Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What are you reading right now?

Current Project:
Status:

This is going to be a very short, very late blog, but I'm also hoping it's a bit fun too. We haven't talked books in a while, so let's take a brief questionnaire:

1) Book you are currently reading
2) Last book you finished
3) Last book you passed on to a friend
4) Last author/book you recommended to someone
5) Last book you bought new
6) Book(s) you want to buy next
7) Last book you bought as a gift
8) Current number of books in your TBR pile
9) Last book you received from someone else (used, trade, swap, five-away, gift etc) that you loved
10) Spring/Summer release(s) that you can't wait to read

Answer some or all as you like!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

One Pill Makes You Larger...

Deborah Wright's ProfileCurrent Project: Untitled Project #1
Status: Join me on Saturday's Blog for my weekly status

True story. My love affair with books began when I was little—by which I mean somewhere pre-kindergarten—fueled first by my parents reading to me, then by reading on my own (I love you, Dr. Seuss, wherever you are in the cosmos!). Books were magic and somewhere along the way, I got it into my head that authors were magic, too—that they were some rarified form of human being and that writing books wasn't something just anyone could do. Years later in school when we would discuss books and "what the author meant," I knew in my head that a person like you or me wrote those books, but somewhere in my soul I still believed that authors were magical creatures. Aspiring to be one was as foolish as trying to catch a leprechaun to make him give up his pot o' gold. Better to stick to something down to earth, don't you know.

Fast forward *cough* years past several twists and turns in my life, past the degree in Computer Science and the career in IT (all of which I've loved, by the way), past the years of writing stories for myself—all the way to today. I joined RWA because I'm serious about writing as a career (i.e. writing for publication). I'm working hard at learning all I can about writing, about publishing, and at improving my craft. And yet there's been an invisible wall holding me back: I'm still trying to shake that long-held belief. Not so much the belief that authors are magical, because I still think they are. No, it's the corollary to that belief that I've been trying to get rid of. Leprechauns and unicorns, after all, are born that way. They didn't wake up one morning and become magical; they just are. If authors are magical...well, you see the problem.

I'm sure there are lots of ways to modify behavior and break long-held false beliefs. But I think, in my case, I've found the solution. I've been looking at this from the wrong angle. It isn't that authors, like leprechauns and unicorns, are born that way. It's that they've found the magic elixir that can transform them into a magical being. If that's true, why is it, then, that it takes some authors longer to be published than others? Shouldn't a sip of the elixir instantly transform them? Ah, but you see, just like with modern medicine, so with magic potions—some authors need more of the elixir than others before their transformation takes place.

I know you're dying for me to tell you all about the elixir, aren't you? I'll tell you a secret—you already know what it is. Authors have never tried to hide it. It's free to anyone who really wants it. Are you ready? You're sure? Okay, then, here it is. The magic elixir to becoming a published author is...to write!

See, I told you you already knew it.

The thing is, it's easy to forget that those magical creatures called "authors" are really writers who continued to plug away at their writing until they finally reached the point where a publisher wanted to buy what they wrote. I suppose some people would say that's a bit mundane for a magic potion. I don't think so at all. Writer's write. Sounds pretty magical to me.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Fear- a great motivator

Current Project:Isabella's Adventure(working title)
Status:pulling all the research together

There have been so many times in my writing career I've felt like I grasped a technique or an idea and used herculean effort to put it down on paper only to have the story rejected or dismissed. Then a shining light in a contest placing or kind words from another writer would spur me on to try again. Learn something new; find another premise that sparkled bright.

Finally, the day came a publisher wanted my story, in fact they wanted several. Granted it was a small publisher but someone wanted my stories. I continued to hone and find interesting subjects. I even started giving back- workshops, critiquing, editing. After all isn't that what it's all about- you scratch my back I'll scratch yours?

And now, I've set my sights higher still. I'm digging deeper into "how to" books, pushing myself to write something out of my comfort zone and reeling in the "go get-'em" attitudes of the people around me who have heard my premise and get giddy for me.

Before, I wrote for the pure pleasure of putting on paper a story that intrigued me. Today, as I put letters on the page, I am pushing myself to a level I've never gone and one that I hope will propel me to where I want to be.

Someone in past posts asked if we'd ever written outside our comfort zone. In a few weeks, or months, I'll let you know how the experience feels. Right now…. I'm scared to death I'll fail the people who are pulling for me.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN



Welcome to Saturday Check-in!

I'll be your host for this soiree going forward. I'd like everyone to give a big cheer of thanks for Alice. She's been maintaining the check-in with little fanfare for a long time now. Even when I didn't get time to actually, er, check-in, I was always happy to read about everyone's progress. Even a lack of progress was an inspiration to get motivated (guess I'm a glass half-full type after all). So, Thank You, Alice, for being a rock and posting 'most every Saturday! You deserve a break--though I hope you'll check-in with your own progress whenever you can.

Some of you may know that I've been going back and forth between two writing projects, trying to make a decision about which one to work on exclusively. As you can see by the graphic* at the top of the post, I've made my choice. And it isn't the one I thought it would be when I was at the writing retreat in February.

