Sunday, April 30, 2006

Signed up for Gotham Writer's Workshop

A friend sent me an e-mail today with 10 websites every military spouse should know. Since I’m a good military spouse and always curious, I went to check out these links and came across the Barnes & Noble University.

I clicked on the free enrichment classes and found a novel writing class with Gotham Writer’s Workshop.

I’ve been ogling their workshops for a long time. Right now they’re offering a class on how to get published, taught by lit agent Dan Lazar (who rejected THE PROTECTOR). Sweet. I’ve also had my eye on the advanced novel writing class, which is too expensive for me, especially since the novel 101 class is a pre-requisite.

Since my funds are very limited, I wasn’t going to save my pennies to sign up for novel 101. I’m past the basics. I’ve got two finished novels under my belt and two decades of writing experience; I think it’s fair to say I have figured out the basic idea.

But novel 101 is offered free of charge through B&N University.

I signed up.

Class begins on Monday.

If nothing else, it’s a good networking opportunity. And I get that pre-requisite out of the way.

Oh, and when I went to check on classes in progress already, I saw a mystery writing class with Writers Digest that’s just finishing up. It appears all classes are four weeks long and new classes are offered every month. Isn’t that neat? I sure hope they will repeat the mystery class some time in the future, because I’d like to take that, too.


And the Feng Shui one. Definitely the Getting Organized one and Simplify Your Life. Geography and Grammar sound good, too. And why not Wines?

LOL.

I’m guessing I’ll be taking a new class each month.

Thank you, Jennifer, for forwarding that e-mail with the links.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

…and even when your hope is gone, move along, move along…*

I fixed the problem with the guestbook on my website. Thanks to tech support and their easy to follow instruction. I really like my website. I wish I had THE PROTECTOR sold already, so I could do more advertising for it, but … just got a rejection from Insomniac Press today.

I think I have reached the end of my query journey.

I have not heard anything from the vast majority of agents I queried in January and mid-March. I understand the no-reply routine, but it SUCKS. I have not heard yet from Cleis Press, but since their line-up is lesbian-oriented, I’m not holding out much hope. Why did I query them? Well, they didn’t say not to query with gay material, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

I sent out one last query today. It went to Seventh Window Publications, publisher of THE PRICE OF TEMPTATION, which isn’t just a sweet gay Regency romance I enjoyed tremendously, but a 2005 Lambda Award finalist.

According to their website, Seventh Window is looking for romantic and sexy novels with compelling characters and plot. I am within their desired word count (60-80K), but I hope suspense isn’t turning them off. I’ve got the romance and sex, I’ve just got flying bullets and people out to do bad things, too.

There won’t be much of a paycheck.

My money goal was always to receive enough to pay off my school loan, but I think that’s not happening. Well, not in one swoop as I’d hoped.

On the bright side, since I am submitting to Seventh Window without the aid of an agent, I won’t have to share my advance with anyone other than my creditors.

IF Seventh Window is interested in Mason and Soren and their adventures...

K. Back to work. Current chapter 8 word count: 1432.



*song by THE ALL-AMERICAN REJECTS: "Move Along"

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Operation Word Count Increase

Chapter 8.

Beginning word count: 1372.

Current word count: 1370.

Oops.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

FF7: AC, the movie

Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children, the movie. Saw it last night. Loved it. It was cool to see Cloud and the gang again. Made me remember why I liked Cid and Vincent so much to begin with. Reno and Rude made me laugh.


Still NOT working on THE PROTECTOR.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Life is interesting, isn’t it?

Yesterday:

Slept in.
Got a form rejection from Kensington.
Took the kids to the zoo and ran into Willie Nelson (almost literally).
Some bird pooped in Nolan’s shoe.
Was overcome with the urge to write a short story, turned on computer... computer didn’t work …
Ended up reading more hot, sexy Sherrilyn Kenyon, Night Pleasures.

Today’s plans:
Picking up new fish tank (including fish).
Keeping eagle eye on fighting fish. He messes with our goldfish and he gets his own bowl.
Writing that short story.
Not working on THE PROTECTOR.
Reading more hot, sexy Sherrilyn Kenyon, Dance With The Devil.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Whew

Let’s see. I was busy. I:
  • Added 128 words to chapter six. After looking it over for two days and not finding my way in, I had an idea on day three and, voila, 128 words found a new home.

  • Read a second book by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Night Play. I enjoyed it enough to keep reading until 1 a.m., despite a 6 a.m. wake-up call the next day. So that should tell you something. I need to send her an e-mail thanking her for making her heroine a plus-sized woman and her hero someone who’s looking for a woman with curves, not one with hunger pangs.

    This book really made me feel good about myself. I’m not a size 18 like Bride McTierney, but I’m not an average 12 either. I’m above average. LOL.

