Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Connections -- Part 2

Last Wednesday I looked at human connections. This week I delve into connections in logic and events.

I think it perhaps is the writer in me, or maybe that pesky remnant of my left brain, that looks for logical connections between events and people. Sometimes, also, illogical connections. What do I mean?

What is the connection between weather and mood, mood and action, action and reaction?

When I see a behavior, an event, or even a natural phenomenon, I start looking at the cause and effect relationships. I don’t mean in an algebraic sense. I’m terrible at math, especially algebra proofs. I do love, though, sorting out the factors that lead people and animals to behave as they do.

If my friend lashes out at a friendly barista when she makes a simple mistake, is it in character or out? If out of character, why did it happen? Is my friend having a bad day and, if he is, then why? Is it a personal problem, Seasonal Affective Disorder, or a problem with medication dosage?

When earthquakes and tsunamis start ripping through the earth at a startling rate, I wonder about that rate. Is there a cause and effect relationship within the earth's plates that causes a ripple effect (um, yes, pretty sure there is)? Does the earth go through this cycle every several hundred years, or is this a sign of the coming end? Or have things been this bad all along, and we just didn't have the technology to spread the word?

And what about the connection between such disasters and the humans who endure them.? The people of Japan show amazing fortitude in the face of calamity. In other places, such events would lead to looting and rioting. What is the connection between events and reactions? What deep recesses of the soul lead some to amazing heights of courage and others to the darkest depths of human behavior?

Maybe I’m wrong about this being something writers examine in particular. Perhaps this is another trait all humanity shares. I’m not sure it is, though, because I often find myself getting sideways stares when I start asking why people behave in certain ways under not-so-certain circumstances. These, though, are the questions that drive my thoughts…who, what, where, when, how and why.

Next Wednesday, the role of connections in our lives.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Update -- 3/28/11

After suffering a major relapse last Wednesday, I again find myself pulling my hair out over how little I accomplished and how far behind I am. I was so ill last week, I simply forgot about the writer's group on Tuesday. They probably don't expect to see me again.

Here's what else I haven't done; I haven't:

  • Trimmed my short romance to Woman's World requirements,
  • Written the Shadowland post for my last deadline (with another deadline coming at me on Wednesday),
  • Marketed any of the tips or fillers I have lying around,
  • Written outlines or drafts for miscellaneous ideas,
  • Done anything with my children's books,
  • Worked on my NIP,
  • Journaled, or
  • Much else.

I did take a bit of a plunge last Friday. Thursday, I opened our local paper (a weekly that comes out on Wednesdays). I scanned all 6 pages and, for the first time in months, looked at the help wanted ads. That same paper, the Gazette-Times, is currently looking for a part-time news editor.

I wasn't on the hunt for a job. I wasn't consciously seeking an opportunity. But...part time? Two days a week? News editor? I dropped off my resume on Friday.

I haven't heard back one way or the other yet. It has only been three days. I imagine that, even in a town of 1,300, there's some stiff competition. I'm praying though, and have all fingers and toes crossed.

In some ways I feel like this may be a sign of insanity. After all, I purposely try to work from home in order to raise my daughter myself (versus having a daycare do it). I don't feel I need more on my plate right now; I'm busy enough.

In other ways, I feel I'm going to seed. This job, if gotten, could be what I need to give me back a bit of my edge. Besides, we need the money.

So, there's my situation for the week. How's everyone else doing this last Monday in March?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ramblings, Reflections and a Blog Roundup -- 3/25/11

I can't believe it's Friday. I imagine I'm not alone in that thought.

It seems strange to me to think in those terms since I don't have a Monday through Friday, 8 to 5 kind of job. Being a mom is more like a 24/7 job, while trying to squeeze everything else in around the edges. Still, years of dealing with a 9-5 environment has left me with the continuing urge to measure weeks in five-day units. So, another week has passed.

I suffered a relapse of the cold I thought I was beating. So, not much got done besides the basics. By the basics, I mean feeding and clothing my family (barely) and...well, that's pretty much it.

Enough about my life. That can all be said in my Monday update. Here's what I found in my Google Reader this week.

A question about the use of real place names turns into an answer about not giving into distractions on Rachelle Gardner's blog.

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

On the same blog, guest blogger Mary Demuth weighs in on 7 Ways to Be a Professional. Since this is something I work hard at (yes, despite apparent flaws), I thought it worth including in this roundup.

7 Ways to Be a Professional

We've all heard the slogan, "Write what you know." What if you want to write about a place you've never been? Write It Sideways has a great post on the topic, complete with pros, cons and helpful advice.

