Monday, February 28, 2011

Loving this community!

First, I want to open with a link to a contest (not the one I'm begging votes for...that will come at the bottom of this post). DNA Writers, a dynamic group of seven lovely people, is having a contest. You could win gift cards, books, Starbucks, and critiques -- the grand prize is a substantial edit of a full book! Click here and check out these great writers.

Second, I want to say how touched I am by your support for me in the Jane Austen Made Me Do It contest. Thank you for your comments, votes, and especially to Laurel at Laurel's Leaves (she's Poet of the Month over at at Angela Felsted's blog, My Poetry and Prose Place -- go check out her beautiful poetry) for the shout-out on her blog. It's no secret I sometimes find the social media scene a little overwhelming, but it's things like this that remind me why I want to be a part of it. So whether I'm a finalist or not, I feel like a winner. Thanks for that!

The contest ends tonight, with the ten finalists (those stories with the highest number of votes) being announced tomorrow. One of those finalists will be selected to appear in the Jane Austen Made Me Do It anthology, alongside best-selling authors including Lauren Willig, Karen Joy Fowler, and so many more, by Ballantine Books in October.

So if you haven't voted, please stop by the contest to read some fantastic stories and vote. My story "Intent and Intensity" (#74) is a modern retelling of Sense and Sensibility. You can vote once only, for up to three stories. If you like my story, I'd appreciate your vote (because as much as I already feel like a winner, I would like to be a finalist, too!).

Thanks again. For everything.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lessons from Third Grade

I have a third grader who doesn't like to read. (I'm a writer and he doesn't like to read, I'm also a chef and he is the world's pickiest child...ah, my little changeling.) His teacher and I have been working hard to help him with his reading comprehension, especially as there are some important standardized test coming up.

His teacher recently told me about some techniques that they use in class so that I can use the same at home with him. One was the prompts for creating a summary:

I had to laugh. For all the hundreds of posts out there on how to write a summary (read: query) the answer was in Third Grade the whole time.

Monday, February 21, 2011

In Which I am Naive...

Sometimes, success is about talent. And sometimes it's not.

As I've mentioned, I am participating in a particular short story contest. In this contest, writers post their entries and voting is opened to the public for two weeks. In the first round, voters can vote once for their three favorite stories. The ten entries with the most votes go on to the final judging, with editors choosing the finalist for inclusion in the anthology.

I worked hard on my entry and allowed myself to think that perhaps, just maybe, enough people would read it and like it enough to vote for it and put me in the top ten.

Twelve hours after the contest opened for voting, they posted the voting stats. And I was stunned to see that a bunch of entries had 30, 40, and even 50 votes. The majority, however, had 2-10 votes.

I was absolutely stunned. Could these high numbers really be the result of people who had read all the entries and chosen their favorites? After all, half of the 88 entries went up on the last day. A brief Google search suggested that maybe the high numbers were a result of promotion -- sending out pleas via email, Facebook, Twitter and blogs to go vote for the writer's story. That's not to say those stories weren't well written (most of them are great -- I know because I've read most of them) but I find it hard to believe that that many people had a chance to read that many 5000-word stories in the first hours of voting.

When I saw those numbers, I panicked. I hadn't told anyone about the voting yet. I only had two votes (but in truth, this made me feel good deep down because these were anonymous readers who read and liked my story enough to vote for it.) But in order to have a shot at the top ten, I knew I'd better start selling myself, and hard. So I did.... here, FB, emails, friends and neighbors, and so on.

And it makes me feel terrible. I would rather it be about the writing. I'd like to be in the top ten because my story is one of the best, not because I have the most friends and followers. I know I'm naive. I know that this is representative of the industry -- and society -- in general these days. We all know promoting yourself is key.

Think ABNA. Think American Idol. Popular votes are everywhere. When you open things up to the popular vote, it becomes a popularity contest and may or may not have anything to do with talent. Wonderfully talented people sometimes go unnoticed because they don't have the presence.

