Friday, April 28, 2006

Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch, er, Keyboard

The name of the game is to keep up with writing, writing, writing. So, on that score, the news on Leftovers is that it’s going well. In fact, I’ve reached the point where scenes are starting to come easy. Yeah, right. Not easy, exactly. Writing is never easy (at least not for me), but the content of the scene is coming more quickly. And I mapped out a bunch of stuff that needs to happen that I didn’t have a handle on before. Yep, that’s where the spreadsheet comes in handy (I love being anal about writing since I’m not in any other phase of my life—stop snickering Blogreader Joe). Anyway, I was brainstorming the other night (in my favorite place, the bathtub—where else?) and I came up with about four pivotal scenes…I just didn’t know which order they had to happen in. That’s what the spreadsheet is for! I typed them in, ranked them sequentially, hit sort, and voila. I’m pretty happy with it.

And finally, I *think* I know what the long-buried secret between the stepsisters is. Ha, you’d figure we writers know this crap before we start, huh? Well, some do, but not me. I’ve been wondering all along, especially since I’ve dropped hints about the big lie. (What big lie? Is there a big lie? Shouldn’t I, the author, know what the big lie is??? Nope, sometimes you just have to wait for it to reveal itself. Last night—again, I *think*-- it did).

So, rolling along. Past the halfway point on this particular opus. Praying the writing will pick up speed now that plot threads are coming together. Also praying I don’t stumble over anything that’ll cause a major rewrite of earlier scenes.

I truly believe this is the best book I’ve written—and the most commercial with the widest appeal.

But then what do I know??

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Smoky The Bear Pays A Visit

The last time I saw a real live bear close up and personal, let's say about 45 years ago. And that was in Yellowstone National Park.

Today there's one practically in my backyard! People, I live 20 minutes from downtown L.A.!! Well, okay. That's if you drive the freeway at 2 in the morning, but hardly expects the local HIGH SCHOOL to be under lockdown because of...a BEAR. (Bomb scares, yes, but not a friggin' wild animal.)

Click here to watch the video. Isn't he cute??? Officials are trying to get close enough for the big bad tranquilizer dart. I wish they'd just shoo him off to my patio. I think he'd make a very nice pet.

P.S. Hey, just because I posted twice today is no excuse for getting confused and forgetting to read the post below. 'Specially 'cuz it's an important one.

So, Here's The Deal

On Friday, April 7th, RWA (Romance Writers of America) announced the addition of Triskelion Publishing to its list of approved publishers. This means Triskelion met a rigorous set of criteria (including sales figures) and became only the second e-publisher so approved.

That afternoon, I whipped off a query letter and synopsis on Stealing Amy by email. (By the way, when I got home I discovered a request for a partial by another publisher--insert eeeek here.)

By the time I rolled out of bed Saturday morning and checked email, Triskelion had requested the full manuscript. After spending most of Sunday editing and polishing, I emailed Stealing Amy to them. A week later I received a contract offer. (Insert double eeek here.) All told, less than two weeks between initial query and contract. I’m beginning to see the advantages of dealing with an e-publisher!

So, yes I signed the contract and yes, I sent a letter to the other publisher withdrawing my submission. To be honest, I had reservations, but here’s my reasoning: the print publisher could have taken up to a year or more to make a decision and that decision still could have been no. And although my dream is to be in print, Triskelion DOES do some print, and maybe my book will end up there. The bottom line? Somebody’s gonna pay honest-to-goodness money to read my book!

More importantly, the more I thought about it, the more I realized what a great training ground an outfit like Triskelion provides. Already, I’ve joined their author loops where I’ve found a community of supportive writers ready to hold my hand during the process of going from unpublished to published. Luckily, I’ve been around awhile so I know typing THE END doesn’t mean you’re done!

There’s a website to be designed and put up…promotional materials to choose…cover art to suggest…and revisions to be reviewed.

A whole new step in the journey, and I’m thrilled and eager to get started!

By the way, last year, at the RWA National conference in Reno, I vowed I wouldn’t attend another one until I could wear the coveted “first sale” ribbon. Yeah, goal setting. Who knew?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Marketing 101

So it’s time to come up with a serious author website. Y’know, as opposed to that non-serious one I designed in the space of an hour one night when I was really bored.

And I got to stressing about how to market myself since, after all, I managed to get through an MBA program without taking ONE marketing class. So I looked at the two manuscripts I’ve written (plus the two that are half-done) and I saw the one thing they have in common:


Fit For Love—a fitness resort in the gorgeous Santa Ynez Valley
Stealing Amy--an exclusive beachside resort south of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Sierra’s Last Song—an artist retreat in the Malibu mountains
Leftovers—seaside town in southern California

Wow, not an office cubicle in the bunch, huh? Nor a real city, urban or rural.

