Friday, June 30, 2006
So, here's my new topic--dealing with changes to your writing comfort zone. I've gotten very attached to this laptop. I tried writing on my desktop today, when it was clear my laptop is starting to fry, but I couldn't get comfortable enough to write much.
So, what about you? Do you have to have your writing area/situation just like you like it before you can be creative?
(Posting this quickly before my computer spontaneously shuts itself down).
Postmark Deadline: December 1, 2006
Enter: Prologue/first chapter (25 pages max). Synopsis needed if final.
Series Short/Long Contemporary
Romance-based series novels. Word count: 40,000 to 90,000
Final Judge: Susan Litman, Editor, Silhouette
Romance-based novels published as individual titles. All publishers of individual titles of romance. Word count: 90,000 to 110,000
Final Judge: Abby Zidle, Editor, HQN
Suspense (series or single title)
Romance-based novels that include an element of mystery or suspense.
Word count: 40,000 to 110,000
Final Judge: Devi Pillai, Associate Editor, Warner
Romance-based novels with non-contemporary settings, including regency & gothic romances. Word count: 40,000 to 110,000
Final Judge: Alicia Condon, VP, Editorial Director, Dorchester
Unique Genres (Paranormal, Futuristic, Fantasy, Time Travel)
Romance-based novels of any time setting that contain elements such as time-travel, paranormal or fantasy themes. All publishers of individual titles of romance.
Word count: 90,000 to 110,000
Final Judge: Selena James, Editor, Pocket Books
Romantic Sensual and Sizzling
Romance-based novels that include a high element of sexual tension or sexual play.Word count: 40,000 to 110,000
Final Judge: Brenda Chin, Associate Senior Editor, Harlequin
Top prize: Engraved silver book mark and announced at the 2007 conference.
FMI, entry form, and rules at our website www.southernmagic.org
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
I'm sure there have been thousands of studies throughout the years on what makes a consumer buy a certain product -- publishing houses included.
So, I guess I'm doing my only little study.
For me, it's a given, I'll buy books written by my favorite authors. If there's a new one out, I don't even bother to look at the cover, sometimes I might not even read the blurb. I see the name, my heart skips a beat, and it goes into my basket. I bought two for that very reason today.
But what about new authors, or authors you've never read before. What attracts you the most?
Last year, I bought a few books based solely on the fact that one of my favorite authors had a tiny endorsement on the front of it. I thought they would be similar to her style. I was wrong, so I doubt I'll do that again.
Often times, I'll buy books by a certain publishing house I'm considering targeting, to see what they're looking for or I'll buy new authors because I want to see what's being bought by editors.
I think, over the years, I've only purchased two books based upon what was on the cover, and from what I can remember, I was disappointed in both of them. I will admit that I've passed up books in the past, because I didn't care for the cover. But I've tried to stop doing that. I've learned that sometimes the cover doesn't have anything to do with what's inside.
So what about you? What makes you buy a book, or not buy a book? Is it the cover, the blurb on the back, the first page, the last page, new authors, certain publishing houses, certain lines, endorsements from a favorite author, recommendations?
What makes you pick that book up in the first place and what makes you either put it back on the shelf, or in your buggy?
Monday, June 26, 2006
Let me give you some examples. In the nick of time. In the blink of an eye. A tough nut to crack. Too close for comfort. Easy as pie. Higher than a kite. Payback is hell.
Those are obvious clichés. Some that aren’t as obvious. When her hand touched his, a tingling sensation shot up her arm (I’m guilty of that one and promised myself not to use again). He had washboard/six pack/eight pack abs (I do admit I still like that one for obvious reasons, but a guy can still be sexy without them). The slight knot/crook in his nose was from a fight in his younger days. He moved across the room like a panther/tiger/cat. Her laugh sounded like angels singing/running brook/tinkling bells (that one always scared me - think about it). She was known as the Ice Queen/Iron Maiden/Cold B*tch.
Another cliché I’ve seen in romantic suspense the past couple years is the heroine is a late night radio personality. I understand the purpose, but, please people, be original. Of course, the guy is usually the detective. That’s okay only because there are dozens of detectives in large cities and they have a reason to be involved in the murders, but there is really only a handful of radio personalities and they need to stay out of it.
