Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Don't Believe What They Tell You..."

Tara over at Midnight Ink is having a "Secret" Blogfest today.

I was really excited because my new work in progress has a heroine with a big that eventually rips the tiny parish of Bayou La Foudre apart. 

I hope you like the excerpt from my latest novel in the works...Bayou Blue.

And be sure to check out the other entries at Midnight Ink.

Chapter One
Bayou La Foudre, Louisiana

I used to think of the ocean as a place of peace until that night on the black water; when the air heated so fast and so furious that the wet steamed right off me. The dark night lit up with a bloom of raging red and orange. The night the sea stole my brother.

I remember how our lifeboat bucked on the water and I clutched the side with aching, sweaty hands. Members of the crew jostled and jockeyed for position on the craft, tending to the wounded. I noticed absently the paint on the hull melted off from the blast and the sickening feeling in my gut when we capsized in the swells.

Overhead, acrid smoke billowed up from the listing structure blacking out the jaundiced moon. Helicopters panned search lights back and forth lighting up the churning waves with frantically jerking beams. All around us flames flared across the water fed by the oil slicking along the surface. Trembling with fear and loss, my brother’s last words clanged in my head.

Don’t believe what they tell you.

The car behind me honked, tearing me out of my thoughts. I waved my apology and tore through the intersection on the yellow light. Skating around a curve, I rolled across the pebbled driveway of the Roustabout Bunkhouse, and slid into a parking space up front.

The worn structure sat huddled under a pair of large Cypress trees. Spanish moss draped over the branches and hung down to the roof, just scraping it with the faded green tendrils. Low in the sky, the sun angled shards of sunlight through the softly swaying leaves. I shut off the engine and sat staring through the windshield at the building’s faded wood façade trying to find the courage to go inside.

My phone buzzed on the seat next to me, the screen heralding my boss at the paper. Joseph Bradley ran San Diego’s North County Chronicle with an iron fist. The fact that one of his reporters didn’t show up for work this fine Monday morning must be driving him nuts.

Digging in my purse for my press credential, I found it and tossed it into the glove compartment of the rented sedan.

Wouldn’t be needing that out here. The less people knew I was back in Louisiana, the better.

I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel and bit my inner cheek. If I turned around now, caught a flight back to California, and just called the head office…

No. Randy deserved to have his stuff packed up by someone who knew him before his name meant death and destruction. Someone who loved him despite what he’d become. I thought about my younger brother and the breath whooshed out of me with the weight of his memory.

Hand going to my arm, to the still-healing burns, I wondered at how life pulled us in such different directions that he could turn so far into darkness without me knowing. Without me having one clue.

I folded and refolded the letter I received in the mail three days before the tragedy. Stained with tears and mottled with the oil of my hands, I knew the contents by heart. Randy’s all-capital handwriting scratched across the page.

He’d asked for my help. He’d said he was scared. He said he’d explain when I got here. That was it. That is all Randy left me. That and scars both inside and out.

I shoved the envelope back in my jeans pocket. Rummaging in my purse, I pulled out a tissue and dabbed at the mascara under my eyes with one hand and I pulled the key out of the ignition with the other. The mascara just wouldn’t stay on my lashes down here. What with all the humidity and crying I did lately.

Movement inside the manager’s office caught my eye. A pulled back curtain fluttered back into place and the click of the door lock signaled they knew. Despite shoving my long auburn curls under a baseball cap, I’d been made.

“Looks like your fan base is still as solid as ever.” A low drawl next to my opened window startled me.

Gasping, I turned to face Sheriff Ayers as he leaned a hip casually on my fender. Dark hair, dark eyes, shadow of scruff along his angular jaw, Jake Ayers was about the only person in Bayou Le Foudre that spoke to me without sneering.

Of course, it was in his job description to deal with trouble judiciously.

I didn’t notice his patrol car until now.

I flashed on the image of him that terrible night; his hand reaching down to me. The helicopter’s whirling blades above him as he dangled on the rescue tether. Right now, the look on his face matched the one from the night he plucked me from the water. I heard somewhere he used to be with the Coast Guard search and rescue team; that he’d volunteered to help that night.

“How do they know so fast?” I peeled my hat off and tossed it in the back seat. “I just flew in two hours ago.”

He tipped his jaw down and peered back at the office from under the brim of his sheriff’s hat.

“You stopped for gas over at the Snack Shack. Penny called her mother, who called her sister…you know how it goes. Everybody knows your brother stayed here.”

I stared past him to the door of the bunkhouse manger’s office. Tension twisted my gut, but I turned to Jake.

“I have a right to my brother’s things.”

Jake nodded, his eyes searched mine, held them. “I know you do.”

Taking a deep breath, I climbed out of the car and reached into the back seat for two cardboard boxes. I followed Jake along the side of the bunkhouse building. We passed dirt brown doors evenly spaced and numbered with peeling black and gold stickers.

Nearing bunkhouse G3, Jake put his arm out, his hand going to the sidearm at his hip. The door hung from its hinges, the smell of urine fanned out from the doorway assaulting me. Jake shined his flashlight into the room then stepped back out.

“They wrecked it,” he said quietly. “Nothing left.”

Shaking my head, I took a step forward and peered into my brother’s room. The cardboard boxes fell from my hands to the dirty cement floor. I took in the room with teary eyes and clenched fists.

