Thursday, April 27, 2006

20 Things I Know About My Writing

Mary said "Now You" so I'm taking my turn. It's a pseudo-tag. :)

1. I don't have a process. Each book gets written a different way.

2. I'm the Queen of the two-book trilogy. Reference:

Against the Rules, Second Chance at Forever, and about 10 pages of a book never completed and now never going to be completed

Soul of the Dragon, Soulflight, and 1/3 of the third book in the series, incomplete because the first book hasn't sold yet

Kira's Best Friend, Sophie's Playboy, and now Brianna's Navy SEAL kicking my you-know-what so hard it may never be finished.

3. My narrative often starts out pretentious, mainly because I'm trying not to sound like everyone else. It gets its ego popped in rewrite.

4. Dialogue is a strength. At least, people used to tell me that, and I evaluated and decided they were right. Since then, no one has told me that.

5. I may be getting the emotional thing, finally. But then again... Many of my rejections used to say the story lacked emotion, and my critique partner used to write all over the place, "what is she feeling here?" She doesn't say that anymore, mainly because she doesn't critique me anymore. Too busy.

6. I love love love action-adventure romance (as Bombshell calls it) or romantic adventure (as St. Martin's labels the Crusie/Mayer collaborative results). I was writing it YEARS before it hit the mainstream romance market. Rare plug: My first published adventure romance, Black Widow, will be released by Inara Press later this year!

7. I am happiest with a book when I write it fast. When other commitments or fatigue or daunting revisions interfere with my productivity, the book as a whole suffers.

8. Criticism and praise, failure and success, get equal treatment from me. A strong emotional reaction (good or bad), with immediate swing back to baseline. Because the rejections and bad reviews are unavoidable, the contest finals (Kira's Best Friend finaled in the More Than Magic contest!) and good reviews and nice e-mails from readers are necessary.

9. Whenever I take a left-brain/right-brain or personality test, I come out almost exactly even between creative and analytical. Obviously writing is my creative outlet. Spreadsheets are my analytical application to my writing. I have a spreadsheet for each book, with a worksheet for characters and their details, a worksheet to keep track of chapter length, etc. I also use the Kresley Cole tracker that she and her husband designed that keeps track not only of how much you've written, but how much you have left to do, and how much you have to do each day to make your deadline. I do spreadsheets for a basic to-do list and a all/winter/spring/summer/total writing plan to keep track of my productivity on multiple projects.

10. I write a lot of characters. Hence the worksheet listing characters.

11. I like hard-sounding names. A high number of my heroes and heroines have names starting with R, K, or M. I'm branching out into S and D names. I'm not talking about stuff like Ryxanstulpx or anything. More like Rogan and Kennedy. Even my non-R/K/M names have hard sounds in the middle, like Alexis.

12. I get bored easily, so I write complicated plots.

13. I'm a pacifist. Kind of. I can make people fight, but I can't kill anyone. Well, that's not true. People die in Black Widow. But I have a hard time killing important, good-guy characters. I've half decided that will be my thing. Romantic adventure that's safe. LOL You won't find "I'm a leaf on the--" stuff in my books.

14. I hate writing longhand. But when an idea has been percolating for a while, or I'm working on the next stage of a book in my head, it often surges forth when longhand is all I can do. So I have random slips of paper all over my office about different projects.

15. Despite my analytical nature, I am terrible at keeping my book materials organized. I do not have boxes or binders full of my manuscripts and all support materials. About as close as I come is individual files on my computer and the published books on the shelf.

16. I have two muses. One is a wooden frog standing on his hind legs, "hands" on his belly, looking at me askance. He's Frank, and he's for my non-paranormal books/stories. The other is Merlin, beard flying, staff raised, ready to work some heavy magic on my brain. He's obviously for the paranormal stuff.

17. I write to near-exact page count. I target 320 pages--I hit 320 pages. I target 400 pages--that's what I hit. Occasionally I go two pages under or five pages over, but I'm very good at hitting the target right on.

18. My endings sneak up on me. Even though I know it's close, and I know what needs to be written to finish, I always think it will take another day or two and then's done.

