Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thrilling Thursday: Love Bites and Emotional Suspense

Hey everyone:)

Since I didn’t get a chance to post the Writing Wednesday that I wanted to yesterday, I thought it would be great fun to talk about it today.

Suspense is the underlying emotion in any great thriller. Creating that suspense is not always easy in our writing. Often foreshadowing is crafted to be plot specific only—when it’s the emotional foreshadowing that is the most subtle and has the most impact.

In DFF: Dead Friends Forever, Kaylee’s relationships with the people in her life is every bit as important as the elements concerning the mystery of Isabelle’s death and how the ghost came to haunt Larson house. Yet when reading this “every day world” Kaylee lives in is seen less as foreshadowing and more simply as the time before the horror begins.

Looking at all the great horror classics, we can see that emotional foreshadowing. In Bram Stokers Dracula, we see Mina’s love for Jonathan Harker and how much she misses him as he travels abroad for his work, how her love for him sustains her while her friend Lucy courts one prospective suitor after another. It is later the challenges to this love that make her enchantment with Dracula all the more heartbreaking. Does she choose the sunshine love of her living life? Or will she choose the moonlight love of her afterlife? Without Harker, Mina’s choice wouldn’t be so heartbreaking.

Writing suspense can be difficult. This is why there is so much emphasis placed on the “hero’s journey” in writing programs. Not because knowing where a character is going on the map is important, but because setting up the emotional bonds early in a story will give the later threats to those bonds all the more meaning—and make the reader feel the full scope of that characters obstacles, sorrows and triumphs.

Look at your characters. Who and what is important to them? Does your story challenge that bond? If it doesn’t, you may want to consider raising the stakes. The higher the stakes, the more emotional and thus intense the read will be.

What is a favorite emotional story you’ve read or seen in a movie? Why was it so emotional to you? Share this in the comments so we might learn from each of our experiences how these emotional stakes are applied, if you like :)


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

L.A. Yay!

My trip to LA

Hey Everyone :)
This is not a typical Writing Wednesday as I want to share with everyone what I did in L.A., but stay tuned for more writerly info later today ;)

Friday: Leaving the family was tough, but I left with my best pair of shoes and a determination to work my butt off for the weekend. The flight out was not much different than riding a bus, but with an awesome view.

When I arrived, I was surprised to discover that the only way to get from AirTran to the Southwest terminal was to take a bus ride. LAX is huge! Karen arrived on time and I was happy to meet Bobbie and Harry there, the Knot Fairy folks.

Our hotel wasn’t that far away and I enjoyed seeing palm trees and one in the front of the Days Inn I called the “Donkey Kong” tree. For dinner, I also had a great adventure. Karen took me to Bilal, a Pakistani restaurant where we ordered Haleem, Seekh Kabobs Nihari and other exotic dishes that were absolutely delicious, and spicy in the way that made you want to keep eating more.

Izzy dropped by and picked me up for a nice meal later that night and when we walked into the restaurant, I was totally stoked to recognize the place from xXx, one of my all time favorite Vin Diesel movies. The place rocked!

Saturday morning Teresa Burell took us to the UCLA campus, which is absolutely fabulous. The weather couldn’t have been any better! High sixties with a wonderfully cool breeze to make even the most intensely sunny part of the day comfortable. That high wind though caused injuries when a scaffold fell over into the crowd and injured three people.

I sold out of DFF: Dead Friends Forever and by the end of the day, I’d signed all but seven books! I was rockin’ the tent! Alyssa Montgomery joined us midway through the day and made the tent all the more sunnier with her warmth and cheerful smile.

On Sunday, I had a blast. Not only was I completely sold out, but I had a chance to enjoy the festival and meet Jon Miller, a great legal thriller author I’ve worked with for a few years now. Then, I had a real treat when Izzy took me to see Finis, Sammy Davis Jr.’s Godson who has a terrific voice. To top it all off, we were allowed backstage at the Comedy and Magic club to see “The Wall” where famous comedians had left their signatures, including Jay Leno and Jerry Sienfeld.

After a wonderful time at the Hermosa Beach pier and walking mall, Izzy took me out for desert and we had a great time chatting and sharing fun stories. If I thought Izzy was way cool on the internet, she’s absolutely a thrill to be with in person—and stunning in real life.

Monday I came home and was happily reunited with my family, and my own bed! That was my fabulous time in L.A. and I’m already looking forward to next year!

Jenny :)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thrilling Thursday: Goblins, Ghouls, and Ghosts Oh My!

I’m beginning to really enjoy these Thursdays! This week I wanted to find out what really spooked you all when you were kids. My mother had the book Faeries by Brian Froud, a wonderfully illustrated tome that I loved as a child. One particularly horrible creature was a gal named Jenny Greenteeth. This monstrosity shared my name, so it always stuck with me.

The story goes like this: She’s a hideous hag, green and nasty who likes to pull little children into the water and murderize them. They think this was made up by scared mom's who wanted to keep their children from the water so they wouldn't drown--but who really knows? This made living four houses from the river interesting for me at seven years old! ;)

So what’s your favorite childhood ghoulie or ghostie? Do you have one in particular?


Who is hitting the road to Milwaukee, and leaving for L.A. in the morning!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Writing Wednesday: Using Narrative Closeness to Show

Good Morning everyone :)

I'd like to take just a moment to thank Jenny Siler for coming to my blog yesterday. If you didn't get a chance to visit with her, take a moment to follow the links in my previous blogpost to find out why she's one of my all time favorite authors! :)

(If you'd like to forward this exercise on to a writing group or forum, please feel free, just include my name and a link back--thanks!) Okay, now on with Writing Wednesday! :)

Today we’re going to have fun combining narrative closeness and show instead of tell. This is an interactive blog today, so either get a new fresh document opened up, or grab a pen and notepad.

