Another Ride on the Golden Roller Coaster

Last fall as the deadline for the 2013 Golden Heart® contest drew near, I found myself wanting to throw my manuscript into the ring again.  I had been successfully resisting RWA chapter contests for the better part of a year, but I really wanted to enter the Golden Heart.  I had become a GH junkie.

But I didn’t have a new manuscript to enter.  I had a couple of old ones, good books, I believe, but probably needing some work, and I hadn’t looked at them in years.  I didn’t see anything to gain in entering either of my previous finalists, although that is permitted and some writers do it.  The book I had started was far too short to finish by the deadline (it still is).

That left Jinn & Tonic, a book I love, which had done well, but not quite well enough to make the final round, in (mumble mumble) previous Golden Heart contests.  Maybe, I thought, those first chapters could use a tweak here and there.  Well, of course they could.  I’m a writer.  And a rewriter.  I read these blog posts now and then and often find something to tweak.  Legend has it that Ernest Hemmingway used to track down his own published books in other people’s libraries and make corrections in the margins.

Giving Jinn & Tonic one more shot at the Golden Heart would also give me an excuse to bring it into sync with some of the world building I had done for Bathtub Jinn.  When I wrote Jinn & Tonic, I didn’t realize I might be starting a series, but the world of the jinn and their relatives expanded in the second book.

As I was considering my Golden Heart options (option, really), I was also dipping into Scrivener.  Why not jump in all the way, and use Jinn & Tonic as a practice piece, to see if the new software might make revising and editing easier?  So I imported the manuscript into Scrivener, set about tweaking, and in due time sent Jinn & Tonic off for one more shot at the Golden Heart.

Then I did my best to pretend it didn’t matter, even as I continued to polish the manuscript.  Why be greedy?  Why expect a manuscript that had not made the final round in (mumble mumble) attempts to grab the gold ring this time?  Who needed all that fuss, anyway?  I had a lot of work at the Scorekeeper, and for West Houston RWA.  I had manuscripts to judge for the Golden Heart in a category I don’t write.  I signed up for a Scrivener class with Gwen Hernandez.

And when announcement day came, last Tuesday, I stayed late at home, at my computer, just in case the phone rang.  I began to see emails announcing newly-notified finalists.  Early announcements.  Sisters from the Starcatchers and the Firebirds were finalists, and a friend, Lark Howard, from West Houston RWA.  By 8:30 I was thinking I should probably get out the door and off to work.

At 8:33 the phone rang.  As I picked it up I recognized the name of an RWA board member on the Caller ID.  I knew what it was, I had waited for the call, and I was just as thrilled as I was in 2011 and 2012.  Just as happy, just as dazed.  But this time, the third time, I was pretty sure it wasn’t a mistake.  After I saw the list on line, anyway.  (And HERE it is.)  A few minutes after the phone call, a friend on the RWA board sent me a one-line email: “So, how’s your day going?”

A week before the announcements I had dinner with friends before the monthly Houston Bay Area RWA meeting.  Cheryl Bolen said, perhaps a bit rashly, “If you get a call next Tuesday, I’ll go to Atlanta with you.”  Turns out she was serious.  Now we’re both registered for the RWA National Conference in Atlanta in July, and we have a hotel room reserved.  I’ve had a new picture taken.  I’m finishing my edits so I can pull Jinn & Tonic out of Scrivener (and yes, it is easier to edit with Scrivener than Word, but compiling the manuscript may be an adventure).

I have forty new sisters, my fellow 2013 Golden Heart finalists.

RWA 2013, here we come!

 

Weekend With Writers

I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting my blog lately.  We’ve been very busy at the Scorekeeper, and I’ve been judging Golden Heart entries and keeping up with Gwen Hernandez’ excellent Scrivener class.  I don’t seem to have much time or energy left over.

I didn’t catch up on much this weekend–my grocery shopping and laundry remain undone, I’m behind on email and the rest of my Internet activity–because Jo Anne and I drove to Shreveport on Friday to attend the NOLA Stars RWA chapter’s Written in the Stars Conference.  We went because Jo Anne’s manuscript was a finalist in their annual Suzannah contest, and because we have friends in the Shreveport chapter.  RWA is a close-knit world.

The weather was beautiful, cool and sunny, and the roads were clear.  The only problem we had with the trip to Shreveport came when we got off Interstate 20 on the west side of the city to discover that Google maps is behind on updating street names.  The left turn on our driving instructions simply didn’t exist.  We had to call the hotel to ask for directions.  “What can you see?” the desk clerk asked.  “Wendy’s on the right and an Exxon station on the left,” I replied.  “Turn left at the Exxon station and keep driving until you see our sign,” she said, and that worked just fine.

