Monday, February 28, 2011

Changes, Changes, More Changes

Boy, I tell you what...the Leo moon is going out with a roar, and I'm feeling the effects of it big time.

Everything is coming down to the wire time-wise. Mini has midterm testing this week (yes, in Kindergarten, can you believe it?), and I'm wrapping up the proposal for Wicked Obsession. I still have a list of things to do before the Written in the Stars Conference next week, and it seems like the minute I cross something on my list, something new appears in its place.

Speaking of changes, today the Midnight Moon Cafe blog I share with author Cassandra Curtis is going dark. It will be left up as an archive to all the fun stuff we've done in the past, but we won't be updating it after Feb. 28th, 2011. It's a bittersweet moment, and the end of an age for us both, but we feel it's a necessary move for us so we can focus on our writing.

Of course, I will still be blogging here at my personal blog, Stars Will Cry. So, I'm not going away, just shifting focus, and making it more a point to blog in my own backyard. In the words of Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. It feels strange right now, but in the long run, I don't think very much will be different from what it is now.

On Tuesday I'm sending out my very last batch of bags, books, and packages for MMC, so if you're expecting something from me, it will be on the way soon. If you have sent me swag in the past 6 months to giveaway, it has likely been used by this point, but rest assured, anything I have left over I'm taking with me to Written in the Stars to put on the giveaway tables.

So there you have it. Yet another big change for me in 2011. Maybe it's because of the current energy and environment, but I have a feeling this won't be the last big change I go through for the year. Whew! The idea is kind of exciting, and kind of nerve wracking at the same time. I'm a big girl, though, I will make it through.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Featured Book: Linnea Hall's Love Immortal

When Collin Sykes dies in an automobile accident, his life changes forever. 

This weekend I'm featuring author Linnea Hall, and her new book Love Immortal. (paranormal YA/adult crossover) It looks interesting, so I hope you'll check it out!

About Love Immortal:
Recently graduated from nursing school, twenty-one year old Jewell McKean is thrust into her first real job as an ER nurse in a Level I trauma center. She is inexplicably drawn to a young man as he is brought into her ER one night. Unfortunately she is unable to do anything but stand by and watch him die. Distraught by his death, wishing she had known this man she only just met, she sits by his bedside mourning his death as his heart begins to beat again.

Collin Sykes knows he should be dead. Soon it becomes clear that his family is keeping secrets from him. To make matters worse, his doctors are keeping secrets from him as well.

Collin’s uncle Percy has reasons to keep secrets from his nephew. Once a Templar Knight, he is nearly one thousand years old. His long life has brought him nothing but pain. His relationships have doomed him to a millennium of heartache, and there are people who want to kill him because of the secrets he holds. Hoping to shield his nephew from the pain of his existence, Percy hasn’t told his nephew what they are. But Percy finds that soon he must tell Collin all he knows, or he will doom his nephew to the very pain he has worked so hard from which to shield him. Separating his nephew from Jewell is only the first step.

When Edgar Durand learns of Collin’s death and resurrection he is intrigued. A member of the Obsidian Knights, a religious sect created by King Philip IV of France to prove heresies committed by the Templar Knights, Edgar has been charged with seeking out those who have defiled the Holy Grail and stolen the gift of immortality. The punishment is death by beheading. When Collin disappears, the Obsidian Knights kidnap Jewell to lure Collin out of hiding. Now it is up to Collin to rescue Jewell without losing his head.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Laugh Now, World Domination Later

You laugh now, but when they hatch, they're gonna obey MY every command
I admit it. I'm jealous.

There is so much going on right now, normally I'd be falling apart from the stress of it. The thing is, it seriously feels like a good thing, a clearing out the cobwebs kind of energy, and like something new and transformative is around the corner for me - not writing wise, necessarily, but regarding life in general. Funny that, because when Cass did a reading for me the other day with her brand spanking new oracle cards, the frog is one of the cards she pulled. The frog is all about metamorphosis, changing, growth, independence, and clearing out the clutter. Think about the intensity of that kind of transformation - a tadpole swimming in a pond with others, then it grows legs, sheds it's tail and hops out on the bank for the first time. That's a major change!  And I'm curious to see where it leads.

Hubby is taking off a little early today to take my car up to Autozone to hook it up to the machine there. Hopefully they'll find out why my engine light is on. I'd drive it myself, but I'm a big chicken. Plus, he's two hours away right now, and if I broke down, I'd be stranded in town until he could reach me. So, I'll be on standby with the Jeep while he tests my car and picks up whatever is needed to fix it. Times like this, I really wish we had a mechanic in the family.

The past few days I've been working hard to get a few projects out the door. I promised to have a proposal together on one of them by Monday, so this weekend, I'll be pulling that together so I can turn it in. Hopefully that will net my first contract of the year. I'll get to work on the second proposal once I'm back from the Written in the Stars Conference. Wish me luck!

Speaking of writerly things, I'm sending off my forms for PAN today. I had no idea I was eligible, but I got a survey from RWA the other day and the questions made me I looked into it. Cool beans. I do have this strange fear that I'll send in my forms and get back a rejection letter. Because I'm paranoid like that. Heh. Yes, I'm sending it in anyway. Someone hold me.

Oh, this is completely off topic, but kinda cool. Or at least it is to me. It explains a lot, and should make my family very pleased to know that I am not paddling around in a boatload full of crazy. Anyway, there is this smell in our house. It is a phantom smell apparently, since I am the only one who can smell it. It's like something burny, or like...get pee. We do not have a cat.

