Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Heart of a Writer's Career

The story.

With the wealth of information available on the Internet, a writer can easily be overwhelmed with facts and figures pertaining to the industry. It's important to be aware, to be knowledgeable. But it's also important to remember that in order to be a player in the publishing game you have to bring something to the table.

The story.

Not just any story, but a well crafted, compelling work of art, whether it be fiction or non-fiction. Unless you are one of the 'blessed'--a writer who can whip out a masterpiece in a month or two--then this means focusing a goodly amount of time and attention on your manuscript. This means you may have to cheat time away from non-essential time suckers. It's up to each individual to determine what those 'time-suckers' are. Television? Social events? On-line shopping? Virtual games? For me, it's blog-hopping. I've scaled back. But not enough. How do I know? Because whatever time I spend hopping around to see who's doing what and what's happening where, I'm not working on...

The story.

I know I've touched on this before. It's an on going battle and it's tough, because you tell yourself that you are keeping abreast of the industry. That you're socializing with and supporting industry pals. That you're contributing to discussions and getting your name out there. We all know how important 'name recognition' is. But the purpose of name recognition is so that when someone sees your book on the shelf, even if they've never read you before, the familiarity factor will kick in and prompt a sale. But they won't see your book on the shelf if you don't write...

The story.

Let's get back to the overwhelming facts and figures. MJ Rose's 11/27 post, The Challenges, is a key example of information that has the potential to paralyze me. It focuses on author's trying to survive in today's market. On advertising and promo... celebrity branding. At it's heart:

"How many of us can afford to be plain old novelists anymore proficient in only one static flat dimension? Who is going to work with us to turn us into multi-media artists? Who at the publishing house is going to create the opportunities? Or even stay ahead of the curve?"

Reading this (or just about any promo post from the amazing JA Konrath) tangles my insides. It makes me think about how I should be doing more promo wise. And not just any old promo, but cutting edge promo. Except there's the issue of money. And time. Then I remind myself I need a product to promo.

The story.

For a published author there are all sorts of additional time-suckers and worry points. Checking our Amazon and BN rankings. Phoning that magic Ingram number to check distribution numbers. Googling your name to see if anyone is talking about you or your book. Disappointing royalty statements. Lack of fan mail. Lack of a new contract. Agent issues. Editor issues. The list is endless. The danger is that you end up obsessing more than writing and then you'll really have something to worry about because you can't build a career without...

The story.

I'm writing this post for me, honestly. Because I'm producing at a slug's pace and I'm determined to figure out why. I'm determined to beat it. But I'm also, always, hopeful that whatever I write here is helpful or inspiring in some way to my fellow writers. Published or unpublished, if you're not producing at a level you're happy with, analyze what's holding you back and handle it. Put it in perspective or banish it from your daily life. Put your heart and soul back into your writing. Everything else is moot without...

The story.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Lucy Syndrome

I Love Lucy. The show and the lady. She's been making me laugh for years and continues to do so via reruns. The other morning there was an episode where Lucy develops a huge inferiority complex. I listened while I ironed my clothes, being careful not to burn a hole in my shirt (like I've done before.)

She tried to tell a joke and bombed because she screwed up the punchline. When she, Ricky, Fred and Ethel sat down to play cards, no one wanted to partner with her--because she was a lousy card player. She cooked breakfast but used the wrong spice on the eggs. Broke the toaster so tried to make toast in the oven and (you guessed it) burned it.

She broke down in Lucy (waaah) tears, lamenting to Ricky, "I'm a horrible wife. I can't do anything right."

It struck a chord with me because most of the things listed above are all true of me. I walked into the kitchen where Steve was making his own breakfast. (He's smarter than Ricky). I asked him, "Am I a Lucy?" He hugged me and assured me I was not.

However, that same night I set a cup of very hot tea on his antique nightstand using a tissue as a coaster. I thought it would suffice. It didn't. I basically burned the wood. There is now a white circle there that we can't get rid of. Then last night we had chinese food delivered. There were several cartons and I was looking for my chicken and broccoli. Steve came in and looked at the carton containing his curry shrimp. "You opened this, didn't you?" He could tell because the lid where you tuck it closed was torn. Oops.

