Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Are Your Characters Unique

Are the characters in your novel distinctly unique from one another?

Over the last few days, as I've been dealing with the reality of life . . . and death, I began to think about the personalities of my cats.

Jordy (passed away at the end of December 2008) was my little lovebug, my little sack of flour, the boneless wonder that I could carry around like . . . well, a sack of flour. He was Mr. Gentle, with a bit of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in him when I rough housed with him. He loved to spend hours in my lap or on my chest.

Tasmyn - well, she's my little bitch. She's been trouble from day one, and I love her dearly. The world seems to bow to her demands, and not the other way around. If she wants in your lap, she'll get up there on her own. If I picked her up to hold her, she'd growl the whole time. She did things on her own terms, thank you very much. For the most part, she lives in her own little world and allows me in from time to time.

Squeaky - the little stray I rescued, much to Tasmyn's dismay. Trust me, it took Taz about 6 years to adjust to Squeaky being in the house. Squeaky seems a combination of Jordy and Taz. She loves to be picked up and held, and likes to sleep between my legs at night. She squeaks all the time, and lord help me if I'm late getting her food in the evening. She sings up a storm. She's also mean as a snake and beats up on Taz just because she can. She also loves to play with the dogs. She's a trip.

So, each of my cats has their own distinct/unique personality. Each of the characters in my novels has their own distinct personality. This doesn't always happen. Sometimes, the characters seem so alike, that it's hard to tell the difference between them, thus, my question . . .

Are your characters unique? Is there enough noticeable difference in their personalities, quirks, hair, eyes, and everything else to make each one stand out to the reader in their own way? In each manuscript you write, do you write about the same character, or are the characters different?

There once was a famous author who did a series of books. His characters were very archetypal - the hero, the heroine, the knight in shining armor, the wise wizard, etc. This author wrote a book a few years ago and . . . I recognized every single character in the book. I knew he had just taken his well-loved characters from his series and given them different names, but they were the same characters.

Let me tell you, I was sorely disappointed. I had paid good money for this book and I found myself with the same characters from his other books. It was sad really.

So, as you create your characters, do you make each of them standout in their own way? Does each character have his/her own personality? Do you always write about strong, vibrant women with a take charge attitude and the only thing that changes is their names and hair color? Or, do you write about strong, vibrant women who are uniquely different?

I think it is so easy to fall into a trap of using the same archetypes in every novel. I think that, as writers, we need to avoid this trap. I don't want to read about the same characters every single time. I want the difference to be noticeable. I want Jared from Margarita Nights to stand on his own from Reed in Wicked Games. I don't want some reader to say, hey, this Reed, he's just Jared with a different name, shorter hair, and aqua eyes. I want the reader to think, gosh, Reed is so dramatically different from Jared.

As you re-read/edit/revise/whatever, pay attention to each character you created. Do you have a bunch of carbon copies? Or, do you have individual characters?


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Time Away

No, it's not unplugged week for me, or vacation time, just some me time away from writing and revising. I'll still check in on the blogsphere and comment here and there, perhaps do a post, then again, maybe not.

My sixteen year old cat Tasmyn has been having a rough time of it lately, and the end - unfortunately - is probably near. So, instead of writing/revising, I'll be spending some quality time with her on the couch and catching up with some reading.

You see, she somehow, after 16 years, wrapped herself around my heart. She was supposed to stick around a bit longer, especially after her brother Jordy (he was 17) journeyed to the great catnip field at the end of December. Unfortunately, no matter my wishes, she just doesn't seem able to stick it out.

So, in these potential last days of her life, I'm going to take time from my life for her. I'm going to pet her, cuddle her, and give her whatever she wants to eat until her vet appointment at the end of the week.

I wish . . . she could tell me what was wrong so I could fix it. She can't. Age happens. This little Tasmanian (thus her name Tasmyn) Devil was trouble from day one. She was eight weeks old when I first brought her home. The first thing she did was find a hole beneath the kitchen cabinets and crawl in there. I had to remove the quarter round and baseboard to get her out. Then, there were the venitian blinds she loved to shred. Oh, and her first Christmas with me she decided to knock over the Christmas tree. For all the trouble she caused, she's been a great cat.

I wish . . . I didn't have to make the ultimate decision of life or death for her.

I wish . . . if it's her time, she would just pass quietly in her sleep.

I wish . . . I didn't hurt so much thinking about what must be done. Quality over quantity.

I wish . . . for so very much right now, but most of all I just wish she was happy and at peace.

I wish . . . I could soothe all her troubles, take away her aches and pains, and make everything all right.

I cannot do all the things I wish. I can only do what's best for her based on the advice of the vet, and what I know in my heart.

We've had quite a few talks, Taz and I, over the last few days, as she's stumbled a bit, and fallen with age. I told her it was all right. I told her I would be okay. Well, in time, perhaps, after my shredded heart begins to heal once more.

I wish . . .


Friday, July 24, 2009

Books About Writing

No, not the instructional books that every single follower of this blog probably has overflowing on their bookshelves. I'm talking about fictional books about writing. I absolutely love when an author dares to delve into the world of writing.

Three books that come to mind:

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moer
The Angel's Game by Carolos Ruiz Zafon

These books will not teach you how to write, but the second two talk about the love of writing. The central character in both of those books is a writer chasing the elusive dream of publication. The first book is just a really good read, a mystery, and it's all about books.

