Thursday, September 30, 2010

On the Road Again

Today my writing friend and I embark on another trip to Georgia for the GRWA Moonlight & Magnolias Conference. Once more we will plug in that idiot Tom Tom, listen to him tell where NOT to go, and look at a Mapquest Map with puzzled eyes. We will probably get lost and scare a few innocent drivers. But we will arrive in GA with our writing notebooks, our thinking caps, our brains (okay--maybe not our brains), our laptops, and our hopes.

I have packed the following:

*too many outfits and shoes
*the ridiculous binding foundation garments called Spanx (yeah, spank this!)
*sparkles and bling
*a corkscrew

My briefcase contains:

*wine (just kidding)
*my laptop
*three notebooks
*my pitch
*business cards
*chargers for my NOOK,  cell phone and laptop

My heart contains:

*my hopes
*my dreams
*my ambitions

I'll keep you posted about the trip. We will drive carefully. We will arrive. But I have no idea about Tom Tom. He's a mystery to me.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wednesday Whimsical Weirdness

I've been thinking a lot about theme and premise and voice and ... and... connectivity of my writing to whoever is there who might publish me.

Voice. I have one. Or so I have been told. But is my voice the "right voice?" Who knows. At times it is. At times it isn't. But if there is one thing I've learned this year as a writer it is that I have a voice that is unchangeable despite my years of developing craft.

In a way, I wonder if that is good or not. But it is what it is. I have a passion for certain things and for life and for virtues. I have a weird duality in my voice. Why? Oh, I  know why. I need to marry my natural inclination to cover pain with humor in real life with my writing. That's HARD. Very hard. And I know some people who may think what? She has pain? How? She has it all. And that is also hard. For just as my heroines, I know exactly what they hide. If they were to reveal it all. The depth would be too much to convey.

But then I laugh. Ha. What the heck is my Vietnam? It's nothing compared to the real heroes. The real heroines. Who the heck am I to complain? What is it that I have to gripe about? I couldn't possibly have any real pain. But then ha. What does anyone know? Really? Not much unless they have been privy to the true, non-funny, oh-shit-this-sucks-side-of-life of me. (note: I have used hyphens and probably used them incorrectly. Don't judge me). And then that is what permeates my characters. It is part of them. I can't help it. It is what it is. Hence the duality of my writing. How can I make that duality connect? I don't know. I will continue to try.

So I know my premise. Two lost souls find each other and discover home. Can't change that. But what is really weird is the bizarre connectivity I find between all my manuscripts. I find boxes. Lots of boxes. My people are always in transition, moving, clearing out the past, making room for the present. I find secrets. I know. I have them. I don't share them easily. Or willingly. There are few who know my secrets. And I have moved a lot. I have often said I have written two stories while sitting in a box.

I find hospitals. I find this odd. I do remember these odd times in my life. I fell. When I was four. Hit my head hard. Bled. Got stitches. The experience was overwhelmingly scary to me. I had doctors with masks, no parents, a tarp over my head. I was alone. I also remember surgery. On my knee. I remember the nurse waving the baggie with the needle they'd extracted from my knee in front of my face. Ha ha. So funny to her. But again. I was alone. I remember a miscarriage, the surgery. Again I was alone. I guess I see hospitals as metaphors of my own loneliness. They invade my writing.

I find betrayal. On all levels. I find deep seated anger. I find people who are supposed to love that go out of their way to hurt. But the people they hurt grow up to be funny, to laugh, to cover their sadness and angst with tough stuff. I also find quirky people. Misfits. People who don't fit the norm. Wow, what a shock. I find people who yearn for connection, for love, for home.

I find my premise again and again.

Two lost souls find each other and discover home. That is the depth of me. But at the same time these people cover their loneliness and fear with humor and anger and hope and false bravado. If that is not going to "connect" with an agent or an editor -- well I guess I am cooked. But at least I am honest.

Donald Maass said to be true to who you are as a writer. Then I will be true to my audience. I have mined the depths of my soul for my writing. I have opened up veins for my story. I have tried to show the complexity of being a funny, brash, fierce person with heart. I have no idea how she/he resonates with the reader.

I only know I am doing the best I can to honor the gift within me.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Public Lessons

Ah, the Mills & Boon New Voices competition is over and no, I am not a finalist in the Top Ten. But I feel like a winner just the same. Why? Because I put myself out there and no one came out and said,
"Yuck, your writing stinks and you should take up knitting." Yay! I also got some fabulous feedback from non-writers who had never read my work, but who knew me as just their neighbor or their friend. For many of them, this was the first time they'd read anything I had written.

The best thing I heard? "I can't stop thinking about the characters. I can't get them out of my head."

Mission accomplished.

I learned that while my story might not be the story the M&B editors and judges wanted to move forward, that my characters resonated with my readers (at least the ones who stopped by to comment or to talk to me in person). I'm glad. I am heading in the right direction. If I can create characters that jump off the page then it is only a matter of connecting them to the story that resonates with an editor and/or an agent. Both, really.

Other lessons learned by entering this competition?

*I can put  my work out there and the sky won't fall on my head.
*I can juggle multiple projects at a time.
*I can put my name out there and promote my work.
*I can be encouraging to strangers who have the same dream.
*RWA and all the local chapters I belong to are golden in their ongoing professional support.
*My critique partners and writing friends rock in their support.
*I am not alone and many of the writers who did post their work do not have my kind of support.
*I have control over three aspects of writing: writing my stories, querying, & learning craft.
*I can write and revise very fast when the pressure is on.
*I can balance the various aspects of the writing business based on my appetizer of the experience.

I am glad I entered this competition. I will continue to pursue publication through all the avenues available to me in this business. I can't control WHEN I will connect all the dots and the stars align, but I can believe in the power of my dream.

Thanks to everyone who supported me. Be sure to check out the web site for the Top Ten. Read them. Have fun. I'll post the winner here when she/he is announced!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Balancing Writing with Promotion

I've had a bit of a taste about what it will be like when I become published. After entering the Mills & Boon New Voices competition with HER PRISONER OF LOVE, I learned that the rankings DO matter if there is a tie. The person with the most "votes" wins the tie. I had a feeling this would be the case because being able to promote yourself, get your name out there, is important in the publishing world. If I can't get people to come to look at my book, then I won't sell any books.

