Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Beginning Before The Beginning and The End After The End

Love them or hate them, prologues and epilogues still stir up controversy in chat rooms, writers meetings and blogs. Some swear that editors and agents hate them. That they're a lazy way to give back story. Others, like myself, believe they have a purpose, if used correctly.

I like prologues. I've written several of them. But what I really love are epilogues. I haven't written as many of those, but I love them in my favorite books. I want to see how the characters are doing months or years down the road. I want to see them happy and content. Somehow, when I close that book, I'm more satisfied. The valuable time I've invested in the story and characters has been worthwhile. I'm convinced the characters are living their happy ever after.

What about you? Do you like prologues and epilogues? Or hate them? Do you use them in your own writing?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Well, Ain't That Just Perfect!

As many romance authors are women, we really know how to describe men. I love to read descriptions of bulging muscles, broad shoulders, six-pack abs, five o’clock shadows, and even tight behinds. Of course, some authors go into long descriptions of their heroines but I’m more apt to skip that part while reading and insert my characteristics there. Or at least what I wish they were.

I hear a lot of people complaining about how tired they are of perfect heroes and heroines. And I understand completely. Don’t we get tired of reading about how slim and fragile the heroine is? Or how the hero looks like Michelangelo’s David?
PLEASE! Get for real. Sure, I’m more interested in a fantasy hero than what most men look like, but let him snore, have stubby toes, or be a little rough around the edges. You get the idea.
I guess my heroines are most likely not to be perfect. They can be on the chubby side, overly tall, have a long face, stutter, or be plain looking.

If you think about it, when we’re in love, doesn’t the other person look so much better than they really do? How many times have we heard love is blind? It’s true.

So you can describe your guy as being homely but when the girl falls in love, he’s the best looking man in the world to her. And of course it can go the other way. The woman could be mousy but the guy believes her to be a goddess. All in the eyes of the beholder.

What flaws do you give your heroes and heroines?

Friday, April 25, 2008

What's a Real Man?

I don't know about you, but Joe Kita comes pretty close to it in my book. Married to the same woman 23 years, he has never cheated. But he's been tempted, and he "tells all" in this article.

And his endearing confession made me think about the heroes I write. I keep thinking I'm writing real men, but maybe I'm not. Maybe I need to look to my own husband-hero.

Now this will make you laugh. When I was a little girl, I fell in love with Andy Taylor. Yep. The Sheriff Without a Gun. Opie's dad. The law in Mayberry, North Carolina. I wanted to marry him. He was strong, honest, handsome (sorta!), loving, a small-town Southerner from North Carolina. He could sing and play the guitar. He became the standard to which I held all my boyfriends.

So when I was introduced to the man who would eventually become my husband, I got out my list. Strong? Check--both physically and emotionally. Honest? Check. Handsome? Big ol' check. Loving? Mmm. Major check. From Small-Town, North Carolina? CHECK! Guitar and singing? Check, check.

That was all it took. I was lucky -- real lucky -- that he saw something in me. We've been married almost 27 years. And I still think he's a real man.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


It is often said that you should write about what you know. What if that wasn't a recommendation, but a hard steadfast rule? If that was the case, anyone reading anything that I have written would be very bored. The things I know about are not very exciting. I am an average working woman, doing everyday things while trying to balance a career, family life and my outside interests.
I am considered to be pretty good at what I do for a living and consider myself a fairly competent mom. Fairly competent being defined as: the kids lived to reach adulthood. I enjoy my life even if it isn't always exciting, but it definitely not the fodder for an interesting novel.
So, as a storyteller I take the liberty of writing about things I dream of or imaginary situations my characters will face. I suspect other writers do this too so that they can create interesting stories. Somehow, I do not think that a cattle farmer's wife, living in Gadsden, previously experienced life as an FBI agent, but I could be wrong.
Thank goodness that we have the option to draw on our imagination and dreams to write books. Our material is restricted only by our imaginations.

Monday, April 21, 2008

It's My Wonderful Life

One of my favorite movies is "It's A Wonderful Life" with James Stewart. In the movie, George Bailey (James Stewart) discovers what life would have been like if he'd never been born, and how his existence affected so many other people. So, that started me thinking--what would life be like if I wasn't a writer? (Que "dream sequence" music)...

Instead of being (ahem) domestically challenged, my house would evolve into a sparkling masterpiece worthy to grace the pages of Martha Stewart Living. I would no longer see expressions of profound shock on my son's face when I revved up the vacuum. Ah, well.

I'd give an honest-to-goodness eight hours of work and harbor no feelings of bitterness when someone brings me (gasp!) WORK!! No longer would there be any head-rolling, finger-waving silently demanding, "You want me to do what?? Can't you see I'm creating here??"

