Friday, October 29, 2010

Signing Off...

Unbelievable – the end of October and the end of Prairie Chicks Write Romance – where has the time gone? For the past month, as each of us took turns to write about the past and the future, I’ve wanted to send an e-mail with "NNNNNNOOOOOOO!" plastered all over it. But, all things must come to an end and it’s time here on The Prairies to say good-bye.

Over the last year, my love of writing and my desire to write has taken a major hit. Rejection upon rejection wore me down. And I could not see past the disappointment. I wrote less and less even though I was writing a blogpost every day over on Janet’s Journal. Muse up and left, taking EE with her (you know it’s bad when they leave together). I had seriously considered giving up.

But the voices in my head will not relent. Nor will those that support me and continually tell me that I am a writer. Those two factors push me forward – force me to continue to pursue my dream. Even if that dream is just to entertain people. I started an online story simply to write – without the worry of submission, agents, publication. The response has renewed my creativity, given me back some of the confidence rejections had stripped from me. And Muse and EE have returned (they are still hunkered down in a corner, but at least they are present).

I am seriously considering signing up for NaNoWriMo. This is brand new territory for me; I am a NaNo Virgin. I figure the premise of just writing, getting all those thoughts, plots and voices down on paper is exactly what I need to get back to the way I write. I’m hoping that the excitement will lure Muse back onto my shoulder, whispering ideas in my ear. NaNo might be the major jumpstart I need to get back to serious writing, serious goals – put to rest the need to follow the rules or someone else’s idea of the writing process.

Whatever you are meant to do, move toward it and it will come to you. ~ Gloria Dunn

My future? I will write! And continue to chronicle my trials and tribulations – and a bunch of other stuff (running, reading, East Coast photos) – on my personal blog: Janet’s Journal. And I will pursue my dream:

There are some people who live in a dream world, and then there are those who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into another. ~ Douglas Everett

May all your dreams become reality – Happy Writing, People of Blogland.

Janet

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Snowed Under - Literally Inside and Out



by Anita Mae Draper

Coming up for air... I've been in my cave working on Emma's Outlaw. Yes, trudging through Tuesday's blizzard from the house to my office in our converted garage. At least it gets me out in the fresh air - even though the wind almost blew the coffee out of my mug on the way there.

But finally, I'm at the end. And, I'm on such a high about it, I didn't want to stop and draft my posts.
Yes, I said posts. You see, I'll still be posting on my inspirational group blog Inkwell Inspirations. I really enjoy it over there because I get to talk about life and books and not just writing, although I slip it in sometimes, too.

Take my Inky post for yesterday - it's called When Fiction Meets Fact. It's about my excitement of starting a new book and how I'm trying to figure out how to make my hero heroic. I use the biblical story of David and Bathsheba as an example because when King David was faced with temptation - a nude Bathsheba - he succumbed.

Hmm, that's doesn't sound heroic, does it. But it sure makes for an entertaining story. I mean, not only did David commit adultery with her, but when she informed him she was pregnant, he tried to cover it up by calling her husband home from the battle. The plan was for her husband, Uriah, to sleep with Bathsheba, then think the baby was his. Except it didn't work out that way because Uriah refused to enjoy the pleasures of his warm, loving wife when his men were sleeping in the cold courtyard.

So, when that didn't work, David sent Uriah to the front line where he'd have the best chance of being killed. Sure enough, Uriah died in the battle. (Are you beginning to think that maybe Uriah is the true hero here?)

Worried that he'll be found out, King David makes up a story and sends it out as fact. In other words, he lied while trying to cover up his crime. What kind of hero does that?

Add to that, David didn't even repent until the prophet Nathan called him out. Finally, David repents. God forgives him and after some more bumps on the road, David and Bathsheba have another child - Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived.

When you look at David's life as a whole, he is a hero. He just happens to be a hero who stumbled. And because of that monumental stumble, we get to enjoy David and Bathsheba's epic love story. But is it truly a love story? That's the discussion over on my Inky post.

So, the challenge is to write an exciting historical romance with a hero similar to a larger-than-life hero like David. Except, I'm not sure I want my hero to succumb like David did. Maybe take him to the brink of temptation, dangle him over it awhile, then let him come to his senses. I dunno - what do you think?

Anyway, twice a month or so, I'm over at the Inkwell. We have theme days over there and I usually stick to Historical Tuesday's or Fiction Wednesdays. The first two Tuesdays in Oct I blogged under the Historical theme  about using repeat or Now and Then photography.

But back to Emma's Outlaw, I'm polishing the end, now. While my critique partners check it over, I'll be making the final adjustments to my synopsis and query letter. By this weekend it will be gone - submitted to the editor and agent who've waited over a year to read it.

NaNoWriMo starts Nov 1st and I'm hoping to start my new story at that time. I'm very excited about it because it'll be set in 1881 in the District of Assiniboia (now Southern Saskatchewan). I've wanted to do a western Canadian story for a long time and feel the timing is right. Especially since Love Inspired Historical is gearing up to release 4 new titles a month instead of 2 and intently recruiting new writers. So that's who I'll be targeting this time around.

You can find out more about my NaNoWriMo experience - and my new story which I've yet to name - on my personal blog at http://anitamaedraper.blogspot.com/.

I also have a website in the works but the only thing that's available on it at this time is daily horse information and a daily cowboy/western quote. Both are interesting and sometimes good for a laugh.

I'll be adding the following to my website soon:
- recipes used in my stories (really old recipes)
- photos and interesting stuff about my research trips
- jigsaw puzzles of my photos
- links to my posts here at Prairie Chicks and Inkwell Inspirations
- links to places I guest blog

At this time, I've only posted at one other blog and that was at the International Christian Fiction Writers (ICFW) and my post was entitled Canadian Prairies Missed the Old West. That post was actually what got me thinking about my upcoming story.

I also blog at http://community.eharlequin.com/users/anita-mae although I've been remiss about posting there these past few months.

And finally, I'm on Facebook and Twitter which is probably the first place you'll hear news of my 'call'.

Thank you to the readers and guests who took time to visit us here. I really appreciate(d) your support.

To my fellow Chicks, it was an honour to work, learn and write with you. I wish you many successes in your writing journey.

Anita Mae.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Until Next Time

“The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created--created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating.”  John Schaar
Wow, today’s the day. My last post for the Prairie Chicks. It’s been a great experience that’s allowed me to venture forth and explore the writing life with a great group of women who supported and encouraged me. All I can say is, thank you and thank goodness I took advantage of an opportunity when it was offered. Daunting as it was to put myself out there, I did it. I dipped my toe into a life from which there is no turning back.

At this point in time. I have a completed manuscript I’m proud of and am in the process of submitting. This is such an exciting time. Letting go, putting a stop to the endless tweaking, and preparing to submit the best damn manuscript I can has been a huge learning curve and almost like a coming of age story. It’s time. I’m ready for the next step.

Immediate goals. After much thought I’ve decided not to participate in NaNoWriMo, instead I’m going to revise last year’s attempt and set some heavy revision goals for the month of November. I’m very excited to start revising this project. The two main characters, Kate and Seth, have been with me for a long time and it’s time to work on their story.

Going forward. I vow to take advantage of opportunities and create others. I vow: To write. And write some more. To learn. To listen. To make mistakes. To communicate with other writers. To follow my heart.

To be fearless.

You can find me:
http://www.karyngood.blogspot.com/ – Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays

Twitter – karyngood

Facebook – Karyn Good

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

To Boldly Go

So, I swear I didn't plan it this way, but today is my last blog post with the Chicks, I'm talking about what's on the horizon in my writing life...and it's my birthday. 26 on the 26th. So this is a real transition date for me, insofar as anything like birthdays, ends of things, or new frontiers ever feel real and solid and immediate.

