Saturday, November 29, 2008

I'm not bragging, but....

OREGON 65 OSU 38






SATURDAY CHECK IN

/Users/alicesharpe/Desktop/alice 80x120.JPGCurrent Project: FAITH'S BOOK, Harlequin Intrigue
Status: Proposal sent

Okay, everyone, time to check in. I'm on schedule, made my deadline with five minutes to spare (before the mail went out) which was a triumph on a personal level because of the stresses of the last week. I'm afraid it's not the most coherent proposal I'v ever submitted, I can already think of things I honed in the synopsis that I missed changing in the three chapters, but hopefully my editor knows and trusts me well enough to see past the gaffes.

How is everyone else doing? Did those of you who participated in the November write-your-brains-out jamboree meet your goals?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Current Project: Mystic Taxi (steampunk urban fantasy)
Status: Page 190

1...What are you thankful for this year?

That my family is healthy, and we're all happy -- for the most part.

2...Do you have a Thanksgiving tradition?

I bring the Tofurkey.

3...Are you cooking or going somewhere for dinner?

We're going to my mother-in-law's, and one of my daughters will be there, as will my son, who's here from Colorado, and my grandson. The "women-folk" will cook together. 8^) There will be much yapping of dogs since my MIL is dogsitting for my SIL's 2 mini dauchsunds, she has 2 mini dauchsunds of her own, and my daughter is brining her german short haired pointer puppy. Oy.

4...Do you have the 'traditional' Thanksgiving dinner, or do you buck tradition with something different?

Traditional, but my husband and I don't eat turkey. We bring Tofurkey and a vegetarian gravy. I made my knock-out cranberry sauce and I'll be making steamed broccoli with cheese sauce.

5...A food you couldn't do without for the holiday?

My MIL's sweet potatoes.

6..With only a month to go before Christmas, have you started your Christmas shopping?

No. We won't be doing much gift-giving this year.

So how about everyone else? I'd love to see your answers to these questions. Have a very happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Romance Gene


Current Project:Golden Heart Entries
Status: MAILED!!!!!!!!!!!

My paternal grandmother passed away Sunday afternoon, after a decade's long battle with Alzheimer's that stole her, the real her, from us years ago. Of all that Alzheimer's robbed her of, the loss of her ability to read was one of the cruelest. Unlike my mother's family where the library & bookseller gene mainfests shortly after birth, my father's mother came from simpler, Midwestern stock. Her house was neat and tidy, and books didn't factor into the decor at all. There were some musty books of my grandfather's in the basement, and she often had a book of inspirational sayings or a "Chicken Soup" book next to her chair. But other than this, you had to look hard to find the books in her house.

It was sheer luck that I discovered the boxes of romance novels under the guest room bed. When I spent the night, I would stay up late reading by the light of the closet. Occasionally, I would fall so in love with a book that I couldn't bear to part with it, and I would sneak it home in my overnight bag, heart pounding with guilt. I never told her that I found the books, and I lived in fear that she would clean them out before I could read them all. Once or twice I spied a romance on her nightstand table, and I would wait eagerly for that book to join the cache under the bed.

These were the best of the early Harlequins and category books--rich older men, naive young virgins, and covers festooned (thanks, Debbie!) with mustaches, walks on the beach, and Dorothy Hamill haircuts. I quickly became a connoisseur of the category novel--I knew which lines I preferred and could easily predict whether I would like a given story.

I'm sure that Grandma would much have much rather inspired a love of inspirational books, but I'm not sure I would have become a romance reader without her. My mother steered me clear of the paperback racks at the library, and the book-loving side of the family doesn't exactly embrace popular fiction. But, thanks to Grandma, I spent much of the 90's reading category books before I discovered contemporary single-title romances. I was adept at sneaking books back from the library and yard sales, and I became a good detective when visiting other relatives and homes.

Afterall, if GRANDMA had romances under HER bed, who else might have them stashed away?

Where did you find your first romance novel? Any closet readers in your family? Remember, tommorrow, as you carve that turkey, the relative you least suspect may have Nora's entire backlist in the linen closet!


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The words in my head are rarely the words you'll hear me say...

Deborah Wright's ProfileCurrent Project: A Killer Pinot Noir
Status: 7,249 words

No, I'm not a big fat liar; I'm talking about vocabulary. The other day I was driving somewhere (can't remember where now) and noticed that there were several "For Sale" signs on a corner. The thought that popped into my head was: "Huh. That corner's festooned with real estate signs." And I realized, I would never actually say that to anyone. I'd never use the word festooned in conversation, not even with my closest friends.

