Monday, June 30, 2008

Funnies

As most of you know, our very own Lisa Catto is at this moment basking in the warm golden sunshine in Italy. Lisa left last week for her field school and will be gone until August 3rd. While I hope she has a fabulous time, I'm going to miss her. But for us here that means Lisa's blog days are open until she gets back. So if you have an itch to blog again July 14th or 28th, feel free to open a topic (of if you know of any guest bloggers, email me and I'll set it up).

This past weekend we had family visit and my SIL and niece were looking at my new book cover. A few things they said made me think of random comments I've received since selling and before, and I thought it might be funny to share some of the most amusing. Here are a few I've received over the years:

1. My 11-yr old niece, after looking at my book cover. "Oh, it's too bad they wouldn't let you write under your own name."

(Most of you already know this, but Naughton is my maiden name. And I doubt my 11 yr old niece even comprehends I had a pre-married different name at one time. Also, most people assume Elisabeth is a misspelling. Go figure.)

2. My sister-in-law, after I emailed her the cover. "Wow. How did you manage to get Dan (your husband) to pose for the cover? And who is that girl he's with?"
(Yes, this is a pic of my hubby when we were in Hawaii last year. Um...and the question was...)

3. My mother, after reading the book that will be my first release. "I really enjoyed it. But...Elisabeth! You don't talk that way!"

4. My brother, after attempting to read the book that will be my first release. "I tried. But...there are just some things a brother doesn't want to know his sister knows about."

I know there are more, but these are the ones that have stuck out to me. So your turn...share the funniest (weirdest) comments you've received about your writing or books. I'd love to hear them!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Saturday Check-in

First- Happy Birthday to me! Yes, I turned half a century today, but I don't feel a day over 30! LOL

I accomplished more writing this week than I did last week, which only had to be a word! LOL I manage 4300 words. Not near what I wanted, but research snafus have hung me up. I'm trying to talk my dh into taking me to the local rodeo tonight for research. That is after we attend, yet another wedding.

Has the rise in temperature stymied your word flow? Or are you a heat wave writer. Holing up next to the air conditioner and typing away? How did the rest of you fare this week for word count, researching, or brewing?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Danita's photos


Wedding Anyone?

As a photographer specializing in weddings, the business side of romance is constantly on my mind. There's a lot to it, these big weddings. So much planning, money outlay, and details, which all adds up to oodles and noodles of stress. The sheer oodle amount nearly blows my mind. It blew the minds of a young couple who booked me for August 2nd, then decided "To heck with it, let's just elope."

Bummer for me. Less stress and best wishes for them.

Luckily, I don't have to share my clients' stress. I just have to make images, capturing the tides of emotions and the intimate little moments of their big, special day.

As a sidebar here, I'm realizing that so far, this topic has little or nothing to do with writing. Although the heroine in my last book is a photographer and she winds up romantically involved with the hero. Does that count?

Anyway, back on topic -- I just shot a beautiful outdoor wedding on Saturday. I got some great photos, and I was hoping to post one of the more romantic ones here to share with all of you, but danged if I can figure out how to do that. So, tally-ho and on with the show.

Except I guess the show is about over, so on to the question portion of our program:

Do any of you write wedded bliss into your stories? (I know Alice does). Or do you ususally just hint at the eventual marriage-to-be-sometime-down-the-road?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Talk the Talk

Do you enjoy writing dialog? I think most writers do. I know a couple of writers who used to write books and then switched to writing screenplays because they enjoyed writing dialog so much. They had trouble getting inside their character's heads.

It's a challenge, regardless of what point of view you're writing from, to convey the feelings and thoughts of your characters. Just let them talk it out, right? Their word choices will do the job. Maybe a gesture or two, some choreographed action here and there, a few grins, an eye-roll, a nod and a headshake. Right? Is that all there is to it?

Sadly, no. There's much more. It takes a dance of words to get it right. It's not just a few people gathered round tossing words at each other like a game of ping pong. The best dialog can still lack depth of character.

I'm judging a writing contest right now, and I read a couple of entries that were just dynamite. Very original ideas, distinctive voices, interesting and diverse characters. But both had some problems, and their problems were polar opposite.

One had this fantastic opening with lots of action and a strong female character tough as iron. The dialog was great as far as the words go. The motivation behind them? Not so much. Why did she say this? Why did she do that? If the author knows, he or she isn't telling.

As for the other entry, it too had an interesting storyline. There was a viewpoint character who was all over the place as far as personality goes, but still some good dialogue here. The problem was too much internalization in between bouts of conversation with lots of feelings emoted ad nauseum. The pace crawled. And there were a few long speeches filled with information, which were basically info dumps disguised as dialog.

Both manuscripts can be saved if their authors choose to fix what needs fixing.

Do your dialog scenes have what it takes to get the job done? It's sharing time, my writerly friends. Post in comments up to 250 words from a scene with dialog that will make readers care about your character. The point is to use action and internalizations mixed with your dialog to reveal who your character is. Write something new, or pick a page from your WIP, your choice. I'll post something, too. Happy writing!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sick Day

I'm in the middle of a horrific cold. Summer colds are the worst because you don't WANT to be in bed, and the sun seems to mock you by bestowing terrific weather just as you're stuck inside your house.

Someone should have warned me that there are no sick days for mothers. I think I would have negotiated a better deal. Do writers get sick days?

I'm not sure. I've read many writing blogs that proclaim that they write even when horking up a lung. In fact, some people seem to write MORE when they are ill. These are probably the same people who clean to relieve stress, and can't eat when they have a crisis. I'm quite clearly NOT this type.

But, which type are you? Does illness send you running for a stack of quilts and bestsellers, or do you push through? What type is your character? Have you worked an illness into a plot line yet?

Apologies for the brevity here. More content next time!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

PERSPECTIVE

One summer evening several years ago, my husband and I took a stroll in Seattle, near Pike’s Market. On our way back to the hotel we all but tripped over a homeless man sleeping on the sidewalk. The thin form in shabby attire stretched out equal a textbook corpse. Hands crossed over his chest; coat folded in neat order under his head. The brass-tipped cane framed one side for viewing. A row of banana peels placed at equal distances from his body served to define the back border of his sacred space. Polished to shine, an apple, cup of instant noddles, and a banana crowned his head in meticulous placement and balance.

Another trip afforded us a relative perspective. There sat a homeless woman cross-legged against the cement wall dividing the bathrooms at a rest stop along the freeway. The scruffy backpack at her side bulged with its contents. In her lap a smug sign read: Goal today: $60.00. A Styrofoam cup, soldier straight at its post near her knees, waited in hopeful bounty.

