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Final fun?

I will never deny that finaling in the Golden Heart® and two other contests has been awesome. Never. However, it has added an unexpected level of stress and distraction to my life this past week.

The email from all of my new loops could be a full-time job in itself. And now I’m freaking out because I need to get my updated partial back to one of the contests by Friday. I also need to jump on this and get my queries out there while my final status is still hot, while preparing my full manuscript just in case I get a request.

But most stressful of all, someone reminded me that when I got to Nationals this summer, my picture will be flashed up on the big screen for at least a thousand authors, agents, and editors to see during the awards ceremony. Ack! Sufficiently frightened, I scrambled to get a photographer because said photo is due—you guessed it—Friday.

My photo session is tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed that I manage not to open the cabinet door into my face before tomorrow morning.

But the final straw in my basket of stress was the dry cleaners. You know that pile of professional wear that has been sitting in my closet gathering mold for months? Oops, the tops I wanted to wear for my photo shoot were in there. I dropped off my stuff early yesterday and was assured it could be ready by this evening.

W-e-l-l. We had a nasty storm overnight and the power went out and the dry cleaning wasn’t done. She told me I could pick it up tomorrow at ten. One. Hour. Before. My. Shoot. Dubious and afraid to not have a backup plan, I skipped Kung Fu and went the to mall where I found something that is not really what I wanted, but close.

So if my new, not-so-cheap, professional photo sucks, I can blame it on the weather. But in the end, I have nothing to complain about. I just have to remember the reason I’m going through all this in the first place.

And the smile is back.

OMG GH!

Wow! I’m a finalist in the Romance Writers of America®’s Golden Heart® contest, the most prestigious contest for unpubbed romance writers out there.

Entering is like playing the lottery. You send off your entry and a nice fee, hoping against hope that your work will be chosen, but figuring it most likely won’t. Then on announcement day, you try to pretend you’re not waiting for the phone to ring, even as you threaten the family with bodily harm if they tie up the line.

Today I had to take my son to a doctor’s appointment (just a check up), so I was keeping busy and not—yeah right—thinking about it at all. I was periodically checking my email on my iPhone only to see who I knew that had been selected. (And I have a bridge to sell you…)

The doctor stepped out to write something up for us and I pulled out my phone and spotted a voicemail. From Lori Handeland “at RWA”! And I just started giggling. I was afraid to get my hopes up, but really, how many times have I ever received a call from someone at RWA? Um, never! And especially on Golden Heart/RITA announcement day.

The next thirty minutes were torture, but as soon as we got to the car, I called Lori back. Aack, direct to voicemail!

I gave the phone to my son with strict instructions on how we’d handle it if she called while I was driving, put on my seatbelt, and she called back.

It wouldn’t surprise me if I was her least expressive call, but I’d had thirty minutes to giggle and get used to the idea, so she didn’t get the first shock, just the second oh-thank-God-it’s-really-about-the-Golden-Heart shock. 😉

I’m still kind of in a daze, but so excited. My jaw hurts from smiling, and I’ve done little on the computer but respond to emails, tweets, and Facebook posts. It’s like being newly engaged. Or pregnant.

Being a Golden Heart finalist doesn’t guarantee I’ll sign an agent or sell my work, but it’s at least a sign that I’m moving in the right direction with my craft. And it may just open a few doors.

I’ll step through as many as I can.

——

Congrats to all my friends and peers who finaled in either the Golden Heart, or the RITA (for published authors)! See you all in NYC.

Also, I didn't post after police academy yesterday because I didn't get home until almost 11:30pm. I'll put up a CPA post on Sunday.

Done!

NaNoWriMo? Conquered. My Golden Heart entry? Submitted. Blind Fury? Oh, well, mostly finished. I actually left the wrap-up scenes off the back end for my GH entry, just to get it out the door on time. But that’s what December is for.