Confession: I am not the type who can sell products like home based sales for makeup, jewelry or cooking implements. I don't want people to think I am contacting them ONLY because I want to sign them up for a sale.

I had to get over that mentality rather quickly after I posted my FIRST CHAPTER. The votes will matter, might matter in the M&B contest. I had to show the people there that I could generate some interest in my entry. So I stepped out onto the ledge and leapt into the self-promotion world.

I have a large network, but not a HUGE one. First I emailed friends who aren't writers with my link. A few of them came to vote. Yay. I posted the link onto Facebook a few times. A few more votes. I finally asked if I could put my link on my writing chapter's local social online loops. They said yes. I posted the link and asked for support. A few more votes. I posted it on my GIAM loop. I posted it on this blog. I linked this blog to my Twitter account, my FB account. I direct messaged people on my FB friend list again with the link to my chapter.

Confession: All this makes me very uncomfortable, but I have to step beyond my comfort zone. When I get published, I need to utilize every tool I have at  my disposal to promote my writing.

Well, all this is well and good. But it is eating into my writing time. This is not good. I have to find the balance and spend time doing both. Instead, I am becoming obsessed with the checking the site for votes. There is a gal with over 300 votes on it. I do not have 300 votes. I don't even  have a 100 votes. I have less than 40 votes. But I am in the top 100 in the rankings. I don't know if that means anything. Probably not. But that's okay. I am trying.

But I also need to walk away from the contest, the self-promotion, and the discussion to write. This is a good lesson for me. How will I balance my days in the future. How will I juggle all the responsibilities. My good writing friend, Amy Atwell, recently went from unpubbed to pubbed with her book LYING EYES/Carina Press. She's the best and on her way to a fabulous, well-deserved and hard won publishing career. She's juggling far more than I am, yet she's managing to get it all done. I will have to sit down with her at the Moonlight and Magnolia's Conference to ask about her day and how she schedules her life.

I have determined that the best way for me to write is to write first.

Confession: This is easier said than done. I work at a computer where there is easy access to the Internet. Oh, how tempting it is to check the competition site, to post a comment, to encourage someone to continue their writing journey, to ... oh oh....

So what have I done this morning? Did I write first after my darling Dowager Feline Clancy meowed and woke me up at 4:30AM to feed her and give her love time? Nope. I sat at this computer and FB messaged all my friends and asked them to come rank me. I replied to the social loops regarding my entry. I checked the Mills & Boon website and saw I had two more votes. Thanks! I blogged about my balancing act. I couldn't get my head into the pages.

But I will. I have my set of pages printed to read through and hard copy edit. Then I am taking my computer OFF LINE for two hours and beginning my edits on the file. Today is a bit chopped up, but that's okay. I am in a new territory. I am feeling my way around and learning about this world through a fun competition.

I am learning how important it will be to find the balance BEFORE I become an AFTER when I get the CALL.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wednesday Whimsical Weirdness on Thursday

Yesterday I didn't post my Wednesday Whimsical Weirdness entry because I blogged about the Mills and Boon New Voices competition. You can read about my entry in yesterday's blog and if you want to, go have fun and rank me. If you read my interview with Michael last week, you'll know that I am a character driven writer. Whenever I try to impose MY ideas about plot onto my characters, they rebel and the story goes into the wrong direction. I've learned this the hard way. After the third plot revision in my current mangled mess, I realized I had to pin my characters down and interview them. Their story was a lot different than my story. I believe I have a much richer story now because of those interviews.

But I haven't forgotten my blog sphere peeps. I'm playing around with vignettes and interviews as they come to me for this one. I'm not trying to impose any order of events on this blog story. I'm writing it to  to stretch my writing brain and get my creative juices flowing without any real structure. I'm playing with my writing.

Playing is good. I want to talk to Delainey's Aunt Nancy before she loses her memory. But Delainey has been pestering me, so I'll sit under the tree with her and chat.

Hi Delainey--I'm sorry I haven't spoken with you before.
That's okay, I'm used to being last.
Well I didn't want to put you last. You have something to tell me about Michael?
Yes. I miss him a lot. And I'm scared.
Why are you scared? I'm scared he won't come home. I'm scared I won't have anyone after Daddy dies.
I know. How do you think you'll cope after your dad dies? I can see you know how to cook, clean, take care of the house.
Yes, I went to school. I got my diploma. I can write. I can read. But I'm slower. That's all. I really want a job, but daddy won't let me get one.
why not?
He thinks I'll get used the wrong way. I don't think so. I don't need a fancy job. I just want to work at Dawson's grocery store and help put things away.
You mean stock the shelves? Why not be a cashier?
I could be a cashier, too.
Delainey you've got the prettiest smile when you're happy.
Thank you.
Do you have any friends?
I used to when I wen to school, but now everyone's gone away or they're married with babies. I wish I could have a baby.
I'm sorry Delainey. I wish you could, too.
Mommy and Daddy said it wasn't a good idea. Cause the baby could be like me. They love me, but they worried about me being able to take care of a baby.
So are you on birth control?
I had an operation that stops the babies.
you look mad.
I am mad. I'm going to be alone because I'm different.
Everyone is different Delainey. Some people can hide it easier, but you've got to find a way to connect with people. Why didn't your dad want you to go to the group home when you turned 18? After you graduated?
He didn't want me to leave. It wasn't a good time. Michael thought I should go. When he was still here he talked to his high school counselor about it. he told me about the place. but then he had a fight with daddy and Michael went away to college. They fought about it all the time. I hate it when people fight. I told them I didn't want to go. I did. But I didn't want any fighting. I stopped them from fighting. But Michael didn't come home after he joined the marines. At least not very much.
It's not too late to look into it. Can't you ask your aunt nancy to contact the social services? get you into some community programs? There are a lot of programs out there that could help you become even more independent.
I want to, but I don't want to hurt my daddy's feelings. not now. i want michael to come home. aunt nancy's not doing so well. you saw what she did at the stove the other day. she's starting to forget a lot of things. she thinks she can hide it from me. but i know what is going on.
tell you what delainey, i'll research programs for you. i'll find out what is available for adults who are slower. and i'll find someone who can help you.
yay--that makes me happy.
Gosh Delainey, that is the best hug i've had in a long time.
And you put my smile back on my face.
I'm glad to see it.
so what do yo do for fun. do you have any pets?
I have a cat named (can't think of a name right now) it was michael's cat. she's getting pretty old though. i don't think she's going to live much longer.
oh delainey i'm sorry. i have an old cat, too. and she's not in the best of health. i've cried more tears over that cat. she's a member of our family.
so is *name*
what will you do when she goes to heaven?
i'll cry. i need michael to come home. i'm going to write him a letter. he has to come home.
you know what delainey. i bet when i start doing some research about the programs, i'll find someone who will help you get in touch with michael.
will she be pretty?
oh yes. she'll be pretty. and she'll be perfect for michael.
i can't wait to meet her.
neither can i delainey.
delainey, this is tender subject. i want find out more about it because i used to have a friend who was slower, a long long time ago. and i don't want write or do anything that would hurt you or people like you. i want to do you justice.
i'd like that. i appreciate that.
well your vignette came to me first. so you're the priority. you're the reason i'm writing this story.
yes. *hug*

