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 The trademark has been used by permission herein. Thanks, CYOA!

Friday, October 19, 2007

The "Will I Ever Finish?" Blues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

One more choice excerpt:

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

For the rest of the article, click here.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Reminder

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

Friday, October 12, 2007

Odds and Ends

Didja notice I changed the template? Didja, huh?

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

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

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

Monday, October 08, 2007

My Favorite Meme

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 05, 2007

Golden Heart Eligibility Update

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

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

I now return you to your regularly scheduled Friday madness.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 01, 2007

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

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

This is a tale of three kitties.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had to agree, it did.

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

I had to agree, they did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

One bullet dodged.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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