I imagine some people would think the logical choice would be the novel I've written the most words of so far. In this case, though, there's a different kind of logic at work in my head. Time away from the first project has given me a chance to see where I was going wrong and to envision a reworked (and hopefully stronger) beginning. Therefore, I'm going to concentrate my efforts on project #1 and power my way forward to the end.

Then I'll be free to go back and work on project #2. In a way, I'm a bit relieved to know I have something waiting in the wings so I'm not floundering for what to write next. I know I'm getting a bit ahead of myself, but I honestly feel that this is my year to finish what I've started.

Not only that, but since I've taken on the Saturday Check-in duties, I won't have an excuse to shirk reporting my progress--or lack thereof. Just a little added incentive to keep my fingers flying over my keyboard!

Your turn. Let us know how your week went! Share your good news and triumphs so we can applaud. Let us commiserate with you on your difficulties and maybe someone will have some words of wisdom that will lift your spirits. So, how'd it go?

ETA: Ooops! I forgot to add my goal for the coming week! To stay on (my own) track, I need to write a minimum of 7150 words this week. Check back next Saturday and see how I do!

* Get your own free progress meter at http://www.writertopia.com/toolbox/meters

Thursday, March 25, 2010

PAPER MONSTERS


Current Project: St. Patrick's Anthology
Status: Moving steadily if slowly

Is there something that overwhelms you to the near panic attack stage?


Maybe writing a synopsis? Facing an auditorium of a thousand people to give a presentation? Watching your child be stitched up after a fall from his bike? Organizing the piles of paper in your office?


That last item pushes my panic button.


It usually happens every year about tax time when I'm confronted with the piles of paper in my office and the spare bedroom--don't even mention what's in the closet-- that I swore last year I was going to organize, input in a database every month, and file away in neatly labeled folders.


Ironically, I've had quite a few people comment on how organized I am. And I am in some ways. But a week ago, when I thought of all the papers I had to face to get my taxes done, my gut started clenching and my breathing turned shallow. After talking myself down off the edge of the recycle dumpsters at the Salem Transfer Station, I returned to my office to go one step--er, one surface at a time, and attack the paper monster.


I focused on my admiration of Debbie, who is clearing out and organizing her office. Holding her in my mind as a role model in this effort, I've been clearing and stacking papers. Labeling what to sort, what to file, and what to throw away.


With April 15 a mere three weeks away, I know I have to step it up. But I'm moving on it now! I'm even armed with a better shredder this year.


How about you? Is there something that overwhelms you? Have you learned ways to attack it or do you just avoid it? Or did you put it up for sale on Alice's garage sale table?


P.S. I now have about a foot and a half of uncluttered space on each side of my computer and it feels sooo much nicer!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

FOR SALE



Or lease or rent ....
What? you ask.
Saturday Check-in.

I've been doing it for quite awhile now. Can't even remember how I got it. Perhaps I appropriated it from Paty when she left town a time or two, I'm not sure. Ownership is at best hazy so any deal should be under the table, wink, wink.

It's been fun, but participation has been steadily dwindling until the people who I believe used to count on it the most no longer show up. I think what that means is it's time for a shot in the arm, a new face and voice, a new enthusiasm. Or perhaps Saturday Check-In will become another vacant house on the street with a slightly worn looking for sale sign pounded into the front lawn. And if that's what people want, that's okay. The "property" will still be there no matter if it's occupied or not and when enthusiasm for a weekly place to be held accountable and check in on how people are doing is once again needed, why you can throw on a fresh coat of paint and open the draperies and go back into business!

Now if this thought leaves you sad, let's make a deal. You take it over. Bring your insight and I promise I will stop by often and admire what you've done with the place. I personally always thought a few walls should be knocked down. Open it up, let in some light. But I could never tell which walls needed to go and lacking the foresight to envision the remodel, did little to modernize. I hope one of you has some grand ideas and are even now scrambling to find your checkbook to see if you have enough to make the purchase (cash would be appreciated, no credit cards, please.) Or maybe you could go in on it with a few other people and form a consortium!

Now you're probably wondering about a price. Since I stole it from Paty, I suppose the only fair thing would be to look the other way while someone "stole" it from me. How's that for a bargain?

Since I am moving out of Saturday as of this Saturday, I'm also having a garage sale. On the table to your left is INDECISION. There's lots of it, two or three baskets as I recall. Bargain basement pricing. Okay, it's used, yes, I agree, but there's still plenty of life left in it. There's always life left in indecision because it's so good at stealing what it wants. One low price takes the whole lot.

Oh, I see what you're looking at. That big black cloudy thing there is FEAR leftover from, well, fear is never leftover, there's always plenty of it to go around. It's got a bad rap. Think how well it multi-tasks. It can be a moat, isolating you from pain and rejection (and joy and success, but there's always two sides to everything, isn't there?) It can be a mountain you can't bulldoze or wash away with a flood, a raging river you can't cross with the stoutest ship, quicksand or a tornado. It can keep you safe, it can do almost anything but propel you forward, but don't let that one little fault keep you from grabbing a bag and taking all you want. I've had this batch for years and just don't want to keep moving it around with me anymore.

And that leaves us with that pile over there. It's APATHY which I mentioned before I was getting rid of. Apathy is gooey and sticky, so if you're in the market, put on a pair of gloves before you wrangle some into a box to take with you. Warning: if it touches you, it may manifest itself as fear or indecision or both. May leave an invisible rash. May make you tired, vulnerable, weak. Symptoms can last for weeks or years. Interacts with other issues. Use at your own risk.

