Thursday, December 29, 2005

Random Stuff At Year's End

Thought about posting New Year’s Resolutions today, but I’ve got this theory that writing them down just sets you up for failure. Not that I’ve ever actually made a list, so I can't say I have empirical evidence to back up my theory. I’m going with my gut here.

After all, what am I gonna write?

Lose weight? That’s an annual “given.” Putting it on a list ain’t gonna make it any more (or less) doable. (Hmm...is that a word?).

Write more? Uh-huh. I will, I will.

Blah, blah, blah. So much for resolutions. Is there anyone in the history of the world who’s ever kept one? Nah, I didn’t think so.

Another topic I thought about for today has to do with religion. Now, I’ve been trying to keep religion and politics out of this blog (sex is fair game, but since I’m not having any, it doesn’t seem to come up too often--but, I digress).

Anyway, I have a lot of on-line relationships with writing buddies I’ve never met. As you might expect, sometimes bad things happen in their lives. Parents die, spouses get sick, tragedies befall their children…and when something dreadful has been announced in a post to the board, I never know what to say. A lot of people write “Your family is in my prayers” but, for some reason, I’m not comfortable with that. Not that I’m some agnostic pagan—or that I don’t care about these faceless strangers. It’s just that I’ve already got a rather lengthy list, and I can’t promise to remember each and every person I’ve met on-line who’s going through tough times. Plus, I’d feel bad (greedy, maybe) throwing in a generic line asking God to look out for everyone I know (either personally or through cyberspace). Anyway, just something that’s been on my mind.

Last, but proverbially not least, I have some news to share. Oh, it’s not publishing news—all those people are on holiday--so don’t get too excited. Still…did you know Google is better than a way-way-back machine? I mean, you can find anything there. Cool stuff like my mother’s unclaimed $468—she’s been dead 42 years—and long, lost, friends. Lucky for me, today I found both (waving madly at Cynthia)!

So, do me a favor. Make this coming year the one you reach out and cyber-touch someone you’ve meaning to track down for ages.

In fact, make it one of your New Year’s resolutions. But, please. For the love of you-know-who, don't write it down.

If all else fails, and you're really stuck for a resolution of your own, go here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Old Habits Die Hard

Duck and cover! Here comes another writing epiphany!

Okay, so after struggling with “process” for what seems like an eternity (but which is only the past three years), I’ve finally figured out my brain is stuck in graduate school mode. Yep, I can blame all my problems on those two years mired in academic methodology.

Whew, lucky I figured it out, huh?

Consider this: no matter the field of study—in my case it was organizational behavior—when you write a paper, you start with an hypothesis. Next, you establish your research methodology, then you gather the data and analyze it. Finally, you record your conclusion.

In other words, the end comes from the means.

Well, in fiction, it’s the opposite. You start with the end, then create the means.

(Knocked your sox off there, didn’t I?)

The first clue glimmered in something I read in Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer. I’ve always written scenes in a linear progression: Character A does or says something causing Character B to say or do something appropriate in response, yada yada, until I arrive at the scene-ending disaster, surprise, cliffhanger, whathaveyou. So, I’ve been laboring over creating those A to B chains when…hmmm…mightn’t it be easier to start at the end and work backward?? Ah, start with the end, then create the means. I like that!

Likewise, last night I was reading Karen Wiesner’s book First Draft in 30 Days when the same thought struck me regarding secondary characters. Remember those children in my current WIP? The ones that keep getting in my way? Well, guess what? I’ve gone about creating them all wrong. Instead of trying to figure out who they are, I need to figure out who they need to be at the end. And, more importantly, who my main character needs them to be in order for her to be who I need her to be at the end. (Are you following this? No? Well, trust me. Again, start with the end, then create the means.)

I love epiphanies, don’t you?

Monday, December 26, 2005

Why is it that we look forward to the holidays, and then when they get here we long for them to be over?

Is it just me??

Frankly, I'm exhausted. Too many parties, too many people...too much food and Christmas cheer. I'm ready to get back to the mundane routine of work, gym, writing, and silence. Blessed silence.

