Monday, January 31, 2011

In The Next Few Days

I'll be doing something very drastic in the name of my craft.  (No, it's not signing a contract.  Geez, by now you should know I won't put you through that much suspense when "The Call" comes!)  It's something I dread and look forward to, something that will devastate my world and yet, at the same time, open up HUGE possibilities for me...when I get the courage to do it.

Stay tuned to find out what it is and if I followed through or chickened out! 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Battle Continues...

I love the concept of my new book.  I love these characters.  I love how the "good guys" win and how the villain will be destroyed.

But I can tell already that this book will suck the blood from me.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

I Lost...Again

I've had trouble the last couple of days with where I want the 2nd & 3rd chapters to go in my current manuscript.  At first, I thought the problem was that I used the wrong character's point of view.  So I wrote the same scene again, from the "right" person's POV.  It still didn't feel right and it was too easy to walk away from the whole thing.  Then I thought maybe I needed a break since I've been working on it straight for a while.  So I didn't write after my 2 1/2 pages yesterday afternoon.  And today I thought about working on something different, but the problem with my latest suspense wouldn't go away.

Finally, after critiquing with some of my Austin RWA sisters today and reading a lot, I realized that things weren't working because I, the author, was trying to write the story instead of letting my characters tell their story.  I was trying to make 2 scenes work when I didn't like them and I knew my heroine wouldn't approve of what I was trying to do.

So, I got smart and decided to shut my mouth and listen to my character.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Busy February!

Since I finaled in the Daphne last year, I got a certificate for a free class through Kiss of Death.  I signed up for John Foxjohn's class Freeze or Name Your Beneficiary, which will focus on police procedures. 


Today I found out I won a contest on Rebecca Lynn's blog!  Rebecca graciously offered to pay the registration fee for a different online class for the winner of her contest.  So now not only will I be learning about proper police procedures, but I'll also be participating in The Dirty Little Secrets of Character Development taught by Keena Kincaid!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuesday Check-In

Day Job Work:  I was thinking about taking more classes and becoming a school librarian.  Then I heard Austin ISD is eliminating 74 librarian jobs.  So now I'm just going to get my K-6 certification and hope for the best for a job next school year.  (I'm already English & ESL certified for 4th-8th grades).  Of course, I'm still subbing, still applying everywhere and anywhere I can and still hoping for something awesome this spring.

Yesterday I didn't have a sub job and today I had a 1/2 day sub job, so I got to spend a chunk of time on Lies.  

Writing:  I'm making slow and steady progress on my 2nd draft of Lies.  I'm really enjoying the book so far.  I had wanted to already be done with the partial, but I'd forgotten that a winning partial takes time!  So, I'm working on chapter 2 now and should be done with it after tomorrow night.  Then, by the end of the weekend, I should have chapter 3 belted out.  Here's hoping!

Reading:  I decided to set a reading goal for myself.  I'm aiming to read a book a week.  It may not seem like much, but over the last year, year and a half I've read less and less.  So, 1 book a week is doable for me.  So far it's working.  I'm about halfway through Tami Dee's 3rd Viking story (and LOVING it, of course!) and I started it at the weekend.

Life After Quitting:  It's about this time last year when I first seriously considered leaving my job.  I've said all along that I don't regret it.  Would I have done things differently had I known I'd still be without a "real job" now?  Yes.  Would I have still quit?  Most likely.  It's hard to be so positive about my decision when people are starting to get excited about Nationals and I know I can't go unless something MAJOR happens.  It's hard when I want to make vacation plans to get to RI (where I haven't seen some of my family since Summer '09) and I still can't be sure when I'll get there.  But mostly, it's hard to imagine NOT being at RWA Nationals when my friend and CP Cat will be signing her first book.

And now you're caught up! 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Searching For The Silver Lining

Yesterday I read the first of the Golden Heart entries I have to judge.  It was....interesting.  Because I've been at this writing thing for so long and I've had a chance to learn quite a bit, I am now able to understand more of what an editor sees when he or she picks up a potential manuscript.  And this first one hurt.  (Probably much like my first few manuscripts!)  But how wonderful of this writer and so many others willing to put their work out there!  For that alone, everyone should be commended!  A person can't get published if she writes a book, shares it with friends who say, "Great job!" and then stuffs the it under the bed.  So congratulations to everyone brave enough to submit a manuscript to any contest!     