I like Delainey, but the subject is tricky. I will do the research off-blog. I'm positive Michael's match is going to pop out of this research. And she'll be one feisty, fierce and powerful woman.

So off-blog, I will research special education, Downs syndrome, group homes, counselors and how programs are run and by whom. I still don't exactly know where everyone lives (setting is not important to me--so I often layer it in after I have story and character--it is *weak* point for me), or what the laws are. There might be a hospice nurse who is worried, and if Michael's dad is a veteran, there are those considerations. I do like to utilize things I know like my own darling DFC. I have a feeling Delainey and I will bond over our cats. I like Delainey. She's a great woman and I want to give her what she deserves, too. I may have to give her a boyfriend. We'll see if one pops out of the background. I am purely in Discover mode and unlike my other manuscripts, I'm only focused on this for a tiny amount of time on this blog. But it's fun. And it's making me smile.

Question: what pitfalls will I have as a writer regarding my subject matter? Does anyone in my blog world have any suggestions based on their own experiences about how to treat this subject with dignity and honor? I really want to give Delainey the story she deserves. Her story is important to me. I hope that in writing it I can impact the special education world in a positive way.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Before & After

Disclaimer: This blog will be LONG. But it will be worth the read. I think LOL.

Five years ago I had a weird autoimmune reaction causing extreme vertigo. Yes, I was a "dizzy blond" for a good five or six months. Before I had the reaction, I was an uber volunteer at my daughter's school, at church, and in the community. All of these activities required driving in the DC suburbs of Virginia. And they all required me to, well, stand. A "dizzy blond" should not drive in heavy traffic. And this "dizzy blond" was wiped out by about two in the afternoon.

I was officially sidelined. I had to quit all my activities and focus all my energy on accomplishing the few tasks that I could during the morning hours when the vertigo attacks didn't hit me. Oh, those were the days. Lolling around my townhouse in my pajamas, sleeping all afternoon, having an excuse for takeout on a regular basis, maids were hired (I miss them), and I was blissfully recuperating.

Ha. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I do not accept or like enforced periods of inactivity. I am a "doer." A "fixer." A "busy bee." And if I am not doing, fixing, bee-ing, I get BORED. It's a good thing social media like Facebook was foreign to me back then, otherwise I might not have done the following thing: write a book.

Yes, one day I dusted off the first pages of a novel I started, ahem, eighteen years ago. My goals were simple. Write two hours a day, five days a week, ten pages a week (actually there were twenty pages cause I was single spacing at the time *shoulder shrug*). I finished my first novel LOVE BUILDS A CHANCE (you can stop laughing now) in five months.

I sent my novel to two trusted friends who are avid romance readers. They liked it! And they encouraged me to keep writing. And they've continued to do so. I owe them a huge debt of gratitude for not deriding my dream. They encouraged me to try to get it published.

I dutifully went to the Harlequin website, read about the word count requirements for the line I wanted to target, followed their instructions for writing a synopsis (what? I have to condense this!!???) and query letter. I queried the line, Silhouette Desire, and guess what? THEY REQUESTED A FULL. Yes, my very first novel, without the benefit of any support, was requested after I sent only one query.

I didn't know about revising. I thought revising was copy editing. Ha. I was wrong. Heck, I didn't even read through the hard copy after I printed it and sent it to the editorial offices at Harlequin. The editor sent it back to me with a very nice rejection letter which also encouraged me to keep writing and to join the ROMANCE WRITERS OF AMERICA.

I joined RWA in 2005. I read the RWR Magazine every month, I started entering contests and to this day I owe those judges a big hug for their constructive criticism. They were so kind. They didn't write mean and nasty things on my document, nor did they tell me to take up knitting instead. They gave me craft suggestions, and book suggestions. I followed their advice.

I wasn't writing in a vacuum, but I was still very much alone. I bought a craft book about how to write a first draft in a month. I used it to craft my next novel, ROCK ON. I queried ROCK ON, I entered contests with it. I didn't final or win, but I did get a few amazing scores from the judges. I got a few more rejections, but I continued to write. I didn't revise it because I still didn't know that revision meant going into the GUTS of the story and ripping it apart  (fast forward to my current novel in progress--I've had four plot revisions and numerous layering/polishing revisions).

Enter an amazing duo of writers whom I was fortunate to meet through my daughter's school. I was working on my third novel at this point. They began reading my contest results for the second novel. One day they invited me to join their critique group. I was thrilled. And they encouraged me to join my local writing chapter, the Washington Romance Writers of America. I was not writing in a vacuum anymore.

Fast forward: more craft lessons, more meetings, critiques, books about craft, my first retreat, the Moonlight & Magnolias GRWA Conference, two RWA National Conferences, PRO, moving and joining three new writing chapters HEART OF DIXIE, SOUTHERN MAGIC, GEORGIA ROMANCE WRITERS OF AMERICA, workshops, more craft books, meeting other writers, adding critique partners, reading and writing, writing and reading. I enter more contests. I start finaling. I learn to pitch, to hone my query, to keep sending darts out into the world. I get more requests for partial manuscripts, full manuscripts. I get more rejections. I keep writing. Now I have a "future list" of books.

A few months ago, my CP, Sharon, encouraged me to revisit my first novels and revise them for the Golden Heart. I knew LOVE BUILDS A CHANCE would present the most challenge to revise due to copious head-hopping, and tons of bad dialogue tags and comma issues (yes, I know I still have comma issues--but I have a book about them so I hope to improve--and if you think I am bad now, the early books show a marked improvement over time).

