Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wow, This Book Is Crappy!

I love reading or watching interviews with writers. I particularly enjoy hearing what writers have to say about writing...or getting started in writing. Stephen King wrote a book called, On Writing, that is one of my favorites. It is an honest, funny, sometimes exasperating telling of the long road toward publication for this bestselling author.

Another book, How I Got Published, is a collection of the magic moments and the interesting paths some of the most recognizable authors experienced as young writers.  I recommend both of them.

Something that almost EVERY author says is an indispensible aspect of the writing life?  Reading...voraciously.

You always hear that, but its true. I've met so many writers that say they never read. Never read? What? That's like an artist saying they never look at paintings...uh, no.

I am a wife and mother. I homeschool six kids. I like to watch movies and I have a terrible addiction to Stumble Upon!...don't ask.  But taking time out to read a good book or even a bad one, is important to grow as a writer.

Figuring out first hand what works and what doesn't, as in, "Wow, this story really stinks!" Or..."What in did they do that?"

In closing, I leave you with one of the most inspiring and humorous quotes. It is from Stephen King...

Now Go Write...or, READ!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Did Ya Miss Me?

Photograph by Kevin Dooley
I've been out of town at a conference. The Writing for Life Conference, to be exact. Hosted by the San Diego Christian Writers Guild.

I hadn't planned on attending and then decided at the very last minute to go. Literally, the last minute. I had to call them to ask if I could still submit a pre-aproval form they require before meeting with the faculty.  They let I was very pleased.

The conference was in Rancho Bernardo which is just a hop, skip, and a jump from where I live, but I still opted for the hotel room because of the multiple days involved.  The Radisson offered a deal to attendees and I gotta say...the hotel rocked! Best red velvet cake EVER!

Friday night featured a "Round Table" with dessert. Who can pass that up? It turned out to be more of a panel Q and A.  I got so much out of that session, let me tell you! The first panel was editors and agents. They answered questions pre-submitted and asked on the spot. They were funny and encouraging while giving non-sugar coated answers.  Thank You!

The second panel consisted of published professionals. Non-fiction, fiction, newspaper, screen play, and magazine. Some great discussions went on about budgeting time. Realistic economic goals for the writer, and the dawn of the e-book and what it might mean to the mid-list and debut author.  Very informative and, again, encouraging.

The next day was filled with workshops and general sessions. Barbara-Nicolosi Harrington, if you haven't heard her speak before, is a powerhouse of wry humor and thought-provoking commentary on the industry as a whole.

The workshops were a-plenty. I opted for the "Crafting A Page-Turer" two-part series given by author Susan Meissner. She illustrated character layering, tension, and plot twists in such a fun and applicable manner, that I felt like running out of the classroom and finding the nearest computer. I was that inspired...thanks Susan!

The workshop on Lyrical Writing and Paradox in the Plot was illuminating and made me take a second look at some areas in my writing that could use some work. 

General session was quite interesting as we got to interview the collaborator of Sarah Palin's Biography; Going Rogue and her agent. Quite a ride doing biographies, especially with the dynamic and the powerful.  Some of her other works included a biography of the creator of the Delta Force and the book Same Kind of Different As Me.

To top things off, I reconnected with an old critique group that I'd lost contact with after a move. They are still going strong and I'm excited to start attending once again.

If you haven't been to a conference in the past few years, I encourage you to go. For the growth, friendship, and encouragement...if not to get away from it all and have a silent hotel room in which to write.

Until next time...Go Write!

Friday, September 24, 2010

I Couldn't Breathe When I Was Near Him - Birthday Blogfest

By Tommy Wong
Today is the Happy Birthday Blogfest hosted by Southern City Mysteries blogger, Michele Emrath. Her idea to have excerpts revolving around a birthday really got me excited.

Her instructions were simple:

"Write a Happy Birthday Blogfest story! Who said birthdays are fun? They can be creepy or dangerous or dramatic or even fatal."

I'm entering a  scene from my recently completed novel, Ruby Dawn, a romantic suspense about a former foster kid who reconnects with her first love and together they must overcome the tragedy that tore then apart in order to bring down a ruthless drug ring.

Ruby survived her years at the juvenile detention center for one reason...Tom was there. When he reappears in her life after disappearing ten years ago, his presence triggers memories of their past together as teens.  This is one of those flashbacks...

Ruby Dawn

Dresden Heights Detention Center – Twelve Years Ago

I reached out into the darkness for the ladder at the rear of the storage room closet. I found it and climbed awkwardly in my too-big sneakers until the top of my head bumped against the roof hatch. I pushed up with a grunt. It lifted up and banged back on the gravel and I crawled out onto the roof. I could see his silhouette against the brick ledge. The flashlight beams below slashed across the dark field below us. I whispered out to him.

