The Rough Draft, She Is Done!

I be finished with my WIP! Yay! :-)

I just checked and saw that I started this sucker back in mid- to late-September; at that time, I thought it would only take a little over a month to get to this point.

Yeah, right.

So let's see: There are 60,000 words, a change in title (from Cats of Manhattan to Crossed Paths), the beginning of Diego's POV (3rd person), an idea about how the Bastet Society deals with cursed people who've been attacked or killed without having to bring in the cops...and some other ideas I've jotted in my 3-ring binder.

There will be plenty of revisions along the way, but I'm going to put this story away for a few days and concentrate on short stories. I'd really like to get back into that; I'd like to bring some shorter pieces to light, and see if I can sell them.

Well, I've got two to work on, with another still percolating in my brain. I'm sure I'll write about them here at some point (maybe in the next couple of days), but for right now, I'll just say have a happy and safe New Year's...and don't take any rubber chickens! ;-)


So What the Heck Have I Been Up To?

The wonderful Lesia asked where I've been. It wasn't until I noticed the last time I blogged before today (was it really December 8th? Egad!) that I had to wonder myself.

Well, not really. Heh. ;-)

Anyway, I have been writing. I wrote a couple of short stories, and I'll be working on them to see if they're worthy of sending out (something I haven't done in a looooong time). I've also got an idea for another short, but the opening is giving me fits; I know the obvious thing is to write past that and go back to it, but since it's set in the past (about 1919), there are certain things I want to describe (without becoming too wordy and boring) about the character and the milieu. I'm going to let the idea germinate in my brain a little while longer, as it's apparent a few things need to be worked out.

As for my novel...I'm just about done! So it looks like I'll finish this thing by the end of the year (my original goal was about a month ago; what was that old saw about the best laid plans? ;-)). I picked up a notebook computer yesterday (yay! Thanks for the money, Mom!) at Staples, and, once I was set up, I just cooked. Ooo, the words just flowed. But then, this morning, I skipped my workout because something bothered me about the way I ended it yesterday, so I whipped out the notebook, deleted a few things, and rewrote the ending.

I then decided to add in what I think will add immeasurably to the story: Diego's voice (3rd person). So I wrote a scene where he arrives to find what he thinks are two dead bodies. Jackie fought the demon just before, with the end of her scene being that she's waiting to die (and wants to die, because she's in such pain). The fight scene is kind of crappy, but that's what rewrites are for. :-)

I also did another scene in his POV in the prior chapter, where he's racing after Jackie and the demon, dodging traffic on the main drag in my old hometown (and let me tell you, the main drag is just as clogged with traffic as it ever was). He gets stuck behind an SUV with a flat tire, and no one will allow him to go around.

Yeah, tension. And besides, I wanted Jackie to fight the demon alone. After all, this is her story, and she's the one who's supposed to be strong enough to deal with the demon or the "entity," as a couple of the characters are now calling it.

But I digress. I'll be moving on to the last chapter in the story--at least how it stands right now. I'll have to go back and put in Diego's take on things, but the index cards will allow me to slip in those scenes pretty seamlessly.

The writing part of it is another matter, of course. ;-)

So that's where I'm at, writing-wise. I'm just on the cusp of finishing this novel thingy.

Oh, and Lesia? You'll notice I've included my email address (tee hee) like you suggested in the Miss Snark You Tube video. Actually, I should have thought of that a while ago, although you will notice that it has [at] instead of @ just so none of those bandwidth-sucking spiders or bots can harvest my email address. Thank goodness yahoo has a bulk folder so I can just empty most of the viagra/Nigerian scam/gas card dreck can be easily dispensed of.

Have a nice and safe New Year's everybody! :-)

RIP, Gerald Ford (1913-2006)

Yeah, yeah, I haven't blogged in quite a while (not that I haven't been doing any writing in the interim :-)), but I thought I'd start with something a bit different today.

And how, you might ask, does this particular entry tie in to writing? All I'll say is that President Ford came through the town I grew up in (on his way to give a speech in another town, lol), with all the schools in town being closed for half a day.

Of course I lined the main drag along with other people, simply because, well, how often do you get to wave at a President (and he did turn and wave my way).

So, again, what's this got to do with writing? The only thing is that I'm setting my current WIP in my old hometown. I might--might--have a character mention something about Ford going through town. It depends on whether such a thing is warranted.

But now on to the man. He was thrust into the spotlight or limelight (use whichever you prefer) to try to deal with the mess the country was in at that time: Watergate, inflation, the ending of the Vietnam War, President Nixon resigning. It wasn't exactly a happy time to live through, but President Ford came off as a decent guy. He bumbled, he stumbled, but somehow...with all the junk swirling about at that time, he was a stabilizing factor for the U.S. Whatever politico decided to tag Gerald Ford to take the place of President Nixon...well, they got it right.

He was an old dude when he passed away. I'm glad he lived as long as he did, and may he now rest in peace.



I've seen the trailer in the movies and on TV for the movie "The Pursuit of Happyness" (yeah, I know; my anal retentiveness had a field day with that one ;-)).

Anyway, the gist I get from this movie, without having seen it as yet, is that here's a guy with his son - down on his luck, out of a job. At one point, he's shown sleeping in a car with his son. He finally gets a chance to make some money and thus provide for his son. I'd guess he also learns how strong a person he really is, in that he doesn't give up until he's achieved his goal.

Such should it be with writers who want to be commercially published.

I hadn't been writing anything for about two days (bad me! bad me!), until an idea for a short story formulated in my brain. I sat and wrote quickly, finishing most of the rough draft in about 30 minutes (I actually finished the last part of it a little while later). It's way too long at 5,000 words, but I think it's a decent story about a lonely woman who's had glory in her past as an actress. She's been forgotten by most of the masses, until a stoner (this is set in 1969, heh heh) asks entrance to her home, with a magical crystal he received from a really groovy chick...

Anyway, before I decided to write this, I thought long and hard about my perceptions of the "Happyness" movie. Not only that, I remember reading somewhere about a man who wrote a novel and wanted an agent; it took him something like 10 years to get one interested in his book. I assume he must have gone through quite a few revisions with it, and from time to time must've doubted whether he was a fool to keep on the agent trail.

He was not, obviously.

The thing is, a lot (if not most) of this is not just going to fall into your lap. Sure, there are the occasional Christopher Paolini happenings (15 year old writes book; parents self publish; teen goes on a book tour financed by his parents; either an editor or editor's kid of big commercial publisher happens to go to one of these tours; teen's book and subsequent ones are signed to publisher), but this is a rare thing, which is why such events are reported all over the place.

But for most that dream of being published, it's a lot of hard work. Getting the idea down on paper, deciding which words that succinctly and entertainingly get the story across, deciding on character names, etc. Unless all of this comes naturally and unobtrusively to you, this is not something that can be hashed out in a couple of weeks or even a month. Learning what works and what doesn't in telling a story in an entertaining or thought provoking way is something that's ongoing.

Securing an agent or a publisher is the same thing: writing and polishing a query or synopsis (or both!), checking endless times to make sure your story stays in the right POV, checking for typos, etc. It's not easy, and it may take years before fruition.

As for my short story, I'm hoping it'll see publication in a fantasy mag at some point in time. That might never happen, due to me being a chicken about submitting it (heh) or because the editors at mags don't care for it, or whatever. That's okay. I've decided I'm going to be like the guy in the movie and the writer who took 10 years to find an agent (and finally get his book pubbed): I'm going to persevere until I can't take it anymore, until I've decided that I have nothing else in me to write. If that takes 10 years (God, I hope not ;-)), then so be it. But I've decided I've got to do this now, because it's a creative pursuit I really enjoy.

Like I always say: Don't give up - keep writing!


A Quickie

I wanted to offer a thanks to those who commented on my Thanksgiving entry. I hope your Thanksgiving was as nice as mine.

Laura, thanks for the encouragement. I had no endo pain on Thanksgiving (stress, maybe, but no pain, thanks to the herbals I'm using). I'll have to check out your book - thanks for the link!

southernwriter, I hate you. ;-) Just kidding. :-) Actually, I had an aunt who had no pain "down there," either. My mother had pain up until she had my oldest brother (who's 50 now - yikes!). Thanks for dropping by, and I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving!

Buffy, it's not a bad thing to not have written something in your blog about Thanksgiving. Meh. It just felt like the thing to do. Besides, I didn't think I'd be making any entries for a little while. Imagine that! :-) But thanks for commenting, and I hope your holiday was nice and unhectic!

As for my writing...I'm almost up to 50,000 words, and am up to (I think) Chapter 18! I did a marathon session this past Sunday - about 5,000 words or so. I typed for an hour or so, got away from the desk, then went back and typed for another hour.

Worked for me.

Oh, and the reason for that session? Hubby and I went to the 212 on Monday, to stand in line in the cold...to get Enya to sign a special release CD! Woo hoo! She's so sweet; surprisingly, I wasn't fazed by the spectacle of meeting her. I shook her hand and told her how nice it was to meet her.

Hubby, also surprisingly, was dumbfounded for a moment; he was so cute! Especially when he tried to talk ("Um, you can hand Enya the CD cover now, so she can sign it" I said to a befuddled hubby). Then we made a day of it, heading over the Empire State Building, to the 102nd observation deck. Then it was down to the first floor for some yummy microbrewed beer and a touch to eat before heading over to Port Authority.

