Monday, November 15

Breaking it down

        I noticed recently I tend to write fairly short chapters compared to other writers, and it crossed my mind there may be one of those famous "rules" regarding chapter length so I poked around the web.  Apparently there are no rules.  Wow.  Imagine that.  We actually have some freedom in deciding where to break our story into delicious bite-sized bits!

        Some people write their entire story straight through before they even think about breaking out the chapters.  Others use chapters to create a rhythm in the story, to control the pace.  Some authors use chapters to separate POV shifts.  There are writers who set their chapter breaks so they don't exceed a maximum number of pages or maximum reading time.  Personally, my scene shifts are my chapter breaks, and I always end my chapter with some sort of hook, like a mini-story.  I have twenty chapters in my 87,000 word manuscript.

        Where do you put your chapter breaks?  Do you set them while you're writing or afterward?  Is there such a thing as too short or too long when it comes to chapter length?  Do you prefer titled chapters or numbered?

Don't forget to enter my Mad Lib Contest.  Email or comment with your words for the Mad Lib any time today.

Tuesday, November 2


        Not really.  I can't say I exactly procrastinated because I was working on Day One.  I had five hours I wasn't working yesterday, and I spent one of those hours reading and four sleeping.  Nevertheless, I am a bit behind so I've gotta get my buns moving.  My region's in a word war with Brisbane, Australia, too.  It always motivates me to have someone else waiting for my words, lol.  If anyone participating wants to Buddy me, find me on NaNo under Jaded_Love_Junkie or search for my WIP, The Lesser Evil.  PS, Alex, you're kickin' my butt!

        For those of you who write romance, if you haven't heard already, Harlequin is hosting So You Think You Can Write, an editorial week, all week long on the Harlequin blog.  It's free and educational and gives you lots of opportunities to get your writing in front of the editors.

        Don't forget to enter my Mad Lib Contest.  Send me your words by November 15 and win some books! 

        Is there anything different you do for NaNo?  Do you find write-ins helpful or distracting?  Does some competition help you get your word counts?  Anyone designing a cover for their book?  And for those who aren't playing NaNo, what's the weirdest thing you saw or did on Halloween?  Happy NaNo to those participating and Happy NonNaNo to those who could care less!  

Sunday, October 31

Madness, as usual... plus a contest!

         I hope all are having a safe but scary and happy Halloween.  I must apologize for my long absence.  I've tried to at least stay on top of posting new blogfests and contests, but it's been difficult.  Just a work thing, really.  My ship's getting ready for the big 'ol Insurv (HUGE inspection that reports to Congress) so we've been working 6-7 days a week with lots of long hours, late days, and hard manual labor.

        If you wanna know what it's like, just go to your place of work and start doing all the building maintenance and janitorial work yourself on top of your normal workload.  Don't forget you'll also have to fix your own computers, copy machines, telephones and every other electronic device around because they're not under warranty and your boss doesn't have the money to pay for technicians to fix it.  Oh yeah, he also doesn't have money for supplies for all this work, so you'll have to buy you're own grinders, sanders, tape, paint brushes and rollers, and you'll have to borrow the primer and paint from someone else, too.  Quite a bit of madness going on, so right up the Halloween alley!

        Speaking of MADNESS, I've decided it's about darn time for a contest around here.  I haven't had one yet, and since I've gotten up to over 160 lovely Junkie followers, I'd like to host one.  So here's the deal.  I'm giving away some books.  Now, I realized that some of you guys aren't writers, some aren't into romance, and some may not read much at all, so I've got up for grabs an eclectic list of brand-spankin' new books for the winners to choose from.  And all you have to do is come up with some good words because we're going to fill in a Mad Lib!

        Send me your word choices by November 15 in the comments or via email, and I'll enter you into the contest.  I'll pick two winners to choose a couple books each from the selection.  Winners will be chosen based on how ridiculously funny their Mad Lib turns out.  I'd love more new followers and some publicity for the contest, and it's always appreciated, but it's not a requirement.  If you like my blog and content, please do follow.  I'll post winners and winning Mad Libs by November 17.  If I get a big enough response or my friends and I have trouble deciding who's winning, I'll probably pick more winners :)

So here's the words we need to finish the Mad Lib:
1)  Adjective
2)  Verb ending in -ed
3)  Plural Noun
4)  Liquid
5)  Plural Noun
6)  Famous Person
7)  Place
8)  Occupation
9)   Noun
10) Nationality
11) Opposite Sex Celebrity
12) Noun
13) Opposite Sex Friend
14) Plural Noun
15) Number
16) Adjective
 Oh yeah...

For you movie and TV lovers, I also have Indiana Jones and the Army of the Dead and Burn Notice: The Giveaway.  There'll be posts to come regarding NaNoWriMo (yes, I'm gonna do it!) and some big contests from other blogs and such coming soon.  Thanks everyone for sticking around.  Also, if you know anyone who likes to beta read or is looking for a crit partner for romance, please send them my way.  I'm actively looking for some critters!

Saturday, October 2

The Worst News: Witnessed!

        Well, so what if I thought I was taking a blogfest break?  They're just too darn fun to resist sometimes.  At any rate, I mentioned I'd show more of my MCs from my second WIP.  So I thank Francine @ Romancing the Blog for her Bad News Blogfest for giving me the opportunity to share the bad news!
        In this scene, Rainee's waiting for Sen to get out of a meeting and wants to spend time with her fiance, Tom, while she waits.