I started thinking about how many times I edit myself when I speak. It isn't as though the people I know are uneducated dolts who wouldn't understand what I'm saying (far from it!), yet I'm constantly self-editing. It's an automatic reflex. I guess it's partly because I tend to play with words in my head. I think about how certain words sound and whether they mean exactly what I want them to mean, about what kind of people would use them or why people no longer talk in a particular way. But let's be honest here, it's also because I'm a big dork and tend to use uncommon words and speech patterns in my thoughts.

I love words and the way they sound. Unusual words and common; multi-syllabic and short. Onomatopoeia, melifluous, skullduggery, and translucent. Cerulean, befuddle and extemporaneous. I love words that just plain sound fun: poppycock and lamebrain, higgledypiggledy and hoopla, razzledazzle and razzmatazz. I learned to love some words as a child through reading before I'd ever heard them pronounced. (Who knew macabre really wasn't pronounced mack-a-bray? huh.) And don't get me started on foreign languages. Latin. The Romance languages. British English! What's not to love? :-)

The desire to tell a great story is ultimately why I write. But part of the joy of writing for me is being able to indulge in my love of words--words that are rattling around in my brain, but that will rarely (or never) be heard tripping from my lips. So, what about you? Do you love words, too? Have any favorite words that you'd like to share?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Writing and the Holidays


Current Project: Improper Pinkerton
Status: 56,000 words


You'd think as many hours as I've spent working on this project it would be farther than 56,000 words. My goal when the dh left for Elk camp on Friday was to write like a fiend. Well, with company coming this week, I also made a list of things to do each day in preparation for the company.

Each thing on my list took longer than I'd anticipated, and when I'd sit down to write, I'd be thinking about the next thing that needed done instead of focusing on the characters.

My goal for this project was to have this queried to agents by now. Now my goal is to have queries out the first week of January. But I'm sitting here thinking is that practical either? I have 8 extra people coming at Christmas and five of them are staying two weeks. BUT- if this was a deadline I had to meet for a publisher- I'd have not made Christmas presents, bought everything online, and told people live with the mess of my house. Which tells me, I have to start thinking like my deadlines are publishing house deadlines or I'm going to miss the train with this project because the hot button on this project will have passed.

So, if you aren't on a publisher's deadline, do you still push yourself to meet personal deadlines no matter what or do you fudge, like I'm doing and then beat yourself up? If you are on a publisher deadline, and make those deadlines, do you think you could stay to a personal deadline?

PS: I've updated my personal blog if you want to hop over and take a peek. I'm pleased that I managed to tweak a format (thank you ,Eli) and part of my writing time this past week was writing an article for the Willamette Writers. Their newsletter editor e-mailed and asked if I'd do an article on virtual tours as they'd noticed I'd been doing a lot of virtual promotion. So when it comes out in their newsletter, I'll forward it to the loop.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

CHALLENGE CHECK-IN


Current Project: Faith's Book
Status: synopsis

It's been a week since we all checked in.

A lot has happened around here but as of this moment, everything seems to have settled into a dull roar. Meanwhile, while sitting in the hospital with my mom, I wrote the second half of my synopsis. It's very rough, but it's down and now I can begin the process of fine tuning it into something useful for me and something my editor can show her boss. The book isn't due until March 15th. I actually think this very long deadline, which I requested, is going to work against me as I drag my feet when the pressure is off.

How are you doing?

Friday, November 21, 2008

That Romance AHA! Moment


Current Project: Argonaut Book #2 (Currently Untitled)
Status: Plotting

As most of you already know, my hubby had back surgery last Friday. He's had chronic back pain for about three years now, with no one event triggering the pain (that either of us can pinpoint). We're convinced his back problems are a combination of things - sports, his active lifestyle, the shape of his body - long torso, etc. He's tried almost everything over the years to relieve the pain - physical therapy, pain management, a series of procedures that temporarily "masked" the pain, but never fixed the problem, and was finally at a point where he just wanted relief, no matter where it came from. A few months ago he saw a neurosurgeon at OHSU who recommended Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion - or, in layman's terms, fusing the two bottom disks in his back. Back surgery is serious stuff, and not to be taken lightly. And he went into it knowing it was his last option. I was aware of all the risks going into the surgery, as well. Had prepared myself for surgery day and everything that would come after. But Friday morning, when the DH was lying on the gurney in the pre-op chute and the surgeon came in to go through - one more time - the procedure and possible side effects and risks, I nearly lost it.

There's a moment from that day that will forever be ingrained in my head. When the surgeon looked down at my husband's left hand and said, "That's a nice ring. But you have to take it off." At that moment, the reality of the situation hit me. Here was my big, strong, fairly healthy husband, who walked into that hospital on his own, not on death's doorstep, but by choice, about to go in for a surgery that could lead to all kinds of complications and side effects, not the least of which could be loss of movement or even death. It was a heady moment for me as I watched the nursing staff wheel him out of the room to disappear around the corner. And at that moment, I was forced with nothing to do but put my faith and trust in a surgeon I'd only met once or twice and didn't know from Adam.