Don't give up - keep writing!


The Thanksgiving Entry

Live...from New Jersey...it's...!!!!!!!

Um, oh, no. It's probably not a good idea to start this this way. But then again, I just had to endure a loooong 'splanation of something or other during a departmental staff meeting. The woman is very nice, but apparently she can drone on for some time, and she chose this time to do so.

Ah, me.

Anyway, after looking over a couple of online workshops, I've decided to go with one of the free ones, but not until after the first of the year (and after my current paid one runs out in December). I think I did the critiquing thing a little too early; I enjoyed critting others' stuff, but as for my own...some of the comments, while diplomatic, cut me the wrong way. I stepped away from that particular workshop (which I have no problem recommending, BTW) a few months ago, did a couple more crits back around May or so, and then never went back.

My bad.

Once my current WIP is done, and I'm starting the revision process, then I'll join this other online crit group. I like the way it's set up. And although I still get to pick and choose what I want to crit, it'll be sent to my email address instead of going to the website to do it. (Sounds silly to decide something like that on some technology thingy, but there it is.) And, yes, people have had their shorts and novels published, so I'm not worried about that.

But enough of that.

So...what am I thankful for? When I clear out the cobwebs in the brain and insert some smart and "stay awake" cells in there, I realize quite a lot of things.

I'm thankful to be alive.

Now, it's not as if I was involved in a serious car accident (thank God). I do have an on-going medical illness called endometriosis. I gave up on doctors giving me anything useful that would help me. Hysterectomy? Two surgeries is enough (and the hysterectomy would probably induce other problems, knowing my body). Birth control pills? Tried that - no. I'd been off the pill for many years, was put back on it after my last surgery back in 2002; when I'd say something, I'd have to concentrate hard on what I was saying, or I'd forget what I was saying. I was going nuts, wondering what the hell was wrong (well, besides the endo, which leaves scarring all over the abdominal region; this is a result of "that time of the month," with everything not being flushed out of the body).

I finally read an ebook which described my symptoms exactly. I got rid of the pills, and have been on a search ever since to tame the abdominal pain. At least, thankfully, I'm not bowled over with pain, which was a problem taken care of in my first surgery in 2001 (remember 9/11 that year? Yeah. My follow up was the day after that.). But I still have bouts of pain.

All I can say is...I think I may have found something that will work this time. This, in connection with being careful about caffeine and chocolate (too much of either seems to aggravate the pain a lot) and few other things, may offer the control I'm seeking.

I'm not looking for a cure. But if I can keep the pain to a slight twitch three or four times a month, then I'll be satisfied. (And those of you with babies, be very thankful for your lovely little and big ones; I strongly suspect I never conceived because of my endo - all that scar tissue does not make for a nice place for an embryo to do its thing.)

Enough of that pity party. (What, you're not at that stage? I must be doing something wrong. ;-)) Suffice to say, after having some cola last night, this morning wasn't the greatest, but things are smoothing out right now. That's why I'm hopeful for this latest herbal stuff I'm taking, because 1) a woman put together the formulation and 2) It's specific to the problems of endo and fibroids.

I'm thankful to be writing.

I do have one pubbed credit to my name, but that was three years ago. Gads! I'm hoping this time around, in between taking a break from the rough draft and diving into the revisions, that I'll do some other writing: I have a subscription to Realms of Fantasy, and I'm really enjoying the shorts in them. Which got me thinking that maybe I should try that again, and instead of giving up after a couple rejections, to just plow on. Well, I'd have it critted first.

But, yes, I'm thankful to be writing. My day job is mundane typing, a lot of the usual memos and 200-page plan documents (don't even ask). Writing fiction takes me away from that mundane existance (my hubby would pipe in that he takes me away from my mundane existance, and I'd have to agree :-)). It gives me a chance to create interesting characters, to twist things around, to have fun with ideas and names and all sorts of stuff. Can it be a drudgery? At times. But it's a chance to let my creativity blossom, it gives me a chance to unleash the fun and ideas inside of me. And if others like what I've written...all the more fun and satisfaction.

I'm thankful for both of my families and for my co-workers.

Yeah, I'm lumping 'em all in; you got a problem wit' that? ;-) Anyway, co-workers are like family, simply because those of us in the corporate spend so much time with them. All the more pleasant, then, when they turn out to be friendly and funny and helpful, which almost everyone here where I work is.

My family? Well, except for my mother, I don't really get to see my side of the family all that much. But I'm thankful for them because they had to deal with my temper as I was growing up (just ask my mother; she really should've smacked me upside the head a few times for the fresh way I spoke back to her). My mother's really sterling, handing us "Care packages" when hubby and I weren't bringing in a hell of a lot of money, and just being a general help. My mother's sweet and tough and generous, and makes the best damned perogies on the planet! (So there.)

My hubby's family? Have you ever watched an episode of Seinfeld? It's something like that, minus the shallowness. My "married family" is loving, rambunctious, loud, helpful, obnoxious, generous...oh, and did I say loud? ;-) One of hubby's sis-in-law's has a soft voice, and can barely be heard above the ruckus when all the siblings get together (the police are always alerted ahead of time, just in case). Sweet, low-key, innocent me? I was shellshocked the first time I met my then boyfriend's family.

But I got used to it. I figured out early on that if I didn't want my words of wisdom or dreck to be lost among the crickets, I'd have to raise my voice a few decibels. That mission was accomplished very early on.

And my mother-in-law? No, I'm not going to let loose a torrent of mother-in-law jokes because it doesn't apply here. She's as sweet and tough and generous as my mother.

I'm thankful for helpful writers and agents and editors.

Why? Because they're giving of their time to help me, an aspiring writer. It doesn't matter if it's just an encouraging word or three, an interesting insight, or something else. All of these people - whether they're involved in fantasy, SF, romance, whatever genre - deserve my thanks for whatever help they've decided to give.

I'm thankful for my hubby.

Where do I start? (I'm not being flippant.)

There was a time when I felt totally inadequate about not having a child. I'd dreamed about it in my teenage years, wondering how I'd handle that (at the same time wondering if I'd ever get married in the first place, lol).

But it never happened. My first surgery was bladder surgery, and the doctor told my hubby that there was a lot of ugly stuff in there; fortunately, not cancerous. Then the second surgery, to deal with all the scarring elsewhere in my abdomen.

Prognosis from the doctor: Unless you want an ectopic pregnancy, forget about having kids.

She was right, of course, but it didn't hurt any less. I plodded along at my job and in my usual life, then started writing. One WIP that I've put aside but will come back to was written at this time. I poured all of my grief into one of the characters in that story.

Anyway...I'm fortunate in that my hubby doesn't look at me as a baby machine, and that he's not into the whole "carrying on the name" bit. Because if he was, he probably would've dumped my ass a long time ago.

But that didn't happen...because I have such a warm, loving, understanding hubby. His only concern the entire time was that I was okay. And he didn't care one whit about the baby thing. He has me, and that's all he cares about.

Well, he likes his beer, too, but that's another story... ;-)

He's my best friend, my lover, and if I can ever get over keeping a lot of my feelings to myself, he'll become even more of a confidante than I consider him to be.

I'll be writing some time this afternoon; hopefully, I'll finish the next chapter. Oh, and I've decided, in my revision, to add another POV character, except this will be in third person instead of first person (the Diego character is a bit flat at this point; my fault, but I feel he's an important person, esp. since Jackie is depending on him). Diego isn't giving Jackie any sort of reason to believe in him other than he's ruggedly good looking and took care of her big-ass wound in the first chapter (she could have bled to death). But, for now, I'll be concentrating on first person, because I feel it works, and I like Jackie's voice.

Don't give up - keep writing!


Another Week Begins

I didn't realize it had been a week since I last posted...time flies, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera (The King and I, anyone? ;-)). Anyway, I've been managing to get my little writing escapades in, with a lot the last few days - minus the weekend.

I know, I know - I should write on the weekend, too. But as I still consider myself unpubbed at this point (I have one pub credit - a short story - but that was published three years ago; certainly not something to point out to an agent). It's hard to do that, though, and since I'm still unpubbed, it'll continue to be a struggle for me.

When/if I get an agent and said agent suggests edits - then I'll write on weekends if the need arises. I probably should get more into that mode, but I don't think it's going to be that easy until I: 1) Finish this thing, 2) Revise and rewrite, and 3) Do the query writing thing. Once those puppies hit the waves, I'll be in more of a mindset to write on weekends.

Of course, this being Thanksgiving week, I'll probably do as much writing as possible in the early part of the week. I'm off starting on Wednesday, but that day's not going to be too much fun: Cleaning and prep work will abound. Blah. Oh well, I asked for it this time. ;-) Anyway, I'm determined to get some words in that morning, even if it's just 400 words.

Thursday and Friday? Forget it, because Mom will be sleeping in the second bedroom (where the computer is) on both days. Now if I get back at a good time on Friday, I might have an hour in order to put in some words. Of course, we'll be going to our favorite watering hole that evening, since we'll be having a pizza party at the house on Saturday evening.

