Saturday, December 31, 2005

Auld Lang Syne

As usual, I'm stealing from Mary at The Bandwagon. But reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to the next year is appropriate for Dec. 31st, so here we go:

Name Five Bad Things That Happened to You in 2005:
1. I lost my cousin in a car accident
2. I had to have two of my old cats put to sleep
3. My jerky law wrecked my car
4. My mom had to have gall bladder surgery
5. I had to be out of work for over two weeks with cellulitis

Name Five Good Things That Happened to You in 2005:
1. Sold my first book
2. Won several contests, including the Duel on the Delta
3. Gained a new niece (Catherine) and a new potential niece (Amber)
4. Received my first advance check
5. My friend Kris's book, HELL'S BELLES, made the RT Reviewer's Choice finalists list.

Name Five People Who Have Touched You in a Special Way in 2005:
1. My mother
2. My best friend Jenn
3. My editor
4. Lonie
5. My wonderful RWA chapter

Name Five Things You Achieved in 2005:
1. Sold my first book
2. Won several contests
3. Got a several agent requests
4. Refinanced my house from 30 to 15 years at virtually the same monthly payment
5. Submitted four different manuscripts to four different editors

Name Five Things You'd Like to Achieve in 2006:
1. Finish DANGEROUS PURSUIT and two more books
2. Sell all three of the aforementioned books
3. Get an agent
4. Lose weight
5. Enter the Rita contest

Pretty good year, overall, I'd say.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Unexpected Day Off

Is there anything better than your boss coming into the office around 4:50 pm Thursday afternoon and telling you that since your biggest clients are taking the next day off, you don't have to come into work on Friday before a long weekend? Okay, I guess there are a few things better, but it's right up there with Hershey's chocolate kisses and finding ten bucks at the bottom of your purse that you didn't know you had.

So I had today off, and while I'd like to say I didn't waste any of it, I can't. I did, however, manage 13 pages on my WIP and reached my big Act Two complication spot. (If my book were a one-hour television drama, we'd have just reached the half hour commercial break). I'm up to 162 pages (so, actually, page-wise, I'm a little past the half hour mark, but whatever). That means I'm past the point where I was a month ago when I tossed all but the first five pages and started over.

I'm still on track to finish the first draft by the end of January, and that's with a schedule of only two pages a day on weekdays and five a day on weekends and holidays. Very doable. And just in case I need a little more incentive to write, my To Be Read list is growing. Tracy Montoya's MAXIMUM SECURITY came in the mail today and joins Gayle Wilson's DOUBLE BLIND in my growing stack of reward books.

Meanwhile, Mary at The Bandwagon has a book recommendation that looks intriguing. I read the Romantic Times' reviewer's blurb on GRIN AND BEAR IT, and it sounded like it would be a great read. Also, check out the comic strip Mary posted. If you're a reader with children around, or other similar demands on your time, it'll look extremely familiar.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

And Now for Something Completely Different...

I get a little focused on romance, given my chosen writing genre, but I read pretty widely when I get the chance. Some of my favorite books are thrillers, and here are a few I've loved enough to read again and again.

THE STAND - Stephen King
The great, apocalyptic Good vs. Evil story of modern literature. Sure, it's a tad overwritten and windy, especially the unabridged version, but the characters are compelling, the story complex and all too believable, and the ending is deeply satisfying.

NIGHT FALL - Nelson DeMille
A well-written, complex fictional exploration of the crash of Flight 800 over the Atlantic east of Long Island. Running with the rumors of a missile streak seen shortly before the plane exploded and fell from the sky, DeMille's hero, John Corey, explores the mystery behind the crash and comes to startling, timely conclusions. The last chapter is stunning and sobering.

Jack Ryan back before he became a politician. Action, a smidgen of romance, IRA terrorists looking for vengeance, loved ones in danger and a visit from royalty. What more could you want from a political thriller?

It's a little light on characterization, although there are a few characters who stand out in my mind, but the shocking events of the story are compelling, and I happened to be reading it when the first Gulf War began, so this novel about an unexpected war had extra immediacy for me at the time.

WATCHERS - Dean Koontz
Einstein, the genius Golden Retriever, made this my all time favorite Koontz book.

BLACKOUT - John Nance
Maybe it's the combination of political intrigue and flying that really got me with this book, but Nance delivered a heck of a story. Like a lot of thriller writers, he's not great at writing the romantic elements of the story (DeMille, listed above, does a much stronger job with romantic relationships between his characters, as does Koontz and even King), but the action and suspense is non-stop.

I really need to read more female thriller writers. I love thrillers in my category romances like IM and Intrigue, but I haven't really gotten attached to any single title thriller writers who are women. Anybody have suggestions?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Contest Judging Opportunity

And this one's for the non-writers among us.

My local RWA chapter, Southern Magic, is currently accepting entries for the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence for published writers. You can find out more about the contest on our website.

We're having terrific response for the contest, and we need more judges. The contest is judged not by other writers but by avid romance readers and booksellers who are not writers themselves. The score sheet couldn't be simpler, and the judges keep the books as a gift from the authors. If you are interested in judging this contest, or you have friends or family who might be interested, contact the contest coordinator at

And by the way, if you're a published writer of a book with a 2005 publication date, you have until January 15th, 2006, to enter. See the website listed above for more information.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Post Christmas Link-a-thon

First, I read this post at Tightly Wound and had a good laugh. Kids today!

Then, at IMAO, there's this rather perplexing nativity scene. For the record, I agree with the commenter who says they're made of plywood, but it was the Yosemite Sam comment that really made me snicker.

How about a story that has a happy ending, but sends your stomach cramping before you get there (especially if you're a writing using a computer)? Check out this poor woman's tale of woe and triumph.

And if you're interested in blogosphere minutiae, there's a poll on Jim Treacher's blog that seeks an alternative term for the now played-out "fake but accurate."

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Day After

If I never see any more wrapping paper or bows, it'll be too soon.

Despite my big plans to get extra writing done over the holidays, I didn't do squat. Well, actually, I did figure out how to proceed with the next few scenes of my WIP, but I didn't commit any words to paper (or computer screen—whatever). So I've got to do seven pages today just to start catching up. Except I'm fat and lazy today, and I don't wanna. And the newest Gayle Wilson HQN romantic suspense, DOUBLE BLIND, is sitting there, tempting me...

I am such an undisciplined slug.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Well, all the gifts are opened, the ham, white beans and cornbread eaten (we were pretty lazy with our Christmas dinner this year), and everybody's either napping or, in my case, just up from a nap.
The kids were very pleased with their gifts. They got several smallish things, plus the elder two received scooters and a three-in-one game table shared between them. The baby got a LeapStart™ Learning Table that she hasn't really gotten to play with yet, because her biological parents whisked her off to visit her maternal grandparents and brought her back just in time for a nap. But she'll get to play with it when she wakes up.
We probably went a little overboard, but the kids had hard lives before they came into our lives, and I guess maybe we want to make it up to them, at least at Christmas.
I hope everyone had a happy, safe Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Ho Ho Ho, Hee Hee Hee

I admit, I'm shamelessly stealing this from Mary at The Bandwagon (so please click the link and go visit her blog, which is great, to make me feel a little less guilty). But this link is just too cute not to share.

As my baby niece said when she saw this little web video, "Ho ho! Ho ho!"

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas.

Just try not to sing along. Just try.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow


It never snows here for Christmas. Or, for that matter, just about any other day of the year. It's part of that double-edged sword called living in the deep south. We have gorgeous springs and pleasant falls, but summer is hell and winter is too cold to be comfortable and too warm to snow.

Not. Fair.

Oh, I'm not wishing for a blizzard like the one that passed through here in on a weekend in March 1993, leaving as much as 15 inches of snow in some places (including my back yard). That weekend, the snow weighted down tree branches which broke, taking out powerlines just in time for the temperature to drop to the teens. With no power and no fireplace, we didn't dare go out in the snow; there was no way to warm ourselves back up when we came back inside. So we shivered under piles of blankets and cursed the cold white stuff.

But 1993 was a long time ago, and there haven't been many snowfalls since. Is it really too much to ask to have four or five inches of the stuff on the ground, just enough to turn a winter day into a vacation day from work without being so bad that ambulances and fire trucks can't safely navigate the roads?

Just sayin'.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Another Step in the Process

I got my line edits from my editor today. I haven't had a chance to look at them yet, being at work, but just knowing they're there, waiting on me to address, gives me a little chill.

I also got a request from an agent to see two full manuscripts. Whee!


I'm home now, and I've looked through the editor's line edits. Beyond the nitpicky stuff, which I expected, there were only three suggestions that are going to require a little bit of thought. One was a plot point that's going to be hard to dispense of, so I'll have to rewrite it to work better for the editor. One was a timeline question that I'll just have to chart out so that I have all my days in the right order. And the third request was to punch up a chapter ending so that it was more of a page turner. Of the three, that one might take the most thought of all.

Of course, I haven't seen the copy editor's notes yet. Yikes.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

This, That and the Other

Whew! Looks like the revisions on FORBIDDEN TERRITORY were accepted, and now I can breathe a small sigh of relief. June 2006 is still on!