I'm thinking he was being kind when he assured me I'm not domestically challenged. I'm pretty sure I'm a Lucy. I do not, however, suffer from a huge inferority complex. In the words of Popeye... I yam what I yam.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Monday Musings

I survived my my first official workout on the exercise bike. Barely. I was determined to cycle for five-minutes. I puffed and groaned. I had visions of the after-life. But I pedaled on. As soon as the timer hit 5:00, I de-biked. My tingly legs buckled. I collapsed onto the floor where I panted and sweated... and groaned. Cheyenne (dog #2) kept licking my face. I think she was trying to revive me. It didn't help. Steve kindly mentioned that you're supposed to do a 'cool-down' session, not just STOP. I tried not to snap his head off. I know that. But I was dying. After a few minutes, my heart finally settled in my chest. I lived only to almost die another day. After I post this, I'll attempt day #2 of my official workout. Cheyenne's eyeing me with worry.

Today is editor Abby Zidle's last day at HQN. I'm trying not to cry. She acquired me for HQN. She saw the potential in ALL ABOUT EVIE and became my champion in the house. I was extremely lucky to have such a bright and witty advocate. I'll miss her enthusiasm and humor. Not to mention her editing skills. I'm sorry that she won't be with me to celebrate the release of ALL ABOUT EVIE, but at least we made it through revisions and line edits together. Abby is moving to Pocket, another NYC publishing house. I wish her joy in her new job. Whatever writers she's assigned or acquires for Pocket are very lucky indeed.

Today, I have an appointment with a photographer. I haven't had professional headshots done in several years. I figured it's time. HQN is requesting photos for their website and, I assume, to be included in ALL ABOUT EVIE. I also need to send an updated photo to Medallion Press. Although I love the shot they're using, that was a good four hair colors and five hairstyles ago (and it's only two years old). I'll be honest, I'm not looking forward to today. I wish I'd started cycling about two months ago. Doesn't the camera add ten pounds? Like I need that. Weight issues aside, I've never been comfortable posing for pictures. I don't know how models do it, honest I don't.

Yesterday, I broke through a block in my WIP. Same old problem. I'd written myself into the wrong place. I spent the day making some changes and last night wrote three NEW pages. Glory be! I'll be digging in again... after I torture myself on that exercise bike.

What's happening on your Monday?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Big Butt Be Gone

The pie is gone. Along with all of the other Thanksgiving leftovers. Although you can see remnants of it all on my thighs. *Sigh*

To be fair, I'd started to put on a little weight even before Thanksgiving. It's not because I eat too much--I really don't--but because I exercise too little. I used to burn off calories on stage. Now that I'm not performing regularly, that ain't happening. Although I'm mobile at the library, it's just not the same as dancing and singing for four hours at a clip. These days I spend an enormous amount of time sitting in a chair, working at the computer.

While trying to squeeze into a pair of jeans yesterday, I realized I have developed 'writer's butt'. Ack! Desperate, and not being one to join a gym, I wrangled Steve into an impromtu shopping trip. We came home with this. A duel action exercise bike that works upper and lower body.

"You better use this thing," he said. It was sort of pricey and I have been known to start and stop an exercise program... or ten. I vowed that I would. "Starting tomorrow," I said, "I'm going to attempt twenty minutes per day."

Knowing how out of shape I am, he pointed out I'd be lucky to do ten-minutes. Wanting to prove him wrong, I hopped on the bike... and made it two-minutes before I thought my heart was going to burst through my chest. Oops. Who knew it would be so hard?! Meanwhile, Steve biked for fifteen minutes without even breaking a sweat.

I'll show him. Maybe. *g* But truly, honestly, I really am going to ride this thing every morning, directly after blogging. I'll let you now how I do.

How are you keeping in shape these days??

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Meal That Wouldn't End

I love pumpkin pie. Steve knows this and, being the thoughtful person that he is, bought one for Thanksgiving dinner. Dinner was just the two of us. Steve's not big on pumpkin pie. You see where I'm going with this. Can I actually eat a whole pumpkin pie? Yes, I can. Not in one sitting, but it's only been two days and half the pie is gone. A slice is calling to me now. Pumpkin pie for breakfast. Yum.

Last night, dinner consisted of turkey, stuffing, green beans, and cranberry sauce (and pie). Leftovers. "Yum," I said cheerfully, genuinely. "Thanksgiving dinner #2."

"Yes," Steve said. "And tomorrow night will be Thanksgiving dinner #3."

You see, although it was just the two of us, he sort of cooked for six. I don't mind. This particular spread only comes once a year and I love all of the traditional foods. Thursday night, Steve tossed out the turkey's big breast bone thingy. "Your mom would have frozen that," I said. "You know what she'd say."

"Yeah," he said. "She'd say it makes great soup."

