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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tonight's Musical Interlude

And now, for your listening pleasure here's Kelly Clarkson singing "Don't Play That Song" during the very first season of American Idol. Even the great Aretha didn't take this song to such heights. Enjoy!


End of February Post

I pulled out my trusty stock snow picture because that's what they're forecasting for us tonight. Snow, beautiful snow! Hey, if it's gonna be cold and miserable outside, might as well snow, in my opinion. At least it's pretty when you look out the window.

Every time the weather people predict snow, I have a very strong urge to put away the manuscript I'm working on and pull up the one and only one I have in progress that takes place during a big snowstorm. I love that story, and it's next on my list to finish. But the way my schedule is laid out, I'll be writing it during the hottest months of summer. Not very good planning on my part. I'll be resorting to the same tactics Magdalena Scott used trying to conjure up some atmosphere for her Christmas story in late February. I could probably stick my head in the freezer. Or maybe I should go out and scoop up some snow (if we get any of sufficient quantity to scoop) and put that in the freezer. Then, when I'm writing my story later this year, I could take it out occasionally and rub a little on my face.

I've been kinda quiet for the past couple of days because I've been deep in the throes of writing. I say "throes" because every word for the past two days has... been... a... struggle. So right now I'm procrastinating. It's either that or go back to the manuscript and rip out the first five chapters and start over again.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm a complete idiot for writing about my struggles with this manuscript for all the world to see. I don't see other writers doing that. I see them blog about their struggle for writing time or finding a publisher. But I don't see them talking about their works in progress in any terms other than they've finished, got it out the door, etc.

Anyway... I'm hoping for snow tonight. I'm also hoping the powers that be will see fit to send me a flash of inspiration or even a moment of brilliance. Nah. On second thought, I guess brilliance is way out of line, so I'll just settle for a bit of inspiration.

Peace,

Devon

Thursday, February 26, 2009

For Horse Lovers

Tonight I was talking on the phone with my cousin, who also happens to be my sister-in-law, (we're married to brothers, if you're trying to figure it out) and our conversation turned to my blog. She reads, but doesn't comment. (Hi, Vondie!) Anyway, I told her that every time I pull up my blog, I sit here for at least 15 seconds and watch the little red horse make a lap across the top of the posts. She said she does, too! After that, the conversation turned to Texas because that's where I lived before I moved back home to Kentucky. The years I spent in Texas were the nearest I came to living the western fantasy I write about. For a while, I lived on a mini ranch in the big piny woods that begin just north of Houston. Tonight, I'm feeling a little nostalgic about that and my horses I had then, so I'd like to share a few pictures.


This is Cheyenne, a big chocolate brown gelding who thought he was still a stallion. He was as gentle and playful as a big ole puppy dog... until you brought out a saddle. Then he turned into a wild-eyed demon. I never rode him, nor did I ever try. I wasn't that crazy even then, but my husband tried it a few times. The one time he managed to get out of the lane on his back, Cheyenne took him over into the woods and tried to crush him against a tree. Sure did, but for some reason, we loved him anyway.












This is Santa Fe, standing in front of the tack shed, all saddled up and ready for a ride. She was a gentle old strawberry roan who behaved like a lady when you climbed into the saddle. The only downside to riding her was the way Cheyenne behaved when she got out of his sight. He stomped along the perimeter of the fence and whinneyed his head off until she came back.


















Here's Sante Fe and Cheyenne, romping and kicking up their heels. Santa Fe is on the far left. Her roan coloring kinda blends in with the landscape so you have to look closely to see her there behind the tree.



Here's another shot of Cheyenne acting all stallion-like. This is my favorite picture of him, I guess because of the way the light is reflected from his coat. He looks so noble and positively gleaming.

The quality of this last picture is very bad. It had turned red, so I tried to correct it and this is what I ended up with. Anyway... This little filly is an Anglo-Arabian, which is a cross between a Thoroughbred and an Arabian. Her official name was Three Times a Lady, but we called her Sunshine. Believe it or not, she was a rescue who lost her mother in a flood. The girl giving her a scratch is my little sister, and the dog's name is Jake. He was part Beagle, part Basset, and 100% sweetheart.

