Thursday, December 31, 2009

I resolve...

Like everyone else in the world (or mostly everyone else), I'm shucking the quest for a creative post today, to announce my New Year's Resolutions, which I will subsequently (like everyone else) forget to follow or give up following in about a week and a half, after the gleam has rubbed off the shiny new year and real life has set back in.

Anyone wishing to edit the above sentence has my blessings. I haven't had my coffee yet.

Speaking of coffee--I RESOLVE TO STOP FORKING OVER MY HUSBAND'S HARD-EARNED CASH FOR DUNKIN DONUTS COFFEE.  No more extra-large Toasted Almond extra light, cream, no sugar. Ditto Hazelnut. And this summer--no more large, iced Coconut, cream, no sugars, either.

I don't know what it is about Dunkin Donuts. They do something to their coffee to make it addicting. I think it has something to do with the crack they plop into each cup. And we, the addicted, line up like lemmings every day for our jones of choice. It has got. To. Stop. Honestly, spending over twenty dollars a week for coffee is ridiculous. Even if it feels like we're going to die without it...even if hallucinations of flying monkeys, Shakespeare and Moses come visit me and command, "Get thee to the nearest DD", I will hold fast to my visions of a Dunkin Donut free life.

No more secrets stashes of cash, just in case I need a fix. No more noting the location of every Dunkin Donuts we pass. (In Rhode Island, this is practically every corner). The pink and orange shadow will loom over my consciousness--no more!

Just as soon as I finish this cup...

Happy New Year to one and all and may all your resolutions come true.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My lazy American students - The Boston Globe

My lazy American students - The Boston Globe

Posted using ShareThis

This article has practically nothing to do with what I normally write about, but I felt it interesting enough to share with you. I agree with the author in many ways, so much so that I was compelled to comment:

"I recently wondered what message students at my daughter's middle school received when she brought home a "progress report". In ancient days (when I was a kid), students in danger of failing were handed an interim report to take home and have signed by their parent(s). The dreaded white slips were handed out at the start of each class; everyone knew who was failing. Yes, it was humiliating for the kids who weren't doing well, but so what? It's better to be humiliated as a child than as an adult, where the effects of your failure can be more far-reaching and it was a hard lesson well-learned. Work harder to bring up your grade; make an effort not to be humiliated again. Success comes not with a whine but with hard work and dedicated effort.

But now, we're shielding our kids from the humiliation of failure by sending home Progress Reports; all children are seen to "progress" and all receive the reports whether they're doing well or poorly. (One of my daughter's teachers' comments: "She keeps her books covered". Should I book a party? Give her a sticker? Applaud that she's done what she's expected to do and act surprised?)

What doesn't surprise me is that the current "Johnny doesn't fail, he progresses" attitude carries through to the college years. It is inconceivable to the current group of college students that they could fail. They've been shielded and coddled (They "keep their books covered!") and have failed to learn accountability for their failure to perform. My fear is what will happen to them beyond the classroom, in the Work World where failure could result in termination and the loss of a standard of living. (And a life spent sponging off their parents, who hand them stickers for putting their dirty clothes in the hamper.) The truth is, we've created a nation of Johnnies who expect to progress without effort. And now, we see the results: we've failed in creating a next generation of responsible adults who will move this country forward. Instead of whining about the humiliation and trying to forge Mom's signature on our own interims, perhaps it's time to figure out where we went wrong and try to up our grade--and our standards of expectations."
What do you think? Is the author of the article correct in her observations or is she over-generalizing?  Either way, I find it frightening. 

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The best gift, ever.

My daughter gave me this letter as a Christmas gift. I'm very proud. And teary. As much as I complain about them, they really are good kids. I'm truly blessed.

Dear Mom,

Merry Christmas! It is impossible to say with words how much you mean to us. You do so much for the whole family and I think that it isn’t recognized enough. The things you do to keep this family together and functioning are incredible that only someone like you can accomplish. You are an amazing mother and every great thing you do for us is acknowledged even though you sometimes may not feel that way.

You’ve made me realize that being a mother is one of the hardest jobs out there. You care for us when we’re sick, you comfort us and give us a shoulder to cry on when we need it, and you’re always optimistic and trying to keep us happy and getting along. We know that we are a tough bunch to control, but you do the best you can and you do a great job of it.

