Thursday, June 30, 2011

Editing What?

Okay, so it hasn't been THAT long since I last edited... January, I guess (well, for a big edit anyway) but I really find that writing and editing use very different brain muscles and when I have been solidly in one mode, the transition takes a little while.

GADS, it feels like it's been a while since I edited!

So how do I do this again?

An editing demon, apparently. No wonder we're scared!
Editing a la Tart 101

*  read and create beat sheets: Note: This means basically a sentence or two for each section... the whole book in 5 or 6 pages. This is nice because it makes me read it all holistically and also gives me a place to glance for where big plot ideas will fit... I can check for big holes...

-  Note that I can't seem to keep from basic edits when I do this. So sue me. It just drives me nuts to look at typos, even in a section that may change significantly.

*  Then, manuscript in hand, I mark WHERE these go and write them... and I mark the things in that I already know need to be added... maybe foreshadowing I didn't know I needed in the first draft, details about gardening (because these need a little research and I don't research much on the first draft because it sidetracks me)

*  Then, I read it all again--pen in hand, this time looking more closely at wording, continuity, pacing, errors... This is the mid-level edit, but it is HERE that I send it to Peer reviewers. I tell them to ignore typo stuff... as the feedback will change stuff... this is the PLOT review.

*  Once I have peer reviews, I do the same... BIG edits, then LITTLE (ideally... if time... another peer review round here...) 

*  Then read out loud for more careful editing, and send to agent...

Or such is my plan.

First editing task up is the 2nd Cozy Mystery, due to my editor September 30. I Still have maybe 100 pages to type, but I have 180 pages printed to start the process. My PLAN... read in one week, big edits week 2, smaller edits week 3, so sent to peers by July 20.

Give THEM 3 weeks. Then take one to address their changes and send to AGENT by August 20. Give HER 3 weeks, then I have about 3 weeks to polish.

While peers have the Cozy, I will begin on Kahlotus. The three weeks my peers have the cozy MAY be about right, but this is a biggish edit, so it may ALSO take the August span... But that ALSO will go to peers when I'm done, then be revised and then go to my agent...

I think I can fit the revisions for the first three chapters of What Ales Me in the In-between... in fact because it is ONLY 3 chapters and a synopsis, and because I know who Ellen plans on sending it to, I may do that first. I have believed all along, this is an easier sell, and I'd really LIKE to have another sale...

GACK! I guess what I'm saying is I am about to dive into three solid months of editing... I have to change brains.. Thankfully, my friend Stacy agreed to exchange brains with me, as she just got OUT of editing and is trying to get writing again... So I've got that going for me.

What about the rest of you? Can you edit and write at the same time or does it take some transition? What are you working on now?

[This just in” When one google images: Editing madness, I find three of my fabulous Joris designed book covers... so we've got that going for us...]

And it's Thursday!  You know what that means!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Interview Intimidation

So I've been trying to expand my horizons on how I can help my fellow authors but for some reason this reviews and interviews thing intimidates the heck out of me.

So I thought maybe before I dive into the season where I've promised some half dozen of these various things, I would have a little therapy session with Yibus.

Why on Reviews

Well see, it's like this... There are a bunch of bloggers who write KICK-ASS reviews! They know stuff (and yeah, I know I know stuff), but they know stuff about the elements of books... the pieces that need to be there, the comparitive works, what books of the genre call for... A couple of my regular haunts that do great reviews include (but are by no means limited to) Leigh and Mason. And they just know how to review books!

How the heck is a hack like ME supposed to review books!?

But even more intimidating is the INTERVIEW

I've only done... two maybe... but I have three currently scheduled... I HAVE read one book, am READING one, and will read the other in August...

I guess the thing here is... I really prefer both the questions and answers to interviews where the interviewer is familiar, can ask original and relevant questions that are FRESH. I think the interviewee comes across better too—it is something that they haven't answered a thousand times, so the answers are more fun.

Anybody else intimidated by these things? Any tricks of the trade you want to share?

For the Record... What's Coming

Review: Very Bad Men by Harry Dolan: July 6
Review: South of Superior by Ellen Airgood (when it's written)
Interview: Harry Dolan: July 16
Review: My Fearful Symmetry by Denise Verrico (early August)
Review: Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis (early August)
Interview: Denise Verrico: August 16
Review: String Bridge by Jessica Bell (November)
Interview: Jessica Bell: (November)

So if any of YOU have fresh unusual questions for any of my interviewees, I will be thrilled to consider them! (I'd actually love the help!)

[NOTE:  All this grumble is about MY inadequacies... these are totally skills I want to master, so THANK YOU for you fabulous people letting me give them a go]

[Also Wik:  I finished What Ales Me (first draft) last night:  Wordcount currently 55,148]

[Also also wik:  I love yibus!]

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Honing Habits

And this isn't about the WRITING Habit, which I think I've managed to hone. This is about a writing ENABLING Habit I've decided I need.

So yesterday I was looking at Carol's blog and she had some writer's helpers--including some very cute waterproof stuff for documenting ideas you get in the shower... but it occurred to me... USUALLY, I can make it from the shower to my notebook 2 feet away if I really need to get it on paper... (one of the perks to always writing in the tub--that is where my stuff is--HWMNBMOTI refers to the bathroom as my office). When I risk losing an IDEA... is when I'm out WALKING...

Now I walk A LOT. I walk to and from work (a little over two miles each way), and I walk to exercise... and now that HWMNBMOTI is gainfully employed and has the car off in other places, I additionally have errands to walk on...

And when I am WALKING, it is generally for 45-90 minutes at a time... TALK ABOUT A BIG VOID FOR PRECIOUS IDEAS TO FALL INTO.

PLUS... I have a theory about busy body/relaxed mind for bringing those ideas about ANYWAY... That is always when I do my best problem solving, and more than a few major plot twists have sprung up on walks.

Isn't this clever? Could totally make one!
So I decided the habit I need to hone, is always having a little notebook with me (and pen... the pen is critical).

So for the time being, I put a small notebook and pen in my backpack (and wrote a few ideas down on my way home... mostly for blog topics). But I am going to keep my eyes open for some little spiral notebooks so I really CAN take them on walks around my neck if I feel so inclined. It's not like I don't already have a reputation as a freak around here... I am the edit or read (sometimes out loud) while walking lady. Strangers recognize me regularly and say that is why. So why NOT exercise with a little notebook around my neck? But the notebook and pen in the backpack is just common sense. I can't believe it never occurred to me before.

The OTHER Habit?

