Thursday, April 30, 2009

Series Books

Current Project: Clockwork Cat
Status: Planning

When you've written the first book in a series, and your agent is shopping it to publishers, do you start writing the next book? Or do you wait until the first book sells? That's the question I'm dealing with now, and it's exactly where I was a year ago. I've written two books for two completely different series, and I'm ready to start the next project. But which series will it be? Or should it be something totally new? Hmm…

I have notes written for book two of my Knight series, and for book two of my steampunk urban fantasy series. Which one do I pursue? I plan to discuss this with my agent the next time we talk, but I think it's a good topic to mull over on the blog. Many of us are working on series books, some that are sold, and some that are hopefuls. So I thought exploring the topic might be beneficial to us all. How has it worked out for you?

There's a school of thought that a writer should go ahead and write the next book because then it will be ready to go when the first book sells. But what if the first book doesn't sell? If the second book is dependant on the first, you could be in a quandary. Though series books should be able to stand alone, some are more obviously linked than others.

I'm reading C.E. Murphy's HOUSE OF CARDS, the second book in her Negotiator series. I read the first book quite some time ago and have only a vague recollection of the characters and backstory. I'm having a tough time figuring out what the hell's going on in book two. I may have to reread book one to get my bearings, and I'd really rather not. This could be why this series was discontinued after the third book came out.

An excellent example of a series that works perfectly fine with each book standing by itself is Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. I've read those out of order and each one is terrific all by itself. The only ongoing theme in the books is who will Steph pick: Ranger or Morelli. You never know from book to book who it might be. Oh, and also what car she'll blow up next. Almost forgot about that one. :)

I think it's harder for books to stand alone if they have the same main character in subsequent books. There's all the backstory to consider, and a writer has to be really good at his or her craft to make it work.

The series books that don't depend on one main character to carry the story usually do well as stand alones. A reader could read them out of order and not get lost. Like Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld series, and Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series. Still, you want to read all the books because characters are mentioned from earlier books and you naturally want to know more about them. I think that's a great selling point for this type of series.

In both my series, I have one main character to carry over to each book. In the steampunk series, it's actually two main characters because they're a team. I plan for the story in each book to be independent of each other so they can be read out of order.

I know we've discussed this topic before, but it never gets old to me, especially when I'm stuck between books. I'm thinking of other story idea alternatives and I'm even toying with the idea of writing a middle grade adventure series for boys. I have a half-dozen ideas for all kinds of books. Which one do I work on next? I'm hoping my agent will help me decide.

Do you, or did you, go ahead and write the next book in your series? Why or why not?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A quarter of a post--Critique versus Attack?

Current Project:Contest entries.
Status: Stalled. Hoping for progress soon.

Apologies. I have been waylaid by an icky gallbladder that may or may not have to be removed. Sigh. But, there's a very interesting discussion over at Dear Author (follow the link for more) about what constitutes fair critique and discussion of the romance genre. I know that those of you who are published wait for reviews with baited breath and suffer mightily when you receive a less than favorable review. However, I'm wondering about this question on a larger scale. When does critique go too far? Is it fair game to question some of the tropes of the genre? When does review become unbearable snark? Has your tolerance for critique changed overtime?

And finally, isn't it nifty that the Princeton conference and others are bringing romance to academia. I so wish I could see Elosia James's presentation at the RWA conference this summer. Take copious notes for me!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Overactive Imagination? You Bet!

Deborah Wright's ProfileCurrent Project: Shadows, Inc. (working title)
Status: Chapter One

Where do you get your ideas? That's perhaps the most common question a writer is asked by readers. I've read/heard other writers respond to that question in various ways and my favorite responses are always humorous, because really, how do you answer that question?

I think I've said before that I can usually remember what prompted certain stories -- trace a story's genesis, so to speak. But sometimes, it isn't so cut and dried. Sometimes things just spring unexpectedly out of seeming nowhere. That's when the answer to the question of where ideas come from sounds particularly inane to the person asking -- "They just come to me."

My mother would know the answer. She'd tell you that they come from my "overactive imagination" (and she'd mean that in a good way). As a child I was always making up worlds and people and living their stories. I remember one summer when I was about 8 when my backyard became the encroaching Ice Age and I hunted the Woolly Mammoth on my trusty steed. You see, I'd just read a children's book called "First to Ride" and not even the heat of summer in Sacramento could melt the ice and cold I could see in my head.

I think my imagination needs to be fed and nurtured on a regular basis in order to produce those wonderful ideas that seem to spring from nowhere. At least, that's what I'm telling myself after this last week while my husband was out of town and I was alone in the house with the cats.

For the most part I was fine; I enjoy being on my own. I had a few odd things happen, though, that raised the hair on the back of my neck and caused my heart to jump. Every once in a while, when the house was quiet and I was in just the right spot, I thought I heard people talking. It was just a susurration, like the whisper of the wind through the trees, but I could swear I heard voices. Each time it happened, I opened windows and looked outside, but there was no one around. The weirdest was late one night when I was in the bottom of the stairwell that leads down to the garage--the enclosed stairwell that's in the middle of the house--and definitely heard several very faint voices. I couldn't make out words, but I know what I heard.

Rationally, I know that what I was hearing had to have a reasonable explanation, but where's the fun in that? This house isn't old enough to be haunted and, besides, that's not where I wanted my imagination to go while I was alone. There was another direction, though, that not only was less...spooky...but also dovetailed nicely with my WIP. The book I'm currently working on has to do with quantum dimensions (alternate dimensions). My trusty imagination sped into overdrive. What if the locations where I heard the "voices" were spots where the walls between dimensions were thin (or, worse, breaking down)? What if what I was hearing was "bleed-through" from other dimensions? What implications would that have for my WIP? I hadn't specifically considered this possibility before, but I'm guessing that it was percolating somewhere in the primordial soup of my imagination all this time.

