Thursday, July 31, 2008

WOULD YOU BUY A BOOK FROM AN ELVIS IMPERSONATOR?


I have it on good authority (thanks, Alice!) that blog topics this week should lean toward playful rather than serious. So I've reconsidered my original topic and have come up with a brief survey for those of us "left behind."

On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being "too lame" and 10 being "over the top") please rate the following promotional ideas. (Oh, yeah, a rating of 5 is "just right"!)

AT A BOOKSIGNING, to draw attention to her book about a former rock star, the author:

1. Dresses as an Elvis impersonator?

2. Gives away chocolate?

3. Holds a drawing for rock and roll memorabilia for anyone who buys her book?

4. Lip syncs oldies songs on an air guitar?

5. Strips off her clothing and throws it at the audience/potential readers?

IN A NEWSLETTER to promote her book about a former rock star, the author:

6. Makes up stories about her affairs with rock stars.

7. Interviews former rock stars.

8. Lists upcoming events where she will be appearing.

9. Reveals backstory trivia about the characters in her book.

10. Prints X-rated photos of rock stars.

ON HER WEB SITE to (again) promote her book about a former rock star, the author:

11. Runs monthly contests giving away music memorabilia.

12. Offers links to fan clubs for oldies rock bands.

13. Plays videos of fans impersonating their favorite rock star.

14. Offers the "scoop" on what former rock band members are doing now.

15. Offers details on diseases known to infect large farm animals.

That's the end of the survey! And please know that those items you consider "just right" may end up part of my promotion plan for my books, so beware how you rate these ideas. :)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

WATCH YOUR BACK


I'm going to borrow a page from Bethany's book (pun intended) and indulge in a minor rant. Please, don't expect the same caliber of wit and observation -- I am but a soap box novice next to her. However, this week I had a major disappointment and it went like this:

I borrowed a book from the library by one of my top five favorite authors. This is a guy I read all the time, I enjoy his continuing characters, his plots and his writing style (apart from his use of parenthesis within POV. That always yells author intrusion to me.) Anyway, while going through his book list on Amazon I found I'd missed a book that came out a couple of years ago.

And, oh yeah, it featured barracuda, hence the photo of that handsome guy up there.

Anyway, at the same time I started reading his book, I was hip deep in my own book, plotting the backstory. The husband in my book never makes a single scene except for the one where they come across his body, but what he's done with his life is the major catalyst behind the whole book. He's a con man and a manipulator. His last act, before moving north and causing mayhem in the lives of some perfectly nice people, is the single most important thing he does. It involves robbery and murder and double crossing. It's his backstory.

*** Once the current story begins, it's up to the writer to cleverly leave hints that the other characters uncover so they can reconstruct the past and figure out how to stop, mitigate or enjoy the current situation. ***

My book starts at the point of time where everything that's come before (off stage) hits critical mass and the world begins to unravel. Not just his, but the lives of the people around him.

The author I'm talking about, a man who has written award winning books, started his book with a scene detailing exactly what happened 30 years before. Not a prologue, mind you. Not a teaser. He then told us exactly how each of the suspects felt about the potential victim. Using a well established pattern in mystery (a dastardly deed and a list of suspects which this author has pulled off admirably several times before) he told us everything we needed to know and then he segued into the story.

In my opinion, he didn't trust his characters to discover the truths they would need to know. No, I'll go further. He didn't trust his readers to take the journey with them.

This book did not really get going until well after page fifty, and to make it worse, every time one of the characters finally revealed their piece of knowledge about the past we all ready knew it, we'd read it a hundred pages before! We knew when they were right or wrong, we'd been a witness at the real event. We knew when the characters were lying about motivations, etc., because we'd been told how they really felt a long time before. Merciful heavens, how this guts a plot.

You kind of expect this kind of thing from newbies. I know I did it, I know the temptation to include all those wonderful scenes and the action is hypnotic -- sometimes it seems the backstory is so much more interesting than what happens in the book and it feels wrong not to include it. But it's precisely because of what it does to the rest of the book that it is so wrong. Your reader is reading -- not only in mysteries but in other genres -- to discover the questions and answers for themselves. If you hand them over before the book starts there's not much for them to do but look at the words and wish they couldn't anticipate every single thing that was about to happen.

When I plot nowadays, I write pages of what any one character knows about a situation. Not what he thinks, what he knows given his POV so that he can respond appropriately and not have knowledge he couldn't have. It was as though this author included those pages at the front. I hope I am making this clear.

So, Wavy, for you perhaps it's an over the top hero or any one of a dozen other devices a writer -- almost any writer -- occasionally slips into. For me it's this backstory issue. A good book needs a hell of a backstory. And an even better book needs to reveal it properly. In my opinion, this man's editor let him down big time, but frankly, I just can't imagine what he was thinking.

One example we can probably all relate to: Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark. It starts in the jungle before the current story with an exciting adventure scene, then moves into the current plot for that movie. That glimpse of the professor as a man of action is not only great fun but it's revealing and sets the stage for the upcoming romp. Okay, what I am talking about is this: What if the first 1/5 of the movie detailed the creation of the Ark? What was put inside, how it ended up where it did, how the Nazi patsy archeologist got to the point where he was willing to sell his soul for glory. Now start the movie -- do you see how knowing all that other stuff up front ruins the fun? So what if they find it, we knew all along where it was. So what if they open it, yawn, here we go, same old same old.

Agree? Disagree? Have an even bigger and badder issue that tears you from a book?

Do tell…..

WATCH YOUR BACK

I'm going to borrow a page from Bethany's book (pun intended) and indulge in a minor rant. Please, don't expect the same caliber -- I am but a soap box novice next to her way with cutting wit and observation, but this week I had a major disappointment and it went like this:

I borrowed a book from the library by one of my top five favorite authors. This is a guy I read all the time, I enjoy his continuing charcaters, his premise and his writing style (apart from his use of parathenses within POV. That always yells author intrusion to me.) Anyway, while going through his book list on Amazon I found I'd missed a book that came out a couple of years ago.

At the same time I started this book, I was hip deep in my own book, plotting the backstory. The husband in my book never makes a single scene except for the one where they come across his body, but what he's done with his life is the major catalyst behind the whole book. This character is loosely based on a real con man extroidanairre, but even then needed a lot of research and work. I know where my character was born, where he went to school, how he got started bending the rules and then breaking them. I know what events sent him into the current book's scope to create the on scene character's diemmas. That's all backstory, and mind you, it's not how he walks or chews gum, but the very fabric of his life that made him who he is. His story is backstory.

***It's up to me to leave hints that the other characters uncover so they can reconstruct the past and figure out how to stop the current mayhem.*** I am highlighting this aspect because this is where backstory ends and current story begins.

My book starts at the point of time where everything that's come before hits critcal mass and the world begins to unravel. Not just his, but the lives of the people around him.

This well known author I'm talking about, a man who has written award winning books, started his book with all that basckstory, giving us one scene after another baed in the far distant past. Not as a teaser. Not as action to prepare us for non-action. Not as forewarning. Just because he didn't (apparently) trust his charcters to discover the truths they would need to know. No, I'll go further. Because he didn't trust his readers to take the journey with him.

This book did not really get going until well after page fifty, and to make it worse, every time one of the characters finally revealed their piece of knowledge about the past we all ready knew it, we'd read it a hundred pages before! We'd even witnessed it! Merciful heavens, how this guts a plot.

You kind of expect this kind of thing from newbies. I know I did it, I know the temptation to include all those wonderful scenes and the action is hypnotic -- sometimes it seems the backstory is so much more interesting than what happens in the book and it feels wrong not to include it. But it is wrong and it's precisely because of what it does to the rest of the book. Your reader is reading -- not only in mysteries but in other genres -- to discover the questions and answers for themselves. If you hand them over before the book starts there's not much for them to do look at the words and wish they couldn't anticipate every single thing that was about to happen.

