Sunday, July 31, 2011

Writing Process

Do you know your writing process?
This is how you write the story, revise it and get it ready for submission.
There are many ways to go about this--I know writers that are pantsers, sit down and write the rough draft beginning to end with only the barest of details.
There are writers who plot, plot, plot, have color coded index cards and detailed character sheets before they even start writing.
Some have a loose outline, and write only the scenes that come to mind.
I'm a mix, I have to have an idea of where I am going. I must really know my characters. Just as importantly, since I write urban fantasy, I have to get the world and the rules set up for it first.
Here is the kicker, I don't know of one writer that doesn't revise. There are a few out there, but I don't know them or they aren't saying. This is one of the most important parts of the process. This is where you dig deep, get that description, pull out the fresh writing, find out more about the characters.
The final part of the process is editing--for unpublished writers this is crucial. Many a manuscript has been over looked due to grammar errors (I really struggle with that) and other basic problems.
What is your process? Do you plot and then write it quickly? Do you take forever to write (that's me)? Do you need lots of brainstorming? How many times do you revise (this varies)? The trick is to KNOW your process so you can work within those confines to improve your writing.
If you're like me, its ever evolving. But, tell me your process, because I'd be interested to know.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Birmingham's Romance Readers Luncheon News

Per Southern Magic's Romance Readers Luncheon chairperson, Lisa Dunick:

We're already busy lining up prizes for the November luncheon. Would you like to win tickets to a race at Talladega, Massage gift certificates, baskets filled with wine and other goodies? You just need to buy a ticket!

Click here for more information.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ill Writing or Writing when you aren't well

As I write this blog I am recovering from having a (Lithotripsy) known as extracorporeal shockwave of a kidney stone. In layman's terms I had a kidney stone blasted with shockwaves. In the weeks leading up to this operation I found out that I had a hard time creating new scenes for my next novel. What I could do was research for that project. As many of you know my novels are heavy on plausibility so having accurate research is of the utmost importance.
My question to you is.
How do you write when you aren't feeling in the best of health?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

What Are You Reading?

I had to box up my books to prepare our house for "The Re-Do" (or as my husband calls it, Homageddon) . Every time I taped up one of the many boxes, regret over the books I hadn't read (yet) added a weight to muscles already tight with worry that I would never find the time to enjoy the untouched tomes.

Do not fear. I'm not going to do something as silly as swearing off buying any more books until I've finished the ones I have. That's crazy talk. (I'm pretty sure Amazon or Barnes and Noble would send out search parties for me if I didn't place an order at least once a week).

Instead, I'm making a commitment to find time to read each day, just like bathing, exercising (I hear you snickering, and I am not amused), writing, working and sleeping.  To make myself feel more productive, I plan on referring to my reading time as "market research."

During my last research session, I devoured Love Story by Jennifer Echols (a book more awesome than cookies). Next, I plan on tackling The Ghosts of Belfast by  Stuart Neville.  What can I say?  I like to mix it up (my husband jokes I'll read anything but a cookbook - let's not tell him he's right).

How about you? Do you make time to read? What book are you dying to lose yourself in? I may need a few suggestions to add to my Nook and/or Amazon order seeing as how most of my books are boxed up.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Word Play

Messing around with the language is a family game. Sometimes the origin of word play is infantile, as it was when my daughter couldn’t manage the “y” sound. Instead of yogurt, she said logurt. Instead of you, she said lou. She didn’t have the same problem with yours. That’s because everything was “mines.”

Leah. (Still an occasional substitute for an affirmative answer.) I just tossed out a family joke.

I’m envious of the new words that earn enough popular use to earn a place in the Urban Dictionary, like carmageddon, or even become the vaunted American Dialect Society’s Word of the Year, like app.

New words happen all the time. We’re still creating words at home, though we’re beyond baby talk.

In our circa-1894 cottage, vegetable scraps go into the composting bin, but if we happen to drop something edible on the floor, we call on the disposdog to take care of it.

Thanks to my sister, I now know to call unidentified wildflowers glimpsed from the car window by their Latin name: roadsidia. The usage was chronicled in 2008 by Beverley George of New South Wales, Australia, in a literary blog, Haibun Today.

