Thursday, September 26, 2013

One Thousand Three Hundred One

It just seems like a random number, right?

But to me it's wonderful, astonishing, and beautiful.

It's the number of words I wrote this week.

Now, I'm sure you're saying...big what? I can write that and more in a day...

But I haven't written anything in a long, long, long, long time. So to have come up with an idea, gathered my thoughts into something coherent, and actually put them on a page is nothing short of a miracle. Seriously. I've broken through a dry spell and there's no other feeling like it in the world.

What did I do to break out? Well, I'm organizing promotion for The Vampire and the Vixen and I signed up for a blog visit which required me to write a piece of Flash Fiction. With a deadline and a required word count, it was a little bit like being back in school and having an assignment due. And it got me going. I brainstormed an idea. I jotted notes. And I WROTE! I've even done some editing and revising. And I still have one major task ahead. The story was supposed to be around 1000 words, but the blog host said as long as I kept it under 2000 I'd be okay. But I'm going to try to whittle it down. Just for the fun and challenge of it.

I also ventured into uncharted territory for me and wrote the story in first person. Well, actually I wrote the story in third person and converted it. I've read books/stories in first person, so I'm familiar with it, but I've never written anything in it myself.

Which brings me to a question for all of you out there reading this post (g)...

Do I say:

I frame his face in my hands.


I framed his face in my hands.

Is it:

He kisses my forehead.


He kissed my forehead.

To me both sound correct, but I'm not sure if one is the correct tense over the other. Any thoughts or advice?

When I figure it out, I'll be sure to post the link so you can read the entire story when I do my blog visit!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Too many ideas?

Can you have too many ideas? In the case of my current ‘work in progress’, the answer is yes. I might be doing the dishes, or taking a shower, or driving to the supermarket, and one of the characters whispers in my ear, “What if ...?” And it’s another idea about the development of the story.
The problem is that I’m on the third rewrite of this story. I’ve reached about 40K words each time, and then felt something was missing, or the pacing wasn’t right, or – well, you name it and I’ve felt it.
I started to think this was happening because I was a pantser, and that maybe I should plot my story more carefully. Then it occurred to me that these characters will still pop new ideas into my mind, however much I try to plot their story.
I’ve also discovered that some of my pre-planned ‘plot ideas’ simply don’t work. One example was having the heroine break her ankle, which seemed a good way to have her staying at the hero’s house for a time, instead of living on her own. After researching, however, I discovered that broken ankles can take weeks, if not months, to heal. That was going to restrict my heroine’s movements far too much. So forget the broken ankle (because I’m not into ‘magical’ recoveries such as we see in TV dramas and soap operas where someone is in a coma in one episode, and hey presto, magically restored to full health two weeks later). However, in abandoning that part of the story, I also had to ‘lose’ some good scenes between the hero and heroine.
Last week a new character appeared out of nowhere, and now I’m wondering if he has appeared at the right time or whether he should have appeared earlier.
I also have various scenes (from the first two drafts) and need to decide whether to keep or dump them, maybe to use in another story at some point.There are some characters who may have to go too e.g. do I really need the 'other' girl who is keen on the hero, or shall I forget about her?
And the characters still keep whispering, ‘What if…?’ If I use all these ideas, the novel could end up as long as ‘War and Peace’.
How do you choose which ideas to develop, and which to ignore – or retain for future stories?  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Plugging the Holes

This may sound a bit stupid, but all writers have different strengths and weaknesses. The key is to figure out yours and then do something about them.

During my “day job,” I serve on the board of my temple. As a vice president, I oversee several committees and help plan our strategic direction. I work with a phenomenal group of people and we all bring different skills to the table. One of the skills I bring is writing. Thus, when there are letters to be crafted or edited, all eyes turn to me—at which point I go all “deer in the headlights” and whisper, “crap.” J

One of the things that drives me crazy in this job is the communications that go out either with errors or with language that can be improved to better convey the type of organization we are. However, I have friends who are driven crazy by typos in emails. And our pet peeves aren’t that different from those of other readers and writers.

