Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Lose the Must

If you all didn't know, over the holidays Agent Jessica Faust over at Bookends took pitches and randomly critiqued them. Of course I read through them and added one of my own. :-)

Some pitches were good, interesting, succinct. Some were not. And some just made my brain hurt. In all of these, a common word began to pound at my eyes.

MUST

The hero must do this. The heroine must do that. But somehow the pitches were not setup in such a way that I felt like the protagonist "must" do anything.

This is bad, but I'll confess it anyways. All those musts began to annoy me. I began to grit my teeth every time I saw one.

Lesson: Don't use must. Just say what the protagonist decides to do.

I just discovered this pet peeve, so I hope I haven't offended anyone with this post. It's only my opinion, which is only worth the value you give it. :-) Anyways, I thought you all would be interested in reading those pitches. It is a great exercise to see what works and what doesn't.

Did you read them? What stood out to you?

*I've never pitched an agent before so this is only my unprofessional opinion. I have no background in pitching at all.*

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Back In Business

Christmas is over, can you believe it? For my family it was a lovely time. No drama, no fighting, just yummy food and laughter.

But now it's time to shake off the addictive lethargy of dark chocolate and apple pie and push myself back into the groove of things.

My goals include finishing my wip before 2009, revising and submitting a different manuscript to an editor, and beginnning a new story. I also want to put my family before my writing and make sure they don't get shoved to the side. Which reminds me. I probably should make a goal of reading my Bible every day. It's ironic to sit down and write romances that glorify God, when I haven't even spoken to God before putting fingers to keyboard. But that's a post for another day. :-)

My fears: Seeing my eldest off to kindergarten. How humiliating to know that I feel teary thinking about it, and this big event is months away.

Finally, my dreams for 2009 include landing an agent or a contract. At this point in my writing, either feat would propell me to a state of bliss for weeks on end.

What are your goals, fears and dreams for 2009?

Monday, December 22, 2008

'Tis the Season...

For a blog break. :-)

In the meantime-

"For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but should have everlasting life."

And-

"...looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the JOY (that's us) that was set before him endured the cross..."

It's my prayer that as you celebrate Christmas, exchanging gifts and hopefully experiencing joy, you'll know about the greatest Gift of all, given out of love. Given out of a passionate desire for relationship.
Because of this, Jesus sacrificed himself to break the sinful divide. And he counted our being near to him as Joy.

Sounds like Good News to me!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Comic Heroes

We watched Batman: The Dark Knight last night. It was very good. I couldn't help but contrast Batman to Ironman.

Not the movies, but the heroes.

In Batman, in his normal state, the hero comes across as suave, sophisticated and somewhat serious. (I thought) In Ironman, our hero is completely different. Rakish, a charmer. Hilarious too.

Different personalities and yet both undeniably heroic.

Have you seen these movies? What kind of heroic traits do you like to see in the male protagonist of a story?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Interesting Posts

A new blog is coming to town! Hosted by four fabulous writers, MuseTracks is going to cover all sorts of delicious writing tools, tips and probably gossip. LOL They just started so maybe you can pop over and check them out.

Interested in a manuscript critique? Story Sensei is offering a discount on full critiques. Camy Tang is a good author and very knowledgeable about the craft. Her synopsis class was also super helpful.

Then Susan Reinhardt has an interview with Linore Burkard. This author is especially interesting because she self-pubbed her first book and it was so good that a Harvest House editor asked to publish it. At least, that's what I've heard. :-)

Recently, I read a bestseller that, while interesting, contained no character arc for the heroine. NONE. Then I found this excellent post by Amy Deardon and thought you guys might be interested in reading it. She brings up popular characters who are also static. (unchanging)

What do you guys think? Do you agree? Have you read or watched anything lately in which the protagonist has NO character arc? If so, what do you think kept you interested in the story?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Passive vs Active

I don't think I've posted about this before. A lot of people think passive writing is simply using the word "was".

It's not.

You can have 'was' in a sentence and it still be active.

A passive sentence is one in which the action happens to the subject, rather than the subject performing the action. However, the word 'was' usually indicates weak writing. So check that manuscript!

A word of caution. I'm reading a HUGE bestseller that's filled with 'was's. I keep mentally rearranging the sentences. So don't go overboard and change everything. Sometimes 'was' is necessary and sometimes it makes the sentence sound better.

The important thing is that your writing zings. Watch out for passives and that will help propel your words to a stronger level.

Here's some links to articles that say it better than me:

http://www.absolutewrite.com/novels/passive_writing.htm

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/284976/active_writing_vs_passive_writing.html

http://ezinearticles.com/?Writing-Tip:-Active-vs.-Passive-Verbs&id=301033 (Notice in this article that both sentences contain the word was.)

When did you learn about passive/active voice? Before or after your first finished manuscript?

Me? After. :-)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sorry Y'all

After battling a cold and five little boys (lol) I'm tuckered out. So the next "real" post will be Tuesday.
In the meantime, I have so many books that I want to do another book giveaway, but this time it's going to be a contest of sorts.
I have a fun idea...
And can't wait to see what you think. More on that later.

At the risk of sounding corny, Happy Sunday everyone!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Addicted

Anybody notice how the word count changes on my counter like every day?
That's because I'm addicted to it.

There's this marvelous thrill that races through me every time I see the percentage go up a point. And strangely enough, this motivates me to write.

What motivates you? Is it strange? Do tell....

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Joy of Writing

Last night I forced myself to sit down and do my words, even though I really wanted to watch a movie.

It didn't take long to get in the groove of things, and then suddenly, my hero was throwing the heroine over his shoulder! She shrieked, and then bit him, of course. As I wrote I heard myself chuckling. It felt so good. Even though this scene, or at least movement, will probably need to be cut later, I loved writing it.

Writing to be published often means we tailor certain aspects of our stories to fit a publisher's needs. But sometimes we should let loose and go wild. I think Rita mentioned that in yesterday's comments. Just writing to write. No worries, no stress.

My scene is pertinent to the book but if I have to cut the hero's action later on, it'll be okay.

Writing it made me laugh. And at this moment (rough draft stage) that's all that counts to me.

Have you ever done this? Loved what you were writing so much that you kept going, even though you might have to hit the delete key later on?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Quality or Quantity?

It's something I'm often faced with when writing. Do I try to get my thousand words in while the kids are napping? Or do I write the best I can, tightening my prose before I move on?

Whenever I mutter about getting my word count done, lovely Hubby points out that I should worry about the quality not the quantity. Then my jaw about snaps off because I'm gritting my teeth so hard.

I believe it was Nora Roberts who said thefamous quote about being able to fix a bad page but not a blank page. That advice went straight to my writing soul.

So now I live for my word count. And since I don't plot much, I know there are tons of revisions ahead. But as long as I finish I'm happy.

How about you? What's your philosophy and does it work for you?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Weekend Greetings

Good morning everyone! I hope your weekend is going well.

Yesterday I met with a group of writers in the Tampa area and it was SO wonderful. Meeting people online is wonderful, but in person is even better. Though I admit to being extremely nervous and probably talking too much about myself.

Eek.

Anyways, do you guys have other writers you talk to? Or are you like me and sit solitary in the chair, writing but never talking. The whole face-to-face thing is awesome. If you don't know anyone who writes, I encourage you to get on the net and see if there's a group nearby.

Writers often have many things in common. I used to feel a little weird (and alone) with my imagination, quietness, bookworminess. But meeting other writers for the first time two years ago at the Florida Christian Writer Conference, and then again yesterday, has been incredible. And if nerve-wracking, it was also a great rush.

How do you feel about writing groups? Or do you prefer the keyboard?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Query Wars

Lately it seems I've been sending them out, but not getting them in. I'm beginning to wonder if my e-mail address is hitting the spamguards and getting chucked to the spam box. Ironically, the snail mail SASES come back sooner than the e-mail.

Just in case you haven't begun formulating your query, here are a few good links.

Seekers- Make sure to read this post and the next day's. They're both very informative.

Miss Snark-She's always a good read. This particular post deals with one of the most important things about your query letter.

Janet Reid-And this is from the agent herself. Can you believe it? I'll definitely take this advice. LOL

Rachelle Gardner- She posted this very recently, just like the Seekers. It's good to know that in the end, it's the story (and all it entails) that ultimately hooks the agent.

Charlotte Dillon- More samples of real queries that sold the story.

And there's tons more info all over the net. Are any of you in the query stage yet? Written a bad one? A good one? I'd love to hear how it's going for you. As for me, since I'm not getting any bites I'm starting to think I may need to rewrite my query.

Check out Susan's blog for a chance to win a free book!


So, is anyone going to the ACFW meeting in Tampa on Saturday? Let me know. I'd love to meet someone I "know" in person. :-)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Book Trailers

Until recently, all the ones I've seen have been boring. Nothing like a movie trailer, nothing to hook me. So I figured I'd never bother getting one made.

And then I saw Marie-Claude's. I recommend that you check it out. It's for her paranormal novel, Ancient Whispers, which also happens to be a finalist in Dorchester and Romantic Times' American Title V contest. I don't read paranormal but her trailer is incredible. I'm completely impressed. Also, on the sidebar of her website is a list of her crit partners. They have also created book trailers you might be interested in.

Anyways, the amazing thing is that she made this trailer on her computer. Free.