In fact, I'm considering adopting that as my answer for the "where do you get your ideas" question. My answer: "From the primordial soup of my imagination." LOL

What about you? What surprise has your imagination cooked up for you lately?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Blogging

Current Project: Doctor in Petticoats
Status: Chapter 17

I blog once a month on two historical author blogs besides this one twice a month and my own three times a week. There are times I wonder how I’m going to think of one more thing to write about. Luckily with the historical blogs, I give info about research I’ve done and the people who comment like the fact they can glean useful information from the blog and not have to go digging for the information themselves. And I feel good about sharing with others so it’s a win-win.

For this blog, I rack my brain to come up with writing related topics and there are times I feel like a cheater because I don’t think my topic is valuable to anyone and I’m just rambling. I’ve never had a desire to be a teacher, yet, I find, I want to give people some tidbit of information when I blog and when I write a book.

Same goes for my own blog. I hope that when I give personal information about myself, it makes readers want to check out my books. When I host another author I hope readers purchase one of their books, and when I do the Friday Faves, I hope again something is useful to the people reading my blog.

From looking at other writer’s blogs, I like the ones where I glean a tiny bit about them and a lot about their writing. The ones where all they talk about are their families or pets, I tend to not go back and read. But if their lives are interesting, like they are traveling somewhere and making comments, then I’m hooked.

This week on my blog, since I don’t have a guest for Wednesday and I’m stuck out here in the boonies, I’m thinking of journaling my week and putting up a post every day. Only because some people might find it interesting to see how I survive in a 10x16 cabin with outdoor plumbing.

Do you read very many blogs? If you do which kind do you like the best- information about writing, promotional, personal, or a mix?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

SATURDAY CHECK-IN / CHALLENGE


Current Project: His Baby Sequel
Status: flummoxed

Another week has flown by. At least it seemed to me as though it flew by. I indulged in spring fever by planting a few pots with flowers but that's as creative as I got.

Didn't get much if any writing done this week and really didn't need to until late Friday afternoon when I was informed a few pages describing the sequel book would be needed sooner rather than later. I should have been plotting this book while I lazed around, but I guess I was marginally brain dead. Anyway, now I am scrambling. Story of my life.

What has everyone else been up to?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Out of the Norm

Current Project: DECEIVED
Status: Chapter 3

I recently got an email from a reader who said she enjoyed my book and thought it was "so great to find a new contemporary author on the scene that's not writing vampires". Her comment made me smile, but it also made me think about the industry. What's overdone. What's not done enough. What's too risky for mass market and what's cutting edge enough to hit it big. You never know, do you?

My editor commented on her blog a while back that she's tired of reading about demons. I sat in on several publisher spotlights last year at RWA national and they all said "no more vampires" and yet Stephenie Meyer's vampires are all the rage right now. Book trends tend to hit long before Hollywood trends, but still CIA, FBI, serial killer and forensic crime scene analysis books are hot even with the surge in popular TV shows like CSI. So how do you make your book different enough to draw attention, but not too different to be outside what the industry's buying?

Jennifer Ashley has a new historical coming out that I'm dying to read. It features a hero with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism. This is a totally different take on an historical, and I can't wait to see how she handles it. Still your traditional historical, but with something slightly cutting-edge or different.

Starting in May, S.J. Day has a new kick-ass heroine series with a unique take on the paranormal that involves religion. According to the blurb, she's "Cursed by God, hunted by demons, desired by Cain and Abel."

What trends are you tired of seeing in books? What's overdone in the market? And what would you like to see more of? Any books you're looking forward to reading in the next few months?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

AND THE NEXT CONTESTANT IS...

Current Project: Edits of CHASING RAINBOWS
Status: Getting there slooooowly


Nope, I'm not talking about Susan Boyle, the 47-year-old woman whose stunning performance on Britain's Got Talent has captivated hearts around the world. Though I have to confess that I'm one of the many who is fascinated with this unlikely sensation.

What I'm looking for are your opinions and ideas--and this fits with Elisabeth's topic of "Promotion" for our meeting tonight. I'm looking for a new contest to promote my rock band trilogy and want to know what would entice you to enter an online contest:

--The prizes? If so, do you like books? Chocolate or other candy? Gift certificates? Something off-beat?

--The author herself/himself? Do you enter contests only offered by a favorite author? Any contest you see? From an author whose books look intriguing?

--How entertaining the contest is? Do you enter contests because they are interesting? Different? Easy and don't take up much of your time?

--Nothing because you don't enter online contests?

Thanks for your opinions. I promise I won't put you on my mailing list because you responded to my questions. :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

TELL ME A STORY


Current Project: HIS BABY
Status: Waiting

I haven't mentioned my mother in awhile so I'll report now that she's doing pretty well. From what I can see, and in her case, dementia isn't a steady, predictable disease. One day she seems content, another day she's restless. Sometimes she seems to track everything you say and others, well, let's just say the synapses aren't clicking.

She can't read much anymore. Maybe a greeting card, but not a book or even a magazine article. She can't follow a complicated plot. But she can follow a story if it's delivered with energy and with images she can grasp and if it doesn't go on too long. So, I have begun gathering stories for her, and if she's having one of her better days, I'll wheel her somewhere private and quiet and tell her a story.

The last story I told her was this week when I related the amazingly uplifting story of Susan Boyle. She's the forty-eight year old British singer Eli gave us a link to this weekend. I guess I do live under a rock, because I hadn't heard of the woman before I saw the video of her triumphant performance. It moved me deeply.

