Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Deadlines and Conferences and Signings Oh My!

Next post up is another of my “I was arrogant/naïve until this kicked my ass” posts. Today I have some Housekeeping and Business to take care of!

My blog and other "social networking" has mostly taken a back seat to deadlines and other events. It's not just the books (Tender Graces now, Secret Graces soon-next month, and Sweetie in the fall), but I am always busy with Rose & Thorn--right now we're working on our spring issue to go live April 15 and we hope you'll sign up for the newsletter. And twitter and facebook.
As well, I've been writing for a local arts magazine out of Asheville called Rapid River (more deadlines!) and my first articles will be soon.
Also, I'm hoping to have a short story in the Mossy Creek series that Bellebooks puts out each year. I love this series and to have a story in it would tickle me bright pink.

Angie Ledbetter of Gumbo Writer had the great idea for a contest of promo ideas—having me attempt to do whatever crazy thing, or not so crazy thing, people came up with. Tomorrow is the last day to post ideas in the comments. However, in light of Angie’s mother in her last stages of brain cancer and her good friend also having cancer, of course the contest fizzled. I talked about Angie HERE. Angie barely has time for sleep much less her blog and contests. However, I will still honor the top three most successful ideas that were brought to fruition. This is where the Nekkid Reading came from *smiling* and I had a blast doing that. I still do not have enough writers for the calendar!

The next business is Stuff I’ll Be Doing for the books. I try to keep activities posted to a few sites and if you are a writer with events or whatever, you may be interested in, for example, Authors around the South and Book Tour.

If you are in the area for any of these In Real Life events, I so hope to see you there.
(Also, I've received some emails about Book Clubs. If you have Skype, we can do book clubs via skype. One book club sent me questions from the book club and I answered them, and they discussed them in their next meeting. I do attend book club meetings if they are within a reasonable distance. *smiling*)

Sunday April 4 at 1:00: “The Writer’s Show” radio program. There will be a live stream to listen to the pre-recorded program at the link provided here at the station, WAWL . I know that’s Easter Sunday, so there will be another chance to listen later by the first link.

Saturday April 10 all day: The Jubilee Writer’s Conference in Houma, Louisiana. I’ll be there signing TG books (There probably won't be time for Bent Pages Books to order SG books for this event, however! I'm going to have a couple of give aways of Secret Graces ARC's-advance reader's copies).

Saturday April 17 (time TBA): First Ever Book Signing for Secret Graces at Blue Ridge Books Osondu, Main Street, Waynesville

Monday April 26: Blog Tour at Riding with the Top Down

Friday May 7 at 4:00 PM: LitChat

Saturday June 5 at Blue Ridge Book Fair all day: Book Signing for both Tender Graces and Secret Graces

September 24: SIBA Trade Show at Daytona Beach, Fla

And, a Big Event (laughing): Finish the rewrites for SWEETIE, and write the next Virginia Kate GRACES saga!

Now, what are you up to? Any deadlines you are scrambling to complete something for? Any spring or summer vacation plans?(I need a vacation!) Any events you want to talk about? Or, are you going to be in any of the areas I'll be in and we may could meet? What's going on in your life? Does it feel as crazy as mine does right now?

Monday, March 29, 2010

My arrogant naivety had its ass kicked by reality in this publishing/book biz

You who know me, know I try to speak truths and honesty. So, over a few posts here and there I’ll admit a couple things I thought THEN versus NOW. Miss Kathryn ain’t so naïve and certainly isn’t arrogant any longer! And believe me, I’m still learning about this publishing and book business.

Errors Happen, no matter how careful you are.
I’ve done a series of posts on Cleaning Up Our Manuscripts but the truth of the matter is, Stuff Happens. THEN, when I’d read an author’s book and find an error, I’d think, “An error! Couldn’t someone catch that? I mean Reeaaaly.” I lifted my naïve arrogant eyebrow over it. The truth also is that editors at publishing houses are busy. The job isn’t what it used to be, at least I understand it to be this way. Authors need to take more and more responsibility for many things, and sending clean work to the editor/publisher/agent is one of them. I’m proud of how clean my manuscript is by time I send it—and they are happy to get my cleaned manuscript. Still. Stuff Happens.

Before I go on, folks, this absolutely does not excuse sloppy lazy work. I’m talking about the stuff that seems to hide in an author’s manuscript despite hard diligent work.

Author writes the manuscript draft. Then author begins re-writes. That means things most certainly will change and if they don’t, well . . . they probably should, really. During these first few “read throughs” of the manuscript, errors are found, but not only that, scenes/details change, and those scene/detail changes may affect/effect something that happens later on. In subsequent “go throughs” these should be found, one hopes.

Author reads manuscript repeatedly, fiddles, tweaks, and then is ready to send it to the editor at the publishers for them to do their thing. The ms is sent and the Author then waits, sweating, hoping the editor likes the work. What? You ask. Back up, you say. But, don’t they already know what the book is about? Don’t you already have a contract at that point? Well, thing is, they haven’t read the entire manuscript. So, all that work you did could be for naught if the editor thinks it doesn’t work. So far, I’ve been lucky in that respect.
*whew; wiping brow*

So, let’s say the book works. The editor makes his/her marks and/or suggestions/questions and sends those comments back to the Author. The Author begins reading/tweaking again based on those found errors/suggestions/comments—maybe there is a big change in scene(s) or maybe there are only little nitty things. Author may not agree with something and defends it, or Author may agree, or author agrees to give in. While going through the manuscript with the editor notes, Author also feels compelled to make a few more little tweaks. Author sends it back to editor at pub house.

