Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ah, Reviews...

"It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it." ~Benjamin Franklin

Busy, busy weekend ahead! I'm writing as much as I can, thanks in part to my very good friend who saved me from yesterday's dilemma and scanned my hard copy to a Word document that I can play with to my heart's content! Thank goodness for technology.

And I should probably order some new bookmarks from VistaPrint, now that I have some good reviews back for One Night in Memphis. Speaking of which, how much do you consider reviews before you buy a book? In the past, I never *really* read them, until I became a published author. Now I see that good reviews seem to be one of the best things to have in your back pocket when it comes to promotions. In fact, I met an author a few months back who went into her local Borders to ask about doing a signing there - she was told to come back when she had some reviews they could use to promote her and her book.

Having said that, I know that many review sites are so backed up with requests that many authors (yours truly included) wait months upon months for them. It's amazing.

Oh! But speaking of which, Writers and Readers of Distinctive Fiction is a relatively new site and has a pretty good turn-around time. They've reviewed all 3 of my books, each one in under a month. So if you're an author looking for another review, send them an email. I've found them to be quite friendly and professional.

Enjoy your Saturday!

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Story of a Story

"If computers get too powerful, we can organize them into a committee -- that will do them in." ~Bradley's Bromide

One of the projects floating around my periphery, when I'm not revising One Night in Napa, is writing up a teaching story or two to submit for this anthology.

Interestingly, about 10 years ago, I wrote about 30,000 words on this topic, a collection of stories/vignettes from my early teaching days in Cleveland. Last weekend I went looking for it--and actually found a complete hard copy I'd printed out at some point. (Gotta love the forward-thinking moments we have every once in a while.)

Finding any kind of computer file that I could actually revise was a different story, though. I do still have about a dozen floppy disks sitting in an old case on my desk. Of course, my newest computer, and my laptop, both just have USB ports, no place for a disk at all. I have another, older laptop that DOES have a disk drive, so I checked out the files on those old disks. Lots and lots of stuff for school, lesson plans and handouts and such, but no story.


I do have the hard copy, which is good. But now I'll have to retype everything in (or I guess I could scan it...might give that a try first).

Of course, the deadline for this submission is less than 2 weeks away, which means this weekend I need to put in some serious time if I want to send something.

It was fun, though, rereading what I'd written all those years ago. Some good stuff, some horrible stuff, and a lot in-between. I hope I can salvage some and turn out a good story.

In the meantime, back up those files on USB drives...until the next storage device comes out and makes them obsolete as well!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Check out The Samhellion

"No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance." ~Confucius

A bit of a cop-out today, since my life seems to be busier than ever:

Go on over and read The Samhellion, Samhain's monthly newsletter. This month's theme is "What I Did Last Summer" - and yes, I have an article in there!

So go forth and enjoy. I'll see you back here tomorrow...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Toni Sweeney

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! Today I'm chatting with author Toni Sweeney...enjoy!
Thanks for being here today, Toni! Can you tell us a little about your background?

I was born in the State of Georgia, some time after the War Between the States but before the Vietnam War, lived in the Midwest for the rest of the Millennium, and decided to start a new century in South Orange County, California. I had wanted to be a professional student but ended up graduating in spite of everything, with a Bachelor's in art, English literature, drama, and music--which has sometimes come in very handy in my writing. I aspired to be a stage actor but didn't have the voice projection-capacity and ended up playing dead bodies or "crowds" or part of the dance ensemble. I studied dance for 13 years and actually did it professionally for a brief time, until an auto accident ended that career choice. Somewhere in all this mishmash, I married, had a son--and that was the happiest day of my life--and divorced. My son has supplied me with a grandson and a granddaughter whom I adore.

Sounds like some great adventures! So when did you first begin writing?

This is a round-about answer. I wrote my first novel when I was 9. My parents bought me a portable Smith-Corona for my birthday. I loved to read, and still have some of the books my parents bought me when I was an infant, cloth books which have been gummed until most of the pictures have dissolved. From ages 8-12, I was totally horse-crazy and wrote horse stories. Since I had no idea how to do it, I folded the paper into the size of a book page and typed on each side--front and back--then made a cover for the book, copying the ones I owned. I also wrote and drew comic books. During high school, being a writer got one laughed at, so I down-played it. After I graduated, I worked in the English Department at the college and the chairman was working on a novel, so I used his manuscript as a model on how to format everything. My cousin liked to read also and I asked her to read whatever I had written. Then, I got married and writing got packed away for a while.

Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?

I can't pinpoint one actual thing. I just read and thought, I wish I could do that, and decided to try. Usually, I didn't let anyone know what I was doing. I was very shy and my family had a habit of laughing at things I did and I didn't want something I really cared about laughed at. It took a lot of courage for me to finally ask my cousin to read what I'd written. Luckily, she was kind.

There was a time in my life, however, after my auto accident and my divorce, when finances got tight. There was barely enough money for food much less for buying books. During that time, I started writing again, just for myself, so I'd have something to read. I shared my manuscripts with co-workers who also liked to read and one of them me to send one to a publisher. I did. It was rejected, but I was hooked. Several of the books wrote during that time have now been published, 30 years later.

Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

My latest published book is Sinbad's Last Voyage, which came out in late 2007. It's another of the manuscripts I wrote back in the '70s. I would say that Sinbad is my favorite of all my heroes--he's tall, handsome, brave, tragic, and madly in love with the heroine (and loves kids). I've got lots of titles coming out soon: Three Moon Station, to be released by The Wild Rose Press in December. It's written under one of my pseudonyms, Icy Snow Blackstone, and is a futuristic romance. A witness to a murder hides out in a group of women being transported to another planet to work as Domestics. She thinks she's hired by a rancher to be his housekeeper. Then she discovers the paper she signed wasn't an Employment Agreement but a Marriage Contract and the rancher expects full marital benefits!
I also have a sequel to Sinbad's Last Voyage--Sinbad's Wife--which will be out this summer from Double Dragon Publications. That one is a space opera, but it has a lot of romance. With a title like that, it would have to have, wouldn't it? There are two black rosettes--"Love, Vampire Style" (September 24) and "Demon in Blue Jeans" (October 29) which will be coming out soon from The Wild Rose Press, also. I recently signed contracts with Lyrical Press for three novels--Earthman's Bride, one tentatively titled When the Condor Returned, and Jericho Road. These will also be Blackstone novels. I also recently learned that I finalled in the paranormal division of the Maryland Romance Writers "Reveal Your Inner Vixen" contest. Wow--didn't see that coming!

Congrats - what a wonderful, growing career. Now, how do you go about developing your characters?

Good Question--difficult to answer. Sometimes, they emerge full-grown--like Minerva came from Zeus' brain. Sometimes, I have the bare outline and after the character is on paper, it begins to grow. I've gone back and edited stories I wrote when I was younger in which the characters aged and I've put more depth into them because I'm now at the same age they are. When I wrote them, I was too young to understand how someone older would feel about certain things. A few characters started out in one form and after I began writing, changed altogether. Riven kan Ingan in Blood Seek(the Chronicles of Riven the Heretic, Book One) started out as a Boba Fett-type outer space bounty hunter. He ended up as a heretical knight in a sword-and-sorcery series. Aric in Blood Sin (the kan Ingan Archives) was originally a Spock-like character with emotions so tightly controlled, he was like an android. He evolved into a womanizing, hard-drinking, ne'er-do-well who ends up getting exiled for having an affair with his uncle's life--quite a departure from the way I first envisioned him!

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

Be patient; be persistent; don't take the rejections personally, unless they specifically say, "You are a terrible writer!" or words like that. Then, show them you aren't! I've only gotten one rejection which was intentionally nasty and I've always wanted to write that editor and inform him that the story he dissed so vilely was later bought by!

What do you find most difficult about writing?

Finding time to write. I have this weird habit of wanting to have a roof over my head--food isn't as important to me--so I have to do what's laughing called a "day job." That takes up a lot of time.

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

I started writing seriously about 1976. I'd come home from work, make dinner, set my son at the table and disappear into my "office." From the other room, I'd get this plaintive, "Mom, when are you going to be finished?" until my son fell asleep. That was the way it went until he left for college. Afterward, it was just me and the poodles and they didn't complain, so I just kept on typing. Needless to say, I don't have much social life. Presently, I have cataracts and can't see to drive at night and don't go out much anyway, so it balances out.