A three hour surgery turned into four. One hour in recovery stretched to four plus. Even though the surgeon had told me my husband had come through the procedure just fine, I worried. Around 4:30pm, after 9 hours of stress and wondering, I gave up all pretense of trying to hold it together. I ended up standing in the hallway outside his room, waiting for someone to wheel him back to me. And then, out of the blue, I thought about all those sappy AHA! romance novel moments. You know the ones...usually just after the climax, when one character is critically injured and it's at that moment that the other character realizes how much that person really means to them. Personally, I've always thought those AHA! moments were cliched and rather stupid, but standing there in that hallway, waiting, I finally got it. Those moments work because there's nothing more powerful than facing the fact life as you know it could drastically change forever without that one person who makes your world so special.

I'm happy to report the DH is now home. His ring is no longer hanging from a chain around my neck but is safely back on his finger. The drugs are starting to wear off and his snarky attitude is shining through (as evidenced by his comment this morning comparing my nursing abilities to those of Kathy Bates). And as a result, my sniveling sappiness is also wearing off, especially as I face the long road of recovery with him ahead (save me now!!!). But the reality of that AHA! moment has stayed with me, and I don't think I'll ever read a life or death AHA! romance scene the same again. I might even write one. Because you know what? They work. I know from experience.

What do you think of those life-or-death AHA! moments? Do you like them? Do you write them? And what personal AHA! moments do you draw from when you're writing?

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Current Project: Rekeying and editing novella
Status: Halfway done!


Alice has once again provided inspiration: Combine a list with the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and I have a blog topic! I've started a list of what writing has given me to be thankful for. That includes:

--I've met fellow writers and made new friends, including those in our MWV group.

--Character growth has also helped me grow: As I've dug for reasons why a character acts as they do, I've also discovered reasons for my own behavior and can then change that behavior if I want to.

--A sense of accomplishment: I finished a sentence, a paragraph, a scene, a book--and sold that book!

--Pushing boundaries: like Paty, promoting my books has helped me tackle things outside my comfort zone.

--Travel: Going to conferences has taken me to cities I had not previously visited or had not seen for a long time.

--Discipine, aka butt in chair, hands on keyboard: I'd always worked for someone else but writing helped me set goals for what I wanted to accomplish.

--Fame, prestige and big money: OK, only kidding with this one! :)

What items would you add to this list?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

BEING A WRITER MEANS:


Current Project:Faith's Book
Status:synopsis


1. You will edit everything you read for ever more. Every book, every newspaper article, every child's essay, even the "Kitten's For Free" sign alongside the road (a kitten's what? It's purr? It's whiskers?)

2. You will never watch television or movies or read a book in the same way…ever again. You will either rewrite it, be consumed with envy you didn't think of it first, get furious at sloppy writing, be moved to strive harder, find prototypes for hero/heroine or wonder how this crap got made into a movie and or sold to an editor.

3. You will become a horrible eavesdropper. You will find yourself sitting in a restaurant with a friend you haven't seen in six months and urging her to lower her voice so you can overhear a very interesting conversation going on in the booth behind you. (Bonus: If she is also a writer, she will also be listening. This is why writers tend to travel in packs.)

4. You will listen to music differently. You will find yourself catching the emotion behind the words, the feelings the melody evokes.

5. You may find yourself watching movies time after time after time, kind of like raking a field until every stone has been uncovered. I'm not even going to admit how many times I've watched "Ever After," or "Sweet Home Alabama," nor am I going to offer excuses. So there.

6. You will find parallels to writing in everything you do. Genene touched on this recently and it's true. Plant a garden, make a quilt, go shopping, raise a child, drive cross country, preserve jam -- ack! The parallels are endless (and, hint, relatively annoying to non-writers…)

7. Your dreams may no longer be a way for your brain to deal indirectly with your life but become unconscious nocturnal plotting sessions. Showers will be places to rehearse dialogue. Car rides will be downright inspirational. Falling asleep may be fraught with frantic note taking by flashlight. Beware!

8. You will find yourself holding conversations with yourself, playing several parts, changing your voice, adding inflection, so moved by what your characters are revealing about themselves that you get choked up or giggle.

9. You will cross into some kind of psychedelic alternate universe where you will create pretend people with pretend problems they will heroically defeat due to your manipulations -- and you will give them the credit!

10. You will hopefully find many people along the way who want to share your imagination and your dreams. Other writers, yes, of course, but also readers who are somehow able to take more from your stories than you were aware you put in and are generous enough to let you know.

