BabesinBookland

2 Blondes, 1 Redhead & a Reviewer

Archive for the category “Writing”

If you could have a whack at balancing the government budget, where would you cut first?

How convenient that this is the week’s topic with the Babes, considering the House and Senate are still sitting on their asses and not working out the budget that forced the shut down.
I live in a military town. There are two Marine bases and one Navy within 3 miles of my house. My husband is retired Marine, and a government contractor. I see suffering the shut down has already caused.
The commissary is closed. That’s our grocery store. For those Marine families living on Parris Island, without a second car, that’s the only place they can shop. So now, we deny essentials to women and children. The mess halls still run, but dependents can’t dine there. See how poorly this was set up? Secondly all that food that’s on a time limit will spoil, forcing the government to purchase more, doubling the cost and offering no profit. Already health care has been cut to the bone. Even the civilian staff was forced to take a furlough before the shut down. The government privatized services to the military such as housing and contractors are known for stiffing the government with a hefty bill. Anyone else see a problem?
Family Team building offices are closed, and this is a little social but mostly offering services like counseling, help with wills, deployments, babies, anything the family’s needs. The doors are closed today. All the services offered to single troops are closed, including the game rooms and clubs. So who does this benefit when the cost to run those service are minimal? By the way, Family Team building is mostly volunteer so all they are saving is the electric bill.
I mention these point becaseu aside a lot of military families losing WIC and any other assistance, I’m certain my area is just one example. There are thousands in like situations Military or not, and I haven’t even touched on the medical treatments now being denied. People could die from a damn shut down.
I heard on the news a senator spoke on the floor about why we shut down the staff gym but not the executive gym? I know you’re shaking your head, groaning like me and likely thinking “this is why nothing is done. You waste time over stupid crap.” The House &Senate can do a quick jog around the block like us poor folk. Cut the gym from the budget. Both of them.
Now what about that money the American tax payer paid out for the last crisis? Where are the billions owed by stock and AIG and all those damn insurance and brokerage houses that screwed us in the housing market? Did no one pay their fines? Did no one go to jail? And let’s not forget the automotive companies who came begging. Too big to fail crap started us on the downward spiral. Bush approved millions before he left office and then Obama added trillions to liars and corrupt corporations yet I don’t see anyone in jail, do you?
Politicians are lying to America. Big lies. 50 trillion to save the banks yet America is still suffering with foreclosures, corrupt loans and high fuel costs? Let’s add the insult that nearly 10% of Americans are out of work.
Cutting essential programs isn’t the answer. Cutting everything else is. House and Senate spend more money entertaining (lobbyists) than you and I spend in ten years. Flights, car rentals, hotels meals all courtesy of the American taxpayer. Is this right when one year’s salary for a senator would take my household out of debt– completely. Yes. All of it.
Any extra service to the House and Senate is next. America is tired of being punished for YOUR mistakes. Let them all learn to survive on a tight budget. Start bringing a bag lunch senator. Take your own car and fill it up at the local Texaco, not the gas pumps in the senate’s lower garage.
NASA goes too. No more space shuttle. None. We have to draw the line somewhere and billions spent for space doesn’t make sense when children in our country go hungry. Exploring space is not as important as exploring new energy, agriculture, and ways to save the poor. That leads me to …
The Department of Energy. They have not accomplished their mission. It was formed when gas prices rocketed in the 70’s with Jimmy Carter and hasn’t done much to change the fuel use in the US. lowering the speed limit to fifty five didn’t save gas. It’s the private sector who has developed cleaner fuel, wind mills, solar energy. Sorry, DOE, you haven’t proven your worth, times up. Now we just added forty million and each year after.
The IRS. Flat tax and we no longer need the IRS. Roosevelt said when it was implemented we’d never stop it, and he was right. Being taxed repeatedly for what we already own is unacceptable. Why should I pay tax on a car its entire life when I paid the tax when I bought it. It’s done. You cannot milk us every year.
How about when elections come around none of us vote. At all. Revolt. Then current jack asses will be out of office and we can start over.
Clearly, it’s not working.