Update on the WIP: I mentioned earlier that I was going to have to backtrack and revise. Basically, I started over at page 6. 152 pages down the drain. Well, not really; there's a lot of the already written stuff that I'm incorporating into the new version of the WIP, but still, that's a lot of writing to have done only to start back over from nearly the beginning.

On the up side, I think the first 50 pages of version two are a LOT stronger than the original draft. The story is more streamlined and makes more sense, it creates a more immediate sense of danger for the heroine, and the relationship between the hero and the heroine is more adversarial and suspicious at this point, adding to the overall sense of suspense. It's definitely more of an Intrigue-style book in its second incarnation than it was.

And now, a few gratuitous plugs for some friends:

If you like sexy, sassy contemporary romance, check out GOOD GIRLS DON'T by my buddy Kelley St. John, JANE MILLIONAIRE by American Title winner Janice Lynn and CHERRY ON TOP by Kath Long. For romantic suspense, you can't go wrong with DOUBLE BLIND by Gayle Wilson, SILENT RECKONING by Deb Webb and KILLING HER SOFTLY by Beverly Barton.
And if you like sassy hen lit, you can still get my friend Kristen Robinette's delicious HELL'S BELLES.

Hmm--all these links bring up a question: who sends book information to Amazon for their listing? Authors or the publishing house? I'll have to look into that.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Purple Fingers

Iraq the Model is live-blogging the Iraqi election. Lots of correspondents reporting from various parts of Iraq, plus plenty of photos. It seems to have gone very well, at this point.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Christmas Music

In my ongoing effort to get into the Christmas spirit and stay there over the next twelve days, I've been listening to the local adult contemporary station, which became "all Christmas all the time" after Thanksgiving. Their playlist is pretty traditional--Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, lots of Carpenters and Amy Grant, plus the occasional Harry Connick, Jr., Barenaked Ladies and Paul McCartney.

I definitely have my favorites. My top songs in the "secular Christmas" category, in no particular order:

Sleigh Ride - Leroy Anderson
A clean, fast-paced version of the classic, with a jazzy little interlude near the end. Love it, love it, love it.

You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch - Thurl Ravenscroft
How can you not love a song with a jazzy beat, Ravenscroft's ocean-deep voice and lyrics like: "The three words that best describe you,are, and I quote: 'Stink. Stank. Stunk.'"

Carol of the Bells - David Foster
Synthesized instrumental with a flourish. It's this close to over the top, but doesn't quite make it into cheesy territory.

The Holiday Season - Andy Williams
I dig it, man. Don't forget to hang up your sock, 'cause just exactly at twelve o'clock, he'll be comin' down the chimney down! I'm there.

Deck the Halls - SheDaisy
The tight harmonies of this pop-country trio are amazing, especially on this song.

And in the religious Christmas songs, my favorites in no particular order:

Silent Night - no particular artist
The simple beauty of Silent Night never fails to move me, no matter who sings it.

We Three Kings - Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan
I just heard this one for the first time a few days ago. It has a light, breezy sound to it that somehow manages not to eclipse the spiritual essence of the carol.

Do You Hear What I Hear - Bing Crosby
My all time favorite from childhood. I can still remember sitting in the back seat of my dad's Plymouth Fury, listening to Bing sing this song on the radio. We kids knew all the words and sang them at the tops of our lungs, much to my father's annoyance. Good times.

O Holy Night - no particular artist
Like Silent Night, O Holy Night is gorgeous and moving regardless of who sings it.

The Little Drummer Boy - Lou Rawls
Another one of those childhood holdovers. I'm not sure it should even be considered in the "religious" category, since it's not strictly biblical, but it captures the wonder of Christ's birth as told in the Gospel of Luke.

Do you have any favorite Christmas songs?

Holy Cow

A pregnant skydiver hits the ground face first at 50 mph . . . and both she and the baby survive.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Cough cough

The worst part of a chest cold? Those last few days when you're getting over it, and you dry cough incessantly and uncontrollably, to the point that your ribcage and stomach muscles feel like you've been doing a hundred crunches an hour for the past two days.

Yeah, THAT part. Ow.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Getting in the Christmas Spirit

I just bought gifts for my smaller nieces (my brother's two, ages two yrs old and three months old) and it's amazing how buying a Potty Training Elmo leads to humming "Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas" under your breath at work all day.

I have one more baby to shop for, my nieces' half-sister, Amber, who's about 14 months old. Since it looks like my sister may be about to adopt her (her parents have agreed verbally to the adoption, and we're about to start the paperwork), this will be a special Christmas indeed. But what do you buy for a one-year-old? She does love "Momo" (as she calls Elmo) and she loves to pretend that she can read. She has about all the toys she could ever need already, which makes Christmas shopping hard. I wonder if it was that way for our parents thirty-odd years ago. I don't remember being overrun with toys I didn't play with, and I always knew exactly what I wanted for Christmas, but did my parents ever think, "Those kids already have more toys than they can play with--will this year's Baby Tenderlove be overkill?"

I guess it's part of the blessing that comes with living in a free, prosperous society. It's why we like to make sure the kids know that they're blessed and lucky, and there are a lot of kids in the world who aren't so fortunate. My adopted nine-year-old niece is old enough to remember a time when she was one of those unfortunates. For the first three years of her life, she lived with a neglectful mother in a roach-infested hell-hole. Then custody was given to her father, who didn't have anywhere to live but his car and sometimes left her in the car asleep to go do whatever it was he was going to do. She'd wake up to find herself alone, with no idea where he was. She still remembers that, six years and a vastly improved lifetime later.

Thankfully, her younger sisters won't have to remember that kind of life. The six-year old was just a baby, as was the one-year-old, when they came into our lives and our home, and we're almost all they've ever known. We're not rich by any means, but you don't have to be rich to make a difference in the lives of people, if you have love to share.

Having the children around reminds me of what Christmas is really about: a child born in a stable, to a family of modest means but transcendent love, who grew into his destiny as the Son of God and whose awesome, sacrificial love found its most profound expression in a cross, a death and a rolled-away stone.

That kind of love inspires you to show love to others, often in sacrificial ways. So if you have a few pennies to rub together, think about finding a worthy charity this season and give what you can. I still have links to Katrina relief agencies on the sidebar of this blog for reference if you're looking for organizations who do a great deal of good for people in need.

I'm giving to a local charity, the Jimmie Hale Mission, which cares for homeless men and women in Birmingham, Alabama, and surrounding areas. They've been doing worthy, difficult work for many years, and I'm proud to give them my support.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Ho Ho Ho

Christmas has officially started here in the Graves household, commencing with my sister's trip to K-Mart with the kids to do their Christmas shopping. Much grousing ensued afterwards when my mom realized how much my sister had spent, and my sister realized she'd now have to wrap all those presents.

Myself, I went the route. No crowds, no lines, massive inventory to choose from, one-stop shopping. What more could I ask for? (Well, besides Clive Owen in a tight jeans feeding me Hershey's kisses?) I also shopped for myself via Amazon, since nobody can ever find the stuff I want in regular stores. ("Alison Krauss and the Union who?") That way, I know I get at least one or two things I actually want for Christmas.

We'll probably decorate the tree this weekend. We gave into fate and purchased a pre-lit tree, but there are still all those stupid little plastic Disney ornaments the kids have collected over the years (Thanks SO much, McDonalds) to hang on the tree. And I wonder if they're going to find where I hid that stupid dancing Santa?

I love Christmas in theory. The birth of Jesus, the story of hope and peace, all the meaningful things that Christmas is about are beautiful things to honor and remember. But having worked in advertising for almost twenty years, where Christmas comes in October and is usually accompanied by high stress, ridiculous deadlines and incalcitrant clients AND suppliers, it's sometimes hard for me to get into the Christmas spirit.

Gotta say, though, the baby niece sure looks mighty cute in her Elmo slippers.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Intrigue Pitch Challenge

Man, if I hadn't already sold to Intrigue, I would so be doing this!

Go to the E-Harlequin's community boards and select The Write Stuff. Inside there is a thread titled: Enter our INTRIGUE PITCH CHALLENGE. Go there for all the information.

Editor Allison Lyons will be listening to pitches for your completed manuscripts targeted to Harlequin Intrigue. This is a good opportunity to get your pitch in front of an editor who can request—and buy—your manuscript.

If nothing else, it's good pitching practice!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Thank You, Dana Marton

I read CAMOUFLAGE HEART over the weekend. Lovely action/adventure/romance set in the Malaysian jungle. I love that kind of story, but I've been hesitant to try something quite like that myself.

Then it occurred to me that the urban jungle is fraught with its own dangers and beauties, and that navigating that urban jungle is just what I needed my heroine to do to become more proactive (and endangered) in my beleaguered WIP.

So thanks, Dana, for a great read and the inspiration.

Cat Bloggy Goodness

IMAO, a very funny blog (with a conservative bent, for those sensitive to such) is hosting this week's Carnival of the Cats. If you like catblogging, check it out. This particular post is politics free.

