Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Take A Bow-- Some End of the Year Awards

What is it about a little patch of pixels that can make me feel so good about myself for days? It's just a tiny blog badge, but it instills me with pride and comfort. (You like me, you really LIKE me!) So I'd like to give a big, heartfelt thanks to Elana J. and Julie Dao for thinking of me.

The specifics of the "From Me to You" award entreat me to reveal seven facts about myself, and choose seven worthy recipients. I'll try to make these fun:

1. My sister made me get up at four A.M. the Christmas I was six, so she wouldn't get in trouble by herself. The sight of that Barbie Dreamhouse made everything worth it. Ah, to be six again!

2. My parents always told us not to eat the candy canes off the tree before Christmas, but I'd take one with me on the school bus almost every morning and never fessed up. What can I say-- I needed my peppermint fix.

3. This year I got my husband The State DVD collection. He's been wanting it since it was just a rumor, and now it's his. There will be much rejoicing in our little shotgun.

4. I just started watching Mad Men and I won't be friends with any of you until you start watching it. ;) Oh, Peggy! When will you learn?

5. Sawyer is definitely the best character on Lost. What, that one wasn't about me? Sure it is.

6. I will watch Waterworld any time it is on. So will my husband. It's the glue that binds our relationship together.

7. I hate coffee. Will not drink it. I don't even like tiramisu that much because I don't like the coffee flavor. I'm a tea drinker. Mmm. I'm fixing to get me a hot chai latte here in a few minutes.

I'd like to pass this award on to:

1. Jennifer Shirk
2. Sherrinda
3. Voidwalker
4. Shannon M.
5. LiLa
6. Corey S.
7. Heather Z.

From Me, To Y'all! ;)

As for Julie's award-- which matches her blog-- I'm passing it on to these five bloggers, in the hopes that they, too, will pass on the Silver Lining to five others:

1. Icy Roses
2. Karen Denise
3. Suzanne Hayes
4. Rebecca Knight
5. Abby Annis

You all have helped me see the silver lining where all I saw was gray, so thank you!

I'll be back January 2nd, for the "No-Kiss" Blogfest! Don't forget to sign up!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Curl up with a Book and a Nook! Contest

Click here to enter the Curl up with a Book and a Nook! Contest.

Two contests:

1.) The main contest is for the Nook and it ends on January 5th. This post will remain sticky so people can enter until then.

2.) The Book-a-Day contests will be daily.


Good Luck, y'all! And Happy Holidays!

Kissing Blogfest a Huge Success!

But was it the huge turnout of amazing bloggers who participated, or do we all have our minds on one thing? ;)

I'd like to thank Sherrinda for hosting the Kissing Blogfest Mr. Linky on her blog, and I hope that you'll take some time today to read some new scenes. Sure, kissing scenes are fun, and for me, easy to write, but they're a part a greater whole-- someone's novel, their blood, sweat and tears for the past few months or even years.

I've been working on EVANGELINE for over a year now, and it has only just gotten to the point where I am truly happy with it. So I for one, really appreciate being a part of the fun, and receiving all your wonderful comments/compliments. It made my day yesterday, and my morning, when I got up and saw even more comments. I'm about to finish reading the scenes I missed yesterday, and spread the love. ;)

But wait, there's more... Check out Sherrinda's blog for more information on the next blogfest:

Annnddd, let me announce that FrankieDiane at Frankie Writes is hosting the No Kiss Blogfest on January 2, 2010. Sign up on her site to post your most tension-filled "almost" kiss. She's already got a list going!

See ya there!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Official "Kissing Day" Blogfest

I've been in a romantic kind of mood lately, thus I have succumbed to the charms of "Kissing Day" and it's attendant blogfest.

Here's a scene from the middle of EVANGELINE since I've rewritten it in third person. It's one of my favorites. Enjoy!

The neighborhood had changed. Last time she was here, there’d been fields and a few planters’ homes. Now it was one house after another, squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder. Evie drove by the four shotgun houses that sat on the property, colorfully painted and in great condition compared to some of their neighbors. Though she zipped past without stopping, she could see the small porches were covered in plants and none of the windows were broken.

Only a few more blocks and Evie arrived at Aristide Dulac’s house, a cheery yellow shotgun. Though he owned the building and the record said he lived here, it was a double. She didn’t know which door to knock on, but she hadn’t come here just to turn around and go home. She parked her bike and knocked on the closest door. Reggae music wafted out of one of the apartments. No one answered, and she knocked again for good measure.

As she took a step away from the first door, the second door opened, spilling the strains of a Bob Marley song into the air. Evie pulled off her helmet and glasses, ready to introduce her self when she froze.

Aristide Dulac-- for this had to be him-- was a dead ringer for his however many greats grandfather, just as tall, lean and gorgeous. His hair was a bit longer, and he had a trim beard, but the resemblance was uncanny.

Her feet wouldn’t move. “Mr. Dulac?” she said at last. “Can I talk to you for a second?”

Evie expected him to go inside, or ask what she wanted, but he only stood there staring. She stared back. Her heart hurt looking at him. She wondered if he liked books the same as Jude, or if he loved his mother as much.

When he spoke, Evie felt the vibration of his voice clear down to her toes.


He crossed the distance of the concrete porch between them without his eyes breaking their hold on hers and grabbed her free hand, his rough thumb scouring her knuckles.

“No burns,” Evie murmured, lips already pursed when he pulled her close, a strong hand on her back. In one smooth motion, he gently cradled her neck and crushed his mouth on hers. Her lips parted and she sighed.

Just as abruptly, his embrace ended, and his gaze darted up and down the street. He grabbed her hand and practically dragged her inside.

Though the apartment was Spartan, there were a few pieces she remembered from the old house. He shut the door. Evie turned to see him pressed up against it.

“How did you find me?” Though his head was lowered, he maintained eye contact, as if he still couldn’t believe she was here.

But she was right where she belonged. He was supposed to be dead, not posing as his own descendant. Had he time-traveled, too? What was going on here?

Here are some links to the other Kissing Blogfest participants. I'll be updating as I find more by my blogging buddies! Dig out your lip-gloss, folks, it's going to be a long day!

Karen Denise
Katie G.
Jennifer S.
Wendy Sparrow
T. Anne
Stephanie T.

Elana J.
Renée C.

Have a loverly day, y'all!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chocolate for Inspiration: Holiday Giveaway!

Whew! The Messiah is over-- I ought to be REAALLLYY good at it by next year ;) -- and I'm still alive. I also got new contacts today, so I'm ready to get cracking on my new chapters (once I'm finished catching up with the last three episodes of Monk OnDemand, got to take my contacts for a test-ride, ya know!). In other wonderful news, okay, who am I kidding, this is much better news than everything that's been happening to me, Christina has an amazing giveaway on her blog.

for Inspiration: Holiday Giveaway!
: "Why is this the most wonderful time of
the year? Yep. You guessed it. I'm giving away a MASSIVE stack of books to you-
my fellow bloggers!

This Christmas holiday, I want to add a little
sparkle and fun to your holidays. I'm giving away three huge stacks of books in
the categories of paperback mysteries, paperback girl fun, and hardbacks."

So head on over to Christina's, to see the books you could win!

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Beth's Book Giveaway!

Beth Revis at Writing it Out has some great news-- she has an AGENT! Merrilee Heifetz of Writer's House, yes, you heard me, Writer's House. Yay, Beth!

So she's having an amazing giveaway on her blog, where you could win one of the books (or the movie Serenity, or a gift certificate) that influenced her as a writer.

