Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What the hook gets you in a book?

In the writing world, close to a hillion-jillion words have been devoted to that simple-yet-complicated term, the hook. In its most basic form, it's whatever gets you "in the book." And most often, it's the first sentence or first paragraph or first couple of paragraphs.

I have many favorite hooks, but this one is near the top of my list (from Northern Lights, by Nora Roberts):

"Strapped into the quivering soup can laughingly called a plane, bouncing his way on the pummeling air through the stingy window of light that was winter, through the gaps and breaks in snow-sheathed mountains toward a town called Lunacy, Ignatious Burke had an epiphany.

He wasn't nearly as prepared to die as he'd believed."

I was pulled right into this book with the words "Strapped into a quivering soup can..."

What's your favorite hook?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Luxury of Negative Thoughts

I don’t like Nicholas Sparks’s books. They bum me out. Other than The Notebook, the others just left me depressed, cold and a bit ticked off. Do you think Nicky-boy worries, lays awake at night and cries because Louisa Cornell doesn’t like his books? Nope. Me either.

In this business, whether you are published or not, there are going to be people who like or dislike your books. Which would be fine if they didn’t TELL you about it. But, if you want to actually get INTO this business you are going to have to find out, and sometimes in brutal ways. If you don’t believe it enter your work in a writing contest or submit it to an agent or editor.

With luck, when it comes to the agents and editors, all you will get is a form rejection. You’ll never know why they didn’t like it and that may be for the best. Sometimes they will send a bit more, a few details and they will be kind and encouraging. And then, like the inevitability of your mother-in-law turning her nose up at your squash casserole, (sorry had a flashback there) you will get a response from an editor or agent that will send you running for the Kleenex and the biggest box of chocolates you can find. Not only do they not like your “baby,” they tell you it is ugly and you dress it funny. And every word of that rejection will pound through your head like the song “Dancing Queen” when someone says, well “Dancing Queen.” You will wake up in a cold sweat, fall out of bed and scare the dogs so badly they start barking from the nightmares these words induce. (Not that something like that has ever happened to me.)

Then there are the contests, you know, where you actually have the courage to ASK someone to tell you why they like or don’t like your manuscript. In detail. With scores and comments. (Isn’t it a shame we can’t do that sort of thing when it comes to sex? You know – points for style, dialogue, character development, technique? Gives the phrase “Was it good for you?” a whole new meaning.) But when it comes to writing contests, there are times you may think - wouldn’t it be easier to just stick myself in the eye with a fork a couple of times? Easier and less painful? News flash! Nobody told you this was going to be easy! If they did, they were trying to sell you something. By entering a contest you are essentially asking for a no-holds-barred critique of something you have spent months, perhaps years of your life perfecting. And once again those words will wrap themselves around your brain and flash like the sign at a Vegas All night buffet – All you can eat! And you’ll eat them, drink them and make yourself sick on them. Not intentionally and not even consciously, but when you least expect it those words will come back to you and kick you in the teeth.

Finally, what you have to decide is can you afford the luxury of dwelling on those words? And it is a luxury my fellow masochists. Never think that it isn’t. It’s easy. It’s self-indulgent. You can wallow in it. It is convenient. You can pick it up any time. The more you do, the more you have. Luxury. Easy, abundant and sometimes comforting. Yes, comforting. Each time you think of throwing in the towel on this writing gig, you can pull out all of those negative thoughts, wrap yourself in the blanket you’ve woven from them and be comforted to know “Well, nobody liked what I wrote anyway. I’m not giving up much.”

So, what’s an aspiring writer to do when those luxurious negative thoughts call to you like a hot Krispy Kreme donut plump with raspberry filling and dripping with glaze? Put yourself on a budget. You can’t afford the luxuries. You can only afford the necessities. This is not a craft for luxuries. Remember all those starving artists? They suffered for a reason. They didn’t allow themselves to think of failure or of what some people might say about their work. They dedicated themselves every day to creating something from their own imagination. They couldn’t NOT do it.

Each and every time one of those negative thoughts tries to slip into your consciousness, you need to stomp it like the invading cockroach it is. Spray it with Raid, just to make sure it is dead. Wipe it up with a paper towel and take it to the trash can, the outside trash, not the one in the house. Toss it in, close the lid and wipe your hands. Do it every time. Don’t give it even a hint of a chance to creep in and get a foothold in your mind. You can’t afford it. You’re a writer. You have to believe. Only then can you make others believe in the worlds, the adventures, the mysteries, the characters, the unforgettable love stories you write.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Never Too Old

The second book in Christy Reece's Last Chance series, Second Chance, debuted March 23, 2010!

