Sunday, November 14, 2010




The Mid-Willamette Valley RWA Is on a hiatus! Plans to return after the first of the year are underway, so please check back. Happy Holiday Writing to you and yours.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

SUMMER CHECK-IN/ CHALLENGE



How's everyone doing?

I'm about sixty pages from the end, soon entering the phase affectionately called, "Oh, no, there's not enough time to wrap this up properly," which as you all know comes directly after the phase, "There's not enough substance here to fill all these pages," and is followed by that all time favorite, "I have to cut something!"

Shout out to Eli who tonight will attend the RWA awards ceremony where she is up for two RITAs and Kendra who is up for the GH in romantic suspense. Best of luck, you guys! You're already winners to us!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

SUMMER CHECK-IN/ CHALLENGE


Current Project: series Status:page 185

Hey everyone. The wedding was charming -- back to work on Tuesday. The page count reflects only fifteen pages this week but it is a lot more meaningful than that to me as I've finally reached the end of a section that was very hard to write. Some of it will undoubtedly be cut in the end, but for now, it's there on paper, so to say, and that's a good feeling. Did I write everyday? No. I took off three days for the wedding, but that's okay.

In the last book I wrote I warned myself to start the ending way earlier than usual so I wouldn't feel so rushed. It worked well for me and it's my plan to do that again with this book. Today will see the start of the next to last big push and as the characters have been apart for some time and have a lot to say to each other, I'm looking forward to some rousing dialogue.

How did you do? Did you write every day? Like me, did you completely abandon it only to return reinvigorated? I really wanted to take yesterday off so I got up early and got my pages in before noon -- that meant the afternoon was free and without guilt. If I don't figure out ways to do that, then I spend all the time I'm away feeling antsy and bad that I'm not home working or at least sitting there ready to work should lightening strike. Creating an afternoon escape as a carrot worked beautifully.

Goal today five or six pages, maybe more. Goal tomorrow, ditto. Repeat for the week. I hope you remember to check in and tell us how you're doing.

Friday, July 09, 2010

SUMMER CHECK-IN/ CHALLENGE


Current Project:BOok one Wyoming
Status: Page 170

This will be early and short as I am attending our son's wedding this weekend.

I wrote every day but not a lot of forward progress as I was busy playing with the pieces of my puzzle, trying to get them in the right order. Finally satisfied they're okay now so next week ought to see more pages.

How did you do? Heat get you down?

Do tell!

Saturday, July 03, 2010


Current Project:Wyoming Book Series
Status:Page 160

Happy July, everyone, and happy FOURTH OF JULY to America.

How is the Write Everyday thing going for you guys? I can honestly say I have written everyday. I can't honestly say it moved me along real fast as I changed things mid stream and ended up rewriting great gobs of stuff. But that's how this process works, at least for me. I have to admit, as I am beating myself over the head trying to get this thing straight, that the thought of a synopsis making the writing of a book dull or too easy makes me laugh and not in a cute way. With all my careful plotting, I still made wrong turns and decisions and the figuring out who knows what when and who reveals it to other people is always challenging. Plus, I forgot the Labrador Retriever for a whole day and came close to forgetting there was a dead guy in the shop. Ack!

It's back to the blizzard for me. Been in the snow so long it kind of surprises me when I look outside and see green tress and kind of sunny weather. Hope your week was a good one and find time to check in and tell us about it.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

SUMMER CHECK-IN/ CHALLENGE


Current Project:WYOMING RANCH BOOKS
Status: BOOK ONE, pg. 142

A week ago, I set into motion the beginning of our summer blog hiatus. I was burned out when it came to presenting monthly ideas that didn't sound recirculated. It turned out almost all the contributors felt the same way so for the past week, our blog has, to paraphrase Debbie's comment, had tumbleweeds blowing down the deserted streets.

But a funny thing happened: I was writing every single day without any buddies to share the joy (and the pain). LONELY. Hey, if I have to write and meet deadlines, I don't see why you shouldn't either, so here is my challenge -- WRITE EVERY DAY THIS SUMMER. If you've written five days in a row, than spend a few minutes on the two down days to catch up on writing related projects.

Many of us have external deadlines. The right to have these comes when we've pushed ourselves into that professional space. If you are still on your way to that point, the habits and attitudes you acquire now will be fundamental in helping you with your career.

WRITE EVERY DAY. Write on your book, write on your ideas, write a sentence, write a chapter. Act like a writer and you will be a writer. It takes guts and determination to push for something you want when sometimes the carrot seems to be a mile in front of you. Every journey begins with a step. I dare you to keep taking those steps. If you're under an external deadline, than challenge yourself to try something different as you write. A technique. A style. Switch something up that pushes you and keeps you engaged. Even the act of reformatting my chapters into smaller units has changed the way this current book is unfolding and that's interesting to me and makes the challenge all the more fulfilling.

WRITE EVERY DAY THIS SUMMER. I think if you do you may find that the process is far more stimulating to your creativity than not writing ever can be.

Besides, I need company!

Check back here every weekend and we'll keep each other motivated, keep each other up to date, keep each other honest. We can each do it. Rah-rah-rah!!!

SUMMER CHECK-IN/CHALLENGE


Current Project:Wyoming Ranch Books, Book One
Status:

Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days Of Summer



You may have noticed the virtual tumbleweeds blowing through the blog last week. It seems that even writers need a break now and again from talking about our favorite subject. Summer has finally arrived in the Mid-Willamette Valley and after the long cold wet spring, we're all enjoying the weather while we can. It's time to go outside, have some fun, and recharge our creative batteries.

This blog is officially on summer hiatus. Be sure and check out our individual blogs to find out what we're up to and check back here every now and then—you never know when one of us might pop in for an update.

Have a great summer, everyone! Catch you on the flip side!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN


Current Project: Unnamed Fantasy
Status: See Below :-)

I have to admit I've been feeling a bit underwhelmed by my progress lately. However, this morning as I was trying to figure out what to put down for the status of my current project, I realized I'm further along than I'd been giving myself credit. The world I've been building is fleshed out enough to allow me to start writing—I'll fill in details as I need them. I've got the main characters thought out enough that I'm ready to get to know them better by seeing how they handle the trials and tribulations I throw at them. I've thought about and discarded several plot points, paring down to just a couple of seemingly unrelated ideas. And yet I've been kicking myself because there's still a big fat ZERO when it comes to words written.

Except...I realized that's wrong. I have been writing, just not typing on the keyboard in an "official" document. As ideas have simmered and I've been building the world, I've also been writing snippets of dialogue and small scenes in my notebook as they occurred to me. Some I've discarded for this project (though I've saved them for possible use in another story). In fact, two of the larger scenes have become the basis for the beginning of the plot. It's weird, too, because as I wrote each of them, I firmly believed that I was writing something that would go in a different story, but that I wanted to get down while the idea was fresh. It wasn't until later that I realized the scenes were connected, not just to each other, but also to the current story.

So, it looks like I'm further along than I'd let myself believe. I've written about 800 words, all told, and still have two more scenes already planned out that I just need to get down on paper. I think it's probably time to start that "official" document and begin writing on a schedule again. I'm ready. Who knew?

How about you? Any surprises this week, good or bad? Are you feeling stalled or are you racing through your story, eager to get to the end? Inquiring minds are dying to know!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Storytelling At It's Finest

Current Project: Unnamed Fantasy
Status: Still Worldbuilding

My husband and I went to see Gone With The Wind last night at the Elsinore Theatre. The Elsinore has an amazing classic film series they present in conjunction with a local community college—other films we've seen include The Maltese Falcon and Forbidden Planet. This is the third time I've seen Gone With The Wind in a theater and each time I've come away with something different.

