Monday, January 31, 2011

Influence of Art upon the Soul!

Haven’t we all at some time in our lives let ourselves become so immersed in a novel that people can talk to us, make faces at us, and still we remain oblivious to their presence. Well, I have, even if you haven’t.  I can remember my mother once said that if the house caught fire I wouldn’t notice until I actually felt the heat. ;) 

I’ve spent moments of snatched bliss with mediaeval knights and soldiers of fortune throughout the ages. I've adored secret service agent types, and best of all, fell in love with countless romantic heroes: mostly men in suits or uniform. But of all the books I’ve read, and of all the wonderful authors who brought characters alive for me, not one can I say has influenced my writing.  My taste in reading is eclectic at best and if my writing ever inspired by such, I think all my novels would resemble chaos.

Imagine a mediaeval knight on a quest for the Holy Grail galloping his brave mount through a wood. Add a contemporary secret service agent concealed behind a tree expecting a drug baron-cum-weapons dealer to show up for a meeting with some low hood. Now think of a couple in a car looking for a quiet nooky spot. Who gets the first drop? The knight sword to belt, the secret agent gun to holster, and what of the innocent couple who witness events?  I guess, on reflection, this sort of sequence could quite easily appear in the TV drama Midsomer Murders: the county where murder is a daily hazard and bizarre plots order of the day. But in a book this theme would only pass muster as paranormal fantasy involving parallel worlds.

So No, no one author has inspired or influenced my writing.  Artwork inspires my novels, so I guess you could say artists influence my writing by their artistic imagery. In effect my conscious mind sees the image in art gallery. I’m prone to ponder over people portraits  - what they might be thinking and who they really are behind the artistic mask - and even when the artist has drawn from his/her own imagination I still ponder who and what the people are.  The subconscious then plays devil’s advocate with overnight dreams in which portraits come alive and reveal character stories. I then feel compelled to re-paint their stories in words.  

Drama lessons in my youth involved the art of scriptwriting, so scene setting and time frames comes easily per scene take and soon fit with overnight dream sequences. The hardest part is the time it takes to get every scene running smooth to next and down in Word format. ;)       

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Whose shoulders am I standing on?

We weren't allowed a television, so I've been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. I wasn't keen on Dick, Jane and Spot, but I adored Ramona Quimbley. I loved L. Frank Baum's Oz books. In school, we read the classics, but at home I reveled in Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. A cancelled airplane flight led me to Bertrice Small and the world of romance. I knew I'd found my literary home.

3-Act story structure is what I would have learned if I hadn't tried to be a physics major in college. Or a mother, wife, gardener, wage-earner in real life. It's never too late, though. This winter I've studied Syd Field and Larry Brooks, and I now understand how a plot should unfold.

The craft of writing serves many masters. I just finished writing the text for my CSA's new website, and am editing web copy for my soup business' new home party plan. These don't have plots, but they have purpose. And players, and dreams, and needs, and hopes. I will have done all I can to generate work for the employees who depend on me.

And I'll be able to get back to my WIP.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Welcome to Margaret West

Born in England, Margaret moved to the Kent countryside five years ago to get away from the busy life in London. She is married with two grown up children and has worked in various fields of work. She is a Clairknowing medium, Crystal Therapist, Parapsychologist and Psychic Development tutor. She has been writing for over 20 years and has numerous short stories, novels and articles published. Margaret writes romance and paranormal romance, incorporating her spiritual experiences into her books

Her love for literature extends from writing to reading and she is always willing to embrace new ideas and philosophies. She likes nothing more then to sit with a good book in the quiet realms of the countryside, with her dogs, Odin and Chester. A true animal lover, Margaret’s warmth and sensitivity is reflected in her writing.

Her latest release is Abigail Cottage, a dark paranormal romance where love and honour clash with deception and terror. When Abigail falls in love with Justin she can’t begin to know the world of hurt she is heading into. Gorgeous, kind, rich – he’s the man we all dream to meet. BUT, all is not what it seems because Justin is a true demon from hell, disguised as a mortal being. He wants her and will do, kill or maim anyone who tries to stop him. Namely Shaun the real hero, who wants Abigail more! So what does a mortal man do against a demon? He enlists the help of a gypsy of course. But not any old gypsy. Rosa knows Justin very well and has the powers of the spirit world on her side to fight him. Using crystals as a powerful weapon, the light of the spirit world to lead them, they embark on a battle with the whole of the underworld. Many loved ones will lose their lives. This isn’t a book where everyone survives. In real life, bad things happen. In Abigail Cottage, terrible tragedies occur too. Believe... not every story can have a happy ending.
You can order it here:

Today Margaret gives us some great advice about writing dialogue:

If I could write a book on the amount of questions that I’ve been asked with regards to dialogue – it would be an epic! Realistic dialogue doesn’t always come easily to everyone. But I can’t tell you how important it is. Dialogue advances a story and fleshes out the characters while providing a break from straight exposition. But, nothing pulls the reader out of a story faster than bad dialogue. It takes time to develop a good technique, but here are a few guidelines that I use which might help.

