Monday, February 28, 2011

My New Book Cover!!!


Here's the cover 
of my new 
romantic suspense novel!!!

River Whispers is scheduled 
for release in May.

I love, love, love, love, love the cover. 

More information about 
this new novel 
will be forth coming 
as the release date 
draws near.

But for now, 
I'm very curious just by
looking at the cover-- 
what do you think 
my new novel is about?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Go Speed Writer!!!

Last weekend was the Daytona 500. Hubby becomes all dreamy-eyed over cars. All kinds, but mainly fast cars. He longs to speed on a race track. Whereas I want to speed on my keyboard.


I love speed writing when I can do it.


Okay, I can imagine some of you are shaking your heads and thinking "I could never work that way." But hear me out. You might find that speed writing is something you would enjoy. As I see it speed writers must be able to block out distractions, streamline, and have no fear over sharing.


Block out distractions . . .
Distractions have been my speed bumps in my current WIP. I'll be motoring along, the story flowing very well, and then I hit a spot that needs research and the brakes go on. Now, I'm all for researching, but only to the point of finding what I need, and then I should drive right back on the race track. However, with this book I've had to pull in for a pit stop more times than I can count. First, I had to research ocean boats, waves, weather in Alaska, then planes, how to fly planes, bush pilots, and the list goes on and on. Researching is good, and I found some wonderful information, however, I must admit that I spent way too much time using research as my excuse for not writing. There are tons of other distractions as well: texting, phone calls, blogging, tweeting and the list keeps growing. Speed writers need to keep the finish line in mind as they write and not let distractions cause a pileup. (Talk about a pileup, you should see the wreck on my desk.)


Streamlining . . .
Knowing what's important to your story and keeping unnecessary scenes and tangents from slipping in is something speed writers learn quickly. Sometimes they are tempted to go off the road and take a different route, but they rapidly learn that by doing so will lead to a dead-end, or in other words . . . writer's block. A writer needs to make fast judgments of what is central to the story and what will help them cross that finish line. I remember a friend told me she has a sign in her office that says "keep it simple." It serves as a reminder to stay on track and focus on key points so she can remain on cruise control.


Sharing . . .
I know many writers who won't share their work until they think it is perfect. There are several flaws in this logic. For one thing, nothing is perfect. I don't care how long you work and work on your pages there are going to be errors. Another problem with this logic is the writer becomes too invested in what they've written and are not flexible enough to make corrections that will fuel a stronger story. Yet another logic problem with the perfection plan is that waiting until your work is perfect will take forever while you write and rewrite. Sharing what you've written in the rough stage opens the door to making your book the best it can be because you're looking for help instead of seeking praise for perfection. You have to show your flaws, but remember we all have them and your writing group is there to help you.


I love speed writing and getting the story out, so I can roll up my sleeves and edit.  Many believe that editing is where the true writing happens. Of course, the speeding slows considerably during edits. And that checkered flag really doesn't wave for a writer until the book goes to print.


Okay, now it's your turn. Tell me if you're a speed writer or if it is something you'd like to try.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Do You Know the Signs?

Today I'm giving you a peek into my life. Wednesday I'll focus on a writing tip.

Last week I read an article by Orson Scott Card. He is one of my favorite authors. He mentioned that he'd suffered from a stroke recently, which really surprised me. He's not that old. But neither am I, and I had a stroke a few years ago.

Strokes can happen to anyone.

There are many signs of stroke. Mine wasn't your typical slurred speech and side numbness. Let me tell you what happened.

Hubby and I had gone to Idaho for a family gathering. We were staying at my sister's place. We visited with her and her daughter for a while in the dinning room and then decided to move into the living room. As I sat down, I suddenly became confused. I didn't know if we were going somewhere or what, so I grabbed a gardening book next to her couch and concentrated on it. Most everyone else was watching TV, but I couldn't even follow the storyline of the show they were watching, which was very frightening. I was scared, but I didn't dare tell anyone. I was relieved when it came time to go to bed. I was hopeful that with a good night's sleep I'd wake up to find I was back to normal.