And we have to thank our friend Brian for sharing the euphemism barleypop, an entry that has met the Urban Dictionary standard. It's a far better substitute term for beer than another friend's original, “dad’s juice,” which caused a moment of extreme chagrin in the grocery store when her son learned to point and ask for items on the shelf.

What about your family? Do you have special words you’d like to add to the lexicon?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Power of Negative Thinking?

Remember a few years ago when Oprah made The Secret all the rage? It had something to do with focusing on positive thoughts and manifesting your own destiny. You could pin a picture of your dream mansion on a cork-board and then if you just focused on it enough, it would magically be yours some day. Or some such rot.

Suffice it to say that I was never a fan.

It's not that I'm an inherently negative person. In fact, a few years ago, when I was preparing to go on the academic job market, I bought myself suits and plane tickets to the conference 8 months in advance. I had done everything I could to be the best candidate possible, and I was confident that I'd get interviews. I was sure that good things would happen.

I've never worn the suits, so let's just say I've tempered my positive thinking since then.

But the one thing I've come to truly admire about the writing community is their tremendous ability to remain positive and upbeat throughout the often long and difficult process of becoming a published writer. Over and over again, I've been amazed and inspired by writers who have kept at writing after years and years, and who continued to believe that if they just kept at it, things would start happening for them. And over and over again, I've been ecstatic for people when all that positivity and perseverance finally pays off. (I'm looking at you, especially, Carla Swafford.)

I'm not sure how you all do it.

Since I started writing, I've kind of been of the mind that if I just don't expect anything, I'd be pleasantly surprised  if this whole writing thing works out, instead of completely devastated if it doesn't.

Sure, it's a defense mechanism, but it's one that's worked for me. It was my lack of expectations that got me through the many, many agent rejections when I queried. In fact, I think it was that lack of expectations that gave me the courage to send out the queries in the first place.

But I did get an agent and, as of yesterday, the book is officially on submission. As much as I'm trying to hold onto those lack of expectations, as much as I'm trying to tell myself that the book still might not sell, I'm more nervous and excited than I've ever been about the possibility of it selling.

To be honest, that's kind of scary for me. It feels like I might jinx the whole thing if I start anticipating The Call that might never come. So I'm going to bury myself in my new WIP, occupy myself with running around after the kids, and try really, really hard to not check me email and cell phone every ten minutes. I'm not going to expect too much, maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

After all, it's worked so far :O)

How do you keep yourself sane during the waiting? Or in the face of rejections and road blocks?

Monday, July 18, 2011

What Doesn't Kill You...

Several years ago, I was almost "there.” You know where I'm talking about. With Manuscript Number Five, I knew I had a winner. I had submitted plenty, learned with each manuscript I wrote, and the rejection letters I had received had all been encouraging--personal letters that let me down easy while buoying my spirits.
On Number Five, I researched the line, the market, and the editor. I queried and received an enthusiastic response for a partial. The friends at the pub where I wrote rejoiced with me and made me promise to give them "autographed first editions."

I polished. I edited. I polished again. I edited. And sent it off.

I knew this was the one. I knew it.

And then, a few months later, I received the rejection. A form rejection, no less.

Devastation engulfed me. Humiliation swamped me. Hurt, well, hurt me. I shook my fist at the sky and yelled “As God as my witness, I’ll never write another word again.”

And I didn’t.

For about six months. Then one day, I overheard two women gossiping in the grocery line and thought "Stupid women. What if that were my best friend they were talking about?" Before I could stop it, a scene started playing out in my head. I shook my head to clear it, and said to myself “I’m NOT doing that again.” But when I got home, I wandered to my computer and opened up a new Word document. I stared at the blank page for awhile. Finally I made a deal with myself. “Just because I write down that scene, doesn’t mean I’m writing again. I'll just delete it.”

But I didn’t delete it. There was something about writing those words that sent a fresh breeze stirring the tired, depressed writing genes in my body.

I took a deep breath and started. Writing. Again.

