Tuesday, July 31, 2007

It's that time of year again!

I just got a reminder e-mail and registered for the Vulcan Run 10-K. And you know what that means. No? It means you need to make plans to attend the Southern Magic Readers' Luncheon on November 3! This is my third year for both events. I have finally resigned myself to the fact that the Vulcan Run and the Readers' Luncheon are always going to fall on the same day.

So I will always swing by the Trak Shak to pick up my race packet before heading to Things Remembered for the engraved gifts for authors who have contracted for 5, 10, 20, 25, or 35 books total.

I will always stay up late the Friday night before, going over my race strategy (don't stop; don't walk; don't fall down) while taping together bouquets of silk roses for the authors, one for every book they've contracted this year.

I will always wax poetic about how making a success of this strange career is exactly like being a long-distance runner. The applicability of the metaphor is endless. You need to write/train every single day and get in the habit so it doesn't hurt anymore and you don't even think about whether you're going to do it--you just do. College-age people made of rubber will pass you, finish, turn around, and RUN BACK TOWARD YOU while you are still struggling on mile 4 like they JUST CAN'T GET ENOUGH RUNNING, and this will make you angry. But you need to find your own pace and quit worrying about what other people are doing. If it's not fun for you, it's not worth it.

And finally, when I get to the luncheon, I will always eat as much as I want.

Join me! Register for the Vulcan Run at http://www.vulcanrun.com/ and/or the Southern Magic Readers' Luncheon at http://www.southernmagic.org/luncheon.html.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Reader's Block

I have come down the a bad case of 'reader's block'. Everything I pick up lately can't seem to hold my attention. I do finish the books but they are just not 'grab me and keep me running until the end' kind of books. Recently, it's been 'grab me and drag me along'. I love reading books that keep me going, those that I can't wait until my lunch break to see if the two characters finally get together, if she discovers his deep dark secret or if they really do get back together (of course they will!).

I even went to my top shelf in my bookcase. The top shelf is reserved for those books that I have to reread about every 3 or 4 months. They are like your favorite movie that you know by heart but you need that 'fix' every so often. Sometimes I need my book fix. Well, last night, that top shelf didn't even fix my blockage.

Does anyone have any great books that they just have to read over and over to get their fix? If so, what are they?

Barb

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins?

If you don't know who Barnabas is, you're much too young. I used to run home from school to watch Dark Shadows every afternoon. I was in love with Barnabas. A classic tv show from 1961-1977 starring Jonathan Frid as the 175 year old tortured vampire, who lost his true love, Josette. The show also had ghosts, werewolves, and witches. I still have my set of paperback books and somewhere I have the album and other books. Quentin was also attractive, though now I roll my eyes at those sideburns.

In 1991 they did a remake starring Ben Cross as the immortal vampire. It lacked "zing".

They reported last night that Johnny Depp is a producer of the big screen remake and will even star as Barnabas. Made me stop and think. Johnny Depp as Barnabas? Hmmmmm. Not an automatic pick, but could work.

Anyone else out there old enough to remember Dark Shadows? What do you think of Johnny Depp as Barnabas?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

My Way Out

I started writing to give voice to the creativity that was clawing at my soul. It gave me an outlet when there was none. I had started out in art school but decided I needed a career that would pay my bills a bit quicker than art. It didn't prepare me for the work I ended up doing full time that wasn't creative-nursing. Before I could find something else, after ten years of marriage a baby came along.

For a brief time, I lost myself. My days were filled with trying to adjust to a new life, I stayed at home, but was unable to go out--the baby was sleeping, everyone else was working and my income was reduced over fifty percent(no shopping, no traveling). I gave all I had to my family-cooking, cleaning, laundry, entertainment (I've lost count how many times I sang all the nursery songs) and I gave it willingly, but I felt like I was in hell.

Than I found it. Writing.

Creating a story was something that gave voice to what I had swirling inside, the people, places, adventure that always drifted through my imagination. Oh, it wasn't pretty at first, but gradually it grew and a story was finally down on paper. I became a writer.

Writing saved my life and soul.

It sounds melodramatic, but it did. Writing gave me purpose and finally I felt I had something else to offer the world. Better yet, when I wrote and let what was trapped have a voice, I found myself a better person, mother, wife, friend, daughter, and sister.

