Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Butterfly Effect

I recently read an article that said the caterpillar is the most confused creature in nature because stamped on its soul is the call to fly. I started thinking...Isn't that us as writers? To look at us is to see regular, ordinary people, but like the caterpillar, impressed on our souls is the call to be so much more than what we appear. So, if we have this calling on our lives--and we were born to do it--than why is it so hard? And frustrating? And...and impossible?

We often look at the beautiful, graceful butterfly and forget its journey. Just as we look at Sherrilyn Kenyon or Gena Showalter and forget their journeys. We forget the rejections, the criticism, the menial jobs...the preparation. For the butterfly, the cocoon is where it is hidden, shaped, molded and prepared. Many of us are in our cocoon time.

Take me, for instance. Every day I go to my job and I work and I work. But, it's just not what I want to do for the rest of my life. I want to write! I want to wake up in the morning and know that my manuscript awaits me, not a loan. And, I become so frustrated because I want that dream now. I ask, God, why show me this dream, and yet I feel no closer than I did three years ago? But, then I stop and think...If I can submit to my supervisor when she asks for something in an impossible amount of time, than I definitely can submit to an editor when she requests a laundry list of revisions, and wants them yesterday. Preparation. If I can type up Bible Study notes that are due weekly, than surely when the time comes, I will be disciplined enough to meet a deadline from a publisher. Preparation. If I can think up a new topic for a bi-weekly blog, than when a multi-book contract comes my way, I know without a doubt I am capable of fresh ideas to keep my readers satisfied and happy. Preparation.

So, when I begin to struggle with losing my drive, my sight and my hope I remember the butterfly. And, I put my hands to where I am now. I don't see my circumstances as stagnant or restricting, but lessons to be learned for the fruition of a dream. It's preparation. Just as the butterfly is molded and shaped in the cocoon, we're molded and shaped by our challenges and tests.

So, if there's anything I would like for you to take from this it is, don't despise the cocoon. Because when you come out, you will fly.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Timed Writing

45 minutes.

That’s all it takes.

What you may ask? Writing of course!

I got this idea at the Heart of Dixie meeting earlier this month. The topic being discussed was writing a 50,000 word book in a month (Don’t ask me the details, because all I came away with – is the 45 minutes—ok, so my memory is going along with all sorts of things…*sigh* but that’s another blog)

I struggle with finding time to write and I know every single writer out there has the same problem. Worse, procrastination is written into my DNA, which no amount of caffeine, threats, etc ever get rid of. BUT, I can trick it.

How?

Setting a timer for a certain amount of time (like 45 minutes), sitting my rear into a chair and typing away.

Yes, I admit, sometimes I only get a page done, but other times I get five or more pages done.

It’s not perfect (thank goodness for revisions)—but it’s WRITING. The trick is to slap down that inner critic (and trot it out only when you are at the revision phase), and write. That’s been the hardest thing, because I’ll be writing and think, “Well, that sucks, I need to change it…” but I tell myself “FINISH THE STORY FIRST”.

It’s been painful.

Try it though, 45 minutes (or even 15, 20, or 30 minutes). See what happens.

Note: It’s been proven that you should only sit at the computer for 45 minutes max, and then get up get a drink, walk around , and then return. You are more productive. (Hey—maybe I can tell my boss that….)

Keep writing everyone!!!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

So What Does This Mean?

I'm a big believer that nothing happens for a reason. That everything in the universe has a place and purpose for being here. I think that goes along with my faith that someone far greater than man is in charge of everything. Often unexplainable things happen and we strive to understand what can't be understood by mere mortals.

So where I am going with such a weighty and controversial premise? Simply this. I have a lizard living in my office. It's been here almost a week. I found it crawling around in my bathroom next to my office and tried to capture it and put it outside. It's a little faster than me...say about two zillion times faster, so needless to say it stayed. So I closed the bathroom door, thinking my brilliant husband would come home and have a brilliant idea on how to remove our new house guest. Before he could get home, little lizard slipped under the bathroom door and joined me in my office. Was I a little distracted? Yes, a bit.

I opened a window hoping it would understand that that's where it's supposed to live. Instead, a fly flew in. So I'm thinking, uh, no way am I letting a fly stay in the house. However, before I could do anything, said fly became little lizard's dinner. And what can I say? I fell in love.

Now my new friend, who by the way is named Okra because she looks like a tiny spear of okra, is my companion. My husband, who would never admit publicly, is even more tender hearted than I am, asks repeatedly on Okra's welfare. He provided turtle/lizard food and suggested I put out some water. Okra now climbs all over my desk and wall and seems to feel quite comfortable in her new home.

My dogs have seen her and aren't upset. My husband seems fascinated by her and I've gotten quite attached to her.

