Friday, May 27, 2011

PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE?

A few things have been on my mind this week as the winds have howled in the Midwest and the angel of death has apparently passed over our planet as a whole once more. Not sure they’re related, but you tell me.


Apocalypse Not

It seems we have dodged the apocalyptic bullet again, avoiding Judgment Day as predicted by yet another false prophet last Saturday (May 21). Yet if you ask the folks in Joplin, Missouri (or Indianapolis or Mississippi or Alabama or, hell, Japan, for that matter), maybe the Day came after all. What else do you call it when a black, writhing monster a mile wide sweeps through your city and leaves nothing standing? Or a relentless tide of water, washing through towns and over fields, taking houses and crops, pasts and futures?

Maybe the end has come and we’re not even aware of it. Too few are righteous enough to qualify for the Rapture. All of us are left here below to endure the consequences of our profligate lifestyle—the storms and disruptions of global warming, the protests of a damaged Earth. Just as the Day of Creation might have taken eons, the Day of Judgment could be a gradual process, a global reckoning for our collective environmental sins. In which case the old admonition of my grandmother to “get right with God” might not be such a bad idea—and fast. (Photo courtesy Reuters)

Memorial Day

Quick—what comes to mind when you read those words? The pool opens? Barbecues, picnics, sales at the mall? A three-day weekend, maybe, or the traffic on the interstate. Way down the list, you’ll probably come to the real reason for the holiday—the honor we pay to the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Military and veterans’ groups organize activities for the day, but unless we’re part of those increasingly smaller segments of society, we tend to pay only slight attention to them.

Maybe Memorial Day is more personal for you. Maybe a father or grandfather, son or daughter, brother or sister or friend gave all he or she could give so we could have the chance to see the promise of our Constitution come to its fruition. But even if that is not so, take a moment this weekend to find a quiet place where such sacrifice was made here on our own soil—at Lexington or Concord, at Gettysburg or Shiloh, at Birmingham or Memphis or Pine Ridge or Wounded Knee or Manzanar—and thank the spirits that linger there for what they have given our nation.

Donna’s Journal

Action!
Actions I've taken as a writer. Where am I? What am I doing?


What am I doing? Writing, revising, writing, typing, revising, typing . . . well, you get the picture. With two contest deadlines looming on May 31, I’ve been reworking the first 5000 words of my second novel, Trouble in Mind, in hopes of making a better showing than in earlier outings. I could have just tweaked my earlier entries to reflect the feedback I was getting, but something told me I needed a radical renovation to get at the heart of what was bothering my readers and judges.

Don’t get me wrong. Half of those who read the entries gave me perfect, or close to perfect scores. But if the others were sniping at small things, couldn’t find my H/H’s motivations, got distracted by “too many names”, saw clich├ęs and plot holes, then I hadn’t done my job in carrying them away with the story. So I went back to basics.

Show don’t tell. Goals, motivation, conflict. Every word counts. Active, vivid verbs. Five senses. Pacing.

Oh. And that romantic connection. A tough one when my hero and heroine haven’t met in the first 5000 words. I have to find a way to foreshadow the attraction, as well as the obstacles to their relationship. See GMC.

Gee, it really sounds like I know what I’m doing, doesn’t it? Hah! Knowing what to do and actually pulling it off—two entirely different things.

Ping Pong
We'll comment back to our co-bloggers on things they've posted on their journals.

@Laurie, I’m always amazed at all the stuff you’re doing and the wealth of information you’re able to come up with. Can’t wait to see pics of the new addition to your family. But since you mentioned your puppy, I guess I can say that I’m getting a new kitten in a couple of weeks, the first cat my husband has conceded to in years. (Must’ve been that anniversary mojo!) Blanca is too young to come home yet, but I’m already as excited as a kid at Christmas! (Oh, and I love my Kindle, too. Wait ‘til you discover its uses for reviewing manuscripts!)

Cheers, Donna

Monday, May 23, 2011

Laurie's Journal

I haz Kindle!

