Monday, April 28, 2008
Whether entering a contest or not, contest score sheets have been a great source of help to me. I like to go through them and grade my own manuscript. If I can tell where something isn’t as strong as it should be, then I know where I need to work on my writing.

I usually go to Stephie Smith’s Contest Chart for Writers to find contests taking place. After clicking on a link and going straight to a contest site, I can usually find a sample score sheet available to glance through. Too many times, I've found areas I needed to give a facelift.

New Story

Tuesday, April 22, 2008
I'm working on a new story, tentatively titled Disaster at 410 South Elm. It's about Drew Harper who (merely hoping to keep her out of trouble) goes with his sister to a house where her husband’s mistress just might live. But when he meets the supposed marriage-wrecker, Mia, he falls for her himself. Here are the first few lines.

He’d never tried to stop anyone from committing murder before. It was
definitely a nerve wracking business, Drew Harper realized as he sat tense in
the passenger seat of his sister’s six-year old Honda Civic while she blew a
four-way stop and careened around a corner, making the tires screech in protest.

He yelped out a curse and clutched the seatbelt strapped over his
chest. “What the hell?” he demanded.

“I told you not to come,” she growled, her murderous glare fixed
steadily ahead.

“Well, what do you expect me to do,” he retorted. “When I find you
storming out the door with a gun in your hand and muttering something about
killing a cheating bitch?”

The idea came to me after receiving a rejection letter from a publisher, telling me I needed to make my stories more realistic. So, while I was picking up a yard full of fallen limbs, I thought, "What's happening in my own life that's in any way interesting?" I came up with nothing... very typical. Still needing a realistic but engaging plotline, I moved on to other people in my life and hit a major jack pot when I thought of my husband's brother.

Though he's going through a divorce now, at the time, my brother-in-law was still trying to keep his marriage afloat until one evening, he received a cryptic phone message from a woman he didn't know, telling him if he really wanted to know what his wife was doing, he'd come to this bar in a town that was, like, five hours away, and he'd find out the truth for himself. So, my brother-in-law hops in his truck, and goes to find out. Long story short, he didn't find his wife that night. But the next evening, I found myself playing lookout girl as my husband helped load our car with stuff Brother-in-law didn't want his wife taking in case things went south.

And thus came my idea for Disaster at 410 South Elm. I've had more than one sibling go through a messy divorce. So, I can relate to Drew Harper's plight a little too clearly. So far, I've breezed through the first chapter. But now, the story's getting tricky. It's going to be a challenge.

Special Guest Blogger

Monday, April 21, 2008
I got my name in Romancing the Blog! It was so exciting to see Linda Kage listed right there under the authors blog column.

Felt like I was a real writer or something. So, check it out. Last week, I read an agent's blog about how we should make mistakes. Her point was to get out there and do something and don't be so worried about doing it wrong. If you make a mistake, it's okay because at least you tried. The whole article made me feel better because I'd been there before and already plowed through my share of mistakes. But I think it's about time I do something right. So, I've gotten myself a critique partner, and it's not just my sister this time (who has to at least act like she loves my work or I'll disown her). And now I wish I could've had this partner ten years ago. I'm quickly learning that no matter how polished I think something is, it can always be better. Why settle for okay when you can be great, huh?

When I first started writing, I had no interest in joining writing or critique groups. I thought I could do it all on my own. I didn't need to enter contests or go to conferences. My outstanding stories would get me all the publishers I wanted, right? Wrong. When I realized I needed more help and actually wanted to get it, I thought I'd be too shy to join all these programs. But once again, I was wrong. A lot can be done over the internet and you never even have to speak to another person. And they really are worth your while. So, I suggest anyone interested in pursuing writing should definitely look into writing groups in their area and in their genre. It really does make things easier... so easy, in fact, it kind of feels like you're using a cheat sheet.

Death is Expensive

Thursday, April 17, 2008
Since my husband has a small family on his mother's side, we all went to arrange his grandmother's funeral together. And let me tell you, none of it was cheap. After selecting a mid-range casket and a plain vault, the total rang up to nearly ten grand... and that was a simple no-bells-or-whistles funeral. We even opted out of getting the family car to ride in. There were no complimentary benefits at all. Sorry, no mints on these pillows. Digging the grave cost as well as getting the death date engraved on the tombstone (Thank God Grandma already had the actual tombstone and her name as well a plot ready). We even had to pay for a copy of the death certificate. The funeral home was very helpful, sure. They took care of a lot of necessities, like making sure the graveyard owners were contacted and the obituary got in the paper. But they certainly got compensated for it. A neighbor of ours is still paying for her husband's funeral from three years ago.

