Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Dateline Palm Springs

So I’m leaving the Auga Caliente Casino in Palm Springs (well, Rancho Mirage to be precise) at 1:30a.m. (Hey--it's just around the corner from my hotel--how I could I NOT pay a visit? And, no I didn't break the bank, but I came out ahead thanks to a last minute $100 jackpot.) Anyway, I get in the elevator with a nice, young couple speaking Spanish. (Them, not me.) As we ascend to our parking level, I notice something odd.

“I’m bleeding,” I say sheepishly, holding up my finger.

They smile in agreement and continue their conversation.

The doors slide open; we exit--the Spanish-speaking couple to the right, me to the left. I glance down. I’m now DRIPPING BLOOD all over the parking garage.

What the hell?

I mean, dripping.

I get to the car...well, I can’t just get in and drip blood all over the leather, can I? I glance inside. No tissue. No toilet paper. Only the newspaper article Blogreader Joe gave me on Sunday. Haven’t read it yet, but oh well.

I daub my finger all over Buenos Aires. Again. And again. And again and again and again.

I suddenly start worrying that God has a plan...that when I break down on that unlit road leading back to my hotel and the serial killer gets me, there'll be a trail of DNA. I find myself wondering if years from now some lunatic will claim to have mixed his genetics with mine.

And still it drips.

I mean, I haven’t even really gotten in the car yet, and I can see drops of blood on the seat. Finally, I find the closest facsimile to a Band-Aid I have: a Citibank receipt.

I wind it around my finger and it sticks nicely. I drive back to the hotel.

I make my way to my room. By this time you might fear I’m faint, but geez. It’s just a finger. DRIPPING, mind you, but still....just a finger.

Stoically, I get inside, march to the bathroom, put on my glasses and stick my finger under water. Ick! Big ol’ flap of skin hanging off it.

Which just goes to show. Never borrow a razor from your sister-in-law before you get to a hotel. And never, EVER, put it in your purse for later.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Apropos of Nothing

Back when I was thin and Blogreader Joe’s hair was almost dark (okay it was only 7 years ago) we journeyed to Punta del Este, Urguay and Buenos Aires, Argentina for a little tango and hormone-free beef.

On our first day in Buenos Aires, we took a city tour which briefly stopped at the Nuestra Senora del Pilar Church (no, I didn’t remember the name−I just Googled it−built in the early 1700’s, in case you're interested) and the adjoining La Recoleta Cemetery.

Oh. My. God. I thought I’d seen some pretty good cemeteries in my life. (My fave is the Westwood Village Memorial Park−or as I call it−The Field of Tragedy ‘cuz its cast includes Marilyn Monroe, Natalie Wood, Minnie Ripperton, Dorothy Stratton, Bob Crane and not one but TWO young stars of Poltergeist--click here for the full list of unfortunate ends. Hidden behind a cluster of high rises in downtown Westwood, you wouldn't know this place existed unless you were looking for it. Which you should.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. Buenos Aires. Recoleta Cemetery. So during the brief stop, the tour director informed us that somewhere in the vast maze of mausoleums and tombstones, Eva Peron had finally been laid to rest. (And I say finally, because after being on display for a couple years−embalmed, of course−poor Eva went on world tour, first being buried in Italy for 16 years, then Spain for another three, then back to Buenos Aires. I didn’t know the details at the time; but I knew I wanted to see where Madonna, I mean, Eva Peron had landed.)

So Blogreader Joe and I went back on another day to hunt her up. Only guess what? Locating ONE person among hundreds (thousands?) in what amounts to a small city of dead people, ain’t easy. I mean, check out the street above. Those are TOMBS, folks. And there are rows and rows and rows of 'em. And rows. (Did I mention there's a lot?)

I resorted to my meager Spanish vocabulary and flagged a passing workman. Donde esta Eva? Well, you’d have thought I’d asked, donde esta Hitler from the looks I got. (Turns out the poor people still hold a grudge against Eva for that whole fleecing of the masses thing.) Pretty soon I worried Blogreader Joe might be tiring of the search, so I got frantic. Donde esta Eva, donde esta Eva. I felt like I was on The Amazing Race and that my next clue could be found at the tomb of the wife of a dictator but that if I reached it too late, I’d be eliminated.

Along the way, we saw all the sights of La Recoleta Cemetery. The cool thing about living in Buenos Aires apparently, is that if you fall on hard times, you can always move in with a dead relative. I mean, I’ve seen condos smaller than this resting place.

And then, there it was.