Still he tossed it. I'm thinking he's nearing his turkey limit for the year. *g*

Even if you don't celebrate Thanksgiving, I'm betting there are leftovers of some sort in your fridge. Inquiring minds (meaning moi) want to know... what's the last food you had for two or three days running?

Friday, November 24, 2006

A Post About Nothing

You know you're in trouble when, even after scanning several other blogs and the day's top news stories, you spend a good ten minutes staring at a blank blog post, not a thought in your head.

You know you're in deeper trouble when you finally eek out an opening sentence, hoping that if you just start typing the thoughts will come, and none do. Except for this one. A follow up to the initial realization and admission: I have nothing to say.

I'm thinking it's because...

A) I'm still in holiday mode. I did the unusual yesterday. I gave myself the day off. I watched two Doris Day movies back-to-back. Enjoyed a homecooked meal with Steve. Then later we watched 'Cars'. Which we thought would be fun, light fare. (I enjoyed Doris more.) So maybe all that relaxation, which I am not used to, carried over to this morning and my brain's tripping on remnants of turkey, pumpkin pie, and Doris Day.

Or...

B) After glancing at the calendar, I realized how much I have to accomplish in the next two months. Galleys on one book, revisions on another, and the completion of a third. Oh, and the revision of a book proposal. In December alone I have three Penelope Pageturner (storytelling) appearances and five emcee gigs on top of my normal library hours. Then there are the other assorted 'must do-s' on the 'to do' list. Perhaps my brain shutdown because it's shaking in its skull.

The good news is, I go through this all the time. Well, that's not good news, but it's something I understand. That paralyzing feeling of having too much to do in too little time. Cross-eyed, heart-racing, spinning in circles, wondering "Where do I start?" and "How will I get it all done?"

The answer: Just dig in and do it.

Just do it.

Have another cup of coffee and just... Do it.

It's a plan anyway. Ten minutes ago I didn't have a thought. Now I have a plan. And a blog post about nothing. *g*

Have nothing to say? Feel free to ramble here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

What kind of music did the Pilgrims like?
Plymouth Rock

Why did they let the turkey join the band?
Because he had the drumsticks

Why did the police arrest the turkey?
They suspected it of fowl play

What did the turkey say before it was roasted?
Boy! I'm stuffed!


Corny, huh? Hey, I didn't write them. I'm just the messenger. Spreading some good cheer for the holiday. I'm very much looking forward to Thanksgiving Day. I'm going to enjoy the Macy Day Parade (via television), have a homecooked meal (via Steve), and watch a holiday movie (via NetFlix). Bliss. I have much to be grateful for, personally and professionally. Were I to compose a list, it would be quite long. I'll just say... I'm blessed. And I am thankful.

Wishing you and yours a day of love and laughter.

Okay, now. Who has a joke for me?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

IT!

Clara Bow. The original 'It' Girl. Elinor Glyn, the writer who pioneered mass market erotic fiction in the 1920s, described 'It' as — "... that strange magnetism which attracts both sexes... entirely unself-conscious... full of self-confidence... indifferent to the effect..."

Translation for many: Sex appeal.

Yesterday in my rave review of Casino Royale, I mentioned that I thought Daniel Craig had 'It'. Reading Glyn's definition and judging by male and female reaction to the man and his performance, I'm sticking by my call. It has little to do with classic beauty and everything to do with charisma. Daniel Craig has 'It'.

Of course the specifics of 'It' (If you can be specific because really it's undefinable) can be different for different people. Personally, I'd add intelligence and a sense of humor into the mix. What about you? How would you define 'sex appeal'? Who has 'It'?

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Spy Who Rocked My World

Due to my work schedule, rarely do I get out of the house to trek to the theaters these days. Yesterday, I nearly knocked the door off the hinges in my determination and rush to see Casino Royale.

Daniel Craig, a wonderfully talented actor, withstood an angry (read: ugly) out cry from avid Bond fans when announced as the next 007. It had nothing to do with talent and everything to do with looks. At the time, I had recently viewed Craig in Layer Cake. In addition to being a powerful actor, the man had 'It', that undefinable essence, charisma, sex appeal. You know. It. I knew he'd rock as James Bond. And boy, does he ever.

Bartender: Shaken or stirred?
James Bond: Does it look like I give a damn?

