Monday Mommy-ness

Monday, 21 March 2011

Alright, so this isn't technically about mommy-related issues, more about being a woman. Multi-Tasking! I am the queen of multi-tasking! Not looking for praise here, or pity, I do it to myself, I know.

I remember a recent tweet about a study which showed how multi-tasking actually means you get less done. I'm not convinced. I know there's plenty of scientific evidence, but still. Without multi-tasking I'd still be doing things I did LAST March. I'm certain of it.

I spent the weekend making the spider costume (see previous post) and chasing the monster, so I didn't have time for much else. Today I am paying for my sins. I have 3 chapters to read, an essay to write, mountains of path reports to pull, a book to read, and 4 chapters to write. Mind you, I have all week, but I also have a full-time job, 2 nights of coaching, and the monster 24/7.

My neighbors don't read my blog, hell they don't even know I have one, but if they did they would now understand the bizarre sight in my study window. I am pulling path reports from the intranet, listening to Great Expectations (iTunes U), and walking on the treadmill. All at once.

Off I go...

4 Things

Sunday, 20 March 2011

OK. It's 2243 and I really just want to go to bed. I spent the better part of my weekend making a spider costume for the monster for bug day at preschool and didn't get around to much else.


So here's a quick 4 Things...

4 Things Making Me Happy RIGHT NOW:

1. I got back my assignment scores for my first assignments in both courses I am taking and both were great. Yay!!  I really am enjoying this new path. Plus I passed the 3 courses I just finished in January-- double Yay!

2. I am loving all of the new American country music! In particular, I've become addicted to Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker, The Band Perry, and Kenny Chesney. Makes me want to put on my cowboy boots...

3. I'm loving FaceBook right now (even though, I've kind of gone off it in favor of Twitter) because I've been able to find the high school English teacher who spurred me on in my writing. He was the one person who believed in me as a writer. He urged me to enter the Young Authors contest while in high school and I won first place in my grade and city. Anyway, I found him on FB and sent him a message to which he replied with possibly the nicest compliment I've ever received about my writing. That has made my month!

4. And best of all-- Tonight I booked tickets for our TRIP HOME!!!! Yes! This summer we will be spending my son's fourth birthday with my family in Virginia and North Carolina and DH has even agreed to let me look at some houses in NC as well!  Looks like in a few years I may finally get to move home!

Not a bad week when I look back on it. Sure it had a few stressful moments, but it all worked out in the end.

How about you? How was your week?

Monday Mommy-ness

Monday, 14 March 2011

I thought I had a meeting with the behavior specialist at monster's pre-school. Then I was stuck in a small room with three members of staff all there to speak with me, or at me it seemed. At nine am. I would've sooner faced a firing squad.

It started out pretty bad. I think they got the impression that I wanted the meeting or that I was angry at them for some reason. I only booked the meeting because it was sugessted to me several times. Their constant suggestion made me think something was very wrong. I've grown concerned because I keep getting bad reports and from the tone of these reports it would seem as if only my child is having behavioral issues. And now I felt as if I was being ganged up on.

Once the air was clear and they understood that I didn't think monster was an angel, but I also didn't think he was the devil everyone started to relax. Clearly the tactics which fall into their policies and procedures for dealing with bad behaviour aren't working for my child. I stressed that we need to get tougher. I also found out that he isn't the only problem child-- he's not even the worst!

Thank God for small favors.

Not 4 Things

Sunday, 13 March 2011

I honestly cannot think of 4 things which are making me happy right now.

I have to admit, I'm not really all that happy today. Maybe it's because I had a weird night. I fell asleep accidentally at 5pm then woke at 1am and couldn't get back to sleep until 5am and was up again a little after 8. I'm not tired, but I do feel like I've sleep-walked through two days instead of one.

I have several things on my mind right now, not the least of which is the meeting I have with a 'behavioralist' tomorrow at the monster's school. It would seem I am raising the worst kid in the class. I don't know what to think. He is brilliant in his tumbling class and lately we've had few tantrums at home.

Speaking of home, I am desperate to get home. I have been so damn homesick lately I can't stand it. I am trying to schedule a trip home for monster's 4th birthday, but I'm dreading the fact that I will want to hang out with my mom and relax while DH will want us to go see his friends 3 hours away. DH hates hanging out at my parents' house, but I seriously need some down time with mom. I'm still trying to convince him we should move close to my mom so that monster can have a relationship with his grandparents. Cross your fingers for me on that one.

And on top of all of that, there's the fact that my ADHD robbed me of 2 days of writing time and I am now stuck wrestling with a scene that just refuses to play fair.

As my Grandaddy would've said 'Damn it all to hell!'

Yep. That about sums it up.

Web Site and Writing Samples

The web site is up and running, of course I've had to slack off a bit on everything else to get it running, but I promise to get back to normal soon. The site will always be a work in progress and I'll update it and add to it often. I mainly wanted a site so that I could put samples of my writing on it to link back to here, so that's pretty much what I've done.