            The debrief was going to take a little while, and she felt a growing need to see her fiancĂ©.  Though she’d seen him less than ten hours earlier, it seemed like an eternity.  She didn’t even care she had blood all over her leather battledress.  All she wanted was to strip down and feel Tom's arms around her.
            He didn’t live too far from her suite.  They both resided in an upscale section of the settlement.  Many of the single suites were studios rather than having separate bedrooms, but this section went all-out with the amenities.
            She entered the well-lit living room.  It was the middle of the night, and all the lights were on.  Tom was nothing if not dedicated to his job.  It was his life.  The poor man needed to stop staying up so late working on his proposals.  Or maybe he was planning their engagement party.
            She slipped the bedroom door open quietly and peeked in.  It was empty, the bed still neatly made and curtains wide open.  She shrugged out of her long jacket and headed for his office.  Damn workaholic.
            When she opened the door, a quick indrawn breath was all she took before her head went from zero to a hundred on the fury scale.  Tom leaned back on his desk, office supplies scattered on the floor.  His pants were at his ankles and her sister, also naked, straddled his hips.  Their faces would have been comical to her if she wasn’t such a violent person when violated.
            Two long strides brought her to them before they could even move.  She grabbed Amber by her extensions, ripping her head backward as she landed two hard, bare-knuckle punches straight to her face.  Amber screamed, blood pooling from her nose and fat lip.
            “You.”  She pulled out her katanas and pointed one down at her sister, crumpled and crying on the floor.  “You should learn some day not to screw over someone who can beat the living crap out of you.  I have no love for you, so you’re damn lucky I don’t kill you.”
            “Baby!  Please, this isn’t—She's not—”
            “Shut up,” she said to Tom, much calmer than she felt.  “I have nothing to say to you anymore, and there’s nothing you can say to me to fix this.  I’m keeping the goddamn ring.”
            With that, she spun and rushed to her suite, grabbing her jacket along the way.  Her insides were jelly and her mind took on a circular spin.  She’d been enraged, angrier than she’d been in a long, long time.  But she didn’t feel the pain yet, just a barren numbness in the middle of her chest.
            Throwing her jacket to the floor, she hurried toward the bar and ran directly into the brick wall of Sen.  She plopped straight down on her behind.  At first she started to get up, but then just sank down and laid flat on the hard, cold floor staring up at the ceiling.  She said nothing to him when he crouched down next to her.
            “Sorry.  I didn’t mean to surprise you.”  She still said nothing.  “What is it?”  She shook her head.
            “I can’t do this tonight.  I can’t talk right now.”  Her voice seemed dead, Sen-like, even to her.  He took her hand, trying to haul her up.  “Just leave me,” she said, pulling her hand away.  Then she looked at the ring.  The red gem inside the diamond was an evil eye laughing at her.  She pulled it from her finger and rolled it away from her on the floor.  Sen frowned.
            “Did you make the wrong choice?”  She didn’t even have the energy to glare at him.
            “I always do,” she whispered.  He scooped her up as he would a sleepy child and placed her softly on the couch.  She watched him move back to the bar to pour a drink for her.  Then she chugged the shot like it was water.  He brought the whole bottle over before sitting next to her.

Aw, it's alright, Rainee.  It's not so terrible.  It leaves the door wide open for Sen, a man who's truly good all the way to his core, even when he's bad!  ***When he asks about making the wrong choice, he's recalling an earlier conversation when he'd asked her about love:
        “I know it’s hard to understand this, Sen. It’s different with Kindred because you know. You feel it right away when you bond. You don’t have to go through all we do to find out how we feel. All we can do is hope we get it right. You hope you make the right choice.”
Thanks everyone for coming by.  Everyone who signed up should be posting today or tomorrow so make sure you get around to the others listed at Romancing the Blog!

Monday, September 27

Wanna get lucky???

        Just 'cause I write romance doesn't mean my mind's always in the gutter!  Fact is I do want to get lucky with an agent, specifically Marisa Corvisiero of L. Perkins Agency during the Sixth "Dear Lucky Agent" Contest on Chuck Sambuchino's GLA blog.

        This month covers *gasp* Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy (adult and YA).  The top three winners all get a critique of the first 10 pages of their work by the agent judge and a free one-year subscription to

        Yes, it's right up my alley and, yes, I've sent my entries.  Well, it mentions: "no 'high fantasy' with dragons, elves or other planets please."  It was tough for me to decide whether to enter because my books involve another planet, but it's not high fantasy nor is it high sci-fi.  It doesn't read much different than a paranormal set on Earth.  The science fiction's a backdrop.

        Oh, well.  Too late 'cause the entries are off.  What's the worst that can happen?  Nothing?  Oh, I guess that's what's going on now anyway.  Can't get anywhere if you don't take a chance, right?

        Yet another contest I'm hoping to get lucky with is the Popular Fiction Contest at WD.  I have short stories ready to enter before the deadline of November 15, 2010.  Manuscript length is 4,000 words or less.  You can enter as many times as you like in all five categories:

  • Romance

  • Mystery/Crime Fiction

  • Science Fiction/Fantasy

  • Thriller/Suspense

  • Horror

  •         Anyone else entering these or any other amazing contests?  How about the Golden Heart???  How do you feel about submitting to contests?  I've heard some writers and agents say winning contests doesn't help an author get an agent or publisher.  Do you think it helps your chances, hurts them or makes no difference?

            Check out my Blogfests page if you want to get in on more of them next week.  They're a great way to get to know your fellow bloggers.  Next up are the Mash-up, They're People Too, and the Bad News Blogfests all scheduled for next week.  I might do one.  Maybe.  It was crazy this last week.  Oh what the hell.  I'll do one at least.  I'll flip a coin...

