Friday, June 29, 2007

The Name Game

I've noticed my blogs seem to be about the business side of writing rather than writing itself. So I decided to tackle a how-to-write topic for today's blog. Here's one I enjoy: naming characters. This is a variation of the old what's-in-a-name game.

If my hero and heroine don't insist on a specific name, I usually dig out a name-the-baby book. I like names that are a bit out of the ordinary but not totally off the wall. Then I check the meaning of the name to be sure it doesn't mean "wimp" in Welsh or something unhero-like! I use pretty much the same process with other major characters.

However, I have the most fun with the names of minor characters. An obvious ploy might be to name a private detective who carries a gun, "Dick Wesson," though I try to be a bit more subtle than that.

Usually, I pick out one of their main characteristics or their occupation; say, farming. Then I pull up the online thesaurus and plug in the word farm. Synonyms include field and meadow. The last name of Fields or Meadows would be OK.

However, I could also dig deeper. I have this great book called a "Word Menu." It's a combination dictionary, thesaurus, almanac and more. Under agriculture, it lists words that are connected with farming, including the word "Swidden," which is a tract of land cleared for planting by burning vegetation on it. Hmm. I'd never heard of that word, so my farmer might get "Swidden" for a last name, especially if he was obsessed with fire or burning things or charged with arson.

How do you name your characters?
--Dig out a name the baby book?
--Use the name of someone you admire?
--Look through the phone book?
--Change the first letter of a popular name? (i.e., Laurie becomes Taurie)
--Make up a name?

Please share!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Describing A Character

Our characters come to life with our descriptions. Some of us are better at it than others. Frankly, every once and awhile I write something I love, but sometimes I really struggle to deliver more than hair and eye color and this is especially true with heroes. I don't know why.

So, I am not giving a lesson in this department or dropping pithy hints. Instead, I'm asking for help. I'm trying to get better. I'm trying to stretch my descriptions to include a glimmer of personality. I know how to do it, but I struggle with it at times so I thought maybe you all could copy a description from a WIP or what have you and show me how you do it. And if it's of a hero when the heroine first sees him, hooray.

To play fair, here is the last hero I described from the heroine's pov:

The second man stood a head taller than Alazandro with a loose jointed, lanky look. Mid thirties, blonde hair cut military short, angular face, shoulders out to there and back. His clothes weren't as pristine as Alazandro's or as rumbled as Peg's. Jeans and a white cotton shirt rolled up at the sleeves, buckskin vest, dusty boots. A silver buckle caught and reflected the same sunlight that had bronzed his skin. He held a disreputable hat in one hand. And his gaze, steady and very direct, made Elle flinch.

As an alternate or additional option, at the end of this I'll give you a situation and a character and through whose eyes that character is seen and you provide a description.

Okay, so either paste in a description and add anything you need to set it up or use the following or do both:

A dusty, dirty hero gets out of his truck and enters a desert café. Who waits on him? What does he or she look like?

See, this can be creative, this can be easy, it's your choice. But I hope you all do something. I always love reading examples from your books…

I can't wait!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Worldbuilding

When the idea popped in my head for the paranormal romance I'm working on, I didn't realize how in-depth the worldbuilding would be. I tried to take the approach of not plotting this one to death (it's been difficult not to do that), but I finally realized this is not the book to do that. I'll write a few paragraphs, then get stuck. Write a few more - get stuck. Why? I haven't done the worldbuilding.

This book has a more intricate "world" than any I've worked on and I need to map it all out before I can really dig in to the book. I need to know the mythology, the history of the feud, the characters. I need to figure out the overall series goal so I know how far I want each book to go with the feud.

Just so you know, I'm pulling my hair out at this very moment. Yes, I'm incredibly talented being able to type and pull hair. I keep telling myself that once all the work is done, it will be a huge relief and the rest of the books will be easier to write.

In case any of you are trying to worldbuild, here are some resources I've found that have helped me:

Some quick things to consider when trying to create a world - be it completely fictional or just a spin on real life: weather, transportation, politics, religion, fashion, other creatures, history, special skills/abilities, mortality, etc.

What are some of your worldbuilding tips?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

To-Do Tuesday: Rejuvenated!

Welcome to this week's edition of To-Do Tuesday. From what I hear, the ladies who went to the retreat had a great weekend, with many of them meeting their personal goals! Way to go! So much productivity has to wear off on the rest of us, right? Now that the retreat has passed, the countdown is on to Nationals, and we can't wait for THOSE stories too!

I've got a fun exercise for you today, so be sure to check out the bottom of today's post, and as always, keep sending me your news and announcements!
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Good Luck Paty!

Chapter President Paty Jager will be giving a reading this weekend in Sisters, Oregon. Paty booked this reading at her reading in Baker City, Oregon--proving that promotion begets promotion! A few chapter members plan to come support Paty, so if you go, be sure to look for them! Good luck Paty!
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Paty Jager recieves 5 Spur Review!

Speaking of Paty, she recently received another stellar review! The reviewer loved Marshall in Petticoats, and raved, "You can't help but fall in love with these two characters." Click the link for the full review. Congrats Paty! I can't wait until the reviews for Perfectly Good Nanny (her upcoming contemporary release) start piling up too!