However, how do you tell this story to someone who has no idea what reality TV is (Ms. Boyle was a contestant on Britain's Got Talent) and do it in an uncomplicated sentence or two that also reveals how not just the best but the worst are showcased for amusement value? That hurdle behind me, I launched into the tale. The frumpy middle-aged wanna be singer, the audience groaning and rolling their eyes, the condescendsion of the judges. And then Ms. Boyle admitting she aspired to be like Elaine Paige (I think I have that name right, I haven't heard of the lady but it was clear everyone in that studio, all 4,000 of them, thought Ms. Boyle was certifiable.)

My mother is watching my face as I speak: "Then she opens her mouth, Mom, and it was like an angel started singing." My mother's eyes glistened with tears as I described the audience clapping and spontaneously getting to their feet, the jaws dropping, the hearts swelling. And when I'm done, my mother says, "She showed them, didn't she." She sure did.

Understand, less than five minutes after we sat there grinning at each other over a stranger's triumph an ocean away, my mother had lost every detail and even the fact I'd told her a story. A person with dementia never builds, not like a child, they don't take experiences and use them to leap to new experiences. They truly live in the moment -- the moment is what they have and when you're with them and care for them, it's what you have, too.

So I tell her stories, and as time passes, I'm learning how to hit the emotional pay offs and avoid the details that muddy the water. I tell her my plots -- most of the time she remembers I write books. I tell her about the heroine and the hero and the bad guy and her eyes grow wide as I describe the action and somewhere along the way, I can see that she's forgotten I'm talking about make believe people, she's crossed the line from fiction to non-fiction. In the end, so what, I do that all the time and just look at poor Debbie who's having dreams about her characters!

Yesterday I was talking to my editor about my books. The thriller thing came up. I told my editor that she had read every Intrigue I've written, did she think my "voice" lent itself to the fast paced, on the run, ticking clock feel of an Intrigue thriller?
She said, "Well, maybe not on the surface, but I wouldn't rule it out. You're an excellent storyteller."

She couldn't have said anything that would have flattered me more.

Story telling is how information and values have been passed along since the beginning. Wrapping a moral or an experience inside a story insures the information will stick. We know not to pretend there's trouble when there's not thanks to the kid and the wolf. We know that love is selfless thanks to the king who claimed he would saw a baby in half to placate two women who each said they were its mother. From fables to books to movies. From campfires to theaters. From nursery school to nursing home, stories bind us together. I can't think of any job in the world better than that of designated storyteller to a failing old woman who only catches glimpses of an increasingly alien world.

Keep telling your stories.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hot Heros



Current Project: Untitled RS
Status: Slow, very slow






I think we all receive the RWR. I get excited every time I find it in my mailbox. I love to see who I know wrote an article, has their name mentioned, or has an ad inside.


When I find an article I like, I rip it out and file it away. All sorts of good stuff from taxes to promotion to research. Last month I ripped out Alesia Holliday's article on What Makes a Hero Sexy. I loved it. I think she truly nailed what we like in our heros. I've been hard at work on my current hero and found this advice to be timely. She lists some common factors:



He's got a bit of an edge. That touch of bad boy. (Maybe does extreme sports, or has that hot tattoo or motorcycle, but is always a gentleman)


He's a guy, but not a caveman. (He needs to do manly things. He can unclog my sink, but also takes care to clean up the mess he made while doing so.)


He has a sense of humor. (Preferably not crude or bathroom humor, but says something he knows will make me laugh or smile.)


He's smart and determined. (I love utter determination in a hero. Nothing stands in his way when he sets his sights on a goal.)


He's focused, oh-so-intensely on the heroine. (Ties in with determined. She is the true and only object of the hero's desire.)

What absolutely makes you melt for a hero? And what turns you off?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Inspiration


Current Project: Leg Shaving Leads to Trouble
Status: Rewrites

On Saturday I attended the annual Reader's Luncheon hosted by the Rose City Romance Writers, Portland RWA chapter. I attended once a few years ago and was very inspired by a speech by Sherrilyn Kenyon, the keynote. That happened again this year. Lucy Monroe was the keynote speaker and she was fantastic.

She talked about how romance novels impact our lives. She told stories of how readers have written her to thank her for writing about sensitive topics that most people won't discuss or shed light on. She shared how reading and writing romance has kept her marriage strong. How someone going through a hard time in a relationship can read a romance and learn to appreciate what they have.

I found the talk inspiring just to hear what an impact our work can have on people. And on such a large scale that we don't think about. Yeah, we've all heard the numbers on how big romance sales are. But to hear the individual stories of how one novel, one character can impact a life, change a perspective? Well, it makes you want to keep on trucking. Right?

Do you have a story of how either, as a reader a book impacted you, or as an author how your story helped someone else?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

SATURDAY CHECK-IN / CHALLENGE


Current Project: HIS BABY
Status: Proposal sent

Hey everyone, it's Saturday again and I can't wait to see how you guys are coming along.

My proposal left the house Thursday. Since it's been gone, I've been trying to think in terms of a thriller and have decided to plot the sequel book with this in mind. I believe the plot lends itself well to that format.

So, that's where I am, out of work, still, hopeful things move along at a good pace and that my head isn't empty and there's another plot in there somewhere. I did the math yesterday and realized in the last twelve months I've completely plotted seven books, written detailed proposals for four of them, and completed two of them. It's been a productive year and yet frustrating, too, but that's writing for you.

I hope each of you had a fulfilling, satisfying week.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Guest Blogger - Cynthia Eden!


