Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Farewell to 2008...

"Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man. " ~Benjamin Franklin

Ah, I'm waxing nostalgic today...can't believe another year has come and gone! Sometimes I write resolutions for the new year, but I haven't gotten around to it yet, so that may not happen for 2009. Instead, here's a reflective meme that I swiped (and shortened):

1. What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before? Held my own book signing!!

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year? About half. And no, I probably won't make resolutions for 2009. I have some idea of what I'd like to accomplish, and that's enough for now.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Not this year.

4. Did anyone close to you die? No, thank goodness.

5. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008? More free time. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening!

6. What date from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? I'm gonna have to go with November 4, 2008 - the election of Barack Obama as U.S. President. Historic.

7. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Probably developing my writing career and realizing I can write more than one book!

8. What was your biggest failure? Hmm. Not traveling as much as I wanted to.

9. What was the best thing you bought? My laptop and a wireless connection for the house!

10. Whose behaviour merited celebration? The American voting public, absolutely.

11. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? Where to start? How about with the guy who dressed up as Santa and shot 9 people on Christmas?

12. Where did most of your money go? Savings, actually. I'm very diligent about that.

13. What did you get really, really excited about? My various book signings!

14. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Probably about the same. Maybe a little sadder just because of some personal/family things going on right now.
ii. thinner or fatter? Also about the same. I try really hard!
iii. richer or poorer? Richer, in both money and life experience.

15. What do you wish you'd done more of? Traveled abroad.

16. What do you wish you'd done less of? Given in to my sweet tooth!

17. Did you fall in love in 2008? With a person? No. With new experiences? Yup.

18. Did your heart break in 2008? Yes, but not due to unrequited love.

19. What was your favourite TV program? Hmm. I'll go with favourite NEW TV program: Fringe.

20. What kept you sane? My writing. My family. My friends. The pets at the shelter where I volunteer -- nothing like furry love to make the bad feelings go away!

21. What political issue stirred you the most? The US Presidential campaign and election.

22. Who was the best new person you met? I met some cool people during my writing and book travels. And also my new students this year :)

23. Favorite book you read? I can't say I read one that really blew me away, unfortunately.

24. Favorite movie? Probably "21." Based on a true story, it's got a good script and good acting. I'd see it again.

25. What are your plans for 2009? Continue to write -- sign at least one more book contract -- and travel outside of the US.

What about you??

*****

And here is the final installment of "progress on Entwined." I reached 33, 000 words - not great but not awful. I do have something decent with which to work, though, when I have time to pick it up again in 2009.

Current Word Count for Entwined: 33,137

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: Maybe identity is everything; maybe it explains the pieces of him that never felt complete until he came to Blakely, the reason he fell for Natasha, the struggles she faces whenever she looks at a blank sheet of paper, the way words fall like waterfalls for him, when the mood is right.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Another Made-up Memoir

"Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened." ~Winston Churchill

Did you see this article about the "Holocaust survivor" couple who lied in their memoir? Berkley Books has canceled the release of "Angel at the Fence" after discovering that the author made up this "true life" love story about young children who meet on opposite sides of a concentration camp fence and then reconnect years later and marry. The author claimed he only wanted to spread love and hope to readers. In fact, he and his wife met on a blind date in NYC and have been married for over 50 years.


I feel like it's A Million Little Pieces all over again. Why is it that people feel they have to lie to sell a story?


Current Word Count for Entwined: 32,356


Yesterday's Fave Sentence(s): I think I’m in love with you, he wants to say. He moves his mouth against the skin of her shoulder, practicing.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Decision

Yes, a decision ~ I'll be signing and mailing my contract for One Night in Napa to Samhain Publishing today! Funny: the other two contracts I signed with them were dated January 2007 and January 2008. Must be a winter thing, hmm? Actually, I've made the decision to try and write/submit more than one book a year, so that I have something coming out on a slightly more frequent basis. Of course, I say that now, but actually doing the writing is a whole different story! That also means that I will likely put aside Entwined pretty soon. It's a fun project, and I've loved working on it, but it needs so much more time and attention and development that it may get put on the back burner for a while, after January 1st.

Anyway, the agent who had been reading Napa sent a rejection yesterday, which made it a whole lot easier to sign that Samhain contract without guilt or "what if" wondering. I know it will be released in 2009, I know it will go to print, and I really like my new editor. So I'm happy, overall.

Summer's Song is still with the Avon editor (I won't be expecting any feedback on that for a couple of months, at least). If Avon doesn't want it, I will probably also submit that one to Samhain. I do like working with them; they have an aggressive owner who is making bigger strides in the industry all the time; and I like building up a readership by keeping my name in one place, at least for now.

So it's a nice way to round out 2008. What about you? Goals or resolutions for the new year?

Current Word Count for Entwined: 31,453


Yesterday's Fave Sentence:(s) Involved. It’s a funny word, he realizes. It can change into pieces like I loved or O devil if you hold it up to the light and twist it.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

How Quickly is "Quickly"?

"True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation." ~George Washington

Question: when an agent tells you she will read your book "quickly," because she knows you've been offered a contract by a publisher, how many days/weeks/months do you think that should reasonably translate into? Let's take into consideration the December holidays ~ then give me your best guess.

*****

The loveliest surprise: when you open your email account and discover a message from someone in your far distant past, one of those friends who once was part of your daily life and then kind of disappeared with time. That's one of the nice things about growing older, I suppose - getting to rediscover people from your past and realizing how rich your life is when you add them to the people in your present.

*****

Current Word Count for Entwined: 30,605

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: There are truths that should stay hidden, truths that belong to no one except the people who create and hide them in the first place.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Zumba: Have You Tried It?

"Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person's physical, emotional, and mental states." ~Carol Welch

I confess: I have a new love.

Zumba.


You may have heard of it - a relatively new addition to the workout scene, it's basically an aerobics class that combines all different kinds of dance to Latin music. I have friends who've tried it and raved about it, and I finally had a chance to go myself, yesterday.


Wow! It really is a lot of fun. I thought maybe I'd trip over my own feet, or look like an idiot, but the thing is, everyone sort of does their own thing, and it's more about having a good time dancing than getting down the specific choreography. Of course, I love dancing, period, so I had a ball. The best word I can use to describe it is joyous - a whole hour of fun. And yes, it makes you sweat and burn calories too! Can't wait to go back and do it again. If you've never tried it, I highly recommend it (if you click on the link up above, you can search for classes in your area).


And by the way, working up a sweat is good for you in so many ways, physically as well as emotionally and psychologically. In fact, I wrote an article about it a while back: How Step Class can Steam up your Sheets.



*****

Just finished Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult. She's one of my favorite authors, though I can't read a lot of her books in a row, because the language and even the plotlines are similar after a while. But this one I enjoyed overall. The one thing I've realized about her writing, though, is that she uses too much figurative language. I'm all for appreciating a well-turned simile or metaphor, but when every other sentence has one, it's a little bit of overkill.


*****

Current Word Count for Entwined: 29,580


Yesterday's Fave Sentence: Maybe, she thinks, if she sinks far enough into the sofa, she will simply slide through to China, the way tall tales warn children who are still young enough to believe.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Winter Scenes

"I was just thinking, if it is really religion with these nudist colonies, they sure must turn atheists in the wintertime." ~Will Rogers

Know what I love most about Christmas? I mean, besides relaxing with family and the smell of the tree and opening gifts? Allowing myself to eat whatever I want :) I try so hard to be good the other days of the year. On Christmas I eat chocolate for breakfast, have a second dessert after dinner, and generally graze from the cookie plate whenever I want to.

Sigh. It always ends too soon.