So getting back to my original premise that all things happen for a reason. There's got to be a reason for Okra. But why?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Coming Up For Air

When it seems everything around you is falling apart (and I mean everything), how do you find the energy or will to write?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Oh! Grow Up!

Okay, okay, okay. I know I talk too much about General Hospital on this blog. But this week’s episodes had a couple threads to do with parents and how as an adult you’re still controlled by the way they treated you in the past.

Of course, the drama is over the top sometimes and I would love to say to the grown kids, “Grow up! Take responsibility for your own actions!” Then I would like to add, “Parents are human too!"

In many romances, the hero and/or heroine have issues left over from their own childhoods. Grown men with trust issues, especially in their relationship with women, are that way because their mom cheated on their dad or left them on their own. And the women may have grown up without a dad and have daddy issues (thus dating much older men) or their dad preferred a son over the daughter, so the daughter acts like a boy.

It's a wonderful way to add depth to a character. There are many ways to play it, but the most important part is to handle it in a subtle way. Who likes a whiner? Otherwise, your reader would be shouting the same things I did at the TV.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hit Me With Your Best Shot!

To me, criticism has always equalled rejection...so I decided to become a published writer. I guess you can compare that to a person with an aversion to blood deciding to become a heart surgeon. Of course, logically, I know that rejection and criticism are not the same thing. One is debilitating and the other is...severely debilitating. Published author, Christie Craig, has been rejected over 100 times! Believe me, I've seen the cardboard box full of letters--she's not exaggerating. If I'd had that many rejection notices, you'd find me curled up in a corner somewhere doing my best Glenn Close interpretation, clicking a lamp on and off! And we won't even touch the boiled bunnies!

Growing up, writing was my "thing". It was my niche (I was the only person in my class who knew what "niche" meant, how to spell it and how use it in a sentence!). I carried that attitude and confidence with me into adulthood. So, when I decided to take writing to the next level and become published, I just knew no one could resist my perfect stories! I found a critique partner, joined RWA, entered contests and participated in workshops. And, I promptly found out my heroine was annoying, the plot contained a hole a flaming meteor could fly through and I head-jumped like I had a multiple personality disorder. And the comments were pretty hard to miss as they were written in bright, slashing red ink. I swear I thought my contest entries had hemorrhaged under the scalpel of the judges' red pens!!

Immediately, my initial reaction was disbelief, hurt and an anger that burned worse than my cooking! Didn't they understand that I was the next Nora Roberts-meets-Terry McMillan? How could they say those things?? So, I slammed down my pen--well, mouse--and...and...died. I died. My pride died. My ego flatlined. My offended feelings plunged into that slow swan dive. My righteous, angry fat lady sang. But, then...I grew. I grew up and realized that criticism--constructive criticism--doesn't equal persecution. In order to increase, in order to elevate from unpublished to published author, I had to adopt an openness and willingness to receive more experienced, objective advice. Truth be told, my sister telling me she loved my manuscript didn't help me nearly as much as the judge who told me my hero and heroine weren't likable! Painful? Oh most definitely! But, it also made me go back and examine my characters to see if there was any truth to that statement. And, it turned out, that yes, it held a grain of truth--Okay, so she nailed it on the head! Criticism is how we learn, how we better our craft and how we push beyond what we imagined ourselves capable of.

No, I'm not going to lie and say, Oh critique is so easy to take now. Lie, lie, lie! My heart still seizes up and "They just don't understand what I'm trying to do here!" wants to spill from my lips. But, after that quick moment of angst, I push up my sleeves, apply make-up to that black-eye on my feelings and get down to the business of evolving.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Deadlines and humorous research

In my last post, I questioned setting deadline sand when they were constructive or harmful. I got some great advice from you guys and tried to really consider my life and set some constructive deadlines. My goal was to write ten pages a day. I'm proud to say I have met that goal every day but one, which I purposely gave myself off for down time. I felt like my characters needed a break from me and me from them. My husband joked tonight that if I had set this goal three months ago, I could have written a novel the length of Anna Karenina by now!

As I have been working to meet my page goal, I am constantly researching so my book will be historically accurate. I write historical romances. Last week, I had a particular scene where my hero learns his new wife is in all probability the spy he has been searching for who murdered his father. Needless to say, my hero is in a rage. I use profanity VERY sparingly in my books because I usually feel there is a better way to say it, but this time my hero just had to call his wife a "bitch." I hope I haven't offended anyone by writing this here.

