the kitchen, and I CERTAINLY don't want to be the elephant at the ABNA midwest meet-up that I hope to attend at the end of June.

In fact I'd really like to be hot. There. I said it. I am vain and petty and low... erm... not low enough to wear make-up every day, mind you, but low enough that I don't want people saying “Gads, I didn't know Hart was fat.”

Now I know that is sort of an exaggeration... I've always been... erm... statuesque? And there has never been a person who accused me of being a pixie. And up to about 20 pounds lower, my weight distributes well enough that the description BIG (though would-be world dominatrixes prefer the term Amazon Goddess) has always been more apt than fat. But I've crossed the line and stayed across for about four years now, and it is time to get back below that threshold, and if tapping a little vanity is what's needed, I am ON BOARD.

Bye-Bye Obstacle #1

It is SO CLOSE to above freezing in Michigan! (never mind we are getting snow yet again on Friday)... But I can convince myself to commit to a month of the elliptical machine if I know sunny walks are on their way. Every year I live in Michigan, I think I become more 'bear'. Come November, I really just want to hunker down and hybernate and it gets SO HARD to keep up my fitness routine (oh for the day I am rich with no day job and I can go to a gym at 10 in the morning!) At the Mo, though, we are BROKE (no membership fees available) and my work hours and family life are bad for working out anyway. I've trained myself to WRITE in the evenings, the only non-committed time I have.

Incentive, Revisited

I have a book release date, FINALLY. It is a LONG time from now, June 2012, but I really need to be comfortable in goddess mode by then, yes? Erm... okay, maybe we are back to the vanity on this one...


So I figure 45 marks my half way point in this life, yes? Isn't it really just good thinking to start that second half as hot as possible? *shifty *


Two things: Commit and stay committed to my 4 days of power exercise (in addition to the walking to work, which I have never dropped). COUNT points (yes, weight watchers)--I can join free online. I've resisted because you know... I already live online... but maybe if that's where I am, that is where I should be... if that makes sense. I've also heard about something called SparkPeople that is a fitness online gig that I think I will look into. But I know for a fact if I really count points and exercise, that will do it. (Oh, and when my tax money shows up, I am buying better walking shoes—the last pair fell apart)

Now I don't want to bore all of you with all this, but I DO need some accountability, so... because W begins both Wednesday and Weight, I think I need to check in with just a sentence or two every Wednesday from here on out... I will keep it brief though...

So there you have it... my intention to get fit in the last third of a year in the last year of the first half of my life... erm... or something.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's Taxing

So for about an hour Saturday and three hours Sunday, I engaged in that American Obligatory Torture that is income taxes. ACK!

I've always done my own. It just doesn't seem like it ought to require a professional if we all have to do it (especially not a professional who already makes more money than me, so shouldn't get some of my hard earned money), so on principle, I haven't been willing to pay somebody else.

This whole 'Self-Employment' thing...

Man, I am pretty sure I snuffed that up...

But I'm operating at a loss, so that's something...

Why do I seem pleased with that? Let me e'splain...

Last year was the first one where I had income to do with writing. I got the first leg of my advance—the part that comes with signing. And that money did not have any taxes, social security... NOTHING withheld... So I was worried...

But in fact I have space in my HOUSE I use exclusively for writing (and social networking)(besides the bathtub, I mean)... I measured it and allowed myself to be prodded through the expenses portion of the tax form, and what do you know... it worked me below that advance level, so I don't owe any taxes on it!

Elizabeth had recommended Quicken for Writers, and I probably should have invested (instead I used Tax Act, in upgraded form for $17.95 *shifty*) I just really have such a mental block (read: am so cheap)--I can't make myself spend the money...

So what do all of you do for taxes? Anybody figured out anything easy peasy and fabulous?

Legacy Edit: DONE!!!

So we got a big ol' pile o' snow on Sunday and I took a snow day on Monday, and managed to finally finish the edit I've been working on. This is very exciting for a couple reasons.