So, Wavy, for you perhaps it's an over the top hero or any one of a dozen other devices a writer -- almost any writer -- occassionaly slips into. For me it's this backstory issue. A good book needs a hell of a backstory. And an even better book needs to reveal it properly. In my opinion, this man's editor let him down big time, but frankly, I just can't imagine what he was thinking.

Agree? Disagree? Have an even bigger and badder issue that tears you from a book?

Do tell…..

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I've Been Very Busy

The kids left Sunday before last. The hub left last Thursday. I've been in single woman heaven. And tomorrow I'm off to San Fran with 2000 other "single" women. (WOOHOO!!) Ever since the hub left I've been very busy...watching movies.

I never get to watch movies. Not ones for adults anyway. Most movies I see feature Barbie as a Grimms Fairy Tale heroine, or they showcase singing animated farm animals. Or singing high school students in loooove. Here's a rundown of what I've watched since Thursday. I've placed them in order of least liked to best liked, but it was hard. I thoroughly enjoyed each movie for different reasons.

National Treasure 2
I know a lot of people really liked this movie, but it just wasn't my cup of tea. Everything was too convenient, too many deductions were made from thin air, and Nicholas Cage's hair looked odd. It was too easy to kidnap the president, break into oval office, find the hidden plank in the president's desk, and pour out their bottled water on the exact rock amongst acres of rocks to show the hidden eagle. And thank goodness Cage's mother was an expert in ancient Native American languages. I've always liked Nicholas Cage but not in this movie or the first one.

Lars and The Real Girl
I do not know what to make of this movie. Man orders a full size, anatomically correct, real woman looking doll and tells everyone it is his girlfriend. His brother, sister-in-law, and doctor convince their town to support his delusion for fear of worsening his newly apparent mental illness. Ever heard of a more stupid premise? BUT the townspeople go along with it because of their love and affection for the young man; they want him to get better. They talk to the doll, loan her clothing, make her dinner, buckle her seat belt, appoint her to the school board, get her a job, have her volunteer at the hospital and so on. It's touching and funny. And weird and freaky. Watching the brother and sister-in-law give the doll a bath in the tub was surreal.

The Other Boleyn Girl
I adore Natalie Portman, and I've lusted after Eric Bana since Troy. I've read many novels set in the times of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, so I enjoyed immersing myself in this historical. The costumes and settings are rich, and the writers nailed the hopeless position of women in this time period. Good movie, but none of the characters are redeeming. Portman plays a selfish, conniving brat. Scarlett Johansson's character is appropriately spineless, and Eric Bana wrings his hands a lot. Plus it ends badly. But you already knew that.

Juno
I wish I'd never heard or read a single word about this film. I would have enjoyed it a million times more. It's fresh and witty, but I'd already heard every clever line and knew about each scene. Still it was fun to watch and I love to say "Diablo Cody" over and over. Can anyone come up with a better name than that?

Fools Gold
I like to watch Matthew McConaughey in movies but hate to read in the tabloids about his weird life. Something tells me that his reckless, immature character in this movie is pretty close to how he truly he is. Kate Hudson is as cute and spunky as ever. The movie is a fun treasure hunt romp, but I couldn't get the latest article I read about McConaughey out of my mind. He did a Brazilian tribal dance between his girlfriend's legs as she gave birth?

Dan in Real Life
I adore Steve Carell. I can't get enough of Steve Carell. In the film, his wife died a few years back, and now he and his three difficult daughters are spending a long week in his parents' home with his siblings and their families. All of whom want him to find a new woman. He falls madly in love with his brother's new girlfriend, Juliette Binoche, who secretly loves him back. Wonderful film. This extended family's togetherness and energetic game playing reminded me of film clips of the Kennedy clan. Too happy together.

Becoming Jane
Anne Hathaway is so utterly beautiful on film. I first saw her in Ella Enchanted and The Princess Diaries and found her to be a terrific actress. This is a great period piece about the life of Jane Austen and how her relationships influenced her writing and her characters. She falls in love with a poor lawyer, James McAvoy, when her parents need her to make a good marriage to a nobleman with money. She marries neither one. I don't know about the historical accuracy of the film, but I'd like to believe she suffered this tragedy.

P.S. I Love You
Here is the winner of my movie bender. I'd never heard of this film and I'd never read the book. Perhaps that is why I enjoyed this movie. It's simply beautiful. The love between Hillary Swank and Gerard Butler is incredible, indescribable. True soul mates who made my heart ache. I nearly turned it off after the first annoying ten minutes but cried and laughed through the rest. Harry Connick, Jr. is fun as a blunt, rather rude bartender who admits he lacks the ability to pick up on social cues. The movie is based on the debut novel of the twenty-one-year old daughter of the prime minister of Ireland. Not bad for a first effort, but I don't want to read the book; this movie was perfect. Maybe it takes the mind of a ingenue to create a love so pure. Now I want an Irishman. Who sings.

I watched nine movies, but I turned off one because it was lame. And I won't count the three DVDs of TV's Firefly.

Seen any good movies lately?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Top Ten ReasonsI Wish I was Going to Nationals

Nope. Not Lisa. Not even close. And, while I could do 10 reasons why I wish I was in Italy, I thought I'd do an RWA themed list, since right now, my heart is in S.F. Or at least, in a suitcase with those of you packing for nationals right now.

We're going to do a little exercise today. "Top 10 Reasons I wish I was . . . " Fill the blank:
  • Done with this synopsis!
  • Finished with edits!
  • NOT going to nationals!
  • Done with this project!
  • In Hawaii right now!
  • In Italy!
  • On a deserted Island!
  • Childless!
  • An orphan!
Have fun with it, and use it as a catharsis to free up some of that sidecar baggage that Lori spoke so eloquently of last week.

Top 10 reasons I wish I was at Nationals

  1. "Speaker with Lunch" implies more than "Mum-Mum-Mum-Mum" and strained peas.
  2. The chance to stalk . . .er . . .SEE Suzanne Brockmann
  3. Books, books, books, and more BOOKS!
  4. Inventive freebies
  5. All my favorite authors under one roof for the literacy signing
  6. The amazing, incredible, energy of 1,000s of crazed writers under one roof
  7. The Russian roulette of finding great workshops and chancing upon the one workshop that changes your direction
  8. Meeting others who "get" you
  9. Books, books, and more BOOKS!
  10. The chance you might share an elevator with your personal heroine
Your turn!!!

Safe travels to everyone heading to nationals! Any room in that suitcase? Remember, Bethany happily pays COD for packages of books, books, books, BOOKS should you find yourself overflowing :) :) :)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Challenge Check-In


Paty must be off in the sticks and most everyone else seems to be getting ready for Nationals.. I'm taking the liberty of posting a challenge check-in.

Where are you in your work? I have until tomorrow night to finish the synopsis for the proposal. The deadline isn't until the 31st of this month, but when I agreed to have it to ye old editor even earlier, I was signed up for Nationals. The plan was I take it to S.F. and give it to her there. Now that I'm not going, I have to email it in time for to read it before she goes. So, ack!

Meanwhile 63 pages of book is almost ready to go with it and then all I have to do is get their approval (or not) and write the rest of the book in six weeks. Piece of cake. Excuse me while I hyperventilate in a corner.

Catch us up with what's going on in your writing life...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Inspiration Sometimes Comes in Small Packages

What I mean by that is Lori. As in Barber. She's been a great inspiration to me.

Let me explain. In my usual roundabout way.

When I was 14, my English teacher turned in some of my free-verse poetry to the local paper. The little weekly published it, and I was hooked. I sold my flute and bought a Smith Corona typewriter. I knew I'd never be a famous flutist -- have I told this story before? If so, please feel free to skip ahead -- but I felt I had a shot at being a writer.

And so I am. Among other things.

I wrote for a while. Write, write, write. Then decided to start my own business. Yeah, that's the ticket. I'll grow plants and sell them. So, for 12 years, I did just that. But still I penned detailed signs telling customers how to grow and enjoy the plants they took home. And for the byline junkie within, I wrote a weekly garden column for the local weekly.

