Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Z is for Zero

Today is my last day of blogging through the alphabet with the many others participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge. It has been fun and, as the name implies, challenging. We've blogged daily--except for Sunday. I'm glad the end has come but I'm sad too. I always enjoy putting my thoughts down with no pre-planning. Something about spontaneous writing the morning of, proves to me that I CAN write every day. I need to make myself do it.

Today is Z day and I've chosen Zero for absolutely Zero words toward fiction writing. Ever since we started thinking about renovation, I've been unable to worm any creativity out of my mind toward my novels. Okay, I did write a 700 word mini-mystery, and I have met my NF deadlines. I guess that counts. But the novels are on the hard drive, exactly the way they were when we moved back home from Oklahoma last August. That's embarrassing. And pathetic!

Time marches on. Hair gets grayer. Mind gets slower. Fingers become more arthritic.

Zero writing progress.

Zero sounds like such a nothing state of mind.

I've decided to pretend this A to Z Challenge is never-ending, and write at least 500 words a day on a new project. (Once I start, I can write for hours so maybe more than 500?) New projects are exciting. They energize us, don't they? Once they're embedded in our mind, they're all we think about. Plotting, planning, naming characters, working out the conflict.

Keep your fingers cross for me.

Down with Zero productivity--for all of us!

Tell me what you plan to do now that you aren't A to Z-ing any more. Rest? Dive into a new project? Finish an old one?  Share with us.


The A to Z Challenge is the brainchild of Arlee Bird at Tossing it Out. Every year there are hundreds and hundreds of participants. This year 2018 bloggers signed up.  There's some mighty good reading on these blogs. Check them out!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Y is for Yada, Yada, Yada

I've been blogging through the alphabet with the many others participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge. We've blogged daily--except for Sunday. As much as I love the A to Z Challenge, and look forward to it every year, I'm always glad when we reach the end. Tomorrow will be Z day, and then a wrap-up on Thursday. The A to Z Challenge is the brilliant brainchild of Arlee Bird at Tossing it Out. I wish I'd thought of it, though I'm sure I couldn't have accomplished what Arlee has accomplished. I think we must all look forward to this wondrous event; it's almost like a family or class reunion, or an Easter egg hunt where we reunite each year and play catch-up, and make new friends. I'd like to encourage you to visit all the various bloggers and their sites for entertaining, informative posts. I'm amazed at the many talented people who participate in the A to Z Challenge.

Today is Y day and the first thing that popped into my mind was Yada Yada Yada. I've never liked that phrase, because I immediately wonder, what is the yada yada yada? What am I missing?

I became aware of Yada Yada Yada from a Seinfeld episode. But the phrase was used way before that in a Magnum PI episode, as well as a Cheers episode, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Seinfeld made it memorable.

According to several online dictionaries, Yada Yada Yada is nothing more than empty, boring talk. We face that every day, don't we? Like when the woman from church shares every single thing she did during the week, including tidbits about the estranged cousins who came to visit. She calls them by name in her friendly, lyrical voice, as if we know them. I'm never sure how to respond to this kind of dialogue so I oooh and aaaah and make funny expressions in sympathy or encouragement.

If we're not careful, we can write empty, boring dialogue like this in our short stories or novels. Dialogue that offers nothing to our readers and doesn't move our story along. We may as well just write Yada Yada Yada. But then I wonder, isn't Yada Yada Yada in the eye (or ear) of the beholder? Maybe it's only boring to those who have a touch of impatience, or don't enjoy dialogue, or want the story to zip along at a good pace. Sometimes, I guess.

I can tell when a contest judge speed reads my entry. She misses important details and asks about them in her comments. Maybe she doesn't like dialogue so goes straight to the narrative. Or maybe my dialogue really is Yada Yada Yada.

Rambling dialogue is a killer in a book or story. Small talk shouldn't happen. We've been told to write the way we talk, but we all know that can be a killer too. We stop, start, loose our train of thought. Yada Yada Yada!

Dialogue should have a purpose: reveal character, personality, build toward the conflict, the goal. Rather than reiterate here Yada Yada Yada, check out this great piece on writing dialogue. It's a keeper.

And by the way, research shows that the word Yada is a Hebrew word that means "to know" so take a look and learn what yada really means.

Your thoughts?

Monday, April 28, 2014

X is for X Factor in Writing

Join me as I blog through the alphabet. We post every day in April except Sundays. There are many others participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge too, which is the brainchild of Arlee Bird at Tossing it Out. I'd like to encourage you to visit their entertaining, informative blogs. I'm amazed at the many talented people who participate in the A to Z Challenge.

The letter X always brings two phrases to my mind: X marks the spot and X Factor.

X Factor is what I've chosen for today because of its importance in our writing. X factor is an unknown quality that only becomes known after following a prescribed process. Doesn't that sound a little like writing? We outline our novels, follow guidelines, obey the rules, but honestly, we don't know if our books work until after we finish and sit down for a read through. Or get that first critique or rejection.

X Factor comes from the world of math, of course, but it extends to the business world too, as well as the entertainment world.  Interviewers, judges, and I dare say, editors and agents consider that unknown, vital quality when they read over our manuscripts, judge a competition; there's something extra, something that pops that gets their attention. Something they can't quite put their finger on.

When an editor takes five manuscripts home with her, how many of the five will truly grab her? The X factor will make the difference. It might be a fantastic sense of setting, characters that walk off the page, an interweaving of plot that amazes, or an unique voice. We're all aware of the "it" factor--translate X factor. We search for it ourselves when we're looking for a good book to read or movie to watch or a special dress to wear.

When we started renovating our house, I came across the term, X stretchers. I'd never heard that phrase before but it's defined as flat or curved supports forming an X shape used to connect and reinforce furniture legs. It can also be used in décor--X on glass cabinet doors, ornate knobs or other carved ornamentation. But it offers support. It occurred to me that these X stretchers are like the different aspects of our novels that do and should support each other. Like our setting can become a character and support the mystery.  Dialogue supports our characters. It makes them real or it can make them flat. Dialogue is supposed to move the story forward. Sometimes the dialogue can kill the story for the reader and they throw the book across the room.