19. I have written...geez. A lot. Check it out:

16 short stories and novellas that are published or about to be published, plus one that's available on my web site for free (check out the home page), plus a few others that didn't go anywhere (even a couple of confessions!).

11 complete novels, 7 of which I have sold for publication

5 official partials (a synopsis and 3 chapters) which have not garnered interest or been shopped yet

6 started novels, 3 of which will never go anywhere, one that should achieve publication by next year at least, and two waiting their turns.

20. Even with all of's not nearly enough.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Be Careful of Living the Dream

Crusie/Mayer, deep in the throes of a long, exhausting book tour, have been posting about the pros (meeting wonderful people, selling lots of books) and cons (exhaustion, being together too much, being ill) of their success. There is a statement/response they keep making that is very funny in context:

Him: "Living the Dream."
Her: "Bite me."

The woman who writes the blog at has an infant son and just decided to quit her job, pull him from day care, and be a working-at-home mother (WAHM). She's been posting about the comments she's been getting, and how most of them seem to be giving her backhanded compliments that imply she was a Devil Mother for not making that decision in the first place.

At Ciar Cullen's blog, her MIL is doing fun psychic readings. I asked if the upcoming big change regarding my writing career and family life will be what I hope it to be. She said "Madam Philomena says you already know the answer to this question (sorry, I hate those answers too). The changes will be what you make of them, and you control how you see them. If you choose joy, the outcome will be joyous. *Philomena wants to understand why you are not comfortable embracing your own successes. She suggests you do so externally (for show), but aren't internalizing your true accomplishments. Only when you admit you are a success to yourself will you find peace."

I know there are people out there who have unrealistic expectations. Or maybe they're incomplete expectations. They want something, and think when they get it life will be perfect, but then they DO get it and they find everything is not all wonder and joy. There are bad things. Not fun things. It's just as hard as it was before.

I'm not one of those people. I know that come June 8 (well, June 12, I'm giving myself the weekend to celebrate!), it will be all up to me to make sure my choices lead to success. I know there will be hard work involved, and some things that are not fun, or not enjoyable. My writing career is no different than any other career. All careers have pros and cons. They all have stressors. But THIS career gives me more fulfillment than any other. There's more reward than a paycheck every two weeks. So I'm more than willing to take on those cons. I know they're there, and they won't suprise me.

I'm making this choice, to be home with my kids and be a full-time writer, because it's smart, not because society says it's better. Logistics allow it, and make it more attractive than continuing to work in the job I'm working in. See my previous post about my kids--being in day care has done them not ONE iota of harm. They've probably been MUCH better off not being with me full time. I know I have been.

*It's funny that Madame Philomena would say this. The "reading" is done all in fun, but this is pretty insightful. I just found out today that Kira's Best Friend is a finalist in the More Than Magic contest. My first response was excitement (well, actually, my first response was dumbfoundedness, because I forgot I entered). Then I checked out my talented co-finalists, and decided this is as far as I'll go. I don't expect to win.

So is that the same thing? Am I uncomfortable embracing my successes? I always just considered myself a pragmatist. I love my successes. I hug them and squeeze them and love them and call them George. And then I set them on a shelf and seek the next one, while explaining why the success is not such a Big Deal.

Maybe part of it is that pseudo-Catholic upbringing that taught me you don't toot your own horn, you hide your light under a bushel, you don't brag, you don't boast (yeah, I like TOAST!--sorry, unless you listen to a lot of drive-time radio, you won't get that part). I'm certain that part of it is pragmatism, though. I am content with this success, and the success that will be mine on June 8, and all that will come after.

But I don't think striving for more success and being content are mutually exclusive. I'll always be striving for bigger and better successes that give me more of what I want, both materially (I must have NFL Sunday Ticket!) and personally (the joy of writing is purely internal, as is the joy of recognition of that writing).

I guess what I'm trying to say is: Bring me that Dream. I can take it.



