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 :)!)

Update:

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

Heartless

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.

/Weeps

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

Monday, August 13, 2007

Dry Spell

Rather than attempt to explain my current predicament, I'm going to ask you all for your tips and tricks. What do you do when you experience a writing dry spell?

I don't want to call it writer's block--that would imply that I want to write but can't. My problem is more global than that. I just don't feel a compelling need to write. Which, given that I've scarcely been able to keep my fingers off the keyboard for more than year is more than a little alarming.

The voices seem to have gone on vacation. What do I do with myself until they come back?

P.S. Please don't say housework!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Apologies and Shameless Promotion

I know, I know. I didn't post on Wednesday. I have a good reason, though--I had a very nasty summer cold that laid me low for a couple of days with a 100+ degree fever, aches, and chills. Who can blog in that condition? Well, maybe you can, but I can't.

Now, onto shameless promotion. Carnally Ever After will be released by Cobblestone Press next Friday. Just in case you haven't already decided to buy it, here are the top ten reasons you should:

10. No trees were harmed in the making of this book. (Seriously. To my knowledge, there's never been a printed copy of this manuscript.)
9. It has a great title.
8. It has a gorgeous cover.
7. The heroine is not a perfect size six beauty.
6. The hero wants her anyway. A lot.
5. And he's hot, too.
4. The cucumber scene.
3. The love scenes.
2. Because you know you want to.
1. Because I asked. Pretty please?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Brand New Day

And a brand new laptop!

Maybe this isn't big news to you, but it's big to me. Over the weekend, my husband and I agreed it was time to buy me my own, personal laptop.

For years, I've been doing everything on my company-issued laptop--everything from "real" work to writing to blogging to upkeep of my iPod. Over the past few months, however, the company has been tightening security policy (and for good reason, I might add!). The rules keep getting stricter, so that now, every time I even plug in a Flash drive that's not issued by the company (to say nothing of my iPod), I'm busting the security policy.

As if that weren't worrisome enough, however, I got an email last week telling me that my laptop is one of the 100 oldest computers in the company and they generously want to give me a new one. My immediate response? NOOOOOOOOOOO!

See, my computer is my brain. And not just my work brain, but my personal life brain. It's not just my manuscript files and so forth that I fear losing: it's everything from my email address book to last year's taxes to photos to... Well, you get it.

So, knowing the company was going to take away both my work brain and my personal brain in one fell swoop AND that I didn't want to keep breaking company rules just to make my life easier, it became real apparent that the time had come to get a new computer, and on Saturday, we did the deed.

I'm still in the process of moving stuff from the old work laptop to this one, and some things don't seem to want to come over (if anyone has a brilliant suggestion for making the Windows Mail import manager see my old Outlook 6 DBX files, let me know. It's driving me bonkers!), but by and large, it's going pretty smoothly.

And at long last, my work life and my private life can be decoupled!

So, what did YOU do this weekend for fun?

UPDATED: Bad, Jackie, bad! I forgot one very important super-squee for my critique partner, Darcy, whose manuscript Glorious is a finalist in the very prestigious 2007 Maggie Contest (Georgia Romance Writers). Yay, Darcy!

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Official Release Date...

...for Jackie Barbosa's Carnally Ever After is August 17! Cobblestone's website still says the release date is TBA, but I have it on good authority that it will actually be out two weeks from today.

I'm really excited and, yes, a little nervous about this release. It's a little like getting undressed in front of a new boyfriend you really, really like for the first time. (And since I've been with my husband for almost 19 years, I have to say that a) I haven't sufficient recent experience with this situation to be certain it's the correct metaphor and b) I would probably be even more nervous about that than I think I would be!)

To read an excerpt that will give you flavor for the story, click here. (If it doesn't work now, try again in a couple of hours. The files are in the process of being uploaded to the site and may not be there just yet!) And enjoy!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Just Call Me Calamity Jacq!

I'm not usually motivated to post about disasters, but this is different.

You see, my husband just called me to tell me about this bridge collapse in Minneapolis: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20079534/?GT1=10252. You may recall that I was in Minneapolis (or at least in St. Paul and the surrounding areas) just last month.

Obviously, it's freaky when weird stuff happens in places you've been recently, but what makes this doubly freaky is that two weeks ago, this happened in Dallas where, yes, I had been only a week or so before.

Coincidence, I ask you? I don't know, but if I were you, I think I'd hope I wasn't visiting my home town any time soon!