So now I'm working on mine.

Have you thought about creating a book trailer for your manuscript? Do you think it's an effective marketing tool?

Oh, Kristen left the first comment with a link. That was a good one too. It gave me chills.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Blessings

The other day I managed to get all my kids down for naps at the same time. It was wonderful. So I sat down on my couch and began to work on my wip.

Five minutes later the phone rang. It was my mom, who loves to chat. She asked what I was doing and I said, writing.

She said, "I'll let you go so you can get your writing done."

And we hung up.

It was an amazing moment. I've heard others say how difficult it is to carve out a writing time and have people respect it. And yes, there are people in my family who don't understand the need for aloneness.

But my mom totally blew me away. In that moment I felt incredibly blessed to have such a supportive, thoughtful family member.

Anything like this happen to you lately?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

In Hot Pursuit

I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving. :-)
Now I have a story that ties into our writing.

My four year old Matthew has a crush. It's the cutest thing, but was also sad because Savannah told him that they weren't friends. So he admitted to me that he followed her sometimes across the playground. Pursued her, if you will. (Don't worry, I told him to stop. lol)
Now, suddenly, this fickle four year old girl is his friend. So he came home and told me how he and another boy chased her and another girl. Who did Matthew like chasing the best? Savannah. Even though she finally agreed to befriend him, he still pursues her.

This started me thinking about romance. In my opinion, there should be a pursuit. One character should desperately want the other. It spices things up. There's nothing more boring to me than reading about happy couples, usually because there's no sizzle.
Now in life, I'm very happy with my relationship with my husband. We get along great with another differences to keep things interesting and we rarely fight.

But in a romance, there needs to be tension, conflict.

Clashing desires.

And hot pursuit.

Some of my favorite romances are by Victoria Holt and Nora Roberts because there's usually one character in love with another, which leads to a delicious, emotional rollercoaster ride of a chase.

What are your fav romances? Why?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Stuffing Break

Turkey's not my thing, but boy can I eat me some stuffing.

Woohoo!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I'll be back on Friday or Saturday. I hope you all have a great holiday.

The Canadians (you know who you are), I hope you have a nice weekend.

Later!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Common Errors Pt. 2

Ha! As if we didn't make enough mistakes, there's more on my list.
Hehee!

6. Its and It's: This is a special case of the use and non-use of the apostrophe. It's is ALWAYS a contraction for "It is." Its, when used as a possessive, NEVER has an apostrophe.

7. Punctuation marks like commas and periods fall INSIDE the quotation marks. The outside way is British. If you're subbing to American publishers, it's probably best to stay inside the quotes.

8. Virgules (doubletake here! Someone pull out Balderdash! Ahem, back to the list.) So, ah, virgules are used to indicate alternatives, as in "and/or." A usage like "secretary/treasurer" suggests this person is either a secretary or a treasure, but not both. "Secretary-Treasurer" is the correct form. Most every usage of virgule you see today is incorrect. Professional writers know the difference between correct usage and incorrect usage. (ouch mr. editor! *snort*) When I posted this I took my editor's word for it but because of the comments I decided to look it up. Now I'm not sure my cheat sheet is write. Hmmm. Just thought I'd let y'all know. :-)

And the postscript of my cheat sheet which my wonderfully sweet former editor gave to me is just too funny to not share. For your viewing pleasure only, his last words to naive, first-time freelancer Jessica Nelson.

"If you leave too many errors for him [mr. editor] to correct, he may just decide that you really don't know what you are doing, and really start doing some aggressive editing, figuring 1), your work probably needs it; and 2), you'll never know the difference."



*He really was a nice editor. I wasn't being sarcastic. Just so you know, since you can't hear my tone. :-)*

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Common Errors Pt. 1

Once upon a time, I wrote for my city newspaper. The day I went into this amazing place called the Star-Banner I was super young. Nineteen, in fact. And so, so excited.
My new editor showed me around then took me back to the office and explained things. Then he handed me a sheet of paper with common errors correspondents make.

I thought I'd share them.

1. A person should be referred to as a "who," not a "that." A "that" is an inanimate object. A "who" is a person. (LOL Just fixed a few of these in my manuscript)

2. Why is every "majority" a vast majority? Are there no longer any simple majorities?

3. Erstwhile, discreet, discrete, fame, infamy, compliment, complement, principal, principle: Make sure you know what the words you are using mean. *input from me> Watch out with the thesaurus. It shows words that are similar but they don't always mean the same thing. A dictionary is a great tool.*

4. "As follows" is, in most cases, empty verbiage.
Poor: The new officers are as follows: John Smith, president; Jane Doe...
Better: The new officers are: John Smith, president; Jane Doe...

5. Desert, Dessert- I'll bet I've read about literally hundreds of functions where hot, dry sand was served after the main course (LOL, I can totally hear my editor's dry humor here)

This wraps up lesson 1. I studied this paper many times during the beginning of my writer days.
Have you ever made any of these boo-boos? Do you have a cheat sheet like me? What's it say?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Growing Pains

As I revise an older manuscript for the Golden Heart, I am amazed at the plethora of "that" and "was" in my first chapters.
This manuscript has been pounded and twisted and scrunched so many times that to find more work of this magnitude is a bit overwhelming.
I love this story, however, so I press on.

Thank goodness for Control F. That thing'll be worn out by the time I'm done with it.

It is a nice thing to see that I am growing in the craft, however painful it may be. After all, when I last looked at this manuscript only months ago, these passive extras never stood out to me. Someday, when I'm published, growing will still be important to me. Learning new things, discovering better ways.

This is an important lesson for us all, both in life and in writing, that we never think we're finished. We are all works of art, continually being molded by our choices and beliefs.

Have you discovered any recent areas where you've changed? For the better or for the worse?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Surprise Me

SPOILER ALERT****FOR THE NEW INDIANA JONES MOVIE******
DON'T READ ANY MORE IF YOU DON'T WANT TO FIND OUT A SECRET!
:-)

Hubby and I watched Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull the other night. I really liked it, especially when the younger guy came on the scene. At first I wondered if he was Indiana's son.
But the movie set up enough info for me to conclude he was not Indiana's son.

Or so I thought.

That's what I love about these surprises. Turns out he is the son but I was pleasantly surprised because I no longer expected it. From there on out there was some interesting friction that I enjoyed.

I love a good surprise in a story but it has to be set up well. Enough clues for me to think I know the answer but when the truth is finally unveiled the clues have to be strong enough for me to think, Oh yeah. This could totally work. The clues led me down the wrong path but they could've led me down the right one too.

Is this a coherent post? It's pretty early so tell me if this makes no sense.

So, in your manuscripts do you try to set up a surprise with clues early on?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hiatus

Today is a break from any kind of helpful blog post. :-)

Instead, I am very busy trying to ready a manuscript for the Golden Heart. Not the rejected one, but an older (probably worse) one. What can I say? I'm a masochist.

Okay, not really, only with writing. I just have to try. I have to know. And last year I promised myself I'd enter this year.

Ever do anything like that? Stick yourself out there, hoping, hoping, hoping but 99% sure nothing will come of your fantasies?

Maybe that percentage is a bit on the high side. I have to keep some faith in my work. You know Alicia Keys, her song "I Keep Falling In and Out of Love?"

That's me with my writing. How about you?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Playing Tag

Eileen wants to play, and she chose me to be in on the game! Here's the rules:



1. I've read very few classics, but the ones I enjoyed the most were Dracula by Bram Stoker and Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. (but I didn't like the ending)

2. I only read one book at a time.

3. I can finish a book in a day.

4. In high school, I had few friends. Probably because I carried a book with me everywhere and often hid it in my lap while the teacher was talking. Amazingly, I still managed to have a high GPA. Go figure.

5. I'm an accomplished walking-while-reading type of person and have been known to read while driving. Don't freak out though. Now that I have kids, I no longer indulge in this dangerous activity. LOL

6. If things had gone differently, I'd love to be an editor or agent because I like to read more than I like to write.

7. I'm all about the alpha male. My sister hated the alpha in my first manuscript and fell inlove with a beta male I'd never even considered as a possible hero. Yikes! Bring on the Alpha, and ONLY the alpha. *snort* (yes, I picked up the horrible snorting habit from Anita. Goes to show, bad company corrupts good character.) *double snort* Or should I snicker? Hahaha

So, who do I tag? How about everyone on my sidebar? I'm pressed for time so if you all don't mind, just glance to the right, scroll down a little, and you'll see a list of people's names. They all have wonderful blogs so I hope they'll join in the fun.

Okay, except the agents. They're exempt. And the Seekers, 'cause that's a group. The rest of you, I'll be stopping by. :-)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Haughty Spirit ... Goes Before A Fall

Yep, I fell.

A manuscript of mine was very nicely rejected by a choice editor. Sure, everybody gets rejected. That's part of the business. But when I read the letter, I had to wonder- Did my pride get in the way?

Not to say I feel prideful about my writing. It's what it is. Not great, not horrible. No, I'm referring to something else.A few weeks ago I won a book called Getting Into Character by bestselling author Brandilyn Collins.

I never got past the first chapter. Not because of the book, but because I thought, I'll do it later. I want to write instead.Well, I wrote and in the editor's rejection she mentioned the characters were underdeveloped.

