Monday, November 30, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot, hell.

It's that time of year again. I've stocked up on headache reliever and Zantac in preparation for the holiday season; it's a ritual of mine.

We all have our little holiday rituals. I used to make cookies, but then everyone went no and low-carb. So that's over.

I still do my yearly search for the most outrageous Christmas displays. (And yes, this year I've asked you to participate, for prizes.) And, I go to one of my favorite websites for a little divine (well, sort of) inspiration. Cavalcade of Bad Nativities

I invite you to do the same. But put down your coffee and finish chewing, first...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Perfect? Or "good enough"?

Part of my job as a editor at Lyrical Press is to review and accept (or reject) manuscripts. I've been doing this for a few months now, and there are a few tips I'd like to share with other writers who are hoping to  get their manuscripts at least considered for acceptance.

The reason for this is that I've been a writer longer than I've been an editor; I've been a member of Passionate Critters Critique Group since its inception, belonged to other crit groups online and face-to-face, judge contests, joined professional writers' groups, attended conferences, retreats and workshops. I've done my research and I've worked really hard.

Yesterday, when one of my crit partners posted a revision of a query because she felt it "just wasn't quite right" and another critter posted a contest entry for a final review before sending it to the contest coordinator, I realized that the perfection I expect from myself (and my crit partners of their own work) is the same perfection  I expect from those submissions I review.

Unfortunately, too many writers submit work that appears as though they dashed it off without caring about the way it's received. I suppose these folks are so confident that their work is brilliant, they don't consider any other option.

Like, spelling. For example, one writer wrote "she had to flea to China" in his query letter. After I was done giggling, and imagining the protagonist morphing into a flea, I wrote a great, big NO on the submission. I didn't even bother with the synopsis or the actual manuscript. That spelling error told me everything I needed to know.

Another error (actually, it's more of a thing) are hyperbolic queries. I'm glad these authors are proud of their work, but...

"Written in the style of Nora Roberts and Ernest Hemingway, this fast-paced love story takes place on a fishing trip. The reader will be on the edge of there seat as they follow the adventures of outdoorsman Nick Adams and a stripper named Candy Cane who often gets mistaken for Cameron Diaz, as they trek the wilderness in search of the legendary trout "Big Willie Johnson". Interspersed with this riviting adventure is actual text from fishing magazines. At the end, diagrams are shown for the  reader to learn how to slide a live worm onto a hook. I'm sure you will love this book and wait eagerly for your offer of acceptance."*

Okay, so the author tried, Please, don't tell me how to receive your book. Let me make my own decisions. And please, please, please don't review your own book. "This book is stunning! Readers will flock to read this book! It will be the next bestseller and you'd be a fool not to accept it."

Takes one to know one, I say.

The best advice I can give the aspiring writer: Go for perfection. Proofread carefully. Have someone else--preferably another writer--proof it for you, too. Consider a critique group. Join writer's groups. Learn. Read. Research. And always remember: There's no such thing as "good enough" if you want to be published.

And speaking of "good enough" please, check out my December contest!  You could win free books! Or a critique of your first chapter (and your query) from a real, live cranky editor! 

*This query is a work of fiction. No copyrights were infringed upon in the creation of this example. So there. Nyah. Now go bait a hook.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

writing and editing through the holidays

I bet you're hoping I'm going to tell you how to do it.

Sorry. I was hoping you could tell me.

Yesterday, I spent the entire day (or so it seemed) in the car or on my feet, doing stuff. Okay, grocery shoppping was a necessity, but that was it. Really. Picking up the Christmas tree and figuring out how to tie it to the roof of the Jeep,in the pouring rain, with three kids trying to "help". Not to mention getting the tree off the roof at home...and figuring out how to stand it up in the garage to dry without putting it in the stand (or letting it fall on a helpful child); then going to the store to buy the skates the nine-year-old has been nagging me about for weeks (it's part of his Christmas presents--hopefully, he'll remember that when he has one less present under the tree than his sister and brother); taking the twelve-year-old to a doctor's appointment (filling out forms with the two-year-old climbing up to sit on my head...)