Now that I have an agent, I want to honor these works that taught me so very much. In order to do that, I'd like to share them with you all! Below is an entry form for a contest I'm going to be holding from now until the New Year. You can select any of the books (or movie) listed above--or, if you don't share my tastes, you can just get a $10 Amazon (or IndieBound or Borders or WalMart or whatever) giftcard and buy whatever it is that you want most or didn't get for the holidays.

So join in the celebration with Beth, and check out the Bookshelf on her homepage. Full of wonderful recommendations if you're stuck on what book to read next. Thanks, Beth!

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I thought I was safe.

I had taken all the proper precautions, but somehow... They've found me.

The rush of bat-like wings fills the sky above me. The revision demons. Circling, as if over a carrion Thanksgiving, but it's my hide they're after. They want to delude me into thinking my novel is dying.

But that's just what they want me to think.

I stand straight and shake my fist at them, cradling my manuscript to my chest. All the while, they hurl taunts at me, but I can't listen to them. For that is certain death.

I sling stones to strike them from the sky, and run-- shaking, but surviving-- to where they won't find me again. Not any time soon, anyway. My novel is safe.

For now.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Oh! Ya Got Me!

Thanks to the wonderful Abby Annis, I've been tagged! This should be educational, if nothing else... Okay, question 1:

1. What's the last thing you wrote? What's the first thing you wrote that you still have? The last thing I wrote was a new scene I'm adding to my wip. And sadly, I'm afraid the first thing I wrote that I still have is an introduction and first chapter of a novel set in Bronze Age Crete that I started in grad school. When I moved out and went to college, my old story notebooks were the last things I wanted. I was reinventing myself-- I didn't need to be constantly reminded of how I was so desperate for friends in high school that I'd make them up.

2. Write poetry?
Good lord, no. Not since I was about thirteen and had a crush on a boy. It was sappy and awful, yet I think also had a paranormal element. Ah, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

3. Angsty poetry?
As if the world ever needed more of my angst. *insert eye-roll here*

4. Favorite genre of writing?
Definitely speculative fiction, and preferably YA. There's no genre that's more fun to write than YA speculative fiction.

5. Most annoying character you've ever created?
Definitely the goddess Isis from my trunked novel, The Uneven Parallel Plane (working title). She was a mega-beast, and in the most annoying way.

6. Best Plot you've ever created?
I really liked the plot to The Uneven Parallel Plane. It was fun, and had multiple pov characters whose destinies were intertwined.

7. Coolest Plot twist you've ever created?
If I told you, I'd have to kill you, just like the last person who asked me this question. ;)

8. How often do you get writer's block?
Not often. If I stall while staring at the computer screen, I just whip out my notebook and brainstorm.

9. Write fan fiction?
Actually, the first novel I finished at age 15 was a sort of X-Men rip-off. The short-lived Generation-X imprint was just getting going, and I loved the idea of a school for "gifted" kids. Turns out I wasn't the only one, lol.

10. Do you type or write by hand?
I plot and start writing longhand, but I can type as I go, too.

11. Do you save everything you write?
Just about.

12. Do you ever go back to an idea after you've abandoned it?
Occasionally. If I can't stop thinking about it. Like right now I'm thinking of destroying Mara's violin. Even though I'm convinced it would be gratuitously mean, I keep coming back to the idea.

13. What's your favorite thing you've ever written?
To be honest, I had the most fun with The Uneven Parallel Plane, which is why I'm thinking of rewriting it from memory.

14. What's everyone else's favorite story that you've written?
Evangeline. Betas love my hero, it seems. Ah, Jude, who wouldn't love you? ;)

15. Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?
I like to add romance to everything I write-- nothing is safe. And though my teens can be angsty, it's never because they're the unpopular kid at school, or anything mundane like that. More like they just discovered they're a dragon or something of that ilk.

16. What's your favorite setting for your characters?
I love New Orleans, but I'm liking Belle Epoch Paris, too.

17. How many writing projects are you working on right now?
Three. Deep Revisions of Evangeline, Mara's second draft, and I've been turning the UPP over in my head wondering how to make it work. So my head is at maximum capacity right now.

18. Have you ever won an award for your writing?
I wish. And I strive to, but I fear my work is a bit too escapist.

19. What are your five favorite words?
For some reason I love words that end in ate-- Propagate, formulate, procrastinate. ;) I also love the word affronted, but it's one I can rarely use in my writing. My absolute favorite word is lasagne.

20. What character have you created that is most like yourself?
Evangeline, I suppose, except that she doesn't like history, and I don't like exercise.

21. Where do you get ideas for your characters?
Everywhere and everyone. One character reminded me of my sister, so I even gave her my sister's name. Of course, she diverged as I fleshed her out, and is only remotely like my sister nwow.

22. Do you ever write based on your dreams?
Why? Does the world want to read a book about Zachary Quinto taking me to the drive-in, lol? I've never had a dream and said, whoa, I need to write about this. But I have had some dreams where situations in my wip will become more clear, if that makes sense.

23. Do you favor happy endings?
Yes, but with a caveat. Everything has to go pear shaped first and someone probably has to die.

24. Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
To the point where I wish I weren't. I just deal with it, but misspelled words drive me batty.

25. Does music help you write?
Sometimes. Depends on my mood, but I prefer instrumental.

26. Quote something you've written. Whatever pops into your head.
This is one of my favorite passages from my wip:

As we fill M. Herve in on the mysterious goings-on, his fawn colored eyes grow serious and intense. “So you have no real evidence, and no actual suspects, is that right?”

His tone scathes, but Mme. Moreau has him beat. “Hence, why we contacted a man of your particular skills. The fact that you will also pass as a decent bartender being the reason that I hired you over the next detective in the directory. Hopefully you’ll be able to distinguish yourself from your colleagues in one of those vocations.”
Well, this was fun! Hope you enjoyed it.

In turn, I'm tagging
Carrie Harris
Shannon Messenger

Y'all are it!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Don't Be Cruel... Well, Not THAT Cruel.

Haven't got a lot of time for a real post today, so I thought I'd open up for some discussion of a topic that I've been giving a lot of thought during this revision.

How cruel is too cruel? I mean, we're not supposed to make it easy on our characters, and tension and conflict are what make stories memorable. But is there a point-- if the situation in question has no influence on the plot, only the character-- where doing bad things to your characters stops building character and becomes cruel and unusual? Or needless and gratuitous?

Or is simply the fact that the characters must react to this stimulus, no matter how horrible, enough to warrant such cruelty?

Any thoughts, or examples? I'd love to hear them.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tu Publishing Fundraiser a Success!

Wow! Just, wow! It's been a great weekend (Saints are 13-0, woot!) I got some wonderful news in an email this morning from a friend, and another email from Tu Publishing! Check out my earlier post on this fledgling imprint here. I'd like to share a message from Stacy Whitman:

We made it!

I (Stacy Whitman) just woke up to see that our Kickstarter has been fully funded with 11 hours to go. You guys, I’m speechless. I went to bed knowing we had $2000 left to go, and wondering if we’d make it.


So, a big thank you to everyone who made this happen: All the people who tweeted, blogged, and shared on Facebook about it; all the people who participated in the auction; and especially all the people who pledged. We’ll officially be open for submissions from writers come Jan. 1 because WE MET THE GOAL!

For you writers: keep an eye on the Tu Publishing blog where we’ll be posting official submission guidelines in the next few days!

