Tuesday, March 31, 2009

GH 2010 or Bust


Current Project: Proofing Sugar High
Status: 1/3 done!

All weekend, I worked on an awesome post about how failure is sometimes the best possible thing that can happen to us. I was upset about not making GH, but I was *good* upset--the kind of upset where you resolve to make what you want happen. THEN, as you can see from Eli's sweet announcement on the sidebar, I got AWESOME news with winning the Great Expectations Contest and a request for the full from the Editor. So, um, yeah, about that failure blog . . . I think I'm a little too giddy right now to don my Commando Wavy attire and get all up in your grill. But, I'm going to try because I still want to talk about planning and goals.

Now, excuse me while I go channel Genene and Lisa for this very un-Bethany posting topic. Oooooom Oooooom Feeling the Need to Buy Office Supplies Ooooom Ooooom Feeling urge to make a spreadsheet Ooooom. Okay. I'm in the right headspace to plan, now. And really, I think that this is 90% of the battle with goal setting. For the last year, I haven't really committed to a plan. Oh sure, I've made goals. Aspirations really. Ideals. And while it looks awesome cross-stiched on a wall (gathering dust, natch), "Write Everyday" hasn't exactly landed me anywhere near my goals. Instead, I miss a day, and I feel guilty and stew, and then it's been three weeks, and then suddenly it's 2009, and I last had a finished MS in 2007, and my purple book of ideas has expanded to Ideas-Exceeding-Life-Expectancy Levels, and lordy, was I really surprised when I didn't final in the GH when I only decided to enter to justify keeping my RWA membership?

Alexis Morgan spoke to our chapter two weeks ago about "Getting Organized to Write." Her talk was my getting organized to get organized moment as it got me in the right headspace to think about what I really want right now. I mulled this over and tried to get myself to drink the "I'm 100% happy being a professor right now. I'm a professor/mother. I don't need another slash right now" kool-aid despite the gnawing ache in my gut whenever I finish a really good book. Maybe I could recommit to this whole writing later . . . a decade or two . . .or get a new goal . . .

I'm really good at lying to myself. Scary good. When I found out that I didn't get GH this year, I realized that I had been holding a lot back from myself. It was a bit like reaching page 303 and realizing that OMG! The heroine has an evil twin! I had this whole fantasy spun out in my head most of which centered around passive success. Lo! I would be discovered! With no further work required on my end.

Except, okay, yes. Lots of work. Something Alexis said that made a lot of sense for me was that you have to know your pace so that when you sell(not if, if is now banned from my vocabulary), you can tell your editor when to expect book 2. Light bulb! When you sell, you have MORE work. Better get started now, as there isn't such a thing as a Book Two Fairy or Publicity Elf. She also talked about having realistic goals that keep you accountable and take fate out of the equation.

Thus, while my driving fire right now is all "Golden Heart," I don't control the judging gods. However, what I do control is putting myself in the best position to reach that goal. So here's my GH 2010 or Bust Plan:
  • Weekly goals. I'm breaking down my goals into weekly goals that CHANGE each week. Small concrete tasks that either get accomplished or not. I need recovery from all the XXX words by Y month goals that I never met. New week = New Goal. This lets me take into account what sort of week I have ahead of me and pick that week's goal accordingly. I've got enough small and large tasks to keep my momentum going if I choose wisely each week.
  • Overall goals. Keeping my eye on the prize, I'm looking at what needs to be done. I would like to enter three manuscripts.
  • Manuscript #1 is the YA which won Great Expectations. I've done revising based on awsome judge feedback from the contest, and this is in good shape, but I'd like to get it a shiny new synopsis and consider whether I need to upsell the romance to suit RWA tastes.
  • Manuscript #2 is one of two long-languishing contemporaries. I need to just get over myself already. I'm planning to enter more contests over the Spring and the summer to force myself to draft a synopsis and cut-and-burn along the way.
  • I need to get over myself where Manuscript #2 is concerned, because Manuscript #3 is hopefully going to be a new finished MS. As in, yes, actually moving beyond Chapter 1. Right now, I have . . .gulp . . .SIX first chapters rattling around my hard drive. I might need to return in a future blog to play WIP idol with y'all as judges . . .
  • I'm including little details in my plan to make it easier this year. For example, I'm putting aside a little money each month to cover contests and to have enough to cover three entries and postage for 3 tons of paper heading to Texas. And postage would be much cheaper if I could ship via muletrain instead of two-days-before deadline concord. So I'm planning to enter and ship #1 & #2 as soon as the contest opens, saving #3 for a last-minute NaNoWriMo push worthy of paying a small fortune in stamps.
So, this is where I'm at right now. My apologies for the lack of a prettier looking plan as the Genene/Lisa juice wore off before I could make a pie-chart or some such. However, I'm still fired up. Do you have ideas for me to add to my plan? Have you ever been surprised by your reaction to something? Have you turned a failure into a fire-up moment for yourself?

**The picture is the best one I found during a quick search, and the only one by far to feature a smoldering hero worthy of a romance blog. It's from this neat historic photo website.

Current Project:
Status:


Character Drives Plot or Plot Determines Character?

Deborah Wright's ProfileCurrent Project: Untitled WIP
Status: Revising the beginning! Argh!

Since I was having trouble coming up with a subject for today's blog post, I thought I'd ask a classic question. When you start a new writing project, do you usually come up with your characters or your plot idea first? (Note the clever insert of the weasel word "usually")

If I'd been asked this question even yesterday, I would have immediately said "plot first!" I don't know where I got this idea into my head, but somewhere along the way I picked up the notion that the plot *had* to come first. That characters were important, but they mainly existed to serve the plot. I wonder if this comes from all of the Science Fiction I read as a kid, where plot was king and characters were, with rare exceptions, two dimensional at best.

Funny thing, though, it turns out that I lean more to the character side of the ledger. Take my current WIP, for instance. I had a basic idea for a plot and a couple of characters that I thought would do nicely. But as I started getting to know the characters, they made it clear that they just didn't want to play in my plot playground. "That's not me!" they cried, and, "I wouldn't care about that!"

Finally, last night as I was in that drowsy space where you float along and everything's possible just before falling asleep, I asked my Hero in exasperation, "Fine. Just what would be a problem for you?" When he gave me a surprising answer, I had to jump out of bed and write it down immediately. I was too afraid that I'd forget it by morning. Why? Because I suddenly realized I had my plot and it wasn't at all what I'd started out to write. This plot will grow organically out of who my characters are and will influence who they will become.

Or maybe this is just another example of my classic writer's dance of two steps forward, one step back (aka: write, write, revise; rinse, repeat, cha-cha-cha). I'm not sure I care -- so long as it works!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Character Fun


Current Project: Doctor in Petticoats
Status: page 102

I don't have anything pithy to say, so I thought we'd do something fun today. Get into our characters as it were.

Your character's vehicle is being towed for one of these three reasons:
1) By the police
2) Being Repossessed
3) As a joke.

