Thursday, April 29, 2010

LATE . . Again


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

Top 10 rules for Writing Fiction

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

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What I've Learned


Current Project: TEMPTED
Status: 80K words and counting

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

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

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

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

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

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

5) Lavender is more than a pretty scent!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 24, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN


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

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

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

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

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

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

* his early comedies

Thursday, April 22, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An Agent Story


Current Project: Proofing STRONGER THAN BONE
Status: Halfway

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm still beaming.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pressure Point

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 17, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Roots:

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

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

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

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

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

And the list goes on…

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

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

IS WRITING HARD?


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

Is writing hard?


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


So what do you think? Is writing hard?


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

Saturday, April 10, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN


As you can see by the graphic, I didn't quite make my stated goal of 10,000 words this week. C'est la vie.

If that sounds like I'm shrugging things off—I'm not. In truth, the word count doesn't completely reflect the actual progress I made this week. It was another one of those "thinking" weeks, where I spent a lot of time mulling things over while doing other (non-writing) things. I worked out some initial motivations and backstory, most of which I wrote down in my notebook, but some of which is still just in my head. I've decided not to go too far with backstory, motivation, and plot at this point. I'd like to get to know these characters as the story unfolds (i.e. while I write it) in order to keep things fresh. Slowly, but surely, I'm learning what my "process" is—and detailed plotting it ain't!

My goal for the coming week? Well, this week I'm trying something different. I'm not setting a word count. Instead, my goal is to write something every day. I need to get back into the writing habit, you see.

How'd you do this week? Any news you'd like to share?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

"Remember, learn diligence before speedy execution." - - Leonardo Da Vinci


I ran across a few quotes that really struck me while I was perusing a book on painting. They were quotes from artists, but the similarities between what a painter thinks and sees and the conclusions the wisest of them reach are not that different than those a writer might do well to ponder.

Like the one above from Leonardo Da Vinci that bears repeating: "Remember, learn diligence before speedy execution."

This is one thing that worries me about the goals we make. So often, they have to do with production and not learning. Perhaps words and pages are to a writer as brush strokes are to a painter. If that is so, then isn't the finished (and true to the vision) product the goal, not how many strokes it took to get there, not how many days or weeks it took to cover the canvas with paint? By putting the emphasis on the tangible goal of completing something in a timely manner before our attention span fizzles away, maybe we're missing the point or maybe the point is simply understood -- to do the best we can do within the confines of our talent, our expertise and the inevitable deadlines imposed by commercial and personal challenges.

Here's another one: "Some say they see poetry in my paintings. I see only science." Georges Seurat



I think many of us have felt this way, too. We put so much energy into saying something right. You know what I mean. The right grammar, the right sentence structure, the right black moment or character arc or hook. It's like a model has to think, "Find the right light, watch it, don't scrunch the shoulders and loose the neck, what's my foot doing, where are my hands, do my eyes look fierce?, bend my leg -- " all in an instant before the photographer snaps the photo. I sometimes feel this way when I write -- it's like the more I know, the more I need to remember to use it correctly and yet have it appear effortless and instinctual. Oh, and fun!

I'll leave you with one more:

"Find out what you like if you can. Find out what is really important to you. You will have something to sing about and your whole heart will be in the singing." -- Robert Henri



Have a favorite quote that transcends genres or mediums? Think I'm comparing apples and oranges? Maybe I'm trying to compare great painters with commercial artists and literary works of art with pop culture writing. Maybe the similarities blur although I doubt any of us set out to create mediocrity. Any thoughts?

SCIENCE VS ART

Current Project: Montana Open Sky series
Status: It's moving along the editorial trail, hope to hear one way or another soon

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Now I get it!

Current Project: Derby book
Status: Can't see past my thesis right now!

