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A new experience…

I’ve said many times on this blog how taking a risk or having a new experience is a worthwhile endeavor and yesterday I talked the talk, walked the walk. I participated in my very first Facebook release party. It was last minute thing. I was asked because one of the authors couldn’t make it so, my NHRWA sistah Susan A. Wall asked me to fill in and I was happy to.

Those 30 minutes went by faster than a speeding bullet (a head nod to Superman here!)

Apparently, a very large group of readers, fans, and fb followers attend these sort of things. Who knew? 

I had to ask a few questions, answer a few, and give something away, because we all know folks like freebies and giveaways. ( Shameless self promotion coming) I’m actually doing a giveaway right now of THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME on Goodreads. Here’s the link:

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/138470-there-s-no-place-like-home

So, anyway. It felt good to connect with some new people and to experience this new fangled way of promoting my work. This just solidifies in my mind that Social Media has changed the world. And the future. I simply can’t imagine ever going back to the old fashioned ways of promoting things like sending out postoffice mailers, flyers, postcards. Having book premier cocktail parties ( expensive!!) seem to be a thing of the past as well.

One thing that will never go out of style is meeting the fans, the readers, the people you write for. Giving a talk at a local library, visiting a book group, volunteering to be a guest lecturer at a school, even doing a physical book signing at an actual book store are all things I want to keep doing to promote my work, and will.

That’s a promise from me to the people who read  and support what I like.

But this virtual stuff is pretty cool, no?

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Filed under Characters, Dialogue, New Hampshire

Writing long…and short

I don’t think it’s a lie to say I’m verbose. As in, long winded, wordy, loquacious, garrulous…you get the message. My daughter read something of mine once and critiqued it by asking, “why do you say the same thing three times, differently? Why not just say it once, effectively?”

So happy her Dartmouth education paid off, because, really, she was right.

I write fast – no surprise there, since I talk and think fast.  Quick witted is what an admirer said of me once. My first drafts go on for hundreds of pages. Dialogue, exposition, explanation. Words and words and words. I just write whatever comes into my head while my fingers follow. I talk this way, as well, so it’s not a bombshell to admit my writing reflects this. If I got paid by the word I’d be a quadrillionaire ( if there is such a thing).

Even now, as I’m typing this, I find myself saying the same thing in different ways just  to make sure you, dear reader, get it.

Robert Parker and Elmore Leonard were two of my favorite writers when I was penning mysteries. Their dialogue was always spot on, even if it was a one word rebuke or answer to a question, and their descriptions required no more than a sentence or two for the reader to get the visual. They trusted their readers to understand what they were trying to convey and we always did. I live to write this way. The nicest compliment a reader can give me is that they “vividly saw what I wrote when they read it.”

I just submitted a story for a new series that will be coming out next Valentine’s Day. The word cap was 10-20 K, maximum. My stories are usually 85,000-100,000 words, easily. Writing this story for submission was an excellent way for me to learn to curtail my logorrhea. First draft was 27,615 words – and I thought all of them should be kept. No. They couldn’t. I had to eliminate at the very least 7,615. That’s a full scene for me.

Second draft I got it down to 22,005. Still not enough.

I had a dream one night on how to tighten a scene and BAM! the next day I got it down to roughly 14,500. This was good. I read the story at least 20 times, gave it to a friend and read little snippets to my coworkers.  They all agreed I should leave it as it stood. Don’t add. Don’t subtract.

I agreed. Today I submitted it to my Editor. We’ll see what happens, but this exercise taught me the benefit of culling extraneous words, tightening longwinded and rambling scenes, and focusing in on the specifics of the story and not worrying about the extra stuff no one needs to know about. As a writer, this is a good thing.

It’s not exactly a bad thing as a person either, since I do tend to ramble on and on and……..

 

 

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And the moment has arrived….

It’s release day!!! I’m sitting in my pajamas, a cup of congratulatory tea in my hand, looking at this:
20150304_051322

This is my dream board. I started it a few months back when I was hoping to have my first book published. That hope turned into reality today with the publication of Skater’s Waltz.