Anyway, I was not sure when this word took on the negative connotation it carries today, so I had to do a little research. Sure enough, in 1400 men started using this word to describe females they thought were lying, unscrupulous and deceitful. This did not surprise me. What caught me off guard was a statement found on Widipedia. According to Wikipedia, "Since the 1980s, the term "bitch" became more and more accepted and less offensive. After the word was widely used between rivals Krystle and Alexis on the drama Dynasty." This was a bit of information I never expected which sent me laughing for quite awhile. My question is this: what is the most unexpected information you have ever uncovered while researching for a book.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I've Missed You Guys

I looked at the blog today for the first time in a week. I was blown away by the creativity of the bloggers, subject matter discussed and diverse opinions found on the blogspot. It just reminds me how creative and supportive of each other that we have become.

Two common threads are woven among the blogs. Naturally we all like to write (although we all have our days when we ask ourselves why?) and we admire other writers. We know exactly how hard it is to take an idea and nurture it until the idea becomes a whole story.

I have found that most writers are also avid readers. All voracious readers I know are always on the lookout for a new author to add to their "must read" list. I'm curious to see who you would rank as your personal favorite author in each of these categories:
1. Author whose books make you cry with emotion.
2. Most suspenseful author.
3. Funniest author.
4. Most romantic author.
5. Best paranormal writer.
6. Best storyteller.
7. Author who you have read every book they've written.

Post your answers and I will tabulate them in my next blog, plus give you my favorites. Hopefully, we may all add some new authors to our "must read" lineup.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Harlequin Stories

Have you ever wished you could tell Harlequin editors what you would love to see more of in their books? You now have the opportunity. Go to www.tellharlequin.com and let them know.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Southern Magic's Contests

Check out our Website for the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence for published authors and the Linda Howard Award of Excellence for unpublished authors! They're taking entries now.

http://www.southernmagic.org/

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dream Motivation

What gets you to write?

As Christy wrote, there are plenty of things (all important) that distract you (ok, so my Spider Solataire is not necessarily in that category). Still, work, home, etc. All interefere.

What drags you back to the page?

Amusingly enough, for me, it was a dream.

Now, I love to dream. Sometimes my best story ideas come from dreams, and one time I actually got a WHOLE story (that I wrote down). Unfortunately, I can go to bed thinking about my current story and never, ever, dream of it. I have one friend who does dream about the story she is writing which helps her. I have another who actually wakes up with the scene she needs to write. What do I get? Other stories..which really doesn't help my particular predicament, well, until last night.

As some of you know, I have managed to send off a partial to Nocturne (which does not guarantee anything) but, I am trying to finish the book. Its taken me since August to write 20 pages. Sad, but true. Last night, I was in the doldrums about it, and went to bed. A very dangerous thought surfaced: "Why bother to finish..." this is an evil thought and should be battled with all your resources. So, I went to sleep.

I had a dream that I got an email saying: Congratulations, I (Some dream editor named Amanda) am buying your book, but I know that you are still writing the book, so I am giving until November 25th to finish it. (there was more, but you know dreams).

I awoke with the date November 25th just stuck in my head. I was highly amused about the definitive date my subconscious put in there. I pretty much set up my own deadline. (Hey, it may not be a scene, but it pushed me to write!)

Will my book be bought? That would be cool, but really, I have to finish it and my subconscious gave me a swift kick in the rear. I no longer have the "Oh, why bother...." attitude.

I'm just grateful, I am going back to the thing and not letting this story also fall into the the pile of unfinished manuscripts.

So, I come back to this question: What brings you back to face the blank page?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Busy Working

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING BLOG IS NOT FULL OF GOOD ADVICE. READ FURTHER ONLY AT YOUR OWN RISK!

Every day I wake with optimism and energy, ready to tackle my current project. My head, heart and gut know where I want to go in my story. I see my characters clearly and they're talking...my gosh, these people can talk! Only problem is, they're not talking to me. So, to give them some space...obviously they're the driven type, you know the, 'Don't bother me until I'm ready to talk to you.' type, I sit around and wait patiently until they're ready to tell me their story. Can't you just hear me gently tapping my feet? See me with a patient, but encouraging smile on my face?

So what's a writer to do in the meantime? Why there are all sorts of ways a writer can stay busy and still get nothing accomplished. Believe me, I know! I feel a bit guilty sharing these things with you. Kind of like when you were in school and someone whispered that they had something to show you or give you behind the bleachers or field house. Of course, it was never good and no, I never went. I was way too scared. Suddenly, I'm one of those people!

So here goes. My busy list of things to do to keep from writing.

1. Publishers' Market Place. Since I have to pay for this service, I should get as much benefit out of it as possible. Right? You can do all sorts of wonderful searches!

2. Google your name. Amazing what you can come up with about yourself.

3. Amazon. Did you know they recommend books for you based upon your buying preference? How nice is that? They've gone to all that trouble, the least I can do is see what they think I might like to read.

4. Facebook. This is a new one for me. A week or so ago, I had 7 friends. I now have almost 200. I have become the queen 'busy' bee of invites!