I think it’s amazing how you have so much patience. I see it every day when you care for [the little guy]. I thought about it the other day and I realized that I could probably never do that. Whining, talkative toddlers are the toughest people to have around but you manage to ignore his annoying ways and still love him. You made me realize that you can love us no matter what the circumstances are. I wonder how you stay up late at night with [him] and get up early to help us start our day. It must be so tough on you and I feel like I wish I could help. I do the best I can, but I don’t think it’s good enough compared to what you do.

You’ve also taught me that I can be myself. You’re not like other parents who are stuck to their ways and give their kids so many limits and boundaries that don’t allow them to be who they are. I appreciate that you accept me. I think it’s critical to being yourself if you allow a person to express themselves. I am so grateful for that.

You try your best to give us everything you can to make us happy. You’ve given me so much and I can’t thank you enough. You’ve given me many important things. Not just material things, but things like love, happiness, hope, and knowledge. I thank you for that. I appreciate that you’ve let me continue my passion for horses as hard as it was for you to manage and I acknowledged it every time I climbed up onto a horse’s back. I feel sorry that you weren’t able to have the same opportunity as you love horses just as much as I do.

I think it’s amazing how you talk to everyone like they’re an old friend. You make people feel comfortable around you. I wish I could be like that. I wonder how you are so outgoing and you don’t seem to care of what people think of you. You aren’t afraid of the world, you seem like you don’t feel you need to hide, and that is another one of the many things that amazes me about you.

Through these hard economic times, you have done so much. I can see you try hard to care for our family and get us through it as best as you can. I’ve learned so much through these tough few years and I feel as though I’ve become a better person. I can remember how it was before the economy went downhill. I could get almost anything I wanted. I think about it now and wondered if the economy didn’t crash, how I would be now. I know I probably wouldn’t be the same person. I don’t think it’s so much the economy that’s taught me this as much as you and dad have. I think it’s vital for me to learn and will help me a lot in the future.

You are so intelligent and talented. You are a great artist and writer. I hope I will be able to be as creative and talented as you in the near future and I hope you know that I look up to you.

You’ve given me my insight on life, influenced me greatly, and I appreciate the things you do so much. I can’t imagine life without you and I’m proud to call you my mother. You are one of the most amazing people I’ve ever known and I couldn’t be more thankful to be able to wake up every morning and call you “mom”. Merry Christmas. I love you with all my heart.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Glad tidings.

My publisher, Lyrical Press, is about to offer a contract to a writer I know, based on my recommendation.

I'm so excited for her. She told me she's doing the Snoopy Dance, and I'm dancing right along with her.

A little over a year ago, I received a request for one of my books.  I still have my acceptance email--my first one, ever:  

Dear Cynthia:

I know you've been on pins and needles waiting for a response from us, and I'm glad to say that the delay was because we really like your story. So, to make it official ...

Thank you for submitting KISSING TRICK for consideration at The Wild Rose Press. I found the manuscript to be well written. The characters are well developed and likable, and the story line makes for a fun read. I'd like to contract KISSING TRICK as a Rosebud (word count 40,000-64,000) for the Champagne Rose line.
Let me know if you're interested, and I'll get started on a contract. I also need to confirm that the story is free and clear and that you own all rights.

As soon as I hear back from you, I will send along the contract and other pertinent documentation.
I hope you will choose to publish KISSING TRICK with The Wild Rose Press. It will be a great treat for our readers.
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me. I look forward to working with you.

I received this email on October 17, 2008. Funny, because my daughter's due date (back in 1997) was October 17th, but she arrived on October 27th. Still, you have to admit, this was a birth of sorts. No longer was I one of those scribbling wannabees. I was a real writer.  Now, I'm an editor, too--a development I never anticipated in 2008. 

I'm so blessed to be able to share this gift with other writers.

I wonder what 2010 will bring? Hopefully, more contracts for us all!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Halleluia! (silently)

If you haven't seen this yet, you should. (You probably will. If not here, somewhere else.) Sit back and enjoy. Oh! And crank up the sound, too, for added fun...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Writing Anxiety

I'm gonna blow.

Any second now. I can feel it.

I haven't been able to write since September because I've been going to school and editing other people's books.

I'm getting anxious.

Random characters keep wandering into my thoughts, pushing me. "Wouldn't this by a great thing to remember for my book? You do remember my book, don't you? Don't you?"