I am a stronger writer now. I am a realistic writer now. I know the road to publication is rocky, full of potholes, and filled with blind allies.

I have a new respect for all authors. Some come by success easily. Some struggle for years. Some never achieve the success they deserve.

But not a single one ever stops writing.

By JoAnn Weatherly  (Revisited Post from 6/13/08)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

It’s a Relationship Thing by Clay and Susan Griffith

Thank you for the invitation to contribute to this blog. We enjoy speaking to romance readers and writers because romance is central to our book The Greyfriar: Vampire Empire Book 1 (2010) and the upcoming sequel The Rift Walker: Vampire Empire Book 2 (Sept. 2011, Pyr Books). Oddly enough, we never set out to write a romance, paranormal or otherwise. In fact, we didn’t really intend to write any genre; we just had a pulpish adventure story we wanted to tell. Fortunately for us, the book has been adopted by readers of all the genres we touch on – fantasy, vampires, steampunk, adventure, and even romance.

As writers, not only do we blend genres, we also blend our voices as individual writers into that of a single author. And we blend our outlooks and concepts. The most common question we get is “How do you write together?” More to the point, though, what can we accomplish together than we can’t separately?

Vampire Empire started life as a solo project in the early 1990s. Clay conceived the basic plot and characters, and even wrote a few chapters. But something was wrong. It just didn’t work. So Vampire Empire went into the darkness of the file cabinet for years.

We started writing together on comic book projects in the mid-1990s. The collaboration went so well, we never went back to solo writing. We went on to write short stories and even a small press science fiction novel titled Banshee Screams (2002). Then we were searching for a new project, and Clay said, “I’ve got that alternate history vampire book.” So Susan took what had been already done and brought her skills to bear on it. After a few years of intense collaboration, The Greyfriar was written, sold, and published.

So why did Vampire Empire by Clay and Susan Griffith work so much better than the same story by only Clay Griffith?

First of all, there was a slight change in tone. Clay had envisioned the book as a dark, almost brutal, fantasy. He was a horror buff, but Susan came from different influences. While she agreed it was (and needed to be) dark, she thought it needed to bring down the violence. More importantly, however, was what Susan brought to the characters. She felt the heart of the story was the relationship between Adele and the Greyfriar, and she argued (correctly it turned out) that the majority of the book’s readership would be women. Those women would want all the action that was already there, but also required stronger character interrelationships to sustain it.

Typically, writers of both genders tend to create their characters of the opposite sex as idealized versions – particularly in genre fiction. Since we have both genders present, it’s easy for Susan to roll her eyes at her co-author and say, “No woman would think that” or for Clay to scoff with “A man wouldn’t act that way.” Our conflicting outlooks don’t make writing a book easier, but they make it better. Even though our heroine and hero are certainly larger than life because of the pulp motif, we think they act like a real woman and man, and a real couple.

As conceived in the original outline, the relationship between the main characters, Adele and Greyfriar, was sketchy. Perhaps stereotypically as a man, Clay understood grand boyish gestures of romance, but missed the delicate touches that strengthened a relationship in small ways. Many of the moments that readers would later talk about as being particularly poignant or touching were already present in Clay’s original outline, but they were sterile because the characters hadn’t earned those meaningful moments. Collaboration with Susan brought a well-rounded romance to the book. A series of character-based pulse points throughout the story now paid off satisfactorily in bursts of romantic drama.

That’s key to a relationship in adventure fiction. The characters must deserve the emotion bestowed on them by the readers. No amount of hot sex or thrilling chases or daring escapes can create a real relationship. Those things can sure enhance character bonds, but the link between heroine and hero, and between them and the readers, rests on a foundation of small touches that build to grand explosions. Only then can the characters be joined in sex or battles or even in heartbreaking separation, and have it mean something.

Good relationships aren’t all sex and swordfights. That’s true in life and adventure stories.

Author Bio:
Clay and Susan Griffith are writers, who have also been married for 16 years. They are the co-authors of The Greyfriar: Vampire Empire Book 1 (2010) and The Rift Walker: Vampire Empire Book 2 (September 2011). The third book of the series will be out in 2012. They met in a bookstore and were married in Edinburgh, Scotland, a city that provides much of the setting for the Vampire Empire series.

