Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Conference Crazies and Pitch Panic

There have been a lot of posts about the RWA Conference on LOOPS and blogs for writers. And I have inhaled them--eager to sniff out any news about what to expect.

Now, I know DC. That's covered. I hope--I even have a car and driver to haul me to WEGMANS grocery store for survival food supplies. I know cool restaurants I want to revisit (budget be .... I am eating at the Lebanese Taverna) to eat in. And I am very excited about the workshops, PRO retreat, editor/agent appointments, and meeting new writing friends.

But I am very freaked about my clothes--what to wear!? On a budget? And my appointments. What if I stumble and fall? What if my tongue swells? What if I hyperventilate? But I am going to attend regardless of my fears.

Because this is my chance. Not just to pitch to my dream agent and editor, but to meet other writers and bond. I want to soak up everything I can while I am at this conference. I want to take it all in and come away from this with an armful of knowledge about my favorite subject.

And in all of my preparations, I've learned something about my books. Instead of tearing each word apart, each critique apart, and each contest "yes or no" apart, I revisited my original dream sfor my heroes and heroines.

I remembered the reason they spoke to me and the reasons they came together. I remembered the joy they discovered when they realized their love for each other. I remembered their hurt, deep and wounding, when they believed in the betrayals, and I remembered the fun I had writing about their adventures.

And if that is the best thing I gain out of this conference craziness and pitch panic, then it is all worth the expense, the packing panic, and the long hours driving to DC.

For it is in the writing that I am free.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Nothing into Something

I am at a loss.

I am staring at this blank page and all those marvelous ideas have gone out the window. You know the one's-- the witty little comments and observations that rattle through your head? Of course, once your deadline is here they are gone.

Normally, I jot an idea or two down. For some reason I have nothing.

So, I am going to write about nothing and how to find something.

There is something quite intimidating about the blank page, at least when you have only a glimmer of an idea and no actual idea of how to write it. Makes you want to go hide doesn't it?

This blankness reminds me largely about plotting, and working on the story. Everyone hits that wall where you have no earthly idea of what direction you are going in or how to take the next step. Usually, I go work out then. It can be something as simple as a walk, or I do something more intense like weight lifting, or an aerobic activity. As I let my mind wander and relax sometimes something will occur in and an idea will surface.

Driving helps too.

I also enjoy talking it out with someone. In actuality, I prefer working on someone else's plot. For some reason looking for a solution for someone else frees something in my head that usually leads to an idea. If I combine it with swimming or walking while talking it is even better!

It's funny, but writing is a lot like being superstitious, we all have our certain ways of doing things, rituals that we turn to when we are lost about where our story is or how to begin.

Just like this Blog, I had NO idea what I was going to write about...but here it is! Something from Nothing!

So, what rituals do you use to get ideas to form in your head and help your story?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Life to Fiction

People sometimes ask me if I draw from real life for my stories. My answer is always the same. Yes and no. I’ll put a character through similar things I’ve survived, but I won’t rewrite actual events in my life, mostly because it’s too emotionally taxing.

What about you? Is it all fiction or do you write from personal experiences?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Heroes

I've been thinking about heroes lately. Not the kind of heroes who rescue puppies, but the heroes who populate our books (not that they can't also rescue puppies!). Romance heroes. All of us who write have a type of hero we like. I don't know why, but I *love* a wounded hero. I write wounded heroes. And I know they won't resonate with all readers.

Some readers really don't like the hard alpha who hides his hurt beneath a veneer of prickliness. Some readers think this hero is just mean. I try to understand that, but the truth is that I really don't. When the hero is well motivated, I just want to hug him and tell him it's okay. I want to tell him that I know he's not really bad, and that the heroine knows it too, and that he'll find it out soon enough.

If you've read J.R. Ward, for example, you probably either loved or hated Zsadist. He appeared on scene in the first book as the baddest, evilest vampire of all the Brothers. None of the Brothers understood or trusted him. And yet my heart melted. He excited me and intrigued me. When he got his book (Lover Awakened), I couldn't sleep or eat or do anything but read it to the end. I absolutely bawled at his happy ending. OMG, that was a hero I could love.

And now I write for Harlequin Presents, that line known around the world for having the unapproachable alpha male. The tycoon. The self-made man who is in control and in command. I love him. Obviously, or I wouldn't be writing these books.

I don't think he's mean or evil. I think he's closed off emotionally, and the heroine is the only person in the world who can get through. This man is going to fight her because he doesn't want to feel. He's tried feeling before, and he got hurt in some way. His answer is not to feel.

This makes me all gooey inside. I don't know why. My husband is the nicest, sweetest man imaginable. He's not unapproachable. He would never dream of forcing me to marry him (if we weren't already) or blackmailing me or getting revenge on me.

