Sunday, March 30, 2008

My Muse

Our last couple of blogs have dealt with what initially inspires us to write and then keeps us writing when we hit those rough spots in our writing journey.
We have not touched on those people we come in contact with, along the way, who always seem to know when we most need a mental boost. I call this person my Muse. My Muse always seems to call or email when I need it most. There must be some psychic thread that binds us and warns her when I most need a word of encouragement.
In my case, my Muse was the first person to encourage me to write and her support has not wavered. She read my first novel and told me it was good. She inquires about my current work in progress and asks to stay involved. She is the first person to read what I have written. Then I surrender it to my critique group. I know that I thank her and tell her I appreciate what support she has given me, but somehow that doesn't seem enough. I go to her first because I know that when I am first exposing my baby to outside eyes that hers will be supportive. Then, I go to my critique group because they tell me the unvarnished truth. Writing would be so much less rewarding without both of these support systems.
Today is the occasion of my Muse's birthday. I am proud to count my sister, Linda, as my Muse. She is generous of spirit, supportive at all times and an individual worth knowing. Happy Birthday, Seester!
We all have those that we consider Muses. Who is yours?

Friday, March 28, 2008

My Greatest Inspiration

For Christmas one year, my best friend gave me the twentieth anniversary edition of Dirty Dancing, one of my favorite movies. Oh, wow! When Johnny Castle holds his hand out to Francis "Baby" Houseman and says, "Nobody puts baby in the corner", I just swoon! Admittedly, it's the corniest line in the whole movie, but it never fails to start my waterworks. And, seconds later, I'm jumping up and cheering for Baby's lift right along with everyone else at Kellerman's! I'm not ashamed to admit I know the whole dance routine by heart!

The whole purpose of baring the embarrassing details of my "Tom Cruise-shirt-underwear-socks" moment is Dirty Dancing never fails to inspire me. After the credits begin to roll and the soul-stirring tracks of "I've Had the Time of My Life" soar, so does my imagination. I dash right over to the computer and begin to write, write, write. The movie contains all the elements of the classic love stories I adore: Gawky girl from upper crust family attracts hot guy from the wrong side of the tracks. He introduces her to passion and her love helps him to finally believe in the goodness he never saw in himself. Family disapproval and interference. Misunderstandings resulting in temporary separation before love conquers all and (gasp!) the happy ending. Not to mention, an all too brief flash of Patrick Swayze's butt, but I digress...

After two hours with Johnny and Baby, I'm bursting with excitement to tell my own story about love, self-discovery, anguish and happily-ever-after. In a strange way, watching "Dirty Dancing" reminds me of why I've always wanted to write--to tell a story that makes people feel like they've just had the time of their life.

What movie, song, t.v. show or book inspires you or jump starts your creativity?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Black Moment

I almost gave up this week.

The important thing is I didn’t.

It was a close call, I let things overwhelm me. My life, like many of yours, is very busy. I could blather on about what interferes, but let’s face it. WE ALL have issues.

For me, writing is like a nagging ache that is constantly with me. I want to write-always- but when things got busy (you know the husband with a broken foot, work, kids, now school) I almost let the greatest enemy of all win—despair and negativity.

Then I saw a post written by a fellow writer, Lynn Harris, who had just had a big win. She is someone who has struggled with writing for years and it was the simplicity of her statement that hit me at the right time.

Never Give Up.

I know this is true. I always have, but it came at the right time and place. So I picked myself up and dusted myself off and told myself to keep on going; one sentence, one word at a time. Christy Reece, another fellow writer wrote a blog on the 24th about hitting potholes and speed-bumps. Still, she got herself together and kept on--so I am too.

So, what has nearly derailed your writing? What made YOU decide to keep on when you felt utter despair? Was it something funny? Serious? Or just a kick in the pants?

All I know is: Keep on writing.

(posted for Mary Freeman)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Potholes, Speedbumps, Stop Signs and Merge

Recently I've hit them all. After I finished the second book in my trilogy, I started on the third book immediately. On page 75, I hit a pothole. It wasn't a big one. I had a synopsis, I knew where I was going. But it rattled me and detoured me for a few days.

Then, around page 150, I hit a massive speed bump. You know the ones when you're going much faster than you should be, so when you hit it, the top of your head bounces against the roof of your car. Ouch! I realized I didn't like the last 50 pages I had written. Uh oh, had to cut and save those pages in a new file...couldn't let them go!