Then comes the galley proof, the “This is it. You best find any lingering errors because all chances are gone after this.”

So Author pants and sweats, and once again, scours the manuscript. Reading it line by line to catch an error that may have sneaked by. Perhaps she has a friend or a spouse read it as well, just in case. What shocks Author is she/he reads the pages after spouse/friend does, and even though they have scoured it, and the editor has scoured it, the Author still finds sneakity sneakers in there! How how how? Author wails. How could there possibly be any errors at all? The work has been read and read and read and read—and by multiple people. Line by line. Carefully. Author really feels exceptionally nervous about this. However, deadline is deadline and fingers are crossed, so are eyes. Exhaustion sets in.

Then comes the Final Galley. Author can look at it quickly but there is no time for a slow line-by-line reading. There is time to make sure everything looks okay at a glance: Margins, headings, paragraphs, etc, and maybe a quick flip through, but that’s it, because to make changes at this point is a pain in the arse for the editor, so you better have found them all before this. And editors have more than one author they are working with so asking for changes at this point is frowned on and big arse acher. Really, by now, it’s a matter of just glancing over it to make sure nothing looks wonky.

The publishing house sends it to print. How the book actually goes to print and comes out a book with a cover and words inside that Author and Readers will hold in their hands is a mystery to this author. Author quivers over the chance of some weird glitch in code that could happen that wasn't caught in the galley. What if a margin or two is off? What if a page is missing? Or what if when making a hurried change in the galley proof, Author made an error, or changed something that affects/effects something later on, or deleted a word that shouldn’t have been deleted or inserted one that shouldn’t have been, or what if editor fixed something and it was a wrong fix or or or, things went so fast, the deadline rushed up so quickly . . . oh! Dear! But, there’s nothing to be done about it once it goes to print. It will be discovered only upon reading the final published version where some one may point them out with glee or with pity or with “oh dear how embarrassing for this author” or with their own naive arrogance, or et cetera.

Author gets his/her published book and reads it, hoping there are no blaring errors. Hoping she/he and the editor have been very very lucky—because luck has a lot to do with it too, along with hard work and a keen eye.

So you see, my friends, with all the back and forth going on, with the changes and deletions and insertions and thises and thatses that are flying around fast and furious once that manuscript is sent to the editor at the pub house, it really is a miracle if a manuscript goes out without an error. I see this Now. See how much work goes into creating a clean and lovely manuscript, but I also see that no matter how many times I read a “cleaned” version of it, I always found something else that either needed to be changed, or simply could be changed to make it better. The first one scares me much more than the second one.

Knowing what I know NOW versus THEN, I am much more understanding to authors.

Yup, my arrogant naivety had its ass kicked by reality.
What about you? What reality has kicked your ass that you were naive or arrogant about?

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Friday, March 26, 2010

GMR's gumbo and sweet tater cheesecake won 2nd place!

GMR prepared chicken and (turkey-)andouille
gumbo, and sweet potato cheesecake, on behalf of Gateway Club, for the Melange in the Mountains event. The judges had to choose from different categories of food, and two of those were Soup and Dessert, of which GMR prepared his Gumbo and Sweet Tater Cheesecake.

And he won second place
! Silver Star! He said, "A homecook up against some really talented chefs here in the mountains." GMR was born and raised in New Orleans, and he knows his gumbo and sweet taters.

Congratulations, GMR for your second place win. He also said, "They put a FLOWER in my gumbo . . . what's up with that? A flower! Should have been some green onion or something."

The quality of the photos isn't so hot - the lighting wasn't right, but, I snapped a couple of them anyway.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fearless? or just Stubbornly Stupid?

I’d planned on a Cleaning Manuscript post, and I’ll get to that tomorrow or next day, but I learned yesterday that perhaps I’m a little bit fearless, or maybe a little bit crazy or stupid, or all

Yesterday I traveled to Chattanooga to tape The Writer’s Show. The plan was: I would drive the 3 hours 20 minutes to Chattanooga—there is our NC rockslide closing off I-40 to TN, so I knew I needed to take a different route that added a bit of time. I’d do the two-hour taping thing for a 30 min show, and then drive the 3 hr 20 min back home. I’d leave the house at 10AM and be home by 7:30ish. Huhn, well, didn’t work out that way.

I started out on a route, part of which I’d never been on before. I suppose that’s a little fearless—me alone in my Boopmobile with only a vague idea of where I was going. I’m slipping along, music blaring, moonroof opened once it warmed up, and feeling pretty danged good. Making good time, too, until I passed into TN and oh oh—All of a sudden a sign read: I-75 Detour (apparently there was a rockslide there, too, that I didn’t know about and neither did MapQuest). I made the split second decision to turn off the highway and follow the detour, really unsure, but, well *shrug.* Where that detour took me was on hwy 68 – a sometimes curving scenic route. Most of the time I was the only one on the road. I drove, and drove, and drove, still unsure that I was going the right direction to find I-75.

