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!