Friday, February 29, 2008

Fantasies

You didn't actually think I was going to write about the call, did you?

LOLOLOL. ;)

If you ask my husband, he'll tell you I live in a fantasy world half the time. When we're driving down the road and he asks me a question, generally I'm staring off in to space living the lives of my characters, totally oblivious to anything going on around me. When I'm working around the house, even watching TV, scenes and dialogue are running through my head. We're all writers, we DO that. It's how we're wired. But let's be honest, what better fantasy is there to replay over and over in your head than the call?

I'll admit it. I've had numerous call fantasies (and no, Lisa, not of the 976-spank-me variety). The most elaborate was a few years ago when I won the 2006 Atlanta National registration fee in the Romancing The Tome contest. The final round agent had requested the manuscript, and at the time, I had another full manuscript at Silhouette Intimate Moments. My call fantasy included a call from the final round agent gushing about how fabulous my book was, followed by another call from the SIM editor gushing about how fabulous the OTHER book was. A sale and an agent, all within days. What better fantasy is there than that?

Of course, as you all know, that fantasy did not come true. The agent sent me a form rejection (on the same book that sold to Dorchester, no less!) and the SIM editor sent me a personalized rejection that made it clear they didn't want me to ever resubmit that book to them again. Ouch. Oh, there were other fantasies - like selling a week after signing with my (current) agent in a six figure deal (now THAT was a nice fantasy) - but that one fantasy of landing both a sale and an agent all at the same time was one that stuck with me for a long time, and I've never forgotten it.

After I signed with my agent and I had my first *almost sale* (in case you missed that story - first editor loved it, committee eventually passed because it wasn't like the other RS's they were publishing), I stopped fantasizing. It was too hard. Too much work to get your hopes up and then have them squashed. I didn't let myself fantasize (too much). I just kept writing. Of course, those little fantasies snuck in now and then, but I didn't let them grow and develop and I didn't dwell on them. I figured, it'll happen when it happens, and fantasizing about it will just make me nuts.

No matter how much I fantasized though, the reality of the call was both more exciting and more stressful than I ever imagined. In my fantasies, I was bouncing off the walls, screaming with excitement. In reality, I was so in shock, I could barely speak. My agent kept asking me, "You are excited about this, right? I told the editor you were going to be excited." Somehow I think I fumbled out a, "Um. Yeah. I'm excited," but honestly I'm not entirely sure what I said. Don't get me wrong. I was - AM - very excited and thrilled. But the moment I heard "you sold" the fantasy quickly became reality and what I'd been dreaming of doing for so long suddenly became my job.

People have asked me how I've celebrated. Genene's been razzing me because I said I celebrated by cleaning toilets. That's actually the truth, strange as it may seem. I was still in a fog that whole day after getting the call, and I needed to do something normal (okay, cleaning toilets isn't normal, but it was a chore that needed to be done and as such is normal in my world) to keep my mind off the ten-thousand things I was suddenly thinking about - like deadlines and contracts and sell-throughs and print runs and titles and plots and...oh my!!!!! I never in a million years realized there would be SO much to consider outside the whole "you just sold" excitement.

It's taken a few days for the whole thing to sink in. The more I announce it, the more excited I become because I see how excited everyone around me is. And last night - Thank GOD!!!! - ideas for book three started popping into my head. For a moment there (okay, longer than a moment), I was worried I wasn't going to be able to come up with anything. Talk about a moment of panic. And last night we went out to dinner with friends - to really celebrate - and I've pretty much had a smile on my face ever since.

It's REAL now.

I would love to hear your call fantasies. And if you've already received the call, I'd love to hear if the reality was what you expected or if it was something else.

And to everyone who has called me and sent me emails and congratulated me here on this blog, or on my personal blog, I just want to say a great big THANK YOU!!! I am so blessed to have friends like you!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

BEING PASSIONATE

I guess this could be one of those misleading hooks, but I'm not talking about steamy love scenes. :)

I had planned on going to the chapter retreat this past weekend. I had my manuscripts all printed out and waiting for edits. I had some sketchy ideas for a series of what is now nine books tucked in a folder waiting for a brainstorming session.

Then my dog sitting arrangement fell through. (Back to that in a bit.)

I sniveled and resented and hit a few other emotions. Then I looked for the lessons in the situation, as I have learned to do the last few years. The biggest lesson I came up with: being passionate. Huh? you may ask as you scratch your head.

Back to my dog sitting situation. Some of you may know that I'm setting up a dog rescue/sanctuary. Though I don't have property yet, I do have a number of doggies waiting for a bigger place to run and sniff and dig and climb. To be exact, I have eight dogs. Finding someone to care for eight dogs is a challenge in itself. Toss into the mix that these dogs have quirks and "special needs" -- well, you can imagine this might be a bit of a challenge.

What does this have to do with being passionate? In the time I've worked at the animal shelter, I'm still amazed at the "reasons" why people surrender their dogs. When these dogs end up with three paws in the euthanasia room, my passion to save them kicks in big time. So I have eight dogs.

Passions don't have to be world-changing. They can be as pure as Lisa's enthusiasm about a favorite actor. As a matter of fact, the romance in my first release begins with a teenager's crush on a rock star and shows how these two people grow to be passionate about disadvantaged children as well as their emotional and physical passion for each other. (Aha! I did sneak a reference to love scenes in here!)

Many writers are totally passionate about writing. They write when the kids nap or on lunch breaks at work. Or they give up an hour of sleep to write. I used to envy people who were totally focused on one passion rather than spreading their energy to several as I do. Then I realized it doesn't matter. It's the experience of being driven by deep, urgent passion that gives people sparkle. Sometimes falling in love is that passion. Sometimes it's writing about falling in love. Sometimes it's saving a dog who still has love to give.

Sometimes our passions have a price. I've realized I'd better not schedule overnight trips out of town. And that's OK. Because the rewards are worth it. I have a 12-year-old dog written off as dying who trots -- trots, mind you -- down the sidewalk when we take our walks. I have a "biter" who sleeps on my pillow. And guess what? I never lack for a guy to sleep with -- even if he does have fur that tickles my nose and doggie breath!

So what's your passion? Have you given up anything to pursue this passion? And what are the rewards of this passion?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Call!







