Sunday, September 30, 2007

How to Use Sexual Tension to Cause Conflict

This is from information I gathered at Mary Buckham’s class.

This is the list of the 12 stage of intimacy. I was surprised and pleased to realize I instinctively used these in my books, without knowing the reasoning behind them.

The 12 Stages of Intimacy – by Desmond Morris

1) Eye to Body

2) Eye to Eye

3) Voice to Voice

4) Hand to Hand

5) Arm to Shoulder

6) Arm to Waist

7) Mouth to Mouth

8) Hand to Head

9) Hand to Body

10) Mouth to Breast

11) Hand to Genital

12) Genital to Genital

These are the stages you use when bringing your hero and heroine together through the story. You don’t have to do it in this order, but this is the order in which the woman would slowly become attracted and trust the man.

This information is based on an anthropological study. And the mating or courting ritual is a great way to cause tension and conflict in a romance.

Men and women are genetically attracted to one another. That attraction and the risks involved in consummating that attraction are what create strong sexual tension.

The body is telling you one thing- “Go for it” while the head is telling you – “No.”

Sex creates conflict – To have sex means physical risk, to deny sex means emotional risk – thus conflict.

Sex demands the relaxing of vigilance. For animals other than man it is a quick coupling because during that time they lose all track of time and place- thus making them vulnerable. So in the wild the act of mating can be a flirtation with death.

Women have through the ages looked for the most aggressive and strongest male. They want a mate who can protect them and their young. Long courtships give the women the chance to look over and judge potential mates in several ways- willingness to commit and ability to provide. Men just want to have sex.

Courtship allows a woman to commit once she’s reassured a male is willing to put off immediate returns [sex] if and only when he’s determined the prize [her and his offspring] is worth the wait.

If at any of the 12 stages a woman gives a man clues that his advances are not welcome, she is telling him she is withdrawing and, if he does not force the issue and force her to change her mind, the relationship is terminated.

Three fourths of the 12 stages of intimacy, from stage 1-9, can and usually are conducted in public, for no other reason than to increase the trust level of the female.

Courtship is the means by which the male of the species coaxes the female of the species into noticing him, responding to him and if all goes well reproducing with him. If he is male and she is female this pattern exists.

COURTSHIP

For man, courtship is very prolonged by animal standards.

The courtship phase is characterized by tentative, ambivalent behavior involving conflicts between fear, aggression, and sexual attraction.

The nervousness and hesitancy- the conflict - is slowly reduced if mutual sexual signals are strong enough.

A woman makes her evaluation of a man more slowly if she wants him for long term. And if another woman offers a differing opinion, she may change her mind. Mate choice for women is not just about fertility. She likes tall, dark, and handsome [because that is the traits of a man who can protect her] but he also has to prove by his actions that he will care and provide for her and offspring.

Love is not Easy

It’s not always neat and pretty.

Doesn’t always come along in the expected way

Or at the perfect time

In fact, just the opposite happens more times than not.

These are four points are what make a good book.

POINT 1 - Understand Conflict

Hard issues that are not easily solved until one or both of the main characters grow and change.

Where one or the other must compromise

One relinquishes something dear and important

That pits one’s deepest wants and needs against another’s deepest wants and needs in each and every scene.

POINT 2 – best books pinpoint the twelve stages

Every time one of these stages is met, instead of life getting better it gets worse.

Because the conflicts and stakes have been raised.

POINT 3 – Don’t skimp or skip the 12 stages

Linger, dwell, focus a reader not only on the physical action of each stage, but the emotional reaction.

Words, powerful words, are used to alert a reader to the fact that something monumental is happening, whether the characters want it to happen or not.

POINT 4 – There is not only a physical response.

Focus on the development of intimacy, trust, and emotional response.

If you show a reader a physical description of a touch, a look, a kiss then show the impact of the action.

Sexual tension combines awareness with desire, denial, and restraint.

My next blog will go into detail about the 12 stages of intimacy.

Do you instinctively use the stages to bring your characters together and to spark the conflict that makes sexual tension and keeps the reader tuning the pages? I know sitting through this class, I realized I do this instinctively without knowing why I did it. But did learn I need to dig deeper for point 3 and 4.

Friday, September 28, 2007

How Un-heroic Can One Be?

My very dear friend and chapter mate, Lisa, loaned me a book the other day which I just finished reading. It's an older Susan Elizabeth Phillips book - Nobody's Baby But Mine. (Hey, Karen, I think I'd classify this as a secret baby book!). I started reading it, laughed at how stupid the premise was, but like a train wreck waiting to happen, I couldn't look away if my life depended on it.

The premise is this: 34 yr old geeky physics professor with a 180 IQ is at a crossroads in her life. Her one and only lover dropped her for a 24 yr old assistant. She knows she's no big prize, that she's stuffy and married to her career, but her biological clock is ticking. She wants a baby, but not just any baby. She wants a normal IQ baby who won't be a social outcast. None of her male friends are father options because they're all brainiacs as well. Enter a flighty next door groupie neighbor who wants to borrow coffee one day and comes across the blubbering professor at one of her low points. Groupie-girl needs to find someone "classy" for her NFL football player friends to give the star quarterback as a birthday present. If she can come through with a classy "girl" they've agreed to hook her up with the backup QB who she wants to bang. Groupie-girl is desperate, takes one look and figures nerdy professor who wants a baby might just do the trick. Somehow she convinces nerdy professor to go along with this crazy scheme and seduce the big dumb NFL QB. Nerdy professor goes for it, figuring he's just a big dumb jock and she'll get what she wants, he'll get laid, no harm, no foul. He won't ever know she ended up pg.