This time, part of the experience for me was my awareness of the responses of the audience around me. I heard more than one person say they'd never seen Gone With The Wind before, even on DVD, before the movie started, and only a few said they'd read the novel. I was surprised at the first statement, but not at the latter. I'd imagine that at a little over 1000 pages, Gone With The Wind appears daunting to most people, and how many people out there assume a Pulitzer Prize winner must, by definition, be dry and/or difficult to read? It's a shame, because Gone With The Wind is pure entertainment. And while the movie trims and focuses in on only certain aspects of the novel, the entertainment value loses nothing in the translation to the big screen.

The first time I saw the movie was shortly after I'd read the novel (in the early '70s). What I remember most about that viewing was that while I loved the movie, I was a bit distracted by the differences—the things they edited or cut. Still, it was one of the most memorable movie going experiences I've ever had, the others being seeing revivals of Lawrence of Arabia and Ben-Hur. The second time I saw Gone With The Wind was in the mid-'80s. I was far enough removed from the novel to just sit back and let the story on the screen flow over me. Wonderful.

This time I found myself analyzing the story, the characters and the audience reaction. Times are different—our lives have been irrevocably changed by the ubiquitousness of the internet and instant access to information and entertainment. I was amused by how many people immediately turned on their cellphones as soon as the last scene faded from the screen at 11 o'clock at night, because, my God, what they must have missed by having to be disconnected for 4 hours! (Yeah. Right.)

So what struck me most this time around? The incredible story-telling, for one thing. How about how GWTW managed to convey the utter devastation of the Civil War without ever once showing a battle (i.e. a movie can be thoroughly entertaining without resorting to an "action scene")? And then there's character development. Vivien Leigh had the part of a lifetime and she makes Scarlet O'Hara come to life; she is Scarlet O'Hara. At the beginning of the movie, Scarlet is only 16 years old, a pampered, spoiled child who expects the rest of her life to be just the way she wants it to be. Watching Scarlet meet the tragedies and challenges that life throws at her while still clinging to her self-centered ways, and yet oh-so-subtly changing as well, even though the most important realizations only come when it's too late. Gah! There's too much to try to describe in this post. Suffice it to say, it's a tour de force performance and an incredible character arc.

The other thing that struck me was the audience reaction. So many people had never seen the original, but everyone has seen the parodies ad nauseam. So, when certain scenes—such as the "curtains into dress" scene—first arrive on screen, there were unexpected titters of amusement as if people thought they were watching yet another parody. By the second half of the movie, though, these unexpected outbursts had disappeared as the audience became completely engrossed in the story. Pretty amazing, really.

And finally, there's Clark Gable. There have been a lot of good looking actors over the years and a lot of actors who can really, well, act. But very few have had the sheer presence on screen that Clark Gable had. I'd take Mr. Gable, shirt sleeves rolled up and devilish glint in his eyes, over just about any actor around today. He was the perfect Rhett Butler to Leigh's Scarlet O'Hara.

Margaret Mitchell refused to write a sequel to Gone With The Wind, and I, for one, am content to leave Scarlet as I last saw her—alone on that staircase, vowing to return to Tara and figure out a way to get Rhett back. I believe she'll somehow manage to do just that.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Life Interruptus


Current Project:Secrets of a Mayan Moon
Status: 28,000 words

Life Interruptus has been my affliction this year. I can't keep up with all the things I have in the past.

Grandkids, trips to graduations, watering in Princeton, farming, promoting. It's a wonder I get any writing done!

Actually, the trips to Princeton I get my most writing done. There are few interruptions. I just change the pipes morning and evening and the rest of the day I can write to my heart's content. I've been thinking about staying there a day longer than I need just to get more done.

Poor timing on my part. I've scheduled a huge blogging promotion blitz that starts next week and runs through the Fourth of July weekend. I'll have thirty-five people here from Friday until Monday for a family reunion, and I'll need to hop on the computer a couple times a day, every day. What was I thinking!!!

So what do you do to work around Life Interruptus?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN



Current Project: Unnamed Fantasy
Status: Working on Plot

Welcome to the all-new SaturdaySunday Check-in!

Ahem.

I could blame the permanent time-warp that seems to have descended on my head. Or, I could say that I was stuck in an iron suit while a TDESPHTL* replayed Friday. Or, I could claim I got caught up in the first beautifully sunny day we've had in oh so long. Or...I could just admit that I lost track of the days and didn't realize yesterday was Saturday until this morning. Yikes.

I am, once again, struggling with Plot Creep. My initial idea has grown from a tiny sapling "Save the Prince!" scenario into a giant "Save the World!" sequoia. And while it's a very attractive tree, I'm not sure I'm ready to tackle the forest that goes along with it. (I could struggle along with more forestry analogies, but let's just say I did and skip it, okay?)

You know what I mean though, right? It's never just saving the world. Oh, no. There's political intrigue and spying, strategy and battles. Good vs. Evil. *sigh*

The question is, would I be biting off more than I can write? Is it too ambitious to attempt a Big Book when you, technically, haven't finished any book yet? Should I pare it down and write a simpler story? I don't mean "simple" in a negative way, but as in "fewer intertwining threads."

I do recognize that this is one of the things I've been battling in my ideas--my tendency to want to throw every plot idea I've ever had into the mix. I know I can't do that. Well, not and have a story that makes any kind of sense. But can I handle a story that's complex (rather than just...complicated)? I don't know. I guess there's only one way to find out. Wish me luck, Ma, I'm going in!

Yeah, I'm in one of those moods.

So, how did your week go? You had an extra day--did it come in handy? (oooh, I shoulda used that as my excuse!)


* Gratuitous Tin Man reference—that's a Tri-Dimensional Energy Stored Projected Holographic Time Loop.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

DESIGN YOUR OWN AVATAR

Posted by: Amber Angel (Genene's alter-ego/avatar)
Current Project: St. Patrick's novella

Status: Needs work!

Amber Angel here, pinch-blogging for Christine Young, who is on the way to California for her niece's graduation.

Most of you know me as Genene, but my online name for the books I'm doing for Rogue Phoenix Press (Christine's e-publishing company) is Amber Angel. It's a tongue-in-cheek PR idea that was the brainchild of Chris Kraemer. Some of you may have previously visited our Rogue's Angels' blog (And since "Genene" just blogged on Tuesday, who wants to hear from her again already?)

I'm not usually on the cutting edge of technology, but I just realized tonight that "Amber Angel" sounds like an avatar for me as defined by Wikipedia: "An avatar is a computer user's representation of himself/herself or alter ego whether in the form of a three-dimensional model used in computer games, a two-dimensional icon (picture) or a one-dimensional username used on Internet forums and other communities..."

I have not seen the movie, AVATAR, so my apologies in advance for any gaffes I may commit in this blog post. However, it's not the movie I intend to discuss, but avatars.

Let's have fun with this if you want to play along. Choose an avatar--and not necessarily a blue one--for yourself. What would that avatar look like? What personality traits would your avatar have? Or perhaps you already use a different personality online. If so, why? And how is that personality different from the "real" you?

My alter-ego, "Amber Angel," is younger and thinner than me, and always has a winning smile. She also wears wings and hangs out with the other Rogue's Angels most of the time. The "real" me is determined not to age, is losing weight, and is sometimes grumpy. I rarely wear wings and am usually surrounded by dogs--the furry, four-legged kind. Hmm...I think Amber Angel should acquire a dog.