I’ve been told by a few people that dream boards are a waste of time, energy, and paper. Why, I’ve been asked, do you need to waste your time cutting out pictures and sayings of what you want? Why not just got for it and do what you need to do to make your dreams come through?  Those people are not really friends of mine. My friends applaud the way I put my internal dreams and hopes into a touchable, readable, living entity. They agree that when you dream it, think it, and speak it, every desire in your heart can come true. When you put your hopes into a tangible, cohesive layout, you can get a better feel, a much clearer view, of how you are going to achieve those goals and dreams.

My dream board is covered with positive affirmations of what I want my writing career to look like and be. It tells the story of how I see myself at this moment in time, and where I see my life leading me now that it is going through such a monumental change. When I look at it, I see the path I took to get here and the road I need to travel from this day on.

My dreams have become reality…yours can, too.

If you dream it, you can be it, do it, and have it.

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Character flaws

Flaws. We all have them. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. Let’s face it: no one is perfect. Our hopeful imaginations can believe we are, or someone else is, but in stark reality, we are all filled with little traits that bring us up short in the perfection department.

I’m loaded – LOADED – with flaws. That is one of the truest statements I have ever written. I don’t have enough free space on the blogosphere to list all my faults and flaws, so I won’t. But this got me to thinking about my characters and their flaws and imperfections. Have I given them enough? Too much? Ones that don’t ring true? My- egads!! – own??

So what is a flaw, really? It can be a physical imperfection, such as, “her snow white beautiful skin was flawed by the one huge wart across her nose;”,  a weakness, as in, “the plan to attack Gettysburg was flawed when the generals didn’t take into consideration the huge number of wounded they’d need to attend to;”  a shortcoming, “he’s a great teacher,  but he doesn’t think ahead.” It can even be a failure: “poor programming flawed the computer game leading to poor sales.”

CHARACTER FLAWS are by definition those flaws that are inherent in the characters you write, or they can be stated as flaws in a person’s makeup – or character, if you will. For my discussion here, I’m calling them those quirks, mannerisms,thoughts and actions that help make my imaginary characters feel more human and real. They are the internal facets of the character’s emotional, spiritual and thought-related makeup.

Perfection is boring. This is true; think about it. What drives a story, whether it is plot or character driven? Conflict. If your characters are perfect – never get mad, always have things work in their favor, everyone on the planet page likes them – then I’m sorry, your story will be snoresville. Big time. No conflict. But…what if your heroine is a sassy, sarcastic-yet-insanely-witty reporter who will do anything to land a story?  She doesn’t let anyone or anything stand in her way. Now, a mega-selling writer moves to her tiny town for peace and quiet and our lovely heroine makes it her unending goal to secure an interview with him. Her doggedness – which really borders on utterly annoying at times  – can be her grace and her flaw, especially since our hero writer wants nothing to do with people, reporters in particular. Our girl can’t give up. Won’t give up. Sees giving up as the end-all of weakness and defeat. She can’t lose out on this interview, she simply can’t. Humble and withdrawn she is not. She will never admit she can lose, it’s just not in her. Until….

Scenario two: our hero is a doctor. His parents were killed in a car crash when he was a teen. A crash he witnessed and lived through since he was sitting and sulking ( as a good little teen does )in the back seat. His parents couldn’t be saved due to the unpreparedness of the emergency team. He vows to never let another survivor go through what he went through and strives to become the best, most intense doctor he can, to the exclusion of everything else in his life.  He is focused, dedicated, arrogant, and unrelenting. Enter our heroine, a free spirited nurse who was raised on a commune, supports alternative methods of medicine, and believes in karma. His character flaw – he can’t ever relent in his pursuit of medical excellence and he spurns and vilifies anyone who doesn’t think the same way as he does, is in direct conflict to the nurse’s stop and let nature take it’s course approach to health care. Both are stubborn, dogged, and unwilling to change their views. Until…. you fill in the rest of the story your way.

One of my basic  flaws has to do with my being such a stubborn a** at times. I will fight to the death even when I KNOW I am wrong about something. It’s just not in me to give up…on anything. Yeah, it’s a real problem. It can be a blessing in disguise sometimes – some very few times! – but mostly it’s just annoying to those around me. I am up for growth, though. And stubborn though I am, I am willing to change.