There’s this weird thing when one drives in the mountains: East/West, North/South are sometimes kind of wonky. Can’t always depend on making sure you are following E/W, N/S and that is at times disconcerting. I kept on the road, beginning to sweat a little when I realized it was 1:30 and I hadn’t come to I-75. When I finally reached I-75, I couldn’t believe it – 66 more miles to Chattanooga! Oh geez! The detour had added over an hour to my trip. At that point, I wasn’t even sure I should have taken the detour.

I made it an hour late to the taping, but when I’d earlier called, the interviewer, Joan, had told me not to worry, she had the studio until at least five. I ran in, after five hours on the road, only breakfast in my stomach, hardly any water (no bathroom breaks on little highways were you aren’t sure there are bathrooms!), and we immediately did the show (which will air first Sunday in April, I believe, but will also be available after—I’ll provide links later).

I finished at 5PM, and called GMR to say, “I’m staying overnight—I’m simply too exhausted to drive back without knowing if it’ll take me through a detour or what.” He said the NC state police said it was clear, but to double check. Double check with whom? I had no one to double check at that point.

And what did Kat do? I pointed my Boopmobile in the direction of home. And guess what? There was a detour on the way back, too; I had done the right thing in making that split decision. Thing is, though, on the way back, it routed me a different way, and as I turned into the detour, it took me back in the direction I’d just come, except on a lonely highway. Ugh. Oh well. I noticed someone behind me didn’t take the detour and I had moment of worry then brushed it off. Finally, up ahead – Yes! Highway 68—but it read “South 68” and I was supposed to be going North—North East. However, remember what I said about N/S-E/W. I had to take the chance and take it. It was the way I needed to go, I was sure of it. I just turned and flew in the Boopmobile.

As it began to grow dark, I worried I’d miss a turnoff. Another 4 or 5 hours on the road due to detours after the day I’d had, well, let’s just say I was feeling a little delirious.

The funny thing is, how I finally knew I was on the right road going the right direction even though it was “South”—I passed a black Shetland Pony and thought, “Hey! I saw that pony earlier today.” And then later, “Hey, I remember that orange garbage bag on the side of the road!” and “That dog, I remember that dog!” “There’s the cemetery!” Yeah, I took what road signs I could get to comfort me in the knowledge I was on the right road in the right direction! It was growing dark, and I wanted to be back on 64/74 East before dark. I was flying, all right.

It suddenly occurred to me that I had taken a lot of chances. That I’d just shrugged my shoulders, turned on the highways and detours and interstates and “hoped for the best . . .” that “eventually I’ll get somewhere . . .” That I was all by myself traveling on unfamiliar sometimes lonely roads, with detours and bypasses galore, and I didn’t freak out. The only time I ‘broke a sweat’ was when I thought I’d be late for the taping. Other than that, I just pointed the car and drove. I had a few moments of wondering if a sudden new rockslide would be up ahead as I turned a curve—there were lots of rocks and mini-slides along the highways on the sides of the road. But I gripped the wheel and sometimes my jaw, and Just Did It.

Something stubborn and intense and ‘throwing caution to the winds’ took over and I was determined to get there and get back, all in one day, and I was going to find my way and that was that. And somehow I did. Somehow trusting my instincts and just thinking, “It HAS to be this way; where else can I go?” When I knew there may be other places I could go and I could be in the wrong place heading to who knows where. But, I thought, I’ll be SOMEwhere. And if I became lost, then I’d deal with it. But I didn’t become lost. I did it. Somehow.

What about you? Ever done something you know may be a little stupid, or fearless, and you surprise yourself? Or done something “Fearless” and think back with a, “I can’t believe I did that . . .” But are proud you did nonetheless?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cleaning Up Our Manuscripts . . .

In editing my manuscripts, I do clean up some things that readers may never even notice. But, I notice it, so I fiddle dee dee with it until I fix it. Of course, there are always things that can be missed. As much as I want the final product to be perfection, it just won’t happen. Too many ways mistakes can creep in: Tight deadlines, rewrites and more deadlines, and the “I am sick of looking at this manuscript” blues. That “sick of looking at this manuscript” doesn’t happen to me until the very very end of the process, when I have to read again the entire document on the last galley proof, and I'm reading it Line by Line by Line trying to spot troublemakers and sneaky sneakers. By then, I’ve read my manuscript too many times to count. Over and over again I read it. And if I’m not bored with my own work, that’s a good sign, I hope! *laughing*

Here are a few nitpickers I look for, and while many writers do not look for these because I see them in books I read, I, for whatever reason, just have to try to fix them. I think even if the reader doesn’t know they are reading a cleaner manuscript, some visceral part of them will, right? The manuscript will read faster—meaning the reader will turn pages faster. And of course, some of these are just things that bug me and wouldn’t make a difference, I suppose, but – I am picky.

The word “got” –

I got to go to the store can become I have to go to the store
I have got lots of candy should become I have lots of candy
I got rid of that body can become I buried the body in the woods *laugh* … whatever.

