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Monday, June 29, 2009

Sign Of The Times

This afternoon I was talking on the phone to a friend and fellow author when she pulled up something on the internet I'd never seen before. Even though she read it off the screen to me, I had to go take a look for myself. It was submission guidelines for emailing a query, synopsis, and complete manuscript to one of the mass market print pubs. Yes, you read that correctly. Dorchester is now taking unsolicited submissions of entire manuscripts via email.

I realize this isn't exactly earth shattering news, but I'm amazed and a little bit dumbfounded.

Back during the Stone Age, when I first ventured into the romance writing community--before YahooGroups even--every bit of contact with editors and agents was done via snail mail. It was a slow, torturous process. In fact, it took forever. I remember the turnaround time on the very first partial I submitted was one year. An entire year. For a partial. Can you imagine?

Anyway, it wasn't long before the internet got its hooks into everyone. YahooGroups came into existence, and all the loops and groups shortly followed. I remember when agents first started taking email queries. It was only a handful at first, then more and more. Now, it's unusual to run across an agent who doesn't take an email query. And it's great. Sometimes, you get a reply with a request or a "no, thank you" within an hour or two instead of a week or two.

During the anthrax scare right after 9/11, Avon went to email queries only. Now, other NY pubs have joined in and put their addresses online and invited queries, too. But today was the first time I've ever seen one of the major romance print publishers invite submissions of entire manuscripts via email attachment. And unsolicited, for Pete's sake! How great would it be if all publishers did this? (Yes, I know. Harlequin allows unsolicited email subs for their shorts that are aimed for digital publishing. This is a whole nother ballgame.) Just think of the postage that would be saved, not to mention not having to stand in line at the post office to mail those bulky Priority envelopes.

Anyway, I'm tempted to email something to Dorchester just to mark the occasion. I wonder if they send out that same crappy, faded, Xeroxed form rejection for email submissions. If I find out, I'll let you know. That thing is the pits. ;o)

Devon

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Opening Lines

"It was a dark and stormy night..."

Everyone's familiar with that infamous first line penned by Bulwer-Lytton. But do you know why it's so famous? Here's the explanation from Wikipedia: "It was a dark and stormy night" is a phrase penned by Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton at the beginning of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford.[1] The phrase itself is now understood as a signifier of a certain broad style of writing, characterized by a self-serious attempt at dramatic flair, the imitation of formulaic styles, an extravagantly florid style, redundancies, confusing syntax, and sentences—sometimes incorrectly dubbed run-on sentences—that are exceedingly lengthy. Bulwer-Lytton's original opening sentence serves as an example:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

Good grief. No wonder the line has gone down in history as an example of bad writing. Bulwer-Lytton should have quit while he was ahead and put a period after that first clause.

Opening or first lines are one of my pet peeves. The first line of the first paragraph on the first page of any manuscript is a matter of great concern. It has to sound right. It has to set the tone. If it does neither, nothing that follows seems to flow or fall into place. Not to me, anyway. I've completely rewritten pages so that I could work in a particular opening line that I thought sounded just right.

I also pay attention to opening lines written by other authors. Some are pure dynamite. Most seem just bleh. And some come close to rivaling Lord Lytton's infamous line in an attempt to pack a single sentence as full of information and description as possible. One particular best-selling author who's always guilty of this comes to mind.

Since I write historicals, an opening line in an omniscient point of view sometimes works very well to set the tone and achieve a catchy opener. Many authors use this little trick, even though you might never find another omniscient line in the entire book. It works, so why not.

Do you obsess over opening lines, or even first paragraphs? During the writing process, do you go back to the beginning time and again to tweak until you feel it's near perfection? What's the one opening line from any book that's stuck with you through the years? Mine is from K.M. Moning's The Dark Highlander, and it goes like this: "Dageus McKeltar walked like a man and talked like a man, but in bed he was pure animal." Don't ask me why that's stuck with me since 2002, it just has. Other than my own, it's the only opening line I can instantly recall word for word.