A few steps beyond these frail fortresses (now there’s an oxymoron) their images had burned a permanent silhouette on a wall in my mind and questions torpedoed in my brain. Did they fashion their lifestyle designs to suit them, or was their pattern cut, fit, basted together and defined by uncontrollable circumstances? Were they trying to hide or accentuate their threadbare frame against the world’s backdrop and definition of success?

At rest in the centerpiece of all his worldly possessions how much does the single-framed image tell you about his character?

A territory claimed, how much does this glimpse into her personality reveal?

Imagine either of these people comfortably lounging within the pages of your current WIP. How would your main characters respond? Caressed in compassion? Starched in skepticism? Irritated in indifference?

As a writer do you define your characters perspectives, or etch them in and leave the intricate details to the imagination of your readers?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Real or Over the top


While traveling back and forth to the chapter meeting last week I listened to Suzanne Brockman's "Ladies Man". And the first thing that hit me was she in many places used the same word or wording three times in a row. Which I found irritating. Since I've not read anything of hers, I don't know if that is her style or it was just the character. I can't at the moment remember if she only did it in one character's POV or in both. But I'm always cutting repeating things when I edit, unless I use it for a specific reason and that would be only once in a whole book.

The thing that made me feel validated (since she is a big name author) was her hero didn't have any flaws. Yes, he had a back story that was haunting him a little, but he was a good guy who's worse flaw was calling the heroine "Babe" which she didn't like. And I liked him. He reminded me a lot of my heroes who I don't flaw to unbelievable.

So my question today( and I've asked this before, but it fascinates me)- What do you consider flaws in a hero or heroine and how much is too much?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Saturday Check-In


This has been a poor writing week. ZERO- yes, zero words were written on any WIP. I've had company. My dad, who doesn't realize I WORK from home. And I've been doing a lot of promoting this week as well as editing. But next week I hope to get a lot of writing done.


We're headed to Eugene to day for my nephew's wedding. I'm guest blogger at Petticoats and Pistols if you want to stop by and say "Hi" and I'll be on Regan on the Air tomorrow at 2 PM.


Hope everyone else had a productive writing week!

BTW- the photo is of Peter Point, can you figure out why? I see this out my cabin window at Princeton. LOL

Friday, June 20, 2008

Something Different

Hi-dee-ho, neighbors!!! I'm blogging today from Black Butte Ranch where I'm vacationing with the gremlins for the week.

In the words of Danita...HA!!! Vacationing with the children is an oxymoron if I ever read one!!

Actually, I really am on vacation with the gremlins. Along with my running partner, her son, and a babysitter for all the kids - my 13 yr-old niece, who is fabulous. Unfortunately, with all the chaos and extra bodies, my internet time has been limited, and I've been lucky to get writing time in each day. Though I do have to admit to being productive through those few couple of hours.

But that's not what I want to talk about today. Today I want to talk about...something different.

On Wednesday's during the summer, the local fire department here at Black Butte Ranch gives tours. This past Wednesday I took all the kids - five of them and me - on the tour while my girlfriend was working. Honently, I can say I've never been "wowwed' by firefighters. Um...yeah. That was true until this past Wednesday.

Our tour lasted well over an hour. We got there late, and after all the rest of the "visitors" had left, the two hunky firefighters leading the tour took me and the kids around for a private tour. We went for a ride in the ambulance, went for a ride in the fire truck, got to play with the hoses (um...interpret that as you will), slide down the pole, wander around the private quarters and hear all about Halo and smokers (the food kind, not the black-lung kind), and the hours of endless time these guys have between calls of duty. I suggested putting in a hot tub on the deck - they thought that was a good idea and asked me when I was coming back. LOL. Honestly, I think my kids got a pretty warped view of the life of a firefighter, but it was fun, and oh, boy, did it send book ideas spiraling through my mind.

Like I said, I've never been one for firefighters. Those calendars don't do a whole lot for me. But seeing their "real" world got my mind going. Talking to these guys was such a hoot, I had story ideas popping right and left.

My critique partner is married to a fire marshal. I've asked her several times why she writes about police officers when she's got the real life fire research tucked into her bed. Her answer has always been, "I live it, so it's not sexy and exotic to me." True, but for someone looking from the outside, that's a completely different story. As in everything else, it depends on how it's written.

Have you ever had story/book ideas come to you because of an experience, tour, observation? Did you ever end up writing about it? I have to say, I've never had any desire to write about a fire fighter (or as my 3 yr old called the really cute one..."fire-fighter guy") but I'm not ruling anything out.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

CHARACTERS WHO LIVE WITH ROOSTERS AND SUCH

MY APOLOGIES! Blogger and I are obviously not on the same wavelength. I thought I had set this to post just past midnight, but that didn't happen. So I'll do it manually...

Surfacing from plotting my nine-book series to write this blog. Bet you thought you were going to hear something more about plotting a series, didn't you? To quote Danita, "Ha!"

Well, this is kind of about series plotting. But I want to focus on character.

I've written most of the first book of my Legacy series, so I know the basic personalities of the heroes in these books. However, not all of their love interests are in the first book. They may not appear until the third, fourth or fifth book in the series. Yet they are coming alive in my mind and on the walls of my office and on the forms I use for character arcs.

For the first couple weeks I was plotting, I didn't put pressure on myself to do anything but brainstorm. I wrote notes on sticky notes, pieces of notebook paper, on a computer spreadsheet -- anything I had at hand -- and put them in a folder.

Now there are nine main folders (one for each book in the series) as well as nine easel-sized pieces of paper on my wall with photos that give me graphic reminders of each main character. I also did something with these characters that I haven't done previously. I had some bridal magazines that I went through to see if I could find a wedding dress that each of the heroines in these stories would wear.

Not only did the heroines pick out their own dresses, they gave me reasons why they chose a particular dress. From a full-skirted, traditional white wedding gown to a street length suit to a classic ivory sheath dress, these heroines had different tastes. I was so glad! From previous blog discussions, I know keeping stories fresh is one of the concerns of writers. With as many characters as are involved in this series, I want to be sure their personalities are different enough to stand out from each other. They are making it clear that they will be individuals!

On the other hand, the hero in my upcoming December release, FEATHERS ON THE FLOOR, didn't want to divulge much of anything about himself. I finally got the message that was the kind of individual he was. He was a man who watched or took action more than he talked. So as I wrote his story, he didn't speak much and his personality was revealed slowly over the space of the book.

