What Are You Reading?

You may notice my covers on what I'm reading have been changing kinda quickly. I'm not reading that much, but having trouble getting into anything. The Other Daughter is pretty good, but might be too intense for me. I may have to set it aside.

Paperbackswap.com is not helping. The past few books I read and didn't get into were promptly put on the website and promptly picked up by other readers who I hope enjoy them more.

So what are you reading?

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Naming your characters

As a teacher, I’ve had some interesting student names, interesting student spellings. Yalixa, Yumaira, Yhibran, Abcde (yes, A-B-C-D-E, pronounced AB si dee).

When I started writing, I liked unusual names for my characters. I figured I’d never be able to name a child a strange name, so may as well use it for my characters. I had a Siobhan, Jordan, Peyton.

Now my characters’ names are Liv and Del, and Del is a nickname.

The reason I brought this up is that the last two books I’ve read have had had odd names for their heroines and it has just yanked me out of the story. First of all, how do you pronounce it? I figure Reyn is Rain, and Wynne is Win, but every time I see them, I stop and think.

Do you name your characters odd names? When you read, do odd names pull you out of the story?


This is so Del, this picture.

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Progress report: Did 7 pages yesterday - got up twice after I went to bed - and 4 pages this morning!

Damn, I'm good!

Janice Lynn was saying she read the ARC of her book Jane Millionaire (in stores November 29, I believe, right, Janice?). My first thought was that I could never read my book at that stage of the publishing process because I’m afraid I’d be too critical and REALLY start doubting myself, and then I’d believe every bad review….

As writers we’re taught to look at our own work critically.

As women, we’re taught to be demure about our successes, so even though I’ve finalled in a few contests, I still have doubts about my writing.

But yesterday I was reading through my WIP as I was revising, and there was this scene. My hero started talking about this dog he’d had. I remember starting the conversation, but I don’t know where the words came from, I don’t know how it progressed to the point where it became an analogy for my heroine. But, oh, my God, it did, and it is perfect. He gets her.

I just sat back and grinned. Has it happened to you?

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Miss Snark, the literary agent

Hurry - she's only taking subs for the next few hours!

Miss Snark, the literary agent

Submission update

Here's where everything stands:

Hot Shot:

partial with Susan via the Maggie
partial with 7 agents
query with 2 publishing houses and 1 agent

Beneath the Surface:

partial with Johanna Raisanen
query with 2 agents

Don't Look Back:
query with Susan

Where There's Smoke:
partial with Gail Chasan via the PASIC

Outstanding contests:
Where the Magic Begins
Put Your Heart in a Book
Hot Prospects

Contests I'm considering:
Oak Leaf - Don't Look Back or Surface (I like this one because I finalled last year and the results are just before the GH deadline.)
Emily - Don't Look Back or Surface (I'd love to get that necklace.)
Duel on the Delta - Don't Look Back (Another necklace)
Gotcha - Hot Shot (Finalled in this one before)

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Song of the Night

I've been listening to this song over and over today and have written 8 pages.

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We Belong by Pat Benatar

We belong, we belong to the light
Many times I’ve tried to tell you
Many times I’ve cried alone
Always I’m surprised how well you
Cut my feelings to the bone

Don’t want to leave you really
I’ve invested too much time
To give you up that easy
To the doubts that complicate your mind

Chorus:

We belong to the light
We belong to the thunder
We belong to the sound of the words
We’ve both fallen under
Whatever we deny or embrace
For worse or for better
We belong, we belong
We belong together

Maybe it’s a sign of weakness
When I don’t know what to say
Maybe I just wouldn’t know
What to do with my strength anyway
Have we become a habit
Do we distort the facts
Now there’s no looking forward
Now there’s no turning back
When you say

(chorus)

Close your eyes and try to sleep now
Close your eyes and try to dream
Clear your mind and do your best
To try and wash the palette clean
We can’t begin to know it
How much we really care
I hear your voice inside me
I see your face everywhere
Still you say

(chorus)

From the album tropico
Written by: d. navarro & r. lowen

Questions about Movies

I watch a LOT of movies, and some of them over and over again. Even so, some of them leave me with questions. Here are a few I have - maybe you know the answers.

In The Mummy, at the very end, where do the camels come from? Imhotep, Evelyn and Benny came to Hamunaptra in the sandstorm, Rick, Ardeth and Jonathan came in the plane. Where did the camels come from?

In Dear Frankie, why did Gerry's character agree to play Frankie's dad? What was the money for? And why didn't he need it after all?

In Phantom, why does Raoul cry during "The Point of No Return?" (An aside - I watched the bonus features, and thought the ease with which Patrick sang just sexy as hell. The curls coming out beneath his cap didn't hurt, either.)

In Independence Days, how come there are so many pilots who drive RVs?

Are there any movies that raise questions with you?

And just because I'm feeling wicked....

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The Devil in the Details

You may notice writing progress on DLB is not, well, progressing. Part of that is because of back to school, and part is because of the critique I got back this past weekend. There were some plausibility questions that I have to iron out, and while I know how to fix them, I’m having a heck of a time making the next scene flow from the changes.

For example, I made a big deal about the h/h not being able to take weapons over the border into the made-up African country. So, what do I do? Have them get the weapons in the neighboring country. Guess what? They still have to get the weapons over the border.

Well, hell.

So I swapped some stuff around, and now I’m stuck on how to get the h/h in the same truck (which they’d done in a hurry in the scene’s previous incarnation.)

The next bit will have to be rewritten as well, because the hero came off as unheroic. That’s not good. So I’ll change the bribery to theft and all will be well motivated.

Meanwhile, sweating these details is getting me a net gain of a page a day. I said this book would be done, oh, next weekend. ARGH! And I've denied myself the two DVDs sitting on my counter, all for a page a day!

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Writing as Escape

It's well known that Nora started writing as an outlet when her sons were small and she was stuck at home in a blizzard. She needed the escape for her own sanity. I know another writer, a stay-at-home mom who writes quite prolifically because she needs to go to another place where she is in control. I wouldn't say I started writing as an escape, but it has been one on occasion.

When my grandmother was sick last summer, I wrote every day. People were surprised that I could put any energy into my story when she was dying.

I needed it, though. I needed to have some control over something, and I had control in my story, over who lived and died. I needed the escape to be found in the waters of Belize, to counteract the hours spent in the hospital.