Some winter scenes from the last couple of days:



Icicles hanging outside our sunroom



Deer tracks all over our front lawn

Current Word Count for Entwined: 28, 784

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: She thinks of how her own wrinkles and edges and corners have changed and wonders if others can see them the way she can.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!


Wishing all my friends, family, colleagues, and readers a blessed holiday season!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas Eve Query Tip

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful." ~Norman Vincent Peale

Merry Christmas Eve to everyone!

Here's an early gift to anyone who might be in the process of querying agents: Firebrand Literary Agency is taking First Chapter Queries for the next month, rather than query letters. Great opportunity to showcase your writing and your story, rather than your marketing/sales skills. More info here.

P.S. Writers' Wednesdays will return after the holidays!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Two Days and Counting...

Well, I tackled the last-minute shopping yesterday after school...yikes. Remind me next year to please, please finish shopping earlier than December 22nd!

I'm a crazy maniac today, too - starting (yes, starting) my wrapping after a full-day school party, so no writing news to report.

But here are some fun Christmas cartoons to brighten your day!



























Monday, December 22, 2008

Three Days and Counting!

"People can't concentrate properly on blowing other people to pieces if their minds are poisoned by thoughts suitable to the twenty-fifth of December." ~Ogden Nash

Yikes - can't believe it's only 3 days 'til Christmas! Are you ready? I'm not!

Here's the promo poster for the March 21st signing I'll be part of - pretty neat, huh?


Current Word Count for Entwined: 28,101

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: She is not his twin – they did not share a womb, or a mother, or a single heartbeat above them as they grew – though they may as well share one heart between them now.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

In Memory

"Death ends a life, not a relationship." ~Robert Benchley

A moment of silence today, to remember the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland - can't believe it's been 20 years ago today. 35 Syracuse University students were on board that flight, coming home from a semester studying abroad. Since I grew up near Syracuse, I remember the horror and grief vividly. Ironically, when I was a freshman in college (at another school, not SU), I ended up buying a used book that had belonged to a student who also died in that crash. Small world.

***********
I also have two quick links to share today, and then I'm off to watch more snow fall...


The Samhellion December Newsletter - The theme is "gift giving on a budget," so you might find an idea or two. Plus I have an article featured :)


Samhain Publishing is running an end-of-the-year "bestsellers" survey...and if you want to vote for One Night in Memphis as your fave release this year (which I would LOVE for you to do LOL), click right here!


***********


Current Word Count for Entwined: 26,974


Yesterday's Fave Sentence: He stands there and watches her go, carrying his child below her heart.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

First Snowstorm of the Season!

"Cats are smarter than dogs. You can't get eight cats to pull a sled through snow." ~Jeff Valdez

Looks like it's going to be a white Christmas here! We got hit yesterday with about 6 inches - not as much as they were predicting, but we're suppposed to get more tomorrow, so...

When it started up, it was pretty fast and furious. Here's a view of the first hour:



*****

In other news, yesterday I killed two characters and cried. Really. I mean, I knew it was coming, but after I wrote the scene and got to the end, I was sad. Darn it. They were nice, good characters, too. I guess my sadness is probably a good sign, though, 'cause they say that if you don't get emotionally involved in your writing, your readers won't either.

Current Word Count for Entwined: 25,228

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: “Do you listen to anything I say, or just think about the next time you’re gonna get me into bed?”

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Season for Sharing: Day Two

"We are not in a position in which we have nothing to work with. We already have capacities, talents, direction, missions, and callings." ~Abraham Maslow

Yesterday I blogged about a few cool sites for writers ~ if you didn't get a chance to stop by, scroll down and check them out.

Today, a couple more sites, especially for those of you querying agents:

Agent Query - great, comprehensive site that lists literary agents, their areas of representation, their contact info, their current interests, etc.

Query Tracker - this neat free site provides data about agents & their response times and average number of yes and no responses. Also lets you keep track of your own query process.

Show Me The Money - in case you're wondering how much romance publishers pay (advance + royalties + average earn-out), this is the place to look. Pretty interesting!

Current Word Count for Entwined: 24,626

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: Pinpricks of light dazzled in the darkness, a galaxy of unconsciousness moving in on her swift and silent.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

'Tis the Season for Sharing

In the spirit of the season (and, well, in the spirit of my blog year-round), I'd like to share a few cool sites I've stumbled across in the last few days. In fact, there are so many of them, I'm going to sprinkle them a little at a time over the next few days. Consider it my holiday gift to you :)

So all you authors out there, make sure you keep on coming back for more!

First off, Author Author is an online bookstore that not only stocks a variety of in-print hard-to-find books, but it also features an Author Purchase Program. Here's the skinny: you can order your author copies of your own book from them, at a discounted price. If you buy 50+, they'll ship free of charge. Now, you can order your author copies from your own publisher, of course. But you don't get royalties on those copies. If you order from Author Author, those copies count as external sales (which looks good with your publisher) PLUS you make royalties on them. They'll send you a free quote, and then you'll have to do the math - for me it works out that it's cheaper to order them through Author Author, so I'll do that in the future. Even if I broke even, though, I'd probably still do that, just because it will bump my sales numbers.

Second, I read an article titled "What Agents Hate" yesterday, and while it had your standard fare, it also included this gem" "I don't want to read about anyone sleeping, dreaming, waking up or staring at anything." LOL - my new editor at Samhain said basically the same thing last week!

Finally, here are some writing-prompt/creativity sites you might want to check out:

Book in a Week - think NaNo is challenging? How about writing a book in 7 days?
SmithMag - write your memoir in 6 words. Yes, really.
The Story Starter - has 340 million sentences, if you're stuck and don't know where to begin.
Writing Fix - one more site that creates writing prompts for you, on the spot.

OK, that's it for today! More fun sharing tomorrow...

Current Word Count for Entwined: 24,173

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: Or are they so entwined in the womb, one curled around the other, that a left foot of hers and a right foot of his make one complete set?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Margay Leah Justice

Welcome to a wintry Writers' Wednesday! (well, here in NY, anyway). Today I'm welcoming author Margay Leah Justice...enjoy!

Hi, Margay! Can you tell us a little about your background?

I am a single mother of two, balancing life with Multiple Sclerosis and caring for a child with Bipolar Disorder and Asperger's Syndrome along with the everyday life of being a mother and a writer.

I can't begin to imagine how busy your days must be! When did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?

I think I first began to write the day I learned how to hold up a pencil. I can't remember a time when I didn't write; it has always been an integral part of my life.

Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

Here's a blurb for Nora's Soul:

When angels of light and dark collide on earth…Once he held a favored position in the heavens. But one moment of weakness casts Dante out and now he is cursed to walk the earth, collecting the souls of vulnerable women to buy his way into hell.All hell breaks loose…But standing in his way is Peter, an angel of light. Peter is everything Dante is not. Pure, above reproach. And determined to prevent Dante from achieving his goals. Peter will stop at nothing to protect the souls in his charge, even if it means achieving the impossible – leading Dante back onto the right path.And no one is safe from the fall-out.

Nora Kendall believed in angels. Once. But then she lost her brother to cancer despite all of her prayers – and she lost her faith in all things angelic. Now, she is a lost soul who wanders through life like a sleepwalker, playing it safe and leaving the risk-taking to others.Kyle Cameron is one of those risks. Burned by a bad marriage, his only concern now is providing a stable life for his children, who are left motherless by the unexpected death of his wife. This means working overtime to grow his architectural firm into a viable business – and leaving the care of his children to the care of someone he trusts. Despite his past connection with Nora, Kyle isn't certain that she's the right person for the job. He also doesn't want to reconnect with her and repeat history.But fate – and the machinations of two angels – has other ideas.

Sounds terrific! Now, how do you go about developing your characters?

