Tuesday, January 31, 2012
~ Anatole France
The above quote hangs on a wall in my office, positioned straight in front of my desk. It is an everyday reminder to chase my dreams, whatever they may be. It helps me remember two of the three most important ingredients to accomplishing my goals. First, I must have a goal. Second, I have to do the work. But the third unmentioned necessary to this equation: support.
Truth is, no matter what we do in life, no matter what we are going through at the moment, having a great support system is crucial. Same is true about writing. I can honestly say I've never read an interview where the author said, "Nope, I done it alone. Wrote this masterpiece in one sitting and it was ready for print." Not happening for even the most talented writer. We all depend on someone to help us though the bad and celebrate the good, whether it is a spouse, a friend, or a critique group.
All this to say, be a dream chaser and do the work. But, just as importantly, keep good people in your life. Surround yourself with supportive honest people. Anything less simply isn't worth your time and will shut you down as a writer.
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Franklin P. Adams, Half a Loaf, 1927
I’m rather fond of this quote. I read it often. It reminds me that only a few writers sit down and compose a novel the way Mozart composed a symphony – as if taking dictation from God. And for those writers who DO write like that please keep quiet about it. Things could get ugly.
Imagination is a funny thing. It comes in all sorts of weird ways to equally weird people. Hey, if you’re a writer and you’re not weird you’re just not trying hard enough. Writers have been odd since the first time Grogg picked up a stick and drew pictures on a cave wall. The only reason there are no romance novels on those cave walls is because Grogg’s Mom wiped them off with a wet loincloth and clocked him upside the head with a mastodon bone for drawing dirty pictures.
And imagination is often more fun in a group. The most famous plotting retreat in history produced perhaps the most well-known classic horror story of all time – Frankenstein. Mary and Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and John Pollidori were stuck in a big half empty house during a miserable winter and after much wine and God knows what else (Byron was there. Hello? Some of his antics make Charlie Sheen look like a choir boy!) Frankenstein was born. Well, not really born, but you get the picture. I don’t know if they used Stephen King’s “What if” method or Walt Disney’s “Why not,” but it worked. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall for that weekend!
My third manuscript, The Price of a Gentleman, came out of a spoof writing contest on the Romance Bandits blog. I think we were asked to take a movie and turn it into a historical romance novel. I picked Sunset Boulevard. That’s an old black and white film, for you young people out there, starring Alabama’s own Tallulah Bankhead and William Holden. I think I even had the Bankhead character say something like “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. Gainsborough.” But the funny thing is, that spoof got me thinking. And thinking. And pretty soon I had the first three chapters of The Price of a Gentleman.
Where does your imagination come from? And where does it take you? Is the journey a ride on the bullet train or a crawl on the mule train? What do you do to spark it? Is it better in a group? Come on and dish! What inspires you to write? And have you ever spent a night sitting around a scary house with a bunch of writer friends drinking wine and plotting your stories?
Friday, January 27, 2012
How do you research and where do you find your info?
Are you a plotter? Panster? Or a mix?
Midnight Caller at Amazon
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Monday, January 23, 2012
Over the holidays with all the health problems in my family, I came up with a joke. As a writer it was easy to follow a theme. Just to exercise your creating process, try this yourself and see how much fun it can be.
JOKE: The other night I got a call from a couple of old buddies, Jack Daniels and Jim Beam. They wanted me to go out drinking with them. I told them I was too tired and that I had to get up early in the morning to go hunting. I wanted some shots of Wild Turkey. The queen came by wearing her Royal Crown, but the Captains's language was too spicy. At the end of the day I was left with some Old Crow.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Thursday, January 19, 2012
When I made my boyfriend-must-have list back in middle school, sense of humor was No. 1.
I’m happy to report that I married a man who can joke! Occasionally, this tendency needs a bit of correction in the form of a glare and a stern warning. “Excuse me? There’s nothing to laugh about in this situation.”
Still, I’m sold on funny. When I read, the thing that makes a novel work for me is the protagonist’s ability to crack me up.
Last month, when I was putting together my last-as-editor Chick Lit Writers of the World RWA chapter newsletter, a few of the chapter’s PAN members agreed to offer advice on writing humor. For our blog, I chose a couple of comments that spoke to me, and I hope you’ll be interested in discussing them.