The project is still open for another 11 hours, so we won't be able to declare "official" success until we cross the finish line, but I'm sure we'll make it!

Thanks so much to everyone who helped make this dream a reality!

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Red Ink Blues, or, Revising Your Novel Without Pulling Your Hair Out, Part IV

This time around, I'm trying to make editing easier on myself. Every little change matters, big or as small as the drop of water shown above. Printing out my manuscript has helped me to keep track of those changes, to really see my progress. It'll be fun to look back on this print-out by the time I get feedback from betas. But I know I'm not ready for that stage. Are you?

Oh, so you think your revisions are done, eh? Let's see what author Holly Lisle has to say about that.

In case you've never heard of her, she's the author of over thirty novels and writing books. You can download a free pdf of her book Mugging the Muse: Writing Fiction for Love and Money and check out her other books here. One of the best tips I got from this e-book is that while we must feel empathy for our characters to properly understand them, if we feel too much sympathy, we won't be able to do the bad things that need to be done to them. Too true, Holly!

Holly's article, How to Revise a Novel, was the resource that convinced me to print out a copy of Mara's story for this revision. Before I printed, I did do a quick read-through to correct any glaring mistakes and familiarize myself with the story again. Now, I know that I'm probably going to use Holly's technique at least one more time before I start querying, but I wanted to try her method before I sent it out to betas.

She informally calls this the "truly ferocious pre-submission edit", which I love. She tries not to edit too much before she gets feedback from her agent/editor, a position we'll all hopefully be in someday, right?

I couldn't agree with her more. I must have read EVANGELINE through on the computer screen over a dozen times when I started revising the first draft-- and I still didn't catch all the typos. And I definitely wasn't seeing the BIGGER PICTURE we talked about yesterday.

So now with Mara's story, I'm trying it Holly's way-- printing out the manuscript and asking myself a series of questions as I read, making notes on the manuscript, and others in my notebook. That's the first step of her process. I'm hoping to start sending this manuscript out to betas in January, so I've set myself a goal, which is the second step.

As I read through, I'm asking myself questions about the characters and scenes, making sure every character and scene is pulling their own weight to make the story work. If not, consolidate them. Make three characters into one if that makes better sense for your story. Ask, "Does this scene matter?" If not, drop it. Make sure all the threads of your subplots have been caught up. And of course, make sure you catch your typos and keep chapter headings consistent.

Any notes that need more space than the margin of your print-out? Those go in your notebook. Now it's time to rewrite, add, or delete your changes. Read it through one last time and, hey, presto, a revised manuscript!

Hopefully, when I've finished this process, my betas will cheer, telling me that the manuscript is perfect, needs no changes and will knock Stephenie Meyer down a peg (I've always wanted to say that, lol) on the NYT Bestsellers list. Yeah. Right. ;)

So check out Holly Lisle's articles. If you're interested, her next revision workshop begins January 2nd, 2010. Sign up or learn more about it HERE.

And happy revisions!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Red Ink Blues, or, Revising Your Novel Without Pulling Your Hair Out, Part III

Oh, joy! It's that special time of the season. That's right, folks. It's line-editing time. The revision stage always reminds me of a complex abstract painting, like the one by Wassily Kandinsky above. Yes, it's another art-history themed writing tip.

Every word in your manuscript is as important as each particular brushstroke of a painting. It's the details that make up the composition, just like in writing. All those details can be explored in various studies-- like a first draft.

But the only details that wind up on the finished canvas are the ones that help contribute to the painting as a whole, and satisfy the principles of design-- balance, unity, rhythm, etc. We should strive for the same when we revise. No words should make it onto the page of our finished draft unless we're absolutely certain they contribute to the quality of the work as a whole. So how do we go about turning our study into a work of art? Lots of hard work and feedback, of course.

On Monday night I printed out the entire manuscript of my WiP. Sure, it's only about 55K right now, so it didn't take up that much paper and ink, but I was glad I decided to go for it. Maybe it's the distance, or the fact that the words look so different onscreen, but editing the printed page has shown me that I can make so much better progress this way.

Every previous novel I've written wound up going too long, and I had to cut down from there. Since I purposely "under-wrote" this story-- a counteractive measure that I hope doesn't wind up being counterproductive-- I know I need to beef the manuscript up in places. Reading a paper copy helps me focus on what's NOT on the page, instead of stressing over what IS. When I'm reading onscreen, I get lazy with my line-editing. I fall into the habit of mostly correcting grammar and typos and missing words, but I'm not seeing the bigger picture, which is what the print-out has helped me to do.

(Worried about the prohibitive cost of printing out your entire manuscript? You can always print it out a chapter at a time, and reuse the other side of the used pages once you've finished adding your notes and changes to your Word file. Won't save you ink, but it will save on paper. Make sure you're printing with black ink, which is cheaper. I think my black ink cartridge is $15, and I buy paper at Office Depot whenever it is on sale. And in my ever-so-humble opinion, fifteen bucks plus paper is worth it to hold a copy of my manuscript in my hands.)

Working from the print-out has helped me to see the story behind the words, to think like a reader and a writer. And an artist, lol. Not to mention, seeing your words printed on clean, white paper really makes you feel like a writer, so for a quick ego boost-- don't worry about getting too full of yourself, it'll only last til you start scrawling all over your clean, white pages-- print out your novel. Feel the heft of the full manuscript in your hands. It will remind you of all the hard work you've done when the revision blues start to get to you.

For more information about line-editing, check out author David Louis Edelman's article, Line Editing in 10 Easy Steps. His line-editing techniques focus on trimming the fat and making sure you look like a professional, including eliminating overused and crutch words, and straightening out mixed metaphors.

But don't forget to stop and think about the bigger picture during your revisions. Think of your novel as a whole-- one that must be planned in advance in order to wind up with a masterpiece!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Red Ink Blues, or, Revising Your Novel Without Pulling Your Hair Out, Part II

Found some great revision tips at Fiction Notes, author/teacher Darcy Pattison's helpful and informative site. Here you'll find advice for writing picture books as well as novels. Though she writes for kids, I think her comments about novel writing are useful to novelists in any genre.

Darcy Pattison is an Arkansas children’s book author and writing teacher. In 1999, she created the Novel Revision Retreat, which she now teaches across the nation. Translated into eight languages, her four picture books and one middle grade novel (listed below), have been recognized for excellence by starred reviews, Book of the Year awards, state award lists and more. She is the 2007 recipient of the Arkansas Governor’s Arts Award for Individual Artist for her work in children’s literature.

Today I'd like to talk about first chapters. Don't run away in fear, it'll be okay.

I tend not to stress about the novel opening until after the first draft is finished. In my mind, beginnings and endings are inherently connected. I like stories that come full circle, and love the sense of closure they provide.

Of course, as we all know, the opening is no place for backstory. And it's probably not the best place for setting a stage devoid of players. No dark and stormy nights, and no endless introspection. There are a number of DON'T's to consider for your opening, but what are some of the Do's?

Well, you could start by setting up a problem:
"My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.
~ The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Holy crap! Murdered? I'd say that's a problem. (OT, but FYI, AFAIK TLB is still being given away at OPWFT. NISM?)

Or raise a question:
"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."
~The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis
What? What did he do to deserve it? Was he always a naughty child, or did he recently do something very bad? I must know!

Or introduce a WTF? moment.

“When your mama was the geek, my dreamlets,” Papa would say, “she made the nipping off of noggins such a crystal mystery that the hens themselves yearned toward her, waltzing around her, hypnotized with longing.”
~Geek Love
by Katherine Dunn
Uh, WTF? I'm going to keep reading to figure out exactly how the mother came to be a geek, and what that has to do with the title.