Write a paragraph or two(depending on how much time you have or want to spend on this) in your character's POV about this happening either before, during, or after and show two of your character's character traits.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

SATURDAY CHECK-IN / CHALLENGE


Current Project:Unnamed book
Status: hopeful

First check-in info. I think I finally have a start on the new book. Many, many fuzzy areas remain, but that's the way it almost always is at this stage. I hope your projects are occasionally kind to you, as well.

Speaking of projects -- we've been very loosey-goosey about challenges lately and I'm not proposing too much of a change, only a firm declaration of what you want to accomplish. This came about the other day when speaking with Lisa about Nationals. I said I wanted to be under contract by the time I went. Now, I know it sounds a long way off, but plotting two books and coming up with a decent synopsis, polishing it, sending it and hearing back from an overworked editor in three months could be unrealistic. Since I can't do anything about how long things take her, I can only take care of getting my ideas in shape in a timely method. By the end of April, for instance.

So, my self imposed challenge is to have organized my project by the end of April (short term) and signed on a dotted line by June (long term).

Lisa, I hope you check in today and declare your goal. I hope many others will, as well. Put it in writing, in your heart as well as in a public forum. Declare your intentions! (I know a couple of you have just met goals and are perhaps in a down time right now. If so, please check in anyway, and when something new starts burning in your heard, join the fun...)

I like the message that goes with the image up top. Challenge your life and bring yourself to life. Nice.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Perfection

Current Project: Lost City of Jade (working title, which keeps changing) Proposal
Status: Polishing

Yay! Today is Friday of spring break!! Most people celebrate the start of spring break. I celebrate the end. When you combine conference days off at the end of last week, my kids have now been home for 10 days. Chaos is running rampant here, I'm trying to finish a book proposal, the dog is barking, the laundry is piling up, and mommy's quickly going nuts. It's not a particularly happy place to be. On top of all that, my inlaws, sister-in-law and niece are visiting. It's great to see them, but four extra people, plus my three Gremlins is making for a busy house. Tonight my hubby's brother and his family are arriving so add five more. Eeek!

Yesterday I escaped for a few hours and hit a local coffee house to write. It felt soooooooo good to get out and get words on paper. I managed to finish chapter three in the proposal and now I'm left with simply polishing, adding the second half of the synopsis and making sure it all makes sense. My brain is spinning. To say crafting this proposal has been like pulling teeth is an understatement. I'm constantly amazed that some books are so easy to write and some are so hard. Why is that?

I really like where this book/new series could go. There are many similarities between this and STOLEN FURY. High action, hot romance, and lots of adventure. More, I think than FURY, and that has me really excited. I'm crossing fingers my agent is going to like it. But as I was working yesterday, I got to thinking about how long it's taken me to get these three chapters done. Basically, about three months...which is longer than normal for me. If I were to sit and write the rest of this book, I could easily get it finished in that amount of time. Why is that? 50 pgs vs. 350 pgs. Makes no sense. And yet, when I analyze it, it does make a strange sort of sense, at least for me.

I am a perfectionist. I will be the first to admit it. It's very hard for me to delegate to others because I know I can do a good (better) job if I just do whatever the job is myself. In my writing, that means I don't dare start a book unless the opening WORKS. And by works, I mean, REALLY works. I spend more time on the first three chapters of a book than I do anywhere else. Because if the pacing, action, motivations and characters aren't right, the rest of the book won't be right either.

A few years ago I wrote an RS that I still love. I didn't shop it because I knew something was wrong with it. Something about the opening left me with a 'meh' feeling, but my CP loved it so I pushed through. Bad idea. The rest of the book is very good, the romance is deep, the characters are wonderful, but the opening is still slow, the inciting incident is still not compelling enough, and now that the entire book is finished - and bloomed from that wrong opening - I don't know how to fix it without changing the entire book. And obviously, I'm not ready to do that now. (I may not ever be ready to do that.) My point is, my need for perfection at this point in the book is what MAKES a book for me, so I'm not rushing myself or forcing the story to go somewhere it doesn't need to go. Luckily, this proposal is not on deadline, so I have the luxury of taking my time. My timelines won't always be like this, but for now, this is a good learning experience for me.

How about you? Are you a perfectionist when it comes to the opening of a book? How do you know if it works or doesn't? Do you push through and come back, or does your book build from the opening forward? I'm always curious about the writer's process, so I'd love to hear yours.

And if you're not a writer, but a reader...have you ever read a book with a slow opening that simply bloomed into a fabulous novel? How many pages/chapters are you willing to give an author for a book to take off before you put it down?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

"PROFESSIONAL" JEALOUSY... or am I paranoid?

Current Project: Edits of novella
Status: Sidetracked by remodeling projects!

Let me say right away that I think the words "professional" and "jealousy" are contradictory. However, this topic came up in conversation recently and I experienced a subtle jibe in another area of my life--not writing--that made me wonder if it was resentment or me just feeling paranoid. Either way, the topic intrigued me enough to do some research on what others had experienced.

Jennifer Crusie wrote an entertaining article some time ago called, “Green Is Not Your Color: Professional Jealousy and the Professional Writer.” It contained a humorous quiz to determine if you needed the "mirror treatment" also described in the article. You can find a copy of the article and quiz at . She said we all experience professional jealousy at some levels, but it's how long that jealousy lasts and what we do with it that is important. Basically, she advised if you feel jealous when another writer gets something you want to give yourself a limited time to get over it, then smile and congratulate your fellow writer on his/her accomplishment.

Something else she said that I found interesting is, "The one thing that I have noticed about all the successful people I know is that their circle of friends gets smaller and smaller as they become more and more successful because the number of people they can trust to be truly happy for them dwindles with each triumph."

Ouch! So if you've been on the receiving end of someone else's jealousy, consider yourself successful. The times I've been faced with the obvious jealousy of others have left me stunned and trying to assimilate that someone was actually cruel and rude enough to give voice to their spite. In both the subtle and overt cases I've experienced, it has been women who have voiced their jealousy. Is that because men don't bother with this type of emotional sniping? That they would just rather beat the stuffing out of each other and then go have a beer?

Whatever the reason, being on the receiving end of jealousy can hurt if you don't have that thick skin that writers are many times admonished to develop. Of course, these type of comments can also sort out who you want to keep as friends and who to remove from your life. These experiences can also teach valuable lessons.

Artist Janis Zroback, offers this opinion, "Mild jealousy and covetousness are actually a route to improved capabilities...The pressure can be channeled to new skills that take artists to a higher level..."

I like this idea of using less-than-desirable emotions to recognize where I can grow personally and become better at the career I've chosen.

I'll wrap up with one other quote. In M.J. Rose's Buzz, Balls & Hype blog , a guest blogger offered this observation about writers: "...we are pitted against friends and colleagues for a piece of a fairly small pie, the distribution of which is determined by people to whose values and critical judgment we may not subscribe. The wonder is not that jealousy exists among writers, but that we don’t rip one another’s throats out." Hmm. Makes me very glad our group is so supportive!