Okay, I must have missed things -- do you have anything to add to my list of what being a writer means?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Easy Shopping


Current Project: Making my list
Status: Checking it twice

Dare I write about Christmas? Is it too early? If you are a catalog and online shopper like I am, then it's not too early. Shipping. Shipping can take waaay too long. If you order something in December it may not arrive until right before the holiday. That's too close for me. I like to have my shopping done at least a week before the big day. Two weeks is even better.

I love to shop online. I'm not a mall fan. Well, I am a fan of Washington Square on Monday mornings when the place is empty. But shop when you have to stand in line for twenty minutes to pay? When the tables and racks of clothing are such a jumbled mess you find XS in the XXL section? Circle and circle and circle the parking lot? Circling twice as long as everyone else because the spaces aren't big enough for my gas guzzling beast? No thanks.

I started shopping last night around 10 PM. Amazon and Gymboree websites. I shop Amazon early because the free shipping option can take nearly two weeks to deliver if you order after Thanksgiving. Click, click, click, done. Tiny people on my list are finished.

Starting in September, I get an amazing number of catalogs. Usually I can find unique, personal gifts for my parents in catalogs. One year I bought my dad a sweatshirt that simply said "Yes, dear." Perfect. He wore it constantly. My mom has a fondness for cats, birds, and gardening. I've found cool bird feeders and cat figurines with hats. A few years back, I spent more than I wanted to on a cut metal wall hanging of galloping horses for my sister and her I-want-a-be-a-cowboy husband. It was freaking gorgeous; I wanted to keep it. It hangs in a perfect spot in their kitchen.

Catalogs rock. Where else can you find a "More cowbell" t-shirt for Will Ferrell fans?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Mie9hhQTUM

This was the best video I could find. The original longer version must be copywrited, but you get the idea.

What perfect gifts have you found in past years and where? Anyone else hate busy malls the way I do? Or do you love being a part of the hustle and bustle of the busiest time of the year?

Monday, November 17, 2008

How far is too far?


Current Project: Liam & Angie's book
Status: Replotting the first 2/3

After the Mary Buckham workshop a little over a week ago, part of the group stayed for dinner and we discussed some of the shocking things we've seen in books, and whether or not the author was able to pull them off.

There's one that always sticks out in my mind. It's a book by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. In it the heroine takes advantage of the hero in the middle of the night, feeling compelled to approach him while he was sleeping then proceeds to have sex with him. He's only partially awake and thinks it's an ex-girlfriend. When I first read the scene, I was pretty darn surprised. It was near rape and I wondered how the book would go from there.

But she sure made it work. The heroine ended up pregnant and the book follows that story, how they deal with the pregnancy. When I explain that part of the story to people, it seems shocking. How can that be a good read? But somehow, it just is. It works with the story, the characters, the plot after that event. But, of course, Susan Elizabeth Phillips (or SEP as I prefer) is a goddess of romance fiction.

A couple others shared stories of books they'd read, or even contest entries that wandered into dangerous territory. Sometimes it's rape, or the death of a child or animal that screams the book has gone too far. But sometimes, those situations just work with the story.

What are some things you've read that have gone too far? What's your limit?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Challenge Check-In


Current Project: Faith's Book
Status: Chapter Two

It's that time again. How's it going? Are you up against a locked gate, or do you hold the key to open it and keep on going?

I'm on Chapter Two after YET AGAIN revamping Chapter One. The project is currently called Faith 11 because that's how many formal files exist just because of Chapter One. I've topped my old record by far. So much for the advantage of experience, every book is different. So, I guess you could say I'm digging in my pockets for the key -- sometimes it seems I left it back in another coat or on the counter...

How are you doing? Meeting goals? Forming new ones? Those of you doing NaMo (did I get that right?) are about to begin the last two weeks. Are you satisfied with your progress? With me, currently, it's not writing a lot of words that's the issue, it's writing the right words.

I hope everyone thinks to check in today. Here's hoping you all have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Competitive Edge

Current Project: Mystic Taxi
Status: End of Chapter 9, page 131

I run hot and cold when it comes to contests. Being published means the pool of contests I'm eligible to enter is pretty shallow. To enter a published book in a contest, the book needs to have been published in the year the contest takes place, so that closes me out completely. To enter an unpublished manuscript in a contest, that contest has to accept published authors and most of them don't.

I entered the 2008 PASIC Book of Your Heart contest this year for a couple of reasons, the main one being that entries would be judged by librarians and booksellers. Now that's different and I really liked that idea. Getting peer judges who are fellow writers is like throwing the dice. You get a fair judge, you're in good shape, but if you get one with an axe to grind, fairness goes out the window. I've heard so many horror stories about contest judges out for blood who have very little clue how to judge someone else's writing. Spare me the agony of that experience.