Oh, yeah. First I have to get through the whole New Year's thing.

Oh, wait. Then there's Marty's 60th birthday the weekend after.

Hm...and then, after that, there's...there's always something, isn't there?

I need new vitamins. (Well, not new ones...I need vitamins PERIOD...or maybe Geritol or something.)

And a vacation from all this time off.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Vegas Update

So I finally had an actual conversation with the lovely Stacey who is really the lovely Jennifer. I changed her name in earlier posts to "protect the innocent" but today that just seems silly.

Anyway, all she did was reiterate that I'm not guaranteed a room and that they're oversold by 600 ROOMS! I may know ZILCH about the hotel business, but that seems pretty stupid. She allowed for the fact that this oversold situation is THEIR problem, and I pointed out that they're making it MY PROBLEM. I also pointed out that a fairer solution would be to contact people in the reverse order of when the reservation was taken...you know...like NOT the people (me) who made 'em back in early October. She mumbled something about how she wasn't in charge of that part.

Once again, she cautioned that I might wanna have this all settled BEFORE I arrive and "get walked to Bally's"--I'm assuming "walked" is a figurative term, not literal. Anyway, I said that if that all happened when I arrived, I'd probably get right back on a plane and go home to contemplate my lawsuit.

She didn't flinch.

So, I'm gonna stop bitching and complaining about this, however. After all, I realize I'm lucky to be going at all...I'm lucky to have friends to party with...I'm lucky I can afford a New Years' trip to Vegas...I'm lucky to have lived another year...I'm lucky all my friends and relatives have lived another year...

So that's my last word on the subject until I report back on what actually happened.

Merry Chrismas everyone!!

P.S. Okay, I lied. One more word. I keep forgetting my Seinfeld line, but you can be sure I'll trot it out when I get there: "You're very good at TAKING reservations, you just don't know how to HOLD them."

Thursday, December 22, 2005

This Just In...

It’s official. I’m an idiot.

The good news is that I'm GUARANTEED not to lose RWA’s Golden Heart contest this year. The bad news is, I’m not entered at all.

Yep. DISqualified, thankyourverymuch. On account of my entry arrived a day late.

I opened RWA's letter last night and was dumfounded. And very certain heads would roll at Federal Express. When I got to my office, I hauled out the bill and looked at the pickup and delivery dates. Hm. Both a day later than they should be. Still mystified, I checked my blog (hey, having an on-line diary comes in HANDY!) and confirmed I’d shipped it out on the proper date.

Sadly, it’s my word against Fed Ex’s. Did the driver miss it? Or did I somehow drop it in the box too late?

At the office, we debated the pick-up time. Four-thirty, I said. Four-twenty, claimed my sister-in-law.

Whatever.

Turns out it says 4:00 these days.

Okay, so it’s possible my assistant dropped it off too late. But I could swear I had her take it early in the day.

Oh, well. Moot point.

Lesson: Take stuff that absolutely, positively, has to get there the next day, to the Federal Express office yourself.

But, like I say. You can’t lose a contest you’re not entered in, so maybe Fed Ex helped me out.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

And I'm Checkin' It Twice

I’ve been compiling my pop culture Christmas list, but since it grows bigger by the day (you know how shopping NEVER seems to end???) thought I’d go ahead and post what I’ve put together thus far.

For Tom Cruise…A kidney stone, specifically one that’s not big enough to warrant zapping, so that he has to pass it. Maybe the experience will help him re-think Scientology’s alleged prohibition against articulating pain during childbirth

For Katie Holmes…a pregnancy free of post-partum depression

For Donald Trump…humility, and of course it goes without saying, a new hair stylist.