To achieve the X Factor, we have to pay close attention to every sentence we write. Watch those passive verbs--make them active. Sentences should sing. Our setting needs to live. Is our rising action really rising? Are the characters in our stories alive to the reader? Not just a few readers, but many readers--ALL readers. Yeah, I know it's impossible to please everyone but we do need to try. Striving for that X Factor just might help us attain best-seller status. At the very least, some excellent reviews.

I want the X Factor! Do you? How do we go about getting it? Share your thoughts. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

W is for Women's Fiction Writers Association

W is for all kinds of Wonderful Words but especially, in my mind, the Women's Fiction Writers Association. WFWA is about a year old and run by volunteers. I think a few writers of women's fiction left Romance Writers of America when a shift of focus left many of them out in the cold. I'm so glad to see an organization specifically for women's fiction. Remember the book I'm working on where the heroine lies ... it's women's fiction.

WFWA has this description on its website:  An inclusive organization of writers who create stories about a woman’s emotional journey.

My book is definitely about a woman's emotional journey! I feel like jumping up and down and yelling, I have a home! I have a home! It's called WFWA.

These men and women (yes, men!) are career focused when it comes to networking, education and continuing support in career growth.

I hope you'll visit our website,  and if you decide to join, the dues are $48.00 a year, and worth every penny. The website has Wonderful resources and the community has Wonderful discussions. I've enjoyed having authors of women's fiction at my fingertips--all in one spot--where I can ask questions and get answers. I believe when you visit their website, you'll be able to click on a directory to see published WF authors. Check it out and see the important and best selling names listed there.

If you decide to join Women's Fiction Writers Association, don't forget to 'friend' me and let met know you're there. As a member you'll get the bimonthly Write On, our eZine. I'm the volunteer highlights editor. Also, our members receive a weekly Industry Update. We have classes--many of them free--and a contest for our members entitled, Rising Star. Next year we'll hold our first writer's retreat in San Antonio, Texas!

I'm so excited about this group. Please, check it out! Go to

If you have any questions, just ask me and I'll get the answers for you.
Have a great weekend!


Join me as I blog through the alphabet. We post every day in April except Sundays. There are many others participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge too, which is the brainchild of Arlee Bird at Tossing it Out. I'd like to encourage you to visit their entertaining, informative blogs. I'm amazed at the many talented people who participate in the A to Z Challenge.

Friday, April 25, 2014

V is for Vittles

Vittles. Say it aloud. Vittles. My grandmother used to tell us to eat our vittles. It sounds like an old word, doesn't it? According to Merriam-Webster it means food and drink. Another online dictionary states it originated between 1805 and 1815.

I like the memories it brings forth of my little granny churning butter, wearing her bonnet as she poked around in her garden, setting her dining room table with her home-grown food and fried chicken (back then I wasn't a vegetarian!) but especially her wonderful egg-custard pie.

The word Vittles makes me want to write a historical. I've jotted down ideas but the research flat-out scares me. I've read all about writing a historical novel and taken a couple of courses on research. I guess I need to just sit and write the story, then go back and analyze each word to make sure of its origin. Some of my friends emphasize the importance of getting the facts just right. And that's true.

I heard a writer speak once and challenged by someone in the audience because she'd made a mistake in her research. Seems she had a flower growing in Louisiana that didn't grow in the state. My thought was ... who cares? But readers of historical fiction want everything factual. I've read reviews that berated authors for trite mistakes. These are the kinds of things that make me freeze (or block me) when I think about writing a historical.

Choosing a time period that intrigues me is what I'm supposed to do first. Unfortunately, it's not the time period that intrigues me, it's something that actually happened that intrigues me. I want to use a specific disaster/tragedy as the backdrop for my story. Is there a difference? I think so.

I'm not too keen on investing as much time researching the era/locale as it takes to write the story. And paying attention to the clothing, household items, furniture and architectural design is frightening. Not to mention finding at least three sources for my historical data.

I read a romance recently that took place during the 40s. I felt as if the author pounded me on the head on every page with the differences between then and now. I didn't enjoy it very much.

Isn't it crazy that I got all this out of the word Vittles? Funny how certain words conjure up thoughts and images. I really do want to write a historical. I used to love to read them. Do you have any tips for me? Suggestions? Get me started!


Join me as I blog through the alphabet. We post every day in April except Sundays. There are many others participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge too, which is the brainchild of Arlee Bird at Tossing it Out. I'd like to encourage you to visit their entertaining, informative blogs. I'm amazed at the many talented people who participate in the A to Z Challenge.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

U is for Understand (Our Characters)

Join me as I blog through the alphabet. We post every day in April except Sundays. There are many others participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge too, which is the brainchild of Arlee Bird at Tossing it Out. I'd like to encourage you to visit their entertaining, informative blogs. I'm amazed at the many talented people who participate in the A to Z Challenge.

How important is it for us to Understand our characters? To know when they were born, what kind of grades they made in school, if they were troublemakers, pranksters or popular with their schoolmates? As their creators, to what extent should we know them?

I've read books that had such well-rounded characters that I've wondered if they were real friends of the author and she just slapped them on paper, the way she knew them. Other authors are as challenged with character creation as I am. Of course, sometimes I think I've done a good job but an editor or critique partner will yell, "More, more! You need more ..." And I wonder how many "layers" I have to add to make these fictional people real.

The answer is several layers. I need to address and Understand their psychological, emotional and physical make-ups. I need to evaluate Understand their motivations, their relationships, their needs. And so much more.

Do you fill out character sheets for each character? I usually let each character write me a letter or essay (stream of consciousness) telling me all about their lives. I may not use all that info, but I enjoy getting to know them.

I have a character in one of my books that is too perfect. All my critiques, editors, contest judges commented on her being way too good and perfect. It took me awhile to realize she was supposed to be perfect, that's part of the problem. Remember that student in your class that was the golden girl/guy? Everything good happened to them? Teachers loved them, they got most likely to succeed or most popular? Those people exist! But how do we write them to make them real, and likable? I'm still struggling with this character. She's made one bad mistake in her life that haunts her, but it's not until the end of the book that she's slapped in the face with it.  I have no idea if this book (or her character) works.

