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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Doing The Genre Shuffle

Would you be surprised if I told you I dabble in several genres of romance other than western historical? No? Hmm... didn't think so.

The fact is, most writers dabble in more than one genre. Some may only publish in one, but I'll bet they still play with others that never make it to publication. I can only speak for myself, but I would get very bored if I confined myself to only one setting and one time period. My main focus is on my western historicals, but to break the tedium, I occasionally go play with other works in progress.

To date, here are the alternate genres I piddle with:

1 Medieval Paranormal Romance (It's a werewolf story and I started it many moons ago when paranormals weren't selling. I've always wanted to write a straight Medieval, if I could come up with a plot that hasn't been done to death.)

1 Fantasy Romance (Fun, fun, fun!)

1 Futuristic Romance (Yeah, no kidding, and here's something I learned a while back about futuristics--the big external conflict must be political or they won't work.)

2 Contemporary Romances (One is straight romance and the other is romantic suspense. Jennifer's probably saying, yay! ;o)

So, now you know. Are you a one-genre writer, or do you also dabble in several sub-genres? If so, which ones?


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Drawing From The Past

Tonight, I hope you'll indulge me as I wander back in time because I want to share a little about the first school I attended. It was called Bennett's Branch, though I don't know where it got that name because the hill where it stood was known as Punchin Camp. Both my mother and father, along with a bunch of aunts, uncles, and cousins attended this school. It was just over the hill from my grandmother's farm, and walking to school each day was a jaunt through the woods.

Here's a view of the side of the schoolhouse, along with many of the students. This was taken around 1943 or 44, during the time my mother and father were students. I don't know if you can make out details very well, but that's my mom standing behind her best friend. I drew an arrow. The other arrow is pointing to my dad, the nice looking little fella in the dark jacket. They were all spiffed up to have their picture taken that day. There are also some cousins and others mixed in with the group. Where my mom's many brothers and sisters were that day remains a mystery because none of them are in the picture. The man standing on the left is Tollie Sasser, the teacher. The woman on the far right was the teacher for the lower grades, but I don't know her name. At the time this picture was taken, the school had two rooms. Later, when I started to school, there was only the one room in the stone building and the original log structure was long gone.

When I started school at Bennett's Branch, my cousin, Vondie, and I were the only students in first grade. It was great because we were the older girls' pets. They drew and cut out paper dolls for us and let us sit with them when they weren't getting their lessons. By that time, Mr. Sasser taught all eight grades by himself. Each grade sat in its own row, and he took turns with each row, teaching us the Three R's and other things.

There was no running water, but we had a well. A table just inside the door of the schoolroom held a water bucket and a communal dipper. One of our pet projects between lessons was constructing drinking cups out of our notebook paper. The school proper was only one room, but we had a separate cloak room that was like a long narrow closet where we hung our coats and stored our lunch boxes until dinnertime. Out back, at the edge of the woods, stood the outhouse. During warm weather, we played outdoors during recess. But during the winter, it was sometimes too cold or nasty to go outside. On those days, Mr. Sasser would go out and cut a long branch from a tree and we'd line up and make a game of jumping over it inside the schoolhouse. When mine and my cousin's turn came, Mr. Sasser always lowered the branch so we could jump over and stay in the game with the bigger kids. Another favorite pass time was standing around the pot belly stove and holding our Moon Pies up to the heat so the icing would melt and we could lick it off. Could you imagine kids these days being entertained by something like that!

Mr. Sasser passed away not long after I moved back home, but here's an article I found about him that appeared in the local paper back in 1984.