Then I hit a stop sign. I had surgery. It was scheduled and I felt sure that after a couple of days, I'd be ready to write again. Sure I had to stay in bed, but my sweet husband had me all set up with my laptop, bunches of pillows and plenty of snacks. Somehow, probably because of the pain meds, concentration was almost impossible. Though I will admit that I did write one scene that I don't remember writing and it was actually pretty good. That one scene was pretty much it though. It's taken almost three weeks for me to feel even close to being ready to write coherently.

Today, coherent and feeling much better, my road sign was merge. Remember those 50 pages I cut? Well, I went back and read them. Ended up using at least 45 pages, merging them with other pages I had written. So glad I didn't hit that delete!

Tomorrow, I'm hopeful that now the merging is over, I'm on a smooth, four lane highway, the wind is at my back, the road is dry and the sign ahead of me reads, No exits or rest stops for the next 250 miles...uh pages.

What have your roads signs been reading lately?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Can't Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

Everyone has heard that old saying. I can tell you that it is all wrong. It’s not that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, it’s hard to unteach the old ones.

Let me explain what I mean, at forty-six, I decided if I ever wanted to get published I needed to find a new way to accomplish that. My old way of keeping my writing to myself and only reading self-help books wasn’t getting it. One of the big lessons I've learned is that if you want to something bad enough, you have to put everything in it and get with those who want the same thing or those who are in the place you wish to be. So I started going to Southern Magic meetings, every meeting, not the once or twice year thing.

In the past six years, I’ve learned so much. Of course, you’re wondering how in such a length of time could I not be published? Well, I had a lot to unlearn. And some of those were 1) you can’t do it alone. Everyone I know has some type of support in their writing: a critique partner(s), spouse, relative, friend, and/or chapter mates. This is so important to have in your writing life. You ask why? They can you help with the next two items. 2) You can’t be sensitive. Your manuscript will be scrutinized by at least an editor or agent, and there’s a chance it will be criticized or you might receive the dreaded rejection form letter. After you receive one generic rejection after another, you have to find someone who will help you figure out why you’re being rejected. This is where critique partners and contests come in handy. They can tell you where you need work. Plus it will prepare you for those more involved rejections that can hurt so much. Learn from it all. 3) You can’t be self-doubting. Sure, everyone has doubts about their ability to become published. Do I have what it takes? I can tell you this was the hardest to unlearn.
As a woman, especially a Southern Christian woman, I was taught you mustn’t talk about your accomplishments. And to express any confidence was too close to bragging. I even felt if I imagined good things happening in my writing life, it would jinx me. WRONG! I realized I could ask in my prayers to improve my writing, think of unique vital stories, final and win contests, and even ask for an editor to make THE CALL.

The last hasn’t happened yet, but I’m feeling good about it. Don’t get me wrong. Bragging is still bad and I never ask for bad things on others. But there is nothing wrong to ask for something you’re working toward. And I work hard. I work on my writing from the time I get home from work around six pm until I go to bed, somewhere between ten and midnight. Then I get up at five am and work until time to take a shower at seven. On the weekends, I work from the time I get up between seven and nine, stopping to clean house and cook, and then going to bed around midnight. Confidence or at least the outside appearance of it can only help. By portraying easy confidence during an editor appointment can make the editor feel confident in you.

So this old dog is learning new tricks and I’m thankful there are published authors out there willing to lead me. I’m a firm believer that you can never learn enough. I believe even after I publish my twentieth book, I’ll still be learning something new from prepublished and published authors alike.

So, what have you unlearned?

BTW, check out my first interview... http://www.globaltalkradio.com/shows/booksonthesupernatural/

Friday, March 21, 2008

Blog Interrupted

Sorry, just had to post this link to some delicious guy candy if you haven't seen it.

Hoochee mama!!!

:-)

JoAnn

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Chances are...

I woke up yesterday morning and realized I had made a terrible mistake on the requested partial I recently submitted to an agent. Well, it wasn't really terrible, but it was, without a doubt, a mistake. My heart sank, and I was tempted to wallow in self-pity.

But I didn't. Because I knew it wasn't my last chance to get published; that I would be pitching this book to another agent soon at Silken Sands.