In addition to novels and short stories, Clay and Susan have written many comic books over the years including The Tick and, more recently, Ray Harryhausen Presents: It Came From Beneath the Sea…Again. They also script and contribute to the tv/web show Monster Creature Feature (www.

They plan to continue writing together. And to stay married.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Under the Influence...of Books

One thing I know about fiction writers. All fiction writers.

We're readers.

It's how we got into doing what we do—we read books, loved them, wanted more and ended up so obsessed with stories that we had to start telling our own. Many of us taught ourselves to write by reading good books, picking up on the subterranean rhythms of story structure, sentence structure and world-building. Readers do this, too, pick up on the same things. It's how you know whether or not a book works. Whether the story makes sense or the pacing keeps you reading. You just don't feel compelled, as writers do, to tear a story apart to see why and how it works.

And because we're all readers here, there's something else that we share: we've all experienced books that changed the way we look at things, or sparked our interests in subject matter we'd never thought about before we read that particular book.

I've had a few experiences like that. When I was little, one of my favorite books was Charlotte Baker's Green Poodles. The story of British girl Fern, who crossed the Pond with her poodle Juliet to stay with her American cousins and ended up raising and showing poodles with them, captured my imagination on a lot of levels. The idea of training dogs for the show ring had never crossed my mind (believe me, my mutts at the time would never have passed muster!). The idea that people would actually steal dogs came as a surprise (yes, there was a suspense subplot that I found thrilling, even at that young age). But the thing that really stuck with me all these years was the fact that Fern named the poodle Juliet's puppies after Shakespearean characters.

I'd never heard of Shakespeare at that young age, but my curiosity led me to find out more about the Bard. By the time I hit college, I had become a Shakespeare fan (making my English major a lot easier to earn), and I truly believe it all started with a little poodle named Juliet and a book that I read over and over, every time it was available at the library.

Another book that affected me in a similar way were the Luis Mendoza mysterys written in the 60s & 70s by Dell Shannon. I discovered them at a used book store, since by then she wasn't really writing anymore, and read all of them I could find. They were police procedurals, which I discovered I loved (and which had an effect on the way I write as a romantic suspense author). They also featured a Mexican-American police lieutenant who sprinkled Spanish throughout his dialogue. I became interested enough in Spanish to eventually minor in the language in college. I think it all goes back to Luis Mendoza.

So how about you? What elements of the books you've read have changed your life in some way? Did they inspire new hobbies? Change your opinion on something? Spark a lifelong interest in something you'd never considered before you read the book?

Do tell!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Ready, aim, fire!

As part of my Citizens Police Academy class, I spent Saturday morning at the shooting range learning how to hit a target with a Sig Sauer P229. Thanks to the Seven Fundamentals of Marksmanship, I did pretty well (see photo).

I love the objective nature of shooting at a target. You either hit in the critical area or you don’t. No guessing there. If only there were seven fundamentals of writing that could guarantee a hit.

Certainly there are things writers must do if they want a sale, but there is no set of rules that if followed precisely will ensure a publishing contract. Still, I thought there might be some correlation between the fundamentals of marksmanship, and what it takes to sell a book.

1. Stance: To hit the target, you need a solid foundation. We must study our craft and write regularly in order to build a good story.

2. Grip: Hold the weapon firmly. Hold on to your writing time. Don’t let family, friends, or other commitments keep you from it. Schedule your writing hours and stick to them.

3. Sight Alignment: The front and rear sights should be aligned on top and with equal space on either side of the front post. Align your daily activities with your writing goals.

4. Sight Picture: The sights must align properly with the target. Stay focused on your ultimate writing goals and evaluate regularly to ensure your aim is still good.

5. Breathing: Remember to breathe! Working toward publication can be stressful. Remember to take care of yourself along the way. Deep breathing, yoga, exercise, time with family and friends, and plenty of sleep can keep you refreshed.

