2 Blondes, 1 Redhead & a Reviewer

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

My RWA Recap

Well, my trip started out on a sour note.  Like many others I spoke with, getting to Anaheim was a challenge.  In my case, I couldn’t get a flight out of West Palm Beach so I had to drive an hour and a half to Ft. Lauderdale.  Then I hoped on a flight to Tampa.  Changed planes and hoped a flight to Chicago.  Then hoped a flight to Phoenix, then finally landed in Ontario where it cost me $200.00 for a car service to the hotel.  Needless to say, I was exhausted before the conference even started.  Oh, and my flight was delayed so instead of arriving at 8:30 PM, I got there after midnight.

Day 1 (Wednesday) was full.  I went to Disneyland with Leanne Banks and Cindy Gerard (shout out to my brother-in-law who works for Disney and gave me some free passes).  We hit a few rides, and then shopped a bit before going back to the hotel to get ready for the literacy signing.

I’ve been attending RWA for 20 years and I’ve never seen a bigger cluster f*^% than what happened at Anaheim.  Instead of alphabetically seating authors with a select few stars having their own tables, we were spread out like a rash with no rhyme or reason.  Wait, let me back-up for a moment.  The event wasn’t held at the hotel, it was at the Anaheim Convention Center.  On the plus side it was a large space so authors weren’t on top of each other.  On the down side, you had to walk through a construction zone to get there.  Once there, attendees were given a map with names and table numbers on it with a free highlighter.  The print was so small you couldn’t read the author’s names.  They should have given free magnifiers instead.

Aside from people not being able to find their favorite authors, I experienced something that I found disturbing.  I was seated next to a woman who had no sense of decorum.  Every time a person came to me to have a book signed, she would lean over and hand out her promo stuff while I was signing a book.  I wanted to slap her hand but decided corporal punishment wasn’t the best tact.  So what did I do?  I left the signing after about an hour because I was put off by the aggressive behavior and frankly, embarrassed by her rudeness.  While I appreciate that if you’re an e-pub getting your name out there is very important, just please don’t do it at my expense.

I felt a divide during the conference.  A kind of Us versus Them when it came to print authors and e-pubs.  Again, I get that e-pubbing is probably the future and it does allow you to write anything instead of writing a manuscript for print publication, there shouldn’t be this ferocious debate among members.  I even heard one woman say that since she’d self-pubbed 2 books on Amazon, she no longer needed workshops because she was already successful.  Really?  I’ve published more than 40 books and I still attend workshops.  You can never learn too much.  For example, I attended several workshops on electronic publishing because I know I’m way behind the eight ball on that subject.

I also scoffed at those authors who told me they didn’t need editors.  Again I ask really?  Every manuscript should be looked at with fresh eyes to catch not just typos or grammar mistakes but also for continuity.  When you’re the author, you’re so on top of the work that you often miss glaring mistakes.  I know I do.  But saying you don’t need an editor is kind of arrogant to me and I wonder how repeat sales go if you’re slapping up manuscripts without that crucial step.

Enough about that . . . on to the fun stuff.  As always, RWA is a working conference.  I had some face-to-face time with my agent.  We did some strategizing but we ended up having to do it in my room.  The only places to sit were out in the open and you couldn’t have a conversation without interruptions.  On my behalf, she met with a couple of e-publishers since I am going – albeit kicking and screaming – into the world of electronic publishing.  That’s one of the great things about RWA, your agent takes meetings with publishers and does the pitching for you.  Since I hate – and am terrible at – pitching, I was very happy she assumed that responsibility.

Then it was time for the Pocket/Gallery/Simon and Schuster dinner.  As always, it was a wonderful experience.  The meal was incredible and the networking and chatting continued from appetizers on the veranda right into the private dining room.  For whatever reason, we were a smaller group so it had a more intimate vibe.  And did I mention the food was spectacular?

