Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Memories


Sunday night my husband and I found ourselves sitting beneath our Christmas tree peering up at those dazzling lights, and we couldn't help but think over past holidays when our children were young. We miss the excitement and expectation of seeing Christmas through the eyes of our children. We're fortunate that our grandsons live close by, and we're able to enjoy watching them. Still, I look back over the years with fond memories.

We had lean times. I remember the first Christmas after my husband and I were married. Oh boy were we poor. I only had eight dollars to buy Bruce's present. I remember walking from store to store wondering what I could possibly get him. Nothing that I could afford seemed good enough for the man I'd married. I settled on an ID bracelet, but I couldn't afford to have his name inscribed.

The Christmas with our first child was an experience. Kristina was only seven weeks old, but I pulled her out of her crib at 6:30 a.m.. Poor little baby could hardly open her eyes. In my defense though, we had to go to my sister's that morning as well, so I had to get her up anyway. I remember propping my baby next to the doll we'd given her. The doll was bigger than she was, but baby Kristina was by far more beautiful.

I remember the Christmas my parents helped us make most of the gifts that Santa would leave: a dollhouse for Kristina, a cradle for Patricia's baby doll, and a rocking horse for little Ben, who was nearly two. We were working on them well into the night, but it was worth it. The children squealed with delight when they found what Santa had left them.

And then, there were Christmases spent in the mountains. My little family, my sister and her family and my brothers and their families all converged on our parents' cabin at Palisades.  Those were wonderful times. What I enjoyed most about Christmas in the mountains was going outside to sing Christmas carols at night. The heavens seemed so close I felt as though I could reach out and touch the stars. The hush of the forest covered with heavy snow always made me think of the that night over two thousand years ago when nature grew quiet in reverence for the true meaning of Christmas.

This year the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released some beautiful new videos about the story of the Christmas. I thought you might enjoy them.

An Angel Foretells Christ's Birth to Mary



Mary and Joseph Travel to Bethlehem



Shepherds Learn of the Birth of Christ



The Wise Men Seek Jesus




Do you have a favorite Christmas memory?
What part of Christmas touches your heart?

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I'm taking time off from blogging. But I'll be back in 2012.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

New Zealand Christmas Story

This time of year there are always a bunch of new Christmas clips on youtube.

My sister sent me the link to this one. It was posted last year, but I wanted you to see it just in case you were like me and missed it. What an adorable take on the Christmas story! There is so much that I loved: of course, Mary and Joseph; the angel who appeared to Mary; the donkey; how they traveled to Bethlehem; and I could go on and on. You really need to take the time and watch this. You'll be glad you did. It's soooooo cute.



What was your favorite part of the clip?  Did you see the star? I loved how it guided the shepherds and wise men.

Have a great weekend! I'm going to bake cookies with my daughters on Friday and Saturday. Also on Saturday I have two signings: 12:00 - 2:00 at the Deseret Book in the Layton Hills Mall and 3:00-4:30 at the Seagull Book in Centerville.

If you're nearby stop and say hi. I'd love to see you.




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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ladders, Lights, and Publshing Your Book


We have a very tall Christmas tree in my house. This is my son and husband a couple of years ago putting decorations on the tree. I have a fear of heights, so they usually do it. However, this year my husband threw his back out bringing the Christmas decorations down from the attic. My son wasn't available to help, so it was up to my daughter, Tricia, and me. Yes, I was scared, but I was determined to meet this fear so up the ladder I went. Took us a full day because we kept running out of tree lights. Is there ever enough? But when all was said and done the tree looked gorgeous.

Facing my fear of heights reminded me that sometimes as writers we need to face whatever fears stop us from sending our books to agents or publishers. Some of those fears could be that you're afraid of rejection, afraid of criticism, or afraid of sending your baby out into the big, cruel, business world of publication.

Afraid of rejection . . . 
Rejection stings and bites and hurts like the dickens, but if you don't risk rejection you'll never succeed.Now I have heard stories of writers who have never been rejected, but those are so few and far between. Most of us have to earn our stripes and face rejection, because most likely rejection will come. It's what you do with it that makes the difference. Learn from it. If you are fortunate to have an editor tell you why he/she is rejecting your book, feel honored and truly think about what they say is wrong with your work. Then go in and fix the problems and send it out again. Don't sit around waiting for the rejection either. Get busy with your next book because with every novel you write you are learning more and more about your craft.