Kinda disappointing, huh? Anticlimactic. But fitting. Not ostentatious, not humongous, not even a place of her own like the rest of the rich people.

Okay…all together now…Don’t cry for me, Argentina………

Evita...eterna en el alma...forever in our hearts.

Friday, August 25, 2006


One of these day I'm gonna spend a whole post on educating my nonwriting blogreaders about the world of epublishing. Until I dredge up the energy, here are answers to the top 10 questions I hear all the time:

1. Hey, I'm flattered you asked, but there's nothing to sign. Yet.
2. No, you don't get to read it for free by clicking on an internet web site.
3. Yes, I get paid.
4. No, I'm not telling you how much.
5. No, I will not be able to quit my day job.
5. Yes, you can read it on your computer, but most people download them to hand-held devices.
6. Yes, it'll be copywrighted.
7. No, I didn't design the cover.
8. No, it's not porn. At least, not my book.
9. The publisher is located in Arizona. (Yeah, I don't "get" that one either, but people ask all the time)
And last but not least:
10. Yes, I'll tell you when it's available.

FEBRUARY 2007!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Feel Free To Quote Me On This...

There's far more satisfaction to be gained, albeit delayed, in preventing yourself from hitting send--even when it's to defend your honor and integrity yet again.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Picture Me Glum

I thought I’d be strong.
I thought I’d turn up my nose at the choices of others.
I thought I’d blithely go about my business, ignoring temptation.

But nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

All the stuff for tomorrow’s bar-b-que just arrived, and now I’m depressed.

No hamburgers for me. No chips and salsa for me. Not even a lousy scoop of potato salad.

I’m still on Jenny.

Yes, although I haven’t mentioned it lately (since I re-directed my blog efforts at writing topics), the truth is I’ve been on the Jenny Craig diet for four solid weeks now. Weight loss = five pounds. Woo hoo.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased. And the truth is, it’s not a hard diet to follow. The food is even edible and I’ve managed to limit my alcohol intake to white whine spritzers (misspelling intended). But still….God, it all looks so good.

I have 24 hours to dream about those three large bags of unopened chips. Twenty-four hours to salivate over the ice cream bars. Twenty-four hours to choose between Jenny’s tuna salad pack or her frozen turkey burger or…whatever.

Okay, let’s say it together, shall we? I will survive.

My birthday is less than a month away (yes, it’s that time again—the season has almost begun!) and I intend to take a mini-break from the diet to celebrate. By then, I should be almost "svelte", able to wear oodles of the out-of-date fashions hanging in my closet, and ready to eat all my favorite foods.

Oh, and best of all? My parents will have to shut the hell up.


Postscript to Blogreader Joe: No, I will probably NOT get down to pre-Argentina weight. Deal with it.

Monday, August 21, 2006


If you're having trouble seeing the top part of my blog today, it's because I fixed what wasn't broken. See, a promo person on one of my writing loops provided the code to remove the blogger banner on top--leaving a more professional looking web site. Well hey. I'm all for trying that kinda stuff, so I inserted the code. Checked the preview. Fine. Hit "publish" then "view blog." All fine.

But then I get to work this morning and Brooke IMs me with the news that my blog's all f**ed up. I check my work computer. Fine. I check my brother's computer. Uh-oh.

Then I get an email from Blogreader Joe. What's up with your blog, he wants to know.

So I went in and removed the code.

Only it's still not working for some people, and now I don't know how to fix it. Sigh. Maybe I'll have to switch templates or something.


If you can read this, but couldn't see the top part (like, the post started in the middle), drop me a comment.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Anti-Reunion Reunion

That's me on the way to the "Box'd Inn" for a 35th reunion party last night. What? No gown? No frou-frou hair? No pearl-studded bag?

Nope. Cuz the "Box'd Inn" isn't one of those boring halls with a roomful of 60" rounds that seat ten. It's not one of those restaurants where you pay 100 bucks to eat rubber chicken while the class president stands at a podium and bores his audience with what he's achieved since graduation day.

Thankfully, the "Box'd Inn" is the home of fellow alum Anne Loftin (that's her to the left) who, with her husband Russell, have started a tradition of what I now call the anti-reunion reunion party. It's more like Anne throws a get together and the fact that everyone who shows up went to high school together is purely coincidence. Doesn't even matter what year you graduated. This year just happened to be our 35th.

But, back to the setting. Guess I managed to miss taking a photo of the house. Picture a tiny cabin nestled in one of the most dangerous fire-prone canyons in Southern California, surrounded by brush, trees, and things that chirp in the night. And, no...that's not it above, but it's the view from the front yard.