Listen to how people talk. Don’t become a stalker or anything! Just eavesdrop and scribble down phrases you like. The right words can bring a character to life. Likewise, the wrong word/phrase can destroy the reader’s belief in the character. For instance, it’s unlikely that a builder would say “goodness me” or a solicitor will say “blimey. Dialogue should read like real speech. But, in saying that, real speech has words and sounds that would be distracting if included on a page. Words like “uh” and “oh” makes does not make dialogue sound more realistic. These extraneous words will make your work look unprofessional.

Now comes the tricky part. Cut words and phrases out that don’t serve the conversation’s purpose. What I mean by that is, any dialogue should move the story forward while bringing your characters to life. If it doesn’t, you don’t need it. It’s easy to slip down the slope of providing too much information at once through dialogue. It should never be obvious that you’re communicating information; otherwise you run the risk of info dumping. Give no character more than three uninterrupted sentences at once. You can trust the reader to remember details from earlier in the story. Make sure you break up dialogue with action, because physical details help to break up the words on the page. In other words it allows the reader to visualise the scene you are trying to set.

Tag lines, goodness me. What do we do with these? Either there are too many, or not enough. The really can be the bane of writer’s lives to write and read. The secret is, don’t try too hard to vary them. Veering too much beyond “he said/she said” draws attention to the tags. Readers tend to skim over them anyway. I know I do. If you write “interjected,” or “he sighed,” you’ve now drawn the reader out of the action you’re trying to create. If your dialogue is working, you won’t have to say any of these words in the tag line. Most of all, punctuate dialogue correctly. Nothing is more distracting to a publisher/Editor than a writer who doesn’t know how to use punctuation. A polished MS is no good if it’s covered in punctuation errors.

It’s a tough world for writers out there. I wish everyone the best of luck.

Thank you so much for being with us today, Margaret. We wish you continued success with your writing.

Margaret can be found at:
Writers Blog:
Paranormal Blog:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What Will They Remember?

I think the most memorable couple I've ever read about in a romance is Mariah Calloway and Ford Dunning in the book Mariah by Sandra Canfield. This book was released in the 80s through the SuperRomance line at Harliquin. I've read this story so many times I've memorized many of the passages and my copy is as dog-earred as they get.

Mariah is a wanderer, a been-there-done-that kind of person. Ford is a non-conventional minister. Theirs is a beautiful love story. And the best part, is after their happily-ever-after, I get to peek into their lives to see what happens afterwards, as the book is the beginning of a series: Calloway Corners. It continues with stories about Mariah's sisters: Jo, Tess, and Eden. (All written by different authors, but continuing the threads begun by their fellow writers in each of the previous books.)

By the time I read Mariah I already knew I wanted to write a romance someday. But what this book inspired me to aim for was a series of books, each featuring their own hero and heroine, but connected through the characters who appear in each as secondary characters.

It's a dream come true to be writing the third in my series right now. I hope that I, like Sandra and her friends, can create not only characters my readers relate to, but a world they want to return to again (and again) to find out what happens after the happily ever after.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What do I try to achieve?

Going back to the original topic for this week of what I try to achieve: for me, it’s not just memorable characters, but the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve created the very best story I can.
Once the really hard work (for me anyway) of actually creating the plot with its conflicts, high and lows, is over, I enjoy concentrating on the detail. When I first start writing the story, my characters are shadowy and undeveloped. By the time I finish the first draft, I know them inside out. I can see and hear them, I feel their happiness and despair, I empathise with my heroine and I’ve fallen in love with my hero. Now I have to find the right words to show exactly what they are experiencing (and check out the over-used words, of course!). I also have to ensure that the story flows - hence my current work on my WIP which has involved changing some events around and creating more interaction between hero and heroine, rather than involving secondary characters too much.
I once read that the words ‘That’ll do’ should never be used by a writer, and I agree. Instead, the writer should say be able to say ‘I’ve worked damned hard to achieve the very best I can produce.’
And yes, I also want to be published. Not for any glory or money though. Even in my Mills and Boon/Harlequin heyday in the 60’s and 70’s, I didn’t earn anywhere near enough money to allow me to retire from my real-time work (although the six-monthly fairly large cheques were very welcome, of course!). My sole reason for wanting to be published is to have the approval of my writing by a professional editor. Something I wouldn’t have if I self-published.
Having said that, when I was writing my fan-fiction stories and ‘publishing’ them on a West Wing yahoo group and then online fan-fiction sites, it was gratifying to get a lot of positive comments from readers. Not just the friends in the yahoo group, but total strangers who read my stories on the two fan-fic sites where I published them. To get a message that someone has added my story, or me as an author, to their ‘favourite’ list is always a big boost to my morale! I even got a couple in the last two days, so people are still reading my stories and enjoying them. Which leads me on to:
What do I want to achieve for my readers?
Simply to enjoy my story - that’s enough for me!
Writing a best-seller and making pots of money so that I could buy one of those very nice houses I saw at the beautiful Zuma Beach in California or maybe a cottage on the west coast of Ireland would be good, but I have no illusions about that ever happening. Anyway, I’m happy enough here in my small house!
In the early 70’s, one of my novels was serialised in about 10 parts in a women’s magazine here. About three years later, I happened to be talking to someone who said she bought that magazine each week. So I just ‘happened’ to mention (like you do!) that my story had been in the magazine. She asked what it was about, I told her it was set in the Lake District, and she said ‘Oh yes, I remember that one, it was a great story.” And I knew from what she went on to say that she really did remember it. Maybe the fact that I can recall that small incident (from over 30 years ago) shows how much it meant to me. For that person, at least, my story had been memorable. What more can I ask?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Memorable Characters