Afraid of criticism . . .
This is closely related to rejection because if you're lucky your rejection letter may have critique comments. Again this is a good sign. Remember the saying that criticism is a form of flattery and when it comes to writing it really can be. If you never receive criticism on your work, how can you grow? If you only hear good things about your writing yet you're not selling, how will you ever improve? I think you see where I'm going with this. Another saying that is very true, good critiquing will make your story strong. Your job is to recognize the good critiquing from the bad. Questions to ask yourself as you contemplate a critique, does this move my story forward? Does it make the story clear? Will this take away from the story I want to tell? In the end, it is your story, just make certain you're not throwing away good advice.

Sending your baby out into the publishing world . . .
This is very scary because all at once you're getting serious about this writing thing. People are going to ask if you've heard anything. Also rejection and criticism might follow. But here's the deal, if you want to see your dream come true you're going to have to send your baby out there and see if it will fly. But you can do it. Just realize it's all right if your work isn't perfect. It's all right to receive rejections. And it's normal to receive criticism. Go ahead and send your novel out into the publishing world. You never know if you can succeed until you try.

So climb that ladder to success, string the lights that will make your novel beautiful, and then step back and admire the work you've created.

Okay, your turn. What helps you face the fear of sending your story out into the publishing world?





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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book Review - Faithful, Fit, and Fabulous by Connie E. Sokol


I don't know if you're like me, but I have shelves full of self-improvement books. Everything from Say No to Diets to Get Organized Creatively. (I really made those up, but I'm sure there are books out there with such titles.) I'm always looking for books that will click and I'll magically keep weight off, and my house will be clean all the time. So when I was asked if I would like to review Connie Sokol's new book, Faithful, Fit, and Fabulous: get Back to Basics and Transform Your Life in Just Eight Weeks, I was happy to do so. Maybe what she had to say would help me on my quest to be all that I can be.

I have to say after reading the book that I was really disappointed. :(

Hold on . . . I didn't say I was disappointed in the book. Absolutely not!!! Nope. I was disappointed that I didn't receive the book eight weeks ago so that I could actually try and do what she recommends because after reading her thoughts on being faithful, becoming and staying fit, and turning into a fabulous person I REALLY wanted to give it a shot and report back to you. This book is full of wonderful hands-on exercises.

Sokol starts with what will help you become more in-tune spiritually by focusing on making goals for prayer, scripture study and learning to listen to promptings. Then she asks you to create a life plan and actually write that plan in a paragraph. I loved this. Let me tell you why.

For more years than I'd ever admit, I wanted to become an author. I forged ahead writing stories, trying to fit into one genre after another. I even went back to college and finished my degree with the idea that doing so would help me finally sell a book. Still I languished. One day, I sat down and actually wrote a mission statement for my writing. I included what I wanted to accomplish with my writing, what kind of stories I wanted to write and how I was going to do it. After that my writing was focused and I was clear on why. When I read the section on writing a life plan in Sokol's book, I knew this was a book that could very well change a person's life because I'd seen how writing a mission statement for my writing had done wonders. Needless to say, I was hooked.

Another reason I enjoyed this book was the stories Sokol included. Many times she tells you what she did wrong, and how she remedied the situation. She made me feel as though she was a friend sharing her life lessons with me and also giving me directions on how I could avoid making similar mistakes. I loved how she talked about finding balance in life. And then, she actually provides a plan that can help you see where you're wasting time and how you can actually find time for yourself without guilt!

But I think the section of the book I enjoyed most was about connecting with those you love. She gives wonderful examples of how to get along with your spouse, your kids, and your friends and how to make those relationships meaningful. And yes, she has a plan to help you do it. The New Year is coming. I'm honestly going to give this book the 8 week try. I think after you read it, you will too.

You can learn more about Connie Sokol by checking out her blog.

And you can purchase this wonderful book here.