Unless you're a cat.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Wench Won

My internal editor: winner and still champion!

I'm about 142 pages into my WIP when it suddenly occurs to me that I'm off course. I've got too many characters, my heroine (who's supposed to be the woman in jeopardy) is practically sitting in the backseat of this story, and my hero's big, dark back story secret is being eclipsed by another big, dark back story secret that was supposed to be just a passing thing.

So okay. I surrender. I've got to go back about three chapters, excise two characters (who I really liked, dang it!), move up a murder that I didn't have happening quite so soon, create a secondary character to be a stronger red herring suspect in the crimes at the heart of the story, and oh yeah, gotta put my heroine in escalating danger.

NaNoWriMo, I hardly knew ye...

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Internal Editor . . .

She's a harsh mistress.


118 pages. Fourteen scheduled for today. I hope.

Is it my imagination or did writing used to come more easily? I remember racing home to write, plotting every second of my drive to and from work, daydreaming about my books in the middle of the work day. I don't seem to do that anymore. But why?

I still love to write. I still think I'm pretty good at it. And now that I've sold my first book, I really need to be able to produce good stuff quickly in the future. But the ideas don't seem to flow like they used to. The stories don't come together in my mind as easily.

Is it the pressure of having sold? Am I just going through a dry spell? Am I not disciplined enough? Or am I afraid of success? (Calling Dr. Phil . . .)

Or maybe writing was a lot easier when I didn't actually know how to write, how to plot a story with enough conflict to sustain it. Maybe it was easier to write when the stories just weren't up to par.

I'll let you know if I ever figure it out.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Be Prepared, Redux

As I wrote in a previous entry around the time of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, we all need to take responsibility for our own preparedness in a time of crisis. To that end, a bright and motivated kid named Austin (who just happens to be actress Sela Ward's son) has created, a site where you can purchase disaster preparedness kits, with the profits going to foster kids displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

It's a good idea benefiting a good cause.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Progress on the Quasi NaNoWriMo

I'm on page 94 of my current WIP, shooting for 270 pages total, and while I haven't really hit a block yet, my internal editor is being a real pain in the keister. "That paragraph stinks!" "Is that really the word you want to use?" "What a cliche!"

But even with obstacles in my way (got to put the leg up; oops, my six-year-old niece tripped on the power cord and broke the adapter, and now I have to order the replacement part and have it overnighted; and oh by the way, my ex-bro-in-law who I let borrow my car out of the kindness of my heart managed to have a wreck that was his fault and totally screwed up my perfect driving record with my insurance company—thanks SO much), I've managed to write a little bit each day. I don't know that I'll meet my 270 page deadline by November 30th, but I do think I should definitely be able to have the NaNoWriMo total of 50,000 words done by then.

I had worked out the plot using index cards, jotting down basic story events, before I started writing, but the story has already started surprising me. Like, who knew the hero and heroine were going to kiss a full two or three chapters before I originally imagined it? And already, some of the crime victims' identities have changed, and I'm only on chapter six.

I do like writing this way, though, hurtling through the story at breakneck speed. I've learned over the years that while I'd love to be a pantser, I'm really a plotter at heart, and the sooner I come to terms with that fact, the more prolific a writer I'll be. And now that I have an actual editor I work with who's given me wonderful insight into what Harlequin Intrigue is looking for, I know how to shape my book to better fit the line as I'm writing it.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Mega Update

Well, it's been quite a while since I blogged, and in my defense, I've spent most of that time out of work with a bad case of cellulitis in my right leg. I'm nicely on the mend now, however, and I go back to work tomorrow, much to the relief of my boss.

Cellulitis is a deep tissue infection that can be a real bugger to beat, and it's dangerous because it can spread from your leg or wherever to organs, becoming life-threatening. My doctor wanted me to be hospitalized but the E.R. doctors at the hospital where I went decided to send me home with antibiotics. When I went back to my doctor a little over a week later, he was not pleased, but the first round of antibiotics had lowered my white blood count quite a bit, so he just gave me a new round of two different antibiotics to finally kick this thing. My white blood count is back to the normal range now, and my leg is getting back to normal, so I go back to work tomorrow.

Unfortunately, I missed my local RWA chapter's Reader's Luncheon, which was going to be my first one as a published author. (Well, to-be-published, but you know what I mean). I was really bummed about that. On the upside, the need to do some office work here at home (with my leg propped up to fight the swelling) spurred me to finally get a wireless router so that I could get online using my laptop. Yay! I got a wireless adapter for my sister's computer, too, which means I can drop one of our two cable broadband connections, which will save me some money. Double yay!

And I started a new manuscript! Inspired to unofficially participate in National Novel Writing Month, I had prepped the basic plot points of my new story idea before I got sick. It was touch and go as to whether I'd be able to get started on November 1st, since I was pretty much sick as a dog from Wednesday to Saturday of the week before, but by Sunday I was starting to feel a good bit better, and by Tuesday, I was well enough to not only work on my new book but also start doing some office work at home.

It's now November 13th, and I have 75 pages written. I'm figuring on getting extra pages written during the long Thanksgiving holiday as well, so I'm hoping to have the first draft of my book finished by December 1st. We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


It's finally autumn in Alabama, with chilly breezes and cloudy skies. We turned the heat on at work for the first time yesterday, and I gave into the inevitable and put away my sandals until spring or the next warm day, whichever comes first.

October has always been one of my favorite months. September in Alabama is still summer with all its heat and humidity, but October brings cold snaps and changing leaves. Alabama versus Tennessee on a mild October Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Little kids in costumes knocking on your door and asking for candy, bringing back a thousand childhood memories.

October is pumpkins and haunted hayrides, growing shadows in the afternoon and condensation on your windshield in the morning. October smells different, like fallen leaves and the first hint of woodsmoke. The color of the day is different, the light cooler and more distant, the sun a lover who has not yet abandoned you for the delights of the other side of the world—but his eyes are starting to wander.

I fell in love for the first time in October, on a cold, crisp night in late October. Some friends and I had gone out to the boondocks to a "haunted" barn and talked the folks running the show to let us dress up and play monsters in the exhibit. Afterwards, the boy I really liked held my hand as cheesy eighties love songs played on the radio. It never went anywhere, much, but you never forget your first love.

I think I'm going to set my new book in October, this brief, golden time between hellish heat and relentless chill.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Bloggy Goodness

Since I'm waiting to hear from my editor on my revisions and a second project, and I'm only in the planning stages of my next manuscript, and nothing else is going on much with me, I'm having trouble coming up with anything to blog about. So I think I'll direct you over to The Bandwagon, where Mary got good news. Or to Booksquare, which always has something interesting going on. The Knight Agency Blog is chock full 'o good stuff for writers, and there's always Romancing the Blog.

Or you could check out my website and sign up for my newsletter. Once every month or so I'll send out an update of what's going on with me. No obligation and you can quit anytime! Can't beat that deal!

Monday, October 17, 2005

That'n Makes Me Cry

Stealing shamelessly from Mary at The Bandwagon, who linked to this jewel of an anecdote.

It takes a lot to make me cry. That story did it--and in such a good way.

My hero is a heroine--my mother, who withstood my oh-so-pragmatic father's attempts to squelch my dreams of being a writer and never lost faith in my talents and my drive. She's the one who tirelessly took my contest entries to the post office over the past couple of years because the hours at our little local post office clashed with my work hours. The postal clerks know her by name! And she was the first person I tried to call when I found out I sold.

Who's your writing hero?

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Catching up on stuff I've posted about before...

Mom Update - She's doing really well. She even got up this morning and cooked breakfast, which she never used to do much of before the surgery. Honestly, she did better after the surgery than I did, and I was only 29 years old at the time. Mom's almost 72. Tough lady, my mom. I aspire to be more like her.

Vegetable Garden Update: Well, of the long-frozen seed packets I planted, three survived and thrived. The Tommy Toes and the crookneck squash didn't make it, although the squash gave it a good try. But the Atkinson tomatoes, the eggplant and the bell peppers all thrived and all three are still putting out fruit. I think my mom plans to pick the eggplants today to make a casserole or something. The bell peppers and tomatoes we've already been eating.

Book Update: No word yet from my editor about the FORBIDDEN TERRITORY revisions I sent about a month ago, and no word on the second manuscript she's considering (WILD CARD). I'm currently working on writing a working synopsis for my WIP, DANGEROUS PURSUITS, which is a sequel to FORBIDDEN TERRITORY.

LOST Update: I think the tough girl's gonna give Freckles a run for her money where Sawyer's concerned. Although, based on all the gaggy cute Jack/Kate moments last night, maybe I'm in the minority of those who like Sawyer/Kate better. Why do I do this to myself? Mulder and Scully should have cured me...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Who You Gonna Call?

Let me preface what I'm about to say by admitting that I'm a skeptic about all things paranormal. I believe in God, but not so much in ghosts, psychics, or the like. (Don't get me started on "orbs" and "vortices"). Most of the so-called paranormal activity people talk about has a perfectly logical, scientific explanation.

