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Monday, December 26, 2011

Resolutions

That's right.  I'm a resolutions type of gal.  I am a goal-setter.  Every year I set a few goals for the year and try to meet them.  I usually have a couple of personal goals and a couple of writing goals.  Last year I posted on my website about my goals for 2011.  Sadly, I met ZERO of those personal goals.  Exercising and yoga--zero time and a broken foot kind of put the brakes on those two goals.  Spending more time with loved ones I never see who live nearby . . . I have no excuse.  I dropped the ball on that one.  I did not meet that goal to my satisfaction.

I did, however, meet both of my writing goals.

So this year my personal goals are going to be largely the same:  exercise at least twice a week and visit those loved ones a lot more!

One of my biggest goals that falls between personal and writing has to do with reading.  My plan is not to buy any new books in 2012.  I'm only going to read what I've already got on my Kindle or in my physical pile of To Be Read which added together is almost 200 books I think.  The only books this next year I am going to allow myself to purchase are books by writers I am semi-online-friendly with whose novels are coming out in 2012.  (Like L.J. Cohen's The Between which comes out in January; Suzan Stirling's Silence of Mercy Bleu which comes out in March and Jennifer Hillier's Freak which comes out in August - and anyone else whose book might have slipped my mind).  This will be a REALLY hard one to keep!  But it should save me boat loads of money!

My writing goals for 2012 are as follows:

1.  Complete a really great, polished, ready-for-public-consumption draft of Hold Still
2.  Begin a first draft of something new or go back to work on something old
3.  Read at least 5 books on the craft

And hopefully some publisher out there will make it their goal to buy my book(s) this year.  Mwah hah hah. 

How about you?  Do you set goals?  If so, what are your goals for this new year?  Any specific writing goals?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Happy

Just a short post to say that whatever you are celebrating, I hope it is happy, healthy, safe and wonderful!

Thanks for following.  Have an awesome holiday.  Be kind and enjoy the good stuff.


From http://www.teamcoco.com/


Monday, December 19, 2011

Books I Lost Sleep Over in 2011

I actually prepared this post before my 100 Followers Celebration Post but then I got 100 followers and the 100th follower stuck around so I thought it would be more appropriate to do a post acknowledging that and save this one for later.  As you know from reading the Woot, Woot!  100 Followers post, I asked for questions or blogging topics and a few people suggested a post on books I've read and liked.  For this post, I'm going to focus on books I read this year.

I read a lot of books this year.  Well, a lot considering everything else I've got going on in my life.  You can check out the entire list thus far on my website in the good books section.  Scroll all the way down.  I wanted to do some kind of recap of some of the best ones.  It's really hard to choose and I couldn't come up with what I felt was an appropriate ranking system.

Plus, some of the BEST books I read this year were by authors who are not published yet.  (J.C., Carrie, Jeff, Laila, Melodie and Michael you know who you are.)  In fact, a few of these writers don't even have agents yet.  But each one of them is an incredible writer and I am just as certain that their work will be on the shelves someday as I am certain that water is wet and the sky is blue. I just can't wait for other people to enjoy their books as much as I did.    Holy talented, Batman!

Anyway, so what I decided to do was make a list (in no particular order) of published books that I lost sleep over this year.  In other words, books that I could not put down.  Books that kept me reading well into the night when I should have been sleeping. 

So here are a few:

Homicide:  A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon
Reporter spends 1 year embedded in Baltimore, Maryland's homicide department.  This book is about events that took place over 20 years ago and yet it doesn't feel dated one bit.  It's disturbing and gripping and riveting.  Not for the faint of heart.  I blogged about this book on my website in February.  You can read that discussion here


The Last Child by John Hart
This won an Edgar and I'm not the least bit surprised.  Actually I had no idea it was an Edgar Award Winner while I was reading it but I was thinking, "Wow, this reminds me of Edgar Allan Poe."  I say that because Hart builds suspense using imagery and setting, using both for effect much like Poe did.  The creepy-as-all-hell-make-the-hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck-stand-up effect.  It's about a thirteen year old boy searching for his sister who has been missing for a year.  This is also very disturbing at certain points but what I really loved about it was that it totally kept you guessing.  I mean at some point during the book I suspected almost every character of having had something to do with the sister's disappearance.  Incredibly well-written.  This is one I'll be reading over and over just to observe the ins and outs of the craft. I blogged about why I love John Hart so much on my website in March.  You can read that post here.

