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What We're Working On Now

Elisabeth: Marked

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
33,126 / 95,000

Joan: Buried Secrets

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
68,000 / 115,000

Linda: Facing It

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
45,540 / 85,000

:~: Friday, August 31, 2007 :~:

Taking Up the Challenge

Yes! The long weekend is here!

I'm hoping to make lots of progress on the WIP, Facing It. I'm at just over 50K, about 60% of the way to my targeted word count.

Back in July, I started the 70 Days of Sweat challenge. Before school started, I did pretty well -- doing at least 1200 words daily. I wrote almost 50% of the book in about five weeks.

School, which isn't just teaching, but coaching, advising, grading, etc. as well as dealing with my own children's homework, has pretty much kept me from writing 1200 words daily during the week. I do try to write daily, I promo daily, and I write more on the weekends.

And I have 60% of a novel I didn't have two months ago.

The point is this -- I'm not going to finish this book by the end of the 70 days challenge. But I should finish it within the next couple of months (barring any HUGE unforseen events. I've learned those come out of nowhere sometimes). But I learned that with a block of non-school time, I can steadily produce a set word count per day. And I've learned that even with the school stuff, I can make steady progress if I set my mind to it.

Are you participating in the 70 Days challenge? Or in Elisabeth and Joan's challenge? I know nanowrimo is coming up and that many people participate in this. What have you learned from any writing challenges you've taken part in?


:~: Wednesday, August 29, 2007 :~:

The Process

It varies for every writer. And, I'm discovering, it varies within each writer.

This was the Talk Prompt topic for my local RWA group at the last meeting. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to cover it. I'm hoping some of the girls will pop in and offer their comments here. *nudge*

But it's also something I've been thinking about a lot lately, as I begin a new novel.

Everything with this story is different.

  • I'm allowing myself to write a shitty first draft--something I hadn't been able to do in the past.

  • I'm writing without a clear picture all the way through--it gets murky around the 2/3 point.

  • I'm engaging my CPs (and anyone who is interested) in a writing challenge--I've always wrinkled my nose at any kind of imposed writing goals.

  • I'm making it up as I go along--I'm typically an avid plotter.

  • I'm mixing POVs with third person h/h and secondary characters, but first person villain--I've never even considered writing first person.

And as I see all the differences I'm employing with this book and as I discussed with Elisabeth recently, I've discovered that process changes as we change, as our writing changes, as our goals change.

What changes have you seen in your process over the years? Or do you have a tried and true method that you love--or hate? Share with us how you get from concept to completion.


:~: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 :~:

Mandatory Reading

The middle school my boys go to is starting something new this year--mandatory silent reading time each day from 2:15-2:45 when they leave to go home. If the kids don't bring a book to read, they have to make up the reading time in detention the following day after school. I really have mixed feelings about this. I know there are a lot of kids (and adults) who don't read at all. My youngest is an avid reader, but the other two are reluctant to different degrees. They do read, just not as much as I'd like them to. This could be a way to jump start reading in kids who might not do much of it now.

Even though I'd like to see them reading more, it bugs me a little that the school is starting this program. It takes away from classroom time, which the school system here needs according to the past years' scores on the state tests the kids all have to take. Even more than this, I'm not sure I like the idea of punishing them with a detention if they don't bring a book. I just think it could be counterproductive to the school system's cause, especially at a middle school level where kids are discovering they really enjoy challenging authority. ;) It seems to me that if kids associate reading with punishment, they aren't going to want to do it once they get out of school. Not really the way to foster a lifelong love of books.

What do you think of programs like this in schools--good idea or bad idea?

:~: Monday, August 27, 2007 :~:


What kind of writing distractions can you put up with and still be productive? Kids being loud nearby? Dog barking? Cat begging for attention? Can you write with music? The TV on? Noise in the kitchen? Can you keep IM on while you work, can the Internet be on or is that too much of a temptation? Can you tune things out or do distractions drive you wonky?