My family and friends would have decidedly lighter pockets since they would have to actually pay a professional proofreader to review and edit their various essays, term papers, letters, etc. Not to mention, I would never have another phone conversation that started with these eight words, "Hey, since you're the writer in the family..."

My love life would be boring.

And finally...

I would probably end up diagnosed with schizophrenia wearing one of those stylish, white wrap-a-round jackets that tie in the back due to all the people running around in my head with no outlet!

So, like George Bailey, I've learned that though life isn't perfect, it sure is wonderful just the way it is. Now, if I could just figure out how to produce W-2's for all that proofreading I do...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Romance Novel

I've watched this so many times and thought I would share. Just too funny!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

My New Mantra

Three weeks ago, my deadline was looming and I was only about one hundred pages into my book. For whatever reason, I couldn't write. Fifty of those pages were written last year! What was going on?

Ready to pull my hair out, I happened to come across a quote from another author. I so wish I remember who said it because the words helped me immensely. What was the quote? "Get to the end any way you can."

Normally, when I'm writing a first draft, I can keep my internal editor out of my head. Sure she'll come knocking occasionally to tell me how bad I am, but usually after she's tortured me a few days, I can get her to leave. This time, she had set up house and wasn't budging. Then I read this quote. A light bulb clicked and my internal editor left in a huff. I finally had the impetus I needed. I finished! Is it perfect? Absolutely not. Is it good? Not yet. But it's there. The possibility to make it good is there because the words are there.

Now if I can just get my internal editor to return, I'll be a happy writer. Unfortunately I think I offended her and she's going to stay on vacation a while longer. I may have to start a new book just to get her back.

How about you? Do you have a mantra that helps you write?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Silken Sands Conference

Hey, I had a great time at the conference. Wonderful authors and workshops! The GCCRW did a great job! The beach and weather (thank you, Lord) was wonderful too. I took a few pictures you can enjoy...

2008 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence Winners!

***Please forward***

2008 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence Winners

Learning to Breathe by Karen White

My Lady¢s Treasure by Catherine Kean

Sanctuary by Molly Noble Bull

Riding the Thunder by Deborah Macgillivray

Two for the Money by Leigh Wyndfield

Lady of Light and Shadows by C. L. Wilson

Die for Me by Karen Rose

One Cool Lawman by Diane Pershing
The Perfect Stranger by Jenna Mills

Blackmailed into Bed by Heidi Betts

Prom Dates from Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Congratulations to the winners!

Jennifer Echols
Contest Coordinator
Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence
Southern Magic Jennifer Echols
THE BOYS NEXT DOOR - Available now!
MAJOR CRUSH - National Readers Choice Award, Aspen Gold Award

2008 Linda Howard Award of Excellence Winners!

***Permission granted to forward***

Southern Magic congratulates the winners of the 2008 Linda Howard Award of Excellence contest.

Series Short/Long Contemporary
Judged by Susan Litman, Editor, Silhouette

1. The Nature of Love by JoAnn Weatherly *full requested*
2. Heart Strings by Joan Turner *full requested*
3. Sweet Cheeks by Sheryll Gallagher *full requested*
4. A Question of Magic by Madelaine Culp
5. Sand Stalker by Cynthia D’Alba

Single Title
Judged by Selina McLemore, Editor, Grand Central Publishers

1. Cowboy Games by Wendi Christner
2. Personal Assets by Gwendolyn Lucas
3. Last Straw by Ann Fischer & Linda Baxter
4. Dog Nanny by Ann Whitaker
5. Cedar Hill by Annette L. Couch-Jareb

Romantic Suspense
Judged by Lauren McKenna, Executive Editor, Pocket

1. Harvesting the Moon by Patricia Canavan
2. Pressing Matters by Adrienne Maynard
3. Stronger Than Bone by Kendra Elliot
4. Safe in Enemy Arms by Joan Swan
5. InSight by Polly Iyer
HM: Deadly Recall by Donnell Ann Bell

Judged by Alicia Condon, VP, Editorial Director, Dorchester

1. Through the Fire by Beth Trissel *full requested*
2. Once Upon a Masquerade by Tamara Hughes
3. Entrapping the Earl by Donna Rosenbloom
4. Courageous Heart by Sheri Humphreys
5. Fatal Fortune by Joanne Barnaba

Unique Genres
Selena James, Executive Editor, Kensington

1. Incredible Dreams by Sandra De Taranto
2. The Big Easy by Donna Herren & Gabrielle Goldforb
3. The Time Traveling Matchmaker by Janie Emaus
4. Blood Runs Thicker: A Vampire Detective Agency Novel by Leah Hodge
5. Kismet's Kiss by Cate Rowan

Carla Swafford
LH AoE Contest Coordinator

Sunday, April 13, 2008

How It Went Down, Part 2

In addition to my successful appointments, there were a lot of great moments at the Silken Sands conference.