That just about sums up the new Bond. *g*

I'm not going to offer a review here. I agree with most of the on-line reviews by movie critics. What they said, except I don't think it was too long. It was, however, complicated. The intrigue kept me guessing even as the credits rolled. Like Syriana, I need to see Casino Royale again to fully understand the plot. Not that I'm complaining. I hope to catch this riviting movie again on the big screen and I will own the DVD for multiple viewings. Yes, I liked it that much. Screenwriters Neil Purvis and Robert Wade, Director Martin Campbell, and Actor Daniel Craig have breathed new life into Ian Fleming's James Bond. I was not only entertained, but inspired! Thank you. I needed that.

Bond and his leading lady were multi-layered characters, playing on the angle that no one is all good or all bad. Although the movie was packed with heart-racing action sequences, there were plenty of heart-racing 'real' moments. My favorite was the shower scene (pictured above). In my opinion, simultaneously the sexiest and most tender scene in the movie. Moments like those are what inspire me to write romantic fiction. It was also a reminder that a scene does not have to be graphic to be sexy. I believe it was Nora Robert's who said, "It's not in the motion, but in the emotion." That thought and the heart and complexity of Craig's Bond have me attacking my WIP with renewed energy. All I can say is, wow.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Brush With Fame

There is a rhythm to my chaotic life these days. Mostly I toil away behind my computer--writing my books. Or behind the circulation desk--loaning library books. Or behind the microphone--hawking casino sweepstakes.

Rarely is any of this glamorous. Though once in a blue moon I do experience a celebrity type moment. Always unexpected. Always a thrill. Cut to three days ago at the library.

Me dressed down in corduroy cargo pants, a long-sleeved t-shirt, and clunky Doc Martins. Hair in a ponytail and wearing my red-rimmed glasses (glasses similar to the ones I recently saw on 'Ugly Betty'. Huh.) I zap the barcode of two bestselling suspense authors' books and hand them to a male patron. "Anything else I can do for you?"

Patron: Holds up a promo bookmark. "I'm looking for books by this author."

Me: Blink-blink. Blush. "Um. That's me."

Patron: "What?"

Me: Gesturing toward the name on the bookmark, feeling awkward and giddy at the same time. "That's me. I'm Beth Ciotta. My books are on the shelves. Would you like me to show you where they are?"

Patron: Nods and follows me. Pregnant pause then... "If you're an author, why are you working in a library?"

Me: Smiling. "Because I'm not Stephen King."

Patron: Laughs and chooses, not one, but two of my books. "When you're rich and famous, I'll have to come back for your autograph."

I'm kind of hoping that he or his wife will like the stories so much they'll want my autograph regardless of my non-celebrity status. Not that I care a flip about the autograph thing. He'd already given me a monumental thrill. Usually patrons ask to be directed to the latest book by Nora Roberts, James Patterson, or Mary Higgins Clark. This patron asked for me.

Now excuse me while I go back to doing the laundry. *g*

Friday, November 17, 2006

Passion and Purpose

Bear with me while I set you up for my current musing. Passion and purpose.

I began singing professionally at the age of fourteen. Yup. Fourteen. On stage, every weekend, for a minimal, but weekly fee. Someday, if I ever get around to scanning them, I'll share some pictures. My grandmother dressed me and you can tell. *g*

I sang professionally throughout my teens. I went on the road with a band two days after I graduated high school. I was seventeen. I sang on the road six nights a week, 50 weeks (or close to it) a year, for eight years. At age twenty-five I settled in Atlantic City and I performed almost exclusively in the casinos.

It was difficult to work as a full-time singer in one town, so I branched out. Character actress, dance motivator, emcee. Between all of these things, I managed to keep afloat, although there were times that I had to take on a day job. But even when I had a day job, I still performed. I couldn't imagine ever not performing professionally. I'd dreamed of it since I was five years old.

Over the last three years my performance schedule dwindled. The reasons are numerous. It was an adjustment. A painful adjustment. I'm happy to say I am 99.9% over it. I've moved on and I'm better for it. The passion I once felt for performing, I now feel for writing. I'm fortunate. I have friends who are only driven to perform and when the world you're used to no longer wants you--not because you've lost your talent but because you've gained a few wrinkles or lost some of your hair (Read: aged)--life loses its luster. Having experienced that mindset, I can say it's, well, beyond depressing.

This mindset does not pertain exclusively to entertainers. I merely use it as an example as it is the life I've lived. We all, each of us, have felt passionate about a hobby or job. So much so that we allowed that 'passion' to define us as a person. But what happens when life deals you a blow? What happens when knitting or fly fishing becomes difficult because of arthritis? Or when the higher-ups decide that your job (the job you love) is better suited to someone--ACK!--younger? Or more aggressive. Or more cutting edge. Never mind that you excell at your work. Suddenly, against your wishes and will, that part of your life is over. What then?