Both these authors say they rely on revision to get to funny.
According to Maureen McGowan*, “Humor is one of the trickiest things to write.”
But stories allow writers to revise “to choose the right words and put them in the right order for timing and impact.” She cautions against losing the punch line “in the middle of a long convoluted sentence or paragraph.”
Megan Crane** says, “I'm always much funnier three days later and in retrospect, and thanks to revision, your characters get to be that funny right off the bat!”
The best comedy, she says, is organic. “It should come from the characters' observations of their world and each other. This is actually easier to do than trying to come up with clever jokes to insert here and there in your manuscript. It's a question of shading the characters' dialogue toward wit, which you can do each time you revise.
You just have to pay attention to what you, personally, find funny, and what your characters find funny, and let that come out in the way you tell your story. Funny follows. And so will readers.”
What do you think? Does humor influence which books you choose? How do you incorporate humor in your work? What have you learned about writing humor?
*Maureen is a two-time Golden Heart finalist and the author of Cinderella: Ninja Warrior and Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer. Last month, she announced a contract for a three-book post-apocalyptic YA trilogy.
**USA Today bestselling women’s fiction author Megan Crane, author of BookSense Notable Frenemies, also writes category romance under the name Caitlin Crews.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
This month, make sure you come check out Lexi George tell us about "My Road to Publication and What I Wish Someone Had Told Me."
Next month- February 25th I'm giving a presentation on How (Not) to Query and Get an Agent, and I'll be doing some critiques of Query letters, so if anyone has one they want me to rip apart, I mean, comment on, email me!
On March 25th Southern Magic's own Carla Swafford and Heather Leonard are presenting "Pitch Perfect"-- Come and learn how to make the best pitch possible to an agent or an editor. We're working on lining up some agents and editors to pitch to later in the year.
In April Southern Magic is having its very own writing retreat at a beautiful lake house. Watch the loops for information about the program and price.
Then on May 26th Alicia Rasley will present a FULL DAY WORKSHOP- Tightening Tension with Better Pacing.
In June, we're working on a program that brings together "odd jobs"-- professions and professionals that might ad depth to your setting.
July 28 Kay Dacus will be visiting Southern Magic to present her program on Storyboarding.
Join us on August 25 as Carrie Lofty presents "From Clichés to Keepers: Knowing Your Characters Through Myers-Briggs."
We're working on another full day, craft-based workshop for September.
Get your muse in shape for NaNoWriMo on October 27, when Tanya Michna will be with us and present "Military School for the Unruly Muse."
On November 3 is our annual Readers' Luncheon and this year we're excited to welcome fellow Southern Magic Member and NY Times Best-Selling Author Sherrilyn Kenyon. Be sure that you get your tickets early, because when they're gone, they're gone.
In 2013, we'll kick off the year with the smart and funny Diane Kelly as she helps us get the year started right with her program "Death and Taxes: What Every Writer Needs to Know about Federal Income Taxes." We'll also be welcoming Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches Trashy Books for another Full Day Workshop on either Author Websites or Digital Marketing Plans for authors!
We're also working on plans for a Southern Magic Book Club and other author signing events throughout the year.
Be sure you try to make it to our January meeting where we'll tell you more about these programs and some of the other improvements that we have in mind to make your Southern Magic Membership even more valuable in 2012, including one free workshop for members!
And don't forget to renew before February so that you can take advantage of all of these wonderful programs AND for a chance to win the Conference Scholarship.
See everyone then!
***Anyone interested in attending a meeting or program who is not a member is welcome to sit in. Just contact me via Southern Magic's website. www.southernmagic.org ***
Friday, January 13, 2012
When I was a teenager, my grandmother told me that she considered the number 13 to be lucky. Over the years, I've embraced it too. (Click here to read a little about it.) In fact it was on April 13, 2011 that I submitted my manuscript to Avon and they bought it three weeks later. And today, I realized that same day I'd blogged here about Red Shirt Editing. One of my favorite posts.