5. My publisher's website. I was so excited to see they've listed me and two of my books. I even have my own ISBN! So I go to the site frequently just to see if something else has happened.

6. Review sites. I go to one or two regularly. I read the reviews and find myself wondering if I should recommend to Amazon some more recommendations for me. Maybe they don't know everything I like.

7. This blog. I visit it several times a day. To see if any one's blogged or to read comments. I kept going back to it today, wondering if the person who was supposed to blog was ever going to blog. Then I realized it was my day!

8. Set up Google alerts for your name, name of your books, or anyone and anything you might be interested in knowing more about. Amazing what kinds of stuff you get or where it will lead you.

9. Other author's websites. I want to see what's new with my favorite authors. I have to keep up with their new releases. I can't rely on Amazon to supply all of my reading choices, can I?

10. Looking at my photos online. I had head shots taken last week. The last time I had my picture take professionally was more than ten years ago. I've changed since then and have been denial until now. You know that saying, "The camera doesn't lie"? I've been going to the site two or three times a day just to see if maybe there was one that at least fibbed a bit. So far, they're all glaringly truthful!

There you have it. While I wait for my stubborn characters to reveal their story to me, these are my new vices. I know there have to be more I've not discovered, so feel free to share yours with me. And for those of you who pick up new vices because of this blog, I humbly apologize, but remember, I did warn you.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Football and Writing Romance

When I moved from Oregon to Alabama in 2001, a friend of mine from Huntsville said I had to choose a side—Alabama or Auburn. Absurd, I thought. I don’t even watch football.

After living a year in Birmingham, I met my husband, David, who happened to be an Alabama fan. Soooo, now I am an Alabama fan too (no comments from the Auburn peanut gallery, please). I have to tell you, I still don’t understand all the hoopla around this sport, but as I watched the game against Clemson last Saturday, a few things occurred to me. What was missing from the Crimson Tide over the last few years, in my opinion, was greatness (settle down Tide fans, I’m not finished). So in amazement, I watched this newly focused, steady team come back from each play Saturday with more energy, zeal, and solidarity, despite the fact they were playing a stronger team no one expected them to beat. I realized then what makes football exciting for me. It’s catching a glimpse of that rare greatness in a player. It’s awesome to behold and often lasts only a moment. To see one player unite an entire team, another help an opponent get to his feet, and another take a hit hard enough to put most of us in the hospital, yet they spring up from the ground and run down the field on the next play just to try again for a few more yards. It’s inspiring and I couldn’t help but notice something important about myself.

I’ve written romance for 20 years. I was, in fact, writing during that game. There have been a lot of … shall we say … hits over the years. Some tackles. A few injuries. Some days—okay, some months—I wanted to quit. I’ve left this highly competitive, sometimes brutal business for long stretches at a time, only to come back each time, a bit more deflated but always ready to try again. I realized Saturday what’s left me uninspired over the years was not the business of writing but my reaction to it. What I’ve failed to do is aspire to that greatness I saw on that field last Saturday. To bounce back from each setback, hitting and pushing harder toward that goal of getting published with everything in me.

A newly energized and more determined writer came away from that game last weekend. Who would have thought football could inspire a romance writer?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Practicing Dialogue


Yesterday, when I was driving home from work, I had a small truck riding my car’s rear end, another car wanting to slide over to my lane while I was still in it and a car in front of me with the driver trying to find something on the passenger’s side. Thankfully not all of that happened at the same time. I’m sure for those who drive more than fifteen minutes from home experience that type of stuff all the time. The question I have is how do you handle it?

Me? I usually ignore most of it, but I do talk to the people. No, I don’t use sign language. I just entertain myself as I rarely listen to the radio anymore during those treks to work and back. My conversations go something like, “No, no, no. This is my lane and I don’t share.” Or “You driving like that give women a bad name. Sit up straight and watch where you’re going, girly.” Or “Hey, hey, hey!” (Think Fat Albert.) Now that last one was to a truckload of hay with bits and pieces slapping my car.

The talking to drivers as I go along is a family tradition. My father did it and I know my daughters do it. Do you talk to drivers? By the way, most of the time when a person gives me one of those hand signals showing their displeasure, I’ll either throw them a kiss or wave at them as if they’re my long lost friend. It usually freaks them out and makes them wonder where they know me. And will I tell their wife, mother, etc.? LOL!


And the car? No. I don't drive a Corvette, but I wish I did. Just added it for color.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Meeting That Word-Count Goal

I'm not such a hot photographer, so these pictures from my trip to Ireland may be worth only 500 apiece instead of a thousand. Still, that's 2,500 words...and I did it fast and without any angst at all. I think I will start incorporating pictures into all my manuscripts.