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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Announcing...

Six Pack of Murder

One of the decisions I've made recently is to let a small press publish a short story collection. Naturally, the stories are mysteries and from the title you can tell there are six of them. Six Pack will be available for e-readers and in paperback.

We don't have a release date yet but are aiming for the first part of December.  I'll be sure to let everyone know when I have a fixed date.

The edits have been done, I've a few minor things to fix then that will be off to the publisher.  We are working on cover art now too.  I'm really excited about that.  We brainstormed some great ideas and I can barely wait to see the finished piece.

I'll be doing some things here in the way of promotion such as a contest or two so check back often for news.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Taking charge...



"You are responsible for the success of your writing career..
And you are responsible for it 100% of the time."
Christina Katz

This has never been more true than now. There are so many options out there for a writer, it's sometimes hard to know which direction is the one to follow.  And, publishing is changing so rapidly, it's actually hard to keep up.

As I mentioned not long ago, I've made some decisions, set some priorities, and have started setting some goals along with the steps to reach them.  I'll be sharing some of that soon but as the year is coming to a close -- Can you believe it's almost November??? -- I want to encourage each of you to consider what you want to accomplish, what you have accomplished and then make some plans to get to your goals.

For me, it meant setting aside my fantasy writing for a while and focusing on my mystery writing.   As Earl Smooter said, "You can't ride two horses with one ass." Yes, I'll still play with my dragons and such but the main focus will be mystery for a while.  And I'm happy with that.  It was the right decision for me. 

It also meant setting my sights a little lower than the "Big Six" and New York.    Yeah, it took me a while to acknowledge that, and it's still a bit irksome but there is no way I can sit and wait for NY.  By the time I got an acceptance, then wait the 18 - 24 months for the book to hit the shelf, it could be three years or more down the line. 

By going with a small press, I'll have something out much sooner, have more input in the process and since I have to do most of the work anyway, why shouldn't I get most of the earnings.  So, I'm happy with my decisions.

Again, I want to urge each of you to consider your writing goals and decide just what's the best way for you to achieve them.  Yes, some decisions may be hard to make but it will be worth it in the long run.

When I first read the quote from Christina Katz, I tweaked it a bit, made it my own.  I then typed it up, gave it a little color and shape then printed it out as bookmarks and even a "flyer" thing.  I've included the picture below.  Copy it, post it where you can see it, take control of your writing career!








Monday, October 24, 2011

The Cell

Not long ago I discovered chainbooks and have been writing for them when I have a chance.  One of the things I really like is I can play in different genres without having to finish a whole story.  I can have part of an idea, play with it a bit then let someone else finish it. 

Here is part of one of those ideas.  You can read the rest of it HERE then if you'd like, add the next chapter to it.


The Cell

I hurried down the aisle, past the shoes and artificial flower stuff. By the time I reached lay-a-way, my jaws ached from clenching them so tight and I was doing the 'from-the-knees-down' kinda run that every woman who's waited too long to go knows about. Finally rushing into the restroom, I made it to the first open stall, barely closed the door and settled it into a sitting position without doing something I'd not done since first grade. I'd been new in school, my first day. I still remembered how they kids laughed and teased. After that, I taught myself to delay the need to go for hours at a time. Course, not drinking a lot of liquids helped but I'd never had an accident again. Oh, I'd cut it close a time or two but nothing serious.

Momma had always said "a bean's a bean but a pee's a relief" and while sitting there enjoying the relief, I took a moment to read the graffiti on the stall walls. Nothing much there, just the usual 'for a good time call Glenda at' with a phone number along with a couple 'I love' and the boy's name kinda thing. Above the toilet paper holder someone had scrawled a really crude poem about farting. I snickered a bit since I was alone.

That's when I saw the cell phone. Just laying on top of the toilet paper holder. It was one of those cheap, twenty dollar phones you buy to placate the kid who thinks she'll die if she doesn't have a phone to text her friends. I knew cause I'd bought the fifty dollar version. And for another fifty dollars a month I had unlimited talk, text and web. Not a bad deal really when you compared other plans. And believe me, I had.

I picked up the phone, pushed the green send key and watched the screen come to life. The airtime info showed just under fifty thousand minutes available and twenty-nine service days. Someone had just reloaded it and would probably be angry they'd lost it. But hey, my own phone was about to run out of service days and since things were a little tight in the cash flow area, I figured this was a gift I couldn't refuse. And like momma had said many a time, "finders keepers, losers weepers."

I finished up my business, stuck my new cell phone in my pocket and left the stall. After a quick washing of the hands, I strolled out of the restroom. No one had been looking for a lost phone in the restroom and no one stood at the service desk asking about a lost phone so I snagged an empty shopping cart that appeared to be abandoned and headed to the grocery section to get some ice cream to celebrate my good fortune.

After settling on fudge swirl along with some chocolate sauce to top it off, I used the self-checkout machine and headed across the parking lot to my car. Sliding the cell phone from my pocket, I deposited it in a cup holder then started the engine. I'd just sifted into reverse when the cell sang "you've got mail." After shifting back into park, it only took a moment to open the message and read, Time to play a game. Strange message since that wouldn't be possible on this version of phone, no games. It was one of the things that kept me from buying this model to begin with. I shrugged and then deleted the message.

I'd just returned the phone to its spot in the cup holder when it sang its "you've got mail" announcement again. Sorry, wrong number, no game playing here. I picked up the phone anyway, opened the message. Yes, you! Drive out of parking lot, turn right on Gibson Road. Go to the Sonic. Order a cherry limeade then wait until you hear from me. The phone sang again. I opened the message. Don't think about disobeying Carol. I sucked in a deep breath and dropped the phone. It slid between the seats and down beside the gas pedal. Glancing around the parking lot, no one seemed to be watching me. There were a couple of shoppers going toward the store and a guy with a cart full of stuff coming down the aisle but no one close by or that paid any attention to me.

"You've got mail" came from the phone by my foot. I jerked away bumping my elbow on the door. Maybe if I ignored it. But, whoever was on the other end, they knew my name. How could it be possible? I reached down, picked up the phone. Dread washed over me, my stomach churned. I touched the view button and swallowed hard. Go NOW or you won't live to regret it. Wrong, I regretted picking up the phone already.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Motivational Monday

I really like this!

How many times have you not done something because you might be wrong?  I know I have.  Many times. 

As a writer, it's so hard sometimes to put words on the page that might not be the right ones.  I think that's one reason writers are such great procrastinators.

So, today I challenge you.  Yes, you.  Put aside those doubts and fears.  Stop worrying about getting the words perfect.

Remember, great books aren't written, they're rewritten.

You can't revise what you haven't written.

Write from the heart. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Fun

Happy Friday! And, boy am I glad this weeks almost over. We finally had some rain the last couple days and it's actually feeling like fall out there. Plus, I've made some major decisions about my writing path this past week so things are looking up.

So, I thought I'd share some fun with you today.

First, Stickman. This is cute. 

Next, some of you have seen this before, but for those of you who haven't...Wordle. I really like playing here.  One day I'm going to use  one of these for a t-shirt design.

And of course, Banner Maker. This is fun to play with.

For those of you who are at work and need a break without looking like you're having fun, there's this.

Have fun y'all!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

FOCUS

The other day while running errands, I had the radio on as normal and heard something interesting.  The guy said the reason most people don't succeed is because they don't focus.  Then he went on to explain what he meant.

Focus = Follow One Course Until Successful

He said people tend to start one thing, work at it for a while but then we drop it when something we think is better comes along.