For Kevin Federline…an air-tight prenup

For Brittney Spears…a career past January 2006

For Nicole Richie…a career

For Paris Hilton…a boyfriend who can drive while blindfolded and a breed of dog small enough to fit in her ear like a phone

For the Olsen Twins…lifetime supply of Big Macs and Krispy Cremes

For Lindsay Lohan…an extended prison stay for dear-old dad

For Anna Nicole Smith…smart pills

For Michael Jackson…any prior version of his face

For Meg Ryan…less botox, more hit films with Tom Hanks

For Joan Rivers…heavily-armed guards to prevent entry to all cosmetic surgery clinics

For Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown…continued delusion

For Angelina Jolie…a co-starring role with George Clooney

For Brad Pitt…a co-starring role with Catherine Zeta-Jones

For Jennifer Anniston…a front row seat to the future divorce proceedings and/or custody battles resulting from either of the above

For Demi Moore…a new baby. Oh, wait. She just got one.

For Renee Zeilwegger…Lessons at the Brittney Spears School of Ill-Conceived Marriages

And, last but not least, for Colin Firth…Me! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Las Vegas Rio Update

I see y’all out there in blogsville, perched on the edge of your seats, nails bitten to the quick, waiting to hear the outcome of my New Year’s Eve dilemma.

So here’s the scoop.

I call the lovely Stacy this morning from my office. (In case you’re wondering why I waited, it’s because…well, I conduct all my personal business from there and yesterday I was too busy with stuff.) Anyway, I get Stacy’s voicemail which informs me she doesn’t work Tuesdays. Grrr. I can leave a message or ask the operator for a casino host.

I do the latter.

Pause, pause.

I’m put through to a guy who answers on a cel from his car. (?) I explain why I’m calling, stressing my objections to their “plan.”

He interrupts my rant with: “We offered to comp you for three nights.”

“No,” I correct him. “Stacey’s first call said three nights. Her second call said one. The point is, my friends are staying at your hotel and it will be seriously inconvenient for me to stay elsewhere.”

He proceeds to yank my chain. “Let me get your name, and when I get in I’ll talk to my boss. I’m sure Stacy’s got your number, and I’ll call you back within a couple hours.”

“Let me give you my daytime phone number then.”

He supposedly notes the number and we hang up.

Meanwhile, I start to think, holy crap. What if they truly offer to comp my entire stay? And throw in tickets to a party I hadn’t even planned on going to? (I mean, we’re talking serious money here.) So, I call my ringleader, Marty. He suggests I offer him and Ann as sacrifices too.

I wait for the guy’s callback (shoot, I forgot to get his name) and peruse first the Bally website, then the Rio. Damn. I start deciding I really, really, wanna stay at the Rio. It’s got that cool lounge way, way, up top with a terrace overlooking the city. I’m a sucker for a terrace with a view. The money savings are looking less attractive.

Ten o’clock turns into two, then three and four, and by five I leave my office. No word from the Rio, despite the promise.

I’m feeling like the layer of scum on the underbelly of one of their slot machines.

Stay tuned.

Monday, December 19, 2005

So Tell Me How This Works

Friday, I get home to this message on my answering machine: “Hi, this is Stacy calling from the Rio in Las Vegas. Sorry, but we’re overbooked for New Year's Eve weekend. What we’d like to do is put you up at Bally’s, but don’t worry, we’ll honor the rate you had at the Rio.”

I stare at the phone.

Huh? How can they do that?

I go to my next message.

Stacy again. “Sorry, I forgot to tell you that we’ll comp one of your nights and give you free tickets to our party. Oh, and by the way, please be aware that your reservation does NOT guarantee a room here at the RIO so you may wanna accept this offer now instead of going through the inconvenience at check-in on the day of arrival.”

HUH?

Let’s dissect this to the fullest, shall we?

First of all, “we’re overbooked for New Years Eve weekend.” And this is my fault how…?? Did I not make my reservation October 1st BEFORE they were overbooked? Could someone tell me what a reservation is for if not to reserve a room before they’re sold out?

Second, “What we’d like to do is put you up at Bally’s.” And I guess it doesn’t matter that the rest of my party (who DID NOT RECEIVE THIS PHONE CALL) will be blocks away at a different hotel??

