Think like Heloise

Does Heloise even have a column anymore?

A friend sent this to me – don’t know if it’s true. I added my comments in parentheses.

1. Budweiser beer conditions the hair (what a waste of beer! And wouldn’t that be more expensive?)

2. Pam cooking spray will dry finger nail polish

3. Cool whip will condition your hair in 15 minutes

4. Mayonnaise will KILL LICE, it will also condition your hair

5. Elmer's Glue - paint on your face, allow it to dry, peel off and see the dead skin and blackheads (LOVELY image)

6. Shiny Hair - use brewed Lipton Tea

7. Sunburn - empty a large jar of Nestea into your bath water (NOW they tell me)

8. Minor burn - Colgate or Crest toothpaste

9. Burn your tongue? Put sugar on it! (What about the roof of your mouth?)

10. Arthritis? WD-40 Spray and rub in, kill insect stings too

11. Bee stings - meat tenderizer (this I knew)

12. Chigger bite - Preparation H

13. Puffy eyes - Preparation H

14. Paper cut - crazy glue or chap stick (but then all your fingers are stuck together….)

15. Stinky feet - Jell-O! ! (uh, dry or mixed?)

16. Athletes feet - cornstarch

17. Fungus on toenails or fingernails - Vicks vapor rub

18. Kool aid to clean dishwasher pipes. Just put in the detergent section and run a cycle, it will also clean a toilet. (And turn all your dishes red – the next one says use it as a dye!)

19. Kool Aid can be used as a dye in paint also Kool Aid in Dannon Plain yogurt as a finger paint, your kids will love it and it won't hurt them if they eat it!

20. Peanut butter - will get scratches out of CD's! Wipe off with a coffee filter paper

21. Sticking bicycle chain - Pam no-stick cooking spray

22. Pam will also remove paint, and grease from your hands! Keep a can in your garage for your hubby

23. Peanut butter will remove ink from the face of dolls (How does someone know this?)

24. When the doll clothes are hard to put on, sprinkle with corn starch and watch them slide on (But don’t tell your kids – can you imagine the mess?)

25. Heavy dandruff - pour on the vinegar! (Ew, you’d smell like Easter eggs!)

26. Body paint - Crisco Mixed with food coloring. Heat the Crisco in the microwave, pour in to an empty film container and mix with the food color of your choice! (I actually did this for a PTA program)

27. Tie Dye T-shirt - mix a solution of Kool Aid in a container, tie a rubber band around a section of the T-shirt and soak (did this, too)

28. Preserving a newspaper clipping - large bottle of club soda and cup of milk of magnesia, Soak for 20 min. and let dry, will last for many years!

29. A Slinky Will hold toast and CD's! (then you have to put peanut butter on the CDs to get rid of the scratches)

30. To keep goggles and glasses from fogging, coat with Colgate toothpaste (Again, how did someone know this?)

31. Wine stains, pour on the Morton salt and watch it absorb into the salt.

32. To remove wax - Take a paper towel and iron it over the wax stain, it will absorb into the towel. (done this)

33. Remove labels off glassware etc., rub with Peanut butter!

34. Baked on food - fill container with water, get a Bounce softener and the static from the Bounce Towel will cause the baked on food to adhere to it. Soak overnight. Also; you can use 2 Efferdent tablets, Soak overnight!

35. Crayon on the wall - Colgate Toothpaste and brush it!

36. Dirty grout – Listerine (and we put this in our mouths???)

37. Stains on clothes - Colgate

38. Grass stains - Karo Syrup (uhhh…)

39. Grease Stains - Coca Cola, It will also remove grease stains from the driveway overnight. We know it will take corrosion from car batteries!

40. Fleas in your carpet? 20 Mule Team Borax- Sprinkle and let stand for 24 hours. Maybe this will work if you get them back again. (What is this stuff?)

41. To keep FRESH FLOWERS longer Add a little Clorox, or 2 Bayer aspirin, Or just use 7-up instead of water. (have done this)

42. When you go to buy bread in the grocery store, have you ever wondered which is the freshest, so you "squeeze" for freshness or softness? Did you know that bread is delivered fresh to the stores five days a week? Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Each day has a different color twist tie. They are: Monday = Blue, Tuesday = Green, Thursday = Red, Friday = White and Saturday = Yellow. So if today was Thursday, you would want red twist tie; not white which is Fridays (almost a week old)! The colors go alphabetically by color Blue- Green - Red - White - Yellow, Monday through Saturday. Very easy to remember. I thought this was interesting. I looked in the grocery store and the bread wrappers DO have different twist ties, and even the ones with the plastic clips have different colors. You learn something new everyday! Enjoy fresh bread when you buy bread with the right color on the day you are shopping. (very cool – no wonder I have so many yellow ties!)

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Which Serenity Character Are You?

You scored as Hoban 'Wash' Washburne. The Pilot. You are a leaf on the wind, see how you soar. You have a good job, and a stunning wife who loves you (and can kill people). Life is good, which is why you can't help smiling. Now if you can just get people to actually listen to your opinion things would be perfect.

Hoban 'Wash' Washburne


Which Serenity character are you?
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Mid-life is when the growth of hair on our legs slows down. This gives us plenty of time to care for our newly acquired mustache.
In mid-life women no longer have upper arms, we have wingspans. We are no longer women in sleeveless shirts, we are flying squirrels in drag.

Mid-life is when you can stand naked in front of a mirror and you can see your rear without turning around.

Mid-life is when you go for a mammogram and you realize that this is the only time someone will ask you to appear topless.

Mid-life is when you want to grab every firm young lovely in a tube top and scream, "Listen honey, even the Roman empire fell and those will too."

Mid-life brings wisdom to know that life throws us curves and we're sitting on our biggest ones.

Mid-life is when you look at your-know-it-all, beeper-wearing teenager and think: "For this I have stretch marks?"

In mid-life your memory starts to go. In fact the only thing we can retain is water.

Mid-life means that your Body By Jake now includes Legs By Rand McNally -- more red and blue lines than an accurately scaled map of Wisconsin.