That's it. The Saturday Check-In house is empty and ready for occupancy. If you aren't ready to commit for good, give it a try for a week and see how you like it. But while we're on the topic of getting rid of things you don't want anymore, do you have anything you'd like to get rid of? I'll leave a table on the lawn in case you want to try unloading it here. Good luck!

Or lease or rent....
What? you ask, is for sale?
Saturday Check-In.
I'm not sure who I bought it from so ownership issues are a little hazy. I doubt you could float a loan on this "real estate" so lets keep it cash under the table, okay?

Wait. maybe I didn't buy it, maybe I just appropriated it. Maybe I stole it! Paty will know, let's ask Paty. Maybe I steamrolled right over the top of her when she was out of town once or twice and swiped the spot when she wasn't looking.
At any rate, as of this Saturday, the check-in is up for sale. Why? Well, there's been a dwindling lack of enthusiasm for the check-in. The people who do respond don't need a cheerleader and those who used to enjoy being spurred on

Monday, March 22, 2010

Social media

Current Project: Derby book
Status: Coming along

This past Friday and Saturday, I attended a social media bootcamp because I'm making this area a larger part of my day job. One of the presenters was Kelli Matthews, a total social media guru (and the wonderful woman who got me into PR when I was in college!). It's an undeniable fact that social media (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, podcasts, LinkedIn) is as important, if not more relevant, than traditional media (newspaper, magazine, TV, radio). My day job is in media relations, so I've been focused on PR for traditional media for a number of years. But now I need to shift most of that focus toward social media and traditional media becomes a secondary focus. If I write a press release, I need to go through the social media routes, as well as traditional media, if I want to be effective.

There was one key thing I learned that is relevant for everyone, so I wanted to share it here. When it comes to Twitter - I know how to use it and I know it's purpose, but I've struggled with how to use it effectively for my day job. The big thing that everyone should know is the rule of thirds when it comes to Twitter and Facebook. One third of the time, talk about yourself and do your self promotion. Then, the second third (or level 2) - talk about related things. For example, retweet posts or blog entries from local authors or industry folks. The final third (level 3), talk about/repost/retweet things a bit further out, such as writers from all over the country, agents and editors outside of your area, industry news on a global scale, etc.

The purpose if this is for you to become a resource and build a community, more than promoting yourself. Thinking of it this way was a complete AHA! moment for me, it's exactly what I was struggling with on my day job. I had been using Twitter and Facebook to repost my press releases, but it felt flat - I wasn't getting interaction. But the past couple of days I've been retweeting higher education news in the state and country and I think it will pay off. You want people to keep reading what you post, and they are more likely to do so if you are talking about all sorts of stuff.

I know, it's a big shift in how most of us think of things. For me, having a numerical breakdown makes it easier to classify what I'm tweeting.

How many of you use a form of social media? Have you noticed an impact? What kinds of social media have you wanted to try, but haven't gotten there yet? Do you use any RSS readers or other dashboards to read blogs or Tweets (if not and you'd like recommendations, let me know!)?

I just made a new Twitter account today (up to 3 now, OY!), so if you're on there, feel free to follow me @lisaleoni :)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN



Happy Spring, everyone. As I sit here typing this, I can hear birds twittering (they were the original twitterers) outside and catch a glimpse of a daffodil or two.

I'm still playing the waiting game. It'll be three weeks Monday. That's not very long so why does it SEEM like three months?

Meanwhile, I did not forge ahead as I announced I would last week. I did continue to shine and polish chapter three and my hope is to get myself under control and work on chapter four today. I did a blog interview for the Rogue Phoenix Press http://www.roguephoenixpress.blogspot.com/ this week which I believe Chris is going to post today. I hope you'll drop over and say hello. I'm announcing it here as I no longer have any contact with our loop. Have no idea why. I'm pretty sure the trouble is the nut on the end of the steering wheel, as my father used to say, but just knowing I should be able to figure it out doesn't help me figure it out. Sigh.

I hope everyone else is doing well and look forward to reading how it's going...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Break: :)

Current Project: St. Patrick's Day Anthology
Status: Chapter 7 plot points developed

I am at the point I love spring break. No kids, only my own, who are all grown up and live in their own places. Now I miss them a lot. I would love to have them at my home more often. However, I am spending the day babysitting my first grandbaby. I love babysitting but it can be very frustrating.

Dark heroes, alpha heroes, we love to hate them. The first romance I ever read was given to me by my mother-in-law. She gave me a book by Heather Graham. I fell in love with the pirate/spy. He was very dark yet I adored him. It seems to me that in the last 10 years the alpha hero has vanished.

Devil Blackmoor the hero in my second book My Angel was very Alpha. Yes, he was arrogant. But no, he never abused the love of his life. He never understood why Angela didn't see things the way he did. He was Russian royalty and she was a backwoods peasant from America. What peasant wouldn't want to be his mistress? After all he would love her while he wouldn't love his wife. His wife had to be royalty too. Angela on the other hand would never be anyone's mistress. She would be a wife or nothing at all.