For a couple years, I worked at my daughter's school. Subbed for the librarian and the secretaries, and worked as a teacher's assistant. Oh yeah, and I wrote the weekly parent/teacher newsletter. I also started slinging some freelance human interest pieces at the local daily paper. And they bit.

Bylines. Way cool.

I liked seeing my byline so much, I started bugging the paper to hire me on staff. It took months of bugging. Finally they caved. I can still hear echoes of what they must have said back then, "Let's just hire that @#*! freelance writer. Maybe that will shut her up."

Woo-hoo, daily bylines!

I closed the chapter of newspaper reporting to start a new chapter as a novelist. But it took months to write each novel, more months of sending pages and chapters to contests, agents and editors, and still, for all my efforts, no bylines.

Oh, there's the occasional freelance piece published, complete with byline. You didn't expect me to whip the beast cold turkey now, did you?

My sidecar -- as Lori would say -- is full of children. I don't have the months and months of available time to dedicate to writing and polishing another novel now. The paper I usually freelance for is running out of funds, meaning fewer and fewer bylines.

Feeling discouraged here.

Enter Lori, her wonderful published story of her grandmother's blackberry dumplings, and her words of encouragement. She told me a couple weeks ago that I can publish in magazines too, and why don't I try sending material to this one, or that? It's a path I've always meant to persue, and have, half-heartedly, over the years. But during the past week, I've buckled down to the task. I've sent both stories and photos to two different magazines. And even though Lori says it took her 18 months of waiting to hear back and receive payment, I'm a fairly patient person. I can wait. While I'm waiting, I'll keep filling the magazine pipeline, and raising babies, until I can swing back into full novel mode.

In the meantime...woooot! I feel a byline coming on.

It's a grand old feeling.

Thank you, Lori.

So, when your sidecar overflows, do you still carve out niches of time to write smaller projects? Do you write other things besides romance? And has anyone in our chapter been especially inspiring and helpful to you?

Ah, Synopsis

I think I figured out today why beginning writers HATE writing a synopsis nd selling writers don't. Okay, okay, big generalities, but here we go:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Get Real, Woman

After my last diatribe, I really shouldn't tackle another pet peeve, but I just can't resist. The pissiness, it knows no bounds.

When we read (and write) romance, we suspend reality a little bit and enter a universe where 30 something bachelors with abs of steel and hearts of gold lurk around every corner and where orphans outnumber happy childhoods 10 to 1. We enter a universe where 6'3" desk jockeys who never work out sit down for cheese burgers and shakes with gorgeous friends (whom they've spent 5 years taking for granted with sizzling sexual chemistry). It's Lake Wobegon meets Wisteria Lane: The men are well-endowed, the children are precious, and the women are sassy with eternally perky bits.

This kind of idealism is easy to digest because it's the life we'd like to live. No one worries about dishes and dust bunnies, and even the obnoxious neighbors have a good side. We read and write Romance to get to the HEA, and in Romance Land, divorce is backstory, not a future worry. I don't want reality to intrude on my HEA.

But, sometimes you HAVE to face reality or risk alienating your readers. It's a very fine line. We want bullet-proof heroes and multi-orgasmic heroines, but sometimes it's a bit like following a banana split with chocolate cake. Reality doesn't need to be THAT sweet.

Example 1: Erotic Thriller by one of my favorite authors. However, somehow Hero and Heroine end up doing the horizontal tango at least a DOZEN times in 24 hours. In this same span of time, they have: an investigation of an artifact, a ferry ride, not one, but two separate encounters with hit men, four changes of venue, two long car rides, surveillance work, and have three major arguments. Of course, each encounter appears to take hours and involves multiple high points. Which is, of course, the point of an erotic thriller, but after a certain point, I started getting weary for my poor heroine and wishing that Hero would go take a nap or call a hotline or something. Even when one of the focuses of the book is the physical relationship, one does not wish to fear that Hero suffers a psychological issue or perhaps a physical malady.

Example 2: One of my all-time favorite books by an author whose realism is often-spot on, but who also pushes the envelope during action scenes. Hero takes a bullet to the side of his stomach. He's bleeding profusely and needs pressure on the wound. However, this doesn't stop him from: formulating an attack strategy, running into a house, having an emotional reunion with his child, providing cover fire, running up three flights of stairs more than once while firing an automatic weapon, coming up with several on-the-fly plans, driving a car through a wall into a tree, taking an airbag to the wound, RUNNING back into the house, rescuing heroine from a burning building by climbing the three flights of stairs again, and then finally collapsing of his NEAR FATAL wound that requires extensive surgery and hospitalization. The kicker: a villain dies instantly of a similar wound.

Example 3: Writer known for her suspense and page-turning plots, but who often sends me into spasms of "No Freaking Way." Hero has: a brain concussion, a head wound requiring stitches, bruised ribs, ambiguous leg and back injury, broken ankle, frost bite, broken shoulder, bullet wound, and has recently run pell mell down a mountain. He manages to run back UP the mountain, past two gunmen to save heroine. Which an FBI chopper can't do. Oh, and there's like 6 feet of snow on the ground and it's below zero. Villain died of a single bullet wound. LOVED this book, but come on, give poor hero a chance at HEA that doesn't involve a disability check and a lifetime supply of perocet.

I know, I know, we want to push the envelope as writers. Wring every last drop of suspense out of a scene until the wallpaper is bloody and cowering. And even in lighter works, there's the Gilmore Girls phenomena whereby characters can consume massive amounts of junk food and caffeine and still look impossibly fabulous. But, in order to maintain the illusion that this could be US, that we can step into the characters shoes for an evening, we need to keep a tiny bit of reality present. (Unless, of course, you're writing fantasy, in which case you create the reality, and consistency is your only enemy. Lucky you. Go gloat now.)

What's your personal tolerance level for reality? The limits of your personal experience? The bounds of Ripley and Guinness? The bounds of TV and movies? Do you even care when the laws of medicine, physics, and anatomy are breached? How do you reality check yourself as a writer?

WHAT'S IN YOUR SIDECAR?

Imagine with me a character who wakes in the morning, stretches, thumps her feet onto the floor and smiles in delight. The long awaited day to enjoy her passion...writing, has arrived.

One arm jabs into the sleeve of her blouse and the phone rings. Mentally, she gazes at her laptop and offers the caller a ride to their car repair shop before closing. Phone still warm from her touch, it rings again. Her mom’s having a bad day. No time to glance or stroke her laptop, she heaves a sigh, shifts into overdrive and dashes out the door.

Hours later, including two trips to the bank with Mom, (check left on the kitchen counter the first trip), and grocery shopping added to the mix, she waves goodbye to Mom, delivers her crocheted chemo caps to the hospital, fulfills the promised ride to the mechanic shop and races home. The hunger to write still pulses down to her fingertips.

The phone greets her with it’s irritating ring. In between several rounds of phone calls, a delivery from UPS, piercing serenades from the three dogs next door headlong in a barkfest, she bakes and delivers cookies to a neighbor struck with cancer.

Daylight has vanished. Her creative writing energies doused in fatigue refuse to re- ignite. A glimpse at her laptop proves unnecessary. Instead, she starts the hospice manual she requested from her mom’s doctor. Not a good read.

Exhausted, she collapses into bed only to find her brain has pushed replay on the days events and highlights the absence of writing anything more pithy than her name, and a single chocolate infused moments.

Unexpected events ride in the sidecar of our life’s journey. Loss of a job, surgery and funerals, to name of few, slip into the seat as easily as the rewards of retirement, birth of a baby or a dream vacation. These interferences, good and bad, impact our lives. Don’t trust those plush cushions designed to suggest comfort; some rides shift from varied degrees of wild, to bumpy and the unforeseen.

As writers we’d rather thrust our characters into many of these situations, than experience them ourselves. The ability to place our characters in the driver’s seat, toss them a map void of unmarked byways and fling obstacles into their sidecar, forces them to steer their life through mounting adversities and adventures. Along their journey they seek or redefine their strengths and abilities, and this navigational pulse can unfold wings of hope and exhilaration in our own lives too.

