Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Picture Blog, Today

"When it snows, you have two choices: shovel or make snow angels." ~Anonymous

Some pictures to entertain you today...

We actually have 2 cats, the one who was sick last summer and got all the attention, and this stray who showed up on our porch 2+ years ago and decided to stay. He's my hubby's favorite, because he has the most easy-going personality you'll ever find in a cat. He does, however, love FEET. He will rub against hubby's feet when he's sitting in his recliner at the end of the day, and last week, when we took apart one of my closets and had to put my shoes in their hanging bags on the floor, he was in heaven.

First he sat on top of them...

Then he decided he needed to rub up and down the length of them...

Meanwhile, outside, the white stuff was falling...and falling... (it's still snowing this AM - we've gotten about a foot, I think)...

And here's hubby bundled up and plowing it (at least it was that light, fluffy stuff, yesterday, anyway. I think we got some ice on top of it overnight. Oh, joy!)...

Finally, here's the latest book trailer I made, for Diane Craver:

And here's some exciting news: I think I've decided what book project I want to start next. See, here's the thing: before I published my first novel, I had 4 that I had worked through. Now, 2 of those have been published, 1 has been signed for publication, and 1 is waiting for possible agent or publisher queries. So...I have nothing new in my stockpile of stories! It's a little scary, to be honest. I mean, I have lots of ideas, but nothing started.

So I've spent the last few days brainstorming, and I think I've made a decision about what I want to tackle next. Curious? Check back tomorrow and I'll let you know!

Friday, February 22, 2008

"Nature has no mercy at all. Nature says, "I'm going to snow. If you have on a bikini and no snowshoes, that's tough. I am going to snow anyway." ~Maya Angelou

Another snow day! That makes 5 so far this season...a little more than usual. I have this bad feeling they're going to start taking days back from our long Easter Weekend and our April Spring Break...

And I know I haven't played in a while, so here's a brand new Friday Feast:

Have you ever played a practical joke on anyone? If so, what did you do and who was your victim?

I'm not much of a jokester, but I do remember when my husband and I were first dating (maybe 2-3 months in), he called his older brother and told him that I'd gotten pregnant...there was this HUGE silence on the other end of the line, and then his brother started thinking through all these possible solutions, what they would tell their parents, etc. It was pretty funny.

What do your salt and pepper shakers look like?

I have a lot of pairs...right now they're tiny and silver. I like our ones made from mini Coke and Diet Coke bottles the best.

Where is the next place you plan to visit (on vacation or business)?

Scranton, PA: A book signing
Venice, FL: Visit my parents
Philadelphia, PA: A book festival
Cleveland, OH: Fun for me while hubby goes to a conference
Outer Banks, NC: Fun in the sun with a group of friends

(OK, that was probably more than you wanted to know, but staring at the snow falling outside my window, I had to think about the next few months of vacation, not just the next one!)

Main Course
What kind of lotion or cream do you use to keep your hands from getting too dry?

If anyone has a recommendation, I'll gladly take it! Right now I'm going back and forth between Vaseline Super-Intensive Lotion and Curel. Neither one does the job the way I wish it would.

Make up a dessert, tell us its ingredients, and give it a name.

Chocolate mousse on a chocolate graham cracker crust, layered with crushed almonds and whipped cream and dark chocolate shavings on top. CHOCOLATE HEART ATTACK

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Dreaded Agent Search

"I get up in the morning, torture a typewriter until it screams, then stop." ~Clarence Budington Kelland

Well, it's arrived: the moment I admit that I'm entering the agent search once again. OK, maybe I'm just temporarily entertaining the thought, but it's there.

See, I've gone through the whole agent query thing before, with 3 other novels. It was interesting, and I learned quite a bit, but ultimately once I realized I could sell to Samhain and Wild Rose Press, I devoted my efforts to learning about the editing and marketing processes.

And I did.

So with Summer's Song, I'm thinking maybe I'll float it out there to a few agents and see if any bite. I'd like to think that some publishing credits might help me out now, but who knows? I spent some time yesterday perusing sites, and it's a tough market out there, no doubt.

By the way, two sites I would recommend, to anyone else in the market for an agent, are The Passionate Pen (she's a private author but hosts a FANTASTIC, regularly updated list of agents and publishers who take romance/women's lit) and Agent Query.