Just not right now and not when I’m in the middle of an argument.

What flaws and faults have you given your characters and how have you helped them overcome them? Are they believable flaws? Do they serve a purpose to the character and the story? Do they inspire conflict? And if you want to go the physical route, what are their external flaws? Warts? Humps? Lumps and deficits?

Think about perfection. It’s a nice thought, but the reality is, perfection isn’t that great. It’s boring, uninspiring and a one-note. It’s like having nothing but vanilla ice cream the rest of your life. Delicious and lip-licking for a time, but after a while you want a little chocolate.

But flaws, well, that’a whole ‘nother story, isn’t it? And it’s a good story, too.

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I hear voices…

My new book is slated for release on March 4; I’m finishing up the final galley edits on book 2, and have just submitted book 3 to me editor ( and  boy, don’t I love saying that!). And I still have 5 books in current production – which means they are at varying stages on my laptop, anywhere from outlined to first three chapters, to almost done with first or final draft.

Yup, I write a lot.

A lot!

I’ve got voices yelling at me at all hours of the day and night inside my head, screaming to be let out. Sounds like a schizophrenic’s nightmare, but no, it’s just li’l ole me and my overactive, non-quiescent imagination.

There are just not enough hours in the day sometimes for me to try and quiet all these people down. And the only way to do that is to commit them to paper – or in my case – laptop. With my upcoming retirement in April, I pray I finally have enough time to devote to all these characters vying for my individual attention. As it is now,  I am just skimming the surface of my desire to write full time. Once my paying job goes the way of the dinosaur I won’t have to squeeze in writing while I wait for the laundry to be done, or after I’ve gotten the groceries bought and put away, or decided what to make for dinner and then make it!

The house will – hopefully – no longer endure the invasion of the tumble weeds that roll out daily from underneath the furniture; I won’t be able to write my  name in the dust settling on the furniture, and when I walk across the carpets, dust bunnies won’t fly up from under my steps.

I plan on being able to write to my heart’s desire during the typical workday. I am usually good mental-wise from 4 am until about 1-2ish. Sharp and focused, I can write the most coherent stuff during those times. After 2-3 I start to wane, so that’s when I plan on doing all the other stuff that needs my attention – like clean, cook, pay bills, etc. At least that’s my plan.

We’ll see how it goes. But until then, the voices are  yelling at me again, so off I go to quiet the crazies….

 

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Filed under Characters, Dialogue, Editors

just one piece of advice…

During an interview recently – and I can’t tell you how much I LOVELOVELOVE saying I was “interviewed!” – I was asked about the one piece of writing advice that has stuck with me and gotten me through publishing hurdles, humps and heartbreak. It was actually difficult to come up with just that one exclusive iota of writing  wisdom that has resonated with me.

My first thought is the one I received from a literary agent many moons ago which I’ve written about before. Although this agent didn’t accept me as a client, she wrote a handwritten note at the bottom of her letter (this was pre-email, folks) stating, “…you are an excellent writer and I have no doubt I will be reading your published works one day soon. It only takes one “yes” to make a difference in your writing career…” I have never forgotten those words.

Another piece of writing advice that comes to mind is when I heard Nora Roberts speak at the National RWA conference in 2014. She was asked how she can be so prolific a writer and what was her secret. She replied, “Put your butt in the chair, your fingers over the keyboard and write. That’s it and that’s all.”  Butt in seat, fingers on keyboard, write. Can it be any simpler than this?

I would guess the piece of writing advice I’ve learned to repeat daily to myself, is actually one I gave myself  many years ago and had nothing to do with writing at the time I came up with it. I call it THE TAO OF NGUNGI ( pronounced na-goo-na-guy). It means, NEVER GIVE UP AND NEVER GIVE IN. I was going through a difficult period of my life and the days ahead looked bleak and scary. But when I started saying this to myself, it resonated loudly and I was able to get through the period relatively emotionally unscathed.

Now, when I want to have a writing pity party for myself, I repeat the phrase as many times as I need to in order to dig myself out of my depressing black hole. By practicing the TAO Of NGUNGI, I have pushed onwards all this years and finally have a publishing contract.

Never Give up and Never give in. One piece of really good advice – for life and for writing.

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History and Tradition

Christmas is tomorrow -but you already know that. As a writer, I got to thinking about all the traditions that have been passed down to families over the ages, and all the history behind those traditions. The first storytellers – which is what we as writers are, didn’t have access to laptops, pens or paper. They told and retold their stories and their history to others, over campfires, in caves, huts, and lean-to’s. Year after year, decade after decade, until the stories were able to be recorded for prosperity and for times to come. I tend to think we still do this to this day – the proof is in the number of people who scrapbook – myself included. The recording our of our personal history is shown through practices such as this. I actually have a scrapbook for every year of my daughter’s life until she graduated from college. And each one is full of her own history, which she will be able to look back on some day and teach her children about it.

It’s the same way with Christmas traditions. Most of us still practice things we learned and did as children with our parents and grandparents. My husband’s family always played Hide the Baby Jesus figurine. All the kids were encouraged to search until someone – the ultimate winner- finally did. My friend’s moms had yearly cookie swaps. It was an occasion for the gals to get together, share cookie recipes and swap stores about their year. Many families make  trips into the woods ( or a tree farm!) to choose, tag, and then cut down their Christmas tree.  The telling of the Night Before Christmas on Christmas eve is always a favorite. Some families allow the kids to open just one present on Christmas eve, or their stockings, in anticipation of the day to come.

I have friends who never miss Midnight Mass. The next morning they have a huge Christmas Stratta for breakfast and invite neighbors to come over and share it.

I don’t have a Christmas childhood memory that doesn’t include two things every year in my memory: the Yule log burning on Channel 13 in NYC all of the eve and into the day of Christmas with every single holiday song ever recorded playing in a loop; and Christmas day making the schlep into Brooklyn to see my grandmother. I say schlep because my parents didn’t drive and we had to rely on public transportation. It took upwards of 4-5 hours ONE WAY every year, but we did it. That was our tradition. Christmas at grandma’s house in Brooklyn.

When I got older and was a single girl living in my own apartment my tradition became decorating the tree on Christmas eve. I’d put it up  a few days beforehand, let the branches settle and then play holiday music while I trimmed my tree. I still have many of those original ornaments 35 years later.

When my daughter was born, it became our tradition of have her put the angel on the top of the tree. Her father would lift her up so she could reach the top, I would snap the yearly picture denoting the event, and then the tree was set. Oh, and we always played Hide The baby Jesus, too!

So, as we reflect on the miracle of Christmas this year, don’t forget all the Christmas days that have come before this one.  Remember those things that made you happy as a child and share them with your own children. Don’t lose the simple things to the modern age.  Nothing gives you as warm a feeling as sitting by a roaring fire, the tree decorated with ornamental memories, a mug of hot chocolate in one hand, a child on your lap, as you tell them a Christmas story. Why don’t you tell them Your Christmas story?

And one day, they’ll pass that on to their own children.

History and tradition. Two halves of the same coin.

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A few words about editing…

One of my writing Bibles ( and I’m not being sacrilegious here) is a book titled HOW TO WRITE SHORT  – Word Craft For Fast Times by Roy Peter Clark. I’ve mentioned this book before in blogs, but I was re-reading it today and  few key phrases jumped out at me.

I’m currently writing my newest book, and editing the one that came before it. I’ve noticed – as has my editor – that I have a distinctive writing style that sometimes goes on a little longer than necessary. Especially when I say the same thing several ways.

Here’s an example. Moira’s breath quickened, deepened in intensity, the speed of the breaths faster with each inhalation and then exhalation.

Now, aside from being a perfectly AWFUL sentence, I told you the same damn thing three times! Okay, we get it. Moira was breathing fast. I could have just said it like that. Moira was breathing fast. But that sentence has no punch, no pop, no…  Oh, dear, God, I’m doing it again!

Clark writes, “The best place for an important word in a short passage is at the end.” The italics are his.

