Friday, August 31, 2007

You Name It, But Does It Really Matter?

Ironically, I had trouble coming up with a title to this post!

Last week, at our monthly meeting, a few of us were chatting about book titles. Later, it came to me, that the titles writers come up with are as wide and varied as the stories that are created. Some titles reflect the author's vision for the story, some might be witty or a play on words, others might just be something to call it until the writer knows the story and characters well enough.

The title of my first manuscript came to me when I heard my heroine arguing with my hero. That title was Once in a Lifetime. A couple of years and ten-zillion revisions later, I renamed the book More Than a Miracle. I had gotten to know my characters better, and this suited the story more. My second manuscript was easy...the heroine was so vivid and real from the very beginning, I knew the title immediately. In my third manuscript, I called it one thing...romantic and kind of sweet. Then it turned dark, so I changed it to reflect a suspenseful story.

My new trilogy, the ones that will be published in 2009 by Ballantine, came to me from old song titles.

What about you? How do you decide what the titles of your books will be? Even though the titles are often changed by the publisher, the titles we come up with, at least for me, are very personal and reflect something deep within the story.

Do you put a lot of thought into naming your work in progress? If so, how do you decide what your current masterpiece is named?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Big Bad Boys

I love to read about Alpha Males. I enjoy reading the books by the many authors out there that can write the really good ones. Linda Howard, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Anne Stuart are a few that come to mind. Each writer has their own spin on the Big Bad Boys.

Linda writes those that are protective and bossy but in the way that makes you so happy to say, "Yes, sir. Whatever you want, sir. Can we wrestle naked now, sir?"

While Sherrilyn writes the sizeable (in the good ways) heroes with the tortured pasts. They are protective of their heroines too, but not many heroes can still be sexy while wearing a pink towel. As she tells us about her Dark Hunters, they're Mad, Bad and Immortal (but so, so sexy).

Then you have Anne that writes the most cold-hearted, vicious heroes. They’re actually the mega anti-heroes. Her heroes are like the white tiger you see in a zoo. You know if you cross the line and get too close he’ll eat you alive, but, oh, to be loved by such a creature. A deliciously dangerous, seductive addiction. They’re not good for you, but you can’t resist. Just one more. Please.

When it comes to my heroes, I try to write my own verison of Alpha. I’ve noticed I write the male that wants nothing to do with the white knight syndrome. But before the book is over, he’s there to the rescue. Though the heroine is taking care of things herself, thank you. All done in a very sexy way. Hopefully.

What about you? What type of hero do you enjoy reading? Writing?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

And the Winner Is...

Several years ago, a television news crew interviewed a man who had just won $13 million in the lottery. They asked him the obligatory questions: "How does it feel?" (which, in my opinion, is a pretty stupid question -- but that's another blog) and "What are you going to do with the money?" The middle-aged man, standing in front of his modest frame house, seemed uncomfortable with the attention. He blinked, glanced over his shoulder, and replied "Well, we can finally paint the house."

One of my characters is about to come into a lot of money. I'm trying to decide how she's going to handle it. Will she splurge and buy a jar of $12 macadamia nuts like Yvonne in It Could Happen to You? Or will she be a Muriel (from the same movie) and make a beeline for Tiffany's?


What would your characters do if they suddenly inherited a fortune?

Friday, August 24, 2007

How do you spend the fourth Saturday of the month?

My granddad is turning 98 tomorrow, so I’ll be at his birthday celebration--and missing the Southern Magic meeting for the first time in the two and half years I’ve been a member.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Southern Magic is very important to me. Formerly I was a member of Georgia Romance Writers but I never got to go because I had a toddler and I lived too far away. When we moved to Birmingham, I joined Southern Magic before I even got the gas turned on at the house.

The most wonderful thing about my short membership is seeing a happy pattern. Members join, figure out the industry, start finaling in contests or getting calls from agents and editors, and then sell. Forgive me if I’m forgetting someone, but if I recall correctly, in 2005 this happened to Kelley St. John, me, and Paula Graves. In 2006, Lyn Randal. In 2007, Kira Bazzell and Christy Reece...and we’re only halfway through the year!

If you’ve been lurking on this blog, unsure of whether you want to come to a Southern Magic meeting, I encourage you to take that step and visit the Homewood Library tomorrow or at our next meeting on September 22. You can come to two meetings per year without joining, but most people decide that membership and the fellowship that comes with it are definitely worth it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Read any good movies lately?

