Tuesday, July 31, 2007

To-Do Tuesday: Getting it Done!

Welcome to this week's marginally cooler To-Do Tuesday. You can tell I think about this column a bit much because when I saw DH putting on a light jacket before he left at 7, all I could think was, "Darn! There goes the hot weather rant I had planned!" Luckily, that's far from all I've got for you this week.

Our chapter members are enjoying a productive summer, and I've got their latest as well as some reminders, announcements, and links to keep you busy. I've also got a fun exercise for you to try out on your WIP, so be sure to scan to the bottom!
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New Cover for Alice Sharpe!

Check out Alice's latest cover on the sidebar! Chapter member and best-selling author, Alice Sharpe's latest release for Harlequin Intrigue, Royal Heir, will be out in October, but the cover has been released and you can pre-order on Amazon. Congrats, Alice!
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Karen Duvall Launches Blog

Karen Duvall returned from the PNWA conference with a stack of requests for her WIP! Even better, Karen found the conference inspiring and returned full of great ideas. She writes all about her conference experience on her new blog. Be sure to add her to your links and RSS reader! Way to go Karen!
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Trish Milburn Makes First Sale

No, she's not a chapter member, but I've written before on the blog about all that Trish Milburn does for RWA and the PRO chapter. We've all benefited from her tireless advocacy. After winning this year's Golden Heart for YA, she had even more good news to report: her first sale!

Her story is particularly inspiring--she's been writing and submitting for ELEVEN years, with 18 finished MS (EIGHTEEN!!), and has had an agent for three years. It's stories like hers that encourage us to never let go of the dream. Read more of her story here. Successes like hers are what RWA is all about.
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Bantam/Dell Launches New Line

Part of never giving up is seizing new opportunities. At the RWA conference, Bantam/Dell announced their new "Discovery" line which launches in Spring 2008. This line will be released in both mass market and trade paperbacks. They are currently accepting queries from both agented and unagented authors and are particularly interested in contemporary romance. Address queries to: Shauna Summers, Bantam/Dell, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10009
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Contest Deadline Reminders!

TODAY is your last chance to enter the July contests at Writerspace. There are several contests from best-selling authors, with great prizes! But hurry!

The Golden Rose Contest offered by the Portland RWA chapter is still accepting entries! But, hurry, the deadline is August 4th! No need to worry about the post-office either, because you can submit and pay for your entry online. Click here for more information.

The On The Far Side Contest is desperately seeking Time Travel entries. They've got a great judge (Denise Dumars from the Ashley Grayson Agency), but they need more entries. If you've got a time travel MS or WIP, click here for more details!
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2007 Scarlet Boa Contest


The fabulous NYT bestselling authors at Running with Quills are offering their 2007 Scarlet Boa contest. Entries will be accepted between August 1 and September 1, 2007. This year's contest is a single scene where your human character learns that they are enmeshed with a paranormal being--vampire, werewolf, or other fantasy being. For more details, continue to watch the Running with Quills blog!

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Exercise of the Day: The Revelation

The Running with Quills contest got me thinking about revelations in general--not just the paranormal kind, but the moments when your hero or heroine learns something vital about the other. Consider your current WIP. Does either the hero or the heroine learn something shocking about the other? Does this serve as a turning point in the story? How do they learn it? From a third party? From their own investigation? Or does the other reveal the secret to them?A scene where the hero or heroine reveals their secret is going to have a much different feel than a scene where the other learns of the secret on his or her own. If you don't have any shocking revelations, consider how your WIP might be enhanced by such a scene. If you do have such a scene (or scenes) consider how they might play differently if the messenger were different. A third party revelation/secret discovery isn't necessarily the only or best way to increase tension. How could a reveal directly from the person with the secret enhance your story? Conversely, how could a third party messenger throw a monkey wrench into your characters' lives?

Share you thoughts and/or snippets of your scene(s)! As always, continue to send me your news, announcements, and links!

Monday, July 30, 2007

How far will you go?

When I began reading romance, I'd read anything and everything I could get my hands on. Granted it was mostly paranormal because that's what I'm largely interested in, but I was open to any author - be it dark or light, funny or serious. The same went with contemporary, I'd read anything. Heck, Eli even started me reading some romantic suspense! Ok, I'll admit, my experience with historicals is limited. Most of the ones I've read have had a paranormal slant.

There's a second part to this: not only would I read anything, once I started a book I couldn't put it down. No matter what. I'd HAVE to finish it. Even if it didn't grab me or draw me in, at least I knew there would be a happily ever after. And frankly, some of my favorite books are ones that took quite a while to catch my interest.

When I went to RWA nationals last year, I was a book grabbing machine. I shipped home more than 100 books. I either bought them, grabbed them from the goodie room, or waited in dozens of lines at publisher book signings. I donated most of them to our annual workshop, but I still kept on to about 40 books.

Over the past year I haven't read as much, so much happened in my life and it got in the way of my reading. So the few things I did read were mostly the newest releases in series I follow by my favorite authors.

Fast forward to RWA nationals a couple of weeks ago. I grabbed very few books. So few that I was able to fit them in my already stuffed suitcase, probably only 20 books or so. I didn't even go to all of the publisher signings.

Here's why: I still have to finish any book that I start. However, knowing that about myself I'm being much more picky about what I do pick up because I have less time to read. I only picked up books by authors I am already familiar with, or ones that really caught me with the back cover blurb. And I NEVER used to care about back cover blurbs. I'm evolving...yikes!

So the point of this is - how far will you go with a book? Will you put a book down if it doesn't catch you in one paragraph, page, chapter? Will you keep reading it no matter what? How do you select the books you'll read?

I find this type of information informative as a reader, knowing what other people do, but also as a writer, giving me an idea about people's breaking points.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Beach Reads

No, it's not Tuesday. I'm blogging for Danita.

Women's Magazines typically give very short shift to books, but every June & July things look up temporarily as they all wax poetic about the "Beach Read." When I lived in the sweltering Midwest, all this talk of "beach reading" just made me insanely jealous of those who lived near a body of water. Now though I actually live near a beach, so I can read these columns without turning red(der). (If you're not a big magazine reader, you might want to check these lists out to see what I'm talking about: Reader's Digest, Redbook, Border's, USA Today, ShowBuzz)

I'm still not sure I understand why vacation demands a certain sort of book. Frankly, I'm more likely to read heavy literary fiction and nonfiction when I don't have other demands on my brain. If I'm in the middle of a difficult time at work, light and fluffy is all I can handle. But, some women apparently crave the light and fluffy while they are on vacation. And with all the attention given to beach reads, some authors make a point of trying to craft the perfect beach read.

There was even a seminar at the Reno RWA on how to do this. Landing on a "beach reading" list seems to be as much the work of a good publicist as the result of careful plotting, and trends change. Two years ago, the lists were all about Chick Lit, and this year's list seems more skewed towards women's fiction. But, books that make the list do seem to share certain characteristics:
  • Memorable, quirky characters.
  • Gossipy tone--their lives might be way more screwed up than ours, but the angst factor is very low
  • Steamy--depends on the magazine, but hot books dominate most lists
  • Engaging, but not too taxing--there seems to be a delicate balance of page turner and something that you can look up from easily
  • Soft cover--hardcovers rule at Christmas time, but most beach lists are dominated by soft cover books that make for easy toting
  • Contemporary--historicals occasionally make the list, but modern single heroines rule them
  • Stand Alone books--Harry Potter and Stephanie Plum notwithstanding, these lists are often geared towards people who ONLY read on vacation (horrors, I know).
  • Happy ending
Thus, it's no wonder that romance writers often dominate these lists. But, even so, our own personal definition of the perfect vacation may differ wildly from a reviewer's (or editor's--often these lists are put together by publications without a reviewer on staff, and this difference is immediately obvious).

