Saturday, May 31, 2008

CHALLENGE CHECK-IN


I'm assuming Paty is going to be unable to post the check-in as she's been having trouble this week with the internet. Paty, if I'm wrong, oops and I'm sorry. Go ahead and post something else if you'd like.

Meanwhile, since building a book is a lot like building a house, the photo above. I heard from my editor yesterday -- she had read the proposal, liked the book I was worried she wouldn't like, had good ideas and suggestions for revising the proposal for the other other two books. I'm working on that now with the hope of sending them to her on Monday.

How are you doing? Karen, you back on the ground yet, honey?

It also occurs to me that we don't really have a challenge going on -- is anyone feeling the need to issue one or are we all doing fine rambling along at our own pace?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Benefits of Critique


This is kind of a spinoff to Paty's post about having thick skin. Critique can hurt, or it can help. It all depends on how the critique is handled and if the critiquer is using it as a tool to help the writer as well as improve her own writing. Critique is an excellent way to do both. Everybody wins.

A couple of weeks ago I was involved in a discussion on a yahoo group called Online Writers Workshop. Several of the posters couldn't understand the difference between a critique and a review. I found this rather shocking, especially since some of them had been members of this workshop for five or more years.

The debate was over how comments are delivered. Some felt that when criticizing a person's work, you should clarify that it's your opinion only and that others may see it a different way. Also, if you're going to criticize something, the person getting critiqued deserves an explanation to help him or her understand why the critiquer thought something was wrong, and a suggestion for how to improve the work if the writer chooses to do so. Half the people on the list, including me, agreed with this perception. The other half did not.

The disagreeing half argued that a writer who's serious about critique should have a thick enough skin that he or she can take criticism without an explanation. Just accept the comment as an opinion, because what else could it be? And either take it or leave it. The critiquer doesn't have to explain anything. Like a review, and that's what they called it, too.

I couldn't disagree more.

For one thing, a review, as in book review, is a judgment. It's not supposed to be helpful, though it can be. But that's not what it's designed for. A review offers an opinion (sometimes a pretty blunt one) to help readers decide whether or not to buy the book. Is this helpful to the writer? Does the reviewer offer suggestions on how to fix what's wrong? Rarely. And that's fine because a review is what it is: a judgment.

A critique, on the other hand, is a writer's tool. If I read someone's work and say a particular sentence is awkward, I'm going to explain why I think so, and I might offer a suggestion how to make it work better. And I'll certainly clarify that they can take it or leave it because it's my opinion only.

Writers are sensitive by nature. All creative people are. That's part of what makes them creative. So to be blunt and judgmental doesn't help. It either discourages them, or they won't take the comments seriously, especially if there's nothing to back it up and no suggestions for how to make the criticized work better.

I was only taking a trial membership of OWW, and the trial is over on June 2. I won't be subscribing. I'm afraid many of the people there are misinformed and I have the impression there's no guidance. Kind of like the blind leading the blind. Maybe not, but when you get yourself involved with a big group and put your work out there to be "judged" by strangers, I think it's potentially damaging to the writer. Critique groups, and critique partners, should be carefully selected in my opinion.

I'm very happy with the group of mixed genre writers I currently critique with. I was looking to expand my circle to include speculative fiction writers who I can bounce my fantasy and paranormal ideas off of. But OWW is not the way to do it. Not for me, anyway.

Do you have a critique group you're happy with? What makes them special? How have they helped you and your writing? Can you give any examples? What advice would you give a fellow writer who's trying to decide whether or not to use critique as a writing tool?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Since Bethany Has A Clinger....

Bethany IM'd me and said she has a clinger at home today, therefore can't get to the computer. And since we have an open day, I thought I'd post my cover and cover copy here (in case you didn't see the thousand announcements I made all over and already peeked at my blog. LOL):

STOLEN FURY
Release Date: December 30, 2008


DANGEROUS LIAISONS

Oh, is he handsome. And charming. And sexy as all get out. Dr. Lisa Maxwell isn’t the type to go home with a guy she barely knows. But, hey, this is Italy and the red-blooded Rafe Sullivan seems much more enticing than cataloging a bunch of dusty artifacts.

After being fully seduced, Lisa wakes to an empty bed and, worse yet, an empty safe. She’s staked her career as an archaeologist on collecting the three Furies, a priceless set of ancient Greek reliefs. Now the one she had is gone. But Lisa won’t just get mad. She’ll get even.

She tracks Rafe to Florida, and finds the sparks between them blaze hotter than the Miami sun. He may still have her relic, but he’ll never find all three without her. And they’re not the only ones on the hunt. To beat the other treasure seekers, they’ll have to partner up—because suddenly Lisa and Rafe are in a race just to stay alive.

I am so totally thrilled with this cover. I can't stop grinning. It really captures the heart of the book well - sexy, suspenseful, mysterious all in one. In the story, the heroine, an archaeologist, is on the hunt for three stone reliefs of the three Furies - those winged creatures with snakes in their hair from Greek Mythology that tormented evil doers. So the stone Medusa-type head in the foreground is perfect. And the cover copy and top "steamy" photo really capture the romance well.

December 30th seems so far away and so close at the same time!! I don't know how I'm going to stay sane between now and then.