The Two Parts of a Writer’s Life

Hi, everyone! It is a pleasure to be posting at the Mid-Willamette Valley blog today—thanks for having me over!

I thought I’d talk a bit about two main aspects of a writer’s life. Because, well, a writer’s life isn’t all about writing. (Oh, if only!) Instead, as I discovered after I sold my first book, a great deal of a writer’s time can be spent on promotion. (Ah, the dreaded “P” word.)

Now, sure, no writer is required to promote, but I have it on good authority—um, my editor’s and agent’s—that folks really like it when a writer uses PR efforts.
So, now I try to divide my work time between writing and promoting. No, it’s not an equal divide, and I certainly don’t think the divide should be equal. If I have a release coming up, or one that recently hit bookshelves (say my new vampire romance from Kensington Brava, IMMORTAL DANGER), then, yes, I do increase my promotional time. But, otherwise, the actual writing gets the bulk of my attention.
And when it comes to promotion…so many people have different opinions. Some authors swear by advertisements in the Romantic Times. Some authors send out mailings to bookstores and readers’ groups. Some authors attend conferences and present workshops.

For me, promotion comes down to a comfort level issue. I think writers should only promote in the ways that (1) they can afford to promote—because seriously, promotion can become very expensive and (2) they enjoy. I think enjoying promotion is key. If you like to blog, if you like to attend conferences, if you like meeting booksellers—then promotion may be a breeze for you! But, if the very notion of PR gives you hives, then, um, you might have to adjust your promotional plans.

Now that I’ve rambled so about promotion, why don’t you tell me what you think? Do you believe there are some promotional efforts that writers should do? (Say, take out an ad in Romance Sells?) Have you seen any particular promotional efforts that you viewed as highly successful?

Thanks for checking out my post! Have a wonderful weekend!

Sincerely,
Cynthia Eden

www.cynthiaeden.com
IMMORTAL DANGER—Available now from Kensington Brava
Once bitten, twice the bitch.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Finding the Time

Current Project: Dr. Hardhat (better title names happily accepted!)
Status: Chapter One

I'm typing this right now from my "Bad Mother Cubicle." I have the toddler on my lap facing Monitor #1 (Signing Time on You Tube ) while I'm facing my laptop to type this. I am fully expecting my lump of coal for Mother's Day. My get-over-myself program of recommitting to writing is going well, but as I anticipated, the hardest thing is finding the time to work. Or let me phrase that more accurately: letting myself find the time. I have this perfectionist streak that thinks only in all-or-nothing terms:

"It's only five minutes. That's not even time to open the document! (However, it's time to read Go Fug Yourself) ."

"I'm too tired to do a good job."

"I can't think with Hurricane Tavy in the same room."

"I don't have my laptop with me."

"I'm not going to finish even a page."

If my brain doesn't see the uninterrupted chance to get 1500 words, it doesn't want to bother. However, my brain needs to get over itself. Eli gave me a gift when she said that even when I wasn't writing I was still thinking like a writing. I need to start valuing the little moments when I do ANYTHING that furthers my goals. To this end, I've been stealing little minutes here and there that add up:

  • Using the bad mother cubicle
  • Sitting in the driveway with a notepad and a sleeping baby
  • Trading baby wrangling with a friend
  • Taking an extra five or ten minutes at the gym to write down what percolated during my workout.
  • Cutting back on my nightly reading time (I know, I'm surprised at me too. This is the most painful one.)
  • Using those five to twenty minutes that the Hurricane is happily occupied to stage things for later
  • Sitting in the car with a notepad while DH runs into a store with the Hurricane
  • Prioritizing so that I get things that require less concentration done quickly so that I have more time later when I do have a block of time
  • Putting the baby to be earlier
  • Teaching the hurricane how to color (she's obsessed now, and it buys me a few minutes).
How do you steal time? Do you schedule time for writing or do you grab it where you can? Both?

NOW, it's time for a drill. Note the time on your screen. For the next five minutes, WRITE. If your document isn't handy, grab a sheet of paper, a back of an envelope, open a blank email to yourself, but choose your medium quickly. If you can't remember where you left off, just grab a snippet of dialogue as it comes to you. You can place it later. No dialogue coming? Ask your characters a couple of questions. Write a paragraph about your character at 10 years old. ANYTHING even remotely related to your current WIP counts. Make bullet points outlining a chapter, make a sketch of a town or room. ANYTHING. Now, didn't that feel good? If you do that drop-everything-and-write drill three more times today, you'll rack up 20 minutes that otherwise would be lost to the ether. Report back!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

If I Were the Heroine of a Book, I'd be...

Deborah Wright's ProfileCurrent Project: Shadows, Inc. (working title)
Status: still brainstorming/working on backstory

Since Paty started us off this week talking about characters, I thought I'd continue that theme and have a little fun. I've been working on the characters for my WIP and one of the books I used last week was The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes & Heroines by Tami Cowden, Caro LaFever and Sue Viders. This book describes 8 hero archetypes and 8 heroine archetypes, their strengths and weaknesses and how they mesh/don't mesh with the other archetypes. As archetypes, the descriptions are done in very broad strokes.

For those of you unfamiliar with the book, here's a very brief summary of the archetypes, as given by the authors, with their examples.