Which leaves Saturday morning and early afternoon available for wordsmithing. Because I have a feeling I might not feel up to doing any writing on Friday after I bring Mom to the train station. I'll just have to wait and see.

So let's see...where am I up to? I finished Chapter 13 today; I'm up to about 35,000 in total (more or less). Plus, there was a nice little surprise at the end of Chapter 13 which will have to be explained in a new index card.

Which, of course, is the beauty of this system (for me, anyway). It's a nice guideline, but I'm not a slave to it.

Tomorrow: My Thanksgiving entry.

Don't give up - keep writing!


Start of Chapter 12

Started out with the argument between Jackie and Diego. It's not too, too long, as she's a bit whiny (but not overly so; she feels used, after all, and rightly so). It nicely segues into a call from her ex.

A little over 1,300 words in this particular scene, and total words so far: 31,000.

Major Progress

I needed to recover from last week, especially last Friday (spending almost all afternoon resending PDFs is not my idea of fun or satisfying work!).

However, I did manage to get in quite a bit of writing last Friday before my eyes bugged out from those PDFs. Not only did I finish Chapter 10, but I finished Chapter 11, too! About 5,000 words. Yay me! ;-)

So I'm now at the point where James Scott Bell in his fab book, Write Great Fiction: Plot and Structure, says is the 1st doorway. It's the part where you're going from the beginning to the middle of the story, where your Main Character is thrust into the main conflict in "a way that keeps him there". [Plot and Structure, pp. 28-29] I've set it up so she has no choice but to keep going...because if she doesn't, she's probably going to harm a lot of people and pets...

Not that she enjoys being hooked in the way she has (that is, if she doesn't go forward, the head Elder is going to do something nasty to her). She's going to take it out on Diego in Chapter 12, because she feels he could've stopped the Elder somehow, or could've at least told Jackie what the hell to expect.

Diego will beg to differ, pointing out certain things to Jackie. I think I'm going to start the next chapter with that argument, heh heh.

An Editor's Point of View on Slush

I've been most interested in blogging about my story that I've forgotten I wanted to talk about other "writerly" things. I thought I'd bring in this thread from Making Light, a blog put out by Teresa Nielsen-Hayden. She is (or was) an editor at Tor, and the thread I link to, Slushkiller, gives you, the writer, an idea of what you're up against when you land in the slush pile.

Interesting stuff, as you're getting it from the other side of the equation. Just remember this link, especially if you insist on putting your baby on pink paper with orange lettering and never bothered to learn basic English grammar (since you think that's beneath you).

Did I tell you the one about my sister-in-law receiving a manuscript (when she worked for one of the Warner Books imprints) in a pizza box? Yeah, with all the pizza-type wording on it.

Do you really think that one got through to anyone who could acquire manuscripts? Sure, and I look like Rick Pitino. ;-)

Anyway...don't give up, keep writing!



I totally re-did Chapter 10 (the first scene, anyway), and came away with 1,750 words.

And they're not dreck. To be sure, none of this is completely fleshed out, but this is much more satisfying than my original try. It's keeping in line with the story, it moves the story forward, it imparts some interesting information that'll be important down the line (that foreshadowing stuff)...all good, good, good.

And I even kept in the workout, but it's only a few lines, and it comes at the end of the scene, when she really needs to clear her mind (after Diego tells her something that upsets her no end).

I'm hoping to finish Chapter 10 in the next couple of days.

Don't give up - keep writing!

Agitation and Writing

I've come to the conclusion that I just can't write when I'm agitated, and I don't think it matters if I know why I'm agitated. All I'll say is that I was linked to by another blog/website ("But you've been recognized!" you might say) for something I posted on an agent's blog.

BTW, it's a silly remark, and why this particular blog/website chose to concentrate on the P.S. appended to the main part of my post...I have no idea. I'll just leave it there, because I need to get on with my life, life's too short, yadda yadda yadda.

After finishing my writing yesterday - about 500 words - I looked it over and decided it was total dreck. I mean, it doesn't impart anything - doesn't advance the plot, doesn't bring up anything the reader needs to know...nothing. I basically have Jackie working out (literally; she's doing a step routine) just so she can get past the point that she acted like a wimpy female.

Well, boo hoo for Jackie, and ::snore:: says the reader, who puts the story down and never picks it up again! The problem is that this goes on for 500 words, which is about 450 words too long. Even worse, I have Diego dropping her off at her apartment, and then tell the reader later on they had a talk. Bleh. I think dialogue might be needed at the beginning of this chapter (number 10) rather than having her just say she talked to Diego and told him to shove off. (Heh heh. Boy, can you tell I still have some anger? Whew. That other blog stuff really got further under my skin than I thought.)

I digress. I know I'm supposed to be in the "just-get-the-damned-story-down" part, but I know it'll gnaw at me until I wipe it out and get back to my outline. That's another thing: I went completely off my index cards yesterday. That in itself isn't necessarily bad; I did that earlier in the story, and I'm keeping that because it furthers the story, and it sounds like it would fit in for my whole idea with this thing.

I can even keep stuff that's mostly dreck, which is what I'm going to do with Chapter 4; I'll siphon off bits and put those good bits in other chapters, junking the rest. However, the stuff yesterday is so lame, most, if not all, of it is headed for the techno trash heap.

Enough with the whiny stuff - time for something positive. I've decided to change the locale of my story. As much as I love New York City (and I do), I don't frequent its streets all that often to have any sort of familiarity with them or its denizens; besides, I can see myself mucking it up, by having a car traveling down a one-way street the wrong way...can you say faux pau? Sure, I knew you could. ;-)

So I'm going to set it in the town I grew up. It's not a small town, by any means; at last count, there were 50,000 people living there. Not only am I more familiar with it (and can visit it a lot easier than NYC), but things I've been reading in cyberspace hint that NYC is overdone; agents and publishers are looking for other venues.

Which, of course, necessitates a change in story title (and if this thing ever gets to a publisher, they'll probably change it anyway, so I might as well go with something I like right now). I was thinking about it in the shower this morning, thinking about how a back blurb might describe this story.

Crossing Paths. Not terribly exciting, but then "Cats of Manhattan" wasn't exactly setting the world on fire. ;-) However, my silly, overprocessing brain got to thinking: Jackie crosses paths with a demonic cat, with Diego, with Linnea (that's the one who becomes/channels Bastet - read Egyptian mythology if you don't know who Bastet is), and with the nuts and weirdos in her family, those who live on her floor, and those she works with (although not too much where that's concerned).

Plus, she's at a crossroads in her life. She's divorced; her lovelife is nowhere; her career is boring her to death; and her health insurance (COBRA) is about to run out. All these things happening, thanks to that damned cat! ;-)

Anyway, that's what I'm doing, and I'm sticking to it. For now. No, really, I'm sticking to that (I've even written down on my index cards where I started the change over to the other town, so I'll know where I'll have to redo NYC scenes to the town scenes). Which shouldn't be too bad, because I'm going pretty minimalist in descriptions at this point.

Don't give up - keep writing!


Writing, Writing, and More Writing

Despite being busy late today, I managed to write about 880 words today, and finished the first half or so of Chapter 9. So far, I've tallied about 21,500 words of this story. I'm not sure how many words or chapters there will be--but it'll be enough to tell the story. :-)

As for getting it done, getting it to the point where I won't be making any more revisions--well, this is the rough draft, and I want to go through at least two revisions (more likely, three) before deciding to offer it up for critiquing. (I'm going to go with another online crit group, not because the one I'm with is bad, but I feel like a cheapskate at the moment, heh heh.) But all that's down the road, because there's no way in hell I'd offer up a first draft for critting.

Don't give up--keep writing!

Oh, IILAA, You Make Me Ill

I blogged about the International Independent Literary Association last Friday, and it looks like the fit has hit the shan. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk. Apparently, a lot of writers and writing boards had quite a few Curly yuks at this lame excuse for a "literary" association/club/whine pit/whatever. The Myst graphics, the bad grammer, and the now-infamous "be a retainer" actually gave me a good laugh when I wasn't feeling all that well on Friday.

But then this morning dawned, and I found the main page has been reduced to: "Hello there! I am currently working on the site....... Thanks for visiting!"

May it forever rest in pieces.


I Thought Yesterday Would Amount to Nothing

That is, as far as my writing is concerned. But I did the EFT thing, and, yet again, the words flowed from my nimble fingers. Sure, some of it's dreck, but that didn't deter me, at least not during this, the get-the-general-idea-down phase.

I finished Chapter 8 with about 2,200 words (give or take a few)! Today, meh. I'm not sure I'll be writing anything today. I had a lot to do this morning during this day job of mine, and now I'm just waiting for my boss to leave before I begin anything. That's so he doesn't interrupt me. :-)

Anyway, I wonder if I've come down with something. I feel a little washed out, so maybe there are some germs circulatin' in this here air on this here floor. I overheard the other day two or three people saying something about their sinuses; a woman that works with them was at home, dealing with her sinus problems.

I've had sinus problems for a good portion of my life, but I can count on one hand (no, trust me, I can do that) the number of times where it was so severe I couldn't function beyond lying on couch with my eyes shut. It's akin to getting migraines, where you have to lie down in a dark room for several hours. It's agony, like someone continually hitting you between the eyes or on either sides of the nose with an aluminum bat.

