Formerly Blogless

True confessions of a girl who writes dirty books--and loves it!

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Preparations are proceeding apace.

On Friday, I'm flying from Cleveland to New York (sans any sort of toothpaste, hairspray, or other dangerous liquid flammables) and from there to Prague! And then I'm taking the train across Germany (which is exactly how interested I am in that beer-swilling, brat-infested nation) to France. A few days in Alsace, a few more in Reims, and then on to Paris.

I love my life.

Seriously, how cool is this? Trip to Europe, with one of my best friends in the world, just two twenty-something girls on the loose. We'll try not to get up to anything too naughty, but either way, I'm going to try to visit internet cafes and give regular updates, hopefully with pictures. So at least if we get in trouble, you'll know all about it.

If anyone has any suggestions of places to visit/food to try/things to do, I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

What's a Hangover?

You can all stop worrying. My head absolutely did not fall off my shoulders and roll under the bed to get away from the light when I opened my eyes Saturday morning. In fact, I must be younger and more resilient than I thought, because I managed to get away with an entire weekend of fairly heavy drinking, basically scot free. Well, at least hangover free, which was what I cared about.

Booze cruise was great--weak, watery gin and tonics notwithstanding. We barhopped all over Kelly's Island, and ended up at a place with dancing. I may have re-sprained my ankle, but it was worth it. And it's not really sprained. Just a little sore. Shut up. So I'm not as young as resilient as all that. Shut up.

My other little update has to do with my marriage. The worst is over! If, you know, it's true what they say, that the first year is the hardest. We have officially made it past that first year marker! Not to mention several of the most stressful events possible in the course of the average human existence: moving house, changing jobs, etc. To celebrate, we went to dinner at Johnny's Downtown in Cleveland on Saturday night and split a bottle of Champagne. It's a lovely restaurant, sort of bistro-ish, dimly lit and romantic. Nick filled my glass, then his, and as we raised the crystal for a toast, he said, "So. Want to give it one more year?"

Swoon. I mean, honestly. Must pause to fan myself back to full consciousness...

And then we spent the night at the Ritz Carlton, and came home on Sunday (the actual anniversary) and ate entirely too much thawed wedding cake. It was shockingly good still, honey ginger cake with hazelnut buttercream and a layer of caramel. Above is a picture of how it looked, intact. That whole top layer, with the wacky flowers spiraling out of it, is what we've been carting all over the damn country since the wedding. And now my freezer is finally free again!

It was a memorable weekend...

Friday, September 22, 2006

Booze Cruise

Tonight, I am having an adventure. I'm going on the Booze Cruise. Which is exactly what it sounds like: a boat that takes off from Sandusky and sails around Lake Erie, to the various, cute little islands full of bars, and then back again. I believe the boat has a bar, as well. Yes. An Adventure.

Last night, sort of in preparation, we had a bartending class. A group of friends, many of whom will also be Adventuring with me tonight, and we learned how to make things like Tahitian Iced Tea and Lynchburg Lemonade in plastic cups. Have you ever noticed that all "mixed drinks" served in plastic cups taste the same? They are indistinguishable to me, except occasionally by color. They all taste like citrus punch, and I can't say that I like them very much. I disrupted the bartending class by coercing my favorite local lush, Matt, into taking a shot with me. I don't think the teacher was appreciative (not much artistry involved in a straight shot of vodka, after all) but it made me happy. I only wished there'd been tequila (not Cuervo, despite the pretty picture. Cuervo isn't even really tequila--it's tequila flavored rum, with a great marketing campaign.) Her mixing vodka was nasty.

Anyway, now it's raining. Do booze cruises still happen when it's raining? It's less appealing somehow. Hmm. We'll have to see.

Let you know how (if) the Adventure goes...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Back in the Saddle

My internet has been so spotty the last few days! Every time I try to log on and post, it's all wonky. So hopefully this will work.

I have nothing earth-shattering to say here, I just wanted to get back in the groove. Haven't got any new rejection letters, so I won't be Decoding Disappointment this week. Maybe next week--please email any confusing rejection or revision letters to, and put Decoding Disappointment in the subject line. I'll analyze and translate, and of course, all names will be changed to protect the innocent.