What has writing done for you? Is it something that calls you? Saves you? Inspires you? Tell me...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ever Wonder?

What's that saying, "Life imitates art"? Or is it, "Art imitates life"? These days, I think the lines are so blurred, it doesn't matter anymore.

I am a self-confessed news junkie. Unless I'm writing or editing, the news is on in my house. No, it's rarely good news, but it is addictive and oh boy, can it spur the ideas.

Yesterday, I heard a story and began to wonder...for a writer, that can be dangerous. I play a lot of 'what if' scenarios while I watch the news and this story was no different. But then I stopped myself and wondered, what if it really happened? No, I'm not egotistical enough to believe that an idea I have hasn't already been thought of and done. What though, would happen, if I wrote a book...perhaps based on this idea, it was published and then lo and behold, the event actually happened. How would I feel?

I know movies, television shows and even computer games get blamed for all sorts of wild crimes. As in, "Duh, I saw the movie and it so disturbed me, I went out and did it myself." Or some such nonsense. But if it actually happened from one of my stories, how would I feel? Yikes, not good.

What about you? What kind of responsibility do you think we as writers have regarding what we write? I know when I write, my goal is to create a story that brings out all sorts of emotions in the reader. Never would I want to inspire a person to do evil.

What's your take?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A Moment of Clarity

I love it when I’m reading a book and I realize what I’m doing wrong or have been missing in my own writing. This morning was one of those times. While reading Laurell K. Hamilton’s THE HARLEQUIN, I wondered why myself and a million others enjoyed her character Anita Blake so much. The woman is cynical, self-centered (though that’s improving), homicidal, has anger management issues and presently dating/sleeping with six men. Truthfully, I cannot relate to her on any level. Even with all those minuses, I think she’s one the most interesting, powerful women I’ve read in a long time. And I do love the books though all the sex is even boring ME.

Now back to my point. I finally realized why people say I need to go into deep POV more often, and they have problems relating to my characters. I know why my characters do what they do, how they feel about certain situations. But I haven’t let the reader know the reason behind all her or his motives. Their experiences that make them who they are.

Whenever you and I do something or make a decision, we’re base it on past experiences and the knowledge we have presently. If we had been betrayed by a close friend in the past and someone new makes an overture to be your friend, we don’t think, "Oh, I will wait about being friends with the person until I know she really wants to be my friend and not use me. Because my so-called best friend, Sally, slept with my husband."

No. We’re just cautious about what we say and how much we let that person into our lives. Then gradually they become our friend or they don’t. No thought to it. Just instinct built by past experiences.

But in a book we can’t let the heroine just react to a friend or the hero without thought as we would. People will say she’s cold or a bitch. We have to let the reader know in a sentence (not massive back-story) or even a word why the heroine isn’t willing to be as friendly back to the newcomer.

So if your heroine is on a date with that someone special and a co-worker from the office walks over to say hi, you would write something like, "Ann wanted to believe Wilma’s smile to Jake was the same she gave to most everyone at the office. She wanted a new friend so bad. Or was she fooling herself again. No, she refused to color everyone with that brush. Time to introduce them to each other and hope for the best."

Hopefully that helped you some. There’s a good chance most of you already understood this. Deep inside I thought I did, but now I have it clear in my mind and will be more conscious on how to use it.

I love how each time I write or read, I learn something new or understand something clearer.

Is this some of what you believe Deep POV to be? Do you have some examples you would like to share?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Where am I?

Yesterday when I went to Starbucks to write, I dropped off a couple of copies of THE BOYS NEXT DOOR because I wrote most of the book there. In the first draft I included a derogatory comment about girls who drink banana mocha lattes, but my editor made me take it out. She LOVES banana mocha lattes. Oops.

My book BOY IN BLUE will be published by MTV Books sometime next year. I thought of most of it while training for my first Vulcan Run, so the characters in the book are always jogging.

I'm limited in where I can go during the day because of my job and my family. But it would be fun to write every day in the food court at the Galleria with all of Alabama passing by, or looking out over Birmingham at the statue of Vulcan, just to see how that changed the book.