Yikes!

Maybe, if I would have sat down and studied, I might not have heard those stinging words. (Written nicely, btw, but ouchy still)

What's on your shelves? Have you ever put something to the side because A) you thought you didn't need it or B) you were too busy? And then regretted it?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Places To Learn

Though writing is a solitary endeavor, learning is not so much. There are tons of places on the web for a writer to learn the craft and network with other writers. If you've been feeling lonely or like you're off somehow in your writing, check out these valuable resources.

Romance Writer's of America: An invaluable organization, worth every penny of membership. It's good for getting to know other writers, contests, and learning the craft and the industry. If you don't write romance, RWA may still be a great place for you because of all the groups and chapters it has.

American Christian Fiction Writers: Like RWA, this organization is full of valuable info geared to writer of inspirational fiction.

Yahoo Groups: There's a ton of them for writers and readers. I recently joined Romance Junkies, Book Lovers, and JustWriteIt. The first two are good for talking books and promoting yourself. JustWriteIt was formed by Shirley Jump, a bestselling author. It has a lot of helpful writer talk. So does MyBookTherapy, a group recommended by Susan.

Romance Divas: recommended by the Divalicious Kristen Painter. Though I'm not a member, I have perused the very helpful articles on this site.

RWC: Formed by Charlotte Dillon, there's several groups here. One for critiqueing, another for networking. And more, though I don't belong to them.

Just thought I'd share some of the places I lurk, learning and meeting people. If you've been feeling out of the loop, then I hope you'll find some of these places and hook up with some other writers. It does take time, but it's time well-spent, both emotionally and professionally.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Procrastinating

It's what I'm doing right now. Blogging instead of writing. Why?

The story is in a great spot. Anything could happen. A kiss. A fight. And yet I resist the urge to open my laptop and continue the story. What is the cause of procrastination? I have heard fear and I think it may be true.

The thought that I might sit down and spend an hour to write what I'll only discover later is junk, is very scary. But if I don't force myself to do it, then I won't have anything to fix later. And the fact of the matter is, I always fix stuff. It doesn't have to be perfect the first or even second time around.

It WON'T be perfect.

This realization is what inevitably draws me back into my story.

Do you procrastinate with your writing? How do you inspire yourself to move forward?

On a side note, my four year old threw up on the way to T-ball today. It made for a stinky ride. (Yes, I went home and cleaned him up, but the seatbelt still stunk) I think I'm going to blame Kristen for spreading the germs via the comment window. LOL

Thursday, November 6, 2008

HodgePodge

The good news: I actually wrote about a thousand words in my wip. It's literally been weeks but it feels great to be progressing again.
On to my hodgepodge of links:

Ever wondered what a manuscript has to go through before being published? Check out Anita's rundown and let me know what you think. LOL I was definitely intimidated.

Is it wrong to be jealous of a high schooler?

Though this is a writing blog, for the most part, I'm going to mention politics. Only to say that there are so many changes possibly coming that I can't help but wonder what they will add to or detract from the world of publishing. We shall see.

As these are trying times, for the weary soul, here is one of my favorite songs, best listened to in a quiet room. (click on the youtube video to hear it)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Optimum Potential

Recently, I visited Margie Lawson's website and was reminded of a term I heard months ago in my online crit group, RWC.

Backloading.

When I first heard of it, I thought, wow, this sounds complicated. But now I'm ready to give it a try. I'm ready to stop being lazy, which was the only thing stopping me before.

Backloading is basically ending your sentences on an emotionally powerful word. This technique gives your sentence a stronger, deeper impact on the reader.

Ex:
Okay > Jane shuddered when John set his greasy palms on her shoulders.
Better> John set his greasy palms on Jane's shoulders, and she shuddered.

The second sentence ends on the word shuddered. This action can imply fear. The hope is to have the reader leave that sentence feeling Jane's alarm.

Have you ever heard of backloading? Leave some examples, if you want, in the comments section. :-)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

And I thought I was a genius...

It happened again.

Someone copied my work.

Twenty years ago.


That's right. Some of my favorite phrases in an unpublished manuscript of mine were plagiarized twenty years ago.

Ack, I'm kidding!

Here's what happened. I was reading an older romance when I stumbled across phrasing almost identical to the phrasing in my manuscript. It was weird.

And humbling.

Here I thought I came up with this deep and lovely prose, and another author already used it. One of my so-called original phrases include the term "her eyes silver pools of sorrow". BEEP. That's been used. Grrrrr.....

Has this happened to you or am I just crazy (and unoriginal, lol)?

Friday, October 31, 2008

And the winners are ...

Kristen Painter, the B$N gift card.
Sharon Lavy, the five, gently used books.

Thank you everyone who made my first blog tour exciting! And thank you Marcia for stopping by and answering questions. You guys are awesome!

Kristen and Sharon, could you e-mail me your snail mails? My e-mail is jessica_nelson7590 (at) yahoo (dot) com

Also, Sharon, let me know what kind of genres you like to read so I can make sure to pick out stuff you (hopefully) like. :-)

Thanks again everyone!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Marcia Gruver Blog Tour


Today is my first blog tour ever! And probably my longest post. :-) Two days ago I posted a review for Marcia Gruver's debut novel, Diamond Duo. Today I'm posting an interview with her, followed by her bio and links to everyone else participating in this tour. Make sure to check out their sites, as each blog will be a bit different. And don't forget to stop by Marcia's blog, The Yielded Quill. Another thing! Two commenters will win either a Barnes and Noble gift card or five gently used books!

Now for her interview!



Q: Please tell us a little bit about who Marcia Gruver is.
A: Which Marcia? Like everyone else, who I am depends on the hat on my head. I’m wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, granny, and just recently, great-granny to a little sprite of a girl who seems well qualified to carry our legacy into the future. Even more recently, I’m a published author of inspirational fiction. How about that? Marcia Gruver is content, well loved, fulfilled, and grateful to God for every second of her life.
Q: How have your life experiences helped you as a writer?
A: I believe all of life’s experiences are fertile fodder for fiction. Try saying that three times really fast. I’ve traveled some bumpy roads in my time. I was a hippie in the 60’s, a yippie in the 70’s, a groupie in the 80’s, and a yuppie in the 90’s. Who else but a bona fide baby boomer can say that? At the dawn of this new century, I’m just a droopy—with a passel of kids and grandkids. I long to impart to them the nuggets of wisdom old granny picked up along the way, but since none of them will listen, I’m wrapping fictional stories around the lessons I’ve learned and slipping them to the rascals. Like hiding spinach in applesauce. Not to compare God’s grace to a slimy green vegetable, but the truth is both of them are good for you.
Q: Do you plot your novels out or are you a so-called seat-of-the-pants writer?
A: I used to fly by my seat from start to finish. My first experience with working a plan came after discovering Randy Ingermanson’s snowflake method for plotting a novel. After working through Karen S. Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days, I’m a born-again plotter. These days, I don’t think I’d do it any other way. I sort of like knowing where I’m going when I sit down to write.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
A: Guilty secret time? I love to play video games. I look for any slip of time and any excuse to play. I also love to read and watch movies in all genres.
Q: In Diamond Duo, your character Bertha is a breath of fresh air with her fun and refreshing sense of humor. If I were to ask those close to you about your sense of humor, would they describe similarities between you and Bertha?
A: Oh, boy! I’m afraid so. I’m actually dry and rather reserved at first—so much so that I’ve been accused of having a split personality. When I’m very relaxed and get to know a person well, the real me comes out to play. Yep, the lights are on and a whole bunch of us are home.
Q: Where did the idea for Diamond Duo come from?
A: On a trip to Jefferson, Texas, I heard the true story of the unsolved murder of the infamous Diamond Bessie, aka Annie Monroe. In 1877, a flashy, well-dressed couple rode a train into town for a short visit. They checked into a hotel as A. Monroe and wife. The woman seemed to go by more than one name, one of them Bessie Moore. Because she wore several large diamond rings, supposedly gifts offered in exchange for immoral favors, the locals soon dubbed her “Diamond Bessie.”
On the last day of Bessie’s life, she and her companion, Abraham Rothschild, took a picnic basket into the woods. He came out alone, wandering the streets of Jefferson by himself for several days. When asked about Bessie, he said she was staying with nearby friends, and would return in time for their departure. However, he left by himself two days later, carrying Bessie’s luggage along with his own.
A local woman discovered poor Bessie’s body in the woods several days later. Jefferson officials went after Abraham Rothschild and tried him for her murder, but due to his money and considerable influence, he was acquitted.
While standing over Diamond Bessie’s grave, assuming her eternal fate, I found myself wondering: “What if?” Maybe history had been unkind to Bessie. What if she wasn’t as bad as some claimed? Suppose God had arranged a surprise finish for her—a loving, merciful end that no one would’ve expected?
Q: When you sit down to read for pleasure what authors do you choose?
A: Linda Nichols, Kristen Heitzman, and Brandilyn Collins are at the top of the list. But I have so many books in my ‘To Be Read’ pile, I just know there are favorites sitting there waiting to be discovered.