It can also awaken guilt and selfishness. Those pesky travel mates that flop into the seat next to me and refashion simple pleasures, like the unexpected visit from a friend, into a thief robbing my writing time.

What’s filling your sidecar right now? If it’s sitting empty please share your latest writing accomplishments.

Monday, July 21, 2008

STRESS

I’m up in the air over a topic today. I thought about throwing my pitches up here because I missed the meeting on Tuesday night and didn’t get any feedback- but I figure you are sick of hearing me talk about my pitches.

I could list everything I need to get ready for nationals since my dh announced we are heading to the Princeton property this weekend and I’m judging 4-H sewing projects for the county fair on Monday and leaving for Nationals on Tuesday at 7 am.

But I think I’ll talk about stress. You all know the stress of trying to write when nothing sounds good or reading something and then stressing your writing will never be good enough to publish or stressing over when to find time to write. Right now, I’m stressing over which pitch to give. Yes, I’m over half way in the contemporary book and would like to pitch that, but I’ve had so many people think my historical series is awesome I wonder if I shouldn't pitch that. I had one writer friend say it made her tingle when I described it to her! LOL

And reading agent blogs, I’ve learned they don’t like you to pitch series. So I would have to pitch it as a standalone book, but there isn’t a traditional HEA as I plan the relationship to be ongoing. ~sigh~ So, I stress over how to pitch it when I do come across an agent or editor who is open to historical westerns. And there seem to be more of those than the ones interested in contemporary westerns.

Does the stress stop there? No. I’m also giving a workshop at the historical conference on Wednesday. I’m excited- but what if I’m not witty and they all are bored with the info? I’m making them participate and have some goodies to hand out to those who volunteer first. But what if I bomb?

And then there’s the literacy signing. Will I sell a single book? I don’t care, other than, I would like to have the money go to the cause. But I don’t want to sit there the whole time and have no one stop and chat. I’ve made many contacts and I’d hope, a few would stop by and say ‘Hi’.

Now, Thursday morning, at the Hearts Through History general meeting (breakfast) I was asked to sit on an author panel. Do I need to bring some freebies? Would that make an impression on historical writers/readers? Or would it look too pushy?

Friday, my editor and agent appointments- I’m giving them each an Outlaw candy bar with my business card attached. But do I only pitch one book to the agent? I’m thinking I’ll ask her if you have two well written books, one is a historical western romance and one is a contemporary western romance, which do you think you could sell? Then pitch that book, but should I first tell her about my previous published books and have her ask what I’m working on now rather than start out with a pitch? As for the Harlequin editor, I think I’ll go the same route with her and see which genre she would prefer.

After that, the stress will wash away and I’ll enjoy the rest of my conference stress free.

If you are going to conference- what are you stressing about? If you aren’t going to conference, I wish I were you right now!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I'm Back and Saturday Check-IN

Hi all. I've had no internet all week and you'd think I'd have more writing done. But I only managed 7000 words! Of course I was in a car with a 4 1/2 year-old and a 2 year-old for 8 hours one of those days and attended a funeral and 5 hours in the car, then another 4 hours the next day. So three days there wasn't much writing getting done. Then the other days I was wrestling with wheel lines and hand pipes and cussing my dh(don't tell him that he's been treating me like a queen since I got back) because things didn't go as smoothly as he said they would. But I"m home and learned some things.

Never have someone who has never met the deceased perform the service. I only saw my uncle once a year as a child and then about every five years as an adult, but I could have given a better parting than the preacher did who officiated over the service. The songs my brother sang fit my uncle way better than the preacher's words. And that my friends is why when I do leave this earth, I've instructed my dh to throw a party for my friends and play the music I have on a list.

I haven't had a chance to read the blog for the week. I'll get to it after my 350 e-mails!

I hope everyone had a good writing week!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Random Silliness

I blame Kendra. And Alice. And, well, my procrastination skills which are legendary.

It's been a weird week on the blog, hasn't it? Blogs about cleaning and job concerns, blogs about quirks and conflict. I don't know about you, but I've been needing a good laugh. My DH has been gone all week, I've been home with the kids, it's been hot and I haven't made nearly as much progress on the wip as I should have made. So last night when I should have been coming up with a deep and profound blog post for today to follow Genene's great one on joy, I was cruising youtube, searching for something to make me smile. Most of what I found was so totally funny...but so completely inappropriate for this blog. However, there were a few kernels of good stuff. And most of it made me chuckle at the differences between men and women. Like...

Why we romance writers don't write about REAL men:



How men screw up romance:



And what men really hear when they listen to music on the radio:



(My DH is famous for the above.)

And finally, since I'm on the topic of men...this is one of my favorite songs that illustrates the differences between men and women. There's no video with this (the video for this song was taped in concert and it's not as good as the recorded song), so just listen to the words:



Any funny videos to share about men or women or romance or what we write about in general? Or how about some thoughts on the above...love 'em, hate 'em, did you get at least a laugh out of one of them?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

CAN A CHARACTER FIND JOY AMID CONFLICT?

Flowers for no particular reason (giving or receiving them!), the lap of an ocean wave as it tumbles the sand under your feet and tickles your toes, those few magic moments in the early morning watching your loved ones sleep, that aha moment when a scene in your latest manuscript comes together perfectly...

These are just a few of the things that bring me the soul-deep joy that all is perfectly aligned in the universe and I am part of that alignment.

However, as writers we are told conflict is king! A story must have tension that builds and builds for 200 or 300 (or more) pages. If a character wants something badly, take it away from them. Add more drama. Crank up the tension.

Do our characters get a break? Do they get moments of joy before they struggle to their happy ending--beaten, betrayed, bankrupt, perhaps even shot at?

Sure there are pauses for characters to reflect and readers to catch their breath before jumping back into the action, but do you give your characters moments of joy? I'm not sure I do.

We've had some discussion on the blog of how to dig deeper into our characters (by asking them what's in their pockets/ purse or by seeing what wedding dress the heroine would choose). Today it occurred to me that deeper character could also be revealed by what brings our characters joy.

A simple moment of joy could be the first drops of a rain storm for a firefighter who has been battling a blaze for hours. Or a workaholic who discovers joy in doing nothing. Perhaps a guilt-ridden father who blames himself for his child's death could find joy in coaching a troubled teen to hit his first home run. Any of these situations could also be a turning point for this character.

I like this idea so much that when I go back to my series of books, I'm going to include some joy for my characters -- if only for a brief scene.

How about your characters? What would bring them joy and why? What brings you joy?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Quirks & Habits

It's been quite a week at my house. The dh has something called a para esophageal hernia. What it means is half his stomach has pushed through a hole in his diaphragm. He's had symptoms for almost three years but the situation wasn't diagnosed until about two weeks ago. Everything got a lot worse this last weekend when we had to admit him to the hospital. Surgery is in a few hours, the prognosis is good, things are going to be fine.

But, you know, writers are writers and we are an odd bunch who notice odd things. While in the Emergency room the other night, my husband mentioned to the woman starting his IV (I think he was trying to divert his attention from the needle which he hates) that I was a writer. The nurse, who was a very nice woman and in whose debt we both remain, nevertheless said the dreaded words: "Oh. I should tell you my life story. You wouldn't believe it. There's a doctor here who knows a writer in Eugene and he keeps telling me I should sit her down and tell my story to her because it's so amazing. I should tell it to you."

Shudder.

I said nothing and she got called away on another mission and if there's any justice, someone will realize I have suffered enough and not bring her back into my little corner of the world. The weird thing is less than five minutes later we were with another woman -- the admitting nurse -- and she was uncommunicative. BUT, this woman sniffed every twenty seconds. Allergies, probably. And I thought, what a wonderful trait for a character. Not a h/h, of course. Not sexy in the least, but there are lots of supporting roles in a book where a sniffer would be appropriate and I filed this trait away to pull out in the future and tack onto a hotel clerk or an accountant or a lawyer…

Question: When was the last time you made note of a specific character trait that stood out from the rest and gave it to one of your characters. Be specific, please. I love knowing how all this works for others.