This leads to my questions for you:
  • What makes your perfect "beach" or vacation reading? Have you read books based on their presence on a list before? Were you disappointed with the recommendation?
  • Pretend you're standing in a bookstore with limited time to pick up a book or two for your vacation. What do you look for? Bestseller? Favorite author? On a list of best reads?
  • Now, pretend a friend is heading to the beach this weekend. She's not satisfied with the fashion magazine's list. She wants YOUR top five recommendations for sure-fire vacation reading winners this summer. What do you recommend? Finally, do you see your own books as "beach reading?" Why or why not?
  • Discuss! I'll give my responses in the comments as well. Then, late tonight, I'll compile all your recommendations into the 2007 MWVRWA Beach Reading list.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pitching in Seattle



I'm pretty sure today's my day to blog since Piper just posted on Monday, but if it's not I apologize for stepping on someone's toes!

I'm so excited about the conference I'll be attending in Seattle tomorrow. After all the hoopla about RWA Nationals, this is anti-climactic for most romance writers, but the PNWA Conference will be my first time there and I get butterflies just thinking about it. I'm not new to writers conferences after attending every single Colorado Gold for the past 14 years, but this one is new and different for me so I kind of feel like a conference virgin. I remember how it had felt at my first CG, and I'm hoping to recapture that jittery sense of awe and anticipation.

I'm treating myself to this pricey excursion because it's my birthday present to me, and on my special day, July 28, I have an agent appointment with Rachel Vater. It's been a long, long while since I've explored the agent search, so this is extremely gratifying that I get to pitch to my first-choice agent with my nearly completed Urban Fantasy novel. I also have a group appointment with Tor editor Paul Stevens right after that. So I'm primed for having a super good time.

Okay, now comes the all-important pitch that I'm still working on. Maybe you can help me, and at the same time, give me an example of your own one-sentence pitch of your novel. The object is to get it down to as few words as possible and still get the story's main conflict in there. This is tough. How do you boil down a 100,000 word book into one sentence?

Here's my attempt: A thief becomes a hero, risking death for freedom from the greedy group of modern-day sorcerers who forced her to steal.

I know I'll have the chance to say more than that during my appointment – I have a whole ten minutes -- but this is the hook, the main stakes of the story and the character's motivation to achieve her goal. So now that I've shown you mine, will you show me yours? 8^)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

To-Do Tuesday: Dog Days of Summer

Welcome to today's edition of To-Do Tuesday. The romance writing world seems to be slowly recovering from RWA nationals. It's also the middle of the summer--vacations, kids, and ice cream take priority over blogs, contests, and newsletters. My in-box isn't empty, but it's certainly suffering some sluggish sympathy pains over the dog days of summer.

But, never fear! I've rounded up enough news and opportunities for you to enjoy--preferably with a bowl of ice cream or a nice refreshing glass of ice tea. If you've got strategies for writing through this lull, please share them below, and be sure to check out my question of the day!

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A Perfectly Good Nanny Released This Friday

Paty Jager's latest release, A Perfectly Good Nanny, is available in e-book form this Friday. If you looked for it last Friday, the boy wizard placed the dreaded memory spell on Paty. I'm pretty sure he just didn't want the competition. The hard copies will be available in November. Congrats again Paty!

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MWVRWA Members at Writer's Faire on August 2

Mark your calendars for next Thursday! The Writer's Faire in Portland is a huge, FREE book signing and networking event from 6-9. It kicks off the Willamette Writer's Conference, but you don't have to be registered for the conference to attend. Over 60 authors, editors, and publishing companies will have tables at the event. Attendees can also participate in raffles to win an hour with an author. Our own Paty Jager will be among those signing books. Some other MWVRWA members have made rumblings about attending, so if you'll be among those signing books or those attending, let us know! Be sure to stop by Paty's table if you go!

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Chris Young Celebrates Latest Release

Chris Young shared her latest cover with us. Rebel Heart is currently available in e-book format from Awestruck press, and hard copies should be available soon.

Set 500 years in the future, this book is a radical departure from Christine's historical offerings. But, like Piper's post yesterday, Christine proves that she can manage multiple genres with aplomb. You can click here to read three sample chapters and purchase the book.

One reviewer shared: "REBEL HEART is a well-written futuristic novel of a time that very possibly could come to pass, when viral plagues have laid the planet waste, and life is lived either in the sterile confines of domed habitats, or as pariahs in the outside wilderness. The world-building is excellent, vivid, and true-to-life. The characters will quickly catch and hold the reader's sympathies. The plot is quick, and takes time to examine many valid social, economic, class, and political issues as well. Christine Young delivers a winner which will capture the interest of futuristic/science fiction fans as well as the general reader."

Congrats Christine!
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It's a . . . . . . .

Finished Manuscript! My other WIP is still baking (thank goodness!), but I finished my current WIP last week. At 8 months gestation, the book and the baby have been racing neck and neck, but the book finally won! Clocking in at just over 92,000 words, this book is my third manuscript, but my first ST length Adult Contemporary. In fact, it's almost exactly the length of my two previous MS added together. Now that I've finished, I can see the bones of the story more clearly, and I'm excited to begin editing.

AND in a karmic payoff for finishing, I received another request on my YA! An agent who had previously requested the partial has now asked for the full. I mailed it off yesterday. Think good thoughts!
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Harlequin SuperRomance Contest!

Harlequin SuperRomance is sponsoring the "Conflict of Interest" contest. They're looking for the scene that best illustrates the conflict between the hero and heroine. SuperRomance is one of Harlequin's longer lines, so you might want to check this out, particularly if your work straddles the border between ST and category length. You can click here for the full contest details!

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Blaze Blush Line Coming

In other Harlequin news, while at nationals, Editor Brenda Chin announced a new mini-line "Blaze Blush." This new line will feature lighter, fun, and sexy stories, similar to the old "Temptation" line. Full guidelines are not yet up on Harlequin's website, but several sources have reported that Chin is accepting queries for the line.

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Author Island Contests Continue

The Author Island, "Book a Week for a Year" contest continues through July 31. Several authors have added new contests of their own this week. Be sure to check out all the contests at Author Island!

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Question of the Day: Taboo Flaws

Several recent posts have focused on flawed heroes and heroines. Paty's post tackling the taboo of prostitution made me think about other taboo "flaws" or backstory. My newest WIP (I'm drafting a new MS AND editing the recently finished MS b/c I'm clearly insane!) has a heroine who's a recovered alcoholic. Now, I've read plenty of books where the hero skirts the addiction line (and usually the heroine saves him from his alcoholic bottom) but addictions seem much more taboo where heroines are concerned. Apparently, I'm just drawn to issue-driven fiction.

So, I'll ask you--Are there certain "taboo" character flaws? Is there history/backstory you just don't want to see? Do certain flaws make it harder to identify with/love a particular character? Thoughts?

As always, thanks for sending me your news and announcements and keep it coming!

Monday, July 23, 2007

A Whole New World

No, this isn't about that song that Jasmine and Aladdin sing in the Disney movie; I'm talking about a whole new world of writing.

Let me explain...

