Saturday, April 30, 2011

Grass free gardens

After spending most of the day planting, the idea of a grassless front lawn is something I can get behind. That's right, no lawn. Yeah, eat it grass! Actually, I like grass, but I do not like having to constantly weed out the chickweed, dandelions, farmer's weed and various other invaders. I am a fan of ground covers like creeping thyme, blue rug juniper and forget me nots. The idea of not having to mow all the time is quite appealing.

Today I planted petunias in pots in front of our house. Put some lemon balm and bee balm in the brier patch area and a bunch of herbs around out veggie garden. Parsley, marjoram, spearmint and rosemary. We put kale and swiss chard in the veggie garden and planted Russian sage on the side of the house where we had taken down all those awful hedges. We also bought a pretty bot for the rock harden and I put vinca and red spike in there. Of course this will all evolve over time. Right now everything is small and will grow over the summer and hopefully come back bigger next year too.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thursday's Thoughts

Earlier we had a tornado warning here in NJ. Now it is lovely and sunny out. Mother Nature is on a strange trip with the weather this spring and my heart goes out to everyone in the South. The devastation is awful and I have no idea how they will all dust themselves on and move forward. God Bless.

I finished reading "Rum Punch" by Elmore Leonard. I enjoyed it, but it was weird. He is a very unusual writer. There were sentences I would have never deemed allowable, but then again, he has his own way, his own voice. I will read more of his works in the future for sure.
My next read is "A Moveable Feast" by Ernest Hemingway. I read about it recently and while I am not a huge fan of his, I read The Sun Also Rises and it was okay, to read his memoirs of being in Paris during the 1920's intrigues me. This also helps me stick to my plan to alternate my reading of fiction and non-fiction.

I need to find another area rug for our living room. Once again, furniture has been moved and we now have the perfect set up. I giggle because I am sure or I will move stuff again, hopefully for not some time though. I would like one with hints of green, beige, cream and even a touch of brown or black. The one rug across the room is cream and black. I am not into matchy matchy rugs, so i would just use some similar colors.

Avocado Yogurt Dip with Cumin is on the menu tonight for dinner. A friend is coming over and I figured this would go nice with some chips and carrots.

Holy awesome kitchen renovations on Design Sponge.

Since I have a potty mouth, this Just Dance Art poster from 2nd Coming in Portland Oregon is right up my alley.

Door Sixteen posted a commercial by David Lynch for his own David Lynch Signature Cup Coffee. Insane and brilliant. I want to hang out with Mr. Lynch and have him eat my avocado yogurt dip :)


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What am I doing?

Writing. As always.
My query letter has not been chosen for the workshop or answered yet, but that works for me. It actually gives me time to keep plugging away and working out my kinks. Bookends blog had a great post about making your query one paragraph or less. I am hoping to work on that later this week. If I can do that, hell, I can do anything ;-)

Here is something I have been pondering, what is the draw of a woman being a virgin in romance and erotica? A novella I read, which was not that great, had every single female character be a virgin and of course, beautiful. There was no virtuous reason as to why they were virgins, it was never even discussed. It was as if each writer, which was female mind you, felt it was best to have the female protagonist be untouched by man. Until their hero came along with his strapping bod and gorgeous face and brilliant mind to ravish the for the rest of their days. Now, I can see if I was writing Christian romances, both hero and heroine would need to be virginal and pure. This is not the case with what I was reading. Actually, the more I read some erotica, the more I come across these sensual non-sexual females. Not that I think everyone should be slutting about the globe, but there is something misogynistic to me when you write romance or erotica and everyone else has had experience, even a kiss, except the female lead. Again, I have read Amish Romance novels and it is clear why the main characters behave how they do. When it is a BDSM novel I have to laugh. Sure you can have a novice submissive and this is their first experience, but a seasoned Mistress? Hard for me to suspend disbelief. I try though and sometimes it works, others, not so much.

This is the trailer for The Bullying Project which makes me want to pull a Kesyer Soze on some of the parents of the children that are hurting these kids.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Plagiarism Abounds

The cheek of some would be authors is astounding. Apparently a writer named Christine Phoenix decided to lift not just a paragraph but pretty much a whole passage, if not more, from author J.L. Langley's novel "With Love".

Here is the whole story. Thank you TeddyPig and Vacuous Minx and for making this public so communities of writers could pass it on.

This is not something to be taken lightly. We writers work hard and the last thing anyone should do is rip off our work and call it their own. Sure similarities can happen and it does, but blatant, word for word stealing is a disgrace to the craft. Shame on you Miss Phoenix.

Happy Easter and no more rotten eggs!!


