Friday, August 31, 2007

Artist: Rhian Swain-Giboney

I feel like such a schmo because in all the months I've featured art on my blog on Fridays, I failed to display Rhian's! DOH. This is a wonderful painting called Hanging at the Metro. I love this for a lot of reasons. There are two chicks enjoying coffee! People are looking at art in the background. The colors jump. It makes me smile. That last reason is the most important. Rhi does with paintings what I hope I do with my stories. Thanks, Rhian, for brightening my day.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thursday 3: Backyard Bounty

We have a tree growing in our backyard that wasn't there when we moved in 14 years ago and that I never planted. I recently discovered it is a fig tree. I suspected its identity when I saw the giant leaves, reminiscent of Adam's first clothing. When it started growing the fruit, I actually wasn't that thrilled. We already have a guava tree, and I'm not fond of guavas.

However, my sister made me try the one fig that was ripe, and I sort of liked it. It is one of nature's funkiest looking fruits, I swear. It truly looks like it comes from another planet, but it tastes strangely good.

Anyway, this week's list is three fruits growing in my backyard.

1. The Fig. (See above.)

2. The Guava. (See above.) I regularly give away bags of guavas to my cleaning lady.

3. The Pear. Our pear tree is unreliable. Some years it has no fruit at all, some years, like this one, it's bursting with fruit. My sister recently came and took two bags of pears and made a fabulous pear cobbler that she says is very easy. I told her that it was dangerous because to paraphrase Field of Dreams, if I bake it, they (the pounds of fat) will come (to my hips.)

Do you grow stuff in your backyard?


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hot Cover!

Dig my new book cover! This book comes out on September 14 from Ellora's Cave. It's the first in my Be-Wished series. I'm so excited I think I need a Depends!


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Quote: Mark Russell

The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline baggage.

--Mark Russell


Monday, August 27, 2007

Story: Saturday Morning

What follows is an analysis of a Woman's World story with suggestions/observations for people who want to sell stories to WW, peppered with some personal opinion, too. :)

Story: "Saturday Morning" by J. Marie Loverich from the August 14, 2007 issue.

Tagline: Some things are just meant to be...

In a nutshell: Kelly is tired of the dating scene and not in the mood to spend Friday night with her married girlfriends. She ends up meeting a man whose dog "steals" her dog's ball.

For those of you familiar with Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey, this story showed a lot of Kelly's "ordinary world." (By the way, I highly recommend Vogler's book, if you couldn't tell from my displaying the cover.) This sets the scene and gives you all her history, but is less than exciting. I think it's really only there to establish that Kelly is content with herself and not desperate.

Trick of the trade: Loverich lays the foundation for the ending with the conversation about meeting the guy in the grocery store when they run out of milk and creamer. Then, voila! Funny how that's exactly what happens. You'll see this a lot in WW stories as well as in full length novels. It's just easier to see in a thousand word story.

Best Part: "And if I don't run out of milk, I'll be fine, too, she thought." Kelly starts out a tiny bit down, not wanting to hang out with friends and be the object of pity, and this line (toward the middle of the story) shows her tiny character arc. WW readers like to live vicariously through the stories and no one wants to think of herself as an object of pity, even if it's self-inflicted.

In My Humble Opinion: There's no real climax to this story, where you are in suspense about something, which leaves me somewhat dissatisfied as a reader.

Grade: C+


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Artist: Christo and Jean Claude

Here is some artwork that is no longer with us. I vaguely remember seeing these giant yellow umbrellas in the hills, but not knowing that they were supposed to be art until many years after they were gone.

Christo and Jean Claude are a married couple who create a unique type of art together. Their projects are always vast and usually colorful. While part of me wonders what inspires people to do this type of thing, part of me is amazed at the result.

On a website dedicated to their work it says, "From October 9th, 1991 for a period of eighteen days, The Umbrellas were seen, approached, and enjoyed by the public, either by car from a distance and closer as they bordered the roads, or by walking under The Umbrellas in their luminous shadows.

In the California vastness of uncultivated grazing land, the configuration of the umbrellas was whimsical and spreading in every direction. The brown hills are covered by blond grass, and in that dry landscape, The Umbrellas were yellow.

The removal started on October 27 and the land was restored to its original condition. The Umbrellas were taken apart and all elements were recycled."