Still, to quote Fox Mulder, I want to believe. I like the idea that there's a whole world outside our physical world that most people just can't see, and that there are a few rare, blessed/cursed people who can see what the rest of us can't. It's why I made Lily, the heroine of my book FORBIDDEN TERRITORY, a psychic. It's why I loved THE X-FILES, why I like LOST and MEDIUM, why I love to watch shows like MOST HAUNTED on the Travel Channel.

And it's why GHOST HUNTERS is one of my favorite "reality" shows. Airing on Sci Fi, GHOST HUNTERS features two mild-mannered plumbers named Jason and Grant, who head TAPS, The Atlantic Paranormal Society. They and their band of merry men and women go out on ghost hunts, armed with cameras, sensors and a decent amount of skepticism. They approach every "haunting" as if to debunk it, their theory being that if they do the skeptic's work for him, they're a lot closer to proving the paranormal exists than if they claimed every dust speck and chilly draft is evidence of ghostly activity.

The downside of their approach is that they rarely find any evidence on their investigations. But what they do find gives you a nice little chill down your spine, and the drama of their interpersonal relationships keeps fans interested even when the ghosties don't show up.

Another downside is that it airs opposite LOST. However, it replays at 11 pm Central, and also at 7 pm Central a week later, before the new ep airs at 8 pm Central. If you're like me, and you get a kick from things that go bump in the night, give it a look.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

What if I Run Out of Ideas?

I've heard a million times that writers never run out of ideas, they just run out of time to write.

Has the opposite ever been true? I know I used to be full of ideas for books, but as I've been seriously trying to structure my writing time more, in order to better meet self-imposed (and externally imposed) deadlines, I find myself curiously bereft of ideas that really get me excited. Am I causing my own mental block by focusing on writing for publication? But if I don't focus on that aspect of the business, will I ever produce books quickly enough in quantity enough to be successful?

Am I just overthinking this???

Monday, October 10, 2005

Monday Catch-up

Well, my mother is safely home from the hospital, although it took until Saturday to get her home. She's not having too much trouble from the surgery herself, but all the bed rest seemed to have messed up her arthritic knee, so that walking around is painful and difficult, at least for now. She'll be getting an orthopedic referral soon and, we hope, they'll be able to figure out how to fix the knee.

Over the weekend I received the first installment of my advance for FORBIDDEN TERRITORY and a copy of the signed contract. It all feels a little more official now! Still waiting to hear from my editor about the revisions I sent--once they're accepted, I get the second installment of the advance.

She's also looking at WILD CARD, but I don't think there's any way she'll be able to buy it as an Intrigue. It was conceived as an Intimate Moments, and it would be very hard to revise it to fit the requirements of an Intrigue, I think. I know she can buy for Intimate Moments, but will she want my second book out to be in a completely different line? I have my doubts. I guess I'll find out soon enough.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Lost viewers...would you have pushed the button or not?

After careful thought, I think I would, because of the ticking clock. But you'd better be sure I'd put my best tech guy on figuring out in the next 108 minutes what the heck that button actually does.

How about you?

And by the way, Lost showrunners? MORE SAWYER. Sooner rather than later. In copious quantities.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Mom Update

My mother's endoscopy successfully removed the remaining gallstone and she's back in her hospital room, awake and relatively alert. Barring complications, she's on track to be home from the hospital tomorrow. Thanks to everyone who kept my mom in your thoughts and prayers.

Update to the update:

Well, it's going to be Friday before my mom comes home. She failed her first solid food test this morning (promptly threw up), so they want to let her have the rest of today to get her stomach used to eating again. However, other than that, she's doing well, and when she's not drugged up on the anti-pain/anti-nausea stuff, she sounds more and more like her old self.

So I Had This Dream . . .

Had another vivid dream last night. I, along with probably about two hundred other people, ended up stranded in a deserted city. No cars, trains, boats or any other form of transportation, and there was a sea around our little island city. Sort of like a civilized Lost—power grid was working, clean, running water, etc. (Apparently even in my dream world, I'm a soft, pampered urbanite without much stomach for hiking the wilderness). So we had all the basic civilized amenities except transportation off the island and communication with the outside world.

And in keeping with the Lost theme, Sayid (Naveen Andrews) was on the island city, and we had a sort of tense "will they or won't they?" sexual tension going on. He was in among the three or four people in charge, doling out responsibilities. And for some reason (I think just to put distance between us because he was disturbed by his passion for me) he assigned me on a scout team to go explore the rest of the island city while he and the others set about figuring out how to keep the island's resources going as long as possible.

I protested loudly, pointing out that in my "real" life, I was a thinker, not a trekker, and that my talents were better used there with them than trekking about the island city. But he would have none of it. His eyes were saying yes, but his mouth was saying no.

And then I woke up.

Of course, I'm still trying to figure out why my dream starred Sayid instead of Sawyer (Josh Holloway)...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Writing Through Stressful Times

I apparently can't, if the last few days are any indication. Maybe if I were in the middle of a WIP it would be different, but I'm still in the plotting process on my newest WIP, so I'm getting nowhere while I wait to hear if my mom's surgery went okay.

Maybe once it's over, the creative bug will bite again.


Mom made it through surgery just fine, but there's a gall stone stuck in her bile duct, so they're going to have to go in and get it endoscopically. That means it'll probably be Thursday or Friday before she comes home.

She's lucky they caught it; I had a stone floating around in my system after surgery that finally blocked a pancreatic duct and had one last, nasty bout of post-surgery pancreatitis before it was all over with. Hopefully, Mom will avoid that unpleasant surprise.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Owie Ow Ow

My mother had to go to the hospital last night with severe abdominal pain that has turned out to be gallstones. Ouch—been there, done that, got the laparoscopy scars. Gallstones is one of those ailments that make you willing to undergo surgery without anesthetic just to get the blasted thing out of you.

Looks like they're going to try to do a laparoscopic gall bladder removal tomorrow if everything goes well. Assuming they can do the laparoscopy, which isn't a given, she should be able to go home Wednesday. In a week or so she'll be back to her old self, it my experience is anything to go by.

As surgeries go, gall bladder removal isn't the most dangerous, but any surgery is dangerous, so I hope you'll keep my mom in your thoughts and prayers.

And owie ow ow #2: anybody watch the Alabama/Florida game Saturday on CBS? Roll Tide and all that, but daaaaaang, did they have to show the slow-mo replay of Tyrone Prothro's tibia and fibula breaking??? Nearly tossed my lunch. The good news is that it wasn't his ankle, which can be a much tougher injury to recover from, but that's about all the good news you can find in that kind of an injury.

(For those who didn't watch the game Saturday, search your memories for Joe Theissman's leg break a few years back. Ewwww—see what I mean?)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Be Prepared

With another massive hurricane bearing down on the U.S. mainland, and with other disasters, natural and man-made, always looming as a possibility, now is as good a time as any to start preparing yourself and your family to survive a disaster.

First--you need a survivor's mindset. The core of this mindset is knowing that you are responsible for your own survival. Know that if the hurricane hits or the earthquake strikes or another terrorist attack takes place, YOU are your own first responder. For situations that you can predict, like a hurricane, get out of the way. Inconvenience versus death--I know which one I'd choose. But some disasters can't be predicted, and that's why it's important to be prepared ahead of time. This isn't an indictment of any level of government (although it's not a bad idea that you hold your local and state governments accountable first, since they're already on the scene). But nobody can be fully prepared for every eventuality. That's why it's ultimately up to you.

Know that you are on your own for at least the first five days of a disaster, and prepare for it. Stockpile non-perishable food and water in water-proof containers. If you can keep the food lightweight (foil packets instead of cans, for instance), do so. Keep a large plastic jar of peanut butter on hand--it's a great source of nutrition, isn't particularly expensive and keeps well. Buy tuna in foil packets. Buy cereal bars. Buy instant oatmeal--it can be mixed with a small amount of water to make a hearty breakfast. Have some plastic bowls and cups on hand. Plastic utensils. And plenty of bottle water--a gallon per day per person is the recommended amount.

Have a couple of changes of clothing available. Hygiene isn't your primary focus in matters like these, but as the flooding in New Orleans showed, you don't know what condition your clothes will be in when you reach safety. If you have a change of clothing where you can reach it, you're ahead of the game.

Stockpile at least five days worth of your prescription medications. I have asthma, and I've already set aside a full 200-dose rescue inhaler for such purposes. I also have a five day supply of my other inhaler, and a three day supply of my two other prescription medications. (I'm working up to stockpiling five days' worth). Also, have a first aid kit with the basic supplies, plus extra pain reliever, anti-biotic ointment or cream, sunscreen, bug repellent and any hygiene items you may need.

Have some basic tools available—manual can opener, bottle opener, hammer, duct tape, plastic sheeting, matches or a lighter, candles, flashlights, etc. You know the drill, and if you don't, there are plenty of places to find a good working list.

