Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Confessions of a Romance Outsider

I rolled my eyes at romance.

I mean, not romance... romance is great. And not Romance, some of my favourite poetry is Romantic. But, you know. Romance. That supermarket stuff. The pastel pink chunk of the bookstore with the clutching couples, the shirtless (and headless) men. Well, at least the men have chiseled torsos (but no heads?). Might as well get something out of it. If that's the sort of thing you're into. And that's fine. But I'm not. I'm just waiting in line to buy milk.

Not that I have anything against escapism. Fantasy is all about escapism. It's just, you know, I'd rather escape to  an intriguing world and things I've never seen before. Not just escape into someone else's torrid relationship with a guy with amazing abs and no character depth, when I have my own marriage, which I have never wanted to fantasize my way out of, with my husband who has depth (and a head).

I was working toward an English Lit degree, I was up to my eyeballs in theme, metafiction, iambic pentameter. Romance was fine. For other people.

But I was working toward an English Lit degree, up to my eyeballs in theme, metafiction, iambic pentameter. In the literary canon, which deems what literature has value, and by extension what doesn't. Half of what I loved was included. Half wasn't. When it came to writing, and the majority of my leisure reading, I didn't look to this group to find like-minded friends.

At university, however, I saw a poster for a workshop on writing -- the business of writing, which was an area I knew little about. (I've always been arrogant enough to think my craft was strong.) In the midst of one of the worst stretches I've been through, and a hefty school schedule on top of it, I took a day away for myself and went to the workshop.

The Saskatchewan Romance Writers hosted it, and the original Honorary Chick, Donna Alward, led an engaging afternoon on publishing, deadlines, editors, the never-ending agent debate, and every unpublished author's greatest concern -- do we get a say on our cover art? The workshop had (understandable) emphasis on romance publishing, but I wasn't the only one who came from outside the genre. It was a great day, a lovely atmosphere, and very nice people.

The following spring, I started thinking about writing groups, online communities, and the like. Somewhere to find a bit of community, some feedback, and other people who got what the heck I was going to do after graduating (hint: it didn't involve teaching English). After so long immersed in the literary side of the lit/genre divide, I didn't want to take my writing into a group that might just jump on my genre-side work and tweak me to death trying to push me toward something I wasn't passionate about writing. I remembered the SRW, and how I'd enjoyed my afternoon with them. We didn't have a genre in common, but I liked my odds, having in common escapist-accused forms of writing. And I did have romantic elements in my work.

That same year, I actually read a romance novel. A true, romance-is-the-plot novel. I plopped it on the counter cover down, expecting raised brows from the clerk. My book had a shirtless man on the cover with a chiseled torso (and no head). But he had a sword, and the tiny bit of chin and long hair reminded me of one of my characters. Good enough, I thought. And the back cover/abs guaranteed titillation. I mean, I wasn't getting good plot or compelling characters for my money, I might as well get something, right?

It met my expectations exactly. It was cheesy, it was predictable, it wasn't an amazing story. I rolled my eyes as the ending wrapped up so neat even the dogs got together. I mean, good grief! But dammit it was fun, and riddled with sexual tension, which was what I came for.

Since then I've read a few other romances. Some because they were free, some because they were recommended, some for academic study. Some were fun, some were bad, one was infuriating, one was a massive, catastrophic disappointment I cannot utter in public or everyone on this blog will tear me limb from limb for my blasphemy.

And I've gotten to know the wide range of writers in the SRW, and through them the vast and thriving romance community online. The array of styles, stories, sub-genres, and strengths of the romance genre is staggering. From the adorably chaste to the astoundingly racy, latching on to every other genre out there and leavings its mark, taking what it likes back to its own genre. Dear lord, this beast is unstoppable! One of my first favourites in the fantasy genre, Merdeces Lackey, regular writes for Harlequin's Luna imprint now, and I actually know this because of the people I'm around (her books are still filed in fantasy, but they've always been heavy on the romance).

I'm still not truly a romance reader. I don't like knowing how a story will end, that I can't ever truly wonder if things will work out. Hey, sometimes it's nicer when someone dies, and we can explore a different kind of catharsis. Yet my favourite movie of all time is at its heart a romance, The Princess Bride. The novel I studied the most and wrote several papers on at university is, in essence, one of the greatest romance novels of all time, Pride and Prejudice. When Shakespeare's lovers aren't committing suicide or smothering one-another, they're getting together through some of the most ridiculous, convenient, over the top wrap-up final acts out there.

But I don't roll my eyes anymore. I always tried to be even about genre, and not encourage the lit/genre divide, but I know I had some prejudices when it came to romance. I bought my first for a minor thrill every few pages, because I expected nothing else of it. That one didn't have much to offer, but I know that's not the rule for every single romance novel ever written. Nor is the purpose of romance to offer fleeting titillation for a couple quick hours of an afternoon. That baked-right-in ending I don't like guaranteed is the promise of true romance, love, emotion. Regardless the heat level (another term I'd never have known), romance isn't about causing heart palpitations and naughty tingly feelings in lonely and unhappy housewives.

So it was I found myself quite offended upon hearing a recent anecdote about a Sunday morning service, in which the pastor apparently spoke on not letting tempting thoughts linger in the mind and lead toward breaking ye olde commandments. He then paused, and with complete sincerity said, "So ladies, stay away from those romance novels." In turn he warned the men away from internet pornography, because, logically, the two are synonymous.

It was that frustration that made me realize how much my perceptions have changed. There are terrible, awful, ridiculous, cheesy romance novels. There are terrible, awful, ridiculous, cheesy fantasy novels. And some equally awful, terrible, et al, novels elevated to literary status by the powers that be. It is all a matter of taste and personal perception. Given what I enjoy, I may find fewer stories in the romance genre that appeal to me, when I don't often want romance to be the sole purpose of the plot. It's not my reading genre, nor my writing genre, but if I roll my eyes now, it's over book, or a hilarious paragraph. Not over a section of the bookstore, or those poor headless men at the Zellers checkout. Headless guys need love too.

I may not ever be of the romance community, but I can skirt the edges and watch you steal my fantasy as I steal your romantic elements for my own purposes. In the end, we'll all get shelved in our categories, but we can still creep off the shelves after hours and play together until someone turns the lights on.

And who knows, my books may still get headless men on their covers.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Writing Blurbs

Picture this. You’re in a book store perusing the shelves, looking for some interesting reading. As you thumb through the spines, an intriguing book cover catches your eye, so you pick it up to see if the book is by one of your favourite authors. Even though the author is unfamiliar to you, you read the back cover copy, otherwise known as the blurb. But the ho-hum blurb does not inspire you to read further, so you put the book back onto the shelf and move on.

Another writer loses a sale.

According to Dan Poynter of Para Publishing, a writer has a very short timeframe to entice the reader to buy her book:
“Initially, all a potential buyer sees is the book’s spine. If the browser takes it down, he or she will gaze at the cover about four seconds and then flip the book over to read the back cover. On average, he or she will spend just seven seconds here so the trick is to keep them reading longer. Your copy has to be punchy and benefit-laden; it has to speak to the potential buyer.”

