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!