My Kindle arrived Wednesday and I wasted no time downloading some of the intriguing books on my wish list, among them Barbara Elsborg’s AN ORDINARY GIRL, Diane Dooley’s BLUE GALAXY, and, of course, Jennifer L. Hart’s THE MISADVENTURES OF THE LAUNDRY HAG: SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET which she told me about in my request for Kindle titles last week. [And see “Discoveries” for yet another find.] See? Ya’ll missed your chance for an easy sale. :)

But wait, maybe not. I’ll make that offer a retread. Post an irresistible blurb in the comments that intrigues me and I guarantee you a sale. It doesn’t necessarily have to be SFR (though that’s a plus) -- I read everything from historical to contemporary erotica. It can be e-pubbed or self-pubbed, long or short, YA or adult only. Hey, it doesn’t even have to be your book. Recommend a favorite and I’ll give those a look, too.

I also ordered the blog subscription to THE GALAXY EXPRESS and promptly caught up on a week’s worth of great Skiffy Rommer reading in one sitting.

I heart my Kindle!!!

But I did have one disappointment.

I wanted to order THE OUTBACK STARS by Sandra McDonald in the worst way -- still my all-time favorite SFR and now out of print -- and it pained me to learn it’s not available in Kindle format. (Wahhh!)

I still have tons to learn on how to use this nifty little device to its full capacity, but we’re off to a great partnership.

Action!
Actions I've taken as a writer. Where am I? What am I doing?

I’m in waiting mode. Some of my GH11 sistah’s have signed with agents, sold books and received full requests from Golden Heart judges, but no word here yet. (It’s a bit of a longshot for paranormals. There were no requests last year.)

Almost all the action has been for Historicals, with one notable exception, my LERA sister and seven-time Golden Heart finalist, Robin Perini. In fact, she’s a double-finalist for 2011 in Contemporary Series Romance with Suspense/Adventure and one of her Golden Heart finalists – Stolen Lullabye – just sold to Harlequin Intrigue!

This is a huge, and well-deserved, achievement.

The Squeeze
Writers are sponges when it comes to soaking up writing tips and tricks. Here's where we squeeze out our sponges for the week. To be a writer is to be enrolled in one heckuva continuing education program.

You may be familiar with Robin Perini’s name from the many workshops she’s conducted or from the informative writer’s tips on her website. Recently, Robin helped me out with some excellent advice on how to write a short synopsis after I learned that agent Laurie McLean wants only a two-page [wha???] synopsis included with her queries. (How do you boil down a complex 110,000 word SFR with romance, cool tech, intrigue, military elements and politics to only two pages? Find out here.) All the very best to Robin as she launches what I’m sure will be a stellar career as an author.

Discoveries
New authors, cool web sites, great resources, great workshops, great online sites!

John Scalzi writes fan fiction? Who knew?

Oh, wow! I’ve gone international. In fact, all the GH11 finalists have. On a Portuguese blog, my Golden Heart finalists, er…Finalistas do Coracao de Ouro…are:

Os planetas exteriores por Laurie Verde
P2PC por Laurie R. Verde

I get the “Verde” but Laurie R? At any rate, it’s very cool to see my titles on a foreign web site.

And this week, we “discovered” Kiva—a beautiful, yellow Lab on death row at a local shelter. She was found wandering in the Salt Mission area many miles to the south of us and for reasons that have us mystified, no one had stepped forward to adopt this wonderful, young, healthy, sweet, housebroke, playful girl. When a friend contacted us about her, we immediately got in touch with the shelter, asked a few questions and offered to adopt her. She was a perfect passenger on the way home and after a little bit of uncertainty about stepping out into a brave new world, seemed thrilled with her new surroundings. She gets along great with the cats and our black Lab, Misty (who unfortunately doesn’t get along well with the cats), and seems to absolutely love her new home on the range. So we have a new addition to our household and a new favorite motto.

My favorite breed is Rescued!  (Graphic credit goes to CafePress thermos.)

It still brings tears to my ears to realize how close this very sweet girl came to an untimely end. I hope we’ll have pictures to post soon!

Pssst!
The latest buzz. Submission calls. New publishers. Industry changes. Inspirational sayings or quotes for writers. And our take on them.

I announced this on the SFR Brigade last weekend, but it bears repeating. The Rebecca Contest is very low (read that “what a great opportunity to final” low) on entries this year, as are so many contests. Some have interpreted this as a lack of interest with the advent of self-publishing. Hmmm, interesting, and it may be true but even so, wouldn’t it be a great thing to be able to tack some credentials on to your self-pubbed novels description, such as: Winner of the 2011 Rebecca. The final judges are some well known agents and editors.

For more about the Rebecca including links to the entry form and rules, click here.