1)I've sent it off to a couple fabulous readers. The last two readers were WONDERFUL, but changes were more extensive than I'd expected (which is par for the course, of course) so I thought fresh eyes would help before I get to the query...
2)I can FINALLY get back to WRITING!!! MAN, I've missed real writing (as opposed to this editing nonsense)

Okay... that's what I've got today... My brain is fried from the writing and snow... hopefully I will be back on top of it by tomorrow...  

In the mean time, to make me feel better... let's imagine our future selves... when the piddly money to an accountant no longer makes us hostile...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Spread the Doom!!!

First, I should let you know I intend to really get around this week, in a way only a true Tart can... TODAY, I am at Burrowers, Books and Balderdash, letting you know what I WANT to read, since I seem to have no time to REALLY read...

Wednesday, I am... I'm not sure if I am at Rosie's place or Charity's... but talking about my wonky path in this publishing game... as you know... I don't exactly follow the rules, but oddly, it has seemed to sort of work for me...

And then FRIDAY, I am visiting Denise Vericco, who I hosted in January, for the release of her second book, and am talking about why it is important to make sure YOU LOVE IT! (whatever it is)

And then... Some of my friends have come through

Delusional Doom Blogfest update

Three different people created FABULOUS designs to help out. What I am ASKING... I'd love you to help me spread the word, whether you include it in a post or your sidebar, I would be eternally grateful... So to HELP, here are some TOOLS:

Rosie created this one, ideal for a blog post:

And Holly created one that is narrower side to side, that works great for a sidebar...

And Joris, my reliable, fabulous, go-to guy, created on that is entirely original, instead of the painting I'd suggested... and I LOVE it! Since it's square, it works for either a post or a sidebar...

So I would LOVE it if you used one or all to help promote... note the spot below for adding the link, or else just send people here...

What the heck IS IT you ask?  Well this post gives my original description... mostly it is a little fun around your own demise... a happy little death plot, or a delusional story of your life... you know... after the fact...  A death, a funeral, a murder... of you or someone you love... or someone you don't like very well and wish ill upon... or maybe a frenemy you are jealous of... as long as somebody dies and we are all entertained, it's all good...

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Quintessential Tart

(HA! I didn't even need spell check to fix quintessential! I'm on a roll!)

So this Blogger Crusade is INSANE, yeah? I've had a bunch of new followers (almost 30?), extra comments, and a decent jump in hits, which is mega-cool. I'd like the THANK Rachael for her fantastic organization. I thought though, with a bunch of new faces... that maybe I should introduce myself a little more (meaning less--this is a theme with me... sometimes less is more (clothing) sometimes more is more (most stuff)) properly so you know what you're getting yourself into. Consider this my disclosure statement *cough*

As Writer

I'm dark and mysterious eh? Aren't you frightened? (this is actually a tree I pass on my walk, half dead, half alive, and I LOVE it, but I digress)  Yeah, see... well that's the problem... I have a bit of a disconnect between... the Naked ME and what I like as entertainment. I read, watch and listen to the DARK SIDE *cue spooky music*. I like mystery, suspense, horror, dystopia. Maybe it is that I am sort of annoyingly optimistic and silly and need some balance? I'd like to think though, that I WANT to be Vivian Leigh, but was born Lucille Ball [you know... the wrong kind of crazy]. Whatever the case, the majority of what I've written has been suspense in some form or other (mystery... thriller-wannabe). (though never without a snark, smartass, or ironic character... I like dark humor, too—voice always comes through.) Miss Darkness has written seven books, and edited three, but is just FINALLY getting one of them right (I hope)

Cozy Me

(this is Joel) Here's the thing, though... I write and polish and edit and write some more... improving, yes, but 'good enough'?... not yet—on the suspense anyway...

Cozy Mystery... GOT ONE. Last spring I had a chance to audition for a series with the first 50 pages based on some guidelines the editor suggested, and I GOT IT! It was still a lot of work (and my editor has asked me for some changes, but they aren't that big...), but the thing about Cozies... THIS WORK is like PLAY... there is no effort in keeping in voice when you get to have characters announce “I'm naked!” when that is EXACTLY what YOU like to say! So here I am, alternating voices, because I'd like to do both, but the one that comes more naturally, is the one that worked most easily. Who knew?