Of course, if these openings are just a way to hook the reader, and don't relate to the rest of the story, that's just as bad as a dull opening. Your first paragraph needs to have a seed of the larger problem in it somewhere, a sense of the greater plot that will be making everyone's lives miserable.

Fun, huh? ;)

Getting back to Darcy Pattinson's Fiction Notes tips, she suggests 4 Goals for a Novel's Opening that are somewhat similar to those listed above. In her article, partially quoted below, she discusses these goals in greater detail than I have. Hope this helps!

Opening Chapters of Novels MUST Accomplish

These Goals

Grab your readers attention. Something must grab the reader’s attention immediately. This can be an unusual use of language, a unique voice, a startling action, a bit of dialogue, an active description of setting (be careful on this one to keep it active!), or a mood that is set up. Get attention fast. You may only have three or four seconds before the reader closes your book and reaches for the next one.
Ground the reader in the setting. The reader needs to know immediately WHEN and WHERE the story is taking place. Please use specifics here: Is this 1825 or 1977? Are we in Manitoba, Canada, or one of the Florida Keys? Specific sensory details should cue the reader to the exact location, even if you don’t specifically say where we are in the first couple paragraphs.
Intrigue the reader with a character. Here’s a quick test of character. Read the first five pages of your manuscript, then stop. Turn over page five and on the back, write everything you know about your character, JUST FROM THOSE FIVE PAGES! Don’t cheat and throw in things you know as the author. It must be ON those five pages to count. If you can only list one or two things, revise. If you can list 8-10 things, you’re doing great! In between? Consider carefully if you might do even more to characterize better.
Give the reader a puzzle to solve. The plot, the events of the novel, should give the reader an immediate puzzle to solve, something to worry about, something to read on to find out what happens next. It must start on page one! Not page 3 and certainly not page 25.
Thanks, Darcy! Now I'd like to leave you with a classic explanation of how NOT to start your novel, broken down into fairly simple terms. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hush, Hush Giveaway at Stephanie Writes!

It's official. Blogger hates me. I just noticed it didn't automatically post this post on Sunday. What gives? Sorry, Stephanie! I knew I had one more giveaway to blog about. Here goes:

Stephanie Writes is starting a book giveaway series for the month of December, so get on over to her blog and check it out. First is Hush, Hush, which I know I'd like to read. Details follow:

Post a comment below to enter. If you blog about the contest, you’ll get an additional entry. Tweet about it? Another chance to win. Simply post a link to your blog and/or Twitter with your entry. The contest for Hush, Hush ends on Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at noon. Stay tuned for the next book giveaway as I’m currently reading Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

Good luck!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Red Ink Blues, or, Revising Your Novel Without Pulling Your Hair Out, Part I

So things have been going pretty well with my revisions of Mara's story. Forgiven, is that a terrible title? That was one of the biggest words when I Wordled the entire manuscript.


Oh well, there'll be plenty of time to second guess my title choices before I'm ready to query.

Meanwhile, since I know so many of you made so much progress in November and will be revising soon, I thought this week I'd share some of my favorite resources for novel revision.

Today's pick is NaNoEdMo, a site devoted to editing your manuscript. There are great articles available, including one by Tabitha Olson, whose contest I recently featured. "Tell Me First" serves as a great reminder that it's okay to "tell" in a first draft, but to go into greater detail for your revisions. Another article that I'll remember while revising was "Cut it Bigger", by Christine Taylor. Don't be afraid to use all the senses, she advises, and remember to get deeper into your character's head in the re-write.

But the most useful to me was Amber Cook's "Ask Not Only What You Can Do For You, But What You Can Do For Your Editing (When March Is Over)" I've pasted in the bit that really helped me below:
"Establish what you’re editing towards.

Start general. I want to write a good book that people will want to read. Make a list of your favorite books and ask yourself what is it about them that made them such favorites. Why did you read them, and why do you care about them? Especially books you’ve either read repeatedly, or stories which stand out vividly in your mind (even if you only read it once). When you figure out what makes them, in your own opinion, so good, you’ll have an idea of what you want to be shooting for in your writing.

Now get specific about your novel. Do you want it to be a really scary story? Gut-wrenching drama? A humorous piece of refreshing escapism? A place to share your experience with a traumatic event in the hopes it can help other people going through the same thing? Which is all another way of saying: what kind of experience do you want to give your reader?

Look at what revved you up to write it in the first place and what drove you to actually sit down and write it. What makes it something you would love to share with other people?"

The bolding is mine, because I wanted to stress the importance of this sentence, which is something I never consciously think about during my rewrites. But it's something I thought of all the time while I was planning the novel, in the pre-writing, and even the initial writing stage. Somehow, once I finally get to the revision stage, I'm so caught up in what I have to do to make it perfect, I forget what it is I loved about the work in the first place.

So pop on over to NaNoEdMo for all the great editing resources there. They even have a forum, one more site to suck up the time you should be spending writing, LOL. But you don't have to be a member to benefit from their wisdom.

Happy Revising! ;)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Yes! It's raining book giveaways!

Hop on over to Writer Musings for Tabitha Olson's December Book Giveaway! Her YA novel Royal Rose is currently on submission with publishers. Celebrate the season with her, and enter to win!

Not only can you win two books by Barrie Summy, three great piles of books are up for grabs.

"Pile #1:
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - ARC
The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
The Midnight Charter by David Whitley - ARC
Brisingr by Christopher Paolini
The Alchemist by Michael Scott
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

Pile #2:
Liar by Justine Larbalestier - ARC
The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams - ARC
Sold by Patricia McCormick
Ash by Malinda Lo - ARC
Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan - ARC
How To Steal A Car by Pete Hautman - ARC
Escape Under the Forever Sky by Eve Yohalem

Pile #3:
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl - ARC
Fallen by Lauren Kate - ARC
My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters by Sydney Salter - ARC
Demon Princess: Reign or Shine by Michelle Rowan - ARC
Three Witches by Paula Jolin - ARC
How To Be Popular by Meg Cabot
Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer"

Good luck, everyone!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Great Book Giveaways! Who Loves You, Baby? ;)

Nothing I like better than book giveaways. Today I've got two to satisfy your contest cravings, YA Highway, and The Enchanted Inkpot. Let's start the weekend with a bang!

In honor of their blog reaching over 100 followers, YA Highway will be awarding books to TWO lucky (U.S.) followers:
How to enter: YOU MUST BE A FOLLOWER TO ENTER AND WIN! We're all about celebrating our followers this time around. And, we're only able to ship to our US followers right now (so, so, so, so sorry, but we're working on getting you a prize, too, our wonderful internationals).

You automatically get one point by commenting [on the YA HIGHWAY blog]. Here's the point structure to earn even more chances to win:

+3 if you are a DEVOTED follower (follower before this post)
+1 if you are a NEW follower (follower after this post)
+1 for tweeting about this contest
+2 for blogging about this contest on your own blog

Tally up your points and post them along with your comment below. Contest ends THURSDAY, DECEMBER 17, 2009, so get crackin'!
Stop by their blog to enter to win the books shown above and other great prizes.