If you're published, what's your favorite cover to date? And if you're prepublished - or a reader - can you think of a book that had a phenomenal cover you just loved?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

GIVING THANKS FROM A GRATEFUL HEART

Today, I pause to give thanks to all of you for enriching my life in the world of writing. I have learned so much through your kind and caring hearts and spirits. Amidst the frenzy and plummets of life I sometimes forget to give thanks to all of you for giving your time, encouragement, advice, smiles and hugs. Each enriching act paves smoother footfall for me up the mountain in the writing kingdom.

Though I lag behind in the bottomland one of you will point out the right path, and another offers words of guidance when I face an unexpected crossroad. In the midst of following, stumbling and jumping over the mud holes you have all leapt over with grace, I land smack dab in the middle of a pit of quicksand. Footsteps slap double time and a generous hand takes my own and lifts me from the muck of struggling to learn deeper POV, characterization, black moments, and resolutions, all meant to swallow me.

Thick in a fog I hear one of your voices laced with kind words of assurance as I languish in the dark forest of writers block. My anguish and despair dissipate and are replaced with your still, soft whisper that echos the chant, ‘This too shall pass.’

Tempted to quit at times, your inspirational stories of drive and determination have instilled the passion in me to continue on; to persevere with my dreams and goals. I am reminded again; one positive word can dismember a multitude of stumbling blocks.

I know this lifelong writing journey will forever unfold surprises, some good, some unpleasant. My feet now march to a lighter cadence and my heart cherishes the invigorated beats all your friendships have bestowed upon me. For true friends waltzes through the door of our hearts carrying the warm rays of compassion, understanding, and loyalty.

I am blessed and I thank each of you for your many kindnesses.

What are some of the best words of encouragement you’ve received about your writing that hurdled you over a mountain of doubt and despair?

Monday, May 26, 2008

HOW THICK IS YOUR SKIN? by Paty Jager

As writers we are a vulnerable lot in that we put our feelings down for others to see. Granted they are in the body of a character in our work, but they are still our feelings. And everyone who puts their feelings out there can be crushed.

We have to grow a tough skin for those contest judges who “don’t know” enough to be judging a category, or that critique that hurts, or that form rejection letter or even worse the lengthy rejection letter that came so close to maybe getting published.

There have been two incidents lately in my little realm of historical writing that made me think about this topic. One is a post on my historical loop from a writer who received her judge’s comments from a “historical” contest. She said more than one judge commented she needed to explain what a “union suit” was. Anyone who reads historical knows what a union suit is! It is the one-piece underwear with a flap in the back that is still worn in some parts of the US today and used as PJ’s by some women. This is where the tough skin comes in- this writer could have thrown a tissy fit and asked what kind of judges are we getting for these contests, instead, she went on the loop and asked for different ways she could describe the clothing. Which, I feel she was accurate in just saying what it was- any true reader of historical fiction will know what she is talking about. So while she was calm, it ticked me off that someone was judging a category they shouldn’t have been.

The second incident is a writer who submitted to a publishing house and received a rejection stating her historical information and characters didn’t ring true However, her writing-grammar, spelling, prose were commended. This was an instance when a tough skin was needed, but this person didn’t have one. She sent several scathing replies to the editor.

Which of these writers will grow from the experience? Which of these writers do you think will go the farthest with their writing career?

Do you have a thick skin? Can you go the distance to be published? Do you have a thick skin story?

Paty's Blog

Can someone retrieve Paty's blog for today? It's in the dashboard under draft. I can't figure out how to post it from there. Thanks for any and all help.
Lori

Saturday, May 24, 2008

How Thick is Your Skin

As writers we are a vulnerable lot in that we put our feelings down for others to see. Granted they are in the body of a character in our work, but they are still our feelings. And everyone who puts their feelings out there can be crushed.

We have to grow a tough skin for those contest judges who “don’t know” enough to be judging a category, or that critique that hurts, or that form rejection letter or even worse the lengthy rejection letter that came so close to maybe getting published.

There have been two incidents lately in my little realm of historical writing that made me think about this topic. One is a post on my historical loop from a writer who received her judge’s comments from a “historical” contest. She said more than one judge commented she needed to explain what a “union suit” was. Anyone who reads historical knows what a union suit is! It is the one-piece underwear with a flap in the back that is still worn in some parts of the US today and used as PJ’s by some women. This is where the tough skin comes in- this writer could have thrown a tissy fit and asked what kind of judges are we getting for these contests, instead, she went on the loop and asked for different ways she could describe the clothing. Which, I feel she was accurate in just saying what it was- any true reader of historical fiction will know what she is talking about. So while she was calm, it ticked me off that someone was judging a category they shouldn’t have been.

The second incident is a writer who submitted to a publishing house and received a rejection stating her historical information and characters didn’t ring true However, her writing-grammar, spelling, prose were commended. This was an instance when a tough skin was needed, but this person didn’t have one. She sent several scathing replies to the editor.

Which of these writers will grow from the experience? Which of these writers do you think will go the farthest with their writing career?


Do you have a thick skin? Can you go the distance to be published? Do you have a thick skin story?

CHALLENGE CHECK-IN, ANYONE?

Everyone must be out enjoying this beautiful day! At least, I hope it's a beautiful day where you are. I apologize if I'm stepping on toes by tossing out the challenge check-in. Or was it decided not to worry about this for awhile and I missed that discussion? LOL!