What are some clichés that ring your bell in the wrong sort of way?
Sunday, June 25, 2006
It’s a shame I don’t have an immediate threat like that hanging over my head if I fail to write five pages today. Deadlines do wonders for my writing. And it’s not just that I get more done. It’s that my brain wakes up and produces better material! So my career goal at the moment is to acquire more deadlines. ;)
What situations help you write better/more? Do you thrive or shut down under a deadline? Do you see weekends and vacations as break from writing or as prime writing time? Do you need to be in your usual office with your pencils arranged just so, or do you seek new places to sit and write?
Friday, June 23, 2006
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Lasting marriages/relationships do still happen in real life. I've been married over 20 years, my brother over 30, my nephew over 10. My parents were married for over 40 years. And it actually happens in Hollywood--Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russell, Meredith/Richard Viera, Joy Behar/Steve.
I'm sure a lot of people think Clarissa is emotionally satisfying. Some probably think she gets what she deserves. It's NOT the sort of ending I look for. Written in 1747-48 by Samuel Richardson, it was made into a movie in the '90s starring Sean Bean. Clarissa is in the public domain and can be downloaded free at sites like Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/).
Personally, I don't like the HEA tag. It implies a perfect world like a fairy tale. But I like to think the characters are committed enough to work through their problems and remain together. At the first sign of trouble, they're not going to run out and get a divorce, which seems to be so prevalent nowadays. (Don't get me started on those Hollywood folks, who change spouses quicker than some of us change shoes.) Then, some people will think I'm crazy since they're only fictional characters.
We all have expectations for the books we read. In a mystery the murderer is caught and justice is done. Villains are stopped. In a romance the hero and heroine stick together through thick and thin. So what are your expectations for endings? Can a character's death satisfy you emotionally?
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
When I wrote FORBIDDEN TERRITORY (on sale now online and at a store near you! Buy early, buy often!), I deliberately gave my heroine two sisters with the idea that I might also write connected books for those sisters. As a reader, I have always loved connected books, like our own Gayle Wilson's Men of Mystery/Phoenix Brotherhood series, or Deb Webb's Colby Agency series. So I wanted to create the opportunity to build not just one but three stories out of the characters in my book.
And you know what? A good 90% of the fan mail I've received about FORBIDDEN TERRITORY since it came out has asked whether or when I would be writing stories for my heroine's sisters. Readers like connected stories, too. In fact, I'd say that when you create three of anything in a book—three sisters, three brothers, three friends, three firemen, three cops, etc.—your readers will automatically think "series."
Can this be a drawback? Certainly. When I sold FORBIDDEN TERRITORY, I had only a germ of an idea for the second sister's book, and no idea at all for the third sister's book. At the same time, the pressure to connect these three stories chronologically, without a book in between, has led me to focus on creating stories for the other two sisters, a focus that has enabled me to stretch my writing and plotting skills in a way I might not have had I not put that pressure on myself to come up with the connected stories.
Do you like connected books as a reader? What about as a writer? Tell us your story of connections.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
When I first started writing, almost five years ago, I worked in a little cubby hole between the kitchen and dining room. It wasn't the quietest place to work, but I hate writing in long hand, so since that's where our computer was, it's where I had to be. Then, about two years later, my sweetheart surprised me with a laptop. I gladly abandoned my work station and enjoyed the freedom of being able to sit just about anywhere to write. I loved that, but still wanted my own office, my writing haven. You know, where you can close the world out and have all your stuff around you. Comfortable necessities like my giant dictionary that I love to peruse and pick out words I don't know for the fun of it. Yes, I'm a little odd.
Two months before we moved from Indiana, I finally got my wish. I had this beautiful office, skylights right over my desk, an LCD television -- which I swear I only played Buffy reruns on. Oh, how I loved it. Cried my eyes out to leave it. Yes, I'm a little emotional.