Fortunately, my sinuses are in decent shape (they're never perfect, that's for sure), but I know there are ill people around here (as opposed to sick people, of which I am one), coughing and sneezing, etc.

Soon enough, I'll be outta here and back home. So, meh, again.

Check This Out...and Have a Good Laugh

If you checked out Absolute Write's boards or Miss Snark, you'll know about this one: the International Independent Literary Association. Eee hee hee hee. Most of these jokers that purport to be agents (HAH!) are on Writer Beware's 20 Worst Agencies List.

Although the graphics on the site remind me of the computer game Myst (that's the first thing I thought of when I went to the site), the background color is garish, and the writing...well, go check it out in the link above.

I don't have time to deconstruct most of what's there but suffice to say: If an "agent" says you have to pay something up front (a reading fee, for example) or tells you you must get your manuscript "professionally edited" (and aren't they nice, providing you with a specific person/company that'll do that for you?)--RUN AWAY! This is not what an agent does. An agent works on commission; why should they try to sell your manuscript if they get USD$100 up front or whatever? As for professionally edited...hell's bells, what do you think editors at publishing companies do (and, yes, agents will ask for edits up front, but they'll reject your baby outright if they think it needs a major overhaul). Contrary to what scam agents tell you, editors at publishing houses do edit.

Want a primer on how the publishing biz works? Go to the Absolute Write boards and check out the thread, "How Publishing Really Works." It's a real eye opener.

As always, don't give up--keep writing!


I Swear I Had An Entry Ready to Go Yesterday...

But, unfortunately, I had to use Internet Exploder (yuck) instead of Firefox because Firefox was uncharacteristically giving me errors (and taking too long to start up).

So I had everything prepared and ready to go, then decided to use spellcheck. Just after I spellchecked the entry, Exploder burped...and I lost the entry.

Can you tell I can't stand IE? Well, enough of this rant.

Yesterday was a productive day, as I had a total of 1,100 words (more or less). Yay for me! I did break one of promises, in that I went and revised the first half of Chapter 7. Diego brings Jackie to the Bastet Society's meeting, and she meets up with the head Elder. I felt the head Elder's language was way too flowery, so I revised it into something less over the top. It still has that character's traits--a bit snooty, very educated--but the more understated, even-handed way is much better.

I did the EFT thing, too, and the words just positively flowed. Jackie gets a bit uppity in the second half of Chapter 7, but she has her reasons. But then she regrets it...although I won't tell why. Suffice to say, it's got something to do with the head Elder.

So I've finished the rough draft up to Chapter 7.

I've been jotting down some ideas, and one is the possible change in venue for this story. I haven't committed to it, and it strictly remains in the idea phase. My concern is that I don't have enough familiarity with New York. Plus, there are some agents suggesting that urban fantasy is not as hot as it was a few months ago.

Who's to say?

Anyway, I'm not doing anything about it right now. I'll continue with the New York idea, but I'm considering changing it to where I grew up. It's changed quite a bit, that's for sure. I just have to do some researchin' and soul searchin' before I make any major revisions, and that's not going to happen in the rough draft.

And with the index card system, it should be easier to find those spots that will need a'changin'.

Something Fun

I was working on another work in progress prior to this one, but I put it aside because I couldn't figure out where to take the story. Bah. I may resurrect it some point, but if I do, I'm definitely using the index cards--I'll be able to brainstorm some ideas ahead of time, instead of waiting until I'm in revision mode to say, "D'oh. Nowhere to go."

Deciding it would be weird and fun, I decided to send the first 150 words of that particular work to see if it had any sort of merit--or at least, some sort of reaction. So I sent it to Evil Editor's blog.

The result? A hilarious continuation (a bunch of words that "continues" the story past the 150 words submitted), and a couple of posters who actually said they'd read more.

Evil Editor decided to gather all these 150 words and continuations into a book (self pubbed, of course), and offer it to his minions (mwahaha), and whomever else stumbled onto his blog. I preordered it today (it's only $11 including shipping), so now I can show my hubby and his sister that I have indeed arrived, er, I think.

It'll be a lot of fun, even though I'll have to wait about 4-6 weeks for it to arrive.

Don't give up - keep writing!


EFT to the Rescue Again!

I haven't written anything the last few days; I was going to do something over the weekend, but taking a nap on Saturday sounded like the right thing to do :-), and on Sunday, I was more concerned about the Giants game (yippee - they beat Atlanta in Atlanta!) and, well, had some fun with my hubby, too...

Anyway, yesterday was a bad day at work. I stayed until 6:30, making copies and typing, trying to get packages of these forms called 5500s into shape. My boss told me to just give him the packages, that he would go to the post office to get the certified receipts stamped.

He made it just in time.

In a prior post, I extolled the virtues of Emotional Freedom Technique or EFT, but specifically for writers. (Okay, I don't think I did it in a heavy-handed way, but I don't like salespeople who sledgehammer pitches at you, so why should I?) It's blechy here in the Northeast, with the rain pouring, so my motivation wasn't there.

Enter EFT. I did a round of this one script that told me it was okay to set aside time to write. And, once again, the floodgates opened: I wrote 1,200 words to finish Chapter 6! Yahoo!

The next chapter will show Diego taking Jackie to the Bastet Society, where she'll learn what sort of curse is flowing through her veins, along with a few other things...Bastet is the Egyptian protectress of cats. Figures, right, that ancient Egypt would have something like that?

BTW, lest anyone who thinks that outlining is akin to having your hands tied--think again. I've dumped about four cards outright and redone quite a few. Heck, I needed to redo the one for the scene that just wrapped Chapter 6. That's the beauty of this system. Although I have a basic idea of where I want the story to go, I'm not locked into anything if an "aha!" moment strikes me. What's also nice is if I have to look for something, I don't have to get bogged down in all the electronic words to find it; I can look to the cards and find any problem spots or whatever much more quickly.

Of course, it helps if you update the cards when you've made changes.

Don't give up--keep writing!


Just a Quick One Today

...and I'm not talking about sex either (as it's that time of the month, unfortunately).

Anyway, I've just finished Chapter 4. We meet Jackie's sister (on Jackie's cell phone), and Jackie whips some dude after she's hung up on her sister. What Jackie can't understand is why the noise of Manhattan didn't get to her, as she figured it would.

She doesn't know how to control her sharpened senses as yet (if she ever will), but it seems to her she's managed to do it without any thought to it...

I've also pointed her to the office building where she works, where she will bump into her ex, Danny Millar (surname is a working name at this point). She's concerned that if her senses are noticed by Danny, he'll bring up some things she doesn't want to discuss; when she wearied of it was when she decided to get a divorce.

But she still cares for him, because he's a decent guy otherwise.

No writerly advice today, although I cranked out a little over 1,000 words today. Yay me!

Don't give up - keep writing!


Two Characters With Opposing Scripts

I finished the first part of Chapter 4 today - 1,500 words! Yay, me!

I introduced two minor characters, one a woman living next door to Jackie's mother, the other a nutty neighbor of Jackie's. This one's interesting, in that Jackie thinks she's faking her nuttiness; she's had some experience with that sort of stuff. But the really interesting thing is that this neighbor, Trish, senses something's not quite right with Jackie; she touches Jackie's scratched arm, and Jackie jerks that arm back.

So Trish has some sort of psychic ability. But it's wrapped inside that nutty act she's pulling (which no one else on the floor thinks is an act at all).

She'll be an important character later on, but I wanted to introduce her here because of that psychic ability.

But Jackie can't wait any longer; she's off to the office for a meeting that she only remembered a few minutes before. Will she make it to the office? Tune in next time...ack, no, it's not as melodramatic as a soap opera (at least, I don't think so).

I hope to do a little writing over this weekend, as there aren't any festivals or anything else like that this weekend.

About Those Characters

I talked about that Sol Stein book that I'm reading, Stein on Writing. I was struck, the other day, by something he said about creating tension or conflict between two characters:

The secret of creating conflict in scenes you write is to give your characters different scripts. - Chapter 7, The Actor's Studio Method, pg. 92 [italics his]
Why did that resonate with me? I'm not sure, other than that this makes a lot of sense to me. Mr. Stein bases this on something he did with director Elia Kazan at the Actor's Studio (Marilyn Monroe went there to study, as did others; you ever hear of method acting?). Mr. Kazan called Mr. Stein and a woman from the audience, keeping them separate. Mr. Kazan told Mr. Stein one thing about his character, and then told the woman something else about her character; neither knew what the other was told.

Mr. Stein states, "Within seconds we were quarreling, our voices raised." [Page 91] They were having at each other because Mr. Kazan gave them different scripts--and the audience loved it!

You can do the same with any two characters in a scene. Make the two scripts different, at odds with each other. If you bring in another character, make her script different from the other two.

That's what's been buzzing in my head. I don't think I've yet accomplished that in my rough draft, but then again, my original writing is pretty sparse. But the idea is in my brain, and should I need to, I can consult the book.

Although Mr. Stein can be condescending toward genre writers in this book, I've cut him a huge break, as the techniques and ideas he gives out sound spot on.

Besides, he's a published novelist and playwright many times over. How can I possibly be snooty about his obvious success?

Don't give up - keep writing!