Hmm. Escape…explore…

Then I got to thinking about what I’d write in my author bio. Y’know, besides the fact that I’ve been writing ever since I could hold a pen, and all the other bs people include. How about where my ideas come from? That is, if I knew the answer.

But, wait! I DO know! (Truly, I didn’t realize this until last night.) My ideas come from wanting to share the vast store of knowledge I’ve gained from being a woman on the planet for 52 years. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, I see my friends shaking their heads. Keep the snarky comments to yourself, okay?) Anyway, the most enjoyable part of the writing process (for me) is in creating a heroine who’s got something to learn that I can teach her. Once I know what that is, it’s only a matter of coming up with the right plot to illustrate the lesson. (Man, does that sound pompous, or what?)

So, let’s recap.

Physical journeys
Spiritual journeys

Do I see a website theme??

So glad I skipped the marketing class.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Travel Day

If nothing else, travel days are almost always fascinating and sometimes for the oddest of reasons.

Here’s what happened yesterday:

My flight for Burbank is scheduled to leave Phoenix at 4:10 but I get to the airport at 1:30 so I check out the options. Yeah, right. Turns out NASCAR’s in town (who knew?) and everything’s booked solid. Plus the clerk says no matter what, my luggage will be on my original flight.

Fine. I’ll spend some quality time at the bar.

On the way to security, I’m walking down the concourse when the most ungodly wail fills the terminal. The kind so filled with grief, you fear the person herself may expire. Instantly, I zero in on the source. I see a young girl—maybe late teens, early twenties—who’s collapsed in a heap against a wall. Every few seconds, silence falls—as though she’s so overcome with sadness, she can’t make a sound--then suddenly shrill devastation shatters the air again.

A few feet away, I see another girl about the same age (sisters maybe?) listening to a cell phone with numb disbelief. Tears stream down her face too, and I can tell she’s struggling to comprehend what she’s being told.

An older woman (too young for a parent, a grandparent maybe?) stands by the younger woman’s side, awkwardly patting the girl’s shoulder and appearing uncertain.

Everyone else is staring, but everyone keeps moving.

I pass by the scene and get in line at security behind two teenage boys who turn several times to glance back over their shoulders. I murmur something and they murmur something back.

You don’t get to be 52 without having had similar moments in your life. The ones where you can almost point to the time on a clock and say how your life changed from one second to the next.

As I stood waiting for my turn at the checkpoint, I couldn’t help wondering what had happened to change these girls’ lives. A parent’s death? A sibling’s? Was it a coincidence that they heard the news while at the airport? They were on the departure level; had someone died before they were able to reach them? Why did they have to hear the news on a cell phone? Why did the moment that forced them to grow up have to happen in front of so many strangers?

All questions I’ll never know the answers to.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Hi From Phoenix

It’s eight o’clock in the morning on the last day of a two-day conference. Let’s see:

Scrambled eggs for brains...check
New bags under the eyes...check
Freebie books scattered all over suite...check
Dread of long trip home...check
Impatience to get home and get that WIP finished...check

Conferences will do that to you!

And no matter how many I go to, I never seem to remember how quickly they pass. Now I’m left with a whole checklist of things I didn’t get around to.

Chat with editor at house where I have a, no.
Chat with publisher with whom I have a contract waiting to be, no.
Chat with fellow author who writes for same, no.
Get Jenny and Bob’s book, no.
Pitch at agent, no.

See, the best laid plans and all...once you get yourself registered at a conference, the tornado whips up and you’re just along for the ride. (Note to self: maybe rethink how to set goals for conferences then stick to the plan of attack.)

Then again, sometimes you just gotta go with the flow.

That’s how I ended up having dinner with the agent I was supposed to pitch to.

More stories later...right now, I’m off to the closing festivities (which includes the long-anticipated Jenny and Bob (Bob and Jenny?) show.

Hopefully, my brains will unscramble long enough to write another post at the airport.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Untitled Post--Hey, My Brain's A Bit Fried--Just Bear With Me, Huh?

Life is all about patterns, isn’t it? I’m just not sure how recognizing them does you any good.

Take me, for instance. When the day job’s going well, the love life sucks. When the love life perks up, the day job sags. So now, I’ve added a third aspect (gee, only 3? Does that even QUALIFY as a life?): the writing side of things.

And…you guessed it. The current score is:

Day Job: Dismal
Love Life: Non-existent
Writing Life: Hmmmm….positive stuff a’brewing! (More news next week, I promise.)

