Peacocks and Happy Ever Afters

Just looked out the back door in the dark to check on the peacocks, and in the distance their pen has the glow of a thousand candles. Funny how light in the night has such a different feel to it.

That glow is a little muted by the construction sheeting stapled around the pen, but the heat lamps Hubby put in to keep our birds frost-free are throwing off an impressive warmth. Those birds will appreciate it tonight for sure. Hubby even made sure their perches were still wide and flat. Turns out peacocks are prone to frost bite, and it’s better to use a flat 2X4 plank for a perch so their feet stay flat and their bodies fully cover them as they settle on the roost. Better insulation that way. If they curl their very long toes around round perches, the exposed ends freeze and, well . . . gangrenous toes don’t do well.

Got to thinking (I know, scary) and found an odd correlation. Writing is a bit like that cold-wrapped peacock pen. Like construction mishmash, you set unrelated things in place one at a time to create a particular result. You sheath the pen in careful layers to block out the winds the way you layer elements in a story to shield and strengthen the story line. You set staples at critical points to secure it tightly against the frame, much the way you use key incidents and dialogue to ensure your reader stays with you. You add heat lamps to create comfort in a hostile atmosphere, the same way you add pieces of written illumination to your characters’ surroundings.

But you can’t just toss those lamps in or haphazardly prop them up on something. Too far away from the roost and they aren’t effective, much like a vague plot provides no interest. Too close, and they become a danger. A haphazardly built story runs the risk of it collapsing under the weight of too much confusion. So like the positioning of those little heat lamps is critical, you think and plan where to use your high points and black moments for best effect. Test your reasoning and make adjustments. You have to secure those lamps to something solid so they won’t fall if bumped or jostled. The same goes for your story; your research has to stand up to scrutiny, your time and plot lines solid. Each scene has to serve a purpose, with every scene ending securely locked with the next opening one, or things collapse around your characters and they become lost in a sea of broken pieces.

But without a power supply those lamps won’t shine. All your efforts for naught.

The power supply is imagination. Your muse. That driving demand that a story be told. And like that supply source, it runs in a straight line to its conclusion, insulated against outside elements.

I sat here shaking my head just now, wondering how on earth I got off on a tangent comparing peacock survival to writing. Then it hit me.

Those peacocks are the characters of any story told. If you write strong characters – and by strong I don’t mean just alpha males or kick-ass females – I mean characters that connect deeply with readers on an elemental level. Characters that face the same emotional dilemmas as the rest of the world and find ways to overcome them, characters that hurt yet continue on despite that pain, characters that face crises or impossible odds yet keep going one step at a time. As long as you create believable characters you can modify their setting and maintain a habitable atmosphere, like we did with that peacock pen, and those characters will carry on.

It seems like a lot of work just to take care of a few birds.

But then they fan, catching you off guard with the unexpected display. You can’t help but stare, awed, your senses so involved in the moment everything else drops away. You’re lost in time, entranced by all that shimmering iridescence and the sheer volume of rare beauty. It’s the same feeling you get when all those different writing elements, diligent application of technique, and determined sticking to the building blocks of good writing culminate in that perfect sentence, phrase, scene or chapter. That HEA or HFN ending is when your story fans its tail. Those few moments when everything is right and equitable in the written world and that feeling transfers to the reader.

That’s when you’re glad you went to all the effort.

That light in the darkness is the one you feel in your soul, because it does glow like a thousand candles.

Keep writing, and don’t forget Silken Sands Writers Conference is only a little over two months away! If you haven’t registered yet, you need to do so. Check out the workshops lined up, and see which agents and editors will be in attendance Sign up for pitch sessions to present your work one-on-one to them. I’ve included the link to make it easier.


Silken Sands Writers Conference
March 16-18, 2012
Pensacola Beach, Florida



Visit Runere at  Friend her on Facebook at Runere McLain  Follow her on Twitter@RunereMcLain

The Lure of Old Cemeteries

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If you know me, you would know, I’m a scary cat when it comes to watching horror movies. At the same time. I have this passion for paranormal, witches, voodoo, and old cemeteries. The old ones are my favorite, aged, and covered with moss, and some defaced from weather, and climate.

