Showing posts from April, 2007

Perfect Pitch Part Two

So who do you pitch to? This is where doing some research comes in handy. Find out what agents and/or editors are going to be at the conference you’re attending and then do your homework. Check out any bios that may come with the conference brochure. Look them up online. One surefire path to failure is to pitch your medical thriller manuscript to an agent who only represents children’s and young adult’s fiction. Or nonfiction. Find someone who stands a chance of being interested in your work.

This next tidbit is one of the hardest to swallow. You do not have to sign with the first agent who asks to represent you. I know, I know. We’re so desperate that when someone…ANY one…shows an interest we jump on the chance. But this is where going to a conference and pitching is so great. We get to actually meet the person we’re pitching to. You can get an idea of whether you like him or her and whether you feel as though you can work closely with them. Look at this way, if one agent liked your w…

Perfect Pitch

I had lunch today with a group of my writer friends. The topic of conversation for our monthly Pennwriters’ gathering was pitching. I’m not talking baseball. Or music. No, we were discussing book proposals. You see, our annual conference (complete with agent and editor appointments) is fast approaching.

I have a special fondness for both the organization as a whole and for the conference in particular. Last year at this time, I had a completed manuscript and was in the midst of my agent search. It was at the conference that I met the woman who would eventually sign on to represent me.

So everyone pitching this year seems to assume that I’m a great authority on the subject. I’ve been asked to participate on a panel titled “Finding an Agent.” The group at lunch today took notes when I talked.

The truth is I was darned lucky. My timing was perfect. I really don’t think I can say the same about my pitch. But it happened to strike a cord with this agent. I met the right person on the right da…

Pills and Cats: the Adventure Continues

After almost three months of taking her pill hidden in one form of treat or another, this morning my kitty, Samantha, decided she was having none of it.

You can look back in my blog posts to read about my early adventures with getting Sammie to eat her pill. The effort has evolved over time as she has grown bored with her treats. At first she happily wolfed down the pill hidden in a pill pocket and mixed with other treats. Eventually, she decided she didn’t like her treats or the pill pockets, so in recent weeks, I’ve wrapped the pill pocket with small strips of smoked turkey lunchmeat. Not healthy, to be sure, but if it entices Miss Persnickety to eat the pill, hey, I’ll do it. Lately, I’ve used only pieces of the pill pocket, leaving a thin film of the sticky material on the pill. Just enough to act as glue for the turkey.

Then we get to this morning. The turkey just didn’t have the allure for Sammie that it usually does. My worst fear come to fruition. Okay, maybe it’s not my WORSE f…

A Golden Day

My mom and I stopped in to see Patty yesterday and found her sitting outside in the sunshine with her daughter and a friend. She knew us! For the very first time since the accident, she definitely knew us. She saw us pulling in and said “There’s Aunt Helen.” Earlier she had been asking Jen about Uncle John—my dad—and Jen had told her that he’d passed away. She didn’t remember sitting vigil at his bedside with us the night before he’d passed or being at the funeral. And when Mom sat down next to her, she asked my mom “What happened to Uncle John? Was it his heart?” My mom almost wept. Not because of Dad, but because this was “our Patty” instead of the sad, damaged version we’d been visiting up until now.

Her friend asked her where we (Mom and I) lived and she replied, “Next to us. Why?” As though it were a silly question.

She’s had a hair cut and looks much more like her old self, too. She still has a long way to go and there will probably be ups and downs, but yesterday was a good day. …

Revisiting Chapter One

I’m back at square one. Well, not really. I have a completed first draft. But now I’m once again struggling with my first chapter.

I’ve known people who had no problems with the first chapter. “It’s the rest of the book I have trouble with,” they say. I think I hate them.

I try not to fuss with it too much during the first draft phase. The very first time I met Nancy Martin, she was giving a talk to a writing group and gave the advice to finish the book and then throw the first three chapters in the trash. Completely re-write them. The reasoning is that it takes several chapters to get into your characters’ voices and so the original draft of those early chapters won’t sound the same. Also, things happen along the way as you write that require you to revise the early stuff. If you strain and sweat to perfect Chapter One, no doubt you’re only going to have to pitch it anyway.

So here I am going toe-to-toe with my dreaded Chapter One again. This time I AM fussing and sweating. And swearing…

Learning from the Masters

Most of you probably already know how much I enjoy attending book signings. As someone who hopes to be in the position one day of meeting and greeting her reading public, I think of these events as lessons. Occasionally, they are a lesson of how NOT to do an author event. But in the last couple of weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of attending book signings by two of my favorite mystery writers who also happen to exemplify how to do one of these things the RIGHT way.

Laura Lippman came to Mystery Lovers Bookshop on Sunday afternoon, April first. This was the third time I’ve attended an event with Laura and she never fails to please. She is a wonderful speaker. I’m currently in the middle of reading her latest release What the Dead Know. It’s wonderful! I keep stealing time from my daily tasks just to read one more chapter. My advice: go out and buy and read this one NOW.