The blurb is vitally important in making a sale, whether in an electronic bookstore or in one made of bricks and mortar. But long before your book gets to the bookstore, your blurb will help get the attention of editors and agents. Agent Kristin Nelson says the uniqueness of the blurb in a writer’s query letter is what helps her decide whether to ask for sample pages:

“Too often I see historical romance pitch copy that reads something like this: she’s desperate but the belle of the ball and he’s a rake. It’s too generic. I need some original element (character, plot device, etc.) to grab my interest or I’ll pass.”

Ms. Nelson also says that with cutbacks in large publishing houses, authors are being asked more and more to write their own blurbs. It’s a skill the writer needs to learn:

“… but yet another reason to nail your pitch blurb paragraph in your query letter. You might actually be called upon to significantly contribute to the final copy that will go on your book jacket. You might as well master the craft now…”

After the book is published, your blurb can help get the attention of reviewers. Review site owner Marianne of Long and Short Reviews, says your blurb is often what persuades reviewers to select your book from a long list of others they have the choice of reading and reviewing:

“…when we offer books for review, we post the blurb in our reviews group -- that's what our reviewers have to go on, so make sure it's well-written. That's what will sell your story the best -- both to my reviewers and to the world in general.”

Getting the blurb right is crucial. Here are some tips to remember when writing blurbs:

1. Don’t write a synopsis. While a synopsis gives a brief summary of the entire novel, including beginning, middle and end, the blurb’s job is to intrigue readers, whether they are editors, agents, reviewers, or lovers of fiction, into reading more. The blurb accomplishes this by giving the highlights, including the names of the main characters and their goals, conflicts and motivations. In a suspense, show how the tension is rising.

2. Don’t give away the game! Never reveal the conclusion of your story and be careful not to reveal too much information. A blurb walks a fine line between revealing just enough information to entice while not giving away too much of the story. But you definitely want the mood of the book to shine through in the blurb.

3. Make em’ laugh, make em’ cry! Use action verbs and keep the use of adjectives and adverbs to a minimum. Emotive words give the blurb an emotional tug. For instance, in my blurb for my novella “Flawless” I use phrases such as “passionate response” and “maelstrom of attraction” to convey the love story between Hunter and Madeleine. With words such as “betrayed”, “survive”, and “revenge”, I hope to evoke the emotion of a suspenseful read.

4. Keep it short! In her article “Writing Great Blurbs”, Mayra Calvani says that blurbs should be no more than 100 to 250 words. Often publishers want even shorter blurbs for back cover copy. For example my publisher, The Wild Rose Press, wants no more than 100 to 150 words. Ruthlessly read through your blurb and remove any extraneous words. Replace passive verbs with active ones that give your blurb more power and life.

5. Give your readers a reason to buy/read your book. In her article “Writing a Short Book Blurb”, Marg McAllister says to end the article with an enticement, a promise. “This can be in the form of a statement or a provocative question.” For my book “Till September”, I ask this question in the blurb: Can Hannah Kramer, a woman determined save her family’s farm, find lasting love with Quinn Anderson, a man equally determined to take it from her?

Sometimes I prefer to make a powerful statement instead of asking a question. For my novella, “Flawless”, set in occupied France in WWII, I make the following ending statement: “Madeleine must decide if her loyalties lie with her dead husband and the Resistance or with the greatest love of her life.”

The blurb is your selling tool, so don’t sell it short. Give your blurb as much attention as the story itself and it will help tell the world about your book.
Have you written blurbs, either as part of a pitch to an editor or agent, or as back cover copy? Do you find them difficult to write, or do they roll off your pen with ease? Care to share your favorite blurb, written either by you or another writer?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Welcome Olivia Starke

One Writer’s Journey From The Beginning
Olivia Starke

I know, I know, you’re asking yourself ‘Who the heck is Olivia Starke, anyway?’ Well let me introduce myself. I am the little girl who stared out the window while in class and imagined a wide and vibrant world beyond the monkey bars and merry-go-round. I was the same little girl who watched the landscape swirl by the school bus window, lost in a world of magic that no one else could see (how I pity them to this day.) College couldn’t even rein me in. I’d find myself staring at the stained walls in my dormitory room weaving stories that only I would ever know.

I was an only child, who lived on a working farm ten miles outside of a town of just a handful of people. I had a lot of responsibilities and chores, as most farm kids do. Rain or shine, illness, and health, the work had to be done. At times I had visits from the neighbors’ kids or my multitude of cousins, but the majority of the time I was left to my own devices.

After all, adults certainly couldn’t join me in my fanciful and colorful worlds.

My playmates were chickens and dogs. Cats and hogs. Rabbits and wildlife. I could chat up a tree and listen in turn to the tales it had to tell. I could lose myself for hours in the chicken pens as the old hens told me about their day of scratching in the dirt and egg laying. It was more fascinating than any nursery rhyme.

I could ride my beloved and trusty little pony, Babe, deep into the woods surrounding the very rural property. Before I’d know it, we’d be seeing dinosaurs and unicorns. (Don’t worry reader, my little mare knew her way home without fail, and so did I.)

I admit I preferred my own company, for the most part, to that of other kids. Perhaps to some, my childhood could sound sad and lonely, but that’s a matter of perspective. I have to say I wouldn’t change it for the world. Thanks to the fascinating worlds I created in childhood, I feel I can survive anything to this day. While others will grieve and mourn in desperation, I can turn to my imagination and write poems to ease the heartache. When others go into rages and lose their cool, I will simply turn that unfortunate soul into an expendable character in a story. (Nothing like having that rude man in the grocery store line take a face plant in a pile of cow dung.) And I can share my excitement and happiness in such detailed emails, that my friends can’t help but live the experience with me.

Some may see me as a silly daydreamer, but I live in a vivid multihued world full of endless wonder. How boring it would be to live in black and white.

Whatever your beginning, fellow writer, it was your unique gift to bring color to the world.

Olivia Starke is a multi-published author with six paranormal erotic romance releases available at Cobblestone Press (www.cobblestone-press.com.) She is a member of Romance Writers of America and Passionate Ink, and is a reviewer at Got Romance Reviews. Outside of her part-time retail job, she’s a full-time writer, and moonlights as a freelance editor for several ePublishers.When not glued to the laptop screen she’s catering to the needs of her four horses, four dogs, and two cats. www.OliviaStarke.webs.com
A Sorcerer's Pleasure is coming soon to Cobblestone Press.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Quips and Quotes

If you could ask a legendary author a question, what would it be? Would you wonder what inspired them to write their classic? Would you ask how they stayed motivated? Would you ask them what you should do to be a successful writer? Well I don't have a direct line to the afterlife, so you'll have to settle for those words of wisdom someone was smart enough to write down. 

There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. ~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith
- I don’t think this American sportswriter ever wrote a novel, but he got this right. Open a vein indeed. Sometimes it is that painful isn’t it!