And then there is BLOGGIE Me...

(the same voice as the Cozies, largely, but maybe with a swig of rum to kill the inhibitions and a shot of espresso to amp the chaos) This is me as I really would be if my brain in real life could keep up. In actuality, my processor is sort of overloaded, so I speak a little more slowly than is consistent with the spaz coming across your screen... and erm... while I'd like to pretend I'm Jessica Rabbit... once again, I am more Bugs in Drag... except instead of a man dressed as a woman, I am more a woman dressed as a man dressed as a woman (except I'm not dressed)--Oh, I know it's confusing, but you will catch on very quickly.

In my blog life, I'd bet 70% of my content either is about writing or connects some OTHER observation to writing, 10% is sentimental tripe sweetness, and 20% is insanity in my own personal idiom... But even the theoretically non-insane stuff is still... you know... me (aka: insane by normal standards).

And I LOVE the Blogosphere... I first appeared in June of '09 and started mercilessly stalking Elizabeth (which is what I recommend to ANYONE who wants to learn FAST how to do it RIGHT). I have made a ton of friends... real friends... deep friends... friends who put up with me and even LIKE me... I just think the level of info exchanged via blog lets us really know each other a lot better than the other social media... we become people who not only click a button for each other, but really support each other... but what SHOCKED me so much is how much I have LEARNED (because of course I already knew everything, so what was there to learn *shifty*) This is my world and YOU are my peeps!

More ME! *cough*

FOMS: essential to ME, is the fact that I am deathly afraid of missing something (get it? Fear of Missing Something), so I generally participate in... oh, everything... I am currently on pins and needles waiting to hear if my pitch passed me from round one to round two of ABNA (for Kahlotus Disposal Site—a YA general fiction book with a ghost narrator)... I do NaNoWriMo and most big blog events... though not the writing blogfests, as I don't have time to give them what they deserve...

Flag Nut: So one of my stat counters is a FLAG counter, and it makes me SQUEEEE a lot... did it just last night when I got a visit from my 145th country! (Myanmar—cool flag, eh? Though I hear—via some random blog, that it's controversial, as it is new and replaced a loved one... or something)(and Cruella has reminded me this is BURMA, which is another controversy--ACK!  My blog just got political!) I ADORE that people all over the world read this... oh, sure, sometimes the search that brings them here is a little odd... maybe some of them aren't ACTUALLY reading... But I've made good friends in Norway, Sweden, Turkey, Thailand... many many more...

Naked World Domination: This is an effort to achieve world peace by taking over the world and making everyone get naked *nods* (seriously, it totally makes sense if you see the whole manifesto)

so there I am! In a nut shell! (without the shell)

WELCOME ONE AND ALL! (except spammers... especially that annoying American woman hater... sheesh... talk about asking to have your comment deleted:  hello... I am an American woman... *rolls eyes*)

I hope to see all of you around regularly!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Delusional Doom Blogfest

So this may shock alla y'all, but sometimes I get a little reckless... And when other people are having fun doing cool stuff like holding blogfests, I think I WANT TO HAVE FUN AND HOLD BLOGFESTS! (It's my FOMS kicking in)  But then I look at all the planning and stuff and think... meh... that is SO NOT ME...

But then I thought... you know... in REAL LIFE people have these big fancy, expensive, catered parties with tons of planning, and those are A BLAST! And then OTHER people, on a WHIM invite all their friends over... maybe a couple people with instruments... potluck... buy a keg and ask people to bring their favorite mixed beverage... and THAT is a blast, TOO!

I am much more likely to have the second kind of party, and you know... why NOT have the second kind of blogfest?



Hencewith... (damn, I knew that wasn't a word) SOMEONE WILL MEET THEIR HIS OR HER DOOM!!!


When: The Ides of March (March 15) obviously
Where: Your blog and mine

Let me e'splain...

You can do ANY (or all) of the following:

Predict your own death
Predict someone ELSES death
Write your own obituary
Write someone ELSES obituary
Plot a murder of someone sorely asking for it, step by step

I don't care whether you do it by story, plot list, news article, PROPHECY (any seers in the group?). All I ask is that SAID DEATH be either very strange, unusual, bizarre...conspiratorial... or that the reporting be entertaining.