Bookshelf
Books we're reading and mini-reviews. Writers must read voraciously. Sometimes we find gems in the literary universe or sometimes certain elements of a book really speak to us (and our muses). Do we know about book giveaways? A big debut? We'll dish on those.

NYT Bestselling self-published author, Victorine Lieske, has her second novel out--THE OVERTAKING--and YES, it’s a SFR!

(I snapped this one up for my Kindle, too.)

Will she hit the NYT list again, this time with a SFR? Pretty exciting prospect. You can read an interview with Vicki that went up on the SFR Brigade blog today by clicking HERE.


Happenings
Events, conferences, cons as well as Facebook, Twitter and blog events.

I’m still the high bidder on an honorary Ruby Slippered Sisterhood membership, with just eight days to go! I’m so excited, but don’t let that stop you from giving me some competition in the bidding. Wouldn’t you just love to wear that sparkly red ruby-slipper pin to Nationals this year, or any other conference? Have the opportunity to post on their very popular blog and receive critiques from some of their very talented members?

This is a huge opportunity to join one of the most dynamic group of Golden Heart Finalists ever, with their shared wealth of knowledge and advice…and it’s all for a very good cause.

And be sure to check out all the other wonderful offerings here:
Brenda Novak Online Auction for Diabetes Research

Ping Pong
We'll comment back to our co-bloggers on things they've posted on their journals.

@Donna Thanks to your journal entry last week, we’ve learned something else we have in common. Karl Urban. :)

@Sharon Thanks for answering my frantic text from the Apple store. (There’s no better advisor on new software than a current user.) I’m lovin’ my new Mac laptop.

Friday, May 20, 2011

SEE NO EVIL: PRIEST'S DARK FUTURE

Well, the critics may have pronounced PRIEST undead on arrival, but I found plenty to like in this post-apocalyptic SF/vampire horror hybrid. A constellation of stars who can act—Paul Bettany in the title role, Karl Urban as his nemesis “Black Hat”, Maggie Q (of “Nikita” fame) as the woman who fights by his side, and Brad Dourif and Christopher Plummer to chew the scenery with dignified relish—lifts the movie above its humble “B” status. And beyond its genre-blending premise, a retro-SF, steampunkish look infuses the film, making this more than the usual popcorn fare.

Unlike the stylish, corporate-evil vamps of 2009’s DAYBREAKERS, the bloodsucking creatures of PRIEST are naked, alien, eyeless monsters, and they have lost the war with humanity in this alternate universe. Some twisted version of the Catholic church has vanquished them, using an army of warrior-priests, and now rules over a dispirited remainder of the human race in walled cities. Outside those cities, humans still live in isolated outposts, mostly free of the influence of the church, but vulnerable to predators of all sorts.

When the Priest receives word in the city that his niece has been kidnapped from a remote outpost, he tries to convince his church superiors that vampires have taken her, and begs permission to go after them. But admitting to the truth of this attack would undermine the church’s official position that the vamps are no longer a threat. The monsignors forbid him to go. Of course, he goes anyway.

His search for his niece takes him into the desert wilderness, where, in the manner of all quests, the Priest acquires both wisdom and companions. His niece’s lover (Cam Gigandet), the trigger-happy young sheriff of the outpost town she called home, had been the one to fetch him from the city. The kid insists on pursuing the vamps with the Priest, even after his first encounter leaves him frozen with fear. And, of course, the Priestess (Maggie Q), one of several of his church brethren sent to punish him for defying his superiors, reveals her long-hidden love for him as she gives up everything to fight with him. (That moment sounds corny, but it’s handled with much restraint, reminiscent of scenes in CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON.)

The plot has a few interesting twists and turns, which I won’t reveal here in case you plan to see the film. Suffice it to say the vamps are planning a comeback, led by a vamp/human hybrid (Karl Urban). The kidnapping was merely a ruse to lure the Priest in for the conversion or the kill. He must find a way to save his niece and stop the coming attack on the cities before the popcorn runs out. Vampires die spectacularly. Things blow up. The good guys win. And the Priest rides off into the desert, setting the stage for a possible sequel.

As I said—what’s not to like?

Donna’s Journal

Action!
Actions I've taken as a writer. Where am I? What am I doing?