Third, “We’ll give you the same rate you had at the Rio.” Gee, thanks. I just looked up Bally’s on Expedia, and although they’re “sold out” on Friday and Saturday night so I can’t see the rate, Sunday night is available for $230 LESS than I’m paying at the Rio, so there’s a real bargain, huh? Even if they comp a night, they make out fine.

But the worst is that last line. That THREAT, really. That no matter what I say, I’m not guaranteed a room. Now, I know (because I’ve been told this at other Harrah’s properties) that guaranteeing your room with a credit card means shit. Basically, it only works the other way—you’re guaranteeing THEM that you’re gonna show up, and if you don’t, they charge your credit card.

But, hey listen. I understand that business is business, and that I’m not totally savvy on how the hotel industry works. I can understand the concept of overselling one property and then making an offer to reroute guests to the other one. But only on a voluntary basis…not with the threat they threw out in that last line.

Particularly because….

THEY ALREADY CHARGED ME FOR THE FIRST NIGHT!!!

That’s right. I paid for the first night on October 10…TWO MONTHS ago. And they have the NERVE to tell me I’m not guaranteed a room at the Rio? What exactly did I pay for then?

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Another Gift Giving Idea

Okay, admit it. Someone on your Christmas list makes your blood boil so bad, you'd rather wrap up a dead frog than give them that bottle of perfume or that tie.

Y’all know who I’m talking about.


The mother-in-law who checks for dust on top of your ‘fridge.
The boss who makes you stay late on Christmas Eve.
The teacher who gave your son detention when all he did was throw ONE spitball.
The friend’s new boyfriend (who you KNOW is history after the holidays, i.e, after she collects the gifts).

Yep, I know the dead frog is tempting but (trust me on this) it's not really an option—no matter what kind of temporary insanity you might plead later.

That’s why I’m here, folks. To help you out with the perfect solution. (Good thing you read this blog, huh?)

In brief, the link below takes you to a site where you buy, in your recipient’s name, an animal for a poor family somewhere in the world. Depending on how much you wanna spend, you can buy a cow, a goat, some chickens—you get the picture. Read about it for yourself. These animals provide so much—whether it's milk, eggs, and/or fertilizer—THEN (and this is the coolest part) they manage to have offspring so, over time, your gift really divides and multiplies.

I’m telling you, you can’t miss. I dare anyone to sneer at such a wonderful gift.

So, click here now and give the female on your list a heifer and the man on it a goat.

Get it? A heifer to a woman, a goat to a male? Isn’t there an ironic bonus there?

(Shhh. Let’s keep that part to ourselves.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

For The Person On Your List Who's Got Everything

It’s available at Verizon wireless which is the only part of the ad that makes sense to me.

Splashed across a page of the LA Times this morning is a Brad Pitt lookalike sporting a pair of Oakley sunglasses with one of those phones attached that make you look like you've got a cricket growing out of your ear.

The copy reads (in part): “Oakley and Motorola bring you the first phone with UV protection.”

Um, excuse me? Has the ozone hole grown so large we now need to protect inanimate objects from melanoma?

The ad continues: “Introducing RAZRWIRE. With a Bluetooth headset that leaves your hands free for more sun-inspired activities. Here, sunglasses make phone calls.”

Um, excuse me? I wasn’t aware that my sunglasses were yearning to reach out and touch anyone.


They ARE kidding, aren’t they?


I feel like such a cavewoman.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Hallmark Should Thank Me

The annual Christmas card ritual is so daunting, isn’t it?

This year I decided to give my writing hand a break (not to mention the eyesight of all those poor postal workers) by getting my computer to spit out address labels. First I had to figure out how to do it—an activity which involved a few well-chosen epithets sandwiched around trips to the MS Word paperclip guy.

Then I had to actually locate the addresses.

Um, I don’t really have an address book anymore. You see, once I finally got a decent cell phone and learned how to put the numbers in, I sorta let the address part of things go to hell. Now they’re scattered in a helter-skelter mishmash system across three address books, two computers, and various pieces of scratch paper wadded up and stuck in mysterious places.