So imagine all this outdoorsy nature stuff going on, add the sounds of the 70's, then populate the scene with the oddest assortment of high school people....I mean, really. Check out this picture:

I count only THREE people in this class of '71 group who've ever been to ANY of the "formal" reunions. See what I mean by anti-reunion reunion? Hardly a cheerleader in the bunch (okay, well there are two SONG LEADERS, but everybody knows they were the "bad" girls).

That's Sally Feeny and Jeannie Doyle to the left. After 35 years, I couldn't wait to accuse Jeannie of absconding with the guy I was dying to go to Homecoming with in our sophomore year. She was appropriately apologetic and informed me I hadn't missed anything. (As I recall, the word 'size' was mentioned--or the lack thereof). Anyway, then I told her I'd sorta dated the guy in my late 20's and he was just entering the balding/paunchy stage so neither of us counted it a big loss. That second picture probably explains why he preferred her to me all those years ago.

Anyway...the dreaded question only popped up once or twice (I almost awarded a prize to the first guy who asked). (And, by the way, when did it go from "How come you're not married" to "How come you never married"? Like, geesh. Did I miss something? Is it all over?)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Before I get started with what's on my mind today, I just wanna set the record straight about yesterday's post: I was speaking only for myself, not on behalf of all chick lit writers. And, if you'd like to read another great essay on the subject, go here to see how author Rachel Pine characterizes the issue in her own words.

Okay, now that I got that out of the way...guess where I'm going this weekend? My 35th high school reunion!!! Eeeeeek! Thankfully, it's a casual affair (so casual, I hadn't even thought of it as a reunion per se--hence, I haven't even stressed about what I'll wear or how thin/fat/poochy/saggy/pale I am/am not/should be/could be).

I'm thinking of taking along paper and pencil to jot down a hash mark for each time I get asked that fatal question how come you never got married? (And if y'all have pithy suggestions, please leave 'em in the comment section--muchas gracias.)

I mean, I could go with the standard never met the right man....but that's so lame and probably untrue.

Then there's the one where I slap my forehead and say Shit! I knew I forgot something but I'm kinda tired of that one.

Personally, my favorite is: "Guess I was trying to avoid two divorces, fourteen stepchildren, and a totally dysfunctional family" like yours. Okay, I've never said that to anyone. But I could've.

Oops. Cutting the blog short. Work calls.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Cat Fight

Yep, we bitches are at it again—slinging arrows, throwing jabs, dodging punches—you men out there would be salivating…if it weren’t all just on paper.

I’m talking about the battle between female authors who profess to write literary women’s fiction and who wouldn’t be caught dead with a pair of Manolos in their closet (nor in their books) or any shade of pink on their covers vs. female authors who write women’s fiction that’s branded chick lit.

Now, I’m no expert, but in the interest of cluing in my blog readers (most of whom wouldn’t know the difference between Jennifer Weiner and Jennifer Anniston) let me try to sum up. To my mind, Bridget Jones Diary put chick lit on the map as a genre. Certainly there are others (Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series, for example) but in my own experience, it was Bridget that made chick lit a household word. Well, in my household, anyway.

To the rest of the world, chick lit equals Sex And the City…which, in my opinion, ends up reinforcing a stereotype that never really existed in the books themselves. Oh, sure--both the books and the TV show contain a lot of shopping for shoes, but that phenomenon is only the frill on the ribbon. When you unwrap the rest of the package you discover stories about women trying to find their place in the world--making decisions about motherhood, career, men--um, just like real life.

So with the success of both Bridget and SATC, chick lit books flew off the shelves. A good thing for women, right? Apparently not. Because, according to Elizabeth Herrick (a self-proclaimed literary author), while the surge in titles generated by women in a patriarchal business like publishing is to be applauded, they're the WRONG women. In fact, as she puts it, “there is an amazing flourishing of women literary writers at the moment that is being obscured by a huge pile of pink books with purses and shoes on the cover.” (As if authors have control over their covers, but that's another issue.)

Anyway. Geesh. Can you spell d-e-m-e-a-n-i-n-g? How about c-o-n-d-e-s-c-e-n-d-i-n-g? Whack!

So, let me understand this. Female authors getting published: good. Female authors selling lots of books: good. Female authors selling books with pink covers: bad. (Yeah, I know. Shrug.)

To combat the problem, and bolster her sisters-in-lit, Herrick put together an anthology titled, “This Is Not Chick Lit: Original Stories By America's Best Women Writers.” When I first heard about it, I shook my head. I mean, BEST is pretty subjective and I'm not sure I put Ms. Herrick in charge of deciding who makes the list. Besides, can’t we all just get along? Why do we have to turn on each other? Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose, n’est-ce pas? What’re we, still in high school?

