Thursday, February 26

Friday Funk

 Friday was not a good day for me. 

My dog was deathly ill and I was thinking we were going to have to put her down. Even though my head was in a bad place, I still had to go on with my day, which included
 a writing workshop led by Chuck Sambuchino.

Note:I highly recommend any workshop led by Chuck. He is an awesome presenter--which was good because he did every presentation for the day.

One of the presentations included the reading of a page aloud as five agents and editors listened and raised their hand when they would quit reading if the page came across their desk in a query.

I had reworked the first page of my WIP and sent it past my wrangler buds and felt pretty confident. And then, Chuck started reading it aloud. And I was really glad it was anonymous, because I actually winced when he got to the third paragraph. Winced! And I was the author. And  I got five rejections. Quick rejections. Fourth paragraph--and my paragraphs are tiny--rejections.

So, when I went into my consult, I pitched a different WIP and totally tanked it. The agent intern asked questions I wasn't prepared to answer and suggested that I might want to make it middle grade instead of YA.

I spent the rest of the weekend reevaluating my writing plan--what I wanted to write. Because honestly, I wasn't feeling it on anything. I've been in a writing funk for a while, not totally committing to anything which means not making a lot a progress on anything either.

Then on Tuesday, I was scrolling through the comments on Nan's post and came across Claudia's recommendation of The Snowflake Method. And since I'm a pantser who doesn't think that much ahead--which I think is why I'm struggling of late--I decided to buy it. Thank you, Kindle, for immediate access. 

And I decided to use the method on a new WIP, an idea I've had for the last five years but haven't done anything with as of yet. But, it's an idea close to my heart and every time I hear "Hey, there Delilah" by Plain White T's, I want to write this book.

So--I've started the new WIP via the Snowflake method and I've actually thought further ahead in the book and into the characters than I've ever done before.

 I like the book so much that I ordered a print copy from B&N--because they didn't have one in stock at the store--so I can make notes and highlight things. Kindle works great for reading books, but not as good for instructional reading/learning. 

So, thank you, Claudia Pfeiffer for the awesome recommendation. 

And if anyone is wondering, our dog turned the corner Friday night and came back to us. I think the meds finally kicked in after three days and she's on the mend. I'm taking her back in this afternoon to have her blood tested, but I feel optimistic. 

And I feel optimistic about my new WIP...I'm directing my sails...

Wednesday, February 25

And Now for Something You'll Really Like

When I was a kid, I always got excited at the point in the Rocky & Bullwinkle show when Rocky said something new was coming up. I always knew it would be fun. I always knew it would be different. I always knew it would make me laugh. I always knew I'd be surprised.

Now that I'm grown up, I find myself looking for those Rocky & Bullwinkle moments in the books I read, the movies I watch...and in my own writing. Which is why, I think, I choose some of the same authors. As an adult, I'd like to be completely surprised with some really new and different. But, as an adult with job responsibilities, home responsibilities, as a mom, a wife, cook...the list goes on, I know I don't have time to waste with things that I won't really enjoy. So I find myself going to the same shelves, the same authors time after time after time.

This sameness makes it all the more fun when I find a new author to add to my Buy-the-Backlist list. I recently found one of these authors, someone knew to me but who had been writing for a long time. I've seen Jude Deveraux's name on bookshelves for a long time and always passed her by in favor of authors I already knew and loved. Then a friend recommended a book to me and after about the 100th time she told me to read it, I did.

I loved it. Jude has a way of describing a scene and makes it appear on the page, wiping out the words. She made me look at the romance formula (I know, a bad word) in a different way. A way that I'm trying to work into my own writing, not to copy her voice or style but to emulate her ability to surprise the reader at least once each page.

That element of surprise keeps me turning pages as a reader and, even though I'm finding it a little clunky right now, I think that element will take my writing to the next level.

What makes you happy as a reader? Surprise? Familiar territory? A little of both?

Tuesday, February 24

TSTL or Plotter vs. Pantser

The Illustrated Professor
Our acronym for today, my children, is TSTL–Too Stupid To Live. No, not me, although I guess I have my moments. Actually, I’m talking about the heroine in my new novel—Book 4 in the Women of Willow Bay series. I’m normally a pantser, which means I fly by the seat of my pants when I write, no outlines, no plan. I just let my characters go. But this one is requiring me to be a bit of a plotter because I can see how easy it wold be to allow my heroine be Too Stupid To Live.

This is harder than it seems because in this story, Sarah, my heroine, is being stalked by her abusive ex-husband and she has to get away from him. I want readers to believe that how she escapes makes sense and why she might not immediately call the police for help. I don’t want her be stupidly unwilling to get help in a dangerous situation, but on the other hand, I need to build the suspense and drama. Yikes!

I thought about what I would do given the set of circumstances I’d written her into. Hells yeah, I’d be calling the cops–you bet my chickenshit butt! Heck, the story would be over in ten pages if I were the heroine.

My stories are usually character-driven, sensual romances, so writing a plot-driven romance requires more…um…plotting. Yes, I still have to be in my characters’ heads and question their motivations and discover their psyches, but I also have to keep the action going. I have to move the plot along realistically and believably. And because my heroine is the one who drives the story, she has to move along believably, too. Readers will only accept her if she’s real or at least someone they can relate to.