Creation of Memorable Characters

I must confess to rather liking good/bad girls. Francine wrote about Scarlett. I always think Scarlett is a good/bad girl. For someone who courageously battles against tremendous odds she is spectacular stupid at times. Her unrequited love for Ashley surely proves that. But how clever of Margaret Mitchell to make us like and dislike her.

One of my favourite good/bad girls if Amber in Forever Amber.(Forever Amber by Kathleen Windsor). Here is a woman who is a survivor, dragging herself up from the bottom of the ladder to become the mistress of the Merry Monarch, marrying very wealthy men on the way. However, in spite of her courage and determination, she too persists in her love for a man who doesn’t love her, and will never marry her. Like Ashley Wilkes, Amber’s Bruce is a drip of a man, and cruel too.

I don’t have good bad/girls in my books. I like my characters, although they might have one or two faults but they could not be described as good/bad girls. I particularly like Maddie in Eden’s Child. I have always had a soft spot for Maddie, not only is she courageous but she is kind and good too. She is attracted to my hero but he cannot abide her. Yet Nevis is not an Ashley Wilkes or a Bruce. He is all man and I confess to still being in love with him.

I remember all my characters. Of course I do, and I imagine other writers can too, but are they memorable to my readers? I have no idea for if you have a response from a reader it is usually immediately after they have read the book. If they do remember them for much longer I doubt I will ever know. I try to make them memorable…do I succeed? I wish I knew!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Creation of Memorable Characters! Are mine to be forgotten?

The burning question: have I created memorable characters and is their story as stunning as I would hope for? 

If I’d written “Gone With The Wind” I would be Margaret Mitchell. No doubt she felt chuffed to bits when her blockbuster hit the bookstands and became a best-seller overnight. But, a lingering question has always surrounded Margaret Mitchell’s one-book deal. “Why did she only ever write the one book?” But she didn’t, did she, she wrote “Lost Laysen”, a novella. And, it was written ten years before GWTW!

Who can’t remember Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), Scarlett O’Hara (Vivienne Leigh), Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) and Melanie Wilkes (Olivia de Havilland)? OK, so the movie itself has visualised the characters for us. The novel, if read, is memorable in other ways. Its detailed descriptions of time and place and vivid characters leap from the page and all, as good as, if not better than the movie portrays.

Have you heard of Miss Ross & Bill Duncan? NO? Well you’re not alone. Yet, Miss Ross and Bill Duncan are as vibrant and intriguing as Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara, and equally spring from the pages of “Lost Laysen” in a flurry of romantic notions and that of unrequited love. 

Now, if I can write novels again in which characters as good as leap from the page and become real people – if but for a moment in time – perhaps even memorable long after the book has been read and put away, I shall be a happy bunny. As for Margaret Mitchell, the kind of fame and momentary glitz and glamour that came her way has never been my dream.  If it ever threatened, I’d do a Greta Garbo and rely on mystique of shades! ;)  

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Let me Count the Ways

Why do I want to be published?
I love how I feel when the words flow, when I find ones that convey precisely what I want to say.
I appreciate how I've learned to accept, even savor, praise from others for my word-slinging. I value myself more than before I became a writer.
I'd giggle all the way to the bank if I earned money from my prose
I've learned things during my lifetime--some the hard way. I hope to weave those insights into my work, a bit here, a dribble there.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Welcome to Fiona McGier

Welcome to our first Friday Friend of 2011, Fiona McGier.
Fiona lives in a suburb west of Chicago with her husband of almost 30 years, and 3 of their 4 children. Her Mom taught her to read before she started kindergarten and used to enjoy listening in on the stories Fiona created as she played with her Barbies on the front porch.
Fiona got an English degree with a specialty in the teaching of writing. Her dream job would be to help teenagers find their unique voices, and hone their skills at expressing themselves. She began writing down her stories 4 years ago, after her Dad passed away and she felt a need for happy endings in her she wrote them. The first book in her Reyes Family Romances series was published by Wings E-Press in April, 2009. She is fascinated by how men and women relate to each other, and how family can influence one's romantic choices.
Fiona has always had stories in her head, with characters telling her about their lives. She really enjoys letting them guide her typing. Now that her four children are young adults she hides from everyone for hours, letting the stories come to life. She hopes that you enjoy your short trip into her mind as you meet the heroines and heroes who live there, and now on these pages also.