Then, to my immense pride and glee, Lauren Baratz-Logsted (try saying THAT three times fast) countered with “This Is Chick Lit”—an anthology of stories written by talented women not ashamed of the genre. I confess I haven’t read it (actually it's not out yet) but I have no doubt the stories are filled with richly drawn characters in situations I can relate to or empathize with while they—YES!—also entertain me.

It seems to me that if Herrick and her buddies were so concerned about women’s fiction, they would embrace ALL women’s fiction, instead of trying to marginalize the sector that’s currently in vogue. Yes, I read what some call chick lit. But I also read mysteries, thrillers, and—dare I say it?—women’s literary fiction. Why does it have to be either/or??

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Can You Teach An Old Dog New Tricks?

I suppose most writers fall prey to the same temptation I did last night. (No, not that kind of temptation. Geesh. )

I dragged out an old manuscript. I mean, a really old one. In fact, I wrote it during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) back in 2001. Fifty-thousand words in three weeks. Ah, those were the days.

Anyway, the good news is that Sierra's Last Song has its moments. Pacing is quick, dialogue is about 80% tight and natural, setting descriptions are better than I’d have predicted…and the plot? Wow. I mean, I totally wrote this thing on the fly—the ultimate in pantsing. How did I know to drop the hints, the questions, the red herrings that I did?

Only one problem (besides being at least 20,000 words too short for single title).

Um. There’s no conflict between the hero and heroine. Well, in my defense, I didn’t set out to write a romance. More like a mystery with a romantic subplot. The question remains…might it be worth the time and effort to twist it into something I could actually (gulp) sell?

So hard to say.

I read it over last night, stopping to construct a scene-by-scene spreadsheet in case I decided to revamp. Now I’m mulling over how much work and time it might take.

Why would I do this? (Hey, thanks for asking.) I mean, let’s hope it’s not because I think the revamp would be easier than finishing Leftovers (oh, who said that?). The truth is, it occurred to me that the book I’ve sold, Stealing Amy, could use a companion. Especially if I’m gonna go to the trouble of—eek—promoting the hell out of myself to sell it to readers. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a follow-up in the same genre (which Leftovers definitely is not)??

Hm. Decisions, decisions.

Guess I need to put some more thought into what it would take to whip it into shape—y’know, see if the old dog’ll hunt, or if it should just be put out to doggie pasture.

Monday, August 14, 2006

To Sex Or Not To Sex...And If So, How Much??

(With apologies to Will S.)

Does anybody but me ask themselves that question when it comes to writing romance novels these days? At the recent RWA conference, all I heard was sexy paranormal, sexy futuristic, sexy chick lit…

Um, apparently sex sells.

Oh, there ARE the exceptions. Christian chick lit is supposed to be hot. And Avalon doesn’t publish anything containing sex in any way, shape, or form.

Still. No doubt about it. Sex is hot. Write hot sex and you multiply your probability of selling.

Strangely, I find my books going in the opposite direction. Less sex and what there is of it is less graphic. More emotional. In fact, I debated putting any in Leftovers at all but the plot and the heroine’s growth arc demanded it. Still, I left most of it “off stage.”

Not that I’m against sex, mind you. (Who is? Okay, besides the Pope?) But I’d like to think it’s not crucial if the plot and the characters do their job. And I’m certainly all for sexual tension…but what if the story’s not about that?

I just finished reading Meg Cabot’s Size Twelve Isn’t Fat and guess what? No sex. I mean, not even a passionate kiss. Granted, as it turns out, this book is the first in a series but I confess, I felt a little robbed.

So that brings me back to my stories, and I guess I have to ask myself what I hope to achieve with the reader. Am I trying to titillate? Am I trying to build up sexual tension then deliver with a graphic release? Is it enough to tell an emotionally satisfying romantic story?

Or is it that I’m afraid my father will read one of my books?

God knows, it’s not that I don’t like the research….

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sometimes It Pays Not To Write

Every weekend, I start out with plans to make huge advances on the writing front.

And every weekend, I end up with a couple sentences of drivel.

Don’t know why exactly. Except maybe the words look different on the screen during the day than they do at night which is when I do most of my writing. (Hey, when you’re a writer, any excuse will do…)

So yesterday I decided screw it. Everyone's out of town, summer’s almost gone, and I haven’t taken a nice, scenic drive in a long time.