89% Compatible

♥ Natalie and Jim have been romantically-together for a long time. That alone demonstrates a degree of compatibility. Their shared faith will help form a bond between them. They both abstain from drinking, so that helps compatibility. Both are also sports fans, and that can bring people together. Jim may complain that Natalie is too sloppy. Their astrological signs are in harmony, though, which is a plus. They share a favorite season, and that is good. Their common love of animals is another good thing. And their views on children are similar. Overall, Natalie and Jim are highly compatible. They are capable of having a beautiful relationship together. ♥

The Dating Compatibility Test by Dating Diversions

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Isn't That Nice

The problem with these things is that my REAL answer for almost every question was "none of the above" and that wasn't an option. Would Firefly have given me a higher age than SpongeBob (which I only picked because I never watched any of the other choices)? Would "I wouldn't tell anyone the secret, ever" have made me older?

Anyway, nice to see I skew younger.

You Are 31 Years Old

Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

TV High

I am pathetic.

I admit it, willingly and proudly. There are worse things than being high as a kite because of a TV show.

It is the pinnacle of cruelty that they give us our show back--OUR show, the season-one-quality show--with only five episodes left.

I speak, of course, of Alias.

In analysis, the show wasn't without its flaws. I'm not as invested in the Tom Grace thread as I want to be...yet when I think about it, my brain starts clamoring to know who The Cardinal is, and what Grace's agenda is, and if he's a bad guy, if he's involved with Prophet Five or on another super-secret black op. Ron Rifkin (Sloane) seems diminished, a frail old man operating out of desperation. I liked him best when he was powerful and clever, with devious motives tempered by his love for his old friend Jack and his daughter. And Rachel still bugs me to high heaven.

But we had WEISS, for a few minutes, and he was PERFECT. Marshall got to go on a mission and be funny. Dixon has braids. Sidney and Spydaddy and Spymommy displayed their amazingly complex family dynamics, and Daddy came out on top--indeed, he never fell off the top. Sydney's trust of and love for her father are the polar opposite of where they started, and I'd be satisfied if this was where it ended.

But it's NOT. Will Tippin and Anna Espinoza come back next week! Sydney will be far enough postpartum to kick some serious ass. And we start the journey toward Syd and Vaughn's reunion. I may cry.

I am so frickin' happy.

Isn't it pathetic?

Monday, April 17, 2006

What a Dork

I am the BIGGEST dork.

The other night I had a problem with my monitor. All the USB ports stopped working. I spent the better part of three hours trying to fix it, and luckily I did. (Thank you, Dell forums, even though you didn't answer my question I'm good at intuiting stuff.)

So tonight I'm working along, and all of a sudden, my spacebar goes nuts. It's constantly spacing. Won't let me switch programs. Won't shut down, because the spacing is holding it at "Stand By."

I shook the keyboard upside down. Popped off the space button. TOOK OUT THE BATTERIES. Nothing worked.

I shut the machine down and powered it back up, and it worked okay for a while. Then my IMs s t ar t e d l oo k i n g like t hi s.

So I shut down again. Then I realized, and I felt SOO STOOPID.

I have an Alphasmart. It was plugged in.

Those of you who are writers or in the education profession know exactly where this is going. For those who aren't, an Alphasmart is a word processor. You type your text into it, then connect it to your computer via a USB cable and hit SEND and it "types" all your words into your document or e-mail or whatever.

The thing is, when you connect the Alphasmart, it has a message on its screen that says, "Attached to PC, emulating keyboard."

Uh, yeah. Emulating keyboard. As in, you can use it as a keyboard. As in, if you type on it, what you type will appear in your document.

As in, if a heavy folder is resting on the space bar, it's gonna screw you up.

Sheesh, I'm a dork.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

I got TAGGED!!!

Woo hoo! For the first time ever, I've been tagged! Thank you, Misa Ramirez! :)


4 movies you would watch over and over
Would? Try DO
Galaxy Quest
Princess Bride
Lord of the Rings

4 places you have lived
South Ruislip, England
Agawam, Massachusetts
Delaware, Ohio
Long Beach, California (for two weeks)
and many more!