Sentinel Echo Newspaper

London, Kentucky

August 23, 1984


By Karen House-Combs

~~~~~Tollie Sasser retired from the teaching profession 10 years ago, but when he began teaching in 1938 he rode seven miles to and from school on horseback and had 48 students in an eight-grade one room building. "I told them that there was only one way to handle students, and a girl in the eighth grade who was going to Berea said, 'no Mr. Sasser, there's 48 ways.'""That was my first year," he said, "and I hadn't learned that yet, but I remembered that little girl's advice." Sasser talked about his more than 30 years in the Laurel County school system during an interview Monday afternoon. A graduate of Sue Bennett and Union College, he began teaching at at school in Knox County, located seven miles from his home in the Blackwater community for a salary of $61.90 a month. The next year he was transferred to Blackwater and then to Darrell Jones. Sasser left his third school in as many years for a position at Bennett's Branch in 1941. The school was first opened in 1935 in a one-room log house, with George Sasser as the teacher. A rock school house was built later with the lower eight grades in one room and the upper grades in the other. Sasser said teaching in such a small school and having the same students over several years, enabled teachers to play a larger role in their students' lives than they do today. "I fed them, bought them lunch, sent them to the store to buy overshoes," he said, "and even sent them to the doctor and told them to bill me if they couldn't pay for it. They always managed to sometime pay me back later on." Margie Gray, who lives near Sasser in Blackwater, said she attended Bennett's Branch from her first year of school through the eighth grade. "When you have a student that long," Sasser said, "it's something to take one and wonder if you're teaching them right." Gray said their teacher also played games with the students on Friday afternoon, such as spelling matches and adding races, as well as playing with them at recess. Sasser said the one and two-room schools in the small communities were not closed for snow days like the larger schools today, because the students lived nearby. He said students also began attending classes at an earlier age."One little girl started coming to school when she was three years old," he said, "because her mother had died and there wasn't anyone at home to babysit." Sasser said students in the small schools were also required to cover as much academic material as they do today. "The books were just as thick at a one-room school," he said, "as they are today, and you were expected to get finished with it by the end of the year." He said teachers also kept the same records as they do today, for each class. One Bennett's Branch student, Bobby Ray Cheek, told Sasser that having several classes in one room was an advantage. "If I didn't get it one year," he said about his lessons, "I got to hear him explain it the next." Sasser said each class was taught a 15-minute lesson while the other classes were working on assignments, and since several grades were in one room, students heard lessons from year to year. The lower grades in a two-room school were divided into primer, first, second and third graders. The upper grades were divided in alternating years, into either fourth, fifth and seventh grades or fourth, sixth and eighth grades. Sasser said if a student was supposed to go into the fifth grade, but it was the year to teach the sixth grade, he became a sixth grade student and was allowed to skip the fifth grade. "That was done all over the county," he said, "that's the way they worked it."Sasser said although the schools were small, they weren't lacking academically. His eighth grade students went to Bush one year to be tested with the larger school's eighth graders. The students were tested on four subject areas, and he said Bush Principal Frank Bentley told him his students beat the Bush students in three out of four subjects. Sasser said some of his students later became teachers and some preachers, but whatever they became, he said, after spending all those years with him, it always felt like "they were yours."

The article tells the story, doesn't it. Here's a picture of the school taken in recent years that shows the front view, after it was long abandoned and fallen into disrepair. That's me standing in the doorway.

The story ends on a happy note however. Not long after this last picture was taken, one of Mr. Sasser's relatives (who now owns the property) restored the old schoolhouse. It now has a new roof, floor, and windows. And each year, the surviving students of Bennett's Branch School hold a reunion in the old building. My mom and her remaining siblings usually try to make it to that. Me, I don't go. I'd rather remember the old school as it was when I started that first day, when Vondie and I sat down on the stone steps outside and cried and refused to go inside.



Monday, March 23, 2009

The Big "E"

I wish the subject I refer to in the title of this post was The Big Easy, but it is not. It's the economy. I try not to think about it. I've even stopped watching the news, but I still hear snippets when hubby turns it on in the evening. We're worried. Who isn't? Anyone whose income depends on consumption by the private sector should be worried. Heck, anybody who punches a time clock right now has every reason to be worried. My husband's job is in retail sales. If the public has no money to get out and buy...

As writers, our product is also dependent on retail sales to the public. A public that is now strapped for cash and worried about their own futures. So how do we handle this new, added stress?