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. ~E.L. Doctorow
- A discussion at our most recent SRW meeting focused on deep POV. The writers discussing it (both published) shared that when writing they weren’t simply telling a story about a character, they were the character. As long as you are only your character when you are writing (or thinking about writing) you are probably ok; seek medical help if you actually have breakfast with your characters!

The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business. ~John Steinbeck, Accepting Nobel Prize, 1962
- Not very encouraging is it!?!

Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain
- Haha, did you notice I used 'very' above? Simple, straight-forward, practical advice from an all-time legend. Come on writers, expand beyond four letter words! Especially those words that don’t add anything to your story.

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth
- This quote makes me think of romance, but he isn’t really talking about writing for Harlequin. No matter what genre your writing may (or may not) fit into, you must write always with passion.

Easy reading is damn hard writing. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne
- The author of The Scarlet Letter knew what he was talking about. It may look easy, but we all know it isn't. Next time you put down a good book, resist the urge to delete every page of your current WIP. Walk away and try again another day. Writing is hard. If it wasn’t anyone could do it.

Most editors are failed writers - but so are most writers. ~T.S. Eliot
- Hmm... He’s got a point.

I’ll finish off with this final (helpful?) quote from someone I've never heard of before and I think he makes his own points:

Do not put statements in the negative form.
And don't start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that
a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
De-accession euphemisms.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.
~William Safire, "Great Rules of Writing"

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Prairie Chicks Welcome Olivia Starke

Join us this Saturday, Aug. 28th, when Olivia Starke will be guest blogging with The Chicks. Here's Olivia's bio:

Olivia Starke is a multi-published author with six paranormal erotic romance releases available at Cobblestone Press (www.cobblestone-press.com.) She is a member of Romance Writers of America and Passionate Ink, and is a reviewer at Got Romance Reviews. Outside of her part-time retail job, she’s a full-time writer, and moonlights as a freelance editor for several ePublishers.When not glued to the laptop screen she’s catering to the needs of her four horses, four dogs, and two cats. www.OliviaStarke.webs.com

Go, check out her website. She's got some great links for writers, a link to her blog, and information on her books. Then, come on back to The Prairies on Saturday to hear what Olivia has to say about her writer's journey.

And in Conclusion,

A lot of us are stuck in the doldrums. Like sailors of old, our sea (of writing) is becalmed and we aren't going anywhere. We didn't need to kill an albatross like the Ancient Mariner to feel guilty about it. The thing is, we have not committed ourselves to doing anything writerly lately.

For the last few weeks, many of us have blogged about not having written so much as a grocery list. Others, mercifully, have told us they are writing up a storm and how they do it. These members are on the knife edge of being dismembered.

In this blog, I am going to round up all the reasons we aren't writing and how the despicables are writing, from your previous blogs and comments.

Some of us were ready to quit, but our muses organized a protest march and were arrested. We can't stop writing; we just can't. The muses are smirking. It is not that they needed the job; it's that they need to make us miserable.

I would say exhaustion is our greatest reason to let the dust settle on the computer. We have been writing, writing, writing, revising, revising, revising, tweaking and double checking our research in case somebody out there knows some obscure fact we got wrong. There are only three known people in a world of six billion who know this teeny tiny fact: the guy who wrote the internet article it took us three weeks to find, us and the jerk who called us on it. We need time off to regroup and revive.

Fear is exhausting. We work like crazy and suddenly, we are reminded that only a teeny tiny number of writers ever get published. It won't be us. We are wasting our time. But we can't stop writing, even though we urgently need a little poitive in our negative....and a trip to the Caribbean.

There are multiple demands on our time. These come under the headings of Family Crisises, such as buying the wrong coloured hockey tape and yucky pencils NOBODY uses anymore - or at least since last week. Friends crisises, such as not being able to tolerate his behaviour another second and would we please come over  and help decide where the body should be buried and does she have to kill him first? Mothers - us and our's. Tax forms. Cute kittens and leaking dogs.

And then there are distractions, such as the pictures Karyn uses in her blogs, even if the hunks in question are young enough to be our grandchildsons. And there's another - grandchildren: our's and the neighbour's whose grandchildren have been screaming since daybreak - a week ago last Tuesday.

There some terrible moments in the writing biz. Karyn stated such moments succinctly: She wrote. She deleted. White space. The end.

Joanne, though she is perking along very nicely indeed, presented us with the five steps of accepting death or dealing with grief. That blog should be looked up and filed under: It's not that bad yet - (Yes it is!)

Now that we are all in the doldrums - not 'down' in the doldrums because of sharks - I will present you with the uplifting, positive, kick ass solutions the despicables have written about in their blogs - as they describe how their writing enthusiasm isn't suffering from anything.

Actually, we are all Despicables because most of the time, we have no fears, crisises, distractions or blank space to cope with and are capable of putting forth 1000 words - excellent ones - with no problems at all.

Janet has a blog that starts out in various shades of grim and grey, but then, her blog becomes positive, active and determined.  Janet plans to: set goals, declare herself a writer and write, and re-evaluate her decision to be a writer on a specific date later on
Being specific is a good thing. I faced Hayley's Kick Ass help association by making a sweeping plan. Then, I sat down, looked at the computer and quit. Hayley pointed the way: set realistic, short term goals such as the end of a chapter. Setting dates close in time is also a 'Good Thing" as Martha would  say. Don't think about Martha. She is probably shearing her sheep, cooking a dinner for 80, organzing the linen closet, berating her staff of two hundred and polishing the silver. After lunch, she will write two novels and win a "Get Out of Jail Free cards while playing Monopoly with her grandchildren while she writes. Talk about despicable!

The group factor cannot be ignored for a moment. Without each other, we would probably all be reorganizing our linen closets. We motivate, support and encourage each other. Through our blogs, we teach each other. Helena and Anita, for instance, in the last couple of weeks have shown us the phenomenally successful 'Get Outa Town' approach to getting it all together again. Friends who are also writers are as indispensible as computers

To get started again, Karyn suggests reading what other writers have to say. I shine at that. I have read a romance novel every day since heaven knows when. Alas, it keeps me from writing.

Now I have to do some creative writing for Hayley - excuses why I haven't been writing to meet my Kick Ass goals. Let's see. The dog ate my manuscript?

Have you been on a real downer? What have you done to get back to writing? Do you think working in a specified holiday time from writing is a good idea? Are you thinking and thriving? Any other suggestions for revival?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sanity insurance

I don't know if this constitutes writing advice or if it is just plain nagging, but I would like to remind you to back up your work.

Go on.

Do it.

I'll wait.

As far as I'm concerned, remembering to hit Ctrl+S doesn't cut it. Crazy things happen. Laptops get dropped or stolen.

I once knew a man who had his TV blow up in a lightning storm. Granted, most computers have surge protectors, but they aren't fool-proof.

Papers blow away or get eaten by dogs or get shredded by accident (ps - I love shredders. Don't leave me alone with a shredder and any stack of paper you truly love).

Are you feeling paranoid yet? I hope you are, because I am willing to bet you didn't go back up your writing immediately after reading the first sentence of this post. Or you have that feeling of resistance brought on by someone trying to boss you around.