Q: What three books that you’ve read this past year would you recommend others rush to the bookstore and purchase?
A: That’s a tough one. Readers’ tastes are so diverse, especially in fiction. For instance, I write quirky, sweet historical romance with a thread of adventure to spice it up a bit. I realized going in that this wouldn’t appeal to every reader. In the same way, there’s a huge fan base for the spooky novels written by Brandilyn Collins, yet I happen to know people too scared to read them. A great testimony to the quality of her work, by the way. It breaks my heart to read a scathing review of an author’s hard work, written by a person who had no business picking it up in the first place. Nonfiction? I highly recommend The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls. This book almost reads like fiction and is an incredible ride.
If you could take your dream vacation, where would you go and who would go with you?I once would’ve said England. I love the Brits. After watching Under the Tuscan Sun with Diane Lane, I’m now captivated by Tuscany. Whichever destination I chose, my traveling partner would have to be my hubby. He’s great to talk to. But since he wouldn’t take off work to go, I’d take my daughter Tracy, the most fun person I know.

Marcia Gruver is a full time writer who hails from Southeast Texas. Inordinately enamored by the past, Marcia delights in writing historical fiction. Her deep south-central roots lend a Southern-comfortable style and a touch of humor to her writing. Recently awarded a three-book contract by Barbour Publishing, she’s busy these days pounding on the keyboard and watching the deadline clock.
Marcia’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW); the Christian Authors Network (CAN!); Faith, Hope, & Love (FHL)-the Inspirational Outreach Chapter of the Romance Writers of America; Fellowship of Christian Writers (FCW); The Writers View; and a longstanding member of ACFW Crit3, her brilliant and insightful critique group.
Lifelong Texans, Marcia and her husband, Lee, have one daughter and four sons. Collectively, this motley crew has graced them with ten grandchildren and one great-granddaughter—so far.

Other participating blogs:








Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Blog Tour Detour

I'm traveling from Kentucky to Florida today, so I decided to reschedule the tour for tomorrow so that I can be involved.

LOL Is that selfish?

Anyhow, to those of you who live north of Florida, WOW, the scenery is incredible. I forgot that there were trees turning purple right now. My four year old is pretty impressed. :-)


So, I'll see you all tomorrow. :-)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Diamond Duo

Tuesday is my interview with Marcia Gruver for her debut novel, Diamond Duo! I hope you'll check it out. For now, I thought I'd give a quick review of the story.


Her writing, first of all, was really good. She has a strong voice and the historical sound of the entire story is amazing. She really captured the feel of a western, and yet her narrative/dialogue was incredibly easy to follow.


The characters were real. I especially liked Sarah King. Her personality seemed to jump off the page and some of the things she experienced brought tears to my eyes.


One thing I noticed about this book was the humor. You know how some stories have dialogue that's supposed to be funny, and then the characters laugh, and you're thinking, "That wasn't very funny". Diamond Duo was FUNNY. Okay, not the plot. This is a story about murder and injustice, but the character's interactions and dialogue actually made me laugh. No small feat. *wink*

Though Diamond Duo deals with our inhumanity to each other, there's a strong, overriding theme of God's mercy toward us. And his goodness, despite our failings.


I enjoyed Diamond Duo. If you like a strong, historical voice and passionately realistic characters, you'll probably like this book.


Don't forget! One lucky commenter on Tuesday will receive five gently used books. I'll try to diversify :-) Another commenter will receive a Barnes and Noble gift card. See you Tuesday!

Friday, October 24, 2008

More Editor Stuff

Editors are still on the brain, I guess.

So, are they paid based on how much a book they acquire makes? Or do they get a salary? And if a book does well, what kind of a reward does an editor receive?

I'm just wondering what kind of incentive they have to choose a great story to buy. Will the success or failure of their acquisition determine the future of their career?

I know. I'm nosy. :-)

It's an interesting business, I think. Being an agent or editor, being paid to read, is my idea of bliss.

Anybody "got the goods" on this profession?

This just in! According to a bookends post, editors do NOT get paid commission. Makes me wonder what their incentive to buy the best is. ???

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Editor Stuff

I was moseying around Agent Kristin Nelson's blog when I stumbled across a link she'd put up. I clicked on it and discovered a fascinating interview with a famous editor.
Why famous?
Because the majority of his acquisitions became bestsellers.

This made me wonder what exactly goes into being a bestseller. Sure, I need to have a great story with great writing followed by great promotion. It's my idea and the execution of it, after all, that will (or not) create buzz.

But there's more to it than just me.

Editors really, really shape our stories. They see the things that need to be cut, the things that need to be added. They can hone a story to a fine-edged masterpiece. Are editors the "unsung heroes" of publishing? The secret force behind a book's failure or success?

What do you think?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Stop the Bickering

Growing up, I absolutely loved to read Victoria Holt. I loved the way her hero and heroine bickered back and forth. Somehow, I thought their verbal battles equaled conflict.

It doesn't.

There's two types of conflict. External and Internal. Neither involves arguing lovers, though I admit to liking some spice in my dialogue. But when I started writing, somehow I translated fighting as conflict. Bad, bad move.

I didn't completely realize I thought this way until I read a book where there was such tension between the hero and heroine that I wondered how they'd ever make it. I finished the book, thought about their struggle and realized that not once did they actually dislike eachother. A lightbulb went off in my head.

Hero can like heroine, and vice-versa, and there can still be major conflict.

Ever had an epiphany like that with your writing?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Talk Is Cheap

While revising my manuscript I discovered something. I've been talking the talk but not walking the ... um, yeah. That cliche.
But really, revising is such an eye-opener. The sad thing is, this wasn't my first revision. So, while wading through I was amazed/disturbed/downright disgusted by the plethora of passive sentences and weak verbs in my manuscript.
I've learned alot about craft but apparently didn't apply my knowledge to every chapter.
Yuck.
So, have you ever revised your manuscript (or your life) and realized that while you technically "knew" something, you hadn't been writing (living) it?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Still Bizzy

Not only am I revising a manuscript requested by an editor (yay!) but now I have family coming to visit. So between cleaning and fixing my manuscript, I have little time.
:-(
Never fear. There are tons of blogs more interesting than mine. Look to the right on my sidebar and you'll see a blog called A Still and Quiet Madness. Anita, the blogger, posted some strange quirks of favorite writers.
Also, Wanna Be Published has some great quotes posted by author Mary DeMuth.
I'll be back when life has calmed.
See you then!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Too Bizzy

Yep, the fresh ideas I want to post take time I don't have right now. So I'm directing you to other people's genius blogs.
Seekers have a good dose of reality today.
Agent Chip Macgregor posted some interesting facts about the biz the other day.

If you know any other helpful recent blog posts, feel free to mention in the comment section. Otherwise, have a great day!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I'll have Classic, with a Twist

You know how editors and agents say they're looking for something fresh? It doesn't mean something "out there". It just means classic, with a twist.

My opinion, of course.

I write romance. In romance there are sixteen main plots. I know this because I saved the list, but for some reason I'm having trouble finding the link right now. Grrrr.

Anyhow, in my zealousness I took TWO of these plots for my manuscript, The Bridegroom's Revenge. Hehehehe, can you guess one?
That's right. Hero Comes Back for Revenge. The other plot is Secret Baby. So I use two plots in this story. How do I give them a fresh twist?

The child died. The hero comes back for revenge, finds out he had a child who died at the age of seven. It's heartbreaking and adds conflict to the hero's plan.

That's my twist.

What do you do to try to make your story fresh and new, while remaining marketable?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Skinny on Flab

Lately I've been reading on some blogs about cutting the flab from manuscripts, the excess poundage. Of course it's excellent advice. All those extra adverbs, adjectives and useless words can make a manuscript thick, a heavy read to wade through.
So you cut and you prune and you lose weight.
Then what?

I gotta tell you, I've been skinny my whole life. I also have cellulite. Yes, I can cover it with clothes. Yes, I appear healthier than some people (though technically a thin person can be obese-yep). Some friends of mine gape when I claim to want to work out. (claim is the perfect verb here). They say, why?

I'll tell you. Lack of flab does not equal strength.

Your manuscript is healthier when you trim the extra words but it is not necessarily stronger. What you need to do is TONE that baby. That's right. Get some muscle.

My cellulite areas are my bootie and thighs. So I do squats, lunges and anything else that causes pain. LOL

Look at your story. How's the punch of your narrative? Wanna make it stronger? Verbs will do it. Strong verbs that kick images into the minds of your readers.

In your manuscript, where are your "cellulite" areas? How do you tone these places to make them stronger?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Help-My Middle is Sagging!

Not my belly, thank goodness, but the middle of my WIP. Yep. I've reached one hundred pages and am bored.

Sometimes our manuscripts get a little flabby if we don't pay attention to conflict. Yuck, but true.
Since I'm not an expert (obviously, since I've encountered this problem on my THIRD manuscript) I'm going to point you elsewhere for wisdom.

The one on Fiction Factor is awesome and very detailed on how to possibly fix the problem. My lovely friend Anita generously shared her link to it with me. By the way, if you check out her blog she has a whole bunch of great links posted.

So, has this happened to you? Your story is out of juice and you're only half done? What do you do to jumpstart it? Or have you had to go back and completely revise?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

My First Blog Tour

So, I'm going to be participating in a blog tour for author Marcia Gruver. I have her historical romance Diamond Duo sitting right here in front of me. The plot looks great. And the first line?

