Sunday, February 28, 2010

SUNDAY CHECK-IN


Current Project: Open Sky Proposal
Status: Ready to Go

YES! My proposal is ready to email to my editor. At seventy-nine pages it's a bit top heavy, but there you go, it is what it is. I decided to add in a rambunctious yellow lab in the wild hopes I can write off my money pit of a pet on our taxes -- I'll let you know how that goes -- but to say I feel a sense of accomplishment is an understatement. No matter what the result, as I said before, the experience of having created these three books (at least partially) has been well worth the effort and I am also pleased that they are different enough from each other that I won't feel as though I'm writing the same book three times.

Hopefully our retreat members (who did not get washed away by a tsunami yesterday, but my gosh, poor Chile) will think to check in and let us know how it went. Hopefully the rest of you will, too.

Have a great Sunday!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

SHORT, TIGHT STORIES OR LONG, FLOWING PROSE


Posted by: Genene Valleau
Current Project: St. Batzy and the Comedy of Warriors
Status: Research and preparing to write: your suggestions welcome!


First of all, thanks to Team Alice/Eli for triggering this post. The example Alice used in her post yesterday of rethinking "throw-away lines" to work harder to deepen description while still using a minimum of words was very timely for me. 


I've recently switched from working on a series of novels that will be about 75,000 words each to writing a 30,000-word novella. I expected my brain to switch immediately from long and flowing to short and tight. Well, the first hiccup came when I did the math on how many scenes the novella would be. Only 18-20 scenes instead of sixty or more? Oh.


So forget the subplots and extended cast of secondary characters. OK, I can do that. 


At the same time, keep the emotional depth and gut-level motivation of the main characters. More digging and thinking, but I'm getting there. 


Oh yeah, and it has to be funny. This is a comedy, after all, revolving around St. Patrick's Day. I'm jotting down notes--really I am! And there's that research into quirky wars and things Irish and time travel that's generating more ideas...


Aha! I haven't done a vision board for the novella yet. Time to get some green paper and St. Patty's knick-knacks and print out those photos of characters.


All this and I haven't actually started to write the story yet. 


How about the rest of you? Many of us write or have written stories of varying lengths, as well as different genres or subgenres. Alice started out writing short stories. I don't know if Minnette Meador is still an active member of this chapter since she moved back to Portland, but she recently had a 600-word romance published in The Oregonian. You read that right: 600 words. I was impressed! It's at http://www.oregonlive.com/travel/index.ssf/2010/02/a_valentine_on_mount_\hood.html if you want to have a read. 


Do you have a routine or ritual to help you switch from one genre to another? Do you need to take a few days' break or can you switch immediately from writing one story to another? 


Or does it depend on where you are in the process? I can switch into editing mode fairly quickly for any length or genre. However, since I'm in the development and drafting stage with both my series and the novella, it's taking me a bit longer to make the switch. Perhaps I need to try a suggestion I remember someone making some time ago--I apologize that I don't remember who--to listen to different types of music for the different stories. Perhaps an Irish jig and some Celtic flutes to transport me to Ireland?


Any and all suggestions welcome. Because next week it's time for me to sit down and write the story!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

SHOW DON'T TELL



Current Project: Montana Open Sky Series
Status: Almost there

Show don't tell. It's the oldest adage in the world, isn't it? Consider this. I asked Elisabeth if she would read my first chapter which I have been struggling with like crazy. She agreed. She gave me some invaluable suggestions, and one little one was this: I had written, "You know anything about the gate over in Shadow Canyon?” Pierce asked as he dismounted. There wasn’t much snow on the ground at this lower elevation.

She suggested: "You know anything about the gate over in Shadow Canyon?” Pierce asked as he dismounted. His boots landed on a thin layer of crunchy, day old snow, a far cry from the three foot drifts he’d encountered at higher elevations when he’d been checking fences earlier in the day.

A little light bulb went on in my head and this is why:

There isn't a lot of debate about the value of showing versus telling. What little disagreement does exist seems to center on the degree. A book where one scene after another showed every nuance instead of using narrative would soon get so long and unbearable you'd put it down in a corner and sneak away. You simply can't show EVERYTHING. This I understand. As writers, we all pick and choose which scenes we'll develop and which scenes or situations will be condensed and used as transitions.

What Eli illustrated for me was how simple this same concept can be incorporated in small ways. She gave the image of three foot drifts of snow. She gave the crunchy sound of a boot landing on a thin layer of icy snow and we even know it fell the day before. It didn't take that many more words, but it has a nice feel to it that I like and it made me start looking at other throw away lines a little more closely.

It's interesting how we choose which scenes to illustrate, isn't it? How do we know? Most of us say we see certain scenes and I wonder when we write if we are really writing our way from one vision to the next. That makes sense to me though from now on I intend to pay more attention to the lines between the scenes...

Does this kind of thing strike you where you live? Do you have trouble balancing narrative and exposition? How do you decide which to use?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Attack of the a-ha!


Current Project: Derby book 1
Status: Lots of promise

Most of you can probably guess what this blog post is going to be about...the Michael Hauge/Bob Mayer workshop put on by Rose City Romance Writers over this past weekend. I'd seen the Hauge/Christopher Vogler DVD (our awesome chapter owns it and members can check it out at monthly meetings) a time or two and found it quite helpful. But my hope with this past weekend was that it would be the same principles in the DVD, but personalized for romance novels (instead of screenplays). And it was! He often used movies as examples, but he brought it back to writing and adjusted his lessons for novels. If any of you have seen his handout that shows the three-act structure with percentages for stages and turning points - he said those percentages are more for screenplay than novels, that there's more flexibility for novels.

He broke down the stages of a novel and discussed what should be happening in each. Much of what he said is things that many of us learn through RWA, but sometimes it takes hearing it phrased another way to really make it click. One of those things for me was his idea of identity and essence. His definition of identity is basically the armor a person puts on about themselves - who they think they are. The essence is who they would be if they had the courage to do so. Thus the character arc is them living fully in their identity, glimpsing their essence, going back and forth between the two, then by the end fully living in their essence. I really like that. The trick is to find ways to have them glimpse their essence early on.

I could go on and on about Michael Hauge and my seven pages of notes, but this is not the venue to share all the tips he gives at workshops :)I highly recommend you try and catch one of his workshops or check out his DVDs.

I didn't get to hear as much from Bob Mayer as I had to leave at lunch time to come to a work event. But there was one thing he said that really stuck out to me - what you really need to pay attention to is what you're afraid of. Michael Hauge touched on that a bit as well. I encourage you all to ponder that and see if that relates to any difficulty you may be having in your writing lives, or even personal lives.

This was a weekend of the attack of the a-ha moments! Not to mention a whole lot of fun getting to hang out with Alice and Eli for two days :)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN


Current Project: Open Sky Proposal
Status: everything pretty much ready except for 2nd half of chapter three

How's everyone doing? I've spent the week ironing out issues with all three books. They're finally beginning to seem like three separate but important parts of a whole, so that's a relief. Who knows if they'll sell -- whether they do or not, creating them has been an experience worth having.

I'm writing this before I leave for Vancouver for the Michael Hague Portland Winter Intensive this weekend and have purposely put off finishing the proposal, anticipating that I'll hear something over the next two days that will cause an aha moment. I want to be open to making changes.

Hope your weekend is good.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Free For All Friday- release info


I mentioned last Friday I'd put up the info about my release, Spirit of the Mountain. And thank you Bethany and all for your kind comments yesterday on Elisabeth's post.

The first book of a historical paranormal trilogy set among the Nez Perce Indians will be released Friday, August 13th.

Blurb:

Wren, the daughter of a Nimiipuu chief, has been fated to save her people ever since her vision quest. When a warrior from the enemy Blackleg tribe asks for her hand in marriage to bring peace between the tribes, her world is torn apart.

Himiin is the spirit of the mountain, custodian to all creatures including the Nimiipuu. As a white wolf he listens to Wren’s secret fears and loses his heart to the mortal maiden. Respecting her people’s beliefs, he cannot prevent her leaving the mountain with the Blackleg warrior.

When an evil spirit threatens Wren’s life, Himiin must leave the mountain to save her. But to leave the mountain means he’ll turn to smoke…

Excerpt:
(I had to rework this from the pdf so it may not be in the right paragraph formation)
Himiin licked his wounds from the black wolf attack. Why did this dark spirit roam his mountain? The encounter meant trouble from the Blacklegs. He sensed it in his quivering muscles. How had the intruder crossed his mountain without him knowing? He would need to be more vigilant to make sure it didn’t happen again.

Thinking of all the places on the mountain the dark spirit could hide, he barely caught the cadence of happy voices mingled with the songs of the birds. Before he could duck for cover, two young Nimiipuu maidens appeared within striking distance.

The shorter one grasped the tall maiden’s arm. “We should back away,” she whispered.

Himiin listened and watched. His body tensed as the taller female shook off her friend’s hand. Thelast time he’d come this close to a mortal…He didn’t want to think about it.
He stared at the maiden,willing her to keep her distance.

The slender young woman stopped and tilted her head this way and that. She stared at him through narrowed eyes. “His fur is whiter than a summer cloud, and his
eyes shimmer bluer than the lake. He reminds me of the spirit—” Her gaze lowered to his leg that oozed blood.

“Look, he is hurt.” The slender maiden walked toward him without fear. She approached, her steps slow, holding her outstretched arm offered palm up in submission. She must be either very brave or halfwitted. For not many—warriors included—would approach a wolf in such a way.

Himiin remained still. His muscles bunched, ready to spring in flight. He couldn’t defend himself. If he killed another…Closing his eyes, he swallowed
the lump of disgust.

“Do not worry. I will not hurt you. I know you are my spirit wolf.” Her gentle sweet voice eased his tension, drawing him back to the moment.

After the encounter with the Blackleg spirit, he was wary of a female walking toward him as if he caused her no threat. She could be the dark spirit in another vessel. He studied her eyes intently. The discernable essence of a spirit or person shone in
their eyes.

