Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Time Waster or Writing Helper... You Decide

images



So many of you are prolific writers and I’m sure you never get “stuck’ or frustrated to the point of having to do any sort of writing exercise to get your mind and heart into writing each day. But, there are some of us “lesser” writers who do struggle and need an extra “OOMPH” to get us warmed up.

On Charlotte Dillion's website she has some helps for writers called “Writing Prompts”. The one that caught my attention was where you make a list of occupations and a list of situations where your hero and heroine could meet. After you write out these lists, cut them in separate strips and turn them upside down. Now, take two strips from the occupations lists and one strip from the “meet” list. The first occupation strip is the heroine’s and the second is the hero’s. Do not switch them! That’s cheating.

So, you now have an occupation for the heroine and one for the hero and where/how they meet. Some of the suggestions for the occupation list could be…

Firefighter
Sheriff
Pilot
Mechanic
Nurse
Food Service Worker
Plumber
Designer
CEO
Mail Room Clerk
Drag Queen
Erotic Dancer

Whatever you can come up with for a list.

The “Meeting” list could be…

Meet by chance
Both reach for the same veggies at the grocery store
Newly made neighbors
Blind Date
Family interference
Rivals
One hires the other to do work for them
Meet at wedding
Meet at a bar
Held hostage together
One rescues the other from some awful situation

Whatever you come up with for a list.

Now, take the strips and match them up and write a scene of this meeting encounter.

This is a good way to get the grey matter sloshing around in your brain and your writing juices flowing.

After you write the warm up scene you may be ready to just jump "write" in and get busy on your WIP. Hey, it could happen. :)

If you want to be creative today, or waste a little time, go ahead and make a ridiculous match out of the prompts I’ve listed and write a little rough draft scene to post to the comments section of this blog. It can have as many writer's mistakes in it as you want. You can TELL, instead of SHOW the scene. Whatever. The point is to just get you warmed up a bit.

So, feel free to "throw up on the page" with this exercise and entertain us with your practice scene! :) Not only will it get you writing, but it’s a great way to avoid writing on your WIP if you’re not in the mood for it yet today. LOL

Oh, and if you don't have time or feel like doing the exercise, then maybe you could just post a comment about how you get warmed up each day, or maybe you don't need any warming up at all because you're already such a smokin' writer! :)

What ever you decide...

Happy Writing Wednesday and Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Dabbler vs. The Real Deal

Quick Addendum: While some of you may think I'm clever and witty, alas, I am not. I wish I'd written this, but I didn't. I pulled it off this blog but it was so appropo I decided to post it here today. So credit goes to Boxing The Octopus, not me. But the message is still the same.

Enjoy!
Eli

***
The Dabbler vs. The Real Deal

1. The Dabbler's going to do it someday. The Real Deal is working on it now.

2. The Dabbler's waiting for life to get less hectic. For the kiddos to get older, the sick parents to get well, the earth's orbit to grind to a complete stop (so distracting!). The Real Deal writes over, around, and through life's disruptions because they never end.

3. The Dabbler's attending workshops, networking with writers, and reading craft books to lay the groundwork for her dream. The Real Deal is actually writing, with or without doing the foregoing as well.

4. The Dabbler expends far more creativity embroidering her excuses than her plots.

5. The Dabbler frequently (and loudly) decries "that trash" that's getting published nowadays (by sell-outs). She knows she could do better -- and isn't shy about saying so. The Real Deal knows that writing anything commercial is much harder than it looks.

6. The Dabbler refuses to risk criticism/rejection by submitting work to critique groups, first-chapter contests, agents, or editors. The Real Deal knows she'll have to take her lumps, often for years.

7. If the Dabbler does risk and receive any sort of criticism/rejection, she rages against the a) stupidity, b) unfairness, c) potential jealousy of the party involved. The Real Deal feels the sting but realizes it's a subjective business and moves on.

8. The Dabbler is a true "artiste" and New York is just too blind or threatened to recognize her work. This often results in years-long bouts of writer's block requiring expensive therapy. The Real Deal digs in and works that much harder, always believing that the next project with be "the one."

9. The Dabbler is sure that the purchase of expensive equipment/software or travel to distant and costly workshops is "the" secret to success. The Real Deal will write on toilet paper if she has to.

10. The Dabbler's looking for a shortcut -- a favor from the established writer that fills said writer with the urge to run like hell. The Real Deal, on the other hand, knows there *are* no shortcuts and puts in enough sweat equity (without trumpeting it) that established writers feel moved to offer whatever assistance they can.

***

So which are you? The Dabbler or The Real Deal?

Monday, October 29, 2007

No. Maybe. Okay… yes.

The last few months I haven’t really read or looked at the RWR. I’ve been too busy. I’m still busy, but I wanted something to read while soaking in the tub the other night. I grabbed the RWR because I can’t start a book right now, well, I have one started, but I can’t finish it. Right now I have so much reading- not for fun to do that I can’t afford to read for fun. And what I need to read is all in my computer so it makes it kind of hard to read while in the tub- anyhoo- I picked up the RWR and soaked away, reading. There were points in several articles that struck a chord with me.

