Thursday, December 11, 2008

SNOW! Here, yes, snow!

As many of my online friends know, I live in the South. Way south. Like Southeastern Louisiana, not too far from New Orleans and even closer to Mississippi. Well, believe it or not, those white covered objects in these pictures are mine. My house, my car, my fence, my cactus, my banana trees, my grass, ect... Didn't think to snap one of the orange tree which was still full of lovely oranges...

It was over seventy here a couple of days ago, and in a couple more days it will be back up there -- but today...

Well, let's go back to last night. It rained all night. This morning about five I had gone back to bed and was listening to the rain fall. My husband, who had made it to work, called to tell me it was sleeting and that there was some snow mixed in. I thought sure, a few flakes. Never even stick to the ground. A few minutes later I got another call. It was really snowing, so I was told. I grumbled and crawled out of bed, figuring I'd be lucky if in the glow of the porch light I could see even a few tiny flakes. I made my way to the back door and opened it to look out.

It was really snowing! It was really snowing real snow!

In a few minutes, it was really, really snowing. I ran and dragged my daughter out of bed with the news. By the time we made it back to the door, the flakes were huge, falling fast, and actually sticking to things. We rushed and dressed, and my son who is a married man now and lives next door, came over with his wife in tow just as I was slipping on my shoes. We all ran out into the dark, into the falling snow and watched in wonder and laughed like children.

By the time the sun came up, we found ourselves in a winter wonderland, like those we have seen on TV. We built a snowman, the kids threw huge snowballs back and forth at each other. We slipped and fell on the ice and laughed even more. We let the dogs out and they tip-toed around through this white unknown and then began to run and play too.

There was much fun had by all the two legged and four legged family members. Even hubby got sent home from work before noon. The schools were closed and when we tried to watch TV, all normal programming had been pushed aside so all of our local, which is New Orleans for us, news programs could broadcast about the snow that was falling. It continued to snow until noon. We got five inches of snow. Snow that stayed on the ground. It's night now, and there is still snow on the ground, though the patches of non-snow are getting bigger and bigger.

It's been an amazing day for us! Smile Hope something made yours just as nice. Most of us spend too little time smiling and acting like kids. Smile

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Gifts for Writers -- Laser Printer & Word

If you are looking for a great gift for a writer, even if that writer if yourself, then I've got a couple in mind, and right now Amazon has them with lots off, up to 52% off.

First up is a laser printer. If you are like me, you've been wanting one forever, both for the speed it prints and the much cheaper price per page. They've always been way up in price, my idea of way up anyway, and the ink for them was also too high. I found a really great one though with ink that won't break you. It even comes with a starter toner cartridge that prints a 1000 pages. It's the Brother HL-2170w 23ppm Laser Printer with Wireless & Wired Network Interfaces. It prints high-quality 2400 x 600 dpi resolution and has a 250-sheet capacity tray.

When you order it, go ahead and oder the Brother TN360 High Yield Black Toner Cartridge to go with it. It prints 2,600 pages. That means between it and the starter one you get with the printer, you are good to print 3,600 MS pages. Pretty good deal!

If you aren't in need of a good printer, check out Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007. It includes the 2007 versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and One Note. I perfer to use Word, since you'll find that it's the standard most editors and agents, even in articles and such, request you use when they want a copy of CD or e-mailed to them. It's at a great price right now. I personaly don't use Excel or PowerPoint, but I have a daughter in college, and she often has work she has to do in one or the other, so with this program I covered myself and her. If you look at the price of Word alone, or Excel or PowerPoint, you will see what a great deal this is. Hey, as writers, we have to save every cent we can. Smile.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Do You NaNo?

I have a number of writing friends who are busy doing NaNo. The month is halfway over and I've found a lot of them running out of steam. If you took the challenge to write a novel in a month, don't give up during these last couple of weeks. Even if you don't reach your goal, maybe you'll have a whole lot more written than if you hadn't joined the NaNo writing challenge. I'm not leaving a blazing trail of new words, but I am getting a good bit of writing done. Doing more than your normal is a pretty good goal, so be proud of what you are getting done and just keep on keeping on. Smile

By the way, thanks for all of the happy birthday wishes that came my way this week. Made me feel pretty speical. Smile

Friday, August 29, 2008

Remembering Katrina and facing Gustav

Three years ago today I was braced with my family in the kitchen in my home, watching water rise beneath our feet and listening to the roar of wind and the resounding snap and pop of tree trunks. The wind was actually loud enough that we didn't hear the thud of the trees hitting the ground or other things, no matter how big.

I never would have guessed that day, that three short years later we would be preparing to face another bad hurricane. I've lived in Southeastern Louisiana all my life. In fact, in the same town, Bogalusa, all of it. I could count on one hand the bad hurricanes that have hit us hard in all of that forty plus years. So two within three years is just shocking to everyone I have spoken to.

If you are one of my fellow Louisianans, or even in one of our neighboring states since there's still a chance Gustav could change his mind about where he wants to attack, then this message is for you.

Please, if your parish has or does call for a mandatory evacuation, there is a reason, and you should following that recommendation. I know how hard it is to leave things behind, we had to after Katrina, but it's better to leave and be safe, than to stay if the authorities believe it is really not safe for you to do so.