I got lucky with the PASIC and finaled. And I won 3rd place, which is very cool considering the multi-published authors I was up against. So I'm proud of that win. I'm proud of Knight's Curse, the manuscript that got me there, and I pray for its eventual publication. In August of this year, I bit the bullet and entered yet another contest with KC. Gulp.

Results aren't in for this other contest, which is the Nola Stars 2008 Suzannah. But I entered because it's another different kind of contest where judges are librarians and booksellers, but also fellow writers, so I don't feel as encouraged. This is a romance contest, and the PASIC was as well, but the romance in KC is only a strong subplot and not the main plot. I kind of regret entering the Suzannah now, but what's done is done. Sigh. I just hope I can final based on the strength of the writing rather than the romance. Finalists will be announced December 1. The winner will be determined by a panel of 2 agents and 4 editors, and though I don't care about the agents since I already have one, I care a whole lot about the editors because all 4 are from publishing houses I'd love to have consider KC.

The editors judging the Suzanna are Leah Hultenschmidt (Dorchester), Margo Lipschultz (HQN), Alex Logan (Grand Central), and Leis Pederson (Berkley). KC is currently with Margo for the Luna imprint, and Berkley has already rejected, but it was a different editor. Any chance I can get my manuscript in front of editors, I'll take it.

It's now time to start thinking about Pengquin's Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. I heard not-so-great things about it last year, but from checking out the rules for this year's competition, it doesn't appear to be the popularity contest that it was last year. There are professional reviewers making the selections, not every Tom, Dick or Harry and their relatives. I'm hoping that's the case, anyway, because I'm seriously considering entering Mystic Taxi, which will be finished and polished by the time the contest opens on February 2, 2009.

I'm thinking of entering Mystic Taxi in the PNWA contest, but the entry fee is steep at $50, and from my experience with it last year, the feedback was ho-hum and scores aren't given so I don't know how close or how far I was from finalling with Knight's Curse. All the comments were positive. Not a single criticism, just glowing praise, but I didn't final. That kind of ambiguous feedback gives me pause. I'm not sure the contest is organized very well.

Do you enter contests? Why or why not? What are your contest plans for 2009?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Shortest Blog Ever--but with a fun exercise!

Current Project: Golden Heart Entries
Status: Dreaded Synopsis

My students tonight are watching The Breakfast Club, one of my favorite all-time movies. Then, they'll select a main character to do a comparison/contrast essay with their own lives. I love the essays this generates because you get a chance to really see how people see themselves. Tell me about your current heroine. How are you similar? Different? Do you tend to write your idealized self or your polar opposite?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Deborah Wright's Profile
Current Project: A Killer Pinot Noir
Status: Chapter One

Hello everyone! I'm Deborah Wright and I'm looking forward to being part of the blog. I'm especially pleased that my first official post is today, Veterans Day. This isn't exactly about writing, but hopefully there's some inspiration to be found within.

Heroes. They're one half of the HEA equation and our stories would be awfully short without them. We bandy that word -- hero -- about pretty easily, but what is it that makes a person heroic?

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I had an unique experience. We attended an event at the Evergreen Air & Space Museum celebrating the men who served in Easy Company in World War II. In fact, it turned out to be a much bigger honor, as the dinner was actually part of their annual reunion. For those of you who don't know, Easy Company is the nickname for the 101st Airborne Division, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, E-Company -- the men depicted in the book and mini-series, Band of Brothers.

There are only a few men from Easy Company still living and not all of them were able to make it to the renunion. After the dinner, with a couple of exceptions, each man got up to say a few words. No matter their advanced age, they each stood tall behind the podium and, to a man, they all said essentially the same thing. They weren't heroes, they said, they were only doing their jobs. The real heroes were their comrades in arms who fell at Normandy and in Holland, the men they left behind in every battle. They were proud of their service, but there was no boasting or bragging, no swaggering or telling combat stories.

My husband and I had personal reasons for attending the event. We both wanted to pay honor to these men who had served our country. And in doing so, we were honoring our fathers, both gone now, who also served in WWII. My father-in-law was a paratrooper who jumped on D-Day in the same area of Normandy as Easy Company, landing amidst gunfire in Sainte-Mare-Eglise. My father served in the army in North Africa. Neither of them spoke much about their experiences, at least not to their children. Dad, if asked about the war, would invariably trot out some funny story about sandstorms and camels, nothing more, certainly nothing about the horrors he experienced nor the friends he lost.