Then there's The Enchanted Inkpot.
If you're a U.S. or Canada resident, check out the livejournal group, The Enchanted Inkpot, to enter their amazing contest before December 9th. You could win one of three book gift baskets. There are two ways to win, just read the contest rules below--

There will be a grand prize winner and 2 runner ups. Winners will be based on the following criteria:

1. The Grand Prize winner will have first pick and choose one of the book gift baskets AND will also win a $25 gift card to Powell’s Books AND a copy of ICE by Sarah Beth Durst. The winner will be chosen based on who provides the most online promotion points for our contest, via blog, facebook, twitter, etc. One point is awarded for the type of promotion and the number of times such promotion is provided. For example, a person who tweets and blogs about it for all 14 days of the contest will earn 28 points. Honor system is in place so you will be required to tally up your points yourself and we’ll check’em. YOU MUST COMMENT ONLY ON THIS ORIGINAL CONTEST POST IN ORDER TO QUALIFY.

2. Second runner up will choose from the remaining 2 baskets. The winner will be the person who comes in second with the most online promotion points.

3. Third runner up will win the last remaining book gift basket and will be chosen from a lottery. Anyone can enter the third prize drawing. All you have to do is answer one of the following questions. What MG/YA fantasy would you like to read over the holiday break? What fantasy book most reminds you of the Holiday or New Year season?

Contest ends on December 9th, 2009. And our apologies, but due to the large size of the prizes, the contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. Don’t forget, all contest entries are accepted only in the comments section of this contest post. Comment as much as you like and help spread the word!

Check out their livejournal to enter to win the books shown above and other great prizes!

Good luck everyone! And happy reading this holiday season!

Honest Scrap-- Hey, That's Me!

Recently received the much coveted "Honest Scrap" award from Shannon Messenger at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe! Thanks so much, Shannon!

And in the time I dawdled, sweating over picking such worthy nominees, I was also given the award by the best cake decorator I know, Karen Denise at I'm Always Write. I really appreciate you thinking of me! Thanks you!

In order to truly earn my award, I must divulge ten things about myself. I'm going to do 11, since I received the award twice, so here we go--

1. At Thanksgiving I like to mix everything together on my plate and liberally drown it in cranberry sauce. Mmm. Thanksgiving mush. It's awesome, but I'm a food mixer to begin with. Always have been.

2. I'm not sure how much longer I'll be able to do it since I'm thirty, but I can touch my elbows together behind my back. Step right up, folks! The 9:30 show is completely different from the 7:30 show. Just a dollar a ticket!

3. Sometimes I wish I was born a century ago, and then I remember how much I like vaccines and showering. And elastic. And the internet.

4. I hate olives. All kinds. I even try them repeatedly because everyone loves olives and my husband will come home from work with a tray of them and tell me that I'll like these olives because they're real and expensive and didn't come out of a can. But I still can't eat a whole olive. Don't ask me to eat anything puttanesca, either, because I can't do it. It's my shameful secret and what keeps me from thinking of myself as a gourmand. I'm just a foodie.

5. I just watched "Up", and I didn't really like it as much as I thought I would. Too many talking dogs made it a bit too silly for me. I'll stick to "The Incredibles" for my Pixar fix.

6. I've read "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies", but not "Pride and Prejudice" without zombies.

7. I hate football and dislike most other team sports in general. I'd rather go to a game than watch one on television. Except curling, which I could watch on the t.v. for hours-- it's too cold to watch in real life.

8. My favorite junk food is Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Zapp's Crawtators potato chips.

9. One movie I could watch a thousand times is "Spirited Away." When I was younger it was "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen" and when I was really little it was "The Last Unicorn". Guess I like Miyazaki, huh?. Terry Gilliam's not too bad either-- though you can watch "Tideland" at your own risk.

10. I love to sing showtunes when no one is listening. And sometimes when people are listening.

11. Finally, I can no longer eat turtle soup. I have a pet musk turtle and I just can't do it. Somehow I couldn't care less about the politics of veal and foie gras, but I think it's horrible to eat turtle. Especially since two species of turtle were wiped out to make turtlesoup in the 19th and early 20th ceturies. Say no to turtle soup! Who wants to eat green meat, anyway?

Now for the moment you've all been waiting for--

For putting so much of themselves into their blogs, I decided to give this award to:

1. Renee at Midnight Meditations
2. Carrie at Things That Make Me Snarf
3. Tamika at The Write Worship
4. Annie "Paranormalchick" at YA Book Reviews
5. Weronika at Weronika Junczuk
6. Anissa at Off the Record
7. B.J. Anderson at Hope Springs Eternal
8. Delayne T. Buranek at An Aspiring Writer's Blog
9. Jade at Jade Hears Voices
10. Liana at Liana Brooks

You deserve it!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tu Publishing-- YA and Children's Books in Today's Multicultural World

On Monday, Heather Zundel of The Secret Adventures of Writer Girl, posted about Tu Publishing. Heather has a contest going right now, so check it out, and spread goodwill.

The mission of Tu Publishing is simple and one that's close to my heart-- to broaden the scope of the genres of science fiction and fantasy, genres that have long ignored ethnic and cultural diversity even in imagined worlds. They even go so far as to recommend multicultural fantasy and sci-fi books on their site. I've copied their mission statement below:

"Fantasy and science fiction, mystery and historical fiction–these genres draw in readers like no other. Yet it is in these genres that readers of color might feel most like an outsider, given that such a large percentage features white characters (when they feature human characters). It is the goal of Tu Publishing to publish genre books for children and young adults that fills this gap in the market–and more importantly, this gap in serving our readers. By focusing on multicultural settings and characters in fantastic stories, we also open up worlds to all readers.

The word “tu” means “you” in many languages, and in Ainu (the language of Japan’s native people), it means “many.” Tu Publishing is dedicated to publishing fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and historical fiction for children and young adults inspired by many cultures from around the world, to reach the “you” in each reader.

Kids who love to read do better in school. One way to encourage that love of reading is to provide stories that readers can identify with. By increasing the number of books that feature multicultural characters and settings, we can influence the multicultural world of tomorrow.

Books can be both a mirror and a window to other worlds for readers. Tu Publishing hopes that by publishing books that feature multicultural characters and settings and books with worlds inspired by all the many non-Western cultures in the world, we might shine a mirror on you and open a window to many."

They hope to be open to submissions (unagented as well as agented? That's the way it sounds so far) in January, so you have only a month to spruce up that manuscript. The catch is, they are currently fund-raising in order to be able to do so. They hope to meet their goal of $10,000 by mid-month, so they need your help.

If you can contribute anything (I just donated $5), click over to this Tu Publishing post to find out how. It's safe and easy to donate, especially if you already have an amazon account, and who doesn't these days? I already had a card on file with amazon, so the whole experience was extremely painless. I wish I would have heard of this publishing house sooner-- I would have been plugging them this whole time.

On a personal note, I'm not sure who I would have grown up to be if not for my love of science fiction and fantasy. But I'm not sure if I would have liked fantasy and sci-fi if no one in the stories looked like me... I do know that I enjoyed reading about other cultures from a very young age, but I'm sure I would have been discouraged if all I had to read were books about some other culture, not my own. If I'd grown up being told that my race doesn't buy books, so why should publishers waste time and money catering to me? If I'd never had the pleasure of reading about a character who was like me. I can imagine I'd probably swear off reading for good, since I was a stubborn child.

But this was not the case for this little white girl who was a tad weird and friendless, luckily. I found in books all the friends I needed. If I hadn't had my books, and they hadn't been so very special to me, I'm not sure if I would be here today, blogging and writing for your reading pleasure. And I certainly wouldn't be the person that books have helped me metamorphose into. If I hadn't seen "myself" in books, I'm not sure that love would have had such a lasting affect on me.