Second Person (You)

I read a novel not long ago that used second person so much and it kept bumping me out of the story. We say it a lot—“You know how it is, once you eat one cookie, you eat fifty-five of them.” Well, maybe "you" do or maybe "you" don't. Or, “You know how your hair really looks like crap on rainy days?” Then you have to explain—No, I don’t mean YOUR hair, I mean in general, you know, those days hair looks bad in general and . . . I just don’t like second person that “speaks directly to the audience” unless that is a part of the novel’s purpose. Sort of like Malcolm in the Middle, or the new Modern Family show (two shows with brilliant writing, acting, and episodes by the way), where the characters ARE actually talking to the audience directly. And even though I understand that “you” can often mean in that universal way, it still is second person and it still bugs me. Like, the narrator will say “You know the air is stinky because you’ve been there before” – well, no I don’t know and no I haven’t been – the character does and will, though, so why not just say “he knows the air is stinky because he’s been there before.” Huhn. Whatever!

I recently read a novel where the main character, the narrator, cried every time I turned a page—okay, not that often, but it sure seemed so. She cried; she wept; she sobbed; tears sprang to her eyes; tears spilled over her lashes—you get the idea. The dang woman just cried too much and after about halfway through the novel, I rolled my eyes every time she said she was going to cry or did cry. Once the narrator said she was done with crying and I shouted (in my head), “YAYYYY!” but two pages over, there she was, crying anyway. *sigh* Stop the waterworks. After a while, it becomes a tic. I try not to have TIC words or actions in my writing, but I know sometimes I do. I can only hope I catch them so that readers don’t have the eye rolling moment of “okay okay, I get it!” or “Gosh, she sure does that an awful lot.” But, on the subject of crying women—please, don’t have your novel water-logged with waterworks!
(PS - I'm speaking of things in the narrative - dialogue is different. Also, if the character's voice calls for it, then grammar goes out the window somewhat . . . not entirely, but somewhat. For example, Virginia Kate says "different" when it should be "differently" but that's how she talks. I use dialect sparingly, though.)

That’s it for now. I’m in an incredibly busy time right now. I’m hoping to catch up and get back to the contest and et cetera. Y’all have a good day.

What kinds of things do you Notice when reading a book, or when writing your own, that stand out in a way you wish it didn’t?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Sometimes, a girl just gotta have a cookie (and a husband who up and vacuums)

When the moooon is in the seventh house, and Jupiterrrr alignnns with Mars, then peeeeaaccce will guide the plaa-aanet, and GMR’rrrr will vacuum the house . . . this is the dawning of the age . . . SCREEEECH! . . . wait . . . hold on . . . back up . . .

GMR Vacuumed The Little Log House. Without Me Asking. And it wasn’t just a down the middle vacuum—it was a move the furniture vacuum. It was a vacuum the window sills while at it vacuum.

Wow! Well, let me tell you – I marched right on over to GMR and said, “for that big boy, you get …. You get… A pat on the back and thanks!” What? Why you naughty things, what did you think I was going to say *teehee*

I have been super-duper busy, my friends. So busy, I have had trouble sleeping, and my stomach was in knots, and I was exhausting myself trying to get everything done. This weekend, I have mostly unplugged—although I’ll blogwalk tomorrow morning to see you all as I usually do. And, I sat out on my porch with a glass of wine with Diana Krall and other Jazz faves filtering through the open window. I ate salmon. I took a walk in the cove. Drove into Asheville on Friday. It all felt so “normal” – so like it was before my life went crazy—but I will not complain, for some of this craziness is my dreams being realized. But, the little breaks are going to be what I’ll need to do so I don’t burn out and crash.

What do you do to “center” yourself? To stop the madness of life? And if you haven’t slowed down lately, maybe this first weekend of spring is the time to do it!

Since I have grown out, a little, my boy-short hair, and it is over my ears now and a bit longer, I am now again getting the, “Hey! You look just like . . . Sally Field!” Yup, folks, ever since 6th grade when people said, "You look like the flying nun!" (They also said I was Charlie Brown's girlfriend because I always had a stomachache and was awkward...haw!) I have been told I look like Sally Field – that is, until I cut my hair off really short. So for 8-10 years, with my super short hair, never heard that. Now once again, with a tad longer hair, I am Sally Field. *laugh* Huhn.

Today was so beautiful and the weather so nice, we were able to open our doors and windows and let in the fresh mountain air – ahhhh!

Now, I am in the mood for cookies. I get in this mood every so often and sometimes I deny it. Today, I am not denying myself a cookie or two or maybe even three.

Now, carry on with your previously scheduled weekend. And tell me – what will you have this weekend that you usually deny yourself? And if not, maybe this weekend is the weekend to have it!

If you've not gone by to say hello to our beautiful friend Gumbo Writer Angie Ledbetter - please do. See post below. She is one of the Good Ones, The Beautiful Ones . . . a treasure on this earth.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Angie Gumbo Writer Needs Our Love and Support!

Hello Dear Friends!

I wanted to take a moment to ask if you could go by Angie at Gumbo Writer's place and send some love and encouragement her way. Her mother has brain cancer, for the last two years or more, and as time passes, her mother becomes sicker and weaker than ever. It truly is just a matter of time.

