Friday, April 30, 2010

Z is for Zai Gezunt - Be Well

So I'm not a big user of Yiddish, although my husband's family is from New York - The Bronx and Yonkers...so I have heard it a lot.  Zai Gezunt means, Good bye and Be Well.  And I wish that to all of you.

Since this is the last day of the A-Z Blogging Challenge I wanted to say that I have had such a wonderful time getting to know each of you, learning about your passions, and hoping with you for your hard work to pay off.

I look forward to the updates as I am following you all, and the May 3rd Mega-Post...over at Arlee Bird's Tossing It OutI know that a few of you are on upcoming Blogfests and I can't wait to read all of your entries. I'll be looking for ya!  Until next time...Ah...You know.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Y is for Yelling Into the Ether

When I was a young girl, I was out driving with my mom during a rainstorm. We were trying to get back home from the grocery store in our VW bus. Living on an island, the storms sometimes turned furious in a matter of minutes. Of course...we broke down and when we got out to walk to a nearby store, I could see my mother's lips moving, in a grimace from yelling, but all could hear was the pounding of the rain on my hood and the roofs around us.

Blogging reminds me of this sometimes. Yelling into a tumult, trying to get your voice heard...It can sometimes be quite frustrating. As a writer, I'm supposed to have a platform. I'm not published yet, and I write fiction...what could I possibly have to offer to the raging blizzard of words out there?

There are a lot of very good websites for getting a grasp on the inner workings of promotion. Aside from what your publisher will do; set up radio interviews, etc. There is a great site called Marketing Tips for Authors. For those poets out there, WordTech has an excellent tip sheet for getting your poems seen.  Marketing professional Amber Naslund over at Altitude Branding has a free PDF download on how to use social media for product elevation. You or I may not be ready to launch anything yet...but it never hurts to get prepared...It's my form of posititve thinking. 

What about you? Do you sometimes feel like you're yelling into a hurricane? How do you connect with other people on the internet? If you have a product or a book coming out...how do you get yourself seen? I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Until next time...Go Write!

Photograph by db*Photography, Uploaded on March 15, 2008.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

X is for Xyster

I struggled to find an X word that would fit my current state of mind and happened upon Xyster.  This is a surgical instrument used for scraping bones...so its kinda like revisions, right?

As I continue to fine tune and polish my manuscript I look forward to reading all of the great entries from you fellow A-Z Blogging Challenge entrants.  Its nice to have a pleasant trip outside my worries to read about what is going on in other parts of the world.

I also wanted to thank you all for the great encouragement and advice on yesterday's comments...I shall take the critique circle's rants with a grain of salt...or maybe a salt block.  Since its my name on the pages, I'll go with my gut and stick with what I feel is the best representation of my heroine.  Thanks for helping me re-locate my back bone!  You guys rock!

Well, my completely arbitrary and self-imposed deadline looms ahead and I am off to do some more 'scraping'.  Until tomorrow, I hope you all have a wonderful day...Now Go Write!

Photograph by Asja, Uploaded on November 11, 2008.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

W is for What the French Toast!?!

This is the last week of the Blogging from A-Z Challenge over at Arlee Bird's Tossing It Out Blog.  I've been blogging and commenting for the past month while trying to run my finished manuscript through critique circles for feedback.  As a result of all the contradicting comments about my novel, I decided to appeal to the ether for feedback...

Some people have said that my character is too emotional and that someone so sensitive would not be in her line of work, at least not for long.  Others have said that she isn't emotional enough...that the physical manifestations of emotion (shaking, sobbing, etc) are not enough and that I have to  "Say" what she is feeling as in...anguish squeezed my heart.

I think that there is a fine line between sensitive and an emotional train wreck and I'm afraid of crossing over. Then again, critique circles are supposed to help us by challenging our writing and helping us to grow in our craft.  Sheesh!  I'm going crazy trying to figure out if there is really something wrong...or I'm just getting opinion.

My question to you is this: How do you wade through all the comments and suggestions to find what is relevant and what is not?  Do you find critique groups helpful, or discouraging?  I'd love to know what you think.  Until next time...Go Write!

Photograph by Ben Werdmuller von Elgg, Uploaded on March 9, 2009.

Monday, April 26, 2010

V is for I'm a Veronica.

If you were a teenager in the late eighties...you had to have heard of the movie Heathers. If you haven't, then let me explain.  The movie takes place in a fictional high schoool and plays on the stereotypes of cliques. Theres the jocks, the stoners, the band geeks...and the gorgeous girls that everyone both loathes and envies. In the movie Heathers, the queen bees are all named Heather.  Except for one...whose name is "V" is for Veronica.  She, as it turns out, is not a vapid mean person. It just turned out that she is beautiful and rich and therefore thrust into existence with others of her kind.

Well the movie gets interesting when a new guy comes to school and starts wreaking havoc among the student body. The dark comedy demostrates, in exaggerated fashion, the destructiveness of simply following along with the herd  and blindly copying the popular kids. Plus...they blow stuff up, which in my opinion, is really great film making. Thing is that although he is obviously dangerous and turns her life upside down, Veronica can't help herself...she's totally gone for this guy.

The reason I love this film is that the main character's love interest is played by Christian Slater and he does the most awesome job of capturing the dangerous allure of a bad boy. Granted he eventually tries to blow up the school, he is what I used to swoon over...cavalier, risk-taking, smooth talking...a bad influence if my mother ever warned me about one. But the charater Slater created was more than a rebel without a cause, or a misunderstood youth. He was funny and sarcastic, wicked-smart, and had a dark sense of humor.  He was not an cliche, or an archetype...he rang true.

In fiction there are several archetypal personalities to build on for a love interest. Theres The Playboy - a ladies man, loves women, charming You have the Alpha Personality - think spy or fighter pilot, an adrenaline junkie.  Then we have my personal favorite, The Bad Boy - he's all fast cars, swagger, and wrong side of town. Finally we have Wounded Dude - he's the guy whose family died, or lost a partner in a shoot out or something sufficiently torturous for him to brood over.