Heros:
The Chief -- a dynamic leader, he has time for nothing but work (The King of Siam, Don Michael Corleone in The Godfather II, King Arthur of Camelot legend, George C. Scott as General George Patton)
The Bad Boy -- dangerous to know, he walks on the wild side (Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause, Vince Everett in Jailhouse Rock, Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, Will Hunting in Good Will Hunting, Snake Plissken in Escape from New York)
The Best Friend -- sweet and safe, he never lets anyone down (Dave Kovic in Dave, Christopher Robin in Winnie the Pooh, George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, Mr. Knightly in Emma)
The Charmer -- a smooth talker, he creates fantasies (James Garner as Brett Maverick, John Robie in To Catch a Thief, Pierce Brosnan as Remington Steele)
The Lost Soul -- a tormented being, he lives in solitude (Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon, Crash Davis in Bull Durham, David Boreanaz as Angel, Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights)
The Professor -- cooly analytical, he knows every answer (Harry Potter, David Levinson in Independence Day, Mr. Spock, Ellery Queen, Lt. Columbo, Sherlock Holmes)
The Swashbuckler -- Mr. Excitement, he's an adventurer (Peter Pan, Jack Colton in Romancing the Stone, Zorro, Indiana Jones)
The Warrior -- a noble champion, he acts with honor (Harry Callahan in Dirty Harry, John McClane of the Die Hard movies, William Wallace in Braveheart, Edmund Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo, Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird)

Heroines:
The Boss -- a real go-getter, she climbs the ladder of success (Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth, Karen Sisco in Out of Sight, Candice Burgen as Murphy Brown)
The Seductress -- an enchantress, she charms to get her way (Scarlett O'Hara, Lolita, Delilah, Rebecca Sharp in Vanity Fair)
The Spunky Kid -- gutsy and true, she is loyal to the end (Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards, Lucy Moderatz in While You Were Sleeping, Tess McGill in Working Girl, Stephanie Plum)
The Free Spirit -- an eternal optimist, she dances to unheard tunes (Ally McBeal, Alice in Alice in Wonderland, Lucy Ricardo in I Love Lucy, Gloria Mundy in Foul Play, Mame Dennis in Auntie Mame)
The Waif -- a distressed damsel, she bends, but does not break (Ilsa Laszlo in Casablanca, Molly Jensen in Ghost, Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet)
The Librarian -- controlled and clever, she holds back (Joan Wilder in Romancing the Stone, Diane Chambers in Cheers, Dana Scully in The X-Files)
The Crusader -- a dedicated fighter, she meets commitments (Erin Brockovich, Jo Harding in Twister, Mulan, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xena, Antigone, Jane Eyre, Norma Rae)
The Nurturer -- serene and capable, she nourishes the spirit (Isabeau in LadyHawke, Pollyanna, Claire Huxtable in The Cosby Show, Deanna Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Mary Poppins

As I was reading through the book, I started thinking about what archetype I'd be if I were a heroine in a book. After much dithering and hilarity (the Seductress? Who, me?? somehow I couldn't stretch my imagination quite that far), I decided that I'd be the Librarian, with a layering of the Spunky Kid.

So how about you? What archetype would you be? Or, to ask it another way, what archetype would you want to be if you were the heroine of a book? For extra fun, what hero archetype would you want to, ahem, mesh with in your book?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Straight Jacket , Please or Corraling Characters


Current Project: Doctor in Petticoats
Status: page 164

I envy Alice, Eli, and those of you who work on one project at a time. I bow to your one track minds and the ability to focus on a story so completely you eat, sleep, and breath nothing else.

These days I feel like I'm being split in fourths, with eight main characters vying for my attention. There's the WIP I'm slowly putting to paper and agonizing over whether it is moving along fast enough, is it realistic, how do I sustain the emotion and keep the reader turning the pages? Then I have the characters from the paranormal I sent a query and partial to an editor that I'm cleaning up as well. There I'm adding emotion and digging deep into why they do things. And then I have the Christmas novella characters wanting to come out and play. The hero in that story is so strong in my mind there are times he dwarfs the hero of my WIP, shoving him aside and causing a fist fight to gain my attention. Then there is the story in the works I'm corroborating with another author- and whenever she writes and says she thought about this or her character is doing this, the heroine in that story flashes in my mind and starts asserting her aggressive nature upon me and I cower and want to leave the characters of the WIP in an embrace and head on over and help her find her sister.

So do tell- How do you lock the characters not of your WIP away and keep them and yourself happy? Or do I just succumb to the straight jacket and hope for some peace and quiet locked away from my computer and all the tings that inspire me?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

SATURDAY CHECK-IN / CHALLENGE


Current Project:Untitled Intrigue
Status: synopsis finished

Morning everyone, up and at em'. It's time for your weekly weigh in ... er check in.

Me first. I finished the synopsis yesterday, happy dance, spin and twirl, and am now back on the pages. With any luck, those will be done within the next week or two. I also got enough put together to suggest the direction of the sequel book. It struck me yesterday that I was doing this same thing last spring for three books that were not bought so I'm taking nothing for granted.

We also put our house on the market this week. That was a difficult decision and still scares the daylights out of us. Of course we've chosen the worst market in decades in which to do this ... timing, timing, timing. Oh well, now we see what happens.

How is everyone else doing?

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Question of Faith (and I don't mean Alice's Heroine)

Current Project: Deceived
2nd Eternal Guardians book
Status: Chapter one

Happy Good Friday! Today is my son's 7th birthday. We've been teasing him mercilessly because his birthday falls on Good Friday and most days he is anything but "good". He can be such a squirrel in church in fact, my mother is constantly suggesting, "perhaps that one isn't Catholic like the rest of you." I do feel a little guilty today, though. Because it's such a big day in our church, we will take the Gremlins to service tonight, and the Good Friday service tends to be a long one. Poor Gremlin #2 already judges his days based on "is today a church day?" with a "Yay!" being the response if I say no, and an "Aw, shucks," if the answer is yes, I haven't had the heart to tell him what we'll be doing tonight.