    Friday, September 24

    Creating Characters That Rock!

            The Great Blogging Experiment has arrived today with over 170 bloggers hitting the keyboards to tell you their methods for creating compelling characters.  This is a ginormous event brought to you by the fabulous Blogging Trifecta of Elana, Jen and Alex.  What an amazing turnout!
    Do you want your characters like this?  If so, just skip this post.
            Not that plot, setting, pace and other factors aren't important, but it will be the characters who push and pull a reader through your book--guaranteed.  But what is it about your characters that makes you care about them so much, whether they succeed or fail?  It comes to one all-important thing: making the character real. Think about what you love and hate, like and dislike, about people around you, in movies, in books, and then apply what works.

    Keep in mind:

    Real people are complex and have flaws as well as strengths.
    Readers want to like the characters but don't expect or want perfection, just believability.  They want to identify with the characters.  Even antagonists need both.  Most don't believe they're bad at all.
    Real people act, live their lives.  They don't wait around for things to just happen.
    Give them goals to work for and realistic conflict to overcome. 
    Real people are diverse with backgrounds and experiences to make them unique.
    Do they talk, act, dress, interact authentically given their background? Do you have too many characters all with different accents or peculiarities?  A little is good, but too much is unbelievable, unless it's relevant to the story you're writing.
    Real people are fairly consistent in how they talk and react to situations.
    Know your character inside and out.  What motivates him/her/it?  How does the character deal with obstacles?  What flavor would your character order at Baskin Robbins and why?  Paper or plastic?
    Real people are reflected in their surroundings.
    Physical attributes, body language, clothing, setting and even a name or nickname can reveal character.
    Real people grow as they learn and experience new things.
    Some don't change, but the ones that really rock do!
    Many writers suggest a character analysis or character interviews to get to know the character better.  One piece of advice above all others that helps me the most is to think about how your other characters would describe your character.  What makes him/her stand out from the others?  How well do your other characters know each other?  I hope something in this post will help someone in the blogosphere!  Thank you all for coming by my post.

    Thursday, September 23

    A Day for Feasting

            Welcome!  Pull up a seat at my table and enjoy the feast of bloggers who were kind enough to bring along a dish of their own.  There's sure to be variety, with something to suit everyone's tastes, so be sure to get a hefty helping from around the table.  Hey, could you please pass the dinner rolls???

            So my dish features Sen and Rainee, who have survived a crash.  They're seeking shelter to wait out the night.  Sen's an alien Kindred who doesn't really need food in the human sense of the word, but Rainee's human and needs to eat on a somewhat regular basis.

            She made no sound save her labored breathing as she clambered over boulders and downed trees. At least they were leaving the mountainous area for the easier terrain of the forest. Of course, the forest had its drawbacks, too—namely the Vamphyri. She didn’t relish the idea of ending her life as vamp fodder. The thought of food in general sparked pangs in the center of her stomach. Now was a bad time to remember she hadn’t eaten dinner before they left the docking bay. She promised herself to never skip meals again if only she could live through this.
            “What is it?” she asked as Sen stopped at last.
            “You need to eat and you need water.” The water had lasted about two hours, even with her conservative consumption and his lack of the need for water altogether. Her body had worked so hard, she’d lost much more than what was in the flask to begin with.
            “I’m fine.”
            “Of course. You’re always fine. Wait here and I’ll get you something to eat.”
            “No. Don’t leave me here.” He hesitated at her tone. “Please let’s just get somewhere first.”
            “Not much further.” She nodded. They’d hiked another half hour when Sen stopped again. He turned around and walked back a short distance.
            “What are you looking for?”
            “This.” He pulled back the vines along the steep embankment. She frowned at the yawning darkness behind the natural curtain.
            “Ugh. In there? Bugs, snakes and Ursula dogs. No thank you.”
            “This is it. Take it or leave it.”
            “You’re going to leave me here by myself?”
            He nodded. “It’s empty. Pretty much,” he added, smiling down at her.
            “Come on.” He led her inside, pulling out his illuminator. “Here. This is dappled moss. It loves caves and water, two things we needed right now. Feel it.” The stuff felt like a plush couch cushion. “Also good to sleep on.”
            “You should be a ranger.”
            “Perhaps, but that would waste my murderous nature.”
            “When I look at you, I don’t see a murderer.”
            “I was born to be one.”
            “Let me guess—'it’s what you do.'” He laughed, his flawless white teeth flashing in the dim light.
            “Stay put.”
            “You don’t need to worry about that. Hurry though.” So he did. He couldn’t have been gone longer than a half hour before he returned with a large cavy, shoving the cream-furred rodent's still-warm body into her hands.
            “Awww. I can’t eat this poor thing. It’s cute and fluffy.”
            “You’d prefer something scaly and slimy?” Her nose wrinkled. He tapped it with his fingertip.
            “Very well. I’ll dress it for you, Princess.” He ducked out of the cave, leaving her standing in wonder. He’d uttered a dreaded pet name. Where was her fury? Missing along with many of her other usual tendencies. His tone had been playful. Playful!
            What he brought back wasn’t much more appetizing, though he’d thoughtfully placed it on a wide, cut leaf. She pondered solemnly over the poor thing’s bleeding remains. At least it didn’t have its head, its pitiful eyes looking up at her as she bit into its flesh. Rainee shuddered. Sushi was difficult enough for her to consume. Years of social grace conditioning explained her ability to get that down. After all, a grand gathering wasn’t truly upper-class unless it served sushi and caviar. Ugh. Dead fishy flesh and unborn baby fish.
            “Can’t we cook it?” He ignored her, stretching out full-length on a thick pad of dappled moss, his fingers interlaced behind his head. It was probably a relief for him. Too tall for the cave, the colossus had been hunched over as he checked the perimeter and covered the entrance to their hideaway. It was a bad idea, she knew, to have any kind of fire. The smoke would draw the vamps right to their doorstep, the harsh scent powerful enough to travel miles on the night wind.
            “You’re thinking about it too much,” he said finally, his eyes still closed. “Just eat. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you act like such a baby.”
            Rainee bristled. “Some people around here aren’t barbarians.”
            “Cut strips from it and pretend it’s soft jerky.” She wanted to throw the thing at his head but admitted to herself he'd had a good idea. Besides, if she didn’t eat soon she’d shrink and wither away. Her stomach cramped like someone stabbed it, and she had the worst headache from not drinking anything.
            “Did you find water, Sen?”
            “In the flask. It’s full.”
            “What would I do without you?”
            “You’d be just fine.”
            Slicing the meat from the cavy, she did as he suggested. Tonight it was a lovely Carpaccio in a bloo—er, burgundy sauce. With her angry belly assuaged, her thoughts turned to their current circumstances. It never crossed her mind until then they might not be found, might not make it back to a settlement, and might not even survive this strange situation. Somehow the thought didn’t really bother her. It seemed so damned unlikely. Her life wasn’t over yet, and she knew it.