Let me add one more thing. I recently re-watched The Princess Diaries. It's a very cute movie and this time watching it, I noticed two things important to me as a writer.

1. The title character is a young woman played by Anne Hathaway and created by Meg Cabot. I have actually read the book but I don't remember it clearly enough to know if Cabot gave her character the traits Hathaway portrayed or if they came from Hathaway herself or the screenwriter or what. One trait was Hathaway twisting her arm at the elbow and actually reached up behind her to fiddle with the ends of her hair. While I admire the flexibility and I have to admit it was a unique gesture, a little of that goes a long way and by the time she did it the third time, it was beginning to annoy me. Moderation I guess is the warning here. Using that gesture to highlight the character's indecision just got old really fast.

Question: Have you read a book recently where a character's little habits began to annoy rather than delight? At a certain point, something like this can begin to seem like author intrusion. Have you noticed that? I ask because I can't tell you how many times I've heard some speaker encourage writers to give each character some identifying habit or tendency and I always wince. If a reader notices it, it becomes intrusive and manipulative and I always hope those listening know they also need to be subtle and use a light hand.

2. In the director's (Gary Marshall) comments on cut scenes (my new favorite part of a movie) they showcase a scene where the Hathaway character undergoes a make-over. She then goes home and her mother is having a date with her teacher -- the scene was meant to show the mother's reaction to her daughter's new look and to also reveal her growing relationship to the teacher.

The scene was ultimately cut as well it should be. The audience is only marginally interested in the mother and her relationship with the teacher. Instead, they went with a scene where the girl is chided by her best friend for "selling out" while her soon to be boyfriend is enchantedwith her newly revealed beauty and to reveal the heroine's mixed feelings about what is happening to her, a solitary tear rolls down her cheek.

Nice. Showing, not telling.

I just got a look at the time. I need to take a shower and get back to my home away from home where I will offer spousal support before surgery and work on my deadline during. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I've Got a Dilemma

I've been reflecting on jobs lately. My current job. Past jobs. Future jobs.

Over the past two years, there's been a change in my dental office. I've worked there twelve years and I'm the newest hygienist. The other three hygienists have been there about 15 or 20 years. Possibly more. This is nearly unheard of in a dental office. Turnover is closer to five years. In school we were told the average dental hygienist works for seven years. Total. I'm not sure why. My guess would be the physical strain on the back, shoulders, and arms.

So why is my office different? My boss. I work for the greatest guy. Dr. L. is a talented dentist and a wonderful person who genuinely likes his patients and considers many of them to be close friends. He remembers where they went on their last vacation, what hobbies they have, and the names of their grandkids, No, Dr. L. doesn't write anything down. I don't have this talent. I'll see the same person every six months for four years and still struggle to place their face.

Two years ago he brought in an associate dentist. Dr. L wasn't ready to retire; he loves his job too much. But he has been slowly cutting back his hours. It's just not the same atmosphere on the days he's gone. The new dentist is great. His skills are good and he's a nice guy, but he's not Dr. L. It's not the new dentist's fault; I haven't met anyone who can fill Dr. L's shoes, and I've done temp work with twenty to thirty other dentists.

So I have a decision to make. Switching to another office doesn't solve my problem. Another office might be a nightmare. There's something about women working in a small space that easily leads to cattiness. I like the women I work with, and I've grown close to a lot of the patients. On Friday I got a hug from one of my regulars while grocery shopping.

What do I want to do? I'm way to young to stop working, as my hub pointedly and frequently reminds me. I don't need to make a decision soon, but it has been weighing on my mind. I believe there will be more change over the next two years in policy and staff. I'm pretty adaptable, but I've been spoiled at this office and I've been getting grumpy as I think about future changes. I should buck up and be thankful. Many people don't have jobs or hate the job they're stuck with.

This is the best job I've ever had. The worst job I've had was in college working as an advertising intern (for free) at a radio station. They primarily sent me out to collect on overdue accounts in person. Not fun.

What types of job dilemmas have you encountered? What's the absolute worst job you've ever had? And am I a big whiner?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Check In???? And a question?

I'm pretty sure that Lisa's still in Italy, enjoying all that Italian . . . . pasta. And it looks like Kendra's posting tomorrow, but if I'm posting on top of someone else, please slap me down.

We didn't do a challenge check-in this weekend. And yes, I know tomorrow's our meeting (7 p.m. Blue Pepper in Salem, Lovely and Always Inspiring Alice Sharpe speaking) and we'll do our goals then, but I really enjoy the check-in thread, even when I can't post.

I hope Paty didn't start the thread because she was so busy typing and hitting that word count! Ditto for Eli and Alice.

Me, I'm not so busy with the typing, but I AM writing. I'm trying to edit a scene in the previous WIP an evening right now, and writing on the current WIP on yellow legal pads whenever the small demon naps (on me).

Oh, and while I'm here, can I ask a question? When do you all clean? I'm writing. And baby wrangling. And doing dishes. And making dinner. And doing laundry. And reading. And my head is spinning. I'm thinking that I'm missing some sort of writer's secret bible on how to get it all done. Do I just submit to the clutter? Do you have a schedule to make sure that you get BOTH cleaning AND writing done? Do you put off writing to clean? PLEASE share your daily/weekly routine! Maybe there's something I'm not doing?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

DEBBIE'S INTRODUCTION

Happy Saturday!

I'm thrilled to be invited to guest blog today. I'm relatively new here, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to tell you a bit about myself. First off, what to call me? I know my formal signature says "Deborah", but I answer to Debbie or Deb as well. I grew up in Sacramento, CA (actually in Fair Oaks, but no one will know where that is) and I lived in San Jose from 1988 until we moved to Salem last year. I'm not a complete newbie to Oregon--I lived in Pendleton for a year in the early '80s.

I've been a voracious reader since I was a child. I'm also one of those people who are constantly telling themselves stories. Up until the last few years those stories stayed safely in my head. I'm not sure why it took me so long to put 2 and 2 together and realize that what I was doing was a precursor to writing, but there you have it. In 2003 I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo. I wrote 65,000 words in one month and was hooked! The story went nowhere and the writing was crap, for want of a better term, but the joy in writing that I found--of getting into a zone where the words seemed to flow from some heretofore undiscovered reservoir within me--was a revelation.

I kept plugging away, writing another 50,000 words o' crap for NaNo 2004. Then I got sidetracked by professional stresses as well as a health scare with my husband and I put my writing goals on the back burner for a time. I continued to read and try to learn more about how to improve at the craft of writing. When we made the decision to move from California to Oregon last year, I decided that I was ready to get serious about writing for publication. It's daunting to realize that I have a long way to go, but I'm determined to succeed. I also knew that I didn't want to go it alone, so I looked around and found RWA. I was impressed by the support and encouragement offered and by how welcoming the organization was to new and unpublished writers. I joined in November of last year. Through RWA I found the MWV chapter and joined in February.

I'm still discovering where I want to go with my writing; in which genre I'll fit best. I don't write romance novels, per se, but my stories always have strong romantic elements woven through them. In fact, when I think of the genres I usually read -- Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery and Suspense -- the authors I gravitate to are those who incorporate romance in one form or another as an important part of their stories.

I also work. I've got a degree in Computer Science and work as an IT Solution Designer for a high tech company based in the CA Bay Area. I'm responsible for architecting our internal calendaring and instant messaging solutions. I've done a little bit of everything in IT, from pulling cables and installing hardware, to writing programs and scripts, to creating web pages and wiki docs.

If you're ever doing research and need information about northern California (especially the Sacramento region or the Bay Area) or about high tech companies, I'll be happy to try to help. I'll also be glad to help with technical questions, if I can. I don't talk PCs--I can find my way around one, but that's about it. I'm strictly a UNIX gal (Solaris, Linux and Mac OS X). I should warn that I'm one of those weird people that hardware and software seem to love. Tech just tends to work for me, even when it won't for someone else. I've long suspected it's due to some mutated gene in my DNA, but don't quote me on that.