Over the last few years there has been a run on making a book into a movie - Harry Potter, Eragon, Lord of the Rings, etc, etc, etc. The latest one that I know of is Stardust, which is from a young adult book (sad to say but as a YA librarian, I didn't know that fact until after the movie came out...)

Anyhoo...Two of my favorite movies came from books - Diana Palmer's Diamond Girl and Sarah Bird's The Boyfriend School with Steve Guttenburg-sigh. I will confess that both of these movies are on my must-watch-every-few-weeks shelf.

What are your favorite books that became movies? Which one was better, the movie or the book?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Is a Laptop What My Muse Needs?

I'm always behind the technological curve. I had a PC after most everyone else. I seem to have convinced myself a laptop will help me write. I can whip it out and write anywhere. Sounds good, doesn't it?

I have an AlphaSmart, which allows the same thing. It was fairly inexpensive, but the screen is small. But my muse keeps insisting she needs a laptop. I keep telling her it's unneeded, but she doesn't listen very well.

Is there anything you've bought to help you write? And did it work?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Only One Week Left to Sign Up


Southern Magic is pleased to host an on-line workshop with Debby Giusti and Lenora Worth. GETTING STARTED AND STAYING STEADY--From First Sale to Multi-Published--How to develop a successful career in the inspirational market.

Description: This workshop will give an overview and insider tips from the viewpoint of a rising inspirational writer and a veteran bestseller. Debby and Lenora will show all aspects of writing an inspirational, from first sale to gaining multi-book contracts and all the pitfalls and victories in-between, including do's and don't's and what an inspirational publishing house expects and the types of stories that readers love.

When: September 3 through 14, 2007
Cost: $10 for Southern Magic Members, $15 for All Others

Class Advisors
::Debby Giusti’s debut novel, NOWHERE TO HIDE, came out in April and her second book, SCARED TO DEATH, is available now. Her third Love Inspired Suspense from Steeple Hill, MIA: MISSING IN ATLANTA, will be released in March 2008. In addition to full-length fiction, Debby has written for numerous magazines, including Southern Lady, Woman’s World, Our Sunday Visitor, Army and Family. She also wrote feature articles on emerging infectious diseases for Advance for Administrators of the Laboratory and served on their editorial advisory board for more than 12 years.

::Lenora Nazworth a.k.a. Lenora Worth is the best-selling award winning author of more than thirty books, many of those for Steeple Hill. Her December 2006 release "Christmas Homecoming" finaled in the ACFW Book of the Year for Short Contemporary. She wrote a weekly column for the Shreveport Times for five years, and currently writes feature articles and a monthly column for a local regional magazine. She lives in Shreveport, Louisiana, and is married with two grown children.

Registration deadline is August 27 via PayPal/credit card.

The class is conducted through a YAHOO group format and you will receive an invitation to join at the time you pay.

For more information, please check out our website at and click on the WORKSHOP icon.

Thank you.
Carla Swafford
President, Southern Magic
Birmingham, Alabama

Sunday, August 19, 2007

"blowing" your W.A.D.D.


Do not give me that look. It is a real condition.

Honest. (Fine, maybe it’s not an ‘official’ condition yet)

WE ALL suffer from it at some point. (If you don’t it’s highly contagious and it will strike you eventually)

What is it?

Writer’s Attention Deficit Disorder. WADD

You know the symptoms: Unfocused, and you have an inability to stay on track with your story. Ideas are just rattling about inside your head. No idea really works for your story and you keep vacillating between what you want and should write. NOTHING seems to fit. For those with a very bad case they are unable to start a story. The worst is if you cannot even FINISH a story

Treatment: Varies. Chocolate sometimes helps. Exercise. The best thing is to find the one thing that motivates you (and no, not the bill collector—fear just makes it worse).

Well, I would like to say I have found the cure, but the bottom line is it is a chronic illness, everyone gets it at some point and it keeps coming back. (If you think about it, WADD is like a Cold. A virus that just hangs around and strikes when your immune system is weak)

Do you have W.A.D.D.? How do you "blow" it off?
This is something we talk about a lot. Still I could not resist the pun....
Yes, I have issues, but that is another blog and another time.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Different Way

I have a certain routine when I begin a book. I hear a sentence in my head, wonder why that sentence was said, who said it and what the story is behind it. The story begins to reveal itself and I listen.