Her words registered—my spirit wolf.

How did she know he was a spirit? Unless…

“Wren, you should not be so close.” The plump maiden’s voice shook. She stood her ground a good distance from him, while the maiden called Wren continued talking.

“There, now. Let me see to your wounds. I will not hurt you.” The soft spoken words made him forget his injuries and his past encounter with a mortal. He stared into her caring eyes. Fear was not evident in her gaze, her poise, or her words. Her
melodic voice beckoned his gaze to meet hers and allowed her to take his paw. He’d never connected with a mortal before. Her touch tingled his nerves.

“I do not wish you harm, only to make you better.” Nimble fingers moved the fur and examined the blood-soaked gashes on his leg. Her gentle touch caressed his skin like a warm summer breeze.

The last mortal to touch him…His stomachpitched. Fate could not repeat itself. He trembled and forced his mind to push the past in the far reaches of his memory.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Taking Chances


Current Project: TEMPTED
Status: Chapter 5

I have the head cold from hell that has now moved into my ears, so apologies if this comes out conjointed-sounding.

I turned in my revisions last night for ENTWINED. My editor already went through them and said I nailed it. She loves this book. More than MARKED. More than any of my Stolen books, which totally surprises me. Being the author, it's very hard for me to step back and see it from someone else's point of view. To me it's a giant mess. Maybe because the writing process for this book was so hard - I started it last spring, then got sick and almost died, then tried to get back to writing and couldn't until October. I feel like I flew through the end of the book trying to get it done, and now it's hard to look at it objectively. And I tackled some rather controversial issues, took some chances I was sure my editor would cringe at. So to hear her say she loved it? Totally floored me. Since my CP and beta reader both said the same thing (that they loved it, that they cried, that it was their FAVORITE book of mine to date), I'm inclined to believe (hope!) maybe they're right and I'm wrong. But still, I worry.

Writers are worriers at heart, aren't they? We worry that our book won't be good enough to snag an agent. That it's too different or similar (take your pick) to other books to entice an editor. That when industry professionals say they want "the same but different", it's such hogwash we will never sell. When we do sell, we worry that readers won't give us a chance. That our print runs won't be big enough, that the publishing house won't put money behind us, that our sell-through will suck. We worry our editor will hate the second book we've already toiled over, that he/she won't buy anything else, that our career will be over before it begins. And we always worry--no matter how many books we write--that THIS book will suck big green donkey whompers, readers will figure out we are a total farce and it will be the absolute END to our writing career.

Yeah. You can tell I don't spend time worrying. Those doubt demons can take over when you least expect it. And it's THOSE doubt demons that dictate what we write. Let's face it. It's a thousand times easier to write the same old romance just like every other author than it is to take chances, to write something different, to put a new twist on something that's been around for a while...to tackle controversial topics. But think about your FAVORITE books. I bet if you looked closely you'd see those books stayed with you long after any other BECAUSE there was something in there that was so different, it grabbed on to you and wouldn't let go. That author took chances, and it paid off. Take Barb, for example. That vampire story she wrote that has now garnered her a request from one of the biggest agents out there is proof that experimenting outside the box and taking chances WORKS.

ENTWINED is my "taking chances" book. While MARKED was a new genre, something outside my comfort level, it was really in ENTWINED that I pushed the limits of what I'm used to writing. My characters, their back story, the things they do and the world they live in...I took chances with all of it, and I think (hope!) it paid off. At the end of the day, I don't want to be just another author readers are ho-hum about. Love me or hate me, I want readers to remember me.

How about you? Have you taken a chance that has paid off? Or is there something you really want to do but are afraid to try?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Thrill of Victory

Current Project: NMMNG
Status: Eh.

Apologies for my blog absence this week. I'm a bit of an Olympics junkie, and the late nights have me spending most of my day blinking last night's viewing out of my eyes and craving the coffee I can't drink right now. My husband is already teasing me about how I am going to live without my "spandex boyfriends" while on the retreat next week (the finals of the women's figure skating is next Thursday--and yes, I have the schedule memorized). But, of course, I keep repeating the cycle of late nights and grumbling about network scheduling while managing a huge stack of grading which is the definition of insanity right?

My husband suggests that I just watch the events online, but most of the online stuff doesn't have the commentary, and really, it's the commentary that I love. As a writer, I love the human drama--the disabled brother, the four jobs just to afford lessons and skates, the near-death injuries, the far-flung family in the stands. I love the little tidbits about the athletes and the coaches. I notice that my sympathies often change based on these tidbits. Case in point, I wasn't rooting for China's pair skaters at all until I saw the segment on how the husband and wife team had been skating together for 18 years (!!!), but I still wasn't down with their coach until I saw the segment on him and all he's went through to build the figure skating program in China.

I think this applies to books too--often all that separates a potential hero from a villain is a little tidbit of information. The right back story changes someone from dismissible to unforgettable, and the right gesture at the right time makes all the difference. Last night, I was rooting for one of the American men figure skaters, but on the fence about the other as I saw him as a bit cold and mechanical (And I hate his costume). But, then after skating a brilliant program, this mechanical skater showed such joy and relief that I'm now hoping he wins gold tomorrow night. Later, my heart broke for my favorite guy as he failed to deliver the performance he needed, and his reaction of disappointment was mirrored by his coach and his large contingent of friends and family in the audience.

This is why it is so critical to let the reader in on your character's inner workings and why the reaction scenes are just as important as the action scenes. If we don't see the hero's emotions after the big fight and see his hurt and pain manifest themselves in his actions, he can come across as cold and callous. If we don't see the heroine picking herself back up mentally after a disappointment, she comes across as whiny and needy. If we don't see a hint of the villain's tortured past, he comes across as one-dimensional. Little reactions of secondary characters are so key to maintaining tension and drama too--a mother's tightly clasped hands and supportive t-shirt adds drama, but the house she sold to help the hero get to this moment raises the stakes. The wife who seems supportive on paper reveals her true colors with her bored, pissy expression in the stands, and suddenly another layer is added. The teammate who shakes off his or her own disappointment to revel in pure joy for a teammate's winning performance makes a sidekick worthy of a sequel while one who goes and sulks or who only offers a lukewarm handshake becomes less trustworthy.

A key theme here is raising the stakes--I feel no solidarity with a young self-made millionaire ski bum who keeps to himself. He's clearly competing for himself alone, and losing would be a personal disappointment for him with no real consequences. But the athlete who works four jobs to be able to afford lessons and whose parents are mortgaged to the hilt--I can't click away. I want this athlete to win because winning has real consequences for him beyond making all the training worth it. An uninjured athlete with a happy home life is a boring athlete. But, an athlete competing against doctor's orders while risking the wraith of a spouse? Now that's worth a bowl of popcorn or seven. Lindsay Vonn was just another blonde genetically blessed skier to me until she injured her shin and suddenly the drama shifted from "will she win" to "will she compete."

The stakes aren't high enough for me in events where each athlete competes one at time, battling only the clock or a judge. Other factors have to come into play to hold my interest in these events. But, a pack of eager competitors all jockeying for position with lots of potential for falls and come-from-behind wins is often enough to hold my interest even if I don't know that much about the competitors or the sport. Likewise, a heroine or hero battling an unseen evil is much less interesting than one pitted against foe, and a field of foes just raises the stakes that much more for readers. And when that known foe has an interesting story of his or her own or a long history with the hero, the battle becomes epic. Similarly, an athlete competing in his or her last Olympics is so much more interesting than a 15 year old with a bright future ahead--a loss for the young athlete doesn't sting so much. Likewise, an athlete struggling to overcome a humiliating loss is so much more likeable than one who is merely trying to capitalize on a long-string of victories. People love the improbable heroes, and improbable heroes with impossible odds are unforgettable.

I keep returning to this theme as I ruminate on my WIP (ruminating is at least a little bit of progress, right?)--I have to keep raising the stakes. It's boring when everything goes as planned for the characters, and readers have to have reason to invest in a particular scene or they will get bored and skip ahead or put the book down. These are the basics of good fiction writing preached in countless workshops and books, but sometimes seeing them played out in a non-fiction, real-life context puts them in a whole new light.

Your turn: What real-life events have given you aha! moments about the craft of writing? Also, are you watching the Olympics? What's your favorite event and why?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Contemplating the Future

Deborah Wright's ProfileCurrent Project: 2010 Golden Heart Project
Status: On Temporary Hold!

I had a lot of trouble coming up with what I wanted to write for today's blog (seeing how late I am in posting, that was kinda obvious, huh?). I wanted to say something pithy about how I feel, now that I'm no longer working for the man. At one point I even considered calling my post, Free at Last!, but thankfully thought better of it. I still don't have anything pithy for you, so I guess I'll just wing it. :-)

I would normally have had Monday off as a holiday, so today was the first day that my new circumstances really hit home. I slept in. Okay, it was only until 8:45, but it counts! I didn't immediately login and check my email. In fact, this afternoon was the first time I've been on the computer all day. I went for a walk and out to lunch with my husband and didn't worry about the time, or about checking my email and voicemail from my iphone. Nor was I distracted thinking about the problems with the latest software or whether a project was approved.

This is a scary thing for me, being 100% responsible for my time and what I do with it. Oh, it isn't like I wasn't responsible before this; I always worked my patootie off for my employers. But now my time is my own and I'm only accountable to myself. It's only been two days, but I already understand why my father preferred working for himself. The profound sense of freedom I feel is almost overwhelming.

I took the last two weeks off from writing. I was technically still employed, though there wasn't anything I needed to do except make sure I had all of my employment records saved and that I returned all of the company electronic/computer gear. My mind, however, wasn't ready to be creative. Every time I opened a file to start writing, I immediately thought of a ton of other things I needed to get done. I just wasn't into it. So instead of pushing it, I gave myself permission to step back for a short time.

It was the right decision. I've already had a few lightbulb moments happen since the weekend--the kind of moment where you get the answer to a plot or character problem seemingly out of the blue. It's a sign that my subconscious was still chugging away on Story, even while I was unable to focus on writing a single word.

I hope to get right back into writing this week, but if I don't that's okay. Not because I can't focus, but because I've torn my office apart! I should have it back together by Thursday, at the latest. I'm looking forward to the future with a fresh outlook in an office that doesn't have a split personality. I can't wait.

Monday, February 15, 2010

What makes an Olympian?


Current Project:Spirit of the Lake
Status: 51,000 words

Okay,not really an Olympian.(Can you tell what's playing on the TV?)How about what makes a winner or a hero? This weekend I became a hero. My hubby went to Portland to an auction. He called and said he wouldn't make it home to feed the cows, I'd need to get someone to help me. My nephew was at work, our neighbor and my father-in-law were gone.

So Tink and I headed out earlier than we usually feed, catching the cows chewing their cuds. We jumped in the tractor, fired it up, and hurried to the gate. I jumped out, opened the gate, and drove the tractor and hay trailer through, hurrying to the edge of the field. I stopped the tractor, hopped onto the trailer, cut the twine on two bales and tossed them around. The cows and calves started fighting for the hay and I jumped down, hopped into the tractor, drove a short distance and put the tractor in low. I hopped off the moving tractor and jumped onto the trailer, cutting baling twine and flaking four bales. The tractor headed toward a fence. I jumped off, hopped on the tractor step, opened the door and turned the steering wheel, heading the tractor to the middle of the field again and hopped back on the trailer to flake off four more bales. I hopped back in the tractor, drove it out of the field parked and closed the gate. I looked out at the happy cows and the feeling I'd just saved the world overwhelm me. A feeling I can relate to when I have a hero or heroine accomplish something hard.

An Olympian or hero can be a person who believes in something so strong they find an inner strength. I watched West Side Story for the first time this weekend. I've been wanting to watch it and finally found the dvd for $5 and waited for the dh to be gone because he doesn't like musicals.(If there were ever two opposites when it comes to music- it's us) Anyway, while there were some kind of cheesy spots, there were also some very emotional/powerful scenes. The emotion for me came from Tony and Maria and the racial tension. I didn't like the ending from the HEA perspective, but I liked the emotion that was portrayed. Maria was an Olympian in my opinion.

But I have a question- What was the purpose of the tomboy character? I didn't get it other than a way to tie up the loose strings. Anyone else have an idea? I actually found her off-putting.

Have you had a moment in your life when you felt like an Olympian? If so have you used that feeling in one of your stories?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN


Current Project: Open Sky Books
Status: coming right along

I've had a busy week. I can't remember what I said I wanted to have done by today but this is what I can claim. Partial synopsis for book one, two full chapters. Proposal synopsis complete for books two and three. By this time next week, I'd like to have the whole thing ready to go so that I can take all that knowledge with me to the Michael Hague Portland Winter Intensive weekend and use the things I see and hear there to pick up flaws and fill gaps, etc. Then it's off to NY and we'll see.

Debbie -- You are a free woman! I can hear the relieved (Oh, dear, I hope it's the sound of relief) sigh all the way down here.

Lisa also completed my web site this week. I'm looking forward to having the time to tweak the blog page. The add a gadget feature is mighty compelling!

What has your week been like and what do you hope to accomplish the coming week?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

ENCOURAGING THE DREAM

Current Project: Blatant self promotion of A VALENTINE'S ANTHOLOGY
Status: Book launch party on February 14
Please join us if you can at Willamette Humane Society, 4246 Turner Rd. SE, Salem, Oregon



For several weeks, we  have had a great deal of discussion and enthusiasm about setting goals and working toward writing dreams. I didn't consider these things when I joined RWA almost twenty years ago. I simply discovered a fascinating world where writers finished books and sold them for undisclosed sums of money and, best of all, shared the secrets of how to write with wide-eyed newbies like me. 


If someone would have asked what my writing dream was back in those days, I probably would have finally stammered out that I wanted to write a series romance and sell it to Harlequin/Silhouette. If they would have pressed me for specific goals to realizing this dream, I doubt I would have been able to list much beyond write the book and submit it. 


From RWA, I learned the craft of writing, and then I learned to target specific editors and lines, and had the opportunity to enter contests and attend conferences to do this. I learned about publisher guidelines and query letters and those dreaded synopses. I learned so much from RWA and was offered so many opportunities. They encouraged my dream.


Through rejections and doubts, writer friends encouraged me until I developed the inner strength and confidence to pursue my own dream. Until I became one who offered encouragement to other writers whose dream seemed just out of reach or totally impossible or perhaps just a bit unfocused.


My own dream has changed since those early days. I have chosen an alternate pathway to share my stories: a small publisher of electronic books and books that are printed on demand as readers order them. I see this not-so-new technology and the more recent technology of combining audio and video with words to form interactive books as exciting developments. Others aren't so eager to embrace these changes.