Since receiving The Call, I've talked about the number 13 being lucky for me and even how my grandmother reached out from the grave (woooooo, scary) and told me something was going to happen. I just wasn't sure it was good or bad. Anyway, I wrote a post at the time about it here. And then how the number showed up here. And here. All tied in with me becoming published. Sorry for all the links, but it's easier for me that way. I've got to get back to my editing. CIRCLE OF DANGER is finished and my editor is waiting for me to change some things.
By the way, I've also decided #3 is a good number too. My unpublished manuscripts have landed in 3rd place often enough in contests. And last and this week, CIRCLE OF DESIRE has been #3 on the Erotica bestseller list in the iBookstore! And once in #2! I've always said nothing wrong with being 3rd place as long as it's on the New York Times. Though iBookstore isn't quite that big, I'll take what I can. LOL!
So Friday the 13th doesn't scare me. I actually celebrate when it comes around.
What about you? What is your lucky number? And why do you feel it is?
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
One of the things I've been watching since I'm home during the day is the TLC show What Not to Wear. I love watching people discover how to dress themselves to best flatter the bodies they have rather than the bodies they'd like to have. I mean, sure, I'd like to have a body like Angelina Jolie, too, but I don't. And most women don't. Does that mean you can't dress in a way that flatters you and makes you look your best? Of course not! You find what looks good on you and work it for all it's worth.
It occurred to me while watching the show that writers can learn a few lessons from What Not to Wear. Some of the What Not to Wear rules can work for us as well.
1. Work with what you have, not what you'd like to have.
I might love to write with the lyricism and poetry of Pat Conroy, but that's not my style. It's not my voice. I have a tight, pithy, romantic suspense voice and trying to write evocative descriptions and long, rich examinations of characters' inner worlds just doesn't work for me. Find out who you are and what you do the best, and then hone those skills and make them the best they can be.
2. Try things on.
You never know what will work for your writing if you don't try it. Maybe you've been writing paranormal for a long time and would like to try something different, like a romantic comedy. This might seem to contradict rule one, but here's the thing: how do you know the limits of your voice if you don't try something new? There's nothing wrong with trying things out. The secret is knowing whether or not it works.
3. Let go of what doesn't work.
One of the hardest things for What Not to Wear participants is letting go of their old wardrobes. But it's part of the cleansing process, part of learning how to move boldly forward rather than wallowing in old, bad habits. When I first started writing, I was convinced a straight romance was all I could write. Even though I loved reading mysteries, I was afraid I couldn't come up with a sustainable mystery plot, so I stuck with straight romance, thinking it would be easier. But it wasn't. And everything I tried to write that was straight romance didn't work. Because that's not my style. It's not my voice. And only when I put those stories behind me and started writing what worked for me did I find out what kind of writer I was.
Are there other lessons from the fashion world that we can adapt as writers? Share what you think in the comments!
Monday, January 09, 2012
“It’s December,” I told myself. “You’re shut down by the Christmas Crazy. Too much going on at work and at home. You need quiet.”
So, I took a day off from work to write. I had the house to myself and hours of peace and quiet. I got a page or two done but it was HARD, way harder than it should be. The creative juices would not flow, leaving me puzzled, panicked, and depressed by the whole sorry state of affairs. Did the whole book suck or just chapter fifteen? Should I toss it and start over? Had my pantser tendencies landed me in this mess? I have a deadline. What if I never get unstuck?
WHAT IF I CAN’T WRITE THIS BOOK!!!!
I finally broke out of the bog on New Year’s Eve. Know what it was? I went back to chapter fourteen and discovered two problems: my hero had done something that needed explaining and I found a hole in the story.
Fixed both and voila! I finished chapter fifteen. The muse and I are on speaking terms again, and I have achieved forward momentum. Whew!
The subconscious is a strange thing. Somewhere in the dim recesses of my brain I knew what was wrong. I just had to figure it out.
I’m sure this NEVER happens to you plotters out there. Wink, wink. Nod, nod.
Saturday, January 07, 2012
Not too long ago, I gave the female lead (heroine's such a romancey word, yes?) in the first book of my paranormal romance series a makeover. She has to be undamaged enough to move into a relationship quickly without being coerced, but she also has to be enough of a loner that, should she (ahem) go missing for a few weeks, nobody will miss her.
