Saturday, October 31, 2009

SPOOKY, SCARY SATURDAY SELF-SNITCHING


Current Project: The Baby's Bodyguard
Status: page 246

I have officially entered the phase called "Egad! There's not enough pages left to finish the book!" This happens EVERY SINGLE TIME. You'd think I'd be prepared but you would be wrong. My plan is to stop worrying about it and just finish the book and find the extra pages I need somewhere in the middle where they can be cut without harming the story. Two weeks left...

I know a few of you are going to do the November NANO. I'm not going to join in because getting a volume of words down right now is not the issue. I've kind of usurped the Saturday blog, but I would be happy to hand it over to someone doing NANO if there is one of you who would like to do it. Might be more fun. Anyone?

So, on the unofficial NANO list we have Lisa, Bethany and Debbie. Did I miss someone?

Good luck, ladies!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween!

Current Project: Derby book
Status: First draft








Completely off the topic of writing...Is it just me, or are you pumped for Halloween? I'm super duper pumped. I'm thrilled it's on a Saturday and I'm quite excited for it. I'm a 70s disco Medusa. Yup, you read right. I'm going with a dear friend who made an elaborate Marie Antoinette costume, even had a professional sew the dress. We've rented a room at McMenamin's Edgefield and are making a huge event out of it.

It's also a huge weekend for Duck fans. We are playing USC tomorrow and ESPN's Game Day will be there. It's a huge deal, huge game. I'm bummed I'll miss it, but my college roommate is going in my place as a wedding gift and I know he'll have a fantastic time. He's the biggest Duck fan I know. In spirit of Halloween, and pumpkin carving, Go Ducks!

What are some of your fondest Halloween memories? Any great costumes that stick out in your mind? Any plans for the weekend?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The End


Current Project: Entwined (new title)
Status: At the big reveal

There are so many topics spinning in my brain these days that I can talk about. Deadlines, being behind on deadlines, edits, what happens to your brain when you stay up past 2 AM working...but I don't want to talk about any of those. I want to talk about The End.

My first series is coming to a close in January with the release of the third Stolen book, STOLEN SEDUCTION. I love this book and these characters, and I love how the story - all three stories - came to an end with this one. There was a time I wondered if I'd ever publish one book, so to see my third hitting the store shelves is a truly euphoric time for me. But at the same time, it's also bittersweet. I've devoted 3+ years to these characters and their lives. In some ways, I feel like they are alive. In my head they're as real as my neighbors, or my kids' teachers or the news anchor I see every night on TV. And even though I have new characters to keep me busy, and new stories to tell, letting these characters go is definitely harder than I thought.

As I was setting up the blog tour for the release of STOLEN SEDUCTION, one interviewer asked if I'd write something about the end of the series and how I knew STOLEN SEDUCTION would be the last book. Many series these days go 4, 5, 6+ books, often, it seems, their longevity spurred on by book sales rather than on story. I'll admit, as a writer, I struggle with this question - when is a series done, and how many books is enough?

Every series is different, and originally when I wrote STOLEN FURY I didn't set out to write it as a series. But - as often happens - new characters popped up and I thought, you know, it would be fun to write his/her story. STOLEN HEAT and STOLEN SEDUCTION were spawned from that idea. But because these books are connected by characters and an art gallery in Miami - not an overarching series plot - I knew I didn't want this to be an ongoing series. I also knew that every series has a lifespan, and I never wanted to get to a point where writing these books was a chore or they lost the magic that made them special in the first place.

How do you really know when a series is done? I think the author knows. Yes, I left some secondary characters hanging throughout the Stolen Series that could pop up in new adventure books, and yes, their stories would be fun to read. But those characters were never part of the core main group in these books, and as such, I knew writing those books within this series would be stretching it. And I never wanted to stretch it. Not with these books. Not with any books if I can help it. As a reader I have stopped reading authors when it became clear they were more interested in stretching a series for the numbers rather than on letting a series end when it naturally should.

I talked about something similar earlier in the week over at the RomCom blog - specifically about movie series and sequels and how they're very often never as good as the first. You don't see that so much with book series. Often times the 2nd, 3rd, even the 4th books are as good if not better than the first. But readers aren't dumb. They know when a series has reached its ending, even if publishers don't.

There's a Josh Groban song that always makes me think of my Stolen books. In it he sings,

Remember
I will still be here
As long as you hold me
in your memory

Remember
when your dreams have ended
Time can be transcended
Just remember me

I'm with you
Whenever you tell
my story
For I am all I've done


Those words always make me feel better when I think of this series coming to an end. Yeah, it's sad. And yeah, I'll miss them, but the great part about books is I can dive into these characters' worlds anytime I want. The pages are always right there and they're never really gone. And even if I'm not writing their continuing sagas, the characters do live on. In a back corner of my mind. With all the other characters I've been lucky enough to share some time with. In that respect it's kind of fun. Makes me think they're having a party back there. And the guest list is very, very elite.

How about you? What do you think of series' time spans? How many books is too many books? And how/when do you know enough is enough?

In case you're interested, this is a link to that Josh Groban song. I'd have pasted it in, but I couldn't find the artist's video and this link has images from major movies. But you can at least listen to the song if you want.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wherein I make you do my job . . .

Current Project: NMMNG
Status: Creating Believable Characters (Thanks Debbie for sending me back to my reference books! Go check out her post below if you didn't catch it yesterday!)

No, don't worry, I'm not going make you tackle stacks of grading, wrangle a toddler, or outline a YA novel. (Although, if you want to toddler wrangle . . . ) Part of the Vice-President's job in our chapter is finding speakers for our meetings. Lisa, Barb, and I have been doing a little brainstorming, but I want a larger sample size. We all come to meetings for different reasons--some for the social networking, some for the goals and inspiration, some to glean new skills, and some to advance an already flourishing career. I know we have a few lurkers on the blog who may be contemplating joining, and I'm hereby declaring this Delurking Day because I want to hear from you too.