As well, to make things worse, one of Angie's old friends just found out she has cancer, so Angie is also helping her friend though this, going with her for radiation treatments in between her "shifts" with her mother. Angie has a family, teenagers, and a husband who has to travel a lot. I don't know how she is standing up, much less helping and doing all she does for people. She's one of the most self-less women I have ever known in my life. Angie is one of a kind - a beautiful person and soul and woman. I could spend a long time listing the good works Angie does, oh yes, I could. Despite all this, if I called her and said, "I need you," she'd come--I'd never do that, knowing how chaotic her life is right now, and how exhausted she feels, but, knowing that awe's me about her.

Angie was really active with her blog up until lately when it just became too much. That blog was her outlet, though, her saving from thinking about her mother's cancer at every turn. Now, it seems bastard cancer is all around her, sneaking its tendrils into her every waking moment, and probably in her dreams, too.

I know when she gets back to her blog, the site of support from the blogger community will make her heart sing. She does so much for others; I'd love to see something nice done for her.
It would take just a moment to go by and offer your love, support, a hello, something....I know how lovely and supportive this blogging community can be. Thank y'all! *muwah*

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Embarrassing Moments

I am meeting myself coming and going, so I thought I’d just post this quickly so I can get back to work—I have so much on my bigger-than-the-usual-dinner-plate right now, that I’m almost “unplugged” from blogging, twitter, and Facebook. Lawdy! [I haven’t forgotten the “promo contest” Gumbo Writer and I are doing, we both are just being kicked in the rear busy right now.]

One of my favorite parts of Redbook Magazine is the “red in the face” embarrassing moments. So let’s have an “embarrassing moments” here on the blog. I’ll tell you two of mine (there are so many to choose from), and in the comments you all tell me yours. If I've done this before and told these, my apologies, but I don't remember that I have . . .

Two (of many) Embarrassing Moments—

While out of town, I went shopping and bought some cute “boyshort” undies. I wore them the morning I was flying back to WNC. Getting to the plane, no problem. But, when I’m off the plane and walking the long walk to my connection, the boyshort undies begin to make their way down my hips—oh oh. Did I mention I was wearing a skirt? So, I’m walking and feeling them slip down, down down. I’m looking for a ladies room—desperately. When the undies slip far enough down, there’s nothing else for me to do but push my upper thighs together and do this stupid strange little ducky walk to keep them from falling down around my knees and to the floor. People are looking at me funny, lawd! It was the longest most embarrassing walk I’ve ever had in an airport terminal (hmm, why am I qualifying that “in an airport terminal” –hmmmm). I barely made it to the ladies room before those undies slipped right on down to my knees. I had to literally tuck them—um…you can figure it out—wedge them—so I could make it to my connection and back on the plane! Oh Dear. Lawd!

But this was worse . . .

PICTURE IT!: The midish 70’s. I was a young and single woman. My friend and I were going to go out “Disco Dancing,” yes that should be the embarrassing moment right there *laughing* - just the idea of Disco Dancing is embarrassingly humiliating enough—I have actually done The Bump—annnywaayyyy… friend always wore such cute clothes, so we went shopping and she convinced me to buy this, this, Thing. It was a pair of stretchy knit bellbottoms with a stretchy knit matching mid-riff top that tied under the bust—the colors were some kind of mod swirly stuff in muted colors of light blue, green, cream.

Thing is
, my friend also convinced me that the top was NOT absolutely NOT supposed to be worn with a bra. Fine for her, with her, um, slim upper regions. But, not fine for Miss Kat with her, um, bounty of upper regions. But, I did it—I put on this tight knit swirly-colored matching outfit and platform shoes, and off we went to Disco Dance.

Out on the dance floor I was Shake Shake Shaking my Booty—just a going to town (I was a pretty good dancer, at least in my own mind I was)—when this cute guy gets up from his table and walks to the dance floor towards me. I’m thinking, “Oh! He is so enthralled with my dancing, he’s going to dance with me! Oh, he’s cuuutttte!” I dance harder and faster. So, the cute guys comes right up to me, and I’m just a-dancing away—She’s a Brick House…letting it all hang out—and I’m just a-going, and the cute guy is right near me now, and he leans over to me, me still just a dancing— Aaahh Freak out! Le Freak, C'est Chic—and he says, “Hey, you’re coming out of your blouse….”

SCREEECHHH (yes, that’s the sound of the record suddenly stopping, the world coming still, including my Super Freak Dance Moves). Oh….my….gawd. The cute guy then calmly goes back to his seat and starts laughing with his friends. Oh…my…gawd. And me? I try to pretend I don’t care and just sort of nonchalantly walk to the ladies room (another walk of shame to the ladies room just as above *laughing*) to fix myself. Oh…my…gawd! When I came out of the bathroom, I just went back to my table and tried to pretend everything was normal and I’d not just shown a bounteous amount of personal flesh to a roomful of people—I guess I should thank the cute guy –he could have let things go a lot longer *shudder to think.* My friend thought it was the funniest thing EVAH. Huhn. The outfit was relegated to the back of my closet. I wonder what ever happened to that thing.

Your Turn! Tell me an embarrassing moment, or two.