I for one love the alpha/dark hero. Is he making a comeback? Or is he still replaced by the not so alpha hero. In my mind the dark hero cannot knowingly be abusive in anyway. In Devil's case he didn't understand Angela. It was unthinkable to him that she wouldn't be overjoyed to be his mistress. When he finally understood her, he did everything in his power to regain the love that had been lost between them.

So once again I will continue the question: What makes a hero irredeemable?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Ah, Spring...

Current Project: Tempted
Status: Chapter 9

That was not a contented sigh you heard. It was an "ACK, It's spring." And more accurately, "OMG, it's SPRING BREAK"

Funny how times have changed. Not too many years ago I used to look forward to spring break. Now I dread it. Why? All three of my kids are home. Today is day one. And they've already been sent to their rooms for the second time. (And it's only 11 AM). At some point I have to get some writing in. (Not sure WHEN that will be...)

Because they're here (and upstairs yelling as I type) this is going to be an abbreviated post (mostly because I can't even think straight). Bethany wrote an awesome post yesterday about dark heroes. She mentioned cruelty being justifiable if the author can show the hero's character arc in such a way that he redeems himself by the end of the story. Since I'm writing a particularly cruel hero right now, I'm curious, what's too dark for you? Do you have any cruelty triggers that make a book a DNF for you?

Personally, I can handle just about anything (I grew up on soap operas, you know). But the one no-go for me is public humiliation. I don't know why. I've never been publicly humiliated. But I HATE to see it or read about it. Really makes me cringe. I love Susan Elizabeth Phillips, but the one book of hers I absolutely hated was Heaven, Texas because there's a scene near the end of the book (big black moment) where the hero publicly humiliates the heroine. Announces to the entire town that he wouldn't be caught dead with her and he only let her hang around with him out of pity. It didn't matter to me how far he crawled to beg her back afterward, that was a hair trigger for me I couldn't get past. He went from redeemable hero to irredeemable in about two paragraphs flat.

Funny, huh? I've read other books where I've forgiven a cheating hero, an abusive hero, a cruel hero...but the public humiliation one...I can't forgive that.

Your turn. What makes a character irredeemable for you?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irredeemable?

Current Project: NMMNG
Status: preparing to jump back after grading is done

I just finished Sabrina Jefferies's latest, The Truth about Lord Stoneville, and I notice I've been on a bit of a historical bender lately. One thing that historicals are wonderful for is focusing in on the hero--heroes often have a much larger arc than heroines in historicals. In the last few years, I've noticed a trend in these arcs towards deeply flawed heroes who ultimately transform into redeemable, lovable, capable partners by the book's end. Unlike many historicals of yore, this new breed of historical hero becomes a believable and worthy husband by book's end by acknowledging and overcoming his shortcomings rather than merely bending heroine to his will or overcoming her good senses with sensual overload. However, what I find truly fascinating is how dark some of these heroes start out now, even in the "lighter" regency subgenre, and how authors aren't shying away from giving these heroes true character flaws and bad choices rather than just a domineering personality.

Instead, I see a trend towards heroes who begin the book truly in the wrong. These are heroes who have messed up their lives in big ways. These heroes have often intentionally hurt those around them, giving them an edge of cruelty. It's a very fine line that these authors tread with these new heroes, and I absolutely applaud those who are doing it so successfully--Sabrina Jefferies, Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan, and Sherry Thomas have all wowed me with their recent releases. The key appears to be the completeness of the hero's journey--does he truly sink down and wallow in his wrongness? Does he get the chance to make up for past mistakes and go one step further? Is he redeemed merely by his passion for the heroine or does he undergo a fundamental shift in world view? It is this shift, this tilting of the axis of hero's world that keeps me reading.

For me, the take away lesson from this trend is yet more reinforcing of the hard work we must force our characters to do. The deeply flawed hero only really works when he is the one who changes, not when others step in and rescue him. Further, the worst of the character flaws seem to work the best when they are coupled with a deep secret that has the power to change everything hero has ever believed true about himself--true world view shifting. This comes back to motivation--irredeemable actions become understandable (if not forgivable) when properly motivated by things beyond the control of hero or by a tortured past. Heroes who are cruel for the sake cruelty are so 1987, but heroes who have done terrible things as part of believable backstory are the backbone of the continued upswing of the historical genre. These heroes have to open a vein and bleed before they are worthy of heroine, and the talented authors who craft them force them to do just that.

What I find truly intriguing as part of this trend is how my acceptance, and indeed, love of dark heroes is growing. I used to prefer my heroes a little less complicated, but I now find that I crave complexity. Now, my question for you today is how dark do you like heroes? Do you have trouble forcing yourself to be cruel enough to the heroes of your own stories? How hard do you make them work to redeem themselves? Also, who is your all-time favorite dark hero(es)?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Theme

Deborah Wright's ProfileCurrent Project: Dueling Projects
Status: Deciding which one to focus on!

I'd like to talk about theme as it pertains to writing for a moment. Wait! Don't run away! This isn't your high school or college English class--I promise there won't be a quiz later. Okay? Good.

Theme. I can't deny I still shudder whenever someone brings it up in a conversation about writing, or, say, at a writer's conference. I never enjoyed that part of my English classes when I was in school (and I'll confess in college I only took the minimum number of English courses required to graduate). So why in the world would I want to talk about theme in this blog?

