The New Normal

Trudy Doyle 2Close to five years ago I started this blog right around the time my first book came out. Back then I was determined to be a dedicated professional, and if I was going to be a blogger, my one rule was to do it faithfully. That turned out to be twice a week, Tuesday and Friday, each and every week, with a few vacations a year tossed in for mental floss. Back then my life was somewhat less complicated–full-time job, a definite schedule to my life, with a little writing on the side as a hobby. Oh, the salad days! But we all have to grow up sometime, don’t we?

Now “normal” is a concept I just can’t wrap my head around, or perhaps I’ve just a new definition of it. Doesn’t matter–I’m really liking where I am now, and with that, comes a whole new set of demands and loyalties. The first of which is to my readers, where most of my writing energy has to go to now. Look, what have I said over and over and over until I’M sick of hearing it–writers write, and that’s what I have to do before I do anything else (creatively speaking, of course!). So taking that into consideration, this blog will still cover the issues that are important to me, just not as often. Of course, I’ll share here all the news on my new publications, and when something comes up worth mentioning, don’t worry, you’ll see my genius right here.

So you see I’m disappearing from the blogosphere altogether; I’m just spreading myself around. Now if that just ain’t apropos!

Smooch!

Trudy

Holiday Greeting Dahlings!

Vintage Santa Claus Cigarette Ads (1)Well, it seems it’s that time of year again, peeps, where we all snuggle next to home and hearth and try to give the impression that we couldn’t give a good darn what’s inside all those boxes under the tree and that we’ll be SOOOO grateful whatever we get. It’s the thought that counts, after all! Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just being cynical, as usual. A gift’s a gift’s a gift, and truly, I’ll be thrilled with whatever I get. Just like you’re going to be with my gift of taking a powder until January 7th, 2014. Until then, have the Merriest Christmas and the Happiest New Year, and here’s hoping 2014 will be a lot more easier on our throats (and heads and necks and what’s left of our minds) than the last year was!

Big holiday smooch!

Trudy

Oh great…I have to write a synopsis

woman-screaming-261010-medium_newIt’s true, every book needs a synopsis if you eventually want to sell it. Even though I finished this particular one a while ago, I never got around to writing a synopsis, and now it’s come back to haunt me. I’m sorry, but synopses to me are like carbuncles on top of boils, about as attractive to my literary mojo as coconuts are to refrigerators. I know I have to write one, but it’s like I have creative mono I’m been so not able to start. Fact is I hate hate hate them, and why, dammit! do I have to write one anyway?!

To the uninitiated, I should explain what a synopsis is. It’s a boiled-down version of your book, almost down to its essentials. At the most, it’s about five pages, but these days the going length seems to be around two. With such a tight page count, you might think it makes the writing easier, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Actually, it makes it so much harder, as have you ever tried to gather a bunch of peeled grapes in your hand? That’s kind of what it’s like, encapsulating those slippery plot points from start to finish, naming all your major characters, their conflicts and motivations, and holding nothing back. And don’t forget to include a hook at your beginning and a satisfying ending. No being cagey or overly creative, either. It’s just the facts, ma’am, and do remember to keep it in the present tense and state your word count and genre at the beginning. And it should go without saying, make sure it’s proofread, spell-checked, grammar-checked and formatted until it shines like a shiny new penny. But why?

A synopsis, above all, is a selling tool. You need one to get an agent, and after you do, she needs it to sell your fabulousness to an editor. A synopsis not only spells out your book, it tells an editor you’re capable of finishing one, as very rarely will she have your whole manuscript in front of her. Because of their briefness, synopses, by their very nature, at least when they’re written well, can be succinct little works of art. A writer straddles the fence between novelist and journalist when she writes a synopsis, as it isn’t the easiest to write eye-catching florid-free prose when you’re concentrating on just the main points and conflicts. But it can be done. And when it’s done effectively and efficiently, it can make all the difference between rejection and acceptance.

But first one has to actually do one. Which is what I’m off to concentrate on right now. No–really! I am! And I will, right after I check out that shiny object over there…

Trudy

Revisiting the Best Chocolate Cake in the World!

