Wednesday, February 28, 2007

What I Do when I Can't Write

Thanks (or no thanks) to Annie, I have discovered a new massive time sucker. It's the Random Dr. Phil Quote Generator. Here are some of the gems it spit out for me:
  • You don't need the weight of the world on your shoulders to find your inner moron.
  • You don't need to make a big fuss to cha-cha-cha all night long.
  • You don't need Eminem to make out with somebody's platypus.
  • You don't need a bad credit rating to slap a cop.
  • You don't need a lesson in astrophysics to shave a weasel.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

External Writer's Block

So this week, I am suffering from writer's block. No, not the kind where the words and stories won't come. I'm talking about life actively preventing me from writing. You see, I'm teaching a class at my office all week. And that sucks up ALL my writing time. I get maybe an hour at lunch if I'm very lucky.

Needless to say, it's driving me nuts!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride!

I have a confession to make. I withheld some writing-related information from you this week. See, I had to sit with it a while before I blogged about it. Or, more accurately, I had to throw myself a little pity party. And now that the world's smallest fiddle has finished playing the world's saddest song, I'm ready to talk about it!

So, remember that CONNections Contest sponsored by the Connecticut RWA chapter that I entered an eon ago and finaled in a half-eon ago? (I'd link all that stuff up, but there's nothing new on their website, so I won't bother!) Well, on Wednesday, I heard the results. Living in Sin placed third.


I know, I know. I should be happy that I finaled. I should be thrilled that I placed. That I should have done so not once, but twice, should have made me ecstatic.

But the truth is, I was none of those things. I was disappointed. More than a little. And disheartened. More than a little. Because, you see, I'd done quite a bit of work on the manuscript between that contest entry and the Golden Rose entry (where it also finished third) and, I'll be honest, I hoped to do better this time around. I didn't have my heart set on winning or anything, but second place would have been awfully nice! Not to mention it would have validated the changes I made.

Yes, a second place or better finish would have said, this manuscript is getting closer. It's good. It's almost there.

Instead, what I felt I got was, Sorry, this really isn't ready for prime time and never will be. Go back to the drawing board.

I have to admit, I had a real crisis of faith in this manuscript.

So, what's the first thing I did? Well, of course, I cried on my critique partners' shoulders. All of whom basically told me to quit my caterwaulin' and suck it up. (In the nicest way possible, of course. Erica, in particular, gave a fabulous pep talk.)

And now that it's had a few days to sink in, I know this isn't remotely as awful as it seemed at first blush.

We are, after all, talking about two editors and two houses. Hardly the entire romance novel publishing industry by any stretch of the imagination. So two of them didn't think it was the best manuscript in the competition and beg me for a full. There's more fish in the sea. (Not a lot lot more fish, but more than two for sure!)

And there's no accounting for personal taste. For whatever reason, these two editors liked other manuscripts in the competition better than mine. So what? That doesn't mean there isn't an editor or agent somewhere in the big wide world who's going to love my story and want to buy it (or sell it, as the case may be).

But, I'm also willing to entertain the possibility that the doomsday message I felt I read in those contest results that first day is the right one. Maybe I won't ever be able to sell Living in Sin. Hey, it's my first book. (Well, not counting all the horribly atrocious ones I wrote as a teenager. I don't have to count those, do I?) Most published authors didn't sell their first books, after all. Those who did often admit to having written the first book from scratch several times.

What published authors didn't do was give up on writing or trying to get publish what they wrote. And I have no intention of giving up on writing (as if I could--I'm an addict, peeps!) or on trying to publish what I write (because as much as I'm addicted to writing, I'm addicted to trying to share what I write with the world). There may come a day when I decide my first book is just never going to sell and I have to put it on the shelf. I'm okay with that. I'm nowhere near that point. I know that. But it's nice to be able to acknowledge this fact and be comfortable with it.

And I am.

Mostly :->!

