Monday, June 30, 2014

How Realistic Are My Recon Marines?

Today I'm posting at IWSG and talking about building your blog audience. And don't forget Wednesday is the monthly posting of IWSG. Be there!

Today my publisher has put my latest up for sale on their site. Many of you who write for a small publisher who sells books directly from their web page know that the publisher and author make a higher percentage on sales where there's no middle man like Amazon to take a slice. So NCP always keeps new releases exclusively available on their site for the first few weeks.

The final book in The Recon Marines series, The Marine's Doctor, revolves around the hunt for the origins of the genetic engineering programs that created the superior beings known as the Recon Marines. Marine Mak joins up with the genius medical doctor and researcher, Molly Drant. They follow a trail of horror, finding evidence of cruel experiments on human subjects. Is it possible mankind would ever allow the type of genetic manipulation that occurs in my books?

I have a biology minor so I know a little about genetics but that field of science has come a long, long way since I attended college. Scientific America has a long list of articles on the work being done in genetic studies. The best use of all the research may be in the possibilities of disease treatment and prevention. A controversial use of the research is in the production of food. How much genetically modified foodstuffs are we eating without knowing it?

But already there are questions about the ethical use of genetic manipulation. Will we use it only to fight and prevent disease or will it be used to create super athletes, geniuses or persons of great beauty? Will the human race end up losing our diversity? In my Recon Marine series, even though each Marine has slight physical differences in many ways they're more similar than they are different. They were designed to intelligent, unusually strong and agile and all had the same skin tone. There's more but you'll have to read the books to learn how far I took the design of those 'super soldiers.'

Do you avoid GM food? Do you know a family that has suffered from a genetic disease such as sickle cell anemia, Tay-Sachs or Huntington's? What good or bad do you believe would come about if mankind develops the skill to manipulate our genes? Isn't my newest cover great?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday By the Numbers

Just a short check in post today. I've been so busy this week I don't know where to start. The best part is except for getting my post ready for IWSG next week, I've accomplished everything I intended for the week. A few things to polish up this weekend and I'll be set.

Even with all the work I've accomplished, I spent way too many hours on Pinterest. Just to spread the procrastination fever around a bit, I found three fun things to share with you.

I'll just signed a contract for my 10th romance novel and will celebrate the release of my 9th one soon. In honor of that here's a nice article of The Five Things Every Good Romance Should Have.

I do cringe when I read a cliché line in a novel. I hope I don't use them when I speak. My husband's favorite is 'as sharp as a bowling ball' when referring to someone who has just done something not very bright. Here's a list of 12 Cliches All Writers Should Avoid.

And with the recent passing of the amazing Maya Angelou, I thought sharing this article on 17 Maya Angelou Quotes That Will Inspire You To Be a Better Person might get the creative juices flowing for the weekend.

Join me on the IWSG blog on Monday. Did you already know the five important things to have in a romance novel? Is there a cliché you use a lot or one you're really tired of hearing? Do you have a favorite Maya Angelou quote? Any great weekend plans?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Can't Get There From Here

My husband has been a painter for over forty years. Even when he still was a teacher, he painted in the summer and on the weekends. When he was younger and no one had GPS, vacationers would often stop and ask the painters how to get to Hershey Park. Though usually only a few miles from the park, my husband and friends would often joke with the lost travelers that they couldn't get there from where they were. They should go home and start over.

Sometimes I feel that way when I'm writing a first draft. Often I feel that manuscript is so terrible that it can never become a publishable novel. The characters are underdeveloped. There are holes in my plot or the science doesn't make sense. There's no tension in my romance novels. All these doubts assail me when I work on a first draft. There seems no way to fix it. It just can't get to publication from where it is and I need to start over or perhaps even forget the entire story.

That's why I always set it aside for a few weeks before I try to fix it. Once I get back into it, I find that many parts of it are not so bad after all. And the parts that aren't working can be fixed. Sometimes I need to move a part of the plot or a character's reactions in a different direction. Maybe I need to but part of it away and add something more in another section. Usually I can get it to where I want it to be.