Mid-life means that you become more reflective...You start pondering the "big" questions. What is life? Why am I here? How much Healthy Choice ice cream can I eat before it's no longer a healthy choice?

But mid-life also brings with it an appreciation for what is important.

We realize that breasts sag, hips expand and chins double, but our loved ones make the journey worthwhile. Would any of you trade the knowledge that you have now for the body you had way back when?

Maybe our bodies simply have to expand to hold all the wisdom and love we've acquired.

Hellloooooo, Del!

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My good buddy Colleen Gleason, who has been beside me through my ups and downs, SOLD TWO BOOKS TO NAL TODAY!!!



I am a dinosaur junkie, was before Jurassic Park. So I thought this was cool.

Discovery Channel :: When Dinos Roamed America :: Dino Lookup

September sucks

I usually really like September, but this year I’m ready for it to end. Here’s a rundown.

1) car accident in Land Cruiser. LC dented, everyone okay. But this is an 18 year old car and it’s getting hard to get parts. Apparently they put magnets in them back in the day.

2) no oven for most of the month. Finally found parts for 50 year old oven (see a theme here?)

3) mother in law in hospital (I’m going chronologically, not in order of importance, in case you’re wondering.) She almost died, now is going stir crazy and has at least 2 more days in. We were hoping she’d get out tomorrow. Meanwhile, we’re at the hospital every night till 8:30.

4) Son suspended from school for the stupidest reason ever – having flyers advertising his band, which is playing at a bar next weekend.

5) 100 plus temperatures this past week! (But who knew, because we were at the hospital)

Reasons September was good…..

1) two requests (though will I get the second one out by the end of the month? Who knows?)

2) placed 3rd in the PASIC and should be getting some $$ any day now ;)

3) still love my class

4) new TV season that I haven’t gotten to watch

5) Serenity!!

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eBay: BECOME A GOD !! Ebay Exclusive !! (item 5609485287 end time Sep-02-05 18:59:07 PDT)

What are you reading?

I finally finished reading Nobody But You last night, through no fault of its own. I'm so tired that I lay down at night, get maybe two pages and fall asleep.

Next up is Riding the Storm. I couldn't resist a hurricane book. I also have a bunch of Noodler books - books by the Wet Noodle Posse - in my stack.

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I also have a couple of Bombshells I'm looking forward to reading, and I have another shipment of books coming from Amazon in a couple of weeks. My mother-in-law is in the hospital, and she is not a reader. If it was me, I'd be going through a book a day. As it is...I'm lucky to get through a book a week. And yet, between Amazon, and, I keep getting more books! Will I ever get over my addiction?

What are you reading?

Flipper the firing dolphin let loose by Katrina

The Observer | International | Armed and dangerous - Flipper the firing dolphin let loose by Katrina

Sympathetic Heroines

I watched Surface this week. I did NOT like the lead character, the marine biologist who was so callous to her kid. (She said something to him like, “No, I’m going to break you” before she dumped him with her ex and his girlfriend.)

I really liked Jill Hennessey when she was on Law and Order but I can't stand her on Crossing Jordan. She's just way too tough.

I do like Kate on Lost, enough to model my current heroine on her. Yeah, she's done some bad, bad things, but there's a vulnerability in her. Maybe it's that she's looking for reparation. Maybe she's looking for that second chance. Something about her appeals. I even liked Shannon in this last episode. I'm sorry, Boone, but looks like you had to die to save her character.

I used to like Sydney on Alias. She had the balance of toughness and softness. Yes, she lied to her friends, but she did it for the greater good. And when she was betrayed, she was wounded. But the past season, she was destroyed. She went from being vulnerable to being weak.

I know it's hard to portray strong women, to create a believable balance of toughness and femininity. I think that was a problem with a lot of the Bombshells when they came out. I think Evelyn Vaughn does an awesome job of showing both sides, as does Stef Feagan and Sandra Moore. Peggy Nicholson's character was a bit too much of a superhero, but that book is still on my keeper shelf.

I've been trying to write active, tough women, but have had a hard time finding a balance, a woman that readers sympathize with. I think you have to give her great motivation to do what she does, a soft spot in her life right now, a backstory that tugs at the reader's heart. I liked Trish's Bombshell, where the heroine was struggling with who she was. She also had pets, and a puppy in particular. Evelyn Vaughn's heroine in Contact also struggled with who she was, and her soft spot was her friends.

I personally like the heroines who are in a situation out of the ordinary, like Stef Feagan's Pink, who made a choice in her life that tossed her on her butt, and now she has to make the best of it.

Characters who are good at their jobs, like Sandra's biologist and Peggy's paleontologist, are fun to read. I love a woman who can outsmart a man. Sandra's heroine has a soft spot for her grandfather, and it proves to be her fatal flaw. Also throughout the story, she develops more of a heart. That works for me, too, if a character becomes more sympathetic throughout the story.

But unsympathetic heroines mark the end of a book for me.

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Absence makes the heart grow fonder

After I got my request from the agent for Hot Shot, I set DLB aside, thinking Hot Shot would be the quicker manuscript to get out the door. Then my mother-in-law got sick and visiting the hospital has thrown my schedule for a loop, exhausted all of us, and kept me away from DLB even longer.

But now it's 10 days later, Hot Shot is mailed and I'm back on DLB. My goal is to mail it by Friday.

By the time I mailed Hot Shot last Wednesday, I hated it. I had been over every word, knew scenes practically by heart. I was so sick of this story.

But I am loving DLB. I have the first half pretty darn clean, but every now and again I get an idea and go back to page 20 or something and layer it in. I love the story, love the characters, am excited about the changes I'm making. I can't wait to get to the computer, am jealous of anything that takes me away from it. (Even TV) I may even mourn when I mail it. I don't know if it's because it's new and fresh and Hot Shot has been in different versions for the past five years, or that I've been away from DLB for almost two weeks, but wherever this energy is coming from, I appreciate it.

