Monday, August 29, 2011

Don't Mess With The Vortex

It seems controversy has been at the forefront of this Vortexer's radar this past week.  First, the lawsuit kerfuffle with romance author Christie Craig and the Texas Department of Transportation's claim that her Don't Mess With Texas release puts a scandalous slant on their anti-litter campaign of the same name and violates the "paper goods" portion of their slogan's trademark. God forbid we marry sex and construction, right?

Too much ridiculous goodness here not to click through and read the article. The cover art is fabulous, the "states of sexual arousal" excerpts cited by TxDOT's lawyers in the frivolous lawsuit will make me think twice about adopting a highway and, it marries the best of those litter commercials (:14) 

with the words "sweet spasms of release."

Best of all is the knowledge that my state tax dollars single-handedly led to the best publicity this novel and author could have received. I hope you reach NYT, Ms. Craig. Don't mess with romance authors.

Also, with a surprising SHABLAM, Sourcebooks's publishing contract receives a one star "shred it" rating from entertainment lawyer Jeffery V. Mehalic in this week's Pitch University The Write Lawyer column. Even if Sourcebooks isn't on your publishing radar, some great cautionary advice on what to look for before you sign.

And, of absolutely no controversy save the outrageous cost of turkey legs, the Fair at New Boston in Springfield, Ohio is offering a step-back-in-time Labor Day weekend of fun. 1811? I'm so there. No reenactor could top my de la Salle, though. Oh, wait, here's his picture.

Don't mess with a woman and her French explorer fantasy.

Have a great Monday, everyone!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bless Me Father, For I Still Have Impure Thoughts About The King

I didn't reflect last week on the anniversary of Elvis's death because that's not something I ever do. However, any excuse to celebrate the squeezy-packet of awesome that was The King does make me want to dance like this.

Dolores Hicks (then screen name Dolores Hart), co-star of Loving You starring a very young Elvis, once said of her screen kiss:

"I think the limit for a screen kiss back then was something like 15 seconds. That one has lasted 40 years."

Seven years after Loving You, she left Hollywood to become a nun.

Amen, sister. Why bother sampling the others, right?

Okay, this question is for the Vortex ladies....what kiss would make you become a nun?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Casting a Darling Out to Sea

We are on Thriller Island, after all.

After no less than twelve independent critiques, some anonymous, some not, I have reached the conclusion that one of my "little darlings" (favorite lines, as we writers refer to them) must be buried at sea, never to wash up on the shores of my manuscript again. But as with all things in our lives that have always been there, like family or a genetic deformity, it is hard.  So, so hard. A proper burial needs words. From the most recent draft of The Night Caller :

“’Bout time you started hearing things, Mr. Hughes,” Evan mumbled to himself. “At least Howard got laid.”

Seven pages later in a phone conversation between my main character, Evan, and a mysterious, alluring woman he's trying to impress....

“What’s your name?” Evan said.


“Like the flower?”

No, like in livered, ass. Hughes would’ve had a better line. Something that would have made Jane Russell strip to her torpedo bra.

While I've gone out of my way prior to these lines to establish that Hughes is not my main character's last name and that he is undoubtedly suffering from agoraphobia, these lines have given pause to over half the cold readers. Yes, some had no idea who Howard Hughes was, which explains the problematic reference. Others thought a young, strapping male in his late twenties would not know this cultural reference, even though Howard Hughes died three years after I, too, was born. But I digress.  Not everyone could have seen the motion picture The Aviator-oh wait, wasn't it an Oscar nominee? But these are literary folks.  Probably not a television set among them.  Some simply thought it made my character seem like an old man because it was from a different generational point of reference.
Since the beginning, I held steadfast in my Hughes references.  He was, after all, the most famous agorophobic cup of crazy, then or now. But fiction isn't about me, it's about story. Quite simply, anything that pulls my reader away from the story must go. The people have spoken, and I have finally heard them.
Goodbye, dear Hughes. You and your sexed-up cultural references have been fun.

Friday, August 19, 2011

From Lady Gaga to The Big Zip

It feels amazing to be number one at something, if not the New York Times Bestseller list. Without further hesitation, my newest Google #1 ranking....

This is a proud moment, indeed.

Today's post is a plethora of end-of-summer goodness, hand-picked for Vortexers who are a bit discerning in their internet-hopping moments. I hope I've gathered the very best of what has occupied me this week.

First, Lady Gaga vs. The Secret. Say what you will (and I have) about the Queen of Meat Couture but she is a marketing genius and may have the mac daddy secret to motivational success.

