Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Twisted Psyche

After some comments on my recently finished manuscript, I realized there must be some seriously twisted part of my subconscious.

It has come to my attention that the balance between protagonists in my contemporary romances is off kilter. Pretty much one protagonist dominates the other in both stories. Does that make sense? In M#1, the hero is the stronger personality and overshadows the heroine. In M#2 the heroine tends to put the hero in his place a little too often, and the poor guy takes it.

What part of my subconscious thinks that this is okay in a romantic relationship? LOL

Have you ever discovered a disturbing part of your psyche through the characters of your stories?

*warning: I mean this in an entirely lighthearted way *wink, wink*

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Weekend Whine

Today has nothing to do with writing, so feel free to move on if you want. :-)

This post has to do with the babies. Or the lack thereof.

Yes. I am going through withdrawals and am crazy enough to kinda, kinda, kinda want another. Luckily, my hubby is sane and has drawn a firm NO in shifting sand of my desires.


This is my baby.
Only, he's not a baby anymore.

The truth walloped me upside the head a few days ago. I had to sort through my baby clothes to send some to my new nephew. Sentimentality isn't my strong suit, but when I saw all those old clothes I felt like crying. Just the image of them filled me with memories.

Sigh. So that's my whine. My littlest guy is almost two.


Wah!

If I'm having this much trouble now, I can't imagine how I'll feel when they're in school. Or worse, graduating.

Advice? Anyone? (sniff, sniff)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Thrice Hooked

Hooks seem to be on everyone's mind lately. Musetracks just posted some great advice about them.

So I've been thinking about my favorite show. House.

Why is this show so addictive?

Then I realized it employs three separate hooks.

The moral/philosophical/theological question that a character struggles with at the beginning of every show.

The physical mystery of what is wrong with the patient, including the race against time to save him/her.

And finally, the emotional drama of each character's life. This hook is for long time viewers, while the other two can get a newbie interested.

THREE Hooks! And at the end, they all tie in together somehow.

How many hooks do you use in your stories? Have you ever found the hook morphing into something else by the middle of your story?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

More Than Words

When I first started writing for publication, I realized that my craft needed work.
So I cut and pruned and honed my prose until I knew how to wield POV, how to make a sentence shine, and how to end with a hook.

But now, something has dawned on me.

It's not about my sentence structure, verbs or adjectives. Publishers and readers want a great story.

This has challenged me to not only choose my words wisely, but to craft a story that is unique and powerful, not cliche (which I'm good at) or stale.

It's tough though. Will my plots and characters resemble a dozen others in the same genre?

What do you think? What is more likely to be published: a so-so story with amazing writing or a blow-you-away story with less than stellar writing?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Redeeming That Heroine

I think we all agreed a few posts back that while a heroine must be strong, she must also have weaknesses and vulnerabilities that we can relate to.

But what about when those frailties make her the antagonist in an earlier story? How do we go about redeeming this bad girl?

Perhaps by giving her strengths that overshadow her weakness? Or maybe her flaws lead her down a path of hurt and she comes out wiser for it.

In my WIP, the heroine has been a minor antagonist in the stories that came before. I'm trying to redeem her, trying to keep her likeable by showing her soft side and giving her certain heroic qualities.

Julie Lessman did a wonderful post awhile back about redeeming her heroine.

Have you written an unlikeable woman that you'd like to morph into a sympathetic character? How do you do this? How do you change her? Or do you only change the reader's perception of her?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tips For a Blog

Lots of writers start blogging to get their name out there, or because we're told we should. That's why I did. I kept reading blogs and thought, hey, maybe I need one of these. So I started 'ol BookingIt up and have had a great time with it.

There are a few tips to running a successful blog.

1. Keep it short
2. Keep it focused
3. Keep it on a schedule

To me, those are the most important aspects. I also comment alot on other blogs, and if someone comes to visit I go check out their site and say hi.

For more in-depth info on creating a great blog, check out author Camy Tang's article Building A Blog.

What do you do to get your posts noticed?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Heroines: They've Grown Up

When I first started writing, I heard a lot about how heroines have changed over the years to reflect society. Today's heroines tend to be bolder, sassier, more independent, career women, etc.

The other night I felt horrible so I popped in an old favorite: The Goonies.