You'd have thought I had a vested interest in the book based upon the way I squealed and grabbed my copy off the shelf. I couldn't help myself when, a few rows over, I proceeded to proudly show the book to a sweet older lady and say, "This is my friend. I'm so proud!"

That was when I realized how demure and conservative she looked and the sexy nature of the cover. It was an Old Spice commercial moment: look at her, then the cover, then back to her. She mirrored my actions, looking at me, then the book, then back at me. I was just forming an apology, for my obvious gaffe, when she gently took the book out of my hands and read the back of the jacket. She smiled a sweet smile and then shocked me, as she walked off, by saying it looked good, I'll have to get it.

Just goes to show, you never grow too old for a good romance.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Discipline, Guilt and More Guilt!

Some of you may have already seen this video...and hey! So have I! But today I was thinking about last month's author panel and this clip came to mind. Nora Roberts talks about what keeps her writing on a daily basis, the muse and inspiration.

Now some of you may have an issue with the bald guy who just doesn't seem to sit down through the whole thing...I, on the other hand, do not since he reminds me of Vin Diesel...hee-hee-hee!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Why I Blog

This month is the four year celebration of Romance Magicians Blog. I came on about a year or so after it started and I have never regretted it. In the process I have learned a few things and realized I have far more to learn! Below are some questions I've pondered as I diligently tried to keep up my end and write each month.

Why do I blog?
I love challenges, but I lack follow-through. When I committed to this blog, it gave me a deadline and does not allow me to procrastinate (most of the time). I have to find new ideas or subjects (reminds me of plotting for my story) even when I don't have any at hand. I must write it succinctly and let it flow logically (sometimes that is stretch for me). The pressure of a deadline does actually work for me.

Is Blogging for everyone?
This is very subjective. I know if I had to run a blog by myself, I'd vapor lock. One of the things that I enjoy is how many people share the duties of blogging here. I'd like to say I've dozens of things to say, but unless you want dissertations on cat vomit and getting kids to clean their rooms--I'd run out of subject matter quickly--or I'd whine a lot and unless it accompanied by a large bottle of Cabernet, that is no fun at all.

Ultimately, you make that decision. Do you want to blog? Can you?

What are the Downsides of a Blog?
Lets face it, its blasted hard to write something different all the time. There are millions of articles writing about the same thing in different ways. If you think about it, our stories are just varying versions of the same themes (sounds depressing), but the trick is to write about the same thing in your own personal way. For example, I love reading about the struggles writers have as they overcome their inner and outer demons to write. It inspires me.

Another downside--your piece of writing never goes away. Because some day someone is going to google you, and there it is--that post you wrote when you ranted about your boss, or before you realized semi-colons are not to be used in place of periods (umm, guilty). Its much like that photo someone posts in a drunken moment of hilarity that comes back to haunt you again and again. It is FOREVER.

What are the positives of a Blog?
One of the best things I have learned is being succinct. I get an idea, condense it and there you have it. Its not easy. It also helps me in my book writing, you know those scenes that would go on forever and all they were doing is getting into a car? Now I can write it in a sentence and not four paragraphs (most of the time).

I can explore different styles of writing-humor, poignancy, sarcasm, wit, and fact. Interestingly, I lean more to sarcasm and humor.

You get your name out there. In this day and age of publishing, that is probably one of the hardest things to do. Some are gifted at marketing themselves. I am naturally reticent and I find blogging is a good and safe place to start, especially on Romance Magicians.

Any unexpected findings in Blogging?
I have found the most wonderful people here! Not only those who blog, but those who follow the blog. There is humor, sadness, joy, all wrapped up into these posts. There are celebrations for the successes and the commiseration for the rejections. Better yet, the support of fellow writers and readers in pursuit of your dreams.

This is a community that I am proud to be a part of.

Again, Congratulations Romance Magician Bloggers and Readers--May there be many more!!

What do you like about Blogging? What do you dislike?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Good morning, fellow Magicians

Good morning, fellow Magicians,

I'm blogging to you this morning from the amazingly beautiful Big Sky Mountain in Big Sky, Montana. Although the locals bemoan the fact that there has been so little snow this year - only about 3-4 feet total when they usually average 150 inches or so - this born and bred Alabama girl is awestruck. The drifts are taller than me. For example, one of the guys in our group stepped off the driveway and sunk to his chest (he's about 6'2" tall.) And to top off the perfect mountain vacation, it's been snowing since about 7:30 this morning with more predicted later today, tonight, and tomorrow. Absolutely gorgeous. Don't let me fail to add bitingly cold. Treacherously windy. To the degree tha I may have to abandon my pitiful attempts to ski in favor of sitting in front of the blazing fire and sipping hot chocolate. Ah, what a sacrifice.