I am okay with gore, but if you choose to include it, please be considerate of other festers and post a WARNING.  And if you really ARE a soothsayer or seer, keep that stuff to yourself. Nobody wants to know... this is FOR FUN.

HELP! And if anyone has FAR more graphic abilities than I do (which means pretty much everyone), I would LOVE a volunteer to make a badge for it. Mine would look something like this:

(only legible)

So join us!!!

(blogs not using javascript can also join using: Powered by Linky Tools
Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list...)

HA!!!! This just in!  A BANNER!  Thank you so much Rosie!!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bernard Pivot Blogfest

An Easy Peasy Blogfest!  I'm all over that!  Nicole Ducleroir is hosting this one, and it is a questionnaire where I get to talk about ME!

1.What is your favorite word?

Misattribute. I LOVE a word that causes people to DO what it says...

2.What is your least favorite word?

Fiancé:  when we were engaged, hubby and I used to call it the F word. Also not a fan of husband or wife.  All these terms feel like ownership to me, plus it's nobody's business whether HWMNBMOTI is male or female. I tend to use partner, significant other. 

3.What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Am I allowed to say pudding?  Seriously though... Alone time. Naked time. Water time. Walking time.  Probably why I write in the bath... I hit 3 out of 4 of those most days.

4.What turns you off?

NAG NAG NAG NAG NAG NAG NAG.  And stress. Stress is bad. But mostly I can tune it out unless somebody keeps REMINDING ME!

5.What is your favorite curse word?

(Pants are evil! Down with Pants!)

6.What sound or noise do you love?

Plunk (something small falling into a pond or lake); I also love the sound of the toads we get in the summer. They make me happy.

7.What sound or noise do you hate?

A car engine wheezing and then failing to turn over.  The squeal of a car with a broken belt. I hate cars. They are expensive. Caring for them is stressful.

8.What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I think I would have made a pretty decent therapist. Mostly though, I want to be a writer, and am working on it.

9.What profession would you not like to do?

RETAIL.  I put in my waitressing time. I'm not a people person. And I detest being polite to people who are being rude to me.

10.If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
I'm pretty sure he'd be speechless, but a good, "so you found the place alright?" accompanied by the confused face of a host who had given misleading directions...

So there we have it... that was FUN!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Stepford Books

So I'm reading this book... it started with this excellent action sequence, detailed and riveting. It has world intrigue, huge stakes, a hero trying to get out of the spy business but pulled back in for one last gig... Everything, right? So why am I grumbling?

It is too perfect... only... not quite... The author did everything right. EVERYTHING. But the seams of what the author is doing are... visible? I can see the evidence... (s)he is trying too hard...

It's funny, because I am ALSO listening to the Harry Potter books on tape, and noticing a preponderance of adverbs... Yet those are my favorite books EVER... Big no-nos everywhere, but it flows seamlessly and I'm tickled...

So what's my problem?

Pretty People

Y'all might have heard me grumble about pretty people, yes? How ANNOYING they are... *cough* I may be the only person who is quite so irritated with beauty, but I can tell you something. A person (real or fictional) who is gorgeous, smart, virile, coordinated and rich? 999,999 times out of a million is also an A$$HOLE. People just do not GET every blessing.

Let me share a little of an old debate I used to have with my Potterheads on this topic:

Sirius Black...

From a family virtually devoid of decency and love.

In Order of the Phoenix Harry watches a memory of a girl looking longingly at Sirius. He doesn't even notice her.

Some of my (naïve) friends thought he just had more important things on his mind. A fifteen year old boy? Seriously?

I THINK he takes girls for granted. He can have anyone he wants any day of the week... he is a flavor of the day guy. You got it. Sirius was a PLAYA... I can't conceive of it any other way... thereby giving him the crucial flaw he needs to seem REAL, because if he was really all that fabulous AND was just concerned about his friends *gag*

Character like James Bond? ALSO a PLAYA...