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Random Pretty Things

A lighthearted post? From moi? But of course!

Lovely necklaces from Lisa Leonard Designs.

Great graphic pillows by Fresh Line Illustration.

Marie Larkin creates interesting dolls that would be terrific art pieces around the house.

Some of the display pieces from Bella Cottage are so fabulous.

Everyone can use a linen dress for the summer and Daisy Fairbanks has wonderful vintage styles.

And for an interesting read, check out The Chap's Manifesto.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Wire in the Blood

It felt good to vent yesterday. Everyone needs to complain and rant about insignificant and significant things from time to time. Helps clear the mind really. Of course I am not railing against authors personally. I just do not believe I have to fake being a fan of someone's work because they are bestsellers or popular. Nor do I believe I have to read them, enjoy them or fear to critique them because everyone claims them to be second coming. I have no interest in Stephenie Meyer or her 'Twilight' series, but I certainly do not wish her any ill will.

I have just begun watching the ITV series Wire in the Blood. The main character, clinical psychologist Dr. Tony Hill, was created by author Val McDermid. She calls her work Tartan Noir a clever title which I love. A real hard core crime series could be an interesting addition to my must read list. I am curious to how someone puts together an intense crime story and not show the hand of the killer ahead of time.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Are you a New York Times Bestseller?

And if not, why not?

The following post is going to be construed as jealous, snarky and bitter.

I don't care.

It should be construed as someone perplexed by the whole "list" crap. Sort of like all those award shows, that to me, they mean nothing anymore.

I have read books, and now for the sake of pissing off enough people, in the romance genre that are touted as being a #1 New York Times Bestseller. I recently read an excerpt of one and nearly gagged myself with a floor lamp. The plot was mundane, the writing was a fourth grade level and yet, this woman was fortunate enough to have a huge following and a great career. Good night and God bless.

Clearly sales volume counts, not quality. Sure, sure I knew this. I am not an idiot. Marketing and PR is what it is all about and when you sell a million books, you count. And so you should. You have worked hard. But don't expect me to like every book up there. Some bestsellers that did nothing for me are 'The DaVinci Code', 'Twilight' 'In Death' series and 'Stephanie Plum'. I have been fortunate to have read many a NY Times Bestseller that I swooned over. What eludes me is the ever brilliant book in romance. I have mentioned some that I have loved like 'Bet Me' and 'The Ice Queen'. Of course I can suspend disbelief and enjoy the rush and thrill, but I always feel wanting at the end. Okay, they hooked up and now what? Who knows? Who cares? Sometimes the author writes more about them and it actually ruins it for me. I am a pain in the ass. I admit this. I think the romance genre has enough issues with being treated as a step child from hell, but at times I think it deserves it. Set the bar higher for that night of sweet nothings. Give me a woman who is not stunning and a stunning man admires her, prosthetic leg and all. Too much? Hell no, push that envelope! Granted, I am well aware that not everyone wants to read 'Hamlet' everyday, but I also don't want to read 'Sweet Valley High' daily either. There has to be an author of romance out there that blows out the competition and raises the genre up a level.

Before you all say, "Then you do it!" My stories have romance in them and my goal is keeping n touch with the characters feelings. Not mine. I am the author, I am here to make sure their reactions are correct and how I have built them. Maybe I would have done something else, but that is fine, my character is not me. She/He are the ones who blossom, this is not a vanity project. Maybe all writing is, but in truth it should not be, not for fiction like this. I love when I read a romance and can literally feel the characters angst and desire. Other times it is like watching paint dry and I want one of the character to pull an Anna Karenia. The best part it that both types are bestsellers.

What I want from my authors is not different then what I want from myself. Aim high, use a thesaurus, pay attention to how people talk and remember that over description of clothes and looks are unnecessary. I guess most writers do not have to adhere to my personal OCD in this craft if they have already made it to the coveted lists. Series authors are the guiltiest to me for getting caught in a groove, unable to break out. They fill in the blanks, send it out and BAM! another bestseller. How does one compete? I realize that you shouldn't. There is an audience for everyone. Even those of us who get cranky, jealous and snobby now and then.

And scene.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ramble, ramble

I just came across these cool shed/house/yoga studio/writer spaces by Kanga out of Austin. Texas. I would love a little backyard cottage or shed where I can go write for a few hours. Plus it would be nice to surrounded by my gardens and all the birds. Le sigh.

This is the BRIGHTEST WHITEST kitchen, I have ever seen.

Misspellings Ahoy! They happen and can be a nightmare. One of the most common I have come across is using 'through' for 'throw'. A few posters on blogs, most likely writing in haste, do not even notice, but for some reason it is irking me like crazy.