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Writing Superstitions

I'm pretty superstitious. I throw spilled salt over my shoulder, I don't walk under ladders, I turn around when a black cat crosses my path. Hey, I'm Southern, and I'm Catholic, and I think it comes with the territory.

I don't really have writing superstitions, though. I don't enter finalist dates on the calendar unless I've finalled in the contest. I don't print out the final draft of the ms until I'm done. (Like, if I'm done revising chapters 1-6, for example, I don't print those out until I'm done with the whole thing.) I finish books I start, in case if I don't, I might never finish another. But other than that, mostly what I have are habits. Not the same thing, right?

Do you have any writing superstitions?

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Have I Grown?

When I was revising Hot Shot this past week, I realized I'd been writing this book since 2000. It started out with the heroine, Peyton, as an aide for a politician who'd gone to assess the fire damage, but I couldn't figure out how to keep them together, so I changed it. And changed it. And changed it. And changed it. It's grown from 60,000 words to 90,000. Gabe has stayed the same, though.

One thing I noticed, as I was combing through the old versions (I throw none of my writing away - it all lives in files on my computer), was that I had kept a lot of the original scenes. The ex-wife was always there, the best friend. And the even more interesting thing was, the scenes had hardly changed.

Okay, I've written a LOT since 2000. Hot Shot, then Devil in Disguise, Where There's Smoke, Heart of a Knight, Second Chances, Worth Bargaining For, Eden's Warrior (my one shot at Bombshell - don't you love that title?), Vanished, Surface, and now DLB. How scary is it that I can go to a book that I wrote in 2001, or whatever, and my style hasn't changed? Have I not grown? Have I learned nothing in nine manuscripts? It's kind of disheartening. I mean, Hot Shot isn't my first book. There least 9 before that (OMG). Maybe if I went back to those first books, I'd see growth. But I don't, at least stylewise, from the first Hot Shot to the latest. Plotwise, yeah. But not in my voice.

Should that change, develop over time? Has yours?

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First Chapter

So as I’ve been revising, I’ve noticed something. My first chapters are not as good as the rest of the books.

So I’ve been wondering why this is. Is it because I’ve reworked the first chapters over and over based on critiques or contest entries, and I’ve gotten tired of them? Or is it because I’ve reworked the first chapters over and over based on critiques or contest entries and I’ve written a “chapter by committee?” Or do I not find the groove until chapter two? (I think this is probably the least likely, but could be…)

I know me. I write a chapter. I get excited about it. I get someone to read it. Someone points out flaws. I fix. I send out. More flaws. I fix. You get the picture. At some point, I believe it’s not my work anymore.

It all comes back to the theme – “protect the work.” If only I could learn to trust my own instincts.

But what if it is the groove thing? I mean, starting a book is so hard, finding that balance. What to tell, what to leave out. It's hard. How do you achieve the balance?

I mailed my agent requested ms and two contest entries today (one contest was the Emily, which is Houston sponsored. The postal worker asked if I thought Houston would be there Saturday!) I'm anxious to get back to work on DLB.

And Gerry, you're a handsome guy, but let's give the v-necks a rest, okay?

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Hot Shot and Beneath the Surface both finalled in the top ten of the Romance Junkies contest!!!! WHOOO!!!

Lost premieres tonight (while I’m at my son’s gig – ARGH!) and if you haven’t already started watching it, here are 10 reasons you should.

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10) Relationships. You have Charlie and Claire: Claire was pregnant when they crashed, Charlie was a junkie. He became her protector, though, and now her child’s. The twist – they found heroin on the island, and Charlie knows about it. What will he do? Then you have Sun and Jin, the Korean couple. She’d been ready to leave him, and now….. who knows? And then there’s the Jack/Kate/Sawyer triangle, which is quite sexy.

9) Mysteries. What are the numbers? Who was on the radio? Who are the strangers? Why did THOSE people survive? Each answered question raises so many more.

8) It won an Emmy – that’s not a fluke.

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7) JJ – the man is brilliant.

6) Sawyer. He is so so bad.

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5) Monsters. What is knocking down all the trees?

4) Locke – of all the characters, he’s the most mysterious, has the strongest connection with the island. Why?

3) What is in the hatch???

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2) It has a hobbit.

1) The fans – anyone who watches it HAS to talk about it.

New Orleans' holdouts have no regrets

An incredible lady.

New Orleans' holdouts have no regrets

ABC News: Missing Argentine Men Sought in Antarctica

This is really interesting.

ABC News: Missing Argentine Men Sought in Antarctica

The Talk

6000 posts!!! Whoo-hoo!!! that's over 1000 in one week!

I got The Talk this weekend. You know, the "You're spending too much time at the computer and not enough time with your family" talk. My dh said I don't talk anymore, that I'm always "typy, typy." He wanted to go to a new shopping center this weekend (they have an Apple store - he's not usually a shopper) but I didn't want to go because of my writing. We used to do things on Sundays, even just going to movies, but now I'm in front of the computer. Even at dinner, I'm thinking about my story, and as soon as I finish eating, it's back to the ms. I'll take occasional breaks to watch TV, but I'm always up late, awake early, working on these books.

I try to explain that once the books are out of here, that I can take more time, that I hate having books "owed" to people. He knows me well enough to know that as soon as these books are done, I'll be on to another project. Especially, like I told my friend Cindi last night, since I need to get Surface and DLB to ST length before the GH.

So, yes, I know, I need to find a balance. I'm not exercising, my yard looks like hell (I have empty pots - I NEVER have empty pots), my house looks like hell. There are contest entries and tyvek envelopes all over my counter. My laundry is still in baskets. My bathrooms get a lick and a promise. But I'm so afraid that if I stop, if I slow down, I'm going to lose the opportunity. And I feel so guilty when I'm not writing.

I will find the balance, I swear. After these two books are out the door.

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Entering the Golden Heart

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Tomorrow the information for entering the Golden Heart and the Rita contests will be up on the RWA website. I plan to enter this year, at least two manuscripts. If they let me reenter Hot Shot, I may. I'm considering entering the single title category instead of the long contemporary, but I don't know if that will make a difference.