Those were the days and I miss my horses, but I doubt that I could keep up with all the work now that goes along with owning these big, beautiful animals. I'm just thankful I was able to live out my dream with them for a while.

Peace,

Devon

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My Computer's Been Holding Me Hostage... Again!

I have the most rotten luck with computers of anyone I know. It's just a fact.

The latest fiasco started at around 3:00 this afternoon, right after hubby got home from work. He grabbed a cup of coffee and came in here to my office to check on some auctions he's been watching. Right in the middle of browsing, the internet went down. Not only that, the little green ""Internet" light on my modem turned glaring red. That's never happened before, so I knew something was up.

I waited for a while to see if it would come back. It didn't, so I called the phone company and followed the recorded instructions. Unplug modem from power source. Turn off computer. Wait two minutes. Plug modem in to power source. Restart computer. I got the green light back, but my computer was still off-line.

So I called the phone company again and spoke to a tech. He checked and told me there was an outage in my area. Okay, fine. So I wait some more.

In a few minutes, my son comes into my room and tells me, his computer, which is wirelessly connected to my modem, is back online and working fine. That was just great because mine still wasn't working.

So, I called the phone company again. For the next hour, a tech is walking me through digging around in the guts of my computer, pinging for this and that. She tells me to disable the firewall. She tells me to disable my connection. Then she tells me to enable again. I do, at least, I try. Nothing happens. The computer tells me I can't make a connection because my computer has no wireless device installed on it.

What! Wireless device? The freakin' modem is plugged directly into my computer. Why would it need a wireless device? The tech is baffled. That was exactly the word she used. We tried more stuff. No dice. My computer would not make a connection. The tech tells me--again--that she's baffled. She asks if she can call me back in 45 minutes, she needs to consult with one of their specialists. I say okay. We hang up. I'm ready to pull my hair out. Or cry.

I do neither. I wait for her to call back. She never does. Fed up now, I start opening a few things myself--like the freakin' Internet Connections folder. DUH! The LAN is disabled. Duh, I say DUH again (I keep saying that because if I wrote what I really said...) So I click (one stinking click) to enable the LAN and VOILA, problem solved.

WHO, someone please tell me WHO, are these techs who are supposed to know more than we do and be able to solve all our problems but are never able to solve ANYthing? Do these people actually get paid money for this?

I apologize for the rant, but I just HAD to get that off my chest. Since you, obviously, own and use a computer, I'm sure you completely understand.

Peace (for a while anyway),

Devon

Monday, February 23, 2009

Thank God It's Monday!

Yesterday turned out to be a fun blogging day. Who knew! I can't remember when I've laughed so much at my own stupidity. But now it's Monday, and thank the Lord for that!

Speaking as a stay-at-home mom/writer, I can't tell you how relieved I am when Monday rolls around. I know most people live for the weekends, but not me. Why not? Because the gang's all here. Kids. Hubby. They need to eat and they need attention, which means I have to put my own pursuits on the back burner until I get the all clear again. The only time I can get any writing done is very early in the morning or late at night after they're all tucked in.

This weekend, I only wrote approximately half of my daily quota for both Saturday and Sunday. I'll have to make it up during the week. I was never good at sticking to quotas in the past, but I'm giving it another try. So far, I'm doing pretty good. I'm teaching myself discipline, which is one very important thing I've been lacking. This time I'm determined, serious, in fact. I'm sticking to schedule and that's that! Butt in chair, words on page. It took a while for it to sink in, but it's finally dawned on me what everyone else has known all along. The only way to be successful is to get those puppies written!

Speaking of puppies...the one in the photo is so adorable, I couldn't pass him over without posting him. This was a T.G.I.F. photo but, as you can see, I altered it to suit. Isn't Paint a marvelous thing!