Devon

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Munchies

It's been one of those days. We got unexpected company just about the time I was ready to head out to the grocery store. So, it was much, much later before I was able to go and I made the mistake of going hungry. I only went after a few necessities, like milk, cereal, and soft drinks, but I ended up loading up on junk. An entire pudding cake, chocolate frosted donuts, peanut butter cookies, potato chips, an assortment of candy (all chocolate), pudding cups (triple chocolate and tapioca), and two kinds of ice cream (Edy's French Silk and a big box of chocolate covered vanilla bars). Ai-yi-yi... The worst part is, hubby's diabetic.

Speaking of food, I'm very put out with Little Man (the cat). For a while now he's been losing weight and I couldn't figure out why. I feed him very well, and when I check back, the food's all gone. Well, as it turns out, HE'S not the one eating the food. A strange cat has been lurking around and going into the garage and eating his food. I've caught him at it twice in as many days. When the cat comes into the garage, Little Man simply steps aside and lets the other cat have his food. I've tried to run the cat off, but he doesn't act a bit frightened by all my yelling. And he's no stray. He, evidently belongs somewhere in the neighborhood because he looks very well fed and cared for. It's just so strange that Little Man won't defend his territory and allows this cat to eat his food. And he keeps getting thinner. To add to the aggravation, he's gone on a killing binge lately. We've been finding ground squirrels (chipmunks) lying all around the outside of the house. I'm thinking he's hunting because he's hungry. The little idiot. I've thought about closing up the access to the garage so the big yellow strange cat can't get in, but then Little Man would be locked out, too.

Well, enough of this meaningless ramble. I hope everyone has a terrific weekend.

Devon

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Soon To Be Almost Empty Nest

Dear Glynis and Jennifer, my apologies for the disappearing posts. Professionally and personally, I've been a wreck the past several days. Having a meltdown in a public place is the last thing I should be doing. My only excuse is that my emotions have been very close to the surface. Mags, if you're out there, please come back. I promise to behave myself.

The last thing I'm going to say about the RWA vs. the digital age issue is that I'm not offering any more opinions on the matter because my viewpoint changes depending on my mood. So that's that.

Taking a breath now and getting to the title topic of this post.

Yesterday was a huge turning point in my personal life, as well as my son's, who is pictured here. He finally got his driver's license. He's owned a car for nearly a year, paid for with his own money he earned from working, but he's never been able to get out on his own and drive it. Until yesterday. He took the test early yesterday morning and finally got his license. Immediately after, we went to the insurance company to get him on our policy, then came home. Within the hour of our arrival, he took off in his car and drove to Richmond to stay with friends until the weekend.

Eeeeek!!! That's me screaming at the top of my lungs. I've never really decided how one should spell a scream, but that's what the eek is supposed to be.

My baby boy pulled out of the driveway and left. On his own. For the first time ever, he was on the highway--the freeway, even--without me sitting in the passenger seat guiding his every move. Needless to say, I spent an evening I never want to repeat--I actually got physically ill and was up until 4:00 this morning, even though he called as soon as he got to Richmond and told me he'd made it okay. I know this scenario is going to be repeated over and over until I get past the fear of him killing himself on the highway.

Even though I'm scared to death, I'm really happy for him. Not having a license had put his life in a holding pattern. He couldn't come and go as he pleased and he even had to quit his job--at my request--because I was running back and forth to town twice a day to take him to work and then pick him up again, most of the time with my handicapped daughter in tow. So something had to give and, unfortunately, that something was his job.

Okay, so he's on the road. Now the next big thing is him moving out. I know it's coming. He's been talking about it and making plans for months. The friends he's visiting have an apartment and they're anxious to make him a roomie and split even more expenses. Even though I'll be heartbroken when it happens, I know this too must come to pass. He's 20 years old. It's time he experienced the world outside the sheltering wings of me and his father. I have a feeling this may happen when he returns from his little trip up north.

I know that many of you have already dealt with a child leaving home and striking out on his or her own. But this is all new to me and I'm a total mess.

Devon

Monday, June 22, 2009

T.G.I.M.


After spending a very unsettled weekend (I'm not even a member of RWA anymore and all the e-pub brewhaha still had me upset), I've gone back to my happy place. And none too soon. Sorry for the disappearing posts but I have some serious unresolved issues, and as much as I'd like to spill my guts, this isn't the place to do it. Anyway, I sent my son outside with his camera earlier today and he took a shot of the Christmas cactus. I wish he'd gotten a close-up of one of the blooms, but this will have to do. Here's hoping the week is better than the weekend.