The Angel's Game - I read the description of the book on and thought, hmmm, very intriguing. Since I have a Kindle I have the option of downloading the first chapter free. Woo-hoo. So, I do the whole download thingy, read the first paragraph and . . . .yes, I'm going to buy the book. Forget reading the first chapter. Why?

A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story. He will never forget the sweet poison of vanity in his blood and the belief that, if he succeeds in not letting anyone discover his lack of talent, the dream of literature will provide him with a roof over his head, a hot meal at the end of the day, and what he covets most: his name printed on a miserable piece of paper that surely will outlive him. A writer is condemned to remember that moment, because from then on he is doomed and his soul has a price. (first paragraph, locations 10 -16 - sorry, no page numbers with Kindle).

This paragraph alone grabbed my attention and made me want to read more. It also created the first question: do we sell our souls for our writing?

Let me explore that question a bit, with a bit of rephrasing: do we write what's currently hot, versus what we really want to write? Ahhh, different angle, deeper question. I mean, how many books about kids and magical abilities suddenly appeared after Harry Potter became hot? How many vampire tales after the success of Twilight? Surely, there were not that many aspiring authors just waiting in the wings. Did some of those authors (please, I don't begrudge them their success) write something similar because they knew it would sell? Did they pass on their dream to write another type of story just to get their foot in the door? Would any of us do the same thing? Hmmmm . . .

Okay, away from deep questions. It is Friday after all. I just want to point out a few more things I loved from this book . . . so far.

Don Basilio was a forbidding-looking man with a bushy moustache who did not suffer fools and who subscribed to the theory that the liberal use of adverbs and adjectives was the mark of a pervert or someone with a vitamin deficiency.

OMG, I absolutely laughed out loud when I read this line. Oh, just in case you're wondering . . . I have a vitamin deficiency!!!!

So, Don Basilio hates adjectives and adverbs. I just know the author was making a dig at the adjective/adverb misuses, and the rule not to use them. Well, how funny is this . . .

A few lines later the following sentence appears: "Did you call me, Don Basilio?" I ventured timidly.

Oh, yes he did. Timidly. Too funny. I guess the author is saying it's okay to break the rules every now and then.

Lastly, another great line when the narrator is talking about a character he created:

The Mysteries of Barcelona gave birth to a fictional starlet in installments, a heroine I had imagined as one can only imagine a femme fatale at the ripe age of seventeen. Chloe Permanyer was the dark princess of all vamps. Beyond intelligent, and even more devious, always clad in fine lingerie, she was the lover and evil accomplice of the mysterious Baltasar Morel, king of the underworld, who lived in a subterranean mansion, staffed by automatons, and full of macabre relics, reached through secret tunnels buried under the catacombs of the Gothic quarter. Chloe's favorite way of finishing off her victims was to seduce them with a hypnotic striptease, then kiss them with a poisoned lipstick that entirely paralyzed them so that they died from silent suffocation as she looked into their eyes, having herself drunk an antidote mixed in vintage Dom Perignon.

I just love the bolded line. Heck, I love the whole paragraph. To me, brilliance in motion. To me, the author was in the throes (don't ya just love that word?) of the Orm.

What is the Orm, you ask? Okay, so maybe you didn't ask, but I tell you anyhow as I close out this long blog post.

The Orm dear readers is . . .

You'll understand the instant you sense it. Yes, you can sense it. There are moments when ideas for whole novels rain down on you in seconds. You can sense it when you write some dialogue so brilliant that actors will recite it on stage, word for word, in a thousand years' time. Oh yes, you can sense the Orm! It can give you a kick up the backside, transfix you like a shaft of lightning or turn your stomach. It can rip the brain out of your head and reinsert it the other way round! It can sit on your chest in the middle of the night and give you a frightful nightmare - one from which you'll fashion your finest novel. I've sensed the Orm myself - oh yes! - and I wish I could sense it just once more. Moers, Walter. The City of Dreaming Books - p. 406

That, dear readers, is the Orm. It is the inspiration that is so intense we (me, once up on a time) are thrown into an obsessive state where all we can do is write.

So, if you have a spare moment or two, grab one of these books, settle down, and experience an author's view of the writing process, sometimes dark, sometimes light, sometimes filled with humor, and other times filled with sadness. Let the words embrace you and encompass you as you drift away with the sentences and paragraphs of the writing process.

Have a great Friday!!


Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Stopping Point

So, I'm revising along last night - a word here, a sentence there, whoops, there went a paragraph - and the words are slowly disappearing. Then - BAM - my brain shuts down. Hate it when that happens . . . especially when I'm driving. Kidding, people, kidding! I hit my stopping point. There just comes a time in writing/editing/revising where my brain can do no more, no matter my motivation or my goals for the day. My brain just says STOP!!!

Now, do I ignore the voice in my head?? Do I press on, determined to finish the chapter?? Well, bad things happen when I ignore the voices in my head. Bad, bad, bad things happen. I've had perfectly reasonable and reliable characters go off the deep end when I ignore the voice shouting STOP in my head. Yes, stable and reliable characters sometimes doing something so totally off the wall that even I, the creator, go WTH!!!! as I do a read through at some later date in time. Yes, WTH!!! I mean, how does a perfectly stable and reliable character suddenly start dancing on the table at the bar . . . perfectly sober. It just doesn't happen. Trust me on that one. I need at least six drinks in me before I . . . oh, wait, sorry, how'd that happen??? What was I saying??

Oh, the stopping point. I have learned to stop when my mind gets too tired to write/edit/revise. I have learned that forcing the issue is not a good thing, not at all. The only thing that happens when I ignore that particular voice in my head, is that I create more work for myself later on.

Question - do you have a stopping point? Do you acknowledge or ignore that point? Do you keep on writing? Do you step away from the computer? What happens when you keep on writing?


p.s. you have to check out this blog by LitGirl01's cute puppy Miles. He's absolutely adorable . . . and he has his own blog. My dogs are so, so jealous. My cats just can't be bothered!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

RiP Wednesday

Yes, it's another RiP Wednesday. Where in the heck is the time going? I mean, it's almost the end of July already!!! Why does time move faster the older we get???

So, I'm through Chapter Eight! Woo-hoo. I have either 20,000 or 30,000 words still to omit. woo-hoo (trust me, this doesn't deserve a big "W". At this point, I'm aiming for 20,000, all in my break the rules kind of theory. I mean, if I'm going to mention breaking rules, shouldn't I just break one so I can say I'm an expert at doing it???

I absolutely love the revisions I have done so far. Don't get me wrong, I've loved Margarita Nights in every single incarnation, rough draft to now. There's just an added difference, perhaps a bit more love on my part, for this revised version. Perhaps it's because the story is just a tiny bit sharper, more concise (not that the previous incarnation was bad, mind you).

So, I'm in love with my manuscript. Hey, it could be worse, I could be in love with my imaginary friend. You should have seen the look on Mom's face when I brought him home for dinner . . . Kidding!

Have a great day.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Process versus Product

So, my best friend made the following comment about this blog, and the lovely commenters: It seems your bloggers are much more interested in the process of writing than actual product....

My response:

The process of writing is part of the actual product. You can't have one without the other. : ) The sad fact is, there are a ton of rules (no adverbs, no passive voice, no this, that, or the other) that writers are supposed to follow. I think the general consensus is . . . break the rules you want to break, to a certain degree. So, some characters might smile slightly, while others have a slight smile on their faces. : ) In the end, I think all the writing blogs I follow, are about the process of writing, the ups, the downs, and everything in between, because they are all by aspiring writers. Yeah, some of them have agents, but they're not published. Getting an agent doesn't always equal publication. It's a long, arduous process, with more downs than ups . . . so I'm learning. I think the whole point of the blogs I follow, and mine to a certain extent, are more to teach. Go figure.

Now, my blog is a combination of both, especially since I've been semi-promoting Margarita Nights. There are a few other blogs out there also that are a combination of both. For the most part, though, I have to agree with my friend that the blogs I follow are about the process rather than the product.

So, question for the day: our are (aspiring writers) blogs more about the process or the product?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, get your ADVERBS here . . .

Okay, I love Schoolhouse Rock, because, it well, uh . . . rocks! I bought the 30th Anniversary edition of the series a few years back. Sigh! Unfortunately, I was around when most (probably all) of the episodes first aired. That was back when Saturday morning cartoons - Scooby Doo, Looney Tunes - were actually good.

Anyhow, The Blood-Red Pencil did a post about the dreaded ADVERB last week, which made me start thinking . Hate it when that happens.

Why are ADVERBS such a no-no in writing? I mean, don't people laugh loudly and softly at times, and then sometimes just normally? Don't people tilt their head slightly to the right or left? Can't people stare intently at something? Don't people smile slightly at some things and widely at others?


So, why can't we put those lovely (lolly, lolly, lolly get your) ADVERBS in our writing?

I have no clue. I just know it's one of those many rules out there and I seem to cringe every time I see a word ending with an -ly during the editing process.

Now, some examples, for what would a post about ADVERBS be without some examples? It would be dull and boring, and you know it!


He tilted his head slightly to the left. ~ ADVERB

He tilted his head a bit to the left. ~ no ADVERB

He smiled slightly. ~ ADVERB

His mouth turned up in a slight smile. ~ no ADVERB

He laughed loudly. ~ ADVERB

His laugh was loud. ~ no ADVERB

He walked swiftly down the hall. ~ ADVERB

He walked down the hall at a swift pace. ~ no ADVERB

Okay, so it's possible, for the most part to write without ADVERBS. The only problem I see is that the words increase when writing without ADVERBS. Now, if you're low on word count and need some excess words. GREAT. FANTASTIC. BRILLIANT. Oh, wait, I have the opposite problem in my current revision process. I have too many words and need to delete unnecessary words. CRAP! Yes, CRAP!

Now, if I wanted to break the dreaded ADVERB use rule, I could just let the characters laugh loudly, smile slightly, and walk swiftly. Great, no problem. Oh wait, someone, somewhere down the line, is going to make me eliminate those pesky ADVERBS. Big, dramatic, drama queen moment SIGH!

So, question for the moment: how do you handle ADVERBS in your writing? Do your characters just laugh and smile? Do they do it the same way every time? Do they never walk swiftly? Do they only walk or run? Do they tilt their heads a bit to the left and/or right, or do their heads tilt slightly to the left and right? Am I going too swiftly for you with all these questions? Sorry, couldn't resist.

Have a great day!


Friday, July 17, 2009

Margarita Nights - The Beginning

The beginning of Margarita Nights was a moment of epiphany. I was sitting at my desk, eating lunch, thinking, thinking, thinking some more and then - BAM! Yes, BAM! I thought - why not write a story about a bunch of guys who meet once a month for margaritas. I mean, so what if, at the time, I was a guy who met his guy friends once every couple of month or so for margaritas. Isn't writing about what you know a standard theme among writers?

So, I had the moment of inspiration and jotted down the first paragraph on a piece of paper. I had goosebumps - the good kind - by the time I wrote the last word of the paragraph. The obsession began in that moment! I'm not sure if it's ended yet.

What was the first paragraph? Well, I'm glad you asked that question. The first paragraph (or, at least what hit the screen with a few changes here and there) was . . .

Every two weeks – rain or shine, sleet or snow, often on a Friday, sometimes on a Saturday – they met for margarita night. They always ordered a pitcher, numerous pitchers on some nights, and each normally ordered the same thing: #1, #6, quesadilla fajitas, chicken chimichanga, beef taquitos with rice and beans, taco salad, etc. The food did not really matter, the margaritas did matter, but most important of all was the companionship and the discussions, from mild to wild, that would ensue every time they gathered for margaritas and cheap Mexican. There were nights when it was all nine of them, but more often than not, it was the core six – the first six who began the tradition years earlier and added a friend or two in the process to equal nine in all. Some of them had partners, some were single, and some suddenly single. They varied in ages from early thirties to just past fifty and came from all different backgrounds. They had one commonality, minor really in the scheme of things, but it was there and it linked them together – they were gay and each of them had had sex, or come close to having sex, with Kevin Kirkpatrick.

Now, of course, a gazillion drafts later. Okay, not that many . . .

Jared knew the stroke of midnight was almost on him, and he feared whatever semblance of happily ever after he currently had would disappear like Cinderella’s gown when the clock struck twelve. His only problem: the stroke of midnight was just an expression and not actually a time-related emergency . . . unless he counted the fact that the days, maybe months, of his current relationship were nearing an unhappily ever after.

He walked into the crowded Mexican restaurant and looked around. None of the boyz (well, grown men desperately trying to hang on to their youth) had arrived yet. He, was the first – punctual, reliable, stable, loyal (had he been a dog in another life?) – to arrive. He waited in line and checked out the scenery. The college boys were out in force tonight – cheap food and fairly cheap drinks a definite draw for them, and their presence a definite bonus for Jared and the rest of the boyz.

“Hey, man!”

He jumped slightly and turned. His friend Nick – slender, toned, auburn hair – grinned at him. “Hey.”

“Happy margarita night.”

“Any night with a margarita is happy.” He winked at Nick. He seemed to hear the pendulum of the mysterious clock – whoosh, whoosh, whoosh – swinging back and forth, back and forth. His life was not, even though he was a gay man, a fairy tale. He didn’t have a fairy godmother, though he knew a few tired old drag queens in sparkly dresses, to wave her magic wand and deliver up Prince Charming in a tight pair of jeans with nice assets. He only had the boyz, margarita night once a month, some snarky comments, and the whispers of the gayvine – telephone, telegraph, tell-a-gay-man – to help him through the challenges of his currently chaotic life.

So, that's the difference between rough draft and draft I'm currently revising . . . at least the opening of Chapter One!

Writing Margarita Nights wasn't/isn't just writing about a bunch of guys who meet once a month to drink margaritas, trade snarky comments, and deal with the issues in their lives. I wanted to tell a story that actually reflected life for gay men in the here and now, something beyond the stereotypes on television and the movies, something beyond Jack of Will and Grace. I wanted (did) to deal with the loneliness and depression of being gay and single, and being gay and partnered.

A friend of mine, perpetually single, is always like: gee, I wish I had what you and Frank had. I try to tell him that there aren't any perfect relationships out there. I show that in Margarita Nights. I delve into the lives of the single and partnered and - hopefully - show that sometimes, even the most meaningless of relationships, ironically have meaning after all. I show - again, hopefully - that sometimes, staying in a bad relationship just because a person is afraid to be alone, isn't necessarily a good thing. I show - tell, whatever - lots of other things as well, but you'll have to read the book to find out about those things . . . and the dirty little secrets I incorporated into the book as will. I'm just saying . . .

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Struggle

I'm writing this blog post rather than work on the revisions for Margarita Nights. Yes, I'm procrastinating. BIG TIME! I should be revising. I'm not. My mind just can't go there right now.

I don't know why. I don't care why. I've just decided that my mind needs a break. I've just decided that tonight is not the time (like how I keep linking to my own post???) to revise.

So, all evening long so far, I've struggled - revise, don't revise, revise, don't revise, revise just one section of Chapter Five, don't revise, revise two sections of Chapter Five, don't revise, revise the entire chapter, don't revise. Ah, the internal struggle of the writer when his mind is tired and he just really, really, really doesn't want to revise for the evening.

In the end, I step away from the struggle. I realize I need to heed my own advice and take a break from writing and spend some time on ourselves, our families, our children, our pets, the writing we've been neglecting, or the other passions (i love to cook) in our life.

As Scarlett O'Hara once immortalized: tomorrow is another day.

Tomorrow I will revise, revise, and revise some more. Tonight, I'm just going to take some time for myself.


RiP Wednesday

I thought of posting a picture of a tombstone. I resisted the temptation.

I've eliminated as many that's as I can. I have italicized and bolded the following words: just, like, and fact. As I work my way through the document, chapter by chapter, I eliminate the words if possible. If not, they stay where they are . . . at least until an editor tells me to remove them.

I've revised my way through the first four chapters and eliminated about 3,000 words. Woo-hoo!

That's it for this post. Brief. Too the point! Have a great day.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Time seems the subject of the day . . . go here to read Lady Glamis' post, and here to read Michelle McLean's post about time. Really, the posts have more to due with lack of time.

Here's a day in my life:

5:50 AM - alarm goes off, time to get up, shower, get dressed, clean the litter boxes (fun, fun, fun).
6:15 AM - walk the boyz, beg them to do their business, bond a bit with them and the cats.
6:30 AM - leave for work
7:00 AM - at work, check Blogger and Facebook, email my best friend, work, work, work, some more, take lunch at some point.
5:00 PM - go home
5:30 PM - get home, feed the cats, bond with the boyz and Frank (if he's awake), prepare dinner if cooking, eat, clean up.
6:45 PM - send Frank off to work.
7:00 PM - work on writing.
8:00 PM - walk the boyz.
8:15 PM - bond with the boyz for 20 to 30 minutes.
9:00 PM - go to bed, if not already in bed. Yes, I go to bed early, but, I normally wake up around 3:30 AM when Frank gets in from work and never go fully back to sleep.

This is the normal routine for me. Oh, and I try and fit excercise in there at least 3 days per week. So, as you can see, there's not always a ton of time for writing.

Once upon a time, in the way of fairy tales and happy endings, I used to stress about the time I was spending not writing. I no longer do. I do the best I can. I write when I can write! I write when the words flow freely. I write when I'm obsessing about writing. I write when the mood strikes me. I'm in revision mode right now, and so I try to do a chapter per night during the week, and much, much more on the weekends.

Writing is a gift, a talent some might say, and I don't believe we can force ourselves to write, at least not with the brilliance we are capable of writing. Sometimes, we have to take a break from writing and spend some time on ourselves, our families, our children, our pets, the writing we've been neglecting, or the other passions (i love to cook) in our life. Sometimes, we have to step away from Blogger and Facebook and Twitter and focus our energies on writing. Sometimes, we have to check in on Blogger and Facebook and Twitter and see what our friends (writers and not) are doing.

In the end, our brilliance will escape into the publishing world when it happens, and not a moment sooner, no matter how much time we spend worrying about how much time we're spending doing other things and not writing! So, stop stressing, stop worrying, and just know that you will find the time to write!


Monday, July 13, 2009

In Response to . . .

Okay, Blogger's not letting me comment on Rebecca's blog, so I'm going to do it here, just to let her know about the problem.

Rebecca's question for the day: what characters do you love to write? She also asked some other questions, and hit upon a few things, so check out her blog! Another question was . . .

Are they a part of you, or just something you like to try on for an hour?

For me, as I've previously written, I live somewhat vicariously through my characters. My characters often do things that I wish I had done. There's a part of me in every character I write - good, evil, on the edge, a margarita drinking gladiator, or whatever. I don't think I could create a character, no matter how outlandish, and not have a part of me in the character.

My good friend Suzi once asked me: how much of you is in Jared? My response: there's a little bit of me in Jared and every character I create. Jared's the main character in Margarita Nights, btw.

What people do you love to write and why?

Ooooh, that's a great question. I normally write fairly stable (just like me) characters that are down to earth and perhaps a bit snarky (not that I'm that way, not at all, surely not, never). I don't have fairy godmothers (okay, ones with magic wands and all that jazz, give me a break) in my stories to fix the characters problems. The characters must make their own decisions, and deal with the consequences of those decisions. I love to write about characters whose perception of themselves is suddenly changed, and who must dig deep to figure out which path in the road they must take. I don't give my characters easy outs. There's not a shotgun handy when an alligator chases them up a tree. They must figure their own way to safety.

I also love to write about evil characters, though I have a tendency to explain why their evil - a broken heart, jilted at the altar, caught their husband in bed with another woman/man, and all that jazz. I delve beneath the surface, because, sometimes, the surface doesn't tell you crap about a person.

Well, that's it for this brief post, really in response to Rebecca's comments not working. I definitely didn't want her to think that people (me in particular) weren't interested in her blog or commenting. I was, I am, and if Blogger hadn't had some quirk today, my comments would have appeared on her Blog. I'm just saying . . .


Friday, July 10, 2009

The Voice of my Inner Snark

So, I have a great voice. According to Suzan Harden (sorry, she doesn't have a blog, but she posted a comment here about version 2 of my query), I have a wonderful voice that blazes out of both queries. Who knew I could blaze? I mean, yeah, I've flamed out every now and then - you should have seen my yesterday morning when the mouse dashed across the counter at me at the office. Not pretty, not pretty at all. But blaze?? Whoa!

Some other comments . . .

Bane of Anubis (no blog) - you've got a fairly distinctive voice and writing style.

Laura Martone (no blog) - your snarky voice is evident.

Rick Daley (and here) - the voice makes this stand out above form or format. I think if I read 50 queries in a row, I would remember this one for the voice.

Beth - LOVE the voice - that's very hard to pull off in a query, and you've nailed it.

Now, I'm not doing this post to pat myself on the back for having a great voice that blazes. No, I'm doing this post to rant about the following: great, so I nailed the voice in my query and yet it still needs some tweaking, which is driving me frakkin' crazy. I mean, if I was a 70s TV commercial I'd be screamin Calgon take me away right about now. Geesh.

Yes, I feel a bit better now. Since I'm not a 70s TV commercial (I was barely old enough to watch TV in the 70s - that's my story, and I'm stickin' to it and don't believe a word Tess says about it, even if we are about the same age!), I just keep working on the query hoping to hit the right balance of voice and substance, rather than having too much style versus substance.

Here's my question: how much voice (btw check out Marybeth's post about voice on her blog yesterday) should go into the query?

Why the question? Well, in attempting to explain more about the conflict, some of the voice is lost. So, do agents need a query full of voice or just a paragraph of voice to go along with the gist of the conflict? Do I risk style over substance and maintain the voice totally throughout the query?

My problem - version 2, took out some of the voice to insert more about the conflict. Could I do that in a snarky tone? Hmmm, I think so, it might be a bit of a struggle, me not being so snarky and all that jazz! If I do that in a snarky tone does it take away from the overall manuscript since snark is a peripheral character within the manuscript?

Arrrrgghhhh! I'm going to the store now to find some Calgon. I'll be lounging in a bubble bath tonight with my bucket of margaritas close at hand!


Thursday, July 9, 2009

This, THAT, and Something Else

This post is just a hodge-podge of stuff! Well, not really, but I wanted to use the word hodge-podge in a sentence.

I wanted to pass along a bit of advice about the agent search. I can't remember where I found/heard this information in the first place, but . . .


. . . a good way to find an agent who specializes in your genre is to check out the acknowledgements section of a book similar to the one you're writing. For example, if your book is similar to The Friday Night Knitting Club, get the book and look at the acknowledgements section. Why? Because writer's have a tendency to mention . . . drumroll please . . . their agents in the acknowledgements section. Who knew? I certainly didn't have a clue until I read/heard this little piece of advice somewhere/sometime.

So, if you're getting ready to query and you're writing a paranormal urban fantasy chick lit science fiction slay the dragon on the way to the grocery store type of novel, then go to your local bookstore, find a similar book, flip to the acknowledgements page, scroll through the endless thank yous and focus in on the following words: i'd like to thank my uber agent (insert name here). Then, once you have that name, go to any of the online sites, check out the agent, and then check their personal websites just to make sure they are accepting queries. If so . . . go for it!


I've posted my revised query for Margarita Nights over at The Public Query Slushpile. Wait, make that I've submitted my revised query. It hasn't posted yet, but should sometime today . . . hopefully. If you have a chance, hop on over there, check it out, and shred to your heart's content. My feelings won't be hurt, really, they won't, I'm made of sterner stuff than that . . . where are the margaritas, darn it! Kidding. I seriously need all the feedback I can get.

Update - here's the link:

Something Else

Did you notice how cleverly I separated the sections of this post to match my title? Neat, huh? Yes, I'm easily amused this morning! I really don't have anything else to write about, but needed another section. : ) Well, I did finish going through and changing/replacing/eliminating all the that's in Margarita Nights. I think I almost went blind by the time I finished last night. My eyes hurt, people, they hurt from staring at the computer screen. I've gone from 36,000 + words to eliminate to just under 34,000 (or 24,000 if I'm aiming for 120,000 words). Woo-hoo! It's a slow progression, but I'll get there!


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

RiP Wednesday

Ooooh, that really sounds bad, doesn't it? Still, it caught your attention and you clicked on over. My day is now complete. Seriously, I considered calling today Revision in Process Wednesday until I realized the abbreviated form was . . . RIP. Rest in Peace Wednesday? Oh, no, has my revision died and nobody told me? If so, what in the heck was I working on last night . . . a ghost manuscript???
Yes, a bit of snarkity-snark first thing in the morning. Perhaps it's the absolutely gorgeous, non-humid weather that has settled over the South for the past week or so. I'm talking 60 degrees in the morning with dew on the ground. That (snicker) just (snicker) does not happen in July. Then again, as capricious as Mother Nature is, the heat wave is looming around the corner. She just wanted to lull us into a false sense of non-humidity before walloping us over the head with both stifling heat and humidity for the next two months. Ah, the joys of Southern living . . .NOT!
I am making progress on the revision stage. I'm up to Chapter Twenty (out of Twenty-Four) solely with the word that! Then, there are the words like, just, some, had, was and the list continues. At this rate, a very hot place will freeze over before I finish the revisions. Well, at least I'll have a pitcher of margaritas with me!
I've eliminated close to 2,000 words so far. Woo-hoo! No, I didn't have that (there is a time and place for this word, btw) many thats in my manuscript. I've also deleted sentences here and there, created contractions, and eliminated the lyrics as I've come across them - except for the one section where the lyrics must remain. They are too important to the story, and I'll get on my knees and beg the artist for permission to use them if I must!
I have a huge chunk of words still to go. I'm confident I'll succeed.
My question for the day: Why, oh, why, does Blogger screw with my formatting when I add a picture? Have I offended them in some way? Is it just Blogger's way of screwing with my mind? Like the world doesn't screw with it enough? Where, oh, where, have my spaces between paragraphs gone dear Blogger? Does anyone else have this problem? Geesh!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Margarita Nights - Dirty Little Secrets

Ah, yes, I got your attention didn't I?? Oh, come on now, admit it - the only reason you clicked over so quickly, probably spraining a finger or two in the process, was because of three little words: dirty little secrets.

I seriously had nothing to blog about so I thought I'd see how many people would click on over based on some tantilizing possibilities.

Okay, I'm kidding. I do have a post today, I'm just messing with your collective minds. Resistance is futile, after all!

Today's post is just another step in Platform Building.

There's a phrase I use in Margarita Nights every now and then - gayvine! The gayvine - telephone, telegraph, tell a gay man - is the source of all information, plus a healthy dose of misinformation, within the Nashville gay community. Okay, its within any gay community, but in Margarita Nights the story takes place in Nashville. Enough written! The characters within the story love to listen to the gayvine and discuss the information over coffee! Kidding! Over margaritas, of course!

Now, what's a good story without some truth interwoven into fiction. I mean, modern society is fascinated with gossip. Heck, without celebrity gossip, TMZ would go out of business, as would The Enquirer and Star magazines. So, I decided to throw in tidbits from the gayvine, as well as some totally fictional events just to spice things up in the novel. Hopefully, I concealed the true bits with enough fiction. Then again, if not, who cares? I mean, I don't mention names, and I'm sure people aren't going to be lining up to say hey, that was me who cheated on my wife with another man . . . or whatever other tidbits I threw into the novel.

Ah, the tidbits of information . . . Should I share some of them here? Should I spill out a dirty little secret and let you, dear readers, try and figure out if it is a) fact, b)fiction, or c) fact hidden behind a facade of fiction?

An up and coming lawyer, the prodigy in his law firm, is firmly in the closet. No one knows his dirty little secret - not his boss, his closest friends, or the woman he is dating . . . so he thinks. Secrets have a nasty way of leaping out of the closet when a person least expects. The lawyer's secret is no different. What price will he pay if his secret comes to light?

The country music star - butch, very masculine, allegedly redneck as can be. Rumors fly through the city about his 'other' life. Are the rumors true or false? Was he really seen in the parking lot of the local gay bar? Is his marriage one of love or . . . convenience? Is his marriage lavender?

A couple, together for fifteen years - one faithful, the other not. The whispers shiver the tendrils of the gayvine. What will the truth do to a relationship allegedly built on trust?

Two very prominent businessmen, both married, and both - allegedly - living a secret life . . . with each other.

A bet between the sons of two wealthy families - first to marry gets a plot of land. Six weeks later an engagement announcement appears in the paper. The poor woman has no clue she's only providing a cover for her future husband's faux heterosexuality.

So, which of the above are fact, fiction, or fact hidden behind a facade of fiction? I'm not telling!

The fact is, these tidbits are only a peripheral part of what happens in Margarita Nights. The tidbits are not the total story. There are tons (okay, not tons, but I like the word and I'm using it) of these tendrils of the gayvine within the manuscript. A few more might appear here or there before the book is - hopefully soon - published.


P.S. Lavender marriages are marriages of convenience where both spouses are either gay and marrying for position and/or reputation, or where only one spouse is gay and the other spouse knows about the gay thing.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Contest at Rebecca's Blog

Okay, since I'm all about free stuff.

Rebecca Knight is giving away a book because she has way too many and is too cheap (her statement, not mine) to buy more bookshelves! Boy, do I know that feeling. So, go here to enter the contest.


Useless Words

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I'm in the process of attempting to edit my manuscript from 140,000 + (and it's a BIG +) words down to a more acceptable 110,000 words (maybe 115,000). I received some great suggestions on little things I can do to begin the process such as (thanks Robyn) eliminating such words as just, that, and was.

Do you have any idea how many times I used the word that? OMG! I mean, I'd mention this, that, or the other, or that night, that man, that thing . . . and that, that, that, that, that, and dang it, that again!

I have decided that (OMG, see how easy it is to use the word) the word that, for the most part, is a useless word. Yes, useless. I don't need to use that as much as I do. I mean, check this out . . .

Jared knew that Wes was not the most reliable of people.

Now, check this out . . .

Jared knew Wes was not the most reliable of people.

That is totally useless, not needed, and thus, it disappeared from the sentence, and countless more (trust me on (big grin and wink) that!) as I began the elimination of words revision process yesterday!

I also learned, that many other words can more readily replace that - such as who, which, the, and so many more. It's all about context.

Now, I didn't eliminate every instance of that because sometimes, the word seemed to fit. In any case where it did not, I took out the word. Delete! Delete! Delete! Delete!

I'm halfway through the manuscript with the that search right now. Sigh! I hope

Now, here's my question for the day - Contractions or no contractions? No, I'm not in labor, though I sometimes equate writing with labor. I'm just saying. Or perhaps my question should be - did not versus didn't? I eliminated quite a few words yesterday by creating contractions!

I read somewhere that a writer should write out the contractions, i.e., use could not instead of couldn't. So, that's what I did. Then, a reader made a comment that could not sounded to formal, and I should use couldn't. Geesh! Yes, as I went through yesterday, I created contractions left and right. Octomom beware! Do you use contractions in your writing? If so, why? If not, why?

Lastly - I want to thank everyone else who left a comment here. Your comments/advice have really helped. I'd love to do a link to every single one of you, but I seriously don't have the time this morning. So, newbies to this blog, check out the post and the comments, click on the names, and check out the blogs of the commenters. They're great sources of information!


Friday, July 3, 2009


This seems to be the (shudder, gasp) theme of the blogs this week: trust. Lady Glamis did a post about it over at The Literary Lab , as well as a brief post on her own blog, and some other bloggers mentioned the subject as well. This morning BookEnds did a similar post, but in a different vein. It was not about who you trust, but to trust yourself. Go figure.

Even though all of you are capable of clicking the link, I'm going to insert the main gist below:

You know what each of us thinks about certain practices and procedures and you’ve learned firsthand how subjective everything can be, from whether or not we like a book to how we like our query letters. Therefore, when push comes to shove there’s only one person you should be listening to, and that’s you. When it comes time to write your query, choose an agent, find a publisher, sign a contract, and write the next great American novel, you need to trust that you can take all you’ve learned and are continuing to learn and do what’s best for you and your career, and do it with your own personal flare and style.

Okay, my peeps, this is about the best advice any of us can, or will ever receive. In the end, it all comes down to trust in ourselves. We can read all about how to write the perfect query letter, how to do this, that, and everything . . . but the final result is how we, the writer, do those things. Sometimes, we have to go with our instinct and step outside the box. I believe Tess did that with her query letter and what happened? Well, she got an agent.

I've stepped outside the box with the format of my own query - example here - and received the following comments:

This may be an example of a query that doesn't follow all the standard advice, but that really works.

I agree with anon@10:53, the voice makes this stand out above form or format. I think if I read 50 queries in a row, I would remember this one for the voice.

So, did I follow all the query formatting rules? Heck, no, I kind of went with my instinct and took a chance by including my own personal flare and style.

As much as we all want to get published, as much as we (well, me, maybe a few others - wink, wink, wink) whine sometimes about all the rules, sometimes you (we, me) have to break the rules, trust ourselves, and go with our instincts. I did this in college once with an essay I had to do for 19th Century American Literature on The Last of the Mohicans. I wrote a semi-snarky (yes, even back then before the word was popular) essay that the professor absolutely loved. I broke the rule of being very formal and boring, took a chance, and didn't get a failing grade. I trusted that inner voice - the one that screams at me sometimes - and broke past boring to snarky. I still have that essay in a folder at my desk. I pull it out every now and then just to remind myself that breaking the rules every now and then is not a bad thing, not bad at all.

So, trust yourselves, dear readers, pay attention to the query guidelines, but pay attention to your own instincts as well.

Trust Yourself!

I hope everyone has a happy and safe 4th of July. I'll be lurking around the blogsphere every now and then between grocery shopping, cleaning the house, and drinking a margarita or two, oh, and trying to eliminate 31, 466 words! Woo-hoo!


Thursday, July 2, 2009


So, in a brave moment NOT induced by drinking too many margaritas, I posted my query for Margarita Nights on The Public Query Slushpile. Oh, yes I did!

Now that I've been publicly humiliated! Kidding. The experience has been really helpful. Still, I spent most of last evening reworking (to some extent) the brilliance of my query. I definitely - thanks to all the commenters (Robyn and Angie were two of them) - captured the Voice. Woo-hoo! The query just needs a tweak here or there to positively shine with brilliance! Right now, it's just glimmering brightly!

The frustrating part, at least for me, is trying to maintain the brilliance (thanks to Elana for helping me, and Lady Glamis) of the query. I don't want to add too much and somehow dim things down. Try as I might, at least last night, all my attempts to add have failed. So, I'm stepping away from the query!

Am I giving up? Heck no, people! I'm too dang stubborn to give up. I just need a breather - and a margarita, but that will have to wait until Friday! Hopefully before then, I'll finish my tweaking and repost the query on The Public Query Slushpile!

BTW - Hush, Hush by the Pussycat Dolls (yes, the Pussycat Dolls) is currently playing. I absolutely love the song - great beat, and they intermixed some of the gayest anthem of all time (I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor) into the song.

Have a great day!


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

31,466 Words

31,466 Words! Let me spell it out for you: Thirty-one thousand four hundred and sixty-six words. This is the number of words I must omit from Margarita Nights if I wish to submit the manuscript in its true brilliance. Yes, a daunting task, to say the least.

Now, as most aspiring writers know, there are words counts to conform to when submitting a manuscript. Rather than go into excruciating detail on that subject, I'm just going to direct you to Michelle's blog post here. So, according to these guidelines, a novel can be anywhere from 50,000 to 110,000 words. Great. Fantastic. Frak - I'm at 141,466 words with the total package that is Margarita Nights. Frak, Frak, and Frak again!

Okay, this isn't as bad as it sounds. Basically, the manuscript was written in two parts. Part One equals out to approximately 72,000 words. Not a bad thing. I can deal with that! Oh wait, most adult manuscripts are expected to be 80,000 words. Frak, Frak, and Frak again! I'm 8,000 words short of expectations. Oh, yes, there are exceptions to every rule. 72,000 really isn't that bad.

So, what's my dilemma? Well, I'll tell you - I like Margarita Nights at the 140,000 plus word level. I like Part One and Part Two as one book and not two separate books, which is entirely doable, btw! I'm just torn on whether to go for submitting just Part One or whether I should edit out 31,466 words and submit the total, unbelievable brilliant, package.

Do I spend the next few weeks editing out words, paring down to insane brilliance, and maintaining the snark? Do I continue to query the 72,000 Part One and hope that an agent likes it enough to consider Part Two as well? Do I query Part One while revising the total package? Do I just jump off the cliff and end my misery? Kidding!

What do you (not you, dear friend, I know what you think), fellow bloggers, think I should do? Do I go with my instinct and revise the 141,466 down to a marketable 110,000 words? Do I market just Part One and hope for a chance for Part Two? Do I market Part One and then blindside the agent with the fact that Part Two is a cohesive part (ha!) of Part One and can she/he sell it as such?

Ah, yes, that glass of wine is beckoning to me suddenly. Who needs to revise when he can imbibe instead? Oh, wait, I can multi-task!