I led off this week with more new material on Fools Rush In, but Tuesday I read my last chapters of Trouble in Mind for my critique partner, Linda. That session, and feedback from another contest in which I did not place, have led to more revisions on the manuscript, both major and minor. I’m rethinking my approach to the story overall and may be discussing that with my blog partners and IP’s extraordinaire, Sharon and Laurie here in the next week or so.

As always the issue is how much SF is too much for the general audience? How and when do we present all that SF info? Trouble in Mind is a much more SF-heavy story—a third of it takes place with the bad guy alien on his planet—and though what happens there is the entire justification for what happens on Earth with the hero and heroine, it is in some ways separate. For that reason (and also because she just doesn’t care for SF), my CP is voting those sections off the island. **sigh**

I thought by mixing the familiar with the unfamiliar I could interest the “muggles” in strange new worlds, but it seems no matter how much they love the mundane parts of my stories, they still hate anything that smacks of off-planet. And, no, I don’t write anything approaching hard SF. I’d be laughed out of WorldCon as a lightweight.

I bring this up not to whine (though this is a journal—some whining is surely allowed), but because I think as writers in a new sub-genre we’re all struggling with this balancing act in one way or another. Agents, editors, writers—everyone in the business is trying to figure out just where SFR fits, because no one is really sure just who our readers are (or will be). To a certain extent, I think your audience will depend on your book more than your categorization as “SFR”.

For example, my work has a strong romantic suspense component (like J.J. Abrams meets Linda Howard), so the right marketing strategy could bring in a lot of new RS readers. Laurie’s strong space/science orientation will draw more interest from traditional SF fans. Sharon’s supernatural underpinnings will speak to readers of paranormal romance. And yet all of us can be said to write SFR, with a very different balance of SF and R.

So it’s back to the drawing board (or the computer) for me on this “troublesome” manuscript. At least I have some expert help close to hand as I struggle to find my way.

Cheers, Donna

Monday, May 16, 2011

Laurie's Journal

First of all, I apologize from the bottom of my heart for missing my journal post last week. The Golden Heart Crazy Train continues! (i.e. the Timewolf ate my blog post!) 

I have many things to relate this week, so…

All aboaaaaaaaaaaaard!

Action!
Actions I've taken as a writer. Where am I? What am I doing?

Not sure what to lead with this week. The contest win? The agent request? Oh, did I just steal my own thunder? :O  OK, let’s handle this in alphabetical order.

Agent Request
Just as I was about to lose hope, the Golden Heart Magical Stardust kicked in and I received an agent request for P2PC! This is my dream agency—always has been—so it’s my very first and only query to date after finaling in the Golden Heart, but there were “extenuating circumstances” that gave me doubts P2PC would have a wing or a prayer at getting a request.

But then the sky opened up and the sunshine streamed down.

Request for partial!

I am hopefully optimistic (oh heck, truth be told I’m beyond ecstatic) just to be given this opportunity. Just goes to show, once again, that tenacity does pay off in this business.

Contest Win
Not to be left out of the glory, The Outer Planets scored a first place win in the paranormal category of The Write Stuff (Connecticut RWA). This is a very special win for me for two reasons. First of all, what SFR writers doesn’t want to win The Write Stuff? :D  Secondly, because The Write Stuff marks my last contest for this pair of manuscripts.

Yes, P2PC and The Outer Planets are officially being retired from the contest circuit, my two trusty war horses have campaigned long and hard to earn their various medals and titles, but I have another manuscript that will soon be hitting the contest trail and will require my undivided attention on that front while these two champs move on to [crosses fingers and toes and eyes] *hopefully* bigger and better things.

My Dress
...for the Golden Heart Awards Ceremony has arrived!

Thanks to everyone who voted on an earlier journal to help me make a selection.  The winner was Dress #1, the black satin and chiffon dress with the Grecian drape in the back.  It arrived via UPS Friday and it's beeee-autiful!  And flattering...did I mention flattering?

I also ordered some shiny silver strappy heels with a bit of shinier blink-blink on the straps (which turned out to be a LOT of shinier blink-blink) and some lovely sparkly crystal earrings and necklace.

Discoveries
New authors, cool web sites, great resources, great workshops, great online sites!

Sharon was recently contacted by Svend, a student at the Royal School of Library and Information Science in Denmark, who was working on an assignment about online communities. He stumbled on The Galaxy Express and SFR Brigade in doing his research, and decided to base his project on the Science Fiction Romance. Sharon agreed to serve as a conduit in getting his questions out to other readers and writers of SFR and returning their responses, including getting the word out on Goodreads.