Devon

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Espresso Book Machine!

The monstrous looking machine in the picture is the Espresso Book Machine, the latest innovation in print on demand technology. I've been hearing about this for a while and it sounded more like science fiction than fact. Well, today the exec. admin. and co-owner of The Wild Rose Press sent an email to all WRP authors, informing us that they've signed a deal with Lightning Source, who already handles our book printing. Now all our print titles will be available on the Espresso.

This is huge news! This means that at long last, POD books may find their way into bookstores across the country. And not only bookstores, but many other venues as well. Yippee!

Here's a quote from Lightning Source: "Lightning Source is pleased to announce the launch of the Espresso Book Machine (EBM) Channel officially at BookExpo America starting this Friday. The EBM, an ATM for books, is located in bookstores, libraries and other sites. The Espresso Book Machine is the latest pioneering distribution channel to join the Lightning Source family of publisher-to-market pathways. The Lightning Source Espresso Book Machine Channel will give publishers the option to make available the books they have stored in the Lightning Source digital library, and have those titles printed, bound, and delivered at point of sale, on demand, in minutes."

To learn more and see a video of the machine in action, go to http://www.lightningsource.com/ebm.aspx

Devon

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ready For A Close-up

My son took a bunch of pictures outside in the flower beds. He was trying to be artsy with the camera and got in really close--too close--so most of the pictures came out blurry, but these four were pretty good, so I thought I'd post them.

The first one is Wave Petunias. The second is some kind of multi-headed lily my mom brought up from Texas, but I don't know its actual name. The flower is huge. The third picture is of large red and white petunias. And the last picture is a close-up view of a tree-like bush that grows right outside my office window. Those white things all over it are flower buds. The way they look in the picture is about as pretty as they get. They don't really open up too much. I have no idea what it's called either. My Mandevilla and a few others are getting ready to burst into bloom. I'm hoping to get some more pictures when they do. I had no idea he was doing this or I would have told him to get a few shots of the Christmas cactus--yes, Christmas cactus--that sprouted flower buds all over when I put it outside for the summer. Never seen one bloom in summer before, so I thought it was rather odd. We have tons more of different types of blooming plants, so I'll try to get more pictures.

Devon

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mixed POV

Something's bugging me. Maybe it's because I just finished a critique for a friend and marked a couple of these on her pages and told her they were incorrect, but lines like these have been jumping out at me from all over the place since I sent her manuscript back to her:

And I do, he assured himself. I want solitude. Solitude and peace.

I can’t deal with this now, Lannie thought as she stared at the car she'd hit.

The first line is from a newly released Avon romance. The other was published on a popular review site, where it was open to critique, but no one mentioned the mixed pov. To me, these two lines are incorrect. Why italicize a line to set it off as internal dialogue and then toss in a "she thought" or "he assured himself," which throws it into 3rd person? When you add the action tag, it indicates 3rd person. So, essentially these lines are mixing 3rd and 1st person points of view. Why not just write, "And he did, he assured himself. He wanted solitude. Solitude and peace."

Evidently, this type of mixed-up pov has become acceptable. Well, speaking as a member of the old school of writing, this bothers me. I'm equally bothered by the new trend of not putting a comma before "too." In fact, if I thought about it long enough, I could probably come up with a long list of writing issues that bother me.

Anyone care to enlighten me on the thinking about why this mixed pov is acceptable?

Before I go, I have to comment on "old school," since I used it in this post. Even this has been corrupted. Now the "in" spelling is "old skool," and it's intended as a derogatory term. This spelling appears in the online Urban Dictionary and it explains that "old school" started out to mean, "old is cool," which was shortened to "old's cool," and that's how we end up with "old skool." The definition is: anything that's out of date or behind the times. So I guess that's me, out of date and behind the times. But I can't for the life of me see the new method of doing things as an improvement. What do you think? Old or new "skool?"