Well, I'll tell you--I've been going through all my office stuff the last few weeks, purging what I no longer need and trying to organize what's left. One of the more interesting aspects of this has been looking through my stacks of writing journals. I've only been writing with the goal of publication for about three years now, but I've been writing for myself for a heck of a lot longer--well over 10 years--and I've kept most of the journals and files for all that time. Not everything, mind you, but enough to get an idea of not only how much my writing's improved, but also about what kinds of stories have interested me over the years.


Does it surprise anyone else that I recognized patterns, common...wait for it...themes, running through the majority of my stories? I'm not sure why, but I didn't expect it. It isn't that I'm telling the same stories over and over. It's that most of my stories seem to end up being about the same core things: the nature of good and evil, and discovering one's true self when the chips are down. (I also discovered a couple of old story ideas that I may resurrect one day, but that's a blog post for another day.)

Thinking about story themes still makes my head want to explode. But at least I'm beginning to recognize that themes exist in my writing, even if I didn't consciously plan it that way. How about you? Do you like talking theme? Or do you prefer to avoid the topic, too? Do you recognize the themes that run through your own writing? Care to share?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Torn


Current Project:Spirit of the Lake/Improper Pinkerton/Isabella's Adventure
Status:final draft/polishing/constructing

Torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool…(good thing you can't hear me sing this)

As usual I am torn between projects. I'm working on the final draft of the second spirit book, polishing up and adding to the Pinkerton book, and writing character charts and plotting a contemporary action adventure book.

I want the spirit book done, so I can get on with the next one. But I also would like to have the first three chapters of the action adventure written and the book flushed out to send to agents and see what kind of a response I get. The Pinkerton book needs a run through just to make sure it's as good as I can get it if the agent wants more.

With this schizoid attention span, I'm trying to give certain times of the day certain projects. I find the mornings work best to work on the Spirit book, I spend part of the afternoon on editing and then switch to working on the Pinkerton book and then I use the evenings to work on the new idea. It's easier to surf the internet and gather information while the dh is watching TV than to try and actually write.

Do you find certain times of the day work best for different aspects of writing?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN


Current Project: author?
Status: waiting

Here we go again, Saturday has rolled back around. How is everyone doing with their projects? I am still in limbo land but starting Monday, my goal is to pick up where I left off and write chapter four of the first book or brainstorm another book or two. Tired of drifting, time to work again. Tired of being apathetic, want to be pro-active. And real tired of housework.

Your turn.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

MOVING IN CYCLES


Current Project: St. Patrick's novella 
Status: Ready to write!

I just finished a book called FRACTAL TIME by Gregg Braden. Braden was a computer programmer with the defense industry before he became a best-selling author. One thing I find fascinating about his work is the way he combines science and spirituality. 


In this book, he talks about the recurring cycles of nature that are nested within ever-larger cycles of how we mark time. The 24-hour cycle of day and night, within the 28-day cycle of the moon revolving around the Earth, within the 12-month cycle of the Earth rotating around the Sun, within the 5,125-year cycle of world ages, within the 26,000-year cycle that it takes our solar system to pass through all twelve constellations or zodiac signs of stars. 


Lots of fodder for the humorous time travel novella I'm working on!


Stunning as it may sound, Braden didn't write this book just to give me ideas for writing. He makes the case that the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012 isn't the end of the world, but the culmination of two rare events: the end of a 5,125-year world age and the completion of our solar system's 26,000-year journey through the twelve constellations. He arrived at these conclusions by combining recent scientific discoveries with twenty years of studying how ancient peoples, such as the Maya, tracked time so precisely without computers as we know them today. 


He also states that there are predictable cycles of human events such as war and peace within these cycles of time, and introduces a Time Code Calculator to make these predictions. For mathematical genius types, he offers an appendix that shows each step he used to calculate when conditions were ripe for a repeat of historic events, such as the attack on Pearl Harbor or the 9/ll attack on the World Trade Center. 


He also offered a simplified formula to figure when events in our own lives are likely to repeat. 


Non-math types such as me were left to our own devices to make up stories about time travel and wonder if I could figure out how to win the lottery jackpot. 


Seriously, I found his ideas really interesting. Are our lives a series of patterns or cycles that we repeat over and over? Fortunately, Braden offered the message that with each cycle, we also have the opportunity to make different choices that sets another pattern in motion--perhaps a more positive pattern.


Have you noticed patterns or cycles in your life or your writing? We've had quite a few discussions on this blog about our writing processes. Parts of those processes we like because they generate stories we love. However, other parts of those processes are riddled with anxiety and stress. 


Have you intentionally changed how you write so you enjoy the process more? For instance, I've heard some writers say they jump right into another project as soon as one is finished and off to their editor. Others use the time between projects to relax and "refill their creative wells." Or do you just stick it out through the tough times of your writing process with the knowledge that writing The End will be worth the anxiety?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

CONFUSION



The above photograph is me staring at this computer wondering what on earth to blog about today.

We all have this trouble from time to time, right? And the frustrating thing is I remember two weeks ago after I finished that week's blog that I had a good idea for another one and made a mental note to use it this time. Apparently, I have misplaced the mental note. It's probably off having fun with the slipper I can't find.