Mission Accomplished!

I finished the rewrite of Chapter One a day earlier than I hoped and am preparing to dive into Chapter Two. Since I am much too busy to write a scintillatingly interesting post about writing, I'll give you some writing instead.

Here's the new first page of Unbridled:
Berkshire, England – March 1839

Lady Rosalind Brighton’s first thought on seeing the man who awaited her in the drawing room was that she would marry him in a trice. The second, equally absurd, was that he’d forgot the flowers.

“I am sorry to have kept you waiting, sir,” Rosalind said from just inside the doorway. “I was on my rounds when you arrived.”

His head turned at the sound of her voice—breathier and more apologetic than she’d intended—and his eyes widened a fraction beneath black, slanted brows. As she crossed the gold Aubusson carpet, one of the few remnants of her estate’s former opulence she had not yet been forced to sell, he rose from the white and blue damask settee.

“So said your housekeeper, my lady.”

By some miracle, she neither stumbled nor gawked despite her surprise. He was Irish. Though muted, his Gaelic lilt was unmistakable. The low, vibrant tenor rolled across her skin like a sandpapery caress.

Other facts crowded her senses in rapid succession. His face and hands were tanned. His dark, wavy hair grazed the top of his white cravat, unevenly cut and a trifle too long for fashion. And though she’d thought him tall, at closer range, she realized he was not exceptionally so, but only seemed that way due to the broadness of his shoulders and trimness of his waist, both accentuated by the strained fit of his black wool coat.

Not another gentlemanly suitor, then, but a common working man in his Sunday best.

Except that there was nothing remotely common about him.

So, are you hooked?

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bad Blogger!

No, not the software, me! I missed Friday and almost missed today.

But the truth is, for the moment, I have nothing interesting to tell you. I'm slogging my way through the first chapter of Unbridled, using some old stuff, adding lots of new stuff. My progress is slow but reasonably steady and I'm hoping with a little luck and lot of stamina to have the new first chapter completed by Wednesday. I'm hoping things will come easier after that (famous last words).

So, what are you up to this week?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

And the Winner Is...

Obviously Unbridled, by a full body length.

Which is a good thing, because I have to admit, it's my favorite of the bunch, too. Not to say I disliked any of the others, but I feel like Unbridled has the most punch from a standpoint of being both unique and hitting on multiple story aspects simultaneously. (This is a hot romance--or I like to think so, anyway--so the double entendre works pretty well.)

So, Bill and Tessa now get to duke it out over the prize. However, since Tessa went to National and may very well have a signed copy of the book in question (or so many signed copies of books in general as to be utterly out of additional shelf space), I'll offer it to Bill first. Bill, email me at jacqueline at jacquelinebarbour.com to claim your prize!

And thanks to everyone who participated. This was tons of fun! Or it was for me, anyway!

P.S. Maybe we can rewrite the first chapter by vote, too?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Name That Book, Part 2

I know I said I'd post this Friday, but, well, life happens.

I've narrowed down the list to the ten I think would work best (in alphabetical order) and now it's your turn to vote. Looks like Isabel, Maggie, Kelly, Tessa, Bill, and Bev are in the running for the prize. (There's one in there that I have to attribute to both Tessa and Bill, since Tessa suggested Unbridled Passion and Bill suggest Unbridled Filly. But I cut it down to one word. So if that one wins, I reckon we'll have to flip a coin for the prize.)

  1. A Tantalizing Offer
  2. Lady of Scandal
  3. Passion's Prize
  4. Reins of Desire
  5. Scandal's Offer
  6. Sensual Surrender
  7. Sin's Reward
  8. The Greatest Prize
  9. The Bridal Path
  10. Unbridled
All right, vote away. You can vote by number or the actual name. (And I'm only counting one vote per customer, so stuffing the ballot box won't help ya!)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Name That Book!

As I mentioned on Monday, I have been struggling forever with finding a good title for my first manuscript. It began life with the title Living in Sin, but the feedback I got from contests and other sources was that it was both misleading and a little cliched. After a lot of discussion with the Mavens, I retitled it A Scandalous Liaison earlier this year, but even though I liked the idea behind it, I wasn't sure it completely described my book, and when I pitched it to Elaine Spencer of the Knight Agency at National, the first words out of her mouth were, "Well, it is a little cliche."