Another reason I had to write was that I hated my day job. I was at a terrible school with a principal one of my friends dubbed Princibitch. Despite my many applications to many other school districts, I felt my only escape was to sell a book, get published, get out. If I had gotten the two rejections from this summer LAST summer, I would have been a basket case.

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Adult Education

A funny - not mine.

Classes for men at our local Learning Center for Adults - Sign-up by the 31st

NOTE: Due to the complexity and difficulty level of their content, each course will accept a maximum of 8 participants.

TOPIC 1
HOW TO FILL UP THE ICE CUBE TRAYS
Step by step, with slide presentation.

TOPIC 2
THE TOILET PAPER ROLL: DO THEY GROW ON THE HOLDERS?
Round table discussion.

TOPIC 3
IS IT POSSIBLE TO URINATE USING THE TECHNIQUE OF LIFTING THE SEAT UP AND AVOIDING THE FLOOR/WALLS AND NEARBY BATHTUB?
Group Practice.

TOPIC 4
FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE LAUNDRY HAMPER AND THE FLOOR.
Pictures and explanatory graphics.

TOPIC 5
THE AFTER-DINNER DISHES AND SILVERWARE: CAN THEY LEVITATE AND FLY INTO THE KITCHEN SINK? !
Examples on Video.

TOPIC 6
LOSS OF IDENTITY: LOSING THE REMOTE OR ALLOWING OTHERS TO USE IT.
Help line support and support groups.

TOPIC 7
LEARNING HOW TO FIND THINGS, STARTING WITH LOOKING IN THE RIGHT PLACE INSTEAD OF TURNING THE HOUSE UPSIDE DOWN WHILE SCREAMING.
Open forum.

TOPIC 8
HEALTH WATCH: BRINGING HER FLOWERS IS NOT HARMFUL TO YOUR HEALTH.
Graphics and audio tape.

TOPIC 9
REAL MEN ASK FOR DIRECTIONS WHEN LOST.
Real life testimonials.

TOPIC 10
IS IT GENETICALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO SIT QUIETLY AS SHE PARALLEL PARKS?
Driving simulation.

TOPIC 11
LEARNING TO LIVE: BASIC DIFFERENCES BETWEEN LIVING ALONE OR WITH OTHERS.
Online classes and role playing.

TOPIC 12
HOW TO BE THE IDEAL SHOPPING COMPANION.
Relaxation exercises, meditation and breathing techniques.

TOPIC 13
HOW TO FIGHT CEREBRAL ATROPHY: REMEMBERING BIRTHDAYS, ANNIVERSARIES, OTHER IMPORTANT DATES AND CALLING WHEN YOU'! RE GOING TO BE LATE.
Cerebral shock therapy sessions and full lobotomies offered.

TOPIC 14
CAR KEYS AND OTHER ITEMS:
Practice developing skills of putting things back where they belong so that they can be easily found.
Upon completion of the course, diplomas will be issued to any survivors.

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Books by the Cover

Do you ever buy books by their covers? As I’ve said before, it’s very rare for me to buy books on impulse, but some books just have gorgeous covers that beg you to pick them up and read them. The first book that I ever bought because of its cover became my all-time favorite romance.

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The colors were beautiful. You have the castle in the background. You have a red-headed hero. (Yes, this was important, and it was before I read Outlander.) I loved loved loved that book, but never would have bought it, never would have discovered that writer if the cover hadn’t caught my eye.

This is another one I bought for the cover. The title was a bit misleading, though.

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This was another one that attracted me by the cover. Love the intertwined dogtags and stethoscope.

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More recently, this cover called to me. I couldn’t get it out of my mind until I had it.

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Every color so gorgeous, tantalizing, summer-y. I bought it, loved it.

I just ordered this book because the cover attracted me. Yes, I like jungle books.

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I do the same with titles. I have to have Carpe Demon. That is the greatest title. Even if I wasn’t a Buffy fan, I’d have to have it. I bought Warrior Without Rules because of the title. And Pride and Prescience.

What books have you bought on impulse?

My First Day of School

My first day of school was hectic, of course, and went by WAYYYY too fast. I have 17 students, 5 girls and 12 boys. One of the boys used to be at my old school, where I was music teacher. I was so happy to see his name on my class list! I also have a boy in a wheelchair who has a fulltime nurse with him. No one had told me about this, so I worried about the child’s accessibility to my class, but it all seemed to work okay. My kids have a lot of personality, and most are on level or above. I have a couple of kids who will need extra help. Good to notice the first day. And by the end of the day my nerves were getting frayed, but tomorrow will be better. I like our schedule – 2 hours and 40 minutes with the kids, PE, an hour, lunch, and two hours. Breaks up the day nicely. Still got behind on my work!

Here are some pictures of my classroom:

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Here is a picture of my boy on his first day of high school:

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Here’s a picture of the family who visited this weekend. Can you tell it was 99 degrees outside?

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And here’s my baby kitty.

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And a funny, though I think those numbers can be inflated!

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For the teachers

For the teachers... word choice can be very, very important.

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A man standing in line at a check out counter of a grocery store was very
surprised when a very attractive woman behind him said, "Hello!" Her face
was beaming.
He gave her that "who are you look," and couldn't remember ever having seen her before.
Then, noticing his look, she figured she had made a mistake and apologized.
"Look," she said "I'm really sorry but when I first saw you, I thought you
were the father of one of my children," and walked out of the store.
The guy was dumbfounded and thought to himself, "What the world is the world coming to? Here is an attractive woman who can't keep track of who fathers her children! "
Then he got a little panicky! "I don't remember her," he thought but,
"MAYBE....during one of the wild parties he had been to when he was in
college, perhaps he did father her child!"
He ran from the store and caught her in the parking lot and asked, "Are you
the girl I met at a party in college when I was so bad and then we got really drunk and had wild crazy sex on the pool table in front of everyone?"
"No", she said with a horrified look on her face. "I'm your son's first
grade teacher!"