There are other archetypes; The Nice Guy who ends up being an Alpha, etc. But thats all they are, a framework. Its up to the writer to layer in the personality quirks, mannerisms, and a voice that makes it clear why the heroine is attracted to and flustered by the love interest you've provided. 

What are some of the things you use to layer a character? Do you base them on people you've met? I'd love to hear what you do to make a character real to you as a writer and by extension, your readers. Until next time...Go Write!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

U is for Unspoken...The Body Language Blogfest

Harley D. Palmer over at The Labotomy of a Writer issued a challenge called the Body Language Blogfest today and I had to throw my hat in the ring.  There can be no dialogue whatsoever, but there must be some sort of conversation going on...and no sign language or telepathy allowed. The mood, conflict, and resolution all achieved with "U" is for Unspoken words.

 Wow. I love writing dialogue...my characters are snarky, sarcastic, and often very funny...My first thought was that there was no way I could do that. My second thought -- Now you're definitely going to try it with that attitude, Missy!

The Killers:

They giggled in tandem, the killers did. Holding the weapon together, they fought for control. The one with blue eyes, the bigger one, yanked it away. Wanting the fun for himself, he elbowed the gut of the younger one. Eyes clenched, the Younger tossed his head back; frustration wrinkling his forehead. He hit Blue Eyes, smacked him across the face, and flailed for the handle of the weapon.

Spittle flying, Blue Eyes held it aloft, his other hand closing around the hair of the Younger, pulling. They wrestled, their victim forgotten in the dirt next to them. Twisting together in an angry knot, the killers screamed and bit each other until finally, panting, the Younger released his grip. Blue Eyes sat straddling the Younger and gave a final yank, his eyes flashing as he stared down his nose at the upstart. Holding the weapon in his hand, Blue Eyes shook it and smacked Younger on the top of the head for good measure.

Out of fight, Younger whimpered, his eyes going wet.  He turned his head abruptly, refusing to look at Blue Eyes. Satisfied, Blue Eyes climbed off of Younger and sat next to the charred body twitching in the afternoon sun. Younger crawled over, once again sitting next to Blue Eyes, his face rapt as his attention focused once again on their victim. Blue Eyes held the weapon, then looking at Younger, offered room on the handle. A sweet smile pulled across Younger’s face and he lifted his pudgy hand.

Two yards away, a man sat watching guard over the killers; his attention wandering from their carnage to the magazine in his hand. A woman walked up behind the man, handed him a drink, and nodded to the killers.

“What are the boys doing?” She asked.

The man looked over at his toddler sons playing with the magnifying glass and shrugged. “Burning ants.”

That concludes my attempt at a no dialogue scene.  Please take a moment to peruse the other entries at Labotomy of a Writer.  Until next time, people...Go Write!

Photograph by FranUlloa, Uploaded on December 22, 2006.

Friday, April 23, 2010

T is for Targeting the Right People


I was talking with another writer the other day and she told me she'd just finished sending out her last batch of queries and proposals to agents. Baffled, I asked her how many went in a 'batch' and she said the ones that made up the last seven letters of the alphabet in her guide. Surprised, I asked her if she'd done any "T" is for Targeting before doing all of that work. The resounding chorus of crickets gave me my answser.

Targeting is simply researching the market and finding out who represents your genre. It amazes me that many writers in my group do not do this. They take the shotgun approach to queries and this results in much more work. This is true for both seeking agent representation, and polishing your proposal for submission to publishers.

One of the best ways to find out if an agent even represents your type of book is to go on their website. An agency may have several agents representing many different types of books. Some agents take only non-fiction, or historical romance, and it makes no sense to query them.

Tip Sheets are a great way to take the pulse of the publishing houses out there. They list editorial needs, including information on the types of books they'd like to see, including word length for a certain genre. You can pick them up at conferences, online, or with a SASE to the publishing house.

Leigh Michaels has a wonderful collection of romance publisher websites for easy perusal. Whatever your task, securing representation or pitching a book, it pays to not waste time and money. Take some time to target the right people, the ones that are looking for a writer like you.  Until next time...Go Write!


Photograph by cliff1066, Uploaded on December 25, 2008.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

S is for Book Sneeze Review

How Now Should a Christian Live, by Word of Promise, Next Generation is a devotion and journal for teens that is both interesting and effective at speaking to their unique questions. The chapters have great graphics and are divided into easily understood and relatable portions. Each book comes with a six-hour audio CD with the verses of the Bible for each lesson read aloud by a teen. The book is divided into clear sections to guide the reader along a week long bible study per chapter.

  • Get It, is the introduction to the bible character that the lesson will explore. The text is casual and relatable and gives the reader an understanding of who they are learning about.
  • The next section, called Grab It, helps with life application of the lesson by relating the bible dilemma to everyday situations.
  • The Hold It, section points the reader back to the Bible, with leading questions that they might have and encouragement to seek God in prayer.
  • Live It, explains how to really incorporate the idea of the lesson into your life, whether it’s learning God’s promises by heart, or living to please the Lord in your everyday walk.
  • Give It, encourages sharing what you've learned with others and daily Bible reading by showing the benefits and blessings of spending time in the Word.
The sections above are short, to the point, and interesting. Dividing each section is a word game to help with remembering the main point of the lesson and with Bible verses. Following each lesson are five pages of lined journaling pages.

The narration of the Bible on the CD is done by various famous teen stars from television, which I think is a nice draw. Their pictures on the back of an obviously Christian book got my thirteen-year-old curious enough to ask to see it. Cool on the outside with great content, the overall structure and pace of the lessons kept her both interested and loving it.

Part of a four-book-series, How Should a Christian Live, is Book Three and meant to help deepen your teen’s understanding of the Christian walk. Books One and Two, introduce the concept of Who Is Jesus and What is Salvation. Book Four, Why Should I Choose Jesus, rounds out the series.