I’ve seen multiple discussions on blogs about how errors in books pull you out of the story; how once you’re a writer, you never look at the writing in a book the same way again; how reviewers rate books based on their editing. All of these are valid points.

As a writer, it’s up to me to determine where my strengths and weaknesses are. I happen to be very good at crafting the words and getting the message across. My grammar is strong. However, I still make mistakes and typos and no matter how many times I proofread, I miss things. That’s why a critique partner who is obsessed with punctuation, consistency (making sure all mentions of the hero’s eye color are consistent) and the rest of the small things is essential for me. I don’t need the ideas so much, although those are helpful; I need the copyediting.

I’m a much better copyeditor of other people’s work than my own; the distance allows me to see things that I can’t see in my own work. But I’m also really good at identifying motivation problems and plot holes. So people who ask me to critique their work get that from me.

The key is to match up a critique partner with the writer’s needs. In my opinion, it’s less important whether that partner is published or unpublished. It’s more important that they fill in the skills that the writer lacks.

So, what are your pet peeves in writing? What are your skills and weaknesses? How do you compensate?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Scripts and Novels are fraternal twins.

I just finished reading Peter Dunne's "Emotional Structure: Creating the Story beneath the Plot: a Guide for Screenwriters." Long title. Fabulous book.

Using a film I love--Witness--he posits that "the emotional through line, that is to say the Emotional Structure, is the first story to be developed deeply. Only then can the plot be developed to serve it."

"The plot is what happens in the film (or story). The story is what it does to the who it happens to.  The who is far more important than the what. The what would be worthless without the who. But to be fair, the who wouldn't be much without the what, either.

"We can also look at this this way: The plot provides the action: the film's motion. And the story provides the reaction: the film's emotion."

"The story is the journey for truth. The plot is the road it takes to get there."

"No plot, no matter how clever, is worth anything if it doesn't ultimately connect your truth to mine."

"The plot should be thought of as the motion picture. The story should be thought of as the emotion picture."

"The most important thing you must know about your protagonist is what his journey means to you, because s/he is the personification of your film's theme."

I have known for a while that I needed to deepen the emotional story arcs in both my WIP's. This book showed how to do that.  I am excited!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

By the Numbers

I've been waiting 'patiently' for the sales numbers from my freebie days at Amazon for The Vampire and the Vixen to be posted at TWRP. Earlier this week, the reports arrived.

The numbers on the free days totaled not too shabby. The title made it to the top sixteen freebie 'sellers' in contemporary romance, and it made it to 54 in the entire Kindle store. Again, not too shabby.

However, after that the numbers tank and don't look quite so good. Make that they don't look good at all. The theory behind the freebie days is to garner interest in you as an author and your work. This definitely didn't work for me. I only sold nine copies of The Vampire and the Vixen and one copy of A Christmas to Remember after the freebie days. That's it. None of my other titles had any sales in August. So that's quite disappointing, and I'd say it showed that even though my numbers were good for the free copies, it really did nothing to boost sales on anything else.

I did get quite a few reviews, I think the title is up to 11 or 12, which is far more than I've gotten for any of my other titles, so that goes on the 'good news' side of things, which is at least something.

Later this month, This Feels Like Home will make its Amazon debut. Amazon requires a three month exclusive on all titles to be offered for free. As of now, all TWRP titles participate in this program. It will be free for a period of five days in November.

I'm not sure how I feel about that. Home is different from Vampire in that it is a full-length and is also the third in a series. I've heard that having a free book in a series entices readers to purchase the other titles. I can only hope so.

I put a lot of time and effort into promoting Vampire's free days, and while it did get some great numbers during the promotion, in the end, I saw very little return for all of that time and effort.

To say I'm frustrated and disappointed is an understatement.

What a crazy business we've gotten ourselves into...

