Friday, June 29, 2007

Kill Your Darlings

Angela James had an interesting post over on Romancing the Blog yesterday about people who are unable to let go of their unpublished novels.

Because I'm a lazy slob, and because I think the realization I came to while reading that post are my new words to write by, I'm just going to repost the comment I left right here.

That old quote, “Kill your darlings,” is some of the best writing advice ever given. When we fall in love with our books, we lose sight of their flaws. I’ve noticed that the more I love a story I’m writing, the less likely I am to even like it a year later.

A couple years ago, I wrote a story that I adored. My critique group wasn’t so keen on it; nobody seemed to like it but me. I shelved it, ran across it a year later, and realized I had been so enthralled with my own ideas that I’d written an over-detailed, under-plotted, meandering mess.

I still like the world and the characters, though. One of these days, when I’ve sharpened my critical eye to a lethal edge, I’ll haul that story back onto my desktop and gut it like a sacrificial lamb.

I'm starting to think that you can either love writing, or you can love the things you write. If you love writing then you change, you grow, you hone your skills to better practice your craft. If you love what you write, you drag the same manuscript around for years wondering why nobody appreciates your baby the way you do.

So that's my new motto, right after "Kill your darlings," is "Love writing, not what you've written."


Thursday, June 28, 2007

I'm Not Dead. Really! (Or, Thirteen Things I Did This Week Instead of Blogging)

  1. Write.
    Like my hair was on fire. "Ahhhggghhh!!! Owwww!!!! Helllppp!"
  2. Edit.
    Like an obsessive-compulsive on speed.
  3. Kick ass.
    But I didn't take names.
  4. Sweat.
    It's hot out there, yo.
  5. Cry.
    I read a couple of articles on Veterans' Administration policies for retrofitting the homes of disabled Iraq war vets, and on the way veterans suffering from PTSD have to wait for mental health care. These people put their lives on the line in our armed forces, and when they get home we make them beg and strive and wait for every little scrap of help. We are pathetic.
  6. Eat ice cream.
    It helps with the heat and the crushing sadness.
  7. Nap.
    Outside, in the shade, one lazy afternoon. I highly recommend it.
  8. Sew.
    People keep having kids, and Target doesn't sell enough baby clothes with skulls and daggers on them to suit my gift-giving tastes.
  9. Mail.
    I sent my signed contract to Samhain yesterday. (Squee!)
  10. Drive.
    I live in LA. How the hell else am I supposed to get around?
  11. Walk.
    Oh, yeah, I almost forgot about that. It's a relaxing way to get from place to place provided the weather isn't too hot (see #4).
  12. Laugh.
    My sister is a comedic genius.
  13. Sleep.
    That's what I should be doing right now.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Thursday 13

Thirteen Things That Make Me Happy

  1. Writing
  2. Samhain chose "Like a Thief in the Night" for their Valentine 2008 Anthology (This is gonna be at the top of the list for a while.)
  3. Reading
  4. Pinkberry
  5. Mosquito Netting
  6. Shorts
  7. Being tall
  8. Wearing high heels anyway
  9. Three-Color Dessert
  10. Halo-Halo
  11. Salsa
  12. The Library
  13. Air Conditioning


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Or, How I Reacted to My First Acceptance Letter

Woke up this morning, bleary-eyed and bitter - same as any morning when I have to wake up before noon (which is just about every morning). Hopped over to my laptop to check my email accounts. Screamed and jumped up and down like my name had just been called on The Price is Right.

Right there in my humble little gmail was an email from Laurie Rauch saying they had picked "Like a Thief in the Night" for the Strangers in the Night Valentines Day 2008 anthology, and was I still interested? Of course I was still interested. I was over-the-moon still interested. I was hopping-up-and-down-scaring-the-bejeebus-out-of-my-cats still interested. I replied to the email and then hopped over to my blog to post the good news.

Kate left a comment on my last post delivering the best bad news ever - namely that I was disqualified from the Samhain 1st line contest because the contest was not open to Samhain authors. (Squeee!!! OMGOMG!). A word here: Kate is awesome (go buy her books), and has been so encouraging. Her alter ego, Summer Devon is my ePub hero.

My husband was a little weirded out to find his morning grouch of a wife waiting for him with a crazy smile, breakfast and coffee. He was ok once I assured him that the uncharacteristic morning good cheer was due to good news and not due to aliens secretly abducting his wife and replacing her with a preternaturally perky stepford zombie android.

Called my mom and told her the good news. Then I told her she couldn't read the story because it had S-E-X in it, and knowing my mom had read a story about S-E-X would make it difficult for me to continue believing I was the result of a virgin birth. (Never mind that it was her old Harlequins and Barbara Cartlands that got me started on this whole Romance thing in the first place. Denial isn't just a state of mind, its a state of being.) She says she's still my biggest fan.

Lastly, I sent off an email to Bam thanking her for holding her monthly writing contest, as "Like a Thief in the Night" grew out of my two hundred word entry for her May contest.