Do you have a way or ways you make sure your characters aren't clones of previous characters? Do they come alive on their own and insist on being unique? Do they guard their secrets closely or share their deepest desires with you? What do you do if a character won't "talk" to you?

Next I think I'll ask my heroes and heroines to pick out a pet. One of them has already indicated she wants a rooster. :)

CHARACTERS WHO LIVE WITH ROOSTERS AND SUCH

Surfacing from plotting my nine-book series to write this blog. Bet you thought you were going to hear something more about plotting a series, didn't you? To quote Danita, "Ha!"

Well, this is kind of about series plotting. But I want to focus on character.

I've written most of the first book of my Legacy series, so I know the basic personalities of the heroes in these books. However, not all of their love interests are in the first book. They may not appear until the third, fourth or fifth book in the series. Yet they are coming alive in my mind and on the walls of my office and on the forms I use for character arcs.

For the first couple weeks I was plotting, I didn't put pressure on myself to do anything but brainstorm. I wrote notes on sticky notes, pieces of notebook paper, on a computer spreadsheet -- anything I had at hand -- and put them in a folder.

Now there are nine main folders (one for each book in the series) as well as nine easel-sized pieces of paper on my wall with photos that give me graphic reminders of each main character. I also did something with these characters that I haven't done previously. I had some bridal magazines that I went through to see if I could find a wedding dress that each of the heroines in these stories would wear.

Not only did the heroines pick out their own dresses, they gave me reasons why they chose a particular dress. From a full-skirted, traditional white wedding gown to a street length suit to a classic ivory sheath dress, these heroines had different tastes. I was so glad! From previous blog discussions, I know keeping stories fresh is one of the concerns of writers. With as many characters as are involved in this series, I want to be sure their personalities are different enough to stand out from each other. They are making it clear that they will be individuals!

On the other hand, the hero in my upcoming December release, FEATHERS ON THE FLOOR, didn't want to divulge much of anything about himself. I finally got the message that was the kind of individual he was. He was a man who watched or took action more than he talked. So as I wrote his story, he didn't speak much and his personality was revealed slowly over the space of the book.

Do you have a way or ways you make sure your characters aren't clones of previous characters? Do they come alive on their own and insist on being unique? Do they guard their secrets closely or share their deepest desires with you? What do you do if a character won't "talk" to you?

Next I think I'll ask my heroes and heroines to pick out a pet. One of them has already indicated she wants a rooster. :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

THE BIG PICTURE



This is a two part blog using alternate media to illustrate a writer's process. I can't help but see similarities in the creative process no matter what the art form, and sometimes other media is an easier concept to grasp than the elusive written word.

First of all, I urge anyone with an extra five dollars laying around ($5.00 = 1 1/8 gallons of gas, 1 fancy coffee and maybe a breath mint, 1 rental at Blockbuster plus a bag of microwave popcorn, etc...) to hie thee to a Walmart or probably BiMart and maybe who knows what other kind of mart and buy yourself a copy of Second Hand Lions, the 2003 three movie starring Michael Caine, Robert Duvall and Haley Joel Osmond.

First watch the movie, even if you've seen it before. Then turn the DVD over and watch the cut scenes, all of them, with the director's voice over. I promise you, you will get a very visible, very clear view of what it means to honor pacing in your novel, to exercise discipline when it comes to recognizing what belongs and what (no matter how charming, no matter how many hours or as in his case, money, was spent creating it) detracts from the end product.

When I watched this, I thought of the many times I knew something had to go in a WIP and hesitated cutting it. I finally reached the conclusion I would "temporarily" cut the excess baggage and paste it on the end of the document so I could salvage it later when I came to my senses and realized the book could not exist without it. I can't think of a single time I ever went back and replaced the scene.

The cut scenes in the case of Second Hand Lion were not mere snippets. In fact, you could almost hear the director's pain as he described the care with which a scene was created only to be lost in editing. Some of it was directly related to character arc and to me would have seemed impossible to do without. But it wasn't. Just as the alternate ending was very satisfying and I still see it play out in my head, the fact is the real ending - which I had seen the night before when I viewed the movie-- was so much fun I had been thinking of it and smiling for twenty-four hours and smile now. I'm glad I got to see both endings and I agree with the director, he served his movie by choosing as he did.

The second part of this blog involves a similar situation, only this time with music. I happen to enjoy a singer named Rob Thomas and bought his CD, This Is How Heart Breaks. On the flip side of that CD is a DVD of recording studio footage where we see Thomas singing the title song.

Not being versed in this kind of thing, I watched with interest as he he interacted with his producer. He'd stop singing and say I went up there but down here, what do you think, up or down?" The producer would answer. "I liked the up." Thomas would say, "I'm going to try up both times." And then he'd do it. I couldn't tell the difference. But they would agree that's the way to do it and go on about polishing the next stanza. Editing. Perfecting. I could relate his precision with the changes a writer makes every time they read through their WIP, tiny word choices, nuances, polishing...

And now to wrap this baby up, a note about creativity: On the Thomas DVD side, The producer at one point said, "The first part needs to be more menacing," and Thomas did it again, and this time I heard the extra gravel in his voice. When he finally sang the song through, I couldn't believe the workout he went through, the cords in his neck bulging, his face contorted, jumping and pumping his arms as he sang -- wow, a performance even in a record studio looked grueling.

Then I went to U-Tube and watched the video of this song. It begins with Thomas walking down a sidewalk. He looks through the crowds as he sings (menacingly) and sees something or someone. He turns, he runs, he's still singing, but now he's racing up a ramp, climbing stairs, running through buildings, leaping fences, across rooftops. I.e. he's running for his life and that's why when he sang the voice-over in the studio, he had to work as he did and that hit me strongly because that's what I do when I write a scene. I close my figurative eyes and I run and leap and I type fast and I feel the jarring motion in my knees when I land and fight the rising tide of panic that chases me. Even as I write this little passage, I am writing faster than I did with the earlier part because I can feel the tension of this scene.

Isn't it amazing how similar the creative process is? Planning a garden, planning a quilt, making a record or a movie, writing a book, painting a mural ... all share the vital importance of being able to focus on details while never losing sight of the big picture.

A TWO PARTER

This is a two part blog using alternate media to illustrate a writer's process. I can't help but see similarities in the creative process no matter what the art form, and sometimes other media is an easier concept to grasp than the elusive written word.

