Saturday, May 29, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN



Current Project: New Project!
Status: Shiny!

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 27, 2010


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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I'm going to Disney World!


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


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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 22, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


* Maybe I should move to Australia

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Historical Accuracy in Fiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

¿Tengo que traducir?

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 15, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN



Out with the old, In with the new.

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

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

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

So far I've planted the Katsura:


and the Golden Full Moon:


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

Change.

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Psychological Warfare

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

Mind Styles to help build character profiles:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


urrent Project:
Status:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

THE FIRST TIME (at a conference...)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 08, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN


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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Questions



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Writing what you know

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

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

Huh.

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 01, 2010

SATURDAY CHECK-IN


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

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

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

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

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

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

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