  • Went to the dentist after a two-year break. No cavities. Whoohoo.

  • Solved my first two sudoku puzzles. Got addicted. Excellent brain stimulant (see first bullet).

Saturday, April 15, 2006

I’m interested in men; what’s weird about that?

Determined to find something to read, I dragged the kids to the local Borders yesterday. They immediately found what they liked, while I searched for urban fantasy.

The problem was that the romance section was not divided into categories. Historicals mingled with suspense mingled with the paranormal mingled with humor mingled with fantasy.

Unless you know what author you’re looking for … good luck finding what you want.

I went straight to Angela Knight, but the only book on the shelf was the book I bought already. But Sherrilyn Kenyon caught my eye. Plenty of books to select from. I chose a Dank-Hunter novel, Unleash The Night.

I spent all night devouring it. I loved it.

BTW, I did what I always do when browsing for books. I read the backcover description and if the man’s story sounds interesting, I open the book to a random page and read a bit. (I put several first person POVs back on the shelf, before I found Kenyon’s book.) I never read the first page. Something in the middle has to catch my eye.

What is important to note here is that the man’s story sells the book to me. I have always been way more interested in the hero than the heroine, which is why I don’t read a lot of romance. It’s how I found my way into gay fiction – reading it and writing it.

Some people think it’s weird that I am interested in gay fiction. To me, it was a natural progression. I am a heterosexual woman interested in men. So I read about men and write about men. What’s weird about that?

I think I am bored with heroines, because I am a woman myself. I want new experiences not rehash what I’ve already done/felt. Yeah, okay, I’ve never been on the run from evil guys out to hurt me, but I found a great guy to love, gave him babies and explored the world with him. I don’t need a book to experience life as a woman in love.

  • If you know a book that centers on the man’s point of view, please, by all means, recommend it to me. (Nora Roberts hit paydirt with her Quinn Brothers. Now there are four books dealing with romance from the men’s perspective.)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Is there any gay urban fantasy out there?

In an effort to not to any work on THE PROTECTOR, I headed over to amazon.com to check out urban fantasy (they list it under contemporary fantasy).

I read one by Angela Knight a little while ago and I really enjoyed it. That was before I knew what urban fantasy was and that there were plenty of books like Angela’s to peruse and chose from.

Urban fantasy takes places in the modern world, in cities and towns and populated places where regular people live side-by-side with werewolves or vampires or changelings. It’s modern romance or suspense or mystery coupled with a fantasy element.

Okay, so I headed on over to amazon and started browsing. Clicked past the first-person POVs and found a few books that sounded like a good read. But I simply couldn’t get all that excited about these books. A lot of them seemed to have a strong erotic element, but I am just not that interested in the heroine and her wereleopard guy having sex. Sorry.

I have to be in the right mood to read het sex. Being as immersed in THE PROTECTOR as I am right now, I am so NOT in the mood to read anything het. I want the hot vampire boy to hook up with his hot wereleopard neighbor, not the girl down the street.

Sigh.

Is there any gay urban fantasy out there?

Busy day

Worked on chapters three, four and five today. Chapter five fought me for every single word, tooth and nail. But I added a total of 342 lovely words.

I also mailed my query package to Kensington. Erotica is hot right now. Maybe homoerotic suspense can benefit from that. Wish me luck.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Ready, set, send

Whew. Chapter three was tough. But in the end, I increased my word count by 112 words, which actually surprised me a little. It’s going very well, so I am going to print the first three chapters and send them off to their fate with an editor at Kensington.

I am glad I have a query ready and a synopsis waiting in the wings. I don’t think that I found them harder to write than the book itself, but they are certainly in a league of their own.

So much emphasis is placed on a good query that every word is scrutinized and triple checked. But the problem I have is probably the problem many authors face: the query is supposed to reflect the voice and style of the book, while giving a very short description of the book.

Oh, and you’re not supposed to use descriptive adjectives. So my line “THE PROTECTOR is a fun and quirky homoerotic novel of suspense” is actually very presumptive.

But I just couldn’t get the humor and lighthearted fun that’s a major part of the book into the tiny, two paragraph description. So I mention “fun” and “quirky,” because I don’t want to give the impression that THE PROTECTOR is a traditionally serious suspense novel.

I am more Janet Evanovich than James Patterson.

  • If you'd like to read the newly improved chapters one, two and three, head on over to my website (link to the right) and check them out.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I'm happy

1577 seems to be the final word count for chapter two. That’s a 198-word increase. Whoohoo. That’s almost twice my self-imposed goal per chapter. I am very happy about this, because I know it won’t be as easy with subsequent chapters.