Back when I had an extensive, well-kept, address book, I sent out a ton of Christmas cards…and I got a ton back. But, like I say, lately my info’s gotten a tad disorganized, so last year, I resorted to the FIFO method—first in, first out-- and guess what? I hardly got any at all. Turns out all these years, a heckuva lot of people only sent me a card ‘cuz I sent one to them.

That sucks.

So, this year, I decided to return to the old method of sending to everyone I know. Only problem is that unless a lot of these people have 5-year forwarding service, they may have a hard time getting their card. The mission, should I decide to accept it, is to figure out what’s most current. A tricky task since there’s no rhyme or reason as to what’s listed where in the aforementioned sources. Like, does Gini live in Yakima (as recorded in the little blue address book)? Or does she live in Spokane (as claimed by the black one)? Do I really need to send a card to that couple I met on a cruise in 1985?

The next dilemma is what to put on the card. Do I enclose one of those nauseating Christmas letters—yanno, like a bio listing my achievements for the year? (Ha. That’d be more like a note than a letter.)

Do I refer them to my blog? Happy Holidays—if you want the blow-by-blow, please point your browser to www.randywrites.blogspot.com. But do I really want Uncle Chuck to read about that guy who thought “I’d like to sweat all over you” was a great line?

I could always go with just signing my name, but I figure what with the 37 cents for postage plus the cost of the card, I should at least remind the recipient who I am. Yanno, in case they’ve forgotten and wanna send me a card.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Quick Note

I can't help it. I have to tattle.

Remember Joe? The ex-boyfriend of five years...the guy I've known for ten years overall and still hang out with on occasion? The guy who BELIEVES in horoscopes and who's even been known to PAY CASH MONEY to a psychic...?

Didn't know I was a Virgo until he read it in my blog.

Yep...I think, Ladies and Gents, we now have indisputable proof he never once listened to a word I said.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Constructive Blog Surfing

So, here’s the dilemma I’ve been facing with regard to my current WIP (which is titled “Leftovers” by the way). First, a little backstory.

You guys who’ve been reading my blog for awhile know that in the past I’ve been more of a “pantser”, i.e., I write by the seat of my pants. Then I took a plotting workshop and decided for this manuscript (my third, but who’s counting) I’d make a serious effort to see whether I’m really a “plotter” in disguise. So I did a bunch of prep work before starting to write, including a 10-page synopsis and an Excel spreadsheet that lays out most of the scenes and an estimate of their corresponding page length.

Well, guess what? It turns out that when you hone down “Rose moves in with Sam and his daughters” to the actual scene, stuff happens. Bad stuff.

Like who ARE these daughters? What do they look like? What are their issues? How do they fit in? I mean, really. They were supposed to be minor characters, not integral to the plot.

Okay, so as reported in an earlier post, thanks to Jenny Crusie’s blog, I got a handle on the daughters and I continued to move forward.

Then, BAM. The creative door closed.

It took a couple weeks before I realized these damn daughters are to blame. I didn’t set out to write a book populated by children, and despite their new role in my heroine’s character arc, I find writing them tedious. I keep wanting to scream, “Get out of the way—go haunt someone’s YA (young adult) novel!” even though I’ve come up with the semi-creative idea of making them oddly stepford-like.

For about a week, I deliberated ditching them altogether. Yep. I considered tossing ALREADY WRITTEN PAGES and rewriting loads of scenes, just to get rid of these bitches. I’d find ANOTHER way to bring Sam and Rose together, minus the kids.

Thank God, I’m a regular reader of Miss Snark’s fabulous blog. The other day, a post of hers touched on a lesson I’d learned but forgotten. (Damn memory—see, this is why I re-read craft books all the time.) Anyway, while answering a Snarkling’s question about freshness, she used the following illustration:

"blonde bombshell"
"evil banker"
"snarkolicious poodle"

You want evil blonde, bombshell poodle and a snarkolicious banker.