The one that really hit, because of everything happening right now, was: “What I Wish I’d Known Before I Sold”. Specifically- No is not a four letter word, but time is. This struck me because- 1) while visiting my son in AK, I felt like I was getting farther and farther behind in work. Even though I did manage to get through three partial subs. But the whole time I felt like I couldn’t work unless they (son and grandchildren) were sleeping. 2) I have both daughters and their combined four children coming to visit for a week and I’m already grumpy knowing I’ll get very little done while they are here. Even though they both understand that I “work” from home. I know if I locked myself in the bedroom and worked, they wouldn’t say a thing, but I’d be feeling guilty the whole time. Since I won’t see the one daughter and her kids until January when I go up to baby sit while she has her third baby.

Right now I am struggling also with saying “No” to anything that may put my name in front of more readers. I won’t list all the things I’ve said yes to in the last two months. But just to warn you, if I am completely batty by April – it’s because I can’t say “No”. The only lesson I hope you all get from this blog is to learn from my stupidity. Learn to say “No” and mean it!

Did you find any of the articles in the last RWR helpful or interesting?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Internal vs. External Conflict

Apologies to Alice. She told (ordered???) me to blog before she had to leave for Emerald City today. I know I missed her deadline. So, since I know she took her computer with her (as she can't live without the thing) I have a feeling she'll find some way to log on and see this. My only excuse for not posting before you left, Alice, is that my hubby decided to take the day off from work, and we all know how hubbies have a way of messing with our schedules. 'nuff said.

So I've been doing a lot of reading lately. In my genre, out of my genre, across the river and off to Grandma's house. And here's something interesting I'm noticing. Within the romantic suspense genre, external conflict rules and internal conflict is a fleeting thing. I'm not sure why this is, maybe because RS is going more mainstream and trying to draw more male readers in. (Think Lisa Jackson, Tami Hoag, Allison Brennan...) It's not so much the romance taking a backseat to the suspense as it is that romance missing the "what's keeping them apart" element I've always read RS for.

The last one, two, three....heck, five RS books I've read have progressed like this: Hero and heroine meet. Someone dies. Hero and heroine are at odds, they end up working together, fighting an attraction, convinced the other one is completely wrong for them. Sure, they dodge bullets and often someone gets hurt, but they still don't like each other for (usually) pretty good reasons. Then about halfway through the book they have sex and suddenly, all the reasons they couldn't be together anymore fizzle. What happened to the big secret? What happened to the lies? What happened to all those trust issues????? Zip, zing, gone.

I know why this happens. In an RS there's so much external conflict going on it's hard to keep the internal conflict alive, and as we writers know, it's especially hard to do that after the wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am, and especially when there's so much life-or-death action that has to be squeezed into a measly word count. But in an effort to raise the physical stakes, I think a lot of RS authors are losing the emotional pull on their readers. In most of the RS books I've read recently (new releases) I can't remember what the emotional pull was between the two characters, what kept them apart, and how they got over it. And ultimately, those books - even if the plots were fantabulous - won't go on to my keeper shelves. I read (and write) RS for a reason. I love the thrills and chills of the suspense, but at the heart of every one is a phenomenal love story. And I'm here to tell you, if the only thing keeping those characters apart is a quick roll in the sheets, it's not going to be enough to hold my interest.

Anyone noticing this in any other genres? Paranormal tends to deal with a lot of external conflict. Is it happening there or is it only in RS? And how do you guys (girls) feel about this concept of external conflict vs. internal conflict? Are you okay with a couple knowing they're destined to be together halfway through the book or do you need more internal angst?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Make every scene great!

I recently attended a workshop featuring New York agent and author, Donald Maass, who presented material that will be included in his book slated for release in 2009 called, The Fire in Fiction.

His premise is that not only can every book you write be powerful, but so can every chapter and every scene. He said the key is passion -- not just what happens between the hero and heroine of romance novels, but what a writer feels about their work.

He led workshop participants through a number of exercises to go beyond the usual and find the unexpected to engage the reader deeply in a story. One of those exercises was to develop the world of the story. He had us pick a scene of our WIP where something significant happens and write down the five most obvious things we would observe about this scene. Then cross out all those things and write down five more things we would notice if we had the time.

Next he asked us to feel the emotions of the point-of-view character about the place where this scene was happening. Is she happy? Sad? Does the setting of this scene evoke painful memories or joyful ones? Does the character want to stay in this place or get out? What does the POV character like most about this place? What does she like least? Will she cry or curse about being in this place? Will she want to run or never leave? Try to find the strongest emotion of the POV character, then take all these responses and weave the emotions of the POV character into the scene. This won't just describe a setting, but will set a memorable scene.

Another suggestion Maass made was to pull the emotion out of yourself to make characters more real. For instance, what do you feel when you are afraid? Does your mouth get dry? Your palms get sweaty? Do you feel like a six-year-old child knowing there are monsters under your bed? Give the protagonist as many of your own emotions as you can. This will give your characters a realism that pulls a reader deeply into your story.

Now do this for every scene of your story. :)

Like Alice's exercise of getting into the skin of a character, Maass' exercises made me itch to get rolling on another story again. What about you? Are there exercises you use to dig deeper into your characters or bring your settings to life? Or is this something you do without thinking about it?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

100-Day Challenge

Hey ladies...today is the official half-way mark of our 100-day challenge. Fifty days down, fifty more to go. How's everyone doing? Give us an update. Inquiring minds want to know.

ACADEMY AWARD

I took the liberty yesterday of nominating myself for an Academy Award. Consider my performance:

The role I embraced is that of Karen Wylie, age fifteen going on thirty. I have bleached blonde hair and black roots and I never met a make-up product I didn't like. I chew my nails. I wear a small heart on a silver chain and my clothes are too tight. Hey, if you got it, flaunt it. My mother has lost heart with me (I also play her part, catch that performance a chapter earlier…) and I guess I don't blame her, but honestly, she wants to know EVERYTHING. So I tell her nothing.