I hope that this perspective might convince even one person to donate $5 to Tu Publishing this week. If we all donated $5, that would go a long way to help Tu Publishing meet their goal.
Thanks for listening, y'all! And have a safe and happy holiday season.

The Dreaded Synopsis-- The Most Underutilized Tool in the Box

So I've got the complete rewrite of EVANGELINE finished and I'm ready and raring to go on my second draft of Mara's story. First thing I'm going to do is write a synopsis.

I can hear the groans through cyberspace now. (And apparently time, too, since none of you have read this as I'm still writing it, but I'm just cool like dat.)

Why write a synopsis now, you say, before the final draft? Things might change, you say.


At this stage I use the synopsis to remind myself of the plot without actually having to read the story again. This helps keep me from packing extraneous information into the synopsis. There might be some details I've forgotten, but that's for the best. It's probably minor subplot, which has no place in my short synopsis. It also helps me keep the story a little fresher in my mind for once I actually start reading through and line editing.

As I write the synopsis, a scrawling, scribbled-out, longhand mess at first, the story slowly becomes clear in my mind. And, if I find I do want to change something, the synopsis is the best place to plan such revisions, especially if they lead to other major changes down the road.

Without actually making any changes to your manuscript, you can use the synopsis and save a lot of time in the long run if you are already thinking of making major changes to the plot. Usually once I have the plot the way I like it, my short synopsis is finished. Even after all my revisions to EVANGELINE, the synopsis I made after the first draft was finished still applies. I made changes in style and hopefully refined the narrative and dialogue, and I even added and deleted some minor subplots, but none of those changes affected the major plot arc.

Since wriitng a one page synopsis is the most difficult for me, that's the length I eventually strive for, but when I first start the process, it's more like three pages. Whatever length works for you is fine, but I think over five pages means you might be focusing a bit too much on subplots. In this case, you should ask yourself why that is. Should one of the minor subplots become a more major one?

The other great thing about crafting a synopsis before you read the story again is that you're still so excited about your novel. The story still feels alive and new and full of potential. The synopsis is all about potential, about seeking it out and playing around with possiblities.

Why not make your synopsis work for you instead of slaving over it? Especially when you are on the verge of querying, trying to craft a query letter at the same time and having the query sound too much like a synopsis.

I'm really looking forward to working on my second draft, but before I dive in head first, I want to be prepared, armed to the teeth and writing with a purpose.

The synopsis is an indispensible tool. Make it work for you!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Don't Take it Personally...

This morning, literary agent Rachelle Gardner posted a must-read article for those querying writers who are getting fed up with agent responses-- or lack thereof-- to their work. It basically boiled down to this:

"Vent about your frustrations, but please, please, please: Refrain from making every complaint a criticism of agents."
At the risk of branding myself a suck-up or worse, I believe Gardner when she explains just how busy the average literary agent is. Query letters alone must take up an inordinate amount of time for what amounts to a fairly thankless head-ache of a task-- something I think we can all agree on.

But if literary agents really didn't care, there wouldn't be so many of them blogging about their experiences, and about what makes them keep reading a query letter or a submission. Agent blogs are my lighthouse, the flame that guides me through the querying process. The operative word being "guide"-- I take their word as guidelines, not Gospel, and it has helped me to craft my queries to where I have about a 20% success rate. Can't argue with results. And I get most of my information about what's happening in the publishing industry from agent blogs, too.

Just in case you've missed a few, here's a short list of agents who blog, which is by no means exhaustive, but these are the ones I check the most regularly.

Kristen Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency
Nathan Bransford of Curtis Brown
Jessica Faust of BookEnds, LLC
Jennifer Jackson of Jennifer Jackson Literary Agency
Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency
Janet Reid of Fine Print Literary
Kate Shafer-Testerman of KT Literary
Jenny Rappaport
Jill Corcoran

There's also a Blog Roll here on the Agent Query website, which is another invaluable resource for learning about a particular agent's likes and dislikes. After all, if you send off your query and a writing sample, and things go well, you could be in a serious relationship with this person for some time. Isn't it worth getting to know them a little before hand?

But just remember-- if they choose not to begin that relationship with you, it's not personal.

So perhaps as a gift to them, we could be a little gentler on literary agents this holiday season. That means no querying NaNo novels in December, folks! ;) And even if you've had a bad experience with a particular agent, remember they're all individuals who deserve our respect.

Happy Holidays, Literary Agents!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Two Teaser Tuesday!

Hey, y'all! This morning I wanted to start with a recipe since so many people said they loved the food in New Orleans. We really are all about food here, which is the reason I know I can never move away. Also, when coworkers see you at a food festival with a beer in one hand and two cannoli in the other, they don't find anything strange about the situation. They just ask where you got the cannoli.

So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, and cooking for your loved ones, I'd like to share a recipe for callas. Leftover white rice from take-out? Don't throw it away, make calas!

What are calas, you ask? These hot, sugary fritters in the photo are from Elizabeth's, one of my favorite brunch places. I ALWAYS get the calas.

Diana Rattray, an avid home cook and recipe collector living in Mississippi, explains that calas are:
a breakfast fritter mixed with cooked rice, flour, sugar, and spices, and then deep-fried. According to "The Dictionary of American Food & Drink," the word Calas was first printed in 1880, and comes from one or more African languages, such as the Nupe word kárá, or "fried cake." African American street vendors sold the fresh hot calas in the city's French Quarter, with the familiar cry, "Calas, belles, calas tout chauds!"

Here's a recipe from Nola Cusine. Read the instructions carefully-- the dough needs to rest overnight.

1/2 Cup warm water
1 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
1 pkg Active Dry Yeast
3/4 Cup Cooked White Rice
2 Large Eggs, beaten slightly
3/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 pinch Kosher salt
1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/8 tsp freshly grated Nutmeg
Peanut Oil for frying
Powdered Sugar for a heavy dusting

The day before you want to make your Calas, combine the water and sugar in a small bowl. Add the yeast and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add the rice and stir well. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature overnight. This step will really give your Calas a distinctive flavor; think sourdough.

The next day, stir the rice mixture and kind of mash the rice against the side of the bowl with a wooden spoon. Don’t go too crazy though, I like to have a bit of that rice texture in the finished product.

Add the remaining ingredients to the rice mixture, mix well with a wooden spoon. The mixture should be a fairly loose batter, a little thicker than pancake batter. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour. This step will make your Calas as light as air when fried!

Heat 3 inches of peanut oil in a large saucepan to 365 degrees. Drop spoonfuls of the Calas batter into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown, turning once. Serve with lots and lots of powdered sugar, like Beignets, or drizzle with Cane Syrup. Recipe makes about 6 good sized Calas.

Hope you enjoy the recipe, and keep reading for a teaser from EVANGELINE!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Aspire to the Stars, or, That Which We Call a WiP by Any Other Name, Part II

Friday's Editorial Anonymous post really got me thinking about the importance of a good title, especially agent Jill Corcoran's comment at the bottom. Corcoran shared her feelings about how a good title can help your query get noticed in her in-box in her own blog post.
"Your book title is your whistle, your magnet, your bullhorn."
More often than not, I have a working title in mind while I'm drafting, but a title for my current WiP has eluded me from the start. November has actually been pretty kind to me since it morphed from NaNoWriMo to NaNoRevisMo. I'm excited to finish up my EVANGELINE rewrites and send some fulls out to betas so I can jump back into Mara's story. Except that I'm sick of calling it "Mara's Story". The manuscript is simply titled, "Mara", as well as the folder in which I keep all my research, mind maps, etc. And for this YA paranormal murder mystery, simply "Mara" just won't do.