Your thoughts?

AMY

Superstitions are ripe…

I’m going off topic today and want to talk about superstitions.  If you think you don’t have any in your life you are probably incorrect.  That idea came to me as I was perusing my shelves of books for a novel I knew I had purchased but could not locate it.  So as I stand here dictating this into a voice recognition, I count six books on superstitions, all research for paranormal stories.  I went a little overboard but then, I’ve been writing paranormal twenty years before publishers jumped on that wagon.

Everyone’s beliefs are their own but just keeping track of my superstitions for a couple of days made me realize that yes, I am superstitious.

If I spill salt, I toss a bit over my shoulder.  The Irish Cures, Mystic Charms and Superstitions by the Lady Wild, says never give away any salt or fire while the churning is going on for to upset the salt is exceedingly unlucky and a bad omen.  To avert evil, gather salt and fling it over the right shoulder into a fire with the left hand.  Yes, I do it just never that specific.

My mother believes in a custom that if you put your pajamas on inside out you weren’t supposed to take them off and turn them right side out, but to just keep them on.  I know that you’re not supposed to mend a dress while you’re wearing it (as in stitching up the hem) or evil and malicious reports will be spread about you. (so says Lady Wild’s book)

One of my superstitions is I have never lit a cigarette off of a candle. To do so is bad luck.  I heard that when I was in my twenties.  I also don’t blow out candles, but clap them out.  That came from my study of the craft for Irish novels and references not disrespecting the caretakers of the elements and well, it just never left me.

When I sweep the floor, I sweep towards the door and out over the threshold.  That sweeps all negativity out with the dirt.  There is even an Irish blessing framed and hanging in my hall near the door and below it is a broom with the bristles pointing upward. To keep goodness from spilling out.

I’m half Irish and half Sicilian and my Nana once told me that ‘The Jettatura can give you the molokia and you would be harmed.”  To protect against it she gave me a horn with a mustard seed inside.  I still have that horn somewhere in this house.

When we bought our house my father, an ordained Catholic deacon, blessed every doorway and window.  I truly felt that none of us could actually sleep in the house until then.  I had to clean out the negativity from the previous owners, who were divorcing.  That’s a part of my Catholic upbringing, however I also sage the entire house with a smoke sage and I salt my property.  Considering that we were robbed a few months ago I think I need to do it again.

I do remember my son when he was about fifteen years old trying to move a large mirror when he was told not to and it broke.  From that moment on my son had the worst fortune, barely made it out a high school, went to the Citadel and was hazed from 240 pounds down to 145 and looked like he was an Auschwitz victim.  His tour in the Marines left him so banged up he couldn’t stay in and he was injured in Iraq to the point that he’s disabled.  coincidence or not, I’m not one to dismiss it but am also not one to live by that either.

Yet I had a fortune cookie once that had my father’s favorite saying “Keep on keeping on.” I played those numbers on that stupid little fortune cookie and won several times until I lost the numbers.  Coincidence?   Yes.  Or perhaps it’s simply faith.

So, do you have any superstitions?

AMY

The Power of Words…

When I first learned this I was about 13, in the back of the family station wagon and under a blanket reading Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot.  I would have been in huge trouble for that, not for reading, but the subject matter.  It wasn’t the book a sheltered Catholic girl should be reading, however, it scared the crap out of me.  Really scared; so much that I had to stop, tuck it away and think of something else.  Quickly.  That’s when I realized that the author’s words were so powerful they terrified me.  I didn’t know if I could finish it.   I asked myself, “It’s a book. I’m scared of a book?”  As it is now, I understand that the way it’s written on the page, (i.e. printed) that had me breathing hard, sweating a little and thinking ‘ Oh please let good win over evil.”

It was my first King novel and wasn’t my last.  Some I couldn’t read they scared me so much.  I consider that a mark of excellence.  If the author can bring me to a tense state, then yes, they know the power of their words.  When I began writing, I remembered that childhood moment and it made me want to learn how to recreate that too.