So I crept back into ROCK ON! (I know, I know. I have "title issues.") Oh, boy. About the only thing I can say about this story is that I should never write about a virgin who is rescuing her bad boy crush who rejected her feeble seduction attempt 10 years ago. Nor can I write a story about a woman who has nice parents and a perfect life.  I can only stretch the bounds of "fiction" so far. Yes, cliches riddle this piece of work. But the bones of the story are good, the POV is in place, and I have learned a thing or two about writing.

Why? Because I no longer write in a vacuum. I have a community of writers to draw from today. Yes, I had to go back into the book on my own. I imported ROCK ON! into Scrivener, broke the book into scenes, cut the two villain scenes, cut the first three chapters of BACKSTORY, and got to the real beginning. And I got to work on digging through the GUTS of this story, the characters, and discovered that my virgin is no wall flower. In fact, she's not a virgin (I hate to admit it, but my gals have pasts *shoulder shrug* again). She's no pushover. And my bad boy? He's a layered, complex guy. I love him. I know he's the right man for her.

Okay, now we are at the crux of the blog. I decided to do something I have never done before due to extreme shyness (no, I'm not shy about people, but letting people read my stuff publicly? Criticize it anonymously? Rank it? Uh uh). But when I learned about the MILLS AND BOON NEW VOICES CONTEST, I had to enter. I waffled (read again the bit about the extreme shyness--I have my own vulnerabilities though I rarely show them). Then I thought, what the heck? Go for it. So I did.

And now I am going to do something I've never done before either. I'm going to share the opening paragraph of my first chapter for ROCK ON! before I revised it:

 The last sound engineer left the building as Blade Edwards continued to wrap up the track editing for Rising Velocity’s latest album.  His manager Frank sat behind him, keeping him company as his fingers danced with studied expertise across the console’s buttons.

Here is the original story's first paragraph after cutting the first three chapters:

Kayla stood in front of Blade’s door, trying to gather her courage to knock on the dark cherry wood that lay like a barricade between her and quite possibly the most stubborn man she’d ever encountered.  Brushing her fingers through her blond hair, Kayla tartly reminded herself that she had no one to blame for being in this pickle but her.   

I know. I know. Blade? Right. Changed his name to DRAKE SHERIDAN. And much of what was written after Kayla's first paragraph was, um, introspection. I also changed the title to HER PRISONER OF LOVE.

Here are the revised first paragraphs:

Kayla Jackson stood in front of the dark mahogany door and rapped three times. Hard. No answer. And no surprise. Drake Sheridan, the lead singer of Rising Velocity, was officially her problem as of Monday, February seventh. She had only herself to blame for this ridiculous pickle. But if she pulled off a miracle and reformed the Bad Boy of Rock and Roll, she’d earn enough money to keep her program for delinquent teens up and running.
She stared at the wooden barricade standing between her and the most stubborn client she’d ever encountered in all her years of social work. “Open this door now, or I’m rescinding your home arrest and sending your sorry butt back to jail.”
She rubbed her hands on her jeans and drew a deep breath. She’d always admired Drake for his talent. And she’d be the first to admit she’d swooned a time or two when he’d performed live. But his sexual exploits with women, and his wild partying days had never impressed her. Punching out a reporter had done little to raise her estimation.
She didn’t need to respect him. She only had to redeem him and gather her paycheck.
Kayla pounded harder. “I know you’re in there.” He couldn’t leave the grounds without triggering his security anklet. And boy had he kicked up a fight when they’d clipped it on him at the courthouse. One that would’ve sent a less successful and influential man back to jail. A man like her brother.

Introducing the Bad Boy of Rock and Roll
Once she’d regained her wits, she stared at her assigned case. He barred the doorframe and hadn’t bothered to cover his broad chest. Even disheveled, he radiated strength, sex, and soul. Her stomach filled with nervous little flutters as if monarch butterflies had invaded her system. “I’d love to leave you alone just to avoid the stench inside.”
He wiped his eyes, a bit bloodshot but still arresting with their amber color, and shook his dark curls from his forehead. “Then do us both a favor and go.”
“Park your tough rocker routine at the curb.” Grateful for her four-inch heels and the height they gave her, she wiggled around his imposing muscular six-foot plus body. “Good Lord, it looks like a bomb went off in here.” 

Here is the full blurb of my revised story HER PRISONER OF LOVE:

Bad Boy of Rock and Roll Drake Sheridan is in a court ordered time out, but his house arrest heats up when he meets the key to his release, Kayla Jackson. And he decides to turn his beautiful, control-freak warden into his greatest fan. Social worker Kayla Jackson is out of choices. She must help Drake reform his ways if she wants to secure funding for her theater program supporting juvenile delinquents. Too bad Drake is the sexiest man she’s ever met, and he’s determined to prove it. Kayla maintains a professional distance until Drake’s empathy for her young charges draws them closer. And when the mask of Kayla’s no-nonsense, tough girl attitude slips, her vulnerable, compassionate soul takes Drake’s heart captive. Drake is finally ready to give up the fame, but Kayla’s secret arrangement with his manager may drive him back to his wild ways. Then Kayla may not only lose Drake, as well as her theater program, she’ll lose her heart.

I'm sharing this with you because I want other writers out there, the ones who are starting their journey, to know that if they build a community of writers and are willing to apply what they learn to the best of their ability, they will become better writers. They will get closer to achieving their dreams.

I don't know if I will win the Mills & Boon contest. It would be nice, not going to lie. But I don't have to win it to know that I am a better writer today than I was when I first wrote LOVE BUILDS A CHANCE (again, you can stop laughing now). But if you want to read the rest of my chapter (and my CP Gwen's chapter, too, SLOW BURN. Go Gwen!) click the link provided on this page, read the entries, rank them. Please be kind in your comments. And have fun.

I'm still a BEFORE working toward her AFTER. I will never be finished learning about this glorious obsession. ROCK ON!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I'm Speaking Up

Usually I try to keep my blog about writing, the craft, my sweet geriatric Dowager Feline Clancy and my crazy writing adventures. I have tried to stay neutral about a lot of topics like politics and religion, I cannot stay neutral about this topic. I'm against banning books, and this author's blog post states most eloquently what we as writers must always work to defend: freedom of speech.

We need only to look to the past to see what happens when one person determines how people should think, dress, behave. We need only to look to other nations who oppress their people now to know we have a precious gift. One we cannot take for granted.