First of all, I urge anyone with an extra five dollars laying around ($5.00 = 1 1/8 gallons of gas, 1 fancy coffee and maybe a breath mint, 1 rental at Blockbuster plus a bag of microwave popcorn, etc...) to hie thee to a Walmart or probably BiMart and maybe who knows what other kind of mart and buy yourself a copy of Second Hand Lions, the 2003 three movie starring Michael Caine, Robert Duvall and Haley Joel Osmond.

First watch the movie, even if you've seen it before. Then turn the DVD over and watch the cut scenes, all of them, with the director's voice over. I promise you, you will get a very visible, very clear view of what it means to honor pacing in your novel, to exercise discipline when it comes to recognizing what belongs and what (no matter how charming, no matter how many hours or as in his case, money, was spent creating it) detracts from the end product.

When I watched this, I thought of the many times I knew something had to go in a WIP and hesitated cutting it. I finally reached the conclusion I would "temporarily" cut the excess baggage and paste it on the end of the document so I could salvage it later when I came to my senses and realized the book could not exist without it. I can't think of a single time I ever went back and replaced the scene.

The cut scenes in the case of Second Hand Lion were not mere snippets. In fact, you could almost hear the director's pain as he described the care with which a scene was created only to be lost in editing. Some of it was directly related to character arc and to me would have seemed impossible to do without. The alternate ending was very sophisticated and I still see it play out in my head, but the fact is the real ending - which I had seen the night before when I viewed the movie-- was so much fun I had been thinking of it and smiling for twenty-four hours. Now I'm glad I got to see both endings and I agree with the director, he served his movie by choosing as he did.

The second part of this blog involves a similar situation, only this time with music. I happen to enjoy a singer named Rob Thomas and bought his CD, This Is How Heart Breaks. On the flip side of that CD is a DVD of recording studio footage where we see Thomas singing the song.

Not being versed in this kind of thing, I watched with interest as he he interacted with his producer. He'd stop singing and say I went up there but down here, what do you think, up or down?" The producer would answer. "I liked the up." Thomas would say, "I'm going to try up both times." And then he'd do it. I couldn't tell the difference. But they would agree that's the way to do it and go on about polishing the next stanza. Editing. Perfecting. Serving the end product.

And now to wrap this baby up, a note about creativity: On the Thomas DVD side, The producer at one point said, "The first part needs to be more menacing," and Thomas did it again, and this time I heard the extra gravel in his voice. When he finally sang the song through, I couldn't believe the workout he went through, the cords in his neck bulging, his face contorted, jumping and pumping his arms as he sang -- wow, a performance even in a record studio looked grueling.

Then I went to U-Tube and watched the video of this song. It begins with Thomas walking down a sidewalk. He looks through the crowds as he sings (menacingly) and sees something or someone. He turns, he runs, he's still singing, but now he's racing up a ramp, climbing stairs, running through buildings, leaping fences, across rooftops... I.e. he's running for his life and that's why when he sang the voice over in the studio, he had to work as he did and that hit me strongly because that's what I do when I write a scene. I close my figurative eyes and I run and leap and I type fast and I feel the jarring motion in my knees when I land and feel the rising tide of panic that chases me. Even as I write this little passage, I am writing faster than I did with the earlier part because I can feel the tension of this scene.

Isn't it amazing how similar the creative process is? Planning a garden, planning a quilt, making a record or a movie, writing a book, painting a mural ... all share so much.

SNIP, SNIP

I urge anyone with an extra five dollars laying around (#5.00 = 1 1/4 gallons of gas,

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why Can't I Do That?



The other day at lunch my dad asked me a question that got me thinking. We were discussing my WIP. He knew I'd written three other manuscripts and asked if they were all about the same character. I blinked and said, "Oh, that's really tough to do."

I knew why he asked. His favorite author is Lee Child who has put out a dozen books about the same kick ass character, Jack Reacher. Every Child book immediately hits the NYT top ten. I went to Child's book signing this month (pic above) and bought the latest installment for my dad for father's day. As Child was signing, I said, "Please tell me KILLING FLOOR (the first book in the Jack Reacher series) wasn't the first manuscript you wrote."

I didn't like his answer. Grrr.

How did a debut novelist create such an addictive character? In his first attempt at a book? He has a background in TV which must have given him some insight. Recently I came across an article where he described his thought process in creating Reacher.

First: character is king. There are probably fewer than six books every century remembered specifically for their plots. People remember characters. So, my lead character had to carry the whole weight.

Second conclusion: if you can see a bandwagon, it's too late to get on. Writing is a crowded field. Why do what everyone else is doing?

So, I was going to have to do something a little different. The series that were then well under way-and most that were just starting out-were, it seemed to me, soap operas. Series heroes had partners, friends, jobs, apartments, favorite bars, favorite restaurants, neighbors, family, even dogs and cats. They jogged, worked out, had pastimes. They had bills to pay and issues to resolve.

I was going to have to avoid all that stuff.

But, the third conclusion, and the most confounding conclusion: you can't design a character too specifically. I knew in my bones that to think too carefully would produce a laundry list of imagined qualities and virtues and would result in a flat, boring, cardboard character.

This resulted in a best seller and an alienated, ex-military drifter without a home, car, job, family and with very few social skills. No roots. Doesn't want roots. Throws away his clothes and buys new instead of washing them. No girlfriends. Just one night stands. In an early book Reacher inherits a house and enters a relationship. Both nearly make him crack.

Sound like a good hero to put opposite your heroine? No. But damn it, Jack Reacher is someone I remember and want to know more about. He just isn't right for a romance. He's kind to women and enjoys them, but he will never be what they need for the long haul. He's strictly short term.

Sigh.

I've had to face the fact that this is not the right character for my type of writing. My hero must be long term and desire that happy-ever-after. My hero may not know this at the beginning of the book, but the heroine is guaranteed bring it out of him. As much as I love to read Child's books, it isn't a typed I can write. I have to write the love story with a HEA. Maybe someday I'll create a H/H that can endure adventures for several books. Like Nora or Janet skillfully do. (In Janet's case H/H/H.) But right now the resolution of my characters' emotional roller coasters creates a natural "The End" for them in my books.

Jack Reacher is going to be an old man who'll die alone. Probably at the end of someone's very large gun. But I'll cry just as much as when my heros and heroines pledge their love forever.

What kind of story do you love to read, but don't want to try to or know you can't write?




Monday, June 16, 2008

Shameless chapter promotion

I'm going to use my slot today to promote the upcoming online workshops and synopsis/query letter contest sponsored by the chapter. We've got some awesome things lined up, you should check them out! And remember, it's never too early to register for any of these.