And I don't know about you, but I am so guilty of this with my writing.  I'll work on one thing for a while, then a new idea comes along and I drop what I've been writing and start this new, great idea that just can't wait. The process then repeats itself over and over and over.  I don't know how many stories I have that abandoned for something that seemed better. 

This leads to something else I came across lately.  It was a blog post (and I can't find it to post a link) about the difficulties of writing, publishing and promoting in multiple genres at the same time.  One point made was that each genre will suffer because none of them are getting your full attention and your best effort.

Again, this hit me just like one of Gibbs' slap to the back of the head. I've written romance, fantasy, mystery, horror, non-fiction, inspirational, a little sci-fi and even some poetry.  I've got novels in various stages of revision and editing in fantasy, romance and mystery along with an inspirational self-help thing plotted out.

Naturally, I went into denial.  I can write 5 or 6 different genres at one time and do it well.  I can revise 3 different genre novels at one time without any problem.  What does this person know, what makes her an expert on me? 

After getting over myself though, I realized she was right.  I love my fantasy novel.  But it's suffering because I'm not FOCUSED on it.  And my mystery novel, the one I hope to pitch to New York one day, we'll it's suffering right along with the fantasy novel, and the romance novel.  Because I'm not FOCUSED.

So, I asked myself some questions.  Hard questions like just did I think I was accomplishing by spreading myself so thin.  And, just exactly what did I hope to accomplish with my writing and was I making progress the way things were going now. 

I made some hard decisions too.  And I'll be posting more about those soon but for now, I thought I'd share what I've learned lately.

And I have to ask... 

What about you?  Do you have a stack/file of unfinished stories?  Are you working on multiple genres at the same time but not giving each your best because you're spreading yourself too thin?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Comma

Morning...

I don't know about you, but I have a horrendous time figuring out just where commas belong and where they don't.  So, when I found this on Twitter I knew I had to share.

First, Comma Usage 101. This is a nice basic article from Novel Publishing Group and doesn't make me feel stupid.

Here's part two. Comma Usage 201.  Again, this is easy to understand without making me feel stupid.  I mean, high school english was a LONG time ago. :-)

Here's another helpful article on commas.

I've got these in my favorites and plan to study them soon. 

What about you?  Do you abuse, ignore or overuse the comma?

Or, do you have issues with some other form of punctuation?  I love ellipsis... :-)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Where there's smoke...

And there's a lot of smoke around here today.  Ash is flying, smoke hanging in the air and even making it's way inside. 

While we aren't in the path of the fires or in any danger, I do have friends who are.

Normally, I keep my personal things off the blog...unless it's writing related, but today I'm asking each of you to take a few minutes and say a prayer for those who have lost their homes or loved ones in the recent wave of fires.  Also, remember the firemen and women who are standing between the fires and the homes of all those folks out there at a risk to themselves.

Texas is really, really dry right now.  Lakes and ponds are a fraction of the size they used to be.  Grass is brown and crunchy.  Ranchers and farmers are in terrible shape right now and it doesn't seem to be getting better, especially with the fires.

I know things are tight right now, but if you can find a few bucks in the budget, here's a place that could really use them.  Texas Wildfire Relief 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Shall we play a game?

This morning, as usual, I checked my facebook page and said hi.  A friend commented right after with the fact that she didn't sleep at all last night.  Well, naturally I felt bad for my sleepless friend but being in an unusual mood already, my brain took the words she'd written and linked them to an old song.  And before I knew what had happened, I had "I couldn't sleep at all last night...I was tossing and turning, turning and tossing" stuck in my head.  Over and over...turning and tossing...tossing and turning...

My friend commented "Use it" and like the writer I am...I realized the reason she was tossing and turning is cause she was wrestling  with the nuances of her plan to get rid of the guy that done her wrong.

So, here's today's game.  Why do you think he or she was tossing and turning?  Leave your answer in the comment section. 

I had to look up the lyrics so if you need a bit of inspiration, here they are. From the song Tossin' and Turnin' by Bobby Lewis in 1961.

I couldn't sleep at all last night
Got to thinkin' of you
Baby things weren't right
Well I was tossin' and turnin'
Turnin' and tossin'
a-tossin' and turnin' all night

I kicked the blankets on the floor
Turned my pillow upside down
I never never did before
'cause I was tossin' and turnin'
Turnin' and tossin'
a-tossin' and turnin' all night

Jumped out of bed
Turned on the light
I pulled down the shade
Went to the kitchen for a bite
Rolled up the shade
Turned off the light
I jumped back into bed
It was the middle of the night

The clock downstairs was strikin' four
Couldn't get you off my mind
I heard the milkman at the door
'cause I was tossin' and turnin'
Turnin' and tossin'
a-tossin' and turnin' all night


***  Bonus points to the person who can tell me what movie I pulled the title of this post from.  :-)





Monday, August 29, 2011

Motivational Monday



"Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing. They are the ones who discover what is most important and strangest and most pleasurable in themselves, and keep believing in the value of their work, despite the difficulties."

 Bonnie Friedman


These past couple weeks, I've been taking my own advice.  I mentioned not long ago I felt sorta stale, or stagnant with my writing.  That' I'd been revising so long instead of writing something new.  Well, I've been writing new stuff.  And it feels really good.

But, I've learned a couple things I thought I'd share.  And, yes, I knew these things to begin with but sometimes I tend to forget and have to be reminded.

First, I love the way it feels putting words on the page.  Especially good words, words that fit, that tell a story.  I love the creative thought process.  The "what if" and "then what" questions.  I love getting to know new characters and places. 

However, writing is work.  The words don't always come easy and when they don't, it's usually easier to walk away or play some game on the computer than push through the rough spot.  It's so much easier to blame "writer's block" than actually confront why I'm having problems. 

It takes discipline.  I need a word count or page goal.  I need a deadline.  I don't know about you, but I need to be accountable. Sometimes I just have to do the "backside in chair" and write until I get the word count thing.  And you know what, those words are pretty good too.

The most important thing though, I need to make writing a priority.  Writing is important to me and I need to remind myself sometimes.  I need to remind others too, because if it's not important to me, it won't be to them.

And so today, I encourage each of you to make your writing a priority.  Take the time each day to put words on the page.  Set a word count or page goal and then meet and exceed it.  Enjoy the creative, pondering process and be sure to leave out some chocolate for the plot bunnies. :-)



Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pet Words

When I first started writing seriously, I had a few words I liked to use over and over.  Just and that.  How many of you have the same problem?   Now, whenever I see either of those words, I always wonder if I can take it out.  My critique partners must be tired of me telling them they had too many 'thats' or 'justs' by  now.  It's one of the first things I notice.

However, they caught me with a new pet word the other night.  "So."  *Insert head to desk*  Seriously, how could that happen?  I mean really...  Now I have to go back and check each time so is in there to see if it's just a filler word or actually needs to be there. Sigh...

Thing is...  We all have our pet words.  Mine just happened to change once I noticed.  I'll have to be more alert as I weed out the all the times I used so and didn't need to.  Cause I know there'll be another word ready to take its place.

One of the best books on self-editing is called The 10% Solution by Ken Rand.  It's a small thing, only 63 pages but honestly, it's the best money I've spent on a writing book.  You can find it at Fairwood Press.  He has a really helpful list of things to check for in your writing.

In fact, I had his list taped to my monitor for years.  Here's a picture of the list.  I don't have it taped where I can see it any longer but still have the list.  You'll notice at the top right, I've added "also."  It was one of my trouble words once.   I'm going to have to add "so" now. :-)

So, :-)  what about you?  Got a favorite word? 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Motivational Monday

"If you’re going to be a writer, the first essential is just to write. Do not wait for an idea. Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow." 
 Louis L’Amour

I really like this.  Sometimes I do wait for ideas to come when I should be "doing" instead.  There are times when life gets in the way and sorta drys up the ideas but again, if we prime the pump, they do return.