First, think back on meetings and conference presentations that you have particularly enjoyed. If you remember names, please share! Was it just that the speaker was particularly entertaining or did it make a real difference in your process. For me, Jennifer Crusie's presentation at 2005 nationals on conflict changed EVERYTHING for me. A light bulb went off, and I saw everything wrong with my first WIP, and I suddenly "got" every book I read hence forth. Of course, the goddess Crusie is unlikely to come west, but this is my personal gold standard. At the same conference, the Sure-Fire Six Step Pitch (by an author with the last name McKnight, thank you vague conference materials) got me started on the road to synopsis writing. And the incomparable Cherry Adair and her presentation on goal setting changed my outlook forever--I still have my little index card of goals from that workshop.

More locally, every time Alice talks synopsis and pitches, I come away so inspired. When Terri Reed spoke on critique groups, I discovered an important part of the writer's journey that I was not aware of previously. Elizabeth Lyons changed my mindset about editing and selling (I may have seen her as part of Willamette Writers--my memory is a tad fuzzy). Mary Buckingham made pacing finally make sense to me. In four years with the chapter, there have been so many speakers who have come along at just the right moment for me--inspiring me, keeping me going, illuminating parts of the process, and it would be impossible to list all of them. I am intensely grateful to past Presidents and Vice-Presidents for finding such valuable speakers for the group. I have a lot to live up to!

In addition to knowing what speakers have made a lasting impression on you, I also want to know where you are right now in your career. What sorts of presentations would be the most helpful for you? As I go forth and track down speakers, I want to make sure that I'm hitting areas that are relevant. Do you prefer writer speakers or have you enjoyed our meetings with non-writer speakers like the forensic anthropologist? (I wish we had had three more hours with her!) Have you seen other speakers elsewhere (nationals, Portland, other conferences etc.) that you wish you could share with the group?

I'm trying to assemble a wish list of speakers to reach out to because the worst they can do is say no, right? So dream as big as you want!

*Of course the flipside of great speakers is ones who fall a little flat, and if you want to discuss less than helpful speakers, please don't use names on the blog here--just mention the things that made it less than helpful for you (I do want to know this too!) and feel free to email me privately.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Desperately In Search Of Inspiration

Deborah Wright's ProfileCurrent Project: The Space Between
Status: S-l-o-w Progress!

I'll admit it -- I struggled to come up with an idea for a post today. In desperation, I finally turned to a resource that's never let me down before: my reference books (the acquiring of which, I'll confess to a, er, slight addiction). I still couldn't figure out a single topic from within one of those books, so I thought I'd talk about my top 10 favorite reference/research books. These aren't "how to write" books (though heaven knows I have plenty of those, too). These are books I turn to frequently, no matter what genre I'm writing, for information, for ideas, and for plain old inspiration when I'm blocked.

Without further ado, I present my Top 10 Reference and Research Books. The top three were chosen because I've used them so often that I've got those post-it tabs stuck to various pages. The rest are in no particular order.

1. New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology
I have the 1978 edition, purchased sometime around 1980. What have I marked that was so interesting? Let's see, mostly marked are pages for Egyptian and Greek mythology -- Osiris, Wepwawet, Judging the Dead, Bast, Athena, Apollo, and the Cult of the Heroes. (Eli -- I really can't wait to read Marked!)

2. Hyperspace by Michio Kaku
And now we jump from the ancient to the age of science! The subtitle of this book is: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the 10th Dimension. I free admit that most of this book is over my head, but I've tried to understand some basic concepts. I love the idea that there are some incredible thinkers out there who are seriously researching this stuff. What passages have I tagged in this book? Only three: a section on the Einstein-Rosen Bridge in the chapter on Black Holes and Parallel Universes, Chapter 11 To Build a Time Machine, and Chapter 12 Colliding Universes. Fascinating stuff!

3. About Time by Paul Davies
The book I consider a companion to Hyperspace. My favorite passages in this book are: Chapter 7 Quantum Time, a particular section of Chapter 7 about an actual experiment done at UC Berkeley that relates (loosely) to erasing the past, and a section in Chapter 10 Backwards in Time regarding the theoretical existence of an infinite number of parallel universes.

4. The Timetables of History by Bernard Grun
A fascinating tabular look at what was happening at the same time in history all over the world. The book I have goes from 4500 B.C. to the 1990s. Each table lists information in the following categories: History/Politics, Literature/Theater, Religion/Philosophy/Learning, Visual Arts, Music, Science/Technology/Growth, and Daily Life.

5. The Silk Road by Frances Wood
I originally bought this book because I planned to write a fantasy set in an alternate world. The plot would take place along a trade route similar in many ways to the Silk Road. I've never started writing that story (still on my list of future ideas), but this book is so fascinating I'll thumb through it at times just to kick start my imagination.

6. Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology
You wouldn't think a book in dictionary format could be fascinating, but I've found myself unexpectedly lost in its pages more times than I care to admit.

7. More Latin for the Illiterati by Jon R. Stone
Sometimes you just need that snippet of Latin, you know?

8. Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman, M.D.
I think almost every suspense/thriller writer could benefit from having a copy of this book. I've only been able to take reading it in small doses, but everything I've read has made an impact on me.

9. Mean Genes by Terry Burnham and Jay Phelan
Another fascinating book that I bought for a specific purpose and keep around for general ideas.

10. A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels, and Other Subversive Spirits by Carol Mack and Dinah Mack
A light hearted look at demons and spirits from cultures world-wide and how to capture or banish them.

Whew! Well, there you have it -- my favorite reference books. It's funny how reading something that has absolutely nothing to do with what I'm writing can sometimes jar loose an idea for moving forward with my current story.

How about you? Do you have a favorite reference work (or two or three or...)? Please share! I'm always on the lookout for good books to add to my collection!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What is your trigger?


Current Project:For a Sister's Love
Status:Page 21

I finished up edits last week on Doctor in Petticoats and returned to the book I'm co-writing.