This produces chaos and conflict--the stuff of good stories--but an uncomfortable situation in "real life," especially when our national organization that sets policy and direction struggles to define their role in this time of dramatic change in the book producing industry. Amid this conflict, how do we focus on our dreams? How do we encourage others to follow their dreams, even though those dreams may be different than ours?


A couple days ago, I talked to a woman who has the dream of writing a novel. She has written poems and has done some work on a novel. She said she had a couple of main characters outlined, had some ideas about plot, and knew the story would be a thriller. But she hadn't written anything since Christmas. Some people would have told her that writers write every day and since she wasn't doing that, she wasn't a writer and might as well give it up now. 


That's not my style. I told her she had made a good start, gave her some ideas for resources that might help, and told her I was looking forward to meeting her on Sunday at my booksigning. If we had talked longer--without the beeping of my cell phone warning the battery was almost dead--I would have also encouraged her to think about what she wanted out of writing. Writing for the pleasure of putting words in the computer? A few copies of a book for friends and family? A comfortable income with a small publisher? A contract with a New York print publisher? A New York Times bestseller? 


As someone recently commented to me, what you want from writing--your dream--will determine  your promotion, your networking, the time you commit to writing, perhaps even the stories you choose to write--or someone else chooses for you. 


I'll offer those suggestions when I talk to this woman again and will tell her about new opportunities. However, I will also caution her to beware of unscrupulous businesses who want to take advantage of her dreams, something I wouldn't have felt necessary just a few months ago.


How about you? What encouragement have you received in pursuing your writing dreams and goals that has been most helpful? And when you offer encouragement to other writers--no matter whether you think you're a newbie or have been at this writing business awhile--what do you say? Have your suggestions changed as technology and publishing have changed? Or do you encourage new writers to simply tell the best story they can?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT WRITING I LEARNED FROM MY DOG


Current Project: OPEN SKY BOOKS
Status: Chapter Three, first book

This is Bonnie. As you can see, she's changed a lot in six months. By the way, that's a copy of one my books, Royal Heir, she's got in her mouth. When we finally wrested it away from her, it was missing half its cover and pages 1-7. Everybody's a critic...

Okay, so maybe Bonnie didn't teach me everything I know about writing but as those of us who live with dogs realize they do have a way of living in the moment that is captivating. These are the top four lessons Bonnie reminds me of on a daily basis:

THE JOURNEY is what counts. This one comes home to me every sunny afternoon as we walk in the park. Inevitably, we end up at the baseball diamond, and if there's no one around, she gets to be free of her leash. As soon as she sees the field, she goes through the gate. Picture it. A crescent of red breasted robins on one side of the field, Bonnie on the other. The face off. Tension mounts. And then she charges. Birds fly everywhere. They cheat, the little scoundrels, by going over parts of the fence without a gate. She grinds to a halt, looks around for more birds, and soon dispatches those as well. She never comes close to catching one but her spirit is undaunted, it's the thrill of the chase she's after, the matching of wits with a few ounces of feathers and beak. Writing is a journey, but at times, we get so focused on a goal we forget to enjoy the process. Not Bonnie.

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM. In the last week or so on our morning and afternoon walks, Bonnie discovered the following: One tennis ball. One bone of undisclosed origin. One empty Tic Tack container. One abandoned dog collar with a corroded tag. Three sheets of wet paper. A small stack of mini Oreos. An old rubber gasket. The tin hold down strip for a rain gutter. A purple Hot Wheels truck. A banana peel. Beer cans, Pepsi cups. A child's mitten, half a baseball cap, a man's flip-flop ... the list goes on and on. She finds these things because she is a dog with a keen sense of smell and because she has never met a spot she wasn't willing to investigate. She loves these things for a time, the castoffs she can carry and throw and pretend to lose. Some she re-finds every day, some are lost or misplaced by another dog. And I am reminded of a conversation with a friend who lamented the paucity of Christmas tree farms in Colorado because wouldn't that make a great place for a chase scene. I said, you can use it in another book. She said, no, it just wouldn't work the way she wanted. I asked if I could have it. She gave it to me and I used it. Keep eyes and ears open, one writer's throw away can be another writer's treasure.

NEVER GIVE UP -- persistence pays off. Bark loud enough, long enough and eventually, someone will open the door and let you in, let you out, play tug-o-war with a sock or engage you in a rousing game of tug-the bunny, take you for a walk, give you a treat, do something, anything to shut you up. And what writer doesn't need to keep that in mind?

Lastly, there's this: BEWARE OF THINGS OUT OF PLACE. A laundry basket is just a basket whose contents are to be swiped and chewed to bits UNLESS it's sitting on top of the burn barrel outside where it has never sat before. A shiny pan is just a pan for licking when opportunity arises UNLESS it is hanging on a hook up high and reflecting light. A rake is just a rake to attack when someone tries to use it UNLESS it's sitting by the side of the road where it has never sat before. Then one must stop, raise all hairs, bark like crazy jumping backwards with every woof, alert the family there's a disaster in the making, everyone run, it's the end of the world! Eventually, a tired looking woman introduces you to your biggest, most scariest fear and lo and behold, turns out it's just a laundry basket or a shiny pan or a rake, it's not a monster after all. I leave it to you to tie this one into writing. It just cracks me up.