But what has this to do with writing, you ask? Well, not only does my imagination soar when I'm away from the hospital, but this location abounds with plot ideas. I'm absorbing wonderful fodder for countless adventures. Shall I murder a member of our party and bury their body in a snowdrift? How about if I shove some poor unsuspecting soul from the ski lift at its highest peak and claim an accidental fall? Have a serial killer mascarading as a snowshoe trail guide lead a group deep into the mountains only to abandon them to the mercy of the elements? Did I mention that the powers that be have already closed Yellowstone National Park this year because the bears are waking up early? Early and hungry?

And from the romantic comedy angle, even our experienced snow skiers are slipping and falling on hidden patches of ice and crusty snow. One sustained a black eye the very first day. Not that his black eye was funny but he has endured quite a bit of ribbing about the incident. And so on, and so on...

So if your current works in progress involve whiteout conditions, trail guides with ulterior motives or simply sitting in front of real log-popping fires (no gas logs allowed), email me with any questions you might have. The group of people with us have skied for years at a multitude of resorts and are great drifts of information (pun intended). But, please, no skiing instruction or advice. My body can't take anymore. At this point, I'm off to don a pair of showshoes and see how far I get with this winter sport. If I'm absent from the next meeting, send out the ski patrol or the rangers:)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Those who know me know that I’m a strong advocate for animals. I’m not freaky about it, but it’s a subject very close to my heart. I’ve adopted many rescued animals in the last few years, including several house rabbits. Recently I helped a shelter by taking in a trio of bonded house rabbits to foster. They have their own room, plenty of toys, and lots to eat. We enjoyed them so much we planned to adopt them in a few months.

Last night I lost one of the foster bunnies to sludge. I won’t describe that particular ailment here, but if you’re interested in house rabbits, please look it up. In short, the animal can really suffer. We realized during surgery that Chris had too much damage and would not survive recovery. I was devastated. As we left the vet without him, I realized through my tears it had been quite some time since I’d experienced the loss of an animal—seventh grade—and I remembered distinctly why I hadn’t adopted another animal for at least twenty years. At one point during that ride home, I actually got angry that I did this to myself again, that I’d put myself in a position for loss and heartbreak. It’s impossible to focus on anything today except that little white bunny. I’m torturing myself with thoughts of things I could have done differently, even though the vet said we did everything in the proper order. I find it odd that death doesn’t seem to have much of an impact on me except when I experience it with an animal. Maybe it’s because our pets are our babies. I know Chris was mine.

Short story long, I had several topics in mind to blog about but none that seem important today. I’m at a loss as to how to mesh this experience with writing. Except that maybe the next time I experience rejection, that loss, I would do better to focus on everything that came before it, the enjoyment I had in writing the book. I think it’s the only way to keep moving forward.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I read an article online the other day where Elmore Leonard and a number of other published writers listed their ten rules for writing fiction. Here’s the link, if you are interested: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/feb/20/ten-rules-for-writing-fiction-part-one

The article inspired me to come up with some rules of my own. Here they are. After you read them, feel free to chime in with your own.

1. Writing is not for sissies. (Yes, I know. I've said this before. But I think it bears repeating.) It is for stubborn, tough people who have a passion for the written word and who will not be ground down by the system or The Man . . . or . . er. . Woman, as the case may be.

2. Most writers are a little crazy and way insecure. And yet we bare ourselves to the world in the most fundamental and personal way. And that brings me full circle to the first statement. Most writers are a little crazy. You have to be crazy or masochistic to be a writer. Why else would you put yourself through this?

3. Set yourself a goal: 500 words a day, a chapter a week, 10,000 words a month. You won’t always reach it, but the guilt will get you back in the chair. Write something, somehow, whether it’s revision or plotting or blogging. Immerse yourself in the words and in the process.

4. When you are working on a new story, you know you’re on the right track when you hear your characters talking in your head. (See Rule Number Two about the crazies. In other realities, hearing voices is called schizophrenia).

5. Join a writer’s group. Other writers make a great support group. And it's nice to have friends that share and understand your insanity.

6. When you get rejected by an agent or lose a contest, allow yourself one day to sulk and sing the “I Suck” song and then plop yourself back down in front of the computer. (See Rule Number Three. The difference between a writer and a published writer is the published writer did not quit. Yes, Louisa, I am quoting you.)