Some of my friends use Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs when working out their characters. Maslow explains how we're motivated by our needs and our most basic needs are inborn. We must satisfy each need, starting with the first, which deals with survival. When those lower needs of physical and emotional well-being are satisfied, we move on to the higher order of influence and personal development.

Do you always Understand your characters or do you give them free rein? How do you create well-rounded, real characters? Where do you start? With character charts, their basic problem, the story itself? Share your characterization secrets!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

T is for Travel

Join me as I blog through the alphabet. We post every day in April except Sundays. There are many others participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge too, which is the brainchild of Arlee Bird at Tossing it Out. I'd like to encourage you to visit their entertaining, informative blogs. I'm amazed at the many talented people who participate in the A to Z Challenge.

Today I've chosen the word TRAVEL, and that would be Travel by car. Trains might be fun too, but I want to travel in  conjunction with writer's conferences.

Hubby and I had planned to attend the Jambalaya Writers' Conference this year but we had a wedding to attend. We also wanted to go to Nashville this August, do a little exploring and attend the Killer Nashville conference. Daughter's wedding is that exact weekend. Something to look forward to in 2015, I guess.

There are a number of mystery conferences across the country. Key West is on our list of places to see. Here's an interesting writer's workshop, though I don't know many of these instructors. I think for me, the Mystery Writers Key West Fest sounds more fun.

There are some wonderful conferences all across the country: Arkansas, Alabama, Texas, New Orleans and Atlanta!

We haven't had a vacation in fourteen years, so Travel with a capital T is definitely on our list of things to do. And when we sit down to make our list of places we want to go, I'll research writers' conferences and plan our trip. Any suggestions?

What's the best conference you've ever attended? Do you vacation every year?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for Submissions

Join me as I blog through the alphabet. We post every day in April except Sundays. There are many others participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge too, which is the brainchild of Arlee Bird at Tossing it Out. I'd like to encourage you to visit their entertaining, informative blogs. I'm amazed at the many talented people who participate in the A to Z Challenge.

Today I'm blogging about Submissions. I haven't submitted anything to publishers or agents lately. Writing has been minimal because of wedding plans and home renovations. I've barely been online except for this A to Z Challenge. I love it, so it has my undivided attention--when it comes to posting. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to visit a lot of other blogs every day. Some days, I can visit up to eight or ten, but yesterday--nothing.

But, back to Submissions.

A few weeks ago I got frustrated and killed myself in a short mystery. When I say I killed myself, I mean I had someone else (a fictional character) kill me. It was fun to write and geared toward Woman's World Magazine. That's the colorful tabloid that's on the racks at grocery store check-outs. They publish one romance and one mystery in each issue. Remember I told you my friend Janie had  a mystery accepted and published last month.

These short stories are only 700 words. Tricky. Every word must count. I'm not certain I was very successful. We'll know soon, because that's my one and only Submission, other than my assigned article to Southern Writers Magazine.

Oh, and by the way, Woman's World Magazine requires the traditional stick-it-in-an-envelope-with- an-SASE. Feels strange to do it that way, but when I get it back, I'll know they've read it.

Have you submitted anything in the past month or two? If not, take a look at the markets below. You might have something that fits. If you have submitted, share what you have out and how long you've been waiting for a response. Or share the last thing you submitted and got accepted.

Good luck with the markets below. They're good ones!

Suddenly Lost In Words is a digital anthology looking for short stories, memoirs and poetry for Young Adult readers. Stories should be no more than 3,000 words. Payment is 5 cents a word. No deadline for submissions is listed, but you can find all the guidelines here.

Hofstra Law is sponsoring a mystery writing contest for the best crime story featuring a lawyer as the main character. First prize is $500, second place gets $200 and the third place winner receives $100. Stories should be no more than 3,500 words. The deadline for entries is May 1. See the details here.

MeeGenius, the top-selling ebook ap for children 2-8, is looking for book manuscripts geared toward this age group. Manuscripts should be 15-20 pages, with 20-70 words per page. You do not need to illustrate the work, but you may include illustration descriptions/suggestions. Find more submission details and see a sample manuscript here.

Monday, April 21, 2014

R is for Respond, Response (A Rant)

I'm blogging through the alphabet. There are many others participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge too, which is the brainchild of Arlee Bird at Tossing it Out. We post every day in April except Sundays. 

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter weekend. My weekend wasn't long enough.

I've struggled to come up with an R word. I thought about it all weekend. I played around with the word Rewrite but since I'm not doing any rewriting, I figured my words might sound forced. Renovation certainly plays a huge part in my life right now, but I'll save that discussion for another day, with before and after pictures.  I thought about doing a Review of a book I just read but felt no passion for that either. When I finally crawled into bed with nothing to show for R, the word RESPOND flashed into my mind. It felt right.

I have a pet peeve. I absolutely detest getting NO RESPONSE from people I send gifts to, or articles or manuscripts. In this day of email, an acknowledgement is a breath away. There's no need for someone to totally disregard a stack of new towels, some mixing bowls, a hundred dollar bill or 200 pages of my heart and soul.

What are they thinking? Or are they thinking? Of course, I always hear "the parents didn't teach them to write thank you notes... or be responsible... or care... or work, or love... or RESPOND." And to that I say, I'm so tired of everything being blamed on parents. Yeah, yeah, I know it's true to a certain extent but at some point these young adults have to take responsibility for their own actions.

As for not acknowledging a manuscript, sometimes a paragraph stating If you have not heard from us within three months, you can submit elsewhere is included in the submission guidelines, but that's just a CYA kind of thing. I think it's a terrible policy. It gives them free rein with the delete button.

I remember always sticking self-addressed, stamped envelopes (SASE) in with my manuscripts. Those were the good old days. Doing so almost always guaranteed a response. At the very least, there was a certain amount of responsibility on the part of the editor/agent/office manager to acknowledge our stamp. I miss those days.