Ideas are all around us.  We just have to open ourselves up to them, let 'em know we're listening and looking.

Plus it helps to leave out chocolate for the plot bunnies.:-)







Friday, August 12, 2011

Ladies Who Critique

This is a bit late getting posted but I wanted to give you the latest info.

Ladies Who Critique is a new online group for all us ladies who need a critique partner.  I'm going to pull some info off their website to share with you...

Ladies Who Critique is a critique partner matching site for writers of all levels – published, unpublished, aspiring, hobbyists, even closet writers or complete newbies!

Here are the core ideas behind our community;
- A place where women writers of all levels can search & find a match based on genre, experience & interests.
- A completely free service.
- Fun and without obligation.
- Safe and trustworthy.
- Fills the current need for such a space online.
- Be up to date with current trends in publication.
- Support the women who wish to pursue the traditional path and those who choose to go down the self publication route.
- Build confidence in those who aren’t even confident to call themselves writers quite yet.
- Offer a variety of articles, resources and blogposts on how to successfully critique, the benefits of critique, and how to maintain a good critiquing relationship.
- Enable our members to be fully savvy on the ins and outs of the new rules of publishing by keeping up to date with the newest and current technology, and developments in the publishing industry.


Now, this is the "beta" version and things are just getting started but there are already over 100 members in just about every genre. 

One of the cool things, you can search member profiles and find a person you have other things in common with.  In fact, I've already found a critique partner, set things up and sent pages to her this morning.  She and I have lots of other interests in common and I'm really looking forward to working with her.

I encourage each of you ladies to head on over and check it out.  I know you'll love it.  I'll be hanging out (mostly) in the Crime & Mystery along with the Short Stories groups so stop by, join and say hi. 

We'll also be using the #LWCritique hashtag on Twitter so be sure to check that out too.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wonderful Wednesday

Howdy...

It's hot in Texas.  How hot you ask? Well....



And it's so dry...
A buddy out of Longview said he'd killed a mosquito that was carrying a canteen. A man in Lubbock said the chicken farmers were giving the chickens crushed ice to keep them from laying hard-boiled eggs. In Lake Palestine, they caught a 20 lb catfish that had ticks on it!




Dear Diary,
Just moved to Texas! Now this is a state that knows how to live!! Beautiful sunny days and warm balmy evenings. It is beautiful. I've finally found my home. I love it here.

June 14th:

Really heating up. Got to 100 today. Not a problem. Live in an air-conditioned home, drive an air-conditioned car. What a pleasure to see the sun everyday like this. I'm turning into a sun worshipper.

June 30th:

Had the backyard landscaped with western plants today. Lots of cactus and rocks. What a breeze to maintain. No more mowing the lawn for me. Another scorcher today, but I love it here.

July 10th:

The temperature hasn't been below 100 all week. How do people get used to this kind of heat? At least, it's kind of windy though. But getting used to the heat is taking longer than I expected.

July 15th:

Fell asleep by the community pool. Got 3rd degree burns over 60% of my body. Missed 3 days of work. What a dumb thing to do. I learned my lesson though. Got to respect the ol' sun in a climate like this.

July 20th:

I missed Lomita (my cat) sneaking into the car when I left this morning. By the time I got to the hot car at noon, Lomita had died and swollen up to the size of a shopping bag, then popped like a water balloon. The car now smells like Kibbles and Shits. I learned my lesson though. No more pets in this heat. Good ol' Mr. Sun strikes again.

July 25th:

The wind sucks. It feels like a giant freaking blow dryer!! And it's hot as hell. The home air-conditioner is on the fritz and the AC repairman charged $200 just to drive by and tell me he needed to order parts.

July 30th:

Been sleeping outside on the patio for 3 nights now, $225,000 house and I can't even go inside. Lomita is the lucky one. Why did I ever come here?

Aug. 1st:

Its 115 degrees. Finally got the air-conditioner fixed today. It cost $500 and gets the temperature down to 85. I hate this stupid state.

Aug. 4th:

If another wise ass cracks, 'Hot enough for you today?' I'm going to strangle him. Damn heat. By the time I get to work, the radiator is boiling over, my clothes are soaking wet, and I smell like baked cat!!

Aug. 7th:

Tried to run some errands after work. Wore shorts, and when I sat on the seats in the car, I thought my ass was on fire. My skin melted to the seat. I lost 2 layers of flesh and all the hair on the back of my legs and ass…now my car smells like burnt hair, fried ass, and baked cat.

Aug 9th:

The weather report might as well be a damn recording. Hot and sunny. Hot and sunny. Hot and sunny. It's been too hot to do anything for 2 damn months and the weatherman says it might really warm up next week. Doesn't it ever rain in this damn state? Water rationing will be next, so my $1700 worth of cactus will just dry up and blow over. Even the cactus can't live in this damn heat.

Aug. 10th:

Welcome to HELL! Temperature got to 115 today. Cactus are dead. Forgot to crack the window and blew the damn windshield out of the car. The installer came to fix it and guess what he asked me??? "Hot enough for you today?" My sister had to spend $1,500 to bail me out of jail. FREAKING TEXAS. What kind of a sick demented idiot would want to live here??

Will write later to let you know how the trial goes.

***


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Feeling stale?

Lately I've been feeling kinda stale, or maybe even stagnant in my writing.  Kinda blah if you know what I mean.  And yesterday, I finally figured out what's the problem.

I haven't written anything new in ages.  Oh, don't get me wrong, I've been revising like crazy.  In fact, I'm revising three different things right now but I haven't written anything new.  No new characters or conflicts. No new plots or brainstorming.  For a while, I wasn't even blogging.

For me, this "no creating" is not a good thing.  I need to be writing new stories on a regular basis.  And honestly, I love writing short stories. The benefit of writing new stories, besides feeling better, means I'll have new things to send out and hopefully have published. 

So, today I pledge to brainstorm a new story.  I pledge to get at least an outline on the page.  (Today is payday so I have to run errands this afternoon so won't have all day here at puter.)

What about you?  How are you feeling about your writing?  Written anything new lately?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Happy Monday...

That's right, it's Monday.  Another week is starting and it's time to get things accomplished.  I know most folks don't really care for Monday, but since it keeps showing up, we might as well get used to the darn thing.

So, here's a bit of motivaton for today.

"Don’t write what you know—what you know may bore you, and thus bore your readers. Write about what interests you—and interests you deeply—and your readers will catch fire at your words."
Valerie Sherwood


I love this quote.  How about you?  Got a favorite motivational/inspirational writing quote?  Share with us in the comment section. :-)


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Character Interviews

Not long ago I saw a blog post where the author had interviewed her main character and posted that interview.  I've seen other authors who do the same thing but hadn't really thought much about it. 

Now, I do interview my characters at times.  It's a way for me to get to know them, what they are all about and discover things about their past which might be relevant to the story I'm writing at the time. But I've never posted these for anyone to see.

But, I can sorta see reasons to do this...

The reader gets to know your character on a more personal, deeper level.
The reader gets to know things about the character other than what's in the story, which could be cool.

And as a writer, anything that connects the reader with our characters is a good thing.

But my question is to you, the reader.  Well, I have a couple questions but I'll start with you, the reader.:-)

Do you enjoy these character interviews?  Do you even read 'em? 

Now, what about you, the writer?

Have you ever posted character interviews? If so, what kind of response did you get?  If not, have you thought about trying this?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Monday Goals


What do y'all plan to get accomplished this week? 

