Thursday, August 30, 2012

Problem: An Unwelcome Situation

Sorry I haven't posted lately. I've been plagued with email/Internet/FB problems. Seemingly, they have no solutions for me.

I've used AOL as my primary email address since 2001 but suddenly, it doesn't like me anymore so I'm in the process of doing away with it. When you're as techie-ignorant as I am, that's not easy. I can't even speak the Internet lingo so when I have to deal by phone with others who can't speak the lingo I'm in even more trouble. And remember, I'm a packrat, so I have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of saved emails stashed in folders. I hate to lose them.

I'll be away a few more days but hopefully, after Labor Day, I can start posting again on a regular basis.

Of course, I'm presuming I'm missed.

Please say a prayer for those in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama who are losing their homes because of Hurricane Isaac. It seems odd that we're not part of hurricane season this year and that we're watching it play out on TV.

Have a safe Labor Day weekend.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Writer's Devotional by Amy Peters

I like devotional books --any kind--and I have quite a few. I especially like devotional books that pertain to writing.  

A few days ago, I came across such a book in Barnes & Noble called The Writer’s Devotional, 365 inspirational exercises, ideas, tips, & motivations on writing by Amy Peters.

Each day of the week highlights an aspect of the writer’s life:

Monday - Writers on Writing.
Tuesday - Motivation
Wednesday - Writing Class
Thursday - Editing
Friday - Biography
Saturday - Books Writers Should Read
Sunday - Writing Prompts

This book is phenomenal. One could teach a class--each page is a lesson plan--using the tips, prompts and motivations.  If you’re looking for a gift for a writer friend, this is the perfect gift, but you’d better purchase two copies because once you get home and browse through A Writer’s Devotional, you won’t be able to wrap it up and give it away.

Set up in the traditional devotional book format, it’s impossible to read one devo per day. I’ve gobbled page after page after page each time I sit down with it. The great thing is that this book can be read over and over again. Hats off to Amy Peters for a beautiful, useful writing tool that inspires, instructs and motivates. This book is a writer's treasure.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

So What's the Point?

My previous post was called Racing the Clock. For those of you wondering, the clock won. No problem. Deadlines are plentiful, aren't they? We can always find another and another and another. Remember the song, I fought the law but the law won. That song keeps rolling through my mind. Here's my version of it:

Writing deadline--thought it was fun.
I raced the clock but the clock won.
I raced the clock but the clock won.
I needed motivation ‘cause I had none
I raced the clock but the clock won.
I raced the clock but the clock won.

 I left my story, now it feels so bad
Guess my race is run
 It was the best story I think I ever had
 I raced the clock but the clock won
 I raced the clock but the clock won.

Sometimes I'm just a time-waster. How long do you think it took me to write that little ditty? And what was the point?
I'm over my head in online classes. I'm taking Self-Publishing taught by DebraHolland, Ph.D. Very informative with guest 'speakers' sharing their self-publishing journey too. Interesting thing is that no one's self-publishing journey is the same. I guess there's no way to truly prepare for self-publishing. We can expect anything and everything, right down to the good and bad reviews. Both will come.

I'm also taking a course called COVERING YOUR BASES: PROMOTIONAL AND PERSONAL USES FOR POD and KINDLE by Beth Daniels who currently writes as Beth Henderson and J.B. Dane. Beth has worked with editors at Berkley, Zebra, Leisure, Harlequin/Silhouette, and Simon and Schuster’s Aladdin Paperbacks. She ventured into self-publishing to keep her out-of-print backlist in print and leaped into the non-fiction book realm with WRITING STEAMPUNK. Visit her HERE.

Another course I'm taking is called In and Out: Putting Characters in Conflict, taught through RWA by Sherry Lewis. I always thought conflict was my weakness. Lately, I've been identifying more writing weaknesses. Makes me wonder how anyone ever comes to the conclusion that they're good enough to self-publish. Any thoughts on that question?

Every time I sign up for online classes, I hear my friend and writing professor say (as he said so long ago), "It's time to stop taking classes and write." I guess I'm a perpetual student but I wonder if I'm really learning anything. How can I be if I'm still making the same mistakes over and over again? Not enough description. Too much dialogue. Talking heads. Not enough conflict. Unlikeable heroine. Unlikeable hero. Heroine too passive. Tense problems. POV problems. What's their goal? What's your point?

And that's where I am today -- in a What's the Point frame of mind? Anyone have an answer?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Chasing the Clock

I went to bed last night with that WHY word bouncing around in my head. As you know, I do that often--ask why after every sentence I write. Sometimes it helps; often it frustrates.

