Friday, November 30, 2007


The cake tastes fantastic but looks like a lopsided lumpy mountain. The pork in burrito sauce tasty but not going on must make this again list. The cheesy polenta bake--meh, but very filling. The salsa--yum!

The frosting reminded me of when my mom made cakes, there'd always be leftover frosting and she'd put it on crackers, graham or saltines, whatever she had handy. I loved the butter-cream frosted saltines...

Real life

Finally finished polishing the most recent Dangerous book. Haven't heard from either of the tasteful editors but I'm not taking it personally. New Concepts has a message up on their website about network problems preventing them from sending outgoing email. Ellora's Cave works on about the same pace as the print publishers--actually they are a print publishers. I tend to think of them as strictly an e-publisher. When in fact, both houses take books to print on a regular basis. The line gets blurrier all the time.

I'd promised myself a week off from writing when I finished Dangerous Rescue and I'm taking it!

So what have I been doing today? Shipped off a beer stein to an ebay winner. People buy the strangest things. One woman's junk is another woman's treasure. I know it's a cliche--but guess what--it's true. Amazing to me, but I've never been a collector. I like stuff, but I'm not fond of antiques and the whole concept of collectibles is lost on me.

I use a handling service for shipping. The lady who runs the place is grouchy and charges a dollar per piece minimum. I go there anyway. For a couple of reasons. First, I don't have to stand in line. I'd rather do about anything other than stand in a line, especially when I want to give the business with the line money. Second, she'd competent and civil even if she's grouchy and I think she has some cause to be in a bad mood. That's my guess anyway. Most people want the same things, appreciation, acceptance, achievement, and affection. When they don't get them they react and it's not always pretty, I try to be extra nice to the ones who obviously aren't having a good time. They need it more.

I've been cooking again. Last weeks dinner for four looks more like dinner for fourteen so I decided it was time to reinvent that menu. Froze the rest of the orzo in individual helping packets, and then got busy converting. The pork roast with the wine sauce is becoming pork con burrito sauce with cheesy polenta, and fresh salsa. Carrot cake for dessert. I'm taking a break from simmering, stirring, and baking while the cakes cool completely.

For some strange reason sometimes I want a summer meal in the middle of winter and sometimes I cook up hearty feasts in August. Dunno why. Fresh salsa sounded so good and I tasted it and it is as good as it sounded. To make it even better, the lovely hot house tomatoes were on sale. I understand why grocery stores have weekly specials--I love to get a bargain.

The forecast is for snow tomorrow. It's only supposed to last one day. I love snow as long as I get to stay home and continue to enjoy all the modern conveniences--like electricity.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Writing Life

This morning I have two chapters left to polish. Will this make the story flawless? Nah, I've learned that much. No matter how many times I go through it there's always something that could be improved. What it is--is the best I can make it at this point in time.

Learning to write well is a journey, not a destination. There's always more to learn, more to polish. Perhaps at some point an author reaches a personal pinnacle and the law of diminishing returns sets in, this is pure speculation on my part, since I'm nowhere near that point.

The official start of winter is a couple of weeks away but from my office window the white birch is leafless and the sound--a giant reflection pond from my viewpoint on the hill--is once again visible beyond. The trees are my favorite part of the garden. They act like silent sturdy sentinels, protecting, sheltering, and defining the environment.

All but a two of the trees in the yard are deciduous, so there are many leaves to gather each fall, the apple tree is the last to shed its leafy coat. By the end of next month the last of leaves will all be gone. The grass needs mowing but its too wet--a perpetual winter gardening problem.

Last weeks dinner still lingers and while it was delicious--I'm tired of it. I'm thinking about doing an enchilada sauce for the rest of the pork and some polenta along with some coleslaw and ignoring the remaining orzo, which was lovely in the beginning. Even the current/wine/brown pan bits sauce has lost its charm or perhaps it's just that I'm out of blackberry crisp and carrot raisin salad. Note to self: dinner for four in this recipe refers to four much hungrier people than moi.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Writing Life

Did you know that Harlequin is having a Presents contest? They are! It's called Instant Seduction and you can read all about it here right now it's the number one post on the official Presents blog but if you're reading this entry after November 28th then you may have to scroll around a little to get the inside scoop.