    Thanks everyone for coming by and reading!

    Wednesday, September 22

    It's like running...

    Today I feel like a runner hitting "the wall."  All I can say is it hurts a lot right in the center where my heart should be.  I was strong.  It took a while to hit it.  It wasn't even over a query.  It was over reaching out when you're nervous about it and then getting your hand slapped.  The worst thing is it's my own fault for not paying attention to detail.  And that is all I'll say about it.

    What picked me up a bit afterward was a very incredibly timely and thoughtful blogger award from  She sent me the Versatile Blogger Award.  Much appreciated, JC!


    1. Thank the person who sent the award and link back
    2. Post the award on your blog
    3. Nominate 15 other bloggers to pass the luv
    4. Let nominees know you awarded them

    I had a hard time picking bloggers for this list.  There are soooo many great people here, but I tried to choose those who I think haven't received this award before.  In no particular order:

    1.   Brad Jaeger - Aspiring Author
    2.   Damyanti @ Writing on writing : Amlokiblogs
    4.   Ellie Garratt
    8.   Justine Dell

    And don't forget The Blogfeast is TOMORROW!  I can't wait to see your posts.  If you haven't signed up yet... well, why haven't you???  Or you can swing by here tomorrow anyway and check out all the awesome bloggers and their appetite-stimulating (or appetite-supressing, mwahahaha) posts tomorrow.

    PS-About the wall... yeah, I know I'm supposed to keep running through it, and I suppose I will.

    Monday, September 20

    The Top 10 TV Show Blogfest

            What a challenge for me to come up with my favorite top ten tv shows!  This is all Alex J. Cavanaugh's fault.  He started this so head on over to his blog to see who else he tricked into this blogfest and find out what tv shows made the cut for the top ten.  Thanks for hosting another fun, interesting 'fest, Alex.

            So a little background: I grew up in the boonies, middle of nowhere surrounded by forestland, in the time of no satellite tv or cable that far away.  We got one channel pretty much, so my choices were limited.  Fast forward to now when I really don't watch tv.  Still I think my list is amazing and will bring back fond memories to those of us who've been around for a bit.  In no particular order (couldn't bring myself to rank them):

    1) "I wanna do bad things with you..."
    True Blood - Sep 7, 2008
    Created by Alan Ball
    2) "Oh my God, they killed Kenny..."

    South Park - Aug 13, 1997
    Created by Trey Parker & Matt Stone
    3) "Takes lives.  Seriously..."

    Dexter - Oct 1, 2006
    Created by James Manos, Jr.
    4) "Please pack your knives and go..."

    Top Chef - Mar 8, 2006
    Created by Magical Elves Productions
    5) "Suicide is painless..."

    M*A*S*H - Sep 17, 1972
    Created by H. Richard Hornberger
    6) "Domestic bliss was never like this..."

    Married...with Children - Apr 5, 1987
    Created by Michael G. Moye & Ron Leavitt
     7) "Making unwatchable movies essential viewing..."

    Mystery Science Theater 3000 - Nov 24, 1988
    Created by Joel Hodgson
    8) "No soup for you..."

    Seinfeld - Jul 5, 1989
    Created by Larry David & Jerry Seinfeld
    9) "Family.  Redefined..."

    The Sopranos - Jan 10, 1999
    Created by David Chase
    10) "Believe it or not, I'm walking on air..."

    The Greatest American Hero - Mar 18, 1981
    Created by Stephen J. Cannell
    Okay, I had to throw in a hero somewhere, but I couldn't decide.  I flipped coins.  Yep, cheated.  I watched a bunch of these shows as a kid and couldn't pick a fav: The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman, The Greatest American Hero, Isis (see if anyone remembers that one!), The Bionic Woman, The Six Million Dollar Man.  Well, let's just say I was addicted to the hero-type shows.

    Thanks everyone for checking out my list.  Be sure to make the rounds from Alex's blog!

    Saturday, September 18

    A Bastard of a Brownie...

            So my friend and co-worker, Graham, brought in some pretty darn superb brownies made from one of the greatest substances on earth--beer!  And of course, they were all gone by the time I found out he brought them.  Rly?  I am so thoroughly disappointed.  Graham will never hear the end of it until he brings more in and specifically has one available with my name on it. Don't these look luscious???