I am going into this other one seriously more grudgingly... I HATE to cook. I've always hated it (with the exception of soups and such... a big pot of soup I can eat for a week is okay—I am the only person in my house though, willing to eat the same thing every day)... But HWMNBMOTI is working full time now—40 hours in 4 days... which means on those 4 days he is not here to make dinner.

He has ALWAYS made dinner... and I have worshipped him for it. He is a great cook. (and he likes it).

But the system had to change, so I have to get back in the habit of cooking 4 days a week. (ick)

I decided though, if I really have to cook every day, I am going to learn to cook Indian food. It is my favorite kind, and it seems the real stuff (as opposed to restaurant stuff) is really pretty healthy. Hopefully by focusing on something I sort of WANT to learn to do, it will help the fact that I HAVE to do this thing not be so painful.  Kids have both grumbled, but they can live with one day a week.  Last night we had Apoo Kapir over rice and Cucumber salad with yoghurt dressing (see how I spelled yoghurt like I live within the British Commonwealth?)

What about you? Any habits you are trying to hone? Any tricks you are doing to master them?

Monday, June 27, 2011


So there is this one detail of WriMos that is just a little pesky... You know what it is?

I'm THIS close!
I'm THIS close!  I have TECHNICALLY met my WriMo goal (night before last I hit 50,198 and am now just 2 words shy of 52k), but the book isn't done... Oh, I see the end from here, but it isn't say... a nice 2000 words off. I have finally reached the 'flow' again—I do that at the end, but it is a weird feeling to have one goal met and the other not... it's like... this momentum drain. I want to want to rush and scurry, but at the same time, I am... you know... done...

How is that, that you can be done and not done? I've had a few other examples in life, but most of them are surprises:

Master's Thesis

I wrote and defended my master's thesis... turned it in... got a grade... and then I had to make a few freaking CHANGES! Really hard when you know you've ALREADY gotten an A to address changes before they allow you to be DONE. Isn't an A done?

Professional Manuscripts

Man, if these aren't an exercise in 'holy crap, you mean I'm not done yet' this is it... and I refer here to BOTH the scientific manuscripts I do professionally and the fiction manuscripts I do... erm... professionally.... But this is more about LONG TERM PROCESS.

So what the Heck do I do about this thing with the first drafts? I mean all the hiccups to DONE... okay FINE... but I just am not sure what to do with hiccups on the way to first draft... It's not the beginning of the end... that's the trouble... it's the end of the beginning, and it is supposed to go... erm... over the cliff all at once... or something...

Ah, well... Hopefully it will be DONE DONE, by the end of the month, and in the MEANTIME, I've gotten back to typing up my Garden Cozy that I begin editing on July 1, if not sooner... (best to have it in word before the edit... process just goes more smoothly.

In the MEANTIME... some NEWS to share:

My good buddy Stacy had her third novella accepted for publication... gads, I am 10 days out now, because I am bad that way, but it is with Carina Press at Harlequin, which for a romance author, is having the mother ship call her home! Congratulations, Stace!!! She blogged about it here.

And I have set my Harry Dolan Schedule!!!

You know how I'm a Harry Dolan freak, yes? Freaky groupee annallat... I managed to get an ARC for his second book, Very Bad Men, and will post my review July 6th , (one day before it's out) and then will post an interview with Harry July 16th. (the day before his Ann Arbor Nicola's reading... Nicola's is our last remaining Indie Book Store and I am going with my boss, as she gave me his first book—I wanted it anyway, but you know how broke I always am)

I hope you all have a great week!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Best Birthday Present Ever!!!

JKRowling made her announcement this morning... It's COMING... I should let you watch HER announce it, but let me tell you... I am SO FREAKING EXCITED!!!

And because it is Delusional Thursday, and my birthday, and she made this announcement, and Misattributing is my super power... I thought I'd give a little history about JKRowling channeling me...

I began writing with fan fiction, right? (the answer is yes, in case you didn't know)

First channeling coup:

My first story, The Other Prince, detailed the life of Eileen Prince, Snape's mum. I'm THRILLED that even though I wrote this before the last book, it holds up to all but the most picky canon examination, INCLUDING that Sirius and Regulus's dad is named Orion and the Black girls' dad is named Cygnus... I wrote that BEFORE the release of the family tree. (my only goof is I made them brothers instead of cousins--that gross man Orion MARRIED his cousin--can you say ick?)

Best Laid Plans (sometimes go awry)

This was the second long one I wrote, and though I wrote it largely tongue in cheek--it stuck to canon anyway (I am wacky that way). It was written as an alternative 7th book BEFORE the 7th was available, and there is shocking overlap with how it turned out. The main highlights:

Page 4 uses the WORDS 'best laid plans' and page 11 uses awry
Nagini occupies the body of a woman
Snape was in love with Lily
Harry is a horcrux
Snape dies to save Harry

And then there is the Tart Coup NOT in BLP

Harry has a NAKED scene!

So you see... Jo and I have a long history of a mind meld... but STILL, I'd love to thank her for this fabulous birthday present!!!

I am off to the spa!!! (a gift from my boss)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I'm So Sorry!

Whereby I am inconveniently reminded just how public a forum this is... AFTER I failed to consider it and so hurt some feelings...

So when I wrote my tribute to my step dad on Father's Day, it was intended as just that. I wrote it as I understood it, and gave you some of the details that I thought emphasized the point... namely, some history related to his first marriage... well it never crossed my mind that... you know... people I really KNEW would see, and I've really upset a few people... most specifically, a couple of my step-siblings... and I get it... she is their mom.

My step-sister accused me of having an agenda, but it is honestly just the opposite. I forgot how potentially PUBLIC it might be around here. When I write my blog, I am writing to my online friends with whom I have developed a relationship, and who do not and WILL not ever know the real life people in my life, past or present. I want to share the good of my life, but it completely didn't cross my mind my REAL LIFE friends/family might see and take exception.

I really never meant to hurt or harm anyone. I feel very badly about it. I really do sincerely offer my apology.

So it's not a total loss, I thought maybe you all could learn from my big blunder.


Of COURSE you know the audience you are WRITING for, but who else might see what you have to say? I know from my own decisions that there are stories that need to wait. I have one that has a skeleton in the real life my grandfather led that I know can't be written until a couple people I love who might be hurt are gone.

With fiction, I think just getting things into the right place is protective—you publish with a blurb that discloses enough... in a genre that gives fair warning... I think unless you include real life details that aren't solely yours to share, you are probably okay. Non-fiction doesn't have a lot of place in fiction.