/Sigh

So, since National, I've reworked the hero and heroine's underlying motivations and pieces of the story a bit and written a new hook for the book which I hope is sexier and catchier than what I had before. Here it is:
After a disastrous near-marriage to the man who took her virginity but wanted only her fortune, Lady Rosalind Brighton has sworn off men, money, and matrimony. She plans to secure her future by managing her thoroughbred breeding estate. Unfortunately, Society doesn’t approve of a woman running such a business and the former estate manager has absconded with most of her operating capital. Rosalind could gain access to her dowry by wedding one of the impoverished lordlings who regularly pop up on her doorstep, but she prays for a miracle instead.

Her miracle comes in the form of England’s most renowned—and most dashing—racehorse trainer. Determined to uncover a scheme to run horses under false pedigrees, Patrick O’Brien makes Lady Rosalind a tantalizing offer: he’ll lend her his credibility and training skills in exchange for complete control over her horses and half the profits. His plan progresses splendidly but for one complication—the passion that simmers beneath the surface of his every encounter with the delectable Lady Rosalind.

After weeks of smoldering glances and increasingly intimate caresses, Lady Rosalind makes a tantalizing offer of her own: she’ll take him as her lover for the duration of their contract. But Patrick’s an old hand at such indiscretions and he won’t be another aristocratic lady’s plaything. He’ll have Rosalind as his wife or not at all. So begins a battle of wits and sensual temptation, with surrender the greatest prize.
So, now it's your turn. What title would you give this book? What would make you pick it up off a bookstore shelf and turn it over to read the back cover copy? Help! Remember, there's a signed copy of Barbara Pierce's Wicked Under the Covers in it for the poster with the best entry!

Monday, July 16, 2007

What a Ride!

I'm back from Dallas and, wow, what a ride! I had the most incredible time. I also didn't sleep much, which accounts for why I'm still a wreck today.

I got two requests from my pitches, which was nice, though I have to say the best thing about pitching was discovering it's not nearly as intimidating to do when the person sitting there is someone who's sole purpose for being there is to listen to your pitch. It was, oddly, way harder to do it in a hotel room for the Mavens and Courtney, India, Sara, and Tessa (with whom we had a "pitch giggle-fest" on Friday night).

The most useful workshop I attended was presented by Leah Hultenshmidt of Dorchester and an author, whose name I have shamefully forgotten. It was about how you can use title and premise to hook an agent, editor, or reader before they've even read a page. I've always known I have a title problem with A Scandalous Liaison/Living in Sin/Whatever the Heck It's Called and I know I need to fix that before I start actively cold-querying it. To that end, I'll be running a contest later in the week asking for title suggestions. Whoever's suggestion I use (or build upon) will receive an autographed copy of Barbara Pierce's Wicked Under the Covers. But before I can start, I think I need to post you all a short synopsis/hook, because it's awfully hard to come up with the right name for a book you haven't read and know nothing about. (I came up with a slew of great book titles immediately after leaving the session. Too bad I couldn't simultaneously come up with the stories to go along with them!)

For more about my fun, fun times at the conference, hop on over to the Manuscript Mavens blog, where I have a much longer (though by no means complete) post up (today's not usually mine, but Erica and I swapped).

See you Wednesday!

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Vacation Report

Yes, I know I'm a few days late. As always seems to happen, it took me longer to right the ship after getting home than I expected. It's amazing how much work a house that's been empty for ten days requires to become livable again!

So, for those who asked, we had a fabulous time in Minnesota. Honestly, I think this was the best vacation my kids ever had in their lives. They went fishing, trap-shooting, and spear-throwing. (Well, the oldest did the trap-shooting and spear-throwing; the younger ones watched.) They saw wildlife galore: deer, a fox, a family of bald eagles, beavers. And they had an entire day at the amusement park in the world-famous Mall of America. Life was good. They're already talking about going back next summer.

The only drawbacks to the entire trip were the mosquito bites (mine are still itching!) and the fact that I didn't write for ten days. The not writing for ten days was particularly horrible because now I'm gearing up to leave for Dallas and the RWA National Conference on Wednesday afternoon, which means not much writing since I've gotten back, either. Instead, I'm thinking about what to wear and whether I should actually pitch A Scandalous Liaison or not, and whether my business cards stand any chance of arriving before I leave.

In view of this lunacy, I leave you now with a few pictures from lovely, mosquito-infested Minnesota.