I experienced it this morning, and realized after I'd put Mini on the bus that the smell wasn't actually IN the house. I went around sniffing curtains, the garbage can (yeah, yeah, I know - lmao), and even the dogs. Nothing had the same smell. It's like the smell was in my nose. And then I sat down to get to work and the headache landed full blown.

It's the first time I've ever wondered if maybe the smell had anything to do with my headache, but it makes sense.There are only certain times I smell that burny odor, usually in certain areas of the house or after it rains. Or when I'm under a lot of stress.

Migraines with auras are pretty intense. I can usually feel one coming on before it hits, and it can end up in pain, or just lights flickering in my vision. Most of the time, I tell everyone in the house what's up, take a BC powder and go to bed. I'll feel drained sometimes even two days after it happens. Once or twice, the side of my face has gone numb and tingly during a migraine, coupled with my eye twitching. Not fun at all.

I knew this headache was a migraine, even though it wasn't as intense in the pain department. But I have never even once thought to attribute the phantom smells in the house with a migraine before today. But there it is. During those instances, instead of a scintillating scotoma, I'm apparently having what is called an olfactory aura syndrome. It's not common, but it's related to migraines. And that is good to know, because now I don't have to go chasing down smells that aren't really there!

That's it for now. I have a lot to do today, and once again, I'm making a late start of it. Oh! One more thing before I go... Tomorrow, I'll be featuring YA/adult crossover author Linnea Hall. She has a kewl new paranormal romance out called Love Immortal. I hope you'll drop by and check it out.  

Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Now Reading and Adventures in Tai Chi

Okay, so if you've ever read my blog before, you probably know I'm a writing craft book junkie. That being the case, it shouldn't surprise you that on my last trip to Books-A-Million, I loaded up on craft books.

I found a copy of From First Draft to Finished Novel  on the shelf so I picked it up. When I got it home, I tried reading through it but it kept referencing First Draft in 30 Days so I put it down with the intention of picking it up later. Maybe.

Fast forward a few weeks. I discovered I had a little money left on a gift card so I decided to go ahead and pick up a copy of  First Draft in 30 Days by Karen S. Wiesner. Well, the book arrived yesterday, and I'm just settling in to read it. What I did notice is that the other book I have - the From First Draft to Finished Novel - is actually a continuation of this book. Why, yes, I am a bonehead. I don't know why I never realized these books were part of a set until now. But I digress...

I'm hoping at least one of these books will help teach me a process to organize faster, and in a way that I can sit down and plow through the initial draft without having a dozen stops and starts. We'll see. Once I have a chance to try out at least one of these books, I'll post a review here, and over at Goodreads, so stay tuned.

On a completely different subject...

Tai chi. Personally, I love it. I've taken it up to help manage my stress levels, and I'm really enjoying it. I'm not all that experienced with it, but I'm getting better. Yesterday I got a new DVD to try out, and I asked Mini if he wanted to go Tai chi with me. He took a wary glance at the disk. "I don't looks too hard."

I convinced him to come with me anyway, I stood him up on the bed so he could get a better view of the TV, and I'd have more floor room to move. The beginning movements are so easy, Mini was super excited about that. It's funny, because his teacher had just sent a note home that day saying VERY ACTIVE TODAY. In other words, Mini ran rings around her and wasn't doing his work.

He was still hyper when I put him on the bed. But as the video played on, I told Mini to quiet down and focus on the movements. A few minutes later, he did. He started getting into this one move in particular. It's like an archer, preparing to fire a bow. Every time Mini did that move, the poor kid would yawn. It was totally cracking me up. Stretch - yawn. Stretch - YAWN.  

So while we were going through the brocade, hubby comes home and I left Mini doing his thing and went to say hi to the man. I was still cracking up about Mini's Tai chi yawns, so I told hubby about it. Hubby then decides to go check out Mini's new moves. Bless his hear, the boy is such a little ham. He loves to show out. So when we came to the doorway I told Mini, "Show daddy the archer move!"

He's more than willing to show his stuff. He's right on with it, too. He stretches out his little arms, goes through the move. Six repetitions, then he switches to the other side, and starts to do the move again. A second later, I see his smile waver. I know what's happening. He's trying very, very hard not to yawn. Come on, y'all. You know resistance is futile. 

In the end, the yawn gets the better of him. It's a big one too. I cracked up, and that made Mini crack up, too. Hubby thought it was hilarious. Maybe schools could take a lesson in the relaxing power of Tai chi. Take all the hyperlings out to the playground and put them through 30 minutes of it before class. LOL

Anyway, it's after three, and we're under a tornado watch, so I think I'll go stand at the door and wait for the bus. Lil man should be home in a few minutes. Keeping my fingers crossed the lights stay on, too. That's it for now. Happy Thursday, everyone!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

When You Know You Really Shouldn't

So two days ago I was struck by this grand idea to buy ice cream. More like, I suddenly, desperately needed ice cream or there would be fires and screaming. Imagine it's the end of the world, the ice cream stocks are too far away to reach, and you're suffering from PMS x 1000. You're putting on your combat boots and going in. That's how I felt. I had to have ice cream and pity the poor fool who tried to stop me.

Anyway, I rounded up Oldest and made a late day dash to the store. I bought this half gallon of no-name vanilla ice cream. Oh, and all the trimmings to go with it: caramel (for Oldest, not my kinda thing), pecans(for me), magic shell(for everyone), and cones - which no one bothered to eat. The box remains unopened even now.