Alpha you, alpha me, alpha who?

Okay, so we all know what makes an alpha male hero in a romance novel, right? He's the take-charge kind of guy who has spent years honing his skills at...whatever...and has had no time for love. Oh he makes time for sex, because an alpha male is hard all of the time...and huge, really huge. But once he falls in love with the heroine, all of that huge hardness is used just to pleasure her. When he's not rescuing her from that she will see once and for all just how much he loves her. From that point on they will stop their verbal sparring because it was after all, just them both covering up how interested they really were in each other. And he will give up all other women (though they will continue to throw themselves at him, because his undeniable huge, hot, hardness attracts them like moths to a flame), but he forevermore will bring it on home to the little woman because he's now a tamed alpha-male. Ri-ight.

Even if you accept the above as a perfect description of a hero, what part do you want to play in that fantasy? Personally I've never been the "little woman" kind of gal. I mean I do want my man to be faithful, and in return so am I. But waiting around to be rescued, or doing stupid things to endanger myself so I need rescuing, just isn't my style.

Me, I like to imagine myself as the alpha female heroine. I'm the woman who is busy pursuing my own career, taking and discarding lovers as the mood strikes me...and of course, all men find me hot because I'm so damn irresistible and I emit pheromones that drive them insane with the promise of unimaginable pleasure to be had by having sex with me! If there are evil-doers to be fought, I kick bad-guy butt with gusto and almost always I come out on top. When I don't, the hero is there as my back-up and he lets me know in no uncertain terms that I now "owe him"...and we will both enjoy the payback.

So who do I want to be my hero? An alpha male, with whom I will continually butt heads? Maybe. This might work, as long as he's an alpha in a different kind of career choice, or he's becoming tired of being in charge all of the time. How about a beta male? The nurturing, dependable sort who's always got my back, but who is more than willing to let me be on top, as long as the goal of mutually-explosive pleasure is achieved? In my opinion, beta males don't have to be weak or ugly. They can be any combination of strength, good looks and sex appeal; they are as varied as alpha males...only less bossy.

The main attribute of any hero I write is he doesn't want to tame an alpha female-- he just wants to enjoy her. Alpha or beta, he will soon learn that the pleasure he can share with an alpha female is well worth him learning to take turns being on top. And she won't be dependent on him, so he will have to always be seeking new ways to please her, so she doesn't lose interest and wander off. In return she will bring him to new heights of ecstasy beyond anything he ever dreamed of before. An alpha female is not "a good girl"...but she is very good at what she does!

How about you? Do you like to read about alpha females?

Speaking of alpha females, the heroine of my new book, Secret Love, is one. Secret Love is published by Whiskey Creek Press--

It is the story of a female spy who has been working in a man's field, following the same rules as her peers, for years. No emotions are allowed, because they interfere with the job to be done. What happens when she falls in love with a man she thought would just be an amusing interlude in-between jobs?

Blurb: Sheena has spent 12 years working for a government agency so secret that she didn't even learn what it was called for a year! She enjoys the work, but is getting bored. She tries her usual cure; a new man. But something about this one is different; she develops feelings. And in her world, even having feelings is dangerous. Indulging them by falling in love can be deadly!