I'm learning I need quiet to be productive. I need the Internet because as I write I come across stupid research questions like the name of this street or a trendy restaurant in this town. I don't like to come back to those details later. I'd rather get them right in the first draft. I can't really write with music, though music inspires plots and characters in my head before I sit and write. The dog barking makes me want to slit my wrists, the kids screaming is too much for me to handle and as for the cat? Well, thank God we don't have one. In the evenings when the house is quiet and I CAN write, I do occasionally keep IM on so I can bug my CPs with research questions that pop up. And of course, there's always that food in the kitchen tempting me to give up the writing and go get a snack...

So how many distractions - and what kinds - can you handle and still be productive?


:~: Friday, August 24, 2007 :~:

DEAR Revelations

This year, we're doing a DEAR period at school. For you non-teachers, that means DROP EVERYTHING AND READ.

For twenty minutes daily, everyone on campus reads. I was a little antsy at first, even though I'd been a strong proponent of adding this to our day, simply because I'd done this at other schools and fighting reluctant readers for twenty minutes is not my idea of a good time.

But. The teaching gods have blessed me this year. I have kids who like (and many who love) to read in my DEAR group, so I can read, too, instead of standing over them with a whip and making them read.

So my DEAR book so far has been Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. The fun part is, I get to read it as a reader. I have twenty minutes to just read and I'm not taking the book apart the way I do when I have longer periods to read.

I'd read The DaVinci Code a couple of years ago, liked it, but thought Brown spent too much time showing off his research. It's still there in A&D, but I'm liking this story much better.

And today, I could really see why Brown is the success he is. He's not a fabulous writer. I'm not sighing over his prose and the characterization is less-than-deep. Sometimes there is too much explanation.

But man, can this guy tell a story.

A fast-paced, gotta-turn-the-page, what-'s-going-to-happen-next story. He keeps the action moving and doesn't give me time to get bored or even to laugh at the sometimes laughably less-than-deep characterization.

As a writer, I really can't maintain that kind of break-neck pace, although sometimes I wish I could (I have had this idea for a while about a story that takes place during a 24-hour period, but do you know how hard that would be to pull off?!).

As a reader, I'm loving it.

What about you? Any authors who maybe aren't master craftsmen, but are master storytellers? Let's dish.


:~: Thursday, August 23, 2007 :~:

Just For Fun

I know many of you have seen this before, but it's been a while for me, and I was in the mood for a good laugh. Lots of new covers posted, so be sure to continue to scroll down if you want a good chuckle.

Longmire Does Romance Novels

Also be sure to take a look at these extra submissions turned in by readers. What a hoot!


:~: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 :~:


Sorry I missed my post last week--between the stress of the new job, writing, and an upcoming move, I think I took on too much and ended up getting sick. I just haven't been sleeping, because no matter how tired I am, the second my head hits the pillow all I can think about is how much I need to pack...and how much I should probably throw away.

The move is really going to be a good thing, even though I hate moving and after the last time (9 years ago) I swore I'd never do it again. ;) It's a better school system for the kids, a much better and safer neighborhood, and it's only 10 minutes down the street so they can still see their friends as much as they want. The only problem is the packing. It's amazing how much stuff a family can obtain in a decade. We're looking at being out of this place and into the new one around the middle of September, and already I've been going through closets (and under the kids' beds) throwing away so much. We have 3 bags of clothing to donate, and I'm anticipating at least half a dozen more.

I really doubt I'll be getting much writing done in the next few weeks. ;) I have a couple small stories under contract or requested that I need to get finished this week, but after that, I think I'll take a break. The kids go back to school next week, so that will give me time to start going through things and packing up the kitchen and living room. Growing up, my family moved every 4 years or less, so I should be used to it. But I'm finding it's different as an adult, especially the only adult in the house.

Anyone have tips on making moving go smoothly?

:~: Monday, August 20, 2007 :~:

Self-Inflicted Torture

It's official. After this book is done, I am never EVER writing another reunion story.

Ugh. I'm losing eyelashes right and left.

Any other writers out there have trouble with these stories? Reunion stories are my FAV's to read. I love them. There's something magical about two people who found love, lost it and then found it again together. You can't help but root for a hero who lost the woman he loved and realizes she's the only one in the world for him. Writing them though? Ack! A whole different story.