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Donations for Conference Wanted


You don't have to be a chapter member to help make our conference in October a success! If you would like to donate books, goodies, or other promotional/writing related items, please email me! Our raffle baskets and goody bags are a big highlight of our conference each year. Email me for more information! Chapter members, remember to bring your donations to the July meeting!
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Rose City Romance Writers Contest Accepting Entries

MWVRWA isn't the only Oregon RWA chapter! I know, shocking isn't it? Our sisters in Portland, the Rose City Romance Writers, are hard at work on their annual contest. The Golden Rose Contest looks at the first 55 pages of your entry--making it one of the longer RWA contests, and giving you an excellent opportunity to showcase your work. The final round judges are all A-list editors and agents. This is also one of the few contests with a YA category! And at 30-35 dollars, it's a bargain! The deadline is August 4, 2007. This year's contest is completely electronic, and you can click here for more information.
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New Market for Spicy Stories

Double Dragon Publishing, long-time publisher of Sci-Fi and Fantasy fiction, is branching out into literary erotica. Starting in September, they will accept queries for character driven erotica. The books will be available as both e-books and paperbacks. Full submission guidelines are available here.

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Exercise of the Day: Put your Heroine to Work

Jen's excellent post on method-writing ties beautifully into today's exercise. With summer in full swing, our memories are filled with vacations, swimming pools, and Popsicles. And summer jobs. Remember summer jobs? $1 an hour for babysitting ? Wearing 50 pound costumes at amusement parks? Getting burnt to a crisp in the life-guard chair? Cringing yet? Good. Your heroine has just applied to work the drive-thru at McGreasy's Deep Fried Tasty Treats. What? Is this is a radical departure from her life as an action heroine? Good. We want her summoning up all that fish-out-of-water angst. If she'd fit right in, we want to know WHY. Take us through her first day on the job. Focus on the emotions she's feeling, and use your own summer job experiences to guide you as you try to step into her shoes (black clod hoppers that match her adorable polyester uniform!). Have fun! And keep sending me your news! If you're meeting your personal goals, we want to hear about it!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Method Acting; Using Your Emotions to Tap into Your Muse

I am an emotional person by nature. I cry over country songs, commercials--heck, even at the end of Shrek. As a writer of romances, this trait I once considered a curse, is really a blessing in disguise.

I'm a big fan of method acting. I know a lot of writers do this; act out their scenes in their heads. I put myself in the shoes of my hero/heroine in an emotional situation and FEEL and EMPATHIZE their pain. I can put more of an emotional punch into my writing using this trick.

Don't get me wrong; I'm still working on it. I'm at a place where I feel their pain, but I sometimes have a difficult time projecting the depth of the emotion as I feel it on the page.

One of the best parts of being a writer is getting to play make believe. You access that child within you who wove tales and acted them out with the magic and wonder that only exists in childhood. Of course, our "children" are now grown and getting slinky with their lovers, but the sentiment's the same.

So, the next time you have trouble getting down to the nitty, gritty emotional core, become your heroine or hero. What would you do? How would you react? Take that energy and pour it into your manuscript and see what happens. Who knows? It might just be the juice your story needs.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Gone!


Many of our chapter are spending this weekend at our summer retreat. We wish them high page counts and lots of fun!

For those of us (like me, who is turning into a big blob of pregnant wimp) who remain, check out Danita's post on hooks below, and I've also got a fun exercise for you:

What would your hero and heroine's dream vacations be? Feel free to give us details, and even dialogue as they argue about where to go!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Hook, Drag and Pull 'em in Smiling, Shaking, Screaming...

Whatever, just get 'em and pull 'em in.

Here it is again, folks, my old favorite blog topic: The Hook. I'm not sure why, but I can never get too much of Better Beginnings. Hope you feel the same.

I read an interesting article in the August issue of Writer's Digest. It was based on the premise that many brilliant manuscripts never get read beyond the first couple paragraphs or pages because the openings fail.

This article goes on to explain how a really effective beginning foreshadows the ending, introduces the story problem -- the inciting incident that starts the big red ball rolling -- and may also raise one or more story questions that suck the reader into the vacuum of your work.

In Eli's entry to Great Beginings, or whatever-the-heck that contest was called that she won, I counted three story questions raised. Bravo. It definitely made me want to read more, which is what we writers want and need from readers, right? Write.

Since many of us are heading off to our retreat this weekend to write and lounge around the lake, I'm not posting a particular question. Please feel free to discuss and share hooks that work for you and some that don't, if you wish.

As for me, I can't wait for tomorrow and a weekend spent in the company of my writer friends. Woo-hoo!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What a week I had! Lot's going on, most of it unexpected, but it gave me the opportunity to finally finish my novella. Yay!

It began with an unfortunate event that fortunately wasn't as serious as it could have been. My oldest daughter, who lives in Eugene, had to have unexpected surgery. Malia had a growth on her ovary, which became infected, and once they got the infection under control, they opened her up to remove it. But they also had to remove the ovary and one falopian tube, and scrape the growth off her bladder and her intestine. They tested it to make sure it wasn't cancerous, and it wasn't, but they still don't know what it was. The report came back as "inflamed cells." Very mysterious.