In the past, writing has been an escape. The place I went to and lost myself in to get away from the daily worries of real life. My hopes and dreams were there. The dream of being a published author, the hope of maybe someday adding to the family income with my writing. Now, real life has invaded that hopeful, imaginary world. And now people in the industry are beginning to openly talk about the financial crisis and how it's affecting the publishing industry. Within the past few days, Bookends and Editorrent both posted on their blogs about the effect the economy is having on submissions. If anyone has more links to articles or posts on the subject, please post them because now it's like a train wreck and I can't look away. Anyway, according to these agents, submissions are up beyond anything they've ever seen, and they say editors at the big houses are reporting the same thing. People who are out of work are writing and submitting. Authors who have been cut loose are submitting. Yet, after all that, both blog posts try to end on an up note by telling us to keep writing and sending in those manuscripts because books are still being bought. All I can say is, thank God for small presses because without them, too many of us would be left out in the cold.

The market was tight fourteen years ago when I first paid my dues to gain entrance to the romance community. I can't imagine what it's like out there now with more and more authors and fewer and fewer slots. But I have a feeling that as more authors turn to other publishing outlets (small press, e-pub, vanity pub), the alternative market will turn into a veritable swampland that few book buyers will dare venture into. On the other hand, if more recognizable authors toss their hat into the small press ring, maybe it will give us more credibility. Who knows what the outcome will be. People who've been in this business for decades have been saying for quite a while that the publishing industry will have to undergo a complete metamorphosis if it is to survive. Is that time now upon us?

How are you handling the economic news that gets worse by the day? How has it affected your writing? Do you see light at the end of the tunnel? If so, please tell me about it.


Friday, March 20, 2009


Today is officially the first day of Spring! I feel safe in saying, we're all so ready for it. This has been the longest winter in recent memory, so bring on that beautiful weather and all those colorful blossoms. Happy first day of spring, everyone!


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Prologues & Other Things

It seems like 3 out of every 4 romance novels you pick up these days have a prologue. Even contemps. My question is, why? I saw one this past week that was written by an author I have read and enjoyed. Her book was a contemporary romantic suspense. The prologue was nothing more than the 1st scene of chapter one. Or at least, that's what it should have been.

So why all the prologues lately? Do authors (or publishers) think they make the books look more cerebral, more literary, more dignified, or what? Personally, I find them annoying, an unnecessary delay that keeps me from the real story. In my opinion, the only time a prologue should ever be used is when it contains or sets up the big conflict that will carry throughout the entire story. Even then, the scene should take place with a significant amount of time passage between it and chapter one. Not fifteen minutes (as was the case in the book I've mentioned but shall not name).

Having said all that, I have to confess that I've just written a prologue onto the beginning of my manuscript. Believe me when I tell you, I didn't want to, but it had to be done. The setup of the central conflict needed to be shown. I wanted it there so that when the reader begins page one of the first chapter, BAM!, the story unfolds and the fireworks begin without the need for a lot of explanation in the form of backstory.

And speaking of backstory... This prologue came about because I hit the wall this past week with my backstory. The incident that sets up the big conflict was too deep to bridge the gap. No way could my hero come out of the story looking heroic or even remotely sympathetic. But I couldn't figure out how to change it because there was another factor involved that's much too complicated to try and explain, but is integral to making the conflict work. If I took away the hero's actions in the past, it killed the conflict and turned it into a big ole misunderstanding. It was one of those damned if I did and damned if I didn't scenarios. I was ready to pull out my hair! Or shelf the story. I was beginning to question my ability to reason out any sort of plot twist at all. Then today, I did it! And right now I'm feeling pretty darned pleased with myself. :o)

Hope all of you had a productive writing day!


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Character Emotions

I'm still on this character emotion kick. Like Jan, I'm sick of using visceral reactions to show what a character is feeling. When I was doing the final read-through of my book and layering in more reaction here and there, it felt like I was doing nothing but writing about racing pulses, pounding hearts, and clenching stomachs. At one point the thought occurred to me that these people needed to be in a hospital rather than saving the day in a romance novel. There must be a better way!