Where do you write? Do you think what you write changes because of where you do it?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Stuck between a rock and a hair salon

OK, guys. I need your help. What do you do when you have a scene to write and you've never been in that particular situation before? I'm not talking about killing people but the basic girlie stuff. My main character is having a day at the spa and I'm stuck. She - like me - is more of a tomboy kinda girl. She's trying to relax but is not use to all the fuss. She has to get her nails, hair and make up done. I can so see it in my head but am having the hardest time putting it into words.

Any suggestions on what will help me get past this block. I do have my nails done but that's all I can afford. Any movies that you know of to help me. I've thought of Princess Diaries and Miss Congeniality.

Barb

Monday, July 16, 2007

I've Got a Secret

On June 1 I went to work for the Chamber of Commerce. They don't know I'm a writer much less published. My writing career has been in stall for a few years now, so it's not like they're going to accidentally buy my book in a store. But my books are not something I've ever quickly shared with strangers or new acquaintees. It's not shame. Maybe modesty or shyness. On the other hand, my husband freely tells anyone, even strangers in stores, that I'm a published author.

How quickly do you share with people that you're a writer and working to get published? Or that you are published?

Guilt--A Many Splendored Thing

There are many levels and types of guilt. There is the guilt that is brought about by a bad deed (serial killing comes to mind) and then there is guilt if you break a promise or forget a commitment (much like me, when I forgot to blog this weekend), and then there is what I call family guilt "What do you mean you can't come to Great Aunt Myrna's birthday? She's only going to 102 once! You can always find another job..."

As a writer, I wrestle with guilt daily. Have I done enough for my job? What about my kids, have I spent enough time with them? my husband? How about friends, am I keeping up with them? But truly, the writing guilt is the THE WORST, especially if I miss those pages I promised myself I would do. Why is that so? For me, its because I let myself down and you can't lie to yourself. Drat.

Still, there is a positive. Guilt is a great motivator. It makes you do many things you wouldn't normally do. Like turn in your brother's bone head friend who you know sort of looks like that serial killer on T.V., or you dutifully get your a** in gear and write that blog! You'll even go buy Great Aunt Myrna that present, show up to that party smile and escape as fast as you can before anyone really spots you (See you can be nice!).

For me, Guilt will make me double the pages I will write this week. It will make me get out there and work out (yeah, well, guilt can only go so far).

So, how does guilt motivate you? Or does it do the opposite?
I'd be interested to find out.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I think I Need to Think

The last few months I have been very motivated to write. After several years of feeling as though I'm whirling around in circles with no beginning or end, I feel as though I'm headed in the right direction.

I finished a book in May and feeling pretty good about it, started on a new one. I'll admit that I struggled everyday to write it. I kept blaming my difficulties on the unusual circumstance that I created a synopsis before beginning it. Yes, I'm a by the seat of my pants writer. So, there was my excuse for feeling as though every word I put down had been chiseled from my brain. I finished the first draft and although it's way too short, I know I can go back and add words to tie up loose ends and pretty it up.

So, instead of laying off and giving myself time to stretch, what did I do? I started another one. I want to complete three books this year and thought that while I have this motivation going, why not go for that third one? Well, I'm about 20,000 words into it and feel as though I'm jogging through quick sand with chains around my ankles and bricks on my shoulders. And I thought the last book was hard!

It came to me that I haven't given myself any down time. I usually come up with an idea, introduce myself to my characters and then allow them to tell me about themselves...but I usually do this away from the computer. I get to know my characters and their story while I walk, clean house or just sit and stare out the window. But that's not what I've done with this story. I'm trying to force it and that just isn't working.

So now I'm pulling back. I've apologized to these interesting people that I've been trying to write about and told them they can tell me their story when they're ready. I still have hopes of finishing three books this year, but I realize now that I need to think before I write them.

What about you? How much downtime do you allow yourself between projects? Do you need 'think' time before you start on another one?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom



This weekend, my husband and I will be leaving for vacation. If you’re worried about this notifying burglars wanting to know this information, they also need to know we have a house alarm, nosey neighbors on both sides and my daughter and her husband will be coming over sometime while we’re gone to use my printer. Anyway, we’re planning to visit Charlotte, NC, and the surrounding areas.

If you’re not a race fan, you’re probably wondering why in the heck am I going there? Well, to visit the numerous racing complexes.

Yes, I love NASCAR and the men in jumpsuits. Per ESPN Sports Poll from the last twelve months, 42% of the fans are women. More women than NFL and MLB. Between the handsome men and the powerful cars, I’m in testosterone heaven.