As I was reading - and yes, it was like a train wreck - I was laughing so hard at how unheroic both of the main characters in this book are. The nerdy professor is a liar and a cheat and she goes and seduces this guy with the sole intention of getting pregnant and not telling him. But he's no prize either - the big dumb NFL QB goes along with it even though he can tell there's something odd about this girl right from the start. (He's not so stupid after all, though he is a guy and as such does stupid guy stuff, like falling for this whole thing.) They end up having very unromantic, un-hot sex, she runs off and that's that. Whatever. Except then they collide again because the first time she didn't actually get pg, so she goes back for seconds. And our hero falls for it again! Totally both unheroic characters right from the get-go, and even still I found myself reading and couldn't stop. These two characters were both so completely screwed up, I couldn't wait to figure out how they messed things up even more.

I LOVE unheroic characters. I think they have the best character growth over the course of a story. I had one contest judge tell me my thief hero was unheroic at the beginning and therefore unlikeable. After reading her comments I scratched my jaw and thought, "Huh. That was the point. He IS unheroic in the beginning of the book. He's SUPPOSED to be a louse then." What's the point of writing the perfect hero at the beginning? He's got nowhere to go at that point. When I look at the keeper books on my shelves, more often than not they involve one (or sometimes two) characters who do something so totally UN-heroic, you think there's no way they can redeem themselves. The fun in reading becomes watching them transform into the most heroic character you've ever read.

What about you? How do you feel about unheroic heroes & heroines? Love 'em? Hate 'em? Kinda in the middle? And do you ever write unheroic characters?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

HOW DO YOU LEARN BEST? LET ME COUNT THE WAYS ...

This is a pretty simple concept: every other Thursday is my day to blog. It's written on my calendar, so you'd think it would connect before mid-afternoon when I can't get to my computer. Heavy sigh. Well, I'm typing as fast as I can to actually get this posted on Thursday.

My topic today is, How do you learn?

I'm doing a presentation for a sister RWA chapter in Bellevue, Washington on October 9. I'm still working on the presentation and probably will be tweaking it up to the day I leave.

I'm asking you to help me with the presentation by giving me your feedback on what you like to see/hear/experience at chapter meetings.

-- How do you learn best? By hearing something? By seeing something written down? By doing examples? Or a combination of these?

-- Do you like to do writing exercises? Listen to craft or how-to presentations? Or would you prefer an inspirational speech? (I've already decided my topic, so I hope you answer this one with what I'm doing!)

-- Do cookies or chocolate help you concentrate on the presentation? Or are they just a bonus? (You don't really have to answer this one, but maybe I should try out one of Lori's cookie recipes!)

How about those of you who have made presentations? What are your tricks to calm your nerves? Picturing your audience in their underwear? Just jump in and get it done? Take a deep breath and learn with your audience?

Other words of wisdom? Thank you!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

RRTWIE

This is going to be a short blog because I have a cold and don’t feel so good. To console myself during this time of ickiness and also, at other times, to amuse myself while I'm thinking great thoughts, I play a little game called TextTwist. It's a game that gives you mixed up letters and challenges you to find all the combinations of words of three or more letters that can be made by rearranging the letters.

Thus the word above unscrambles to -- you got it -- WRITER.

Your challenge is to make a word using any combination of the letters within WRITER (of three or more letters) and spin it into a little something about being a writer. Or about the craft of writing. By my bleary eyed count, there are at least 11 words and possibly many more. I will start it and because I am such a great person, I will use one of the words that may require a little … imagination. I hope you have fun playing along. It won't take more than a moment or two. And if anyone can make more than eleven words, please let me know.

Okay, I chose the word ERR. This word comes to mind easily this week as I mentally review the proposals my editor has yet to read (she has more writers than me working with her -- did you know? What a shock!) Anyway, I don't lay awake at night thinking positive things. Oh, that it should be so. I could smile in my drowsy state and mumble into my pillow, "Wow, I sure did a great job with that whole car sinking into the river scene. Man, I am just a wonderful writer. Damn."

Nope. I think of the bad stuff. And because of the only sentence I can think of that uses ERR in the present tense is "To err is human, to forgive divine," I am going to take the liberty of putting it in the past tense which actually works here because the proposal is gone and I am thinking backwards, so to say.

So, I lay there and think of the many issues, both complicated and dreadfully simple, where I ERRED. "Man, you dolt. Do you realize the bad guys walked right by the wreck and didn't even notice one of the cars had a Nevada plate?" Or, "Yikes, what's a man hiding out with a gunshot wound in his leg doing with a friggin horse?" Stuff like that. I err, therefore, I rewrite.

Your turn…

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

To Do Tuesday: Fill In

Happy Tuesday, all! No, you're right, I'm not Bethany. And yes, you guessed it, our resident Tuesday "to-doer" is in the hospital as I type, hopefully already holding her new bundle of joy. Bethany emailed me early yesterday afternoon to tell me she was in active labor and that if she didn't have the baby by 7 PM, she was going to the hospital where they were going to induce. When I have more news, I'll be sure to update you all.

_____________________________________________________________________

The question of the day is a two-fer:

1) Share your favorite "baby" romances. Feel free to debate the virtues of secret baby stories!

and

2) Take a gander. Boy, girl and time of birth? Remember, odds are good she didn't deliver before 7 PM last night, but anytime after is fair game. I'm thinking a prize is in order for the closest guess. I'll come up with something - maybe a bundle of baby romances!

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Idea Box

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a box where you could reach your hand in to retreive a wonderful idea for a book? One that called to you and inspired you so much that you just couldn't stop writing for days straight?

*pulls head from the clouds*

About a year or so ago I thought of a book title. Just a title, that's it. I but it in my notebook of things to ponder later, then I forgot about it. Well this book I've been "trying" to work on just ain't cuttin' it. So guess what pops in to my mind? That title. Then a bit about the opening situation, even the first few paragraphs. So I may go for it. Either it will turn into something, or maybe get back on the book I had INTENDED to work on.

So how do your ideas appear? A character? Plot? Title? Sentence? Climax? Backstory? Then what do you do with that tiny tidbit? What are your steps for plotting, or just diving into the story?

Friday, September 21, 2007

HOW TO WRITE GOOD

Hey, I'm late, but I'm here. That's something, I guess, after over a month of non-blogging while we worked on building a deck and painting our house. We got most of the house painting done before my DH broke his ankle, but that's a whole nother story.