No matter where you live, if you leave, please...

Check on your neighbors and family and friends. See if someone wants to go but has no way. Maybe you have a spot for them in your vehicle? Maybe you can help them find someone else to ride with, or you can see that they call for one of the buses that is set up to take people out of some areas.

Don't leave your pets behind to fend for themselves. Not in a yard, not inside a home. In a yard, there will of course be strong wind and rain, there will probably be flooding, if in a fence, the fence could come down. I saw where dogs actually drowned because they were chained up and couldn't get out of the water. Also during a hurricane, things fly about, and your pet could be hit by something, or a tree could fall on them, ect... If you leave them inside, then the flooding could also be a problem, things falling on the home, and even after, just the heat of being shut up inside a closed house. If they survive all of the above, then what if you aren't able to return home for days or even weeks. So many pets that somehow lived through the storm, then suffered and died from lack of water and or food. If you can't take your pets with you, check the news' stations, or with your local SPCA. They do have plans in place this time to help people with their pets because so many animals died last time, and a number of people died as well because they wouldn't leave their pets behind and had no way to take them with them. Remember your pets are pets, not wild animals. They depend on you to protect them, feed them, and care for them, even in hard times.

When you leave, take important things with you. Your meds of course, some clothes, food, water, paper work, any supplies or special food or items for anyone sick and for your pets, ect... You can make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches pretty cheap, and they don't have to be kept cold. The same with lots of snacks. You could be on the road for hours and might not be able to stop like you'd you might end up staying some where for a week or more, so these things are important. It's also a good idea to take pictures before you leave, of your home, the stuff in side, the stuff in your garage, of any car or such you leave behind, ect...

If you don't leave, you'll need the same things and maybe more of it. If you are in one of those places where they asked people to leave and you don't, they have said they will not be helping you. So if you stay, think about that and what it will be like to be totally on your own if a tree comes through your home, water floods it, you run out of food or water, someone gets sick or hurt, ect... After Katrina, the flooding went away, we had our home and enough food and water to make it those first days, but it was still so hard and so scary to be on our own and know that there was no 911, no help if needed because even though we weren't told we had to leave, things were so bad afterwards that help couldn't even get to each other, much less us. You also have not home phone or cell phone, so family can't reach you to see if you are okay, and you can't reach them.

If you are staying, I hope only in a safe place, make sure you have enough of the things I mentioned above, the same things you have been hearing them repeat over and over on the news. Food, water, meds, food for babies or pets, batteries, ect... If you are in a house, make sure you have something to cut your way out if you have to.

Some hints... A tent is actually great. It was so hot here at night after Katrina, and we don't have a lot of windows in our house, so that didn't help. It was much cooler outside, but people got sick from being bit by misquotes. A tent and an air mattress could mean the difference between you being able to rest at night, and you being too hot to sleep. I think part of the reason I got so sick after Katrina was the not being able to sleep. I think in the first four days I maybe slept a totally of that many hours.

If you have a grill, or a crawfish pot and cooker, you can cook some stuff outside. If the meat in your freezer is going anyway, cook it up and invite the neighbors over and even feed the pets. (Wish I had thought of this, but I guess I was kind of in shock and didn't think of a lot of sensible things until weeks afterwards.) If you have a gas stove, you can cook inside, but it will heat your house up so quickly.

Miscellaneous. Make sure you have a five day cooler. They work. Those cheaper coolers let the ice melt so quickly, and there's not going to be any where to get more ice for at least a few days probably. Make sure you have camping stuff, like battery operated lamps, flashlights, a radio, small portable TV, ect... Don't forget collars and lead ropes or carriers for your pets.

Food. Make sure you have more than enough food. Food that will keep without ice. Peanut butter, fruit, bread, Spam, canned stuff like stew, beans, ect... Lots of snacks too. Don't get microwave popcorn. I know someone who did for Katrina, and we both laughed about it later. Little Debbie cakes, cookies, chips, crackers, canned cheeses, nuts, all of that stuff is great snacks. Don't forget pet food, baby food, special foods for people who have special needs, like someone who doesn't have teeth or someone who is a diabetic, ect...

Water. It's more important than food. You can live longer without food than without water. And it's going to be hot, so you are going to need it. I keep some empty jugs strung together and hanging from a hook in the shed. I do buy water and some soda and such, but I also rinse out and fill up all of those jugs, even soda bottles. Don't forget you need enough for the pets too. Also fill up your tub, your sink, ect...

Here's an article I wrote about preparing for a hurricane. I did this weeks after Katrina when things were fresh in mind, so I probably thought of some important things I didn't think to add here. Also at the bottom of the article are some pictures and info from that time. Might help you make up your mind about leaving or not. That info along with the track of the hurricane, the type of home you live in, the parish you live in, your health, and every thing else, will hopefully help you make the right choice in the next day or so, no matter how hard.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Power of Scent - in Life & Writing

I'm making fig preserves today. I've never made them before, at least not on my own, but when I was growing up I sure did help my mom put up enough fig preserves--and watermelon rinds, mayhaw jelly, pear butter, dew berry jelly, tomatoes, plums, peaches, okra, squash, ect...

