Sunday, August 27, 2006

Integrity in Journalism...

Now there's a joke! Integrity in journalism. I think that went out with Ike! (And no....I am not old enough to remember don't even go there!)

I was watching the news for a bit this morning and remembered why I'd stopped watching it! Lousy reporting. It's all about the ratings... not even getting the scoop... just reporting anything.

I've always been bothered by the dumb questions reporters ask during an interview. One incident that sticks out in my mind to this day actually occurred in the 80's. There was horrible flooding in this area...people had to flee to their roofs because a levy had broken. They were rescued by helicopter. There was one gal, probably about 20 or so, who couldn't swim and she was understandably terrified. She was plucked from the rooftop with cameras rolling. When she got her feet on dry land, a warm towel around her, she was shaking, in shock, and babbling, "I thought I was gonna die! I thought I was gonna die." Some insensitive local reporter stuck a microphone in her face, and said: "Can you tell us how you felt?"! The woman thought she was gonna die! How would he feel...if he couldn't swim...the water was rising... houses around her were washing away... "Oh...I was thinking I'd go to the mall after I got rescued..." I think that was the day, I gave up on local news.

This morning I heard about a commuter plane going down. So I flipped on TV to see if they had more details, and caught a press conference with the Kentucky coroner. Have to give the man points for patience! Dumb question number one: How does this compare with other plane crashes you've seen? His answer: This is my first one. Dumb question number two: Do you think the plane went off the wrong runway? His answer: I have no idea. I am the coroner. Next dumb question: Is there a passenger list? At this point, you could see the guy start to roll his eyes and catch himself just in time. His answer: I'm sure there is. I haven't seen it. It's probably at the airport. I have to go now...

Now I realize both these scenes were during times of high stress and there was loss of life in both. But reporters are supposed to be trained professionals... not three-year olds who have discovered the magic of asking questions...

So...I've renamed the various news networks.

ABC = Asinine Broadcasting Corporation
CBS: Crummy Broadcasting Service
CNN = Crappy News Network (since this was the network this morning...)
NBC = No-Brain Broadcasting Company
MSNBC = More Silly No-Brain Broadcasting Company

Now... I am leaving FOX up to you! Whaddya say? Any ideas... and no! using the F-word does not count! Sorry, no prizes..but the best answer might reappear in a later blog entry. Ain't that incentive enough?!!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Mixed Messages...

They talk about relationships being full of communicative pitfalls. Well, lemme tell ya! Boy/Girl snafus ain't got nothin' on the writing world!

When every new writer starts out, they write for the joy of simply writing. They put words to the paper. They tell a wonderful story. They read it over a few times. It's perfect, they announce. They have their family and friends read it over and receive rave reviews. They send their baby out into the cold, cruel world of harsh editors, who read the first few lines and cringe. A rejection wings the baby back home to the new, happy writer. Whose world crashes as innocence is stripped away taking the simple joy of writing along with it.

And thus begins a new phase in the writer's life: learning all they can about the craft. And thus begins all the mixed messages. Ready for a few? Here we go!

POV: Never head-hop, Ms. Writer is told. Stick to one POV per chapter. No, stick to one POV per scene. Wait! Stick to one POV, period. No, it's okay to switch POVs mid-scene if you do it well. Halt the presses! If your name is Nora (as in Roberts!) or Jayne (as in Ann Krentz!), it's okay to switch POV several times within a scene...but only if you own that name...which by the way (some snide crit partner will shatter Ms. Writer's world...again...) you're not, and never will be... so don't do it. Oh, and then, there's all the different types of POVs. Ms. Writer wonders quite innocently: What the hell does POV mean anyways... For the means Point of View... Ms. Writer begins to feel a tad overwhelmed.

Then...there's the outline vs. pantster way of writing... there are elaborate methods to help Ms. Writer create the perfect story. Diagrams, Boxes, Spreadsheets, Sticky Notes, White Boards... anything one can think of...the writing world has created to help Ms. Writer along in her quest for publication. Problem is, every method sounds so stinkin' good until you try it. And of course, there's the panster method where one just sits down and writes. But Ms. Writer is now a bit leery of that method since it's what she did the first time around and Baby got sent home with its tail between its legs... So at first she wonders, do I do all these methods at the same time...or one at a time. Do I have to do one of these methods. And then...suddenly another message is hurled her way: do what works for you. But herein lies the problem: Ms. Writer has no clue what works for her. She ain't succeeded yet!