I'll enter Beneath the Surface, and I want to enter Don't Look Back, even though I just started it in the contest circuit. Usually I don't enter a manuscript that doesn't have prior success, but I didn't really give DLB much of a chance.

There's nothing like the cachet of finalling in the GH, except maybe winning! When I finalled the first time, I got emails from people I didn't even know congratulating me. I was on air for days. When I finalled the second time, it was more of a relief.

One of the benefits, other than being able to put "Golden Heart finalist" in my queries, is getting to know women with similar experiences and goals. Chapters and email loops are great, but not all writers are on the same level. One of the things I noticed when I joined the GH loop was that these women were all ACTIVELY seeking publication. Some still are, some have achieved it. Some had been writing longer than my 11 years, which both encouraged and discouraged me. After all, I'd been told that being a GH finalist made my career, and here were women who'd finalled before and hadn't sold. BUT they hadn't stopped trying. Yeah, they got discouraged, but they didn't give up.

I loved getting my little golden heart, in fact, I wore it to school for a week. (This was when I was at the job I hated.) I loved getting the attention at the Merritt conference, which was a week or so after the announcements. I loved getting to go to NYC and Dallas, meeting these women I'd only known online, celebrating. That's why I'm willing to put up $150 (gulp) again, for that chance.

Here's a great article about being a GH finalist.
Golden Heart Finalist

So who here is entering? I believe you have till the middle of November to sign up, and till the beginning of December to submit your ms. JoAnn, if you can finish Damien, I think you should enter.

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Season Premiere Week

Season premiere week is here! This was always something I looked forward to as a child. We’d get the TV guide at the store ahead of time (the only time we’d ever buy it.) We’d pore over it, see what looked good, make a plan. We’d eat early dinners those nights, take early baths and convene in the living room in front of the TV, sometimes with popcorn, sometimes caramel apples, sometimes just caramels. I don’t know why I remember it being cooler – it’s never cool in September in Texas. But I just remember the coziness, and the way my mom made it an Event.

I continued the tradition into my adult life, but season premiers became more scattered. BUT, this week is a big ‘un. We have Desperate Housewives, Las Vegas and Lost returning. I’m checking out Surface, and Bones (though I wasn’t mad about the first episode.) I want to see E-Ring, but it’s opposite Lost. Then there’s Invasion after Lost, and Night Stalker, but that premiers next week, I think, after Alias.

Other than that, I don’t know about many new shows. What are you looking forward to? What have you heard great things about?

And how long do you give a new show before you decide if it’s going to be a regular date for you?

If only these books were out the door so I could relax and enjoy!

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This sounds familiar...

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It's a Romance, Stupid!

The very first time I talked to editor Shannon Godwin, she said, "Oh, yours is the romance novel without the romance, right?"

Yeah, I get that a lot. I don't write straight romance. I used to, when I started, but then I wrote Hot Shot, and I can't move a story forward without some action. Problem is, it seems to take away from the emotional depth of my story. I keep my characters on the same page most of the story, but that's not enough to move a romance forward.

There are four stages of romance: Attraction, Respect, Trust and Love. I think part of my problem is that my characters move to Trust too early in the story, at least where the external conflict is concerned. They have to depend on each other in life and death situations, so they can trust each other with their lives pretty early on. It's their hearts they can't trust, and I suppose I need to make that more clear.

The funny thing about being a romance writer who doesn't write romance (you know, other than the title), is that I love romance. I love happily ever afters, I love watching the unfolding love story, I love the connections between the characters. I just can't seem to bring that to the page.

Hey, ask Trish how many cliches she found in the first few pages of DLB - I think it's like half a dozen!

This picture of Gerry's from the Beowulf premiere in Toronto - Bosey, have you seen it yet?

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Just found out I placed third in the PASIC with Where There's Smoke, my straight romance. No request, but it comes with a check, which I'll reinvest in another contest. Am I shameless or what?


I'm already itching to write something new. I've been revising 5 days and already, my muse is burning for a new project. I don't even have one, not well developed, and I didn't plan to write anything new until the new year - have lots of projects that need revisions. Maybe my muse knows that and she's pissed.

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Photo in the News: Rare White Giraffe Spotted in Africa

Photo in the News: Rare White Giraffe Spotted in Africa

How to Write a One Page Synopsis

Yes, it's 1:45 AM, I'm wide awake, drenched with sweat, perfectly miserable as my AC tries to keep the house at 76 degrees. All I can think of is that the poor evacuees have it so much worse, and I can't sleep, even in my own bed.

Plus, my feelings are hurt because my principal removed a child from my class because the parent didn't like me. She met me twice, didn't give me much of a chance, had him removed based on the child going home and complaining about me. Now you know there's two sides to every story. I wasn't allowed to give mine. I know, I should be glad not to have to deal with that parent anymore, but instead, my feelings are hurt.

My story may not need as much work as I thought. I finished the scene cards last night (is it last night if I haven't been to sleep yet?), and I'm thinking of the work I need to as pushing the story out on all sides, making it three dimensional. I hope I'm up to it. I think it has emotion in spades.

AND, I got an email from an agent asking for the complete of Hot Shot. Yay!

So, in my years in the cyber-writing world, I've come across some ways to write agood short synopsis. I thought I'd share them, since they're very helpful in contest synopsis writing.

First para: hook
Second Para: hero/heroine intro
Third Para: hero or heroine intro
Fourth Para: conflicts to be overcome
Fifth Para: resolution


Who are you writing about?
What happens to them?
How do they affect one another?
What threatens their happily ever after?
How do they overcome it?

OR, from

What is the dramatic issue at the core of the story?
First sentence of synopsis identifies what is at stake in the story.
The characters manifest the story.
Characters are described in relationship to what's at stake in the story.
Commuicate what is dynamic and engaging about your story.
Choose opening sentence that communicates purpose in th strongest, most
engaging language.