Like Bonnie.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Current Project:
Status:

Ah, isn't she ... cute? Can you believe how she's grown in just six months? Btw, that's a copy of Royal Heir in her mouth and before we wrested it away from her, it was missing a cover and pages 1-7. Everyone's a critic...

Okay, maybe not everything I know as a writer I learned from Bonnie, but there's nothing like a dog to poke you in the gut and say "Over here, look!"

Let me share some of Bonnie's reminders:

1. The Journey:

Monday, February 08, 2010

Vision boards

Current Project: derby book
Status: coming along slowly

Last Thursday, local authors Paty Jager and Genene Valleau gave a presentation on vision boards, setting goals and reaching one's dreams. They also brought lots of fun supplies so we could make out own.

I had planned to have one finished so I could post a picture of it, but I need more images. While going through magazines at the meeting, I was continually drawn to words and found it needed more images. So I'm going to ask my dentist's office if they have old magazines they can share when I visit them this afternoon. Unfortunately, I don't have any magazines I can cut up - just a bunch of anthropology journals :)

The vision board seems to be a tool that can work as a visual reminder of what you want out of life, or what you mean to do. It can work to motivate you to keep pushing to get published or snag an agent, to becoming a healthier person, to taking more time for your family. There's no right or wrong way to do a vision board. Don't get these confused with story boards, which are more targeted to one's story - in television and movies these are used to visually map the story scene by scene. A great vision board hybrid (Debbie made a fabulous one) takes the intent of a vision board, but instead of using it for yourself, you use words and images that remind you of your characters and story. I really hope that Debbie posts a picture of hers...nudge nudge.

I found a sites that had helpful hints and descriptions for making vision boards by Christine Kane. I'd like to make small hybrid ones like Debbie did (she had scrapbook supplies and everything, folks) for the story. Genene also brought in one from her wall-o-plotting that had a bunch of images for characters. Genene, would you be willing to post a picture of your wall for all to see? ;)

For those of you who finished your vision boards, please post a pic. Here is a free image hosting service that doesn't require an account or anything. Just upload the image from your computer (ignore the bit about email) and share the link it gives you in the comments here. Does anyone have tips to share for their own vision boards, or links to ones online they like?

Saturday, February 06, 2010

IF IT'S SATURDAY...


... then it must be time for Saturday Check-In.

As usual, I get to go first. I'm on page 29 of the first book in the series. This week my goal is to finish chapter two and chapter three and start on the synopsis for the rest of the book. In the back of my brain, I'm realizing there are two other books that need a rough outline before any of this can be submitted, so I've started kind of working on those, too. A series with the characters and their lives as intertwined as these is a spooky proposition for someone as disorganized as I tend to be, but I'm up for the challenge!

I think.

Your turn.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Psst...Secrets...


Current Project: TEMPTED, book 3, Eternal Guardians
Status: Chpt 5

I don't know why I thought today was Genene's day to post. Genene...you're messing with my mind!

I've been in a reading slump the last few months. Actually, not really a slump, just a "I don't have time to read and nothing looks interesting to me" kind of mood. A few weeks ago I got my RITA books to judge, so I've been slowly working my way through those. (It helps that for the first time in months I'm not on deadline!) Last night while I was reading a contemporary romance, I had one of those aha! moments we writers all know about but don't often think of.

Secrets.

They are why readers keep reading. They are what keep you up late, into the wee hours of morning, turning pages. In a suspense, the secret is the "who-dunnit" mystery element. Sometimes it's "Who's the bad guy?" Sometimes the reader knows who the bad guy is but doesn't know why the bad guy is doing the things he/she is doing. And sometimes it's mutliple who-dunnit mystery elements that keep a reader flipping pages.

In other books - paranormals, historicals, contemporaries, urban fantasies - the secret can be a villain, but more often it's another mystery element that makes readers itch to know more. The heroine has a secret she can't tell the hero. What is it? The hero's mysterious past could ruin the blossoming romance and end the world. What is his secret? And sometimes, what keeps a reader reading isn't needing to know the secret but needing to know how others in the story will react to that secret.

I love secrets. I love giving my characters secrets. In my recent book - STOLEN SEDUCTION - the heroine has a secret she keeps from the hero about her involvement in his murder investigation. The hero has a personal secret that's changed his life. And then there's the whole who-dunnit mystery secret that encompasses the entire suspense plot.

In my May release, MARKED, the reader knows the hero's secret from the start of the book. What the reader doesn't know is how the heroine will react when she learns his deep dark secret and how that secret will impact her. Still a secret. Just done differently than my previous book.

What's the best secret you read in a book that kept you turning pages? And do you use secrets in your books?

Before I forget...I'm hosting the RomCon Contemporary Forum today. The topic is Romance Fixes. Hop over and comment to enter to win a copy of STOLEN SEDUCTION and a chance for a paid registration to RomCon 2010 in July!