Learn first aid and CPR. Keep your car in good working condition and full of gas if you can. Keep your cell phone charged up. Have an evacuation plan—do you have relatives or friends who can take you in? Have a plan for your pets—check with motels in the area to which you plan to evacuate to find out if they'll allow pets. Some do. Most don't. After Katrina, it seems like some of the public shelters are relaxing rules about pets. Check into what's available in your area. Or, if you evacuate ahead of time, you can find a veterinarian in the place to which you plan to evacuate who can board the animals for a few days until the crisis is over. Be sure you have enough carriers for all your animals. Stockpile some pet food along with your food in case you have to shelter in place together.

If you evacuate ahead of time, be sure to take copies of important records, such as birth certificates, social security cards, drivers' licenses, prescriptions, insurance, etc. You'll need those numbers if something happens to your home or property. Go ahead and make copies now and keep them in a zip lock bag or something similarly waterproof and easy to carry.

Everyone in the family should have a contact number to call in case you get separated. One of my contact numbers for my family is my friend Jenn, who lives in New Jersey, several states away. She can act as our clearing house so we can let each other know we got out safely and where we are.

Finally, be a good neighbor. If you know that a neighbor or friend doesn't have a car, for instance, or has health problems, see if you can help your neighbor or friend get to safety while you're getting to safety yourself. Help that neighbor or friend stockpile his or her own disaster kit--pick up some extra peanut butter or an extra pouch of tuna when you go to the grocery store, an extra six-pack of bottled water.

And not to go all Mad Max on you, it's not a bad idea to be prepared to defend yourself and your neighbors from people who will try to take advantage of the crisis. I don't personally own a weapon, but I'm all for personal firearm ownership if you're responsible, careful and well-trained. A group of neighbors banding together with just a few personal weapons among them can keep a whole neighborhood safe from criminals.

I haven't covered everything you'll need for everything that might happen—it's impossible to prepare perfectly for any eventuality. But if you'll do the basics and, most importantly, if you'll maintain a survivor state of mind, you'll have a good chance of being the one still standing when the dust settles.

Here We Go Again

Hurricane Rita is ripping through the Gulf of Mexico. Last I heard, she was already approaching Category Four with miles and miles of warm Gulf water between her and land. Please, if you're on the eastern coast of Texas or anywhere on the coast of Louisiana, take this one seriously. So what if you evacuate and it's not as strong as expected? At least you're alive--better than the alternative.

Vicki Hinze is on top of Rita the way she was with Hurricane Katrina. Once Rita has hit and things settle down, if you can, please check her Hurricane Check-in site:

She's not posting anything on who's safely evacuated ahead of time to keep down the possibility of looting, but do be sure to check in afterwards if you're in the affected area so your fellow writers will know you're okay.

Be safe!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Hell's Belles a Top Pick!

My friend Kristen Robinette's new Harlequin Next! novel, HELL'S BELLES, is a Romantic Times top pick, with four and a half stars! Congratulations, Kris!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Trying to Catch Up

I guess my earlier promise to get back to a more normal blogging schedule fell by the wayside. It's easy to get out of the habit of doing things, and I have been a little busy, what with getting the book out to my editor and catching up on family stuff that fell by the wayside while I was doing that.

I'm giving myself a week or two to do nothing but read. I'm trying to concentrate on the newest Intrigues, both to reinforce in my mind what the line is looking for and because I love Intrigues in general.

Up first: RELENTLESS by Jan Hambright. The cover sucked me in—very eerie with a strong sense of foreboding. Also, this book is Jan's debut, so it should provide a good example of what sort of story Intrigue is buying these days.

Have I mentioned how much I like the new Intrigue covers? They've managed to hold onto the "brand" while opening up the cover art to new fonts, more mainstream visuals, more author branding (at least, for the bigger name authors) and a lot of focus on capturing the tone of the books. I'm eager to see what they come up with for FORBIDDEN TERRITORY.

All of the Harlequin/Silhouette lines seem to be going this direction with their covers. I think it's a very good move for the company.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The New Normal

I haven't forgotten the victims of Hurricane Katrina; on the contrary, my continued concern for people I personally know who are affected has kept me too busy to post to my blog. But as life is starting to go on for those affected, it goes on for me, so I'm going to try to get back to a more normal posting schedule. However, I've added Hurricane Katrina disaster relief links on the right side of this blog, so if you haven't given, or if you have a little extra when the bills are paid, please consider giving more.

Over the weekend, I finished the first draft of my revisions on my June 2006 Intrigue, and I also finished revisions of those revisions based on a friend's notes. Last night, I added a couple of things that I felt the book needed and now I'm just about ready to send it off to the editor eighteen days early.

Up next—a new project. I'm hoping to get the first draft finished by the time I hear back from my editor on another book she's considering as well as the revisions on the one she bought.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Never Forget

Four years ago today, nineteen terrorists killed 3,049 people in New York City, Washington D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Soon after, I channeled some of my feelings about that event into a piece of art I titled "Ghosts of Manhattan." On the fourth anniversary of 9/11, I thought I'd share it with you.


Friday, September 02, 2005

Relief Effort for the Soldiers

Suzanne McMinn points out a good cause to support during this time of crisis: Soldiers' Angels. Many in the military deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world have lost everything in the hurricane and aftermath. Consider giving to this fund that will directly help the men and women on the frontlines during this time of grave need.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Still More Katrina

Note—I'll be updating this post throughout the day as I uncover new information about relief efforts for those affected by Hurricane Katrina. Check back often.

Once again, Instapundit has the links. has also put together a list of links for relief efforts.

And don't forget the FEMA list I linked to yesterday.

A warning, by the way—e-mail scams have already begun. Just know that legitimate charitable organizations aren't e-mailing you to solicit your donation. Scammers can be very sophisticated, putting up what look like reputable websites for donation funds. Stick either with the charities you normally give to, the charities recommended by reputable organizations like FEMA, or help individuals that you personally know are affected by the devastation.

Speaking of which, I'm getting news trickling in about romance writers affected by the hurricane:

Writer Larissa Ione lost her home. Some friends have started a fund-raising drive for her: Please help if you can.

Delores Fossen was also affected by the hurricane and has asked for everyone's prayers.

Kelley St. John has family affected by the storm, but she's personally okay. She also mentions that in the Alabama town where she lives, the local school is opening their gym at night to the refugees so their kids can have somewhere to run and play. They're also giving them free admission to the high school football game over the weekend and free meals at the concession stand. It's a small thing, but sometimes in situations like this, those small things mean a lot to a family who's lost everything. If you have refugees in your area and you have contacts with schools or local governments, give someone a call and see if your town can't do a little extra to help out the affected people sheltering in your area.

Vicki Hinze has a Hurricane Check In page for writers in the affected areas. If you're in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana or Florida, drop her an e-mail so she can put your name on the list so others who might be worried about you will know you're safe.

I'm personally looking for information about my friend Giselle Carmichael, a writer who lives in Biloxi. If anyone has heard from her, please let me know. I'm worried about her.


The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity is collecting eyeglasses and disposable contact lenses for people affected by the hurricane. You forget how every tiny part of a person's life is changed when disaster hits. This particular relief drive is a vivid reminder.


Following are a few news stories of interest:

The BIRMINGHAM NEWS is reporting that Jefferson County is opening up some hospital and nursing home facilities to take in refugees with medical problems.

There's also a B'HAM NEWS report on some Birmingham doctors helping a New Orleans hospital evacuate premature babies to Birmingham facilities.

Also, Gov. Bob Riley of Alabama is offering lodging at all 22 Alabama State Parks to refugees of the hurricane. Several of these parks have very nice, motel-like facilities as well as camping areas for people with access to that sort of gear. The linked press release tells people what to do to take advantage of this offer of temporary housing--basically, FEMA is coordinating the effort. I suspect this is going on in other states surrounding the affected areas.


National Review Online has good advice from Karen Woods of the Acton Institute about complex needs verses simple needs in a time of crisis.


Don't forget the animals! Here are some links to organizations helping with pet rescue:

Humane Society
Houston SPCA
Humane Society of Northwest Louisiana
Noah's Wish

Plus, Petco stores are asking customers to round up their purchases to the nearest dollar, and all the extra money will go to the Petco Foundation to aid in their animal rescue efforts.

One organization I do not recommend sending any money to—ever— is PETA, for reasons I've outlined in the past.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

More Katrina

Displaced blogger Wizbang has a few ideas about some specific, helpful things bloggers can do to help with the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. I don't know the answers to any of his questions, but maybe some of you will.

Don't forget Instapundit is gathering up links to reputable relief organizations. He's updating frequently. (I can personally vouch for the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief agencies, having worked with them here in Alabama on holiday meals for the homeless).

And for more immediate, on scene blogging, the Times Picayune staff updates frequently.

Craigslist New Orleans has set up a lost and found site for people trying to find their family, friends and loved ones. There's also a missing persons site here.


Blog giant Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit has picked up on Hugh Hewitt's suggestion that bloggers pick a day for concerted blogging in support of Hurricane Katrina disaster relief efforts. Glenn suggested Thursday, Sept. 1st, to give bloggers time to organize their efforts.

I challenge other writer blogs to get on board for this effort. When you blog tomorrow, take time to remind people of the need and give them links to reputable relief organizations that can help (check Instapundit's list for a place to start).