The next day I felt great. I was helping my sister cook. We were talking and joking around. All at once she looked at me and said, "You told me that last night. Don't you remember?" I had no recollection of what we'd talked about the night before. You have to know that my mother suffered with severe dementia at the time, so I was scared that for some reason I was having the early stages of Alzheimer's. I wasn't that old, but still the fear was with me. I quickly grew very quiet. The rest of the family arrived, but I still didn't say much because I was afraid of repeating myself. My younger brother noticed I wasn't talking much and cornered me, wanting to know what was wrong. I gave him a lame excuse, but made a mental note that as soon as I returned home I was going to make an appointment with my doctor.

When I went to see Dr. Baker, I really felt silly because I was fine. As soon as I told him what happened, he made an appointment for me to have an MRI. They found I'd had a stroke. This was the beginning of many doctor appointments with one specialists after another. I eventually learned that my stroke was caused by a hole in my heart and that I'd had that hole since I was a baby.

Did you know that everyone is born with a hole in their heart? It's true. Most of the time that hole closes, but for some people, like me, it doesn't. In my case, the hole triggered a stroke. A heart specialist implanted an atrial septal device in my heart. It's like a little umbrella that plugs the hole. That was many years ago.

Since a stroke like mine can happen to anyone, I thought you might like to know the signs of stroke.
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden, severe headache with no know cause.
 So stay alert to the signs of stroke. It can happen to anyone. Just ask me or Orson Scott Card.

For more information on stroke or heart problems visit the American Heart and American Stroke Associations for more information by clicking here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Juggling Act


Ever feel like life is a juggling act? 
You're not alone.  We have so many wonderful devices invented to give us more time and make our lives more simple, but what do we do with that time? You've got it, we add more things. What's a person to do? What's a writer do when deadlines are looming, the family needs attention, and you want to actively contribute to your community? I've given this a great deal of thought over the last couple of weeks because even though I feel as though I prioritize pretty well, I'm still learning and looking for better ways to do all that I want to do. How about you? If you feel the same way, let's work on this together. A good place to start is prioritizing.

Prioritizing helps a great deal. The question is . . . what's most important? I have two lists of priorities: 1) the grand list that guides my life and 2) the list I juggle depending upon what's going on at the time.

My grand list is simple: God, family and country. That's it. If life becomes too complicated I refer to this list and I know what I need to do. Make your grand list simple and refer to it often to keep you centered.

The second list is where my problem begins. I think it all has to do with how I budget time. I'm a goal setter. Nothing makes me work harder than to set a goal. However, when I don't meet my self-imposed goal, I feel like a failure. Do you feel the same way? Maybe we shouldn't be so tough on ourselves. Perhaps part of the problem is in how we budget time.  We need to be more realistic, more flexible and more forgiving.

Realistic . . .
I think to be realistic a person has to set aside tunnel vision. Don't get me wrong, I like tunnel vision. But tunnel vision can be a good thing and a bad thing. Good because you can tune everything out and focus on getting the job done. Bad because everything and everyone else in your life may suffer. Remember that just because you have been able to devote a certain amount of time to a project in the past that doesn't mean that in the future you can do it again. Life happens, things and people change, so to be realistic we have to take all of this into account.  When we set our goals, we might try taking a good look at the calendar and think about what's going on that month. After taking everything into account make realistic goals.

Flexible . . .
Another downfall I suffer from is not being flexible. I have a schedule of writing in the morning, taking a break around noon to walk or run errands, then I write what I can in the afternoons. So when holidays, birthdays, and the unexpected days when the family is home happen, I'm torn between wanting to write and wanting to be with my family. In order to do both, I need to be flexible. (Easy to say, hard to do.) Life happens, so if writers are going to get words on paper sometimes we may need to write at night or whenever we find the house quiet. We need to be flexible and work around obstacles that come up.  


Forgiving . . .
This is perhaps the most difficult. Sometimes we find it easier to forgive others than it is to forgive ourselves. But we shouldn't. What we need is a re-set button. Let me explain. Every once in a while, I'll get up and leave my computer and when I return many times I have to press the reset button on my mouse for it to work. Like pushing the button, we need to forgive ourselves, or reset, so we can start fresh and new and keep working toward meeting our goals. Don't stress over last week's failures. Forgive yourself, reset, and focus on this week's goals.

