Sunday, October 29, 2006

When is a book done?

I'm a scientist by training. So, I don't just accept my word for the book being done. I have to prove it.

I have a rigorous editing technique I put my writing through. I double check the big picture to see if that came out right, then I take apart the scenes to make sure they have meaning. I'm a big fan of Margie Lawson's EDITS technique, which means I use colored highlighters to check for balance of dialogue, setting, narrative, emotion, and tension. After I finish all that, I let the work sit for a bit. Then I do a final read through. For me, that's an essential because sometimes in all that editing, the music of the words gets mucked up. The last read is to make sure the music is still there. With each book, my craft becomes smoother and hopefully more appealing to agents, editors, and readers.

It just goes to show, you can't fight your nature. Mine is to be organized and systematic. What's yours?

Until next Monday, Maggie Toussaint

Do you match your socks?

Here are the items in question.

Note that they are both from the Species Footwear, Genus Sock, subgenus Sport Sock.

Both are white, or were white in their initial incarnation before they clothed my little piggies and were worn around the house.

Both cover the foot.

But they are different. Not immensely so, but different. One has a little cuff and one doesn't. One is thicker than the other (problematic if I was wearing it to the gym, but in normal wear, probably not an issue).

So here's the question: do you pair these and wear 'em out in the Real World or would you wait until the missing Sock Spouse appeared from wherever it is that Sock Spouses go during their sojourn in the dryer?

I pair and wear. I figure, hey, they're both white. That's close enough for government work, right? I might draw the line at a white sport sock and a white bobby sock but even then I figure, "white. Who cares?"

How does this translate to writing, you ask?

So glad you asked.

Do you dot every 'i' and cross every 't' before you consider a book done? Do you agonize over GMC, do you feel concern if a scene isn't JUST RIGHT (although people are telling you, 'it's fine, get over it already, it's good'). Do you send a manuscript out thinking "IT'S DONE! Yea!" only to get it back with someone saying, "Um, why did she do that and he do that -- that makes no sense?" Do you then scream, calm down, and say, "hmm. I wonder if I need to ..."

What's your modus operandi when it comes to considering a mansucript Ready for Prime Time. Do you go by gut feeling or group concensus (did I spell that right? it looks wrong) or a wing and a prayer? Do you sort your socks precisely or do you figure, 'hey, close enough'?

See -- you wondered how I'd get around to socks again.


P.S. The offending socks in the above photo are even now on my tootsies. Close enough for government work.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Muse = Spike

While in Memphis several months ago with family and friends. I got the bright idea of getting a 'mascot' to pose in pictures.

Mainly this idea came from a French movie, where the subplot was a grieving widower's daughter, who took the gnome from his garden and gave it to a stewardess friend, who then took pictures of the gnome in various sites around the world. I wonder which came first, the movie or the Travelocity ads.

Then, another friend, received a stuffed bear from her beloved...she wanted jewelry! So, to get back at him she brought the bear on all their trips and took pictures of him on all their globetrotting trips.

So, there we were in Memphis, in yet another Elvis souvenir shop, when I noticed a small bear with an Elvis print different ones with various prints! I couldn't resist, I asked my friend which one she liked the most and picked up 'Spike' for myself. After explaining the purpose of the 'mascot' she got busy and soon ran out of film of her Elvis bear being posed around anything and everything that had to do with Elvis in the store, outside, etc. You can get the idea.

And I had Spike.

Spike's real name is Sizzles, due to his bright red color and fuzzy strands that stick out all over. But I prefer Spike.

So far, beside Memphis, he's been to Reno, where you can see him sitting on the Jukebox at Mel's Diner. Atlanta, where I didn't get any pictures of him. Which is a shame, as he travels well.

Right now, he's sitting on a sofa on my desk. Yes, I have a small sofa on my desk which is next to the computer screen, so I have a visual of him whenever I'm hacking away on the keyboard.


Why not?

He makes me smile. And somedays I really need to smile just to get through it. I think we all need that smile.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Muse.....Does My Ex Count?

Ya know, I started to respond that I didn't have a muse. No special place to write, no particular time of day, no special music playing in the background. But then I realized that I become particularly productive when I am ticked off at my ex. Invariably after one of his off-the-wall comments, helpful suggestions on how to discipline our child from hundreds of miles away or unreasonable visitation requests, I can sit at the computer and pound out a chapter or two.

Now I can't say what I produce is any good or useable but, boy, do I work out my frustrations on the keyboard! (chuckling)

I don't call it brainstorming; I call it Brain-Fuming! The other side benefit is that afterwards I'm not tempted to mistreat my baby just because she looks so much like him. Just my luck!

All kidding aside.....

