Monday, November 19, 2007


Sorry I've been gone so long, but my life has been hectic since the ACFW conference. In early October I went to my friend's house to work on two books we've started. At the end of the week, I drove to my niece's house to be with her while she underwent a catherization. The next week my niece had open heart surgery. I stayed with her during the next two weeks while she recuperated.

After I came home, my mother was not feeling well, my friend came to visit me because she was presenting the November program at my local writing group, ETWA. I had to clean house and then helped Elaine read her first galleys for her solo book, Sonora, which will come out in E-Book form sometime in 2008.

Amid all of that, I've been participating in NaNoWriMo. To date, I have written 22,512 words which makes me 27,488 words from my goal. And I have only 10 days left, so that means I have to write 2,749+ words a day in order to make that goal. Will I do it? I pray so. But I have to attend 3 more 3-hour H & R Block Skills for Success Training sessions between now and November 30 and go to my critique group meeting and sleep and have Thanksgiving guests over the weekend.

Soooooo, I'm officially going on hiatus until after NaNoWriMo. See you then.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Back From the Conference, Part II

As I said yesterday, before I headed home after the ACFW 2007 Conference, I drove on up to visit Elaine. On Sunday afternoon we got busy on a new novel, rather we picked up where we left off on a new novel last October - Murder in Maggie Valley, A Keps Delicacy Book 1.

I say we. I was zonked. I stretched out on Elaine's couch to listen to her read me what we'd written a year ago. Of course I dozed. But I woke up then dozed again. Did that a couple of times. I got a nice nap, and Elaine got some work done. When she was tired of writing, I took over. I wrote, we ate dinner, and Elaine disappeared into her office where her Internet computer is located.

Around 10:30 pm she called me to her office asking me if I wanted to hear something. I thought she had been writing on a different book. I started down the hallway when I heard the words, " we want to offer you a contract for First I'm Nobody... if you still want us to publish it."

Of course we wanted The Wild Rose Press to publish our book! Elaine composed our acceptance and added a note that we already had a sequel completed, Redigo. She asked if they'd like to look at it as well. She sent it off, and we prayed that we'd get the contract by email no later than Tuesday, mid-day, because I needed to come back home by Tuesday evening. If we got it by then, we could both sign it without having to use the US Post office.

I was so excited. Finally. Book two, for me; book five for Elaine. I really do have to get on the stick and get some solo projects finished and off to editors. I called my mother to tell her the news, but didn't have anyone else I could call at 11:00 pm. I did text my niece, but I got no reply from her. I looked at Elaine and said, "I can't even call you; you're right here!"

On Monday afternoon, we checked our email, but there wasn't a reply from our editor yet. So we gathered our stuff and headed over to Elaine's daughter's house to fix dinner for Elaine's son-in-law. His birthday was coming up on Wednesday. While we were there, after dinner, Elaine checked our account again. Our contract came in along with an okay to send Redigo to the editor.

So we went home, printed and signed the contract and told the editor we'd send the next book to her as soon as I did a quick revision. Sigh. More revisions. And I got the pleasure of completing all the informational stuff The Wild Rose Press requires for a publication - main character descriptions, book cover suggestions, author promo information, book promo information, etc.

Got that done by late Wednesday evening. Then I got started on revising Redigo. So far there are not as many corrections to be done by a long shot. After all, it was the fourth book we'd written together, we should have learned a few things by then.

So now I'm working away on revising Redigo as fast as I can, so that I can revise Alaskan Knights and get a proposal off to the agent who requested it before she can forget about her request. Elaine's got a week off coming up in ten days, so I'm off to Denton once more to write, write, write. We want to get Murder in Maggie Valley far enough along so that we can write a synopsis and get a proposal off to one of the cozy mystery publishing houses. Who knows, maybe we can get three contracts for 2008?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Back From Writing Conference, Part I

Goodness, what a whirlwind of activity. The ACFW conference was great, as usual. The organization gets better each year. Next year's conference is going to be in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I can't wait. I've never been to Minnesota before. I'll get to add another state to my list of "been there" states. And if Elaine goes with me and we use the conference as the jumping off point to our yearly vacation, I might even get to add Michigan to my list.

I left home on Wednesday, a little disappointed that we had not gotten word from The Wild Rose Press about our novel, First I'm Nobody. I'd been checking a couple of times daily for word as to acceptance or rejection. I wanted to be able to see people and tell them that I had another contracted book. It's been five years after all. Sigh. All I could tell them was we were waiting for news, but that Elaine had a contract for her Sonora from the same company.

I was so nervous about the agent and editor appointments I had looming in front of me. Even up to the minute I walked down that long, long hallway to the Pecan room, I started to back out. But I pushed my feet ahead, swallowed my fear, and smiled as I walked up to the agent. She was friendly and demanded a hug instead of a handshake - "I'm Italian." That put me at ease at once.

She asked for my one-sheet - I didn't have one. Because I didn't know who I would be seeing I wasn't sure which book to pitch, one of mine or one of ours. After I got my appointment assignments on Thursday, I had to sort of work up a pitch. Since I had gotten an editor appointment with Zondervan, I decided to pitch Alaskan Knights. But I didn't have a way to work up a one-sheet at the hotel.