I know it's a kid's movie, but I started to get annoyed with the heroine. In my opinion, the heroine's sidekick deserved heroine status. Sidekick is bold, strong and compassionate (held her weeping heroine friend). Not like the true heroine, who squeals when bats fly through her hair (okay, I know we would all scream, but she did more. She went into hysterics!). The heroine seems weak in every way, while her friend is a bit mouthy but strong. The friend is the kind of heroine I don't mind rooting for.

What qualities do you look for in a heroine?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

POD vs Self-Publishing

For a long time I mixed up these types of publishing.

POD (print on demand) is actually a technology that self-publishers use, but you can also find small publishers using it.

Now that I've started to understand the differences, I thought I'd post about it. Basically, self-publishing costs you money. The author pays for their story to get published. If you go with a small, legitimate press, it shouldn't cost you a dime. If the press is small and wants to charge you in order to publish your story, then it's not a small press. It's a vanity press masquerading as a small press.

It's all about the money. If you've thought about self-publishing or going with a smaller press, make sure you study your contract and know what you're getting into.

An example of a legitimate self-publisher with a good reputation is Winepress.
A small publisher who seems legit is OakTara. I stumbled across them after visiting Cindy's blog (she made her first sale to them: woohoo!) and was very impressed with how this publisher emphasizes that while they use POD technology, they do NOT charge the author for anything.

Have you thought about self-publishing or going with a small press? Any experiences with them?

****I may still be confusing vanity and self-publishing: See Michael's comment. Either way, they both cost money, but the money may go to different places for different things depending on whether it's vanity or self-pubbing.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Weekend Shout Outs!

First, Congrats to Jody for winning Daisy Chain by Mary DeMuth. Send me your snail mail and I'll get this out to you. :-)


Now, I'd like to give a Shout Out to a few amazing ladies whom I've met through the blogosphere and who have made their first sales.

Kathryn: Her debut novel Tender Graces sold to Bellebooks and you can now pre-order it here. Check out the amazing cover and trailer! Kathryn's blog is a fun place to land and I have a feeling her book, serious as it is, will also contain some of her cute humor.


Kristen: She's a generous writer her shares her knowledge about the craft by speaking at chapter meetings and by co-hosting Romance Divas, a place I'm planning to join when I get my booty in gear. It looks like it has all sorts of goodies to offer aspiring authors. Kristen just sold her novel All Fired Up to Samhain and has a release date for September.


Christina: She recently sold her first solo book to Moody publishing. Titled The Familiar Stranger, you can pre-order it here. You can also read a little about her story here and peruse some super cute pics of one excited writer. :-)


Rita : Rita is another generous writer who sold her historical fiction Surrender the Wind to Abingdon Press. She's the owner of Stepping Stones Magazine for Writers and Readers where she offers practical tips for writers and showcases authors' books. Surrender the Wind is also available for pre-order and Rita is holding a contest for anyone who pre-orders the discounted novel from Amazon. You can visit her website to read about the story.




I admire these fellow bloggers so much for their determination, perseverance and dedication to excelling in their craft and following their dreams. :-) The publishing road is long, narrow and rocky but here they are, at a major milestone, ready to enter a new phase. Here's to many, many more sales!

Congratulations ladies!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Daisy Chain By Mary E Demuth

I first heard of Mary DeMuth through agent Rachelle Gardner. I subscribed to Mary's Wanna Be Published blog where she offers practical tips, free critiques, and interviews with publishing professionals.

Daisy Chain was a wonderful, haunting read. Her crisp style and the question of Daisy's whereabouts kept me hooked throughout the book. This is an awesome story.

I hope you enjoy Mary's interview. Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing to win her novel Daisy Chain.


Where did you get the idea for the book?I had a friend who shared a difficult story with me. He grew up in a Christian home. His father was in leadership in the Christian community. From the outside, all looked perfect. But behind closed doors, life was very, very hard. I wanted to expose that kind of abuse. That’s why the idea of family secrets plays heavily into all three books of the Defiance, Texas trilogy.

What are the major themes of the book?The importance (and elusiveness) of authenticity.The devastation of maintaining and keeping family secrets.Redemption comes from surprising people.Feeling guilty doesn’t always equal reality.True friendship involves sacrifice.