In other news, I've been cataloguing my current obsessions. I have a slight tendency toward addictions--little mini addictions, brief and intense, to all sorts of things. A particular song, which I'll suddenly need to hear about once an hour; a certain kind of soft drink; a pair of shoes I bought two years ago, but never wore, and now suddenly seem like the only good thing in my closet. I have to be very careful of the channel changer when I sit down to the TV--if I watch more than five minutes of a show, I'm liable to be hooked for life. And after the insane frenzy that took over my life when I read the first Harry Potter book for the first time, I can only imagine how I would react to heroin. Best not to contemplate.

Current Obsessions:
Fresca (Original Citrus Flavor)
Let Me Know by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs--really, almost any song by this group. I love screamy girl punk.
Slash romance, aka gay boy porn written by women for women (I KNOW! It's sickly addictive. And it's research. Seriously. I'm taking notes, and everything. For my next book. And I have it on good authority that this is the next big thing. And I'm not justifying myself any further, because you know what? It's HOT.)
Annie's Organic Mac & Cheese

Anyone else have obsessions you'd like to share? And it's only fair, I think, to really spill the deep dark ones, y'all, since I humiliated myself first...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Bad and Sad

I've been a bad blogger. Haven't updated in a week! There are extenuating circumstances, though. Our crazy, psychotic, weirdo cat, Mayhem, had to be put to sleep last Friday. After a long struggle with feline diabetes, he is survived by two parents, and a puppy who really misses jumping all over him first thing in the morning. It was a sad day, even though I knew it was coming for a long time. And I guess I've allowed myself to mope for a few days, which is lame, because, you know, I loved him and everything, but he was just a CAT. And a totally nutso one, at that. But he was OUR nutso.

Anyway, I'm moving forward. I've read about a thousand books in the last week (okay, that's an exaggeration, but at least 450) and I've tinkered around with my revisions, and messed with a project I'm working on for the local Jaycees, and I've had it! I'm ready to get back to work for real.

So on that note, please send me new rejections to be decoded! I'll put one up as soon as I get a new letter. Just send it to me at Please put "Decoding Disappointment" in the headline, so I don't sort you into the trash when I don't recognize your email address.

Thanks, and I promise to be back in top form soon(ish)...

Love and kisses,

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Decoding Disappointment: Narrative Drive

Below is a rejection letter from an editor at a big publishing house.


Thanks very much for the look at your proposal for DESPERATE JOURNEY,
which I've now had a chance to consider. It's apparent, even in these
early pages, that you know your period well - the details of domestic life
are well-rendered.

That said, alas, I don't think this is going to be for me. Although the
characters are sympathetic, I found the narrative drive a bit less
compelling than I'd hoped to. Ultimately, I didn't fall in love with the
material enough to think it would work on my list here.

So, I'm returning the proposal herewith. Thanks again for considering
XXX, and much good luck with this elsewhere.

All best,


This is a good, solid rejection. It begins with a compliment, which isn't strictly necessary--the fact that the editor took the time to work that in speaks well of him/her. It's good for the author to hear that something works, even if the overall decision on the acquisition is negative. It can take away some of the sting, and can encourage her to build on her strengths.

The line that confused the author is in the second paragraph: I found the narrative drive a bit less compelling than I'd hoped to. Our author confessed that she'd never heard that phrase before, and it gave her quite a bit of trouble. Eventually she decided that it referred to some combination of a problematic plot with slow pacing. To me, narrative drive refers to the way the elements of the story combine to pull the reader along from beginning to end. It's structural--put another way, on a very basic level, a story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end. And it's up to the author to make sure that there's a compelling reason for the reader to keep turning those pages. The editor is giving the author a decent clue about what's not working with the manuscript, but it's up to the author to figure out how to act, based on this information.

