Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I Am #192

No, I'm not related to Number Four, book or movie.  But I am blog #192 on the A to Z blog challenge started by Arlee over at Tossing It Out. The number of bloggers involved in this challenge grows everyday.  Over 600 bloggers have signed up so far.  Incredible!  All the fun starts on April first.

What will a number like that do for all of us? New and fun friends.  Legions of new followers.  Knowledge to be shared and passed on to our fellow writers and bloggers.  With the only guidelines being the letter we're representing on that day, the variety of subjects posted about is bond to be wide ranging and very interesting. I'm going to be so anxious to get home from work every day and try to catch up.

Why join? Meet new people.  Build a following.  Learn things about craft and promotion.  Get in a strong habit of regular posting.  Challenge your creativity.  Have fun.  I hope to see you there.  But that spot on #192 is already taken.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Not Enough Flossing

A few days ago I had my six month check up and cleaning at the dentist except because I had to change my original appointment it was over eight months since my last visit.  I used that as my excuse as the hygienist gave me a lecture about flossing more often and doing a better job of it.

As I drove home, enjoying the freshness of newly polished teeth, I realized flossing is a lot like editing.  You have to make time to do it, and you have to do a thorough job of it.  There are tools to help you, different proven methods and you're better for it when it's done. 

Flossing isn't fun and sometimes neither is editing.  Reading over the same manuscript time after time can frustrate a writer.  It's tempting to get lazy and hurry through the process but you need to hit between every tooth each time you do it.  When editing you have to read every word, contemplate every comma, and weigh the importance of every sentence and scene. 

Even though I brush every day and floss most days, I still need professional help from the dentist.  Editing is like that too.  No matter how good you are at it, you need a professional to fine tune it and make it the best it can be.  With more and more writers going the self-publishing route, I think there will be a greater demand for free lance book editors to help writers polish their work.

Have you ever used a free lance editor for one of your books?  Do you do editing for authors? Would you pay an editor to prepare a book for self publishing? What do you see as a reasonable fee for such?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Readers Today, Writers Tomorrow

I spent a wonderful evening a few days ago with a group of high school students.  They were all members of a high school chapter of the National English Honor Society.  They invited me to speak about my writing process and the path I took to publication. I doubt any speaker ever had a more polite and attentive audience.

Every gaze was on me the entire time as if every word I said had meaning and each phrase I spoke was inspirational.  It was a real feel-good time.  They smiled and nodded in agreement when I referenced certain novels.  They laughed when I gave examples of working with different editors and my frustrations with one of them.

They raised their eyebrows in disbelief when I explained how long it might be from submission to actual acceptance and publication of a manuscript.  They shook their heads in amazement when I explained reserves against returns and the tiny amounts of money most writers manage to earn on their hours, days and years of work. 

They asked intelligent questions as did their instructors. The entire incident made me wonder if I would have started writing earlier if I had had the opportunity to meet a real author when I was young and deciding on a career choice in high school.  I read endlessly my entire life but when I was a teenager, the authors of my favorite books were distant shadows, not even real people.  Never once did I consider how much work they did for those wonderful novels to end up in my hands.  

I've already been asked by another English teacher to do a guest spot in her classroom about the editing process.  Will I inspire one or more of them to give this wonderful, roller coaster career a try?  Did speaking to them advance my career in any way? Maybe a few of them will buy my book but mostly I received only the pleasant jolt of being appreciated. 

Have you given talks about writing to young people?  Do you know if your local schools have programs like the one I mentioned?  Have you reached out to young readers and writers in some way?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Few writers find success without the advice and support of others be they friends, family or fellow writers.  Last fall I allowed my membership in RWA to expire.  I knew I would miss my friends who were members of the local branch of the national organization but fortunately I've been able to keep in touch with many of them through social media.

Let me introduce one of them today.  Ava Quinn's blog, Tongue in Cheek, was one of the first blogs I followed when I gave this style of social networking a whirl.  She became one of my first followers.  You can't visit her blog and not laugh.  You'll learn much more about her when she makes a guest appearance on my blog in April during the A to Z blog challenge as the letter 'Q' as in Queen.  You don't know what the reigning Possum Queen does? You'll have to return in April and find out.

In the meantime, visit me today at Tongue in Cheek and learn a little more about my latest release, Beyond the Gate.  I know you'll like Ava.  Do you remember who your first followers were on your blog? Did anyone help you out in particular getting started? Are you involved in A to Z and did you line a 'Q' yet?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

New Friends and Good Reads

I've picked up a few new followers over the last week.  One of them, Milo James Fowler, asks an interesting question on his blog.  Do you call yourself a writer or an author? Go see what Milo has to say about this and perhaps leave a comment for him on your opinion.