I bought all the things you know you shouldn't have, especially when you're lactose intolerant and allergic to just about everything on the planet. But you're throwing caution to the wind, so whatever, right? I ate a huge bowl of ice cream with pecans everywhere, and for a while I felt fine. By the time I finally rolled into bed that night, I could already feel the stinging pin pricks on my legs. It was my immune system thanking me for being an irresponsible adult...aka, for being an ice cream fiending cow.

Fast forward to the following morning. I wake up and my legs are covered in red blotches. Oh lovely. I've been this route before, I know it's food allergies kicking my tail. I had to make an emergency appointment at the doctor, and the receptionist managed to get me in the next morning....this morning.

I got up feeling fine and in a good mood, albeit kinda sad because I love ice cream and ice cream doesn't love me back. Boo hoo. Despite the unrequited love, all was well, because I knew what to expect from my doctor on this score. I'd be put on a Zpak and a round of prednisolone and be sent home for my efforts along with a warning to avoid eating everything but pure meats and vegetables because I'm allergic to everything else. Some foods, I can just touch them and my hands will break out. I'm just sayin'.

I got dressed, joked around with hubby for a few minutes, and after a few cups of coffee, I went on to see the doctor. A perfect morning. I'm even a little early leaving the house. How about that? As I'm driving toward town, I casually look down to check my speed and that's when I see that my car's emergency engine light is on. *cry*

I made it to the doctor, but Hubby, bless him, he had to come rescue me. He'd taken the day off because he couldn't rest last night. Now he has to spend the day trying to figure out why the engine light came on. All the fluids look good, and the car isn't running hot. Just one more thing added to my list before conference. Meh.

Speaking of conference and writerly things... I finally knocked out the short pitch for my story last night.

Now that I have that out of the way, I can focus on other things...namely these stories I need to wrap up and shove out the door. I keep telling myself, you put a book together one word at a time...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wearing My Monday Face

Dis is mah Monday faceI have a laundry list of things to do this week, so I likely won't be online that much, except to possibly check my blog and my email.

Mini will be home on Monday and Tuesday, and I still don't have my proposal the way I want it. ARG!
There is must work still to do on the conference front, and I feel like I'm treading water. Anyway, my first order of business this week...getting my crap together. The second order of business... get my crap together for conference.

Now to make it so. :P

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday :: Coffee and Slacking

Today is the start of winter break. That means the Mini kidlet is out of school, and doesn't go back until Wednesday next week. Strange how winter break is only a weeks outside of spring break, but I digress...

I put on a pot of coffee a few minutes ago and I've got my notes at the ready. Today I have a writing goal of 2k words, and I want to rework the last sentence of my short pitch.

Writer friend Marley Delarose sent me a link to this blog post by Intern X on the Bent on Books blog. I just got around to reading it the other day. It's an older blog post about 10 common query mistakes, plus a few interesting behind the scenes tidbits. When Intern X mentioned vague phrases in query letters as a no-no, I started scribbling notes. I'm pretty sure that rule applies to pitching as well.

It is so hard to break a book down into a few simple sentences. I've done that, for the most part, but it looks like I need to "de-vague" my concluding sentence. Ah-hem. This was supposed to be easy, you know?  Where is my magic wand when I need it?

We don't have any big "go somewhere" plans this weekend, so I imagine I'll spend it at the computer. I think my godfather is coming over tomorrow, so I'm picking up a planter of violets and baking him a birthday cake. His birthday was last week, but he couldn't make it over to celebrate. He should drop by on Saturday. He says he doesn't pay any attention to dates or bother with "that old birthday mess", but he always calls around his birthday. I think that's because we celebrate his birthday each year no matter what. I'm sure if something comes up and he doesn't show, the kidlets won't have any problem taking care of that birthday cake for him. No harm in making the effort, know what I mean. ~_^

Look at that. It's already pushing toward 10 am. Lots to do, so I'm off for now... Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

An Ode to Critique Partners

Last night I met up with Cass in Second Life and we went skin shopping for one of her virtual characters. We have both been fleshing out our heroines in SL lately. Doing this helps us see them visually. We can stage them also, which is an added bonus.There is something to be said about walking a mile in your character's skin. It can help you put things in a new perspective.

While shopping last night, we did a bit of brainstorming as well. It's hard to believe, but I only have two weeks left to pull together my material for conference. Yikes! With that in mind, let me say something a bit off the beaten path here...there is nothing more valuable, or harder to find, than a good critique partner. I really don't think they get enough credit.

It is very hard to find someone you can trust with your ideas, someone who will also tell you when your plots stink and that your avatar's butt looks fat. If they can say that because you know them well, and because they mean it with love, they are an absolute, 100% keeper. Being a critique partner is about friendship with a side of tough love, baby.

I have heard a shocking number people rant about how someone from their critique circle said their project needed work, or that they needed to work on their grammar, or that they need to pick one POV style and stick with it. I have to restrain myself from asking, "Okay...if you're not into receiving helpful criticism, what are you there for?"

I have also had friends ask me to read over their material only to look at me funny when I offer suggestions. More than one has flounced off in a huff, and I am not one of those "tear you to shreds" type of people. (Karma folks. Just remember!) I'm quite gentle in making suggestions, but for some people that doesn't matter. [Flouncy huffiness is just one of the reason's why I no longer look at other people's chapters unless it is set up through a charity/auction event, or required participation as part of a workshop.]

My advice is this... If you don't want to hear an honest opinion about your work, don't ask another writer to read it. Take your story to your mother and have her read it. She is almost guaranteed to love it.

The purpose of a critique, and a critique partner, is not to give you an ego stroke.