HUGE congratulations to our chapter president Elisabeth Naughton! She just accepted a 3-book deal with Dorchester for her romantic adventure trilogy, beginning with 'Make Me Believe'! The same manuscript that finaled in last year's Golden Heart contest.


Well done, Eli!

CHALLENGE CHECK-IN

We didn't have a challenge check-in this weekend because I was at the coast with no internet. I think everyone who went on the retreat will agree not having internet access was a plus -- it helped keep you focused.

I'll go first. Today is crunch time for me. The book is complete except for an epilogue -- very handy when the books are relatively short, the characters haven't known one another long, and it is the second of two related books. Before I can write the epilogue, I need to read the book from cover to cover to make sure I plug any existing holes and as this is also rewriting day, it's going to be intense. But on Friday, the book leaves the house (bye bye book, I'll miss you) so it's now or never.

This does remind me how glad I am I've been going back and forth as I write, cleaning up discrepancies as they occur to me. The thought of having two days to do all that makes me a little sick in the stomach…

Okay, your turn. How's it going? For those of you not involved so far, this isn't a 1,000 word a day challenge or a three month binge deal, this is a set your own goals, check in once a week, hold yourself accountable challenge. You can join anytime you want and if you slacker off for awhile, hop back on, gird your loins (what does that mean, anyway?) and pony up to the bar.

Remind us, and perhaps yourself, what your challenge is. If you have met it, what's next? That's the big question for me as I finish this book -- what's next? I have an idea or two...

Monday, February 25, 2008

What a weekend!

Eleven women descended upon the quiet town of Pacific City over the weekend. We had a fantabulous beach house, gorgeous weather, and delicious food. Thank you SO MUCH Eli for putting it all together and spending so much time figuring everything out :)

I love weekends like that. Out of the retreats I've been on with the chapter, this was definitely my most productive. I had come up with an idea just based off of a title a year or two ago. Then some chapter members helped me brainstorm it back in September. I wrote about 50 pages, then stopped. Lost the juice, sidetracked with life, homework. You know the drill.

That's my M.O. I opened up the other two books I've started before and noticed I stopped just around page 50. Well, I wasn't about to let that happen again. I wrote more than 50 pages this weekend and broke the 100 page mark. I also did some plotting on the rest of the book and feel pretty darn confident that I'll actually finish a first draft.

I'm making no promises on revising this beast. Woah boy does it need revising.

I know that I wouldn't have made it to this point without the retreat. Alice, who always gives the best advice and knows just what to say, helped me understand why it was happening. She said that getting away from my natural environment and all the homework I had (we'll just pretend I didn't lug a 40-pound suitcase of books and articles with me for homework) that I had in effect given myself permission to think about my book.

She was completely right. When I'm at home, I feel like I have to spend my time doing something with my job or homework because those have external deadlines and immediate benefits or consequences. With writing, it's all up to me.

The craziest thing of all about this weekend - I didn't take a single nap! I tried once, but it didn't work. I take long and frequent naps on writing retreats. I'm so relaxed there. But this time there was too much going on in my mind about the story I'm working on.

I know I'm not the only one who got a lot done. By Saturday afternoon many people had written more than 20 pages!

For those of you who went, tell us about your take on the weekend. Did you get a lot done? If you weren't able to make it to the retreat, is there an experience you've had where you were completely rejuvenated in your writing?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Book of Honor

As I've mentioned before, I lost my mom recently. Well, technically it was a year and a half ago, but most of the time it still feels like yesterday. I was at her side when she drew her last breath on August 28th, 2006.

I'm not telling you this to elicit sympathy. It really is relevant to writing. In my case, very much so. Three days after Mom's passing, I started writing a new book. A book of honor. The first draft took nine months, written in stolen late-morning hours while my youngest napped.

If, or should I say when, this book makes it to print, it will be dedicated to Mom.

For the main character is Mom. Well, not exactly her, but definitely parts of her. Good parts and parts not so good. For example, the heroine, Dianne, uses the phrase "wonderful" to describe something truly nice, or to describe something truly not nice at all, just like Mom did. Dianne is also somewhat of a worrier, like Mom was. Also like Mom, Dianne's life is dedicated to family, especially to motherhood. She tries to make the right choices. And she strives for honesty.

At least most of the time.

The main theme of the book, beyond the age-old good vs. evil, is grief and recovery. Dianne learns to live with the loss of her husband, then her Grandmother. I learned to deal with losing my grandmother several years ago, and am still learning to deal with losing my mom. There is, of course, a lot of myself in these pages as well.

So, is this the book of my heart? You bet your sweet bippy it is. And it was an emotional, yet healing process to write it. But penning such a book also poses its own set of problems -- a need to parry and thrust, trying to stab a target called perfection for one. This is illustrated by the fact that nearly a year and a half later (I did write a novella, several newspaper stories and essays, plus sketched out two other books during that time, but still...) I am just now at the end of the revision process on "Mom's book".

This book was written with so many tears, fears and memories that I am determined it will see press and binding. Even if I eventually have to turn to self-publishing to accomplish that reality.

After all, Mom's character deserves a permanent home between the covers of a real book, wouldn't you agree?

Have you ever thought of a loved one, alive or deceased, as you wrote? If so, how did it effect your feelings about the story? Did it help, or hinder your writing process?

The Power of Words

I knew there was something I was forgetting to do today. It's my blog day! Sheesh!

I want to talk about the power of words. Just to think there are only 26 letters in the English alphabet boggles the mind. Those little letters string together to form words that communicate everything from children's picture books to corporate business contracts. Good grief, think about the bible! The Constitution of the United States of America! Archie comics!

I'm humbled to think my tools as a writer are the same ones used to create Pulitzer prize winners and block buster movie scripts. Little ole me! I feel very fortunate to be able to share in the use of this power that's strong enough to stop wars, seal marriages, and bond a child with a new family. That's used to record history and report today's news. And to write books.

A pithy blog, but there you have it. I woke up this morning with this on my mind, which came in the aftermath of a very visual dream that had no words in it at all. The mind works in strange ways. Or maybe my mind does. Anyway, it seems an appropriate subject for a writers' blog.

Anyone have something to add about this wonder of words we all share?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What are your signature moves?