I wanted to remind people to visit my short story posted on Goodreads.  I'm still working on a second short story about two other characters in my book.  Tamarin is an important sorceress introduced in The Keepers of Sulbreth.  In the second book in The Futhark Chronicles, Beyond the Gate, she acts with wisdom and courage as a leader.  In the the yet to be released third book, Beneath the Mountain, Tamarin will show the courage of a true heroine.  The short story found on Goodreads will delve into her background and the events that molded her into the strong woman we meet in The Futhark Chronicles.

I'd like to thank L. Diane Wolfe for the Stylish Blogger Award.  It means a lot coming from her over at Spunk on a Stick.   I need to pass this on to a few stylish friends.  The choices are tough but I hope you'll visit these fine bloggers:

Nancy Williams

If you're not on Goodreads, I hope you'll join.  The great reasons to be there are too many for this post.  If you have time, follow a few of the links and perhaps find a new cool blog to follow.

Friday, March 18, 2011


My writing space is a place of comfort and convenience.  I have two cheap desks set up to form an 'L' with my laptop on one and papers spread out on the other.  My journal I found at a craft store for one dollar sits there half-filled with blog outlines and ideas for future blogs.  My monthly planner is there with mostly writing reminders in like guest appearances, release dates and other promotion stuff.  I usually set my drink there too.  Hot coffee in the morning, ice coffee in the afternoon when I'm home and amaretto in the evenings. 

My laptop sits on the other rather clear desk.  I usually can see the fake wood top in spots on it.  I always think of the other desk as the one with work piling up.  Until I realize the real work pile up in my laptop.  I have five emails I'm composing responses to(in my thoughts), most of them about promotion opportunities.  I have blog drafts saved, waiting to be completed.  I have pictures saved I want to put in those blogs and drafts for queries, synopsis of all my books, three books I'm working on, one half done and the other two stalled out for now. 

So I have a messy physical desk top and a messy virtual desktop.  Tons of work to do and so little time to do it in.  Where does your work pile up? Is it organized or a mess only you can comprehend?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Two Minute Break

I finished edits on Tiger's Mate today on my lunch break at work and sent it out.  Tomorrow I'm getting right back into A Tiger's Courage, the next book in this fantasy romance series.  I working on the 2nd draft of that book and hope to complete it before the end of April.

Finishing the book at work today is something I didn't used to be able to do.  In the early years of my writing career if I didn't get a stretch of time of a couple of hours I wouldn't even attempt to delve into my current project.  When my first book was accepted for publication I was already four books down the road from when I had completed that one.

Suddenly I needed to do promotion.  I had to start a website, begin blogging, join Facebook, and all sorts of other things.  After a book is contracted there are still many things to be done in the months between signing the contract and the book being released.  But I still wanted to work on the book I'd interrupted to begin promotion.

Besides learning to juggle different projects, I also learned to use those little slots of time. on my lunch break, while dinner is cooking, between loads of laundry and make the most of them.  I can visit a number of blogs while fixing dinner.  I can write a blog while waiting for a load of laundry to dry.  And today I finished edits on a book at lunch. 

I think most writers laboring at day jobs have learned to use every little bit of time or else we'd never get anything done.

How long a period of time do you need to get into your writer persona?  Do you fit writing work into your breaks on your day job?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Something Old, Something New...

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.  I guess we've all heard that old saying and perhaps we followed the superstition for our own weddings.  I was thinking how my writing has been influenced by JRR Tolkien.

Something old in my fantasies is a common theme in the fantasy genre.  An old war re-ignited after centuries.  An old enemy awakens to once more create havoc on a population unprepared to meet that which they thought defeated.   

The new comes in with the causes of the war, the uniqueness of the enemy, and the world I create in which the battles will take place.  The personal and physical problems my protagonists must overcome have to be different enough to catch the interest of fantasy readers who have indulged in all the classic series.

I haven't borrowed Tolkien's plots or stories, but certainly my fantasy novels follow the pattern of most epic fantasy novels as set down by the master.  Good versus evil in a battle for the world.  Hero stepping forward from the ranks of common men to save the day. 

Every epic fantasy has battles and deadly confrontations.  A good story jerks at the heart strings and hopefully brings a tear.  As an author, I make sure there is something blue in my novels or in other words, 'someone is going to die.'  

I figured out as I wrote this post that I am married to my writing.  The hours I spend on it certainly put some truth to that idea.

Do you have an old saying you can compare your writing to? Do you make sure there's something blue in your stories?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Favorite Things

Did you think I was going to break into song?  I'm not Julie Andrews.  I have a book due to come out at the beginning of the summer and my publisher sent Tiger's Mate to me for the final read through.  I love this part of the process.  It's one of my favorite parts of the writing process. 

Why? I think it's because I know it's too late to make any big changes. All the major problems have been fixed and I'm mostly looking for spelling and grammatical mistakes.  The plot holes have been filled, loose ends tied up and character missteps ironed out.