Here's my take. One must always be sensitive to opportunities and interests. One must never allow fear or laziness of any shape or form to prevent one from rediscovering passion and purpose. I refuse to believe that any of us are born with one talent, period. Nor with one passion. Nor one clearly defined, super specific, never-to-be-strayed from purpose.

Someone once asked me why I thought I was put on this earth. I answered: To make people happy. That was my gut answer and I still believe it. But I don't have to have a contracted gig to make people happy. I don't have to write for a major publisher to make people happy. There are other avenues should I need them. All that's required is a sense of adventure and a shred of determination to rediscover passion and purpose.

Are you sensitive to your interests? To opportunities? When's the last time you tried something new? What else can you imagine yourself doing whether as a hobby or job?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Enough About Me (sort of)

I'm pretty darn self-involved right now as I am currently in some phase of writing (first draft, revisions, line editing) with four different projects. Three of them contracted. One in proposal form. Then there's the preparation for the three Penelope Pageturner storytelling gigs (sponsored by the Atlantic County Library system).

My brain is totally jammed up with these things hence there is a natural desire to blog about one or all of the above. Frankly, I need a break from 'me'. Instead, I'd like to shine a little light on some friends in blogospere.

Anna Lucia announced her first sale awhile back (still happy dancing for her), but today, she gave up the name of the publisher (I'm guessing that means contracts are signed!) and it's one of my publishers--Medallion Press! Welcome to the MP family, Anna. Wishing you mega success!

Scott Oden just learned that his first historical blockbuster, Men of Bronze, did so well in the UK, his UK editor is also purchasing the rights for second novel, Memnon. Well done, Scott!

Jordan Summers shared an excerpt from RED, the gritty fantasy that she just sold to Tor. Um... wow! You've got to check this out.

Ken Levine celebrates his one year anniversary in blogosphere. As he's a daily dose of inspiration, I'm hoping he sticks around for ten or twenty more. *g* Happy anniversary, Ken!

Barb Hisle (one of my awesome sisters) celebrated a birthday yesterday. She also started a blog, a personal joy for me, where she discusses life in general and some of her favorite reads. If you get a chance, hop over and welcome her to blogosphere!

And now back to 'me'. Heh. If there's anything you'd like to know, a topic you'd like me to address, now's a great time to ask. I beg you. Ask. Anything. Because I am just now, you know, self-involved. *g*

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

ACK!!

Due to a major technical glitch (Not a goober glitch by moi, I swear!), I lost every email in my website email in-box as well as those saved for specific purposes. In total 357 emails and addresses!!!

Ack!!

Gone!

Double ack!!

But, what's done is done. Will. Not. Stress.

If you emailed me because you wanted to receive my (yet-to-be-launched) newsletter, please email me again. I lost your address. Please, forgive me.

If you emailed for any other reason within the past three days, please re-email me. Your note is wherever tech glitched notes go. I just know they're not with me. Please forgive.

I'm off to work at the library now where the computer system has been glitching horribly for two days running. Meaning we can't check in and check out books--or any of the other things we do for patrons--as we normally do. Love technology. Not.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I Feel Good! (except for the bonehead thing)

Man, oh, man. Is it really Tuesday already? I missed you. Truly I did. But blogging took a back seat to...

*Writing and turning in the dedication/acknowledgment page, a Dear Reader letter, and a short bio for ALL ABOUT EVIE.

*Tackling the first 239 pages of 'line edits' for ALL ABOUT EVIE. (They arrived on Saturday. More on my amazing editor and some of my goofy mistakes later.) I have about 70 pages left to go.

*Writing the final two chapters of the proposal for a new book and series. (Just sent that off to my agent. Wish me luck.)

*Saturday and Sunday, six hour emcee gigs. Monday, eight hour shift at the library.

I'm a wee bit burnt, BUT I accomplished a lot over the last four days. In the words of The Godfather of Soul, "I feel good!"

I'll feel even better when I finish those last 70 pages of line edits. But before I go I'll leave you with one of my most eye-rolling bloopers. When Arch disguises himself in a white uniform, Evie considers his dreamy good looks, thinking he looks like a 'Navel Officer'.

Um, I made that mistake not once, but twice. And, yes, I know the difference. *g* Care to share one of your best bloopers?? Come on, I'm not the only one who makes the occasional bonehead mistake. Am I? Hello??