It is not a critique partner's job to tell you you're going to be the next Stephen King, even if you turn out to be.

Oh, sure, it's great when your critique partner loves what you've written, but that is not the point. If you are sending your work to other writers to be read for kudos, you're likely going to walk away disappointed. And flouncing away angry is not going to get you any closer to publishing what you've written.

A good critique partner gives feedback on your work with any criticisms geared toward changes they feel should be made for the benefit of your story. The feedback should be about what you've written, not you personally. If they love it, and see no flaws - awesomeness! But sometimes, 99% of the time, the feedback likely isn't what you want to hear. You may find out you totally blew your theme, or your conflict is about as interesting as a pile of day old laundry. Hey, be grateful you got your creative feelings hurt now, by someone you like and trust. That is certainly better than being smacked with a cold mackerel of a review by some stranger later.

Oh. One thing about bad reviews. They happen. C'est la vie. But it's especially suck-tastic when you get razzed in a review over an issue you could have fixed if you'd only listened to your critique partner!

If your critique partner will also go into a graveyard after dark to go zombie hunting with you, it's an added bonus!

If you're reading this and you get nothing else out of my garbled ramblings, I hope you find a good critique partner like the one I have. If you do, count yourself blessed. Last night, Cass totally helped me noodle through one of my toughest plot snafus to date. After being stuck on the same scene for three days, I'm finally able to move forward.

Sometimes when you're stuck, all you really need to get going again is a
kick in the pants
fresh perspective.

That's all for now, everyone. Someone start the countdown to Friday, please. And by the way...happy writing!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Catch Up and Mom Duty

My kitty, Jet, in Second Life.
I'm playing catch up at the moment. I woke up feeling really run down yesterday, on the verge of coming down sick. Though I planned to work through the morning, I just couldn't hang with it. I thought I'd feel better after a mid-morning nap, so I went and fell out across the couch. I slept from 9 am until 2:30 in the afternoon, and woke up with a massive headache, and an ear ache. I took some cold meds, and spent the rest of the day tidying the house, since I didn't have a lot of energy for heavy cleaning. Talk about it hitting you out of no where.

I feel better today, not so thick headed, but when I got up to get Mini ready to school, I realized he was running a fever. Poor beast. I kept him home with me. It looks like I'll be keeping him out again tomorrow as well. The school is having a short week anyway, so I'm not too worried about it. I have all his homework papers, so he can finish them up and turn them in on Monday.

I've written about 400 words so far today, not nearly enough to make up for lost time. Ho hum. I'm going to settle Mini down in front of the TV with a snack, cartoons, and hubby's ipod and do a couple of timed writings to try to knock out a thousand before lunch. We'll see.

That's all for now. Happy Humpday, everyone!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Preparing to Pitch

Happy Valentine's Day!

I bought the man a Valentine's Day card over the weekend. In a cut out window, it shows a man and a woman having a candlelight dinner. They are holding up champagne, about to toast glasses, and below the window the card reads, "Being with you is always romantic..." (open card) " matter where we are." 

The inside picture shows the couple is actually sitting at their own dining room table with the candles, the glasses, dirty dishes piled up in the sink behind the wife, and three kids squabbling around the table. There's a ball bouncing through the room and a cat and dog running under everyone's feet. A true sentiment, that one. Love no matter what. I don't usually go for humorous cards, but I picked that one because it is a perfect picture of our family life.  

Hubby took one look at the card and said, "Ain't that the truth." Then he gave me a big kiss. :*)

Bless him, he gets it. I guess that's why we're still together after 20 years. If you're going to be married, if you're going to be parents, you don't have to have a sense of humor, but man, it sure helps!

Yesterday, when the phone wasn't ringing off the hook (How can this be?  We don't know that many people!) I managed to get the body of my pitch in order. It still needs some tweaking and polishing, but it's all in place, all on paper. Now, I plan to go back and make a shorter version of it since I heard that one of the agents I hope to pitch to at the 2011 Written in the Stars Conference prefers a short, elevator-style pitch, rather than the kind I've been taught how to build in various workshops. That means I have to cut it down to the keywords and high concept. 

Writer friends note: If you don't know how to break your book idea down to the high concept, you must read Debra Dixon's Goal, Motivation, Conflict. She explains how to do this in Chapter One of her book. She doesn't tell you that's what she's doing, but that's exactly what's going on. That single chapter is worth the price of the entire book. It's a must have for any writer's keeper shelf. If you don't have it, I recommend you buy it.

I've gone back through my pitch and highlighted all the pertinent information, now to buff it out and make it smooth to the ears when read aloud. I absolutely plan to write my pitch info on note cards to take into the session with me. I can't remember where I put my glasses half the time, there's no way I could get through an entire paragraph by memory. Especially when I'll be reading it in front of a stranger. I need to enlist a couple of friends to practice pitch to before the big day. That way I'll be less likely to fumble my words. 

Honestly, though, I usually just wing it when I walk to the editor/agent's table. I've pitched many times over the last six years, and there are a few things I've learned from my past experiences. First, I square my shoulders and go in with confidence. If nothing else goes right, at least I know what I'm going to say about my book. I make darn sure I have it on cue cards if I forget. The rest of the pitch is what I think of as the "face test". I took a few lumps to learn that lesson, so I'll share it here. 

The first time I ever pitched I was at my first conference. I had no idea what I was doing. The night before the pitch appointments, I went to a workshop on how to pitch, and realized I wasn't prepared. Okay, not prepared is an understatement. I didn't know jack. I raced back to my hotel room, stayed up until after midnight working on getting my pitch "just right". I didn't have a printer, of course, so I hand wrote this pitch on the back of a conference flyer. 