Almost a year ago I stepped into full time writing for the first time. Since then I've had short fiction published, joined the SFWA, established a writing schedule that works for me, and laid the smack to flighty writing patterns. Now it's time to take things to a whole new level of ass kicking. And trust me, these sort of things warrant aggressive language. There's no room for meek or self-deprecating here.

This past weekend I went to the Surrey International Writers' Conference. I've been before, but this was my first time as a serious writer, and with a mindset to publish. I took my first three pages in for critique at a Blue Pencil session. The only critique was the author wanted to read more. I worked my ass off preparing a killer pitch. The agent requested pages.

So I head home tomorrow. New focus, new goals, new year (as far as birthdays go), and new stage to dive into.  Time to kick ass, write some damn fine prose, do horrible things to my characters, make them bleed and hurt and ache worse than ever, and make them work for the endings they deserve, and get that book out on shelves so people won't need to keep asking when they can read it.

So I will write. And I will revise. And I will polish. And I will take my kick-ass pitch and query the hell out of it, and see what comes back at me. That is what I will do on the horizon.

And I will write more short fiction, when I need distance from the novel so I can approach it with fresh eyes. I will try new genres and new approaches, and wander outside my comfort zones, and maybe even try writing something that doesn't wind up mildly (or greatly) morbid or negative. Maybe.

I will continue to overuse words like kickass, badass, and smartass. I will not be ashamed of having utter confidence in my work, nor will I bother with the pretense of seeming otherwise for the sake of appearances. I know what I can do, I know what I have done, and I know what I will do. To act otherwise would be false. People, of course, are free to interpret that attitude as negatively as they want. I don't mind.

I will continue to over-analyze the minutiae of fiction and then write blog posts about it. And perhaps find new methods of picking apart and distributing said analyses. I will also get a subdomain soon, and hoard all these ramblings on my own site. Either way, there will be blogs, and tweets, and excessive thought put in to small, inconsequential aspects of fiction.

(I'll also be posting in more detail about the Surrey conference, workshops there, and my experience in the next two weeks over on Eventide, including a blow by blow of this year's Surrey Idol for the curious.)

The time has come to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new agents and new publishing contracts. To boldly go where no Hayley E Lavik has gone before.



www.hayleyelavik.com
Eventide Unmasked

Monday, October 25, 2010

Onwards and Upwards

Hayley suggested we write one blog about where we’ve been and one about where we’re going. I’m looking forward to the future and the next steps in my writing career and I’d like to share them with you.

I’m very excited to announce that I have a new novella coming out from The Wild Rose Press on January 5, 2011. Flawless is set during World War Two in occupied France. Here’s a blurb:

France, 1942. The Nazis have stolen the infamous blue diamond, Le Coeur Bleu, intending to barter it for weapons that will destroy the Allies. Jewel thief Hunter Smith is given a choice; help the French Resistance steal back the diamond and avenge the death of his best friend, or stay locked up in an English prison. He chooses revenge.

Resistance fighter Madeleine Bertrand’s husband died when he was betrayed by Hunter Smith. How can she now pretend to be married to the arrogant American? How can she betray Jean Philippe’s memory with her passionate response to Hunter’s kisses? Neither is prepared for the maelstrom of attraction that erupts between them. To survive they must uncover the mysteries of the past and conquer the dangers of the present. But first Madeleine must decide if her loyalties lie with her dead husband and the Resistance or with the greatest love of her life.

And if I want to sell lots of copies of Flawless as well as my other books, I need to do some serious promotion. I'm currently working on a Facebook Page. It's definitely a work in progress, but I'd love you stop by and "like" me. I also want to get familiar with Twitter. I’ll be going back to Hayley’s excellent article in Prairie Chicks about Twitter in order to get myself in gear. And I’m not done with blogging yet either. My new blog on my website entitled Jana’s Journey goes live November 1. It’ll be about my life as a writer, a mother and wife, an admin assistant, a cook, a baker, a candlestick maker. Along with articles on writing topics and the writing life, I’ll have musings about life in general. I’ve got some serious juggling to do and I’ll talk about it at www.janarichards.net/blog-jana-s-journey

As far as writing projects go, I’m currently working on a submission for The Wild Rose Press’s Class of ’85 series. This series follows the adventures of Summerville High School’s graduating class of 1985 as they meet for a reunion in their hometown. I hope you have a look at the stories that have already been released in this series, because it’s a load of fun. My novella length manuscript is called “The Girl Most Likely”. Cara McLeod knows her life has not turned out the way she thought it would back in high school when she was voted “the girl most likely to have the perfect marriage.” She’s now divorced and in her words feels “fat, frumpy, and over forty”. The last thing she wants to do is to face her old classmates, and her ex-husband, at the Summerville High reunion. When she’s cajoled into attending by her daughters and her best friend, she vows that she’s going to shape up and lose a few pounds in the six weeks until the reunion. She enlists the help of personal trainer Finn Cooper, who thinks that Cara is beautiful just the way she is. Now Finn must convince Cara how wonderful she really is, and how right they are for each other.

Okay, my blurb hasn’t yet been perfected; this is my first stab at it. I’ve finished a rough first draft and Janet has generously consented to critique the story for me. I’m excited to move forward with this project. Wish me luck!

As far as other projects, my goal is to finish unfinished projects in 2011 (FYI: this was my goal in January 2010. Better late then never.) Two stories that I pitched at the 2009 conference in Surrey await completion. I even have names of agents to send them to! I’m not quite sure what I’m waiting for. But I swear I’ll finish at least one of them in 2011.

I’d also love to write a magazine article or two in 2011. At the very least, I’d like to figure out if writing articles for magazines and/or ezines would be profitable enough to quit my day job. Lots to do and to discover in the year ahead.

And so we come to the end of the Prairie Chicks. Thankfully we’ll live on in the articles and posts we have archived here. But I think all of us are looking forward to new projects and new challenges as we make our way in this writing life.

Goodbye from this Chick. I’ll see you soon at http://www.janarichards.net/

Friday, October 22, 2010

One Last Hug

A question / answer set I learned last year at the Surrey International Writers Conference and have heard repeated again this year is:

Q: What is your favorite piece of your own writing?
A: The one I am currently working on.

When you are a famous author (or a yet unfamous / yet unpublished author with more than one complete / yet to be completed piece of writing), feel free to use this in an interview like so many other authors. Or be honest and tell them the name of your favorite work. Or tell them my instinctual answer:

All of them.

I include my small part in the Prairie Chicks blog in this list of favorites. The Prairie Chicks Write Romance blog isn't rolling belly-up in the water. The Chicks will cease posting because they're finished. Not giving up. Finished.

Completed.

This is how I see it. An accomplishment to be proud of.

What else have I seen?

Well. Today, I observed a flock of determined Chicks fearlessly experiencing the Surrey International Writers Conference (Expect great things from these women. I do).

And you know you are too. You're fearlessly determined. But you don't need me to tell you that. You know already. That's why you're here. Even if it is because you feel the need to search for some spark to remind you of your determination. Day by day, I am finding my spark and am glad for the shower of flames and positive energy this weekend promises.

Call it a project or an experiment or a work of love or a relentless drive, but you are a writer. You don't need me or anyone else to tell you that. And there is nothing I or anyone else can do to stop you. Remember that.

So.

What have I learned?

I am the opposite of a fair weather writer. I like it cold and dark and snowy. Summer is for gardening and edits.

Writers as a collective are unbelievably supportive and kind and caring, even if they pretend to be introverted hermits.

I am less of an introverted hermit than I originally suspected.

What is in my future?

Writing. Writing. More writing. I vow not to get in the way of my story. Not to be that author whose head pokes out from the shrubberies or who you can tell is hiding in the linen closet. I will allow my characters be described by their actions, not a list of their hair and eye color.

A lot more time with mermaids and mermen. Mostly mermen. Shirtless ones.

Some thought into the pros and cons of a pen name. A piece of advice from Julia Quinn this weekend - if you want a pen name, go ahead. But keep your first name so you actually turn your head when someone is talking to you.