And yet I write hardened alphas who do all these things. Before I was published, when I was still writing suspense, I wrote hardened alpha military guys. These are the men I love, whether they wear BDUs or Armani suits. I won't apologize for it, and I won't water them down when writing. They are who they are.

What kind of heroes do you like to read? What kind do you write? Have you ever been tempted to change your hero (or even your heroine) to be what you thought people wanted?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Passion and Obsession

Dictionary.com describes passion under number six as a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything: a passion for music. While obsession under number one is the domination of one's thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.

I was thinking of this the other day when I was listening to Michael Bolton’s MY SECRET PASSION. His passion is opera. I don’t know a lot about opera but I do know because of his CD I’ve come to love it very much and have since bought a couple more opera CD’s. But they’re not my passion.

My passion is for books. As soon as I could read, I read anything with horses in them. So I read all the typical horse books (BLACK BEAUTY, KING OF THE WIND, FLICKER) and moved on to cowboys and their pintos, and finally knights and their steeds. Then I discovered romances. My passion bloomed and grew larger.

Before I knew it, my passion turned into an obsession. I started writing and now I eat, drink and live writing. If I were to lose the ability to write or read, I know I would roll up in a ball and die. I love how you can read a book and laugh, cry, be afraid, and turned on (though rarely all at the same time). I want my books to affect people like that. I love how one sentence can make you feel good all day by simply thinking of a few words. I’m amazed by how I can type one word after another until I have a complete book with living breathing people whose lives I’ve shaped into a plot and the-way-life-should-be HEA.

I hope and pray one day soon my obsession turns into a published book and people find their passion in reading it and the others I write. Oh, yeah, I'm passionately obsessed.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Pop, Dad, Daddy, Papa, Father, Padre...

Okay, with today being the day to honor dads of all shapes and sizes, I have just one question: Who is your favorite fictional father figure?

From TV, my hands-down favorite is Andy Taylor, from The Andy Griffith Show.

I haven't read a lot of books with strong father figures in them -- the books I gravitate toward tend to be child-free.

But I'm open to suggestions and recommendations.

And Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there who support their daughters and wives in their writing careers.

:-)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Quirks, Phobias and Eccentrics, OH MY !!!

I have a deathly fear of fire. Really. I have a fireplace in my house and I use it. I frequently burn leaves in my yard. Doesn't matter. I still have an incredible fear of being trapped in a building that is on fire. Not just your average "That makes sense. Fire can kill you." sort of way. If Mrs. O'Leary had had the number of fire extinguishers in her barn that I have in my 14 x 80 foot trailer Chicago would NEVER have burned. Trust me.

I'm trying to decide if that's a phobia or just a quirk. When does a quirk become a phobia and at what point does it become downright eccentric. I take that back. I don't fit the criteria to be eccentric. If you're odd and you're poor, you're just plain crazy. If you're odd and you're rich, you're eccentric. Hey, I don't make the rules. So, am I crazy? I would LIKE to be eccentric one day.

What does this have to do with writing? I just wondered if any of you have or have thought about creating characters with phobias, quirks or eccentricities. And I'm speaking in terms of heroes for the most part. Women expect other women to have phobias, quirks and eccentricities. We women are accepting like that. We realize that with all of the intellectual gifts and talents we have we're just too accomplished and grounded NOT to have a few oddities about us.

Now in our heroes, on the other hand, I think we often expect perfection - physical perfection and intellectual perfection. And we want all of their emotional imperfections to be all about how they relate to women. That way we can show off some of those female talents and fix all of those emotional imperfections which will result in our getting the hero, or rather in our heroines getting the hero. You get the picture.

I just wondered if any of you have ever written a hero with a phobia or quirk that you didn't necessarily WANT to cure. Sometimes they can be quite endearing. Sometimes they can humanize these male gods we make of our heroes. I just happen to believe that it is the odd little flaws and quirks that make a man human (or a woman for that matter.)

I'm not afraid of snakes, having owned some rather large ones in my lifetime. In fact I'm not afraid of any reptiles, and yes, I've owned some pretty big lizards too. BUT, the hero of one of my books is DEATHLY afraid of snakes. Which makes it all the more fun when he falls for a young woman who is doing research on the possible uses for cobra venom. (Did you know research was being done on this very thing as early as 1802 with regard to the ability of the venom to cause blood to clot? Cool stuff for a Regency historical author to know.) Does my hero's phobia make him less macho? I don't think so.

