Sunday, January 31, 2010


I can breathe again. And this morning I talked to someone who didn't say "god, you sound awful," as we conversed.

Tomorrow is my youngest baboo's birthday and he'll be a teenager. He's been one in body and mind for a while, of course. And he's been taller than me way too long. But. A teenager.

He didn't even NOTICE that tomorrow's his birthday. I had to point it out. I wonder if I hadn't how much time would have passed before he'd say, "heeyyyyy wait a second.. . . What date is it again?"

Then the next boy birthday is in about a week. Busy times. But not nearly as busy as it was almost 13 years ago.

Thirteen years. God. I remember sitting on the hospital bed. Leslie was there. I was thinking I couldn't make the two mile trip from the hospital to home without dying. And back at home there was a toddler and preschooler waiting for me. And my husband had 1.5 jobs at the time, both about an hour from our house, and so he was gone from 5 am until 10 pm. Oh, and I had to write an issue of the motherfucking Kids News in one week or get in big trouble. God.

How do you people with babies do it? I've forgotten.

Friday, January 29, 2010

fed to the teeth with winter

We're being pushed around by the weather. My favorite place to write, La Paloma Sabanera is too cold when the wind blows like this. I'm off to Borders instead.

I watched the guy across the street try to ride his bike to work, wrapped up like Ralphie in a Christmas Story (fyi, I liked the movie ok, but I didn't think it was The Best Thing Ever. Useful common imagery there though) He peddled very very slowly. I think the wind was too painful on the exposed 1 inch area around his eyes. Also peddling on snow must be tough. Like sand, maybe, but damned if I'm ever going to find out. I'm not tough or crazy, like the guy across the street.

The dog refuses to go out alone--she must think I'm going to close the door behind her and keep her out there, suspicious bitch.

But there's still heat in this house and I still get to use a car (instead of walking to the bus stop and waiting) so I'm not truly whining. All right, all right. I am. But what I mean is. . . it's mild whining. Unlike the weather which is not mild, at all.

* * * * *

I have to get some pimping together. Linda has a book out!

I'm going to have TWO books out in less than two weeks. 1.25 books to be accurate. And if you consider that the one full book is actually cowritten with Bonnie, then the number is actually closer to 2/3rds .

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Yesterday was lost in the fog of yet another cold. Productivity is at zero levels due to swamp activity in my head. This winter is absurd and in response, my immune system is on strike.

And what do dreams about biking mean? I'm always getting lost and peddling up hills when I dream of riding. Do I need more exercise? duh, yes, but I wonder if the dreams reflect my body's cries for help.

And dreams of artichoke hearts must signify something. That can't be random. Artichoke flowers are obvious symbols of ummmmmm prickly love? Melted butter?

I should go see what Doug is up to. I probably need to get back on a strict regimen of checking a couple of blogs and stop with this twittering. That's what's giving me the colds. Not enough vitamin D and too much time on twitter.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The least sexy sex book ever written: The She Devils by Pierre Louys. Seriously makes much of Literotica look like, well, literature.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

SBD what I want

I'm reading a bunch of category romances and I need something to counteract them. Some sour to go with the sweet.

I think a book like Perfume would do the trick, except I read that already, maybe as long as 20 years ago now, but I'm not ready to read it again.

How about a good hardboiled cynical detective? Anyone got one? I'd like some fluff in it though. An early Spenser would be good---pre-Susan Silverman. Except I've read them all.

And Dexter would be good too, except I've read those as well.

I have another freaking cold. Damn you, Massachusetts, this is your fault.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

attitudinally challenged again

When you have the attitude of a snotty teenager and the body of a pudgy 50 year old matron, when you open your mouth, people tend to think you're trying to be cute. I mean the soooo unattractive kind of cute. The kind that's not at all funny, but pushing too hard to be.

Those people don't realize actually I'm trying to tone down the immature responses and have been since I had my first kid and realized shit, I'm a Mom. Smart-ass might look as out of place on me as a Laura Ashley pinafore but that's all I got in my closet. (smartass, I mean. I did manage to get rid of my last Laura Ashley when I was in my 40s and I miss the cheery floral prints.)

Mutton dressed as lamb isn't bad enough, now someone has accused me of not respecting My Genre (smut) mostly because I'm calling it smut. It's true I do feel a twinge of guilt. On the other hand, geez, guys. Lighten up. It's supposed to be fun, right? Escapist, yes? It's not supposed to change civilization. And hey talk about mockery. The stuff people write to change civilization? Now that often deserves a far greater eye roll than some fun erotic romance.

See? I'm an equal opportunity smart ass.

I'm hoping that if I live another few decades, I can be cute again, as in the aww, isn't that precious kind of cute. 80 year old ladies who are outspoken are a staple in all Regency Romances. I'm going for it.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Why I accomplish NOTHING

I wake up at 7 feeling organized, with a list of things to do before 9 am

pay bills
finish reading/scoring contest entries
finish writing my part of latest story and send manuscript back to Bonnie.
start a load of laundry

actual activities

look for glasses to read bills.
get distracted by a letter I forgot to open, found in pile of bills.
look for coffee
reheat coffee
look for glasses again
sign on to pay bills
check email
Kid missed bus! needs ride
look for keys
give ride
upon return home, look for coffee
reheat coffee
sit down with bills again.....can't see
look for glasses

It's 9. I'm done. Good news, I did find the glasses again.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Buy five and we'll donate five to ................

