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Monday, April 28, 2008

Inspiration?

For the past two or three weeks I've been completely uninspired to work on my writing. I thought it was spring fever making me lose focus. At least, that's where I lay the blame. Each time I sat at the computer, rather than open up a document, I checked email or browsed the very long list of sites on my favorites list--writer and reader blogs, reader forums, publisher sites, MySpace, and even the weather.

Then, when I got up this morning, something unusual happened. The cable was out. No tv and no internet. After putting in a call to the cable company, who informed me there was an area-wide outage, I settled in with a little housework. When I figured I'd done enough of that, I finally ended up at the computer. And you know what. I ended up writing 2,288 words today, which is a very good writing day for me. I didn't have the distraction of pulling up email, or checking to see the latest on my favorite reader blog. All I could do was sit here and write, and I actually lost myself in it for quite a while. The result was fingers flying on the keyboard to try and keep up with the narrative and dialogue scrolling through my head. It was terrific!

So now I have to admit that my husband has been correct all these years. He's always told me, if I turned the energy I spend writing emails and cruising around the internet toward my writing, I could turn out several books a year. I always denied the truth of that because, frankly, I didn't want to admit the amount of time I waste each day purely on entertainment. But now that it's looking me straight in the eye, I'm going to have to face the fact and reassess how I spend my time each day. I have no wish to give up email or some of the things I do online, but many of the things I'm currently doing in the name of trying to keep abreast of what's going on within the romance community are a complete waste of valuable time.

I see so many authors in cyberspace that make me wonder how they ever get anything written. They're here, there, and everywhere. Some of these authors have built big careers from their writing and are very prolific, but I'll be darned if I can figure out how they do it all.

Peace,
Devon

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Light Bulbs -- Warning!

You may think this post is about those rare moments of inspiration we sometimes get. I wish it were, but it's not. This post is about exactly what the title says -- light bulbs. The following is copied from the Daily Mail which, oddly enough, is a British news agency. I Googled for facts before I went spouting off and this article--dated April 27, 2008--was the first one I ran across.

~~~~~~~~~~
Energy-saving light bulbs are so dangerous that everyone must leave the room for at least 15 minutes if one falls to the floor and breaks, a Government department warned yesterday.

The startling alert came as health experts also warned that toxic mercury inside the bulbs can aggravate a range of problems including migraines and dizziness.

And a leading dermatologist said tens of thousands of people with skin complaints will find it hard to tolerate being near the bulbs as they cause conditions such as eczema to flare up.

The Department for Environment warned shards of glass from broken bulbs should not be vacuumed up but instead swept away by someone wearing rubber gloves to protect them from the bulb's mercury content.

In addition, it said care should be taken not to inhale any dust and the broken pieces should be put in a sealed plastic bag for disposal at a council dump – not a normal household bin.

None of this advice, however, is printed on the packaging the new-style bulbs are sold in. There are also worries over how the bulbs will be disposed of.

~~~~~~~~~~

I posted this because I want everyone to know about it. Hubby and I actually saw a news story warning of the hazards because of the mercury content on the Nightly News with Brian Williams about a week ago. I had planned to tell my mother and a few people because no one I know is aware of any of this and they all use the bulbs to some extent in their homes, then it promptly slipped my mind. Just goes to show how scatterbrained I am these days.

What really got me about this, besides the obvious dangers, is the fact that we live out in the boonies where there are no hazardous waste disposal places. So what are we supposed to do with these bulbs when we've ready to throw them away? You can bet your boots these babies are going right into the garbage dumps with the rest of the trash around here--and how many do you think stay unbroken from the crush in the back of a garbage truck.

Just one more thing to boggle the mind and unleash more poison on us. As if we don't already have enough in all the food products we consume.

Devon

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Joys of Writing

Well, the Texas Rose story is in a temporary holding pattern while I figure out how to fix a major plot snafu. Ah, the joys of goal, motivation, and conflict. And just so you know, motivation (the part that's grown from a character's past and solid enough to carry throughout the story) is the one that habitually gives me fits. Not to mention the sympathetic factor. But I didn't come here tonight to talk about craft. I figured I should blog since my last post was 10 days ago. Yikes.

Okay. So I've run into a huge stumbling block with the one, but in the meantime I've been working on another gunfighter story. My faves. :o) The conflict in this one is so monumental, it gives me the silly grins every time I think about it.

I managed to get some words down on the page today. But it's very hard to sit here in my cave while the weather is so glorious and the temperature topped out near 80 degrees. Nature, flowers in bloom, trees and bushes leafing, and yard work beckons. Outside, the air smells sweet with the natural perfume of lilac and dianthus, vastly preferable to my stuffy office with Zeb cat's litter box hidden in a corner behind the armchair. Ugh. There's just no place else to put it. Lately, I've been mighty tempted to ship him outside with the rest of God's critters. Only the thought of him actually being out there, having access to the road and any huge dog that might wander past stops me. The poor guy has spent his entire life in this house and I can't bear the thought of putting him out the door. He thinks he belongs here, with us, and I guess he does. And, wow, did I ever meander off topic.