But it doesn't just have to be phobias. How about a little OCD thing the hero does that most of his friends find funny, but our heroine finds it fascinating? Have you ever used something like this. Do you think it works or does it make the hero less heroic? (My late husband could not stand for his food to touch on the plate. For our everyday china I picked the pattern with the biggest plates I could find. I still have the dishes and when I use them it makes me smile because for a minute he's there with me saying "Did I tell you how much I love these dishes?" Yes, Roger. You told me.)

So, how about it writers? What do you think? And what about you personally? Any phobias out there? Any quirks? Any eccentricities? We Southern gals know all about eccentrics! In the South you don't ask if there is insanity in the family. You just ask which side its on!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Covers for New Trilogy




Hi Everyone, hope you don't mind me popping in and showing my new covers. I'm so excited about them, I couldn't wait to share. What do you think?


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fantasy vs. Reality

Today I had a good session working on my manuscript. Some days it isn't as easy and I struggle to get my self-imposed two page minimum down on paper before the demands of my "other life" take over. Like most beginning writers, I juggle a paying job, a family and a home. It is sometimes stressful but I remind myself that the stress is self-imposed and I should enjoy each step of the way.

When I first began writing, my fantasy had me sitting at a well appointed desk, situated by a large window with a great view, coffee cup at hand and a sleepy tom cat curled up in a corner of the desk, purring.

Three years later, I am sitting in my basement office, at my ten dollar desk, it's too hot for coffee and the tom cat purring on the desk is simultaneously attempting to turn my desk calendar into confetti. Did I mention that the only window I can see out of is six inches by two feet and it is above and behind me? The reality of writing is not always what we had first envisioned but when you have a good day at the computer, all the rest just doesn't matter.

How did your romantic view of your journey as a writer change once you actually began the process? Do you have the perfect set up or is your writing area less than perfect? Does it affect your ability to write?

Monday, June 15, 2009

My Permanent Record

I started blogging over a year ago for several reasons. I wanted to practice and perfect my writing. I wanted to become more comfortable with revealing my thoughts and words to people instead of just showing them to my sister and best friend. And, later, I liked to "Google" myself and see "Naima Bryant" pop up. Self-centered, I know, but it's the truth. I also found out through my chapter that agents and editors often "Google" the writers who submit to them, so that was definitely a plus.

But, it wasn't until today that I realized another reason to blog. It's a record of a journey.

I searched back to my first blog and began reading forward. I saw hope and encouragement. I read great expectation, faith and fear. I discovered determination, disappointment and laughter. I saw victory.

I read moments in this past year's journey where I experienced a stumbling block that at one point made me question why I bothered doing this at all? And, then faith lifted me to my feet, dusted off my knees and reminded me it wasn't what I saw in front of me, but what I hoped and dreamed for that kept me going. I laughed as I remembered how family could make you insane and grounded at the same time. I studied the comments and found myself thankful for the friends and fellow writers who provide encouragement, kind words and even a reality slap when called for.

Today, I read where I was this time last year and thanked God not only that I received an offer on a manuscript I submitted, but I praised Him for the journey. Because I can look back and have a permanent record that with perserverance, faith, support and laughter achieving dreams is possible. And only the beginning.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

FINISHED

I have 325 pages of horrible drivel completed. It is missing scenes and characterizations, the plot really sucks, and my grammar....well lets just say my former College English teacher would shudder in horror at the plight.

But, it's done!

This is a HUGE thing for me, and for every other writer out there. This is a step that has taken me far longer than it should have (a year and a half--the agony!). Squirreled away in binders, folders, and drawers I have dozens of half finished stories and manuscripts--I have so many beginnings and even some middles....but no endings.

One day I will finish those other stories. Right now, I am going to work on editing and revising the finished story....and think about the next one I have to write. Which one to start next? I probably should finish the trilogy I started....but did not really plot.

*sigh*

So I finished it. Now I have to fix it.

What was the first story you finished? How long did it take? How fast can you do a rough draft now?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Nationals

I confess I’m too tired to come up with anything deep today, so I thought I’d keep this blog simple.

I know many of you are going to the RWA Nationals. I couldn’t afford it this year, but I’d love to hear from those who are attending. What do you plan to do? Do you have agent/editor appointments? Is this your first time, are you going for the workshops, or are you just hoping to get away from home? Some will be meeting old friends, networking, attending those great parties, and heck yeah, book signing!

I’d love to hear everyone’s plans.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A Romance Writer Reveals All

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Who? What? When? Heh?

No, I'm not going deaf. I just wish I had some way of knowing when they'd changed requirements in formatting out in the publishing world.

When I first thought about writing a book, I bought several books on how to get published, and inside them were sections on formatting. NO! I will not tell you when this was. And NO! I didn't use a chisel and stone tablet. ::sigh:: You're worst than my children.

Anyway, the rule (yeah, one of those fluid rules) was to type in Courier 12 and each page was considered to have an average of 250 words. Thus, a 400 page manuscript would be 100,000 words.

