November 30, 2010

Christmas Wish List (Barbara's First Blog of Christmas)

7:55AM.  My fingers hovered over the keyboard waiting.  Tension hunched my shoulders and adrenaline rattled my arms.  I felt like a horse in the starting gate of the Kentucky Derby.

All I want for Christmas is an agent, and for one lucky writer, The Knight Agency wants to grant that wish.  To enter, I had to be one of the first 125 people to post a comment on their blog starting at 8:00AM.

I refreshed the window every few seconds, waiting for the entry blog to appear at 8.  I set my cell phone alarm, so I wouldn't miss the time.  At 8, the blog appeared. I scrolled to the Comments link, amazed to find that no comments had posted yet.  Did I really have a chance?

By the time the comment window popped up, sixteen comments showed up on the blog.  Don't panic, just type.

I typed it short and sweet and hit publish.

Oh no!  An error!  (Basically, too many people clicking on Publish Comment at the same time.)

I hit the back button, prepared to type again.  There were already 93 comments.  Yikes!  An even shorter, to the point post.  I hit publish and it went through as number ... 143.

Deflated, I started to put my laptop away, but I couldn't stop checking the totals.  Plus, hope still bloomed since one lucky non-winner gets a chance to submit their first chapter for a critique.  It could be me, right?  I keep going back to the website.  Curiosity beckons me like a wrapped present under the tree.

And I learn that this morning's response overwhelmed Deidre Knight and her staff, and one more person will get a shot at sending Diedre a query today.  Someone drawn from non-winners posting before 8:30.  My post went in at 8:02, so maybe ...

Of course, I'll pursue the more normal routes, but Santa, really, all I want for Christmas is an agent!

November 16, 2010

Michael Connelly, Steve Berry ... and Bob Strother

In August 2007, I discovered a state-wide, non-profit writing community, South Carolina Writers' Workshop (SCWW), and quickly became involved in the organization. Since then, I've rubbed elbows with agents, editors, and authors including Michael Connelly and Steve Berry. I can't list everyone I've met.  Several of them are not household names, yet, but one name you should learn is Bob Strother.

Bob Strother's work has appeared in a number of literary journals and magazines, and he was recently nominated for the Small Press Pushcart Prize. His stories explore our innocence and our dark sides, always making the reader stop, think ... and often cringe. I've enjoyed listening to Bob read his forays into the world of human nature, lulled by his voice which sounds like Dick Estell of NPR Radio Reader fame.

That’s why I’m thrilled to tell you about his upcoming print collection of short stories: Scattered, Smothered, and Covered.

Here's a taste of what you will find in Bob's book:

From "Madison 2-Forever"
Roger Dougherty caught a glimpse of his humped shadow on the hallway wall and immediately looked away. Gnome, he thought. And then he smiled. Not at his grotesque, arthritic image, which had sent more than one Trick-or-Treater scurrying wide-eyed back to mommy, but because he had remembered an appropriate word. He said the word aloud: "Gnome," then, "troll," then … that was as far as he got. Arthritis and Alzheimer's--another big double "A" battery that kept going and going and going. He could recall the propeller beanie he'd worn as a child but not where he'd hung his hat the previous evening.

From "Hungry"

The eight-pound sledgehammer connected with McConnell's forehead at a velocity of almost ten feet per second. He dropped like a cow in a slaughterhouse.

From "Flying Jenny"

The summer of 1935 was as hot and dry as any I could remember. Sixty-two years later, I can still feel the peculiar tickle of that harsh season's sweat snaking its way down over my ribcage as though it were something alive and seeking escape. I can see the sun-parched grass and the initials "A" and "J" etched with a finger on the toes of my dusty Buster Browns. It was the summer I was forced to abandon forever all my eleven-year-old certainties.

Intrigued? Scattered, Smothered, and Covered is scheduled for release in February 2011, and you can pre-order a copy now at a discount price of $9.

Congratulations Bob!

November 9, 2010


My blog title violates one of the basic tenets of good communication I cover in most every training class:  don't use jargon if your audience might not know the meaning of the term.  Still, I broke the rule.  Any idea why?  I'll explain at the end of this blog, but for now, I'd like to tell you what NaNoWriMo means.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) began in 1999 with a group of writers in the San Francisco Bay area.  NaNoWriMo draws writers and would-be writers together in November to each write a 50,000 word novel.  It's a no-holds-barred approach to writing.  Just write!  Get it down and dirty, but get it down.

Most writers know that first drafts never look pretty anyway, so the goal of NaNoWriMo isn't as far-fetched as it seems.  Even so, this is my first year trying to do it.  Why?  November ain't the easiest month for me to commit to writing 50,000 words.  November has elections, my birthday, several friends' birthdays, and Thanksgiving, not to mention the onset of Christmas shopping and craziness.

Last year, a friend of mine did NaNoWriMo.  It gave her a huge jumpstart on her novel.  She's doing it again this year, and four days into the month, I decided to jump on the band wagon.  Yes, you heard me correctly, with all the barriers November presents, I still signed up 4 days late.  I hope to hit the 50,000 mark, but even if I don't, I'll have something to show for it.  I tend to be very goal-oriented, so the numbers I generate will drive me forward.

And the NaNoWriMo website generates a chart that tells me how I'm doing on my goal.  That's pretty cool. How many words do I need to write to catch up today?  It tells me.  (By the way, the answer is 1929 words per day, not as easy as it sounds.)

So, this month, my blogs may be shorter since my writing time needs to focus on the 50,000 word goal.  The blog can't count toward my goal, so there you have it.

Oh, and why did I break the rules of good communication in my blog title?  Simple.  Blog traffic.  Other writers might find this blog by searching for NaNoWriMo.  They know what it means!

November 2, 2010

Vote for Your Rights

It took twenty-two minutes total—from my house, to the polling place, to vote and return to my house.  That's it.  I did choose the middle of the morning, but with all the media talking about the impact of this election, I thought I might have to stand in line for a little while.  Nope.  I waited three minutes before the volunteer escorted me to a booth.

I hate politics, so I'm not going to riff on who I voted for or who should win, but I can't help but feel a little put out when I'm the 77th person in my precinct to vote at 10:45 am.  Seriously?  My husband went a couple hours later and he was 98th. What a turn out.

My parents raised me to vote in every election.  It's a right that so many people take for granted.  I realize with the negative media, it can be confusing, and a little overwhelming, to decide who to vote for, but with a little research you should be able to make a decision.

No, the candidates aren't perfect.  Last I checked, I wasn't perfect either.  I make my decision on their overall stance.  Do their positions on the issues align with mine?  Once I weed out the negative press, this makes it a little easier to decide.  Beyond that, I do look at why the candidates are running for office.  If I smell a rat, I don't vote for them.  But, then again, most of them have an unpleasant odor about them, don't they?

Enough said.  If you didn't vote, you can't complain about what happens next.  By the way, none of us know what will happen, but at least voters try to influence that outcome.

Did you vote?