So I drove to Eugene to take care of her after she was released from the hospital. She was in quite a bit of pain, but her spirits were good. I think she had saved up several weeks' worth of laundry and the surgery was an excuse to get me to come do it for her. But aside from the cooking and cleaning and grocery shopping, we had a really great time. We called family on the phone, watched a bunch of movies, and talked for hours, a rarity for us since we both live very busy lives. We also had an opportunity to share a few laughs. I rarely pass up a chance to embarass myself. I'll explain.

Malia had gone for a walk with a young man she'd started dating just before all this happened. I was left alone in her apartment for the first time. Feeling couped up after 4 days of care-giving, I stepped out on the back deck for some air and to feel the sun on my face, pulling the door shut behind me. The second I heard the click I knew I was in trouble. I'd just locked myself out.

It wouldn't have been a problem if her apartment was on the first floor because I knew the front door was unlocked. All I'd have to do is walk around to the front of the building and let myself in. But this was the second floor. I looked over the railing to see how far a drop it was to the ground. The grass looked soft, but I wouldn't be able to offer Malia much care if I sprained my ankle. Still...

Okay, so I have to figure out another way to get back in. I searched for a spare key among the potted plants and found none. I removed the screen from the window, but the window was locked. I put the screen back and once again looked down to the soft grass below. Hmm...

I could wait for her to come back. I mean, how much longer could it be? Only she really liked this guy. She was feeling better. It was approaching late afternoon and her walk could easily turn into a dinner date, but I didn't think so. Surely she'd call first. But if she did, I didn't have my phone with me. I again peered over the edge at the enticing ground below.

All right, that's it, I'm going down. There was a trellis attached to the side of the building with wide enough slats to be a ladder. How strong was it? I reached down and gave it a jerk. It felt sturdy. I climbed over the railing and eased myself down the side of the building, my foot feeling for the trellis. Got it. I felt the fabric of my jeans stretch, heard something rip, then felt cool air against my thigh. Oh, well. These jeans were about ready for the rag bag anyway. I checked to see if anyone could see me, but the area was deserted. Beyond the fence came the roar of traffic from cars traveling way too fast for anyone to notice I'd ripped the seat out of my britches. I continued my downward climb.

So far so good. Halfway down, the slat beneath my right foot broke, but I hung on. One final leap and ta-da! Made it. I speed-walked around the building, trotted up the stairs, and let myself in through the front door. I never ventured out onto the back deck again.

I guess there's no real point to this blog other than to maybe illustrate how we come up with ideas for scenes in our stories. I doubt I'll ever use this exact experience, but I learned something about climbing trellises that might come in handy someday. You never know. My daughter nearly popped her stitches when I told her what I'd done, but she's happy to say that not everyone's mom rides a unicycle and climbs down the sides of 2-story buildings. I was glad I could put a smile on her face.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

To-Do Tuesday: We're All Winners

Welcome to this week's edition of To-do Tuesday. I'm bursting with good chapter news, useful information, and a fun question of the day. With our chapter meeting tonight, I'm skipping doing a longer exercise, but I've got a great one planned for next week, so stay tuned. As always, be sure to answer today's question and keep sending me your news. As we discovered last week, we all like seeing good news on the loop, but you can always post your good news bulletin and then send me the details for the blog!

Our chapter meeting is tonight at 7 p.m. at Salem Public Library. Genene Valleau is our speaker. Her topic is "Once upon a Romance." Members, check your loop email for Genene's easy "homework" assignment!
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Chris Young Receives Glowing Review

Chris Young's book, Rebel Heart, recently received a glowing review from Jasmina Vallombrosa (web link/publication not available). Chris passed on the text of the review:

After Nessa and Tori DeMontville are exiled for their childish disobedience, their father thinks that in time they will grow to understand the dangers of the outside world. While Nessa seems to be on the right course, Tori continues to live life as she wants to. On a chance outing she comes across the infuriatingly sexy Cameron Savage. While she thinks of him as a lowly Thieftaker, she can not stop her heart from beating faster than it has ever done before. Life only becomes more complicated for her as the evil Morray comes into her world in the pursuit for not only her hard-earned research, but also for her hand in marriage. In the midst of the chaos that ensures around her for the battle of her research lab, her path crosses that of the Phantom. As they team up to save their world as they know it, the sexual tensions between them create sparks and with Cameron Savage returning to be her husband, one can only wonder about the possibilities.

Filled with drama and suspense, this book will draw you into the mysteries of science fiction. I was pleasantly surprised by Ms. Young’s storytelling talents as she wove not only a wonderful futuristic adventure, but also that of a passionate love story. I loved the main characters as they came to life on the pages. The plot was quite suspenseful and deliciously entertaining. As a result, I had no choice but to keep flipping the pages as I raced to the end. Bravo Ms.Young for such an extraordinary book from cover to cover!