6. Trigger control: Use a slow, consistent pressure on the trigger. When you’re ready, start submitting. Do your homework about agents/editors, get your MS, synopsis, and query letter to a professional level, and then fire away.

7. Follow Through: Keep your eyes on the target and finger on the trigger, ready for the next shot. Never give up in the face of rejection. If an agent or editor passes, send out another query. While you’re waiting, start working on the next book.

These rules may not get you published, but they can’t hurt. What are some of your fundamentals of writing?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I've Got No Strings

This year has been a most interesting one for me. I've come close, very close, to achieving my dream goal of publication. I've been revising, resubmitting, revising, resubmitting, revi s i n g and .... .... ....

I've been part of a puppet show, a marionette on stage, moving of my own accord, but not totally free of the doubts that separate me from being "a real boy." A real player in the writing world. A PUBLISHED player.

I looked free, but the strings were there. Invisible strings were jerking my mind in all kinds of silly directions. I kept writing. I kept dreaming. But the gossamer strings would pull me out of my joyful writing time and into the murky recesses of trying to get published.

What would it take to lose these strings? Would I have to be swallowed by a large whale after a series of misadventures just like Pinocchio? Or would I escape the belly of the beast and sail easily through the waters as the strings snapped and set me free?

Pinocchio had a great fairy watching over him who gave him all the tools he needed to become a "real boy." The fairy told him what he had to do. He had to prove through his actions that he was worthy of being a "real boy."  He had a free will to choose to do what was right, but he continually chose the wrong path which led to all kinds of mishaps and misadventures. It wasn't until Pinocchio stopped chasing his own selfish pursuits and put the needs of his father first that he became a real boy.

And that is the answer I was looking for in my own puppet world. I am already a "real boy" if I choose to pursue my art and my craft for the sheer joy of pursuing it. I have the power within me to cut the strings of doubt and fear so that I am no longer a marionette dancing to the invisible pull of a force that I can't control.

If I act like a "real writer" then I will be treated like one. I show up and do the work I need to do to grow as a writer. I learn my craft. I write my stories. I go to great conferences. I network with other writers, published and unpublished. I show up with my bag on my back, my texts inside, my pens and paper loaded and I skip along the path eager to learn and play.

Yes, I want publication. But that isn't why I started writing. And after a great deal of thought and deliberation I've declared a truce with the business side of writing. The chase, the push to get through the door will not overwhelm my original reason for sitting down and writing my first story. I give myself permission to enjoy the writing, the learning of my craft, the joy of being surrounded by others who love this great and wonderful world of romance.

So today I am free. There are no strings to tie me down. Now I write because it brings me joy. I write because I love my characters. I write because I love being challenged. I write because I am a "real writer."

Are you ready to cut the strings that tie you down? Are you ready to set sail across the waters with joy? Join me as we sail across the oceans. Together we will enjoy our journey.

Friday, July 08, 2011

A most awesome present

My birthday is coming up soon, and I have every reason to believe that my family has bought me a Nook. (It was that e-mail I got that said "Congratulations on buying a Nook!" that convinced me.)

At first, I was lukewarm to the idea -- sort of "Yeah, that's cool. I might use it." But ever since I got that e-mail, the excitement has grown. I can't wait to get my hands on it!

How about you? Which e-reader do you have? Are they as cool as I think they are? :-)

Wednesday, July 06, 2011


I have a confession to make. No, not THAT kind of confession. Sheesh! You romance writers are ALL alike!

Many of us were fortunate enough to attend the RWA National Conference in New York last week. Not to rub it in for those who didn’t attend, but it was great! I had a terrific traveling companion (thanks Heather!) and a fantastic roommate I met through the RWA Roommate Forum (the cheesecake is on me in Anaheim, Andrea!) Informative workshops, inspiring speakers at the luncheons and countless other events made this a really wonderful conference for me. My confession? On the drive home from the airport I cried.

For an entire week I lived my fantasy, the life I was always meant to live. For an entire week I was a historical romance writer 24 hours a day and I loved every minute of it. (Even the waits for the elevators!) But once I got off the plane in Birmingham and drove home it was back to reality for me. So I cried.