Re-doing the Cards

After a really cruddy commute in this morning (a normal 45 minute-to-1 hour commute stretched to almost 2 hours - bah!), I contemplated not doing any sort of writing.


Yesterday, I did write, re-doing yet again (for the last time, I swear!) the Chapter 3 ending. Now I've got it right. I'll have to fill in some more details, as I'm a minimalist writer in the initial stages, but I'm happy with what I've got now.

I did decide today to take stock of where the story is going. So far, so good. The beginning needs to be redone, as I liked the original I wrote much better. The second chapter is quite good and funny, and the third chapter's come into its own - finally.

Where I originally was going to take this was to have Jackie go to her mother's condo in Jersey City and, not finding her there, panic. Couldn't do that, as she'd have to leave her shattered apartment door, um, shattered. Nah. I just couldn't see her doing that; I mean, how many of us would leave our house door unlocked?

So I changed that card, to have her wait for the super and call her Mom. Then she'll call a neighbor and find out what the poop is. I'll have her change into her work uniform, but then, while she's waiting, she'll encounter an eccentric woman who lives on her floor...

She's not a major character, but she'll definitely propel the plot; she'll be quite useful later on. In the meantime, in this scene, she'll actually be reminded of her ex and his troubles. It's not too hard to explain, but I like to be a bit of a mystery woman...just ask my hubby! :-)

Suffice to say, this is something I've been thinking about for a little over a day, and I think it's headed in a more interesting, less boring way. (Although it probably sounds a little boring, because I'm just a-tellin' you this.)

No writerly-type advice or website today - work's been quite busy lately. I'll probably have something tomorrow where that's concerned, because something in a how-to book by Sol Stein really resonated with me.

Don't give up - keep writing!


When You Don't Feel Like Writing...

That was me a few days ago. I kept finding excuses to not write--not a good thing when you want to be published writer! Alas, I didn't write that day at all.

But the last three days I have been writing...and I've managed to surpass my Nifty 350 each time. In fact, there was so much flowing that I didn't leave work to go home until after 5:00! (I did have to endure some major slowdowns going home. Bah.)

These last two days I've just had the program running (off one of those jump drives), and I've managed to just get into a nice rhythm.

The first day seemed like it was going to be another one of those days procrastinating. But I decided to try to use a technique that's helped me before, something that sounds so outlandish you probably won't believe it.

It's called Emotional Freedom Technique. Now, that website won't give you, the writer, anything specific to writing. But I downloaded an e-book that is specifically tailored to writers.

The basic gist is this: By tapping on certain acupressure points, you'll unleash bad emotions; at the same time, you'll be saying certain phrases to, first, bring up those bad emotions, and, second, replace them with good emotions.

My big thing, where writing is concerned, has to do with realizing that my writing is important. (Of course, my day job is important to pay the bills, but why shouldn't I look at writing fiction as important to my creative side?) I received a newsletter last week from the woman who is selling the e-book (and, no, I don't receive any sort of commission from her), and she had a script in the newsletter that deals directly with this--apparently, this is something she has to deal with, too.

The first time I used it--going through what's called rounds of tapping (wherein I did two rounds)--it worked! The words just flowed from my fingers. As I mentioned recently, a lot of those words might be dreck, but when you're in the rough draft stage, who cares? If you hit the main points by using index cards or whatever system you use, that's all that matters. You can clean up things later.

I tried it again three days ago, this time doing three rounds, as I felt I really needed some positive things to boost me. It worked again! Right now, I've finished Chapter 3, and am eagerly looking forward to writing Chapter 4.

Mythology Courses and Other Research

I'm enjoying myself right now with a course from The Teaching Company. Many of their courses cost hundreds of dollars, but they have a lot of sales throughout the year. I'm listening to audio CDs of a course on ancient Greek mythology, and it's fascinating. My original thought was to get some ideas for a previous story I was working on; that work has been abandoned, for the moment, but I'm still deriving pleasure from it. It's interesting to hear about how female-phobic the ancient Greeks were, the most well-known myths, the gods and goddesses--it's endless as to the number of things I've picked up from this course.

And I see they have an Egyptian course...hmm...although I'd have to get it on DVD instead of audio CD (which means playing it in the car ain't gonna do it). I'd want to see any maps or photos, so I'd have to go that way. It still costs over US$100, but I'm contemplating it.

Check 'em out.

And, as always, don't give up--keep writing!


Back to Work

This weekend was devoted to having as much fun as possible. Sunday was a drag (the Giants were slapped by the Seattle Seahawks), but Saturday was indeed a fun day: Celtic Fest! Lots of Irish music and food and beer...well, some of the food and beer were not Irish, but who cares? There were also CDs, clothing, candles, and various sundry available for sale, and I couldn't resist picking up a few things.

There's not much to say as regards the written word--about 1,700 words the past two days! I'm really hitting my Nifty 350 without too much trouble. A lot of what I wrote is probably dreck, but I'm forging ahead; I can clear out the junk once I'm in revision mode (although I did do a tiny bit of revision on the first part of Chapter 2).

I got on with it after those few revisions, though, and I'm close to the end of of the chapter. The ending will involve the guy who saved Jackie from bleeding to death in the first chapter--Diego Montoya (just a working name at this point).

I also introduced another character, Gary, who is one of the gay guys on Jackie's floor. He's helped her through a lot of rough spots, plus he's cooked some nice lunches and dinners for her; Gary's lover, McLean (who hasn't been introduced yet), can't cook unless it can be thrown in the microwave.

Jackie isn't very domestic, either.

I'm hoping to complete Chapter 2 either tomorrow or the day after. Chapter 3 will continue with Diego (obviously). Plus I'll have to rewrite some of the index cards--although I'll keep the discarded ones, because one never knows if they might come in handy...

On the Writing of Queries

I'm not at the dreaded querying stage as yet, but it'll come soon enough. Ack! Trying to put across what happens to the characters in your novel in one page is not easy. But if other people have managed it, then so will I!

I've got plenty of links to check out when the time comes, but here are a couple I plan to check out more than once or twice:

Miss Snark - Synopsis versus plot outlines in queries

The Snarkalicious One presents an extremely simple way to do a query. Basically, it's:
  • The hero is:
  • He faces this problem in the first 50 pages:
And so on. The blog entry isn't too long, but it gets to the gist of what agents are looking for in a query.

Here's another one. It's a pitch generator:

Kathy Carmichael's Pitch Generator

You just type in the blanks (Title, Character Name, etc.), and then it generates a sample pitch (query). It might not be to your liking, but at least it might get you thinking in the right way.

Give 'em a whirl.

Don't give up--keep writing!


More and More Words

I went well beyond 350 words today...I wrote 1,000!

I also took out two index cards, deep sixing a character who had nothing to do with the plot (Jackie's grandmother). I'd originally written her into it, expecting her to move the plot along, but after rethinking things, I realized I was just trying to shoehorn her in (I'll make it fit! ;-)). Not a good idea. All your characters, whether major or minor, have to contribute something, or out the window they should go.

I also decided to make Jackie's mom snarky and pushy (in what I hope is a funny way). I might have to do a re-write of the Alzheimer's, but I may introduce it at some later point in the story. Or maybe I'll hang it on another character. That's part of the fun of writing fiction: You can do pretty much whatever you want to your characters--as long as the story holds together.

Will the story hold together? Well, I'm not going to wait until the very end to decide. I'll take a step back around Chapter 3 or 4 and see if the story is coherent or confusing. If the latter, I may put back my original intent.

And thus the beauty of outlining--especially using index cards. If I don't like the way the story's headed, no problem, yank out a card, write something else. And I can rearrange scenes, too, if the need arises. Another good thing is that if I'm looking for something, I'll be able to track it down a little bit easier than in the past. I certainly don't want to spend half an hour trying to see where the heck I put the scene about so-and-so, a minor character.

Outlining By Spreadsheet

If you prefer an electronic version of outlining (as opposed to using index cards), there's an excellent one over at Sydney Laine Allen's website. She's a romance writer, and she takes you step-by-step through it so you can set up the spreadsheet on your own.

Or you can email her and get it already formatted.

I'm not exactly a Luddite (ask my hubby), but I like using the index cards. I can take them with me and jot down anything that hits my brain; I can't do that with electronic stuff as I don't have a notebook computer or a PDA. And I'm not interested in getting either right now.

Keep writing!


Nifty 350 (Thanks For the Idea, James Scott Bell!)

As in 350 words a day. That's going to be my goal until I type "The End" on this story.

I wrote today. Nine hundred and ninety-five words, to be exact. Yay, me! Beginnings aren't easy, but I'm determined, as I blogged yesterday, to go forward and not look back over what I've already written. This is a first draft, so I shouldn't expect anything. Maybe the occasional good line or description or whatever, but nothing that sings off the page.

Not yet, anyway.

I did follow that first index card, where I briefly plotted out the opening scene (and all the other scenes in the story). I feel I'm off to a good start, as I got my point across in a somewhat humorous fashion (which is what I was going for).

A brief synopsis: A divorced, 31-year-old contract paralegal divides her time among her love life, caring (part time) for her Alzheimer's-stricken mother, her job, and trapping feral cats. Her love life is in a coma at the moment (one-night stands definitely aren't her thing), her mother's driving her crazy, her job is going fine but she wants to do it full time.