I can honestly say that my muse manifests itself in the form of my condition. Having multiple sclerosis for 15 years and going from a high school valedictorian, Summa Cum Laude in college and ambitious corporate ladder-climber to a disabled but ambulatory, stay at home mom tends to put a damper on my spirit. "I had so much promise," I cry to the gods. But I try to count my blessings everyday and use my writing and other brain-stimulating "hobbies," like my web-design business, to keep me going. When I am particularly blue, I sit with my notebook and write just to spite my own doubts and insecurities.

My life could be much worse and the best of me is yet to come. - AJ

Real life romance

It was my wedding anniversary this week.
And oh, did I get a surprise! My husband had booked a few days away in a luxury hotel in Llandudno, Wales.
It was wonderful. I was wined and dined and - well, you know! We even managed to fit a visit in to beautiful Conwy Castle, one of the huge castles built by the King of England, one of the Edwards, to secure Wales for England.
But unlike many of the books you've read, Wales was assimilated into the United Kingdom quite easily, it seems. After Llewellyn, the prince who married King John's illegitimate daughter, was put down, a very sad business.
The castle is a walled city as well, medieval stuff all over the place. And we visited an amazing house in Conwy, Plas Mawr, which was built by a merchant. It's been restored and preserved, and now walking through it is just like walking into the house of a prosperous merchant. Going back in time for real!
I've put a picture of one of the main bedrooms at Plas Mawr above, so you can see for yourselves!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Creative well

Maggie's comments about the 'creative well' were interesting. I think the reason I can write so prolifically is because my 'well' never runs dry in the middle of a project. Once I sit down to write, I write the entire book, start to finish, in one draft. It usually takes about six weeks. And there's always a residual 'wash-over' when I'm done that allows me to pick up another book and do re-reads on it in the next week or two after that initial draft.

I do have lulls, of course. What I do during the lull is work on marketing ideas, query letters, synopsis -- the 'mechanical' stuff of publishing. Then I'll go through my notes for books and something will set me off, and I'm off and writing again.

I'm not sure what's filling that creative well, but I hope it doesn't stop. I have seven or eight ideas for books that I'd like to pursue, and that's not counting my SciFi series about an alternate America. Heavens, there's a gazillion plot ideas there.

Guess I'll be busy for a while ...


Monday, October 23, 2006

Speckled Muse

One might think writers don't need to spur their creativity, but many do. Putting everything you have into your work drains the creative well, or at least it does for me, so I find ways to recharge. I like vivid color, and I like working with my hands.

Completing a small arts and crafts project gives me immense satisfaction, and the repetitive motions of my hands free my thoughts. Before you know it, ideas are burning brightly in my head. Through the years, I've tried many projects: decopague, embroidery, counted cross stitch, collages, tile mosiacs, ceramic painting, seashell frames, creating a planter. The particular craft doesn't matter as much as my absorption in the project.

Another key thing I keep in mind is that my creative well doesn't run dry at convenient times, like at the end of a project. It may be in the middle of the story, it might be at the plotting stage of a book, or even when meeting a publication deadline.

For me, listening to that inner need releases my creativity. I do believe in muses; I picture mine as a Victorian cherub with primary paint colors splattered on her hands, and a few on her face as well.

Until next week, Maggie Toussaint

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Where is your inspiration spot?

I was out of town this weekend with some writing friends. We went to a local casino, did a bit of gambling, and brainstormed like crazy people.

I usually swim on Sunday at the gym. I get up REALLY early and often get there when nobody else is there, so it's nice -- I've got the pool to myself. I get a lot of plot points resolved, character arcs plotted, etc.

So I went to the casino's pool when we were there for my usual swim (on Saturday and Sunday). I had it to myself on Saturday but this morning at 6:15 there were 7 other people in the pool -- go figure. To their credit, they stayed out of my way as I did laps and hung out in the spa until I got out, then they swarmed the pool. Anyway, I managed to come up with a couple of book titles for my friends and some killer opening lines. One of my friends joked, "I'll be sure to mail you my sticky plot points on Saturday night so I can get your feedback on Sunday".

I find the mechanical motion of exercise to be very useful when I'm plotting, writing, etc. I always carry a memo pad or digital recorder when I'm out walking or at the gym in case I need to note something (and I always do). I find it's easier to get in my exercise with this in mind. It doesn't feel like wasted time. Since I try to exercise every day (but usually only do it 5 days a week) I find it really helps my writing.

So where's your inspiration spot? What helps jump-start your creative process?


Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Day I O.D.'d on Romance...

Not feeling well, I read three Barbara Cartland's books in one afternoon...I overdosed on took me a month to overcome and read romance again.

I got to thinking why I read romance and I think the reason is that the stories are so wonderful. When you read a man's book, and they get to the romantic stuff, it's not there. They just 'do' the deed. There is generally no sexual tension, no deep longing for the other person, no 'feelings' about the sexual relationship between the two characters. Makes you wonder about men and their thought processes.