On Friday, my workshop was a lot of fun even though it was at 8:30 AM *g*.  My agent, my editor and I went through the steps of how a book goes from idea to sale.  I actually learned a few things from my editor about the process.  There’s nothing more satisfying than sharing information that a lot of people aren’t privy to or haven’t experienced.  My agent and editor were especially helpful, explaining all the steps that lead to production.  The handout of publishing terms is available on the RWA website.

Post workshop, my agent, editor and I went for a working breakfast.  It was wonderful and productive.  Like a lot of authors, I get nervous when meeting with my editor.  I’m always sure I’m going to say something irreverent or slip and reveal my potty mouth.  I did well.  I managed to enjoy my eggs benedict without a single inappropriate joke or slip of the tongue and we made a plan for the future.

Sadly I missed the free Pocket signing on Saturday because I flew out at 6AM.  Apologies to anyone who went looking for the latest Finley book!  But I had to get home.  Which wasn’t much easier than getting there.  I left Ontario at 7:30 pacific time.  Then hoped a plane in Phoenix.  Then hoped a plane in Houston.  Then hoped a plane in Tampa.  Then hoped a plane to Ft. Lauderdale.  And opps – I accidently parked my car in short term instead of daily parking.  $125.00 later, I was on my way home.  And as usual, I was exhausted.

It’s me again :)

Babe Rhonda is off to Anaheim for the RWA conference, and I hope Babe Amy is feeling better after last week’s illness.  I’m feeling very Zen, having listened to Deepok Chopra on audible today. I think I may have been holding my dream so tight I was suffocating it, lolol. Today I heard and understood for the first time – detachment. Doesn’t mean giving up your goal, it means putting it out there, working toward it, but not squeezing it by the neck and dragging it down the block until it comes true. We’ll see!

I have always been big on goals, and lists, and visualization. Now I am taking a giant leap into uncertainty with the utter faith that I will end up where I am supposed to be. *om* lolololol – okay, I can’t take myself that seriously

On another note, I just need a few more tweaks on my middle grade manuscript and my agent thinks she will be ready for the world. Wish me luck – which according to Deepok is preparedness meeting opportunity. Do you think it is bad karma that the entire time I listened to the audio book, all I could think of was Mike Meyers and Jessica Alba?? In the movie The Love Guru – if you haven’t seen it, it’s pretty funny. I’ll leave you with a quote shared from

Guru Pitka: Please welcome, Celine Dion!
Jacques Grande: Ah! Dis is my day of lucky!


Have a wonderful day, everyone


Happy Wednesday!!

I am free wheeling this week – in between revision projects. I just read Self Editing for Fiction Writers – bought it off amazon for 9.99. The information was all stuff I knew – but I’m still glad I read the book. Sometimes we, me, I – need to have something presented in a different way to make it pop. Suddenly what I was dreading (a revision) is now a process I’m looking forward to, so that I can apply these refresher course lessons.

Dialogue, adverbs, paragraphing, word choice, beats, white space, narrative, point of view…It was a wonderful reminder of the mechanics, most of which I do naturally while writing my 20th + manuscript. Some areas need work – layering emotion, changing a perfectly good sentence so that it becomes a great sentence. I am guilty in parts of taking the easy way, telling versus showing.

When was the last time you took a course on something you thought you already knew? I highly recommend it!

Off to polish…




Mini Workshop–Characters

I know my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to writing. My strength is characters.  I’m sharing how I create one.  I have a series of questions I ask, and I write it down. That gets it solid in my mind.  Now. I might know that my hero likes a steak and eggs breakfast, but I won’t use it unless there is a breakfast scene.  but knowing those things, creating those elements in a character’s back story will give you lots to work with for that moment of….”who is the best character for this story?”

My questions are in regular font, comments in italic.

Personal Information:  Age, nationality, name, etc.  You think is the end all and its not.  We, as readers, could care less what they look like, make me care about them! 

 Job/Talent necessary for this story?    What made them chose this profession?

 I’m dealing with a virus in my current work.  My heroine has to be a scientist or connected to that virus in some way. 

