Friday, May 28, 2010

Spotlight on Talent: YOU!

After taking a hiatus from hosting my Author Exhange Blog, I've got it back up and running with a slightly different format.  In addition to interviewing published authors (any genre/format) and other publishing professionals, I'm now also publishing Guest Blog Posts and doing some book reviews.

In the year between February 2009 and Feburary 2010, I published nearly 100 interviews with a variety of published authors, editors, publishers and other industry professionals.  All genres were represented, as were a magazine and a couple of book publishers.  My aim is to help other writers spread the good word about their work and their passion.

We writers walk just a step out of time with the rest of the world...after all, how many people do you know who actually prefer sitting in room all by themselves, living with imaginary friends and lives?

Due to time constraints (I was actually spending between 15 and 20 hours a week with duties related to the Author Exchange Blog before going on hiatus), I've implemented strict submission guidelines and have extended the length of time I need before scheduling guest appearances on the blog.  I'm hoping the new guidelines will not only help me manage my time better, but will also streamline the process of getting more people up on the blog.

Feel free to spread the word to any writers, or other people in the industry, you may know.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Building Characters

I remember when my kids used to go trick or treating on Halloween.  They always had terrific ideas about "who" they wanted to be.  My son, who was an altar boy in the year I'm remembering, wanted to be The Pope.  Many people were horrified, including my in-laws.  But our parish priest thought my son's idea was terrific.  He believed that kids his age should know about religion, any religion, and wanted to help Michael "spread the light."  So he allowed Michael to wear one of his vestments and gave him advice about building the "hat."  (We never shared with Fr. Paul that Michael's goal was going for humor, not spreading the light of the Lord.)

Creating characters for a book or short story is not quite as easy as stepping into a character at Halloween.  Before the book is fully plotted, you have to come up with a backstory, motivation, quirks, likes, dislikes, habits, and the basis for some serious conflicts with one or more of the other characters.  Oh, and did I mention motivation?  Why is a very important question to ask your characters.  As in:  a) Why, Mr. Villain, do you want to chop up and kill women and then place their eyeballs in your freezer?  or b) Why, Mr. Larger-Than-Life-Hero, are you so damn scared of one tiny woman?  Sure, she's got a big mouth, but she can't hurt you, can she? or c) Why do you love small children and animals, Ms. Heroine?  Especially in light of the fact that your parents died when you were a kid and you spent your formulative years in a series of foster homes?

See what I mean?

When I first began writing novels and joined RWA and MWA, I soaked up other writers' advice like a sponge.  I copied every character chart I could, jotting down everyone's ideas about how to craft characters.  I thought I knew what the true steps to characterization greatness were.

Unfortunately, when you craft your characters with that much zealousness, with that much CONTROL, they tend to get boring.  Precise is nice when you're planning; it's dreadful to read.

I've since learned that if I pick 3-5 absolutes with respect to my characters (i.e. their goals, their raisons d'etre, and a little bit about their birth families/backgrounds), I allow them room to grow and develop as the plot and their own personalities require.

How do YOU build characters?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I've found that some of my best writing is done when I'm in the midst of turbulent emotion.  Like my very first novel, which was completed within a few months not too long before I separated from my ex-husband.  Funny how getting up at 5:00am each day, and writing for two uninterrupted hours, was cathartic.  Not that I wrote about  my marital situation or personal feelings, but I was able to tap into some serious emotion when writing that first romantic suspense novel.

I've found myself in the same situation several times in the ensuing 20-odd years.  I'm in one of them right now, for a very sad reason.  The son of a friend passed away unexpectedly late last week, and my mind has been distracted with a variety of thoughts, remembrances, and odd insights.  All of which are proving to be fodder for the book I'm currently plotting--and emotion for the book I'm writing.

I used to feel goulish when sad, tragic events spurred me to write.  But I've come to understand that the human condition forms the underpinnings of my work.  Each experience, and each emotion, helps form the layers of my thought process and the actual writing.  I suspect that the writers who most inspire us and whose work most appeal to us are those who are the most accomplished at tapping into our emotions.

Some writers freeze in the face of strong, turbulent emotions.  And others, like me, seem to get diarrhea of the keyboard.  I guess it takes all kinds...

What kind are you?

(RIP, Justin)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Honest Scrap Award

My blogging buddy, Bill Kirton, a writer who lives in Scotland and who hosts the blog, Living, Writing, and Other Stuff, has honored me with the Honest Scrap Award.  I'm told the award is given to bloggers who share honest information with their readers.  Considering the fact that my "honest" blog doesn't have the largest readership in blogdom, I am pondering the pros and cons of lying and telling tall-tales on the blog to acquire readership.  If I did that, however, I'd have to surrender the award.  What's a girl to do?

According to the rules of the Honest Scrap, I must present the award to 7 other bloggers.  Then, I have to share 10 HONEST things about myself.  I'll start with the 7 bloggers--that's far less boring and lots easier!

  1. Pets and Their Authors, hosted by Amigo, the Golden Retriever (he owns author Mayra Calvani)

  2. Riding With the Top Down, hosted by a number of authors:  Kylie Brant, Helen Brenna, Debra Dixon, Kathleen Eagle, Michele Hauf, Cindy Gerard, Lois Greiman, Betina Krahn, Susan Kay Law, and Christie Ridgeway

  3. Fact & Fiction, a local bookstore that does a tremendous amount of marketing on behalf of a number of authors, especially local authors

  4. Dennis N. Griffin, hosted by--you guessed it--Denny Griffin!

  5. SOAR's blog

  6. AniMeals' blog
How's that for a diverse group of blogs?  Well, I can honestly say I check them out on a regular basis.