Right. Like it's that easy.

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Real ones, today. The ones you have when you're asleep.

Last night I dreamed about my grandmother, the one who died last summer. I dreamed that she was in the car with me, we were going out to eat, I was so happy. I kept thinking I needed to go visit her more often, so apparently in my dream, she was alive and staying somewhere and I'd just found out. I used to have the same dream about my grandfather, I'd dream that we'd go to my grandparents' house, and there he'd be, but he hadn't been there. It wasn't that I was dreaming I was too busy to go see them, it was that they'd been somewhere else, and then they were back.

I haven't gone to the cemetery since Gigi died. Could that be the reason behind the dream? I just can't see that I'd be happy going there, ya know?

Another recurring dream I have is that there's a room in my house that I didn't know was there. In my dream, it's always a dining room, with this really heavy Spanish furniture, old fashioned, dusty - not mine. All around the room are bookshelves, low ones, filled with books, but old, ratty hardcovers, not books that would interest me. It's just so weird to find another room in my house.

Anyone know what these dreams mean?

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Contests, schmontests!

Lone Star EMMY Chapter: 2005 Lone Star EMMY Nominees

My dh is up for an Emmy!!!! Under PSAs!


If you can be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains.
If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles.
If you can eat the same food everyday and be grateful for it.
If you can understand when loved ones are too busy to give you time.
If you can overlook when people take things out on you when, through no fault of yours, something goes wrong.
If you can take criticism and blame without resentment.
If you can face the world without lies and deceit.
If you can conquer tension without medical help.
If you can relax without liquor.
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs.
If you can do all these things.

Then you are probably the family dog.

I have Open House tonight, and I've been up since 3:30. Sigh.

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As I’m going through my manuscript, I’m finding a LOT of clichés. I guess this is to be expected when the story is pouring out – no time to stop to think of a creative way to put it, I guess. Maybe since the theme of the story, for Del anyway, is that “there’s no place like home,” it’s hard to avoid the clichés that come in the writing.

You know, “her heart pounded,” “his blood chilled,” “hairs prickling on the back of his neck.” Wow, that was just on three pages.

So how much of leaving that is lazy writing, and how much can you leave in revisions? Clichés are clichés because they bring an immediate picture to mind, right? They make that immediate connection with the reader. But too many rob your writing of your voice, the uniqueness that is you, that will make you stand out from the crowd.

I think it’s more acceptable in dialogue, because people do use them in speech, but even dialogue can be overloaded. Of course, that can be humorous, having a character who knows about every cliché ever uttered.

I think clichés are more prevalent in genre fiction. Years back I bought THE ROMANCE WRITER’S PHRASE BOOK. Holy cow. If I’d used that book, I never would have found my voice. I wonder if the author went through a bunch of romance novels and pulled out all the “heaving bosoms” and “eyes the color of the seas.” (I don’t know if those are in there – I sold the book a while ago.)

Here are some I’ve heard a published author was told not to use, because of overuse.

- Every fiber of her/his being
- muffled a gasp
- alarm bells rang in her head
- shivers of awareness
- heart dropping to her stomach/pit of stomach
- the heroine licking her lips and the hero focusing on them and getting
turned on
- the heroine biting her lip as a nervous trait
- the heroine making a silent “o” with her mouth when in shock
- thinking of a situation as spinning out of control
- heroes pulling heroines into their arms
- the broad expanse of a hero’s chest
- the hero running his hands through his hair when he’s upset (mine scrubs his hand down his face, so that would probably be cliché, too.)
- the heroine keeping secrets from the hero, trying to handle it on her own

Oh, and one that annoys me, and is used by a VERY popular author, is when something is described as “impossibly ___.” Impossibly blue eyes, impossibly hard muscles, etc.

Clichés are more than just phrases, though. And in romance, we have a lot. Harlequin, I know, is trying to get away from the predictable or unrealistic, like the heroine not calling the cops after being threatened. That’s not something a person would do, and it’s manipulating the character for the sake of plot. It makes it too easy on the writer, and while we’d all like it to be easy, easy isn’t different. Different is what garners attention, and that’s what we want, right?

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Where the Magic Begins

Beneath the Surface finalled in Where the Magic Begins! My scores were not great - 183, 180 and 165 out of 200, but I made the cut and it's going to Abby Zidle. Where the Magic Begins was the first contest I ever won, so it has a special place in my heart!

Feeling Too Much

I thought, this being the Anniversary, that it would be a good time to reflect on why we’re writers. I contend it’s that we feel too much, more than ordinary people, and that we need a place to put all those extra emotions, so we write.

I can’t tell you how many blogs I’ve visited the past couple of weeks where the authors are so twisted up about Katrina they can’t write. I remember the same reaction from many writers after 9-11. I’m not saying writers are more sensitive than others – there are certainly all manner of people helping right now – but I think it’s so much easier for us to put ourselves in those people’s situation. After all, that’s what we do every day, right?

Maybe it’s being a woman that opens us up, but I think being writers takes us that extra step, takes us to the Superdome, to Biloxi, and four years ago, to the crumbled financial district, the field in PA, the burning Pentagon. People see it on the news, but we are there, we are the ones getting the phone calls, we are the ones handing our children to the men in the helicopters, we are the ones choosing to live or die.

I have to shut myself off from the pain. I have to, to survive. This summer my brother’s good friend drowned on the Fourth of July. I cannot let my mother tell me the story. I can’t. Because the day Julian died, my own son was in a lake, and my fear is that it so easily could have been him. So I have to pull down the wall (I see it as one of those rolling metal doors) and block it out. I cannot let my brother talk to me about it, and I feel like a terrible person, but I can feel that mother’s pain as if it was my own.

This kind of ties back into the whole “writing as an escape” thing. Maybe I used my writing these past two weeks to escape from the horrors I was hearing, to have some control. And as terrible as I was to my h/h, I KNEW they’d come out okay in the end. That they’d have each other, that they’d make it home.

I wish I had that kind of power in real life.

