Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Out with the Old, In with the New (A Contest!)

So, it's 2008 and this is post number 200 on Jacqueline Barbour's Bodacious Blog. It is also, as it happens, the last.

But please, don't despair! (Yes, I'm sure you were on the verge of tears at the thought of no longer reading my ramblings, lol. Unfortunately, I'm not going to make it that easy for you to get away from me.)

You see, I've made an executive decision (and since I'm the executive of my writing career at this point, I'm the decider!) to use my Jackie Barbosa pen name exclusively going forward. At the time I contracted my first Jackie Barbosa book to Cobblestone Press, writing under two pen names appeared to make sense. But increasingly, the only manuscripts I'm working on are Jackie Barbosa books, and that's the name and the brand I want to build on going forward. (And I really must give special props to Maven Darcy Burke here for coming up with Barbosa for me. It still rocks!)

Plus, it's a lot less work! I've noticed the frequency with which I'm blogging has decreased exponentially in proportion to the number of different blogs I have to maintain.

Before the holidays, I mentioned that I would be holding a contest to celebrate my 200th post, and I still intend to do that. I also have another sale to celebrate, because two days after Christmas, Cobblestone contracted my latest novella, a contemporary first person called The Gospel of Love: According to Luke. This novella is scheduled for release in June, hopefully to be followed in quick succession by its sequels (bonus points to those who can guess the titles).

(You're all welcome to throw confetti, toot your blow-ticklers, and happy dance with me at this moment if you like!)

A final bit of news: I am scheduled to appear as an author-guest on The Spiced Tea Party blog tomorrow. I'm very excited about this opportunity and hope you'll come visit me there. But even more, I want to give you an incentive, so...here's how the contest will work:

1. Come visit me on Jackie Does Dish and post a comment on today's post (which will be virtually identical to this one!).

2. Come visit us at the Manuscript Mavens blog any day this week and post a comment on any of our posts. (We are blogging our writing tips, so it's a great week to drop by if you haven't before.)

3. Come visit me at The Spiced Tea Party and comment on my post there.

Anyone who manages to make comments in all three places between today and next Tuesday, January 15th, will be entered in a drawing to win one of the following three fabulous prize packages:

1. A $20 gift certificate to Amazon.com and a free copy of The Gospel of Love: According to Luke (which will be sent to you on release day, whenever that turns out to be).

2. A one-pound box of See's Candy (chocolate...yum!) and a free copy of According to Luke.

3. Any three of the following books (some are signed by the authors, some are not) and a free copy of According to Luke.

Now, how can you resist an offer like that? Go forth and comment. The winners will be announced next Tuesday on Jackie Does Dish.

And happy 2008 to everyone!

P.S. The Manuscript Mavens blog is a nominee in the Preditors and Editors Readers' Poll. We're hugely honored to have been nominated, but we'd love to win even more. So please, hop on over and vote!

Friday, December 21, 2007

All I Want for Christmas...

...is more time!

Time to write. Time to read. Time to blog and bloghop and promo my little heart out. But most especially, time to do nothing at all.

Pretty please?

Okay, since I can't have that, I'll just let y'all know that I'm over on the Mavens today blogging about Critique Partners as Crutches and I'll be there again the next two Fridays blogging about something, but this blog is going on vacation until the second week of January. I've just got way too much on my to-do list (and as if I didn't already have plenty to do, my Golden Heart entries for judging arrived today).

When I come back, however, be prepared for a rockin' good 2008 kick-off contest and par-tay. Because my next post will be my 200th, and if you don't think I'm going to be celebrating that, you've got another think coming!

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Two Hardest Words

And no, I don't mean "I'm sorry."

I just got back from our elementary school's "Winter Program" performance. Our oldest son is in the fifth grade, and they were the last group to perform. As they were singing Let There Be Peace on Earth, it suddenly hit me that this is the last time I'll ever see this particular child on this particular stage. And I admit it, I got the teeniest bit weepy. Because I see the end of a phase in his life--in our lives--approaching.

I've been thinking a lot about endings in the past couple of days because I am almost finished with the novella I started a couple of weeks ago. In fact, with any luck, I should be writing the words "The End" on it today.

Yesterday, when I realized how close I was to the end, I realized that this will be the first manuscript I've completed since January (when I wrote another, slightly shorter novella in about two weeks). And although I do have a vague recollection of having finished a (terrible) novel when I was in junior high or maybe high school, the only other manuscript I've ever written through to "The End" is now gracing the Magical Mulch Pile.

Read the rest of this post...

Friday, November 30, 2007

Writing Like a Fiend

No, not Unbridled. After my initial excitement at thinking I'd finally sorted out the major problems with it, I concluded I hadn't. In chat with another writer, I think I realized that the inherent issue with the book was always that the plot wanted to overshadow the romance, and everything I tried to do in pursuit of getting the romance to take precedence just added more plot. It was sort of a lose-lose proposition no matter how I went about it.