She then asked me for a business card - gulp, I'd left them in my car. I promised to retrieve one and get it to her. I did, the next day on my way to the editor appointment. But, I pitched the book anyway. Alaskan Knights is a romance with bits of suspense in it. She read my name tag and it indicated that I wrote romantic suspense, which is what I'm writing now, but that book was written with Love Inspired in mind. The agent said Alaskan Knights sounded more like women's fiction, and I agreed. It is.

She liked the idea behind it and asked that Elaine and I send her a proposal. I left feeling better. Whether or not the editor liked it, someone did. I just have to tweak it and get it sent off to her.

The next morning I met with the Zondervan editor. I knew it wasn't going to go well as soon as I walked into the room. Oh, she was friendly enough, but she made me wait over five minutes while she and the woman before me continued their discussion. Then when I got seated and launched into my pitch, she told me about a minute into it that we couldn't do what we had already done in 100,000 words. We should divide the story into two books of 80,000 each. I didn't bother trying to convince her, her mind was already made up. I listened politely and left after about five minutes.

Oh well, that's the publishing business. The right person at the right time with an open mind. Elaine and I have always been ahead of our time. Things editors have said aren't and shouldn't be done when we approached them with an idea out of the box are now being printed and sold.

But, I had the agent's interest, and that was enough for me. I sat through the awards ceremony on Saturday night happy for the finalists and winners, especially Kim Vogel Sawyer because we've become friends over the years I've been going to conferences, but I wished one of my books had been at least entered into the contest. I'm too recently published for consideration in the Genesis contest, and too long past publication to be considered in the Book of the Year contest. There is no place for the middle-of-the-roaders like me.

So the conference ended. I had met face to face with four of the other Naner group members. That was a highlight of the conference for me. I had gotten hugs from friends I'd met at other conferences. I made some new friends that I'll look forward to seeing next year. The conference was a success just for those reasons, but to come home with the possibility of getting agent representation again was icing on my cake.

After the conference I drove on up to Denton to work a couple of days with Elaine on a new project we started last October - a cozy mystery. Meet me here later for part two of my story.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Off I Go To The ACFW Conference

My clothes are clean, though not packed, my lists of assignments that I volunteered for are printed, my schedule is printed, and I'm off on Wednesday evening to travel to Dallas for the 2007 ACFW Conference.

Thursday morning, bright and early, my friend will give me a wake-up call, and I'll drive in to the Marriott for the Early Bird Conference. I can't wait.

People I haven't seen in a year will be there, and new friends await my meeting them. My Naner Banana hat is ready and waiting to go, now I just have to find my camera so I can get a picture of me wearing it.

So, I'll be away from my computer once more. Meet me back here in about a week, and I'll let you know how the conference turned out. See you then.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Facing Your Fear

Fear is a terrible thing. Facing your fears is more so. I've found that as confident as I am in many ways now, I'm still harboring deep-seated fears of rejection.

Bad thing, rejection, for a person to have, but when you're a writer it's the worst. You'd think I'd have gotten over it by now, but I haven't. It's easy to tell a new writer that rejections are not personal. How do you make them believe it when you don't yourself?

I've gotten accustomed to it through the mail, and it's not so bad through email, but that face to face rejection is still a slap in the face. At my first ACFW conference, I had an appointment with an editor. I was attending the conference alone. I shook in my boots, my mouth was dry, and I could hardly speak coherently, but she agreed to accept a proposal for a book my writing partner and I had completed. Nice.

Then I had an appointment with an agent. Same physical symptoms. I walked into the room. The agent greeted me and asked if I had been published. I said yes and pulled out a copy of our book, Her Home or Her Heart. The agent looked at the cover, smiled and said, "I've read this. I loved it." I walked out of the 15 minute interview with a request for us to send her everything we'd written. We received an offer to represent us. Score! Not bad for a first time attendee.

That was five years ago. The agent, though a very nice woman, did nothing for us. We sold nothing else. After three years, our agent sent us an email and dropped us. Rejection again. We are back on our own again.

Things are looking up a little. Elaine has just signed a contract for her third novel, Sonora. We are waiting word on acceptance or denial from the same company for another of our novels. Prayers are going up all over for a positive acceptance for First I'm Nobody. Waiting is hard.

In three days, I head for Dallas and the 2007 ACFW conference. I'm scheduled for an interview with an editor and an agent. Everything within me wants to cancel both. I'm the shy one; Elaine is the confident one. Elaine doesn't do conferences. A waste of her time and money, she says. I understand her feelings, but I get so much out of conferences. It's not necessarily the workshops that I pick up techniques from, but it's the people I meet at them that are valuable.

Is God trying to give me more confidence by giving me these opportunities in spite of my fears? Or am I supposed to cancel my meetings? At this moment I don't even know what I'm supposed to pitch. Do I pitch First I'm Nobody to the agent and something else to the editor? Or do I pitch one of the other of the novels we've finished with? Or do I pitch something of my own? I don't know. Is my fear something Satan is sending to me, trying to make me fail? Or is God telling me to wait? God needs to send me a sign so I'll know. And I need that sign quickly.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

On The Road Again

I feel like I've been in the car the whole month of September. I took off with my niece for Oklahoma City on Thursday before Labor Day. I returned home on Tuesday after Labor Day. I got to stay home a whole 48 hours before taking off again for a quilt retreat.