            I got an uber-ton (*loves inventing words*) of work done on my revisions.  My first WIP has exploded from around 73,000 originally for my first draft to over 83,000 now and still growing.  Note to self and any others peeps in revision:  make sure your revisions don't contradict anything later in the novel.  Yep, I added a scene that I love but I just realized it changes something down the road.  Hm, decisions, decisions.  Must fix this!

    ***In other news, I've moved my contests and blogfests off my home page to give them the space and dedication they deserve.  I try to update these frequently, so check the pages often.

    ***Next big blogfest coming up is the Top Ten TV Shows Blogfest on Sep 20 hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh, so if you haven't signed up yet now's your chance.

    ***And as always, don't forget my blogfest of feast, the Blogfeast, on Sep 23.

    ***Following her Blogging Trifecta Explosion, Elana Johnson got the ball rolling on a Great Blogging Experiment scheduled for Sep 24.  This is getting to be ginormous, guaranteed to have some info new and fresh to you.  Topic for this experiment is "Creating Compelling Characters" so sign up now if you'd like to share your insight for other writers.

    ***Lastly (only to give it emphasis), Lenny Lee at Lenny's World isn't feeling too good, so please swing by and send him some get well wishes.  He truly values the blogosphere love, so send a bunch to him.  For those who don't know Lenny, check out his blog and you can read about him on Candyland's blog.  You'll fall in love--guaranteed!

    Wednesday, September 15

    Book Review: CassaStar by Alex J. Cavanaugh

    CassaStar by Alex J. Cavanaugh
    October 19, 2010 Science fiction/adventure/space opera
    ISBN 9780981621067 Dancing Lemur Press LLC

            When I received my ARC of Alex's novel, CassaStar, my first impression was of how beautiful the book is.  I love the cover art.  Well yes, you see it in the picture above but it's even better in person, quality artwork on a 6x9 trade paperback that feels good in your hand.  Here's the back cover blurb:

            They say "no man is an island," but young fighter-pilot-in-training Byron is putting that theory to the test.  He arrives on the Guaard moon base for his final phase of Cosbolt pilot training with a cocky attitude and an underlying need to prove himself and immediately falls under the watchful eye of the decorated senior instructor, Bassa.

            At first, Bassa sees in Byron an uncanny likeness to his own deceased younger brother, another brash, rebellious pilot, and he's determined not to let this skilled young pilot meet the same fate.  After discovering a rare hidden talent (not to be spoiled here!) giving Byron's already ace piloting skills an edge, Bassa takes Byron's training under his wing.

            But the last thing Byron wants is Bassa's attention.  Though he yearns for recognition, he also clings to his solitude, finding it hard enough to link telepathically with his friend and navigator, Trindel.  When Trindel decides he no longer wishes to be a navigator, Byron feels betrayed.  He has to choose now to open himself up to a new navigator or lose what he'd worked for all this time.  Ultimately, he completes the training driven by his desire for accomplishment.

            When he arrives at his prestigious first new command, his jets are cooled by the discovery that Bassa has secured orders as his new navigator.  He resents the man's presence, seeing it as intrusive and controlling.  Their relationship is rough, but to survive the rigors of combat and work well as the skilled team they are, they have no other choice than to rely on each other.  With war against a deadly foe brewing, Bassa must trust Byron's judgment and Byron must open his mind to true communication and trust in their friendship.

            Byron expects the worst from people but learns that others can and will surprise you.  Assuming Bassa's interest in him is fed by guilt over his younger brother's death, Byron is stunned to discover the man's genuine affection for him.  Bassa might have initially seen Byron as he saw his brother, but I believe he later saw a reflection of himself, another soul like him having trouble making real connections with others.

            This friendship is at the heart of CassaStar.  The story drives home that to experience true acceptance and friendship, you have to open up and share yourself, to even be vulnerable, but you'll become a stronger person for it. This character-driven story will widely appeal to even those who don't read sci-fi.  The descriptions give the readers a picture to color in with their own imaginations, not overly-detailed like many sci-fi novels and the action scenes are edge-of-your-seat.  I'd recommend CassaStar not only to adults but also to fans of YA.

            It took a few pages to get to know Byron, but the more I learned about him, the harder it was for me to put the book down.  Byron's a great guy who came from a hard life and grew his defenses well, but still managed to stay out of trouble and always perform at his very best.  I really identify with his fear of opening up.  Who hasn't been there before?  Now when's the sequel coming, Alex?

    Saturday, September 11

    Remembering 9/11

    After the fall...
            That day nine years ago, it was late at night for me.  I was on deployment half a world away on the aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, just a couple hours from entering the Persian Gulf.  When I saw the scenes unfold on CNN, I remember thinking it couldn't be real.  As bad as I am with my memory, I still have no trouble recalling all those mixed feelings I had on that first night.  The confusion, the fear, the anger, the sorrow.  So many innocent people's lives ended or torn apart in one day.  But we knew it was real when we were ordered away from the Gulf to head toward the North Arabian Sea.  The word hadn't come down at the time, but we were at the front line of the war to come.
            We spent weeks cut off from our families, from any communication, so when the orders finally came to bomb away, it was almost a relief.  I later found out my husband and children were scared for my well-being, but I never felt like I wasn't safe.  I was worried for them.  In my mind, after seeing the attacks, they were a likelier target than my battle group armed more heavily than most countries on Earth. 
            What I took away most from all of it afterward was an unshakable confidence.  Despite any horrible events we may face, I know our strength as a country comes from all of us together.  You could hit our Pentagon, our major economic centers, even our White House or all of Capitol Hill, but that's not where the heart of America is at.  We wouldn't crumble, and we wouldn't weaken.  We mourn, and then we rebuild...