Falling in love with a new author is such a bittersweet moment. You will never love her in the same way you do as you finish that first book. Either you'll mature into a steady relationship where the heady days of roaring through the back list are traded for the long wait between books or the flash of emotion turns dull after another book or two, leaving you back on the market. One of the hurdles towards that long term relationship is discovering your new love's signature moves.

I recently discovered the marvelous Lynna Banning (who graciously donated books to our conference). I love a good western romance, but I'm very picky. Our own Paty and Linda Lael Miller are some of my favorites. I rushed right into a second Banning book, but I was slightly disconcerted by certain plot similarities, especially in the black moment and resolution. Decision time: Do I give her the critical third date? Is this a little quirk that I can live with? Am I too picky?

While wrestling with these weighty questions, I happened to be re-reading a Suzanne Brockmann book. It always helps to consider one's new paramour in light of past loves, after all. This allowed me to place my little tiff with Banning's plotting in context. ALL authors have signatures. Banning has dueling bullets. Brockmann has the hospital bed proposal. Jennifer Crusie has the best friend pow-wow. Lori Foster has the mock-kidnapping. Suzanne Elizabeth Phillips has the "moving on/but not really" time jump. Sometimes, I get tired of an author's signature--it's like watching too many Smallville Episodes in a row--just too predictable. I need more excitement, more passion.

Luckily reading is the ultimate polyamorous relationship. When I get too bored with one author's signature moves, I simply find someone new. In fact, that's how I discovered all of my favorite authors. I found "the one," but then decided that I needed to sow a little more oats before committing. Occasionally signatures become so predictable that I let a relationship die a natural death, no angry break-up, just no repeat reads. I stop getting excited about new releases and gradually shift my attentions to a new face with new moves.

Except that like with serial monogamy, eventually all relationships come back to that sticking point. Is it too predictable? Is it a signature move or is an annoying quirk? When do you draw the line? When do you move on?

Do you have signature moves in your WIPs? Do you try to avoid being too predictable? Do your favorite authors have them? When is it a signature move and when is it a lack of creativity? Thoughts?????

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

FIND YOUR OWN PATH

Saturday, I attended an Oregon Christian Writers Conference. Today, I want to share a few tidbits from the keynote speaker and award winning romance author Gail Sattler, from Vancouver, Canada.

She shared that plot trumps good writing. Craftsmanship is second to plot. You must cultivate a unique voice; a style with expressions all your own. Don’t let critiquer’s, agents or editors try to dismantle your voice and style. Make you sound like you. Don’t use exact words of critiquer’s if you do make changes. Know yourself, what you’re good at writing. Make it fresh, new, different and keep a tight POV.

Long ago, Gail’s husband found and read the following statement to her and she keeps the copy taped to the door in her writing space. ‘Literature duplicates the experience of the living in a way that nothing else can, drawing you so fully into another life that you temporarily forget that you have one of your own. That is why you read it and might even sit up in bed until dawn, throwing your whole tomorrow out of whack, simply to find out what happens to some people who, you know perfectly well...are made up.’

After Gail’s general morning session ended I trotted up to her and ask if I could copy the statement and share it with this group. She said, “I’ll do you one better.” She tore the statement from the bottom of her printed notes and handed it to me.

The first workshop I choose, entitled, SCENE AND SEQUEL was also taught by Gail.

She explained scene is the high point. Sequel is the aftermath after the scene; the wind down. When you begin your book you need to keep building the scenes higher and higher to the black moment. Make the conflict in the scene match with the scene and then bump it up. You must keep the reader moving. At the close of your book it should be a satisfying ending.

To begin your book you should:
1. Write your plot in three sentences or less.
2. Create a character. What does the character want? Why can’t they have it? What choices do they have?
3. Discover his/her greatest problem. Why can’t the conflict be solved?
4. Have him/her fail. Not all disasters have to be major.

Your story if placed on a graphing chart should show a continual uphill climb with small dips between. Not Severe highs followed by severe lows and/or a knot of squiggles between the points.

Your book should follow this repeated pattern throughout:
SCENE:
Goal - What does the character want?
Conflict - Why can’t they have it?
Disaster - Why can’t the conflict be resolved?

SEQUEL:
Reaction - Contemplations/decisions
Dilemma - Choices, why are they good or bad?
Decision - Sets goal for next scene.

Do you set your book up with a scene and sequel approach? Why or why not?

FIND YOUR OWN PATH

FIND YOUR OWN PATH

Saturday, I attended an Oregon Christian Writers Conference. Today, I want to share a few tidbits from the keynote speaker and award winning romance author Gail Sattler, from Vancouver, Canada.

She shared that plot trumps good writing. Craftsmanship is second to plot. You must cultivate a unique voice; a style with expressions all your own. Don’t let critiquer’s, agents or editors try to dismantle your voice and style. Make you sound like you. Don’t use exact words of critiquer’s if you do make changes. Know yourself, what you’re good at writing. Make it fresh, new, different and keep a tight POV.

Long ago, Gail’s husband found and read the following statement to her and she keeps the copy taped to the door in her writing space. ‘Literature duplicates the experience of the living in a way that nothing else can, drawing you so fully into another life that you temporarily forget that you have one of your own. That is why you read it and might even sit up in bed until dawn, throwing your whole tomorrow out of whack, simply to find out what happens to some people who, you know perfectly well...are made up.’

After Gail’s general morning session ended I trotted up to her and ask if I could copy the statement and share it with this group. She said, “I’ll do you one better.” She tore the statement from the bottom of her printed notes and handed it to me.

The first workshop I choose, entitled, SCENE AND SEQUEL was also taught by Gail.

She explained scene is the high point. Sequel is the aftermath after the scene; the wind down. When you begin your book you need to keep building the scenes higher and higher to the black moment. Make the conflict in the scene match with the scene and then bump it up. You must keep the reader moving. At the close of your book it should be a satisfying ending.

To begin your book you should:
1. Write your plot in three sentences or less.
2. Create a character. What does the character want? Why can’t they have it? What choices do they have?
3. Discover his/her greatest problem. Why can’t the conflict be solved?
4. Have him/her fail. Not all disasters have to be major.

Your story if placed on a graphing chart should show a continual uphill climb with small dips between. Not Severe highs followed by severe lows and/or a knot of squiggles between the points.