The first thing I'd look at is where the book starts. About half of the manuscripts I turned down had a simple problem--they began in the wrong place, either way after the inciting action of the plot, so the reader was constantly scrambling to get caught up, or way before, forcing the reader to wade through oceans of semi-relevant backstory. In romance, the story often starts when the hero and heroine meet--but certainly not always. Don't be afraid to experiment, but don't do something wacky just for the sake of uniqueness.

Once you have the beginning squared away, turn your attention to the middle. Something changes, forcing action from the hero/heroine. It should build on itself, do that good old rising action thing, and it should all lead inevitably to the climax.

And now the end is in sight. Either the status quo must be restored, now that the conflict is resolved, or a new status quo is established based on the fallout from the conflict. Either way, the hero and heroine have been on a journey from the beginning of the book, and it should feel as if, in some way, they were always headed right here.

This is all very simplistic, I know, and it would probably be easy to come up with hundreds of examples of great books that don't follow this structure. And without having read our author's proposal myself, I can't swear that this is what the editor is even talking about. But I can swear that your novel will benefit from a serious deliberation over where the story you want to tell actually begins; it's a simple jumping off point, and any changes you make to the beginning will naturally cascade down through the entire story, strengthening and tightening as it goes.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

P for Powerful

Nick and I watched V for Vendetta over the weekend, and if I had to describe the experience in one word, that word would be powerful. From the performances (Natalie Portman really can act! I KNEW IT! Even if I forgot it for a while during that whole insane, awful Star Wars prequel period. Ugh. Let's never speak of that again) to the art direction to the writing to the message of the movie--POW. ER. FUL.

Hugo Weaving is, as always, fantastic. He acts with that mask on through the whole thing, in a very Kabuki, ancient Greek kind of way--and exactly as in those acting forms, the mask begins to seem alive. Or at least, you forget it's a mask, and see it as the person he is. Hard to explain, and I'm sure even harder to accomplish. Weaving's voice gets most of the attention (since it's the kind of voice I'd be happy to listen to explaining the ins and outs of carburetors, much less chewing over that great "Remember, remember the fifth of November" poem) but it's really his physicality that makes the character. It would be so easy for every gesture to seem clownish, but Weaving's precision and grace instead impart a strange sexiness. Somehow, the fact that the mask's expression never changes makes you hyper aware of his body. It's a neat effect, and one that not many actors could've pulled off.

The supporting cast is marvelous: Stephen Rea as a burnt out cop who secrety longs to believe in something; John Hurt as the resident evil dictator; Stephen Fry as the gay TV personality. The show belongs to Natalie, though--it's her transformation that carries us through the film, and she takes the burden on her skinny shoulders with a good deal more grit and maturity than she's ever been called on to show before. Flying colors, all around.

Plus, it doesn't hurt that she looks fabulous bald as a cue ball. And how many girls can say that?

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Week in Books

I thought you might be interested in how my week of slothful, self-indulgent, voracious novel-reading is going. The answer is, very well, thank you. And why can't this be my life all the time? Isn't there any job where I could get paid for reading romance novels? Oh wait, there is, and I already left it. Crap. Well, at least this way I get to read whatever I like. Which, so far this week, has mainly been Suzanne Brockmann.

INTO THE STORM, the new hardcover, is wonderful. Naturally. It's also a pretty welcome mood change from the highly angsty (although very satisfying) BREAKING POINT, which preceded it. There were multiple dialogue exchanges and descriptions in ItS that made me laugh out loud. And even though there's a very disturbing serial killer thread woven throughout the book, driving the plot toward its inevitable jaw-clenching, hair-raising conclusion, the overall tone of the book is lighter. And the bonus Sam/Alyssa short story at the end was a nice suprise! Especially since it featured Jules, my all-time favorite Suze Brockmann character. Although Izzy Zanella is fast approaching 2nd place. My only real issue with ItS is that is lacked one of my favorite SB elements, which is the WWII subplot. Been missing those.

Anyway, if you haven't read these books, I'm jealous. You have a major treat in store for you. Set aside a good chunk of time, and plow through them, from beginning to end. The series order is important (I always think it's important, because I'm anal like that, but I think almost anyone would agree with me in this case).

Enjoy! More book recs to come...