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The New Work

I pledge to have the killer 1st chapter ready for my first reader by the time I go to bed tonight.  DIDN'T HAPPEN, BUT I WAS WORKING ON IT!  SATURDAY FOR SURE!

I also pledge to have a rough draft of the partial manuscript done by Sunday night. STILL DOABLE.  GOT NO BIG PLANS FOR THE WEEKEND EXCEPT READING AND WRITING.

 Gotta go.  I've got some heavy writing to do!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

You Know You're A Suspense Writer...

...when you see a vehicle on the highway with no back window and you immediately think, "Someone must've shot it out."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Scotland for Hogmanay- Days 5 & 6

Today was a lazy day.  We slept late, said goodbye to the girls from northern England and went window shopping.  We actually watched TV for a while and stopped in the hotel bar for some food and no drinks.  (I had chips, others had soup and sandwich.)

Sunday, January 2nd was our last full day in Edinburgh.  I slept in and then did my touristy shopping.  (For several years now I've chosen a Scotland calendar for my office so that was high on my priority list for the day, as was time in Deacon Brodie's).  Early afternoon, we left the Royal Mile and ventured out to the oldest pub in Edinburgh, The Sheep's Heid.  It's located on the other side of Arthur's Seat.  One member of our party talked about walking, but we ended up in a taxi.  Good thing, too!  The pub wasn't that close.  It opened in 1360.  For more details on it and some pictures inside, click here

I had roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, a meal I used to love when my grandmother made it.   I also tried a new beer, something with chocoholic in the name.  It was...chocolaty.  

After the meal, the others in my party decided to go for a walk.  I chose to stay warm inside The Sheep Heid Inn and have another beer.  I liked the chocoholic one, but not enough to have it again.  I sent my camera on the walk too.  This first picture is a walkway near the pub. 
These next 3 pictures are what my friends found at the end of the walkway.

  This picture above is Duddingston Loch.  Apparently it is famous due to an oil painting by Henry Raeburn called The Skating Minister.  The minister is supposedly skating on Duddingston Loch.  Here is the painting:
As it got dark, we took a taxi back to St. Giles.  I went on to finish my shopping and my friends went to a concert in St. Giles Cathedral.  They met me in Deacon Brodie's afterward, where I'd been sitting and having my last pint in Scotland.  I always get sad when I know I'm leaving the home of my heart.  Tears actually crowd the corners of my eyes and my heart squeezes in my chest.  It had been a year and a half since I was last in Edinburgh.  When would I be back?  Although my future is still unclear due to my job and my finances, I'm so thankful I took this trip and I'm so happy that I got to share it with you.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

New Year's Eve in Edinburgh- Part II

While a few of us were on the ferris wheel, a couple more of us climbed the 287 winding steps to the top of the Walter Scott Monument.  All the times I've been in Edinburgh and I never knew you could climb up inside!  Apparently they have space for you to take pictures on each level.  As you climb up, the stairs and the space to climb and take pictures get narrower.  (More narrow???)  Maybe next trip I'll brave it!  

This first picture is at the base of the monument looking up.

These next 3 are pictures from the various levels of the monument.

Back in our hotel, the girls who came up from northern England brought champagne, so we had a toast.  Then we went across the street for an Italian dinner, which was fantastic.  After that, we dressed for the cold weather and made our way to the street party.  We wandered a bit down Prince's Street, glancing at the big screens, the other people partying and those lucky enough to have a view of the street from a warm and cozy home or hotel room.  

At 9, the gates to the Garden Party opened.  We went inside and quickly found a spot on a hill, one on the outskirts of the crowd pushing toward the stage.  Bands played for the remainder of the night.  People came and went.  The porta-johns were nearby, but far enough away we couldn't smell them or the kids getting sick from drinking too much.  (Kids, I say, but they were just younger than me!)  It wasn't as cold or as crowded as I'd feared.  I'd been worried that we would get a spot, get squished and not be able to move.  But we had plenty of room to sit, stand, dance and take pictures!  We could see the lights in the trees and on the stage.  Time went fast.  Just before midnight, one of our party went for a bathroom run and we didn't see her again until a good fifteen minutes into the new year.  She claims she got lost on the way back, but maybe she found a handsome Scotsman to kiss!  As with most places, there was a countdown to 2011 and Auld Lang Syne played.  For that, groups of people gathered together and held hands during the singing. 