7. Write what you know. I used to think, ‘What does that mean? Do I have to write about law because I’m a lawyer? I hate law! I don’t want to write about it.’ But I don’t think it means that. I write about small towns, not big cities, because that’s what I know.

8. Scrape up the money somehow, somewhere to go to conferences. It will give you the chance to pitch to agents in person (waaaay better than the dreaded query letter), they offer great workshops on writing – always a plus – and conferences are a great place to network and make new friends. Crazy new friends who are writers.

9. Avoid workshops and books that give you a formula on how to write a book, unless you already write by formula. Pantsers, I am talking to you! No formula works for every writer, and it will seriously freak you out and harsh your mellow if you are deep in the throes of writing a manuscript and you don’t write like the person who wrote the book, or the writers conducting the workshop. Happened to me, and I nearly had a nervous breakdown.

10. There is no right or wrong way to write, no easy answers. Sure, there are accepted rules of good writing. (Avoid the overuse of adjectives and adverbs, don’t use verbs other than ‘said’ in dialogue tags, she ejaculated! and use exclamation points sparingly, to name a few). But each of us approaches the craft differently. What works for one may not work for another. Some of us are plotters, some pantsers chasing after that drunken squirrel, but we are all writers. (Can't forget the squirrel, Mary!)

And ain’t that just the pip? I think so. Vive la difference!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Interview with Louise M. Gouge

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Louise M. Gouge and her March release "The Captain's Lady." Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of her book.

Award-winning Florida author Louise M. Gouge writes historical fiction, calling her stories “threads of grace woven through time.” In addition to numerous other awards, Louise is the recipient of the prestigious Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award for her 2005 novel, Hannah Rose.
With her great love of history and research, Louise loves to visit museums and travel to her stories’ settings to ensure accuracy. Her favorite Bible verse is “He shall choose our inheritance for us” (Psalm 47:4), a testimony to her belief that God has chosen a path for each believer. To seek that path and to trust His wisdom is to find the greatest happiness in life.

Louise has been married to David Gouge for 45 years. They have four grown children and six grandchildren. She earned her BA in English/Creative Writing at the University of Central Florida in Orlando and her Master of Liberal Studies degree at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. Louise is also an adjunct professor of English and Humanities at Valencia Community College in Kissimmee, Florida.

Welcome to Romance Magicians, Louise. You went back to school after you began writing and completed a creative writing degree. Was your interest in writing romance encouraged by your professors or did they push you to write “literary fiction”?

Unfortunately, most of my professors didn’t encourage or discourage my writing in any direction. The fact that I was an older student and a Christian meant that they didn’t try to bully me, as some profs do to younger students. And they didn’t want to talk about my faith. . .or their own. However, I will admit that they did let me write what I wanted and didn’t give me poor grades based on my Christian message. In fact, one dear prof, a true old-fashioned gentleman. . .and an agnostic, loved my short story “The Burden,” which you can read on my website. I wrote it for him and hope someday to see him in heaven.

You have written “sequels” to Melville’s “Moby Dick”. Are you contemplating sequels to any of the other classics? If yes, which one.

Hmm. I think so many people are doing this now. We all look for some unique story to write, but since, as Solomon says, there’s nothing new under the sun, sometimes we have to look to the great works of the past for ideas. I wouldn’t say I’ll never try it again. Maybe one of Shakespeare’s plays in a different setting or era. Yes, that’s been done countless times. Hmmm. You’ve made me think. Whatever shall I do next??

In addition to writing, you teach at Valencia Community College. How do you balance the “day job” and the writing job?

Oh, this crazy life of mine! I have to change gears constantly, and sometimes my clutch gets stuck. I write on Monday, teach on Tuesday, write on Wednesday, teach on Thursday, write on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Whew! It takes some time each new writing day to get back into the story. I will say that one spring semester, with eleven days straight to write, I composed 25,000 words! I don’t think I left the house that entire time. But during most semesters, I’m lucky to write 5,000 words a week. Takes quite a while to finish a book that way.

Do you have a favorite time period to write about? How do you research the time period of your books?

I like anything before World War I, but especially the 18th and 19th centuries. I have a small library of books about customs, clothing, etc., for those eras. These days it’s easy to find research sites online, and I use those quite a bit. I’m careful about which sources to use because many are not historically accurate. But my favorite thing is to visit the settings for my stories. I’ve gone to Boston, Nantucket, Annapolis, and other places to see what I’m writing about, combing through libraries and asking questions at the historical societies. People who live in those areas will probably laugh that I think their hometowns are so exotic. But those were the trips of a lifetime for me, and I know my stories were better because I went to each place. I plan a trip to St. Augustine in a couple of weeks for my current work in progress. But unfortunately, I had to rely on other research sources for The Captain’s Lady. Although I visited England in 1992, I couldn’t manage a return trip this time.