The Neighbor by Lisa Gardner
The thing I loved most about this book was how tightly constructed it was from start to finish.  A young schoolteacher goes missing in a Boston neighborhood, leading police to suspect her husband had something to do with it.  Nothing is what it seems.  This too kept me guessing right up to the very end.  It was a whirlwind read that distracted me from every single thing going on in my life while I was reading it.  This is Gardner at the very top of her game.


Room by Emma Donoghue
This is told from the point of view of five year old Jack who has no idea that he is the product of an abduction and rape.  His mother was kidnapped several years ago and has been held captive as a sex slave, giving birth to little Jack and raising him in a 12 x 12 foot room.  If you can get used to the 5 year old voice, this book will knock your socks off.  It is so incredibly well-done.  I just think it is truly amazing what Donoghue has done in this book and she deserves every accolade she has received or will receive as a result of this book.  The premise is, unfortunately, one we're all too familiar with especially with the discovery of Jaycee Lee Dugard in 2009 but Donoghue's treatment of it is very, very original.  I blogged about this book on my website back in April.  You can read that discussion here


No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay
A fourteen year old wakes up one morning and her entire family has vanished without a trace.  Twenty-five years later she does a TV interview hoping to stir up interest in the case again.  It works.  Strange things start happening leading Cynthia to believe her father may still be alive.  This book was an insane page-turner.  I could NOT figure out what the hell was going on right up to the very end and I totally did not see the end coming.  Pretty original.  This kept me up late at night.

Fallen by Karin Slaughter
So it's no secret that Karin Slaughter is my favorite writer.  This book will make a lot more sense and mean more if you've read all her previous books but it can totally be read as a stand-alone.  Georgia Bureau of Investigation officer Faith Mitchell goes to pick up her infant daughter at her mother's house to find that her mother has been kidnapped.  I've blogged about it here.  This is the best book Slaughter has written so far which is saying a lot.  I think this is an amazing read. 


A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard
In 1991 Jaycee was abducted at the bus stop down the road from her house by Philip and Nancy Garrido and held by them for 18 years as Philip Garrido's sex slave.  Jaycee gave birth to two of Garrido's children in captivity.  She was found almost by accident in 2009.  This is HER story.  Her recounting of those years.  I blogged about her here.  You'll never read anything like this.  What was most fascinating and poignant about this book is how she was so young when these things happened to her that she didn't even have language for some of the things that were done to her.  She was so young that she didn't even fully understand what was happening to her.  Yet, she came out on the other side as a kind, generous, intelligent woman and a fiercely protective mother.  She's just an amazing and courageous person. 


The Help by Kathryn Stockett
In the early 1960s, a white woman starts writing a book about her Alabama town's black maids.  I didn't think I'd be into this book but so many people around me had read it and raved about it that I broke down and bought it.  I could not put this down.  It is well and passionately written.  Touching, infuriating and hilarious at times. 

Creep by Jennifer Hillier
Psychology professor, Dr. Sheila Tao breaks off an affair she's been having with one of her graduate assistants.  He doesn't take it well.  Creepy psychological suspense ensues.  This will definitely keep you turning the pages well into the night.  Sheila Tao is one of my favorite female protagonists of the year!  She is complex and imperfect yet extremely likeable.  Also the end of this book will leave you reeling.
Hate List by Jennifer Brown
So I don't read a lot of YA but my friend Nancy Thompson read this and recommended it and this is another one I simply could not put down.  High school junior Valerie Leftman's long-time boyfriend shoots up their high school, killing and wounding several people.  Valerie lives under a cloud of suspicion.  Was she complicit in the shooting or did she really have no idea what Nick was going to do?  This book is about the aftermath.  It is fascinating and honest and has a really fantastic message for everyone at its core.

By the way, can you tell I have a thing for abduction stories?  Mwah hah hah.

What books did you lose sleep over this year?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The 100 Follower Giveaway Winner

The winner of my 100 Followers giveaway ($10 Amazon gift card) is Cassie Mae!

(Here's how I chose the winner:  I excluded Nancy as per her request and then I assigned each commenter a number.  Then I used random.org to choose the winner.)

So Cassie Mae, I will be in touch!

To everyone else, again, THANK YOU SO MUCH for following!  I deeply appreciate it.