Sol Stein's 10 Commandments for Writers

Sol "Stein on Writing" I thought some of you who haven't seen it might like his ten commandments for writers:

1. Thou shalt not sprinkle characters with a preconceived plot lest thou produce hackwork. In the beginning was the character, then the word, and from the character's words is brought forth action.
2. Thou shalt imbue thy heroes with faults and thy villains with charm, for it is the faults of the hero that bring forth his life, just as the charm of the villain is the honey with which he lures the innocent.
3, Thy characters shall steal, kill, dishonor their parents, bear false witness, and covet their neighbor's house, wife, manservant, maidservant, ox, and ass, for reader's crave such actions and yawn when thy characters are meek, innocent, forgiving and peaceable.
4. Thou shalt not saw the air with abstractions, for readers, like lovers, are attracted by particularity.
5. Thou shalt not mutter, whisper, blurt, bellow, or scream, for it is the words and not the characterization of the words that must carry their own decibels.
6. Thou shalt infect thy reader with anxiety, stress, and tension, for those conditions that he deplores in life he relishes in fiction.
7. Thy language shall be precise, clear, and bear the wings of angels, for anything less is the province of businessmen and academics and not of writers.
8. Thou shalt have no rest on the Sabbath, for thy characters shall live in thy mind and memory now and forever.
9. Thou shalt not forget that dialogue is as a foreign tongue, a semblance of speech and not a record of it, a language in which directness diminishes and obliqueness sings.
10. Above all, thou shall not vent thy emotions onto the reader, for thy duty is to evoke the reader's emotions, and in that most of all lies the art of the writer... Sol Stein

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All in the Family

Some writers hide the fact that they're writers. They don't want to hear the derision, or the questions, or whatever. Some days I can really relate to this. But I don't keep secrets well (make note of that. I'm dead serious. It kills me.) So my whole family knows I write. And they are pretty damn supportive of it.

My grandmother was my biggest supporter. She read everything I wrote, swore she didn't know why I wasn't published. When I sent blanket submissions and got interest from a subsidy publisher (before I knew about RWA), she offered to give me the money. She also kept me writing. If I didn't have chapters for her, she'd get antsy. She used to go to booksignings with me, too.

My husband and son are very low-key, but I always get a dinner out for a final or a request or a finished ms. And my dh often tells me he's proud of me. My ds is a teenager, so I may get a "Cool," if I'm lucky.

My mom doesn't read (I KNOW!) but she's always so happy when I final in a contest. I don't know if she'll read me when I publish. Part of me is screaming, "NO!"

My dad always asks me about my writing and cheers my contest finals and requests. I tell him I get my persistence from him.

My baby brother Michael is following in my footsteps. He doesn't have time to write much lately as he pursues that 4.0, but he loves to talk writing. And he went to a chapter meeting with me.

My other brother and his wife gave me a party when I finalled in the GH in 2003, and when I won the Sheila, he called me (during INSERVICE!) and she came over and hugged me during a different inservice (she's an administrator - so cool!)

My best friend Cindi read my very first book, gave me one of those writing awards that you give kids. (I still have it.) She brags on me, and whenever I'm telling someone that it's taking me so long, she jumps to my defense. She's awesome.

So I'm very very lucky.

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Writer's Toolbox

Not mine, but WONDERFUL!

1. Compass—so you never lose your way. It’s real easy to lose sight of what’s important and it’s real easy to forget why you’re writing. A compass will keep you headed in the right direction all the time.

2. Magnifying Glass—so that you always see things clearly. In your books, and your purpose for writing your books. And if you’re writing a book without purpose, you’ll see that as well.

3. Timer—set it. You set the timer so that you never give anything more time than it deserves. Every single thing in life earns respect. Everything is worthy and deservers your time, the key is how much time. The timer reminds you to ask that question and to stick to it and to only give things the amount of time they earned. Don’t waste time on rejections. The timer says five minutes for a rejection letter. That’s it and you press on.

4. Scale—to weigh the consequences whether they’re positive or negative and to weigh the value of your work to your readers. When you’re writing with purpose, you have the opportunity to open minds and make people think. When you’re writing with purpose, you have the opportunity to help readers work their way through their troubles constructively. You, the writer have to chose whether to take those opportunities or not and the scale will help you weigh which opportunities to take and it will also help you to judge whether in the end you and your work is a blessing or a curse, to the readers and to yourself.

5. Flashlight—to shine light on the dark places. Dark places are scary stuff, people have to navigate them, and they don’t have any choice. And more often than not, the experience sucks. But if you, in your will shine the light on the dark places, then your readers are going to know that they’re not alone and that somebody has been there before and they have found a way from the darkness to the light constructively. So cast a shadow, so that others can follow.

6. Flare—it’s to signal help when you need it. We all do at times, everyone, no matter what stage you are in your writing career and pride is the only thing that keeps us from asking for it. So keep a flare handy in case you need it and keep your eye on the sky, watching for others.

7. Thermometer—to monitor your reactions to things you can’t control. It’s also to monitor your passion for what you’re writing. When things are out of control, having a fever just makes you sick. Being burned up doesn’t do a bit of good, it doesn’t fix anything. And when you’re monitoring your passion for your work, your temperature should be so hot, you should be damned near brain dead. And if it’s not, jam the thermostat and turn up the heat.

8. Safety Plug—to stop energy leaks and fear and doubt from debilitating you and to get negative influences out of your life. Energy leaks are made from anything that drains you and doesn’t refill you. And everyone knows what being fearful or doubtful about you or your work can do. You freeze. So, you have a plug in your writer’s arsenal—use it. It’s your responsibility to limit the influence that others do have on you to limit your exposure. It’s up to you to protect yourself and your gift and you have to choose to plug the leaks.

9. Hammer—things do not always come in the proper form, the proper order. Sometimes you need a few tacks or whacks to get it in shape. Things like attitude.

10. Screw—sometimes you just need one to hold everything together.

11. Map—to remind you of what you want. Your destination. Why you want it and how you’re going to get it. People underestimate the value of maps, with a map, you can go anywhere, do anything. Even if what you chose to do is take a series of detours. You’re acting intentionally, that’s the point.

12. Tape Recorder—to remind you to protect your greatest asset, which is your voice. It’s also to remind you which words you’re eating.

13. Mirror—the most important, the most irreplaceable, the most effective tool in your writer’s arsenal. In a mirror, you see a unique and universal you. You see your awareness of yourself, your motives, your goals, your dreams, your desires and you see all that is good and all that is bad. You perceive all that is possible and all potential and envision all that you do. In this mirror, you see potential, everyone has access to their own, but this potential and this reflection is just for you, no one else can ever duplicate it and no matter how hard anyone else tries, they can never take it, so if you fail to use your potential, it’s lost forever. She says, it seems to me that writers should think about that, especially when the frustrations of writing are overwhelming, about as frustrating to quit.