Inexplicably I have gone back to my bounty hunter story and changed the title and started to edit it once again. What is really weird about it is I feel the character's voice coming out much stronger and I am feeling more confident about doing the query letter. Go figure.

With the storms in our are, rain and high winds are fun, our basement has a little flooding so the dear hubby is currently using the wet vac to clean it up. We have things we need to fix in our uneven yard to help with erosion and whatnot. Plantings, dirt, adding pipe under the patio for drainage, are all things we will be doing in the near future.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Roses and Rum Punch

Ever since I have hit a very funky, weird and despondent mood, I have been thinking about planting roses. I was warned off of them by a friend and fellow gardener who promised that those beautiful flowers will bring pestilence, disease and destroy all others surrounding them. Did I really want to commit to the upkeep of something that potentially could just wilt away? Or would I rather stick to flowers that were hardly any trouble at all? Decent points really, but then another friends suggested roses saying how they make a garden look elegant and grand and that there are many disease resistant varieties out there now.
The truth is, I love roses. Not for weddings or Valentine's Day, but rose bushes and roses that trellis. Roses that remind my of my grandmother and where I grew up in New Jersey. What I have noticed is that when you look at most landscaped homes or garden, there is very rarely roses. They are not just the quintessential English garden flower to me, they represent why people had enormous gardens in the first place. I would love a vast rose garden, vast in my world is like 6 x 6, but let us not forget...deer.

I love watching the deer stroll through my yard and drink from my bird bath. I do not enjoy noticing that one or all of the fawns nibbled my sage plant. I think I should place a sign in that area that reads "Welcome to my yard. My sage, thyme, oregano and lavender are supposedly not to your liking." These youngsters act as if they have never all the books and posts on deer resistant plants. Little hooligans. It seems roses are like a Chinese Buffet to deer and I am not looking to serve the best meal in town. If I want roses, I must protect them with a fence and companion plants.

When I did research on Rutgers Co-op extension site, I discovered the lovely Rose Campion.

I will be growing this since a sea of these would make me smile every day. Of course I have no idea where and since the deer are none to fond of it, but I know better and brace myself, I should be safe. At least, I hope I am. More research needs to be done, but if I plunge forward, I hope to document with photos as well.

Elmore Leonard is a revered writer among those who want to be King of Novels. I only ever read a short story of his then a good friend recommended I read Rum Punch. Today I went to the library and picked up the book. The opening line hooked me and now I live to hole up somewhere and enjoy.
As a writer, there is nothing more on point and terrifying then his Ten Rules of Writing. Now, no one is saying every one should do what Mr. Leonard does, BUT I wish to hell some romance writers would take heed of a few of these. I enjoy a good romance, but over description is the name of the game in those books. Characters are described down to the last birth mark and the worst is that it is usually done more then once. I have no idea if the writer thinks most readers have no memory or is it just that they really enjoying rehashing the tightness of Thor's buttocks and rippling abs. How may times must I be reminded what a strapping hulk of sensual the Hero looks like? Far be it for me to leave out Madame Heroine, for she is the most beautiful, but cannot find love, woman in the world. Gag me with a spoon.
I realize I am just not the perfect audience for certain genres, especially some romance novels. To be clear, Bet Me was one of the best, partly realistic romances I have ever read. I know romance is about fantasy, but sometimes it is too fantastical and so phoned in that I have a hemorrhage.
Well, enough of that, Elmore, here I come.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Self-reproach is fun!

Hell = Query Letters

Another rejection has made it quite clear that I need to stop soliciting, start reworking and get it to Query Shark pronto. I had intentions to work on my query today, but life gets in the way and that is what I want to talk/vent about.
Most authors would say you should be able to write with distractions around you. I have and I do most days. A special needs dog means whining is an indication she needs water, to go out, a hug, to play or some other request she cannot get to herself. Laundry, dinner, gym, whatever has to get done, has to get done. Writing becomes sporadic, choppy and then block can kick in. Sometimes the distractions help with a story line, but I admit that I wish that I could go away for a week, to a cabin in the mountains or a shack on a beach, unencumbered. All I would have to do is eat when I want and sleep when I want. Other than that I get to write non-stop without interruption. Who is to say if this little fantasy of mine will ever come to fruition, but it would be nice. In lieu of that, I need to change my current writing schedule. It is time I start getting up way earlier then I currently do. My hubby's alarm goes off for work and sometimes I hang out in bed, reading. Not anymore. I need to set my alarm for 6am and get writing. How can I expect to achieve goals I set for myself when I am losing precious time that could be used for working? By getting up that much earlier, I will actually have some time alone and can focus on the query letters and the synopsis. Arduous tasks for me, but ones that must be conquered.

