Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bloggy Blog Blog

It’s time for my monthly post and once again I have nothing planned.  Not only that, but my word count this month is so low I’m not even going to bother to pull out the jump drive to see exactly what the count is.  I haven’t written in what feels like forever.  It’s probably been just a week or so but to me that equals a long damn time considering how much I had been writing.  Then on top of barely writing I had to miss this month’s GRRWG meeting because it was my birthday weekend and I had too much stuff to do, so I haven’t even been around my writerly peeps!  Well, except for Twitter, of course.
I have been reading so I guess if anything I can say I’m researching, right?  *Just smile and nod, smile and nod.* Right now I’m on a YA series about fallen angels.  It’s by Lauren Kate and for the most part it’s a decent series.  I’m on book three of five (Fallen, Torment, Passion, Fallen In Love, Rapture). 
One thing I’ve noticed since joining GRRWG is that I look at not only my own writing differently but books as well.  I’ve mentioned in my Goodreads reviews of these books that they’re way too long and include whole chapters that have nothing whatsoever to do with the plot.  That’s not to say they’re bad chapters, but they make the story much longer and sometimes are confusing because afterward I’m left thinking, “What the hell was that all about?”
I can only hope that the things that bug me most about other writers are things that I myself don’t do to my own readers.  I cringe in thinking about the day I’ve got something on Goodreads that I wrote and people can review it and say what they disliked about it.  Of course, being on Goodreads would also mean that I’m published (yay!) and that people can say what they DO like about my work… but what can I say? I tend to focus on the negative, it’s what I do. :)
In other non writing news, Gramps is hanging in there and doing well. He has his good days and bad days, of course.   Next week my mom is taking him up north to the city where he was born and where his little brother lives, so that’ll be cool.  It’ll also give me a few days to just relax and maybe write! 
Anywho… I hope everyone is enjoying their summer and staying cool in this awful heat we’ve had.  I myself have found out that an old brick farmhouse with no air conditioning is not exactly a fun place to be this summer. :)
Happy writing!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pitching Pointers

By Arianna Skye

Today is a first for me. I am attending my first actual job interview in—well, let’s just say a long time. Not for lack of trying, but the writing and small odd jobs I’ve been doing are no longer paying the bills.  As I sit and think about how to handle the interview, I have a light bulb moment. An interview isn’t really that much different than pitching to an agent and an editor.

So, because of all the conferences and conventions going on, I decided to list a few pointers for those who are perhaps pitching—or interviewing—for the first time.
  • Dress professionally. Sure, you usually write in your sweats and t-shirt, but editors and agents are professionals. As someone once told me, dress for the job you want, not the job you have. 
  • Prepare your pitch beforehand. Be organized. Use note cards. An editor isn’t going to reject you because you occasionally glance down at a card. 
  • Remain calm. Take a deep breath and speak clearly. You need to be quick and consise, but you don’t need to talk a mile a minute. 
  • Be enthusiastic and energetic. Show your pride in your manuscript. 
  • Hook’em, Danno! Make the editor want to read it. Leave him/her hanging. 
  • Most importantly, don’t give up. With each pitch or query letter, your one step closer to a sale.
What other tips/suggestions can you share to make someone’s pitching/interview experience worthwhile?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Well, Now I'm Mad

I often get mad, not literally mad, not insane mad, although I suspect there have been moments when I've been close.  More often, it's that something has annoyed me beyond the point of civility.  I'm trying not to display this madness to other people, which means that even when dealing with any outsourced representative over the phone, after repeating, I can't understand you five or six times, I ask to speak to their supervisor, who usually turns out to be someone I can't understand either.  I excuse myself and sit and count to ten and then a hundred.  I don't hang up because that would only add to the madness.

Another area that brings on this madness is the computer.  When I can't get on to do my blog and I have to call my grand daughter who patiently talks me through it, I feel, what's the word, oh yeah, pissed off, all in capital letters.  When I can no longer thread a needle without a magnifying glass, a big one, I feel the madness creeping toward me.

So what has this to do with writing?  Not a damn thing, really, or does it?  How many of us have done battle with our characters who simply won't co-operate and do what we want.  Sometimes you just have to give in to them, even if in your heart, you know they're wrong, but many times, they're not.  They're showing you who they are, what their values are, how they would react to this situation.  And that's when I discover that madness has to give way to the heart of the character.  They surprise you sometimes, with the depth of their character, when you were trying to make them too shallow, or they show you their humor, when you're determined this scene should be heavily dramatic.  So as time has gone by, and much of it has, I've learned to trust my characters more.  After all they're the ones out there dodging bullets, fighting off would be rapists, outwitting bad guys and being loyal to their guy beyond all reason.