Please introduce your own avatar--I'm looking forward to meeting them!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

ADDING TO MY EDITING ARSENAL

Posted by: Genene Valleau
Current Project:
Nine-book series
Status: Working through the timeline, adding scenes and drafting stories

Many thanks to Courtney Milan, the guest speaker at our writers' meeting last Thursday, whose presentation triggered the idea for this blog post. Courtney's presentation was "Editing for Voice." It could have been titled, "Editing Deeper to Take Your Story from Good to Great Using Examples and Exercises from Some of My Favorite Books."

A much longer title, but that's what Courtney did in this hands-on presentation. Her suggestions got me thinking about editing, and how changing one word or phrase in key places can give a story that illusive "voice" that entices editors and readers to buy our books.

I'm going to paraphrase a couple of her suggestions here, so my apologies to Courtney if I don't convey the full meaning of the edits she suggested.

One example she gave was to replace a literal word with an emotionally significant one. Instead of saying "John's green eyes..." watched her, say "John's reptilian eye..." While "green" is a fine and functional word, "reptilian" will generate an emotional reaction from the reader. Getting a reader emotionally involved with our characters is a good thing!

Using an example from her upcoming novel, TRIAL BY DESIRE, Courtney used several paragraphs of before-and-after editing to show how to give scenes give a consistent message. In the draft, most of the wording set a chilly scene: "a blast of cold air," "a pale and unforgiving light." However, the phrase "...painted his skin golden" snuck into this scene. The edited version made the tone of the scene consistent by replacing those warm words with "...as if he were a cold, hard statue of a god...instead of a man made of warm flesh and blood."

Courtney also offered examples of effectively using an unexpected phrase or an unusual reaction from a character to surprise readers. She led us through other exercises and examples, but I'm not going to give away all of her presentation. :)

I've added Courtney's suggestions to my editing arsenal--along with the other processes I use, such as highlighting point-of-view characters in different colors, checking for overused words, balancing dialogue and description, and making sure the hero's eye color doesn't change in mid-story. This is in addition to reading my stories out loud, and reading through several times to check that all subplots and/or story threads are resolved, and character arcs are complete.

Can you tell that I like doing edits? How about you? Do you have a favorite editing process or a suggestion for deepening the emotion in your stories and offering insights into your characters?

P.S. to Becky: thanks for the warning to expect to stay up late into the night to read Courtney's debut release, PROOF BY SEDUCTION. If anyone wants to know more about Courtney, her Web site is www.courtneymilan.com.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN



Current Project: Unnamed Fantasy
Status: Creating Maps

I had a hard time with this post. Not because I don't have anything to say. Nope, quite the opposite—for once I have too many topics rambling around in my head. Since that's sort of my problem with my current project, I thought I'd stick to talking about where I am right now. And where's that, you ask?

I'm stuck in Worldbuilding 101*.

I'm currently doing the Fluctuating Fox-trot with my story's setting. Here are the things I know. The story is a fantasy; Magic exists, but so does Science. I have a good idea of the inciting incident, though I'm leaving myself some wiggle room on the details, some of which will depend on, you know, the setting.

In some ways, the traditional High Fantasy genre would fit, but I really don't want to write yet another story in a world stuck in Medieval Stasis. Nor do I want to create kingdoms/societies that are really just a bunch of Planets of Hats. Okay, I thought, do a paradigm shift and set it in a more recent time frame, like the Victorian era (though I actually prefer the US period name of the Gilded Age), but then I realized to my chagrine that I'd be careening perilously close to writing Steam Punk. Don't get me wrong, I adore that genre—I just have no interest in writing it at the moment. So Victorian times, it seems, are out.

I (very) briefly toyed with using a contemporary setting, or even the near future, but the story that seems to be gelling in my head really doesn't work in those settings. I'm also not sure I want to write a story where the Real World(tm) is oblivious to the magical stuff happening right under it's nose.

I know, there are still a lot of possibilities I haven't explored. One setting I'm toying with is the Edwardian era, either at the start of or just before WWI. Another is the late 1920s-early 1930s—I've wanted to try my hand at Decopunk for awhile, though I think I may hold off on that for now.

Ah, well, at least it's a nice day, with clear skies and no rain. I think I'll go take a drive and mull things over. Maybe some fresh air and sunshine will air out my brain.

How was your week? Inquiring minds want to know. And if you have any suggestions on setting, they'll be cheerfully accepted!

* Why yes, I have been spending a lot of time lately reading TV Tropes. Why do you ask?

Thursday, June 03, 2010

SHARING


Current Project:Wyoming BooksStatus: Chapter Five

As I reviewed the past few blogs, both mine and those of other people, a few things occurred to me. We are all at such different places in our careers and in our lives. There isn't a single one of us doing exactly the same thing with exactly the same goals and ambitions. That makes creating universally appealing blogs especially difficult.

But there are a few things we all share and that is the process itself although there are obviously dozens of differences in those, too. Through trial and error, we each develop the tricks of the trade that help us be creative. I accidentally rediscovered one last Tuesday and I thought I would remind you of it, too. My hope is that you have similar advice you can share, things that you have found work for you, that help you get to your goals, that put you in the mind to write, that inspire or reassure you.

The background: It's Tuesday. The dh is gone which means I have all sorts of time to really get back into the this book. However, Plants vs Zombies is proving a great big hairy distraction. I am tthhiisss close to getting the Tree of Wisdom to 1000 feet where I can then type in "Pinata." It's the last goal I have with this game that has been my steadfast companion for the past several months. It's been a whole lot more comforting and entertaining than waiting, waiting, waiting, that's for sure.

The instigating factor: Around 3:30, things finally begin to gel with the book and I am off, writing like a speed demon, inching close to Writer Nirvana, and then the dog barks and I look at the clock. It's ten to five and I have to be in the park at five o'clock for puppy/owner obedience training. I have to quit writing RIGHT NOW. But I am so close to the end of the chapter!!! Agonizing, I accept the inevitable and leave.

The pay off: Guess who knows exactly where to start again the next morning? Guess who can't wait to get to work? Guess why? Well, you know why.

The conclusion: I USED to know to leave a scene unfinished at the end of the day, specially as I was getting back into a project and my work ethic (cough, cough) smelled like a string of dead fish left out in the blazing sun. I had forgotten it. Now I know it again.

Your Turn: Share some trick or method with me that I may have forgotten to use or one that just tickles you or amuses you or maybe even something you find yourself doing and have no idea why but it works. Pat your tummy three times and turn a cartwheel? Line up pencils? Make coffee? Beat solitaire?

And by the way, last night I grew my tree the last hundred feet and typed "Pinata"!! I am thrilled to say my zombies now spurt wrapped candies when their heads fall off.

Life is good.
Current Project:Wyoming BooksStatus: Chapter Five

Random thoughts today as I sit in the hospital awaiting the dh's return to wakefulness. Yes, btw, he's okay, it was an outpatient procedure and he sailed through it, but he's groggy now. That gives me a few moments ...

As I reviewed the past few blogs, both mine and those of other people, a few things occurred to me. We are all at such different places in our careers and in our lives. There isn't a single one of us doing exactly the same thing with exactly the same goals and ambitions. That makes creating universally appealing blogs especially difficult.

But there are a few things we all share and that is the process itself although there are obviously dozens of differences in those, too. Through trial and error, we each develop the tricks of the trade that help us be creative. One I had completely forgotten

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Making that judgement call


Current Project: Derby book
Status: meh

There's one question on my mind in regards to writing as of late - how do we make the judgment call that our project is worth writing and has enough substance to contain a book? Last winter I began working on a roller derby book. I had the major points fairly well plotted (or at least known in my brain somewhat). I felt I knew my characters well. But it got to a point where it felt too convoluted, just didn't seem to work well.