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Barbara Cool Lee Boasts Two Contest Finals

Chapter member (and web mistress) Barbara Cool Lee is having a great month! Barbara's MS Raven's War is a finalist in the paranormal category of the "Touch of Magic" contest sponsored by the Central Florida RWA. Barbara was also named a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association contest in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category. The PNWA contest enjoyed a record number of entries this year, and continues to grow its reputation as a premiere mult-genre contest. Congrats Barbara!
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Bethany also finals in PNWA


I'm thrilled to report that I also finaled in the PNWA contest, in the YA category. This is my second year of finaling in the PNWA. Last year, I was a finalist in the Romance category, and won second place. My YA was also entered last year, but I feel that this year's final is a testament to the power of good editing and applying feedback. Also, it's another demonstration that you can't predict contests, and if you have a MS that you love, keep putting it out there!

I didn't attend the conference or awards dinner last year, I regret missing the networking opportunity. I'll be 33 weeks pregnant at this year's conference, so it's up in the air whether or not I'll go.
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Local Multi-Genre Conference Deadlines Loom

For those of you NOT gravid this summer, the PNWA conference, July 26-29 in Seattle is an excellent opportunity to take classes and network in multiple genres. They have screenwriting, science fiction, mystery, romance, and young adult tracks among other offerings. J.A. Jance and other best-selling authors are among the speakers. A huge line-up of editors and agents are also scheduled for appointments. To register click here.

I'll be even bigger by the 38th Annual Willamette Writer's Conference, August 3-5, but it's in Portland, so I might make the trek. This is another multi-genre conference, that also boasts a very robust non-fiction line-up. This conference is also unique in that they offer "Day Passes." This is great if you only want to go to Portland one day, or if just a few offerings meet your needs. Also, check out the "advance manuscript critique option." If you register by July 1, the prices are discounted! Click here to register.
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Great July Online Workshops

The Kiss of Death Chapter is offering two great online workshops in July. Of particular note is C.J. Carmichael's offering on Conflict. I've heard great things about her as a writer and as a teacher. The KOD website is also worth a visit--very fun graphics. You can find out more here.

Also in July, the From the Heart Chapter is offering "Story Aerobics." This online workshop sounds like a great idea for those of us in the editing process! It's all about scene tightening. Which sounds way more fun than Abs of Steel! More information here.

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Question of the Day: Are you a re-reader?

I used to never re-read fiction books--once I was done with a story, it lost its hold over me. Sure, I might re-read a favorite scene or two before moving on to the next book, but I once I said good-bye, that was it. Too many other book fish in the sea waiting for my attention! I'm the same way with movies--I almost never see something twice. Lately though, I've been rekindling a few old flames, and I'm suprised at how satisfying this is. Perhaps it's just part of my overall nesting instinct, but I'm seeing things from different angles and enjoying the ride all over again. I'm also finding that a second (or third) read really lets me appreciate and dissect the craft of the particular writer.

But, out of all my books, it's the same authors who entice me to re-read. Not every story is compelling enough for a re-read, but I'm finding that it really does come down to craft. And for me, it seems to come down to how well that author executes deep POV. Do you re-read? Are there certain authors you always re-read? What makes a book worth re-reading?

Share your thoughts in the comments, and be sure to keep sending me your news!

Monday, June 18, 2007

All Blogged Out

It seems, dear blogsters, that I'm all blogged out. I have no interesting topic. My dh said I could rant about the horrid writing in the books I purchased for him for Father's Day. Wow, big help. It only made me feel bad about giving him such a sucky series of books.

Well, I've given in and I'm going to blog about that subject after-all. Here's the first three paragraphs from the first book in the series...

It had rained all night, thunderclouds rolling in from the Blue Ridge Mountains, dark and boiling with power as they met the moisture from the sea. Lightning and heavy rain pounded the night, then suddenly stopped as daylight drew near. The first line of storms moved off to the Chesapeake Bay and lingered over the sea, caught between the rising sun and the musky coastline behind. The rain wasn't over. What was already the wettest spring in a century had much more to give.

The day dawned cold and dreary. Another band of dark clouds gathered in the morning light, moving in from the west, blowing over the hill that lifted on the horizon. Heavy mist hung in the air until the weak morning breeze finally carried it away.

The grass around the freshly dug grave was wet and long, with tiny drops of moisture glistening from the tips of each blade. The pile of dirt next to the grave was dark and rich, loamy with many years of rotting vegetation and now rain-soaked and wet...

"ACK!!!! "I'm going to kill myself!" This is what my husband said after reading those first three paragraphs of the novel I gave him. I laughed at his frustration. Not believing it could be as bad as he described. But you just read what he had to endure, and it really is awful. Nothing like a weather report to start out the ol' novel, eh?

Where was the editor for this author? How does stuff like this get published?

Just as I think I've finally gotten my dh hooked on fiction, this happens! ARGH! It's so frustrating because I paid good money for all three of these books and the author is allowed to tell the story instead of show it. Even my dh, who's had no training in how to write a novel, recognized what a disaster the opening "hook" was for this book. Diligent little reader that he's becoming, he trudged on through the Prologue and he's now on chapter three. I'm so disappointed for him. I was really hopeful when I picked out these books. The back covers promised big, but the actual writing has failed the reader. My dh says the story is a good concept, but even he doesn't want to be told the story.

So, my point, I guess, is this...

You can not fool the reader. Not even a reader who really isn't much into fiction. The reader knows when they're not a part of the action in the story and it literally hurts their brain to read a story like that.