With which character do you identify most and why?In high school, I was a lot like Hixon, living on the margins of life in some ways because I was so flat-out in love with Jesus. I wanted to share Him everywhere, and my speech was peppered with Jesusisms. But like Hixon, I also had another side to me, one I hid. Learning to be honest with myself and others about my own shortcomings—and, oh, they are aplenty—has made me a better Christ-follower in the long run. It’s not about appearing holy. It’s about being holy from the inside out. The only route to that kind of abundance is honest, excruciating disclosure with trusted friends and the God who sees it all.

What do you hope to accomplish with this book? I liken this book to an Oprah book, but with hope. Yes, there is darkness and meanness abounding in this world, but God’s light has a way of fully penetrating that darkness. I hope Daisy Chain cradles the reader through its deep, scary journey clear through to the end because redemption will shine brighter in the midst of darkness. That’s my own personal testimony, so it can’t help but leak out on the page.
My hope is that folks will see the need to share their family secrets in order to be set free. (A cool place to share your family secrets anonymously is http://blog.myfamilysecrets.org/). I also want people to see that the Body of Christ is probably much different looking than they first thought. Some appear holy. Others, in distressing disguises, actually are.
What would you say to someone who wants to become a published author? Here’s the analogy you need to memorize and internalize: Beginning the publishing journey is like wearing a sweatshirt and toting a sack lunch at the base of Mount Everest, thinking, Hmm, this should be a breeze!
In addition: know you are called. Know you have talent. Know you’re full of tenacity. All three things will help you succeed along the journey.
Another idea is hang out at The Writing Spa and its corresponding blog WannabePublished. I tackle nearly every question a new writer would have. I offer weekly free critiques and I have guest authors cameo there. I evaluate the saleabilty of a book idea. Hop on by at http://www.thewritingspa.com/.
Mary DeMuth is an expert in the field of Pioneer Parenting. She helps Christian parents plow fresh spiritual ground, especially those seeking to break destructive family patterns. Her message guides parents who don’t want to duplicate the home where they were raised or didn’t have positive parenting role models growing up.
An accomplished writer, Mary’s parenting books include Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture, Building the Christian Family You Never Had, and Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God. Her real-to-life novels inspire people to turn trials into triumphs: Watching the Tree Limbs (2007 Christy Award finalist, ACFW Book of the Year 2nd Place) and Wishing on Dandelions (2007 Retailer’s Choice Award finalist).
Mary is a frequent speaker at women’s retreats and parenting seminars, addressing audiences in both Europe and the United States. National media regularly seek Mary’s candid ability to connect with their listeners. Her radio appearances include FamilyLife Today, Moody Midday Connection, and U.S.A. Radio network. She also has articles published in Marriage Partnership, In Touch, and HomeLife.
As pioneer parents, Mary and her husband Patrick live in Texas with their three children. They recently returned from breaking new spiritual ground in Southern France where they planted a church.
Learn more about Mary at http://blog.myfamilysecrets.org/.
Here's the book trailer for Daisy Chain. Don't forget to leave a comment here to be entered in the drawing! :-)

Participating Blogs in this Tour:




Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Books I Bought

Some of you asked which books I bought. Well, here they are and the reasons I bought them.

The Convenient Groom stood out to me because of the cover. It's just awesome and immediately makes me wonder what this bride has up her...sleeve. LOL Then the title is intriguing as well. The clincher, however, is that I need to study the pacing and style of a single title contemporary romance, and there were only about two on the shelves. This won out.







Then I saw An Unexpected Pleasure for five dollars on my way to the register. The price and the author's name is what prompted me to buy this one. No other reason than it was a good deal and I knew I would probably like it because I've read a few of her books before.








Finally, the book I chose for pleasure, and pleasure alone, is Sinner by Sharon Carter Rogers. The cover and title immediately caught my eye. The blurb sounded great and when I saw that agent Steve Laube represented it, I thought, I want to read this book. I met Laube at a conference and he was a very nice person who took the time to give a newbie some great advice. I'm really, really looking forward to reading this one.