What is your writing process – plotter or pantser?

Both. I plan the main points of the story to balance the action and avoid a sagging middle. Then I keep having surprises pop up in each day’s writing.

What advice do you give new writers?

Park in front of the computer and pour out the story of your heart. Go to writers’ conferences and learn all you can. Network. Join a critique group with at least one member who knows what she’s doing. Bone up on your grammar. When you’re ready to submit your book to an editor or agent, be humble about your work. Remember, even though the Lord may have inspired you to write this story, it is not the Word of God. We all are still learning. If you attend a conference and have a chance to sit in a class next to someone like DiAnn Mills or MaryLu Tyndall, you’ll see them taking notes. If they’re still learning, you can, too.

Tell us about The Captain’s Lady.

The Captain’s Lady is the second book in my Revolutionary War series for Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historicals. In the first book, Love Thine Enemy, one of my important secondary characters was Jamie Templeton, one of those delightfully pesky hero-types who demand their own books. How could I resist? So his heroine needed to be someone special. Enter my first hero’s sister, Marianne, an English lady, daughter of Lord Bennington, advisor to King George III. Jamie and Marianne are deeply in love, but his station in life is too far below her aristocratic birth. Not only that, but Jamie has been sent to London to spy on Bennington for the Patriot cause. Now he is torn between love and duty.

What is next on your writing horizon?

I’m currently working on the third book in my Revolutionary War series. The working title is St. Augustine Bride, but I expect my editor will change it. From the title you can tell that it takes place in the one and only St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States. East and West Florida were British colonies during the war, and St. Augustine was a refuge city for Loyalists fleeing persecution by Patriots determined to win their freedom from England. The history of this little city is very exciting and amazing. I have a feeling I’ll be writing more stories set there.

Thank you, Louise - I'm looking forward to reading "The Captain's Lady".

All comments through Thursday, March 11th at 7:00 PM will be entered to win a copy of "The Captain's Lady."

Monday, March 08, 2010

Inspired by International Women's Day

    Annually on March 8, the world celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of women. When I found out that my first blog post for Romance Magicians fell on International Women’s Day, I was elated.  I just knew that I would write an inspiring piece about the contributions of great women in literature, and the accolades would flow like a keg at a frat party. All I needed to put my plan in motion was a little research.

    Research, sweet research. As a lawyer, research is the life’s blood of my profession. I have to research the facts of a case, the applicable law, opposing counsel and the judge - and that is just the beginning!  High school and college debate taught me how to research efficiently and effectively. I’m like a mole; I can find anything.   My head (and ego) swell with the praise I’ve received about my ability to research a legal issue and crank out a well-reasoned and precise argument quickly. I thought those skills would transfer well to my non-legal writing efforts.

    Starting early last week, I began planning this post. My first post had to great.  No, it had to be better than great.  People were actually going to read what I wrote. I needed to create Pulitzer quality material.  Did I start writing and revising to get myself to that goal?  Heck no! I needed to research!  And what has that research accomplished?  My blog post is due, and I have a huge folder busting with articles and notes about the history of International Women’s Day and countless women whose achievements deserve recognition.  The word count?  Oh, that is precious.  The word count, you ask again? Um, well, how would you like to talk about something else.

    I am going to let you in on a dirty little secret - research is my greatest procrastination tool This experience highlighted what I already knew about myself, but wanted to deny.  I use research to delay writing.  Several years ago, I realized that it was time to tinkle or get off the pot with respect to my aspirations to write.  Laptop in hand, I used a week’s vacation at the beach to try to live the dream.  I wrote a little, but nothing significant.  Something hindered my progress.  I knew what it was! My problem was that I hadn’t educated myself enough on how to write. That was easy enough to fix.  Surely I could find a good book or two on writing.

    I used to joke when I was in law school that if you could lose weight and get in shape by owning exercise videos, I would be an Olympic contender.  The same goes for books on writing.  I’m ashamed to admit that I spent the better part of a year reading book after book on how to write.  Repeatedly, I told myself I wasn’t ready to start writing.  I just needed to finish the book on plotting.  I couldn’t be expected to write until I’d read enough on how to develop my characters.  Somewhere around the time that the books I’d bought on how to write were equaling the books I’d bought to read for pleasure, I realized that instead of researching how to write, I needed to write.