My mom is a huge mystery fan and panics when there aren’t at least four unread books in the house.  I’m not that bad, but then again, I write them so there is a happy medium in there somewhere.  I have varied taste.  It depends on my mood, my current interest.   Last year I read almost all of the PJ Parrish books.  I love comedy and adore my pal Rhonda’s Finley Anderson Tanner series.  If I want a thriller, its Preston and Child, and if I want to read a historical, I immediately go for Connie Brockway, Jillian Hunter or Teresa Medeiros.  They have never failed me.  Oh, and neither has Stephen King.

So, readers… anyone give you that reading jolt?

Amy

The book that inspired…

Oh let’s jump on the Way Back Machine with Sherman and Peabody.   

Too dated? 

My career started pre-internet, so I don’t think I’m that off track.

I was a licensed Cosmetologist for 13 years.  Writing was out of left field for me.  I’d never written a word unless forced.  I was the mother of a 3 year-old and a newborn and Id organized myself into complete boredom when I’d picked up my first romance novel.  I read hundreds but with one novel, I was on page five or six and kept asking myself, ‘when is the description of a show boat going to end and the story going to start?’  That I even asked that question generated more and I believed I could do better.   Ha.

I still consider it arrogant of me to believe I could pick up a pen and be good enough to be published.  But then, I never considered being published at all.  That’s not why I write.  At that time in my life, my idea of a writer was scratching out on parchment by candle light in some cold dark apartment.  money was never a factor.  I just wanted to learn and studied extensively any how-to book I could find.  We were living in Okinawa Japan then and I wrote for any magazine, newspaper and TV guide who’d accept my work.  A few of those sales paid for the manuscript shipping cost to the US. 

It took me three years to write that first book.  It was rejected six times and rightly so.  It was so loaded with everything I loved about romance novels and vastly over written.  But it taught me how to write.  Believe it or not, a couple rejections were encouraging.  I was already onto the next story, and wrote My Timeswept Heart, a historical time travel about a Sgt Maj.’s daughter who travels back in time to end up with the Continental Marines of the Frigate Navy.  I should add that my fellow writers in the Okinawa Writers Guild thought I should forget a time travel and write a straight historical romance.  They insisted that a publisher would not buy a paranormal book from an unpublished writer. 

Needless to say, I didn’t listen to that piece of advice.

 Amy

Reading for inspiration . . .

 

rhonda

So what book inspired me to become a writer?  Gone With the Wind.  Yes, I know it’s a tome but when I read it I was transported into another time.  It was the first time that happened to me.  I think I was about 14 when I first read the book and I’ve probably re-read it a dozen times since then.  Everything was so vivid.  The setting, the characters, all of it.  If you’ve only seen the movie, then you need to read the book.  There are many, many differences from what made it to the big screen.

 

Scarlett is actually more selfish in the book, but at the same time, more complex.  In spite of her flaws, you find yourself rooting for her as the story unfolds.  And the backdrop of the Civil War really comes to life.  Especially when the characters confront the aftermath of the war.  Melanie isn’t as sympathetic as she is in the movie.  But Rhett is as hot as ever.  The sexual tension between Rhett and Scarlett is palpable.  Ashley comes off as the same wuss he is in the movie.  This IMHO is the only flaw in the book.  What does Scarlett want the weenie for when she can have Rhett?

 

The pacing of the story is what makes it such a great blueprint for a novel.  Give it a try.

 

There have been other books that I consider special.  Sydney Sheldon’s Master of the Game comes to mind.  For those of you who haven’t read it, the book is a multi-generational saga that starts in the diamond fields of South Africa and eventually ends up in New York several generations later.  It’s a sweeping tale with a large cast of characters who are perfectly delineated.  It’s the characters who make this story.  The plot is a bit contrived but you read on to find out what new strife befalls the characters.  It has wealth, intrigue and character conflict galore.

 

A great study in crafting characters.  Check it out.