Anyway, so it suddenly dawned on me today that I leave for Phoenix tomorrow morning. I mean, like at the crack. I think I have to get up around four. Yech. Plus, it occurs to me that um, Phoenix is like, um, hot. Desert-y. Need a whole new mindset as I mentally walk through my closet. (And some luck that last year’s summer wardrobe fits.)

Then, in the midst of tidying up my desk and doing that figurative traipse through the closet, I remembered the contest entries I’m judging have to go out before I leave. Yikes. Luckily, those were all pretty much already in order, but I had to go over them one more time, check my addition, email the contest coordinator with the scores, then lug the hard copies to the post office. Man, that’s a load off my mind.

The trip to Phoenix is to attend a conference put on by the Desert Rose chapter of RWA (Romance Writer’s of America). I went two years ago and it was a blast. Lots of nice people, great hotel (all suites!), good food, and hey, it’s only a short plane ride away. Rubbing elbows with tons of fellow writers who GET what you do is always fun (not to mention inspiring).

And, yes. Sigh. I broke down and made an agent appointment. (I’m never, ever, ever, pitching again!—yeah, never say never, yada, yada.) The shivers of apprehension are already setting in.

Another of life’s patterns.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Breaking News

Deep breath.

I have a contract sitting on my desk, just waiting for a signature! Imagine that!

Looks like Stealing Amy won't be an orphan after all.

More details to come!!!

Meanwhile...enjoy the scene from Duke's Malibu yesterday. Funny, but somehow, I think this picture is backwards. I'm pretty sure I was looking south instead of north. Damn cell phones.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter

View from brother Barry's house on Easter Sunday. That's Malibu behind that last mountain (and all those friggin' houses).

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Picks and Picks (as in not Pans)

Okay, so I know I’m uber-late to the party, but geez, you guys. The Da Vinci Code? Amazing! Fascinating! Granted, I’m like a brand new sponge, just out of the cellophane, when it comes to religion and history, but, I mean, wow. Words fail. Makes me wanna bone up on…say, a couple thousand years worth of history, art, and music. Can’t wait to see what they do with the movie.

Also saw Crash this morning. Yeah, eight o’clock in the morning, drizzling outside, I’m still in bed and I say, what better way to wake up? Again, amazing. Say what you will (and I gather some have disagreed) this movie tells the truth in a way I haven’t seen before. To top it off, it made me cry…three times. And not in the usual puppydog-gets-run-over-by-a-car kinda scene. That’s what made this film unique. Every time I said to myself, “Oh, I see where this is going” it absolutely veered in another direction. Brilliant.

And that concludes the Arts and Entertainment section of my blog for the week. Now, back to our regularly scheduled program…which means (you guessed it!) the mundane and trivial accounting of my day-to-day life.

Oh, wait…in unrelated A&E news, I discovered my favorite songstress, Lara Fabian, is doing a concert in Quebec this June. (I wanna go! I wanna go!) So, I scurried over to the American Airlines website and confirmed I could get roundtrip tickets with my FF miles. Argh. Had I known, I would have bypassed the upcoming cruise and spent a week in Quebec. Dare I go for a quick four-day weekend?

Stay tuned.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Fun With Jamie

Remember when people waited until after five on Sunday to make a long distance call?

The Scene: Happy Hour at Islands Restaurant in Simi Valley
Present: Barry (brother), Polly (his wife), John and Jeremiah (father and son who work with us), and me.

Polly (holding cell phone up for my inspection): “What does it say?”

Me: “One missed call. Looks like Jamie. Call her later.”

Polly: “No, I’ll call her now.” (Waits for Jamie to answer, listens, then hands the phone to Barry). “She’s stuck in traffic and wants to know if it’s okay to drive on the shoulder.”

Barry (58-year old CEO to his 37-year-old daughter, mother of three, who holds a Masters in Education): "No, but here’s what you do. Pull over, raise the hood and look inside like something’s wrong with the radiator. Then shut the hood, get back in the car, and drive along the shoulder like you’re trying to merge.”

Thank God for cell phones, huh? This little episode got us to reminiscing about Jamie-isms. Here now, for your reading pleasure, are the best of the best.

Jamie Goes To College

Scene: San Diego State Lecture Hall. Jamie is sitting in the front row next to a girlfriend listening to a Professor speak about Eskimos. Suddenly there is silence.

Professor: Excuse me. You in the front row. You’ve been giggling for the past five minutes. What’s so funny about Eskimos?”

Jamie (rolling eyes): Like they’re real, and everything.

Jamie Solves A Crisis On The Homefront

Scene: Driveway of Jamie’s suburban home. Triple A arrives because she’s locked her keys in the car.