That said, I'm almost 5,000 words into a new short story (projected word count of 12.5K) that I started on a whim on Wednesday (yeah, this Wednesday). I didn't plan to start a new project--I have plenty of other existing WIPs to keep my company!--but when I got this idea, I decided I should at least jot down some notes so I wouldn't forget it later. But when I started the note-jotting, I got story instead. So I'm just going with the flow on this one.

No one's seen a word of this yet (well, that's not entirely true; another writer I do challenges with in chat has seen little chunks of it), but I have to say I'm super excited about it, perhaps in part because I think I'm going to be done with it by the middle of next week. I pitched the concept to Deanna at Cobblestone and she loves the idea (I think her exact words were "There's something dark and dirty about this concept. I love dark and dirty."), and since it's too short for print, I plan to send it to her when it's done and edited.

And, as is always the case with me, there are sequels...

And now I have to get back on it. Ta-ta for now, my friends!

Friday, November 23, 2007

When Your Characters Are Smarter than You Are...Listen!

Betcha thought I'd be so stuffed with turkey and trimmings today, I'd forget to post. No such luck :)!

As you know, I started working in earnest on revamping Unbridled last week. My goal was to have a revised version ready for submission to agents/editors by the end of March.

I rewrote the synopsis last week and started writing the new scene that I thought would mark the end of the partial. It was supposed to feature lots of sexual tension between the hero and heroine, plenty of angsty conflict, and end with a kiss. In the synopsis, it looked like the scene made perfect sense and would make an excellent turning point in the romance as well as the plot.

But when I sat down to write, Patrick and Rosalind flat-out refused to cooperate. Hard as I tried to tap into their feelings of frustration and jealousy and distrust, I couldn't. Because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't make them feel those things--yet.

After fighting with the scene for four days, I gave up. I was trying to force a square peg in a round hole for the sake of what I thought would make a good scene because it would have lots of conflict. But the characters just weren't there in their relationship yet, so even though I wrote the conflict, the emotion fell flat.

I felt pretty depressed about the whole thing all day yesterday (but not enough to spoil my appetite, LOL, and I'm lugging around a couple of extra pounds to prove it!). I couldn't see how to push the story and the romance forward without that scene. At the same time, I knew in my heart of hearts that it was the wrong scene for these characters at this point in their story. (And maybe ever. The truth is, my characters don't fight with each other nearly as much as they fight their inner demons.)

The Magical Mulch Pile(TM) was looking pretty good, but I thought maybe I should purloin a h/h scene from the original manuscript that I really liked and see if I couldn't find a way to use it at this point in the story. I did my cut and paste job, read through the scene, loved it just as much as I always had, but still wasn't sure how to make it fit.

Ten minutes ago, it hit me. I know what comes next. It changes parts of the story downstream (hello, synopsis...again!) but it's I think exactly what the story needs. Before, the heroine she was just waiting for the axe to fall. Now, she's getting her own axe. Plus, it's funny. Potentially very funny.

So, bottom line, I'm all excited again. Yay!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Bad Blogger

I know this post is a week overdue. Life just got away from me there, as it has a habit of doing from time to time.

So, what have I been up to? Mostly, not enough, however, I am now fully engaged in replotting Unbridled. I started out by trying to write a scene-by-scene storyboard using an Excel spreadsheet (I'm not a sticky note kinda girl). It looks like this:

I like the visual effect of the colors to indicate point of view, but ultimately concluded that I just couldn't see the story scene-by-scene yet, and so I decided yesterday to tackle a new version of the synopsis. I managed to crank out 1,750 words of what should be about a 2,250 word synopsis yesterday. Ultimately, I'd like to cut that down to fit within five pages at TNR 12, but it's mostly for my own edification at this point, so the length isn't that important. I'm pretty sure I see now how the story should end, so I should be able to hammer out the remainder of the synopsis today.)

From there, I plan to use the spreadsheet to map out the story 3-5 scenes at a time, write those scenes, then return to the spreadsheet to map out the next 3-5. I've realized that although I can see the broad outlines of the story, I can't necessarily see the next few scenes until I've written what comes before them.

So, that's what's happening in my world. Now for something completely different:

Monday, November 05, 2007

Free Stuff Alert

Jackie's running a contest to help her title a book. Go to her blog to play!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Creepy, Crawly Little Writer

Stephanie Rowe, multipublished author of the Rita-nominated He Loves Me, He Loves Me Hot, the newly released Sex and the Immortal Bad Boy, Must Love Dragons, and Date Me Baby, One More Time, is guesting today over at the Manuscript Mavens blog and, I have to confess, reading her daily page count goal put me pretty much to shame. She shoots for 12 pages per day, 7 days a week. She usually gets more like 18.

And she does it as the mother of a toddler!

My God, when I was the mother of a toddler (actually, I was sometimes the mother of multiple toddlers, but let's forget that whine for the moment), I could scarcely form coherent sentences half the time, much less coherent characters and plots. And I certainly couldn't have written anything sexy, since my idea of bliss at the time was climbing into bed and going to sleep! (Oh, my poor husband. Truly, I feel for him now!)