I usually do some sort of a character profile/questionnaire to get them firmly fixed in my mind. I also usually have the face of an actor in mind when I write, too. That really helps to get their images down on paper.

What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

Learn your craft, hone your craft and never stop learning. The day you stop learning is the day your creativity dies. Always work on perfecting your craft, but do it for yourself first. If you don't enjoy writing for yourself, you shouldn't try doing it for others. You really have to love doing it or else you will be easily discouraged when the fame and fortune doesn't come to you overnight. It's a rare thing for that to happen, so expect to put in some time with it before you achieve publishing success.

What kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?

I love Regencies and Julia Quinn is one of my favorites in that genre. But I tend to read whatever moves me, not just one genre. In fact, I just started reading in the YA genre which is a fabulous arena for truly wonderful stories that have helped me to connect with my daughters on a new level. My favorite author in that genre is Stephenie Meyer, but I also like Mari Mancusi and Melissa Marr.

A Twilight fan, hmm? Well, I won't hold that against you! What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

For me, it's balancing the details such as setting and background info with the dialogue. Either I put in too much detail or not enough, so I'm always working to make sure the balance is just right. Dialogue, on the other hand, comes easier and I have a lot of fun doing it, especially when it's between the hero and heroine - I love the snappy dialogue from movies of the 30s and 40s and, more recently, Gilmore Girls, so when I can achieve something that comes close, I find that especially rewarding.

How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

I try to do everything writing related when my daughters are at school or otherwise occupied. I tend to fit my writing around all other responsibilities, carving out whatever time I can in my schedule without neglecting my other responsibilities. Somehow, it works.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I love to knit, crochet, and do crafts. So I'm always creating things! I also love to read and watch movies with my daughters, and spend time with my mother, who passed down all of these creative genes on me.

Anything else you'd like to mention?

For more information on Nora's Soul - and perhaps an advance peek at what I'm working on next - you can check out my website at http://margayleahjustice.com/. You can also find me on Twitter, Myspace and Facebook.

Thanks for being here today, Margay!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Word About Piracy

"The only thing worth stealing is a kiss from a sleeping child." ~Joe Houldsworth

For all authors: unfortunately, piracy sites abound, and they'll offer up free downloads of your book for anyone who stumbles across their site. Here's one you should check out: Esnips. Some of the books being "shared" here have been downloaded (illegally) hundreds of times. I also found one of my books on another site, so Google your book titles every so often to make sure they're not hanging out where they shouldn't be! If you find your book, click to download it and then "Report Abuse." You as an author must be vigilant at reporting copyright violation.

For all readers: please remember that accessing these kinds of free book downloads is illegal and hurts authors. When one book is copied and passed around to 10 or 100 friends and neighbors, we still only get royalties on that one initial book. Sharing is fine, and we understand that, but limit it to one or two friends, OK? Then, tell the rest of your friends and neighbors about how great our books are, so that they buy them too!

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Very Important Day

"God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December." ~James Matthew Barrie

It's true, today is a very important day.

First, it marks the end of my NaNo efforts - which, you can see, got about 50% of the way to my goal of 50K words in a month. That's OK. I think NaNo is great for writers who have never attempted or completed a whole novel. It shows you that it's possible. But I already know that :) I'll keep going with Entwined, though, and I'll keep posting my progress and fave sentences, because it keeps me on track if I have to be accountable.

Second, it's my birthday. Nope, I'm not telling how old I am (and my mom, who pops in occasionally, is NOT allowed to tell either). The celebration for today includes lunch with hubby and my in-laws, decorating the tree tonight, and quite possibly, large amounts of chocolate :)

I thought it would be interesting to check out what some of those astrology sites have to say, so here you go:

Cafe Astrology has quite a detailed description of what the next year holds for me, concluding that "...You are certainly more enterprising this year, and taking a balanced approach to life, in terms of realistic expectations, is the best approach for maximizing success. This could be challenging at times, since you are likely feeling quite restless. Rebelliousness is a possible downfall. You are more passionate, excitable, and magnetic than ever, and the year is bound to be a very exciting one!"

Hmm...

Birthscopes (quite a sparkly site) tells me that "The December 15th person spends most of their life broadening their horizons. They do this with very little objection from the people around them. This is because Venus, the ruling planet for this day along with Sagittarius's ruling planet Jupiter makes this person very likable. They tend be dreamers and for this reason should guard against being taken advantage of especially in the financial sense. As a mate the December 15th person is loving and values partnerships..."

And FamousBirthdays reminds me that no one terribly notable shares my birthday (this I knew), although Jane Austen's mother was probably in labor, since that grand-dame of the romance genre celebrates her birthday tomorrow!



*****

Also wanted to mention that The Romance Studio is running a terrific "12 Days of Christmas" contest - every day you have the chance to win one of 12 prizes given away by authors. I'll be on there soon, so visit their site to find out all about it!


Current Word Count for Entwined: 23,182

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: If there is anything – if there ever was anything – please call.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Updates

So, an update or two on the status of my writing:

~Finished the revision of Summer's Song and sent the full ms. to the editor who requested it at Avon.

~Heard from the agent who requested the full ms. of One Night in Napa who said she would "read it as quickly" as she could.

~Received my royalty statement from Samhain which includes print royalties from Jan-June 2008. I'm having a hard time reading and understanding it (as are several of the authors, so apparently the publisher's going to clarify in the next day or two). I guess One Night in Boston sold decently (though who's to say...if you want to talk numbers, email me), but it will be interesting to get the next statement, which will be July - Dec 2008 and cover an entire 6-month period of the book actually being out.

Current Word Count for Entwined: 22,360

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: Natasha studies the papers in front of her, but the words swim like Rorschach ink pictures, and all she can see is the stick with the double blue line through it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Destination Christmas

"Christmas is a day of meaning and traditions, a special day spent in the warm circle of family and friends." ~Margaret Thatcher

In recent years, my side of the family has met at a Bed & Breakfast to celebrate an early Christmas. We reserve a block of rooms and meet in one for all the festivities. So that's what I'm doing this weekend! No other news, as I'm off to open stockings this morning...

Current Word Count for Entwined: 22,022

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: She does not believe in ghosts – at least, she tells herself she does not – but what else can explain the feeling of dread, the nausea, the icebox room above her head?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Questions

At Christmas, all roads lead home." ~ Marjorie Holmes, American writer

This one comes from Diane - thanks! I haven't done one of these in a while. Anyone else want to borrow and play?

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Both, actually. Whichever's easier for the gift itself.

2. Real tree or Artificial? We've done both. This year it will be a real one. Yay ~ I love the pine smell!

3. When do you put up the tree? Whenever we get around it. I'm hoping for this weekend.

4. When do you take the tree down? Ditto above, though usually before we go back to school after the new year.

5. Do you like eggnog? No - yuck!

6. Favorite gift received as a child: A stuffed Paddington Bear. I still have him, well-loved.

7. Hardest person to buy for? My inlaws. They never give us any ideas.

8. Easiest person to buy for? Either hubbby or my sister.

9. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail ~ I love sending and receiving both.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Can't think of one.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? “It's a Wonderful Life,” of course!

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Yikes, whenever I can find the time. Right now I'm about half-done.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas Gift? Probably, though I can't recall right now.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Chocolate and Christmas cookies!

16. Lights on the tree? Of course - both colored and white.

17. Favorite Christmas song? Too hard to choose...

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? I like to stay home, but we usually end up traveling. This year we're home, though!

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Yes.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? One present on Christmas Eve, the rest on Christmas Day.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? How crowded the malls and parking lots are.