I’ve been holed up with an old unfinished manuscript, trying to breathe new life into it for a specific market. Easier said than done. Sometimes I think writing something new is easier than taking a piece apart and reconstructing it. In this case I’m cutting what was originally an incomplete Christmas novel to 15,000 words--yes, a Christmas story. I don’t think I had enough plot for a novel anyway. The deadline is Saturday. Yes, gulp with me: the deadline is Aug. 18th, tomorrow, and I’m not finished!

Here’s what I’ve done:
Taken a look at how I’ve introduced the characters. I’ve introduced two characters and the problem on the first page. Unfortunately, the hero is not one of those two.

I’ve tried to break it into a 3-act structure to get a better handle on it. This seemed hard; should have been easier since I had the book outlined.

I’ve pinpointed the setting and trying, TRYING to make it apparent throughout the story. I’m terrible at creating setting.

I’ve cut all the subplots, and made the plot more linear. No flashbacks either.

I’ve taken a look at my characters and, where I can do it, combined two into one. Double duty.

Layering that counts.

I’m trying to make every word count. (That should be a given, right?)

I have 14,188 words and still haven’t written the ending. I visualize at least four more scenes. Aaack! I see more cutting ahead.
Goal today: Cut. Write tighter. Finish.

Will I make the deadline? Doubtful, but at least I’m writing. Advice and writing tips welcome!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

 Be so good they can’t ignore you. ~Steve Martin
Some 75,000 people showed up in Memphis to participate in the candlelight vigil remembering Elvis. No one ignored Elvis; we still aren't.

Monday, August 13, 2012

To The Next Level with Pamela Redmond Satran

If you don’t subscribe to The Writer magazine, hurry out to your nearest bookstore to purchase the September issue. There’s a super-fantastic article you need to read if you write fiction. How To Take Your Fiction to the Next Level by Pamela Redmond Satran is great enough to replace the majority of our how-to books.
According to her bio, Satran is the author or editor of 18 books, including three this year: the novel The Possibility of You, the bestseller 30 Things Every Woman Should Have & Should Know by the Time She’s 30, and the forthcoming humor book Rabid: Are You Crazy About Your Dog or just Crazy?

Satran also co-produced Nameberry, the go-to site for expert opinion, savvy advice and information on baby names. Believe me, this is a character-naming heaven! Check it out.

You may have heard the sad news: The Writer, that wonderful 125 year old magazine, will be taking a “break” after their October issue. Read it and weep, HEREI’m so sorry to hear this. I’ve always loved the clean, crisp look of The Writer and enjoyed their informative, uncluttered pages. I hope KalmbachPublishing finds a buyer.

In the mean time, grab your September issue  before it disappears, and learn from it. While there are many wonderful articles inside this issue, including interviews with Margaret Atwood and Sandra Brown, Satran’s article is well worth the $$$. Believe me, as I read, I felt an adrenalin rush. I grabbed my laptop and took notes. Her tips and suggestions will make our fiction extraordinary--and show us how to take our writing to the next level. And like Satran says, "Whether you're a beginner or a master, there's always a next level."

Friday, August 10, 2012

Let's Dance!

Let's take a look at our dreams and goals and act on them, tweak them, do what's necessary to get us to the next level... or at least, closer to where we'd like to be. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one's own sunshine." Isn't that true? Open the blinds in your office and get out of your own way. Use those dust particles that we only see in the sunlight for inspiration.

Ray Bradbury said, "You can't try to do things; you simply must do them."

Must. Do. Them.

Open that desk drawer, pull out your list of goals. Choose one. Do whatever it takes to get started.  Shove that ball downhill and watch it roll. My own way of saying, get that first word, sentence, paragraph on paper then allow your characters to take you places. 

I love the quote by H. Jackson Brown Jr. "Opportunity dances with those who are already on the dance floor." You don't need a partner. Get out on that dance floor. Every day is a new beginning. Every morning is a new opportunity. Let's dance.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The End: Epilogue

I know you’ve heard the saying that the first sentence (paragraph or page) sells your first book and the last page sells the next book. That’s always in my mind when I’m writing or reading. I love finishing a great read, closing the book and sitting there in awe, thinking about the characters. Doesn’t happen too often but it does happen.

Yesterday I finished my novella. I didn’t feel the same euphoria I felt when I finished my first novel and I wondered about that. Still haven’t figured out why. When I went to bed last night, my characters were still throwing dialogue at me--as they’ve done through the entire story. They talk to me continuously. They even pointed out some problem areas that I'll fix today.

But, back to my ending. I have an epilogue. This story seemed to call for one. 

An epilogue or epilog is a piece of writing at the end of a work of literature or drama, usually used to bring closure to the work.

An epilogue is a final chapter at the end of a story that often serves to reveal the fates of the characters. Some epilogues may feature scenes only tangentially related to the subject of the story. They can be used to hint at a sequel or wrap up all the loose ends. They can occur at a significant period of time after the main plot has ended.  