    Phase two of the procrastination process wasn’t much better.  The notebook of story ideas on my desk demanded that I engage in substantive research.  Oh internet, you are a seductive tool ready to steal minutes, hours, days and weeks from me.  A few notebooks (and months) of research later, I realized that my obsession with substantive research was, once again, keeping me from doing what I needed to do - write.  I vowed that I would have to be satisfied with a level of incompleteness in my research and start writing. 

    Good fortune should come to the person who designed the button on my laptop that lets me disable the internet.  Feeling empowered, I hit that button and started my outline (how outlining is a procrastination tool is a post for another day).  From there, I moved on to writing.  But wait! I needed more research - I needed to find the perfect name for a character and the precise word for description.  Convinced I had my addiction under control, I hit the internet button.  I would only take a few minutes.  A little necessary research won’t hurt.  I think we all know how that turned out.

    Hello, my name is Heather, and I am a researchaholic.  To combat my addiction, I try to do the following:

  • Write what you know.  This keeps the temptation to research at a minimum.  It is probably best that I not write a book about an astrophysicist.  I’m not even sure I can spell astrophysicist without a little research, let alone write a story about one.    
  • Make a list of what you need and do your research in your down time.  I keep a notebook next to my writing desk.  The notebook contains a list of substantive research which I need to complete (history of a building, mythology, pictures of a location, etc.).  The notebook also contains “lemon drop” research.  (I was once in a deposition where periodically, opposing counsel would say “lemon drop.”   I thought he had confectioner’s tourettes.  When I asked him about it, he shared that it was his way of marking the transcript.  If there was something he knew he needed to research after the deposition, he would use the index of the transcript to find all of the “lemon drop” moments.)  Similarly, in my writing when I need to find a better name or word than what I have used, I insert “lemon drop” before whatever I will want to replace so I can use “find and replace” to locate the spot in the manuscript easier.  I keep my notebook in my purse when I’m not writing.  When I find myself with down time when I can’t write, I try to use that time to finish my research. 
  • Research as part of your revision process.  This isn’t really a step which I developed, but a strategy I hope to employ.  A friend who has published three books shared with me that she does some big picture research that would relate to plot points before she writes, but that she saves most of her detail oriented research for the revision process.  I haven’t tried this, but it makes sense.  She explained that this method allows her to focus on the story through the first draft.  After she constructs the skeleton of her novel, she bulks up the muscle and tissue with research.  I’m seriously contemplating using this method for my next book because I want to write the darn thing, not just research what goes into it.

    And so I return to the writing of this blog post. I wish I’d been able to provide you with the dissertation on great women in history, but I think I need to do a little more research.  The women whose accomplishments are honored on International Women’s Day didn’t simply research the world around them.  They were women of action. So, in that spirit, I need to take action.  No more research.  It is time to write.



Saturday, March 06, 2010

Happy Anniversary

On March 17, 2006, seven Southern Magic members decided to get together and tell the world about our aches and pains and joys in becoming published and staying that way. Come and help us celebrate those amazing FOUR years. There are several ways to win including one of two books each from Christy Reece and Paula Graves. Thanks, ladies!

Open to anyone in the $20 and $15 categories and the books.
Only non-Southern Magic members can win the $10 and $5 categories.

One gift card win per person.
On-Line gift certificates to Books-a-Million.

A) $20 – Drawing – Enter as many times as you want by commenting.
The more you comment, the greater chance you have to win one.
Ends Sunday 03/07/10 - 7 p.m.
Be sure to check back and see if you won.
We have two of these! So two winners!
**update: congratulations to winners Martha Lawsona and Walt M! Please contact me at carlaswafford@charter.net**

B) $15 – Drawing – Only one entry per commenter.
Only one winner.
**update: congratulations to winner Lousia!**

C) $5 -- Be the first to link your blog with ours and notify me by commenting.
Only one winner. But we will be grateful to anyone else. :-) **Update: No one tried to win this one.**

D) $10 – Be the first two winners to answer all of the questions below correctly.
We have two $10 gift cards for this one. ***Update: to make it easier. One winner answer the first three questions and the second winner can answer the last three questions.***

March 17, 2006 – Magician’s First Post – What is the cowboy’s name?
September 14, 2006 – What must we learn to say?
February 8, 2007 – What was I reading?
***update: First three questions have been answered and the first $10 on-line gift card has been won by EllenToo!***

December 29, 2007 – What was mine & my hubby’s song?
June 15, 2008 – What is DPS?
April 20, 2009 – What Greek words did I use?
***update: no one tried to win this one. Too sad. ***


One book win per person.

Now how can you win a book? Be the first to answer one of the questions below.