Me, I'll be doing lots of writing.  This week I intend to finish a romance story I've been playing with off and on for a while. I think I need about 10k more on it.  Plus, I've got some revising to take care of on my mystery.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

No Mas!

This past week, well really two weeks have been hectic here.  First, my step-dad passed away and I went home for the funeral.  There was lots of family drama from his side of the family, which I won't get into here but believe me...it was drama.  :-)  I returned home on Friday evening and spent most of this week getting over the drama and catching up on things, just not the blog.  *sorry*

A couple things "came" to me during this time and I thought I'd share them with you.

First,  we put off so many things that would give us pleasure because it's not the "right" time or some other silly reason.  So, I'm vowing not to put off things I'd enjoy.  I'm going to buy that boquet of flowers for myself cause I like having flowers around.

Next, we carry so many burdens and stress.  We let the negative things we have no control over weigh us down and take the joy out of life.  We let other people dictate our happiness.  Well, from now on, no more.  Or as the chihuahuas say, "No mas!"  :-) 

And, we need to take control of our lives.  Sure there are things we can't control, but there is so much we can.  We just don't.  We (I) just let things happen instead of planning.  And there's nothing wrong with being spontaneous but if we plan for things, we'll have more great happenings in our lives that we can look back on and remember instead of regrets.

So for me as a writer, this means I"m going to take a serious look at my writing goals, make some plans then get busy making those decisions happen.    I've been letting things slide in that area, waiting for them to happen but no mas, I'm taking the bull by the horns.  Ole'!

Here's the "No mas!" scene for those of you who haven't seen it.



What about you?

Friday, July 15, 2011

To Prologue or Not To Prologue

Right now I'm working on two novels, one a fantasy and the other a suspense/romance/mystery thing.  And, they both have prologues.  I've debated about using prologues on both of them and came to the decision that, yes, using a prologue on them was fine.  I decided my prologues did give the reader info that was needed, that would enhance the story, make it a bit better for the reader just starting the book.

Then, as I got more along in the revising process, I came to the conclusion that I really didn't need a prologue on the fantasy novel after all.  The info I give out can be woven in later.  So, now I've got to get rid of the prologues and do some tweaking.

What about you?  How do you feel about prologues?  Do you read them or just skip over and start with chapter one?  Have you pondered the issue of using a prologue in your own writing and if so, what did you decide?

Here's a great article on prologues.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fun Facts Friday

  Today I thought I'd share a few things about me and hopefully you'll share a few things about you.  That way we can get to know each other a bit better.  So, here goes...

I love to put in ...  I like 'em a lot...  In fact... I think the more the merrier...
I don't like commas.  At all.  I'm surprised the comma police hasn't stopped by and arrested me.
I put the "pro" in procrastination.  In fact, my middle name is Jean Procrastination Lauzier. :-)  Not really, but it probably should be.
I live in East Texas, Longview to be exact. 
I have three cats and a Golden Retriever. 
Also have three kids.  Oldest is only son.
Hubby is Baptist preacher, I teach a ladies Bible study.
I'm a graduate of Long Ridge Writer's Group and write a weekly column for their newsletter about useful websites for writers.
I love writing and writing conferences.

And, I love to talk about writing.

So, now you know a little bit about me, share a bit about yourself in the comment thread.

Writing Challenge

Next week my kids will be at camp.  All three of them.  I'll be at home alone, other than the cat, all day.  I'm not sure how that's going to feel since it's been years and years since that's happened but I've decided to make the most of the quiet time and write, write, write.  And then, I'm going to write some more.

So, here's the idea. 

Y'all join me in my writing marathon.  If you can't spend all day, then set a goal you can handle and get some words on the page.  Maybe you might want to try this.  #write100  It's a really nifty way to get some writing accomplished. 

So who's up for the challenge?  Share your goals with us, then check in each day during the week and let us know how things are going.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Senses

Last Friday night at our writer's group meeting, our speaker talked about how important it was to get all five senses (if appropriate) in each scene.  And I have to agree.  By adding the other senses, we allow our readers to get more involved in each scene. 

One thing I did when plotting out my romance novel was to take each scene/chapter and make notes of what the characters would hear, smell, feel, see and possibly taste.  Once I knew what those items were, I could then add them in and make the scene richer.  (I need to do this for my mystery. *sigh*

Now, you don't want to do an info dump of sensations.  That's about as annoying as any other info dump but sprinkle those tidbits in here and there.  Weave them in with the rest of the story. Maybe use them in your dialogue tags instead of the classic said.

So, what about you?  Do you have trouble getting all or most of the senses in your stories?  Got any ideas or tricks you use to get 'em in?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Oooooops!

One of the things I really don't like in a story is when a character rolls his/her eyes.  Or when a character "catches" someone's eye.  I always get the picture of someone taking their eyes out and rolling 'em across the table/floor and then someone catching eyeballs.  I'm not sure why, but for some reason it just bothers me.  I know it's a common way of saying things but still.  It's something I try to avoid in my writing.

Another one, and I saw this in a story somewhere... Character spun his head around.    Reminded me of the scene in The Exorsist.

Again, I try to avoid my characters body's doing things that are physically impossible but sometimes...

For example, I found this in my WIP the other day.  My character "turned" into a flower lined driveway.   My inner editor was NOT happy with that.

And, as I'm editing my mystery...I swear, I've found 900 "thats" to take out.  It's like they were on sale or something.  I have no idea why I put so many of them in there but gee...
So, the point of all this...  Give your WIP some time to cool off before you edit/revise.  Once you've been away from it for a bit, you can see it with fresh eyes and catch those slips of the fingers.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

FenCon

Last year I'd planned to attend FenCon and take part in the writer's workshop.  But you know how life is and plans had to be changed so I didn't get to go.  Thankfully, the wonderful people at FenCon rolled my membership fee and writer's workshop fee over to this year so I'm going this year.  Or at least I'm going to do my best to make it. 

Last week, I received info for the writer's workshop.  The deadline to submit pages is July 15th.  Naturally I wasn't ready.  I hadn't even decided on what to submit much less have it ready to be seen by anyone other than myself.   

Now, it had to be a fantasy type novel or short story so I pulled up all my WIPs and gave 'em a good reading over to see which project I wanted to work on.  After much contemplation, I made a decision and copied the first ten pages into a new document so I can polish 'em up and get 'em ready to see the public.

After tweaking the pages, I sent them to my critique group.  We meet tonight to discuss things so I'm excited/anxious to see what they say. 

Be sure to check out the FenCon link and if you are close by, join us.  It should be an excellent conference.

And speaking of conferences...  What cons will you be attending this year?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Twitter

Okay, confession time.  I like Twitter.  I don't tweet often but I follow some really great people who share lots of great links, info and just general chat.

I've made several friends on Twitter and connected with other writers from all over the world.

I've gotten to know several agents, editors and publishers via Twitter. 

And sure, there's often a bit of frivolous tweeting but sometimes frivolous is good.

So, today's question...Do you "Twitter" and if so, who do you follow that the rest of us should follow?

I'd recommend @KristenLambTX, @jamesscottbell, @WritersDigest, @Janet_Reid, @AdviceToWriters just to start with.

Oh, me too, of course.  @JeanLauzier

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Let's Finish...

Finish what you're writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.  
Neil Gaiman

I like this quote, a lot.  I don't know about you but I have started and stopped several pieces without finishing them.  Good stories that deserve to be finished.  Stories that readers would enjoy.  But somehow, I've managed to move on to something else...and sometimes left that for something else too.  I don't know how many ideas I've got jotted down and stuck in a drawer for later.  Seems like later never comes for them though.