Today the hero and heroine (I also play their parts. They have a running performance) asked me a few questions about my shot up ex-boyfriend and I don't mind telling you, I got a little spooked. I called the new guy in my life, and boy, that's a whole other story. He said it was time for us to run away together.

Now, I'm just a Junior in high-school and he's a lot older but the things I have done with him…well, anyway, he said he didn't want anyone spoiling our plans so I should just ride a bus two towns down the river and he'd pick me up and we'd go get married, he'd fix all the details. I can't believe this is happening to me!

Okay, I couldn't tell Mom where I was going. I took a hundred dollars out of her wallet and bought a bus ticket to Portland so if she tries to find me, she'll get it wrong. It wasn't really my idea, my boyfriend came up with it. He's knows all that kind of stuff.

He wasn't waiting for me when I got off the bus so I stood on a corner across from some bum asking for money cause he ran out of gas for his car. Sure. Like he has a car. (I know he doesn't, because I will play him in the immediate future.) After awhile, it got hot so I walked down the street toward the river. My boyfriend had told me not to use my cell phone, so all I could do was wait out in front of an old warehouse. The old bag across the street kept staring at me. She finally went away from the window (as I will also play her, I know she went to answer the phone) right when my boyfriend showed up. We walked down the block to his car.

The fact is I won't ever get out of this car alive, but of course, I don't know that. The fact is my mother is going to think I ran away for good until way later when they find my body. The fact is, my last thought is going to be of my mother and how she was actually right about some things and my last sight is going to be my boyfriend's face…

I can't go into that. It upsets me and I'm not supposed to know it, anyway. In fact, other than the part when the hero and heroine talk to me at my job at the pharmacy and I get spooked, the rest happens off screen.

Which means all my dying hopes and fears have to exist in the mind of my audience just as they do in the mind of my creator.

So, yesterday, I was that girl. And all this happened to me.

Can you do this with a character in your WIP or do you do something similar? Do you get inside them, even if for only a few moments as you write and "live" their parts? Not a major character, and not a chain of events you show in the book, but the off stage stuff that has to be as real as the printed word. It chilled me to get inside Karen Wylie's vacant head. It made me sad for her. For the years she won't have, for her short life (one lousy conversation where she, frankly, didn't come off that well) and then nothing. On the other hand, she will be avenged, her killer will pay.

But, of course, I also play his role.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Feeds For Dummies

Okay, I waited for Bethany to put up a Tuesday post but it looks like she's still in new mommy-land. (Bethany, take all the time you need and enjoy every moment of it.) However, we lucked out because Barbara Ray is guest blogging today!

Enjoy,
Eli

***

Feeds For Dummies...

Do you try to keep up with the web logs of members of MWVRWA, other genre writers, agents, editors, and publishers? Do you fall behind because it takes so much time to visit each site, some of which have nothing new posted anyway?

I’ve recently discovered a way to save time and still keep up with all the blogs I’m interested in reading. It’s called “Feeds.” For the barely computer literate like me, here’s a step-by-step way to set up your blogs on feeds so you can go to them when and only when a new posting has been made there.

The next time you visit your favorite web logs, check each one for a feed button on the right side of the tool bar just above the main screen. If that web log has a feed, the button will be orange-with-white curved stripes (if the blog doesn’t have a feed, the button will be gray with lighter stripes).

To add the blog to your list of Feeds, press the feed button and wait a moment while a white screen with that blog’s entries in a simplified format comes up. At the top of that screen there will be a banner message about feeds with a button at the bottom saying, “Subscribe to this feed.” Press the button. A decision box will appear again asking if you want to subscribe. Press the Subscribe button.

Now read the entries down to the last one you read, and go on to the next web log. If you want to save the entries to read later, look on the right side of the main screen near the bottom for a line that reads “Mark as read” with a check mark in front of it. Click that line and the current entries will show up again the next time you visit this feed. That’s all there is to subscribing to each web log (at least for PCs with Windows XP).

Once you have blogs on your feed, you can check them for new entries by pressing the single yellow star on the far left of the tool bar. Right next to the button for Favorites will be a button labeled Feeds. Press that button and a list of your feeds will appear.

The feeds that have new entries since your last visit will be in bold print. When you click on them, you will get the white simplified screen you got when you first subscribed to the feed. You can read the entries there if the whole entry is included or if you are just skimming through the entries to find the ones you are interested in reading. If only a few lines of the entry are listed and you want to read the whole entry, you can click on the little green arrow next to the author’s name at the top of the entry or on Continue or More at the end of the entry. From this screen you can read comments and add your own comments to the blog entry.

Not all web logs have feeds, so some you will still need to visit individually from your list of Favorites. I don’t know how a web log writer puts their blog on feeds; maybe someone who has their blog on a feed can enlighten us on that in their comments to this posting. Right now the MWVRWA blog is not on a feed. Would you like it to be? I know I would. Who could do that? Elisabeth?

I know quite a few of our members use Apple computers. Can someone tell us how to subscribe to feeds on a Macintosh?

Is your writing blog on a feed? Did the number of visits to your blog go up when you put it on a feed? How do you use blogs in your research, networking, and marketing?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Keeping track of your progress

I'm late! Sorry! *hangs head*

Ok, for those of you free-spirits who are frightened of plotting, planning or organizing, I wouldn't read this. You may get hives. **Disclaimer: Lisa Pulliam will not be held responsible for any reactions to this post, be they medical, mental, or physical.