I'm so enthused that our niche community garnered this sort of attention, and from overseas, no less. This tells me our diabolical plot [to conquer the universe by banding together to create a larger voice for SFR] is indeed effective.

Pssst!
The latest buzz. Submission calls. New publishers. Industry changes. Inspirational sayings or quotes for writers. And our take on them.

Sharon and I had the unique honor of doing a joint interview for Tor.com conducted by the amazing Heather Massey, and we were impressed at all the readers, peers and total strangers who stopped by to comment. If you missed it, the interview is still available here and we’d love to hear from you:

It's an Honor Just to be Nominated: Three SFR Manuscripts Final in the 2011 Golden Heart

In my last journal, I commented about my disappointment the final launch of Endeavor had been postponed, but in a way, I thought it was a good thing because Endeavor should have a spotlight all its own for its last launch. And what a wonderful, flawless launch it looked to be.

I am deeply saddened this is the penultimate launch, and the Space Shuttle program will soon be nothing but a shining glimmer in our past, but it was good to see the event get the attention it so deserved. It certainly has a romantic and inspiring story surrounding the commander, Mark Kelly, husband of injured congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford.

Godspeed, Endeavor, for a historic journey in fair skies and solar winds.

Bookshelf
Books we're reading and mini-reviews. Writers must read voraciously. Sometimes we find gems in the literary universe or sometimes certain elements of a book really speak to us (and our muses). Do we know about book giveaways? A big debut? We'll dish on those.

Well, I finally did it. I bought a Kindle! While it’s en route, here’s your chance to pitch your e-novel to me in the comments below. It doesn’t necessarily have to be SFR (though that’s a plus). I read everything from historical to contemporary erotica. It can be e-pubbed or self-pubbed, long or short, YA or adult only.

Post an irresistible blurb in the comments and I guarantee you a sale.

Holds up sign:

Hungry buyer here looking for some excellent e-reads.

Now, how can you pass that up? :)

Happenings
Events, conferences, cons as well as Facebook, Twitter and blog events.

The Brenda Novak Online Auction for Diabetes Research has kicked off, and it’s a must see event! I’m currently the high bidder on an Honorary Ruby Slippered Sisterhood Membership and Mentorship, and I’m so excited about that…and a little surprised not to have more competition.

Come on, readers, I invite you to challenge me for this unique privilege!

This is a huge opportunity to join one of the most dynamic groups of Golden Heart Finalists ever, with access to their shared wealth of knowledge and advice, and it’s all for a very good cause.

Don’t miss your chance at this and so many other wonderful offerings you can browse here:

http://brendanovak.auctionanything.com/AuctionHelp.taf?_function=category

Ping Pong
We'll comment back to our co-bloggers on things they've posted on their journals.

@Donna Loved your anniversary post—35 years together is such a huge reason to celebrate. Hey, we’re right behind you. Only 9.5 years to go!

@Sharon  It was a lot of fun participating in our joint interview at Tor.com. We need to do something like this again sometime!

Friday, May 13, 2011

CELEBRATING 35 YEARS: A TRUE LOVE STORY

I may write romance, but I’m not much for sentimentality in real life. Okay, I harbor a (deeply hidden) soft spot for puppies and kittens, for Hallmark ads and four-hankie movies. But most people rightly think of me as a hard-shell type, prone to “laughing at bad things”, as my daughter once put it.

So it may surprise you to find that this post is openly dedicated to my husband Graeme as we celebrate our 35th anniversary this weekend. We took the plunge at what seems now to be the impossibly young age of 23, and we’ve stuck it out through all that life has thrown at us—Peace Corps in Africa, two kids, careers, dreams lost and found, age and change. All these years later we’re still going strong, together.

The odds were against us from the beginning. Neither of us had a role model for what a good marriage is supposed to be; we both came from what used to be called “broken homes”. But I had an idea of what a hero was supposed to be and this guy fit the bill. He loved me for who I was; he may have broadened my horizons, but he never pushed me in a direction I wasn’t willing to go. He was full of adventure, but responsible at the same time. I could follow him anywhere, knowing I would be safe. He respected me; we were partners whose strengths complemented each other. He was funny and smart. He was a good dancer. And, well, take a look at the picture!

There were times even then when I wondered how I’d lucked out. I still wonder. But there’s never been any doubt. The boy loves me. And I love him. Yeah. Still now. No story I could write beats the one I’m living.