Shane and Dale from my half-finished manuscript, Nuts Over You, have teamed up and are tapping their toes and frowning at me. Shane's got the squirrel on his hand. Dale's lips are pursed.  There are toys everywhere. The three-year-old they're babysitting is swinging from the ceiling fan and giggling--and they don't care anymore. They just want to get the romance under way and give the kid a nap.

Ceci and Duke, from my other half-finished manuscript, Love You to Death, are still on the couch in Ceci's living room. She's miffed. She still has her post-blood headache and so much sexual tension, she's vibrating. Duke is probably the only character who's patient--but he's got eternity. He's immortal, after all. He's yawning and cleaning dirt out from under his nails with the edge of a matchbook cover. Yes, he wants Ceci too--but he's biding his time. He knows--from experience--that delayed gratification is the best gratification. And besides, he knows they've got an audience.

Lionheart gazes in the window (even though Ceci's on the second floor of a Victorian-style two family home--heights mean nothing to vampires, you know). He's hungry, Ceci looks yummy and Duke won't share.

I have a feeling if I don't work on something soon, it's gonna be ugly.  Especially now that a new character (or two) have started to announce themselves...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Free book!

Want to win a free copy of my book? (e-book or print)

From now until Thursday, Dec. 10th): Go check out my review at The Long and the Short of It Reviews , then come back here and comment with the answer to the following question:

My hero, Patrick (Trick) has the power to...? You'll have to read the review to find out!

I'll draw a winner from the comments.  Good luck!

(Sorry for the "inspired" blog this morning. I'm trying to get this down before I have to go solve another child-crisis, like tracking down a missing monster truck [again] or having to applaud about using the toilet. I live a full life, I tell you.)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Making it perfect instead of getting it "write"

My littlest guy has a favorite show: Max & Ruby. Based on the books by Rosemary Wells, it's about Max (a young bunny) and his bossy older sister, Ruby. In her perpetual quest for another Bunny Scout badge, Ruby thinks Max is in the way and tries to boss him around. But when she runs into problems, it's Max who invariably shows her the way in his persistent, mono-syllabic little brother fashion.

Gee, that's nice, Cyn. What's your point?

The other day, I finally saw a new episode. (Those of you with small children can relate to my excitement. After you watch each episode 500 times each, you tend to get a  In this one, Ruby decides she's going to write a story. (Ha! See?) Being the control-freak that she is, she has to get it all perfect. A nice quiet place to write in, freshly-sharpened pencils, and lots of clean, white paper. But then..."Cowboy!", Max interrupts.

Ruby ends up getting some cookies for herself, (and Max). Because you never know if you'll get hungry when writing a story, and you don't want to have to get up to get something. "Cowboy!" Milk for Max, milk for Ruby. Finally, she picks up the pencil. "How to start my story?" Ruby muses. (Most of us don't have this problem, by the way. We usually say, "How to end my story?" or worse, "How to get through this stupid middle ohwhythe$@#%!didn't I write an outline first...oh! I have a brilliant idea for another, new and improved story!"

Ruby starts with "Once upon a time..." because--as she says, "All the best stories start that way." Then she wonders "Then what?" (Aha! Middle muddle!) A mermaid? A  ballerina? A..."Cowboy!"

Ruby spends the entire show ignoring the fact that Max is offering her a character and situations for him (playing the harmonica, eating cookies, riding his hobby-horse...) and maybe even a conflict. ("Need cookies!") But Ruby is so intent upon "getting it right" that she misses the perfectly good idea right in front of her.

Well...almost. Of course, after about twenty minutes of sharpening pencils and trying to get her writer's space exactly right, she opens her eyes to her Muse (so to speak) and start writing.

How often have you been like Ruby? Are you missing the obvious because you're so caught up in the little details that don't matter?

For me, it's the office supplies. The perfect pen with the perfect color ink. (But...I don't write in pen. I use my computer.) Or--I need 4x6 scene cards, pink for the heroine's point-of-view, blue for the hero's and green for...well...I like the green ones. The perfect three-ring binder in just the right color for my manuscript pages. And sticky notes, and mechanical pencils, and lead for the pencils, and maybe some of those eraser sticks that click up in the holder and a zippered, three-ring binder pencil pocket and a new flash drive and...

See what I mean? We get so caught up in the silly things (like Ruby and her sharpened pencils) that we're missing the cowboy riding his horse around our writing space.

Think about it. How do you allow yourself to be distracted?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Virtual Christmas Cookies--and real (edible) ones, too.