I'm attending the National conference this summer and can't wait, although I find it a bit ironic that the first convention after I move from the Bay is in San Francisco. No pitches for me, yet. I'm excited just to be going!

So, that's a little slice of me. I've enjoyed meeting many of you at the meetings and here on the blog and am looking forward to getting to know you better. In that spirit, if there's something you'd like to ask me, please do. I'll do my best to answer!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ebooks or Print Books?


I'm kind of cheating here because I posted this on my blog last Monday. Even so, I feel it's an important issue to share and get feedback on. Since we have a few ebook authors in our chapter, and a few MMP authors (and soon-to-be MMP authors *grin*), it's obvious publishing in all its guises makes a great topic for blog discussion.

Today I thought I'd address ebooks. I'm not talking about ebook publishers, like the small press that published my suspense novel and novella. I'm talking about ebook technology.

Ebook reading devices are becoming more popular despite their inflated price tag. Now that Kindle is on the scene, ebooks have become the talk of pub town. Paper will never go away, but ebooks are here to stay. I don't have an ereader like a Kindle or Soni, and I'm embarrassed to admit I've never read an ebook for that very reason. But with the promise of ebook readers becoming an affordable gizmo for the book-reading technorati, it's obvious all published books will soon be available both digitally and on paper. It's inevitable publishing evolution.

This is an exciting time for publishing. Fewer books will be printed on paper, which is better for the environment and for a publisher's bank account. The big New York publishers may finally become profitable again, which is good news for authors. Or is it? Some authors are afraid this will mean lower advances against royalties. This logic doesn't make sense to me because publishers buy content, and the content for paper books and ebooks are the same. So why would advance amounts change?

I think I know why authors fear advances will go away. Small ebook publishers, like my own publisher The Wild Rose Press, don't give advances. Instead they offer higher royalty percentages (on the net price of the book) that are paid after sales and on a quarterly basis. So there's no financial risk. Many authors think that if publishers change to the ebook model, advances will go the way of the dinosaur and be handled the same way small ebook publishers pay their authors today. But I seriously doubt it.

I believe that the cutback on printing costs will allow higher advances for authors. Small presses don't have the capital, but the big publishers do. Small presses don't have the sales, but the big publishers do. The quality of product offered by both will stay the same. Nothing much changes but the channels of distribution for NY publishers and the decreased manufacturing costs for their products. Expenses go down, profits go up. It's a win-win for everyone.

So what do you think? Have you ever read an ebook? Would you read one if you had a Kindle or the equivalent? And if you did have a Kindle, would you still buy paper books, too? And what's your opinion about how this technology will change the payment process currently used by New York publishers?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Thou Shall Not Head Hop

Gather round, friends, it's time for an old fashioned summer revival, complete with sermon from the Almighty Wavy. So sit a spell, but don't doze off, your chance to share your testimonials will be coming in a bit. Later, after the fire and brimstone concludes, we'll have cookies and lemonade to share.

It pains to me that the sin of head hopping is still so rampant in romance novels. Afterall, this is the Age of Enlightenment, and the prophets Brockmann, Coulter, Wiggs, Brown, Crusie, Foster, Carlye, Brennan, Gibson, and others have shown that the path to the glorious kingdom of NYT bestsellerdom lies through deep POV. And yet, still authors persist in hopping willy-nilly from one head to the next without a care. (Clearly, their editors aren't doing a good job raising them up right, but that's another post.) And I grieve for them, I truly do, because they have so much potential, but then they squander it as they hop from character to character within the same scene with nary a break like a little deranged omnipotent rabbit.

I recently picked up a historical by a bestselling author. We'll call her K.M. K.M.'s book had the full package--unique plot with terrific research, singular characters apart from the usual historical mold, wonderfully entertaining secondary characters, and a terrific voice. However, instead of eagerly devouring her backlist, I ended up chucking the book before chapter four. Unfortunately K.M. is incapable of sticking with a character for more than two paragraphs. She makes you dread dialogue, since her shining moments occur when each character is alone, and the reader gets a break from all her loosey-goosey head hopping. Just because you have four characters IN a scene doesn't mean you have to dally with each one. Guard your voice better than that, ladies!

Then we have the case of poor, sad L.B. She's a best-selling author of category books with many big-name friends who released her first single title to much hoopla. Unlike K.M., L.B.'s book didn't have quite so much going for it--typical plot and setting with common character archetypes . But, many of the prophets have found their way to heaven with far less. L.B compounded the sin of hopping from head to head as she found convenient by never going deep enough when she did manage to stick with one character. This book hit my floor in chapter three because I didn't feel emotionally connected to any of the characters. Head hopping weakens the foundations of even the strongest book. (Can I get an Amen?)

It is time for us to recommit to monogamy within our scenes. One scene = one viewpoint. If you feel the need to "play the field" within a scene, you need to respectfully withdraw from one head, pause, break, and then gently enter the next character's head, with clear intent to remain there through the conclusion of that scene. It is only the prudent thing to do.

So that we can better understand why we need to walk the straight and narrow path of single POV, let's break down all the evils caused by head hopping:

Head Hopping Distorts Your Voice.

Head hopping has the ability to destroy your voice. Both L.B. and K.M have strong voices, yet their voices become timid and mundane when they flit about trying on viewpoints like prom dresses. When you do this, you loose opportunities to showcase your voice. A typical pattern of the head hopper is to stay with one character for the action (or piece of dialogue) and then to move to the next character for the next bit of action. When you do this, you've just missed your chance to show the reaction. Your voice is revealed just as much, if not more, by what your characters do/think/feel when they're NOT the ones speaking/acting.

Also, constantly shifting back and forth distorts your voice because YOU are always right there lurking behind every shrub ready to rush in and steer the scene the "correct" direction. You, the author, are way more visible than you need to be, and you, the voice, are sucked into the wallpaper along with your characters. Your characters lose their uniqueness, and the voice of each character becomes the same. When you head hop, you operate on the assumption that YOU are whom the reader REALLY wants to hear from. You, my friend, are simply not that entertaining. Your readers want to hear from your characters. Your voice is really your characters' voices and when you cut that off, you silence your own voice.

Head Hopping Confuses Readers

Most beginning writers are taught not to shift viewpoints unnecessarily because it confuses readers. And this is true--when you go heroine-hero-sidekick-hero-heroine all within in a single scene, your reader gets dizzy with trying to keep up with who is who. And for some published headhoppers like K.M., this indeed the primary evil. In her case, readers can't figure out whose eyes they are seeing the action from and get confused like an aerial camera in free fall. Pick one vantage point from which to film your scene and stick to it. Restrain yourself from the urge to show us EVERYTHING. Have some modesty and cover up all but the essential bits!

For others like L.B. who head hop only twice or so each scene, it's not so much a confusion issue as it as a pacing issue. Each time you head hop without a break, your reader is forced to glance back up at the top of the page and remember whose head they were last living in. This slows down your action when you least want it to. The reason why the Prophets of Deep POV are so successful is because they write page turners NOT page turn-backers. When you head hop enough, your readers are constantly on guard for future transgressions and never fall into the calming lull of your plot. When you allow your reader to BECOME each character for a while, you hook them. They're not going anywhere before the light gives out.

K.M. had a amazing plot, but the head hopping ruined it, sullying all of those neat details with single question mark. Your reader depends on you to navigate the murky waters of your fictional world. It is your sacred duty to lead them safely to "the end," by using clear signals and firm guidance. Don't be afraid of the scene break. Sometimes a firm hand is needed, and your readers will thank you for it at the close of your book. Several prophets swear by the trick of using of using the scene break mid-action to switch POV deliberately shifting the tenor of the scene. Let the angels fall from the heavens because this is POV used for its highest purpose, eliminating reader confusing and showcasing voice at the same time. Hallelujah!