Today, I thought I'd found some insight right under my nose on my bookshelf. While searching for something totally unrelated, I ran across a book titled, "Creating Character Emotions" by Ann Hood. I wasn't even aware it was there. Eagerly, I took it down, opened it and started skimming for info. Well, I found no great new insight. The book just reinforced what I already know. The best writing comes from showing the emotion, rather than telling the reader what the character is feeling. Duh.

Okay. That takes me right back to square one. Here's the problem. To "show" emotion in ways that don't involve some kind of visceral or other bodily reaction involves a fair amount of writing. We do it by reflecting the character's mood or feelings with their interaction with their surroundings. For instance, if someone is anxious, they might clutch a shredded tissue in their hand. They might glance at the clock every few seconds. They might walk to the window and look outside, clutch their arms against their waist, pace, etc. etc. You get the picture, but it takes quite a few words to convey all that. I have no problem with that...if the emotion I'm trying to show is sadness, regret, longing, anxiety or any of the many other things people feel when they have a quiet, reflective moment.

But what to do when the character is neck-deep in some kind of action, during the heat of anger, or terrified? There's where we resort to the racing pulses and pounding hearts because you simply can't halt long enough in the midst of an action scene to paint a picture of each emotion as it happens. Action scenes by their very nature scream for those visceral reactions, so I just don't see any solution.

I'm open to suggestions. Anybody know a different way to say, her heart pounded or his gut clenched? If so, I'd sure like to hear about it. ;o)


Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Trouble With "IT"

it -- (pronoun) to refer to some matter expressed or understood, or some thing or notion not definitely conceived.

Lately, the indefinite "it" has been catching my attention in my writing. "It" can refer to a single noun, or an entire sentence, depending on how it's used. Most of the time, "it" is one of those invisible words, like "of" that acts as the glue that joins our words to express a thought. But at times, "it" takes the place of nouns where writing what "it" actually is would make the work clearer and more descriptive and, therefore, stronger.

During the writing process, "it" slips from my fingertips without much notice. Only when I go back and reread do I catch those instances where the actual definition of "it" is needed.

Here are a few examples of using the indefinite "it" and then replacing "it" with stronger more descriptive words:

Now she knew the answer to the question of how Cade had been burning through money so quickly. He’d succumbed to gambling fever. It struck her that he’d be no help to her at all.

Or...the more definite, descriptive would be written like this -- Now she knew the answer to the question of how Cade had been burning through money so quickly. He’d succumbed to gambling fever. The thought struck her that he’d be no help to her at all.

Here's another one -- Gunfire echoed along the street. It seemed to come from all directions.

Here's the same line after replacing "it" with the noun "it" describes -- Gunfire echoed along the street. The sound seemed to come from all directions.

Here's an example of a line where "it" refers to a noun that immediately precedes-- Bold as brass, she stopped in front of him and slid her hands under his shirt where he’d pulled it free.

In this case, the use of "it" is preferable. If I wrote --Bold as brass, she stopped in front of him and slid her hands under his shirt where he'd pulled his shirt free. --the line is not only repetitious, it also sounds rather silly.

To catch all the vague and indefinite "it's" I started using the search and replace function in Word. But this is time-consuming and it also pointed to a possible overuse of the word "with." Oy! I'm hoping that since I've become more conscious of the problem, I'll be more likely to catch most of the "it" instances during the writing process rather than later in edit mode.

Happy writing! and watch out for those pesky "its."


Friday, March 13, 2009

A Writer's Memory

The other day, I was talking to my cousin about writing and she asked me how many stories I have in progress. When I told her I have three active right now and at least a dozen more on the back burner, her response was, "Lord! How do you keep it all straight?"

Good question, now that I think about it.

The fact is, I never confuse characters or forget their names. Ditto with plot lines. I can recite the sequence of events for each story without batting an eye. I can even recall snippets of dialogue and narrative, word for word, from each story.

I had never really thought about it before, until my cousin asked the question. How is this possible when I confuse nearly everything else in my life on occasion? I often have a hard time recalling the names of people I've known forever. I forget where I put my purse. In no other area of my life do I have the kind of instant recall and memory I do with my writing. So, this begs the question -- is there a special on and off memory switch in a writer's head that only works when their thoughts turn to their stories? It probably sounds silly, but there are lots of other things that have been discovered about the functioning of the human mind that are far stranger.