4 TV shows you love to watch
Firefly (even though it's been off the air for three years)
Prison Break

4 places you have been on vacation
Killington, Vermont (last summer)
Dallas, Texas
Williamsburg, Virginia
Misquamicut, Rhode Island

4 Websites you visit daily
Reiss's Pieces blog (New England Patriots info)
Chad Darnell
He Wrote/She Wrote (

4 of your favorite foods
popcorn (my way, with real butter and salt)
ice cream
spinach pesto over angel hair pasta
my family recipe macaroni and cheese
Hmmm. Not such a good thing that they're all carbs, is it?

4 places you would rather be right now
On the ocean, whether that be beach or ship
At the movie theater, alone with my husband
On a carpet of moss in the woods
A bookstore filled with only the kind of fiction I love to read

Tag 4 Friends you think will respond
Who can I tag that hasn't done it? Maybe...
  • Megan Hart

  • Jody Wallace

  • Karmela Johnson

  • Shawna Moore
  • (who doesn't have a blog but now has to get one)

    Friday, April 14, 2006

    Can't Do Nothing

    There are far too many atrocities in this world, every day. It's overwhelming to face, and the helplessness good people feel can lead them to do nothing.

    Not this time.

    When Nazanin was 17, she and her niece were attacked in a park. Three men tried to rape them. She fought, and stabbed one of them. He died. Now she's been sentenced to death. If she'd done nothing and allowed the rape, she could have been imprisoned, flogged, or stoned for the act.

    Go here to sign the online petition. It's easy. And it may help save a young woman's life.

    Math Tiles

    Part of the curriculum in my kids' school has them doing math tiles. D, who is in fifth grade and doesn't have them anymore, misses them. For M, it's the very best part of the week.

    In math tiles, the student gets a card with math problems on it. Some numbers are filled in, some are blanks. They get tiles numbered 0 to 9 and they have to fill in the blanks. Each number can only be used once, and all blanks must be filled in.

    When D first brought one home to do, I gave it a try. These were the first card of the first set. 2+2=4 level stuff.

    I couldn't do it.

    Granted, I gave up after the first try, when I had one tile left and it didn't fit. I said, "hey, I left first grade a long time ago" and handed it back to my kid.

    So this week we had parent/teacher conferences, and M has finished set 3. Here are two cards from that set. Card 7 is the last addition card in the set; card 15 is the last subtraction card in the set. See how you do (you will have to write them out to line the numbers up right):

    Card 7

    __73 + 4__8 = 96__

    439 + 2__3 = 71__

    758 + 1__5 = 92__

    __46 + 25__ = 8__5

    Card 15

    __0__ - 1__7 = 177

    9__3 - __26 = 7__

    60__ - 2__8 = 307

    8__0 - __52 = 158

    Warning: Insufferable Parent Bragging Alert (It's my blog, I can be insufferably proud if I want to)

    The amazing thing about this math tiles achievement? My kid is SIX. And it's not just math (though she wrote "I'm all about math" on the back of one of her papers). She can spell "meteorologist" and read "compassion." She's well-behaved in class and has a ton of friends, who all so far seem to be really good kids (she's lucky, the teacher says she has a great class this year). She is excelling at soccer, which admittedly isn't hard when you're nearly 7 and have been playing with your older sister for three years, and are now being forced to play with kids in kindergarten who are just starting out. But she'll make a cut, and the whole crowd will go, "Ooh."

    So far, none of this has gone to her head. She doesn't seek attention or have a superior attitude in class. When she scores a goal in soccer, she just runs back to her spot on the line; when a teammate scores, she jumps and cheers. Her teacher pointed out that she is humble, and it's a trait she will need. Our job, now, is to make sure she STAYS that way, while still striving to excel and be challenged in everything she does.

    Lest anyone who has bothered to read past the Insufferable Parent Bragging Alert thinks I'm playing favorites, let me tell you about my fifth-grader. The one taking ALGEBRA next year. She's obviously not the only one in her class, but algebra wasn't even offered until I was in eighth grade. I'm thrilled that she gets this opportunity. She was the first kid in her class to top out on the school's computer math program, and is exploring some online programs to get her through the last two months of the year. She has straight A's, including in clarinet and cello (which she will play in a solo next month), and managed, in one class where she was the sole dissenting opinion, to convince half her class AND her science teacher to change their minds.