One of my favorite authors of Regency and Historical romance has been Lisa Kleypas, but she just recently came out with her first contemporary (A heavy hardback book that my dearest, wonderfulest, friend Eli dragged back from Dallas for lil' O' me) called, "Sugar Daddy". Now, I thought there was no way she could do it. Lisa Kleypas I mean. I had strong doubts that she would be able to pull off such a tremendous switch. But she did and I absobloominlutely LOVE "Sugar Daddy". I could not put it down, that's why I was so tired at church today. LOL

But seriously, how do you feel about this subject? The subject of one of your favorite authors switching her writing from one way to another? Do you think it's possible for you to switch? Could you go from writing say, historical to contemporary and pull it off like Lisa did? Have you ever considered breaking away from your comfort zone and trying something new?

I know Paty has done this by breaking away from straight Western romance to paranormal elements, and then she's got her latest coming out that's a contemporary Western. But I wonder how much of struggle that was.

I have to say that yeah, I'm shocked, but very impressed Lisa Kleypas did this so well. So completely. I was entranced. If any of you get a chance to read it, do. :)

Thanks for sharing what you think and feel about this subject and happy Monday to you!

Friday, July 20, 2007

To Prostitute or Not to Prostitute


This isn't my original blog topic, but I didn't want a whining complaining blog to sit up here all weekend so you get this one!

I was reading an article in the paper last night. It was a rather long article about the Mustang Ranch in Nevada. For those who don't know, it was built in 1957 and was a brothel. The original owner was sought for tax evasion and fled the country. The government closed it down and confiscated the building and recently sold it. Anyway the new owner picked the building up and moved it to a location across from his Wild Horse Club (another brothel). In the Wild Horse club the clients mingle with the prostitutes like at a bar and then they go off. They say the new Mustang ranch will be run just like the old one where the client comes in and the "girls" are lined up and he walks down the line and picks the one he likes.

Where am I going with this? Well, I write westerns and most of my books have a prostitute or brothel in them because at that time women had fewer options. If they didn't know how to read or write it was hard to make a living in a "man's world". For many of the prostitutes it was a meal and a roof over their heads.

But in today's world- why would a woman want to be a prostitute? I don't get it. With all the diseases and having to have sex with any man who picks you... I find that repulsive. But what of your heroines. Which, if any, of your heroines would become a prostitute in say a place like the Mustang ranch and why? What would be their motivation? Money? Sex? Shock Factor?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Point of No Return

There's no way I can top Wavy's most excellent post on premature climaxes (love that title, btw) from yesterday, so I'm not even going to try. But I am going to touch on something that's been on my mind lately. Mainly, jumping off points and what keeps your characters going when they get deep into your story.

I blogged about Michael Hauge's fabulous National workshop at my other blog, and I mentioned it at our meeting on Tuesday, but I'll say it again here just for good measure. If you ever have a chance to take one of Michael's workshops, do it. He breaks plot points and character arcs down into their simplest forms and uses examples from movies most of the population (or at least, most romance readers) have seen. Basically, he dissects movies (or books) into the three act structure, and within that, has six plot stages, marked by five turning points:

Turning Point #1 - When the main character is presented with the opportunity that changes his/her life
Turning Point #2 (end of first act) - When the main character's plans are drastically altered
Turning Point #3 (halfway point) - The point of no return when the main character becomes fully committed to their goal
Turning Point #4 (end of second act) - Where main character experiences a major setback
Turning Point #5 - The climax

As I listened to Michael explain each of the six plot stages in his model, what stood out to me was the halfway point or point of no return. I've heard this from other authors before - that the halfway point in your book marks a major change of some kind, where the characters might have been halfway committed to their goal before, but are now fully committed. Often this is when the first love scene happens, when some secret is shared, walls are brought down, and (in a romance) characters connect on an emotional level. Love scenes don't always have to happen here, but it's a natural point for that to occur, and if they don't, then there's probably some other transformation that happens at the halfway mark.

Most of us probably do this instinctively, but it's fun to look back at your work and see if you have some sort of "point of no return" in your book. So I opened my GH book (the one my agent's shopping) and flipped to pg 240 (of a 480 pg book). No love scene, but after a tense chase scene, the heroine (who is the main character in this book), realizes in order to achieve her goal, she has to put her trust in the hero. For her, it's an emotional and pivotal moment because she doesn't instinctively trust people. And trusting men is something she's always struggled with. Especially this man. The first love scene doesn't happen for another chapter or two, but there's an obvious shift from working against each other, to working with each other. She admits it to herself, and he realizes it in her actions.

So here's your challenge today: Open your last finished book - or your wip, doesn't matter which - and look at the halfway point. (If it's a wip, look at where the halfway point should be. For example, I expect my wip to run about 400-420 pgs. I'm on pg 320 right now, so I'll look at pgs 200-210). Is there a point of no return somewhere withing the 10-20 pg range of your halway point? If so, what is it? Is there a love scene? If not, where is the love scene in relation to the midway point, and does your book fall into line with Hauge's Point of No Return theory?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Premature Climaxes and Other Difficulties

I'm posting for Lisa, so if she puts a post up, I'll take this one down.

But, I've got burning questions about climaxes. Take your minds out of the gutter! Not that climax. The book's climax. The black moment. Turning point. Whatever you want to call it, it's what the book builds towards, and what the characters have to recover from as they move on to their HEA. Unfortunately, there's not a Cosmo guide to better climaxes ("How to please your hero in 10 easy mind-blowing steps"). I've looked. Romance writers are all about the foreplay--the perfect hook, the best rising action, "how to seduce your reader with 10 sexy new games," and "Be a Bad Girl! Play Hard to Get!" Generally, it seems to be assumed that if everything else is in place, the climax will take care of itself.

Not.

I'm in the final scenes of my WIP, and I've got climax problems worthy of 10 little blue pills. I've got questions, and I'm hoping some of you have answers.

Many romance books, even those that are not RS, climax with a dramatic scene where the heroine (or hero) is in peril--a gun is produced, a bad guy materializes, a child is lost, death is imminent. The threat of death seems to be the universal love potion--historical do it, contemporaries do it, even Erotica and YA do it. My WIP is a romantic comedy, and plenty of other romantic comedies climax with the threat of peril to life or limb. Other comedies climax with the madcap chase scene--a huge comedy errors that sends the hero and heroine tripping and tumbling towards their HEA. I love both types of endings.

Unfortunately, the climax of my book doesn't fit either "formula." Which leads me to wonder, is there a place for non-standard climaxes? What if my book has multiples? One big black moment at the 3/4 mark, and another smaller black moment in the final scenes? Is it possible to have a "soft" climax, where the book builds, black moment, and then the resolution is more subtle? Does the removal of the barriers standing between them and HEA have to be filled with peril? What if the barriers are mainly emotional? Does the lack of motivation for a big-drama-filled climax in the final scenes always point to a plotting problem?

And if it does, be blunt and brutal with me. I'm going to finish these scenes, and then it's on to revisions, and I've got to have a game plan for dealing with the black moment and what happens afterwards. Feel free to share any good links you have on the subject too! Thanks!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

To-Do Tuesday: We're Back!

Welcome to this week's To-do Tuesday, where we are celebrating the return of our conference attendees! And for those of us who remained at home last week, we can also celebrate the return to normalcy in the romance writing world. It does seem like our corner of the universe slows to a halt for one week in July!

This conference-slowdown explains why we're light on content this week, but not on quality! We've got some exciting news, some show-and-tell, and a fun question of the day!

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Perfectly Good Nanny Arrives This Friday!

Paty Jager's string of 2007 successes just got even sweeter: her contemporary romance, Perfectly Good Nanny, will be available in e-book format starting Friday. The really great news? The hard copy will be available November 2, 2007! This will be Paty's third release, and her first contemporary Western. How cool is that Harry Potter gets to share Paty's release this weekend? J.K. Rowling should be thrilled at the honor! And unlike Harry, Paty has many more adventures in store, with the next installment in her Petticoats series due soon!