The picture of the sweetie-pie puppy reminds me. In two weeks, give or take a few days, we plan to adopt another dog. Since my good old dog, Sam, died back in October last year, we haven't had one and both hubby and I miss having one of the little guys underfoot. So we finally made the decision. It's been fifteen years since I've fooled with training a dog. I hope I still have the patience. Wish me luck!

When we bring her home, (yes, it's a she) I'll have my son take a picture so I can post it. I'm going on blind faith with this one. My husband has seen the puppy and held her, but I haven't seen her yet. He tells me she's a cutie, and I trust him on that point. She's a small (they think) mixed breed and he assures me that she won't get very big. Still...a strange thought keeps popping into my head. Aren't ALL dogs cute and little when they're puppies?

Devon

Deep Thought for Today = It's much easier to write a new manuscript from scratch than to try and fix an old one.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Update on Naked Bookseller

I went Googling and found this little gem. For some reason it wouldn't allow me to copy the entire code so I could embed it here, but here's the link.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6z6NMFlrk6k

Enjoy,

Devon

Deep Thought For Today = A red bird in a tree is better than an old bird in a white bush.

What Lengths Would You Go To...


...to sell books?

The guy in the dangerously overloaded thong (at least I hope that's a thong, but the more I look at it...) is called The Naked Bookseller. When I ran across this image, I cracked up because it's absolutely perfect for this post! I once had a friend tell me, she would strip off naked, paint herself red, and run through the middle of downtown during the yearly festival if it would get her some book sales. Honestly... I think she was only half kidding.

I know once you're published, promotion is the name of the game. Everyone says so. Well, I'm not good at it. Since all my neighbors and some of my family members still don't know--after two years--that I've published, I must really stink at it. I would have made a lousy salesperson. I feel guilty asking people for money, even when I have something they want to buy. I think it goes back to the way I was raised. You didn't talk about money and you certainly didn't ask anyone for it. If someone asked you for something, if you could, you gave it to them. But times and mores have changed, haven't they, and the last thing I want to do is get sidetracked with some kind of statement about our materialistic society. This is supposed to be fun!

Anyway. What kinds of things would you be willing to do in the name of promotion? Or... without naming names of course, what's the weirdest or most outrageous thing you've heard about or seen an author do in the name of selling books?

Tell me about it.

Devon

edited to add: I just discovered something nifty. You can resize photos in edit mode right in your post once you're uploaded them. I did not know that!

Another edit: after learning the old dude was actually naked, I marched him right over to paint and spray painted him. I'm still shaking my head over the fact that I posted a photo of a naked guy. Sorry, but I still think it's hilarious.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Personality!

Yesterday's post was a whiny rant about my displeasure with the opening scene in my manuscript. Today's installment is a postscript to that.

Yesterday, I sat here at my computer and worked on my manuscript, off and on, for pretty much the entire day. But for all the time I put in, my word and page count total at the end of the day was less than it has been for previous days when I spent far less time at it. I hadn't made much progress. I felt like it was bogging down. So, before closing out for the day, I went back to that dreaded first scene and started reading from the beginning. I read the entire first chapter. Something was missing--the same something that's bugged me every time I've looked at it. I scrolled to the beginning again and started reading yet another time. When I reached page 2, it hit me--the reason why my hero and heroine seemed so flat and boring. I'd left out their voices, their quirks, their PERSONALITIES!

By the time I had this little epiphany, it was near midnight but suddenly I was jazzed. So I went back to the beginning a third time. This time around, it was like the fog had been wiped from my reading glasses and I could see clearly at last. I added phrases and entire lines as I read, and it all started clicking into place. I laughed out loud a couple of times. Yes, it was working now. These two characters had always been memorable because they ARE characters and now they were being true to themselves and the rest of the story. I was giving them back their personalities, their VOICES!

It was late and I was tired, but nothing could have pried me away from this keyboard. I worked through the entire first chapter. By the time I finished, I'd added just shy of 300 words and it was nearly 3:00 in the morning.

