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.

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 — 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 — 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 — except for the very last part. All the things I’ve read say to answer any questions you ask. 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. 😉

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 — 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 — no longer sticky, of course — 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” — 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) — but what’s written is still pretty good.

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

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 — 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 — 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 — 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!) 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 — 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?

In about 12 hours, I’ll be at my RWA chapter meeting. I’m definitely looking forward to it — all the more because I do not have to rush back to the office afterward.

That’s right: I have the whole weekend off. I fully intend to take advantage of it to spend lots of quality time with the Boyfriend (and hopefully sneak in a little writing/reading/editing time).

So far, the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood Winter Writing festival has been a great motivator. Today, I completed Goal 4 (I think): Reading an article in RWR.

My newest issue arrived earlier this week, and I was excited first to check out the revamped layout. (As a page designer, I’m more interested in that sort of thing than some.) The changes are subtle, for sure. I guess I was expecting differences a little more drastic.

Monday, I wrote nearly 1,000 words. Yes, I’m aware that’s a lot more than my 200-word goal. Tuesday, I printed out a copy of my NaNo novel for editing (and gave myself a point for it. Can’t do any editing on it if it’s not printed out, right?)

Wednesday, while the Boyfriend was playing tennis, I sat in one of my favorite Starbucks and read through the entire thing. I got caught up in the story at times, so there were pages without any editing marks.That’s what subsequent passes are for. 😉

On Thursday, I did some more writing on the WIP and got “Beauty and the Ballplayer” ready to edit. I also found this great article at Write It Sideways, about filter words that can weaken your fiction. I figured they’d be good to keep in mind when I’m editing.

Like I said, it’s been a productive week. I can’t wait to have another one!

Strange coincidences seem to be following me everywhere. In November, on the day I shipped off my GH entries, I got the call about finaling in the Beacon contest.

Today, as I left the house for a write-in at Starbucks, I thought to myself, “I wonder why I haven’t received any GH entries to judge. Maybe they decided they didn’t want me as a judge.”

When I returned home this afternoon, there was a UPS box waiting on the deck, addressed to me. Inside were … you guessed it: A stack of entries ready for my judging pleasure.

Kinda strange, right? It makes me wonder if there’s something to all that “Law of Attraction” and “The Secret” hype. Maybe if I start thinking positively that I will final in the GH, I’ll need the week of vacation I’ve requested to go to Nationals.

On another note, it’s only Day One of the WWF and I’ve already earned two points. I killed my 200-word goal at Starbucks, completing 1,066 new words — and I earned a bonus point just for visiting the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood site to declare my goals.

If I continue to write at this pace, I’ll have to up my goal to at least 400 words a day …

Talk of goal altering reminds me: I have some to add to my list.

— Read at least one of the GH entries I’m supposed to judge (after I peruse the judge’s instructions, of course)

— Pay my RWA dues. Got my notice yesterday. The drop-dead deadline is Feb. 28.

Jan. 10 will be here before I know it. That means it’s time to craft my goals for the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood Winter Writing Festival.

But before I do that, I feel a need to create some writing resolutions for 2011.

2010 was a very successful year for me. I wrote more than 180,000 words, entered the Golden Heart in not one but two categories, successfully completed the NaNoWriMo with a 53,000-word story and scored my first-ever contest final.

In 2011, I want to build on that success and keep the momentum going. After all, I’m now less than a year away from the big 4-0 (the arbitrary date I set for myself to get published).

But how? That’s a very good question. I wish I knew the answer — but I don’t. All I can do is try to set some goals for myself.

Keep writing. I wrote 180K+ in year because I sat down to write most days. I can’t say every day, mind you. However, I did write more often than not. I treated writing like a day job … a part-time one, at least. I took myself to Starbucks (where, until July, I did not have access to the Internet. Am I the only one who thinks free WiFi at the Bux is a bad idea?)

Continue my search for the right agent. At our last NARWA meeting, I stated the intention to send out at least two queries a week. Hopefully my agent search will become easier in April, after I final in the Golden Heart. (A girl’s nothing without her dreams, right?) Speaking of GH dreams, I already requested the week of Nationals as a vacation week so I can go when I final. 😉

— Finish the first draft on Beth & Cody’s story.

— Edit Kenny & Kristi, my NaNo novel. I started reading through it again last week and still thought it was excellent … meaning, of course, I haven’t been away from it long enough to see its flaws yet.

— Take at least two online classes/workshops this year, so I can can continue to hone the craft.

Read more. Writers read. Conventional wisdom says you should read as many books in your genre as you can get your hands on. Now that I’m concentrating so much energy on writing, I don’t read nearly as much as I used to. BW (before writing), I could devour two to three books a week. Now, I’m lucky to finish two a month.

Hopefully, that will change soon. The Boyfriend is getting me an e-reader for Christmas. I’m hoping access to cheaper books will encourage me to read more. (Then again, I have shelves full of still-unread books, and that hasn’t been an encouragement. It just adds to the clutter in my room.)

Build up this blog. My weight-loss blog is moderately successful, even if my weight-loss efforts have faltered. It’s doing so well that I pulled in more than 1,000 hits for two of the last 12 months. Love & Laughter, on the other hand, gets between 100 and 150.

One big difference is posting frequency. Here, I’ve been lucky to post once a week. There, I sometimes put up multiple entries in a single day.

Any other suggestions for me? What about you? What are YOUR 2011 writing goals?

 

The gals at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood have just announced the details of their new Winter Writing Festival and I can’t wait to dive in.

The gist: You set the goals that will work for you and check in with the Rubies once a week to let them know how you’re doing. You earn 1 point a day for meeting your personal goal, and anyone who earns 50 points during the festival is a winner.

The challenge starts on Jan. 10. Now all I need to do is craft some goals.

Get more details here.