We're trying our best to grow and learn and to have each book we write become even better than the last one...and in record time. We can do it, but we should also be realistic, flexible and forgiving as we strive to juggle the many things in our lives.

Tell me what you think. How do you juggle the things in life to meet your goals? I'd love to know. Your input could help me and others. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Some people hate Valentine's Day.

Some people love it.

Some people think Valentine's Day is propaganda to guilt shoppers into buying cards, candy, flowers or anything else to make money.



Some people enjoy the opportunity to tell those in their lives how much they appreciate and love them.


Which group do I side with?


Well, I'm grateful to have family, friends and all of you who visit my blog. So I'm in the camp of loving Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Believe in Yourself

(picture from photobucket.com)

 Believe in yourself! Easy to say, not so easy to do.

This last week a very nice lady called asking for writing advice. She sounded a little discouraged, but as we talked her voice became more hopeful. She'd heard that getting an agent and having a book published was nearly impossible. Yes, it is difficult. The publishing industry has taken some hits in this economy, but things are improving. After I hung up, I started to think that perhaps many of you have felt discouraged either because you haven't published or your editor didn't like your last manuscript or . . . well the list could go on and on. But what we have to remember is, if we don't believe in ourselves who will? 

Believing in yourself is not just hoping, it's doing. You need to act the part. Treat your writing with importance: be professional, set goals, hone your craft, build your name and balance your life.

Be professional...
Even if you're not published you need to treat your writing as a profession. Get business cards and nice ones. Set up a Web site and blog. Customize your letterhead. Do you have promotion plans for your book? This is important because when you receive that life-thrilling call of acceptance, if you have promotion plans you will be prepared to share your ideas with your publisher. Believe me they will be impressed. Work on your professional image so that you can hit the publishing-ground running.

Set goals...
I remember one writer I knew years ago who said that she decided if she hadn't published within a year she was going to get a job. That is NOT the kind of goal I'm talking about. So much is out of your control when it comes to publishing. You can have the best book in the world, but if the time isn't right you won't sell. So set goals that you can control, such as: finish your novel by a certain time, read so many books, keep up on the market, and etc. Make sure your goals help you stretch and that you can accomplish them. There's great satisfaction in saying, I did it.

Hone your craft...
Yes, this means to keep working on your book, but it also means blogging, writing articles, taking classes, and going to conferences to name only a few. Blogging consistently helps build your writing skills, but it also teaches discipline. Writing articles will help you with the promotion of your book. And taking classes and going to conferences--even if you've heard hundreds of lectures on writing you never know when a light will turn on and you'll grasp a concept like you never have before. Writing classes and conferences are great to help keep your writing skills up to date.

Build your name...
Why would you want to build your name if you haven't published? You want your name out there, right? Going to conferences, networking and the social media all three help you to build your name. When you attend writing conferences, you're meeting people and making impressions. Remember the business cards, blog and Web site I mentioned earlier? This is where they come into play. A business card helps to break the ice when you meet other authors or when you have that five-minute pitch session with an editor or agent. And you'd better believe they will visit your blog and web site to see what you're all about. You're building your name.

Balance your life...
I look back on the days before I became published and you know what? In many ways, my life is pretty much the same. My family still needs me. I mop the floors and take out the trash. In fact, I'm constantly trying to balance my life. What helps is prioritizing what's most important. Sometimes family comes first and sometimes writing is at the top of the list. Balancing becomes very important to a professional writing career and learning what comes first and when is vital.

Believe in yourself, hang onto your dreams, do the work and you'll see success. Now tell me what you think.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

THERE'S A GHOST IN MY LIBRARY!!!



Well, not this ghost and not this library.

I'm talking about the library in my home. 


Here's the story . . .


Several years ago, I got up like any other day and was in the kitchen fixing breakfast. I was the only one home, when all at once there was a loud boom in the library. I went in to find books all over the floor. Silly me, I thought the book shelf was just too full and that the books fell. So, when Hubby got home he fixed the book shelf, and in fact, added two more, which I filled almost immediately.