Is everyone between projects or in the brainstorming process? I'm making progress on plotting my nine-book series. At this point, I'm not pushing, but letting the ideas flow and jotting down lots of notes. The push will come in the next few days and weeks, as I plan to complete a detailed outline (a series "Bible," if you will) of each story by the end of June.

I also jotted down a detailed outline for a newsletter article this morning in between doing laundry. You never know when inspiration will strike!

How/what is everyone else doing?

Friday, May 23, 2008

The End or a New Beginning?

When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.”
-- Thomas Jefferson

I reached the end of my revisions last night. Though I still need to reread book two one more time to make sure I didn't mess anything up, I'm officially calling it done. Reaching The End is an amazing feeling, which most of you already know. But for those of you that don't, it truly is one of the most bittersweet moments a writer will ever have.

As I was rereading the resolution last night, I found myself once again having a hard time letting the book go, even though I will see it again in copy edits and galleys and reread it so many times I'll once again be sick of it. But the creation, the revising, the whole "sending them on to do something exciting" part is pretty much done. And that's the part that's hard to say goodbye to. These characters - even the villains who may be light-years different from me - all have a part of me somewhere inside, and as I get ready to send this to my editor, I can't help think it's sort of like sending my babies off into the world to fend for themselves.

Luckily, in my case, these main characters will pop up in book three in very minor places, so I know I'll see and "create" for them again, though it will never be the same as when they were central in their book. So for me this isn't really the end, but a pause. When I get to the end of book three though? That will be a different story. I've fallen in love with the main characters in book three (who were secondary characters in books one and two) and letting them (and the rest) go then will be difficult for me.

Kendra and I were chatting the other night and she posed a question that stuck with me. I'm paraphrasing here, but the gist was, "How many books does a writer really have in her?" We have all probably asked ourselves this question. What will I write next? Will it be as good as the last one? What if I don't have any more books left in me??? I've been thinking about this a lot, especially because since I sold, my brain has been mush. I could see the three books in my contract, but past that? Nothing. Even ideas I had before selling seemed to have dissipated into thin air. But luckily, in the past month new ideas have been popping. New characters, new locations, new stories. Yes, the end is always bittersweet, as I mentioned above, but the wonderful thing about writing is that it is ongoing. Characters will come and go but the writing endures. And the end isn't really the end of the line for any of us, but a new beginning. A chance to do something different. To write a new story, to create new characters, to build an entirely different world. I've said before that I don't particularly enjoy the beginning of a new book, but that's not entirely true. I don't generally enjoy writing the beginning of a book because it's the one section I have to work and rework to get just right. But I do love the idea of a new story. The possibilities. The excitement. The not-knowing-exactly-where-this-may-go feeling that brings us all right back around to page one time and time again.

Writing for me really is cyclical. Sure, we have beginnings and ends, but each just brings us back to the other if we work hard enough. Never ending. Unbreakable. Each one a knot that ties the rest together.

How do you view the end?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

JUST PERFECT!


What a difference a day makes. I don't really allow myself to have "bad" days any more. However, some days are definitely more challenging than others. Tuesday was one of those days. As I write this blog post late Wednesday, today was definitely more to my liking! My older dog who has had some rough times lately seemed better today. There's money in my bank account and bills are paid ahead. I got the OK for the cover of my December release (graphic attached). And one wall of my office is covered with easel sheets showing the early planning for my next series of books. Ahhh...

We've heard a lot about writer's block, what what about life block? What about those days when life hands you challenge after challenge; taunting you to take another step, let alone dare to dream?

How do you work through those days? Just hang on and hope it will pass quickly? Sprinkle fairy dust around yourself and chant three times, "Bippity, boppity, boo?" Pretend you are on the latest reality TV show and plan how you will spend your million dollars at the end of the day when you are the last survivor?

On the other hand, what's your perfect day? Is it a day when you can write all day? A day when all the pieces of your life, including writing, come into perfect balance?

Have you ever considered doing this for the characters in your story? This could be a great way to get to know them if you're just starting a story or are stuck at some point. It could also be an interesting way to bring out their personalities for readers. For the social worker heroine in one of the books of my series, her perfect day could mean all the parents of kids in foster care suddenly had their own lives under control so they could nurture and appropriately take care of their children; and she could go home early because no calls of child abuse or neglect came in. For the policeman hero, his perfectly awful day could include finding a ticket on his motorcycle he thought was parked legally. Does he get mad? Ignore it? Laugh at the irony of the situation?

In fact, I think I'll do this for the main characters in each of the stories I'm planning. These perfect days and perfectly awful days could even become part of their stories. Perhaps I'll develop a workshop using this technique. If you want to try it out, consider this a mini-online workshop and do one of these exercises for yourself or your characters. Have fun!

PERFECT OR PERFECTLY AWFUL?


What a difference a day makes. I don't really allow myself to have "bad" days any more. However, some days are definitely more challenging than others. Tuesday was one of those days. As I write this blog post late Wednesday, today was definitely more to my liking! My older dog who has had some rough times lately seemed better today. There's money in my bank account and bills are paid ahead. I got the OK for the cover of my December release (hopefully I'll be able to include a graphic of it with this blog). And one wall of my office is covered with easel sheets showing the early planning for my next series of books. Ahhh...