Ages ago, I promised I'd post the short story I wrote for my class. It has taken me a while, but the link for the story is on my Literary Fiction page. It will take you to my web site http://www.christykatemckenzie.com/, but there is a link on the left to come back to the blog. Feel free to click the site link above and have a nosey.

You can also find a link on my Romance page (here and the site) to the eHarlequin site where the start to my current WIP was in a contest. The entry and some comments I received are on it. That one doesn't have a link to get back to here, sorry.

I haven't posted any magical realism yet, but I'll get around to it.

I'm very excited about the new site and the opportunity to share some of my work and hopefully get a bit of feedback on it. If you have time, have a read of the pieces I've linked and then please come back here and let me know what you think-- both of the new site and my work.

Thanks!

On Writing Romance

Saturday, 5 March 2011

I remember reading my first Harlequin Super Romance with the dreamy sort of recollection reserved for fond childhood memories. Wait! Don’t walk away yet!  Give me a chance...
                That first romance I read was called The Gift of Summer by Lynda Trent. It was published in March 1989, so I must have read it that summer.  I was in high school and that summer I lay across my bed while the scent of gardenias floated through the window screen on a warm breeze, listening to Debbie Gibson’s Out of the Blue album, reading The Gift of Summer. I don’t remember how long it took me to read, but I can’t imagine it took very long because I do remember I couldn’t put it down.  
It felt amazing. I really can’t explain it. There’s something about Harlequin’s trademark Happily Ever After which I still can’t get enough of. I’ll admit, my life is far from warm and fuzzy, so at the end of a particularly trying day I take comfort in knowing that a HEA is only a few chapters away.         
You see, romance isn’t what you think it, not anymore. Gone are the days of bodice rippers, cruel heroes, and heroines who really are too stupid to live. Romance is no longer about damsels in distress and overly-alpha males. Today’s romances are smart, sassy, and sexy. The heroines are strong, independent women and the heroes, while still alpha males, are caring and sensitive. The story lines are complex and intelligent.
Ok, now is when I get crucified. It’s already happened when I expressed these same opinions on a writer’s forum, but here goes...
My only complaint-- the titles of some romances make me cringe. They are the only reason I won’t read a print romance in public (thank God for the Kindle app on my iPhone).  I’m not the only reader who feels this way. Check out the article at the end of this post. It’s common knowledge that romances are often looked down on and I think some titles may contribute to this.
Of course, covers in the past weren’t helpful in representing romance as an intelligent choice for readers, but, thankfully covers rarely show Fabio lookalikes (yes, he was the first romance cover hero) and women with heaving bosoms submitting to their every need.
Harlequin editors take note: These are my honest opinions, but I still adore your books! I desperately want to write for you and have ever since I read that first book-- please do not relegate me to a life of big R’s!
Now, back to those titles...
A great number of books are now sporting brilliant, witty titles and some lines are more likely to use what I consider to be more creative titles than others, but those aren’t the titles I’m talking about.  I’m talking about what I call the ‘tell-all’ titles. You know, the one’s like The Billionaire’s Mistress’ Secret Baby Scandal or The Emergency Doctor’s Marriage of Convenience to a Midwife. Now, I have been told the reasoning behind this type of title and I have to admit, it is a good one.  Apparently, it’s all down to marketing. Research has shown that there are a large number of readers out there who don’t read loglines or back cover blurbs. They make their choices based on titles alone. They know what they like, be it sheiks or firemen or reunited lovers, and the ‘tell-all’ titles hand a shopper all of the information she or he needs to decide if a book is for them or not.
Ok, fair enough, but in my opinion, some of the titles read like the worded equivalent to Fabio covers, though. Not that my opinion counts for much, especially when it’s up against decades of sales figures, but if I were in charge I’d do things a little different. I would use an imaginative (not at all cringe-worthy) title and a ‘tag cloud’ displaying the pertinent ‘story elements’ on the cover. Because I found a site full of free images (www.dreamstime.com) and because I was looking for a little procrastination, I made a mock-up cover for my current WIP (aimed at the Harlequin American Romance line). Don’t laugh.

This is just a mock-up. I am not pubblished. I only wish I was.

