Friday, March 30, 2007

Another Internet Scam

I'm used to the pleas from zillionaire African lawyers who are desperate to move zillions from their defunct client's bank accounts into mine (for a small fee...) and e-mails from my bank asking me to quickly log into my account and redo all my bank information because they lost it, or PayPal jinxes that want me to remind them of my credit card number...
But today I got a new one - an e-mail from e-bay asking me to log in in order to access a message from a seller. The thing is, I just bought something for my aunt, so I clicked on the letter without deleting it. But I didn't click on the link to log on. There were too many warning bells. For one thing, it didn't list the name of the seller -it just gave an ID number. (and I don't memorize those) Then there was the URL - it didn't look legit. I decided to log on and see where it went. It went to a log-in page that mimicked the e-bay site perfectly, and there were real links to e-bay on the page - but the log in and password page was bogus. I didn't log in there, but went to e-bay from my favorites pages, logged in, and checked my messages. Nothing. No message from the seller in Belgium, nothing. It was a scam to get my e-bay log in name and password.
I was pissed, thinking of the hundreds of people who would get scammed, and would find their accounts high-jacked by the scammers. Scammers really Peeve me.
Anyway - this was just a note to let you know there it's better to be safe than sorry. Don't log in anywhere from an e-mail. Don't click on embedded links from e-mails. Don't ever give your banking information out to anyone online or over the phone.

This, by the way, drives the people in the phone company 'Neuf Telecom' over here nuts. They called me in order to propose a new phone contract (they're a company in competition with France Telecom.) That's fine by me, I'm all for competition driving prices down. So I told the person on the line I'd love to see the info, to send it to me e-mail or by post, and I'd look it all over and compare. Well, that wasn't good enough for him - he thought maybe I didn't trust him and passed me to his 'superior'. She gave me the same spiel. I told her I was interested in her offer, but I had to look it over. I wasn't deciding anything on the phone. She then demanded my bank coordinates so she could make sure I didn't have a bad credit record. I told her I'd give her my bank coordinants if I accepted the offer, not before. She said she couldn't make the offer without verifying my account. I told her that I would never give out that information by phone. We argued for ten minutes, then, exasperated, she hung up on me.
I didn't accept their offer. LOL.

I just got another message from some lawyer in London this time. His clients died in a horrendous car accident and left over 42 million dollars in his bank account. The money is dirty, I suppose, because he has to get rid of it, quick. He wants to split it with me 40% - 60%. Aren't I lucky?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Time Flies!

Time flies - when you're busy!
Of course, when all you have to do is housework, suddenly time seems to stop and there are Hours and Hours in front of you. Waiting.

Let's see - took my daughter to the orthodentist and she's going to be fitted for braces in April. According to the x-rays we took, she has no wisdom teeth at all! How bizarre! The dentist said it was rare, but it happened. My son says it's mankind mutating - we don't need our wisdom teeth so they are getting phased out. Looking at most of what's happening now in the world (and who's leading us) I beg to differ.
My daughter was happy because this means no operation to remove the teeth.

I played some golf today (I know - hard life) but the weather is NOT going to hold, and it was positively Balmy and Gorgeous out, so hubby and I went to the driving range and whacked golf balls. I will suffer for this - I was at the gym this morning, lifted weights, and my arms are sore.

I did get my edits done for Merlin's Song (last edits after the proofreader - yay!) Got the blurb written, found an excerpt...It's all set to go!
I am adding about 5k to a novella I just submitted to a brand new publisher, so that's kind of exciting. It was accepted, and it's going to edits next week already, so I have to build the story up some more.

I am waiting for tomorrow to do the housework - the temperature is supposed to drop ten degrees C°, and it's going to rain for the next week or so. Argh - UGH! Here's where I go to check my weather:
I am a bit of a nerd with the weather station. I check the weather every day - and it's not like I can't look out the window, but I have to be able to plan ahead. I have to prepare myself. You have to understand I grew up in the tropics, and so weather was never an issue. It was hot, or hot and raining.
If you put the cursor on the map, you can find 'Région Ile-de-France' which is the area I live in. If you click on that, it will pop up and you can then click on 'Departement Yvelines' and see the department I live on. Then if you move the cursor around, you can find Houdan and Mantes La Jolie, and you will know I live somewhere in between the two towns.
I also spend lots of time on the NOA site, looking at satelite pictures. I love Google Earth, and can procrastinate for Hours with that thing.
So what's your favorite procrastination?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Getting organized in three easy steps

Three easy steps? If that was true, I'd love it, lol.