E) To win a copy of Paula Graves’s FORBIDDEN TOUCH: In her first blog, she told us the four reasons characters won’t cooperate and make love. Briefly, tell us what they are? **update: Congratulations to EllenToo for winning Paula's book!**

F) To win a copy of Paula Graves’s COWBOY ALIBI: In her last blog of 2006, what is the four lessons she learned from script writing? Hey, Paula, it appears four is your number. LOL!**update: Sigh. Someone has missed out on receiving a free wonderful book.**

G) To win a copy of Christy Reece’s newest book, NO CHANCE: In her August 31, 2007 blog, what is the name of her first manuscript? **update: Congratulations to Lynn of Illinois for winning Christy's book! Please contact me at carlaswafford@charter.net**

H) To win a copy of Christy Reece’s newest book, NO CHANCE: In her last blog in 2008, what three romantic movies did she watch? **Congratulations to Louisa of Alabama for winning Christy's book!**

A few little fun facts. Without advertising our little o’ blog, we have 800 to over 900 hits a month with readers looking at over 1300 pages during that time. We had over 29,600 visitors from all around the world. The most recent ones were from Canada, United Kingdom, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria, Qatar, Australia and Hong Kong.

If you ever wondered who started posting when (on the schedule)?
Carla Swafford 03/17/06 - Present
Christy Reece 03/19/06 – 12/13/08
Paula Graves 03/21/06 – 12/29/06 & return 01/06/10
Deborah Matthews 03/22/06 – 02/09/08
Jennifer Echols 03/27/06 – 10/05/07
Gail Oliver 03/29/06 – 04/27/06
Betty Bolte 04/01/06 – 05/13/06
Kelly Zeringue 06/07/06 – 02/07/07
JoAnn Weatherly 11/14/06 – Present
Barbara Curry 12/27/06 – 01/30/08
Mary Freeman 06/08/07 – Present
Naima Simone 02/27/08 – Present
Diane Richmond 03/19/08 – Present
Julie Johnstone 07/18/08 – 01/04/09 & return 01/12/10
Callie James 08/21/08 – Present
Christine Glover 03/12/09 – Present
Louisa Cornell 03/14/09 – Present
Lynn Raye Harris 03/21/09 - Present
Jeanie Therkelsen – 07/31/09 – Present
Gwen Hernandez – 09/03/09 – Present
Misty Wright – 09/13/09 – 10/07/09
Nannette Conway 11/18/09 – Present

Have fun and good luck! **update: congratulations to all the winners!**

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Multi-tasking as fast as I can

Those of you who were at the Southern Magic meeting this past Saturday for the author's panel may remember what I said about my writing process. Spreadsheets are involved. So is a lot of time management.

Believe me, I'm not organized by nature. I love nothing more than chilling out and moving at my own little slowpoke pace, working when I want to and playing the rest of the time. But you don't get through life that way, and you certainly don't have a successful, lucrative writing career that way. Especially if you work a full time job in addition to your writing job.

I have to work. I'm the primary income-earner in my household and I need the insurance I get through my job. But thirty-six hours a week at the day job puts a big dent into my writing and editing time, an unfortunate truth that I have to deal with even as I'm trying to establish myself as a writer. I need to be on the writing schedule at Intrigue three or four times a year to make an impact. My editors have made it clear they want me to produce books at that pace. And don't even get me started about the hours I have to spend blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking and message boarding just to keep my name in front of the people who might be inclined to buy my books.

So how do I possibly work it all in?

Multi-tasking, that's how. Finding ways to make the hours of my day do double and triple duty. A twenty-five minute drive to work can be spent working through dialogue for today's pages, or thinking through a sticky plot problem, or even coming up with new ideas for the next project after I'm finished with my current contract book or proposal. Bathing or bathroom time can be spent reading that research book I need to peruse for my project. I write pages during my lunch hour at work. If I have a moment or two of down time at work, I make notes to myself on my cell phone, which does triple duty as a phone, a memo program and my daily calendar.

You can also make your research do double and triple duty, too. Editors these days love trilogies, so why not do the research once and get three books out of it? And put your TiVo or DVR to work, too—the cable networks are full of great programs that can inspire books and provide valuable research tools.

Writing a medical romance? Discovery Health has tons of true medical shows you could draw inspiration from. Murder mysteries more your style? Tru TV and Discovery's ID channel are great resources. Paranormal more your style? SyFy, History, National Geographic, even the Biography Channel include great programs that deal with the paranormal. (So does Animal Planet, now). And don't forget the Military Channel (if your hero's a hot Marine) or the Travel Channel (if you're looking for inspiration for great settings).