Great moment number 1: The cold, damp, dreary weather on Saturday did not spoil the fact that I was at the beach. Even though my toes never touched the sand, just being able to see the water was a joy. Kudos to the Gulf Coast Chapter for putting on the conference!

Great moment number 2: The speakers that I got to hear were fantastic. I took lots of notes, and it will take me days to sort through and absorb everything I learned.

Great moment number 3: The editor panel was enlightening -- hearing about the differences between and similarities of Kensington, Harlequin, and Sourcebooks helped me grasp the big picture of a book--from pitch to the bookshelf.

Great moment number 4: Roland Haas. Wow. Who even knew? (Check him out here)

Great moment number 5: When Carla announced my name as winner of the LHAoE Series Short/Long Contemporary (and finding out that the editor wanted to see the full).

It was a great weekend. :-)

How It Went Down, Part 1

As most of you know, I have spent the last couple of weeks working on my pitch for my appointments at Silken Sands. I am pleased to say that 1) it's over, and 2) it went well. Actually, it went really well with both the agent and the editor. The agent seemed extremely enthusiastic, which made me enthusiastic, which made my book sound like the best words on paper since Romeo and Juliet. The editor wasn't quite as enthusiastic (I'd like to think it's because she doesn't acquire for the line I'm targeting), but she did say "That was a really good pitch!" And she told me that if I sent the partial to her, she'd pass it along to the appropriate editor.

So here's to those who helped me through this: my critique partners for putting up with me, Kelley St. John for her AWESOME Online Pitching Class, my daughter for giving me some insight into the twenty-something mind, and my husband for nodding sweetly when I asked if it sounded okay. Thank you!

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Rituals of a Writer

Have you ever taken time to consider how you prepare to write? I find that I go through the same rituals every time that I set down to write.
First, I check my e-mail. After all, there may be some work sent to me from a client that needs my immediate attention, or important messages from family members or friends that I can't ignore. Then, I must check the Southern Magic loops, the Critique Group loop and the latest blog. I don't want to let anyone down. It dawns on me that I should also check the Yahoo's home page so I am current on what is happening in the world. A writer must be informed. So I check it too.
Finally it is time to write. That is when I notice that my husband has re-arranged everything on my desk. Annoyed, but trying not to be anal about it, I fix everything the way I like it. Now, I am really ready to begin.
By now, my middle aged bladder dictates that I make a quick trip to the bathroom. This is followed by a stop in the kitchen to get something to drink. Okay, I am set. Let the creative juices flow! Usually they do and I manage to write a few pages each day. This is the best part of the day for me and it is my reward for doing everything else I do all day long. But, lately I have been wondering how much more I could write if I wasn't chained to my pre-writing rituals? The novel I have been plodding through would probably already be done.

What rituals do you go through before you begin writing?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Just One of Those Days...

You ever have one of those days where everything seems to go wrong from the word, Go?

Like today.

During my morning quiet time, I fell asleep while praying. One moment, I'm talking to God, the next I'm jerking awake to the sound of my husband Turbo Jam-ing it in the living room. Then, on my way to work, same afore-mentioned husband calls me on my cell phone to ask if our daughter was supposed to have tights on with her skirt...needless to say she's tights-less and sock-less in dress shoes and I'm expecting a call from Children's Protective Services any moment now. Oh, did I forget to mention he didn't lotion her down, either? And, of course, there's work. Since I am not yet a published writer--and need my job--I'll just say the left bathroom stall has become my place of worship to pray for patience...and tolerance...and Valium...

I say all of this not just to complain--well, not entirely--but to lift my eyes to the hills from where comes my help and say, Thank you, God! Because if it wasn't for days like this, I would have zero material for my manuscripts.

While in reality I dozed on God (doesn't that sound so incredibly...I don't know...sacrilegious??), in my story the heroine would fall asleep and find herself visited by a very HAWT spirit who implores her to help him solve the murder resulting in his current ghostly state. Flip page. After dealing with a grueling day at work, my geeky-desperately-in-need-of-a-makeover-heroine receives a call notifying her that the great aunt she knew nothing about recently died and left her an inheritance that includes a manor house in the English countryside...complete with a gorgeous gardener who curiously resembles Colin Farrell.

And, in yet another story, I would say that the heroine's husband has flowers delivered to her job, begging for forgiveness and finally admitting that, Yes, he does understand why sending their little girl to school with bare, ashy legs in black patent leather shoes is a bad thing, but...Hey, I may be a fiction writer, but even I'm not that good!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Planes, buses, and automobiles, thank goodness no trains.

A doctor threw up next to me. (at least it wasn’t on me)

I was returning from a meeting I had been sent to with my boss. We were packed into a small buss on the way to the Chicago O’hare airport when the man decided he was going to get sick. He even announced his intentions. Now, on this bus was a mix of doctors and nurses and who actually tried to solve this? –the nurses.