And that made me realize that there is never a last chance. There is always another agent to query, another publisher to submit to, another story to write.

There is never a last chance.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Virgin Territory

It's 6:30 in the morning, the day after I was scheduled to post to our blog. Somehow I have finally arrived at this page after frantically trying to log-on all day. I am afraid to exit, for fear that I will never again find this page. So, even though I am not mentally prepared to begin my first foray into this technological abyss this early in the morning, I will plug on for the sake of keeping my commitment to my fellow writers and most importantly to myself.

Making the decision to write is a commitment. It is a commitment to our craft, our fellow writers and most of all to ourselves. At its best, writing bares the soul for the world to explore its complexities; and at its worst, leaves us stripped bare of all our defenses for others to examine, critique and dissect. It isn't for sissies or the faint hearted.

Thank goodness that I unwittingly stumbled into the Birmingham chapter of RWA. Here, I have found a special group of kindred spirits who support each other unfailingly, encourage each other no matter what the issue, and celebrate unstintingly each other's successes. They are the life raft of hope sent to those of us who are forging ahead into virgin territory.

My techno mentor, Carla, has never made me feel dumb, or even worse old, as she patiently explains how to do the most basic things. I hope that my learning curve is faster than her patience quota or I am in big trouble. I thank her, my critique partners (you know who you are), and everyone else at Southern Magic. They have supported me on my quest to understand an industry that provides a constant roller coaster ride for our emotions.

I would strongly encourage anyone attempting to become a published writer to follow the path to your local chapter. It is well worth the effort. I am now comfortable saying, "Give me my machete. I have friends who will help me mow down that overgrown path to success!"

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Prayer of a Prepublished Writer

Dear God,
As I rise out of my bed this morning and head out the door to the job that pays the bills while working towards becoming a published writer, I ask for several things. Please help me to give my job at least six hours today instead of the five I gave yesterday while editing my latest chapter and surfing the net for contests and workshops. Also, Father, please increase my hand-eye coordination so that when someone comes up behind me, I click on "minimize" swiftly and accurately instead of hitting "maximize" by mistake. It's pretty embarrassing.

Speaking of increase, please add to my strength, enabling me to resist the temptation of Debra Webb's newest release so I may complete the chapter that has been giving me fits for the past week. By the way, I know I should have been writing when I watched "Moment of Truth", but that was purely for psychological research into the human mind for my manuscript. I'm sure you understand.

God, help me to forgive the judges of the contest I entered who didn't score my entry high enough to place. I mean, obviously, they didn't recognize my brilliance and unique style...its not their fault. I'm apparently ahead of my time. Take my word for it, switching point of view three times in one paragraph is going to catch on any day now.

And, finally, Father, I thank you for the gift of creativity and imagination You have blessed me with. Thank you for the ability to paint the images in my mind through words instead of brush and easel. Thank you for choosing me...I promise to only use my powers for good.
Amen

P.S.-Oh, and God, when my manuscript is finally published, please don't let my supervisor recognize herself as the person offed in the first chapter...it's strictly creative license. I promise.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Don't Miss Out!!

Come and check out Multi-published authors
Kelley St. John and Jennifer Echols present
"I'll Show You Mine!" A discussion about
revision letters from publishers and/or agents.

Where: Homewood Public Library, Birmingham, AL
Time: 12 noon to 3 pm
Date: 3/22/08, Saturday

http://www.kelleystjohn.com/
http://www.jennifer-echols.com/

Go to www.southernmagic.org to get directions.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I'd Like To Start Over Please

I would like to restart this week.

Is this even possible?

My week started out promising; I had Monday off--I was going to write, get myself back on track.

Then I got the call; my youngest daughter was sick--so off I went to get her from school. In fact, she is still sick a stomach virus. (Does any one want this virus? I'll share...and its for free!)

Hmmm; no writing.

Then I had to get to work; and work late. Then yesterday my husband injured his ankle--I thought he broke it. It is just sprained and his right ankle looks like a melon is trying to grow. So, I had to take care of him and my sick daughter, then ferry the oldest to school.

Still no writing.

So, I am the only driving adult in my house. Work, well, now that I have missed so much of it I have to work the weekend, and make sure my kids get to school.

Then there was the volleyball play offs...my oldest daughter's team came in second.