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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

One Sweet Lady

This is a real feel-good story and I have a couple of videos to help me share it with you.

As some of you may know, I've been called in my church as the Relief Society President in an assisted living branch. We have about 55 members in the branch and most of them are elderly women. I have come to love each and every one of them very much.

One sweet lady, Edith Young, is a real go-getter. She doesn't let age stop her from being of service to others. When she heard about babies in need of quilts she set to work making them. Here's the amazing thing, Edith turned 97 on November 22. Watch this fun video where she appeared on TV.



When the TV crew found out about Edith's crush on David Archuleta they decided to make her birthday very special. Take a look. Have a tissue ready.



Now that should get you in the holiday spirit.

Do you have a feel-good story? I'd love to hear it.




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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Book Review - In God Is Our Trust by L.C. Lewis


If you enjoy historical romance, if you enjoy historical fiction about America and our Founding Fathers. and if you enjoy historical fiction that tells a story about the strength and endurance of the early saints in the LDS Church than let me recommend a fantastic new novel, In God Is Our Trust by L.C. Lewis.

Before we go much further let me tell you that the author sent me a pdf copy of this novel before it went to press. After I read it, I was so impressed with the writing and how the many stories within the series came to satisfying conclusions (not all happy-ever-after, but logical and hopeful) that I offered to send her publisher a blurb, which they used. I was delighted that I could help spread the word about this timely novel that makes us appreciate our country and our freedoms.

In God Is Our Trust is a  wonderful journey. There were times when I thought I knew what was going to happen and then to my surprise the characters would do something different. I love it when that happens.

Here is the back cover blurb:

America exits the War of 1812 battered but determined under the leadership of the last men tutored by the Founding Fathers. As she is welcomed onto the world stage, new leaders prepare to thrust an aggressive platform on the nation, threatening America's unity and her brief period of prosperity and peace.

The country's trials have prepared a choice generation, but as adversity afflicts the Pearson home, Hannah enters a crisis of faith, questioning man's interpretation of God's word. The struggles plaguing the Pearsons affect Frannie and the six families with whom the Pearsons have become entangled during the war.

As a new religious reformation dawns in America, the Pearson and Snowdens become involved with a young man from Hannah's past--Joseph Smith--whose accounts of vision and dealings with angels strain tender relationships and test the Constitution's guarantees for religious liberty.

I was drawn to Hannah as she struggled to come to grips with many trials. I don't want to ruin the book for you, but the growth of this character is gripping. I'm sure many mothers who have gone through similar trials will identify with her needs and will eagerly read on to see what she does.

Jed is a hero determined to do what he feels is right for not only his family, but for his friends and for his country. Yes, he has his faults, however, he learns from his mistakes and moves on trying to do better. He's also a man who is true to his word, a very admirable trait not only then, but in today's world as well.

In fact, as I read this book I couldn't help but think of the struggles our nation and the world is going through right now. History is a great teacher. If only we could remember our past and learn from it, how much better off would we be? The reader can't help but think some of the characteristics Lewis gave her fictional characters lived and breathed in the hearts of many of our Founding Fathers. I'm hopeful that these traits also live and breath in our nation's leaders today.

This is a book to cherish, filled with characters who struggle through life, make mistakes, learn when they stumble, and become stronger because of their faith in God. I highly recommend In God is Our Trust. And I think after reading it, so will you.

You can learn more about L.C. Lewis and her books on her blog.

(I w
as given a copy of this novel to review, but I reviewed it because I liked it.)
 


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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gratitude: The Little Things


When I found this picture it made me smile. Gratitude should be delivered with a pretty red flower, a heartfelt hug, and an abundance of humility. With Thanksgiving last week, I'm sure many of us were thinking of the blessings in our lives. Of course, we're thankful for family, home, and country. But
I thought it would be fun to think of the little things that make a big difference in our lives. You know, things that we rarely think about them, like . . .

smart phones,



stop lights,



or  individually wrapped sliced cheese.  



Smart phones have given us the world in the palm of our hands. We can listen to music, find addresses, and talk to people with that little device. 