Well, I tried to return to the book. I read what I had written (ten pages) twice, then all the information I'd gathered- twice - and then I read through the IM chats I've had with the other author and I was still having trouble gaining any momentum on the story.

I sat staring at my computer trying to figure out what was wrong. I was only ten pages into the story and it couldn't be going wrong already. And it dawned on me. Music!

I listen to instrumental bluegrass when I work on the Halsey brother books, Shania Twain and Reba MacIntyre when I wrote the Nanny book(every time I hear them Brock and Carina pop into my head), Native American music when writing the spirit books (which helped me get a cadence to the writing), and Chris LeDoux (ex-rodeo rider turned musician) for the rodeo book(Holt and Gina always surface when I hear LeDoux), and I listened to insturmental Christmas music on Pandora while writing the soon to be full length Christmas story.

I hadn't found the music for this story. I didn't like anything on Pandora, so I rummaged around in my cd's and found three(that's what my cd player holds at a time) I turned the player on, returned to the loft, and sure enough words started flowing. I added ten pages in the last two hours I had left to write. Now I know what I have to do to get into the book and keep the words coming. Turn on the cd player.

I know I've talked about his before and most of you like quiet to write, but I'm sure there is some trigger that puts you into the book or the writing mood. What is your trigger?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

SATURDAY CHECK-IN


Current Project:The Baby's Bodyguard
Status:page 226 (I think)

Hey everyone, it's that time again, time for (drum roll....) Saturday Check-In!!!!

I had a real productive streak at the beginning of the week, then production fell off as sleep issues (thank you Uber Puppy) set in. By the end of this weekend, I'm hoping to have another twenty pages or so. I'm not worried about finishing the book on time as it's gathered its own head of steam, but I do have a few, er, chasms behind me that are going to need a little tender tough love to figure out. Quite by accident this week (while talking to a friend), I thought of a more meaningful way to impart an important piece of news between the characters and then in the middle of the night woke up with what will follow the reveal. Don't you love this stage? It's challenging and very fulfilling when the characters assume dimensions that make them stand out. You all know the feeling.

Hope your week was a good one; I'm anxious to hear if you're happy with what your accomplishing. If you are getting ready for November Nano is there something you do in preparation? I was just curious if you try to have the plot of scenes or characters firmly in mind before the month begins.

Happy writing!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Free-for-All: Speak to Me of Outlining


Current Project: NMMNG
Status: Outlining (what else?)

Our Chapter's November Online Workshop is on the "W Plot" method of outlining (this looks like a fabulous offering!). And since Debbie, Piper, and I (and several others, I think) are all in the midst of outlining and plotting, I thought it might be a timely topic to discuss favorite methods, systems, and tricks for outlining. I'm interested in books you've read, workshops you've attended, and tricks you've learned. What works for you? What doesn't? What steps do you go through before you start drafting that first chapter? After you draft the first couple of chapters?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

BARE IT AND GRIN!

Posted by: Genene Valleau
Current Project: nine-book series
Status: going great!

Ack! I was going to do a fun post about bare-chested guys on covers. Got totally wrapped up in plotting my series of books and didn't get it done. 

Soooo... I'm asking for your help. Please post or provide a link to your favorite book that has a bare-chested guy on the cover. Yes, this is probably a very politically incorrect and sexist blog post and my apologies in advance to anyone it might offend. 

And a question: does a hunky hero on the cover help sell books?

Here's my hunky hero, actually the second cover for FEATHERS ON THE FLOOR (the first cover had only the cuddly teddy bear):


And I'm going to be away from my computer most of the day, so I'm looking forward to what you come up with!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

FOOD FOR THOUGHT


Current Project:The Baby's Bodyguard
Status: page 216

I love the children's book called THE SECRET GARDEN. Every couple of years I reread it. It's a book of change and hope and understanding and the power of a child to overcome herself and awaken those around her. Who doesn't crave a secret spot, a garden to bring back to life and to hold close and secret and in which to blossom as surely as the roses do?

But I also have a secret agenda with this book. The little girl, raised in India, catered to on every physical level, knows nothing of making her own way. Her first friend is a local boy, as barefoot and independent as she is spoiled and rotten. And as he teaches her the wonders of nature, he also teaches her how to build a fire at the "end of the garden" (don't you love that phrase, the "end" of the garden -- is your garden large enough to have an "end?" Mine sure isn't...) and in which to "roast" eggs. Yep, he puts the eggs in the ground, I believe or in the smoldering coals (time to reread) and cooks these eggs; it's an empowering wonder to her. And it's a wonder to me, too. I love this part of the book and every time I read it I have the overwhelming urge to hard boil an egg. Do I read the book for this scene? No. But it's part of the enjoyment. Excuse me while I go boil an egg....

That was yummy. This author (whose name I can't spell and I hate to navigate away from this site and have to start over, but you all know who she is, her first name is Francis the next two start with a B and a H) also wrote THE LITTLE PRINCESS. There's a scene in the movie -- I haven't read the book -- where the heroine is banished to attic with another little girl to live as a slave. She is always cold, she is always hungry. The grils become fast friends as they share their misery, and it's the stories of India our little heroine shares with her new friend that keep them warm. But one morning, they awake to a magical golden room with silk robes and Indian slippers, courtesy of the man from India who lives across from them, and in the middle of all this golden splendor is a table laid with the most succulent fruit and juices, meats and muffins. The children eat to their hearts' content.

This is an old part of fairy tales, you know. The magical table. The soup pot that is always full. So many people were hungry -- scrapping for food was practically a full time occupation. The thought that one could procure it by settling a special cloth over a rock and the dishes would appear hot and steaming was one of the most compelling fantasies of the times.

Off to my next food type encounter in a literary sense. THE LORD OF THE RINGS. If you are one of those acquainted with Tolkein's work by virtue of the movies and not the books, you may have missed one of the most memorable experiences (or a bevy of them) found within the pages and they have to do with -- food. Mushrooms: sauteed, fried, steamed... those Hobbits love them. But all along the way, it's food, from bacon rashers (I always crave bacon after reading this) to honey to apples to everything imaginable. Imagine the elfish bread that satisfies every need and comes wrapped in a leaf; or the sausages. Every place they land, they eat. And the beer! And the wine!

I also read a Bed and Breakfast cozy mystery series written by Mary Daheim. Her main character battles a few extra pounds though every day at 5:00 o'clock she fixes canapés for her guests. Crab wantons, stuffed this and that. Salmon. It's her cousin, though, who really brings the food to life. Her cousin and partner in (solving) crime is a high maintenance tiny woman who can eat anything and never gain a pound. It's a bone of some contention between them at times as the cousin is also a sloppy slob. Every time they go to lunch or stay at a death-haunted house or help out a soon-to-be murdered relative, they eat. And the author describes the food. It's the Pacific Northwest, so there's plenty of seafood, sorry Becky, but there's everything else as they travel the world and the country. One book took place with them both in the hospital for separate operations (SUTURE SELF). The main character ate whatever the hospital gave her without much appetite. But the cousin brought a huge bag full or apples and cheeses and crackers and her stash of Pepsi, slung the hospital trays into the garbage and then began importing things, having Chinese delivered during a snow storm, fried chicken snuck in by another patient... and it was the introduction of food from outside that figured into all three murders that happened around them so the food even got tied into the plot. And often, as I read these books, I find myself yearning for prime rib or crab cakes or even a hamburger -- the food is huge in the books. Every so often, the cousin takes up smoking and stops eating and the books suffer for the change. Who doesn't dream of having the income and the appetite to go to a very fancy restaurant and order three drinks, an appetizer (ooh, prawns) and dinner. Oh, and an aperitif and a desert? Where do they put all that food? It's a mystery.

My point : food matters. We all eat. Most of us watch cooking shows or read cookbooks even though we'll NEVER actually fix the actual dishes. With me, all I have to do is read that a character eats a bacon, tomato and avocado sandwich and it's a pretty sure bet one will show up for dinner at my house very soon. Are there books you read that demand you go cook a bacon and tomato sandwich or go out for really good Mexican food like the deep Molé sauces in the last mystery I read?

And how about your own books? Do you use the communal opportunity of food to share thoughts between your characters or expand the plot? Do the choices in their food help define their personalities? I know for myself that I tend to write books where everyone is under a lot of tension and seldom do more than scramble an egg because that's what I do when I'm really stressed. Sometimes, I forget to have people eat. I've had heroines pick at meals for days. My current hero was a captive in the fictional South American country of Tierra Montañosa for several months -- he didn't get a lot to eat. When he sits down for the first time to fish and chips in Northern California, he can't believe the taste -- or the crisp salty air, the cool ocean breeze, the beautiful woman across from him. That meal for him represents all the facets of freedom.

And now, because I am the world's worst promoter in the world (but trying to change--website improvements coming along soon, I hope), here I present my current release, AGENT DADDY:

For me, the food that stands out in this book is the fragrant bubbly stew in the ranch-style kitchen cooked by the Irish housekeeper and served with chucks of bread for dipping. There's a child in there, as well, who doesn't want to miss school because another child is bringing cupcakes. There's also hot chocolate....

Is there a book you can point to where the food became almost a character or just enhanced the pleasure of reading? And how do you introduce one of the very basic things we all do -- eat?

Another Post on POV


Current Project: Untitled RS
Status: On hold

There have been several blogs on POV in the last few weeks. Here is one more. I need to write a prologue for a finished manuscript and get the MS to an agent who requested revisions. For some reason I'm struggling to pick which character would present the strongest POV for the scene.

Quick background: The scene is during turbulence on a very small aircraft that is about to crash. Characters present are two pilots, a Federal Marshal, and a convict. The Marshal is terrified, the convict is rather calm, and the pilots are nervous but intent on their job. The convict is my villain in the story and has many POV scenes. The other characters die in the crash and have no POV scenes.

I have several choices. From a pilot POV, the reader would see the technical aspects of the plane's eminent demise and the pilot's observations of the praying Marshal and the serene convict.

From the Marshal's POV, the reader would learn of his current crime, his gambling issues, and his family. The reader would see the convict from the Marshal's POV, and I could drop some teasers about the convict to hook the reader. I like this angle, but I'm a little concerned that it could be confusing as the Marshal dies and has no other scenes.

From the villain's POV, I could drop a little back story that I've placed in a later chapter and give the reader a taste of his character.

Another idea I've tossed around is placing the prologue in first person. Either the villain or Marshal. The rest of the book is in third, but I've read some terrific first person prologues that reveal fascinating bits of character. Diana Gabaldon does this.

What's your favorite POV to write in and what are your thoughts on moving from a first person prologue to a third for the rest of the story?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Web sites, Web sites and more Web sites!

Current Project: Derby book
Status: Developing characters, about to start writing

At our chapter meeting this past Thursday, our fabulous and amazing treasurer, Debbie Wright, presented a talk on Web sites. She took us through the good, the bad, and the ugly of Web design and presented a useful resource list for those of us who have little to no Web experience.

It got me thinking a lot about the Web sites I'd been working on. I took down my old writing site when I began using a pseudonym. I had planned to develop three new sites: my writing site, a site for my crafts, and a site for my PR/editing/copywriting. I went to Istock photo and purchased a few patterns and built the sites around those, using them as the basis for color schemes.

When I chose the patterns, I tried to keep the reader in mind, but I didn't fully succeed. I chose the one I liked the best for my crafts, thinking it needed to represent me and my craft style. Then I chose a more neutral one for my writing because I'd been going back and forth between wanting to write paranormal and contemporary. I knew I'd need to change it when I was published, but I figured that what I had developed would be a good placeholder.

I've changed my mind... Now that I've started the roller derby book, I think the template I had used for my craft site should be my writing template. It's a cool pink and brown damask pattern, bright and spunky. Just like a derby girl ;) So I think I'm going to do some switching around, tweaking of the header (I think it's too big) and try to finally make them live.

It was difficult to find a starting point with these sites. I saw a template somewhere that used a pattern (like the damask one I downloaded) as the basis for the site and I liked that idea. It also enabled me to create one easy template and just switch out colors and patterns for the three sites I planned to create, saving lots of time.

What do you think of your own site? Any plans to redo it? How did you choose what you have now?

Thanks again, Debbie! It was a wonderful presentation! I would also like to congratulate Bethany Gabbert for being elected our new vice president! She's in the middle of redesigning her Web site, so keep an eye out for a new link. And please help me congratulate her in the comments :) She's going to be fabulous!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

SATURDAY CHECK-IN


Current Project:THE BABY'S BODYGUARD
Status: pg. 180

Egads! I hoped to be twenty pages further along by today but here I am. Well, I have excuses ranging from sick days to, well, sick days, but in the end it's the inevitable stop and go traffic pattern of writing that slowed me down as I figured out this and that and the other thing.

Properly humbled, I will do the math -- hang on a minute, please....

Okay, for me personally, I need one hundred pages in four weeks. Twenty-five pages a week. More if I plan to have time to let it sit a couple of days and polish. I've been heavily rewriting as I go this time, going back and forth a lot to even things out and correct oversights, etc... Other than writing in a mother for the heroine (and then quickly shipping her off to Greece for a romantic honeymoon with husband number four) I'm pretty set. My dh told me he wishes I wouldn't speed through action scenes. I'm working on how I feel about adapting his comments. Feedback is nice.

And now I turn the stage over to you with a leading question: Is anyone doing the write the book in a month thing that I can't recall the name of? And what is that called?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Paradise Found

Current Project: Deceived
Status: 53,000 words and counting...

News flash: The sun is not shining here. When I left on vacation, it was 70 degrees and sunny in Oregon. When I came home it was 50 and rainy. I'm not sure what you all did while I was gone, but I'm not liking this burst into fall as much as I normally do.






This is Secret Beach on the eastern shores of Kauai. One of the most beautiful places I've ever been to. It's called Secret Beach because it's hidden off a dirt road, and you have to hike down a cliff to get to it. These pictures don't do it justice but let me tell you, it's a secluded paradise, rimmed by palm trees and rocks and million dollar mansions that look down from above.

We spent most of one day here on our vacation. The sun was strong, but there was plenty of shade to keep us cool. The surf was a bit rough, but my kids found some gentle coves to play in and had a ball. I walked up and down the beach with them, finding shells and pulling them out of rip currents (yeah, that was one bad part about this beach this time of year), while the DH lounged and read STOLEN SEDUCTION.

You see, my idea of the perfect vacation is sand, surf, a drink in one hand and a good book in the other. This time around, because we took the kids, I didn't get to read as much as I normally do, but I wanted to give the DH a chance to read my upcoming release. I knew if he didn't read it on vacation, he'd never get around to it.

Unfortunately, the kids distracted him too (in a good way). I think he got through half the book. He says he's going to take it with him hunting next week and finish the rest. Of course, I'm his wife - the center of his world and his *hopeful* ticket to retirement - so he has to like everything I write, but it's becoming a real kick to watch him read my work and know he's enjoying it because he truly likes it...not because he has to.

He and I went out to dinner alone one night while we were there (gorgeous restaurant at the Marriott, btw) and spent almost the entire meal talking about my books. He's very interested in the option proposal I put together and sent my agent, and it was fun brainstorming ideas and getting the male perspective on my adventure plots. Usually we talk about my books after they're written. And while I never have a problem discussing them with CPs during the process, I've never thought much about discussing them with him until now.

Some writers I know rely on their spouse as their first reader. I don't, mainly because my hubby is not a huge reader. But he does have some good ideas and I'm discovering brainstorming with him might be beneficial.

What about you? Do you brainstorm ideas with your spouse? Do you talk about books together - yours or others'?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

POV Problems


Current Project: NMMNG
Status: The eternal outline of doom (or success)

My title sounds like the sort of . . . performance "problem" one might need a little blue pill for, and in a way, it is. If you don't have a point-of-view, you don't have a story. However, I have a story, but I'm still searching for the perfect POV. Or to put it bluntly, I have a POV dysfunction. Now, as we all know, we have three main choices:

First Person: I love to talk about me, me, me, me and more me. This is the darling of YA and Chick Lit authors alike.

Second Person: You shouldn't be reading this. You should be off doing your laundry. And if you want to be really annoying, you should be doing it in the past tense: you ate your lunch. And if you want to drive everyone to click the nearest LOLcat just to escape, do it in the present tense: You go into a room, and you look around. And unless there is a stack of cash and a signed contract for a choose-your-own adventure book waiting there, RUN! Don't look back. I'm sure that a huge second-person trend is just around the corner, but since you'll be the one running my story, I'll never know. Don't hand over your story to an anonymous "you," because YOU might not like what they do with it.

Third Person: The dear old grandpappy of fiction. "Once upon a time, there lived a Prince . . ." When writing as the all-knowing and all-powerful author who knows all, sees all, and shares judiciously, this is known as third-person omniscient, otherwise known as "Please, do head-hop your way through this nice Regency novel." Third-person limited or Deep Third Person retains the barrier between author and character, but limits it to what that particular character knows, feels, thinks, smells, etc at that exact moment in time much like first person. See the altar I have made to Suzanne Brockmann and Jennifer Crusie for more on how this POV works.

Now, literary fiction throws all the rules out the window and will often do things like alternate chapters of first-person, third-person omniscient, and deep third person POV all while playing with the time continuum, but if you are up for such POV Olympics, you probably aren't in the market for POV aids. Also, you probably hate POV monogamists like myself who insist that you should choose one POV strategy for your story and stick with it to the bitter end. And even worse, I am a this-life-and-the-next monogamist and think that you should choose one POV strategy for your book series and stick with it until the voices in your head (or pictures, thank you, Debbie) hand you a new universe to play with.

Thus, I'm struggling with making the choice between First and Third Person POV for my current WIP. As I have outlined this book, the other books in the series have also become clearer to me (I think I am channeling the lovely Genene), and I envision a point where I really want to use Third Person in my series. Maybe. And thus I dicker, and I will subject you to my dickering because if I can't use my POV yet, I can at least dicker with it.

First Person POV:
  • PRO: This is the current gold standard in YA. I personally miss the days when there were more third-person books on shelves, but absent flying fairies and space ships, the contemporary YA subgenre truly is all about ME. And I. And ME some more. And god forbid we see YOU, but we might squeeze HER in somewhere over there. In a dusty corner.
  • CON: Is it possible that something so fresh can go stale?
  • CON: It often feels like there needs to be a reason for the narrator to share his or her story, and lord save us from a heroine with a diary. Absent the diary though, and the device sometimes feels a bit artificial.
  • PRO: The reader gets an immediate connection with the hero(ine) and gets to see their inner workings and insecurities in minute detail.
  • CON: The reader only gets that connection with one character. The audience is left in the dark about other characters' inner lives.
  • CON: Any sub-plots need to happen "on-camera" for the first person narrator to be able to share them. This limits the ability to advance character arcs for secondary characters.
  • PRO: The readers get to feel smart when they realize things before the hero(ine) does.
  • CON: The readers are left in the dark a lot of times all the way up until the end of the book when the big reveal happens.
  • CON: The plot limitations of this device can often result in the hero(ine) looking clueless and less than sympathetic.
Third Person (I only do this "deep" so that's what I'm referring to here):
  • PRO: Your reader gets to live in the heads of multiple characters.
  • CON: They lack the commentary and intense connection of first person POV.
  • PRO: Multiple story arcs can be advanced.
  • CON: If you have a story that's big on character and light on plot, third person can make it feel smaller and fluffier.
  • CON: If most of your story happens from one POV anyway, the other character's "head time" can seem forced.
  • PRO: You can reveal motivations and causes for actions before the hero(ine) becomes aware of them.
  • CON: You miss out on the big reveal of first person stories.
  • CON: There's an emotional distance between the reader and the story. This is a huge factor in YA, less so in other genres, but still a key consideration.
Now, 90% of the time, you probably know what POV you want to use before you even begin to plot (or pants :)). Perhaps your voices (pictures) only speak to you in third person. Perhaps your particular sub-genre has firm rules about POV and how it is handled, and you lack any real choice. But what about when the choice isn't clear cut? How do you solve this? Write entire chapters and then compare? Write an entire draft and then decide? And can we talk about series that switch POV style partway through the series? Is this universally hated or can it work? Share your POV problems. Anonymously if you must, but you know, even Senators and Football Stars have POV problems from time to time . . .

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lost in Translation

Deborah Wright's ProfileCurrent Project: The Space Between (still not sure about the title. Argh!)
Status: Making slow, but inexorable progress...

I have a book inside my head.

Except, that's not exactly true.

What I really have in my head are images. I don't claim to have an eidetic memory, but I've always been a visual learner. I remember being able to bring up images of pages of notes in my head during tests in school, like looking at a photograph (not so much as I've gotten older, but that's a post for another day). Still, I've always seen vivid images in my head while reading books, and experienced vivid dreams while asleep. Now it seems the same is true when creating a novel. I suppose that isn't so surprising, since what is writing but a formalized way to play make-believe--and I was always great at "seeing" the wooly mammoth I used to hunt in the backyard when I was a kid.

Some of the images in my head are still-frame photos; snapshots in time of characters or places or things. Others are more like movie clips. Not a complete movie, heck, not even always a complete scene, but lengths of film where there's movement--sometimes action, sometimes dialogue, sometimes just characters moving through a setting. The images are always incredibly rich and detailed, with color and lighting that fit the mood.

My challenge? Getting those richly textured visual images out of my head and down on paper into dry, dusty words without losing anything in the process. Sometimes I feel I'm more of a translator than a writer. Only, instead of translating from one language to another and hoping that I've captured the essence of the text, I'm trying to translate from one medium to another and praying I've retained the vividness--the Life--of what I see in my head.

Well. That was a (scary?) look inside my head. What about you? Do you "see" your story? Or is your creative process somewhat different? Inquiring minds want to know!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Follow my Passion


Current Project:Doctor in Petticoats
Status: Edits


Well I'm rolling on the high only a writer can understand. I returned from the Emerald City RWA conference last night at 9pm.

I had a fun roommate who is a member of the Rose City RWA. I spent a good deal of time hanging out with groups of Rose City members. (If you hang around the right ones you are always talking to an agent or editor)

The first night Megan McKeever of Pocket Books sat at our dinner table. But it was so noisy, she looked tired, and I was across the table from her,so I didn't get a chance to ask her how she felt about westerns. (I later learned from another western writer she is favorable) And a blanket invitation to query was given. Keynote speaker was Christine Warren. She had some interesting takes on things.

A group of us huddled around Steven Axelrod as he drank a glass of wine in the foyer outside the ballroom between dinner and the agent/editor panel. I determined he isn't the agent for me and he doesn't like westerns in any form. He doesn't even really care about romance.

And later when Peter Senftleben of Kensington was waiting for the elevator I walked up to him, introduced myself, and asked him if he was interested in westerns. He said they weren't buying lots but I could send him a query. (I want to know who injected me with bravery over the weekend, but it was empowering to know I could walk up to editors and agents and talk to them. It has taken me 10 years in this business to get the guts.)

I attended a chat session with Elaine Spencer of the Knight Agency. Loved her. Saturday morning, I approached her when she was adding creamer to her coffee in the coffee and told her I thought she would be an excellent agent and liked the way she handled things, and was sorry to hear she wasn't keen on westerns. She told me she personally loved westerns but they were a hard sell. But to talk to her later. The only problem, I never saw her again when she was busy. But I'd swallowed the fear and talked to her!

Saturday morning I attended a chat with Tara Parsons HQN editor. She was fun and bubbly. She said they are looking for everything. But when I talked to her (again approaching her in a hallway- I astounded myself at my bravado this weekend!) And asked her about westerns she said they weren't looking that hard for historical but they would definitely look at contemporary cowboys. And Bethany- She said they are looking for Romance or coming of age teen stories for their teen line and they are also actively seeking nonfiction that women would like to read. For those of you not writing romance or fiction.

Then I attended the Series workshop by Pat White and Alexis Morgan. I'd pretty much heard it all before but it was a good reinforcement of some things. And I attended Karen Harbaugh's workshop on Story Themes since I always seem to have problems with that. And I'm still not sure I get it. I'm pretty dense when it comes to that stuff.

I attended my pitch session with Agent Alexandra Machinist of the Publishers Market Place. She is another savvy personable agent who I would love to work with, only as soon as I told her I wrote western she stopped me. "I don't handle those because they aren't marketable" Kind of a kick in the teeth, but she also went on to say, "If writing westerns is your passion, keep doing it because just like all genres they will rise again, then contact me".

I went to an editing workshop with Bob Dugoni a Suspense writer. It was a wonderful workshop about macro editing. The big picture editing. He was fun in that he was Italian, so he talked with his hands and was very animated and had some good one liners.

The Saturday speaker was Deborah Cooke/ Claire Delacroix. Her talk was inspiring and she again talked about writing what you are passionate about.

The book signing- I walked in and about fainted. They had ordered 50 of my books! Twenty five of the newest, 15 of Outlaw and 10 of the contemporary. All I could think was I have to sell lots, I can't buy them all back! I didn't want them going back to my publisher. The Gods were somewhat aligned right. I sold 20, bought 15 and left the rest. But wonderful, fast thinking Minnette, talked with the book store person (because she didn't want hers returned either) and scheduled us to go up to Seattle in November and do a book signing and hopefully we'll sell more books and they won't send them back!

Sunday morning I attended a workshop by Harlequin author Cindy Kirk on synopsis. She had the first couple of pages of synopsis and e-mails from the authors telling how their titles had been changed. It was an eye opening workshop on how to catch the editor's attention with a synopsis and a title.

Then it was time for my workshop. I had 8 people in attendance which is about right considering it was aimed at western writers and they are few and far between these days. The power point worked and I didn't get tongue tied. They even taped all the sessions but the little microphone and recorded were so unobtrusive I didn't even know I had it on.

Then we attended the luncheon and closing speaker Lisa Jackson. She was a hoot, and she pretty much said to write because you are passionate about it and not because you want to get on the NYT bestselling list.

And that ladies was my weekend conference!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

SATURDAY CHECK-IN


Current Project:THE BABY'S BODYGUARD
Status:page 160

Hey, everyone, how are you on this chilly October morning? Have you had a chance to enjoy the harvest moon that's been keeping night owls company this week? I love this time of year. Spring and fall are the seasons of transitions and are my favorite. It is a proven fact that winter and summer, while occupying the same calendar space as spring and fall, are actually three times longer! No, really. You pay attention, you'll see.

I have not plowed through dozens of pages. I've advanced a mere 20 but that's okay as I reached a part of the synopsis that was fuzzy to say the least. Figured a few things out and for today, at least, know where I'm going and kind of how to get there. I anticipate ten pages today, and then there's more fuzziness to figure out. And so it goes. But I am in the second half of the book now and I think I have recognized a pattern. First three chapters tend to roll along with much enthusiasm as the plot unfolds and the proposal is readied for for editor acceptance. Then come the pages of the second quadrant and things begin to get tricky, pacing is inevitably a problem. Now I'm in the third quadrant and this is a time where the end is being set up, where facts are being discovered and the mystery expanded. It's tough going, too, but it's a little smoother for me. Lastly, will come the conclusion and the book I thought I would never get written suddenly is too long and need editing. Happens every time.

New goal -- I'd like to see page 200 by next weekend. Your turn.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

OBSESSIONS AND OTHER THINGS

Posted by: Genene Valleau
Current Project: Nine-book series

Status: Working on master timeline and scene worksheets for all stories


I'm at that point in a project where it has become an obsession. Pretty much every waking moment is spent thinking about or working on my work in progress. You know, the period of time where feeding dogs (or kids), paying bills, or interacting with family members without calling them by one of your characters' names is a challenge and, oh-by-the-way, is taking time away from working on the story.

From other blog entries over the past months, I'm not the only one who has hit this point. Actually, after a year or so where I focused on other things, I'm enjoying this immersion in writing. And, even though my mind is occupied by this series project, I am keeping an outward balance in other areas of my life, such as promotion of an upcoming project...

Three members of Mid-Willamette Valley RWA (Christine Young, C.L. Kraemer and myself) have an anthology of stories being released from Rogue Phoenix Press in February 2010. We now have a cover for that anthology (pictured at left, I hope). The three stories in this anthology feature "write-in" parts that were auctioned off as part of a fundraiser for the Willamette Humane Society. We offered this item in their fundraiser again this past weekend, and I'm hoping to hear details about the winner for our 2011 anthology soon.

I'll be updating my writing Web site soon (after Debbie's presentation at our October meeting :) to include more information about the anthology as well as a special holiday promotion on my "Rock 'n' Romance" books released last year.

How long does your obsessive stage with a story last? A couple days? A week? Until you finish the story? Do you try to balance this obsession with other pieces of your life or do you just ignore everyone and everything else until the story is done?

And now, back to my obsession for awhile before I call it a night...