I've been giving some thought to this and other things since the other day over on Sia McKye's blog when Magdalena Scott told me I was doing something she called transcendental well-filling. (She was kidding, but it made me stop and think and I'll save my thoughts on that for another post.) Right now I'm curious to know if other writers have selective recall with their stories like I've described in the above paragraph. If so, please tell me about it. I came to the conclusion long ago that we're wired differently than non-writers, otherwise we wouldn't have character voices and imagery constantly playing in our heads. And I still wonder what occupies the minds of non-writers during those quiet times when they're not talking to someone, watching tv or reading. What do they think about when they're alone in the car on a long stretch of highway?

Anyway, I think it might be interesting to note all the peculiarities associated with the writer's thinking processes as opposed to non-writers. Heck, I think the psychiatric community should do a study. What do you think? And if such a thing has already been done, please point me to it. I find this subject far more fascinating than I probably should.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Method of Productivity

When I was in 3rd grade, my dad came home one day with an old Underwood typewriter, very like the one in the photo to the left. The moment Dad sat that old machine down on the kitchen table and said, "Here, this is for you," my life changed. Little did any of us suspect the gift of an antiquated typewriter would set in motion an obsession that would last a lifetime. But that day my course was set and I began the long and often torturous journey toward becoming a writer.

I typed and typed for the pure joy of watching the words appear on the paper. My stories were like childish script rejects from the old Frankie and Annette beach movies, or they were variations of my favorite fairy tales. I loved that old typewriter because it gave a voice to my over-active imagination. But when I typed for long periods of time, my fingertips got sore. Notice the raised metal rims around the keys in the photo and you'll see the reason.

When I married and left home, the old Underwood stayed behind. If you've ever tried to pick up one of these machines, you know they weigh a ton. Not something you could carry onto a plane or tuck inside a suitcase.

Within a year of leaving home, I landed in California to stay for a while, so I went looking for another typewriter. That's when I acquired a newer model, the Underwood SX-100, elite type, pictured above. This thing was sweet. No metal rims! With the acquisition of this new machine, I moved another step closer to my dream of being a writer.

With this old typewriter, I wrote 4 complete full-length manuscripts, including the first draft of Angel in the Rain, my published novel. I also produced several thousand pages of story ideas and partials. I still have most of them today, packed away in boxes.

A handful of years before getting my first computer, my husband thought he'd do me a favor and bought me a brand spanking new electric typewriter, with correction tape and the whole nine yards. Strange as it may seem, I produced nothing on that machine. It threw off my rhythm. I was used to the clackety-clack of the keys hitting in time with the movement of my fingers. With the electric, my fingers got ahead of the keys and the thing would continue typing even after I'd finished a line. This always brought me up short and and I would watch it finish out the line without me. The rhythm was just off, it was out of sync, and it distracted me right out of business.

Next came a couple of Brother word processors in quick succession. With the advent of electronics also came the headache of glitches and lost work. Both machines were 100% reliant on floppies to operate. Nuff said. The only thing I accomplished on the word processor was the first rewrite of the Angel in the Rain manuscript.

I was already past my 40th birthday when I finally got my first computer and the Microsoft Word program. That was when the gates of Heaven opened up and the light poured down. As a friend described it, "Now you've been given wings to soar!" Or so one would think. So now it's confession time, time to look at the facts in the cold, harsh light of reality. During all the years I've had a computer, I haven't been as productive as I was with my sweet old Underwood SX-100. Shocking, isn't it? I know, it surprises me, too.

So, what's the deal? It's really not hard to figure out. There's that distraction factor again, and it's staring me right in the face. It's called the World Wide Web and for someone who sits here for hours on end, staring at a computer screen, it can be a mighty powerful temptation to step through that door and mix and mingle with the big world out there. With the old Underwood, there were no such diversions. I didn't have the luxury of deleting anything. I couldn't copy and paste, unless I took the scissors to the pages and then taped them back together. And believe me, I have a lot of pages stored away here that resemble montages more than manuscripts. All I could do was plow forward, and that's exactly what I did. Sometimes I've even thought about dragging out the old manual typewriter but, once you've gone tech, there's no going back, at least not for me.

I see a lot of authors and aspiring authors around the internet romance community complaining about lack of discipline when it comes to internet time. The distraction is too much temptation for them, too. I can only speak for myself, but a writer's life is often secluded and lonely. So, we blog. We MySpace. We email. We cruise and call it research. In the end, a lot of us are not producing as much as we need or want to.