(Oh, and ya'll should read Lacey's blog today while you're at it!)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Lyric Thursday--Language

The lyrics to this song arrest me every time I hear or read them. As a writer, I live and die by words. I assume they mean what I meant and say what I said. But many times, I find the meaning I thought I was conveying with a particular word or phrase doesn't get across at all. And then I think of this song!

by Suzanne Vega, copyright 1987

If language were liquid
It would be rushing in
Instead here we are
In a silence more eloquent
Than any word could ever be

These words are too solid
They don't move fast enough
To catch the blur in the brain
That flies by and is gone

I'd like to meet you
In a timeless, placeless place
Somewhere out of context
And beyond all consequences

Let's go back to the building
(Words are too solid)
On Little West Twelfth
It is not far away
(They don't move fast enough)
And the river is there
And the sun and the spaces
Are all laying low
(To catch the blur in the brain)
And we'll sit in the silence
(That flies by and is)
That comes rushing in and is

I won't use words again
They don't mean what I meant
They don't say what I said
They're just the crust of the meaning
With realms underneath
Never touched
Never stirred
Never even moved through

If language were liquid
It would be rushing in
Instead here we are
In a silence more eloquent
Than any word could ever be
And is gone
And is gone

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Odd Things

So, last Friday, Annie posted a "6-10 odd things about me" tag thing that's been making the blog rounds and kindly (I think) tagged me. Now, I admit, I had to think quite a while to come up with even ONE odd thing about me and I'm still not sure how weird ANY of these things is, but hey, I'm nothing if not game. (Plus, I'm always pleased when a blog topic presents itself without much independent thought on my part *g!)

I was only able to come up with six things, though, probably proving I am not remotely odd.

1. When I was ten years old, my testimony in a court case regarding a traffic ticket was the deciding factor in the dismissal of the charges. At least, according to my father. I think he was right. See, I noticed that the map of the intersection where the incident occured had been posted upside down and no one else did. That convinced the judge I was observant and my testimony was trustworthy.

2. I sneeze when my hair is pulled. I always have to warn my hairstylists.

3. I was fired from my first adult job as a Girl Scout camp counselor because I made a group of campers stand in the bathroom for several minutes as punishment for not closing the toilet lids to trap the smell as our group's rules required. (It was incredibly stupid of me, but hey, I was all of 18! Like I knew shit. Well, okay, I knew the smell of it.)

4. I fell and broke my nose while backpacking in the Sierra Nevada with my husband and had to be helicoptered out.

5. I have never seen (nor do I ever want to see) Titanic, never watched Survivor or American Idol, and don't know the names of any of the characters from Friends, though I have seen bits and pieces of episodes of the show in rerun.

6. As the result of a severe asthma attack, I was in cardiac arrest for around five minutes in July of 2003. I was, of course, revived. I consequently refer to July 7 as Resurrection Day.

And since it was Lacey who kindly reminded me I had to do this, I tag her next. Along with anyone else who thinks it might be fun!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Happy Presidents' Day!

Since it's a holiday, no big post from me. But come back tomorrow, as I'll do my Monday post then!

I'm off the IMAX theater with the husband and kiddies on a rainy day that's not even fit for fish, I swear!

Friday, February 16, 2007

A Real Quickie

Today is Friday, which is always crazy day around here because my kids have after school activities they must be ferried to and from. But it is extra crazy today because 1) my oldest son has an extra appointment, this one the dentist and 2) it's my husband's birthday, which means I have to take the kids to my mother in law's and drop them off so hubby and I can have a nice, romantic dinner and movie.

And somewhere in there, I need to get my husband a birthday present (especially after he unexpectedly brought me a present on Valentine's Day, which we normally don't celebrate!). He dropped the hint last night that he'd like his own iPod because the stuff on the speakers in the office is more like people randomly banging pots and pans and hollering than anything that resembles music.

I'm probably not going to get a chance to write today (or, indeed, until next Tuesday, because the weekend is packed). I mean, I might find time to whack out a few sentences or even a couple of paragraphs, but anything other than that is pie in the sky.

And I hate it when I don't get a decent chunk of writing time for days at a stretch. I begin to lose touch with my characters, with my story, and my passion for it. I don't need to write a lot, but if I don't write at least four manuscript formatted pages each day, I definitely start to feel like a slacker.

So, what about you? Do you have to write every day or do you just write whenever you have the time and/or feel like it? Do you have a target number of pages/words or do you just write as much as comes out and then walk away, no matter how much or how little it was? Inquiring minds want to know!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Lyric Thursday--The Last Chance Texaco

I mentioned back in December that my husband gave me a 30 GB iPod for Christmas. And I have to admit, it's incredible. Not because I never listened to music before (I did, and a lot), but CDs tend to fall to the back of the pile as new ones come into the house and then inertia takes over and I stop listening to the older ones. But ripping to them to iPod has meant I listen now to songs I've always loved but haven't heard in years.