Writing all this down has helped me calm down a little - but Oh, here's something else that makes me so happy - the other authors in the anthology are Bonnie Dee (she of the many, many great stories!) and Veronica Wilde (I heart all things Elvis, so I've been jonesing to read her forthcoming short story Hunk of Burnin Love). I'm both excited and scared to see my name on the same list as these two amazing authors.

And now, here I am, posting the whole thing on my blog. Dayum. It's 1:30 - I'd better get some work done.

Remember to spay and neuter your pets!


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

That's My Line

Coolness. My entry made it to round three of the Samhain First line contest.

Rosalind’s butter-yellow silk gown made her stand out from the crowd of black-clad sophisticates like a baby chick amid a murder of hungry crows. Lost in a shifting sea of beautiful faces, she looked for her escort, but saw only tanned skin, white teeth, and greedy gazes that tracked her path through the ballroom the way ordinary party guests would have tracked the waiter with the best tray of hors d’oeuvre.


First-Person Fatigue

Is it just me, or are there a few too many snarky-heroined open-ended first-person paranormal series out there? I can't buy books because I am broke, so I picked up Karen Marie Morning's latest fairy-flavored offering from the New Books shelf at the local biblioteca. She's not my usual style - a few too many virgin heroines - but borrowers can't be choosers.

Darkfever was fast and readable, but rather stale. Perhaps I've seen this sort of young, snarky, fashion-obsessed first-person narrator before? Lately when I pick up a first-person narrated paranormal I get the same queasy feeling I get when I've eaten too many beignets. The difference between "enough" and "one too many" is always one - and you never know which one until it hits you. Mmm. Hungry. Who wants beignets?

Maybe I should give up on the first-person dark fantasy story that's been sitting on my hard drive for the past two years...


Friday, June 15, 2007

Grammar Geek

I like grammar. Don't know how it happened. I hated it in grade school and high school. I break the rules hither and fro in my blog posts and personal email. I sprinkle commas across my prose like flakes of pepper on Cajun style catfish.

And yet, for all the abuse I heap on grammar, I adore it. It is true, what they say: you only hurt the ones you love. Above my desk (the alter upon which I make bloody sacrifices of the rules my English teachers taught me) is a collection of no fewer than seven books on grammar and usage.

And now I am pouring through all of them to make sure that my second sentence for the Samhain contest is correct.

Lost in a shifting sea of beautiful faces, she looked for her escort, but saw only tanned skin, white teeth, and greedy gazes that tracked her path through the ballroom the way ordinary party guests would have tracked the waiter with the best tray of hors d’oeuvre.
Though it is a very long sentence, I'm fairly certain it's correct. The sentence contains an introductory participial phrase (blue) and two independent clauses (green and orange, respectively).

The tricky part is that the independent clauses share a single statement of the subject between them. Per Strunk & White, the independent clauses are delineated with a comma and connected by the word "but," but the second independent phrase contains a three-item list set off with serial commas. I haven't found anything that says the structure is incorrect, but I just can't shake the feeling that there are too many words and commas going on.

I wonder if this sentence will sink or swim. I've decided to go with it; all that's left is to wish it well and shove it over the side. Wish us luck.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Books I Will Buy When I am No Longer Broke

The Rest Falls Away, by Colleen Gleeson
I give up, I give in. I've seen a bunch of good reviews for this book, and the comparisons to Buffy intrigue me. What better book to read while I'm baking on the beach than a book about vampire slayers.

God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens
I am loving those clips of Hitchens on Fox News making the talking heads look like idiots. Oh, [Insert deity or scientific principle of your choice here], why can't there be a droll drunken Brit on Fox News every day?

Our First Revolution by Michael Barone
Comparing the American Revolution to the Glorious Revolution?! Squee! Yes, I am a huge history geek. I saw this guy on the Daily Show and I've been all hot and bothered about the book ever since.

Not Quite A Lady by Loretta Chase
From history to historicals. I must admit that I am less than thrilled by the premise of this book (I hear it contains a secret baby) but I adore Loretta Chase to the point that I will actually be sad if she writes another Meh book. The sad truth of my fickle favor is that I hold authors whose writing I like and admire to a much higher standard than authors whose writing style I don't much care for.

Dark Thirst (Anthology)
I read an excerpt from Monica Jackson's story in this book on her site, and ever since I've been wondering how it ends. Donna Hill always does good work, too. I'm not so hot about Omar Tyree, but I welcome the opportunity to change my opinion.


Word(s) Count

I've been thinking about contests lately. I've never considered my competitive side to be a flaw, but it does twist me in knots. I've nothing but admiration for people who beat me fairly. When I lose at something, I don't throw fits, I ruminate and review and figure out where I went wrong before attacking the thing all over again. Despite the way competition cramps my gut, it ultimately leads to improvement.

Bam has that first of the month 200 word contest. I think I've come in 2nd twice, but I can't regret* it as I have started two enjoyable stories from the 200 word entries I wrote. I also entered the Samhain 1st line contest, and so far I've made it to the second round.