I am looking at my desk. It has this on it:

There are books, coffee mugs, photos, pens, CD's, a speaker, two telephones (that don't work) my address book (that purple book beneath the NY Yankees CD holder) 'Guns, Germs, and Steel' by Jared Diamond (I'm almost done with it) a pack of tarot cards, 'Going out in Style' by Chloe Green, (great fun!) my son's schedule for the university, a note from my daughter's teacher (about the German book she's translating) and various and sundry things. Just stuff. I have to organize my desk.

I also have to do a second draft of a first draft I sent off last week. (It was accepted but I have to do the second draft before it can go to editing.) I have another English student! So I have two on Tuesday, three on Wednesday, and two on Friday.

Here is how I keep organized - my calendar (Rugbyman Calendar) and my weekly schedule.

I have two other calendars in the kitchen, and one in my bedroom, (but not as nice as this one).

Calendars are what keeps me organized. What about you?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Agent Hunting

Walk softly and carry a big query...

So here I am, hunting the elusive agent again. Shy creatures, they must be approached with care as the sound of a cliché will send them scurrying.

Every hunter knows there are several techniques you can use, and here are the best known:

Stalking. The agent is a herd beast, and during the convention season, will congregate in places known as 'the bar', or can be approached during a 'pitch'. Both bars and pitches have their drawbacks and their advantages. The bar is dimly lit, and you can often move in quite close before the agent realizes he's been stalked. Since there are usually many people around, if you take care with your camoflage, you can fit in with the crowd. Do not carry a large shoulder bag, as this can signal an alarm "Warning, Manuscript!" and will make the agent flee. Instead, carry two drinks and walk slowly, holding one out toward the agent with a non-threatening smile.
The drawback of the bar is that the agent may have been approached by too many hunters, and therefore not completely lucid when you finally get around to cornering him at a table.
A pitch session is the second method used at the conference season, here you can sit facing the agent for almost a minute, and you have a minute to impress him and make him want to repersent you and your book. Use this minute wisely. Do not whip out your index cards, do not stutter madly, don't knock over the agent's glass of water or pull your seven hundred page manuscript out of your shoulder bag and plop it on the table between you. All these methods will make capture impossible. First, send a reassuring message to the agent. Non threatening smile again, then say 'Hello'. Bonus points are awarded for getting the agent's name right and not mispronouncing it. More bonus points are awarded if you introduce yourself without forgetting your name or mispronouncing it.

Antother method for finding an agent is the 'Query' method, often compared to 'fishing for an agent'. This consists of shrinking your seven hundred page novel into one paragraph and then casting it out to a slew of unsuspecting agents. Agents, in their own waters, (offices) are more sure of themselves and have a secret weapon at hand - 'The Form Rejection Letter'. They use this to fend off the agent hunter's queries. Don't be discouraged. A real fisherman does not let a couple missed casts stop his quest. Instead, the fisherman will hone his hook until it cuts like a diamond and will send it out to at least fifty agents. If his bait is not take, the form rejection letter is all the hunter will get.
Sometomes form rejection letters will have a handwritten note tagged on. This, to the agent hunter-fisherman, is like a nibble.
Whatever you do, don't jerk on the line! Calmly, you reassess your options. The handwritten note says, "This wasn't right for me, but I'd like to see something else. Send me your next project." You definitely have a nibble. The worm you sent wasn't to the fish's, your query didn't quite hook the agent, but you have an opening to resubmit.
First, wait until the other agents have replied. Don't rush another project off while your first one is still at forty nine other agents. One of them might bite. Be patient. An agent fisherman must be willing to wait.
Sitting patiently by the lakeside, the fisherman casts his hook into the water, waiting for the right fish to bite. Sitting at his desk, the writer sends out his query and waits for the agent to become interested.

There are other methods. One agent can probably be bought by giftwrapping George Clooney and presenting him to her, but catching George might prove to be harder than landing an agent. But only one thing really works, and that's a great query and a good hook. (and good writing) So, while I'm dreaming up ways to stalk the elusive agent, I'm working on another book - because a real hunter never gives up.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A caberet, 2 birthday parties, a busy week!