7 Tips for Writing About Places You’ve Never Been

When I first started reading Mary's post at, I thought, "Yeah, I've heard this before." But her post on matching detail and syntax to content turned out to be insightful and worth the read, even if you simply consider it a reminder.

Mimetic Writing

T.L. Cooper has an interesting post on priorities and the workaholic in her over at Write with TLC.

The Workaholic in Me

This last one has nothing to do with writing. As a frustrated travel addict, though, I enjoy reading Ryan's posts on his thoughts. It doesn't hurt that he's an old college friend. Anyway, this post from The Savvy Traveler was well-written and worth the read. And maybe it does apply to writing, if you bend your mind enough.

What's the Nature of Your Travel Addiction?

That should be enough to keep us all busy. I continue to battle a cold, so I know I missed tons of great posts this week. My apologies to the authors of those posts; I'll catch you on the next go-around! Till then, happy Friday and happy writing.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Connections -- Part 1

I look for connections everywhere.

I don’t know if it’s my rural upbringing, my writer’s mind or some human trait we all share, but I follow the thread of every person I meet or event I encounter to see how it connects with other people and events. I do this as a person, but also as a writer. That’s why I’ve decided to write a short series of posts on the subject. I’ll write about connections with people, connections with events, how connections shape our lives and how those connections shape our writing.

First up, connections in humanity.

Human Connections
I believe it is, in fact, a very human endeavor to examine the connections between ourselves and others. Whether we’re raised on a wheat farm in Oregon, an Italian neighborhood in the Bronx or a village in Botswana, all of us find something satisfying in establishing connections between ourselves and others.

Whenever you hear of a person-centered event in your community--a birth, death, wedding, accident or arrest--what is the first thing you do? If your family is like mine, you look for relationships. "Ah, yes, so and so who’s getting married is the son of this person who was related to that person who was a next door neighbor of the other person, who is--of course--a second cousin of such and such."

Like any good “Six Degrees” game, you eventually end up with a connection. Maybe it’s a familial connection. Maybe it’s not. In any case, you get close enough to establish that person’s place in your world. They are no longer simply a disembodied name. They are someone who, no matter how convoluted the path, is firmly fixed in your reality. You have a connection.

Next Wednesday: connections in logic and events.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Monday Update...on Tuesday?

I have a cold. That explains in part why I'm a day late with this weekly update.

This past weekend was Heppner's Wee Bit 'O Ireland celebration, one of the two biggest events in our small town's year. For me, that mainly meant making sure the local stores were stocked with plenty of gelato. That translated into hours spent churning those dozens of pints...only to turn around this week and realize I need to start all over again.

Throw in a funeral on Wednesday and a few church obligations, and my body was ripe for the cold virus my niece and nephew brought to us during the middle of the week. Saturday, the day of the big festivities, saw me with sinuses ready to burst a nose leaking like a faucet. My darling daughter was not much better off.

It took me three days to re-enter the land of the living. Three days is a pretty good record for me and colds, but seemed interminable when combined with an active 2-year-old and my pregnancy-enforced absence of meds. That's Nyquil, Dayquil, Robitussin. No meds.

So, not a lot of writing got done this past week. That doesn't mean nothing got done. Remember that short story I wrote a week or so ago? I wrote it with Woman's World in mind, and last week I emailed them for their fiction guidelines. I received a response yesterday. For those who are interested, I'll post their fiction guidelines below. From what I hear, it could take several attempts to break in; the number of submissions they receive is phenomenal. They pay pretty darn well, though, especially for this economy, so it's worth the effort.

As for tonight's writer's group...I've missed the past two weeks and I'm not sure how I'll feel about it tonight after a day playing catch-up. We'll see how it pans out.


Romance guidelines:

We buy contemporary romances of 800 words. Stories must revolve around a compelling, true-to-life relationship dilemma; may feature either a female or male protagonist; and may be written in either the first or third person. Characters may be married, single, divorced or widowed; should be down-to-earth (no yuppies or jet-setters); and their dilemma should be poignantly or humorously conveyed. Please think carefully about a story's setting, mood and plot, and tell the story with interesting action and dialogue. (Every sentence, paragraph, and scene of the story should deliver more information about your characters and their situation and/or briskly advance the storyline).

We are not interested in stories involving life-or-death matters, nor are we interested in fluffy, flyaway-style romance. When we say romance, what we really mean is relationship--whether it's just beginning or is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The emphasis in our stories is on real life-which is why we do not buy science fiction, fantasy or historical romance.