We've heard a lot about writer's block, what what about life block? What about those days when life hands you challenge after challenge; taunting you to take another step, let alone dare to dream?

How do you work through those days? Just hang on and hope it will pass quickly? Sprinkle fairy dust around yourself and chant three times, "Bippity, boppity, boo?" Pretend you are on the latest reality TV show and plan how you will spend your million dollars at the end of the day when you are the last survivor?

On the other hand, what's your perfect day? Is it a day when you can write all day? A day when all the pieces of your life, including writing, come into perfect balance?

Have you ever considered doing this for the characters in your story? This could be a great way to get to know them if you're just starting a story or are stuck at some point. It could also be an interesting way to bring out their personalities for readers. For the social worker heroine in one of the books of my series, her perfect day could mean all the parents of kids in foster care suddenly had their own lives under control so they could nurture and appropriately take care of their children; and she could go home early because no calls of child abuse or neglect came in. For the policeman hero, his perfectly awful day could include finding a ticket on his motorcycle he thought was parked legally. Does he get mad? Ignore it? Laugh at the irony of the situation?

In fact, I think I'll do this for the main characters in each of the stories I'm planning. These perfect days and perfectly awful days could even become part of their stories. Perhaps I'll develop a workshop using this technique. If you want to try it out, consider this a mini-online workshop and do one of these exercises for yourself or your characters. Have fun!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

LONELINESS


Loneliness and writing. The silent scream from within.

Thomas Wolfe is quoted as saying: “Loneliness is and always has been the central and inevitable experience of every man.”

I suspect he's right. Even when you're so in love you can't take a breath without your lover, even when you are holding your first newborn, each of us is always aware we are alone in this universe, that push come to shove, inevitably, it's just us standing there at the end of the day. Oh, I know, sometimes we get so caught up in the day to day necessities of life including feeding, clothing, driving, comforting, mothering, cooking, etc... for others that we don't feel lonely, in fact, we crave time to ourselves, like Eli wanting to take a shower without a three year old. We are not lonely because we are busy and distracted. I suspect humankind stays busy and distracted to fight off the lurking loneliness deep inside, but I'm not a philosopher, so who knows.

Add to this basic premise a job -- a passion -- that requires solitary pursuit and isolation. Think of it this way: if you are a mushroom, you cannot flourish until you seek the deep dark, moist cover of the forest. You cannot be a mushroom on a beach in the bright sunlight. It won't work. If you are a writer, you can't flourish until you embrace the very essence of becoming a story teller. Like a mushroom, you are going to have to go it alone most of the time. You are going to have to take cover under the umbrella of your imagination where the world within becomes more real than the one without. And the more successful you become, the deeper into the forest you'll tend to wander.

This is a pitiful metaphor, I know, but in my head it kind of makes sense.

Recently, another loop I belong to got off onto this topic. It was brought up by a woman who mentioned it in passing, like dipping her toe into a pond to test the temperature of the water. One by one, a few other writers chimed in. I was convinced many of them were at my stage of life -- children gone, long hours alone, multiple contracts, umpteen books under their belts, right in the middle of their careers. But then one of the women emailed me privately. She was in her thirties, two little kids, a husband, etc... and she felt the same things I feel, the same core loneliness, that struggle to fit into your life the people you love, the necessities of keeping life afloat for family, the desire to be a better more present friend, and the needs of writing that take you away from everything else. She is trying to find a way to juggle it all -- and it became clear to me that this is what we all do, one way or another, at different stages of our careers -- we juggle that need to be part of our own life and the need to create fiction -- alone.

No wonder we writers crave conferences where we can momentarily rub shoulders with other people who "get" us. People who mumble under their breath. People who hold conversations in the shower with themselves. People who jot notes in dark theaters and ask the cat what she would do if that creep ran out on her. People who wave their arms as though warning off a rabid dog or make their loved ones assume poses to see just what it would take to overpower a younger, stronger person. Nuts, like us.

As a kid, I used to always feel on the outside looking in. When I had my first baby, I remember thinking I would never be alone again. I soon understood the folly of such a notion and thankfully, let her go, but it was there for awhile and it was such a warm glow. The glow of creation.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Open Blog Day

Since today's an open blog day, I thought I'd post our meeting reminder:

Join us tonight for our May MWV RWA meeting at The Blue Pepper in downtown Salem from 6-9pm. Our guest speaker is our very own Paty Jager:

Characterization: Minimum Words, Maximum Impact
Author and e-pub editor, Paty Jager, will show you how to take your characters from ordinary to memorable. This workshop will help an author pinpoint the little things that make a character come to life. Will use country western songs to show how choosing the right words can spark a connection between your readers and your stories.

And now a question...

Who was the most memorable guest speaker you've heard speak at a chapter meeting (or workshop) and why?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Websites

Happy thank-God-it's-no-longer-100-degrees Monday!!!

Ay ya ya...was it hot enough this weekend or what?! Friday night my poor kids had a baseball game. It was 102 when we drove over to the baseball fields and 99 on our way home. I was melting in the shade, they had to be dying in the sun! I'm so so SO happy we've returned to "somewhat" normal May temps. Don't get me wrong, I love the warmth and sun, but going from the 50's to 100's in a matter of days is a shock to the system!