Becoming entangled with stubborn, hard-headed people who are so intent on having their own story told their way can be fun.  It makes me not want to take a bathroom break or to talk to my husband when he's just invited me down to the local eatery for a sandwich (which means I don't have to stop and cook), but to have to stop at all is hard.  These are real people who just take over my life.  Is that madness of a different sort?. 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Of Vacations and Taxes

As I type, I'm sitting on the shores of Indian Lake in Manistique, Michigan and it's glorious. In addition to spending time with my immediate and extended family, I'm also doing tons of research for upcoming novels.

The best part about all of this, that much of my trip is completely tax deductible. So, in addition to enjoying views like this...I can also write them off. Yay for being a writer!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Bonjour, Paris!

If I've done this right, this post will appear while I am seeing the sights in Paris, France. According to the hotel's website I'll have wifi in the room so I should be able to get online, but just in case I encounter problems I decided to write this ahead of time and pre-post it. Isn't technology wonderful?
So why am I in Paris? Quite simply, it's because I've never been here before. I love to travel and I've gone to many places around the world, but this is one city that's never been on my itinerary. And there is a lot to see here. So when my good friend and fellow author Ginny told me I could tag along with her high school tour, I signed up.
I suppose I could look into making this a working trip by saying I'm doing research for a future novel. I could say I'm writing a book about a musician who's studying in France and meets a Parisian artist. I need to taste the foods that they nibble on while they learn about each other. I need to see the streets where the musician sets up to play for the coins people toss and where the couple strolls hand-in-hand while they fall in love.
Well, I suppose all that might be true, but the truth is, I'm going for me. It's on my bucket list, and the opportunity is here, so I'm taking it. And if I get a story out of it, great. If nothing else, I'll have some great pictures to put in my scrapbook, and some wonderful memories. And maybe I'll have something to blog about on August 1, when I'll be back!

                                               Patty Kiyono

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Perks of Shyness

When I was a child I was painfully shy. I’d rehearse what I wanted to say to someone I didn’t know very well, continue rehearsing it in my mind until it started sounding ridiculous to me and I gave up even saying it. It was difficult, especially (as I’m sure for many), the awkward middle school and high school years. I hated that part of myself. Yes, hated. It was miserable at times, and it made it worse when others would point it out. Sidenote: If you know a shy child, don’t put him or her on the spot about it.

Since talking to people and socializing wasn’t my forte, I retreated into myself and spent tons of time reading and writing. It was my reprieve. I was whisked away into other worlds, it was a wonderful escape, for hours. I would go to the library with my mom and siblings and couldn’t see the library receptionist behind my stack of books that she had to scan for me. I wasn’t much of an outdoorsy person during those years. I’d lie in bed or find a cozy spot to curl up and read. I loved it and looking back I cherish that time. I remember feeling so peaceful and relaxed. The social anxiety dissipated, even if momentarily.

What I didn’t realize was that I was learning rapidly. Not only about different cultures, history, people etc. But about good writing, sentence structure, words that evoked the best images, and compelling characters that felt like good friends to a shy child. It was subtle and I had no idea at the time, but in looking back I’ve realized that my shyness caused me to gravitate to books and writing in my journal, or writing stories and poems, and all that time I spent was a positive investment in myself and my passion. I do a lot of writing for my day job as well, so it’s paid off not only for my creative writing, but in other ways.

I believe that the key (or at least one of them!) to being a better writer is to read, and read constantly from all different sources, topics, and genres. I’ve also found reading to be a source of inspiration when I hit a dry spell or when I’m not in a “writing mood.”

When I went to college and became a “grown up”, I was forced out of my comfort zone several times. I had a career goal I was striving for and it was in the field of human services (who’d have thought?!). I changed, I grew as a result. My core personality is the same and I’m still an introvert, but I no longer have that crippling social anxiety. I don’t have to rehearse what I’m going to say. I make friends easily. I was forced to move beyond that anxiety, if I wanted to be successful in my day job.

