I’m moving my blog to the domain name I purchased last year … Check it out: http://arlenehittle.com

While celebrating my Golden Heart® finalist status in one of many phone calls over the weekend, my friend Pat said something that made me tear up a little. She said my mother would be proud.

That’s true. My mom, an English teacher before I came along, always encouraged me to write. When she died in 2003, I hadn’t yet accomplished anything in the fiction world (although I do think she watched me receive a first-place award from the Indiana Society of Professional Journalists for a series of stories on students peeved about a high school’s piercing policy).

Since her death, I’ve lost 100 pounds (and, unfortunately, regained most of it). I’ve found myself a significant other. I’ve finished more than one manuscript and — finally — gained the courage to start putting my fiction out there.

I experienced a moment of sadness that Mom didn’t live to see this moment. But I like to think she knows. Somehow, she knows … just like she knows I sit down and watch one of her favorite movies, “A Christmas Story,” at least once every year. (She grew up in Hammond, Ind., on the street Ralphie supposedly lived on.)

Yeah, I’m saying there has to be something higher than Cloud Nine, and I’m on it. I am a 2011 Golden Heart finalist. I’ve been fielding congratulatory calls, tweets and e-mails all day — and I’m glad to get them.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve thought to myself “OMG, OMG, OMG” today. Good thing they just added that phrase to the dictionary, eh?

The GH final wasn’t the only piece of good news I received today. I also found out that “Beauty and the Ballplayer” won the Beacon contest, too. And the final judge/agent requested a full MS. I’ll be getting right on that, contacting her Monday.













See? I’m not imagining all this good fortune. It’s really happening!

I’ve been writing off and on since I finished my first draft of my first MS back in 1995 or 96, but I’ve gotten serious about it in the past two years. I entered the GH for the first time in 2010; my entry earned solidly mediocre scores. This year I entered two (in series contemporary and single title contemporary) and finaled once.

You can find a full list of Golden Heart® and RITA® finalists here. (I’m excited to have found the ® symbol I’ve been instructed to use in reference to the GH and RWA.) It was nice to see so many familiar Ruby sisters (from my adopted GH class of 2009) on the lists.

There’s so much to think about, though. The Boyfriend said, “What’s next?” Well, the most immediate concern is getting a flattering headshot by April 8. I also need to find a way to pay the conference registration fee/airfare/hotel, and think about business cards. And I need to update my website … and take a “crafting the perfect pitch” workshop so I’m ready to meet with agents/editors at Nationals.

Simply put, I need to ramp up my writing efforts while remaining grounded enough to hold onto the day job … and start a new diet to lose weight before July.

None of these things are impossible tasks. I’m just thankful to be faced with such dilemmas.

My phone woke me up — and this time, it was THE call … well, the call that I’m a Golden Heart finalist, at least.

“Beauty and the Ballplayer” finaled in the contemporary series category.

More later, since I’m sure this is the beginning of a long, wild ride!

My immediate dilemma: How can I get a flattering headshot for the Jumbotron? Well, I do work with a bunch of photographers. Maybe one of them will be up to the task.

I’m sure I’m not the only one counting down the days hours until Golden Heart finalist calls go out.

To keep my nerves at bay, I’ve been checking in with the gals at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood. They’ve been on GH countdown all week, and will have a big e-party on Friday.

I scheduled myself a massage Friday morning and (inadvertently) a chiropractor’s appointment. (I realized that when I went to enter the massage in my cell phone calendar.)

Maybe I should go shopping for some consolatory chocolate — or a celebratory tiara, as Anne Marie recommended in Wednesday’s post.

And I’ll definitely keep in mind the advice in Thursday’s entry: Not finaling in the GH doesn’t mean your story is no good. Maybe one of your judges was having a bad day … or a bad hair day. Or they hated your hero/heroine.

I hope that none of those things are the case, and that my sparkling prose earned me a lot of high scores, securing me one of those coveted calls and a spot in the 2011 class of GH finalists.

But if it didn’t, don’t worry: I’m not going anywhere. What is it they say? If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

If your mother was anything like mine, she dispensed tons of advice: Sit up straight … Don’t go outside with a wet head or you’ll catch a cold … and NEVER stop at a rest area after dark.