I need to carry that thinking forward into other stuff. I know to be careful HERE to not show it if I'm feeling frustrated with some component of the writing system... and I know not to slam other writers, though I never feel compelled to so that is sort of unnecessary knowledge... but I DID go off on that 'dark YA blogger' last week... (attacking her views, not her, but I said some rude things about people who agreed with her---the term delusional might have been thrown around). I guess I have thus far tried to limit any negative to public figures that can take it... except when I have real life frustrations... and maybe that is what came out here.

The problem is thinking my story is MY story. There are other players, and they bring to it something different-- different background and experience. Their perception of the experience is different and, as I should know from HWMNBMOTI, they carry a different opinion about privacy. My TMI motto is not universally held.

The Other Piece?

When you get called on a big goof... take it. Two of my step-siblings responded negatively—personal slams for what I said... I could respond back personally and negatively—or I could argue—try to 'prove' my point, but that doesn't solve anything. It escalates it. I just need to realize what is right... see the truth of my mistakes through the mean language. Realize they are responding out of being offended. I need to just apologize and go forward.

And I really AM sorry. Especially with my step-sister, with whom I have sometimes had a close relationship—I feel very very badly.

Please accept my humble apologies for not thinking more clearly and for not realizing the effect my words might have.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

First Impressions

So I am ALSO at Burrowers, Books and Balderdash today talking about... among other things... BIRTHDAYS! (also the Summer Solstice and Harry Potter), but HERE, I wanted to share some of my observations from the last few weeks of hiring.

For the record, I think we've found our man... ironically, literally a man... (I say ironically, as men are pretty rare in the position which is functionally a secretary.)

But in screening letters and resumes I noticed a couple things that I thought fit the WRITING thing, too...


A cover letter and a resume... bio... anything that goes the first time you contact someone has to be ABSOLUTELY typo free. No misspellings, no formatting SNAFUs.... Heck, I rejected TWO different letters for misusing WHOM. I don't need to say it HERE, but there are definitely people who missed the WHO is a subject, WHOM is an object part of the lesson.

On that formatting thing, I had a letter that was single spaced for ONE paragraph and double for the rest... (for the record, business letters are single spaced within paragraph and double between)


Now in a resume this CAN be tricky because you aren't quite sure what they want and you definitely need to be inclusive, BUT there are a few tricks. And they apply to the writing contacts as well.

Read what they are LOOKING FOR! Reinforce these points, even if they are already there—especially if they are not absolutely clear. This is especially important if your credentials don't speak for themselves. Mention the keywords in their description. If they say they like edgy, reiterate what is edgy about your work. If they say they like character growth, doesn't hurt to point out the lessons your character learns as part of your hook.

Make it easy to LOOK at. Sounds simple enough, but paragraphs have sort of a sweet length... three to six lines, maybe... more than that and you might lose the point. Less than that, and they might think you are me (I am lousy for short paragraphs)


I had a letter from someone wanting to work for my FIRM. Hello, large academic department of a university. I do NOT represent a firm. It's disrespectful to not edit your standard letter with the tiny details for each and EVERY specific case. This isn't as bad as 'dear agent' but SHEESH... if you are bothering to apply... take the extra time to not get shoved to the 'yeahno' pile right off.

I mean in MY case, I GET 'dear hiring manager' or some such thing, because the specific contact is not available, but for pete's sake, you can mention the DEPARTMENT.

So there you have it... Advice a la Tart.

Keep in mind the lighter hearted blog IS linked above

And just because it was sorta serious, it does NOT mean it is not ALL NAKED, ALL the TIME this week. It's BIRTHDAY WEEK!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Birthday Week Kick-Off

So at the risk of losing my reputation as Mopy McMopypants, I thought maybe we'd have a little fun today... celebrate some fun stuff, and you can give me some ADVICE!

First, I should probably explain what I mean by birthday week. It's my birthday this week! *cough* But it's more than that. Why, you ask?

Because I'm not the ONLY birthday this week, so we are just going to have a week long party around here.

When I was growing up, I didn't know ANYBODY with a near birthday—there was a girl in my class who was the 26th, but she was a year older and pretty fundamentally different from me... okay... she picked on me (one of very few who ever did—she did in without too much meanness but I sure wasn't ready for it). I think there is something though to just the couple days including and immediately after the summer solstice... the formal Gemini CUSP of Cancer... A kindred thing...

I will detail it a bit more at the Burrow tomorrow, but for TODAY, I want to talk about a present I already got!!!

My Mom Sent Me a KINDLE!!! (I need recommendations!

I'm so excited. I've had a few beta partners who've wanted to do exchanges that way, and I love the idea of checking out a few chapters before buying... I see myself MOSTLY using it for travel and such, but maybe not... I will have to see how user friendly it is. I haven't dug in, as I suspect I will have a learning curve and I've been too busy to just devote a few hours.

BUT, it came with a gift card, so I wanted to ask all of YOU:

What are the best current reads you've read in YA, mystery or suspense. I have a very low tolerance for 'sweet' and prefer to limit romance to a subplot. I really DO though, need to familiarize myself with the edgy YA market... Not CREATURE paranormal, but I like dead (not zombie), ghost, psychic power paranormal. I LOVE dystopia, mostly... What do YOU recommend?

In Other News

Days OFF

I am going to try to take Thursday and Friday off work to make up for NOT getting my Mondays this month. My boss is giving me a massage, and my daughter gave me a gift card for a pedicure for mother's day, so Thursday, my actual birthday, I am going to pamper myself.

What Ales Me
is 83% complete

41732 / 50000 words written


So I'm at 41.7K on my WriMo. Just over 8000 left to goal, though probably 18K to DONE. (first draftly speaking anyway) I want to hit the WriMo goal this week, as I want to actually finish the BOOK this month...

So there we have it, not much substance, but how many parties do you know that start off immediately... it's got to build slowly!!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

For my Step-Dad on Father's Day

Long time readers know my dad died when I was young, but that doesn't mean I haven't had some stable, wonderful men in my life—grandparents, uncles, the fathers of friends. Today though, I'd like to talk a little about the great man who married my mom.

Art and my mom
The Romance was a Whirlwind

Caught us all off guard, I think. You see, I grew up in a pretty small town, and so everybody has some idea who everybody else is to some degree—at least among people with kids around the same age. Art was dating a woman who was a long time friend of my mom, but things weren't very rosy there. (she was sort of an uptight lady—she honestly never smiled because she believed it would give her wrinkles—in her defense, she had a lovely complexion--probably still does)

Spring break when I was in 8th grade, my mom and I went skiing and she let me take two friends with us—my BFF, Shannon, and Caroline. In McCall, we ran into Art and his kids—three boys (of ages on either side of me, and all in the 'cool' range) and a girl, and Kari, the daughter, who is youngest--4 years younger than me, saw this group of GIRLS and thought she'd sort of like to hang with us instead of her dad and brothers.