Congratulations Paty!
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Atteendees Share the RWA Dirt!

Today is our July Meeting. We'll be meeting at 7 p.m. at Salem Public Library. You won't want to miss this one because Alice, Lisa, and Eli are sharing their conference experiences. Come prepared with your questions, and come prepared to laugh as they share their Dallas exploits. Also, Alice will solve the mystery of her own disappearance in Dallas. Remember to bring your donations for the goody bags and raffle baskets at our conference in October! As always, we welcome new faces!

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Retreat Recap!

Several chapter members enjoyed a great retreat at Elk Lake in June. Danita Cahill sent two pictures that truly do make you wish you were there!


Thanks for sharing the great photos, Danita!
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See Chris York at Comic Con!

Chapter member Chris York will be one of the huge crowd at Comic Con in San Diego this weekend. We wish her the best of luck, and if you happen to be one of the 125,000 attendees, be sure to check out her panel on writing tie-ins. Her book Strategic Reserve is also up for a Scribe award as best YA. Best of luck Chris!

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Call for Submissions!

The Futuristic Motherhood Anthology is looking for short stories (maximum 7500 words) that consider the fictional future of motherhood. Writers may use mystery, science fiction, paranormal, fantasy or any sub-genre to address this theme. Deadline for submissions is September 15, 2007. Click here for more information.
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Question of the Day: In the Checkout Lane

I ran into the lovely Genene last night at Walmart. I was grubby to a power of 10--stretched out maternity tee, damp matted hair from swimming, flip-flops, and I looked like a pregnant huffer with fruit craving with a cart full of spray paint, cherries, and canned fruit. Genene looked lovely as always, and was way more organized with her shopping than I could ever hope to be. After I got over my mortification, I got to thinking about how much you can learn from someone's grocery cart. So, imagine your character (hero, heroine, or secondary character) is in the checkout lane. What store is it? What's in their cart? Are they in the express lane, or are they loaded to the gills? Do they talk to the people in line? Read magazines? Be as detailed as you can!

Be sure to keep sending me your news and announcements! If you had a productive week, we want to know about it!

Monday, July 16, 2007

A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME IS ... DAPHNE, MAYBE?

Hi guys. Sorry this is late, I forgot today was my day. Whose bright idea was that, having me blog after nationals?

Thankfully, I have an idea ready. We all know how important a character's name is and also how serendipitous the choosing of a name can seem at times. The following exercise should be fun and easy and I hope you all respond. For your information, I am going to post the first response so when you go to the comment page you will not be influenced by another blogger's comments.

I'm going to describe a half dozen character types. Give me a name for each as though they were characters in your next book.

The idea for this exercise came after reading Genene's last blog about choosing names. I wonder if any of us will come up with the same name. Ideally, I think your choices should be relatively spontaneous, but they should also be names you would really use, that feel "right" to you, to match the character as presented.

Ready?

1. A waitress. Forty-two years old. Plump, graying brown hair, blue uniform, white apron, or at least it's supposed to be white. She ambles over, pours a cup of coffee and says, "What can I get you?" Her name tag reads ____________________.

2. A surgeon. She or he is fifty-one, confident. She or he is eating caviar on a cracker during a cocktail party. It's a fund raiser for the hospital. But they are really thinking about their last patient and is startled from deep reverie when a colleague says, "May I have a moment of your time Dr. _______________________?"

3. The plumber. He arrives in the nick of time to fix a broken water pipe. He's no stereotype. The guy is an absolute hunk. Tight jeans, white T-shirt showing off bulging biceps, a grin to die for. The harried housewife (heart beating a little faster as he brushes by her) says, "Hurry ___________, the bathroom is flooding."

4. A little girl. Red hair, pigtails, freckles. Blue-jeans and a pink T-shirt smudged with jam. Four years old. Her mother stands at the door and says, "TIme to come inside, _____________."

5. The captain of a tugboat. He's tall, dark and handsome, accused of looking more than a little like Clark Gable when he played Rhett Butler. Mustache, liquid eyes, all man. A deck hand runs up to him and says, "There's a message for you, Captain ______________________."

6. A socialite. She enters a dress shop she's visited many times. There's a party that night and she's pretty sure her boyfriend intends to pop the question. She's thirty, blonde, gorgeous. She spies a yellow chiffon dress and knows it's the one, asks the salesgirl if they have it in her size. The salesgirl responds, "Of course we do, Miss ________________. It'll look lovely on you."

Tell us how you came to your think of your name or just give the name, whatever you like and have time for. It's good to be home!

Alice

Friday, July 13, 2007

Deducing in Dallas

It was a dark and sultry night. Sweat slid down my back and pooled between my butt cheeks as I made the long trek down the humid hotel corridor. The chipotle chili with chunks of Texas beef the size of jawbreakers wasn't sitting well in my stomach, and I felt the need to run for the bathroom. But I fought the urge. I didn't want to draw attention to myself any more than I had already that day, and I knew if I did, I'd break my three-inch Payless Shoe Source heels and then everyone at the conference would see my bleeding blisters.

A small price to pay, really, for the illusion of the perfect writer. But then, that's what I am. A master of illusion.

My partner in crime, a brunette known for her love-affair with her cell phone, walked at my side, texting her latest conquest. Our other roommate, the one who likes to make snarky jokes, was waiting for us to come back to the room and change clothes so we could then head to the bar where she planned to hit on a cowboy she's spotted from the glass-enclosed elevator. (Research, she'd said, but we knew the truth). I, of course, couldn't make the sign of an "L" on my forehead fast enough, but in this case, I figured a drink was a drink, and after the day I'd had -schmoozing with editors and agents, embarrassing myself whenever possible and sitting through workshops until my ass fell asleep - I decided I deserved it.

Since the texting-girl was too busy, I whipped out my keycard and shoved it in the slot. The light flashed red. I cursed and turned the card around. The door made a strange sucking noise as it opened, and I reached back to scratch my butt as I hobbled into the room.

I knew something was amiss the second I stepped inside.

The lights were on. The room was silent. But the bathroom door, which was always closed, was open, and the exterior door to the room hit it with a thwack that echoed like prison doors slamming shut.

"Alice?" I asked cautiously.

No response.

"Alice?" Lisa called at my back, suddenly concerned as she snapped her cell phone closed.

Still nothing.

We stepped around the corner, careful not to disturb the scene - just in case, and because we'd learned not to in the toe tags and body bags workshop we'd just taken - and peered into the room. Then we both caught our breath.


The room was empty. Alice's pillow was dented, as if she'd recently been lying there. Her laptop sat on the sheets, closed, which seemed odd since she'd had it with her every moment of the trip. Her salmon-colored shirt was tossed to the side as if she'd ripped it off her body in a moment of haste. Her purse, shoes, jacket, workshop bag were all in their neat and orderly places while our clothes were strewn around the room like normal.

Lisa looked at me. I looked at her. And we both knew whatever had happened to our snarky friend could not be good.

A shiver ran down my spine, chilling the sweat between my cheeks. "Check the bathroom."

Lisa ran around the corner. Her feet skidded to a halt on the hard tiles, the sound echoing through the eerily quiet hotel room.

"The toilet seat is up!"

"Up?" I exclaimed, running to join her. Sure enough, the seat was up, as if - gasp! - a man had taken a leak in our room.

"Housekeeping?" Lisa asked, shooting me a worried look.

"At nine o'clock at night?" I replied. "Not likely."