Do you think this qualifies as art? Do you think they should have taken them down?


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thursday 3: Room To Grow

My house is too small. I don't see us moving into a bigger house any time soon, but I often dream about it. I would love to have:

1. An office/craft room. I scrapbook, or try to. It's too much of a pain to put all my stuff away everytime I'm done, so I don't do it as often as I'd like. Also, it would be so awesome to have a room of my very own where I could write, a room with a door that could be closed! Oh, impossible dream.

2. An extra bedroom so the boys could have their own rooms.

3. A casual family room where we could watch movies together and leave the living room nice for entertaining.

What would you do with an extra room in your house? Assume it is for your exclusive use and it can only serve one FUN purpose (not storage or for guests.) What fun activity would you reserve this room for?


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Haiku: What's That Rustling?

Backyard opossum

Cute. Opossum in attic?

I'm calling Orkin.

Yep. We had a confirmed sighting of the rodent in our attic. It gives me the willies to hear it messing around up there. Anyone ever had this problem?


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Quote: Hubert Humphrey

Behind every successful man stands a surprised mother-in-law.

-Hubert Humphrey


Monday, August 20, 2007

Story: The Promise

What follows is an analysis of a Woman's World story with suggestions/observations for people who want to sell stories to WW, peppered with some personal opinion, too. :)

Story: "The Promise" by Liza Albert from the August 7, 2007 issue.

Tagline: A 14 year old boy couldn't possibly know what was in his heart, Kate thought. Or could he?

In a nutshell: Charlie realizes Kate is his soulmate when he's fourteen. He woos her slowly but surely.

This story occurs over the course of several years, unusual for a WW story, but it worked for me. The way Albert paces it and the mundane events in the courtship make this story very believable. This is a quality that I'm coming to realize might just be one of the keys to getting published by WW. What happens in one of their romances should be something that could actually happen to one of their readers in the course of their ordinary lives. I mean, the guy asks her to dinner and the movies! How much more ordinary does it get?

Albert also manages to insert a climax in which the romance is actually in doubt. After a week of being avoided, poor Charlie thinks he's been fighting a losing battle. Fortunately, Kate comes to her senses and then we get a true Happily Ever After! Kate and Charlie get married. Yay!

Best Part: I liked Albert's snappy, lifelike dialogue:

"Movie Saturday?" he said.
"Gee, Charlie, I'd love to but--"
"Seven o'clock okay?"

In My Humble Opinion: It was strange how she started out in present tense, switched to past tense, and then moved back into present. I wouldn't recommend this if you're new to writing. It's tricky to do.

Grade: B+


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Haiku: Natural Curiosity

Wild Monkey Sex--

is it wilder,

or is that just propaganda?


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Everyone's a Winner

Approximately one month from today (September 14,) my first Ellora's Cave title, ALL IN, will be released! Oh, happy day! To commemorate this exciting event, I'm offering something I hope you'll like.

According to legend, a wish made upon a knotted wishing bracelet will come true when the bracelet falls off. In my story, Mariah Hughes finds out the legend is true when she receives a visit from a Universal Wish Federation Fairy. Her wish? To have one more night with a man from her past she can’t forget, world renowned poker player, I.C. Tucker.

So for the next month, anyone who wants one will receive their very own wishing bracelet, made my me! All you have to do is email me the address you'd like your bracelet sent to. Put "WISHING BRACELET" in the subject line. My email address is kate_willoughby @ (no spaces.) If for any reason you do not want me to keep your email address for future news from me, let me know. :D

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Booklovers Site

I've found another great site that allows me to put off writing. It's called Library Thing. You can catalog all your books and you can see other people's libraries based on similar book tastes.

I only have about twenty books listed so far. I'm too lazy to list all the books that actually sit on my shelves. Maybe someday when I'm really avoiding my writing, I'll do that. Until then, I'll just haphazardly add books when I feel like it. Have fun checking this place out!

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Story: Recipe for Romance

What follows is an analysis of a Woman's World story with suggestions/observations for people who want to sell stories to WW, peppered with some personal opinion, too. :)

Story: "Recipe for Romance" by Karen Stroud from the August 31, 2007 issue.

Tagline: Maybe it's true that nothin' says lovin' like something from the oven...