Talk on a couple of loops I'm on in preparation for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) has centered around spreadsheets for tracking progress. Those of you who ignored my warning, I just heard you faint. I told you this would freak you out! I know not all of us are doing NaNoWriMo, but a spreadsheet may help those of us doing the chapter challenge.

I wanted a spreadsheet that would let me input my daily word count, my deadline, daily word count goal and overall goal length of project. I wanted it to take that information and tell me how many words I need to write today to get on track and if I write at my current pace, when I'll be done.

I googled and found a few spreadsheets that had components I wanted, but none of them had all of the functions I wanted. And I'm not an Excel guru, so I struggled to customize the document to my needs.

Today I hit the NaNoWriMo forums to ask for help and I found one that had most of what I was looking for, at least the hard stuff so I added the rest of what I wanted. So now I have a spreadsheet that lets me do all of what I wanted, plus a neato pie chart that shows me the percentage of what I have done.

For those of you who are skeptical, I've found it rather motivating. I started the count as of today, then put in the words I already have. So I played with it and put in that I only wrote 17 words today. It said I would meet my goal on October 11, 2020. Yikes! When I change it to 100 words a day, it shaves off 10 years and 9 months. Writing 1,000 words/day, I'll be done January 8, 2008. Not bad! See how motivational that can be? Just a couple more paragraphs and you shaves off months, or maybe even years.

Does anyone want a copy of this spreadsheet? Send me an e-mail at lisa (at) lisapulliam (dot) com and I'll send it to you, along with instructions for putting in your info.

What tools do you all use to keep track of your writing, goals or submissions? If you've found anything helpful online, please leave us a link!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Eli's Challenge

Did more inside work today. Got my thousand words (more or less) here and there and everywhere even though the book concept didn't advance much. On the other hand, the tension level got ratcheted up and a much needed scene got added.

How is everyone else doing?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Eli's Challenge

As often as I cup my ear and listen into the wind, I cannot hear many victorious cries echoing the mantra, "1000 words today or else!"

I am getting my 1,000 words in, so I am going to brag about it a little and ask the rest of you if you have been so busy writing you haven't had time to report.

1,095 yesterday, a little more the day before, but they were rewriting words. Rewriting counts! That's what books are. Pages and pages of rewriting. Actually, the words were words written within, you know, additional words that don't go forward but expand and enrich what is already there.

My goal for today is to get twice that many. How is everybody else doing and this means you, too, Eli, you slacker. Enough of the "I have a cold (and it's your fault.)" excuse. Karen? Lisa? Everyone?

Let's re-dedicate! Let's bug Eli enough that she takes up her own challenge again. Let's be all that we can be. Let's not think of excuses why not and concentrate on why.

Cheerleading over.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Hello Blog, It's me, Danita

IDEAS, WHERE DO THEY COME FROM AND WHO DO THEY KNOW?


So, here it is, blog day, and me without a single thing to wear. I mean a single thing to say. Oh, I'm sure I could think of plenty to yak on and on about, given the right set of listening ears and a nice hot cup of Earl Grey to wrap my fingers around, but would any of that yakking pertain to writing? Probably not. Which puts my round peg right back to into the square one hole.

Hey! That gives me an idea -- thank you, blog, I needed one of those -- what about a book about a serial killer who kept track of his "conquests" with a peg on a cribbage board? Or, more twisted yet, what if the killer kept track of his victims on one of those kiddy toys, you know, the kind with the pegs that toddlers bang down into the holes with a plastic hammer?

Wait, wait! What if the killer were a woman? And what if that woman were a mother herself, and she used her own child's pegs and hammer toy? And what if to all the world, this woman appeared to be a caring and devoted mother to her children? Why would a good mother want/need to kill? Who would her victims be? Would they be men who had jilted her in the past? Cheated on her? Beat her? Maybe in her younger life, she was a runaway who turned to prostitution to support her babies, and now she is seeking revenge on the Johns who took advantage of her situation.

Okay, okay, sick and twisted, I'll agree. But also, maybe sort of interesting. And alive with possibilities. It could be written into a screenplay for CSI if done skillfully enough. And the idea grew out of the common words "round peg" and "square hole".

Which brings me to the point, if indeed, this post actually has a point -- how or where do you get your ideas? Do they flutter in on a sultry spring breeze, or clunk you in the noggin like a tumbling anvil? Do you "idea" best in the shower, while scrubbing the tub, or while driving and humming along to Nickelback, dreaming of being a rock star?

Please share.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A question of character... among other things

This blog post is a segue from Piper's post on Wednesday. She asked about the other genres we read, and that got me to thinking about how genre can affect both the kinds of characters who appear in a story, and the way those characters are portrayed.

Romances are good at digging deep into the characters' souls so that we get a full glimpse of whom we're reading about. Why do you think that is? What methods do these authors use to flesh out their people enough to make them bleed on the page? I think some writers do an excellent job of letting the details around the characters assist in defining them as real human beings. That also goes for detailed observations made by the characters themselves. For example, a character who is focused on, say, the preparation of a meal and describes in loving detail each ingredient, how it tastes, how the dough feels in her fingers, the way the scent of baking apples reminds her of her grandmother, etc.

In a mystery novel, maybe the character approaches the cooking scenario from a totally different perspective. The woman is a private detective and her observations are more in line with ferreting out clues to catching a killer.