In my opinion, those first three paragraphs could have been summed up into one or two sentences. Even this would have been more tolerable...

"It was a dark and stormy night." LOL Okay, just kidding. But you get my point, right?

May you all show your stories with great emotion and flair, and may you all get quoted for the awesome writing you'll do, and not because you gave a weather report.

I have no writing exercise for you. I have no real questions, either. Have a great Monday. I'm off to do wash and take kids to the orthodontist. Please feel free to discuss any topic of interest to you in the comments section, or, ignore this post altogether and wait for tomorrow's big news from Wavy. :)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Myspace - pros and cons


I've been asked by oodles of authors to connect to their myspace page. Only I can't because I don't have one. To be honest I haven't even looked at one or considered one. I'm assuming they are like a blog and must be kept up. (I don't have time for another thing like that)

Everything I've heard about them has been negative. I've read numerous stories of people using other people's identities on myspace and either spouting slander or showing indecent photos.

Yet, authors keep saying "Oh, you have to have one! Everyone will see your covers and want to buy your books".

So my question to those who know or care - Is myspace the place to be to get seen or is it just a bunch of hype and more work?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

What Holds You Back

A few months ago I entered a WIP I'd been working on in the Daphne. I know, I know, kinda goes against my whole contests-are-for-the-birds theory, but in my defense I was coerced into entering by my critique partner. (I plead insanity.) It was fifteen bucks, and since I am basically a sheep and my CP was pushing, I figured what the hell. No one had read the WIP and I figured maybe (ha!) I'd get some feedback on whether or not the idea had merit. I didn't final - and I had a feeling I wouldn't because the hero and heroine don't meet in the first fifteen pages, which is my downfall in contests like this - but, surprisingly, my scores were pretty good. Really good actually. And the feedback was even better. So basically, I accomplished what I wanted by entering. But has it inspired me to keep working on this WIP?

Nope.

I moved back to a different WIP I had - ironically - stopped working on for the same reason.

A few days ago, I think it was Alice or Karen (forgive me, my brain is mush after staying up until 1am working and only 1/2 cup of coffee this morning) said something about standing in a bookstore, looking at the novels and being overwhelmed by what they see in front of them. How can I compete? What makes me think my book is good enough to garnish a spot on that shelf? Personally, I've never had those thoughts when I'm in Borders or Barnes & Noble or the Keizer book swap. Generally, I'm inspired when I stare at those shelves. I figure if she can make it there, by God I certainly can get there. No, bookstores don't intimidate me or hold me back, but one minor comment from someone I don't even know can.

In this case it was one judge in that contest who made an offhand comment about the idea not being fresh and new. The same judge marked me high in all areas though and gave me one of the highest scores overall. But that fresh comment stuck with me. As a writer, coming up with fresh and exciting and different plots is what I strive for. And after writing 150 pages on that book I looked at my story and thought, why the heck am I bothering?

Silly, huh? When you look at classic stories over time, every plot has been done and redone to death. There really aren't any new plots out there. What sets your book apart from other books is the writing and voice and the characters you create. My agent basically confirmed this same idea when I heard from her on a new book idea I'd come up with. It's a paranormal RS - a little out of my comfort zone but still with enough RS to satisfy my suspense-driven soul. Her feedback was great. Loved the idea, loved the characters, thought it could definitely compete with other paranormals on the market now. But she also said there's nothing "totally new" about it and that again it will come down to voice and style.

This is my Achilles heel. This is that unknown hand over my mouth. This is what makes me doubt myself when I shouldn't. It's different for each of us. For some it's the fact we don't feel we have a handle on the craft of writing, for some it's characterization, for some it's fear of success or failure or everything in between. We each have something that makes us second guess ourselves and our abilities. I'm by no means an expert on fear (though I write them in my books), but it seems to me in order to overcome what keeps you from accomplishing your goals, you have to first understand what it is that holds you back.

So what is it for you?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Writers are explorers

As I've been reading over recent posts, I am reminded once again what a talented group of writers we have. Whether the words are tumbling over each other in their eagerness to tell a story or our keyboards gather dust as we struggle through blocks, we are writers.

I loved Alice's list from a couple days ago of what being a writer entails. In fact, I always enjoy her wisdom and willingness to share her perspective.

Writing is indeed a journey -- and sharing that journey. Not every step of the way, perhaps, but meeting along the way like explorers of our Western frontiers met at outposts to share news and gather provisions and encourage each other. Am I on the right track? What pitfalls might I face? How can I prepare to face the challenges ahead?

We may not be exploring uncharted continents, but we are exploring our internal landscapes, our emotions, our imaginations. Sometimes others serve as our guides. Sometimes as our partners or supporters. Sometimes just knowing others are facing the same struggles is enough to send us back to the keyboard every day to continue our journey.

Perhaps those blocked periods are a time to gather writing "provisions" like new ideas, fresh perspectives on our characters, or just to refill the creative well.

When we reach the end of our story journeys, other writers help us celebrate successes such as encouraging letters from editors or agents, positive reviews, hitting the bestseller lists or simply typing "the end."