But for all my ranting, I am realistic. I still need votes. (But thank heavens they've taken the vote count down, otherwise I'd be watching that they way I watch my comments and followers count!)

If you haven't voted yet, I'd appreciate it if you could head over here, read a few stories and cast your vote by Feb 28. You do not need to register on the site to vote and you can read as few or as many stories as you like. My story is "Intent and Intensity" (#74) and is a modern take on Sense and Sensibility. I really appreciate it. And if you've voted already, a great big thank you.

But I'd also like to know what you think. Do you have any thoughts on popular votes in contests, whether in writing or singing or anything else? Are they a fair way of assessing talent?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Nicole's Bernard Pivot Blogfest

Thanks to Nicole at One Significant Moment for having this blogfest. I've been looking at the entries and it is fascinating how much you can learn from ten simple answers.

And don't forget to go check out the others here.

1.What is your favorite word?
     Peace. Makes me calm just thinking it.
2.What is your least favorite word?
     Maw...gaping, dripping, foul...just, yuck.
3.What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
     Creatively, someone's superior efforts. Inspires me to try harder
4.What turns you off?
     A 'victim' attitude.
5.What is your favorite curse word?
     For Fuck's Sake, said with a Scottish accent
6.What sound or noise do you love?
     The sound of a creek
7.What sound or noise do you hate?
     The squealing of guinea pigs
8.What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
     Teaching writing at college level
9.What profession would you not like to do?
     Dentist (maybe it has something to do with the maw thing)
10.If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
     They're waiting for you over there....

Fun!!! What a great blogfest. It really made me think about things. I'll be making the rounds of the other entries of the next couple of days.

(And if you have a moment, I'd be really grateful if you could go vote for my story "Intent and Intensity" (#74) at the Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest. Thanks!)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Read and Vote and Affect the course of History

OK, so not really change the course of history. My history, maybe.

The Jane Austen Made Me Do It Short Story Contest is now open for voting. There are 87 entries for you to read through and select your three favorites. And if one of your favorites happens to be my short story "Intent and Intensity" (#74), all the better! (And I can use all the help I can get...I didn't want to canvas but when one story garnered 55 votes overnight, it became clear I needed to start campaigning too).

Ten finalists will be chosen by popular vote and then the editors will select one story to include in the anthology published by Random House in October. More info on it here.

I've been reading the entries and there is some amazing writing out there. And don't worry, if you aren't into the Jane Austen style, there are plenty of modern approaches (including mine) to Jane-era subjects.

Happy Reading (and voting) (for #74) (mine) (go on and vote... now)!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Just Kiss Already blogfest

 Call it fate, call it luck, call it karma...

On Friday, for my new WIP, I wrote my first kissing scene EVER. I've been writing for a few decades now and for some reason, I've never written a kissing scene before. I lead up to kissing, I mention a kiss, but I've never described that delicious building tension of a kiss. Maybe that's what my writing has been lacking!

And since I logged into Blogger to find Christina Lee's and Stina Lindenblatt's Just Kiss Already blogfest runs today, I have decided things are meant to be. So without further ado...

I slipped in to the calming routine of developing, slowly agitating the tray and watching the image darken and come into view. But I was anything but calm. Liam stood behind me, close but not touching. He was breathing deep and even, stirring the hair on the back of my neck. Wrapped around the familiar chemicals of the dark room was the smell of his skin, dusty with a hint of soap beneath it. The only noises were the hum of the bathroom fan, the ticking of the big black timer, and the swish of the fluid across the paper.

Liam took another step closer. If I turned now, I would kiss him. I wanted more than anything to turn, even if it meant the photo in the tray would be ruined. Forcing myself to wait a few more seconds, I slid the print into the stop bath, dropped the tongs, and turned. Liam’s face just inches from my own, washed in the dull red of the safety light.

He reached out and ran his hands up the length of my arms, the friction of his rough palms against my bare skin ignited me like the striking of a match. Liam leaned and put his mouth against mine, gently at first, and then harder as he pulled me closer. His lips were anything but rough, moving against mine with a softness that tasted of apples. I lost myself in that kiss, falling into the rhythm of staccato clicks as the timer measured off the minutes.