It can often be helpful to look to old adages when you need an idea for a Woman's World story. "Recipe for Romance" is a perfect example of this type of thing, and yet, it started out with nothing I haven't seen before-- the yard sale setting, the grandson and woman meeting, family recipes... But I stuck with it.

In a nutshell: Katie wants to buy an old cookbook at the sale. It's a copy of the one her grandma used to use that got lost. It turns out THIS granny doesn't want to sell, but lets Katie copy recipes from it. Grandson fetches her index cards. They get acquainted while she copies.

I was a little surprised to see him ask her out before the story ended, but a few paragraphs later, I saw why--at their date, he presents her with her own copy of the cookbook.

Best Part: The best part was the surprise gift.

In My Humble Opinion: "Katie, can you believe that you found your way to my heart in one afternoon?" A tad corny, and forward, too, considering it was their first date.

Grade: B


Friday, August 10, 2007

Artist: Ledent

Last Snow in Ardennes by Ledent

Isn't this beautiful? I was drawn to the colors Ledent used. Again, I'm so repressed that I would never think of using these colors to paint a winter landscape, but it so works here.

Here's what he has to say about his art:

The act of painting has become a way of being. I paint everyday and I almost feel sick when I ve not been painting for a day. Even, the most common everyday visions can be the start of a painting. Putting my own vision of reality on a canvas brings never ending happiness.

Hmm. Sounds a little like how I feel about writing.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Thursday 3: Time Warp

Last week I read someone's Thursday Thirteen list and they mentioned several times that they wished they had more time. Don't we all? Here are three time related things I wish I could do.

1. Cram eight hours of sleep into one hour.

2. Stop time for a maximum of twenty minutes so I could analyze a situation before acting, or come up with some really clever reply.

3. Go back in time so I could relive some fine moments in my life, sort of like an interactive scrapbook. Like, it'd be nice to be able to hold my sons when they were babies again or feed my husband that bite of wedding cake. Stuff like that.

Question: If you could only have ONE of the three abilities I listed, which one would you choose?


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Author Spotlight: Robin L. Rotham

Alien Overnight. What an excellent book. I was so bowled over by Robin Rotham's writing that I found myself truly tempted to analyze her scenes and see how she was grabbing me so hard. But I was afraid to do it. You know how in school when the teacher would give you a writing assignment and give you a couple of examples and then all you'd be able to think about were the examples? That's what I was afraid would happen.

And Kellen and Shauss, the two heroes in her book? Oh. My. God. They are beyond hot. They are welcome to kidnap me and probe me ANYTIME. Bring it on, guys.
I was also mucho mucho impressed with how authentic her science fiction stuff was. Sometimes I read sci-fi flavored romance and tolerate it. This was realistic, believable. She didn't over explain, but nor did she gloss over technology, etc. It was perfect.
So, because I happen to rub elbows with the talented Ms. Rotham (electronically and in real life in Dallas last month), I asked her a few questions. Here are her answers.

What do you feel is your strength as a writer? What do you do best?

Besides having strong technical skills (yes, I did a brief stint as a freelance editor), I tend to elicit strong emotion with my writing, perhaps because my stories are very character driven. I always know my characters and their histories and emotional and romantic arcs long before I have any inkling of the plot.

Is there any of yourself in the heroine of Alien Overnight, Monica Teague, or is she purely a creation of your own imagination?

Yes, there is definitely some of me in Monica, though she's much quicker with a comeback than I am. On the one hand, she's resilient and doesn't let herself be a victim of circumstances. On the other, she drives people off before they have a chance to push her away, trying to save herself some heartache -- but she really only trades one heartache for another by doing so. That was how I used to be before I met, chased, and married Mr. Robin. :D How Monica is NOT like me is that she's mouthy and belligerent and in-your-face. She tells it like it is and screw anyone who doesn't like it. Sometimes I'd love to be like that, but I tend to be more of a peacemaker than a pot-stirrer.

Scenario: You are stranded on a deserted island for a month with either Kellen or Shauss. Who would you choose and why? (I know, that's a VERY tough question. Sue me.) And what three items would you take with you?