The WIP is a classic reunion story. Lots of mistrust. Lots of heartache over something that happened in the past. Lots of misunderstanding that, had the hero and heroine really known each other the first time, never would have been an issue. Because I've read so many different reunion stories, I know there are as many varied ways to write a reunion story as there are reunion stories out there. Some writers use flashbacks. Some weave backstory in with "memory" paragraphs here and there. Some start a book in the past, write the past as the present for a few chapters then skip ahead to the present and the real story when they get back together. Still others weave the two together.

One of the most compelling reunion stories I read was To The Brink by Cindy Gerard. A divorced woman is kidnapped and the only man she can turn to to save her is her ex-husband. In order to understand their romance though and invest the reader in the story, the writer blended the past and present. She'd write one chapter in the present (as the hero's trying to save her), one in the past that chronicled their love affair. It sounds odd, but I found myself turning pages faster and faster. I needed to know what happened in the present and how he rescued her. I needed to know how they fell in love and ultimately what broke them up because his desire to rescue her in the present was so strong. I'd never read a book written that way, but it totally worked.

As I sit here working on my self-inflicted torture device (AKA: The book from hell), I'm seriously contemplating how I'm getting the past into the present. At the moment I have those pesky memory/internal paragraphs as each character thinks back about the other. I even have (gasp!) a flashback here or there. Purists will say both of these techniques slow pacing, but in a reunion story, I think you have to use what works. If your readers aren't interested in the characters' first love affair and knowing why it ended, they aren't going to be interested in the current one.

So, what's your preference...as both a reader and writer? Do you read or write reunion stories? What have you found that works? What have you found that doesn't work?


:~: Friday, August 17, 2007 :~:

Random Lines from HIS ORDINARY LIFE

Saw someone else do this while paging through the first lines posted at the Samhain Cafe (oh, my heavens, they were good -- by the way, I bought books). Thought it would make a fun little Friday post.

Eleven pretty random lines from His Ordinary Life (coming September 11).

1) Her son wasn’t supposed to turn into Rosemary’s baby overnight, either.

2) Years ago, room 704 had been D-2, lair of the crustiest, most crotchety English teacher to ever draw breath in the state of Georgia, Mrs. Evelyn Adkins.

3) Cold showers were a joke. Arms braced on the counter, head lowered, he concentrated on stifling the unfulfilled desire. Amortization schedules. The cost of new tires for his car. Batting averages for last year’s Braves.

4) They were alone in the deepest hours of the night and she wanted nothing more than to pull him off to bed just once more.

5) “I want you back.”

6) When Del found him, that someone was going to be one dead son of a bitch.

7) He was going to die from the expectancy, but, Lord, what a way to spend his last moments.

8) “What is that on your neck?” With two fingers, Tick pushed Del’s chin up as she entered the room. A slow grin spread over Tick’s face.
“Would you quit?” Del shoved his brother’s hand away with an irritable shrug.

9) “A stupid sick bastard.” Cookie joined them, holding aloft an evidence bag. “Don’t people watch those true crime shows?”

10) “Come hold me for a while.”

11) “It’s raining, and every damn time it rains, she’s in my head again. I’m tired of thinking about her. I’m tired of hurting. I figure if I find enough to do, I’ll forget.”


:~: Wednesday, August 15, 2007 :~:

Write-offs for Writers

It's not tax time. In fact, it's not even close. But at our last chapter meeting, a member who owns three small businesses with her husband, generously offered her valuable knowledge about taxes and how they can and do benefit those who take deductions. Never too soon, right?

I was very interested because I don't write my writing off. I was under the impression that I wasn't making any money, so I couldn't write anything off.

She set me straight right away...about that and about a lot of other things. So I thought I'd share those thoughts with you and hopefully, you can share your knowledge and experience in this area with us. So when April rolls around, we'll all be well ahead of the curve.

Here are some highlights:

  • As a writer, you run a business—the business of writing. And as a business, you are entitled to write off expenses related to that business.

  • If you treat your writing as a business, that attitude will carry over into your life and affect how you view your writing, how others view your writing and ultimately how successful you are as a writer.