In a science fiction novel, the very concept of cooking could be totally foreign because the characters in the story simply push a button to get sirloin tips, roasted baby potatoes and a Caesar salad, hold the croutons.

A horror novel might have the chef baking up something really different and not very appealing to mainstream taste buds, if you know what I mean.

Point is, the genre can affect how the character is presented. Sensual, pragmatic, logical, horrible… whatever. These people are different and present themselves in different ways.

Now what if you had an outside-the-box character, one who didn't fit conventional norms. How would this person be portrayed? A mentally ill character in the kitchen. Hmm… Now that's an image. Would this character act and react in a predictable way? Probably not. So if you had, say, an autistic character making pancakes, would their lack of emotional connection to the act of cooking make you feel disconnected from the character because you can't relate?

Maybe we choose to read the genres we read that are only in our comfort zone. Someone who doesn't care for military novels or political thrillers may not relate to those characters and therefore find the story boring, even if it's the most fascinating plot ever to hit the best seller list. Does that make these books uninteresting? No, just uninteresting to you. Could you critique one? Or more to the point, could you critique a genre you don't read?

We often hear that good writing is good writing, no matter the genre. True. I guess. But can you feel connected to a well-written book on a subject or in a genre you don't understand or like? I know I can't. I could probably detect if it's "well-written," but as far as the characters go, I might struggle. The tough as nails soldier who spouts military jargon would glaze my eyes over. The politician who schemes to do… whatever would have me setting the book down to go clean the toilet. And an erotica novel? I won't even go there. (*cough* icky *cough*)

When it comes to critique, or contest judging, I believe it's important to stay within the genres we understand and enjoy. I'm curious to know what you think. Does it make any difference to you? Can you critique or judge anything and feel you can do the work justice?

Of What Does Your Diet Consist?

images

Ugh, the nightmare of posting a blog is once again upon me so, here goes...

Yesterday, I was perusing some of my preferred author's websites to check out what's new in their writing lives and find out what they have on their "recommended reads" lists.

This got me to thinking. (Yeah, scary concept, me thinkin' and all.)

Anyway, what I started to think about is...

How does one open their reading horizons and try new authors or genres? Do they go to their favorite authors and see what they recommend, or do people talk to friends about it? Perhaps a bookseller shares their ideas, or even a librarian. I wonder. :)

For so long, my reading diet was of one genre, only. I supped upon Regency romance till stuffed. It grieved me to find myself full, yet unsatisfied in my voracious appetite to read. Then one day I whiffed the tantalizing scent of YA books, took a nibble, and found myself snacking on this delightful new flavor, too.

Now, I no longer gorge myself on any one genre; instead, I gnaw here and there on the lighter sides of paranormal, romantic suspense, and even science fiction. This new variety of flavors is very enjoyable.

So tell me, how or what do you do to broaden your reading scope?
Ugh, the nightmare of posting a blog is once again upon me so, here goes...

Yesterday, I was perusing some of my preferred author's websites to check out what's new in their writing lives and find out what they have on their "recommended reads" lists.

This got me to thinking. (Yeah, scary concept, me thinkin' and all.)

Anyway, what I started to think about is...

How does one open their reading horizons and try new authors or genres? Do they go to their favorite authors and see what they recommend, like I do, or do people talk to friends about it? Perhaps a bookseller shares their ideas, or even a librarian.

For so long, my reading diet was of one genre, only. I supped upon Regency romance till stuffed. It grieved me to find myself full, yet unsatisfied in my voracious appetite to read. Then one day I whiffed the tantalizing scent of YA books, took a nibble, and found myself snacking on this delightful new flavor, too.

Now, I no longer gorge myself on any one genre; instead, I gnaw here and there on the lighter sides of paranormal, romantic suspense, and even science fiction. This new variety of flavors is very enjoyable.

So tell me, how or what do you do to broaden your reading scope?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Eli's Challenge

I hope I am not stepping on blogging etiquette's toes by posting here all the time. If I am, please, someone contact me and tell me to knock it off.

Meanwhile, how is it coming? Karen? Lisa? Eli? Lori? Paty? Did I forget someone?

2,348 words today. Helps make up for a lackluster yesterday.

Hope everyone else is feeling good about what they've accomplished.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Not Just the Eyes Hooked Me.


I don't know who else besides Danita watches Men in Trees. It's on Friday nights at 10PM, but I am still drooling over the newest character they added. Cash. Or in real life Scott Elrod. He has what they dub as "Paul Newman" eyes. They are so blue they are almost freaky, yet the whole package is yummy!

Anyway, his character is "helping" the main character, Maren, (who is an author) renovate a house she bought and get over a man. Cash is a free spirit construction man and in Friday's episode he took Maren to see a "spiritualist" to help her get her muse back. The "spiritualist" told her to write all her hangups/things she doesn't like about herself on rocks and toss them over a cliff. As she and Cash are walking up the mountain, she is lugging a big heavy bag of rocks and he is only carrying one. She asks what his problem is and he only smiles. At the top, he tosses his rock and waits as she one by one reads hers written in red marker and tosses them off the cliff.

At the end of the show, they always have Maren talk about what she learned in the episode and show the different characters and how they are reacting after each of the scenarios that have played out. At the very end they show a rock with blue writing that says, "sickness".

Wow! That hit me! You know it's Cash's rock because it is written in blue. But it didn't say illness or disease- like he is physically ill, it said "sickness" like he has a mental problem. What could it be? Is he a stalker? A serial killer? Depressed? Man, my mind has been going over what if's all weekend.