GMC: Gotta love this one! Ms. Writer worries: GMC. Sounds like the car corporation. Then she learns it stands for Goal, Motivation, Conflict. Ah! Okay. Gotta have that in a story. Realization hits. Her story doesn't have any of that, will never have any of that, and the reason why: who knows what the heck any of those things are! And so, the learning quest continues... and Ms. Writer's head continues to spin.

HEA: A romance has to have that...right? Ms. Writer yanks out her code-deciphering guide. Oh! HEA = Happily Ever After... okay. Sounds fair enough. But ChickLit instantly breaks that rule and it's okay. So does Women's Fiction, which has strong romantic elements but not necessarily a HEA. But you gotta have that. Right? Right?? Well, maybe not... Ms. Writer suppresses the urge to scream and pull out graying hairs. Maybe a glass of wine will help clear up matters.

Then there's the whole genre thing... Historicals are dead. Especially Regency Historicals. ChickLit is on its way out. Sex is hot. Inspirationals with no sex are hot. But as she pours the last of the wine into her glass, shaking out every last drop and then peering into the bottle to check for any lingering liquid, Ms. Writer reads what editors are looking for: Historicals. Regencies. ChickLit. But aren't these dead or on last legs? Maybe...maybe not! Where's the chocolate? Bring on the chocolate!

So...what's a girl to do. Write, that's what! Just plain old write. Develop her own voice, her own style. Return to that innocent stage of writing when it was fun. But keep in mind all the rules that make a story tight, that make it publishable. Hey wait!!!! Isn't that another mixed message??? You betcha, Baby! And isn't that what makes this business fun? That makes it a challenge? That makes it so damned rewarding? It sure is... or is writing just a free pass to eating all the chocolate one can consume and slugging back lots of fine Merlot...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Awesome Atlanta...

Okay, now that everyone has expounded on the Atlanta Experience...and some are even planning Dallas next year already, I figure I'll chime in with my thoughts. Not a day late, a dollar short, or anything like that. Just want to re-live the fun; rekindle the experience a wee bit more.

Bottom line: I had an absolutely wonderful conference experience. I'd have to say: Atlanta was my best national conference to date. While I've heard a lot of attendees say the same thing, maybe Atlanta was just a stand-out event (kudos to the planners!), I think a lot also had to do with my attitude.

This is the first national conference I've attended with no planned agenda, no expectations, nothing I simply "had" to do. I know my way around the conference circuit now, so I decided to just go and absorb the experience. Go to workshops that looked "enjoyable" as opposed to "educational", and I would not take diligent notes. I'd listen and absorb instead. I did not sign up for any editor/agent appointments. I refused to pitch my work at every twist and turn. I would not, not, not buy ANY tapes.

As a result, I attended more workshops than I have in a long time...and they were all awesome! I liked the fact that this year they had more than one on each subject matter. This made it possible to do two things: first: go to both and compare the info, or second: be able to miss one and yet still go to a live one. (Remember that declaration about NO tapes???)

I went to a couple of book signings that were not mad frenzies cuz I got there late...and they actually still had books with authors to sign them. Had a lovely conversation with Ed Gaffey while waiting for his wife to sign books for those in front of me. He was incredibly interesting...he is now on my "to buy his book" list just because he was so nice (see below...he fit right in with the theme of the conference...). Then I finally reached the front of the line, and even though there were still at least ten people now behind me, his wife, Suzanne Brockmann, spent a good two minutes chatting with me. A very enjoyable morning...and I was so controlled, I only came away with three books...three books I really wanted.

Did some wonderful sightseeing events. First to CNN Headquarters...they put on an AMAZING tour. Then the following day we went to the Georgia billed as the largest aquarium in the world. It was quite impressive, way too crowded, the beluga whales were gorgeous, and I purchased two CD's of oceany-aquariumy-new agey-relaxation type music that are just as nice at home as they were there. And... did you know there are HILLS in Atlanta? Not exactly like the hills in San Francisco or Seattle (at least the part we were in...) but some damned steep inclines. Geez...who knew!