His books, torn pages scattered on the floor, looked trampled and wet. The urine stench floated in the room like a toxic miasma gagging me and forcing my hand to my mouth. Randy’s clothes, their shredded remains, tossed on the floor and furniture like dirty confetti. I ran my eyes over the broken remains of my brother’s life and shook from head to toe.

“They p-peed on his things,” I whispered.

Jake put his hand out to me, but I stepped away from him. Turning in the room slowly, my eyes grazed the wall over the door and I froze. Red spray paint scrawled out what my brother meant to these people; who my brother was to the world.


My fingers found the corner of the envelope jutting out from my pocket and my brother’s desperate words flashed in my mind.

I’m in over my head, sis. I don’t know how to stop this.

Jake watched me silently and I shoved the corner of the letter back down into my pocket.

“Why’d you come back here, Riley?” Jake asked. “Why do this to yourself?”

I wanted to tell him about the letter. I wanted to let him know what I intended to do, but I couldn’t tear my eyes from the violent accusation dripping down the wall.

“Because I promised I would,” I whispered.

Jake looked at me, his expression perplexed. “They hate you, Riley. They all do.”

I nodded but didn’t answer. It didn’t matter what they thought.

I knew one true thing. I failed Randy before. I wouldn’t do it again. One way or another, I would make things right.

That is the end of my first chapter. Riley is just getting started with all the trouble she's going to cause...Hope you check back on her later.

Until next time...Go Write!

 Photograph by wheat_in_your_hair.  Photograph by dawgbyte77.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Word About Blogfests...

I was never a joiner. I used to be the kid on the bleachers with my nose in a book during flag football.  It goes against my grain as a writer to share unfinished work. That being said...I think Blogfests are a great resource for writers.

First of all, it gets the creative juices flowing. Meeting someone else's criteria and word count are part and parcel with a writing career so getting used to the idea is helpful.  I've meet a lot of writers I would not have otherwise come in contact with through blogfests....some as far as Greece, some as near as the next city...all of them push me to be a better writer.

It's fun. I've been told that great writers read voraciously, both inside and outside of their genre. The blogfests I've entered have hosted YA, horror, science fiction, and a host of subgenres I'm just learning about.  Reading the work of other authors and getting feedback on my own is helpful and encouraging.

So take a peek at some of the Blogfests listed in the sidebar to your right.  --->

I don't enter all of them, just the ones that are a fit for what I'm doing at the moment.  You might make some interesting network buddies, or maybe even learn a thing or two.

I hope to see you in the ether...can't wait to read what you've got. Until next time...Go write!

Photograph by MrTopf.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

What If I Just Flip A Coin?

Decisions...decisions...they drive your plot forward. They keep your characters from stagnating out with everyday minutia. They give the story conflict. From Luke choosing to find old Ben Kenobi and ask him what the hologram princess meant to Neo’s decision to, “follow the white rabbit” choices are the kindling that ignites a story.

When I was younger, I used to love those Choose Your Own Adventure books. The kind where you read a chapter and then choose either page 78 if you engage in a shoot out with Ugly Pants Pete, or page 89 if you’re a yellow bellied loser and run off before high noon. The premise behind the books is a great one that I use when I’m stuck in a story.

I write a few strands of “what if” scenarios based on various decisions at a specific moment in my character’s journey. For instance, if my MC is faced with a threat do they run away, run towards it, run a scam on the aggressor? This helps me to see what will happen next…and gives me a bit of insight into my character’s personality as well.

There is a famous author that uses Tarot cards as sort of out-of-the-box brain storming. A friend of mine does her main character’s star chart and figures out what moon is in what house of whatever cusp. A member of a critique group I went to acutally rolled those dice from the Dungeons and Dragons games...I'm telling you - - writers are an eccentric group.

The point is that there are myriad of ways to get over a logic hump or restart a stalled storyline. What works best for you? What was a total disaster? I’d love to hear what you have to say.

By the way, don't forget to sign up for The "Secret" Blogfest over at Tara's- Midnight Ink blog. It takes place on June 30th and should be really interesting.

Until next time…Go Write!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

David dressed up for our Kids Choice Award Party - He was Indian Jones...sort of.

This post is dedicated to the most amazing and handsome man in the husband David.  Tomorrow is our 16th Wedding Anniversary - woo hoo!

Eighteen years ago I met a long haired, pale, black-wearing goth dude in college and the sparks flew...yes, I've always been a bit off.

We had an interesting first date, complete with my disaproving Marine father, "The kid needs a haircut." And David's car breaking down after a midnight dad picked us up. "Shoulda checked the engine fluids."  But we hit it off, fell in love, and that was that.

Flash forward to our suburban life. Clean-cut, church going, fourth-grade teacher and father of six beautiful kids. God blessed me abundantly.

Happy Anniversary, Pookie (I mean David)...I love you!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tonight at Midnight...

I used to write for just me; for the pleasure of it. The raw, visceral creation high from coaxing worlds out of a blank page was all that kept me at my keyboard. Insomnia out of control, in the darkest hours of night, it was just me and my inner world. Pounding on the keys until my fingernails split or I ran out of coffee, I often got to the point where the screen and the room would dissolve and I was just the moment, seeing the action and feeling the emotion of the characters.