But in addition to music, I'm in love with words. And rediscovering some of these gems in my CD collection has made me want to share them. So starting today and until I run out of great musical poetry to share, I'm going to post the lyrics to one of my favorite songs (mostly lesser known ones) every Thursday. Hopefully, I'm not busting anyone's copyright by doing so, but I'd like to think the artists would appreciate this rather than hate it. I'd share the music files, too, except, darn it, I know that's naughty!

As you might have guessed from the title of the post, the first installment is a song called The Last Chance Texaco, by Rickie Lee Jones. It's from her first, self-titled album, famous mostly for the hit Chuck E's in Love. I love the lyrics to this song because they're such a wonderful poetic (and double-entrendre filled) twist on the language of car mechanics and transportation. I wish I could share the music and her singing with the words, because they're an integral part of the package. But if you've never heard the song before and you like the lyrics, I hope you'll consider finding a copy for yourself!

The Last Chance Texaco
by Rickie Lee Jones, copyright 1979

A long stretch of headlights
Bends into I-9
Tiptoe into truck stops
And sleepy diesel eyes
Volcanoes rumble in the taxi
And glow in the dark
Camels in the driver's seat
A slow, easy mark

But you ran out of gas
Down the road a piece
Then the battery went dead
And now the cable won't reach...

It's your last chance
To check under the hood
Last chance
She ain't soundin' too good,
Your last chance
To trust the man with the star
You've found the last chance Texaco

Well, he tried to be Standard
He tried to be Mobil
He tried living in a World
And in a Shell

There was this block-busted blonde
And he loved her - free parts and labor
But she broke down and died
And she threw all the rods that he gave her

Ah but this one ain't fuel-injected
Her plug is disconnected
She gets scared and she stalls
She just needs a man, that's all

It's her last chance
Her timing's all wrong
Her last chance
She can't idle this long
Her last chance
Turn her over and go
Pullin' out of the last chance Texaco
The last chance

There's another Rickie Lee Jones song from her second album, Flying Cowboys, called Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying on the iPod right now and it's fabulous, too. Damn, this woman is a lyrical and musical genius!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sex, Love, and a New Wardrobe

Probably because I've decided to put myself in the business of writing love stories with explicit and (I hope!) steamy sex scenes, I find the results of studies like this one more than a trifle disturbing. (In case you didn't feel like clicking the link, this study found that the average woman would be willing to give up sex for 15 months in exchange for a new wardrobe. I won't bore you with the other details; that about sums it up.)

First and maybe foremost, I'm disturbed because I hate the idea that women are such shallow consumerists, they would rather have new clothes than share a physical expression of love with their partners. It's so...materialistic. So...I don't know...American!

I will be the first to admit I am something of a clothes horse. My husband often doesn't know I've bought new items of clothes because I have so many already, if he sees something he doesn't remember, he's just as likely to think he's suffering from wardrobe amnesia as that it's a new item. So I like clothes. A lot! It's just that I wouldn't dream of giving up sex for them, any more than I'd dream of giving up food or shelter for them.

Perhaps my knee-jerk "no way" response to the question is driven by the fact that I'm married and very contentedly so. There were periods before I was married when I probably abstained from sex for 15 months at a stretch and, because I wasn't involved with anyone, I didn't particularly miss it. (I also didn't get a new wardrobe in exchange, more's the pity!) I gotta have the emotional connection to find sex satisfying. But if I have the emotional connection, giving up sex for any length of time would be to starve myself (not to mention my partner) every bit as much as if I were to stop eating. And that was true even when I was pregnant or breastfeeding and my libido was in the tank due to a combination of mommy hormones and lack of sleep. I wasn't necessarily hot to trot most of the time in those days, but even then, I wouldn't have been willing to abstain for more than a year!

But the second reason it disturbs me is because I think it's such a sad commentary on how unfulfilling sex must be for so many women. I mean, really, if 60% or so of women are willing to give up sex for 15 months or more, whatever they get in exchange, it's got to be in large part because they don't find sex as satisfying, either physically or emotionally, as (say) chocolate. (How much would you like to bet that the results would be the same if they'd asked women how long they'd give up chocolate for a new wardrobe?) And wow, that's such a bummer!

Now, back to the romance novel.

I've always enjoyed reading good love scenes because they put me into the characters' physical and emotional reactions to one another so well. I can easily translate my experiences to theirs and thoroughly immerse myself in their relationship. A love scene is a huge "show" for me when it comes to feeling that the hero and heroine are truly in love with one another, even if they don't realize it themselves yet. (It doesn't hurt that a good love scene can also stoke the homefires a bit! I joked when I first saw the results of this study that maybe the average woman just needs to read more romance novels.)