Donna’s Journal


Action!
Actions I've taken as a writer. Where am I? What am I doing?

Most of my focus this week has been on generating new material for the third book in my Interstellar Rescue series, Fools Rush In. Inspiration struck last week, so I’ve been working to put words to, um, screen while the good times last. Any revisions to to be made in response to contest feedback on my second book, Trouble in Mind, will just have to wait.

I did have to laugh about one legitimate comment made by the contest judge regarding Trouble in Mind. The set-up in the opening scenes of the book proposes that a lead character, drugged and beaten, makes his way from a relatively remote rural location to a country store, where the story emerges that his wife and son have been kidnapped. So the judge reads this and says, “Where’s his cell phone?” ARRGHH!! Fifteen people have read this, and NO ONE HAS NOTICED THIS GLARING HOLE IN THE PLOT! And now I’m wondering, “Where the heck is his car?” Gone the way of my brain, apparently!

Bookshelf
Books we're reading and mini-reviews. . .

In no particular order:
Marcella Burnard’s RITA-nominated Enemy Within—like dark chocolate, slightly bitter and complex, but ultimately satisfying.

Heather Massey’s Once Upon a Time in Space—a space opera with heart, with a tormented heroine and an earnest hero determined to save her.

J.R. Ward’s Lover Unleashed—I didn’t think I’d like this story of V’s sister Payne and the human surgeon Manny Manello, but Ward worked her magic again, and I finished it in three days.

Zoe Archer’s Rebel—another in Archer’s series of steampunk/adventure romances, this one set in Canada’s western provinces. Archer has a winning style, and this genre-mashing series is a lot of fun.

Special Note

Thanks to all of you who commented on last week’s special edition of my journal with such encouragement and support. All of your positive energy is much appreciated!

Cheers, Donna

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Our Interview at Tor.com

Recently, Sharon and I were interviewed for Tor.com by The Galaxy Express blogger extraordinaire, Heather Massey, with a focus on our three SFR finals in the 2011 RWA Golden Heart.

Click the title below to read the article.

It's an Honor Just to be Nominated: Three Sci-Fi Romances Final in the 2011 RWA Golden Heart

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Timewolf Striketh

My Mission Success journal is going to be a little late this week.  My apologies, but multiple tasks, chores, endeavors and various pursuits of the writing persuasion ate my weekend

I will be posting soon, honest. 

*wrestles big bad timewolf for my half-chawed post*

Meanwhile, since you're here, don't miss Donna's journal entry from Friday (just scroll down a tiny bit) or go play fetch with Chaco, feed the goldfish (on the side bar) or check out some of the great resources we have linked below right and on the video snag at the bottom of the page. 

Thanks for stopping by.  :]

Friday, May 6, 2011

Donna’s Journal


Special Edition

Some days you wonder if it’s worth it to get up out of bed and stagger to the keyboard.

I write for two hours early in the morning four days a week, in addition to whatever hours I can get in during the rest of the day. And I’m a nightowl. So it isn’t easy to resist the urge to throw the alarm across the room, turn over and go back to sleep.

Especially when the latest feedback from contest judges comes back, and it’s negative or unthinking or, worse, mystifying. It seems especially cruel since I’d just spent two weeks making sure I was very clear about my reasons for scoring the entries I’d reviewed as a judge—as per my instructions from the contest coordinators. But I have to take a deep breath and look at my contest scores again. Two of the four judges loved my work. One offered useful feedback (comments, it turns out I’ve already begun incorporating in later drafts), and only one can be dismissed as “not relevant” (or other much less polite terms).

Okay. I can do this.

The alarm goes off. I get up and keep writing.

The email comes from the editor who’s been reviewing my manuscript. She thinks it’s very good, but in the end, feels it’s not right for her. You, my faithful blog readers (all five of you), will laugh to hear she thought the science fiction in my book overwhelmed the romance. As one of my friends said, evidently she didn’t make it to Chapter Eight. **sigh** Hoist, as they say, by my own petard. Whatever a petard may be.

I really want to sleep in the next morning. But I get up, sit myself in front of the computer and stare at the offending manuscript. For two hours. With no result. My baby is perfect, thank you very much. I don’t care if everyone else thinks she has two heads and a tail. Now, of course, if you’re offering to pay me to whack off one head and the tail, I’ll consider it.