Here are a few backup suggestions:

  • If you live in a household with more than one computer, make a habit of storing updated copies of your work on both (or all seven).
  • Pick up several USB flash drives. I like to keep one at home and one in my purse. Why several? They can have a limited life span, depending on the sort of abuse they go through (Tip: either use the kind with a cap or get a little carrying case if they are retractable - dirt is not your friend).
  • Print out hard copies.
  • Photocopy hand-written copies. Or scan them. Or type them out.
  • Email your files to yourself.
  • Make use of an online file hosting site.
  • Coax an external hard drive into backing up all the files on your computer. I say coax because mine needed a fair amount of coaxing to backup files from both a mac and a PC, but I already know it was worth the effort and we are now fast friends.
  • If you need some excitement in your life, find a way to involve a safe or safety deposit box in the process. I've heard of people keeping printed copies of their manuscripts in the crisper in their fridges.

Making use of any or all of these resources could save you headache, heartache and your computer from being tossed out a window. If you see a method you don't currently use up in this list or down in the comments, I hope you will try something new this week.

Think of it as an insurance policy on your sanity.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Writers Inspiring Writers -- Antidote for Those Dog Days

The cooler days leading up to fall seem to have set in, and I have taken another step in my "program" of re-writing my novel by the middle of October. In my post two weeks ago, I was both elated about some of the motivating events I was attending and mortified that it was so easy to get distracted from my primary objective. My writing journey this summer has not been easy for a number of reasons, some personal, others simply a consequence of the dog days phenomenon I mentioned in that post.

In July I attended the Saskatchewan Festival of Words which is an annual event for me. It is always so enjoyable to listen to authors talk about their work and read from their books. This year was no exception, giving attendees the opportunity to mingle with and ask questions of writers from many genres -- fiction of all sorts, from mysteries to literary fiction, nature writing and photography, playwriting, poetry, even slam poetry. All this made the hot weather that Moose Jaw traditionally offers up for the festival somewhat bearable.

August brought a new experience my way when I decided to travel to British Columbia for the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts. It was my first time at this festival, in its twenty-eighth season. There was a heat wave happening during the four days I stayed in the little town of Sechelt, but the smorgasbord of authors and their books made it easy to overlook. (Smoke from the forest fires in the B.C. interior had been invading the lower mainland for days, and it was difficult to see across the bay to Vancouver Island which is usually clearly visible.)

There were so many highlights that I hardly know where to begin. The format for each session provided an opportunity for the authors to speak for about half an hour on their writing process, when and how they began to write, and more specifically about their most recent publications. After responding to questioms from the audience, they read from their books for about ten minutes. Most of the authors commented on the luxury of having an entire hour to talk and read about their work, and the extraordinary experience of appearing before such a large, enthusiastic audience. The pavilion seats 500 people and most sessions were packed. Books were available to buy and all the authors were generous with their time for signing.

The opening event on the first evening gave a foretaste of the program in store for the eager crowds. Lawrence Hill spoke about writing his sweeping historical novel,The Book of Negroes, and the reception it has received, including many awards.

Among the authors appearing the next day: Karen Connelly, whose books about Thailand and Burma (Myanmar) are politically charged, talked frankly about her experiences which led to the writing of The Border Surrounds Us, The Lizard Cage, and her latest travel memoir, Burmese Lessons: A Love Story; Adam Lewis Schroeder gave an entertaining account of his novels, in particular his latest, In the Fabled East, which is set in France and Indochina and spans a period from the late 19th century to the 1950s; Gwendolyn Southin, who was instrumental in setting up the first festival 28 years ago, has become known for her popular Margaret Spencer Mystery series set in the late 50s and early 60s, and was interviewed by Louise Penny, who drew a large audience the next day for her session on her own mystery novels and her main character Chief Inspector Andre Gamache.

Bonnie Burnard, whose long-awaited second novel Suddenly recently appeared, and Jack Whyte, who wrote the hugely popular series Dream of Eagles based on the Arthurian legends, the Templar series, and the new Guardians of Scotland series featuring Scottish heroes of the 14th century, closed out the afternoon of the first full day. That evening we heard Ian Brown talk about his book, The Boy in the Moon: A Father's Search for His Disabled Son, which has won two major awards for non-fiction. Last but not least, Nino Ricci inspired us with his account of his approach to writing novels. He tells his writing students that the last thing to think about before writing a novel is theme. Then he pointed out that all his books, including his most recent novel, The Origin of Species, have come about because of his interest in specific themes (e.g. Darwinian theory, Catholicism, how to live a good life ... or at least fake it). A clear case of "do as I say, not what I do."

And so it went, one after the other, for eleven more sessions. The people who lined up to get into the pavilion, hour after hour, were clearly readers who knew and appreciated the works of the authors in attendance. Many of us were also writers who came away inspired and in awe of the array of talent assembled for the program. Pure inspiration! Far from being more discouraged about my writing, I came away feeling uplifted by the example of these authors, many of whom experienced disappointments along the way, but who had weathered the storms and come out on the sunny side. Now I have a renewed commitment to that project that awaits me in my writing gable. The break from writing has fired me up to get back to it with renewed vigour. Needless to say, I have a brand-new list of books I want to read, as well!

I am still on vacation, and today is a travelling day for me. Without my own laptop on this trip, I have been hampered in connecting regularly with emails and blogs. So this is fair warning that I will be unable to take advantage of the wi-fi that is available almost everywhere to respond to your comments. Perhaps by evening that will be remedied. In the meantime, please comment away, and I will be checking in as soon as I can.

Goody Room Orlando Winner

Using Random.org, I've picked a winner from those people commenting on my Goody Room Orlando post.
And the winner of a copy of Maggie Shayne's Killing Me Softly is...


Yay! Congratulations.

Thank you, Jana and Karyn, for commenting.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Beth Cornelison's Winner

Honorary Chick Beth Cornelison has announced the winner of Saturday's book giveaway.

Beth commented...

...And the winner of HEALING LUKE is... Carrie!

Please email me through my website and let me know where to send your book.

Thanks for guesting with us, Beth. Please come back and share again.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Welcome Guest Blogger Beth Cornelison

No More Sagging Middles
by Beth Cornelison

Last month at the RWA National conference in Orlando, I presented a workshop about fixing sagging middles. No, I'm not talking about that extra five to ten pounds of post-holiday weight that means your clothes don't fit like they did last year. (Although that is problem I'm personally all too familiar with!) I mean those middle chapters of your story that seem, for some reason, to bog down your pace, bore the reader with predictability, or otherwise lose the reader's attention. Having an exciting and dynamic opening hook or a compelling resolution to your book means little, if the reader loses interest halfway through and tosses your book aside. So how do you shore up that sagging middle? Here’s my workshop in a nutshell.