Then we moved to Alabama. Since we've been in our new home, which is a little over a year, I've had three offices. And if we ever finish the basement, which we will possibly in the late part of the twenty-first century, I'll probably move my office again.
What prompted this blog? My husband persuaded me to put his mother's eighty year old sofa in my office. Well, the sofa is huge, my office is not. The sofa is an antique, my other furniture is not. Yes, I admit, I'm close to being an antique. But not yet.
So, I'm sitting in semi total chaos, and wondering if this will inhibit my writing.
I tell myself no. A writer should be able to write anywhere, at anytime. But I know me. I'm a creature of habit. I wake up each morning, get my coffee, feed the dog and then head to my laptop, where I check my email and then begin to work. I like things to stay the same, look the same, be the same. Yes, I'm a bit boring.
Will the disarray inhibit me? I don't know. I'm hooked up to the Internet, my dictionary is to my left, my grammar book behind me and the stereo is finally hooked up. If I don't look behind me, I can pretend that all's right in my little writing world. But if I do turn around, boxes, papers, notebooks and nicknacks are stacked three feet high, looking to be put away. Unfortunately, I have no place to put them.
What about you? What's your workspace like? Do you have to have perfect order, organized chaos, all of your favorite things around you? Or can you just pick up pen and paper, your laptop or Alphasmart and write away, no matter where you are?
And congrats are also in order to Danniele Worsham and Carla Swafford, who placed in the unpublished Lauries--Danniele finished first in Short Contemporary and Carla placed third in the tough FF&P category. Do Southern Magic writers rock or what?
Friday, June 16, 2006
With my surgery behind me, (thanks to everyone for your kindness and prayers) I've come to appreciate those little things in life that at times you overlook. The ways the sun rays stream between tree limbs, a child’s laugh can brighten your heart or a good book can make you forget the world around you.
I read several books a month and probably around a couple hundred in a year. Sad to say, but many of the books I never finish. My time is too precious to finish a book that doesn’t hold my interest. At the same time, when I finish a book and say that’s good, it doesn’t necessary mean I want to re-read it. Then there are the few I will keep on my shelves and plan to re-read, study and possibly learn to improve my craft. What makes a book a keeper?
A special or unique storyline? Characters that jump off the page? Easy to read? Makes you laugh out loud? Bring tears to your eyes? Hot love scenes? Exotic locale or time?
For some, if it is a marriage of convenience, it’s a sure buy. If it has a hidden baby, they can’t turn it down. If it has a cop or any man in uniform -- Katie, bar the door! -- they’re coming for it! A second time at love or a virginal bride, they reach for it no matter who wrote it. Vampires, slayers, cowboys, spies, werewolves, knights, Scotsmen, tycoons, etc., etc., etc.
I like all the above, except maybe for the hidden baby scenario. The biggy that gets me is spies. (Bet some of my friends didn't even know that.) Throw in a marriage of convenience, a vampire, and I’m in heaven.
So when you’re looking for a book, what do you look for? What are some of your hot points for your keepers?
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
The trend makes sense to our society right now. We’re so busy with our work lives that we often don’t have time for tasks we used to consider personal, so we pay someone else to do them. And that opens up romantic plot possibilities, because strangers are sharing an intimacy.
In this survey from CareerBuilder.com, workers share some of the more unusual jobs they’ve held. Maybe the list will give you ideas for your next novel. I’d love to write a story around a lifeguard at a nude beach or a stand-in bridesmaid.
Urinalysis observer or zoo artificial inseminator, maybe not so much.
Do the characters’ careers play a big part in the novels you write?
Monday, June 12, 2006
I was already behind due to my recent move and I still don't have everything in place, but there are other things I'd rather be doing. Unfortunately, it's not writing. But I'm trying to force myself to work on my WIP. Self-imposed deadlines don't seem to work. My best friend is in the hospital with an aneurysm she had last week, which makes you realize how short life is. Then, today I had to come up with a topic for the blog.
There are times when we'd all rather be doing other stuff. I'm sure what varies from person to person. So, how do you force yourself to write when your mind wishes you somewhere else?
Saturday, June 10, 2006
It used to bother me back then. But in a way, he was right. The same creative urges that inspire little girls to play with paper dolls, or Barbies, or little boys to play soldier or cowboys and Indians, is what drives those of us who write fiction. We put ourselves into the bodies and minds and lives of characters, live vicariously through them, find meaning and purpose and inspiration in them.
I'm still collecting paper dolls. The internet makes my efforts a little neater; I can now download images to my computer rather than keep them in old Whitman's Sampler boxes. I still like to visualize my characters, and the plethora of images available on-line gives me a lot to choose from. (If I'd had that much choice back when I was a teenager, they'd probably have had to bar me from the Internet to keep me from surfing the web 24/7!)
The internet also provides another advantage: now I'm not only collecting images; I'm collecting story ideas and character ideas as well. Usually at least once or twice a day, I come across a new story or human interest story that gives me an idea for a story or a character. I save the stories in my ideas folder on my computer for future reference when I'm searching for a new project. Sometimes the stories can come from unexpected places.
For instance, I read this story about the equine surgeon who has, thus far, saved Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro's life after his tragic injury in the Preakness. By the fifth paragraph, I knew this wasn't just an interesting story about an injured Thoroughbred. Dr. Dean Richardson has all the makings of a romance hero. So into my idea file went that article.
Other times, I go looking for a specific piece of information and stumble into another, more interesting idea. I recently started brainstorming a series idea for Intrigue involving a group of men and women who've left their positions with government entities such as the FBI and CIA to form a security agency that works outside the government (but within the law) to handle cases that the government can't or won't. I wanted to include a variety of interrelated agencies--FBI and CIA, certainly, but also the DEA, military intelligence, foreign agencies including MI-6 and the RCMP, and an agency that I didn't even know existed, the Diplomatic Security Service, which is part of the State Department.
When I started reading about the DSS, I figured they were basically glorified body guards for diplomats in the Foreign Service. What I discovered instead is that the DSS is on the front lines of the global hunt for terrorists and was directly involved in the pursuit and capture of 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef. They're responsible for protecting personnel in every American embassy and consulate in the world. Believe me, THAT paper doll has made it into my collection.
What paper dolls do you collect? How do you gather information and inspiration for your stories?
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Sigh Worthy Heroes, Feisty Heroines And Oh Those Nasty Villains
Let's face it, a book can have the most fascinating, exciting, imaginative plot ever, but if the characters are boring, predictable, one dimensional or wimpy, we're going to struggle to finish it, or not even bother finishing.
The characters make the story. I've read thousands of books, so remembering certain characters from some of them isn't easy. How many of us have picked up a book at the bookstore, or even off our bookshelves and tried to remember if we'd read it or not? If we have read it, more than likely we don't remember it because the characters were not unforgettable.
The most unforgettable heroine for me is from my all time favorite book, Agnes Turnbull's, The Rolling Years. Written in the 1920's, it's one of those wonderful family sagas that takes a character from childhood to their grave. I still remember Jeannie and how much I admired her and wanted to be like her. I remember sobbing in several different parts of the book, all related to my dear, sweet Jeannie. I think I was about ten years old when I read it the first time. If you ever get a chance, I encourage you to get it. The book is almost impossible to find, but well worth the search.
For an unforgettable hero, I have to go for a more recent book. Laura Kinsale's, Flowers From The Storm and the hero Christian Langland. I can't give you his description, although I believe he was supposed to be handsome. But I remember him because of everything he went through. To have a stroke, be unable to speak and have your family want to commit you to an insane asylum! Oh the poor tortured hero. And Christian becomes a better person for his ordeal, thanks a great deal to the heroine Maddy. However, another reason I loved him so much was because he was able to put up with Maddy. You may disagree with me, but I thought she was quite tiresome and it just made me love Christian all the more for loving Maddy.
One unforgettable villain that still gives me chills is Jim Beckett from Lisa Gardner's, The Perfect Husband. He seemed so absolutely normal. Everyone liked him but in reality, he was a serial killer. People found it so hard to believe that he could be evil and to me, that's the scariest kind of villain. The ones you would never could suspect.