Anyway, today's blog is something of a copout, but I hope not a let down. It's from a funny email forward from my aunt, and not anything original by me at all. But, I got a kick out of it, and I hope you will too.

So, without further ado, here is How To Write Good by Frank L. Vico. Thanks, Frank, whoever the heck you are, for helping me out today. My cowgirl hat's off to you, man.




My several years in the word game have learnt me several rules:

1... Avoid alliteration. Always.

2... Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

3... Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)

4... Employ the vernacular.

5... Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

6... Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.

7... It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

8... Contractions aren't necessary

9... Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.

10... One should never generalize.

11... Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said:
"I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."

12... Comparisons are as bad as cliches.

13... Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary;
I mean, like, you know, it's highly superfluous.

14... Profanity sucks.

15... Be more or less specific.

16... Understatement is always best.

17... Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

18... One-word sentences? Eliminate.

19... Analogies in writing are like, you know, feathers on a snake.

20... The passive voice is to be avoided.

21... Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.

22... Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

23... Who needs rhetorical questions?


Do you have any other writing "rules" to add? And how many of these rules do you love to break? I lost count after a dozen. Ha!

Hey? Who's Gone Missing?

Okay, I'm totally sick of seeing my blog up here. Can't someone, anyone, anyone at all, please put something interesting up here for us? :)

So, what do you all think about quotes on covers of books from authors? There's an article in this month's RWR about it.

The title is... "Those Fabulous Cover Quotes" and I'm just wondering if those quotes actually have any influence on your decision making when you go to buy a new book? I know that when I read blogs of my favorite authors and they have a "recommended reading" list, I am tempted by that list. But, as far as getting a quote for your book cover or reading a quote on a book cover of someone else's book, how does it influence you?

Hope I'm not stepping on toes here. But I'm really sick of seeing my other blog post. I mean, it's going on THREE days now!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sparks From Other Writers Will Light Your Fire, Baby!

fireworks_16xt


Oops, I forgot today is my day to blog. Sorry it's late. I didn't sleep last night because I didn't feel well and my littlest didn't feel good either, so we were up commiserating together. After I got four of the five off to school this morning, I went back to my bed and crashed until Noon. So this just proved to me that having a DH who works at home has its advantages. I didn't hear a peep out of them for three hours!

At last night's MWVRWA meeting, Lisa Pullium did a fabulous presentation on Promotion and Marketing. Go Lisa! Her handout is great and I'm excited for a time when I'll actually be ready to use the information she gave us and get my books out into the world for people to read.

It's fun to attend our chapter's monthly meeting and catch up on what everyone's doing, see their progression and renew your own writing spirit by feeding off of the enthusiasm of the group.

I've been thinking about this lately and it's become obvious to me that when I stay in touch with other writers who are passionate and excited everyday to get up and write, I end up catching some of the sparks they emit and it helps me to ignite my own fire so I can get and stay excited about my own writing. When I hide in my cave at home and don't participate in dialogue with other writers, I really fall behind and get out of the writing frame of mind.

So, what are some things we can do to keep in touch with one another in-between our monthly meeting to keep our momentum going in the "write" direction?

My list would include the following...

1. This Blog

2. Instant Messaging

3. Read the Loop emails

4. Email your chapter mates a few times a week for brainstorming help and pep talks

5. Go on-line and read other writer's blogs and websites

This is just a small list that popped into my head.

For me personally, I have to stay in touch with the writing world or I too easily let it slip away. Yeah, I'm easily side-tracked. :)

Do you use any of these methods to help keep yourself focused, or do have your own way of staying in tune with your writing without hanging out in the world of fellow writers? Share your ideas with us!

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

To-Do Tuesday: Getting the Word Out

Welcome to today's rather late edition of To-Do Tuesday. Yes, loyal readers, I'm still 900 months pregnant. Your good thoughts & wishes are much appreciated. But, I can't focus too much on that because I've got a lot of news & announcements to share. I've also got a timely question of the day, so read on!
_____________________________________________________________________
Reminder: Meeting Tonight! Conference Approaching!

Our September meeting is tonight at 7:00 p.m. at Salem Public Library. The lovely and always-entertaining Lisa Pulliam will be speaking on PR issues for authors. I've read several interesting articles and blog entries lately on the subject of self-promotion, and I'm eager to hear Lisa's thoughts! I hope you can join us!

Also, don't forget to bring/send your checks for our fall conference. Whodunnit: A writer's guide to working a crime scene on October 6, 2007 should be a fun, educational day!
_____________________________________________________________________
Show & Tell Workshop

October is brimming with great online class options, but one of the most promising is the Show & Tell workshop offered by the Outreach RWA chapter. This interactive workshop will feature feedback from the instructor and fellow classmates. The instructor is award winning author & teacher Shannon Donnelly. Click here for more information.

____________________________________________________________________
Cimarron Dreamin' Conference October 12-14

You know, I couldn't think of a reason one might visit Tulsa in October. Then I found out that Allison Brennan, Jenna Peterson, and Jodi Thomas are all offering workshops at the Cimarron Dreamin' conference. Suddenly, Tulsa looks rather appealing! This conference is a bargain, and by limiting attendance size, individual attention is assured! Click here for more information.

____________________________________________________________________
Perfect Pitch Contest

Are you tired of having to wait for the final round to get published author/agent/editor feedback? Do you want to focus more on your pitch/query? The Perfect Pitch contest offers a unique opportunity at a bargain price. Simply submit your pitch in any romance genre, and one of these authors will review it:

DEBBIE MACOMBER
JILL BARNETT
KRISTIN HANNAH
ALLISON BRENNAN
CINDY GERARD

October 1st Deadline for e-mail submission! Click here for more information!

____________________________________________________________________
First Kiss Contest

The First Kiss Contest is another unique contest with an October 1st Deadline. This contest focuses on the pivotal moment when your hero and heroine kiss for the first time. This is a great chance to get feedback on your sexual tension and emotional impact, and to showcase a part of your MS beyond the opening scenes. Click here for more information.