Then I decided it might be fun to share my stories…

I got lost on the spinning hamster-wheel of approval seeking and format obeying and grammar fixing. I lost the joy of it somewhere in there. I started to look for formulas and structures instead of relying on my gut. I got shanghaied by structure and style elements specific to genre. Submission guidelines, hook lines, word counts…all sleep darts stabbing at the creative spirit that used to whirl with abandon in my head.

I’ve decided to go back to that first love, my Midnight Muse, and fervently hope he’ll bring me back to the gleeful, ‘what if’ scenarios and wild action sequences that sent me into breathless giggles at the craziness of the ideas. Will he let me follow him to those dark moments before a rash and violent decision or feel the exquisite angst of lost love? I hope so.

I hope he forgives my indiscretion with the despicable elements of writing – the predictable, the formulaic, and yes…the cliché. If he does take me back, I promise to weave the world he desires. Whatever the outcome, I will obey his demands for extravagant villains, unsupportable evidence, and wild leaps of imagination. He is a brooding, conniving, exhausting creature – my muse…I cannot wait to see him again.


Photograph by Barbara L. Hanson

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Tina Lynn is heating up the ether with her Bad Boy Blogfest over at her blog, Sweet Niblets.  She didn't specify if bad boy meant villain, or hero with attitude.

I tend to list toward characters that aren't clearly in one category or another. Brooding heroes, alluring villains...enablers with your favorite vice on hand.

This excerpt is from my WIP, Black Adders.  The main character, Raven Adder, is from a family of con men and women; ruthless people that she turned against after they killed an innocent family. 

She's moved away and gone into hiding, but someone starts leaving tarot cards in her mailbox, on her doorstep, at her work. Knowing her family doesn't belive in magic, she's terrified they spell out a message...a threat on her life or a warning. Not sure, she risks going to see someone from her past...someone she barely survived the first time.

Black Adders 

Yellow smoke fluttered through the bead curtain hanging in the doorway and wafted passed my nose. Craving hit me with the force of an angry rhino to the gut erasing two years of abstinence in a moment. Hands shaking, I parted a portion of the beads and walked through the gently clicking cascade.

A dim red light bathed the room in an eerie darkroom glow. Couples clustered in corners, on benches, and along the damask covered walls of the room. Persian rugs, fine glass, and lush fabrics muffled the music from the club below.

Siyah, lounging on a pile of pillows, looked up at me and favored me with a brilliant smile. He put the glass pipe in his pocket and tilted his chin up looking down his nose at me. “Raven,” he murmured. “You’re back in town.”

The feel of those pillows, soft beneath my back, flashed in my head and I swallowed against the lump in my throat.

Stopping just inside the room, I leaned against the cool wall and balled my fists at my sides. “I won’t be here long.”

His eyes danced along my body and back up to my face. “Long enough, I hope.”

When I didn’t answer, Siyah clicked his tongue and rose to his feet. All muscle and sinew; his movements reminded me of something powerful hunting. He walked up to me, hand over my head against the wall, he leaned in until our noses nearly touched.

“Did you come here for anything in particular?”

The sweet aroma on his breath mingled with the brandy and I stifled a whimper of need.

Reaching into my back pocket I drew out the tarot card and held it between our faces. He leaned away, took it, and then held me with his dark eyes.

“The Tower?” Siyah stepped back. “What did you do?”

I peered back at him, shocked. “You must have heard. With your connections—”

Siyah’s brows knit. “It’s true then?”

Nodding, I took in a shaky breath. “I – I need to know if anything can be done. Your father...I thought you might have an answer.”

He rolled away coming to rest on the wall next to me. Sighing, he shook his head. “The only way to fix it is with a blood offering.” His voice, low and even, betrayed the wary look in his eyes when he turned to me. “If not yours, then someone more valuable to them.”

Tears trailed down my cheeks and I nodded silently. I’d known as much. “I had to be sure,” I whispered.

“How long has it been, Raven?” Siyah asked and brought the pipe and lighter to his lips.

I watched the flame lick at the glass and a shudder shook my core. Suddenly sweating I licked my lips. “T-Two years.”

Siyah moved blindingly fast, pinning me to the wall with his hand on my chest, he stopped just short of touching my lips with his and exhaled the yellow cloud into my mouth. Sucking in with surprise and then urgent need, I filled my lungs with the burning tendrils of release. Breathing out, my voice hitched as I stifled a cry.

He kissed me then. My nose, my cheek, my eyes. His angular jaw resting against mine, he put the pipe in my hand. “You shouldn’t have left, Raven.” He muttered. “You belong here.”

Sagging against the wall I gripped the hot glass and floated on a ribbon of pleasure. He reached out, grabbed my hands with his, and ran his thumbs across the scars on my wrists. The memory of metal glinting against his fingers flashed behind my eyes.

“Say you’re back to stay.” He leaned in and whispered at my temple. “And I promise I’ll help you.”

I shouldn’t have come back here. Why had I thought I could walk away from him unscathed? Siyah’s strong body pressed against me and I sighed heavily, the fog descending over my mind like a familiar blanket. I let the tarot card drop to the floor.

“I promise.”