Since Lisa's bogged down in class right now, snowed under with term papers and press releases and taking photos of hot guys (you'll have to ask her about that one...) I'm filling in for her today with a random survey.

Author Websites...what catches your eye?

I'm in the process of revamping my website to be more in line with my adventure theme. And as I'm looking at content I'm asking myself, what brings readers back? Obviously, new content. Contests are good. Updates on releases. What about teasers? Deleted scenes? Character interviews? Sections for writers - articles on query letters and agent hunting, etc? What content on author websites has piqued your interest and kept you clicking around? What content do you find boring or not worth including? And finally, what author websites have you seen that totally rock?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Saturday Check in

Yes, I'm a blog hog this week! LOL

So how did everyone do this week? I didn't write a single word on my WIP. My company had me hopping all week and I was on two reader loop chats which I did miserably at because of not enough computer time. Then yesterday and today I am judging 4-H presentations. Which is fun. I learned how to skin and mount a duck and make a chicken yesterday along with a plethera of other things. Looking forward to what I'll learn today! However, there is some down time inbetween the kids so I have a long a couple of the books I'm reading for research on the WIP. So I am getting something done!

Has the change in weather made it harder for you to stay focused on the writing?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Voice


Danita asked me to fill in for her today. So you get a double dose of boring me this week. Which brings me to the subject of voice.

When Terry Mclaughlin spoke to our group last month she asked me how I changed my voice between the historical and contemporary stories. And to be truthful- I haven't a clue! I told her by word usuage to not appear as stupified as I was by her question. I never think of voice. I don't know what mine is or how it's changed over the years. I believe, however, it has always been strong, and I've had to work on other elements such as plot and sentence structure.

My first romance book (which is horrid) neither one of the characters really had any GMC other than staying alive. The hero was pretty docile. But I was a finalist in a contest with the love scene. My second romance I finaled in a contest and placed third. Cindy Hwang of Berkley requested the full and rejected saying she loved the characters but the plot was bad. And so it went. Either I received high scores in contests or rock bottom scores, and was told that meant I had a strong voice.
But back to the topic. How does one explain their voice? On the blog this is how each blogger comes across to me. Lori - humorous and fun. Eli - sassy. Alice - the voice of reason. Wavy -perky with wisdom. Karen - intellectual. Genene - entertain as well as inform. Danita - catchy and fun. Lisa- optimistic.

And having read Lori, Alice, Karen, and Danita's longer works- that same voice pretty much comes through with some added nuances.

Is this how you hear your voice? Or are you like me and not really sure how to explain your voice? I'd like to hear others takes on the different bloggers voice to see if I even know what I'm looking for in voice. Or is voice an illusive thing that no one can really put a finger on? Just they either like it or they don't.




Thursday, May 15, 2008

Grappling for Grammar


I'm so excited! I start school next week. Seriously! I'm going back to college. Hee hee. Well, that's not exactly accurate since it's only one class and I'm taking it online.

It's a grammar class at Central Oregon Community College and I'm taking it to brush up on those pesky repeater goofs that plague me now and then. My grammar is fine for the most part, but sometimes I screw up using pronouns depending on where they appear in a sentence. And the correct use of "was" and "were" is an intermittent problem for me.

I'm very fortunate to have a retired English teacher as one of my critique partners, and she catches everything. But I can't depend on her to be there for me forever. The apron strings must be cut. Sniff.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about:

I suddenly wished my spiky hair wasn't too short to hide behind.

The correct word is weren't. Though that doesn't sound right to me, it's still the proper way to use it.

And here's one of my pronoun errors:

I pictured this Turkish warrior beating up my teachers, most of whom were bigger than him.

The correct useage would be bigger than "he" and not "him."

I'm probably the best comma-user on the planet, I know how and when to use lay, laying and laid, and I've never had an issue with who or whom. And I know the difference between that and which. So hopefully I'll ace those particular lessons. I'll let you know.

If you have issues with your grammar, or just want to see where you stand, I highly recommend this website for some excellent grammar exercises. They've added about a dozen more categories since I last visited. Hmm… Maybe I didn't need to shell out my $89 for the college course.

Here's the syllabus for the course I'm taking at COCC. Looks like fun, doesn't it? I can hardly wait to jump right in and stretch those atrophied grammar muscles. After all, the eighth grad was a really long time ago. For me, anyway. COCC has other writing classes, too, and I'm thinking of taking the one on writing magazine articles as well.

So do you have any particular problem areas with your grammar? How confident are you that you can simply "get by" in this increasingly competitive industry we've chosen for ourselves? Personally, I've decided not to take any chances. It's tough enough as it is.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A book is a book is a book . . . Right?

Apologies for the VERY late post. I think I was stupefied by Lori's amazing post, and repressed the fact that I had to follow her today.

Last week, Tavy and I went to the Friends of the Library Book Sale. For $13.20 we got a huge bag of books. A lot of hard to find YA, some picture books, and of course, a ton of romance. As I added to my TBR pile at home, I started to feel a little guilty. I don't BUY books. I mean, I buy books, but I don't BUY brand new books very often.