My aunt and uncle's farmhouse



The boat and the lake



Out on the lake



The BIG one (12")



The triumphant fisherfolk return!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

On Vacation

The blog and I will both be on vacation until July 6th. I'm in Minnesota with my husband and kids, staying with my aunt and uncle at their beautiful old lakefront farmhouse. Wonderfully relaxing and regenerating, which I find I'm needing to gear up for National.

So, see you all next Friday. In the meantime, feel free to post a comment and let us know what you're doing with your summer.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Manuscript Mavens Launch Party Jamboree

Over on the Manuscript Mavens blog today, we're having our official launch party today. The 100th commenter on our collective post will receive a critique on the chapter of her (or his!) choice up to 20 pages from all four mavens.

But if you think you might be too faint of heart for a multi-Maven crit, never fear. There's more. We're also giving away three one-Maven critiques to three random commenters who also post to their blogs about the contest and link to us. Go forth and pimp, my friends!

Speaking of pimping, my first post is scheduled for next Tuesday, and I plan to talk about book and self-promotion. Since I'll be on a plane to Minnesota for a family vacation by the time the post goes up, I won't be able to answer your questions in comments until after I return, but I promise not to ignore you. I'll do a follow-up post in July (right before we all leave for National!) to answer 'em.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Your Editor Is Your Best Friend

Lacey has a great blog post up today about crits, both giving and receiving. Her musings inspired me to write a little about taking criticism once you've actually sold your book and have an editor critiquing your work.

Now, Cobblestone has a policy of doing three edit rounds on all their publications. Which, if you ask me, is great. I don't want my story to be published with some totally goofball error in it that could have easily been corrected if it had been properly corrected. And I've only just finished the first round of edits on Carnally Ever After, so my experience with the whole process is (so far) fairly limited.

Now, you have to understand that I'd been warned by both Ericka Scott and Deanna Lee that at least one author has compared Cobblestone's editing process to an anal probe. (Aside: I wonder how many weird hits that's going to produce from Google searches?) So I was more than a trifle anxious about what I was going to find when I got my first round of edits. What would my editor find wrong with my story? What if she wanted me to change major plot points or characterization? What if she wanted me to add or remove scenes? Worst of all, what if she hated it?

You'd think the fact that Cobblestone wanted the book in the first place would be enough to give me confidence in my abilities as a writer and in my story's charm and wonderfulness, but somehow, the thought of putting myself in the hands of yet another critiquer turned my knees to jelly.

When the file showed up in my inbox on Saturday night, I studiously ignored it. I just wasn't ready to burst the bubble of happiness I'd been floating on since I sold the story with whatever I was going to find in red inside that document. I told myself I'd wait until Monday and then tackle it like it was my job, not my heart.

Which was really not the brightest idea I've ever had. Because instead of sleeping Saturday night, I tossed and turned and worried over what was in that file. (Have I ever mentioned that I am a terrible control freak and an inveterate worrier? I can drive myself insane over the stupidest little things. I once tossed and turned all night because I forgot to put a bill in the mail the previous day. And it wasn't even due yet. Talk about stupid!)

But I digress. (Isn't that what blogs are for?)

So, bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, I got up on Sunday morning and opened the email. To my pleased surprise, the cover letter said my editor thought Carnally Ever After was a great story (with an exclamation point, no less) and that she found one scene in particular worthy of an ROFL.

Hmmmm, that didn't sound too bad.

Cautiously optimistic, I opened the attached file. And yes, it was covered in red marks. Clauses and sentences reorganized. Phrases added or deleted. And the occasional story or word use question (e.g., "Why does the hero think that?" "What's a fall?"). But by and large, the changes my editor suggested were line edits for clarity that I almost universally agreed with. There were a few things I quibbled over or suggested revising in a different way and I also took the opportunity to make a few changes she didn't suggest. Still, nothing scary or terrible. Certainly nothing I could equate to an anal probe, LOL! (The Mavens are way harder on me. But then, maybe that's why there weren't many issues!)

I sent the file back to her early Monday and haven't seen the second round of edits yet. Which means I know the harder edit may be yet to come. Maybe she just wanted to get the small stuff out of the way in the first go-round and address the larger issues in a later edit. All of which means I'm still a little nervous about round two.

All of that said, I know my editor is my best friend when it comes to putting out a story I'll be proud of when it goes to print. So even if the next round of crits is more...well, critical, I hope I can be "big" enough to take them as they're intended--as helpful suggestions to make my book better. Because once she's done with it, there's no going back and fixing the problems. Every little error will be out there for the world to see (and complain about)!