  • Some of those expenses may include:
    o Paper
    o Ink
    o Office supplies
    o Writing magazines (i.e., Writer’s Digest)
    o Writing related subscriptions (i.e., netflix, Publishers Marketplace)
    o Writing related memberships
    o Craft books
    o Books in your genre
    o Movies
    o Camera and film
    o Digital recorder
    o Software programs
    o Travel to locations for research
    o Meals during travel for research
    o Mileage for auto travel for research
    o Depreciation of office equipment (i.e., computer, fax, copier, camera)

    The list is as personal as your writing. Anything that touches your writing life is potentially deductible. Start watching where you spend money and what you could write off your taxes…you’re giving your money away to the government if you don’t.

  • The home office caveat
    o This is an IRS red flag for audit
    o When deducting a home office, the space must be a separate room in your house.
    o Several other restrictions fall in a gray area
    · A bed is not allowed, but a daybed is okay.
    · A closet is reportedly not allowed, but probably okay anyway
    · The space cannot be used for other purposes

  • Keep records.
    o Jodi uses Quicken, which allows her to scan her receipt for attachment to her records.
    o IRS says keep your records indefinitely
    o Jodi keeps hers for 10 years

  • Mileage
    o There is a great article on deducting mileage in the July 07 RWR.
    o The mileage allowance is currently 48.5 cents per mile – that adds up quickly.
    o Get a mileage record book and log any driving that relates to your writing (i.e., book store, group meetings, critique partner meetings, writing location, research trips, etc.)

  • IRS typically allows a small business to show a loss for 3-5 years, but Jodi cites a recent case involving a racehorse owner who showed a loss for over 5 years. The IRS took her to court and lost because it was ruled that she couldn’t make her horse win (like we can’t make a house publish our book).

    Moral of this story: If you can show you are actively trying to become a published writer, you have a better chance of saving yourself money in taxes for a longer period of time.

  • Track your writing time, including your research time. This shows a consistent work effort. (Jodi uses TraxTime—a software that allows you to punch in and out, and one that will produce reports.)

  • Track your submissions and rejections and contest entries. This shows your continued efforts to become published.

  • Miscellaneous points
    o Everything is subjective
    o Everything is arguable
    o Level of deductions taken relates to a personal level of comfort
    o If you are audited, only take one year of back taxes. The IRS will tell you to bring more, but by law you are only required to take one.
    o According to industry professionals, the IRS audits more people in the lower economic levels and more self-employed individuals.
    o Deductions have to be taken in the same calendar year as income/no-income (meaning you couldn’t deduct expenses from 2001 against income made in 2005).

Do you have anything to add here? Do you take deductions?


:~: Monday, August 13, 2007 :~:

Ack! Is it Monday Already?

I can't believe it's Monday already. Okay, correction. I can't believe it's nearly Tuesday already. My life - which explains my late blog - is in a tailspin. Why, you ask???? One answer: Gremlin #3.


The littlest Gremlin is 2.5. Oh, yes. He's smack-dab in the midst of the terrible twos. I know those of you with older kids will laugh and smile and tell me I have no idea how bad it gets when you have teenagers (I do know, actually, since I taught junior high for nine years), but let me tell you, at this point, I would gladly take three teens in exchange for the two-year-old tornado.

What, pray tell, has me in such a tither? The changing of the bedrooms. This weekend we took down the crib and moved the boys into a room together, complete with bunk beds and "boy" stuff. Gremlin #3 slept in a big bed the whole time we were on vacation and he was an angel. I thought it would be an easy transition. Obviously, I thought wrong. Oh no, now that we're home, he doesn't want to stay in his bed. Nap time consists of me laying down with him for an hour to get him to fall asleep. Bedtime isn't much better. In fact, right now it's 10PM and guess where Gremlin #3 is? Yup. Sitting here next to me, watching as I type. And if that weren't bad enough, Gremlin #2 has been beside himself because he doesn't want to share a room with the "baby" who talks and cries all the time.

Calgon, take me away!

But, Elisabeth, you say, you have three Gremlins. You've been through this before. This is nothing new! Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever. I know there's a training phase associated with transitioning into a new room and a new bed. However, it's severely cutting into my writing time because I write when he naps and after they all go to bed. And since we moved him, I just haven't been able to write at all. Either I have forgotten how bad it really was with the other two, or my patience has reached its end.

I am in awe of women who have four, five, six kids and are still able to write or have a sane life. I was shaking my head in amazement last week at the woman in Arkansas who just gave birth to #17. I have no idea how she does it.