So, rewriting the above wordy sentence into something shorter, I could have said, Moira was breathing fast. But using Clark’s notion to put the important word last, fast just doesn’t do it for me. Finding words to describe the fast breathing is the next step.  Quickened, accelerated, sped-up are a few ways to describe it. If I resort to the deadly “LY” words, I could say, speedily, rapidly, hastily quickly, swiftly.  So, which word works best for what I want to convey? Maybe none of them. Maybe I need to write a descriptive phrase to indicate what I want to say. But if I do that, I will be assured to over-word my sentence again.

Egads! I hate editing.

Sometimes your first gut instinct is the best way to go, so reworking the tense just a hair, I wrote this: Excitement rolled through her and Moira’s breathing quickened.

Not a bad sentence. Not pulitzer prize winning, but a much better conveyance of what I wanted, than  Moira was breathing fast. A total of 8 words instead of the original  18.

Woot!
Now, onward to the other 90,000 words that need to be edited…

Tedium…the definition of editing!

 

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Almost half way thru NaNoWriMo…

30 days can be regarded in a number of ways. It’s a full month on a calendar ( if you disregard February and forget the 31 day months); it’s a little over 4 exact weeks; it’s a pay period for most workers, a menstrual cycle, and a billing rotation. It’s the amount of time most people set aside to get a haircut. Psychologists tell us in 30 days we can form new and better habits, changing out old, bad ones. Many contact lenses need to be replaced every 30 days, and you should really change some of your makeup monthly as well.

All those things can be done in 30 days. Most with relative ease.

What’s not so easy to do in 30 days is write a 50,000+ word novel/first draft.

Don’t get me wrong: it can be done. And has.

But it really isn’t that easy.

We’re almost at the halfway time mark of this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge. I’m doing well – better than I expected, really. Right now I’m sitting in my local Subaru dealer getting my car inspected and fixing a recall problem.

And I’m typing. At this moment – this blog entry. But until a minute ago I was working on my NaNo WIP. I’ve found I bring my laptop with me everywhere I go, including to work, and when I can manage it – lunch hours and breaks in the day, – I open my NaNo file and … go.

The goal of 50,000 words can seem daunting. For most, it is. But for people like us who write for a living/hobby/obsession, it’s not as bad as it seems.

Breaking it down to a little over 1500 words per day – or roughly 6-7 pages of  double spaced text – it can be done.

And remember – this is a first draft. It’s not the finished, polished, ready to submit one. That comes later with editing.

I find with this draft I usually do a lot of dialogue. I can always put in the subtext, tags, and descriptions later with the editing, but I like to know what my peeps are gonna say first and take the story from there. Dialogue comes quick to me – probably because I never shut up in real life! But seriously, whatever comes easiest for you – dialogue, exposition, description, or even backstory – go with it. Let it flow and let it go. Like I said, you can always go back later, after the challenge, and make it better.

But get those words on the page now. That’s what the important part of the challenge is. Training yourself to type everyday, to create on a  timeline, to focus your thoughts and words.

So, how far are you at this halfway mark?

 

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Putting the “NO” in NaNoWriMo.

Day 3 of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)  has just finished for me. I am at 9716 words – not bad considering I had to work at my real paying job today. I don’t’ want to get boggled down in the numbers game, though,  because for me the real reason to do this challenge is to get into the habit of writing constructively every day. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

This challenge is the impetus many writers need to get them going, motivated, and excited about the task at hand: namely, writing the book of their heart. As writers, it is really important we write every day to keep our creative mind active and productive. I heard Nora Roberts explain it this way at conference recently. She was asked if she ever takes a vacation from writing. Her reply is why she is one of the greatest authors of all time. And one of the most prolific. She said, “Your writing is like a muscle. If you don’t work a muscle, if you don’t use it all the time, it starts to get weak and can deteriorate and even die.”

Wow.

Best analogy I’d ever heard for why writing every day is a must. I’ve mentioned before I write every day, whether it’s my blog, my WIP or even just editing some work I’ve already “finished.” To me, not writing is like not eating – I don’t think I could live if I didn’t do it!

So day 4 is about to start. Target goal today is at least 2500 words. Check back later to see if I made my goal.

Or exceeded it.

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Filed under Author, Characters, Contemporary Romance, Dialogue, Life challenges, Romance, Romance Books, Strong Women