Head Hopping Lets You Off Easy


Sinning is fun. It feels great, but then you have to meet your maker (or your market) and make peace with what you accomplished (on the page). Young writers head hop because it feels so darn good and it's EASY. It's easy(ier) to get your NaNoWriMo blinkie or your first finished MS when you write without worrying about nasty little things like head hopping. And that's good. Most of us head hop our way through our first (dozen) WIP's. It's like writing's rumspringa--sow your oats, blow off a little steam, because soon it will be time to commit to the righteous work of crafting a readable tale.

I've come to the conclusion that POV truly is the measure of a writer. Can you breathe enough life into your characters so that we can live through them, or is there only enough oomph in your plot for your own head? I'm not a fundamentalist here--you can vanquish head hopping and still do fresh, interesting things with POV. I think K.M. might have been trying for omnipotent viewpoint, but this needed to be clear to her readers. Elaine Viets manages to convey little omnipotent tidbits to her readers without ever breaking POV--a neat trick.

It is hard, backbreaking, thankless work to sort out POV. Who knows what, what do you need revealed, what do you need hidden, who has the emotional investment, who has the epiphany worth watching--THESE are questions that keep writers up at night. The prophets have shown us the way, but they certainly haven't left the guidebook behind. It's a long, rocky climb up to where they are, and we each must find our own path.

And thus lurks the temptation to stray from this bleak trek and just go ahead and head hop already. Vanquish these thoughts, friends. Tis demons talking giving you false promises. Look at the books beside your bed. Is there a head hopper in the midst? If you do not invite head hoppers into your own bed, why would you seek to promote this shameful practice? Be the writer you want to READ.

Your voice is your gift. Use it wisely. Guard it carefully. Don't hand it over to the sirens of head hopping who seduce into believing that it's the best choice for you. Worry about what is the best choice for your READER not you the writer.

Now, can I get a witness? Who's with me here? Who's ready to cast out the dark sin of head hopping? Who feels the burning power of deep POV today? Who's willing to examine their past sins and commit to necessary reformation? Confession is good for the soul--what cardinal sins have YOU committed in the past, and which commandments do you continue to shamelessly flaunt? And for those of you who belong to a different religion that permits head hopping (heathens, all of you, heathens), please, share your views here too--we welcome all viewpoints here.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

OPEN DOORS TO A VIEW WITHIN

There are days hungry for me to write and nourish my soul; vibrant days when I can glimpse the distant peaks and valleys; days filled with the sheer bliss and terror of doing what my heart calls me to do. To write, write, write.

In the beginning, snug against a wall in our living room (a wall now removed in our remodel), I tapped out stories with an old Atari computer on a small table top. In a backdrop of northern exposure and a print hanging square faced on the wall in from of me, I spilled out my first book, still pages shy of completion and major rewrites.

I now write in another room. A cubbyhole off the kitchen, introduced after our addition. A grand space of approximately seventy square feet, I affectionately call, ‘The Nook’. Abundant light floods the southern exposure and a strategically placed mirror over my desk doubles the warmth and pulls the outdoors inside. Voluptuous trees stretch across each sunset and sunrise.

My current desk and I run a tight race for eldership. Once belonging to my parents, we doused the blond wood in a turquoise wash and fit her with a glass top.

These elements create the best of writing spaces, and yet there are times I scarcely peek at the ravishing view or admire the unpretentious family heirloom.

Instead, I simply write in frequent bursts, for as long as I can, whenever I can. I’ve tweaked the writing rules in my game to mandate I’ll not sacrifice my life to my work. My work must make sacrifices to my life. Life is big and life is smugly short. I’ve learned to take timeouts and drink in serenity tucked in abundant masses in nature, in every lick of a cozy fire, in each moment I reflect, in favorite books I read. The seamless tranquility refreshes my wellspring.

As to my characters, some would turn up their noses at ‘The Nook’, find it too small and confining. Some would migrate to the window seat, stretch out and read their favorite book over again. Others would retreat outdoors to live and breath the view beckoning from the picture window. The remaining few pull up a chair and join me in my endeavor to pour words onto a blank page, infused in splashes of inspiration and a sprinkle of humor.

Share your view within and your writing perspective. Also, do you have a designated writing space; a favorite place where your characters huddle at your side?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Endearments

When females or males, my age or younger, call me "honey" and "dear", I grind my teeth and don’t say anything even though I want to give them an earful. I can take it from an older person say seventy or older. It doesn’t feel so much like it’s just being thrown out there to placate me.

An endearment is: An expression of affection. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like strangers expressing affection for me!

However, I do like my characters to use endearments toward family or the person they are attracted to. That is why my characters, always the hero, use a term of endearment for the heroine. And it’s never in the beginning of the story. It’s after they’ve interacted and are getting closer. My problem is coming up with an endearment that fits not only the heroine, but is something the hero would say/think. And I don’t like to use the same ones over and over again.

So far my contemporary cowboy called the heroine, "honey". Not too sweet like "sweetie" or "sweetheart". To me to have him say "darling" is condescending. An "dear", well it just doesn’t set well with me. LOL

But endearments don’t have to be your typical ones listed above. Don’t laugh, my dh calls me "cupcakes". Not sure why it’s plural or what it means, but when he calls me “cupcakes”, it usually means he’s in a good mood. I tend to call him “sweetie”- not sure why, it’s just what I’ve always done.

Then there’s “babe”, “cutie”, “fancy pants”, “handsome”, "stud", stud muffin". Do you use endearments between your H/H and if you do, do you think it over and come up with one that fits the character or characters? Or do you just throw them out there will nilly or not at all? If you use them, why? If not, why?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

CHALLENGE CHECK-IN




The two paintings up above hang over my sofa. They were painted by my son's college dorm roommate several years ago. When I went to pick them up, he unrolled them for me to see. I looked at the one on the right side as you face them and said, "I love both of them. Let me know when you're finished with the second one." He said, "I'm finished with it now." I immediately gave him the hundred dollars we had agreed on. My husband framed them when we got home and they have been on the wall ever since, and I truly love them.

Meanwhile, when my brother-in-law saw me shelling out $100. he was flabbergasted. He thought I'd been shim-shammed because the second one is so unfinished. I tried to explain that Ken was an artist and if that's the way he wanted his work to be, then that was the way I wanted it. And since then, I have grown a very warm spot in my heart for that second painting and the untold story his spare brush strokes didn't explain. In fact, it's my favorite.

My point? Art is in the eye of the beholder? I'm not sure except this then eighteen year old man knew what he wanted and how he felt about his creativity and that's pretty cool.

Meanwhile, how's your week coming? I got a new twist last evening and am hoping to it will pay off, so it's back to research today and hopefully, tomorrow, some real meat on the bone. I wrote a short prologue yesterday that appears promising except I don't like either woman's name. Do tell now, how are you doing?

Friday, July 04, 2008



Happy Fourth of July, everyone. Do you have plans for today? A backyard barbecue followed by fireworks, perhaps? Time with family and friends? Are you hosting a get together?

We moved into our current house on July fourth 1993. Two friends helped us with the move, and that evening, we sat on our new deck and watched the city's fireworks exploding over the nearby park. In subsequent years, we attended the festivities down in the park, mingling with the crowd, sitting on the grass, stuffing dollars into boots passed along by volunteer firemen to help finance the display. Pretty soon, our children started coming down here for the event bringing their children and if there is anything more satisfying than holding a three year old you love while they gasp in amazement at the sparkling sky, I'm not sure what it is.

This year we'll watch from our deck again. No barbecue, no nighttime stroll up and down our hill, no crowds. The family isn't coming because we didn't invite them and we didn't invite them because it means two or three days of guests and that means two or three days of lost writing and I don't have that kind of time. I am under an intense deadline, the intensity of which just gets worse as the days pass and all my ideas seem to fizzle and all my research leads me no where. I feel rotten about this -- and in fairness, there are other issues at play, too -- but it adds another layer of stress knowing I am allowing the holiday to go by uncelebrated because of work. Because I agreed to a project complete with a ticking clock. Becuse I broke a promise to myself not to get myself in this position again.