So, what's the answer? Other than sheer iron willpower, I have no idea. Are you--like me--guilty of wasting valuable writing time out there on the net? I'm writing this blog post when I should be working on my manuscript. Are you reading this post when you should be working on yours? If so, you're not alone.



Monday, March 9, 2009

Pictures of Molly

Here are a couple of pictures of Molly. Hubby took several but she's always in motion and they came out very blurry. In the one below, she's standing behind my size 7 1/2 shoe so you can get an idea of her size.

The second one, she's lying on my lap. I called and got an appt. with the vet for Wednesday morning so she can have her first round of vaccinations and worm treatment. Mine and hubby's morning has certainly been different today. We made several trips outside and sat on the stoop while waiting for Molly to go potty. Hopefully, she won't be hard to train. Fingers crossed. Right now, she's all tuckered out and sleeping in her bin (had to go out in the garage and find a deeper one because she was using her stuffed doll as a ladder and escaping from the first one).


Bringing Baby Home

(Edit - I replaced the other picture with an actual photo of Molly)

Last evening we brought home the new addition to our family! Remember how I was worried about the tiny little puppy growing up to be a not so small dog? Well, after getting a look at her mother, I'm happy to report that this will be a very small dog when she's grown. As near as we can figure, she's a Chihuahua-Jack Russell mix, with maybe an unidentified ingredient tossed in somewhere.

Look at that face! She's so tiny! Excluding her head and tail, she's only about six and a half inches long. I hope to get some pictures within the next couple of days. We've named her Molly because that's the name that popped into my head the moment I laid eyes on her. Strange, that's never happened before. We usually can never agree on names, or nothing seems to fit. We've got a cat that's three years old and he's never been given an official name. Poor fella answers to "Little Man."

I figured I'd be in for a rough couple of nights when we brought Molly home and she was separated from her mother and siblings for the first time. I fixed up a bed for her in a clear plastic tote and gave her a stuffed Elmo doll and a blankie. The Elmo is just slightly bigger than she is, but she grabbed it by the leg and tied to shake it. Too cute. She's going to be a real killer. After a couple of minutes, she lay down and used the doll for a pillow and went right to sleep. I covered her with the blankie, which woke her for a few seconds, then she settled right down again. She slept that way for hours, with only an occasional stretch and twitchy dream. Hubby went to bed, then got back up again later. Puppy was still asleep. We marveled at how well-behaved she was being. I've never seen a puppy that didn't cry through the night when taken from its mother and familiar surroundings. I shut down for the night and turned in. Molly slept on. I was tired because we'd had a big day and quickly fell asleep. Then... at 3:32 this morning, Molly woke up, needing food, drink and a pottie break. Afterward, she was ready to rock and roll for what I feared would be the rest of the night. She wore down after about 30 minutes of tagging after me and playing tug-of-war with the hem of my pajamas, then she went back to sleep. I'm completely in love!


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Tonight's Musical Interlude

For David Cook lovers.... something soothing to listen to AND look at....

And on the flipside....

Friday, March 6, 2009

Writing BIG Emotions

The manuscript I'm working on is packed with big emotion. By big, I mean the kinds of emotions that result from heartbreak, betrayal, rage, mortal danger, and all-consuming love. This is a good thing, right? The more emotion we can pour into our writing, the more we connect with our reader. And that's the goal. A story that touches a reader's emotions on a personal level is one they will likely remember.

In the prologue, a traumatic event alters the course of the hero's and heroine's lives forever and sets the stage for the rest of the story. Great! The emotions taking place there are raw and primal. The conflict separating them seems insurmountable. Even better! The rest of the story should write itself.

The question is, how do we get these big emotions on the page in a way that has the most impact? How do we "show" the emotion without going into long descriptive passages about how the character is feeling?

Yes, there's the rub.

In the prologue, my hero's life (to that point) and even his love is being ripped away from him. I keep going back to two paragraphs in particular, at the point where hero realizes what's being done to him. And I ask myself, "What is he thinking here? What's he feeling?" I know I need to have something more than him just sitting there listening while the rug of his life is being jerked out from under him. But what? I know that too much description can actually rob the moment of its impact and immediacy. Anything, if it's overly described, turns into "telling." When that happens, the emotional connection with the reader is broken. At times like this, I remember something Mary Morrow taught me long ago -- "Less is more." But sometimes I worry that less is not enough. I want the reader to "get" the depth of emotion the character is experiencing, but how do I accomplish that without beating her over the head with a lot of descriptives?