Also, FEMA has posted a list of recommended relief organizations.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Wretched Katrina

It's been hard for me to concentrate on anything over the past few days because of the hurricane that slammed Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. I feel extremely lucky that we lost power for only a few minutes; I have neighbors with trees in their yards and in one situation, on their house. By the time I went to bed last night, over 600,000 people in Alabama were in the dark.

But nothing compares to what's happening in Mississippi and New Orleans. Large swaths of coastal communities in Mississippi are nothing but rubble and matchsticks. In New Orleans, things are only getting worse by the minute as the levees fail and the water rises.

When this is over, we may be staggered by the loss of life. It will be hard to fathom, and for the people directly affected, very hard to overcome.

In days to come, there'll be time to glean lessons from what happened and what steps we need to take to make sure we lessen the loss of life next time. For today, however, I'll just encourage those of you who believe in the power of prayer to pray for those affected and those who will be affected in days to come. And for all of us who can, donations to organizations like the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross and other reputable agencies like Southern Baptist Disaster Relief or similar relief efforts are an excellent way to put a little muscle behind our concerns and good thoughts.


Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit has compiled an excellent list of disaster relief organizations who could use your financial support.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Die, SPAM, Die!

I've been getting some SPAM in my comments, so henceforward, I'm using a word verification system (where you have to retype a given word to prove that you're a human and not a spambot) to kill off some of the SPAM. We'll see how it goes. I know it's a hassle, but I hope it won't stop people from commenting. If it does, I may go back to the open system and just delete the SPAM as it pops up.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

It's Official

FORBIDDEN TERRITORY has been approved as the title for my June '06 Intrigue.

I can't believe I just typed that. ;)

The dreaded Art Fact Sheet has gone to the editor, and I'm about a third of the way through my revisions (with the bulk of the revisions being in the first half of the book), so I'm feeling just a little bit more like a published author with every day that passes.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


Just got finished with an afternoon brainstorming session with my friend Jenn. I think we've worked through the details of how I'm going to do the big-picture revisions my editor asked for. It's just a matter of doing them now.

I'm finding the whole process both exciting and alarming. I really love the changes I'm making to the manuscript; I think it's going to take the book from pretty good to compelling and increase my Romantic Times review score by at least a star. ;) At the same time, I'm making so many fairly radical changes to the book that I have to wonder why my editor ever bought it in the first place! Whole characters have been dropped and added, whole scenes deleted or shuffled--including my favorite kiss scene in the book.

I wonder if I'm taking my changes TOO far and deleting the very things she loved about the book in the first place.

But I do think the book is going to be better when I'm finished, and I guess I have to trust that my editor will think so, too.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Go, Sharie!

My e-mail buddy Sharie Kohler, who's finaled in a bunch of contests with me (usually she finaled in the paranormal category), just sold her first book in two-book deal to Avon! Congratulations, Sharie!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A Little Afternoon Cat Blogging

I've always wanted to cat blog, but I never got around to scanning my photos of my cats.

Until now.

The following three photos are of my old cats, taken when they were considerably younger (by probably a decade or more).

This is Samantha, about age one. She's fourteen now. She's gorgeous, but she's got a prickly attitude and a bad habit of hacking up hairballs on my sofa. She can be a big sweetie when she wants to, though.

Tess is fifteen now. She was probably two here. Tess was a rescue from the place where I worked several years ago. A feral mother cat kept having kittens behind the house that served as our office. I trapped three kittens; one died within a couple of days of distemper, another ran away when he was a little under a year old (probably heard me talking about having him neutered), and Tess is the only one left. I've tamed other feral kittens, but for whatever reason, Tess never fully tamed. My mother's had a lot more luck with her than I have, actually. Tess lets my mother manhandle her like she's a sack of grain, but she gets skittish and jumps down from my lap if I so much as flex a muscle.

This is Chunk. Best. Cat. Ever. She was three in this photo; she's sixteen now. I adopted her from an animal adoption place not far from where I worked at the time, right after a stray kitten I'd rescued had to be euthanized because of feline leukemia. Chunk was about six weeks old, a fat little lump of a kitten with a sweet disposition. I called her Chunk as a temporary name until I could find the right one for her. Turned out Chunk was the right name. She was always a heavy cat, but in the past few years, she's shed a lot of weight because of a thyroid condition. We had surgery done to remove the most diseased gland, but the other one has gone bad on her now, so we're keeping her thyroid levels regulated with medication now.

Chunk loves drinking water from a running tap, lazing around the back deck pretending she's the queen of the world and ingratiating herself with anyone who glances her way. She's sweet natured, good with other animals and with children, and the loudest purrer I've ever heard. Love that old cat.

How Do They Ever Get Covers Wrong?

I'm trying to fill out the Art Fact Sheet for my book (it's the sheet they use to help the artist design the cover), and I've never seen so many questions in my life. They practically want to know what toothpaste my heroine uses! It's much more confusing than I imagined.

And, of course, being me, I'm drawing a blank under pressure. What IS the theme of my book? What's my hook? What kind of scene would be representative of my story? I'm a graphic designer, for pity's sake--this should come so easily! I should be able to practically sketch them out a mock-up. And yet, here I sit, completely at a loss about what my book should look like.

Tell me I'm not the only writer this ever happens to.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Okay, Computer Didn't Crash

I couldn't get it to turn on the other day, after the brownout, so I assumed the motherboard had gotten zapped just like it did the last time. But I happened to be in the room where the computer was this evening, and, what do you know? The computer was on. So I'm up and running at home again.

Got my revision letter from Intrigue. Somehow, seeing it in writing wasn't as daunting as hearing it over the phone, but I do have a good bit of work to do between now and my deadline.

I had a fun day today--my friend Kris Robinette and I went to the Heart of Dixie chapter meeting. We're both members of HOD, but living as we do in the Birmingham area, we don't make the HOD meetings as often as we make the Southern Magic chapter meetings. But it was great seeing all my north Alabama pals and getting hugs of congratulations from the writers who were among my earliest cheerleaders--Beverly Barton, Linda Howard, Linda Winstead Jones, Sabrah Agee and Bonnie Gardner--as well as new friends including Deb Webb and Kate Lyon. These talented writers have been an inspiration to me over the years, and it was wonderful to be able to share my good news with them and see how happy they are for me. The Alabama writers in the two chapters I belong to are amazing, talented and generous women, and I'm so blessed to know them.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Computer Crash

Over the weekend, I had a bit of a computer crash. I'm pretty sure I didn't lose any data, but the motherboard got zapped by a brownout. So if anyone e-mailed me over the weekend and I haven't responded, please know that I'm not ignoring you. It's just that any e-mail I downloaded before the computer got zapped is trapped on my powerless desktop computer until I get the motherboard replaced.

(And this time, I'm going to get a good surge protector, darn it).

Newly Revamped Website

So, since I agreed to the terms of my first sale, I guess I'm now more or less officially an author, not just a writer. ;) In honor of agreeing to the sale, I radically revamped my website to make it more an author's website and less an aspiring writer's website.

For one thing, I was getting tired of the all black background I had on the other site, and of course, I needed to revamp my books page so that it included only the book that has sold (although I hope to be adding to that list before long!)

But is the change too much? Is the page now to bright and peppy for a romantic suspense author's page? Also, do I have missing links or pics?

Tell me what y'all think.

Friday, August 05, 2005

RWA Conference Awards Controversy and the Bigger Picture

I didn't attend the RWA National Conference in Reno, didn't attend the Golden Heart and Rita Awards, and therefore all of my information on the brewing controversy is strictly second and third hand. For the best rundowns of the situation I've found, I suggest you look here and here.

However, I would like to address something that bothered me as I read over the various accounts of what sounds to be a perfectly awful awards ceremony, regardless of your political persuasion. And that's the vilification of conservative-leaning writers in the comments I read.

Granted, it sounds like someone used very poor judgment in setting up the award presentation, but I've seen terms thrown about such as "Reich Wing" (obviously to describe conservatives of any ilk) and "cabal"—with all its nefarious undertones—used to describe RWA members who have reservations about whether or not RWA's definition of romance should be so elastic as to include stories that are not traditionally considered romances (such as romances with multiple partners, sometimes at the same time).

At the risk of tarring myself with the Reich Wing cabal brush, I don't think that having reservations of that sort is wrong. At some point, an organization has to define itself to have any meaning at all, and sometimes, defining oneself means putting limitations on what's acceptable within the confines of the organization.

This doesn't mean I think romantica or even erotica should be censored (except where it causes explicit harm, such as pedophilia). It doesn't even mean that I have yet come down on one side or the other. All it means is that I don't find it unreasonable to question whether romantica and erotica should be defined as romance if they steps outside the traditional monogamous, happily-ending relationship.

It's not fascistic to think that way.

Nor do I think that people who have reservations about the inclusion of certain types of stories under the umbrella of "romance" should just shut up and sit down without expressing those opinions. Do we believe in free speech or not? Because if we do, then the so-called Reich Wingers have just as much a right to express their opinions and work to implement their ideas as people on the opposite side of the question, and calling them names for doing so is, in my opinion, childish and distinctly unhelpful in framing the debate.

