Saturday, April 14, 2007

Saturday Ramblings

"We wanted to see how far we could go..."
~from Salem Falls

So we're supposed to get hit with a nor'easter this weekend, Sunday into Monday. And maybe lasting until Tuesday. What?? In mid-April? I know, I know, it isn't unheard of, but still. I've had my fill of snow and sleet and temps that chill you so you never really get warm.


Anyone looking for a good read should check out Jodi Picoult's novel Salem Falls. I'm a fan of her writing, though the last couple novels didn't blow me away. But SF is a great modern twist on the Salem Witch Trials...the story of what happens when a group of teenage girls decide to see how much they can get away with in accusing a newcomer to their town of rape. Suspenseful, great character development, and enough twists en route to the end that will keep you guessing!


There's a discussion going around on the Samhain Author Loop about Myspace. Many, many authors have pages to promote themselves, I know. They connect with "friends," display their covers, blog about their writing. And many people believe it's the #1 way to promote yourself these days.

I, however, do not have a Myspace page and really never plan to. My reason? All my high school students do, and from the start I believed that it was more a place for the younger crowd to socialize than anything else.

I haven't heard authors say that Myspace necessarily translates to more sales, just a wider base of people who know you. I suppose that's the purpose of promotion, anyway. Still, I can't bring myself to give in. Any site where my students hang out on off hours isn't really a place I want to be. Sort of like the mall arcade, or one of their basements.

But does anyone feel differently? Am I really "missing the opportunity of a lifetime" (one of the Samhain author's claims) if I don't have a Myspace page??

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday's Feast

"Fiction gives us a second chance that life denies us."

~Paul Theroux

Anyone care to join me and play along?


When you were a child, which crayon color was your favorite? Cornflower blue…and I have no idea why I remember this. I think I liked the name as much as the color!


On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being highest), how likely would you be to change jobs if it required you to move? Well, I like to travel, like to live in different places and have done just that for a job, so I guess it would depend on the job and the location. If it were Maui, I think I might wash dishes just for the opportunity to see those sunsets on a regular basis!


Take all the numbers in your birthday and your phone number and add them up, one by one. What’s the total? Are you kidding? Math, this early in the morning?

Main Course

Have you ever “re-gifted” anything? If so, what was it and who did you pass it on to? Actually, no. I hate the idea…and I hate magazine articles that talk about “what to do with the worst gift you ever received.” Gifts aren’t material items; they’re gestures. I try always to appreciate the gesture, not the form it comes in.


Name something you need from the store. I don’t think there’s anything I actually need, unless it’s more fruit. I love fruit. Never have enough of it. In fact, sometimes on vacation if we're eating out a lot, I'll have to find the local grocery store and buy some apples or bananas or grapes just to have in the hotel room so I don't go through withdrawal. Is that weird?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

And the Award Goes To...

Congrats to NJ Walters, who was the winner of yesterday’s Writers’ Wednesday drawing for the Amazon gift certificate!!

I’ve been slightly remiss this week, for on Tuesday Marianne nominated me for a lovely award:

The rules:
1. If, and only if you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.

2. Link to
this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.

3. Optional: Proudly display your "Thinking Blogger Award."

So I’m supposed to tag 5 other people whose blogs make me think. Can I tag people who’ve already received the award? Well, I’m claiming latitude (or ignorance) and saying yes when I tag Marianne right back. Here are my other 4, in no particular order:

Fred Charles
Irish Scribbler (make sure to scroll down and see the YouTube video she linked to on April 10)

And speaking of food for thought, here’s a link you must visit: Brenda Novak’s online auction to benefit diabetes research. There are well over 100 items up for auction, some awfully tempting for writers (books, goodie baskets, agent reads, editor critiques of your ms., etc).

Check it out!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Writers' Wednesday: How To Make the Most of Writing Contests

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! Remember, to be entered into a drawing for a $5 Amazon gift certificate, all you have to do is post a comment!


Have you ever entered a writing contest? Have you ever placed in the top 3? Or won the whole contest outright? Maybe you’ve thought about entering a contests but been too afraid to try. Or maybe you didn’t know where to start looking.

Well, writing contests can be a valuable tool for aspiring writers. They can be a great way to get feedback on your writing from external readers /judges /editors /agents. And they can be an equally great way to start building a writing resume, to begin promoting one’s name as a published author.

But where to start? How to choose the right contest for you? How to prepare the perfect entry?

Here are a few things to keep in mind, both before you enter a contest and after you receive the judges’ final decision.

1. Choose contests based upon their end results. Consider what you’re hoping to get out of entering a contest. Is it prize money? Is it publication? Is it the chance to get your work in front of an editor or agent? Or is it simply the chance to have an external reader review your work? Think about your end goal, and choose your contests appropriately. The Writing Show First Chapter Contest awards 750 words of feedback from industry professionals. The FirstGlance Films Screenplay Competition sends its top 3 winners to be read by Hollywood producers. The 2007 Marjorie Wilson Best Poem Contest awards $2500.00 to its top winner. You get the idea.