Owning my flaws… let me count the ways

Oddly I think I had fewer flaws that bug me when I was younger.  Does that mean I’ve just grown into them?  Or am I just more aware of them now?

My wise father has always said, “We are all a work in progress.”  We learn constantly about ourselves and the world.  You can’t disagree with that.  One has to recognize, accept and learn from those flaws but only if you want to improve yourself.

I grew up in a clean house; therefore I clean mine constantly to keep that high level.  I clean as I go.  It’s not a flaw but a habit learned from mom.

So what’s the difference?  A flaw is detrimental.

I have a temper.  I’m the ONLY one in my family with it, too.  Really.   I’ve had to bite my tongue so much over the years I shouldn’t have one anymore.  During my husband’s Marine career, I didn’t voice my opinion much because often it was contrary to USMC policy.  I am the daughter of a Marine Colonel and had ‘what you do reflects on me’ hammered into my brain, so I know the consequences.

Being aware of my temper forced me to step back often, do the ‘count to ten before you speak’ or meditate, stuff like that.  I’ve tried to meditate but my mind is like a pinball machine, shooting from one topic to another.  I have ADD and consider it a flaw.  To balance that, I need lots of notes and reminders.

I could have been an addict.  I get obsessed with a subject sometimes.  I’ll pour over books, movies, documentaries to learn all I can on one subject.  I’ve done this with jewelry and candle making, perfume, pottery… well, you get the idea.  The thing is, I learn it all, and then I’m bored with it, set it aside and rarely go back unless it generates a novel.

I feel very strongly there is a standard in having a writing career and just being a decent human being. If you cross it, I will write you off.  Ethics and professionalism have a high moral value to me.  When a colleague reported to me that she and several writers were auditing a major publishing house, I printed that fact in an Op Ed piece.  Sans the names, of course.  She was auditing my publisher and the CEO called me, wanting to know the names.  I refused and if he had pursued, I could have gone to jail.  I would have done so gladly too.  So you see, I’m loyal to my friends.  When it comes down to basic need, the people in our lives are the only thing that matters.  I raise my sons to ‘surround themselves only with people who treat you as you treat them.’ Ditch the rest.  Life is too short.

With writing, I lack confidence in my work.  That wasn’t always the case but it seems the longer I’m at it, the more I see the flaws in my writing and want desperately to correct them and be better.  I’ll go back to the basics until I recognize that I already know this stuff, proving again my lack of confidence.  It’s a waste of time and effort and lately, I’ve managed to see if before I go off the reservation.  I’d like to blame the death of my friend and editor Kate, but that’s not all of it.  Add in menopause with its accompanying depression that just pisses me off, and that makes for a hot mess.  I hate disappointing readers.  I know I have.  They are waiting for a book that will likely not be published unless I do it myself.

To counteract this, I need a challenge.  A mental challenge.  Writing a historical– something I haven’t done nor read in 10 years– is it.  It’s slow, regaining the ‘voice’ is the toughest but I had to accept that the writing will never be the same because I’m not the same person.  When I reach the point that flowery descriptions don’t make me roll my eyes, I’ll be there.

Amy

when readers chime in….

I love hearing from readers, good or bad.  I’ve been fortunate to get terrific reviews, with the exception of a couple out right attacks.

The bad comments I take with a grain of salt for the simple reason I’ve experienced many where I know for certain they didn’t read the book or they read it so fast they didn’t catch the tell tale clues.  My books are not perfect by any stretch and I’m okay with that.  I’ve been at this for 20 years and I’m still learning.

Regardless, reviews are subjective opinion and you can’t please everyone.  Once a writer gets over that, it’s easier to take the harsh ones.  No one wants to be criticized but that’s the way of a writer’s life. The writer is putting their hard work out there for you to be entertained. If they don’t do that, they fail.  I’m the writer who always wants one more look at the manuscript before it goes out.  I worked a month ahead of my deadlines for just that reason.