I guess this is where our writer's instincts come into play (and I'm beginning to think I may have been at the end of the line when they passed those out). Also, it doesn't hurt to have someone read the scene in question and point out where more emotion is needed. I remember getting pages back from a crit partner (helloooo, Jan) that had, "But what is she feeling here?" written all over them. Since then, I've been very conscious of "Where's the Emotion?" and I'm always afraid I haven't done enough. I think every writer's style is different when it comes to this and what works for one may not necessarily work for another.

How about you? Is your preference more for -- Hero stared at the man before him, stunned, disbelieving. His heart pounded faster. This couldn't be happening. Not now. He'd worked too hard, had too much on the line. etc. etc.

Or...do you go more for the short and to the point -- Hero knew he'd been had. (and wait until a break in the action to clue in Hero's physical reactions and internal dialogue)

In your opinion, which is the most effective and why?

Happy writing!


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tribute to Zeb

Today at my house we're mourning the loss of our beloved fur buddy, Zeb. We were fortunate to have him with us for nearly ten years, but this morning we were forced to have him put to sleep. It was either that or watch him suffer a long, painful death. My husband took him to the vet, who confirmed that it was for the best. It still didn't make it any easier. Zeb was my husband's favorite little buddy, and I've never seen the man grieve like when he came home from the vet with Zeb in the back seat. Together, we buried him in the back yard, alongside the row of other little loved ones who've gone before him.

I just wanted to pay some kind of tribute because Zeb deserves it. He was the best cat I've ever known. We knew he was different from the moment he was born. He seemed more reserved and intelligent than his wild and crazy siblings. We found homes for his brothers and sisters, but kept him, and my son named him Zeb. During the nine years he lived with us, he never clawed on anything except a wooden barrel, which contained his bag of food. Visitors thought he was cute because he charmed them and gave them come-hither looks while leading them closer to the barrel. Once there, he'd sit on his haunches and claw for all he was worth. His final trick to get someone to feed him. And they always did. That barrel has deep grooves in it now. He was never shy. He'd always come running to check out anyone who came into the house--and maybe lure them to the food barrel. He didn't have an aggressive bone in his body. He was just a big ole lovable puddy tat. Even when you put him in the tub and bathed him, he kept his claws sheathed, even though he moaned in protest the entire time he was being washed.

Every night when my husband announced he was turning in, Zeb would come running and do a trick we called "skating." You know how cats will get against something and lift their hind leg and slowly drag it across. Zeb would do it on command, every night before my husband went to bed. We called it his figure skating move and would applaud and rate him by how long he held the leg up as he dragged it against my husband's shin. Too funny, and he was a big ham. He loved the attention and would keep it up until hubby told him, "That's enough skating for tonight Time to go to bed."

Here's another picture of Zeb being Santa's helper. He roosted on that big present the entire time it sat there, which was a couple of weeks at least, until we had to take it from him and turn it over to its rightful owner.

We're going to miss old Zeb. I know I'll get a grip after a little while, but right now I can't seem to stop crying. I've lost both my babies--my dog, Sam, and now Zeb within the last five months. And Sunday is when we're supposed to go pick up the new puppy. Sometimes I wonder if we need our heads examined. As much as we love our furry children, it always ends in grief, yet we keep going back for more. Zeb was hubby's best friend, and Sam was mine, and I sure do miss having a warm, adoring little critter tagging after my every step and lying next to my feet while I sit at the computer or watch tv. So I guess the reason we keep going back for more heartache time and again is because for the time we do have them with us, they give us such unconditional love. But I'm tellin' ya, there's nothing can break my heart like they do when it's their time to go.



Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Book Trivia

Here's a fascinating bit of trivia I picked up over at Petticoats & Pistols the other day. Patricia Potter, who writes Western Historical Romance, blogged about Doc Holliday and the many myths surrounding him. As it turns out, there was a Georgia connection between Doc and author Margaret Mitchell. When she wrote "Gone With The Wind," the characters of Rhett and Melanie were based on Doc Holliday and his cousin, Mattie. If you're interested, click here to read Pat's post in its entirety.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Writing Through ~ Progress Report

I've had a terrific day! I'm feeling optimistic about the future of my writing for the first time in a good while. Here's why. I followed the suggestions of my fellow bloggers, Taryn, Teresa, and Magdalena, and successfully shut out the nagging of my internal editor and simply wrote today. Yay! It felt good. Although, I do admit there were a couple of times when my old fear--of getting too much on the page that would have to be fixed later--reared its head. I ignored it and moved on and just kept writing.