Even now that my kids are all in school six hours per day and I get an average of eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night, I still only manage to average about 2 pages per day, 5 days per week. Good Lord, at that pace, I'll finish my first full-length book about the time I'm eligible to collect Social Security (which is coming much faster than I'd like to think!).

True, that "average" over 5 days per week includes days when I don't write anything at all for one reason or another. I do have a full-time job, of course, I'm actively involved in my older son's Cub Scout Pack and my daughter's Brownie troop, I have a house to keep in a minimal state of cleanliness between the housekeeper's weekly visits, and I have a husband and kids who perversely want my attention (and also like it if I feed them regularly). So I have good excuses for my low page count.

But ultimately, they are just excuses. I should be able to write considerably more in the roughly two hours I have each weekday to devote to writing. There's no excuse for writing at the ridiculously slow pace of a page per hour!

As if to create a perfect storm of making me feel utterly inadequate, yesterday saw the beginning of NaNoWriMo. My friend and fellow Cobblestone author, Yolanda Sfetsos, is "playing" and in two days, she wrote over 10,000 words. (A couple of days before that, she finished a 15K word story in two days, picking it up from 1,500 words.)

How is this possible? Are these writers robots? Ultra-caffeinated word-producing ninjas? Inquiring minds want to know!

So, how about you? How many words/pages do you write per day on average? How much time do you devote to writing each day? Do you give yourself a daily goal (whether it's a specific page/word count or a scene count)? If you do, do you usually meet/exceed it, or fall short? (I confess to mostly falling short.) What techniques have you found for helping you meet your daily goal?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

All's Quiet on the Southern Front

Just a quick post to let everyone know that we are safe, never had to evacuate, and the threat has subsided. For the second time in four years, we've managed to dodge the wildfire bullet and we're incredibly grateful.

The kids will be out of school until the end of the week and the air outside is barely breathable. Although the winds dying down is good in one sense (it stops pushing the fire), it's bad in another (the smoke hangs around indefinitely).

Since everyone here is stir crazy, I'm planning a short-term evacuation to the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center today. One more day cooped up in this house might result in homicide, and I'm not entirely sure whether it would be infanticide, matricide, fratricide, or some combination thereof.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Closing In

To give you a sense of how close this fire is, here's the map from last night. We live just to the west of the road marked "Rancho San Diego" on this map.

And here's this morning's 360 degree view.

There's still no evacuation order for us and we're staying put until there is. I took pictures of every room in the house for insurance purposes, just in case. School is out until next week at the earliest.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

360 Degree View from Our House

I have to say that the blue skies right over us are almost eerie!

Due east

North--light haze is due to the Witch Creek fire

Due west
Due south--plume of smoke is Harris Fire

Fire Update

We have not yet been asked to evacuate, but the evacuation zone for the Harris fire now extends to an area about two miles to the south of us. The fire is supposedly moving south and west, but the evacuation zones keep spreading to the north, so we're not out of the woods.

My sister's family, our nephew's family, and some good friends of ours have all evacuated. My sister went to stay with a friend in a one-bedroom apartment (that should be fun!), our nephew is at my mother-in-law's, and we don't know where the friends are.

The primary issue at this point is that, should we have to get out, is that we don't really have anywhere to go that's a whole lot safer. My mother and my mother-in-law both live on the west (leading) edge of the Harris fire, which means they're right in its path. The hotel we partially own is full. And I do NOT want to camp out with thousands of people at Qualcomm Stadium.

I suggested to my husband that we could camp out with the air mattresses on the floor at his office. Not the most glamorous thing in the world, but I think it's probably better than an evacuation center.

Obviously, I have no idea what the next few hours will bring. Cross your fingers, wish me luck, and then get your mind off the whole thing by voting on Darcy's installment of the Manuscript Mavens' Choose Your Own Adventure game!

Sorry, no time to copy the trademark stuff on CYOA, so look at the post below!

Monday, October 22, 2007

My World's on Fire

San Diego County is burning. Big time.

For the moment, we seem to be reasonably safe. We're tucked in between the two big fires, one to the north of us and one to the south. With the current prevailing winds, both should skirt us as they blow to the west.

School has been cancelled for the day and it's too smoky to go outside. I'm stuck at home all day with three kids who are bound to be bouncing off the walls within a couple of hours. Lucky me...

From now until Halloween, the Manuscript Mavens are putting on a Halloween-themed Choose Your Own Adventure® story, where You The Reader get to vote on what happens next, and a different author will continue the story each day based on your feedback. The Mavens are giving away tons of prizes to commenters, including autographed books. Definitely bookmark it!
Choose Your Own Adventure is a trademark of Chooseco LLC, Waitsfield, Vermont. Check them out at www.cyoa.com. The trademark has been used by permission herein. Thanks, CYOA!

Friday, October 19, 2007

The "Will I Ever Finish?" Blues

It has been a great week in Romancelandia, with my friends Tessa Dare and Carrie Ryan both making their first sales (Tessa at auction, Carrie in a pre-empt). I am so far beyond thrilled for them!