Now, for the 10 honest things about myself.  It was tough coming up with 10 things that won't bore you to tears--and that's just MY opinion.  If I see my number of blog followers decrease, I guess I'll need to revisit the definition of boring, eh?

  1. I like spiders.  (What's not to like?  They eat mosquitos and flies.  Besides, remember how nice Charlotte was to Wilbur?)

  2. I don't have a favorite color, although most days I prefer either green or red.

  3. I don't have a favorite flower, either, although I love the fragrance of carnations and any flower with a daisy shape makes me smile.

  4. I have a wolf pack in my neighborhood.

  5. Once upon a time, I used to be young and cute.

  6. I'm very proud of my three children:  they're smart, and nice, and hard-workers.

  7. I'm a morning person.  Doesn't matter what time it is, if the sun's up, so am I.

  8. I'm a sucker for babies, dogs, and cats.

  9. It took me 30 years to appreciate, and like, my naturally curly hair.

  10. I fully intend to make the NYT bestseller list someday.
'Nuff said.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

What Did I Ever Do to Deserve This?

Notice the very important message on Laurie's left hand?  She's referring to me.  This picture is a reminder that I should NEVER underestimate the power of a word or the importance of a relationship.

Laurie jumped out of an airplane to raise funds for a an organization that's very important to her, and while the day had tremendous meaning for on her so many, many levels, she still spent considerable time thinking about me.  Wow...

When we write, even those of us who write plot-driven books and stories, the fundamental messages we send are communicated through our characters--via their motivations, fears, memories, loves, hates, and relationships.  Our fictional relationships need to reflect the powerful emotions that drive them in order for us to impact our readers--the way real people impact us in real life.

I spent the first part of this Mother's Day missing my mother; I spent the second half of it being so greatful for the fact that I am a mother.

Friday, May 7, 2010

May I Quit My Day Job?

If you're my husband, you're screaming out loud:  No!  No!  Absolutely not!  He figures my royalties need to equal the current income earned at  my day job before I can even THINK about quitting.  (He may have a point.  Maybe...)

If you're my 80-year old father, you're saying in a very controlled, but quite loud voice:  Are you out of your mind?  You see, he's the insurance man who got me into the insurance business (I own and operate two insurance businesses), and he wishes he'd worked for himself instead of a large insurance company.  He thinks my day jobs are nirvana.

If you're Delaney, Charlotte, Max, or Grace, your thinking inside your furry little head:  Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  Do it NOW.  Spend 24 hours a day at home with ME!  My puppies and kitties love me better and more affectionately than most people I've known.  (No one else has ever greeted me at the front door, EVERY DAY, when I come home, wiggly and kissy.)

If you're me, you understand--intellectually--where Stephen and Dad are coming from.  But emotionally, you're right there with the critters.

I'm spending several hours a day at my writing lately.  I'm doing some insurance writing at the office, more of it at home after-hours, and my fiction at home after hours.  Sometimes, it's VERY difficult to drag my mind from my writing to focus on stuff like getting payroll out on time, arriving on time to meet with clients, and going to bed at a reasonable hour.

I've always been a little obsessive-compulsive with my writing, but it's getting worse.  It feels like a good thing (that's the emotional side) but I'm wondering if it really is.

Are you O-C about your writing?  Do you think I'm going nuts?  (Of course, you notice that I've asked you folks, who are mostly other writers, instead of a shrink.  But I figure you'll understand better.  Right?)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

How to Get the Creative Juices Flowing

My blogging buddy, Bill, whom I've mentioned before, illustrates a terrific example of creativity in the most recent post on his blog.  (I'll give you the link later, so as not to encourage you to click away from me!)

He yammers on in his post about the way he routinely attributes human qualities to inanimate objects, such as vitamins and toilet tissue.  His blog post is hilarious and brings to mind the way children can take a mundane event and spin a wild tale.

Which, in turn, leads me to think about free-association and how we writers can utilize the same creative skills when the failure to come up with a single good idea plagues us.

Gabriele Lusser Rico wrote a book called Writing the Natural Way, which focuses on right brain/left brain issues and how a method of free-association she calls clustering helps writers access their creativity.  It is possibly one of the best books I've ever read. By using techniques she recommends, or by following Bill's example and pretending to be a pretzel and imagining what will happen when some human's hand reaches into your home (er...bag), you can access creativity you never realized existed.

When my children were very small, the four of us used to climb onto my bed before bedtime, and create stories.  One of us would begin with a premise:  Once upon a time, a gerbil escaped his cage and climbed into a bird cage inhabited by...  Another of us would continue the story and we'd take turns, transforming a silly premise into a wild and hairy adventure.  Much like the story I tried to get going several blogposts ago with the handsome couple sitting on the bus.  The assassin is my son's girlfriend and the handsome guy is--you guessed it--my son.  (Thank goodness they both have good sense of humor and love me!)

What do YOU do to get those creative juices flowing?

P.S.  Here is the link to Bill's funny blogpost and to Gabriele Lusser Rico's website.