Well, it's pretty awesome. Here it is:


"With the tip of a satin shoe, the graceful turn of an ankle, the woman poured herself like cream from the northbound train out of Marshall and let the tomcats lap her up."

I love the metaphor.


Eek! I'm so excited. My first tour. And I'm thinking of giving out some kind of prize to people commenting whenever I do the interview.

What do you think is good? A bag full of gently used books or a Blockbuster gift card?

Friday, October 3, 2008

What Type Are You?

Recently it came to my attention that a hero in one of my manuscripts is flat. He doesn't seem real. The problem?
I think I didn't get a good characterization on him. Some people, like my writer friend Haleigh, use character interviews. Others use charts. Those things are too organized/detailed for me.

Instead, with my first finished manuscript I relied on the Myers-Brigg personalities to formulate my characters. I probably should have done that with this hero.

My favorite website is here. Not only does it give detailed profiles but you can find out what other personalities are the best romantic fit. And then, voila! You have character personalities already mapped out. This is also a great way to make sure your characters stay consistent in their actions.

There's a long test and a short test.

I'm an INFP on both tests. I would love to know what you are!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Firsts


Matthew drove the boat for the first time the other day! I didn't know until I saw the picture, but it got me to thinking of firsts.

My first kiss. Sensuously gentle, an indicator of what I might expect from my future husband.
First impressions.
Author Amy Clipston posted about the importance of the first line in a manuscript not too long ago. I encourage you to read it as it was enlightening.
The truth is, first impressions are everything. In life and in story, they set the mood. The first sentence can propell someone to shove the book back into its spot on the shelf, or it may hook the reader into reading more and, possibly, buying your book.
It may hook an editor or agent into requesting a full.
An opening sentence I've never forgotten is:
"If there was one thing Josie Miller knew, it was the smell of a rich man."
I absolutely LOVED this first line from Her Unlikely Family by Missy Tippens.
Look at the opening of your story objectively. Is your first sentence intriguing? Posing a question the reader must discover an answer to?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Family Stuff



Sorry I'm late posting but yesterday we went to Homossassa to see Nana and Grandaddy. Daddy went fishing with Grandaddy and we all went swimming. Matthew (four) practiced swimming with only one floatie, my brave boy. :-)
Nate (2) had a very sturdy floatie on but stubbornly clung to the edge of the pool. :-)
And Sean (1) ? Boy, he kept me running. The kid had no fear of the water. Kept trying to dive in.
But it was wonderful fun and I'm so thankful to God for my children.

So-Those are my boys!


Sorry, no writing post today but tomorrow . . . something happened on the trip that made me think of writing.


Hope you all have a great Monday!
Okay, okay. Here's a link on episodic writing. Every author needs to beware this plot trap.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Tales from the . . . Crypt? Part 2

Well, I was going to write the nice stuff, but in looking over this particular entry, I didn't really find anything. So I scoured the comments and found some sugar to help me swallow the bitter pill of reality.

Judge A said I had a good hook.
Judge B made me feel better about this chapter. Said I did a good job creating believable characters and that the setting was interesting.
Judge C said I did a good job raising questions that the reader might want answered.

I'm not a stranger to contests. I absorb the positive stuff first, study the negative, and then soak in the positive again. It helps buffer the blow of learning my chapter is not a romance masterpiece. *grinning here*

Like all of you said, this is a subjective business. What is beautiful to one is ugly to another. It's not personal, and yet it so completely is.

Thank you all for your constructive and edifying comments last post. It is hard to take criticism, both in writing and in our personal lives. But the ability to do so can make a world of difference to whether we succeed or not.

And yet, praise is necessary. Have you ever received a compliment that blew you away? That had you grinning for days?

Writing related or no, I'd love to hear about it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tales from the . . . Crypt?? Part I

Not really, but sometimes it feels that way. I'll share some of the depressing stuff first, then later more "inspiring" words.

Contest results came back recently. I thought I'd post some comments made.

1. Heroine seems weak.
2. Hero seems unlikeable (lol, I've been hearing that alot!)
3. Need more practice writing before I'm ready for publication (ouch)
4. Need more showing than telling

These are some of the main things pointed out by three different judges. Yep, reading them hurt but I pretty much agree with all of them but one. Can you guess which one? :-) And may I also add that while I've heard of cruel judges, these comments were in no way snarky or mean. I'm very thankful for the judges taking time to look at my work and give their input.

So, have any of you entered contests? I'd love to hear about your experience. Or how about just some of the feedback on your work. Any comments that made you cringe? Bash your head against a desk? Hurl the computer and devour obscene amounts of chocolate?

Ummm, not that I did that . . .

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Pile By My Bed

First, a whole bunch of Amish books by two bestselling authors. I picked up one the other night and set it down at page 15. Sorry, but it was SO boring. I picked up the other author's and made it to page 13. I liked the writing a lot better, though the plot still seemed slow, but because I was tired I planned to pick it up the next day.
Thank goodness I was saved by the library.
I love to read Amanda Quick because of her quirky heroines and amusingly serious heroes.
Then my Barnes and Noble order came. YeeHaw!!
Beside my bed:

1. A Passion Redeemed by Julie Lessman. This is the second in the series and I'm already almost finished with it. This one seems even better than the first. Less dramatic but just as hooky and in a way, it has more depth. But that's probably just me because I'm sympathetic toward Charity. Or should I call her Scarlett? (wink, wink) Anyhow, I'm loving it!! Go CBA. In my opinion, Lessman is an author to keep an eye on.

2. Single Sashimi by Camy Tang. This is the third installment of her Sushi Series and I bought it for several reasons. A) I loved the first and second ones B) Tang is generous. I won the second book, Only Uni on a blog and when she sent it she also sent some extra books. I'm all about free books! :-) C) She helps authors out. See her Story Sensei blog.

3. Mulberry Park, by Judy Duarte. Although she's multipubbed with Harlequin, this is her first single title. I bought it because A) I wanted to support her debut Single Title, especially as it's a book close to her heart and B) Months ago on a writing link Duarte took time out of her day to exchange e-mails with me and give me some publishing tips.

So that's my pile.
For now. :-)

What's next to your bed, hogging the floor? And why?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Links for the Weekend

Here's some links I found interesting this week.

Agent Chip MacGregor has a fascinating post on how to create page-turning novels.

Check out Camy Tang's helpful post over at LaShaunda's Blog on writing query letters.

I knew it!!!! I know who Miss Snark is! Oh my gosh, I'm so screaming right now. Sorry Snark, you're outed. Check out this blog. Read the comments.

My friend Anita has her amazing website up! Make sure to listen to the music. It's lovely.

Query Counts: One request Thursday, Two rejections yesterday, One rejection today.
Interesting tidbit: Snail mail SASEs come back sooner.



Have a great weekend guys!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tag- I'm it.

Hey, I got my first tag ever by Susan of the Christian Writer-Reader Connection.

Here goes seven things you might not know about me.


1. An extra bone in each foot
2. Love to learn foreign languages
3. Got married two days after high school, and I wasn't pregnant :-)
4. I love to dance but got no groove
5. I'm 5'10
6. Though it's not my normal style, I love the movie Napoleon Dynamite. Stop groaning everyone. Sheesh.
7. Hhhmm, can't think of anything else.

I tag Haleigh, Candi, Karen (a very sweet irritable mother), Anita and Chatty Kelly. I'd like to tag more but either you already got it or I'm tired of copying and pasting my blog list. So if you're not on here, I still want to know!!! Leave it in my comments or tell me where I can go to find out about you :-)





Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Rules, Schmules

The last few days I have been devouring an absolutely fabulous book. A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman is one of the best inspirational romances I've read in years. I say this because not only did her characters (especially her very sexy heroes) hook me, but she wasn't afraid to show that passion is indeed a pure gift from God!

If you didn't know it, CBA has been very strict in the past about a hero and heroine's physical interactions. So strict that it often felt unreal to me. As though these people who should be completely enrapture by each other are nothing more than friends.

Kudos to Julie and to many other authors who are able to portray passion in a God-honoring way.

But to the point of this post . . .

Her book just came out a few months ago. And la-dee-da, guess what I found!

Broken rules.

Now, she has a highly respected agent and is published by a Revell, a major CBA publishing house. Tons of people, professionals, read her book.

No one cared when a rule was broken. Probably because she did it well. She has her own, distinct voice that calls for her own, distinct style.

Who wants an example of a broken rule? LOL, sorry Julie.

PG 473 Heroine's POV "Turning, she stared up at him, her eyes glowing." Let's play a game. :-) Who can tell me what "rule" was broken, and how.



Not that it matters. I flew through this tome and I think you will too. If you love romance with strong emphasis on God, this is a book you'll adore. I did. And I'm gearing up to get the next one, which just came out!!!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Who's The Boss?