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

GOSSIP


Current Project:The Baby's Bodyguard
Status:halfway

The title up there is a teaser, a hook. This is not about gossip. This is about a character who resides in my current WIP. She is a gossip monger (although she may also have another agenda.) Last week I wrote her coming into my heroine's office and with eyes dancing, telling her scandalous office scuttlebutt that concerns the heroine herself. The gossipy character claims she doesn't believe what she's heard, not for one minute, but it's obvious she's having a grand time relating this distressing tidbit.

Yesterday I read the scene again and it bothered me. It took me a few minutes to figure out why. At first I thought, well, that's how people like this relate news. They smile, they twitter, they look for your reaction to feed the rumor and help it grow, kind of like adding yeast to bread dough. That way they can find a new audience and include your reaction.

And maybe that's true when the information concerns a third person. But what about when the gossip is talking to the subject of the rumor, what then? That's the difference and that's what I'd gotten wrong. That's when the gossip uses a serious voice and glances around to make sure you're alone. That's when they say, "I have something to tell you and you're not going to like it much." That's when the only difference between a friend warning you there's danger out there and a gossip fishing for more ammunition or a vicarious thrill at being the bearer of bad news is their intent. And because most of us know who our friends and our enemies are (and are instinctual experts at picking up non-verbal signals concerning motivation), we tend to know which is which.

And then I started thinking about my heroine's reaction. Considering the great lengths she's gone to to protect this information, she's sure laid back about hearing it's all over the office now. And if she doesn't react more, even internally, then why are we having this scene? So, she needs to be tweaked, too, and really, if I hadn't caught this yesterday and it was closer to the end where it might not get so many re-readings, it might have gone through the editing process because I think it would have struck enough accord with a busy reader that she might have glossed over it. Hopefully not, but it's easier to fix it now. Way easier when I can pull the threads as I go and not reweave the fabric afterwards.

Wouldn't you think it would get easier? Wouldn't you think there would come a point where the number of years you've spent on the earth multiplied by the number of times you've written a scene divided by the stars in Orion's belt would make the process smoother?

We've discussed rewriting to add details and color, to clean up awkward phrasing and weed out redundancies -- do you also use it to check that your characters are behaving in a consistent manner with their personalities and goals and that you've actually shown appropriate motivations and reactions? Do you ever find you've given the wrong physical clues for a character's actions or missed opportunities for a better reaction to information? If so, when in the process do you tend to find them?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Current Project:The Baby's Bodyguard
Status:pg. 140

The last couple of weeks I've had a hard time blogging. I just don't know what I can say that any of you really want or need to hear. So, I come up with something and then invariably, the next day I thinl of half a dozen things I could have used. Too little, too late.

A Book Review aka I Couldn't Think of a Topic


Current Project: Untitled RS
Status: Coming along

Don't you love it when you pick up an unknown book and it's terrific? I brought home a ton of books from Nationals. Most I started and put down. I try to give them at least fifty pages to hook me. That's pretty generous.

Kristan Higgins hooked me immediately with TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. Now I understand why she won a RITA for a different book in 2008. Her voice is fresh, funny, and poignant. A contemporary romance from HQN, TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE made me laugh out loud several times. I admire any author that can write funny. I can't. It's truly a gift. Not only funny, Kristan tugs at the heartstrings, too.

The character development is fantastic. The heroine, Grace, has lost her fiancee to her younger sister. To avoid the tidal wave of sympathy, Grace invents a perfect boyfriend, something she's done multiple times in her past. The hero is a hunky ex-con, but her friends and family can't see past his "felon" label. The secondary characters add spice and laughs. The rude grandma, the wimpy ex, the quarreling parents. The dialog between the heroine and these secondaries is skillful and revealing.

I loved this book. I don't read a lot of straight contemporary romance, but I plan to purchase all of Kristan's back list.

What have you read recently that you loved?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Trends

Current Project: Untitled
Status: Developing characters


Confession time, folks. Have you ever hopped on a trend with your writing, or thought about writing a book because it would fit into a current, or impending trend? If you only wrote historicals or contemporary, did you think about writing paranormal when the subgenre exploded? Did you think about writing CSI-related books when those shows got so popular?


I'll confess, I'm a bit of a trender...trendette...trend-hound...? A couple of years ago I started a book (one of many unfinished...) that was about Texas Hold'em. It was huge at the time, and mine had a parnormal twist to it. The twist and the poker matched up with a couple of movies set to come out later in the year. Well, I never finished the book and both of those movies flopped so I guess all is well that ends well.


Typically I go with an idea pulling at me, and I think of ways to try and connect it to a current, or possible trend. Just to make it more viable. I don't believe in writing to fit a trend, but keeping trends in mind is just a form of marketing.


I'm doing that now with the book I'm developing. Guess what trend it is? ROLLER DERBY! Part of me wonders if there's going to be a rash of derby books written with the popularity of the reality show and the new movie "Whip It" (which I can't wait to see!). I have a few friends who joined a derby league a few months ago, back in Illinois. They talk about it daily, show me pictures, and, well, I've been bit by the derby bug. Now that Salem's new team Cherry City Derby Girls has officially launched, it's in my back yard! There's plenty of fodder for research at my fingertips and I love the idea of writing about derby girls. Now that I know several of them, I have a good sense of their attitudes and personalities.

And the timing couldn't be better with this trend. So tell me, have you followed any trends with your writing?

Friday, October 02, 2009

SATURDAY CHECK-IN


Current Project: The Baby's Bodyguard
Status:pg. 137

Yep, I know it's Friday, but I'll be gone tomorrow and most of Sunday so I thought I'd get a head start.
I didn't quite make my goal but I did get 6500 words this week and that's good for me. Probably won't get anything done until Monday but am in the situation I love where I know what's going to happen next and what scenes I need to develop, I've finally figured out a way to plant some important clues and ratchet up the tension and conflict and get some more action going. I would much rather leave work with ideas brimming than at the end of a scene when I don't know where to pick up when I come back.

So, enough about me. How did your week go? My goal was reach pg. 140, I reached 137 and am okay with it. How did you do?