Now I actually have a beauty queen in my Cozy Mystery who HAPPENS to be beautiful, smart, rich and nice... but she has some deep secrets... a couple that come out in the first, a few more later... and before readers see too much of her, it's possible she's mentioned as a murder suspect.

I just feel very strongly that characters who are too perfect are NOT credible, and worse... not INTERESTING.

You CAN though, SALVAGE the situation... Take Princess Natalya from War and Peace... beautiful, rich, well matched for marriage... makes a BAD mistake and LEARNS from it... So if you MUST have pretty characters, it would be wise to be really rotten to them.

And you know... I'm not the only one who thinks so... Ted Cross did a blog just yesterday on unbelievable characters.

Perfect Prose

The next piece... I guess as a reader, I don't want to be able to see the decision making process. “I need to have some of this, and then this kind of sequence, and then this...” I get that there is an underlying formula for thrillers, but it needs to flow fresh and new. Surprise me! Make me LAUGH. Make a mistake! Make sure your MC is not prepared for every darned thing!

There is definitely worse criticism to get, but I think this novel might have benefited from a few rounds of smoothing.

Speaking of smoothing...

You know I've been editing Legacy since I sumbitted Kahlotus for ABNA, yes? Well I am officially done with the 'big-edit' round. I am smoothing it, then sending it to the FABULOUS Jenny Milchman who reads family suspense and hopefully can give me a genre reader's opinion on whether I am on the right track.

So there.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Special Gift

For Valentine's Day, I went looking for things I love to share with you and got sucked deeply into a tangent that I thought was far more interesting than the planned list...

I started with OLD BOOKS. Jessica put up something about old books last week, and I told her I had a bunch from my grandpa. This is just a subset of them.

The taller red one that you can't read is a copy of Robin Hood, with the gift inscription in the front cover dated 1911. The giftee, someone called Hamilton Barrett (or Arthur Hamilton Barrett), had several books in my grandfather's collection—I wish I knew someone who could tell me the connection, but I am guessing this is perhaps a cousin or uncle who had no children of his own. The small book that is almost completely gilted is a beautifully illustrated Pinocchio that has both the name above and my grandfather's.

The one that really caught me, though, was this one. Poetical Works by Thomas Moore. The leather of the cover has the cut-out and had a leaf pattern stamped into it—the author and title in raised letters. The gilting is definitely wearing off in places and the pages are very brittle, but the treasures inside?

First, the book opened to this page by itself. Four leaf clovers are rare—I think I've found one or two, but not often... here though, is a gift from some long lost relative... It's VERY big, as clovers go

And then, more special still... the history of the book (and some history of my family) in the front cover. The post-it was written by my grandma, who you all know was the best person EVER.

The notes say:

“Christmas present to Heather from her father. Dec 25th 1881.”

and then

“Tami, Hattie was Grandma Baker's sister. Grandma Baker was Great Grandmother Boyd's mother. Hattie and G. Baker (America Thompson) were raised by their Grandfather, Dr. Ford, after their mother's death during the civil war.”

So there we have it... what a wonderful Valentine's gift—a little connection to my grandma and my history, courtesy of my love for old books.

Have you ever had an unexpected treasure pop up and touch your heart like that? I'd love it if you shared!

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Art of Misattribution

So today's blog topic is one from my random topic, number generating files. I asked for a number between one and 41, and it came up with #7, which is of course the most powerfully magic number, and so logically corresponds with Misattribution—my SUPERPOWER.

Defining Misattribution: You know those squares at Microsoft don't even believe it's a WORD, which is baffling. Misattribution is the action of intentionally mishearing or misinterpretting, preferably to turn what was said into something sexual in nature.

Historic Examples (and by Historic, I mean... you know... me)

When I Met Stacy

The discussion was on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the remake.

I said, “I liked Gene Wilder's version better. Johnny's Willy was a little to creepy for my yum factor.”

