Wednesday, October 31, 2007

On the Fly--Happy Halloween

It's Halloweeeeeen! I'm locked upstairs in my office writing. Steve is downstairs with Billie and Cheyenne (our crazy dogs) distributing candy to some very cute trick-or-treaters. Lest you think I didn't get into the spirit, I put in a full day at the library as . . .

The Cat in the Hat!!

These are my co-workers, Denise and Beth (the other Beth) who came as.... do you see it?

Green Eggs and Ham!!! Ha! Denise,an amazing artist, made her ham hat and Beth's egg glasses, and Beth was full of it (Suessical talk) all day!

Here's another co-worker, Lesa, a wiz(ard) when it comes to even the most obscure research questions.

And our fearless leader, Sue, the most creative and energetic person I've ever met!

For anyone who thinks librarians are quiet, conservative beings... come visit the Brigantine Library some time. Is it an wonder I love my day job?

Monday, October 29, 2007

On Writing: Dean Koontz

I've read that you will rewrite a page until it's right before moving on, sometimes redoing a draft thirty or forty times. This must make for a slow process. Approximately how long does it take you to write one novel?

I work 10- and 11-hour days because in long sessions I fall away more completely into story and characters than I would in, say, a six-hour day. On good days, I might wind up with five or six pages of finished work; on bad days, a third of a page. Even five or six is not a high
rate of production for a 10- or 11-hour day, but there are more good days than bad.

The above is an excerpt taken from an interview at Novel Journey with Dean Koontz. Click here and scroll down to the 10/26 post. I blinked at this section because, hey, that's my process exactly! Not that I'm afforded many full days to work with but when I do have them--that's how I work best. What he said!

Speaking of, when you visit Mr. Koontz's website 'listen' to his avatar. It's the most entertaining 'welcome' I've ever heard.

Okay. Back to the deadline book...

Friday, October 26, 2007

On Writing--Best Intentions

Apologies to anyone waiting for 'Part Two' of Night of The Living Dead. My intentions were good, but I'm a slow typist and the story--I just know it!--would be lengthy. Plus, I think my re-telling of the evening is funnier when spoken than when written as it involves voice inflections. Hmm. Maybe it's time to look into occassional Podcasts.

Also, apologies to anyone who is waiting for the signed bookmarks I promised. I WILL send them out next week. Everything and I mean everything in my life, aside from the day job and feeding the crazy animals got put on hold while I devoted all time and energy into finishing this deadline book. This week I skipped Tai Chi class, canceled a booksigning, canceled my much anticipated weekend retreat with Cyndi, and took a vacation day (today). Must. Write.

Speaking of... See you Tuesday. Have a great weekend!

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."
-- Douglas Adams

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Night of the Living Dead - Part One

I'm baaaack .

Not from deadline hell, unfortunately, but from the dead people zone. Saturday night's gig where I had to assume the non-personality of a zombie went extrememly well. This is the first chance I've had to blog about it, and I don't have much time even now so... Part One.

I can honestly say, I wasn't looking forward to this gig. It had been at least a year and a half since I'd done one of these interactive jobs. No matter what character you play, when you do these particular casino parties you're putting yourself out there in a big way. You're 'on' for approximately three hours with maybe two fifteen minute breaks (if you're lucky). The key is to interact with people one-on-one and as a whole. There is no script, no stage. You're in the trenches improvising. This kind of work isn't for the meek and over the past two years as I've shifted my passion and focus from performing to writing, I have absolutely become more inward. So, like I said.... I was dreading this gig.