Online classes

These are either two- or four-week courses ran through a Yahoo group. The fees for the four-week courses are $25 (or $20 for members of our chapter). The two-week ones are $15 (or $10 for chapter members). You don't need to be a member of RWA to participate.

To register, just send an e-mail to mwvrwa@gmail.com with your name, your PayPal name if it's different (so we can match payment to you), the workshop(s) you're registering for, and the e-mail address you'd like used for the class. Then send your payment via PayPal to the same address.

It's hard to notice on some screens and fonts, but the e-mail address has a "w" then a "v." We've had a couple people forget the "v" when they sent their payments and it makes things a bit more tricky to correct (PayPal doesn't let you simply cancel a payment unfortunately.)

July 7-31 (4 weeks)
Take the Mystery Out of Writing Mystery & Suspense Novels with Karen S. Wiesner
Time-saving tips from award-winning author Karen S. Wiesner to help you keep your mystery and suspense plot-lines straight from start to finish.

August 4-31 (4 weeks)
Secrets to Successful PR with Lisa Catto
PR doesn't have to feel like a four-letter word any longer! Join public relations professional Lisa Catto as she helps you put together your own press kit, learn how to develop an online presence, and get tips for working with the media.

September 1-28 (4 weeks)
Take Your Book from Good to Sold: Ten Lessons Learned with Shirley Jump
For first-time authors, the biggest hurdle to selling is learning how to craft a book that is better than good. Good wins contests. Good gets requests for partials. Good sometimes gets a revision request. But learning how to take “good” and turn it into “sellable” is the key to success. New writers may not see those small elements that make a big difference in a book’s salability. In this workshop, New York Times bestselling romantic comedy author Shirley Jump will share the ten lessons she learned that helped her take a book that had won the Tampa Area Romance Authors First Impressions contest and make it into one that was bought by Silhouette, plus how she turned formerly rejected books into single title sales. The workshop will include discussion of the revision process and the various elements authors need to look for before considering their book ready for an editor’s eyes. Today’s editors don’t have time to sit down with a fledgling writer and teach her how to take her novel to that next level. This workshop will fill in that final gap for the writer who is just ten lessons away from a sale.

November 10-21 (2 weeks)
Break Free From the Slushpile with CJ Lyons
This workshop focuses on queries, hooks and pitches. By the end, you will have a polished query letter, blurb and feedback on your opening page. Taught by medical suspense author CJ Lyons.


Contest

This is our first annual Pitch Perfect Contest, judging a long synopsis (4-10 pages), short synopsis (1-3 pages) and one-page query letter. The purpose of this contest is to help you get feedback on those dreaded synopsis, and have two polished versions ready to send to editors and agents. Since they seem to vary in required length, having a short and a long one will be helpful.

Not to mention, the grand prize is A FREE REGISTRATION TO RWA NATIONALS 2009! Isn't that awesome? Plus if you are a finalist in your category, an agent or editor will be viewing your proposal. Don't put off writing that synopsis any longer, submit it for some feedback and at least four sets of eyes will look it over and provide you with feedback.

We have some fabulous judges lined up too. Here are our categories and judges.
Contemporary - TBA
Futuristic/Fantasy/Paranormal - Leah Hultenschmidt, Dorchester Publishing
Romantic Suspense - Laura Bradford, Bradford Literary Agency
Romantic Elements/Chick Lit - Sha-Shana Crichton, Crichton & Associates
Historical - Kate Seaver, Berkely Publishing
Young Adult - Michelle Grajkowski, Three Seas Literary Agency
Inspirational - Kim Moore, Harvest House Publishing
Erotic Romance - Raelene Gorlinsky, Ellora's Cave

For more info on our workshops and classes, please visit the chapter Web site at http://www.midwillamettevalleyrwa.com/.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Saturday Check In

It was a busy week for me. I had two days of promotion going on, but I managed to crank out around 5,000 words on the contemporary WIP. At the moment I'm stopped due to research. Trying to get someone from a chamber to contact me about info for a rodeo and I need medical questions answers. I 've sent the questions to a couple of people but no response so far.

I'm posting this early and then you won't hear/see me until Tuesday. I'm judging 4-H clothing skills contest today and have a wedding to attend tonight, then the dh and I are headed to the other property until Monday. So, I'll be busy today and no internet for two days. Hopefully on the trip there and back I can add to the word count.

How was your week? Are you enjoying the sunshine!!!!!!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Girls and Boys

When my latest edition of Parenting magazine hit my mailbox, one of the front cover stories caught my eye: Boys vs. Girls, Who’s harder to raise?

I recall a lively discussion about this very thing at our last writing retreat. I entered into the discussion at the rented beach house with the idea that boys were harder to manage as toddlers and preteens, but girls -- with their smart mouths and sassy attitudes -- were harder to handle as teenagers.

As the mother of two very young sons, and a nearly grown daughter, several of you mothers of boys knocked me on my proverbial butt. Girls were easier, you said, boys were more challenging all the way through their childhood years and beyond. Not what I wanted to hear. So, I ingested the article with intense interest, hoping for a new glimmer of hope.

But what, pray tell, does any of this have to do with writing romance? Bear (or bare, whatever flips your switch) with me for just a few more sentences and it will begin to shine clear.

Here’s what the article’s author, Paula Spencer, and her lineup of experts had to say:

Boys are harder to discipline. Experts blame this on boys’ weaker hearing from birth. I can almost hear (after all, I am female) all the wives out there nodding at this bit of information. And it translates to this – neither warnings nor praise work as well with boys as with girls.

Physical safety? That’s a no-brainer. Boys, little daredevils that they are, definitely harder. Again, the distinct sound of bobbing female heads. This tendency in males often transcends into adulthood. Or, as in my case, my teenage daughter rides, and consequently, falls off of bulls. I get the worst of both worlds with this one.

Boys are harder to communicate with earlier – think lack of eye contact and lack of details. Girls are harder later – enter mini drama queens at around age eight.

Self esteem is a more difficult issue with girls. How many bulimic or anorexic teenage boys do you know? Need I say more?

Keeping up in school? Mostly boys are harder. Boys take longer to develop attentiveness, self-control (ladies, let’s be honest here, you’re thinking of your men not your boys here, aren’t you?) language and fine-motor skills.

Bottom line of the article is this: Boys and girls are each harder in different ways.

Could any of this information help in your writing male and female characters? Why, or why not? I’m thinking it could be useful in my writing.