A sudden intake of breath from the woman to her right interrupted her reverie and Sheena focused on the present, listening to what her neighbor was saying to her friend.
“Mon dieu, can it really be him?”
“Oui,” the friend answered. “I read that he is in Berlin for a film, doing some scenes that have required street closings around some parts of the city. Hadn’t you noticed?”
“Non, but I am noticing him now!”
Wondering just who had walked in, causing such open drooling from the somewhat jaded yet sophisticated crowd frequenting the local safe house bar, Sheena turned to see if it was a celebrity she’d already managed to have a liaison with, or a new one. She didn’t get much time off, but she made it a priority to be sure there were many attractive men around wherever she chose to spend her off time.
Since she’d become a master at disguising, she could change her appearance so completely there was no danger anyone would recognize her unless she wanted them to. So she had felt free to sample interesting men the world over, and she still saw her ability to only have a short-term, quickie relationship with anyone she wanted as a perk and not a liability. To quote from an old pop song, she worked hard for her money, and she allowed herself to play just as hard between assignments.
It didn’t take long to see just who it was the women were talking about. He was much more attractive in real life than he was in movies. Not that Sheena had much time or use for movies, but she did live on the planet Earth, and he’d been in a couple of big releases that had made him internationally famous.
He was tall and dark, his skin a reddish-brown color that bespoke of his Native American ancestry. He filled out his clothing well; the rolled-up sleeves on his casual jacket showed muscular forearms hinting at even more toned muscles hidden by his shirt. His broad shoulders made Sheena drool, as she imagined herself held down by those strong arms. He had fairly long straight black hair that shimmered like black silk whenever he turned his head. His eyes were dark and inquisitive as he scanned the place for a seat.
She could feel herself growing warm and moist as she watched him walking over to the bar. She knew he was having that same effect on most of the women, and on quite a few of the men as well.
Well now, if you aren’t the answer to my current dilemma? Getting you into my bed tonight would be a real coup! You don’t have the reputation of being a player, and there’ll be lots of competition, trying to get to you first! I just love a real challenge! At that moment he finished ordering his drink and looked around the bar. He met her gaze and there was a glint of interest, then what appeared to be a challenge from him.
Sheena felt herself getting even more interested. Okay, then, the game’s afoot!
It seemed odd for someone so famous to be unaccompanied by security of any kind, but a quick glance at the door told her his guards were there, being detained because of the weapons they were trying to enter the place with. After all, what was the point of a safe house for agents, neutral ground for everyone to feel secure on, if anyone, especially amateur muscle, could just stroll in with major weaponry? And of course since his security men weren’t agents, just hired guards, they had no idea what some of the people in the bar might be capable of.
Sheena chuckled to herself thinking about what the few she recognized, and she herself, were able to do to someone with their bare hands—no weapons required! In the meantime, the adorable American actor was being set upon by would-be suitors, almost like jackals on a dead thing. They circled him, making their moves with all of the subtlety of a sledge hammer. For his part he was gracious, but firm; he declined everyone’s offer and asked just for some privacy.
Eventually his guards were able to move in to sit close enough to scare away the civilians. The only other real challenge to her getting through to the object of her interest was a German agent she recognized from an assignment a couple of years ago when she’d worked with him. Since the actor wasn’t known for being gay, she figured that meant she had a clear shot at him. She spent a minute figuring out how to approach him.
When she looked over at him again, she was surprised and amused to find that he was watching her almost expectantly.
Hello, Mr. Gorgeous! You are almost making it too easy! The direct approach it is then! She got up and walked toward the back of the bar, as if she was heading to where the restrooms were located. At the last minute she ducked past the security guys and walked directly up to him. He’d been watching her walk, with a small smile playing around his lips…those kissable-looking lips.
She quickly closed the distance between them then pulled his head down and kissed him. Since he was sitting on the stool and she was standing, they were about the same height. He tasted good, like the beer he’d been drinking, a touch of garlic, and a very sexy man.
When she drew back he had a surprised look on his face. She felt the animosity being directed toward her from the guards behind her, but he looked at them over her shoulder and shook his head. Instantly the hostility level lessened and the part of her that had begun to tense in reflex-anticipation was allowed to quiet down. “Not much of a conversationalist, are you?” he teased in a low, sexy voice. “Not one to bother with pick-up lines, or even so much as a by your leave, before you make your move?”
She smiled at him, tossing her long red hair back.
“I was just on my way to the ladies room. And I noticed you watching me. So I figured I’d answer the question for both of us.”
“What question is that?”
“What you taste like,” she purred at him.
The heat playing back and forth between them was making her sweat with anticipation. Her nipples had puckered to rock-like hardness, and she was glad she had a bra on to stop them from tearing through her dress. Warmth was beginning to spread through her abdomen, and her inner thighs already had a heightened sensitivity, making her lace thong feel maddeningly restrictive.
“Can I guess what the second question is?” he asked, while his hand raised goose bumps along her skin, trailing a path from her neck down her arm, ending with her hand. He raised her hand to his lips, gently kissing the back of her knuckles, and smiled at her.
When she nodded, he said, “Can I have some more?”
She gave him a very serious look. “That depends.”
“On what?”
“Why don’t you let me finish my trip to the bathroom, then we can talk about that when I get back?” she said with a smile, licking her lips.

Thanks for being with us today, Fiona - and very best wishes for your ongoing success!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Results

On a comment yesterday I made a guess as to which words were going to come up in the "Wordle" test on my books and manuscripts. Now, I only did the first chapters of each, but the results were surprising:

First, my predictions: then, he, she, heart, was

The actual results:

This Time for Always: turned, place, eyes, around, hand, bar, back

Wild Wedding Weekend: stage, woman, right, one, show, know

This Can't Be Love: back, one, head, around, know, time, long, tub

"This Feels Like Home" (WIP): really, head, eyes, like, away, around, dance

In many cases some of the most oft repeated words helped to set the scene a bit. In Always, Logan has come back to town to buy the bar Sharlie manages. In WWW Noah and Abby are on a gameshow. In Love Jessica finds Zach in the bathtub. And in "Home" we're back at the bar again.