I love reading Presents. Does that mean I should write for them? I'm not so sure. I do love Alpha heroes, I'm all for glamorous international settings, intensity, and emotion are great. But these are short books--tightly focused on the relationship between the hero and heroine.

They are character driven stories and I'm a plot driven writer. By the way, it took me ages to comprehend that last statement. Pity. I adore reading character driven stories.

I may enter the contest anyway. It's good to stretch writer muscles and push myself against the grain. Invariably, I learn things. However, entering the contest is only a good idea if it can be shoehorned in between other, already commited to, writing projects. And I promised myself a week off from writing when I finished the edits for the second Dangerous book. With a little luck that will be today!

My friend Sheila assures me people are interested in my real world life. Hard for me to believe, but she's been right about lots of other stuff over the years (she's very smart).

Here's what's happening in my corner of the 3D world. Got my windshield replaced (it was cracked, an evil rock chip) the replacer was a real cutie, who took pride in his work and was both courteous and professional. New windshields, while not free, are a lot more reasonable than I'd guessed--a happy surprise.

I called my telephone service provider to modify the service and mentioned that the name on the bill should be changed. That conversation went downhill in a hurry when the customer service representative insisted she had to talk to my husband before she could change the name on the bill.

There's a lot of paperwork and general bother required when a person dies. It seems wrong to me that these problems are dumped on the surviving spouse. However, that is how it works. Here's free advice for service providers, financial institutions, and anyone else who requires lots of hoops to change ownership or responsibility--there's a pleasant way to do things. Try it. My experience has been half courteous and helpful--the other half suspicious and adversarial. Customers have lots of choices about where to take their business, you may not need me as your customer, but if you offend all of your customers then you won't be in business for long.

I also put out the garbage, sanded my drywall patches and applied another thin coat of joint compound, walked the dog, raked leaves, taked to friends and family, fed the animals and me. You see my point, my real life is not exciting--even the pleasant parts make for dull reading.

One of the ongoing trouble spots is food. I don't think about it until I'm hungry. There's no little clock in my head that says better start cooking or driving or something because in a half hour you're going to be starving. This is a problem, because it takes more than a few minutes to put together a decent meal. So here's what I've done--I fix dinner for six once a week and then have it the rest of the week (eating out once). This solution probably doesn't appeal to very many people, but after all how many times a year do you eat the same dinner? Most do eat the same meals over and over again--just not in a row. So why not in a row? Seems sensible to me. But like all my plans, this is subject to modification.

Last weekend I made pork roast with a lovely sauce, orzo with gruyere and chives, carrot raisen salad, green beans, and blackberry crisp. Here's this week's dinner (minus the salad and dessert which require their own plating.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Publication Quest Updated

Earlier this year I posted my goals, here is what I wrote--

Current year's goals

1) Study characterization to add depth to the story's cast
2) Three submissions
3) In roads in the TBR shelves

Progress report

Done reading the stack of books related to characterization - Creating Unforgettable Characters deserves a second read.

Two submission
Status: still waiting to hear from the publishers


Number One: three months three weeks
Number Two: two weeks

I warned you this is a sloooow and boring journey.

Now here's what has happened so far--one of those optimistic submissions turned into a real book!

Here's what else happened--I wrote more stories and submitted them too. I'm currently waiting to hear back on three submission. Right now, I'm grateful that editors are very busy and take time to get back to me.

What made this remarkable change? My first professional edit. I'm not a speedy writer--and I'm going to get slower, because this past year I've learned lots more about what it takes to tell a really good story.