Perhaps a bit more blogging on my personal blog, which has sadly fallen into disrepair over the summer.

What bit of advice can I, an unpublished author, offer to you:

Be authentic. Be true to yourself. The right decisions in life are usually the difficult ones. This does not mean every difficult decision is the right decision. Follow your heart. Follow your head. Follow your stomach. Floss. Sing in the shower. Eat your main character's favorite meal. Spend time with the ones you love. Secretly observe them as character research. The show must go on.

And finally...

Relax.

Breathe.

Enjoy every moment you write. Enjoy this thing you love. This thing we love.


"You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough."
-Mae West

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I could swear that I wrote my final blog - to be run today - some time ago, knowing that I would not be here when this appeared. As I recall, that blog was brilliant.

What will I do from here? Well, there are a number of things:

1. I will perfect muddling. 'Everything in muddelation' will be my motto.

2. I will learn to write in stone with a chisel if that is what it takes to be free of this blasted, dirty, rotten, no good, useless laptop.

3. I will appear on Oprah - among others - as the woman who was struck by arthritis at Disney World, and instead of showing the grandkidlets the sights, was reduced to letting them push Grandma Connie around.
These grandpushers put together their combined knowledge of wheels and set out to scare me silly. These are the kids who loved the rollercoaster although it was too slow. In reality, you couldn't have caught it in motion with a camera set at an f1000 stop, or even a video camera. Man that wagon was smokin'!

4. I will listen (to a select group of people - none on CNN). I have learned my lesson. The grandhooligans are the ones who said, "Gee Grandma Connie, I think you should use a wheelchair to get to the next gate. Pshaw. Fortunately, they overruled me. Have you seen Denver International? It is called international because it is so big, it needs two countries to contain it. I really believe one end is in Kansas Toto, and the other somewhere near  North Battleford. We landed at gate 24 and left from gate 85.

5. I will talk to the dog a la Prime Minister MacKenzie King and hope my dog is smarter. His dog led us into World War II. Pen will have certain guidelines within which to work. However, I will continue to allow her to be my inspiration (she sleeps and barks - mostly sleeps).

6.Sooner or later, I am going to have to revise my first ms, but not until I ask a publisher at the Surrey Conference what kind of stuff they buy these days. No point in rescuing a damsel if she is dead in the water anyway.

7. I will employ my newest idea. I well tell myself a romantic story while I try to stay awake so Husband can get to sleep first. I snore like nobody's business - or so it is said. If the story keeps me awake, I will pursue it as a manuscript. I may call it the snory story scale. Was that really, really bad? Can I say sorry about the snory story story?

8. I have told the grandmonsters stories about Pre History as it was when I was a girl. Oldest Son can't believe I would misinform a child with such information and asked me to write it all down so they can sue me for misinforming. Hyperbole will be my modus operendi - if I ever get around to it.

9. I guess I will finally come clean and admit that I do not work best under pressure - I procrastinate. But it will take me awhile to come out of that closet.

10. I will attempt to jot down a short story about every city I have visited - starting with Paris which I haven't visited yet.

In truth, I intend to make romance novels and/or short stories out of all the ideas perking along in my head.
If I could just dictate all my stories, I'd have a dozen books written - and published? But, no one is as stupid as needs be to meekly work for me for no pay and cold coffee. Heck, even I won't do it.

So, I will now set to work (and my nose is growing again).

I will start by throwing the %^&*#$ laptop out the window. I AM NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE!

Goodbye for now

connie

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Keep on Writing

So this is it. I’m signing off. Today is officially my last Prairie Chicks posting. I will miss it for sure (well, maybe not as much as I think as I’m always writing last minute). Fine then, I won’t miss the pressure. I won’t miss that feeling of ‘homework!’ What I will miss are the wonderful posts from my colleagues and the enlightening, funny and giggle-worthy comments from our readers. I think we had fun...well, I had fun anyway and will no doubt enjoy reading the posts I missed over the past two years when I have a free minute or am blocked or when I need information on a particular topic.

What's in my plans for the future? I don’t have amazing pitches to launch or dreaded query letters to write. I don’t have any editors banging down my door either though—I have nothing ready to show them anyway. You’ll know from my posts that my focus is on writing—the tools, techniques, tips, and talents (that alliteration was completely by chance) that I’ll need to be successful. My goals are modest...write because I enjoy it and write the best that I can. Therefore ‘successful’ to me would be to complete a novel length story that I am both interested in and proud of. Not a bad goal...but not an easy one either. Obviously I want to sell it, but I have to write it before I worry about that, don't I?

While getting my life back into order will be my primary focus over the next few months (renovations, family obligations and a new job can really reek havoc on a household), my life would not be complete without my writing. As always, I have a couple plots floating around in my mind, several characters are getting embroiled in a scheme even as I write this (hmmm...I guess I am a good multitasker). Even if nothing goes down on paper, know that I am writing in my mind with the intention of eventually getting it down on paper sometime. Sometime soon, I hope. The other members of the SK Romance Writers will keep reminding me to set a writing schedule and stick to it. And I'll thank them for it. So does my laptop.

Over the past few months I have written a few posts about creativity (or the lack thereof) and as you might expect, I’ll be working on finding that as well. This summer a fellow writer recommended reading The Artist’s Way and I had every intention of doing it, but my work schedule and the summer weather interfered with the weekly writer’s date and I am simply not a morning person so had a lot of difficulty with the required Morning Pages. I don’t expect mornings will be any easier now that we have to wake up to darkness, but I’ll find a way to make it work.

Blogging has been an interesting experience and I'm grateful for it. I will sign off with one final thought to the readers of blogland...THANK YOU!!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Goodbye

As I face the Surrey International Writers’ Conference this Friday, I feel like I am moving into a new stage of my writing career. Gone is the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed newbie I was when I attended the conference last year. In her place is a slightly more jaded writer who has honed her craft, and has come to realize that nothing in this biz comes easy.
Part of the SiWC conference package includes a blue pencil session with someone in the industry. My blue pencil session is with Chuck Sambuchino, the owner of the Guide to Literary Agents blog. I intend to use my ten minutes with Chuck to show him a sample of my writing and grill him for feedback, and to pepper him with questions about my query letter. I’ve used the advice from Chuck’s blog intensively when creating my query, and I’m curious to see what he thinks of it.
The other part of the conference package is a pitch session with a literary agent or editor. I’m walking into my pitch session with Nephele Tempest of The Knight Agency with only one thing: a one page synopsis. I’m not rehearsing, either. Oh, no! I tried that last year and at the last minute I changed my mind and ended up blathering incoherently. Sure, I’ll read over it a few times and even attempt to pitch it to a friend to practice, but no contrived speech. Instead, I will place my sheet in front of me, and refer to it if I feel myself starting to get sidetracked.
My current manuscript Indigo Blaze has been recently re-worked (again!). I began querying it when it was a 96,000 word Young Adult paranormal romance, but I’ve changed it to a “New Adult” paranormal romance and rendered it down to 83,000 words. This way, I hope to cast a wider net and begin querying a wider range of literary agents who represent the adult market.
Other writing projects include a sequel to Indigo Blaze. The working title of this piece is The Chrystal Legacy, and so far, it is 6,000 words. I’m taking my time with this one – no marathon weekends of writing 10,000 words. I am plodding along, trying to write 500-1,000 words every evening. I’m hoping to avoid the extensive slash-and-burn or monumental re-writes of my last manuscript.
The other writing project I am currently revising is my short story Litha, written for the Saskatchewan Romance Writers’ anniversary anthology. One thing I can say about this project—it was HARD. Writing short stories is a skill I definitely have not mastered, and I certainly have a new appreciation for it.
As I continue down the road to publication, I’ve made a few realizations about “web presence”. Blogging is a great way to meet writers and to learn about writing, but it is also extremely addictive and a huge time-waster. While I continue to maintain my blog, Thoughts Interred in Phrase; I do so less frequently, and with shorter posts. I don’t knock myself out trying to come up with something fresh or unique. I don’t try to teach other people about something I’m still learning. I simply write about my writing journey, and try to fit it into my life without it taking my life over altogether. Now I have moved on to the next stage of web presence and set up my website. JoanneBrothwell.com is still under construction and to be honest, is quite similar to my blog; however, it is ready to roll that moment I actually have a product to sell. Stop by and check it out!
Blog with the chicks has been so much fun, guys. I’ve loved the camaraderie, the support and the group wisdom. I know I will miss the blog, but more importantly, I’ll miss the people!
Be well. Write tons. Take care...Goodbye.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The End of the Beginning ...