It wasn't until after my father's death in 1994 that I learned more details of his service. We were going through his things and I came across a newspaper clipping of dad and four other young men in uniform. My mom told me they were all friends from the same small hometown in Minnesota. They'd enlisted together in September 1941 and the local newspaper had printed their picture. The thing that struck me was how young they all looked, just kids, really. Dad had just turned 19 years old that August. He was the only one in the picture to survive the war.

I learned that he served in the Minnesota National Guard, 34th Infantry Division -- the Red Bull Division. They were the first US Division deployed to Europe and my dad was on the first troop transport over, spending time in Ireland before the invasion of North Africa. I learned that he'd been a sharpshooter and had volunteered, but hadn't been chosen, to be part of a new group being formed from the 34th, nicknamed Darby's Rangers, the precursor of today's modern Army Rangers. Dad was wounded in North Africa and sent home in 1943, a first sargeant, while the rest of his Division went on to fight in Italy. He spent the remainder of the war helping train new troops.

These were quiet heroes. Men who might not have come across as "alpha" males, but probably didn't strike anyone as being "beta" either. They were men from all walks of life who did what they had to do and who came back from war wanting nothing more than to get on with their lives in peace. Much the same, I'd guess, as do all who ever return from war.

So when you're wondering what qualities to give the hero of your next story, especially if he's supposed to be heroic, try adding a touch of humility. Let us see his heroic nature, but make him blind to it. He'll be in mighty good company.

Happy Veterans Day!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Equation for a Romance Story




Current Project:Improper Pinkerton
Status: about half way

G(2)+ M(2)(C(5))= HEA

This is my version of an equation to build a romance story. You can multiply the C by more and get a longer story or shorten it for a shorter story. Your mission today is to jointly write a romance using this equation. The characters are Bud and Lizzy.
I'll start:

G(2)= Bud is a contractor vying for a job building a firecracker manufacturer. Lizzy has a goat farm. She makes cheese and has some fainting goats. She plans to win top honors at a prestigious cheese show.

Okay, next person what dos M(2) equal?

Have fun!

Equation for a Romance Novel



Current Project:Improper Pinkerton
Status:half way point

G(2)+M(2)(C(5))=HEA This is the equation for a romance novel. Use the equation and the characters Bud and Lizzy and dissect the equation one commenter at a time. I'll start with G(2)btw (the (2) and (5) are supposed to be superscript, you know, to the second and fifth powers)

G(2)= goals times two. Bud owns a paving outfit and he plans to get the contract for the new subdivision. Lizzy has the fainting goat farm next to the planned new subdivision.

Okay, next!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Expectations


Current Project: RS Option Book
Status: Chapter One

What did you expect when you logged on to the blog today? Was it this? A new design? Or were you expecting more of the same?

Before I dive into the topic of expectations, I have to take a moment to point out the new blog design. You'll notice that our book covers are all on the upper right now, with our new releases at the top of the page. Research shows the first place a viewer's eye travels on a webpage is to the top right column, so hopefully this will draw attention to our current and coming books. Our "info" now is along the left column, and be sure you scroll down and take a look at a new section labeled "Snapshots". Lots of fun new stuff you probably didn't expect.

Now back to my topic. Expectations are weighing heavy on my mind these days. With less than two months to go to my debut release, I've been thinking a lot about the next book, and the one after that. And tossing around this concept of giving the reader what they expect, but still shaking things up enough to keep the reader interested. We've talked about series before, and how most series tend to outlive themselves right around book 4 or 5. Why? Is it because the author's giving the reader too much of the same? More often than not, the reason I stop reading a series is because all the books begin to sound and read the same.

Like I said, this is in the front of my mind these days. My first book, STOLEN FURY, is a mystery romantic adventure. You don't know who the villain is until the end. But book two, STOLEN HEAT, is completely different. Sure, there's murder and mayhem and another treasure to be found, but this one is more of a suspense romantic adventure. The reader knows who the villain is all the way through. Book three, STOLEN SEDUCTION, is again another mystery romantic adventure, but does it have enough adventure? Is it as "Romancing The Stone" as the others in the series? Is it enough like the first two to give my readers what they expect, yet different enough to keep them interested?

I'm sure all new authors stress about these things (I hope!). It's that concept of branding, of labelling yourself as a writer so that when readers pick up your book, they know you write sexy romantic adventure or gritty crime dramas or quirky science fiction. My question for you though is, when are books in a series too similar and when are they too different?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

THIS OLD HOUSE = THIS REWORKED STORY


I have lived for the past several weeks with two gaping holes in the side of my house. One where the bathroom used to be and another waiting for the door that was supposed to be an "easy fix."