Most of my books come from:
  • Packages from my mother. My mother is a librarian, and she regularly raids the discards and donations for me.
  • The library,. Now that I'm getting out of the house again, I'm back on a steady diet of 5-8 library books a week. Tasty. I've started showing Tavy board books and letting her "pick," so that she too knows the excitement of a library book.
  • Friends of the Library Bookstore. I love supporting them, and I buy around 10 books a month here, and usually donate around the same amount.
  • Friends/Freebies/Book Swaps. I get books from give-aways, our chapter book swaps, trading with friends, and other freebies.
  • Half.com. I feel guilty even admitting this to a group of writers, but when the above fails, I usually turn to Half to find what I want, cheaply.
  • Amazon. Ditto Amazon. One of my writing gigs pays me in Amazon dollars, but I always try to find stuff in the bargain bins.
  • Borders. I pay full price for about 10-15 books a year, and usually at least half of them are people I know through RWA. The other half are usually self-help/non-fiction/gifts/impulse.
Whew. I feel better just admitting that, but I feel horrid that out of around 250 books I read each year, less than a 1/10 result in any money back to the authors. I should be drummed out of RWA for this! I know from reading RWR letters that many authors HATE the idea of used book sales, and shudder at the mere mention of evil, evil Ebay. (Of course, these same ladies can often be seen with wheelie bags in the free rooms at Nationals, but I digress).

And lately, I've been contemplating joining Paperback Swappers, because I'd like to read more by some hard-to-find authors, and I'd like to stop using Half.com so much. While amazing for cheap readers like me, I can see how authors would hate Swappers and other sites like that. Because, of course, what you WANT to have happen is Reader A loves your book, recommends it to Person B, who runs right out and buys it (full price), who tells Person C, and Ta Da! NYT Bestseller.

Perhaps I should do even more book reviews on my blog to balance things out? Should I avoid Swappers out of solidarity to my fellow authors? Where do you get YOUR books? Has your views on used books changed since joining RWA? Are there certain authors whose books you try to get at full price? Any other thoughts on used books?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

INSPIRATION IGNITED

There’s nothing more rewarding than lumberjack portions of inspiration to fill your writing platter. Those surges, over-flowing with brilliant ideas and creative solutions, pulsate through your brain and pump your writing appetite into maximum overindulgence. In the writing kingdom that’s a good thing. What induces theses magnificent moments, and why they sometimes emerge at inopportune times, is a mystery as hard to solve as a good Agatha Christie book.

Some of my greatest ideas, scenes, and dialogue attack me at the most inconvenient times. The instant I slip into the shower golden remedies to problem areas and sensational dialogue sequences rain through my brain and drip from my tongue like refined grade A honey. If I could suction cup a waterproof computer to the wall I’m convinced I could write breathtaking chapters all day...or until the hot water ran out.

Writing inspirations and solutions have also attacked me in the middle of the night on a potty trot, mixing bread dough with flour up to my elbows, and driving the car. Most recently they struck at the doctor’s clinic with my legs in the stirrups in examination room number three.

Some situations make it difficult to jot down those magnificent gems at their moment of birth. To preserve those eloquent and precious sentences I’ve developed a memory tool. I repeat the thought out loud at least three times to help it stick to vacant wall space in my brain until I can place my hands on a pen and notepad. This method is foolproof most of the time, but glitches can arise. For example: In the examining room it doesn’t matter how delicate and professional your thrice repeated dialogue between two women comparing their husbands to the mold and grout around their kitchen sinks might sound. This chant will net a quick referral to a specialist of another kind.

Do you have a favorite place or time when writing inspiration ignites you? What do you do when writing inspirations irrupt in an inconvenient setting? Do tell. The next time I face examination room number three I want to be armed and ready when a force of genius strikes and illuminates my writing world.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Pitch Paragraph


I’ve been lurking on several agent blogs preparing myself to pitch to agents at Nationals. And I don’t just mean an agented appointment. I’m hoping I can get up nerve to talk to any agent I see. You know, casually at first, then hoping to edge into a short, succinct discussion about my WIP.

Kristen Nelson of the Nelson Literary Agency has been posting pitching info on her blog. And the one thing she said that finally rang a bell with me was to make your pitch sound like the back cover blurb with your plot catalyst.

And she says these are the three different ways you can build the paragraph around the plot catalyst.

1. The back story that sets the story and creates the context

2. Contributing plot elements that will broaden the story

3. Character elements that are imperative to the story.

Or she says you can do a combination of these to write up a pitch and back cover blurb.

So here goes. This is my pitch paragraph.

Mae Simon is on her first assignment as a Pinkerton operative and nothing will stand in her way; neither conventions nor a righteous U.S. Marshal. She’s also determined to find the traveling actor who fathered her and disappeared, leaving her mother pining for the man.

U. S. Marshal Beck Harlan can’t afford to get close to anyone . Not with a vengeance seeking outlaw killing off his intimate acquaintances. However, he finds himself falling for the French prostitute he persuades to become an informant, not realizing, she is a Pinkerton operative after the same man.

Show us what you would use for your pitch of back cover blurb of your WIP.( And I'll take any all suggestions on mine)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Saturday Check-in


It was nice to see Eli, Lisa, and Kendra at the Powell's signing last night! There was a good showing. And I really liked the panel discussion.