“They’ve got the guards out looking for you.”

Tom reached out his hand to me, and I grabbed it and sat down next to him. I let my eyes adjust to the darkness and looked up at the full moon staring down at us like a naked, bulging eye. I could just make out Tom.

“You ever notice how people never look up, not even in horror movies?” He murmured next to me his voice thick, sad.

I recognized the tortured tone and knew he’d been to see Dr. Wells, the school psychologist. Everyone at Dresden Heights had to meet with him once a month, but I noticed a big change in Tom after his sessions. Worry rippled through me. I didn’t like Tom’s dark moods. They scared me; he scared me when he got lost in them.

“What happened?” I asked.

Tom shrugged next to me in the dark. “He thinks I can talk away the beatings.”

My throat tightened. What little Tom told me of his father made my blood boil. An angry drunk, Tom’s cigarette burns, scars, and healed bones told of the unspeakable damage his father had done to him. I didn’t understand why Dr. Wells made Tom revisit the terrible memories. I felt for Tom’s hands and found them balled into fists at his sides. I wormed my fingers into his, and he let me.

“I’m sorry, Tom. I’m sorry your father hurt you so badly.”

He tensed next to me, and I fought the helplessness growing inside me. We sat silently for a while, and then he spoke -- his voice barely audible.

“How do you do it, Ruby? How do you stay so hopeful? You really think God cares about kids like us, in a place like this?”

I nodded in the dark. “Sheila used to tell me that sometimes you have to trust in God despite what things look like at the moment. I just think we’re in that moment, Tom. You have to have faith.”

He lifted his hand and ran his finger along the thin scar on my right temple. I put my fingers over his.

“I’m trying, Ruby.” He leaned forward to kiss my temple. “I just don’t understand how people can be so cruel. How can they just throw kids away like…trash?”

His voice cracked. I looked at Tom, desperate to make things better but not knowing how. The moonlight made him appear more pale, more lost.

“We’re not trash, Tom,” I whispered, heart aching. “Sheila used to call me her buried treasure. She’d say she was blessed to find me, and you know what…I believe she meant it.”

Tom looked at me through wet eyes, and I faltered.

“At least I do most days,” I murmured.

Tom nodded silently and used his t-shirt sleeve to wipe at his face. I wish that he had met her. I tugged on the small gold cross that hung at my throat. She gave it to me as a gift for my first birthday with her.

“I just wish this day was over,” he said sadly.

I remembered my surprise and pulled a small package out of my sweatshirt pocket. “Yeah, well its not midnight yet, Tom.”


I unwrapped the brownie, stuck in a candle I snaked from the teacher’s lounge, and lit it with one of the matches near the cooler. “Happy sixteenth birthday, Tom”

“You remembered,” he said with awe.

“Of course I remembered.”

Tom smiled and cupped my face with his hands. He put his forehead to mine and whispered softly. “You’re amazing.”

Then, unexpectedly, he tilted his head and brushed my lips with his. A gentle, tentative kiss that made my face explode with heat and my heart ram in my chest. He’d never done that before. Tom let go, picked up the brownie, and beamed at me.

“Should I make a wish?”

I nodded dumbly, trying to recover. I watched him blow out the candle, terrified because I could barely breathe when I was near him.

That's it for my entry. I hope you take some time to check out the other stories over at Southern City Mysteries.

Until next time...Go write!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

If I Stare Long Enough...

Photography by BLMurch

I hate waiting on submissions. Doesn't matter if its submissions to agents or submissions to publishers, it results in the same roiling stomach and bouncy leg. Hitting refresh on my email apparently isn't somehow magically prompting the receivers of my proposal to answer.

Distraction like this only makes it harder to concentrate on writing. Especially if things aren't flowing as easily as I'd like. I just have to turn my back on the whole thing and forcefully forget what proposals are pending...its difficult, but I have wonderful powers of denial.

As a Christian, I believe that I've put my life in the hands of God, fully aware that He will do with it as He wants. Its a conscious choice on my part...a constant re-choosing. I'm type A, and we control freaks like to worry and obsess and be all frustrated. It’s hard to let the reigns go…its hard to trust.

It is my heart's desire to be a published author. I pratice, read books, work hard...and wait...

There is no guarantee for any of us that it will happen, but I feel called to write. Like it’s a part of my DNA. There has to be a reason that I am so compelled to sit for hours in front of a computer and struggle over the story I'm telling...right?

I don't have some earth-shattering message that will sell thousands of tickets to my speaking engagements.