So, what do I do?  I think it's time to dig 'em out and start finishing them.  For example, I have this really neat idea for a romance that involves an alligator wrestler and a chocolate saleswoman.  And there's the far east fantasy that needs to be finished.  It's a great story.  I had the first five pages critiqued by a Japanese writer a while back and she really liked it.  Said it had a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon feel to it.  Or maybe that YA ghost story. 

What about you?  Got anything you haven't finished that deserves to be finished and shared with the world?

Let's pledge together to finish one of our set aside pieces.   I'll decide which one soon and let y'all know. 

Oh...for those of you who need to get organized, be sure to check out Productive Flourishing.  He's got some great planners specially designed for us creative folk.  And if you sign up for his newsletter, he gives access to his secret lab where he has some extra special tools.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Monday, Monday

It's a rainy Monday here and I won't complain cause in Texas we really, really need the rain.  And, since it's rainy and cool outside, that makes it perfect to be inside writing. 

Which kinda brings me to today's question.  Do you have a plan for your writing?  What I mean, a path lined out to take you where you want to go.  Do you even know where you want to go?  Do you have a timeline with checkpoints so you can see how you're doing?

For example, four months of this year are gone and what have you accomplished toward your writing goals?  And what do you need to do to make those goals happen?

I know I'm behind schedule.  So, today I'm going to map out a plan.  I'm going to set things in motion, get my act together and get busy. 

What about you?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is for Zombies

Now, I have to admit, I'm really not into zombies.  I don't care for zombie movies, I haven't read any zombie books (Are there zombie books?), and I don't listen to music by or for zombies.  However, I do like to play Plants vs. Zombies.  In fact, it's the first video game I've bought in ages.

Zombies are attacking and you defend yourself with plants.  Each level has different zombie challenges and as you play, you earn different plant weapons.

Starting with the front lawn, you go to the backyard and your pool to the roof.  Day and  night.  There's mini-games to play along with puzzle type mini-games. You can play a free partial version here.

 And speaking of zombies, a while back we were challenged to write a flash fiction piece for Valentine's Day but to do something different.  So, I figured even zombies like a little romance.  I haven't had any luck finding a home to publish the piece so I'm going to share it with y'all.  I hope you enjoy it.

Zombie Hearts

Henry stood before the open fridge and gazed from side to side. Chinese or Mexican, which would Freda prefer? His left ear fell off, bounced across the linoleum. "Holy Moldy Oldie!" He shambled across the kitchen, picked up his ear, and jammed it back in place. "Mexican, I believe." Henry grabbed two ziplock bags and placed them on the counter. "Now, what to drink?" He scanned the shelf of bottles, picked one from the end. "This will be perfect." Placed it on the counter next to the bags. Storage dishes of delicacies joined the bottle and bags, and soon ended up on the dining table along with his finest china and crystal.

The living room clock chimed seven as Henry lit the candelabra. He stood back and gave the dining table one last look. Perfect, just perfect. Mexican, served a la skull and aged to its peak, Freda's favorite salad of fingers and toes with extra spicy salsa , liver pate' served with fried noses for dipping, and candied lips for dessert. Henry gazed at his watch, she'd be there any moment. He patted the nearest head, smoothed down the hair. Nodding to himself, his left ear dropped off, hit the edge of the table, and bounced into the liver pate'. Henry sighed and fished out his ear.

The doorbell rang announcing Freda's arrival. He grinned , licked the pate' off his ear and jammed it back in place again. He'd have to call doc in the morning, see about getting it reattached. Henry hurried to the door and swung it open. "Freda! You look wonderful." Almost good enough to eat. Not quite, but almost. She stepped through the door, handed him the small box she carried.

"I hope you don't mind. I know how much you love kidney pie and when I saw they had fresh ones at Jasper's, I just had to get one for you."

Henry opened the box, took a deep breath. His stomach rumbled and Freda laughed. He leaned in, gave her a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you. Now, come to the table, dinner is ready." Freda strolled across the room, Henry following. He set the pie on the counter and met her at the table.

"It looks delicious!" Freda smiled up at him as he pulled out her chair.

"I've got a special surprise for tonight." He uncovered the ice bucket, pulled out the bottle, and popped the cork. "I think you'll really like this." He filled the champagne flute, held it out to her.

Freda took the flute, swirled its contents, then sniffed. She took a small sip and grinned. "AB Negative! My favorite." Freda took another sip. "It's perfect."

"That's not all. Open your skull." He watched her eyes as she pulled the skull open by the hair, saw her joyous expression when she gazed upon the diamond ring nestled between the brain hemispheres. He knelt on one knee beside her. "Will you marry me?"

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for YOU!

Today is all about YOU! 

So, tell us a bit about yourself in the comments.  Tell us what you like to write, where you live, about your kids or critters.

Tell us your favorite silly joke. 

What's your favorite book, movie or song?

Add a link to your blog is you have one.

X is for X...

Did you know X is the third least common letter in the English language?  I didn't either but I can understand why.  I mean, just how many words start with X anyway.  Not many.  And those that do are some huge thing I have no idea how to pronounce. 

Another interesting fact, words that start with the letter X are usually pronounces as if they started with the letter Z.  How strange...

So, here's some X words that are actually functional.

•Xanadu (n) - an exotic, luxurious place. This word comes from the poem "Kubla Khan" by Samuel T. Coleridge.

•Xenolith (n) - a fragment of a rock embedded inside another rock.

•Xylograph (n) - a wood engraving.

•Xyloid (adj.) - resembling wood; woody.

•Xanthic (n) - yellowish in color; having to do with the compound xanthine.

•Xebec: A xebec is a special three-masted sailing ship used in the Mediterranean.

•Xeric (adj.) - dry or desert like conditions; having very little moisture.


Got any other favorite X words?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for Walrus

Info dumps = walruses.  I'm sure you've seen 'em before too.  Those big long paragraphs of description and pages of back story that really doesn't have much to do with the story taking place at the moment.  You know, those things the reader skips over to get to the action.

For the writer, it's important to know why our character is terrified of cats and how this fear affects him/her.  It might be important to an event that will happen in our story.   Maybe this fear is why the character reacts in a certain way during an important scene.

And, sure we need to set the scene for our reader, to let them know where the character is, where the story takes place.  Especially when writing fantasy or science fiction.  But when our walrus is so big it covers the whole beach, that's not a good thing.

That's where ADE comes in.  A mentor of mine told me about it. 

A = Advance the plot. 
D = Deepen the characterization. 
E = Enhance the setting.

Each sentence we write should do at least one of these things.  It's even better if it can do two and super great if it can do all three.  And this is where the work comes in.  It's sometimes hard to get those sentences to earn their keep.

And sometimes, we may have a great sentence but it's in the wrong place.  For example, our character who's afraid of cats.  Would it not be better to have her react to a cat when the reader least expects it than to tell the reader 50 pages beforehand that he/she's afraid of cats?  (That's also the show don't tell thing.)

Having info in your story is not a bad thing.  It just needs to be woven in here and there, in little bits and pieces.  Don't let your really cute, impressive walrus get lost in the crowd.  Make him stand out!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Vultures

Let's talk vultures, shoulder vultures that is.  You know, those critters that sit on your shoulder while you're writing and whisper just how horrid every word that goes on the page is.  How that no one would ever want to read anything you could write and why even try, cause no one in their right mind would ever pay to publish your writing. 

We all have 'em.  And sometimes they come in the form of family and friends.  Often they come in the form of ourselves though. 