Your book should follow this repeated pattern throughout:
SCENE:
Goal - What does the character want?
Conflict - Why can’t they have it?
Disaster - Why can’t the conflict be resolved?

SEQUEL:
Reaction - Contemplations/decisions
Dilemma - Choices, why are they good or bad?
Decision - Sets goal for next scene.

Do you set your book up with a scene and sequel approach? Why or why not?

Monday, February 18, 2008

My Obsession


As we all know, Danita has an obsession with hooks. Well, I'm going to venture into my obsession- BM's or Black Moments.

I finished the first draft of my book last week after being stalled and stymied at my black moment. I wanted it heart and gut wrenching, but I couldn't get it to come out how I envisioned. And I tightened it up, added more sensory descriptions and more emotions and hope it plays out well for the reader.

Then this weekend while driving back and forth to Baker City I read Linda Lael Miller's "McKettrick's Luck". It is a contemporary western romance. It wasn't the most fantastic book I've ever read, but the characters wrapped around me and I am definitely going out to find the books about the other cousins.

What does this have to do with my BM obsession? There wasn't a wow knock your socks off black moment. I didn't grip the car seat and wonder how are they going to over come this, I didn't burst into tears with fear, regret, or happiness. The black moment came and went. I smiled and had a warm feeling envelope me at the end with the way things were wrapped up and happiness abound.

Nothing earth shattering happened and I still enjoyed the book and the characters and am willing to go on another journey with the characters in the next book. So, how important is it to have a knock your socks off black moment? Does it have to be earth shattering? Can it just be a conflict that comes to a head and is overcome without a ton of melodrama?

I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

CHALLENGE CHECK-IN


Another week has rolled on by. How is everyone doing?

Don't you love the last two chapters of a book? It's like you've climbed a large hill pulling a very heavy sleigh, and then you've drug that sleigh across a plateau, dodging boulders and depressions and trees that spring up out of nowhere and now, finally, you are pushing off the downhill slope, and it's a clear and fast ride to the bottom. After weeks of huffing and puffing, you feel the wind in your face and exhilaration in your heart! Watch out below, I'm coming down!

I have one more chapter and an epilogue to go. I hope it all fits. I know there's that sinkhole back a few chapters, and I know there's some pretty shoddy, hastily written passages lurking, but I'm pretty sure I know my way now and the only trouble will be fitting it all into thirty pages. Probably will write forty and then cut ten out of the middle.

Thirty-four pages this week, how did you guys do?

Friday, February 15, 2008

That Good Ol' Suckopsis

I finished judging my GH entries last night. The last one was really good. Totally drew me in. I took the entry to the pool while my kids were in swimming and by the time they were done, all I wanted to do was keep reading. Granted, there were holes, and I was confused in a few places, but overall the writing was good and the story line was intriguing. I was ready to give the entry a really high score.

Then I read the synopsis.

The summary of the pages I read was complete - followed very closely. I had such hope. But then the writer totally lost me. He/she described things that happened that didn't seem to fit with the pages I'd read. I had no idea why or how the situations arose. The love scene seemed to come out of nowhere and the characters' (described) actions didn't fit with how they were portrayed in the first few chapters. I was left scratching my head. And then the final paragraph of the synopsis completely threw me for a loop.

Writing a synopsis takes skill. Just as writing a book takes practice, practice, practice, so does synopsis writing. Each action/reaction and plot point have to make sense, otherwise you lose your prospective buying (ie: editor/agent) reader. I ended up giving this entry a moderately high score, because I did enjoy the pages, but when the entry is supposed to be judged on pages AND synopsis, you have to take both into consideration. My score would have been much higher had the synopsis made even a lick of sense. If I were an editor or agent, I'm not sure I'd request more off this entry, even though the pages were okay. In my mind's eye, I'm not sure the writer can carry an entire book.

We're starting up a synopsis contest, and I'm hopeful it will be a success. People hate to write synopses, but they're important. They show you know what you're doing and that you CAN write an entire book that makes sense. As Alice has said before, they're a selling tool. One a lot of writer's don't give enough time to.

I'm curious. If you've judged contest entries (or, as in Paty's case, considered partials for a pub), do you find the quality of synopses to be high or low, in general? Does the synopsis impact your opinion of the entry or the pages? And as a writer, how much time do you devote to your synopses - before or after the book is written?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

TEST YOUR VALENTINE'S IQ

Like quizzes? I don't either! So this one is going to be easy -- the answers are at the end of the questions. No penalty for peeking. However, if you want a challenge, don't look!

Who was St. Valentine?
a) A priest who secretly married couples in defiance of Roman law
b) A prisoner who sent the first valentine
c) A priest who helped Christians escape Roman prisons
d) All of the above
e) No one knows for sure
Any of the above answers could be correct. The source I found said the namesake of Valentine's Day is "shrouded in mystery," but could be any of the three men in a, b, or c above. However, this source said all three of these possible saints were killed for their actions. Not our current happily-ever-after ending!

Why is Valentine's Day celebrated in February?
a) This is when St. Valentine -- whoever he is -- died
b) This is the beginning of birds' mating season
c) The greeting card companies needed an additional source of income after the holiday slump
My source said either a or b. I don't if c is true or not!

When were the first mass-produced valentines sold?
a) in the 1840s
b) in the early 1900s
c) 1945
Esther A. Howland began to sell elaborate valentines of lace, ribbons and pictures in the 1840s.

How many marriages occur in the U.S. annually?
a) 2.2 million
b) 5 million
c) 250,000
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2.2 million marriages take place annually. That's 6,000 marriages per day.

How many pounds of candy did Americans eat on average in 2005?
a) 25.7 pounds
b) 12 pounds
c) 46.2 pounds
My source says Americans ate an average of 25.7 pounds of candy in 2005, down from 27 pounds in 1997.

What flower was the most popular in 2005?
a) Roses
b) Lilies
c) Tulips
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, lilies brought in $76.9 million in 2005, tulips earned $39.1 million that year, and roses came in third at $39 million.