Describe your writing space (or include a picture!)

I rent a room in a private home. It has a bed, a TV and a space for my computer desk and computer. I have an e-machine with a 16" LCD screen, a scanner, a digital camera for teleconferences, a wireless printer, and wireless keyboard and mouse. Everything in the world a writer could need--reference books, notes, scribbled pieces of manuscript, pens, pencils, a can of pop, a half-eaten jar of unsalted dry roasted peanuts, several folders with research information, and a headset--are piled onto that computer stand. My reference books and reading books are in 7 bookcases which my landlady lets me keep in her garage so I run out there with a flashlight if I need to check something.

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

Because of that auto accident so many years ago, I'm a very sedentary person. I like to read and watch TV, do a little gardening. When my granddaughter lived nearby, she and I used to go shopping together and we always cooked dinner together on Saturday nights (she's 6 so you can imagine she was a lot of help!) Before my accident, I was very active--horseback riding, swimming, hiking, laying tennis...and the aforementioned dancing.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book(s)?

That the characters can take over a story if you don't watch it. I learned that when I was writing the Sinbad series. One of the main characters ran away from home as a teenager, lived a dissolute light, contracted a terminal disease. I planned to have him as a dying adult, come home, make his peace with his parents, be told there was a cure for his illness, and live happily ever after, just like the Prodigal. So...I got him home, the parents took him back, told him he needn't have run away, they understood, etc, and then...he died. The minute I wrote that he walked through the door to his parents home, I knew there was no way he was going to survive. I sat down and cried, and yelled out, "But I don't want to kill him off!" Did it anyway. I realized that was the way it'd happen in real life. Shook me up just a little. Sometimes, you have to use a whip and chair on the characters to make them behave.

Anything else you’d like to mention?

When I was hospitalized after my auto accident, I couldn't walk, couldn't even sit up. I was so sedated I couldn't watch television, but I was able to read. If I hadn't loved books so, I don't know how I would've managed being bedridden for nearly a year. If I didn't write, I don't know how I could all!
Toni, thanks so much for giving us a peek into your writing world today. Readers, check out her website if you'd like to know more!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Still Thinking About NaNoWriMo

"Write only if you cannot live without writing." ~Elie Wiesel

I was interested by yesterday's blog responses, especially those that said, "Yes, do NaNoWriMo, but make sure you plot a little bit first." Actually, I didn't know plotting was allowed! I thought you were supposed to do *everything* within the month of November: character charts, outlining, thinking, writing... I do have a rough scene guide of the story I want to tackle, so I might give it a try. Still thinking, though.


The Long and the Short of It runs a weekly contest - did you know? And today's featured trailer, which you can see right here (no personal promo or anything), can lead you to an extra entry in the contest. Or, if you're an author, you can contact them about having your own trailer featured on their site. Hey, extra promo is extra promo!

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Good Chuckle for Monday

Well, if you didn't catch the skit parodying Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton on SNL this past Saturday, you missed out. Say what you will about its political commentary (and many already have), Tina Fey's resemblance to Palin is downright eerie, and her timing and delivery, along with Amy Poehler's, is perfect. I thought the script writers lampooned both women pretty equally, too. Take a look by clicking here.


So I'm considering attempting National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short). It's basically a challenge to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November - to let control and serious editing go and just write for 30 days. I have a book I'd like to tackle, so it might be good to jump in and see what happens. As they say on the website, you'll probably end up with a lot of crap, considering there's no time for true editing (or even conscious thought), but you also might produce the kind of raw, unique stuff that shows up in situations like that too.

I know other writers out there have done it...any words of advice??

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Update on Book Signing...

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ~Mark Twain

Hooray! Good day at Borders yesterday: I sold 12 books in the 3 hours we were there. It was so nice to be in my hometown bookstore and have friends come in to see and support me (a couple of students, too!). It also made me anxious to come home and write - something I haven't done enough of since school began.


Trailer I recently finished for Devon Gray's upcoming release: