Sunday, May 31, 2009

Saturday (Sunday) CHECK-IN / CHALLENGE


Current Project: A Baby Between Them (new title)
Status: page 125

For me, it's been a slow week, page wise, as I took a couple of days to prepare for my talk on writing a synopsis and yesterday we had an open house so we had to leave the premises. That means I wrote less than thirty pages in my four day week which isn't great. It also means I have a lot of ground to cover this week but I'm looking forward to it.

I received a letter from a very nice woman in PA who had enjoyed a couple of my books and passed them along to her friends. Once again, I'm touched by the thoughtfulness of a reader who takes the time to express their enthusiasm to an author. I think of all the writers who have thrilled and amused and touched me over the years and I've never sent any of them a thank you. It's humbling, but maybe romance readers, who have to be as big a sucker for a happy ending as we romance writers are, are just nicer people!

Head's up on the movie New in Town. It's a romantic comedy, a genre I grew tired of some while ago, but this one was really cute -- even the dh chuckled his way through it.

I hope you all are satisfied with what you got done and are enthusiastic for what you still have to do.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Guest Blogger Lisa Hendrix!

Today we're lucky to have Berkley author Lisa Hendrix with us! If you happened to make it to the last MWV RWA meeting, you got to hear Lisa speak in person. If not, you're in for a special treat. Lisa writes paranormal historical romances, and her Immortal Brotherhood series is on the road to doing very well. Book One, Immortal Warrior, started the series last fall, and Book Two, Immortal Outlaw, launches next week!

Please help me in welcoming Lisa Hendrix!

***

Cease and Desist

Current project: Immortal Champion (Book III)
Status: Behinder (as in "The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.")


I had a terrific idea for this guest post. I was going to write about the animals in my real life, segué to the were-beasts in my Immortal Brotherhood series, and tie it all up neatly in a discussion of Animal Magnetism, both the original concept and today's meaning of raw sexual charisma and how to use the concept to juice up your own heroes, animal or not.

Summarized like that, I though it sounded pretty good--different, at least, and perhaps useful and entertaining. I figured that with such a thorough idea of where I was going (unusual when I sit down to blog), I could bang the piece out, complete with research links, in a couple of hours.

Not.

I worked at it on and off all day yesterday. I researched. I linked. I revised and reshaped and revisited the germ of the idea to push it further. And at 1 am today I had...a piece of crap.

Now, Nora often says you've gotta give yourself permission to write crap, and it's a concept I believe in. While I'm writing, I have a file called Junk Drawer where all the crap I churn out resides before it is finally and forever erased. But when you've got a blog post due, that pile of pixels in the Trash bin is no consolation. So at 1:05 am, I finally admitted I had gone off track somewhere and I went to bed thinking it would all be clear this morning. It wasn't. At this point, I'm not sure it every will be, but I still have this post to get to Elisabeth (remembering the S this time), so I did what every good writer does when s/he doesn't know what to do: anything else.

In this case, the procrastinatory activity was shopping. To be fair, it was necessary shopping—my daughter's 8th grade class is having their end of year luau today, and they needed more junk food—but it did involve spending money, which is always therapeutic (as are the dark chocolate bars that somehow ended up in the cart...) I also had a face-to-face with dd's principal—does anyone else have to mutter "The principal is your PAL" every time they type that word?--about a series of potentially worrying incidents that might or might not reveal some over-zealous policing by certain staff (e.g., one woman grilled my daughter intently about a T-shirt graphic she thought might be a gang sign. I'm sorry, but anyone who works in a middle school should recognize the World Wildlife Federation panda bear, don't you think?).

Anyway, the distractions, the shopping, and the chocolate worked their magic. As I was driving home, listening to some guy talk about yoga on the local NPR station, I suddenly knew what my subject is. Really. I do have a subject. All this wandering has a point, and that point is that there is a lesson in all that angst over the Animal Magnetism post, a lesson I have to review every now and again (more often than I'd like):

Sometimes you've just got to walk away.

It's a tough thing to do, especially when you're sure it's a good idea, when you've put a lot of time or invested your heart in the project, when you know it could be a terrific piece, if only you can get it right. It's easy to convince yourself that it would be a waste of time to throw all that work away. It's overwhelming to think you have to start over with an empty file and a brand new concept. Really, just a little more work...

I've written at least half-a-dozen proposals that went nowhere. That's full proposals, synopsis and three chapters, all written after I was a published author, that just didn't have the magic. I could probably have pounded each one into a salable form -- and to be honest, there are a couple that I think still may pay off, just as I think that at some point that Animal Magnetism post will see the light of day. But at the time, they hadn't fermented enough, were beyond my skills, whatever. I don't know why, but they wouldn't work. I struggled too hard with the writing, and they came out as crap and remained that way no matter what I did. To keep my sanity and stay on any kind of career path, I had to walk away from them.

The hard part, of course, is knowing when the crap is the kind Nora is talking about, the kind that's just your brain sorting out the story, or when it's the kind that just draws you under like quicksand and suffocates you. The stuff I was writing yesterday was the latter kind; it just plain sucked. If the time ever comes that I feel the need to revisit the Animal Magnetism idea, I will not go back to what I had. In fact, the file is going into Trash as soon as I hit save on this one. When the time comes, I'll start over from scratch, just like I did this morning with this new topic.

And guess what? This only took me 30 minutes to write. It may be crap, too, but it's Nora style crap, the good kind. Something that can be polished 'til it shines.

But I'm late, so I'm sending it out this way. Like my son, graduating from high school next week, it may not be quite ready for the world, but it has a spirit I like, and so I'm letting go.

Have you ever had to walk away from a project? How did you know that it was time, and that your weren't just being chicken?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A New Point of View

Current Project: Whiskers and Wine
Status: Story Dreaming

I've got lots going on today, like Wavy had yesterday, so this is going to be a quick post. And to steal from Wavy, I'm presenting you with an exercise! I like writing exercises.

I've never had point of view problems, first or third, makes no difference. I love writing them all. However, when it comes to tailoring point of view for a specific character, it may take me a few tries to get it right. I need to have a good feeling for the character whose voice I'm using.

In my ambitious women's fiction project, my heroine, aside from being an aspiring pole dancer, makes her living as a cat behaviorist. She's owned by 5 cats. I want to write a few scenes from a cat's point of view. This is a light-hearted story, so there are moments of humor, but nothing slapstick stupid. So I won't be going into lolcatz speak. But the voice of the cat(s) will be arrogant, bratty, and childlike, which is how I perceive my own kitties.

Your assignment, should you be so inclined, is to write something -- anything -- from your pet's point of view. Cat, dog, bird, fish, ferret, makes no difference. And if you don't have a pet, borrow a friend's. Or use the squirrel that hangs out in the tree in your yard. How about a bee or a fly? Just slip into alien skin and see what comes out.

I almost used an exorcise from my book CAFFEINE FOR THE CREATIVE MIND, but the 250 exercises in there are mostly on the eccentric side. But, if you'd rather not write from an alien perspective, how about coming up with a happy meal toy for an adult? That should get your synapses snappin'. :) Have fun!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Backstory Exercise!

Current Project: Synopsis
Status: Seventh Circle of Something . . .


I'm swamped today, so I'm going to be lazy and piggy back on the heels of Debbie's great post. Go read this great blog by Jennifer Crusie. She talks about how much you can tell about people from what is in their fridge (and how clean it is!). Now my task for you, in the interest of learning more about your characters is pick three characters who are not the hero and heroine and tell me what's in their fridges. So many times we focus and focus on the main characters, but rich secondary characters are important too.

I'm eager to see what you come up with!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Backstory

Current Project: Shadows Inc.
Status: Workin' on it!

My apologies for posting so late today. I had my post all typed up last night, but thought I'd just go ahead and post it manually this morning. What happened? My internet has been down all day and I just got it back! On the one hand, I couldn't do much work at the day job. On the other hand, it allowed me a strange kind of freedom to write. I took advantage of that and wrote almost 1000 words! Now on to my regularly scheduled post. :-)

How much do you know about your characters and when do you want to know it? Yep, this post's all about backstory.

Everything I write becomes a learning experience. Some things I learn easily, others take me longer. Knowing how much backstory I want to know about my characters before I start writing them is one of those things that I'm still learning about myself.

I think one of the reasons so many of my early efforts have fizzled and not gone the distance to a full novel is because I didn't really know my characters. I've made charts like nobody's business--give them goals and motivation and figure out conflict--but I usually stopped there, thinking that was good enough. And what did I end up with? Cardboard (and sometimes not even that strong). I hadn't asked myself the deeper Why? behind the words on those charts.

Sure, I've written plenty of words of what I thought was backstory. A character was born here and went to that school and did this and had that happen to him. But I've rarely thought beyond those superficial descriptions. How would those experiences shape him? Why does he make the decisions he makes? I've asked what my character really wants. I haven't asked and answered why does he want it--why does this mean so much to him?

I still want to be surprised by my characters as I write their story. But somehow I need to balance that with also knowing, fundamentally, who my characters are before I start writing. I'm learning that means more than knowing their name and a few sentences about their story "goal." ;-)

I've read blog posts and interviews with other writers who have said they know next to nothing about their characters, that they learn who they are as they write the story. At this point I can't even imagine doing that, but maybe it's because I'm still so new at all this. What about you? How much do you know, or want to know, about your characters before you start to write?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Back in the Groove or When life sucks the life out of your writinu


Current Project:Doctor In Petticoats
Status: page 251

As you know (from all my complaining) I've had company the past two weeks. I'd just gotten on a roll with the WIP when I was descended upon. The company left on Saturday, then my dh hauled me off to Princeton to finish setting up a wheel line.

Now I'm trying to get myself back into the WIP. I MUST HAVE IT DONE by mid-June. I can see the whole thing played out in my head, but hope it flows as well from my fingers to the monitor as I see it.

To get back into the story, I'll start reading it a few chapters before where I stopped and review my research.

When you get stopped in the middle of a project- what do you do to get back into the story?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

SATURDAY CHECK-IN / CHALLENGE


Current Project:HIS BABY
Status:page 100

Okay, technically I'm not on page 100, I'm more like at page 96, but I'm projecting forward to the end of today when I plan to be well past 100. It's funny how in a situation where every day counts, your body and mind can kind of zone. That's what I did this week. Twenty-five pages for a week isn't meeting my goals as stated last week, so I got me some catching up to do!

Meanwhile, how is everyone else coming with their plan?

Yesterday, while at Albertsons, I met a woman in the deli section who kept me waiting to place my order by attending to other concerns. When she apologized I told her it wasn't good enough, I'd need it in writing. She responded by saying maybe I needed it in blood. I told her that sounded good and look at all those handy saws back there. She faked hanging herself and we laughed at how clever we were. Anyway, as she sliced turkey for me, we kept talking and it turns out she's quite the reader and her favorite thing to read is romance. She loves Nora Roberts and Nora's alter ego, JD Robb. Her daughter reads Danielle Steel. I told her a woman in a Florida correctional institute had written to tell me I was better than Danielle Steel. (Or is it Steele?) Anyway, she wanted my name to look me up so I gave her a card and warned her that the word of a woman serving five to ten years for fraud might not be the best judge. I looked at her name tag so I could bring her a book the next time I'm in Albany. Her name was Flossie.

Flossie was the name of the fictional female girlfriend of our tabby cat, Mickey. That is, according to my father. The stories he wound about Flossie were a huge part of the manner in which my father and I communicated when I was a teenager. If he had some lesson to teach me, it always seemed Mickey or Flossie was the character he chose to illustrate his point.

I'd never met anyone named Flossie before. It seemed as though Dad was there for a second. Weird, but when someone says what's in a name? I now know how to answer -- lots.

Happy writing!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Procrastination at it's best

Current Project: Deceived
Status: Chapter 6

For those of you who live under a rock, word around MWV is that I am 'le procrastinator extraordinaire'. That's no big secret. I'm also easily distractable. Take my recent foray into book trailers. Do I watch a lot of book trailers? Not really. But I do think ones done well can be a very cool aspect of promoting a book. They're also a neat element to add to all those guest blog spots one does to promo their upcoming book. But me? Was I planning to put together a trailer for my next release, STOLEN HEAT? Ha! Not. Who has time? I don't even know how movie software works!

Yes...you see where this is going. Rewind to Sunday night. When Kensington pal, Delilah Marvelle, posted the new book trailer for her August book on another loop. Suddenly I was staring at the screen thinking, "Hm...suckopsis or book trailer. Suckopsis or book trailer...I think I HAVE to look into what it takes to make a trailer!"

Zoom ahead a few hours (2am I think it was when I finally went to bed Sunday night...on top of being a procrastinator, I'm also OCD which means once I latch on to something I don't let it go until I perfect it), then the countless (all-day) hours I gave up Monday working on the darn thing. A few (several) eyebrows missing from my frustration and voila...you have the following:



I'm still not done with the suckopsis, but I'm getting close. But of course, since I'm in book trailer mode, I have to ask...what do you think of trailers? Have any ever inspired you to buy a book? Have you seen any really great ones?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

SUPPORTING FELLOW WRITERS


Posted by: Genene Valleau
Current Project: Edits to novella, CHASING RAINBOWS
Status: Getting close to finishing those edits (and my bathroom!)


Our chapter meeting is tonight and I hope to see many of you there. Our guest speaker is Lisa Hendrix, whose book, IMMORTAL OUTLAW, will hit the shelves on June 2. This is the second book in her Immortal Warriors series, which features heroes who have been cursed to live forever as half men and half beasts--at least until love breaks the curse. Maybe we can pose Alice's blog question to Lisa and ask her what provided the spark for that series!

As I thought about our meeting my thoughts meandered in another direction: how fortunate we are to have the support of other writers and how that support varies. Here are some examples of how we support fellow writers:

--Lisa is taking the time to speak to our chapter and share her knowledge with us, as other authors do.

--At meetings and on the chapter loop, we share good news.

--We challenge others to set goals.

--We celebrate when others reach their goals.

--We sympathize, empathize and offer encouragement when others receive rejections or when writing isn't going well.

--We buy the books of other authors.

--We go to booksignings and/or share tables at booksignings.

--We share our own expertise and experiences to help others.

--We suggest resources and share research ideas.

--We share ideas for promotion.

--We brainstorm ideas and/or critique the work of others.

It didn't take long for me to come up with this list of how we support each other. What other ways do we offer support to each other? Has someone provided support that has been especially important to you?

How fortunate we are to know other writers!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

SPARKS


Current Project: HIS BABY
Status: Page 90

We've talked about where we get our ideas before. Most of the time, however, we speak in generalities. We say we listen to music or see something inspiring or hear something interesting. We join a piece of an old article tucked away in out files together with the memory of an old love or we read something and then overhear a conversation and then listen to the radio…

Today, as I watched Eli's wonderful trailer for her coming release, Stolen Heat, I wondered about the defining moment of the conception for her idea. Every book has one, that original spark, that moment when you started spinning the what-ifs in your head, the moment you set the first brick or dug the first hole or climbed the first step.

I know you all have projects going but I can't say as I know where any of your ideas came from. I admit that sometimes the origins are not that clear, that it seems to be such a conglomeration of this and that it's almost impossible to define the original spark. If that's the case for your current WIP, then think back to a former book or forward to an idea whose conception you recall.

Specifically, what lit the match? Was it a character in need of a story? Was it a story in need of a character? Was it a beginning scene or a situation?

The book I am currently writing started a year ago. The dh and I were driving to the coast. I was daydreaming as I looked out the window. I thought of a car careening off the road into the tangled underbrush through which we were passing. An accident. Wait, the car gets into the accident because the passenger is being abducted and she is trying to gain control of the car. But it's a terrible accident and she ends up with injuries. The abductor is relatively unhurt, but the heroine can't remember who she is and that means that anything the abductor tells her and the authorities will be accepted if 1.) he has the same last name and claims he's her husband and 2.) no one knows she's missing.

At the time I could see no way to make this fit my current market and thus I shelved it. Eventually it morphed into the book I just sold and am currently writing. And it all started by looking out the window as we drove along a road.

I would really love to know where all your current idea came from, the more specific the starting point, the better. Even if you are writing a series, there has to be something that inspired the current book. That moment when your pulse quickened is the very essence of storytelling. Share it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

In the Blink of an Eye


Current Project: Untitled RS
Status: Major revisions to outline


I reviewed my post from last week about the boost I'd received from a contest final. I'd been in a bit of a slump and frustrated, and the contest had given my writing some new life. Funny how fast things can change.


On Friday my family was hit with some hard news about my father's health, and once again I find my self staring at a blank screen with no words in my brain. More testing will be done this week to inform us of the degree of "bad." I'm working on the skeleton outline of my story, because it doesn't require the creativity of the actual scene structure.


A topic for this blog was nearly impossible so here is a link to a blog of Tess Gerritson's about newbies that made me smile this morning. http://www.murderati.com/blog/2009/5/5/wont-take-advice-good-luck.html

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pen names


Current Project: Leg Shaving Leads to Trouble
Status: In progress

One writing-related issue I've been thinking a lot about lately is pen names. Some of you may know I adopted one recently - Lisa Leoni. I made this change for several reasons. I had been going by Lisa Pulliam, which was my married name for several years. Now that I'm divorced, it seems appropriate to use a new name. I was asked why don't I use my maiden/current name instead of creating a new one. Good question. And my answer may give you a frightening glimpse into my mind.

I want to become an anthropology professor and bioarchaeologist. That may be old news to many of you. But as a professor, I would be using my maiden name (because let's face it, I'm never changing my name again, haha!) I have this vision of 15 years from now, what could happen if I were using my maiden name for both my day job and writing. Picture this...

It's a Monday morning and I've just chugged a liter of Diet Coke to brace my nerves to face my intro to archaeology class. I just spent all weekend grading their essay exams and they were rubbish. I'm angry - feeling like the students don't care or don't understand and aren't asking for help. I'm frustrated with campus politics and I just hit a snag with planned summer research and field school. To sum up - I'm P.O.'d. I walk in to class with my game face on, ready to read them the riot act about how they aren't living up to their potential, they need to take college more seriously, they are paying to learn this stuff for crying out loud. I slam the stack of essay exams on the table and try to stare them down. Billy, the jerky class clown in the back raises his hand. I don't want to call on him, but I have to. I try to stay stern and I nod for him to speak. "There sure is a lot of sex in your books. Is it all from experience?" Then I die.

So that, dear friends, is why I chose a pen name instead of my maiden name. I just don't like the idea of mixing an academic career with a writing career. I don't want to censor my writing because I'm worried if it will affect my work, tenure, etc. It's stupid that it needs to be worried about, but I guess that's the world we live in.

Why did I change it now? I redesigned my writing Web site and I figured I might as well launch it under the name I'm going to use. There's always the question - do you figure out a pen name once you sell, or do it before. In this technological time where editors seem to rely on an author's Web presence, it seems crucial to start building your name well before you sell. I feel like I'm taking 10 steps back by dropping Pulliam, which I've had for several years - but using a new name feels right.

Enough about me. Do you use a pen name? If so, why do you use one? How did you come up with it? If you don't use a pen name, why did you choose to use your real name?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

100 DAY CHALLENGE


Current Project: His Baby
Status: Page 71

It's official, Eli's 100 day challenge is now ON. Are you ready to commit to a hundred days of ... well, something? Your choice. It can be a thousand words a day, it can be sitting in front of the computer every day, it can involve numbers of pages, it can be whatever you want. I suggest choosing a goal that's a stretch (without stretching, what's the challenge?) but not so far-fetched that you set yourself up for failure. And since we're all so diverse and we all have commitments outside our writing lives, it's not a one size fits all situation.

Wavy has been very clear about naming her goals and either achieving them or redefining them. I think that's an excellent way to proceed. And I think the message on the picture above is particularly appropriate for writers. In case it comes out too small to read, this is what it says -- "Winners Must Have Two Things: Definite Goals and Burning Desire to Achieve Them."

Amen.

My goal is to average 1000 words a days. That means I can take a day or two off now and again if I make up for it on the days preceding or following. I need this caveat for the challenge to be realistic because I've found I don't write too well on days I spend visiting my mother and it's not an option to give up seeing her! I also need this goal as it will take that kind of follow through (actually, a good deal more than that) to make my first deadline on July 20th.

I hope everyone finds someway to make this goal their own. And Eli, if I stated it poorly or missed the nuances you were thinking about, enlighten us!

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Call!!

Today I'm thrilled to welcome recently acquired Kensington author, Kristina McMorris to our blog!

For those of you who don't know Kristina, I'll fill you in on all the deets. Kristina and I finaled together in the Golden Heart in 2007, where I met and fell in instant adoration of this fun-loving writer who is also a member of the Portland Rose City Romance Writers. Not only is Kristina beautiful, tall, skinny and bright, she's also mom to two little boys, is an actress, a talk-show host, an award-winning writer and now...published author. (I know, I know...you want to hate her because of all that...I did too...but keep reading. Trust me, Kristina is a hoot.) Kristina recently got the call from Kensington for her WWII love story, LETTERS FROM HOME - which will be a Valentine's Day, February 2011 release - and she's here today to tell us all about her "call".

So help me by welcoming Kristina!!

*****


Greetings from waaaay up north! Okay, just Portland. But I’m still convinced it rains at least thirty more days of the year than down in your tropical neck of the woods. :)

Well, it’s been a crazy week – what with planning my best friend’s baby shower (take away games like “Identify the Chewed-up Snickers in the Diaper” game, and you gotta get creative); being sucked into the time-swallowing machine that is Facebook (thanks a lot, Elisabeth! Btw, I already have more friends than you...); and explaining to my child – without smiling – why the escape-from-Alcatraz breakout he pulled at preschool with his best friend, a map, and a mission for ice cream wasn’t necessarily a hit with the faculty. I’m not joking.

Anyhow, amidst all that, I did manage to review, sign and mail back my very first publishing contract. Um, let me repeat that: “my very first PUBLISHING CONTRACT!!!” (Sorry, the reiteration was solely for MY benefit, not yours. Moving on to my call story...)

In January 2009, I signed with my third-time’s-a-charm agent. She immediately began to submit my novel, LETTERS FROM HOME, a WWII love story inspired by my grandparents’ epistolary courtship. Previously, during its yearlong reign as a 2007 Golden Heart finalist, the manuscript made the publishing-house rounds with agent #1, garnered significant film option interest, but alas no literary sale. Two years, two agents, and one contemporary ms. later, I decided to revisit my WWII labor of love, giving the book a major overhaul with skills I had gained along the way, thus transforming my first novel into my third.

Within a few days of our submission launch, my agent called with news: John Scognamiglio (don’t try pronouncing that without the help of a native Italian), editor-in-chief of Kensington Publishing, had read LETTERS over the weekend, loved it, thought it was a page-turner, and was taking it to acquisitions. (Yes, I indeed squealed over the phone, but held off popping the champagne!) And so, we waited... one week... two weeks.... three.... four... and FINALLY after seven excruciating weeks, received word that due to concerns over marketing aspects of a WWII love story, my poor little ms. had been subjected to several additional reads.

Fortunately, in the end, LETTERS passed the test, and Kensington indeed made an official offer. But still no champagne popping allowed. Since the ms. was in the middle of second and third reads at two other large houses, my agent gave me strict instructions: I could tell my mother and my husband, but kids, CPs, and friends were off limits until we gave our answer by our one-week deadline. It was a loooong week. Sort of like winning the lottery and not being able to tell ANYONE! (And really, what’s the point of that?!)

Anyhow, we ultimately accepted the offer and I couldn’t be happier! And yes, I’ve since popped some champagne, and even thrown in a few truffles.

Thanks for letting me share. I hope my story provides inspiration for those of you who, like me, have a labor-of-love ms. you stubbornly refuse to give up on. So write what you love, no matter what the “market” says will or won’t sell, and no matter what, keep typing.

And now...a question for all of you. If you are already published, was your call story all that you hoped it would be? And if you are as-yet unpubbed, share the fantasy. I know you have one. How do you envision your call happening?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Betwixt and Between

Current Project: MYSTIC TAXI
Status: Agent revisions

What do you do when you find yourself between projects? That's where I am right now, and I think I know what I'll work on next, but I'm not a hundred percent sure.

Right now I'm making revisions to Mystic Taxi for my agent, and they're mostly in the last half of the book. A couple of them will make it hard to prevent a ripple effect in the rest of the book, but I think I have it mostly figured out. Then after I'm done? *crickets*

What I'd like to do is start on the next book in the Mystic series, but I had an hour- long conversation with my agent last week about "next steps." She'd rather I not work on sequels to either of my "as yet" unsold series. She doesn't want me wasting time on the off chance neither sells. So she wants me to write something new.

So we talked about new stuff. I have a half dozen ideas scribbled down that I'd like to pursue someday, and not all are the same genre. I love dark, edgy stuff with a strong supernatural slant, but I also like light, sensitive material with a mild supernatural slant. The supernatural weirdness is my signature and it's in everything I write, even when it's only a subtle hint.

I told my agent about my pole dancer story idea, and she wasn't too sure about it, mostly because the idea is too bare bones at this point. My MC's character arc is sketchy. However, I've been story dreaming on it and I think I have it together now, along with a full cast of quirky offbeat folks in a small coastal town in Oregon. It's more like women's fiction, but with a magical realism quality similar to Alice Hoffman (whose work I adore). I'll write the first chapter of WHISKERS AND WINE along with a one-page synopsis to send my agent for her feedback before I go any further. We both agreed that was the best way to start.

One point my agent emphasized was that I should write whatever excites me.

An agent has more value than just selling your book. He or she is also your guidance counselor. Most agents, though not all, represent your career as well as your book. I've come to depend on my agent for advice both on my work (she's really, really good at that) and my writing future. I feel like I'd be floundering right now without her.

Within the groups and forums I'm on, it's common for some writers to agonize over one completed project, the book that was meant to open doors to a future they'd dreamed about for a lifetime. They have no other projects started. No other books completed. They just received a rejection on the full requested by their dream agent. Or if they have an agent, he or she has approached every publisher in the country and all of them passed on the book. These depressed writers are ready to give up. It's so sad, and so unnecessary. Writers write. We can't help ourselves. No wonder they're depressed.

Do you have your career mapped out? I know Genene has her ambitious series planned (I bow down to Genene's courage and fortitude *grin*), Eli has her work cut out for her, and Alice is a storytelling machine. :) How about the rest of you? Do you know what your next book will be? Is there anything that could happen that might make you change your mind? Or will you stand by your original goal no matter what?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Motivation, Baby

Current Project: Contest Entries
Status: Almost done with one, two to go

If you haven't seen Debbie's awesome post from yesterday, read that first because mine ties neatly into the same topic of reading like a writer. I've just finished three fabulous five-star books (I love it when this happens): The Club by Sharon Page (Historical/Spicy), Happiness Sold Separately by Lolly Winston (Women's Fiction), and Delicious by Sherry Thomas (Historical). And of course, I had to analyze each one to figure out what made it work and why. Each features memorable, unusual characters and intricate plotting, but one thing that stood out to me is motivation.

Each of these books reaches a point where hero/heroine/a secondary character (or all three!) act in an absurd fashion. Extreme actions and reversals are very tricky things--if they fall flat, you risk the reader sending your book on a one-trip to the nearest wall, but if you don't push the limits, you risk a flat book that fails to fully engage the reader. What makes the above trio work is that each time an extreme action is taken, the character's motivation is clear. Now, this next bit is absolutely critical: Even though the character is doing absurd thing, even things that don't fit who they were at the beginning of the book, things that we would never do, the action is 100% consistent with the motivation.

For example, in Happiness Sold Separately, Elinor (the main character) spends a night under the tree in her front yard. This is the type of extreme action that can easily fail as being unbelievable and seemingly used just to advance the plot or shock the reader. However, in this case, Elinor's action gives a deeper insight into who she is because the unexpected action is grounded in realistic motivation: she's desperate to change something, she's already been bonding with this particular tree, and she doesn't want to sleep in her bedroom. Elinor's relationship with the tree is a central theme of the story, so the action makes sense.

Now, here's my challenge for you: What is the most extreme or absurd action that one of your characters takes? What is the motivation for this action? Is it clear? Is it clear immediately after the action is taken? If not, how long does your reader have to wait? Could the reader summarize the motivation in a single sentence without any qualifiers? Can you think of books that are unsatisfying because the motivation for a particular action isn't clear?

I look forward to seeing your replies!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Reading as a Writer?

Current Project: Shadows Inc. (definitely in search of a new title)
Status: Still working on chapter one

Sorry this is a little late, but I'm posting this from my mom's place and have had a little networking trouble.

I was looking for something to read last night and picked up one of the romance novels on my mom's bookshelf. It's a reprint of a novel originally published in the early 90s. The author is rather better known today, but you can still hear her voice (or at least the beginnings of her voice) in the pages of this early work of hers.

I don't usually analyze a book while I'm reading it for pleasure. Even so, I couldn't help but notice the way the author lets the reader in on the thing that's most important in the world to the heroine from the the very first sentence (the "thing" being keeping her family together). The first couple of chapters are all about building up how important this is to the heroine. So much so, in fact, that I'm curious to get to the end to see if the heroine gives up this goal freely, as Elisabeth talked about in her last post. I'm also curious to see if other structural elements jump out at me as obviously as this did.

Maybe it's because I've been working so hard lately on understanding how to put the pieces of my own stories together. Or maybe it's just that the more I write the more I recognize the "nuts and bolts" of other stories. It doesn't always happen -- I love it when I get sucked into a story even when I'm trying to analyze it -- but I find it interesting when it does.

I'm learning to appreciate reading on several levels at once. Is this something that happens to every writer at some point in their development?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Karma


Current Project: Doctor in Petticoats
Status: 52,000 words

A friend sent me an e-mail for “Great Karma”. The very first thing on the list was: Take into account that great love and great achievement involve great risk.

This statement had me staring at it and not pushing the button to go on. This is so true in life and in how a writer should go about thinking about a story.

Risk and love-

In life, you give your love to someone but that doesn’t mean it will be taken and you can end up shattered when it’s thrown back in your face.

In a story, you want one or both of your characters to be fearful of committing to the other or loving them- it makes great conflict, but it also makes them vulnerable a trait everyone can relate to and root for.

Risk and Achievement-

In life, everyone struggles to achieve something whether it’s getting out of a wheelchair and they risk falling or they’ve put money into something, or you’ve put all your emotions into a book and you’re looking for an agent/editor/ good review. Risk is something that is always knocking on the door and you can either hide from it and never try to achieve anything or do your best and hope the risk pays off.

In a story, risk is what keeps the story moving forward- it’s the momentum that keeps the character charging to the end and if all goes well they achieve their goal. It may not be the one they first started out wanting, but they end up finding out the risk was worth the reward or sacrifice.

I know we’ve said this before- writers seem to see something about writing in everything. What lately have you seen or read that reminded you about the writing process?

Saturday, May 09, 2009

SATURDAY CHECK-IN / CHALLENGE


Current Project:HIS BABY
Status: still waiting

I have absolutely nothing to report. Other than polishing up the end of chapter three, I haven't written in two weeks which is okay as this is either the lull before the next storm or the lull before coming up with different proposals (should the current material be passed over). Instead, I've been happily planting flower boxes and trying to keep the house clean and picked up for the hoards (not) of would be buyers who cross our threshold (never.)

Eli issued a challenge last week and I would happily turn it over to her now but she's off to the coast with her family, so maybe next weekend she can expand on it. Meanwhile, good luck to Genene, Chris and Chris at their Blue Pepper signing today between 1:00-4:00 p.m. I believe I read somewhere Rosemary was joining them. I'll be there if I can make it!

You know the drill, now it's your turn...

Friday, May 08, 2009

Could You Let Go?

Current Project: DECEIVED
Status: Chapter Five

Last night I finished critting my CP's latest manuscript. I can't begin to tell you how fabulous this book is. I have that tingly feeling reading it because I know it's going to sell. It's THAT good. And it's fun to know that ahead of time, because I think it rarely happens. However, something struck me last night when I was reading the climax. Something we all probably instinctively know, but don't often think about.

A few years ago, Chris York gave a talk to our chapter about plotting. And one thing she said has stuck in my mind for years: Think about your main character's goal. What do they want most? Got it? Now, make sure at the end of the book, they give that up. Freely.

It seems silly. You write 400+ pages, working overtime to get your hero to his goal, and then he has to give it up in the black moment? No!

But...aha! grasshoppers...yes. He must. That sacrifice is the ultimate payoff for the reader. It's the moment when he shows the depth of his love in a romance. It's the key to his character arc and the one thing that makes his entire story worth being told.

Reading my CP's book last night, I saw this point where the hero had to give up the one thing he'd wanted and worked for and nearly died for. I saw him give it up without being coerced. And I saw how it changed him. He wasn't afraid. He wasn't upset. He knew he was doing the only thing he could do. He was not the same man he'd been at the beginning of the book. And that, THAT is why we read romance. Not for the dialogue or adventure or sex or suspense. We read for the change. To see how love and loss and life can change a person for the better.

Every time I sit down to write, I think about my characters and what they really want. In STOLEN FURY, Rafe wanted those relics more than anything in the world. But at the end of the book, he was willing to give up what he'd spent so long looking for because he'd learned there were things in life more important than his wants and needs. 400 pages is a looooong time to push a character toward a goal. But if you're writing a romance, and doing it right, by the time your character gets to that point, he should be willing to give up his goal for the person he loves. If he isn't, there's no character arc. And without a life lesson learned, there's simply no point.

Think about your current wip. Or the last book you read. What did the main character give up? And what did they learn?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

SHAMELESS SHARED PROMOTION


Current Project: Edits to CHASING RAINBOWS
Status: Getting there!

I'm looking forward to this weekend, because on Saturday I'll be sharing a booksigning with three friends I've known for quite some time: Christine Young, Chris Kraemer, and Rosemary Indra.

What are the advantages of shared promotion? The biggest one I can think of right now is you don't have to sit at a table alone wondering if you're going to sell even one copy of your books!

Shared promotion can also be kinder to the budget with two or more authors splitting the cost of printing or ads or other promotional items.

On the flip side, what if you don't agree with your "partners" on expenses or the way to approach a certain project? This can strain a friendship or damage a working relationship.

It helps to be clear on what each of you wants and expects. Agree on how much money to spend before starting a project. Start with one project and, if that works, then talk about other projects you might want to share. Or, you may share projects with different authors. For instance, as Rogue's Angels, Chris Young, Chris Kraemer and I are working on stories for a February 2010 anthology and are doing promotion for that release. For the booksigning this weekend, Rosemary Indra will also be joining us. In June, there's a Book Festival that will involve thirty-plus authors, several from the Mid-Willamette Valley chapter as well as the Portland romance writers chapter and other non-romance writers.

What about you? As a writer, have you done shared promotion? Was it beneficial? As a reader, does the recommendation of another author influence your decision to buy a book?

If you want to see shared promotion in action, please join Chris, Chris, Rosemary and me this Saturday, May 9, from 1:00-4:00 p.m. at the Blue Pepper in downtown Salem. We'll have e-books, print books, free refreshments and goodies to give away. Hope to see you there!


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

LEARNING 101


Current Project: HIS BABY sequel
Status: waiting to hear...

I have a good friend who used to teach college creative writing. She is intelligent and funny and all the rest and she's also long winded. One time she confessed it was her habit to say things three different times to her students, varying the telling just a little. It was her impression they learned better this way.

It's about then I began to notice something: when she talked to me, she said everything important three times in three slightly different ways. It became a mental game to click them off as she spoke. Eventually, I teased her about it. Another teacher friend used to emphasis the importance of presenting material in several different ways. Some people have to see the written word, some have to hear it spoken, some need the reinforcement of writing the information down, etc...

Which brings me to the number one way I remember certain things and that's by the time honored route of abject humiliation.
For instance, one of my early editors and I were talking one day when she mentioned how little editing I required -- BUT she sure wished I would learn the difference in "then" and "than." She said it in such a weary voice, it froze me cold. I immediately looked it up and to this day I seldom make the mistake. The lesson stuck.

A CP friend once looked at the following at the finish of one of my books: - the end - . She made a note: "Don't go all T.S. Elliot on us, capitalize it." Again, the horror I might be thought to be doing something pretentious halted me in my tracks. LOL, nowadays I might not even pay attention, but at the time, it embarrassed me.

Remember when a stray bullet intended for President Reagan hit (I believe his press secretary), James Brady? I was later reading an article on the man. It mentioned he kept a pair of scissors in his desk and cut out each and every "that" that crossed his desk. I can't remember if this was an illustration of his dislike of the word or a fact, but it really made an impression on me. Now, most of the thats in my books have to work to belong and it came as a huge surprise when my last copy editor -- a new one to me -- went through my manuscript and added a lot of them back in where I had laboriously taken them out. I took them out again, but the lesson I learned here is this -- perhaps it's not enough to take them out, perhaps I need to rework the sentence.

Ditto on something else I read. The writer claimed using the word "said" should be enough. Ditch "reply" and "asked" and "responded" this person said. I also took this advice to heart as it made sense to me. This last copy editor is the only one I've ever had who crossed out half my said (s) and used other words. So, I crossed out her words which seemed silly to me and didn't sound like my voice. My poor editor is going to have to go back and make all the changes.

Then there's the whole its/it's subject. That one came home when a much published author friend made a note at the top of one of my manuscript pages and simply wrote it's=it is. I know, I know, hardly brain surgeon stuff, but it made an impression and I find myself mumbling it to myself every time I use the word.

After I joined this group, some of members talked about the horror of ly words. The first book I wrote after hearing the discussion left the house with no ly words in it. I actually did a search. I tore out everything, right down to the word "really." I was possessed. Then I began noticing how many of the writers I read use these words and how little it really bothered me and I chilled out. I still don't use them a lot, I never have, but it's one of the breakable rules like avoiding run on sentences and never beginning a sentence with "And" or "But" . I got over it.

Looking back I can see most or all of these lessons involve grammar which would not surprise my high-school teachers one bit. How about you? Are there some lessons you've learned the hard (embarrassed) way or are you able to pick up information and use it upon first reading or hearing it?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Black Holes



Current Project: Revising my Daphne entry
Status: Uh...need to start ASAP-due Thurs



Everyone in this business suffers slumps. I wish there was magic that would occur once a contract was signed where all motivation would be consistent. I wish we'd always have fantastic ideas and sparkling prose and heart tugging characters that automatically pop in our heads. There should only be ups. No more downs.