Lisa glanced around, then pointed at the wall. "Look. The towels are missing."

"Towels missing," I said, trying to put it all together. "Toilet seat up. Alice gone. Her laptop here. Something doesn't add up." I glanced at Lisa. "We need to check the room again."

Now growing exceedingly worried, we made our way back into the bedroom and took a closer look at the scene. I barely noticed my toes were bloody, or that my skirt was now stuck to the frozen sweat between my cheeks. Clues we'd missed before began to pop into our line of sight.

"Did you buy this five dollar bottle of Evian?" Lisa asked.

"Are you nuts? I wouldn't pay five dollars for water."

"Neither would I," Lisa said.

"Neither would Alice," I deduced.

Lisa's eyes grew even wider. I wanted to smack her and tell her to quit doing that tricky eye thing, but I knew that wouldn't help Alice. Stifling the urge, I glanced around the room one more time and focused on the problem at hand.

And that's when I saw it.

"What is that?" I asked.

Lisa took a cautious step forward. The color drained from her face.

"It's a phone book. And . . . and . . ." Her mouth fell open.

"What?" I exclaimed.

"It's open to this!"

















(Put your crime scene hats on and help us figure out what happened to our roommate. While we enjoy having the beds to ourselves, we're starting to worry - and frankly, we don't want to be stuck with the hotel bill. So put your theories in the comments and we'll let you know if you were right. If, that is, we find her.)

Paraskevidekatriaphobia

Are you a paraskevidekatriaphobic? (Do you fear Friday the 13th?) Or, perhaps like me, you just fear the movie by that name and don't like to watch horror movies in general.

For this blog, I couldn't resist searching the Internet for examples of superstitions, in particular, why Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day. Some people claim that Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden on a Friday, Noah's flood started on a Friday, and Christ was crucified on a Friday. Others say there isn't much reference to Friday the 13th being unlucky until about a century ago, leading them to claim this superstition is largely the result of hype by media.

Are writers more superstitious than others? I didn't find an answer to that. However, I did find some superstitions of writers, such as not giving a manuscript a title until it's complete for fear of not finishing it, and always using the same type of pen or the same color of paper to write a first draft.

Do you have a superstition about how you write? Perhaps you have to walk around your chair three times counterclockwise before sitting down to write? Or do you need thirteen chocolate kisses near your keyboard to write a love scene?

Whether you have superstitions or not about HOW you write, I have to agree that superstitions can make great story elements. One writer listed these as possible story foundations: a belief in specific events (Halloween), apparitions (vampires, werewolves and ghosts), charms and incantations (throwing salt over your shoulder, avoiding pavement cracks) and predicting the future (horoscopes, palm reading). Someone also suggested that superstitions about animals could make an interesting story. For instance, if a black cat walks toward you it brings luck; walking away means the luck goes too.

Have you used a superstition in one of your stories? Or have you made up a superstition for one of your characters? Here's a fun one for romances: If you want to see what your future husband looks like, sit down in front of a mirror and eat an apple before brushing your hair. An image of a man will appear behind your shoulder!

For grammar whizzes, I found these listed as the top 10 English grammar myths or superstitions:
1. Never split infinitives
2. Never use contractions in essay writing
3. Never begin a sentence with ‘and’, ‘but’ or ‘because’ (conjunctions)
4. Never begin the essay title with prepositions
5. Never use first-person pronouns in academic writing
6. Never refer to the readers as ‘you’
7. Never use ‘between’ with more than two objects
8. Never use ‘since’ as because
9. Never use direct question
10. Two-syllable adjectives must use the suffix –er or suffix –est form to form comparative or superlative
For those who wish grammar was never invented, I also found a Web site that takes issue with each of the items on the above list.

Lastly, for those who want to protect from evil spirits or ward off bad luck, a Washington Post columnist offered these ancient rituals:
--Layer on the eyeliner and smoky eye shadow. Ancient Egyptians believed that makeup prevented the evil one from entering your eyes.
--Show the 'horned hand.' It looks like a secret greeting among Metallica-heads, but Italians do the mano cornuta for protection. To form the gesture, use your thumb to hold down your middle and ring fingers, then extend your pointer and pinkie like horns. Though this might ward off evil spirits, it could also attract heavy-metal rockers or University of Texas fans.
--Grab a carrot, a replica of the Washington Monument or any other phallic object. According to Romans, such objects seduce the evil spirit away from you. However, your carrot might then be possessed.

Another columnist suggested that we shouldn't label Friday the 13th "the unluckiest day of all," unless you break a mirror, walk under a ladder, spill the salt, or spy a black cat crossing your path. Then you might consider spending the day in the safety of your home with doors locked, shutters closed and fingers crossed.

However, simply because I like to go against "popular" opinion, I consider Friday the 13th a lucky day, and will expect traffic lights to all be green, people to adopt a record number of cats, and miracles to happen. (Guess that could be considered a reverse superstition.) Happy writing on this luckiest of days!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

BONUS BLOG!!!!! Update from Nationals!!

Hey ladies!! We've been running all day long, but I'm back in the room for a quick break before I rush out the door in my red and white polka dot cocktail dress for The Golden Network Reception (which I'm dragging Lisa to, and which scared Alice so she ditched us), and thought I'd drop you all a quick update.

Things are great. We're all (of course) totally exhausted. We've been rushing from workshop to workshop, networking, meeting with friends and having a good ol' Texas time. Lisa Kleypas spoke at lunch this afternoon - she's fabulous. Totally inspiring. And we all got copies of her newest contemporary. (Paty, it has cowboys on the front!) We have tons of books to bring back for the workshop, and Lisa keeps finding these awesome goodies in the goodie room (I need to hang with her more often). Alice is writing up a storm (I think we've reinspired her) and I'm sick (go figure), but rallying because, well, after all, it is Nationals.

Terry McLaughlin is a hoot - I just love her, and I'm totally amazed at what she does - writing, pres. of the Golden Network, yadda yadda. Had a great chat with her. Sherrilyn Kenyon knows how to wear a hat (oh, boy, what a hat), and (Bethany) there are pregnant girls all around. (Last fall must have been a bumper crop year because they're popping out all over).

Tomorrow we have more workshops, more schmoozing, and I'm going to the Golden Heart/Rita Reception. Alice keeps us all up late laughing and chatting, and Lisa's quietly absorbing it all in her sweet way. I'm just as snarky as ever (go figure). I also have incriminating photos, but I'm on Lisa's computer right now so I can't download and share (but I will next week!!!).

We miss you all and wish you were here. We'll try to update again real soon!

Online Critiquing Groups: Are They Worth It?

So, I joined this small online critiquing group consisting of 20 women a few weeks ago. I submitted some chapters of my second ms, since I needed some advice and help, as I have queried Harlequin.

All of the responses were very helpful and have helped me learn where my problem spots lie.

However, there are rules (Enter scary music here--Dum, dum, dum) And apparently I've broken them and am now Persona Not Grata within the group.

Here it is: if a person (they're all women) critiques your chapter, you crit one in return and send a "thank you" to the person. Not unreasonable.

Now, granted, I've critted something like 4 chapters, and thanked a few, but not nearly as many as I should have.

I'd had some stuff going on in my life, ie, perfecting my ms, which took up most of my attention for the last two weeks.

I hadn't logged on much until I got an email from the moderator who very nicely reiterated the rules. No prob, I say, sorry, I say, I didn't mean to be greedy, I say (which wasn't my intention).

The problem occurred when I recieved a particularly nasty email from one of the other women on the group. It was long, it was harsh, and it made me cry (but I do that easily, so no biggie.)