This isn't the first time I've been involved in repair projects for my house--I gutted and remodeled my kitchen a few years ago. (The photo shows the gutted version of my kitchen before the project was finished.) However, other projects didn't involve trying to keep the wind, rain and cold from overpowering the heat from the furnace. Thank goodness we don't live in a really cold climate!

I've also started a modified NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month) challenge. Instead of writing a new story, I'm editing/cutting one that I drafted several years ago. Since I'm working on both of these things, I've begun to draw parallels between house remodeling and writing.

When you're building a new house, you want a strong foundation that will support the entire house. Just as you want to have strong goals, motivation and conflict for your characters to carry their story to a satisfying ending.

When you're remodeling a house or editing a story, the changes may be minor: some new wallpaper or simply checking spelling and grammar.

However, sometimes the project grows and grows--dry rot in two rooms instead of just one. No, wait! It's creeping into yet a third room! A leaking faucet--turn off the water! The seal just blasted across the room!

Fortunately, so far my story seems more cooperative. I went into it knowing I would need to cut the length in half, so I'm watching for language to tighten up or subplots to trim as I rekey the document. (This story was on an old computer and I don't have the same software on my current computer.)

Earlier this week, my son and I turned the corner on remodeling projects. After struggling with the city's permit process, receiving not-so-good news from the plumber, and hitting one stumbling block after another, we took a step back and considered the entire project from a different perspective. To follow the remodeling/rewriting analogy, we turned off the internal editor and unleashed our creativity outside of the four walls that had been the bathroom.

As many times happens with writing, this fresh perspective on remodeling brought a solution that will give me what I wanted (a larger bathroom with a whirlpool tub and lots of light) with less hassle and a bonus storage shed. Oh, yeah, and the holes in the wall will be repaired more quickly.

The major editing for my story still lies ahead, but my lessons from remodeling will be fresh in my mind. Turn off that internal editor, step back if necessary and consider the story from a different perspective. The result will be a fresh and unique story that I'll be proud of--with perhaps some bonus surprises tossed in!

Do the rest of you draw writing analogies from other pieces of your life? Of course, Lori does, and she has graced us with several of them--the cooking ones are especially yummy! How about those of you with young children? Or visiting relatives? Or medical care for loved ones? Or full-time day jobs? What parts of your life are similar to your writing process?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Birds Of A Feather



I woke up at 6:50 this a.m. as the dog shuffled into the room to make sure she hadn't missed anything exciting like one of us getting up and preparing her a steak. For a second I lay there, thinking about how I'm going to figure out a plot point or two and then I sat bolt upright. (Okay, I didn't really sit bolt upright. Does anyone actually do that? How many times have I read it though? How many times have I written it? Oh, and as long as we're being honest here, I don't know for sure why the dog shuffles into the room every morning as I am not privy to her POV.)



As I was saying, I was wide awake in an instant because it was my turn to blog and I had nothing prepared. Eek! (Have you noticed how we all have little words we tend to use? Eli says eek. I say ack. Karen snorts. Danita is famous for her Ha! I'm sure all the rest of you have them too and that I'm just too fuzzy headed to recall them at this moment. Plus. we've all adopted each others...) As you may have already surmised, I still have no topic to blog about. This has happened before, of course. I've started other blogs just like this, the difference being I realize it's a cop out and eventually find a subject, but I'm pretty sure that isn't going to happen this time, so please, don't get your expectations up.

Now, this is where I cleverly work in that adorable picture you see at the top. See how all those birds are cuddled together? Remove one of them and the rest look as though they will tumble off the branch. They are feather to feather and beak to beak for warmth, support, safety and comfort, or at least it appears they are. (Here's where I draw a parallel between those birds and our little ragtag group of writers bound together by this blog.) We need each other!

Yes, it's true. Take Eli's exciting reviews this month. She shared them almost reluctantly, thrilled to have good ones, a little embarrassed, it appeared, for looking as though she was bragging. All of us said, "No, please, share. Your fortune is ours, too, it feeds the dream, we want to share your good times -- we're happy for you!!"

Last spring, I got a pretty bad review that I didn't see coming. It robbed all the joy out of the book for me -- something I admittedly allowed to happen, the reviewer just expressed her opinion. Other reviewers said they loved the book, but that one negative comment from a respected source (RT) just killed me. I finally told you guys and you guys were wonderful and supportive and it helped. Bad reviews happen sometimes. You have to get over it. Compassion helps (because face it, your family mostly doesn't get it. They understand the disappointment, but I don't know if they can actually feel the pain.)

We're sent tons of cyber chocolates to one another as bad news roles in. We've danced happy dances like a bunch of crazed idiots when it's good news and we've <> our way through a hundred problems. Most of us don't even see each other that often, most of us are at different places in our careers and in life, and despite our common mantle of the romance genre, we all write different kind of stories from erotic to suspense to heartfelt to inspirational to fantasy and everything in between.