Both the 200 word contests and the first line contest have forced me to focus on how every word counts - how to put the most action and punch into two hundred words, how to create the best possible hook with the first five lines. With previous stories, I've been so daunted by my word count goal that I often wrote more than was necessary, and ended up bored by my own story midway through. Since I've been focusing on making my words and sentences count, I haven't had any problem reaching my length goals. Who knew all those "quality over quantity" people would be so right?

*Okay, I do admit I was a little perturbed over the last contest when I had an early lead and later got clobbered by like 40 votes for the winning entry. I was feeling pretty lousy until I moseyed over to the winner's blog and discovered: a) I'd been clobbered by a published writer; b) she'd posted a couple of different entries in her blog asking her readers - of which she had significantly more than 2 - to check out the contest and vote. I can't feel too bad about losing under those circumstances - or, rather, I shouldn't feel too bad because sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we simply can't (and shouldn't) hope to compete. That doesn't mean I'll stop trying, it just means I'll try to skip the usual round of review and recrimination for a nice hot bath and a good book.


Friday, June 8, 2007


In the end, I went with the story I'm having the most fun writing.

Rosalind’s butter-yellow silk gown made her stand out from the crowd of black-clad sophisticates like a baby chick amid a murder of hungry crows.
I like "Ember" plenty, but turning Cinderella into a foul-mouthed bitch is work, yo.



I can't decide which opening line I want to enter in the Samhain Contest. I haven't got much time left to decide. The first choice, and the one I'm leaning toward is from a story I'm working on called "Ember":

I know you think you've heard this story before, but you're wrong.
The second is from an untitled short story I started as an entry for Bam's "Create-a-Conflict" June contest:
In her butter-yellow silk gown, her brown eyes wide with wonder, Rosalind stood out from the black-clad sophisticates at the Vespertine Foundation's gala like a baby chick amidst a murder of hungry crows.
Actually, scratch that second one. Rosalind and her Prince of Lies were firmly trounced in the voting. It's probably best to start fresh.

R.I.P. Untitled. I'll resurrect you one of these days.

He caught her wrist before her palm connected with his stubbled cheek. His big hand squeezed her delicate bones while his finger pressed against the place where her pulse hammered hard beneath her skin.

“You called me a snake the night we met,” he growled.

She shivered at the memory of his wicked white smile by moonlight. She had called him the Prince of Lies and he’d laughed before he kissed her.

His voice dropped to a whisper. “Did you think my scales would change to skin if you spread your legs for me?”

“I thought you loved me.”

His full lips stretched into a cruel smirk. “You’ve read too many fairytales, Rosalind. The beast doesn’t always turn into a prince when the beauty kisses him. Sometimes the beauty grows teeth and claws. Creatures like us don't love.”

“I’m not like you!” She lashed at him with her free hand, faster this time and with more force. Her nails scored a set of bloody scratches along his cheek.

He grabbed her hand and pressed it to his lips. “Your claws are coming along quite nicely, my dear.”

She closed her eyes as he licked his blood from her fingertips.


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Samhain Got Game

So first Kate alerts me to this cool contest over at Samhain, and then I read in Dear Author that Samhain has partnered with Kensington for a print line. Congrats to Samhain. It sounds like a great deal them and an even better deal for Kensington.

With heroes that have morphed from rapacious asshats to billionaire sheikhs to brooding vampires/werecods to Navy Seals and heroines that have gone from TSTL, to feisty, to kick-ass and back again - it's no secret that the Romance genre is prone to trends. Print publishing, by virtue of the time and money it takes to print and distribute books, is always a little behind the curve. Epublishers, on the other hand, can not only bring their product to market faster, they have real time information about what's selling and what isn't. Epublishers also seem more willing to take chances on new authors, many of whom go on to successful careers in print.

Print publishers that partner with ePublishers or - as I'm sure will soon be the case - create their own ePub imprints will be able to develop new writing talent and track genre trends faster, more cheaply, and more efficiently than their print-only rivals. I've no doubt that epublishing will play a big role in romance fiction's future.


Friday, June 1, 2007


Like a Thief in the Night
Zokutou word meter
26,167 / 25,000

I did it. I finished "Like a Thief in the Night" and sent it off to Samhain yesterday - at the bitter end of the deadline for their Strangers in the Night Valentine 2008 anthology. I thought I would feel more relieved to finally be done, but that just ain't so.

Last night I printed out the story again and found a few typos I'd missed. (Why do I torture myself like this?) Also, though I'm pleased with the ending, I would have loved just 2500 more words over the length of the novella. It's funny to complain about length-restrictions in a piece I started as a 200 word contest entry, but there you have it.

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with myself. I managed to take a story from 200 words to completion in about three and a half weeks. And given the number of half-finished works in progress I have sitting around, that's quite an achievement.

Even if "Like a Thief in the Night" doesn't get picked, I'll still be glad of the experience of writing it. I worked hard on the story and finished it - and I had a good time doing it. And besides, I happen to think it's a pretty fun story.