I love to read. As a kid, nothing was safe. I read so voraciously that I went through every book that our extremely small library had in my age group. Pollyanna, with it's slight pink fuzzy cover. Toby Tyler at the Circus was another favorite, and both those books were thick. Lois Lenski was my favorite author, she took me to worlds beyond my experience, with kids who were struggling through life, and came out stronger individuals at the end. Strawberry Girl and Indian Captive come to mind, and it's been a long time since those books came out.

I remember the day that I picked up The Diary of Anne Frank. A slim black volume, it was nestled on a shelf above my usual reading material, and I'd read all of those books. I pulled it out and brought it to the front desk. The librarian looked me over. I was in there often enough so she knew me, though we never talked. As a kid, I knew that librarys were supposed to be quiet, so when she asked my my age, I was startled. "Eleven." She looked me up and down again, then stamped the book and handed it to me. It wasn't until I was fifteen and read the book again in high school that I realized why...a young girl's feelings about her sexual awakening went over my head at eleven, but stayed with me at fifteen. No wonder she hesitated. It was the fifties, and life was different then.

Like Angela, I have tons of books to be read in my house. I can't go to the market without checking out the book aisle. And I have way too many friends who write! There were three books out by authors I know yesterday, and yes, I picked up the books.

Plus, I'm a craft bookaholic. I like to read about the craft of writing and how I can put the information in there to use. One of my favorites is Christopher Vogler's 'The Writer's Journey,' I just purchased Janet Evanovich's book, 'How I Write,' which I haven't opened yet.

So yes, I read. Hopefully, I always will, and when I can't physically read anymore, there's always books on tape.

Friday, October 20, 2006

My name is Angela and I'm a bookaholic!

Boy! This is a topic for me.

I have been a romance bookaholic since I was nine-years-old when my mother gave a Harlequin Romance she was reading so that I could get out of her face for awhile. I am addicted. So addicted that I carry a romance every where I go. I read at least 3 single titles per week and resale them on My family laughs at me - or gets seriously irritated - when I can't seem to function with my book. Every night I read myself to sleep and if I am standing in the grocery store line, car wash line, or waiting for my meal at a restaurant, I have my trusty book along. If I misplace a book that I am reading, I have a fit. (laughing)

My daughter is NOT a reader and is quite sick of my book habit but my hobby (uh, addiction) has gone from being just a hobby to now research into the art of writing a selling romance novel. I'll be the first to admit that reading does distract me from writing. But I am working on that.

I can't even begin to list my favorite authors. The first novel that touched my soul was Ashes in the Wind by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss (1979). Oh my God!I still remember the story and characters of the Civil War Era novel after all these years. Cole Latimer was the perfect hero. He was complex, conflicted, gentle, sensual, at times temperamental, but with a heart of gold. Alaina MacGaren was definitely a strong heroine, able to adapt and handle every situation that was thrown at her. Her strength and determination were admirable. I enjoyed the fact that she challenged Cole during various situations and was able to outsmart him to boot. Now that I'm thinking about the story, I'm going to have to read it again. I kept the book until I graduated from high school then lost it when I went to college.

But the seed was planted for sure!

I enjoy most genre of romance novels but I love the vampire and werewolf stories, single titles as a part of a series, and romantic suspense. I've picked up some erotica - and many of my male friends think I read romance simply for the sexual content - but the erotica can be disappointing because they tend to lack character development and a truly fleshed out plot.

So, my love for books and romances started at a young age and I will always make time to read a book. Hopefully, when I'm published I can touch readers in the same way Kathleen Woodiwiss and the early writers of romance touched me and plant the seed for another book addict.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Time? What's Time? and Portable Books

I think I've lost track of time ....

I know how you feel, Judi. In the past 6 weeks, I've had something scheduled to do almost every night, and those nights that weren't scheduled, I had a crisis -- usually a car crisis (don't get me started). Reading has fallen by the wayside unless it's a magazine or two here and there.

However, I've found a marvelous time-saver. I don't carry books with me anymore -- at least not traditional books. I have 27 books loaded on my Palm Pilot (yep, I just checked).

I'm working my way through the Harry Bosch novels while I wait in line at the grocery store, wait for my car to be fixed, wait for the dentist, etc., etc. I LOVE IT -- I don't have to plan ahead, Harry Bosch is always with me, in my purse (and since I love Harry, it's a match made in heaven).

No more stuffing paperbacks into my bag, snatching a book as I leave the house -- I just open up my Palm, click a couple of icons, and I'm right back where I was when I left off. I can even highlight text, bookmark pages, etc., to revisit as CRAFT (yes, I'm thinking of craft as I read).