2. Choose contests for which your work qualifies. This seems like a no-brainer, but you might be surprised. Don’t enter a 10K word short story into a flash fiction contest. Don’t enter a novel into a screenplay writing contest. Don’t enter your paranormal erotica opening into a contest run by Avalon (a “sweet” publisher) just because you see the word “romance” in their guidelines.

3. Choose contests for which the odds are in your favor. This one’s a little harder to figure out, but if you do a little digging, you can uncover contests for which either the number of entries is limited, improving your odds, or the number of prizes given includes more than the top 3. The Short Story Award for New Writers, for example, is a contest open only to writers whose fiction has never appeared in a publication with a circulation over 5,000. The WOW-Women on Writing Quarterly Contest names 3 top winners, 7 runners-up, and 25 honorable mentions…and every one of those writers receives a prize and a mention on the WOW website.

Once you’ve chosen a contest to enter, how do you increase your chances of winning or placing?

1. Follow all the rules. Carefully. If they want 3 copies of your opening chapters, make sure to include 3. If they ask you to secure the pages using a binder clip, don’t use a rubber band. Make sure you’ve put the information they want into the header or footer of each page. If they ask for a SASE, make sure to include enough postage to cover the costs of returning your entries. Also, check their rules for deadlines: most will say the entry must be postmarked by a certain date, but others will say the entry must be received by a certain date. There’s a difference!

2. Revise, revise, revise. Before submitting your entry, make sure it’s your best work. Read over as many times as it takes. Share with your writers’ groups or critique partners to get objective feedback. Don’t let careless errors undermine your chances of winning.

3. Read prior winning entries. Many organizations will include the top winners on their websites. A winning entry in one short story contest might look very different from a winning entry in another.

A few last thoughts on writing contests:

Consider the judges’ feedback carefully. If you can expect comments from the contest judges, be careful how you read those comments. Don’t just take the positive ones that praise your brilliance as a writer and disregard the rest. Sometimes the negative/constructive criticism can be just as helpful in revealing areas of our writing that need work. However, if 3 or 4 judges from a couple different contests tell you that your dialogue is fresh and realistic, and 1 judge tells you that your dialogue is stilted and untrue, you may want to take that single comment with a grain of salt. Most of all, don’t let contest feedback get you down. Remember that these judges are people, with their own values and biases and opinions, just like you. And speaking of that…

Sign up to judge a contest. Really! Many local writers’ groups run contests, with their members doing first-reads on entries. You do not necessarily need to be a published author, or past winner, to judge. All you have to do is read with a careful eye and open mind. By judging, you get a glimpse of the other side. You learn about how other writers put entries together. You discover how difficult it is to put a number on certain elements of a creative endeavor. And ultimately, you become a better writer yourself for the experience.

Don’t let contests keep you from finishing your work. Many novel-writing contests, especially in the romance genre, ask for the first 3 chapters. As a result, it becomes easy to polish those first 3 chapters over and over again, until you have a near-perfect entry. But what happens to the rest of the novel? What if you win a contest, and the final judge, your dream agent, requests the full manuscript for review? What if all you have are the first 3 chapters? Unfortunately, I know a few authors who have turned into “contest junkies.” They become obsessed with the idea of entering as many contests as they can, and they often final or win because they’ve put so much time into their entry. However, they have no complete works to speak of. Ideally, writing contests are a means to an end, a way to motivate you to keep writing while giving you some feedback along the way.

Good luck, and if you know of any writing contests you‘d like to praise or recommend, leave a comment and let me know! Basic Author

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Adventures in Arkansas

If you live north of the Mason-Dixon Line or west of the Mississippi, there’s a good chance you might not know much about Hot Springs, Arkansas. You may not ever have heard of the place, despite its claim to fame as the boyhood home of Bill Clinton or the site of some of the most healing waters in the country.

But when hubby and I decided to explore someplace different over spring break, that’s where we headed. Turns out that Hot Springs, located 60 miles from Little Rock, 200 miles from Memphis, 300 miles from Oklahoma City, and a stone’s throw from the Texas border, is a pretty neat place to visit.

First of all, it’s the oldest and smallest park in the National Park Service and home to 47 hot springs. Although most of the bathhouses originally established on the famous Bathhouse Row are now closed, visitors can still enjoy a traditional bath at Buckstaff Bathhouse. There, you’ll be treated to a whirlpool bath in the mineral-rich waters, a stay in the steam room, a needle shower, and if you’d like, a massage to finish it off. Decadent!