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Beauty of the Bubble

I belong to a national and local writers organization. I value the workshops they offer, the friends I have made, and the promotional opportunities they afford. I try to give back whenever I can--writing articles, judging contests, teaching workshops--but, beyond that, I'm not all that active. Politics and competition don't interest me, and you'll find that in almost any organized 'club'.

Let's bypass politics, and focus on that other snarly beast, competition. Writers struggle with enough insecurities concerning their own work. When they start worrying about how they stack up against another artist, whether it be in terms of advances, print runs, contest wins, or productivity, they're opening the door for some really ugly emotions and behavior. Who needs it? Not me. That's why I spend most of my time in my pretty pink bubble, working at my own speed, focusing on my own story, and not worrying about how my career compares to X, Y or Z author. There are others who thrive and make strides by doing so. Not me.

Here's one for instance. I have friends who write four strong books a year. There are times when I've left my bubble, thought about them, and felt less than wonderful because I can only write two books a year. I have friends who have been working on one book for more than a year, and I'm sure there are times they feel less than wonderful when they think about me and my level at productivity. Dwelling on something like this can, to the extreme, become paralyzing. Let's stop and think. Does speed really matter? Isn't it the end result that matters most?

There's a fabulous post (11/9) running at Buzz, Balls, and Hype written by Dr. Susan O'Doherty. It touches on certain forms of competition. (Read it. Read it. Read it.) Here's one of my favorite parts.

"The amount of time you take to complete a novel is not important. Neither is whether you write on a laptop Olympia portable, or a tattered legal pad; whether you spill your raw feelings onto the page and shape them in successive drafts or draw up meticulous outlines and follow them religiously, editing as you go; or whether the work "flows" or requires sustained, conscious effort. What matters is the baby -- your book. You are writing your books using the techniques that work for you, and taking the time required to make them as good as they can be -- that is, to translate your unique vision onto the page as completely as possible. No one else can tell you how to do that, or how long it should take. No one else has your particular combination of genes and experience. No one else has your current life situation. So there is no basis for comparison, either in the way you work or in the finished product. As scary as it is, this is the truth: There is no pecking order. We are each alone with our stories, and we are all together, doing the best work we can."

Doing the best work we can. Getting our passion on paper. Sharing our stories with readers. I don't know about you, but I prefer to focus my energy on that goal as opposed to wondering why X author got a bigger deal or Y author's story placed in a contest and mine tanked. Life is too short and I've got a lot of stories to tell. Returning to my bubble now because it's where I work best.

"The talent of success is nothing more than doing what you can do, well." ~~Henry W. Longfellow

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Packrat or Purger?

My husband and I are packrats. We save everything. I'm not sure which one of us is worse. I'm thinking him, although he'd surely say me.

I confess my writing room is overflowing with books, magazines, newspapers, cassette tapes, CDs, conference tote bags, conference workshop notebooks, files containing 'how to' articles, pads, pens, outdated promo items, wigs and hair pieces of numerous colors, various props, costumes, and shoes. Er, yes, my writing room doubles as a wardobe room for my entertainent gigs. Although the garage and spare bedroom are also overflowing with elements from my hey-day as a character actress.

Let's not even talk about my garage. The mere thought of cleaning that disaster zone causes my TMJ to flare up.

My guest room is more managable. We're talking rooting through an overabundance of shoes, purses, and clothes. The closet is exploding as are my dressers. It's insane. There are things in there that I have not worn in 3 -9 years. Things I hang onto because I like them and think I might wear them, but, I NEVER WILL.

Some of them are now too small (don't ask why). Some items should simply not be worn by a forty-something woman. *g*

I've decided to de-clutter our lives and I'm starting with clothes and shoes. I am NOT going to have a yard sale. Like I have time to organize that. Nor am I going to haul them to a consignment shop. My mantra in this project is: Let it go and give it away.

I started with our rather large collection of jackets and winter coats. I parted with quite a few retro favorites. I just kept thinking about how some people have no decent coats at all, and here I had several. Sinful. Steve found it hard to part with some of his jackets. Some of them were like new, but he never wears them. I kept repeating my mantra. Let it go.

We ended up filling two huge bags with coats and jackets. And I cleaned out one of my dressers as well. For fear that we might have second thoughts, I loaded the bags in the car right then and drove them out to where I thought I'd seen clothing donation bins. There were in fact three. Three different charities. I put one bag in each. And I hoped that someone would get some good use out of the coats and clothes.

I'll be making several more trips to those charity bins.