As I write this post, my dog is whining because she wants to eat. This is thanks to my darling husband who fed her early a few days and now I have to deal with it. Seems a small inconvenience I am sure, but trust me, a whining special needs dog is like a whining child. You will snap and scream so loud that birds will flee from your yard. I am not proud that her whining can upset me, but on some days it is tougher to soldier through then others. C'est la vie.

Writer's Digest has a few contests coming up which I am thinking of entering. It has been awhile since I have written a short story, but I think the challenge could do me some good. There are a few ideas I had put to the side until I could focus on them so this may be the right opportunity. Plus I think it is good to try and get a short story published. Then I can add that to my new and improved query letter.

On a lighter note, I could see me working in this house in Malibu.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Writing is like a Cat O Nine Tails

The keyboard, pen, pencil, chisel and stone are all instruments of destruction in a writers hands. There are times we weave a story, smile, think it the greatest thing since sliced bread and then POOF! A smack across the face, blood on you back and you are lying in a gutter covered in vomit while holding a bottle of Charles Shaw.
Okay, my dramatic arch is far reaching, but in many cases, a writer will be sitting at the same desk reworking that query or synopsis wondering what the hell have they have done for the past two years.
That's right. Take me for example. What have I got to show except one poorly written romance novel which may or may not be revisited one day, about five rejections for "Cleaning House" my futuristic thriller and almost 85,000 words written for my other novel in progress.

Welcome to self inflicted torture, the dungeon on the right is ready for you.

"You Will Never Publish A Word" by Nina Badzin pretty much sums up my personal fears and excitement about writing. I may never get published, but damned if I am going to stop trying. The learning process and schedule I set for myself allows me room for improvement. If I fail or regress, well I have only myself to blame.

Today was not the best writing day. I hit a rough patch with my novel and became so involved in minutiae that I wasted valuable writing time. What saved me was reading some of my dialogue out loud and seeing what sounded wooden, what sounded real and what was basically crap. I even got into doing voices and wondering why some descriptions bordered on a fourth grade reading level. How many times can a character smile, shrug, say, ask, grin or frown? Thank you Merriam-Webster thesaurus for saving my ass. Part of my writing issue is that when I was without my net book it destroyed some of my momentum, but it is coming back. If it does not I will hunt it down and drag it home, kicking and screaming.

The infamous query letter is being dissected yet again, but this time I am referencing the archives of Query Shark. I bow to her and her wisdom and live for the day I can send in a query letter to be thrashed by her. Her archives are vast and it does get overwhelming, but the wealth of knowledge is worth combing through. I did send in a query to a workshop by Bookends. A critique fro those ladies would be most welcome as well. I need a sharp eye to see past the gobbledygook and get me to focus on the core. Practice makes perfect they say so I am scribbling notes and typing like a lunatic to improve this letter. Know what is really funny? I need to do a synopsis too. Stop screaming. I did it, I just need to clean it up.

Well, the beatings must subside so I can go to bed. Oh, in case you are unaware of what a cat o nine tails is, enjoy the wikipedia entry.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Reading Nooks

Books are one of my all time favorite ways to entertain myself. I am currently on the fifth book in the Thursday Next series, First Among Sequels and yes, my obsession with that series has never waned so bravo Jasper Fforde.

One thing I have always coveted is a reading nook. Granted, I am happy to curl up in one of my wing back chairs and read. But the idea of sitting on a comfy window seat, reading by natural light, oh heaven indeed. Apartment Therapy has posted some reading nooks and while not all of them are window seats, I really love the idea that most readers want to be cocooned in literary bliss. To have a designated area where one can indulge and read books, magazines, whatever, is pretty fabulous.


Monday, April 4, 2011

And they just keep coming

Not all authors are overly sensitive just like not all reviewers are failed writers taking their ire out on the published author. But seriously, what is with all the author melt downs of late?

Sylvia Massara went into a snit fit when a reviewer at Book Binge, did not love her book. Nothing personal, she just did not enjoy the character and explained what she disliked about the story. No shocker here, this happens. We writers will not move everyone's heaven and earth. Now please, understand that and do not bash the reviewer. Unless there is a personal attack and someone insults your or your family, there is no reason to get upset. What the author should do is thank the reviewer, realize it was not their cup of tea and rest assured there is an audience out there for the book.

Words to the wise - The internet moves fast my friends and can help make or break your career. Can the emotions before you fire off a nasty response. You never know who is reading these blogs. Any publisher, agent, fellow author and blogger that could help move you along, give you constructive advice, even promote you, should be welcome. Most important to remember is that graciousness is a much better trait than bitterness.