Had a fun lunch with the ACME Crit Group I'm a member of, and received a new pin for my badge. Went to a really fun party thrown by the Chick-Lit Chapter and won a book (that looks great!) and received another new, very cute pin for my badge. Ventured to the Ritz-Carlton for the Ballantine-Bantam-Dell cocktail party and spent the evening by the huge floor fan. That very strategic move (oh, okay...totally unplanned...a lucky break! geez...) had all kinds of wonderful, entertaining people coming by for a few minutes of chatting. It was definitely a success. One memorable moment of the party actually took place outside where my friend, Randy, and I went for a cigarette break. There we talked with a very nice bellboy who'd recently moved to Atlanta after escaping and losing most everything to Hurricane Katrina. His upbeat attitude was truly an inspiration to us all. Also went to the top of the Hyatt Hotel to their revolving restaurant 72 floors up. What a spectacular view of the city...all 360 degrees of it! And...on our last night...we got our thunderstorm!

The general message of this year's conference was to be professional in all writing be nice. That really resonated with me. And it must have resonated with others, too, as it just felt like a "happy" conference. Atlanta is a beautiful city and everyone was so friendly and helpful. was a definitely a wonderful conference experience. are wondering about those tapes I was not, not, not...under any circumstances.. gonna buy? Well, the entire conference set should be arriving in my mailbox in another three or four weeks. Hey! I'm not perfect!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Hey, July!!!!!!

Where'd ya go???? Huh???? Are you hiding? Well, get back here!

Certainly would be nice if we could just summon back a month that whizzed by without our hardly noticing it, wouldn't it? I feel rather cheated! Now, let's see what I did...

Well, the first weekend was 4th of July. Had great intentions of getting a ton accomplished (yeah, yeah, yeah, the usual plan...) A big list of stuff to accomplish over the four-day holiday. As I recall, it was beastly hot! The landscape renovation had just begun, and we were in the process of waiting for the round-up to get rid of the weeds. The tree roots that were sprouting everywhere had been trimmed, the trees themselves had been trimmed, things were looking good... well, except for all that brown grass that covered about 75% of the area. And good news: my firecracker-lovin' "friends" next door seemed to be taking the weekend off.

The following weekend, my good karma went on vacation. Another big list of things to do. Sunday, I started out ambitiously by washing my very dirty mode of transportation to discover there was a very beautiful vehicle masquerading under all that grime. Then it decided not to start after dining at Carl's Jr. Uh, picture 100 degree heat, my stubborn car, waiting for a tow truck. Thirty minutes later, it did arrive, and the very cute tow truck driver couldn't start it either. Damn. So, I had to have it towed 35 miles to the dealer. About halfway there, the driver calmly says: I hope you have a way home because I can't bring you back. Uh, oh. Like NO!!!! But needless to say, I worked out that curve ball. Then, of course, the car started at the dealer, and they can't find a thing out of sorts, meaning... I now feel like I have an undependable car...which was why I brought a new car in the first place... the beat goes on.

Next weekend... Good Karma was still on vacation! Got up nice and early to get a head start on chores. First on the list: laundry. Last rinse of the first load, the toilet starts gurgling, a wretched sewer-smell drifts into my closed-up house that is trying to keep out the 100 degree in Brooke-World is NOT good. Have to call the landscaper first cuz he's buried the sewer-manhole with new dirt for the new lawn (yes...progess happened in the weeks of July!), then called the sewer company who came out and unclogged their lines from my tree roots...grrrr. This is not so good since they were out over Christmas. But they say they will pour stuff in that will stop it once and for all this time. We shall see... the beat goes on!

Weekend Three... had to get ready to leave for the National Conference in Atlanta, which entailed packing, and doing some cleaning... and spending LOTS of time admiring my new lawns! The car ran fine... the sewer lines seemed okay... I am paranoid on both scores since the sink in the bath seems to be draining very slowly... the beat goes on!

Last weekend, I was returning home from Atlanta. Had a wonderful time. Have to say, it was probably the best national conference I've attended. Got so much out of it by not having an plans, no lists... just went. Hmmm... can I maybe apply this to other areas of my life... Toss the lists... might be worth considering.

July was very busy, it just flew by. I did get a lot of work done on my current manuscript, have only about fifty pages to go. The landscaping is about 85% complete. A few more plants to go up on the slope (the landscaper will do those); a couple of beds and several pots to be replanted (I shall do those!--wonder if I remember how to garden...), and the roof leak adventure of twenty months ago will finally be a memory of the past. My car needs another bath... oh well. It's not gettin' one for awhile!

Wonder if August will flee as quickly... we'll see! The beat goes on!