In February I went to the Michael Hauge workshop by RCRW and thought it may work better to make that one the second book and do a different first book. A librarian derby girl. Seemed to have a better hook and I could lay the groundwork for the second. But recently a couple of friends pointed out a few great things: 1) a first book shouldn't be written to set up the next; 2) the derby wasn't as integral to the librarian book idea as the original idea, and that's what makes it extra catchy; 3) the original idea is just more fun.

Sometimes it takes hearing that from someone else to justify the idea, you know? It didn't seem like a good idea to me, felt a bit contrived somehow. But I guess we all think that about our own ideas from time to time?

That got me thinking that writing just can't be a solitary profession. Just because at the end of the day we have to sit by ourselves and write, doesn't mean we should reach out to others and ask questions, brainstorm, or just chat. For me, I often don't reach out to brainstorm because I know how busy people are and it feels like I'm inconveniencing them. On the other hand, if someone wants to brainstorm with me I'm thrilled to do it. So logically...if I'm happy to brainstorm with others maybe they would be happy to do so with me.

Sometimes I wish I were as logical as Temperance Brennan! (Yes, I finally started watching Bones and I LOVE it!)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN



Current Project: New Project!
Status: Shiny!

I started a new project last week. It all started, as a lot of my ideas do, from a brief flash of a scene I had in my head just before I dropped off to sleep one night. It really was a flash — a 2-line conversation between two men on horseback. It stuck with me, though, because I woke up the next morning wondering who they were and what happened to bring them to that place and circumstance.

I was just fooling around; I didn't know it would be the start of a new project. I couldn't stop thinking about them. I thought about them when I went shopping and cleaned the house. I thought about them when I drove the car to Lake Oswego for a three hour career assessment class (and I thought about them during the class!). I realized they weren't who I thought at first and their story wasn't the obvious one I'd thought it was, either. And when other characters started showing up, I realized I might just have something worth getting excited about.

Right now I'm in what I call my "cautiously excited" phase. I've got a rough idea of the beginning of the story—maybe the first two to three chapters—and I know where I think it's heading, at least for now. As soon as I've finished meeting the characters and figuring out their names, I plan to dive right in and start writing.

I feel like I imagine Dorothy must have when she stepped from her sepia-toned world into the glorious technicolor of Oz. I didn't know that my world was becoming gray and washed out. Everything feels more alive and vivid at the moment and I can't wait to get started.

How'd your week go? Tells us your good news and share your troubles. We're all interested, and speaking from experience—it really does help!

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Current Project: TEMPTED
Status:
Revising - due next week!

Sorry my post is late today. My son's last day of preschool was this morning and they had a picnic/party for the kids, which the parents were all invited to. Because I have a book due next week that I'm not done with yet (ack!), this post is going to be rather short.

It's almost summer - I can barely believe it. My husband asked me the other day how much time I was taking off after I turn in TEMPTED, which is due June 1. I said, "Huh? Time off?" My agent is waiting for a proposal I'm only one chapter into. My novella is due September 1 and I haven't started it. And my next book is due December 1 (and I haven't started that yet either. Who has time for time off? We have a few things planned this summer but for the most part, I'll be working. I just signed the kids up for a camp, have another two camps they'll be doing as well. My goal is to keep them busy so I can stay busy.

Do you take time off from writing over the summer? And have anything big planned for the warm months - vacations, activities, etc? If so, I'll live vicariously through you.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I'm going to Disney World!


Current Project: Waiting to hear on first round of submissions
Status: One R...but it was a nice one


So how incredible is it that RWA managed to move the conference to Orlando with three months notice?

My first indication of an issue with Nashville arrived via an email cancellation of my hotel reservation at the Opryland Hotel. What? Flooding in Nashville? (I hadn't watched the news in several days) And they're canceling a reservation for three months away?? My next thought was, "What on earth will RWA do??"

The locations for Nationals are decided upon years in advance. Careful planning, budgeting, visits, meetings, analysis...Can you imagine the amount of work that goes into organizing a conference for 2000 people? And poof. Location gone. My hat is off to the wonderworkers who took charge and solved the issue within days. I'm proud to say I didn't pester a single RWA staffer with a phone call or email, because I'm positive they were bombarded with the same questions over and over. I'm also thankful I hadn't purchased my plane ticket. I've been hearing horror stories on some of the loops about attempts to get flights changed without penalty, but I think a majority of fliers eventually worked something out with the airlines.

I've never been to Orlando, and I'm excited to visit a new city. How can you go wrong with Walt Disney World? I love the excuse to travel. Next year New York...the next Los Angeles.
If you could plan an RWA conference, what city would you choose? Somewhere you'd never been? Or do you know of a place that'd be fabulous? I've never spent time in Chicago or in Texas, I'd like an excuse to visit.
(My website is partially up. The extras page isn't active. Click on my pic at the left to look and give me some feedback please.)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN



Deborah and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day*

Confession time. I've been struggling for the last few weeks and I haven't wanted to admit it, to myself or anyone else. You see, I'd convinced myself that when the day job was gone that I'd be ready to blast away at the keyboard. I had grand visions of writing a gazillion words every day, easily finishing one book this year (if not two!). But the problem is, the day job deserted me—I didn't choose to leave the day job.

I've been ignoring (or trying to) most of the negative feelings that are natural to have as a result of this. Because while it's true that what happened really is the way that I was (mostly) hoping it would go, it still wasn't my choice. And it stings. More than I thought it would.

I've been all over the map emotionally and I haven't been making things better by constantly reminding myself that I'm not meeting the writing goals I set for myself. "Hey, it's been three months. Get over it, already!" Yeah, that helped. Things came to a bit of an emotional head yesterday. I won't go into the whys--they're boring and irrelevant. Let's just say I had a really—no, really—bad day and leave it at that.

The bright spot is that I finally acknowledged the elephant in the room. Getting him out in the open (and letting him wander off in search of romance) allowed me to take an honest look at what I've been writing lately. Let's just say that the current story is going on the back burner (way, way back) for now and leave it at that.

I'm allowing myself a bit of time to decide what I really want to write, right now. I already have a couple of ideas bubbling that I'm kind of excited about, but I'm going to think about things for a bit more before jumping right back in. I've given myself permission to do this without feeling guilty. I'm not sure why that was necessary, but, trust me, it was.

I doubt that it'll take long before I decide on a story. And I haven't changed my ultimate goals for the year: 1) finish a book, and 2) submit to the Golden Heart. But it's funny how free I suddenly feel.

How was your week? Tell us your ups and downs, your victories and stumbles. And if you see my elephant? Let me know if he's found romance yet.


* Maybe I should move to Australia

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Historical Accuracy in Fiction

Or, hey, nobody remembers the 13th century anyway!

If you haven't seen the new Robin Hood movie, you may want to skip this post. I'll do my best not to go into any real spoilers, but you may not want to be spoiled by my opinions, either.

My husband and I went to see Robin Hood yesterday. I was hoping it would be another Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe actionfest. I was hoping they'd do something different--like set it in the timeframe of the earliest legends (the time of Edward Longshanks, rather than Richard the Lionheart/John Lackland). I was hoping to love it. What I got was one out of three. It's frustrating, because I really wanted this movie to shine.

There was plenty of action, no doubt about that. One thing this movie didn't lack was a lingering, loving look at the grit, blood and horror of medieval warfare. Real? I'm no expert, so don't ask me. Grim? Well, it came very close to my own personal limit of grimness. There's only so much I can take before I wonder why I'm still watching.

Fortunately, there were moments of relief. I loved the scenes between Robin and Marian. It would have been a much different movie if they'd expanded those moments and limited the battle and gore--a movie not made by Ridley Scott. Que sera, sera.