Something to think about, though: you really have to know why you want an agent. To break your manuscript into the big houses? To help you set up a marketing plan? To focus your long-range career plans? I looked at some agents who've sold novels to electronic/print pubs. I saw a Samhain author listed as a client at one agent's site! No offense, but I can do that by myself. And they take 15% of your profits, so you really have to make sure they're making you $$ you couldn't make on your own.

I ran across one agent, though, who's decided he wants to rejuvenate the romance industry. His lists of "Wants" and "Don't Wants" are pretty specific. The latter include Inspirationals, Erotica, YA, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Futuristic, E-Pubs, Literary Fiction, Stories with "Romantic Elements," Non-fiction, Poetry, E-Pubs.

And yet he's an agent who reps romance? Um, OK, even though electronic publishers are one of the fastest-growing areas in the romance industry. Probably a good idea to list not once but twice that you don't want anything to do with them.

Oh, and he also makes clear that last time he read over RITA and Golden Heart entries, he had this to say: "I recently had the chance to review both Golden Heart and RITA manuscripts. I have to say, I was shocked. If someone was really looking at the story, they would realize the writing was far from good. Frankly, if I had to give them a grade, I would have been giving a lot of C's and D-'s.

Stories read like comic books. Characters were stereotypical. This list was endless.

But here is the thing. These books all had "those great techniques" that have been proclaimed as being the end all be all of writing.

In the end. Did it make the story better. No.

So, please writers. If we really want to see the romance and women's fiction industry make some significant improvements, then let's work on writing (and publishing) the GREAT story and not just the stories with gimmicks."

There's a lot of the same kind of attitude on every page and document on his website. Suffice to say I did not put him on my "Submit To" list.

We'll see what I decide...I'll keep you posted...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Delia DeLeest

Welcome to another Writers' Wednesday! Today I'm featuring historical romance author Delia DeLeest. Sit back, relax, and enjoy!

Hi Delia, and thanks for being here today! Can you tell us a little about your background?

I was born and raised in Wisconsin, but moved to Hawaii two years ago. I'm still a Midwest girl at heart though, and all my stories, for the most part, are set in America's Heartland. Just about everything I write is set in the 1920's. Chicago and the surrounding areas were so exciting during that time that I just don't have the heart to write in any other location.! I love the time period of the 1920s, too. So when did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?

I'd always loved to write, but my handwriting is so bad that I could never read what I'd written! Then, right around the same time my youngest child started school, my husband did a computer upgrade and gave me his old laptop. I curled up with it one day in my big ol' La-Z-Boy recliner and started writing my first manuscript-a western. About four months later, I saw an old gangster movie set in the Roaring Twenties and my mind just started spewing out story ideas like a slot machine spits quarters and I knew I found my niche.

Tell us about your latest writing project or published title It Takes Moxie, the second story set in the Twenties that I've written has been released digitally and is available at The Wild Rose Press.

It was supposed to be simple. Moxie Hamilton was going to kidnap an unsuspecting driver just long enough to get to an out-of-town train station and buy a ticket to Chicago. She didn't factor in the stolen diamonds, being chased by a gun-wielding thug, or falling in love with her kidnap victim. The last one was probably one of her worst ideas, especially since she had a fiancé waiting for her in Chicago. Getting kidnapped wasn't high on Ben Kincaid's list of things to do, but that didn't stop Moxie from pulling a gun on him and ordering him to take her out of town. From the steamy heat of St. Augustine, Florida to the crime-ridden streets of prohibition Chicago and everywhere in between, Ben and Moxie leave a trail of chaos in a cross-country caper that will change their lives forever.

Currently, I'm working on a sequel, tentively titled Moxie to the Rescue. Eye of the Beholder, written after I fell in love with Gerard Butler as The Phantom of the Opera, is due to be released early 2008.

It Takes Moxie sounds like a great story! What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

Don't write to the market, write what's in your heart. I started writing at a time when everyone said the historical romance market was dead, and to write a historical in such an unusual time period was pretty much the kiss of death. But that didn't stop me because I love the Twenties and can't work up any kind of enthusiam for writing in any other time period. My love for the era shows up in my writing and I think people can see that. A good story will sell, regardless of genre, if you only believe in it and in yourself.

That's such good advice. So can you describe your writing space for readers?