Also, before I was published I worked with a critique group of mostly military personnel and they were brutal.  My skin grew thick quickly. They forced me to rethink and revise.  I owe them more than they ever realized.  I love it when a reader ‘gets it’ and this happened with my last book, Damage Control.   The reviews weren’t great but a few got my theme through the story.  Ah well, can’t win them all.

I think my advantage is I learned early, with my first couple novels, that once I give it to the editor, it’s not mine anymore. It’s theirs to edit, market, slap a cover on and sell.  It’s out of my hands and this is the big part, Writers have NO control after that.  They might talk a good game, but it’s the editor and marketing who control the release of a book.  I sank a lot of money into promotion that it did little to no good.  Being burned a few times keeps me scorch free.  Besides, they don’t pay enough for me to promote much, trust me.

When a reader sends a note about loving my book, it’s a boost.  Writing is solitary and it gets lonely at the keyboard.  A note is like chatting with a friend I’ve missed, a kindred spirit.  We revisit the story since by the time the book is released, I’m deep into the next one.  Right now, that’s a historical set in 12th century Ireland during the Norman Invasion.

AMY

 

 

Writers behaving badly…

Hum.  Do I get to name names?   No? Okay, fine. I have dish.

It’s Romance Writers of America conference in NYC some years ago.  Yours truly was a volunteer and the Line Gestapo at registration.  You had to have a face I.D.  You’d think we’d asked for a lung the way people complained.  However, I was informed by the fire marshal that the lines had to be neat and short in case of fire so we could leave without a stampede.  He wanted to shut us down and make RWA move to a larger room, it was that crowded.  I was vigilant, very Marine wife.

The face I.D. thing is what bothered the big wig historical author.  When informed, she said she didn’t have one but that will be okay. I repeat the RWA registration instruction and she insists, she won’t need an I.D. because all these people could vouch for her.  I told her that didn’t matter, no face ID and you’ll have to go to the longer line.

You’d think I’d slapped her.  “Don’t you know who I am?” she demands.  Loudly.

My response was, ”No, I don’t, but you should know that I am the  person you have to  get past to register.“  I walked away.  My work was done.

I didn’t have to repeat that story.  Several did it for me, bless their hearts.   After 20 years in this business, I have plenty of stories of authors full of their own crap, er.. self importance, but a couple stand out.

A NY Times bestseller at a luncheon with several newbies like me blabbed her advance numbers with, “Can you believe they only paid me a million two for two books?”

No, I couldn’t.

Let’s see…  At another NY conference a pal of mine won a little red rubber duck for asking the best question. She went around the conference and took photos of ‘famous’ writers with said duck.  I recall a photo of James Rollins with it on his head, another of it on a cop’s car on the New York streets and my favorite was Clive Cussler giving it a scolding.  Nearly everyone just jumped on the idea and played with it.

Nearly.

One International bestselling author, one of those who writes with another author, gives them second billing and never thanks them when the books win awards—was signing books.   Placing the duck on a stack of his books, my friend starts to tell him about the photos when snotty pretentious author flicked the duck off the book and across the room.  Very pointedly done too.  To a fellow writer no less.  A first class jack ass.

Need I say more?

Be a snot, I don’t care because I believe in my soul what you put out there, comes back to you three fold.  Send out good, and good comes back to you. But send out bad… speech, behavior etc. and you’ll get it right back in your lap. Three fold.  What goes around, comes around.

Besides people will tell the story next time–with names.

I live my writing career by a beloved quote from humorist Erma Bombeck, “Never forget your last book is only a garage sale away.”

 

Welcome to workshop week

rhonda

 

I’ve already vented about pantsers, so I’ll spare the diatribe.  Suffice to say I’m not a proponent of vomit it up and clean it up later writing.  Why write and edit yourself to death when you don’t have to?

 

So what’s my tip . . . don’t forget pacing when you’re plotting your book (or even writing the synopsis).  Your story has to unfold so the characters are different on page 500 from when we originally met them.  Pacing properly can help build this character and story arc.  You need to remember a few things . . .