The easy chapters, the ones I had fun writing, will probably be easier to fatten. When a chapter doesn’t flow as well as I would like or I don’t feel as comfortable with the chapter’s subject matter [see my entry on action scenes] I work on it until my fingers bleed. Most of the time that means those chapters are the most polished and scrutinized. Adding 100 words won’t be easy.

Sometimes I wonder if the creation process is easier for writers who just write and worry about the editing later. I edit as I write. I might put down a paragraph or two so as not to lose the flow of the words or so that I can get to that one sentence that has been flitting around inside my skull. But generally I work with the sentences as they are born. They need to flow one into the next, to fit together like puzzle pieces.

And you can’t really solve a puzzle by fitting pieces together that just look like they might fit. Either they fit or they don’t.

141 more

Word Count Status: Chapter Two: Before: 1379; Now: 1520. And I am not finished with it yet. Some chapters are easier to fatten up than others. Since I’ve been over chapter one so many times … I guess there really wasn’t anything else I had to say. Still, it did increase. And it’s been revamped.

If you’d like to read the new again and improved again chapter one, head on over to my website and find it on the Writings page under THE PROTECTOR.

Word count has been on my mind. It was since I started writing THE PROTECTOR. It just happened that a lot of the earlier chapters had a similar word count and once I noticed that I tried to keep the subsequent chapters in the same area, word count-wise. It was a conscious effort. As were the general shortness of the chapters and the no-scene breaks rule. And of course those decisions weren’t willy nilly either.

I wish I could remember the magazine or website that had the article on new reading habits of modern readers. We all know that attention spans have decreased and life has become hectic. Many people read on their train or bus commute to work. Shorter chapters lend themselves perfectly to quick reading. And since it’s a fact that people had to break in the middle of a chapter … they move through a book with shorter chapters quicker.

“Oh, just one more. They’re so short. I can do one more.”

Now I just have to find the agent/editor/publisher who’s also read that article…

Friday, April 07, 2006

Kensington here I come

I had a great talk with my friend LaConnie yesterday. We’re at similar stages in our writing career, which is to say we’re both unpublished at the moment. But LaConnie has worked with a professional editor and has her work under review by the publisher of her choice. Best of luck to you, friend.

So she called me with the express purpose of passing on some of her writing wisdom. I’m all about feedback, let me tell you. So I didn’t mind the least bit. What she said made total sense. It was one of those “duh” moments. After she opened my eyes, I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t spotted myself what she pointed out to me.

I took her advice and tore chapter one of THE PROTECTOR apart to reassemble it with more punch, paying careful attention to POV switches (no first person POV for me).

I am also working on that word count.

Current standing: 58,998 increased to 59,046. Whoohoo, 65,000 here I come.

I think I’ll also take LaConnie’s advice about agents. I really only wanted an agent so I can submit to my publisher of choice, Kensington, and John Scognamiglio, the editor (agented material ONLY!).

Following LaConnie’s lead, I’ll just might send in my stuff without an agent. If they send it back unopened, I’ll just keep searching for an agent. If they open it and read it, they'll either like it or dislike it. I don’t think they’d like it or dislike it any better if an agent sent it in.

We’ll see.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The little things

I started fixing the little things:

  • I got all my em and en dashes straight (pun fully intended). There were 206 of them, and they are now correctly formatted.
  • I started looking for the “to” that should have been a “too.” There were 1354 occurrences of “to.”
  • I looked for the “of” that should have been an “off.” There were 1050 of those.
  • I have not yet checked to find the “if” that should have been a “whether.” Only 138 to investigate.
  • I replaced “pajama” with “pajamas.” (I had no idea that’s a plural. I learned something new.)
  • I changed “tore his eyes off” to “tore his attention off.” (Can’t have odd mental pictures distracting the reader.)
  • Oh, and I added a “that” to make things clearer in a sentence early in chapter one. There are now 58,998 words to this novel. If I could manage to add just 100 words to every chapter, I’d have … … 64,198 words, which is a good starting length for a genre mystery. The problem here is that I scrutinize every single word. You know the whole “don’t use adverbs, choose better verbs instead” deal. I’m all about better verbs, active language, no fluff i.e. adjectives. So adding just 100 words is a major deal. I’m way better at cutting (a habit from my editor days) than adding; I’m a ruthless wielder of the delete key.

I'm now going to mop my floors. There's nothing like some housewifely chores in the middle of the night to make you forget about the 1354 occurrences of “to” you had to check.

Monday, April 03, 2006

What's your Hawaiian Name?

http://www.blogthings.com/hawaiiannamegenerator/

***Your Hawaiian Name is:***

Leilani Nana


Oh, that's not bad. As you might or might not know, I live on O'ahu, Hawai'i. But no one has called me Leilani Nana yet. Mostly, I am just Auntie or Nadja or "hey, Kaelan's mom."