Luckily, my (entertainment) agent partnered me with someone I know well--Joe Holiday, a gifted magician, who also sometimes works as an emcee or character actor. The third in our tiny cast was Kris, who I'd never met, but who reminded me of many of my entertainment friends. Warm, outgoing, and hilarious. I knew we were a comfortable trio when I first arrived. The ladies dressing room was filled with several young dancers who'd been hired to do two choreographed routines. I didn't know any of them and they were all being made up by a professional make-up artist. I felt awkward utilizing their space so I asked Joe and Kris if I could join them in their dressing room. It's not like I had to change in front of them. There was a bathroom. An hour in that dressing room, doing our make-up, trading stories and laughs... it felt like old times. Kris asking me if he minded if he changed his pants--No, I didn't mind. It's not like I was looking and besides he was wearing boxer, and--hey--seen it before . Joe trying to help me apply a spider to my chest with spirit gum--it didn't work. Although he did drape me successfully in cobwebs. And much, much more.
Tomorrow Ill try to hit the hghlights of our funny--yes funny--performances, and I'll include pictures wear you can better see our makeup and costumes. But for now I'll leave you with a posed pic that the professional photographer took. Anyone have a caption for this picture?

Friday, October 19, 2007

On the Fly: The Weekend Ramble

Under the weather today. Caring boss and co-workers sent me home early from work. Swung by CVS. Bought soda crackers, ginger ale, Thera-flu, and ... black nail polish.

Once home I medicated, rested, did a load of laundry, rested, organized my costume for tomorrow night's gig, worked on a script for a promotional book video, rested, watched a tv show for the first time this fall--the pilot episode of Journeyman--via my computer (I loved it) ... and painted my fingernails. Black.

Why black, you ask? For tomorrow night's gig, I say. My first character actress gig in a year. A special event party for one of the casinos. I have been asked to appear as someone from Night of the Living Dead. Jeez. That's not even a challenge since, these days, I feel like the walking dead.

But I digress.

Hopefully I will have tales to tell from said gig on Monday. Not Sunday. I'll be bearing down on the deadline book ALL DAY Sunday.

Speaking of deadlines...
My brother-in-law and his lady love gifted me with the most perfect t-shirt ever! Do you think anyone would notice if I wore this shirt every day for the next four months?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

On Writing: Flailing and Faith

I've been struggling with a story for what seems like forever. It's coming. But not easily. And not fast enough.

But at least it's coming.

I'm not the only writer wrestling with an obstinate tale. Check out Neil Gaiman's October15 posts (yes, plural): The view from the end of chapter 8 AND Why Write?

Picked up a cool book at the library book sale: Quotationary. It's huge and filled with... you guessed it... quotes. I love quotes. Smart people saying smart things. Things I'd never think of. Things that motivate me. For instance...

"Faith is not being sure where you're going but going anyway."
~~Frederick Buechner

I don't know who Mr. Buechner is, but I like what he has to say. Not sure I'm taking the next chapter of my WIP in the right direction, but I'm going anyway. I've got faith.

Monday, October 15, 2007

On the Fly--Another Year Wiser

Head down. Way down. Writing. Writing. Writing.

But peeking out to say....

Happy Birthday to me!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Thai Chi and Me

I want to thank everyone who shouted out and celebrated the Golden Leaf Award with me. I'm still stunned and thrilled even if I'm no longer floating on air. Returning home to day job and writing deadlines (Read: Reality) grounded me to be sure. This week in particular is intense so posting will be sparse.

Given my crammed schedule, the last thing I wanted to do last night was break away from the computer for my second Thai Chi class. However I knew deep down it was exactly what I needed to do. I'm new to Thai Chi. I joined because all of my co-workers at the library did. We made it a group thing, thought we'd motivate each other, which we do. I knew I needed to do something exercise-wise for my health and body but what really interested me was that Thai Chi is supposed to relieve stress. Let me tell you, it absolutely helps!

I've only had two classes. It's intense physically, but I am loving it. Especially the inner focus. Curious. Anyone else out there ever taken Thai Chi? Did you love it? Hate it? Do share!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

A Win for The Goober!

And, yes, I am a 'Goober'. I had the goober of all evening, full of gooberisms, but the good news is... I won! Or rather ALL ABOUT EVIE won the NJRW Golden Leaf Award for Best Single Title! The moment was doubly sweet as I tied with Jan Coffey--the writing team of Jim and Nikoo McGoldrick. Two of my favorite people in the biz. Congrats Jim and Nikoo!!