Seems I forgot how to say no.

The worst part is this: knowing I put off family to be able to write, I now darn well better get a lot done. I better stop vacillating and chose a backstory, I better find a way to make this story and these people my own. My editor gave me until July 29th to produce three chapters and a synopsis. She'll be going to nationals and she said, "If you can, email it before I leave and I'll read it on the plane or bring it with you and give it to me there." I almost fainted when she told me that. Is it possible she doesn't know the cardinal rule about never handing an editor printed material at a conference? I wonder if she would mind if I chased her into the bathroom and handed it to her under the door...

Every job has deadlines that must be met. A waitress needs to get everyone in the restaurant served, an assembly line worker needs to get every product put together, a farmer needs to harvest every apple. I remind myself often that this is what I choose to do and if occasionally it drives me nuts, that's the way it goes.

The dh just reminded me that we just saw all or family and had a backyard barbecue and laughed and drank wine and for him, that was enough, I shouldn't worry. He's a good person and a kind one. What about you? Are you even looking at a blog on the fourth of July or are you off having a good time? Are you pinned to your desk because of an external deadline or perhaps an internal one like Paty's determination to finish her book by the end of this month? Do you feel guilty when you write or do you feel guilty when you don't write? Or are you a guilt free, sparkler waving, well adjusted American just taking it as it comes, where's the mustard?

Whatever, take a moment today to think about all the men and women serving far away from home, a moment to wish them a speedy and safe return. And happy Fourth of July.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

MOTIVATE ME!

Eli's post yesterday about "Your Bucket List" -- the ten things you would do if you had a terminal disease -- really got me thinking.

Others responded with places they would visit, writing milestones they would like to accomplish, and make-the-world-a-better-place wishes. When I actually thought about what would be on my list, the items revolved around simple pleasures and being with my family. What I learned: I need to simplify my life even more and spend more time with my family. Eli, you may not have intended the post to have deep meaning, but it did for me. So thank you for the lesson and the motivation...

Which brings me to the topic of today's blog: What motivates you?

For me, lists obviously provide motivation, as do "what if" scenarios. :)

What about the success of others? When you hear about another writer selling to a publisher, does that motivate you to keep working on your manuscript?

Writers workshops and contests also motivate me, as do the kind words of others. The kudos of people who have read my book urge me to get another book out to readers.

Internal motivation comes in the form of setting a goal and writing that goal down on paper, from a story that's going well, or characters who insist on having their story told.

How about things that might not seem like motivators on the surface? Can the "failure" of others be motivating? It was for me. After I received a "good" rejection letter with personal comments from an editor, someone told me of a similar letter they received that they turned into an opportunity to revise and resubmit their manuscript. It worked for me also. The other person eventually made a sale to that publisher. My manuscript didn't sell to the publisher I resubmitted to, but it did sell later.

Even the critical words of others can be a motivator. After my critique partner had gone through a manuscript, she urged me to submit it to her publisher. That became my first sale.

Then I discovered that selling a book and deadlines are some of the strongest motivators of all. :)

What motivates you? Any of the things listed above? What else? Anything unusual?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Your Bucket List

Surprise! It's me again. Alice and I have switched days because she's up in Portland visiting family.

So the DH and I rented The Bucket List last weekend. I'll admit, I was only half watching it since I was editing, but about midway through (about the time the two ended up in Egypt staring at the Pyramids) I put my computer down and focused on the movie. I love Morgan Freeman, he just has the best voice and he's a phenomenal actor, and this movie was really very touching.

In case you've been living under a rock and aren't aware of the premise, here it is: Two terminally ill men escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die.

Yesterday - coincidentally - a writer friend emailed me with a new book idea. Ironically, it's a take-off on The Bucket List with a very cool twist, but she needs some research and I thought I'd take my blog opportunity today to help her. Her question? What's your bucket list? I've been spending a lot of time thinking about this overnight, and while this probably isn't a complete list, this is what I've come up with (so far):

1. See the Pyramids. (I know. This is in the movie. But I have a love of all things Egypt and this one's on my list as well.)
2. See the Greek ruins and tour the Greek Isles.
3. Scuba Dive off Cozumel. (When the DH and I went to the Mayan Riviera a few years ago, I'd taken classes ahead of time so I could scuba dive in the one area of the world that's considered second only to the Great Barrier Reef. I didn't get to though because I found out I was pregnant with Gremlin #3 shortly before our trip.)
4. Spend a week in paradise with no regard for cost.
5. Find forgiveness. (Sometimes I think I'm there but...I'm really not.)
6. Watch each of my kids graduate from college and (possibly) get married. (Since I'm not terminal, this one's on my list.)
7. Drive a race car.
8. Learn how to ballroom dance all over again. (The DH and I met in a ballroom dancing class in college. I've since forgotten everything I learned.)
9. Do something for someone that changes their life for the better.
10. Hit the NYT Bestseller list with one of my books.

Okay, your turn. Help my friend with her research. What ten things are on your bucket list?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

It started as research...




Law enforcement has always been present in my books. I value any opportunity I can get to brush elbows with these heroes and learn about their lives and jobs.

When I saw my local police department was taking applications for their citizen's police academy, I jumped at the chance. My husband saw the addressed application envelope on the kitchen counter, ready for the mailbox, and asked if I'd received a speeding ticket. (That's his specialty, not mine.)

Every Wednesday evening for eight weeks I was educated along with 25 other curious citizens. On my application I'd mentioned I was a suspense and thriller writer. Yes, I left off the romance part, but that's a topic for another blog. When I walked in, the moderator asked my name so he could check it off on his list. "Oh. You're the writer. That's fantastic!" Jim Wolf was my instant buddy. He's on my right in the picture and Chief Dickinson is on my left.

The first night, we each did an intro and explained why we wanted to be there. Most had been vics of crimes. Some were interested in law enforcement as a career. One guy wanted a book of blank citations so he could ticket people speeding in his neighborhood. Another was a private investigator. One of my favorite patients was in the class. We were both shocked and tickled to see each other.

I loved my classes. Twice I left my three kids home alone (Shhh!) to get to the class on time. Usually my husband would get home from work around the time I needed to leave, but twice he was late. I parked the kiddos in front of the TV and gave my usual instructions. "Don't answer the phone, don't answer the door, and don't eat anything because I won't be here to do the Heimlich maneuver if you choke!" I always get big eyes and definite nods with that last warning.

I shot a beanbag rifle and a taser, toured the Washington County Jail, got to play with fingerprint powder and alternative light sources, and learned about every department in the building. Criminal investigations, patrol, youth programs, and even the records department. Most importantly, now I have a list of contacts. Officers who specialize in cell phone and computer forensics, undercover narcotics, and investigations. And a weapons junkie...I mean expert. When off duty, this officer always carries two guns, a switchblade and extra ammo in his pockets. At home he has a gun collection that numbers in the hundreds.



When I went to tour the jail, I rode with Jim in the department's DARE vehicle. You can't miss this thing as it's going down the road. Talk about getting stares, pointed fingers, and waves. It's a Cadillac Escalade with obnoxious spinners on the wheels. On the tailgate it says Seized from a drug dealer. The custom decor job and all maintenance are donated.

When it was over, I was completely bummed. Several students felt the same. All of us had been fascinated during the entire experience. Luckily I've got a ride-along coming up this summer and Jim asked if I'd serve on the interview board for new hires and department promotions. I jumped at the opportunity. I have no idea what I'm in for, but I'm thrilled to keep my foot in the door. What started out as simple research turned into something I plan to continue.

Next on my research list is my handgun class and hopefully the FBI citizen's academy in the fall. It's competitive to get into this academy and a recommendation is required. But guess what? I have a great contact in the police department who'll gladly recommend me. Priceless.

What's the biggest step you've taken in the name of research? Have you ever chickened out of some research? Why?