My daughter loved this devotion. I was impressed with the amount of information and meaty study that was packed into each lesson. Suitable for any pre-teen to teen-aged person, the devotion is great whether seeking to go deeper in their relationship with the Lord, or if they are just beginning to ask questions about belief, life, and faith.  I would recommend this devotion/journal to others.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

R is for Redirect

A few years ago, I took a writing class taught by a guy who wrote teleplays. He worked on cop dramas and was quite successful despite the grueling demand for 20-26 episodes all requiring a fully formed story.

One thing he used to say was that there was no such thing as 'Writer's Block', just wrong turns. He said that if you are stuck in a story, or novel, or play...that the best thing to do is to go back to the section where things were flowing. Redirect your thoughts from making it work…to finding out why its not.

When did the writing transition easily from head to hands to paper? What scene were you writing when you were in, 'The Zone'? Chances are, the very next section is where you went wrong.

I took his advice with a grain of salt. After all, he only wrote hour-long episodes and I wrote 400+ pages...yet I've found through several books, that his advice was sound. Whenever I get stuck I go back to when it was good, and I usually find a misstep right after.

Did the hero and heroine reconcile too quickly? Was the dialogue unfinished...or revealed too much too soon? Did the decision to kill off a character or push them into the background hurt the flow? How about the characters, did I write them against personality or motivation and their actions don’t ring true?

Another trick he gave to us was to redirect our thoughts by working on something completely different. I usually have two or more novels in varying stages going at the same time. Sometimes all it takes is to redirect my conscious gears on one thing so that my subconscious percolates.

What about you? Do you have any tricks for redirecting a project that is stuck or feels wrong? I’d love to hear about it. Until next time…Go Write!

Photograph by Dano, Uploaded on September 11, 2006.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Q is for Quagmire

I am in a "Q" is for Quagmire, a corner, a difficulty...if you will. I finished my book Ruby Dawn and celebrated for almost ten minutes before deciding that something was wrong. I'd written a fast-paced suspense -- with some ‘Romance Sauce’ and not, a Romance/Suspense. I'd gotten so into the mystery and the chase of the subplot that I'd neglected to really give my characters the time together that they needed to realistically rekindle their romance.

ARGH! I know that the genre I chose is a hard one. Romance/Suspense is really like writing two separate novels. The romance plot has to stand alone, as does the suspense. Yet, aspects of both have to serve to push along the plot of the other. I sometimes feel like two different writers; the feather-boa-wearing and bon bon eating Romance writer and the fedora-tilting, coin-flipping Mystery writer.

Needless to say I need to rip open the book, eviscerate, and re-stitch my beloved, ‘completed’ manuscript. There are scenes I worked on for hours that just don’t fit anymore, at least not if I keep the hero and heroine together for most of the book. Live and learn. This is only my second romance. The first three books I completed were suspense/thrillers along the lines of ‘24’. Not too much romance to weave in there.

I will get myself some ice cream, some sticky-notes, and a red pen. Let the carnage begin…

Until next time…Go Write!

Photograph by AMagill, Uploaded on May 11, 2006.

Monday, April 19, 2010

P is For Primal Scream - A Blogfest

For "P" is for Primal Scream..., I thought an explanation was in order.  As most of you know, I've decided to host a A Primal Scream Blogfest in honor of the celebration of Cinco de Mayo. In the spirit of that gutsy, hard-won battle, I challenge you to post the most exhilarating, teeth-grinding, blow-them-out-of-the-water scene from your latest WIP.

The scene can be the inciting incident, the climax, or anything in between. It can be an emotional blowout, or something more concrete. It just has to be your own. The Blogfest is on May 5th. Your entry can be any length, but remember to get to the height of the action as soon as possible.

And, as always, remember to comment on your fellow entrant’s blogs as we all work very hard to do a great job to entertain. Sign ups are on the side bar.

So get those fingers flying! I can't wait to see what you guys got.

Photograph by Morgali Photography, Uploaded on December 22, 2009.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

O is for Organization

I often wonder how people go about the business of writing their books. How do you "O" is for Organize your story before you write? If you could peer into my workspace via the computer screen you'd see sticky notes, binders, resource books, and well...just a bunch of stuff. 

I have a critique partner who writes using the SOTP style...Seat-of-The-Pants. Apparently she just sits at the keyboard and starts typing. Being utterly too type 'A' and controlling I watch in horror as she highlights and deletes chapters at a time without the slightes hesitation.  She, on the other hand, can't understand all of my outlines and lists and plot blocks.

This got me wondering about the different writing styles out there. Do the Organization types match up with genre?  Are the fantasy people total intuitive storytellers, while the romance/suspense schlumps in my corner plot and nail bite?  I decided to do some digging into styles of organization to see if I'm missing something.

My friend's style is found throughout the interweb. Sites and contests like, NaNoWriMo, and WRW, World Romance Writers, holds a Book-In-a-Week contest the third week of every month. Just email: WRW_BIAW-subscribe@yahoogroups.com  to join the group. Both of these approaches favor quantity first, then quality as the finished work is edited and pared down.  Not my cup of tea, but it seems to work the world over because it is by far the most popular style.

The next one I'll talk about is the one I use. It's called the Snowflake Method. I found it on a blog written by a guy called Randy Ingermanson. It's methodical, disciplined, and fractal in its approach, and very solid. Since I started out as an outline type of person, this method works well for me. It also helped me get my out-of-hand sticky note problem under control.

A few critique partners from my online group said they use a method called  How-to-Write-a-Novel-in-Six-Months.  This style doesn't break down the novel itself so much as the time you dedicate to each step. I thought this was interesting because it had a bit of both of the previous styles. The structure and the freedom.

What type of style do you espouse?  Is it structural, more creative and brain-stormy, or a combination?  I'd love to know. If you do comment, please include your genre.

Until next time...Go Write!

Photograph by Muffet, Uploaded December 25, 2008. Photograph by @boetter, Uploaded on October 6, 2005.

Friday, April 16, 2010

N is for Networking

One of the hardest things about writing for me is the glaze that falls over people's eyes when I start to talk shop.  Somewhere between talking about story blocking and mentioning conferences, they seem to always need to be somewhere else...like, now.  Ah, the solitary life of a writer, right?  Not necessarily.