You see (and here is the 'holy crap, that IS a small town' part) Shannon's DAD was dating Art's ex-wife, so Shannon and Kari knew each other well.

That was when Art first decided mom was the woman for him... a lady who takes a group of teens skiing for break was his type of lady.

They got to know each other a little, but she solidly refused to date him because of this friend of hers.

She held out until I went with a group of students to Europe that June. I learned later that that allowed them to go OUT OF TOWN for a date... now this was my mother... that means ONLY what I said... that they drove 80 miles to Coeur d'Alene for dinner because my mom didn't want to run into anyone and make anyone uncomfortable unless they decided it was going to be a real thing.

I got back three weeks later and the two were already in it for the long haul. They got married in August.

With his daughter and her daughters and my mom

He is the kind of man who takes the high road. Who preserves feelings, even if it makes him look like the bad guy. His divorce wasn't a smooth one, and though many might have bashed their former spouse, he never said a WORD. He didn't say anything negative to his kids because she was their mother and he loves them.

He is full of jokes and stories. He is the go to guy for help of all sorts—anybody can ask and they do—friends, family, neighbors, church members. He is a retired electrician, so the set of skills is more vast that most people have.

He is a master of innuendo. His tag line on the side of his truck said, “Let us remove your shorts”. Definitely a forerunner of my own pants-free movement.

As a Step-Dad

He was cautious about pushing it. I was 14 when they married, and he didn't press the father angle. It was probably good. Mom and I had been alone for four years and I wouldn't have reacted well to any heavy-handed parenting when I'd never had any. My mom's illusions were hard enough. I was grounded four times as a kid—three of them in the early weeks of their marriage.

I knew though, that I could count on him for anything—call when there was trouble.

As My Mom's Husband

See, this is the best part. My mom has an underdeveloped sense of whimsy. She got serious far too young in life and felt she had to stay there. Art though, pulls her into fun. He makes her laugh, he helps her play... and he smiles and nods when she gets on one of her soap boxes (most of which I agree with her on—they are often political, but I think Art just humors her)

I love that she has someone to lighten her life—to help her have a little fun.

Art, you're a good man and I love you!

And Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there! (Including HWMNBMOTI)

Edit:  I've done some rewording on this. My original post hurt the feelings of a few people and for that, I'm deeply sorry. I've apologized more formally here

Thursday, June 16, 2011

REAL Query Help from Raquel Byrnes!

So yibus know how I love yibus, ne? (that is tart speak for you all know how I love all of you, for the uninitiated)... and how I don't really KNOW all that much, but I want to help yibus out ANYWAY... and you're in LUCK, because I have some REALLY smart friends.

Raquel is a long-time blog buddy and has the REMARKABLE skill of being able to put things in terms that even my thick head can absorb. I am inclined to KNOW when I see good advice, but not really GET what they mean... show don't tell... yeah, whatever... But Raquel, through her TERRIFIC posts has taught me such things as how to write a synopsis, how to ensure a strong premise, and what a media kit needs.

So when I learned she was doing her blog book tour for the release of her Romantic Suspense novel, Purple Knot, I thought, WE want some of that!!! (Holy COW is she organized!?) She had suggested blog topics and said we could pick or make a special request...

I went with a topic I thought we ALL need at some point, and I am VASTLY insufficient to help anybody on... (might as well ask the expert where I have no expertise, eh?) And she's come through fabulously, so Welcome Raquel!

Five Query No-No’s to Avoid
We all talk about agents as the gatekeepers to publication. Well, your query letter is your key to that kingdom. With so much riding on first impressions, here are five query no-no’s to avoid.
  • You query someone who doesn’t represent your genre. Make sure to research the agent you send your query to. Websites like Query Tracker and books like Writer’s Market all list the genre agents represent. Do your homework so you don’t waste your time.
  • You don’t talk about your book. I know it sounds crazy, but a lot of people do this. Queries are pitch letters for your book. So make the bulk of your one-page allotment about the manuscript. Don’t go off on what inspired you or how you researched it. Sell the idea of the book.
  • You have grammar mistakes. This one is a biggie because it represents you as a writer. Do you have a grasp on the craft? Can you get to the point? Have you heard of a comma? Queries reveal a lot about you as a writer. Make sure you shine.
  • You come off as arrogant, clueless, or both. Yes, you want to show confidence. Of course you are proud of your book. But telling the agent that your manuscript is the next Twilight or whatever your genre’s superstar is makes you look terrible. And don’t announce that it’s recently finished – otherwise known as unedited.
  • You don’t wait long enough. One thing you don’t want to do is annoy the agent. Don’t call five times to see if they got it. Don’t call them at all, actually. An email after a month is acceptable for follow up.
What are some things you should do?
  • Write it in the voice of your book. Is your novel fast-paced? Then convey energy in your pitch. Show them that you pack a punch in your writing.
  • Hit all three biggies: Who is it about? What is the conflict? What happens if they don’t stop it?
  • Give the vitals: What is the word count? What is the genre? Give them specifics that will help them visualize who they’d pitch your book to.
  • Mention you’ve gone social: Don’t refer them to your website to read more…they don’t do that. But do mention you feel comfortable using social media to promote your book. List a blog address or a Twitter account, but remember—those are NOT for the agent to go searching for information they need.
  • Send the right format: Some agents have gone paperless and only accept email queries. Some only want the query as the body of the email and not as an attachment. Don’t knock yourself out of the running before you even start by not sending what they want.
With a little research and attention to detail, your query can catch the attention you deserve. Take the time to do it right and you’ll give yourself a fighting chance to snag that dream agent.

Raquel Byrnes lives in Southern, California with her husband of sixteen years and their six children. She considers inspirational fiction a wonderful way to minister to others. She writes romantic suspense with an edge-your-seat pace. Her first book the Shades of Hope Series, Purple Knot, releases on June 3rd from White Rose Publishing. You can visit her at her website: and her writing blog, Edge of Your Seat Romance.

[Doesn't she have a great face? I love her cheek bones, eyes, and the mischief playing under the elegance.]

And a little tart trivia... because I CAN... when I took Spanish in High School (and 8th grade) my Spanish teacher gave me the name Raquel (Raquel Corazón--Heart). She said it was because Raquels are smart. I thought it might also be because they are spicy.  Thanks so much Raquel!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Where Life Buries Me

So I don't know what I did to tick off the cosmos, but apparently it was a doozy. So I apologize first to the cosmos. My bad. I won't do it again. At least I will try not to, though it would help a lot if you'd just tell me what it was...