I remember this happening after Katrina and the tsunami

Everyone in the world, from the elementary school kids to the car dealer, raised money for the catastrophe. And while I'm all for awareness of it, after a while, the theme of give-give-give makes it seem like a hot fad and maybe that makes the fast march to indifference come even faster.

I'm giving, don't get me wrong. Giving is good. It's the whole "be part of MY GIVING ATTEMPT!"

And I'm not complaining that I'm sick of the whole "donate now!" thing. I'm more worried. I recalling how soon it goes from "donate now" to the public sort of cynicism about the people trying to jump on the bandwagon. The "For every car you purchase we give $100 to the Red Cross" sort of thing seems to gum the big picture, not make it clearer. (The big picture being what on earth should happen with/by/for these people? when? by whom?)

I'm not sure what the answer to this dump cash and run to the next big event sort of thinking does in the long term. It does dump a lot of money into the hands of people who maybe shouldn't get it.

There are a lot of interesting articles about why even the big charities might not be a safe bet. And there's a particularly interesting one I might go hunt for about why low overhead might not be the best criteria for picking a charity.

And I wish there was more public accountability for the Red Cross.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Of course I have something to blog about. The trouble is lately I've learned discretion. No, what I've learned is that
1. what I have to say can usually be summed up in couple of sentences and that's what twitter's for
2. I can always find someone out there saying what I mean better, only better, faster, funnier.
3. I'm making cookies for a kid's play--we sell beforehand to raise money for .... for....something. The boy's Einstein in Picasso at the Lapin Agile...such a change from the time he played a weather element. So as for the blogging, meh, I don't have time for this.
4. Also I'll be waking up the eldest to take him out to learn to drive stickshift again.

And speaking of 3. people saying what I mean, only better and 4. the crap car.... have you ever read Gene Weingarten? At the risk of sounding like a fan girl with a slightly creepy obsession**, I will repeat myself: the man's good. I hadn't paid much attention to his writing other than his funny columns, but I've started reading his longer pieces. Actual journalism --you know, those article-thingie-whatsits that require some amount of research.

His articles are terrific. The one about kids in hot cars had me in the teary snuffles, although I'm not sure that's an actual journalistic measurement ("has this piece made you reach for the Kleenex?" should most definitely be used as a way to judge inspie novels****). But still. He's a great writer--funny, articulate, moving and thorough.

L suggested I go sit out in the crap car and see if some of that great writing aura will inspire me. The other day I parked the crap car at the middle school, waiting for a kid. My guess is no great writing took place in that car.

Although it looks like the Great Zucchini took a ride in it. Maybe some fine diaper humor will soak up through the seats.

** I have no desire to bear his children. In fact I have no desire to bear anyone's children any more.

****the answer for me is usually, "no and I resent the attempt at manipulation. Zero hit points for you, inspie author."

Thursday, January 07, 2010

In which I get to the bottom of a plotting and character problem

I looked back at old entries in to this blog and realize that I have had a cold, bronchitis and/or sinus infection since November. No wonder my stories are filled with unpleasant people acting like jerks.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

crappy car update

Tomorrow the guys go down to DC to get the car. (Scroll down a bit to see it.) It's an important enough occasion, Weingarten even mentions it in today's Washington Post (online. Scroll down a bit to see it)

The day after tomorrow,the fight for the santa poop begins. I want it. The car's new owner, boy1, also wants it.

The boy is right, I had no idea about who or what Mr. Hanky Poo actually is, but now I do understand because unfortunately he's shown me the video. And even if I hadn't known, ignorance doesn't mean I should be deprived of something gorgeous. . . . Ergh. South Park, ugh that video.

I'm rereading that short mention in the Post. See that bit about me as a saucy wench? I like that, a lot. Good thing I'm not going to DC. I'm currently going through 3/4 of a box a kleenex a day and I look like a rabbit--not a cute one you see scampering through the garden. I'm one of those laboratory rabbits, way pale except for the pink nose, pink eyes and twitchy all over. Saucy wenches do not look like diseased rabbits.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Check in after the workshop

I've copied this from an email I just sent out to a writing group. Once you get into workshop mode, that kind of babble fest brain, it's hard to stop talking.

The best part of today's synopsis workshop was an exercise I hadn't done before:

1. Ask someone read your synopsis. For God's sake, shut up. Don't say a word to them, just hand it over and let them read in peace.

2. When they're done, ask them, what is this book about? Get that description in a few sentences--one if possible. If they don't get what it's about--the central conflict-- then you'll know you have to work on your synopsis.

3. If they do know what your book is about, yay! Write down what they say, gussy it up, and you've got yourself a hook. That was an experiment we did at the workshop today and it seemed to consistently help a lot of people.