For example, how many people have you told you're a writer?  When someone asks what you do, do you tell them you write?  It took me a long time before I had the nerve to let the "world" know I was a writer.  Naturally, the next question is "what have you had published" or some form of that.  And it's hard to consider yourself a writer when the answer is nothing.  But the thing is, if you are writing, you are a writer.  Even if you don't have anything published.

The thing about shoulder vultures is, you don't have to listen to 'em.  You can ignore them.  They don't have to steal your joy in writing.  So, next time you hear those whispers, make the conscious effort to ignore them. Tell them they aren't welcome. The more you ignore them, the less they'll hang around.  Oh, they'll come back ever so often to see if you really mean it or not but you can win the battle.

Mine like to sit in the yard and laugh when I get a Negative Marketing Report. They've learned not to come inside. I just ignore 'em and send my work back out.

Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for Umbrellas and Underwear...

I'm not sure why, but whenever I tried to come up with a "U" word, all that I could think of was umbrella.  I guess it goes back to school and learning the alphabet...A is for apple, B is for ball and so on.  I can't remember all of them.  Dog, elephant, goat, igloo, kangaroo, lion, monkey, queen, ring, top, yo-yo and zebra are the others I seem to remember. 

I also thought of underwear.  Though I have no clue why.

So, what do underwear and umbrellas have to do with writing?  Well, I'm not sure but let's see if we can connect 'em.  Underwear should be worn under and not seen. Umbrellas have that wire (usually) frame that no one pays attention to unless it doesn't work. 

Stories also have a frame that we don't usually see.    The "underwear" of a story is something no one pays attention to.  And just like panty lines, no one wants to see how stories are put together.  Now, as writers, we do notice how a great story is put together, how it just seems to flow without any effort.  We know a lot of work went into getting it just right though.

And in honor of story structure here's a great place to check out.  StoryFix

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for Titles...

I don't know how it is for you, but either titles come easy, often before the story, or they are the hardest things to come up with.

Since I like the title to somehow relate to the story, either through characters or theme, sometimes it takes ages to come up with the right one.  I like the title to hint at what you'll find somewhere in the story.  But a very subtle hint.

Sometimes I like to do the "play on words" things.  For example, I'm working on a romance titled Free Fall.  The first scene shows the heroine stuck in a tree, hanging from a parachute.  I'm going to put her into a free fall type romance, head over heals whether she wants to or not.  It's going to be a rush. :-)

A mystery short I titled "Last Laugh" sorta captures the "he who laughs last, laughs loudest" saying.  A fantasy short called "Prey" deals with a wolf-like being hunting a child.  And in "Tyger, Tyger" not only is the main suspect a tiger, my character quotes a line from "The Tiger" by William Blake.

What about you?  Do titles come easy for you?  Do you know the title before the story?  And do you like to connect the title with the theme or some other element of the story?

Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for Slushpile & Submitting


I don't know about you, but I really don't like the slushpile.    And for the most part, if we're sending out our work, we're going to have to deal with it.  It's not fun being in the slushpile either.  That said, there are some things we can do to improve our odds of getting out of the slushpile.

For example, reading the guidelines.  Sure it takes some time to find 'em.  And sometimes you may find multiple sets of guidelines and have to decide between them but the closer you get to sending a publisher (or agent) what they want, the better your odds are.  I don't know how many times I've heard agents and editors comment about people sending them queries for genres they don't represent.  That's automatically gets your work discarded.

Sending an attachment is also another way to get your submission discarded.  Yes, there are some places that want things as an attachment but most folks don't.  It's just to risky.

Pink, swirly, 18 point fonts are generally a no no too. :-)  Don't laugh, I once got a submission like that.  There's a reason it's called standard manuscript format.  It's the standard expected. 

We all know our submissions need to be as error-free as possible.  Don't rely on spellchecker to catch all your errors.  Get someone else to look at your work.  Or, if that's not possible, start reading from the end and work your way to the start.  Yeah, it's strange but this way you aren't focused on the story, you focus on the words.

One of the  many things we can do to better our chances of acceptance is to read several back issues of whatever publication we are submitting to.  For fiction, this gives us the chance to get a feel for the publication.  For example, just because it's a mystery magazine doesn't mean they will publish a cozy mystery.  Maybe their focus is on hard boiled detective stories.  You won't know that if you don't check 'em out.    In non-fiction, reading back issues is a good way to see what type of articles they've published in the past, the tone of the publication and if your piece will fit or not.

Marketing research is one thing many writers don't like to do.  It's time consuming, boring, and often you find more places your work doesn't fit than places it does.  It's a necessary task though.

Want to by-pass the slushpile?  Then go to writer's conferences.  Talk to agents and editors.  Having your work requested is like going to the head of the line.  However, don't say your work was requested if it wasn't.  They remember what they ask to see.  You can always include a line in your cover letter saying you met them at such & such conference and enjoyed chatting but never lie to 'em. 

Thing is, the more work you do before submitting, the better results you'll get. If you have to be in the slushpile, make your work stand out, in a good way.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for Reality

I don't know about you but I've about had it with all the reality shows on tv.  I mean, how unreal can they get?  Real Housewives for  example, you know any housewives who act like that?

Thing is, I get enough reality every day by myself, I don't need to watch it, or what some producer thinks is reality.  I deal with the reality of finances, high grocery prices, higher gas prices, children, cats, dog, deadlines, cooking and cleaning.  It's my own version of Survivor every day.

So, I read to escape my reality for just a while.  And I think that's why many, many others read.  Starting as low as .99 I can find a book on Kindle (I don't have one but I have the kindle for pc thing) and read on the computer.  I can pay a little over $5 at walmart for a paperback, then sit in the shade outside and read myself away.  It's like a vacation but not near as costly.  Sure, there's no hunky pool boy to rub suntan oil in for me and bring a cool drink with an umbrella in it but at least I don't have to pack and unpack.

Which brings me to my point today.  We have to do our very best to deliver the kind of story that takes the reader on vacation.  But many times, we mess that up.  We throw in humongous words when small ones will do.  We have sentences that run on for paragraphs and are hard to understand.  We hop from one character's head to another without warning the reader or we leave out dialogue tags so it's hard to keep up with who's saying what.  All these things distract the reader from the story and we don't want that.  Reading shouldn't be hard.  Sure, there's times and topics that are hard to read/understand but those aren't escapism reading.

It's been a while since I found a book that totally swept me away.  One that sucked me in and didn't let go until the last page, that made me forget about everything but the characters.  But, I'm still looking.  And I'm seriously trying to write one. 

What about you?  What have you read lately that made you forget reality for a while?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for Query

That's right, query. I could have gone with another "Q" word but this is a writer's blog so...

The thing about queries, we stress over them way too much.  Yes, they are darn important but when we put so much pressure on ourselves to get 'em perfect, we, or at least I, tend to lock gears and totally mess things up.

Writing a query can be learned.  It just takes practice.  And then some more practice. 

Here's a couple great places to learn to write a query. 

QueryShark - Agent Janet Reid takes bites out of queries, tells what's wrong and what's right with 'em.  Reading the archives is a lesson in query writing you won't regret.

Agent Query Connect - a networking community where you can get input on your query from other writers. You'll also find forums on most aspects of the publishing business.    When you get finished here, click on over to Agent Query for more info on agents and submitting to them. 

Got any other favorite query sites?  Share in the comments please!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for Plot Bunnies!

I know those of you who are writers have heard of plot bunnies.  The mysterious, seldom seen, visitors who leave ideas around for us to play with.  Believe it or not, I've seen one.