My friend, crit partner and Samhain author, Jennifer Shirk, is having a Christmas cookie exchange over at her blog today. Post your favorite cookie recipe on your blog, go over to her blog and leave a comment, and get entered to win a one-pound gift package from Crazy Susan's cookies.

Free cookies! Yeh!

I found my recipe in the 2007 edition of A Taste of Home Best Loved Cookies and Bars. I love this recipe because I LOVE COCONUT! (That's a hint to those of you who say, "yuck" about coconut; you can stop reading now.) I make cookies every year (or used to before everyone went Weight Watchers and Low-Carb), but could never find the perfect maccaroon recipe. So many of them require egg whites and cream of tartar and long baking times to "dry the cookie to the perfect texture".

Phooey, I say! Phooey!

These Coconut Macaroons are easy, quick and chewy. With only five ingredients, you can make them in a pinch, and if you use a tablespoon-sized ice cream scoop to drop them onto your baking sheet, they're the perfect pop-in-your-mouth cookie. The only thing wrong with this recipe: it doesn't yield enough! You'll want to double/triple/quadruple it for your non-virtual cookie exchange. Or--as occurs in my house--so that there are enough left to give away.

(The recipe doesn't call for a halved-maraschino cherry, but that doesn't mean you can't include one if you'd like.)

Coconut Macaroons
(pg 32, Best Loved Cookies and Bars, Taste of Home. 2007)

2 1/2 c. flaked coconut
1/3 c. all purpose flour
1/8 t. salt
2/3 c. sweetened condensed milk
1 t. vanilla extract

In a bowl, combine the coconut, flour and salt. Add milk and vanilla; mix well (batter will be stiff).

Drop by tablespoons 1 inch apart onto a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool. Yield: 1 1/2 dozen.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's just plain oogy!

Your cranky editor (as opposed to your cranky mommy/lighthearted-romance writer) here, with a message to writers:

Repeat after me. PEOPLE control their body parts. Independently moving body parts belong in a horror movie, NOT in a romance/erotica!

Remember Thing, from the Addams Family? Thing was a hand that lived in a box and performed menial tasks for the family in the days before remote controls and Roomba robots. He frequently turns up in books I'm editing/critiquing.

"His hand crept up her thigh..."
"Her hand pushed the fingers through her hair..."

And so forth. No, I'm not exaggerating, and yes, some writers don't even attach possessive pronouns to their body parts but use the  article, "the". This is even worse. The hand defined by "the" really isn't attached to anyone or used by anyone except...itself. (Ewwww! Ewww, ewww, eeeeewwww!) That's worse than a spider. Really. Imagine seeing that crawl out from under your bed?

And, really...does it sound romantic or erotic, to you?

Even worse (yes, it does get worse), some writers give their characters independently moving eyes. Apparently, their people's optical orbs have the ability to pop out of their heads and do things. other eyes across the room. (Actually...I'd like to see this, myself.) Here's one of my personal favorite oogies: "His eyes crawled over  her lush breasts."

If I had eyes crawling over my (not so lush) breasts, I'd send those babies rolling. Imagine how cold and slimy they'd feel? It reminds me of the sheep's eye I had the unfortunate privilege of dissecting in seventh grade. (Thanks to the ingenuity of seventh grade boys, I learned a sheep's pupil, removed from it's squishy casing, bounces better than a Super Ball. Ba-boing!)

But it gets worse, because I edit erotica as well as romance, and there are some amazing independently moving body parts in those stories. Unfortunately, I can't share the best of them with you as I try to maintain at least a PG rating. However...I can share this (and you can use your imagination to create other scenarios: His tongue slid into her...ear.

Do you suppose after a session of lovemaking, his (or should I say, "the") eyes, tongue and hand lay on the pillow beside her head?


The solution to these creepy-crawly body parts is simple. First of all, use your possessive pronouns! Her eyes, her tongue, his hand. Never, never use "the" (or--and I shudder to say this--"a"). Second, make your characters move their own parts:

Example: She put her hand on his shoulder.
He brushed his fingers against her cheek.
He pressed his lips to hers, letting his tongue wander into her mouth...

Okay, okay. Calm down. Yes, that has the potential to become an independently roving tongue. BUT, I've acknowledged that my character (he) has made a choice about the actions of his tongue and has giving it permission to go play with her tongue. Presumably, then, he'll be able to call it back into his mouth as necessary and it won't go off to invade other people's orifices without invitation.

That would be...just plain oogy.