So like those lost tourists, I can get my writing where I want it to go. I made need to change the route a little to make up for some wrong turns. I might even need to stop and ask for some advice from my critique partners to get back on track to my destination. Whenever I feel discouraged by a first draft, I remind myself of all the other times I felt the same way. I can get there from where I am.

Do you like your first drafts or do they require a lot of work? How soon do you dive into editing after you finish a first draft? Do you remember when you had to ask others for directions?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Rules or Guidelines

Most writers somewhere at the beginnings of their career took writing classes or attended workshops of some kind. Maybe those classes reached all the way back to high school or college courses, but at some point an instructor lectured us on all those things we needed to know to be a writer.

Some of you might not have used that knowledge immediately but when the time came you remembered those rules of grammar and punctuation and applied it to your writing projects. I admit to picking up a style book early in my writing endeavors because there were lots of things I didn't remember.

And I learned my English teachers had LIED to me. Some of those things they taught me are not rules. They're guidelines. But which ones? How about the rule about never starting a sentence with a conjunction? We do that all the time when we speak or think. Why not when we write?

I'm also going to boldly attack that rule about splitting infinitives. Even Star Trek does it so can it be wrong? We all know the sin of using adverbs in our writing but splitting infinitives with an adverb isn't committing a writing sin. It's a guideline that if followed may improve your writing by making it stronger. But if I can ever write a line as famous as 'to boldly go where no man had gone before,' I'll split that infinitive until the cows come home. (For you non-farmers out there, the cows usually head for home at dusk.)

Were you taught any 'rules' that you later found out were mere guidelines? Do you keep a style book on hand? Do you know when the cows come home?

Don't forget to visit the IWSG site today for some great writing advice. And take the time to visit Anne R. Allen's blog where she has Nathan Bransford guest posting this week. It's a very interesting post.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Busy Times

Just a short post today. I'm too busy doing a final read through for my upcoming release, The Marine's Doctor, Recon Marines III.

The good news for this week is that summer seems to finally be here with hot, muggy days. I love this weather. My favorite time to run is right around noon with the temperature hanging right around 90 degrees. Then a short half hour swim to cool down. You all put up with my constant complaints this past winter. I promise I won't complain about the heat.

Thursday I'll take a day off from running so I can donate blood. I used to be able to donate and then work out later but that doesn't work for me anymore. If you're capable, giving blood is very important. The greatest demand for blood is during the summer months so let the vampires have a pint if you can.

The rest of this month is filled with graduation parties to attend and one wedding. When you get to be the age my husband and I are, you don't get many invites to weddings so we're looking forward to it.

The Budweiser Clydesdales were as cool as I expected them to be. Our little town had a great turnout to see the magnificent horses. They're really beautiful in person.

What has you busy this week? Do you like the heat or are you missing winter? Do you donate blood? Have any summer weddings to attend?

Monday, June 16, 2014

When It Rains...

We experienced six days of rain last week some of it coming in fast, hard downpours. The skies hung heavy and low, creating a world of gray and gloom. The air temperature stayed in the seventies or near eighty, adding to the damp misery.

Except when the rain finally ended and I toured my gardens and flowerbeds, I found thriving cucumbers and bountiful blooms of a color to chase away the remembered dreariness of storms. No evening watering could do for those plants what natures' methods could. Rain is needed.

Good stories are like that. To appreciate a happy ending we must have the storm before hand. The storm may cause extra work or stress the emotions. The rain might destroy or cause setbacks. But after the clouds have passed? The world becomes brighter. Things grow stronger and larger. It's better for having suffered the rain.

I spent those rainy days outlining my next book. Not so much an outline as a list of bullet points I intend to incorporate into the novel. It's how I usually start a new book. I have the beginning and end all worked out but I need a little more rain to carry through the middle. Even though the sun is shining today, I'm going to outline some gloomy and cloudy scenes today.
In my hometown today.

On another high note, the Budweiser Clydesdales are coming to my hometown tonight. It will be fun to see the famous crew clopping down Main Street.