Since I mentioned him, here's a picture of Zeb. He'll be 9 in June. When this picture was taken, he weighed 28 pounds. Truly. He's a whopper and wouldn't lay a claw on anything (such as furniture) if you paid him. Such a nice puddy tat.



Well, I have no idea how I started out talking about gunfighters and ended up with my cat. But there it is. It's late, so I guess I'll call it a night. Later...


Devon

Monday, April 14, 2008

Oh, The Drama...And a Lovely Surprise


Earworm for the day = Roy Orbison's "Crying"

Since the earworm topic is such fun (not to mention weird). I thought I'd add it as a regular feature. LOL!

Angel in the Rain was put into Kindle format by my publisher today on Amazon. Don't know what the result of that will be. Remains to be seen. The list price is $4.80, which is well below regular price for a download. One thing I'm sure of, any resultant royalties will make peanut money look good. Once everyone gets their cut off the top, what's left to filter down to an author? Not much. But I'm looking at it this way, at least I might get a few more readers, people who would not have bought the book otherwise. So, hopefully, it will be a good thing.

I've noticed that the numbers on Amazon have been really sluggish for the past several days. From the looks of it, book sales across the board have slowed way down. No wonder, with all the drama that's been ongoing for the past couple of weeks. First it was the BookSurge panic. Now the reviews manipulation and some really bad behavior over there on the part of certain authors.

So far, this year has been nothing BUT drama in the romance community, and all of it negative press. The actions of a very few have impacted all of us a great deal, and it's all played out on public forums. The bizarre and sometimes criminal actions of a handful of authors have given all of us a black eye in the public view. I hope things settle down soon. I keep wondering how many more nasty little cans of worms (oh Lord, worms again) the bloggers are going to tip over in romance land. Who knew there were so many bad eggs among people who write about enduring love and relationships! Blows my mind.

The Romantic Times convention is in Pittsburgh this year, and it starts tomorrow (I think). Maybe something fun will come out of that. Let's hope.

Before I go, I want to tell you about a lovely surprise I got today. My crit partner, Jan Scarbrough, who often leaves comments here, recently had a book released, titled "A Man of Her Own." She made the dedication to me! When I saw it, I could hardly believe it. What a wonderful tribute. It brought tears to my eyes, I can tell you. That's her cover at the top of the post. Most of her books are set in Kentucky horse country, and she really knows her stuff. This is the one and only story she's written that I haven't read, so I'm very much looking forward to it. :o)

Peace,
Devon

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Earworms That Eat Your Brain

From Wikipedia: Earworm, a loan translation of the German Ohrwurm, is a term for a portion of a song or other musical material that becomes "stuck" in a person's "head" or repeats against one's will within one's mind. Use of the English translation was popularized by James Kellaris and Daniel Levitin. Kellaris' studies demonstrated that different people have varying susceptibilities to earworms, but that almost everybody has been afflicted with one at some time or another.

For the past 48 hours, I've had an earworm that won't quit. It goes like this:

It's lonely out tonight, and the feelin' just got right for a brand new love song.
Somebody done somebody wrong song.
Hey, won't you play...

Yeah. Remember that one? I'm thinking I'm one of the people who's susceptible because it's rare when I don't have something playing in my head. Let me put it this way. If there aren't scenes from a story, or dialogue between characters going on in my head then that space is usually occupied by an earworm. Sometimes, it's so bad, I spontaneously start belting out lyrics to go along with the broken record in my brain. If my husband's around, he can't resist doing a Simon Cowell imitation, which annoys the hell out of me. He holds up his hand and (deadpan) says, "It's still a no." Errr! This coming from a man who sometimes spontaneously breaks into his own stylized rendition of Tainted Love. Rolling Eyes

My earworms don't restrict themselves to any certain genre or time period. Oh, no. They're all over the place. So, do you ever get earworms? If so, what type of music does your brain get hung up on?

Devon

Monday, April 7, 2008

T.G.I.M.

Thank God it's nearly Monday! It's been a long weekend, and I'm tired. I'm always relieved when Monday rolls around again. The normal routine starts over and things settle down so I can actually get some work done. Writing work, that is.

I've been giving a lot of thought lately to the word "unique." Editors are looking for western romance manuscripts that are unique. Well, what does that mean exactly? If something is unique, it's one of a kind. Kind of hard to wrap your head around in terms of writing a romance novel. How can anyone possibly write something that's never been done before? There are only so many plots and variations. The only thing different is the individual author's voice. Besides, based on past experience, while they say they want something completely different, that's never been done before, they also mean they want it to be the same. It must fit the normal parameters, or it will be an oddball that they wouldn't know how to market with other books of its kind. So what the heck do they really want? I think it's a case of, they can't put their finger on it, but they'll know it when they see it.

Who knows. This is the age-old question that's driven writers batty... well, for as long as I've been part of the writing community. It's a question I've wrestled with for the past eleven years. Maybe I should go back and read my own blog post where I advised, Write what you feel passionate about.

