Today just might go down as the highlight of my writing career to-date. It could be the start of something big.

Today, I was one of the lucky 125 entrants selected to submit to the Knight Agency’s Author Speed Date contest. You should have heard the excited whoop I let out when I saw my name on that list. (Everyone in the newsroom sure did. A few people even came over to my desk to see if I was OK.)

Panic quickly supplanted the initial excitement: Which of my novels do I send them? (I have so darn many to pick from β€” six completed MSs in all.) After some thought, I chose the one with the proven track record, my Beacon finalist, “Beauty and the Ballplayer.”

When I received word a few hours later that “Beauty and the Ballplayer” did not final in the Write Stuff contest, I second-guessed my decision. Big time. Lucky for me, I hadn’t had a chance to ship off my entry yet.)

The score sheets sat in my Gmail inbox, waiting for me to decide: Do I read them now, before I send my entry to the Knight Agency, so I can try to “fix” it?

A coworker convinced me to go ahead and look. “If they make any suggestions for the first three pages, use them if you think they have merit.”

So I took a peek. I couldn’t believe my eyes: Two perfect scores! The last judge gave me a 66 of 100, though. (Hope I didn’t get that judge for the Golden Heart. πŸ˜‰Β  ) None of them wanted to make substantial alterations to pages 1-3.

I literally just shipped off my entry (the first three pages). Now, I wait … just like I’m waiting for the Golden Heart calls. The Speed Date results will come back faster, though. I’ll know by Thursday if I advance to the next round. (Just 25 of 125 will be so lucky.)

No, not IT it. But I just found out I’ve been taking the wrong approach to query writing.

A friend and I recently exchanged query letters. Keep in mind that I’ve written my share of queries β€” and have read more than my fair share of advice on how to write a great one.

But the one she read was my first stab at a query for this particular manuscript β€” and apparently it’s no good.

What I have is more one-page synopsis than a query. Hmm … or should I say “harumph”?

My friend’s advice is to follow this formula for the summary graph:

First sentence about the heroine/hero. Second sentence about hero/heroine. Third sentence covers the conflict in their relationship. Fourth sentence either asks a question or teases the reader in some way.

I can buy into that advice β€” except for the very last part. All the things I’ve read say to answer any questions you ask.Β You shouldn’t leave the agent/editor hanging … or so I thought.

What say you, loyal commenters? Ask and answer or just ask?

P.S. On the bright side, I guess I have an even shorter synopsis I can send out. Why couldn’t I have realized that before submitting to the Golden Heart? I could have squeezed another page of excellent writing into my entry. πŸ˜‰

Ever wonder if your wellspring of ideas will dry up? I do.

The thought hit me tonight: When I finish the first draft of my WIP, what’s next?

Of course there will be finding volunteers to read my newly finished baby, editing, and, eventually, writing a query and shopping it around.

But what will be my next WIP? Where will the idea originate?

I used to think I had an unending supply of ideas. After all, my imagination is sometimes sparked by a blurb I see/hear on the news (as was the case for “Blind Date Bride”) or even by something I witness in the mall.

Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize that those snippets don’t necessarily have the chops to sustain a novel β€” of any length. They might make it into the story as part of a scene, but there’s usually no conflict … nothing at stake.

Huh. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have worried about that. Good thing I’ve learned something since then, eh?

And now that I’ve had some time to mull things over in my head, I do have some good ideas rattling around in there. First off, I can finish Drew & Lainy’s story (which could probably kick off an entire series, seeing as it’s set in a high school that happens to be a hotbed of teacher-on-teacher romance).

Brad and Kenny’s brother needs his own story, too. Matt’s buddy, Dave, has a built-in backstory (complete with secret baby). Another of his teammates could also have a tale to tell. And during my recent fit of decluttering, I stumbled on an old idea with a lot of promise.

Guess my wellspring of ideas won’t be running dry anytime soon. That’s a relief!

Someone could β€” maybe even should β€” write a dissertation on what heroes’ cars say about them.

The idea came to me over the weekend, while the Boyfriend and I were gabbing (where else?) in the car. We spend a lot of time driving somewhere.

I can’t remember how the topic came up, but I was soon running through a list of my heroes and the vehicles they drive β€” and finding it interesting that in my last three stories, my hero has driven an SUV of some sort.

Damien has a Honda Element; Matt drives a Yukon; and Kenny has a Ford Explorer.

What does their vehicle say about them? To me, SUVs (and pickup trucks) are more rugged … manly. A man in an SUV is competent and capable.

Damien, having an Element, is also eco-conscious. (I do wonder, though, if an Element is really considered an SUV. I’ll pretend it is, because I like the thought of Damien as capable, competent and manly.

Perhaps an SUV-driving man is a cliche, like a cowboy in a pickup. But cliches have their roots in truth, right? πŸ˜‰

My other stories’ heroes drive cars, except the one who has no car at all. (Drew sold his car before moving to Indiana, basing his decision on the cost to have it shipped from Arizona and the belief that everything’s in walking distance in the town he was moving to.)

Dustin, my FBI agent, drives a red Porsche convertible that he bought used and keeps in good condition. The flashy car came in handy while he was undercover with the p0rn ring. His heroine, while she likes the car, is convinced it’s proof that Dustin is all flash and no substance.