Aside from the fact that I know Tessa and Carrie, I have to say, it's always encouraging to see writers make their first sale. It proves it can be done, no matter how daunting the odds may appear. I can't help thinking, "Hey, that could be me!"

But then, I remember something frightening. Something depressing. The first step is up to me.

I have to finish something I feel is worthy of submitting to agents and editors. It means not just writing a book until I read "The End," but revising and polishing that book after the thrill of completing the first draft has long since worn off. Given that I've always had a problem maintaining enough enthusiasm for a story to get to "The End" the first time, the whole notion that I have to keep working on it even after that point is difficult to stomach.

The reason I've been thinking a lot about this is:

  1. I want to sell a book, damn it (preferably more than one, actually)!

  2. To that end, I've decided to tackle my full-scale reworking of Unbridled beginning in November. (Why am I waiting until November, you ask? Because Jackie's got to finish her novella first!)
I have some ideas for making this task a little less painful (starting with a Excel spreadsheet version of Maven Erica's storyboarding technique; I don't do paper!). I have to throw out some parts of the story, but many existing scenes will probably stay. The first thing I need to do is identify what stays, what goes, what replaces what goes, and what plot points, scene goals, and backstory/motivation needs to be added or removed. Hopefully, if I have a good game plan before I start (instead of just pantsing my way through the entire enterprise, which is pretty much what I did the first time!), I can be the New England Patriots of revision (without the sneaky sideline cameras, of course).

On the other hand, I worry that I won't be able to maintain my enthusiasm for revising a book that, to a large extent, feels like it should already be done.

To that end, I'm asking you all for your tips and tricks to sticking to a manuscript once you get into revision mode. I know some writers LOVE revising. If you do, tell me why you love it. Maybe that's my problem: I just don't see the attraction but it's really been lurking there all along. Or, if you're like me and allergic to revising, tell me how you keep from breaking out in hives while you do it.

Because we all have to do it, right? Nobody writes a perfect book in the first draft. (And if you did, you are not allowed to tell me so :)!)


Just opened my LA Times to find an op-ed piece by Rob Long that begins with the following paragraph:

As a professional writer, I've always been pretty good at not writing. Not writing, in fact, is one of my chief skills. I can not write anywhere -- on a plane, in a coffee shop, in my office -- and I often feel that a day spent without not writing is a day wasted. I even keep a notebook by the side of the bed, in case I wake up with an idea at 3 in the morning and don't want to write it down in case I don't forget it.

One more choice excerpt:

When I think of writing, that's pretty much what comes to mind: sitting around, drinking a pumpkin latte and checking my e-mail every seven seconds.
OMG, this is me, this is me! (Okay, less the pumpkin latte. I like my coffee unleaded, thanks!) But ahhhhhh, I'm not aloooooone...

For the rest of the article, click here.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Reminder

Today's Jackie's day. And while she didn't have anything very exciting to say, she did have some fun linkage to post :).

Friday, October 12, 2007

Odds and Ends

Didja notice I changed the template? Didja, huh?

Emma Petersen did some fabulous work for me earlier this week, redesigning my website and prettying up the graphics for Jackie Barbosa's site. Since I'm kind of an idiot when it comes to the Blogger template, I'm waiting for Emma to have the time to mesh this blog with my main website so they all look the same, but in the meantime, I decided the black template "matched" the new website better than the old one. If you haven't already seen the new websites, go have a peek and let me know what you think. (I personally think they're both gorgeous and I've been blowing Emma kisses of gratitude all week.)

In other news, you should really go check out Gerri Russell's post on the Manuscript Mavens blog today. It's chock full of fabulous tips for getting the most emotional bang for your buck in your book. Now, if only I were as good at implementing advice as I am at reading it!

This weekend is our last family camping trip until spring. Much as I enjoy actually camping, I despise getting ready and would gladly pay almost any amount of money to be able to contract the task out to a third party. Anyone interested?

Monday, October 08, 2007

My Favorite Meme

So, my friend and CP, Emma Petersen, has tagged me again on the eight random facts meme. Since I'm not a fan of randomness and I had the devil of a time coming up with eight things the last time I got hit with this one, I thought I'd do something a little different.

So, my eight facts will be eight of my favorite non-romance novels, in the order I thought of them (not at all the order in which I read them).
  1. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich
    Lyrical, dreamy, and delicious.
  2. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
    A punster's wet dream.
  3. Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis
    The first (and best) of the Marcus Didius Falco mysteries set in second century AD Rome.
  4. I, Claudius by Robert Graves
    Brilliant, timeless historical fiction.
  5. Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart
    Bizarre yet oddly believable and unimaginably clever.
  6. Holes by Louis Sachar
    A tour de force of interwoven plot lines and rich characterizations.
  7. Anything by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
    I know this is cheating, but I can't possibly limit myself to Slaughterhouse Five or Breakfast of Champions or Sirens of Titans or...
  8. Pompeii by Richard Harris
    You are there! No, I swear, it really is like you're there!

Okay, that's my eight. Of course, this isn't even close to a comprehensive list, but it's a pretty good start.