This week I went to two surprise birthday parties - both were fun, but very different. One was just a dinner in a fabulous restaurant, and one was a huge bash organized by my friend Andrea for her husband. When Andrea organizes, she makes Martha Stewart look like a slob. The party was FUN, with a show, a slide show, music, Italian food, and a red and black theme, that made it look really chic, even though the whole thing was at a warehouse! It didn't look anything like a warehouse when Andrea finished with it - balloons, confetti, and one Very Very surprised husband, lol. (here are two photos of the black and red surprise party - one with the kids (my son making balloons) and one of my hubby and me.

The caberet show was from a friend who called last minute and asked if I wanted to come to a private show at the brand new Bobin'O caberet in Paris. I'd never been to a caberet, so of course I said 'YES!' The caberet has just opened, and this week it is having shows for the press, for the hotel industry, and for the 'Friends of the Bobin'O', - and that's the party we went to. My friend's husband is a sound engineer, and he set up the sound for the show.
It was a lot of fun, a great troop, a nice mix of comedy and dancing, talented actors and dancers, and wonderful scenery and costumes. I wish I'd brought my camera with me, because the caberet was stunning - sparkling new with great decor and like I said, the costumes were amazing. Afterwards everyone mingled - the dancers and actors came to have drinks, and we got home at 3 a.m. after driving through the second snowstorm of the year, lol.

Here's a link to the Bobin'O site - it loads slow, but you get a good idea of the caberet.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


It's officially spring, but it's winter. After an incredibly mild winter, we got a small snow storm. (I posted some photos over at 'Sam's Shot')

Today the snow has all melted, and it looks back to normal, but the north wind is still making the air chill, and the dogs are curled up on their bed, next to the heater.
Here is Auguste sleeping with his doggy bone, and Rusty using Auguste as a pillow.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

We have a Winner!


Sandy - can you please e-mail me your snail mail address at samantha_winston@ hotmail. com
(no spaces)

Thank you!

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Promised Elf Contest

I said I was going to have an elf contest, and I am!

Today I got my new cover too!

The Fairnight series consists of:

Elf Song

Llewellyn's Song

Merlin's Song

And is at Elloras Cave

So...Here is the prize:

A download copy of Elf Song and a paperback copy of 'Fever Hot Dreams'.

And to win, all you have to do is tell me why YOU deserve this prize!

(Example, "I deserve this prize because my uncle's wife's nephew Seymour, won a gold medal shaped like a pig for eating the most franks at the fair and I want to win something kewl too.".)
I'll draw the winner from all the answers!
Good luck!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Just an image

There are images I love. This one is of my daughter setting the table for lunch. The bread is fresh, the sun coming in the window is cold though - it's winter and there is no warmth to the light. The white table cloth is the brightest part of the picture, and the subject is in shadow.
Today is Wednesday - my crazy day. I have three young children for a morning English lesson. Today the 5 year old was in a bad mood and sulked through the lesson. I think it's because he's having growing pains. He looked tired and cross. All he wanted to do was hold the stuffed sheep I was using for the lesson, so I let him have it, and forgot about trying to teach them 'Old MacDonald', and instead I read a story called 'Max's Chocolate Chicken' - using the vocabulary they knew instead of the real words. One thing I've learned about children - it's best to be flexible, lol.
Afterwards I was a chauffeur for a while - driving children to and fro. And in a couple hours I'm off to Paris with my neighbor (the one who gives me the goose eggs) to get our dogs confirmed. Our dogs are brother and sister, and we have to go to a wire-haired dauchshund judge and get a certificate saying they conform to their breed. (It's part of the buyer's agreement I made with the breeder - if the dog is not confirmed, then the breeder gives me half the price back - which is very fair, I think.) But the judge lives just outside Paris, to the east. (We're to the west, lol.)
I've been trying to work but not concentrating very well. Spring is here, there are flowers - daffodils, forsythia, primroses, & narcissia - blooming everywhere, and as soon as the sun comes streaming in the window, I usually stop everything and go sit outside.
I've created a MySpace page for Calderwood books - I'd be so happy if you "friended" me, lol.
(There is the link)
I've put two books on the back burner for now, and am busy editing. I have a new book coming out in April (Two, actually, if the paperbook from EC comes out that month - not sure) so I have to think about promoting. A contest? A Fairnight Elf Contest? Hmmm. Sounds good. I'll have to think of a contest and get some prizes.
OK - Tomorrow I'll announce the contest. It will give me time to think of something.
Books I'm reading:
Jennifer Colt's 'The Butcher of Beverly Hills' (Loving it! Funny and lighthearted with tons of action and witty one-liners.)
Suzanne Frank's 'Reflections in the Nile' (Been looking for that book for AGES - it is out of print and I finally found a copy. It is FABULOUS.)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Moon over Montchauvet