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In love

The words on the page blur as your thoughts wander. The song fades as you drift dreamily to another world, another place.

A place you've created, situations you've developed, people you know better than your own family.

Your story.

The past few days I have been absolutely in love with my story. I haven't been able to read anything else, haven't been able to listen to my book on CD. Both the book I'm reading and the one I'm listening to are great stories, but my story interests me more. That's good, right? I've changed the back third of the book significantly, and I think it fits my hero, throws my heroine into a huge dilemma, and creates a lot of emotion and conflict.

You know, the reasons I keep getting rejected.

This is why I love writing. This is how I started, telling myself stories. That's what I'm doing now, telling myself stories. I've found the joy.

Now, when I'll get to WRITE, I don't know, since company is coming this weekend and I have to clean my house! ACK!

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  • Stephanie Rowe
  • has an interview with Warner editor Melanie Murray on her blog this week! Head on over!

    Here's the thing....

    I've worked in the same district my whole teaching career. This is my 17th year (I thought last year was my 17th year, but apparently I can't count.) I've been at three schools. My best friend Cindi has been at the same three schools, and now her husband joins us at this third school, so the THREE of us have been together at three schools. Weird.

    My mother teaches in the district, has taught there her whole career, 28 years. She's been at three schools.

    My sister in law is now in the curriculum department in the district. She's been there for....I don't know. More than ten years. SHE'S been at three schools. (One of them is my old school.)

    There are only 10 elementary schools in the district. So, between all the moving around and the fraternizing I know teachers from every school in the district, which makes inservices fun. (Especially if they don't know that they know me.)

    Monday I saw several teachers that I probably won't see again until Christmas, one a former student teacher (she also taught my ds in first grade). I had fun telling her the ds started high school Monday. Her baby started kindergarten! I saw a teacher who left elementary for high school and is having a ball. I saw people who asked me how my writing was coming (sigh - but nice they remembered.)

    Went to lunch with my best friend and her dh (who took my place in 5th grade), my old unit and my new unit. It was such fun.

    Yesterday I saw another buddy who started teaching with Cindi and me, but we left her behind at the last school, and she's in love, so we don't see her much ;) But it was so much fun catching up today, like no time has passed at all. Do you have friends like that? And the coach from the old school was with us, we always had fun even at the hellhole the old school was. Both of us transferred out last year (best decision EVER). She had a baby last winter and I hadn't seen her since, so it was fun to catch up.

    Went to lunch with the same crew. We get along so well - one happy family. This is such a far cry from previous years. I'm looking FORWARD to work today!

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    Living in 2005

    Not mine, but enjoy!

    You'll know you're living in 2005 when...


    1. You accidentally enter one of your 25 passwords on the microwave.

    2. You haven't played solitaire with real cards in years.

    3. You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of 3.

    4. You e-mail the person who works at the desk next to you.

    5. Your reason for not staying in touch with friends and family is that they
    don't have e-mail addresses.

    6. You go home after a long day at work you still answer the phone in a
    business manner.

    7. You make phone calls from home, you accidentally dial "9" to get an
    outside line.

    8. You've sat at the same desk for four years and worked for three different
    companies.

    10. You learn about your redundancy on the 11 o'clock news.

    11. Your boss doesn't have the ability to do your job and isn't even sure
    what you do.

    12. You pull up in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if
    anyone is home.

    13. Every commercial on television has a website at the bottom of the
    screen.

    14. Leaving the house without your cell phone, which you didn't have the
    first 20 or 30 (or 60) years of your life, is now a cause for panic and you
    turn around to go and get it.

    15. You get up in the morning and go online before getting your coffee.

    16. You start tilting your head sideways to smile. :)

    17. You're reading this and nodding and laughing.

    18. Even worse, you know exactly to whom you are going to forward this
    message.

    19. You are too busy to notice there was no #9 on this list.

    20. You actually scrolled back up to check that there wasn't a #9 on this
    list

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    Military or SWAT hand signals

    Military or SWAT hand signals

    That's Educational

    I cut 17 pages from my WIP yesterday, and now I need to know HOW my h/h are going to find the hostages! GAH! When the Muse gives me an idea like that, she needs to give me answers, too!

    I didn't write this, but boy, do I know it!

    YOU MIGHT BE EMPLOYED BY A SCHOOL IF.....

    1. You believe the playground should be equipped with a Ritalin salt lick.

    2. You want to slug the next person who says, "Must be nice to work 8 to 3:20 and have summers free."

    3. You can tell if it's a full moon without ever looking outside.

    4. You believe "shallow gene pool" should have its own box in the report card.

    5. You believe that unspeakable evils will befall you if anyone says "Boy, the kids sure are mellow today."

    6. When out in public you feel the urge to snap your fingers at children you do not know and correct their behavior.

    7. You have no social life between August and June.

    8. Marking all A's on report cards would make your life SO much easier.

    9. You think people should be required to get a government permit before being allowed to reproduce.

    10. You wonder how some parents ever MANAGED to reproduce.

    11. You laugh uncontrollably when people refer to the staff room as the "lounge".

    12. You encourage an obnoxious parent to check into charter schools or home schooling.

    13. You can't have children because there's no name you could give a child that wouldn't bring on high blood pressure the moment you heard it uttered.

    14. You think caffeine should be available in intravenous form.

    15. You know you are in for a major project when a parent says, "I have a great idea I'd like to discuss. I think it would be such fun."

    16. Meeting a child's parent instantly answers the question, "Why is this kid like this?

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    WAH!

    Back to work tomorrow – a schedule, a commute, work to bring home.