Okay, you’re now wondering what this has to do with romance (besides Harlequin’s NASCAR books)? Of course, the men are useful in describing that certain hero, but cars are important in contemporary stories too!

The other day I was reading this sweet romance, enjoying the finger-licking-good hero until he drove up in a BUG! A *@#& Volkswagen Beetle! The heroine can be excused for driving one. They are cute. BUT TELL ME WHAT WAS THE AUTHOR THINKING? I closed the book and then gave it away. There’s just something wrong with placing a wonderful hunk of a man in a...ugh! It gives me the willies.

My heroes don’t have to drive Corvettes or Jaguars or Lotuses. At the least, give the man a sedan! Otherwise, you might as well place him in a minivan and give him a middle-age spread.

How about you? What does your contemporary hero drive?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Books I haven't read

My to-be-read shelf is shameful. I read every day, but there are just too many wonderful books out there for me to keep up. My eyes are bigger than my stomach, too. I buy way more books than I read. I just paid the library $12 in overdue fines and this afternoon I'm going back for more!

I have read a big percentage of the classics of English and American literature--you might be surprised. But that was in a previous life. Nowadays I'm so swamped with reading books by my prolific friends, I haven't read some of the most popular books of the last few years. I want to read them not just for enjoyment but also for my own good as a writer. When a book is extremely popular, I think it's important for a writer to know what draws people to that story rather than another story. Sometimes I can't figure it out at all (The Bridges of Madison County), but I want to try. Here are some of the best sellers on my list to read before the end of the year:

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (currently reading)

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Harry Potter. The first one!

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

How about you? Are you able to keep up with your reading, or are you missing key pieces of the best selling puzzle?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Through The Modern Day Gizmo Know as the Internet...

Through the modern day gizmo known as the Internet, authors can promote themselves so easily by personal websites, blogs and communities like MySpace. I was looking through the lastest edition of RWA and notices several contests for best websites. That got me thinking...what about pages on MySpace. Both Jenn and Kelley have really awesome pages on MySpace with cool music, videos, blogs and more.

MySpace is such an easy and free way to advertise the work of great authors. Do you know of any other author MySpace pages out there?

Barb

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

How did you Celebrate the Fourth of July?

Cookouts. Fireworks. Trips to the lake or beach. Those are the images that come to mind when we think of July 4th. But the day should mean so much more. We owe so much to the men who foresaw a country free of a king. A country where peopled were free to live and worship as they please. And such freedom doesn't come cheaply. Please take a moment during your festivities to thank God for those men willing to give their lives for our freedom.

Once you've taken a moment, enjoy your family and all that goes with the holiday. It's a quiet day for my husband and me. He cooked barbecue and I made potato salad. He took a nap and I worked on a new work-in-progress as well as a workshop for the Heart of Dixie Chapter. Occasionally, I turned on the tv and watched a few minutes of Monk.

So, how did you celebrate the day?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Dreams

Dreams. Sometimes I love mine. I dream in a color, with a variety of angles. I have been men, women, young, old, Queens, warriors, magicians, adventurers to name a few. I have been shot, I've flown with wings and without, I've driven fast cars, spoken several languages, and even learned a few new tricks in martial arts. I've been involved in assassinations, good versus evil struggles, and been witness to many changes. I've seen the future and the past...

Just think, most of my stories come from my dreams.

I don't just get my ideas from my dreams, I have a lot of other sources (if you hang around a group of people for a time--you'll definitely get ideas). But, my dreams, they are something different. Its like my subconscious sits on images and ideas I've had, percolates them and then out of the blue I get this fantastic epic story. The kind of dream you never get to finish because the alarm goes off...but you're caught. You can feel the characters around you, and what the motivations are, you are enchanted or horrified by the world that is revealed.

There is one catch. Its imperative that it is written down quickly--you can never catch what you felt or truly experienced, but to capture its essence is important.

I realize what I have is a gift, but I know that I am not alone. Anyone that imagines, dreams, and reads has dreams. You just have to remember to write it down, think about it. I can't even tell you how many ideas I have let slip through my fingers.

What kind of dreams do you have? Do they help with your stories? Ideas? Do they help solve a problem or reveal a truth?

I'd like to know!