Mike James drives a black Camaro, part of the playboy image he maintains. He starts to wonder if it’s time to trade it in for something more stable and dependable β€” kind of like he starts to wonder if it’s time to shed his image to settle down with Bree.

The only hero with a car I couldn’t remember is Brad, from “Operation Snag Mike Brad.” It kept running through my mind that he drove a Camaro, as well … but I couldn’t see myself giving two different heroes a Camaro.

Well, I was wrong. I checked in the MS, and Brad does drive a Camaro. I think I’m going to have to change that. That car doesn’t scream “teacher in a small town.” Maybe I should give him an aging Toyota or something.

Oops … there I go with the stereotyping again. (Hmm … One of my heroines has a bad habit of doing that. Wonder where she got it.) πŸ˜›

I can’t remember the address of this website. All I know is, one night at the office, many years ago, one of my coworkers who no longer works there said, “Hey, here’s a website that tells you your p0rn star name.'” (Yeah, you’d be amazed what silly things happen during downtime in the newsroom.)

We entered our names, chuckled and went back to work. Except I entered a few extra names β€” those belonging to some of my heroes and heroines.

I tell you this because while I was decluttering my bedroom (a weeklong project), I discovered a Post-it note β€” no longer sticky, of course β€” with those names on it. It was buried under a pile of magazines and other crap on my dresser.

It was good for a laugh, for sure.

My fave hero of all time, Mike James, became “Adam Steele.” Dustin, the FBI agent, was “Kidd Gunn” β€” kind of like Kidd Video … but cooler, I hope. (Does anyone else remember “Kidd Video”? It was a Saturday morning cartoon-ish show, I think on NBC, after MTV got big).

Dustin’s heroine, Cassie Quinn, became Nikki Foxx. Her name didn’t get used, but I worked Dustin’s into the story. (He was talking with his buddy about the p0rn0graphy ring he helped break up, working undercover as … you guessed it … Kidd Gunn.)

My handwriting has gotten worse over the years, but even then, it was horrible. I had a name, Nick Carrington, written down for a character named, as best as I could make out, Gann.

Last night, I had no idea who “Gann” could be. I tried to make it into Brad (of Brad and Erin fame) and even Erin, though her p0rn star name was highly unlikely to be Nick Carrington.

This morning, it hit me: Gavin … as in Gavin Smythe, the foreign exchange student from the “High School Hell” collection I wrote with my roommate. He and Tarrah Ray hit it off by the end of those stories, and I picked up their story years later, after she followed him to London for university, abandoned him and went on to become a wildly successful writer. Gavin became a wildly successful hotel mogul, and their paths crossed again when her book was being made into a movie at one of his properties.

That’s a Harlequin Presents type of story, in case you couldn’t guess. It’s about two-thirds finished (that magic spot where I tend to lose interest and move on) β€” but what’s written is still pretty good.

Aw, jeez. Did I just commit to another project?

My friends at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood just pointed out there are only 38 days until the Golden Heart calls go out.

Really? Thanks for that anxiety-inducing tidbit.

When I’m done hyperventilating over here, I need to get to query- and synopsis-polishing.

I can’t say this weekend has been perfect, but it’s close. Even though I was busy with the day job, I had a chance to get inspired again.

Last week was an “off week” for writing. I just wasn’t feeling it β€” not writing new words or editing already written ones … not any of it. I think I earned all of one point in the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood Winter Writing Festival. I used the excuse of “decluttering” my bedroom to avoid feeling guilty for this lapse.

But this weekend, my drive was renewed. Thank goodness for that! I only have one uncluttered surface in my bedroom β€” dresser No. 2.

The creative juices started seeping back on Saturday, while I perused the latest issue of RWR as I stood in a slow-moving line at Chipotle (the first time I’ve seen the line move that slowly there). Then I attended a book-signing for one of my NARWA sisters. Glynna Kaye‘s new Love Inspired release, “Second Chance Courtship,” is new this month, and she had a signing in Flagstaff.

Home from work on Saturday night, I opened my WIP file for the first time in about a week. I read back through a few pages … but still found myself stuck. Those juices weren’t quite flowing yet.

Lucky for me, I still had plenty of other things to do when I met with our chapter president, Anne Marie Becker, Sunday morning for a write-in at Starbucks. We chatted a little, about NARWA business and “Only Fear,” the book she has coming out in September through Carina Press. Then we settled down to work β€” her on suggested edits from her editor, me on self-editing my NaNo story, “My Fair Fiancee.”

Juices running at full force by then, I also read through another of the GH entries I was sent to judge (just one more to go!)Β and reviewed my query letter for “Beauty and the Ballplayer,” the contest finalist.

Now, after I finish this blog post, I’ll transfer some of my Kenny & Kristi edits to the Word file. I was editing the old-fashioned way today … on the printed page.

Seems I catch more that way β€” especially when I go through each page with a highlighter to find all those pesky, unnecessary adverbs. Some pages had an embarrassing amount. I blame the NaNo mentality (more words, more, more, more!)

Of course, without that NaNo drive, I wouldn’t have another completed MS, now would I?