Perhaps it is a correction for the good stuff that has happened lately, and in that case I will just suck it up and take it... but not until I've complained a bit, so NOW I will apologize to YIBUS, lovely readers... this is just going to be a grand whine.

Summer Schedule SNAFU

So at work our ADMIN is leaving. She gave notice on the 7th and so we are hiring. The TROUBLE is we need to hire (did I complain about this already? Feels like I may have, but I don't see blog evidence) and then TRAIN... and TRAINING requires PRESENCE of somebody BESIDES said new hiree. I REALLY REALLY hope this doesn't put the kaibash on my Mondays off this summer, but for at least the month of June, I suspect it might. (Have I SAID how sad this makes me? To think I might not get my long weekends when I wanted them SO BADLY)

[not to mention I've gone over 85 resumes in the last 48 hours]

And then there is the DAMN CAR.

By DAMN CAR, I mean only car.

But it was unavoidable. Ann Arbor seems to be experiencing a Car Goblin.[or perhaps it is a Gremlin or a Grindylow]

I was just thinking we were headed for financial stability and then last Wednesday hubby called me... flat tire... bad enough we had to replace both front ones... rear ones will need it by fall... A single credit card had room for said tires...

And THEN... the ignition has been gripping the key rather unforgivingly... won't let go without five minutes of wiggle, and finally today, it not only wouldn't let go, but wouldn't TURN... no turn... no turn OVER...

Another reason pants are evil
Now this is compounded by the fact I just mentioned that at the moment, there are NO credit cards with room for large car repairs... hubby SHOULD have gotten first check Friday, but hubby missed part of the numbers he was supposed to get them for direct deposit (and this is only a check for 3 days anyway) so there was much scrambling... We worked it out, other than the no car for three days part...

[this just in... check CAME... but it is missing the mileage reimbursement, so it helps, but is not sufficient]

So hubby talked to our neighbor who has two cars and she said “SURE, you can borrow my second one for a few days!” (YAY) but when hubby tried, her emergency break is stuck ON. And so another neighbor offered a RIDE, but her Gadget-ometer is gone (so her car drives but she has no clue how much gas, speed, or miles she's got...)... Jean, the fabulous neighbor, even had the goblin creep into her HOUSE and straighten a part of her door that should remain bent, so now her door won't open... THEN fabulous neighbor went to her FIRST car... clutch is gone... no warning (though her SO managed to fix the ONE... still, she has no second car anymore...  GAH!  What is it with these freaking car demons!?

Any of you having goblins interfering with your lives?

And then of course the life stress has make itself known on my writing schedule... but there is bright news, too.

GRANT uploaded and looks good before deadline.
And I've managed to make progress still, so because I was ahead, I am still ahead...

What Ales Me
is 67% complete

33504 / 50000 words written

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Elizabeth S. Craig: On Sequels

Yibus know how I'm a goofy fan girl about Elizabeth, right? I started following her around like a stalker about the same time as I started blogging, and we've made great friends. She was the one who first suggested I should try my hand at Cozy Mystery (something that, until I met her, I hadn't known was a genre of its own). So she has been my go-to resource both for the Social Networking she has mastered [if there was a PhD offered in Social Networking, her picture would be on the seal] AND for the tricks and rules for writing mystery.

Well for today I selfishly begged her to share something with you that I REALLY wanted her to share with ME because I am trying to figure this out myself. I wrote a trilogy once, but I am just trying to get my first 'stand alone sequel' in order. But I figured I couldn't be the only one who wanted to know how!
So Elizabeth, WELCOME! I'm thrilled to have you here!

Tips for Writing a Sequel—by Elizabeth S. Craig

The idea of writing sequels used to make me freeze up a little. I didn’t want to bore the folks who read my first book, or confuse and frustrate new readers who didn’t know who my characters were or how they connected with each other. 

What was the right balance?

I’ve heard opinions both ways…that it’s better to leave off any real explanation of the characters and their motivations in the second book, and that it’s better to make sure not to leave readers confused. 

For me, though, I’ve decided it’s better to treat the second book as a standalone as opposed to treating it as a continuation. Here’s why:

It’s more likely that even most of my returning readers would need a refresher—especially considering how long it takes for a book to come out. The only reason this wouldn’t be the case is if someone bought book one and book two at the same time. 

I also decided, based on my own experience as a reader, that it’s worse to be confused than it is to be (very) briefly bored by a short explanation. As a reader, I wish I had the time and patience to figure out who characters are…but I just don’t. Instead, I’m likely to choose another book in my huge stack.
None of us really write a lot of backstory anyway—that’s kind of looked down on. So the second book wouldn’t have any more backstory than the first (naturally, even the first book has a a backstory—why is Jessica scared of commitment? Why won’t Mama go out and look for another job?)

So my conclusion was that I’d write the sequel almost like a standalone, but being especially cautious (even more than usual) about including too much backstory or over-describing my characters, knowing that returning readers would have even less-tolerance for backstory than first-time readers.

Series Backstory--what do you need to explain?

If you look at a paragraph or a couple of paragraphs and you can’t understand what’s going on just through the context of that paragraph…you need to add a smidgeon of explanation. Are the character’s actions confusing? Can you discern the foundation for the way this character relates to others? Do his reactions to people or events make sense for the reader? Is it absolutely necessary for the reader to know why the character is this way? Can they just accept that she is that way? 

Is it hard for you to look at the story and characters as a newcomer? Consider finding a first reader who hasn’t read your first book. They’ll be able to tell you if it’s confusing.

How do you do the explaining?

Briefly! Backstory is passive and readers want to be in the current story. What’s happening now? If your character is holding a grudge against another character, it’s a little less important what the original source of the grudge is…it’s more important that the character is holding one at all—he’s the type of person who doesn’t forgive and forget. What does that say about him? How is he holding this grudge—by not speaking to the other character? By gossiping about him? Does he have a more malicious way of expressing it? Bring the action into the present. 

I think that very short tags work too…the type of tags that keep a reader from even realizing there’s a little dumping there. Karen, Tom’s older, stricter sister, plodded into the room.

One way to include series backstory: Have some of the backstory be an unexplained, small mystery to entice readers to continue reading. Just hints. Your reveal of the backstory could happen much later in the book instead of the usual chapter one dump. That way, the source of the character’s avoidance of another character, or their reaction to a particular challenge is just a small question that readers will want to read on to have answered. Returning readers will recognize this backstory anyway and won’t wonder over it. When you finally reveal the backstory motivation/foundation, you need to keep it really brief for those returning readers. 