Does anyone read the Cat Who books? The hero in those books (besides KoKo the cat) is an ex-newspaper reporter who in later books writes a column for a small local paper. He's constantly facing a deadline and scouting out ideas for what to write about. He attributes his ability to write 1,000 words about almost anything to a teacher he had way back when.

The world has changed. Thanks to the Internet, many of us are in the position of having to come up with umpteen words about miscellaneous subjects and sometimes, frankly, our feelings about having to do this mirror the expression on the face of my friend up there. And not only do we have to come up with something semi literate but it should also come from the viewpoint of a writer addressing other writers. And, because of commitments, it needs to get done whether or not we have anything amusing, thoughtful or profound to actually say. Ack!

Speaking of our changing world, remember the expression "shameless self promotion?" Is that notion totally outdated now? Everyone (including me) is constantly touting their latest book, their latest review, it's part and parcel of the game anymore, but I don't think it used to be. I think the apology inherent in that expression, that we know we shouldn't be talking about our accomplishments and patting ourselves on the back, that we were raised better than that, that accolades are things we blush at and would seldom repeat to others, well, I think that notion is almost dead. In fact, I'll wager that the next generation will think that kind of humility is downright Victorian!

One more observation and then I'm going to go mop a floor -- and btw, having spent the last two months working on the proposal and putting my time and energy into writing, the house went to hell in a hand-basket (where did that expression come from, anyway? What's a hand-basket?) However, catching up on these chores has been an interesting change from writing. I am actually kind of enjoying the concrete aspects of washing a window. I know when it's clean, I can see if there are streaks, no one from NYC is going to come inspect it and announce if it meets her standards. It's my job, it has a beginning, a middle and an end that is in sight and totally reachable. I digress...

Okay, back to the observation... something else that seems to be shifting is the whole concept of privacy. Thanks to our gizmos and toys and hand held battery operated computers and phones and other communication devices, we've all gotten used to being in constant touch with friends and strangers alike. Generally speaking, this aspect of life is more pronounced the younger you get. Many twelve year olds text their buddies at every stage of every act they commit, literally thousands of tiny little messages a month. I'm old enough where it seems crazy. Maybe it's because I, personally, tend to be something of a loner, but egads. I had a five minute time limit on talking on the phone when I was a kid. Why? I assume my parents thought there was something more useful I could be doing with my time. My own daughter had her own phone line when she was a teenager. Her daughter has a cell phone. I sense a pattern...

I think I have earned my curmudgeon badge! Tell me how wrong I am. I'm open to debate!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Nook is a great word


Current Project: Derby book 1
Status: Coming along pretty darn well!

Sorry, sorry, sorry!!! I have my blog day on my calendar, but had two meetings in a row this morning, then two classes, then a meeting and multitasked too much before I left! Kept thinking about it, then got distracted. DOH!! Sorry everyone :D Excuses, excuses, I know. And I started writing this about an hour ago and keep getting distracted. Oy!

So, I bought a Nook last weekend. Some of you may recall I blogged about ebook readers a while ago, and I have been planning on getting a Kindle. I didn't learn that the Nook existed until a few weeks ago. Once I learned there was a Barnes and Noble ebook reader on the market, I immediately began doing some research and it quickly became clear that for what I needed from an ebook reader - the Nook was the way to go.

Here's a quick run-down of some differences (from what I've read, I hope they are accurate), for those who may be considering this route:
- the Nook has expandable memory; it has sizable built-in memory that stores about 1,500 books. The Nook allows you to add memory cards (like you would to a digital camera), but the Kindle doesn't allow for added memory so you are limited.
- both are not back-lit so they don't hurt your eyes to read, like if you reading on a cell phone. But in dark situations, you'd need a book light.
- the Nook supports many more formats. To my knowledge, the Kindle primarily works for books purchased through Amazon, but the Nook works on a variety of formats, including e-pub formats. The whole idea with the Nook is it is an Android device, which means that it's a Google device that welcomes open file formats and software. Just a more all-encompassing thing.
- both devices read PDF's.
- both include free internet service so you can search for, and download, books anywhere.
- since the Nook is a Google (Android) device, it includes free Google Books in the searches within the Barnes and Noble ebook store.

I've downloaded a number of free books from Google Books so far (been meaning to get around to reading some classics...). I had a few previously purchased ebooks and a million PDF academic articles on my computer that I wanted to transfer last night, but I forgot the connecting cable at my parent's house. Doh! Mom dropped it in the mail today :) So by Wednesday I'll have been able to use it more.

The only downside is it doesn't support .doc (Word) files or HTML I believe (or .lit which is found a lot on online ebooks). But some of that can be easily fixed with converters - I love those sorts of challenges.

I certainly don't have the money to be dropping on an ebook reader, so I decided to be a responsible adult and sell off some things to pay for it. This may be a shock to you, but I'm in the process of selling off a ton of my books to pay for it. Thank goodness for Powell's! I had a number of books I knew I'd never read again, so why are they taking up space in my home? I used to covet my collection of 600+ books, but nowadays, as I think about grad school and having to limit my belongings, the thought of a dozen or so boxes of books weighs me down. I also sold off my guitar and some other belongings.