But the main secret to producing, even when time is short, is to commit yourself to the task. Focus on what's important. Set goals and meet them. Make the most of the limited time you do have. Get your family to be your accomplices, not your obstacles. (I admit, this works a little better when your writing is actually earning you money!) But it ultimately comes down to a single question you ask yourself every day: do I want this enough to sacrifice to make it happen?

If the answer is no, then stop. Don't torment yourself any more. If you're not 100% committed to writing as a career, then find something you are committed to 100%. This is a tough business, and there are a lot of talented, hungry writers who are willing to give that full effort. Persistence is vital to a successful writing career.

But if you're sure, if the answer is yes, then focus your energy on making as much time as your writing requires. That's the only way to be successful at this job. And even at the relatively low level of my own career, I can attest to one fact: it's more fun being published than it was being unpublished. And it was definitely worth all those years I spent with nothing but rejections to show for my efforts.

So, how about y'all? I know a lot of you are where I am, working full time, writing and editing whenever you can. How do you keep going? What are your secrets for making the most of your writing time?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst

Imagine it. Last night you finished polishing your 80,000-word masterpiece. After a year of wrestling with characters and plot demons, you finally have the best work of your life ready to send off to your dream agent. Euphoric, you flip the switch on your laptop, fired up to get your query out.

But something's wrong. Your files are gone! Frantic, you search the hard drive, and quickly realize that your computer's been wiped clean. The nice geek at the store takes your money and confirms that yes, everything's gone.

"Do you have a backup?" he asks.

"A what?" you cry as you collapse into a puddle of tears...

Don't let that be you!

It's Tech Tuesday on my blog, but since many of you aren't Scrivener users, I thought I'd find another tech-related topic to share here.

There's a good article in the RWR this month about protecting your computer from viruses and spyware. If you're not familiar with the steps to take to protect your valuable technology, I highly suggest you give it a read.

What the article didn't talk about was the importance of backing up your files. Viruses, hard-drive crashes, and family members have all been known to destroy/delete important files.

So, how can you protect yourself from tragedy?

The simplest way to back up your files is with a flash drive (AKA thumb drive, USB drive, jump drive). You just plug it in, copy your files over, and you're done.

I recommend keeping the flash drive separate from the computer. In fact, if you leave the house, you might take it with you. Not to be sensationalist, but if the house burns down, or someone steals your computer, you don't want the flash drive to go right along with it. That defeats the whole purpose.

Alternatives to the flash drive include external hard drives, CDs, floppy disks, etc.

Ideally, in addition to keeping a local backup of your files, you'd also have an offsite backup. The easiest way to do this is with an online service. For example, I'm a Mac user, so I use MobileMe. I copy files to the online folder, and they're stored offsite on Apple's server. Now, if I lose my computer and flash drive in a fire, the files are still available online.

Check with your Internet Service Provider. You probably already have online storage space available to you.

None of these systems are any good if you don't use them. I suggest a daily backup of your manuscript and any related documents that you've changed. In addition to writing files, don't forget about family photos, financial files, job history/resumes, and anything else you wouldn't want to lose.

I hope you never suffer from a crashed hard drive, serious virus, house fire, or kool-aid in the laptop, but if you do, may you have a backup!

Monday, March 01, 2010


Attention Contest Junkies: The Guide to Literary Agents Blog is sponsoring a contest for Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance called the “Dear Lucky Agent” contest. Details can be found at www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog

HOW TO SUBMIT: E-mail entries to thirdagentcontest@gmail.com. They want everything pasted within the body of the e-mail; no attachments.

WHAT TO SUBMIT: The first 150-200 words of your unpublished, book-length work of urban fantasy or paranormal romance (adult or YA - both accepted).

The judging agent is Joanna Stampfel-Volpe with Nancy Coffey Literary and Media Representation.

Joanna says: "Please keep it to these two subgenres specifically. While you can incorporate a variety of fantasy elements, they still have to fall under these two categories. For those of you who are unsure, keep in mind that both urban fantasy and paranormal romance have a strong base in a real world setting (like Jim Butcher's Dresden Files or J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood or Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy). So no stories that take place solely on another planet or world!"

You must include a contact e-mail address with your entry and use your real name. Also, submit the title of the work and a logline (one-sentence description of the work) with your entry.


1. The contest will be open from Feb. 27, 2010 through the end of Sunday, March. 14, 2010 EST. Winners are to be notified by e-mail within seven days of end of contest.


First place a critique of 20 pages of your work by the agent judge and a one-year subscription to WritersMarket.com.

Runners-up – second and third place receive a critique of 10 pages of their word and a one-year subscription to WritersMarket.com.