    ...we start anew.

    Saturday, September 4

    The Dog Ate It and other s*** happens

           In my case last night, the dog happened to be my not-so-trusty thumb drive. It must have been planning this for a while 'cause I’ve had the thing for four years, and it’s never failed me before. So what happened was (ya know something bad or weird’s gonna happen when the story starts out with this) I finally started rewriting my Chapter 6 after putting it off for about three weeks.

            After much agony, I spent two and a half hours of blood, sweat and tears to pump out 2500 words. I saved it after each paragraph because I’m anal about preserving my work. I was about to upload it to my Dropbox and hit Ctrl+S one more time and my document crashed.  Yep, crashed. Irretrievable. My heart deflated in my chest and I felt like crying and throwing up all at the same time.

            Why couldn’t it have crashed the other document I had open, my entire manuscript? At least that was on Dropbox, all safe and sound. Well, after trying to recoup it for about half an hour, I started rewriting the chapter all over again, uploading to Dropbox every two minutes in a fit of paranoia. On the bright side, it was only a chapter rewrite and I have a tendency to read back over and over again as I progress, so I remembered about 90% of what I’d written. I still mourn for the lost 10%.

            My thought process about this as I walked back to my ship feeling crushed and dejected was ‘why does this crap happen to me?’ I had to remind myself shit happens. I pulled out my own words I’d offered to a coworker, a shipmate, who was young, getting a divorce, having financial and roommate problems, and having Mom’s boyfriend conflicts.

            It seemed pretty rough, but I looked back at the rough times in my life and everyone else around me and it wasn’t any rougher. She asked when it would ever end and just settle down. I said it won’t. It’s LIFE. It’s like this for everyone. There’s always a challenge or an obstacle. Whether it crushes you or not depends on how you deal with it. Can you accept the challenge, handle it, and move ahead?

            I dealt with my obstacle last night by rewriting the chapter all over again before it wasn’t fresh in my head any longer. So what if I was up until 3 AM doing it? I feel so much better now that it’s done that the initial loss doesn’t hurt so much any more. I had to work at it instead of throwing my hands in the air and giving up.

            Some obstacles are harder than others, obviously, but when it comes to the day to day grind, you have to pick your fights. I won’t be crushed by anything as small as the dog eating my work. I’ll save my breakdown for something big.

            So how do you deal with life’s challenges? What carries you through? What advice do you give to those who are struggling? And how long should you have a thumb drive anyway before you replace it with something new that won’t eat your manuscript???

    PS, off the subject, head over to Alex J. Cavanaugh’s blog and join his Top Ten TV Shows Blogfest! And don’t forget to sign up for my Blogfeast on Sep 23.  I've also updated my "Books" page to better reflect what books I'm working on.  You can check that out in the upper left corner.  Yep, waaaay up there.  Have a great holiday weekend!

    Tuesday, August 31

    Feels so good to go home!

    My beloved family...

            I can't say how incredibly good it was to spend time with the hubby and kids after being away for six months.  It's indescribable.  I can say I'm a little more energized, recharged.  I just sort of wind down without them after a while.  We didn't even need to do anything together for me to enjoy it.  We did, however, catch up on Season 3 of True Blood!  This picture isn't the most recent, but I love it because they are for once all looking toward the camera and smiling.  Soon, hopefully by next summer, I will be home for good...

           Before I leave the blogosphere for the evening, I wanted to share another 'thank you' to my writerly bloggies.  I found recommended often on the blogs the book On Writing by Stephen King.  The book's been out for a while, but I'd never read it until I found it, a new, shiny hardbound copy, at a thrift store for $5. Money more than well spent I say.  It's not that I didn't know already about most of the writer's toolbox he offered.  I learned most of that as well from the blogosphere.  It was his story, his writerly journey.  There were parts of it that brought tears to my eyes.  Yes, my eyes.  I don't cry over books!  It's a good read, and I also put my stamp of approval on it as a recommended read for writers.

            Some quickies on Contest & Blogfests:  Don't forget to join mine, the BLOGFEAST, on Sep 23.  Stretch the theme, be creative, and bring a bloggy appetite.  Oh yeah.  About that word count thingy... well, er... I'm having trouble with the 500 roundabout count.  Both of my potential snippets run around 600-700, so whatev.  Write what you will.  I've yet to see a Blogfest post not worth the read.

            If you're catching this post today before midnight EST, jump over and enter Brad's contest to win a complete boxed set of Charlaine Harris books that inspired the HBO series True Blood. 

            If you'd like to win some great books from Lisa and Laura while they're out on their vacay, head over to LiLa's blog every day this week for a book a day giveaways. 

            Next upcoming blogfest (that I know of at the moment anyway) is Stephanie's Haiku Blogfest on Sep 3/4.  Don't know how to haiku?  Instructions are on her site.  Anyone can do it!

            A couple of pitch/query-type contests are around.  Check out the Gate Keeper's contest by Sep 3.  And tomorrow you won't want to miss the special guest @ Operation Awesome tomorrow.  You may want to have your logline/pitch ready *just in case* something crazy happens.

            So who'd I miss?  Anyone feelin left out in the cold because yer not in my sidebar?  If it's not there, then I don't know about it yet.  Comment or shoot me an email if you've got something special coming up.  I'd be happy to win promote your blogfest/contest.  Anyone else having some good family time lately or have a great, must-have book to recommend for writers?