What about you? Do you have one or more unforgettable characters in your memory bank? Who are they and why do you remember them?
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
In May, I attended the Heart of Dixie Readers’ Luncheon. Readers’ luncheons are a great way for authors to meet avid readers and for those avid readers to meet their favorite authors. The luncheons are absolutely wonderful! And the signings that follow are also a real treat for authors, so if you’re an author, make plans to attend, and if you’re a reader, do the same. My 2006 event schedule has three reader luncheons: Heart of Dixie in Huntsville, Alabama (done for this year, but catch it next year), Georgia Romance Writers in Atlanta and Southern Magic Romance Writers in Birmingham.
Okay, now that I’ve advertised, let me move on to what happened after the Heart of Dixie luncheon in May. Following Lori Wilde’s fabulous advice, I always carry a few copies of my newest book when I travel. You never know when the woman next to you on the plane will mention loving romance, and you can offer an autographed copy. Or in the case I’m about to describe, when you’re leaving a reader luncheon and happen to have two copies in hand.
After a terrific luncheon at the Holiday Inn in Huntsville, I exited the hotel and saw a female chauffeur circling around the back of a limousine to open the door for a gentleman. She smiled. I smiled back. Then I decided, Hey, I’ve got a couple of my books in my hot little hands; maybe she’d like a copy. So, venturing completely out of my comfort zone, I ask, “Do you read romance?”
The guy’s eyes do that little “pop” kind of thing where I can tell he’s surprised I asked, but then the woman answers, “Yes, I do.” I explain that I’m a romance author and have a couple of my books with me, then ask if she’d like a copy. She was very excited and asked for one. Meanwhile, the man steps over as well and listens to the lady ask me what I’m doing at the hotel. I tell her about the luncheon and about my book, and she’s as cute as she can be asking questions, getting excited about the autographed copy, etc.
Then the man (nice-looking, now smiling broadly) admits that he misunderstood me at first. He thought I asked, “Do you need romance?” Need, read; hey—they rhyme. And it turns out that he thought I was some sort of overdressed prostitute. He said he’d never been asked “quite like that” or from someone dressed “quite like that.” (I had on a pantsuit.) He laughed at himself for making the assumption, then told me his wife reads romance and that he’d love to give her an autographed copy. I autographed a copy for his wife, had a nice chat with both the chauffeur and the man, then left feeling pretty darn good.
Later (much later – Memorial Day), a friend of mine in Huntsville called to ask me if I had any idea who the man was in the limousine. I was floored. How did she know I met the guy in the limo? She wasn’t there. Then she explains that she met the chauffeur at a Memorial Day BBQ. The woman was telling everyone at the BBQ that she met a “famous author” and was loving the book (fame is obviously in the eyes of the beholder). Then, to my buddy’s surprise, the lady pulls out a copy of Good Girls Don’t from her purse. My friend told the lady that she knew me and had actually attended the readers’ luncheon that day. Then my buddy said, “Well, she said that the Diamond Rio guy was tickled with the copy for his wife, and she laughed about him thinking you were some sort of overdressed groupie waiting for him at the hotel.”
Diamond Rio Guy??? Uh, yeah. Marty Roe, the lead singer from the group, is a really nice fellow and now has an autographed copy of Good Girls Don’t for his wife. Naturally, I DO love the group and should have recognized him, but I wasn't exactly looking to meet a star at the time.
And btw, when I told my teenagers and hubby about this, I complained that—once again—I missed a Kodak moment. I didn’t get my picture made when I met someone as famous as Marty Roe. Then my youngest son, fifteen, pipes up and says, “But Mom, he didn’t get his picture with you either!” (Did I mention fame is in the eyes of the beholder?)
Real Women Don't Wear Size 2
Enter My Florida Beach Vacation Contest
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
You’ve heard baseball players talk about wearing their lucky hat, or a footballer may have his lucky cleats. Then you may have a friend that owns a horseshoe or rabbit’s foot. How often have you avoided stepping on a crack? Or turned the other way when a black cat crosses your path?