Devon

Friday, June 12, 2009

Summer Hiatus ~ EDITED


Things have gotten busy around here, so I may not post as regularly as I have been. I promised to help hubby with home upkeep projects that we've been putting off. I also promised myself, for reasons of health and well-being, to unchain myself from this computer chair and get outside more. For a change, I might even interact with some people who aren't online. ;o) In fact, just yesterday, I went and visited my aunt and uncle. Hadn't been over there in ages, and it was good to see them. Just wanted to let you know, in case I don't post as frequently, so you wouldn't think I'd dropped out of sight and crawled back into my cave.

The picture is one of my prickly pear blooms. All the flowers are glorious this year. When I went to my aunt's farm, she gave me something to add to our collection. Hubby doesn't know yet, but I brought home a hummingbird vine.

Devon

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Knockout

Aren't these gorgeous? These are called Knockout roses. Personally, I don't like the name. Something this pretty should have a pretty sounding name, not one that makes me think of a prize fight every time I hear it.

Yesterday, I mentioned to hubby that I'd like to have some of these. First thing this morning, he went to Lowe's and bought them for me. Wasn't that sweet? So today we planted them out back along the deck. There are several varieties and colors of Knockout roses, but the ones hubby chose are exactly like the ones pictured here. Of course, ours are a long way off from the beautiful hedge in the picture because they're still too small.

These roses are becoming very popular around here because they're so easy to care for and they bloom prolifically. I first saw them on Main Street in our town. Over the past couple of years, there's been some major renovation going on that covers several blocks in the vicinity of the courthouse square. The buildings have all been fronted to look vintage, along with the streetlights, which now look like antique lamp posts. Even the sidewalks have undergone a transformation and part of them are cobblestone. It's all very charming and I love driving along those several blocks now. The best part is, the place has become a living garden with blooming plants and shrubs growing from every available space. There are hanging baskets spilling a riot of colors. Some of the plants surprised me because they're so exotic--like purple sage. Yes, we have it on Main Street. Water-fed planters separate the street from the sidewalk. In the planters are solid hedges of glorious, blooming Knockout roses. These things bloom continuously all season.

Today was one of those weather-perfect days. Seems like they've gotten kind of rare. Hubby and I both love digging around in the dirt and coaxing things to grow and bloom. Which reminds me. My prickly pear have a lot of buds on them this year. They'll be opening soon, and when they do, I'll post pictures. Most people hate the cactus, but I love it. My mom brought it to me from Texas. She simply whacked off some of the flat pads and put them in a box and brought them with her. I was surprised that they would thrive here, but they do.

What kinds of beautiful or strange and unusual plants are in your home or garden?

Devon

Thursday, June 4, 2009

When The Going Gets Tough...

As a writer, do you ever feel like you're a little duck in a big pond? Ever feel like no matter how hard you paddle, you're never going to keep your head above water? Take heart. You're not alone.

Writing a book is a long, hard, tedious, often frustrating and lonely process. So, when the going gets really tough, how do we keep going? I'd like to share a few tips that I hope will help.

Just Write. We've all heard this advice and it's sometimes easier said than done. Speaking for myself, I find it darn near impossible to force the words when they aren't flowing smoothly. Still, I write. If not on my manuscript, then I come here and type a blog post. In my opinion, anything is better than nothing, so long as we are putting words down on a page in some manner. If you keep the words flowing then inspiration will surely follow.

Don't Give In to the Negative. Instead of sitting at the keyboard, agonizing and telling yourself, "This is too hard. I can't do it," tell yourself, "I can do this!" It's up to you to psych yourself up because no one else can truly do it for you. So learn to be positive about yourself. Expect to succeed rather than fail. Remember why you started writing in the first place and try to recapture the magic that first pulled you to the keyboard.

Don't Hide in a Cave. I am expert on this one. ;o) When you do hit a low spot, don't crawl into a cave and hide from the rest of the writing world. The longer you seclude yourself, the harder it is to come back. We've all hit the rough stretches and we know how it feels. So please don't think you're the only one who's ever second-guessed yourself or felt like quitting. We've all been there and we understand.