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Deep Point of View

I have read several posts/blogs recently where someone says they have just ‘discovered’ Deep Point of View. One blogger even called it a ‘new’ type of Point of View. Other bloggers (writers) have said how they find it difficult to write in deep POV.
I’ve used deep POV ever since my first published novel in the 1960s. At the time I wasn’t aware it actually had a name. All I knew then was that Mills and Boon required their romance novels to be written from the heroine’s point of view (and only the heroine’s). In its most basic sense, this means out with phrases like, ‘She didn’t see the frown on his face as he turned to the door.’ If we’re in deep POV, we can only show what the heroine saw. If she didn’t see, how did she know he had a frown on his face? Similarly, out goes any head-hopping i.e. jumping to another person’s POV in the middle of a scene, and then back to the original person in the next sentence.
Deep POV requires us to describe scenes, events, conversations, thoughts, and emotions from one person’s point of view. Most times, it means we can omit the ‘filtering’ words like ‘he thought’, ‘he heard’, ‘he felt’, ‘he saw’ etc. Notice I don’t say ‘always’ because there are times when these words are necessary, usually for clarity. I admit I still use them too much, but am trying to limit them.
For me, deep POV means getting into the head of the person, and thinking, feeling, reacting, etc, as he or she would. This adds emotional depth, and also helps the reader to empathise with whatever the person is feeling. I’m not describing the person, I’m not even playacting the person, I am the person.
I’ve read many books where the author tells us what the character is thinking or feeling, rather than allowing us into the character’s mind. I’ve also read advice to use sensory perceptions to ‘deepen’ the deep POV but, as with most things, less is more. I recently read one book where the author was trying too hard not to use thought, felt, heard etc, and instead overloaded everything with too many unnecessary actions, sights, sounds, and smells, which proved very distracting!
Of course, deep POV doesn’t mean we have to stay in one person’s POV for the whole of the novel. Fashions have changed, and we don’t have to write always from heroine’s POV. Because of my early self-training, I do tend to favour the female POV, but I’ve learnt (or rather, am still learning) to switch into the hero’s POV. I don’t find that easy. Deciding when to switch is one problem for me,  but also a different POV (particularly a male’s) can mean the thoughts, and also the words and the phrasing, need to be different. Getting into the male mindset is much harder, but hopefully I’m improving with every new novel I write.
How easy or difficult do you find deep POV?

Monday, September 16, 2013

My day off

Yesterday was my first day off since late June.
It was heavenly.
I cooked a nice breakfast. Drank two cups of coffee sitting down. Finished a past-due horoscope forecast for a client.
And read.
Yes, I --a writer who should read as much as I write--actually read a novel on my Kindle. A Thousand Things is a fantasy about a woman with a club foot. Knowing she is not marriage material, she is free to study botany with her grandfather, who lost his scientific reputation after he returned from an expedition to the continent of magic with a giant lotus petal. When the petal magically disappears, she sets out to find another--and to become the first accredited woman botanist. She is plunged into a world of danger and magic.
And so was I.

It was heavenly

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Setting Up a Blog Tour

My Halloween novella The Vampire and the Vixen makes its world-wide debut just about a month from now on October 16. It's been out on Kindle for awhile, but next month it will be available in many more markets. As I've done in the past, I'm in the process of setting up a blog tour to celebrate and promote its release.

Some people use a professional blog tour organizer, but I've always done my own. I don't solicit spots, but when someone posts about blog openings I e-mail and ask if they have something available in my time frame. This has always worked well in the past, and I usually wind up with anywhere from six to a dozen stops. Having a book with a holiday theme is also helpful. This time around I'm also jumping on with some Halloween-themed special events.

So far I have three set up and an e-mail out on a fourth. Not too bad since I really only started thinking about this at the beginning of the week. One of my other blogs, Authors by Moonlight, is also doing a Harvest Moon Reads special event for the month of October, so I'll have an extra day over there to post an excerpt and offer a contest.

Many of the sites I'll 'book' do like to have a give-away of some sort. I usually do an e-copy of the current book or sometimes an autographed paperback of one of my back titles. For my tour for The Vampire and the Vixen, I'm also going to include some swag 'prizes' and send out book marks and postcards, which will hopefully generate some interest in my other holiday e-books (I have a Christmas one and a Thanksgiving one.) and my paperbacks as well.