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So, after watching one movie last night, I’m going to start working on revisions. Here’s my plan: I’m going to put each scene on a scene card, then put away the ms, and just use the scene cards, flesh out who’s in the scene, the senses, the emotions, the goal, etc. Once I’ve done this through the whole book, I’m going to go back and make the changes to each scene, making sure it has all those elements in the scene. I know one of the scenes toward the end needs LOTS of work, emotion wise.

Then, once those changes are made, I’m going to go back through and slice and dice Del’s point of view, make it more sparse, very bare, so his POV scenes are different from hers.

Oh, and I'm going to add a love scene because I think it's important. I actually have more luxury of time than I thought, since Susan hasn't gotten back to me on the Q/S yet.

I want to send the back end of the ms to my cp, but I’m still very sensitive about it. I may even send another story to my critique group for next month. I’ve never felt this way about a book before, like I can’t bear for anything to say anything bad about it.

I realized last night that I wrote it in 2 months. I’d written a bunch in June, but ended up slicing all but 8 pages, started on July 8 and finished on September 8. Huh….8 as a magic number.

So how do you work revisions?

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ADWOFF Cares--Help the ADWOFF Community Raise Monies to Help the Victims of Hurricane Katrina

ADWOFF Cares--Help the ADWOFF Community Raise Monies to Help the Victims of Hurricane Katrina

Advice on Avoiding Writer's Procrastination

Advice on Avoiding Writer's Procrastination


Louisiana's Wetlands @ National Geographic Magazine

Top Ten Reasons to See Serenity

I’ve just gotten on the Firefly bandwagon recently, thanks to friends like Trish, Kim and Julie T. We’ve watched the series, we bought the series, now we’re waiting for the movie Serenity, which comes out at the end of this month. Which leave you plenty of time to catch up on the series before the movie.

Here’s why you should see it:

10) It was written by Joss Whedon, the genius behind Buffy and Angel. I love Buffy and Angel, not for their paranormal bits, but for the character interaction and the dialogue. All three of us can quote Firefly nearly chapter and verse, right with the old fashioned Southern sayings. We haven’t mastered the Chinese cursing, yet, though.

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9) It’s a space western. Yeah, you heard that right. It’s set in space in a time similar to the Reconstruction Era in the South. Mal and his crew fought for the wrong side, and now they’re living beyond the reach of the Alliance.

8) Inara. That woman is gorgeous, and has the best costumes, like, EVER.

7) Incredible use of flashbacks. See "Out of Gas" and "Trash." Wow.

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6) It’s about honor. Mal realizes he can’t do a job, he rights his wrong. It still costs him plenty, but even though he’s a smuggler, he’s not a criminal.

5) The cast. Joss is amazing at creating an ensemble cast. In Firefly, you have the Captain, Mal, and his sidekick Zoe, who fought together during the war, Zoe’s husband, the pilot, Wash. You have the mechanic, Kaylee, who is such a GIRL. She’s adorable. And the way she got the job – LMAO. Then Inara, who is a “companion,” a legal prostitute, who rents one of the shuttles for her business, but is always so gentle and soft-spoken, except with Mal. You have Jayne, the tough guy who wears the hat his mother made him. Then you have the passengers, Shepherd, a preacher with a mysterious past and the doctor and his stowaway sister with special abilities, who are running from the Alliance (we think, we’re not sure) and getting the Serenity crew in more trouble than she can handle. There’s not one of them miscast, though I could do without the doctor. Jayne has some of the best lines. And I’m curious as all get out about Shepherd – hope the movie answers that question. The relationships are so intricate – Wash and Mal have a kind of rivalry over Zoe. Kaylee and River are almost like children. Jayne pretends not to care, but doesn’t want anyone to know the bad stuff about him.

4) The song about Jayne – and the look on the doctor’s face when he hears it.

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3) The mystery. Who is Shepherd, really? How does he know so much about violence? What about River? And the men with the blue hands??

2) Mal, the hero. You almost forget he was Caleb trying to kill Buffy.

1) The sexual tension between Mal and Inara is through the roof, leading to some of the best dialogue in television history. Yum and Yum!

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Firefly Life Lessons


Just finished my rough draft. Yes, as you can see on the word meter, I'm 13 pages short, but I'm confident that will expand on revisions.

There really is nothing like writing The End.

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Inferiority Complex

Oh, my God, did you READ the interview with Lisa Kleypas in the RWR? Okay, it’s not enough that she’s GORGEOUS and a genuine lady (met her at the Merritt one year), or even that she got published when she was 21 (she said desperation drove her – uhhh…). But now she’s writing for 2 publishers – historical for Avon and contemporary for SMP.

Then there was the June issue, I think, with an interview with Sherrilyn Kenyon who writes for a kabillion publishers, and – no lie – can write 100 pages in a DAY. A DAY. My personal best is 26 pages in a day and it about killed me.

Should we mention Julie Kenner, who also writes for a kabillion publishers and did so while a fulltime lawyer and mommy to a small child? I know, teachers have a lot of extra work, but not like a lawyer. Criminey. And I didn’t start writing seriously till my boy was 5, and even then, it wasn’t all that serious, ya know?

I won’t even talk about la Nora, who writes 8 hours a day. Monday thru Friday. Then cooks dinner. Dude, if you were Nora, would you cook ever again? NOT me. If I didn’t like going out, I’d have a cook. (I hate to cook, see? Especially with no OVEN.)

What about Shirley Jump, who writes for a couple of publishers and freelances? Does she sleep?

Then there’s this published writer in my chapter who can go off on an idea that pops into her head and have it PLOTTED in 45 minutes. Not just a novel. A SERIES. It is astounding to watch. Unbelievable.

So I’m feeling a little inferior right now….damn, did you get that? A HUNDRED pages in a day.

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How To Identify a Writer

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Boring Writing

First of all, I wrote 26 pages yesterday. I knew when I got to the new stuff it would go fast!