What is their role in this story?

Their Goal, the reason they want it and the people or events that are stopping them. (That’s conflict) 

What were they doing 24 hours ago?   Why did they do it?  What does character NOT know about the central conflict at the start?   I like my characters coming in blind and knowing nothing about the current conflict.  Makes for lots of learning it, and most importantly HOW they learn the info. 

What’s the McGuffin? (the item they are searching for, if any)  McGuffin is a Hitchcock term.  Think Maltese Falcon or the Mission Impossible Rabbi’s Foot.  You never learned what the latter actually was, did you?

Last vacation?   Alone?  Family, Siblings, and the relationship between them and character.   These things make us who we are.

 What have they experienced that left marks?  Mental and Physical.  Everyone has trauma, be it small or life altering.  Now you’re thinking about how your character got to be who he or she is now.  Those events have left stains. 

 How were they raised?  Dad was a bully?  Mom was a scientist involved in her discoveries.  Get the meat of the past here.

 Who do they owe for the good/bad traits in them?   What are they?   This goes to their past.  I have a cleaning trait. I inherited that from my mom.

 What is their secret (internal) fear, secret talent, & secret wish?   What are they looking for, if anything, in their lives?   This is something deep seeded and private. They don’t tell anyone and would rather not admit it to themselves.  Or ….reverse it. Make it clear to all this character is possessed. 

What they love about the opposite sex?   What they hate about the opposite sex? Women stuff drives men crazy and men stuff make for divorce. <g> 

 Now its time to know the character in a normal, stress free situation.  Favorite meal music, drink?  Where did they take their last vacation?  Bad habits?  A favorite saying? 

 What pushes their buttons?  Little and big ones.   One of my little buttons is our dog cannot be in the house while we are having dinner.  He stares at you. =)  Think of larger buttons, like lying.

 Who could they count on for back up in a tough situation?  This would be the one person they would trust.  Know WHY they’d trust as well as who.  As a plot point, your heroine could put her turst in one person, and be betrayed for her own vulnerability to that person, or for the rose colored view of that character.

  See how we are getting plot? 

 What would they be willing to die for?   This, for a parent, is always the same, for my child.  But those younger and without the thrill of parenting, think differently.  Make certain you take that into account. 

 What’s their Achilles Heel?  Could it bring them down, and in what way?  This is critical as it is their breaking point.  What would make them snap?

 A personal conflict they struggle to hide or deal with?   Is it part of their Achilles heel?

 What’s missing from their lives?   (They don’t have to know it’s missing)

 What’s the 3 MAJOR tuning points for this character in this story?  If I don’t know what a turning point is, then most of this won’t make sense and writing isn’t the career for you.=)  They are major events in your story that change the direction of the story or for the character.  For these events send the story in a new direction.   They are very important but mostly, you need good solid reasons behind them.

 Does this character have a conflict with anyone else?   This is the conflict with the villain and his posse.  The Villain and your hero, the authorities.  All depends on the book.  But you can’t have an interesting story without lots of conflict.

 What are the Heavies (the bad guys) doing to this character?  You need to know the bad guys just as well as your protagonist.  They are the reason your character is having conflict so learn their reasons and past too.

My advice, do a characterization for each main character. I always do and get lots of plot to work with for the story.

I’ve created a Character Analysis that I’ve used for over 35 books. when I don’t I hit a wall.  I’ve only done that once and learned.  


Excerpted from World Building Roman Style by Traci Hall

World building is not only used to create novels, but for games too.  Video game designers create massive worlds that allow for players to move and grow (and sometimes die!) before they win. It is especially important for the world to be documented – rules, habitat, environment etc. so that the players have a ‘bible’, or a booklet, to refer to.  Really popular games are Halo, World of Warcraft, or Eve – and I know everybody has heard of the Sims.

Designing a world, or a stage, or an arena, takes a little time – I like to think of it as the foundation before building the house.  If I have a good grasp of my world, then by the time I flesh out characters, the plot is usually simmering at the back of my head.