The next morning, I was tired, strung out, and almost sick to my stomach. I then realized when I got my pitch appointments, that there was a mistake. They'd given me an agent I had not selected, someone who didn't take my genre of romance. I went back to the table to try changing it, worried that I done all the work for nothing. Well, they fixed the error, but the time for the pitch appointment had greatly changed since they had to pencil me in. I had to go straight to the pitch session after my Cold Read (which I was leaving for right after fixing the appointment snafu).  

It was horrendously nerve wracking. For those who don't know what a cold read is, it's when you're in a room full of people, plus a moderator and an editor/agent, and they take a section of your manuscript (it's all anonymous - no names on the work) and they read it aloud. Then, the agent gives feedback on it. In front of everyone. Scary right? You don't come across too many cold reads any more. Probably because it's nerve wracking for everybody involved...the agents included. Nevertheless, I'm glad I was able to experience a Cold Read.  

Anyway, I survived the cold read, the agent spoke favorably of my work, then I went right downstairs afterward to pitch... to the same agent. Whew! I was sweating bullets and shaking to bits when I approached the table. But she was very nice, and I actually got a partial request. I was wowed by the experience, and thought "I've been going about this the wrong way!"  Well, yes and no... 

The second time I pitched at conference, the experience was not so pleasant. At this conference, I learned the hard way that not all editors and agents are the same. Personalities differ. Tastes differ. Not everyone is going to be jovial face to face. In fact, some people can be downright cranky. You guessed it. I got the cranky agent. After a very awkward hello, introduction, and pitch, I was later told this person had been giving out solid NO's all morning. It put my pitch experience in a whole new perspective. 

When I approached that table, the agent seemed reserved. They didn't greet me, or introduce themselves. I knew right away, at first glance, our business personalities didn't mesh. Feeling less than comfortable, I read my pitch, gave my credentials, and answered a few questions that the agent asked me. To me, it seemed like a total bomb. When the agent seemed disinterested in my project, I didn't waste the person's time. I told them thank you for the opportunity, and got up to leave. Out of a ten minute pitch, I'd been there roughly three minutes. I didn't see the point in wasting the agent's time, or my own. However, before I could pick up all my cards and walk away from the table, that agent surprised me by asking for a partial. I feel like my professionalism is what got that request, even though they weren't exactly wowed by my pitch. 

The #1 cardinal rule of the pitch: no matter what, always be professional.

That particular experience was humbling, but I learned a very valuable lesson that I have carried with me ever since. You are not going to be compatible with every agent you come across just because they represent what you write. It helps to know that before walking into a pitch session. It truly is like a job interview. There is no better way to judge compatibility than to meet an editor or agent in person to see if they are someone you could picture yourself working with. 

For the naysayers who don't think it matters if you and the editor/agent have conflicting personalities as long as he/she can sell your book, think of it this way: they're going to be doing more than selling your book. They will be dissecting your work. Offering pointers. Telling you when your writing is not up to snuff. They are not going to mince words when they do this, because their reputation is on the line. This is a business relationship. And I can guarantee you it's far easier to take criticism from someone you like and respect than from someone you dread hearing from when the shit hits the fan. 

I've since figured out it's better to go to a pitch appointment with your personality on display, but in a professional way. Be yourself, but be confident. (Not aggressive.There is a huge difference.) It's not necessary to rehearse every single thing you're going to say. You're not a robot, you're a person. Think of it has having a brief conversation where the focus is on your book and writing credentials. 

Editors and agents are people too. Everyone has different personalities, and I want to see how the agent or editor reacts to mine. Of course I always hope they like what I'm pitching, but seeing how they act toward me as a person is a bonus. It shows me whether or not we'd be able to work together. 

A final note to all of that. There are great highs and lows to pitching in person. Getting a request is a nice high. You'll be floating on cloud nine for the rest of the conference. That's assured. But if it doesn't happen at your next pitch, don't take the face to face rejection personally. Consider it time shaved off the submission process.  

Again, it's not personal, it's business. If an editor or agent says they aren't interested in your project, brush it off. Put on your big girl panties and be brave. Thank the person for their time, then get up and walk away. If things go down that way, you have my permission to go back to your hotel room, down a box of chocolates, and cry into a shot of vodka if it will make you feel better. But, please, for your own sake, do not make a scene at the table. It won't help your situation at all. And trust me, they will remember you. There are countless horror stories out there, if you don't believe me.  

Writing updates: I wrote 10 pages yesterday. I have errands to run this morning, post office, bank, and grocery shopping, and hopefully I'll be back home before 1pm so I can write another 10 pages. It's easier to get those words out before Mini gets off the school bus. What can I say?  A mom's duty is never done.

Have a happy Monday, everyone!    

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Reads

It's been a while since I did a Friday reads. I wasn't really thinking about it until I noticed the hawt, hawt, hawt new releases over at Ellora's Cave. Needless to say, I just updated my TBR stack. :P

Base Nature by Sommer Marsden:  (print)

When Garrett Gustafson breaks from his pack, it’s all about distance. He doesn’t expect to meet a long-tortured woman or someone he wants so bad his teeth damn near ache. He most definitely doesn’t expect to meet a woman he’d even consider changing. Changing is frowned upon and dangerous. But Liv McCoy not only captures his heart, she tempts him. Tempts him to take her, to change her and even to love her.