Regarding the rules I mentioned in a previous blog, I've been wondering--who said so? I mean, did some editor say this is how great books should be written? Or did the rules come about through authors? Or did readers make the rules by buying more from authors who wrote certain ways?
Pick up a romance from twenty years ago and it'll be way different than how we're told to write now. I'm not knocking the rules. They're great. As long as you remember that they're more of guidelines. Following them to the letter does NOT guarantee publication.
Sometimes I see unpublished writers fretting over these "rules", afraid they're not following them exactly.
Who can we blame for this . . . stress, I wonder. :-)
I guess us, the readers. Through demand we've given success to writers who tell stories with words in a certain way. A great way, really.
Adverbs combined with said DO pull me out of a story. Unclear head-hopping totally confuses me.
So I stumbled across Tina Russo's website the other day. It has some great articles, including
Elmore Leonard's rules for writing.
He pretty much says it all.
What do you think? Are rules made to be broken? And have you ever thrown them out the proverbial window in favor of creative expression?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Tribute

When 9/11 happened, I had just started my first "real" job as a bank teller. I was eighteen and had never heard of the twin towers. The situation seemed distant to me, unreal. It wasn't until later that the reality slammed into me.

Today while driving my four year old to Pre-K, I heard a Nickelback song with recordings from that day. I started crying, which is kind of weird for me. But hearing the fear in voices made this tragedy so much clearer.

Because of evil choices, thousands of lives were affected. This freedom of choice seems to be both our greatest blessing and our greatest curse.

Eight years ago men chose evil. Let us remember the consequences of their public hatred. Let us remember and choose to do good.

Let us choose to love.

Irony

Remember how I was sucked into buying Janet Dean's debut novel Courting Miss Adelaide? (By Walmart, not by her).
Well, yesterday I received an e-mail saying I had won the book on Lena Nelson Dooley's blog a few days ago. Haha. Talk about ironic.

There are still free copies floating around. Today Janet Dean's interview is posted at Romance Writers on the Journey.

I started the book yesterday and am half-through already because it's so cute! I love the heroine and the hero. Dean has a lot of plot threads subtly woven throughout these beginning chapters and I'm interested to see what the end result is.

Does anyone notice the time? Yeah, 6:15. My two and four year old woke me up.
argghhh!! I miss the days when they slept until eight.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Well, I wasn't going to do a post today but I stumbled across too many interesting blogs.

First, if you're tired of following all the "rules" of writing . . . You know, the no-adverbs rule, and the POV purist rule, and no dialogue tags . . . I could go on, but I won't. Check out Kristen Painter's Divalicious blog for the rules that matter. They're much more flexible and I agree with them totally!

Then, I was going to follow Janet Dean around on her blog tour to try to win her debut novel Courting Miss Adelaide but while at Walmart the book section sucked me in with its literary force field and forced me to buy it. But if you'd like to try to win a free copy, check out her interview at the Seekers. She'll tell you where she'll be today.


Last but not least, Romance Writers on the Journey is hosting an author who wrote-get this- 47 manuscripts before she was published. If her book was my kind of romance I'd buy it just to support her. Sheesh, talk about fortitude and dedication. Delilah Marvelle is definitely worth reading about!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Another Rejection

But I feel pretty good because the agent said she liked many elements of my project! Haha, that's definitely a boost.
She'll be getting a thank you card.
Anybody else get rejections in the mail? Requests? Share so I can be jealous :-)

My queries out list is dwindling. It's time to search RWA's website for more agents to astound with my "astonishing work of genius".
That's a mutilated quote taken from Randy Ingermanson but I can't find the original so am relying on my "genius" memory.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

You Go, Girl!

The American Title V contest hosted by Romantic Times Magazine and Dorchester Publishing has announced its eight finalists.

I'm excited to know one of those finalists. Marie-Claude Bourque. Not only is she a kind lady who gives great critiques, she's also one awesome writer! It's pretty cool that she's finaled in this prestigious contest. Get this, the winner is promised . . . A Publishing Contract by Dorchester!! Too cool.


Good luck, Marie-Claude. I'm rooting for you.


You can check out her website and her Myspace for more info about her paranormal dark romance, Ancient Whispers.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The power (or not) of sacrifice

The other night I watched the movie Hancock. I love it! My curiosity had been piqued by someone's blog where they mentioned him and how they wondered how he'd become heroic, since he was depicted as decidedly unheroic. Plus, I usually like any movie with Will Smith in it. So I saw it, loved it. Especially the end. His true test of character showed in his sacrifice.
Then I watched the movie Wanted, with Jolie. I expected to like it. I kept hoping to really love it.

Didn't happen. And the sacrifice at the end? It did nothing for me.

So I've always been a big proponent of sacrifice in our novels. As part of the character arc and for emotional intensity.

But I learned something from these two movies.

Sacrifice means nothing if you don't care about what happens to the character.

From the beginning, we knew John Hancock was a jerk. Among other names. But through the eyes of the other hero (whose name escapes me) we realize Hancock is misunderstood. Sympathetic, even. And I wanted to root for him.
In Wanted, I had difficulty connecting to a protagonist, so when said protagonist does the Big sacrifice, I just didn't care that much.

It's a good lesson to remember for my plots.

What movies and/or books have impacted you because of their protag's sacrifice? And which ones fell flat?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Lessons in Head Hopping

Head-hopper or purist? Originally, I hopped heads. Badly. But eventually I discovered that being a POV purist is "correct". Yes, it's quoted because I hate it.
You're probably not wondering what I'm talking about because POV is a huge thing in writer's circles. But I'll write it anyway, because I'm exhausted and can't think of anything else to post about tonight.
Head-hopper means you see things through different character's eyes/heads in the same scene. Purist is one character per scene or scene break. Like Nora Roberts can hop heads all she wants because she does it well but many writers don't do it anymore.
If you absolutely have to (like me, lol) then make sure the hop is clear. A good way to do that is have the character perform an action first, then think a thought or say something.
If you can keep the scene in one character's POV, you're better off. It's safer that way because you don't run the risk of losing the reader's attention.
My tiny lesson is over because the chocolate is sitting on the counter, waiting for moi.

How do you handle POV? And do you think it's a big deal on how it's done?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

What do agents do?

Find out from superstar agent, Molly Friedrich, in her long, but fascinating interview.

Then a short and sweet post about giving the reader some air.

Wish I had some other news, but right now my head is fogged.
Remember how I began waking up at six? So have my kids. They're bouncing around in their dark bedroom as I write. They used to wake up at seven.

Somehow I think this is my fault.

Labor Day we'll be going to the Lowry Zoo. What are you guys doing for the day?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Help, I'm cramping . . .

Real quick, don't forget to check out the info on author Brenda Coulter. Her new book, At His Command, should be out now. Read about it here.

Now on to sillier things.

Recently I've gone a little crazy in the head. Not only is my alarm now set to six a.m., but I've gone running twice this week.
If you know me personally, yes, I realize I'm thin. :-) But I'm twenty-five now. My thighs have begun to . . . ahem, you know.
So I'm trying to be somewhat healthy by running. Boy am I sore! Every muscle below my belly button is screaming.
Same thing with my head. With my first finished manuscript I got into a habit of writing a thousand words a day. That was a kid ago. Eventually, I fell out of the habit. Now I'm sore trying to get back into it.
The first few days I was pretty proud of my progress on my current wip, but this morning I stared at the screen.
The bad thing is I knew exactly what I want to happen next, just couldn't get my fingers to move.
Ha. My brain might be cramped from getting my creative muscle into shape, but it feels good. Productive and healthy.

Any special exercises you do to get into writing fitness? Any tricks you want to pass my way?

By the way, one form rejection in the mail . . .

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Staying in Character

I know I recently wrote about this, but I want to do it again because it came up when I was writing last night.
My heroine wanted the hero to give her a good reason why he should go on a date with her. So I'm thinking, hmmm, maybe they share a favorite movie? You know, similar taste and all. I've got it. Last of the Mohicans!
Immediately I realized that movie wouldn't work. Firstly, it's MY favorite, not Rachel's. Secondly, I'm totally different than my heroine. She's bold and adventurous. I'm adventurous too, but not to the point of breaking rules. But she loves to bend the rules.
Anyways, so I was stuck. What kind of movie would she like? He'd have to like it, too.
The dilemma proved to be too much for me. I went with music instead.

Jazz.

It's passionate and classy, just like my heroine.

How do you characterize your peeps when their tastes are totally different from yours?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Writerly Blues

I've noticed different phases when I write. There are times when words flow from me, magical and strong. Fresh ideas, brilliant phrases that light up my computer screen. Then there are times when I'm bored. I don't want to write because I feel empty of words.

And then there are the blues. These seem to come at the end of my manuscripts and during the revision process.

I'm having them right now with the first manuscript I ever finished. My style of writing is different with that one. The tone is different. I'm almost done with my gazillionth revision. Yay. But I almost wasn't going to market this story, except for one person's words.

One person.

This manuscript was critiqued by harlequin. Yep, I paid for it and am forever grateful that I did. But every time I wonder whether this story is worth publishing, I remember the end of the critique letter. The part where the critiquer said that my story was beautiful and intriguing.


Was it Mark Twain who said he could live on one good compliment for a month?


I've been living on it for a year.


These blues come and go. I know that from past experience. But when they're here, it's great to have an anchor to hold on to until they pass.


Publishing is an arduous road. Rejection hides in crevices, it waits over every hill. What boosts your morale when the writing blues strike? What gives you inspiration to keep writing?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Just Stuff

A few different things on my mind.

First, hubby and I spent the last few weeks watching the first season of Ugly Betty. I was so into the story until I realized that Betty and Daniel don't get together. (yes, I cheated and looked up Season 2 recaps on the internet). This is what being a romance writer has done to me. Betty and Henry??? No, Betty and Daniel! Of course, he needs to get his act together but their special friendship and the way he looks at her just makes me want to scream with frustration. Hubby, btw, thinks I'm crazy.