Email makes everything so much easier: easy to delete. easy to ignore. easy to say we never got it. But hey, just as easy to respond!

Writers everywhere deserve a response regarding that novel they slaved over, the article for which they interviewed three professionals, the query letter.

Aunts, sisters, moms, cousins and friends deserve a response to the gift they spent time choosing and mailing. So much for sharing in the joy, huh?

I realize I probably sound like my mother (and I've always fought that!) but I accept it now. I don't accept rudeness and inconsiderate behavior. I don't accept being ignored.

Do you send thank you notes? Are you an editor or agent who prefers not to respond? How do you feel when you don't get a response and why do you feel that way?

Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Pinterest

I'm blogging my way through the alphabet with many others participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge. The A to Z Challenge is the brainchild of Arlee Bird at Tossing it Out. We post every day in April except Sundays.

P is for Pinterest. What it is it? What does it do? How and what's the point. Here's an article that will answer those questions and tell you why you'll become addicted. 

And believe me, addicted is the correct word. I believe my daughter has planned her entire wedding by searching Pinterest. We've figured out our table centerpieces (three books tied with twine), our literary couples--the happy ones! Yes, it's a literary wedding. The groom has selected his groom's table--pies, pies and more pies! Pinterest can "help" you do anything. While looking for a recipe with a certain ingredient, all I have to do is put it in the search engine and I find hundreds.

More importantly, Pinterest is great for writers. Authors are taking full advantage. Some have their entire books on Pinterest. They build visuals. In the old days we created graphic poster boards to inspire us, with everything that reminded us of our stories, but now, we post the hero and heroine's homes, their jewelry, their clothing, their faces, the city they live in with its landmarks. I haven't done it but only because I haven't found the time. I hear it's great promo!

Other authors have writing tips. I hope you can go to this page to see what it's all about. And here's a good one too! So much fun! So informative. 

I have several Pinterest boards: Praise, Prayers and Observations is filled with quotes and a few insignificant things I fancy. My second board is Heroes and Heroines I Think of While Writing. Beautiful people. My last two boards are Someday Recipes (vegetarian) and Someday Fun Projects. You can take a look at all my boards at this link.

If you have to sign in, it's simple. Don't worry about doing so. I've never received any spam or unnecessary messages from Pinterest. They do notify me when I have a new follower or someone has pinned one of my pics.

You'll have a great time creating your own writing world ... or any kind of world for that matter. You can also make it private so you don't have to share with the rest of us.

Do you pin? What's the subject of your boards? If not, why don't you give it a try? It's a new experience. It's inspiring! I love it. I know you will too!

If you pin, leave a link to your favorite board.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for Organized

I'm blogging my way through the alphabet with many others participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge. The A to Z Challenge is the brainchild of Arlee Bird at Tossing it Out. We post every day in April except Sundays.

I've made it all the way to the letter O. That makes me seem pretty Organized, doesn't it? I'm not. I'm choosing words as they come to me--sometimes the day or night before. Sometimes I can't think of anything and go to sleep tossing around in my head, only to get up the next morning and frantically write something.

I should be organized. Any one who salivates over pastel colored index cards, white binders and all notepads should definitely have the gift of organization. Unfortunately, a place for everything and everything in its place doesn't apply to my life. My filing system leaves much to be desired. Most of the time, I use the stacking system: stack it on the bookshelf, stack it on the file cabinet, stack it on the floor. Stack it on anything that's flat!

My file cabinets are full--all three of them. Don't ask me what they contain because I don't have a clue. I've been writing for 100 years. Okay, slight exaggeration, but I got my first file cabinet (a gift from my husband) 30+ years ago. I was so sure I would fill it with great research, manuscripts and book contracts. I can't remember where the second 4-drawer file cabinet came from, but a few years ago I happened upon the third one at a Goodwill Store. I was so excited you'd have thought I'd found a diamond ring in their basket of cheap costume jewelry.  It doesn't take much to thrill me--just mention office supplies and I twitch.

Our kids love to hear the story about how hubby and I left the Justice of the Peace and stopped by the nearest office supply store so I could pick up a few things. When asked what I want for Christmas, birthday, Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, I ask for a gift certificate to Office Depot but it hasn't happened yet. Do they think I'm kidding?

I know I can be Organized. It takes effort. Sometimes I'm so organized I surprise myself so I know I have it in me. I meet all deadlines. I take responsibility seriously. When it comes to the really, really important things, I'm Organized. All I have to do is focus, make lists and check them twice. I have to devote time to planning.

Are you a born organizer? If it doesn't come naturally, how do you manage it? What keeps you on track?

Usually people who manage kids, a spouse and a job or pretty organized, aren't they? They live by a schedule. I have loosey-goosey days and my schedule changes daily. What should I do?

Happy Thursday! Happy O-day!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for Noise

I'm blogging my way through the alphabet with many others participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge. The A to Z Challenge is the brainchild of Arlee Bird at Tossing it Out. We post every day in April except Sundays.

Today we're tackling the letter N and for lack of a better word, I guess I'll choose Noise. Noise has been defined as a sound of any kind. Seems like I always have noise going on in my head. A back and forth dialogue about something or other.

In restaurants I listen to those around me, try to tune in to what they're saying. While driving, I'm plotting stories and imagining my characters talking to each other. Way too often, I'm constructing a response to questions I know are coming. To me, thinking feels like noise. The only time my mind shuts down is when I sleep.


Since we're undergoing massive renovation in our house, I've been hearing a different kind of noise. Scraping. Buzzing. Hammering. Sawing. Boisterous female laughter. Rhythmic Spanish voices. Humming. Even an occasional whistle--from a human. Sometimes a phone.

These new sounds inspire me.

The only noise I can't stand is when someone tries to talk while the TV is blaring. Now, that's unpleasant Noise. I can't understand what all the voices are saying. I feel panicky. My head wants to explode. Figure that one out!

I found a quote I like, and I think I might agree. At any rate, it stirs my imagination.