How about you? Have you ever felt jealous of a fellow writer? Or have you been on the receiving of jealousy? What did you learn from the experience?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

NEVER GIVE UP


Current Project: Unnamed book
Status: still plotting

There was an article in The Week awhile ago entitled "They Lived To Tell The Tale." It was about people who met disasters that killed many others and from which they managed to survive. A man on a car ferry traveling from Estonia to Sweden, for instance. He awoke to a sudden bang. The ship was listing. Things got worse. He kept expecting the people aboard to panic -- they did not. In fact, many did pretty much nothing. They were pale and disorientated. He fought his way into a lifeboat and survived hypothermia to be rescued hours later (one of six out of sixteen in his lifeboat to make it.) In the end, of the 989 people aboard the boat, nearly two thirds didn't even make it off the ship.

The point of the article was why some people survive life threatening disasters and some don't. A man named John Leach, a leading expert on survival psychology, has developed what he calls the "Theory of 10-80-10." Loosely translated, it means 10 percent of us will react to a crisis with a calm, rational state of mind, 10 percent of us will go bonkers, and 80 percent of us will turn into zombies.

Amazing, isn't it?

One expert suggested applying parachuting survival tactics to every other crisis: 1. Relax. Stay calm. Loosening up the tension can free the brain to THINK. 2. Remember where you are. I.e., orientate yourself to your situation. 3. Never give up.

What's this got to do with writing? Tonight I happened to turn into the last few moments of Back To The Future III. Have you seen the movie? It's an adventure, so the last half hour is pretty much a race against the clock. It goes on and on. Usually, I get bored and tune out, but tonight I thought about the fact that the clumsy teacher loved the wacky scientist and was willing to risk everything to get to him before it was too late. She stayed calm, she stayed focused, she orientated herself to her situation and she didn't give up.

Titanic, the movie. The ship is sinking. Jack stays as calm as he can, he stays focused, he orientates himself to the shifting situations (as does Rose) and he doesn't give up. Star Wars. Raiders of the Lost Ark. Any love movie where the hero or heroine finally realizes their heart's desire. Like Everafter and Beauty and the Beast.
Wait. My last book. Not just my book. Your book. The hero and the heroine find a calm center despite their fear or terror or heartbreak. They focus on what is really important, on what will save them and the ones they love. And THEY NEVER GIVE UP.

As a nod to recent blogs and discussions I will add this (wildly paraphrasing as I go.) Bruce Springsteen, on the John Stewart show, responded to a question about audience expectations by saying that when he gives a concert he knows he's playing to many different audiences. There are the people who are coming to hear a favorite song. There are people who come to identify with his message, political or otherwise, and others who want to hear something new. The point is, there are many different audiences but only one performance. And that is true of us as writers as well.
Current Project:
Status:

There was an article in "The Week " awhile ago entitled "They Lived To Tell The Tale." It was about people who met disasters that killed many others and from which they managed to survive. A man on a car ferry traveling from Estonia to Sweden, for instance. He awoke to a sudden bang. The ship was listing. Things got worse. He kept expecting the people aboard to panic -- they did not. In fact, many did pretty much nothing. They were pale and disorientated and frozen. In the end, of the 989 people aboard the boat, nearly two thirds didn't even make it off the ship.

The point of the article was why some people survive life threatening disasters and some don't. A man named John Leach, a leading expert on survival psychology, has developed what he calls the "Theroy of 10-80-10." Loosley translated, it means 10 percent of us will react to a crisis with a calm, rational state of mind, 10 percent of us will go bonkers, and 80 percent of us will turn into zombies.

Amazing, isn't it?

The conclusion one expert reached was to compare parachuting survival tactics to every other crisis: 1. Relax. Stay calm. Loosening up the tension can free the brain to THINK. 2. Remember where you are. I.e., orientate yourself to your situation. 3. Never give up.

What's this got to do with writing? Tonight I happened to turn into the last few moments of Back To The Future III. Have you seen the movie? It's an adventure, so the last half hour is pretty much a race against the clock. It goes on and on. Usually, I get bored and tune out, but tonight I thought about the fact that the clumsy teacher loved the whacky scientist and was willing to risk everything to get to him before it was too late. She stayed calm, she stayed focused, she orientated herself to her situation and she didn't give up.

Titantic, the movie. The ship is sinking. The end goes on and on and on. Jack stays as calm as he can, he stays focused, he orientates himself to the shifting situations (as does Rose) and he doesn't give up.

Wait. My last book. Not just my book. Everyone's book. The hero and the heroine find a calm center despite their fear or terror or heartbreak. They focus on what is really important, on what will save them and the ones they love. And THEY NEVER GIVE UP.

As a nod to recent blogs and discussions I will add this (wildly paraphrasing as I go.) Bruce Springsteen, on the John Stewart show, responded to a question about audience expectations by saying that when he gives a concert he knows he's playing to many different audiences. There are the people who are coming to hear a favorite song. There are people who come to identify with his message, political or otherwise, and others who want to hear something new. The point is, there are many different audiences but only one performance. And that is true of us as writers as well.


Short Term Guys

Current Project: Untitled RS
Status: Very little progress lately

I stole this idea from yesterday's Goddess Blogs. The uber alpha male. We love to write him, we love to fix him, and best of all we love to give him a perfect mate. Good examples are JR Wards' dangerous vampires or Suzanne Brockmann's SEALs and FBI agents. (Max! *sigh*)

Bad boys. Fun to date. But the fact is, in the real world they usually aren't good husband material. (please note I did stick "usually" in that sentence) I dated my share before meeting my husband. The motorcycle riding Marine in Hawaii where there was no helmet law comes to mind. (What the f#*k was I thinking!) Women fall for the thrill and love the excitement the bad boys bring. But is that the kind of man you want to marry? Or have your daughter marry?

So why do we keep writing and reading them?

Madeline on the Goddess Blogs theorized that readers are attracted to novels with heros they would never marry if they met them in real life. Readers want to escape and walk on the wild side for a short time with a man they'd never keep for long term. I agree.

Anyone dare to share a story about a short term guy in their past? And did you know he was not husband material? Or was he an exception?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Web site - the new four-letter word


Current Project: Leg Shaving Leads to Trouble
Status: Trying to finish the beast

I think I've dilly-dallied long enough. I need to create a Web site. Well three to be exact - one for my writing, one for my freelance PR and editing stuff, and one for my crafty things. The thought of that makes me want to run for the hills.

I am most concerned about my writing Web site because it needs to be branded in a way that might not be my natural inclination. I can put as much pink on my craft Web site as I want - people will still go to look at pictures of my items. But the writing Web site needs to speak to what you write, speak to your target audience and be accessible. It needs to be planned with care and a big part of that is color choice (i.e. I can't make it 10 shades of pink. Dang!)

Last Thursday the speaker for our chapter meeting was the fabulous Pat Pritchard, writing as Alexis Morgan. A lot of what she said had me furiously writing notes or escaping in my mind to think about things. One thing in particular related to Web sites - she goes to stores and grabs paint cards for color inspiration for her Web stuff.

GENIUS. Pure genius.