Remember, You're Not Alone. In general, I've found the romance writing community to be one of the most accepting and friendly groups I've ever encountered. Don't try to walk the long, hard road alone. Find a mentor or a critique partner. If you need it, there's help out there. But before you dive in headfirst, test the water. Make sure the relationship is going to work. A critique partnership is like a marriage. It's built on trust. And just like marriage, if it goes bad, it will suck the creative life right out of you. But when you do find someone, or several someones, you connect and work well with, it's pure magic. I credit critique partners with saving my creative life many times over. Best of all, from the trust you develop with a crit partner often comes lasting friendship that will carry through the low times.

Set Goals. If you're writing a full-length manuscript, set up milestones along the way. When each milestone is reached, celebrate and reward yourself. Make the milestones something you can attain within a reasonable amount of time. If you go too long without reaching a goal of some kind, the work becomes tedium with no end in sight. So set shorter goals along the way that are easier to accomplish.

Let Yourself See It. This goes hand in hand with setting goals. I like to keep a record of daily word counts. That way, I can see my progress each day. Many writers have daily word count quotas. If you do this, be sure to keep your quota within a reasonable range of what you're capable of writing. There's nothing more discouraging than falling short of your goal on a daily basis. On the other hand, it's exhilarating to exceed your quota. So, keep it real and strive to accomplish it.

Write Every Day. For some of us, this is easier said than done. But do make an effort to write at least something, even if it's only a paragraph or one line, every day. If you have to skip a day--life happens--redouble your effort to write the next day. Don't go for several days at a stretch without writing. Once you skip, it gets easier to just let it slide. But if you write every day, it soon becomes habit.

Share Your Accomplishments. Most of the writers I know blog these days. So get on the old blog every now and then and toot your own horn, or talk about the process. There's nothing more uplifting than having writer pals comment with a few "Attagirls!"

Learn to Persevere. I put this one last, but it's probably the most important. If writing for publication is your dream, stick with it. Don't give up. Some people write a book and hit the jackpot the first time they query. But for most of us, the road is much longer and very curvy. Decide you're in it for the long haul and then strap yourself in for the ride of your life. Remember, the only sure road to failure is to quit. Don't ever give up on your dreams or yourself. Success is always out there somewhere. It's up to us to reach for it.

Devon

Monday, June 1, 2009

June Already

Well, it's the 1st of June already and, as usual, I'm amazed at how quickly time has flown. For me, this is the official start of summer. I'm disappointed that I'm not farther along with writing projects and on schedule with what I planned back in January. But this is nothing unusual. Life always has a way of throwing a monkey wrench into the best laid plans.

For a change, I spent the entire weekend doing non-writing things. It was hubby's birthday, so I made an effort to curtail my obsessions and spent some quality time with him. At least I hope he considered it quality. Yesterday, the weather was so beautiful, we spent most of the day outside. As a result, the yard, shrub and flower beds look really good. Not a weed in sight. I was down on the ground in the landscaping out front when my nosy neighbor walked by and told me I should just spray everything with weed killer. Where's the fun in that? And wouldn't that kill things I don't want killed? No thanks. I'd rather do it the old fashioned way, down on my knees with my hands in the dirt. It's a good excuse for quiet, thinking time, and I've always enjoyed weeding, as strange as that may be.

It's been an especially long, dismal winter and spring, but I think summer may finally be here. And we have plans which, as usual, involve work around here. Hubby wants to put a roof over the deck out back. That would be nice. We haven't been able to use the deck since the huge, native trees came down. Weather took out some of them, and we finished off what was left for safety reasons. Now, the sun blazes down all day out there. So a roof and some shade would be nice. Also, we finally decided on a color for the outside of the house. Funny thing is, it's almost the same as the color we have now, just fresher. Hubby had wanted to go with an entirely different color scheme because all the surrounding neighbors have ended up siding their houses with our color, which made us wonder what the hay they were thinking. But after much haggling and many samples, we decided not to make a drastic change. We had the color first, so they're all the copycats. And why does it matter anyway? But for some reason, whenever we do anything around here, the neighbors all soon follow suit. We were very tempted to paint the house some off-the-wall color just to see what they would do next. No, we don't get out much and so we take our entertainment where we can find it. ;o)

Happy June, everyone!

Devon