When I visit an old cemetery I love the old crypts, or graves. Love to see their names and wonder  what their life was like when they were alive. A defaced and broken crypt is ideal for a scene in any paranormal story which might include a vampire, goul, ghost, or whatever your fantasy might take a writer.

So with this in mind, here are some great pictures of some crypts located somewhere in the deep south. Let your mind wonder, and your imagination run wild, and free.

Dealing with Disappointments as an Author

Dealing with Disappointments as an Author

Every day in real life we are all faced with some sort of disappointment or challenge. In our writing lives this isn’t much different. Sometimes we hit the send button on a query letter thinking this is it, this query will be the one. Only a few days later disappointment fills us. I wish I could say that disappointment ends once you get that contract we all strive to get as writers.

As a reader I never imagined that writers go through so many ups and downs with bottomless pits filled with disappointment. But now, I have to say those damn pits suck!

Once I got my contract for my first novella I wondered if I’d be done dealing with the ups and downs and everything in between.  What I’ve found is that the bar of expectations is raised and now disappointments feel harsher.

On a whole I enjoy the writing process but there are times that I wonder what publishers are thinking. Sometimes it feels like you’re a cow being prodded through the chutes to slaughter. Right now everywhere I turn there seems to be a lot of negatives out there about the writing industry. I know for me, that I’m not as happy as I once was with the editing process and having no options at all when it comes to covers. From what I hear through the grapevine I’m not the only writer feeling this way.

Dealing with these feelings is so hard. I want to rant and rave about everything I’ve heard and seen lately but that’s not the thing to do. Even though we are mostly all grownups in the writing industry feelings get hurt easily. Words can be said in the heat of an argument that you can’t take back and then you may be “labeled” for the rest of your writing career.

Whenever I’m feeling disappointed and angry about writing I put those emotions into my characters. Maybe there is something that they are discontented about, maybe they can rant and rave for me.  So today while I’m writing I will be releasing pent up frustration and hopefully letting my characters grow.

How do you deal with the disappointments in writing or life?

Thanks all


Closed for the Holidays

All right, so I’m not a scorge or anything, in fact I love Christmas but I hate it when places close early for the holidays. Mainly I hate it that agents, editors, and publishing houses close like a week in advance for the holiday season. Hey! I’m still writing here and waiting! All right, so I understand that they don’t want to start new material before they are closed for a few days. But this brings up a point to me. What is the proper amount of time to wait to her from a publisher?

At our monthly GCCRWA meeting this subject was brought up by a young lady who was waiting to hear back from an editor that she pitched to in March. Now, I pitched to the same editor and sent my material right then to her. I heard back from her on a short story in mid September. Two days ago I received an email from the same editor apologizing for her delay in getting my material back to me. I was like “What are you talking about?” turns out I’d sent her another story in September and she was sending me a “please submit more material but we pass on this ms.” rejection. So for this editor the first time frame from submission to rejection was about five months. The second time was about three months. I like how her time frame is going down.

And just this past week I received a letter in the mail from an agent that I’ve queried many, many, many times. I hadn’t remembered I’d sent her anything either. Which I had sent her the partial back in August. She apologized for the delay, saying that it had gotten lost on her desk. I’ve seen the work load this agent has and completely understand. Again this was a rejection but the personal hand written note was very appreciated. Her time frame:about four months.

Now for another editor, I sent a story to one editor after nationals in July. I emailed said editor to ask if she would like the partial via email or mail. This editor is in Canada so I figured she’d want to do email. NOPE. And she warned me that with taking over her new position that she was swamped and I wouldn’t hear back from her until December. Thats six months! Oh well. But its December and they are closed for the holidays and still no word from her.

I hate emailing agents and editors to ask if they’ve read my material yet. I feel like its tacky and makes me look needy. But at the same time if their website says that an author will hear back from them in three months shouldn’t I go with that and expect them to also? I just don’t know. What would you do? Would you begin emailing away at three months or let it ride and see when you receive answers?