I write fiction. Stories with people in it that aren't perfect.  They are like you and me.

They are tempermental, afraid, or generally happy and don't want to make waves. They have painful pasts or boring ones that make them feel insignificant. They have no special powers or talents.  They are everyday guys and gals that face what life throws at them and still somehow manage to do the right thing. The difficult thing.

They are who I was once, am now, or aspire one day to become.

I write because I can't help it nor do I want to. It’s tough to keep that in mind when faced with the gauntlet of roadblocks towards publication. Something that truly helps is hearing about everyone’s victories and steps forward. Because then it seems more within my realm of possible.

And I know that despite everything...I'll continue to tell stories and explore motives, and learn through my characters.

So as I turn my back on the worries of the business aspect of writing and settle in to the pleasure that the blessing of words brings to me...I ask all of you this:

How do you get through the tough times? How do you keep the waiting from driving you nuts?

Until next time...Go Write!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

He Didn't Bother Me Again - Back To School Daze Blogfest

Photohgraph by lemuelinchrist
Roh Morgon had the supremely delightful idea of hosting a Back-To-School Daze Blogfest.  Since I normally write adult romance books, I don't normally have scenes in schools.  However...I just happen to have a high school flashback in one of my finished novels.

Purple Knot is a contemporary romantic suspense. Rain's best friend, Summer, is mysteriously killed. Summer's twin brother, Jimmy is Rain's former love. They have to work together to track the killer and bring them to justice.  This excerpt is from early in the book. Its a flashback of how Rain first met Summer and Jimmy Corbeau.

Purple Knot

My ninth grade year my dad moved us from Bainbridge to Seattle so I could go to a private high school. Westbrook Academy offered one academic scholarship a year for incoming ninth graders, and I wanted it. My guidance counselor did most of the application work, and I had managed to pull high enough grades and test scores to qualify for the position. I think my dad used up all of his strength to make the move because it was one of the last times he ever seemed to be holding on to life.

The day I walked onto the campus with my second-hand uniform and used books was the day Jimmy and Summer started as well. They’d just moved up from Louisiana and their big black sedan pulled to a stop in front of the school. Terrified I’d be put on the spot as the new kid in town, the beautiful Corbeau twins were all that anyone cared about. I was free to fade into the background, for a while, anyway. Turns out my hand-me-down life didn’t go unnoticed for long.

I didn’t feel comfortable at Westbrook, I knew I wouldn’t, but the exposure to college scholarships there was too great for me to pass up. I didn’t have nice jewelry or arrive at school in an expensive car. I didn’t arrive in any car actually, I took the city bus. I used to race out of my last class of the day because the bus I took home left at exactly five minutes after school got out. If I missed it, there wasn’t another one for almost an hour. To further motivate me not to dawdle, the bus stop didn’t have an overhang, so if I missed the bus I had to stand in the rain. I never lingered after school to talk because of that.

It’s hard to make friends when your nose is either in a book, or you’re rushing out of the room the second the bell rings. I had acquaintances, lab partners who smiled at me in class, but ignored me in the lunch room, that type of thing. I was happy not to have to make excuses for not having them over. I was flying under the radar. At least until Eric Roxan decided to pay attention.

Eric Roxan was a golden boy. All state basketball and football, he acted like he owned the school. It was apparently just the library that his family donated. Eric decided he liked to make fun of me when I walked down the hall. He would follow behind me and mimic my walk. It was easy to ignore, so I did. This only encouraged him to try harder. Soon Eric started making fun of my answers in class, and mime my hand motions as I spoke. The teachers knew to ignore the behavior of their benefactor’s children, so I tried to as well, though the snickering from the other students unnerved me, and I stopped volunteering answers. By the end of my first month at Westbrook, Eric went out of his way to walk across the grass field during lunch just to kick over my soda. Then he started kicking my soda onto me. Then he just poured his drink into my backpack. I began to skip lunch and stay in the library.

The day before winter break someone broke into my locker and dumped urine all over my books and folders. A photography project I’d spent weeks working on was ruined. I stood at my locker fighting back tears because I didn’t know where I was going to get the money to replace all the books. The books smelled, my homework stank, and I couldn’t do anything about it. Eric stood down the hall and stared at me with an evil grin plastered on his face.

By the time January rolled along, Eric had tired of pranks at my expense. He decided that ramming me into the lockers during class changes was more fun. I was an inch over five feet tall, he was six-foot-two. I didn’t get support from the staff because, well, I was just a freeloader. I felt helpless and scared. My stomach churned on the ride to school everyday. Emotionally I was a wreck. I prayed for relief. Eventually I started to hide out in the girls’ bathroom, and make a run for my class seconds before the tardy bell would ring. I was pathetic and miserable. Then one day, Summer walked into the restroom where I was hiding.