That's actually not so tough for me -- I'd have to choose Kellen because he's worked through most of his issues and is relatively easy-going. Shauss is just too dark and complicated for me -- I'd have an ulcer after a week with him. As for what I'd take with me -- an industrial-sized bottle of SPF45 sunscreen, a boombox equipped with lots of fresh batteries and loaded with CDs, and a chess board with all the requisite pieces.

(blinking) What? Why are you looking at me like that? He's probably a very good chess player, and we couldn't very well have sex every waking minute, now, could we? Or could we...? In that case, I'd trade the chess board for an industrial-sized bottle of lube. *grin*

If Alien Overnight was made into a movie, who would you cast in some of the lead roles? Why?

Now THIS is a tough one. I hope that never happens because it would no doubt be a porn movie, and if it wasn't a porn movie, it would no doubt be sadly lacking in passion. I'd probably refuse point-blank to have anything to do with the making of the movie and probably never even watch it, knowing it wouldn't turn out anything like I imagined it. But if I absolutely HAD to choose actors, I'd go with Gerard Butler for Kellen just because Gerard Butler should be in every movie (plus he's got a lovely accent), Orlando Bloom for Shauss because of his fine, dark, intense looks (though I suppose Johnny Depp might be all right, too), Sandra Bullock for Monica because she's funny and doesn't take herself too seriously, and Jessica Alba for Jasmine because the first time I saw her in Fantastic 4 with her hair all slicked back into a stylish knot, she reminded me of Jasmine.

If you were teaching a course on how to write popular fiction, what are a few books that would be on your reading list?

Deb Dixon's GMC, of course. Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. William Strunk Jr.'s The Elements of Style (because good grammar never goes out of fashion). And I'd insist that everyone read all of JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series, just so they'd know what they should be aiming for.
If you were to choose a vegetable most resembling your personality, what veggie would you pick and why?

Hmmm... Probably a radish. It's round and red, like me, and looks pretty harmless, but once you get a real taste, it's got lots of flavor and can be on the hot side.

What was the worst job you ever had?

No contest here -- telemarketing. When I moved to Omaha, my day job wasn't enough to support me, so I worked evenings at DialAmerica. It was the longest seven months of my life. The money was awesome, but what I had to do to get it was almost worse than prostitution. Er, I mean prostitution as I imagined it, of course...

What TV show are you embarrassed to say that you like(d)?

The Gong Show -- but I was in junior high school then. (Mr. Robin still likes it.)

What would you do with an extra $10? How about $1000? A million?

With an extra $10, I'd buy a book and a good cup of coffee with lots of real cream. With an extra $1,000, I'd probably decide I could go to both RT and RWA National next year. With a million, I'd build a new house, pay off all our farm debt, take Mr. Robin for a one-time-only erotic adventure at the Mustang Ranch, and put the rest away for college for the kids.

Tell me about your work in progress. Do you have a release date?

My work in progress right now is Enemy Overnight, the second in the Alien Overnight trilogy, and no, it has no release date yet. It's Shauss and Jasmine's story, and yes, it's taking me longer than I thought it would. As I said before, Shauss is a very complicated alien, which my CP says is why he almost overshadowed Kellen in AO. Meanwhile, poor Jasmine's on the horns of several major dilemmas, but she's a strong, resourceful woman who stands up for what she believes in, no matter what the personal cost. Enemy Overnight is a deeper, darker, and more challenging story to write than AO was, but I think readers will be pleased with the end result.

I, for one, can't wait for it to be finished. Get writing, Robin!!!! And the rest of you, go buy Seniorella here. It seriously hot and sentimental at the same time.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Sucking the Fun out of Life

I'm reading one of my Woman's World magazines and come across this article "Do your kids bike? Read this!"

One of their tips was this:

Stash phones and iPods. Having a phone with you is smart, but keep it on vibrate so you won't be startled by its ring. And iPods can overpower the sound of a car's horn.

I don't know about you, but the sudden vibration in my pocket startles me much more than the ring of my phone. And there is such a thing as volume control.

Another tip they offered:

Insist on gloves! If you fall, bike gloves protect your hands from cuts and abrasions. They also absorb vibrations, giving you a better grip on the handlebars, so you stay steady on the road.

Sheesh. Why not recommend long sleeves and pants every time you ride a bike? I'm all for safety, but there comes a time when you have to look at the balance between risk and fun, and personally, I think insisting my kid wear a helmet is worth it. But making them wear gloves to prevent a scraped hands? Give me a break.