How Weird Are You?

http://www.blogthings.com/howweirdareyouquiz/

***You Are 50% Weird***

Normal enough to know that you're weird...
But too damn weird to do anything about it!


:-)

What Type of Writer Should You Be?

http://www.blogthings.com/whattypeofwritershouldyoubequiz/

***You Should Be a Film Writer***

You don't just create compelling stories, you see them as clearly as a movie in your mind.
You have a knack for details and dialogue. You can really make a character come to life.
Chances are, you enjoy creating all types of stories. The joy is in the storytelling.
And nothing would please you more than millions of people seeing your story on the big screen!

Thanks, Sheri, for sending along this quiz. I couldn't help but do a few more ...

THE PROTECTOR: the official, professional verdict

I got my critique – earlier than expected. I saw it sitting in my inbox and had sweaty palms instantly. I stared at it for a minute – it’s what I do when query replies come in, too. There is always that knee-jerk reaction of panic. What if they liked it? What if they didn’t?

You might think that receiving a negative response would be the bigger deal – as in more devastating. I’ve received my share of negative responses, and I find that they are not that difficult to deal with. I file them, and that’s that.

But what if they liked it? Now that’s a scary thought. Sure, it’s what I want. But my over-analytical brain immediately thinks ahead: I wrote this book on my own time, will I manage to work through the necessary revisions and meet the publisher-imposed deadline that’s inevitable? Can I write a second book, a third and fourth or will it become obvious that all I had in me was one book? Hell, will the reading public like what I wrote enough to even warrant a second book? Can I handle the sophomore pressure?

You see:

Creative writing is a harrowing business, a terrifying commitment to an absolute. This is it, the writer must say to himself, and I must stand or fall upon what I have put down. The degree of self-exposure is crucifying. And doubt is a constant companion. What if I am not as good as I thought, is a question that always nags, and can cripple. [Walter Kerr]

True. Very, very true. It was easy sending THE PROTECTOR off. Nothing to it. Clicking on the resulting reply in my in-box, opening the critique and reading it, that was hard.

If we had to say what writing is, we would have to define it essentially as an act of courage. [Cynthia Ozick]

But that’s not what you really want to know, is it? You are as interested in the official verdict as I was.

Here it is:

First and foremost, you were right - this novel is fun. The characters are larger than life (fitter than life, prettier than life, more bumbling than life, depending upon whether good or bad) and the asides are gems. Your timing is spot on and the location lovely and exotic. The details are visual and not at all tedious. (Tediousness in details is a common trap and you deftly avoided it.) Official critique: I’d say it’s a good book.

The tension between Mason and Soren is just right, and Mrs. George is a delight; the telling of the entire tale is lighthearted without crossing to cartoonishness. I do like it all very much.

Bravo on a wonderfully readable novel with series potential (mention that last in your cover letters), and thank you for the chance to see your words again.

My pleasure.

Sometimes courage pays off.

As does scrutinizing every word and slaving over single sentences for hours:

All that is good about this novel’s structure – arc, tense, grammar, carefully streamlined sentences – make what needs fixing nearly insignificant. “Nearly,” because the little things count, of course.

(I was going to cut and paste the section of the critique that goes into the things that need fixing: dangling participles, some redundancies and the occasional conjuring of odd inadvertent mental pictures. But the whole list with page numbers for reference would make little sense here.)

There was even proof that detail-oriented, fastidious Nadja can completely miss something:

The radio announcer (re the storm) is lovely and perky and pretty by turns and in the middle of all that is “the weatherman.”

Oops. And how many times have I read the darn thing?!

What I liked best, though, was this part – an echo of what I’ve heard already (and posted in an earlier entry):

…as you can see, all of this and the rest a line edit would pick up are easy to spot, easy to fix. You are most capable of this yourself. You write with humor and a feel for the language, so I don’t recommend you go with a friend (a picky friend) or an editing service such as ours* unless you are pressed for time, have seen the manuscript so often you’d rather read the dictionary than it one more time, or you just wish that second set of eyes and the suggestions that come in the details…

:-)

* scribendi.com

Thank you, iTunes Music Store.

When the computer crashed, it took my iTunes library with it. Ugh. I e-mailed the help center asking if there was a way to recover the songs I had purchased. Some time later I received an e-mail from Caitlin at the iTunes Music Store. She put all the songs I’d purchased and lost back into my library.

Now that’s what I call a satisfactory resolution. Thank you.


PS: I spent the last hour putting my library back together. Now my Shuffle is up-to-date again. Eclectic mix of music: rock, pop, classical, a lot of country (Keith Urban, sweet), a bit of Latin and German, some alternative and even one inspirational song (couldn’t find the second one I wanted).