I've got what I call my own personal form of ADHD. I'm not athletic by any means (I'm really lazy, actually) but I have to be moving at all times. My kids joke about how many miles I put on my rocking chair during the day. I take the term 'laptop' literally and spend my day rocking back and forth, laptop chugging away on my thighs, typing out my stories. I just bought a chiller for my computer this weekend, and it's doing wonders drawing the heat produced by my laptop away from my thighs. After long writing sessions, the term 'hot legs' took on a whole new meaning!

I love that! OK, what is your favorite movie? Did it inspire your writing in any way?

I don't necessarily have a favorite movie, though I do tend to gravitate to those made before 1960, musicals from the 40' and 50's are always good as are gangster movies from the early 30's. I DO use bits and pieces of movies as inspiration for my books - like the aforementioned Phantom. Clara Bow's "It", an old silent made in the 20's, is invaluable for both ideas and for giving me a sense of what things were like back then. I've even had a two second long visual from Michael Jackson's music video "Beat It" inspire an entire scene in one manuscript.

Thanks so much for being here today. Anything else you'd like readers to know?

Thanks so much for taking the time to learn about me and my passion for all things Twenties. If you want to follow my adventures, visit my journal here:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Happy Tuesday

"Language forces us to perceive the world as man presents it to us." ~Julia Penelope

Happy Tuesday Fact #1: My article about book trailers is featured in this month's issue of The Samhellion! (You have to scroll down once you get there; there's no direct link)

Happy Tuesday Fact #2: I finished my 3rd? 4th? draft of Summer's Song yesterday, and today I'm officially handing it over to some readers for feedback. I'm so glad to be done with it... (for a little while, anyway, 'til the comments come back!)

And in other news, I had to put down Nineteen Minutes last night without finishing it. I hate doing that. I rarely do that. In fact, the last time I put down a novel halfway through was...hmm...last summer, Perfect Match, also by Jodi Picoult. Maybe she's lost her allure for me.

I wasn't crazy about Nineteen Minutes from the start - the characters seemed contrived, too much like caricatures than actual teens, sort of the worst-case scenario of every situation you might see in a high school. And I almost lost it a few chapters back, when this one sophomore, the golden boy/star athlete says to his girlfriend (she wants him to stop picking on the nerdy kids in their class). "I can't. Because if there isn't a them, then there is no us."

No way a 16 year, especially one as vapid as Picoult has made this one out to be, would have that much self-awareness. And even if he did think it, he wouldn't say it out loud to the new girlfriend he's trying to impress. I was like, "Oh, please."

But the thing that put me over the edge last night - and you may think I'm overreacting here - was a description of a teenage girl, who walks into her mother's bedroom and the mother is wondering when she grew up, because she has all these curves. And the girl is wearing a "wifebeater tank and boxer shorts."

I cannot tell you how offensive I find the word "wifebeater." It makes my skin crawl. I refuse to let any of my own student use it. It's a horrible, misogynistic word that basically condones spousal abuse. And if someone can tell me why it's okay to be a part of our vocabulary, then please enlighten me.

I'm terribly disappointed that Picoult chose that descriptive term. She certainly wasn't doing it for effect. Worse, it didn't even make sense from a writer's perspective. The scene is written from the mother's POV; she's a judge and she's also out of touch with her daughter and teens in general. There's no way she would use that word to describe what her daughter is wearing.


So that's that. The book is going back to the library today. And I think I may stay away from Picoult in the future. Too bad.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Lurkers and Private Blogs

"Many attempts to communicate are nullified by saying too much." ~Robert Greenleaf

We all know what lurkers are, in cyber world, right? You may even be one (I am, many times...there, I've admitted it). Lurkers are those people who visit blogs, or chats, or loops, and just sit back and read all the comments without making any themselves. Some people dislike lurkers. I don't. But maybe that's 'cause I tend to be one. Sometimes it's just because I don't have time to leave a comment - sometimes people have already said everything I would want to say anyway. And sometimes I feel like getting information withtout necessarily interacting.

Is that wrong?

I know from Google Analytics that about six times as many people visit my blog each day than leave comments on it. It doesn't bother me. Sure, that "0 Comments" at the bottom of a post doesn't exactly make my day, sometimes. But I understand that some people really do just want to read and not feel that they have to say something at the end.

But what about you? Do you wish lurkers would leave comments? Do you resent that they show up without leaving anything behind to say that they were here?