Still, that's not what bothered me. What bothered me were the things I was being asked to suspend my disbelief about. The loving detail with which the movie tried to portray the "reality" of 13th century life created the false expectation that, a) the characters would act in ways "true" to the way life was then, and, b) historic events would be portrayed at least somewhat accurately.

If this is the "real" 13th century and not some fantasy world? Give me a better foundation to believe a common archer in Richard's crusading army would know how to read and be able to impersonate a nobleman. And while we're at it, stop with the handwaving of history in order to make your hero more Heroic. Wasn't there enough of a reason to find Robin Hood heroic when he was saving the people of Nottingham from oppression? Maybe if it had been done with more finesse, I wouldn't have had a problem with it. I don't know--I'm still trying to figure it out.

YMMV, but I just couldn't take that leap. Don't get me wrong, I'm not sorry I saw Robin Hood in the theater. I (mostly) enjoyed it. I just didn't love it. I don't doubt that in a few months the most I'll remember about it is a vague sense of disappointment. Heck, even Kevin Costner's disaster gave us Alan Rickman's delicious scenery chewing turn as the Sheriff of Nottingham--a performance I still remember with glee.

And that brings me around to writing. If you write about historical events--ancient or otherwise--how do you prefer to handle them? I know some of this will depend on the story, whether your characters are inserted in the event or the event is part of the background. Or do you try to avoid real events at all costs? The question for me is, how far can you go before you risk throwing your reader out of the story? Or maybe that's the wrong question to ask?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

¿Tengo que traducir?

Current Project: Secrets of a Mayan Moon
Status: 18,000 words

I found a great site on line that allows me to type in a sentence in English and it gives me the sentence in Spanish. I love it! And because I did have two years of Spanish in high school, I can tell if it is translating right or not. This is the site.http://translation2.paralink.com/ It has many languages that can be converted.

My current WIP is set in Guatemala a predominately Spanish speaking country, though it also has a high percentage of Mayan languages as well. And I found a dictionary for that, too. ;) With the main characters traveling through the jungle and encountering locals, they have to converse at times in Spanish. I've tried to keep the dialog short and give clues to what they are saying without actually translating the sentences in English. This has been as big a challenge as writing a story in another country and trying to find all the information I need. But I have enjoyed the challenges as they crop up.

How do you feel about interjecting other languages in books as a reader? And as a writer have you done this and how did you handle it?

Saturday, May 15, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN



Out with the old, In with the new.

Did I mention a few weeks ago that we'd had a couple of trees removed in our backyard a few weeks ago? They were large trees: a 70 foot maple and a volunteer cherry that had to be nearly 50 feet. The maple had root problems (rot of some kind) and we decided to take it out before it took out our house or our neighbor's house. Preventive medicine and all that. The cherry was just a messy nuisance, though a decent shade provider. Not to worry, though, we still have the giant fir tree and a second (now trimmed) volunteer cherry.

Removing those trees opened up the backyard and allowed the morning sun in. We still have plenty of shade, especially in the afternoon, but that little bit of sun has made all the difference to the other plants in the yard. The rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas are thriving as never before and the lawn actually has a chance to grow grass instead of moss.

But the best part is that now we have the opportunity to put our mark on the yard. My husband has always wanted a japanese maple, so off to the nursery we went! No one will ever accuse us of thinking small--we ended up ordering seven trees. They were delivered on Thursday. I should mention that only two of them will be planted in the ground; the rest are destined for containers. The two we plan to plant in the ground are a beautiful Bloodgood and a Sango Kaku (Coral Bark). The others are a Autumn Moon (which may end up in the ground), a Golden Full Moon, a Katsura, an Orange Dream, and a Shaina (which came already planted in a wooden box). Even though planting is a bit of work, I love the smell of the rich loamy earth.

So far I've planted the Katsura:


and the Golden Full Moon:


What does this have to do with writing? Well, spring always makes me think of new beginnings. Of possibilities. Of change.

Change.

I know I'm generalizing and over-simplifying, but isn't change at the heart of most compelling stories? Finding the right change--or the right reason for change--for our characters is one of the things that makes story telling fun. And while I'm still getting used to thinking of myself as a writer, I have no problem at all calling myself a storyteller; human beings have been telling each other stories since the dawn of history.

This week I did a lot of thinking, mixed in with the planting (I planted other things, too, during the week). Not a lot of writing (again), but the characters are taking shape in my mind.

How did you do this week? Boast about your accomplishments, or let us commiserate with you on your setbacks. But either way, enjoy the lovely spring day!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Psychological Warfare

Current Project: St. Patrick's Day Anthology
Status: 2 more chapter outlined.

Mind Styles to help build character profiles:

How well do you know your character? How can you develop conflict just with a character profile? Dr. Anthony Gregore published The Style Delineator in 1982 culminating twelve years of study and research.

This resource guide can give writers a way to enhance conflict and humor as well as bring the hero and heroine to a deeper understanding of each others personality. We all understand that characters must undergo change and growth if they are to find true happiness. We understand too that the conflicts must be resolved before the end of the manuscript. Conflicts are not always on the physical level. Sometimes the problems that separate the characters are on a psychological level.

Gregore defines four personality types: Concrete Sequential, Abstract Random, Concrete Random, and Abstract Sequential.

A brief overview of each as defined by Gregore:
Concrete Sequential--These are the "recipe kids." They want to know the who, what, when, where, and why of every task encountered, with the what receiving the major emphasis. Being Concrete and Sequential the view is always so clear…to them. They wonder "will the rest of the world ever be so precise and to the point?
Favorite sayings--"If it's worth doing do it well." "I'm from Missouri, show me." "If it isn't in writing, it doesn't exist."

Abstract Random--Abstract Randoms are "flakes." In their best form they are like snow flakes--each is beautifully unique, each joins with others with flexibility and ease. United they cover and bring together the world in a dazzling art display. They are the emotional, heart centered, sensitive point that establishes rapport with other points in a spirit of good will.
Favorite sayings--"If it feels good, do it." "Take time to smell the roses." "The heart has reasons, that reason has no knowledge of."

Concrete Random--These folks are the intuitive leapers. They can come up with answers before the question arises. They comprise a significant portion of the "futurists." More than any other point, they jump back and forth between fact and theory. This fantastic brainstorming capability also frequently leaves them in a position of not being able to explain their thinking to other points.
Favorite sayings--"Who says I can't?" "The most incomprehensible thing about our world is that it is comprehensible." "Tell me no, and I'll do it anyway."

Abstract Sequential-- These chosen ones are like "Spocks" from Star Trek. They know Descarte's first principle. Cogito Ergo Sum "I think therefore I am." They also know that the real world is the abstract, nonphysical world of thoughts and mental constructions. Abstract Sequesntials know a lot, and they know they are only scratching the surface of the vast world of ideas.
Favorite sayings--As I think, so I am." "I'm writing you this long letter because I didn't have time to write you a short letter." "Knowledge is power."

Gregore Identifies many other attributes of these mind styles, including: A list of priorities, partial lists of strengths, annoyance - to other mind styles, and personal preferences.

Many of my friends labeled me as Abstract Random but after taking the test I am not AR.
What time of mind style do you think you are?
Can you identify the mind style of some of the characters you write?


urrent Project:
Status:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

THE FIRST TIME (at a conference...)

Current Project: Nine-book series and a novella
Status: Making progress


It's been awhile since I struggled to find a blog topic--but I struggled today! I finally ended up looking through my old blogs for ideas. With RWA National Conference only a couple months away, the subject of conferences struck me as appropriate. So I rewrote a piece about my first conference...

I invite you to put on your newbie writer hat and shoes and step into the time machine. We're going to flashback to circa 1992 in Eugene, Oregon. Their now-disbanded Romance Writers of America chapter was about 100 members strong and hosting a three-day conference leaning toward the paranormal.

Butterflies of excitement and trepidation fluttered in my introvert heart. As I neared the registration area, someone smiled and directed me to the right table.

Soon I was wearing a name tag, clutching a workshop schedule and had a bag of goodies slung over my shoulder. I had officially declared my status as a writer!

The days of the conference passed in a blur of wonder, crammed with workshops, fantasy creatures and telling my future by numerology. However, the biggest thrill was meeting other writers who had their stories published! They shared their experiences, their wisdom, their horror stories of what to avoid. I felt like I had known these sisters (and a few brothers) for years, bound by the bond of writing.

When the conference ended, I didn't want to leave this magical place, but I yearned to get home to write! Finally, I waved goodbye to one more new friend and walked out the doors--a different person than I was three days earlier. I had begun an exciting new journey.

Do you remember your first experience at a writers' conference? Or are you still looking forward to that milestone? Please share a story or two!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN


I tried writing this post last night, but my brain was too mushy from the cold that's decided to take residence in my head. I waited for inspiration to strike this morning -- no such luck. So I'm afraid you're stuck with this rambling, non-sequitor, goofy stream-of-consciousness that are the thoughts rambling through my brain at the moment (and that I wish I could blame on my cold!).

I was (and still am) sick with the aforementioned cold. Even so, I managed to eke out over 1200 words. I imagine many of those words were barely coherent and will get re-written sometime in the future, but still! It felt good to move forward, albeit on shaky ground. I was reminded that I can't fix what I haven't written, so it's all good.

I thought a lot about dominoes last week. About how I hadn't realized that's how I thought of plot until I mentioned it (offhandedly) in my last check-in post. It's true, though. I used to think of plot as linear; as a line of dominoes ready to fall. Set everything up and tip the first block and everything falls neatly from there. If that's the case, I should be able to plan the line. Even if it meanders, I should know where it's going, right?

Turns out I'm more of a hindsight girl. I can't know where I'm going until I get there and look back at where I've come. (Yeah, I'm hoping that makes sense.) Thing is, I'm hoping once I get to the end, I'll be able to look back at that line of dominoes and make sure they don't peter out unexpectedly in spots or clump up in others. Plotting in reverse. I'll have to think about that some more when my brain doesn't hurt.

It's a beautiful sunny day here. I think I'm going to take the laptop outside for awhile. Who knows? Maybe I'll actually write a few more words before I fall asleep under the trees.

How was your week? Let us know how it went--great, good or indifferent. Hopefully I'm the only one who was laid low!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Questions



The note came yesterday, and since reading it, I've thought of little else.

What note? Isn't it amazing how powerful a question is? For instance:

1. Why did she hide the letter?
2. Is someone in the house with me?
3. Who else knew she always put cream in her coffee?
4. Did she sense someone behind her at the train stop?
5. Why did the police car circle the hill twice?
6. Do you know where my baby is?
7. Where did all this money come from?
8. Did he tell his secret before he died?
9. What do these numbers mean?
10. What's in the box?

Questions, or rather discovering the answers to questions, are what keep us engaged in a conversation, in a movie, in a book. Often the question isn't in that form. Narrative reveals a bullet riddled body missing hands and feet has washed ashore along the river. We extrapolate the question from the report. Why would a murderer cut off someone's hands and feet? Or we read that someone's long lost lover who disappeared ten years before and is presumed the victim of foul play, turns up alive and well and living in Cancun. Why did he do that to her?

Questions are an invaluable tool for a writer. We ask them when we start thinking "What if ----?" As we plot, we refine them: What kind of person --- would live in this remote place --- would kidnap their teacher --- would resort to blackmail --- would fall for such a blatant lie? And as the plot unfolds, we ask a million others. The answers only seem to beget a new slew of questions.

We can also use questions to pry ourselves out of a temporary knot. Story dead in the water? Start asking those characters of yours some very pointed questions and do it like you mean it, soldier!
You -- "Okay, Missy, why did what he just said make you so angry?"
Missy- "He hurt my feelings."
You -- "You weren't hurt, you were mad."
Missy -- "No--"
You -- "Don't try that act on me. I made you, I can take you down. Tell the truth!"
Missy -- "Because he lied to me! Again. He always lies and I always believe him. There, are you happy?"
You (smirking) -- "You're still holding back, but at least you aren't sniveling anymore."

Questions, of course, are the manifestation of this thing most of us battle on a daily basis -- curiosity. Curiosity is both why we write and why we read. The need to know and understand and be thrilled and excited and "live" a situation or a dialogue are a direct reflection of basic curiosity.

Do you ask yourself and your characters questions? And out of the questions above, which one would you like answered (please provide an answer as elaborate or as simple as you wish.)

As for the note that came yesterday? What did it say? Simple --
Alice -- don't forget to blog tomorrow @ the MWV-RWA Blog!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Writing what you know

Current Project: Derby book
Status: Chugging along. Thesis is taking top priority.

I was recently asked by a writer I met at the RCRW Reader's Luncheon why I don't write archaeology books.

Huh.

I hadn't really thought about it before. It's a good question though, I'm studying to be an archaeologist after all. It's certainly not because it lacks interest for me. It's not for a lack of ideas either, there are zillions of interesting cultures and artifacts that could be the basis for stories. So why don't I write about them? My reactionary answer was that I can't suspend my disbelief. I came across this when I tried to write a book with Greek and Egyptian mythology a few years ago. I was too wrapped up in the facts, or at least history as we know and expect it. I couldn't, and probably still can't, get myself to take a general idea, myth or artifact and twist things a bit for my own world building.

I think it's the same with archaeology. Let's say I want to write a story about an archaeological find in southern Italy, I don't think I'd be able to take liberties with what I've learned about the area. I'm too much in a box. Maybe it's because it is such a technical area. But there are cops who can write cop fiction and I'm writing a roller derby book. I don't know, analyzing this about myself is taking too much brain power. Maybe it just isn't meant to be in my fiction arsenal.

There have been a few ways I've been involved with archaeology fiction and it's been most enjoyable. I'm sure Eli has wanted to strangle me a few times with my responses to her archaeology questions. Over a year ago she wrote a proposal for a Central American archaeology book, which is currently out to publishers (I believe). We did a lot of brainstorming over what is believable for an archaeologist to do, what an archaeologist would actually be involved in, etc. It was a lot of fun, being able to think about someone else's book. I've enjoyed doing some recent brainstorming with Paty on an archaeology book as well.

Maybe someday things will fall into place and I'll be smart enough to learn how to suspend disbelief. I can watch CSI, why can't I write archaeology?!? Do you write what you know, either through hobbies or day job, or do you tend to write what you want to know more about?

Saturday, May 01, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN


I started to write that this week has been a strange one and then I realized what a redundant thing that was to say. It seems that every week is strange for me these days. On the writing front, I didn't actually get any words down. I did do a lot of mental work, thinking about the direction the story has taken and whether it makes sense or if it's taken a wrong turn, that sort of thing.

We had more work done around the house this week, having the old tub/shower combo in the master bath replaced with a larger walk-in shower (without a tub). That meant taking the cats to the kitty hotel for a couple of days, which meant having to go to the vet to get flea treatment medication before that. It's funny looking at events in reverse, isn't it? I always get a mental image of an orderly line of dominoes with the first one getting tipped over so they all fall one after the other, just so. Funny how it never feels like that when you're living it!