Finally, there were some awesome ideas for blog topics and I'm already hard at work on future posts on those!  Thanks, everyone!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Woot, Woot! 100 Followers!

So I had to give it a few days to see if that 100th follower would really stay or not.  Sorry, I'm just that kind of Nervous Nelly.  Anyway, yes, I have hit 100 followers and to all of you I'd like to say:

THANK YOU!

Thanks for stopping by, keeping up and reading my drivel.  Thanks for your unwavering support!  Thanks to those of you who consistently comment and make me feel like I'm part of a true writing community.  Thanks for helping me grow as a writer!

So in celebration of reaching 100 followers I thought I'd have a teensey, weensey giveaway:  a $10 Amazon gift card. 

All you have to do is comment on this post with a blog topic or a question or a subject, in other words, something you'd like me to post about in the future.  I'll choose the winner randomly (i.e. either picking a name out of a hat or using random.org) and announce it Monday, December 19, 2011. 

You have till Sunday, December 18th to enter/leave your comment. 

Again, thanks 100 followers!  Success and good stuff to all of you!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Believability: To Use Jargon or Not to Use Jargon?

So I'm working on Draft 2 of my WIP which is tenatively titled Hold Still.  Basically it's about a police detective trying to catch a sadistic rapist. (Fun stuff, I know.  Violence in novels is a topic for another day.)  Anyway, since the novel is set right here in my native Philadelphia, I thought I'd get myself a real, live police source who could answer some procedural questions for me.  He's been very gracious and happy to answer all of my inane questions whenever I run into him (or run after him when I see him on the street, waving my little notebook frantically). 

So the other day we had this conversation wherein we discussed the following scenario:  you're looking for a suspect, you locate him and detain him.  What happens at this point?  He said that they'd take him to their Division (ah hah!  I got that one right already) and the first thing they do is "slate" the suspect/arrestee.  That means they write his or her name in a logbook that they have at the Division headquarters and then things proceed from there--the person may be questioned or simply charged, it depends on the case.  I've never heard of slating. 

So I said, "Is that like booking?" and he laughed. 

He said, "That's TV stuff."  In other words, no one really says that.  They don't call it that here in Philadelphia, in the very place where my story will take place.  Also he said that officers refer to the area that suspects are kept while they are waiting to be questioned, charged, or transferred as CCTV (apparently it's an area that is monitored by Closed Circuit Television).

(They also don't use 10 codes in Philly which I thought was pretty interesting.)

Okay, so if you're a writer, do you use slating in your book because that's what they would actually say or do you use booking because that's what your average TV-watching reader would recognize?

Here's the scene as I had it before I had the "slating" discussion:

            “Rush,” Chen called.  “Call on three.”
            Jocelyn signaled Kevin to give her a minute and picked up the receiver of the phone on the desk in front of her.  “Rush,” she said.
            “It’s me,” Inez said.  
            “What’s up?”
            Inez hesitated.  “I got your sister down here in booking.”
            Jocelyn slouched in her chair.  She closed her eyes momentarily and took a deep breath.  “For what?Drugs or prostitution?”
            Inez cleared her throat.  “Prostitution.”
            Jocelyn clenched her hand around the receiver, white-knuckling and releasing.  “Book her.”
            “What?”
            “Book her.”
            “I’m gonna send her up to you.”
            “No, Inez.  This is Camille’s third arrest this year.  THIS YEAR.  I appreciate the heads up but no more favors.  I’m done trying to help her.  Just book her.”
            There was a long pause.  Dead air.A rustling.  Then Inez said, “Okay, fine.”
***
Here is the scene after I had the "slating" discussion with my police source:
            “Rush,” Chen called.  “Call on three.”
            Jocelyn signaled Kevin to give her a minute and picked up the receiver of the phone on the desk in front of her.  “Rush,” she said.
            “It’s me,” Inez said. 
            “What’s up?”
            Inez hesitated.  “I got your sister down here in CCTV.”
            Jocelyn slouched in her chair.  She closed her eyes momentarily and took a deep breath.  “For what? Drugs or prostitution?”
            Inez cleared her throat.  “Prostitution.”
            Jocelyn clenched her hand around the receiver, white-knuckling and releasing.  “Slate her.”
            “What?”
            Slating was a term they used in the Philadelphia Police Department.  When a subject was arrested and brought into the division for processing, the first thing officers did was log the name of the arrestee into a book kept on the first floor of the division.  Then they were held until they were questioned or charged—or both.  “Slate her and charge her.”
            “I’m gonna send her up to you.”
            “No, Inez.  This is Camille’s third arrest this year.  THIS YEAR.  I appreciate the heads up but no more favors.  I’m done trying to help her.  Just slate her.”
            There was a long pause.  Dead air. A rustling.  Then Inez said, “Okay, fine.”
***
So what do you think? 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