And when you're done here, don't forget to go check out the other entries. Because there's a lot to be said for kissing.

Why didn't I see that before?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Call for Advice on First Chapters and Opening Pages

I fell prey to the classic rookie mistake in my first novel: starting the book in the wrong place. Chapter 1 had lots of backstory and not enough conflict. It was, to say the least, a boring chapter.

As I get to work on my next project, I am DETERMINED that I will not make the same mistake. To that end, I started trolling around the interwebs for good posts on first sentences, first paragraphs, opening pages, and first chapters. I've found some great stuff (I am loving Elena Solodow's list of overdone openings from Nathan's first paragraph contest -- I've already thrown out four opening ideas as a result) but I'm running out of steam. I follow 120 blogs and, boy, are you guys prolific! It was taking way too much time to go to everyone's blog and search for posts, so I have a favor to ask.

If you have written a post on openings, or have read a great post on the subject, can you leave a link (or non-linked address, if like me you are useless at HTML tagging) in the comments? Or maybe you can recommend a book that has good coverage on the topic.

I thank you! (And I'm sure the agents who will someday be reading my opening pages will thank you, too.)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sit down, shut up, and everyone will get a turn

I work well with deadlines. At the moment, I seem to have a lot of them. Some of them are specific dates, like for contest entries, and others are self-imposed, such as when I'd like to get back to work on my WIP. Since I am a former journalist, editor, and project manager, I'm pretty good at prioritizing my workload. So I have clear of picture of what I need to do: story X, then work on contest entry Y, and then I can turn to project Z, before finally getting to project AA.

Except my brain is not cooperating. Z doesn't give a damn that I am not allowed to work on Z until the others are done. And AA is getting ticked off that it keeps getting shoved back. Y keeps reminding me that it only needs a few hours of my time. My brain is whirling with three different stories. I'm a little worried that there will be bloodshed. X is tough, but I'm pretty sure AA can take 'em. They're all giving me a headache and I am losing sleep. I had a massage today and I spent most of it spinning from X to Z and back to AA.

Do you have this problem? What do you do when you have multiple ideas demanding attention?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Colors for a gray day

The skies are gray, the grass is brown, the trees are bare. It is 25 degrees here in San Antonio and they're predicting snow. I know that 75% of you are scoffing, saying "That's nothing!" but for a city that freaks out when it rains, snow is like a natural disaster. We might get an inch tonight and they are talking about closing the schools tomorrow. Seriously.

When I'm not writing, I'm teaching jewelry-making classes at JoAnn Craft Stores. While most of the curriculum comes from headquarters, I have to come up with a new "Trend" class every two months. It can be something I have particular interest or skill in, or it can be seasonal. San Antonio celebrates Fiesta in April, with a big parade for Battle of the Flowers. It's a time for pinatas, food, and color. People decorate their houses and themselves with paper flowers.

So for March and April, I'm running a class on Fiesta Flowers. Usually, my designs are more understated. But Fiesta calls for hot, vibrant colors and large, flamboyant decoration, so this is what I made as the sample:

I know it is a bit gaudy showy, but today, when I am desperate for some color, it is making me all kinds of happy. I have some of the extra flowers I've made decorating my desk now.

If it is gray where you are, grab a pretty scarf to wrap around your neck, or make some cupcakes with sprinkles. Find some color to make you all kinds of happy. Stay warm, stay safe, and have a cozy weekend.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It was worth it

A big thanks to everyone who commented and commiserated on my waiting hell. Glad to know I'm not the only one who has developed a callous on my Refresh finger.

The good news is that sometimes the waiting is worth it. I just received word from the editor that my serial short story "Frozen" will appear in Woman's Weekly starting in the May 17 issue and running in four parts. "Frozen" is the story of Emma and Rick, a couple who, after undergoing IVF eight years ago, must now decide the fate of their frozen embryos.

Now I just have to wait for the magazine to come out!