I don't do a lot of plotting beforehand, but I do a lot of thinking and will occasionally make notes. For the most part, I just start writing.

Lately I've had some difficulty in coming up with additional words for a work in progress. I finished the book and realized I'd rushed the ending and was short on my word count. I'd come up with all sorts of scenarios, but just couldn't make them work. I was stumped. So I went to my writing know, those people who will understand your terminology, commiserate with you and be honest with you. I'm fortunate to have about eight people I can go to. So I thought, why not ask them all?

I put together an email with my dilemma. I knew what I wanted to have happen, but couldn't decide in one particular instance a decision my heroine must make. So I wrote it all out and the four or five options, fully intending to send it. But amazingly enough, after I wrote it out and read it a half dozen times, I knew what I should do. Seeing it written out like that opened my eyes.

After that decision was made, I felt better but realized I was still stuck on a few other things. So, during an IM session with a friend in Texas, I told her what my problem was and during that twenty minute conversation, I realized why I was having the problem. I had killed my villain off too soon and there was no longer any external conflict. My hero and heroine were bored, and so was I.

So, even though I'd written about five thousand words and was almost to my word count goal, I cut them out and started over. And you know what? It didn't hurt like I thought it would because I know I'm headed in the right direction. It felt good and fresh. What a relief!

So, how about you, do you find different ways to think and plot when you're stuck? Have you ever realized you were going in the wrong direction and had to do major surgery to your manuscript?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Reading Romance

My cp and I were talking the other day about books (imagine that), mainly about what we love to read versus write.

Now I love to read paranormal, some romantic suspense, and a little of the relationship driven books published by Silhouette and Harlequin. When it comes to writing, I write the same type of romances as I read. But I do have a hard time writing paranormal. A lot of that has to do with using a different part of your brain or more of it. Whatever.

My cp reads a lot of historical (I love it too, but mainly mediaeval, and you can't find a lot of those) but says she can't write them. I understand that totally. At least with paranormal, you can make up the world and the language, but with historical you have so many "experts" telling you what you're doing wrong, it can drive you crazy.

So my questions are, what do you find yourself reading but "can't" write? And in the book you're reading now, tell us the author and title, and what is the sentence at the top of page 77?

Mine is Sherrilyn Kenyon's DEVIL MAY CRY and reads, "Don't think for one minute that I've forgotten you're the face and voice of the one woman I want to kill more than any other."

Interesting, huh? :-)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Tally up!

My son goes back to school today, so no more excuses! My nose is back to the grindstone. (Is this really the correct expression? It sounds painful.)

If you've come to the Southern Magic meetings lately and listened to me whine, you know I've lamented my lack of progress this year. But the year is not quite 2/3 over, and upon reflection, I've gotten a lot done:
  • I revised my second book, THE BOYS NEXT DOOR, and watched it debut.

  • I sold my third book, BOY IN BLUE.

  • I won my first contest.

  • I wrote lots and lots of proposals. They haven't found a home, but I can save them for later. There's no such thing as a bad idea for a book--only a good idea for the wrong folks at the wrong time. I just made that up.

  • I went to Nationals and met one of my critique partners for the first time.

  • I finished an adult ro-com.

  • I started a new YA.
That's quite a bit, right? Try it--your accomplishments look more impressive when you use bullets. This list makes me think I can finish the new YA and another half-written adult ro-com by the end of the year.

Take stock of your 2/3. What have you done this year, and what can you do?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Accepting 'The Change"

When Kim did the process workshop back in April, I went away just knowing I was a plotter. I work up an outline, I do the color post-its, and I started my book (the first book of a triology) at chapter 1. For the past few months, I've written 'in order' but now that I'm on chapter 8, I'm stuck. My main characters are still talking to me but they are jumping ahead. Even my main characters from my second book are talking to me right now. Today I listened and just wrote. I have paragraphs all over the place, even a few ideas in the second story. The characters talked and I typed but my brain was saying "No, no,no! We haven't gotten to that part yet!" I ignore the protests and continue on, realizing that I'm somewhat of a pantser too.

Has anyone else suddenly switched from plotter to pantser or vice versa? How did you handle the voice in your head???