Anyway, once those fig preserves got to boiling today, and that scent filled my home, suddenly I was back in my mom's kitchen, I could hear our chatter, the click on the glass jars, the little pops as the jars cooled and the lids seals, I could all but see the sun shinning in the kitchen window over the sink, feel the heat in the room from the big bowling pots, the stiffness in my fingers from using a knife for so long, the sweetness on my tongue because every now and then I'd pop a really rip fig into my mouth instead of tossing it into the bowl.

Funny how that one little scent dancing through my home took me back in time so easily, and how all of those other senses joined in to help me relive those days that I thought I couldn't stand, days that I would give anything to have now.

I hated canning time. It was hot, long work. Too bad I didn't notice all of the fun we had at the same time. Other ladies usually came and helped, some brought their own fruits and vegetables, jars and sugar, ect... Others who didn't have any or much, helped and left with some of the finished products for their time and effort.

I realize now as a grown woman with grown kids of my own, that those were really great days. My mom has been gone for over a decade, most of her friends, the ladies who gathered in our little kitchen and helped, are also gone, but thanks to a big pot of cooking figs, picked from one of my mom's old trees may I add, I spent a few moments in my her kitchen this morning, with all of those voices and sounds and smells and feels surrounding me.

That's how powerful our senses are.

When you are writing a scene, don't forget that power. If you do, you miss sharing a lot of your story with the reader. You miss the chance to bring a scene to life. What does the wind feel like, how warm is it in the living room, is there the sound of a train in the distance, are there wind chimes on the porch that the wind plays through and what does it sound like? How about that chair your character sits in, is it hard and cold, or over stuffed and soft so she sinks into it's comfort? When a character walks into a bar, what dose it smell like, sound like, look like, even feel like? What does the beer he orders taste like? What does it feel like to share a first kiss, to run for your life, to jump into that cold water, to cut your finger, to give up hope, to hold your baby for the first time? What dose an empty house sound like, what about an old car, a thunder storm, the wind through the trees? What does fear taste like, what about a warm plum your character just picked from the tree, or the blood where his lips split when he was punched, or the lips of the woman he loves? What does the sunlight look like through a dusty window, how does a field of wheat look with a storm coming, what about the moonlight on water? Don't forget scent, the sense we started this with. There's the smell of food cooking, of rain on the wind, of hay and horses in a barn, of soap or shaving cream on skin right after a bath, of fresh mowed grass, even of gunfire, traffic and death. After all, the bad things are as important to a story and the setting as the good things.

To wrap this post up without making it the length of a story, let me just say that there's an endless list of things we sense every day and often don't even notice.

Which leads me to a word of warning before I close. Don't overpower us and describe everything, but describe enough of what a character sees, hears, smells, feels, and tastes, to put us there with that character, to put us in the setting, in the moment, to ground us and involve us, but don't burry us. It's a balancing act, using enough without using too much, but most parts of good writing is some kind of balancing act. You'll get better at it the more you try to keep the balance.

(Yes, before you ask about me using the words grown and kids together, I do still call my daughter, who is twenty, a kid. Worse, I do the same to my son, and he's married and twenty-four. hehehe)

Happy writing!

Monday, June 16, 2008

It’s All About Character

When you write a story, there’s a lot of stuff to fill in. Of course there’s the story, the plot as it may be, the telling of the tale. How about the setting, you know, the house, the town, even the kitchen? As you work out all of the hundreds of details that are going to make your story a story, don’t forget to put a little extra sweat into those characters that are going to populate the tale. A great setting, even a strong plot, isn’t going to help much if your characters fall flat.

A character is more than just Bob who lives in a little Northern town and works at the local mill. Bob is who he is, Bob reacts how he reacts, Bob goes and does and says what he does, all because of who he is and what his life is like and what his history is and what his situation is. Tony might live in that same little Northern town and work at the same local mill, but if these two characters were real people and you followed them around for a few days, you would see that they were nothing alike, not inside.

So often when I read the work of new writers, I spot Jane Doe and John Smith over and over again in the writing. It seems every character in the story is the same person. Sure, they have different names, different jobs, lives, are different ages, but they all talk the same, think the same act and react the same. In real life, this doesn’t happen, unless the Pod people show up.

What can you do to keep Jane Does and John Smith from taking over your story?

It’s really easy…okay…it’s kind of easy. It just takes a little work. A little time and effort spent on each character, even that little walk through character that is only going to pop up now and again. This work starts with just thinking about who you want and need a character to be. Then you dig a little deeper. Maybe you do this by just typing in information you think up about him or her, maybe you fill in a character chart on the character or do some kind character interview, or maybe even a mixture of it all. What ever it is, you need to use what tools work for you to help you make those walking bones become flesh and blood. The more important a character is to your story, all the better you should know that character, no matter if she is the heroine or the villain.

Take Bob and Tony.

Bob was born in Louisiana and raised on a small farm. His father was tough and seldom fair. They were poor, and Bob learned to work hard at an early age. As hard as his father could be, he was always gentle and respectful with women. Bob’s mom worked hard on the farm too, because it was a small family farm and it took them all working hard to keep things going, but his father cared for her and protected her, and worked to please her as much as he could.

When Bob was nineteen, they lost the family farm. When his family moved to town and his father took a good job there, Bob felt he was needed any more and for the first time in his life, decided to put his own wants first. He traveled and moved from job to job. Until he landed and settled in that small Northern town where he found a job he loved and people who made him feel welcome. He even liked the weather.