Which brings me full circle. I stopped reading for fun or entertainment. Partly because graduate school and (later) a full time day job was demanding and when you have text books and homework, additional reading doesn’t sound so appealing, even if it is fiction.  I also had a social life, a serious boyfriend, and new coworkers to befriend. I stopped writing in my journal, sporadically wrote poems when I felt inspired, but that was it.

I didn’t realize it, but I missed it sorely, and I’ve had to consciously make an effort to make time to read, and I do now! I’m back into my habit of turning pages, staying up way too late, even though I have to work the next day.

It’s exciting to see how reading inspires my writing again. I’m also trying to be more aware as I read. What is it that keeps me captivated? How can I replicate that in my own way?

Little did I know that my shyness had a purpose. I try to keep an open mind since not everything that feels like a curse in the moment, is necessarily a bad thing. It may open doors, other opportunities, or have unplanned byproducts that you don’t see until 20 years later!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

30 Shades of Marriage

Yes, what a cheap shot, using a 30 Shades reference to get your attention. 

Today is my monthly day to blog.  I picked the 17th because "L" and I were married on the 17th.  Awww, you say.  And it happens that today is our 30th anniversary.  Double Awww.

What's the secret?  Damned if I know.  Love.  Humor.  Respect.  We are total opposites.  I want to rest on vacations, he wants to go.  I like my own little world, he is Mr. Hey-How-Are-You-Doing?  I'm a night person, he sings when he gets up at stupid o'clock in the morning.  Sings!
I love to make him laugh.  If I can say something that doubles him over and makes him gasp for breath, my day is complete.  (Sounds a little sick, doesn't it?).  He likes to pick my brain.  I'm his source for weird and strange facts and opinions about subjects I've never considered.

Our opinions vary, but our values never do.  Maybe that's the secret.

30 years.  Lots of changes.  We've gone from Whoppers and Snicker bars each night and three gallons of milk a week to an almost vegetarian diet (I'm the holdout) and more awareness of our health.  Or maybe we're just older and we're trying to stay one step ahead of the Grim Reaper.

Next month, we start another chapter in our marriage.  We've sold our condo and sold, donated or trashed almost all our belongings.  On the 9th, we begin the 2012 Aloha Road Trip.  We drive to California where we'll drop off the car to be shipped to Honolulu, our new home.

My blog for August will be written from the Aloha State.  See you then!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Long, Hot Summer

Well, I survived my brother's family's first visit to Michigan – ever. Brother, Sister-in-Law (and my old college friend), kids and my Mom (who has been before) all came to stay with us for a few days. Of course it was during the hottest summer on record in over 50 years, and my grass is brown and crunchy instead of the pretty, deep green it usually is this time of year.

My garden didn't fare as well as me. The majority of the peas are brown and withered, having missed a few days of deep watering, the zucchini's got quite big, and many strawberries were eaten by bugs, but thankfully not all fell to critters.

I decided to “consult” with one of my favorite characters, Merie for some advice. Merie has special powers granted by God to heal the earth. She told me I should have watered and then, uncharacteristically, clamped her mouth shut. So I guess I'll just have to yank out the peas, replant seeds and hope for the best. My own fault for giving them just a sprinkling instead of the deep watering they'd gotten used to.

Lately my writing is like my garden. I've been ignoring it to deal with familial duties like cleaning the house and getting things ready for their visit, then driving them around the state to see my favorite beach, the Children's Museum, Mackinac Island, and some other touristy stuff.

This is where I think Merie's silence is coming from. I've ignored her for too long, and now she's pouting a bit (also uncharacteristic for one of God's Chosen). Even Jess and crew is silent. Which is a bad thing, at least for me.

How can I get the books I've put in for our Roar into Writing competition done if my characters won't “talk” to me? My Mom suggested I do some historical research and write something about the women's movement or LGBTQ rights. I had to explain that's not how I write. Then I had to explain what a “Pantser” is and why I can't stand to write outlines or pre-plan a plot.

It makes writing their stories far more fun for me, but my mother - the English major - tends to focus on the formal process. I prefer instead to listen to my characters and write what they tell me. (And sometimes buy vintage sewing machines they suggest I must have).

Okay, so maybe I don't follow the rules, maybe I'll never be published, but the Pantser in me will continue writing for the heck of it, That is, if I can get my characters to quit pouting and get back to talking to me. I hope they do it soon, otherwise this already long, hot summer will feel much longer and much hotter without their refreshing humor popping in from time to time.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Crystal's Three Chosen Mates

by Suzanne Graham

Wow! What great timing! I just got a cover art draft version for the final book in my Profortuna trilogy, which I'm so excited to share with you. The cover artist has really done an amazing job portraying the feel and look of my stories in this series.