I love technology ... when it works. We'll get into the Saga of the Reformatted Computer another day.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

To have time or not to have time, that is the question

Reading these days...hmmm. I know I read Julia Quinn's latest that I got at national. I believe I read a few more, but with working at my day job to get ahead of my time b/c of the surgery (I don't work, I don't get paid) and now I've got requests coming at me (which is always a good thing) so, no I'm not doing much reading these days. I'm blogging, I'm promoting, I'm emailing, I'm organizing my troops for the ATIII battle (excuse the melodrama) and I'm finally writing again. Am I reading? I wish I had the time. But I will make the time now that I'm in recovery mode from the surgery. I'll shuffle my time, settle down and get focused, allot specific hours of the day for emailing, blogging, working, promoting, reading, being a mom and a wife.

Somehow, though, I'm going to have to figure out how to live without sleep.

I'll think about that tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day.

(wait, I think I read that line somewhere...)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

To read or not to read? Maggie's answer

A few years back, I used to wonder about writer friends who had stacks of unread books sitting around. I couldn't imagine letting all those great books go to waste. But after studying the mechanics of writing, I've learned a few things about unread books. They'll keep.

I still buy my favorite authors. I still read those books through the night. But the rest, they have to wait. Because I found that it isn't productive for me to get someone else's plot running around in my head when I'm creating one of my own. I don't seem to have any problems with reading books while I'm in an editing mode, in fact, I read voraciously at those times.

Before I became a serious writer, I read two to four books a week. That works out to sixteen books a month. And back then, I didn't reread books. I'd pick up a book and think, have I read this? And if I had, I put it down. Not so anymore. I reread lots of books. Especially late at night. If I'm tired, a pre-read book is just the thing. Because then (hopefully) I won't get caught up in the story and read all night. Because then I'll actually be able to put the book down and get a reasonable amount of sleep. But not always. I'm such a sucker for a good story.

What books do I like? Nothing too scary - I get vivid nightmares! I'm a fan of good writing, so most NYT best sellers are on my keeper shelves. My all-time personal fav is Jayne Ann Krentz, especially her futuristic books. And I'm a big Nora/J.D. Robb fan. All of my chapter mates in Washington Romance Writers and First Coast Romance Writers are great writers - I'm scared to list their names for fear I'll leave someone out.

And I'm a big fan of my critique partners' writing. We're getting it done, and our books should be on the bookshelves soon. Here's hoping that one day readers will gush over their favorite Maggie Toussaint books.

Until next Monday, Maggie Toussaint

American Title III

American Title III voting begins tomorrow! I'll post the link once it goes live, which is supposed to be around 11 am Eastern time. Remember, Beauty and The Best - not to be confused with a similarly titled entry, so please check your typing! Thanks to everyone who votes for Beauty and The Best! -Judi

Tell me about your reading habits

I'm just curious ...

Now that you're committed to a writing life, do you read as much as you used to?

I don't, that's for sure. I used to be an avid reader and now I barely read a book a month, if that. And I tend to read outside the genre that I write in. I'm reading 'straight' SciFi right now (going back through Frank Herbert and reading his books, then moving on to his son's, which pick up the storyline after Frank died). I plan to re-visit Julian May's "Jack the Bodiless" series next. I just finished re-reading Martha Grimes.

Hmm. There's a pattern here. I'm revisiting old friends, not picking up new ones.

I take that back. I did read the Jenny Crusie/Bob Mayer book on my trip. That was fun, but skimmable. I also read an historical that was on the shelf in the cabin (can't remember the author, but it was a fun read). I also read William Kent Krueger, but I always read him when I go on vacation because his books are set right where I'm vacationing -- near "Iron Lake" (the Boundary Waters of Minnesota).

But that was on vacation. Here at home, I probably won't pick up a romance or romantic suspense for at least another few months, if then. Ditto with paranormals -- I don't like vampires, don't get into werewolves, and have trouble with some of the 'fantasy' worlds that are created. So many of them are cursory and derivative.

So tell me -- have your reading habits changed since you started to seriously pursue the writing life?


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Squirrelly c.1928

There are squirrels on our property, cavorting across the property from pecan to pine to oak. It's a virtual supermarket, plus I like to watch them, so a cob of dried corn is pushed on a nail that sits on a board attached to a pecan tree. I have a desire to make a squirrel run on my property someplace, one of those strange contraptions that they have to learn to manulipate in order to get a treat.

And like them, I put things away. Either a paper copy or a computer copy. Why not? With the flash drives, it's possible to store gobs of information.

Lately, what I have been doing, is saving each days work with the date, so that I know where I was last. Each book has it's own folder in my computer, and don't laugh, I only figured out how to do that a few months ago.