The meme also calls for me to tag eight other people, but since almost everyone I know online has been tagged recently on this one, I'm going to leave it to anyone who wants to do the eight random facts meme to do it on their blog and then leave a comment for me letting me know you did so I can come read it.

Also, in a quick bit of news, Jackie Barbosa launched her own blog today. She needed a place to push her books under her own name :). She'll be posting on Mondays beginning next week, while I'll be posting here on Fridays and at the Mavens on Tuesdays. We've decided we're taking the remainder of the week (Wednesday and Thursdays) off to write!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Golden Heart Eligibility Update

Just a quick post to let y'all know that I finally got a definitive answer from RWA regarding my eligility (or lack thereof) for the Golden Heart. Unfortunately, I've been asked not to share the exact nature of the answer I received.

What I am at liberty to share, however, is that if you are uncertain as to whether your published book qualifies as a "novella" under the rules or have any other reason to wonder whether or not you are eligible, you should email contests@rwanational.org.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled Friday madness.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

We Had Joy, We Had Fun, We Had Caesar in the Sun

I am sad to report that, a little over a half an hour ago, I found our elderly cat, Caesar, dead on the back patio. I was not especially surprised, and in fact, I'd been checking on him about every hour since we got up this morning because I was concerned that he was going downhill fast. He didn't look well yesterday at all, but seemed better this morning. Still, he didn't eat much for breakfast, so...

All in all, I'll confess to being selfishly glad he died of natural causes at home, lying in the sun in his own backyard. I dreaded reaching the day we'd have to put him in a box and take him to the vet to be euthanized while he cried in the car. That would have been much more traumatic for all of us, I think.

He was a lovely, wonderful cat. Always friendly and loving. And he had a long, happy life. For that, I will be eternally grateful.

Caesar, b. May 1990, d. October 2007
May he rest in love, peace, and harmony


I wasn't planning to enter the Golden Heart this year. I simply don't have any manuscripts that are in contest-ready format all the way through to the end. But I did think I might want to enter next year if I hadn't sold anything significant enough to achieve PAN status by that time.

It turns out, however, that I shall be forever heartless. Cobblestone Press has received recognition from RWA as a non-Vanity/non-Subsidy publisher (yay!) and, although I haven't earned the $1,000 minimum required for PAN eligibility, for purposes of the Golden Heart, I am now considered a published author.

I have to admit to feeling a bit dumbstruck by this. Because Cobblestone wasn't a recognized publisher at the time I submitted Carnally Ever After and because the story was well under novel length (and even shorter than a standard novella), it simply didn't occur to me that I would be giving up my eligibility to ever enter the Golden Heart by selling it. I'm not sure I wouldn't have sold it even if I'd known, but I certainly factored maintaining my "unpublished" status into the equation when I made that decision.

And for most chapter contests, I'm still clearly eligible as an unpublished author. The rules for most of these contests either clearly specify that you must not be published in "novel-length" (which means 40,000 words and up) or that you must not be PAN eligible. On both counts, I still qualify.

But the Golden Heart eligibility rules for published/unpublished are much less generous:
The Golden Heart contest is open to writers who have not accepted a publishing offer from a non-Subsidy, non-Vanity Publisher for a novel or novella by the contest entry deadline. Entrant must retain all rights to the entry and not have granted any of them to a publisher or any other party by the contest entry deadline.

Now, it's still not 100% clear to me that I'm ineligible because I'm not sure what word count constitutes the line between a novella and a short story. A publisher author of short stories is apparently considered unpublished. So if Carnally Ever After is considered a short story by virtue of being under 20,000 words (which is often the word-count I see associated with novellas), then even if I were to earn $1,000 from it, I believe I'd still be eligible for the Golden Heart. (I did email RWA for clarification. I haven't heard back yet.)

Monday, October 01, 2007

It Was the Worst of Times, It Was the Best of Times

Warning: This story has nothing to do with writing. Unless you consider the fact that I'm writing it, of course!

This is a tale of three kitties.

Target and Hunter are siblings and are probably about a year old. I don't know exactly how old they are because they were strays given to us as very tiny kittens last November. I think they were roughly four to five weeks old when we got them, so working backwards from when they came to us, they'll be a year old sometime this month.

The third cat, Caesar, is seventeen and a half and fading pretty fast. His hind legs are arthritic and can hardly support him. Though he eats well, he is very bony. He has a constant runny nose. We know the day we'll have to put him to sleep is coming soon, but we keep nursing him along because he still seems to get some enjoyments out of life and doesn't appear to be in pain.

(This backstory/infodump is all going to become important. Trust me!)

Friday night, I came home from a function at my kids' school around 8:30. It was dark, but as I pulled into the driveway, I could see Caesar sitting off to one side and Target and Hunter on the other. Caesar stood up and began ambling, slowly, toward the car, but I figured he was smart enough (after seventeen years!) not to get to close. I stopped at the bottom of the drive and got out to open the garage door.