Now, a question for all you romantics: did you send or receive a Valentine's Day card? Why or why not? Hope you all have a wonderful Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

THE APPOINTMENT


Just for fun:

A couple of weeks ago, Genene mentioned she'd come across this writer's hint: Make an appointment with your muse. That's right, an appointment with your muse. All you do is inform said muse that at 3:30 that day, for instance, you are going to write a certain scene, and just like that, the muse shows up for work, raring to go. All you have to do is try to keep up.

I gave it a try recently, and in the interest of scientific research, kept a log of how it went. I submit that log now:

6:30 a.m. -- I awake to a dark room. The dh is still asleep. Very quietly, so as not to startle my muse, I say, "Excuse me, Muse, are you awake yet?" (Reader, can you hear the gentle lilt of my voice? Nothing jarring. Nothing demanding.)
The muse does not respond.

6:40 a.m. -- Like the sleep button on an alarm clock, I try again. "Muse, up and at 'em." I sense she is blinking her eyes. I say, "I'd like to make an appointment with you."
She says, "Why?" (I can tell she isn't amused or flattered or even much interested. But I press on.)
"I want to make an appointment to discuss Randy Larson's death."
"What about his death?" she snarls. (Obviously, she is not a morning muse.)
I say, I was just wondering, you know, why he died."
"Is that all," she says, attention flagging.
I add, "I'd also like to know who killed him. If that's okay."
She does not respond.

9:32 a.m. -- I try again. "Excuse me, Muse, about our appointment?"
"You aren't going to quit unless I agree to this, are you?" she says. I get the feeling I've called her way from some pressing business, perhaps a seminar on how to mislead gullible writers.
I say, "I'm serious about this, Muse. I need an appointment. How about 11:00 o'clock?"
She says, "No can do, I'm busy."
Having decided to take a more strident approach, I growl, "Muse, I'm warning you --"
"Okay, noon. I can do noon."
Noon? "But I have fresh bread and peppered turkey in the fridge --"
"Make up your mind," she snaps. "Me or lunch."
I agree to noon. She warns me to be prompt.

11:30 a.m. -- Worried about being late for our appointment, I sit at the computer.

12:55 p.m. -- Maybe I wasn't clear about where we'd meet. I try to remember if I mentioned the computer. Maybe she got the feeling we were meeting at the fridge. I run downstairs and open the fridge door. The turkey is still there. Muse is not.

Determined she is not going to stand me up, I march back up the stairs and this time I am firm. "Muse," I say as I sit at my desk again. "We have an appointment. You're late."
Silence, as vast and deep as the universe.

2:00 p.m. -- No muse.

3:30 p.m. -- No muse.

4:09 p.m. -- Muse ambles in and flops onto a chair.
I say, "Where the hell have you been? I've been waiting hours!"
She says, "Who are you trying to kid, you've been playing Pyramid Solitaire."
"While I waited for you!" I growl.
She shrugs. "I'm here now. What do you want?"
Still annoyed but determined, I say, "I want to know why Randy Larson had to die. I want to know who killed him. Good grief, he's been dead fifty pages! I really think you need to give me some answers."
She says, "Klugg did it."
My heart bangs against my ribs. "Did he pull the trigger himself or hire it out?"
"He did it himself."
I am afraid to push for why. I type madly.

5:30 p.m. -- Ten pages have passed. Guess what? Klugg did not kill Randy Larson. No way! That bitchy muse just said he did so she could go back to La-La Land or wherever she goes when I'm not watching. Grr…

5:32 p.m. -- I highlight the new text and hit "delete."


There you have it, the blow by blow account of my appointment with my muse.

Undaunted, I'm now in the developing phase of a new plan, working side by side with two brilliant young scientific minds (Katherine and her little brother, Hayden) who spent a considerable amount of time last year creating a bedside trap for catching the Tooth Fairy. It involved marshmallows, glue, and thread, though the exact formula and method is a highly guarded secret.

Yes, a trap!

Take that Muse!

THE APPOINTMENT

Just for fun:

A couple of weeks ago, Genene mentioned she'd come across this writer's hint: Make an appointment with your muse. That's right, an appointment with your muse. All you do is inform said muse that at 3:30 that day, for instance, you are going to write a certain scene, and just like that, the muse shows up for work, raring to go. All you have to do is try to keep up.

I gave it a try recently, and in the interest of scientific research, kept a log of how it went. I submit that log now:

6:30 a.m. -- I awake to a dark room. The dh is still asleep. Very quietly, so as not to startle my muse, I say, "Excuse me, Muse, are you awake yet?" (Reader, can you hear the gentle lilt of my voice? Nothing jarring. Nothing demanding.)
The muse does not respond.

6:40 a.m. -- Like the sleep button on an alarm clock, I try again. "Muse, up and at 'em." I sense she is blinking her eyes. I say, "I'd like to make an appointment with you."
She says, "Why?" (I can tell she isn't amused or flattered or even much interested. But I press on.)
"I want to make an appointment to discuss Randy Larson's death."
"What about his death?" she snarls. (Obviously, she is not a morning muse.)
I say, I was just wondering, you know, why he died."
"Is that all," she says, attention flagging.
I add, "I'd also like to know who killed him. If that's okay."
She does not respond.

9:32 a.m. -- I try again. "Excuse me, Muse, about our appointment?"
"You aren't going to quit unless I agree to this, are you?" she says. I get the feeling I've called her way from some pressing business, perhaps a seminar on how to mislead gullible writers.
I say, "I'm serious about this, Muse. I need an appointment. How about 11:00 o'clock?"
She says, "No can do, I'm busy."
Having decided to take a more strident approach, I growl, "Muse, I'm warning you --"
"Okay, noon. I can do noon."
Noon? "But I have fresh bread and peppered turkey in the fridge --"
"Make up your mind," she snaps. "Me or lunch."
I agree to noon. She warns me to be prompt.

11:30 a.m. -- Worried about being late for our appointment, I sit at the computer.

12:55 p.m. -- Maybe I wasn't clear about where we'd meet. I try to remember if I mentioned the computer. Maybe she got the feeling we were meeting at the fridge. I run downstairs and open the fridge door. The turkey is still there. Muse is not.

Determined she is not going to stand me up, I march back up the stairs and this time I am firm. "Muse," I say as I sit at my desk again. "We have an appointment. You're late."
Silence, as vast and deep as the universe.