In other words, even though I woke up tired (okay, make that slightly hung over from the three, no four, glasses of wine the night before) I headed for the Chumash Indian Casino in Santa Ynez, ninety miles away. Even as I pulled out of the driveway, I was praying the impulse wouldn’t turn into one of those “what was I thinking” ideas halfway there.

Well, it sorta did since an hour later I wasn’t even halfway there. But I figured, what the hell, I’m this far…

With all the traffic, instead of arriving around 1 o’clock I get there at 2:30. I trudge up the escalator into the smoke-filled room pulsing with the cacophony of competing video slot themes and park myself in front of a nickel machine. Something to do with dolphins, I think. I lose about twenty dollars there so I move around to others. Barrel Blaster. Bandito Woman. Paris Nights. I go up fifty, down fifty…mostly I’m staying even.

Move into the quarter area. Pick a machine, insert the paper script, spin twice. Ding-ding-ding. $150. Okay, not bad. This is working. I decide to cash it in so I’m not tempted to put the whole thing back in, and make my way to the cashier. Only, on the way, I stop at a 50 cent machine. Third spin, $250. YES.

At this point, I decide to go back to nickel slots and just play for fun. After all, I’ve already got a good stash for the afternoon, and hell…I drove all this way…

I piddle around here and there, not going up, not going down. Finally, decide to make a pit stop in the ladies room and, well…on the way, I pause at this really stupid nickel slot with a lifeguard theme. I end up there for TWENTY MINUTES playing on one spin. That’s right. A HUNDRED AND THIRTEEN free games−and $60.

This is simply ridiculous, I think. Sixty dollars for such an idiotic game?

I must take this to the high limit room, I decide.

There I spy a machine called “Money To Burn” −and, I mean, how funny is that? So, I put my $60 in. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Sixty dollars gone in sixty seconds. Money to burn indeed.

Then I see next to it one of my fave machines: Jackpot Party. Only, I’m use to playing the nickel version (as in…45 cents a spin) not the dollar (as in NINE DOLLARS a spin). And I’ve already used up the $60. I reaaaaallllly shouldn’t go into the stash, should I?

Well, I did drive ALL this way…

So I feed it a $100 bill.

Now, the bonus feature on Jackpot Party works like this: if you get three noise blowers, you go to the “party” which means the screen fills with gaily wrapped presents in a variety of colors, pulsing to the beat of the music. Your mission is to choose as many as possible without getting the “pooper”−and your reward is the dollar amount revealed beneath each one as you choose it.

I press a purple package in the bottom right corner.


Damn. I’m so disappointed, ‘cuz−as everyone knows−you don’t get to “go to the party” too often.

But I did drive such a LONG way…

So I decide to spin some more…and not three spins later, I get to go to the party AGAIN! This time, my first package reveals $18. Then $45. Then a circle pops up notifying me that my next pick is a bonus−the amount will be multiplied by $5! I search and search−where is that damned pooper hiding?−and I choose another purple one. EIGHTY! Multiplied by 5….Woo Hoo! I pick a few more, get the pooper, but then am invited to choose a “consolation prize.” My consolation prize turns out to be: Choose another package! Wheeeeee!!!!

Anyway, I cash out of the machine with $650.

And get the hell out of there.

So, let’s recap. I walked in around 2:30 with $200. Left at 5:15 with $1050. Not bad for a couple hour’s work…and so much more than I’ll ever make on any of the books I slave over a year to finish.

Yep, the decision to get out of the house instead of staying home to write was definitely a good one.

And well worth the long drive….

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Waiting Game

If patience is a virtue, then we writers are saints.

I mean, first we need the patience to write the damn book. Which, when you consider all the other things we could be doing—reading, watching TV, SLEEPING—to plaster our butts in uncomfortable chairs second after second, minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, and yes—eek—year after year….well, like I said…we need lots of patience.

Back when I first started writing, I couldn’t WAIT to enter my first sure-to-be-a-winner novel in contests. But noooooo…you’re not supposed to do that until you finish the book.

So I waited.

Next, I couldn’t WAIT to query agents and editors with my sure-fire no-doubt-about-it this-is-really-the-one novel. But nooooo…you’re not supposed to do that until you finish the book.

So I waited.

Finally, I finished. And, guess what? Yep. More waiting. Up to six months for contest entries and agents. Up to a YEAR for editors.

Wait, wait, wait…and then…wait some more.

Let’s not even discuss the patience a writer needs in order to deal with spouses, boyfriends, children, parents, siblings, friends and co-workers who don’t get “the dream.”