23. Favorite ornament theme or color? Don't really have one.

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Turkey.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year? Spending time with family. And a three-book contract for a six-figure advance. But I'll take the first :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Yesterday in Borders

So here's a very cool thing: I was on a Christmas shopping spree yesterday afternoon, and I stopped by my local Borders. I walked directly past the ENORMOUS display of all things Twilight, past J.K. Rowlings' newest release, and found the "B" shelf of the Romance section.

And there sat my books.

Now, this in itself is oh-so-cool, but what's even cooler is that as of my signing there a few weeks back, the store had roughly 10 copies of both One Night in Boston and Lost in Paradise. Yesterday, I saw 5 copies of the latter and only 1 of the former. Neat, huh?

Of course, when I came home and told my husband, he said, "Are you sure they just didn't have them in the back?"

Sheesh. What a killjoy.

Current Word Count for Entwined: 21,853

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: She thinks of gray-green eyes and lets a hand drift to her belly, to the unborn child that rests inside her, growing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Anne Hope


Welcome to another Writers' Wednesday! Today I'm chatting with Anne Hope, a fellow Samhain author who has some wonderful insights on breaking into the writing world and creating dynamic stories and characters.

Enjoy!

Hi, Anne! First off, can you tell readers a little about your background?

My background is in marketing. I have a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree in business administration. I worked as an account executive in a marketing agency and as a product manager for Neutrogena. As much as I enjoy marketing, my first love will always be writing, and I’m thrilled to now have the opportunity to make a career out of it.

Hmm...Neutrogena, huh? Any way I can score some free samples? (just kidding) When did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?
I officially started writing when I was eight years old, but I was spinning tales long before that. I was an only child for ten years and was pretty introverted. I entertained myself by creating characters and stories in my head. Now, I’ve become far more social, but I’m still making up stories. I guess some things never change!

Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.


My debut novel and Golden Heart finalist, Where Dreams are Made, is now available from Samhain Publishing. It’s a deeply emotional Beauty and the Beast story with loads of sexual tension.

Daniel is a reclusive toymaker trying to atone for his sins. Jenny is a hunted woman, secretly hired to mend his heart. One magical Christmas, these two lonely people learn that love can heal the deepest scars, but it comes at a price. Even as Jenny struggles to hold on to the tenuous sanctuary she’s found, the world she’s desperate to escape refuses to release her. Someone from her past is watching. Someone who will do absolutely anything to own her. Even commit murder.

Congrats on publishing your first novel! How do you go about developing your characters?

The first thing I do is write the first chapter or two, which I subsequently end up completely rewriting. But it’s my way of getting the characters talking. Once I start hearing them, then I have a better idea who they are.

The next step is to fill out a GMC (goals, motivation and conflict) grid for the hero, the heroine, and the villain. This gives me a better understanding of where the book is heading and what plot devices I need to incorporate to challenge these characters and help them grow. It also points out my villain’s weaknesses, which the hero and heroine can use to defeat him or her throughout the course of the book.

Finally, I write a short blurb on backstory for each character. Backstory is a wonderful tool when used wisely. Unfortunately, I often feel compelled to tell the reader everything about the hero and heroine in the first chapter (that’s why I usually chuck the first twenty pages or so and start over). Writing out the backstory in a separate document helps me overcome this compulsion. It also allows me to integrate specific information in dialogue or introspection that increases the depth of the characters, motivates their actions, and enriches the story.
What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

First and foremost, learn your craft. Like with any career, there’s a learning curve. You never stop growing or improving, and there are always techniques you can glean from more experienced authors that will allow your work to shine.

Second, don’t give up! Believe in yourself and in your vision. This business is very subjective. Just because someone rejects your manuscript, it doesn’t mean the next person won’t love it. I firmly believe it’s all about perseverance. You only fail if you quit.

Third, don’t underestimate the importance of a strong high concept. Many editors and agents will request your manuscript based on a query letter. You need to be able to hook them with one or two paragraphs, and that’s very difficult to do without a compelling high concept. In many romance novels, the hook is the emotional growth of the characters and the development of the love story. Unfortunately, this is very difficult to convey in a couple of sentences. That’s where high concept comes in. If the premise is interesting and the conflict is powerful, you’re more likely to get a request.

Finally, always challenge yourself. Look at the market, at what’s selling, and ask yourself: how can I capitalize on that and still do something different? Trends are important. They tell us what the market wants. But by the time a trend is set, hundreds of books have been written in that particular style or genre. You want to aim for something different, while still giving readers what they’re looking for. That’s what will set you apart.

That's wonderful advice. But what do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

The most difficult part of writing is facing the blank page. Every time I sit down at my computer I wonder if I’ll be able to write, and not only write, but write in a witty, creative way that will keep readers turning the pages. It can be quite daunting at times, especially on days when I’m not feeling particularly witty or creative.

The greatest reward is when I type in the last word, then read the book with a fresh eye and think: “Hey, this isn’t half bad. Did I really write this?” Another incredible reward, which I have recently discovered, is getting an e-mail from a reader telling me how much they enjoyed my book.
How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

Not very well, I’m afraid. I have two young children and finding time to write can be a challenge sometimes. Now that they’re both in school full time, it’s gotten a little easier. Still, writing isn’t a nine to five job. You write when the inspiration comes. You will often see me running to my computer to type in a couple of lines, then get back to whatever it is I was doing before my muse interrupted me.

Generally, I try to write when the kids are at school or after I’ve put them to bed. Of course, the laundry often sits in baskets for a few days and meals aren’t nearly as interesting as they used to be.

What is your favorite movie? Did it inspire your writing in any way?
Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth. I absolutely love that movie! Is there anyone Mr. Darcy couldn’t inspire? I think he may be behind every smoldering look I’ve ever written. That movie is a great example of chemistry and subtext. As much as the hero and heroine pretend to hate each other, the viewer can see the attraction sizzling between them. That’s what I strive to achieve in my books—a balance between conflict and blood-pounding chemistry...

Ah, yes, the allure of Mr. Darcy. I wonder how many romance novels he's inspired?? Readers, hop on over to Anne's website today to find out more about her latest book. And have a wonderful day!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tentative Good News

"Problems are the price of progress. Don't bring me anything but trouble. Good news weakens me." ~Charles Kettering

I like today's quote -- even though I do admit to liking good news -- because it's a variation on the "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" theme. It's true: I've learned much more from my struggles than from my easy successes.

Speaking of good news, though, I've been sitting on this for a few days, but I thought I'd share it...even though it's not entirely set in stone.

My (new) editor at Samhain read One Night in Napa, sent me revisions she'd like to see, and then offered me a contract pending those revisions. So...it looks as though it might find a home sometime in 2009!

What's funny, though, is that the same day I heard from her, an agent responded wanting to see the whole thing as well. I sent it off, since it's not under contract yet, but in one sense I'd almost like to have it at Samhain since that's where my other 2 One Night books are. The editor even emailed me yesterday (she's putting together my contract) to ask if I wanted to consider this a collection/series and add "A One Night Novel," to the cover, since it'll be my third. What do you think?

Current Word Count for Entwined: 20,771

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: He wants her to be the last, the only, the always.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Another Holiday Shopping Idea

"I never had any doubts about my abilities. I knew I could write. I just had to figure out how to eat while doing this." ~Cormac McCarthy




I just found out about this online auction, being held to raise money for an author whose husband died earlier in the year. Lots of great items up for bid, including author, editor and agent critiques, signed books, gift baskets, and more. Plus the proceeds go to a good cause. If you're stumped for a unique holiday gift, this might be the perfect place to find one!