"People who make no noise are dangerous." Jean de La Fontaine, French Poet

What's your favorite noise?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for Manuscripts (and their Middle)

I'm blogging my way through the alphabet with many others participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge. The A to Z Challenge is the brainchild of Arlee Bird at Tossing it Out. We post every day in April except Sundays.

Our letter today is M and in my mind, that means Manuscripts. We probably all have many unfinished or first drafts tucked away in a drawer or on a hard-drive. What do we do with them? Why did we give up on them? How many times did we revise them? Are they finished, but were rejected over and over again? When do we know it's time to discard them?

I've read that a lot of authors are bringing their old manuscripts out as ebooks, but honestly, I don't have the courage to do that. My thought is, if a traditional publisher didn't want them, then something has to be wrong with them. I know that's not always the case for rejection but I'm not taking any chances.

All of my manuscripts need rewriting. The Middle--another M word--is what weakens my books. There's something about the middle that's a real challenge for me--even though I know that's where the action is, the heart of the book. I've noticed once I get past chapter three or four, my characters tend to get silly. The scenes seem forced. They can't think of anything to do or say to each other. I have to focus, outline, visualize, put myself in each character's place for the middle of my books to be logical. When I start writing ... I dread getting to the middle!

Some writers construct each scene with such precision. I understand that each scene has a beginning, a middle and end, that it's supposed to further the story, add complications and tension. I think some of this writing stuff we just do naturally. If I work with such precision, I get lost or overwhelmed. But maybe I'm looking at this from the front-side of my manuscript, not the backside. Not after it's written and I'm delving into the layering.

Tell me how you approach the middle of your book. Share any tips you have. Do you outline extensively and know what the middle will bring, or do you sit down and start writing and worry about the middle after the fact? Do you ask yourself any specific questions when you're approaching your middle? Do you recognize when your middle is too easy and unemotional?
Teach me something!

Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for Liar (or Lie)

I'm blogging my way through the alphabet with many others participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge. The A to Z Challenge is the brainchild of Arlee Bird at Tossing it Out. We post every day in April except Sundays.

Today is L day, and I've chosen the word Liar. I don't like liars. Maybe I should say ... lying is a pet peeve, and I don't trust liars. Unfortunately, we all come in contact with them. We might even have family members who lie. I always feel when I catch someone in a lie, I can never trust him or her again. I'm always suspicious of everything they tell me.

Of course, sometimes we're a little confused about what a lie really is. There are no half-lies. A lie is a lie.  We get into the situational ethics thing, an idea that suggests the end justifies the means when dealing with a crisis; that the law can be set aside if a greater good or lesser evil is served. I really don't think we're going to be able to rationalize or explain ourselves when we stand before God. Isn't that a little scary?

One of my books deals with situational ethics. My main character is forced into a situation where she lies to get a job to save her self and her nephew, and to achieve a dream she had in high school. In her mind, she's justified. Sadly, her actions destroy someone else's dream. It's not your typical happy ending. The book has been rejected by Christian publishers because they don't want a book where the heroine lies. At least that's what they said. Okay, I guess they don't like liars either--even if the main character grows and changes and repents.

Lies and Liars are all around us. We deal with them every day.

When I researched liars in public office, I learned that a congressional investigation several years ago uncovered almost 500 federal employees who had credentials from unaccredited schools giving bogus degrees. This included three individuals with high-level security clearance. That was several years ago ... just think how that number has increased today!

I won't name names but a university football coach admitted he lied about his academic and athletic background. He claimed to have a masters in education and he claimed the have played football for three years. Neither was true.

An athletic director from another university neglected to correct his resume. He never completed his master's degree yet it was listed there. After exposed, he had to resign.

The president of a very important U.S. committee resigned after it was discovered she didn't receive her bachelor's degree or her doctorate, as claimed.

One politician in Texas was defeated for re-election because she claimed to have a bachelor's degree when she did not.
A CEO of a well-known electronics store resigned because he claimed degrees in theology and psychology from a university.

Needless to say, these people would still hold their positions if they had not been found out. I'm not saying these people weren't qualified or capable of holding down these jobs. The problem is their lies. Actually, lying is akin to theft. They stole these positions from people who actually worked hard in college to get such jobs.

I guess a good question is, why weren't their resumes checked out? Why weren't references called?  But I suppose that's another story.

When we talk about lies and liars, we always revert back to something silly like, "You mean if my wife asks if she looks good in a particular dress, I'm supposed to tell the truth?" Look buddy, just say what my husband says, "I love you, to me, you look good in anything and everything."  If he believes so do I! Lying is a serious thing and we shouldn't be allowed to get away with it.

And if you're a Believer, you probably agree that we won't.

How do you feel about Lies and Liars? Is it a worthy topic or one you don't want to deal with or know about?

Friday, April 11, 2014

J is for Janie

I'm blogging my way through the alphabet with many others participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge. For me, it really is a challenge because of all that's going on in my life. I spent today trying to design wedding invitations while painters painted and workers cut granite. I took a short break to run to Lowe's to pick out bathroom faucets.

We've been busy ever since moving back to Louisiana from Oklahoma. I thought retirement meant a lot of free time on our hands. Not so.

I miss Oklahoma. I especially miss my friend Janie who met me at the library for a writing day two or three times a month. She drove about 45 minutes one way for our writing day. We'd meet at 9:00 a.m. and at noon, we'd break for lunch. I'd usually take apple and cheese but Janie packed a real lunch of tuna or chicken salad. After lunch, we'd write for another hour or two. Here are a couple of pics I snapped of Janie while she focused on her manuscript. I guess you know if I'm snapping pics with my iPhone, I'm not focused on writing. I'm people-watching.

Janie used to live in Cameron, Louisiana but after her husband died, she moved to Oklahoma to be near sisters and was there to welcome me when hubby's work took us there. What a treat to have a writing pal, a brainstorming buddy ... someone who is fun, smart, loves to read and loves to laugh. That's Janie, fearless Janie, I-can-do-anything-I-put-my-mind-to Janie. What an encourager! I wrote my novella at the Mustang Library in Oklahoma with Janie sitting across from me ... just like in these pictures. If we were still there, I'd have another book finished. I have no doubt!