I'll stay here and try to get Raven away from Siyah in one go check out the other entries at Sweet Niblets.

Until next time...Go Write!

Photograph by andronicusmax. Photograph by Ambient Ideas

Friday, June 18, 2010

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night...

Elizabeth Mueller issued a challenge in her Breaking the Rules Blogfest. In order to break the rules have to know what they are. The list on Elizabeth's blogfest challenge is pretty comprehensive:
  1. Cut down on adverbs.
  2. Single Point of View Characters (no omniscient)
  3. No purple prose
  4. Perfect grammar
  5. Tight sentences
  6. 'said' only speech tag
  7. Too many commas and such
  8. No cliches
  9. Fresh writing
  10. Natural dialogue--no spelling out language the way it sounds: "Ah din't know yous kewd doose dat?"
  11. Characters: cliche descriptions
  12. Present tense form being a no-no
I looked in my vast pile of tossed aside story beginnings, writing excercises, and insomnia induced ramblings. Fortunately, I didn't find one that encompassed all of the no-no's so... I though I'd write one that incorporated as many as possible.

I flew out the door like a bat-out-off hell (8) and hopped in my camaro. I frantically (1) gunned the engine and tore out of the parking lot.

"That was a close one!" (8) I schreeched excitedly. (2,6)

Alighting my promethium flame to the cylindrical harbinger of death, I inhaled the ethereal fragrance of the Marlboro. (3)

I drove along the dark and dingy streets of the city of my youth and pondered the predicament I now found myslef inescapably tangled with. (4,5)

Martin, my "brother from another mother"; a friend-in-need, sat on the precipice of danger -- of death itself, and I was the only one with the answers! (7)

To do or die, that was the question, where it was better to suffer the danger of bad luck, or not. (9) I had to do something. I quaked in my boots and wondered if I had the guts. (8)

Then, suddenly, I recalled the words of my father as we sat in his New Your style deli, "Forgetta 'bout it. I'll all commout 'ina wash. Jus do whatcha gotta do." (10)

He was right. I ground my chisled jaw and a glint flashed in my crystalline-blue eyes. (11)

I raise my hand with determination, promising to save my friend. (12)

"Not on my watch," I am yelling maniacally (12) into the wind. "Not on my watch!" (6,8)

I hope you got a kick out of my short excerpt. There is an excellent website called Grammar Girl that offers Quick and Dirty Tips to make your writing better and avoid these pitfalls.

If you had fun reading this entry, hop on over to Elizabeth Mueller's blog and check out the other entries.  Until next time...Go Write!

Photograph by valerianasolaris.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Trickery, Deception, and Other Essentials

My writing space is filled with the detritus of a mind spent in other worlds. My desk, shelves, and nightstand house the collected paraphernalia of either a lunatic or a writer...the line is painfully thin. I belive that it's all perfectly justified though. I mean you need tools, need tools to construct worlds!

I have a plethora of books on special skills: The Official C.I.A. Manual of Trickery and Deception, Worst Case Scenario Handbook, The Daredevil's Manual, How To Survive in Hostile Conditions, and Secret Techniques of the Elite Forces.  I used to write Action/Thriller novels if you're wondering...the ones with links were the most helpful. I actually learned how to hotwire a car and that I can use the inside of my potato chip bag as a reflective surface for signaling for help.  Who woulda thunk it?

I must be on some agency's watchlist by now given my book purchases and internet searches. I better get published soon to prove I'm not building a survivalist bunker somewhere in Montana...I'm just a writer who researches. 

Of course, if the "Agency" in question paid a visit to my writing space I'd be totally cooked. You should see the shelves by my desk.  They're crammed with stuff I use for inspiration and research.  Replicas of Spanish Doubloons sit next to a Sake serving set, Mayan death masks, you name it. 

Recently, due to my Romantic/Suspense turn, I have detective manuals, lock-picking schematics, even a .pdf manual on Airboat Safety and Operation from the Louisiana Biological Society.  It was totally integral that I know how to drive one, okay?

I subscribe to state and country travel sites for the sole purpose of ripping out the photographs in the magazines they send me and using them to describe locations I'll most likely never see. (I totally HATE flying.) 

Travel blogs are the best for research. I described the inside of a Sudanese boutique hotel complete with menu because a compulsive, detail-oriented college dude posted pics and descriptions of his trip. Thank you, SamsonKnight...whoever you really are.

The Entymology guys over at UC Riverside totally rock. Five years ago, when I was working on a book, they returned my calls even after they realized that I was - A: Crazy and B: Unpublished.  I never would have learned so much about swarm theory and harmones from a book.

All this to say, that research can come in many different shapes.  From classes to books, interviews to objects, its all valuable if it helps you deliver the best story possible.  I may joke about my "equipment" for writing, but I believe it does make a difference.  My question to you is this...what do you surround yourself with in your writing life and why?

Until next time...Go Write!

Photograph by Ashley R. Good.  Photograph by uscglantarea.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Driving Around Looking for Trouble

Have you ever read a book where the character seems to meander through the plot, not really stopping or thinking until the big finish?  They're like teenagers driving around seeking out adventure in whatever way possible only to end up sneaking a smoke behind the 7-Eleven and complaining about how boring their life is.