    What I’ll miss about summer:

    1) my weird sleep pattern – going back to bed if I wanted, taking naps, staying up late
    2) wearing my pjs all day if I wanted; if I didn’t want, wearing shorts and t-shirts, no make-up
    3) going out to breakfast/lunch if I wanted
    4) NO SCHEDULE
    5) Writing every day, usually very late at night
    6) Sitting outside and reading
    7) Watching movies whenever I wanted
    8) Those Totinos pizzas – one of our favorite lunches, and we’d eat and watch a soap opera
    9) Ice mugs with Diet Coke with lime (I’ll still have the DC w/lime, but not in an icy mug)
    10) Being able to run errands on MY time, not having to rush because I had to be at work, or the place was about to close, being able to make real trips to the grocery store instead of guerrilla trips to pick up a thing or two
    11) Road trips
    12) Sunny mornings
    13) Cuddling with my kitty
    14) Blogging everyday

    I won’t miss:

    1) sunburns
    2) parent conferences
    3) bored teenager
    4) sunburns
    5) the electric bill – we’ll keep it at a reasonable temp when we’re not here
    6) the grocery bill – see above about teenager
    7) sunburns (I had 2, the dh had 2)

    But I'm not crying. Those of you who have known me for awhile know the hell I went through at the other school. I'm so happy at my new school that for the first time in years - YEARS! - I'm excited about going back to work, even if I lose so much of my free time.

    Besides, Thanksgiving holidays are HOW many weeks away?

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    Welcome to PaperBackSwap.com

    My most recent obsession - thanks, Emma Gads!

    Welcome to PaperBackSwap.com | Your source for swapping paperback books for FREE!

    50 Strategies for Making Yourself Work

    Kinda fits in with today's blog.

    50 Strategies for Making Yourself Work

    Season Premiere Dates Fall 2005

    Now we know...my calendar is already filled. Wednesdays are looking busy....

    Season Premiere Dates Fall 2005

    Lifetimetv.com: How Clean Is Your House?

    I love this show! Makes me feel MUCH better about my house. There's another one on TLC. I like the What Not to Wear shows, too.

    Lifetimetv.com: How Clean Is Your House?

    Won the Series Category of the Sheila!

    Go, Hot Shot!

    Sheila Winners

    Waiting to hear what Patience Smith said....

    Why Did My Story Get Rejected?

    Why Did My Story Get Rejected?

    Confessions of an Email Junkie

    It’s there, taunting you.
    The bouncing email icon. You have mail.
    But you just opened your WIP and you don’t have three words, much less the three pages you promised yourself before you check your email again.
    But you have mail. And it could be IMPORTANT.

    Here’s the thing, guys. Reading and writing email will not get that book done. No book, no possibility of a contract. No contract, no possibility that you’ll be able to quit the day job.

    Okay, that’s my personal goal. Yours may be different.

    I know I’m not alone with this distraction. I come home from work and my inbox is full, with anywhere from 70-110 emails. Then there’s the eHarlequin boards. It takes an hour to read and respond, and that’s skimming. This has been going on for over a year. Add that up. No, on second thought, don’t. And now there are blogs.

    I’ve recently tried to scale back, since science can’t seem to find a way to add another hour to the day, and as I’ve made the sacrifice, I’ve realized some things about email.

    The good:
    The friendships. One loop (we call ourselves the Wet Noodle Posse) came together out of a joint success and we’ve formed the most amazing, supportive friendships. We met up in Dallas and had a blast. Another group, formed from the AOL boards, was the best part about the NY conference. I’d never met them face to face before, but when we got together, it was like we’d known each other all our lives. We DO know each other. We email everyday. And all the loops are ready to jump in with cheers at your successes and support with your failures. I’ve run into people at conference who know me from online only. And some of the SARAs use email as the only way to keep in contact with our chapter, since many live so far away.

    The education. I learned more from one year in the Wet Noodle Posse than in all my years in RWA. Because of my involvement in various loops, I’ve honed my quest for publication to Intimate Moments, I know deep POV, emotional depth. I know about new markets opening up because of my involvement in these loops, as well as eHarlequin. I kept up with all the RWA hoopla through the blogs this year.

    The Bad:
    The time. The one hour I spent when I got home wasn’t all the email reading I’d do. I’d read again before I’d go to bed, then again when I woke up. Between writing and reading email, I was spending all my time in front of the computer. And sadly, the email was taking more time than writing.

    Too much information: Seriously, how many times can you read about the unfairness of contest judges, the difference between Courier New and Times New Roman, the difference between a query and a partial? It’s amazing how many people have opinions on all these things.

    The competition: I know we don’t like to talk about it, but how many times does your heart have to be broken when you don’t final in a contest, when someone sells a similar book to yours, or sells the first book they ever wrote? Isn’t it better not to know? Why beat yourself up over something you have no control over?

    The distractions: One of the Wet Noodle Posse sent a link to a website. I was there an hour playing. Ack! An hour!

    The solution:
    Okay, admittedly, I’m working on this. I’m a junkie and cold turkey is not for me.
    The main thing is to set limits, again something tough for me..

    • Cut out the loops that are repetitive. Some loops rehash the same topics over and over. How many times do you need to hear it?
    • Set goals. You will not look at the email program until you’ve written three pages, or revised five, or read an article on writing. Hey, I didn’t say it would be EASY.
    • Go digest. It still takes a while to read, but I reward myself with one digest for every non-email-related accomplishment. I read 5 blogs for every page written.
    • The timer is your friend. I can set my email program to only retrieve mail at intervals. It used to be ten minutes. Now it’s twenty. Admittedly, I’m not always patient. Don’t ask how many times I checked my email while writing this article. I also use the kitchen timer to keep me from wasting time on websites.
    • Work together. Recently the Wet Noodle Posse realized how much time we were spending on email when so many members started dropping away to finish drafts or work on revisions. We declared a moratorium from email, unless we had good news, for one week. That first day was ugly, but we all got a lot of work done!
    • Step away from the computer. This is why I bought my AlphaSmart, though I don’t use it as much as I thought I would. Another benefit to this one is not checking the page count at the bottom of the page to see how much you’ve written. You may have a laptop you can take to the coffee house, or outside away from the internet connection. Train yourself to write first, email second.

    With school starting again, I’m going to have to limit my blog hopping as well, especially since I’m trying to get DLB done by Labor Day. I’ll still be visiting, but it may be every couple of days instead of every day. I may go through DTs the first couple of days. Eek! Withdrawal!

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    Kiss the Girl

    Recently on the internet, there was a list of the ten best movie kisses. I didn’t agree with most of them, made a list of my own, and thought long and hard about what makes a good kiss – in the movies, in reality, and in our books.