The retreat was a blast. I got chosen as Queen of the Afternoon for Saturday - have the crown and scepter to prove it. My wonderful friend and quilt buddy was in charge of this September's retreat, and she did an absolutely fantastic job of planning to ensure that each of us felt special.

We added an extra day to the retreat, so I got to quilt all day on Friday and Saturday and half the day on Sunday. They do make us leave by 1:00 p.m. on Sunday - boo hoo. One comment I overheard as we were packing our cars, "I feel like I'm at a reunion - I don't want to leave." Amen, sister.

I had an agenda for the retreat. I had to plan, create, construct, quilt and bind a wall hanging. I made my goal. I have the wall hanging I promised to donate to the ACFW writer's conference I'm attending this coming Thursday - Sunday. We're having a silent auction to raise funds for scholarships to next year's conference. I just have to add a couple of rings so the winner will be able to hang it on the wall. My friend, Diane, added a bit of embroidery to my wall hanging and it looks wonderful. Thanks Diane!

The embroidery wasn't free, though. Diane exacted the promise of a wall hanging for November's silent auction for a Christian women's group she belongs to. So after the writing conference it's back to the sewing machine I go. Such a chore - to have to quilt. lol

I spent from Monday through tonight going to meetings and running errands for myself and my aunt and cousin. I'm ready for another break. So it's on the road again I go next Wednesday. But in the meantime there's all this laundry to get done so I'll have something clean to wear at the conference.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Life is frustrating - all the time! I spent a long holiday weekend with my nephew's family while he and his wife took a short, ten-year anniversary honeymoon. They have three wonderful children. All equally bright and each completely individual.

Sam's sisters, Susanne and Summer, took me with them while they "baby-sat" for their brother. The weekend was nice and the kids fun, though exhausting. They range from 14 to 5. But they, nor the visit, is the frustration I'm referring to - it is the return to reality that's frustrating.

About an hour and a half from home, I got a phone call from my mother. My aunt's daughter had been taken to the emergency room and my aunt needed a ride to go to her. I'm 90 miles away, what am I supposed to do? They had been calling around to try to get a ride but had not been successful. I told them I'd be home as soon as possible.

About 40 minutes from home, I called to check. My aunt's daughter-in-law had responded and taken her to the hospital. My niece, Summer, and I decided to stop for dinner in that case. We'd only been back on the road about 10 minutes when my sister called checking to see if it was okay for her to use my car to take my cousin home when she arrived from the hospital with her mother via taxi. She apparently couldn't wait for anyone to drive over to get her, so they were taking a $40.00 taxi ride from town to my house.

We arrived before my cousin and my aunt, so I ended up driving her home myself. My sister needed my car because she drives a tall truck and my aunt and cousin couldn't maneuver themselves into it.

So with that situation settled at midnight, I got online and went through over 500 email messages. At 2:30 a.m. I finished and started to go to bed only to realize that my cell phone was dying and my charger unit was still in my niece's car, locked, and she was asleep with the key to the car in her possession. Not wanting to waken her, I decided to take my cell phone for a drive to charge it up so my mother could call me if she needed something while I slept.

Thirty minutes later I returned home and climbed into bed. Turning on the VCR I started watching Eureka, which I had taped earlier. After falling asleep and waking and rewinding the tape three times, I decided to forget it and go on to sleep.

New day, multiple phone calls to distrub my sleep, and I finally wake up around noon. Good thing I'm retired isn't it? Got up to start critiquing the things for tonight's critique group. Sat down in my chair and plop, down it went. The pneumatic unit has finally bit the dust. It's been a good chair - I've had it about 4 or 5 years. But now the search begins for another to take its place. I hate shopping!

Then along the way my Internet Explorer decides it's time for an update and refuses to allow me to access my Hotmail account without it. It took about an hour to update because my computer kept freezing, and I'd have to shut down and restart. So now my arms are aching because of the low height of my chair, and it's time to get ready for critique group, and I just want to go away again where things were more simple and my real life ceased to exist.

Life is so frustrating.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Why Blog?

My niece is visiting for a few days. She's a funny child, if you can call a twenty-four year old a child. She's been going to college since she graduated from high school but hasn't managed to get her degree in pharmacy yet.

Now, that's not her fault. It's almost like everyone and everything is against her. She's her parents youngest child, so they didn't want her to "leave home yet" after graduation. So, she enrolled and spent three and a half years at a junior college. The college "made" this child take all the low level courses they have that pertained to her major - pre-pharmacy. Sabrina is what you would term extremely bright, especially in math and science. She had no business being in pre-algebra, or even algebra. She could have tested out and gone on to higher level math. But the college refused to allow that. So, she marked time.

A year and half ago, she finally managed to transfer to a university in another state and start her junior year classes there. Of course they had requirements, but she tested out of all the higher level math classes and all of the science classes they would allow her to test out of. She took her required courses and then the extra courses they added to the pre-pharmacy list.

This semester she was supposed to actually be in pharamcy school - but life happens. When she was twelve she had open-heart surgery for a congenital heart defect. When she transferred to the university, she climbed three flights of stairs early in the semester and passed out as soon as she sat down at her desk. The diagnosis, her heart condition (a clogged aorta) had reoccurred and one of her heart valves had begun leaking more. The recommendation, surgery to open the aorta again and replace the valve would be needed within one to two years.

