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Dog Days

What is wrong with this picture?

Why does this dog look so sad? So alert? So ready to spring into action on a warm summer day?

Because he hasn’t received his copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows yet. I’d venture to guess this is what the 2 million Amazon customers looked like on Saturday as they awaited the UPS driver to arrive with their copy of Harry Potter.

I know I spent the day pacing the floor, glancing out the window at the least bit of rumble of traffic on my otherwise quiet street. Oh, yes, I could have done the line up at midnight thing, the wait around Barnes & Noble or Borders all night. But instead, I spent Friday night going to see Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix with one of the little heroes. He’s only 8, but he’s a huge Harry fan, having seen all the movies so far and is currently working his way through the first Harry Potter book. He’s determined to read them all, but being only 8, it takes a little longer to read them. (BTW, this wonderful dog pic was taken by my cousin, Robin Corey.)

As for my poor beleaguered UPS man, he finally arrived about 3:30 in the afternoon. I might have spent the day anxious and watchful, but my intermittent pacing was nothing compared the day he’d been having. He looked like this:

Rather like he’d been dragged behind his truck and trampled by every one of his customers.

I just hope there was a copy leftover for him at the end of the day.

How did you get your copy and are you finished? Please no spoilers! I’m done, but I would hate for anyone else to see one.

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Chasing Rainbows

Chasing Rainbows

Last post conference post I’ll make. Promise. But here is something to consider. After conference and you’ve got that request to see a partial or a full, do yourself a favor–go through those pages with a fine tooth comb before you send them in. I know how exciting it is to get requests and you don’t want to waste a second getting them in front of that editor–but I also know the other side of that elation–the remorse of having sent in pages that were rushed in for the sake of just getting them in.

What is the point of having this opportunity, having spent all that money and time to get to conference, to get that appointment, to get that request, if you don’t then put the same time and effort into one more polish? Otherwise you might as well spend your time chasing rainbows like the one that appeared over my neighborhood the other evening.

I’ll be upfront about this: I am a huge proponent of re-writing. I rewrite my manuscripts four times at the minimum before I send them in. Each pass refines, retools, defines, weighs every word, every bit of that story experience to make sure it is all working together. And believe me, editors and agents notice the difference.

Look at it from their point of view: if you were going to buy one manuscript but you had to two to choose from, which one would you choose:

  • Manuscript A which is a great story, but needs some serious editing
  • Manuscript B which is an equally great story and needs very little editing

Given they are usually buried with work, the editor is going to choose the story that gives them an unprecedented weekend off.

So what do you need to do? Make sure you’ve done everything you can to make that story a compelling, fun, exciting, great read. Get rid of mistakes, typos, sentences-paragraphs-pages-chapters that don’t add to your story . Make sure your main characters are likeable. That is huge. Because a reader (aka the editor or agent) needs to like your characters, care as much about them as you do. And to do that, they need to be likeable.

So what do you think you need to do to your writing to make it saleable? What are you willing to do to get it there?

As for me? I’ve off to find that pot of gold that is obviously buried in my neighbor’s yard.

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Oh, yeah! The Writing . . .

In all the hoopla and post picture posting frenzy of conference writing seems to get shoved to one side. That’s my biggest problem with conference–it can be a total time-suck on the writing. And it is all about the writing after all (though all the party pictures and booksigning snaps beg to differ).

It took me until Tuesday night to drag my notebook and pages back out and dust off my manuscript. I find that my writing is like my commitment to yoga. If I lay out my yoga togs, my mat, and queue up the DVD the night before–getting up and doing an hour isn’t that hard. But if I don’t make that commitment, then the morning sun trickles through my curtains and I am more apt to sigh with relief that the kids are still sleeping and let myself snooze for another 30 minutes or . . . always just long enough so that I don’t have time to pretzel myself into a Bow or a Downward Dog.

Same with the book. I’m still getting used to the new office and layout, but I spent part of Tuesday night getting the basics together, front and center. Notebook? Check. Binder? Check. Word file ready to write in? Check. Ran through my notes the night before, added some ideas and dialogue fragments to them, so when I sat down Wednesday morning to write, I had that little bit of a nudge–like the PLAY button on a remote– to push me right into writing.

And The Plan? Egads! I spent 20 mintues the other day trying to find where I’d put it on the new computer. After a frustrating search, I remembered I’d done it on the laptop, so I had to go through the search once again on it. So now The Plan is resting front and center on the desktop of the my computer, like a giant ticking clock. And I need to make some revisions to it, as I haven’t been as dedicated as I should be. The key to the Plan is being honest about your writing: pages and time, no matter that it shows what a slacker I’ve been.