____________________________________________________________________
30 Books in 30 days

Cindi Myers is giving away 30 books in 30 days! Check out her website for more details about this fun promotion.
_____________________________________________________________________
New Opportunities with Steeple Hill

In this week's market update, Cindi also reports that Steeple Hill is expanding their lines of Inspirational romance.

Love Inspired Historicals is actively seeking new authors:
Love Inspired Historical, Steeple Hill's
newest line, launching in 2008. LI Historicals will publish two books
a month – one western and one non-western setting each month.
Inspirational readers seem to be more open to reading many different
time periods. In addition to western settings, the editors are
interested in all kinds of American settings – colonial, Civil War
and post Civil War, all the way up through World War II. They're also
interested in European settings and Biblical Fiction. Stories
featuring missionaries in exotic locations are welcome. Stories may
be dramatic and emotional, light-hearted, or suspenseful. But no
matter the setting or story, there can be no explicit sensuality,
graphic violence or language. Send submissions to Melissa Endlich or to
assistant editor Jessica Alvarez. They are both actively acquiring
for the line. 70,000 - 75,000 words.


Love Inspired Suspense is also seeking new authors:

Love Inspired Suspense expanded from two books a month to four books
a month in February 2007. They are "very eagerly" looking for
inventory. This is a great opportunity for new authors. Readers here
are looking for "strong, highly dramatic, high-octane reads." There
are very few things you can't do in these books – though violence is
mostly off-screen. They'd love to see more CSI-type and legal-
thriller type stories. The stories are 50 percent romance and 50
percent suspense. Both must be fully developed. 55,000 - 60,000 words


Full guidelines available here.

___________________________________________________________________
Question of the Day: Why Judge?

After looking at the line-up of judges for the Perfect Pitch contest, and receiving a reminder to sign up for the GH judging (have you???), I wondered about all the different motivations writers have for judging contests. For some, it is a way of giving back. For others, it's a chance to hone critique skills or zero in on areas they'd like to speak/write about. For me, it's a chance to come back to my own writing with fresh eyes. I find that after judging a contest, especially in a genre that I don't write in, I return to my work invigorated with new ideas of what to work on. In judging this past year, I've learned a lot about synopsis writing and pacing/plot--real life examples that go beyond what I've seen in books and workshops.

Do you judge contests? Why or why not?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hook Your Reader


I truly hunted for a cartoon that I could put up here, but nothing caught my eye or "hooked" me like this!

For all of you who like to “hook” an editor and a reader on the first page, I’m going to give you the list of items I received from Mary Buckham’s workshop. These are the elements to use on your first page that will hook a reader or editor:

1) The totally unexpected

2) Introduction of a unique character

3) Shocking or clever dialogue

4) Foreshadowing

5) A classic tale or theme

6) A surprise situation

7) Danger or Action

8) Setting that evokes mood or theme

9) Overpowering emotion

10) A question directly raised

You can use one or more of these hooks.

Also from Mary’s Pacing workshop I gathered this information. Some of it I knew some of it was eye opening:

Hooks can keep a reader turning the page and bring up the pacing.

Hooks are:

Action or danger

Overpowering emotion

Surprising situation

An evocative description to pull the reader into a setting

Introducing a unique character

Warning or foreshadowing

Setting a tone or theme

Shocking or witty dialogue

The totally unexpected

Raising a direct question

Where you put hooks:

Opening sentence of a book

Opening paragraph

End of the first page (usually line 16-20)

End of the third page

End of third chapter

Opening a chapter

Ending a chapter

Each new scene

Writing a series- the last sentence of the book

The reasoning on the first five are: If an editor of reader picks up the ms. or book you want to hook them with the opening, then you want to hook them at the bottom of the first page so they will turn the page, and if you can get them hooked at the third page they will keep reading and are snagged . Also you want a hook a the end of the third chapter because most partials are three chapters so whether its an editor or a contest entry, you want the person reading to ask for more.

Your story goal should be made known to the reader by page three.

The beginning of every chapter you need three details to set place- 2 visual and 1 sensory- always set place at the beginning of a chapter.

The strongest hooks raise questions or reactions in a reader.

I didn’t realize there were so many places to put hooks in. I knew the first page and I knew the end of a chapter so they will read the next one, but some of the others were new to me. Also beginning a chapter with three details to set place. I felt if you kept the reader reading, they knew place since they haven’t left the book. So that was one of the many things I learned at this workshop.

And this is only a minuscule amount of the info I learned and will keep feeding you over the next couple of months.

Have you used any of the the above list on the first page in any of your books? If so which ones and give us an example.

Friday, September 14, 2007

You're All My Favorites

I don't know if any of you have seen this book (You're All My Favorites by Sam McBratney), but if you have kids or grandkids, you should pick it up. Very sweet story about three little bears (siblings) who wonder which one their mother and father love best. I was reading this story to my 2 yr old last night (who is suddenly fascinated with books of any kind), changing the bear names to fit my three Gremlins names, and had one of those wow! moments about writing and blocks and the struggles we face as writers that hit you from out of the blue.

One night, after Mommy Bear had tucked them in, and after she had said, "You are the most wonderful baby bears in the whole wide world," the baby bears began to wonder.

"But how do you know?" they asked their mommy bear. "How do you know we are the most wonderful baby bears in the whole wide world?"

"Because your daddy told me," said Mommy Bear. "When your daddy saw you on the night you were born, he said - and I remember it very well - he said, 'Those are the nicest baby bears I have ever seen. They are the nicest baby bears anyone has ever seen!'"

That was a good answer. The three baby bears snuggled down as content as could be.

But one day, the first baby bear began to wonder . . .