I'm off to go buy more lights for the tree, which really didn't look this big on the farm. I'll post a pic later (aren't you thrilled?). My goal is to finally finish editing the wonderful book I promised to finish yesterday no matter who tries to take my computer away from me. (Of course, I can't even finish this blog post without being interrupted to help the nine-year-old put on his socks...good Lord.)

Speaking of lights for the tree--don't forget my contest!

Dear Santa: Please bring me a vacation in a hermitage with WiFi access from Christmas. Thank you. Oh, and please--tell me how to write and edit through the holidays...

Friday, November 27, 2009

I need a vomitorium and a contest announcement

Like many Americans, yesterday I ate too much. In part, this is because my husband is half-Italian and his sister married a full Italian-American. So when they feast, they feast. In the style of the ancient Romans. We ate until we lay across the table and moaned.

And then, we ate pie.

No, seriously, it was a splendid affair. I have to give my sister-in-law internet kudos. She did an awesome job; her table was beautiful, her food was delicious and we all had a very nice time. (Despite yesterday's post!) Even the two-year-old was impressed.
(Even if his response to "what did you eat at Auntie's?" is "Poop!", it's an exuberant poop.)

I hope all of you feel the same.

And now--an ANNOUNCEMENT! (trumpet fanfare)

Okay, folks. Thanksgiving's over, Halloween's long gone. It's CHRISTMAS!(Yeah, that's me over there on the right, being all seasonal and 30's, with my bright red lipstick and high heels. Pretty festive.)

I thought we (meaning me and my two or three faithful readers, bless them) might have some fun.

You know those festive outdoor holiday displays that makes you stop your car and say (festively) "What the f--k?" You know, the kind that's either so over the top that nearby birds sing all night because they think the sun is up, or the half-hearted kind that consists of a single strand of blinking lights on a broken branch? Well--I wanna see 'em.

From now until Dec. 20th, please upload your festive display digi-photos to me at (Compressed to fit jpgs or gifs only, please.I'm not a techie!) I'll upload them to my blog (until Blogger crashes, if necessary), for my first annual IS YOUR HOUSE ON FIRE, CLARK? contest. During the final week until Christmas, I'll post them and we'll vote. Categories: Most Blinding, Most Like a Brothel, Most Unfestive and (my favorite) Most Likely Not to Have Been at the Birth of Christ But On the Lawn Anyway. 

Prizes: Winners in each category will receive one book of mine, of their choice, ebook or in print (if available). If you don't know what I've written, go here to find out. Or--for my writer readers--if you've already read all my books (bless you!)--I'll put on my editor's hat and do a free critique of the first chapter of your completed manuscript.

So what are you waiting for? Git to clickin'!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Root-of-All-Your-Nerosis' Day!

I'm going to go out on a limb here, but I'm pretty confident that most of my family doesn't read my blog. Because I'm not a "real" writer, in their minds. (Don't ask.)

With that in mind, I can say this without hesitation: Thanksgiving is a day where you eat lots of food with your family and count your blessings that you only have to do it once a year. Now, you must understand. It's not that I don't enjoy my family or their food. It's just too stressful.

You know what they say: You can chose your friends but you can't pick your family. You've got nothing in common with these folks (other than the obvious) and you just can't be yourself. Think about it. Can you feel your stomach clenching? Your head buzzing? Your shoulders tightening? Your teeth grinding? Me, too. To be honest, I think I'm scared to death of my family. Somebody, please...pass me the Tums.

I hope that I'm the only one who feels this way (though I'm afraid I'm not) and I hope that the rest of you have wonderful, happy Thanksgiving despite your families. And now, a list of what I'm really thankful for:

I'm thankful for my home. We almost lost it this year but by the grace of God, we're still here and planning to stay.