You guessed it....NO WRITING

I think I have paid what ever karmic debt I incurred this week. I really, really would like to restart and be more prepared (maybe cook more, I'm a bit tired of peanut butter and jelly).

So, what kind of week have you had? Do you want to restart it or forget it happened?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Soft, Warm Blanket On a Cold Winter's Night

I've been under the weather the last couple of weeks and haven't been able to write. Between naps and pain meds, my brain is way too fuzzy to form a coherent sentence, but thankfully I can read. Though I have plenty on my TBR stack, I can't help but go back and visit some of my old favorites. Not only are they wonderful reads, but there's something comforting in knowing exactly what's going to happen and already liking the characters...it's a feeling of security you don't have when you start a book you've not read before. I needed the comfort, so I went looking for some of my favorites.

I just reread two Silhouette books by Kay Hooper. Published in the late 80's and early 90's, these two books are my favorite of hers. Enemy Mine and The Haviland Touch. Very sweet, sensual and romantic. Wonderful reads. I've read them at least ten times and each time, I close the books with a smile on my face.

I feel so blessed to have many favorites like these. They comfort and entertain me at the same time. What about you? What's a favorite of yours that you've read numerous times and you always close the book with a smile on your face?

Monday, March 10, 2008

10 Reasons Why You Should Be Blogging!

  1. Name recognition for published and pre-published. Agents and editors are known to Google potential clients names.

  2. Practice writing, especially condensing to make a point; preparing yourself for those requested interviews.

  3. Blogging with others keep you from coming up with something new every day to keep a personal blog fresh.

  4. Blogging about everyday life is part of writing.

  5. Published authors can promote their books.

  6. Published authors can make new fans and meet old ones.

  7. Gives you a deadline. If you know you have to write something by a certain date, it's amazing what you can come up with. Practicing deadlines in your writing is great training.

  8. A great way to support your chapter. Getting your feet wet for this type of volunteering might help you move forward to additional responsibilities.

  9. Gives you an opportunity to ask questions of other writers about the writing life, or a particular issue you're having with writing. Great opportunity to get input.

  10. And you find out that you're more interesting than you thought!

If you would like to join us, just contact CarlaSwafford@charter.net. Of course, comments are always welcomed and encouraged.

List by Christy Reece, JoAnn Weatherly, and Carla Swafford

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Beaches, Awards, Beaches, Workshops, Beaches...do I need to say more?


***Permission to Forward is Given***


Finalists in the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence and Linda Howard Award of Excellence contests have been announced! The Southern Magic Chapter has teamed up with the Gulf Coast Chapter Romance Writers to present the awards to winners at the Silken Sands Conference banquet on April 12, 2008 at Pensacola Beach, Florida.


Silken Sands Conference dates are April 11-13, 2008, Hampton Inn, Pensacola Beach, Florida. The keynote speakers are Sherrilyn Kenyon and Catherine Mann! Agent and editor appointments are available as well as a book signing for authors.


It's not too late to get in on the regular conference fee of $145. Cut-off date is March 10, 2008. Please contact the conference coordinator if you want to make arrangements to attend the whole conference or specify an event such as the banquet.


Please visit the website for more information.



Saturday, March 08, 2008

Judging a Book by Its Cover Letter

Recently my daughter was job hunting, so anything I saw related to finding the perfect dream job caught my eye--including this article about writing cover letters. As I read it, it hit me that all the tips could easily apply to writing a cover letter for submitting your ms to a publisher. Because in a lot of ways, you're applying for a job when you submit, right?

Here are the tips, with my thoughts in parentheses. The article goes into a lot more detail, so check it out.

1. Don't lose them with your first sentence. (Can you say "hook?" :-)
2. Do sell the meat. (To me, this is where you give them the "meat" of your story.)
3. Do demonstrate that you can write. (A given!)
4. Do illustrate the qualifications needed. (I would list writing creds here.)
5. Don't let careless mistakes torpedo you. (I know some people don't think this is important, but having typos in a cover letter or resume is like wearing a shirt or blouse with a big stain on it to an interview. You don't want anything to distract from your shining qualities.)
6. Do list contact info.

If you have any tips for writing a great cover letter, please share them!