Current Word Count for Entwined: 20,442

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: It was the secret they shared, the one that bound them and the one, they both thought, that had drawn them together in the first place.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The First Snow of the Season

"It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air." ~W.T. Ellis


Yesterday, in anticipation of the first real snowfall of the season, I put out the holiday decorations (I also figured it was past due for the pumpkins to be put away). I listened to some carols. I planned a cookie exchange for school. And I waited for the snow that was supposed to come - 'cause, I enjoy it, the first few times it snows. Just not anything after, say, January 1st.

Anyway, we got a teeny little dusting on the lawn. That's it. It's not even worth taking a picture of, though I had my camera ready to go this morning.

Still, I'm in the holiday spirit, so here's the link to Santa and his Singing Reindeer, which I post every year because it's just so fun to watch.

Current Word Count for Entwined: 19,583

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: "Go talk to one of the sorority bunnies over at Kismet Hall, why don’t you?”

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Weekend Interview with H. Terrell Griffin



Happy Saturday! Today I'm pleased to announce a special author interview wiht H. Terrell Griffin, who is celebrating the release of his book Blood Island. Pay close attention, because at the end of this interview you'll find information about how you can win a signed copy of this book today!

Terry, welcome to Allie's Musings! Can you tell us a little about your background?

I grew up in Central Florida, served three years in the U.S. Army, earned degrees in history and law and practiced law in Orlando for 38 years. I was board certified by the Florida Bar as a Civil Trial Lawyer. I have a home on Longboat Key, Florida, where much of my book takes place, and spend as much time as possible on my boat. I’ve been married to the most delightful woman since I was in college and we have three sons and two grandchildren.

Ah, sounds like a lovely place to write! When did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?

I have been a voracious reader since I was a child. I discovered the joys of mystery novels while in college and have always aspired to write one. I was just simply too busy with my career and my family to take the time to try writing. As I was nearing retirement from the practice of law I decided that I had to take my shot if I was ever going to scratch the writing itch. I sat down and wrote my first book in 2005 and have been writing ever since. I think the triggering moment was when I realized that I wasn’t getting any younger and if I wanted to write a novel, I’d better get busy.

Tell us about your latest writing project.

My latest book, Blood Island, was released by Oceanview Publishing on December 1, 2008. The book takes place in Longboat Key, which is off the west coast of Florida just south of Tampa Bay, Key West and Orlando. The protagonist, Matt Royal, a beach bum former lawyer living on Longboat Key, is asked by his ex- wife to help find her 18 year old stepdaughter who disappeared while on Spring Break from college. The search takes him to the Florida Keys and to Blood Island where a very dangerous group of zealots have set up housekeeping and plan to cause great harm to the world. Matt, with the help of his friends Jock Algren and Logan Hamilton, set out to rescue the girl and stop the coming conflagration.

Sounds like an exciting read! Now, what do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

I think the most difficult thing is to make myself sit down and write. I tend to go in spurts, spending days at a time at the computer and then slacking off for days at a time. The most exciting part of the process is finding out what the characters are going to do next, how they go about solving the mystery, what their next day is going to be like. I don’t write from outlines, but just let the characters take on their own lives and let the words flow. When I’m on a roll, when the writing is going just right and the characters are having fun, I am rewarded.

Describe your writing space...
I actually have two writing spaces, one in my study at home in Maitland, an Orlando suburb, and the other on the sun porch of my condo overlooking Sarasota Bay on Longboat Key.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

I spend a great deal of time on Longboat Key, doing much of what my main character, Matt Royal, does; boating, fishing, and hanging out on the beach and visiting the local bars on our lovely island. I hold a U.S. Coast Guard 100 Ton Masters License and love being on a boat on the water. I’ve found that this life gives me a great deal of material for my novels.

I can definitely imagine that! What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?

I think the thing that surprised me the most was that I could actually write something that people would enjoy. People tell me that they enjoyed reading my books, and I am always a little surprised and a lot pleased. I have gotten so much pleasure from reading that I am overjoyed that I can actually create a book that gives others that same pleasure.

Now the good giveaway details:

H. Terrell Griffin is giving away a signed copy of his book, Blood Island, to one lucky tour visitor today. Go to Terry’s book tour page, http://h-terrell-griffin.omnimystery.com/, and enter your name, e-mail address, and this PIN, 5811, for your chance to win. Entries from Allie's Musings will be accepted until 12:00 Noon (PT) tomorrow. No purchase is required to enter or to win. The winner (first name only) will be announced on Terry’s book tour page next week.

Thanks for stopping by today, and have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, December 05, 2008

What I'm Doing...

OK, an update:

What I'm reading right now: Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult. I haven't read anything by her in a while (had to take a break). I like it so far, not only because of the decent plot but also because it gives me a chance to study her technique: she does a lot of switching POV and also past vs. present tense. That's what I'm attempting to do in Entwined, so it's good inspiration and motivation.

What I'm writing right now: working through revisions of Summer's Song (still!) and a first draft of Entwined, a literary-romance-paranormal story that jumps all over the place and is incredibly fun to play with.



What I'm watching right now: Fringe is my newest favorite show (good writing and acting), along with Life, which I discovered last season. I've also recently become a convert to House, along with my old faves Prison Break, Survivor (yes, I'll admit it) and Cold Case.



What I'm listening to right now: Where I Stood by Missy Higgins. Oh, and of course holiday carols. 'Tis the season, after all!



What about you?

Current Word Count for Entwined: 18,867

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: He still can’t get over the fact that the bones belong to a child, a baby, and have lain inside that wall for over twenty years.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Some Blogs for You to Visit Today


Look: the official graphic! And if you click on it, you can see the official list of all the EPPIE finalists. Very exciting.

I'm giving props to a couple of blogs today:

Liz is blogging every day about her progress working through the book Discovering the Writer Within. It’s a 40 day program to exercise one's creativity and imagination.. Go on over and see what she's up to today!

And a cousin on my husband's side has set up a brand new blog featuring her photography business (plus she has cool Christmas music playing there). I'm thinking I should probably commission her to do a new (and professional) head shot for my website. What do you think?

Current Word Count for Entwined: 18,288

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: She feels the nausea build in her stomach again, and she knows that if she is not in front of a toilet in a minute or two, she will lose her breakfast to the carpet of Silverstone Hall.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Karen Wiesner



Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! Today I have the pleasure of hosting prolific, award-winning author Karen Wiesner. Sit back, warm up that cup of coffee, and enjoy!

Karen, I'm so pleased to have you here on my blog today. Can you tell us a little about your background?

I’m an accomplished author with 55 books published in the past 10 years, which have been nominated for and/or won 74 awards, and 21 more titles under contract. My books cover such genres as women’s fiction, romance, mystery/police procedural/cozy, suspense, paranormal, futuristic, gothic, inspirational, thriller, horror and action/adventure. I also write children’s books, poetry, and writing reference titles such as First Draft in 30 Days and From First Draft to Finished Novel {A Writer’s Guide to Cohesive Story Building} available from Writer’s Digest Books.

My previous writers’ reference titles focused on non-subsidy, royalty-paying electronic publishing, author promotion, and setting up a promotional group like my own, the award-winning Jewels of the Quill, which I founded in 2003. The group does two anthologies together, edited by myself and others, per year. I’m also a member of EPIC, Sisters in Crime Internet Chapter, BooksWeLove.net, American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and World Romance Writers.