The moral of this little story is that, no matter how hard it is to accept criticism of your work, you're never really finished receiving it. First, you get it from critique partners or contest judges. Then, if you're lucky enough to sell it, you get it from your editor. And finally, you'll get it from your readers, some of whom will probably not luuuuuurve your story as much as you know it deserves to be loved. But that's another blog :->!

Today's question: Have you ever been afraid to look at a critique? Ever get one that was especially good or especially bad? Don't be afraid to share!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Manuscript Mavens Speak!

If you have a few extra minutes in your blog rounds, please stop by http://www.manuscriptmavens.com to read the very first post in the new Manuscript Mavens blog. It's going to be loads of fun over there, what with Darcy, Erica, Lacey and one very special Mystery Maven contributing tons of insights and tips and encouragement on writing and writer writer life. I hope you'll join us.

On Friday, we'll launch a "very special contest." Please come play!

Monday, June 18, 2007

I Won the Cover Art Lottery!

Today would have been my father's 77th birthday if he were still alive. And since yesterday was Father's Day, I was going to write a very touching post about how much I miss my dad, who's probably the only person in my immediate family who would have really gotten my writing obsession. (My sister seems to have gotten over it, although she's only 36, so there's time for it to come back and bite her after she turns 40 like it did me!)

Buuuut, over the weekend, I got the cover art from Cobblestone for Carnally Ever After and it's sooooo gorgeous, I decided I had to share that instead.


Sable Grey did this and I think it's just beautiful. I feel so fortunate to have gotten something I absolutely love on the first try. Totally amazing!

For those of you who love it as much as I do, she also sent a desktop version of the file that I'll post on the Jackie Barbosa site for download (as soon as I figure out how to do that in html, LOL!).

Friday, June 15, 2007

School's Out for Summer

But not forever.

And I can't decide whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.

You see, every time summer break rolls around, I vacillate between whether I'm sorry school's over or glad.

The pros of school are pretty obvious:
  1. The kids are out of the house for almost six hours every weekday, which gives me plenty of time to work and write without interruption.
  2. It's public school, so it's effectively six hours of free children-out-of-my hair time.

But list of cons, to me, seems much longer:

  1. Homework. (They start giving homework around here in kindergarten. Wait, no, in preschool. It's madness.)
  2. The school's schedule runs our lives. Everything, from the time we get out of bed in the morning to the time we go to bed at night, is driven by when the children must either arrive at or be picked up from school. (Have I mentioned before that I hate schedules?)
  3. Homework.
  4. There is always just enough time after school for the kids to fight with each other and or whine about being bored, but never enough time to do anything really fun or meaningful.
  5. Homework.

So, at least for now, there's no homework and the schedule is nice and loose, just the way I like it. The downside is that I have three kids here to pester me pretty much all day, every day.

And, today, they're all sitting around moping because there's no one to play with but each other. Everyone seems either to have gone away on vacation already or to be busy today.

Will I be happy or sad when school starts again in August? Probably a little of both, just like I am now.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

When Contest Feedback Is Actually Useful

The Mavens (Darcy, Erica, Lacey, and Janice--naughty Janice has no website!) like to tease me about the fact that I rarely read my contest feedback beyond a quick glance at my scoresheets. There are a number of reasons for my reticence to read the comments closely. Primarily, it's that by the time I get the scoresheets back from the contest, I've already revised the portion of the manuscript I submitted so drastically that the comments probably wouldn't be helpful anyway.

But also, I'm always a little afraid to see what these strangers really think of my writing. I don't want my spirit crushed.

And now I know you're laughing, because thus far, my entries have been finalists in 3 of 4 contests. "How can your spirit be crushed by feedback on a FINALING entry, for Pete's sake?" you're asking. (I know final is not a verb in standard English. But it should be, darn it. Like medal in the Olympics.) "What a wimp you are!"

Um, guilty as charged.

The thing that's odd is that I can take blunt, even harsh, criticism from my critique partners and be okay with it. But I think that's because 1) I know and trust them and 2) if I don't agree, I can argue with them. (I'm sure they'll all pipe in and tell you how much I luuuuuurve to argue, LOL.)