We pay $800 per romance and retain First North American Serial Rights for six months after publication.

Mini mystery guidelines:

We purchase short "solve-it-yourself" mysteries of 700 words--a count that includes the narrative and the solution. Stories should be cleverly plotted, entertaining cliffhangers that end with a challenge to the reader to figure out whodunnit or howdunnit. The solution to the mystery is provided in a separate box.

Robbery, burglary, fraud and murder are acceptable subjects, but spare the readers any gory details or excessive violence, please! We are also not interested in ghost stories, science fiction or fantasy.

We pay $500 per mystery and retain First North American Serial Rights for six months after publication.


Manuscripts should be double-spaced in legible size type.

Where to send manuscripts: Fiction Editor, Woman's World, 270 Sylvan Ave., Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632. Indicate Mini Mystery or Romance on the envelope.

How to send manuscripts: (1) You must include a Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope to receive a reply. Manuscripts not accompanied by a SASE will be discarded. Note: A #10 SASE is necessary not just for a response, but for your contract if we purchase your story. (2) Please DO NOT fax or e-mail manuscripts--because such submissions do not include SASEs, we have no means of responding to your submission.

Get to know us: Please familiarize yourself thoroughly with our romances and mini mysteries before submitting your work.

Be patient: Because we receive a tremendous volume of manuscripts, our turnaround time may range from one to six months. If you still have not heard from us after that time, feel free to re- submit your manuscript. Please do not call or write us to inquire about a manuscript's status.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ramblings, Reflections and a Blog Roundup -- 3/18/11

Happy St. Patrick's Day/Erin go bragh! (one day late) and Viva San Giuseppe! (one day early). Yes, two saints' days right in a row...and both celebrated by my family in honor of my part-Irish heritage and my husbands mostly-Sicilian background. It's interested when beer, corned beef and cabbage meet wine, pasta and sardines. In this melting post that is the U.S. of A., though, sometimes traditions get meshed in the most interesting ways! (But no, we don't usually have all that on the same day. Gross.)

Okay, enough of the rambling part. On to the week's interesting blogs. Here they are:

Do you favor long blocks of text or lots of white space? Check out the nuances of empty space at Write It Sideways.

How and When to Use White Space In Writing

I've been trying to unplug more lately, but sometimes a piece of technology makes me say, "Wow, that's cool." That's what happened when I found out about the new iPhone app, Broadcastr. Jane Friedman shares a bit about it over at There Are No Rules. True, I have no access to the app, since I don't have one of them new-fangled phones. Still, it's cool. What do you amazing new tool for writers or, as my mom says, "Too much technology"?

Share Your Stories Using Broadcastr

Rachelle Gardner has not one, but several posts bursting the myths writers believe about agents and publishing. Short and to the point, they're worth checking out if you're new to the publishing arena. Here's the link to the most recent:

Myth Busting -- Our 3rd and Final Day

Mary over at has an interesting post on using the first-person POV with a narrative that's more third-person appropriate. Don't know what that means? Neither did I. Her post makes a lot of sense, though, and makes me want to take another look at the narrative in my first-person POV WIP.

Third Person-Style Narration in First Person

Are you thinking about self-publishing--or already have--and wondering how that would affect your chances of getting published in the world of agents and the big 6 houses? Jessica at BookEnds, LLC addresses a reader question on that topic in one of her most recent posts.

From Self-Pubbed to Contract

I've been struggling whether to gear a certain story idea toward adult or YA. That's why I found this post at Adventures in Agentland so helpful. It's actually about voice, not POV. Check out the full post at:

YA vs. Adult: what's so different, anyway?

As a spot of inspiration, here's Michael Hyatt's perspective on how to face adversity...not to ask "Why did this happen?" but "How can this make us better?" See some other questions Michael Hyatt offers to reframe a negative situation.

Seven Better Questions You Can Ask in the Midst of Adversity

Finally, I'll share a post from Laura Campbell at Writing Unleashed. Why? Because I identify. Laura details her recent experience with ending up in the writing ditch and then getting back on the road. Anyone here who can't relate? I didn't think so.

Getting Back to My Writing

There are plenty more great posts out there, but I'm going into Google Reader overload. So, until next week, happy Friday and happy writing!

$.99 Kindle Book!

Just a quick note to let everyone know we lowered the price of Creative Marriage Proposals to only 99 cents on Kindle. It's an experiment based on news of some books that are selling well at that price. We also finally realized that no sales at 99 cents doesn't cost us any more than no sales at $6.95.