2:00 p.m. -- No muse.

3:30 p.m. -- No muse.

4:09 p.m. -- Muse ambles in and flops onto a chair.
I say, "Where the hell have you been? I've been waiting hours!"
She says, "Who are you trying to kid, you've been playing Pyramid Solitaire."
"While I waited for you!" I growl.
She shrugs. "I'm here now. What do you want?"
Still annoyed but determined, I say, "I want to know why Randy Larson had to die. I want to know who killed him. Good grief, he's been dead fifty pages! I really think you need to give me some answers."
She says, "Klugg did it."
My heart bangs against my ribs. "Did he pull the trigger himself or hire it out?"
"He did it himself."
I am afraid to push for why. I type madly.

5:30 p.m. -- Ten pages have passed. Guess what? Klugg did not kill Randy Larson. No way! That bitchy muse just said he did so she could go back to La-La Land or wherever she goes when I'm not watching. Grr…

5:32 p.m. -- I highlight the new text and hit "delete."


There you have it, the blow by blow account of my appointment with my muse.

Undaunter, I'm now in the developing phase of a new plan, working side by side with two brilliant young scientific minds (Katherine and her little brother, Hayden) who spent a considerable amount of time last year creating a bedside trap for catching the Tooth Fairy. It involved marshmallows, glue, and thread, though the exact formula and method is a highly guarded secret.

Yes, a trap!

Take that Muse!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

books on tape/cd

It's free for all Tuesday right?

Anyway, I listened to my first book on cd on my way to Roseburg this past weekend. While it did give me something to think about other than the road conditions (which turned out to be awesome) I had an eww factor. It was a romance and I just couldn't dig the hero as much as I should have been when he sounded like a woman wanting to be a man. LOL The narrator was female and she would give each character a different voice, but man, the one she gave the hero... it turned me off every time he spoke and it was a good thing he was the silent brooding type! LOL

The other thing I noticed- there were huge hunks of internal thought. That became boring to me. I'm tempted to get the book to see if it is as boring reading it as it was listening to it.

What are your thoughts on books on tape/cd?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Tell me the story

It's a brainstorming exercise! I know that's cheers, not groans I hear :) Here's the situation. Your character just won the lottery, $5 billion. Pretty amazing, eh? Tell me about what your character is going to do with the money. Are they going to buy a drink for everyone in town? Ten new cars? A condo in 10 countries? Give it to charity? Let's see what different ideas we can come up with.

My character is Meghan. She's a 32-year-old single woman, no kids. She bought the lottery ticket on a whim, she's far too jaded to be hopeful to win something like that. The money allows her to spoil herself, but unfortunately it brought an undesirable out of the woodwork. Her dad abandoned her when she was 6 years old. Old enough to feel his loss. He'd appeared time and again, only ever wanting things from her. Especially once her mom died of cancer 10 years ago.

This time her dad shows up asking for $2 million. He swears that he got into some gambling debt and his life is being threatened. That's a small chunk of her winnings, but is it worth bailing her dad out of trouble? He's been to jail several times for possesion and attempted murder. He's not a good guy. Should she let karma do its work, or save him demanding he never contact her again?

Tell me your story!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Challenge Check-In

Hi everyone, how goes it in the trenches? I wrote over 8,000 words this week. Not bad, not great, but it will accelerate as the next three weeks roll on (or at least it better!)

How is everyone else doing?

Friday, February 08, 2008

Quite the Character

I love a wonderful quote. Two good quotes? Twice as good!

Here's the first one:

"It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does."
-- William Falkner --

And here's the second:

"Characters take on life sometimes by luck, but I suspect it is when you can write most entirely out of yourself, inside the skin, heart, mind and soul of a person who is not yourself, that a character becomes in his own right another human being on the page."
-- Eudora Welty --

So do either of these quotes ring true for you and the way in which your characters come out of the closet of your mind? Are you a character planner, with charts and "interviews", file card systems and photos clipped from magazines? Or, are you one to simply set your characters loose, whether inside you head or with your fingers tinking along the keyboard?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Secret Agent 000

I know I'm late posting today's blog, but I didn't forgot. I woke up late at 8:30 this morning and have been deluged with work stuff! All week it's been two steps forward, three steps back. (Gak! Someone just this second called to add another item to today's to-do list) Plus I'm frantically keeping up with my agent submissions, which is a good topic for today's post.

Well, not the submission process, but just how a writer goes about choosing "who" to submit to. There are a lot of agents out there, some legit, some not so much, and some that are just a waste of paper and postage. So how do we separate the wheat from the chaff?

It's a combination of things, but with such easy access to resources on the Internet, I'd like to start there. Most of you know about these already, but for those who don't, here's an important list:

Agent Query – Fabulous tool for a quick search of agents in your genre with links to their websites and their pages at Publisher's Marketplace.

Publisher's Marketplace – A great way to keep up on all the industry news, who is selling what to whom, and even a few publishing deals are posted. Be aware that not all deals appear here, but it's still a great way to keep up with what's happening in the market and what's selling today as opposed to what sold a couple of years ago that now appear on book store shelves. I find the $20/month subscription fee well worth it.

QueryTracker.net – Excellent tool for not only researching agents, but for keeping track of your submissions. And there's a nice archive of articles about agents, writing and publishing. It can even generate reports based on an agent's response rate, or genres represented, etc. Good stuff.

Absolute Write – Very helpful discussions go on in the forums at AW's Water Cooler. You can learn a lot about various agents first hand here, but like most gossip, you have to take it with a grain of salt. It's up to you to verify if stories are true or not.

Agent blogs – The best ones are Bookends, Nathan Bransford, and Kristin Nelson, though there are dozens of others as well. What's really helpful is that these agents post links to other agent blogs so you don't have to make endless searches.

Agent websites – These are invaluable resources for checking out the agents you think may be a good fit for your project. Here's where you can find the submission guidelines and lists of their clients, whose websites you might also want to check out. It can be a good gauge as to how their agent helped shape their careers.

Preditors and Editors – This is where you go to see if an agent is legit or not, or if any major complaints have been filed against them. Again, like with the Absolute Write Water Cooler, a lot of this information is based on word of mouth. Most is true, but I imagine some of it is bogus. A few writers make whine out of their sour grapes.