And stop lights? What chaos would happen without them? Have you ever been stuck at a light that wasn't working? Sad times. People have to rely on each other to take turns and it can become ugly if someone should jump the shark (so to speak).

Individually wrapped sliced cheese . . . Okay, this is one of my favorites. Who doesn't like evenly distributed cheese on grilled sandwiches? And all you have to do is unwrap the cheese and slap it on bread.

Okay, it's your turn. What little convenience are you grateful for? Come on, you have one. I know you do.


If you like historical fiction that uses real historical facts check back on Thursday for the book review of L.C. Lewis's new novel, In God is Our Trust.







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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Whatever Trap


Have you ever read a book and became so frustrated that you thought "whatever," closed the book, and vowed to never read that author again? This is a fear for many writers.

How can a writer avoid the "whatever" trap?

There are many things that can be done. I'm going to share three tips that have helped me. I call them the three amigos: the "so what" syndrome, the "not buying it" pitfall, and the "huh" disconnect.


So What . . .
As a writer you need to make sure the stakes are high, no matter what you're writing. That doesn't mean the world goes to war if your hero doesn't save the day, though if that's the kind of book you're writing that will work. But for most novels it means that your hero's life may take a bad turn if he makes the wrong choice. What he does matters big time. There is a lot at stake in your hero's world. He may not meet the girl of his dreams. He may get kick out of school or shunned in good society if he doesn't clean up his life. Your reader needs to become invested in his decision and the outcome so that when the story is over the reader is satisfied and not left saying, "So what?"


Not Buying It . . .
This has to do with your reader believing what you've written is  plausible. I'm sure you've seen movies or TV shows where you know in real life people would never act that way. In books, however, you need to build a firm foundation for what you want to have happen. For instance, in real life an officer would never break the law to find evidence, but in your story if you've showed that the officer's only child, whom he loves dearly, has been kidnapped your reader would find it very believable that the officer would break the law to find his kid. You can have your characters do things they wouldn't usually do IF you build the case. If you do it right your reader will "buy" your story. If not . . . well they won't.


Huh? . . .
This has to do with things making sense in your story. For instance, if you have characters in a scene laughing, make sure your reader is in on the joke. Or if a character is angry with someone, make sure that at some point the reader understands why. Don't ever leave your reader out in the cold. Make sure they understand what's going on. 

The three amigos have helped me many times avoid the "whatever" trap. How do you avoid it? If you have suggestions, please share them. We're all in this together.

Because it's Thanksgiving time, I'm taking the rest of the week off. But I'll be back next Tuesday with a new post.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!!!












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Monday, November 21, 2011

Great News!!!


I received some super, fantastic news Friday. 

I had gone to my writers group meeting, then went with a friend to take lunch to another friend who has been ill. So I didn't return home until after 3:00. 


As I ran in the house, I noticed the light flashing on my answering machine, but I wanted to turn my computer on first so it could warm up, while I listened to my message. That done I returned to the phone, pressed the flashing light, and listened.


The voice I heard was my editor. Whenever she calls my world comes to a standstill. (Seriously, I freeze like one of those old E.F Hutton ads.) She said she wanted to talk with me and could I please call her before 3:00. Well, by now it was ten after, still I punched the number in and waited, hoping that she would answer her phone. 


I was in luck. She answered and said she had some great news for me. They accepted my new novel, Raven Spirit (the title may change), for publication. 


The tentative release is June of 2012. Raven Spirit is a sequel to River Whispers and most of it is set in Alaska. I had to do a lot of research for this book, but what fun. This is a picture of the Northern Lights and, yes, there is a scene that is very much like this in the book.


So hang on. Over the next few months you'll hear more about Alaska and my new novel.

I also want to let you know that for a while I will only post twice a week. I hate to do that because I enjoy hearing from you through blogging. But with the holidays, edits, signings, plus I'm trying to write another novel, things are going to become a little hectic. 

I hope you'll hang in there with me. After this week, I'll post on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Please check back this Wednesday for one last Writing Tip Wednesday.




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Monday, November 14, 2011

Blogfest Time!!!