There's no real message here today, but if you have stay-sane-while-the-kids-are-little advice, I could surely use it. ;)


:~: Wednesday, August 08, 2007 :~:

The Benefits of Being Involved

I posted a comment in response to Elisabeth's post on Monday but somehow it disappeared into the ether. Now I'm thinking that might be a good thing because the thought has expanded and grown tentacles, as many things in my life tend to do.

Elisabeth wrote about being involved in RWA. As she mentioned, I'm starting a local chapter, and, Lord, I didn't realize how detailed and time consuming it would become. I mean, I knew. But I didn't know. It all feels so manageable from the start. Then it develops and takes on a life of it's own.

Mid-way through our first chapter meeting, when I realized my vision for the group was not the vision the group had for the group, one of the women said, "This is a little like a runaway train, isn't it?"

Yeah, I thought. A runaway train I'm trying to slow with a yank on the reins and my heels dragging through the dirt as I get pulled along.

Things don't always turn out the way you plan or expect. Sometimes that's good, sometimes not so much. Despite my Eeyore tendencies, there is an underlying optimism lurking inside, one that prods me to analyze the benefits that will arise from the path I've embarked on--maybe some in lieu of the ones I anticipated, maybe some in place of.

Because the chapter is small and so many members live quite a distance away, most of the duties typically shared among a group have fallen back on me. It's okay. For now. I tell myself I'm learning valuable skills--cultivating speakers puts me in touch with skilled, published authors, A.K.A. networking; scheduling media coverage of their visit teaches me promotion technique; organizing a book signing for them after their presentation to our chapter puts me in touch with key bookstore personnel who could be valuable allies in the future.

Those are just a few things I try to focus on when the load gets heavy--the perks never anticipated or even wanted, but ones I can see value in.

What are some things you've done that reaped unexpected benefits?


:~: Tuesday, August 07, 2007 :~:

How Much Are Your Characters Like You?

Sorry to post late again this week. I just picked up a part time job and have to start training, so things in the past few days have been a little hectic. ;)

I'm reading a book right now by an author I've known for a few years. We used to be critique partners, but have sort of fallen out of touch lately. The book is great, but one thing I'm noticing is that the heroine is a lot like her, right down to looks, family details and the name of her pet. At times, I'm finding it a little distracting, since I'm having trouble thinking of the heroine as a fictional character.

This got me thinking about my own writing, and how similar my characters might be to me. Most of them are from New England, since that's where I've lived for most of my life and the place I know best. A lot of them share my hobbies, but since my hobbies are reading and cooking those are probably pretty common interests. ;) I don't usually go for men with blond hair, so most of my heroines don't, either. And coffee...I drink a lot of it, and I'm starting to notice I have at least one coffee drinking scene in every book.

There are differences too, though. I don't drink alcohol, but a lot of my heroines do. Their jobs tend to be varied, and I don't have many in the health care field like I used to be. Most of them like bad boys, and though I like to read about bad boys in books, they're really not my type.

I do have one heroine who's very similar to me. In The Whole Shebang, Lucy's story is a lot like my story...but the major details have mostly been changed. I found, while writing the book, that if she was too much like me I couldn't use her in the story. It would have been too much like writing an autobiography. ;)

Do you have characters that are similar to you? Do they share a lot of your hobbies and traits?

:~: Monday, August 06, 2007 :~:

How Involved Are You?

I spent last weekend updating the blog template for another blog I'm a part of, the Mid-Willamette RWA blog. (By the way, Saturday I posted pictures there from my trip to Nationals, in case you're interested.) With so much happening within our group - sales, news, etc - overseeing the blog is quickly becoming a full-time job. I'm also the secretary for my local RWA chapter, and while that doesn't require a ton of time outside the meetings, there are several things I'm responsible for (like finalizing the "scenario" for our upcoming Fall Whoodunit Workshop - which I still need to do.) Elections are also coming up this fall and I have repeatedly been asked to step into the VP roll, and repeatedly, I have declined, only because the way our Bylaws are set up, a "yes" also means assuming the presidency for one year when the VP position is over. Could I do it? Sure. I could. I might even enjoy it. But my family and my writing would suffer right now.