We Must Be Doing It Wrong . . . The Agent Search, That Is

I am not the type of person who likes to poke fun at other people (unless it's directed at the fiance regarding his overly-high standards of cleanliness which I think is acceptable since he knows I love him anyway) but I just cannot resist sharing this.  I tried sharing it with the non-writer fiance but it didn't have much of an impact.  I think only you guys would really get this since you understand how the publishing industry works and what is involved in getting published.  You know, the incredibly long and frustrating process.  I'm pretty sure that most of you have read your fair share of agent blogs and submission guidelines and have a pretty firm grasp of what NOT to do when searching for an agent.

So there I am tooling around on the Craigslist Philadelphia job ads to help out a friend of mine who is looking for work and I come across this ad (I'm reprinting it here exactly as it is except I've deleted the reply-to information):

I did not make this sh*t up.

author looking for agent (Philly area)


Date: 2011-11-14, 1:31PM EST
Reply to:



For someunknown reason, my last post was flagged. All I asked is for an agent or publishing representative who might be interested in representing me for a couple children's books I've written. They're very good, I just don't have the personal drive to pursue being published, but I love to write. Why this would have been deleted totally befuddles me...buy here I try again!
·         Location: Philly area
·         it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
·         Compensation: I am willing to pay standard representation rates

Oh where to start?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sh*t That Happened While I Was Looking for An Agent

I'm in the basket but you can't tell cause I look really, really tiny.
After I wrote the “pull the rope” post I was thinking a lot about how long we writers have to wait to get anywhere in this business.  You know, since I’m at a new stage of this publishing process but still waiting.  I’m no longer waiting to land an agent for which I am extremely grateful.  But I know many writers out there with truly fabulous books who are still looking for agents.  I gotta tell ya—the waiting?  It’s no easier on this side than it was on that side.  But as Susan Fields so astutely pointed out in the comments section of the "pull the rope" post, sometimes we forget we’re waiting at all, because our life goes on.  That got me thinking about how many things happened in my life while I was waiting to land an agent.  Or waiting to hear back from agents which is probably more accurate.  (See my posts on Agent John Doe and Jane Doe for more on that). I've posted before on how ridiculously long the agent-snagging process was for me.    So here is a list of stuff that I did or that happened while I was waiting for an agent:
Moved to a different city.
Got a new job.
Met Mr. Right.
Had a baby.
Bought a house.
Got engaged.
Got a promotion.
Wrote another book.
Bought a car.  (Tree fell on that one.  Bought another one.)
Started a website.
Went up in a hot air balloon.
Got my paralegal certificate.
Celebrated in the streets when the Phillies won the World Series in 2008.
Developed an allergy to alcohol.
Was ecstatic to get 1 new nephew, 1 new niece and 2 new pseudo-nephews (since I’ve been on subs I’ve got 3 more nephews and a new niece!)
Went to 8 weddings (there were also 3 I was invited to that I couldn’t attend).
Went to 8 funerals (there were, unfortunately, 3 additional that I could not attend).
Visited Oregon, Virginia and Kentucky.  Fun times.
Met my BFF, the brilliant and wonderful Nancy Thompson

Come to think of it, this whole process is a lot like riding in a hot air balloon.  You climb into the basket, sail into the sky, pull your hat down hard over your head so your scalp doesn't get burned off and you just float around out there.  It's exhilarating and a little scary and there's a lot less turbulence than you expected.  Most of all, you have no control whatsoever over where you're going to land.

So what do you do?

You enjoy the ride.  You look around and realize, holy sh*t, this is really beautiful.  All this stuff around me is really beautiful.  Or it can be if the sun is out and the wind is right and the temperature is semi-warm (and on occasion if you've got a bellyful of wine).

Waiting is really hard.  Don't let it distract you from all the good stuff going on right under your nose. 

You've got to use all that stuff for inspiration anyway.  Use the bad stuff too--unfortunately it usually makes for more entertaining stories!


There I am with our pilot, Bob, formerly of NASA
What do you do while you're waiting?