Then we start a new journey -- because we are writers.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

To-Do Tuesday: Feast of Good News

Welcome to this week's edition of To-Do Tuesday. It seems to be either feast or famine in my in-box, and this week it's a feast of Elizabethan proportions. Also, thanks to people heeding the call to send news directly to To-Do Tuesday (just email me), I've got a bunch of news that hasn't been shared on the loop. As always, be sure to check out the question of day at the bottom, and keep that good news coming!
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Chris York Sells Story

The prolific Chris York has sold another short story. Her YA story, "Perfect Ten," was sold to DAW for their anthology, Witch High. Publication date TBA. The title alone has me intrigued, so I can't wait for that date to be announced! Congrats Chris!
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Paty Jager Inks Second Outlaw Contract

Another Chapter member having a banner year, MWVRWA president, Paty Jager has signed the contract with Wild Rose Press for Outlaw in Petticoats. This is the second book in Paty's Outlaw series, and we hope Paty can continue to build on the awesome success of Marshall in Petticoats. This week on the loop, Paty shared that readers are finding her books on shelves in stores as far away as New York! Paty also reports that she is nearing the end on the MS. Congrats Paty!
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Danita Cahill Suprised by Request

Danita started last week by reporting that she sent out 8 new email queries on her recently finished MS. She lamented the slow turn around times, but resolved to keep putting stuff out there. Well, she didn't have to wait very long at all! A top agency has requested the first 100 pages of Danita's MS! We've got everything crossed for you, Danita!

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Karen Duvall Gets Great Review

If you haven't had a chance to check out the latest glowing review of Karen's book Desert Guardian, do so now! It got a rare 5 crown review! Way to go Karen!
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Self-Promotion for the Tightwad

With all these sales and great reviews pouring in, Jamie Denton's Online Class: The Tightwad Gazette Guide to Self-Promotion should be on our To-Do lists! As a long time fan of the Tightwad Gazette & Jamie's writing, I'm intrigued by this well-organized offering. And it's CHEAP! At $20, it's a bargain even a tightwad can love! More information here.
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Bargain Contest

For those of us still in the trenches, another bargain arrived in my inbox. Romance Writers Ink is sponsoring an online contest--no printing and postage costs, and a cheap entry fee of $25. But, what really sets this contest apart from other online offerings is the top flight list of editors and agents. The deadline is in August, so you still have time to add this to your calendar! More information here.

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Question of the day: How to Get Back in the Game

On the heels of Alice's amazing post yesterday, I invite you to share your favorite ways of getting back in a writing frame of mind after a long hiatus. What works for you? What doesn't? Can you force your brain back or does that only backfire? Share your tips!

I hope you enjoyed today's banquet of good fortune! Remember to keep emailing me your news--big, small, and in-between! Keeping setting goals for yourself and keep us apprised of your progress!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

LIST

A LIST . . .

Revisions, blocks, dialogue.
Narrative. Punctuation.
Starting.
Ending.
Sex.
Murder.
Envy.
Chocolate.
Agents.
Selling a first book.
Selling a thirtieth book.
Health issues.
Time.
Distractions.
Motivation.
Reviews, good or bad.
Money versus art.
Tea versus coffee.
Pushing envelopes.
Stagnation.
Growth.
E-pub, print.
Category, single title.
Research.
Reality versus fantasy.
Babies, both real and "real."
Editors.
Publishers.
Muse management issues.

The above is an incomplete list of what being a writer entails. Some of the aspects, so to say. Not all at once, thank heavens. Not all in the same year or even the same decade. And not every writer has to grapple with every one of these concerns.

But most of us "enjoy" a love/hate relationship with one or more of them. We have written about them all in one form or another on this blog over the past several months. We've pulled our hair out. We've searched for the easy-fix golden-egg answer that surely everyone knows but isn't telling.

Ever notice how some mornings you take a shower, fix yourself up, look in the mirror and think, "Not bad if I do say so myself."
And other mornings, you take a shower, fix yourself up, look in the mirror and say, "I am too ugly to leave this house. Ack!"

Truth is, you look the same on the outside. It's on the inside that you changed and it can happen overnight or in an instant. I think that's what being a writer is like, too. Sometimes you work and feel invincible. Sometimes you struggle and feel like the biggest phony in the world. Sometimes you know where you're going and at others, you can't even recall where you've been.

Having just finished my thirty-something book, I went down to the bank to switch accounts. The bank manager, talking out loud as she filled in the forms, said, "Occupation, writer. Retired, no." I opened my mouth to correct her. I haven't written since late May. Am I still a writer when every idea I have seems to scatter like a flock of wild finches if I dare step too close?

So, I look at that list up there and identify at some level with every single one of those things. And having just read Jen's plea from cyber space--the one she wrote Saturday morning, the one asking the very same question I am asking and she at one end of her career and me at the other--it occurs to me that we are both writers, we are both struggling, albeit with different issues, and that all of us struggle in our own ways.

Perhaps it is the struggle that counts. The trip and not the destination.