Years before my grandmother passed away at the age of 93, we would sit on her front porch swing and talk about her childhood. My favorite was when she recited her memories of first meeting my granddad and the early days of their marriage.
Now you wondering what that had to do with superstition. Well, my grandparents were married on the 13th (I can’t remember the month) in 1913, their first house number was 13 and they had 13 children. She’d said there were several other good incidents of 13, but couldn’t remember them all. At the time, I didn’t understand why she couldn’t remember, but as I age and my kids ask questions, I realize she had a pretty good memory.
After she explained how the number 13 could be something positive, I understood my fear of black cats and stepping on cracks was just plain silly. Am I superstitious?
I don’t think so. To make certain, I checked the definition of superstition. Per the Oxford University Press, Superstition >noun 1 excessively credulous belief in the supernatural. 2 a widely held but irrational belief in supernatural influences, especially as bringing good and bad luck.
If we’re mainly talking about the second definition, then no. I’m not superstitious. I believe your attitude and actions bring you good and bad luck.
Now, if we’re talking about the first definition, then yes. Maybe I’m not exactly credulous or gullible, but I do believe in the supernatural. I won’t go into a long explanation of why, but I had several experiences in my life that taught me there are more in this world than what we can normally see, hear, touch and smell. (I rather not include taste. Yuck.)
Our experiences can become part of a story or influence our writing. Why do you think I enjoy writing paranormal?
If you’re superstitious, go ahead and admit it. Then tell me what is your biggest hang up. If you had a supernatural experience that you wish to share, please feel free. I might even comment with a couple of mine.
Monday, June 05, 2006
Our own Kinley MacGregor (Sherrilyn Kenyon) has signed an exclusive contract with Dabel Brothers Productions to adapt the first five novels of her Lords of Avalon romance series in a monthly 22-page comic. Sword of Darkness will be first this fall. Then in the Spring of 2007, a graphic novel edition is scheduled to be in bookstores. Go to http://www.sherrilynkenyon.com/ click on NEWS. You go girl!
Sunday, June 04, 2006
In short...I’m getting ready!
I am introverted. Very, very introverted. I have to lie down after a local chapter meeting, so you can imagine what last year’s conference, my first, did to me. Still, it was one of the highlights of my year. I met my agent, one of my critique partners, and lots of new friends. I went to workshops that set my mind going in different directions for my WIPs. I nearly started hyperventilating when my critique partner won the Golden Heart.
Kelley St. John made a wonderful presentation at our last chapter meeting about pitching manuscripts and making a game plan for conferences. My game plan for this year is the same as last year: Get up early each morning to jog and work off stress. Go to as many workshops as possible, but accept any and all invitations from friends to do Something Else. Take frequent breaks to go back to room and lie down. Bond with critique partner while doing something purely fun--but nothing in Atlanta can possibly top the Johnny Cash impersonator in the casino lounge in Reno. Nothing!
What’s your game plan?
Saturday, June 03, 2006
Friday, June 02, 2006
But if I were forced to give up all fiction books but two, which ones would I keep? It's kind of like a mother trying to choose between her children. My first pick would be RAVISHED by Amanda Quick. It was one of the first historicals I fell in love with and I enjoy it each time I read it.
Now, the second is a bit more difficult to choose. I love the rest of Amanda Quick's novels and her contemporaries and futuristics as Jayne Ann Krentz and Jayne Castle as well as Julie Garwood's historicals. Then, there are a ton of wonderful writers in my RWA chapter. I also like the J.D. Robb books as well as Julia Quinn. But I think I would go with the greatest romance writer--Jane Austen. I have a book that contains all her books. There's no greater hero/heroine than Mr. Darcy and Lizzy. My heart beats a little faster when Anne gets Captain Wentworth back and I can't wait to see the havoc Emma's matchmaking creates.
Note I didn't choose my own. It's not modesty, but once my work is in book form, I never read them. It's just too nerve-racking and I really don't know why. Maybe because it's too late to change anything. Or maybe by that time I'm weary of the story.
Let's exclude the Bible. If you wish, the Bible can be your third book. But if you were limited to two books to read over and over, which ones would you choose?