Using the Seneca quote from Janet's post on Friday seems a good way to lead off the discussion of "where do I go from here?"

The Prairie Chicks blog was a new beginning for most of us. It certainly was for me, but it is close to its end as an active blog. Now I am looking for some way to continue to experience the interaction with other writers that has become so important to me. One way to do this will be to continue to read, comment, and sometimes merely lurk on the several blogs to which I have become addicted. The other large consideration is, "where am I going with my writing?" As if you haven't heard me blathering enough about that over the last year and a half, I will try to make some sense of these two issues.

I hope to have some kind of platform developed in the near future. I believe I will use Blogger to set up some pages, including a blog of my own that has been under wraps for more than a year. I just haven't had the time to put to it. Now that Prairie Chicks is going dormant, I hope to finish working on what I have titled: Rambles Down a Prairie Road. I will notify my Chick and SRW colleagues when it goes live. Stay tuned! I am less sure about Facebook and Twitter. Needless to say, if I do get involved, there will be some kind of "coming out party" to celebrate my plunge into those particular forms of social media.

I've tried to focus almost exclusively on fiction this past year (with only moderate success). I attempted to finish the first draft of my Laura/Gordon, Fiona/Duncan novel, and almost made it to the end. Nevertheless, I am currently working on the first major rewrite, and progress is slow. I deviated somewhat from that objective when I made a brief foray into scriptwriting in April. I put the first few chapters of my novel into script form, which did give it a boost. It helped me immensely with the first few scenes, which I now doubt will be the actual beginning of my novel. At least I have written those scenes, wherever they end up in the finished version.

I will not describe here any of the distractions which interfered with my fiction writing. I talked enough about them in various posts throughout the summer. Suffice to say, most were of my own making. I will mention only a couple of deliberate deviations from fiction: a workshop on magazine writing in August, and a course in creative non-fiction which I am currently auditing. Yes, I am consciously taking writing time from my novel to do the assignments for that course. But I do believe that all writing is ultimately helpful, even stepping out of my preferred genre.

Having a deadline seems to help me accomplish more, so I will miss that aspect of writing a regular post for Prairie Chicks. What will be a good substitute? Besides my own blog, and, in the short term, the non-fiction course assignments, I am seriously considering registering for NaNoWriMo again this year. Last November was the most productive writing month I have ever experienced. I have a half-formed idea for a brand new story to put in that hopper. It may turn out to be the western romance I have always wanted to write!

In two days, I leave for the Surrey International Writers' Conference in British Columbia. Although the manuscript for my novel is not polished or even completely rewritten, I will be pitching it to an editor while I'm there. If interest is shown, I know exactly what I will be doing in the weeks following that conference! If I fail to garner any kind of offer, then I will still be seriously working on whipping it into shape, in preparation for queries and pitches later on.

I have registered for some pre-conference classes, including one on the architecture of fiction, another on developing an approach to pitches and queries, and finally, an in-depth look at rewriting a manuscript (no matter how many drafts it has already gone through). All three should help me to get back to that desired focus on fiction.

I also need to put aside some time soon to complete and polish the short story I am writing for an anthology that the SRW hopes to publish next year.

In the more distant future, I will tackle the messy first draft of the novel I wrote in NaNoWriMo 2009, to try to turn it into some kind of coherent form. It is the story of two young women from the Canadian prairies who spend a year studying at a British university in the 1950's and how both their lives are changed. Although I met the requirements of National Novel Writing Month (writing slightly more than 50,000 words in one month), I will need to flesh it out with another 20,000 words or more.

My sign-off from the Prairie Chicks does not contain any startling announcements, but I see nothing but opportunities in my future. I have only to grab them and make something out of them. If I do that, and I am able to keep distractions at bay, I am hopeful that one day I will have books to promote using the various forms of social media described earlier in this post. I would like to think that, as all the Chicks continue to write, we will have many future successes to celebrate together somewhere in this real and/or cyber-world.

Thanks for all the memories, and happy writing, one and all!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Reflections...

Interesting, this is my 60th blogpost for Prairie Chicks! And I’m writing it to say good-bye. Emotions overwhelm me – but mostly sadness envelops me as I type these words. The end of an idea that gave me such joy and elation, such enthusiasm. The end, but just the beginning.

As Jana said on Monday, we decided back at the end of 2008 to create a group blog. There was a brief discussion about having just the two of us blog, but we knew the workload would be too much. After bringing on 3 other Chicks (Susan, Anita and Karyn), we were off and running. And what a run! 698 posts later, here we are wrapping it up. Jana also eluded to the fact that maybe if we had not focused on writerly topics we may have been able to keep going – but focus on writing we did! Do you know how hard it is to come up with a writing article every week? When we brought on other Chicks (Joanne, Hayley, Connie, Myrene, Helena, Anne, and Stephanie), we were writing articles every second week – still incredibly hard!

But what a bevy of relevant information! I think we covered every topic under the writing umbrella. Conferences, beginnings, agents, queries, non-fiction, writing spaces, titles, loglines, genre, grammar, characterization, themes, setting, dialogue, motivation, branding, backstory – you name it, we covered it! Covered it in fine fashion (well done, Chicks, well done).

I think, as I look back on my journey with the Chicks, there were many lessons learned! Working with a group of people is difficult – compromise and discussion is so important in a venture such as this! Deadlines – OMG, deadlines! I still haven’t managed to get a post written and scheduled ahead of a deadline, but I’m working on getting better at it. Craft – man, what I didn’t know about this writing gig! The support and genuine caring from other writers – the writing community, vast as it is, is such a tight knit, supportive one. The friendships developed from this blog venture will last a lifetime, even though the blog will not. The Chicks themselves, but our readers, too. And voice!

The biggest and bestest lesson learned from being a part of this amazing blog has been finding my voice. Writing the blogposts allowed me experiment with my writing, allowed me come into my own as a writer. I found my voice here on The Prairies! And for that, I am forever grateful. There is nothing in the world as satisfying and joyous as putting oneself out there (quirks and all) and having people respond that they liked it! What more could a writer ask for? That response fueled my desire to write more – that response gave me hope as a writer when rejections created self-doubt!

I am sad that the Prairie Chicks are ending their amazing run. But I am excited about the future and what it holds for each of us. I’m a firm believer in new beginnings and a lover of inspirational quotes. I leave you with this:

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end. ~ Seneca

Please stay tuned, People of Blogland – the next two weeks will be filled with the Chicks individual blogs about goals, the future and where you can find us after this group blog ends.

Janet

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Shhh - We're Putting it to Sleep

 by Anita Mae Draper
Several months ago I came out of my cave and wanted to spend a few minutes blog hopping. I was dismayed to find one of my favorite blogs had closed down. Their main reason being, they needed to spend more time on their manuscript writing instead of blog writing.

I remember thinking:
  • I’m going to miss them and the fun they brought to my day
  • Must be nice to have a real deadline
  • At least I still have the Chicks. That’ll never change.

Well, guess what? Things do change. And although I’m not happy about Prairie Chicks ceasing the publication of new posts, I’m excited at the changes which brought us to this point. I’m getting ahead of myself, though.