Middle chapters are the meat and potatoes chapters. In the middle of your book, you need to be doing several things, which build on a strong opening and proper story setup. Those things include: fleshing out characters- giving them depth and emotion, revealing backstory, unfolding plot elements, testing the hero and heroine for their growth arc and showing what they’ve learned in each stage of the process, building conflict, tossing out red herrings and introducing new characters, and developing the romance-- maybe including a love scene. Whew! So with so much to do, how could the story be sagging? Here’s a checklist of some things to look for in your middle chapters.

1) Make sure your characters aren’t drifting aimlessly through the pages. Make sure that with each scene your character has a goal. Not just the big picture story goal you set up in chapter one, but a baby step, working toward the story goal. Goals are the momentum of the story, the sense of going somewhere and making progress rather than floundering in the same place, so check each scene for character goals.

2) Likewise, every scene needs conflict. Those goals your hero and heroine have in every scene? They aren’t always going to reach those goals, because the other characters in those scenes will have goals too… usually goals that oppose or hinder the hero’s goals. For every two steps forward your hero makes, they may take one step or more backward because of the conflict that arises in a scene. That conflict will make your hero work for what he wants and make new decisions regarding how to proceed.

3) Take the story in an unexpected direction. Drop the proverbial dead body in the room. A surprise twist, say learning a deep dark secret the heroine has been keeping from the hero or some event that takes the story in a whole new direction, will keep the reader’s interest. Think in terms of a twist that will up the stakes for the hero or heroine or increase the conflict, emotion or goals of the hero or heroine. Whatever you decide, don’t let the plot stagnate. Be fresh and avoid clich├ęs.

4) Go deeper with the emotion. Readers read romance for the emotion. We are writing about love, pain, joy, rejection, betrayal, courage, grief, fear, and happily ever after. Mine the emotions of your characters and show the reader all the roller-coaster emotions your character is going through. Don’t be afraid to push your characters into corners and test them to their limits so that they can shine all the brighter when they reap their happy ending.

5) Watch your pacing. Everything from sentence and paragraph length to side-track info-dumps about backstory or setting can affect your pace. To avoid info-dumps, weave in information through your character’s POV as much as possible.

6) Cut deadweight scenes or parts of scenes. Every scene needs to have at least three purposes for being in your book to make a maximum impact on your story. Can you combine scenes to do more than one thing? If so, do it.

With a little work and with attention to these sorts of details, you can boost that sagging middle and keep the reader turning pages all the way through that dynamic ending and the happily ever after.

Beth is giving away a copy of her release, HEALING LUKE to someone who leaves their email address in a comment before midnight tonight. Please use the (dot) and (com) so the net spiders don't find you.

Thank you for blogging with us today, Beth.

Rita finalist Beth Cornelison received her bachelor's degree in Public Relations from the University of Georgia. After working in public relations for about a year, she moved with her husband to Louisiana, where she decided to pursue her love of writing fiction.

Since that time, she has won numerous honors for her work including the coveted Golden Heart for unpublished authors awarded by Romance Writers of America. She made her first sale to Silhouette Intimate Moments in June 2004 and has gone on to publish many more books with Silhouette. She has also published with Five Star Expressions, Samhain Publishing, and Sourcebooks.

Beth has presented workshops across the country to numerous chapter meetings, conferences, online classes and book clubs. Beth Cornelison lives in Louisiana with her husband, one son and a fluctuating number of cats who think they are people.

The Bride's Bodyguard

Book 2 in The Bancroft Brides

October 2010

Silhouette Romantic Suspense

ISBN 978-0-37327-700-1

When armed gunmen open fire at Paige Bancroft’s wedding, critically wounding her groom when he wouldn’t turn over a mysterious “bead”, best man and former Navy SEAL Jake McCall hustles the bride to safety. But until Jake and Paige can determine what the gunmen were after, Jake must keep Paige safely hidden from the terrorists. While in hiding with Jake, Paige deals with not only her groom’s betrayal, but also a sizzling attraction to her brooding protector.

You can find out more about Beth and her books at

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fear - Revisited...

The majority of this post originated here on The Prairies on May 15th of last year. Because of many issues I'm facing in my writing journey, I decided to 'replay' this one.


Everyone has a talent. What is rare is the courage to nurture it in solitude and to follow the talent to the dark places where it leads. Erica Jong

Most people are reluctant to share what they fear most, down right ‘afraid’ to verbalize the darkness that lurks behind a dream most friends and family believe is unattainable. I decided that if I wanted people to comment, then I had better step up to the plate. So here’s what I fear most –

I will never finish another manuscript.

Craft issues are bogging me down - creating havoc with my story telling. The daunting task of endless re-writes makes me tired just thinking about them. The hours of research to make sure everything I write is accurate so that no one will accuse me of getting my facts wrong. The wild plots I dream up fizzle when I play them out in my mind and realize they are not believable. And the rejections I’ve received for Lady Bells hurt, so why would I subject myself to that again?

This fear haunts me every time I boot up my laptop. When I pick up a pen to jot down a note or two (as Muse whispers in my ear), this fear mocks me. Discussions about works-in-progress make me cringe with the knowledge that this fear intends to keep them forever works-in-progress. This fear threatens to end my dream of novel writing.

Here are some suggestions to help conquer the fear.

Name Your Fear – One of the best ways to move on. Well, I’ve named it. It’s still here!

Do Not Give Fear Power – Henry Ford is credited for the quote “If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right.”

One Step at a Time – I’ll never finish a manuscript if I don’t write. One sentence leads to one paragraph that leads to one page…

Be Bold – Become the antithesis of your fear. Create a world where your fear does not exist. Act as if that manuscript (or two, or three) are finished. A self-fulfilling prophecy if you will.

Create a Support Network – Writers are a wonderful group of supportive, enthusiastic, generous people. I am lucky to have that support network in place. And now that I’ve named my fear, I know those friends will help me overcome it. The same way they accept and cheer me on toward my goal of publication.

So, People of Blogland, what do you fear? How does that fear stand in the way of your short-term and long-term goals? Do you think that fear holds us back or is it merely an excuse we pull out when our dreams and aspirations seem to be insurmountable? And for those that answered the questions a year ago - what do you fear now? Are they the same fears as before, or have are they different (click here to see what your were afraid of then)?


Thursday, August 19, 2010

This Saturday, Welcome Beth Cornelison

Rita finalist Beth Cornelison received her bachelor's degree in Public Relations from the University of Georgia. After working in public relations for about a year, she moved with her husband to Louisiana, where she decided to pursue her love of writing fiction.

Since that time, she has won numerous honors for her work including the coveted Golden Heart for unpublished authors awarded by Romance Writers of America. She made her first sale to Silhouette Intimate Moments in June 2004 and has gone on to publish many more books with Silhouette. She has also published with Five Star Expressions, Samhain Publishing, and Sourcebooks.

Beth has presented workshops across the country to numerous chapter meetings, conferences, online classes and book clubs. Beth Cornelison lives in Louisiana with her husband, one son and a fluctuating number of cats who think they are people.

Beth's upcoming release is a Silhouette Romantic Suspense, The Bride's Bodyguard.