Saturday night, as I was watched The African Queen with Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn, something else occurred to me. It was near the end of the movie. For those of you who haven't seen it, a quick recap: Katherine Hepburn is a dead preacher's spinster sister who falls for the fun loving drinking captain of a small supply boat named African Queen. She convinces Bogart to head the boat to Lake Victoria to find the Nazi ships there and sink them. He really doesn't want to do this--it's hard work--but she perseveres. Along the way, they fall in love with one another. Now it's near the end and they've gone as far as they can. He's sick, the boat is mired in mud, the river has quit. She prays for understanding of their love when they soon stand at the pearly gates. She makes peace with death, she can't fight anymore.

The camera pans out as she collapses. They are within a few yards of the lake. So close and yet so far! The skies break open and it begins to rain--it rains so hard the river swells. They awake to find themselves afloat, on the lake. They made it. So, after despair, joy. Right there beyond the camera lens. Right there beyond the tall grass they couldn't see over.

And today, driving with my husband, I started to talk about my book and it started to rain, the river swelled, and my little writing boat nudged itself out onto the lake. Not ready to shoot down any Nazi ships yet, but hey, I'm floating.

So, you see, you never know. I suspect the only way to make sure nothing happens is to do nothing. What would you add to the list? And if you could, what would you take away?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Oh, Drat! The Pain of Revisions!

I'm a firm believer that there are certain lessons that we, as humans, were put on earth to learn.

One of mine is patience.

After I finished my first MS, against the advice of my CP, I thought, "Hey, what the heck. I'm going to wait ONE DAY and start the second draft."

For me, this was a mistake.

I'm gradually learning. Hey, I waited a week to revise the second MS. And I'm still working on it....

I just finished my third MS. I took what I like to think of as a "vacation." I read four novels, lounged around the house, got caught up on things I'd let go to the wayside, like eating, drinking, taking care of my kids (haha).

So, here I am, three weeks later....

I'm in the middle of what I call "the read-through." This is where I throw my red pen in the garbage and just read the MS. I think I'll take a week after and then begin the first draft of revisions. Then the second, third, fourth, hundreth. You get the picture.

There are several reputable sources who claim that waiting weeks is best. But, as aforementioned, patience is NOT my virtue.

How do you ladies go about your revisions?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Lines that Stick

We all have them. Bits and pieces of books and movies floating around in our minds -- those lines that stick.

I recently bought the DVD "Stand by Me". Its a favorite of mine, a coming-of-age movie based on a novella called "The Body" by Stephen King. It's filmed largely in Brownsville, part of my old stompin' grounds, so it's close to my heart.

After rewatching it the other night, the lines that stuck were these -- when main character, Gordy LaChance pulls a 45 revolver on gang leader, and all-around bad guy, Ace:

"Suck my fat one, Ace. You cheap, dime store hood."

Gordy cocks the gun (no pun intended), to show he means business, and Ace calls off his gang and leaves.

Gordy's best friend, Chris Chambers says, "Whoever told you you had a fat one, LaChance?"

"Biggest one in four counties," Gordy says.

So, why do those lines stick in my head? Not for their sophisticated aspect, that's for sure. The first line is even a little stilted, almost unrealistic for a 12-year-old to utter. But finding the nerve to say those words, to pull back the hammer on that gun is a major accomplishment for this skinny little kid whose whole world was recently shaken when his big brother died and his parent went catatonic.

In our own RWA chapter, Paty's love scenes are what stick in my head after I read her stories. She's good at writing these scenes.

Alice has a beautifu way of describing the moment one character falls in love with another. (Please forgive me Alice, for not getting this word-for-word, or remembering which books they came from).

It was as if he'd opened a thousand tiny locks with a thousand tiny keys.

Her body shone with a dozen shades of silver.

Anyway, again I apologize if I slaughtered your lines, Alice. But it isn't always the exact words that readers remember, it's the thrust, the idea or image created by the line that stays with us.

Here's a couple more that have stuck with me:

This one by a mle writer (Can't remember his name, the book, "Jane's House" is on loan to Paty, maybe she can help me out). The protagonist is remembering his petite wife, Jane, now dead:

She was a woman. A waif. A wife.

Simple lines, but they painted a poignant picture for me of this man's love and loss.

Nicolas Sparks writes a line about a female character stepping from the shower, towling off then applying lotion to her arms and legs. When I read the line, I thought "Wow, this guy is really in touch with his feminine side. Did he watch his wife do this, or ask her what parts of her body to which she applied lotion?"

And who can forget classic lines like, "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore." and "There's no place like home. There's no place like home." Or Rhett Butler's infamous, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

So, here are my questions to you: How do you think we, as writers, can create the kind of lines that live on in reader's minds after they close the covers of our books? What is it that makes lines stick in your head? And please, share some of your favorite lines.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

To-Do Tuesday: Things to Do

Welcome to this week's edition of To-Do Tuesday. This week I've got a great mix of things for YOU to do, and things that our enterprising chapter members are doing. And, I've also a got a fun question/exercise of the day, so be sure to scan to the bottom to check that out and post your response. Remember to keep sending me your news and announcements.