I started my own blog months before I got together with the Chicks. I added new posts a couple times a week and played around with widgets and gadgets—the fun and somewhat exasperating part of blogging. A pathological picture taker, I always had plenty of material to post when I didn’t have anything to say. Or, didn’t have time to say anything because I needed to work on my work-in-progress.

When we decided to start Prairie Chicks, I turned to the author who’d first put the idea into my head. Donna Alward, who writes emotional stories for Harlequin Romance, told us during a workshop to get our blogs and/or websites in place before publication because there just wasn’t time after. And once your book hits the shelves, readers want to know about you. Donna was a tremendous help. As well as giving ideas for our blog guidelines, she became our first every guest guinea p--ah-- Honorary Prairie Chick.

I’ve enjoyed most of the posts although admittedly, a couple of them were not within my comfort zone. A couple posts come to mind but I’m not going to list them today. I know there were one or two posts brought on by some of my guests whom everyone didn't agree with either.

In these last few months as my career winds up, I’ve resented the time spent on blogs. I need to take more time to finish on deadline. And so, I’ve found that blogging is like baling twine. It’s the best thing ever, but what a nuisance!

A case in point is the post I wrote upon my return from the RWA conference in Orlando. I wanted to show all the promotional possibilities you could create to publicize your book, so I took many photos of the Goody Room at the conference. Back home, I organized and photographed all the items I'd picked up. It took several days to get it all organized and drafted onto the blog. As an additional enhancement, I gave away one of the books I’d lugged back from Orlando – Maggie Shayne's Killing Me Softly. Which reminds me – Jana, you won the book. No, I haven’t forgotten. I just haven’t thought about it for a while. It’ll go out shortly.

Anyway, the Goody Room post went live and I received all of 2 comments. Although I don't want to begrudge any information gleaned from the post by Karyn or Jana, the lone commentors, I felt my time could've been spent in a wiser fashion.I didn’t mind writing the post. Quite the opposite because I love taking pics.


What I minded was that my time was taken away from my manuscript. Especially, since I was trying to complete it prior to attending the ACFW conference in mid-Sept. And no, I didn’t make my goal.

And if I'm not surfing the blogs and leaving comments, then how can I ask my fellow writers to do the same? I can't.

I still feel that blogging is a tremendous opportunity when you can afford the time. But at this time in my writing career, I need to spend every available moment on my story.

Selfish? Yes. But, only for self-preservation.

I’m thrilled that the blog will stay live because there’s such a wealth of material here and I want it accessible for us writers as well as anyone else who may need it.

Thank you to all the Chicks and Dogs, regular and Honorary, who chose to join us on this educational experience. The blog won’t die. It’s just going to sleep. Now, that’s comforting.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Confidence Builder

It's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you're not. ~Author Unknown

As I reminisce over my time spent with the Prairie Chicks the word that comes to mind is confidence. That’s what this experience has given me, along with a safe and supportive place to grow, to learn, and to experiment. Blogging here has helped me narrow down the term writer and decide what it means to me. It gave me a place to say it out loud.

I am a writer.

My first blog post, ironically enough, was titled, Finding My Voice. In that post I wrote, “I am going to give the voice inside of me a chance to unfurl.” Looking back I had no idea what I was really saying and the voice I was referring to was a general sense of having something to say. But almost two years later I do know what I mean when I say voice.

During my time blogging here I learned about goal, motivation, and conflict. Character arcs, plot, and pace. When I signed up to blog I knew very little about craft but I knew I wanted to use my time blogging to learn it. While I still have lots to learn, the topics I researched were always the ones I was curious about and needed to learn. This blog has given me a place to not only be a writer, but a romance writer. To talk about alpha males and kiss-ass heroines. Sex scenes. And the appeal of happily-ever-afters. To be in the company of like-minded writers.

Blogging here with the Prairie Chicks has taught me about deadlines and writing when I didn’t feel inspired. I’ve gone from writing occasionally and when the mood strikes to writing pretty much every day even if it’s only a couple of sentences. This blog has taught me about the business side of writing, too. Something I was totally in the dark about and had no idea how to navigate. Yesterday I sent off my very first query letter to an agent. Yes indeed, I’ve learned a lot.

To my fellow bloggers…I cannot even begin to put into words how much you’ve taught me. What a pleasure it’s been sharing this experience with you! I never failed to learn something. You’ve inspired me. Encouraged me. Made me think. Pushed me to do better.

To our talented guest bloggers who came and visited – thank you for sharing your experiences, tips, tricks, call stories, and so much more.

Thank you to our faithful followers who gave us their time and came and read what we had to say, left comments, and offered tips of your own.

It has been a blast.

Stay tuned. The last two weeks of October we’ll be letting you know what we’re up to next and where to find us!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Outsider's Reflection

I admit I've always been a bit of a contrary sort. A devil's advocate, perhaps. It followed naturally I'd volunteer to join up with the Prairie Chicks back in January when I don't even write in the genre, and, as I confessed a while back, scoffed at it for quite a while.

But my stint with the Chicks started before that, when Janet left us for a month to move, and a few of us offered to fill her Fridays. I started off on an interesting note. I blogged about the Phallus. Hey, it's romance, I figure anything's game right?

Suffice it to say I've started a fair number of good conversations, and sparked some contrary points of view since I came on as a regular blogger. For my part, I've enjoyed exploring some obscure and interesting topics, prodding aspects of romance from an outsider's perspective, and really getting to know the range of romance writers and readers who frequent us, and where everyone's preferences lie. There's absolutely no way to pin down a group like this and label what we like or don't like. Even among a predominantly female group of bloggers and readers, we're to diverse to make generalizations of any kind.

I think that's been the biggest fun for me while I've been blogging here. Coming up with a topic I want to explore and waiting to see what sort of responses I'll have waiting for me in the morning, whether anyone's taken the complete opposite standpoint from me, or called me out for talking about a genre I don't work in. Blogging on the Chicks has also really helped me think about all angles of my argument, since I'm writing for such a diverse group. On my own blog, I know the audience, the genre, and I know what discussions might come up in comments. Here it's always a surprise, and it really gets me thinking about exactly what I'm trying to say, rather than gesturing around the edges of it.

Of course, it also makes for some long as heck posts. Oh well.

Whether I've been analyzing the romance genre, or discussing how fantasy techniques can apply across genres, I've enjoyed bringing my view to the group. Here's to posts that will continue to incite contrary reactions and keep writers thinking.

Monday, October 11, 2010

It's Been a Slice!

I started blogging with the Chicks when we opened on January 1, 2009. As I recall, it was a Thursday, the day Anita had picked to blog, so she was up first (correct me if I’m wrong, Anita). Friday was Janet’s day, and then my first blog went up Monday, January 5, 2009.

When we started I didn’t have a clue. I rarely visited blogs and I had only written one blog post before, for a guest blog I submitted to Romancing the Blog (which I see has also folded.)

But I was enthusiastic and excited about this new venture. Janet and I had talked about setting up a blog for some time, but I was hesitant because of the time commitment involved. I’d heard that to attract readers a blog needed a new post every day. There was no way I’d have that much to say! But we figured there was strength in numbers. What if we started a group blog devoted to everything writing, with an emphasis on romance?

With that in mind, we recruited fellow interested members of the Saskatchewan Romance Writers, and Anita, Susan, and Karyn signed on. We had ourselves a five day a week blog! Hooray!

It wasn’t all roses and lollipops. After a few months, Susan, who works full-time at a high stress job, found weekly blogging too much and had to bow out. So then we recruited a few more SRW members. Helena, Molli and Connie took turns filling the Tuesday slot.