    Tuesday, August 24

    Starving for a Blogfeast?

         I'm very excited to host my very first blogfest.  For our theme, I've chosen something we've all loved and hated at some point in our lives.  Something we indulge in on a daily basis.  Something we cannot live without.  Yes, I'm having a BLOGFEAST on September 23, 2010!  Not only is it a blogfest of food, but it's also a feast of blogs.  Please join me in sharing a post regarding anything *food.*

         It can be a scene where food is central or just happens to be in the scene.  It could be a poem about food.  Heck, it could even be about a character named after food, i.e., Powdered Toast Man or Cheeseboy (might wanna ask them if yer thinking of writing a lil story about these guys, lol).  If you end up simply posting a recipe, I'll be sorely disappointed if it's not at least presented in some way resembling creative and literary, something we've not seen before :)

         I suggest shooting for around 500 words or so, but if you end up over by a few hundred, we won't beat anyone up over it.  With this 'fest, it shouldn't be too difficult to keep it fairly short.  Please sign up by September 23 on the linky thing, and if you do sign up, remember to post with a link back here so everyone can find all the blogger links in the Blogfeast.  Thanks, all, for reading, and I hope you get a chance to join the fun!

    Friday, August 20

    All Sorts of Random Awesomeness

                I’ve recently received my first-ten crit back from Roni @ Fiction Groupie.  She’s an amazing critter!  She addressed the issues I’ve been struggling with (see my struggle), and I’ve since rewritten my first chapter—again.  But it’s so much better now.  I prefer a good, old-fashioned gory crit as long as the suggestions are valid and constructive.  I suppose it’s also a good thing if the person critiquing has some interest in your genre, whether it’s writing or reading.  I, however, fared well.  No blood loss here :) 

                Tuesday’s visit to Alex J. Cavanaugh’s blog was fun.  I met a lot of new people, joined quite a few new blogs and gained new followers.  Which is all why I blog in the first place.  Keep your eye out for Alex’s new book, CassaStar, to be released October 19.

                I’ve posted a couple new contests in my sidebar, including an agent pitch to Mary Kole of Andrea Brown Literary.  I can’t participate, but I highly encourage all you YA/MG/PB authors to get in there.  Please take a look at a great opportunity to win a critique, publicity, copy editing and more from The Writing Show.  The show is an informative and inspirational resource for writers, offering in-depth interviews, reality shows, podcasts, and a wealth of knowledge on writing, publishing and anything related.  By entering, you'll be helping to save this great support for writers.  Also Christine at The Writer’s Hole is hosting a Rainy Day Blogfest as well as a 100 followers contest.  Check out all of the great blogfests coming up!  I’ll be posting one soon, but as I finally get to go home to my hubby and children tomorrow after six months apart, I’ll wait until I’m settled.

                One more major plug before I go.  I recently found new blog buddies, and I can’t say enough how much I enjoy their work.  It’s edgy.  It’s dark.  It’s suspenseful.  It’s fun.  It keeps me hanging on the edge of my seat from Monday to Monday.  Stilettos and Shirley Temples is a serial post written by Simon and Mercedes.  Go there, read it, love it.  You’d think these two were married, the way the story’s progressing.  Also you will be intrigued by Mercedes’ post today about the virtual masked ball.  Join in if you’d like.

                Finally an update on my current projects.  As you can see in my sidebar, I have five on the burner.  Well, only three now, the others are set aside.  My first is just about done, but I’ve got about a week or two left.  I have one major scene rewrite, which is what’s holding it up.  I open the scene to work on it and then promptly turn to my other WIP to work on that instead but, hey, at least it’s still productive. *feels guilty anyway* 

    My second is smooth going and the fairly clean first draft should be complete in a month or less.  I am really having an easier time with this one than the first, maybe because I used a balanced ratio of pants to plot.  IDK.  I might like my characters even more than the last ones.  What makes one story easier to write for you than another?  Any thoughts?  And does it necessarily get any easier the longer you’ve been at the writing?

    Now I just started a NEW WIP yesterday.  It’s different from the others, written in first person this time.  I am initially planning on making it a short story for the Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction competition, but we’ll see where it goes from there.  Their Short Story and Poetry competitions are now open as well.  Anyone else submitting for these?

    Sunday, August 15

    Minus the Bitchassedness...

    I’ve traveled an incredibly long learning curve over the past few months, and what’s helped me the most along the way has been—hands down—the bloggers I follow.  It doesn’t matter to me if they’re unpublished or have no agent yet or already have books out or deals made.  Even teachers can still be students and vice versa.

    This business of getting published is pretty darn tough so to me being unpublished alone says nothing about the writing, although I love to see writers I follow get their agent or their book deal.  What counts to me most though is the step up you offer freely to your fellow writers with no signs of backstabby bitchassedness to be found (in public anyway, lol).  I’ve improved my writing incredibly because of what you guys give.

    What I’ve personally improved on the most:

     Deeper POV.  I now remove the fat from my sentences to make the action more immediate.  For example:

    Okay: She saw him walk through the door.
    Better: He walked through the door.

    Fewer tags.  I’ve combed through my WIPs to remove all dialogue tags that weren’t necessary.  If it was obvious who was talking, I removed it.  If I thought I needed a tag to identify the speaker, I looked for other ways to ID who it was without using a tag.  I also simplified as much as possible the tags I did need to keep in.  I wanted nothing to distract from the story.