Liv McCoy has been the weak one all her life. All she wants is a little power. When Garrett shows up she feels an unspeakable pull. Not just to give herself over to him in bed, but to offer all of herself—heart, body and soul. Garrett can give her power. She just needs to convince him that she can handle the change. And his love.

Demon Lover by Riley Ashford (print)

Maggie Mortis serves the Otherworld High Council—hunting demons while searching for the one who murdered her parents. The Council is supposed to keep the balance between Light and Dark, but lately Dark’s really been on a winning streak.

When the Council assigns the sexy half-demon Raphael as her new Guardian, she’s not thrilled. But Rafe proves that he’s good to have around—in battle and in bed. Together they go on the hunt for the demon who wants to take over Hell, not to mention all the other planes of existence.

Then the betrayal by a Council member forces them into a secret liaison with the very demon they’ve been hunting. Now Maggie and Rafe have to decide which side they’re really on…and which secrets are worth dying for.

Illicit Programming by Jennifer Dunne (ebook)

In the future, the line between human and machine becomes blurred. Androids can be programmed to be perfect lovers…but whether their hearts of steel allow love to become real is the question. If anyone knows, it would be Milo O’Shea, owner of O’Shea’s Discount Bot Shoppe, who supplies full-service androids for cut-rate prices.

Maeko and Koie, members of different Muns, purchase two bots to assist them in their assignment to begin terraforming a distant planet. As the two couples travel to the planet Aysha to begin the work, feelings they never knew existed began to surface. And the only ones who can teach Maeko and Koie about love and passion are the bots Sean and Meghan, both uniquely programmed by O’Shea’s Discount Bot Shoppe.

So, any readers out there? If so, what are you reading this weekend? 

Nocturne Cravings

Harlequin has posted the guidelines for the February pitch session and have announced the open of the Nocturne Cravings erotic romance line. They have posted that Nocturne Bites is transitioning to Cravings, and I have to admit I'm more than a little disappointed in these changes.

One of the things I liked best about Nocturne Bites was the fact they had a sensual heat level instead of erotic. Not that I don't like erotic romance, mind you, but I feel that by changing Nocturne Bites to Nocturne Cravings, they're doing away with what made their paranormal romances different from the books put out by other companies. That's not up to me,  though, so I'm just going with the flow.

For those interested in participating, Harlequin is now focusing the February pitch session on acquiring erotic romances from unpublished authors for Nocturne Cravings. You can find out what you need to know here:

On a brighter note, one more pass over this little horror story and it will be ready to send out. This weekend I have an RWA meeting to attend then I'll be back in the grind, pulling my pitches together for conference. So many words, so little time!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Busy Writing Day

The girlie dogs vie for the best spot to watch TV with daddy.
It's been a busy writing day, so I'm a little late blogging. I wrote a little over 3k divided between two stories. I've decided to take the Wicked Obsession (vampire story) a little longer than I'd originally planned. I think the story will be better told that way. I did a little work on the werewolf book too.

I'm cleaning up a third story and prepping it for submission. It's completed and 95% polished. With any luck, I should have it out the door over the weekend. It's a horror short, not the gory kind, sort of creepy and emotional, so we'll see what happens. I needed to recharge, so I took a step back and wrote something completely different for a change. I hope I can find a home for it somewhere.

Once Mini came home, I took time out to make the beds, fold the laundry and put it away, give Mini a snack, go through homework, and get the floors swept and mopped.

After supper and bath time, both for me and the Mini bear, I'll come back to the computer and work on my conference pitches, and try to get another chapter written on Project X. With so much change in the air, I'm focusing on tying up loose ends. Finishing series, and rounding out all the projects that have been clinging on over the past year. Maybe that's part of the Rabbit year spirit affecting me - out with old, so I can start working on the new.

On an entirely different subject, no new word on the new Nocturne Bites guidelines.The pitch contest has changed from set dates to TBA, which is a plus for writers still needing to finish. I'm keeping my eye on things, no matter if I have something in time for the contest or not.

That's all for now. Just think...tomorrow's Friday!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Smoke-Free, But Sleepy

The schools are only going half a day today, so I have to get an early start on writing if I hope to meet the days goal.

Yikes!  The bus just arrived 15 minutes early. I guess Miss M is ready to get the day over with too. I just shuffled Mini out the door after a quick jacket zipper catastrophe. I told him to wait, but his jacket will never zip again. If this is any indication of what I can expect from the rest of the day, I'm going back to bed.

Okay, not really. I do have to get on with these projects.

Last night, I swear I reached my breaking point. After dealing with an ornery character who doesn't want to talk to me, I was ready to either chuck the whole manuscript in a burn barrel and strike a match, or sink to some other drastic measure to get this damn book out of the house. Right now I kind of feel like I'm spinning my wheels and I have to get out of that frame of mind. So today I'm going to do a few timed writing sprints. Gotta break out the whip and get over this rough patch.

Before I shut down to go make a pot of coffee, I wanted to say happy anniversary to me. Eleven years ago today I quit smoking. Anyone who has ever tried to quit knows how tough it can be. That's one accomplishment I'm very proud of, so I'm going celebrate tonight with a glass of wine. And a bag of Skittles.

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Frosty Morning

I'm feeling very nostalgic today. I emptied the pictures from my phone last night, and this morning uploaded most of them to my facebook, in the Just Cora album. If you're a facebook friend, you should be able to go right in and view them.

Speaking of facebook, I've been pretty tolerant of come ons so far. It's not like get many, I've only had one or two in the past year, and I usually just delete them and move on. But I got a doozy this morning, and lemme just say I'm not putting up with that at all. Blocked and reported, dude.