Stacy... proceeded to poke fun at me, because though I innocently MEANT Johnny's portrayal of Willy Wonka, well... you can imagine what SHE saw... (in fact this may have been the awakening of my SUPERPOWER)

Cher Bear, Just Yesterday

Yesterday my friend Cheri Channeled Rita Skeeter for a guest post at Burrowers, Books & Balderdash... She was having weather issues because it snowed two feet in Arkansas (if you can believe that) so she was a little behind and sent me THIS when she sent the post:

You have mail... I fully expect to be sent to the dungeon in chains. ;)

I saw that yesterday morning after I'd already checked my email, so I responded:

Got it! Up in 6 minutes!

No problem, eh? But when I was checking Facebook later in the day... my eyes IGNORED one crucial character *cough *

So I said, “so I just saw my comment and my brain ignored the exclamation point and I wondered who was being obscene and then saw it was me... “

Now you might think it doesn't COUNT if you misattribute your OWN words, but in reality, I think you get double points.

But the BEST thing about Misattribution...

Is people see the word, and they misattribute what it says... Nine times out of ten people see that word and are thoroughly convinced it says.... well what do YOU see?

So there... Misattribution is a skill worth nurturing... see that you all give it a try this weekend...

So Hot It's Almost Misattribution

So my buddy the Beer Wench, Liz, who I interviewed  a while back about her short story being picked up, turned that story into a book deal. The BOOK was partially first posted on her blog and removed, and you all know the nature of serials, yes... each episode is both self contained, and aimed at bringing the reader back for more?

Well as it turns out, this book deal, is poised to be one of the first... get this... you won't be able to believe it... 'pick your own EROTICA'... the reader gets to make decisions and that sends them into their next little fantasy segment! Beer and sex, all YOUR CHOICE!

Read more about it HERE. (there is lots of eye candy, too!)

So there!  I hope you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tartness at Bat

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Nudist Tour that day;
The weather front threatened, with a bad wind chill on the way,
And then when Arkansas got buried, and Ohio got the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the northern nudist game.

A straggling few got up to go inside in despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, "If only Global Warming could show up right now
We'd love to strip this itchy wool, the Tart can show us how!."

But snow preceded sunshine, and the cold front did too,
And the former made obstacles, while the latter was just poo;
So grim melancholy sat upon that stricken multitude
For there was no chance today to be a happy naked dude.

But Flynn showed us a cream, to the wonderment of all,
That added ten degrees, to what we felt from this squall;
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was a hopeful whisper about moving nude forward.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the skies,
For Tartness, mighty Tartness, was advancing on the rise.

There was ease in Tartness' manner as she stepped into her place;
There was pride in Tartness' bearing and a smile lit Tartness' face.
And when, responding to the cheers, she lightly gave a wink,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Tartness on the brink.

Ten thousand eyes were on her as she rubbed her hands with glee.
Five thousand tongues applauded when she wiped them on her knee.
Then while the writhing Lucius did a Macarena well,
Defiance flashed in Tartness' eye, a wink that time would tell.

And now a leather-covered man came hurtling through the air,
And Tartness stood a-watching him in haughty grandeur there.
But he passed on right by her, with unprecedented speed,
"He must have spotted something, had an unexpected need."

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
"Kill him! Kill the bad boy!" shouted someone on the stand;
And it's likely they'd have killed him had not Tartness raised her hand.

With a smile of sweet indulgence great Tartness' visage shone;
She stilled the rising tumult; she bade them to go on;
She signaled to the masses, and once more a new man flew;
But Tartness still ignored him, and the crowd started to boo!

"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered "Fraud!"
But one scornful look from Tartness and the audience was awed.
They saw her face grow stern and cold, they saw her goosebumps strain,
And they knew that Tartness wouldn't let a man go by again.

The sneer had fled from Tartness's lip, the teeth were clenched in cold;
She turned to look upon them with a whip held in her hold.
And now the next man starts to run, and she lets out a snap,
And now the air is shattered by the whip that Tartness cracks.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
People are dancing naked, and somewhere the hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and flashing skin so bold;
But the Tart can't catch a nudist; it just is too cold.

Adapted from Tartness at the Bat
By Ernest Lawrence Thayer (San Francisco Examiner 1888)

All images from image google "naked baseball"