I missed the eclipse, but not by much. This photo was taken Saturday night. I'd just gone to pick up my son from the fire station, and when I got out of the car I noticed the full moon. It was swathed in a light mist and hung just behind the church.
My husband saw the eclipse and said it was awesome.
Did anyone else see it?

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Goose egg crepes

The best crepes in the world are made with goose eggs. Richer than hen's eggs, they add a wonderful taste and color to the crepe batter that just can't be beat.

So when my neighbor gives me goose egs, I make crepes.

500 grams flour

1 liter milk

2 goose eggs (or 6 regular eggs)

4 tablespoons sugar

4 table spoons vegetable oil

2 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup beer or white wine (I add this to make the batter lighter, but you don't have to. Some people like to add a dash of rum for flavor. My friend Andrea adds grated orange or lemon peel, and that's really yummy too!)

Mix well - let stand about an hour, then heat and oil crepe pans. Have a pan of water boiling with a plate on it and a piece of aluminum foil. (As you make each crepe, put it on the plat and cover with foil - this will keep them hot without drying them.)

My son makes the crepes. I can make the batter, but I can't cook them, for some reason!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Paradise Earth

My sci-fi erotic romance Paradise Earth has a new review!

Frost from 'Two Lips Reviews' says:

"...Paradise Earth collects the three Paradise Earth stories from author Samantha Winston who combines a remarkable gift for futuristic world building with the romantic yet steaming m/m intimacy that provides the foundation and the sizzle in this trilogy. There is sufficient post-apocalyptic background, asteroid collisions, interstellar travel and planet Federation, colonization of other planets, and social issues to satisfy all aficionados of science fiction. Paranormal elements are represented through the various types of shifters, some of whom result from alien-human interbreeding, others from genetic manipulation. The characters of Adam and Evan are drawn in depth, yet the secondary characters also are clearly written. The plots are fast-paced and the themes will linger in the reader's mind for quite some time to come. Caution to reader: the main intimacy theme is m/m."

And in other publishing news, my publisher LOOSE ID has been recognised by RWA - way to go IDDY!!

Using Description

Just a little post for those interested in writing techniques.
I love a good descriptive passage in a book, but they're hard to write. Some are too long and lose the reader's concentration. Some are too short and leave the reader unsatisfied. Some of my favorite writers are character writers who give concise descriptions.
Agatha Christie gave us a pompous, curious, intelligent little detective with a ridiculous mustache and a soft heart. Hercule Poirot is a complete character, his picture springing to mind thanks to details that Ms. Christie was careful to give us in small doses. His shiny shoes, his pursed lips, his flicking dust off his coat all give us the image of someone fastidious.

And some writers use adjectives like paint, making deep, vibrant, and rich passages:

"It was raining when Rahel came back to Ayemenem. Slanting silver ropes slammed into loose earth, plowing it up like gunfire. The old house on the hill wore its steep, gabled roof pulled over its ears like a low hat. The walls, streaked with moss, had grown soft, and bulged a little with dampness that seeped up from the ground. The wild, overgrown garden was full of the whisper and scurry of small lives. In the undergrowth a rat snake rubbed itself against a glistening stone. Hopeful yellow bullfrogs cruised the scummy pond for mates. A drenched mongoose flashed across the leaf-strewn driveway. " (Excerpt from 'The God of Small Things' by Arundhati Roy)

And yet, you can overload on details. Description is hard to get just right. Even now my editor sometimes circles things with a red pen and says, 'unnecessary!' So I cut it out. It's easy to get carried away with description. Often, a few well chosen words can say more than a whole page of description. It's easy to get bogged down. Here is a passage from a book I'm working on. It's a fantasy, and has an enchanted unicorn in it. A young man is trying to catch the unicorn. He's never seen one before.