So, if you've thought about checking it out but were deterred by the price, now is the perfect time!

Click here to go to Creative Marriage Proposals on Kindle.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Update 3/14/11

On this first Monday after the time change, I'm feeling a sense of overwhelm. It could be leftover exhaustion from the time change. (Though, with a toddler who doesn't care about clocks, that part is probably all in my head.) It might have been the 3-1/2 hour council meeting last Thursday, the minutes I have to review and the letters I have to write. It may be the gelato that needs churning or the quilting I need to do this week.

Yes, that's probably it. That's probably also why, as I try to gather my thoughts and launch into this week, my brain offers me less introspection and more of a to-do list. I'm sure I'll get things sorted eventually; I just hope it doesn't take me till Friday to do it.

That said, here's a writing update: zip. Yes, as you may have gathered from that partial to-do list, I didn't get a whole lot of writing done this past week. I did take the time to research some publications. The next step is to actually write and send to said publications. Plus, two weeks have flown by, and I find myself faced with another Shadowland deadline tomorrow. Since I haven't even gotten as far as writing a title for it, this should be interesting.

All that says one thing to me. I need to get off the Internet and back to work!

Happy Monday and happy writing.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

"Your Focus Needs More Focus"

Our satellite provider recently gave us a weekend preview of some movie channels. That gave me the chance to watch (most of) yet another movie I'd missed in the theater...The Jackie Chan version of "The Karate Kid."

Okay, I liked it. Yes, it was a remake, but still... I'm a huge Jackie Chan fan, and this role shows a different facet of his character. It also seems Jaden Smith may have inherited his parents' mad acting skills. If nothing else, it was worth watching for the breathtaking views of China.

Those who have seen it will probably remember the scene on the pier, right after they climbed the mountain to drink from the spring. Dre was anxious to try what he'd seen an advanced Kung Fu master do on the trip up. When Mr. Han tells him he needs to work on his focus, Dre replies, "I'm focused." Milliseconds later, Mr. Han has a startled Dre hanging inches from the cold water. Then comes the line I loved.

"Your focus needs more focus."

I can't say for sure what the writers, directors and Chan himself might have meant by that line, but I know what lesson I got from it. Dre was focused. He was focused on the end result, on his vision of himself as an invincible Kung Fu warrior. That's good as far as it goes, but it's not enough.

Dre lacked a focus on the here and now. His aspirations were good, but he needed to focus on the present, on each move and principle that would take him where he wanted to go. Without those, he could focus on his dream forever without moving any closer to it.

I think the same problem of focus can hinder writers. It may not be that I'm not focused. I may be very focused on the fame or wealth I believe writing can earn me. The thoughts of movie rights and book signings might claim all my waking thoughts. Yet, to even have a shot of getting there, I can't focus solely on the prize. I have to focus on the writing.

Dre had to focus on movement, on anticipating his opponent and shutting out distractions. As writers, we need to focus on the art, on developing plots and themes and characters, on crafting descriptive prose or breath-stealing poetry. Then we advance to focusing on the technical skills of getting published: how to connect with editors and agents, how to write query letters and cover letters, and the legal aspects of rights and contracts.

When we have a grasp on that, we can think about fame. Maybe. Having made our writing and marketing skills second nature, we can consider some of the perks of success. Then, and only then, may we be ready to charm the snake.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Monday Update 3/7/11

I have bandwidth issues.

We have satellite Internet, and that means that we have a limited amount of bandwidth we can use each month. When we get near our limit, they shut us off. No overage charges. No rollover. Just Internet silence until our bandwidth allotment builds back up. The other day, my father informed me that we were entering the danger zone. So, if I go silent for a few days, it means we've used up our Internet for the month and I haven't made it to the library.

The joys of rural life are many. Internet service isn't one of them.

Otherwise, I have good and indifferent news this week.

I attended my first meeting of the Heppner writers' group last Tuesday. It also turned out to be their first meeting. It lasted two hours but turned into more of a chitchat session than a serious discussion. There was no critique, though the possibility is open for critiques in the future, when members feel more comfortable. I'll be skipping the meeting this week, not because I've given up this quickly but because I have a hectic schedule over the next four days. I do hope, though, that the group turns into something more productive in the near future.

On the up side, I didn't know all that when I prepared for the meeting last Tuesday. Anxious to have something of my own to critique, I finished the short story I'd started the previous Saturday and gave it a quick brush-up. It's still in rough form, but the first part is done. Now it's all refinement. Then then the hard Since I wrote the story with a specific publication in mind, I'm hoping that might turn out to be the easy part this time!