When I called it quits for the day, I checked my word count, then did the math and discovered I'd written just shy of 4,000 words. So, I went ahead and wrote a couple more lines to reach that 4K mark. I worked through one entire chapter and started on the next. I'm still amazed and excited about what I accomplished.

I'm not naive enough to think I can keep up this pace every day. There are other things that demand attention, like the family and home. But I know now that it's possible for me to get on with it at a much speedier pace than I've been going--if I just do it. And if I do occasionally have a day ( like today) I can devote almost entirely to writing, then cha-ching!

I promised to list the pros and cons I found to this method, so here they are.

Con = all the pages I wrote today are very rough, even rudimentary in places. I would never let anyone see, much less read them.

Con = when I finish the manuscript, it will take a great deal of time to revise and polish to my satisfaction.

Pro = I'm getting the story down on the page very quickly and not agonizing over details.

Pro = If I decide to change a section I've already written, it's no big deal to delete and rewrite because at this stage I haven't spent endless hours working on it.

Pro = Even though I'll end up with a very rough first draft, how much easier and faster is it to go back and fix something that's already written than to sit and stare at a blank page? We all know the answer to that one. ;o)

Pro = I found that my thoughts flow much more smoothly than when I stop for 15 minutes or 2 hours to figure out the exact right word choice and so on that my very high-strung I.E. has always demanded up til now.

As you can see, the pros outnumber the cons, which actually surprises me. To be perfectly honest, I figured I would fight this tooth and nail. It's always hard to break the cycle of years and years of habit. But I found out today that I can do it!

In closing let me just say, "It's true, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and an old dog can learn new tricks." And now, if you'll excuse me, I must go do a happy dance with my little yellow friend.

Rave Girl Dancing


Sunday, March 1, 2009

How Do I Turn Off My Internal Editor?

I received such terrific advice in the comments on my previous post, I feel the need to follow up on this internal editor issue.

Back when I first joined my local RWA chapter, there were a few published authors in the group, but the majority of us were still unpublished. Because there were so many of us newbie writers, a big emphasis within the group was on teaching. We critiqued, we talked about craft, we did workshops, and we had some topnotch teachers. In my case, I'm thinking the lessons may have taken deeper root than was necessary or intended. From that time forward, I turned into an obsessive nit-picker, nearly crippled by my internal editor. There, I said it.

Do I feel better? No, I don't. I've known this was a problem for quite a long time but can't seem to fix it. It's finally come to this--I'm chasing my own tail and getting nowhere. You might be surprised if I told you how many manuscripts I have in progress, and I keep getting more ideas all the time. But none of them are getting written. I'm determined to change that. I must change.

Here's what my friend and fellow writer, Taryn Raye, had to say about turning off her internal editor.

"Write like your life depends on it and throw caution to the wind. I try to do that each time I start a new manuscript. I duct tape and gag my internal editor and toss her in the closet. I've joked about it - that I slip a little bread and water under the door because I'll need her later when I'm done, but when I'm writing, I try to shut her out to the best of my ability."

To my knowledge, (correct me if I'm wrong, Taryn) she's written nine full-length manuscripts in a relatively short period of time. Nine! So, her method is--evidently--successful.

When I went looking on the net for information, I found several articles about turning off the internal editor. Most of them are repeats of each other. But there was one paragraph, and two lines in particular, on Daily Writing Tips that really struck home.

"When you edit your first draft, you'll have all sorts of ideas of what to change. But when you write your first draft, you want to turn off the internal editor in your mind, that super-ego that looks over your shoulder and criticizes everything you do. Editing is different from writing. Most people can't successfully do both at the same time. And when you do your first draft, you need to focus on writing."

Well, that pretty much says it. I know what I need to do. The problem is summoning the willpower to do it. My biggest fear is ending up with a 400-page mess. That I.E. is one powerful little varmint when she takes hold, and she gets stronger with time.

Three or four years ago, I tried something that I've never since repeated. I wrote what I referred to as a Bare Bones Book in a Day. I remember posting about it to the KYRW loop and suggesting others try it. I sat down and wrote the bare skeleton, including notes to myself, of a book from beginning to end in a day's time. If I remember correctly, I ended up with 18 or so pages. But the entire scene by scene sequence of the story was there on the pages. I've never done that since, but I imagine turning off the editor is essentially the same concept --just write whatever comes to you to work through the story and get to the end. Am I correct, or am I missing something important?

I'm going to try this with my work in progress. All comments and/or suggestions are encouraged and very welcome, so let me hear it. How do you ignore your I.E. and just get on with it? Or... do you also have a real problem with the little varmint?