Now, away from the Internet resources, there's no replacement for networking. That means writer friends and conferences, where you meet and greet, and soak up lots of industry information. I'm not a conference whore, but I'd like to be. 8^) Maybe if I win the lottery. But seriously, nothing beats face to face meetings with agents, or even just listening to them speak on a panel. You can get a taste of their personalities and working style. Just because an agent makes great deals and accepts the genre you write doesn't necessarily make them a good match for you. I've scratched a few agents off my list after a glimpse of their personality or attitude. There are even a couple of agent blogs out there that made me change my mind about an agent or two, and not in a good way.

So what methods do you use for researching agents? Did you start your agent list before or after you finished your book?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

How Black is Black?

I thought I had a post all ready to deliver about how black moments have to be truly black and dark to hold reader interest. Then I read a book that proved otherwise. So instead, I'm going to contrast two great books and their approaches to the black moment and then seek your feedback.

When reading Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald, I had an epiphany: The best black moments occur when the reader truly doubts whether the heroine will get her HEA. At this point tension has built and the black moment delivers a knockout punch from which you are not sure--or indeed, truly believe--that the heroine cannot recover. Thus when the heroine glimpses her HEA again, the reader sighs with relief right along with her.

I think it was Piper who once said that she skips to the end of books to make sure that the heroine and hero end up together. But, when you read enough romances, you pretty much know that the hero and the heroine WILL end up together--the only question is HOW. However, I think the best stories make us forget this. We begin to bite our nails. How will the couple solve their conflict? The clock turns over to the small numbers of the night, and we still keep reading. We begin to fear that we're not reading a traditional romance. Will we have to wait for a sequel?

This approach to tension crafts powerful novels even when the tone is more light-hearted or even comic. But then along comes Emily Carmichael in The Good, The Bad, and The Sexy, and says, "Screw you, conventions of writing romance, I don't NEED a black moment." Usually, when an author makes such a bold decision, I loose interest about the halfway mark and never make it past the center advertising card. I skip ahead, trying to finish up so that I can move on to something else. Sometimes the secondary plot is enough to keep my interest (Allison Brennan's Speak No Evil is a great example of this), and I read ahead without any loss of momentum. But usually No Black Moment = No Repeat Customer.

So why does The Good, The Bad, and The Sexy work? The couple simply slide into their HEA with little more than a hiccup. The secondary plots aren't suspenseful enough to offer a real mystery. But this is a terrific book. The answer I think is the characters and their banter. Her characters are so much fun and the dialogue so snappy that the reader is happy to spend more time with the characters.

Now, here's the truly interesting part of this comparison: Both of these novels are variations on the same archetype/master plot: the fish out of water story. Heroine (or Hero) is thrust into a unfamiliar environment. Comic (or tragic) merriment ensues as we watch him or her flop about. Hero (or Heroine) is there to support/torment the adjustment. You can rack up library fines all the way back to Othello and beyond just reading variations of this story. Why, then, do we keep reading? We know that one of two things will happen: the character will decide that their old life wasn't so bad after all, or they will happily (or maybe not so happily) embrace their new roles.

We keep reading because each author handles this basic theme in a different way. Some will deliver a black moment so intense you almost forget to feed the baby. Some will be so much fun you almost forget to feed the baby.

What type are you? How black is your black moment? Which of your favorite books fit into each category? (Please share titles/authors!)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

YOUR STORY IS LIKE PASTRY - TAKE CARE HOW YOU SHAPE IT AND DRESS IT

Come join me inside the Barber Book & Bakery and allow me to share a tray of delectable sweet treats. Don’t be shy. Settle your fanny into a chair designed to remain comfortable long enough for you to devour every delicious morsel.

Now, sit back and nibble each goodie I offer. Remember my one golden rule, ‘Don’t Be Too Piggy And Overindulge.’

Doughnut: Let’s face it no one likes to read a book and feel cheated at the end, like there’s a big hole in the story. To knead out any holes check for inconsistencies and balance in your characters and scenes. Different colored highlighters for each character and scene may also help pinpoint them. Read your story out loud or read it from back to front to help bring them to your attention.

Texas Doughnut: A big, fat book doesn’t always equal twice the endowment of a fun read. They could encompass much bigger holes. If your book becomes weighed down with big words that don’t fit the main character, whisk them away. Instead, sprinkle in a select few, if necessary, or add a hint of unique flavor to another character more befitting. Cut on-going scenes down to size before they become unmanageable and your chapters begin to expand to book-length format. Remove sentences and scenes that halt the story and stop forward movement. Also, check for the same earmarks as the standard doughnut. Any of these conditions could induce your reader to never pick your book up again, or lug it to the nearest bookstore exchange.

Long John: Too many long sentences can cross your readers eyes and leave them gasping for air. Variation is key to insure eye appealing pages. Sort through those long winded, wordy sentences and shorten them to a manageable size. Also, scoop out or reduce those long chunks of back story, or flashbacks that take the reader backwards, forwards, and occasionally sideways. These hard to handle, sometimes irritating passages, can take the reader down unnecessary and boring journeys far from the present happenings of the story.

Filled Bismark: Any number of yummy rich plots work to fill the pages of your book. Whether you write, romance, fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal, inspiration, historical, or mainstream, from the first page to the last, it’s the filling that makes your story irresistible. If your plot is too thin your book won’t hold together. A plot stuffed with unbelievable events will leave your readers struggling to swallow them. Plots too sticky sweet with sexual content will make readers gag.

Twist: Creative and deceptive twists and unexpected turns are designed to add suspense, not vertigo. Don’t get so carried away that you’ve tied and manipulated your story into so many knots readers dump your book and binge on another author’s entrees. Balance each twist with enough intrigue enriched fiber to hold your book to its shape. Add a dash of humor for some relief, if desired. Your reader won’t feel cheated or defrauded; and they won’t be able to put your book down.

Plain Doughnut: Unadorned or simple, isn’t an automatic equation for unpalatable or boring. As long as you incorporate all of the necessary ingredients for your gene you can whip up a scrumptious prize winning book. One that will rise to the occasion and deliver an enjoyable taste sensation for every reader.

Sugar coated: Don’t over sugar coat your words. Chose them carefully. You don’t want to turn a perfect granule into a gritty mouthful.