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June Meeting: Once Upon a Romance

Our chapter's June meeting is Tuesday, June 19th at 7:00 p.m. at Salem Public Library, in the Anderson room. If you are new to our group, please email me or another chapter member about joining us for dinner at 5:00 p.m. Our speaker is Genene Valleau. You may know Genene from her informative blog entries about self-promotion, but she is also a past president of MWVRWA, and a mistress of multi-tasking. We are eagerly awaiting Genene's first books from Awestruck. Her presentation on "Once Upon a Romance," is sure to be entertaining and informative.
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Paty Jager Gets Four-Spur Review


If you didn't get a chance to check out Paty's latest review, please do so! Paty has been racking up the good reviews lately, and this can only point to even better things in the future! Also, if you are not so lucky as Paty with your reviews, check out Jennifer Cruise's guide to dealing with bad reviews.
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Danita Finishes & Starts Querying

I jumped the gun last week, but this week, Danita is well and truly done with her latest MS, and also reports that she's sent out a second agent query. Way to go, Danita! I'm really hoping that I can be even half as productive as Danita post-baby. If you've had a productive week, be sure to share!

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New Magazine for Romance Writers

Cobblestone Press is launching a new e-magazine for romance writers and readers. Their first edition is only $1.50, and is chock-full of interviews and great articles on e-publishing. If this a line that you're considering querying, or an area you'd like to know more about, check this out!
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Heartland Writer's Group Launches Free Monthly Contest

Can't get enough of our exercises here on the blog? Heartland Writer's Group has a fun way to flex those creative muscles: a monthly contest. The June contest showcases the difference between narration and dialogue. (Be aware that their website has music that doesn't shut off easily!)
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Happily Ever After Contest Deadline June 8th!

A reminder for those of you looking for an alternative to first-chapter contests (and a perfect chance for those of you who just wrote "The End" to show off your achievement), the Happily Ever After Contest judges your last chapter. The post-mark deadline is June 8th. Hurry! The contest also has a great line up of final judges!

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Question of the Day: Packing for Your Heroine

Your Heroine (no, not you, silly) is packing for a retreat in Bend, Oregon in June. What does your heroine pack? How does she get to the retreat? Is music playing as she travels? What food does she bring? Eight women whom she's never met are waiting for her--how does she react? Be as detailed as possible & have fun! (And remember, you can send your heroine "packing," even if you won't be joining us at the retreat!)

That's all for this week! I hope everyone has a productive writing week & continue to share your news with me!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Cliche Help

How many of you have been writing away on your WIP and you toss in a cliche and think, I'll go back later and change it?

I don't know how many times I've been dinged in a contest because I used a cliche. Use your own original words, they say. Sometimes there is no better way to say something than a cliche.

So: Here's the test. What's another way to say these:

Easy as pie
it goes without saying
thorn in the side
What goes around comes around
Shit happens
Live and learn
all is fair in love and war
Beauty is only skin deep


Now it's your turn to say these differently.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Writers Make The World Go 'Round

Now don’t anyone fall off your office chair or, if you’re using a laptop, don’t slide off your couch onto the floor, but…

I’ve actually been writing this week! Woo Hoo for me!

For months now I just haven’t been in the mood, or groove, or whatever, to write, or really even think about opening my laptop to write, but this week I started and now I just can’t seem to get over the fancy that’s struck me.

Oh, I’m not complaining, it’s just that I’m so afraid the hankering to write is going to slip away again into the dark corners of my mind (you know, it’s that place I’ve not had access to in so long) I’m almost panicking.

As I’ve pondered about what’s put me back on track, I’ve realized it’s the fact that I opened up an old story and started reading what I’d written and UGH!, it was in dire need of fixing; anyhoo, I started tinkering around and eliminating words and phrases that I’ve learned are passive and just did some general script clean up, and then I started adding layers and I realized that my characters were starting to talk to me again. It totally gave me chills!

So, what did I do? I just went with it. I listened to what they had to say and found I was typing away and finding out a whole lot of new and fun things about these characters. I had no idea they’d take me in the direction they did, but it’s been a trippy ride this week. I’m loving it! (But not like McDonalds loving it. I actually hate McYucks.)

When I started thinking about the inspiration, and how the bug bit me hard on the ass this week, I realized that even though I’ve not been in the mood to write and haven’t hardly tried in months, I was still on the ‘write’ path because I never stopped learning about the writing process.

Things I’ve learned over the months, while the tumbleweeds flitted around on my laptop, have been slowly sinking in to my skull, they finally hit my brain, and now I’m starting to use them. My confidence is coming back and I’m finding pleasure in writing again.

This may seem foreign to all of you, but it’s where I’ve been for far too long and I’m excited that the blockage is melting away and that I’m headed in the right direction again.

I don’t have any words of wisdom to give to you about writing or anything. This is just a blog entry to show you that even if you get a major blockage, one that may go on for months, there’s hope. Don’t give up or think you’re a failure just because it seems everyone around you is going gangbusters while you’re sinking into the depths of writing despair. (a bit o’ drama for ya’ll)

Please, if any of you have wisdom or helps for the problem of blockage or if you just want to share your story of a time you were blocked, use this opportunity to share with everyone in the comments section.

It may seem silly, but I clung to the fact that both Alice and Bethany have had blocks at one time or another. I'm so thankful they were open and shared that they each had been blocked and had actually gotten past it. It was a great help to me and gave me hope for myself.

The world of writers is unique and so important in spinning the tales that make the world go ‘round.

Don’t ever quit!