Ok, enough scorgey talk lets get to Holiday Giveaway Part 3!

On Rachel Firasek’s blog author Daryn Cross is giving away a free ebook.

Author J Rose has model Jason Aaron Baca on her site, no giveaway but its a model and a playgirl guy!!!

Author Terry Spear’s is at star-Crossed Romance today giving away two copies of her new book Wolf Fever! Yeah I’ll be stopping by to comment and hopefully win one!

All Romance Ebooks has a copy of Hero by Cheryl Brooks for free!

Thanks everyone! Happy Holidays! I’m officially CLOSED 🙂 Bawhahaha!!

Patience Smith, Editor, Harlequin Romantic Suspense

SFCATTY: I had the awesome assignment on this blog of seven women to interview Patience Smith. I was so glad that this particular guest was assigned to me. She was one of the editors taking pitches at the Silken Sands Conference at Pensacola Beach in March of this year. I had the privilege of meeting her then and I also pitched a romantic suspense to her.  She was utterly charming and I liked her a lot. She ultimately rejected my manuscipt but her rejection letter made my heart soar. I know that sounds weird but she was so kind and gave me advice in that letter that I have implemented. That she took the time to encourage me was special. I still hope to work with her someday but even if that never happens, I like her as a person and I really respect her work.  She has some great news to share with us at the end of her interview here. Welcome, Patience.

SFCatty: How did you get started as an editor?

PATIENCE SMITH:  I taught high school French for six years, loved the kids and my colleagues, but realized that it wasn’t my “calling.” I admire teachers so much and knew I couldn’t stay the course for another thirty years. Because I have always been a bookworm and critic, I thought publishing would be perfect. I was right!

SFCatty:  I can totally see you as a French teacher, but did you ever have another career in mind?

PATIENCE SMITH:  Several. Up until college, I’d wanted to be an actress. Then I aspired to be the next Virginia Woolf, then a junior copywriter at an advertising firm, a short period where I loved being a secretary, then a teacher and now an editor. The editing has stuck for thirteen years.

SFCatty: I bet you like Broadway shows since you live in New York and wanted to be an actress, but much as I would want to chat with you about that, our readers would probably want me to ask this instead: What’s it like to be an editor at such a large, diverse company?

PATIENCE SMITH:  This may sound corny but it doesn’t feel like a large company. There is a lot of camaraderie between the offices. We do a fair amount of video-conferencing and visiting to enhance communication. In New York, we are all living on top of each other so I may talk to a nonfiction editor as easily as I would someone in my department. It’s a cozy place, actually.

SFCatty: Describle  for us a typical day in the life of Patience Smith.

PATIENCE SMITH:  I get to work at 8:30, read until about 9:30 and do my first walk around the office to drop off proposals/forms/mail. My editorial assistant Shana usually stops by around 10:30 to chat and go over what’s due. After that, I’ll check email, go to meetings and then the gym during my lunch hour. In the afternoon, I will edit, return phone calls, and try not to run downstairs to Starbucks for a snack. At 4:30, I pack up, taking a proposal or two home.

SFCatty: How many people at Harlequin are involved in the manuscripts you choose to buy?

PATIENCE SMITH:  It really depends on each project or author. Usually, when more books are involved per contract, my manager and possibly her manager will get involved. Sometimes, I make the decision myself but discuss it with my manager.

SFCatty:  Do you have committee meetings to determine offers to purchase?

PATIENCE SMITH:  Not for the series books, or at least, not with SRS. It’s more a decision between—at most—four people: the editor, me, two other managers.

SFCatty:  Describe the process of what happens when a manuscipt comes in to your office. Where does it go, how long does it take to wend through the process of selection or rejection?

PATIENCE SMITH:  When I get a manuscript, it goes on my shelf or to Shana. I tend to read projects very quickly so I will reach a decision within two months.

SFCatty:  How involved are you in the editing process once you have bought a manuscript?