I've written stories like this...we probably all have. I hit a point in my book where I wondered why I started the story in the first place. My problem was that I didn't think of my book as a series of scenes, and that was a structure issue that lead to more problems down the road.

Because I am a total computer nerd, I sought help from other blogs about writing.  There are some great resources out there to help with story structure and pacing. Its important to find the one that fits with your style and method of writing.

My favorite approach is found at Randy Ingermanson's Advanced Fiction Writing website. In it, he describes the basic structure of a scene and its purpose.  I will try to paraphrase it below, but I urge to check out his website for a more detailed explanation.

In Randy's approach, you try to imagine the scenes in your book strung together like beads on a chain. The chain in its entirety is the plot. Your character has to hop from one bead to the next in a logical, timely, and interesting way or you lose the reader. 

To do that, each scene can have only one of two reasons for being there: either the scene pushes the story forward, or it shows how the character reacts to the plot point you just revealed. 

Thats it. Anything else just eats up time and patience. You don't want your reader wondering why you're taking the time to describe your MC's morning routine. Toothbrushing isn't fascinating in real life. It won't be on the page.

Easy right? Well the beads, or scenes, have to have structure in themselves.

The plot-pusher bead has three parts:
  • There has to be a reason for your character to be in the scene - a conversation, action sequence, internal monologue, etc.
  • Something that goes wrong or gets in the way of what they wanted to accomplish in the scene - get information, compel someone into action, stop a disaster, etc.
  • The outcome - disaster, disappointment, confusion, danger, etc. This propels the character into the next scene as they react to what just occured.
The reaction bead has three parts:
  • Your character changes because of what just happened - either their thinking, their goal, their motivation, etc.
  • A new conflict shows up - how do they deal with what just happened or learned?
  • They form a plan and act on it - this leads them to the next scene and provides you with a cliff hanger or hook into your next chapter.
With a novel, time is a commodity.  The clock is ticking down on your reader's patience. To incorporate all the elements of a story: set up, conflict, back story, worse conflict, red herring, climax and have to move along at the right pace.  Too fast, and the story reads like a frantic, jumbled race. Too slow, and your book gets put down halfway through. 

With bit of structure, however, you can incorporate all of your creative and original ideas while cutting out unnecessary fillers that slow down the pace.

What about you?  How do you structure your book? Do you have an outcome in your head and work backwards?  Are you more of a 'see where it goes' type of person?  How do you keep your story on track?

Oh! And don't forget to read the great entries for the Character Interview Contest tomorrow at Echoes of a Wayward Mind. Great idea, Sangu!

Until next time, my friends, Go Write!

Photograph by mshades. Photograph by horiavarlan. Photograph by sk_vel.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Writing in Space and Time

You're running out of time...tick-tock, tick-tock.  Writers have a lot of responsibilities outside of creating a compelling story.  There are the queries, the proposals, revisions...and if you're awaiting a book release..Oy vey!  Marketing, promotion, travel -- all of these things have to fit into your schedule. 

Problem is...when do you write? When do you pound out another 350+ page book? When do you block out the chapters? When do you do your research?

Writing to be published, not for a hobby, is a job. A full time job.  You have to commit hours to it.  Whether it's during your kid's naptime, after work, or during your beloved television have to put in the hours at the computer to make any real progress. 

An agent once told me that writers under contract are expected to produce a book every 4-6 months.  Months, people, from research to revisions.  Whew! Sounds daunting...but it can be done, is done regularly by authors everyday. The way to do that is to have a schedule. An iron-clad, cannot-alter, leave-me-to-do-my-work schedule. And you have to commit to it.
Now, few of us can quit our day jobs to concentrate solely on honing our craft. But most of us can fine-tune our time management.

It's helpful to set a goal, a deadline, and meet it as if your advance depended on it. Because if all goes well, you will have to be able to do this for real one day. This is not as hard as it seems with some little tweaks to your work habits, you can do it.
  • Be reasonable. Don't try to pound out 300 pages in three months. You'll burn out and probably end up burning the manuscript.  Try 10 pages in ten days, a chapter in a week, or a scene a day.
  • Write it down. Pick a day to be finished with revisions, line editing, everything having to do with your manuscript. Mark the date your calendar.  Treat it like a a publisher's deadline. Don't fudge it...don't go easy on the deadline like the professional you are.
  • Block things off. Do research when you need it.  If you don't absolutely need to know the tensile strength of suspension bridges yet...wait until you're ready to write that scene to do it. Nothing throws a writer off on a tangent faster than "research" that ends up in a webcrawl through Failblog or YouTube.
  • Track your time. There is a cool pdf tracker here for free. Write down the hours you spend actually writing your story. Not revising, not "tweaking a scene", not polishing a query...but writing new stuff
**And blogfest entries DO NOT count. Research and edits don't count, but build them into your timeline so can finish by your "deadline."**
  • Clear a space. Painters set up near windows. Photographers have darkrooms. You need a writing space. A place where you can write without interuptions. That can be in your room with the headphones on, or in a coffeeshop that none of your friends go to. It takes a while to get into the groove of a scene. Don't cut yourself off at the knees by inviting distractions.
  • And finally...Don't Procrastinate, just...don't. It not only slows you down, but stresses you out.
There are a lot of other ways to manage your time. Some online programs offer stop watches, organizers, and task trackers for free or a small fee.  Sometimes its as simple as joining a critique group that meets regularly. Knowing a group of peers are expecting your next chapter is very motivating.