As someone who has worked on sites before, I find it incredibly difficult to choose a color palette. I don't have a natural sense for which colors go together. So what did I do over the weekend? Go to Home Depot and Lowe's and grabbed one of every paint combo card they have. My stack is about 6-8 inches tall. Not just the regular paint cards, but the ones that show colors that would be complimentary to each other in a room.

I even had a story planned out if they were going to ask me why I was taking so many cards. "Well, myself and a half dozen friends are all planning to repaint our houses and we need inspiration to look through as we sit and drink cocktails tonight." I suppose saying "I need these to design a Web site" would have worked just as well. But not as fun!

I started cutting the colors out of the rest of the booklet and attaching them to paper, so I can just flip through a binder of color inspiration. I can also see how this will help with writing a bit. What colors would my characters choose? Would my heroine have a classy combo of deep reds, sage greens and browns? Or is she all sunshine and happiness with bright yellows, greens and oranges?

Have you given thought to a Web site color palette? If you worked on your site or chose your colors - how did you go about it?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

SATURDAY CHECK IN


Current Project: two connected books
Status: plotting, plotting (still mostly in my head)

Another week has passed. Hard to believe. Sometimes the days just seem to rush by.

After having an idea turned down a week or so ago, I shifted onto another one in my head and when it started to come together in a major way with a major buzz, I felt I really had something this time. I spoke with my editor on Tuesday and she was excited, too. It's a tricky plot and I'm still trying to nail down the hero's character before I start writing. Eli helped me nail the heroine and some of the back story plus the hero for the second book, the brother of the heroine in this book. Trying to figure out where to start is also tricky. Details are being recorded in a file labeled "Brother and Sister Mystery," and what's interesting is that this file was created a year ago when this idea first came to me but I didn't have the opportunity to develop it. I hadn't realized I'd also thought about a sequel.

This week, I've also received emails from readers of Multiples Mystery wanting to know if there were sequel books to it. I could tell them happily that there is one coming out in October. I'm not sure why it wasn't mentioned in the back of the book this time, but it's always nice to hear from readers. Sometimes you forget how many of them are out there across the country -- viewing just your little slice of the world can give you a skewed vision in more ways than one.

As usual, now it's your turn...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Guest Blogger - M.J. Fredrick!

This week I'm thrilled to welcome Sahmain and Wild Rose Press author, M.J. Fredrick! M.J. and I met several years ago when we were both Golden Heart finalists. Since then, I've been following M.J.'s career and celebrating her successes right along with her. I can honestly say you'd be hard-pressed to find a nicer author in the biz.

Now, if you've ever visited M.J.'s blog, you know she has a love of hot men...which totally explains her recent fire fighter hottie book - HOT SHOT - which won the 2009 Eppie for Best mystery/suspense/horror romance! If you're in the mood for some smokin' men, this is the book for you. HOT SHOT is available now in print from Sahmain Publishing.

Please help me welcome M.J. Fredrick!!

***

BOOKS & MOVIES

This weekend a new Nora Roberts movie debuts on Lifetime. For the next month, a Nora movie will be on every Saturday. The first is Northern Lights, her Alaska set novel, one of my favorites. It stars Leann Rimes and Eddie Cibrian. Neither are who I would picture as the characters, though I do think Eddie Cibrian is really handsome.

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The second movie is Midnight Bayou, with Jerry O’Connell (is he the one from Crossing Jordan or was it his brother?) and Lauren Stamile (no idea). She has the right look, though. The only thing I remember about the book was that she was an exotic woman who lived above the bar in New Orleans. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie.

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The third is High Noon, with Emilie de Ravin (Claire from Lost!) and Ivan Sergei (who looks like Eddie Cibrian, don’t you think?) This is one of my FAVORITE Nora books ever. This book had some dark dark dark scenes that I hope are included. I personally think that the FBI agent Renea from 24 would have been ideal for this role, though. Emilie seems a little young.

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The last is Tribute, about the former child star renovating her grandmother’s house. This one stars Brittany Murphy (of many romantic comedies) and Jason Lewis (no idea). I didn’t think Ford would be such a big guy.

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Honestly, I would love to be a casting director.

I think our expectations affect our enjoyment of movies made from books. I know my son and I had big expectations of WATCHMEN, and it paid off. The same with the Lord of the Rings movies. And PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. But I’m hard pressed to think of other movies I enjoyed as much as the books.

Still, I enjoy watching books made from movies. I would love to see Elisabeth Naughton’s book made into a movie. I even know who I’d cast as the hero:

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I’d love to see any of Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s books made into movies. Or Lisa Kleypas’s BLUE EYED DEVIL. Maybe the Virgin River books or Suzanne Brockmann’s books.

If my book was made into a movie, I’d want Clooney and Maria Bello. The scenes I’d be adamant about keeping would be the Girl Scout camp, the tent scene, the bar scene, the motel scene, the smoke jumping scene, the fire shelter scene and the hospital scene. All of those are near and dear to my heart in a story that’s as close as anything I’ve written to the book of my heart.

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What movies made from books do you enjoy? What books would you like to see made into movies, and who would you cast?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hand Selling

Current Project: Waiting for the meeting tonight!
Status: Impatient

Authors often acknowledge small booksellers for "handselling" their book. I never really understood this concept until recently. Here is a good discussion of handselling that better explains the process from a book seller perspective. Now, here is my insight: We are ALL capable of handselling books. In bookseller lingo, handselling is when a bookstore blogs about, adds reviews, decides to place promiently, features in a newsletter, or otherwise promotes a book independent of efforts by the author/publishing house. However, often marketing by the author does play a role in catching the bookseller's attention. Librarians handsell when they recomend, blog about, place on lists, feature in newsletter, give promient shelf space and otherwise promote works.

I have seen this happen with my mother time and time again. She spys new fiction coming in, reads it, shares it with other librians. It ends up getting a promient shelf space on "New Fiction" instead of joining the rows and maybe gets a newsletter blurb.

A certain amount of synergy goes into bookstore and library handselling. Someone sees your postcard on the same day that she sees a review in publisher's weekly in the same week that she sees a guest blog and suddenly feels like everyone ELSE is talking about this book and gets inspired enough to read a copy.

Now, how do those of us who lack a bookstore or a library handsell books? There's always the subversive method. (On rare occasions, I like to discretely rearrange shelves at Big Box stores. Key word: discrete. I'm not replacing any of the NYT slots or anything obvious. If you want to try this method, you could get a stack of "local author" stickers and add them to copies. I have seen this occasionally at CostCo and know that some authors do this themselves (not my doing:))). There's the amazon/goodreads/insert book review site here method whereby you make a habit of giving favorable reviews to books you enjoyed. There's the blogging about books you loved avenue. There's talking up books that you like method. And then there's the the next step: Talking up books that you think OTHERS will like.

This is where we all have the power to be handsellers. It's not simply sharing what we love. It's matching up readers to books and acknowledging that not everyone will like what we like. Recently, I've been on a bit of a bad-luck run with my reading. I keep reading books that have a lot of great buzz, but that just don't do it for me. However, I've been determined to find readers for these books. I want them to be loved.