As soon as I exited my minivan, I heard a cat wailing in pain and/or fear. I looked around the other side of the car and discovered to my utter horror that my poor Caesar's had in fact gotten too close and one of his hind legs was trapped beneath the rear wheel. I rushed back into the driver's seat and rolled the wheel off his leg, thinking to myself that NOW I was surely going to have to take him to have him put down because I must have crushed his leg beyond repair.

I got back out and ran around to pick him up, only to discover that he had gotten up and walked away! The leg that had been trapped beneath the car was gimpier than before, but not apparently much worse for wear. I picked him up and felt the bones, figuring he'd howl in pain if it were broken, but he didn't protest. I put him back down and opened the garage door. He walked in, looking for his dinner.

I couldn't believe it, but of course, I was incredibly relieved.

I pulled the van into the garage and called for Target and Hunter to come in. (We always bring the cats in at night because we have lost multiple cats over the years to the coyotes in our neighborhood.) They wouldn't come and I knew why. They'd been frightened by Caesar's howling. I tried several more times before we went to bed, but we ultimately decided there was no choice but to leave them out for the night and hope for the best.

But on Saturday morning, only Hunter showed up for breakfast. We were worried, but not overly concerned until we noticed parts of a half-eaten animal carcass in the lawn. At first, I thought it was a rabbit and figured Hunter and Target had killed and eaten it (since they've been known to do that), but when Target still hadn't turned up by late morning, my husband looked a little closer at the remaining fur.

"It looks like tabby, doesn't it?" he asked me.

I had to agree, it did.

"And look at these feet. They have claws like a cat."

I had to agree, they did.

And so, we figured, that was that. The coyotes had gotten Target in the night. I had the unenviable task of picking up my oldest son from his best friend's house, where he'd spent the night, and explaining how I had essentially killed his cat. He cried and cried when I told him.

It was shaping up to be the worst day of my life.

Later in the afternoon, I came across a dose of tapeworm medication and, knowing Caesar was infested with them and they were probably adding ot his overall decline, I decided to give him the medication. He took it readily enough, but around 4pm, he didn't look very well and was panting as though he were in pain.

My son started crying. "He's suffering, Mom. We should take him and have him put to sleep right now."

I could only shake my head. How could we lose two cats in one day? I just didn't think we could handle it, emotionally.

Cooler heads prevailed and Caesar started doing better once we moved him out of the sun and got him some water. We theorize that the medication had probably started to work and was giving him a bit of an upset stomach, but that it passed quickly. By the time we were getting ready to leave for dinner at my mother-in-law's house, Caesar was eating his dinner and looking as well as we've seen him in a while.

One bullet dodged.

My son went to bring Hunter in for the night while his friend headed out the front door to walk home. A few seconds later, the friend came back in with a cat in his arms and a very puzzled look on his face.

"Doesn't this look like Target?" he asked.

I looked at the cat. "That's because it IS Target!"

We all crowded around, scarcely able to believe it. Somehow, that rotten cat had managed to stay out of sight ALL DAY LONG! We now assume that the dead animal in the lawn was, as I originally believed, a rabbit and that the cats killed and ate it during the night. It was quite a large rabbit, so it's likely Target simply wasn't hungry enough to be bothered to come in when called for breakfast. (Maybe he was too full to get up!)

And so, after all the worry and fear, we still have three cats!

To top off the "best of times" part of the weekend, I learned that Darcy received second place in the Maggies in the Historical category and India received Honorable Mention. Way to go, ladies!

Also, Carnally Ever After got a pretty nice review from Fallen Angel Reviews. Check it out!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Jesus Saves; Jacqueline Apparently Does Not

Warning: Do not read this post if you are easily offended by religious humor. While I think this joke is perfectly inoffensive (not to mention very funny), you may feel differently.

So, in my other life, I work for a software development company. Which means I work with a lot of programmers. And that's how I came to hear this joke years ago, one I admit having retold many times because I love it so much.

Jesus challenged Satan to an 8-hour programming contest. Whoever had written the best code at the end of that time would be the winner, with God serving as the judge.

Both Jesus and the devil programmed furiously for hours with God keeping an eye out for cheating. Just as the allotted time was coming to a close, the power went out.

"Well, that's it," said God. "I hereby declare Jesus as the winner."

"But how can you know?" Satan protested. "You never read his code!"

God just smiled. "Ah, but you see, Jesus saves."

I recalled this joke yesterday when I came home from work, opened my work-in-progress, and discovered it to be missing two whole scenes! Nearly 2,000 words, vanished!

Now, I'm sure I saved many times during the writing of those scenes and when I finished them and closed the file. But there was no getting around it--the file had been resaved without those scenes, though I have no idea how. (I suspect either children or gremlins.) I was able to get one scene back because I'd sent it out in email to my CPs, but the second, which wasn't quite completed, is gone forever.


I suppose losing portions of files is an occupational hazard for the modern writer. Even if you save religiously, things can go awry. Crashes and power outages aside, I'm sure all of us have probably made the mistake of saving the wrong version of a file, deleting a file we intended to keep, and so forth. Nobody's perfect (except maybe Jesus).