Then horse racing enthusiasts can head over to the Oaklawn Racetrack (we didn’t), or tourists can take in any number of sights on Central Avenue, downtown. The first Friday of every month features a “Gallery Walk,” too, which we were lucky enough to enjoy. Arkansas has some great local talent, that’s for sure! And with crystal and diamond mines nearby, you can find some terrific jewelry made of native stones and minerals.

Speaking of the diamond mines, since its featured appearance on the Travel Channel, Crater of Diamonds State Park in nearby Murfreesboro has seen an upswing in visitors, all hoping to find the next big sparkler and head to early retirement. We followed the crowd, purchasing our tickets to dig and renting shovels and screens to sift through the dirt along with the rest of them. Beautiful day - but no diamonds for us! The soil is pretty sticky and clay-like, tough to sift and challenging to work through. Still, we had fun and found a lot of cool rocks. You can take home whatever you find.

Finally, since Little Rock is only an hour away, and since we flew in and out of that airport anyway, our trip wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to the Clinton Presidential Library. Established in 2004, it’s a beautiful, environmentally friendly building with a huge collection of artifacts, documents, and video clips about the Clinton Presidency. Whatever your political beliefs, it’s still great to see a slice of history, up close. The Library is situated right on the Arkansas River and the Riverwalk area, too, with a wide variety of restaurants within walking distance.

If only the weather had cooperated more (it was the middle of that cold front that swept the country over Easter weekend) - or if only we’d packed more long-sleeved shirts and fewer pairs of shorts. Still, it was neat to visit a state we’d never been to before. We enjoyed our 4 days in Hot Springs thoroughly!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Unplugged and Loving It

“I want young people to see not only what I did with my life, but what they can do with their lives.”
~Bill Clinton

First my good news: I opened up my email inbox Easter Sunday to find a contract offer from The Wild Rose Press to publish Lost in Paradise in their Champagne Rose line! Very, very exciting news, especially since this was the novel I pulled from Virtual Tales a few months ago because I wanted to find a different home for it. It’s always nice when you take a gamble and it pays off.

TWRP publishes everything longer than 55K words in print, so this one should be available from Amazon sometime in 2008, I’m guessing. Stay tuned for the details!


Well, as those of you who visit my blog regularly know, I was away for a few days last week. I was away in Hot Springs, Arkansas, to be specific, for a Spring Break getaway with hubby.

Why Hot Springs? Well, I’m not one to pass up the opportunity to bathe in 100-degree mineral water, en route to a steam bath and killer massage, in the tradition of men and women from centuries past. And hubby wasn’t about to let the chance to go diamond mining pass us by. After all, if it’s featured on the Travel Channel, it must be an adventure worth pursuing, right? And the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock is an impressive collection, well worth seeing if you're ever down that way.

I have pictures that I'll post, hopefully tomorrow, because today Blogger doesn't seem to be cooperating.

Overall, it was an enjoyable trip. But here’s the interesting thing: I didn’t check email or voicemail the entire time. Nope, not once. First of all, I didn’t have any Internet access. There was one cafe in downtown Hot Springs where you could buy time online for $.10/minute, but I decided to spend my money on a latte instead. So for 4 days, I didn’t read blogs. I didn’t check my inbox. I didn’t follow the Samhain Yahoo group discussions. And I forgot the charger to my cell phone, so the battery died the first day and I couldn’t have checked my telephone messages anyway.

The first 24 hours were a little weird, I’ll be honest. I’m online just about every day. So to go 4 days without any electronic contact felt a little strange, at first. But by the last day? I didn’t miss it. In fact, I was home for almost 24 hours before I turned on the computer at all. And it made me wonder just how dependent we are on our electronic connections, after all.

[The best unintended effect of my unplugged 4 days? I got an idea for a brand new 24-hour novel. Love the concept. Love the characters. Love the complexities that kept popping into my head as the day went on. Only thing I did not love? Trying to scribble down the idea on my 2x3” notepad while a flight attendant spilled ginger ale on my lap.]

So anyway, how plugged in are you? C’mon, be honest. How much time do you spend on the computer each day or week? And how long would you be able to go without?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

I'm Back!

"Easter is the demonstration...that life is essentially spiritual and timeless."

Here's wishing everyone a peaceful and wonderful holiday season (even if you are looking at snow this Easter morning, as we are).

I'm back from a brief getaway to Hot Springs, Arkansas, and have news and pictures to share, though I'm saving that for tomorrow or the next day as we are off to celebrate Easter with friends today.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by for Writers' Wednesday, especially those who commented and ESPECIALLY those who played along by revising the sentences (check out Charity's revision, who turned one sentence into an entire scene).

Finally, congratulations to Jess, who is the winner of the $5 Amazon gift certificate! Make sure to stop by this coming Wednesday and post a comment, for another chance to win!