My reality isn’t really all that bad. I flew back Saturday and have worked every day since at a job that is definitely not my first choice, nor my second, nor my third. Well, you get the point. Hey, in this economy I know I am lucky to have a job. It pays the bills. It pays for little luxuries like toilet paper, running water and living indoors. I’m for all of those things. So, I work at a job I really don’t like and wait for the next time I can live my fantasy.

I see myself as one of those Regency era heroines – married to the old, fat, balding duke with the bad teeth and breath like roadkill (I’m sure they HAD roadkill in the Regency whether they called it that or not.) Yes, one of those women who was told to do her duty, to just lay there and think of England or plan a dinner party or redecorate the drawing room in her head until Lord Death Breath did his business, excused himself and went back to his own room. That’s sort of how I get through every day at work. I live for the day when Lord “I Want to Buy Your Book and Sign You to a Three Book Contract” comes along to rescue me. He needs to hurry up because Lord Death Breath is really getting on my nerves and some days it seems like I’ll have the entire country estate redecorated before he croaks and I can go on to the life I’ve always wanted.

But until that happens, I try to remember what Franklin D. Roosevelt once said.

“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”

Going to RWA’s National Conference is the knot in my rope. Writing is a solitary business and I reach the end of my rope with it more often than I care to remember. Sometimes when I do I have been fortunate enough to have some awesome mentors, historical romance authors, who take the time to help me tie that knot and tell me all of the reasons I need to keep hanging on. Sometimes it’s my agent. Sometimes it’s my Mom. Sometimes it’s just my sheer ornery stubbornness. But the biggest knot I tie in my rope is the one I learn in the presence of 2000 plus romance writers every year.

A Golden Heart winner after seven finals. A Lifetime Achievement Award for someone who has seen it all in this business. A luncheon speaker who reminds me I have had it easy so far compared to others who have fought their way to that Holy Grail we all seek. A workshop where a light bulb comes on about a certain elusive or confounding aspect of my writing.

All of these things help me to keep tying that knot and keep hanging on. I'm just too darned hard-headed not to and I've had too many people help me tie that knot to let go now.

What or who is the knot at the end of your rope?

In Training

The best athletes are always in training. They remain focused and disciplined despite the off-season. They run drills, stay in excellent shape with good nutrition and exercise, and study the playbook as well as game footage. They know the game inside-and-out; yet, they are always open to new ideas.

As writers, we too are always in training. Despite holidays, kids, day-jobs, and life in general, we must remain focused and disciplined. Our playbook is a regular writing routine. Our drills are reading about the craft. Our game footage is reading anything and everything out there of interest. We must continue to expand our knowledge and skill. But, above all else, we need to simply have fun and enjoy it.

Leave a comment today and enter a chance to win a $15 BAMM gift card (sorry, U.S. residents only). The contest will close at the end of today and I will randomly draw a winner tomorrow morning. Good luck!!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Social Media and The Reluctant Writer

Today I tried to learn how to tweet.

This is another step I am trying to incorporate in as a writer. This is after I started a Facebook page, and set up a Website.

It is stressing me out.

I used to think writing involved...well...writing. I have struggled with improving my writing. I am working on my grammar, getting rid of passive voice, pumping up my characters, layering emotion, setting.....that's after I grasped the intricacies of plot and story arcs.

Just as I thought I had it together, I realized, I was far, far behind.

I can't seem to catch up.

I look up writers that I enjoy. They tweet. They blog. They post on Facebook. How do they work? If they have day jobs--how do they write? Take care of their families?

Many give up sleep. (I know I asked).

Others just don't have to sleep. (I wish I didn't have to...and could still think!)

Still others are gifted with this amazing ability to do it all.

I am not one of those people.

So what can a writer do? Give up? No. The trick is to do one thing at a time. I've decided to check my website email once a week at least. I will check Facebook daily. Tweeting....every three days. My website, monthly.

Is this a perfect solution. No. but its one that I can work with.

How are you dealing with the social media and writing? Are you setting aside time to do this? Or are you just pretending its not there until you are ready?

Personally, I'm a bit bumfuzzled by it all.