Last week I canceled my television service because the compelling need to keep up with TV shows I liked was overwhelming and time consuming. I finally admitted to myself that I don't have the willpower to just not watch TV, so drastic measures were used, thus the cancellation (even before my contract was up, ouch $$). I know feel like I have a lot more time in the evening, which is great. I want to be better at writing and thesising (I've deemed that a real word, it dang well should be). I still have the same problem of being exhausted after work, which doesn't help me actually *do* the things I want to. But I digress.

I still watch movies or TV shows through Netflix watching instantly (which comes to my TV through my Xbox 360, fancy technology), but there's not the compulsion of watching things to free up space on my DVR. The Netflix stuff is always there. So what did I start watching yesterday that I'd never seen before? Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I'd never felt interested in watching that show, which may surprise many of you because you know how much I like vampire stuff. Not sure why, just never felt the urge. Well dang it's good! Now I understand why people like David Boreanz! And I now understand what spawned this vampire wave and the types of heroes within it. Fortunately for me, Netflix watching instantly has the entire series of Buffy and Angel (yay). What does that mean for my writing time and thesising? It won't suffer, the shows will always be there for me!

Watching Buffy just made a lot of things click in terms of the romance novels I've read. Sort of like how CSI kicked off a cluster of romantic suspense books. Is there a TV or movie series that you can see connects to a trend in fiction?

Saturday, April 03, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN



I don't know about you, but this last week went by way too fast for me. As you can see by the graphic, I didn't manage to write at all (and yes, that is my computer mocking me). So much for my 7150 word goal.

In the past, if I'd had a week like this I'd be beating myself up for missing my goal. I'd flounder around, trying to figure out if I'd set too high a goal or not high enough. I might even start questioning whether I really have what it takes to be a writer.

Care for some more melodrama, anyone?

Not this week. Perhaps it's because several things cropped up that I hadn't planned on that I had to take care of. Or maybe it's because I've written the next couple of scenes in my head and just need to get them down in the computer. Whatever the reason, I have an odd confidence that I'll make up the words and then some in the coming weeks.

Am I completely fooling myself? Should I go back to wailing my frustrations? Nah. I think it's time for a new song. This week was just a blip in a long process. There will be weeks when I write far more than my goal and weeks, like this last, where I don't write a single word. I'll still get to "The End," no matter how many words I write in a single week.

Now it's your turn. How'd you do this week? Did the course of writing flow true and sweet for you? Or did you hit a snag? Inquiring minds want to know.

My goal for the coming week: 10,000 words. Check-in next Saturday and keep me honest!

Friday, April 02, 2010

No I didn't forget :)

Current Project: St Patrick's Day Anthology
Status: Have figured out how to use the time machine--maybe

I've learned I must write this blog on the weekend and post the night before. I just got home from work and remembered OMG I haven't written the blog and it's my turn.

Elizabeth, that looks like a great sight. I'm going to take a look at it tomorrow if I get breathing room.

I just finished reading Eclipse and will begin Breaking Dawn as soon as I get a long weekend with nothing to do. (Maybe this summer)

My family gives lots of books for gifts. Everyone has a long list. Their lists range from historical roman novels, Stephen King, Sci-fi and of course romance.

Romance is in the air. I'm going to get a little personal. I have spent most of my free hours with my youngest daughter who had to travel half way around the world to find her soul mate. (Greece, for those who don't know the story) We spent this afternoon picking out flower arrangements and so on. What fun it is spending money on such a wonderful adventure for her. We have picked out invitations and her dress. Wedding dresses are so beautiful. Just about everything we do brings tears to my eyes. I am so happy for her. The tears are, of cours, tears of joy. Just watching them together, anyone would know how happy they are.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

So Cool

Current Project: TEMPTED
Status: 50,000 words

This is so cool. I just had to share. The TBR.

How many of us hate getting scathing reviews? How many of us would love to guarantee an A review? Dear Author and Smart Bitches are teaming up to give authors just that. A guaranteed glowing review. One you can quote all over the internet, use to drive traffic to your site and sell books.

Seriously. I can't think of a better idea, and I'm honestly shocked no one else has come up with it yet.

If you're an author wanting to increase sales, you HAVE to check this out.