We have some difficult issues to face in RWA over the coming months and years. I think we'd all do well to take a deep breath and listen to each others' perfectly reasonable concerns and stop the namecalling.

And that goes for people on both sides of the issues.

It's the Little Things

I know over the course of my writing career, I've daydreamed about what it would be like to finally get The Call. I've even planned for it, reading all the "what to do when you get the call" articles on the RWA website and trying to commit the finer points to memory. But what has struck me over the past few days is how The Call is only the jumping off point of a million little shivers of realization you experience once you've gotten the offer on your first book.

When I announced The Call on the eHarlequin Intrigue message board, author Julie Miller said, "Welcome to Intrigue." And I realized in a way, I HAD joined a pretty exclusive club of writers whose work I adore. ::shiver::

Then, talking to a friend yesterday, I realized I could soon join the Harlequin/Silhouette e-mail loop with a bunch of writers whose books I've been reading for years. ::shiver::

I downloaded RWA's PAN provisional membership application from the website yesterday, in anticipation of that moment when I finally sign the contract and qualify. ::shiver::

Today, I realized that when I make revisions to my local RWA chapter's brochure for our upcoming Reader's Luncheon in November, I get to add my own name to the list of attending authors. ::shiver::

I can't even imagine what it's going to feel like to see my first book cover or see my first book or have my first booksigning! ;)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


I can't believe I'm finally writing those words.

Harlequin Intrigue has made an offer for my 2004 Golden Heart finalist, WHAT THE HEART SEES.

I'm sneaking this in at work, and I promise I'll have more details later!


Okay, I'm home now, I've had my dinner (what I could eat before my stomach said it was too excited for shrimp and fried green tomatoes at the moment, thankyouverymuch), and I'll see if I can remember anything from the call.

First, the call didn't come as a complete surprise. The thing that came as a complete surprise was the e-mail from Allison Lyons, telling me the phone number she had wasn't working and could I e-mail her an alternate number, pretty please?

After I freaked out for a second, I quickly jotted back an e-mail with my work number and my other home number (the business line I'd gotten a few months ago went out a couple of days ago and I haven't had time to get it fixed, wouldn't you know???) So I send the e-mail and begin a major freak out. I emailed my friend Kris Robinette (SIM and Next author) to tell her I'd gotten the e-mail and oh my gosh, what did it mean??? I also IMed my critique buddy Jenn, who lives in New Jersey, and asked her, oh my gosh, what does it mean??? Unfortunately, she was apparently away from the keyboard because she didn't reply, which was very frustrating, let me tell you!

About fifteen minutes later, the phone rings. My co-worker buzzes through and says, "It's Allison Lyons for you." So I take a deep breath, answer, and pretty much the rest of it is a blur, although I remember the words "revisions." (Of course). I was too frazzled to go over the details with her this afternoon, and she's going out of town or something and won't be back until Monday, so she's going to call me Monday to go over everything in more details.

At that point, I go back to the IM (where Jenn still hasn't responded) and type:


Allison Lyons at Intrigue wants to buy WHAT THE HEART
Fortunately for my blood pressure, she IMed me back in a few seconds and we had a cyberscream of joy together. Then she had to leave work (she's in New Jersey and an hour ahead) so I checked e-mail to see if Kris had responded. She had, with the subject line: COLD CHILLS. She gave me her cell phone number (which was good, because she's moved and I wasn't sure I had her current number). So I called her and we had a big happy throwdown party on the phone for a few minutes. Then she had to go and I had to try to track down my mother, who took my nieces to Gulf Shores for the next four days.

I finally got a hold of her when I got home from work, and she and I had a nice tandem scream before she had to go because they were heading to the beach or something.

So, that's what my afternoon was like. ;)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Anti-Book of your Heart

Ever had one of those? A book you wrote, one that even gets some accolades and attention from editors, but you just don't much care what happens to it?

CODE NAME: WILLOW was that book for me. I spent the better part of two years on that book (and it actually spanned more years than that, since it sat languishing, about 1/3 written, for several years). I put in a lot of blood, sweat, tears, cursing and hair-pulling on the book just to get it finished and revised to the point that my critique partner didn't look at me in disgust.

And yet, it won a contest, finaled in several others, and was eventually requested by two different editors.

Today, after a requested revision, a Silhouette editor gave CODE NAME: WILLOW its walking papers. And while I'm naturally bummed at yet another rejection, I can't seem to gin up much emotional pain at the rejection. It helps that the editor is already looking at another of my projects, and that she made it clear in the letter that she'd like me to query her with future projects, all good news. But even so, rejections usually hurt a lot more than this one seems to be.

Maybe it's because by the time I sent it out, I pretty much hated the story and the characters. Seriously, I strongly considered not submitting it anywhere, but I told myself that since I'd worked so long and hard on it, I'd never feel that it was complete if I didn't try to sell it. But now that it's over, I'm just not that upset about it. It's almost a relief.

Is that weird?

Guilty Pleasure Movies

Doesn't everybody have a few? Movies that you know aren't really that good but you love them anyway?

Here are a few of mine:

INDEPENDENCE DAY - I know, I know--all flash, no flesh. But you've gotta admit, the special effects are pretty amazing, and I'm a sucker for a story that pits a few scrappy survivors against a seemingly unbeatable foe and lets them use their native ingenuity to come up with an answer. And being a slightly jingoist sort myself, I never fail to be moved by the president's stirring speech as they go into the final battle. Plus, Will Smith is adorable and I've always loved Bill Pullman.

CROSSING DELANCEY - This is a quirky little romance starring Amy Irving and Peter Riegart. Isabel is young Jewish woman in New York, a book store employee who loves literature and sees writers as romantic figures, especially the one man whose books she loves. Meanwhile, her grandmother has given her photo to a matchmaker, who sets her up with Sam, a picklemaker from the neighborhood. Torn between her desire for a more sophisticated life and the pull of her culture and history, Isabel overcomes some of her own preconceptions and finds love where she least expects it.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING - While this sweet romantic comedy doesn't have the brilliance of WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman (finally playing the romantic lead rather than the other man who gets dumped) and a fun cast of supporting characters are delightful to watch, and the Chicago setting is lovely. I'll watch it any time it comes on TV.

DON'T TELL HER IT'S ME (aka THE BOYFRIEND SCHOOL) - You know when a movie has two titles, it's probably not Oscar material. Nevertheless, this little fluff of a movie charmed me when I first watched it, and its held up pretty well in subsequent viewings. It's about Emily, a journalist who's assigned to cover a romance writers' convention, meets Lizzie, a popular and very intelligent romance writer, who decides Emily is just the right woman for her brother Gus, a recovering cancer patient. But first, Gus needs a makeover to turn him into the perfect romantic hero. All very fun, with gentle pokes at romance writers written with love, not disdain.

APARTMENT ZERO - This dark, twisted psychological study about a lonely, repressed cinephile (Colin Firth in one of his most gripping roles) who befriends an American charmer (Hart Bochner) who isn't what he seems. The exotic Buenos Aires setting, the haunting score and Firth's tour de force performance as a man unraveling inch by inch was hard to watch, but the experience lingered with me for days afterwards. I bought the DVD and rewatch it whenever I'm in the mood for something dark and disturbing.

Do you have any guilty pleasure movies?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Scores from the Daphne

Got my Daphne scores back in the mail today. Overall, very nice. I got a request for the full from the editor judge (although I can't send it to her, since someone else at H/S already has the full), and the agent who scored me so low on the same manuscript in the Rebecca scored me slightly better in the finals of the Daphne (from a one to a four in manuscript prep, although the entry wasn't appreciably different in any way).

I have to wonder if I might have placed first had the agent judge been someone who didn't have such a visceral disliking for my writing. But we'll never know, and I'm sure Karen Docter's winning entry was superb, so it's pointless to speculate. Shame on me.

Got very good scores from the preliminary judges, including one perfect one. Yay!

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Golden Heart and Rita Winners

Golden Heart and Rita winners are up on the RWA website. Special congrats go to my GH 2004 pal, Nadele Jacobs, for yet another Golden Heart Win (I think she has, like, seven). And to my e-Harlequin buddy GG, way to go on the Golden Heart win for VIVA LAS VEGAS!

I may have missed some other pals who won; at the moment the RWA site seems to be down. I'll check later and give extra kudos as they're warranted.

And to all the folks who didn't win, trust me on this. Just finaling is a very big deal. I still get comments about my Golden Heart pin.

Friday, July 29, 2005

No, THIS is the Best Rejection Letter Ever

Just got another agent rejection, this time for CRYBABY FALLS. But she was very complimentary of my writing, and while she didn't think CBF quite worked (not romantic enough for Romantic Suspense; not big enough for straigth suspense), she wants to see other things from me, especially category-length manuscripts. Honey, I've got plenty of those!


I've only just figured out how to put links to the blogs I read on this page, and I have only put a few links at the moment because I haven't had time to sit down and write the code for all the links I want to put on here. There are several more I read pretty regularly that I want to include.