It's official. Today is the beginning of the Getting to Know You Blogfest. Author J.L. Campbell organized this fun adventure. Stop by her blog The Character Depot to learn more about her and her wonderful books. We were part of Rachel Harrie's Writers' Platform-Building Campaign. We met a lot of wonderful writers and wanted to do another blogfest.

To participate in this blogfest all you have to do is answer these five questions. Easy Peasy!

1) Name two [romantic suspense] authors who inspire you.
2) How did you start writing in your genre?
3) You've landed a meeting with your dream agent. Write a one paragraph pitch to give to him/her. (No longer than four sentences.
4) Sabotage or accident--which would you put your female lead through and why?
5) Plotter or Panster? Who are you?

Okay, now for my answers.

1) Mary Higgins Clark. Where are the Children hooked me from the first page and The Cradle Will Fall still scares me. For my second author I’ll choose someone who writes inspiration, since that’s the other genre I write. Francine Rivers. Her Mark of the Lion series influenced me to write inspirational time travels (though hers are straight historical).

2) I’ve written several romantic suspense novels because I wanted to do what Mary Higgins Clark did, write edge-of-your-seat suspense novels. I like writing a puzzle that takes readers on adventure and makes them check the locks on their doors.   

3) I’m not going to pitch my own work here. Nope, instead I'm going to give you some tips for this prime opportunity. Do your homework before you meet an agent. Know something about their agency and the authors they represent. One of my first comments would be something along the lines of--what a thrill it is to meet with her/him and also how much I admire their work. Then I would name a specific author they represent that writes stories similar to mine. Then I would transition to my writing and the particular book I plan to pitch to them while pointing out what makes my book different. First and far most, I'd try to be relaxed and not over pitch.  Over hyping your novel is a big no-no.

4) This depends on the story I’m writing. I love stories where one thing after another happens by accident. A movie that comes to mind that did this very well was While You Were Sleeping. Great flick and it just snowballed as the story progressed. If the novel I’m writing is high suspense, sabotage would make for a fun book.

5) I used to be a pantser, but due to deadlines I've turned into a plotter. It gives me guidance and keeps me on task.

Okay now for some housekeeping deets on the blogfest…

Since this blogfest is designed to be a fun activity, it would be good to keep our posts short and sweet.

Grab the badge for your sidebar if you’re in and/or if you want to help us spread the word.

If you’re a tweeter, show some love by tweeting about our blogfest using the hashtag #platformbuildingblogfest

If you blog regularly, it would be helpful to keep the badge visible and link it to the blogfest post so visitors can find it easily.

Okay, come on, sign up and meet some other wonderful writers.









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Friday, November 11, 2011

Surprises in My Email

Wednesday I was busy working on an article I promised a friend and didn't check all of my emails until the afternoon. I usually scan them to see if family, close friends, or my editor has emailed, but I didn't see that they had, so I continued to work. By mid-afternoon I needed a break, so I checked my emails more thoroughly. You'll never guess what I found.

I had an email from the Whitney Awards Committee informing me that River Whispers has had five nominations, which means that it is now eligible to become one of the finalists. 


OH. MY. STARS!!!

This is huge! I was so excited that I tried to call Hubby, but he wasn't at his desk. All my kids were at work, so the next person I thought to let know was my editor. She was just as thrilled as I was.

Okay, so you would think I would have learned to check my email more thoroughly, but no. Today after editing, I checked my email again and found something that made me sad and very concerned. Oh, it's not about me. It's about the person who founded the Whitney Awards, Rob Wells. His new YA, dystopian-sh book, Variant, was just named in Publisher's Weekly as one of the best books of 2011. That's not what has me sad because I'm extremely happy for him. No, I learned that he recently developed a severe panic disorder and the doctors have been unable to treat it effectively. In fact, its become so bad that he was laid off from work.

Now you're probably thinking, so. He has a book out. Well, let me enlighten you on the workings of book sales and how authors are paid. Most writers only get paid twice a year from royalties. Many times those checks don't come until the end of January or the end of July.

And hey, Christmas is coming. Rob has a wife and little kids. Many bloggers are trying to do their part in spreading the word about Rob and how great his book is in hopes of helping him through a tough time. I want to be one of them.