Then the spectacular fireworks began over Edinburgh Castle.  I didn't worry about taking too many pictures then because I didn't want to miss the show and well, the pictures never do something like that justice anyway.  Just take my word for it.  The show was SPECTACULAR!

Shortly after, we headed back to our hotel where we had a few more drinks along with TONS of other people.  Our party dwindled as people kept leaving to go to bed.  3 of us remained and as we started back up to our rooms, we were accosted by a couple sitting in chairs in the lobby.  We wished each other Happy New Year.  Then the man shared pictures of....his mother and his dog with one of us while the woman talked to the other 2 of us.  She also had trouble staying in her chair.  CLEARLY they'd celebrated for a LONG time!    

Friday, January 14, 2011

We Interrupt This Hogmanay Review....

And the heavens opened and a booming voice came through.  "Thou shall begin!"  And a chorus of angels sang in the background as Alexa got busy with the next story.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Year's Eve in Edinburgh- Part I

This day was December 31st.  The skies were clear, but it was still cool and a bit windy.  We all slept late in preparation for the festivities later that night.  While a couple of people in our group went to 
the National Museum of Scotland, the rest of us went to the Winter Wonderland down in 
the Gardens.  They had rides, a skating rink, food stalls and stalls for selling things such as hats, gloves, and other goodies.  

We decided to go on the ferris wheel, which was amazing because I'm afraid of heights!  But I was the one who suggested it.  The wind became vicious up at the top...

...but the views were absolutely fantastic.

After our ride, we needed something to warm us up.  So we had mulled wine.  I'd never had that before.  It was good, but I think I'll stick to my pints.

We walked around a bit more, I got a sausage roll (LOVE the sausage there!) and then we found a pub with some room where we had a drink.  We practically had to run to get the table!  When we were leaving, a couple came up to us and the man asked if we were leaving.  When we said yes, he gave each of us girls a kiss on the cheek, shook our hands and wished us a Happy New Year.
Next, I'll share some other pics from this day and the details of our time at 2010-2011 Garden Party.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Scotland For Hogmanay- Day 3

My 3rd day in Scotland was Thursday, December 30th.  This was the official opening of the Hogmanay Festivities in Edinburgh (even though much had been going on already!).  Today our friends from northern England came in by train.  We met them, had lunch and a few drinks at my favorite pub, Deacon Brodie's, which is located on the Royal Mile.  You can see a picture of it here.  Actually, we spent several hours there catching up and staying warm.

Then we had a bit of a walk along the Royal Mile window shopping and of course we stopped for another drink in a different pub.  


It was time to line up on the Royal Mile for the Torchlight procession.  We had to get in line by St. Giles.  We went a bit early so that we could buy torches.  This ceremony is actually a version of the Up Helly Aa Fire Festival usually associated with the Shetlands.  It's a good thing we went early because they had upwards of 25,000 people there and we were fairly close to the front.  They lit torches toward the front and then those people turned around and lit the torches of the people behind them and so on and so on.  It was pretty neat to see the fire coming back toward us like a wave! 
 (I think I'm a little too excited to be getting ready to play with fire!)

Once most people had their torches lit, the line took off down the Mound, along Prince's Street and up to Calton Hill.  Music played and supposedly there were bagpipes toward the beginning of the line, but I didn't hear any during most of the walk.  Several times we stopped for pictures or to get out of the way of other people's pictures and glanced back at the wave of fire behind us.  It was absolutely amazing to see! 
 (These were the friends who came up from Newcastle, England- Alison and Leanne!)

When we reached Calton Hill, and they stuffed us in like sardines, it was time for the burning of the "Viking" boat.  Again they played music while the flamed licked the night sky.  

And finally the fireworks....
After the ceremony, we walked back up to the Royal Mile and to Maxie's (the place JK Rowling worked) for dinner.  It was a fairly early night for all of us (11:30) because we wanted to be well rested for the last day of 2010.

Next up will be pictures and stories of how I spent my last day of the year in my favorite city in the world.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Scotland For Hogmanay- Day 2

The next morning (Wednesday), we got up and enjoyed a full Scottish breakfast complete with haggis and lots of tea as we watched some sunlight wander across the sky.  Then we were heading on a tour with Rabbie's Trail Burners Tours.  As we walked to the Royal Mile to get our bus, the sun was just visible over the horizon.  Pinks and yellows painted part of the morning sky.  (It was about 9:00!)  Our day tour would take us to the Borders.
As we drove away from Edinburgh, I was absolutely amazed by how quickly the weather went from this:
 to this in less than a half hour:

Our first stop was to a statue of William Wallace.  Funny, he doesn't look anything like Mel Gibson! 
This was located near Scott's View, which we couldn't see because of the weather.  Yes, that black blob at the base of the statue is me, I assure you!