Beth will give away a copy of her release, HEALING LUKE to one commenter on Saturday. If you wish to be in this draw, leave your email address in a comment before midnight and please use the (dot) and (com) so the net spiders don't find you.

You can find out more about Beth and her books at http://www.bethcornelison.com/


Goody Room Orlando & Giveaway

by Anita Mae Draper

One of the benefits of attending a writing conference is the abundance of promotion items. The Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference usually has a room set up where authors and others in the publishing business can leave freebies for conference attendees. Orlando was my first chance to explore the Goodie Room and I went in several times to take photos and collect items.

Actually, a pleasant surprise on one of my first forays into the Goody Room was finding a familiar face - Prairie Chick Molli - which was amazing considering the conference was sold out at 2200 attendees.

The Goody Room contained 11 tables of promotional items which ran the gamut from business cards to a golf score keeper.

As writers and authors, we need to think about promotion and how we want our readers to think about us and our books. I'm hoping this post will show you what others are doing, and maybe spark some of your own ideas in the process.

There was a plethora of bookmarks in all sizes and shapes, and several coupons for books, writing courses, etc.

Some authors used creativity to add tassels, beads and other 'danglers' to set their bookmarks apart.

Door Hangers are a practical use of promo cards.

I'll use one at our spring writers retreat.

Post It Notes are very practical. Later, I'll show a small Post It Note kit in the form of a book which Hannah Howell gave out in her pak.

I don't know the official word for these glossy cards, so I'm calling them promo cards. They used to be postcards, but don't have the blank postage side. Some have recipes and the bigger one is a calendar.

Pens are practical promo items, but several authors provided promotional items to tie in with their name or tag line...
- Nancy Berland Public Relations: magnetic 'star' note clip
- Sandra Madden: 'Romance with a Twist' heart-shaped jar opener
- Sherry Thomas: Fizzy Bath Cube 'As effervescent as a Sherry Thomas book...'
- Linda Cardillo: Wooden Kitchen Tool with ribbon-attached promo/recipe card for her book, Across the Table
- Janet Miller/Cricket Starr: Ribbon Repair Kit for Neck Wallets
- Opal Carew: Nail file

Several authors provided book excerpts in these little booklets, but the 2 on the left are blank notebooks.

The one on the right is an invitation to the fictional wedding of the main characters in William Morrow & Susan Elizabeth Phillips' book, Mr. Irresistible. It contains a cast list and other information.

I received some of Debbie Macomber's promotional items in the Goody Room and picked up others when I attended the publisher's autograph signing where Debbie was signing copies of One Simple Act. Her promo items included her newsletter, a bookmark of her 2010 releases, stickers of her 2010 releases to put on your calendar, and a coupon book to promote her book. The bookmark coupons are to be given away and say things like:
- I saw you do this act of kindness today (fill in blank) and wanted you to know it inspired me.

Debby Giusti offered several practical items including business cards with candy, bookmarks and promo cards which contained prayers for Writers and Military members. Instead of putting her freebies in a bag, I found them in several places around the Goody Room. As well, Debby gifted me with a button and scribbler when I toured the Literacy Booksigning. The scribbler came in very handy and now holds most of my RWA Orlando workshop notes.

Goody Bags were in demand. Jane Porter's bag included a candy, pen, recipe card, bookmark, promo card and a book excerpt.
Farrah Rochon's package contained a pen, candies, bookmarks and a promo card.

I'd assumed the biggest bag came from Hannah Howell (HH), because the majority of items cited her name, but a closer look showed items from other authors, too. This jackpot bag contained:

- 3 pens (2 x HH)
- a bag clip (HH)
- several different bookmarks (many HH)
- book excerpts (2 x HH)
- e-book discount coupon
- packet of Green Chai Tea

The small Hannah Howell book in the foreground is actually a Post-It Note kit with different sizes of notes and flags.

And finally, I picked up this bumper magnet from Jessica Trapp...

So, did you see anything you like? Are you inspired to create your own promotional item?

I'm giving away a copy of Maggie Shayne's Killing Me Softly to one person who comments on this post before Sunday midnight, Aug 22nd. I received it in my RWA bag and it's not my usual reading fare which means it's up for grabs. If you want in on the drawing, leave your email address in a comment and remember to use (dot) and (at) so the net spiders don't nab you.

BTW - I'm giving away a free autographed Victoria Dahl book on my personal blog but to get in on that drawing, you have to leave a comment on My Daily Dolphin Walk blogpost before Sunday midnight, Aug 22nd.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Writing? Maybe Tomorrow...

How’s this for flash fiction: She wrote. She deleted. White space. The End.

There’s not much writing going on in my house these days. Many thoughts on back–to-school, getting Teen One ready for trip, brother’s upcoming wedding, basement renovations, and so on and so forth. But not much writing. And now, when I should be writing this post, all I want to do is park my butt in front of the TV and commune with my favourite characters, glass of white wine in one hand and the remote in the other.

I need a dose of NCIS. This happens to be one of my favourite shows. Strong writing makes for memorable characters. Who doesn’t love the combination of a crusty, impatient boss, computer geek/mystery writer, Goth inspired forensic specialist, movie-quoting investigator, and a criminal profiling pathologist. And Ziva David, the female investigator on the team, who has got to be one of my favourite female characters on TV. She’s smart, beautiful, and knows eighteen different ways to kill a man with a paperclip. It’s the one show that tempts me to write fan fiction. I would love to pair up Tony DiNozzo and Ziva. Excuse the picture, they look nothing like their characters, but I couldn't resist they all look so pretty!

Signs of a serious NCIS addiction: mainlining coffee and sugary drinks by the gallon, performing Gibbs’ slap on the unwary, or calling anyone younger than you – probie.

Ziva David: You *are* aware that I've never - performed an interrogation without inflicting some sort of pain?

So, I’ll watch an old favourite while I wait for my new favourite, The Vampire Diaries. I’m not even tempted to write fan fiction for this one because everything happens the way I want it to by the end of the hour. Action, action and more action. I know very little about writing for the young adult market but it I think I remember reading it’s all about the action. Young adult fiction needs to be fast paced. It must be true for television, too. I can’t believe how much happens in one hour. And the scenery – mercy – high school never looked like that in my day! Add to that, the character, Damon Salvatore, is my favourite badass of the moment. And he’s a vampire.

Signs of a serious Vampire Diaries addiction: head shots of Paul Wesley (Stefan Salvatore) and Ian Somerhalder (Damon Salvatore) on your wall instead of art, you feel the need to stock up on vervain, you have a sudden desire to return to high school.

Damon Salvatore: I do believe in killing the messenger, you know why? Because it sends a message.

Most anticipated new show, Hawaii Five O. Put your hand up if you remember the old Hawaii Five O. This looks nothing like that, judging by the trailer. But there is sure to be strong plot lines, well-developed characters, and fantastic imagery, judging by the trailer. And Alex O’Loughlin. I’m watching for that reason alone. He used to be a vampire, you know. A cheesy one, but still…

And because I can’t help myself: Book ‘em, Danno. Murder One.