A non-writer friend of mine asked me the other day which book I've written is my favorite. Kind of a timely question because I just finished The Book From Hades and zipped it off to my agent last night. I thought her question would be an easy one to answer, but it wasn't. I actually stood there dumbfounded for a moment. And then I realized what most writers already know - or have accepted - and which I have been slow on the uptake. Every book I write is my favorite at the time I'm writing it and sometimes for a while after.

Wow. Epiphany. And my friend's question, coupled with reading this book to my son, solidified it all in my mind. The problem I was having with The Book From Hades wasn't that it was a bad story or that I couldn't make it work. It was simply that I loved the one I wrote before it so much, I was sure I couldn't write something as great as that again. Or at the very least - I was afraid I wouldn't love it as much as I loved that book.

It's no great surprise I have struggled with The Book From Hades. You've all heard me grumble about it. There were times I thought I would never get it done, that it was a POS, that no one in their right mind would want to read it because there were days I didn't even want to write it. But I pressed on. One, because I'm stubborn and when I commit to something, I'm in it for the long haul no matter what. And two because there has always been something about this story - though I may have loathed it at times - that made me write it in the first place. While editing it this week, reading through the whole thing from start to finish, I remembered that. I remembered what it was about these two characters that made this story come alive for me. I remembered why it was so important I put this story down on paper. Whether my agent likes it or not, whether it sells or not, is irrelevant to me this morning. Because I'm happy with the end product and what I accomplished by finishing the manuscript.

Alice talked the other day about what it is we want to do better with our writing and I mentioned red herrings and plot points. But that's not true. The one thing I want to do with my writing is enjoy the process along the way. I know there are points where I will hate a book, want to kick the keyboard to the curb and strangle my hero for being a jerk. I know from experience even the most fully-formed book in my head will slog down at the 3/4 mark because that is my pattern. Just like I know I will most likely cry when it's over and realize though I may have hated it at the time, it really was my favorite book.

I read an interview by another writer - I can't remember who - but in a nutshell she said every book you write has to be your favorite or else you won't put your heart and soul into the characters and the story. She's completely right. When I finally fell in love with my characters again, dove back in to finish it and edited the thing as a whole, I remembered that it is my favorite. They are all my favorites.

What about you? Do you have a favorite book you've written?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

BEING AN RWA OFFICER CAN BENEFIT YOUR WRITING CAREER

Ack! Why did Thursday equals my day to blog not connect in my brain until this morning?

I can see my own face on a wanted poster now! Please, Eli, give me a few more minutes to be witty and entertaining and thought-provoking ...

Here's a timely topic: how does volunteering in your local RWA chapter or running for National office help your career? Huh? you say. I thought being an officer or liaison or conference chairman took time away from my writing.

Well, it does take time. However, you can also look at that time as an investment in your writing career. Being a chapter officer gives you immediate stature with other chapter officers around the world. Those are friends and contacts who will remember you--hopefully in a good way--when you sell a book. That gives you a worldwide audience of potential readers.

Those are writers who remember you being a welcoming face at a booksigning when no one else showed up. That same writer is now a New York times bestselling author who writes a marvelous quote for your first release or recommends you to her agent or editor.

Those contacts give you the opportunity to make presentations to different chapters or write articles for newsletters that will be read by--you guessed it--potential readers.

As an officer, you will become more confident in speaking in front of people and making decisions that will benefit the entire chapter, not just one person. That thoughtfulness, negotiation and tact can translate into skills and confidence to promote your books.

And lest this all sounds selfish, one of the biggest benefits for me when I was a chapter officer was the chance to make new friends and support other writers. Romance writers are some of the warmest, most giving people I have ever met. Who wouldn't want to meet more of them?

How about you? We're voting for National officers now. (Yes, I still need to do that!) But maybe you want to consider being a National officer at some time in the future. And elections for our chapter are coming soon. Maybe you want to invest some time that will benefit both you and others. Think about it...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Wednesday, Sept 12

WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOU?

On the blog yesterday, Paty said "I think I finally figured out how to write a twist!" Apparently, this is something she wasn't sure she knew how to do. She's also shared a couple of wonderful reviews lately that have focused on the quality of her character development. That got me to thinking.

I bought a copy of Romantic Times last weekend and in the review of my October Intrigue, the reviewer said, "Alice Sharpe knows how to wrap a mystery within a mystery, and her faultless plotting and complicated clues add a bright spark to Royal Heir."

That tickled me pink. The reviewer couldn't know it, but that's what I worry about most. That's why proposals take me so long, because I struggle with making sure the plot twists and mysteries are tight. And because I worry that I am no good at this, a compliment on this front makes me smile inside.

But it also reminds me of what I want to work on next. In my case, it's the characters. When I wrote straight romance, I wrote more complicated characters, in a way, because so much of the book didn't have to be devoted to plot. Now I find I don't have time for as much character development but that's a flimsy excuse. Of course there's time. I just need to make it, I need to put as much energy into that aspect as I do complicated plot twists.

I bet there's an aspect of her writing that Paty would like to make better, too. And I bet there is something about everyone's writing that they have the gut instinct (if not the out and out knowledge) they need to improve in the quest to make every part of their story as good as the other.

With me, it's the people. I want to round them out more, make sure their stories shape them. Michael Hauge's workshop in Dallas this year is the same workshop he gave and I attended the year before, but back then it didn't get to me the way it did this year and I believe this is why. I wasn't ready to hear it. I was still plotting. This year, along came Hauge's workshop again and this year it clicked. In the next few books, I am going to try my best to make my people achieve a full arc.

How about you? What would you like to improve about your own writing? Character arc? Tension? More complicated plots? Humor? Sex? Romance? Locals? Technical facts? The list must go on and on. Do you know how to go about making the changes you feel you should make?

I won't be around today as much as usual so Eli said she'd keep checking in and I'll do my best to check in, too. I'm anxious to see if I am the only one who senses it's time to push forward!