This weekend I will get to work on writing my posts for the various blogs. For one in particular, I need to write a piece of Flash Fiction. I already have an idea and have jotted some notes, which is exciting in more ways than one. It's been a long time since I've written anything new. My WIP is sadly languishing. Hopefully writing the blogs and the Flash piece will get the juices going and stir up my muse.

I wish there was a way to make a definite connection between a blog tour and sales. Tours definitely get your name out there, but what I notice on many of the blogs I've guested at in the past is they tend to attract fellow authors, which is great, but perhaps not as many stand-alone readers. And if other authors are like me, there are only so many books you can buy, even if we wish we could support everyone.

But no matter what, it's always exciting to be in the publicity stages with a book.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Illusion of Control

"Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realize it's just an illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into it."
David Sedaris, interview in Louisville Courier-Journal, June 5, 2005

This was quoted to me by one of my Facebook friends when I said a new and unplanned character had just introduced himself in my WIP, and I knew immediately how he was going to fit into the story.

25 people left comments, and I thought it was worth sharing some of them with you:

I'm a pantser too. I have the most inconvenient plotlines/characters come in and mess things up. (Sheila)

That, for me as a writer, is why I write - those moments when the character/s take over. If I'm surprised, then I know my readers will be, too. Glad others have this joy/magic in their creative day. (Astrid)

I'm a pantser also. I love it when I find out how my book ends. (Maggie)

The best part of being a writer is the surprises. (Bernadette)

Strong characters do this and it's best to get out of the way and allow them to, isn't it? (Linda)

Oh, yes, I keep the door open for everyone who comes along. But, by the same token, I also cull them or fuse them if they don’t quite earn their keep. (Mira)

Love it when that happens! The guy who turned out to be the nemesis of my main character just showed up one day, leaning on my MC's car! I had no idea where he'd come from, or who he was, now I know the book/s wouldn't have existed without him! However, I've described myself as a "happy pantser with a twist of obsessive plotter," because I tend to lean either way depending on my mood. (Terri)

Love it when that happens. My hero and heroine are running away with my book - mind you I don't usually plot at all - just have a vague idea in my head. (Fenella)

I love it when a great character decides to appear. Helps the story no end. (Barbara)

I love those characters who amble in unannounced! (Glynis)

I love minor characters who decide to become far more important than you planned. (June)

Oh yes! Love those unexpected arrivals or links. Happened to me the other day when I was doubting a whole section of the prequel, until I realised that Character A could so easily have been Character B's tutor in University and so would come into the story again later .... sorted! (Ailsa)

I'm a plotter, but unexpected characters walk in all the time, and I welcome them and integrate them. Plotting doesn't destroy spontaneity for me - it gives me a roadmap as I juggle multiple projects. Doesn't mean I can't go on tangents if the mood strikes.(Devon)

Have you had a 'new' character appear unexpectedly in your story?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Back In The Groove

My kids went back to school yesterday (finally!!) and I spent the day writing! It was fabulous.

Okay, I couldn’t spend the whole day writing; I had to get a few things done in the morning. But I was finally able to spend a good chunk of the day working on the manuscript I want to pitch to agents at the NJRW conference next month. I’m a bit stressed and not sure I’ll be finished in time, but at least I have a goal that I’m shooting for.

The end is in sight; I just have a few more loose ends to tie up and weave through and then hopefully, I’ll be done. I’m at the point that when I’m not writing, I want to be, which really excites me. There are so many times when I know I need to do something, but I’m not sure how to do it and it becomes a chore. I hate when my writing gets like that, so when I’m inspired and want to keep writing, it’s wonderful.

Off to write some more!

Sunday, September 8, 2013


I woke up this morning thinking about things that happened this summer in my world that were emotionally and physically trying--and how I've dealt with them. Specifically, how I've worked to purge negative emotions from my weekly CSA newsletters.

Was I raised not to value my emotions? To suppress them?  Act 'grown-up'--is this healthy? Is it better to have an honest freak out session and then reclaim one's composure?

