Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Or I might go back to snail mail

My Tuesday blog on Wednesday--story of my week so far.

What has eaten up my time? For one thing, you may notice the pictures on my pages have been removed, except for the ones I took with my very own camera. Seems it's not a good idea to grab pictures from Google images as they could be copyrighted. Yep, someone might see it and say, "Hey that's my picture you used without permission" and sue me for a gazillion bucks. Which I don't have. So I went back and hit delete,  blog by blog.

Then I look at my list of submissions and realized that I hadn't heard back from several sent three months ago. I don't mean I expected an immediate answer, as that would be unrealistic, but most publishers and agents have an automatic response that tells you they received your query letter. I blame my computer. For some reason, gmail doesn't send to everybody I write to. Oh, it says "e-mail sent" but too many people have sworn up and down they never got the message. I have a list of those and make sure I use another service when I need to reach them.

So I re-sent via Yahoo! and have yet to get a response, automatic or otherwise. Someone told me once that this service doesn't allow for long e-mails or attachments. I don't know if this is true or not, but I have to assume some kind of glitch.

It takes months to get a reply under the best of circumstances, so this is frustrating to say the least. My next best bet is to a) use my husband's computer as he claims he doesn't have this problem or b) fire up my old laptop which can't do much, but can send e-mails to people who otherwise doen't receive them.

The down side is that if these people did receive my queries that my re-sending them  will result in annoying the receiver to the point of automatic rejection.

It's a chance I have to take.

Oh, the picture has nothing to do with the subject. The kitties are, from top, Smokey, Harry (Heironymous) and Bonnie Blue. 


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Scaredy Cat

I read with horror about the riders stranded 35 feet above the ground at Carowinds when a ride malfunctioned.

"I would have died of fright," I told my husband. This may or may not be literally true, but I am terrified of heights. I don't mean mildly frightened; I mean "my body won't move" terrified.

Then I realized I would never have gotten on the ride in the first place.

I can't remember exactly when this fear began, but I recall when I knew for sure it had taken over. A few summers ago I was paralyzed at Grandfather Mountain when the rest of my group crossed the swinging bridge as if it were a footpath across the beach. I could get just so far and then my feet refused to budge--except in retreat.

I believe everyone has a secret (or not-so-secret) fear. So do our characters, and part of the fun of writing is getting them to overcome it.

Maybe it is a physical fear, like heights or water or open spaces.

It could be a fear of dogs, cats, bats or rats.

Maybe they're afraid of non-physical things such as speaking in public, being embarrassed or humilated.

Maybe they're afraid some sordid event in their past will be revealed.

How does this work into the story? Can the hero or heroine face his or her fear and conquer it? What would motivate them? Love for another person? A lost treasure that, if found, will change her life? An inner need?

In "Angels Unaware," Kat was afraid of being on her own.

In "The Lunch Club," Harriet, Jane Anne, Beth and Melody all fear an uncertain future when the "Golden Years" turn out to be fools gold.

What are your characters afraid of?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Getting to Know You

How well do we really know anybody? I confess I am frequently surprised when someone I feel I know well does something out of character: a normally optimistic person suddenly bursts into tears over a trifle; a thrifty woman splurges on a dress she knows she will only wear one time...

My reaction is to find out why--maybe to offer a shoulder to cry on in the first instance, and congratulations, if they are in order, in the second.

At the RWA chapter meeting (Carolinas Romance Writers) last Saturday, we did a writing exercise after lunch with the purpose of seeing how well we really knew our character. Frankly, I was less than enthusiastic, but I got out my pen and borrowed a sheet of notebook paper from my neighbor.

The assignment was to write a monologue expressing our character's emotions after a traumatic event. This was my response:

He just left. Paid the bill and said he wasn't coming back. I didn't believe him at first, but Stan didn't play jokes. I guess I kept hoping he'd meet us at the house. The kids really took it hard when the night wore on and they realized their dad had really gone. Blamed themselves and still do--God, they still hurt so much, even two years later. But they never had a chance to say goodbye. At least I had that.

I am willing to admit the piece doesn't really explore Marcie's emotions except for her concern for her kids. But that concern is a big part of the story as Marcie moves on and looks back to see her twins still stuck somewhere between anger and grief.

And it isn't true the twins didn't have a chance to say goodbye, so I don't know why I wrote that. They had a chance and refused it. And their anger includes their mother, who took Stan back after the divorce. Of course, she had a good reason....even if none of her family and friends accept it.

No, this isn't from one of my published books. It's from my new work in progress, tentatively titled "The Appointment." More about that later.

As for "A Question of Boundaries" (thanks for asking!) it is still awaiting judgment. I'm hoping to find a home for it somewhere. Please keep your fingers crossed.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Moving Day

The hot weather reminds me of when we moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina  some 35 years ago with three kids, a dog, a cat and a bird in a cage. It was hot then, too--105 degrees as we unpacked the van and tried to decide where to put things.

I wanted to go back home, but we'd made the decision and had to stick by it. I've never regretted it.

Many people move in the summer because they want their kids to get settled before school starts. And this month, all over the world United Methodist pastors and their families are moving to new appointments. For those who don't know, our pastors are appointed, not chosen, and their tenure lasts about four years. We were fortunate to have ours for eight, but the time has come to say goodbye and welcome a new face in the pulpit.

It's hard to leave familiarity behind and begin the process of making new friends, new memories. I am reminded of a story I will share, updated for a more modern audience:

A man stops at a gas station just outside of town. In the car are a woman and two children. He pumps his gas and goes inside the convenience store to pay.

"We're moving here," he says to the propietor. "My company transferred me and we're not very impressed so far with what we've seen. We were wondering what the people are  like."

"What were they like were you came from?"

The man sighs, takes his change. "Nosy, rude and insufferable."

"I'm sorry, but you'll probably find the people here are about the same."

A week later, another family stops. Seeing the U-Haul hitched behind the car, the gas station owner asks, "Moving in?"

"Yes," says the man across the counter. "We think it's a pretty town and I feel lucky to have found work here. What are the people like?"

"What were they like where you came from?"

"They were great folks," the man says, handing over his credit card. "Friendly, generous and caring."

The owner swipes the card and hands it back. "I believe you'll find the same kind of people here," he says.

I've moved enough in my lifetime to know that people are really the same no matter where you go. It's the attitude you bring with you that makes all the difference.