The other thing that happened—the thing I really wanted to talk about—was that I started taking advantage of the career transition services that I received as part of my layoff package. Right now I'm in the "assessment" stage, figuring out my strengths and interests. One of the things I needed to do before my next appointment was to complete a couple of "self-assessment" exercises. I've done things like this before at various times and expected these to be similar, but the first one I took was new to me. It's called the Birkman First Look and it's supposed to help you "understand your strengths, motivational needs, and stress behaviors."

When I've taken other tests like this, I've always scored high in the analytical/technical areas and that's what I expected to see with the Birkman test. What's different about Birkman, though, is that they also score your areas of interest, not just what you may be good at. For the first time my scores in creative areas were very strong — artistic, literary and musical were all solid bars, scoring far higher, for example, than in scientific and numerical (where I usually score the highest).

The results were a bit of a shock at first. How could it be true? I've always been the science/math/tech geek! After thinking about it for awhile though, I realized that these results reflect how my interests and my focus have changed. Yes, I'm still interested in high tech, but my real interest—my burning passion, if you will—is in being creative...in writing.

Yes, I know what you're thinking: "Duh, big red truck!" Honestly though, even though I've been talking about writing as a, well, career, it wasn't until now that I understood just how strongly I felt about it. I hadn't really been looking forward to doing this career transition thing, but now I can't wait to see what else I learn about myself!

How about you? Did you experience any revelations this week? Was your week productive or did you run into roadblocks? Share your news, good, bad or otherwise, and let us cheer you on!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

LATE . . Again


I switched with the gracious Eli for today, and then life continued to intervene as it has the last few weeks, and here we are at 9:00 p.m. This link has been making the rounds lately, so you may have seen it, but it's a good one.

Top 10 rules for Writing Fiction

I talk with my students a lot about the need to create personalized checklists. Lists of rules are only really helpful when they really speak to you. Which of the 10 rules do you agree with? Disagree with? What would your own list look like?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What I've Learned


Current Project: TEMPTED
Status: 80K words and counting

So, yep, it’s true. My first paranormal releases TODAY. MARKED, book one in my new Eternal Guardians Series, is loosely based on Greek mythology and centers around a race descended from the heroes of Ancient Greece. (You know those “guys” – Perseus, Odysseus, Jason, Hercules, etc. Think: Hunky hunks.) Writing this series is totally different from anything I’ve written before but I’ve learned 10 very interesting thing from it that I thought I’d share with you here:

10) Gods are snarky. Who knew? I certainly didn’t before I started writing this series. The worst of the bunch? Oh, Hades, by far. Okay, yeah, he can grind one into dust with a mere look, but guaranteed he’s got a wicked sense of humor while doing so. (At least you won’t die un-entertained.)

9) Daemons are really ugly creatures. Seven foot seething monsters with cat-like faces, dog ears and horns straight off a goat? Ew. Not attractive, and definitely not sexy. Now every time I hear about a romance where the main characters are demons, I have this visual pinging around in my brain and think, “ack!”

8) Having a soul mate is not a blessing. It’s a curse. Especially if the goddess Hera is involved.

7) The Three Furies like to show up in my books. I have NO idea why! I can’t seem to get rid of them. (Honestly, I think they’re obsessed with me, but don’t tell them I said so.)

6) Bookstores should not be burned (and I just want you to know, no bookstores were injured in the production of this book).

5) Lavender is more than a pretty scent!

4) Caves have really become my friend. I mean, seriously. Who doesn’t love a good dark, dank cave now and then?

3) Apparently, I’ve turned into the opposite of Walt Disney – instead of killing off the mother in every story I write, I do it to the father.

2) It doesn’t matter if a guy is human, god, or in between. He’s still slow on the uptake. (Why is that?)

And the number one thing I’ve learned from writing this book:

1) When you establish world building parameters that basically say your hero heals faster than normal because of his link to the gods, you set yourself up for rapid recovery. In all physical aspects. Especially the bedroom. And this lends itself to all kinds of new ideas. (My husband is so gonna roll his eyes at this part when he reads the book.)

So now that I’ve whet your appetite, head on over to my blog for my MARKED RELEASE BLOWOUT CELEBRATION. I’m giving away some very cool prizes in honor of the book's release. And I’ve posted the first chapter for everyone to read!

Happy Reading...and happy release day to ME!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN


Today's Subtitle: "Help! My characters sound like actors in a 1930s screwball comedy!"

This week I seemed to be channeling my inner Howard Hawks*. Every bit of dialogue I wrote somehow morphed into words that would have felt at home in any screwball or British drawing room comedy of a certain era. I kept expecting my characters to break out with jolly good or pip-pip at any moment. Okay, so maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but really, what do you do with a character who insists on saying things like, "Say, I’m being an absolute dunce."??

The saddest part? I wish I could say I was writing the kind of witty repartee you'd find in those old movies. Unfortunately, my version is more the kind of stuff you wince at. Ouch.

Still, there's something about letting a character talk and say what they want that reveals certain things about them. For instance, I had no idea that my heroine was a master thief who only steals high end, high profile and very expensive objects at great risk. Not until, that is, she started talking to one of her rich "clients" at a party and her inner thoughts betrayed her. What started out as an easy way to have her introduced to the hero turned into a revelation that had me scrambling to rewrite my earlier scenes. Like tipping a line of dominoes, other things started to fall into place.

Now if I can only get them to stop sounding like they need to be walking their wire-haired terrier on the deck of the Queen Mary as they cross the Atlantic... Asta! Heel!

So, while my word count hasn't really budged, I'm satisfied with the progress I've made this week. How about you? Did things go your way this week or did you encounter any unexpected roadblocks? Fred and Ginger and Nick and Nora and I would all love to know!

* his early comedies

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Oh, For a Muse of Fire..."

With humble apologies to William Shakespeare, I'm afraid I don't believe in divine inspiration when it comes to writing. If you're someone who firmly believes that you must wait for an ever-fickle muse to visit before you're able to write anything worthwhile, then you may want to stop reading this.

Look, I'm not trying to offend anyone; I'm only speaking for myself here. External inspiration can come from many sources, but true inspiration—the kind writers are really talking about when they mention a muse—comes from within. There's no fairy godmother or magic wand that will produce the kind of results we all want as writers—to be paid to publish our books.

I don't believe in a muse in the same way I don't believe in the Tooth Fairy or writer's block. Heresy, you say! How many of you believe that writer's block is real? Come on, raise your hands. Don't be shy. Okay, you can all put your hands down.

How can I say I don't believe in writer's block? Does that mean that writing always comes easy for me and that I've never struggled to. Get. Each. Word. Out? Oh, pshaw! Of course I've struggled and will continue to struggle. I just don't believe in attributing my struggles to something I can't control.

What do I believe in, then, if I don't believe in muses or in writer's block? Well, I believe in hard work; in writing as often as possible. I believe in fear and doubt—emotions I can recognize and do something about—and in powering on through when I feel them, writing whatever comes to mind just so I'm writing something.

The other thing I believe is that we make our own luck. Just consider the terrific things that have been happening recently for my fellow writers of this blog and in our RWA chapter—all of it the product of their own hard work and determination. Now that's something I can really believe in.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An Agent Story


Current Project: Proofing STRONGER THAN BONE
Status: Halfway

This is the blog I've always wanted to write. I've been on hiatus from the blog and writing as "life" got in the way. It's still in the way, but my writing world was suddenly kicked into high gear with the announcements of the Golden Heart® nominees on March 25. I was stunned and actually cried during the call.

A few days later a reputable agent contacted me to see the full. I didn't hold my breath. I assumed she was emailing a lot of the contestants to see their work. Two days later she called to offer representation. I was stunned. I managed to call her back and carry on a coherent conversation. I did learn that when an agent says, "I'd love to work with you," it means: I'm offering representation. I didn't pick up on that...I had to outright ask, "Are you offering representation?" Oops! I liked her, but asked if I could have a week to think about it and contact some other agents who'd shown interest in my work. She agreed.
I knew exactly who I wanted to contact.