I've read that depression is anger directed inward. That doesn't sound good. Neither is selfish anger, intended to intimidate and over power.

What about "approved" emotional reactions: grief...happiness...falling in love?

And in the pre-dawn dark, I wondered: as romance writers, do characters with heightened emotional reactions stand out more? Or is it best to put "normal" characters into emotionally charged situations?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Coming Soon... the book venue of your choice.

This week I got lots of great release information for This Feels Like Home!

The book, the third in my "The Corral" series, will be available in Kindle from Amazon starting September 25, 2013. That's just a couple of weeks away!

It will have it's Kindle freebie days from November 19-23, 2013.

And then the most exciting news, it will be released world-wide in paperback and e-format on January 24, 2104!

It's been a long time since I've had a paperback book available, so this one is really fun for me. And I'm so thrilled to have finally written, sold, and have in book format the third book in my series. I've been dreaming about this moment for many, many years. When I first wrote This Time for Always, I always envisioned it as the first of three books in a set/series. This Can't Be Love came next, and now it's almost time for This Feels Like Home.

Anyone who wants to join in the Happy Dancing is more than welcome!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Trying to get Unstuck

After submitting ‘Irish Inheritance’ at the beginning of last week, I thought I might take a week off writing, after spending 9 months writing and editing. However, I couldn’t resist taking a peek at ‘Different Worlds’, the novel I've abandoned twice, once when I got to Chapter 13, the second time when I got to Chapter 15. I started reading Chapter 1 again and – you’ve guessed it – that was the end of my ‘week off’, because I immediately started revising it.
I’ve had some time to think about why this novel didn’t seem to be working, and I think I’ve realised the reason.
The hero and heroine each have their own reasons for not wanting to become involved in another relationship, following the unhappy endings of their previous relationships (a couple of years prior to the start of this story). Obviously I can’t have them immediately forgetting their past experiences once they meet, but at the same time, I can’t have endless inner agonising by either of them, as this becomes repetitive (and boring) for the reader. So I was faced with a dilemma. It was taking too long for them to ‘get together’ – but speeding up the ‘falling in love’ process was unrealistic.
Another problem was that the heroine was only supposed to be in the Lake District (where the hero lives) for a couple of weeks, and was then going home to London - hence the title, 'Different Worlds'. In my original drafts, I invented two different scenarios as reasons for her to stay in the Lake District, and it was at this point that the story (in both versions) ground to a standstill. It was still too soon for them to accept a new love in their lives, and also there seemed to be no major turning point that would make them realise it was time to move on from their past experiences.
As you know, I’m basically a pantser, so all this is based on my ‘gut feeling’ about the way the story was going, rather than on any plot outline. I have a vague idea in my mind of how the story is eventually going to work out, but now I need to sort out the order of events, and this is the point at which I need to haul my characters back from the side roads they have taken me down. Maybe I’ll be able to use some of the ‘dumped’ events and scenes in a different novel sometime.
So far, I’ve combined Chapters 1 and 2 into one chapter (with less internal dialogue), and tidied up and slightly revised a few more chapters. Now, at Chapter 9, I’m diverging from the original drafts, and inserting an event that was in Chapter 13 in the 2nd draft.
The other big change will come when I take the heroine back to London (for a short time) much sooner than in the first two drafts. The idea of doing that came in one of those blinding flashes of inspiration!
I’ll see how it goes now – and hope I don’t get stuck on Chapter 13 or 15 again!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Opening Lines

This is from my current WIP. What do you think?

In The Moment
Chapter 1
The lawn mower wouldn’t start. Again. Cassie sighed and wiped a straggly piece of hair off her forehead, blowing it away at the same time. She yanked the starter cord and grunted. Nothing.

“Stupid idiot!” She kicked it. “Ow!”

“Want me to give it a try?”

She shrieked as she grabbed her foot and hopped. Her heart raced, but whether from pain or from fear, she couldn’t tell.

“Jeez, you scared me. Um, can I help you?”