When Bob speaks, you’ll hear his southern drawl. Bob’s family farm raised both sugarcane and milk cows. He knows a lot about both. He isn’t scared of hard work and grew up to be a pretty tough man himself, though unlike his father, he bends over backwards to be fair because he got the wrong end of fair too many times. His views of women and marriage came from his family. He doesn’t plan on divorce and thinks women are strong but need to be cared for. He’s had two serious girlfriends, but things didn’t work out. He’s still looking for the woman he’s going to marry.

Bob also likes spicy foods, strong whiskey but doesn’t drink often, he doesn’t cook anything that takes more than a couple of steps or the pushing of a microwave button, he loves dogs, in fact, he loves all animals and doesn’t hunt, even though he had done so with his father often to put food on the table. Bob likes horror moved, motorbikes, and believe it or not, the smell of flowers because his mother used to almost always keep a bunch of some kind of flowers on the table in the kitchen. The smell of flowers reminds him of her.

Tony grew up one town over from where he works at the mill. His mom was on her third marriage by the time he was ten, but at least Mr. Third had money and staying power. Mr. Third gave in to Tony’s mom anytime she shed a few tears, and she often laughed about what an easy touch he was. The man wasn’t too bad of a stepfather though, and spent time with Tony, took him on out of state hunting and fishing trips each summer.

Tony fits in well with a lot of the people in town. He’s kin to some of them. His stepfather got him the job at the mill. Tony knows this is about his last chance. Mr. Third paid for college….two of them….but Tony ended up flunking out of one and getting kicked out of the other. Mr. Third got him a few jobs during and after, but Tony likes free time a lot better than working.

This time though, his mom has put her foot down. There will be no more schooling, no more handouts, no more anything. Tony will do the best he can at this job and take care of himself, or live on the streets. She no longer cares and isn’t going to see any more money wasted on him.

Tony does a good job at work, but doesn’t do one more thing than he has to, or spend one minute longer there than he has to. He loves to spend his nights off at one of the local bars. He likes junk food better than meals, and his favorite drink anytime of year is ice-cold beer. He’s experimented with some drugs, but nothing too heavy or too often. He dates a lot, but never the same woman for very long. He doesn’t really trust women. They all seem to remind him too much of his mom. It doesn’t take them long to start trying to find out how much he earns and what he owns. Anytime things don’t go their way, they are usually pretty quick to turn on the tears or the guilt. He just doesn’t need the hassle.

He likes war movies and comedies, video and computer games, and spends a lot of time on line.

See, two guys, same age, live in the same town, work at the same job, but if neither would do the same thing for fun or eat the same thing as a favorite, or even react to a woman the same way.

That’s why when you write a story filled with Jane Doe’s and John Smith’s, people talk about cardboard cutouts. If someone reads a chapter of your story and meets three characters in that chapter, each of those characters should be, well, be a character.

If they were talking together, their speech would be a little different. One might have an accent, one might be bad about repeating things, one might curse, another might always have some kind of smart comeback. If someone has a lot of college behind them, they will probably use different words and ways of saying things than someone who didn’t even finish high school. A nurse might compare things to some medical situation, like if someone blushed she might say that the person’s face was as red as if she were burning up with a fever. A Louisiana cook might compare a blush to being as red as a fresh boiled crawfish.

If these characters went out for a meal together, they wouldn’t each order a taco with extra hot sauce and beer in a bottle—unless that was all they could buy there or all they could afford. Even then, they wouldn’t all request extra hot sauce.

Along that same line, they would each pick a different fun evening, a different kind of movie, ect… Even if they all went to the same place or the same movie, they would each act and react differently.

Different is all you have to remember. We are all different, even twins. I have a good friend who has a twin sister. I can’t tell them apart by looking unless it’s one of those times when they aren’t wearing close to the same hairstyle. And yet, if I see one of them in a flower shop, I know which one it is, because the other one doesn’t care for plants at all. If I talk to one of them for a moment, after just a couple of sentences, I know which one I’m speaking too. When we were in high school I could even tell sometimes just by what clothes one was wearing or what kind of notebook one carried. One liked short skirts, one jeans. One liked notebooks with animals on it, and one seemed to always have a solid colored notebook with drawings all over the cover that she did while sitting in class.

So if a reader picks your story, when she meets each character, even if their names aren’t used in a section, just by speech, action, taste and style, they should be able to tell which character is which. And if you know your characters well enough, you should be able to pull that off with ease.

It just takes a lot of work beforehand to make it that easy later.

If you'd like to try one, you can find a free character chart on my website at...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Step Five - And So It Goes

I've actually been writing some.

Still flopping around like a fish tossed up on the sand, but doing better. I'm learning to accept life as it is, my health issues are there and are a part of my life, but people deal with worse and work around it. I'm having a hard time with my blood sugar counts right now--for a few weeks now. They tried upping my meds, adding more meds, and are going to try removing some teeth that aren't the best, to see if that will help. I know something will work soon and my blood sugar will come down and I will feel human again. Until then, I'm going to keep on the best I can keep on.

Back to the writing: I tried starting something new, but got no where fast. I think while I was sick in bed for all those months, I spent too much time thinking about the characters in the book I have started and in a couple I have finished. Those characters won't let go, so it seems hard to move on.

Okay, now what?

I've thought about working on a rewrite of the two short contemporaries I have finished, and then starting a third for the series. I'd like to work on the long paranormal suspense at the same time, after all, it is half completed. Don't know if working on such totally different projects at the same time will be a good thing though.


I'm going to try and focus on one thing, or one project at least. The short contemporary series. The stories are all set in the same town. The work is targeted toward Harlequin American Romance. Before I get too deep in rewrite or start the third book, I thought, what else, but more market research. I wanted to find HQAR books out that were debuts, recent debuts on top of that. Didn't have a lot of luck. Thought I'd settle for new debuts or new books by new authors, even if not their first, and maybe even books that just seemed really strong and got great reviews.

After a whole lot of homework, I ordered five Harlequin American Romance books. The winners are....

Runaway Cowboy by Judy Christenberry

An Unlikely Mommy by Tanya Michaels

Marrying the Boss by Megan Kelly

Down Home Dixie by Pamela Browning

The Best Man's Bride by Lisa Childs

If there's anything that's just as much fun as making up my own stories, it's reading good ones by other authors. This should be lots of fun then, but I'll let you know.

Now, which one do I read first when they all look so good?

To be continued...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

Hi to all you other moms out there. Just wanted to take a second and wish you all a very Happy Mother's Day! By the way, even if you are a mom, if your mom is still around, don't forget to make her the center of your day! It's her Mother's Day too, and you're her baby. Yes, even if you are well over thirty. (Smile) That reminds me. Happy Mother's Day, Mom! I know you're smiling down on me right now, remembering the Mother's Days we had together. I bet you are still laughing over some of the gifts I got you when I was a kid. Like the time I got you shot glasses because I thought they were such cute little glasses. You never said a word about what a shot glass really was. (Smile) Even though you didn't drink or ever use them for anyone else, after I was long grown and you were gone, I found them in the kitchen, in the back of a cabinet. I can't believe you kept those silly things just because I gave them to you. Well, that's not true. Since I'm a mom, I guess I understand.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Great Notebook For Writers - A Real Keep All

When starting a new novel, or even after digging up one of your old ones that needs a little love and care, you need a way to keep up with lots of info. The believability of your story depends on it. Even after you finish the story and send it out, there's tons of stuff to keep track of, like when you mailed that manuscript, who you mailed it to, when it was rejected and by who, and when you sent it back out and to who, ect...

I've found a work in progress notebook that you can buy in print or in e-book, that helps keep it all together, and more. (Nope, I don't get a kick back and didn't even know the author of the book until someone explained what the Novel Notebook was. I just found it so helpful that I wanted to share.)

I've pasted the quote below that I gave Jeannie after using her notebook.

I have the e-doc version of Jeannie Ruesch's Novel Notebook. I'm not the kind of person who gives good quotes unless I mean them, so this is my honest opinion. I love the Novel Notebook because it's a complete keep-everything-in-one-place solution for your novel in progress, and even your completed and submitted novel.

Since Jeannie is a fiction writer herself, she thought of everything a writer would need to keep up with, and placed a section for each in this book. There's places to list everything from your working title and date started to the date completed who you submitted the manuscript to and when.

You'll also find plenty of space to fill in things like characters profiles, info on each chapter, sub plots, conflict, setting descriptions, a timeline chart, and more. Like I said, everything a working writer needs to keep up with about her newest baby, all in one place.

The e-doc version is in Word, so it's simple to make a boxed section bigger when you want to add extra info, or to delete and retype things when you make changes in your story. It's also easy to print up, save to CD or a zip drive, or even send to yourself as an attachment that you can save in an e-mail account that's not on your computer, so you won't lose all of that needed information.

Best Wishes and Happy Writing
Charlotte Dillon

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Step Four - Or Am I Back to Step One?

Since my last post I've spent my free time digging through publishers' guidelines, as well as my to-be-read pile of books, my keeper-pile of books--and reading some of both.

I thought about them all, about what I liked and why I liked them. Seems not a lot has changed, at least not in the last few years. I still like cowboys, paranormal, and suspense. Paranormal suspense wins over just straight romantic suspense, mostly. When it comes to paranormal and suspense, not all of my favorites are romance books though, but they have some of that romance sparkle in them, if not a good romance in them. They just might not have that happy ever after ending.

In fact, two of my favorites are from authors who have the same characters star in book after book. A series of suspense novels by Jeffery Deaver that star criminalist Lincoln Rhyme and his protégé Amelia Sachs. (If you haven't read the books, you might know them from the one book in these series that was made into a movie, The Bone Collector.) Now these books aren't romance, but the building care, trust and love between Lincoln and Amelia is positively a draw for me, along with the great writing and stories.

The second series is from author Kim Harrison. The main star in these books is the witch Rachel Morgan. This is paranormal in a world of its own, wrote in first person of all things. (And I didn't even think I liked first person, but Kim Harrison's stories made me change my mind.) There's some romance in these books too, but no way are these books romance either. Oh, there's also suspense, since a lot of times you think Rachel is going to bite the big one for sure this time. Smile.