    She plays soccer, too, and has been improving drastically on the field as well as in her interaction with her teammates. Her swimming instructor has said she'd like her to teach once she's through the entire Red Cross program.

    Are my kids perfect? Hell, no. The other day, M said "oh, crap" when I scored a basket, then lied about it. D has a tendency to spend six hours cleaning half her room, taking a "break," and rebounding within days to being twice as messy as before. They're not prodigies, heading for college at age 12 or the symphony orchestra or professional soccer. They are typical siblings, bickering until Mommy goes insane, arguing when I say "no," offering one-word answers when asked about their day. And we're not into the teen years yet--I know we're in for a whole different relationship when we get there.

    What they are is really good kids, with well-rounded interests, a drive to succeed, and respect for themselves and those with whom they interact. I am so thankful, every day, that I get to be their mom.

    Tuesday, April 11, 2006

    Dear Devon

    Dear Devon,

    I’m on a plane, my usual location these days when you’re on your way home. I don’t know why it’s so hard to face you.

    Maybe it’s the tension you carry, as if any second you expect me to leave you. I hate making you feel that way, but I don’t know how to assure you when I can’t assure myself.

    Uncertainty is driving me, and you know how I am. I can’t stand it. You tell me you love me, and I wonder if you really do, or if the magic just makes you believe it. It shouldn’t matter what compels it. I should just be satisfied with what is. But I can’t, especially because when I say it back, I don’t know if it’s any more true for me. What happens if the bond fails?

    Cowardice is not my way. Agents don’t get far being cowards, and I’m one of the best agents The Guild has. That’s why they keep sending me on assignment, why I’m always winging it somewhere else, even when you’ve just done a Chicago-London turnaround in three days. At least I can pretend it’s not fear.

    I’m going to flush this down the toilet in a minute. They say writing down your feelings is supposed to make you feel better.

    It’s not working.

    I love you, Devon.

    I think.


    Maggie and Devon from
    Elemental Passion are struggling with the compulsion of the bond that identified them as soulmates. Find out how they handle it in A Matter of Choice, released this week as part of the Prying Eyes AmberPax.

    Sunday, April 09, 2006

    Reading Update

    Blogger isn't letting me upload pictures right now. So I'll just refer you here and here to take a look-see. You should go there anyway.

    So this year a friend encouraged me to keep track of all the books I'm reading, or attempting to read, this year. So far I've completed 18 novels and 2 novellas, and attempted 8 that I didn't complete. I rate them all, 1-10, and the average is 7.14 (higher than I expected!). I have one 1, and until this past week, I had one 10.

    Now I've added two more!

    These two books are very different. The Gate to Eden is a historical western, not my usual choice of reading. Don't Look Down is a romantic adventure, my preferred genre. Both have stuck in my head.

    I'm not great at reviewing books. They're like art to me. I read them and like them, or not.
    Analyzing them, breaking them down and telling what I like, is difficult. But these two deserve it, so I'll try.

    (No blurbs. I can't summarize my own books, never mind someone else's, so go to those links I posted above to get the gist of the stories.)

    The Gate to Eden
    I like modern heroines, which is probably why I don't read a lot of historicals anymore. I hear many of them now contain willful, independent heroines, generating complaint that they are anachronistic. I'm happy to say, TGTE contains an independent heroine who fits perfectly in her time period. Maddie and hundreds of other women and children have been thrown into a terrible situation, and she will stop at nothing to improve it. Everything she does is well-motivated and believable, and I found myself rooting for her to marry Scott and make her life easier. Scott's backstory is well structured to feed the conflict yet make the outcome inevitable. It's a well-crafted story that will make you surprised to see modern conveniences when you finally look up from the page, and emerge from their world.