So she got a handicap permit to use the elevator and continued school. She planned to have the surgery this past summer. What with one thing and another, you know doctors and their tests, the surgery didn't happen as my niece planned. Now she is getting to take this fall semester off from school to undergo surgery and recover.

She's very frustrated and is wondering what to do while she waits. The doctor doesn't want her to work until after the surgery and she has recovered. But she can't stand to sit around doing nothing. I suggested that she take up blogging.

She looked at me like I was crazy. Her "weak" areas are in writing down words. I couldn't say it was a language problem, the child speaks, reads, and writes three languages fluently - English, Arabic, and Hebrew. She's half Arab-Israeli and half American. She was born in Israel and lived there until she was seventeen. She only thinks she can't write.

She was telling us tonight about her brother's oldest daughter, another bright child. My great-niece does have a gift for writing and loves to put words down on paper. I got to thinking that maybe she should have a blog, but she's a little young - I think. But Sabrina isn't and I think it would do her good. Since blogging is simply writing about topics that come to mind. I think it would be fun for her.

She tells a good story, verbally. She's just concerned about punctuation, grammar, and spelling. Those are weak areas for her, but with the spell check and the freedom to talk about whatever she wants I think it would do her good. So, I'm going to make her start a blog before she leaves to go back to her home. By the time the semester is over and the surgery has past, I may be able to get her to "like" writing a little more or at least not be frightened of it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Pen Names

The jury is still out on whether or not to use a pen name for your writing. The main question is: Do you want to lose the right to privacy?

If you choose to use your own name you risk becoming so well known that you might have to change your phone number so you won't get calls in the middle of the night, or you might be recognized and mobbed for autographs wherever you roam. Letters might arrive by the thousands, flooding your mailbox and requiring that you hire a secretary just to handle all your correspondence.

So you decide you might want a pen name. That way you can keep your privacy. But what happens when you're at a book signing and someone starts calling your assumed name and you ignore them? They'll think you're stuck up and start bad-mouthing you to all their friends. Then your best seller hits bottom and all the stock is returned from all the bookstores. No sales = no royalties = no more paydays. Then that fantastic seven-book deal with your publisher is cancelled and you have to return all the advance monies - that equals instant bankruptcy. All because you wanted to be a private, common person.

So, plan carefully as you work your way to being a published author. Of course you could turn out to be like me - published under part of my name and still unknown. So much for fame and fortune.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Tag Game

My friend Peg tagged me today. I thought the game sounded pretty neat and decided to play along, too.

This is the 'What's in a name" game and here are the rules:

1. You have to post these rules before you give the facts.
2. Players, you must list one fact that is somehow relevant to your life for each letter of your middle name. If you don't have a middle name, use the one you would like to have had.
3. When you're tagged you need to write your own blog-post containing your own middle name game facts.
4. At the end of your blog-post you need to choose one person for each letter of your middle name to tag. Don't forget to send/leave them a comment telling them they'e tagged and to read your blog for the rules.

Well my middle name is not short, but it is shorter than my legal first name.

M - Merry because I'm usually happy about life.

A - Artistic because I have an eye for art in several forms including watercolor painting, chalks, photography, quilting, as well as writing.

R - Realistic because I temper my dreams with realism.

L - Logical thinking is part of my analytical makeup.

E - Enthusiastic because I get gung-ho about projects I really believe in.

N - Nurturing because I try to help all the people I know realize their own potential and work toward being the best they can be.

E - Even-tempered because it takes a lot to get me to let go of my temper and explode.

What about playing along with me: Jay and Tiff? I can't ask anyone else because I don't have any other friends besides Peg who blog!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Preparation and Presentation

In a couple of weeks, I'll be presenting the program for ETWA. Last night I pulled together the samples of One Sheets that I've been collecting. There are some good ones and some that are okay and a couple that don't fit the criteria I've put together for a good One Sheet. But that's okay.

In fact, it's a fallback to my teaching days. When you teach a lesson, according to one primary teaching authority's opinion, you should have good examples of the concept you are teaching and non-examples of the concept. In other words, this one is right and this one is wrong. That way your students can compare them for themselves.

I'm putting together a packet for the attendees to take home. I'm going to make my presentation as short as the crowd will allow because One Sheets are really self-explanatory when you see them. I'm anxious to get to the homework portion of our September program. I want to know what everyone thinks of my short stories.

All I have left to do on my presentation is to revamp my own One Sheet (because when I went over the criteria list I realized I'd done my wrong!), make copies of it to include in the packet, go to Kinko's with the One Sheets that I didn't want to copy on my own printer (files are way too big with background graphics and color- so I printed out one b&w copy of each and will use the copy machines to make them faster and cheaper), and then collate the copies and staple. And then I'll be done.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Weddings & So Forth

This past Saturday I attended the wedding of the daughter of one of my critique partners. It was beautiful. The bridesmaid and maid of honor wore rose-colored dresses, the groomsman and best man were dressed in tuxes along with the father of the bride. The bride's mother wore a flower-print in various shades of pink and blended in so well with the bride's color-scheme.

Now, all of that is basically normal. Weddings should stand out and be unique. So what made this wedding unique? I walked in and realized there was a string quartet playing. I had never attended any wedding with a string quartet, and I've been to a lot of weddings.