Time went by with no other incidents until . . .


Last Thursday I was working away in my office (which is right next to the library) and Lizzi-bear (my Yorkie) and I were the only ones home, when all at once there was a loud boom. Lizzi looked at me, I looked at her, and together we very slowly and very carefully went into the library. I found my lava lamp (yes, I have a lava lamp in my library, don't you?) on the floor along with about ten other books. I know the shelves are not overloaded. So, what's the deal with that? And, why knock my lamp on the floor? That's just mean.


I cleaned up the clutter, but I started thinking, this is happening way to often. Thus, I have come to the conclusion that I have a ghost in my library. I'm not sure if the ghost is male or female.


I'd like to think my ghost is . . .




Jane Austen. I have so many questions for her, like who was her Mr. Darcy? Why did she never marry? How did she want her life story to end? I'm mean, she died so young.


Or the ghost could be . . . 

  

Mark Twain. Oh yeah, I'd love to get advice from him on how to add more humor to my stories.

The ghost might be . . .




Mary Shelley. I want to know who was her inspiration for Frankenstein. And, I'd love to hear what happened at the party with Lord Byron, wouldn't you?

But, I really wonder if my ghost is . . . 


Edgar Allan Poe. I'm been working on a new romantic suspense. The working title is Raven Spirit. Some scenes have been very intense. I guess anything is possible.

Tell me, who would you want to haunt your library?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Building a Story: Grids, Mapping and Outlines.

Have you ever been attracted to a book because of the cover, read the first page and bought it, but later became disappointment because the story fizzled? I know I have. What went wrong? The writer didn't measure, cut, and trim to build a story that grew with tension and conflict.


You don't want your book to ever disappoint your readers. Yes, I know you can't please everyone, but you can please a great deal of people by crafting a story that is rich with well-developed characters, a plot that grows in depth and tension, and a climax that satisfies.


How do you do this? I have yet to find a magic formula that works for everyone. I have several suggestions that might help you find a fit for your writing style. Some writers like a conflict grid, some use mapping, and others outline.


Conflict grid...
Archeologists use grids to help them unearth fossils and other treasures hidden in the earth. For the writer, a grid can help you unearth your characters. You can set up your grid in a way that is easiest for you to work with, but you might like a column for each character. Because of my background in accounting, I use a grid like a spread sheet keeping the left-hand column for headings. Some headings could be: Inner Conflict, Outer Conflict, Life Goals, Immediate Goals, Most at Stake, and etc. Now fill in your grid with wonderful flaws and strengths for each character. Using a grid is great for seeing your characters inner and outer flaws all at once. You can see where you need one character to playoff of the strength of another. You can see if you have too many characters acting in the same way. Using a grid is a good way to measure the strength of your characters and fill in where they are lacking.


Mapping...
You can use mapping for character development, character relationships and plotting.This can be done like a pedigree chart or a spiral. Lines are used to connect each element. For instance, what if your main character had a serious illness in his youth, which gave him a weak heart, which developed into a heart attack later in life? Lines would connect "illness in youth" to "weak heart" to "heart attack". Using a mapping chart or spiral for relationships you can connect characters following who is the father, son, sister, brother and etc. For plot mapping you can actually graphed tension in your story by connecting one plot point to the next plot point. Each should build to the final climatic scene.


Outline...
Many don't outline because they feel it kills creativity, however, who says you have to stick to the outline? It's not like you have a teacher standing over your shoulder. Outlines can help you stay on course, but you can also find flaws in your story because of an outline. You can find where tension needs to build, or where you need more substance sooner than later. Just remember, you're in charge. You can erase, cross out, and add to your outline any time you want. I have used a chapter outlined for many of my books. I find it helps a great deal when it comes time to write the ever daunting synopsis.


Writing a book is like building a house, it takes a lot of measuring, cutting, and trimming. Remember if you change your mind, you're the contractor, you can rip out a wall or add one wherever you need it. But pretty soon you'll build a a great story with tension and conflict.


I'm sure there are other ways to build a story. Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas. And if you have any questions, please let me know.    

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