The cats? Well, one in particular is going to give her a scratch that lets loose with a curse, one that will bring her in touch with a gruff man who sometimes speaks in a strange language, a secret society dedicated to the Egyptian protectress of cats, and a demon bent on ripping apart all those who have the curse...

Meh. Not bad. :-) As long as I can make it sound interesting all the way through. Oh, her one voice of sanity is her grandmother, who's more lucid at 91 than Jackie's (my protag) mother has ever been--at least to Jackie.

Shuffling the Deck

I also tried that shuffling the index cards idea. Although it didn't suggest any different plot connections or whatever, it did suggest another scene which I felt I was needed (this is toward the end of the story). And, I'll probably lay out the index cards after I go through the first three or four, just to see if my mind comes up with something: A twist, another character, another scene, whatever.

No writerly advice or websites to check out; I haven't been online very much today. I will say that I think there are no rules when it comes to whether or not to use an outline. I took an unscientific test in Plot and Structure and came heavily down on the Outliner side. Others might come down on the seat-of-the-pants or Non-Outliner side; still others will have a combination of both. The bottom line is that a writer should use whatever gets her to finish her story.

Keep writing!


Back to Blogging

Last week proved to be a busy week at my day job; my night job, prowling the streets as a vam--ooh, pardon! That's personal information for my husband and my use only. ;-)

I managed some more work on my story, though. I've decided on a last name for my protag; I did more extensive write ups on the other main characters as well as the minor ones; and found some more research on trapping feral cats (a bit of which will go into the opening scene). Today, I wrote some more scenes on index cards and numbered them in pencil. Later today or sometime tomorrow, I intend to do what James Scott Bell, channeling Robert Kernan (Building Better Plots) suggested: Shuffle the cards, then go through them two at a time. This is to see if any new connections between plot elements present themselves. If something does hit me, I'll definitely revise the structure, and go from there.

My Objective

My objective tomorrow, and the days thereafter, is to write straight through--without revising anything. This has been one of my problems of sticking with a story: Too much futzing around with what the protag says or does or whether there's a breeze or a cyclone ripping through at a certain point in the story. As Bell says, on page 4 of Plot and Structure, "Your job with the first draft is to pour yourself onto the page."

That's what I'm going to try to do. I'm going to try to quit worrying if I've got the correct words the first time around; I'll go with my instincts. And if those instincts aren't right, I'll worry about it at some point past the first draft.

Ah, another quote for me to think about, from the great Ray Bradbury (from Zen In the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity): "Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper."

His writerly output speaks for itself.

So tomorrow is going to be a good day--I'll have plenty of time to finally start writing the story!

Looking For Agents

This time, just a little tidbit. I currently subscribe to the free version of Publisher's Marketplace; the paid version is USD$20 per month. I get the free version because, well, I'm not yet hunting for an agent. When I get to that point, I'll switch over to the paid version, at least for a couple of months (you can pay for it on a month-to-month basis; nice).

You'll get an overview of what's going on in publishing, from deals, to personnel changes, to interesting web articles on the movers and shakers in the publishing world, and even a job board. You can get an idea about which publishers are buying what from which agents/agencies, and even a range of the advance the author received.

By the way, you'll note there are plenty of debut authors; the email specifically marks those as such. Don't believe anyone who tells you new authors aren't published anymore. Think about it: Tom Clancy and whoever else you can think of were all once debut authors.

Something to nibble on.

You can subscribe to the free Lunch here.

As always, keep writing!


9/11 - Five Years Later

There are things you see and hear in documentaries over the years, usually in black and white. My grandparents were asked in later years, "Where were you when Pearl Harbor was attacked?" For my mother, when I was born in 1962, when asked where she was when John F. Kennedy was shot, she would say she was walking me in my stroller.

And so it is, unfortunately, with this day. It certainly isn't something I looked for 5 years ago, to a part of history; I'd rather I was a part of history in some other way, like my mom being a dancer as a 9-year-old at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

Yes, both my husband and my family have some ties to the City (er, New York, for those who aren't familiar with that). My husband's ties are quite deep, as his grandmother and grandfather grew up and worked in New York during the Great Depression of the 1930s, and stayed there, with a few side trips, until his grandfather died way too young in the late 1960s.

So please indulge me as I tell you my experience that horrible day...

9/11/2001 - A Beautiful Morning

I'd gone in for bladder surgery a few days before, and was looking forward to my follow-up appointment on 9/12, wherein my catheter would finally be taken out. Goof that I am, I looked at the catheter and the little bag attached to it as my six shooter, because I could tie the bag to my leg just like the cowboys and cowgirls of the Wild West.

I did my usual thing that morning, got the dogs out into the backyard, got them back in to feed them...that sort of thing. After he washed up, my husband came down as he always does to get his breakfast and make himself some coffee. We sat and talked, watched some TV news. It felt like a lovely, beautiful day was about to greet us.

If only we knew.

After seeing my husband off to work, I took a brief snooze, then decided to watch a movie on one of the movie channels (either American Movie Classics or Turner Classic Movies; I can't remember which).

Now, I love old movies of the 1930s and 1940s, and there was a good one on that morning, Stanley and Livingstone, starring Spencer Tracy. I hadn't seen it in a while, so I settled in to watch it.

I couldn't. I just couldn't sit still. I guess I could always say that something in the flow of the universe was disturbing me, but making that claim sounds like hindsight and, of course, "hindsight is 20/20".

So I flipped around the channels...until I came up on a photo of something burning. The announcer of whatever newschannel I stumbled on intoned, "The north tower of the World Trade Center has been hit." Or something like that. I thought it unusual and surreal enough that I had to let my husband know what had happened, especially since his sister still lived in the City at that time (thankfully, she was out of town that weekend with one of her other brothers, the first real vacation she'd had in many years).

I called and let him know about what had happened, that the announcers were saying some sort of plane hit the tower. I wondered if maybe the same thing happened as what happened back in the late 1940s: A WWII plane hit the Empire State Building. But that happened in thick fog; very soupy conditions.

I hung up and continued to watch.

The World Comes Apart

I did a little cleaning around the house, but then sat down again on the couch to watch what was unfolding. Were people being evacuated? Who was dead? What type of plane was it? All these thoughts swirled in my head as I flipped from newschannel to newschannel, seeing if I could hear anymore information to impart to my husband.

I'd soon have my chance, and I wish to God I didn't.

The camera was trained on the north tower, with huge, dark plumes of smoke streaming into the sky. One or two other news choppers were circling, just small specks buzzing around the Center. I noticed something off to the right--it was much bigger than the helicopters. In a split second, I realized it was a plane of some sort--and it was headed to the other tower! "Doesn't it see the tower?" I shrieked, watching the plane go into the building...

I was dumbfounded. Shocked. Aghast. I just sat and stared. Did I really just see that happen? Did I really see a plane hit the south tower? That station's feed went down, so I tried another one. They were showing that scene over and over...

I awoke out of my stupor long enough to call my husband. I tried again and again, panic rising. Of course. Everything was a jumble because of what happened--everyone was trying to get in touch with everyone else. I either managed to get through or my husband did, and we talked, as he tried to calm me down.

And then he said something that didn't compute, at least not right away: "Nancy, we've been attacked."

What? No. It couldn't be. It couldn't happen here. But then my mind woke up...and I knew he was right. One plane was an accident...two planes? No. Until that moment, it hadn't crossed my mind it was a terrorist attack.

We kept in touch throughout the rest of that morning, through either email or phone calls, whichever managed to get through the mangled lines. During one phone call, my husband told me the north tower had fallen. I'd just washed up and come downstairs to the TV. "I've got terrible news," I told him. "Both towers are down."

He left work late that morning, and after giving me a hug and kiss, told me his experience on the roads. "Everyone was driving about 30 miles per hour. It was unreal, like people were zombies, just going through the motions." New Jersey drivers usually sail along at a high rate of speed because we want to get where we want to get now. But not that day.

Thank goodness my husband came home; we comforted each other, and our dogs helped where that was concerned, too. We did nothing but watch the news for several hours, viewing and listening with horror as we learned the Pentagon had been hit, and that a plane had gone down in Pennsylvania.

Close to Home

Thankfully, no one in either of our families was killed or maimed in these attacks. But there was one close call, and as we found out later, an acquaintance of ours at the time lost a co-worker.

A friend of ours, Jeff, was supposed to take that early flight out of Newark to California for a meeting. He decided to be lazy and changed to the one after that one. I couldn't believe when he told my husband and I this in such a non-chalant manner. This was just a few days later, and I don't think it had sunk in that he'd dodged death...

The other close one I found even more sad. A friend of ours worked in some capacity for a toy store chain. One of his co-workers, who hadn't been on a plane in a long time, needed to go out west for a meeting. It was his unfortunate luck that he got the flight that eventually went down in Pennsylvania. Imagine that...you haven't been on a plane in, say, 30 years, and your first time back on one...is your last time alive on Earth...

A Small Tribute

To all those who have lost love ones at either the Trade Center or the Pentagon; in any of the planes that went down or into buildings that day--you have my deepest, most heartfelt sympathies. Words can't express it well enough, but I hope that God or whatever higher power you believe in will give you strength and peace of mind to go forward with your life.