But I do pine for a piece of software my boss had on his Mac years ago. It was called Ghostwriter and it created a file of every single keystroke he typed that was saved constantly. And while it was usually filled a garbled mess of text, he never lost anything important. He could always go back to that file and reconstruct whatever he had written throughout the course of the day.

What about you? Ever accidentally deleted or saved over a scene you'd just written (and worse, loved)? Tell me your horror stories so we can commiserate.

P.S. Let's all cross our fingers for Maggie finalists Darcy Burke and India Carolina, who are in Atlanta for the Moonlight and Magnolias conference. I hope they're having a rousing good time. Woot, woot!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Getting Back on Track...and Derailed Again.

After my dismal failure at being a full-time writer last week, I started this week armed with your suggestions (thanks!), a positive attitude and a healthy dose of determination. And it seemed to work. Since Monday, I've managed to write about 2,500 words, which for me borders on light speed.

Unfortunately, I also got called into the office today to observe/teach a class, which promises to derail me for the rest of the week. I would try to write during lunch and breaks but, er, I'm in the middle of something pretty sexy and I'm just not sure I want to risk my coworkers or company clients looking over my shoulder. So, I'm afraid there won't be any new scenes today, though I might get a break tomorrow afternoon if I'm lucky.

In other news, I took a long, deep breath and decided to run the new opening of Unbridled through the Emily and at least one other contest. Some of you may remember I'd started on a fairly significant re-engineering of the story a while back on the heels of some rather worrying contest feedback, but then ran out of steam and set the project aside to let things percolate (or fester, as the case may be). The old version of the opening then went on to final with excellent scores in the Put Your Heart in a Book contest (final rankings out late next week), which of course made me wonder whether I was reinventing the wheel for new good reason.

But, I've since reread both versions and decided I really prefer the new one (and love the hook I wrote to go with it, which I can't say about the old version of the story), but feel like I need some good feedback/comments on it from people who don't have familiaritis (as all the Mavens and a lot of my other writing friends do!) with the manuscript to see what's working and what isn't.

So, what are you up to this week? (Those of you who haven't heard Ann Aguirre's great news should pop over to her blog to check it out and congratulate with her. She rocks!)

P.S. Did you watch House last night? Did you miss Foreman, Cameron, and Chase? Should Dr. Cuddy be wearing dresses like that if she expects to be treated like a professsional? Discuss!

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Perverse Power of "Supposed To"

After the insanity that was my work life for the first two weeks of September, I took this week off with the express intention of writing at least one scene per day each day. With no paying work to be done, the kids in school, and my only other obligation being to catch up on the housecleaning I've been letting slide for ages, it should have been easy.

But did I accomplish my goal? Um, no! Sadly, I haven't even managed to finish ONE scene this week (though today's not over yet, so there's still hope :->). Eek!

Yesterday, whilst chatting with my IM bud and fellow Cobblestone author Emma Petersen, I had an epiphany. Part of the reason I am having trouble writing is because it's what I'm supposed to be doing.

You see, when what I'm supposed to be doing is my paying work, I find it terribly easy to avoid it by writing. But when what I'm supposed to be doing is writing...hmmm, it just became work. And so, what do I do? Avoid it! (You do not want to know how much daytime TV I've watched this week. SCARY! And, er, I've actually vacuumed and cleaned the bathrooms TWICE! Something is definitely very, very wrong with this picture.)

For a long time, I've pined for the day I can give up the day gig and write full-time. But after this week, I'm not so sure. If the only thing I was supposed to do, day in and day out, was writing, would I do it? Or would I spend all my time putting it off in favor of something else, even something as plainly unpleasant as cleaning the bathroom or watching endless reruns of Law & Order: SVU?

Obviously, I haven't got the answer for this conundrum. But perhaps you do! Do share!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Playing Catch Up

Well, after almost two weeks away from the blog, I hardly know where to begin. Some of you may already have heard most of "news" on the Mavens blog, so bear with me if this is all old hat to you.

First, the final results of the OVRWA's Summer Sizzle contest were announced a couple of weeks ago. Darcy's Glorious finished first in the Spicy category and Carnally Ever After finished first in the Sexy category. It was really exciting and gratifying to share my first contest win with Darcy!

The editor who judged the Sexy category (Teresa Stevens at Red Sage Publishing) also requested a full manuscript, but since I sold it to Cobblestone shortly after entering the contest, I can't rightly send it to her. I am hoping to send her another project with a "leg up", though.

Also very exciting, Carnally Ever After debuted at #2 on Cobblestone's bestseller list for the month of August. A big thank you to all my readers for making that possible!

Last, but not least, please give Erica Ridley a warm round of applause. She was a triple finalist (in three categories) in the TARA contest. The final results came in last week, and she finished with two seconds, a first, and a request for a full. Awesome work!

I'll be back on Wednesday with a more substantial post, but until then, I'm catching my breath (and cleaning the house!).

What have you all been up to while I was gone?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Sorry to be AWOL

Just wanted to let you know that the blog will be dark until the week after next. My company's conference is next week and I'm knee-deep in preparation madness this week. Next week, I'll actually be at the conference all day.