As far as planning, I have a spreadsheet that I'm working on, it has the hero's journey, a storyboard - complete with the steps to intimacy, character sheets, plot, scene and sequel sheets, research, progress, edits (what to look for, etc.), tracking sheets, and all of this information has comments attached, so I can figure out exactly what I meant when I placed something pithy in a slot.

I like to plan, but sometimes the muse takes over and I fly into the mist.

I signed up for NaNoWriMo next month, I have a title and nothing else.


Yes, I am nutty.

Now you know the truth.

And the c.1928 is the year that word came into common usage, check your Webster's Ninth, every writer should have one.

Friday, October 13, 2006


I have a folder full of novel templates, everything from the Hero's Journey to a full schema for writing, from original idea to finished article.
I have to admit I am a planner, that is, I like to have the book planned out before I start. I need to know where my characters are going, what they're going to do and what will happen to them.
But about half way through I usually stop and revise the plan. I know my characters better, what they will do and what they won't do, and the magic has usually given me something else to play with.
That's the beauty of doing series. You can introduce future characters, see if they work, and if not, why not. You can begin their dilemma in one book, as long as "their" book contains a complete story arc. You can get to know them.
But for all the elaborate planning templates, the myriad character charts, plotting charts and the rest, I now do it another way.
I start with a blank screen in Word. I write out the story, just like a synopsis, going from one point to another until it's done. Then I go back and read it through and discover all the weak bits, the plot points that don't work, the TSTL things my characters might have to do, and I fix them. Then I layer back and add some more twists, check the pacing, add "sequels" to the "scenes," and make sure nothing is wasted, and nothing is a waste of time.
Over time, I've simplified. While reviewers still comment on my "complex plots" most seem to like them and they're not half as complicated as they used to be!
And for why? Because I'm writing a ROMANCE! Something I used to forget, taking the chemistry of my central characters for granted and not giving the romance time to move and develop. After all, readers buy them because they are romances, not because they're thrillers, or paranormals, or whatever. So now, everything is concentrated on the central couple.
And the complicated templates that insist that you put the first love scene here, the Black Moment here? Tucked away somewhere. On my next computer clear-out, they'll go into the archives.
Then it's back to the blank screen.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Organization as an Art Form

Wow! You ladies are way ahead of me as far as organization is concerned. My current WIP is slow going but I use scene charts to flesh out the details about the scenes I plan to incorporate into each chapter. Those details include:

1. location/setting,
2. POV,
3. characters present,
4. scene goal(s),
5. starting point,
6. ending point, and
7. list of events in the scene.

I am trying to not make revisions as I write but have been terribly unsuccessful as I get comments from the members of the two critique groups I belong to. For now, I save the comments in separate folders and continue to plug away at my story.

As a way to put a spark in my creativity and to get the motivation juices flowing, I've decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which challenges writers to write a novel, 50K words in length, between Novemeber 1st and November 30th. I don't know what the heck I'm getting into but I heard that this is lots of fun. Am I going to use my scene charts or just let my fingers fly across the keys as the words pop into my brain? I don't know. The perfectionist in me is screaming that the scene charts are a must but I am tempted to try a different approach in a desparate attempt to break out of these doldrums.

Lordy, I wish I was prolific and could blithely churn out pages and pages per day. But I can't just yet. I want to be ORGANIZED and have my story mapped out and that approach is stifling my creativity. I know, I know. Many have said to just let the words flow and do the organizing when it's time to edit.

It's simply an art form that I have yet to master.

But I am determined to try!!!

Until next Friday,

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

You guys are way too organized

Lord have mercy ... post-it notes, dated versions, file folders. Yikes. I'm starting to feel a bit paranoid. I have 2 versions: the original and the one I'm working on. I tried doing the "keep versions by year" thing but it got too confusing. I decided to bite the bullet and make the version I'm working on THE version.

Of course, I just had an editor ask for a revision that includes things I removed at the last go-round. I'll have to root around and find that copy. I'm sure I have it on a backup disk.

See, that's where I've probably got youse guys beat. I'm a backup fiend. I make backups of my backups. I've got backups on flash drives, memory sticks, Palm Pilot(s), handhelds, and that's not counting the "Real Backup" which I make and stick in the desk at work in case my house burns down.

So one of those will have the version I want. I just check the timestamp in the file and I'll find it.

I hope.

And speaking of squirrels: the ones in our neighborhood have figured out this path: scamper down the oak tree, LEAP WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT to the chestnut tree, scurry up it to the Colorado blue spruce, race AS FAST AS YOU CAN to the farther leap and FLY FLY FLY to the deck to scamper over, peer in the window at the odd humans sitting in the toasty warm living room then swarm over the railing and ONTO THE BIRD FEEDER where you can drill holes in the side of the cheesy plastic and EAT TO YOUR HEART'S CONTENT.