Well, then computers took over and now they say, the above was for typewriters and no longer valid, unless you still use a typewriter. Then I wish you luck with White-Out and the just as messy white strips. Hated those things. The agents and editors might think it to be charming that you typed it on an old fashioned typewriter. Problem is, they'll think how charming it looks in their old fashioned trash can too.

Now, you have to use the word count in the word processor. For example, MS WORD (2007) can automatically count the words as you type and show them to you at the bottom of the page on the left. Sweet. AND, they tell us NEW Courier 12 is a true sign you're a newbie. Times New Roman is the preferred font. But of course they also say anything that is easy on the eyes is acceptable too. Myself, I rather use TNR until my agent/editor tell me different. That is, when I get a agent or editor.

If you wonder who THEY are, the people on the internet. I read about twenty different websites to get this information. The one I kinda trust the most was AGENT QUERY.

Oddly, I've found in contests, when I submit a entry in Times New Roman, I normally have higher scores (good thing) than if I submit it in Courier (bad thing).

When it come to your query letter, do you say 80,000 "computer" words or just words. When it comes to a publisher, they're thinking of print runs. Do most of them think computer count or the old school count? If you just say 80,000 words though it's computer count, a publisher may say it's too short. But they maybe thinking old school count. Argh! I know I'm overthinking it and just need to concentrate on the story. But if you're like me and have a habit of writing short, that can be a problem.

And don't get me started on where the chapter should begin on the page, or where my stupid address on the title page should be or where I should place my damn name in the header of the manuscript! ::deeper sigh:: I do need my little pink pills more some days than others.

For now, I'll just write the damn story and let the chips fall where they may as the old saying goes.

Friday, June 05, 2009

What Will It Take to Turn Plan C Into Plan A?

Today, I watched as six people at the magazine I work for lost their jobs. As the rumors began to swirl this morning with the first layoff and with each one afterward, I was sure I was next. I even began to gather my belongings in one spot on my desk so that my exit would be swift.

I have had a Plan B since last fall, when the massacre --er, massive layoffs began. We lost more than 100 people between October 23 and December 23. I realize that in the big scheme of things that doesn't compare to what GM is doing or what AIG and other huge corporations did. But you know what? Even if it it's just one person begin laid off, it still hurts. It still scares the shit out of me.

But today I found myself thinking about Plan C. Which is my writing. A tiny glimmer of possibility fluttered around with the butterflies in my stomach. What if I lost this job? Could I really, finally focus on my writing enough to make it work? To make it my work? That shiny little thought kept me going through the day.

I am still employed as of this writing. And when we heard that the last people had been notifed and that there would be no more --today--we all breathed a sigh of relief and I felt the spark flicker and die.

Monday, I will be back at my desk with my nose to the grindstone, thankful that I have a Plan A job. Until perhaps, the next day. Maybe the spark of possibility will come back. Maybe it will become Plan A.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

In search of clues to plotting a murder

I keep thinking about the t-shirt I saw that said "A friend will help you move. A good friend will help you move a body!"

I don't need help moving a body .... yet. If that new boss keeps it up I might. What I want to know, as many of you write romantic suspense and other genres that require a devious plot, is how do you plot a murder?

I mean, do you always know who the murderer is before you write it? Or does the murderer reveal himself or herself as you write? Do you solve the murder first and then work backwards to put in the clues?

There have to be as many ways to plot a murder as there are ways to commit one. As a writer how do you approach it? Of if you don't write murders in your stories, what sort of clues tip you off? What makes it too obvious and what sorts of things make you scratch your head until you reach the end and then say "Aha! Why didn't I see that one coming?"

What are some of your favorite romance novels that feature a really well-written murder plot? The kind where you had no clue whodunit until the last page?

And are there any fans of the game and movie Clue here? I liked the game, but I loved the movie. Tim Curry makes such a great butler!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Revising Your "Don't Do" List

Anyone who really knows me knows that I am not one to wait anxiously for the next paranormal thriller to be published. I think that has to do with the fact that I come from practical stock that is grounded in reality. For me that is bizarre enough.

Recently, that all changed when we rented Twilight. I watched spell-bound. The movie was breathtakingly beautiful. The photography was like an art film and so compelling that at times I could feel the mist of the Olympic Peninsula. Now I must read the book. I can only hope that the achingly erotic, but actually chaste, movie will be evoked in writing as a part of the book rather than a cinematographer's creation.

What did I learn from this? We all tend to gravitate to what we think we like, hesitating to consider those things that are unfamiliar but from now on I will take chances and be more open when considering books and movies to enjoy. And, for this I say, thanks Stephanie Meyers.