I figure there are some books I *have* to have in physical form, which is basically anything outside of a novel. Textbooks, books with pictures, or other nonfiction has to be in physical form. That's both because I like to look at them on my shelves, but also those are the types of books I just flip through. Novels I read from start to finish, so the ebook reader works for me. But if I just want to look at some pictures in an archaeology book, I don't want to have to flip through the ebook reader.

Overall I'm happy with my decision. It will be cheaper to buy novels in the future and I can always have them with me. I also feel better that I'm getting rid of my stuff. I'm even thinking of putting my microwave in my closet (are you happy, Becky? ;) ). I took a class this term that has changed my perspective on some things, and the timing worked out well with my ambition to get an ebook reader.

Let's say there's something you really want - a new computer, ebook reader, cell phone, ipod, weekend at a spa - but don't quite have the money. Do you have things lying around your home you could sell? Is that something you'd be willing to do? What is something you want bad enough that you'd start shoveling out your home? Are there writing-related things you've outgrown, what would you do with the money?

Saturday, March 06, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN


Current Project:Open Sky
Status: Proposal sent, now I wait.

Hi, everyone. Making this short for two reasons -- first of all, hate to displace Chris' debut blog, secondly, we're off on a drive and I'm running late. How are you doing? Bring us all up to date.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Debut Blog

Current Project: St. Patrick's Day Anthology
Status: Chapter 6

My debut blog, but not my debut with Willamette Valley RWA. I thought I would write a little about myself and my writing journey. I joined the chapter about 14 years ago. During those years I have served as Treasure, Secretary, and 6 years as president. I have made so many lasting friends and learned so much from the wonderful people who have touched my life during this time. I think I was a member of this chapter before any of the now existing members joined. (perhaps before some of them were born J).

I loved the yearly conferences we used to hold. The first chapter conference I went to I met Lisa Jackson and her sister. The conference hooked me and I spoke with Sharon Morris, the chapter president, about joining. My gosh that brings me back a very long ways. Sharon and I became critique partners and best friends. With her help and advice, I sold my first two books to Kate Duffy, Kensington in '98. While I never had the chance to meet Kate, the phone conversation usually had me laughing and at ease in seconds. She had a great sense of humor and fantastic way with young authors.

Now I am rambling. I wanted to mention some of the incredible networking that was accomplished through the chapter. Authors who have been in our town include Stella Cameron, Susan Wiggs, Alexis Harrington, and Catherine Anderson. It boggles my mind to remember. I thought about sifting through all my old conference fliers because there were many more. Ah, I grow nostalgic and that wasn't what I meant to do.

As the years have gone by the face of the chapter as well as the faces in the chapter have changed. But one thing does remain constant. This chapter while it is small, is a wonderful place to develop writing skills and learn from the best.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Inner Journey

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

Debbie's getting organized and I'm as disorganized as one can be! Sorry this post is late. I spent the morning gathering tax stuff for the DH who is home from work today doing taxes. Can you say...argh?! My eyes feel like they're going to pop out. but at least I don't have to do the taxes myself. The man is a hero, I tell you.

Lisa and Alice already hit the highlights of the Hauge workshop we went to a few weekends ago, but I wanted to talk a little bit about the Inner Journey of your main character because it really hit home for me. Romances are very character driven, and if you don't know your main character's inner journey, your book will fall flat. Hauge defines a character's Inner Journey as the journey from a character's "identity" to his/her "essence". Lisa explained these briefly in her post, but to refresh your memory, a character's "identity" is the belief about themselves the character holds on to at the beginning of a book. It's who they want the world to know them as. A character's "essence" is who that character becomes at the end of the book. It's who they finally have the courage to become because of the journey they've taken over the course of the book.

For a writer to create a character's inner journey (or character arc), the author must answer these questions:

1. LONGINGWhat is my hero’s longing OR need?
What is the deeply held desire that the hero is paying lip service to because they’re too afraid to go after it? This is usually something that is missing from hero’s life.

A character's longing is usually what they consciously want. (What they know they want but are too afraid to go after.) Their need is what they unconsciously want. (What they don't really know they want.)

2. WOUND What is my hero’s wound?
A wound is an unhealed source of continuing pain. It usually happens to the hero before the story begins (setup) that they act like they’ve gotten over, but which deep down is still festering. This could be single event OR some ongoing situation.

3. BELIEFWhat does my hero now believe about the way the world works?
If a parent treats a kid badly, the kid then believes the parent must know he/she is evil or unworthy. What does your hero believe about themselves because of their wound?

4. FEARWhat is my hero’s fear?
A character's fear is always linked to his/her belief about how the world works.
“If they see what I truly am they will treat me...”

5. IDENTITY – What is my hero’s identity?
The Identity is the mask the hero presents to the world in order to protect him from the fear that grows out of the belief that grows out of the wound that happened so far back the character thinks it doesn’t matter anymore.

This is the false self the character presents to the world to protect him/her from ever experiencing the pain from the wound.

6. ESSENCEWhat is my hero’s essence?
The Essence is what’s left after you strip the mask away. A person’s “truth”. Who the character would be if he/she wasn’t protecting themselves with their identity.

Who does my hero have the potential to become if they are courageous enough?

So in a nutshell...the inner journey is the characters journey/tug of war from living in their identity to their essence.

That tug of war is the character’s inner conflict.