    Raise the stakes.  I figured out the plot was too shallow in my first WIP, so I’ve raised the stakes and built a better character arc for my MCs.  If the plot’s too simple, too easy, it leaves to much space for more fat (aka, scenes that don’t advance the plot) in the book.  PS—this takes a lot of work, whew!

     Be careful with the adjectives/adverbs. They certainly aren’t off-limits, but they do need to be used sparingly.  I railed against this at first, but then I figured it out.  If you use a lot, it could be an indication that you’re telling rather than showing, and showing is another way to make action/description more immediate.  For example:

    Okay: He walked angrily through the door.
    Better: He stormed in, slamming the door on his way.

    Don’t navel-gaze.  This can apply to the writing, but I don’t usually have too big a problem with that.  I did learn not to navel-gaze too much when it comes to blogging.  I’m not just blogging for myself.  I like blogging as a way to interact with other writers.  So I try not to be all about my book, my book, my book.

    I have to praise the uber-phenomenal Elana J., who was the first blogger I ever followed, before I ever moved to Blogspot to begin with.  She inspired me to completely change my blog, and through her, I found Bethany Wiggins, Suzette Saxton, and LiLa.  These people got me right on the good track with where I should head with my blog.  I’m still really working on it, but I’m getting there.

    I haven’t even begun to talk about what I’ve learned about agents, querying, publishing, synopses, pitching, etc., but I’m out of space for now.  What's been most valuable to you?  Does a blogger's advice carry more weight if they're published or agented or does it depend on what the advice is?  How do you feel about offering writerly advice yourself?

    Friday, August 13

    My First Guest Post Invitation!

    Yep, I will be on Alex J. Cavanaugh's blog this Sunday, August 15 (oops, make that Tuesday, August 17).  Just a lil' intro post on my writing journey to date.  If you haven't been by his blog, make the trip because it's awesomesauce fer sure.  I love sci-fi and can't wait to read his newly published book, CassaStar.

    While I'm on here, I also want to publicly congratulate Matthew Rush at The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment for winning a major-cool query contest at WriteOnCon.  Here's to you getting your stuff out there. *raises drink to you--cough, cough, it's a lil' strong*

    For those of you who may have missed WriteOnCon, it was truly amazing.  Lots of great stuff.  I didn't really get to participate much since I was underway for almost all of it, but I'm still planning on going over the posts now that I'm back in San Dog.  Well, also I don't write YA/MG/PB, but what I've read was educational anyway.

    If you're interested in attending an online writer's convention, a different one is scheduled for October, but registration is ending very soon for The Muse Online Writer's Conference.  Check out my sidebar to get more information.

    One more thing:  Happy Friday the 13th!

    Tuesday, August 10

    Ways to organize (or maybe to waste your time).

         After a crazy weekend of blogfesting my brains out (and no, I’m still not done reading some of the posts), I’m eager to get roaring on my current WIP so I can get around to finishing the biggest edit ever on my first MS.  Yes, I have some great ideas to get myself in a happy place with it.  Finally—whew!!

         My second WIP seems to be in better shape than my first and I think it may be that I actually incorporated a little—and I mean teensie—bit of outlining this time.  The story arc and character arcs are all improved.  Now that I’ve worked out this method of plottsing (or is it pantsotting?  It all sounds weird.), I know how I want to edit my first MS.

         I noticed a few blog posts from writers who were having some trouble finding a system for outlining or organizing their scenes, and though I’m a big fan of the old bullet list, I don’t think anyone else is all that enthusiastic about it.  So I thought I’d look at some creative writing tools to try out.

         I found plenty of programs to choose from.  The most pricey was Dramatica Pro at $200-$220.  From what I read, this software could just about write the story—well, if you can figure out how to use it.  It asks you about a few hundred questions and then maps out the story for you down to the bitty details.  It has just about every feature available in a writing software program including structure templates, brainstorming tools, outlines, reports, conflict, plot and character development tools, and a built-in word processor.  I thought I’d laugh when I read it has no spell check or word count capability.  Sounds like some geeky engineer student oversight to me.

         If you want to save a bit, but still keep most of the features, Power Structure has just about all the same features at $149.95 except it’s reportedly a lot more difficult to use.  It doesn’t come with tutorials so you’re on your own with it.

         If you want to save even more, $29-$99 or so will buy you WriteWay, Power Writer, or StoryWeaver.  These programs give you nearly the same number of features as the other two programs, but for under $100, although the features lean more to the word processing side than to the story development side.  They’re also easier to use for the less experienced writers (like me!) as well.  On the down side, the first two programs don’t work with Mac.  For Mac, Scrivener looks pretty darn good and at such a low price.

         If you’re anything like me and flock to anything that’s free, you could try an open source program.  I’ve found a couple with some good reviews.  Storybook can help with structuring your book with tools to manage chapters, scenes, characters and locations.  It offers several different views of your work and instantly saves data as it’s entered.  You can also export in a variety of formats, txt, pdf, html, rtf, etc.  yWriter is another one developed by a writer and earning positive remarks.  Rough Draft is no longer being updated, but the software is still available for download.  I personally have Celtx, an open source screenwriting program that allows storyboards, etc., but all I ever do with that is play around with it.

         The basic thought behind these programs is that a simple word-processing program is inadequate for longer pieces of fiction and stories with complex plots or characters.  After looking at a bunch of the screenshots, I can see how some of the views might be beneficial, but I’m at my best when working simplistically, often with just a pen and paper.  Maybe I haven’t found the right program for me yet.

         How about you?  Do you have a favorite program you use or do you just prefer a basic word-processing program like Word?  Or is it pen and paper, too?  What’s in your writer’s toolbox?