DISCLAIMER: Trish, JoAnn, Olga, the following blog post has NOTHING to do with your writing. You are wonderful. I SWEAR. (I mention this because I've read their stuff, and I know the paranoia of writers. I REALLY know it.)

I read a couple of contest entries recently that were technically perfect. There was conflict, the POV was clear, the dialogue was natural. All the things you can grade and give a 5 on the scoresheet.

Thing was, they were deadly dull. No personality, nothing to make them stand out from the crowd. And isn't that what we want, to stand out from the crowd?

I don’t know what causes this. Is the story edited to death? Or did the writer read every how to book and plot out the book accordingly, allowing no room for voice?

I do know one writer that has been working on a book for five years. And whatever the market trend is, she revises the book toward that. The same story. The story is dead. It's no longer her vision. I have to wonder. I mean, I believe in Hot Shot, I really do. I've revised him a lot. But I think I've put voice IN,not taken it out. That I've put more of myself, more emotion, more depth into the story. I dunno.

When I read (anything - contests, pubbed books), I'm looking for a play on language, imagery, something that shows some imagination. Plot twists are good. Unique heroes and heroines. Sexy heroes (not so much heroines.) Even fun subplots. I WANT to find something good.

Just don't bore me ;)

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I got this email today, looking very official, with the Paypal logo and the sidebar about protecting your account. Note the grammatical errors.

Protect Your Account Info
Make sure you never provide your password to fraudulent websites.
PayPal will never ask you to enter your password in an email.

For more information on protecting yourself from fraud, please review our Security Tips at
Protect Your Password
You should never give your PayPal password to anyone, including PayPal employees.Upgrade Your Information

It has come to our attention that your PayPal billing information are out of date. This require you to update billing information as soon as possible.
This billing update is also a new PayPal security statement which goes according to the established norms on our terms of service (TOS) to reduce the instance of fraud on our website.

Please update your records on or before Sept. 10, 2005. A failure to update your records may result on a suspension of your account.

To update your PayPal records click on the following link:

This new security statement will helps us continue to offer PayPal as a secure and cost-effective payment service. We appreciate your cooperation and assistance.

The PayPal Team
Please do not reply to this email. This mailbox is not monitored and you will not receive a response. For assistance, log in to your PayPal account and choose the Help link located in the top right corner of any PayPal page.

PayPal Email ID PP295

What I Don't Get

I haven't blogged about the hurricane because it just hits too hard, ya know? But what I don't get, other than the obvious preparedness question, is why people do things like walk-a-thons and telethons and concerts to raise money. Wouldn't people who are going to give money give money without that? I don't understand people who won't give unless they get something out of it. Can someone explain this to me?

Abbott and Costello in the Computer Age

WHOO-HOO!!! 5000 hits!!!! I feel like celebrating!!!

Maybe after I get my hero out of the dungeon, huh?

If Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were alive today, their infamous sketch, "Who's on First?" might have turned out something like this:


ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?

COSTELLO: Thanks. I'm setting up an office in my den and I'm thinking about buying a computer.


COSTELLO: No, the name's Lou.

ABBOTT: Your computer?

COSTELLO: I don't own a computer. I want to buy one.


COSTELLO: I told you, my name's Lou.

ABBOTT: What about Windows?

COSTELLO: Why? Will it get stuffy in here?

ABBOTT: Do you want a computer with Windows?

COSTELLO: I don't know. What will I see when I look at the windows?

ABBOTT: Wallpaper.

COSTELLO: Never mind the windows. I need a computer and software.

ABBOTT: Software for Windows?

COSTELLO: No. On the computer! I need something I can use to write proposals, track expenses and run my business. What do you have?

ABBOTT: Office.

COSTELLO: Yeah, for my office. Can you recommend anything?

ABBOTT: I just did.

COSTELLO: You just did what?

ABBOTT: Recommend something.

COSTELLO: You recommended something?


COSTELLO: For my office?


COSTELLO: OK, what did you recommend for my office?

ABBOTT: Office.

COSTELLO: Yes, for my office!

ABBOTT: I recommend Office with Windows.

COSTELLO: I already have an office with windows! OK, let's just say I'm sitting at my computer and I want to type a proposal. What do I need?


COSTELLO: What word?

ABBOTT: Word in Office.

COSTELLO: The only word in office is office.

ABBOTT: The Word in Office for Windows.

COSTELLO: Which word in office for windows?

ABBOTT: The Word you get when you click the blue "W".

COSTELLO: I'm going to click your blue "w" if you don't start with some straight answers, OK, forget that. Can I watch movies on the Internet?

ABBOTT: Yes, you want Real One.

COSTELLO: Maybe a real one, maybe a cartoon. What I watch is none of your business. Just tell me what I need!

ABBOTT: Real One.

COSTELLO: If it's a long movie, I also want to watch reels 2, 3 and 4. Can I watch them?

ABBOTT: Of course.

COSTELLO: Great! With what?

ABBOTT: Real One.

COSTELLO: OK, I'm at my computer and I want to watch a movie. What do I do?

ABBOTT: You click the blue "1".

COSTELLO: I click the blue one what?

ABBOTT: The blue "1".

COSTELLO: Is that different from the blue "w"?

ABBOTT: The blue "1" is Real One and the blue "W" is Word.

COSTELLO: What word?

ABBOTT: The Word in Office for Windows.

COSTELLO: But there are three words in "office for windows"!

ABBOTT: No, just one. But it's the most popular Word in the world.


ABBOTT: Yes, but to be fair, there aren't many other Words left. It pretty much wiped out all the other Words out there.

COSTELLO: And that word is real one?

ABBOTT: Real One has nothing to do with Word. Real One isn't even part of Office.

COSTELLO: STOP! Don't start that again. What about financial bookkeeping? You have anything I can track my money with?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: That's right. What do you have?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: I need money to track my money?

ABBOTT: It comes bundled with your computer.

COSTELLO: What's bundled with my computer?

ABBOTT: Money.

COSTELLO: Money comes with my computer?

ABBOTT: Yes. No extra charge.