Care to share your favourite television show? Favourite character? Ever thought of giving up watching television? No, seriously. Just think of how much time you’d have to write!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Late night ramblings of a writer with no time

I have a blog post to write for today. I would not have known this if my scheduler had not popped up and informed me of such an hour before it became today.

I haven't given much thought to world-building lately. I haven't given much thought to anything directly helpful to anyone. It's all writing, jotting notes and figuring out details outside the designated working hours, and snatching evening (or afternoon) movies with Hubby in the meantime. Unless you've been working on the meaning for a made-up name with a prefix at the front that happens to be the same as my male lead's name, I don't know if I'll be much use to you right now.

I've lost track where I've explained things and where I haven't, especially when every other Chick has already heard this story at least once. I'll stick to the short version. Surrey Conference + agent pitch + unfinished manuscript = strict writing schedule to finish and allow time for revisions. Thrilling progress and details on Eventide as the weeks go along, but very likely it'll wind up creeping over here anyway as I prepare for the conference and run out of time and brain for other valuable things to say.

Technically I never run out of things to say. The mouth just runs on nothing instead.

I'm into my fourth week of this now. It's going well, except for the whole lack of time thing. I can't expect that to change though, so I'm working to adapt and start using the time I do have better. We all know getting published isn't exactly going to free up hours in my day.

So in the interest of sharing developments as they go along, and hopefully offering a little help in the process, here's how I've been trying to manage my time.

1: Writing. Writing comes first, and I have to hit my word counts every day. I also have to hit them with useful, plot related content, rather than random filler crap I know I'll cut, just so I feel like I hit the numbers. I write during Hubby's work hours, creating designated work days and weekends, alternating days and nights, both of which offer different benefits for my writing routine. Sometimes I'm done in a couple hours. Sometimes it's 8 hours or more. Other times... see #3

2: Prep work. I don't plot, not in the lengthy meaning of the word. I know what scenes will come up soon, and major points I'll hit, but I don't plot it all out before hand. I don't pants either, actually. What I do, however, and I've really had to do when I can't waste my designated writing time farting around, is jot down whatever I need to keep in mind for the scene I'm working on. Character development, emotional issue, plot development (all aka The Point), things I want to touch on (flow of a conversation, backstory hints, world-building details). It's just a good something to have nearby to reference so I don't need to stop and dwell during work hours. I can just look at what my options are on the sheet and pull something in.

3: Catch-up. This last week, we had company over, arranged long before I had this schedule. Understandably, I got rather less than my necessary work done. I still kept to a schedule though. Everyone knew I was off limits at midnight, and I'd write as long as I could. And of course, when football games come on, that's three hours I can't be bothered to care about, in which I can bugger off and go write something compelling (I know, what a horrible Prairie-Dweller I am, for shame). I still fell short during the week, though, so I have to hit higher counts this week, an extra page a day to make up for it, and I'm also not getting weekends -- although 8 hour days don't really work the same on days off.

4: Everything else. All the things that don't matter get put on the back burner to be touched on when the time comes. Blog posts never take priority over writing. I haven't bothered tweeting as much. I have a hoard of tabs open in my internet browser still waiting to be addressed. I have things I need to get done (unpacking? from a month-ago trip? what's that?) that will not get done, and I don't particularly care that they won't. Hitting deadlines means not caring if the dishes are dirty.

5: Rest time. What I won't sacrifice, however, is my time to relax, be idle, let my brain drift on the currents. And most importantly, spend time with Hubby. We may not have as much together on our present schedules as we would have in the past, but that time has always been priority. My Ideal Reader, my best source for brainstorming, the only person willing to spend an hour's car ride talking over the possible meanings of a prefix in a main character's name, I am not about to sacrifice time with my husband. In terms of priorities, this sits right up beside getting the actual writing done. The two reside at opposite sides of the spectrum, however, and I can't place one above the other, since neither is worth compromising.

How do you manage your time? What are your priorities? What sort of goals are you working on, and how are they coming along?

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Nine Types of Lovers - Part Two

On my blog post of August 7, I talked about the Nine Types of Lovers, as identified by Daphne Rose Kingma in her book “The Nine Types of Lovers – Why we love the people we do and & how they drive us crazy”. I tried to relate her real observations to characters in our novels. Today I’ll continue with the remaining 5 lovers.

5. The Workaholic

Emotional Wound: Abandonment
Coping Behavior: Distraction/Avoidance
Unconscious Emotion that needs to be addressed: Grief

Telltale Signs:

- Always busy
- Highly successful and over committed.
- Puts others off with delays and “other” priorities.
- Prefers to share activities rather than conversation, feelings or experiences.
- He doesn’t want to get too emotionally involved.

We love Workaholics because they have energy, and bring a sense that life is interesting. They inspire us with all they accomplish, and are strong willed, clear and decisive. They are wonderful providers and powerful and interesting people. On the flip side, they keep intimacy at bay. We feel rejected because they’re always too busy for us, and make us feel guilty for complaining.

The emotional wound they suffered may be subtle, such as an emotional abandonment by a Workaholic parent or a parent overloaded by responsibility. Or it may be obvious, such as a parent’s death. Instead of dealing with their grief, they stuffed down their feelings, choosing to keep busy rather than to feel. They avoid feelings of being unloved and unworthy of attention.

In a romance novel, a love interest who is the exact opposite of the Workaholic, a Dharma to his Greg, may force him to slow down and examine his feelings. The results could be comic or dramatic, depending on how they’re played.

6. The Perfectionist

Emotional Wound: Lack of Safety.
Coping behavior: Control
Unconscious emotion that needs to be addressed: Feeling overly responsible.

Telltale Signs:

- Believes that things should be perfect.
- Has very high standards, for everything and everyone, including herself. No one can meet her exacting standards.
- May have trouble committing to a relationship.
- Relationships always disappoint her. Whoever she loves “betrays” them.

We like Perfectionists because they are patient, strong, determined and will pursue a goal to its perfect end. But nothing we can do will make them happy. Insisting on perfection is irritating and exhausting.

They feel a profound lack of safety. They often had one Perfectionist and one out-of control parent. To create balance, she would follow the example of the Perfectionist parent. If both parents were out-of-control, she often took over the parent role, trying to make things perfect. The Perfectionist feels if she lets down her guard, her world will fall apart.

A Perfectionist in a romance novel can often be a comic character, especially if partnered with her opposite in an “Odd Couple” scenario. The Perfectionist must learn to loosen her standards. The world won’t fall apart, and she won’t lose the love of her life, if a little imperfection creeps into her life.

7. The Fantasizer

Emotional Wound: Deception
Coping Behavior: Fantasizing
Unconscious Emotion that need to be addressed: Anger

Telltale signs:

- Often lives in the future.
- Others have to call her back to reality, or tell her that things aren’t the way she thinks they are.
- Is a “romantic”.
- Disregards facts
- Easily and frequently crushed.
- Uses fantasies to avoid hard work.

Fantasizers lift us out of the mundane and into the extraordinary, but they don’t want to live in the real world. They never believe who we are, and they don’t believe what we say we want.