I don't believe in protecting against every bad thing in life. Prevention is all well and good, but so often these days I think people go overboard. Agree with me? Disagree?


Monday, August 06, 2007

Story: The Look of Love

What follows is an analysis of a Woman's World story with suggestions/observations for people who want to sell stories to WW, peppered with some personal opinion, too. :)

Story: "The Look of Love" by Tima Smith from the July 31, 2007 issue.

Tagline: Cassie was sure she'd recognize the perfect ring when she spotted it...

This story was not your run of the mill first meet. Cassie and Ted are shopping for engagement rings, and the story is romantic, but not really about their relationship, per se. It's more like a vignette, a day in the life sort of thing, which is fine, refreshing, even.

In a nutshell, Ted's grandfather wants to give his late wife's ring to Cassie, but Cassie has had her heart set on a pear shaped diamond since she was in high school. During the course of the story, she realizes how much Ted's grandparents loved each other and that wearing a ring symbolic of that special love means more than her outdated wish. Cassie's realization comes about mainly because of two photographs of Gramps and one of Grams.

Unfortunately, I just didn't feel the emotion that I should have. Smith dedicated about 70+ words toward establishing how much Cassie resembled Grams, which I felt was unnecessary. What is the core of this story? What does it hinge on? How much Cassie and Marion look like each other? No. What prompts Cassie's change of heart is the "look of love," in Gramps' eyes, which is also appropriately the title of the story.

I think she should have nixxed all that stuff about the similarities between the two women and made more of an effort to describe the love that shining from Gramps' eyes in those two photographs, one taken when he was young, the other taken of him shortly before Grams died. Look at how Smith described it:

I'm riveted by those photos, because what she's captured in them is the look of love. Gramps is looking at the person behind the camera with nothing but love in his eyes.

See what I mean? She missed an opportunity to intensify the emotion here. She could have expounded much much more. Gramps' expression when he was young, probably communicated all his hopes and dreams of a future with his lady love. And in the second photo, his eyes would have reflected decades of devotion and happiness.

Because of this lack, a really terrific story premise felt short for me. So, when writing your own stories, look hard at what is driving your story. Be ruthless about cutting extraneous stuff because with only 1000 words to work with, you don't have room to dilly dally. Zero in on what must be there and make it sing.

Best Part: The last line was "It fits perfectly." I loved this last line because I could take it literally, and it inferred that the ring fit her life as Ted's wife better than the diamond one she was going to choose before.

In My Humble Opinion: Present tense stories are always challenging for me to read.

Grade: C+


Friday, August 03, 2007

Artist: Wayne Duffy

Wayne Duffy's collage art is created solely with images from National Geographic magazines. Isn't that interesting? He apparently inherited his grandparents' collection and turned to collage for solace when they passed away.

This particular piece stood out to me because it's titled For Rene. I assume he's referring to Rene Magritte, whose work can be seen below. See the bowler hat in the upper left corner? What do you think? And can you tell what the item is in the upper right corner? I can't!

The Son of Man, 1964

The Pleasure Principal (Portrait of Edward James) 1937


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Thursday 3: Beyond

Bed Bath and Beyond is one of my favorite stores. Here's what I'd get if I got a three item shopping spree, no limit on cost.

1. I have one stainless steel skillet that my sister got me for my birthday. Oh, what I wouldn't give to have an entire set of cookware. I HATE my Circulon stuff.

2. This is one of those parafin wax spa thingys. In the course of physical therapy for my tendonitis, I have to dip my hand and wrist into warm wax. It's so lovely and makes my skin so soft, I wish I had to do it to both hands. I may end up asking for this for Christmas this year. My only problem would be keeping the boys from fooling around with it.

3. Okay, I'm drooling over this. My stand mixer is WONDERFUL, however, it would be nice to be able to flip the top up so I could add flour more easily. Of course, it would cost $500 for this little convenience, so I don't see that happening any time soon. Alas.

What would you get at BB&B?


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Lost Years

I found a book of humorous quotes on my shelf and here's one that caught my fancy:

I have been commissioned to write an autobiography and I would be grateful to any of your readers who could tell me what I was doing between 1960 and 1974.

Jeffrey Bernard

I don't know who this guy is, but he's funny.