I don't generally talk about religion - and don't worry, I'm not going to spout off any religious views here or start a debate - because it's one of those things that we all have different opinions on. I've had friends mention, "I didn't realize you were so religious," which is both funny and odd to me because I consider myself a faith based person, but by no means a religious fanatic. We try to go to church every week. We make sure our kids are in religious ed classes. I make a strong attempt to hit the holy days of obligation (like Ash Wednesday and Good Friday) when I can (or when I remember). But I never try to push my religious views on others, and I keep my own opinions and views to myself. I do think faith-based views shape a person into who and what they are, and I've often wondered why we don't see or read more of that in books.

I've often thought about bringing in shades of faith into the books I write. Not in an inspirational category way, but more as a facet of a character's life that has molded them into who or what they are today. Are they Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish or an atheist? Did they grow up that way or convert? How did that part of their background shape them into who they are in the story? I think I shy away from bringing faith into my stories for the same reason I don't talk about faith with friends - because it can be controversial. And because it's personal. But aren't our books supposed to be personal?

When I was working on STOLEN FURY, I wrote a scene where this actually came into play. The original title of the book was MAKE ME BELIEVE, which fit the heroine to the letter. Because of what she had been through in the past, she'd lost her faith in everything - including religion - and the only thing she truly believed in was herself. She comes from a very Irish Catholic working-class Chicago family, with parents who go to church every week and a family where you're supposed to grow up, get married and have kids. Nothing in her life had gone the way it was "supposed" to go. Then she meets the hero, years later, when she's 38 yrs old - who's Puerto Rican - and he also comes from a very strong Catholic background. The scene I wrote actually had the book taking place over Easter and his dragging her to this little church out in the middle of nowhere during their quest because it was the one day per year he HAD to go to church or else his mother would know. (Good Catholic guilt there.) It was kinda funny, very sweet, and showed how much she'd lost her faith in everything. I ended up cutting it not because I didn't like the scene, but because the timeline didn't work and it didn't really push the story forward. It was more character development than anything else, but I do still like the idea of that scene.

As I wrestle with the new paranormal series, I'm also wrestling with the faith question more and more. Though this in a different way. I've set up this alternate world, based on Greek mythology, and I find myself having to define Heaven and Hell and the afterlife based on parameters established within Greek myth (Hades and the Elysian Fields) then deciding what I want to fit and mold into my world. How does this work for the human realm? How much traditional religion do I want to have play into what I create? So many questions. So many answers I have yet to find.

How about you? Have you ever written any faith based elements into your books? How do you feel when you read a book and you see mention of a character's religious background?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

AHA! MOMENTS

Current Project: CHASING RAINBOWS (novella)
Status: Back to edits now that taxes are done!


As I've been editing a story that I drafted several years ago, I'm both chagrined at how little I knew and encouraged by how much I've learned and grown as a writer. This got me thinking about aha! moments. Those times when information makes sense AND you know you've made a big step forward in the craft of writing.

Here are some of those aha! moments for me:

--Point of view: I realized my story was stronger when I stayed in the point of view of one character for each scene. Or, if I switch POV in a scene, I do it only once. No more "head hopping" every other paragraph. However, I have to confess that love scenes may be the exception to this and I will sometimes switch POV more than once in a love scene.

--Showing not telling: For me, this went along with point of view. If I couldn't immediately tell whose point of view I was in, I was probably telling what was going on, NOT showing the action.

--Deep point of view: Was I just writing about a character or actually feeling the character's terror/joy/bitterness? (This may not actually count as an aha moment, as I still have to watch for this in edits.)

--Conflict: I didn't want my hero and heroine to suffer. However, a story without conflict made a very short book. Thanks to a presenter at a workshop, I learned that conflict comes much easier if the hero and heroine are in conflicting roles (fireman vs. arsonist, land developer vs. preservationist, cop vs. thief, etc.).

--Character arc: To make an interesting story, the hero and heroine need to grow and change. I finally came up with an easy way to chart their growth. If there are ten chapters, I brainstorm ten steps for the hero to change. If there are fifteen chapters, they get fifteen steps, etc. So their growth continues over the course of the story.

--Goals and motivation: Give the hero a goal: what does he want more than anything and why does he want it? Make the "why" important, such as a loved one's life is at stake. Then put bigger and bigger roadblocks in his way so he can't reach this goal. To ramp up the conflict, give the heroine a goal that is in opposition to the hero's goal. (Hero wants to build new condos so older people on fixed incomes like his mother will have a safe place to live. However, condemning this land to build new will leave the heroine's aunt homeless.) I think this came from the same presenter who suggested putting the hero and heroine in opposing roles.

Plotting: Invest in an easel pad and every color highlighter that the office supply store has to offer. Then use scene sheets to plot each scene of the story, color coordinating the character arc of each major character as well as the development of each plot and subplot. (Not for everyone!)

Black moment: This one finally came together at a Story Magic presentation that Karen did. As the end of the story nears, make it look like there's no way the hero and heroine are going to reach the goals they had at the beginning of the story. This is a great time to give the hero/heroine that last little nudge of realization that completes their character arc so they can resolve the black moment or work together to move past what could have been a disaster.

Please share your aha! moments. Do you remember what information triggered those realizations? Did this change the way you write?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A ROOM IS A ROOM


Current Project: Untitled Intrigue
Status: Synopsis

A long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away) I wrote a book about a young woman raised by her aunt. The aunt was an artist and one of some repute. The heroine was also artistic and so the aunt was a mentor as well. They were very close.