PATIENCE SMITH:  Very involved. If it’s one of my authors, I will usually edit the book or, if I’m socked with too many projects, Shana will wrest one from my hands. There are few people I’d trust with my authors, but she is definitely one of them and is looking to build her own author base. If the author belongs to another editor, I don’t see it beyond the contract phase until it’s published.

SFCatty:  Tell us three fun, unique facts about you.

PATIENCE SMITH:  I did calligraphy professionally for 15 years.

I love anything Julia Roberts.

I am getting married next January!

SFCatty: That’s awesome news on your wedding, Patience. Congratulations on that. I’m sure  it’ll be a beautiful ceremony. We all wish you the best for the future.  Thanks for being with us today. Great  interview- lots of great information. We appreciate it and hope you’ll come back and visit again.

The fantabulous Danica Avet

SFCatty: Danica Avet was one of our first commenters on this blog.  We all love her and Sayde and I had the chance to meet her in person at RWA National – She is as awesome in person as she is on the net- her blog posts are always funny and I enjoy her tweets as well.  She’ll try to tell you she’s shy but she’ll be fibbing.  This girl is a crazy Louisiana chica and her favorite bar in New Orleans is owned by my client/friend.  We found that out at National as well. Any straight chick that likes to hang at a gay bar on Bourbon Street is totally NOT shy!   Welcome Danica. We’re glad you’re here!

Danica Avet:

Limbo Rock or the Agent Shuffle

I’ve chewed on this post ever since I was asked to be a guest blogger for the Sizzlers. My first thought was: Moi? Truly, truly? My second thought was: What the hell am I going to talk about? I mean really. I’m just one of many unpublished authors scrabbling for publication. I don’t have any great insight into the writing industry. I’m not an expert in anything except for Fantasy Men, but since I was told “no frontal nudity” that took all the fun out it. Yes, I’m still pouting, ladies!

So I stewed. Then I read Brandi Hall’s post about Canceled Contracts and realized I do know something. I know how not to get screwed on the agent end of the publishing world. In May, I sent queries everywhere. I mean, I was ready. I was going to have an agent for Nationals because this book was great. I chose to go with my top level agencies first. My queries went out on a Thursday morning. Friday I had a request for a full from one of my dream agents. Monday morning I sent that manuscript out sprinkled with hopes, wishes, and some holy water. By Thursday, the agent called me back. ME! *swoon*

I was so nervous, so unbelievably excited that I just listened to her for half an hour. She loved my story, loved my characters, loved the world I’d built. She didn’t want to change a single thing. Stupefied? Why, yes I was! So when she said she wanted to start sending out proposals immediately, I was baffled. Should I do this? What to do? I asked her (rather hesitantly) if I could have the night to think about it. She said of course. I mean, she knows I’m overwhelmed and excited. So that’s what I did. I thought over it that night. I would say I slept on it, but that so did not happen. I was a nervous wreck. I asked everyone their advice. Do I take it? Oh the agony of deciding!

I called her back on Friday morning. I was going to do it. This was my break and I wasn’t going to be some couillon and pass it up! We did a verbal handshake and she said the contract would be ready on Tuesday. She wanted to send out feelers while we were waiting on the contract to be drawn up and I was like “cooool!”. I sent out e-mails to all of the other agents saying I had found representation. In the meantime, I wrote up a short synopsis for two more books so we could present them as a 3-book deal and sent them to her. She knew exactly who she was sending them to. Tuesday came and went and I didn’t hear from her. She shot me a quick e-mail later that week saying that seven out of the ten publishing houses she sent the proposal to wanted the full. SQUEE! It was really happening!

The contract still didn’t come in. I was waffling, something I try not to do. Do I call her to find out about the contract? Or do I just send her e-mails that sort of lead into the conversation? I settled on the latter. I didn’t hear back from her. Meanwhile, I have “real” life issues going on that distract me from the agent problem. The next time I look at the calendar, it’s been nearly a month since I heard back from her. What was going on? Where was my contract?