Okay, so I know some about today's market, I know what kind of books bring me the most pleasure to read, but I'm still not sure where I'm going. Seems the more I try to focus on it and force myself to settle on the next step, on centering on just exactly what kind of romance I'm going to write, the larger the knot gets in my stomach and the more I feel a building panic taking hold. I think I scared to death of failing again. Of writing the wrong thing, of starting something I won't finish, of spending more of my time writing something that will never see the light day.

Would you believe even scared of making it, of finishing a book and having it published and knowing they are waiting for a next one and me not being able to pull it off again. My sister always says "fear is bondage".

Maybe it's time I work on some of those ties that bind?

To be continued...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Free Workshop to Help You Get Back to Writing or Keep Writing!

I'm so sorry I didn't think to post this until now. We've had a free workshop, Write Like You Mean It, going on over on the main RWC group for a few days. The person giving it is Avon author Jenna Petersen.

RWC is my free Yahoo Group for romance authors. There's still today and all of tomorrow to take part in the workshop, and the posts that have already come in will stay on the group page so as a member, you can go in and look at the ones you've missed. Jenna really shared some great info that went right along with the problems I've been writing about, and lots more.

RWC is a huge group for romance authors, published or not, who are working at being the best writers they can. It's not a social group, so there are a lot of rules that all members have to follow to keep posts under control and make the group easy to use. Of course I expect members to be respectful to each other, so people can't come in and get away with flames and meanness that I've seen on so many groups. In other words, if you can't follow rules or if you like to fight, or if you want to chit chat, RWC isn't the place for you. But if you are a romance writer who can follow the rules and allow others their own opinions, and you are working at being a writer, then RWC might be just the perfect place for you, and I'd love to have you join us, even if it's just to take part in the end of this workshop.

You can find the link to join the main RWC group and more info about it and its sister groups for critiques and more, all here:

Sorry again for not thinking to post this sooner.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Step Three – The Plan… So Far

If what I’ve tried the last few times hasn’t worked, and I’m going to try something new, what should it be? Is there anything new left to even try?

The most success I had at starting back to writing and sticking to it was when I started something brand new. It was a paranormal suspense. That worked out so well for me. I was back on track and seemed to be doing great.

I think if I hadn’t lost my father, got over that only to get sick and find out I was a diabetic, and just get that under control and begin to feel better when I had to deal with hurricane Katrina, I wouldn’t even be writing this now. I would have finished that story and moved on to the next one, and probably the next, and so on. After all, a great agent had read part of the manuscript and was waiting for the complete, the market was hot for that kind of work at the time; I had already basically outlined two more books to follow the first, a series. There were also characters in there that would have been able to carry books of their own, so I could have done many more than the three I had in mind. I was trucking right along and having a good time doing it. Having a good time is important. If you aren’t enjoying your writing, it’s going to be hard to do and the end result is going to show your struggle. At least for me and I think most others.

Maybe the success I had at that time with sticking to it and enjoying writing again was in the fact that I had started something new. I didn’t have to backtrack or repolish or rehash. It was all new and fresh. But if I start something new again, in a few months will I just end up with another half finished manuscript to add to the other three I haven’t completed? I’m just not sure what to do.

Doing nothing isn’t going to work though.

So, I thought some more, and some more. Finally I decided that I’d have to risk the chance of having another half-finished story. Better a half-finished one than nothing. The thought of doing a rewrite on one of my completes right now just holds no interest for me. I’ve tried to keep working almost daily on that paranormal suspense since I’ve started back, tried to keep the story moving forward, but it’s a push every time I open that file, and I feel like the writing I’m doing isn’t going to be something I’m proud of when I’m done. I really think my pushing is showing through and the writing is suffering, like I mentioned above.

If I’m going to start something brand new though, what should it be? At least I’ve already done that taking inventory part. Maybe it’s time to really ask myself what kind of romance story is calling to me now days, and to do a lot of market research.

To be continued….

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Step Two – More Inventory

Since I’ve gone through the rejections and figured out what I did when, I supposed the next step would be to see just what I’ve got--written that is.

To that end, I went through my computer files and non-computer files and found all of my novel-length romance fiction, completed or not. I listed them under completed, partial, or openings. I realized I had jumped around a bit. In my romance fiction I found short contemporaries, long contemporaries, long western historicals, suspense, paranormal, and even paranormal suspense. Okay, so I need focus. No one can write in that many styles can they?

Yet more inventory. I went to my bookshelves and scanned titles and authors. If I was going to try and focus in on one or two kinds of romance, then maybe seeing what kind I read the most would help me figure out where my heart really was and what manuscript I had that I should turn my full attention to.

Surprise, there was a big mixture in my bookshelves too. But I was looking for a recurring pattern, a majority. I kind of ended up with a four-way tie though, between short and long contemporaries, paranormal, and suspense. Simplified, I came up with contemporaries with or without paranormal and with or without suspense.

What about sexual content? A mixture there two, but at least there seemed to be a clear majority in that area, which was simply the middle ground. I had only a handful of what you would call sweet romances, and less than that of what you would call erotica. Of course that could just be because the middle ground is what’s the most available. So I’ve decided not to put too much weight on that part of my inventory. In fact, I think you could be comfortable or happy reading some types of sexual content that you might not be happy writing. I know some of my work is about as hot as good soaking bath water, while other stuff might nearly boil that water.