These are it, but if I'd been a little less tight with my wallet, I would've bought a ton more.
So, I've bought books for many reasons, but I've never bought a fifteen dollar book for "research". Have you spent that much to research a genre or comparable work?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Looks, and How They Sucked Me In

On my birthday, my hubby whisked me away and plopped me down into the fiction aisle of the local bookstore. Then he said, voice deep and sexy, "Buy". You all should know that I'm a submissive wife, so I did exactly what he said. >g<

I didn't go all crazy and decided that as much as I wanted to just swoop all those books into my arms and run, I couldn't. So I had to choose, and boy was that hard.

Guess what I looked at first?

Yep. Covers.

If a cover looked interesting, I checked out the title and then the backcover copy. After awhile, I realized what I was doing and deliberately looked at Titles, blurbs and first pages.

But the sad truth remains. My eye was caught by looks first.

Have you thought about your manuscript's book cover? What it might look like and how it might entice readers to buy?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Skeeter and the Mystery of the Lost Mosquito Treasure

Hi everyone,
I'm heading out early today for a niece's birthday part FAR away, so I thought I'd post this review for some of you moms.

I just received Max Lucado's Hermie and Friends DVD in the mail. Whenever Lucado switched from books to movies is beyond me, but he's done well. Skeeter and the Mystery of the Lost Mosquito Treasure kept my kids on the couch.

The movie is all about this little mosquito who has always felt like less because his stinger is crooked. When his "perfect" brother comes home, everybody fawns over him. His stinger is long and straight, plus he's a famous explorer. When the brothers discover a treasure map from their father, they decide to work together to find the treasure. In the process, they discover that they're each special and are formed the way they are for a special purpose.

It's a cute little movie set in a garden. Like I said, both the 4 year old and the 2 1/2 year old sat down and watched it. I liked letting them because there's the spiritual element to the movie which I usually only see in Veggie Tales (yes, I know there are more out there but I don't have them). The story is fun to watch but it also left the kids with the moral that God made us all unique and being different is good.

I like that. :-)

Do any of you have these Hermie movies? Did you even know Max Lucado was making cartoons now? Any other good movie suggestions for me?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Physical Characteristics Say More Than Words

In an earlier post, I mentioned how some books have the ability to make us cry. Now, to be fair, I never cried reading a book until after I had some kids. Then, suddenly, something happened to my hormones.

The first book that made me cry was Linda Howard's (ironically) Cry No More. She did an excellent job with showing in this book. In the prologue the heroine's baby is literally wrenched from her arms. Kidnapped. First chapter is years and years later. I can't remember if the reader is told that the heroine is still grief-stricken, that this event forever changed her. What I do remember is the heroine's hair, and the silver streak that appeared after her son's kidnapping.

Another book that showed a woman's grief using a physical characteristic is Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic. In this book, the widowed heroine loses her ability to see color when her husband dies. Eventually she sees color again, but never red, the color of the stop sign the teenagers ran when they killed her husband. It's been at least ten years since I read this book, and I still remember that.

We're not told "The heroine is sad", "the heroine is heartbroken". No, these clever authors gave their protagonists a characteristic that forever marks them as wounded, as changed.

It's a good lesson for me to remember when creating my own characters.

Do you use physical details to "show" the emotional/mental state of your characters?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Genres

Like many of you pointed out, realizing what books your story is similar to will help you target a specific house or agent.

One of the most important things to know is what genre your books falls under. In other words, at the bookstore, what shelf in what section would your story sit on.

There's tons of genres for fiction.

Western
Romance
Thriller
Suspense
Literary
Mainstream
Fantasy
Futuristic
Mystery
Historical

The list could go on. Not only that, but you can mix and match genres, though it's vital to know the main category of your story.

For instance, I am writing inspirational (Christian) contemporary romances targeted to Love Inspired. However, I've thought of writing an inspirational urban fantasy. That would be mixing the genres up and might be kind of fun, though a difficult sell.

Debra, in the comments yesterday, mentioned a gothic inspirational. How fun! A totally new genre comprised of some main genres.

What genre do you write in? Ever thought of trying something new?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Bullseye

Oftentimes new writers don't think about where their writing may fit in the publishing world, but it's an important aspect to consider on the journey to publication.

Think of the publishing world as one big dart board. Somewhere is your perfect bullseye. It's up to you to find it.

In order to do that, there are several things you need to consider.

1. The tone of your work
2. The genre
3. The length
4. Your projected audience

There's probably more to add to this list, so feel free to point out other considerations.

Have you targeted certain publishers or agents as a fit for you?