Okay, in all honesty, I haven't read Variant yet. BUT I plan to buy this book, read it, and post a review, all in the hopes of helping a fellow author.

Many have said the book is full of hope, romance, and intrigue. And that there is something for everyone within its pages.

So, please add Variant to your Christmas list, buy a couple, and spread the joy. 

Have you ever found surprises in your email?




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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Deadlines



We've all had them at one time or another. For many years, I worked in an accountant's office. There is nothing like the deadline of April 15th to make you realize that some deadlines can't be missed or ignored. I look back on those days as good training ground for becoming an author.

Once I sold my first book, I quickly found I had many deadlines: turning in drafts, edits, blurbs and etc. Wanting to earn the trust of my publisher, I have worked hard to meet my deadlines. So far, so good.

Because of book deadlines either set by my publisher or set by myself, I have never participated in the annual deadline of NaNoWriMo which takes place every November. During this month, many writers sign themselves up for the deadline of writing over 50,000 words by the 30th. What an awesome goal! 

But NaNoWriMo is not for every writer. Some writers feel that they can't spend time writing words for the sake of a word count. There are some who are afraid of developing bad habits. And there are some who actually become very discouraged and feel they are failures because they can't meet that deadline.

Writing words for the sake of a word count . . .
Some writers are very methodical during the writing process. They can't leave a sentence or paragraph alone until they know it is grammatically correct, every word is spelled correctly, and the story is progressing as it should. I greatly admire writers who work this way because by the time they are finished with a book, they really are finished. There's no reading the book many times to edit or catch plot problems because they've already done it. This type of writer would have a difficult time participating in NaNoWriMo because they would have to work fast and the perfectionist inside would slow them down.

Developing bad habits . . .
Writing very fast can be dangerous. Errors can spin out of control: characterizations can be forgotten, plots can run amok, and editing . . . well let's just say it's difficult to catch grammar and punctuation errors when your fingers are flying over the keyboard trying to keep up with your racing mind. Writers blindness can become a problem, too. Before you know it you're reading words that aren't there, but you see them because that's what your mind sees. Be very careful not to develop bad habits speed writing. They can be difficult to break. (Take it from someone who knows.)

Missing the deadline . . .
No one wants to miss a deadline. No one likes quitting before they finish a job. But for some, this does happen. The thing to remember is you tried and nothing is stopping you from trying again and again. NaNoWriMo may come and go, but you can still set your own deadlines and push to meet them. Hopefully each time you try you'll learn how much you can expect to write in a day, or week, or month. You'll also realize how long it will take you to write an entire book. With every venture you're growing and learning more about yourself and your craft.

Sure NaNoWriMo might not be for every writer, but it does make writers think more seriously about their work and that's a good thing.

How do you feel about NaNoWriMo? Are you participating? What have you learned most about yourself as a writer?





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Monday, November 7, 2011

High Hopes and a Blogfest You Need to Know About!



I had high hopes this weekend to have my blog all remodeled and looking fresh and new for you today, but you know how sometimes you take on more than you can do? Well, that's happened to me. I must have looked at thousands of blog templates and read through many how-to books, listened to dozens of tutorials, and unfortunately, I'm still trying to decide what to do.

Here's the deal, I want my blog to be a place where you want to come in, sit down, and spend some time. I want it to be comfortable for you and me. You know, a place were friends can chat, have some laughs, and learn more about each other.

So I decided to take my time and not rush the remodel.

I really wanted the new look for a blogfest I'm participating in.



The Romantic Suspense group (#43) in Rachael Harrie’s Platform Building Campaign will be hosting a Getting-to-Know-You Blogfest during the week of November 13-19. It’s in the middle of NaNo, which is why we’re giving ourselves a week to drop by each other’s blogs and cement the connections we’ve made during this Campaign. The Getting-to-Know-You Blogfest will be fun and easy. All you have to do is sign up in the linky list below and on November 13, write your post in response to the questions below. We’ve modified them a little bit in case you don’t write suspense, but wish to participate.