But mostly, we have to learn to be patient with ourselves—that learning our craft takes time. That with each page we write, we’re that much closer to the goal. That even when we delete a scene that took days to write, the one we replace it with will be that much stronger, tighter, riveting. That even if we never sell the book, we’ve gotten the story out of our heads and onto the page. We’ve given it a chance.

I guess in a culture that values instant gratification, it’s no surprise that some of us, er, struggle with the concept.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


As promised, I’m posting the results of the “List of 20” exercise I did last night. For those who didn’t read yesterday’s entry (or are too lazy to scroll down) here’s the deal:

I’m at a point in my WIP (Leftovers) where I’m getting ready for the hero and heroine to make love. But first, there’s a conversation they have to have to set it up. Without giving too much away, let’s just say my constraints are: they have to end up at Sam’s home, it has to occur at night, and Sam’s daughters have to be out of the house. Now, Rose has just come from her volunteer stint at a doggie rescue shelter; Sam’s just dropped his daughters off at Grandma’s. Originally, I started writing this boring scene where they have “the conversation” over ice cream in the living room.

Blah. Realized real quickly: NOTHING of interest going on there but the dialogue. So, I resorted to the aforementioned exercise. I don’t know who coined the phrase so I’m not sure to whom I should give credit; anyway, the idea is that you make a list of 20 options no matter how stupid, banal, silly, whatever. In theory, the first five or so usually turn out to be uninspired. Dull. The second five or so get better. Around twelve, you swear you’re out of ideas. That’s when creativity kicks in.

It took me till Idea #16.

Now remember, some of these are really lame, but you’re not allowed to edit yourself during the brainstorming session. These are just quick notes I typed up:

1. Rose’s car could break down so he’d have to pick her up
2. Attend Harmony’s back-to-school night together
3. She could have to pick HIM up on his way home from dropping off the girls.
4. They could take a moonlit walk
5. They could run into each other on their “fave” moonlit walk
6. They could run into each other in a local watering hole (bar)
7. HE could come home AFTER her and catch her naked in the hallway
8. She could come home after him, hear someone in the girls’ bathroom and catch him in there because his is stopped up.
9. She could come home, find him asleep on the couch, be putting a blanket over him when he wakes up.
10. He could come home, find her asleep on the couch, be putting a blanket over her when she wakes up
11. He could catch her reading the letter
12. He could catch her in his office, looking for the letter since it’s not in the trash can anymore
13. He could come home and she’s baking his favorite pie to cheer him up−he helps--and they end up in a food fight starring whipped cream
14. She could come home and find HIM cooking−something he does to de-stress−and ditto with the whipped cream
15. She could come home to find him just having gotten home from the gym−all sweaty and manly (LOL)
16. She could bring the dog home now! And it barks all night…they have to stay up with it and have their conversation in between yaps…until they fall asleep somewhere weird and when they wake up in the morning…

Geesh. See the difference between sixteen and the rest???

So, remember what I said yesterday about how I covered up a conversation between Rose and Tory with a trip to the doggie rescue shelter? And how I planned to use a dog later? Well, duh. Turns out NOW is the time to introduce that dog to the household.

Idiot. Don’t know what I was waiting for.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Scene Chomping

In Writing The Breakout Novel, uber-agent Donald Maass cautions us about scenes in which characters are eating. (In fact, if memory serves, he says he’ll toss a submission if the first chapter contains one but, like I say, don’t quote me on that part).

Anyway, his advice (as always) resonates with me. Especially when newbies join my crit groups, I notice a whole lot of forking going on, and I don’t mean the good kind. ‘Course, it’s understandable. I mean, to break up the dialogue, you gotta have something for your characters to do while conversing but…well, mealtime almost NEVER adds anything to the scene (unless you’re Jenny Crusie or somebody equally talented).

So I avoid them like the plague.

Only, last night I was working on a current scene and it happens to be really pivotal to the plot (it ends with the characters making love for the first time). And what are they doing? They’re eating friggin’ ice cream in the living room.


What was I thinking??? Is the Jenny Craig diet seeping into my brain…as in, I’ve now gone three weeks without ICE CREAM? (Oh, and by the way, it’s the end of week two—took a week off for Atlanta—I’ve lost a measly two pounds. Sigh. But I digress.)

I thought back over the rest of the manuscript and realized that either subconsciously or by design (hopefully the latter!) I’ve been pretty good about making the setting do double duty. Like when Rose takes Sam’s daughters to a surfing contest, we get both a set-to with the eldest daughter over an embarrassing situation, and Rose’s first run-in with her ex and his pregnant girlfriend.