Friday, March 07, 2008

2008 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence Finalists

The finalists in Southern Magic’s 2008 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence have been announced. This contest for published authors of romance fiction received a record number of entries this year. Heartfelt thanks to everyone who entered, and congratulations to the finalists!

HISTORICAL
Sleepless at Midnight by Jacquie D’Alessandro
Rising Wind by Cindy Holby
Lake of Fire by Linda Jacobs
My Lady’s Treasure by Catherine Kean
Everything Forbidden by Jess Michaels

INSPIRATIONAL
As I Have Loved You by Nikki Arana
Sanctuary by Molly Noble Bull
Surrender Bay by Denise Hunter
The Oak Leaves by Maureen Lang
Mom in the Middle by Mae Nunn
Secret Agent Minister by Lenora Worth

PARANORMAL
Dark Lies by Vivi Anna
Sex and the Psychic Witch by Annette Blair
Atlantis Rising by Alyssa Day
Unbound by Lori Devoti
Lady of Light and Shadows by C. L. Wilson

NOVELLA
“Secret Santa” in Christmas Presence by Lisa Childs
“Mischief and the Marquess” in Perfect Kisses by Sylvia Day
“Hot Down Under” in The Firefighter by Susan Lyons
“Mona Lisa Three” in Over the Moon by Sunny
Two for the Money by Leigh Wyndfield

SHORT CONTEMPORARY
Blackmailed into Bed by Heidi Betts
Overexposed by Leslie Kelly
Beyond Breathless by Kathleen O’Reilly
His Style of Seduction by Roxanne St. Claire
Kiss and Dwell by Kelley St. John

LONG CONTEMPORARY
A Rendezvous to Remember by Geri Krotow
Riding the Thunder by Deborah Macgillivray
Coulda Been a Cowboy by Brenda Novak
A Christmas to Remember by Kay Stockham
Montana Skies by Kay Stockham

CONTEMPORARY SINGLE TITLE
Swing by Opal Carew
Divorced, Desperate and Delicious by Christie Craig
Sweet Return by Anna Jeffrey
To Catch a Cheat by Kelley St. John
Learning to Breathe by Karen White

SERIES ROMANTIC SUSPENSE
Operation: Midnight Cowboy by Linda Castillo
Danger at Her Door by Beth Cornelison
The Perfect Stranger by Jenna Mills
One Cool Lawman by Diane Pershing
The Cop by Cara Summers

ROMANTIC SUSPENSE SINGLE TITLE
Dead Giveaway by Brenda Novak
Dead Right by Brenda Novak
What’s in a Name? by Terry Odell
Count to Ten by Karen Rose
Die for Me by Karen Rose
Take Me Tonight by Roxanne St. Claire

YOUNG ADULT
Prom Dates from Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore
In the Stars by Stacia Deutsch and Rhody Cohon
Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress by Tina Ferraro
Revenge of the Homecoming Queen by Stephanie Hale
Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend by Carrie Jones

Winners will be announced on April 12 at the Gulf Coast Romance Writers’ Silken Sands Conference in Pensacola Beach, Florida. For information on the conference, please visit www.gccrwa.com. For information on Southern Magic and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, visit www.southernmagic.org.

Jennifer Echols
Contest Coordinator
Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence

Jennifer Echols THE BOYS NEXT DOOR - Available now!MAJOR CRUSH - National Readers Choice Award, Aspen Gold Awardwww.jennifer-echols.com

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Anti-Heroes

What kind of hero do you like?

There is the "Good" hero, he is finding the "Bad Guy". He is supposed to be larger than life; strong, capable, and intrinsically good.

Nice. Too nice.

Lately, I've been drawn to the anti-hero. He is the one who has his own internal moral compass, but not necessarily legal. He's not warm, nor is he necessarily nice. Still, you'd want him on your side (although he may not stay there).

Gee, that sounds like a loser. Still, they are fun to read and to write. I like trying to decide if I like them or not.

OK, so who would be classified as an anti-hero? Karen Marie Moning has a new book series the first of which is called "Blood Fever" that has a few anti-hero's. A man named "Jericho" that helps the heroine for his own reasons. (You have to read it to find out more..I'm evil; I know)

There are movies that have anti-heroes--I loved Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham--he had to go down, but boy did he play a good part!

So, tell me, do you like anti-heroes and why?

(They are so deliciously bad)