My mom was telling me the other day about a blog she reads regularly - it's by the wife of one of her nephews, about their journey adopting 2 babies from a foreign country. Lots of pics, info, etc. She doesn't usually comment, but when she does, she does so under the "Anonymous" feature. (People do that occasionally here too...again, I don't mind. Unless it's some kind of flaming negativity, why should I need to know who said it?) A couple of days ago, apparently the woman got irritated that people were lurking and not commenting. The next day, she changed her blog to "private" so that you have to log in with a valid email and user name to read it.

Wonder how many readers she lost?

I guess I can understand that if you're really only blogging for your friends and family, then having a private blog is a good idea. But I'm thinking you should start with that private feature from the beginning. Of course, my goal in blogging was to get potential readers, so the last thing I would want is to turn people away by requiring them to sign in first. I know some loyal readers who don't even like the word verification feature on blogs!

But it does seem a little weird to, without warning, change your public blog to a private one after almost a year of blogging.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents on lurking and private blogs. I've never come across a private one before; have you? And what's your opinion on them, anyway? I'm curious...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Welcome to the Latest Stop on Marianne Arkins's Virtual Book Tour!

I know, I know...usually I only interview authors on Writers' Wednesdays. But today is a special day. We're helping my good writing friend Marianne promote her newly released novel, One Love for Liv. It's available right now ebook format, from Samhain Publishing, and will release in print right in time for Christmas! Today we get to see the inner workings of this romance author/review site co-owner/stay-at-home mom/native Californian who's right now shivering in her adopted home state of New Hampshire.

Enjoy the interview, leave comments, and pick up her book, OK? I'm telling you, it's a great, funny, sweet read with (of course!) a happy ending.

Hi, Marianne, and welcome! Can you tell readers a little bit about the book you're touring with?

One Love For Liv was released in eBook format by Samhain Publishing. I’m really excited about this for a couple of reasons. First, because it’s my first full length novel and that’s a big milestone for me. Secondly, because I really love this story and its characters. There was a time when I thought the storyline, the characters and such would preclude this from being published. I’m glad to know that wasn’t the case.

It's always a great moment to know that the work you've spent so much time and heart on will see publication, so congratulations on that accomplishment! For those writers who are just starting out, what advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

Join a good critique group of writers who are honest and ambitious and kind. Being around helpful, like-minded people can make a HUGE difference in your chances of getting published. And make sure your grammar and punctuation are up to par. Those two things will help you more, IMHO, than anything else out there.

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

I really only read books which meet two criteria:
1. Romance
2. A Happy-Ever-After

If I’m reading a new author, I will often flip to the end of the book to make certain there is a happy ending. If there isn’t one, it goes back on the shelf. I’m not so persnickety about genre – I’ll read mainstream romance, paranormal or even folks like Dean Koontz (I really love most of his books).

I like to be entertained. I don’t read for edification. Maybe that makes me shallow, but it also makes me happy...

I don’t know that I have a “favorite” author, per se. Jenny Crusie is an auto-buy as is Nora Roberts (especially her trilogies). I’ve also discovered some great new authors like Kerry Jones and Deborah MacGillivray recently. But, honestly, I’ll try just about anyone once.

Okay, a technical question: when you write, do you use the computer or compose by hand, oral dictation, or some other method?

I write almost 100% on the computer. When I’m in the groove, my brain moves so much faster than my hand does if I’m writing on paper that I either get frustrated, or my writing is so illegible I’ll never be able to figure out what I’ve written. I also like to be able to edit without scribbling and making arrows to point to things or whatnot. I’m always amazed to hear about best-selling authors who write their first drafts by hand. The idea of it mystifies me.

I've often found that movies inspire authors. What is your favorite movie? Did it inspire your writing in any way?

Can I pick two? I love, Love, LOVE both “Undercover Blues” and “The Princess Bride”. They’re both full of quirky humor and silliness, and both have romance and a happy ending. I’m also a big fan of “While You Were Sleeping” and “Ever After." Again, quirky humor, silliness, stranger characters, and a happy ending.

Do they inspire my writing? I suppose so. Most of my stories have quirky humor, silly secondary characters, romance and a happy ever after. :)

We're glad to see you here on your virtual tour, so thanks for stopping by! Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

I have a contest running on my blog to celebrate the release of “One Love For Liv. You can also visit me on my other virtual tour spots this month – the full list is here.

Thanks, Marianne! Readers, go ahead and leave your comments or questions, because she'll be peeking in here throughout the day!