Similarly, to cover up an otherwise static conversation with best friend Tory, I put them at a canine rescue center where they exercise the doggies (one of which—who?—whom?—will figure into a subsequent plot point.) Ditto another conversation with Tory that occurs at the gym (Rose stumbles onto a life-changing idea while perusing a magazine on the treadmill).

So, given that you’ve already established the purpose of the scene, and that an important conversation simply MUST take place, and that eating ice cream in the living room will put the reader to sleep NO MATTER HOW SCINTILLATING and TENSION FILLED the DIALOGUE…what do you do??

Ah…back to the list of 20 (see previous entries or check out Stephanie Bond’s article on “Lose the Muse.”)

Tomorrow I’ll post what I came up with.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I Heart My Mailbox

Well, in truth, it's a love/hate relationship.

(Yeah, I know. I really gotta start looking into having human relationships.)

See, here’s the deal: As an author, there are so many times when getting mail is a GOOD thing. Like when you’ve sent a one page query and your SASE (for you nonwriters, that’s a self-addressed stamped envelope−we include them with our submissions to make life easier for agents and editors to reject us) comes back asking for more. Or when you’ve sent a partial and the SASE arrives with a request for the full.

BUT…there also comes a point when mail is a very BAD thing…

Y’all know I’m waiting to hear from a publisher who’s considering Fit For Love. In this case, good news will NOT come in the mail. It will come in a phone call or an email. At this point, MAIL = BAD NEWS. So my heart sank when I went to the box on Saturday, opened it up and saw…one lone envelope…one very familiar-looking envelope…as in my personal in an SASE.

Before even removing it from the box, I let the disappointment flood through me. Had the little pep talk about how, of course, I wasn’t shocked. It would have been more shocking NOT to get the letter.

But then something funny happened.

My eyes darted to the return address. Not the publisher I’m waiting to hear from, but another one! One I’d sent a partial to way back in September and pretty much forgotten about because they’re having trouble.

I started breathing again.

Fit For Love ain’t dead yet.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Buzz

So I hardly ever look at my site statistics. Mostly ‘cuz I can never remember my log-in and password but also cuz I don’t know what the figures mean anyway. Let’s just say I average X hits a week which is a whole lot more than the sad amount of comments would indicate. (My blog readers are shy, I think.)

But a week or two ago, I realized Mozilla had been kind enough to remember how to get me into Sitemeter, so I checked things out. One of the handy little items it shows you is the entry point. In other words, you’re surfing around, you see my blog mentioned somewhere in the blogosphere, and you click on it. Well, turns out, I was getting visitors from something called

Who knew?

So I trotted over there and found myself on a list of authors who might be checking in from the RWA National Conference in Atlanta. The fine folks who put the site together invited us to drop a confirmation in the comment section to get on the official list. Which I did.

Yada, yada, yada.

I checked my statistics yesterday and whoaaaaaaaaaaaaa. They were through the roof!! About five times the normal traffic and a HUGE spike on Monday.

Okay, I thought. What the hell happened on Monday?

Scrolled down. Eureka.

Must’ve been the Nora post. The blog administrator (bless her heart, I don’t even know who she is, but she put an awesome site together!) had added the note: NORA SMOKES??

Guess that piqued the interest of a few people.

Which brings me to a certain queasy feeling when I saw it. Have I outed Nora? Will legions of disapproving fans start boycotting her books? Eek! Have I singlehandedly ruined her career?


Friday, August 04, 2006

...And The Three Bears

About 70 pages to go till I finish Leftovers and I feel like I’ve lost my voice. Where is the fiery pacing that marked the first third of the book? Where are the pithy bon mots that used to roll off my fingertips and into Rose’s internal monologue? Did she and I (we) just get tired of the whole thing???

Then it occurred to me: maybe she’s behaving the way one would expect, given the way the story unfolds. (Hm? Maybe? Or, am I rationalizing?)

See, now I get the difference between plot-driven books and character-driven ones. In my first two books, the scenes stack up like dominoes. Remove one and the rest fall. (Um, this is a good sign, right?) Which is why I’ve never understood how authors can move scenes around, let alone delete them entirely. My first two were very linear—the map from A to B is a straight line and the character growth stemmed from the action created by the plot.

But with Leftovers, there IS no external suspense plot. I mean, there’s a story question all right. But a visual depiction of how we get to the answer would look more like one of those “where we fly” airline maps. No direct routes, in other words.

And, in this instance, the plot equals the character growth. (Okay, I’m scaring myself now—maybe that’s not enough??)