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Writing what you know through empathy, perception, and projection

Years back, I went by a friend’s house to visit her, while on my way to somewhere I don’t recall. I was dressed nicely, had on make-up, et cetera. I was as I am now: Healthy as the clichéd horse. My friend, however, had cancer. Her hair was falling out. She was pale and tired. I took something to her and we chatted a while.

But what I want to focus on was the moment I stepped into the door. I walked in, smiling and strong. I walked in with all this HEALTH surrounding me. My pinked cheeks, my sturdy body, my clean-and-free-from-cancer insides. I walked into her house and she sat in her chair with cancer eating at her, what was left of her hair and her partially bald scalp showing through a little from her scarf, her pallid complexion.

Before she said a word, the look in her eyes said, “I want to be healthy again. I want to be strong again. I want to have on my cute clothes again. I want my hair back! I want this fucking cancer out of my body RIGHT NOW! I want to be ME again.” And maybe even, “I’m glad my friend is here, but . . .” But, she’s making me feel sicker. But, she’s making me feel ugly. But, she’s making me feel hairless and sick and pale and pukey and weak.

For that moment before we chatted and were just the friends we were, I’d put myself in her place (and maybe she in mine)—what I thought I would feel if I were sitting in that chair and she had come breezing in with all that gawdamm Health I used to feel and wanted to feel again—whether I’d hit it on the nail isn’t important for the purposes of things from a “writer’s perspective.” What matters is—

Empathy. Perception. Projection.

I could sit down and remember that moment of clarity. That “look” I saw in my friend’s eyes. The feeling I suddenly had that made me feel as if we could so easily trade places. The feeling that somehow I made her just a little sad or uncomfortable or maybe even a bit envious of my good health—for why should she be sick and I be healthy? Who or what decides these things?

I could sit down and write something from HER point of view—easy to write it from mine, how I perceived that day, but in “writing what I know” I can also use that moment of recognition to write something from my friend’s perspective. Will I get it exactly right, will I know everything she thought or felt? No way, but that one moment of that one flash in her eyes, the wistful sound of her voice, the energy charged in the room, the sickness and the health, all of it I can recall. And from that could come a story written from “what I know.” Empathy. Paying attention. A knowing. A guessing. A projection. A perception. A learning. A reaching into and out of. I could take what I’d think I’d be feeling and pass it onto her (on to my character).

Sometimes that’s what Writing What You Know means.

By the way, my friend is fine now. Healthy and feeling wonderful. Pinked cheeks and shiny hair. No one would ever have to know, except her.

Have you had an empathetic/projecting/perceptive moment that has stayed with you? Perhaps spurred on a story, or, maybe just changed the way you thought about things/a person/a situation?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Eight Minutes . . .

That's how long it would take before Earth, or any inhabitants thereof, would know that the sun burned out and died. Eight Minutes. I thought how good a title that would make for one of those "disaster films," or a story - - perhaps there already is one.

But imagine a movie or story where everyone has eight minutes to say good bye. Eight minutes. Eight Minutes before the earth and everything on it will plunge into extinction.

The universe and sun and planets and the edge of the universe program facinated on the Discovery Channel's show about The Edge of the Universe. Had me thinking about those 8 minutes.

So, what would you do with your Eight Minutes? Before everything begins to fall apart. Eight Minutes. Then, the sky would grow dark, and cold, and . . .

What would your Eight Minutes be like?
PS: In theory, if there is only 8 minutes, those of us who want to "be with our families" may be out of luck - if the sun dying is a surprise . . . so then what?
(PPS -- the sun isn't ready to die, yet - it's still in maybe it's middle ages, and has a loooonnnnng time to go - maybe millions of more years . . .)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Cutting up Credit Cards from The Big Greedies Feels GOOOOOD!

Anyone who knows me or been round my blog knows I don't talk religion or politics and mostly I keep things about writing and books and people. But . . . well, . . . this just got my goat!

I always thought it was a good thing to pay your bills, keep your credit card balances reasonable, and to try to pay off your credit card balances quickly. But what do I know? Suddenly that’s a bad thing. Suddenly if you do all the things you think make you a good credit customer/risk, they are things the big credit card companies/banks throw a pouty hissy fit about and want to punish you for. Suddenly if you keep a reasonable balance or don’t use your credit card often enough, pay on time, and are what our parents would have called “responsible” the big credit card companies decided they wanted to either tack on a “you aren’t using the credit card enough” fee(s), or raise your interest rates, and it doesn’t matter how good a customer you have been, how long you have been their customer, or how faithful you have been—Eff You, they say, whatcha going to do about it? they say—as if we do not have choices!

Isn’t the whole idea of being credit responsible to pay on time, pay the balance down or off, to keep debt from rising up to where you can never pay it off and are forever swimming in a sea of debt? To keep a good credit rating good by being responsible with how you use your cards? I guess not. Huhn. Silly me.

Folks, this is where the word GREED comes in. Let’s just put it out there. The credit card companies/banks have enjoyed a good ride and they want to continue to enjoy that ride.

So, I have cut up my Bank of America Visa card that I had for many many years, and I cut up my near-2 year old Chase Visa credit card that I’d been using for my book business trips and other book business. *snip snip*

I then contacted the credit union where GMR and I already do our main banking. I applied online for a Visa credit card through them. Someone immediately contacted me by e-mail to let me know she received the online form, and we exchanged pleasantries. Then, after my online form went through, a real live person actually called me on the phone to say she was working on the form! Then she called me back to tell me it was approved and to tell me how excellent our credit rating was and to thank GMR and me for our patronage over the years as customers of the credit union! Cool.