Wow! I think I'm exhausted just reading that list of accomplishments! Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

I actually have several new releases:

Woodcutter’s Grim Series—Classic Tales of Horror Retold is the one-volume novella collection of my previously published books in the romantic horror series: "Papa" (Book 1) and "Blood of Amethyst" (Book 2) plus 2 bonus stories in the series never before published: “Dancing to the Grave” (Book 3) and "The Amethyst Tower" (The Final Chapter). Whiskey Creek Press released the collection in September. I adored this series and I’m not ready to let it go, so there will definitely more coming in the future. Find out more about the rest of the books, and register to be notified of releases, in the Woodcutter’s Series here: http://www.angelfire.com/stars4/kswiesner/fiction6.html

From First Draft to Finished Novel {A Writer’s Guide to Cohesive Story Building} is my follow-up to First Draft in 30 Days. It became available in September. Find out more about my writing reference titles here: http://www.angelfire.com/stars4/kswiesner/nonfiction3.html
"Perfect Cadence" is the first in my contemporary romance Kaleidoscope Series, was published in Christmas Wishes, A Jewels of the Quill Christmas Anthology in September 2008. Find out more about the rest of the books in the series here: http://www.angelfire.com/stars4/kswiesner/fiction8.html


I love all things series, so it’s a very rare thing for me to write a single book that has no connection to others I’ve done. That was the case with my Incognito Series, the first seven books of which have won and finaled for several awards and received multiple 5 star reviews.

The series premise is based on the world’s most covert organization, the Network (fictional, of course!), with underground headquarters in Chicago beneath a front technology company called ETI. Having unchallenged authority and skill to disable and destroy criminals, the Network takes over where regular law enforcement leaves off in the mission for absolute justice. The price for that justice is high, requiring the life of every man and woman who serves—no turning back. Once you belong to the Network, there’s no escape. There is no life and no love, only duty. These operatives truly live in the shadows.

Undercover Angel, Book 7 of the series, was released October 1, 2008 and received The Long and Short Of It’s Best Book rating (their highest), a 5 angel review and the FAR Recommended Read Award, 5 stars and featured review status from Manic Readers, and 4 ½ stars from Romantic Times.


Second in Network command, Captain Shannon McKee leads the organization with an unfeeling, iron fist, just as her father did before her. Yet, when the opportunity comes to take down the most notorious drug dealer in history, she goes after her heart’s desire—to utterly destroy the man who killed her younger brother. But Mareno Ortega isn’t at all what Shannon expects him to be. He’s intelligent, attractive, charming, shy...and, unbelievably, a doting father to his two children. Shannon has more reason to hate this criminal than anyone else, yet she finds herself confused by his contradictions. Is he a man with no options, playing a game he desperately wants out of? Or is he an enigma, trying to seduce her in a cat and mouse chase she can’t win? The only man alive who can stop this undercover angel from her suicide mission is the Navy SEAL she served with and nearly lost her heart to, Captain Ron Blair, currently Network Master Strategist. But can Ron save her...from herself? Find out more about the Incognito Series here: http://www.angelfire.com/stars4/kswiesner/fiction7.html.

The Fifteenth Letter and Romantic Notions, Books 3 and 4 of the Falcon’s Bend Series, written with Chris Spindler, will be published December 2008. Look for the reissues of Books 1 and 2 and Falcon’s Bend Case Files, Volume I (The Early Cases) February 2009. Falcon’s Bend Cases Files, Volume II, a new novella collection, will be out Summer 2009. Find out more here:

http://www.angelfire.com/stars4/kswiesner/mystery.html

How do you go about developing your characters?

I was recently talking about something similar with a critique partner, who asked me what the different is between a book that practically writes itself and one that comes hard. I think the answer to that comes down to characters. Even if I don’t have a book sitting in my head, brewing on a backburner for a long time, if I connect with the characters, I can write them as if I’m just following a movie those same characters are showing in my head. The writing of the book is simplicity itself then.

But when characters are hiding and won’t show me their internal workings, it’s harder to write a story. When characters hide, I do a lot of character sketches. I also believe that there’s a vital need for cohesive characters, settings and plots, and that’s part of what makes a book work and what makes one complicated to unknot.

When the characters come to life like that—so I can see them, hear them, know exactly what they’d say, do and think in every single situation—is different for every project, and I wish I could pinpoint why some characters wait so long to come out and reveal themselves. It would make each project so much easier.

What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

Summers are the most difficult part of writing. I’m a person who wants to work, but when my son is out of school for the summer, it’s very difficult to find time to do that. I need to be alone when I write. Generally, I try to work on outlines and revision exclusively in the summer, mostly trying to relax and get my brain fertile again.

Finishing a book and having readers love it as much as I do is the most exciting and rewarding part of being a writer.

Describe your writing space for us!

I have a gorgeous cherry wood armoire that’s so cluttered, there’s no way I’ll ever be able to close it. It has a file cabinet (piled with works in progress) on the left and a credenza (piled with works in progress) on the right. My published books are displayed beautifully in a special alcove near the door of my office. Above my stereo is a plague that says, “Home is where your story begins.” My hundreds of CDs (gotta have music!) bracket the door up to the attic, where I finally have the home library I’ve always wanted.

I can't imagine you have time to fit in much leisure time, but what do you like to do when you're not writing?

I need to be able to write or work a full eight hours on weekdays to be truly happy, but I do enjoy designing websites, graphics, and cover art. My favorite things to do non-writing related are extremely simplistic and probably boring to most. Take walks with my family. Read all day. Relax with my family and watch movies. Watch the snow fall. Shop. I’m a simple girl who gets all the vicarious thrills she needs through her writing, so I need little else to be content.

Karen, thanks so much for sharing your experiences with blog readers here today. Anything else you’d like to mention?

Readers can visit me at:
http://www.karenwiesner.com/











If you would like to receive my free e-mail newsletter, Karen’s Quill, and become eligible to win my monthly book giveaways, send a blank e-mail to
KarensQuill-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Two Holiday Contests!

"Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind." ~Mary Ellen Chase

I promised to tell you about the giveaways Samhain is holding this month, so here's the first: click here to see exactly how you can win a variety of ebooks by hunting for Christmas ornaments on participating authors' websites. And here's the second: Samhain is also GIVING AWAY 60 print books this month! Click here to find out the details about that contest too.

Hey, by the way, I'm organzing a cookie exchange at work, but I need some new EASY holiday cookie recipes. If you have any foolproof ones, could you email them to me at allieb@allieboniface.com? Thanks!

Current Word Count for Entwined: 17,338

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: Sometimes she retches in the middle of the day, for no reason but that she misses him so much she must either vomit or die.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Good News!!!

"The test of any man's character is how he takes praise." ~Anonymous

You'll notice my word count for Entwined isn't much changed from yesterday's number, since I spent most of the weekend working on Summer's Song. Still, any progress is progress, right?

The exciting news for the day, though, is that One Night in Memphis is an EPPIE finalist! For those not in the know, EPIC (Electronically Published Internet Connection) is a network/support group for ebook authors, and each year they sponsor the EPPIE awards, in a variety of categories. Contemporary Romance had 60+ entries this year, so for my book to be one of five finalists is a huge accomplishment. I'm thrilled!

I'm even more thrilled because the story has - get this - two kisses in it. No sex, no even-close-to-bedroom scenes, because there's a whole lot of action and it only takes place over one night, after all. But in this time when erotic romance has been cornering the market, it's reassuring to know that romance novels without sex do in fact still please readers.

So...now I have to decide if I'm going to the conference/awards ceremony in March - it's in Las Vegas. Hey, it's a tax write-off, right?

Current Word Count for Entwined: 16,221

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: She has nothing but the heart she gave him, and that, of course, is gone now too.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Tao of Publishing

"50 percent of the factors affecting your career could be totally out of your control." ~Axelrod and Long


There's a very interesting article in the December issue of Romance Writers Report titled "The Tao of Publishing" and written by Steven Axelrod and Julie Ann Long.