I've come a cross some wonderful networking sites for writers over the past few years. Some of which I'll share with you. Ning is a site that allows you to create your own social network. I'm part of a group of called Scribblerati; a collection of writers that share their work and post informative articles. Another relatively new site is called Writeropia they have progress charts, market listings, lots of great stuff. Its still under construction, but what I see so far is great.

I know a lot of you participated in National Novel Writing Month or Nanowrimo's Script Frenzy. I've made some great connections signing up to buddy with another writer for encouragement.   Or better yet, join a national writers association like RWA, Writers Guild of America, or American Christian Fiction Writers.  They have forums where you can connect with writers by genre, ask questions of "experts", or just chat.  WGA has a great article on how stupid serial killers actually are in their Murder 101 article. It was fascinating. And of course, I can't forget all of the great poets we have on the challenge.  Writers-Network is a huge site for poetry. They have reviews, spotlights, even a forum.

The way to network that is the most fun though, is the writer's conference. There are so many to choose from. Whether you write paranormal fantasy, Christian romance, or you're a travel writer...there is a conference for you.  Two places to look for a conference worth your time and money are, Terry Whalin's Blog and Shaw Guides.  The reviews are honest and informative and will help you find the right conference to meet your needs. 

I hope you all have fun perusing the links and making connections. Its always nice to find a group of people that share your passion and insanity as an author.
Until next time...Go Write! 

Photograph by scragz, Uploaded on January 25, 2006. Photograph by Grzegorz Lobinski, Uploaded on May 9, 2009.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

M is for Midway Humor Break

In order to survive this A-Z Blogging Challenge maniacally conceived by the inernet's own, Arlee Bird, I thought I'd take a couple of humor breaks during the alphabet. I had one previous post based on humorous links, that one was "F" day.  Many of you liked it so I thought I'd continue with the humorous links on this "M" is for Midway Humor Break, to celebrate the halfway mark. Woo Hoo! 

To begin, I present to you actual remarks doctors made on patient charts. My favorite: While in the ER, she was examined, X-rated and sent home. Nice. In the tradition of strange notations, this website has some of the best absence excuses ever written by the harried parent. Please excuse Jimmy for being. It was his father's fault. Tee Hee!

I have been home schooling my six children for over ten years now. We make quite a crowd when we're out shopping or even at field trips. Tim Hawkins, a musician and comedian, made a great video poking fun of his own homeschool family.  It made us all laugh.

 


Until tomorrow...Go Write!

Photograph by pdam2, Uploaded on May 22, 2006.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

L is for Lock 'Em Up!

If you've ever read an Agatha Christie novel, you'd understand how important location is in suspense. Her books like the Orient Express utilize setting to the utmost as a tool for driving the story forward. When you think about it, the principle applies to all writing. I know that most writers like to concentrate on character and plot, but setting can make or break a story. The wrong setting can deflate the suspense or confuse the reader.

One thing that Agatha Christie often did was “L” is for Lock up her characters; whether on an island, or on a train, the characters were a captive audience. As a result, so was the reader. Riveted by the imminent, inescapable danger lurking in an enclosed area, I kept turning the pages into the wee hours. She never wasted the opportunity to turn her setting into a living, breathing member of the cast. Spooky, and suspenseful, Christie was a master of using setting like another character in her stories.

Think about novels that you remember well after reading. Chances are the author didn’t neglect the setting. Whether it was the steaming moors of a sweeping love story, or the gritty streets of a detective novel, the setting worked to set up the story. Great writers use setting as a way to move their story along a certain path.
Let’s say you set up your story in a stranded ship. It sets a creepy tone. The characters have to evade one another or pair up to keep safe from a killer. Throw in the fact that they are running out of food, or the ship is sinking and your setting creates natural conflicts for your characters to overcome. No let’s say that the ship is in the path of a storm, and that the only way to be rescued is to be out in the open on deck. Your setting just put your characters in danger, both from the impending storm, and from the killer.

I encourage you to take a look at how your setting plays a part in your work. Is it incidental, or instrumental? Could it be Anywhere, USA, or is the location a major factor? I’d love to know what you come up with.

Dont forget to sign up on the side bar for The Primal Scream Blogfest - Your Most Heart Pumping Scene! The Blogfest will take place on May 5th...can't wait!

Until next time, Go Write!

Photograph by wili_hybrid, Uploaded on March 16, 2009. Photograph by ~MVI~, Uploaded on August 24, 2008

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

K is for The Kraken Makes You A Better Writer

The "K" is for the Kraken makes you a better writer, I am completely serious. Ok, hear me out before you roll your eyes. We find the Kraken in the tale of Hercules...a legendary adventure.  In fact, almost every epic adventure tale is based on the Hero's Journey. The term was coined in the mid-1900s, in Joseph Campbell's book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces.  He realized that in every mythic/epic journey there are several common elements. You can find these steps in Greek mythology like the Odyssey and in blockbuster movies like the Matrix. A PhD student named, Richard Kemp did a fascinating six-minute video using Star Wars as an example of the Heroe's Journey.  It's a really great project. 


The reason I am telling you this is that the steps that a hero takes is a great way to block out a novel...especially fantasy novels.  Click here for a detailed explanation of the steps, as explained by a college professor, if you're interested.  The premise is pretty straightforward and as I list off the steps, you'll probably recognize them in some of your favorite stories.  The first part, I think, is the hardest to set up in a novel.
  • Departure -  The call to adventure, the refusal, supernatural aid, crossing the first threshold, and the belly of the whale.
This is hard because you have to make your hero all happy and comfortable in his 'home world' and then ruin it somehow. Usually a tragedy sets things in motion. A new element is introduced, some sort of conflict like an Evil Empire, or a Princess's plea.  The hero is reluctant, frightened even...you get the picture. The next phase of the journey is the 'on-the-road' experiences.
  • Initiation - trials, temptress/goddess, atonement with the father, apotheosis or time of peace, and finally, ulitmate boon.
Think of this as the second act. The Star Wars example gives Luke's destroying of the Death Star as the ultimate boon. Remember, although it was the end of the movie...it was actually halfway through his journey to becoming a Jedi. The final leg of the journey resolves the heroe's place in the world, his allegiances, and usually his future.
  • Return - refusal of the return, magic flight, rescue from without, crossing the return threshold, master of two worlds, and freedom to live.
This is the climax and denoument section. For example, the part in Return of the Jedi, where Luke is at the Ewok party and he sees and speaks with his father and Obi Wan Kenobi in their spirit essences...that is the Master of Two Worlds section. He now stradles the world of the ordinary, and the mythical or mystical world of his new nature.  Interesting stuff, really.