By the end of the year, we were all getting tired. It was time for fresh blood. Hayley, Anne, Stephanie, and Joanne came on board in the new year, and I can tell you, it was a huge relief. It meant that I could go from blogging once a week to once every two weeks. Having such a large and diverse group was good for the blog as well. We all write different types of romance, from contemporary to historical, comedy to inspirational, suspense to paranormal. In fact, Hayley really doesn’t write romance at all. She’s a fantasy writer, but she liked us all at Saskatchewan Romance Writers so much that she joined forces with us. She, and all the other writers of this blog, have different viewpoints and are in different places in their writing careers. It makes for an interesting blog with much to say.

After nearly two years of blogging what have I learned? A lot. I knew nothing about Blogger when we started. Under Janet’s gentle tutelage I learned how to put up a post and how to schedule it. She did teach me how to do some of the maintenance of the blog, like putting up the names of future guest bloggers, but I confess that I didn’t help in that area (sorry Janet).
I’m now much better at research, particularly Internet research. I know I can meet a deadline. I am proud that over a year and ten months I have never missed a spot. In fact, I found that I am totally anal about deadlines. When the other Chicks talked about writing their posts the night before they were scheduled to go on the blog, I broke out in hives. Like any good Brownie (I didn’t make it to Girl Guides) my motto is “Be Prepared”. For the most part, I always had one to three posts “in the can”, ready to go, because I think I’d be physically sick if I had to scramble at the last minute.

I can’t say I have any regrets. Janet and I wondered if narrowing the blog’s focus to writing related posts limited our readership and also limited topics for our bloggers. As a published author, one of my goals was to gain more exposure. That’s been limited to exposure to fellow writers, however.

Still, I wouldn’t trade my time on Prairie Chicks for anything. Though we’ve had our trials and tribulations, working on this project with friends and with people who have become friends, has been a joy. All in all, I feel like a more confident, experienced writer, ready to take on the next challenge.

I hope that some of my posts have been useful to other writers. I’m pleased that Prairie Chicks will remain live, and I hope that my posts here will continue to be read by writers looking for information and inspiration.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Welcome Ashley March

Three Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before I Got “The Call”

I will be the first to admit that I’ve been very blessed to come this far in my writing journey after only a short time. Although I wrote my first manuscript in 2006, it was completely awful. I started writing again for publication in February 2008 and received “The Call” in December 2009. My debut novel SEDUCING THE DUCHESS was released earlier this week on October 5th. Throughout the whirlwind of this past year, I’ve discovered a few things that I wish I would have known long before now.

1. How to Estimate Your Word Count
When I first began writing for publication, I researched everything I could about writing a romance. One important piece of information I needed to know was how to estimate your word count, since I knew my single title historical romance needed to be between 90,000 and 100,000 words.
The first advice I found was from a book written by a romance editor, which said to pick 10 random lines from a page, multiply that word count by 25, then multiply again by the number of pages you have written. Seemed a little complex to me, but hey, it’s the publishing world. These types of things are supposed to be somewhat mysterious, right? However, I then found a website where a published author said that the old 10-lines equation was obsolete, and that publishers now (this was early 2008) estimate word count by multiplying the number of pages written by 250, as each page should roughly come to that amount.
Since this was the most recent advice I could find, I did exactly that. I also knew, of course, these should be double-spaced pages, and I had read editors and agents would accept either New Courier or New Times Roman font.
The first thing I found out after accepting my publisher’s offer was that the manuscript I had originally thought was somewhere around 95,000 words was actually only 79,000 words! Not only should I have used Times New Roman instead of New Courier, but I discovered that editors don’t estimate word count at all. Instead, they accept the word count that Microsoft Word and other word processors automatically provide. As a result, the largest part of my editing for my publisher included the increase of my word count by a significant proportion.

2. Network, network, and then network some more!
I’ve always been an introvert. Before “The Call”, I joined RWA so I could enter chapter contests, but I never went to my local chapter meeting, and I never went to the national conference. I figured my time was better spent at home writing or with my husband and new baby, and since I wasn’t published yet, I didn’t have much to say, anyway. Oh, and of course—the money. Going to nationals seemed awfully expensive.
I cannot tell you how much I am regretting this now! You see, although I’ve been really busy trying to promote myself the past couple of months through Twitter, Facebook, my website, and now a blog tour, because I never took the time or made the effort to build relationships within the romance writing community, I have no one except my two critique partners to cheer me on and spread the news about my book. Fortunately, I’ve been getting some great reviews, and I know that will help. But at the same time, I know that if I had built an extended network with other aspiring and published authors, promoting myself wouldn’t be nearly as difficult now because I wouldn’t be a completely new face and new name.

3. Establish a set writing routine.
Like me, I’m sure you’ve heard this dozens of times before. Writers write; they don’t wait for inspiration to strike, they just sit down to work and do it. And yet, while I’ve always believed in this principle, I allowed various things in my non-writing life to distract me from my writing routine: pregnancy, a new baby in the house, the 9-5 job, family, etc. As a result, after getting a publishing contract I found it difficult to get settled into a normal writing routine. And a normal writing routine is essential to being able to meet publisher deadlines. I am embarrassed to tell you that I had to ask for an extension for the deadline on my second book, simply because I hadn’t become comfortable in my own writing process and with my writing routine. If nothing else, I hope you can learn from my mistake and do whatever is necessary to stick to your schedule. Day by day, never thinking “tomorrow I can make up for it.” Make every day count.

Now that I’ve told you the three things I wish I would have known before I got “The Call”, I’d love to hear your must-know tips for other writers, something you wished you have known long ago. One random commenter will be chosen to win a copy of my debut, SEDUCING THE DUCHESS (open to both US and international residents).

You can read more about Ashley and discover what else she's writing at her website: www.ashleymarch.com (including more chances to win).

Friday, October 8, 2010

Prairie Chicks Welcome Ashley March

Join us tomorrow for our last guest blogger - Ashley March. She's written a very informative post of those things she wished she knew before she got "The Call". Ashley has been chosen by Booklist as one of the "new stars of historical romance"!

Here's Ashley's bio:

After spending countless hours memorizing both traditional and simplified Chinese characters, perfecting her tones, and practicing her speaking with any Chinese native she could find, Ashley successfully graduated with a degree in Mandarin Chinese. She was determined to be the next best Chinese translator in the world... Then she discovered writing historical romances was as much fun as reading them, and her Chinese capabilities have never been the same. When she isn't writing about sexy, untamed heroes and intelligent, independent heroines in Victorian Britain, Ashley stays busy chasing around her 1-year old daughter, attempting to do housework, and hiking in the beautiful foothills of Colorado.

We hope you come back tomorrow to read Ashley's post - until then, you can check out more about Ashley at her website: http://www.ashleymarch.com/.

Why I Like Blogging

Despite the solitary nature of writing, a person doesn't always have to feel alone while doing it. That is what I have found by blogging, especially by participating in a blog run by a group of writers.

There are others out there. People with similar challenges. People with challenges you haven't even thought of yet. People with challenges you have already overcome. The special thing about the online community of writers is the clearly visible support system. How willing people are to lend a hand.

Where I grew up, Autumn was the only time of year people locked their doors. Why? Because if you didn't, you would come home from the grocery store to find your porch filled with boxes of tomatoes and cucumbers, zucchinis big enough to carve like pumpkins and big paper bags piled to the top with crab apples.

This is the sort of community I have sensed while performing my brief stint blogging with the Chicks. There is no other way to describe the feeling this blog has given me. It is a blog writers can come to for that feeling of home. A place they can let their guard down.

How has blogging for the Chicks helped me as a writer? It has allowed me to open up. As a somewhat shy individual, I've been given the opportunity to share a part of myself I've kept from most people on the three dimensional plane. For that, I'm unendingly thankful.

In the words of Canada's sweetheart, Red Green, "We're all in this together."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ah Darn

Now is the hour
when we must say goodbye
Soon we'll be writing
and and dream,ing of the day
While we're away
oh please remember us
When we return we hope
We'll find you here
(old Scottish folk song - massively revised)

We Chicks have become Harried Old Hens, so we have decided to give blogging a rest and concentrate on our own work for awhile.