While we're on weird, I hope you'll not think ill of me that I found these early post-mortem vintage photographs fascinating. Some of them I'd seen before while researching The Night Caller because I needed to know nineteenth century photography; some were new and undeniably creepy. 

On the high-brow geeky front, researchers from Vanderbilt and the University of Pennsylvania have discovered neuro-biological evidence of mental time travel.

If my fiction career doesn't take off, I could always look for modern ad-writing jobs inspired by this one from the 1970s...

I think I need a cigarette after The Big Zip and I don't even smoke. This ad could be a drinking game.  Every double entendre, take a shot. Don't worry. The Vortex has extra couches where you can crash.

Finally, Writer's Digest is offering free ebooks on the craft of writing through August 22nd.

And because I really, really need to get this out of my inbox...

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Seismic Shift

In five days, I become a full-time writer for the first time. Ever. As delightfully tingly as this prospect makes me, it also terrifies me. The onus of success will rest completely on me.  No longer will the convenient excuse of a day job feel like a safe justification for not writing. So how am I beating around this tree of inevitable awesome?

Re-organizing my writing space
Remember when coffee shops were my thing?  Yeah, I'm over that. Jockeying for outlet real estate. The cost. With a few exceptions when I'm stir-crazy, I plan to stay home and use the previously outrageous spending output on my career. And what, you may ask, will keep me from cleaning out the fridge's meat drawer when characters no longer cooperate? I don't have a counter-attack planned for that, but looking at something different while I write seems like a new chapter.

Early on in my pursuit of writing fiction, I had this crazy ritual of curling up in a chair and reading for fifteen minutes to get words flowing through my head, then meditating on my story world for a few more. Then I'd stumble to the keyboard, somewhere between God-this-makes-me-sleepy and higher-process thought and pour words into the story. Though this ritual reminds me of a diesel engine-way too slow to warm up-and would mess with my now-established author voice, there is something to be said for the comfort and reliability this framework creates.

Also early on, I frequented a chat room (back when we used to do that sort of thing).  This wasn't your average insult-laden yahoo room. It was back in the early days when specialty networks were establishing their online presence and trying to get their viewers to interact. There were a few men, mostly women, who encouraged my dream. To thank them, I wrote a serial with them as characters. A ghastly thing, really, about a group of mail-order brides who travel west and encounter outlaws and every variation on a cliche in historical romance, but it grew to something close to a hundred pages with thirty characters (all with their screen names, of course). With each successive Friday when the new installment would go up, the room began to fill until it eventually reached capacity. To say that audience devotion to my storytelling was heady is an understatement. Nothing before or since has had the accountability quotient like that serial. Self-imposed deadlines aren't enough. I need industry deadlines-contests or requesting agents or contracts or until writing comes full-circle and I'm back in that role of chat room Nora with salivating readers.

You might be wondering what ended this serial, why it only reached a hundred pages if it was going so well. The guy I'd written in as the hero began to think it was real with me, the author, as the heroine. For him, reality was a blurred line. He smashed his computer in the forest one night, or so I heard.

What works? What is a time drain? Things must be shaken, not stirred, to get fresh results.

Advice is welcome. How would you deal with this seismic shift of time to pursue your dream?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

On Swamp Ass and Etsy Items of Win

I meant to get this post up yesterday, but I was battling this:

in a downtown parking garage, a special kind of hell in the worst heat ever recorded locally. After that, the only creative thoughts one can rub together are If my foot lands askew of my flip-flop, will it be third-degree burns? and Would it mean certain-death to sprint to air-conditioning?

Cliffhanger Books is requesting submissions for paranormal romance shorts. Why the mention here? Aren't we on Thriller Island now? I found this line of the submission call interesting: While paranormal romance authors are generally female, we want story submissions from talented male writers as well. And, if I remember correctly, some Vortexers are paranomal authors of the XY variety who have mentioned writing a bit of hoo-ha into their screams. Deadline: Halloween 2011. FMI.

From Epic Fail's WIN side:

Speaking of time travel...let's go Etsy shopping!

I'm also fairly certain I'm going to start collecting vintage keys.

There's a story in that one.

Have a great day, everyone!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Guest Blogger: Sherry Issac

A huge Vortex welcome to Sherry Isaac. Yay!

Sherry is the author of the just-released collection of short stories, Storyteller. She has a magical, lyrical voice that is warm milk on a cold night. And, she loves all things woo-woo, too! I'm so pleased to have her here.  Enjoy!

Time Warp
by Sherry Isaac

Where a story idea comes from and how it take shape is integrated and tangled up with where we are at the moment.

And where we've been.

And where we are going.

Kind of like time travel.


Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of the ideas. They come so fast, they could be in a swirling, time-traveling vortex of their own. Sometimes it’s hard to focus on the story in front of me, darn near completion, because a new idea won’t leave me alone.

Ideas like this one, an idea I had quite a few years ago now, shelved while I worked on my current novel, took classes and compiled my short story collection, Storyteller.

A time travel idea.

Audience: YA.

Right at this moment, I should be working on my second novel, Homecoming.

I’m not.

Why? Two reasons.

One. Instead of being tangled up in plot points and character arcs, I’m enmeshed in the promotion of my first ever book launch.

Reason Two shouldn’t be time-consuming. It is an important task, but one that can run in the background: soliciting agents for my middle-grade. The book is everything I can make it, tweaked and polished till I have the darned thing almost memorized. Synopsis is written, as is the query letter.

Every 4-6 weeks my only task is to (a) digest the rejection letter, (b) revise and personalize the query letter for the next agent on my list and (c) hit send.

I’m now on Agent #4.

It was the query to Agent #2 that threw life into a jumble.

Agent #2 has a blog. She cites statistics on her blog, discouraging, miserable numbers that tell a sad, sad tale of how many queries she receives, month by month, and the scant number of partials and fulls she requests from out of that ginormous, impossible, nearly infinite number.

On her blog she also reveals the type of book she is on the look out for: Time Travel YA.

My heartbeat flutters.

My lungs grow heavy with the breath I hold.

Time Travel YA?

I have a Time Travel YA!

At least, I have an idea for a time travel YA, tucked, safe and sound, in my idea file.

I made a commitment, though. A commitment to myself, a commitment I must honour lest Margie Lawson beat me with the entire weight of her DSDB lecture packet:

Finish the current novel.

The current novel, Homecoming, has been the heart and soul of my existence for I no longer know how many years. Homecoming is so close to completion, I can smell the ink on the freshly printed pages and hear the first crinkle of that fragile spine as the first copy of the first edition is cracked open.

The time travel idea?

She ain’t going anywhere.

But she does serve as an impetus to keep moving forward, to finish my current work in progress, and to plan what books I will write, and when, over the course of the next few years.

In the meantime, I’ll buckle my seat belt and find contentment traveling the space-time continuum between current century Canadian prairie by day, and 16th century England in my dreams.

And keep that time travel engine running!


Winner of The Alice Munro Short Story Award, Sherry Isaac’s tales of life, love and forgiveness that transcend all things, including the grave, appear online and in print. Her first collection of shorts, Storyteller, debuts July 2011. For more information, or to order an autographed copy, click HERE.

Be sure to leave a comment for Sherry and don't miss her beautiful book trailer. Thank you, Sherry, for being here!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Secrets of Love

Didn't get to post the winner of the Great Blog Spruce-Up yesterday, but our winner is Charles, who consistently hit the comment button and participated. Thanks, Charles. Email me at and let me know if you would like a copy of Love, Texas Style or a Vortex-ish DVD.

I am consumed this week preparing for my parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary bash. I would be hard-pressed to come up with all the ways this longevity and example of enduring love has impacted my life. Maybe that's why my first writing love was romance.  So while I take care of last minute details, enjoy some quotes from people who've also crossed this marital milestone and have found the secret to happily ever after.  And, don't forget to join me back here same time tomorrow for our very special time travel-lovin'-short-story-authoring guest of Storyteller, Sherry Isaac. I'm counting on you all to shower her with Vortex love.

Now for the laaaahve. From Sheryl P. Kurland's beautiful coffee table book Everlasting Matrimony:

"Your partner is not a mind reader. Say what’s on your mind." ~ Gilda Gittleman

"I think respecting each other’s interests is important and giving each other permission willingly to pursue their hobbies." ~ Rose Savage

"Physical closeness is important; intimacy is important, sharing a bed. And couples need to take time out to do something for themselves. I believe in life together, but you need some time to yourself, too." ~ Fleurette Kurtzman

"Don't discuss sensitive subjects before dinner - eat first." ~ Renee Flager

"Married people have to love one another unselfishly, keep doing for each other. And you have to like one another." ~ Louis Goldberg

"I never thought about it being easy or hard." ~ Claire Berenson

"We both have a sense of humor, and that’s what gets us through. You’re doomed without it." ~ Louise Fradkin

"Trust is most essential to a successful marriage. I always felt that my husband was honest and reliable." ~ Helen Bronson

"For those about to get married — Do not over romanticize. Marriage is not the panacea. Marriage probably will not be problem free. Rather, be problem-aware. If and when problems appear, work them through. Sometimes these are easy, other times difficult." ~ Arthur Cohen

See you tomorrow!