That’s when I had an AHA moment. What if I flip the concept of stepford children so that they’re only that way when Dad is around? Hmmm…and write them as the children from hell when he’s not?

Now, THAT could stir up loads of trouble for my heroine and make the kids a lot more fun to write about.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Signs, Signs, Everywhere A Sign


People who consult their daily horoscope before making a decision bring out the cynic in me.
What—you can’t afford a shrink??

Historically, my disbelief stems from the litany of traits associated with Virgos (yep, that's my sign--oh, you couldn't tell?). Amidst the usual mumbo jumbo, the word “perfectionist” pops up--as in someone who’s anal about neatness. Trust me on this, people who know me cluck their tongues as if to say, well…there are exceptions to every rule…

But, to be honest, there’s a kernel of truth in whole perfectionist thing (hence today’s epiphany).

You see, I really AM a perfectionist—just not a proficient one. In other words, I strive for perfection, but fail miserably on account of I also happen to be exceedingly lazy—alas, too lazy for a competent perfectionist.

And, yanno what? My feeling is, if no one’s around to witness my perfection, why bother?

So, I had a party last night that took me two days to get ready for and all I had to do was provide the wine and dessert. Since I pay to have my house cleaned, little of the energy went toward sprucing up. Nope, it was the little things like making sure there was Kleenex in the downstairs bathroom…and that the candles were positioned just so…and that in case someone peeked in a cupboard, everything was neat and orderly (well, okay…so I sorta let that one go—proves my theory above).

Anyway, I DO try. Sometimes. I’m just not very good at it and, since the need doesn’t arise that often, I don’t get a lot of practice.

Having had the above rush of self-perception, I “googled” Virgo and here’s the first paragraph:

Virgo is the only zodiacal sign represented by a female. (Hm. Never thought of that—makes me feel special!) It is sometimes thought of as a potentially creative girl, delicately lovely; (ah, so true) sometimes as a somewhat older woman, intelligent but rather pedantic and spinsterish. (!!!!!!!) The latter impression is sometimes confirmed by the Virgoan preciseness, refinement, fastidious love of cleanliness, hygiene and good order, conventionality and aristocratic attitude of reserve. (Well…I dunno…you shoulda seen the leaves on my patio) They are usually observant, shrewd, critically inclined, judicious, patient, practical supporters of the status quo, and tend toward conservatism in all departments of life. (Uh-oh) On the surface they are emotionally cold, and sometimes this goes deeper, for their habit of suppressing their natural kindness may in the end cause it to atrophy, with the result that they shrink from committing themselves to friendship, make few relationships, and those they do make they are careful to keep superficial.


Gulp. A lot of this really nails me. To read more, click here but stop paying attention around paragraph five. A career in fashion? A flair for dress? HA! I think not! And disregard the possible health concerns altogether. No stomach or bowel problems for this Virgo and, contrary to how much I should probably be worrying about my Virgoan persnicketiness, guess what? I don’t give a flying….

What really tickles me though, is that by definition, a Virgo wouldn’t put any stock in horoscopes anyway. We’re too busy being uptight pragmatists.

Oh, yeah. And spinsterish.

Right on.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Back To School

So, my WIP’s going to hell. Not contentually (hm…spellcheck doesn’t like that word, but then it doesn’t seem to like the word spellcheck either). If the lives of the characters were going down the tubes, that’d be okay. In fact, that’d be cool. That’s what you, Sally Jo Writer, are supposed to do: torture your characters.

Instead, they’re torturing me.

I decided it was time to return to the craft books. One of my faves is Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer. The truth is, I’ve never made it all the way through because there’s so much good stuff in the first 100 pages that I usually get all excited and ditch reading in favor of putting his ideas to work.