In a (very small) nutshell, the article talks about how creative success is impossible to predict. Actors, musicians, writers - they all strive to produce not only the best work they can, but the work that will take the world by storm and outshine all others that came before it. Interestingly enough, however, studies show that the quality of a work does not necessarily predict its popularity, because consumers make decisions socially rather than independently. In fact, one online experiment set up different music-sharing websites where users could download music and then rank how much they liked certain songs. Without exception, users were influenced by what other users thought, because on the control sites, where they couldn't see other users' ranks but only their own, completely different songs ended up being the most popular.

The users also ranked the songs in order of quality. Take a look at these results: "Overall, a song in the Top 5 in terms of quality had only a 50 percent chance of finishing in the Top 5 of success."


It's the ol' Twilight/Harry Potter effect: readers hear about how much other readers like the books, so they go out and buy them. And whether or not the books are well written, it doesn't matter. Once the buzz gets going, people buy what other people are reading. Period. Axelrod and Long's conclusion is that authors cannot possibly predict what is going to sell or which promotional efforts really pay off, so we should just relax and "go along for the ride." We should write the best story we can, promote as we see fit and can afford, but not get caught up in sales trends and Amazon rankings and such.


I don't know about you, but I'm not sure I can do that. Maybe I'm too much of a Type A personality, but it's frustrating to know that talent and hard work aren't really what pay off in the end. It's simply luck and timing. I suppose that's the way the world works, but still. When mediocre books become best sellers and wonderful gems never even get published, it seems as though there's something wrong.


What do you think? Would you be able to let go and just write, regardless if you never got a publishing contract or sold another book or made a best-seller list? Is it worth dwelling on promotional efforts, or should I just forget about it and see where Fate takes my writing career?


Current Word Count for Entwined: 15,664

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: If he stops breathing, if he stuffs the screams back down his throat, perhaps the people in the rooms around him will not hear his world fall apart, bit by bit, until insanity takes over.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Relaxing for the Weekend...Finally...

"Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind." ~Rudyard Kipling

Since I'm out of town this weekend, and Internet access is limited (and I went to bed WAYYY too late last night), just a quick update on my writing.

Tune in tomorrow for an actual blog post...oh, and if you haven't yet signed up for my monthly newsletter, go ahead and do so (it's right over there, on the sidebar). December's is coming out in a couple of days, with lots of of holiday tidbits and good news!


Current Word Count for Entwined: 15,034


Yesterday's Fave Sentence: He used to watch all those crime shows, back when he still had an apartment and cable TV, but he knows that in real life, answers take months and aren’t nearly as pat.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Black Friday!

"Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping." ~Bo Derek

By the time you read this, I will probably be sleeping, having gotten up WAYYYY too early to hit the Day-After-Thanksgiving sales. Of course, after doing this last year, I swore I never would again...and yet there is something to the thrill of planning out the sales and getting to the stores when it is still dark outside.

I know, I'm crazy.

Making slow but steady progress on both Entwined and Summer's Song, though to be honest, I don't think I'm going to hit the 50,000 word mark by December 14, as was my original goal. When you're revising a whole other manuscript at the same time you're composing a brand new one, well, your head tends to spin a little. Anyway, I'm slogging on, so here's today's WC and sentence:

Current Word Count for Entwined: 13, 502

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: When the bones fall onto his lap, complete with a skull the size of his palm, it is all he can do not to scream aloud.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful for so much today, beginning with all of you who stop by and visit me in blogger-world. Here's wishing you a wonderful day!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Query Letter that got a "Yes"

Writers' Wednesday is on hiatus this week, but make sure to stop back next Wednesday, when I'll be featuring another author interview!

In the meantime, thought I'd share a bit of bright news: my regular blog readers know I've been mercilessly revising my novel Summer's Song, since Black Lyon Publishing asked to see it. Yesterday I also got an email from an editor at Avon, in response to a query I sent a few weeks ago, asking to see the manuscript as well. Avon normally takes only agented material, but you can still send an email query to their general submissions pool, which I did.

For kicks/informative purposes, here's the query I sent. I deliberately mentioned what I knew about their current wants and the shift in romance sub-genre that the Borders bookseller talked about at the NJRWA conference.

Dear Avon Editors:

In speaking with one of my writing colleagues at the recent NJRWA Conference, I discovered that you are currently looking for small-town, “soft” romance stories a la Debbie Macomber. I believe that my novel Summer’s Song would fit nicely into that sub-genre.

Pine Point is one of those small towns we all know and love. With its collection of quirky residents, local shops, and folksy gossip, it has a cozy feel of familiarity and nostalgia that readers of “soft” contemporary romance currently crave.

But Pine Point has its secrets too, and the death of Summer Thompson’s brother is one of them. Summer hasn’t lived in Pine Point for ten long years, since her brother died and her father sent her away for good. Now she’s on hiatus from a successful career as a museum curator to look over a half-renovated house her father willed her. Little does she know that as the weeks unfold, she’ll come face to face with not only her ex-boyfriend, but the truth about her own role in her brother’s death, along with a newcomer in town who might just change the way she looks at Pine Point forever.

Damian Knight recently moved to town with his mother and half-sister, to escape a brutal stalker. While he finds solace in construction work, it’s only a matter of time before his path crosses Summer’s, and the two fall for each other amid troublesome rumors that are brewing. Soon, Damian finds himself faced with split loyalties: protect his mother and sister at all costs, or let down his guard and fall in love with a woman at the center of a Pine Point scandal.

Summer’s Song explores the journey of going home again, of facing the past, of coming to terms with loss and moving on with both old friends and new lovers beside you. While the romance market has moved away from contemporary romance in recent years, “soft romance” is making a comeback according to many publishers and booksellers, and I believe this novel would fit well into that niche. Pine Point is a town full of personalities and small town conflicts, which also sets it up perfectly for a series of novels that could continue beyond this single title.

I am a multi-published author of contemporary romance novels (with The Wild Rose Press and Samhain Publishing). I have also published several articles on the craft of writing and belong to both the local and national chapters of RWA. Summer’s Song is complete at 75,000 words; if you would like to see a synopsis or sample chapters, I would be happy to send them along.

Thank you.

The chance of having a manuscript accepted there is very slim, but I'm amping up my revising and crossing my fingers anyway...

Current Word Count for Entwined: 12,073

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: Melted snow seeps onto the carpet, and for a moment all she can think is how it would feel against her skin, ice that raises gooseflesh before his mouth warms it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Novel Idea for Those Deleted Scenes

I spent most of my free time yesterday revising Summer's Song. It's amazing the different direction it is taking - I hope with good results, ultimately. I've cut SO much, though. I have an entire separate file with all the scenes no longer in the actual story. When I was at the NJRWA conference, one of the speakers recommended telling yourself you'll post those tidbits later on your website, under your "free reads" or "deleted scenes" section. Whether or not you ever do (she didn't) at least it eases the pain of ripping them from the story.

My word count for Entwined is still behind, but that's OK. I have a few days off for Thankgiving break, so let's hope I can catch up then. Right now, I'm wrapping up the first part of the main plot and hope to start working on one of the three subplots soon.

Oh, by the way, Samhain is hosting a Holiday Hunt, with a number of authors participating - you can win free downloads of their books! It starts December 1st, so stay tuned for more details~

Current Word Count for Entwined: 11,266

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: His heart aches with the distance between them, and yet he could more easily stop its beating than stop coming to Natasha Silverstone’s bed every night.

Monday, November 24, 2008

It's Monday Again?

"Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time." ~Steven Wright

It's Monday again? Yikes -- Thankgiving is a scant three days away. Thank goodness we're heading to my parents', which means we only have to bring something for the table, not prepare food to cover it. Who else is cooking/hosting for the big day?

Thanks to everyone for the concern and well-wishes for hubby's student. At this point we don't know more than he is still in critical condition, but there is no head trauma and he's now survived almost 5 days, so that's a plus.