When I finally had enough, I got an e-mail from her. Thank God, right? No. She was no longer with her agency. She wished me luck, gave me the name of another agent at that agency if I wanted to stay with them, otherwise I had to look for representation somewhere else. Wh-What? Wait, what? Are you serious? She gave me a list of the editors who had my full manuscript and the others she’d queried for me. I sat staring at my computer like…huh? Now my process had to start all over again, but I was stuck. My manuscript is on the desk of several editors, but I have no agent. I’m an orphaned author! *cue the sad song*

I contacted the editors I could and started querying agents all over again. Except this time, no one wanted to touch me. I take a bath every day, y’all. Swear it. But it was like I had cooties. One of the agents, another one of my favorites, sent me a lovely rejection. She liked the story, but it needed work and she just wasn’t sure she’d have anyone to pitch it to since it was out there already. This became a recurring theme from the agents in the second round of querying. That’s the limbo part.

For a while, I went through the whole “this isn’t FAIR” stage. I might’ve even imagined running outside during a thunderstorm and screaming “nooooo” at the sky. Instead, I sat back and really thought about it. This isn’t actually a bad thing. My book and name is sitting in front of seven very important editors at right at this moment. (Unless it’s being used to prop up someone’s desk.) These are publishers who don’t take unsolicited work. That’s a good thing. Several of the agents who rejected me the second time around may remember me when I query them the next time, that’s another good thing. I now know not to do diddly-squat without that contract in my hand, which is yet another good thing.

So you see, even though the limbo bar fell on me and you know, knocked the breath out of me, I came away with well-learned lessons that will stay with me forever. I know I’ve said this before, but it’s so true: writing is a journey. Two writers can start at the exact same time, finish their manuscripts together, send them out together, but from there the road forks off in different directions. Everyone’s journey is different. Trials and tribulations seem to hang over some writers more than others, but learning from your mistakes and troubles, learning from your fellow writers’ mistakes or troubles, is what makes getting published possible. Stay positive no matter what comes your way. Be supportive of your fellow writer and accept support from them. Learn as much as you can from the agents and editors in your genre to better understand what they want.

And to borrow a phrase from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure: Be excellent to each other…and party on, Dudes! Congrats to the Sizzlers for their one year anniversary and thank you for letting me post! Love y’all!

 SFCatty: Thanks for coming by, D.  And just because Danica’s first comment on one of my posts was about  the nude sports team calendar I posted and because she sent me this picture as a joke, here is another team for your viewing enjoyment:

Tuesday’s Industry News: Agents, Editor, Author Friendships Are They Good or Bad

Hello all. I posted a tweet a few days ago asking questions about traditional print vs. digital publishing to gather information about todays post. However I’ve decided to change my post topic today. This past week I received two rejections on my latest paranormal suspense. One from an editor that I pitched to online and had a few emails back and forth with. I really like this editor and want her as mine! Lol, that’s not stalkerish is it?? The second rejection came from an editor that I liked immediately after meeting her. She was funny, blunt, and very knowledgable all things that I like.

So what happens when you form a relationship of some type with an editor/agent? Do you automatically expect to be published by said editor or contracted immediately by the agent? Well I certainly hope not because you will be in for a rude awakening. The publishing world is business and just because someone is your “friend” does not mean they owe you a publishing contract or agent contract. If they do offer you one out of friendship then you should not accept it. Why? Well lets see if I can put this delicately; do you really want an agent or editor that puts her/his friends first when some of his/her other friends may not write worth a shit? That puts you in a situation where not only that person looks bad, but so do you.

Even after getting an agent or editor this still does not change in my opinion. That agent or editor can be your friend of course but we want those people representing us to be honest, to put your work first not your feelings. This may seem harsh and unfair but honestly it’s for the best. Never take rejections personally and let them mess up a relationship you have formed, are forming or would like to form. Agents and editors are there to sell your work. It’s our responsibility as writers to make sure it’s the best it can be, and to understand that friends are just that, friends.

On a different note today I’d also like to let everyone know that my second short story in my “Cowgirl Tough” series has officially been offered a contract which I will sign this week. This story is the second love story in the series and contains all the characters from Riding Double ,the first story of my series. Thanks everyone.

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