I've also been trying to more actively handsell the books of our chapter members, remembering to throw them in when someone mentions X author that they like. Just this morning, someone mentioned that they wished that Susan Wiggs would return to historicals. I suggested Paty's books. She wrote down her name and said that this was perfect timing as she had an amazon gift card to use. Handselling. I have a friend who usually reads Vampire and Sci Fi, but who likes a good action movie. I loaned her a copy of Eli's Stolen Fury. She's eager to see her paranormal series now. Handselling. I told my mother about Chris York's new mystery series, and I'll remind her when the launch date nears. She'll add it to the order list for the library. Handselling.

Returning to synergy, this is why even when it feels like promo isn't working, it actually IS. You create enough buzz for a reader to pick up your book. You snare the right reader, and they get you more readers. And then, as fast you can holler Amway, you've got an army of rabid fans.

In this economy, I think it is worth it to remember our value as readers and as advocates for our fellow writers. If YOU want to sell, you should think about selling OTHERS.

Now, allow me to introduce you to a few books you may love:

  • The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, Lauren Willig. Who will love it: Readers who like historical books, but who dislike regency novels. Chick lit readers who are wary of historicals but would like something smarter than the average contemporary. Literary fiction readers who would like a little more romance. Readers who wish Meg Cabot or Sophie Kinsella would write historicals and/or smarter heroines.
  • The Vampire Next Door. Who will love it: Readers who like their vampires light and silly. Readers who love French heroes. Readers who wish that vampire didn't always = erotica or lots of explict sex. Readers who like Rachel Gibson or Carly Phillips and wish that they would write vampire novels (Please no).
  • The Mighty Queens of Freeville, Amy Dickinson. Who will love it: Any one who loved Gilmore Girls. Women moving on after a divorce. Daughters of single mothers.
  • The Gourmet Girl Mystery series. Who will love it: Chick lit fans who also like cozy mysteries. Girls who crush on celebrity chefs. Readers who like to cook. Graduate school drop-outs.
Now, you return the favor. I need to end my streak of perfectly nice books that don't float my boat. It's painful giving yet another book the "It's not you, it's me" speech about why I can't commit to the rest of their series or why it isn't landing on my keeper shelf. Handsell me some books. Published authors, how has handselling helped you?



Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Software Skirmishes

Deborah Wright's ProfileCurrent Project: Untitled WIP
Status: About 1000 words (working on plot/characters)

As a novice in the business of writing for profit, most every aspect of the writing process fascinates me. I love the discussions about inspiration, research, craft, promotion, publication, etc., etc. I learn something new and valuable with each topic. Today I'd like to talk for a moment about a specific part of the writer's toolkit: Software. Maybe this is only my issue, but I feel like I've been fighting a running battle with writing software for a long time now.

Over the years I've tried quite a few of the different word processors out there (star office/open office, word perfect, word and others) and pretty much hate them all. Maybe it's my UNIX background, but I always feel like I'm using an elephant to do a mouse's job when I open a document in a word processor. Eventually--usually sooner rather than later--I get so frustrated that I copy whatever words I've written back to my text editor and work from there, abandoning the word processor altogether.

I've also spent time searching for the perfect text editor. In the Windows world, I found Notetab Pro and used it quite happily (there's a free version, but I wanted the bells and whistles for working with html files). In fact, it was the only software I mourned losing when I made the transition to the Mac, though I've found a reasonable substitute in the (free) version of TextWrangler. For the last year, I've been doing most of my writing in TextWrangler.

Text editors also have their limitations and in the last couple of months I've been running headlong into them as I actually, you know, write. In truth, text editors are really only good for smaller pieces of text and they lack the kind of organizational capabilities that true word processors provide. So, once I get past a few thousand words in a text editor, I start having issues again and start thinking about transitioning back to bad-old Word. Makes me wanna cry.

Last year, in a search for something better, I came across Scrivener. It's software created by a writer for writers. It's a word processor and a project management tool all in one. I thought it looked interesting (and cheap) enough to buy it. I played with it a bit and was impressed, but since my writing project never really got off the ground last year, it still felt a lot like overkill. However, I've been working on a project that's currently at about 18,000 words and was getting very frustrated when I suddenly remembered Scrivener. I decided to give it a shot and I have to say, I think I may have found my solution.

This is software that gets out of my way while I write, lets me easily rearrange scenes without having to cut and paste anything and allows me to keep *everything*--notes, research, previous drafts--at my fingertips. Oh, and it has an export to Word capability, as well, so once you've got your final version you can save it as a Word doc. I am, as they say, cautiously optimistic.

So, I'm curious -- what software do you all use when you write? Does your software frustrate you, provide an interface so smooth that you don't even know it's there or something in between? Share your triumphs, your frustrations and your horror stories!

For those who are curious, here are the links to the software I mentioned above. FYI: I'm not associated with any of these companies and I don't get any kind of compensation if you decide to try their software. Also, the Scrivener site has links to other writing software.

Mac Only (though I'm sure there must be something similar to Scrivener out there for PC users)
Scrivener (30 day free trial): http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.html
TextWrangler (free): http://www.barebones.com/products/TextWrangler/

PC Only
NoteTab (freeware/lite version/pro version): http://www.notetab.com

Monday, March 16, 2009

A writer's brain is always in gear.


Current Project: Doctor in Petticoats
Status: page 93

I felt like a postal worker yesterday. Neither rain nor sleet nor snow nor high winds kept me from returning home yesterday. As you all know I spent the weekend in Spokane at a writer's conference. (If you want to know more about the conference hop over to my personal blog) On the drive north I had beautiful blue skies, small clusters of traffic, my tunes, and the characters of the projects I'm working on cavorted around in my head giving some good scenes and dialogue that I jotted down on the pad beside me.

On the way back driving through the seasons, the area around me became settings. The first place that grabbed my attention was a small building built to resemble a barn,. It was faded red with white trim. The ground around it was barren but for a couple tumble weeds and the sparse snow flakes melting as they hit the packed dirt. The building sat on the outskirts of town. What caught my attention- the signage. "Holly's Dog Grooming" And my first thought, I bet Genene could make a heart warming story out of this forlorn looking building and what Holly had survived or gone through and how she would be revitalized by a wonderful hero.

Then heading south along Hwy 395 by Sprague Lake there were huge cracks and fissures in the earth that had me wondering what might possibly be hidden in the depths of those cracks and then Lisa and Eli popped into my head and what kind of stories would they would create from the gaping earth.

Along this route is Connell the home of a federal prison. And I thought about families and how having a father either imprisoned because he did break the law or by some fluke and was innocent and I thought , I bet Wavy could write a YA about a youth dealing with a wrongfully imprisoned father.

Then I crossed into Oregon and drove beside miles and miles of pulp paper trees alongside the road. You could look down the rows and some were endless tunnels while others were blocked by broken, toppled trunks. And Alice and Kendra came to mind. Their heroes trying to work their way through the endless tunnels looking for the villain hiding with the injured heroine.