Yeah, I'm thinking life insuranse is a real good idea right about now. But as I walked around that room full of caskets for sale with price tags sitting on them, I couldn't help but wonder how much worse it'd be to go through this for someone who wasn't ninety-one years old or someone whose death you totally weren't prepared for. I've written stories about family members of my main characters dying and I realized they had to experience this ordeal too. Dealing with the loss of a loved one is hard enough but adding a financial strain on top of it is even worse. I don't think I'll ever be able to write about a character’s loved one dying without remembering what a person has to go through to bury them.

Irma Marie

Wednesday, April 16, 2008
We buried my husband's grandmother yesterday and after listening to everyone talk about her in the past tense, I'd like to say something very present and future tense about Grandma. Irma Marie is loved and missed. Someday, when I become a mother to her great-grandchild, I'll be proud to help carry on the legacy of such a grand lady.

Query & Synopsis

Friday, April 11, 2008
The most important piece of information I've learned about trying to publish my work, so far, is this: No matter how spectacular the story, no one will read it unless you supply a query letter and synopsis... and not just any query letter and synopsis, but a good one. Studying how to write them is key. I think it's more beneficial to read a hoard of help columns too, not just one, because you pick up new tid bits of advice in each article. Now, if only I'd scanned through all these sites before sending in my first submission, I'd be so much further along in my writing career today. (Sigh)

Query Letter Help Sites

Synopsis Help Sites

What's In a Blog?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008
I was showing my sister my website the other day and, noticing my Blog Page, she asked, "What's a blog?" I felt very blank because, honestly, I wasn't completely sure. I just knew everyone had one so I probably should too (Yeah, just call me lemming number 1,234,567,890).
After checking, though, I discovered the term blog is actually short for "weblog", as in 'online website journal log'. Imagine my relief that I'd actually been treating it as exactly that. Whew!

So, the word of the day, children, is weblog. And for all you romance lovers out there, here's a few blogging sites that focus on romance and writing.

Recently On My Nightstand

Tuesday, April 8, 2008
On Writing by Stephen King It's hard for me to get into a book that's not a romance and even doubly so for a non-fiction. I usually only gag through a few chapters and call it good. But this book was so wonderful, I read the entire thing. Entertaining and informative, it kept me captivated. If King stopped writing books I was too afraid to read and took up the romance genre, he'd probably become my favorite author. I just love his style. He taught me loads about the craft of fiction.

Second Sight Dating by Marianne Stephens New in print, Stephens tries something different with Second Sight Dating. Using paranormal abilities, she creates a sensual relationship between the two main characters. Her story is fun and relaxing to read.

Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas Okay, I have to confess. This book never actually touched my nightstand because I consumed it in one big gulp. But yum. Kleypas pulled out another awesome story. My husband deserves a big thanks here too, for not complaining while I left the night light on and read until the wee hours, finishing Blue-Eyed Devil.

Eggs by Jerry Spinelli I have no idea why I bought this children's story but I'm glad I did. I think I can learn something from Spinelli's technique. The way his words flow is very "lyrical" as one of his reviews quotes. I'd be doing okay if some of his style rubbed off.

Blood Brothers by Nora Roberts I don't think those NR seals on her books really mean a new release. I suspect they're actually guarantees, promising us she's created another hit. Roberts couldn't write a bad story if she wanted to (in my opinion, anyway). The woman's talent is truly outstanding.

Ice Storm by Anne Stuart I'm a romantic suspense junkie, so this is my kind of story. Just can't get enough of them. Fourth in the Ice series, Ice Storm is an exciting, sexy, dangerous ride. Stuart sticks to her usual dark characters and creates a fine line between death and romance.

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah Warning: Do not read Firefly Lane without a couple boxes of tissue. Though this may be Hannah's best work yet, it's not her traditional romance. The central relationship is between the two best friends and it doesn't have a happy ending. But if you're looking for an amazing tear jerker, this is totally the story for you.

The Grieving Process

Thursday, April 3, 2008
Did you know there are five basic steps to grieving? Well, some experts say ten and others say four, or six, or eleven, or even twelve. But most of my research keeps pointing back to the five stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) introduced by Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying.

If you can't tell, I'm exploring the topic of bereavement for a story I'm writing. I want to properly show a mother mourning the loss of her three-month old daughter. But I'm quickly learning this is not an easy task. After reading a newspaper article, interviewing a mother who'd just lost her baby, I could tell she was still in the denial stage and I just wanted to cry for her because she couldn't yet.

The whole thing was hard to read, so I have no idea why I though writing about it would be any simpler. But if one person reads my tale and feels comforted, realizing they're not alone in their pain and life will eventually move past this agony, then all that hard work will be worth it.

Contest Mania

Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Okay, I think I'm going contest crazy. I've decided to enter The 15th Annual Ignite the Flame Contest, sponsered by the Central Ohio Fiction Writers. I'm also sending a query letter to the epublisher, Cerridwen Press.

That makes three differnent books to three different publishers and two new entries to two contests. I hope there's at least one winner in the bunch. But, we'll see.
For a great reference on some romance writing contests that are available, check out Stephie Smith's Contest Chart.