The craft books were a good idea--I've learned lots from them. Contests were a good idea--I learned lots from them. Fellow writers, critique partners, discussion boards, and blogs have all been great. But I have to admit nothing compared with real life experience of having a kindly editor comment on my story page by page, and line by line. I understand much better why it's so hard to get that first sale and how reluctant any sane editor must be to take on another newbie.

All I can do is work my tail off to justify the tasteful editor's optimism. I think that sums up the current goal.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Home for the holidays

This week, we celebrate Thanksgiving in the USA. Like most people, I think about all the things I’m grateful for, but too frequently take for granted.

I have a roof, which does not leak and a furnace that works. A few weeks ago neither of those statements was true. The new roof and the new furnace are not only delightful in their own right, but they gave me financial perspective. For a while there, I thought I had too much money but that’s not the case (see previous sentences--roofs and furnaces are expensive!). But I do have enough for all of my needs and some of my wants and this is a very good thing. In fact, I’m not sure I would really like to have every want satisfied. It’s good to long for things, to strive for things--whether or not those things are material. Anticipation adds spice to my life.

I live alone (except for the fur faces) and work for myself (disregarding editors and future readers for the moment). This means I really only have one person to get along with on a daily basis and I still find it damn challenging! Which makes me laugh, and I’m very grateful to be able to laugh, even--no especially--at my own foibles

Here are some of my favorite things about living and working alone. I go to bed when I’m tired and get up when I’m rested. Sleep is one of my favorite activities. I eat when I’m hungry and pretty much what I feel like having (this takes some organization and effort, which may result in second, third, or fourth choices being consumed). The refrigerator always has the stuff I put in it still there. The kitchen stays clean, the whole house stays clean! Except for pet hair and messes I make, but cleaning those up isn’t a big deal. I work for hours on end without any interruptions--other than those I’ve signed up for, or choose to allow.

I play music, watch a movie, or read as it suits me. Are you picturing how shallow and selfish this life is? Yep, you’re right. It’s true. And this would be a bad thing because?

Seriously, there are some pretty steep downsides to living alone. But for today, I choose to focus on what I have rather than what I’m missing and that makes a huge difference.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Writing Life

Avery Beck blogged about dreams here,

reminding me how many I’ve had come true and how impossible they seemed in the beginning. It’s also true that not all dreams are sensible. So when should you give up on a dream? I suspect the answer is as individual as our dreams.

Here’s my criteria--

When holding the dream doesn’t add joy and richness to your life.

When chasing the dream hurts more than letting it go.

Some dreams are not meant to be realized--simply holding them adds grace notes to your world. I believe in dreams, having them, chasing them, holding them close, and sometimes letting them go free.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Writing life

I'm still entering the final corrections on Dangerous Surrender and it occurs to me that those other two word meter projects that I thought were ready to submit--aren't. They need another thorough polishing pass each. Tout suite!

And the first pirate story too! This makes pirate Story number two further away than I thought. I love new stories, darn! The only thing that would be worse would be turning in substandard work and disappointing readers.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Writing Life

So last month I got the cover art for Dangerous Surrender.

Then a few days later, I found the cover on New Concept Publishing’s upcoming ebooks page! All of sudden the book seems much more real and less so at the same time. It’s actually going to be out and it has my name on it, but it looked so different that it’s almost as if it belonged to someone else.

Next, I noticed that I had not gotten any edits from the lovely publisher. I enjoyed a whole day of a story-must-be- perfect fantasy before the edits arrived. Not perfect, no. In fact, there are corrections on practically every page. Dutifully, I hunker down to make all the corrections. Mostly small stuff, some of which would never have occurred to me in my newbie ignorance, others I can’t believe I missed.

After making all the requested changes, I take the lovely editor’s advice to heart, making a clean copy before sitting down to read my book aloud one last time. More corrections, lots more. Even with all the polishing and editing passes this story has gone through there are still mistakes and when it leaves my hands next week there will doubtless still be errors in the copy. It’s been humbling and enlightening to go through my first professional line edit. The process has also raised my admiration of published works. What a lot of effort, by so many dedicated people, goes into making a story the best it can be.
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