The ceremony wasn't overly long, but it was memorable. Nothing is ever perfect, and neither was this one. A bride can either go with the flow and enjoy the whole thing or she can become a bridezilla. This bride was a joy. When the mothers of the bride and groom stepped up to light the separate candles representing the individuals, both candles lit on the first try. Good, so far.

Then the bride and groom walked over to take those individual candles and join their flames to light the unity candle representing their change from separate individuals into the one unit of a married couple. As the young lady took her candle from the holder, her flame went out. A small gasp rippled through the crowd - what kind of reaction would she display? With only a slight hesitation the bride smiled, leaned her candle over to her groom's, re-lit her candle, and then together they finished the task. A discreet, soft chuckle ran through the audience. Then the couple moved back to the ministers so they could finish the ceremony.

My attention remained on the unity candle as they shifted. The unity flame flickered and almost died out. Then it took hold and flared brightly, continuing to burn throughout the remainder of the wedding.

The image was so movingly symbolic I had to make note of it. I jotted the brief notes and put away my notebook. I'll use that incident one day in one of my novels, somehow, somewhere. My point? Always be prepared - to notice things around you and to make note of them so you can use them later. You never know where or when an idea will strike you. If you don't have a small notepad and something to write with, you'll miss an opportunity.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tools We Use To Write With

We writers employ many tools in order to create our private fictional worlds. One of my critique group members has a map of the fantasy world she has created. We all use our physical tools - minds, eyes, hands, etc. Included in our tool chest are writing tools; paper, pencils, pens, typewriters, computers.

Add to our tool chest our lists, character description charts, character development charts, character motivation charts, scene development charts, plot outlines and on, and on, and on.

How many of these novel development tools a writer uses depends on the individual writer. "Plotters" make use of many or most of them plus more. The "SOTPers" may use only some rough notes written on scraps of paper. Contrary to the opinions of plotters, seat-of-the-pants writers do plot, just not three-inch binders full. SOTP writers plot mainly in their heads.

Even so, sooner or later, a SOTPer will realize he needs at least some sort of character list with brief descriptions of the physical characteristics of the main characters and secondary characters which appear often in the story. Otherwise you end up in the same predicament that I did with my current wip - I named my villain nothing at the beginning, then Damon, and later Dalton. But I found, after I sent in a contest entry, that I didn't do a find task before I printed the entry chapters off. Damon showed up in at least two places when I read the passage over again. But I found it too late to do anything about it - the entry had been out of my hands over a month! I fully recommend making a character/description list or chart for all writers to save time and trouble all the way around.

The other night I found myself writing a scene inside a cabin. Now, this cabin is very important to the story. A lot of action will take place inside the cabin. For the sake of my sanity, I drew a floor plan of the cabin, of every room including the bathroom. Was that necessary? Yes, for me. I go overboard sometimes, but I might need that bathroom floor plan later. After all, I'm a SOTPer, and you never know.

My cabin is detailed right down through all three bedrooms, the bathroom, kitchen, and the great room which has an area for living and dining as well as a sewing station and office. There are window and door placements, and even two fireplaces in the great room. I haven't done color chips or fabric swatches, but I could. Now that would probably be going too far.

A writer uses the tools he needs in order to create the story. The only question remaining in my mind is; Did I need to create and print the floor plan to move my wip along, or was it a delaying tactic (procrastination) to keep from having to actually write? Hmmm.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Who's Been Messin' with My Whoppers?

Take a trip back in time with me. Actually, to the recent past. Saturday at the movies. An enticing sci-fi feature or western or whatever your taste in movies is, a large Coke, a giant bag of fresh-popped movie popcorn, and a large box of Whoppers. Can you see it? Are you there?

Let's focus in on that box of Whoppers. Chocolate-covered malted milk candy pieces that melt in your mouth if you can resist the urge to crunch them. When eaten in combination with the salty taste of popcorn, they give the muncher a distinct pleasure of sweet and salty. Do men enjoy the mixed tastes? Note to self: maybe another great subject to secure a healthy government grant - check into it.

Now, back to the Whoppers. The original malted milk ball candy was introduced in 1939 by the Overland Candy Company and called "Giants". After a merge in 1947 Leaf Brands reintroduced the candy in 1949 as Whoppers. Currently, Whoppers are manufactured by the Hershey Corporation. From 1949 until 2006 Whoppers were balls of malted milk covered in milk chocolate. What happened in 2006 to change Whoppers? A new version of the malted milk ball was introduced - strawberry flavored. Not just the malted milk ball itself, but the outer coating is strawberry-flavored as well. Another icon has fallen.

It took me over a year to decide to try the new flavor. My thoughts? It's okay, though I probably won't buy them again. Just not the same. What's that ... you think I'm stuck in a rut? Probably. But my tongue didn't love the new taste. I don't think strawberry Whoppers will have the same reaction in my mouth in combo with the popcorn and Coke.

I don't like changes. No, I'll restate that. There are a lot of things that should not be changed, just for the sake of changing. Give me a concrete reason, logical and well-thought out, and I sometimes agree a change is needed. But, don't go around changing things willy-nilly.

My sister walked into the room and asked to try the new Whoppers. Her reaction? They're okay, but hey wouldn't it be great if the company produced a Root Beer flavor? Yuck. Double Yuck.

My final word on the subject - quit messin' around with my Whoppers.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Contest Results

Entering contests is dicey. You never know what will happen. You set yourself up for a fall and potential depression. Contests are great chances to beat yourself up and lower your self-esteem. So why enter them? Why waste the time, effort and money? Because ....