I am really going to miss blogging, and most of all, reading the comments we have all received. I have learned an astounding amount since the original Chicks first scratched a blog or two. I joined later, but like all of us the night before our blog day, I found that I faced the whatamIgoingtowriteaboutthistime dilemma. Procrastination and living in Crisis Headquarters have left me feeling badly about not rewriting and revising and having something worth saying in the first place. I am not happy with several of my blogs. Thank you for not confirming my worst suspicions!

Blogging has also kept me connected to the other Chicks and to you, the folk who read and comment on our blogs. I am truly going to miss that connection. I would like those of you who have blog pages and web pages to put your address in the comment section so I can stay in touch with everybody (even if you think I already have it).

I guess I am going to have to start a blog of my own because because not having my say is not my strong point. Just ask the folk at the Round Lake members if I can sit through a meeting and not put my two cents worth in - on everything on the agenda and a bunch of stuff I add on.

I very well might start my own blog site after I return from Surrey (SiWC) and a visit with two of my oldest friends who live in Surrey now. What a ball I am going to have this month - Disney World with my grandkidlets, SiWC and wine appreciation with Shirly and Geoff.

I'm wandering here. It is late and I have just returned from closing up the cabin for the winter. Sniffle, sniffle.
It was a day from hell. After everything went wrong with the packing etc, the dog decided she didn't want to go home. It was darker than the backside of the moon and she decided to hide! It was so dark, I had to feel my way down the porch steps and I couldn't see the car 10 feet away. and this in bear country! It was a saga. Suffice to say, I didn't strangle her....

The best parts of the Chicks' blogs are the infinite amount of learning I have done, admiring writing skills of other chicks and having a good chuckle now and then. I am absolutely delighted the page is going to stay up so I can reread them all and look up what info I need to know at whatever stage of panic I am in at any given time.

It was suggested that we mention our favourite blogs here, but there are too many favourites to list! There are some super good writers on the Chicks page.

One of my favourite songs is "Time to Say Goodbye" by Andreas Boccelli and Sarah Brightman. But it's not my favourite thing to say, so I will say "So long - I hope to see you here again one day".

Please be good to yourselves - that's important. When it all looks hopeless, remember these words by Henry Ford, "If you think you can't or if you think you can, you are right." Write on.

You can and I am looking forward to reading your published work soon! It will happen.

Till next time

connie
constancesampson at hotmail dot com

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I Learned it's OK to Be Less Than Perfect

I joined the Blog in January with one goal: to get something published. I didn’t have my sights set on anything as significant as seeing my very own novel in print or building a fan base (although there’s nothing wrong with that)—no, what I really wanted was to overcome my previously unacknowledged fear of having someone else see my writing before it was ‘ready.’ 

Sound familiar? Maybe you have faced the same challenge with your writing.

I needed a deadline that I could not brush aside. I needed a regular writing goal that could not be ignored or forgotten. I needed peer (and public) pressure to hit the “publish” button even on the occasions when I felt the writing was not as good as it could be. I needed a situation where no excuses would apply. And, this was it.

You see...I’m a closet perfectionist. (I've just outed myself--this is liberating!) Perfectionism and writing deadlines do not make a nice couple. Nope, they get along as well as a pair of lions with only one carcass. Come he... (ahem) or high water, when the clock struck twelve Wednesday morning, there had to be something on the Blog with my name on it.

There were a few times when I was completely disgusted with what I’d written and the desire to start over on something new was so intense it made me sweat. However, since it was late Tuesday night (I'm also a procrastinator I guess), I didn’t have enough time to start on a new topic. The only option was to fix the one I was working on. I have a pattern of 'starting over' with my WIPs so no contest...that was by far the most important thing I learned from this blog. There was never one single time I didn't have my post up. Quoting no famous red-neck in particular, sometimes you just have to “Get’er done!”

Although that was the most important learning, it certainly wasn’t the only learning. Here are a couple of my favourite posts. (Ok, so I know I’m leaving out a lot of very good posts but if I include them all you won’t have the time to check them all out!)

·          How do you say it? 
·          World Building 101 

Thank you readers and fellow bloggers for giving me the chance to be a part of Prairie Chicks. As long as the blog is live (there is no close date) I know I will continue to refer back to postings and comments to help me with my writing. I have one more posting, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Reflecting Back


As the Prairie Chicks blog is preparing to close up shop, I’ve been looking back over the last ten months of blogging with the Chicks to evaluate what I have learned from my experience. When I started, I was new to the world of “web presence”, and blogging was a completely different universe. It was so exciting, connecting with like minded writers, to practice writing in a more public platform, and to be part of something that required teamwork.
During those nine months, I’ve learned to put together a short story at the drop of a hat as I continued to write my novel, worked a full-time job, and held together a family life. Sometimes things went smoothly, and sometimes they didn’t.
I’ve learned so much hanging out with the Chicks. The articles written on this blog have inspired me, informed me, and made me laugh. From the minute details, like Karyn’s article on That, to the fantastic worldbuilding series by Hayley, every time I hang out with the Chicks, I leave with a new perspective.
My writing has evolved dramatically, and I know much of the evolution is due to what I have gleaned from hanging out here. I have finally overcome my learning deviation when it came to Show don’t Tell. I finally get it! Here’s an example:
Telling version:
As we walked back to our vehicles, I numbly, confusedly contemplated what happened. I realized I needed to be clear about my relationship status.
"I have a boyfriend, Mahlon, I thought you should know that," I said as he walked me to my car.
"I know," He said nonchalantly. I wondered how he knew. "But, sometimes boyfriends come and go, Sarah." He turned to me to smile that sly, wicked smile I would soon to come to love, totally unconcerned about how arrogant he sounded. I was livid that he would be so presumptuous. He noticed my reaction, and flashed a brazenly confident smile, then turned on his heel, and strode away. I stood for a few minutes, shaking my head, smiling at the brash, conceited, yet intriguing young man who had just held my face so close I could smell the sweet ice cream smell of his breath.
You are far too interested for your own good, Sarah.
Showing version:
Mahlon let go of my face, but held my gaze. “Your eyes are so cool,” he added with a wink. Guilt slid through my mind as I realized how bad I had wanted him to kiss me.
“I have a boyfriend, Mahlon,” I whispered. “I thought you should know that.”
“I know,” he said with a shrug.
“You know?”
“Yeah. I know.” He flashed a brazen grin. “The question is—do I care? No. Not so much.” He turned on his heel and as he strode away he called over his shoulder. “I’ll be back for the equipment later.”
Okay, maybe I don't totally get it, but it's coming, isn't it?
My attitude has evolved dramatically as well. I’m no longer the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed dreamer I was when I showed up on scene in January. Now, I’m firmly rooted in the reality of this business, and I only occasionally indulge in imagining my hordes of fans chanting my name at Comicon.
My YA novel, Indigo Blaze, has been re-written, slashed and hacked, added to so the word count soared upward of 140,000 words, and then rendered down to 96,000 again. I hired an editor to tear it apart, and then I put it back together. I’ve had it out on query for about three months, had six requests, but no offers yet. Currently, I’m tweaking it for an adult audience and have completely re-written the first three chapters again.
What I do know of this experience is that perhaps my query is decent, but my writing still needs some work. I’ve only been at this writing business for two years, and when I reflect on that, I realize how short a time that is to learn a new profession. It took me eight years of university to be qualified for the job I have, so what would make me think it would be any different for writing?

Monday, October 4, 2010

To Blog or Not to Blog ...

As Janet announced on Friday, Prairie Chicks is winding down. By the end of this month, this blog will be history. That is, it will consist of archived articles only ... still available for reference. We hope it will remain useful for researching topics covered by the Chicks over the last 21 months. But no new articles will be posted. (At least for now ... but don't hold your breath!)