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Note: this is a post from a while back, but I think it bears repeating. It’s a recipe for the BEST and EASIEST chocolate cake in the world, and one you won’t even have to break a nail mixing up! Take a look…

With the holidays just around the corner, your Trudy’s thoughts are turning to family, home and tradition, and amid all the strife, conflict and hatred in the world, to the things in life that really matter.

Like Sex and Chocolate, baby!

I’m serious – truly, I am. Because who’s happier than a well-fed man, and what’s a man want when he’s really, truly happy? Uh-huh, you bet your boo-tays he does! And after a man-pleasing meal, what’s better than dessert, especially if it’s chocolate (for her) and low in calories and fat and devoid of cholesterol (for both of you)? Why this right here…

THE BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE IN THE WORLD

1 1/2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 8x8x2-inch pan. Mix dry ingredients well, stir in liquids and mix until blended. (No electric mixer is necessary.) Bake for 30-40 minutes. (Glass pan, test after 30 minutes.

Serves 8. Calories: 270. Cholesterol: 0. Fat: 10 grams. Sodium 255 mg.

If you’re feeling extra decadent, toss in a couple handfuls of chocolate chips. This cake is so moist, no frosting is necessary, but if you’d like a topper, dust with powdered sugar, or whipped cream and strawberries. (I can vouch for the whipped cream topper – extra fun!) Or, if Sweetie is one of those who abhor The Divine Cocoa Plant Which is Nearly As Wonderful as Sex (can’t fathom the concept myself), you can dis the cocoa and add cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves, plus some raisins and slivered almonds or chopped pecans for a wonderous Spice Cake. (Trudy must admit, Cinnamon is right up there with Divine Cocoa.)

This recipe has been part of my family’s stash for years, and I’ve long since been making it from memory. When I was yet a young slip of a thing, Mater referred to it as “Wacky Cake,” as what ’60s-era housewife would dare try to bake without butter and eggs – and Good Gad! – with vinegar? But the joke was on all those flat-topped and flannelled husbands of theirs, wasn’t it? Daddy got a luscious cake, and the Missus had more time for highballs and Kents with the girls. A win-win sitch all around!

Big chocolate smoochies!

Trudy

Snow Day!

IMG_1822It’s coming onto one in the afternoon and the college is closed for the rest of the day, which means I DON’T HAVE TO GO TO WORK! Yay and double-yay, as it’s also very close to the end of the semester and I have a carload of things to do.  Oh–did I forget to mention why the college closed? Because it’s snowing outside, and that means the general freak-out will now ensue–traffic, milk and break hoarding, etc, and I get to not watch it in the comfort of my own home.

Really, it’s ridiculous the way some people act over a bit of frozen precipitation – it’s enough to make you want to crawl in a cave with a box of Godiva and wait it out until spring. Not that you have a choice, as a cave is pretty much what your house becomes when the elements force you from leaving it. I have found such a state alternately claustrophobic and comforting. Claustrophobic because my mobility is severely hampered, yet comforting because I’m inside, warm and stocked with trash fiction, chardonnay, and all that On Demand. And in those spare hours, while Sweetie is outside taming the errant driveway with his trusty snowblower, I’ll get to bask in blissful silence of literary inspiration, closeting myself behind the closed door of my office, neck-deep in my work-in-progress. Ah…the Bonus Day Off.

What’s sweeter than a snowday? It’s like having an extra birthday, one more Christmas, another day at camp. How marvelous is it to roll over at 6:00 AM in the middle of the week, suddenly remembering you don’t have to get up? And when you do, you get to linger over that cup of coffee, make French Toast for breakfast, watch a morning movie, build a snowman with the kids, bake cookies or even do your taxes. Or maybe you don’t get out of bed at all, savoring the weight of the blankets and the stretch of your muscles as you knife your leg beneath them, the delicious warmth of another body, curling into your own.

Or not. You get to blog this at one in the afternoon while the work-crap piles up, because it doesn’t really matter whether it’s snowing out or not. And that there’s really less than an inch on the ground. This morning I had to call Buffalo, NY, where it snows one-inchers in April and they wouldn’t even get the boots out. Down here they close schools. Relatively speaking, we Jerseyites are a bunch of wimps. Ah, who cares. We’re the ones getting the day off!