Janie and I keep in touch by email, but it's definitely not the same as sitting across the table from each other. I can't see her crazy expressions or hear her wild laughter. I miss that.

Do you have a special pal that cheers you on when you've been rejected way too many times? Someone who'll read over your work, and tell you honestly if it is good, if a scene works, if there are plot holes? Janie wrote a little mystery short story that I had the pleasure of critiquing for her. She targeted Women's World Magazine. We were so excited when they offered her a contract. A Safe Bet came out in March. I felt like Janie's success was my success too.

Tell me about your writer friends. Anyone special?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I is for Inconvenience

Definition of inconvenience (n)

  • in·con·ven·ience
  • [ ìnkən véenyənss ]
lack of convenience: the quality or fact of being inconvenient or causing discomfort, difficulty, or annoyance
annoyance: something that causes difficulties or annoyance
cause difficulty to somebody: to cause somebody difficulties, especially relatively minor or unnecessary ones, or ones involving unwanted extra effort, work, or trouble

As some of you know, hubby recently retired after working 47+ years for the same company. We've looked forward to renovating our home, getting wood floors, ceramic tile in the bathrooms and kitchen, new appliances and kitchen cabinets and tearing out a totally useless wet bar to make bookshelves. Wet bar to the right.

We've been under construction (demolition) since March 6th. What an INCONVENIENCE. I almost feel as if this
is self-inflicted pain. I know once everything is completed, we'll be thrilled, but until then ... I'm not able to put my mind in writing mode. Or maybe I should say rewriting mode since that's what I'd hoped to do during this time. We have two more bedrooms to move stuff out of, but there's no place to put their contents until we get some floors down. Our garage is full.

Here are a few pics so you'll understand what I'm going through and if anyone has questions about how and what they should do to "prepare" for such a renovation, just ask. I have a few answers. Hubby is standing in what used to be our kitchen, playing with his iPhone. Twitter keeps him sane. To the right is the bathroom. Very INCONVENIENT when they decide to tear up both bathrooms at the same time! The other night we took a shower is our smaller bathroom by flashlight. Wow, new experience!

Renovation is a lot like tearing a novel apart and putting it back together again--correctly--or maybe the new way you see it in your mind. What do you think?

To the right is in my office. The path leads to my desk. We stored most of our books and breakables here because renovation is NOT happening in this room. I can only take so much ... INCONVENIENCE!

Do you have any tales of inconvenience? Do you think you could write while this is going on? Have you renovated before? Maybe I could learn a few things from you. Share!

I'm blogging my way through the alphabet with more than a thousand others who are doing the same. Please support the bloggers of the #AtoZchallenge by visiting, sharing or commenting.  It's fun! Certainly more fun than this INCONVENIENCE!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

H is for Hand-marking a Hard copy

For those who don't know, I'm blogging my way through the alphabet with more than a thousand others who are doing the same. Please support the bloggers of the #AtoZchallenge by visiting, sharing or commenting.  It's fun! 
Today, we're blogging an H word and I've chosen Hand-marking a Hard copy. That's when I go through the pages of my manuscript and mark it up, edit, flesh it out. I critique myself. I wish I didn't need a Hard copy because sometimes I'm away from home (like this past week) with no way to print out an article or short story for revising, and I find myself in a pickle--especially if I'm on deadline. I wonder if needing a Hard-copy to Hand-mark is a bad habit I acquired years ago. Or if it's common practice.
I'm curious to know what you all do. Do you edit on your laptop. I can do that to a point, but I prefer a print copy so I can move away from my work area to a clear, comfortable place to read, proof, absorb. If I need to cut pages and paragraphs, I just slash through it and write myself a little note. If I need to fill in with description or introspection, it's easy to do. Here's a picture of a book I'm working on. I put it in a three ring binder then give it a read-thru, making changes until I feel I can get back to the computer to do final edits. 
Is there an easier way?  If so, share with me so I can quit killing trees!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

G is for ...

The A to Z Challenge is moving along at a pretty snappy pace. That's another way to say April is flying. I can't believe we're four months into 2014.

So far, my blogging through the alphabet has been a challenge--as it's supposed to be. I've dealt with home renovation, deadlines and illness. Still dealing with some of it. But, others who are doing the same.. Please support the bloggers of the #AtoZchallenge by visiting, sharing or commenting.  It's fun!

Today we're using the letter G. And my word is a little touchy for writers. Everyone has opinions about authentic bad guys and how dialogue makes them real. I think real might be in the eyes (and ears) of the reader. And the author who uses an abundance of profanity is kidding himself into thinking he's adding authenticity.

I interviewed and wrote an article on Steven James, a best selling award-winning, Christian thriller writer who is quite the storyteller. Talk about authentic characters! They're chilling, and he doesn't toss any profanity into their mouths. Sometimes reviews say he's a little too graphic, but his dedicated fans argue that his graphic murder scenes are true to his stories. Violent reads with no profanity. Can you imagine?

I'm sure some of you can't imagine. Many of my writer friends argue this point with me, but when there's no profanity, yet readers are chilled to the bone, can't sleep  at night or have nightmares, I believe the skill of the author is obviously noticeable.

You 're probably wondering when I'll get to my G-word. Well, I won't write it, but I hate it when authors sprinkle God's name in vain throughout their books. As if that really adds anything to the mix. Nora Roberts curses liberally though for the life of me, I can't understand why. It adds nothing. In fact, it yanks me out of the story because it seems so unnatural for these wonderful characters I'm reading about. The three heroes use profanity continuously, for no good reason, as does their mother. I think it makes them all sound alike.

But the main point is that when we take God's name in vain, we're breaking one of His commandments.

Exodus 20:7 states:

"Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." - King James Version (KJV)
If that isn't clear enough, then see what The Message says:
 No using the name of God, your God, in curses or silly banter; God won’t put up with the irreverent use of his name.
Authors who take God's name liberally are treading on dangerous ground, every time their books are read. Their words of profanity, God's name taken in vain, are being repeated over and over again, slamming into the minds and hearts of readers everywhere. Is that causing someone to stumble?
I don't know about you, but I don't want any sins trailing behind me.