Our next stop was my favorite of the day, Melrose Abbey.  I'd seen this place on countless Scotland calendars and in books, but had never managed to get here.  It apparently has an amazing garden, but I think it looks pretty cool with the snow.  What do you think?

Robert the Bruce's heart is buried here at Melrose Abbey.  I stopped after taking the picture and said a silent prayer.

Out one side of the Abbey was the cemetery.  When I turned back to the Abbey ruins, I noticed that all the heads on these six figures had been cut off.  It intrigued me and I went to work thinking of reasons behind the decapitations!
The village of Melrose itself was beautiful and pleasant.  We had lunch in this little restaurant with about 12 tables or so and TONS of knickknacks and decorations.  The food was good, the soup was hot and the tea hit the spot!
After we left Melrose, we went on to Rosslyn Chapel.  I admit I didn't know much about it (never read Da Vinci Code), but WOW!  It was awesome!  They had scaffolding around it so I didn't take pictures and we weren't allowed to take them inside.  By this time, the sun was fading fast and the cold seeped in from everywhere.  Inside the chapel, portable heaters were set up at various spots.  As with most chapels, the intricate details of the windows, walls and ceilings were absolutely stunning.  We tagged onto a tour and listened as the guide told stories of the carvings and their origins.  I, of course, found the carving of a bagpiper.  I also slipped down the steep stone steps to the lower floor where they had music playing.  The songs made me think of Gregorian chants.  Down there I had chills that had nothing to do with the dwindling temperature.  The walls were bare here and it smelled of dank earth.  

Soon, our bus was ready to head back to Edinburgh.  Once we arrived back in the city, it was dark and it was only about 4:30.  We went to eat in a beautiful restaurant on the Royal Mile called Dubh Prais, or The Black Pot.  EXCELLENT food and service!  It's a bit hidden and very easy to miss, but if you're ever there it's worth searching it out.  Of course, after this fabulous meal, we went back toward Grassmarket and our hotel and stopped in a pub along the way!

Next up will be the recap of the Torchlight Procession, the official opening of the Hogmanay Celebration!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Scotland For Hogmanay- Day 1

Yay!  Finally here is the start of my detailed review of my Hogmanay week in Scotland!  I'll share my pictures as I'm telling you about the trip and then I'll share miscellaneous (AWESOME) pictures from my friends too! 

I left my house at 9:30 Monday morning and I arrived in the hotel in Edinburgh about lunchtime on Tuesday.  Needless to say I was exhausted since I'd chosen to watch movies on the flight over the pond instead of sleeping.  (The Expendables and The A-Team, in case you were wondering.)  What did I find when we landed in Edinburgh?  Cold, drizzly and cloudy weather, but not nearly as chilly as I'd expected.  Yes, I could see my breath as I talked, but it didn't matter.  My heart spoke then and said, "Welcome home."  I turned to my friends and said, "I think I must've been Scottish in a former life!"  I couldn't stop smiling. 

Our hotel was gorgeous and centrally located.  We didn't do much that first day.  One friend needed sleep, so the other one and I went walking along the Royal Mile, glancing in the stores, listening to the bagpiper on the corner, and visiting the Police Museum where they had items made out of human skin.  I kid you not.  Creepy.  Then we went inside one of my favorite pubs, Deacon Brodie's Tavern, for a few pints.  The 3rd member of our party joined us for dinner a while later at a pub across from the hotel and then we turned in for the night to catch up on sleep.    

Now for the pictures!  This first one is Edinburgh Castle...from the front door of our hotel.  (How awesome was this?!?!?!)  Each of the restaurants and the bar in the hotel had big picture windows of this scene as well.

This second one is the view of Edinburgh from Maxie's, one of the restaurants that J.K. Rowling is said to have hung out in while writing Harry Potter. 

 This third one is the street we had to walk up in order to reach the Royal Mile. 
This last one is also Edinburgh Castle from the hotel.  I just love the view no matter the time of day!

I was there for 6 days, so be sure to come back to hear and see more of my adventure!  Tomorrow will be details and pictures from Day 2, our day tour to the Borders.