Words I'm going to be on the lookout for are: around, back, one, eyes, and know. Around came up in three out of the four searches. Interesting. Apparently I'm not a good guesser!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Her heart did what?

When I was editing ‘Fragrance of Violets’, I ran a ‘find’ on the times I used the word ‘heart’ and looked at all the verbs which followed. These included:
jerked, thundered, hammered, ached, missed a beat, contracted, pounded, beat faster, sank (and sank lower), leapt, jumped, jolted, thudded, thumped, dropped, quickened, fluttered and raced.
Before my poor heroine had a massive heart attack, I went to her rescue and changed a lot of these to a different reaction.

I knew already that ‘heart’ was one word I used too much, and I knew of others e.g. then, just, still, glance(d) and (a)round

I’ve recently discovered which creates a word diagram, showing in larger letters the words you’ve used most in a chapter. Inevitably, the names of the characters appear in the largest letters, but I’ve been shocked to discover how many other words I over-use i.e. words I didn’t realise I over-used – ‘but’ being the main offender in the most recent chapter of my WIP.
Lesser used words appear in smaller type – but even the middle-sized ones can show anything between 15 and 40+(!) uses of that word in a chapter.

I shall run every chapter through wordle in future. I’ve realised that the effort to avoid my over-used words is a good exercise in finding alternative ways of saying things and, hopefully, will result in a better writing style.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Demon Words

There are lots, sometimes I am amazed how these little devils sneak into my text.
One that I was fond of using was "then" it was everywhere. I carefully pruned my MS but my editor came back with a query about my over-use of "then" Dang it the critter still had persisted, needed to get out the DDT this little word was indestructable.
However, having this pointed out made me take extra care. I am not too bad with "then" now.
I am sure other little devils have taken its place. I am not too bad on because but just is one that persists.

I steam ahead some day with my writing, when the muse is on overtime I am hard at it, and this is when the dastardly words sneak in. Hopefully, when I re-edited a previous book which is coming out again, I got rid of them...hopefully!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Demon Words & Over Usage of the little Critters!

Ha ha, I thought today’s post would be easy.

“Just” waffle on about over usage of specific words. 

“But”, as soon as the laptop fired up my mind went blank. 

“Apparently” that’s not uncommon,

“Because”, when under pressure with looming deadline and not a word down on screen, the very thought “just” plunged my brain into freeze frame.

 “But”, with a little effort I’ll “just” try to point out over usage of specific little demon words. Can’t be that difficult can it, “because”, “apparently” they crop up so often they’re easy to spot when revising and editing.

“But”, “just" when the ms is looking good, and the demons are thin on the ground, up pops another one.

It’s “just” the hazard of being a writer, I guess, “because”, in reality we all have wordy demons to contend with. “But”, I don’t think I overuse same words too often, do you? 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Have I said that before?

Acutely conscious that I need to avoid overusing specific words, I tend to obsess with my Flip Dictionary. Hmmm. Alternate words for 'walk?' My heroine cannot always march. She's not in boot camp.

Can she saunter? Jog? Amble? March? Parade? Patrol? Perambulate? Promenade? Ramp? Roam? Flounce? Pace? Plod? Saunter? Shuffle? Slink? Step? Stride? Stroll? Strump? (I like strump!) Strut? Swagger? Totter? Trail ? Traipse? Tramp? Traverse? Tread? Trudge? Wander?

Finding the balance between variety and practicality. That is the question.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Time Flies

Setting the initial time frame of a book is relatively easy. Colorful leaves put us in Autumn, drifting snowflakes take us to Winter, blooming flowers announce Spring, and hot, sultry nights let us know we're in the heart of Summer. With historicals, it seems even easier as many have a 'date stamp' at the beginning. (I think my all-time favorite time setter is: A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away... Unfortunately, we all can't be George Lucas.)

Moving through week to week, day to day, or even hour by hour is a bit trickier.

I've enjoyed the posts this week, as this is a detail of writing I struggle with.
For my post I thought I'd share some examples of how I've 'moved through time' in my books.

She savored the sound of the deep timbre of his voice. She'd missed it over the last few weeks.

When the phone rang Wednesday afternoon...

Jake's words rolled through Zach's head later that night as he tried to fall asleep.

In the whirlwind of her parents leaving and making plans to join them soon, Jessica rarely had time to think about Zach over the next couple of days.

It had been almost a week since Logan had walked back in to her life...

After leaving Pete's house, she'd driven around for hours...