Well, I slouch all the time, frequently go out with wet hair and recently stopped at Sunset Point at midnight (under the Boyfriend’s watchful eye) — and the world didn’t stop spinning. My posture may suffer, but I didn’t catch my death of cold or get myself murdered.

So Mom doesn’t always know best.

She was right about one thing, though: You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

As a reporter, my best interviews happen when I approach them like I’m sitting down to chat with a friend. Interview subjects share more — and give better quotes — if you set a friendly tone and bond over something you have in common.

Interviewing characters is similar. I like to sit down with my laptop, usually in a coffee shop, and make myself comfortable. Then we chat.

Of course, your characters are in your head, so you control the response. However, if your characters are anything like mine, they’re mouthy at best, uncooperative at worst.

To get the conversational ball rolling, I lob them a few softball questions first, questions like How’d you get your nickname? Where do you live? Any roommates?

With the niceties out of the way (and the creative juices flowing), you can get serious. If you’re lucky, your characters’ responses tell you something you didn’t know or didn’t consider important … something you can use to enrich your story.

For example, when I sat down with the hero in a half-finished, still-untitled WIP, I discovered he’s a bit of a stuffed shirt who likes to please everyone but himself.

So, Drew, tell me about your childhood.

(shrugs) There’s not much to tell. I grew up in a stable home with a mother and father who both loved me to distraction. I’m the middle child, with an older sister and younger brother.

I understand they’re both screw-ups.

Denise is a successful attorney. I’d hardly call that a screw-up. Of course, Mom isn’t happy that she’s decided to get herself artificially inseminated.

How do you feel about that decision?

It’s not my decision to make. She is 32 years old and still without a husband or any prospect of one. I say if she thinks the sperm bank is the best way to achieve her goal of having a family, she should go for it. (Hmm … I sense a story there!😉 ) Just don’t tell my Mom I said so.

Why not?

I like being “the good child.” If Mom heard me siding with Denise, I might lose my standing.

What about your brother?

Dan? He’s no threat. He can’t hold a job for more than a few months at a time. He just lost another one, for boinking some girl in the copier room.

Let’s explore your need to be “the good child.”

Now you sound like my shrink.

You have a shrink?

No, but if I did, he’d surely want to “explore my need to be ‘the good child.’”


Pass. Ask me another question.

No, I think we’re onto something here. We’re going to continue exploring this topic, if you don’t mind.

(scowls) I like making people happy. Is that a crime?

Not at all — unless, of course, by making someone else happy you’re not pleasing yourself, too.

You can’t please someone else and yourself at the same time, genius.

Of course you can, if you both have similar goals, needs and desires.

And how many truly compatible people do you find in this world? I’m willing to bet the answer is “not too damn many.”

It only takes one, Drew.

Now you’re talking romance, huh?

You got it, genius.

So grab a cup of coffee, make yourself comfortable and have a heart-to-heart with your hero/heroine. What you find out just might surprise you — and it’ll probably improve your WIP.

The English language is constantly growing and evolving.

What’s that? You already knew that? Well, so did I. But for some reason, this not-so-surprising thought whapped me upside the head the other day.

A writer friend and I were at Starbucks (where else?) when she asked if I thought OMG was in the dictionary yet.

“No, but I’m pretty sure they just added ‘friend’ as a verb.”

I couldn’t find any proof of this notion when I looked, but I did find this article from cracked.com listing “muggle,” “cyberslacking,” “gaydar,” “threequel” and “frankenfood” as new words in the Oxford English Dictionary.)

Another article says “turducken,” “frenemy,” “bromance” and “steampunk” made the cut. And in 2009, Merriam-Webster added “staycation,” “vlog,” “webisode” and “waterboarding,” among others.

While no one uses the word “bifurcate” anymore, phrases like “frenemy” and “bromance” have slipped into the common vernacular. I should know. I recently used “bromance” (correctly) in a sentence in my WIP.

And on my other blog, it’s easy to slip in an OMG. Heck, even the word “blog” itself is a relatively new creation.

It makes me wonder: Will future generations look back and laugh at the way we talk/write? Will they even be able to understand us? Or will our frenemies and cyberslacking sound as foreign to them as Elizabethan English seems to most of us?

All I can say is thank goodness “Gag me with a spoon” didn’t catch hold!