The study of this framework for fiction writing shed light not only on my own writing and why I was struggling, but the complexity of other works. Thanks for joining me on this literary meander through the classics...I'd be interested to hear from you fantasy writers. What type of framework do you use?

Dont forget to sign up on the side bar for the Primal Scream Blogfest - Your Most Heart Pumping Scene!  The Blogfest will take place on May 5th...can't wait!
Until next time, Go Write!

Photograph by kevindooley, Uploaded on January 18, 2008.

Monday, April 12, 2010

J is for Journalistic Tendencies

When I was in high school I took a "J" is for Journalism class because I thought it would be an easy 'A'.  I actually wanted to learn photography, but my family didn't have the money for a good camera.  The first day of journalism class my teacher announced that he needed a photographer and that whoever volunteered, would get to use the school's brand new telephoto lens camera.  I nearly wet my pants with anticipation.  For some reason, no one wanted to do it...the better for me, right? Uh, no.

You see, the photographer also had to develop the film in the school's darkroom, which was only available after school...and after a long and boring informative lesson on dark room procedure and etiquette from the Year Book Club's advisor. ARGH!  What I learned from that experience, besides how to NOT get Orbit Solution in my eyes, is that nothing worth while is easy.  I wanted to learn photography...I did. But, at price *sigh* in my case, it was hang-out time after school with my friends.

What I am getting at is that a lot of the Journalistic Tendencies that I picked-up during my year as a student of the newspaper business have stuck with me.  The one practice that serves me to this day, besides not volunteering for things without knowing the whole deal, is RESEARCH is important. Especially to the writer. Now, those of you who know me personally, you realize how serious I am about research. I've taken gun classes so my heroine doesn't shoot like...well, like a girl. I've studied Private Investigation so I don't sound like a doofus when describing how my main character tracks down a "Skip-Trace"...had to throw in some P.I. jargon there.
 
Taking classes isn't the only way to get a real understanding of a give subject. The Librarian is your friend, people, use her as a resource. She can point you to archives, building plans, technical journals, even old-timey guys that come in regularly and have the time to sit around while you pick their brain (by the way, thanks Harold!). They'll thank you for it. Librarians have so much knowledge and most people either ignore them or use them as handy alphabetizers.

Another great resource is the internet. There are a number of sites created especially for research and the writer.  The Writer's Edge has a great compilation of sites like the Library of Congress and National Press Club Resources, both places cater to the professional. And they're FREE. One of my favorite sites is Writer's Free Reference. There are useful things like currency converters, time-zone clocks, and a 1-800 directory.

Nothing throws readers out of the story more often than that jarring realization that something is off.  Its worth the effort to double-check. I'd love to know of an instance where this happened to you. Either while reading or watching a movie. To start things off I will let you in on one of mine...The internet is not magic and hackers cannot blow up natural gas stations by typing on a keyboard and "re-routing" the lines.  Not pointing any fingers *cough* Mr. Die Harder...I'm just sayin'.

Coming up: I will be hosting the Primal Scream Blogfest - Your most heart-pumping scene, May 5th...sign-ups today on the sidebar.
Until next time...Go Write!

Photograph by katerha, Uploaded on January 9, 2010. Photograph by L. Marie, Uploaded on December 24, 2006.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Business Meetings at the Chug-A-Lug

The Blog, Secret Story, is hosting a "Bar Scene Blogfest" today and I thought it might be a fun way to get myself to hone some of my writing skills, especially with dialogue. The scene parameters state that it can occur either inside or outside a bar, and that anything goes.  I'm very excited to read the other entries.

This scene is from my novel, Purple Knot. Reyna Cruz, a petite powerhouse, uses her skills as a private detective to solve her best friend's murder while trying to mend fences with the man she left at the alter...her best friend's twin brother. 

The scene that follows is between the antagonist, a biker named Crawley and Shane, the pharmaceutical tech he snared into a corporate drug scheme. Parker is the husband of Reyna's friend, she suspects he had her murdered to cover up his involvement in the drug ring.

Business Meetings at the Chug-A-Lug
Shane

Seventeen miles away, Shane, noticed light glint off of something for the second time tonight. He couldn’t quite place it, but he’d seen the effect before. He did a few lines before coming to see Crawley, and the drugs were making his skin itchy and his eyes hyper sensitive to light. Shane glanced back at the where he’d seen the light, decided he should probably write down the instances he thought he was being followed, and then batted at a non existent ant on his forearm.


He scratched at his chin stubble, thinking, before he walked up the broken wood stairs to the bar and peered in through the window. Crawley was perched on a torn, red vinyl bar stool. He tossed back a shot of tequila.

Shane’s heart beat in his mouth, and he tried get himself together. He had to tell Crawley about the detective chick. Parker had warned him she would get into their business and despite Shane’s efforts, she had. Now she was more of a problem than he’d ever imagined possible. He squared his shoulders and walked into the bar and up to Crawley who didn’t bother to look over at him.

“What do you want?” Crawley asked.

“We have a problem.”

Crawley spit a sunflower shell down at the floor and eyed Shane with disinterest.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Shane forced himself to stay rooted to the floor and not to run like his entire body was screaming for him to do.

“Well, you’re not going to like it.”

“Just spit it out, Shane.”

Shane sidled onto the stool next to Crawley and spun the little wood peanut bowl a few times. He didn’t quite now how to begin.

“Parker met me at ‘The Border’ tonight. He said he absolutely can’t move the chemicals right now. And…and I think, Crawley, that maybe he’s right. The audit people are coming…”

Crawley rolled his eyes and sighed. He motioned to the bartender to bring him another drink.