Glaze: After you’ve written your final word. Don’t be satisfied with a light glaze over your book. Immerse yourself in each sentence and scene. Check every angle. Then go back through and review again. It may mean the difference between a rejection or a sale.

Nuts: Humor adds a bonus texture for your readers. Comic lines can endear the readers to your character. Well placed comic lines are also a great way to relax the pace for a moment, so your readers can catch their breath after a serious or suspenseful scene.

Sprinkles: A little flamboyance, glitz, and glam goes a long way. In most cases a dash will do.

If you’ve shaped and dressed your story with all the right touches it won’t matter whether you serve your finished book on a polished silver tray or plain paper plate, your readers will devour it and beg for more.

Share your favorite book recipes and successes.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Chemistry and Characters

This entry isn’t about anything earth shattering. I need help with the two presentations I’m putting together.

One is titled “Looking For Love” and I’m presenting it at EPICon. It is basically what an editor looks for in a romance manuscript. For this presentation I’m looking for couples that have chemistry in books, movies, TV shows. You know the ones that never quite get together or when they do you are so drained from their denial that their coming together is almost a relief. LOL

The ones I can think of are TV shows:
The Scarecrow and Mrs. King- Bruce Boxleitner and Kate Jackson. Every time I watched that show the sparks flew between them and the show progressed in the way of the 12 stages of Intimacy. Making the show satisfying.
Remington Steele – Stephanie Zimbalist and Pierce Brosnan. Again the sizzle between them made up the show for me. That and his wit.
Can you give me a couple of movies and books to add to my list?



And for my Characterization presentation- I need names of characters from TV, Movies, and books who you rooted for or fell for because of the great characterization. And tell me one or two of the character traits that drew you in. - some I can think of are TV:
Magnum PI- I love Tom Selleck's mischievious grin and the twinkle in his eye and the fact he was like an overgrown teenager in that show. Which made him likable.
Movie: Captain Jack Sparrow- his bumbling ways and though he wanted to be a tough pirate he still had a conscience.
Book: Stephanie Plum- she bumbles (I'm seeing a pattern here, hmm...) around trying to catch bad people, be a good daughter and granddaughter, and decide which hunk's bones to jump.

I know this is cheating, but I watch few movies and don’t read as much as I should so if you can help me out, I’ll rent the movies so I can talk about them with some sort of intelligence and try to borrow the books to get a feel for the characters in the books you suggest.

Are you noticing a pattern with the TV shows! Yes, it was while I had small children that I watched the most TV. All the TV shows I picked are from the 80's!!

Thank you in advance for help and you know you can discuss your reasons why you picked who you did. ;) great way to disuss chemistry and characters.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Challenge Check-In


"What," you say, "is the relevance of that snowy picture up there to a blog about challenges?"

I'm glad you asked.

Last week at this time, it looked outside just as it does today, wet. The picture is what the view down my driveway looked like twenty-four hours later. In other words, it changed. It grew beautiful. That picture is a reminder to embrace the possibility of everyday and delight in the unexpected.

Anyway, it's Saturday again.

How's everyone doing? We've blogged this week about procrastination and about working outside your comfort zone. I'm indulging in a bit of both. Procrastination in that there's a whole lot of book to finish before the last day of this month -- my deadline. And outside my comfort level in that I am trying my best to write forward despite the sinkhole I left behind about ten pages ago. Normally, I would founder around for quite awhile as I thought of a way to fill it in before going on, but I'm trying to let it go. Frankly, I don't enjoy knowing it's lurking back there. The trouble with a sinkhole is that objects next to it tend to fall in when no one is looking. Ack!

Did you meet your goals? I can't honestly say that I met mine, but I did move forward about 6500 words. Or sideways. Anyway, there are 26 more pages now than there was a week ago at this time. Time to put the old nose down and hunker in big time!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Procrastination

That's the name of the game this morning. So this may be a short post.

It's Friday - blog day! It's Feb. 1st - website update day! I'm heading out of town for the weekend and haven't finished laundry, haven't packed, haven't finished cleaning the house for Grandma who will be here staying with the Gremlins. I've known all week these things were coming up, and yet I didn't get any of the items on my "to do" list done. Why? Because I'm the queen of procrastination.

This blog will be finished in minutes, and I can check that off my list. Half the website updates are done, I just have to write the president's article and send it all to my web mistress. The cleaning and laundry (oh, and paying bills) will have to wait until I get back from my run.

I know what you're thinking...what the heck is she rambling about? How in the name of all things holy does this have anything to do with writing? Simple, grasshopper. Last minute pressure is how I work. I've always been like this. Give me a month to get something done and I will wait until the last possible minute to start. I always meet my deadline, but I rarely have wiggle room to spare. I'm thinking this could be a bad thing when I get to deadline time, but something interesting I've found is that I work better under pressure than I do when I have oodles of time to accomplish a task. (I can hear Alice over there snickering at me....shshhshshshhhhhh!)

One drawback to this is that when I'm crunched for time, I have a clear list in my head of what needs to be done and when. And anyone else stepping in to help totally throws my plan off kilter. Take, for example, the fact that today is the day the blurb about our next meeting has to be sent to the Statesman Journal. As the previous secretary, this was my responsibility. When we didn't have a secretary in Jan. because Danita had announced her maternity leave and we hadn't voted in her replacement, this job fell back to me. Now it's Feb. Much easier for me to just do it than forward all the stuff to our interim secretary and have her handle it. I'm forcing myself not to do that. (Be forewarned, Paty, an email's coming your way. LOL) Another drawback is that on days like this - when I have ten thousand things to do - I'm a bear to be around. Single-minded focused. Yeah, the DH hates days like this. Again, not boding well for those deadline moments.

So...as I run around today like a chicken with my head cut off, I'm wondering...are you a procrastinator too? Have you ever been? Can you work steadily and slowly toward something or are you an under-the-crunch-girl? And if you have procrastination tendencies (like moi) how do you make them work for you?

(Oh, and before you go off and think I'm a total slacker, I want to mention the reason I didn't get much done this week in preparation for today was because I was knee-deep in my revisions - which are so close to being done I can taste them. And I so just want to work on them today and forget everything else!!! ARGH!)