She’d hopped far enough away from the stranger to give herself the illusion of feeling safe. There were enough tools and sharp objects within arms’ reach that she could defend herself if she had to, but as she looked toward the man standing in the doorway of the barn, she really hoped she wouldn’t have to.  A crew cut showed off the chiseled bones in his face and the cleft in his chin. A white T-shirt clung to his body and emphasized bulging biceps, a well-sculpted chest and what she assumed would be “six-pack abs.” Worn jeans clung to well-toned legs. This guy was not only in shape, he was gorgeous. Her heart skipped again, this time from lust, and she blushed.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Critique my retirement letter

For years I have written a CSA newsletter each weekend of the growing season. I poured out my reverence through the words--the unique fragrance of tomato plants, the thrill of helping a just-born calf to nurse, the reassurance of a crop thanks to the swish-swish of the rainbird sprinklers during a drought.

For the past three weeks I've labored over my farewell letter to my CSA members. I got up early this morning to tweak it again. Most members do not know the CSA is ending. Frankly, seven still owe their final installment payment for the season, and I don't want them to have an excuse to not pay it.

I'd appreciate your critique of the letter. I've tried to be honest, edit out any negative emotions. I've never made a big deal with CSA members about my romance writing--it didn't seem appropriate for a business newsletter.


Lakes and Valley CSA News September 8, 2013

We did it!  Dewane dug all the potatoes. I’ve put in your veggie boxes the onions, melons, brassicas and cucumbers; and yes, just about all the zucchini, peppers and tomatoes. This week I’ll bring you the remaining sweet corn.

This week will be the last CSA delivery of the 2013 season. And sadly, after twelve seasons, it is time to retire the Lakes and Valley CSA.

Dewane’s body needs to do less after forty years of beloved but intense labor. I will turn sixty-three in November. It’s time for a graceful and grateful acceptance of our reality.

We have not been able to recruit a trained organic or biodynamic farmer or gardener to take over the CSA. Informed sources repeatedly remind us that northcentral Minnesota is remote. If we lived in Oregon, Washington, California or New York, if we were located near a metroplex or closer to a university with a sustainable ag program, we’d be overrun with workers.

And despite our sustained efforts, we have not been able to “grow” a gardener. The work is physically demanding, and the hours are not traditional nine to five. Any farmer will tell you their work is physically and mentally demanding. If you are not engaged in growing pot, the pay is relatively low. And ag work in general is not prized as an occupation.

Working in and with Nature, especially in high north latitudes where the growing season is short and intense, requires a commitment that can be described as, ‘my will becomes Thy will.’ This is not easy to learn or accept; one intern summarized it this way: “Working on a farm is hard because you can’t call in sick when you don’t feel like getting up in the morning.”

So what’s next for us? We will return the garden to U-Pick raspberries and small scale specialty produce—pickling cucumbers and dill, basil, tomatoes. Granddaughter Hannah and her cousin Lexi feel this would be the perfect summer job. Lexi loves raspberries, and Hannah loves selling at the Park Rapids farmer’s market.

I will keep my job at The Secret Garden and embark upon writing a how-to book for home gardeners (working title: Gardening on a Living Earth) that will present the insights and tricky tips I have learned over forty years of gardening. Thank you for encouraging me to write, and for the demanding schedule of CSA newsletters. Nothing trains a wanna-be writer like a recurring deadline.

Dewane and I want to thank Mary Louise Hershberger and Deb Pullen for their years of dedicated service to the CSA keeping track of the memberships and the checkbook.

Thank you, too, to our long-serving site hosts—Brigitte von Budde, Brenda & Pat Nistler, Paul & Jean Sando. Without you, the CSA would have been impossible.

A heartfelt thank you to all members for your participation over the past twelve years. Eating seasonally is hard work, but I am certain that your commitment has changed you for the better as much as it has me.

If you ordered an egg share, I will mail you soon a bill for the season.

I’d love to stay in touch, so if you’d like to receive periodic newsletters on Midheaven Farm life (and the gardening book), let me know.

p.s., Dewane and I will be at the Fort Ransom craft show at the end of September, sampling and selling Secret Garden soups, dips and jams. Stop by, if you go, and say hi.