There is always the chance that you'll win. Right? Well, ... yes ... there is a chance you'll win, but the odds are you won't. It depends on so many factors that you aren't in control over - the judges and their preferences, if you entered the right contest for your book at the right time, the number of entries you are up against, etc. I could probably list reasons for hours. But the real reason should be to get the critique. I only enter contests that promise a least a short critique.

Why? So I can get someone else's opinion of what I'm writing. Is it good enough? What stumbling points did the judge find? Am I getting the story told so that it is interesting and makes the reader/judge want to read more?

I entered my wip, Wyoming Wind, in the Red River Romance Writers 2007 annual contest a couple of months ago, in the inspirational division. The coordinator of this division announced the finalists last week - my name wasn't on the list. Was I disappointed? Yes, I had hopes, but ... I hadn't placed my whole writing career on this one contest.

Contests, like grading creative writing papers in elementary school, are subjective. In the judge's opinions, did my entry satisfy the requirements and the judges' needs? Apparently not. I allowed myself about 5 seconds to mourn and then got on with life. I didn't cry myself to sleep, I didn't wail against the unfairness of it - my story is the best thing ever written you know, I didn't thrown things against the wall, and above all I didn't declare my life as a writer over.

Today I got my entry back in the mail, complete with critique and scoring sheets. Interesting. Validation. My writing is good, according to these judges. I scored 89 and 90 out of 100. Not quite good enough to make the top three or five that went on to the final judging, but still my scores were respectable. The critique gave some valuable pointers for me to ponder.

The deductions in points were in an area I hadn't expected - my writing wasn't considered inspirational enough. In fact I was told I hadn't written inspirational, my writing was romantic suspense. I know it was romantic suspense. But I entered the inspirational division because I write Christian fiction, Christian romantic suspense.

I guess I misunderstood the category. I thought because my hero and heroine were Christians that I should entry the inspirational division. I didn't want my romantic suspense to be judged against secular romantic suspense - major difference in the way the romance is handled. I received a phone call asking me if I wanted my entry moved to a different category. Maybe I should have.... Nah.

What's funny about this contest is this version of Wyoming Wind is a revised entry of my wip. Last year I attended the ACFW Early Bird session of the 2006 Annual Conference. I was required to send a three-sentence hook, a one-paragraph blurb, a one-page synopsis, and no more than twenty-five pages of my wip. Two heavily-published writers critiqued each participant's submission and conducted the day-long workshop. One of the comments each of the women had was that I had too much inspirational element in the opening chapter especially. So I adjusted it, took it out, or toned it down. Back to what I said earlier - judging is soooo subjective.

The few errors the judges noted were absolutely on target. I thought I had a clean entry, but with new eyes, the errors popped out for me to see as well. Thank you judges. I appreciate your time and efforts. I've judged contests. I know how hard I slaved over them, and I know the effort you put into my entry.

This contest also required a synopsis to be sent along with up to twenty-five pages of the book. The judges were dead-on right about a flaw in my synopsis - it didn't indicate the inspirational/Christian elements in Wyoming Wind. I'll correct that. They're in my head; they just didn't make it to the paper.

Now, on to the next step - keep on creating and writing and finish this book.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Summer Time

Summer time and the living ain't easy. Three-digit temperatures and no rain. Steam baths in outdoor East Texas due to rain almost every day during the month of June and into July. A news story this evening on Channel 7 about a child's playground catching on fire because of spontaneous combustion.

My goodness, children are no longer safe on playgrounds because of mulch spread around as a safety device possibly catching fire. What next?

But, if you start thinking about the mulch situation as a writer, it could lead to potential conflict in a story, a new plot line. News stories are great sources of fiction ideas. I'm not a news hound. I've been accused of keeping my head in the sand. I find a lot of news on TV horrifying and disgusting. So much of it is slanted by the news directors, anchors, producers, etc., I don't want to hear their opinions. But occasionally there is a nugget buried in the yellow journalism we're subjected to in the media that a fiction writer can use. I found one a few weeks back and made a note of it. I'll contemplate it in the future after I finish my current wip.

So check out the news - just don't buy what the broadcasters are selling hook, line and sinker as the pure truth. Look for your own nuggets.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Writing Discipline

Is it hard for you to assign a time to write and then actually do it? It is for me. I turn on the computer, all gung ho to write on my current wip (work in progress), only to find myself in the middle of my email account, checking out blogs, or playing Solitaire.

Yesterday I got busy writing on next month's ETWA assignment. I wrote two more stories, a little over 1,800 words. It took me about three hours, but at that rate I could have a 50,000 word novel in thirty days. That's NaNoWriMo rate. Hmmm. Now why doesn't my wip go that easily and quickly? If you know the answer, please let me in on the secret.

These three short stories I've written since Friday night popped onto the computer screen without much effort. Why? I have an inkling. They don't count. Well, they do, but they were just for fun, to meet a challenge. Half the people who were at Friday night's meeting produced the assignment. I didn't get around to it, as I said before. So I couldn't let the challenge die. I had to participate even if late.

The last story I wrote yesterday actually came up to the level of August's challenge, over 1,100 words. I have one more idea in mind. I may try to keep it to the 500 word level and use the longer one for the past challenge. We'll see.