The problem with synopsis writing is we're so intent on being interesting in our writing, we tend not to state the obvious--and the obvious is what the editor wants to see. For once we're supposed to be telling rather than showing.

Why is a good hook important?? Because it's what you put in your query letter.
If you're writing for a smaller publisher, chances are you'll have to produce your own back cover copy and this will help you.
If you're sending to a larger publisher, your story will be read by a lower-level editor and if she likes it, she'll be more likely to pitch it to her boss if you've given her something good to use.

* * *

I had a Check It Off!! chart too. That worked, I think. I threw it away but I think it was something like this:
GMC of protagonists/antagonist(s) clear?
Plot points clear? (including ending)
Core conflict obvious?
Name/contact info/title/genre/word-count on every page? the writing at least a bit engaging?

I wish I knew if the workshop worked as well as it seemed to. The problem with giving workshops to nice people you know is that they'll say "it was great!" when they've really been checking their watches starting at about a half hour ten minutes into it.

Right. Now it's time to stop thinking about sucknopses and to make the pizza. . .

Friday, January 01, 2010

basic craft stuff: the synopsis

I'm doing a presentation tomorrow at the Glastonbury library. It's only a fast one--and then we'll do critiques of synopses. Anyway, this is one of the things I wrote for it. Not really a hand-out but here you go anyway. I'm handing it out.

Hit the High Points in a Synopsis.
"Get creative!" "Stick to the basics and don't get cute with your synopsis!"
"It's important to show off your fresh, new voice whenever possible!" "Stick to the point and don't worry about voice!" "Narrative structure only!" "It's ok to include a bit of dialogue!"

"Introduce your characters in a special section first!" "Don't divide it into sections!"
Everyone has a different idea about the best structure for a synopsis, but I found some agreement about what each synopsis should include and that is:
BASICS: You must show the plot (including the end), the core conflict and the characters. Don’t forget word count and genre (first sentence). Make sure the title, your name, and your contact info is on every page.
MAKE SURE YOU COVER THE WHOLE BOOK EVENLY (not just first 3 chapters. A HQ editor once said, “I can tell when it’s based on a partial. That’s fine for authors I know and trust, but not for new authors.)
I go with the school of don’t worry too much about the voice of synopsis—especially if you have a couple of chapters included. If editors/agents are reading your synopsis, chances are they know you’ve got a good voice and are more interested to see what is going on with the story. Worry less about captivating them with your writing and more about making sure you hit main points and avoid unnecessary detail. Ask yourself is this fact or scene necessary to understand the characters or plot of my book?
CHECK EACH PUBLISHER YOU SUBMIT TO. Different publishers have different requirements. I think Medallion wants a page per chapter. H/S wants maybe 5 pages tops.

* * *
I've asked for feedback over the years and this is what I've found in my notes and today on Twitter. Keep in mind that this is INDIVIDUAL PREFERENCES so what one person likes, another might hate.
An agent: hates seeing questions posed in synopses. State the facts simply and straightforward. Save the “will he overcome his hatred of vampires?” for the back cover copy.
An Editor: ask questions and answer them is not her favorite format but she’ll tolerate it--ONLY if the questions are answered.
Kensington editor (I love this one): “In romance, the emphasis should be on the romance. Tell me how the hero and heroine grow and change because of growing love and how the external and internal conflicts are resolved.”
An Editor: Don't hide the ending or leave me hanging--I don't want to be surprised. I do want the main plot, the GMC and the whole story.
Editor: I hate when authors include excerpts in synopsis instead of telling plot details. Seems like they can't be bothered. I also hate synopses that switch from past to present tense.
Editor: get rid of subplots and secondary characters’ names.
And I asked authors what they do. Here're their responses:
Lauren Dane: I think every author does them differently. Mine are mini outlines of 10 or less pages. I hit the highlights of story also, over time, different editors like to see different things highlighted and you get to know that
Amie Stuart: I vote no questions. I tend to lay out protags conflict etc then the storyline in a pretty linear fashion. I try to hit the high points: this is conflict, this is how I solve it, this is how the character grows or changes. Do NOT forget GMC!
Amie (and Kate): Biggest mistake we see in contest entries--focusing on minute details that don't really matter in a synopsis.
I'm going to include these links because I like them a lot.
Bob Mayer (go watch him here: )

Remember the synopsis is your friend! You can nail plot holes and weak conflict with these babies. If you’re having too much trouble with a synopsis, maybe that's an indication that there are deeper troubles with the book. As Lauren and Amie say, learning to write a good synopsis will help you be a better plotter.
And if you have trouble knowing how to start, you can't find the structure you want, follow Arianna Hart's advice: write it like you're writing a review -- make sure you include huge spoilers.
Another update, another author offers an opinion (this is from an email from Caroline Linden):
Well, Kate, I think you nailed it: there are very few things you absolutely must include. I have heard agents say they only want a page or two, and editors say they don't even look at the synopsis until after reading a few pages of the book (if they don't like the pages, there's no point in reading the synopsis). My advice would be to keep is as short as you can while still expressing the main plot ideas. One author said she concentrates less on the plot, giving only the barest idea of it, and focuses on the characters, since that's what's really important in a romance.