    1) Emotion. The kiss in Return of the King is hot. Why? Because Aragorn and Arwen have been apart for so long, have been through so much to reach this moment. When he sucks in that breath and pulls her close, we all want to be in her shoes. We’ve invested ourselves in these characters (for three movies!) and we’re rooting for them. And isn’t that what we want our readers to feel about our characters?

    2) Exotic locales or positions. The kiss in Spiderman is hot. You have her pull down the mask juuuust enough. He’s hanging upside down. It’s raining. Okay, there’s the whole, “He just saved my life” and the anticipation thing going, too, but she wouldn’t have tried to kiss her fiancĂ© the same way in Spiderman 2 if the upside down element of the kiss hadn’t turned her on. Different is good. Play around with blocking, and you may have a kiss readers are talking about!

    3) One liners. “You can break my wrist, but I’m still gonna kiss you.” Somebody scrape me off the floor. The kiss in Tomb Raider 2 isn’t that great but that line! And in To Have and Have not, with Bogey and Bacall. He asks, "Whadja do that for?" "Been wondering whether I'd like it," she says. After she kisses him again, she says, "It's even better when you help." Then there’s the king of one-liners, Han Solo. Han says to Leia, “You like me because I'm a scoundrel.”She retorts, “I don't like scoundrels. I like nice men.” Han leans in and assures her, “I'm a nice man.” Give your hero or heroine a smart-aleck remark and have your readers swooning.

    4) Anticipation. I remember watching The Little Mermaid when my son was younger, and during the song, “Kiss the Girl,” I found myself leaning forward. The music drove the anticipation, as did the conflict. (Remember, she had to get Eric to kiss her to become human.) Another great anticipation scene is in Runaway Bride, when Richard Gere is standing in for Julia Roberts’s groom. The way they look at each other has everyone else in the room looking at them in concern. They feel it coming, too. Great kiss. Then there’s the one in Never Been Kissed, at the end on the pitcher’s mound. Sigh. And though it’s not a movie kiss, the first kiss of Ross and Rachel belongs in the Kiss Hall of Fame. Sexual tension twists us till we feel like we’ll explode if the lovers don’t kiss!

    5) Passion. The kind that curls your toes, makes you squirm in your chair, makes you want to grab your significant other and lay one on him. You’d think this would be a given in love stories, on screen or in our books. Kisses need not always be ardent, but some of the best ones are. Witness, From Here to Eternity, The Quiet Man. You experience the hunger the characters have for each other.

    If you as a writer can incorporate these elements in your writing, you’ll have readers puddling, sighing, and lining up to buy your next book.

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    The Porta Potty Story

    The Porta Potty Story

    One of the funniest things I've EVER read.

    Can you tell I discovered "Blog This?"

    Baby Panda!

    Animal Planet :: Panda Video Cam

    You can watch the baby panda at the National Zoo cuddle with its mommy in real time. Very cool.

    The Romance Reader Interviews Janet Mullany

    The Romance Reader Interviews Janet Mullany

    This is another interview from a member of the Wet Noodle Posse, who has a book out this month.

    The Romance Reader's Connection

    The Romance Reader's Connection

    This is an interview with Bombshell author Stef Feagan, whose second book is out this month.

    Historical Novels

    My first romance novels as an adult were historicals. I read everything I could get my hands on by Karen Robards and Catherine Coulter. I expanded from there, and don’t even remember my first contemporary romance, but I moved away from historicals and into reading series romance and contemporary single titles. I’d still read a historical now and then, more to touch base than anything.

    I don’t know which happened first – did I move away from historicals, or did my favorite authors stop writing them? Why did the costume dramas lose their appeal to me?

    Out of 120 books in my TBR (way less than I thought), 41 of them are historical (way more than I thought). Yet they never seem to float to the top. Out of the 20 books on order from Amazon, 3 are historicals.

    I would count some historicals as my all-time favorite books – Outlander, Through a Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen and Winter Roses by Anita Mills. But contemporaries outnumber historicals four to one on my keeper shelf. And when I finish a book and go to get another, it’s rarely a historical.

    I’m still puzzling over why. Is it the sensibilities of the historical romances that no longer appeal? The potential for conflict is greater in a historical, the potential for sexual tension stronger because of the taboos on sex.

    Is it the limited settings? I looked on my keeper shelf. I have a lot of Scottish historicals. Between Sandy Blair, Anita Mills and Diana Gabaldon, most are Scottish. Apparently I didn’t read too widely. In my TBR, I have Bonnie Vanak’s books. Those are set in Egypt, I believe (at least, that’s why I think I bought them.) The others are Amanda Quick and Betina Krahn and Teresa Medeiros and Pamela Morsi – authors I glommed but never finished reading. I have a few new-to-me authors in there, books I got free at National, so I’m not sure of their settings.

    Is it the similar storylines? Probably not. I have a few Amanda Quicks in there, after all.

    What about you? Do you read historicals like you used to? And if not, why did you stop?

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    EW!

    Ew, ew, ew!!!

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    Countdowns

    Sometimes my dad says I wish my life away. I don’t think of it that way – I just like to have things to look forward to. When I had my other terrible job, this was the only way I could get through the year.

    Here are some of the things I’m counting down to:

    3 days till Sheila winners announced
    3 weeks till the Put Your Heart in a Book finalists are announced
    3 1/2 weeks till our first 3 day weekend
    4 weeks till Where the Magic Begins finalists are announced
    5 weeks till PASIC winners are announced
    5 weeks till the season premiere of LOST!
    6 weeks till the Maggie winners are announced
    11 weeks till The Legend of Zorro comes out
    11 weeks till Halloween (I LOOOOOVE Halloween)
    14 weeks till Goblet of Fire
    14 weeks till Thanksgiving vacation
    15 weeks till Hot Prospects finalists announced
    18 weeks till Christmas vacation!

    Now, if I was really on the ball, I’d have more season premiere stuff in there ;)

    What are some things you’re counting down to?

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    Pah

    Yesterday my son got his braces off. Hurray! He had an 11:15 appt and I had a 1:00 conference across town. So I was anxious. Then I was out of laundry detergent, so after I dropped him off at his appt, I ran to WalMart (I needed envelopes too, for the flurry of queries I'm sending out.) I stopped at Payless first, in the same shopping center. Found nothing, but when I got back into the car, it would't go into reverse.