A few miles farther, I crested a rise and before me, some spinning like jet propellers and some still as a new age piece of sculpture were the futuristic looking wind turbines. Something out of a story Karen or Debbie might write.

Heading down highway 97 through the Shaniko area, I looked across the rolling hills and gullies to a hill miles away and spotted a vehicle. What would an Indian have thought when he stood on that spot and looked across to see a string of white objects moving across the horizon?

So even while I battled the elements, my writerly mind did not shut off. And if any of you want to start up these tales- give me a call, I've started all the premises. ;)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

SATURDAY CHECK IN


Current Project: Up in the air
Status: Back to square one

For various reasons, the idea I submitted for consideration didn't work. I was given some suggestions on how to fix it and next week will decide if I want to make those changes or work on some of the other ideas I have rambling about in my head. I'm glad it all happened this way as I had invested just a little time and two pages instead of a huge synopsis and three chapters.

Today Eli and I are signing our books at Borders in Salem. If you're out and about, stop by and say hi. Please don't feel you have to buy something, I'd just like to see your smiling face.

Hope your weekend is a good one despite the turn in the weather. How are you doing on your projects?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

You Tell Me


Current Project: Lost Proposal
Status: Chapter 3 (Trust me when I say...you don't want to know how many times I've rewritten chapter one. Why are some books so easy to write and others are like pulling teeth???)


So this blog is just shameless, SHAMELESS promotion. But since it's not just shamelessly promoting ME alone, I'm doing it anyway.

Fellow MWV blogger Alice Sharpe and I are doing a joint booksigning TOMORROW, Saturday, March 14th from 12:00-3:00 PM at the Salem Lancaster Borders Books & Music. Alice will be signing copies of her March 2009 Intrigue release, MULTIPLES MYSTERY, and I'll be signing copies of STOLEN FURY. If you are in the Salem area on Saturday, we would LOVE to see you.

As this is only my second "official" book signing, I have a warped opinion of what a book signing should be. Remember, my only other signing was my launch party. Where we sold 100 books. And EVERYONE was there because of me. (I should have had a tiara. That's how I felt.) Saturday's book signing will be very different. I already know this, have mentally prepared myself for the fact it could be a looooooong, lonely day, which is why I was smart enough to schedule this as a joint-venture rather than doing it all by myself. (See? the Nut doesn't fall THAT far from the tree, grasshopper. Misery, er...creativity loves company.)

So with all that said...instead of a long boring post about signings, I'd like YOU to tell ME about the best book signing you've attended. Whether it was one you signed at or one you attended. What stands out in your mind? What makes a GOOD book signing GREAT? And what do you wish authors would do more of at signing events? (Please keep your wish list in the PG-rated range. *grin*)

WHY SHOULD I READ YOUR BOOK?

Posted by: Genene Valleau
Current Project: editing a novella, CHASING RAINBOWS
Status: Making good progress!

Have you ever envisioned your readers? I mean really thought about who they are and what they do with their lives and why they are reading your book?

Why did they pick up your book? Are they a friend? A family member? Someone you've never met?

What did they expect when they picked out your book? Did they want the emotion of falling in love? Or the experience of living in the West when cowboys rode the rugged ranges? Did they want to imagine what the world would be like if electricity had never been invented or if our cars were powered by solar batteries instead of fossil fuels?

Would they recommend your book to someone else? Why or why not?

I have to confess that this is not an exercise I've done before. Sure, I want to sell books--the more the better! But I've not actually dropped inside my readers' heads and imagined what they are feeling when they read the words I've written.

My younger son says when he reads my books he can see the story play out like a movie in his head. My older son sheepishly admits he never thought he would get so involved in a romance book. I take both of these comments as high praise. If they didn't like the stories, their silence would be very telling.

Friends who are not writers have generously complimented me about how well-written the stories are. I think some of this is still the shock of realizing they have known me for years and never imagined this entire other world I live in much of the time.

Then there are people I have never met before who gush over the stories and reviewers who write glowing -- or not-so-glowing -- reviews of my books. And what about the potential readers who read those stories and didn't care for them, so kept silent? Or those who decided not to even give them a try? Why? What part of the stories resonated with them or jarred them out of my story world?

Were these readers distracted by other pieces of their lives? Did troubles in their lives disappear for a few hours while they lived in my story worlds? Did they laugh and cry and get turned on and sigh with satisfaction when they reached the happy ending? If their budget only allowed them to buy another one of my books or a movie or a CD of music, which would they choose?

Some writers may say these are the kind of questions that could paralyze you to never write another book for fear of not pleasing any potential reader. However, I've found taking this imaginary trip makes me want to dig deeper into each character's emotions and double-check descriptions to be sure they fit the tone of the story yet engage the emotions in a fresh and unique way. OK--to write the very best story I can. These questions have also given me ideas about promotion and how to reach potential readers.

So how about you? Do you look at your stories through a reader's eyes? If so, what insight has that given you?

Stop by and enter Rogue's Angels first contest drawing @ www.roguesangels.blogspot.com

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

TIME SINKS


Current Project: good question
Status: waiting

It doesn't happen very often that I draw a blank on blog day, but it has today. And maybe that's not such a big surprise. I am in that wasteland called waiting and boy, does it get old. Yes, I know there are things I could be doing. I have a new release out this month -- I could be hitting the blog circuit, but come on, this is me. I haven't updated my website in well over a year, so let's not get crazy. I could get a few other proposals ready to go, but inertia has reared its ugly head. Waiting to hear back on the one I already sent seems to have knocked the wind out of my sails.

I called a friend with a very tight deadline the other day and asked if she had time to talk. She admitted she did, that she was playing Spider Solitaire. When I laughed, she said she tells herself that it's good for her writing, that it uses the other side of the brain. I wasn't laughing at her, however, I was laughing with her because I have a few of those time sinks as well.

Lately, however, my time sink games have gotten into a rut and I'm on the prowl for new material. I'm not talking interactive things, here, like Twitter or surfing the web or reading countless editor blogs. I'm talking near robotic stuff that gives the creative side of my brain time to recharge. That's my story, and as they say, I'm sticking to it.

Do you have any ideas for me?

I'll post another pertinent rendition of TextTwist, my current addiction, and check back in with the answers later today.

NIIOFCT

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Current Project: good question
Status: waiting

Isn't this a beautiful crystal ball? I used it in a blog several months ago and several people commented on it so I thought I would trot it out as window dressing because the truth is terrible: I don't have a darn thing to write about.