I’m a little bogged down right now, can you tell? Today is my head-clearing day. It includes exercise, laundry, a couple of errands, and then sitting down to figure out where my heroine is going from here. The action needs to move the story along to a satisfying conclusion, which unquestionably means I need to go less by the seat of my pants and give more careful thought to how we’re going to get there. I’m already making notes… and the memo function in my iPhone is at the ready. And yes, I'm seriously considering...gasp! An outline!

So talk to me, pantsers—do you ever have to do some plotting to make the story work?

Monday, February 23

Good times

Photo by Matt Shouse
This morning, I read a review on Back to McGuffey’s (why do I do that to myself?) that said it wasn’t the worst book the reviewer had ever read. Ouch. This week, I got a painful rejection. Ouch. It’s snowing and while it’s very pretty, the truth is I’m over it. Ouch. While I’m at it, I tripped on my back porch step the other day and landed on my knee. Ouch, ouch, ouch!

Anyone feel sorry for me yet? No? Oh, good, because there’s absolutely no reason to.

Also this week, I spoke on characterization to a writers' group at Barnes & Noble in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I am by no means a public speaker, but I love writing, I love characterization, and I love bookstores. I also love coffee shop coffee, and the barista was less than ten feet from me. I like motels (because I don’t have to make the bed) and I spent the night in a nice one with good wi-fi and all-the-time coffee and tea.

There is no way I’m going to make sense in this post, is there? Didn’t think so. But let me keep trying.

The group I spoke to was wonderful. They were engaged, respectful, and friendly. Their chosen
Photo by Matt Shouse
genres ran the gamut from poetry to fantasy to non-fiction freelancing to romance. Not one time during the evening did I hear anyone denigrate a category of writing that someone else loved. Not one time did I hear or sense discomfort between indie and trad and hybrid. Author Kyra Jacobs facilitates the group and even though we’ve “known” each other for a long time, it was the first time we’d met and what fun it was. Fellow writer Cathy Shouse came and her son Matt Shouse took pictures. He didn’t realize he was supposed to make me look 29 and thin, but it was nice of him to come.

To get to the making-sense part...I never thought my life would be like this. That anyone I wasn’t related to would ever want to hear what I had to say. That staying in a motel would be not a big deal. That I would use the word “barista” without giving it a second thought. That I would have written books that people actually reviewed. That I would have the writer friends I have and share the conversations I get to share.

Oh, the good times. They so far outdistance the ouches that it's not even a contest. 

And now for the advice. You knew you wouldn’t escape, didn’t you? It’s about writers’ groups. Or quilting groups. Or just an out-to-lunch-bunch group. They are wonderful things. Being introverted is pretty much the nature of the beast when it comes to writers, but when we’re together, the intro part extras all over the place. When you’re with a group—whichever one—it doesn’t make you exclusive or snooty or any of those things; what it makes you is comfortable. You might not like everybody—that’s fine; no one’s asking you to move in together. You might hate what some of the people do. That’s fine, too—all you have to do is respect their love for it. But it’s still comfortable. It’s belonging. It’s learning. So give it a try. I hope it’s fun.

Thursday, February 19

My Fickle Muse

 Tomorrow I am attending a How to get published workshop led by Chuck Sambuchino. And I have registered for a consult as well.

Here's the thing--what do I want to pitch?

Do I pitch Bix as an upper-middle grade/younger YA?

Do I pitch Pages of Life? My current WIP when I don't get distracted by my fickle muse. The other day I went to B&N to get some work done and she kept trying to ply me away from Pages by dangling ideas about my Ice Age book that I shelved like five years ago to work on Bix. But current weather conditions are making the Ice Age book seem not so far-fetched. And she really did come up with some good plot ideas.

Oh Muse, why does thou tempt me so?

I sat down to write a query letter for Pages and instead one came out for Greekpokolypse--the story of girl transported into an iceberg only to find relics of the Greek Gods in danger of being melted and releasing the Gods from their slumber. Aiding her in a quest to keep the Gods at bay is demi-god Yuri, son of Hermes. Well, and Hermes who is more trouble than he's worth.

I think at this point, my muse is simply toying with me.

But I did resist the urge to stray and got back to work on my query which I'm going to put here in a plea for help. 

Dear Agent:

Benched with a rotator-cuff injury, NPF pitcher, Emma Watkins takes on the task of cleaning out her senile, paper-hoarding grandmother's house. She finds an eager assistant when the man next-door offers his landscaping skills for the price of a date.

Determined to return to her team and competes for an Olympic--should softball be reinstated--spot, Emma balks at the thought of a relationship. Although, she's not opposed to some hot and heavy fooling around.

Once settled in, Emma starts sifting through the papers--newsprint, bills, scraps--only to discover a cache of letters and cards that hint at a life her grandmother hid from Emma and her mom all these years.

Was her grandmother a Racine/Battlecreek Belle? Why do some of the letters hint at a family rift? What happened all those years ago?

With the aid of Dex, who welcomes the distraction for his own reasons, the duo set out in search of Emma's long-lost Uncle in hopes of reuniting him with his mother before she slips away forever in the depths of her mind. 

Told in three viewpoints, Emma's, Dex's, and her grandmother, Valerie Pearl's, PAGES OF LIFE is a generational tale of love, and some other stuff.

Sorry I'm running out of time, work beckons. Let me know what you think is my best choice and any critiques of the query welcomed gladly as I have only tonight to make some tweaks.

Thank you!