Mostly what I focus on when I pick up his book is scene structure. What’s a scene? Hey, thanks for asking. Not quoting, mind you, ‘cuz I don’t have the book handy here at my office where right now I'm getting paid to blog, but my memory says it’s a unit of conflict experienced in one continuous time period. Inherent in that definition is the notion that each and every scene must have a central conflict your character has to live through. And guess what that means? I’ll spell it out for you: it means you wanna avoid all that filler stuff like character greetings, settings that go on and on unless they’re germaine in some way to the conflict—basically, all the mundane stuff we newbie writers tend to be guilty of throwing into our novels.

Broken down, the scene is divided into three segments: goal, conflict, disaster. A sequel follows next, during which the character assesses the dilemma growing out of the disaster, evaluates his/her alternatives, and decides on an action which becomes the new goal.

Dry as shit, huh?

Wish it didn’t make so much sense.

Wish there were more of it in my WIP.

Monday, December 05, 2005

It's Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Christmas...

…now that my on-line orders are streaming in courtesy of UPS and Fed-Ex. I swear, this couldn’t be more fun…unless they were all for me…

Two of my favorites arrived today: a Christmas tree ornament from Katherine Hepburn’s estate for Annie (who bears a striking resemblance to the late actress) and for my dad, the personally inscribed memoirs of a fellow P-38 pilot.

Yes, Internet shopping is a dream come true. No wasting gas while you circle the mall parking lot…no bumping up against short-tempered, germ-laden shoppers…no long lines at the cash register…

In short, no muss—no fuss.

Click, click, click. Abracadabra, you’re done.

Now, if only we could get the folks at PayPal into the wrapping business, life would be perfect.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Feedback

Not the audio kind. I’m talking about the cacophony in writing contest results.

I’d heard the stories before, just hadn’t been the victim of one. But then I guess experiencing all there is to writing is what this is about, eh?

So yesterday, I received a set of contest results back on the first chapter of Stealing Amy.

Want the good news first? Okay.

Judge #1 gave me 186 points out of 200. She wrote nice comments like: “Very fresh and fun; really enjoyable, fast paced!” and “these characters are so much fun to read and I love the way they talk to each other—very realistic.” Finally, “Very funny, fresh, and witty. I felt like I was reading a ‘beach book.’”

I wuv Judge #1.

Judge #2 was less enamored of my work. She gave me 162 out of 200. Although she termed the characters quirky and fun, she wasn’t sure if the story supported genuine character growth, or if the book would turn out to be a print version of (shudder) the Keystone Kops. And whereas Judge #1 thought it was a “fast read,” this one said: “the story is slow moving and takes a while to develop; needs tightening.”

Hm. Fast read? Or, slow moving. Take your pick between Judge #1 and Judge #2. (Personally, I believe Judge #1 has more credibility ha ha.)

Now let’s move to Judge #3 for the bad news. Ready? Got your thick skin on?

Judge #3 gave me 118 points out of 200. Yikes! Referring to the grid provided, the lowest score listed is 137! Okay, deep breaths. The way it works is that your lowest score is dropped and the remaining two are averaged. Assuming Judge #3 is just one of those people who doesn’t give high scores, maybe all of the entries she judged have been dropped from the list…? (One can hope.) I mean, geesh. Could she think I suck that much? Well, maybe.

But….but….let’s take one example. Judges are supposed to rate on a scale of 1 to 5:

5 = Outstanding
4 = Very good; just needs minor polishing
3 = Good; nice work but could be improved
2 = Fair; needs development; rework suggested
1 = Problematic; substantial revision recommended

Okay, so get this: in the Style category, under the question: Is the author’s voice engaging and readable?

Judges 1 and 2 gave me a perfect 5. Yippee!
Judge 3 gave me……a pathetic TWO!!!!!

In fact, in the Style category as a whole (6 areas to rate) judges 1 and 2 gave me all 5’s—for a total of 30 points while Judge #3 gave me 18.

Can you spell s-u-b-j-e-c-t-i-v-e??

Worse, Judge #3 didn’t write ONE comment. Not ONE. In my humble opinion, that’s not right. That’s not what you pay money to a contest for.

Oh, well. Live and learn. At least, the other two judges provided constructive feedback and I guess two out of three ain’t bad.