Was the end of the adventure: Oh no.

Too make it more fun, it was snowing; those big fat wet flakes that stick and turns to slush. We made it to the airport and you know what they did? You guessed it: They canceled the damn flight ten minutes before boarding. (Do you see a trend here; it's not pretty)

The next flight to Huntsville was 0710 in the morning and they couldn’t get me on any other one; but they would put me up in a hotel (oh yay...). My boss (whom I was traveling with) and I looked at each other and went back to the gate; the flight before was still boarding, but it was going to Nashville. We took it.

That's when I got a brilliant idea: I volunteered my husband to come pick us up in Nashville; but that only works if the person in question can be communicated with. My battery was low on the cell phone and he was not near a phone. (I mean it was 70 degrees in Huntsville and he and the kids were outside; why would they be in side awaiting my call?) It also helps if you remember the flight number. (I think I need to take more Ginko.) Bottom line; no one would pick us up in Nashville.

Then our plane sat on the tarmac for over an hour as they de-iced the plane. Gee, were they going to cancel this one too?

There is something eery about seeing planes line up with it snowing so hard you cannot see the airport itself and watch as one by one they take off with really no visual to go by.--Now I know why I am not a pilot.

My boss and I did get to Nashville and rented a car to drive to Huntsville. Honestly, I really hope I didn’t say anything too stupid, because I was a bit loopy by that time. We made it to the Huntsville Airport with out incident (and did you know my boss does not use turn signals? Guess who's driving the next time?--ME).

I forgot to call my husband and tell him he was picking me up at the Huntsville Airport.


I did make it home.

So tell me, what kind of crazy travel experience have you had? Was it good? Bad? Funny? How does it help your writing? -it just helps my sarcasm.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

What's Your Favorite Part?

It's an exhilarating experience for me when I start a new book. Staring at a blank page one, all sorts of possibilities pop into my mind. These people have been living in my head for a while, but I've yet to create them elsewhere. Who are they, what will they do, why are they the way they are? All of these questions have yet to be answered. I love the first part of a new book!

Around page 75 or so, I have a good feel of my characters and the storyline, but it's decision time. Where will I go in my story? There are all sorts of possibilities. But these particular ones often stump me. For some reason, my characters stop talking to me and I'm forced to make decisions for them. I don't know how many times I made decisions they didn't like and I had to go back and change what I had written. If they'd told me in the beginning what they wanted me to do, it would have saved a whole lot of time.

Once my characters are talking to me again, I can usually go fairly fast to the finish. And then I'm done, but it's a first draft. Needs lots of editing, layering, descriptions. Holes have to be plugged, motivations have to be consistent and those pesky eye colors have to stay the same. But it's all a part of the process.

I've heard people say they love the beginning of writing their book, as I do. Others love the end and there are even some who love the middle...wish I was one of those. Still others love the rewriting, adding the textures and layers to give it the depth and stamp of your own voice.

Wha about you? Do you have a favorite part?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Hugs From Alabama

Something that happened to one of my neighbor’s a couple years ago came to mind today and I thought I would share it with you.

My neighbor on the right has a beautiful chalet-type house, all windows and glass doors with a large deck and equally large porch in the front. Their bedroom is actually in the front on the bottom floor. Strange design but it works.

Well, one night my neighbor’s husband heard someone on their porch. He sat up, waiting to see what happened next. One man started to work at the screen door, tearing one corner, apparently not realizing it went into the master bedroom instead of a living room. While his cohort walked around the porch, probably keeping an eye out, and triggered the motion light at the corner of the house. The two would-be burglars ran.

To this day, I wonder if those two men knew how close one of them came to death, as my neighbor’s husband had his gun pointed at the guy’s forehead who worked on the screen door, waiting for him to break into house. As we all know in Alabama, once a burglar sticks a body part into your home, he’s yours.

Certainly the Lord decided to turn on the light to protect them.

We don’t break into homes, but we travel on highways where fatalities happen every day, believing it won’t happen to us. How often do we go along our everyday routine and not realize how close to death we’ve been?

Life is way too short to take it for granted. I know that’s why my obsession with writing has become so strong. I want to make every minute count, to mean something. The older I get, the more important every second means to me. Being with family, telling them I love them, hugging friends, and even being there for those that need a sympathetic ear. So here’s my hug to you, dear friends. HUGGGGG!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

More chances

In about ten days, I will be pitching my book at a conference for the first time. I've been an RWA member for a long time and attended quite a few conferences, but I have never felt the urge to make an editor or agent appointment.

Until now. And I'll admit -- I'm nervous. Not because I'm afraid they won't like my book, but because I'm afraid I will draw a complete blank and stare dumbly when they ask questions.

But I'm looking at this as a learning experience. I may fall flat on my face -- figuratively speaking. But that's okay if I do. It's not my last chance to get published.