An epilogue can continue in the same narrative style and perspective as the preceding story, although the form of an epilogue can occasionally be drastically different from the overall story.  

My epilogue takes place a few weeks after my story ends, a wrap-up, a hint of things to come, a happily ever after. I like it, but I feel some doubt. I’ve read that we shouldn’t use the epilogue as the actual end of a story, and I’m wondering if I’ve done that.

My question is: when do epilogues NOT work? Do you like them? Do they feel like a cheat to you? When are they most effective?  Give me your best advice and thoughts regarding epilogues.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Markets, Markets, Markets

Harlequin’s new Kiss line will launch February 13, 2013.  Check out the guidelines HERE 
For FAQ's and guidelines for other Harlequin lines, go HERE.


Kristine Katherine Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith plan to launch a new fiction anthology series, Fiction River beginning in April 2013. Each issue will be devoted to a theme, with stories from a variety of genres and both well-known and new authors.  Get more details here and visit their Kickstarter page here.


Story Brewhouse is seeking submissions for an anthology of creative fiction about beer. A Six Pack of Stories will publish in 2013, in both digital and print, with stories that “feature beer in meaningful ways.” The editors are looking for all genres of stories. There are no length limits, though they warn that anything over 10,000 words may have a tough time finding a home. The deadline for submissions is October 26, 2012. Find the details here.


Still Moments Publishing publishes a wide variety of romance fiction from 20,000 to 100,000 words. Find the submission details here.

Still Moments is also seeking submissions for several anthologies:

Unexpected Bumps — stories with a baby or pregnancy theme. 5,000 to 15,000 words. Deadline November 30, 2012.

A Twist of Tales – fairy tales with a unique twist. 5,000 to 15,000 words. Deadline October 31, 2012

Frost Bite – stories about shape-shifters in winter. 5,000 to 15,000 words. Deadline October 15, 2012

Winter’s Kiss – winter romance stories, 5,000 to 15,000 words, Deadline October 1, 2012

Christmas Magic – holiday romance, 5,000 to 15,000 words. Deadline August 18, 2012

Find details guidelines for all these special calls here.


First Crime Novel Competition

The 2013 Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition is now open!Read the rules carefully and guidelines carefully before submitting your entry. This contest is sponsored by Minotaur Books & Mystery Writers of America.  
For previous winners, go HERE.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Critique Gone Bad

I know I rant about critiques way too much, but they fascinate me. There are so many inspirational stories out there and some horror stories too. I’m surprised someone hasn’t pulled together an anthology exploring and exposing critiques.

Here’s a funny/sad story about a critique gone bad:
Once I attended a conference and paid for a critique by one of my favorite category romance authors. I read all of her books. I thought her writing style and voice were similar to mine and that I’d get some valuable instruction from her.  When I sent her my chapter, I mentioned what I felt were our similarities. NOTE: DON’T EVER TELL A PUBLISHED AUTHOR YOU THINK YOUR WRITING IS SIMILAR TO HERS--ESPECIALLY IF SHE’S GOING TO READ SOME OF YOUR WORK. That’s like telling a woman you barely know she looks like Barbra Streisand. Some people think she’s a beauty, some don’t. You have no idea how that woman will take what you may have meant as a compliment.

When I got to the conference and met with the author, she tore me to shreds. Obviously, she didn’t think my writing style was anywhere close to hers. I didn’t receive one compliment from her--not one positive, encouraging word. I paid twenty-five bucks to be insulted! She proceeded to tell me everything I could NOT do in my story. For example, she said I could not have a single man coach his young niece’s soccer team. That is strictly a no-no in our society today, she said.
Uh, say what? Single dads/uncles/men do that every day. Don’t they? Well, they do during soccer season!

In addition to telling me what I could NOT do, periodically, she’d hit me on the head with my very own manuscript, yelling “Weenie sentence, weenie sentence.”  She expressed herself well, painted quite the picture. And I think that was the equivalent of her exclamation point.

I had a lot of respect for this author, bought all her books, and looked forward to each new release. No matter how I try, I haven’t been able to read anything written by her since this critique. The voice I heard (and enjoyed) when I read her work has disappeared and all I hear are ‘weenie sentence, weenie sentence” squeals.
Critiques can wound us, make us or break us, make us feel like a dog, but they can also make or break those giving them. You, and you alone, have the final say about your manuscript--at least until you find an agent or editor. I’ll agree that we need to get rid of weenie sentences (if we can identify them) but don’t allow some weenie critique to steal your joy or contribute one ounce of self-doubt to your psyche. We conjure up enough self-doubt on our own, don’t we?

When it comes to critiques: take what you can use, and toss the rest.