With all of that inventory behind me, I went back to my files. I don’t have anything I’d send out without a rewrite. What I’ve been working on since I started back writing is a manuscript that was about halfway done when I stopped writing before. It doesn’t seem to be working for me this time either.

So, should I do some rewrites on the finished manuscripts and get them out there? Should I finish this partial or another one of my particles and get one or more of them out there? I have three particles, each halfway or better done. One is a very old western historical, the other two are long contemporaries, one more of a paranormal and one more of a paranormal suspense.

My mind screamed for me to pick the easiest, which would be to polish one of those completes up. The responsible side of me said to finish the particle I’ve started back to working on. After all, how many times have I told other writers to finish what they start or they’ll end up with a pile of started manuscripts and never complete a single one of them.
The realistic side of me--boy I have a lot of sides--says none of this is, or has, worked for me the last few times I’ve tried to get back into the habit of being a full-time fiction writer.

So, now what? I guess it’s time to find another way to skin a cat.

To be continued….

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Step One - Taking Inventory of Your Writing

To move forward, you kind of need to know where you’ve been.

I did something today that I think would benefit a lot of my fellow writers who are struggling. See, I save rejection letters. I know, sounds kind of morbid, but it's really very smart and helpful. I will admit that even with time, there's a sting to seeing those rejections, but there's a lot of information in those letters too. (Hint, if you don't do so, start saving your rejection letters in a nice neat folder.)

I got my rejection folder out today and put the rejections from publishers for each story in a pile of its own. Just the novel-length fiction stuff, since that's what I've decided to concentrate on.

I was shocked when I realized a lot of things by digging through those rejections. First, the pile for my last completed manuscript was small. I had only sent it out to publishers twice. Only two times! And, gulp, the last time was in 2002. That was a hard blow. It's 2008. That means in the last six years I haven't completed one novel-length story and haven't even sent my old fiction stuff out to one publisher.

Kind of hard to make a sale when the work is in your computer. (I've told that to hundreds of starting writers over the years. I always say, "Finish that manuscript, set it aside and double check your homework on where you are going to send it, give it a last polish, then get that query in the mail and get to work on that next manuscript. After all, you can't get published unless you finish the manuscript, often a number of them first, and send them out." That's very true.)

Too bad some where along the way I stopped listening to myself.

I learned some good things too though, by looking through my rejections. The ones from the last couple years I was submitting work was personal rejections with comments from the editors on what they felt worked and what they felt didn't. They were also mostly rejections on completes, since it seemed almost every query earned me a request for a complete or at least a partial. In other words, I was doing something right. I was getting some where.

By 2000, I hadn't written fiction for a number of years, doing freelance writing instead because it offered something fiction didn't--a steady paycheck that came every other week. In 2000 I went back to romance, but looking over my records I discovered I gave it a very short two year go, and then I lost my father, and put all writing aside for a while. I've started back a few times since then, but never really got the ball rolling. I got close a couple of times, and then something else big happened, and I just gave right in. I even went back to non-fiction a little over a year ago and completed a book, found an agent for it, and it's been shopped around. Still, I've done little more than start and stop with my fiction since I stopped writing it for fulltime non-fiction work.

The truth is, I'm not in my twenties any more. Okay, or my thirties. It's time to, excuse my French, but as my mom used to say, "It's time to piss or get off the pot." As I've mentioned before, I've tried to get off the pot, but it's like I've got an evil twin in me that loves writing and loves writing fiction best of all and won't let me forget about it.

That's why I sat down and went through those records today. I've been working hard on making fiction writing a daily -- at least five days a week anyway -- habit for me. It's not getting much easier, so I've decided I've got to be doing something wrong, or maybe I'm wrong, and I can walk away and just haven't tried hard enough. Before I toss in the towel on all of the years of work I've put into romance writing and helping other writers write it, I've decided to step back and take a long hard look at what has worked for me, what hasn't, and what I want and what my writing goals really are.

I started with those rejection letters today. If you are kind of in the same spot, that might be a good place for you to start too, even if you don't have them all in one folder, you probably have them jotted down or recall most of them. Maybe you even have better records, like of when you started each manuscript and when you completed it.

If you look over any of the dates above, and you find that they are way far apart, maybe like me, you need to get your ducks in a row, make a plan, set some goals, apply your butt to the chair and get to it -- or get off the pot.

Okay, so now I need a plan and a goal, oh, and some ducks.

To be continued....

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Getting Back to Writing

As many of you know, I've been sick for a long time. I was in bed for months, but I'm getting well enough to get back to life. Well enough to get back to writing. Every time I've taken a break from writing though, getting back to it seems almost as hard as getting through what ever took me away from it. They say once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget. That doesn't mean you're likely to go jump back on one either though.

When we take a long break from writing, I don't think we forget how to do that either, it's the jumping back on, or jumping back in as it may be, that gives us the trouble.

I still know how to write, and the story I was working on and the one I was editing are both still alive in my mind, but it's like they are on life-support. Getting them breathing again, getting me writing again, might take a little CPR.