For the fire fighters, police officers, EMTs, and whomever else tried to help people out of the rubble--you have my utmost thanks for your selfless acts. To those who didn't make it out of the Towers--I hope your loved ones find peace of mind to carry on.

Peace to us all. May we all find peace and serenity in whatever burdens we have in our minds.

My Novel

This will be quite short. I did manage to do more bios over the weekend, diligently writing them down in my journal. I changed the name of the protag to Jacqueline Namir. Ack, I guess the names of all characters are subject to change.

I also wrote and re-wrote a couple of scenes.

So I think it's coming along well.

Keep writing. And never give up on your dreams.


Research and Query Letters

Research for Cats in Manhattan continues. I finished a really nice bio on the protag (possible name: Marina Zarhagian), sketched a couple of others.

My main project was to get a handle on the trap/neuter/return (TNR) thing as it relates to feral cats. Feral, or wild, cats are those that can't be adopted. TNR came about when a lot of people noticed an increase in the cat population and wondered what to do about it. My basic research suggested someone going out with a wire cage, leaving some food about for the wild thing to go after, caging it, bringing it to a vet to get neutered, and then releasing the cat back into the colony (there's usually more than one cat in the feral world; think penguins and their rookeries).

Of course, truth is stranger than fiction (oof, cliche!). In this case, though, it's not strange but more complicated. And I want whatever I write to have the air of authenticity to it--as much as possible anyway. I mean, how do I know someone, somewhere who actually does this sort of stuff won't read my book? For instance, I've heard of scientists getting SF books published and then other scientists reading them. They'd get tripped up by the others, taken to task for some astrophysical impossibility (or whatever).

I'm not going to go overboard on the research, however. There has to be a point where the writer says, "Enough!" and starts to write her story. And if the information is readily available or at my grimy fingertips, then I can refer back to it; I can catch any problems in the first or subsequent revisions.

For Those Who've Written Their Magnum Opuses

I'm not at the query stage yet, but for those of you who are, I'd suggest taking a gander at Miss Snark's blog (see the sidebar for the link). A warning to those with weak stomachs: She's not called Miss Snark for nothing. And those who leave comments on her blog (referred to as Snarklings)? They can be snarky and rough, too.

As I write this, she's currently going through her 3rd Annual Crapometer (not to be confused with the Crapometer link in the sidebar; that's for Elecktra's Crapometer, a fun/interesting blog in its own right). What makes Miss Snark's Crapometer great is that it's a combo (this time, anyway) of both query letter and the first page of the novel, so you get an idea from a literary agent if the letter and the first page work for her.

Alas, most didn't work for her, although there were a few where the query sucked but the first page was pretty good. Take from that what you will. Oh, and the Snarklings get in on it as well.

Always keep in mind that this is just one agent's take on query letters: Your mileage may vary with other agents. But at least it gives you an idea if you're onto something or need to scrap the whole thing and start over again.

Read the queries and first pages. Learn. Absorb. Keep your sense of humor intact.

And, as always, keep writing!


Onward...and Forward

I'm continuing with Cats of Manhattan, my urban fantasy. I'm writing short character bios for the main protag and other denizens of my weirdo mind. (Trust me on the weird mind bit. Or is it the characters that are weird? Or both?)

As I continue doing that and allowing my mind to come up with more vivid scenes to write on index cards, I came across something on the Writer Beware Blog that made me sit up and take notice. This is not something to concern me at the moment, but it is something for me to consider down the road, after I've revised my manuscript several times (and had the entire thing critiqued at least once).

Research on agents.

On the sidebar is a link to the blog entry (Little Known Resource). What is it? Publishers catalogs and rights listings. I read through a few and found the story blurbs (mostly) interesting. However, for those of us who want to be published novelists, the important thing that Victoria talks about is that many of the listings have agent's names attached them. Not all of them do; many have the literary agency. But it does sound like an excellent, extra resource for those who are doing the Agent Research Rag.

Click on the link. Read the entry. Go to the websites and absorb.

Many, many thanks to Victoria Strauss and Ann Crispin for providing such a valuable resource.

Keep writing!


What Happens When You Read Other Blogs First


I've been reading through Miss Snark's blog (see the link in the sidebar), absorbing what she likes and what she doesn't like in query letters and the first page.

Of course, I did zilcho as to my own work in progress.

Anyway, I've decided that instead of this being a writing advice blog (since I haven't had a novel published as yet), I'm going to make it more of a personal blog--with a writerly bent. I'll occasionally comment on the sleazy side of the industry (scam publishers and agents), but I'll leave the advice to those who've said it much better than me--and who don't go off on tangents like I tend to do.

Over the Weekend

So, did I do anything this weekend? As a matter of fact, I did. I wrote some more scenes on index cards, wrote the back blurb for the novel (which probably won't see the light of day beyond my eyes), and put together a more-organized writer's notebook than the tattered gamish-gamash that I've been hauling around.

If you're the outlining type (and I've conceded to myself that that's what makes me the most comfortable--and productive), here's what I've done to tab different sections of my notebook:

  • Tab 1 - Plot Ideas
  • Tab 2 - Characters
  • Tab 3 - Research
  • Tab 4 - Plot Summary
  • Tab 5 - Questions/Misc.
It's a great idea--but I certainly can't take credit for it. It's a suggestion in James Scott Bell's Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure. This book is turning out to be my best ever purchase, as far as writing books go.

So far, that is.

We'll see if this eventually leads to publication.

Let's see--I've done quite a bit of research into Egyptian gods and goddess (and their idea of the Netherworld); I'll need to do some more NYC research; plus some more on feral cats and the organizations that trap them, spay/neuter them, then release them back onto the streets (these are wild cats that can't be adopted).

I'm still not sure on the character names, but they can be changed.

Tomorrow, I'm hoping to dive in and get the story off to a good, moving start. I just have to remember not to cram a ton of description and backstory into the first few paragraphs...and I should be okay.

The operative word is "should." The next few weeks and months will let me see if this is viable, if this is doable.

Keep writing!


About Those Scam Publishers...

If all you're interested in from your Magnum Opus is to hold it in your hand, by all means, go with a straight-ahead print on demand (POD) outfit like Lulu.com, where you can do it cheaply and with a minimum of fuss.

But if you want to make some money from your novel, and have decided that agents aren't for you (have you actually sent out query letters after doing research on them?), you could certainly go the publisher route--although it may take extra time. Plus, you'll have to bring in your own lawyer to go over the contract.

And not just any old lawyer--it should be one who's familiar with publishing contracts, because they're a somewhat confusing and peculiar beast.

What Should I Look For In a Publisher?

First, make sure the publisher accepts unsolicited manuscripts; many only accept agented ones. You might have a good chance at a small press where this is concerned.

Next, as with agents, make sure your novel is a good fit with that publisher. For instance, Mundania Press accepts manuscripts for SF/fantasy, horror, mystery, romance, and historical. If your novel doesn't fit into one of these categories, don't send it along; it'll show you to be no better than an amateur--and will waste the time of the people acquiring novels at that publisher.

Book publishing is a business. Do your homework before you send out anything.

Separating the Wheat From the Chaff

I know, it's a cliche, so sue me. ;-) But, again, as with agents, there are good, legitimate publishers that will get your books into bookstores as well as online, and will sell to people beyond your family and circle of friends.

Read that again. What "publisher" in their right mind would sell only to authors? Well, there's a "traditional" publisher that does just that. Unfortunately, it's sucked in a lot of people who haven't done their homework; they think they're getting the best deal, because no one at the big-time publishers will give them the time of day.

This is your wake up call. Real commercial publishers have the idea that they want to sell your novel far and wide to people you don't even know. Sure, maybe your cousin five times removed on your mother's side will sidle into the local Barnes & Noble and pick up your book. Then again, maybe she won't. But your book will be stocked on the shelves at that bookstore, where plenty of people who don't know you may pick up the book. If it's got a great cover with a great story inside, there's a very good chance your book will be bought.

The commercial publishers, big and small, know how to do this. They've got marketing departments and salespeople; they know what sells.

As to big-time publishers not giving you and your book the time of day...is it possible that your book isn't ready for prime time? Have you revised it a few times? Gotten fresh eyes to look at it to give you ideas as to what works and what doesn't? No?

Publishing is a business (keep that as your mantra). Why would anyone who's trying to sell something and make money off it publish something that's either not completed, is too short to be a novel, is full of grammar problems, full of typos, etc? What the heck is in it for them? (The same can be said for agents, who work off commission). I'm sure there are non-profit publishers out there, but if you really want some sort of career as a novelist, why don't you hunker down and become one?

Take a course or a buy a book on grammar, if that's your sore spot. Same thing for spelling (don't rely on spellcheck). Buy how-to books on learning the craft; go to writers' sites to see what books are recommended, or at least helped half a dozen people. Apply these ideas and guidelines and absorb the information.

Then write your brains off. Keep at it. Persevere. It's hard work, yes. But what in life is easy?

Nice Rant. What Else Should I Look Out For?

There are linguistic markers to look out for, whether you're looking at a publisher's or agent's website. These should warn you that either they're out-and-out frauds, inept, or just don't have a clue.