And up to now, when writing them, I always assumed that the fantasy aspect of a romance novel love scene was more in the intensity of the sexual interaction than anything else. In other words, I hadn't really considered the possibility that I was writing about something that a sizable proportion of my readers might never (or only very rarely) have experienced for themselves. That the sex/love scenes in my stories might be as much a fantasy to many readers as the Quidditch game in Harry Potter.

Perhaps paradoxically, these reflections have also given me a greater sense of "mission" than I had before. I've always felt the romance novel (and perhaps to an even larger extent, erotica) is in large part about giving women permission to enjoy and appreciate their sexuality by providing healthy, positive role models. But post-sexual revolution, I've often wondered if the need was still there. It seems, however, it's not only still there, it's as prevalent as ever.

Or maybe I'm just suffering from a powerful case of pretension and self-importance!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Retreat Report

So, I see from Lacey's blog this morning that I am under some pressure to post something about our retreat over the weekend. (Of course, in the time it took me to write this, she's already made not one, but two ginormous postings about our weekend!)

Well, of course, it was fabulous! Do I need to say more than that?Apparently so, since my post is supposed to take the place of the long one that Lacey couldn't get ported to WordPress!

So, where to begin?

Well, first of all, Darcy and Lacey are as lovely and fun in person as they are in email. Okay, that's not true. They are even more lovely and fun in person! I spent most of Sunday after they'd left moping and wishing they were still here.

Since they came to visit me in my hometown, I won't tell you about the small bit of sightseeing we did. I'll leave that up to Lacey. (I'd leave it to Darcy, too, but she keeps refusing to get a blog! Seems to think it will interfere with her actually writing. Smart woman!)

But mostly what we did was sit in the hotel room and talk. And talk and talk and talk. About our books, even! Speaking of sitting in the hotel room, here are a couple of pictures:

Lacey and Darcy
Darcy and Me

We did have a nice dinner out on Friday night with my family and an amazing lunch at a restaurant called The Prado in Balboa Park (the steamed lemon cake with blackberry sorbet dessert was divine) on Saturday, but by and large, we spent our time very productively.

We got a ton accomplished. Or, at least, I feel we did.

We figured out how to cut Living in Sin down to a reasonable size. It turns out there's a lot more that can go than I initially thought. It might even wind up being a standard, 100,000 word single-title historical when all is said and done. Yay!

We also came up with a revamped plotline for Darcy's Notorious which we all think is going to resolve the most significant problem that manuscript has always had (to wit, the hero and heroine aren't physically together often enough in the first third of the story) and reworked her characters' GMCs and arcs to match the new story. I'm so excited about it, I wish I were writing it!

Of course, we also (perhaps perversely) decided that she should finish writing the second book in the trilogy, Glorious, before revisiting Notorious for the third or fourth time. Because the first half of Glorious completely lives up to its name! And that means she can probably pitch it sooner than Notorious, assuming she finishes it.

Finally, in addition to discussing some minor issues in Lacey's new partial for If You Asked the Devil to Dance, we actually plotted out the third book in the series in about a half an hour of discussion. And it's going to be awesome! Again, damn it, I wish I were writing it.

So, here's the thing I didn't know before we had our retreat: the energy and immediacy of having your critique partners in a room with you is incredible. I don't have any local critique partners--everyone I work with, I work with via email. And that's certainly not bad. But it's not real time. I never realized how different it would be to have my critique partners in a room with me, brainstorming ideas with me. Call me stupid, but it's true!

Needless to say, I can't wait to do this again. Even if I wind up in the doghouse with my husband for a week afterwards instead of just a day! (He was a little shocked to discover he was on his own with the kids all day Saturday, LOL!)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

What Is Happily Ever After, Anyway?

Since I'll be spending most of my day tomorrow picking up people (Lacey and Darcy at the airport, my kids from assorted after-school venues), I thought I'd best write my Friday post a day early.

During my typical morning bout of procrastolation, I visited Alice Audrey's blog (among many others). One of her posts (about whether or not "cold feet" are normal for brides and grooms on their wedding day) got me thinking about romantic relationships in general. Specifically, I started ruminating on the question of what makes a romantic partnership happy and successful.

As I said in a comment on Alice's blog, I didn't have cold feet on me wedding day. I had "performance anxiety"--you know, am I going to trip coming down the aisle? am I going to faint during the ceremony? I going to mess up my vows (it was my husband who did that, BTW--he said "With this wing, I thee wed")?--but I was completely confident I was marrying the right man. And after 17 years of marriage, I haven't been proved wrong. In fact, to this day, some of my worst nightmares are the ones in which I either marry one of my ex-boyfriends or do something incredibly stupid and wind up divorced from my husband. Happy dreams where I never met my husband or didn't marry him are exceptionally rare. In fact, I can't remember one.