It was one of those dark and stormy nights...no, really, it was.  We were on our way to church when this little bunny ran across the road in front of me, hopped  along side the car for a bit then ducked between some bushes and disappeared into the darkness.  I realized no sensible rabbit would be out in that kind of weather so he must have had somewhere important to be.  That's when it hit me...he was a plot bunny making a delivery to a writer in need.  The kids were with me and were talking about the bunny so I told them he was a plot bunny making a delivery.  They accepted the explanation and we wished the bunny a safe journey and went on about our business.

Not long after, we were in Books a Million one afternoon and my youngest (about 8 or so) found me, all excited, held out a stuffed bunny and said, "Look Mom, a plot bunny!"  See pix below.  His name is Harold, and he specializes in mystery and darker plots.  He's kinda quiet, but when he leaves an idea, it's a good one.

Not long after, Grace (center) and Ginger (end right) joined our little plot bunny family.

They hang out on my printer for the most part.  Sometimes they'll settle on my bookcase behind me but they are always close by when I'm writing.  Never can tell when I'll need a fresh idea. 

What about you, got a muse or plot bunny you'd like to tell us about?

And yes....

Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Options...

Options.  Have you noticed how many options there are out there for getting your book published?  I'm not talking about Print on Demand vs print 'em all now type options, though.  Or even the paper vs digital option...but the publisher option.

First, there's the "Big 6" guys.  Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins,  MacMillan Publishers Ltd., Penguin Group, Random House along with Simon & Schuster. For an overview of who these guys are, or consist of, check out this link.
Then there's the independent publishers.  Here's a good definition of independent publishing.  There's quite a few of these publishers out there.  Some have a better reputation than others so you have to be careful when dealing when them, but that's true in most cases.

And of course, there's the self-publishing option.  At one time self-publishing was not only frowned upon by agents and editors, it was something to be avoided at all costs.  The thought was if you self-published, it was because your work wasn't good enough to get a "real" publisher.  This idea has changed greatly the last couple years and it's no longer the stigma it once was.

Lastly, there's vanity and subsidy publishers.  Here's a really good link with all the definitions, differences and lots of information.

Each option has its good points (except maybe the vanity publishers).  Each option has its bad points.  What's a viable option for one person might not be for another.  What's right for me, might not be right for you. 

What I'm asking I guess, is have you considered all the options?  What decisions did you make and why if you don't mind telling.  

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for Negative Marketing Reports


When I first started submitting, I received a LOT of rejection letters.  I still get them now.  Got one Thursday night as a matter of fact.  And while they still aren't the most fun things I've ever gotten in the mail, I don't let 'em get to me like I used to.

Someone, and I don't remember who, once called rejection letters, Negative Marketing Reports.  And when we get right down to it, that's what they are.  The market we submitted to, can't use what we offered them.  For whatever reason, maybe they had one similar not long ago, maybe the editor doesn't like cat stories and there's a cat in yours, or even something as simple as the tone isn't quite right for their publication, it's not us they are rejecting.  There's nothing personal involved.  Sure, it feels like it sometimes but we have to realize publishing is a business, especially to publishers.

Another writer friend of mine once equated it with selling apples.  You have the prettiest, shiny red apples.  They are practically a work of art.  Thing is, the buyers are buying oranges that day.  It doesn't mean anything is wrong with your apples.  Just means that's not what the buyer is wanting.  Just go find another buyer who wants apples.

One of the first rejection letters I received was the cover letter to a story with the words "I really don't like this." scrawled across it.  There was no signature, nothing.  Just those five little words.   I tossed that one in the trash.

I think my favorite rejection letter is the one that says my story was enjoyable reading, thanks for letting them see it but that it didn't fit any of the spaces they had open at the time.  This one is signed by the editor, has the title of my story and is actually addressed to me.  I've saved it.  One of these days, I'll try something with that editor again.

So, what's your worst or best rejection letter?  Don't name names though.  And what do you do with 'em after you get 'em read?

Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for Maass...

Donald that is.

Not long ago I mentioned how much I liked Donald Maass.  You can find that post here.  I don't know much about him as an agent, except he's a very good one, well known.  And I know one day I hope to have something ready to query him with.

Writing the Breakout Novel was one of the first books on writing craft I bought many years ago.  I still go back and reread parts of it even now.   Naturally, I had to have the workbook that went along with it.  I even typed all the questions from the workbook into a Word doc, printed it out and had it spiral bound at a local office supply place so I could fill in the answers without messing up my workbook.  Plus, I can print out the questions and make a workbook for each novel I write.  (It's very cool and handy.)

Here's a photo of just a few of the books on writing I have. If you look close, you can find Writing the Breakout Novel right on the top shelf, third from the middle on the left side of the shelf.  The workbook that goes with it is the first one on the left side of the second shelf.

And FYI, the trophy that's in the middle of the very top, with the red accents, is from the Pen to Press Retreat last May in New Orleans.  It's the "Spirit of Excellence" award.  The smaller trophy is 2nd place for a non-fiction proposal. 

In the post linked above, I let y'all know Donald Maass had joined Twitter and was tweeting a prompt each day for a month.  But not only that, each Tuesday he adds another prompt to the list. After his month of prompts was over, I asked permission to share those prompts with y'all on my blog and he kindly said yes.  So, here's the first 10 to get you started.

01. What’s the worst thing your MC does? Whom and how does that hurt? Now work backwards, set it up to hurt even more.

02. What’s the most selfless thing your MC does? What good change or effect does that have on someone unexpected? Add that in.

03. Find any violence in your ms. Delete any shock, fear or horror. Replace with two *conflicting* emotions that are less obvious.

04. Choose a middle scene: What does POV character feel most strongly? Evoke that feeling without naming it, through actions alone.

05. What should your readers most see, understand or be angry about? At what story moment will that happen? Heighten it in two ways.

06. How does your POV character change in your current scene? Work backwards. Make that change unlikely, a surprise or impossible.

07. What does a sidekick or secondary character see about your MC that your MC denies? Force a showdown over it.

08. Over what does your MC disagree with his/her boss or mentor? When does the boss/mentor prove to be right?

09. What’s a place in your story where something significant happens? Switch two other story events to that location too.

10. In your current scene, what’s a setting detail that delights or disgusts your POV character? Why? Elaborate & add.

You can find more information about Donald Maass as an agent on his website

Here's a link to his latest "how to" book. The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writer.

If you aren't on Twitter, you need to get there and follow him.  You can find him as DonMaass. These prompts will make a difference in your stories if you use them.  And while you're on Twitter, follow me too. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Lemmings!

The game, not the critter.  Lemmings was originally developed for the Commodore Amiga (which we had) in 1991.  I loved this game and was totally addicted to it.  Which is one reason I try to avoid video games, I tend to get obsessive.  Here's the scoop.

Lemmings is divided into a number of levels, grouped into four difficulty levels. Each level comprises both destructible landscape elements such as rocks, indestructible sections such as steel plates, and numerous obstacles including chasms, high walls, large drops, pools of water or lava, and booby traps. Each level also includes one or more entrance points and one or more exits. The goal is to guide a certain percentage of the green-haired, blue-shirted lemmings from the entrance to the exit by clearing or creating a safe passage through the landscape for the lemmings to use. Unless assigned a special task, each lemming will walk in one direction ignoring any other lemming in its way (save for "Blockers"), falling off any edges and turning around if they hit an obstacle they cannot pass. They die if they fall from a great height, fall into water or lava or off the map, or get caught in a trap; they also die after being assigned the bomber skill.
To successfully complete the level, the player must assign certain lemmings specific skills. The quantity of skill assignments of each type is generally limited, requiring the player to carefully assign which skills will have to be used in order to successfully guide the lemmings. There are eight skills that can be assigned. Two skills stay with the lemming regardless of how they are reassigned: "Climbers" will climb any vertical surface they hit, and "Floaters" can safely fall off from heights without injury. "Bashers", "Miners", and "Diggers" cause the assigned lemming to dig across, diagonally downward, or directly downward, respectively, through destructible material until they emerge into open air, hit indestructible material, or are reassigned. "Builders" create a rising stairway of up to 12 steps, with audible cues when they are nearly done with their task to allow the player to reassign them if a longer stairway is needed. "Blockers" will reverse the direction of all lemmings that hit them, and cannot be reassigned unless first the ground under their feet is removed. (They can be exploded, though.) "Bombers" will continue whatever they were doing prior to assignment, but after 5 seconds (indicated by a countdown timer above their head) they will stop and explode, taking a small chunk out of any destructible environment around them. While the player is able to pause the game to inspect the level and status of the lemmings, skills can only be assigned in real-time.