Other ways to reveal helpful series backstory (backstory that actually helps move the plot forward or helps readers understand, relate to, and emphasize with our protagonist): believable, unstilted dialogue, a character’s thoughts or memories (be careful here), or flashbacks (be really careful here). Otherwise, you could just figure out a way to bring your backstory into the present—work it into a current conflict with a character in your story, etc. 

Character descriptions and identifiers:

It’s helpful to find the descriptions in your first book and reword them. But it’s nice to also reveal one, additional small trait or feature of these characters for the returning readers so that they get some fresh, new information.

Avoid continuity errors in the sequel by maintaining a series bible.

My series bible helps me keep track of character ages, traits, habits, hobbies; setting details; and any details of recurring subplots. I know a couple of writers who keep track of these things on an Excel sheet, but I use Word.  I type out each character’s name, how old they are, where they live in the town, what they look like, where they’re originally from, etc.

How do you make your sequel interesting for returning readers as well as your newcomers?

Character development and subplots that are continued through the books. Your first time readers won’t realize the overall pattern or extent of the growth, but if it’s hinted at then they’ll want to find your first book to see how it all started. And your returning readers will love to see how the protagonist is steadily growing…whatever your storyline is. Is your protagonist someone who’s slowly stepping out of her shell over time? Learning magical powers (like Harry Potter?) Developing a romantic interest in a recurring secondary character? 

Make some elements different—This won’t matter to new readers, but returning readers will notice and appreciate the new situations, new settings, and the new characters and conflicts you introduce. 

Sequels and series are tricky, and I’d love to hear how you make yours work. Got any additional tips for writing a sequel or what you like to see when you read a sequel? And—thanks so much to Hart for hosting me today! I love visiting here. :)

Bio: Elizabeth’s latest book, Finger Lickin’ Dead , released June 7th. Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin/Berkley (as Riley Adams), the Southern Quilting mysteries (2012) for Penguin/NAL, and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink. She blogs daily at Mystery Writing is Murder, which was named by Writer’s Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers for 2010 and 2011.
Writer's Knowledge Base--the Search Engine for Writers
Twitter: @elizabethscraig

And for anyone wanting to see my Review of Finger Lickin' Dead, it's here! But if you want a spoiler... Her tricks WORK!

Monday, June 13, 2011

You Name It!

There are a lot of steps in getting to know your novel, don't you think? Some of them have to flow in a certain order, but others can... you know... occur when they may.

One though, that can, out of nowhere, give you coherence and direction is the title. Oh, I know. Important not to get too attached in case your publisher wants to call it Biscotti con Leche or something. But I find most of my books have a MOMENT. Sometimes it is early (like before I even really start:  Kahlotus Disposal Site or Player Down) and sometimes it comes later. But it is this sensation of 'THAT'S IT!'

Really my yard. Really my wine.
And you know, sometimes a name can make all the difference in whether somebody is interested or not. Take this wine, for instance. Normally I buy my wine in a box. It has to do with quantity and price... but there was just SOMETHING about this I COULDN'T resist... If you spot it, maybe you could let me know...

The catchy title of course was complemented by the sale price, but between the two I thought... Hey, surely I will have host gift needs or dinner guests at SOME point in my future... I'll take TWO!

But back to books...

With Confluence, my first book, I don't remember when it came to me, but it has a triple meaning within the story, so if I ever manage to get it published, I am going to fight like heck for it. It is literally a river confluence, a confluence of blood lines and a confluence of events. Legacy has at least double meaning... the intentional and unintentional legacy left from adults to children...

These mysteries are a little tougher... they don't have quite the same narrow path and epiphany moments. So I've come to play a game with them.

They have a THEME... and then there is all that DEAD stuff (murder, slay, kill, death...) and they tend to have a lot of clever word play, eh? Some more than others.

So it started to bug me last week that I didn't have a title for my WiP yet, and I decided to play a little game...

What tools did I have to work with?

Brewing, though I confess Cleo Coyle has mostly hogged all the good brewing ones for her coffee mysteries (that note of jealousy should be taken with a heap of admiration—I love her titles)
Yeast (erm... yeahno...)
TAPPED... (Say... that's one I may come back to …)

And I thought about it...

Probably you need a speck more info.

My fictional Microbrew Pub is called the Beer Boutique. It's an art theme (fine art) and the ales are named for artists (did I say this last week? It seems I may have). So HERE is the list of names I came up with:

Artisan Ale-ments
Trouble Brewing (one that blasted Cleo has surely used)
Beer Boutique Blues (which held place overnight)

But... I am going with:

What Ales Me

So there. And just HAVING a title gives me a new sense of commitment... whatever that is... I mean... it's not like I am a girl who doesn't follow through. But it has renewed my excitement on the matter.

How about you? What's your naming process?  Do you feel like you NEED it?

Don't forget to come back tomorrow. Elizabeth Spann Craig, who knows more than me on pretty much every front (except maybe statistics) is coming by for a visit and she's going to be sharing some tricks to writing in serial (not to be confused with writing in cereal, which really you can only do with Alphabits).

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Good, The Bad, The Delinquent

(not necessarily in that order)

Delinquent GOOD (news)

I totally should have posted this a week ago! My bad! Blogger Buddy Raquel Byrnes book Purple Knot released on June 3rd! She is doing a blog book tour that you can find out more about here including a stop to talk to all of YOU next Thursday! (the 16th) Raquel is brilliant, one of those careful researchers and detailed planners I admire so much and she writes romantic suspense so this is sure to make you sweat in BOTH the good way AND the bad way. She also has that special skill of being able to put 'old adages' with solid enough examples that even a thick head like mine can absorb them (she is second only to Elizabeth in my permanent link file, and you KNOW how I worship Elizabeth!). So be sure to check her out, and come back next week and talk to her in person!


(or rather good NEWS for the delinquent...) Yibus know my Cozy Mystery agent Ellen Pepus had passed on Kahlotus Disposal Site to her colleague who handles the majority of their agancy's YA, ne? Well I HEARD from Amy Tipton yesterday... and she wants to work with me on Kahlotus!!! I gotz agent! (well, I already gotted agent, but now I gotz TWO!)

She had a fair few changes, some of which I planned anyway, a couple of which I should have expected (she wants just one PoV, for instance, which I think for YA is an easier sell... but it can TOTALLY be done)...

And besides THAT, when I was talking to Ellen, she is interested in the Micro Mystery I am WRITING and there is a plan (you heard me cackle, didn't you?) for THAT, too!!!