I think working on the novel I want to complete by myself may be the problem. Most everything I've written I've had Elaine as a back up. I knew she would be there to work on it, if I dropped the ball. Wyoming Wind is my baby alone. I may be sabotaging myself. It's probably one of those psychological things, just like losing weight. I do great for a while and then give up. Is it because it's too hard, or do I fear what might happen if I get to a normal weight? I might have to deal with things I haven't had to deal with before. What if I finish Wyoming Wind and get rejected? Could I handle that? I've been rejected lots of times, but Elaine got to share in the rejection. It's not all my fault.

Hmmm. Dr. Phil, are you available for consult? Never mind, I know what he would say. Make up your mind and just do it. So guess I'd better get busy.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Writing Activities & Assignments

I belong to four writing groups and two critique groups. Meeting with each takes up a lot of time, especially when you add driving time to the meeting times. But, even though it takes time away from actual writing, meetings can be beneficial.

Last night, at the August ETWA meeting, members read what they had written in response to the president's and last month's presenter's writing assignment - take a topic and write a 1 - 2 K short story. Any type of fiction was acceptable.

Sigh, I didn't do the assignment myself - I missed the meeting last month because I was in Wyoming - but what a variety of responses there were. I left the meeting determined to make up the assignment, so I can read mine next month during our share time. The president gave us another assignment for September. I've already written the rough draft for the first third of the assignment; I just couldn't wait.

My brain was stimulated from hearing what the other members present had done. Our assignment this time is to take a topic and write it in three different genres. These are shorter, between 250 - 500 words. I went a little over; well, alright over 150 words beyond the limit on my first version - a romance.

I've already plotted the next genre, a teen story. I'm planning on a science fiction for the third and final genre. The plot hasn't quite come to me yet, and I still have time to work on a different genre if I can't come up with one to fit the sci-fi idea.

Some writers don't like participating in writing in a different genre from the one in which they feel most comfortable. But in my humble opinion, I think it stretches me as a writer. I noticed that last night's assignments were in the same genre that each person normally writes. So this next project will force all of those who take the challenge to work outside of their normal box. It will be interesting to see what develops.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Exciting News

Today has been a day full of exciting news. One friend of mine, Jayna, received a critique of a chapter she is entering into a contest sponsored by Harlequin. Now critiques can be hard to take, and this one went to a well-published author (many of her books have been published over a period of years by Harlequin). The author agreed to do a critique and returned the chapter to Jayna in a timely manner.

Jayna was so excited. When I saw the critique, I was excited for her. The author had only a few minor adjustments to suggest and had good things to say about the chapter overall. It gave Jayna a real boost to have such a successful author give her a positive review.

Then I went to the East Texas Writers Guild August meeting. During the meeting, I received a phone call from one of my best friends, Elaine. She's also my writing partner on some projects. Elaine had sent off one of her unpublished novels to an editor a couple of months ago. She called to tell me they want her novel and are sending her a contract. It just so happens that last Friday I sent off a recently revised novel that Elaine and I wrote together to the same company. The last time we did this with books to the same company, Elaine received a contract and we received a contract and had books published a couple of months apart.

Now I need to get to thinking about writing a guest blog for Delyn Fisher. My blog will be appearing on Delyn's blog (see the link to the left) on Thursday of this week. Delyn did an interview with me which will appear on her blog on Wednesday of this week. Hope to see you there.

It's been a good day.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Printing Problems

I'm back to my Grrrr stage. I printed off a copy of my novel to send to the editor. Got it done finally, after some initial problems. Made it to the Post Office and got it sent off. Fine. Done.

Now on to the next printing - a copy for myself so I can simply go to Kinko's and copy it for the next editor request. And then ... there it was, page 30 had a skip in it that was over three-fourths of the page long. It appeared to be a page break until I looked at page 31. Page 31 wasn't a new chapter just a new scene. What happened? Why did I have such a break?

Who knows. All I know is the copy went off to the editor with the error in it. And the copy I made for myself now has the pages mis-numbered because I found the error too late - most of the 367 pages had been printed. So I'll have to print off another copy at some point if I have to send out the MS to another editor because this one rejected First I'm Nobody.

Do the problems working with computers ever end? I think not. Just as you learn how to prevent or deal with a problem a new one crops up. So be prepared. Oh, if you've asked for God to give you patience. He will, but first you'll have to go through a bunch of situations where you'll need to use patience. So as the old adage says, be careful what you pray for (slight re-wording on my part - poetic license you know.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Cats, Cats, Cats

I feel like I'm living in Rene Gutteridge's Skary Indiana - there are cats everywhere around my house. It started innocently enough. A cute pair of young cats showed up on our doorstep. My mother, being the kind-hearted soul that she is, asked us to put some food out for the pair. One was solid black and the other a black and white mix.

Now these are ferrel cats, wild and uncatchable. At first they ran for the woods as soon as the door was opened, but after a time they would sit in the yard and wait for food to be placed in their bowl. Then we began to notice that the black and white one was putting on weight. The solid black one didn't - uh, oh.

Yep, several weeks later a litter appeared. My sister caught them and brought them into the house after they had time to have been weaned. We managed to give them away. But we couldn't catch Little Mama to take her to the vet. Little Mama and Panther were still too wild. They had become accustomed to us enough to come to the door and beg, though, when their food bowl was empty.