Okay, for check-in. I did miserably this week. And I really can't blame it on the gkids because they weren't here for most of it! I had promo stuff and work stuff that got in the way. I did some more research, but ended up with less than 1000 words this week. I worked on the synopsis, figured out more back story to make the characters more rounded, and have defined more of the secondary roles. But word count- not great!

And I don't foresee next week looking any better. The gkids will be back, I have four all day chats scheduled at reader loops, and I'm judging for two days for a 4-H event(which I get paid).

I hope everyone else had a productive week!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Pop Culture in Fiction

Okay, first of all, because Alice is gone and she didn't get a chance to share, I'm doing it for her. She sent me the new cover for her August 2008 release, BODYGUARD FATHER, and I want you all to see it. If you scroll down, you'll find it in the "coming soon" section as well, just below her July release, which is connected. I love that these two connected books have very similar covers. Isn't it gorgeous?

********

On to my post...

Speaking of Alice The Great, Wed. night she saved my bacon (yet again...you're da bomb, Alice) and helped me work through a section of my revisions. You see, I LOVE to add in popular culture bits in my books. I think it's fun and that it gives readers a way to connect with the characters on a more "real" level. So I'm always looking for a way to sneak a short reference to pop culture in somewhere.

One of the things my editor asked me to do in revisions for my first book, STOLEN FURY, was beef up a secondary character who ends up being the hero in the next book, STOLEN HEAT. So in a scene I added, this guy's sitting at his desk (he owns an antiquities gallery) reviewing an inventory list of his holdings. He gets to the last page and stops cold because it's a list of all the Egyptian pieces he's collected over the years. You see, years ago, he fell in love with an Egyptologist and she ended up dying and he was partially responsible. Over the years, in his guilt, he's been collecting Egyptian pieces and shoving them in storage. He has no intention of selling them or even looking at them, but even he realizes it's turning into an out of control obsession, and though the goal was to originally feel closer to her, it's taking him farther away.

Now, the pop culture reference came in because as I was writing this, I saw an analogy. Mel Gibson's character in Conspiracy Theory. He couldn't walk past a copy of Catcher in the Rye without buying it. And that's what my hero was doing - in a sense. I considered using that pop culture reference, and mentioned it to Alice. The problem with this, however, is two-fold. One, Conspiracy Theory is an old movie from the 90's. Will many people remember it? if so, does it date me? And two, considering all the flack surrounding Mel Gibson, will the reference to him turn off readers? Of course, I don't want to turn off readers, so that's something to take into consideration.

As it turned out, I think I got the point across without the pop culture reference, so in this case it wasn't needed, but that doesn't mean pop culture references are taboo. I love reading them in books and though some may say you should avoid mentioning them, movies and TV characters live forever. Laura Ingalls Wilder will always have braids as far as I'm concerned and Indiana Jones will always be the sexiest archaeologist I ever saw. In my mind, references don't necessarily date books but give you a way to identify so long as you pick references that span several years and aren't fads that come and go.

In the last scene of the paranormal I just sent my agent, the "mentor" is talking to the hero, who's wavering on his duties and being the man he wants to be vs being the one he's afraid to be. At one point she says to him, "This is your Star Wars moment. Stand up and do what you were born to do." I love this line for two reasons. One, who doesn't love Star Wars, know it and identify with it? And two, this line is particularly touching for me because when I was considering running for president of our chapter, Alice muttered almost the same exact thing to me. So now you all can blame her for my being president ;) But seriously, it did help me decide what I wanted to do, and I will never forget it.

I'm curious. Do you use pop culture references in your books? If so, can you give an example? If not, how come?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

A SMILE IS A SMILE UNLESS ...

You've perhaps heard that one way to connect with readers is to use universal emotions that everyone experiences, such as happiness, sadness, grief, anger, and anticipation.

As writers, we can also use universal facial or body expressions and gestures to help readers connect with our characters. A smile is a sign of welcome, a growling dog means danger, flipping someone off means -- well, most people know what that means. Or do they?

I believe it was Paty who asked for English words her character from another country could "mangle" that would add a touch of humor. And I got to thinking how writers could help define a character by doing this with gestures or facial/body expressions in addition to just the spoken word.

Of course one of my examples involves a dog. :) A growling dog generally is giving a warning that you're treading in dangerous territory, and a dog with a wagging tail is considered friendly. However, one of my dogs wags his tail when he growls. This message seems contradictory, but there's a reason. When he was a puppy, we scolded him for growling at us. He wagged his tail to apologize and I made an off-hand comment that he'd better be wagging that tail if he was going to growl. He's now twelve years old and still wags his tail when he growls -- and looks at me to see if that's alright!

The gesture of flipping someone off generally is done in anger. However, it reminds me of a joke about a grandmother who didn't know what the gesture meant. She was dawdling through traffic, waiting until the stoplight turned yellow to go through intersections so other drivers had to wait and wait and wait. As the joke goes, someone flipped her off. Thinking that must be some new way to say "hello," the grandmother returned the one-finger wave. She got such a rousing response that she continued her meandering through downtown traffic, wreaking havoc and offering a one-finger wave in greeting and in response to blaring horns.