I posted this for Danita because she is having internet problems, which means she may or may not be able to comment on your comments.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Competition

I love this show, "So You Think You Can Dance." I've always loved dance, not that I could do it. I mean, I shook my booty with the best of 'em back in the day, but nothing like these talented, passionate young people. I didn't know the human body even had the ability to do those things!

My point for today's blog is competition, why we compete, and why those competition goals are so important to us. Take these kids on the show. 200 dancers competed for 20 spots. They put their heart on the line. They gave up jobs to be there. They spent their parents' money to be there. They trained through blood, sweat and tears from the time they were iddy biddy (in most cases) just to get a shot to fulfill their dream. Sound familiar?

It's hard to watch sometimes, but as a writer I can't help relating to their disappointment when these talented dancers give it everything they've got and most are told to go home. It's heart- breaking. But you know what? They're also told to come back next year. Top judge Nigel offers encouragement and support. He was a dancer, too, in his younger days, and he understands what these kids are going through.

I have a real penchant for reality competition tv shows, the ones that showcase talent and strive to fulfill at least one participant's dream. My favorites are So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol, Top Chef, America's Next Top Model (yeah, Alice, ANTM fans unite!), and Project Runway. Real people who have real talent, and real aspirations. I cheer with them when they win, I cry when they lose. We're living our dreams together.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD OF EUPHORIA AND DOOM

In the elated hours awaiting the arrival of my first grandchild on Friday, I couldn’t sit still long enough to write, much less construct a basic sentence. A captive in the throngs of verbal labor I couldn’t push out one articulate phrase. Giddy excitement overhauled my rational senses and linked my thoughts into a chain of mismatched babble.

The mail lady (What’s the correct term anyway? The spoken words suggests a contradiction in terms.) delivered a package to my door. A gush of syllables strung together without benefit of infusing a breath, spiked my jumbled phraseology with disconnected words. The lady smiled and nodded, but as I revisit my manic performance the question of my sanity had rimmed her wide-eyed stare. Did she drive away like a sleuth immersed in a mystery to unlock my scrambled message void of any codes? Or did she waste little time and mentally wrote ‘nut house’ next to my mailing address? I don’t know, but I haven’t seen her since.

The ugly serrated edge of this sword rests in my mother’s failing health and battle with re-occurring breast cancer. Thought I am steeped in joy at the arrival of my precious granddaughter, the exit door of life opens a little wider to foreshadow my mother’s weakened body. One might suggested I embrace the analogy a new family member has entered my world to lesson the pain of another in their exit. But a mountain of joy can’t replace a mountain of grief. Their unique vastness and qualities aren’t interchangeable.

Some writers can write in the midst of ecstasy or sorrow tossed into their lives. They plunge into their writing as a form of therapy to level or purge the imbalance. I applaud their ability to unlatch the gate of resistance, and push themselves beyond the borders of blinding brightness or heavy blackness to cloudless fields infused in unlimited possibilities.

For other writers, their emotions are woven into their characters personalities. These characters play across the setting, and dictate the direction, flow, and intensity of each word the writer sets in their thoughts and onto their lips. The journey establishes the writers earnest quest for answers and closures in their personal life. They press onward and listen to their own voice echoing in the cadence of their characters.

There are also writers who seek a path to a serene place to hibernate and contemplate. A time away from the writing world doused in conflicts, plots, villains, turning points, and black moments. They rest, cleanse their soul, draw strength, breath in the breath of renewed faith and resurface with a refilling of fresh ideas.

I’ve heard it said over and over, ‘Write what you know.’ In this moment, this is what I know. I can’t write when either side of a double edged sword pricks my heart.

How do you handle the double-edged sword when it cuts into your writing world?

Monday, June 09, 2008

Theme/Premise/Pitch

I’m emulating my good friend Danita today. She likes to rehash hooks, while I have IMMENSE trouble understanding/getting- Theme/premise. The current WIP doesn’t have murder, mayhem, kidnappings, chases, or even fights (well unless we have a barroom brawl, but that isn’t in the picture at this time). It is a purely emotional book. The characters and their pasts are the catalyst of the whole story.

On the blog about pitching CJ Lyons wrote , she said to start with your theme or premise to begin writing your pitch. Okay, but I feel like I've already failed because of my denseness when it come to this particular topic.

These are the theme/premise I came up with: Learn to love again; Conquer your past. They’re kind of weak. How do I build something around that? I like the second one the best. Not so syrupy sweet, something that I can maybe use to draw in readers with a hook or high concept.

Then she says boil it all down for your high concept which should be: “one and only one unique concept--whatever it is about your story that will create an immediate emotional connection or spark interest.”

CJ says this about finding the hook: “This is the unique spin that you have put on your story. This means narrowing your search to one small part of your story. Start with your blurb, usually the hook will be apparent there. If not, keep looking.”

My blurb: A workaholic ER nurse with plans to build a camp for sexually abused children finds herself drawn to a rodeo cowboy and his art. Has she found unconditional love or will her past tear them apart?

What I came up with for high concept is: High emotions and high stakes or Can your past dictate your future?. Both tap into emotions; the first with the high stakes, which could mean anything from monetary to emotionl, the second tells you something about the past is going to come into play, and who hasn't wondered "what if I'd done this differently?".

What is the unique spin on your WIP? Can you boil it down to a high concept statement? If so, please share maybe it will flip the light bulb on for me.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Saturday Check -in


Finally!!! Sun today!! Yes! We have an outside wedding to attend today. I've been looking for all my umbrellas all week. LOL


Well, this week after interviewing a National Champion bareback bronc rider and discussing the story with several CP's and friends, I've shifted gears and went to work on the contemporary western. I logged 3200 words on it this week, finsihed the synopsis, and have been working on pitches and hooks.


So how did everyone else do? Lots of plotting, writing, or just brewing?

Friday, June 06, 2008

Series

Sorry I'm late in posting this today. I had to run five miles in the training schedule for my half marathon (race is next Saturday!) and with the end of school looming (Tuesday) my kids were just completely wild this morning. Getting up early to post this blog just didn't work. Summer on deadline is going to seriously kill me...

So let's talk series. Specifically...when does a series out stay its welcome?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and we're going to be discussing plotting a series at our next meeting. Basically, in romantic fiction there are three kinds of series:

1. Books connected by an overarching plot which starts in book one but isn't resolved until the end of X number of books - a war, a hidden secret, the search for a serial killer. Generally, to understand what's happening with the overarching plot, you need to read these books in order. Each book has its own unique plot under the umbrella, which is resolved at the end of that book, and generally the romance between the H/h is resolved as well. But that overarching plot is what draws the reader from one book to the next. There are a lot of these series out there - JR Ward's BDB series, Any of Nora Roberts' trilogies (newest is the Sign of Seven trilogy), Lara Adrian's vampire series.