All I know is, I'm deep into a manuscript and have several more waiting in line. I have no idea if any of them would be considered unique. The only thing that makes them different is my voice and style. That all I can do, and I think it's a little late to start in on the vampire gunslinger idea Jan suggested I do a while back.
Devon

Friday, April 4, 2008

What's Your World?

I added a brace of long-barrelled Peacemakers to the top of this post because it's part of my "world." No, I'm not an antique gun freak, although I wouldn't mind it, if I could afford to indulge. The pistols are part of my writing world and I'm adding atmosphere to reflect my genre. Maybe I'd better explain.

Pat Rice recently returned from the Novelists Inc. conference with several tips about branding. Only they're saying now, forget about branding yourself. Now, you should have your "signature" on all the places that represent you as a writer. Here's what Pat says on her blog : The marketing expert said to develop an author's name, they need to invite the reader into the worlds the author has created, presumably on their website and Myspace page and blog and so forth.

Well, I think most of us are already trying to do that. Although, I do still see an occasional author page that's so generic, they might write anything. Unless their name is super recognizable, it's anyone's guess. You'd have to look at their titles to be certain.

Even a color scheme can reflect the era or general atmosphere of what you write. The Old West just begs for rich, earthy colors, and usually some neutral tone to go with them. I have clicked onto author sites that made me say, "Whoa, what was she thinking!" The colors are a decorators nightmare and don't even complement each other. Not that I'm a decorator or anything close, but I can tell (I hope) when colors clash horribly. I've noticed that most people who are color coordinate impaired seem to choose shades of yellow or puce, and all too often try to put them together. Sorry, but just the word "puce" makes me nauseous.

My web site screams Western Historical. I tried to do the same thing with the blog, although I couldn't change the background, I added a few western touches. The problem I have with my web site is that while it screams western, it doesn't necessarily scream romance. And that's a problem that's left me scratching my head. What's a person to do? Put one of those steamy graphics top and center, or in the background, like some people have on their MySpace profile? I think not. I'll just leave that to the erotica authors.

I've piddled endlessly with my web site, trying to change it up, make it better. But I'm with one of the web hosting places because I don't know squat about building a web site. Their pre-set templates do all the work. All I do is fill in the blanks and go around inserting pictures and hyperlinks. It's fun and easy, but there are only so many templates and most of them have a very contemporary look. So I keep settling on the one I have because it works best, has more of an organized look, and the text is easier to read.

Anyway. If anyone runs across a sexy cowboy picture that wouldn't infringe on any copyrights, let me know, will ya. Just so it isn't one of those half naked guys with the zipper on his jeans pulled down. Tacky. Tacky.

So, what kinds of images and things do you use, or would like to include but still don't have, on your web site or blog, etc. that would invite a reader into your "world?"

Devon

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Follow Your Passion


Years ago, right after I joined RWA, I remember going to my very first critique session with some of the ladies from my local chapter. I took a synopsis and the beginning of a Medieval werewolf story I had started and felt pretty excited about. After reading my material, the ladies expressed disappointment that I wasn't working on one of my westerns. They told me paranormals weren't popular and NY just wasn't buying them. They strongly advised me to put away the werewolf story and pick up where I'd left off with my western historical.

Well, green newbie that I was, I figured they knew what they were talking about and followed their advice--and I've been kicking myself ever since. Why, you ask? Because only a short time later, westerns went into a sharp decline and the paranormal market literally exploded. Sherrilyn Kenyon introduced her Dark Hunters and opened the door for all the vampires, werewolves, and other creatures of the night that have thrived ever since in the romance world.

By that time, I was deeply entrenched in the Old West. Meanwhile, western historical romances continued to fall off the lists, along with the authors who wrote them. They were a dying breed, and many predicted they would never make a comeback because today's generation didn't grow up with John Wayne and that whole era the way we boomers did. Now, my chapter mates (at least the ones who took the time to give me advice) told me to put away the westerns and write something else.

This time, I didn't follow the advice because I had learned not to try and chase the trends. They come and go too quickly. Besides, what you see on the bookstore shelves today was likely bought as long as 2 years ago. So in order to get in on a trend in the writing business, you have to anticipate it before it happens. And how many of us are that astute at guessing or have esp? Not me, that's for sure.

No, after much hair pulling and staring blankly at the computer screen for days on end, I decided I had to write what I felt passionate about. I wanted to tell the stories about characters I have grown to care about. I can't try to anticipate and write toward the market trends because that is the one sure road to insanity.

So, all this time, I've been writing my western historicals, despite the fact that some of my chapter mates began to view me as one of those who would probably never be published. But guess what. The wheel has turned, come full circle again. Vampires and werewolves have run their course and are on the way out. What are one of the things editors are clamoring for now-- WESTERN HISTORICALS!

Who woulda thunk it?

The moral of this story is -- always write what your heart and passion tell you to write. Even if it's not the hot ticket right now. Trends come and go and the wheel will turn full circle again...eventually.

Devon