Then along this journey an opossum showed up and decided she liked cat food as well. One night my mother went outside to sit for a while. The bag of cat food for Panther and Little Mama was sitting on the table next to her. It began to move. There wasn't any wind. It moved again, so my mother came back into the house. It turned out that Ms. Opossum had become a mother and one of the babies decided cat food was tasty as well.

The night Little Mama delivered her second litter involved the cat food bag as well - she used it as a nursery. She had six kittens that night. We found two in the yard and four in the food bag. She didn't like where we put them because too many humans came visiting. So she moved them into the woods beside our house. That same night Panther disappeared.

My sister brought in a stray dog. That dog got out and chased after Panther and Little Mama. We figured the dog got hold of Panther while Little Mama ran and hid. After Little Mama moved her litter we didn't see them for several weeks. We thought maybe something had gotten them as well. Wrong.

As they got to weaning stage, Little Mama brought them up to the house and introduced them to cat food. They're all growing and will soon be to reproducible stages of their own. Little Mama is expecting again, by the way. Now a yellow tabby, very large and mature comes to the feeding trough. A couple of weeks ago a big, gray tabby joined the ever-growing cat population.

Our indoor cat, Shrimp, who hated being outside and would only venture into the fresh air about four weeks during the spring at night when the weather was just right, has abandoned the house to join the cat crowd outside. We almost can't force her into the house. It's been a complete turnaround for her after sixteen years. Of course that makes my life simpler - I don't have to clean a cat box!

I don't know what animals to expect next, but I've decided that my mother, my sister and I have formed a new not-for-profit society. I've named it The Society for Feeding the Neighborhood Cats & Other Animals. Membership will only cost $20 per year. We are open for donations and would willingly accept them, if I could figure out how to become incorporated without having to fill out all the government paperwork. Although, it might be worth the hassle. I'll bet we would qualify for some dandy government grants.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Submitting Proposals

Grrrr! Sometimes computers are the pits! I know I'm not supposed to be using exclamation points - that's not the "acceptable" thing nowdays.

I have been trying to print a hard copy of a novel to send to an editor who wants to read the whole manuscript and wants it on paper.

It's not that I mind sending it to her that way, in fact, I prefer to read "stuff" on paper myself. I'm a visual learner, and it makes more sense that way. But when you send a proposal out you want it to be in the most current format with absolutely no errors. I thought I had this one ready to go, but when it started printing, right off the bat, I noticed that I need to delete the title page because my header appeared on it with the page numbering beginning with the title page.

Shucks, I thought, it'll just have to go that way because I don't want to waste paper and ink. The printer had already made it nearly through the prologue at that point. Then chapter one started to print and the chapter started at the top of the page instead of in the middle of the page! I had thought I'd fixed all that type of thing!

So, I cancelled the print job and went through my document one more time. I found an empty page at the end of chapter two that threw the whole page count off even more. I finished checking and everything looks right, now. I've deleted the title page and given it a file of its own, I've saved the document on my hard drive and on CD.

Now I'm going to try printing once more. This proposal had better be worth all the work I've put in on it this summer - a major rewrite and then another read through to catch mechanics problems.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Supporting Our Troops

"We support our troops. We support our troops."

That's what Oprah Winfrey opened the second portion of her show with this afternoon. It was a repeat of an earlier program, and I had seen it before, but it made an impression this afternoon. What a difference forty years makes.

When the United States sent troops to Viet Nam in the late '60's the cries were completely different. Troops leaving and returning were yelled at, had things thrown at them, and were considered war mongers. They were made to feel unwanted and uncared for by most Americans. Their families felt differently, of course, and a few of us honored their service in the interests of our freedom. But we were by far in the minority.

When 9/11 happened, here on American soil, well ... that was different. Oh, I'm not unhappy about the change and acceptance of the troops doing their jobs. Quite the opposite. I'm delighted. Our troops deserve the recognition and the cheers. But they always have. That's the point, and that's what saddens me. It's popular now; it's acceptable. But it's not always been that way.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Wyoming on vacation. One of the first stops on our trip was in Jackson. A group of entertainers lives there and runs a summer chuckwagon dinner show - the Bar J Wranglers. Wonderful family entertainment, and the steak dinner is fantastic. Even if you don't care too much for old style western singing, the comedy threaded through the show will hold you captive.

During my most recent visit to the Bar J, the group honored some young men and women in pre-enlistment training. Some of the members of the pre-military group would be leaving within days to start their careers in the service. When introduced, the future members of our armed forces were given a spontaneous standing ovation that lasted at least two minutes. A long time, if you think about it, for people with no special status. They weren't presidents, entertainers, royalty, or anyone else with a "name".

But, they are all special. They all have status. They are just anonymous to most of us. They are leaving to put their lives on the line for me, you, and all those of us who live in this country. God willing, they will each return home after deployment alive and whole. The reality of it is some of them may not come home alive or whole. We owe our thanks and our daily prayers to people such as these - now and forever. It is their willingness, to at least put their personal lives on hold, to defend our country that gives us the liberty to speak our minds in public and not be shot down for it.

It is my prayer that the current trend of acceptance of our military forces will continue for as long as the United States of America continues to exist. May God bless each of you who have, are, or will at a time in the future be one of my defenders. I thank you for all that you give.