Take care and I'll see you in mid-September!

Monday, August 27, 2007

What's on Tap This Week

I'm busy blogging, but not so much here!

I'll be posting at Romantic Inks today through Wednesday as my alter ego, Jackie Barbosa. And tomorrow, I'll have my regular post at the Manuscript Mavens. This week's topic will be ebook promotion--which I'm still getting a handle on!

Since I'm leaving for a family camping trip this coming Friday afternoon, I'll probably wind up skipping Friday as well, but I do expect we'll have something fun for you at the Mavens' site, so stay tuned over there!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Getting with the Program

Warning: This post is not writing-related. Those who want crafty, witty writing advice had best hie on over to the Manuscript Mavens.

Back in the 20th century BC (Before Children, not Before Christ), I was in pretty good physical condition. In high school and on through college, grad school, and the early years of my marriage, I swam. A lot. Competitively in high school, then mostly for fun and fitness.

But AC (you got that one, right?), I pretty much fell off the wagon. Oh, I tried to get back into the habit of swimming on a regular basis, but my life just didn't seem to allow for it. I tried other forms of exercise (biking, walking, etc.), but I'll admit that I simply don't like any of those activities enough to do them religiously.

This week, however, with the kids back in school and the weather very warm, I've managed to carve out a half an hour or so to jump in the backyard pool and do some laps. And it feel fabulous. I'm still very out of shape (I managed a mere 300 yards yesterday and 400 today), but I'm hoping it doesn't take me too long to get a fair amount of my former mojo back. I used to swim 1,500-2,000 yards 3-4 days a week, but I don't expect to get up to those kind of distances in my 10-yards-per-lap pool--I'd get dizzy first. Not to mention that the unheated pool is going to get a bit too chilly to keep up swimming much past mid-October. So, I'm expecting to have to buck up for a YMCA or gym club membership so I can keep swimming through the winter, but I am determined to do it.

So, what's your program goal this week?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Bonus Post

Darcy's already outed my good news in the comments on the post down below, but in case you haven't read them, go on over to the Manuscript Mavens and check it out!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Sending My Baby out into the World

And no, I'm not talking about my book this time, but my youngest son, who today started kindergarten.

Oddly enough, I didn't feel particularly sentimental when I sent my older two children to school for the first time. This time, I do. It's probably because I know this is the last time I'll have a child starting kindergarten. And I know this is just one more in a long string of lasts.

With my oldest, everything was (and still is) a first. Firsts are fun and exciting (and occasionally terrifying). With the middle child, all the major milestones are more like a second chance to get right what we did wrong the first time. But with the youngest, all the milestones are just last times. And lasts are...well...still exciting, but a little sad. The nostalgia sets in pretty much right away with lasts!

I suppose it's fitting, then, that this last coincides, more or less, with a first. I didn't know what to expect when it came to being published for the first time and it's been all the things a first usually is: exciting, fun, and a little terrifying. Happily, everyone who's read it so far and been thoughtful enough to post here or send me an email has apparently liked the story (yay!) and I haven't gotten any "Oh my God, this is the worst thing I ever read!" messages, so I'm feeling quite pleased. I'm sure someone will eventually find fault with it, but in the meantime, I'm enjoying the ride.

So, what do you feel more sentimental about: firsts or lasts? Have any exciting milestones, personal or professional, to report? Do tell!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Release Day Par-TAY!

It's official. Carnally Ever After is available for sale at Cobblestone Press! Just click the picture below to be redirected!

For more "insider" information about the book, check out my posts today at:

And please, enjoy!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Better Late Than Never and...Wet Again!

Busy day today, but at last I have a few minutes to post.

First, thanks to everyone for the encouragement and suggestions of "things to do" over the past couple of days. I really appreciate them. And while I think the only one I actually took in any way was Isabel's (although I didn't watch a movie, but watched several episodes of The Closer instead--God, I love Brenda Leigh Johnson!), they were all good ones and none of them were housework, thank heavens!

But the happy thing is, I've written about 2,000 words in the past three days. I realized I was forcing a project I'm not really ready to do, and that's what was making me miserable. Setting it aside in favor of something else (even something that wasn't really talking to me beforehand) brought the voices back. So, yeah, it means I'm not going to be getting my requested partial out any time soon, but better to not send it at all then send something that isn't ready for prime time because I'm not ready to write it yet.

Those of you who are looking forward to the release of Carnally Ever After in two days (and if you are, I thank you profusely!) may be pleased to know that the project I decided to pick up is the sequel, Carnally Yours (retitled because Kelly Krysten got the title of CEA wrong in a comment once and I loved the "wrong" title for the first book far more than the original title for the second one). I'm about 4,000 words into what I think will wind up being about a 20,000 word story and having fun with it, which is the whole point to this writing thing (for me, anyway).

Finally, if you want a laugh, you need to swing by Sara Lindsey's blog and then go hang out some more at Brotherhood 2.0. OMG, those guys slay me.

P.S. Unbridled in Your Pants