I'm not saying they're great, but there they are.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Time Lapses

I struggle sometimes with time lapses, even short ones. For example, in my current WIP, the hero and heroine are both working at the same college. I don’t want all the ‘significant’ scenes and events to happen within a matter of days, but at the same time I certainly don’t want to use the ‘two weeks later’ phrase.
If one of them was going away during that two-week period, a one-sentence ‘filler’ would be sufficient, but in this story they’re likely to see each other every day. I feel I have to fill in at least something about those two weeks, but without it seeming like a filler!
Sometimes I can drop a hint about a future event e.g. an Open Day at the college or a visit to the theatre, in which case the ‘jump’ to that event is fairly easy to manage. However, if the new ‘significant event’ is going to be unexpected and I don’t want it to happen immediately, I’m not always sure how to make the jump to the event. In the end, I usually manage it okay, but it’s something I don’t find easy. So any handy hints on how to get over this particular bĂȘte-noire of mine gratefully received!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Time Line Definition

Time Line Definition

I haven’t found much difficulty with this one. If there is a time lap at the beginning of the story I begin with a prologue, always a useful tool for scene setting.

Generally, my suspense and romantic novels are set over a short period of time, so time line definition is not needed. However, a couple did need a prologue otherwise the story would be bogged down with explanations. Never a good thing. Where it has been necessary, generally, is in the historical novels where there are definite “time” problems. It really is as Pauline indicated the writers, have to be aware that we are scriptwriters as well as camera people. We must guide our readers and ensure they are not confused.

Fortune’s Folly has a prologue, as does A Fatal Flaw. In both cases it was necessary to “set” the scene but I needed the novel to move along swiftly. The prologue must also whet the appetite and encourage the writer to read on.

There is nothing worse than reading a book and then becoming confused because you don’t know where the story has gone! It has happened to me, I do plod on but I am feeling quite irritated. Hardly the mood you want the reader to experience.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Timeline definition within novels: is it necessary?

If a time-leap is mere matter of days, weeks, a month even then it’s relatively easy to pass off by way of character interaction, momentary character thought, or within brief descriptive passage relating to time and date etc., though not in the manner of a train timetable. Bearing in mind we have unpubbed authors following as well as pubbed writers, I thought I'd put forth examples of what we're talking about!

Last sentence: example.

. . . She watched his flight take off, heart in stomach for she hadn’t told him, and wouldn’t until his return.

Next chapter:

Melinda had passed this way a dozen times over the past two weeks, always in a rush, head down against bitter east wind, snow underfoot, and not a flower in sight. Yet today, the wind had swung southerly. It was a glorious sunny morning. Ice crystals sparkled like diamonds and joy of joys snowdrops had emerged and gently ringing in the first week of February. Gosh, how time flew. Guy had been gone a month, and tomorrow his flight would touch down at Heathrow, and what then? 

Simple: if we’d read the previous chapter we’d know why Melinda is always in a hurry, we’d know it’s wintertime, but it would have been just after Christmas when Guy left. Now it’s February, and Guy (whomever) is due back after a month’s absence.  There’s even a hint of possible conflict brewing.  BTW: the above snippet is straight off the cuff.

When a timeline amounts to a year or more, and a novel spans almost six years, I go for a “sub-heading” to define year and place: as in my latest historical. These timelines are always at the beginning of a new chapter.

Axebury Hall Estate: 1644  - Axebury Hall Estate: 1646  - Glastonbury: 1647. Axebury Hall Estate: 1649. Huge leaps like these, I think, require a definite timeline.

The one thing that really annoys me when reading a novel is to find a quarter-way into a new chapter that a timeline has occurred and the story has moved on several months or a year and not a mention of such having happened.

…Harry hadn’t attended the funeral. Why?
…“Oh for pity’s sake, Amy. Why didn't you leave Xander with the nanny?”
…Mark zapped the window button. The stench of city smog and garbage filled the limo. He didn’t know which was worse. The smell permeating from Xander's backside or rank smell of stale fish.
…Why him, why did they have to be in this forsaken sector of the city?

Reading this I started thinking when did Amy give birth?  I went back over the previous chapter thinking I’d missed a page but no, not a mention of Amy and a baby! Where are they?  Grrr...

OK, so Amy was eight months pregnant in the previous chapter, yet there’s no explanation as to how old Xander is, yet Amy is a lead character. Then, five pages later it comes to light it’s Xander’s birthday. (How old?) No clue until page eight. Guess what, he’s two!  By Chapter three I discover they’re in Hong Kong. 

So what does every one else do when a timeline occurs?  Hope a reader grasps a descriptive prompt, afford vague reference, or leave them to puzzle it out?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Hop, Skip and a Jump

I used to think I needed to justify a character's every move, i.e., say she went to bed in order to transition to the next morning. Then I started studying screenplays. From the film 'The Run,'


A blazing sun scorches the earth. Everything is flat, barren. In the distance, a cloud of dust rises as a jeep makes its way across the landscape.

A jeep races through sagebrush and cactus.