As a mother of a teenaged daughter, I can say this: I would not ever want to stop my Darling Daughter from learning about the world through reading. I don't censor her. I read what she reads. We TALK about the subject matter. We have a dialogue. She is a strong, smart, and glorious girl becoming a fierce, determined woman. She has passion for life, for love, and for her adventures.

She knows her freedom to SPEAK and be heard is a gift. As a woman, I do not want her powerful voice to be silenced by anyone.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Can I Borrow a Cup of Sugar?

Sometimes I wonder whatever happened to the art of entertaining? I don't mean fancy parties where people dress up and act all muckety mucky. I mean the kind of entertaining that's spontaneous and easy. Like I say, "Hey, we're grilling burgers tonight, do you want to come over for dinner?" And the reply is "Sounds great. What do you want me to bring?" Then a few weeks later, that person asks us over. Or you call someone up in the morning and say, "Hey, want to come over for tea or coffee and just chat?" And that someone says, "I'd love to." A few days later, you're out getting your mail and that someone sees you and says, "I've got a good bottle of wine open, wanna swing by for a drink?"

Remember when moms used to talk over fences to each other? Yeah, they were probably gossiping, but they were talking. Remember those days? I do. I also remember having lots of spontaneous gatherings, small and large, up until a few years ago. Now? Now I have to organize every detail and try a lot harder to make connections. People are busy. People are on the go. People go to work, drive home, park in their garages, go inside and never leave their house again. Seriously. Even in the south this happens. In fact, I think it happens more here than it did in the city I used to live in. For some reason, people are less inclined to put forth the effort to get to know their neighbors.

Why? Are they suspicious? Afraid? Are they too wrapped up in their own families, or hanging out with their lifelong friends that they don't have the inclination or desire to include someone new in their world? I see this all the time. I see it here. I see it where I used to live. I see it in the way others behave. I don't like it because I try to treat people as I wish to be treated. Therefore, when I am in a circle of friends and I see someone alone, I invite that person into the circle. I make room for that person. I welcome that person into my world.

I'm not sure too many people do that anymore.

A lot of people won't open their tightly knit circles to include new people in them unless they meet them at work, at church or at some other formal place. To go beyond those acceptable, known norms is not an easy leap for people these days. Perhaps it is because people don't know how to do it. They are afraid they'll fail at entertaining. They think it has to be restaurant quality food and will require a lot of work, time, and  energy. Maybe they don't want to broaden their horizons. They prefer the known over the unknown. And that's too bad. Because whenever I include someone new in my world, I grow as a person.

The reason I am focused on this issue is not so much because I feel left out. I tend to create my own circles wherever I go. Some circles are created quickly due to circumstances. When we were in DC, we experienced 9/11. This unified my corner of the world. Neighbors in a new community were drawn together by the adversity. We bonded. In other corners of the world, it took me a little longer. But no matter what, I always end up with a circle of friends. People I can rely on. People who become important to me. People I don't want to leave behind when I move again.

I think about this a lot because as a writer I am tasked with the problem of bringing people together. Two characters must fall in love. They live in a world where they have friends, family, co-workers, neighbors.  Yet much of the time that my characters are together, they aren't hanging out with their friends drinking coffee and chatting about the neighbor down the street (yup, gossiping). They're falling in love, going on dates, fighting the bad guys, saving their towns, buying up properties, saving children, making a difference.

But after they save the world, fall in love, and get their Happily Ever After, I hope they also become good friends with the neighbors across the street. I hope they have dinners with them. I want them to play cards till midnight and drink cheap red wine while they hang out with their friends. I want them to go bowling, see movies, plant gardens. I want them to hang out by the mailbox and chat with the guy across the street about football games and kids.

And I hope when they see someone new move into their corner of the world that they go over to meet that person, say hello, invite them to dinner. I hope that they broaden their circle to welcome new people into their lives.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wednesday Whimsical Weirdness

My ongoing story that I'm writing only on Wednesdays is having a bit of a turn with me. Why? I am thinking about a character. One who is not as clear to me as Delainey and her Aunt Nancy. Their little vignettes were easy to write. They were films in my head. All I had to do was try to make sense of the pictures and speech when I wrote it on the page. But Delainey's brother Michael is another story. He's a shadow. A mystery. I know he's 33. He's in the marines. He's on a tour of duty. I've caught snatches of his life overseas. Heat, bombs, sound, action, smoke, carrying his gun, fighting someone in a bar who uses the word "retard" to describe a slower dude in the barracks. I see his pride and I have a vague sense of why he comes home. I also have a pretty good feeling that he's going to meet an amazing woman when he returns.

But he is cagey. Lately all my men have been very reluctant to expose their hearts to me. As I look at one of my earlier books (one I am revising for kicks and giggles because it really shows a lot of promise despite the level of the writing), I realize that back then, my dude really opened up. The heroine was not as strong, but he was so emotional it was ridiculous. Now don't get me wrong, I love him. He's a great guy, but he was too female in his thinking. Let's face it, I'm a girl. I bleed onto the pages. I am in all my characters at some level. My heart drives the characters' hearts. I have learned in writing the fourth book that my heart is vested, very vested, in my heroine. This allows my hero to be who he needs to be without me making him carry female angst. Good lesson to learn.

But oh, is this guy Michael ever driving me batty. I've tried talking to him. He's not spilling. So far in my interviews I've asked him why he won't come home when his dad is dying. He's not telling me. No way. I know there is a history. An anger. But it's not because of Delainey. I don't feel anger about his sister or frustration. I believe it is tied to something bigger. Perhaps the expectation his father placed on him as the boy. Or the loss of his mother affecting and driving his decisions. Maybe he wasn't there. Maybe he feels guilt. But so far, nothing. And the thing is, I don't want to force my character to fit into what I WANT him to do. I want him to open up to me so he can drive the story.

I learned the hard way that plot is an external driver, the spine, of the story, but the characters can't just be jumping through hoops because of the external world. They must be the story. Period. How they respond to the events comes from within themselves. So I've been waiting for Michael to open up to me.

Here are some free form questions and I warn you now, the grammar will NOT matter during this phase of the blog. The point is to listen to my characters, not write perfect prose (which will never happen with me anyway, ask my CP).