What are your tricks and tips for staying on track.  What are the pitfalls that eat up your time? I'd love you hear what you have to say.

Until next time...Go Write! No, really. Go start typing.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Marketing *Gulp* and the Writer

I used to think that getting a publishing contract was the finish line. The publishing house takes care of the rest, right? According to many writers and agents out there this is wrong…so, so wrong.

So when I think about marketing my *fingers crossed* future books I try not to get too overwhelmed. There are a lot of agent and editor blogs out there that have wonderful ideas for marketing your book once you get published. Instead of lamenting the fact that I don’t have use for them yet…I collect them, categorize them, pysch myself up with the idea of me doing them. In that vein, I thought I'd share a bit of my insanity with you all today.

Chip Macgregor wrote a great article called The Hidden Cost of Social Networking. In it, he explains that Facebook and Blogging are all well and good, but if they don’t create book sales then you’re wasting your time. Web presence is nice, but there is much more work that a writer must do. There are some great suggestions you can, and are expected to do, yourself.

• First you need to educate yourself. Read a marketing book and come up with a plan you intend to implement. This is really great when talking to agents at conferences. It shows you are serious about the business side of publishing.

• Pitch yourself to local radio stations and give them segment ideas. Does your story revolve around a current controversy, event, or breaking news?

• Regional magazines often do reviews of local authors, offer them an incentive like a signed copy for a contest.

• If you’re having a book signing, call not only the local papers, but the free community readers. Print up inserts for bulletins and bookmarks for libraries, coffee shops, and other venues willing to promote book signings by a local.

• Online community calendars sell advertisement space, and you can put in your book signing date and a link to your book website.

• Go and physically visit your local book stores. Get to know the owners or managers and let them know that not only is your book coming out, but you’d love to come in and sign some.

• Create press releases and send them to local events, like Renaissance Faires, Comic book conventions, etc…anything that includes people that are into your genre.

• Go to conferences and build relationships; this is a key item on any writer’s marketing list.

• Promote your book on It offers an amazing opportunity not only for unpublished authors to set up a profile page, but for published authors to set up links to their website, upload signing events, do giveaways, and even book trailers.

Writing the novel isn't the end of the journey, but the good news is that there are a lot of ideas and strategies that we can use to make sure all our hard work ends in sales success.  Do you have any ideas to share? How have you prepared for your own success story?

Until next time...Go Write!

Photograph by David Boyle. Photgraph by A. Germain. Photograph by rintakumpu.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tumbling Over The Edge...

I think the scenes most difficult for me to write are ones that genuinely scare me in real life.  I was in a terrible car accident as a teenager, I spent time in the hospital with a head injury, and I truly hate high winding roads because of it. 

The book I wrote last year, Purple Knot, has a scene where the MC and her love interest are run off the road by the killer they are tracking. So when Mary McDonald decided to host the Terror Tuesday Blogfest...I knew what I wanted to use as an entry.  My hands still get sweaty when I think about the noise metal makes when it's ripping apart.

Rain and Jimmy are on their way back down the mountain.  This excerpt appears at the end of the chapter. If this scene appears to abruptly begin and end, its because I had to edit out most of the chapter to make the scene short enough for a blog entry.  Hope you like it.

Purple Knot

“Uh, Jimmy, he’s going kind of fast. He sees us, right?”

“How could he not?” Jimmy muttered. “The break lights would be right in his face.

Jimmy tapped the break a few times but the truck didn’t slow, it sped up. Jimmy pushed me away from his side. His voice tense.

“Rain, buckle your seatbelt.”

I did what he said and looked back out the rear window blood rushing in my veins.

“What’s going on?”

Jimmy shook his head.

“Nothing, I hope.”

But it wasn’t nothing.

The truck sped up abruptly, and I screamed as it rammed into the back of the SUV. Jimmy grit his teeth fighting to keep the SUV straight on the tiny dirt road.


The truck hit us again, and we veered off the road and skid against the wall of rocks on my side. Sparks flashed against the window and the tearing metal screeched in protest as Jimmy pulled us back onto the road.

“Hold on!”

Jimmy pushed the SUV as fast as it would go on the dirt road, and we careened wildly over holes and rocks. My mouth snapped shut and I tasted blood. I grit my teeth and braced myself against the dashboard.

“He’s speeding up again,” I panted. “Pull off the road.”

“Were on the drop-off road,” Jimmy shouted.

I whipped around, looked out of my window, and saw the sheer drop off. The road skated along the edge of a deep ravine. The truck hit us again and the contents of my purse flew through the SUV landing on the seat and my lap. I felt my side of the SUV dip sharply and I screamed and reached out for Jimmy. He yanked the steering wheel to the left and a growl escaped his lips as he strained to keep us from going over the edge.

The truck hit us again. This time the spinning wheels of the SUV ruptured against the jagged edge of the blacktop and sent us flying across the road toward the ravine again. A scream ripped out of my chest, and I saw Jimmy reach for me when the truck hit us at an angle. We went up and over the edge. Everything flew against the side windows. My stomach flopped, and we were in the air upside down, tumbling down the ravine.