Yes, they did that while we were out of town. Came home and found the bird feeder empty. And that's a BIG birdfeeder and those finches are tiny birds. We then saw a squirrel do his routine and gorge himself on the few remaining seeds.

Back to the drawing board. Top and bottom baffles, greased poles, and trimmed branches. Of course, once it snows, the drifts will be high enough to let the critters climb with impunity just about anywhere.

Did I mention it's supposed to snow tonight?

Back to the drawing board, take 2.

Monday, October 09, 2006


I like this topic, except I forget what squirrels are. We built a house in a new development that was once a meadow, so trees were pretty sparse before the builder got to it. We actually do have a grove of trees, but I think the poor squirrels were so traumatized by whatever clearing the builder did that they've left and not come back yet.

Which is a nice segue into my response about organization. If I didn't have my meticulously dated files, I'd be like those squirrels - hey, you took what I knew and made it unrecognizable!

I tend to edit as I go along, but once I get to THE END, I save that copy with the date (always written as a 6-digit number: 100906 = October 9, 2006). Then, when I start to edit, I save the next version as whatever date I'm working on it on (ooh, not good sentence structure! But that's why we write fiction - we can do fragments and dangling participles and slang and call it "voice" ). That way, I know what's the most recent version. When a few months have passed, I'll take a group of old dates and stick them in a file folder and call it "older versions". Once I'm pleased with it, I take all the older versions off the laptop and put them onto a disk - just in case an editor suggests changes (hey, I can hope!) that I had at one point.

An agent in NJ made a comment like that: someone asked her how 'hands on' she is with edits and she freely admitted she doesn't have editing experience. The one time she suggested that an author client make the heroine a little older, and the author did the edits, the editor who bought it wanted the heroine a bit younger. I hope that author saved her earlier version :)

You know, if those squirrels buried their nuts in date order, they might be able to find the suckers and JL wouldn't have to pull up baby oak trees in the spring.

Of course, she could always mail them to me. :) -Judi

Who says squirrels are organized?

The squirrels that enjoy my bird feeder don't seem organized, they just seem greedy. They think nothing of empying an entire feeder in a morning. God knows, I'm probably going to have sunflowers coming up all over my yard any day now. Like those greedy squirrels, I don't like to let my precious words go. So I file them in a very compulsive manner. The truth is I have to be organized with my writing. My life is all about multi-tasking, so I have different storage areas for each task. For my books, I write the entire first draft before I start editing, though I print a hard copy of each day's work. If I add a character or need to substantially rework a scene because of a plot digression, I put a sticky note on my hard copy. That electronic copy is version 1 of the story. When I start the second draft, I rename the electronic file and edit perfusely. I print out that draft when I'm comfortable with the changes and throw away the first paper version. (I keep all the electronic versions.) Lost scenes and cut material from story version 2 get tossed in an electronic file with a name like cutv2. At that point I'm ready for critique. That's when I start the third electronic version of the story. And cuts from that version are stored electronically as cutv3. I hope I haven't bored the socks off of everyone. The important stuff from those cut scenes gets woven into the story fabric elsewhere. Oh, and as for those pesky squirrels, I put a baffle on the bird feeder pole to thwart them. Now the birds get the bird seed, and the squirrels get the plentiful acorns. I can't tell you how happy I was when the squirrels got baffled by the baffle. It made my summer. Until next Monday, Maggie Toussaint

Sunday, October 08, 2006

TOPIC: It's Squirrel Time

It's that time of the year again, here in the Northland.

The #*(@ squirrels are busy, salvaging nuts and burying them, scampering across the street in a death-defying manner because the spot under THAT tree OVER THERE is so much BETTER than the spot OVER HERE. Of course, they'll forget where they buried the food and in the spring I'll be digging up oak trees and chestnut trees galore.

It's uncanny how they know just WHEN a nut is ripe. We have a chestnut tree and it was laden with fruit. Then, one day, POOF -- no nuts. The squirrels had picked it clean.

How does this relate to writing?

Glad you asked.

I used to save scenes that I'd cut from books, thinking I might use them in another book. I discovered, though, that the characters in those scenes were so individual that re-tasking the scene for another character was a major headache. I've used some of the concepts of the scene, but not the wording, actions, etc.

What do you do with Lost Scenes? How do you organize your writing life? I used to keep a copy of each draft of a book, but now I just keep the original and then work on one copy, which becomes my finished draft. How many drafts does it take until you're satisfiied with your finished product? What does it take for you to realize that a scene just isn't working and has to be cut?

I do 3 drafts: first pass, where I get it all on paper (that's the copy I put in a special folder, and I consider that the Original one).