Michael, tell me about your sister. What is your favorite memory with her? I remember when she was about 8 we went to the fair. Dad was so proud. I remember her riding on his shoulders and mom had entered her pies. She won. With Delainey's favorite flavor. I was 16. I didn't really want to be with my family you know. I didn't want to hang out with them. My friends, Jack and Sam, were in the dunking booth and I wanted to knock them down into the water then go grab a corn dog and hang out with my friends. What 16 year old boy hangs out with his dad and mom at the fair? But Dad wouldn't hear of it. He was determined that we were going to enjoy the entire fair together. He thought I was ashamed of Delainey, but I wasn't. I just wanted to be with my friends. Delainey heard me fighting with Dad. She came over to me and put her hand in mine. Then she looked up at me and at dad and said she didn't like fights.

Oh come on Michael. Now you're so not telling me the truth. That is the most cliched thing I have ever heard. What is your favorite memory? And don't give me this fair crap. I don't buy it.

Fine. It's too stupid, but if you insist. She was 10 and I was 18. We have this big tree out back. in the yard. she was playing underneath it. the sun was out. it was spring. i was getting ready to graduate and go to college. leave. but there she was, playing in the grass with her barbies and her dolls. she was playing house. I remember her calling me over to play house with her. i was the daddy and she was the mommy. she had her dolls lined up on blankets, old cloth diapers and rags really, but they were beds to Delainey. She looked at me with those blue eyes of hers. So sweet. she's always been so innocent and sweet. And she said she couldn't wait to be a mother one day.

How the heck is this your favorite memory? This sounds maudlin at best. okay i admit it. i'm just joshing you. here's the deal. it's not that big of a deal but it's our deal. bubbles. she likes bubbles. and she likes blowing them and letting me run and catch them. she's always loved bubbles. and when she blows them she likes me to dance in them and sing--do not laugh--tiny bubbles you know like tiny tim? any way. i love making her laugh and giggle and that's her favorite way. so i guess my favorite memory with delainey is her favorite memory too.

i wonder if delainey still loves blowing bubbles. she's 25 now. a grown woman. i wonder if she's happy.

why don't you go home. see her. see your dad? I don't want to talk about it.
there's no one to dance in the bubbles for her now, michael. doesn't that bother you? aren't you the least bit curious to see what kind of woman your sister has become?
how can she be a woman. she's a child in a woman's body. she'll never have her own babies, never be loved, never have a family.
you're her family.
i'm her brother. and i'm a shit one at best. i'm no good to her.
well you may be all she has.
that's dad's fault. he never wanted to give her the opportunity to learn to be independent. not really. sure he had her helping around the house, the farm, like we all did, but when the counselor at her school suggested delainey go to to this cool group home, he said no. it was our duty to look after her. and that just pisses me off. she could be working at the store, making her friends, and instead she has only aunt nancy and dad. he didn't think.  he didn't plan for when mom and he were gone.
when did the counselor suggest it? after mom died. i asked dad to get help. but he was too damn stubborn to listen to anyone.
maybe he was too hurt. grieving himself.
doesn't matter. now what will delainey do? i can't raise her. hell the only life i know is war, fighting, men. i'm not good for delainey anymore.
you don't have to raise her. go home, Michael. face your dad. give delainey what she deserves.
so is that why you're angry? yes dammit. he held her back. now it might be too late to give her the world she deserves.
it's never too late, michael. go home. maybe you'll find a way to give your sister a chance at a new life. your aunt needs you. and your dad needs to see you. to find closure with you.
what then? maybe then you'll discover love. build your own family.

Michael's talking. But I still don't think he's opened up completely. I will have to sit down with him again. I'm not sure I'm buying everything he's saying. But I do believe he loves Delainey and wants what is best for her. I think Delainey will find a way to reach him across that vast ocean. The question is how?

How will Delainey crack through his armor?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Remembering After

Many people place emphasis on remembering the day something happens. The day a child a is born. The day we win a game. The day we lose someone we love. The day we are attacked. The day we go into battle.

We have days marked on our calendars. Days with stars. Days with sad faces. Days with happy faces. Days with black marks. Days with red marks. We have days to remember.

And these days are important. They are important to religious people. They are important to patriotic people. They are important to mothers. They are important to fathers. They should be remembered. They should be recognized. I know. And I do.

But what about after the important day happens? What then? What happens in the story of these peoples' lives? What do they remember about those days?

I remember the days after my marriage. I remember flying to my new home in a new country. I remember celebrating with the people in the plane. I remember meeting my husband's friends. I remember the extreme loneliness of starting over without friends I had cultivated. I remember learning how to cross stitch with a lady who had lupus who was much older than me. I remember being so lonely I walked through a screen door in excitement when my husband arrived home from work. I remember my husband teaching me to drive. I remember driving off in anger, after a fight, many times, only to return with a loaf of bread and a willingness to start again. I remember all the emotions. The fights. The fun. The laughter. The sorrow. The happiness. I remember all the hills and valleys of our marriage after that special day. I remember them and celebrate the years we've been together.

I remember the days after my baby was born. I remember dealing with a lactation expert, the friends who brought me food and posted signs in my yard to celebrate her homecoming. I remember people teaching me how to take a shower while my daughter watched from her little car seat in the bathroom. I remember freaking out about bread dough stuck to my countertop and desperately trying to scrape it off while my girl wailed in the living room. I remember the sheer agony of trying to leave behind my desire to be orderly and neat so I could be the mother I had to be. I remember being imperfect, flawed, scared. I remember other mothers sharing their fears. I remember the days after. They are the days that shaped my motherhood.

I remember losses. I remember many sad days. I remember the pain of dealing with all the living personalities long after we buried our loved ones. I remember anger. I remember fights. I remember good words. I remember bad words. I remember wishing the bad words had never been spoken either by me or by them. I remember hoping that time would truly heal all wounds. I remember gauzing over the pain again. I remember feeling forgiveness. I remember renewed connections. These are the memories that shape my failures, my struggle to grow from them, and my continued desire to improve as a person.

I remember the big days. The huge days that impact all of our lives. The natural disasters. The recoveries. The atrocities. The victories. I remember them all. I remember them as an individual. As a wife. As a friend. As a daughter. As a mother. I remember grieving for my nation. For the world.  I remember that it is in the days afterward that we are forging the path toward a new memory. A new beginning. A brighter future.