The biggest problem, though, is when that damn alarm rings and you know you have nothing waiting for you at the computer but a blinking cursor. Somehow that ever-flowing fountain of ideas and dialogue and scenarios and character details has just slowed to a trickle. These are the days when it seems you are fighting your story for every word, bleeding each phrase onto the page, slogging through one page at a time. Maybe it’s the wrong story, you think. Or the wrong approach. Maybe I should start with this scene, or that one. In desperation you skip to something five chapters ahead that does seem clear to you and write that out. And you wait. Because, if your Muse works like mine, eventually the tap will start to flow again. Your subconscious will solve that little plot problem or character glitch and give you a solution.

That happened to me this week. I’d been struggling with my latest project, a space opera set in my Interstellar Rescue universe. The war had gone on so long, I thought maybe I was fighting a lost cause. Still, I kept at it, writing a page at a time, a bad scene at a time, until, finally, my writer’s intuition kicked in and gave me what I needed. I don’t think it would have happened if I’d given up and stayed in bed. And now I have something to get up for.

When the alarm rings tomorrow, I’ll be wide awake.

Cheers, Donna

Monday, May 2, 2011

Laurie's Journal

My life is still in whirlwind mode, but I’m making my checklists and working through all the to-do’s and to-do-nexts systematically.

Thanks to everyone who voted on a dress selection on last week’s journal. I think I’m getting close to a decision. I’ll keep you posted.

Action!
Actions I've taken as a writer. Where am I? What am I doing?

As I reported last week, I finished the new revisions for my market draft of The Outer Planets (applause! applause!) and it promptly went off to my IPs—Indispensable Peers and critiquers extraordinaire—for final vetting. The Amazing Barbara (also known as author phenom Barbara Elsborg of Ellora’s Cave and Loose-Id fame, et al) had the read-through done in days along with liberal feedback. Bottom line. She liked it!

Now you have to understand the context. Barbara reads hundreds—or possibly thousands—of books (sometimes three or more a day!) so an “I liked it” is akin to “you made the grade!” And best of all, the part she liked the best was the last part of the story—the part no one had seen before. It was the section I was most worried about, and to hear her say it was exciting and fast-paced made my century. Thanks so much, Barbara.

I have four more vets out there vetting, and I’ll wait for the group consensus before doing any major tweaking, but my confidence level in The Outer Planets just made a Moon launch.

I was so excited that I sat down and opened my old manuscript, and next project, Draxis. And nearly had heart failure. With about three chapters left to write in the middle of the story, it tops out at over 154,000 words! After I came to (heh, heh), I started skimming the text and recognized that getting it down to size is not going to be a major issue. Let’s just say that I used to be far more verbose—okay, ridiculously verbose—and trimming the fat to get this WIP down to competition weight will be easy peasy (or so I say now). At least, I don’t anticipate near the alligator wrestle I had with The Outer Planets.

Pssst!
The latest buzz. Submission calls. New publishers. Industry changes. Inspirational sayings or quotes for writers. And our take on them.

Ah, the buzz was tremendous. The Royal Wedding, of course! I was up at 3:00 AM to watch it live. (Don't gasp.  I'm normally up at 3:45 am anywho.) But yes, I was one of those…and proud of it!

Hey, I’m a romance writer. I eat this stuff for breakfast. In this case, almost literally. I just love the ceremony and pageantry—and Kate’s dress—oh my! Kate was the picture of confidence and Prince William looked devastating in that red uniform jacket.

And I was so impressed with his often scruffy-looking and disheveled little brother, Prince Harry, who I thought looked absolutely dashing in his dark uniform and gold braids. Now there’s a young man who’s really coming into his own. I wonder if he’ll be next at the altar.  Some reporters were already trying to play matchmaker between him and Kate’s sister, Pippa. And wow, wouldn’t they make a great-looking couple?  >>>>>>

(Not that I'm joining the matchmaker fray or anything, but...just look at them!)

The only disappointment on Friday was the postponement of the final launch of Endeavor, but in a way, I think it was a good thing. Not only because I think it’s important that everything go perfect with this mission, but also because I’d much rather see Endeavor have a spotlight of its own. It certainly has a story just as romantic and inspiring surrounding the commander, Mark Kelly, husband of injured congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. It truly deserves its own spotlight.