I assume this (among other things) means we're happily married. Oh, that's not to say we don't have our moments of discord. Nope, there's plenty of those! (And having three kids gives us way more opportunities to disagree than when we had none.) It's just that, on balance, our relationship is way heavier on positives than negatives.

Thinking about this made me recall a sermon our pastor gave about a year ago about some research done by a sociologist, John Gottman, on why marriages succeed or fail. (You can click here and here for his books on the subject.) And one of the things Gottman found was that the positive interactions in successful marriages exceeded negatives ones by a ratio of 5 to 1. That is, for every negative interaction, there had to be five positive ones or the relationship was on shaky ground. He then goes on to describe what he calls the Four Horsemen of the Marital Apocalypse (don't you love that phrase?): criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. When people start using these tactics with one another on a regular basis, they're headed straight for divorce.

I'm sure by now, you're all thinking, "This is very interesting, Jacqueline, but will you get to the point already?"

Okay, the point is this: how many romance novels have you read where the hero and heroine, in the process of falling in love with each other, have more negative interactions than positive ones? Perhaps I'm jaded by some of the books I read twenty or more years ago when forced seductions and, yes, even rapes, abounded, but it does seem to me that authors occasionally resort to having their characters do an awful lot of arguing and disagreeing as a way to ramp up the sexual tension. After all, if the hero and heroine are getting along famously, there's not much conflict, is there?

On the other hand, shouldn't there be at least as many positive interactions between the hero and the heroine as negative ones (I'm not asking for 5 to 1 here!) to make us believe the characters have enough in common that they actually can live happily ever after? That they might like one another beyond wanting to get into each other's pants?

I'm not saying this is the case in most romance novels. It's just that the ones that seem to stick with me are the ones where I felt rather sorry for the hero and heroine for ending up with one another. I've read a few of those recently, and while I won't say which ones or by which authors, I will say that reading them has convinced me I'm not into "dark" romances.

I have to say, in my own stories, the conflict is rarely caused by the hero and heroine not getting along. I like to show how the characters make each other better, stronger, happier. That doesn't mean there isn't conflict, of course, but it's more to do with their inner resistance to being the better, stronger, happier people they make one another become than anything else. Because I think that's a lot of what love is about: surrendering to becoming the better person you think you're not.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

To Excerpt or Not To Excerpt

I've enjoyed reading excerpts on many aspiring writers' blogs of late. Beverley, Courtney, Maggie, Pam, and Tessa have all posted lovely little morsels from their stories recently and I've gobbled them all up with great glee. (Pam's Cindy Rella story is priceless, by the way!)

This raises the question, however, of why I don't post excerpts on my blog. Partly, it's because I do have an excerpt from Living in Sin posted on my website. And partly, it's because I don't intend to share more of the my writing than what's on the website with anyone other than my critique partners.

Why not? Mostly, it's just a feeling. A feeling that I shouldn't overexpose my work too soon. A niggling concern that if I flaunt what I write everywhere, it will become less valuable. Less saleable.

Now, maybe that's a silly concern. But it gives me pause, anyway.

Secondarily, but not insignificantly, I worry about plagiarism. I'm not so vain as to believe that I'm such a great writer, anyone out there will deliberately steal my work. On the other hand, I'm not so naive as to think it couldn't happen, consciously or unconsciously. There have been enough incidents in the publishing world in the past year or so to convince me it could happen.

And so, for the most part, I'd rather keep the majority of my ideas to myself until they're safely published and protected. I know, I know. Anything you write has an implied copyright. But it's not the same and it's not as easy to enforce.

That said, Erica's lovely praise for Carnally Ever After, the "quickie" I just wrote and submitted to Ellora's Cave, has moved me to share a tiny little scene from it here. I don't want to post this excerpt on the Jacqueline Barbour website because, if Ellora's Cave picks it up, it'll be published under a different pen name with a separate website. But that doesn't mean I can't post it here, where it'll certainly get buried under hundreds of posts over the years!

So, without further ado:

Louisa picked through the larder, shaking her head as she rejected vegetables in turn. Lettuce? Definitely not. Carrot? Too narrow. Turnip? Too short and too fat.

At last, she lighted on a cucumber. Wrapping her hand around it, she nodded with satisfaction. Just right.