AND...there are only two days left to win an ARC of my May Release - MARKED. Check my blog for how to enter.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Pity Party, Table for None

Current Project: NMMNG
Status: STALLED!

I've been having a hard few weeks here, which seems to be going around lately as many of us seem to be in a similar situation. It's been particularly frustrating where my writing is concerned--I missed a contest deadline that I really should have entered. I'm not writing new words. I'm not even reading new books to dissect. And, I'm falling behind on my responsibilities to the Chapter and feeling guilty for that. It's a perfect recipe for a big batch of "Why do I continue to do this . . ." I made this same stew over and over again while I was pregnant with Tavy--I just don't seem to do pregnancy either gracefully or productively, and I feel tremendously guilty in the face of all sorts of writers who turn out books while gestating. So I shouldn't be surprised to be in this place, but I'm still frustrated. Then, this weekend I had to do the renewal of my national RWA membership, which I put off to the very last day.

However, in the past, when I've been in a non-productive phase, I've really questioned whether to keep my membership and really struggled with sending that large chunk of cash into what seems like a giant wishing well. But this year, even though I procrastinated, I didn't hesitate to whip out the plastic and pay up. Then, yesterday, the universe rewarded my diligence with the latest RWR issue, and I had a minor epiphany--I no longer doubt my talent. It feels weird to say that out loud, but after a year spent entering contest after contest, I'm way more confident now that I *can* do this. And it makes all this other life stuff feel more temporary than it did when I was pregnant with Tavy or in other writer's block modes. I'll get there. Eventually.

I've been an RWA member since 2005 which means that I've been at this game for five years now. I still have a little card from 2005 nationals where I wrote goals that included making PAN in two years and other gems. I'm a little depressed that in five years, I only have 3 completed manuscripts to my name. But, then I think of everything else that has happened in the last five years, and that total doesn't seem quite so paltry.

And when I think about everything else that I've gotten from RWA and from our chapter, it does seem worth every penny of that fee. What about you? Do you have the "is it worth it" moments? Any tips on getting beyond it?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Zigging When You Expected to Zag

Deborah Wright's ProfileCurrent Project: Mulling things over
Status: About to take off!

I used to daydream about what it would be like to be able to write full time. Of course, in those dreams I was already a published author and writing was my "day job" rather than working at my tech career. Ah, the sun would always shine and the words would simply pour from my fingertips. *cough*

Yeah, I didn't really believe that either.

Life has a funny way sometimes of taking our daydreams and turning them upside down. Last April the large High Tech company for which I work agreed to be acquired by an even larger High Tech company. The regulatory approvals stretched out long past what was naively expected (God bless the European Union!) and the acquisition only became final last month. Two days later (last Friday), I was informed that I wouldn't be offered employment with the new company and my job will end in the middle of February.

I can't say I was surprised. Still, I'm going through a lot of strange things. I worked for this company for nearly 19 years, and for other large concerns (government and private) before that for a total of 34 years of steady employment. It's a bit of a shock to realize that in two weeks I won't be accountable to anyone but myself for my time and my productivity. I don't remember the last time that was true (was it ever true?).

What does this have to do with writing? Well, I hadn't intended to be at this point in this way, but here I am. I'm certainly not published yet. Heck, I'm barely at the start of my writing efforts. But as much as the new company screwed with my life--making me zig when I expected to zag--they also gave me a gift that I don't intend to squander. Time.

The next time I blog here, I'll be amongst the ranks of the unemployed. Scary, but liberating at the same time. Wish me luck!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Word Power


Current Project:Spirit of the Lake
Status: 37,785 words



No, it’s not a new children's program to learn how to read. As writers we know the power of words. We've read books or short stories or heard songs that moved us. It could have been the characters, the premise, but I can guarantee you it was the words the writer used to make that character so real or the premise crystal clear or that song hit the right nerve.

When I started writing; like all new writers, I just wanted to get my ideas down in grammatically correct sentences. I had some killer sentences here and there and managed to get kudos from some contest judges. But I didn't fully appreciate the power of a well placed word.

Then I took a workshop on self editing. I pulled out the highlighters and began highlighting verbs, nouns, and adjectives. Wow! There were certain words I REALLY liked to use over and over again. And I still do, ask Lori. LOL By highlighting those words I realized I needed to dig deeper for better words. My "The New Roget's Thesaurus in Dictionary Form" has the ratty cover to prove I started digging deeper.

Now I spend half my time reading manuscripts from seasoned and not so seasoned writers. Reading a historical western and seeing contemporary words in the dialog or narrative makes my teeth clench. It also has me rereading my own work and checking words I'm unsure of at the online entomology dictionary. It has become my new best friend when writing. The thesaurus you pull up next to your word document is up continually when I write. Any time a word doesn’t seem significant enough for the sentence, emotion, or nuance I want, I'll spend ten minutes searching through the thesaurus typing in words that kind of mean what I want but don’t quite zing.

The right word makes my heart pump and an invisible hand pats me on the back for being serious about using the right word. And that my friend is "Word Power".

Do you have specials sites, books you use to find the right word? If so share. You never know when I'll find a better way to give my words power.