Monday, April 7, 2014

F is for Fact

Thanks everyone who said a prayer and sent good wishes for my mom during her illness. At 90, and living in a nursing home, she's pretty vulnerable. When I left yesterday, she was on the mend but it's heartbreaking to see her looking so frail. Every now and then, that Arkansas spirit pushed its way through and she'd spit out some zingers to me and my brother that made us laugh. She likes to tell everyone she's a tough old bird, but obviously,  she's not as tough as she used to be, and that's a FACT!

Fact is my F-word, and I should have written about it last night, but after driving five hours in horrific rain, I was just too tired to think. So, during the wee hours of this morning, I examined F-words which led me to Fact in Fiction. We've all heard that Truth is Stranger than Fiction. There are Facts we could put in our fiction that editors would cut because they didn't ring true, they'd be just too strange to be believable to a reader, or they might come across too coincidental.

Back in the "old" days when romances first came on the scene, there were many strange, fun things that appeared in books that I loved. I remember one book in particular that made me laugh until I cried. I can't remember the title, The Grass is Always Greener I think, but the author was Billie Green and the romance line was Loveswept  The heroine wanted nothing more than to win the most beautiful yard award and she worked hard getting her grass green and her flowers blooming. Her new neighbor didn't give a hoot and his yard looked like a c-word. You know the one.  She harassed him so much about his yard that the night before the judging he bought tons of green spray paint and sprayed his yard green. It looked hideous, but the way it played out was hilarious. It's probably been 25 or 30 years (maybe longer) since I've read that book, but I can't help but smile when I think of it. I don't know that that could really happen. Would or could anyone in his right mind purchase that much spray paint, much less walk a yard and spray it green? I've used spray paint. The fingers get tired of pushing the nozzle and one can doesn't go very far. But ...

When I think of Fact in Fiction, I always revert back to this particular book for some reason. To my knowledge, no one in his right mind would attempt spraying his yard green. It doesn't sound logical or true, yet, in the book it rang true because we saw how the heroine pushed the hero to his breaking point. He wanted to retaliate and did. If the author had shown the hero winning the most beautiful yard award with sprayed on green, everything she had written would have been for nothing. Her funny little romance would have been destroyed.

Do you try to make your fiction realistic? Do you believe there are satisfying ways to make unbelievable things true? Make them read like FACT. Do you remember a book or story where the author pushed the envelope? Share.

I am blogging my way through the alphabet with others who are doing the same..
Please support the bloggers of the #AtoZchallenge by visiting, sharing or commenting.  It's fun!

Friday, April 4, 2014

E is for Emergency

Well, here I am in Longview, TX because of an Emergency with my mom. This time yesterday I was trying to think of a D-word, never giving my E-word a second thought.

I don't like the word Emergency. It's never a good thing whether it's with a loved one or a manuscript. Right? E-mer-gen-cy. It doesn't roll off my tongue; it sort of shuffles, stumbles, feeling awkward. Such an unpleasant word.

My mom is in a nursing home and was hit with a bladder infection, a stomach virus and bronchitis. That's enough to knock anyone for a loop, much less a little old woman who
just turned 90. So when my brother called this morning to tell me Mom wanted to go to the hospital, that she wanted her kids there and for him to find her Last Will and Testament, I hopped in the car and headed to Texas. She's never been prone to that kind of drama! Well, maybe she has. The pic at the right was taken a few months ago. I told her my daughter and some of her friends were coming to visit her so she practiced posing.

Anyway, by the time I got to the nursing home today (a 4 1/2 hour drive), she was somewhat better, no need for a hospital--just her two kids. She perked up a little and tried to entertain us with her wit but I could tell it was an act.

So, Emergency is the word for the weekend--as much as I hate to use it. I'd certainly prefer Eccentric which sounds fascinating to me. Or Easy money which always sounds tempting but really, just a fantasy. Even Elephant sounds more delightful.

Emergency - I don't wish my E-word on any of you. May all your friends and loved ones have a good and safe weekend, and I pray you have no Emergencies.

I'll see you Monday with a much better word! Promise!

I am blogging my way through the alphabet with others who are doing the same..
Please support the bloggers of the #AtoZchallenge by visiting, sharing or commenting.  It's fun!

D is for Difficult!

D is difficult for me. I've thought of several words--Distractions, Death, Details, Determination, Dreams, Destination. The trouble is that I can't think of much to write about any of those words. Maybe a little about all of them?

Daily - Do you write every day? I'd like to write a couple of hours daily or maybe four hours two or three days a week. When I start writing and it goes well, I can stay with it for several hours.

Distractions - Yes, I'm easily distracted. If I'm at the library, I can start watching people if I'm not careful. I can also be distracted by book titles if I'm sitting near the stacks. At home, in my cluttered office, I can be distracted by anything and everything: husband, TV, books on my shelves, the smell of food or a growling stomach.

Death - Don't you think that losing sight of a goal or a dream is a little like death?

Details - I find it amazing that sometimes I'm a detail person. Usually that's when I'm doing something for someone else, like on assignment, helping with a conference or designing a Save the Date card for daughter. I'm extremely detail oriented--sometimes. Unfortunately, my fiction is lacking. I tend to avoid that extra layering of detail that makes my story flesh and bones, gives my writing something special, a fullness or sophistication. Details make characters real.

Determination - All writers need determination. If we don't have it, we're whooped before we really get started.

Dreams - I know some of you turn your dreams into fiction. My dreams are usually hilarious or creepy. Sometimes my husband will wake me up because I'm laughing like a crazy woman. I've never gotten a story idea from my dreams.

Destination - I like the way that word rolls off my tongue. De-sti-na-tion. If you could choose one or the other, would you walk into the future or into the past?

So much for my D-words. Today, I'm sorely lacking.

I am blogging my way through the alphabet with others who are doing the same..
Please support the bloggers of the #AtoZchallenge by visiting, sharing or commenting.  It's fun!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

C is for Career (and more)

On this third day of the A to Z Challenge, I'm thinking C is for Career. Do you have a career? A career is a thing of the past for me. As for a writing career, it never really got off the ground. I've had more nonfiction success but my passion isn't nonfiction. Really, I never visualized myself with a writing career.