“I told you that don’t matter to me. You and Parker promised me the ingredient I need, and I expect you to deliver.”

“I know but, you see the paperwork could really get us both in trouble and now with his wife murdered…”

Shane never finished his sentence. Crawley backhanded him off the stool so fast that Shane brought the bowl of peanuts down with him. Stunned, Shane crawled on all fours toward the table a few feet away. He knew from experience it was harder for someone to kick you if you had some cover. The bartender and two other men in the bar stared into their drinks, making sure not to witness anything.

“Get back here,” Crawley growled and yanked Shane by the neck of his shirt. He led the two of them back out onto the pea gravel parking area behind the bar. “How much have you been doing, Shane?”

“Crawl…Crawley, wait,” Shane stammered. “I just needed…”

Crawley rammed Shane against a nearby truck and shook him by the front of his shirt.

“Get your nose out of the drugs. They’re rotting your brain. Now, I have a deal lined up to sell close to two million dollars worth of tablets, and I need those chemicals for the batch I promised.”

“I-I know, Crawley. I just need a few more days…” Shane tried to focus on Crawley’s face but his head was spinning.

“No, we don’t have a few more days,” Crawley said and Shane thought he looked nervous.

Shane scratched his head and made a face like he smelled something horrible. It was his thinking face.

“Well, Parker said he won’t do it, and he won’t meet with me anymore,” Shane whined. “He said that tonight, just an hour ago. Parker said he’s out.”

Crawley looked at Shane like he wasn’t there, like he was looking through him to the truck behind. Crawley narrowed his eyes, thinking.

“Didn’t you say that Parker’s had some changes to his family recently, something about his wife's will?”

Shane nodded even though he did not, in fact, remember.

“Give me your cell phone.”

Shane complied, and Crawley called a number and waited through the rings.

“Hey, it’s Crawley. Do you know where the rich boy is right now?”

Shane watched Crawley frown and then nodded.

“Are you sure?”

Crawley’s head snapped to Shane and that made him jump. Shane wondered what Parker was doing.

“Well, let’s see if we can’t find a way to motivate him, then.”

Photograph by theopie, Uploaded on August 17, 2007.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

I is for "Its Gonna Be a Bloody One Folks..."

In keeping with my A-Z Blogging Challenge, I've entered a Blogfest hosted by Anne Riley. Today's theme is is "I" is for Its-gonna-be-a-bloody-one-folks-murder-scene-blogfest... try saying that three times fast.  So I was a little on the jittery side because...well, I don't write murder mysteries.  I write Christian Romance/Suspense.  I'm a little out of my element here. But I guess that is the point of the whole excercise, isn't it? To hone my craft by stretching my little trembly writer's wings. 

I've written a scene that actually goes into my book, Ruby Dawn. Its a flashback from my main character's past and it is her point of view.

Murder Scene:

Dresden Heights – Six Years Ago


It never rained this hard, not here anyway. But it was raining, and the noise was like a thousand marbles on a pie tin. I told myself this could be a good sign as I crawled on my hands and knees across the sheet metal roof of the abandoned bus station. I hoped the rain masked the sound of the metal bowing under my weight. Rust and dirt sloughed off the roof and I dug my fingers into the pitted metal, struggling to keep from slipping backwards. I looked over my shoulder, at the asphalt two stories below, and shuddered.

Heights are bad, really bad.

I crested the roof and peered over it to the empty lot where they used to park the buses. Defunct for nearly six years, the bus station now served as a graffiti magnet and crash pad for street kids in the area. The bottom doors and windows were barred, but I’d asked around and a girl in Biology told me to look for windows on the second floor that everyone would use to get inside. I scanned the roofline and found them. There was my way in; a row of vent windows with broken glass like jagged teeth in the rusty face of the building.

I turned on the roof, swung my feet down toward the ledge, and let go. I slid down, flailed frantically with both hands, and caught hold of the vent window’s frame. Panting, I spit rainwater from my mouth and teetered along the building’s outside ledge on my tip-toes.

You can do this, Ruby. The strength will come, it’ll come.

I took a deep breath and side-shuffled passed the first window. My knees trembled as I forced myself to look down into the hollow maintenance garage below.

The vague, block-like shapes of toppled lockers made huddled forms in the darkness below. Lightning streaked overhead and gave me a flash of the torn girly magazines and trash littering the floor. I flinched when the thunder rumbled over me, and I gripped the window frame with aching fingers.

Two windows down, I lowered my legs in through the roof and poked around with the toe of my tennis shoe for the one locker section still standing upright. Tongue out, concentrating, I started when I heard Tom yelling from somewhere inside the building.

Frantic, I aimed where I thought I saw the lockers, closed my eyes, and jumped down. Slick with the rain overhead, I pawed and scratched for a handhold on the slippery surface of the lockers.

Another desperate echo bounced along the fallen lockers and empty halls towards me. My pulse shot prickles down through my fingertips and I lost my grip. I hit the filthy tile floor with a wet smack.

Gasping for breath, I called out. “Where are you?”

I scrambled to my feet and squinted into the darkness. My name floated back to me from the bowels of the dark building. I stumbled towards Tom’s voice. Slipping on the wet trash and magazines, I tripped over something solid and went sprawling to my stomach. Hitting the edge of an overturned table, the breath whooshed out of me again.

Tom shouted from far away. “Don’t do this! Stop!”

My side on fire, I pulled myself back upright and lurched forward. Panic exploded in my chest. I yelled again. “I’m coming, I’m coming!”

I hoped my voice would stop what was happening, that the thought of a witness would stop Griffin. Tom’s pain-filled howl stabbed through me. I ran blindly bouncing off walls to get to him. Up ahead, the weak light from the street lamps glowed through the hallway door’s broken window.

Almost there!

Griffin shouted angrily and I sprinted, heart tumbling in my chest, toward the sound. I nearly lost my footing and staggered out into the maintenance building’s open courtyard. A few yards ahead, Tom and Griffin tangled with each other against the chain-link fence.

I screamed.