In closing, I have to say, I think there's a point in all of this somewhere. Why, oh why, can I never see the forest for the trees? Will this blind spot continue for as long as I continue to write? It's a scary thought. But I think I'm getting better. This time it only took about a month for me to work through the problem. In the past, I probably would have said, "This isn't working, therefore it's crap," and I would have filed it away and moved on to another manuscript. And on and on... Maybe I've finally broken the cycle. Maybe.

Hope you all have a good writing day.

Peace,

Devon

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Gimmicky Openers

I'm writing, not piddling (or fiddle-farting), I promise. But I had to take a break and vent a little. I am deep into this manuscript, but I keep going back to the opening scene. It's driving me bonkers! Why? Because I stripped the whole thing out and rewrote it and now I'm not satisfied with it.

Okay, let me back up. Back when I attempted the first rewrite of this story everyone was writing books that had some sort of gimmicky opening. First paragraph, the hero and heroine thrown together in some kind of ridiculous situation. Something to grab the readers attention right from the get-go. Action! So, that's what I wrote. All my crit buddies loved it. Then, I got some in-depth feedback from an agent who said the opening scene did nothing to enlighten the reader about the characters (except for the hero, whom she loved) and was just filler (more or less) that delayed the real beginning of the story. Also, the action scene I'd concocted made my heroine appear slightly less "intelligent" than the hero. Ahem... Well, we can't have that, now can we?


So...I ripped out the entire scene and began the story where the agent thought the story actually should have started. I agree with her completely, by the way. The story DOES start there, but now that there's no big action, it just sorta lays there and seems dull. The chapter ends with a bang, but a reader isn't going to skip to page 15 and start there. Errr... So, I keep going back to it, trying to improve, adding in reaction and some hints about what's going on inside the hero's and heroine's heads. But I'm plagued with doubt. I know how all-important is that first page, indeed that first paragraph. If you don't hook them on the first page, they probably won't read any farther (they being editors, of course). The only thing that gives me hope is that the first 100 words were enough to win an opener contest over at Bookends. I've altered those beginning words only slightly. Will they be enough to keep someone reading long enough to get to the call to adventure, which happens near the end of the chapter? Who knows. It's really bugging me.

Okay, so I've gotten that off my chest. Now, I'm getting back to it.

Peace,

Devon

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wake Up Call

I'm no Louisa May Alcott, but I love this image.

Most of you know I've been working at this writing stuff for more than a few years. When I first got serious about it--which came after I joined the organized romance community--I was still young enough that I felt I had all the time in the world. So, I piddled and jumped from manuscript to manuscript, just wherever the spirit took me at the time. No hurry, right? I wanted to learn all I could, become a better writer. I wanted to be the best I could possibly be. So, I piddled at that. But mostly, I piddled. (I'm beginning to hate that word.)

Somehow, with all the piddling, I managed to get one manuscript into good enough shape to send out. So I submitted, wherever I could that would take unagented material. I got requests and I got rejections. I even won a few contests. The feedback from editors, agents, and judges was enough to tell me that I had learned how to write. Ultimately, I ran out of NY publishers and submitted to a small press/epub, and that's where I ended up being published.

That should have been the beginning of something. Right? Well, no, it wasn't. Because I didn't have the big contract with an advance and those nice (as opposed to pitiful) royalty checks arriving in the mail, I still felt like I was on the journey and hadn't reached the destination. Therefore, I continued to piddle (someone, please give me a different word!). And I did this despite all the nudges, lectures, and downright kicks in the butt from writing pals to get a move on. Bless their hearts. They meant well, but I was too hard-headed to listen.

Then, near the end of last year, something happened that was a wake up call, a real slap to the forehead moment, and I wanted to kick myself all over the house. Most of all, I was embarrassed and ashamed of myself. I received a very nice email from a lady in California. She said she'd "discovered me as an author while browsing on Amazon." She'd bought my book and read it on her Kindle and enjoyed it so much, (words to put a glow around a writer's heart) she went looking for other books on Amazon, but couldn't find any. She asked if I could send her a list of my other titles and point her to where she might find them. Well...let me tell you. At that moment, I wanted to dig a hole and crawl into it.