To-Do Tuesday: Savoring Success

Welcome to today's edition of To-do Tuesday. Eli's challenge continues to inspire me, and I hope it's done the same for you. The pleasure of reaching a small goal is what keeps us going, and it's the backbone of this column. My in-box is very lonely lately (other than all the emails asking where this baby is already . . . ). Remember, you don't have to meet a huge goal to brag, nor does the goal have to be publicly significant. If writing 100 words a day for a week is HUGE for you, then we want to know about it!

Savor each success, each victory along your path!
_____________________________________________________________________
MWVRWA Meeting September 18!

Our September meeting will be at 7:00 p.m. at Salem Public Library on September 18, 2007. Our guest speaker will be Lisa Pulliam. In addition to being a witty blogger, Lisa is also a PR guru. Lisa will be sharing all she's learned doing PR full-time for both large and small entities. She's got great ideas that will energize your efforts, no matter if you're published or unpublished! Please join us & email one of us if you are new and would like more information.
____________________________________________________________________
Reminder! Sign up for Whodunnit!

The September Meeting would be a great time to turn in your conference registration for our October Conference, Whodunnit: A Writer's Guide to Working a Crime Scene. This conference should appeal to both romance writers and writers of mystery/suspense, so feel free to invite your non-RWA friends along! If you register by September 18, you pay a reduced fee. Not going to be at the September meeting? No problem! We also take pay pal & mail-in registrations!

As an added incentive, we've got goody bags with free books for all attendees, and a record number of raffle baskets, many of which feature critiques from published authors! The day promises to be the most fun you'll ever have discussing capital offenses!
____________________________________________________________________
Perfectly Good Nanny Gets Second Perfectly Great Review!

Paty Jager's newest release, Perfectly Good Nanny continues to make friends with the critics! Paty received four lips from Two Lips Reviews, and once again the reviewer raved about her characters, noting she "is astute in weaving a realistic love story with characters dancing the timeless tale of love."

Congrats, Paty! Your success with the reviewers reminds us that the most important part of success as a writer is our connection with the reader.
____________________________________________________________________
Elisabeth Naughton Finishes WIP

She's finished! She's finished! Not only is she making mincemeat out of her challenge, but Elisabeth Naughton reached another goal over the weekend! She finished her WIP, dropping the last of her blood onto the page and writing "The End!" She fought hard for this WIP, and her determination to push through and grow as a writer inspires us to leave our comfort zones and seek new heights as writers. Her next goal? Moving onto to a new WIP. She's on a roll!
____________________________________________________________________
Scenes and Sequels Workshop

Beloved instructor and author Patricia Kay will be offering her scene/sequel workshop on story construction from October 8-31. The workshop will focus on story construction, and at $25, it's a bargain! One past attendee raves:
"Out of all the writers I've listened to over the years, you're the one who
has been able to explain things in a language that I can understand. Since I
first heard you speak about Scene & Sequel on the AskAnAuthorAll e-mail
loop, the aspect of PLOT has really been clicking for me. I'm not quite
there yet, but I'm getting close to being able to put the whole story
structure thing together." --- Sheila
Seabrook
Sign up today! This would be a great workshop for anyone gearing up to do NaNoWriMo (novel in a month) in November, or anyone else seeking direction on a new WIP or looking to revitalize an old one!
____________________________________________________________________
Question of the Day: What are you proudest of?

Eli's infectious joy over finishing her WIP reminds me that the sweetest successes are the ones that we fight the hardest for--the ones we doubted would happen, the ones we gave whole chunks of our sanity for. These successes aren't necessarily the most visible. A writer might be prouder of sticking to her writing schedule during a time of personal crisis than she is of becoming a best-seller. You may be prouder of the WIP that never sold than you are of the 10 that do. It's a very personal thing.

And of course, we want to know the answer--what writing success are YOU the proudest of? Which little victory was the sweetest for you? And why?

Enjoy your week, keep making progress on your goals, and continue to send me your news and updates!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Challenge Check-In #5

Happy Monday, girls! Time for our check-in once again. I think we missed Sunday, but that's okay. Go ahead and tell us how you did this weekend and today.

My CP, Joan, and I were chatting last night about the challenge. She said she'd missed a couple of days and was feeling overwhelmed and behind, afraid she wouldn't be able to make up the words she'd skipped. I said to her - and will say to all of you - FORGET ABOUT IT. Start fresh. Each day is a new day. So you only made 500 words yesterday? So you had ten-thousand things going on and didn't get to sit at the computer all day long? I say simply: Who cares???? Don't let what happened yesterday impact how you write today. Don't worry about making words up. Begin again. Each day is a brand new start.

A daily word-count challenge is a lot like dieting. If you set a goal of only consuming 1500 calories for the day, and end up going over because you went to Oktoberfest and chowed on sausages and beer (see what I'm gearing up for???) and ended up snarfing down 2500 calories, would you then, the next day, try to make up for the amount you went over the day before and limit your caloric intake to a minimal 500 calories???? Of course not. It's suicide. And on a measly 500 calories one cannot expect themselves to be with-it enough to write the next NYT Bestseller.

So as with dieting, if you find your word counts aren't up to snuff or you're feeling bad about your progress so far, start fresh. Each day you start at zero. You can only go up from there.

Workshops and conferences

I've registered for the Donald Maass workship taking place in October, outside of Seattle. I chose that over the Emerald City Conference because I had heard his workshops have completely turned so many people's writing around. Don't get me wrong, I loved Emerald City last year when I went - I just feel that where I'm at right now, the Maass workshop may inspire me more.

Then there's our fantabulous chapter workshop happening next month, which I'll definitely be attending! Plus there's a bunch of other conferences, meetings and events happening with writing groups all over the Western U.S.

How do you pick and choose which events will benefit you most? Do you choose events based on the content, the networking, or the locale you visit? What events do you recommend? It's hard to make such a financial and time committment to something we've never been before. I find that recommendations are a good way to know what's worthwhile. So, please, share your experiences!