Darn that conference . . . Tell me why I went again? How about you–what are you doing to get back writing? Using notes from workshops? Which then begs the question: Which workshops? Taking a new look at the project before it goes winging off to the editor or agent? Come on, ‘fess up: Are you getting back to work? And if you didn’t go to conference, please chime in and gloat about your piles of pages.

Oh, BTW, those tapes and conference DVDs are still up for grabs….keep commenting and you could win your own personal conference!

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My Favorite Pic From the Conference

I always come back with conference with my mind filled with wonderful vignettes of memories. Because to me conference is always so fragmented–you run into old friends here and there, unexpected meetings, new friends, off to a workshop, dinner, lunch, last minute changes, bad shoes.

And this year was no different. Some of my highlights were meeting Anna Campbell for the first time, and though I only got to chat with her for a little bit, she was one of those people that you meet and know is a kindred spirit. She loves to travel and I am so envious of all the time she’s spent in the UK. Jane Porter had told me how truly lovely she was and Jane was right–Anna is a delightful lady.

I also got a chance to chat with Beverly Jenkins for just the length of a bus ride from one hotel to another. It wasn’t enough time, but it reminded me of how much I respect her and how I’ve never gotten a good chance to get to know her. I had been thinking of her earlier in the week, and was thrilled to find myself sitting by her on the bus.

But the biggest highlight was sitting next to Julia Quinn at the Awards Ceremony when she won her RITA. I realized that she’d won before she did (which is probably the first time I think I’ve ever beaten Julia to the punch!), but then again it might have been the deafening scream I let out that stunned her for a few seconds giving me the advantage. Seeing a good friend, someone who has been mentor and sister to me for so many years win, was thrilling.

But then there was the issue of how she was going to get RITA home. Well, I have to tell you, she traveled in style. Well, in Coach actually:

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I Was Wrong

This business is not about the writing. It’s all about the shoes:

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As I was packing to go to the beach–you know getting the important stuff in order–what books to read, what knitting project to take along–when I remembered that I’d unearthed an old copy of Arabella by Georgette Heyer while I was moving my office. I probably snagged it off eBay and had tucked it away for the right chance. So into the bag it went. It might have been published over 50 years ago, but I find Georgette Heyer’s stories a delightful change of pace.

I came to discover Georgette Heyer only about 7-8 years ago. I know. A shameful fact to admit. A Regency writer and not having cut my teeth on Heyer. But in my defense, I’d never heard of her before that. They would argue over best books like kids squabbling over the last cookie. Bath Tangle. The Grand Sophy. The Corinthian. The Foundling. At first I tried to ignore their enticements . . . but eventually I sat down and read The Grand Sophy. Big. Mistake. Like I needed one more “must read author” in my world. But I was hooked and there was no hope of going back to my blissful state of ignorance.

Heyer’s prose and dialogue may not appeal to everyone, for it has a depth and breadth that is quite lost now–though I wish it wasn’t. However if you loved LM Montgomery as a child, you will find her very accessible and enjoyable. And the best part? She wrote loads of books, so there is a wonderful backlist of hard to find titles to hunt for and enjoy.

BTW, Arabella is a young woman, who while on the road to London for her first Season claims to be a great heiress to snub a man who’s just insulted her. Having put him in his place, she goes onto London only to discover her lie is now considered fact by the fickle Society, and she quickly becomes the Toast of the Season.

Oh, did I mention these stories are a hoot?

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A Little Side Trip

Thanks for all the comments while I was gone… Yes, I snuck off for a few days at the beach. Where it was supposed to be warm and sunny, but in typical Oregon Coast fashion was gray and windy. But that only left me with more time to read and knit, so I was perfectly content to do that, while the small hero had a great time flying his kite in wind that sent it aloft immediately and carried it to the end of his string in a flash.

Let me say this very clearly: I LOVE the ocean. The smells, the roar of the surf, the sand between my toes. This is Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach. I hadn’t been here in years and the arrival of minus tides this past week made it a “must visit.” I don’t remember the hordes of people or all the signs every five feet telling you what NOT to do, but I thought from a distance, it was still magnificent.