Pain seared through my neck and shoulder as I whipped forward, up, and out of my seat and then against the door again as we rolled. The windows burst and spidered and rocks and grass from the outside flew around the cab of the SUV. I heard Jimmy yell for me, but I crashed against side of the door again. Bright lights flashed behind my eyes as my head slammed into the side window.

We cart wheeled crazily down the ravine over and over until we hit the bottom with a final bone-jarring crash. Everything went still. We were tilted over on my side of the SUV. Jimmy’s body hung suspended over my left side. The blinking blue light from the clock flashed across his features. His eyes were closed and blood streaked across his forehead.

Stunned, I grit my teeth and waited for the pain to hit. I counted one, two, and then the wave of pain rushed over me. My stomach and shoulder screamed under the restraint of the seatbelt. I was lying against passenger side window and I writhed and moaned and tried to get away from the hurt. Finally, slowly, I found that I could control my breathing and push through the throbbing in my head. I opened my eyes. Jimmy didn’t move and my heart skipped in my throat.

“Jimmy!” I shouted and pulled on his dangling arm. “Jimmy please wake up!”

That's it for my Terror Tuesday scene...I'm gonna go and kiss the solid ground outside. If you liked the scene, take a moment to read the other great entries at Mary McDonald Has The Write Stuff.

Until next time...Go Write!

Photograph by Pati's Moment in Time.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Birthday Boys ~ June Celebrations

Happy Birthday to my handsome and witty husband, David. Husband, father of six, educator're amazing!

Other birthdays are to my brother-in-law, Neal. Who always has a joke, a kind word, or a funny story to keep us all happy during dinners at Joan's.

To my nephew, Kevin. You are truly a great little man...I'm a lucky aunt.

My youngest, Sam. It's the BIG 2nd Birthday...*sniff, teary eyes* Where did the time go? You can almost put your flip-flops on all by yourself...woo hoo!

And finally, a June Birthday nod to my baby brother, Charlie.  Sure you have a wife, a career, and a'll always be the little dude with the huge eyes, the bowl haircut, and the My Buddy doll.  Bahahaha!  I can't wait to see you guys again!

You are all on my heart and in my prayers...always.

Photograph by Theresa Thompson.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Black Smoke and Death - Dream Sequence Blogfest

I love entering blogfests because it gives me a chance to stretch myself as an author.  Scenes that would not occur to me, or techniques that seem too hard challenge me to break out of my normal style...and that's a good thing.

Amalia T. over at Good to Begin Well, Better to End Well, thought of an interesting and difficult challenge. Today is the Dream Sequence Blogfest. I only have one dream sequence in anything I've written and I spent days on it.  I'm still not sure if I like it.

The excerpt is from my novel, Ruby Dawn. The heroine has been fighting for her neighborhood against a ruthless gang member.  He started out with vandalism, her car and clinic and when that didn't work...he tried to kill her.  He firebombed her clinic when she and Tom, her love interest were inside.  Paul and Tiny are street kids who abduct Ruby from a women's shelter to help their hurt friend, inadvertently saving her from the gang member coming to get her.  Sheila is her foster mother who died. The bowl of sea glass...represents Tom, his eyes are that color green. The dream is an a-ha moment...the character's epiphany when she realizes that through all that has happened...she wasn't alone.

Ruby Dawn
Chapter Thirty-Eight

The scenes in my dream flipped in rapid succession, like a movie on silent fast forward. I saw myself in front of my ruined car, walking through the wrecked clinic, and nailing up the plywood over the front windows. Talking to Mike in the parking lot with the paint splashed everywhere, glowing red under a bright yellow moon, I watched the flashes with startling calm.

I turned my head and I was in the clinic with Tom, watching in slow motion, as his face registered shock at the fireball flying at us. I felt the room jerk and swirl around me and suddenly I was outside the clinic, watching fiery bottles slam against the plywood windows, not going in. Then Tom and I were running down the hall, the fire licking at the walls but not touching us, never coming close.

An intense wind swirled around me, a silent tornado spinning me in circles. I stopped on a dime, instantly still, I watched two boys going through Dakota’s car, looking for something. My address. Angry, they brought guns up and fire flew out of them blinding me to the scene. I covered my eyes.

Another pull, deep in my core, and I rushed through waves of heat. I opened my eyes and saw that I stood in the shelter. All around me, mothers and children moved in slow motion, silently laughing and heading towards the back of the building. The front door opened achingly slow and I stared, panting at an approaching dark cloud.

Fear boiled in my gut and I felt a scream well in my throat, but a hand wrapped around my waist pulling me away. Tiny’s hands yanked me from the cloud, pulling me toward another door, a bright light. Behind us, the cloud receded. Billowing backwards frantically, it sucked itself back out of the door of the shelter.

Tiny walked with me and we took the room with us, spinning it like a whirling merry-go-round. Faster and faster we twirled, making me dizzy. Stopping suddenly, we stood in the Emergency Room. I saw myself wrapping Darnell’s arm. Beyond me, a dark cloud churned and slid across the walls; hungry for me.