I'll probably work on this every free moment for the next seven days and send it back over the weekend.  Then I'll get back to my current WIP which happens to be the next book in this fantasy romance series.  I love creating a new book.  It's one of my favorite things in the writing process.

I also enjoy the second draft when I search out all those passive verbs, repetitive phrases and pet words which for me is usually, 'just.'  I usually have a list of things I need to fix in the plot I refer to when I work on the second draft.  It takes me about a third of the time to do a second draft compared to the first draft.  Maybe that's why it's one of my favorite parts of my writing process.

You probably figured out where this is going.  With the exception of writing a synopsis, I enjoy every part of writing a novel.  Each draft, first, second, final and even the polishing in between, have attractions.  I didn't used to like editing.  I just wanted to write new stuff all the time.  But since I published my first book, I enjoy fine-tuning a manuscript into a novel someone might want to buy and read. 

So what is your favorite part of the writing process?  Which part do you find the most challenging?  Name a few of your favorite things.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Promotion is tough and can feel as lonely as writing and even more frustrating.  Fortunately, I have friends who not only give me advice but support me in many ways.  Let me introduce you to a few of them. 

Fellow author, Natalie Damschroder, recently gave me a shout-out on her blog for Beyond the Gate.  Natalie keeps so many balls in the air between her writing, her work and her family, she puts me to shame with my whining about not having enough time for everything. She has a new release coming out from Carina Press in April.  You'll hear more about that here during the A to Z blogging challenge.  Thanks, Natalie.

A few weeks ago, Lisa Lawmaster Hess, gifted me with the Stylish Blogger Award on her blog, The Porch Swing Chronicles.  Part of the award is to pass it on to some deserving others.  I'm going to do that in a later post.  I'm also supposed to confess 7 things about myself. 

1)  I come from a large family of seven children and counting my stepsons, I have six children myself. 

2) I won an athletic scholarship to college during an era when they weren't common. Who would have believed I would end up a writer?

3) I own three different DVD versions of Pride and Prejudice.  I watch at least one of them every two weeks or so.

4) I grew up on a dairy farm and often had to get up at 4:00am to milk the cows before I went to school. I sometimes fell asleep in science class.

5) I still love all of Clint Eastwood's old westerns, especially, The Outlaw Josey Wales.

6)  My favorite drink is amaretto on the rocks.

7) I'm not afraid of snakes, wild animals but spiders scare me enough to call for help.  They are really, really creepy.

Thank you again to Lisa and Natalie.  I hope you'll stop by and visit them, make some new friends to help you on in this difficult business.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Few More of Those, Less of These

Beyond the Gate just received another great review, this time from Alise at Read My Mind.  Stop by if you have a chance to her busy blog. Thanks, Alise.

Those good reviews always provide a little push for me and hopefully will motivate some readers to try my series, The Futhark Chronicles. 

I need some motivation at this time of year.  I noticed yesterday while walking( still limping) to the end of the driveway, the spring bulbs are pushing their way through the browned bodies of last year's greenery.  Most of the snow is gone, exposing the multitude of branches the snow and wind have ripped from the trees in my back acre.  The pool fence and deck need some work.  Do you see where I'm going with this?

Spring means lots of outside chores to draw me away from my writing and promotional efforts.  I'm already getting the urge to do some raking.  But I'm a third of the way done with my current WIP and would like to finish it before the release of my next novel in May.  I have two submissions to make of my next fantasy series to two publishers who are only open to new manuscripts during the month of March.  Lots to do and the outside is calling me.  

Does the spring weather distract you? Do reviews motivate you in your writing or your reading selections? 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Start Here

I'm a third of the way throw my next book, the third book in a fantasy romance series, and it's moving along well.  I changed the start at least four times before moving on and letting it go as is until edits.  I remember showing my very first completed novel to an agent at a writing conference.  She read the first chapter and then told me to throw it out and start with the second chapter.  It was good advice.  The book eventually was published as The Greater Good.   I've continued to use the 'throw out the first chapter' at times but mostly I try to find the correct place to start by applying some general ideas of what to put in the first scene and what not to do.

Put action into it.  Don't start with a cliche like waking to a ringing phone, waking from a nightmare or dream, or starting with a ticking bomb. A whiny teenager fighting with her parents isn't a great place to stop either though I've opened a few YA to find just that.  I closed them right back up.  Most sources advice having the first scene belong to the protagonist though many of my favorite suspense authors open their books with a crime in progress.  That pulls me right into the mystery.

Even the first time novelist knows the rule about not filling the first scene and chapter with long descriptions of setting or pages of introspection.  In fantasy there is a need to world build but it doesn't have to all be done in the first chapter.  

What cliches turn you off in the first chapter?  Where do you like to start your books?