Second pass, where I check for consistency ('were his eyes blue in chapter 1 or green?').

Third pass, tweeking for the Usual Suspects (adverbs, conjunctions, and other slow-downers). Then I toss it out for review and tweek based on comments I get back. Then, it's done. I let it sit for at least 6 months then I come back and often tweek again.

What's your style of writing? How do you keep it organized? Do you remember where all the nuts are buried?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Bloggers I Know Of...

I have to agree with everyone on their comments on blogging.

If you're a writer, it's a great way to market your books and keep in touch with your readers.

If you have something to say, it's a great way to get your thoughts down.

It's easier to manage than a website.

And our delightful English partner, Lynne, mentioned the word blogskins and being the curious type I checked it out. Can I say, heaven. I have already spent too much time there looking for the perfect 'blogskin' to suit my personality and my books. The depressing news is that most of the skins are being designed by teenagers. One very interesting one was done by a twelve year old!

One thing I did do last month, before this blog was created was set up a database of Romance Bloggers. And check out the blogskin, I thought it was rather neat, but next month when I update the blog, it will be changed to something new and hopefully romantic. So check it out again on the 28th...and check out the streaming line at the bottom. I rather impressed myself when I figured out how to do that!

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Dark Horse on Blogging

All week, I've been pondering the question of why we blog and was pretty stumped for an answer at first. Then it hit me.....

It's like asking why we email, online billpay, send instant messages, or listen to music on our iPods. It's all about progress! And as time goes by, many people, especially our children and grandchildren, soon have little use for postage stamps, handwritten letters, LPs and face-to-face interoffice chats with our co-workers.

I'm sort of left with a sense of melancholy. I applaud progress on all levels, particularly science and technology, but am trouble by the effects of this progress on us socially. We just don't connect to one another like we use to.

I was out to dinner with my ten year old daughter the other night and I looked up from an eBook that I was reading on my PalmPilot across the table to watch her bopping her head to the beats coming from her iPod earphones. It was the end of a school day, and granted I was feeling pretty crummy from an unproductive day, but instead of sharing the ins and outs on the events of the day we were disconnected, doing our own thing. I felt bad and suggested that we just talk. But she looked at me like I'd lost my mind. Talk??!! Why? She was fine.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Moms are pretty uncool dinner companions to any pre-teen or teenager, but her reaction still didn't sit well with me.

I was nostalgic for the good ole days. For a time when learning how to format a letter was a part of the curriculum for any English class, a time when the check really was "in the mail," and a time when a quick note to a friend was a "sticky note", thankfully had the appropriate number of vowels in each word and ended with a recognizable signature.

I work from home and have for the last six years. My address book on my computer is bigger than it was all those years ago. But I really miss popping my head over the cubicle wall and making plans to "ditch this Taco stand" and going to lunch out of the office for an extra half hour.

Blogging is great. We can network, promote, educate, vent frustrations, gossip, congratulate and celebrate through cyberspace to millions. Just don't forget how special it was when you last ran into your girlfriend in the Walmart, got a handwritten thank you note for that gift card (better than a gift right?) you sent to your godchild last Christmas , or hung out with your critique partner, who lives on the other side of the country or the world, at the RWA conference this year.

I can't wait to meet my fellow Mavens face-to-face and will be proud to be this group's Dark Horse (no pun intended) on blogging. (smile)

BTW.....My website is coming soon!!!(giggle - I may be resistant to change but I ain't stupid!)

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Lord, this writing business is tricky!
Once you've got your characters right, they don't want the plot as you wrote it. They won't do as they're told, or they wouldn't do it that way.
So what do you do?
In my case, I change the plot. I have to have a constructed plot, or else my characters run around wasting time and doing nothing, but I often change it half way through. Mainly in the small details, but suddenly a character will appear, and they seem to bring themselves to life.
It happened again recently. In a Department 57 book, I needed a computer expert, a walk-on part. Enter Candy. The Department 57 series is urban gothic, featuring shapeshifters, vampires and other Talents. My shapeshifters are mythical beasts. I don't do weres, just dragons, griffins and the rest.
So Candy enters. She's a dyed blonde, and proud of it. Although she spends most of her day using keyboards, she loves fancy manicures. And she's a basilisk, so she wears contact lenses. If she didn't, she'd turn everyone she looked at to stone.
So now people are writing to me and asking about Candy. I never meant her to be more than a walk-on, but the basilisk is taking over.
So what do I do with her now?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

6 Degrees of Blogging

Sorry, JL, but I'm changing my topic for today. I already responded about why I blog.