That's it for this week. Happy Monday and happy writing!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Ramblings, Reflections and a Blog Roundup -- 3/4/11

I'm behind on my blog reading. Yes, again. Speed reading through 100 miscellaneous posts isn't the best atmosphere for producing a meaningful blog roundup. I've done my best, though, and I hope you enjoy the results.

First up is Nathan Bransford's take on the author Facebook account. I included his post because I've been thinking about whether I should split my writing life from my personal life on Facebook. My main motivation, honestly, is that I don't want to reach a point where I have total strangers viewing my daughter's pictures. When I think of maintaining three, or even four, accounts, though, I start feeling lazy. Then I convince myself that I'm already overworked, and I put it off some more. What do you think?

Facebook for Authors - How to Get Started

Over the past couple of months, I've become a certified manuscript hoarder. That's why Rachelle Gardner's post, "Cant Hit Send?" hit home with me. Can you identify?

Can't Hit Send?

Here's one I missed from several days ago: T.L. Cooper talks about slow walking to an epiphany versus the blunt approach. Most of us have been there, wanting to jump to the point but knowing the point is best made by letting the other person see it for himself. See how it applies to life as well as writing.

Epiphanies & Storytelling: The Slow Walk Or The Blunt Approach

Okay, most of us know better than to tell an agent or editor that our mother or best friend or child loved our story. But what about an actual focus group? Mary Tackles that question with brutal but helpful honesty on

Focus Groups and Teens Opinions

And this post by Fun Mama...well, it's just interesting. Or not. You decide.

Edible Wild Plants -- A Few Resources

Happy Friday and good writing!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

My Name is Andrea, and I’m a Write-a-holic

Caveat: True addictions are a serious issue, and I have no desire to make light of addicts or the struggles they and their families face. This topic is purely for the sake of analogy.

The other day, I overheard my father confide to someone that he thinks my mother has a reading addiction. After all, seven books in one month is beyond the realm of reasonable consumption.

Fortunately, I’m pretty certain reading is a non-lethal addiction. If it weren’t, I’d have ODed a long time ago. His comment did get me pondering another topic I’d already been noodling.

Is writing a drug?

No, it’s not. Not according to the obvious definition, anyway. But is it addictive?

Yes, I think so.

I’m no doctor or counselor, but I know some of the basics of addiction. Based on my limited knowledge, let’s look at some of them.

Addictions don’t usually happen overnight.
A strong addiction requires repeated exposure to the substance or behavior in order to take hold. This may take a few days to several months, depending on the individual, but most don’t develop addictions after trying something only once. They simply like it enough to try it again…and again…until they’re hooked.

You don’t become a serious writer overnight. You have to try it, like it, and try it some more until it gets under your skin.

When you’re addicted to something, you can’t get enough.
An addiction demands increasing doses for a diminishing return. The less you do, the weaker the hold the activity has over you. The more you do, the more you want.

I can’t speak for other writers, but this is how it is for me: the longer I let my writing sit unvisited, the less desire I have to pick it up again. The more I write, the more I want to write. The more I write, the more it consumes my thoughts, firing my brain with ideas until I have to sit down and put them to words.

Decreased use can lead to a life without the addictive behavior, but you always have to be careful.
You can cut an addiction from your life through rehabilitation or new learned behaviors. At the same time, you need to be careful about exposing yourself to the behavior in the future, or you’ll probably fall into the same patterns again.

As I said, the less I write, the less I want to write. It doesn’t take all that long before I’m almost comfortable not writing at all. Almost. As with all true addictions, it only takes a taste to stir the old passions and fire up those receptors. A true writing addict never “used to be a writer.” At best, you may be a “writer in recovery.”

Sure, my analogy has its limitations. True addictions are destructive to addicts’ lives on mental, physical, emotional and relational levels. With the exceptions of writers like Poe and Hemingway, most writers I know about are pretty balanced…except for that niggling little desire to pick up a pen or pluck at a keyboard. Few writers let their craft destroy their families, their social lives or their non-writing careers.

Here’s my point, though. Unlike most behaviors, writing is something to which it actually helps to be a little addicted. The road to publication is tough, it’s lonely and it’s often unrewarding. If you don’t have an inner drive, a desire for the art for its own sake, it can be easy to give up. I for one, could stand a little more addiction to my writing (and a little less addiction to sugar and chocolate, but that’s a separate topic). Anyone else feel like forming an addiction?