My interest rate is very reasonable, and the chances of it being raised, particularly for some weird doesn’t make a damned bit of sense reason other than GREED, is slim, since GMR has had the same credit card interest rate through this credit union for many years—and through all this CC & Banking Mess, nothing has changed with our credit union, which is not a Big Bank, but which is organized and has many members and branches where we can do our banking nicely, just as if it is a big bank, but without the Mess and the Bailouts and the GREED and the Games that GREED brings about.

I should have done have done this long ago. In return, I know I can call our Credit Union or e-mail them and ask questions and a real live person will answer quickly and with heart and soul and RealNess. In return they won’t be f**king with me. Jerking me around. Playing with me as if I were a little mouse and they the cat—throwing me up in the air and killing me slowly just for its own weird fat-cat pleasure: Just Because They Can. Well, guess what? They can’t do what I won’t let them do. Choices!

I don't have to put up with it and I'm not. We do have choices. We, as consumers, can show our displeasure by not purchasing, by cutting up our credit cards and moving our money and credit cards to credit unions and/or small local banks (GMR and I also have a small account with a small local mountain bank). We can show our consumer strength in numbers, because that’s how you get their attention. But, no matter what anyone else is going to do, and that has to be a personal individual decision based on your own experience and life, I had my own personal satisfaction of cutting up those two credit cards and throwing them in the garbage. Ahhhh. It felt good.
You know, paying by cash is kind of cool, too. That's something I want to do more often.

There is a Move Your Money website, or movement, --and I'm not one for "movements" and things of that nature, but, apparently there is this push for people to support local banks and credit unions. Don't know about all that, but I'm going to visit the site and see what's the big hoorah dee do.

What about you? Any stories of Big Bank or Big Credit Card companies messing around with you while they scramble to get around all the new laws—laws meant to protect consumers but Big Credit Card Companies don’t see it that way?

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Some Frequently Asked Questions I am asked about Publishing & Books & Some News

On my Blog Tour, I am at Janna's Place "Something She Wrote." I talk about, and answer, some questions I am often asked about publishing and books. There are more questions I'm asked or I hear asked, but these seem to come up a lot and I didn't want to take up too much of Janna's blog space(!). But, don't just stop by there for the Q&A, stop by to read Janna's blog. She's fun and funny, and a gifted writer.
[Before I leave, I have some news. Here goes:
Tender Graces has been called Virginia Kate Saga Book I. Secret Graces is VK Saga Book II. I had in my mind long back that these would be "multigenerational family sagas..." but, well, publishing business is strict and weird--until I met Bellebooks/Bell-Bridge books.
There is the possibility of a few more VK Saga Books and each with have "Grace" in the title; some of you are already calling them "the Graces," and I love that. Bellebooks/Bell Bridge books is suggesting this as an idea: to explore more of VK's Appalachian family, and Gary and the rest. So, there is at least a planned VK Saga Book III to come out next April 2011--that deals with Vk adopting Adin and whatever else happens (it's not written yet--lawd!). And then we go from there.
But, the other news is this: *gulp* -You may have heard me talk of Sweetie that was already written.

Bellbooks/Bell Bridge books looked at the Sweetie manucript and liked her . . . so we've decided to publish Sweetie - details later . . . but she's going to be out November 2010.

So, Secret Graces is out April 2010. Sweetie will be out November 2010--yes, that's two books in one year(!) -it just worked out that way this time-, and then if all goes well and as planned, VK III will be out April 2011 and then most probably one book a year after this madness *laugh*.
My books may never be on the Oprah list. They may never make a best seller list. They may be a bit old-fashioned and tame in this business of violence and vampires and virtual characters and sex and all that jazz--but, they are what they are. . . and I'll be living my dream and I'll be terrified to be ripped apart every time, but what is life without a little risk? what is life if you don't do what you do and then put it out there? If I am trying to tell myself anything, it is to put on the blinders and Just Write-- *smiling*
I feel kind of like a novelist now! Bellebooks is a dream . . . they are giving me my dream. I love them.]
Now, go see Janna where I talk about those things I am often asked, and say hello to her.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sweeping-vacuuming-mopping-dusting; cleaning out my brain

You know when you let stuff in your house 'go' - when you put a pile here and a pile there a-la "I'll get to that later." You know when there's a spider web up there but you just don't want to deal with reaching up to clean it right then. You know when there are dust bunnies under the bed and a film of dust on surfaces. You know when you need to clean out your fridge. You have lived with these things in some kind of denial until one morning you get up and everything hits you all at once. Oh Dear! Oh Gawd! My house is in chaos! ARGGGHHHHH AUUUGGGH HEEEELPP~!

You have to take one thing at a time, out of all those duties and messes, one thing only at a time and just get it done. Or, if you are like I have been, you do one part of the room, scurry to another part, then another, and eventually it all is done, but . . . you are exhausted!

That is a perfect metaphor or analogy for my brain! I simply must clean it out or else my brain will explode. But, I need to clean it out in a more efficient way . . . oh yes, I must.