Griffin’s head snapped towards me and he snarled with wild eyes. “You stay out of this! This isn’t about you anymore!”

Tom stood pinned against the fence with a knife to his throat. His busted lip dripped blood onto his torn white t-shirt.

Tom strained in Griffin’s grasp. “Ruby, get out of here!”

“Griffin, stop!” I pled.

Griffin ignored me and turned back to face Tom. He grabbed a wad of Tom’s t-shirt and shook him like a rag doll. Rain poured down from the sky and splashed around their feet.

“Griffin! What are you doing?” I screamed. I edged closer, my mind reeling.

I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to stop this.

Griffin didn’t look at me when he answered. His eyes, transfixed on the knife at Tom’s throat, narrowed with rage.

“He has to pay,” Griffin yelled, spittle flying out of his mouth. “He needs to pay, don’t try to stop me!”

Rain dripped off their noses and matted hair. I couldn’t make out Tom’s face, but his hands shook as he pushed against Griffin’s knife hand.

I inched forward. If I could just get close enough to distract Griffin, then Tom might have a chance. “Please, you don’t need to do this,” I said evenly.

“No, this is exactly what I have to do!” Griffin snarled.

Closer now, I caught Tom’s eye, tried to tell him what I was doing, but Griffin was already moving. He lunged with the knife. Tom twisted in his grip, and I screamed as my hands barely brushed Griffin’s arm.

And then everything went silent. I remembered later that the rain fell without sound for those few frozen seconds.

Griffin’s eyes went wide, lit up with the lightning flash, and crimson spray fanned across my white t-shirt. The blood started to run as the rain poured down on us. My heart rammed in my chest, and I staggered against the fence.

Then everything sped back up, the noise hit me like a physical blow, and I heard the knife clang onto the asphalt. Terrified, I locked eyes with Tom. His face already going white, he reached out to me.

My eyes went to the gash in his side and my heart stopped.

Tom’s eyes swam as he looked at me. “Ruby?”

Photograph by FranUlloa, Uploaded on January 5, 2007.

Dont forget to sign up for the Primal Scream Blogfest - Your Most Heart Pumping Scene, here on April 19th. The Blogfest will take place on May 5th...can't wait!

Friday, April 9, 2010

H is for Hair-Raising!

Today's entry in the Blogging From A-Z, April Challenge, is "H" is for Hair-Raising! I love a good action scene. Something that makes my spine tingle and my breathing hitch up as I worry for the character and fret for their survival.

One of my favorite movie scenes is in Michael Crichton's, Jurassic Park movie where the RV is hanging over the edge of the cliff and the main character is on the window…and then the spider cracks start webbing out from under her. Yikes! I was nervous.

I’ve been writing and *cough* re-writing a climactic scene in my book, Ruby Dawn, where the heroine has to rush into a building to stop the hero from being killed. She’s just an ordinary gal in an extraordinary situation. Do or die, she has to cowboy-up and be brave, whether or not she feels brave. The building is buckling after an explosion she set off accidentally, the hero is tied to a chair injured, and the antagonist knows she’s on her way in and he's waiting for her.
I’m working on it, but it’s difficult. I want the scene to move quickly, but not so quick there's not enough time to build tension.  On the other hand, a climactic scene that moves too slowly...is boring.

Pacing, I’m told, is the key to these scenes. The clock is ticking, the consequences of failure devastating, and the obstacles seemingly insurmountable…these are the elements of a nail-biting, hair-raising moment in your character’s life. Wicked Wordsmith has a great article on the elements of a suspenseful scene, if you're interested.

My question to you readers out there is this: What is your favorite Hair-Raising scene? It could be from movies, books, or real life. Let me in on why it affected you so much. I’d love hear from you. Until next time…Go Write!

Dont forget to sign up for the Primal Scream Blogfest - Your Most Heart Pumping Scene, here on April 19th. The Blogfest will take place on May 5th...can't wait!

Photograph by Orin Zebest, Uploaded March 11, 2008. Photograph by Jeff Kubina, Uploaded August 9, 2006.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

G is for Genre Hopping

One of the best ways to learn how to write is to read...a lot. This something I've been told over and over again, both by writing teachers and other writers. I'm in luck on this one. "G" is for Genre Hopping and I love to read all genres; the hard-boiled detective drama, historical romance, weepy chick-lit. I like to read books multiple times and take them apart, figuratively, to find out why I like them so much. Is it the pacing? Are the characters memorable, if so, why? What compels me to keep reading? I underline and dog-ear my books like they are my college texts.

One of my favorite Genres is cop dramas. I got hooked one day on a flight to a funeral. My dad had one and I read it, despite the fact that it was not what I usually read, and loved it. The one I read in particular had these incredible frenetic chase scenes. They were like running with the cops while looking through a video recorder. The author gave tight shots of people through quick, fragmented descriptions of their actions during the chase.

The rest of the sentences in the scene were long, not quick and staccato like I’d thought. I decided that I had to try to learn from this guy…so I practiced in my own writing, the technique he used. It was awkward and forced at first, but eventually, I put my own twist on it.

Hemingway is great to study for dialogue. He uses gestures to punctuate the words and it’s powerful. Hemingway often contrasts mundane tasks, like nail hygiene, with menacing dialogue. To see the everyday human behavior on a killer makes what they are saying that much more threatening. To get an idea of what I’m talking about, try reading his book, The Killers, it’s amazing.

If you’re interested, The Poetry Resource Page has a great writing exercise on creating a character with gestures alone. And if you're into blogfests, there is a Body Language Blogfest going on at the Labotomy of a Writer Blog on April 24th.

My challenge to you today is to read books you felt were most potent, most riveting, to you as a reader and find out why. I’ll bet you’ll learn some great new techniques without the fee and travel of a writing class. What can you learn from your favorite writer?  Is it pacing, do they have great character quirks, or is it something less definable?  I'd love to know what you found out.

Until next time, Go Write!