I'd first heard agent Jenn Schober of Spencerhill Associates speak on a panel at Nationals in San Fran and had made a mental note. She was the type of person I wanted to rep my work. At Nationals in DC I chose an agent appointment with her. As I stepped up to her table she said, "You smell like vanilla!"

Uh...."It's my hand lotion."

She grabbed my hands, lifted them to her nose and inhaled. I tried not to laugh. We got along great and she requested two partials. We emailed several times, and she eventually rejected but asked to see future work and revisions. When I'd originally sent the partials, I'd reminded her of the hand lotion incident and she enthusiastically replied that she remembered me.

When I emailed to ask if she'd look at my GH finalist MS, I mentioned the hand lotion. Once again she remembered me and immediately offered to read the work. She loved the manuscript. When she called, she offered to rep me. I accepted and we talked for an hour. I knew I'd made the right decision.

I'm still beaming.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pressure Point

Current Project:Secrets of a Mayan Moon
Status: 4200 words

We are all our worst enemies when it comes to writing. Yes, we do turn a phrase nicely now and then, and we do put together interesting and sometimes comical characters, but at the end of the day and until someone else gives us a thumbs up, we believe what we are writing isn't as good as it could be.

I have never put as much pressure on myself as I am with this project. I have expectations of how this book should be, and I'm struggling to get it up to par. I've spent more time researching than writing since I started and thought I'd researched everything I needed to know. But things come up as I tap away at the keyboard and I stop- What is the highway like in Guatemala? What would they eat for breakfast? How long does it take to float the Rio Pasion?

Then there's the fact I want it to be humorous. It is lighthearted, I think, but humorous??? Not so much. So do I try harder to make it funny or stay with what is coming naturally?

I have several people who have heard the whole plot to this story and are pulling for me so much it makes my cheeks hurt from smiling over their enthusiasm. But the problem with putting the whole book out there in front of them,is kind of like writing a synopsis before you write the book then you write completely away from the synopsis. What happens when what they think this book is going to be like doesn't manifest? Will they still see merit in it, or be so stuck on what it should have been that they don't like it?

So I'm sticking to the adage "Write it well" and hope that no matter which way my story goes- Action Adventure comedy or more serious that the writing will be the deciding factor in whether or not it is well received by those who have been in on the ground floor and those reading it for the first time.

What kind of pressure do you put on yourself when writing?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN


Good grief, it's Saturday again! I think the earth must be speeding up in its rotation, shortening the days just enough to give truth to the old saying...time flies.

Did that sound like the intro to a littany of excuses? Well...yes and no. It's true that I didn't write as much as I'd hoped this week. I did write, though not quite every day. Some of what I wrote isn't reflected in the total yet, because I wrote long hand and still have to transcribe those words to the computer. I'm quite satisfied with my progress in the past week and feel inspired for the coming week.

Last week was a week of spring cleaning, getting organized and fixing things. First, we had a new furnace and air conditioner installed. The old ones were the original units from when the house was built and were barely limping along (the AC wouldn't have made it through the summer, if it came on at all). So we decided to take advantage of tax credits and rebates and get them replaced now.

That prompted cleaning out the garage. It wasn't so much that we had a lot of stuff to get rid of (though we do have quite a pile for the junk run), but that we needed to get things organized. We cleared everything out, put up new shelves and repacked the contents of cardboard boxes into plastic bins. Whew!

I know what you're thinking. Yeah, that's lots of work, but what does it have to do with writing—other than taking up time you could have been at the computer. Well, for one, it's a chore that had to be done at some point—now it isn't looming over my head, freeing me to concentrate on writing. But I also discovered something while going through all those boxes. I came across folders I haven't looked at in years. Inside one was a stack of typewritten pages—bits of dialogue, character descriptions, and lists of plot ideas. When I say "typewritten" I really do mean "on a typewriter." I wrote those pages long before personal computers were available. I had forgotten all about them.

Memory is a funny thing. I know I've said that I've been writing for about 10 years. It's obvious that I've had writing (professionally) as a dream for a lot longer than that. I guess I put aside that dream for something "more practical." Well, I did the more practical and now I'm ready to go after that original dream. Discovering those pages I wrote so long ago was like filling up my gas tank with rocket fuel. I'm ready to go, baby! Check-in with me next Saturday and see how far I fly next week!

Time for you to share! How did your week go? Did you soar high or stall out of the starting gate? Inquiring minds want to know.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Roots:

Going back to my roots. Roots as defined is: to have an origin or base. It is also defined in myriad of other ways, including to turn up or dig in the earth with the snout. (I think we will forget that definition.

Roots can be considered the beginning of life or the beginning of the story. Roots or a foundation have to be cemented down before the story can move forward. How does an author build a story?

For some the roots of the story begin with the plot. You might call these authors plotters. My stories begin with the characters (hero and heroine) and a time period. The characters are the life and breath of my stories. I might write anywhere from 10 to 20 pages about the characters before I begin writing. Some authors write even more than that. As my characters develop I add to their legend.

Is it important to your characters birth date? Their horoscope? There favorite color, flavor, or scent? For me it is crucial. Knowing all the little things about your character builds your story and pushes it forward. Knowing important details creates texture, color, and interest.

What are characters worst traits? Or their best?
What does he/she do for amusement? In their free time?
What games do they like, type of music or art?

And the list goes on…

What is important to you about your characters traits? What are must knows before you begin writing?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

IS WRITING HARD?


Posted by: Genene Valleau
Current Project: Taxes
Status: Almost done!

Is writing hard?


I'm going to propose the Henry Ford answer, "It is if you think it is."


Most of us have heard writers say sometimes stories just flow, and other times they need a dictionary to spell the word "hard." Do we make that choice--perhaps unconsciously?


My experience with drafting scene sheets for my nine-book series suggests we do make that choice. At first, the ideas flowed as fast as I could type them into the computer. I was amazed. Astonished. Awestruck.


Then worry snuck in that this couldn't last. And guess what? My worry started choking off the flow of words. Doing those scene sheets became a chore that I didn't want to face. So I started procrastinating--which I'm very good at and which is a sure sign that I'm avoiding a lesson I need to learn. But when I was completely honest with myself, I knew my fears were choking off my writing. If they were easy to write, the stories wouldn't be good enough. After all, writing is supposed to be hard, right? What if I wasted the time and money of my publisher? What if, what if, what if...


What if I just sat down and trusted the story to come? What if I knew surprises were in store for each scene that would fit perfectly? What if I just relaxed into the joy of writing?


And soon I did sit down. And the surprises came. And I enjoyed working on those scene sheets again.


Please notice that I didn't say I turned on my computer one day and found a completed story. I believe we still have to take action, but I also believe our perception of writing as hard or as a creative journey affects how the stories flow.


If we step back and look at those times when writing seems hard, we may learn that we've strayed from the story or taken a side road that has dead ended. Or we haven't dug deep enough into the emotions, motives or goals of the characters. Or we haven't done enough research. Or there's another issue with the story that we haven't recognized yet.


And perhaps the issue isn't the story at all. Maybe the issue is an external stress of short deadlines or the pressure of appealing to agents, editors, or readers. We want each story to have more action, more suspense, more sex, more something...


Yet if we let our writing journey unfold at its own pace, won't this happen naturally because we learn something with each book?


So what do you think? Is writing hard?


While you ponder these questions, I'm going back to working on my taxes--which I've put off for far too long. Then I'm going to take my own advice and work on my novella. Because writing flows easily, right?