I'm thankful for my friends, many of whom I'd never have met without the internet. (See, I chose them.) One of my friends even came to visit this year--from the UK! And it was as if I'd known her forever (even though, we realized in horror at the international gate at the airport, that we had no idea what the other looked like. So I'm thankful for the "Neph Keeper" sign I made. Otherwise, we'd still be looking for each other).

I'm thankful for my little dog, who just strolled over the arm of the couch to sit on the arm of my chair and then ask to sit on my other leg as I type. Because sometimes, you need to feel loved by someone who's warm and cuddly and accepts you just as you are, not as they expect you to be.

Thankful? Not really. Neurotic? Probably. Nauseous? You betcha. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Note to self: Do not edit lesbian erotica when the nine-year-old is in the room. He can read.
When you're a two (almost three)-year-old boy, it's really cool when Daddy uses a shocking word when he's angry. It's even cooler when your big brother--who you idolize--uses it when Mommy's not paying attention. It's so cool, you decide to use it yourself, all the time. Especially when Mommy tells you, "It's a grown-up word," and tells you not to use it:

"F--k! F--k, f--k, f--k!"
"You are a f--k!"
"Hi, f--k!

This word makes people cringe. It makes Mommy put soap in your mouth. And when you tell her you like soap, she tries a dab of hot sauce.

Being two (almost three), you tell her you like hot sauce and ask her to do it again. She decides she's given the word too much power and decides to ignore you when you use it in the hopes it will lose its excitement. So you sing it to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star: "F--ka, f--ka, f--ka, f--k..."

You use it in the front yard where all the neighbors can hear you: "Hi, f--king mailman!"

You decide to mix it with other new words that make Mommy suck in her breath: "Look at my f--king poopy pe-nis! Penis penis pee-eee-nis! Poop. F--k."

Mommy tells you Santa will bring you rocks for Christmas and no pink Princess bike (because that's what you really want). You say, "F--k Santa," and hurry off.

Mommy is going to ask Santa for tranquilizers. They are for her, not for you. F--k.

Friday, November 20, 2009

New arrivals

Unlike everyone else in the writing world, apparently, I'm not going to blog about the recent Harlequin hoopla and ensuing RWA kerfluffle.

Instead, I'm going to blog about--my new great niece! Hello, Shae Evelyn, and welcome to the world. Weighing in at exactly 7lbs., she was born on November 18th after 2 days of labor. (Her mom, Lora, thought it was her Crohn's acting up...oops.)

Anyhow, here are some pics. Look at all that hair! (Oh...and don't be put off by the huge forcep bruise.) Other than that mark, she looks a lot like her daddy, Enrique. Here she is with her Papa, considering the possibilities of life outside the womb:

Here she is doing her famous burrito imitation...

And here's she is...just exhausted by it all:

Sigh. Babies. They're wonderful. They're small, cute, portable, and they don't run outside naked on a rainy November day while Mommy tries to work on her writing...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I just didn't fall in love with it

...a tough thing to say about your own book.

Of course, I'm at the point where I loathe this particular book anyway. It's JP's story. He's one of the other McCullough brothers readers can meet in Kissing Trick, and it was the first of the books that I wrote.

I wrote it about eleven years ago. Way back when I still was trying to figure out how to properly plot a book (or plot a book in a way that works for me). I pulled it out of the closet a few days ago figuring I'd finally do the rewrites I knew needed to be done.

The problem is: I wasn't sitting on the writer-side of the desk at the time. Instead, the editor-me read a few pages and said the dreaded words: "I'm just not in love with it."

Crap. This book is going to need a ton of work before I even consider letting an editor besides myself have at it. My goal: to shape it into a book that any editor would love. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I'm sad, today.

I have to drop out of my writer's group. I can't go to meetings, I barely have time to post to the loop and I need to focus on what my family needs instead of what I want. (Or need.)

Rhode Island Romance Writers was the first writers group I ever belonged to. Filled with amazing, supportive, smart and savvy women, it was the first place I realized I wasn't alone in hearing voices in my head.