That has got to be the best "hook" I've ever seen at the end of a show. And the writer in me has been piecing together so many scenarios!

Have you watched a show that had a hook so intriguing at the end you had to watch the next episode or episodes to see what was going to happen? And if you have written linked books, have you written a hook that will make your readers pick up the next book?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Eli's Challenge

Me again. 1, 084. Not much, just a fraction of what I should have written, but I need a break. Having that 1,000 word goal kept me in the chair when I otherwise would have left, so whoopee!

Anyone else?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Eli's Challenge

I'm taking the liberty of adding a weekend blog for Eli's challenge.

I got in about 1300 words today. Maybe more tonight.

Anyone else???

Alice

Friday, October 12, 2007

Goals, Goals, Goals

(Paty's chomping at the bit because it's 1:04 and there's no new post up yet...)

Sorry this is late. I had a nightmare night with the 2 yr old. I won't bore you with the details, but I ended up with about 2 hrs of sleep, then got up and went running with a girlfriend and then was stupid enough (in my sleep-deprived state) to agree to a weight lifting class after. By the time I got home I was ready to drop (sore and in a grouchy mood). Oh, and did I mention it's an inservice day so the Gremlins are home? Ay ya ya...it's going to be a long day. This is the first chance I've had so far to get to the computer.

So goals. Lisa reminded me that I haven't posted a 100-Day challenge check-in in a while. Well, yeah, there's a reason. I've been slacking. After I sent the proposal I'd been working so hard on off to my agent two weeks ago, my writing energy has dragged. Switching gears is definitely something I need to work on. And this new project is not the gimmee book the earlier proposal was. I've restarted it about 4 times - different scene, different POV, different location. I think (hope) I've finally figured out the right starting place, but who knows. I have a feeling I'll be going back over this again and again.

But that's irrelevant to you as you could care less. However, you DO care about the challenge, so I'm going to tell you where we're at. We started the 100-Day challenge on Sept. 4th. The goal was simple: write at least 1000 words per day and in 100 days' time, you'd have a 100,000-word first draft (or finished, depending how you write). We are now in the middle of week six (there are 15.5 weeks total, with an ending date of December 13th), right around day 40. So if you were doing the 1000-words per day, you should have about 40K words total at this point. Everyone with me so far????

Some of you might be thinking, "ugh! I'm supposed to have 40K words already??? No way!" Fear not. If you're behind that mark, don't sweat it. Just recommit to getting back to work and moving forward. For those of you who want to make the commitment from here on out, imagine...if you joined us and committed to 1000-words per day you could have 60K words written by December 13th! That's a full length category or YA book! (Becky...that was for you).

So now that the cheerleading is over with (whew!), check-in time, ladies. How's the writing going? What are you working on? Have you been writing consistently, are you hitting your goals, are you making writing a habit? (Because, come on, we know it is. Once you stop writing it's that much harder to get back to it.) Even if you're not doing the challenge, let us know what you're working on and how it's going.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

SLOOOOOWING DOWN ...

This is a watershed week for me. I've finished several large projects and have promised myself that I won't take on anything new between now and the first of the year. Instead, I will focus on shaping up my house and yard, finishing a promotion plan for the books that will be released in the next eighteen months, and enjoying the holidays with family and doggies. All with the goal of slowing down the frantic pace of my life the last few months without losing the productivity I've gained.

My first step is to do a thorough cleaning and take stock of what needs to be done. This includes paperwork and filing that have been accumulating for months. I'm also going back on a fitness plan for me and returning to the healthy habits that have slipped as I've pushed myself to get other things done. And my doggies need some individual play time with me. Yes, this is slowing down!

Just looking forward to this change in lifestyle has given me new energy. Since it's now almost 2:30 in the morning, one thing I'm obviously still not doing well is getting to bed at a decent time. I'm going to change that too!

I'm also not going to push myself to do a lot of writing, though I have another manuscript that's itching to be finished. I'll just have to see how that unfolds!

All this has come about as I've realized it's OK for the different pieces of my life to have an ebb and flow. Sometimes I focus on writing and promotion -- as I will after the first of the year. Sometimes home and family and doggies, as I plan to in the next few months. Some times other pieces.

How about you? Have you ever felt the need to slow down? If so, how did you go about it?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ah, to Blog

As I reported a week or more ago, I recently sold the two books I'd been working on. Of course, these are just proposals, three chapters and about sixty pages each, so the real work begins after the sale.

SInce I was sick at the time of the sale, I didn't get to work on book one until very recently, and still not feeling 100%, I've been struggling to get reinvested in the story. Last night about midnight, I realized it was my turn to blog today and so I lay there trying to think of an entertaining topic.

Went to sleep. Woke at 2:30 a.m., decided to forgo entertaining and settle on pithy. Woke up again at 5:30, ditched pithy, leaned toward craft-orientated. At 6:30 I got up and sat at the computer for half an hour without typing a word for the blog. Read yesterday's comments to Wavy's blog and spent quite a bit of time pondering what Eli meant when she said something about not letting me know she used to struggle with POV (why?). Couldn't figure that one out, so moved on to what double tags mean when referring to dialogue. I think I know, but would appreciate an example, btw.

At 7:30 or so, I decided to eat breakfast and the only thing on TV was an old Brady Bunch. Surely, I thought as I nibbled on toast, there will be a topic revealed within this clever episode of 60's TV. What I learned was stereotypes of what constituted women's work and men's work were alive and well at that time. But no topic came to me.