Camera shots change quickly, but are easy to follow because they unfold in a logical progression. They advance the story. Scene descriptions are terse: INT. EXT. DAY. NIGHT.

Television and movies--and life, for that matter--move quickly for us. Readers don't need hand-holding to make transitions. They need a few, well-chosen words, and then more action.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Getting it right in 2011

First off, as you can see, I'm wearing the fashionable crinckle look dunce hat for today because I forgot to post on Monday: great start as a newbie around here!

Anyhoo, writing goals for 2011. Hmmm, what are they? 

I guess:

1)      Complete a sequel to historical novel written 2010, simply because I love this period in history, plus secondary characters from the first novel screamed for their love story to be told.
2)      Try to secure a publishing deal for at least one of three contemporary romance novels languishing on a pen-stick.
3)      Keep bashing at literary agents’ doors: the present one I’ve hammered on still firmly padlocked.
4)      Pray a December 2010 subbed mainstream romantic suspense comes up trumps.
5)      Failing all the above self-publish my own work 2012. 

Any-which-way authors are expected to contribute time and effort to Internet/radio/articles etc., re promoting and advertising their own wares, so what’s the difference in time ratio of going it alone?  I would rather the novels read than left archived on a pen-stick.



Thursday, January 6, 2011

Set the Bar High

Okay, in respect to my writing career, I'm going to aim high in the coming year. I have several things I'd like to accomplish: (Listed here in no particular order.)

Finish my WIP and submit it to my editor at Wild Rose by the beginning of August. This would complete a trilogy I've dreamed about writing ever since I first decided I wanted to "write one of those romances some day" when I was back in high school. I am (according to our fabulous work in progress counter here on our site) 36% of the way there. Over Christmas vacation I made a mini goal to write everyday. I did. Now that school is back in session, I'd still like to continue to strive to do that. Especially since I'm on a little bit of a roll with my story.

Write a short Christmas story to submit to Wild Rose by March to hopefully be considered for the holidays this year. This would give me a release in the current calendar year, which would be a great follow up to the two I had in 2010. Kind of a "let's keep the ball rolling" kind of thing. I had hoped to get a lot of this story written over break, since the holiday season was in full swing, but I got side-tracked by my other manuscript. Hopefully I can coax a revival of the Christmas Spirit into January and February.

Persue publication with a "big name" publisher. On the advice of a very trusted writing colleague (a professional in the business), I'd like to submit a completed manuscript I have to a mainstream publisher.

In order to reach these large goals, I'll be setting some little ones along the way, like writing every day, researching some of those "bigger" pulishing names, and maybe breaking out the Christmas music again in a couple of weeks!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Goal for 2011

Last year three dreams came true that were completely unanticipated at the beginning of the year – I actually met Martin Sheen which I never thought would ever happen, my novel was accepted by the first publisher I submitted it to, and I fulfilled a long-held ambition to visit the Valley of the Kings and the Abu Simbel temples in Egypt.

So maybe my ‘goal’ for 2011 is to seize any opportunities that come my way, whatever they might be. Who knows what dreams might come true this year?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My 2011 desire

I have learned not to aim for long-term goals. Life is too short. I think I will do it now or not at all.

What I hope for in the future is to be able to write my novels, to get back that passion that seems to have flown and to begin 2011 on top of my game.

I will take life as it comes, think about a holiday or two but I haven’t a life plan… that isn’t for me, take one day at a time, as the song says, and go with the flow. That’s my desire for 2011!


(Posted by Paula as Margaret is still away)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Promises, Promises

This morning I was shoveling a path to our propane tank. (We've had twenty inches of snow since Thursday and blizzard winds just blew in six inches more.) I turned and saw that the roof of my new high tunnel had collapsed during the night. So my promise to CSA members that they'll have vine-ripened tomatoes in early July will be difficult to keep.

I've been promising myself that I'd learn to plot. I honored that promise during the storm, thanks to my film-school-grad daughter, who has been wrestling with a concept for a TV series. (She owes $50,000 in student loans, and good-paying jobs in the movie business are hard to get.)

We wrote one-sentence action scenes on index cards--pink for the heroine, green for employers, orange for co-workers, yellow for people in her personal life. We laid them out in reasonable chronological order, balanced the colors so all facets of the story moved along at the same time, then searched for the story arc. We identified the inciting incident, plot point 1, plot point two and the ending hook. Then we rearranged and revised until we created a solid story flow for a ten-episode pilot.

Two people have read the short and long versions of our outline, and we are now bridging gaps and filling holes. She's promised to send it to her mentor/agent this Tuesday. Nothing helps like a deadline.

My promise now is to do this with one of my WIP's. Know my inciting incident and get that on page 1. Delete scenes that don't advance the story. Define my story arc so I can concentrate on writing the story, not guessing what should happen next.

If Rachel's concept is rejected, it could be turned into a novel. The character descriptions are a hoot!