Anyway, my point is that sh*t happens to Rose in the book, so why wouldn’t she act less peppy later on? The trick is hanging on to the essence of the character. Not sure I’ve done that. Only time (and revisions) will tell, I guess.

I’ll say one thing for sure. Writing a book where the relationships are key is a whole lot harder than when you’re trying to get from Point A to Point B.

For my next project, I think I’ll skew towards a better balance between the two. Like, not too much, not too little…just enough of both.

Kinda like Goldilocks and the whole porridge thing.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Conference Letdown

Yeah, it happens.

You race back home, laden with freebie books and loads of inspiration, then: WHAM. It’s time to get back to the business of writing. Um, the kind that leads to a book, not a blog.

For me, aside from the cost, the wear and tear on brain cells from alcohol-soaked nights, and the joint pain from stalking around in high heels for too many days…there’s another downside to the national conference.


Which I guess is always gonna be a part of writing. There’s always gonna be someone whose productivity puts yours to shame, who sells millions of books without having to beg relatives to buy them, who has the hot-shot agent when you still don’t even have one…

I mean, we can’t ALL be Nora.

Which I GET. I truly do. Hell, I’m not even Randy Jeanne yet. Not officially.

But still…

It’s hard to read so many clever blogs, so many brilliant books, without feeling humbled and discouraged. But then I remind myself of the most important lesson I’ve learned since joining RWA: it’s all about baby steps. (Hey--I didn’t have kids to teach me this so it took awhile.) I’m not the writer I was in Denver five years ago and I’m not the writer I’ll be five years from now in New York City.

Well, at least, one hopes.

The other lesson (and—sigh—I guess this applies to life as well) is to find the balance between struggling to be as good as the best while accepting our limitations. Take Susan Elizabeth Phillips, for example. I heard in a workshop that she toiled for years as a mid-list author until one day she stopped obsessing about her plotting weaknesses and concentrated instead on what she was good at: funny and sexy. Voila. Best seller list.

So I guess it boils down to just being the best we can be (yeah, I know—insert Army theme here—or is it the Marines?).

And that concludes today’s episode of Randy Wallows….

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Puttin' On The Ritz

So writing friend Brooke gets us invited to Bantam-Dell’s cocktail party at the Ritz Carlton last Friday. She drags me to these functions every year and I say dragged not because I don’t wanna go—hey, what’s not to like about free booze and hobnobbing?—but I always feel a little…you know…fraudulent. Like I don’t belong.

Somehow, this year was different.

First, we run into Diana Peterfruend (whose name I can’t think of anymore without prefacing it with ‘lovely debut author’ ‘cuz it’s so apt) and she’s not sure of her directions, so we take her in tow and we all enter the party together (think safety in numbers, I guess).

Then, purely by accident, we discover the best spot in the room (strategically speaking) which happens to be in front a huge floor fan. I try to convince myself it’s my magnetic personality attracting so many guests, but alas, I have to attribute it to the Atlanta heat which manages to seep in despite the air conditioning. Whatever. Our visitors (and the people to whom we graciously extend fan time) include Geralyn Dawson, Julie Garwood, her adorable friend Candy, writing collaborators Larissa Ione and Stephanie Tyler…and many others, all happy, friendly people who, despite sorta being “on duty,” actually seem to be having a good time.

I stand there chatting away, conscious of a case of the warm fuzzies forming. Maybe I belong after all…maybe I DO fit into the publishing world. After all, I finally sold something, didn’t I?

Or, maybe it’s just the wine…

Conference Badge

Today, boys and girls, let's take a tour of my conference badge, 'kay?

Reading from left to right on the top row: first we have the pin from NYC in 2003 (I lost the one from Denver 2002 precisely 5 minutes
after getting it). Next is Dallas 2004, then comes "Shining Bright" from Reno (that's the one that's not shining so brightly)...which brings us to row two.

First up is my PRO pin--which signifies that I submitted a manuscript and got rejected. Don't laugh. For some, it's a big step. Do you know how many people finish a book and are too frightened of failure to send their labor of love out into the world?

Next we're back to conference pins--that red one in the middle is from this year in Atlanta.

Then that hip chick with the flip is my RWA chapter pin--Chick Lit Writers of America. Next to her is Wile E. Coyote (or is it the Roadrunner??) from ACME, one of my crit groups.

Next you see my name and pen confusing is that? From now on, I'm just going with the pen name.

Finally..........YES...........FINALLY............THERE IT IS! MY FIRST SALE RIBBON!!!

Thanks Triskelion!