Don't forget to visit the IWSG blog today for another great post.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Then and Now Bloghop

Then and Now," a blog hop hosted by The Armchair Squid, Suze, Nicki Elson and Nancy Mock.  Tell us about a movie you loved when you were younger and have come to see differently over time - for better or for worse. Check out the entire list here.

I picked a movie that's only 15 years old but one that I look at differently now that I'm a writer. You've Got Mail starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan is a romantic comedy about a big box bookstore that looks a lot like Barnes and Noble and how it puts a small independent bookstore out of business. Tom Hanks is the CEO of Fox Books and Meg Ryan owns and runs the cute little Shop Around the Corner Bookstore that she inherited from her mother.

The first time I saw it, I appreciated it as a very cute romance story with two excellent actors. But as I've rewatched it (many times) other things touch me. The battle between the independent booksellers and Fox books, a battle the small store can't win. The true love of books demonstrated so perfectly by Meg Ryan's character. Tom Hanks' dysfunctional family and his search for true love. The references to classics like Jane Austen and The Godfather. And the colorful secondary characters especially Jean Stapleton as Birdy. The development of a friendship leading to the romance. Most of all, the growth of both main characters. Joe Fox faces the reality of what his business model does to others and learns to apologize. Kathleen Kelly suffers failure and the loss of her beloved store but discovers she is a writer. She also learns to forgive Joe Fox. So many of those elements are the perfect ingredients for a great romance story. The outdated technology always feels nostalgic to me rather than annoying or distracting.

Did you ever see this movie? What did you like or not like about it? Is there a movie you loved as your younger self that you still enjoy or one that appealed years ago but no longer does?

Monday, June 9, 2014

June is For...

As a teacher for all of my adult life, June was something to look forward to. A paradise of relaxation and a chance to refuel. Never mind that the days always flew by with out door chores and transporting children to sports events, camps and outings with friends. I loved June.

This June, the first one after my first year of being a full time writer, the month slipped in with barely a notice. I already had those the out door projects finished, pool open, flowers and veggies planted and the tanbark making it all beautiful. So June is different this year.

June will be for reworking my WIP that I'm very dissatisfied with. June will be for promoting my already released books and preparing for an upcoming release. June is when I'll ask for my rights back to a book at a publisher where it has sold only a handful of copies. June is when I'll decide what to do with that novel.

Despite the hours I have to put into outside maintenance of the homestead, June is very much like any other month in the life of a full time writer. Yes, I work on the front or back porch at times because the weather is so lovely, but this month is no longer that semi-frantic joyful beginner of summer break. It's just summer. And it's fun.

June is also the month of weddings. On that note, I won't be posting on Wednesday because it is my wedding anniversary. I'll probably have time to visit you all, but no new post here. I appreciate my wonderful, hardworking husband all year long and I'll make sure he knows it that day.

I haven't shared anything from my all time favorite day planner, The Old Farmer's Almanac version, so I'm delighted to share this word.
Nephelococcygia is the word for finding a shape such as a face or an animal in a cloud.
I dare Pat to use that in one of his posts.

Do you even notice the end of school in June? Any weddings to attend or anniversaries to celebrate this month? Does the nice weather pull you outside to work or just enjoy? Ever find a shape in a cloud?

Don't forget to visit the IWSG site and pick up some useful writing information.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Do You Multitask?

One of the tidbits I jotted down at the recent Pennwriters Conference was something Meredith Mileti, our luncheon keynote speaker said. She proposed that many writers are unitaskers. Since I am entirely the opposite, I had to explore this a little.

As I've mentioned on this blog many times, I always have music or even a video playing in the background when I write. I'm watching a TV show on demand as I write this. As a busy mother, I learned to multitask as a way to survive and make sure everything ran smoothly. That carried over to my writing. But Meredith sounded so sure of herself I had searched out some articles on the subject. Here is one from Forbes and another interesting one from Naukri, a career help site.

Most of the articles I found were related to working in office like places rather than writing at home but the advice was the same. But the advice is solid for working at home also. I found it very interesting and am going to try unitasking more, especially when I feel like I'm stuck on a scene. The point made in a few of the articles that stuck with me is that multitasking is really nothing of the sort. What your mind is actually doing is switching quickly from task to task and giving none its due attention.