2. Books connected by characters. No overarching plot. Each book is stand alone. Can be read in any order and still understood. There are also lots of these as well - Cindy Gerard's bodyguard series, any of Allison Brennan's trilogies, Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Stars football books.

And finally, the third option which is really a combination of the first two:

3. Books connected by characters that hint at an overarching plot which may or may not be completely obvious. Books can generally be read in any order, though readers can get lost sometimes with multiple connections, esp. to books they haven't read. Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series is like this. There is something bigger going on that the reader feels is going to happen down the road, but it's not entirely clear. Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dream Hunter series is like this as well.

Like I said, this whole series concept has been on my mind a lot lately, especially because this past week my agent and I were discussing my option book in my contract. I have several choices before me:

1. Write another book that could be linked to the first three. This is entirely possible. I have at least two characters/plots that could work here. Benefits: I love these characters, love this series. Writing this/these book(s) would be fun. Drawbacks: Keeping it fresh would be a challenge. I'm already finding I have to be careful with what I do in book three so it isn't too much like the first two.

2. Start a single book that's completely different, keeping it within the adventure brand my first three books put me in.

3. Start a new series, again, keeping it within the adventure brand.

While I like the idea of going forward and writing more connected books, I fear the whole, when is enough, enough? question. I've read several series - in all three series styles above - that seemed to lose steam after about 4-5 books. My enthusiasm as a reader definitely dropped off then. I think for writers, it's very difficult to keep the series fresh after that many books. In an interview I read with Susan Elizabeth Phillips, she was asked if she was going to write any other football books. She said no, because she'd pretty much done everything she could think to do with a group of football players. This was an aha! moment for me relating to series. I've loved all her football books (connected by characters, not an overarching plot), and to me they've all been fresh. But this goes to show how difficult it is to come up with those unique ideas once you've been writing a series for so long.

I'm sort of leaning toward starting something new. I originally intended these books to be a connected trilogy, not more than that. And while I know I could write one or two more, there is something invigorating about starting something new.

But I'm curious...how do you feel about series books? What authors can continually pump out fresh material in series that run longer than five books? Do you buy series that run that long? And do you have plans to write a series yourself? If so (or if you're doing so at the moment), how many books do you envision writing? How will you keep each book fresh and unique to keep your readers chomping for more?

Thursday, June 05, 2008

MY VERSION OF THE WRITERS JOURNEY

A couple people kindly expressed an interest in a blog about how my spiritual journey has affected my writing. Good question!

I knew this would take some thought. It's turned out to be the equivalent of condensing a hundred-thousand page book into a three-page synopsis. Don't worry. This won't go on for three pages. :)

Perhaps I should first define what spiritual journey means for me, though it could mean something else to others, and give some background on what triggered this particular phase of my life.

I define my spiritual journey as experiences, realizations and changes in perception that bring me closer to my purpose in this life. My spiritual journey accelerated about five years ago when I turned fifty. A fairly routine visit to the doctor brought a dissatisfying result: he had no explanation for my concern of not feeling well other than I was "getting older." That wasn't good enough for me. I didn't want to live another thirty or so years not feeling well.

So I was ready for another way to live. I was open to alternatives.

I soon had an aha moment that my kids learned about in high school physics: human beings are energy. We are made up of atoms, which are electrons in constant motion in the space around a nucleus. We're not solid at all! Our bodies only appear solid.

A whole new world of possibilities opened up to me!

Not only are we energy, but some people knew how to channel that energy for greater health and well-being. I soon learned how to channel that energy too, through Reiki, and I thought I had discovered the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and won the lottery all on the same day. My life was going to be so easy now!

Well, not exactly.

Reiki did mean healing for me. Not just of my physical body, but on spiritual and emotional levels as well. Along with this healing came the realization that we are responsible for our lives.

Literally.

Our thoughts, emotions and actions determine what our lives will be. Very cool, right? Well, yes, but that also means no excuses. Whatever exists in my life, I'm responsible for manifesting, whether intentionally or by just drifting along. Lousy childhood, fights with parents, flaky relationships with men. Ouch! Why would I bring those things into my life? That's where my lessons came in. I learned to look beneath the surface of what was in my life and question why. When I discovered why, I was able to release emotional baggage I had carried for a very long time.

So how has all this affected my writing? I'm not sure. I haven't written an entire manuscript since my accelerated journey began. I've edited older manuscripts and finished ones that were started earlier, but I haven't written anything entirely new. Even the nine-book series I'm currently plotting was born pre-acceleration.

One thing I have noticed is I expect my characters to be smarter and to understand their own motives quicker. I also feel more comfortable digging deeply into motives. And since my characters carry a piece of me, I expect they will reflect my new perspectives also.

I think my writing process itself will benefit from my accelerated spiritual journey. When I'm stalling or avoiding a particular scene, I'll more quickly know why and push through it. No excuses, remember!

Will this make me a New York Times bestselling author? Not unless I'm willing to commit a hundred percent to that. Will this mean stories will flow uninhibited into my mind and onto the computer screen? Um...maybe!

Perhaps I have come late to the realization that this is a continuing journey with many lessons and many experiences. Perhaps other writers found out long ago that the joy of discovery is ours, it we choose to accept it and embrace it. Whatever the timing, I am honored to share this experience of writing with others who are on their own unique journeys. I would love to hear about your journey if you would like to share it.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

THE HOUSE


As you can see, the above photo is of an abandoned house.

Let me explain. Years ago, maybe as many as ten, a house suddenly appeared along a road I travel twice a week when I drive to see my mother. It's not this house but it looks a lot like it.

The land the house appeared on is part of an old homestead. Picture it. A short driveway empties into a lushly planted area. Camellias and roses and trees, all planted to frame a home but there's no longer a home there. Keep traveling past that into the wide open field behind it and that's where someone planted the "new" very old white house I speak of.

Someone had moved the old house onto the land, obviously from somewhere else. I'm sorry I didn't see it moved. I love that kind of thing. Of course, a two story house appearing all of a sudden caught my attention and so every time I drove past, I checked to see what was going on. Not a lot. Eventually a foundation was poured. That took awhile. I pictured future changes as the house, now anchored properly to the ground, would evolve into a home. But nothing else happened. Years rolled by, then all of a sudden plywood showed up nailed over doors and windows. Interesting? What now? The answer: nothing. That's it. The house sits all by itself, closed up, abandoned. No plants, no paint, no sign of life. In fact, I've never actually seen anyone near the place and the changes, small as they are, have happened at glacial speed.