The aunt didn't have insurance and so when she got sick, it became necessary to sell many of the paintings she'd collected. At the time of her death, there wasn't much left except a stack of bills the for which the niece was responsible. The only way she could pay them off was to sell the house she and the aunt had spent the last twenty years inhabiting. Of course this was distressing, but the heroine knew her life had changed and there were was no way to go back.

The book begins as the agent is showing the house to a boorish, wealthy couple. They enter the dining room and in the heroine's eyes, that room is the piece de resistance of her aunt's home. Here the aunt had made innumerable sketches until they covered the walls with color and movement, capturing her very spirit. The buying couple discuss wallpaper options (or is it they discuss how they could use this room to impress their friends that they now own the house of a celebrated artist? I can't recall and to tell you the truth, even sitting here now I can't decide which would be worse for the niece...) When they get to the studio, they agree it would make the perfect space for the flat screen T.V. They buy the house.

Because I hate a story stopped before the end, I will add that the niece accepts a commission to paint a portrait of a famous romance novelist. The commission was intended for her aunt, and she knows this, she just doesn't have any place else to go. She meets a flamboyant woman who confuses her character's exploits with real life and the writer's two nephews. Hint: there's a happy ending.

Back to that room. That room has haunted me for years. I can see it. It's really more of a nook. Thick walls, a deep sill on a window that opens to a garden. Insects buzzing outside as the aunt sits at the table, charcoal pencil in hand, latte steaming nearby, inspiration hitting as her pencil darts over the smooth gesso walls. At night, dim light and the heroine sitting there across from her aunt, her gaze going from the woman in front of her to the people cavorting on the walls, a face here, a hand there, a glimpse of the sea...

You know, it's hard to remember that room never existed. Readers were shocked the niece lost the house and that in the end, she didn't buy it back. That she let go of something so magical. But the heroine knew what the heroine's creator has a hard time remembering -- a wall is a wall. A painting is a painting. A room, no matter how special, is still in the end, a room.

Tell me about a space you created that lives still in your mind or heart. It might be a place that barely got a nod in the final book but blossomed for you in a way this little breakfast nook blossomed for me. That had deeper meaning, perhaps, than that which was obvious; a place, maybe, that helped define a character in a subtle, subliminal way.

And still lives on.

Current Project: Untitled Intrigue
Status: synopsis

Do you ever feel like our froggy friend up there? Trying with all your might just to get stable footing, to make it to the perch? That's what I'm doing right now with this synopsis, struggling to get the story down in a cohesive manner.

Since I'm speaking on writing a synopsis in late May, I'm also trying to pay attention to exactly how I go about writing a synopsis, and let me tell you, it's not a process for the faint of heart. Oh, not the synopsis writing itself, the figuring out what exactly it is I'm doing? I've spent twenty plus years writing books and given it very little conscious

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Why We Love Conferences


Current Project: Untitled Suspense
Status: Plugging along


I need some input. This is something we've discussed before and I snooped through the archives and couldn't find exactly what I was looking for, so you get to put forward your answers again.

Why do you go to conferences?

I've been asked to guest blog on the International Thriller Writer's publicity blog for their July Thrillerfest conference. A suggested topic was why would I travel aaaall the way to New York City from Oregon to attend this conference. Lol. I almost said my covered wagon was in good repair and I was confident I could make it. She was a sweetie and very kind to ask me, and I understand that the Pacific Northwest is still a foreign frontier to many living east of the Mississippi River.

For the Thrillerfest conference, it's not the workshops or agents or editors that attract me. It's the writers. I simply want to rub shoulders with the authors I read and adore. Soak up their brilliance and creativity. Have a drink in the bar with Lee Child or Robert Crais. (yeah, I'm dreaming.) So many fabulous authors are attending. The list is insane. Hopefully I won't have too many drooling fangirl moments.

I have a different philosophy and attitude for RWA Nationals. For that conference, I want to learn as much as possible in the workshops and special tours I'm attending. You can imagine how pumped I am for the KOD tours of Quantico and CIA headquarters. Plus I love the networking. I can't wait to meet some of the people I've met online.

I've never been to NYC. The conference is located near Grand Central Station, at the heart of so much to see and do. I only have three and a half days. I need to prioritize what to see in the city. Any suggestions? And can anyone recommend fabulous high heeled shoes that I can walk a mile in without killing my feet? Does such a thing exist?

Help me out here. Give me some great NYC conference attendance reasons I can blog about so I don't sound like a stalker.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Changing tastes


Current Project: Leg Shaving Leads to Trouble
Status: *hears crickets*

My reading tastes are a-changing, and to be honest, I'm not all too happy about it. I rather liked my reading tastes before and I was perfectly content to keep them as they were. But noooooo, they had to alter and I had to become more picky.

I don't like it.

Recent releases of some of my absolute favorite authors just aren't resonating with me as much as I would like. I know it's for many reasons - I like different things, different characters, plots and emotional themes are pulling to me, my sense of humor has changed. But also, I know that authors can change in their writing. I can't like the same things forever, but dang it I'd like to!

There are some series that I would bust down Borders' door at opening to get to the recent release. Now there are times where it's a month or two past release and when I see it in the store my reaction is, "oh, I might as well pick that up." And then I find myself not as pulled in, not as excited as I used to be. It's frustrating me rather thoroughly.

I don't think it's because I'm a more experienced writer, because I'm not. Maybe it's because I'm a more experienced reader? Maybe life experiences of the last couple of years have changed me? Maybe there's an alien living inside of me who is controlling my reading tastes?

Have you noticed a drastic change in favorite genres, authors or type of books?