This has happened only once or twice before and both those times I was able to come up with something at the last moment but this time, I'm a blank!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I Love a HEA


Current Project: New Romantic Suspense
Status: Outline and 3 Chaps
My girls have been fascinated with President Obama's daughters. I understand completely. They are similar ages with no brothers. I've overheard conversations about what it'd be like to live in the White House and what it'd be like if daddy were president. So when I was at the video store on Saturday and spotted First Daughter (2004) with Katie Holmes, I grabbed it, delighted to find a movie they hadn't seen and that would surely hold their interest. I did a quick peek at the back of the box, saw the PG logo, and added it to the requested Legally Blonde 2 (ack) and The Last Unicorn.
Samantha McKenzie is about to enter college as her father campaigns for his second term. She's lived with secret service protection since she was fourteen and longs to be a normal, anonymous kid in college. The long procession of black Suburbans and the bullet proof limo doesn't make for an anonymous arrival at her school. She's mortified to find the college band playing Hail to the Chief as she and her parents step out of the car.
Predictable problems occur. A sassy roommate who pressures Samantha to lighten up. Confrontations with anti-President McKenzie protesters. Paparazzi. Embarrassing photos. After her four member secret service detail tackles a boy with a squirt gun at a frat pool party and whisks her away in the blink of an eye, Samantha demands a smaller, more discreet detail. To her delight the detail is reduced to two burly, bald men.
The love interest is her resident advisor, James. Marc Blucas (Riley Finn) from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He's a good-looking, hunky student who purposefully draws attention away from Samantha during an awkward classroom lecture where every eye was on her and her detail sitting in a circle around her. Over a few convenient encounters and a scene where James helps her escape from paparazzi and enjoy moments of being "normal," Samantha falls for the guy. I do, too. It's PG, so the kiss is sweet and tender.
Then there is a nice twist I stupidly didn't see coming. In a tight situation James shoves her into a black limo and speaks into the mic at his wrist. He's secret service! This twist also surprised my husband who hollered "What!?" at the scene.
She's crushed. James nearly loses his job for getting too close. They try to stay apart but come together for one last White House Christmas ball and simple kiss. It's a beautifully shot film. Lots of gorgeous ball gowns, long close-ups of Katie who is terrific at showing emotion, and it simply creates a sweet romance that any girl would love.
Then it falls apart in the last two minutes. She returns to college and he stays at the White House. An agent comments that she'll be home for spring break and the movie ends. My husband and kids stared at the credits, confused.
"They broke the main rule of every storybook romance. There's no HEA." I stated, supremely annoyed.
"What's that?" Hub asks.
"Happily Ever After."
I think the writers were trying to avoid a predictable Hollywood ending, but that's what I wanted! Even my husband and kids did. Sometimes it's right to break the rules, but this wasn't the place. Literary fiction often avoids the HEA, but this movie wasn't literary, it was 100% Cinderella. And Cinderella deserved to ride away with the prince.
What movies or books have held you enthralled and then left you empty and disappointed at the end?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Research & resources


Current Project: Leg Shaving Leads to Trouble
Status: Rewriting the first 5 chapters after some re-plotting last week (think I got it this time!)

As a few of you know (who were at the beach retreat), I changed my story a bit to have the hero and heroine studying the effect of scent on mood. I was struggling for a reason why the two were even interacting, beyond working together - and I think this is something that fits.

The problem then became, what is the effect of scent on mood? I have no clue. And to be honest, I don't trust Google at all. Google doesn't get you the academic sources where research is actually being done, it gets you corporations who are putting together research to sell their product. Then it dawned on me, I work at a university! Where there are PROFESSORS! Psychology professors who do this kind of research! That was quite a lightbulb moment.

Last week I had a wonderful chat with one of our psych profs who has done some research on the effects of scent on mood. She gave me a copy of one of her articles and pointed me to some great research resources. Again, I am lucky to work at a university because I have access to a ton of research resources. So I might as well take advantage!

I found quite a few articles talking about various scents and their possible impacts and it has helped me re-plot the first third of my book, which I have been struggling with for a while.

How have you reached out to other people to research for your stories? Were you nervous? I sure was.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

SATURDAY CHECK IN


Current Project: Proposals
Status: One Written and Sent, Three More to Do

Good morning, everyone. Hope you have an entertaining weekend planned or can at least kick back and recover from your week.
Today, for me, is visiting Mom day and that's always a crap shoot. It can be warm and fuzzy, scary and disturbing, or way off whack and there's no telling what to expect until after I punch in the code and walk inside the residence. Someone asked me if I was writing all this down so I could remember and use it in a book and I just stared at them. Uh, no. For one thing, I doubt I'll ever forget any of it and for another, I like happy endings.

Meanwhile, I've started the process of plotting and planning possible candidates for the option book and a new contract should I be fortunate enough to get one. I'm excited about the idea I just sent and would love to write the actual book so we'll see.

Your turn...

Friday, March 06, 2009

Can We Say...Supernatural?

Please Help me welcome guest blogger and Nocturne/Dorcester author, Linda Thomas-Sundtrom. Linda writes paranormals for Nocturne Bites and Dorchester Publishing. Her first book from Dorchester, Barbie & the Beast, releases April, '09!

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Hello MWVRWA. It's so nice to meet you all and have a chat. Since I'm from the west coast, where it's a sunny 75 degrees here at the moment, and birds are singing outside my window, I'll sip some iced tea and hope you'll join me for a while. Before I get back to my deadline. (I've always wondered why that thing lurking is called a deadline. Anybody know? Like maybe your career is dead if you go past that book's due date?) Ha.

Shall I tell you a snippet about myself? Well, I'm a paranormal writer, through and through. No matter how hard I try to write a straight novel or romance, it turns south toward that big "P." It's just something in my blood, I guess. In our family, when I was growing up, telling spooky stories or watching spooky movies was a part of our weekend routine. At that time, supernatural and paranormal were considered "out of the box." I'm not so sure about today. What do you think? Do any of you have the need to delve into the supernatural realms?

My first book was fantasy, called "Cafe Heaven (An autobiography of the Afterlife)," about a guy, a diner, a blonde recruiter for the devil's side of the pavement, and the infamous old Route 66. That book was dedicated to my father, who I'm sure whispered the words to me from the Great Beyond. Café Heaven is currently being considered as movie fodder, which as we all know doesn't mean much in Hollywood until an actual contract were to come through.
Still . . . isn't that a kick? And pretty darned well thrilling?

My next story was a romance published by Kensington Brava, and Brava's first vampire story. The anthology created around it was titled Immortal Bad Boys. My tale was dark historical vampire fare.

Then I just had this story in my head that so opposite from the dark vampire historical, that I took an entire year to write the whole book. "Barbie & the Beast." My blurb on this book would be: A romp through the world of paranormal dating.

Did I mention that I have two distinct sides of my paranormal personality? Light and dark? And that the term "branding" can only apply to me in terms of knowing I'll write a paranormal of some kind?

My opportunity for showcasing "Barbie & the Beast" came in the form of the American Title 3 contest, sponsored by Dorchester and the Romantic Times Book Review Magazine. I entered, was chosen one of ten to participate, made it to the top 4, and Dorchester ended up buying the book.

"Barbie & the Beast" will be released this April 1. I am just so excited! Can you see me wiggling?

A dark, sexy tale appeared next in my brain that had Silhouette Nocturne branded on it. By submitting this novella to them, I garnered a 5 book contract! Yikes.

My first two Nocturne Bites,"BLACKOUT" and "WOLF BAIT" have just been released this January and February. I'm currently writing the next full book in that series, and really digging it.