At 8:30, I decided to work on my book as I do every day without actually making progress because of reasons stated up there in the first paragraph of this thing, and realized I am still not engaged in the story and then the blogging dilemma became clear. For whatever convoluted reason, be it sickness or distraction or the rain or the cat drooling on my foot when she purrs, I just am not thinking like a writer right now.

This is not a block, but it is a little alarming as the deadlines are tight. I got some good advice not to try to make up the sixty pages I am down by in one day (like that would happen!) but sooner or later, I am going to have to get back into this book. So today I'll read what I have yet again, and then throw something unexpected into the works to shake up my characters who seem to be as caught in inertia as I am.

Thus this blog about not blogging. By the way, I have an ongoing discussion thing going on over at eHarlequin.com. If you want to check it out, go to the site and sign in, then choose Simply Series from the list on the right side of the screen, go to Intrigues and eventually to something about being "Queen for a day" in the discussions. If you think of a way to shake that up a little, bless you.

Next blog, I promise, I'll come up with something entertaining, pithy, instructional and ... well, maybe I'd better quit while I'm ahead.
This blog is a problem today. Ten days or so ago, I sold a couple of books. My enthusiasm was hampered by the fact I was in the middle of a cold, and has stayed on the back burner as I have fet too rotten and distracted to write. Now I am feeling better though I still don't feel great -- this lingering sore throat and cough can leave anytime, thanks -- and I still haven't written much.

On top of trying to get back into my book, I am now trying to think of something pithy or entertaining to blog about and wow, I am stymied.

I watched the only thing on TV this a.m. hoping for inspiration. It was a very old Brady Bunch. The kids have to lear to share. Zip inspiration.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

QOTD: Tools of the Trade

To-do Tuesday is on temporary hold while I master this whole mothering business. But, the other night while I was wondering if nursing will ever get easier, I remembered a time when I was convinced I would never learn to touch type. Several typing classes in high school, typing software, and a fair amount of hunting and pecking, and still . . . nothing. But, then one day, there I was typing away. It turned out that all I needed was motivation--and college plus e-mail was plenty of motivation. I felt the same way about Word and other software. As much as I despaired at the time, I still managed to master each obstacle.

I want to know about what writing related skills did NOT come naturally to you. Did you learn to type in order to write your first MS? Conquer the computer? What skills are you still trying to master?

Monday, October 08, 2007

Workshop recap

On Saturday the chapter held its annual conference. This year's theme was 'Whodunnit? A Writer's Guide to Working a Crime Scene." I found all of the speakers very interesting. First we heard from a Medical Examiner and a Sheriff's Office Deputy with who does Search and Rescue. They did a great job explaining how the search and rescue process would work if someone was missing in the woods. The second speaker was an Oregon State Police detective, who gave lots of info including how an specific police actions and investigation steps if a body is found. The third talk was given by three representatives of the District Attorney's office. They dispelled a lot of myths we get about lawyers roles from watching crime dramas on TV. They also broke down the legal process from start to finish.

That was a super quick overview, but instead of me blabbing on about what I picked up from their talks, lets all share what we learned.

I really enjoyed learning the steps in each of their processes. I think that will help us write accurate portrayals. Even if we don't need the whole process, just to be able to identify, "Sally was trying to sneak into the secondary perimeter." Plus I also loved the slang, particularly "road toads." Teehee! Those words make our writing authentic.

I also enjoyed learning about how much lawyers get involved. My only thoughts on process come from TV shows. I was interested to learn that they get involved even at the search & rescue stage, but that they don't interact during interrogations. Like they said, Law & Order shows lawyers in there making deals and layin' the smack down.

What did you get out of it?

Friday, October 05, 2007

A Big Pickle

Okay, before any of ya'll start thinking this is some green and twisted blog on erotica, ha! let's set the record straight: This is an essay about a dilemma.

Now that we've gotten that prickly bit of sensitive matter cleared up, let's proceed, shall we?

My dilemma is simple. Yet not. See, I'm a writer, but I'm also a photographer. I've been interested in both professions for most all my life, practicing at both, taking classes in both fields, selling both. In the past 10 or 15 years I've tended to concentrate more heavily on the writing aspect of my split personality. Until lately that is. And therein lies my big Kosher dill.

I love writing. It's in my blood and my soul, but I'm frustrated with it. At least the fiction side of it. I've had good success at non-fiction writing, sold a good deal of it, both as a freelancer, and as an on-staff crime reporter. But as far as fiction goes, I cannot easily measure success. Oh, there's the two books I've completed, that's something right there. I mean how many people can truthfully claim they've written two books? But as far as contests, contracts, agents, editors, I claim zip.

On the other hand, my successes at photography keep piling up. I have enough ribbons to decorate half my office wall. I sell framed work at a coffee house. A local gallery wants my work. I've had assignments from newspapers. I've taken high-school senior, family and baby portraits, covered weddings and lately even did a fad "Trash the Dress" shoot. Fun. And profitable. And when I see my work on display, like Paty's portrait on her website (the one which pops up beside her blog comments) or see the book cover of Genene's new release she designed with the photo I took, it makes me feel a little burst of pride. Which throws the fermented cucumber in my face again: Photography is in my heart and soul too. And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that it helps pay the electric bill.