I mentioned earlier how some people like to build from the universe down – for example, if you are writing a space travel, you would have to know things like where in the solar system you might be.  If there is water, or oxygen – or maybe you’ve created a type of being that doesn’t need those things.  And once you decide where you are, then you need your characters. How do your people travel in this universe?  Do they have magical skills?  Can they teleport? Are they in the future? What do the protagonists want or need?  Most importantly to the reader – why should they care?

If you like to build from the bottom up, maybe you start with the character.  You have an idea for a female firefighter from the 1960’s.  What was she like?  Where did she live? The city?  Or a small town, where they needed her skills as a driver, so they overlooked the fact she was a woman.  Think how strong this character might be! Does she have a family? Is she widowed with kids?

Perhaps you are the type of writer who likes to mix things up.  You have an idea for a plot.  It looks like the cat killed the mailman.  Is that actually what happens? Who does the cat belong to? How did it happen? Do they live in a house?  Or an apartment building? Is it current day?  Will the cat be put down?  Or will the manager of the animal shelter decide to risk her savings and fight the hot, hunky lawyer for the cat’s life?

These are just some examples of how having an idea, and asking questions, can lead to a solid foundation for a story

Welcome to mini-workshp week here at Babes . . . Need a few tips on agents . . .

There are many factors in finding and working with an agent.  It can be heaven or hell, so here’s a little checklist of things to keep in mind . . .

My Agent Can’t Give That Away




Finding that perfect agent:


1.      Don’t go agent hunting until you have a product to sell – or FINISH THE MANUSCRIPT!  Very rarely will a new author sell on proposal in this market.


2.      Do your homework.  Think about what you want from an agent.  Do you want someone hands-on or someone who just targets appropriate editors without offering edits?  Talk to friends, meet with potential agents at conferences, subscribe to; check RWA for a list of editors and check AAR status;  and then visit Predators and Editors or other informational sites.


3.      Think career and not just next sale.  Know where you would like to be in five years, ten years, etc.


4.      Know your own skill set and play to your strengths.  Never chase a market.


5.      Be realistic – an agent cannot sell what the market isn’t buying.


6.      Listen to your agent’s advice.  They have their ear to the ground and know more about the industry than you do.


7.      Be more realistic – be able to tell an agent when you can deliver a manuscript or a revision.


8.      Know an editor/agent’s taste.  Submitting a humorous manuscript to someone who loves dark and angst-ridden (even if you are friends) is not a smart career move.


9.      Think very long and hard before insisting your agent market an unmarketable manuscript.


10.    Use your agent as a resource, not the enemy.


11. Be professional.  Your agent does not need to know your daily troubles.


12.             Every editor and every agent work differently and have priorities (and lives):

A – Current/established authors;

B – Meetings and commitments;

C – New submissions.


13.    Keep your agent in the loop at all times.  Keep your editor in the loop only when necessary.  Otherwise, let your agent speak for you.


14.  Avoid hybrids.


15.  At conferences requests are common, acceptance is rare.


16. Don’t be afraid of change.  Your agent can fire you or vice versa.



5th o’ July….

I hope everyone had a great 4th of July celebration.  Imparting a small fact… the Declaration of Independence was not completely signed until August.

I’m a history buff, what can I say?  =)

Summer is getting away from me and slipping by too fast.  Is it doing the same for you?  please tell me I’m not the only person who let June vanish without so much as hey ye.

Off to bake in the sun on the boat!



Happy Independence Day!!

Happy 4th ofJuly everyone! I hope you’ve celebrated America’s birthday with cake and fireworks 🙂

I spent a wonderful day giving away free tall coffees  at Starbucks, then swimming in the ocean and going to a friend’s house for a BBQ. Friends and family coming  together to celebrate is always great. My sunburn? Ah, not so much. So I’m off to shower in aloe in time to watch fireworks…

love to everyone!


ps I will be interviewed tomorrow at   Come over and visit!

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