So, without further ado, here is the cover draft for Crystal's Three Chosen Mates, to be released August 29, from Resplendence Publishing.

And if you missed either of the first two stories, check them out now!

Anna and the Three Generals

Bella's Three Bodyguards

Crystal's Three Chosen Mates
Coming August 29!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July!!!

by Andrea Dickinson
Happy Independence Day!

I hope you are all offline and enjoying this day with family and friends. And if you do happen to stop by the GRRWG blog today, here's a little list to keep you on track with your writing that I've paraphrased from an article on Oprah's website.

(Did you know she's started Oprah's Book Club 2.0?)

4 Reasons You're Not Writing The Book You're Meant to Write
(original article posted on

1. You're waiting for a brilliant idea to hit you in the forehead.
Solution: Good ideas come to those who act. Start writing even if it's a "bad" idea for a story. The good ideas will eventually come along when you're willing to open yourself up.

2. You have a brilliant idea, but you freeze when it's time to put it on paper.
Solution: Let go of the fear of not being perfect. Accept the worst of yourself and let those bad sentences flow onto the page. By giving yourself permission to write badly, you're also giving your creativity freedom to write well.

3. You're so excited about your story idea that you can't help talking to everyone about it, but you aren't producing much on the page.
Solution: Direct that creative energy at your word count, instead of seeking instant gratification from the attention of those around you. Writing is a slow, long-term process. Train yourself to enjoy your satisfaction when the story is complete.

4. You are plagued by the nasty voice in your head asking, "Who the hell do you think you are?"
Solution: Turn off your inner critic. Feel the presence of something much bigger than you that loves and values you without reservation.

And finally, if you like to read your books in paper format, I'll thrilled to announce that Baltimore Heat is now available in PRINT!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Outside My Window

Nearly everyone you meet who learns you're a writer, and even some who are very close and should know better, says to you, 'Where do you get your ideas?' or even worse, 'I have a great story idea you can use.'  I always cut them off as gently as possible, with the comment, 'Coming up with ideas is not the problem, finding the time to work on them is.' 

I think the reason many of us take up the writing profession is a need to express the ideas that fill our heads.  I can't remember ever being without characters running around and acting out scenes in my mind.  I remember once, my mother said to me, 'Peg, sometimes when you're doing something you move your lips as if you're talking to someone.'  I was ironing at the time, yes, during my youth, we still did that. Ironing was an onerous, boring job in my book and what better way to entertain myself than to talk to characters doing far more interesting things.

So ideas are not a problem.  I have only to look out my window.  I have two in my writing room.  From one lace curtained window I can see our neighbor's roof line with a gable and the branches from a giant oak tree framing it perfectly.  A mosaic of shadow and sunlight add further interest.  Something to paint, I think to myself, then go further and wonder, if my current neighbors, who've been there through two generations, weren't there, what secrets would hide behind that window so perfectly centered beneath the gable.  Characters clamor to be heard.  They have a wonderful story to tell.  Perhaps a young girl locked away, in the vein of V.C. Andrews.  Or a spy who's hiding out while he tries to figure a way to steal important military secrets.  The Federal Center in Battle Creek must hide plenty of secrets.  Or maybe an old woman with a dangerous secret her handsome nephew is trying to wring out of her.  Or perhaps ....

See what I mean?  I won't even start on the other window which looks out over a red maple tree and a lily and hosta bed below, which a lonely middle aged woman tends diligently while a man watches her and ... See what I mean?  The fun part isn't getting an idea, although it does have a certain aha joy, but the enlarging on that idea, the turning it this way and that while we look for holes that will trip us up later.  This is the time when an idea turns into a plot and characters become flesh and blood.  These are the exciting, challenging moments of writing.  I wouldn't give up this time for anything.  Dogged by guilt because you should go spend some time with family, you continue to sit before your computer, fingers racing over the keys.  Occasionally you look outside your window, just to grab a quick reality check, then you bend your body around the key board protectively and continue.  Outside my window is a tranquil scene that calms and soothes, but that isn't enough to stay me from my course.  I have a great idea and I have to run with it.  That's another thing that keeps me writing.