Stay warm -

Trudy

Five Fab Holiday Films

holiday-affair-movie-poster-1949-1020440255Movies are my favorite form of escapism, and when I first posted this list a while ago, the only diversion I needed was one from the over-commercialism of the season. How quaint that seems now. Without going into the reasons why, let’s just take these little gems for what they’re worth, a short vacation out of a reality that’s become too grim of late. So get cozy, grab the popcorn and lose yourself in these trifles of holiday storytelling.

1. The Shop Around the Corner ( 1940) – Must be my Eastern European blood calling to me, but I just love this sparkling Ernst Lubitsch romance set in a prewar Budapest gift shop. Starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan as two battling sales clerks who don’t know they’re falling in love via the post, as each other’s anonymous pen pal. Stellar secondary characters, including a priceless William Tracy as the cheeky delivery boy, Pepi. The Christmas Eve menu at the end had me salivating.

2. The Man Who Came to Dinner ( 1942) – After dining at a Ohio local’s home during a  lecture tour, notoriously acerbic radio personality Sheridan Whiteside slips on his hosts’ icy steps, and takes over not only their house but their lives. Starring Monty Woolley as The Man and Bette Davis as his aide-de-camp, the snark and sarcasm are so sharp and quick you’ll come away nicked but you’ll be laughing too hard to care. Still fresh over seventy years later, The Man is based on Algonquin Roundtable-er, Alexander Woolcott, his cronies thin veneers of Noel Coward, Harpo Marx, Gertrude Lawrence and all who were definitely in-crowd.

3. Holiday Affair (1949) – No one did heavy-lidded better than The Mitch, and the very fact that he actually made a holiday film piqued my curiosity enough to watch it. Just by the look of this poster you could see the only thing that remotely indicated that it had anything to do with Christmas was war-widow’s Janet Leigh’s low-plunged red dress that definitely promised presents for someone. Oh, somewhere among the movie’s a plot involving a department store clerk and a retail spy, a sassy kid, a train set, a jilted–oh who cares! Mitch smolders and Janet’s a brush fire waiting to happen.

4. A Christmas Story ((1983) – All nine-year-old Ralphie wants for Christmas is a genuine Red Ryder BB gun, and he’ll do darn near anything to get it. Based on the recollections of storyteller Jean Shepherd’s In God We Trust – All Others Pay Cash, Peter Billingsley had the part of a lifetime that until this day loops every Christmas on cable channel TBS. Darren McGavin ought to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award for one priceless part as Ralphie’s dad who spouts the immortal words, “It’s a major award!”

5. The Holiday (2006) – Don’t ask me why I like this story of American movie trailer maker Cameron Diaz, and English wedding column writer Kate Winslet who swap their respective Hollywood and Surrey homes for the Christmas holidays. Maybe it’s got something to do with Jude Law being tossed into the mix, I don’t know, but the whole thing sure sounds like a good idea to me.

Enjoy! Trudy

Five sure signs the Holidays are coming

xp15_1It’s December, and not only are the Holidays coming, they’re already here if Hanukkah started yours off last week. If not, then you get to bask in the chaos that befalls so many every year. I simply let them rumble past like a runaway train, and if something happens to fall out of the caboose for me, so be it.  But if you believe the concept driving the season is peace and not what piece is for you, then here’s a few hints to let you know just how far behind you are:

1. The Great Work Stoppage - As soon as the Thanksgiving turkey comes out of the oven, it’s as if everyone forgets they have a job. Suddenly all meetings become holiday parties, and if you’re expecting that report to get finished, you might as well call back next year. In my particular milieu, I nearly have to hit my students over the head with their final exam to get them to even remember my name.

2. Vanishing Editors - If you were hoping to get your manuscript sold before the end of the year, you can forget it if you didn’t hear by Turkey Day. From then until the end of the year, editors, as well as a goodly amount of agents, take a breather and make the rounds of Gotham’s holiday celebrations, where I imagine a fair amount of dealmaking takes place over the babaganoush. If you’re the writer, think of it as a temporary reprieve from submission angst.