By contrast, in contests, I get feedback primarily from strangers (the exception being the editor/agent who judges the final round, but I haven't always gotten feedback from that person beyond a placement) whose credentials I don't really know, but worse, I can't talk to them about it if I don't understand the criticism or to help me figure out how to correct the problem.

Aside: One of the Mavens just got her scoresheets from a contest she didn't final in, and though she was pleased overall with what she got from them, some of the feedback was just...um...wrong and bizarre! I wanted to go find the judges and ask them to justify their ridiculously low scores on some items. (See, I told you I love to argue!)

So why do I keep entering contests, you ask? Well, first of all, I've been entering a lot these past few months because the "official" query season is closed and won't open again until September. (I hear most agents pretty well take the summer off.) This means contests are one of the few ways I have of getting my work into an editor or agent's hands quickly right now. And since I do seem to have a pretty good hit ratio when it comes to finaling, I figure it's not a bad strategy.

But also, of late, I haven't been raping my manuscripts quite as much between contest entries as in the past. In particular, I entered Lady Libertine's first ten pages in the Wisconsin Fab Five and then didn't change a word of those pages in the intervening months. The entry went onto the finals, much to my excitement, since in large part, I'd entered it to find out how judges would react to the story's rather unconventional heroine.

During the same week I received my offer from Cobblestone on Carnally Ever After, I learned that the manuscript wound up placing third overall in the historical category. Fortunately, I was so excited over having a manuscript accepted for publication, I didn't have too much time to be disappointed by the fact that, once again, I was unable to crack the third spot, even with a different book.

Well, last weekend, the scoresheets came in the mail, and after trembling and angsting over reading them, I opened them and had a look. And wow, the feedback was meaningful. Most of the comments were positive, even from the editor who placed it third and passed on requesting the partial (boo :->).

The maximum possible score for this contest was 60. Lady Libertine received one 60, a 59, and a 58 in the first round, all from judges who are published authors (although only one is published by RWA standards). The lowest score came from the RWA published judge, but she said in the comments that she absolutely loved the story and hoped it would be published so she could read the rest. Best of all, everyone who read the entry loved Amelia, the heroine. And that, my friends, was very encouraging because I've really wondered whether I can sell a heroine who's had multiple lovers and enjoyed it in the historical market. Judith Ivory's Sleeping Beauty notwithstanding, it's pretty difficult to find unrepentant sluts in historical romances.

But the other useful thing I got out of their comments was that the final round editor and two of the three judges weren't quite happy with the pace of the first scene. It wasn't that they didn't like the scene or think it started in the wrong place, but rather that it took a bit too long to develop and felt stilted.

At first, I didn't quite get this complaint. After all, when I first wrote the scene, all the Mavens oohed and aahed over how fast-paced and conflict-filled it was (even though it's just a conversation in an office; I do seem to like to start books in offices :->). Then, one of the comments finally sunk in. One of the judges said I had too much stage direction in the scene. Reading it again, she was right. The stage direction distracted from the conversation I was trying to highlight. In addition, I realized there was about a page of dialogue that wasn't contributing anything to the plot. So, I tweaked the scene just a bit, and I'm pleased to say I think it reads better.

Guess we'll find out soon enough, because I'm entering it in the Emerald City Opener!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Web Site Updates

So, while I'm migrating the Jacqueline Barbour site from its old server (which required me to have ads at the top of the page) to the new one (which doesn't), you might as well go and have a peek at the new Jackie Barbosa site, which I'm happy to say is up and running (thanks to Erica, who is a website guru extraordinaire in addition to being one hell of a writer).

Monday, June 11, 2007

Sorry I Missed You!

Today turned out to be a little crazier than I expected.

First, my oldest son ended up home sick with a stomach bug that just will not quit. (No vomiting, but lots of discomfort and unhappiness.)

I was SUPPOSED to go into the office for an interview with a prospective employee and a training class, but ended up having to do both by phone. (Very disorienting.)

And finally, I was the last of the Mavens to get to a partial that's supposed to go out to an agent (requested) tomorrow. So I HAD to get through that.

Blogging sort of slipped to the bottom of the list. But it's good to be busy. I think!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Thank You!

This has been a completely crazy week in every way (mostly in a good way!), so I haven't time for a proper post this afternoon, I'm afraid.

But I wanted to say thank you again to everyone who's dropped by with congratulations on my sale to Cobblestone. Yesterday, I finished all my initial homework from them and last night, I received notice of my editor assignment. It's all happening so quickly, my head is spinning.