So I began looking at other urban fantasies and paranormal romances with strong urban fantasy elements to see what type of backgrounds produced the lead characters. Note that I don't think this holds true for other romance categories, although it often does.
There are a LOT of dysfunctional families out there in the UF/PNR world. Here are a couple of theories why, based on nothing more than why I need my own characters to be family-challenged.
* Nothing brings out a neurosis like family. And for characters to be engaging, they need hot-button personal issues that factor into whatever hardass neurotic they turn out to be.
* Normal family issues get in the way of plots. Unless you're Rachel Morgan and your family becomes part of the plot, family members get in the way and can sidetrack your character from her plot arc.
Does the literature support these theories? I'll look at just the most widely known ones because
--Anita Blake. Anita's mom died in an accident when she was very young, and she was raised by her strict Catholic grandmother who didn't think much of her skills at raising the dead. Estranged from granny, and always dealing with dead-mommy issues.
--Mercy Thompson. Mercy's dad, a Native American from whom she gets her skinwalker abilities, died when she was young (or did he just disappear into the rodeo world?). Her mom then married a whitebread kinda guy and had some whitebread kids, so Mercy always felt like the ugly duckling with her dark hair and skin. She's still on speaking terms with her mom, but doesn't see her often.
--Harry Dresden. Harry's mom died young and he was raised by his magician father, who then also died young. He was taken in by a wizard mentor for training, things went sour, he ended up having to kill said mentor, and barely escaped the White Council death penalty. This backstory plays out over the early books, but the trauma of his mother and the secrets surrounding her death (mommy issues), and especially his rocky history with the council, are major issues for Harry.
--Sookie Stackhouse. Well, Sookie's parents died when their car was swept off a bridge, so she and Jason were raised by their grandmother (who conveniently gets knocked off in book one--I'm not worried about spoilers because, really, has anyone NOT read at least the first book of the series?). So Sookie has parent issues, which factor into the later books as she learns more about the source her psychic skills. She was also molested at an early age by her only other relative, a great-uncle. Vampire Bill took care of that pesky loose thread.
--Rachel Morgan. Kim Harrison's female lead is sort of a lone ranger in the genre. She's on good terms with her mother and her brother, for the most part. Mom lives nearby. Daddy issues come up during the series, though, and mom's got some problems that Rachel is always having to fix.
--Harry Potter. Harry's parents died protecting him from the evil Lord V--oops--He Who Must Not Be Named. It drives the whole series.
--Bella Swann. Bella's a child of divorce. She simpers her way to live with awkward dad so ditzy mom can enjoy her new hubby. Bella's struggling to find a personality and instead finds glittery vampires she can totally make herself subservient to, while whining. Yes, that's my patented summary of Twilight.
--Wrath. Each of JR Ward's Black Dagger boys has issues out the wazoo, but Wrath is the classic. He's the last purebred vampire in the world, and has all kinds of guilt hangups because his father shut him up in an air duct when the killers came. He watched his parents die, then blamed himself because he was too weak and small to save them, which made him become the Boy Who Lived. *Oops, having a Harry Potter flashback.* (Okay, and then there's everyone's fave Vishous, partially castrated by his evil father, and Zhadist, made a sex slave by an evil vampire queen. These guys are seriously damaged, true?)
Who else? Who are some of your favorite heroes or heroines, and did they come from happy, stable homes? Have you written a hero or heroine who has dysfunctional family issues?
Thursday, January 05, 2012
|Lynn Raye Harris|
Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Sunday, January 01, 2012
Last year was busy and came with some very unexpected changes in my life both good (including my wonderful sixteen-year-old niece becoming a member of my household) and bad (no need to revisit the bad). Admittedly, writing fell to the background and I did not meet my goal of finishing a book in 2011. In fact, I came no where near that goal.
Disappointment is definitely a word I would use to describe my 2011 writing year. It left me doubting and questioning my commitment, which I expressed regularly on this blog.
But, alas, I've figured out life happens. It makes me no less of a writer. It makes me no less committed to the ultimate goal of telling stories.
So, don't doubt yourself. If your 2012 ends up like my 2011, don't give up. Write when you can and know that, eventually, you will achieve your goal!
Happy New Year!!!