I will never understand why these cheap douche bags are so determined to use facebook for their own personal dating site. Not only that, but they go hitting on women when they have "married" or "in a relationship" listed on their own profile status. Can you say dumb ass?

But anyway, I digress... I sorted pictures, and I'm about to work on my book for a while. I've been checking back with every few hours, waiting for them to update the guidelines for Nocturne Bites. I doubt I'll have time to work up an entry for their pitch contest, but I still want to see what's going on with the line.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Magic 7 - Past Present Future

Magic 7 spread using the Manga Tarot - self reading
Like I mentioned in a previous post, I bought the Manga Tarot when I went to Books a Million on Saturday. What a beautiful deck!

While the cards are Rider Waite based, the cards are slimmer and taller than a standard tarot deck, and the made from a thinner card stock.

The backs are purple with yellow, double sun pin striping. You can kinda sorta see the backs in the first picture of the open box image I've added below.

Some of the backs are darker than others - one or two didn't get as much ink when the card sheet rolled off the press, so they are noticeably paler shade of purple. Also, I noticed some of the cards have a white edge on top of the cards, a clear separation point where the cards should be sliced. This is fine for me since my cards end up well used anyway, but that might seriously upset some users who are picky about their deck, or buy it for display.

The set comes in a box as shown on the left. You can click the images to enlarge them. I've seen a blue version Manga Tarot, but I don't know what the difference is. This one is a rosy shade of pink with purple clouding mixed in as a highlight. The cover of the box shows a man with pink hair and a sword. Along the front facing edge are samples of the card art. Very pretty!

To open the box, there is a separation where the left side meets the front facing. Hook a fingernail in, and open the box. You'll notice there is a ribbon tab on top - that is for the book storage compartment. When you open the top, there is another ribbon tab to help you pull the book out.

The book is about 58 pages, and is fairly comprehensive for a book it's size. It gives you the history of the tarot, diagrams for a few spreads, then it goes on to  tells you about the cards with meaning for both uprights and reversals.

I'm quite happy with this deck. In my spare time I did a few readings for myself just to familiarize myself with the look and feel of the cards. My son, who is big into anime and manga, loved the look of this deck as well. I like the slender size of the cards, because I have small hands. A standard tarot deck is a little too large for me to shuffle in the classic sense. I can shuffle this one, so I do. The box makes for easy storage, even if the cards are a little hard to remove from their tray. [There is no ribbon to help pop them out of those two slots.] The kit doesn't come with a drawstring pouch, though, so if you prefer to store your cards that way, you'll have to buy a separate bag or make your own...something I've been itching to do, I must admit. :3

The list price on the box is $21.99, but I paid roughly $17 for this kit. It came shrink wrapped, so look for one wrapped if you do pick up a kit. The first time I saw this kit in person, I was at Hastings in Alexandria, LA. I didn't know the box was supposed to be shrink wrapped, and when my friend and I tried to open the box, cards went everywhere inside the box. We opened it and it was a mess. There's a good chance it had cards missing, so back on the shelf it went.

Overall, this is a very nice tarot set. I would definitely pick this up for a gift for a little girl, teenager, or an adult into manga. They'll love the art, and it's a good, working deck as well, so it's win-win.

On a completely different topic, this week the new Harlequin Nocturne Bites guidelines should be going up at  - just a head's up if you're interested in writing for that line.

Later on in the week I'll share pictures of the snow in our area - well, it's melted now. And I know some of you who are sitting there looking out at the 6ft snow drifts in your front yard will be shaking your head at me and our wimpy snow, but still. Oh, and I have more books from the weekend shopping trip to talk about. That's all for now. I hope you have a happy Monday!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Adding To My Bookshelf

I had a good time book shopping in Monroe yesterday. This coming week I'll take some pictures of the new tarot deck and some of the books I picked up. 

I'm sad to say I didn't pick up any fiction or romances. Most of the books are on craft, tarot, or some such thing. Not to say I haven't bought or read romances lately. I've bought three new releases in the past week, all of them were digital editions, Nocturne Bites, so they were in shorter lengths - novella and short stories, 5-25k. I like those because I can read them in one sitting. It's hard to read a full novel when you have a busy house, and kidlets or dogs needing attention every five minutes. Whew! Wears me out just thinking about it.

Back to the print books I purchased, I found a copy of Erich Von Daniken's Chariot of the Gods for $6.00 so I picked it up. It's about the ancient aliens theory, which I find highly fascinating, even if I'm skeptical about the whole thing. 

A year or so ago, I watched a documentary (I believe it aired on the History channel) about the concept of ancient aliens. They showed artifacts shaped like rockets, and stone relics that look like critters wearing space suits. Anyway, this book looks really interesting, and I thought if nothing else, it could be great inspiration for a sci-fi romance. Lots of information there you could use to compile a good back story for an alien character. *eyebrow wiggle*

Oh, I also picked up the print copy of Writing Fiction for Dummies that I ordered. So, I've officially bought that book twice, and through it all I've learned not to buy books from Google. The no print or download thing just doesn't work for me. Do I think the book is worth what I paid for it?  Abso-frikkin-lutely. The section about creating a story goal is worth the price of the book. 

I bought a few other books I'll talk about later in the week. The guys just got home, and they're currently Beyblading the dining room. Heh. Mini gets very excited when he wins. LOL They tickle me, the dingbats. 

