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Friday, May 27, 2011

My Gratitude Journal: FTs

My friend Sam refers to my pets as FTs, short for "furry things." Today I'm expressing my gratitude for the four-legged friends in my life.

Could I write without my faithful canine companion at my feet? I'm uncertain, but since Pirate has been with me for ten years now, I haven't done any recent writing without her right where I can touch her. She reminds me of the song from GREASE as she is "hopelessly devoted." Her single-minded focus on making me happy is humbling.

"Kitten on the Keys" could be the theme song for either of my feline friends. Kola (the Lakota, or Sioux, word for "buddy") is a 20-pound butterscotch tabby, also the original scairdy-cat, but he's a sweetheart. He often sits behind me on my office chair or beside me, purring, while I work.

Kola's littermate, his sister Koi, is one of the most gorgeous calico cats I've ever seen and has become the model for Pyewacket, the companion for my main character in MAGGIE RISING. (If you remember the name from the Hitchcock movie, BELL, BOOK AND CANDLE, you're right! Hang onto that thought!)

My dh named Koi for her markings, like those of an expensive Japanese carp. Both felines have their moments when they get in the way (hence, the "Kitten on the Keys" reference), but they too make good companions during the solitary occupation of creating at the keyboard.

Thanks, FTs, for keeping me company, for snoring at my side or purring in my ear when I need to be reminded that I live in a real, tangible world as well as an imaginative one.

Do you have FTs or other non-human companions who share your writing world? Write in and share!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The opening of MAGGIE RISING

Last week I quoted Maggie, the main character in my current work-in-progress, MAGGIE RISING. Today I'm sharing the opening lines of that novel.

“So, are you really a psychic?”

The girl at the counter looked just like so many I’d seen since hanging out my shingle last summer. I wanted to say, Hey, look: You came here because the sign says Psychic Readings. How do you expect me to answer? Instead, I gave her my wisest, most knowing smile while sizing her up: sorority chick; more money than brains – all of it Daddy’s; party girl looking for a thrill and probably trying to figure out whether Jason (or Fred or that guy from the fraternity mixer last night) was worth giving it all up for, although from the looks of her, she probably had nothing to give that hadn’t been given and given and given again.

“You’ve come to find out whether your love is true,” I said in my best impersonation of Anne Bancroft playing the fortune teller in “Love Potion Number Nine,” but of course, without the phony accent.

The girl’s look of happy surprise told me I was on the right track. “You want to know if your sorority sisters can be trusted,” I went on.

“Wow!” she said. “How did you know I was in a sorority?”

I gave her that wise, all-knowing look again, not mentioning that the Greek letters on her sweatshirt were a pretty good hint.

For more on Maggie's attitude toward Chico State sororities (and my personal disclaimer about the "good" ones), see my post from last Thursday. If you have a comment of your own, please share!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Best of the Web on Writing Skills

Since I write and have taught writing, people often ask me how they can improve their own fiction writing skills in order to produce higher quality, publishable work.

That's a complex question with many answers, and I've often considered writing a lengthy post on the subject -- except I'm not into lengthy posts and I don't have all the answers.

A recent search on the subject turned up a great copyrighted post by Victory Crayne. I don't know this writer and can't recommend the editorial service offered in the post, BUT I do know this post listed almost all the same ideas I would have put into my own lengthy post, had I written one.

If you're considering improving your own fiction writing skills, have a look at Crayne's post. You may discover some answers here.

Do you have a favorite post on writing? Please write and share it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Sadness of Chocolate

Yes, I know: Chocolate rules. Chocolate rocks. Chocolate is the answer to the world's problems. Unfortunately, it's not an answer for me. I'm allergic, and I'm not happy about it.

True, my chocolate reaction is not strictly speaking an allergy. I don't get wheezy and stop breathing. I don't suffer anaphylatic shock. I DO get a migraine that will knock me out of focus -- and out of function -- for up to three days at a time. As much as I LOVE chocolate, it just isn't worth the cost.

Given that I've made that choice, you'd think I could come to peace with it. Not so. I still feel sorry for myself every time I smell chocolate. I still sulk when faced with fudge.

Worst, I mourn when I see a splendid chocolate dessert that I dare not touch -- especially when it's made with dairy products, since I am also (recently) completely lactose intolerant. But that's a sad story for another day.

Enough whining! I still have oatmeal cookies and that's worth alot. :-D

Do you have foods you crave and dare not eat? Write and whine with me.

Monday, May 23, 2011

How Do I Sell My Book?

Since the day more than 20 years ago when I sold my first novel, many people have come to me to ask this question. In most cases, I’m the only person they’ve ever met who has written a commercial novel, so they assume I’ll know everything they need to know and do to get their novel written and marketed.

Wrong; so sorry. When I hear the question, my first thought is usually, “It’s still a mystery to me. When you figure it out, let me know, okay?” The fact is, selling a novel to a commercial publisher is part skill, part luck, part who you know, and (I firmly believe) part cosmic alignment. Nevertheless, there are some hints that may help:

1. Decide on the genre of your book. I’ve heard many aspiring writers claim they are above genre. What they write has literary merit and is superior to anything with a one- or two-word descriptor on the spine. If you are writing publishable literary fiction, you don’t need or want the advice I have to offer here. If you are trying to publish commercial fiction, I promise you will find it much, much easier to place a book that fits a publisher’s perceived needs and known market.

If you’re in love with that new, ground-breaking idea, go for it. Just be aware that you may have to go to dozens of agents and/or editors before anyone is willing to take a risk on you. While folks in publishing all say they’re looking for the new and different, the fact is most of them have no idea what to do with anything really different. Fill the open slots in the publishers’ known line and you’ll have a much easier time getting your foot in the door.

2. Find a book that looks just like yours. That is, find a book (or even better, four or five of them) that look just like you want your finished, published book to look. See who the publisher is. Look up the web site for that publisher and study the submission guidelines. Many (perhaps most) publishers now accept only agented submissions, so go to agents’ web sites (look them up as “authors’ representatives) and take it from there.

3. Study your craft. Learn everything you can about what makes a good genre novel by reading and studying as many of them as you can. Some good books on writing can also offer excellent advice as you build your skills in building characters, plot, etc.

4. Go for it! Write and submit your book. If you have good fortune and the stars align, you may just have the success you long for. I wish you all the best.

Do you have useful tips to offer or a success story to share? Please respond and share it.