So what about you? Are you a packrat? Or do you regularly purge your house of unneeded items? If you do clean out your closets, please consider donating those clothes to people in need. 'Tis the season, after all.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Celebrating Determination

I can't believe we're nearing mid-November. Ack! (Will not obssess on the February deadline. Will not obsess...) My days are packed (whose aren't), but I am happy to report that I scratched three projects off of my 'To Do' list yesterday and made progress on a few others.

Over the past couple of days I've made decent stride on my next book for HQN as well as the 'new book' proposal that I promised my agent. Yay!

Confirmed my three appearences as Storyteller, Penelope Pageturner, and read three of the twelve children's books on my desk (who knew there were so many books about snow?) in an effort to nail down my 'winter wonderland' program.

Cleaned out a closet and dresser and donated three bags of nice coats and clothes to people in need. (more on that tomorrow).

Lastly, after two months of tinkering and trying to create a theme I liked, and then inputting all the graphics and copy, I finally finished my new website!! It's up and running and I'm pretty darn pleased. Given my tech-gooberness, not bad. I need to fix two links in my greeting, and upload more pictures to my photo gallery, but other than that... Thank you again to Miss Zoot for the banner design!

Sure, my "To Do" list is still quite lengthy, but by lifting self-imposed deadlines and diligently chipping away day by day, I have made progress. Instead of looking at all I have yet to do, today I'm looking at all I've done and celebrating my determination.

So easy to beat ourselves up. Harder to say to one's self, "Well done." Come on. If I can do it, you can. Name at least one thing/project that you tackled or made progress on this week, and end it with, "Well done."

Monday, November 6, 2006

I've Been Mocked!

This just in my in . . . VP/Creative Director of Medallion Press, Adam Mock, strikes again! He hit a home run as far as I'm concerned. I adore the cover he created for my July 2007 release, ROMANCING THE WEST. Fashioned after a 19th century dime novel, it couldn't fit the story more perfectly. Thank you, Adam!
***

Emily McBride is in a pickle. The preacher's daughter secretly writes scandalous romantic adventures. When someone uncovers her secret talent and threatens to expose her double life, she worries her small town friends and the man of her dreams will never speak to her again. Worse, she's growing fond of her new friend, a literary poet, who would surely be horrified by her novels.

When the Peacemaker Alliance recruits lawman Seth Wright, he's ready, willing, and able to kick ruthless desperado butt for the covert government agency. His enthusiasm wanes, however, when his first assignment takes him to California to propose marriage to Miss Emily McBride on behalf of his boss, and deliver her back to Arizona Territory. He's a lawman, not a courier. Worse, the small town librarian mistakes him for a dandified poet! Before he sets her straight, she confesses she's mixed up in something tawdry. With two unwanted suitors hounding her, the woman needs protection. So Seth assumes the fancy pants identity to room in her house without compromising her reputation. Seth's good intentions take a monumental twist when he develops genuine feelings for the passionate book lover. She's not what she seems. More jolting, neither is he.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

It Takes So Little

I know. I know. I said I was taking a blog break this weekend. But I had to pop in because I just ran across something that made me squeal with delight. Okay. I didn't actually squeal. But I did smile really big and my pulse accelerated. No, I didn't discover a new and wonderous flavor of java. Better. I discovered a new-to-me reader's review of LASSO THE MOON.

Let me preface this by saying that, being a neurotic artist, I constantly question my talent. Especially when I'm in the first draft phase like I am right now on BEING EVIE (working title of book 2 for HQN). I'm writing at a snail pace just now. I'm trying not to judge, and failing. I'm worrying that I've lost my mojo. I'm convinced I'm a hack.

Deep down, I know that I go through this with every book. Deep down, I know the story will click soon and I'll be typing like a fiend. Meanwhile, I wrestle with insecurity. Meanwhile, I break and google myself now and then hoping for a 'sign' affirming I'm actually entertaining. Today I tripped upon a review at Funny.co.uk. I've never heard of this site, but I was tickled simply to be listed at a place called 'Funny.' Then I read the review...

Customer Reviews:
Western with a difference

This is a witty, funny, adventurous Western Romance and worth tracking down. Although it's hard to pin down its persuasive charm, much of it lies in its orginality and the appealing quirkiness of its main characters. By the end of the first chapter you'll be rooting for Paris and falling for Josh, and cheering them on in their pursuit of their own dreams. Although I love humour in books, it's a rare thing indeed for a book to make me laugh out loud! LASSO THE MOON had me shrieking with laughter on the train, no less. And if Ms Ciotta's follow up Westerns feature Paris's brothers, they'll make me one happy reader. If you take my advice and buy this book, you'll be a happy reader, too, and LASSO THE MOON will be heading for your Keeper shelf.