 

First, your pacing should look like an EKG.  There should be peaks and valleys as the story unfolds.  There are places when you want serious action or deep emotional conflict and places where the story slows to develop information.

 

Second, sentence structure is the key.  If you’re writing for the valley – use longer, more descriptive sentences.  Conversely, for those high impact moments, you want short, stark sentences that convey urgency.

 

Third, don’t start in mega high mode.  If the emotional impact of the story or the action is at an all-time high, you don’t have anywhere to go.  Yes, your opening should be strong but if you start out at warp speed you have nowhere to go but down.  And you don’t want to write a story that is only on an upward climb.  The characters and story must unfold at a natural pace.  Think about it – you don’t get the same high when you buy a pair of shoes as when someone is shooting at you.  Okay, maybe that was a bad example, shoes are important.

 

So as you’re thinking through your story, remember to think not just in terms of character development or plot specific, think pacing too.  Keeps you from writing dead space.

 

Rhonda

Paper or megabytes?

Are you a techy or does paper still thrill you?

Its a lot bigger question than I’d first thought.

I’m a paper fiend.  But then, I’m a list maker.  When I have a list to accomplish, I’ll do it diligently to see it grow smaller.  Most times.  Paper reminders help me channel my ADD to work for me instead of against.  I own the fact that I can screw off like nobody’s business if I don’t have routine.  Yes, sometimes that’s exactly what people need.  But I get greedy and keep it up longer than I should.

‘Writers are allowed to waste paper.’  That’s a quote from Anne LaMotte during a workshop I was fortunate to attend over 15 years ago.  It was marvelous moment when an accomplished writer gave permission to write every wild thought down, even if you knew you weren’t going to use it.  It wasn’t the paper thing, but a nudge to explore further than I had.  A nugget of an idea suddenly grows to the premise, from there, story, characters, etc.  Ann scribbled notes on index cards.  She said it gave her more room to flesh out an idea a bit instead of a few words that months later, would make absolutely no sense.

I use 4 X 6 blank index cards.  I bet I go through 500 in under 3 months.  I love neon ones too.  But oddly, I’m judicious when I use them.  As if they are for the really good plot points.

In the world of wasting paper, I don’t print chapters on the back of old print outs for the simple reason that when I edit, the notes for furthering the scenes are on the back.  Once I ran the LRWA Jasmine contest and a writer sent a submission printed on the back of only work.  As a professional writer, this is very bad form. I let it slid because she obviously didn’t know it was unacceptable for a contest.  For any submission,  anywhere, any time should be your best work; properly edited and on unmarred paper.  its not the place to be frugal.

I felt angry I had to explain this when this person wanted to be in my profession yet did not bother to learn the basic rules. Yes in presentation, there are rules.  Just as there are when you appear for a workshop or a book signing, or as a guest.  Dress appropriately, speak clearly, try not to embarrass yourself and above all, thank your host and the attendants.  They are the readers first.  When I see otherwise at a professional conference, I want to ask, who raised you not to put your best foot forward in public?

But I digress.

I also love my technology.  I can type fast, but I transpose letters frequently.  If I were on a typewriter, the retyping for a clean manuscript would slow production.  I’m also impatient so it would likely just ended writing for a living early on. I’d still be a hair stylist (in my mind I hear hair dresser) standing on my feet all day instead of sitting for equally long hours on my rear.

I need to edit that ‘hard copy.’  Marking it up and improving the work gives me a little high and for me, seeing it printed gives a different look and feel creatively as well.  The white space, readability, the pace and tension of the story are elements that come into play with how it looks on the page.  Besides, no one will be reading it in any other way.  Whether you are seeing the story from within technology, or go the ancient route of printed on paper, I can guarantee the writer thought a lot about how their words looked on a page.

I sure do.

Heck.  I’ve edited this short bit three times and that doesn’t include the editing I do while I’m typing.

So… I’m a paper fiend who needs a word processor.  But you know, when all else fails I can still create a story with just pen and paper.

AMY

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