The conference opened Friday evening with a panel of editors and one agent, a Q&A session on industry trends, the editors’ individual interests, and some funny (and valuable) advice on what doesn’t work for them.  Electronic publishing, whether through an established New York publisher, a smaller/newer press, or done independently on line continues to be a topic of major interest to both writers and editors.  After the panel, the members of the North Louisiana chapter really outdid themselves with a buffet supper, featuring local recipes from their own kitchens.  The crawfish pasta was to die for.

Saturday was a mix of workshops, editor/agent appointments, and visiting with fellow writers.  I missed some workshops I would have loved to see because of appointments, but I did enjoy Sarah Hamer’s presentation, “Intimacy: Not Just Sex,” Liliana Hart on “The Indie Revolution,” and the full-time hard work that has gone into her publishing success, Liz Talley on “New Twists on Old Plots,” and Christa Allan on social media (more on that topic another evening).

One of the best aspects of an intimate writers’ conference like this one is the opportunity to see old friends and make new ones.  The conference attracted writers, most but not all of them women, from Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, as well as Louisiana.  I was delighted to find fellow Firebird Pamela Kopfler there–she and a friend drove up from New Orleans via a computer generated route she described as “the theme from Deliverance played Zydeco style.”   A charming expatriate Englishwoman named Mavis, who decided it was time to write a novel when she turned 80, wasn’t the only lady there who reminded me that it’s never too late to try something new.

I also met the wonderfully witty Barbara Vey, an out-spoken and often hilarious lover of books in general and romance in particular, who blogs on the Publisher’s Weekly site.  I had a ball visiting with her, and I’ll be following her blog, Beyond Her Book.

It was about 40 degrees in when we left Shreveport at 11 AM this morning, and about 70 when we rolled into Houston this afternoon.  This is Texas: if you don’t like the weather, wait an hour or drive fifty miles.  It was a lovely day and a fun road trip (especially the stop at the Catfish King restaurant in Livingston), but now I have Friday’s Scrivener lesson to do so I don’t fall behind, and one more contest entry to judge.  I stopped for milk and produce (and one more box of Girl Scout cookies–those little sales women are hard to resist) on the way home, but there’s no telling when the laundry will get done.

 

Another Winner from Diane Kelly

And another roller coaster ride for Tara Hollway, Diane’s feisty IRS Special Agent heroine.  Well, not an actual roller coaster, but in Death, Taxes and Extra-Hold Hairspray, Tara does manage to stay on one of those Urban Cowboy bull rides for the full eight seconds–all in the line of duty, of course. This time she’s in hot pursuit of a televangelist who says his church doesn’t owe taxes to the IRS, a secessionist who claims his Lone Star Nation doesn’t owe anything to anybody, and a beehive wig for Lu, who is losing her famous updo to chemotherapy. The minister’s flock pursues Tara with email, the secessionists pursue her with hand-written, poorly-spelled legal threats, and hunky Special Agent Nick Pratt just pursues her.  And that’s Tara’s biggest problem–should she stay loyal to boyfriend Brett (out of town on a landscaping job) or give in to her crush on Nick?

I’m looking forward to Tara’s next adventure, Death, Taxes, and Peach Sangria (due out next January 29), and in the meantime I have Death, Taxes, and a Sequined Clutch, a Tara Holloway novella, waiting on my Kindle.

Meanwhile, I’ve been combined revising a manuscript with exploring Scrivener.  So far I’ve transferred the manuscript to Scrivener, breaking it into chapters and scenes (the Windows version, unlike Mac, does not do that automatically–yet–but it only took about an hour to do it by hand), and marked up the scenes with POV, location, time, and a few notes on what needs to be changed.  Scrivener makes it a lot easier to visualize all of these elements and follow them through the manuscript.  I’m definitely a fan, and I’ve written up my inital impressions in Falling for Scrivener.

If you find punctuation amusing (I do realize that not everyone does), you may enjoy my other recently-added article, The Care and Feeding of the Elusive Semicolon.  The comparison between punctuation and wildlife, endangered or not, may not be as farfetched as it sounds.  I swear sometimes the little devils go skittering off on their own.  It can’t just be my deteriorating typing skills, can it?

I’m looking forward to a shortened work week and a Thanksgiving buffet with friends–no cooking, no clean up, and no football.  I wish you the happiest of Thanksgiving celebrations.

 

Hey, Where Did My Word Count Go?

I’ve been exploring Scrivener as much as actually writing in it over the last couple of weeks, and sometimes I find myself floundering around without the slightest idea of where I am or how I got there.  The other night I was playing with the cork board view, trying to see if I could get more than one chapter’s worth of synopsis cards on the board at once.  At this point I only have two chapters, covering five and a half scenes and three additional cards, in my Scrivener project, but that’s a start.

After some thrashing around, clicking here and there, and, I think, linking documents together, I got all the cards in view, moved a couple of them just to see that I could, and put them all back in their original order.  Then I went on to some other task, leaving Scrivener reduced to an icon on the bar.