I sent out an apology to the group, stating it had never been my intention to take, take, take and not give in return. I informed them I would be working much harder to perform said crits and working on my internet social skills (please keep in mind--as those of you from the retreat know--I have little social skills to begin with).

This post was sent out Monday or Tuesday. Now, keep in mind that 50 percent of the posts are chatty and unrelated to crits (well, maybe like 25%, says the Queen of Exaggeration). However, I recieved only ONE response, and this was from the mediator with whom I'd already spoken with.

This is a women's fiction group, not necessarily one for strictly romance. And I write sexy romance.

I've critted a few and thanked everyone personally, but still: NOTHING.

Is it me or is this just a teensy bit rude? I accepted full culpability for my actions, made no excuses and apologized publically. But they are all ignoring me, except for a select few.

So, are they worth it? Granted, this is my first experience with one. But, have I made a poor decision. I've learned a lot from them and would like to continue, but if they keep treating me like I have cooties, I'm gonna tell 'em to stick it. I don't know, maybe I'm being too sensitive (again, NOT an uncommon occurrance.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Worthy Adversary Checklist

I'm reading a nifty little book on craft called The Writer's Little Helper. It's sort of like hamburger helper, only different. Instead of hamburger, the user just adds her own voice.

The book is by James V. Smith Jr. I hope Jr. doesn't mind if I share some of his savvy advice here. I'm sure he won't. We're all writers, and he wants to help writers, or he wouldn't have written such a book, right?

Right.

Several of us are in the midst of the revision process. And if we aren't at the moment, we probably will be soon. For isn't it true, writing is one part writing, 17 parts revision? It seems that way to me.

So, you're revising along -- you've gotten rid of most of those pesky adjectives, the unprofessional passive voice, and the unnecessary words like very, little, much and even, correct? You've made sure your protagonists are flawed, yet interesting, capable of fear, but not big old whining wienies, and your characters are able to connect with readers in issues of humanity, correct?

Alrighty. Good, good.

So, now let's talk about the antagonist(s) -- those bad, bad guys who tempt us to create them all encompassingly (is that a word? If so, it's a bad one, but I'll leave it as a poor example of wordsmanship) evil, right?

Right.

But wait. Back up the train. Hold your horses. Stick a feather in your hat and call it hamburger helper, there's more to it. More to it, you ask? Yessiree, for that's exactly what I asked myself last night, before reading James V. Smith Jr's. checklist, which brings us to the meat of this blog. (Sorry, Karen, for you, this is the garden burger of the blog. Ha!)

THE HERORIC CHARACTER'S WORTHY ADVERSAY:
IS THAT ADVERSARY ...

* Distinctive in voice or attitude?
* Continually in competition with the heroic character?
* Likable or sympathetic to some extent?
* Interesting in career, crimes, or skill?
* Wicked but not entirely demonic?
* Flawed or vulnerable, either physically, mentally, or emotionally?
* Capable or humor or irony?
* Powerful enough to crush the heroic character?
* Physically fascinating, even if repulsive?
* Defeated at the end of the story?

When I read this cheklist last night, I had a light bulb moment. I realized my bad guys are too bad. I don't make them sympathetic or likable. My antagonists tend to be complete, evil, irrational jerks. It's more fun to write them that way, but perhaps, not as fun to read.

So, how do your bad guys measure up to the above list? Do they make the grade?

As for me? I'm back to another round of frickin' frackin', brickin' brackin'(insert real cusswords here) revisions. I'll be at this for days yet. Looks like I better stock up on quick-to-fix dinner items so I don't waste a lot of time in the kitchen. Mmmmm...hamburger helper might do the trick...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

To-Do Tuesday: Nationals or Bust

Welcome to this week's To-Do Tuesday! My apologies for the late post. My passenger has been most uncooperative the past two days. I'm thinking s/he is on heat strike. I hope that the rest of you are keeping cool and productive!

But even if you're not, never fear, I've got a refreshing slate of news and information that's guaranteed to take your mind off the weather and get you motivated to get back to sweating over the keys! Thanks to Eli, I've got a particularly inspiring question of the day, so be sure to scroll down for that!
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Good luck at Nationals! Full Report at Next Week's Meeting!

Chapter members Alice Sharpe, Elisabeth Naughton, and Lisa Pulliam are flying out today for their slumber party . . . otherwise known as NATIONALS! I believe chapter member Terry McLaughlin and a few others will also be there. And of course, chapter member Lisa Jackson is one of the key note speakers! As most of you know by now, Eli is a Golden Heart finalist, and Terry is up for a RITA, so send them all the good luck, good vibes, and good prayers you can muster on Saturday! I know I'll be hoping for TWO good headlines next week!

At our meeting next week (Tuesday, 7:00 p.m. at Salem Public Library), Alice, Eli and Lisa will be sharing their conference experiences. And if their tales are anywhere near as entertaining as last year's, you won't want to miss this!

And, if like me, you're feeling down about not going, it's not too early to make plans for San Francisco! Our chapter had a huge contingent at Reno, let's try to do it again!
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Jenni Gilliam Finishes Revisions

Chapter member Jenni Gilliam met her goal of turning her category MS into a ST, and finished an extensive round of revisions last week! She turned out a 94,000 word MS that she's really proud of, and now she's on to her next goal: revision of a second MS! Way to go Jenni! Your dedication to editing this summer inspires the rest of us to polish and perfect!
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Chapter Members Enjoy Productive Week

From rumblings around the loop and the web, it seems that Eli, Karen, Paty, Jenni, and Bethany are all having a productive July. Paty and Jenni have been on fire getting things done, the end of Eli's WIP is in sight, Karen had a productive weekend, and Bethany reached 85,000 words in her WIP over the weekend. Did you have a productive week? We celebrate you too! Be sure to share your good news with the rest of us! And remember to email me when you meet a personal goal!
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Synopsis Contest

Tired of those contests that require a synopsis but note that it won't be judged? After all, the query letter and synopsis are often all an editor/agent sees of our masterpieces! The Maine Chapter has a contest that reflects the importance of the synopsis! The Synopsis is Not a Four Letter Word Contest allows you to enter your synopsis (up to 12 pages!) for the low entry fee of $20! The September 1st deadline allows you plenty of time to polish your synopsis! For more information, click here.
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Synopsis Online Workshop

Does your synopsis need more work before you send it out to the Maine Contest (or to Editors and Agents)? With perfect timing, "Honey I Shrunk My Book: How to Write the Short Synopsis" will be offered in August. Offered by Southern Tier Authors of Romance (STAR) and taught by Ginger Hanson, this class lasts four weeks and is only $15 for RWA members. For more info, click here.
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Question of the Day: Do You Want It?

In the midst of packing for Nationals, Eli forwarded me this essay by author Stephanie Tyler. Tyler asks, "Do you Want It?" Her passionate answer to this question should be required reading for all of us, regardless of where we are on the journey. I haven't been able to get this piece out of my head since reading it last night, and it even haunted my dreams. Now, go read it, then return. We'll wait.

Read it? Good. Do you want it? I thought I knew the answer to this question. In fact, in the Winter, I would have been nodding in agreement with Tyler's essay instead of hanging my head in shame. Clearly, in the last several months, I've simply wanted other things MORE than writing. If someone asked, I'd still say, "Of course I want it!" But, my actions have shown otherwise. For me, it all comes down to self-talk, and my self-talk for the last few months has been a laundry list of excuses and doubts that combined to shove writing out of my life. Of course, it's okay to want some things more than writing success, or to simply define writing success differently. What does wanting it mean to you? Have you always wanted it? Have your priorities shifted over time? Do your actions currently line up with your desire?

