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.


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!!!


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.


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.


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. 


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?


Wednesday, November 9, 2011


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?


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!


Friday, November 4, 2011


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. :)


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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