Bookshelf
Books we're reading and mini-reviews. Writers must read voraciously. Sometimes we find gems in the literary universe or sometimes certain elements of a book really speak to us (and our muses). Do we know about book giveaways? A big debut? We'll dish on those.

A discovery! I just added a new SFR YA (described as a Sci-Fi thriller) to my Kindle bookshelf.  It's titled THE BIOCIDE CONSPIRACY, self-published by author Ann Massey (no relation to Heather that I know of).

The blurb completely hooked me:

Geronimo Jones blames himself for the death of his best mate in a high speed car chase. None too thrilled with his new life as a jackeroo on an isolated sheep station on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert, he has to stick it out for six months by order of the Juvenile Justice Department. Things start to get worse when his boss flies off in the middle of the night to check on a station hand and Mo witnesses the International Space Station crash back to Earth.

Two days later, he hasn't returned and Mo heads off to a neighboring property for help. Fleeing from a bush fire sparked by the crash, he discovers the wreckage from the space station and a flask - inside is a secret so damaging to world governments, it must be suppressed - at all costs.

Mo joins forces with Beth, a stuck up girl living on a neighboring station, and the only member of her family to evade capture by mysterious black-clad gunmen. Antagonists from their very first meeting, the warring teens are swept into the realm of of an arms dealer who will stop at nothing to get his hands on a biocide, lethal enough to kill one million people, from a single, solitary gram. On a hair-raising and breath-holding flight Mo and Beth go from enemies to frenemies to friends and almost, just about ... something else.

My hat’s off to Ann Massey for some brilliant marketing:

“Too secret for Wikileaks -The Biocide Conspiracy, the darkest secret of our time.”

“Breaking news – what they hoped you’d never find out … the darkest secret of our time … too well hidden for Wikileaks.”

I have to weight in with one opinion here, though.  I do think a professional makeover of the cover would do wonders for the curb appeal of this book. The disjointed look of the cover art was the only downside in an otherwise spectacular first impression. 

You can find THE BIOCIDE CONSPIRACY on Amazon HERE.

Happenings
Events, conferences, cons as well as Facebook, Twitter and blog events.

The Brenda Novak Online Auction for Diabetes Research has kicked off, and it’s a must see event! Some amazing prizes including critiques by editors, agents and authors, special meets or meals with big names, all sorts of books, jewelry, vacations, electronic equipment and special offers. There truly is something for everyone—even non-readers and writers. It’s fun and it’s fabulous—and it’s all for a very good cause.

I was fortunate to win a breakfast with authors Colleen Thompson and Sharon Sala last year at RWA in Orlando and the unique opportunity to “talk shop” with a couple of pros that came along with it. The year prior, I won three signed copies of author Rowena Cherry’s SFR novels.

Don’t miss your chance to browse here:  Brenda Novak Online Auction for Diabetes Research

Ping Pong
We'll comment back to our co-bloggers on things they've posted on their journals.

@Donna @Sharon Enjoyed your journals last week. RWA is getting closer everyday and I’m really looking forward to seeing you both again for another rollicing party, er *ahem* educational experience! (First round of drinks in the revolving bar are on me!)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sound Off: Writers are a Breed Apart

One of my fellow Golden Heart finalists pointed something out that I'd never really given much thought to before.  She commented how writers seem to be a different breed than those who are enthusiasts of most other endeavors and explained the rivalry she experienced in one of her other non-writing pursuits.

I realized she was right, based on my own experience.  In the art, music, sports, equestrian activities,  military, business and even education arenas, I've encountered fierce--and sometimes cutting competition--to be the one in that #1 slot.  Although competition does exist among writers, for the most part it's such a difficult, frustrating, lonely and lengthy struggle toward publication, that I think we do tend to band together to offer support, advice and encouragement, rather than practice one-upmanship.

Although close friendships often form between peers in other arenas, it's often in spite of the competition, not because of the common pursuit.

When writing peers final in the big contests, we seem to rally with congratulations and attagirls (or attaboys) instead of sulking in jealous resentment.  There are even entire loops devoted to writers cheering each other on.

So why are those of us who chase the paper dream (or electronic dream) so welcoming and encouraging to our peers? 

I think it's because in our industry, we recognize there's always room at the top for more successful writers, more authors, more books.  Because we are consumers as well as producers of our product, we know there can never be such as thing as too many books or authors.  The next big blockbuster is a victory for us all.

That's my take.  What do you think?