And finally, did you consider signing up for Alison Kent's Challenge? Who's brave enough to tackle the 70 days of sweat? I have a phobia about starting new WIPs while a WIP remains to be finished, so I'm not committing to 70,000 words, but I am committing to the 4-6 pages a day (roughly 1500 words) until my current WIP is done. Then I commit to editing 8-12 pages a day. Are you ready to re-commit to wanting it? Share your personal goals here!

Remember to keep sending me your news! And with Eli gone this week, please let me know if you experience blogging difficulties!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Everything I Know I learned from Writing Novels

Writing novels has taught me a lot about how to write: short stories, articles, letters, advertising copy, press releases, and just about anything else that involves the written word. The most important lesson I learned was the writing process and how different it can be for everyone.

I like to experiment. Try new things. Yes, this has gotten me into trouble in the past, but now that I'm a grown-up, it's all good. One thing about writing books is that there's no lack of advice. Published authors are happy to share their unique perspective and sage guidance, as will a precious few agents and editors, and writing teachers, but the hopeful unpublished writers seem to know more than anyone. Just an F.Y.I., they're sometimes better writers than the published ones.

Right now I'm working on my favorite book, a story that captures my heart and soul on every level. I think one of the reasons it's taking me so long to finish this story (I've worked on three other books and a short story since I started this one) could be because I want it to be perfect. Well, news flash, Karen: It ain't gonna be perfect! I've accepted that. And I've learned this lesson from working on those three books I just mentioned. And from the various processes I've experimented with along the way.

I started out as a plotter. Ignorant me, that's how I thought it had to be done. How can you reach any destination without a map to show you the way? So sue me, I was wrong. I've discovered that I'm an organic writer whose best work evolves from unplanned imagination. I frequently borrow from the plotter's tool box when I need to, though, especially when creating characters (my absolute most favorite part of writing a new story). I'm not a purist. I enjoy variety in my writing process.

I've learned that I can't listen to music while I write. Music is too distracting, even if it's just instrumentals. I prefer absolute quiet, however I can edit under any noise conditions, including a noisy grandson with the television's volume turned up, and a loud version of an NFL game playing in the background. I am Warrior Writer! Hear me roar!

I've always written best in the morning, and that hasn't changed. I'm a morning person. I can write in the afternoon every once in a while, but that's only when I'm not stressed over a design deadline or getting that final proof finished for a client who asked for last minute-changes. Evenings? Forget about it. When the sun goes down, so do I.

I've discovered that location is everything. If I write in my office, I feel like I'm working. If I write in bed, or on the couch, or in my fabulous sky chair (it's like a hammock for one) on my front patio, then I feel like I'm writing in heaven. The choice is a no-brainer. I try to avoid my office to write because it's where I make my income as a graphic designer. Therefore, I focus my writer's creative energy in the spaces that make me happy. Learning this was a fabulous epiphany. I LOVE, love, love my laptop. It's a Mac, of course, because nothing can compare to these dream machines. Right, Becky?

So how did you discover the best writing process that works for you? Please share! I'll probably try it. I try everything. 8^)

Friday, July 06, 2007

How Reading Smut Improved My Mind

Not really. I just wanted to get your attention, and now that I have, here's my actual blog post...

Recently I came across a blog that posted the 'blogsters' opinion on 10 ways to improve your mind by reading the classics. This was a great blog post and I encourage you to check it out.

However, I'm going to list the same 10 reasons, but liken them to Romance Novel reading and how it, too, can improve your mind, or at least how it's improved mine...

1. Bigger Vocabulary

Since I began reading romance novels, joined RWA, started hanging with writers etc., my vocabulary has expanded because I'm forced to look up the words in the romance novels that I have never heard before, and because Alice uses some doozies on the blog. LOL But in all seriousness, I have to use the dictionary and thesaurus everyday now for one reason or another and it's all due to the fact that I read romance novels. I mean, when 'manhood' is just boring, why not use the thesaurus to find a more creative way to say it. :)

2. Improved Writing Ability

Reading romance novels has helped me in my own writing because I see how the really good authors 'show' the story, how they draw the reader into the action and romance by skilled writing instead of 'tell' the story and leave the reader on the edge of everything, wanting passionately to be let in.

3. Improved Speaking Ability

When you read either historical or contemporary romance, it fills your mind with ideas and ways of thinking that perhaps you've not ever had presented to you. I never liked history while I was in school, but the first time I picked up a romance novel by Julia Quinn and started reading about the Regency era, I was completely enthralled and have been ever since. This has helped me when discussing certain topics about the Regency era and other times in history that I never learned of in school; also, reading contemporary romance has opened my eyes to many different ways people live their lives and think. Having read this stuff, even though some may consider it trash or whatever, well, all I can say is it has helped me be able to participate in conversations that I otherwise would have been clueless about. Weird as it may seem, it's true.

4. Fresh Ideas

While reading the classics may give you a fresh idea about how to put a new twist on a classic story, reading today's romance novels gives a person a fresh perspective on what's hot or current, not only in the writing industry, but what's happening in pop culture. Take that novel "The Devil Wears Prada" for instance. I had NO idea that people actually lived their lives in such a world. I'm sheltered. I have no television reception and though I do watch movies, it never occurred to me that people are so ridiculously vain and stupid. It was a great way to learn about big city life and gave me some ideas for secondary characters and how to make them really shallow and selfish. I could have probably picked up a few ideas from relatives too, but I'm not going there right now. (snigger)

5. Historical Perspective

Like I mentioned above, I had no idea about Regency England before Julia Quinn's Bridgerton Series books came into my life. Then of course I started devouring all sorts of historical romance. Shannon Drake's Scottish Historical romance novels are some of my most treasured reading experiences and I've looked up historical events and facts because they sparked that interest in me. They opened my mind to ask questions that I just had to have the answers to.

6. Educational Entertainment

What could be more educational than reading? I mean, DUH! LOL

7. Sophistication

I'm not sure how to fit this one in, but I'm sure there's a perfectly good way. Hmm... sophistication from reading romance novels. Well, maybe having read a variety of romance novels has given me a sophistication for the understanding of how the human woman and man interact and learn to love and forgive, etc. Yeah, that's the ticket. Romance novels have taught me about relationships with both men and women and with friends and that's given me more worldly experience and knowledge, and that, my friends, is what sophistication is. :) Well, part of it anyway. lol

8. More Efficient Reading

I'm going to take this to mean that the more reading of romance novels, or any reading actually, can improve your reading ability and as you read (practice) you'll become faster and learn to pick up on things and have a deeper understanding about many aspects of life.

9. Develop a Distinct Voice

Reading romance helps one to develop their own distinct voice because no matter how hard they try to emulate another writer, their own voice is going to come through, and though they may suck at first, until they find their own voice, eventually, with lots of practice, it will come. Right? Please, let this be true!

10. Learn Timeless Ideas

I think that classic and modern romance give us plenty of examples of timeless ideas. Like I said above, putting a new twist on a timeless idea makes for great reading. I mean, how many times have Romeo and Juliet, Beauty and the Beast, The Taming of the Shrew been done and redone? A lot. That's how many. And putting a new twist on those timeless ideas helps us to understand them better and continue to love them.

So there you have it. My opinions and my blog post for Friday.

Are there things you disagree with or things you want to add to these 10 reasons for reading romance?