I've only been to Emerald City once, but I'm definitely glad I went. I found the most beneficial part about it was the networking and meeting Northwest authors. It was also the first time I pitched and editor and agent, and the more intimate feel of the conference made that experience much better. I felt the two individuals I pitched were more approachable in this environment, both before and after the group pitch sessions.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Challenge Check-In #4

Okay, I'm about to put out an APB on Danita. Where is she?????? Do I need to post another wanted poster? What about a Missing Persons poster? Hmmm...may have to think about that. If I wasn't writing like a fiend right now, trying to finish the book, I'd already have it up.

Switching Gears. Challenge check-in time. How'd everyone do yesterday? (Lisa, we're still waiting for your updates!!) I had a busy day yesterday and didn't have any chance to write during the daylight hours. Then DH brought home a movie and after the Gremlins went to bed, we sat down to watch Blades of Glory (totally stupid but idiot-funny). By the time it was over, it was 10 PM and on any other day I would have called it quits and gone to bed. But I didn't. I committed to this. So I opened the wip, sat down and started writing. At 900 words I was ready to throw in the towel, but I pushed myself, knowing I could get 100 more and reach my goal. And then, magically, something amazing happened right at the 1000-word mark. I hit my stride and kept writing. Ended up with 2412 words in 12 pages and finished a scene. One more chapter to go (which I hope to do today) and then I'm DONE.

So tell...how'd your writing go yesterday?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Challenge Check-In #3

Hi-ho, ladies. It's day three. How are we doing? The excitement has worn off, it's time to dig deep and figure out what you're made of.

Lisa? We haven't heard from you and I know you're writing. Speak up and share.

Paty? Are you back now? How did the writing go on the trip?

Alice? Did you make up your words yesterday? Are you editing like a fool? Writing that third chapter in the second proposal? Tell, tell. Inquiring minds want to know.

The rest of you...who wrote today? Share your word counts with us regardless of whether or not you're taking the challenge and give us an update.

Hanging onto Cliffs


We've talked a lot already about beginnings, how to start our books, and about starting hooks. There are beginning hooks and there are ending hooks. How we end our scenes and chapters are just as important as how we start them.

Some writers think "cliffhangers" are only for suspense and action books. On the contrary. Every scene and chapter needs some sort of hook at the end to get readers turning pages. No matter what the story is, it won't do to wrap things up nice and neat when the story isn't over yet. Good stories are all about tension regardless of the genre. Questions are raised constantly, and for each question answered another one turns up, escalating into what will become a really good read.

Okay, so what happens if you end every scene or chapter with a nail-biter? It would get pretty boring. Tension doesn't always equate to edge-of-your-seat, heart-in-your-throat, eyelash-pulling suspense. If you ended every chapter with the same kind of "they're all gonna die!" scenario, it's gonna get old real fast.

By the same token, if you end every scene or chapter with the characters getting in the car for a safe drive home, sitting cozily at the dinner table for the evening meal, walking hand-in-hand down a tree-lined boulevard at sunset, you'll end up with about the same reader-apathy.

Mix it up. Shake it up. Don't be predictable. Vary your hooks as you do your paragraphs and sentences within the story itself. Always keep readers wondering what's up. Pack some surprises and a few twists into the narrative.

I'm in no way an authority on anything, so let's take a peak at the wise words of some master storytellers and teachers.

My hero Donald Maass says: "Cliffhangers have degrees of tension, escalating upward from unanswered questions to surprise developments to sudden danger. There are also subtle ways to create cliffhangers. A sudden plunge in a protagonist's fortunes, a low moment, is a kind of cliffhanger. It provokes the unspoken questions, 'What will she do now?' and 'How will she get out of this?'"

Another hero of mine, Leonard Bishop (Dare to be a Great Writer), talks about the episodic novel, which he says is a source of reader agitation that comes from splitting a one-event scene into several parts. This tactic prolongs the scene and the split can be used to end a chapter on a hook (ala Dan Brown's The Davinci Code), but the result is an empty passage that goes nowhere fast. So using filler to lengthen what's assumed to be exciting can result in the reader scratching her head and saying "So what was the point of that?" We all know that everything we put on the page must be important to the story, so dragging out an exciting scene just to hook readers from one chapter or scene to the next is like cheating. If a tense moment exists in a scene, it must have substance and support the plot.

In Writer's Digest's Handbook of Novel Writing, Orson Scott Card says about cliffhangers: "These are the gulps you can use to down a whole novel… Yet while each closure, each minor climax, each chapter climax is fulfilling to the reader, none of them is completely fulfilling. Inherent in every climax is the promise of more tension and greater fulfillment later. In its crudest form, this is the cliffhanger technique—putting the protagonist into an awkward dilemma and then leaving him hanging there while the reader waits to buy the next day's installment. Such obvious tricks irritate most readers; but the technique, in a more subtle form, is essential to creating a novel as a whole. After all, what is a novel if not the writer's attempt to involve the readers emotionally in a dilemma and keep them involved until its resolution?"

Okay, example time. 8^) The following ends the first chapter of my WIP:
Machine gun fire sprayed above our heads just as Heinrich drew back his fist. Though still in shock, my mind worked well enough to guess the shot from Heinrich’s pistol had been a signal to his men outside. I stared at the fist aimed at my face, the knuckles white, the backs of his curled fingers sprouting fine hairs as pale as those on his head. And he wore a ring on his middle finger, its ruby center surrounded by Sanskrit letters that I could read with crystal clarity. They spelled the word Vyantara. Then I saw only darkness.

So how about your cliffhanger endings? Share your example.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Challenge Check-In #2

Okay, girls. Day 2 is over (in like, 8 minutes). How did we do?

I scraped in just under the wire. 1058 words. Met my goal, finished a scene (four more to go to the End...woohoo!) BUT, I could have written more. I blame the not-writing-more on two things. One is Lisa. Why? Because I can. LOL Okay, wait. Seriously. Lisa because she distracted me during my writing time this morning with a discussion (I know, I know, I started it) about a series we both love and for which we are both impatiently waiting for the newest book to be released. Which leads to the second reason I didn't write more - because after our discussion, I got sucked into some discussion boards on Amazon about said upcoming release and was reading book "spoilers". (This is when you know you're twisted...when you can't wait for the book and are reading "hints" as to what is going to happen in the book from people who haven't read it and who are speculating just like you are. God, I'm sick!)