“Can I help ye wi’ summat, milady?”

Startled, Louisa nearly bumped her head on the low ceiling above the vegetable storage bin as she backed out. She folded the purloined cucumber in her skirt and secured it with one hand before turning to face the scullery maid. “Oh, no, that’s quite all right.” She didn’t meet the eyes of the frizzy-haired girl, but focused instead on the servant’s red-knuckled hands.

“Are ye sure?” The maid’s hands wrung one another.

Louisa nodded. “Most assuredly. I was just leaving.”

Making good on her words, she straightened and brushed past the maid, forcing herself to keep her steps slow and unhurried. It was only when she heard the scullery maid mutter, “Now, I knowt there was another cucumber only this morn,” that Louisa quickened her pace.

She didn’t slow down until she reached her bedchamber three floors up and closed the door. Leaning against it, she took a few calming breaths and extracted the ill-gotten vegetable from her skirts to examine it.

It was a good deal longer than the real thing, but the circumference seemed about right. The skin wasn’t as smooth and entirely the wrong color, but that couldn’t be helped. All in all, it ought to do the job quite nicely.

I'm not sure this is quite as funny to read as it was to write. (I laughed myself quite silly at the time.) Still, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I've enjoyed everyone else's "sneak peeks."

On iPod: Lady Writer, Dire Straits

Monday, February 05, 2007

Manic Monday

To go with my Friday Follies, I suppose.

I had a great, writing-related topic all lined up in my head and then, in the craziness that has ensued since Friday night, I completely forgot what it was. You see, they're falling like flies here with a high-fever-and-vomiting virus that I pray either skips me or gets through me before this coming Friday. If I were seriously ill, it would seriously detract from our first ever Manuscript Mavens retreat!

So, I have nothing particularly interesting to impart unless you want to read Lacey complimenting Living in Sin in not one, but two different places in the blogosphere today. First, she posted on Romantic Inks and then on her own blog. I told her she'd better stop lest I be unable to get out the front door of my house, but the truth is, I'm mightily pleased she's finding this version of the manuscript so engaging and so textured. I have no idea how I did it, but I'm glad I did! I'll let you all in on the secret if I ever figure it out.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have sick children to attend...again!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Friday Follies

This post is going to be kind of a mishmash of stuff with no great unifying theme, so bear with me. Keep in mind that I spent 16 hours either working or on planes/in airports on Wednesday and then all of yesterday fighting a monstrous, sleep-deprivation headache, so I'm still a little disjointed.

Next Friday, Lacey and Darcy are coming here to San Diego for our first ever critique partner retreat, and we are all looking forward to it. Of course, we've all also been working madly to get our manuscripts to a point where we can provide one another with meaningful input. And that means finishing this week so we all have a week to read through each other's stuff before the retreat.

To that end, I completed my first pass through Living In Sin late yesterday afternoon. It's still too long (a little over 116,000 words), but I did manage to whittle it down by about 10,000 words out of it while adding some stuff that wrapped up some previously unresolved plot points. There are a few scenes that could probably be eliminated or collapsed into other scenes, but I thought I'd make Lacey and Darcy (and Erica, who won't be coming to the retreat but will be reading and commenting) do the hard work and figure out which ones and how, LOL!

The other thing I've been working on for the past few weeks (which I debated mentioning on the blog because I wasn't sure I wanted to make it "public" if it sells, but in the end, I'm just to gabby not to tell!) was a "quickie" erotica for Ellora's Cave. Annie Dean mentioned the call for submissions on the Naughty Nuptials theme, due February 1, and issued something of a challenge to those of us who read her blog. I wasn't sure I'd be able to come up with an idea, but within 48 hours of reading the submission guidelines, a story presented itself to me and once that happens, all bets are off.

I wrote Carnally Ever After, a Regency-set short story (the mandated length is 10,000 to 15,000 words; my story clocked in at a little under 14,600 words), in just under two weeks, and, after making a few changes based on critiques from the ever-wonderful Darcy, Erica, Lacey, and Leigh, submitted it to Ellora's Cave on Wednesday morning. Publication date is June of 2007, so I should hear something by late May at the outside, I'd expect. We'll see what happens, and it was fun to write, however it turns out!

In other, completely writing-unrelated news, my oldest son (9 1/2 years old) will be playing Mr. Teevee in a production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tonight. I'm looking forward to it immensely.

So, what's your week been like? And thanks for the greetings while I was in Alabama. They definitely made me feel more "at home!"