So I've been voraciously reading mystery titles for inspiration. I'm also doing some research on how other writers think up titles, and playing around a little with lists and even Wordle to work my way closer to a title.

One method involves sitting down for five minutes with a piece of paper separated into three columns: Nouns, Verbs, Adjectives, filling those columns with words that come to mind when you think of the theme or tone of your story. My list from this exercise looks pretty good, but it's easy to fill up the noun column before you even think of the adjective and verb columns, so pace yourself, lol.

Once I finished that, I opened the file (without looking at the text, mind) did a copy all, and pasted the body of my manuscript into Wordle. I compared the words and added any good ones to my columns. Using these columns, see if any word combinations stand out to you.

Now, this list's use as a writing tool isn't limited to titling. I've saved it for my rewrites. There may be words on that list that I've overused, and will need to be replaced. But there may also be words that suit the tone of the manuscript that don't appear at all, words that I'd like to use if I can without sounding forced.

Corcoran has some great advice from her blog post that I'd like to share here:
"Free associate a bunch of titles. Type them out, double spaced, and eliminate the ones you hate. Send the list to fellow writers, friends, kids. These writers, friends, kids do not have to read your book first. Heck, the agent/editor you are querying hasn't read your book yet and that is who you are trying to attract. Ask 'which title would make you want to pick this book off the shelf?' Let each person only pick three and order their winning choices.

Don't pour years into a book and short change your title. You are just short changing yourself.

And yes, not every title of famous and super seller books are bullhorns. But that argument does not hold water with me. Don't look towards the mediocre and say it worked for them, aspire to the stars and look towards the neighboring galaxy."

Her advice to ask others for help can be hard for some of us prideful writers to swallow. We want to think that genius will strike us eventually, and that we of all people should be able to name our own baby. But just as we ask others to help whip our manuscripts into shape, we shouldn't neglect the importance of the title.

Margaret Mitchell titled "Gone With the Wind" from a line of poetry, a tactic I've tried with minimal success since my WiP is set in Belle Epoch France, but it may work for you. Quotes from famous writers, artists, etc, are also great sources for titles.

Here are a few more sites with tips, inspiration and advice for naming your baby, er, I mean novel:

B. W. Clough's "The Theory and Practice of Titles"
Sarah Stodola's list of the "Top Ten Novel Titles of All Time"
Elizabeth Richards' 2008 article- "How to Write a Great Book Title"
Rebecca Lake's 2009 article- "How to Name a Novel"
Let luck guide your quest for the perfect title at "Random Book Title Generator" or "Serendipity: Fantasy Novel Title Generator"
Sandra Haven's "Fiction Titles"
Christina Hamlet's eHow article, "How to Title a Novel"
And of course, once you've got a relatively unique title that suits your novel, check it's possiblity of success at "Lulu Titlescorer" Put your title to the test!

I understand that the title may be changed on a publishing house's whim, or when an ill wind blows through marketing, but Corcoran-- in a position to be an authority on the subject-- couldn't be more right. A good title in an agent's inbox is like waving an Hermes scarf in front of Shopaholic. Or a Vietnamese po'boy in front of me. ;)

She's also spot on when she says not to look toward the mediocre. Doesn't our work deserve the best, brightest, and loudest bullhorn we can think of? I'm aspiring for the stars to title Mara's story.

Are you?

Friday, November 20, 2009

You know you live in New Orleans when...

Since I've been revising EVANGELINE, I realized that I missed writing about New Orleans. I love setting, and I especially love this city. So in lieu of a real post today, I thought I'd share some of my favorite "You know you're from New Orleans" lines...


You know what a "second-line" is, and where to find the best spot for Super Sunday.

You reinforce your attic to store Mardi Gras beads.

You proudly claim that 'Monkey Hill' is the highest point in Louisiana.

You drive your car up onto the 'neutral ground' if it rains steadily and heavily for more than two hours.

You have 'flood' insurance.

Someone asks for an address by compass directions and you say it's 'Uptown, downtown, backatown, riverside or lakeside.'

Your idea of a 'cruise ship' is the Canal Street ferry, and your idea of a 'foreign cruise ship' is the Chalmette ferry.

Your burial plot is six feet 'over' rather than six feet 'under.'

You know the 'Irish Channel' is not Gaelic-language programming on cable.

You don't worry when you see ships riding higher in the river than your house.

You get on a bus marked 'cemeteries' without a second thought.

You have no idea what a turn signal is or how to properly use it.

You can cross two lanes of heavy traffic and U-turn through a neutral ground while avoiding two joggers and a streetcar, then fit into the oncoming traffic flow while never touching the brake.

You can consistently be the second or third person to run a red stop light.

You know how long you have to run to a store, get what you need and get back to your car before you get a parking ticket.

You got rear-ended 10 times by people with no insurance.

You take a `right-hand turn' instead of a right turn.

You judge a restaurant by its bread.

The white stuff on your face is powdered sugar.

You know better than to drink hurricanes or eat Lucky Dogs.

You visit another city and they 'claim' to have Cajun food -- but you know better.

You have the opening date of any sno-ball stand in your Daytimer.

You know that a 'po-boy' is not a guy who has no money, but a great-tasting French bread sandwich.

You judge a po-boy by the number of napkins used.

The major topics of conversation when you go out to eat are restaurant meals that you have had in the past and restaurant meals that you plan to have in the future.

You consider having a good meal as your birthright.

The four seasons of your year are crawfish, shrimp, crab and oyster.

Your stomach can handle a dozen Manuel's tamales at 3 a.m. after having a few at Markey or Saturn Bar.

The waitress at your local sandwich shop tells you a fried oyster po-boy dressed is healthier than a Caesar salad.

You know the definition of 'dressed.'

You can eat Popeyes original chicken, Haydel's kingcake and Zapp's while waiting for Zulu. Then you go to Jackson Square for a Central Grocery muffaletta with a Barq's while sucking hot crawdads and cold Acme oysters, hurricanes and several Abitas. Then you can ride the St. Charles Avenue streetcar home past Camellia Grill for a chili/cheese omelette ... without losing it all on your front stoop.

You have gained 10 or 15 pounds permanently, but you don't care anymore.

Ya stood ya'selfs in da' line by Galatoire's.

You think 'drinking water' when you look at the Mississippi River... but you know better.

You don't really teach people the right way to eat crawfish, so there's more for you.

Your idea of cutting back on calories is to suck the heads and not eat the tails.

The smell of a crawfish boil turns you on more than Chanel#5.

You burl (boil) crawfish and fry them in erl (oil). Don't forget to pack the uneaten tails in furl (foil).

The first thing you do every morning is pick up The Times-Picayune obit section to see `who died inna'papah.'(paper)

There is a St. Joseph lucky bean in ya mama's coin purse and on yo'dressa' too.

When you speak with a tourist, he asks, `Are you from Brooklyn?'

You make groceries at Schwegmann's to get da' Zatarains for da' crawfish. Den', ya' suck da heads of those crawfish for da' juice. Don't forget da' beer and da' white Russian daiquiris. Afterwards, you go down to Randazzo's for some king cake. While in da' parish, you stop at Rocky's for some baked macaroni and pok(pork)chops to take home. On Mondays, you get da' begneits, coffee anna'Gambit. (Dat' Gambit has everything.) For lunch, you go down to Mother's for some red beans and rice. Tomorrow, you get da'muffaletta at da'Central Grocery. And dat's what we do in N'awlins, dawlin'.