Jamie: Those are my husband’s keys in there. I’d use my set, but my son broke the remote.

Triple-A Guy (with puzzled look): You have a set of keys with a broken remote?

Jamie: Uh-huh.

Triple-A Guy: Let me see them.

Jamie hands keys to Triple A guy; He opens door, using the, er, key.

Jamie (grinning sheepishly): I bet this happens a lot, huh?”

Triple-A Guy: “Uh, no. Not really."

Jamie Goes To Work

Scene: Jamie is substitute teaching at her alma mater—the high school her younger brother Brian now attends (well, not NOW, this was years ago)

Jamie: Did you ever think we’d be at school together?

Brian: Yeah, but I thought it would be because they held you back.

Later that day, Jamie writes a note excusing Brian from his class so he can come teach Algebra II for her.

Jamie Takes A Road Trip

Scene: Jamie and a friend are driving from Baltimore to NYC. She calls me from her cell phone en route.

Me: “What’s the scenery like? Is it rural or urban?”

Jamie to friend (a fellow teacher): “Is rural the one with the trees?”

Good thing she's pretty, huh? Although I do wish she'd change her hair color from blonde to brunette.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Blah, Blah, Blah...

The word random appears in the title of my blog, so this entry will fit well...

Doing taxes brings back memories (nightmares?) of doing algebra problems. Remember how they put the answers to the odd numbered questions in the back of the book? Well, I’d work through a problem, using what to me seemed like perfectly rational, legal, and CORRECT methods. I’d arrive at the answer pretty happy and satisfied. Then I’d flip to the back of the book, and BAM. Wrong answer. Okay, try again. Once more, I’d work through the problem, using DIFFERENT rational, legal, and seemingly correct methods. I’d arrive at my answer pretty happy and satisfied. Then I’d flip to the back of the book, and BAM. Wrong answer again. And so on and so forth. You get the picture. So far, I’ve come up with five equally rational and seemingly correct answers for the Feds. I’m gonna let the latest one percolate over night. See how it looks tomorrow. Too bad there’s nowhere to flip to check your answers.

Today I had one of those optical migraine thingies that I’ve spoken of before. I was telling someone at the office about an article I’d read on the Internet. It said something about it being bad if you had it one eye, but no biggie if in both. I went to find the article again and came across someone’s journal that started with: Two days before I had the aneurysm, I had an optical migraine.


Read further…ah…she only had it one eye. Guess I’m safe from aneurysms for a while longer.

Lara Fabian should be way more famous than Celine Dion.

Have you bought your copy of Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer’s book, “Don’t Look Down” yet? Mine came yesterday. I’ve been running around doing the TA-DA thing. Next weekend (not Easter, that would be THIS weekend) I get to say hi to them in person. Yay!

One of the plot threads in Stealing Amy involves illegal immigrant smuggling (notice I use the more politically correct immigrant rather than alien—I mean, they’re NOT from another planet, after all)—I wonder if this will be a good thing? Or bad?

Got a call from an old girlfriend who just sold her house. Part of the proceeds are earmarked for lipo, facelift, and boob job. I told her to book the adjoining bed for me.

I’m going to the gym today. Honest.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Little Birdy Reports In

Forget conference pitching. Forget the horrors of agent/editor appointments. Forget all that stuff that gives you nightsweats and grey hair just so you can put "requested material” on the outside of your submission envelope.

Because guess what?

I have it on good authority that at least one big house tosses us all in the same pile, REQUESTED or not. Why? Because it turns out (big shocker) some writers LIE.

At least now I have an excuse to quit pitching. (Don't know what I'll use to explain the nightsweats and grey hair though.)


Monday, April 10, 2006

My BICHOK Weekend

No, that’s not the 2006 term for describing what a bitchin’ time I had this weekend. For you nonwriters, it’s the acronym for Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard. Get the picture?

Well, to be honest. Not so much on Saturday. But on Sunday, I planted myself at the computer around 9:30 a.m. and didn’t finish until 11. As in P.M. Even missed Desperate Housewives (which turned out to be pre-empted anyway—yippee!).

And, remember. I thought this manuscript was polished and ready to go.

Um. Not.

I mean, I actually came across places where I’d inserted blank lines to be filled in later. WTF? Didn’t I clear those up a long time ago? Or is a version of this sucker still hiding somewhere on my computer? Hm. Just thought of a place to look, dammit.

Nope. Not there, either.

(I really must come up with a better system.)

