Friday, March 30, 2012

The Hunger Games--I'm Still Starving


Posted for Lori Lapekes:

This isn’t meant to be a book or movie review.... at this point, I haven’t even seen the “Hunger Games” Movie. I admit to just finishing the second book in the series, though. And I love it when an author breaks out like this, especially a female author. For some reason, it seems women writers get much less respect. The authors of Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games are all female, and that makes me happy!

I’m not as happy though, when I think deeply about the content of “The Hunger Games.” The novel is easy to read, fast paced, intriguing. But when I think of the barbaric plot of the story, especially in the first book----taking starving teenagers and tossing them in a huge arena to try and kill each other in any fashion they can, it gives me the creeps. Most everyone thinks this is so interesting, and powerful, and it kind of is. Yet it is also desensitizing. The book is disturbing on many levels. I know, it is just entertainment...but in the big picture, I think violence in movies and books can add an uneasy twitch to a person’s psyche. Many times, when I put the book down, I felt, well, kind of icky inside. Disturbed. And that was probably the point. But too many people out there have been indiscreetly “twitched” for so long that it scares me. I believe it’s lowering the level of emotion of where people just “crack” and do horrific things themselves. Especially young people.

Still, I’ll go back, put on my rose-colored glasses, finish reading all the books, and try not to remain disturbed for too long. I’ll just hide under the covers and hope my name is never drawn for something horrible as I quietly starve for books that make me feel a little better about the future and mankind.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Presenting...



Note: This is a duplicate post from tessgrant.wordpress.com

This was supposed to be a post on the forensic interpretation of werewolf kills. However, it has been preempted by news of the most exciting kind.

KITTY HAS ARRIVED.

Yes indeed, Kitty Irish, Daniel Phinney, and a host of werewolves that have been hanging around with me, the family, and my critique group for several years has now hit the shelves.

I’m so excited I can’t see straight! Thanks for sharing the ride with me.

****

TRAJECTORIES

Kitty Irish has heard all the rumors swirling around Daniel Phinney. Most of them involve a gun, a flask, and a temper. One chance encounter with the WWII veteran over a grisly find in the woods pulls the cover off the dark secrets of their small town, and Kitty is drawn into an unlikely partnership. Armed with an antique rifle and a handful of homemade silver bullets, the two form an efficient team. Unfortunately, their game is werewolf hunting, and disaster is only a bite away.

Available now from Amazon, Turquoise Morning Press and Smashwords.

P.S. Don’t forget to check back at tessgrant.wordpress.com next week for the werewolf kill post…it’s gripping…and comes with photos. :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pulling Out of a Writing Funk

I've been in a writing funk for months. I made the mistake of writing too many books last year.

I know, you're probably thinking, how could writing too many books be a bad thing?

The problem is I got burned out.

Badly.

And now I'm having trouble making forward progress on anything more complicated than a grocery list. And some days, even that's a bit taxing. I'm sure it'll pass. I'm sure I'll get my writing mojo back. I certainly hope so, anyway. I've got contracts to fulfill.

It's not that the ideas aren't there. They're rattling around constantly, but when I look at that cursor, everything vanishes from my head. I've tried changing location. I've tried writing longhand. I've tried writing something not related to what I'm supposed to be writing. I've journaled, talked to friends and thrown things in fits of frustration, but the word could has remained the same.

I apologize for the whiny, self-indulgent nature of this post, but I do want to remind anyone who might be reading this not to kill yourself and your creativity trying to build a backlist too quickly. Find joy in the creation of your stories. Don't lose sight of all the things that drew you to writing in the first place.

And I'll try to do the same. 


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Pacing your chapters

I am huge fan of the television show The Walking Dead. By fan, I mean, I watch it, rave about it for ten minutes, then spend the next week picking apart all of its flaws and complaining about how stupid it is and how much I hate it. This is pretty much the standard operating procedure for fans of the show, and you'll know this if  you've ever met someone who watches the show and talks to you about it for more than thirty seconds. One of the biggest complaints people have about it is the pacing. When a member of the group went missing in season two, it felt like the search was going on for six weeks, while on the show, it had only been a matter of days.