I've been in a slump for a while. It's been like pulling teeth (can there be a more lame analogy?) to get the words on the page. I schedule my writing time and force myself to open that blasted document and pound out my lines. Then I delete and delete. Actually I move the sections I hate into a garbage document, because I can't bear to erase the blood I poured on my keyboard from the vein in my arm.

Lately I've considered throwing in the towel (another bad analogy) for good. I've questioned my motives, I've questioned my talent or lack of, and I've question the future of the publishing business. Once a year I want to give it up for good. The idea starts as a tiny bug in my brain and eats away at my motivation until I can't type a word. The future turns bleak and my creativity vanishes.

Then something happens to kick everything back into high gear. One year it was a NYT top ten author's note offering to place my MS on her agent's desk after reading my contest entry. Other times it was a request for a full from a dream agent. This year it was my Daphne final. I can't stress the timeliness of that good news.

What's sent you spiraling into that writer's black hole? And what yanked you out?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Incorporating real life issues

Current Project: Leg Shaving Leads to Trouble
Status: Rewrites

I've got swine flu on the brain. Thankfully that's not literally. It's been the focus of my job for nearly a week - practically eating, drinking and sleeping all things swine flu related. It got me thinking about writing, specifically about incorporating major real life issues into our writing.

I remember that after 9/11 - I wasn't involved in romance writing at that point, but people still talk about how publishers didn't want terror-related suspense plots for a while. But then there seemed to be a surge of them released, as if it was finally okay to open the flood gates.

Do you ever wonder what other issues will take their place in writing? I wonder if epidemics, mass scare of a virus, things like that have their place (on a major scale) in romance novels. Do you think we'll see a rash of plots with pandemic scares? I find it interesting to see how authors interpret those events for their own books.

Have you incorporated any major issues into your writing? On a general scale, what is your feeling on reading those? Sorry to keep it short, but it's work work work time! People are meeting today to determine if Western is going to be closed further, so it will be a few hours until I pop back on for comments.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


Current Project:sequel proposal
Status: sent

After a week of fighting shoulder and neck pain and a mind as empty and windswept as Antarctica on a sub zero night, things finally clicked on Thursday and I was able to complete the proposal I started last weekend. The "finished" product is much different than it started out, but you all know how that goes.

I'm looking forward to seeing how the rest of you are doing.

I'll leave you with a quote: "There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein."
~ Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith ~

Friday, May 01, 2009

Guest Blogger - Beth Kery!

Today we're pleased to have Berkley author, Beth Kery, blogging with us! Aside from being an all around awesome person, Beth is also a phenomenal writer. Her latest book, DARING TIME, officially releases May 5th, but it's already getting rave reviews:

Beth Kery spins a unique and sensual tale of time- travel and love. Definitely a must-read
–Fresh Fiction Reviews

A hauntingly beautiful and enduring love story.
— 5 Bookmarks from Wild on Books

Daring Time takes readers on an imaginative and scintillating trip back in time. A truly unique and original story.
— 4 Stars from Romantic Times

Please help me in welcoming Beth Kerry!!

***

Greetings!

I’m here, at Elisabeth Naughton’s invitation to tell you a bit about my newest Berkley release, an erotic romance/time-travel called Daring Time. For me, this story calls to mind a whole host of images of a bygone era of grace, elegance and pure romance. Daring Time was inspired by my love of my hometown—Chicago—and the history of this progressive city, most especially the Prairie Avenue District.

They called Prairie Avenue “the sunny street of the sifted few.”

From the moment I visited this historic neighborhood just south of the Loop in downtown Chicago I was transported to another time and place. This is the famous avenue where self-made men and barons of industry lived shoulder to shoulder with retail giants like Marshall Field and Joseph Sears.

It was a street where late Victorian sedateness mixed together marvelously with unapologetic ostentation and neighborly one-upsmanship in regard to the grandeur of the family residence. On South Prairie Avenue the scientific marvels of the Chicago Worlds Fair of 1893 were first put on proud display and mansions were installed with electricity. Lavish events such as the Mikado Ball (Marshall Field’s mansion was transformed into a Japanese Village) commemorated an emerging American awareness of its place in the international amphitheatre.

But this was also an era of growing social responsibility for the poor and unrepresented, a time period that saw vicious labor union and workers’ rights disputes and the creation of Jane Addams Hull House and the field of American social work. My heroine is a proud soldier of social reform. I could almost envision Hope marching down Prairie Avenue, intent on saving the world one person at a time.

I have a favorite scene in Daring Time where my early twentieth century heroine’s father asks her to show him how she saw them dance in the year 2008. For me, it represents all of the glamour of not only the era, but of the genre of time travel itself. Here’s a snippet.

She obligingly walked several feet into the enormous ballroom while her father sat down at the table. She closed her eyes, perfectly imagining Gail and Ramiro moving in tandem to the unusual, exciting music. She positioned her hands, picturing herself touching Ryan’s broad shoulder while his big hand spread at the back of her waist. She began to softly hum a tune while she swayed to the music, occasionally inserting remembered lyrics.

Fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars, da da da ta da, ta da on Jupiter and Mars…

The train of her blue satin gown and her petticoats swished behind her as she circled the ballroom floor in her solitary dance.

Like Prairie Avenue itself, Daring Time mixes together flagrant, lush sensuality with pure, unadulterated romance. I hope you enjoy it.

~Beth Kery

Purchase Daring Time at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0425227960/ref=cm_pdp_arms_dp_img_3
Purchase Daring Time at Barnes and Noble: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Daring-Time/Beth-Kery/e/9780425227961/?itm=1
Or look for/request it at your local bookstore.

Beth is also hosting an AWESOME contest over at her blog. Hop over to enter!