    Don't Look Down
    This book had a lot to live up to. I've been a fan of Jenny Crusie's for a long time, and jumped on her blog the minute she opened it. I've been following the evolution of the Crusie/Mayer collaboration almost since it started. Those two share a brain, I swear. They are the funniest couple who isn't a couple, and a pair of talented writers. But when you "live" with them every day, peering through the portal of their blog into the portion of their lives they share, it can be easy to have high expectations. And mine were light-years high. But the book definitely lived up to them. I laughed out loud often enough to exasperate my coworker, my kids, and my husband. I told my father-in-law, who will love this book, all about it. I also told my mother-in-law, who never reads anything more than People magazine. The worst part is that I have to wait a whole year before the next one. At least I have their blog.

    So go now. Check out these two books, and buy them. I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

    Friday, April 07, 2006

    Super Fears

    I just got the new issue of Entertainment Weekly. The cover features Brandon Routh as Superman, and I gotta tell you, the image has me afraid. Very afraid.

    It's not that he doesn't look the part. He's fine. I have no idea of his acting ability so obviously that judgment will wait until the movie comes out.

    I saw some of the first images from the movie, and I thought, "Ugh. Did they have to give him the CHEESIEST COSTUME EVER???!!!" I mean, he looks WORSE than the 1970s Superman, and that's not what updating a classic is supposed to be about.

    This cover does nothing to dispel that. It heightens my fears. My first thought on seeing it was "Christopher Reeve." That in itself isn't bad, of course. Nothing against Christopher Reeve. But evoking images of Superman IV? That's bad.

    The plastic-looking curl on his forehead is bad. I only occasionally read the comics when I was a kid, but I'm pretty sure Superman didn't whip out the hair gel and curling iron when he was in the phone booth.

    The rosy cheeks and glossy lips are bad. There's a reason X-Men the movie skipped the spandex. Some things don't translate well from page to screen. I'm hoping this is simply cover artist overenthusiasm and Superman won't need an hour in hair and makeup before each urgent rescue.

    Put it all together, and I'm ready for the worst. In my adulthood, we've had two Clark Kents who are competent, interesting men, not stumbling, bumbling fools. I flipped to the inside article, and the image of Routh as Clark Kent doesn't ease my concerns any.

    Add to that Kevin Spacey's lack of menace (or the right kind of menace, anyway) and Kate Bosworth's overwhelming sweetness, and this is not the movie I'm holding my breath for this summer.

    I've been surprised before. Maybe I will be again. I am not giving up hope.

    Tuesday, April 04, 2006

    Flashes of Lightning

    I think one of the hardest parts of being a parent is knowing the right thing to say at the right time...or avoiding the wrong thing.

    My mother once asked me to stop singing in the car. I learned years later that she'd only meant not to sing then, but "don't sing" has given me a phobia for life. I won't do it if the music isn't loud enough to drown me out.

    My parents divorced when I was seven. When I told my father I was getting married, he didn't expect to walk me down the aisle. His easy acceptance of our relationship as adults made it possible for us to have one.

    Last night we had a serious thunderstorm, and my daughter, who will be seven in a few weeks, was frightened. It's instinctive for us, as parents, to reassure our kids, to try to soothe their fears by telling them they are unnecessary. But that wasn't working, and I felt I was making things worse by making her feel bad for being afraid.

    So I told her it was reasonable to be afraid of lightning, it can be dangerous. I talked about why, and why it's unlikely to harm us, as dangerous as it is. I talked about my father getting me out of bed when I was little so we could watch the storms, and watching them in the record-setting heat of the summer of 88, when I lived next to a farm and had wide sky to watch the lightning. A sharp cloud-to-cloud bolt streaked in front of us, and I awwwed at it.

    Within seconds, my daughter was doing the same. By the time we got home, she was begging me to let her stay up late so she could watch.

    So what part worked? Was it my reassurances? My endorsement of her fear? My stories, or the beauty of the lightning itself? Or was I incidental to the whole change? Was is my daughter's own ability to adjust, or even the natural adaption to the circumstances, i.e. comfort grows as exposure continues?

    I'll never know for sure, but whatever it was, it made me proud to watch.