That's all for now. Off to do a bit of writing, and toward the late evening, a bit of reading. My favorite way to spend a Sunday.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

The Morning After Insomnia

It's a bright sunny morning, the ice is melting a bit and the girlie dogs can't figure out if they want to be inside, or outside. I grabbed the last cup of coffee in the pot, and went to my office, and wow - the difference it makes when you have a heater on all night in there! I didn't get met with the arctic blast of cold air that usually rolls out of the room when I open the door first thing in the morning. I hope that's a good omen for the day ahead.

As tired as I am, my goal today is to write one solid chapter from start to finish. I'm not too concerned about the word count. Mainly, I want to get this part of the story moving forward. In an hour or so, I'm planning to head out to Monroe to pick up the book I ordered: Writing Fiction for Dummies. I bought the digital copy from Google books and was disappointed to see I can't download it - it has to be read online. An expensive mistake when I'm a very "need to highlight that" kinda gal. Yes, I'm one of those people who write notes in the margin. Ha ha. I know that irritates some people, but I can't help myself. At any rate, yes, I bought the book a 2nd time, and I've been waiting a short eternity for it to arrive at the bookstore. If I'd known it would've taken this long, I have to admit, I'd have bought the damn thing off Amazon - be done with, ya know? 

I'm sure Mini will be thrilled to get out of the house. The poor beast has been going stir crazy. He wants to play in the snow and ice, but I'm keeping a close eye on his cough. I hope I have the energy to keep up with him. I went to bed around three in the morning. I couldn't sleep, so I stayed up working on a story until I started seeing things out of the corner of my eye. Like, I'd think I'd see something move in the hallway, like one of the girlie dogs - only I'd turn my head and realize I'm seeing light shifting because of the TV in the den. Yep. Time for bed after I called to Sassie Lass and she wasn't even there.

That's it for now. I need to go toss some clothes in the wash, and find something to wear to Books A Million that isn't Snoopy pajama pants and a Nightmare Before Christmas t shirt. So glam, right?

Happy Saturday ;o)

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Gift of Winter

Looks like the Rabbit New Year is giving us the gift of winter. We're supposed to get a couple inches of ice over the next few days. Ho hum. This has so much potential for a power outage, I figured I better blog now in case worse comes to worst.

Whatever comes, I have plenty of writing to do. I have my timer on hand, and I'm ready to kick out some words. My goal for the day is 3,000. A little more than usual, but I'm playing catch up from yesterday.

Short post, I know, but I need to get cracking on the daily writerly stuff... Ready, set, go!

Happy Thursday

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Year of the (Writing) Rabbit...a day early

Yes, I know it's a day early, but I'm excited about Chinese New Year. ^_^ I'm a wood rabbit according to the Chinese zodiac, so I hope this means a happy year is in the stars for me.

I'm also posting this a few hours early because there are some cool writerly things floating around the internets that I want to share. First off, if you want to write paranormal romance for Harlequin, there is a Nocturne Bites pitch contest going on this month. The following link with take you to the eharlequin forum with the rules/instructions:

Also, Harlequin editor Brenda Chin talks about two-tier conflict, which is what Harlequin is looking for across  all their lines. The craft portion of the post is small, but important. If you care to take a peek, you can read it here:

For more information about crafting that kind of two-tier conflict (something I have been recently learning how to do!), author Julie Beard explains this concept briefly, but very well, in The Complete Idiot's Guide To Getting Your Romance Published. Or, if you're needing something with a more thorough, focused approach to working with two-tier conflict, you might want to pick up a copy of Debra Dixon's Goal, Motivation, Conflict.

Whew! That's all for now. I need to settle in for a bit of writing and the girlie pups - Sassie and Diva dog - are both rawr-ing at my desk chair because I have popcorms. They won't be satisfied until they eat ALL of it, the gluttons... tsk, tsk. Happy Hump Day, everyone!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Cora's Picks: Taken by Lilith Saintcrow

I picked up Taken by Lilith Saintcrow a few days ago, and I'm glad I did. What an awesome book! This has to best book I've read from the Nocturne line so far.

From the back of the book: 
He was everything she feared, while she was everything he desired. He would claim her as his. Even if it killed him. 

Sophie never believed she was special. Avoiding a violent ex, she can't remember the last time she truly felt safe. Then vampires murder her best friend and Sophie is kidnapped by a dangerously sexy shape-shifter.

Zach insists that Sophie is a Shaman - someone with a rare gift for taming his savage side - and he needs her to help him save his pack. Now, with a malevolent enemy closing in, Sophie and Zach must risk everything on a bond that may be their only salvation...

Like I said, this is one of the best books Nocturne has published for the line. The blurb truly tells the meat of the story, and I don't want to add a bunch of spoilers that might take away from someone who decides to read the book. If you like shape-shifter stories, you'll probably like this one, but don't expect big cats, or werewolves.

I have to admit, being from the swamplands, I had to Google "carcajou" since it didn't have a clue what that was. Once I saw a picture and figured out it's a wolverine, I went back to the book and read it in one sitting.

The characters in Taken are well crafted and really drew me into the story. Sophie is vulnerable, but also capable. I like that a lot. Zach is my new favorite hero from the Nocturne line. He's a perfect balance of alpha, and a desire to be free from that level of responsibility. These two characters make a perfect fit, not like some books that have you wondering how the hero and heroine are going to last. Sophie and Zach truly seem made for each other, and that makes the happily ever after so much sweeter. If you're a fan of Harlequin Nocturne or shape-shifters, I highly recommend Taken. has an excerpt for this book if you're interested, you can also purchase the book on the  same page: