Friday, November 28, 2008

Why I Hate Answering Machines...Or How To Stress Your Cat

First, before I start getting angry comments about cat abuse, let me state that I love my cats. They are part of the family and are probably more spoiled than our kids ever were (sorry, kids)!

When we returned home from an errand tonight, the red blinking light on the telephone indicated a message waiting. I dialed in to check and listened to the message, then listened again, and again, and again...I hate it when people talk so fast that the words slur together. Here's what I heard: "ADT Securities...Ro...Errrrha...test. If you have any questions call (phone number left out to protect the innocent). Well, yeah! I had a question. First, where did this guy learn phone etiquette, and second what the blinkety blank was he trying to tell me? So I called, listened to the three minute spiel of press this and press that (of which none of the numbers applied to "decipher a phone message") and finally "Hold for all other questions" So I held. And then heard a "busy signal". Oh, yeah. I'm feeling the pressure now. Dial, listen to the canned garbage, hold, finally...a voice of reason...maybe. So ADT wants to test our security system. We can do it now or you can call back in the morning at 9am. (No thanks, it took me fifteen minutes to get through this time). So I agreed to "test the alarm" now after assuring them I had no small children sleeping in the house. I set the alarm and was instructed to open one of the doors. A loud screech ensued...and my cats became acrobat artists. Their eyes grew large and they suddenly all had more hair than I realized any cat could own. Can we say armed porcupine? They ran in circles, stared at me like I should be doing something to stop the noise. And then...the alarm went off for real. The gal on the phone said it would have to go off for two minutes. She had set a timer and would let me know when the test was over. Then...I got a busy signal on the phone. NO!!! Now, what would I do? The cats would have shredded my legs if they had claws... Do you know how long two minutes are? When your eardrums are bursting, two minutes can seem like two hours! And...I had no lifelines left. ADT has hung up on me! The cats and I ran around in circles trying to avoid each other. They finally figured out how to stick their paws in their ears, but their eyes were about to burst from their sockets. Soon, I'd have to sue ADT for killing my cats. Then, the phone rang. It was ADT telling me the test was over. "Okay, so stop the noise!" She instructed me how to stop the alarm, and then hung up. Now I have a green ready light, and Zone 1 is orange and so is alarm. My fingers shook wondering if it would go off again. The cats have now climbed my back and are on each shoulder, while one is perched on my head just daring me to set that alarm off one more time. Let me tell you, cats can inflict a lot of damage even without claws. Have you seen their teeth? So, I tentatively pressed the code and armed the system. Then I pressed it again to unarm it...and breathed a sigh of relief. All was well.

My cats may not forgive me before Christmas.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Our world is facing many challenges. People are losing jobs, homes, health. The stock market is turned upside down. Our family has suffered losses this year, death of friends and family, family moving away, family members joining the military, declining health, loss of jobs.

But despite this, we have many things to be thankful for. We have a diverse family filled with love. We thank God for the blessings he gives...the comfort of knowing our loved ones who pass are with Him, being able to reach out to those who are far away through the telephone, internet, and snail mail, wonderful surgeons and doctors, church family.

We will sit together this Thanksgiving around the table and give thanks to the Lord.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING. Thanks you for stopping by.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Writing A Synopsis - Lesson Four

We're ready to finalize that synopsis. We've written the back page blurb, used it (or part of it) as the hook to the synopsis. We've introduced our characters, shown the conflict and what their goals are. We've picked out the turning points or high points of the novel and written these into the body of the synopsis. Now it's time for the climax and resolution. Again, keep it simple, don't overwrite, and most of all don't keep the editor guessing what happens.

Here is the final part of the synopsis for Foxfire:

Her trap works, and she faces her worst nightmare, for her ex-lover captures her and holds a knife against her throat. He leads her into the dark wooded mountainside where he plans to kill her, just as he has five other women. He's the serial killer the police are seeking, but they'll never find him. He's set up the perfect ruse.

By the time Tyler realizes Grace has lied to him, it's too late. She's been captured by a killer. The same man who killed Tyler's wife. He realizes that he could lose another woman he loves. He can't let Grace die, too.

Tyler and his boss catch up with them and Grace knows she has to do something or the man she loves will die. She drives her arm into her assailant's midsection and grabs the hand gripping the knife. Gunshots ring out, and she is pinned beneath a dead body. She's faced her worst fear and lived, but her enemy has been slain.

Tyler proposes to Grace. She accepts. Together they've found the strength to overcome the shadows in their past and open their hearts to true love.

Once you have put your entire synopsis together, don't forget to go back over it several times. Don't be afraid to make your sentences stronger, use active verbs, and most of all let your voice shine through.

Good luck!

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Drowning in an Ocean of Food

Friday we had a turkey potluck at work. I wanted to boycott it and go out to run errands and eat a sandwich, but I do enjoy spending time with my co-workers. Thus, I ate too much food, and went back later for second helpings of dessert. Sunday we had our Thanksgiving potluck at church. Yep, once again I sampled nearly everything. Came home feeling drugged and laid down on the bed to nap. For the rest of the evening I didn't feel like doing one thing. Finally gave up and went to bed at 9pm. Now I'm sitting here in my office and staring at....FOOD! I'm cooking our Thanksgiving dinner this year. I guess we'll have 16 people. Ugh. With no place to put all the extra canned goods and things, I stored them here in my office. I'm going to be glad when Thanksgiving is over...but, then comes Christmas. **sigh** No wonder I can't lose weight.

Sending warm wishes for a happy Thanksgiving to each and all of you. Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Interview with Liana Laverentz

My first experience being interviewed on another blog happened yesterday. If you'd like to check it out:

Click Here

Interviewing with Liana was a lot of fun, especially since we met face to face last June at Lori Foster's Readers and Authors Get Together in Cincinnati.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Writing A Synopsis - Lesson Three

Now that we've written the back page blurg and introduced the characters including their goals and what is keeping them from reaching that goal, we need to get into the "middle" of the synopsis. Don't get caught up in putting in too many details. This is the hard part. You must pick out the most important parts of your story and no matter how important each piece is to you...the editor doesn't want to know all the little details. Think "condensed" version.

The easiest way to decide which points to include is to write a high level outline. For each novel you will have three main turning points. The first comes about 1/4 of the way through the book. This is where the hero or heroine MAKES A DECISION to do something that takes the story in a new direction. The second comes at the half-way point. This is a MAJOR turning point and must be high stakes. The third comes about 3/4 of the way through the book. If you have identified these three major points, then you can easily write this part of the synopsis. Remember to keep it simple and to avoid telling every little detail.

Here is the beginning and middle of the synopsis for FOXFIRE.

GRACE WILKINS knows about disappointment, about guilt, and about fear. She's spent her life running away from all three until she finds the perfect hiding place in a small mountain community. At twenty-eight years of age, she's finally put down roots. The murdering mobster she once slept with will never find her here. Nothing bad ever happens in Foxfire, Tennessee.

TYLER SANDFORD is a thirty-five year old undercover agent who is soured on his current job. He's haunted by guilt over his wife's death at the hands of a convicted felon, who remains at large. Tyler wants to turn in his gun and utilize his veterinarian degree to begin a new life somewhere far away. Perhaps then he'll be able to sleep at night.

Then MAX CLAYTON, the man who killed Tyler's wife, resurfaces with a new face and begins picking off the people who testified against him. Tyler moves to Foxfire with a dual purpose--to set up his veterinary practice and use Grace to flush out Max. When Tyler finds Grace unemployed, he hires her to work in his clinic. Though he never mixes business and pleasure, he's having a difficult time keeping his hands off her. She's sexy, tough, and as vulnerable to their mutual attraction as he is.

Strange things begin to happen. A serial killer leaves his fifth victim's body behind the only restaurant in Foxfire. Grace's weird neighbor begins making veiled threats after seeing Tyler and Grace in a compromising embrace. Someone leaves roses on Grace's doorstep and she receives a package that sets her fear racing once again--Max has found her. Someone brutally stabs Grace's dog, and she turns to Tyler to save her canine friend. She spends the night on Tyler's couch and wakes to overhear him talking on the phone about the man she's been hiding from for three years. She barges into the bedroom and confronts Tyler who is pointing a gun straight at her.

A bitter argument turns into raging passion and the two find themselves tangled together in Tyler's bed sheets. Sated and basking in the afterglow, Grace is only amused when Tyler's boss, JAKE SCOTT walks in on them. He shows them a picture of Max's new face. Grace tells them she's seen Max in Foxfire. She convinces Tyler and Jake to let her work with them to capture Max.

Then her world is turned upside down. Her best friend's house is bombed and he is rushed to the hospital. Knowing Max is responsible, Grace fears for the other people she loves. At that point she realizes she's fallen in love with Tyler. She must work alone, setting herself up as bait to catch her nemesis.

Good luck and happy writing. Thanks for stopping by.

P.S. Apologies for posting this a day late.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Traffic Woes

Winter has come early to central Ohio. Yesterday we had snow squalls, huge snowflakes, icy snow pellets...and no accumulation. Last night we had a little snowfall, just a few patches remaining this morning, but icy patches on some roads and overpasses. Now I sound like the weather forecaster...but let me tell you, there are some really angry people driving this morning.

An SUV came roaring past me in my subdivision where the speed limit is 25mph. They had to stop in front of me and wait for the school bus to load. But I suppose that person relieved some anger by moving up one slot in the traffic line.

When the school bus stopped at the railroad tracks, I stopped at the intersection to let another vehicle turn from the left lane into a subdivision on my right. I feel so great! The person behind me blew the horn so loudly I can now hear despite my congested ear. I suppose they were angry at the school bus for stopping, and I'm sure they felt much better after releasing that hostility on the horn. After the vehicle made the turn, I inched up one car length to stop and wait for that school bus to clear the railroad tracks so traffic could once more move.

As the traffic moved toward the first major crossroads and traffic light, we merged into two lanes. The left becomes a turn left only lane...mine to go straight or turn. See, I learned something today. If you are angry and tired of waiting in line, you can move into that left lane and cut off the next person in the right hand lane going straight! Isn't that amazing.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Living with Arthur is a Pain

Five reasons living with Arthur is a real bummer:

1. When I'm so exhausted I can't wait to crawl between the sheets, Arthur likes to keep me awake.

2. When I'd like to be alone and meditate, Arthur intrudes without an apology.

3. Arthur tags along with me everywhere I go.

4. When Arthur came to live with me, my entire life changed...for the worse.

5. Arthur's like that energizer bunny...relentless and annoying.

Living with Arthur Itis is a pain.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rain, Snow, and Weather Blues...

Ohio is gearing up for a nasty winter. We've already seen snow...not an accumulation...but it's been here. More is predicted. Ugh. Our furnace has been running off and on since October, unusual for this time of year. Typically temps stay mild through mid November and drop just a bit through December, with January and February being our coldest months.

Winter months mean too many hours spent indoors. I leave for work in the near dark, have no windows to the outdoors, and return home in the near dark. Depressing. At least when the weather is mild I can get outside during breaks and walk. Being cooped indoors with the same people tends to make people grumpy and I work with a lot of normally grumpy workers.

Not looking forward to the next months. How about you?

Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Little Corner Grocery Stores....

Ah, yes. The little corner grocery stores. I used to live with my grandma and grandpa. What a great time. We knew all the neighbors and it was so cool. I could walk next door and sit on the porch and talk with the elderly couple living there. Now, mind you, I was only six. The corner grocery store was three blocks eternity...but we walked there and bought our groceries. We had a running tab which was paid monthly. The store owner would give me a lollipop from time to time--a wonderful gift, greatly appreciated. I moved away two years later, but I returned for a two week visit every summer. Eventually, a R&W root beer stand came to that little community...across the street from the grocery. Again, we all knew the owners' names. They, too, were neighbors. "Champ" was a great guy. He wore a white hat and tended the outdoor "bar." For a treat, we'd take fifty cents and sit on stools under an overhang,eat a coney dog and drink an ice cold frosted mug of root beer. Back then, parents weren't afraid to let their kids walk the streets of the neighborhood, and if one of us got into trouble, there was no hiding it. The entire community knew.

Everyone worked hard, and no one had credit cards. There was no stigma to keep up with the neighbors. People had backyard gardens and shared/swapped their food. I'm all for progress, but I don't like what it's done to us on a personal level. Maybe that's why I write stories set in small rural communities.

We're on the verge of a new way of life. Time will tell what direction it takes. I worry for my grandchildren, but I suppose my grandparents worried for me. Hmmm, perhaps they were right to worry.

Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Writing a Synopsis - Lesson Two

Assuming you've completed writing your blurb (see last Tuesday's blog Writing A Synopsis - Lesson One), your ready to introduce your characters. This is where goals, motivation, and conflict come into play. Keep it brief and simple. I usually do this in two paragraphs--one for the heroine and one for the hero. What you don't want to do is describe the physical characteristics of your characters. Save this for your manuscript. The goal here is to outline what is to be expected during the story.

Example from Hit and Run:

Beth Barrett's twin sister, Jilly, is killed by a hit and run driver and Beth knows who did it. Proving it is the problem. No one believes she is psychically connected with her deceased twin, and the man she accuses has an alibi. It doesn't help that she's attracted to the detective assigned to the case, especially when he's skeptical about her motives for accusing her brother-in-law. Faced with a cunning adversary, Beth must find a way to convince Detective Ryan Snider before she becomes the next victim.

Detective Ryan Snider wants to believe Beth is telling the truth, but in reality no one can talk to a dead person. He met the twins when Jilly was hospitalized after being brutally beaten by her husband, Keith Carson. He did his best to help, telling himself it was duty, not the physical attraction to Beth that kept him involved. But now Ryan has a murder to solve, and he has to put logic before heart, and doing so may destroy his relationship with Beth.

If you use your blurb, you can expand it to create these paragraphs. Good luck!

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Stop! No one is "One Size Fits All"

If you believe in the greatest marketing scheme ever created, One Size Fits All, you need to take a step back and look at reality. For instance, if you ask a woman who wears a size 2 and a woman who wears a size 20 to stand side by side wearing an identical "one size" article, you can easily see the problem. I mean a sheet is one size fits all!! Forget the myth. We are individuals. We are unique. Everyone is different. Even identical twins have one thing that distinguishes them from the other.

Writers easily get caught up in the one size myth. Especially beginning writers. It's easy to seek advice and learn the rules, but the hard part is retaining a unique voice. Yes, it is important to learn the craft. It is important to know the rules that shouldn't be broken. But...more important is to write your story. Forget the rules and write the story YOU want to write. Once you have poured out your heart on the page, you can go back and apply the rules WHERE YOU BELIEVE THEY WORK. That's important. Don't ruin your voice, your story, by over applying what you've learned along the way. Much easier said than done, but just like the vision of two people wearing one size articles, so our books should be different.

Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Taking a Stand Against Bathroom Deficiencies

For those of us who work outside the home where we spend nine hours or more in the workplace, shouldn't we at least have decent toilet paper? I mean, come on! Wiping with a piece of paper with pieces of bark embedded in see-through single ply has to stop. I come home raw, bleeding and limping on days when I just can't hold it in for nine hours.

And then, there's the issue of hand soap. Does it contain lye? I mean, my hands are so dry they try to dive into my glass of water after my trip to the ladies room. I don't have to worry about dark spots on the backs of my hands. I can't find them anyway because they're hiding to avoid the torture of that dreaded paper hand towel, cousin to the bark based toilet paper.

Worse, before I can make my exit that "too high on the wall to reach" so-called air freshener spits out a smell strong enough to kill anyone who dares to stay long enough to be caught. Have you ever tried any of that over the counter tooth medicine? Or take a deep whiff of some prescription codeine-based cough medicine. Yep, I swear that's what's in that stupid air contaminator. In fact, I've never seen a bug strong enough to escape. From time to time, I see little insects upside down, legs stiff, two of them trying to stifle their nostrils.

I'm taking a stand today. I'm bringing in my own toilet paper, a small hand towel, a bar of creamy hand soap, and nose plugs. Bet I get somebody's attention when I come walking down the hall. Hmmm, our Director of Human Resources from corporate office is coming in today. Maybe I'll give him a tour of our Ladies Room. First, I'll offer nose plugs, though.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"I Think I Can!"

Henry Ford said, "If you think you can or think you can't, you're right."

That quote is taped to my computer monitor. The intent was to make me remember to keep a positive attitude. Unfortunately, I forget to look at it. Like most writers, I do have those "terrible doubts" and times of inactivity. If that happens to you, perhaps you are subconsciously thinking you "can't."

Like the little train you need to repeat to yourself, "I think I can. I think I can!"

This applies to all aspects of life, whether you are a writer, a homemaker, a clerk, a mail deliverer, a teacher, an office worker... If you take time to reflect on what you want to achieve and "think you can do it," you'll soon find a determination in your heart, and a smile on your face.

I admit that I'm my own worst enemy. How about you? What are you thinking today?

Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Writing A Synopsis - Lesson One

A good synopsis should begin with a hook. Just as your manuscript must grab the reader from the first page, so should your synopsis grab a potential editor in the first paragraph.

The best way to accomplish this is to create a back page blurb. Here an example from HIT AND RUN, my first novel:

Beth Barrett's twin sister, Jilly, has been killed by a hit and run driver. Beth knows who did it. Proving it is the problem. The twins are linked through a psychic connection that hasn't diminished with Jilly's death, but no one believes it, not even Ryan Snider, the sexy detective assigned to the case.

When a stalker targets Beth, she can't prove that either. Faced with a cunning adversary, she must depend on her own strength, and an unlikely bond with her dead sister, to unmask a killer before she becomes the next victim.

An example from FOXFIRE, my second novel:

Nothing bad ever happens in Foxifre. Then Grace Wilkins' fiance discovers her secret and calls off the wedding. Suddenly strange things begin to happen. An enamored neighbor makes veiled threats. Roses appear mysteriously on her doorstep. Her beloved dog is viciously stabbed, and the sexy veterinarian who saves her has a hidden agenda--and a gun. Now Grace must confront her past to reveal the identity of her stalker or become his next victim.

An example from JOSHUA's HOPE, my latest novel:

Hope Courtland escaped her marriage to save her life. Her only regret is leaving her four-year-old stepson, Joshua, behind. Though she wants custody, no attorney is willing to tackle her ex-husband in a custody battle. Hope’s faith begins to falter. She learns that Joshua is paying the consequences for her freedom, and in an act of desperation, she kidnaps him. Suddenly, she becomes a suspect in her ex-husband’s murder.

Zack Stone is content to be sheriff of Pine Cove, Tennessee, where the worst conflict he deals with is handing out speeding tickets. Though his faith is strong, he struggles with issues of forgiveness surrounding his wife’s death. When he rescues Hope in a rainstorm, the last thing he expects is to find a woman who stirs his heart. Being a small town sheriff shouldn’t involve kidnapping and murder, but Zack can’t turn his back on Hope and the little boy she loves.

Your tone must reflect the genre of your novel. The first two examples above are both romantic suspense. I know that a reader will expect to see the essence of the suspense and also a hook for the attraction to the hero. The last example I included is an inspirational romantic suspense. Not only must I include the suspense hook and the romantic anticipation, but also show that a faith journey will be included.

When you begin writing your synopsis, you can include the blurb as the beginning. So, go to your local bookstore and pick up some books in your genre. Study the back page blurbs.

Spend the week defining the back page blurb for your manuscript. When you begin to write yours, don't be discouraged. It takes time and a lot of revision to refine these paragraphs until they speak to you. Feel free to post your results here for feedback.

Next Tuesday, I'll post lesson two.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, November 03, 2008

What an Unsettling Weekend...

So, I posted about Powweb on Friday and since learned that Sprint and Cogent are in a legal battle and Sprint cut communication to Cogent. Thus separating me and countless others from many sites on the internet! My ISP uses Sprint and Powweb uses Cogent! Argh!! So I set up a new mail account with google and rerouted all my yahoo loops there. Settled all new incoming mail issues. However...

On Friday I had to take my hubby to the hospital emergency room. He has COPD and developed an infection in his lungs which dropped his oxygen level to dangerously low levels. Long story short, he was released on Sunday and is on meds and doing much better.

Top the hospital stay with the internet issues and you have one frustrated and mentally exhausted individual---me!!

While sitting here watching television, I opened my Outlook Express to check mail and...voila! Suddenly it started downloading the 578 messages from Powweb! I logged into my website and downloaded everything so I have a new copy. Never again will I redo my website and not keep a copy on my hard drive. Whew! I am not going to change my yahoo loops back to my old email least not yet. This might be a temporary fix only.

Meantime, I'm trying to get hubby to behave and rest. Another monumental task. Wish me luck!

Thanks for stopping by.