It is in the living. The going forward. The willingness to take risks. The capacity to forgive. The desire to forget. The hope that tomorrow will be a better day. That is why we remember. We remember so we will remember that we are able to move on.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Come Visit Me at Romance Magicians Today

I'm blogging about the mastering the art of living on Romance Magicians today. Hope I see you there.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wednesday Whimsical Weirdness

Last week I started a story and I asked people to guess Delainey's age. Today I shall continue the story and give you the answer. Please note: no editing or planning is going into this free form discovery phase.

Nancy turned to her niece Delainey and said, "Now sweetie, you know your daddy hasn't been able to carry you on his shoulders for a long time. You're much to big for him now." And too old. Delainey had turned twenty-five just three days ago.

"I know that, but that doesn't stop me from wanting it." Her niece's blue eyes filled with tears. "I want my daddy to be like he always was. He used to be happy and laugh all the time. Now he's sad and he's tired."

Nancy's throat tightened, but she kept her tone even, not wanting to upset her dear niece. "He's still the same man on the inside. And if he could carry you to the county fair on his shoulders again, he would do it in a heartbeat." She picked up another piece of corn and began shucking the husk off one strip at at time. "How many more ears of corn do we have to clean, Sweetie?"

"We have one, two, three... I don't know. A bunch."

"Well we best get back to work then," said Nancy. Delainey always did like having a task to do. It calmed her niece, made her feel like she was contributing, smart even. And that's what her brother and sister-in-law cultivated in both their children.

No excuses. Everyone pulled their weight. Even Delainey. Though at first they'd worried about her. Yes, they'd expected her to have problems. After all the doctors had warned them when Mary was pregnant with Delainey. But in addition to her mental abilities being affected, the Downs Syndrome also created a myriad of physical problems. At times it was touch and go, but Delainey was a fighter. She'd done more than survive, she'd thrived.

And Nancy's brother Matthew had always been proud of his blue eyed, blond haired little girl with her moon shaped face and that dimpled whenever she broke into a smile. Nancy remembered the first day Matthew had taken Delainey to the County Fair.

"Sweetie, what kind of pie did your mamma bake the year she won her blue ribbon," she asked.

"Peach," answered her niece. "My favorite." Delainey grinned, her face shining with pride. "She said she won cause she made my favorite kind."

"Yes. She did." Nancy picked up another ear of corn. "She won the blue ribbon for her chili recipe the same year."

"We had a big party."

Nancy stripped off the husk and ran her hand across the silken hairs left behind. "I think your daddy was ready to burst, he was so excited." That day had been a golden day, a day full of hope and promise. But they were younger then, braver, not ravaged by the losses time would bring to them. The losses time would eventually bring to all families. First her sister in law had passed, a heart attack. Sudden and swift. Then her nephew, Delainey's brother, eight years older when she'd been born, had gone off to join the marines. He'd been on several tours. Sometimes Nancy believed Michael had gone to fight battles overseas because he couldn't face the ones he had at home.

Now her brother lay dying of cancer and her niece relied upon Nancy for guidance. "Sweetie," she said, "Let's get some water poured on these ears of corn and put them on the oven. I'll start the hamburgers."

"Okay Auntie," said Delainey, picking up the the heavy pot.

They walked inside the sprawling, country style kitchen Matthew had installed for his wife two years before she'd passed. Nancy turned on the tap and filled the pot with the cold water, salted it and put the lid on top. She turned on the gas stove.

As she worked on the hamburger meat, kneading it and forming it into balls, her niece fluttered about the clean, oak shelved kitchen opening drawers and gathering cutlery. "I'll set the table."

"Thanks, sweetie."

Nancy continued forming the patties in her hand. She thought she'd put the buns in the pantry, but then had found them later in the laundry room. Odd. But then she'd been forgetting little things lately. Nothing major. But silly things happened. And that worried her. A lot. After all, Matthew didn't have long and she'd promised her brother she'd care for Delainey, but she didn't know how she'd cope. One day she'd pass and then what? She couldn't ask Michael to come home. He had a duty to his country to perform. But she wished. Now where did she put her apron? Oh, there, she grabbed it from the top of the fridge and tugged it on.

She might not put things back properly, but she remembered her brother dancing with is bride as clear as a bell. And the way he tossed a football to Michael on a hot summer day during his playing season. Oh, and his pride, his shining joy when Delainey went to school on the yellow school bus just like all her friends. Oh, she remembered it all as if it happened now. A slow winding film reel that she played over and over in her head.

"Auntie," cried Delainey. "What are you doing?"

Nancy snapped out of her reverie. Flames licked out of her frying pan and threatened to hit the ceiling. "What the devil?" she asked, then she saw her mistake. She'd put the hamburger's meat casing into the frying pan and tried to cook the plastic and foam.

After she'd put out the fire, cleaned up the stench and focused on fixing dinner again, Nancy sent up a snippet of prayer. She needed help. She didn't want to worry her brother with her own problems. But she desperately prayed for His intercession. Promising to keep Delainey had been easy. Keeping her promise seemed impossible now. She didn't even know what to ask. She only knew that Jesus, in his mercy, would intercede for her.

She prayed again. For her brother. Her niece. And her strong nephew. She couldn't ask Michael to give up his life for his little sister. But she had to pray he would want to change it.

Question: Why is Michael so unwilling to come home during his father's illness?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Heart of Dixie Workshop: Pitch, Pile, or Public: Three Paths to Publication

It's not too late to sign up for another Heart of Dixie Online workshop. This month's class features three of my favorite people: Kira Sinclair, Kimberly Lang, and Lynn Raye Harris. They are my chapter mates at the Heart of Dixie.These ladies are dedicated to helping all of our members achieve our goal of becoming published. I've been fortunate to learn first hand how they reached their goal to become published authors. Now they have developed a fabulous, collaborative online workshop to share their knowledge with more people. I personally use Kira's pitch method for all my editor/agent appointments, and I always received requests. Kira's a published author now with BLAZE, but it all started with her pitch. When I met Lynn she was a Golden Heart contest finalist and had just won an editor for a year with Modern Heat. Two years later she has 8 books published with Harlequin Presents. And finally, Kimberly Lang is the Queen of Querying. She sold her first book straight from the slush pile just before I met her in 2008.

If you want to learn how to use all the opportunities you can to get your own manuscripts taken seriously, don't miss this workshop. 