She took one look at my frantic, tear streaked face and her cheeks burned red. She stomped out to the hall and yelled for Jimmy. Already in his class, he poked his head out into the hall, saw his sister’s face, and strode right into the girls’ bathroom without batting an eye. He was a tall kid, already filling out in the shoulders and arms, and he made me nervous just standing next to him.

Summer had been listening to the talk. She’d noticed the teasing. And yesterday, she saw Eric ram me into the lockers on the way to the cafeteria. I watched Jimmy’s expression go from confusion, to shock, to anger as he listened. His eyes grazed over me. I adjusted my torn sweater self consciously, hating the feel of pathetic that Eric had smeared on me. Jimmy nodded once and was gone. Summer smiled at me.

“You know,” she’d said. “Sometimes help comes from places you don’t expect.”

I didn’t know what to say to that so I just nodded and smiled back.

Later that day, Jimmy caught Eric pouring something in the grill of my locker. He yelled at him about picking on girls and when Eric tried to push Jimmy, he grabbed Eric and rammed him into the lockers on the left and then on the right. Eric squealed like a piglet. Jimmy yanked him by the uniform tie to where I was standing and made Eric apologize, and then Jimmy took the soda out of my hand and dumped it over Eric’s head. I was shocked speechless. I never saw Jimmy that mad again, not in all the years I’ve known him. Jimmy was suspended for a week. Eric never bothered me again, no one did.

Click to go to Blogfest

I hope you enjoyed my entry.  Many Thanks to Roh for hosting such a fun topic.

I encourage you all to click on the link below the blogfest button and check out the other entries.

Until next time...Go Write

Monday, September 13, 2010

What's Your Signature?

Photograph by Liz West
The other day I was having a major nervous breakdown over my WIP. For some reason, I feel like I started the story too far into the story...what I mean to say, is that a significant portion of the plot already occurred BEFORE page one.  I KNOW...right?

Anyway, I called up my friend from our Sunday Morning Romance Writers group and she talked me down from the ledge. One thing she suggested was that I might want to go with flashbacks..."Because that's your signature anyway," she said.

That gave me pause. I have a signature? I hadn't realized that my writing is distinct in a very personal way. She also pointed out that all of my heroines have a first name that starts with an 'R'...huh?  She thought I did that on purpose, because my own name begins with an 'R' and that it was again, a signature. I hadn't noticed. I picked the names because I like the sound of them and they fit the character.

This got me thinking about signatures. I mean, that's how they catch serial killers, right? They have a distinct pattern even if sometimes its subconscious. A certain mental tick or compulsion drives them to repeat something over and over again. As writers, do you have any such quirks?

Do you have to have a certain mug or snack when you write? Are you characters always red-heads or petite or tall?  In what ways are you leaving a mark on your work that is distinctly you...and when did you become aware of it?

I'm forging ahead with my WIP. In fact, I've worked out the kinks after my conversation with Erin (Hold on To Your Bloomers!) and realized what the problem was. The two chapters I wrote since then happened smoothly and without fuss...which is nice.

So tell me what makes your writing unique...Until next time...Go Write!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Remember the Girl with the...?

Photograph by Hill.Josh
Have you ever had a conversation where you started to describe someone and the person you were speaking to knew exactly to whom you were referring? 

You didn't even have to finish your sentence. You just ran your hand over the spot where they had the tattoo, the scar, or the amazing eyes and your friend nodded. "Oh, yeah, the girl with the mole or the guy with that girly voice..."

The person didn't need explanation because they were memorable. In some particular way, that person left an impression on you. They may have appeared normal in every way save for their strange laugh. You might have forgotten the waiter if it wasn't for his incredibly deep and velvety voice.

Our characters need to leave an impression on the reader like that. Is your main character memorable? Do they stick in the reader's imagination so much that they need to know what happens to them?  Are they the kind of person who would catch your eye in real life, either for good or bad reasons?

I'm not talking about appearance only. Are they particularly benevolent or terribly greedy? Do they sweat when they get into elevators? Is there some secret that makes the events unfolding tense because it may be revealed at any moment?

Think about your favorite characters in fiction. What made them stick out in your memory? One of my favorites is the main character in Robert Ludlum's Bourne Series...not the movie dude, but the fictional Jason Bourne.  The one Ludlum wrote. Here is a guy that is just packed with memorable traits.

He is fished out of the ocean. He has amnesia...okay, unusual but...meh.

Then things get interesting. He has a plastic tube with a Swiss bank account embedded in his hip. He can speak several languages. He's blindingly fast and terribly dangerous in a fight.  He has no idea why. To top it off...people are hunting him.