My heart ramped up, dread squeezing my heart as I watched my dream self continue, oblivious. The cloud coalesced into the form of a man. Running he fired his gun at me. The scene jerked forward in flip book snapshots, the bullets tearing through the room in clear, rippling paths toward me. They missed as Paul pulled me down. I stared shocked as the rounds hissed by, a hair’s breath from my temple. The cloud receded again, swirling violently away, chased by Paul.

I watched, my heart ramming in my chest, as the room spun again. The wind whipping me in circles as walls rose up from the ground around me. I stopped abruptly, everything silently still. I heard my breath in my head, rapid, uncontrolled. Looking around I saw Sheila sitting at her desk in my old home. Her body lit from within. Next to her, a bowl of brilliant green sea glass sparkled with reflected light. Longingly, I walked towards her and she looked up at me and smiled. Overwhelming happiness washed over me and I reached my hand out to her.

Her voice echoed softly in my head. “This is a choosing moment, Ruby.”

I hope you enjoyed my dream sequence. Please check out the other entries at Good to Begin Well, Better to End Well.

Photograph by molesarecoming, Uploaded on September 19, 2009.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Sagging Middle Blues

"My middle sags." These are not vain words said in front of a mirror...that is a whole other post.  These are the words uttered by many a befuddled romance writer.

You have a spectacular beginning to your novel; a compelling hook, riveting main characters, a worrisome conflict...great!  Your ending is excellent with a twist, a resolution - the satisfying all is well, or isn't this ironic last few words.

The problem, you decide, is the stuff in between. The middle of your book is lacking...something. There's no spark, no oomph.

I recently read a book on just this problem. There are a few tell tale signs that your middle either is already, or will soon begin to sag -- horribly.
  • Your hero and heroine spend too much time apart. You know, this little tid bit actually made a light go on in my musty dusty mind. They have to be together to get together.  Oh...okay.
  • Your star-crossed duo get along too well.  There's no tension or uncertainty, no misunderstanding - in other words, "No Heat."
  • Random, pointless crap. Do you write about the morning routine? Driving places? How about a few paragraphs describing boring stuff like what they do at work?  Busy work that doesn't push the plot loses the reader and makes your characters too ordinary.
  • Recapping and redundant conversations. Your reader isn't an idiot. Don't treat them like one. If you already showed something in a scene, you don't need to spend time talking about it, unless it's a really convoluted storyline in which case...sagging probably isn't the problem.
  • Second Fiddle becomes more interesting. If secondary characters, supporting staff, and scenery become the focus of your're in trouble.

The good news is there are some steps to take BEFORE your middle starts to sag that will allow you to side-step the whole horrifying ordeal.  I know that some of the SEAT OF YOUR PANTS writers out there will hate me for this...but OUTLINING, is the best way to avoid this. 

  • The number one reason for a sagging middle is you don't have enough of a plot to support a book.  The romantic subplot doesn't have enough emotional twists and turns, or the main plot is too linear.  An outline can help you see if you need more of one or the other...or if your novel should really be a novella.
  • Now, this may seem backwards, but too much action is another reason middles sag. Doling out the tension systematically...piece by piece, ramping up the stakes just a bit each time, is a more effective way to keep your story exciting and moving.
  • The middle matters in matters of the heart. Use the middle to focus on the romance and the major turning points in the plot.  Don't go off on tangents like side character issues, or backstory. If you know the middle of novels tends to sag...fill it with juicy stuff and it won't.
Now its always good to do these things before your WIP needs major surgery. Sometimes going back in and adding romantic subplots, or story twists opens up a whole avenue you didn't realize you had.  So don't aware...and keep at it!

I will see you all tomorrow for the Dream Sequence Blogfest over at Amalia T's. Until next time...Go Write!

Photograph by sandcastlematt. Photgraph by Daniel E Bruce

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I Envy Me Some Etouffee

My WIP, Bayou Blue, takes place in south Louisiana...the Bayou. So I need to portray the common style of speech there. I am beginning to understand what people's "Good Luck With That" looks mean when I say I'm going to learn some Cajun.
Uh...its English, but not. Like my Australian friend when I first met her. She was saying words I knew...but still had no idea what she was saying.

I think this will be both fun and challenging. I've been on some sites about Cajun cooking, even found one that gave sayings and their meanings. Its called Louisiana Cajun Slang and was very helpful. So was the very organized Terry Eymard's Guide to Bayou Cajun Words & Expressions.

I've learned some interesting ways to express myself. I thought I knew me some French...this is really, really different.

I wanted to say that I needed to mop, I'd say: I'm about to pass a  mop.
Or maybe I got scared and got goose bumps: I got the freesons!

Some of the words are just French blended right in with the English...Mais (well). "Maise I don't want to go, but..."
Or..."Don't be so coullion (coo-yon) which means foolish.

Over all though, it is reminescent of my own family's "Spanglish" a mixture of Spanish, English, and made up words like carro (car) in which the actual Spanish word for car is I think I may be able to get some phrasing down enought to write my book.

I hope some real life Cajuns out there are willing to help a writer portray the culture accurately. If you do speak Cajun, or spot any mistakes, please feel free to let me know. That is all for now. I shall see you all on June 4th for the Dream Sequence Blogfest over at Amalia T.'s blog.

Until next time, my friends...Go Write!

Photograph by Natalie Maynor, Uploaded on October 25, 2005. Photograph by HarshLight, Uploaded on January 3, 2010.