The lemmings are initially released at a rate predetermined by the level (from 1 to 99), but the player can increase this to a faster rate. If the rate has been increased by the player, the player can decrease the rate down to, but not lower than, the initial rate. The player also has the option to "nuke" all the remaining lemmings on the screen, converting them all to Bombers, either to quickly forfeit in order to retry a level or to remove any Blockers that remain after the rest have been rescued.


The four difficulty groups—"Fun", "Tricky", "Taxing" and "Mayhem"—are used to organize the levels to reflect their overall difficulty.  This rating reflects several factors, including the number of obstacles the player has to surpass, the limitation on the number of types of skills available to assign, the minimum rate of lemming release, and the percentage of lemmings that must be saved. *** Copied from Wikipedia.

I still play occasionally when I need a break and don't want to do the solitaire thing.

Want to give Lemmings a try?  Then click on over to here and enjoy.

When you need a break, what do you do?  Go for a walk, read, play some kind of video game?  Got any links for the rest of us?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for Kryptonite

Kryptonite, the one thing that could bring the man of steel to his knees.  His Achilles' heel.. 


Thing is, we all have some sort of kryptonite in our life.  Something that never fails to bring us to our knees.  I'm not going to turn this into a personal life type post but think about it.  We all have issues in our writing that brings it to its proverbial knees.  Meaning, we can always improve our writing.

For example, for a long time "that" or "just" showed up in my writing all the time.  It weakened the writing, kept it from being a good as it could be.

Others among us might have issues with dialogue tags.  Replied, questioned, hissed, sneered, cackled, cried, and so many others.  Usually a simple "said" will do. 

And what about adverbs.  Have you ever read something like these, "yelled loudly"  "whispered quietly" or "ran quickly"?  Those adverbs weaken our writing.  Not only are they redundant, they tell us instead of showing us. 

Another weakening issue is generic terms.  Chair, car, house.  Instead, why not use words that show us a specific item, for example, a rocker, convertable or victorian. 

Sure, these things are fine for a first draft.  Remember, the first draft is to get the story written, to get it on paper (or screen) so we have something to revise.

So, what's your writing kryptonite?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Jean...

I mean, what else could it be for.  So, here's a bit about me.

I'm old enough to know better, but too young to care.  I was born in Arkansas but live in Texas now.  Course, since I was born in Texarkana, I was really close to Texas from the start.  After joining the military, I lived in Florida, (Homestead, Panama City) and Missouri (Sedalia) along with Fort Worth, Texas.  Also, lived on Guam for two years, thank you Air Force.

I met  my better half in Homestead, he was in the same squadron I was. While I worked on airplanes and he worked on bombs, we still managed to meet and get married.

We have 3 kids now, the oldest (21) is myone and only son.  We had three daughters but lost one to cancer at age 5.  It was 11 years ago so while there's still a void, time does heal.

Hubby is a Baptist preacher, and while I don't mention it here often, my faith is very important to me.

I've been seriously writing since about 2002.  And while I play in most genres, my favorites are mystery and fantasy.  I like SF but don't like the research needed to get it right.  Which reminds me of a story...

After the plot bunnies dropped off a SF idea for me, I realized I needed to do some research on space travel, specifically Faster Than Light (FTL) travel.  Now, I tend to get a bit obsessive about that kinda stuff so I read a LOT about FTL travel.  I guess when I went to sleep that night, FTL was the last thing I thought about cause next morning when I got clothes out for hubby, I noticed the FTL printed at regular intervals around the waistband of his undies.    Naturally I wondered just what the heck underwear had to do with Faster Than Light travel.  It took me about 10 minutes of pondering before I realized FTL stood for Fruit of The Loom. 

My WIPs include a mystery which is being run through my critque group and a dragon fantasy I'm revising in my spare time.  (Yeah right, what spare time.)

I do stupid things.  Multiple times.  I don't care for veggies cause I ate so many of them as a kid.  It was veggies or nothing so...

Chocolate is my favorite food. :-)  Course you already knew that. 

Our household includes a Golden Retriever named Doofus and a several cats.  El Gato de Muerte keeps bringing me dead things (this morning a cardinal) and  Skittles is a kitten given to us by the neighbor last week.    I love horses, Dobermans and Long Horn cattle.

As a kid, I spent many hours under the covers with a flashlight and book.  I loved "horse" books, westerns, fantasy, SF, horror and even gothic romance.  My favorite books vary from day to day so I won't even try to list those.  However I will say I've never read War & Peace, Moby Dick and most of the other classics.

Comment section open for questions though I won't guarantee an answer. :-)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I is for Inconsistency

Okay, I admit it...I like CSI Miami, or used to.  I haven't watched it very often since they moved it to Sunday evenings but I managed to remember tonight and honestly I wasn't very impressed.  Besides the fact that all the CSI guys are out in the field searching buildings, interrogating suspects and arresting the bad guys, they do things that no self-respecting cop would. 

For example, tonight one of the characters let himself get beat up by the bad guy.  First, this particular bad guy was an expert in  some form of martial arts.  Second he was carrying a gun and had already killed several people.  So, what does CSI guy do...get within reach and get himself beat up.

Next, when the bad guy is finally brought down, one shot to the chest by the way, the head CSI guy strolls up to him and makes a "witty, sarcastic" remark while the guy is laying there with a gun in his hand.  Which of course, he raises and tries to fire.  (That earns bad guy another bullet and ride to the morgue.)  Anyone who knows police procedure knows one of the first thing a cop's gonna do is get the weapon from the bad guy, probably by using his foot to slide it out of the way.

Maybe it didn't bother some folks but that kind of inconsistency bothers me.  It's like when characters put silencers on revolvers.  (And yes I know they really aren't silencers but that's what they are called by most people.)

My better half was in the military and worked in the Munitions area.  He knows bombs and missles.  What they look like, how they work, which airplanes they go on and just how many can be carried by an aircraft.  It drives him almost over the edge when he watches a show that get those things wrong. It doesn't bother me cause I don't know any better.  (What bothers me is his ranting about how the plane can only carry 4 of a certain missle and but just fired #15.) :-)

All of that to say, get your facts straight.   

Here's another thing to think on.  Not long ago, my critique group called the police procedure in my WIP into question.  I was pretty sure I'd done enough research and had it right but I did some more research and talked to a sheriff's officer and ran my scene past him.  I was indeed correct.  My police procedure was spot on. 

My guess is, and I'm not sure, but I figure my critiquers have watched crime shows and were going by what the officers on the show were doing.  And that's cool.  I realized later the reader may have the same expectation so I need to make sure they know that my procedure is proper.  When I revise that scene I'll do some tweaks so it's not a big deal.

The thing is, we don't want to throw readers out of our stories.  Either by getting the facts wrong, or by getting them right and the reader having a different expectation.