Over the next two weeks, we will post our reflections on what it has been like to be a Chick. I was not one of the five original Chicks who started the blog in January 2009. I became involved a couple of months later when the Tuesday slot became vacant. I was one of three members of the Saskatchewan Romance Writers (SRW) who agreed to rotate posts on Tuesdays. My first post began with an admission of doubt, mixed with excitement:

"Recently the opportunity arose for me to participate (or not) as a regular on this blog. Me? I knew nothing about blogging. I doubted my ability to get up to speed. I hadn't even been reading the blog until one day in January when a minus 40 wind chill kept me home from the SRW meeting. Then I began dropping in daily to learn from the creative women who started this. I heard myself say that I would learn the ropes. A new door opened, and now I am delighted to call myself a Prairie Chick."

That first post was my introduction to the world of blogging. It gave me the opportunity to talk about how my writing life had developed to that point. Now, 39 posts later, here are some random thoughts on blogging as a Chick.

Writers take up blogging for a variety of reasons. In the October 2010 issue of The Writer, the featured topic of Point/Counterpoint is "Are Writer Blogs Worth It?" The short description of the article in the table of contents states: "Two writers debate the pros and cons. Blogs, says one, give writers an easy, cheap way to promote and build their platforms. Hold on, says a dissenting writer -- blogging is overrated in many ways, the most obvious being that you don't get paid." Jackie Dishner takes the YES position, while Naomi Mannino says NO.

I did not join the Chicks for the purpose of self-promotion, to build a platform or to build a loyal fan base, which are some of the reasons Dishner gives for a writer to blog. I was then, and remain to this day, an unpublished author. So those objectives do not apply to me ... yet. Sharing information or points of view on topics related to writing or the writing life, exploring new ideas, and becoming somewhat of an expert come a little closer to what motivated me to join.

Since then I have become comfortable with the mechanics of posting using Blogger, have learned a little Html code, and experimented with inserting pictures (although I have used that feature sparingly, to say the least). One of the most gratifying experiences has been getting "acquainted" with other writers who comment on points raised in my posts. Often those comments contain nuggets of advice that are invaluable contributions to the topics or issues under discussion. I read the blog almost every day, missing only when I am not at home. Such a range of topics and variety of writing styles! I have been informed and entertained by my fellow Chicks and our guest bloggers.

There have been some negatives to my blogging experience. I seem to have less time for regular writing, although that is probably more related to reading blogs than blogging itself. Since I do not write category romance, I sometimes found it difficult to find topics that would appeal to readers of a romance blog. I agree with Naomi Mannino, who takes the "con" position on blogging when she points out: "Blog posts are not quick and easy to write well." She also mentions that she doesn't need more 'exposure' and she is not selling a book. She declares that a Twitter message of 140 characters (which she calls "micro-blogging") is all she is willing to do for free! I have not yet joined the world of tweeting.

On balance, however, my involvement with Prairie Chicks has been extremely positive. The camaraderie amongst the members has been great, I have been proud of what we have done over the (almost) two years, and writing to a deadline is a good exercise in self-discipline. In fact, I am motivated by the experience to seriously consider launching my own blog. (More about that, and an update on my current writing projects, in my final post two weeks from now.)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Welcome Guest Blogger Celia Yeary


Go for the Green

Got Game?

When I turned forty, I decided to learn to play golf. I knew absolutely nothing about the game, but it fascinated me. Instead of watching football or basketball on television, I watched golf tournaments. The players became almost like friends; I knew each name, his place of residence, marital status, and family. I kept up with the World Rankings of the top PGA players, hoping “my guy” stayed in the top ten, or the rookie contender whom I followed managed to win against all odds.

The game looked relatively easy. The entire process resembled a ballet, slow and easy, no running, jumping, or tackling, all acted out in an atmosphere of polite actions and rules and decorum. Spectators remained politely silent as a player took his stance. Best of all, the sport required the player to hit a ball that stayed in place. This seemed much better than trying to hit or catch a moving ball. I don’t particularly like the idea of an object flying toward me that I must hit, kick, or catch.

By observing a game and listening to the commentator, I knew the golfer used several clubs. Besides the putter, the exact role of each one eluded me, but that seemed easy to learn. Like any game, it was replete with rules and penalties.

So, I asked my good friend and women’s golf coach, “Will you teach me to play golf? Even though I haven’t an athletic bone in my body?”

“Sure, I will,” she replied.

She took a small set of student’s clubs--and me--straight to the course, bypassing the driving range. “We’ll just start and see how you do,” she said, patting me on the back.

“I know the object is to get the ball in the hole, but what are the procedures, the rules? And how do I hold a club?” I asked.

“It’s simple,” she said. “Just hold the club by the grip, hit the ball toward the direction of the green, go find it, and hit it again.”

She was dead serious. Some coach she is, I muttered to myself.

In a nutshell, though, that’s it.

I’m a fast learner, so after a couple of years of playing and improving, I beat her almost every time. She always complained she’d taught me too well.

Years later—did I say how many?—oh, good, because I didn’t intend to—I thought to try my hand at writing a romance story. I wondered how one wrote a novel, and if one did, how could one have it published. I remembered my coach’s plan concerning golf, so I applied it to writing: “Write a story, send it to a publisher, then write another.” Easy.

Writing is like playing golf.

In a game of golf, the player uses a variety of methods to get the ball in the cup--drives, fairway shots, chipping, and putting. If the player utilizes all the methods correctly, he’ll enter a good score.

In writing, the author uses plot, characterization, point of view, pacing, and climax. Then, she submits and hopes for a contract.

Doubt will kill a golf round. The minute a player decides her ball will go in the water, I assure you, it will. When she chastises herself for making a wrong choice or missing an easy putt, she’ll add more strokes. If she decides she’s the worst player in the field, then she probably will be. Once a golfer—or writer—allows uncertainty to creep in, her game and attitude vanishes.

Many pro golfers, especially the world’s best players, subscribe to the mantra, “Never lay up.”

When a long shot over a hazard faces the player, he has two choices: hit the ball close to the hazard so the next shot is easy, and he will have a better chance of getting close to the hole. Or if he’s a strong-willed player and faces the same situation, he’ll study the situation, choose the correct club for the distance, take his stance with confidence, and…go for the green!

Each hole is a clean slate. Other holes are history.
Each new blank page is wide open to possibilities.

We all like to win--at golf or writing--but we’re not out to beat the field 100% of the time. We play to challenge ourselves, to best our own last score, to lower our putt average, and to lower our handicap. A professional golfer always strives to win, but realistically, he knows he will lose far more games than he will ever win. Even so, he will gain something from every tournament.

Understand, though. I love to win. Oh, yes, I absolutely do. Whether the prize is one dollar, a golf ball for the week, or the quarter pot, I go all out. In past years, I even won a few local tournaments and received very nice trophies, money, and gifts. Some of the other participants would say, “Wow, you come out here to win, don’t you?”

My answer? “Why would I come out here to lose?”

So, as it is in the game of writing and publishing, I came to play…and to win. But what happened when I went home from a tournament without a prize? Nothing. I always viewed playing golf as a privilege few can enjoy, so if someone else won, I’d congratulate her, go home, and I was still happy. But just wait until the next time.

So it is with writing and submitting manuscripts. If I must be unhappy or angry, I’ll do so concerning something important, such as world hunger or senseless crimes.

Every day, I strive for a win, a contract, a prize, an award, a good review. Why would I do otherwise? But a rejection will not ruin my life.

Take my advice: Go for the green. And smile!


Celia Yeary is a seventh-generation Texan, and her life revolves around family, friends, and writing. San Marcos has been her home for thirty-five years. She has five published romance novels, four “coming soon” novels, and published essays with a local magazine. The author is a former science teacher, graduate of Texas Tech University and Texas State University, mother of two, grandmother of three, and wife of a wonderful, supportive Texan. Celia and her husband enjoy traveling, and both are involved in their church, the community, and the university as retired faculty.
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
http://www.celiayeary.blogspot.com/

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