Before I sign off for the weekend, though, I want to say a special hello to Janice, the so-called "Silent Maven," who is a sometime member of our Manuscript Mavens critique group. In addition to coming out of lurkdom to post a comment here, Janice has also been informed that she's the first place finisher in a very prestigious contest. I won't spill all the beans until the announcement has been made "for real," but I'm just so pleased for her.

I also want to wave to Clisby, a friend of mine from my Usenet parenting group days. Thanks for stopping by, Clisby, and yeah, swing by more often, will ya :->?

Happy weekend, ya'll!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Thirteen Things I Did on My Birthday

Obviously, one thing I did not do on my birthday (yesterday) was my usual Wednesday blog post. Because of that, in lieu of Lyric Thursday, I'm going to do a Thursday Thirteen this week. Here goes!
  1. Finally took cats to the vet to be neutered. Cats were not happy. Ever tried putting a cat in a carrier with his legs splayed out to the side? Very interesting.

  2. Redesigned my website. I love the new look and, better still, it matches the business cards I ordered for National. How slick is that? Now I just have to get it moved over to another server so I can lose the auto ads at the top of the page!

  3. Worked on the design for the Jackie Barbosa website. I love the look of this one, too, but I'm not quite ready to launch it yet. Check out the banner graphic:


  4. Angsted over writing 12-word and 25-word loglines for Carnally Ever After. (Have I mentioned how much I suck at loglines? Oh, yeah, I have!)

  5. Angsted over writing 50-word hook and 50-word synopsis for Carnally Ever After.

  6. Picked up minivan from the dealer, where it had been for two days to have the rack replaced. (Scary to realize I was driving around with a bad rack for a month or more.)

  7. Discovered cats have tapeworms. Ick!

  8. Picked up cats from vet. Cats not happy. Much hissing and meowing and clawing of cat carriers ensued on the way home.

  9. Belatedly realized daughter's vague stomach complaints over the past few weeks could be due to tapeworm infestation. Double ick!

  10. Went out to dinner with my family at our favorite beach restaurant.

  11. Watched my kids play in the surf while I froze my butt off after dinner. (Kids are nuts!)

  12. Came home and watched my Padres beat the hated Dodgers (ahhhhhh!) while Trevor Hoffman got his 500th save. Sa-weet!

  13. Went to bed and the rest, I'm afraid, is TMI for this blog!

Monday, June 04, 2007

It's a Done Deal!

I just signed and sent off my very first contract with a publisher. And now I'm ready to squeal like a demented pig about it :->!

Some of you may remember that I wrote a short novella (a little under 15,000 words), titled Carnally Ever After, back in January/February of this year. It was originally intended for the Ellora's Cave Naughty Nuptials series (and I have to thank Annie Dean for having given me the idea to write it in the first place!). Ellora's Cave turned it down, however, leaving me with a story I thought was pretty darned good, but didn't know what to do with. I toyed with trying to expand it to true novella length (say, 30K words), but ultimately decided it wasn't worth the effort. The story really felt complete to me as it was written, and I couldn't imagine what I could add that would improve it. So, I sent it to Harlequin's Spice Brief's line back in April, but decided not to send it anywhere else until I heard anything.

But after two months, I got antsy. To make a long story short, I decided to send the manuscript to Cobblestone Press, which I knew has a line for manuscripts of exactly this length. I'd heard good things about Cobblestone from various people and had good experiences with stories I've bought there (Ericka Scott's Crystal Clear, for example).

I clicked send on the submission early last Thursday morning and sat back to wait the 45-60 days for a response. I'm sure you can imagine how I felt when I got a response from Deanna Lee less than 8 hours later. Especially when I opened it and realized it wasn't because there was a problem with the file or the format was all wrong or anything like that, but an almost-offer. Change one small thing and we'll make you a contract offer.

I was gobsmacked. I looked at the manuscript and saw that only about three sentences were affected. I made the change and sent the revised version back to Deanna that evening. By Friday night, I had a contract in my inbox.

Of course, I didn't want to look too easy, so I read the contract carefully over the weekend and did a little homework, contacting some of the authors I know who publish with Cobblestone to pick their brains about their experiences. (Thanks to Ericka, Sara Dennis, and Cora Zane, who all offered incredibly helpful insights!)