1. Name two [romantic suspense] authors who inspire you.
2. How did you start writing in your genre?
3. You've landed a meeting with your dream agent. Write a one paragraph pitch to sell your novel to him/her. (No more than four sentences)
4. Sabotage or accident- which would put your female lead through and why?
5. Plotter or Pantser? Who are you?

Some housekeeping deets…

Since this is supposed to be a fun activity, it would be good to keep our posts short and sweet.

Grab the badge for your sidebar if you’re in and/or if you want to help us spread the word.

If you’re a tweeter, show some love by tweeting about our blogfest using the hashtag #platformbuildingblogfest

If you blog regularly, it would be helpful to keep the badge visible and link it to the blogfest post so visitors can find it easily.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up already!








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Friday, November 4, 2011

Remodeling...

I've wanted to do some remodeling on my blog and this weekend seems like a good time. 


So, forgive my lack of content, but I'm hopeful to be back next week with bigger and better posts and a new look to boot.

Any advise before I start, other than measure twice, cut once; or back up, back up, back up?

Wish me luck. :)












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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Layers, Motivation, and Logic for Villains


One-dimensional villains are very easy to write. All the reader knows is how very wicked and devious he/she is through actions and words. This is fun for melodramas where the audience hisses and boos, but for a murder mystery or suspense not so much. 

The challenge for the mystery/suspense writer is to give layers through motivation, and logic to many characters including the villain.


For a mystery the longer you can hide who the murderer is, the better. Layer the villain with history right along with the other important characters in the book. Let us see what his childhood was like in a short flashback. He could have come from the ideal home, but something happened when he went to college. Or he could have had abusive parents. Or . . . you see where I'm going. You could also give clues by what he/she says. Is she always negative and then cover when people look at her strangely? Is she overly optimistic in a sarcastic way? You can also give hints through thoughts, that is if you have scenes seen through the villain's eyes. This can be tricky, but if done right . . . wow!


For suspense, the villain might be revealed a little earlier. The tension is more about how the protagonist is going to get out of a life-threatening situation. Again, the villain must have layers with clear motivation and logic. 


The trick in writing mystery/suspense is to give your readers an exciting challenge. Always remember as they read the question going through their minds will be, "Who did it?" Or "Will the hero get away?" So it's extremely important to play fair. Make sure to have valid subtle clues throughout the book so when the story is over your reader can go back and realize all the signs where there, but he/she missed them. 

That's the best!

You can read book after book on how to do this. But in my humble opinion, I learn most by reading authors I admire and have shown me how to write through their novels. 

Here's a challenge: pick your favorite author's book that you know well. Go in and mark every place the villain was on stage through thought, action, or dialogue and notice how bit by bit the author is showing you who the villain is. Study how he/she hid the villain with layers of character shown through motivation and logic and how they all worked to play a role in the reveal. You'll learn a lot.

Who are some of your favorite mystery/suspense authors? Here, I'll go first. I remember the author who really caught my attention and the book: Mary Higgins Clark's Where Are The Children? I read that book in less than a day because I was so anxious to find out who the villain was and if the children would be all right. It was a real nail-biter.

Now it's your turn. ;)




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Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween and Villains


Happy Halloween!!!

Seems like today would be a great day to talk about villains.

Who are the villains who have given you nightmares?



Ring Wraiths?

I loved Lord of the Rings, so the Ring Wraiths haunted me for a while. I don't think I'm alone. I remember when I saw the very first movie in the trilogy at the theater, there was a woman who stood up in the audience and screamed when a Ring Wraith appeared, though as the movie progressed she settled down. I'm sure they gave her nightmares.

When I was a little girl the ultimate scary guy was Captain Hook.

 
He seems very mild in comparison to other villains. But for a five-year-old who was nearly caught in his hook in Disneyland, he was terrifying. Obviously that was a long time ago.

I think one of the most scary villains I've seen lately was George Harvey in The Lovely Bones.




I had nightmares after seeing that film. Couldn't watch Stanley Tucci, who played that character, for a while either.

So how about you? Who have been the scariest villains you've seen in a movie or have read in a book?



We'll continue our discussion about villains Wednesday with a writing tip on how to write a scary villain.