The day started off just dandy, with the exception of my eyes. Once again, as they have been throughout the summer, they were swollen and red--some sort of allergic reaction I have yet to identify. Steve's right. I have to break down and go to the doctor. This is crazy. They itch and hurt, too. Not my eyeball, by the way, but my eyelids and the entire area below and around my eye. I took an allergy pill, but it didn't help. In fact, as the day wore on, they got worse. Mind you I am at the NJRW writer's conference. I'm surrounded by peers and industry professionals. I won an award. I'm trying to look 'authorly'. I look like someone punched me in both eyes! Desperate, I swapped my regular prescription glasses for my tinted prescription glasses. They almost look like sunglasses. Okay. So now I look like a diva or a female Jack Nicholson, but at least I don't look diseased.

Moving on.... the day progressed well. Fabulous workshops. Saw a few people I know. A lot of people I don't know. My home chapter and I felt like a stranger to most. That's what happens when you don't attend the monthly meetings for more than a year. Not my fault. Work and writing conflicts. But wow, did I feel shy and awkward. Maybe it was the tinted glasses. What if people thought I was aloof? Or a diva? I'm not. I swear! I'm afflicted with some dasterdly allergy!

Moving on... so the evening comes and it's time for me to drive to the train station to pick up Keyren. I'm speaking of Keyren Gerlach, my editor from HQN, who really should've been home packing for her up coming overseas vaca, but insisted she wanted to be there for me at the awards ceremony. How sweet is that? She arrives on time and so do I, but I'm parked in a garage and we can't find each other. Little did I know there were two parking garages. So, I tell her to walk outside, I'll walk outside, and we'll keep talking on the phone, calling out landmarks until we find each other... which we eventually did.

Moving on... we're crunched for time, but we're both starving, so we rush into the hotel's bar and grill. We both end up ordering the same exact dinners right down to the regular, not diet, cokes. We talk about lots of things, but mostly our animals, and I think, man, am I lucky. We are so in sync.

Running down to the wire, we ask the waitress to box our sandwiches. We hurry up to my room--top level--race to my door to get rid of the food stuffs (and fix our lipstick) and--GAK!--I had locked my key in the room! Great. So now we'll be going into the awards ceremony with doggie bags and no lipstick. We race back down to the lobby. I get a new room key. We race back up. I had another goober moment but I can't remember what it was now, only that my eyes were MORE swollen. Are there stress related allergies? Again with the tinted glasses. Keyren assured me I looked hip, and not diva-ish. Here's hoping.

Moving on... we get out of the elevator on the wrong floor, the second floor, and we walk down these huge spiraling stairs to the lobby. I'm envisioning myself taking a header in my heels, thanking God I wore briefs under my skirt, not a thong--but luckily I was spared that embarrassment.

We walk into the ceremony on time, find a seat, and though I wasn't nervous before--now I'm super nervous. My heart pounded in my chest as they presented awards in several other categories before they got to mine. I realized suddenly that they were reading excerpts from the books that won (before they announced the winner's name). They get to the Single Title category. They say they have a first ever--a tie. Ann starts reading an excerpt and by the second line I relaized it was from ALL ABOUT EVIE. Naturally I start crying as I am a goober. I grabbed Keyren's hand as Ann continued to read. The audience laughed not once but several times. I cry some more because, hey, they think I'm funny! What a rush.

Zoom ahead to where they announce I tied with Jan Coffey (Jim and Nikoo). Because they are so wonderful and because we're so happy for each other, I think we group hugged twice before making to te stage. I tell myself to be calm and gracious as I accept the award. I think I at least managed gracious. Forget calm. I thanked those near and dear, or rather I choked out my thank yous because I was crying. (Goober, goober, goober)

I promise to post more about why this was such a big deal to me later. Like tomorrow. Maybe. Or Monday. Rushing now because I have to get downstairs for breakfast and more workshops. But one last goober moment....

So after the ceremony Keyren and I have dessert, but she needs to make a train nd we're running late so we zip up to my rom and.... I can't find my car keys!!!!!!! I search and search. I finally found them. In my jewlery bag. I have no idea why I put them in there. No. idea.