Daphne du Maurier Awards

WILD CARD placed second in the Series category, which is much better than I expected, since the same agent who gave me super low marks on the same manuscript in an earlier contest was one of the judges.

Better yet, my friend Gayle Wilson placed first in her category in the Pubbed Daphnes with IN PLAIN SIGHT--and won the overall published Daphne! I can't think of anyone who deserved it more; she's a fabulous writer and IN PLAIN SIGHT is a great book.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Garden Update and a Little Cat Blogging

It's been a while since I posted on the status of my back deck garden, especially the seeds I found in the freezer a while back.

Sadly, the Tommytoes didn't make it. They just never really got a good start. However, the Atkinson tomatoes, the crookneck squash, the eggplant and the bell pepper are all thriving. The squash plant already has itty bitt squash, and the pepper plant looks like it's about to bloom. The eggplant hasn't bloomed yet, but it's big and healthy. The tomatoes are getting bigger every day, and I figure by mid-August, they'll probably be blooming as well, giving us a nice late summer/early fall harvest.

My old cat, Chunk, who's sixteen, likes to hang out on the deck these days and enjoy the sunshine. A couple of times, she's fallen off the deck, but she didn't get hurt, thank goodness, and managed to pick herself up and toddle back up the stairs. I make her sound more decrepit than she really is; the vet actually says she's in pretty good shape for a cat her age. She had to have thyroid surgery earlier this year, and since then her remaining gland continued to deteriorate, so now she's back on the pills. But her heart is strong, and the arthritis hasn't set in too badly.

She seems to like to lounge in the shade of the potted plants, pretending that she's out in the wild and not just on a wood deck behind a house in the suburbs. I suppose compared to her first thirteen years or so, spent indoors in a series of urban apartments, living in the 'burbs is probably like going on safari every day. She doesn't roam, being old, spayed and used to indoor life, so it's probably pretty safe to let her play her pretend games out on the deck, I figure.

Soon, I'll try to post some photos of Chunk so you can see what a sweetie she is.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

What Else I'm Listening To

In the same vein as yesterday's post, here are a few songs I like a lot, but so far I haven't decided to buy the album they're on (or in a couple of cases, the albums aren't available yet):

"Georgia Rain" - sung by Trisha Yearwood - This is a haunting song about a long ago love that just won't die. Many a reunion romance has been written about just the sort of relationship this song describes. And, as always, Yearwood's gorgeous vocals sell every heartbreaking note of the song.

"Pickin' Wildflowers - sung by Keith Anderson - A bluesy, sassy, euphemistic romp of a song about sex, performed tongue in cheek with a twangy beat that makes you want to get up and dance.

"Hillbillies" - sung by Hot Apple Pie - I'll admit, the hip-billy video for this one is what really sold me on the song, but like "Pickin' Wildflowers," "Hillbillies" takes a good old fashioned roll in the hay and makes it into a rollicking fun song.

"Probably Wouldn't Be This Way" - sung by LeAnn Rimes - This one hurts. Deep. Especially if you watch the video. It's a song about a woman dealing with the unexpected death of her lover, and it covers most of the bases. What I really like about it is the truth it tells about the grieving process from the inside—how people want to help you but end up saying all the wrong things, how you want to help yourself but just can't figure out what will fix things and finally realizing nothing will but time and patience.

"Goodbye Time" - sung by Blake Shelton - Shelton plays against type with this one, a heartfelt ballad about being on the losing end of a relationship gone sour and realizing you have no choice but to let go. For those times when you just need a good sniffle.

"Help Somebody" - sung by VanZant - This song, and the one below, are two signals of something interesting happening in country music—the influx of some good old fashioned rockabilly/southern rock influences. Since I like my country a little edgy, I count this as good news.

"4th of July" - sung by Shooter Jennings - Waylon and Jessi's boy combines the hard edges of rock and roll with the country boy grit of a young Hank Jr. This song is a good example of the mixed influences on Jennings, who insists he's a country artist even though he likes to push the genre to its limits.

"The Mists of Down Below" - sung by The Duhks - This group from Manitoba blends many different acoustic music styles, from bluegrass to celtic to french folk to rock, to create a memorable, edgy Americana sound. I definitely have their album on my Amazon Wish List.

Also, don't miss my update to yesterday's post. (scroll down)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

What I'm Listening To

My taste in music is pretty eclectic, but my primary choices fall in the country, bluegrass and Americana range. Here's who I'm listening to these days:

Mindy Smith - ONE MOMENT MORE Contemporary acoustic Americana with a distinct indie edge. Love her haunting version of the Dolly Parton classic "Jolene." And speaking of Dolly...

Dolly Parton - LITTLE SPARROW The Queen of Country Bluegrass casts her spell on a mix of old fashioned folk songs and classic rock. Her bluegrass rendition of the Eagles' "Seven Bridges Road" is worth the cost of the CD, but there's a whole lot more worth listening to here.

Patty Loveless - MOUNTAIN SOUL Patty Loveless has one of the great voices in country music, and with this album, she visits her Kentucky bluegrass roots.

Big & Rich - HORSE OF A DIFFERENT COLOR This duo defies labels, although in their songs you can hear hints of country influences including the Bellamy Brothers and Montgomery Gentry. Their break-out song, "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy" is a silly, irresistible romp. More than just a duo, they—and their Musik Mafia cohort—are the new outlaws on the country music scene.

Gabriel Yared, et al. - Soundtrack to COLD MOUNTAIN While the actual soundtrack cuts are lovely, I bought this CD for the two Alison Krauss cuts, "You will be my ain true love" and "The Scarlet Tide." Lucky for me, "Lady Margret," two Sacred Harp songs and Jack White's version of "Wayfaring Stranger" are delightful bonuses.

Old Crow Medicine Show - O.C.M.S. Hmm, how to describe this band? Depression era folk grass, I guess, with a decidedly modern edge. "Wagon Wheel" is my favorite cut.

And I don't have it yet, but when I get some cash to spare, these two are going on my "to buy" list:

Alison Krauss & Union Station - NEW FAVORITE and LONELY RUNS BOTH WAYS. Because you just can't go wrong with AK&US.


Can't believe I forgot this one:

Nickel Creek - THIS SIDE I love this bands eclectic fusion of bluegrass, alt rock and acoustic folk. They have a distinctive sound that draws from many influences without mimicking any of them.

Monday, July 25, 2005

No Reno for Me

Money being tight and all. I didn't make it to Dallas last year, either, and I was a Golden Heart finalist that time. (Not so lucky this time around).

However, I'm up for a Daphne, so I'm hoping someone will be liveblogging (posting, whatever) from the Awards on Thursday so I'll know how badly I fared. And I do expect to fare badly, given that one of the judges in my category was the agent who gave me a one on manuscript preparation--on the same manuscript. Nope. Not expecting much from the Daphne. Still, I'll be interested to know if I placed.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Synopses: My Achilles Heel

I can't write a synopsis for the life of me. And believe me, I've read ALL the articles available. I've tried every trick. And still, after all these years, when I enter a contests where the synopsis is judged, I get slammed for my synopses.

Which is really embarrassing, considering that in my day job, I work in advertising as a copywriter and a graphic designer. You'd think a copywriter, of all people, would know how to write a synopses that "sold" her manuscript, wouldn't you?

Tomorrow, at my local chapter meeting, Donna Wright is speaking on synopses. I hope she gives a mini-workshop, because I need all the help I can get.

Do any of you have the secret to writing a great synopsis? In five steps or less? (Because apparently I have a hint of Adult ADD).

Thursday, July 21, 2005

I Love Sharing This Kind of News

Two friends of mine, Jennifer Stimson and Terry McLaughlin, got The Calls this week! Jennifer just sold two YA romances to Simon Pulse, the YA line of Simon & Schuster, and Terry sold her GH '05 finalist to Harlequin Superromance.

Congratulations, ladies!

Contests Ups and Downs

I admit it—I've been really lucky with the contests I've entered. Even when I haven't finaled, I've usually gotten really good feedback all around. So I was a little flummoxed yesterday when I got the scores back from a contest I'd placed third in. Most of the judges' sheets were great, but I got one, from an agent, that blew my mind. Forget the abysmally low scoring all around—I can take that if the agent thought I merited such scores, even if no one else (including the editor judge) was nearly as harsh.

But a one (i.e. "poor") on manuscript presentation? I got fives from everyone else, which makes me wonder if the contest coordinator accidentally sent this agent judge a rag-eared copy stained with cat pee or something. Because how else could you possibly merit a one in manuscript presentation????

I've been submitting to contests for three years now, and submitting to editors for the same amount of time, and I consistently get top marks for manuscript prep, so this is just confounding.

(Just kidding about the contest coordinator sending a pee-stained entry, of course. I was actually very pleased overall by the contest. Just a bit confused by the one, that's all).

On the upside, got my scores from another contest in the mail today, and all the remarks were consistently fair and constructive—at least, the ones my mom read me over the phone. I look forward to getting home and reading the full critique from Shirley Hailstock, whose work I admire a lot. I'll be interested to see what she has to say.