3. Everything’s on Sale - Back in the day, you used to have to wait until after Christmas to get a price cut, but thanks to retail giants like Wal-Mart and Macy’s, the discounts only get deeper the closer you get to the big day. Which is fine, because if you’re like me, the shopping starts the day before, and I’m all about half-off.

4. The Dread Christmas Sweater - Think about it: if it wasn’t the holidays, would you ever wear that sweater in public? Do you actually like rick-rack, glitter, Rudolph’s battery-operated flashing nose, or cable-knitted Thomas Kinkade reproductions on your chest? So much better to wear the DCS’s less offensive cousins, The Christmas Socks. At least we only have to endure them when you cross your legs.

5. “Oh go ahead – it’s the Holidays.” – Which means, go ahead and eat that brandy cheesecake as big as your head. What the hell - you’re on Lipitor anyway, and your blood test isn’t until January. Which also means you can eat half that Hickory Farm’s beef stick, which is my personal holiday no-denial favorite. No fooling, I’m stocking up!

Only twenty-two shopping days left!

Smooch!

Trudy

Thanksgiving Vacation

can_cranberryYes, folks, it’s that traditional time of year when we get to glorify gluttony and imbibe in all our bad habits for at least six weeks to come! I’m talking the holiday season, and although I may be jumping the gun a bit, one can never start too early! Next week is Thanksgiving, and in order to prepare for all that turkey and pumpkin pie and canned cranberries, not the mention the zillion essays I have to wade through before I could stuff my gullet, I’m going to take a short vacation from this blog until December 3rd, when I may even have some news about something fresh coming your way. Until then, have a great holiday, and save some whipped cream for me.

Trudy

Friday’s the Best Day of the Week

IMG_1793I’ve had one of those weeks–oy! have I ever. This semester’s been particularly hard on me–early morning classes, recalcitrant students, midterms and essays just train-wrecking on top of each other–and then there’s just the everyday things like somehow my homeowner’s insurance got cancelled–a year ago–without my knowing it. I’m not going to name the company beside saying part of their name rhymes with skank and that they were more than happy to take my insurance escrow for said year. Took four hours on the phone to straighten that out only to the point that I’m once again insured. But where that escrow went? That’s for another diatribe. Then Sweetie’s asthma/allergies were working up so badly he warranted a chest x-ray, which led him to a week’s worth of heavy-duty antibiotics which may have well been battery acid he was pouring down his throat. Then Tuesday it snowed! SNOWED! In November! In New Jersey! We’re still going to the BEACH in Jersey in November. It doesn’t snow! I’m telling you, I wanted to bury my face a bucket of Tater Tots.

Did I also mention that my writing has SUCKED this week? Three pages, rewritten about forty times will still leave you with three pages. I do think I’m onto some genius here, but moss grows faster than what I’ve got going on in my Word files. It’s depressing, I’m telling you. I couldn’t get anywhere this week.

That’s why I’m sooooo happy it’s Friday. I’m telling you, Friday IS the best day of the week, because all that bullshit up top? No way am I thinking about it now, even though I have four classes worth of essays to grade, an online Winter semester course to finish designing, and a novel barely scratched screaming inside my head to be put down. Because I also have Edy’s Slow Churned Chocolate Chip Mint in my freezer and a 1936 screwball comedy set to start on TCM in a half-hour. The balm of brain candy, my dears.

Trudy

Fifth Annual Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference ~ March 15, 2014

Create Something Magical Conference

Want to Write? Love to Read?

LibertyWebGraphic

Mark Your Calendar for the 5th Annual Create

Something Magical Writers & Readers Conference

Saturday, March 15, 2014 at the The Renaissance

Woodbridge Hotel

Featuring Keynote Speaker:

Sherrilyn Kenyon

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Editors, agents, workshops, panels, writers AND readers tracks! Plus meets ‘n greets, networking, lunch and after-parties! Visit the Liberty States Fiction Writers website for more info and registration!