Friday the thirteenth, Lisa Scottoline finally made it to town after being forced by our lovely spring weather to reschedu…

Update-April 12, 2007

Patty is out of the hospital. She was transferred earlier this week to the Washington County Health Center. We’re all pleased about this development. Her daughter-in-law’s grandmother had been a resident there. It’s also the same place where my dad spent the last fifteen months of his life. Of course, Patty isn’t on the “resident” floor. She’s in the skilled nursing wing where she will get excellent care and rehab and therapy.

The move did seem to set her back a bit. But that’s understandable. She’s gone from a private room in a big city hospital to the Health Center where she’s surrounded by people and can sit in the solarium and look out over fields and woods. Mom and I used to sit at that window and watch deer and turkey with my dad. But it’s a lot of mental stimulation for someone recently out of a coma.

I stopped in to see her last night. That’s the other good thing. She’s now close enough that we can drop in several times a week to visit. She was sleeping and I didn’t want to dist…

An Honor to be Nominated

Easter this year will be one that sticks in the memory for years to come. First off, it snowed and was bitter cold. Colder than Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year. I came up with a few Easter carols. “I’m Dreaming of a White Easter” and “Jingle Bunnies” to name two.

I spent the day with my family. Unfortunately it was in the Emergency Room. Mom had another dizzy spell Saturday evening and then didn’t feel good and had leg cramps Sunday morning, so the planned visit to the doctor turned into a visit to the ER instead. Several of the hospital staff had to double check with us that they had the right person because their records listed her at 86 years old and they didn’t believe it. That made her day. Yes, it’s true.

Her tests all came back excellent, but her blood pressure dropped considerably when they took it standing as opposed to sitting or lying down. They decided to keep her overnight for observation and to run a few more tests this morning. Mom was happy. She didn’t have to wash d…

The Kindness of Strangers

Yesterday, I went for my one-week follow-up appointment with the periodontal guy. He said the graft looks great and he removed my stitches. He also gave me more pain pills. I go back in two weeks. By then, he says I should be a happy camper. I’ll be the judge of that.

Afterwards, my mom and I hit the stores for our weekly grocery shopping. When did Easter become a bigger shopping holiday than Christmas? My family never did much for Easter anyway. A basket with some plastic straw and a few jelly beans and chocolate bunnies and eggs. And some real eggs died with onion skins. But the lines at Giant Eagle and Wal-Mart indicated something more than eggs and candy or even family dinner was in the works.

Our last stop was Wal-Mart. We stood in the check-out line for over a half hour. I was in the process of bagging my order when I glanced back at Mom, who was behind me in line and saw her clinging to her cart, almost on the ground. I rushed back to her and caught her and asked her what she was…

The End

I gave everyone an extra week on the March Word Watcher Challenge, but now it’s time to assess how we all did.

Sound the trumpets. I finished the first draft of my current mystery novel. Yippee! It’s a long way from being ready to go to my agent. It’s not even ready for my preliminary readers. But it’s a first draft. And it’s done.

I typed those two lovely little words (THE END) last Friday while looped on pain meds from my gum graft. (In case you’re wondering, my mouth still hurts!) Since then, I took this week off to do things like visiting my cousin, visiting friends, recording business expenses and balancing checkbooks. I mailed in the stack of rebates for various purchases that have been piling up. I can actually see the top of my desk!

I admit that I’m chomping at the bit to get back to my novel. I have notes from my critique groups stacked next to my computer, ready to be incorporated into what will become the second draft. There are holes in the plot that I know how I intend to f…

A Visit With Patty

I know woefully little about brain injury. But I’ve lived through elderly dementia (AKA Alzheimer’s) with both my dad and my grandmother, so my visit with my now conscious cousin Patty wasn’t too far out of my realm of familiarity. The best part is that while Dad and Grandma deteriorated over time, Patty stands an excellent change of getting better.

She doesn’t show much emotion. Her voice is mostly monotone, as if groggy from medication, which I’m sure she is. She tends to give the wrong name to things, but she manages to stay in the right category. For instance, when the nurse asked who I was, she gave a name. Not MY name, but a name. Close enough I told her. Same with her sister who came to visit while I was there. Patty called her by their mother’s name. When asked what color where the daffodils I brought in for her, she gave a color. Not yellow, but a color. It had been a gray, rainy day and I mentioned that it looked like the sun was trying to come out. Patty said, “yeah, but it’…

Better Living Through Chemistry

I have one word of advice for anyone who must go through a gum graft procedure.


It’s been many years since I had that first botched graft, but the pain stands out clearly in my memory. Possibly because after Friday’s procedure, I’ve revisited it. The big difference between then and now is the pain medication. I think I remember being on prescription-strength Motrin the first time. This time the doctor wrote me a prescription for Vicodin. I spent most of Friday afternoon and evening and all day yesterday napping. It’s a good thing I didn’t have anything scheduled for those two days.

The napping was good. I’ve been sleep deprived lately and now I’m about caught up. In between Vicodin-induced snoozes, I finished reading a couple books, browsed at a writing magazine, did a miniscule amount of housework and washed a couple loads of laundry.

My cat thinks I’ve finally wised up. Sleep lots, move around a little, grab a bite here and there.

Which brings me to the eating part. Friday, eating…