When I opened the file the next evening, I was horrified to see that my Project Targets widget showed no words at all on the Manuscript Target bar (the target, 80,000 words, was still there).  Where did they go?  I knew there were nearly 6,000 words in those five and a half scenes.   I knew I hadn’t deleted anything, but I clicked on various documents to be sure, and of course they were all there.  But where was my word count?

I couldn’t find an answer in the tutorial, or the manual, or even in Scrivener for Dummies.  Apparently I’d done something so silly that no one had bothered to explain it.  I moved a few things around, managed to create a couple of empty chapter-level folders, and–oh, dear–now a couple of my scenes were missing, too.

Misplaced, I told myself.  Not gone, you’ve just misplaced them.

I looked at the tutorial again–an excellent resource–and paid particular attention to how the documents were arranged in the binder.  That’s when I realized what I had done, probably while fooling around with the cork board–I’d bumped all the documents up a level or two, so that they were no longer inside the Manuscript folder.  The “Move To” pop-up menu worked better than Drag-and-Drop for this, and once I had everything back in place, neatly lined up within the Manuscript folder, my word count reappeared and all was right with the file.

There’s a lot to explore in Scrivener, and I’ve barely scratched the surface.  But I’m already hooked.  In fact, I’m thinking of importing an entire manuscript into Scrivener.  I think it will be a lot easier to revise it in Scrivener than in Word.

Reading, Writing and Watching

Reading:  If you stop by here from time to time, you’ve probably heard me complain about my lack of reading time.  Nothing’s changed.  I still buy books faster than I can read them.  But I keep at it, and recently I finished reading Lowcountry Boil, a delightful mystery by my friend and Firebird sister Susan M. Boyer.  The heroine, Liz Talbot, is a very modern P.I. who returns to her family home on South Carolina island Stella Maris to invesitgate her grandmother’s untimely death.  Her pursuit of the truth is complicated by a parade of family members and friends, an ex-flame and an ex-husband, a devious cousin and the ghost of Liz’s high school BFF.  It’s no surprise that this Golden Heart finalist made it to publication so quickly.  I recommend it enthusiastically.

Lowcountry Boil introduced me to Henery Press, a new publisher in Dallas, specializing in mystery and suspense fiction, much of it in the cozy/humorous vein I enjoy.  On Susan’s recommendation, I ordered another book, Portrait of a Dead Guy by Larissa Reinhart, which was a finalist in my own West Houston RWA chapter’s Emily contest last year.  That one’s waiting at the top of my priority To Be Read stack.  And isn’t the cover art on these books wonderful?  Stop by the Henery Press site to see more; the books are available as e-books or trade paperbacks.

Writing:  My One Hundred Words a Day loop is jumping again, with quite a few of us back on track, and even trying for 250 words a day.  I’m hard at work on my new Jinn story, and I’ve fired up my enthusiasm with a new piece of software for witers, Scrivener.  I had pangs of envy when Scrivener was a Mac only program, but a few months ago the Windows version was released, so I decided to try it out with a manuscript that was barely started, and therefore easily switched into a new file.  I had files relating to Bathtub Jinn in Word, Action Outline, Excel, and OneNote; Scrivener stores everything, including research, pictures, note cards, an outline, and no doubt things I haven’t discovered yet in one file.  It’s a large, complex program, so I did what I normally do:  I bought books.  Two of them, in fact (although Scrivener does come with a very good tutorial and a pdf manual), Writing a Novel with Scrivener by David Hewson and Scrivener for Dummies by Gwen Hernandez.  I’m just getting started with Scrivener, but so far I’m very impressed.  You can try it before you buy it, and it only costs $40.  (What would I have given for a program like this when I was in grad school?   I couldn’t have imagined it.  When I was in grad school computers were programmed with punch cards, and I wrote all my papers with index cards and carbon paper on a portable electric Smith-Corona typewriter.)

Watching:  I’ve tried to get excited about Revolution, I really have.  I love the premise.  I’m a sucker for abandoned amusement parks and disintegrating freeways.  Rebuilding civilization–or sliding back into the dark ages–has always been a favorite theme.  But I find myself watching the show on DVR or On Demand, when I get around to it.  When it’s actually on, I’m watching Castle.  I think, once again, that it boils down to characters.  As much as I like the premise of the show, the characters haven’t grabbed me and refused to let go.  But this week’s episode is on again Saturday evening, and I’ll give it at least one more shot then.

This evening I’ve been watching/listening to a show I recently discovered on the Travel Channel: Mysteries at the Museum.  Very enjoyable for a history/artifact buff like me.  I’ve started watching the schedule and recording episodes.  One of these days I’m going to find the beginning of a good story on that show.

 

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