I love romance novels. I love the romance writer community. I've found some of the best friends of my life in you writers of romantic fiction.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Haying and Writing


While sitting on a tractor driving back and forth raking the windrows, my mind wandered to writing and how putting up hay is a lot like writing a book. (Metaphor for you, Alice)

When growing and putting up hay you first watch the field sprout in the spring, add water, and watch it flourish under the spring and summer sun. With a story you start with an idea and feed it with “what ifs” and characters and arcs.

Then you cut the hay in neat rows. Your story starts setting up in your head or on a graph or chart or note cards. Next you rake the hay, flipping it to make sure it all gets dry before you bale. With your story you toss around ideas, characters, and plots making the story grow and take shape.

After raking, you bale the hay in neat little bundles. In writing, you put your thoughts and ideas down on the paper sometimes stringing them out in a line and some times dumping one haphazardly to the side wondering if it may not be right or just taking a wrong turn in your story and dropping ideas into the mix that might not make it into the story at all. Those are the bales that land wrong and won’t go up the bale wagon without you getting off and straightening the bale so it will load properly. Picking up the bales and stacking them in neat stacks are your scenes coming together and making each chapter. As those stacks of bales and chapters are put together in a long row, the hay stack and book come together in a nice neat bundle.

Oops, one stack fell. The bales didn’t mesh right, which means hand stacking. What about your book/story? If it falls apart somewhere you need to go back in and reorganize and reestablish where you really wanted to go with the story.

And then there are the edits- the clean up. Once all the bales are out of the field, you go through with the rake and sweep the loose hay together, then hop on the baler and bale up the last little bits to make the field spiffy and add to your hay stack.

Not only did raking hay the other night help me realize I had some loose ends to tie up in Outlaw in Petticoats and gave me a scene to enhance my ending- but it showed me that everything in life has a method and structure to it and everything I see- equates to writing in some way or another for me.

What in your life reminds you of the writing process?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Watching Fireworks!



No post today! Happy Independence day! For those of you not overwhelmed with BBQ's and sparklers, here's a fun little exercise:

Do your characters have fireworks? Of course they do! Show us the fireworks with as few words as possible--maximum of two lines! Have fun & enjoy your Fourth!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

To-Do Tuesday: Keeping Cool

Welcome to this week's blazing hot edition of To-Do Tuesday. Unfortunately, I'm not writing this from a pool (someone needs to invent a waterproof laptop). I hope our readers manage to find themselves a cool little nook to pound out the pages during this hot week! And, tomorrow's the Fourth. There won't be a blog entry, but I will put up a "watching fireworks sign" with a fun short question of the day for anyone looking for an escape from fireworks and watermelon. Today, however, I'm more stuffed with news and oppotunties than a Fourth of July family BBQ.

As always, keep sending me your news, and be sure to check out today's question of the day!
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Lori Barber Has Story Published

Chapter member Lori Barber has great news! Her story, "Dumplings for Dinner," was published in Country Extra. Lori has a fun tale of how she discovered her success:
I sent a story to Country Extra back in March 2004. I never heard
back. Wrote if off as another rejection and completely forgot about
it. We subscribe to their magazines and received our July 2007 copy
last week. I look through a few pages each day. Wednesday I placed my
bookmark in pages 16-17. In the mail that afternoon I received a big
folder from Country magazine. Inside, I found another July 2007 issue,
a nice letter, and a fat check. They bought my story! It sits on page
18.

Way to go Lori! Your tale shows that you are indeed a natural storyteller, and we hope this is a sign of more sales to come!
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Paty Jager Finishes Outlaw in Petticoats

Paty Jager announced on her blog last week that she's finished the first draft of Outlaw in Petticoats, her sequel to Marshall in Petticoats. This is great news for the fans of MIP, who can't wait to read more! Paty had a very productive June, finishing her final edits of Perfectly Good Nanny, and hosting a successful reading in Sisters, Oregon. Way to go Paty! Your productivity and organization is an inspiration!
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Karen Duvall Gets Great Review


Karen Duvall's Desert Guardian continues to rack up great reviews! Long and Short Reviews gave Karen an enthusiastic review, saying, "Duvall exhibits huge insight in this work." Click the link for the full text of the review. If you haven't checked out this review site, it's very well organized, and the blog format makes it easy to add new books to your TBR pile. Way to go Karen!
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July Contests At Author Island

Author Island is celebrating it's first birthday, and they've made it easy for you to win one of several great prize packages. Just enter as many of the author-sponsored July contests on the site as you want! Each entry also gives you a chance at the July prizes. In addition to the great prizes donated by bestselling authors, the two lucky readers will win a book a week for a year! If you're a published author, you should think about signing up for Author Island's free monthly promo and market newsletter, full of opportunities for self-promotion!
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Author Scene Looking for Articles!

Authorscene.com an online fiction reader's magazine is looking for new articles about genre fiction. Each issue focuses on different genre, and one of the upcoming issues focuses on paranormal fiction. They're also seeking articles reporting on summer conferences! For more information, click here.

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July 7 Deadline for Ticket to Write Contest

Red River Romance Writer's annual Ticket to Write Contest has a July 7 deadline. But, more importantly, it has an outstanding slate of final round judges, experienced first round reviewers offering critique, and a low entry fee! Click here for more information!
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July Exercise & Contest

If you can't get enough of our fun writing exercises, why not try an exercise that's also a contest? The Heartland Writer's Group has a fun, 500 word exercise. This is a great chance to work on adding sexual tension between characters, read other entries, and have fun outside of your WIP! Click here for all the details.
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Question of the Day: Life Without a HEA?

What if there was no happily-ever-after ending in store for your characters? I've just finished two amazing books, The Alchemist's Daughter and What Comes After Crazy. Both books have strong romantic elements, yet each has an ambiguous ending. Will the hero and heroine actually make it? The unanswered questions sent me racing for Amazon to discover a sequel, but both appear to be stand alone books. In fact, they are so well written that the ambiguous ending doesn't take away from story, but instead leaves the reader hungry for more of the same ride. It's a bit like the last firework of the show--there has to be more right?

What do you think about ambiguous endings? Does a romance always need a clear HEA? Love them? Hate them? Even if you hate them, it is interesting to think about what the alternative to a HEA would be for your characters? What would be the second-best thing? What place do they need to come to regardless of the outcome of the romance? Thinking about these questions can actually increase the punch of a HEA ending. So, share your thoughts with us!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Unexpected Twists

This is going to be short because I have to take my daughter in to have two teeth pulled this morning, then zip up to Portland with the Gremlins for an appt. So I apologize in advance. :)

Ever had a book take an unexpected twist on you? It happened to me this weekend. I'd plotted out my book, knew where it was going and how it would end, then wrote a scene that ended up going in a completely different direction. (I blogged about this at my personal blog but figured I'd do it here and see if it's ever happened to any of you.) Now, granted, I'm not a big plotter. I mean, I have scene lists, plot points I know I need to hit, but generally the book goes where it needs to go and I don't over plot any one point. This scene, however, took the book in a totally different direction. And after I was done, I sat back and thought, Hmm...how on earth did that happen? Then I moved away from the computer, let it sink in, and realized - like a smack to my forehead - that this was exactly where the book should have gone.

I don't overanzlyze things to death, and I sort of think of myself as an organic writer. The biggest problems I've had with books is trying to force a story to go in a direction it doesn't want to go. And maybe that's why this book is taking so dang long to finish. Regardless, now that this new path has been shown to me by the plotting fairies, I think I may actually see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can finally see the black moment and the resolution, and I know what my hero has to give up in order for the story to get there (and it's definitely something he NEVER would have given up when the book started).

So I'd love to hear if this has ever happened to anyone else. Especially if you consider yourself a big plotter.