At that point, I started looking around. I saw my writing friends with several books listed under their names, and more in the works and already contracted. Most of these people started out at nearly the same time I did, and some way later. They were writing! They were publishing! How had I missed the boat?

It took a couple of days before I was able to respond to the lady's email and inform her there were no other books. The words were very hard to type. Incredibly, she wrote a response and told me to "get those books written!" How 'bout that. A total stranger said the same thing my writer friends had been telling me for years. And until that moment, it didn't sink in that I've been shooting myself in the foot all this time.

I know that most of you who read this will be shaking your heads and saying, "Told you so." I know you did, and I should have listened, but I guess I had to travel the long path and learn the hard lessons at my own snail's pace. But thanks for sticking with me and keeping the faith. It's meant more than you'll ever know. From here on out, if you catch me piddling, just say the words, "Sonoma lady." and I'll get the message. I may not have any more luck with NY than I did the first time around, but I have to try. And, hey, they've started buying westerns again!

Devon

Monday, February 16, 2009

I've Been Interviewed!

Hi, all! I was asked to do an interview over at Make Believe Mondays, which I did, and now it's up! If you get a chance, drop in and leave me a comment.

Thanks!

Devon

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!


I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Valentine's Day! I hope you got a big heart-shaped box of candy, and enough love to fill your heart all year long.

Peace,

Devon



Thursday, February 12, 2009

Exaggerated Reactions

I was sitting here working on my manuscript when I suddenly realized I'd stopped writing and drifted into the ether. I was thinking about a particular scene and wondering if I'm getting enough sensuality into it. Since switching to romance, this has been one of the things I've had to work on.

Here's the thing. In romance, reactions have to be exaggerated, and that's where I sometimes go off track because I'm so engrossed in writing the "story." Each time the romantic hero and heroine are in the same room together, there should be some reaction from him or her, depending on whose point of view it's in. A look should leave her breathless. A touch should make her skin tingle with awareness. And that's the key word right there. Awareness. The awareness between the hero and heroine should always be present and their reactions exaggerated.

To achieve this exaggerated awareness, we have to incorporate all five senses: touch, sight, smell, taste, and hearing. And from that is where sensuality derives its meaning.

So, sometimes I'm writing away and suddenly remember I've forgotten to give each look, touch, or smell it's due. That's when I go back and start layering in those little exaggerated nuggets that you find only in romance. But all the time I'm wondering, how much is too much? I've read books that made me roll my eyes at the lengths some authors go to to give their characters these exaggerated reactions. It often crosses the line into the absurd, and I certainly don't want to go there with my own writing. And yet, this seems to be what publishers and readers want.

I realize I'm getting way out into the weeds with this, but I can't seem to get my thoughts in order today. What about you? Do you enjoy reading all those exaggerated reactions--all the breathless, heart-pounding touches and brushes--between the hero and heroine? Yes, much of this is necessary to achieve the romance, but do you think it's sometimes carried way overboard. I find the worst culprits to be historical romance, which is what I write. So, stuck to the front of my computer tower, I keep a post-it that says : "Remember the romance, Remember the sensuality." Is it just me?

Devon

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Do Queries Make You Queasy?


Query: to ask or inquire. It's a word most writers are very familiar with, but if you slip it into a conversation with an average Joe, you might get a strange look.

I've been giving thought to queries lately because I lost mine (see post below about flash drives) and now I need to write another one.

The how-to of writing a query clicked for me back in 2003 when chapter mate, Joanne Rock--in collaboration with Cathy Mann--wrote an article that appeared in the Romance Writers Review, otherwise known as the RWR. The article can still be seen on Joanne's web site. Included is a sample letter and I highly recommend to anyone who's thinking of submitting, print it and use it as your guide. Seriously.

Over the years, I've seen my share of queries, from judging contests and chapter mates who were preparing to submit. The most common mistake I've seen has to do with length. Trust me on this, most editors and agents want to see your query contained on one page.