And, also, while I'm metaphoring, I realize I really do need to clean my physical house, too *laughing*

There is the Contest at Gumbo Writer's place.

I think what I will do with the contest is make another "Page" for it so anyone can keep up with it and what I've done so far. If you look at the top of the blog, there are now Pages . . . a Home page where you are now; there is a Trailer/video page, and a Blog Tour page.
I'll add a "Promo Contest" page and keep it updated. Whew, there's one decision made *laugh*

I also went insane and said I'd write some articles for a local publication - I'm proud to do it, but I'm nervous about my deadlines during such a busy time.

I've also committed to writing a short story for the Mossy Creek series - if you've not ready any of the Mossy Creeks- they are so much fun! Now I'll be a part of it...wheeee!

Then, I have something simmering that I am not sure I can tell you all yet - I think I can, but I'm waiting to hear back from BB first to make sure it is a "for sure thing" -- as for sure as these things can be in this business. But, if this is a 'sure thing' then I am surely insane. I am completely mad. haha! hahahahahha! hahahhaahhaahhahohohohoheheehhooo!

Then there is my blog and twitter and facebook. There is my blog tour - which I am really enjoying, so that's not a chore - in fact, I will be at Janna's Place tomorrow...where I talk about some of the questions I am often asked about publishing and books, etc. Hope you will stop by!

There is my co-publishing editor stuff with Rose & Thorn that Angie Ledbetter and I work together on, along with Cynthia Toups our Managing editor and the other staff. This is an important and wonderful thing we do for writers and poets and artists....I think so anyway.

So, this morning, while walking the cove at Killian Knob, I knew I had better get a handle on all the things I have going on. I better sweet, mop, dust, vacuum. If I don't, then my brain-house will become over-loaded with junk and dust and piles of stuff. I'll turn in circles and get nothing done. I will become overly-exhausted because I'm running to and fro and fro and to.

I won't even tell you my saga of how I became completely stressed yesterday because I was suddenly afraid everyone would hate Secret Graces. I know these things are circutous thinking and do no one any good, but I couldn't help it. I obsssesssssed all day and it exhausted me. I worried and worried and worried myself over the book coming out this April and what if it flops and what if what if what if....lawd! I finally went to work on my writing and remembered why I do this and then I felt more centered.

The next six to ten months, and on into next year are going to be COMPLETELY INSANE. Can I do it? Can I juggle the things I have said I will do? Well, yes, I will . . . as long as I stay healthy and alive (um, let's hope I do! *laughing*) because I have committed myself to them, and if anything, I have a good solid work ethic. And I'm prolific. And, most important, I don't want quantity to get in the way of quality - can I really do it all and still do it well? I sure hope so.

SO TELL ME . . .

What about you? Is your brain-house in disorder and chaotic? What do you do to be organized- please tell me! I truly do need some tips! Do you have online calendars that remind you of when tasks should be done? Do you write down things somewhere? Do you have a paper calendar with things written? Do you put them in your phone? What is your strategy when you have an over-loaded schedule?

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Waltz Between Reader & Writer

There is a rhythm to the writing, and there is a rhythm to the reading. The writer through the language places words, phrases, paragraphs onto the page, much as a musician writes his or her music and then sends it out to the world for listeners to enjoy. When I am writing, I am not aware of the rhythm. I am manipulating the language, but its rhythm comes from instinct, not from controlled purpose. When I am reading, I am not aware of the rhythm; it is only when I’ve put away the book and reflect on it that the rhythm, or lack of it, becomes apparent.

Not long ago, I read a novel and in the first two chapters, I had the urge to put away the book; something just wasn’t right. But curiosity kept me reading to the third chapter, then the fourth, and somewhere along the way, I tapped into the rhythm of the writer’s words and began to enjoy the book. I thought, I’m so glad I didn’t put the book away, or I’d have missed this waltz between writer and reader. I thought back to other books I’ve read when I’ve almost stopped reading, but when I kept on, I’d soon find I enjoyed the experience—not always, but many times. I simply needed to fall in step with the writer, one two three, one two three, one two three…

The writer has no awareness of how in-tuned we are to one another in the moment of my reading his or her words. He doesn’t know I am swaying in time, lifting up then setting down, dipping, rising falling—our dance. The writer and I have never been closer and I wish I could tell her, turn my head, look up into her face, say the words, “Your words have affected me, or moved me, or made me laugh, or entertained me, or made me think.” The characters dance along with us, apparitions who become solid and real through the sure hand of his writing, the hand at my back that guides me here there here there, to places and events and people.

When I put down the book I am reading, I have to re-orient myself to space and time, to the silence in the room, the absence of character, language, song—rhythm, and I can’t wait until tomorrow night when Writer and I meet again, when the writer will take me in his or her arms and move me about the room. We are perfect partners: writer and reader.

I have this hope, that when others read my work they feel the rhythm with me, that I lead them through the beauty of the language, that together we dance. That they stay with me until we are the perfect partner: Writer and Reader.
What about you? Do you feel that rhythm when you read, or when you write?
(the next stop on my blog tour will be Janna's Place . . . I hope you've gone by and wrote a hello to the other wondeful blog friends who have hosted me -thank you!)