First, I set the scene:

The first sign of the unicorn glade were tiny, pale green ferns curled like baby fists in the shelter of ledge and root. Snow sifted through the branches, but it didn’t reach the ground. Instead, it turned to small droplets of water. Underfoot, the frozen ground suddenly thawed and became mossy. As Sylvain advanced, he spotted bare branches sprouting green leaves. Soon, overhead, there was a canopy of dappled greenery and sunlight.

Then I show the hero and what he's feeling:

A balmy breeze tickled Sylvain’s nose and his horse arched its neck and whickered. In a patch of sunlight, water sparkled. Something moved, reminding Sylvain of a white curtain blowing suddenly in the breeze on a hot, summer day. He was a small boy again, sitting in his room early in the morning, with no worries, his only thoughts about what he would do that day; pick blackberries, wade in the stream, catch butterflies in his new net. For a second the world seemed to tremble, poised upon the knife-blade of his memories. He glimpsed the quick movement again, but he was too slow to catch it. He heard no sound, but scented a faint whiff of lily of the valley. He dismounted, looping the reins over his arm. The air grew warmer. “Leonie?” he called softly. “Are you there?”

Then I describe what Sylvain sees:

The unicorn stepped out from behind a pine tree. Each step was as light as a falling feather. For a moment Sylvain felt blinded, dazzled, and he could not take in the whole creature at once. Instead he saw her in flashes; a tall, spiraled horn the color of sea-foam, shy eyes that darkened or grew pale as she turned her narrow head, a mane and tail as fine as silk floss, a coat like frosted white velvet, and strong, nervous legs. A unicorn. He hardly dared draw a breath.
“Why are you here?” The words sounded in his mind. Her voice. Leonie’s voice.
The unicorn only stared at him with eyes as deep as the ocean.

Maybe five or six sentences each time. All of it description, but about different things.
The setting, the character's feelings, and the unicorn.

I've been reading chapters from the slush pile this weekend, and one thing that jumps out at me is when the author uses too much description or when description is unnecessary. One went as far as to name the make of the car (in parenthesis) in the middle of a chase scene. If you're writing a tense chase scene, don't break off to tell what kind of car the hero is driving. Or the color. Instead, see the scene from the hero's eyes. Feel it with his whole body. Is the steering wheel vibrating with speed? Is the engine screaming? Does he catch a whiff of burnt rubber as he slams on the brakes, his seatbelt digging into his chest? Probably all of the above. But don't write - 'He stepped on the gas and his car (a light blue 1986 Thunderbird) took off with a roar.'
Don't write, 'Jessica Olander thought that the whole things was just silly. She tossed her silky blond hair out of her eyes and peered at the map with a sea-green gaze.' If you're in the characters POV (point of view) she's not going to think her own hair is silky or her is gaze sea- green. Don't describe the character whose POV you're in. (Unless the character is staring in a mirror, but mostly that device is over-used, or if you do use it, make it intrinsic to the story.) Both mistakes (but not exactly the ones above) were in one of the submissions I read yesterday, and although I thought the idea was terrific, the writing told me that the author needed to work on his craft a little more. Working on description is important. It's a small effort to make, but well worth it.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Bee Afraid.

I've been reading about disappearing bees lately, and it worries me.
I found this online after reading an article in the New York Times.
(part of an interview - to read the rest go here: )


First of all, a third of the food supply in the United States – and actually the world – a third of the food supply is directly related to the honey bee: fruits, vegetables, nuts, just a lot\ of stuff that we eat, that we’re accustomed to have every day, the honey bee is directly responsible for it. And then, there is probably another 30% of what we consume that honey bees are indirectly responsible for. Take the milk we drink. The cows have to have hay. They’ve got to eat clover and alfalfa to produce milk. And if you go back and listen to what (Albert) Einstein told us – he said if the honey bees disappeared off the face of the Earth, within four years, all life would be gone. Even the wildlife depends on plants pollinated by the honey bees for berries and so on. So, it’s not just humans not being able to get apples and carrots. We’re talking about a real big, serious problem!


They really don’t know. That was in the preliminary stages, but that’s the first time in my 40 some years of beekeeping that anybody had ever said that to me. I mean that was something I’d never heard before.


Yes, that’s exactly right.