The only way for the main character to get what he/she really wants is to step out of his/her identity and live in their essence.

A book is considered a tragedy if the main character never shifts from living in his identity to living in his essence.

Make sense?

Okay, now let's put it into real life examples. I'm going to use my current WIP, Tempted, as an example:

INNER JOURNEY

BOOK: TEMPTED

HERO'S NAME: Demetrius

LONGING: Wants the heroine to love him. (Remember, in a romance, love is almost always the longing of one of the main characters, whether they voice it or not.)

NEED: To be accepted for who he is.

WOUND: Was rejected by both his parents.

BELIEF: He is internally evil. He is not worthy of love because of where he comes from.

FEAR: Afraid if others know who he really is, he will lose what little acceptance he has – will be kicked out of the Argonauts. If he lets people see he’s good, he won’t be able to live up to it because he is internally evil.

IDENTITY: Acts like he doesn't care about anyone; is mean to people; doesn’t let anyone get close to him; loner; keeps people at a distance so they won’t get close and learn who he is.

ESSENCE: Caring, heroic, not evil, puts others first, has much to offer to someone else.

That's it. Easy, right?

Ideally you would do this for both your main characters, but for sake of space, I've only included one of mine. Now it's your turn. Take either your hero or heroine and map out his/her inner journey using this format. It looks very basic, but it will really open your eyes to who your character is and that arc you're creating for him/her in your story.

Notice: March Meeting Canceled

Just a quick note for those of you who read the blog, but might not check the Chapter email loop or Website. Tonight's MWV-RWA Chapter Meeting has been canceled. Our speaker, Alice LaViolette, Reference Room Coordinator at the Oregon State Library, has graciously agreed to reschedule for our April Meeting.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Getting Organized

Deborah Wright's ProfileCurrent Project: Dueling Projects
Status: 4,000 words during the Retreat!

The last few weeks have seen my life turn topsy-turvy and I felt the need to get organized. I've spent the last couple of weeks cleaning my office. It was cathartic to throw away a ton of old papers and junk, but the best part was getting a second desk and rearranging everything to be more conducive to writing. At least, that's my hope.

It isn't that I couldn't write in my office before this. It's just that I spent so many hours focused on the day job there, that when it came time to focus on writing I felt like I needed a different environment—which usually meant the couch. Nothing wrong with that at all, but I'm looking forward to having an official space where I can spread out and don't have to compete with other duties. There's plenty of blank wall space for plot and character diagrams. And of course, there's the all important cat bed for Ms. Diva.

For those curious, here's a picture of my new workspace:


Turn up your nose all you like at Feng Shui, but I'm no longer a skeptic. I turned my desk around so that I'm no longer sitting in the middle of the floor between the window and the doors and I suddenly feel calm when I sit at the keyboard, where before I felt uncomfortable. There's a positive energy in the room that's pleasant to experience and I'm eager to write when I sit down.

It's your turn. Curious minds want to know, what's your workspace like?

A Little Light Housekeeping

Just want to take a moment and welcome new blogger and fellow MWV member, Christine young to the blog!

Born in Medford, Oregon, novelist Christine Young has lived in Oregon all of her life. After graduating from Oregon State University with a BS in science, she spent another year at Southern Oregon State University working on her teaching certificate, and a few years later received her Master's degree in secondary education and counseling. Now the long, hot days of summer provide the perfect setting for creating romance. She sold her first book, Dakota's Bride, the summer of 1998 and her second book, My Angel to Kensington. Each fall, Christine returns to the classroom - and the pool - as a math teacher and high school swimming coach. Her teaching and writing careers have intertwined with raising three children. Yet summer still seems to be lucky for romance,. Awe-struck e-books will release another of Christine's historical romances in April 2009, Allura. She is now finishing Forever His which follows The Locket which is a sequel to My Angel and Dakota's Bride. Christine and her husband of 30 years live in Salem, Oregon, where she is currently working on another novel.

You can find out more about Christine and her books by visiting her website.

Christine's first post will be this coming Friday. Welcome, Christine!

Monday, March 01, 2010

writers+time spent= endless possiblities

Current Project: Spirit of the Lake
Status: three scenes from the end

The writer's retreat at the beach was wonderful! I love the times when everyone is working hard and all you hear is the clicking of keyboard keys and the background sound of the ocean rolling in and out. Or looking over at Barb and seeing her shove off her glasses and run a hand over her face. Then there is Becky jumping up and running for the sound of a jaunty tune on her cell phone. Debbie, stopping, her fingers poised above her keyboard, staring into space with that distant look of one in another galaxy. Giggles from the loft as Lisa sweet talks the magazine cover of Johnny Depp she had propped in the window. And we can't forget the other two. Denise who when she wasn't busy had a computer on the floor beside her, a book on her chest and she was snoring or Julie stopping and brainstorming with whoever was present.

And Julie is an awesome brainstormer. I now have a story completely out of my comfort level that I can't wait to write! It isn't historical though it has elements of history and it isn't western though it will be high in adventure. And I have all this year to do a TON of research so I can write the book and hopefully several after it the following year.

I don't have anything writerly or worldly to say in this e-mail just a brief glimpse of the retreat and what I came away with as usual- excitement to know these writers and excitement in my writing.


Debbie and Julie then the MWVRWA crew