Smiles can also convey different messages. A smile can be broad and welcoming, mischievous, menacing or hiding what a person really feels. The character could give one message on the outside and keep their contradictory thoughts bottled inside. This can help a writer dig deeper into the character. What kind of person would do this and why? Perhaps a celebrity or public person who is always expected to be "on" or is in the camera's eye all the time. What if that person was "caught" having a bad day. What would their reaction be? (Is this where supermarket tabloids get their photos and those wild headlines?) Or a young woman who was eager to please keeps smiling at others even though her resentment of being used or victimized builds and builds inside until she flips out and becomes the smiling mass murderer.

OK, these may be extreme examples that I've not actually used in any story so far. However, as I'm starting to plot a series of books, I'm thinking of different ways to define those characters. How about you? Have you used a different take on "universal" gestures or expressions to give a character endearing -- or not so endearing -- flaws or quirks? Or do you stick with more traditional gestures such as a furrowed brow as a sign of worry?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Waiting Game

I am playing the waiting game, my least favorite part of writing. It's the part where you send off a proposal -- so happy to see it go, so relieved it seems to work -- and then start worrying that it's terrible. Should you continue to write on it or move on or stand around staring into dusty corners? Will that call ever come saying the material is a go or a no go? Ack!

We all play it. With agents, with editors, with CPs.

What is your least favorite part of writing and how do you cope with it?

Sorry this is so short, the floor guys are here and kicking us out of the house. If someone would like to post additional information or use this to ask other questions, etc...please feel free.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Free Tuesday

Hey, all! Since it is the free Tuesday, I'd like to visit about getting thrown off course.

That's me today. I was just getting in the groove of the new WIP last week. Starting to kick out some pages, get into the characters, and then commitments and company upended me and I sit here today (company is visiting the other daughter for a few days) and I can't quite get motivated to jump back in even though the whole time I couldn't be at the computer writing, the characters and their backstory as well as some scenes that may or may not make it into the book have been playing in my head.

When you get thrown out of sync how do you get back in? I plan to start reading from the beginning and draw myself into the story, but I was wondering what others do. I haven't started any kind of music affiliation with this story yet. But my daughter gave me an MP3 player for my mother's day/birthday present. So now I have to decide what music put on it.

So what do you do to get back in a story when you've been pulled away for a few days?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Pet peeves

Sorry everyone, this post is going to be rather short - on my way out the door all day for work stuff. Something I was thinking about last night is pet peeves in writing and I want to do an experiment. What are your pet peeves that you see in books?

This is on my mind because I was talking with Eli last night about one of my pet peeves. When a character uses dialogue to explain something, when it's clear that in a 'real' conversation they wouldn't explain that. But since it's a book, and we're not psychic, the info needs to be in there some how. I tend to prefer it when it's in an internal, or if one person has a thought about how annoying it is that this person is blabbing on when he/she already knows that. Just something to acknowledge that it's a device I guess.

But I know that wouldn't bother most people. And something that might drive you crazy, I wouldn't think twice about. Like head-hopping. I hear so often that people can't stand head-hopping. Sherrilyn Kenyon uses it in her books and it doesn't bother me at all. In fact, I like the back-and-forth - I feel like I get more from the scenes. I don't know that I could pull it off as a writer though...

So what are your pet peeves? My hypothesis is that there may be a few common pet peeves among us, but that we'll each have our own little quirk. And lesson for the day: You can't please everyone. It's impossible to make a story that won't have pet peeves in it to some people. So don't try! Too stressful.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Challenge Check In


Good morning! It is a dismal, gray, and wet day on my side of the mountains. A good day to either write or read a book.

My WIP is continually congealing in my brain. Some good twists and ideas came to me. And while describing my work to a writer of poetry she said it sounded so good it made her leg tingle! LOL So far when I tell someone about the story it has been received well. I hope agents feel the same!

My word count for this week is: 3812. Not as much as I would have liked but I'm still researching and edging my way into the story. Getting a feel for the setting and characters. Not sure how much writing I'll get done the next couple of weeks with my daughter and three children 3-years-old and under running around my house, but we'll see.

How did everyone else fare this week? Good counts or researching or just plain thinking about the story.
PS: Don't forget to hop over to Brenda Novak's online auction for diabetes. There are some great things offered and it's for a great cause!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Vocabulary Workout


That's right, people. It's time to flex those literary muscles, shape up those sentences and condition those consonants and vowels. Bulk up on your word choices for a buff body of fiction that will make your readers drool at the very sight.

Okay, yeah, I'm on a fitness binge… again. Can you tell? Last year, for every pound I lost I seemed to gain one more and I'm ashamed to look at myself in the mirror. But enough about me. This blog is a fitness exercise for your prose.

I was watching the remake of Alfie the other night, the one starring Jude Law (yum!). He had one of those word-a-day calendars and he'd rip a page from the calendar every day and would find a way to use that word. It got me to thinking. We should all work on building up our vocabulary, don't you think? We're writers, right? Words are our business. So…

Get your fattest dictionary down off the shelf. Close your eyes and flip it open, then jab your finger down on the page. What word did you point to? I want you to do this three times, in three different sections of the dictionary. Now write a paragraph or scene using those new words.

I'd do the first as an example, but I'm on my way out the door to Les Schwab to get my brakes fixed. I'll contribute when I get back.

Try not to pull a muscle and have fun! 8^)