The differences between us are even more profound than what and how we write. Not all our goals are the same. Some of us enjoy the business aspects of writing, some aren't sure they want to see their work in print, some like ultimate control over their work from blurb to cover to what's inside. Some of us are totally engaged in our work until our share in its life is in other hands and then we let go and move on (that would be me.) Some embrace the longevity of their product and stick with it for the long haul, far after it hits the shelf for the first month. It doesn't matter, it's just variations on the same theme.

To finish this up and not make it a complete waste of your time, let's do a mini check-in as we missed one this weekend. I'll go first. Chapter one done. Synopsis in progress. I also submitted a workshop to Nationals at the 11th hour (literally, beating the deadline by 12 minutes...) and agreed to speak in Portland and in Redmond this spring following the March release of a book I wrote this summer. I am trying to engage myself in my career past writing books which is out of my comfort zone, and in part if not in whole, I have all of you to thank for it as day by day and month by month you all push yourselves in different directions.

So, thanks! I think...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Covers


Last week I was hit soundly over the head with "You can't judge a book by it's cover." I was thunked several times. I'm judging a contest and I cheer every time that UPS man rings my doorbell with more free books.

After I opened the first box, I studied each book, read the author bio and scanned the cover. I never read back cover copy because I don't want any hints about what will happen in the book. Three of the authors I'd read before. One of these books I already owned and had enjoyed it. The rest I'd never heard of. First, I read the most famous author's book. The cover was gorgeous. Rich colors, with a graphic and title that truly set the mood and gave a hint of what to find inside.

I was disappointed. The characters were flat, the plot was forced, and there were several illogical jumps as the characters solved the mystery. After the first 30 pages I went back and reread the pages more slowly, convinced I'd missed something key about the hero because I couldn't "see" him. Nope. He was literally unformed. Drove me crazy through the whole book. I made myself finish the book even though I wanted to put it down several times. By the way, that catchy title didn't jive with the story.

The second book I picked up hesitantly. It had a truly unfortunate cover. One I would have wrinkled my nose at and immediately passed over in a store. The story was terrific. A first person POV with a fresh character and a great, unusual hook. I couldn't put it down. When I was finished, I felt angry for the author. Who designed and signed off on this horrid cover? How many sales had the author lost because of the stupid cover?

I wasn't very interested in picking up the third book, because I thought I knew what it was about by looking at the picture on the cover. Whoever designed the cover got it totally wrong. I was expecting one type of story but got a tight, fast paced educational suspense with fantastic characters. The story never went to the pristine location pictured on the cover. The heroine in the story never dressed in anything glamorous like on the cover. She was a refugee-looking woman who'd been through utter hell for five years. She barely had hair let alone the fantastic mane the picture portrayed. High heels? Yeah, right. Once again I was highly annoyed with the publisher.

Elisabeth told me she had to fill out a long questionnaire about her story before the art department tackled her book. What happened with these books? Maybe this publisher does it differently. I've often read the author is powerless when it comes to covers. But what about the editor? Did these editors read the same books I did? I can't imagine pouring my heart and soul into a book only to have the cover suck. I'd cry.

Have you picked up a book even though the cover was weird or ugly? Pubbed writers--I want to hear your cover stories.

You knew I'd include this. My pirate, rock star, and Gabriella from High School Musical 2. (Yes, she is wearing a wig.)


Monday, November 03, 2008

Speed writing


The time for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is upon us. I know a few of you are participating, or modifying the event to suit your project. Even if you know you won't be able to reach 50,000 words this month, a lot of people end up speed writing as much as they can.

Personally, the best way for me to write fast is to have already plotted the scene I'm working on. Or at least have a good idea of what's going to happen and how it's going to end. Otherwise I just end up sitting there thinking too much instead of writing. It also helps me to have music playing so I can block out the voice of my internal editor.

I know a lot of people do little tricks to up their word counts during NaNoWriMo. Things like not using contractions, or calling your characters by their full name. That works, but I think it depends on your goal with the project. If you're going into it to see if you can write that much, by all means do that. If you're planning to continue with the book after November, I think you're just setting yourself up for more work by having to go back and fix those things.

Other tips for writing fast are:
- prepare any materials you might need (research, reference books, paper, pens, laptop power cord)
- tell your family to leave you alone for the amount of time you need
- turn off your phone/phone ringer
- get any chores or 'to do' list items done before writing so they don't nag at you
- set out food for your animals, grab a few toys, let them do their business - so they don't bug you
- grab any drinks or snacks you need so you don't get up; once you're up it's hard to sit back down

Do you have any other tips for getting yourself to write a lot in a short amount of time?