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Becoming Jane

I haven't been to a theater to see a movie in eons. Ticket prices are ridiculous. I always wait for the dvd. But there's a new movie I'd like to see about Jane Austen (starring Anne Hataway) has arrived in the theaters in limited cities. Not my city, of course. Most of the Regency writers I've heard talk about it says it's good. You just have to go in knowing it's fictionalized.

To tell you the truth, a lot of recent movies haven't elicited any interest from me. I'd rather watch old reliables when I sit still long enough to watch a movie.

Are there any new movies you're itching to see?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Plot or not to Plot, that is the question.

What and how to start and where are you going? These are questions that every writer faces and if you are new to the art of writing a novel—lets face it they are pretty big hurdles. There are different ways to approach writing a book and I have loosely grouped them into two categories just for the sake of convenience:

  1. Write as it comes: This is where you let your characters write the book, they lead you and you write scenes at will, ultimately linking them all together.
  2. Outline the book: You know where you are going, who is going to be there and how the story progresses.

I have tried the first way, I just write a scene and I figure my characters will know what is going to happen. You know what, they don’t. Oh, they’ll show me a scene now and then which I add, but for the most part my characters only have life if I know where they are going. I’ll know it is the wrong route when I write the scene and nothing flows. I ENVY those writers that can write letting the characters write the story. They have joy in their writing but I have noticed when they hit the dark spots (those days of writing drought) it is deeper than any obsidian pit I have ever observed. (OK, a part of me is somewhat hoping that after some experience I will be able to relax enough to let my characters take over...)

Now I am trying the other way—I am plotting, making a rough outline, getting a direction and creating characters that will have to populate my world. Is it going to work? I don’t know. I will tell you as I go along. I have written short stories for the last few years and this is my first attempt at really getting a manuscript done for a book. Am I scared, heck yeah I am. Am I confused-that’s a state of being for me at this point. (But, like the little engine that could....)

What do you do when you approach writing a book? What kind of outline do you go for? How does it apply for romance? Fantasy? Any genre?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Further News About SM's contests

Great news! The winners of the Linda Howard and Gayle Wilson Awards of Excellence will be announced at our sister chapter's conference, Silken Sands, April 11-13, 2008. or

Check it out and plan to go, finalist or not. :-) Improving your craft, having an appointment with an editor or agent, meeting with your writing friends, and relaxing on the beach. The only thing that could make it better is for the Chippendales to show up.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

The 2008 Linda Howard Award of Excellence


Seven reasons to enter the Linda Howard Award of Excellence Contest for unpublished writers.

7. One of the few contests that only charge $25 for a 25 page printed entry. That’s 50 cents a page for at least two critiques.

6. A discretionary judge is used if the two experienced PRO or published judges’ scores are so far apart you can run a 1956 Chevy between them.

5. You don’t have to send in a synopsis, unless you’re a finalist. Well worth writing that *&#% synopsis then.

4. NEW for 2008 - You can send your entry via snail mail or electronically to the contest coordinators.

3. NEW for 2008 - The finalists will receive their critiques/scores back to revise and return to coordinators before sending to final round editors.

2. Your precious partials will be sent to GREAT editors for final rankings. Hopefully they will request your fulls. Last year, we had SIX fulls requested.

1. My goodness! It’s Linda Howard, folks! She’s awesome and the contest named in her honor is awesome! How wonderful would it be to have an engraved bookmark that reads
"2008 Winner of the Linda Howard of Excellence" to show all your friends?

Southern Magic, the Birmingham Chapter of Romance Writers of America®, is pleased to announce its 3rd Annual Linda Howard Award of Excellence contest for unpublished writers.

Enter: Up to first twenty-five pagesFee: $20-$25 (a $2 fee will apply to electronic entries paid by PayPal) Deadline: Postmarked on or before October 27, 2007

Eligibility: RWA Published (see rules) & Unpublished Authors Judges: Published, PRO, all trained or experienced in judging

Top Prize: Engraved Bookmark and winners will be announced in the RWR.

Categories/final judges:
Series Short/Long Contemporary: Susan Litman, Editor, Silhouette
Single Title: Selina McLemore, Editor, Grand Central Publishers (formerly Warner)
Suspense: Lauren McKenna, Senior Editor, Pocket
Historical: Alicia Condon, VP, Editorial Director, Dorchester
Unique Genres: Selena James, Executive Editor, Kensington

For entry form, score sheet, and rules, visit our website at, or send email to