And this experience just confirms what I already knew. That to reach the finals, you need good writing and luck—luck that the judges assigned to your work happen to be high scorers and like your "voice."

Friday, December 02, 2005

You Won't Find This On Ebay

So, guess what I stumbled across in my desk today? Amid the business cards of people who may well be dead…tucked between credit cards bent in half…and buried beneath a ton of worthless pennies…

A cocktail napkin. Oh, not just any cocktail napkin. This one’s dated August 5, 1995—ten fricking’ years ago. Back when I was almost young. I can so picture us sitting on the patio of the Westlake Inn (now known as Bogie’s). No doubt I was wearing one of the ten basic black cocktail dresses I favored at the time. No doubt we’d had a few adult beverages, as evidenced by the topic of conversation that night, namely, who was most likely to get married next.

If memory serves (and it does), a heated argument ensued--mostly defensive in nature--as in…

“I’d bet my Lexus you’ll be married before me.”

“The hell, I will. I’m never getting married again.”

Yes, it was a scintillating conversation. Loaded with tales of connubial bliss and matrimonial inspiration. Kidding.

The upshot, after much debate, was that we agreed on the following odds (in order of likelihood) and recorded it on the napkin:

Sandy: 1-1/2 : 1 (backstory: divorced after 20+ years of marriage)
Paul: 2: 1 (backstory: divorced; prone to over-imbibing--making him not-so-attractive)
Me: 2-1/2 : 1 (backstory: never married)
Fidel: 3 : 1 (backstory: married once; divorced several years)
Jeff: 5 : 1 (backstory: married once? Twice?)
Joe: 10: 1 (backstory: married once; divorced several years)
Bob: 200 : 1 (backstory: married once—bitter divorce)

As a bonus, we all signed a promise that, should a wedding occur, it would take place at the Ritz Carlton Cancun, and we’d all show up. Then we had Cynthia, the cocktail waitress, sign as a witness, making the document legal and binding.

So…ten years have passed…shall we see how we did?

Well, first of all, some faded into the woodwork and lost touch. Including the “winner” who was…………Jeff. At 5:1, he’s the only one who took the plunge in the following ten years. And, last I heard, it didn’t “stick.”

Updates on the rest:

Sandy: Has dated the same guy for 10 years
Paul: When last heard from, Paul had cancer and the prognosis wasn’t good
Me: Well, if you’ve been following the bouncing ball, you know I’m still single—although about three months later, Joe and I got together for five years
Fidel: Has lived with Susan for 10 years
Joe: See above (currently single)
Bob: Currently single

Which puts to rest the rumor that divorced men are more apt to jump back into the frying pan, huh?

Okay, I’m off to dig through the rest of my desk in search of the SECOND napkin. That’s the one where Fidel promises to spring for the entire trip if he ever marries again. Might explain a lot to the long-suffering Susan.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

"Uncle," she cried.


Yep, I gave in last night. I went to the mall and bought new jeans in a size larger than the ones I currently own. When I got home and tried them on again, it was like what the hell happened? These fit almost like the old ones. I peered at the labels and saw the difference—the old ones were “stretch.” Damn.


The good news is that I got on the scale this morning and had lost three pounds. Maybe you heard the cheer coming from my neighborhood.

Then I remembered.

In the past, whenever I’ve finally broken down and bought new clothes in larger sizes, voila. I lose weight. No really, it happens. And then, unlike the skinny clothes that get pushed aside waiting for their day in the sun, I give away the fat clothes without a trace of regret for only having worn them a couple times.

I’m hoping to have a reason to clean out my closet real soon.


In writing news, today’s the last day to overnight (remember when that wasn’t a verb?) entries to RWA’s Golden Heart Contest, so natch, I waited until the last second. I’m almost embarrassed about taking up a spot with a manuscript I have (agent/editor alert: stop reading here) such little confidence in. Crossing my fingers that I’m a poor judge of my own work and that little things like rejection letters and other contest losses mean nothing. Absolutely nothing.