On the not-so-good side, we had yet another car accident here last Friday night: two cars full of teenagers collided head-on. At least one death. It just breaks my heart. And I'm writing this blog post before I go to school, which I'm dreading because they haven't released the identities of the kids yet, but I'll guarantee we know at least some of them.

Now on the bright side: some good writing over the weekend, with positive revision and reconstruction of Summer's Song (I've cut 6000 words so far) and some good, fun progress on Entwined. I'm still behind, but I'm not stressing. I'll get there!

Current Word Count for Entwined: 10,619

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: She laughs, but she lays her hand on his knee, and he knows it is only a matter of time before he peels that scarf from her neck and tastes for himself the soft, dark spot at the base of her throat.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Manic Writing

"Writing is not a genteel profession. It's quite nasty and tough and kind of dirty." ~Rosemary Mahoney

I'm writing like a maniac today, since along with getting words down for Entwined, I'm also tackling a revision of Summer's Song for Black Lyon Publishing's Literary Love Story line. I couldn't even sleep that well last night because I was running over story possibilities in my head. How's that for living inside your novels?

So, here you go (and wish me luck on Summer's Song - I'm brutally slashing scenes and killing babies):

Current Word Count for Entwined: 9,878

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: By now, he knows the routines of everyone who works here, from the junior profs to the admissions staff to Dean Braber himself, who bangs blonde coeds once or twice a semester but never on Fridays, and certainly never after ten.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What Keeps Me Writing

"Those who write clearly have readers. Those who write obscurely have commentators." ~Albert Camus

OK, I'll admit it: posting my word count and my favorite sentences here every day has definitely kept me writing. When you're accountable to someone, even the "someones" in cyberworld, it's amazing how you'll find the time to write.

I am behind, though - I should be at 12,500 words by the end of today. We'll see how close I get; it's the weekend, which does mean that I should have more time. Theoretically. In the meantime, I also have to write a blog post for the Samhain Publishing Blog, which will be up around 3:00 EST today. Stop by and comment if you'd like!

Current Word Count for Entwined: 8,302

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: It complicates things more than a little, this child who holds Chase’s heartstrings.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I Hate These Phone Calls...

"Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly. " ~Author Unknown

Wow, I am SOOOO glad it is Friday! Been a crazy week here, partly because we got a telephone call Wednesday night that one of hubby's students was in a serious car accident, along with two of his friends..


I think teenagers shouldn't be allowed to drive until they're no longer teenagers. And they should only be allowed to drive the speed limit or under and without any kind of music and with no one else in the car. Well, maybe not really. But can you please remind the teens you know that even God's patience wears thin when they drive too fast and get distracted by their friends and TEXT MESSAGE WHILE THEY ARE DOING BOTH THOSE THINGS???


The word is still touch and go on the student. Sigh.


Current Word Count for Entwined: 7715

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: The coffee shop door opens, and Natasha Silverstone walks into his life for the third time in less than a day, a bolt of lightning that has singled him out from the heavens and struck him square through the soul.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lots of Links to Share Today

"The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about." ~Oscar Wilde

It's been a busy week for me in cyberworld! You can read author interviews here:

Brenna Lyons' Blog
Janet Walters' Blog

Or you can also take a peek at the interview I did for WOW-Women on Writing about co-writers Stella and Audra Price.

While I'm mentioning links, there is some exciting news over at Samhain. Here's a preview: they've just signed an agreement with BooksonBoard, an ebook retailer that's going to make all their novels available on iPhones. Next generation, here we come!

Also, the new erotic e-publisher Ravenous Romance recently signed some NY Times bestsellers. Here's an excerpt from their latest press release:

[Boston, MA, November 19, 2008] –Ravenous Romance™, slated to launch December 1, 2008, has signed several best-selling and award-winning authors to their roster, many of whom have crossed genres and will appear on the company’s launch list in early December. New York Times best-selling author John Skipp has penned a novel called Opposite Sex for the company under the pseudonym Gina McQueen, and recently quipped: “Sometimes you just get tired of killing people, you know? I just wanted to write something sweet and funny and sexy and wild, where nobody gets hurt, and the worst thing that happens is your characters are probably going to have to stop kissing eventually!”

John Updike’s protégée Catherine Hiller’s novel Cybill in Between will publish in early December. Updike has provided a quote for the book cover that calls Hiller’s writing “brave and joyful.” Mimi Leahy, an Emmy-nominated writer for “All My Children” and “As the World Turns”, will write several books and short stories for the imprint...

Finally, my cyber colleague Devon Gray is celebrating the release of Playing with Keeps, so take a hop on over to her blog and tell her I sent you to say congrats!

Current Word Count for Entwined: 6,698

Yesterday's Fave Sentence: He cannot stop listening to her talk, cannot understand the way it squeezes his heart every time she pauses.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Heather Stimmler-Hall


Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! I mentioned today's author a few weeks back, when I first read her book Naughty Paris. Now Heather Stimmler-Hall is here today to give us the skinny on this fascinating "travel" book:

Welcome to Allie's Musings, Heather! Can you tell us a little about your background?

I've been a writer as long as I can remember: plays, poetry, stories...when I was in high school I started taking journalism classes and we produced a weekly newspaper. From this I got an after school job as the Teen Correspondent for the big daily, Phoenix Gazette (absorbed by the Arizona Republic). It seemed like a more practical way to make a living as a writer, so that's the career path I chose. When I came to Paris in college, it seemed like travel writing was an obvious choice, and now I've been writing about France for American magazines and guidebooks since 1999. I also have a blog I write for fun called Secrets of Paris (http://www.secretsofparis.com/).

Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

After years of writing for other publishers, I created my own independent publishing company in Paris, Fleur-de-Lire, and in September I published "Naughty Paris: A Lady's Guide to the Sexy City". It's a guidebook for the "Sex & the City" generation of women, very elegant, with over 200 photos and lots of fun advice and tips on everything from where to find the perfect corset to decoding French pickup lines and how to capture that elusive "femme fatale" allure of Parisian women.




As my regular readers know, I had the pleasure of checking out this book on its release...what an interesting work! So, what advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

Travel guide writing is very different from fiction writing. You really, really have to remember your audience, to keep your information informative, essential, and above all, evocative of the place you're writing about. Read a LOT. The biggest mistake all beginners make in all kinds of writing is using clichés and other hackneyed phrases. They really distinguish a professional writer from a hobby writer.

How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

I'm not sure that I do! I have two small miniature pinschers, Pedro & Lena, who force me to get away from my desk at least three times a day for walkies and dinner, but it's a constant struggle to remain balanced, especially when you're a freelancer. I tend to have a better grasp of how long any given assignment will take me now, but I still end up procrastinating (I'm a Facebook addict) and then not sleeping for three days when a deadline approaches.

Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?

Some might think that travel writers don't get writer's block, but it happens. It's always hard to think of new and interesting ways to say the same things over and over. Or sometimes I'm just not in the mood to write, especially if life situations get in the way. To break through this, I just write the crappiest first draft I can, on purpose, full of clichés and bad puns. Then I can relax a little since I have something to work with besides a blank screen, and get to editing, rewriting, etc.6. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creatingyour book(s)?Naughty Paris is completely different from the other traditional travel guides I've done. And since I didn't have an editor telling me how to write it, I often agonized over the tone, the angle, the length, what to include or leave out...I must have changed it twenty times in the course of completing the manuscript. But I learned if I went with my gut and with what I knew *I* would be happy with in the end, then it would all come out okay. People can tell when you're writing with conviction from your heart.

Heather, thanks so much for being here today! Readers, you can find out more at http://www.naughtyparisguide.com/.

Happy Wednesday!