COSTELLO: I get a bundle of money with my computer? How much?

ABBOTT: One copy.

COSTELLO: Isn't it illegal to copy money?

ABBOTT: Microsoft gave us a license to copy Money.

COSTELLO: They can give you a license to copy money?


(A few days later)

ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. May I help you?

COSTELLO: How do I turn my computer off?

ABBOTT: Click on "START"...

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Hokey Pokey

"The Hokey Pokey" (as written by W. Shakespeare).

O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.
Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke,
A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
To spin! A wilde release from Heaven's yoke.
Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.
The Hoke, the poke -- banish now thy doubt
Verily, I say, 'tis what it's all about.

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Movie Database

Movie Database

OpinionJournal - Peggy Noonan

OpinionJournal - Peggy Noonan

Cards for Men

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Poke Poke Poke

What throws you off writing?

The other day I came home excited about my story, eager to work. My h/h found some downtime, alone in a motel, clean sheets after days of driving through mud. My heroine was in bed, wearing a t-shirt and underwear, watching my hero lock the door, thinking how domestic it seems in the middle of Africa, how she's only spent time with this man for a few days but feels so strongly about him. My hero was fighting his desire for her, but wanting her, wanting a future with her, more than he dare to hope.

I get the mail on the way in, sit at the computer and two things happen. I get a rejection from Kelly Harms about the danger of action adventure heroes being cookie cutter, and I get an email from Miss Snark who won't read the story because of the terrorist slant.

Lemme tell you, that deflated my balloon really quick.

Later that evening, I went to see the comments on my story on Miss Snark's blog and they raised my hackles.

Not only did I lost the urgency for my story, but I kept going back to these two things, kinda like poking myself with a sharp stick. See how easy it is for me to believe the bad? Hard to believe things can be good, easy to believe I've shot myself in the foot with targeting action adventure books and spending so much time on my WIP.

Contest comments can do the same thing, derail me from my story, take the sheen off the love affair I have with it.

So, lesson learned. Protect the work.

Now, back to that love scene....

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Got an email last night - "NJRW's Put Your Heart in a Book finalists...will be delayed. Now that's just cruel.


Oh, the thrill of it. You check the calendar. The date is here. Finalists will be announced today in the Put Your Heart in a Book contest. Will Beneath the Surface final and head on to Abby Zidle? Or will it tank because the hero and heroine didn’t meet soon enough? Worse, will it miss finalling by a fraction of a point?

You know the feeling. The day arrives, and every time the phone rings, you answer before it can even echo. You grow snippy with wrong numbers, telemarketers, your darling husband. Don’t they know you’re waiting for something IMPORTANT?

You check your email every five minutes. Maybe the coordinator won’t call. Maybe she’ll email you. Then you see a message that someone in another category has been notified and you jump all over her. How did she find out? When did she find out? EXACTLY what did the coordinator say?

You’ve got contest fever, and you’ve got it bad, baby.

Entering contests is an addicting habit. Those of us seriously hooked buy binder clips, paper and ink in bulk, skulk into the post office to nip stacks of Tyvek envelopes, create detailed documents outlining entry deadlines, final judges and “finalist notified by” dates, keep the post office in the black with postage and return postage.

Contests are a valuable tool if you:

A) need to push yourself to meet a deadline;
B) want feedback on a new project, or
C) want to get your work in front of a particular editor who may be judging the final round.

Contests have a tight timetable, unlike real world publishing, which seems to run on its own calendar. The coordinators need to get entries to judges, give the judges ample time to score, then notify the finalists and get their entries to the editor judges within a specific frame of time. Therefore, they have deadlines that they enforce. If you want to see what a deadline feels like, if you need something to drive you to sit at the keyboard every day and get those words on paper, contests are one route. Make sure before you enter if the date is “received by” or “postmarked by.” It will save you a lot of money in postage if you’re a last minute entrant.

Contests offer a good opportunity for feedback, from a judge who won’t stroke your ego because she loves you. I like to enter contests that advertise trained or published judges, because I want someone who knows more than I do to critique my work. I also prefer contests where you can enter more pages, like the Orange Rose and Golden Gateway. The more of the story they read, the more feedback I get.

Keep in mind judges are human. What rings one person’s bell may turn someone else off. Several of this year’s Golden Heart finalists had 9s, 8s, and 3s. Something about those entries just rubbed a judge the wrong way.

Do with your feedback what you will. You wanted a fresh look at your work, but you might not agree with all the comments. Ultimately this is your book, and it’s your decision whether or not to incorporate the changes. But if you get more than one remark pointing out a problem, you might want to look at the manuscript again.

Getting your work in front of a desired editor is the hard part. To do that, you have to final, and to do that, you have to beat out dozens of other entrants. But if your book has been rejected again and again, contests may be the only way to get an editor to look at the work. Don’t make the mistake of spending too much time polishing those first chapters, though. If you do final, an editor may ask for the full, and you want to get it to her ASAP.

There are other factors to consider when choosing which contest to enter. Do you want your synopsis judged as well? Some contests don’t even ask for a synopsis. The Merritt does, Duel on the Delta doesn’t.

How many finals are enough? It depends on what your goal is in entering the contest in the first place. Is it to put a credit in your query letter? Is it targeting that elusive editor? You have to decide why and where to enter. Budget constraints could come into play here, as well, because aside from entry fees, you also need to pay postage and return postage, usually over $4 each way. I try to limit myself to one contest a month, but may cut back if I want to convince my husband we can afford the Atlanta conference.

My favorite part of entering is the thrill of it, the thrill of the validation when you get a comment, or a smiley, or a perfect score. You are a writer and you are GOOD. I love the anticipation of knowing you may get that call or email letting you know you are a finalist. It’s a high you want to feel again and again.

So I'm looking at Ticket to Write with a postmark deadline of tomorrow, and Oak Leaf with the received by deadline on Wednesday. Duel on the Delta, I have a bit of time.

Why do you enter?

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Also, I'm noodler of the month at Wet Noodle Posse - check it out!


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)

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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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