Okay...uh, what? 

Jason Bourne could have been a stock assassin character, but Ludlum made him memorable by making him the opposite of a killer...he made him vulnerable. He made him loving. The Bourne Identity turned action and suspense in the Cold War era on its ear.

So now I take a look at my own characters. What is memorable about them? What draws me to their world to tell their story? What did I learn from knowing them...about myself and others? 

As I start to build my novel and character outlines *stop cringing you pantsters* I hope to truly understand the grip these 'people' have on my psyche. Mostly I hope to pinpoint it for the reader and entice them on the journey with me.

Until next time...Go Write!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

My Eye Twitches

Photograph by Istolethetv.
Putting a character together, for me, is one of the best and most trying aspects of writing. Layering personality, quirks, mannerisms, and finally description can be both fascinating and frustrating. Part of the fun for me is the people watching.

For neighbor always, ALWAYS, puts his briefcase on his car hood and checks it before leaving for work. My friend still covers her brilliant smile when she laughs because somehow, the horror of braces still skirts around in her psyche from time to time. Especially when talking to men.

I'm no different. My deaf friends almost never look at my eyes when we're talking...they lip read and watch my hands exclusively.  They can tell if I'm sad before the tears get to my eyes because they say its in the way my shoulders slump, or my hands shake, and mouth looks tight. My eye twitches when I'm stressed. My laugh can be heard upstairs through least my kids say so.

People are more than their descriptions. They are energy and sound and movement. They wear their hair long or short for a reason. They stand close to or far from people by design. The image they project to others and the way they move can tell a lot about their internal workings whether intentional or not. 

The book I am working on now, at least in the outline phase, has a main character who is deeply flawed. She's not your typical heroine...she's not really all that sympathetic in the beginning of my story. She's suffered a lot at the hands of others and therefore has a 'watching out for number one' type of attitude. She's not nice.

The thing is, I know what her voice sounds like when its laced with sarcasm. I know that she rubs her elbow when she's scared because an angry adult once broke it when she was little.  I know she hates that her lip trembles when she cries because she thinks it makes her look weak. She is striking, but not beautiful, and therefore doesn't like women who trade on their looks...not because she finds it demeaning, but because she doesn't have that luxury.  She guffaws, instead of laughs.

These are all things that do not describe what she looks like. That always comes last for me when I develop a character. The looks, the mannerisms, the personality...they all give birth to the appearance.

My question to you is do you conjure your characters? Are they based on people you know? Do you use pictures of actors for inspiration? What makes them come alive for you?

Until next time...Go write!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Falling In With The Crowd...

Photograph by Andrea Allen
So...a friend talked me into giving NaNoWriMo a chance this year. And I have to say, that I am exceedingly nervous. For those of you who don't know,  NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Its a challenge put forth by various sponsors to write a 175-page, 50,000 word novel from November 1st to November 30th.  Its a seat-of-your-pants approach designed to get the words on the editing allowed. Yikes!

For anyone interested in joining or learning more about it. Andrew over at The Write Runner did a fabulous post yesterday all about it. He even has a countdown clock and everything.

Now, writing by-the-seat-of-my-pants is the EXACT OPPOSITE of the way I go about writing a book.  I am a planner. A list-making, outline-constructing, plot-blocking fool and the thought of just...writing is sort of putting me on edge here. You see, they SAY that joining gives you permission to "Write With Abandon", but that probably doesn't take into consideration the incredible depth of my control issues.

So...I am going to work on my Snowflake program during the month of September and October...really plot out where I want this book to go, and THEN...I can write with, you know, semi-abandon.

You see this book, Bayou Blue, is the third in a series of Romantic Suspense novels that I'm looking to publish for the Christian market. The series is called Shades of Hope, and I truly hope to find a home for them soon.  The first two are complete and delivered so getting this one done will put a nice feather in my cap.

In December I want to begin converting my Intelli-Trace series to screenplay...a task that looms over my head like a black cloud roiling with lightning.  A huge task, yes.  I am currently studying how to format and write a screenplay and its VERY different than writing fiction. Its going to be a wonderful and terrible challenge.

For now, I am constructing my NaNoWriMo profile page, putting my synopsis and what not in the novel description section, and begging people to join and be my writing buddies. Oh, and I got a nifty word counter all ready and on my side-bar. Pretty, yes?

I encourage you all to join in on the fun and "abandon" during the month of November. Though you may not go about writing in the seat-of-your-pants manner normally, its said to do wonders for those that give it a go.  I'm willing to try...what about you?

Until next time...Go Write!