On to less weird things. No more rejections in the mail. :-( So I sent out three more queries/proposals because I'm impatient. Hope it doesn't backfire.

This is a hoot.

Also, thank goodness Hurricane Fay skipped around my city. If you don't believe in prayer, well, I won't try to convince you, but last Sunday my pastor prayed publicly that Fay would miss us. At the time, she was headed our way. Then she shifted. Of course, I hope she just dies and skips everyone. But I am thankful to have my house intact and my children safe. God is so cool.

Ha, I knew I had more to say. Tired of being rejected? So are tons of other people. Check out this interesting website.

Now I'm really done.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Writers Wanted

So it looks as if there are some writers wanted for a sexy line over at harlequin. Check out Scott Eagan's blog, of Greyhaus Literary Agency.

If I wrote hot and sexy stuff, I'd be all over this.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Writing 3-D

"Hey, girl!"
"Mokie?" The blonde's eyebrows shot up to her frazzled hairline. "What'chu doin' here?"
"Just checking out the competition." Mokie sneered. "Looks like someone did a number on your hair."

What's missing in that teensy, tiny little scene? We know what's there.
Sight. We see what's happening.

But that's it. We ONLY see.

I think new writers, myself included, tend to write like we're watching a movie. One dimensionally. But a story needs to be more than seen. A reader wants to feel the character's emotions. The reader wants to hear, smell, taste and feel the scene. That's why writing three dimensionally is so important. You want your reader right there with your main character. Shove 'em in that scene. Punch the reader with the realness of it.

New example:
The funeral home stank. Not like disinfectant, but like something had died. Like something had burned to a crisp on the blood-red carpet.
In the viewing room a willowy woman swiped at her face with a wilted hankie. She shoved it into her pocket, the rustle of it the only sound in the silent room.
"Hey, girl!"
"Mokie?" The blonde's eyebrows shot up to her frazzled hairline. "What'chu doin' here?"
Her voice, normally scratchy from cigs she was always puffing on, sounded strangely soft. As if she'd actually loved Mokie's husband.
"Just checking out the competition." Mokie sneered, then her gaze lifted to the blonde's hairline. "Looks like someone did a number on your hair."

Okay, I know that is really lacking. But do you think it adds to the scene? There's the smell of something burnt (the blonde's hair) and the sound of her hankie being put away. Okay, I'm sure most women don't use a hankie, but for the life of me I can't think of what it might be called. Maybe I should have stuck to the crinkle of tissue paper?

Anyways, use your senses in your scenes. And don't go overboard. If you're going to go out of your way to show how something sounds, smells or feels, make sure it has a purpose. Let it tie in to the story.

For example, maybe your hero has warm hands, callused and strong. Maybe his fingers grip the heroine's and she feels those calluses and knows that he's a hard worker. That he can take care of stuff.
But the villain? His hands are cold. Smooth. When he shakes your heroine's hands, his palms are damp with sweat. Yuck, right?

Well, I think I'm diverging from the point of this post. Sorry.

The point is, delve deep into your scenes. Show the important things by using your senses. The reader needs to feel, smell, taste, hear and see everything the POV character does.

So how do you make your scenes deeper? Any favorite sensory weapons in your writing arsenal?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Sweet Romance

I just finished Brenda Coulter's new book, At His Command. What a sweet romance! The characters were immediately likeable and sympathetic. And though there are some painful moments in the book, Brenda balances them with a nice dose of humor. This is the first book of hers I've read and I really liked it. Not only was the characterization great (I could practically hear the Texas twangs) but she used lovely metaphors and her writing style is active and smooth. Plus, the first kiss . . . Actually, I think it was the second, but let's just say the first REAL kiss was great! I loved that scene.

So, although this was the first book of hers I've read, it most definitely won't be the last. Nice job, Brenda, in creating a heart-stirring read!

At His Command will be available in stores August 26.
If you'd like to learn more about Brenda you can visit her blog, No Rules. Just write.

If you don't like to shop online (like me, lol) you should be able to find this book in Wal-Mart. Otherwise, you can Order it now from Amazon.com

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0373874960

Well, I was just skimming through Brenda's website and found her very cool diary of what to expect after getting the call. Check it out!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Wow

Here's an article on a writer friend who was in a car accident recently.

It's inspiring. A reminder of the invisible God who works in our lives in such visible ways.



Her blog is here.

Contest Alert

Rachelle's having a contest which involves a ten-page critique for the winner!!!!

BTW, I'm almost done with my book.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A slip of the tongue . . .

Okay, I guess it's not really a review. More like a blog about a good book. Which I'm delighted to say it really is.
I was a little worried that maybe I wouldn't like it. But no worries! :-)
Will post later.

My first book review . . .

is coming.

I haven't read it yet, but I'm fixing to. And then, I'll be posting my thoughts.
It's kind of exciting. In school I loved doing book reports. Never thought they'd come into play later.
Although, I'm not sure if the review will be in "report" format. In fact, I'm not sure how to do this at all.

Any suggestions?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Incommunicado

Won't be posting for a week.
Will be without internet.
Soaking up the rays.
Lounging by the surf.
In the Keys.

Hehehe.

See y'all later.

Consistent Characterization

Characterization is SO important in your story. Unlike real life, a character should have reasons for their actions and their actions should line up with their personality. Slobs don't have neat bedrooms. Perfectionists won't throw their Burger King bag on the floor of their car. So when you write a scene, make sure the character is doing things consistent with their personality.
That goes for dialogue, too. Someone raised in Alabama will speak differently than a New Yorker. Not just in dialogue, but maybe in the way they view life. If your hero was raised tough, have him talk tough. Be consistent.
I always thought I was consistent. Until I won an editorial review.
Very few comments in the chapter, yet one was next to a paragraph of the hero. The editor wrote "inconsistent characterization". You could have knocked me over. I never saw it coming but it really turned on a light for me.
Now when I write I always wonder, would she do this? Would she say this? And would she really compare her attraction to the hero to what she feels for her toolbox?
Only if she's into tools.
This characterization thing can get fun, once you get the hang of it. For example, in one of my manuscripts the hero is a government agent in covert ops. This is back in the day, with the beginnings of the FBI. For fun, I had him inwardly compare the heroine's eyes as "shining like the stock of his favorite rifle". Well, not exactly like that, but close.
It still makes me laugh. Whenever it gets critiqued, if it's jarring, I'll take it out. But for now it's a part of his characterization, because he thinks in terms like that.

Whew, long post, huh?

So what's your favorite characterization tools? How do you decide what to use and what not?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Not another post . . .

Nope, just a link.

Tips for writing by some guy quoting strange scriptures, lol!

Synopses

I just finished a class on writing synopses and boy, was it helpful. If you struggle with them, this class was great. Go here to buy a copy of the worksheet. It's very cheap and easy to follow.
I'm planning to use mine for my other manuscripts.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Positively Green

Does anyone else feel green with envy that they're not at the RWA conference????

On a side note, today's my oldest's birthday. Four years old. Boy, time flies. He's so precious!

Anyways, maybe I'll go to the conference next year. This year I'll just read people's juicy tidbits.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Plotting Vs Pantsing Part 2

Plotters seem to have it made.
If they plan things right, which they probably will based on their wonderfully organized personalities, they'll have fewer revisions than a pantser. Plus, they have this great road map to follow.
Sometimes I get stuck and don't know what to write next, or I'll write myself into a hole. People who plot ahead most likely won't encounter this problem during the writing stage. Plus, plotters tend to do a synopsis first so that gets rid of one nasty chore right away.
I'm taking a synopsis class right now and as painful as it was, now that I've got one for my wip I'm actually feeling giddy.

If this is how being a plotter feels, then WOW.

Plotting, however, can have it's dark side. The characters may try to escape the beautiful plan you've made for them. Or you might get bored with your story, but now that you've sweated and plotted you may feel that you have to follow your own guidelines.

Ha, the only people who think writing a book is easy are the ones who've never done it.

By the way, apparently I'm not the only one with plotting on the mind. Check out this post. It's much more informative than mine!

So how about you? What's your style?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Plotting Vs Pantsing Part I

Plotting and Pantsing.
As soon as I discovered these two styles of writing, I knew what I was.
A fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer. (pantser)
No plotting ahead, no charts. And now I'm discovering- no external goals. (yes, I know my punctuation is off but have no clue the right way to do it, lol)
So today I want to talk about Pantsing. Not that there's much to say. You pretty much sit down and write. For example, in my current wip it started because of a first line. Actually, the protagonist was already in a previous manuscript as a friend, but when I tried to think up her story the first thing that popped into my head was the first line.

"If there was one thing Rachel McCormick hated more than breaking into a client's house, it was getting caught."