I have an extra day off scheduled every week this summer, starting (hopefully) the 20th, so I plan to EDIT EDIT EDIT. Maybe by fall I will have two new books being shopped.

And NOW...


If you write, then you would have had to be asleep this week to miss all the stuff on that bloody Wall Street Journal article by Meghan Cox Gurdon about how DEPRAVED YA lit has become (yes, I swear she used that word). Her poor [missed what the relationship was] went to buy her teen a book and found cutting, suicide and *gasp* sex. My favorite response (and thank you to buddy Kimberly Loomis for pointing me there) was from Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak (required reading when my daughter was a freshman) about a girl raped at a party when she is going into high school. Laurie has gotten emails from people who say they would have committed suicide without this, or her book Wintergirls about Anorexia.

Meghan's article is about this dark offering we are putting up for young people and gives the baffling argument that we are giving these kids ideas they will follow through on.

Folks, I have a master's degree in psychology. ANYONE who reads this stuff and says, 'hey, I should do that' was surely already thinking of some DIFFERENT (and possibly more lethal) dark option. A book does not push somebody to try something out of the realm of possibility already. And in fact there is a HUGE NUMBER of people for whom they see these books and think, “you mean I'm not the only one?” or and even MORE books who reach PEERS who can then act with empathy and compassion instead of horror...  Want proof with more street cred?  This blog by Matthew Rush moved me.

For ME? I have a teen. I have a tween. These books offer me the opportunity to talk about HORRIBLE topics before it is personal. They offer me an OPPORTUNITY to offer guidance before it's needed. My daughter and I have talked about war and killing (is it ever okay? Under what circumstance?). We've talked about accidental pregnancy. We've talked about rape. We've talked about what might make a person cruel. NONE of these are topics that have been personal. They have begun in literature. But you know what? I am GLAD my kid has had a chance to talk through them with me. She's learned I will NEVER judge. I will treat her, WHATEVER the situation, with compassion. She's learned the victim is not at fault. And that good people are sometimes driven to do really lousy things.

I have been on discussion boards where people say “well I'd never read anything with swearing in it,” and I confess to you, I judge them prudish and prim... but that's not the point. The point is, NOBODY is making them READ IT. THIS  (made known to me by Janet Reid) is REALLY the point... if you aren't seeing what you like, ASK someone. There are books for YOU, whatever your preference--you don't HAVE to read those dark, scary books if it's not your thing. And stop trying to CENSOR for the rest of us.

But as for the offerings of YA books... I can tell you with absolute certainty, there is a (large) subset of teens who may even have pretty nice lives who still WANT to read dark stuff. And if they don't find it in the YA section, they will find it in the horror section. I know this because I was one.

Copyright Christopher Chamberlain
Speaking of Censoring...

Friend of mine, one degree removed (hubby of one of my Authors Supporting Authors peeps) had an exhibit set up for an art show. It was CALLED Not for Victorian Eyes.

What, pray tell, if you were enlisting exhibits, would YOU think that meant?

Well the exhibit determined THIS lovely work was PORNOGRAPHY and would not display it. Explicit? Yeah, a bit. (I mean I want to fan myself) but this is NOT Debbie Does Dallas. I know it isn't for everyone... I've seen comments of people who think since it is at a DESK it is porn... but I guess I really MISS my days when sex was a little more... you know... spontaneous... the HEAT of 'can't keep our hands off each other' sex.

Now this TOO, I know isn't for everyone, though I happen to think the vagueness of this being a pencil drawing keeps this on the ART side of 'art and entertainment' ifyouknowwhatImean...

Here again though, I think... you know.... the title SAID what it IS... if you have Victorian Values, just don't GO THERE. Because some of us quite like it.

Something I thought I'd never say... Sheesh. Let's let the market decide. Now there are areas I don't really ascribe to this. I think reality TV is chosen NOT because more people prefer it, but because the RATIO of cost to produce to ad revenue is good. I'd really like to see viewers be able to vote it's low brow ass off the boob tube. I'd like there to be a venue for real TV remaining after this society brain blip is over. I think my REAL complaint though, about reality TV is it is making OTHER stuff NOT available (something not the case with books or art). My beloved soap operas are being canceled for low rent stupid people programming. (I know—not all of yibus love Soaps... I happen to, though, and really don't want it to go extinct.)

See, if we lived in a Tart regulated world, they would just segregate a different direction instead of all the networks trying the same darned thing. If they agreed to specialize during the day, everyone would have something they liked. But NOOOOOO... we are a country currently dedicated to the lowest common denominator. And as a prime number (23) I can't abide.

If there was some agreement to let everyone exist, even if it has to be in different places, I could let TV join me 'let the market decide' campaign.

Okay... you can stop the horse now. I can get off this high horse...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cabana Boy for the WIN!

Photo of the elusive Alex Cavanaugh

Yesterday I went to check out my blogger stats and the NUMBER ONE search term for people finding their way to MY BLOG last week... Cabana Boy.


I'm so proud!

Number one referrer I've never heard of.  Anyone know anything about Social Elephant something something? But the number 2, 4 and 7 were various places from Alex Cavanaugh's site, so Alex, I owe you!!! (maybe I will let you claim you are the Cabana Boy pictured... though then your wife will have to learn how to fight)  Seriously though--you're the dude!

And I checked my flag counter recently, adding Laos for country #166!!!!!  Naked World Domination Tour is proving successful!!!  (in fact Russia was listed as my #2 country last week, which I ADORE, though confuses me, as no Russians leave comments--they must just be searching for Cabana Boys)

Further on the Naked World Domination front is THIS representative had to be rescued... apparently naked rowers should stay closer to shore, but at least he has the right spirits. I have no shame at all in claiming him as one of us.

Finally, today's REAL post is at Burrowers, Books and Balderdash, whereby I prove I'm insane. (so if you have any lingering doubts, you should probably head over there... goes up at noon GMT)

TOMORROW I am stirring up some CONTROVERSY!!!! Come on by and we'll talk about how art is ugly...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bodacious Beginnings

Once upon a time...
It was a dark and stormy night...
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...
Call me Ishmail...
Long ago and far away...

Okay, so those are only first phrases... by the way, my current WiP begins:

Lunch had buried us with its usual lack of consideration for my life,

I guess part of this salami is missing
But what I am here to talk about is the WHOLE SALAMI...

I can't believe we are to the 8th of the month and it's my first chance to write about the BEGINNING of a BOOK.