Fantasizers grew up with a deception. For example, she may have had an alcoholic mother, but her father denied it. She may have been adopted or illegitimate, but was never told the truth. One of her parents may have lived a secret life as a homosexual. The Fantasizer was forced to live with the deception and could not express normal anger because her parents denied the problem. So she continues the lie with fantasies of her own.

I see this character as more appropriate for a secondary character rather than a main character. However, it might be fun to put a Fantasizer together with a character who hates lies and deception and watch the fireworks!

8. The Controller

Emotional Wound: Loss of Power
Coping Behavior: Aggression/passive aggression
Unconscious emotion that need to be addressed: Power

Telltale signs:

- Likes to be in control.
- Great at keeping track of everything and everyone.
- Manipulates time and circumstances so that he can be in charge.
- Has trouble delegating.
- See all relationship issues as control issues.
- Maintains power through intimidation – sometimes overt, sometimes more subtle.

We like Controllers because they take charge and make decisions. They are powerful, charismatic and energizing. However, partners of controllers can end up doubting their own perceptions and abilities.

Controllers were likely over-controlled by others in their early life such as an overly critical father. In a romance novel a Controller may be an abusive ex-boyfriend or husband. Or perhaps the Controller is an uptight corporate type who has to learn to let others be in control once in a while.

9. The People Pleaser

Emotional Wound: Feeling Unworthy
Coping Behavior: Accommodation
Unconscious emotion that needs to be addressed: Shame

Telltale Signs:

- Puts herself down.
- Can’t take compliments or receive gifts or attention.
- Feels not quite good enough; suffers from low self-esteem.
- Has trouble making decisions.
- Always trying to improve to get love/attention.
- Helpful, considerate, accommodating and empathetic. Sometimes they try so hard to make others happy, they make themselves sick.
- Mismatch between self concept and the views of others.

We like People Pleasers because they want to please us. They are easy-going, good natured, cooperative and accommodating. They are sensitive to our emotions and needs and work hard at trying to be helpful . However, because they are so focused on their failures, they can’t enjoy the good things in life. Their lack of self-esteem, their insecurity and indecision is exhausting.

People Pleasers have a deep sense of unworthiness for various reasons, such as their family’s poverty, or being the result of an unwanted pregnancy that forced marriage. Childhood neglect or abuse (physical, verbal or sexual) could also trigger this response.

If a People Pleaser is used as a main character in a romance novel, her journey is to overcome feelings of shame and learn to love herself, with the help and love of her hero.

Like other personality tests, I think people fall into these categories in various degrees. We may also see bits of ourselves in more than one category. I felt these love personalities were useful tools for identifying our characters’ emotional background, creating conflict for them by placing them with her/his opposite, and showing how they can grow in the story.

I think they are also great story starters too. Can you come up with a story premise based on a pairing of any of these personalities, or perhaps by just using one of the personalities?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Welcome Guest Blogger Laurie J. Edwards

Laurie J. Edwards is with us today to talk about rejection letters and how to improve your chances, writing mistakes, and the little green-eyed jealousy monster. Take it away Laurie!

After spending years honing my craft, attending workshops and critique groups, and writing, writing, writing, and then rewriting I know how much time and effort most people put into honing their craft. So I admit I was jealous when a writer I met at a workshop told me she’d never taken a writing class or joined a critique group but she had written an 85,000-word novel in a month—and not even for NaNo. She just decided one day that she wanted to be a writer, and, presto, one month later, she had a complete novel. As she described it, the novel just flowed out of her. She said it came to her in a flash, and she felt as if all she had to do was dictate it.

I’ve had that happen to me on occasion, and I love being in that zone. But never with a whole novel. Bits and pieces here and there, yes. But the parts in between took a LOT of work. So I sighed and tried to contain the green-eyed monster twisting inside me, taunting, “So why can’t you do that? Why did it take you 20 years to get a book published? What’s wrong with you?” I admit it made me feel discouraged, and I wondered why I’d had to put in such long, hard hours to eke out a book. OK, so she only had 3 children, whereas I had 5, but still…

This writer was quite proud of her book and assured us that she was so sure it was publishable that she didn’t feel it needed revision. She’d had a few people read it, and they all loved it. She’d gone through and tweaked a few words and phrases, but she’d already started submitting. Sigh…

Several months later, she offered me the opportunity to read it. Everyone she’d sent it to had rejected it, and she was wondering why. Could I tell her what I thought?

I read the first page. Everything about it screamed amateur—from the head hopping to the lack of plot to the plethora of exclamation points to the misspellings that spell check hadn’t caught (there instead of their; are rather than our). What would I tell her? Where to start?

“Who read this for you?” I asked.

She smiled. “My mom, my husband, and my sister. They all loved it.”

Ah, amateur mistake #1: asking family members’ opinions of your writing

Mistake # 2—believing them when they tell you it’s great

Mistake #3—thinking writing is so easy anyone can do it

Mistake #4—not getting professional evaluations before you submit

The list could go on and on, but I want to concentrate on the fourth mistake. The most valuable resource any writer can have is a critique group. If you don’t have one, join one ASAP. Find an online group if there are no groups that meet in your area. Look for members who are supportive, but honest. Only other writers will have enough knowledge to tell you the truth and explain how to fix problems. But remember, if you want to be a professional and get published, you can’t have a thin skin; true writers welcome criticism and editing suggestions. Whatever you do, don’t send any submission out without first running it by a critique group. If other writers have evaluated your manuscript and made suggestions to improve it, you have a much greater chance of getting an acceptance letter. And isn’t that what we’re all after?

I couldn’t have gotten published without all the guidance and instruction I received from fellow writers. And my CPs are my biggest cheerleaders. Best of all, they’re often your first sales.

So what’s the best advice or words of encouragement you’ve ever gotten from a CP? We’d love to hear it. And one commenter will win a free e-copy of Summer Lovin’.

INFO ABOUT Laurie J. Edwards and Summer Lovin’

Laurie J. Edwards is the author of 2 published books--"Summer Storms" in the anthology Summer Lovin' (Wild Rose Press) and the biography Rihanna (People in the News) from Lucent and more than 1000 articles in national publications and educational databases. She is presently under contract for a book about pirates and is completing 3 romance novels.

SUMMER LOVIN' is a collection of love stories by authors Dara Edmondson, Laurie J. Edwards, Mona Ingram, Kimberlee R. Mendoza, Sydney Shay, and June Sproat about life on a ranch, summer jobs, sandcastle competitions, the tragedy of a flood, and falling in love with a rock star.

Laurie's story in the anthology is "Summer Storms": Sixteen-year-old Paige nearly drowns as she rescues a Pomeranian trapped in floodwaters that sweep through her town. Chase, the hottie who saves her, wants to help her and her mother, but Paige won't accept charity. And can she risk him unmasking the family secret she's kept hidden?
Laurie's website/blog is http://lje1.wordpress.com/ and an excerpt for Summer Lovin' is at
http://lje1.wordpress.com/my-books/book-excerpts/ . People can also friend her on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.