So, what's the deal? Did the house get sold for a dollar to someone saving it from a wrecking ball and did that someone then move it out into the grass fields, perhaps to a site that had been in the family since before the original house burned down? Was the house itself an old homestead, moved to a new site when the land it had been built on was sold? Why did the changes stop, what happened to the people who moved it, what happened to their plans? Or is there some other mystery afloat?

Doesn't the idea of an old house intrigue you? An abandoned house? Interrupted dreams? Change of fortune? Death, divorce, mayhem? Is the house a metaphor? A stage? Is it the past or the present that arouses more curiosity?

Writing Exercise: Use the house in a bit of fiction. Tie it in with characters in your WIP or create new characters.

That doesn't appeal to you? Then how would you use this house if you were to write a story where it figured into the plot?

Still no interest in participating? Okay, what building have you come across in your life that aroused speculation and formed a launching pad for fiction? Did you then go forward and actually use it?

Use the abandoned house any way you like, don't be intimidated, don't get fancy if you don't want. I hope you'll play along.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Kendra's Introduction

Good Morning!

I'm tickled to be here. Several writing friends have pressured me to blog over the years, but only Elisabeth managed to lure me to the dark side. (Her words!)

In October of 2004, I read an article in The Oregonian about NaNoWriMo and thought, "Huh. I can do that." I read tons of books; therefore, I should be able to write one. Right? So most evenings in November I shut myself in my husband's office and wrote a book on the computer we shared. I didn't make the 50K goal of NaNoWriMo, but I was hooked. I finished the book in a few months, bought a laptop, and started a second book. My husband asked when I'd earn some money.

I joined RWA and Rose City Romance Writers in summer 2005 and was stunned to learn I had an instant group of friends and supporters. These people loved to write and read as much as I did. And I was brushing shoulders with real authors. Normal people who had books sitting on shelves in bookstores. That was my goal. To read my name on a spine on a shelf at my local Borders.

My first conference was at Emerald City in Seattle that October. I'd done some querying with the first book and now was ready to pitch. I came home on cloud nine with requests for partials and an addiction to conferences. I loved the workshops, I loved the writers, and I loved socializing in the bar with these people who talked books nonstop. It was hard to come home. I sent off my partials, continued querying, and moaned as my rejections started to stack up. I started a file. Again my husband asked when I'd earn some money.

I do have a job. I've been a dental hygienist for twelve years working part time and raising my three daughters. I often tell people I'm a part time hygienist, part time writer, and full time mother. No, that's a lie. That's only a description in my head. I can count on one hand the number of people (outside of family) that I've told I write. And I didn't tell the family members. My mother did.

What a struggle to balance writing time and family. And house cleaning, grocery shopping, yard work, and laundry. My husband wanted to know when the big bucks would start rolling in. I showed him websites and articles that revealed what a majority of writers earn. His reply was something along the lines of "That works out to ten cents an hour. Or less."

I've been a voracious reader all my life. SMALL PIG is the first book I remember reading when I was in kindergarten. I can still see the cute pig rolling in the mud. After that it was Laura Ingalls, Nancy Drew, and Trixie Belden. I would read each book at least ten times and then I graduated to Stephen King, Danielle Steel, and Anne McCaffrey. I majored in Journalism at U of O, intending to go into advertising. I finished and discovered that entry level advertising agency jobs paid about the same as McDonalds. I didn't write for fourteen years. Instead I read and read and read. I loved to visit the used paperback shop and buy shopping bags full of dollar books. The thicker the book, the better. I was miffed when they raised the price to $1.50 a book.

Now I purchase stacks of books at Borders and Amazon. (Tax write-offs, honey!) I read it all. Historical, paranormal, thrillers, and a little sci-fi. Just a few of my favorite authors include Diana Gabaldon, Lee Child, Robert Crais, Tami Hoag, JR Ward, and James Rollins. New-to-me authors who have recently amazed me are Karen Rose and Sharon Sala. I've been ordering their backlists.

I write romantic suspense. I can't write a romance without including a pile of dead bodies and creating twisted villains. I'm in the editing stage of my fourth MS and plan to pitch it at Nationals this summer. I can't wait for San Francisco. This will be my first Nationals. I'm pumped to meet in person all the people I've met online. And I get to have breakfast with Brenda Novak and her editor which I won at her marvelous online auction for juvenile diabetes. I'm dragging Elisabeth to breakfast to fill those dreaded empty conversation moments when I get tongue tied in Brenda's vivacious presence.

Enough about me. I'm thrilled to join this blog and look forward to meeting everyone. Many of you I met on the beach retreat, but I still have several people to get to know. Introduce yourselves to me! What do you write or love to read?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Settings in other towns


Today I wanted to talk with you all about setting, specifically setting a story in a place you've never been, or one you're writing about from memory. I've always had a difficult time convincing myself to set a story in Oregon. Don't get me wrong, I love Oregon. But I find myself drawn to writing about, dreaming about and researching places I've never been but want to visit. The first book I worked on was set in Edinburgh, Scotland. I've never been to Scotland, but it was sure fun to research. It was also during NaNoWriMo so I went into the Scotland forum and asked them bunches or questions (it was really helpful, I suggest that to anyone writing in November - ask questions in the geographical forums).
I remember reading once that when Laurell K. Hamilton wrote a book set in Arizona (or New Mexico?) she stayed there for a while to better learn the setting. Granted, she's wealthy and famous and it makes sense that she would do that for a book expected to sell that many copies. But what about most authors who aren't able to do that?
The book I'm working on now is set in Oregon. I sort of made up a town that's a composite of a couple I'm familiar with. But I may want to set my next book (partially anyway) in Italy, a town like the one I'll be staying in this summer. I'm trying to figure out what I should do to capture that setting. Lots of pictures? Lots of notes? Describe places I see? The picture above is a picture of the town I'll be living in, Gravina in Puglia. There are lots of caves I guess (I will have to tell you RS writers all about it - can't you imagine all sorts of bad dealings going on in caves?).
Have you ever set a book in a town you've never visited? Or have you vacationed somewhere with the intent of absorbing it as a setting to write about? What are some ways you've captured the setting to recall later when you're actually writing?