With fiction, I tend to chase markets. I thought it was fun in my younger days. (Truth be known, I still think it's fun.) But, unless on assignment, I've always started projects that I didn't finish, or completed but never revised. I always took rejection too seriously, and moved around so much because of hubby's work that any writing routine was a challenge.

Anyway, at best, I'm probably a mediocre writer. My sentences don't sing--not even to me. Not like Elizabeth Berg's or Nora's.

There was a time (in my younger days) I was driven. Not so much anymore. A successful writer has to put writing first. I can't do that. And won't. There are people, places and things that come first in my life.

Maybe I'm just Confused. Another C-word. I look at what's happening in publishing and sometimes, it just doesn't seem worth the effort. I read blogs that state the market is saturated with self-published authors creating ebooks, and that no one is making any money. I read another blog that says why get an agent, they have no role in our writing lives/careers anymore. Another blog will say publishers are cheating us out of our rights, tying up ebooks forever and a day.

Yeah, I'm confused. Didn't this used to be fun? Okay, yeah, sometimes it still is.

But, I wonder what I'd do if I was a writer just starting out, and didn't know what I know from years and years of studying, writing, taking classes and reading the trade mags? What would my career path be? Would I take the indie route and hope some witty tweet, blog post, interview would snag attention, make me a best seller? Would I pursue an agent while publishing short ebooks and stories, and hope one helped the other? Many writers suggest we do that--both.

A friend told me years ago that she didn't love writing enough to write for the fun of it. I didn't understand what she meant (and remember feeling sad for her) but I think I understand now.

Creating a Career in writing is a real Challenge. Everything has Changed.

I don't like change, even though change often brings better/more opportunities.

I like assignments. I like for someone to tell me what to do so I can just do it. Not have to think or plan. Just produce. Maybe that's why I've always chased the markets. 

Do you have a career plan? Share it with me ... better yet, create one for me.

I am blogging my way through the alphabet with others who are doing the same. 
Please support the bloggers of the #AtoZchallenge by visiting, sharing or commenting.  It's fun!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

B is for BOOKS! and IWSG Day!

Day 2 of the A to Z Challenge and of course, B has to be for Books. Nora Roberts' books. That's what I'm reading right now. All my books are boxed to the ceiling so daughter loaned me a fun Nora R. series called The Inn Boonsboro Novels. I've laughed myself silly at some of the fantastic scenes with a mom and her three sons.

I've finished Book 1 called The Next Always and just getting started on Book 2, The Last Boyfriend. Book 3 is titled The Perfect Hope.

Now, I know what people say about Nora. She breaks all the rules, she head hops. Well, yeah, she does...but she's Nora Roberts so she can do what she wants. Even though WE can't get away with head-hopping and switching POV at random, we can learn from her. Her characters are fantastic. They're REAL. And, does she ever know how to tell a story! It's been quite awhile since I've read anything that was so excellently plotted. And it's been twice as long since I've read a Nora Roberts book.

The Inn Boonsboro trilogy is about three brothers who are renovating a historic hotel in Boonsboro, Maryland.  And of course, there are three beautiful women--all best friends. Each book belongs to a brother and one of those heroines, but what I like best about these books is that all six characters are in each, with major roles. They're family and friends and we see them involved in each others lives in major ways. I get to live with these wonderful characters through three whole books! You don't have to tell me it'll be hard letting them go. I know.

Most trilogies I've read don't handle their series characters like this.  Each character has his own story, then appears briefly in the other stories, or he's just referred to in the others. That's not nearly as fun as the way Nora does it.

Nora Roberts is an expert in storytelling, plotting and characterization. I know many of you don't read romance but if you ever get an itch to write a trilogy, I suggest studying The Inn Boonsboro Novels. You'll meet some characters you'll never forget. And isn't that what we strive for, as writers? To make our readers love our characters and come back for more?

If you have tips on how you make your characters real ... or have a favorite author you study, share with us.

Hope you're having a great A to Z day 2!


I can't keep up with the days here lately, and was thinking it was Tuesday. Almost missed Insecure Writer's Support Group. As you probably know, it was started by Alex Cavanaugh. It's a great encouraging group. While this blog post will serve as an A to Z/IWSG combo, I wanted to share a guest post Alex did for me. I think you'll enjoy it.  Check it out on my other blog, BE A REAL WRITER.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A to Z Challenge 2014: A is for Acknowlegement

This will be my third A to Z Challenge. I've been waiting for it all year! To prove it, while living in Oklahoma I asked a friend to make me a purse representative of this A to Z crazy thing I love. See! The A & Z are bookends and she sewed Writer, Editor, Blogger in red, blue and yellow. Love it!

Yes, April is here but it has arrived right in the middle of my busy life! Daughter and I are planning her wedding for August. My house is being totally renovated, and hubby and I are feeling somewhat overwhelmed and homeless since we often search for a place to spend the night to get out of dust and paint fumes. I lost my voice for three weeks--it's just now coming back. Still a little froggy.

How will I ever keep up with this Challenge? I never plan? I just write off the top of my head. With all I have going, this year will definitely be a challenge, but here goes:

Today is A for Acknowledgment. My A-word hit me this morning when I browsed a Mary Higgins Clark book called Daddy's Gone A Hunting. I bought it a couple weeks ago but haven't had time to read it yet. Opening to the acknowledgement, MHC writes: As always the journey can sometimes be smooth. Other days as I stare at the computer I ask myself, Whatever made you think you could write another book?

I had to read it again ... and again. Did Mary Higgins Clark just ask herself that frightening question we all ask? Obviously, she sat down and wrote ... she didn't wring her hands and moan and groan...and procrastinate!  That's what we have to do: just sit down and write.

My tip for the day is, always read the Acknowledgment page. There are wonderful little gems of encouragement tucked away there.

Happy A to Z Challenge 2014, everyone! Don't forget to check out the other several hundred bloggers! And good luck!

(Remember, I have to approve all comments.)