Saturday, April 04, 2009

SATURDAY CHECK-IN / CHALLENGE


Current Project: untitled proposal
Status: page ten

I stuck two check marks up there to represent the split personality of our Saturday Check-In. Last week, many of us declared a personal goal. How's it coming? If this isn't concrete goal time for you, let us know what's you're up to anyway.

I realized yesterday there isn't going to be one single easy thing about writing this book. Between the inherent complications of the plot, there will be the twists and turns, both internal and external, that intrigue me in a mystery or suspense, so I know I'm in for a ride with this one. Accepting that is a little liberating as I have officially quit thinking that any minute now, it's all going to come together like a well oiled machine. (Hint psyche: if you want to prove me wrong and hit me with flashes of insight, now would be a good time.)

I can't wait to hear how you're all doing. Have a great weekend.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Guest Author - Michelle M. Pillow!

First, a big thank you to the wonderful authors of MWVRWA for having me! As I’m looking at the MWVRWA website, I realize how much I miss visiting Oregon. I haven’t been there for years. I love to travel and explore. It’s probably one of the reasons I became a writer. What other job lets you go about all day reading research books and exploring new worlds. And, we get to call it a tax write-off. It’s the best career ever!

March was a very busy month for me and I’m so happy it’s finally April. I had four book releases. On March 6th, the three books from my fantasy romance series from Samhain re-launched all on the same day. The series is called Realm Immortal. Then, on the 25th, a brand new alternate reality romance series, Divinity Warrior, started at Ellora’s Cave with Lilith Enraptured. Book 2, Fighting Lady Jayne releases next month. I think it’s a good thing I like having something to do.

Divinity Warriors is a prime example of my love of research and exploration. The Divinity Corporation has discovered a way to jump from reality to reality. In fact, they’re the only ones with the technology. So, like every good corporation, they use their advantage to gain power and money. And really, who can regulate a company that has its hand in every plain of existence?

So being set in alternate realities, it’s full of endless possibilities and plenty of reasons to dig into all kinds of research and take those road trips. Ok, so there’s romance and big, alpha warrior men thrown into the mix. In fact, these are some of the most, erm, alpha-y men I’ve ever written. They’ve been raised on a Medieval-like plain where they’ve been fighting an endless war, taught never to love, only of duty and honor. But, oh how fun it is to make the mighty men fall.

After the four Divinity Warrior books, I’m jumping to another plain of reality, then another, then another…

So, how about you all? What’s your ultimate alternate reality?

Me, I think mine would be filled with pasta, no bake chocolate cookies and a society that never had to worry about cholesterol and calories.

***

About the Author
Michelle M. Pillow is a multi-published romance author. Her newest book, Divinity Warrior: Lilith Enraptured releases March 25th from Ellora’s Cave. Check out her website for more details.

Website – www.michellepillow.com
Blog – www.michellepillow.com/blog
Newsletter - http://www.michellepillow.com/newsletter/?p=subscribe

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Devil in the Details

Current Project: Clockwork Cat
Status: Outline (sort of, because I don't outline)

Ever since I started taking three-mile walks with Kinsey (aka Pupzilla), I’ve tugged some old conference workshop CDs from mothballs and am re-listening to a lot of oldies but goodies. The agent and editor panel discussions are obsolete (but entertaining) since this industry changes on a dime, but the craft workshops are still spot on. I’d forgotten how good a lot of them are.

All my conference workshop CDs are from past Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold conferences. They’re awesome. I enjoy listening to the voices of old friends I haven’t seen for a while, and who I look forward to seeing again in the fall. But there are also some excellent workshops conducted by guest speakers, many of whom are award winning and best selling authors.

In 2004, the CG conference was fortunate to have professional journalist and mystery author Jonathan King as our keynote speaker. The man has a journalist’s eye for detail, and he taught two workshops during the conference that reflected his genius. Since I’m making revisions to Mystic Taxi, and one of the issues is including and deleting details that slow or detract from the story, I listened very carefully to Jon’s advice.

It’s vital for journalists to make every word count, so extraneous details and explanations are verboten in their work. As fiction writers, we can learn a lot from good journalism.

Jon read from a variety of examples where the details were precise and telling, using very few words. The emotions ran high in many of them. My favorite was from a piece a journalist wrote about the Oklahoma City Bombing:

After the explosion, people learned to write left handed. To tie just one shoe. They learned to endure pieces of glass embedded in their flesh. To smile with faces that made them want to cry. To cry with glass eyes. They learned in homes where children had played to stand the quiet. They learned to sleep with pills, to sleep alone.

Without explicit explanations about how some people lost their right hands in the blast, their faces disfigured by shrapnel, how they had lost children and loved ones in the tragedy, this description effectively tells readers all they need to know about this life-altering catastrophe. I want to write like that.

He gave another example from a piece he’d written himself, and again it was a journalistic work, about a murder suicide. Jon took the details provided in the police report to paint a picture of how an ordinary afternoon spent at Disneyworld had ended in two tragic deaths. Heartbreaking. A receipt found in the dead man’s pocket revealed that just a couple hours before he shot his wife and then himself, he’d bought them both ice cream at Disneyworld. This is such a telling detail. What does it say about the man’s frame of mind? The man who killed his wife and then himself was a cop, by the way.

I could go on and on because Jonathan King provided dozens of amazing examples, but you’ll get much more from the workshop if you listen to it yourself. I copied the CD track to my computer and would be happy to email it you if you’re able to listen to AIFF audio files. I listen to them through iTunes.

I invite you to select an effective description in your WIP or finished manuscript that you feel is a good example of distinctive detail that tells more than it shows without actually explaining anything. It’s a challenge.