Giving new writers a chance. ...a professionally-edited manuscript. It's all gobbledy-gook, and doesn't take place in the real publishing world.

Of course publishers give new writers a chance...if they have a good story that isn't rife with typos. Of course publishers edit manuscripts. Egad, why do you think publishers have in-house editors--certainly not for fun.

BTW, commercial publishers don't care if your manuscript is professionally edited or not; don't even bother putting that in your query or cover letter; it screams "amateur."

Does the publisher have their books stocked on shelves in the brick-and-mortar bookstores? This doesn't mean "can I order their books" from the bookstore. That's a different animal. The publisher should have books physically in bookstores. People don't necessarily go to Amazon and browse; a lot wander through a Borders, see an interesting cover, pick up the book, and if the story grabs them, purchase it.

And let me set this straight: I'm talking about those presses and publishers in a commercial sense. I'll leave university presses and the like to those way more knowledgeable than I am (and I'm still learning where the commercial publishing industry is concerned!)

One last thing, if you really want to try going directly to commercial publishers. Take a look at what the typical editor is thinking/looking for when your manuscript is in the slush pile. That's a real, live editor at Tor who's giving you those insights.

Just something to keep in mind when you're sending out that manuscript.

My Story

I'm starting to outline using index cards; I've already got some good scenes going. Whether they'll all end up in the story doesn't concern me right now. I just want to get the damn thing written (before revisions, of course).

I'm not sure if I'll post again until next Tuesday (with the Labor Day weekend coming up, I just feel like being a lazy bum where blogging is concerned ;-)). But who knows? Maybe I'll be so bored, erm, moved to blog something over the weekend.

Stay tuned...and keep writing, no matter what!


Scam Agents and Publishers

So...you've done your homework. You've written and rewritten your novel, had other people look it over for you (not your spouse, not any of your relatives--trust me, you don't want to put those you love into that kind of situation). You've written and re-written the query letter.

Now, what about agents and publishers? Do you do a scattershot approach, hoping something sticks.

Please, please, please...don't do that. Your homework isn't over as yet.

Literary Agents

Where the Heck Do I Find Them?

You could Google "literary agents," but then you'd come up with so many (and quite a few dubious ones) that you'd probably just pass out and forget it.

Agent Query is a good place to start. You can select either non-fiction or fiction, among other things. Browse through it; get a good idea of the agents within.

Then go to Preditors and Editors (see the sidebar for the link). Check the agent and the agency in the extensive listings. If there's a dollar sign, that means the agent has sold books to publishers (exactly what you want, of course).

You're not done yet. Head on over to the Absolute Write Water Cooler and go to the Bewares and Backgrounds board. Do a search on the agent; pull up any threads that come up, and pore over them. If nothing comes up, start a new thread and ask about the agent or agency--anything good or bad, have they sold books, etc. And make sure you give a website if you've found one: A lot of people will be able to tell whether they're on the up and up by what is (and isn't) on a website.

Another site to check is the Writer Beware Blog (see link). If you email Victoria Strauss with the name and website of any agents or agencies that don't sound or feel right to you, she'll let you know if she's received any complaints on said agent/agency. She's a superb writers' advocate; read the blog, too, which will give you many more insights than I could possibly write here.

Check Their Backgrounds

Anyone can say they're a lit agent; I could, but I would be inept beyond belief.

Why? Because I haven't worked in the publishing industry. I wasn't a junior agent at an established lit agency nor did I work as an editor at a commercial publisher.

Now you're wondering...why the heck does an honest-to-goodness agent need that sort of background? Can't a published writer--or an unpubbed one who knows more than a little bit about the publishing industry--set up shop?

In a word--No. All your goodness ain't gonna cut it. And that's because when you work for a legit literary agency or at commercial publisher you have contacts with those people who can get your manuscript before the right people.

I wouldn't have a clue as to who to contact; I've never worked in any sort of publishing capacity. I might really, really be trying to get your manuscript to the right people...but best intentions aren't going to work in this industry.

It doesn't matter if you're an author who's had 10 books published by DEF Publishing Company. Unless you've got the contacts, all your hard work will be for diddly-squat.

So after getting together your list, check the backgrounds of the agents you have in mind. Do they represent the type of novel you've written? If not, scratch that one off your list; do not send an agent something she doesn't rep.

BTW, have you figured out what type it is? Is it genre, like fantasy, romance, etc? Or is it mainstream? Literary? This will help you decide what agents to investigate and which ones to forget about.

If the agent does rep that type of novel, look at the agency's website: Does it have a list of books sold to reputable publishers? These can be small graphics of book covers or just the name of the book and the author's name.

A reputable agency or agent is going to shout from the rooftops as to the books they've sold. Period. Hiding such things makes that agent/agency out to be a scammer (because they have sold anything) or clueless at best (because they don't have any inside-the-publishing-industry experience).

Check the submissions guidelines. Some agents accept email queries, but some still prefer snail mail. Follow the guidelines to the letter.

Okay. Send your query in the preferred manner--and start writing your next book. You want this to be a career, don't you? So do agents. After all, the reputable ones make a living from the commission they charge you. They don't make a dime until they've sold the manuscript to a publisher.

Remember, money flows to the writer.

I've run out of time, so I'll talk about scam publishers tomorrow.

Happy writing!


Money Flows to the Writer

Someone on one of the writers' boards I frequent wrote about someone who went to one of her book signings and asked her how much she paid to get published.

"Paid? I didn't pay anything," the novelist said. "The publisher paid me."

The man refused to believe it. "What? No, that can't be. You must've paid something. A hundred dollars? A thousand dollars?"

The novelist shook her head, and patiently explained that it was the other way around: Publishers pay writers for their book.

I've paraphrased the dialogue above, but it's so true. But, you say, how can I, as an unpubbed novelist, have the temerity to insist I'm correct?

Research. Pure and simple research.

Not that it won't take some time to look into such things. It might take you two or three months (or longer) to read through posts by commercially-published writers, to go through some really good writers' boards--that sort of thing.

But I've already written the novel; it's ready to go. Why should I do any research beyond Googling on "agents" or "publishers"?

Because them thar electrical signals are filled with live wires, just waiting to zap you.

Literary Agents

Anyone can say they're a literary agent; sure, there's the Association of Author's Representatives, which has a canon of ethics its members agree to adhere to. But not every reputable agent belongs to it.

So what to do? Remember the research I talked about above? Yup. Before you start sending out your query letters or synopses or first five pages, go to writers' sites to get an idea of who to look for. Things to keep in mind: deciding what type of book it is (mainstream or a specific genre), whether the agent is looking for that particular type of story (there are plenty of agent blogs out there; check 'em out), and whether they accept email or snail mail queries (check out the agency website).

This isn't an exhaustive list, not by any stretch of the imagination. Not sure where to start? Check out the link in the sidebar to the Absolute Write Water Cooler. They have a forum called Bewares and Background Checks. Go through the listings of the good and not-so-good agents. Absorb the info there. Write it down, if you have to.

As to what queries and all that other stuff is: go to the same place for information and ideas. Then, once you're walking, Google other sites, sites where you can find legitimately published authors. An easy to find out is to look up the names of the authors at Amazon and see if it brings up their books.

Better to have this info ahead of time than to just blindly launch yourself into the publishing world.


What if you decide that your story isn't so commercial, that its appeal is limited? You might want to research small presses. Google them and look at their websites. Then go back to the Water Cooler for initial research, and then research them some more.

Does this press fit your book? How long does it take for them to get you from the manuscript phase to the publication phase. Are their books stocked in actual bookstores (not just online)? Ellora's Cave used to be only e-books and strictly online, but I hear they've branched out into print books (with their books shelved in real bookstores).

Let's say you've gone down the list of small presses and have been turned down. What then? You may want to check out e-publishers. Be wary; many a start up has closed down just a year or two later. Again, do your research ahead of time so you know your options, so you know you won't be fleeced.

Tomorrow, I'll be zooming in on certain scam publishers and agents. Yeah. Those are the ones you want to avoid like that pothole engulfing two lanes of a three-lane highway.

My Story

I'm about ready to start the outline of Cats of Manhattan. I'm getting ideas of how to get the juices bubbling from a fine book called "Plot and Structure" by James Scott Bell. I've written the back blurb copy (for my use, naturally), and am trying to decide which type of outline I'm going to use (probably the most anal-intense one, knowing me ;-)). At least he doesn't say, you have to do an outline/you don't have to do an outline. With writers, all that matters is what works, what gets the story written and sold.

I've decided on a name for the protag: Marina Zarhagian. I imagine that sounds like an Armenian name. Meh. I tend to go for Eastern European names in my stories (because that's my background). I looked up names that had some sort of cat connotation, but didn't like anything I saw.

Of course, the name may change half a dozen different times. I've also decided she's a working woman, a paralegal, working as a temp in either a corporation in Manhattan or a law firm. She temps because of the way her life is at the moment: she has to take care of her mother every afternoon, plus she has to visit her grandmother before that. Plus, she's an animal activist, albeit a quieter one than you'll see on the news or portrayed in movies; she traps feral, or wild, cats. The idea is to trap them (humanely, of course), have them fixed, then send them back out. The reasoning is that such cats would scratch the hell out people and thus wouldn't be likely to be adopted.

Whew...that's all for today!