    Now, she's old, my Land Cruiser. (Seen here in a reasonable facsimile)

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    She's almost 19. She's standard, but she just had her transmission rebuilt (uh, 5 or 6 years ago, when we bought her.) But she's never refused to do anything I asked of her. So I'm freaking out, because my son is at the ortho, I have 2 parent conferences across town, and I'm stuck in front of Payless. One panicked call to the dh and I put her in neutral, eased her back, and put her in gear. The rest of the day I had to park so I could drive forward, no more backing.

    I got my conferences done in record time. We should have failed the one boy, but he'd already been failed once, and no one wants a 12 year old in 5th grade (he'd be 13 in May.) Visited with a couple of friends who were working in their rooms and still got home around 2. Got my flurry of queries ready (I'm cringing at what this will cost - upwards of $30, I believe) while my son's band practiced in the garage. Waited for the dh to get home to look at the LC, but he didn't want to do it before dinner. We went to Chili's, where we never go because the dh used to work there. Ordered an awesome blossom which never came. Ordered a Diet Coke which never came. Sigh.

    Came home to watch Las Vegas, and there was a teen beauty pageant on. Yep, a Monday.

    Soooo, we may need to get a new transmission. Pah.

    I need something to cheer me up.

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    "Rules" of Writing

    I have another entry up on contest junkies today! (I have a lot of stories, y'all.) I can't tell you the title, but I will just BET you'll knock off which one it is, just like Trish did. Contest Junkies

    We’ve all heard the writing rules, the ones about POV, about the hero and heroine meeting right away. I’ve gotten involved in a critique group lately and there are apparently more rules I didn’t know about.

    Consider this a public service announcement.

    1) You can’t repeat words in a paragraph. Not even for style’s sake. It’s considered redundant.
    2) Your characters can’t wonder or think to themselves, or God forbid, muse (Nora’s favorite word, BTW). It’s called “gawking.” (It has a name. I find that odd.)
    3) Don’t use the word “eyes” unless describing the color. (As in, don’t use it in place of “gaze.”)
    4) The hero and heroine shouldn’t have the same color eyes. (Really?)

    Any more “rules” you’ve heard?

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    My Work Space

    This is where I have spent most of my summer.

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    Here's my overworked laser printer.

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    My chart of plot lines is on the closet near the entrance of the house, since I painted the wall behind the computer and the hallway wall. It's just a few steps from the computer.

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    At least I'm never alone. This chair serves as my breakfast/lunch table as well as YaYa's napping table.

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    And this is where Napoleon usually is. I don't mind when he's like this.

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    But sometimes he's like this and chews on my hair clip.

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    What does your work space look like?

    Sweet Fire of Love

    So, last night when I couldn't figure out what to write, I made a soundtrack for my WIP, including some Phantom songs, Out of Africa, some Paul Simon and this song by Robbie Robertson. DEAD on, I'm telling you!

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    Didn't we break the silence
    Didn't we fear the storm
    Didn't we move the earth
    Didn't we shoot for the sky
    And didn't we catch the fire
    And didn't we call upon the spirits
    And didn't we fall together
    And didn't we die for love

    Days on the run, Nights in hiding
    Hoping that you were, The healing inside me

    Breathe in the sweet fire of love
    I'm not afraid anymore
    Sweet, sweet fire
    I'm not alone
    Breathe in the sweet fire of love
    I'm not the same anymore
    The sweet fire of love
    Didn't we cross new waters
    Didn't we mix new blood
    Didn't we build brand new bridges
    Didn't we hold back the flood

    Broken idols by the side of the road
    They didn't fall on the side of the law
    Here she comes a-shining like a light
    Here she comes salvation in the night

    Days on the run
    Nights in hiding
    Hoping that you were
    The healing inside me

    Breathe in the sweet fire of love
    I'm not afraid anymore
    Sweet, sweet fire
    I'm not alone
    Breathe in the sweet fire of love
    I'm not the same anymore
    The sweet fire of love

    Didn't we shine like silver
    Didn't we bear the cross
    Didn't we bring down the hammer
    Didn't we beat on the drum

    Here she comes a-shining like a light
    (Days on the run)
    Here she comes salvation in the night
    (Nights in hiding)
    I'm giving up the ghost
    (Hoping that you were)
    I'm giving up the ghost
    (The healing inside me)

    Breathe in the sweet fire of love
    I'm not afraid anymore
    Sweet, sweet fire
    I'm not alone
    Breathe in the sweet fire of love
    I'm not the same anymore
    The sweet fire of love

    Expectations

    We’re women, we understand expectations. We have daily expectations from others, like feeding people, keeping them clean (I saw a remark on Kendra’s blog that said, “A clean house is a sign of a broken computer.” LOVE IT!). Remember the old Enjoli commercials? “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never never let you forget you’re a man, ‘cause I’m a woman!” Loved that commercial, back when doing it all was new.

    If we just had those expectations, we might be able to stay sane. But then we have expectations of ourselves, keeping our house as clean as our mother, making homemade dinners, keeping the grass alive in August in Texas, keeping our kids entertained and out of trouble, to be as thin as (insert celebrity here). Currently, mine’s Roseanne, but I have low expectations and I like food.

    Even if THAT was all, we might stay sane. But we want more. Most of you who visit this blog are writers. Most of us want to be published. To that end, we work our butts off, many many hours in the chair. We spend money we don’t always have to get to conferences or enter contests. We wish the day away waiting for the mailman or a phone call. And we write. This is a huge pressure we put on ourselves. We all have our reasons for doing it – mine’s obsession – but I think we need to recognize that if we’re putting the pressure on, we can ease it off. (I just figured this out this year, y’all. Haven’t put it into practice yet, but there ya go.)

    But in writing, as in other areas of our lives, we have outside expectations. Okay, worse, other people may NOT have expectations of us, but we THINK they do, you know? When my grandmother was alive, I finished more than one story I wasn’t happy with because she was reading it and wanted to know what happened. When I don’t final in a contest, I think, “Wow, people must think I didn’t deserve the OTHER contests I finalled in, if I couldn’t make it in this one.” Or that people think we know more than we do if we final in contests. When I was rejected last week, my third rejection on a revised novel for Susan Litman, I felt I let her down. I felt I let the people on eHarlequin down for not being able to get these revisions right.

    I feel sometimes that my expectations put pressure on others. My CP Trish J is incredible. But I write pretty fast and I overwhelm her. I want her feedback because she’s dead-on most of the time (I can say that because she never comes over here – can’t have her getting a big head!) but I know she gets frustrated with the workload.