Since the season is over, I decided I would sit down and watch it all at once, in my own little marathon. When I did this, a strange thing happened. The show no longer seemed drawn out and pointlessly slow. It was gripping and action packed. The long, zombieless weeks of pointless talking and emotional scenes- sans zombies, the real draw of the show- vanished in a haze of, "Wow, this story is moving so fast!"

This made me think about all the books I've recently abandoned in the reading funk that has been plaguing me lately. I dropped most of them because it seemed like the plot was taking forever. Maybe it was just taking me, a notoriously slow reader, forever to read them. Then, I started thinking about my books, and how to avoid falling into the same trap of the seemingly slow moving plot. I want readers to sit down with one of my books and read it for as long as I can hook them, just like I'm willing to spend twelve solid hours with Camp Dinner Bell on The Walking Dead. I don't want my readers to read a chapter and sprint to the internet to complain about how nothing happened (and if you've ever been on GoodReads.com, you know that readers do exactly that). This is what I came up with:

1. Make your chapters shorter. It stands to reason that if you have a three page chapter, a reader is going to be more likely to keep going and read the next chapter, and the next. After all, it's only three more pages, right? I know that has tricked me more than once into a nightlong reading session. But when you reach the end of a ten, fifteen, or thirty page chapter, you're less likely to commit to another long stretch.

2. Always end on a hook. If your chapters wrap up a section of the story in a natural stopping point, guess what the reader is going to do? They're going to stop. You have to draw out tension of some kind, and promise the resolution in the next chapter. Whether or not you do resolve it then is up to you, but the point is, you have to give the reader incentive, they have to have that bone on the string hanging in front of them so they won't put your book down.

3. Don't end chapters with people going to sleep. I am so guilty of this, because 1) I love to sleep. 2) and I admit it, sometimes I just don't know how to end a scene. This is the single dumbest thing I, or any other writer, could possibly do, and yet it happens, all the time. When a reader is reading that book, be it at noon or three in the morning, they're going to get to the part where the characters go to sleep and subconsciously say, "Well, they're not going to be doing anything for a while." So, they'll set that book down and give your characters time to sleep. It's not a conscious thought, but it totally happens.

4. Cut out anything unnecessary. Every line of dialogue, every action, should be absolutely necessary to the plot. We don't care what your heroine makes for breakfast, and how, unless later we find out that breakfast was poisoned. There's no reason to show readers a bunch of stuff they never asked about, don't want to read about, and won't have any future payoff. I'm going to forever refer to this rule as "Zombie in the well." If you watch The Walking Dead, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you don't, suffice it to say that you don't want zombies in your well, taking up precious story telling time when it has nothing to do with the story. Readers don't want that, either.

These are just a few tips, but they were churning in my brain today. I hope they help you out!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

How to Save Time on Your Manuscript

Ha, bet you think this is a let's-outline blog, don't you?  Nope.  Instead, it's a easy-peasy tip on how to save keystrokes.

Start with a couple of sentences from one of my unpublished works.  How could I have written it faster?  Not better, or tighter, but faster?

Though Wdystane was a dozen years older than the male Immaculae she took to her bed, he wondered if the Colonel still frequented it.
Elliott elbowed his way through the crowd, his progress helped by Foote’s presence.

There are four stumbling blocks in these sentences: Wdystane, Immaculae, Elliott and Foote.  Crazy names and hard to type, right?  Elliott is an unusual spelling of Elliot, it would be easy to forget the second “t”, and the “e” and Foote could be forgotten, as well.  As for Immaculae and Wdystane?  I’d be sure to muck them up each time.
Do you have character’s names that are difficult?  Or an awkward phrase that is repeated frequently?  In one of my former jobs, I had to type “special engineering quote number” several times a day, and I could never master speed typing it correctly.
If you’d like to make your work easier, take advantage of your word processing’s AutoCorrect feature.  Usually listed under the Tools tab, it’s not just for placing I before E except after C.
For example, Wdystane can be AutoCorrected by replacing it with “wdy”, three consonants not normally found together.  I abbreviated “special engineering quote number” to “spqn” and never had to type it again.  Make sure the shortcut is a mix of letters or numbers that you wouldn’t use otherwise.  It’d be wrong if you used “ic” for Immaculae and end up with “sImmaculaek” or “stImmaculaek” instead of “sick” and “stick”.  You get my drift.
AutoCorrect can be used for long phrases, too.  “Please submit your proposal as soon as possible and thank you for your interest in XYZ Corporation” could be boiled down to “psrp” or any other shortcut.
AutoCorrect can be your friend.
p.s. To see how it can’t be your friend, visit www.damnyouautocorrect.com for some awkward texting conversations.
p.p.s. This is not a office safe site.   
Disclaimer: No English teachers were harmed during the writing of this post.  Seven typing mistakes were made that could have been helped with AutoCorrect.  Why is AutoCorrect two words instead of one?  Isn't that AutoWrong?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Characters and Country Dancing