You're not afraid when someone wants to 'ax' you.

You were born at Baptist, raised in Metry and hang with Vic and Nat'ly.

You go by ya' mom-n-ems on Good Friday to eat crawfish, drink beers and play touch football on the neutral ground.

You believe that purple, green and gold look good together -- and you will even eat things those colors.

Every time you hear sirens you think it's a Mardi Gras parade.

On Christmas Eve, your daughter looks up in the sky, sees Santa Claus and yells, 'Throw me somethin' mister.'

You fill your Nativity creche with king cake babies dressed like Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the wise men and the angels.

You go buy a new winter coat and throw your arms up in the air to make sure it allows enough room to catch Mardi Gras beads.

You have a parade ladder in your shed.

Your finest china has 'Endymion' written on it.

Your first sentence was, 'Throw me something mistah,' and your first drink was from a 'go-cup'.

You describe a color as 'K&B' purple.

You have a special set of well-broken-in shoes you refer to as your 'French Quarter' shoes.

You move somewhere else and you feel like you are from Oz and you moved to Kansas.

Everywhere else just seems like Cleveland. Sorry Cleveland! ;)

You're a lil' short on money but it's O.K. 'cause ya' can get a 'french fry poboy wit' ros' beef gravy and it's jus' as good and it'll fill ya' up too.

You can remove the cap from a Tabasco bottle with one hand.

You have spent a summer afternoon on the Lake Pontchartrain seawall catching blue crabs.

You watch a movie filmed in New Orleans and say things like, 'Dere ain't no way they can run out of a cemetery right on to Bourbon Street ... and don't call me "Cher."'

You haven't been to Bourbon Street in years.

You bring empty 'grocery bags' to a parade.

That brown bag you take to the Saints game ain't your lunch.

You know that 'Tipitina' is not a gratuity for a waitress named Tina.

You have to buy a new house because you ran out of wall space for Jazz Fest posters.

You drink 'Dixie', whistle 'Dixie' and name your dog 'Dixie'.

You worry about deceased family members 'returning' in spring floods.

You're sitting on the Lakefront reading the Gambit, eating hot crawfish and drinking Abita beer.

You can ask for 'lagniappe' and not feel guilty.

You reply to anything and everything about life here with, "Only in New Orleans."

You're out of town and you stop and ask someone where there's a drive-thru daiquiri place (then they look at you like you have three heads).

You consider a Bloody Mary a 'lite' breakfast.

You go to sleep Friday evening before you go out Friday night.

You have a monogrammed 'geaux-cup.'

You like your crawfish so hot, you can't distinguish between sweat, a runny nose and crawfish juice.

You save newspapers, not for recycling but for tablecloths at crawfish boils.

When you give directions you use “lakeside and riverside’ not north & south.

Your ancestors are buried above the ground.

You get on a green streetcar to go to the park and a red one to the French Quarter.

You listen to holiday songs such as “The 12 yats of Christmas” and “Santa and his reindeer used to live next door.”

You walk on the “banquet” and stand in the “neutral ground” “by ya mommas.”

Someone asks for directions and you stop and help them with a smile.

You start an angel food cake with a roux.

You think a lobster is a crawfish on steroids.

You think boudin, hogshead cheese, and a Bud is a bland diet.

You think Ground Hog Day and the Boucherie Festival are the same holiday.

You take a bite of five-alarm chili and reach for the Tabasco.

Fred’s Lounge in Mamou means more to you than the Grand Ole Opry.

You have an *envie* for something instead of a craving.

You use a “#3″ washtub to cover your lawn mower or your outboard motor.

You use two or more pirogues to cover your tomatoes to protect them from the late frost.

You use a gill net to play tennis, badminton, or volleyball.

The horsepower of your outboard motor is greater than that of your car motor.

You pass up a trip abroad to go to the Crawfish Festival in Breaux Bridge.

You are asked to name the holy trinity and your reply is “onions, celery, bell pepper.”

You let your black coffee cool, and find that it has gelled.

You describe a link of boudin and cracklins as “breakfast.”

Every once in a while, you have waterfront property.

Your mama announces each morning, “Well, I’ve got the rice cooking …what will we have for dinner?”

None of your potential vacation destinations are north of the old Mississippi River Bridge (US 190).

You refer to Louisiana winters as “Gumbo Weather.”

You think of gravy as a beverage.

You greet your long lost friend at the Airport with “AAAAAAAYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.”

You sit down to eat boiled crawfish and your host says, “Don’t eat the dead ones,” and you know what he means.

You don’t know the real names of your friends, only their nicknames.

You give up Tabasco for Lent.

You worry about a deceased family member returning in spring floods.

You don’t learn until high school that Mardi Gras is not a national holiday.

You push little old ladies out of the way to catch Mardi Gras throws.

You leave a parade with footprints on your hands.

Your last name isn’t pronounced the way it’s spelled.

You know what a nutria is but you still pick it to represent your baseball team.

You like your rice and your politics dirty.

No matter where else you go in the world, you are always disappointed in the food.

Your loved one dies and you book a jazz band before you call the coroner.

Your accent sounds nothing like Harry Connick, Jr’s.

You ask, “How they running?” and “Are they fat?” but, you’re inquiring about seafood quality and not the Crescent City Classic.

Your town is low on the education chart, high on the obesity chart and you don’t care because you’re No. 1 on the party chart.

Nothing shocks you. Period. Ever.

Your idea of health food is a baked potato instead of fries with your seafood platter.

You have to take your coffee and favorite coffeemaker with you on a three-day trip.

You have sno-ball stains on your shoes.

You call tomato sauce “red gravy.”

Your middle name is your mother’s maiden name, or your father’s mother’s maiden name, or your mother’s mother’s maiden name, or your grandmother’s mother’s maiden name, or your grandfather’s mother’s maiden name.

On certain spring days, Crawfish Monica is your breakfast. Ahh, JazzFest!

Your house payment is less than your utility bill.

You’ve done your laundry in a bar.

You don’t show your “pretties” during Mardi Gras.

You know that Tchoupitoulas is a street and not a disease.

You “boo” the mayor on national television.

You wear sweaters because it ought to be cold.

Your grandparents are called “Maw-Maw” and “Paw-Paw.”

Your Santa Claus rides an alligator and your favorite Saint is a football player.

You suck heads, eat tail, sing the blues and you actually know where you got dem shoes.

You shake out your shoes before putting them on.

You don’t think it inappropriate to refer to a large adult male as “Li’l Bubba.”

You know why you should never, ever swim by the Lake Pontchartrain steps (for more than one reason).

You cringe every time you hear an actor with a Southern or Cajun accent in a “New Orleans-based” movie or TV show.

You have to reset your clocks after every thunderstorm.

You waste more time navigating back streets than you would if you just sat in traffic.

You consider garbage cans a legal step to protecting your parking space on a public street.

You fall asleep to the soothing sounds of four box fans.

Your one-martini lunch becomes a five-bloody mary afternoon… and you keep your job.

You’re walking in the French Quarter with a plastic cup of beer. When it starts to rain, you cover your beer instead of your head.

You refer to people older than you as Mr or Mrs. and their first name.

And lastly, you eat dinner out and spend the entire meal talking about all the other good places you’ve eaten. Mmm, Boucherie tonight for my husband's birthday. Can't wait!