    I’ve been reading JoAnn’s WIP and it’s amazing. (Rough draft, people. Some days I want to strangle her.) I want to read more. But I’m afraid my expectations for her to write more puts undue pressure on her. (This can also be a good thing, do you agree?)

    Just so I don’t fail your expectations, here’s another great pic of Gerry. We all know what expectations we have of what’s under that kilt, yes?

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    Sometimes Hollywood Gets It Right

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    Sometimes Hollywood gets it right. Some of the most romantically satisfying movies put out by Hollywood, IMO:

    Two Weeks Notice – I love the repartee. I love the scene where they’re stuck in traffic. That’s a couple that will live happily ever after.

    Princess Bride – Great characters, great adventure. Why didn’t Inigo Montoya find a girl? And why is he now advertising cholesterol medication?

    Romancing the Stone – I love that she’s a romance writer. I love that she’s transformed by romance. I love the action, and I love that he leaves her, she’s her own woman, and THEN he comes for her.

    Bridget Jones – “To Darcy, who likes her just as she is.”And to all the women who squirmed watching their own lives on the screen.

    The Mummy – The tension in this one was amazing – they didn’t kiss till the last scene. And even the idea that Imhotep did all he did for love was romantic.

    Speed – Another where they didn’t kiss till the last scene. I’m sensing a trend, here. But boy, when he wrapped himself around her when the bus jumped that gap….

    While You Were Sleeping – Ordinary people, outrageous circumstances, but did you just want to adopt Lucy?

    A Walk in the Clouds – Yes, he was married to someone else, but nothing happened till he was free. And God help me, that kiss.

    Hitch – Oh, to see an arrogant man fall.

    Ladyhawke – The ultimate historical paranormal romance. Rutger Hauer not playing a bad guy.

    Ever After – Dougray Scott, an independent Cinderella – you go, Drew!

    Never Been Kissed – If it hadn’t been Michael Vartan, would I have been grossed out by a teacher liking a student? Drew was charming, though!

    Fools Rush In – Can you NOT love Matthew Perry? This was such a cute romance about different cultures/expectations.

    Sabrina – either version – Crotchety Linus gets the girl!

    Pride and Prejudice - the BBC version - WHY did they think they had to remake it?

    Then there are the ones that are wrong – all wrong!

    Message in a Bottle – Never have I wanted to smash my television screen as much as I did with this movie.

    City of Angels – GAH! Bad enough Meg Ryan was in it, playing a DOCTOR. Please. I only have so much imagination.

    Kate and Leopold – Even Hugh the Beautiful couldn’t save this movie. So many holes. So much collagen.

    The Wedding Planner – Hello, J Lo, he’s the GROOM. Ew.

    Serendipity – Dude, she’s a flake. Forget her.

    You’ve Got Mail – Meg looked cute in this movie. I bought shoes like hers the very next day. That’s absolutely all I remember. Except they had AOL and she had a cool computer table.

    Notting Hill – Poor little rich girl. Maybe I would have been more charmed if it wasn’t Julia Roberts.

    One Fine Day – Bitch, bitch, bitch. Fall asleep. Yeah, there’s true love.

    A Knight’s Tale – HE FELL IN LOVE WITH THE WRONG GIRL!!

    Pretty Woman – Having sex. For money. IS NOT ROMANTIC.

    PAULA!!! and Themes

    First of all, HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to Paula Graves, who sold her first book to Intrigue yesterday!!

    Secondly, I know it's not PC, but can I just say, OMG.

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    Now, themes. I know what you’re thinking – Mary is in Back to School mode. The word “theme” is so intimidating. But I believe all our stories have them, whether we’re aware of them or not. And if we can find that theme and build on it, we have a stronger book.

    When I first started writing, most of my books had the theme of responsibility. The hero or heroine had to do something they didn’t want to do out of responsibility, usually to a family member, sometimes because of society.

    That changed a bit over time, and now my characters mostly have to overcome something in their past, the death of a child, a screw up of a major mission, a failed marriage.

    When I’m reading, I usually choose books about redemption, which is, I guess, what my new theme is.

    Do you have a theme that appears over and over in your work?

    Inventions for Writers

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    As writers, we have a lot of tools to help us: the computer, the flash drive, the laser printer, the Alpha Smart, the voice software, light-up pens. I have most of these things.

    But I would pay GOOD money for a waterproof notebook and pen to hang in the shower. My son might even buy it for me, since I’m forever running out of the bathroom, still dripping, and shoving him off the computer to write down the ideas that hit me in the tub.

    What would you invent for writers, if you could?

    Oh, and check out this blog - too funny! Sum of Me

    And here's the waterproof notebooks Toni was talking about, I think. Rite in the Rain

    Why Men Shouldn't Write Commercials

    First of all, it's official - my manuscript Where There's Smoke finalled in the PASIC series category! On to Gail Chasan!

    Secondly, I have another entry up at Contest Junkies. I can't tell you the name, but I can say it's set in Central America and has a hunky hero ;)

    Why Men Shouldn’t Write Commercials:

    1) The Sonic commercials. Enough. I’m begging.
    2) The Snickers commercial where the hunters through the Snickers bars at the deer. Why, please?
    3) Quiznos. First the hamsters and now the talking baby. I love Quiznos, but those commercials make me NEVER WANT TO GO THERE AGAIN.
    4) Fanta. Great. Just typing one word and I have the song stuck in my head.
    5) Those beer commercials, where someone reveals a big secret, but the guy loses it when he’s told one beer is better than the other. It’s either Bud or Miller.

    I know there are more but I can’t think of any. Can you?

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    Goodreads

    M.J. Fredrick's books on Goodreads
    Breaking DaylightBreaking Daylight
    ratings: 11 (avg rating 3.33)

    Beneath the SurfaceBeneath the Surface
    ratings: 11 (avg rating 4.00)

    Hot ShotHot Shot (Samhain)
    reviews: 2
    ratings: 10 (avg rating 4.00)

    Where There's SmokeWhere There's Smoke
    ratings: 6 (avg rating 4.00)

    Good Reads

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    I'm a mom, a wife, a teacher and a writer. I have five cats and a dog to keep me company. I love bookstores and libraries and Netflix - movies are my greatest weakness.
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