I'm so excited! Tonight I get to go dancing with one of my fellow writers. We've been talking about it forever, and we're finally going the Friday before St. Patrick's day. And as luck would have it, a new country bar is right down the street from one of my favorite places to eat.

So, you're probably wondering what this has to do with characters? Well, Jess, the first one to wander into my head, is a huge country music fan and one of her good friends owns a mixed-crowd country bar. If it is possible, she is more excited than me about my going out on the town. Probably because she can't wait to laugh if I attempt to line dance with a bunch of strangers. Usually when I'm out dancing my BFF Carlos is with me. He's an awesome Salsa dancer and is easy enough for me to follow.

Jess has been busy since we confirmed the dancing date, picking out new cases to work on, outlining what will happen over the next books in the series – we are now up to 5 books from 3 – and giving me more ideas than I can get down at this point. Yes, Jess pretty much writes the books. She tells me what's going to happen and I just try to get it down.

In addition to the dancing, I put the first book of Jess' series into it's first competition. That helped jump start her eagerness to get more work done. She's pretty sure we'll get a positive feedback and very happy I finished up a freelance project I took on during my recent stint with unemployment, I'll just be happy to get anything back from the competition that doesn't say “stick to writing business documents”.

For my characters it really doesn't matter what anyone else says, they'll still keep me writing, and I'll still have to write just to be able to get my normal work done, but it will be nice to have some more feedback. Even if it is rough, because at least then I'll have a starting point.

As for me, if you catch me laughing hysterically on a dance floor, it could be that I can't quite get the steps or, more than likely, Jess is teasing me about having two left feet. Either way, I'll be having fun!


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Finding Time > Making Time

I have a hard time doing nothing. I can’t watch TV without knitting or sewing or writing (sometimes it’s pretending to write, but I feel somewhat productive.)

So when people ask me how I find time to write, I’m not sure how to answer. What else would I do with the five minutes a day when the kids are all playing nicely and no one has peed their pants or has to go to the potty? Or they are all quietly sleeping and I’m too tired to plant flowers or pull weeds or vacuum or wash the dishes (who am I kidding, I never want to do those things.)?

Perhaps, it’s not so much about finding time to write, it’s about making time to write. It’s something I want—sometimes have—to do, so I make time for it. The dishes can wait until tomorrow, so I can work on a chapter tonight. I choose to have a babysitter one afternoon a week so that I can meet with my critique group. (So far, I have paid my babysitter more than I have made on my books, but the two hours of conversation that doesn’t involve encouraging someone to poop is saves my sanity some weeks.)

If you want to write, time to do it won’t magically appear in your schedule. Believe me, I wish Outlook could find a way to do that. You have to decide how important writing is and what you are willing to shuffle to make time.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Day by Day

For the last few weeks, I’ve been tracking my behaviors and actions. Not all of them, but several in areas that are important to me. I’m working on identifying triggers that lead me to either doing or not doing certain things. Some of my behaviors/actions from the past weeks are:

1. Follow my plan of giving my body good stuff to eat and drink

2. Spend according to budget

3. Workout – both aerobic and strengthening

4. Stretch

5. Write 20 minutes a day

6. 96 oz water throughout the day

7. Golden Hour (read 10 pages of a good book, review goals, review day and plan for the next day)

8. Review with my son (school work etc.)

These behaviors all are important to me and yet, it’s amazing how many other things I do that don’t support these actions. Why am I bothering with all this? I’m at the point that if I say something is important I want to make it happen. Or else – just let it go. Or perhaps – just put it on the back burner for awhile so I don’t feel the burden of guilt.