So share with us. Twisted sicknesses aside. How did you do today?

Great Writing Doesn't Just Happen...

Hey everyone! Happy Wednesday to you. I don't have any new, fresh ideas for you that are from my head so I'm borrowing a great blog from a writer named K. Stone. I hope the information is useful and that you don't think I'm flaking out by referring you to Stone's article.

I'll be spending the day in Portland with my favorite neck-poppin doc and then with my lil' sister and her dd. I hope you all have an incredible Writing Wednesday and that those of you who've joined the 1,000 words-a-day challenge by Eli are smokin it! :)

Here's the link, and let me know if you already do any of these things and love them, or if you found some new, useful tidbit to chew on.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Challenge Check-In

Okay, ladies. Today was day one. How did you do? You each know what your target word count/day is. Did you reach it? Give us a report.

And for those of you not "officially" committed to the challenge, weigh in with us. How did you do on the words today?

To-Do Tuesday: Back to School

Welcome to today's edition of To-Do Tuesday. Across the country, children are heading back to school today. For those of us who love learning, it's a magical time of year: new school supplies, new beginnings, new books, and new experiences. Each September, the world seems filled with new possibilities, and I find myself hosing off the sweat and lethargy of the summer. This week is the perfect time to browse for new office supplies (who can resist scented pens, highlighters that double as necklaces, fur trimmed notebooks, and other goodies that you don't see the rest of the year?), and to think about finishing projects and tackling new ones.

I hope many of you are considering meeting Eli's challenge. I'm in a holding pattern for my own new beginning right now, but I'm still filled with the same giddiness that September always brings. (Apologies for my bloggy absences--I've been in & out of labor since Thursday, and all the false starts are wearing me down. Any advice or experience on that is welcome, and your concerns and emails were much appreciated!). If you're not taking her challenge, think about what other fresh starts you might like to make this fall. Is there a habit you want to start? Something you want to learn more about? A research trip you'd like to make? Conferences to attend? Contests to enter?

Luckily, I've got a few suggestions on that front, and good news from chapter members to help motivate you along the way! And of course, I've got a question of the day for you too!
___________________________________________________________________
Alice Sharpe Finishes Six Weeks of Hard Work!

Alice Sharpe just emailed me with late-breaking news: She's sent off TWO proposals to her editor. This includes over 100 pages of text, and two full synopses. Alice has really wrestled with these two for the last few weeks, so let's all cross everything and hope that they both sell & go on to bestseller status! Congrats Alice!
____________________________________________________________________
Loop Round-up: Good News Abounds

Our chapter has been blessed with a bevy of good news this past week. In case you've missed the loop emails, here's a round up of all the good things brewing:
______________________________________________________________________
Paty Jager Guest Blogs at Romance Party

Mark your calendars for September 12! Paty Jager will be guest blogging at Romance Party all day. Make sure that Paty doesn't party alone, and join this entertaining loop.

Paty (and a few other chapter members, I think) will be attending the Mary Buckham workshop in Portland on September 8th. If you'd like to join Paty and hook up with the Rose City Romance Writers, click here for more information about the workshop. Registration closes TOMORROW!
____________________________________________________________________
Question of the Day: Great Moments in Romance

What inspiring experiences have you had lately? An Aha moment in your WIP? A fan letter? A productive week? An epiphany? Or have you simply read a great book?

I read Portland author Shirley Karr's What an Earl Wants at the height of my frustration this weekend. Instantly, I was transported, and reminded of everything I love about romance and the genre. The book is pure Jane Austen and Audrey Hepburn magic. I really hope that some Hollywood producer already has the film rights to this one, because it plays like a wonderful Jane Austen comedy, and these are characters who deserve the silver screen treatment. What I found most inspiring though is how the book illustrates the basics of writing good romance: it uses sexual tension, not an abundance of graphic scenes to show passion, POV is clear and well-established, back story is used judiciously, and the plot is well-paced. Especially while my WIP(s) keep spinning in the mud, I live for such inspiring stories and for the moments that make me go, "THIS is why I wanted to be a writer."

What inspiring moments have you had lately? And what does September mean to YOU?

Enjoy your week and keep sending me your news and announcements!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Can't Judge a Person by his Cover

This is going to be an interesting blog. I was raking yesterday,(no it has nothing to do with haying this time) and I was going over things that have happened in my writing life the past week and things that have just happened. And two thing struck a chord with me.

1) When I decided to put together a proposal for a workshop on characterization, I also received an awesome review exclaiming over my characterization in the recent book.

2) My SIL sent me an e-mail of a tattooed man.

My mind has been working overtime on why this man did what he did. Ah, I'm digging into his character!

So I'm going to share this man and his tattoo with you and I want you to tell me something about this man. I can't put the photos here because it would make this X-rated! But I'll explain:

This man- I'm judging by the tone of body and other *ahem* attributes that he is mid to late 20's. But I could be wrong he could be in his thirties and I'll explain my logic in my answers in the comments section.

Okay, his tattoo covers the area a pair of snug boxers would cover. It is a beautiful piece of art, which is what I thought it was at first. Yes, I know, I'm so naive! It is something you would see in a fantasy piece of art with clouds, rock formations, gargoyles, in pinks, purples, blues, greens, yellows. Here's the kicker, the head of his penis (tattooed) is the head of a dragon! His shaft the neck, his testicles the dragon's chest and the dragon's wings are spread across his groin in such detail, I thought all of this was (as I stated) a picture until I got to looking closer and then saw the side views and such. This entire(as mentioned before) area of his body is tattooed! He was either under the influence of drugs or he had a pretty big statement to make.

So my challenge to you ladies. What would motivate this man to do this to his body? What is in his character to have to make this kind of a statement? And what a great character he would be!!