There were a few ideas shared to help you unitask and again one stuck with me. Uncluttering your workspace. Those stacks of reminders of other things you need to address will on distract you from what you're working on. I realized this is so true for me. I'm going to clean up my desk this weekend.

Another point I learned from reading about unitaskers is that sometimes I am one. When I do edits, I do that without the music or video noise. At least I'm doing something right.

So do you unitask or multitask when you write? Do you agree with what the articles say about the inefficiency of multitasking? When do you always unitask at an activity? Do you agree with Meredith that many writers are unitaskers?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

IWSG: June Version

Thanks to the wonderful Alex J. Cavanaugh, a huge group of writers share their wisdom, woes and offer encouragement on the first Wednesday of very month. Alex started the group and a few months ago took it even further by being the driving force behind the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog. You can find the entire list of participants there. Visit and share with others navigating the same waters as you are.

Summer has nearly arrived and with it a lot of people are heading for vacation. Even if they aren't traveling, they're taking some time off from blogging. They have many reasons for blogging vacations. One blogger I know is moving. One is dealing with some health issues. A few are going away and either putting the technology to sleep for a while or do not have access to it. Some need to spend their hours working on they latest project.

Bloggers taking a break from blogging usually warn their readers rather than just disappear. And many still visit and comment on other blogs, they just don't have time to prepare their own. Sometimes they apologize to their followers for their upcoming absence. But they shouldn't.

This group is about writers. And writers need time to write and blogging can take away from that. Writers just like other workers, need time off from their career. Sometimes work must come second to family needs, recuperation, and other adult responsibilities. Take that blogging break if you need it and no need to explain to those of us in this group.

Have you taken a blogging vacation and why? Did you find it freed up time you needed for other things? Are you a member of the IWSG Facebook Page? Check out the entire list of bloggers to visit today at IWSG blog.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Pennwriters Agent Panel

In my continuing effort to share some of what I heard at the annual Pennwriters Conference two weeks ago, I'm going to share some information I picked up from the agents' panel presentation. I'll link each agent to their agency or website and share what they're in search of and for some of them, their pet peeve in pitches or query letters.

Katie Shea Boutillier of the Donald Maass Literary Agency is seeking YA and women's fiction. She describes women's fiction as a book that would appeal to a book club.

Maria Lamba of the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency would like to receive MG-YA and general fiction. She asks that authors don't label romance as women's fiction.

Bob Podrasky of the Stuart Agency like general fiction and most genre fiction. He also seeks nonfiction. He suggests you compare your books to published authors to help them categorize your book. Another way to do so is to decide what author you would ask to give a quote for your jacket cover.

Jessica Regel of Foundry Literary and Media seeks all genres of MG and YA. She's also interested in some adult fiction, especially books that straddle the line between literary and commercial works.

Bridget Smith of the Dunham Literary likes SF/F and women's literary novels. She doesn't want to see a query that calls the main character 'normal.'

Paige Wheeler of the Folia Literary Management is seeking YA, MG, women's fiction, romance and suspense. In a pitch or query, mention other clients you compare to. She emphasizes the importance of brick and mortar stores in offering discoverability. Her least favorite word to see in an author's writing is 'drug' in place of dragged.

Peter Knapp from the Park Literary Group wants to see MG/YA, thrillers and mysteries. He suggests you try for that interesting one-liner for a pitch session or a query.

Jessica Sinsheimer of the Sarah Jane Freymann Agency seeks YA and women's fiction. She hates the phrase, 'turned her world upside down.'

Roseanne Wells, also of the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency wants SF/F, literary, mystery, and nonfiction.

Jordy Albert of The Booker Albert Literary Agency is seeing romance. She detests books that start with someone waking up.

There is a nice list of agents. As you can see, women's fiction is very popular. A number of the agents mentioned the statistic of how women are the leading book consumers.

Did you learn anything useful from the above agents? See any you would like to work with? Does it surprise you which genres they are most interested in? Do you have an agent or seek one?