Now on to conference. Sigh. Childcare still in flux. Packing. Last minute shopping for comfortable dress shoes. These are all the parts of conference that I don’t care for. Oh, that and the non-stop schedule for three days. All the hotel noise. I suppose that’s what has made it very easy for me to skip years without an ounce of regret. Because given the choice, I rather be sitting on this beach than sweltering in Dallas. Hands down.

But there is the lure of friends. Friends old, the ones who’ve made this journey along with me. Friends I see every few years who turn out to be like long lost sisters and we pick up were we left off without even a breath. Friends who make me laugh until I cry. Friends who share that secret understanding of why it is we write. That, if anything, is the real reason I go to conference. My friends will fire up my soul, renew my desire to write and make me laugh at myself. There’s no seaweed or sand at conference, but a good Cosmo and a well told outrageous story from Adele Ashworth is a pretty darn good substitute.

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The Sure Thing, Conference Tip #87

If you go to conference and pitch to an agent or editor, by all accounts you are a Sure Thing. Even if you go into your meeting, stutter uncontrollably, toss your cookies all over the table and you discover later you have a big blotch of lunch on the front of your blouse. You could even speak in tongues and still, most likely, get a request for a partial. That’s because an agent or editor has no way of knowing what your story is like without reading your manuscript. You might be the most socially challenged writer in the Western Hemisphere, yet write like Nora. They can’t tell that by your muttered and disjointed presentation.

All that ever counts in this business is what ends up on the pages.

Agents know this. Editors know this. But around conference time, it seems that writers tend to forget it. As long as your story fits in some vague way into their publishing parameters, they are going to want to see it. No editor wants to be the one who passed up the next Harry Potter or the DaVinci Code.

So take a deep breath. This is not life or death. Remember, you are a Sure Thing.

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Conference Tip # 373

Pack light. Why, you ask? Free books. Tons of free books. And goodies. And other tokens. Make sure you have either a large tote bag you can fold flat and tuck in your suitcase, or do my trick: the suitcase inside the suitcase. Yes, you see that correctly. I pack the smaller suitcase with my clothes, tuck it inside another suitcase and then when I come home, voila, I have two suitcases. If that seems to be too much trouble or you aren’t a fan of lugging some really heavy bags through DFW, then consider taking a USPS Priority Mail box, the kind that have a preset postage, already stamped and ready to mail home. Fold it flat in your suitcase, then when you get to conference, fill ‘er up. The hotel’s business office will take it off your hands and see that it gets to the mailman. Oh, the tricks of conference! What are your favorite packing light, coming home loaded tricks?

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Two weeks???

I’m off to conference in less than two weeks and I’m completely unprepared. I haven’t done any of the essentials (that is if you believe all the conference chatter going around) that go into conference preparation: primarily shopping for an entire new wardrobe. You might understand my supposed panic if you could see my “business casual.” In my office, that consists primarly of Target t-shirts and sweatpants. Sorry to burst the bubble, but no, I don’t wear designer clothes to write. I can’t even get myself into something cool and hip, say like Lucy sweats. No, I’m a Hanes girl. So to go somewhere and have to “dress” for four days straight is a bit intimidating to this stay-at-home mom, who happens to work a bit when the kids aren’t looking.

I probably wouldn’t care in the least, but I’m rooming with Jane Porter, the Medina style maven, who will be changing outfits three times a day and putting us all to shame with her perfectly coordinated separates and jewelry. I love Jane, but trying to keep up with Jane would be like putting me in the 100 yard Butterfly when I’m more of a 25 yard Freestyle gal. I’ll take my Fifth Place ribbon up front, and make the best of what I’ve got.

Yes, I know I could go shopping, but I inherited my mother’s sensibilities over all this and I see no sense in spending good money to buy outfits I will wear only a few times. (But of course, there is that wicked little voice in the back of my head saying: but you could wear them again at New Jersey, Emerald City and New York.) But I just don’t have the time. Or the inclination.

So this weekend I’ll start digging through the closet, rather akin to dumpster diving, searching for something to wear to my various funtions. Tea on Thursday, Avon Meetings Friday, the Booksigning, more meetings, a reception, the Avon Dinner, Saturday day just hanging out, Saturday night at the Ritas. Not to mention something to travel in that is comfortable and doesn’t immediately slate me for a TSA strip search. Oh, and don’t forget, shoes for all this. Arrgh.

This alone is enough to have me throw in the towel and say, “fuh-get-about-it.” But happily I’ve been to enough conferences to know that it really isn’t what you wear that matters. It is what you say and what you make of the opportunities that come your way that really counts. But we’ll get to that next week.

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