Having been through this before, I know there comes a point where you just have to stop putting it off, set a date and jump in. I started Monday. It was supposed to be Monday morning, but I had some really important things I had to handle first. Like, well, there was these dirty clothes in the bathroom, and I found grime in the kitchen sink. Oh, and Monday's are good days to pay the bills, and who wants to start writing when you have a backlog of mail in the in box. Then the dogs did kind of need a bath, and there was.... See, all very important things that couldn't be put off. Right?

Finally I took hold of myself, forced my butt into the computer chair, fought with my hand to keep it from opening up my e-mail program, and made it open the file that held my incomplete manuscript instead -- and then stared at it for a good fifteen minutes as my brain rebelled and other things tried to call me away.

After that, I began by reading over the last chapter I had written. Funny how I recalled some of it so well and wondered if someone else had written other parts of it while I had been away. I had to resist the urge to go back to page one and read the whole story away. I need to do that I'm sure, but I needed to write first. In the end, before I closed the file, I wrote two pages. Yes, two pages, that's it. Those were two very hard pages to write. It felt like trying to get ice out of a cactus.

The next day, I found things to do, and I didn't feel very well, but I opened that manuscript a little sooner than the first day, and I did two pages again. The last half a page was a real push. I had wanted to go up a page and do three, but I knew when it was time to call it a day and let myself be satisfied with what I had accomplished. Today, I've already done my two pages, hoped for three again, but didn't make it again. It's early enough though, that there's a chance I might get brave enough to give it another try. No, I'm not going to count this as writing, since it's non-fiction and my goal is fiction.

I'm not going to be too hard on myself either. After all, I'm in training. At least that's the way I look at it. My husband runs marathons. The full ones. You know, the 26.2 mile ones! (Bless his crazy little heart.) He trains for weeks before one. When he starts out, he doesn't run 26.2 miles, or even 13 miles, or eight. He starts small and just keeps building. It's a daily thing for him.

When I first got where I could get out of bed again, walking through the house left me winded and feeling like I had been doing one of his workouts. Being up on my feet for more than a little while left my back feeling like it would break just from holding me up right. I didn't push myself and go outside and walk for an hour...although I used to walk at least an hour five days a week. I just kept walking around the house, standing longer, sitting longer. Slow day after slow day. Now I can walk for thirty minutes or more before I start wearing down. I can stand up for an hour and half or longer before my back screams enough. I got here, and will get further, by taking it easy on myself, going at my own speed, and getting back to what once was my normal at a comfortable pace for my body.

I'm handling my writing the same way. Right now my goal is to write at least five days a week. Even if it's only two pages, or even if it's less. I'll keep building, letting my writing muscles get stronger, and one day I'll be back to where I was. I've never been one of those writers who can put out twenty pages a day, but on good days I used to be able to pull ten or so. I will again, if I hang in there and don't give up.

By the way, friends have asked me why I don't just give up. If it's that hard to get back to it, then why not just call it a day and move on to something else? I've asked myself that before. Okay, I've screamed that at myself a lot of times.

This is not by far my first long spell away from writing. I didn't write for over a year after I lost my mother, for months after my father died, for months after we recovered from hurricane Katrina. One time I just found myself depressed with all of the rejections and with all the wasted time I had put into my writing and gotten no where. Another time I gave up my fiction writing to do freelance non-fiction for a few years so I could help pay the bills. When I started the freelance work, I thought I could do both, but I was so drained by the time I finished my deadline and turned in my work each week, there just was no writing left in me for my fiction.

So, if I've had to fight so many times to get back to my fiction, why keep fighting? I wish I knew. I've tried to walk away for good a number of times. I really have.

The same thing happens every time though. Once the bad gets better and I start getting over that black spell of time, whatever it may be, the characters in my stories won't stay out of my head. I think about my storylines, about my characters, I plot things out, build in more conflict, map out whole scenes in my mind. Openings for new stories pop into my thoughts, new characters show up and whisper something like, "Do you want to know why I fell in love with him?" The next thing I know, even if I'm not writing, it's taking up such a big part of my life, that there's just no way to completely give it up.

That means the choice becomes either keeping these stories growing only in my mind, or sitting back down at the computer, opening up Word, and getting on with it. It's like one part of me fights getting back to it, but another part fights just as hard to get back to it, and I'm just caught in the middle and finally have to give in and go with the stronger part--that writer in me that won't say die. (Wonder if there's a 12-step program out there for it?)

So, here I go again!

If you've got that stronger writer part in you, and you can't get away from it even when you try your best. Maybe it's time you give in and start back. Answer that character that won't leave you alone, that story that keeps plotting itself out even as you try to block it. If I'm brave enough to give it another go for the I-don't-know-how-manyth time, I know you are.

All we have to do is take one step at a time...or just write one word at a time. The story you finish this time might be the one that helps you reach whatever your goal is.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Last Update of My Sister's Grandbaby

I want to thank everyone who sent prayers, light and good wishes for my sister's grandbaby. Each time I asked, there was an outpouring of the above. I'm very grateful for each and every message and post that was sent. This time I'm asking for those same things for my sister and her daughter. The baby lost his fight last weekend. They said he wouldn't make it to two years, but he made it two months longer than that. It was a hard two years though. He went through so much, hurt so much, that as sad as I am that he is gone, I'm glad that he isn't hurting or having to fight anymore. He was a strong little boy who smiled through things that would have made a grown man cry.