Now let me just clarify here... I am not talking about the beginning that makes it into the final product... I am talking about the WRITING of the beginning... the first draft of the first part... the place you fall in love with your book. The place you build your momentum and drive for the rest of the story...

Man, what a rush. I would be a serial beginner if I could get away with it. It's like you meet a hot stranger for a really wild week in Mexico and explore every nook and cranny... wait... maybe it's only a little like that... drunken, experimental, probing...

Boucher's Back Story found here
When I write beginnings I get to explore BACK STORY which I dig—get at the motivation of the main characters. I get to meet a bunch of new people and probe their brains and motivations and perhaps best of all the interactions between the characters. I get to design my little world while picking out some groovy details from the real place. I get to set a nefarious plan into motion... BUWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Now with a WriMo, I am forced to get to the main plot, which is a good thing... and I can't START until the 1st, so much of my back story that isn't meant to make the story CAN be written in my back-up file. It makes it SO EASY though, to write when I have all this fun exploration to do.

So because this is so easy, I write fast (I had 4 days last week I hit close to 4000 words). In fact I expect by the end of last night (which is really tonight when I'm writing), I should have hit 20,000 words.... in one week! Gads, that's a pace that means a whole FULL length novel in a month, not just a WriMo length...

But there comes a point when it slows... I reach a point in the action that it just isn't spilling like that anymore... sadly, like a new affair, there comes a time you realize he farts and scratches just like everybody else. Or worse, the point where he sees you are soft in the middle and too fond of rum. Yes... we all have to check into reality at some point.

But I am wondering... is my love affair with beginnings abnormal? I've seen people grumble about having trouble getting going... are there differences between planners and pantsers? What about you? Do you love or dread beginnings? How much planning do you do? How long do you wait between getting an idea and writing? (I'm thinking my stewing time might be why I love beginnings so much)

PS:  HA!  Made it and then some...

Microbrew Mystery
is 43% complete

021652 / 50000 words written

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Finger Lickin' Review

So today is the big day Riley Adams, who we all know and love as Elizabeth Spann Craig; she releasing her second Memphis Bar B Que Series book TODAY. I finished it yesterday on my way to work, and it was a delight all the way through... but let me give you some detail...

The Players

Lulu is the MC and 90% of the book is from her PoV. She is family matriarch and second generation owner of Aunt Pat's Barbeque restaurant on Beale Street in Memphis. She is kind and smart... worries about her family...

Her family includes her son, Ben, cook for Aunt Pat's, his wife Sara, an artist who waits tables to help make ends meet, their twins Ella Beth and Coco, and Sara's nephew, Derrick.

Aunt Pat's also had a passel of regulars: The Graces, five women of a certain age who are docents of Graceland, the Backporch Blues Band, three octogenarian musicians, and a few more, met this book.

The Plot

Evelyn, one of the Graces, has a new beau, or rather an old beau... she is seeing an ex-husband who seems to rub a lot of people the wrong way. When it is learned that Adam is not only smarmy, greedy, and philandering, but the anonymous pen behind some scathing restaurant critiques, there are some people out for blood... literally...

But who literally literally got blood and who just figuratively got blood? There is a long list of suspects... people who lost jobs, people who lost business, people who were being blackmailed, people cheated upon... oh, no... there is no shortage of who might have wanted Adam dead... But who killed him? Lulu takes on the case to help her friend Evelyn, who looks a little guilty at first... but it seems nearly everyone on the list is someone she knows...


The pace is good. The characters are GREAT. And... I read the first Memphis and didn't see any setting deficits, but honestly, I could TELL Elizabeth made a visit to Memphis between the first and second book. Memphis here is more tactile... I could FEEL it. I really enjoyed the first one—I thought it was a fun, well-done read. But I think on every front, this is a stronger book. (which means instead of really good, this one was great).

Personal note: Hubby started his first week of full time work since I've known him this week. My biggest complaint is that I will have dinner duty 4 nights a week in the foreseeable future, and I despise cooking. I hope this doesn't interfere with blogging, but it might now and then. I know it WILL interfere with writing a little, but once I get a grant in at work (the 14th) I begin a schedule with a day off each week, so I will make up for it.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Fun and Games Blog Fest

It's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye.

Sorry. I'm incapable of saying 'fun and games' without following with that.

So today is a fun and frivolous blogfest. Alex Cavanaugh is hosting, and wants us to talk about our three favorite games. I played a lot of games as a kid—it was my mom's nefarious plan to get her only offspring to spend time with her. But it was also something I periodically did with my dad or my grandma.

Dad taught me chess when I was seven “because he didn't think my mom was capable of learning it” (wasn't he a prince?) At the time I felt honored. Now I feel a little like my mom should have thunked him in the head. He also taught me cribbage, but THAT one mom played, too, so for me, it stuck a lot longer.

There were a couple 'lake' card games. My grandparents had a lake cabin with a big round table, perfect for large card games. The two I remember were called Up the River, Down the River and Oh, Hell. They were both trick taking games, if I remember right, and Up the River, Down the River involved increasing then decreasing hand sizes (meaning how many cards everybody got, not that we had growing then shrinking gloves or something)

But the ones that have stuck...


Somehow this has become a new years ritual. My kids like to play, but only if there is no option of being off with their friends... I have always loved this game, but as an only child, I didn't get to play much—everyone KNOWS it isn't a two-person game! As a kid, we would leave a card table set up for days and keep coming back to it. I'm currently married to Mr. McStuffypants and he doesn't like to leave stuff out (which also makes me sad on a puzzle front). So when we play, it always ends up a marathon... hours and hours of Monopoly.


This is one I never played as a kid. I have no idea when it was invented, but it never made it to my house... it is great though, in that it is easy enough for all ages, unpredictable, and a little wacky. Honestly, though, I think what I like best about it now, is it is so quick to get out and put away... low maintenance.


I have UNCANNY Backgammon luck. I think it is a good mix of luck and skill—I know how to not leave my men alone... If I HAVE to, I know which ones have the least to lose. Cribbage is this right mix, too—of thinking and luck, but my card luck doesn't run quite as deep. I really enjoy the game, but I'm not much fun to play with.

Honorary mention: Best Tart Game

This is actually Disco Crisco Twister
Crisco Twister

So how many of you in college greased up your Twister boards so everyone fell all over each other and the game culminated in a large group shower? Just me then?

Our board (meaning mine) was actually covered in margarine... it just seemed a better option than Crisco unless we wanted to end up light and flaky. And MAN we (this time I really do mean we) had fun.

And FYI on BuNoWriMo

Microbrew Mystery
is 32% complete

16029 / 50000 words written