After a couple weeks of tracking, I’m back on track (so to speak) with my budget, exercise, water and reviewing with my son. Golden Hour is hit or miss, depending on how tired I am at the end of the day, yet I know how much more focused I am when I stick with it.

Getting into the rhythm of these daily actions made me realize something else. I’m not looking to achieve perfection the first day. I feel like I’m learning a new dance. The basic steps are coming easier and I’m adding in new twists and turns as I go. When I review my day, I’m not looking for self-judgment or guilt, rather it’s important for me to focus on making adjustments.

These aren’t my originals ideas. I just finished the book, The Compound Effect, by Darren Hardy. In his opening chapters he gives several profound examples of people who made small daily changes – for both better and worse – and where they ended up months and years later. I decided I wanted to make the small daily changes for the better. I’ll see where I end up a year from now!

“The rhythm of daily action aligned with your goals creates the momentum that separates dreamers from super-achievers.” ~ Darren Hardy (www.TheCompoundEffect.com)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Achieving Success

by Suzanne Graham

Whew! Thank goodness Winter NaNo is over for another year! For the past 4 weeks, several members of GRRWG have been writing 8K a week to achieve a grand total of 32K words in 28 days.

It was a great time for me to participate in this challenge. I've made it a goal this year to write more, and this really kept me at it during the difficult month of February when I'm tempted to huddle under a blanket and watch movies all day up here in cold Michigan.

During NaNo, I finished the rough draft of a new book that will be released on May 23!!! I sold this book and the following two in the trilogy based on a proposal to my editor at Resplendence Publishing.

Whoot! That's the first sale I've made by proposal.

This trilogy is in a new genre for me. Yes, it still has multiple partner loving. :D But this one takes place on a distant planet called Profortuna in the future year, 3022. If you'd like to learn a little about the history of Profortuna, check out my blog post here.

The first book of the trilogy is Anna and the Three Generals. To read an introduction of Anna, check out this blog post.

So today, I am very happy to celebrate my two recent successes - finishing GRRWG's Winter NaNo Challenge and selling 3 new books!


Friday, March 9, 2012

Yahoo Personals Bring Out the Real Yahoos - Sidney's Misadventures in Dating

I'll admit it, I'm not getting any younger. I was sitting in bed one night commiserating about being single. In July, I'll be four years from the big 4-0. Then I realized that over fifteen years of dating, whether it be through an online service, a blind date, or a chance meeting, some of my worst dating experiences have helped me realize being single isn't that darn bad. And some of the stories are funny, to boot. I've decided to start sharing some of them here.

So here's the first installment!

Yahoo Personals Brings Out the Real Yahoos!

I posted my first online personal ad well over 15 years ago. Wow! I was totally excited that there were now places that allowed you to post an online personal ad for free! Free being the optional word. I posted a cute little write-up and one of my best photos. Imagine my delight when actual men started replying to my ad.

Bachelor number One. For anonymity’s sake, we’ll call him John. John looked good on paper. Then again, they all pretty much do. He had a decent photo. The occupation he had listed was nice too. I met up with John at a restaurant in the Easttown area of Grand Rapids. John wasn’t a bad guy. He was friendly. He had a bit of stuttering problem. Maybe he was just nervous. I don’t know. However, when it came to pay the bill, John admitted he had no money to pay for his meal. Sure his bill was less than five dollars, but still! I was pretty much put off by the whole situation.

The next day John calls me. Here’s pretty much how the conversation went:

ME: Hello.

JOHN: I...s...s Si...d...d...n...n...ey th...th..th...ere?

(I guess the stuttering wasn’t a nervous thing after all.)

ME: This is her.

JOHN: Hi. I h...had a g..g..ood time with y..ou y…y…est…er..d…day a…a..nd w…w..an...ted to a..a..sk y…y…ou s..s..ome…th…thing.

ME: What?

JOHN: Wh...wh...en c…c…an w…w…e h...h…h...ave s…s…sex?

SERIOUSLY??? We had one date where I was forced to pay your bill and you think I want to have sex with you? Who do you think you are, the American Gigolo? Those were the thoughts (among others that are too inappropriate to say here) swirling in my head. I can’t believe I managed not to go off on this guy. I politely said I wasn’t that type of girl and didn’t think we’d work out. John then said if I changed my mind, I could call him. I think I permanently burned his number from my brain.