Today, I'm going to talk about networking, a subject near and dear to my heart as I rev up for the American Title III contest. You know that whole "six degrees of separation" thing? It's amazing how that works. I read somewhere that you are connected to everyone in the world within those 6 degrees. Kind of a neat thing to think about when you're contemplating your place in the universe. Take the famous Kevin Bacon example.

Let's see; you're reading me and I had a friend who roomed with a bunch of people, one of whom was an actor who was in a movie with Kevin Bacon. That puts me at 3 degrees and you at 4. How about Ben Vereen? Ben Vereen, you say? Sure, why not. He's a famous individual and you're only 2 degrees from him. How's that? I worked out in a gym with him in Florida many moons ago, chatted, got invited to his show and there you go. 2 degrees for you. Tell your best friend. Now, he/she is 3 degrees. How about President Bush? There may be other ways you and I are within the 6 degrees, but here's one of them. One of my friends from college married a republican congressman's son during the Bush era. So, there's me, my friend, her husband, his father, then the president. There ya go, 6 degrees for you.

My point, and I do have one, is that networking is an amazing tool, and one I'm coming to rely on heavily for my American Title showing and blogging ties into it. It seems like every email or phone call I make these days contains the words, "so please tell all your friends." I mean, if they've got a vote and their friends have a vote, and their friends have a vote, well, you get the idea. So, please tell your friends (see? I told you!), and family members and people at the grocery store and anyone else you can think of. I'd like to see who all we end up with and from where.

I wonder if there would be any celebrities in the mix. They reach all sorts of people. Think of what it'd be like if Kelly Ripa mentioned me on the show. She did such an amazing PR job for Vicki Lewis Thompson (love that Nerd series, Vicki!). Maybe she could even endorse me. Okay, I'll wake up now.

What about JK Rowling? She had a tough start in the business, maybe she'd vote for me out of compassion for another struggling writer her age. Think of all the people she's in touch with from her websites alone!

Somehow, someone has to know these people, right? If I can work the celebrity thing downward, surely, somehow it can work the other way? Maybe Katie Couric will call me for an interview (hey, it's my blog and I can dream if I want to.)

It's not the celebrity thing I'm focused on. It's the people they're connected to. The sheer numbers of people they reach. Television is great, but add the internet and the exposure is unbelievable. One push of a "Forward" button and voila! thousands more can see your words/info/stories. That's the power of blogging - reaching people and watching the ripples extend outwards.

So, yes, in a shameless self-promotion plug, please, push those "Forward" buttons and email your friends about Beauty and The Best. It's a call to arms for the 6 Degrees Army.

Or maybe I should email my college friend to have her father-in-law mention me to his ole buddy George who could mention Beauty and The Best in one of his State-of-the-Union speeches. ....Or not. -Judi

Monday, October 02, 2006

Why do I blog?

I've been thinking about this question for a couple of days, and my answer is two-fold. First off, I'm a scribbler from way back. I was the kid that actually used those childhood diaries. I faithfully filled those pages with my wishes, heartaches, and accomplishments. As I grew up, I transferred that scribbling fervor to letter writing so that I could keep in touch with friends and family. My father would write to me of the troubles he was having with the squirrels who took one bite out of each pear on the tree and threw it to the ground. I learned more about who he was in those pages than he ever imagined, which leads me to my second reason why I blog. I want people to get to know who I am, and it seems to me blogging is today's diary and letter rolled into one format.
And while we're talking about the past, I'll confess to a bit of deception. My young cousin and I used to make up love letters to his mother, who was a widow, and mail them to her, from her "Secret Admirer." My cousin intuited that his mother would recognize his boyish handwriting, so I wrote all the letters telling her how beautiful and nice she was. I'm sure she caught on right away that my pencilled scribbles on her personal stationery weren't from a Secret Admirer, but I believe the ruse gave each of us an inner smile that long ago summer.
So that's why I blog. I love to write and I want to make you smile. And hopefully, I have something to say that will interest you, my internet friends.
Until next time, Maggie Toussaint

Sunday, October 01, 2006

TODAY'S TOPIC: Why do we blog?

I was reading the NY Times the other day and there was an editorial about 'what is the future of the paper newspaper'? Besides the obvious points (convenience of online news, etc.) a mention was made about blogs and how many people seem to be getting their information from blogs (note I didn't say 'news', but 'information').

This struck me as interesting. I don't read many blogs. I dip in now and again on a couple, but have always considered them a bit time-consuming and sort of silly. I mean, who cares what a total stranger thinks or says? And while I find Miss Snark and Evil Editor and their ilk interesting, I tend to not trust folks who don't sign their posts.

So why do this? I know, for me, it's a nice break from 'real' writing. I mean, I'm a professional technical writer and an aspiring fiction writer. So blogging is a change of pace. And it won't take up a lot of my time. And maybe it will help me as I aspire to published status.



So why blog? Why are we doing this?