It also doesn't take 10 months to complete a photo assignment as it does to finish a novel. The biggest dill of all this is the time factor. With a young family, my creative time and my computer time is often limited to nap times. At the moment I am not having the time and/or the energy for both writing and photography, and frankly, it bothers me.

Now let an agent or book editor show more than a passing interest in my work, and watch my creative writing juices erupt. But in the meantime, I'm afraid the writing is stuck in the back of the frige like that last lone pickle in the bottom of the jar with only pieces of garlic, bits of dill weed and milky pickle sludge to keep it company at night.


So, here's the question: Do any of you out there have similar dilemmas? Paying work vs. dreams? Or other things pulling you in directions other than your chair and keyboard? Please share.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The next big thing.

We've seen all these phenomenal books take off to best seller status – The Da Vinci Code, These Lovely Bones, Harry Potter – and now there's mutterings within the writing community about what the next "big thing" will be.

We know it's not wise to clone what's already selling big at the moment as we're told time and time again by editors and agents that the manuscripts bought today won't be on the shelves for another couple of years. We shouldn't follow trends because they're fickle. Most of us write according to our passion anyway, trends be damned. But still, it's fun to speculate what the next big thing might be, what genre, what new idea will spark the reading consumer into buying more books?

Ideas come from everywhere. The next best seller is probably sitting on someone's hard drive somewhere, the queries being rejected left and right, partials getting turned down as often as bed sheets in a brothel, but it's out there, waiting for its time. Could it be yours? Hmm…

It's fun to speculate what people will be reading in terms of fiction. Non-fiction is a totally different subject, but fiction is less tangible and more speculative. What appeals to the American reader? We could look to television for our ideas. Not the shows so much as the themes. Like what's up with these game shows? Maybe a novel will come out about a game show. Pretty lame. Or how about all the reality shows that are taking over primetime? Many authors have taken advantage of this craze by using it in their plots. It was popular for a while, got people's attention, but never really broke out into anything newsworthy.

So if themes aren't where the next big thing will spring from, how about genre? Genre mixing has become THE topic of discussion at many writers' conferences lately. Of course, that was anticipated a dozen years ago when authors began mixing their romance and suspense and mystery and horror together, only to find agents pooh-poohing their great American tomes because they weren't marketable. Now the industry pros are screaming for these books. What's up with that? Well, what's up is that authors tend to have a sixth sense about these things. Too bad publishers aren't as tuned in. They just take a while to catch up.

So if you were to take out your crystal ball and shine it up, what would it reveal to you about the next big thing? Could it be a style of writing, like what happened with the chicklit explosion when Bridget Jones' Diary came out? Or an Internet chat/email format, like what we've been seeing in some recent YA fiction? Or how about those graphic novels, huh? I'd never in a million years have imagined comic books coming into fashion this way. Kind of reminds me of Fahrenheit 451 and how the only books allowed were those with pictures and no words. Are we headed in that same direction? Will people only read something if there are pictures to go with it, or even better, moving pictures?

We can't predict for sure, but it's a lot of fun to think about. High concept literary fiction is a big deal right now, but it always has been. Same with up-market women's fiction (i.e. book club books). Both have a wide audience, which is why it has such great appeal. Haven't read either in a while because I'm so focused on my own genre fave that it's all I read these days. Most likely the next big thing will be far a field from anything I'd ever write. Social trends have been leaning in a retro direction so I'll guess retro historical fiction, like high concept stories set in more recent decades, like the sixties. Sex, drugs and rock and roll, baby. Bwahahahaha! How about you? Care to take a stab at what you think the next big thing will be?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Let's Talk About Virgin Heroes

To quote Magnum P.I. "I know what you're thinking..."

TomSelleck

You're thinking... Sheeyeah. Right. Virgin Heroes?

But let's ponder this idea for a bit; shall we?

How sexy or romantic is this concept of the Virgin Hero?

For me, it's very sexy. Let me explain...

In my opinion, a boy who grows into a man and waits for the right woman is uber-romantic. I love the idea of a man who doesn't just go for anything because it's the modern thing to do or because he feels pressure from his hormones, friends, whatever, and it's just too overwhelming, so he loses his control and beds woman after woman, trying to conquer that elusive satisfaction that only comes with a true love relationship with the right woman. I don't view a hero that gets his jollies as often as he wishes with any woman he chooses as sexy and irresistible, but rather, weak and inadequate. (Now remember, these are my opinions.) ;)

For a man to resist his natural urges and gain mastery over himself shows a rare quality and strength for the male species. And it's so romantically sexy to me because it may also mean that he's conquered other stupid male traits that get in the way of being a great man who's not only physically strong, but mentally and spiritually too, all before he's lying on his death bed as an old man who wasted his life in pursuits that left him neglectful and ineffectual in his role as husband and father.

Wow, that last sentence was an eyeful! And yes, I'm well aware what my high school english teacher would have done to that sentence, but she's not here, so thwpppttt on her red pen!

Okay blogsters, take some time and really ponder the following questions so you can give your true opinion and not one that you think the world expects, but what you really think deep in your own heart. Your answers won't mean you should or have to change how you write your heroes. Nope, nope, nope. I simply want you to get past what society tell us and what your head might tell you, and I want you to listen with your gut and your heart to the answers.

Ready? Go...

1. What do you think about Virgin Heroes?

2. Do you like to read about them? Or have you ever even had a chance to read about one? If not, would you like to, just to have the experience, once? *big grin*

3. Could you write one? If no, why not?

4. Is this concept sexy to you, or ridiculous?