In the middle of writing this blog, I got a phone call from Deanna and we chatted for quite a while. Turns out she's hoping to have Carnally Ever After released in August (how's that for light speed?), she already has a cover artist in mind for me, and she's assigning me to an editor. Whee!

Because I want to keep the Jacqueline Barbour name for my full-length historicals (which I hope will someday make it to print!), we agreed I'll be using a different pen name for my Cobblestone release (and hopefully releases; I do have a few more ideas!). At Darcy's suggestion, I've settled on Jackie Barbosa (a little pirate-y and very fun, I think). Among the many other things I'll have to do leading up to the release is to set up a new website in that name. (But I'm only going to blog here! Well, and at the Manuscript Mavens when we get that up and running. Soon!)

Oh, did I mention my birthday is Wednesday? This is easily the best birthday present I've ever gotten. A few days early, but who am I to quibble?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Derailed

So, both Lyric Thursday and my writing goals got derailed yesterday by some very unexpected and potentially squee-worthy news. I promise to dish as soon as I'm confident I can! Meanwhile, just know that I'm pretty thrilled.

I am also hella busy today. I've got a bunch of family-related errands to run today and I also don't want to miss my quota today like I did yesterday. Hence, this is a very short post.

Thanks to everyone who shared "creativity-related" family histories with me. It was fascinating!

Until Monday, my friends...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Maybe It's Just in My DNA

I have observed before that the need to write is a strange compulsion, one that is almost impossible to explain to anyone who doesn't suffer from the same affliction. Despite the 80% or so of Americans who seem to think they could write a book, few seem to want to do so badly enough to bother. Those of us who do bother are...well...not normal.

Even if you aren't like me and don't feel compelled to do it, even if you don't turn into a complete monster bitch if you can't find the time for it, if you are actually writing a book, you are different from most of the people you know in your real life.

But while I was growing up, I didn't feel particularly different because I wanted to write the stories that careened like drunken butterflies in my head. Because, you see, I think my need to write might just be genetic.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned on the blog that my father, who passed away in the summer of 1998, was a writer. Primarily, he wrote articles for many auto racing magazines. He often joked he was a freelance writer with the emphasis on "free." But after he retired from the Border Patrol, where he was an anti-smuggling agent, he sat down and wrote two novels based on his experiences. Two wonderful novels which, as yet, remain unpublished. One of these days, I hope to get them out in the world. And he always said that he didn't write because he wanted to, but because he HAD to.

Like me, my younger sister wrote stories (in her case, mostly fantasy/science fiction stuff) from about the moment she could construct a sentence on paper. In my immediate family, the only person who didn't display this trait was my mother, but although she didn't write fiction, she read it voraciously (and still does!).

So, growing up in a household where 3/4s of the members suffered from the same "disease," I never felt particularly odd. I sort of assumed everyone told themselves stories in bed at night to put themselves to sleep and often found themselves preoccupied by snippets of dialogue between the imaginary people who lived in their heads. I probably didn't grasp the "unusualness" of my condition until I was in high school.

It wasn't until I was in high school or college that I learned the writing compulsion goes back a good deal farther in my family than I'd previously thought, and that I had it coming to me from both sides.

Turns out that my mother's father, a minister turned Psychology professor who died in 1958, years before my birth, also wrote a novel. (Among other things, I found the announcement of his marriage to my grandmother when I googled his name. It's here.) His novel was a mystery. And he didn't quite get to the end of it. I read the manuscript when I was in my late teens, I think, and I thought I figured out how the detective had determined "whodunit" and could've written the ending, but I don't think I'd ever have mastered his voice, so I didn't try.

And my father's grandfather was also a writer, though of non-fiction. He wrote non-fiction articles for Field and Stream magazine back in the early part of the 20th century, many of which were illustrated by my famous artist great uncle, Francis Lee Jaques. (I didn't get the artist gene apparently, drat it all. When my first son was born, I dreaded the first time he asked me to draw something for him. I was right to worry!)

Now, I'm sure most writers don't have ancestors who were writers. I just find it fascinating that there's such a strong thread of writing in my family. Arguably, I write because I patterned it from my father (except that I wrote fiction long before he ever did), but I doubt he patterned it from his grandfather (his father and grandfather were somewhat estranged) and I couldn't have patterned anything from my maternal grandfather, either, since he died before I was born.

So, maybe there is something in the genes.

What about you? Why do you think you write? Do you have any writers in your family tree? And do you think your desire/need to write was learned or is innate?