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Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween Favorite . . .


I have my grandsons today, and all they can think about is Halloween. So I thought I'd keep this short and scary with a Feel-Good clip from one of my favorite Halloween movies.




Have a great weekend!!!


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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Hidden Benefits of Keeping a Journal

 

A friend asked if I would contribute a true-life story to a book he has been asked to write. I thought about incidents in my life that might add to what he is trying to do. I remembered something that happened a long, long time ago, but I couldn't recall with clarity names and dates, so I pulled out one of my journals. 

First let me tell you, I'm not a consistent journal writer. I'd rather write a fictional story. And I probably wouldn't keep a journal at all, but my church encourages members to keep one, so over the years I have on occasion written about special events in my life. 

Monday I turned to the page where I'd written about this certain event and started to read. I ended up spending most of Monday and part of Tuesday reading my journals and learning something about myself as a writer and most importantly as a person. 

As a writer . . . 
Lo those many years ago, I yearned to have a book published. And as I read what I'd written way back then, I could see that my writing lacked structure and needed editing. I must say, however, that my penmanship was much better when I was younger. I read through the years and found where I'd received encouraging letters from agents and editors. And then, finally, I read about the day my first book was accepted for publication. All those years of work and waiting paid off. Lesson learned as a writer . . . keep working on your craft, keep setting goals, believe in yourself, and you'll make it.


As a person . . .
As I read about the young mother I was back then, I could see my world was very small. Reading through one experience after another, I remembered some of life's hard knocks and how many times I struggled as a mother and wife. I worried as my children grew through their trying teenage years and felt sorrow when they were hurt. I noticed my tone changed as well. No longer was I an innocent young mother full of hope. I was a worried parent wanting my children to make good choices. I read about my daughter's wedding, and when my other daughter went on her mission. I read about my son graduating from college the day after my mother passed away and how I was filled with great sorrow from losing her, but also great happiness and pride in my son. I could see where I'd made mistakes, where I wished I'd made better choices, and how much I missed people who are no longer in my life. Lesson learned as a person . . . I've been through some tough times, but I've also been through good times as well.


Writing in a journal has hidden benefits because it not only records history and hones your writing, but it's also a reminder of how far you've traveled as a writer and a person. You know what? I wish I had written more.


What about you? Do you keep a journal? What are the benefits you have found from writing in a journal?






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Monday, October 24, 2011

Flour and Story Premise

Another busy weekend of canning apple butter, applesauce, and apple-pie filling. But I'm finally done. When I finished, I realized one of the quarts of apple-pie filling didn't seal properly, so I decided to make an apple pie. For me, the best part of making pie is pie-crust cookies. 

Thank you, Photobucket for the picture.

Yummo! However, as we ate them while watching a movie, I noticed a strange taste. Couldn't quite put my finger on what it was, but for the first time not all the cookies were eaten. Later in the evening we decided to eat a piece of pie. I couldn't wait. 

Another wonderful Photobucket photo.
   
The pie looked great, however, I hadn't cook it long enough and the apples were too crunchy. And there was that strange taste in the crust. I was so disappointed. So all wasn't lost, Hubby decided to make his wonderful, mouthwatering cookies.

Again, Photobucket to the rescue.
 
Because I was too full after eating pie-crust cookies and pie, I didn't have one until I got up in the middle of the night. 

Who doesn't like a late night cookie? But as I ate there was that strange taste again, and I realized what the problem had been with the pie-crust cookies, the pie crust, and now the cookies. It was old flour. 

Friday I had found an old sack of flour in our storage and decided to use it. Now everything we made with it left a bad taste in my mouth.

This made me think about old stories I've written. In the past, I couldn't tell why those wonderful ideas never developed into workable stories. Now, I know. The flour was bad. 

I suppose in this scenario flour is the premise of the story. And if the premise doesn't work, well the story is going to leave a bad taste in your mouth. So . . . today I'm throwing away the flour, the cookies, the pie, and bad story premises. Yep, out they go!!!

How was your weekend? Did you can apples? Make pie? Or work on story ideas? If so make sure you use new flour and a good story premise. ;)


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