Over and over I am amazed at what my writer friends are tackling outside their own writing. Joan, for example, is starting her own local RWA chapter because there isn't one in her area. Karin Tabke recently took on the presidency roll for her local chapter, amidst all her deadlines even. Trish Milburn has been an awesome PRO liason at the National level (and recently sold her first two books. Way to go, Trish!), and still other well-known authors - like previous president Gail Wilson - have served RWA at the National level when they could be using that time to write their latest novels.

This year - I think especially this year because of all the hullaballoo about the new RWA recognition standards - I've read a lot of negatives about RWA as a whole. Epub authors are upset about the changes to the recognized publishers, erotica authors are upset at the lack of recognition they receive within the organization, historical authors are up in arms about the changes to the GH/Ritas. As someone who's involved in RWA at the local level though, I want to point out that being involved is a big chore. Those of us who are don't do it for glory or fame or recognition. We do it because we love writing and the goal of RWA, which is to promote women writers in the publishing marketplace. If you are unhappy with what is happening within RWA, I will say this to you simply: GET INVOLVED. The only way to make changes is to do it from within, not to sit on the sidelines and complain when decisions are made that don't go your way.

My roll as secretary is coming to an end, but I'll probably be running for Treasurer this fall so I can remain on our local board and stay involved. I want to be a part of the decision making process, not a bystander on the side. We all have limits, and for me, right now with three small kids at home, this is my limit. It doesn't mean I won't ever take on a bigger roll, but I'm happy there are others who can. Being involved doesn't mean you have to run for a national position, or that you have to start your own chapter, it does mean that you have to put yourself out there though and do something more.

So share. How involved are you in RWA or any other writing organization? Why or why not?


:~: Friday, August 03, 2007 :~:

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

"I don't know how you do it all."

I hear that a lot, espcially as the school year begins. I admit I do keep a lot on my plate -- parenting, teaching, coaching, writing, advising two clubs.

I find a way to do it all because it matters to me.

One of my typical days involves getting up around 5:30, getting everyone dressed, fed and out the door. I'm at school by 7:30 and teaching begins at 8:10. That lasts all day, of course, and after school, I have coaching until 5:30, usually. Then it's home to cook supper, take a run, clean the kitchen, get the Monsters into bed and I take the last hour and a half of my day for writing and promo.

There isn't much time to breathe.

What I've learned to do to manage everything is to streamline my day. Our house is organized so that cleaning can be done in spurts throughout the week -- maintaining order until I really clean for a couple of hours on the weekends. I have four baskets in my laundry room and everyone is responsible for placing dirty duds in the correct baskets, so I never have to sort laundry. I don't put laundry away either -- each family member is responsible for taking their stacks as I fold and putting things in the correct place.

My Monsters have always had chores. I don't clean their rooms but they are responsible for keeping them neat and orderly and they take turns keeping the bathroom clean (I do give it a really thorough, down-to-the-baseboards cleaning every couple of weeks). I don't go to bed without cleaning the kitchen and we lay out all clothes, bags, etc. the night before to make our mornings go easier.

I grade papers or work on school stuff for an hour or so nightly, so that doesn't pile up. It's the same with writing. 1200 words a day for four weeks means I have a rough draft nearly fifty percent complete at this point.

So, yeah, I'm busy. Some days I get overwhelmed. (Wait until November when I'm responsible for getting Homecoming Week pulled together. Some time, I'll share with you how I got snookered into being the student government advisor.) But I'm doing the things that matter to me.

How do you juggle your life and writing?


:~: Wednesday, August 01, 2007 :~:

Love Story vs. Romance

Yeah, yeah, I know -- I'm getting into a bad habit of posting late. 3rd week in a row. I have no excuse but the typical one everyone has -- I'm too darn busy! And, no, that's not a good thing.

Okay...on to the post.

This is something I've been thinking about for some time. It's one of those topics that can become convoluted and mushy, where the lines blurr and no one knows what anyone is talking about after a while.

I don't understand the distinction between a love story and a romance. I've searched online, but only get a lot of **opinion** spit back. It seems most people believe there are two distinct categories. I'm not so sure.

What is your take on Love Stories vs. Romance?