NOTE: Had this guy not so blatantly asked me to have sex with him and just asked me out on a second date, I might have given him a second shot. As I mentioned earlier, he seemed nice and friendly. But apparently beneath his quiet and friendly facade, was a real freak. I do wish him success in his quest for sex.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Room With A View

I've pondered what I was going to write about for the better part of my waking hours, which given the fact that I'm fighting bronchitis and slept the best part of the day is probably not as impressive as it sounds. Instead of watching the talk shows one of my best friends insists on recounting to me whenever I talk to her, I watched shows from the History Channel - both of them, National Geographic channel, and the military channel. Spending the day on the couch, and it was a beautiful, bright, sunny, and warm day too, reminded me how good it was to be able to do that.

Before I moved to my current abode, I never had my own office, a place I could write and outfit as my own. When after a year and a half of having my own office I had to give it up for a roommate, it became apparent that my own space is needed. I have friends who don't have offices, they have a specific spot or spots in the house that is their 'office' and they're very successful. So, an office isn't necessary for writing, but space specific to writing seems to be. I'm in the process of reclaiming my office. There are books and photos and knickknacks everywhere. Not everything is where I want it or is even visible, but it is a great space to write in.

Reclaiming or claiming a space to write in is important for all writers. Whether it's a completely decked out office or an easy chair in the living room, space to write is important. So is time. Finding time is more difficult to carve out than space. Finding time requires taking personal, private time that has no outwardly productive value as it can be measured. It doesn't produce clothes, food, quilts, or blankets. It produces part of a story and over time an entire story that may or may not be picked up for publication by a house. Heck, it may not even be submitted to a house. I have a friend who is a rather prolific writer - she hit 115K DURING NANO - each of the last two years running. Research and plots up until October 31st and starts writing on November 1st, but she has no intention of seeking publication - and she's good. She just refuses to submit anything. But regardless of the destination of a story, in order to write, one must not only make time, but also accept the fact that it is actually okay to take time for one's self in order to do something that may be as necessary as breathing.

There is an argument that one can only write when the muse strikes, however, the counter argument that discipline leads to an increase in creativity is also a valid one. Waiting until you feel the desire/need to write may mean waiting years to write because of stress, life, or other complications. Scheduling time to write every day and writing every day may mean, that yes, you have to throw out 3/4's of what you wrote, but it's still at least 1/4 more than you had before. And it's possible that some of that stuff that was thrown away is salvageable and useable elsewhere.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Obsessing Over a Title

What is in a name? For titles of my Mitch Malone Mystery books, it is very important. After the cover, it is the first thing readers see. I’ve been struggling with the title for my fourth book that is coming out in late summer. In it my main character, Mitch Malone, starts on a new romance only to find out his love interest isn’t what she appears to be when she is killed in an explosion at a real estate office. While trying to bring her murderer to justice, he finds out things about her that make him wonder about her motives. The more he looks, the trail leads to city hall and some high ranking officials. Would they take such extreme action to further their goals on a land deal?

I have some of the longest titles because they each begins with “A Case of…” That started because the title of my first book was Infatuation and my publisher didn’t think it sounded like a mystery so she added "a case of" in front to make it more sleuthy. That worked and next came A Case of Accidental Intersection followed by A Case of Hometown Blues. I like my titles to have an obvious meaning and then a second meaning after you get to the end of the book.

I had a couple of ideas for titles but didn’t like them. My critic group is great with titles so I threw out my ideas and let them go. After a few funny ones, they gave me sixteen choices. I then narrowed it down to three:

A Case of False Security

A Case of the Combustible Affair

A Case of Volatile Deeds

I’ve spent a couple weeks obsessing about it but I’ve made the decision. And the winner is (in honor of the Oscars) A Case of Volatile Deeds. Now am just waiting to see if my publisher, Oak Tree Press, agrees.

What do you think about the title? Do you like long titles?