I don’t care about any of that, though. I love romance and what matters most to me is that writing romance is a brilliant way to spark a writing career. I really want to be a Harlequin American Romance author. Now, don’t get me wrong, romance is incredibly difficult to write. Regardless of the rumours, there is not formula for writing romance. There is a format, a set of very strict guidelines which require a very imaginative and disciplined writer able to include the necessary elements of romance without telling the ‘same old story’. I keep at it every day, praying to someday make the cut.
Of course, there does seem to be more opportunity for new writers in romance. I’m not saying it’s easy to get in. It isn’t easy to break into the publishing world no matter the genre.  Romance, however, is one of the few markets with publishers who don’t require authors to have an agent. Aside from my past with Harlequin and their amazing reputation as a publishing house, the fact that they accept unagented submission for most of their lines is a major selling point for me.
                Some writers use romance as a spring board. They write romances to hone their craft (if you can write a strong enough story to be published while sticking to the guidelines, you can write pretty much anything) and learn about the world of publishing, but writing romance is a fantastic career on its own. Harlequin expects around 3-4 books per year from their authors, so it is possible to make a living writing romance. I’d certainly love to give it a try!
There’s also no chance romance will die out. Romance Writers of America has posted some impressive figures on their web site (www.rwa.org) for romance sales in comparison with other genres. According to RWA, in 2009 romance sales totalled $1.36 billion compared with religion/inspirational ($770 million), Mystery ($674 million), science fiction/fantasy ($554 million), and classic literary fiction ($462 million), it’s easy to see that romance is leading the pack in sales and popularity. Even in the light of the recession and the decline of book sales overall romance is holding strong (please see the articles below).  It would seem that career stability as a writer is limited only by a writer’s ability to produce quality manuscripts.
With regards to my own writing, I will continue to work on my literary fiction and magical realism, but my focus will be on romance. I want to write the type of feel-good fiction which has continued to make me happy ever since I read that first book decades ago. I am very devoted to Harlequin. I am a member of the online community where I post regularly, I participated in the Valentine Secrets contest (you’ll find a link for my entry on my ‘Romance’ page), and I follow a number of Harlequin editors and authors on Twitter. I’m addicted, I know. I’ll continue to be an active part of the Harlequin community (it’s such an amazing, supportive place) and I’ll continue to write and submit and keep my fingers crossed, all the while waiting for my Call.
So, please do not judge a book by its cover... or its title. I challenge everyone who reads this post to try at least one Harlequin before you form an opinion of romance. You can even download free ones from Amazon for the Kindle (you can download Kindle for PC for free as well). Ignore the title, authors don’t get to pick their titles, they write the incredible stories, but do read the descriptions. My mother got a big surprise when she downloaded an erotic romance because it was free and she only read the title, she reads inspirational/Christian books! So read the blurb and make sure it isn’t something you’d hate regardless of the writing.
They are fast reads (normally 50-70k words) so you don’t need to devote your life to one. And I don’t know, you may read one and hate it. Or not. Your opinion of what you’ve read is what’s important. It’s vital to both established and aspiring authors to hear what readers think works and what doesn’t in a story. After all, every story may not suit every reader.  Just read one, then come back here and tell me what you thought of it.
I dare you.

Don’t take it from me...



A web site...

Friday, 4 March 2011

I'm working on a web site, struggling really. The biggest issue right now is that my pictures don't seem to want to embed. Here's a taste of those pesky pics...

This reminds me of my 'mother-out-law' (she never became an in-law thank God)...


Here's a beautiful Fourth of July cake. Oh how I miss the parades...

A kiddie train all decked out. I'm sure my monster would love this...

And a chair I'd love to have on my own wrap-around front porch. Guess I'll need a porch first...

Happy World Book Day!!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Today is world book day. To celebrate, I've devoted the day (minus the morning I spent at work) to books.

I read on my kindle in a cafe over my morning latte and pastry. It was a lovely little place which drew me in with the most beautiful cupcakes in the window. I just had to get a closer look. Chatting with the owner, I learned that he was an architect by trade and he applies the same principles to decorating cakes as he did to designing buildings. The results were truly gorgeous. We talked about languages, accents, diets, sugar, and music before I settles down at a glass table to read.

I also learned that he was from Greece. Now don't get me wrong, I am happily married and not looking for love or otherwise, but I finally understand why Harlequin features so many Greek heros. There is something about Greek men. They don't have to be physically attractive to be undeniably sexy. It's something about the way they treat you and how they make you feel about yourself-- it's incredible. The cafe owner is only the second Greek man I've met, but the first also has this quality in spades. I'm not saying either one is unattractive, just not my type (I prefer mine tall and built like an American football player, like my very own hero at home), and still I walked out of there blushing like a school girl. Overall a great start to my day!

I came home early from work and did a bit of reading before taking an afternoon nap. I would've preferred to read or write, but I really needed a nap.

After pre-school, I helped my three year old write and bind his first book. He drew pictures, which were mostly circles and 'H for Hunter', and told me what to write. Hunter may be the next Stephen King. His book is called The Mean Vampire.

He gets it honest, though. His father reads Stephen King constantly. And, I wrote and bound my first book at age six in school. It was called The Black Cat, a horror. Anyone unlucky enough to cross paths with the cat died. Yep. I, too, was a little macabre. It's funny looking back on that now, since what I write now is the exact opposite.

Tonight I plan to curl up in bed and read until I drift off to sleep. I love World Book Day.

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