From these women--kindred spirits all--I learned Craft. I learned about point-of-view and the evils of headhopping. I heard workshops on how to plot, the importance of conflict and the impact of The Black Moment. I discovered Dwight Swain, Jack Bickham, The Plot Doctor and especially, Debra Dixon's GMC. I found out how to write a decent synopsis, how to write an effective query and how to pitch a book without vomiting on the editor.

Most of all, I learned the importance of paying it forward and helping out your fellow writer.There's magic in that group--miracles do happen.

God Bless you, RIRW members. You'll never be far from my thoughts or my heart.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What? Another new genre?

One of my crit partners posted this to the Passionate Critters forum, today.  

The Agency Gatekeeper Blog and Georgia McBride's site let me know about this new contest by St. Martin's Press. Previously, we've talked about the emerging genres of cyberbilly, elegant erotica, and quagmire fiction.  Now it's "New Adult."  (By the way, I love subgenre categories - I find that stuff fascinating.)

Here's the gist: "
St. Martin’s Press is actively looking for great, new, cutting edge YA with protagonists who are slightly older and can appeal to an adult audience. Since twenty-somethings are happily reading YA, St. Martin’s Press is seeking YA that can be published and marketed as adult; kind of an 'older YA' or 'new adult.' " Writer Jodi Meadows has a good look at the new genre and why it's cool.

Here is everything you need to know about the rules.  The contest ends quickly! - Nov 20, 2009,guid,a9ca31e9-029e-474f-b7e5-e134ccc173c1.aspx

Let's just write books for every age. Young adult, not-as-young-adult, slightly-older-than-young-adult, older-young-adult, older-older-young adult... This is what happens when marketing people who aren't writers get involved. They're trying to find the niche for their product. But I can't believe that readers are so ego-centric that they'll only read and buy books based on the age of the protagonist. I know when I was a "new adult", I read books based on the story.

Seems to me it's always been about the story. Can you imagine if Chaucer, Hawthorne, Twain, Austin Fitzgerald, Hemingway or Vonnegut or any other great writer of the canon wrote to the age of their readers instead of the story?

I don't know if you had the same educational experience as I (at least, if you live in America), but those are the authors I had to read in high school and college. They have protagonists of all ages. Yet those books ring true throughout the generations. And why?

It's the story, folks. The plot, the story line, what it's about. Story. And if your story's no good, no one will read it no matter what their age.

The End.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Kissing Trick! In PRINT!!

I wanted to wait until I was sure that the links worked and the pages were set and now--it's twu, it's twu.

Kissing Trick is available as a print book! An honest-to-goodness, able-to-be-autographed, will-have-a-smell-and-a-feel-book!

Guess what everyone in my family is getting for Christmas? (Question: Do I rip out the sex scenes in the one I give my parents? The thought of them reading scenes of oral sex that I wrote are just...oh, excuse me. I need to throw--)


At any rate, I'm just about to go and order a few of them right now. Some authors actually recommend ordering a 100 copies of your book to up your sales. What I want to know is: Where can I get $1000.00? If I had that at my disposal, would I buy my own books?


Here's what I would do with $1000.00:
1) Pay the past-due water bill.

Oh. Yeh. Okay. That's it. Maybe I should be more specific. What fun things would I do with $1000.00?
1) Buy the kids a Wii. And a some games and an extra controller.
2) Take the kids to Cold Stone for ice cream.
3) Buy myself a coffee.

Okay. Let me be even more specific. What fun thing would I do for myself with $1000.00?

1) I would rent a car for the weekend and drive down to New Jersey to visit my friend, author Jennifer Shirk. And my husband would happily and without complaining watch the children. And the children would behave like angels while I was gone.  And I would be able to take a shower without interruptions from the two-year-old.

Sigh.  Please hold on while I enjoy the moment...

If you had money to blow on yourself, what would you do with it?