Anyway, outside of the mysterious gaps (there were about six) most of the stuff was cosmetic, i.e., tedious and boring to take care of. The good news is, I actually liked the book. Oh, I know I’m supposed to LOVE my own book, but trust me. When you’ve read it a bazillion times, its luster starts to dim. So when I actually found myself putting away the bag of Doritos before I’d completely finished it in order to get back to the computer…well, that tells you something, huh?

Bottom line, I learned a few things this weekend. Well, maybe I knew them before, but reinforcement is always good.

First, the work isn’t over when you type THE END. It’s not even over when you’ve read it a hundred times. ‘Cuz if you don’t put at least as much effort into SUBMITTING, chances are good that manuscript you slaved over will sit around on your computer forever.

Second, a handful of rejections is just that: a handful of rejections. Doesn’t mean the rest of the world won’t end up beating a path to your door as long as you keep querying. (Okay, I exaggerate. No one’s beating a path to my door, but simultaneous requests make it feel that way!)

Third, never give up. Even when the mailbox is empty day after day, the only email you get is for penis enlargement, and you’re pretty sure everything you’ve ever written is dreck.

It can all change with one letter, one email…one phone call.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Amy Gets A Nibble

TWO nibbles, actually. We’re talking Stealing Amy here. As in my second manuscript.

Now, how often have I had two requests in 24 hours? Um….never?

Don’t wanna go into specifics (I’m superstitious in my old age) but one’s for a partial and the other’s for a full. And here's a really fun part of the writing biz: now I have to drag all my focus off Leftovers and agonize over making sure ONE LAST TIME that Amy’s perfect enough to send out into the world.

First, I looked for the latest version on my computer. Fine. There it was. At least, I was pretty sure it was. Then I scrolled down to the ending and saw a bunch of places where I had: INSERT SPANISH HERE. Crap. Not the latest version. THAT sucker was on the computer at my office.

Drive to office.

Okay, cool. Find the Spanish parts, this must be the absolute final version. No, wait. What about those contest entries? Were those before or after the “final version?” Gack. And wait a minute. Didn’t I go through the entire manuscript and put the little squiggly mark over the ‘n’ in all the senors and senoritas? What happened to THAT version?

Are you beginning to understand why my garage needs cleaning?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Look at her—all perky and flirty,
Wouldn’t you swear
She’s not a day over thirty?

Happy Birthday, Anna Maria Margarita de la Cruz!

I feel blessed to be your friend, I treasure the times we’ve shared, and I can't wait to make future memories!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

If I Absolutely Must...

Blogreader Joe griped about my spotty blogging of late.

Hey, I try not to give y’all any more of the useless, mundane aspects of my life than I think you can handle. I mean, sure, today’s topic could be “Things That Currently Suck” but I try to be a bright spot in the blogosphere, y’know?

Oh, hell. Why not? Here’s a list (in random order):

1. Business
2. Taxes
3. The weather
4. My health
5. The American Airlines AAdvantage System
6. My love life
7. My aging face
8. My sagging body
9. My writing
10. My gym attendance

Wow. I feel much better now. I came, I went, I blogged.

The good news is, I’ve lost ten pounds. Oh, and I booked a cruise for late May. So aside from 1 through 10, I’m not really complaining.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Katies in the News

Doesn’t Katie Holmes have enough on her mind—i.e., keeping her mouth shut while trying to pass the Cruise progeny through the birth canal—without adding network news reporting to her plate?

Oh. Sorry. Wrong Katie.

Ha ha. I jest. So, it’s the other Katie who’s about to announce her defection from NBC’s Today Show to CBS’s Evening News. Apparently, 65 million dollars (with a reported raise to 80 million) wasn’t enough to get Ms. Couric out of bed anymore.

I started to play around with the math but…well…y’all know how good I am with figures. Between rating points…household numbers…yada yada, yada…I thought my head would explode. Oh, well. The best I could come up with is that 80 million over four years (assuming roughly 260 weekdays a year) translates to $75,000 a day.

Is it me, or is $75,000 a day just a little obscene? Y’know, like an embarrassing amount? Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure the gal’s gotta balance her checkbook at the end of the month just like the rest of us. Only our version of keeping up with the Jones’s doesn’t require one-upping Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters in the salary department. Poor Katie. That’s serious pressure, doncha think?

Speaking of pressure, at first glance, the new anchor job appears a whole lot tougher than the old morning show. Much more difficult than, say, chatting with Matt Lauer and Willard Scott for three hours. Now, she’ll actually have to – gulp—read the news off a Teleprompter. (Hey, wait. Even I can do that.) But…but…she’ll also have to appear calm in a crisis, won’t she? (Hey, wait. I can do that too!)

And for a whole lot less money.

Attention all network honchos! Are you listening?? I'm available!