Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Learn How Everything Works

Here's a fun site you can check out when you have time. You can learn how just about anything works!


Monday, August 29, 2005

Barbra & Barry fans take note: Guilty Pleasures

It's been twenty-five years since Barbra Streisand and Barry Gibb wowed us with their Guilty album. It remains one of my favorites. It's being released as a 25th anniversary album at the same time the two have a new single out. I listened to Guilty Pleasures on AOL's first listen site, and I'll be first in line to buy a copy. I'm a huge Barbra fan. She's like Cher--she only gets better. I have her last CD of duets and have enjoyed that. But back with Barry again? What could be better? Any other fans out there?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Don't forget to JUMP!!

I love my jump drives. I discovered them too late for a few catastrophes, but in time to prevent future losses. If you don't have a jump drive to back up your files -- run! don't walk to an office supply store and buy one. I have three. My favorite is a little Attache that holds 256M !! Yes, it's like an entire extra hard drive. You can free your hard drive of graphics, etc. and speed it up, but the real bonus is knowing that if you have a crash, you haven't lost your data. Been there more than once, did that, not gonna happen again.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


Today I spoke with my now long-distance critique partner and explained the story I've been bantering around in my head and on paper without having it actually take off. She asked me one question. A question I've asked other writers a million times: "What is their external conflict?"

Duh. Duh. A hundred times duh. She thinks in a direction my brain refuses to go, so her tough questions started me in a new direction. My head was bursting by the time we finished our talk.

I've said it before and I confirm it again -- two brains are better than one!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

My other brains

I am a writer who appreciates a good critique group or partner. I've been in a critique group for all the years that I've been published--and most of those in a group that meets every single week. We go through stages. Stage of productivity, members moving away, and our process of screening a replacement.

It's serious business, this critique group thing. You don't invite anyone who isn't compatible. You have to respect the people who are going to offer comments on your work. For me it has nothing to do with published or unpublished; it has to do with work ethic, knowledge or willingness to learn, and enthusiasm. And another brain ain't nothin' to turn your nose up at. I love my other brains during the brainstorming process or when I'm stuck. Sure, I get the ideas on my own, I put the pieces together and make all the decisions, but I only have one brain and one life experience. Getting feedback from other writers who have different perspectives AND understand the process of story writing is invaluable to me.

I know some writers who don't like anyone else meddling in their stories--some find it changes their story too much. I go into the process with elements I've chosen that I won't budge on, so the possibility of taking my story a wrong direction isn't a problem for me. I'm flexible about everything else because new perspectives keep me fresh. If someone in my group makes a suggestion that isn't considered, it's not because it was a bad suggestion; it's just because that idea didn't work for that writer's story. We all understand that. Nobody gets her nose out of joint.

Our noses are all in joint, thank you.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Would you believe I subscribe to Idea Monthly?

The process of creating a new story is multi-layered. I would love to watch how other writers do it--not to compare--just to see what works for them. And often, the same process doesn't work twice in a row. Because, what is creativity if not subjective and fluid? That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

I have various ideas in various stages--well, truth be told, I have a HUGE notebook titled "story ideas" and it's jammed with scribbled notes, newspaper clippings, lists and hand-written notebook paper pages, with an occasional picture or a few paragraphs I whipped out on my PC. Also notes from talks shows and profile programs like Primetime.

This is my second week on an idea for a contemporary that's coming together. I started out with the main female character's backstory and a grid on her goals, motivation, etc. and only a vague idea of the love interest. I had his name last week, but not hers. Today I chose her name and an iffy working title. I also found a picture of her. It's a community story, so there are several characters to create and flesh out. I'm still not sure where this story takes place. I was thinking Kansas and I'm not sure why. I have the atlas open right here and it looks like a good place. I've been there, so that helps.

This female character, her name is Megan, has so many emotional issues that none of the other characters can be weighted to the same degree. His name is Sean Finley. He's a county DA moonlighting as a carpenter. How much fun is that?

I heard an author say that she dreams the ideas for her books. That would sure cut down on the angst on my part. My dreams don't lend themselves to plots, much as I wish they did.

People invariably ask authors where they get their ideas. You know the truth for me is still, "I really don't know."

Sunday, August 14, 2005

My eye was twitching!

On Saturday at my local RWA meeting, two writers who are collaborating on a book gave the program and explained their methods. I was fascinated. I was also amazed. And I had to hold my eye to keep it from twitching.

The two writers met ahead of time and went over every aspect of their compatibility. Impressive. They made lists and charts and got down to work and made more lists and charts. They planned how many pages and words and how many chapters and then how many pages her chapter and then how many scenes per chapter and whose point of view those scenes would be in.... They had the details of every chapter written down!

Every chapter. I asked to look at their chapter notes. Uh huh. They knew what was going to happen in every chapter. But the question I didn't have a chance to ask--because it was off topic for collaborating, but that I plan to ask when I have lunch with one of the authors this week is: How did they know what to write down?

How did they know what was going to happen in each chapter? I mentioned before that I'd tried that method and just sat staring at note cards for a week solid. The concept does not gel in my brain. How does a writer know that stuff before they get to it?

Back to this: The right way is the way that works for you. I guess I'm still doing it the right way. But I'm still astounded, too.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Gotta love 'em

Any young moms out there who know someone who can just do it all? I remember seeing young wives and mothers who had well-behaved children, cooked everyday, had clean homes, served on the PTA board, volunteered at church and always looked good - makeup, hair, the works! My husband would wonder why he didn't have a pair of clean socks, and I'd have just cleaned up the last mess and spotted another one, with no time to catch a breath or comb my hair in between.

It's the same way in the writing community. There are writers who seem to have it all pulled together. They publish three books a year, have families, take vacations, serve on the local or national board, and always have time to do you a favor and volunteer for a task you wouldn't dream of taking on.