I don't know who wrote this, but if you happen to visit this blog, THANK YOU! I can't tell you what it means to me to know that I made you shriek with laughter. It takes so little to make all the difference. Duly injected with a hearty dose of mojo, I'm going back to work on BEING EVIE now.

Friday, November 3, 2006

I have Insomnia because...

My brain's hopping all over the joint.

The good news is, I'm jazzed about each of the projects currently rattling around in my noggin. On the marketing front, the new blog 'look' is up and running, and I'm very close to finishing my new website design.

Writing wise, I'm moving along on BEING EVIE. (Good thing since it's due mid-February.) And I'm making progress on the proposal for a new series. I told my agent it would take me a couple of weeks. That was a week ago. I'm close. Sort of.

I'm awaiting the revisions for ROMANCING THE WEST, but meanwhile I got a sneak peek of the first draft of the cover. Let me just say, wahooooo! Cover artist Adam Mock rocks!

Awaiting line edits (or maybe more revisions?) on ALL ABOUT EVIE as well as the release dates for book two and book three. Between HQN and Medallion, I'll have two novels coming out in 2007 and three in 2008! More bean juice, please.

On the performance front, no singing gigs, but the emcee gigs keep coming in from Trump Marina and Trump Taj Mahal. I'll be emceeing a sweepstakes at the Marina Casino tomorrow night... after I work at the library.

Speaking of the library, I received confirmation from the Atlantic County Library big-wig (a really nice and inspiring man) that I'll be performing as a storyteller at a local department store throughout December. Celebrating the winter holidays, promoting reading and the county libraries. I'm really looking forward to getting kids excited about BOOKS! We'll also do some fun extras. So now I'm currently researching appropriate children's stories, crafts, and songs. (A challenge for someone who does not have kids!)

That's what's keeping me up at night. All of these projects, in various stages. But it's all good. Not complaining. Counting my blessings.

I'll be taking a blog break this weekend. Much to do as you can see. Must. Focus.

And get some sleep.

Hey, at least I have firm goals. *g*

"If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else." ~~Yogi Berra

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Two Things...

#1) Jordan Summers, a wonderful writer and all around super person, just signed a three-book deal with Tor! Mega reasons for celebration, but I'm especially happy for her because she'll be writing the gritty, edgy stories that have been recently setting her soul afire. Burn, baby, burn!

#2) I'm giving myself a makeover. Well, not me personally, although I could use one, but this blog and my website. The website is still a work in progress but--tah-dah!--behold the blog's new look. I liked pink-cartoon-chick, but she wasn't an ideal spokesperson for ALL of my writing. This template struck me as more generic (important since I write contemporary, historical, and paranormal). And though it still screams cheery, there's an edgy feel with all the stark black. Needed an edge. I'm not all fluff, and neither are my stories. I found this awesome template at Zoot's Designs. Truth told, I was quite fond of several of Miss Zoot's designs. There were at least six that really called to me, but again this was the one best suited to my brand, Romantic Comedy with a Twist of Suspense, as well as not pinning me to a specific time period.

I've been giving a lot of thought to brand lately, as well as my style of writing which seems to be evolving. I think I'm experiencing growing pains. *g* It's kind of exciting though. I'm working hard not to question the ideas and words pouring out.

Must. Embrace. Change.

I may morph into something that requires a more specific 'look' marketing-wise. But until then, I'm quite happy with the zippy creation. Thank you Miss Zoot!

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Magical Multi-Tasking

So was your Halloween all you'd hoped for? I can honestly say I had a blast. I did an emcee gig at Trump Taj Mahal. They requested a witch.

I aim to please.

I actually went as a Celtic Witch with a fondness for dragons. Sorry. No pictures. But imagine, if you will, a darker version of a Priestess of Avalon. My character, Morgandy, and her sidekick Dexter (the dragon) were well received. And gamblers especially liked it when I told them Dexter was enchanted and therefore they could rub him for luck. Dexter was rubbed, pinched, squeezed, and generally fondled throughout the day. Better him than me.

As an additional prop, I carried a book on Wizards and Witches. As it happens, I need to know a bit about Celtic and Wicca magic for a proposal I'm writing. So, in between my emcee duties, I read. Call me the Priestess of Multi-tasking.

What about you? Do you ever squeeze in other 'projects' while on the day job?