W.S. Gager has lived in Michigan for most of her life except when she was interviewing race car drivers or professional woman's golfers. She enjoyed the fast-paced life of a newspaper reporter until deciding to settle down and realized babies didn't adapt well to running down story details on deadline. Since then she honed her skills on other forms of writing before deciding to do what she always wanted with her life and that was to write mystery novels. Her main character is Mitch Malone who is an edgy crime-beat reporter always on the hunt for the next Pulitzer and won't let anyone stop him, supposedly.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

NaNo Countdown

Only five days left to finish 32K, so where do I stand?

Well, I was hoping to say that my word count improved each week, but when I just checked my numbers, I realized that wasn't quite true. In the first week, I cranked out 8305 words by writing 6 days. During the second week, I only had 3 writing days, but I managed to produce 5223 words. Week three started out strong, but the last two days were low, producing a weekly count of 7602.

So with one week left to go, I have finished 21130 words with only 10870 words left to go. Writing 2174 a day for 5 days will have me completing the challenge. As long as I am able to maintain consistency with my output, I should be able to finish on time. Yay!

Sorry this wasn't more exciting...gotta save the good stuff for NaNo!!! :D

Friday, March 2, 2012

Spring is Coming

Okay, so no one wants to read a blog about the weather, but there's always something about this time of the year, when we get teasing glimpses of what's coming. Yeah, we still get snow storms, but it melts right away and our lake is going out, a sure sign of spring. I love spring. That's enough about the weather.

Since I just finished a book yesterday and got it off to my editor and I'm officially brain dead, I'm having a hard time coming up with something meaningful to blog about. Then it occurred to me, My first hardback book from Resplendence Publishing has just come out. It a collection of the first three books under the Pirate Booty Series. It covers a female pirate who aspires to be a lady, a French bride who chooses a handsome pirate lover over an aging aristocratic and last, but not least about a female pirate who finds herself wed to an American Privateer who loves another woman.

This is only the first of my hardback books from Resplendence. Later in the year another trilogy will be published under the title From The Sea, about three Irish women whose lives are changed by three men of the sea. I've just finished the second book in my second pirate trilogy and they were great fun to write.

So as I watch spring approach, measuring its coming by the birds at the feeder outside my window, I feel a great anticipation when I can grub around in the dirt again and sit on the patio and watch the boats go by on the lake or take myself down to the swing right by the shoreline and plop down with a pillow and a book. All this may sound idyllic and it is, but always there's the nagging need to go get some work done or another page written toward my deadline, errands to run. So, though I look forward to those times, I almost enjoy this time more. This waiting time before the buds burst open, before the birds return and start building their nests, before the ice breaks up on the lake and sends its tinkling message that another season has come. Right now a slight wind is moaning around the corner of the house, making me feel snug and cozy inside. My brain is coming alive again and I'm already thinking about the characters in my final pirate book. What great adventure is about to befall them? Spring is coming and I can tell, I'm about to give birth to that next great American novel!!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Winter NaNo: It's Crunch Time!

We are in the middle of week three of Winter NaNo! If you accepted the challenge to write thirty-two thousand words in four weeks, that breaks down to 1143 words per day. Since I have to have a visual to keep myself on track, I keep a calendar on the desktop of my laptop. Each day is marked with the total number of words I need to have written by the end of the day.  So yesterday I needed to have 21,717 words, and by the time I closed my Scrivener program, my manuscript had 21,792. I am on track!
Going into the challenge, I thought I was prepared. I had my characters fleshed out and knew their internal and external conflicts. I had planned my major plot points, and knew how I wanted them to meet. So on February 10, I started writing. And for a week or so I kept writing. I'm not a linear writer. Sometimes I get tired of where I am and skip to the end. Or I get inspired to write the Black Moment, when they main characters fear "all is lost." So I just skip to that part and write away. Later on, when the words are all there, I can go back and adjust. I'll probably find there are all sorts of plot holes and inconsistencies. And if I don't find them, my critique partners and/or my proofreaders will find them.
So with a little over a week to go, I think I'm doing well. I have the "meat and bones" of a new story here. Next week Saturday, I'll look back and start editing, and hopefully I'll have something I can start grooming, and eventually submit!
There was a roomful of people accepting the Winter NaNo challenge, and several who opted to join from remote locations. How are your projects coming?

 Patty Kiyono