I did get Keyren to the train station on time. Made it back to the hotel without further incident. I'm hoping today will be free of goober moments, although my eyes are still horribly swollen and red and, yes, it's another tinted glasses day. A thought occurred as I showered. Could it be a food allergy?

Please, God. Don't let it be coffee.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

On Writing--The Weekend in Pre-Review

Same ol', same ol' here. Work. Writing. Work. Writing. However, I am taking off early tomorrow for the NJRW conference. In addition to attending several informative and inspiring workshops, I'll be meeting with Keyren, my HQN editor, for dinner. Keyren is great fun so I really look forward to our 'date'. Friday night is the awards ceremony/dessert reception. ALL ABOUT EVIE is a finalist in the 'best single-title' category. Wish me luck. Win or lose, I'll be eating decadent desserts after!

Saturday I'll be participating in 2007 Literacy Book Fair and Author Signing. There look to be about 100 authors signing, including special guests, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Julia Quinn & Karen Robards. If you're in the area, come visit! Sheraton at Woodbridge Place Hotel 515 US Highway 1 S, Iselin, New Jersey 08830 -- Saturday, October 6, 2007. 4:00 - 5:30 p.m.

Sunday, we're hosting a luncheon for fifty booksellers. I look forward to meeting and chatting with the men and women who handsell our books in the tri-state area. Thank you to NJRW for the opportunity.

In other news, ROMANCING THE WEST is officially in wide release! If you see it on the shelves, please do give me a shout. Sightings are so exciting! Reviews can be pretty darn cool, too. Especially when they read like these latest.

"Beth Ciotta has written a light-harted romance that will keep you smiling with each turn of the page. If you want a fast amusing read, a sexy romance and an intriguing mystery, this is the book for you." Carol, reviewer for Love Western Romances -- click here for full review.

"Here is a beautifully written romance that manages a fair cast of characters and various side stories with ease. Indeed, there is more than one romance to be had so consider it a two for one deal. It isn’t often that one comes across such a fun, brilliant read. So pick up a copy yourself and see how the west was romanced." Lil, reviewer at Love Romances and More --click here for full review.

I find it a little uncomforatable to toot my own horn, but I am extremely proud of this book, adore the story, so you can imagine my joy when I come across reviews like this. The cherry on top, of course, is email from readers!

Anyhoo, that's the deal with me chicks and chaps. What's on your plate this weekend?

Monday, October 1, 2007

On Writing: My Process, My Friend

As reported, I took a few vacations days from the day-job so that I could devote focused time to the deadline book. I've spent the past five days putting in 14-15 hour writing days. I'm pretty fried, but I've made strong, vital progress. This is how I work best. Long stretches of focused time. Because I'm very much a seat-of-the-pants writer. I discover and create as I go. Then I go back and add more layers. I typically write the last half of a manuscript in a cross-eyed blaze. What I turn in is pretty much first draft from mid-point on, although tweaked and polished due to the wondrous comments and edits of my fabulously talented critique partner, former writing partner, fabulous friend, Cyndi Valero.

Cyndi is currently deep in her own manuscript, a wonderfully imaginative and gritty fantasy. I know it's wonderful because she's been sending me scenes as she finishes them and I'm rivited! I feel guilty not being able to return the favor by offering her insightful critiques. Her first draft is like my fifth! Yes, I'm envious. But in the best way. She inspires me to work harder, dig deeper, write tighter. It's a beautiful thing.

Later this month, we'll be getting together for our annual weekend retreat. Just the two of us. We brainstorm our writing projects and gab for hours about whatever's on our minds. We also nibble on yummy snacks and laugh a lot. For the past few years, we've only been able to see each other ONCE a year. I can't tell you how much I cherish our annual friend retreat! And it's only a few weeks off. Yes!

Meanwhile, it's nose-to-the-computer. This is my last day off. Tomorrow it's back to the day job and minimal writing time. I best kick butt while I can.

Question for the writers out there. Do you work best in long stretches or short bursts? Do you thrive on a CPs input as you go along? Or do you prefer to finish the project before getting input? OR... do you prefer no input at all? Okay. That was four questions. What can I say? I'm curious.