And . . . the point of all this recent success? Lessons learned?

I followed my internal directional beacon by writing what I wanted to write, when I wanted to write it. Yes, it can happen! It's true. You can write that book that's chattering to you, if you're willing to wait for the opportunity for marketing it to strike. And if you have plenty of patience. My reminder was that writing was my passion, not necessarily publishing. Though I will be the first to admit (and with many squeals of delight) that getting published by New York is better than jumping over the moon, still . . . the beauty was in the journey from mind to paper. The process of telling a story from start to finish was and continues to be, for me, rewarding.

The magic key for the times for me turned out to be WEREWOLVES ! Because those tall, dark, sexy Weres are humanish males most of the time, and warm, mostly normal, and alive . . . This just opened itself right up to creativity and wishful thinking.

I'll bet all the folks in snowy climates wouldn't mind a warm body right about now. So, I'm hoping that curling up with one of my three current werewolves might be the ticket. Theres' something for everybody. Comedy, tragedy, and the space in between the two.

Barbie's beast is a part-time furball. Pure girly fun. The series for Nocturne, much darker than little Barbie, of course, is about a criminal werewolf biting innocent people in Miami, and what happens to those folks who are bitten. Each story in the Nocturnes has a male and female finding each other through this startling "transition."

I am so thrilled to be writing these days, that I can't wait to get to a keyboard, or hold a blank piece of paper in my hands. Though I do have a day job (teacher), and a family (adorable), and some acreage that needs tending (country girl) . . . I have to share with all of you my love for writing, and how patience and perseverance (and werewolves) can make us all the published writers we have always wanted to be.

So, now . . . Why don't you tell me a little bit about your own paths toward success and fulfillment. And of course about that paranormal tweak in your DNA that you might or not have. Speak to me! I'm listening.

Love,
Linda

www.lindathomas-sundstrom.com

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

What's in your bag?

Current Project: Surviving February and March
Status: Half Done!

One of my favorite short stories to teach is "The Things They Carried," both for its beautiful centering narrative and for the depth and variety of descriptive writing. The items that each solider chose to carry reveals much about each one's character. I then ask students to dig through their bags and purses to find three unusual items and describe each in a way that reveals its significance to them. Literary fiction authors (I really hate that term as ALL fiction is literature) often toil with description, working with the nuisances of wording, and building up lavish portraits of inanimate objects. (Case in point, the tree in Separate Peace). Sometimes, however, in romance novels, items get overlooked in favor of rippling pecs, smoldering glances, and witty banter. Of course, fashion occupies a good deal of page real estate in many novels, but I'm talking about what's in the purse, the bedside table, the desk drawer, the kitchen junk drawer, and the bathroom vanity. This is a shame because used judiciously item descriptions can do a lot of showing of character and save you from all that tedious telling. In Out of Control, Suzanne Brockmann uses the contents of the heroine's purse to reveal much of her backstory, show her character traits, and reveal much of inner hopes and dreams. She also manages to tie story arcs together using items from the purse. Pretty nifty, eh?

So, let's try an exercise. (You knew this was coming!) Pick three items from your purse and give a description that moves beyond "the pink cell phone" and the "set of nine keys." Bonus points if you do the same for your heroine or hero.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Inspiration

Deborah Wright's ProfileCurrent Project: Untitled WIP
Status: 547 words of ~100,000

I'm back from my trip, complete with a cold. I've been trying to catch up on blog posts and emails and what-have-you, but haven't really been able to retain much due to the whole feeling loopy from being sick thing. Of course, having about 2,000 new work emails plus several hundred personal emails to go through might also have something to do with it. Ah, well, I'll get there eventually.

I was reading Paty's post from yesterday about light bulb moments during research (paraphrasing here, sorry Paty) and got to thinking about inspiration in general. I'm not sure why, but I always find it interesting to hear from other writers about the genesis of their stories. Maybe it's because everyone takes a different path and the leap from that first spark to finished creative product seems so mysterious.

The new project I'm working on started with a initial flash of inspiration from a certain image. It was the kind of inspiration that hit hard, like having the wind knocked out of me. I honestly have no idea where this is going to take me, but that flash was so strong that I know I have to follow it. And if past experience is any indication--and if I'm very, very lucky--just about everything I see, read and hear in the next several weeks will reinforce that inspiration.

Looking back, I can trace almost everything I've ever written to a first flash of inspiration, that sudden thought that "hmm, I could use that in a story." My inspiration has been as varied as a song, a scene from a movie, an image on the web, a couple of seventeenth century portraits hanging in a bedroom in a castle in Copenhagen, and a fragment of a very vivid dream. In one particularly productive instance I wrote over 100,000 words of a story that was initially inspired by a 15 minute segment on NPR's Science Friday about gene therapy. The eventual story had nothing to do with the segment, but the segment was most definitely the catalyst. Some day I'm going to have to re-work that idea and write the story it really deserves. *sigh*

That initial flash of inspiration isn't the only thing that goes into a story, of course, but it always feels like once you have that spark--and if it's strong enough--everything else starts to fall into place. Have you ever noticed how even information that you've ignored in the past, that's been right in front of you all the time, suddenly jumps out at you if it fits into the story you're working on? This is similar, I think, to what Elisabeth talked about a few weeks ago regarding Magic happening. Sometimes I picture the process of writing as a little bit like creating a Witch's brew. A little Eye of Newt, a pinch of sulfer, a dash of oregano, stir and bring to a boil, then simmer for 100,000 words and voila! (Yes, and sometimes I wonder about myself, too.)

So, what about you? Where do you find inspiration? Do you remember what started you on your current story? Does the initial inspiration stay vivid for you or does it fade over time until all that's left is the finished creation?

Monday, March 02, 2009

When Research Becomes a Light Bulb


Current Project: Doctor in Petticoats
Status: page 57

Yes, I didn't write anything on the WIP over the weekend, but I've been doing research. And I find it ironic that the book I'm reading Pioneer Doctor - The Story of a Woman's Work by Mari Grana, talks about the subject Delilah Marvelle talked about at our January meeting. It is the story of the author's grandmother who became a doctor in 1889. She was a very forward thinking woman and she, even though it was against the oath she took as a doctor, helped women to not become pregnant.

Reading this book it is amazing to what lengths the women with 5 and 6 children would go to to rid their body of another pregnancy. The tales are sad, but it shows the fortitude of this woman to help other women and the ignorance of men at that time. And the comical ways that contraceptive businesses used in order to get their 'goods' to the public. And the goods that were deadly.

It wasn't enough that women had to endure hard work, multiple births, and and in some instances a husband over imbibing in alcohol, but the so-called miracle pills that would help them relieve their pregnancy were sometimes mixed with lethal proportions of drugs.

This book has not only helped me with the character for the book I'm working on now, but has given me some thoughts about characters for future books. Which to me is always a bonus! I love it when research for one book sprouts ideas for another. It seems to always happen that way and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Do you find that happens to you? While researching for a current project do you stumble onto something that triggers an idea for another story?