Photograph by Hamed Saber, Uploaded on August 24, 2006. Photograph by austinevan, Uploaded on August 24, 2007.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

F is for Forgetta 'Bout It

I'm knee-deep in revisions and about to run babbling down the cul-de-sac, my neighbors hate it when I do that, so I've decided I need a fun break.  Today I have decided that "F" is for Forget about anything important today and just focus on things that are light hearted.  So I pulled together a few things that always make me smile...even chuckle a a bit...

This is a list of hilarious metaphors that highschool students submitted as part of a creative writing assignment.  My favorite is: # 10 - McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.  Oy!  Thats a visual I can't un-imagine. This is timeless stuff, people.

I recently received an email with funny exam answers that kids submitted. They range from a kid coloring 100 consecutive 'C' answers on his scantron...it was a True/False test.  To some very skilled doodling by obviously talented kids.  Here is one of my favorites.

Oh, and for those of you that survived April Fool's Day unscathed, I give you something worthy of mention. I saw this on Flickr. It just goes to show that I'm not the only one trying to get the girl's team on the board with some prank scores.

On a final note, I leave you with some amazing examples of what happens when graphic artists get bored.  Wow.  And I thought repeatedly hitting the Stumble! button was fun.

 Now finish watching and Go Write!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

E is for Enormous Trouble

Remember watching cartoons when you were younger and they showed a pebble rolling down a snowy mountain? The pebble picked up speed and snow and by the time it got to the village below it was an enormous. That’s kind of what needs to happen in a suspense novel. The heroine needs to get into "E" is for Enormous trouble, try to solve it…leading to more and more trouble. Hot water is the order of the day.

This technique keeps the reader’s interest, because a high level of emotion is compelling. The problem with so much of conflict is that after while; your character starts to look like a crap-magnet. It’s unlikely that a meteor, a devastating misunderstanding, and an evil villain would all befall your main character at once…if at all. So how to remedy?

Conflict has to build, like a slow pressure pushing upwards. I try not to have my heroine’s home fire-bombed by savage gang member right away. I save it for the middle of the book. Hitchcock was a master at building suspense. Strange comments, near misses, and internal struggle all kept me on the edge of my seat. I learned some great lessons from him. For one, keeping the reigns on the drama, letting it building it gradually, leaves room for suspense.

Men with Pens, has a great article on escalating conflict within interpersonal relationships, if you’re interested. I’ve recently gone back over my book, Ruby Dawn, in revisions to take a second look at my pace and romantic subplot. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I wonder what gives you the most trouble when building tension in your work.  Do you have any tricks or tips you'd like to share?

Until next time…Go Write!

Photograph by kamshots, Uploaded on february 9, 2007. Photograph by Roberto Verzo, Uploaded on August 1, 2009.

Monday, April 5, 2010

D is for Duh!

Today's A-Z Blogging Challenge letter is "D" as in Duh!...or maybe, Drama.  There are certain elements to estblishing Drama in fiction.  I wrote about one of the elements earlier when in my post about conflict, last month.

What I want to explore today is the element of Drama that makes you bite your nails and yell at the book. I'm talking about the collosally stupid decisions that characters make in the flustered moments of a dramatic scene.  My husband is reading a suspense novel by a popular author and I peroidically see he cringe or suck in his breath through his teeth.  He even threw the book down once, disgusted...only to pick it back up  a few seconds later.  That's a good read. What he's reacting to is the Duh! decisions the character is making...hiding the body, accidentlly leaving his GPS device behind in the woods, using something that can be tied to his work to weigh down the body...dumb decicions, sure...but understandable given the circumstances.

An important element of Drama is the emotion, the gut twisting ride the reader takes with the main character. From surging emotions to disproportionate reactions, the Drama created by the consequences of bad decisions on the part of the main character hightens the reader's suspense. If you're interested, Christian Fiction Online Magazine has a great article on drama and the reader, pulling them back from the brink of disaster.

I write Romance/Suspense, so a large part of my Drama is based on emotional conflict. Misunderstanding, failure to communicate, insecurity...these all come straight from Duh! moments, but they're relatable because we've been there. My question to you is this: What is your favorite Dramatic scene ever...from young Skywalker learning about his father while dangling over the abyss to Mr. Darcy's proposal at Rosling Park, movie or book. What set you're heart in motion?

Until next time, Go Write!

 Photograph by epSos.de, Uploaded on February 21, 2010.  Photograph by Lin Pernille, Uploaded on March 31, 2007.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

C is for Cliche'

Today I am dedicated to stomping out the "C" is for Cliche' in my writing .  I've been working on revisions and I am really happy with the layering that I did in the first half of the book.  Something my Sunday Morning Romance Writers colleague said made me think. She mentioned that it was hard to read romance without rolling your eyes at the cliche'd descriptions of heaving breasts and rippled abs...true enough.

This sent me on a quest to stamp out anything remotely similar in my own writing. Okay, well first I'll start with the emotional turmoil phrases that I often run into in other books...and that I can be guilty of myslef. I shall "comb through" my manuscript and "shine the light on" anything that is "been-there-done-that" in terms of descriptions.

If you're interested, a great article on addressing Cliche's is The Bookshelf Muse and talks about how they are The Poison Apples of Writing.

Back to my task...I will eviscerate my prose, ripping out the "heart's ramming in my chests" and the "my stomach churneds" from my heroine's inner thoughts.  Out go the "I shruggeds"...well not all of them, and the "he ran his hand through his hair" references.  This is actually kind of fun!  Be gone, evil "his eyes bore into mine"!

Now that I am done and survey the carnage on my desktop I am left with some holes. I need to replace those descriptions and sentiments with something...but what?  As I labor to craft my novel into a shiny, gleaming collection of breathtaking images...I leave you with this:

What is the cliche' that gets you to roll your eyes? It can be in movies, or books...even those summer blockbuster trailers a' la: "In a world...where one man...must fight to...blah blah blah..." Let me know what you'd be happy never to hear again...and maybe throw some suggestions my way. I await your response, eyes flashing, bated breath...just kidding.

Until next time...Go Write!

Photograph by Aurimas Rimsa, Uploaded on August 21, 2007 Photograph by erix!, Uploaded on September 16, 2009