November was stressful, especially with Thanksgiving thrown in there (who’s brilliant idea was that?), but I don’t regret it at all. Here’s what I learned…

  1. Next year, my NaNo book will NOT be my Golden Heart entry. It was much too difficult trying to get the first 50 pages cleaned up, the synopsis done, and get it out the door on time while also trying to make word count. It reminded me of finals week during grad school, except my kids are taller than me now.
  2. I’m competitive. I like a challenge. Yeah, I knew that, already, but it was a good reminder.
  3. It’s possible to maintain word counts of 2500+ words per day over an extended period of time.
  4. I can live without Twitter, Facebook, and email if I have to.
  5. It’s incredibly freeing when you give yourself permission to write an imperfect story. *Snort* As if it wasn’t going to be anyway. When my internal editor started talking, I gave him a minute of my time to make a note in the change log, and then got back to work. (Yes, my internal editor is a man. I don't know why. It's like Herman's Head in there.)
    • When he questioned the value or validity of a scene, I decided to wait until the story was done and then make a decision on it.
    • Only once—when I knew that I had taken the story in the wrong direction—did I let the editor convince me to pull out several scenes and start in a new direction. That’s a huge step for me.
  6. The outline is my friend. As I’ve mentioned before, it helped me when I was stuck more times than I can count.
  7. I still like my story because I haven’t already rehashed every scene 50 times before I type “The End”.
  8. The feeling of accomplishment is worth it.

Participating in NaNo helped change my approach to my writing, mostly for the better. And while I’m cutting back for the next few days (mainly due to a hectic kids’ schedule), I don’t feel burned out.

If anything, I'm more energized than ever.

 

Secondhand news

First of all, congratulations to all the RITA and Golden Heart finalists, especially my chapter mate and all-around awesome lady, Jennifer Echols! This is like the Oscars for published and unpublished authors of RWA. I'm excited to attend the awards ceremony at Nationals in July.

My writing chapter had more good news this week. A woman who's been doing well on the contest circuit, but getting lots of rejections for her quirky paranormal romance, just signed a three-book deal with Kensington.

I'm stoked for this woman. She has a great voice, she's been working really hard, and she's a nice person. Couldn't we all use a little good news for a change?

I remember in the earlier days of our marriage, my husband and I attended a few hockey games. We don't have a particular team, we just went to see the local team wherever we lived. Anyway, during half-time, the local car dealer had a contest. This guy from the audience came out and hit the puck through a tiny slot from half-court and won a brand new truck!

The audience cheered as he drove it around the ice. It was awesome. I didn't even win the truck and I was happy. It was so cool to see someone make that impossible shot and leave the game with a new car. Like if it could happen to him, maybe it could happen to us someday.

While I'd love to have my own good news to share today, hearing it from others is the next best thing. It means there's still hope for the rest of us, and that those who persevere are making it happen.

What about you? Got any good news to share (writing or not)?

Writing Pageantry

My baby, Counting on You, is finally on its way to Texas to be judged against everyone else's baby in the most prestigious pageant for unpublished romance authors, The Golden Heart. (Insert huge sigh of relief here.)

Frankly, my chances of making it to the finals are slim. Almost 1000 writers entered last year, and no more than eight from each category will make it to the finals. But, the attempt is worth it. While there's no guarantee a finalist will garner a publisher's attention, chances are very good.

A writer who makes it to the final round (or wins!) can feel confident that her work is competitive among some of the best unpublished romance authors out there. Granted, the judging is subjective. Preliminary judges are other authors, both published and unpublished. But, the whole industry is subjective.

Writing contests are like the current spate of talent shows on TV…um, except not on TV. Most people won't make it to the top 20. Some will confirm they royally suck, others will learn that they're good but need more work, and a few will realize their dream.

Of course–like everyone else–I'm hoping to realize my dream, but until then, I'll just keep pounding the keys.

The Daily Squirrel: green (one of my favorite colors)

The color green screamed so loud from the walls and furnishings of the tiny room that her eyes hurt. She could almost feel the weight of it on her shoulders. Green had always been her favorite. The color of the forest, the jungle, a field of grass. But this…this was too much, even for her.