And these people are just so darned nice and genuine, you just can't hate them! Are they better organized? I know they don't have more time in their days. Sleep less? Get more help from their families? Maybe they're really neurotic basket cases. People pleasers who try to do it all at the risk of something we don't know about. Doesn't look like it, does it?

If this is you, please tell the rest of the world one of two things:
1 - your secret
2 - you're not as pulled together as it would seem

Friday, August 05, 2005

Mmmm, rhubarb!

A friend with an acreage, who doesn't like rhubarb cut me a box full! I cooked it all into a sauce and froze quart containers. The rest we've been eating over chocolate cake. Yum. I have a recipe for rhubarb crunch, too. Sort of like apple crisp. That's next. Isn't summer food great?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

More on Writing

I have friends who plot out every chapter and know everything that's going to happen in their story before they ever get started. How do they do that? I've read books and sat in workshops where methods are outlined. One year I actually made it a goal to plot a book chapter by chapter on note cards.

You know what I did? I sat for days and days, LOOKING at those blank cards -- well, not completely blank, they had chapter numbers -- and wondering what the heck to write on them. Hero and heroine meet, that's pretty easy. At the end everything is rosy --that's a given. But in between? Holy cow! As hard as I tried I couldn't get words on those cards. The cards actually CRIPPLED me.

I do a synopsis first. That's how I sell the book. But my synopsis is about the characters and about their motivations, but not about the details of the story, except for main plot points. Once I know in my head who the people are, what drives them and what they want, THEY tell me what they're going to do and say next. I don't know the middle of the book. Often I don't know the end. I just know the characters and I keep them together to see what happens next.

My method makes the plotters crazy. Their story wouldn't go anywhere if they didn't have it planned. Are they right? Am I? Yes. Whatever works for the writer is the right way.

Now, some would think that after hearing me say how I write that I just fly by the seat of my pants. Not so. I know my story people's backstories. I know the incidents that shaped them into the people they are. This way I can challenge them in the most significant ways with the things that happen to them. I know what they want. I know what's holding them back. I know their long range and short range goals, their character flaws, their character traits, their fears, their internal motivation, their personality and ten or more descriptors/adjectives about the person. I usually know the black moment.

I know a couple of scenes that I want to touch on - and I know how the story should FEEL. Sometimes I know the theme and I always need a working title.

Just don't talk note cards. My eye will start twitching.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Today I finished the novella for the '06 Spring Brides anthology. My working title was ALMOST A BRIDE. It's fits perfectly, but it might change. I was glad for the opportunity to write Charmaine's story. Charmaine has been around since SWEET ANNIE. She's also a ecomdary character in HIS SECONDHAND WIFE. She's Annie's cousin, and at once time she thought perhaps Luke was interested in her, but he had eyes only for Annie. Annie promised her that the next too-good-to-be-true man would be hers, so I found him. Remember the guy who looks like Jack Sparrow? That's him.

So now a few days of housecleaning are in order. You won't tell anyone if I slip out to catch a few garage sales, though, will you? And a new story will be simmering on the back burner. I have a couple of proposals out right now, but daylight's burnin' -- can't just wait to hear on those, you know?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Writers Write

"Writers write everyday." A statement we writers often hear, made by other well-meaning writers.

Recently a writer friend told me how upset she was by that statement, because it didn't allow for life to happen. The insinuation is that "professionals" write every day, through every situation and storm in life. Nice if it works for you.

If you're a writer, aspiring or published, you have to learn a pace and a rhythm that works for you.

I agree, writing means you have to write. Duh. There are people who call themselves writers who do a lot of talking. Talk about writing, talk about what they've learned, talk about the book they're plotting. But writing is hard work. And the cut between the writer and the talker is clearly defined by pages. Pages, manuscripts, queries and submissions. SHOW ME THE PAGES!

That said, you can accumulate pages without writing everyday. What!? Sacrilege, you say? I used to beat myself up because I didn't have the same schedule that the "professionals" have. I've sat through workshops and author interviews where the eager newbies in the crowd are asking, "How many hours a day do you write?" And the typical interviewer inevitably asks, "Describe a typical day in your life."

Some days I write a little. Some days I think and plot. Some days I go to garage sales. Some days I sweat bullets over a scene. Some days I sit with a friend who needs me. Some WEEKS I tally pages like there's no tomorrow. On deadline, I sometimes write all day and half the night. Some days I watch movies or read a book. Does that mean I'm not working? Does it mean I'm not a professional?

Okay, I'm not Nora Doesn't-Need-A-Last-Name (sort of like Cher) but neither is anyone except Nora. And I've heard her talk about her days - she exercises and has a family and a life. Honestly, I don't know how she does it. I have a friend who admits she has no life other than her writing. Does she produce a lot of books? Yes. Do I want that for myself? No.


This book helped me realize that I'm creating all the time. Even if I'm painting a room or arranging flowers or shopping at a flea market, my brain is processing ideas. I may not write for a couple of days, but when I sit down and open the file and put my fingers on the keyboard, the story flows out.

I'm not one of those people who plan the story all out head of time. More about that another time.

This week I received a silver commemorative pin from my publisher, acknowledging and celebrating the publication of my twenty-fifth book. The accompanying letter says, This is a significant achievement." I think so, too. I consider myself a professional. Those twenty-five books were written since 1993. Four of them last year alone! Did I write every day? No.

My husband spent two weeks in the hospital. (I did take line edits along with me while I sat with him all day.) My daughter with her family of six lived with us for five weeks while their new home was being finished. Do YOU think I wrote everyday? We moved to a new home and the next week I went to RWA national conference. And I have a life with husband, family, church. I don't write everyday. But I'm a writer. The pages are the proof.