Dates: September 13-27, 2010
Instructors: Kira Sinclair, Kimberly Lang, & Lynn Raye Harris
Cost: $20
Sponsored by: Heart of Dixie, RWA
Register at:
There is no one path to publication; no one way to get an editor or agent’s attention.  In this workshop, three authors draw on their own experiences to prepare you for success on the three most common paths to an editor or agent’s desk.
The Pitch:  Kira Sinclair’s pitch led to a request, then a sale.  Kira will go over the basics of how to craft a short, informative pitch designed to showcase your book’s best bits and leave the agent or editor requesting more.  Kira now writes for Harlequin Blaze.
The Pile:  Kimberly Lang is a slush pile success story.   Since your query letter is the first thing an editor or agent reads, it needs to be the very best it can be. We’ll build on what we learned from Kira’s pitch lessons to build a query letter that encourages the editor or agent to read on. Kimberly is a USA Today bestselling author for Harlequin Presents/Mills & Boon Modern Heat.
The Public:  Lynn Raye Harris got an editor’s – and the public’s – attention in a big way when she won the Harlequin-sponsored Instant Seduction contest.  Lynn will share her tips on how to make your first chapters pack the punch needed to get judges, editors, agents (and eventually readers!) wanting to see what happens next. Lynn is a USA Today bestselling author for Harlequin Presents/Mills & Boon Modern.
Class format includes lectures and Q&A.  Some students may have the opportunity to have their pitches and/or query letters critiqued by the instructors for the benefit of the participants.
For more information contact

Monday, September 6, 2010

Distractions that Take Precedence

I've been rather overwhelmed lately with a lot of external life events as well as writing demands. As some of you might already know, my beloved cat, the Dowager Feline Clancy, was diagnosed with renal failure 2 weeks ago. I've been quite heartbroken about her and have cried more tears than I've ever cried my entire life. We've been told that at 18 DFC is a very long-lived cat who has given us at least 6 bonus years. And they have been filled with great joy and fun. But having to make the decision about how to proceed with her and how long to wait until she is ready to say goodbye to us has been very difficult. As you can imagine, I'm very tired and drained because I want to honor her in the way she deserves. So most of my free time has been taken up in hunting down cat food she'll even nibble on, holding her when she'll let me, and talking to the vet about her future.

But work and writing still had to happen. First on my agenda, plowing through my revisions for the fourth MS and redoing my pitch for the Heart of Dixie Library Event, SHARE THE LOVE, where an agent was kind enough to hear it and request my first 50 pages. This was fabulous news, but as you all know, this also meant fine tuning my document to the nth degree. I spent the majority of last week getting the document ready, and I feel it is good to go. 

As I worked on the material, DFC would come visit me in my office or on my lap in Darling Husband's favorite reclining chair. He graciously gave his chair to us knowing how much more comfortable DFC is when we are sitting there. So now the partial is done, my last one I think with the Dowager Feline Clancy. I shall miss having her by my side and on my lap watching my fingers fly over the keyboard. But I will always treasure these small moments we still have left together.

As you know, the Dowager Feline Clancy has some pearls of wisdom for writers. I shared them with you over the course of this blog. And now she is teaching me another lesson, and I hope through this blog, a lesson to you as well. For in choosing to allow her to have small moments of happiness rather than forcing her to accept invasive treatments and swallow crushed pills, I have realized that there has to come a time in all things where we let go. This is true of loved ones, our beloved pets, and our work. Whether we say goodbye to our children as they head off to college, or goodbye to our family members as they leave this life journey to enter into another, or to our sweet pets as they approach the time where they wish to play in heaven with their friends--we must also learn to say goodbye to our works. 

We must be willing to write The End. This MS is finished, this partial is finished to the best of our ability and we must let it go out into the world. We must trust that in letting go of it, something beautiful can happen.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Business of Business Cards

When I attended the RWA National Conference in Orlando, I had the opportunity to meet many other writers in the industry. Some were published, many were on their journey to publication and some were in  a league of their own. I was just happy to breathing the same air as they did.

Random meetings, in elevators or in the lobby, occurred with strangers. People who I shared space with for a brief moment while I waited to pitch or stood in line for food. During the keynote lunches and speeches, we sat at round tables and ate various versions of the same chicken. Old friends and new acquaintances shared a laugh and made new memories. I also attended the planned meetings: pitch sessions. Another type of exchange occurred. Story teller to an audience of one. An audience I hoped would like my story enough to ask for a part of it or all of it.

And during all of these random or planned meetings, one thing occurred: we exchanged business cards.

Now the coveted agent/editor business card is the special one you pray you don't lose before you get home. But the other cards are just as important. They are the building blocks of new relationships and friends; a network of support for now and in the future.

But how do you keep track of all these new friends? Acquaintances? I have a trick or two. First, I write down where and when I met the person on the back of her/his business card. I might even include a small note about our conversation so I can reference it later. Then I put all the business cards together and wrap them with a rubber band so I don't lose them.

Now the goal is to reconnect with these people. But all things in good time. First, I must respond to the coveted agent/editor cards. They are my first line of business. You can thank them for meeting with you in a separate card and post. Or you can do so in the query/follow up letter as part of the introduction. These cards are put in a special card holder. The first line of business also means preparing and sending in the requested materials.

Anyone who has received requests for full or partial manuscripts at a conference knows how daunting this task is to perform. First of all, that story? Well, we return home and look at it and think we need to polish it to the nth degree. It must be as PERFECT as we can make it before we send it to the editor/agent. This is an opportunity to shine. And believe me, the scrambling that goes on to make transform a pretty decent MS into a stellar MS is nothing short of painful, time consuming work.

And anyone who has returned from an RWA National Conference also knows that it's hard to start this work right off the bat because you're just so tired. I'd say bone tired isn't even an apt description. The conference is a high energy, fast paced, on the go and just plain "on" all the time experience. I think it takes me at least a week to recuperate and restore my bopping brain cells into a normal, steady rhythm.

So a week or two might go by before one even starts responding to the important requests. But eventually, at least in my world, I finish and am ready to move onto reconnecting with my new friends in the writing world. Some of them are here--new writers or writers I just met that live in my area. I can meet them for coffee, call them, see them at a chapter meeting or connect via one of the social networks like Twitter or Facebook.

Now I am almost ready to send out a short note via email to the many people I met at the conference. I will look a their cards, flip them over and see what we talked about and be able to send a personalized note. Then I'll file their cards in my holder and hope to meet them again at the next writing conference I attend.

How do you handle all the business cards you receive when you attend a conference?