And then I wrote.
Another manuscript started when I saw that Love Inspired had created a historical line. Immediately I saw a young woman on a train, heading to an uncle's house, when a dark stranger sits down beside her.
Pantsing is great because it's so flexible. I may have a future scene in my head, a vague idea about the character's pasts, and perhaps a rough idea of the last scene of the story, but that's about it. I'm not tied down to any specific storyline or characterization. Stuff morphs as I write.
But there's a dark side to being a pantser. REVISIONS.
Due to my lack of planning, there are several problems by the end of the manuscript that need to be resolved. Inconsistent characterization, plot holes, and lack of motivation. Or, as I mentioned above, no external goals. So I have to go back and do a lot of fixing.
If you check Tina Gray's blog earlier this month, you'll see she's a plotter. I'll talk about that in part 2.

The funny thing is that I wish I were a plotter. As fun as sitting down to write is, there's so many problems when I'm done. But the thought of plotting everything out gives me a brain hemorrhage. I'm happiest snapping out words and having no clue where I'm going until a character says or does something to get my fingers moving.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rejected

I've been watching my inbox for weeks now, waiting for agents' replies. I have about eight queries out. Yesterday one came back.

Rejected.

At first there was the sinking of my hopes, but then it was followed by relief. An answer at last. Time to target my next unsuspecting agent. Hehehehe, I actually like this part of the game. The thrill of the hunt, I guess.

The rejection letter confused me. I'm pretty sure it's a form one because I addressed a particular agent and received a Sincerely, The Agency reply. But then the letter said the plot didn't resound with them. I like to do Thank Yous on personalized rejections but can't figure out if this is one or not.

Oh, well. Time to send out another query.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Emotion in our Writing

Yesterday a wonderful author and beautiful woman passed away. I did not know her, have not read her stories, and yet when I heard I felt grief.
Not for her. She's in heaven, dancing on streets of gold, as her husband wrote. I feel for her family and actually cried for them.
When my husband heard me blubbering, I felt embarrassed and reined it in. But sorrow shared is healthy. Many cultures encourage the verbal expression of grief. Remember Dancing With Wolves? When the heroine's husband died, she cut herself.
Of course, I'm not recommending that. I'm just saying that grief should be expressed. Which leads me to my topic.
Sometimes new writers, including myself, think we have to spell every emotion out. But while in real life deep expression is good, in writing it can actually weaken the readers' empathy for the character.
While reading Sushi For One by Camy Tang, the reader realizes something horrible happened to Lex, the heroine. The author never spells it out or goes into deep "telling" mode. Instead, Lex's actions and reactions create this sadness in the reader (me, to be exact). Tang did a great job and I'm willing to bet in other novels where traumatic things happen, emotions are not always described.
Emotion should be in our writing. But we never want to tell the reader how to feel. Tricky stuff. Tom Morrissey did an excellent fiction class and this was one of the things he mentioned.

But the real reason I'm writing today is because of Kristy Dykes. Like I said, I never knew her, but her blog touched me. Her husband's posts moved me.

She is a lovely woman who will be missed by many people.

My prayers are with her family.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Guest Blogger Tina Gray

Today Tina Gray (A. G. Howard) has graciously accepted my invitation to be a guest blogger! I'm so excited. This is a really nice lady that I met through reading an agent's blog. You can check out her website and read an excerpt of her novel. It's wonderful!

So . . . here she is!


When Jessica asked me to do a guest blog, I was so excited … and flattered! Then I realized, Oh, that means I have to come up with something to write about. Hmmm. I have a hard enough time doing that on my own blog. Pretty sad, considering that I am a writer. But for me, it’s a lot easier to conjure up new characters in unique settings than it is to write about the everyday mundane world I live in.

That’s why I write, to escape the ordinary. Interesting, as that’s the same reason most readers read. In fact, honestly, I think we’re all in this to be entertained. But from an author’s perspective, the writing side of entertainment—although fun and rewarding—doesn’t come without its share of work.

Which leads me to the subject of my blog. Authors have to come up with a fresh story idea, research it, plot it out, then take that final leap and keep their muse alive while they write that sucker (not to mention the grueling revisions that follow). Just for kicks, I’m going to lay out how I get started with a new book, from the idea’s conception to choosing the characters.

First, how do I come up with an idea? Well, I’m a very visual person. So naturally, my spark is most likely going to be lit by something I see. I’ll use my ghost novel for an example.

The idea came to me a couple of years ago while I was on vacation in Kansas. My husband and I four-wheeled from the lake house over to an old graveyard surrounded by a forest—one of those lushly macabre numbers with crumbling tombstones and intricately carved statues dating back to the 16 and 1700’s—and while walking among the debris we stumbled upon a locked fence. An isolated headstone sat inside the enclosure in the far right corner, covered with ivy to the point the epitaph couldn’t be read aside from two words: beloved son.

Maybe it’s the writer in me, or maybe it’s human nature, but seeing something like that … a tomb set off by itself in an enclosure that’s now overrun with weeds and vines … already the questions are stirring my imagination. Why the fence? Who was this person, this beloved son? And why did he merit such isolation?

Then, as I’m scanning the scene trying to memorize every delicious detail, I see something that spurs even deeper introspections. What is the significance of the other gate in back? The overgrown path that opens into the woods … where does it lead? Who once kept a vigil here, and why are they no longer keeping it?

And therein, my idea: A young lady (let’s say a grieving hat-maker in the Victorian era, because naturally, the setting lends itself to something gothic), comes upon a wrought iron enclosure in a cemetery and sees not only a tomb, but a lone flower unfurling it’s immaculate petals, proud and thriving in the midst of the decomposing wilderness. The young lady cannot resist the unusual blossom, having a love for colors and textures due to her hat-making skills. So, being resourceful and impetuous as all good heroines must be, she breaks off the padlock, digs up the flower, and takes it home, little realizing that within the petals resides a man’s spirit—a ghost that happens to have no memory of ever dying. To help solve this dashing (this is a romance, so of course he HAS to be a hottie) ghost’s death, my young heroine must return to the cemetery and follow the trail that leads into the woods to meet the keeper of the grave, her first step in unraveling the mystery.

Voila! From a scene rich with a history that I will never know is born a story that I can mold and shape into something of my very own.

I so love being a writer.

So there’s my skeleton plot, no pun intended. Now, before I can move onto the research which is where I get most of my scene ideas and where the story beefs up to a full meaty plot, I have to motivate and get to know my characters.

Remember, I’m a visual person. So when I first start fleshing out my characters, I want to have a sense of what they look like. I go online, look at sketches or headshots of people, be they models, actors/actresses, or just regular Joes like me. I look for faces that hold some sort of aura, some expression or aspect that brings to mind characteristics of my character. Then I print them off and tack them to a corkboard in my office to help me visualize these people in the beginning when I’m first getting to know their voice. I know, weird. But that’s what works for me. It makes them come alive.

Okay, now I have to give them personality and motivation. First we have a ghost. And he’s already an interesting fellow, considering:

A. Duh … he’s a ghost. *snort*

B. He sings beautiful arias in a foreign language yet speaks in English.

C. He has amnesia; not only is he unaware of his death, but he has no memory at all of his life. So naturally, he’s going to want to remember = his motivation to reach out to this woman.

So, I need to give my heroine something unique to her. Something that will be a challenge to her everyday life, but will bond her instantaneously to this spectral stranger. What say we make her deaf? She lost her hearing at age eight and hasn’t heard a sound for eleven years. Now suddenly, she can hear this ghostly man. And ONLY him. No doubt, they are going to become fast friends, despite the fact that they can’t touch (sexual tension—it’s a great tool—USE IT). Her affection for him will motivate her to act against her usual cautious nature and try to find answers to his past.

Now for a twist. How about having two heroes in this tale? Or, two anti-heroes? Hmmm. Any gothic novel worth its salt has a beautiful, dark, sensuous stranger with secrets, who will either be the heroine’s redemption or her downfall. Yeah. Let’s give our ghost a rival. But this fellow needs to be flesh and blood. He needs to have some advantage to put him on equal ground with the man’s spirit who can sing and speak to the deaf heroine. So, the living man can touch her and communicate through romantic gestures. To up the stakes, I give him a link to the ghost’s life … and allude that he’s harboring a secret that might tie him to the ghost’s death.

From here, I begin my research—online, in books, in old articles if applicable. I’ve taken care of the main characters. The others will come to life as I begin to work out the plot’s details. Research, for me, is like fanning the flames of my muse. This is where my scene ideas and the story’s subplots take wing.

So that’s how I start a story and give birth to characters. I want to point out that this is merely what works for me. There are no set guidelines for writers to follow that will guarantee success. Learn not to get hung up on techniques. I plot to an extent, but some writers don’t and that’s fine. Some "writing" books tell you that you MUST outline every facet of your story, all the way down to the subplots. Not true. Some best-selling writers don’t plot at all. Instead, they are like excavators—story archeologists. They dig until they hit something then dig some more. And bit by bit, they brush off the individual bones then fit them together until they form something cohesive.

Stephen King is a prime example of the success of such a technique; he admits to using very little plotting in his biography "On writing." His is one of the best "writing" books in my opinion. He doesn’t try to tell you how to write, simply gives you the tools you need to hone your own skills. I like that approach. Find what works for you, then learn how best to incorporate it and make it your own.

Because above being authors in the making, we are individuals. And individuality is the key to unlocking your "voice". Which, ultimately, is what will one day capture the eye of an agent or publisher and get your books on the shelves of our reading public.

So how about you . . . what lights your muse's fire? And are there any tricks you use to make your characters real to you, the writer?

Tina Gray (A.G. Howard)