The blurb should be kept to one brief paragraph. Do not write a mini-synopsis. At this point in the submission process, the editor cares nothing about your heroine's alluring looks or the color of your hero's eyes. Use the five W's as your guide: Where, When, Who, What, and Why. The What and Why will be your conflict in a nutshell. And that's all they're interested in at this point. Don't make the mistake of including details that aren't absolutely riveting and allow their attention to wander. If you do, you've lost them. But if you do snag their attention and your story sounds like the kind of thing they would publish, they'll ask to see more.

The second biggest mistake I've seen is including too much personal information. A query is not the place to write your autobiography. Nor do they want to hear a blow-by-blow of the trip you took down the Amazon while researching your story. Keep it brief. Name, writing affiliations, and any publishing credits you may have, that's all they want. Later, after you've gotten The Call, I'm sure the editor or agent will want to know some more of your personal details.

The most important thing to remember is to relax. Queries are fun, and once you have a winning one-pager in your publishing arsenal, you'll be surprised by how many requests turn up in your mailbox.

Okay, enough with the preachy stuff. I'm off my soapbox. For the past several days, I've been busy trying to breathe some life into an old manuscript. Each day my word count goes down. That's because I'm ripping out scenes like crazy. Wah! But that's okay. Once I've worked all the way through it, the gaps will be filled in and the story will be much improved (I hope). So, it's all good. I have high hopes for this story. It's long been one of my pet projects, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it'll see publication soon. Now, back to work...

Peace,

Devon

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Gone In A Flash

Now I ask you, have you ever seen anything to come up with this? LOL! I was looking for images of flash drives and ran across this cutey.

Anyway, headless teddy bear aside, I have a grievance today against my flash drive. I went looking through the files stored there and couldn't find what I needed. An entire synopsis and query letter! Gone! Do you know what a pain it is to write a synopsis? Well, I'm guessing you do, but still...

Years ago, when I first started using computers, the only method of saving material was on a floppy disk. Either that or print everything you'd written before you closed out for the day. The latter was more reliable. I have TONS of printed manuscripts here, yellowing in boxes, and pretty much useless to me now. But at the time, the hard copies did serve their purpose. Those floppies were about as reliable as the weather. I've never been able to access one when I upgraded to a different computer. Either the computer was unable to read the files, or they were corrupted.

Next came the wonderful innovation of writable CD drives. Yippee! Loved it...until the CD drive stopped working, which has happened to every single computer I've ever owned. In fact, I have my new computer with the beautiful, huge flat screen only because my last computer became infested with viruses and a few other nasties. I had to wipe it out and start over. When I did, I discovered the CD drive wouldn't function. I couldn't install my Word program! So, it was off to Office Depot for another computer. (And by the way, don't fall for their sales pitch about the bundle deal with the huge mail-in rebate. It's a lie. The teeny, tiny fine print clearly states that the rebate doesn't apply to their bundles. Yet the salesman sold me on the deal I bought because of the rebate--and I never got it.)

Finally, we have our flash drive, travel drive, or whichever way the thing is packaged. It's wonderful and compatible with any computer. There's nothing mechanical to stop working. And we can save oodles of material on something about as big as a thumb. Amazing! Everything, evidently, except a synopsis and query letter. They were in my old computer and I thought I'd saved everything to the flash. So I guess no method is perfect unless you remember to use it.

There is one more method of saving manuscripts and writing related materials, but it seems a little extreme. An author I know once told me, she started a Yahoo group with herself as the only member. She uploads everything to the files section on the group site. Now there's a thought. Store it out there in cyberspace. With my luck, the World Wide Web would crash.

Winky

Peace,

Devon

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Bad Boys, Bad Boys...

We're getting a respite from the weather today. The sun is shining and the temperature is in the 50's. And I'm feeling optimistic and looking forward to spring--at least until the sky turns gray again and the temperature plummets, which will probably be tomorrow.

If you've got the winter blahs, come join me tomorrow (Feb. 2nd) over at Inspiration, Ink. I'll be blogging about the Bad Boys archetype. Should be fun. I'd love to hear about the Bad Boys you've known, so come tell me about them!


Hope to see you there!


Devon