There are myriad ways to go about this, but my process is very simple and I’ll share it with you here:

First: Know your character. Give them a voice and a style unique to them. For our purposes today, pick a character you’ve worked with extensively—or dream up a brand new one for a brand new project. If you choose the latter, pick a character in your gender and from a background you’re familiar with.

I’m going to use Kaylee Hensler, the 14yr. old skater girl from a small Wisconsin town.
(Write a similar statement)

Second: Know your elements. You don’t necessarily have to have been to the setting in person, but try to read first-hand accounts and find a way to relate what you have lived to the moment. Such as living in Houston gave me a great appreciation for tropical weather I might never have had if I’d never left Wisconsin. This gave me excellent fodder when I wrote the Knight Inc. series with settings from Panama to Brazil.

I’m going to use Barclay Hall, a fictional elite reformatory for wayward girls.
(Write a similar statement)

Third: Connect the dots. Between who the character is and where that character is, you’ll have to find your own sensory-related details to flesh out the moment. For our purposes today, don’t use a moment with a lot of dialogue. We want to focus on the difference between telling about the scene, and showing the scene using narrative closeness so it’s important to give yourself that room to explore outside of the dialogue. Pick the moment where the character’s who—meets the character’s experience.

I’m going to use Kaylee meeting Mary, the most popular girl for the first time.
(Write a similar statement)

Fourth: Know what’s important. Your character will find different things important than another character would. Depending on their vulnerabilities and the way they view themselves and the world, you’ll need pick those details that strengthen the character and their journey—as well as reveal more of the plot points.

I’m going to use Kaylee’s struggle to compete with her mother’s beauty and still maintain her tomboyish pursuits.
(Write a similar statement)

Now you should have a list that looks something like this:
Kaylee Hensler, the 14yr. old skater girl from a small Wisconsin town.
Barclay Hall, a fictional elite reformatory for wayward girls.
Kaylee meeting Mary, the most popular girl for the first time.
Kaylee’s struggle to compete with her mother’s beauty and still maintain her tomboyish pursuits.

This is the bare bones of your moment and what will define how it appears on the page:

Mary flipped shiny red curls over one shoulder and smiled, her perfect white teeth like some super diva from MTV’s Sweet Sixteen show. Kaylee smiled back, but didn’t reveal her totally human colored teeth. So okay, she just had to keep reminding herself that everyone at Barclay Hall was a criminal, even if they just came off the cover of Seventeen magazine. Where were the Avryl Lavignes and retro fans of The Ramones? Did everyone care more about painting their nails than committing to a wicked stunt no matter the risk—or was she already the freak here?

These details are specific to Kaylee—they reveal how aware she is of the pop culture she lives, her history and background, and her vulnerabilities. If you notice, though this paragraph is depicting how Mary looks, the only two details I offer are the color her teeth and hair. The rest describes the way she looks without actually sharing eye color, height, expected age—the sort of thing many new writers struggle to show, and veteran authors know is really pointless because the protagonist’s story is what the reader wants, not lists of details from the author, no matter how well written.

Post your list and resulting moment in the comments so we can all share the experience together! :)

P.S. As I'm leaving in the morning to visit my father before I fly out Friday to LA, I'm going to be sporadic responding, but I *will* respond! ;)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Jenny Siler for Talent Tuesday!

Jenny Siler aka Alex Carr RULES!!

Okay everyone, this is a BIG BLOG day for us. There are a gazillion authors I honestly admire and aspire to emulate, but there are few authors whom I truly envy. Dean Koontz is one, for his grasp of language and consistently entertaining imagination. Jenny Siler is another, for her ability to make me walk away from a book with such vivid memories of the story they actually feel like I’ve lived them personally. This is not even something Koontz has done to the same degree.

Jenny Siler is not just a talented plotter, but she has managed to pull from the real world just the right amount of information, the right details, to make the reader experience the moment fully. Gosh, some of my memories of her writing even include scent! Talk about knowing what you’re doing!;)

The level of research she does is awe-inspiring, and inspiring—making me want to bury my nose in research so the world’s I create can come just as alive as the ones Siler creates for her readers. This is one of the MANY reasons I’m so very thrilled we’re part of launching her nonfiction book: The Art of the Heist: Confessions of a Master Art Thief, Rock-and-Roller, and Prodigal Son.

Description from Harper Collins:

"From New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, to the Smithsonian Institution in D.C., to Boston's Museum of Fine Art, to dozens of regional museums throughout the United States, no museum was off-limits to legendary art thief Myles Connor. He has used every technique in the book, from breaking and entering, to cat burglary, to false identities and elaborate con jobs. He once even grabbed a Rembrandt off a wall in broad daylight and simply ran like hell. His IQ is at genius level, and his charm is legendary. The fact that he was in jail at the time of the famous robbery of the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum—which remains the largest art theft in American history—has not stopped the FBI from considering him a top suspect in that still unsolved robbery.

How did the son of a decorated policeman grow up to become one of Boston's most notorious criminals? How did he survive a decades-long feud with the Boston police and the FBI? How did he manage to escape one jail sentence with a simple fake gun carved out of soap? How did he trade the return of a famous Rembrandt in exchange for early release from another sentence?

The Art of the Heist is a roller-coaster ride of a life, by a man who was drawn to misadventure at every turn. As a promising young rock star, Myles Connor started collecting Japanese swords and weapons. Soon his collection expanded through less than legitimate means, and his education in European masters and modern artists accelerated. Disguised as an art collector, he spent time in the archives of museums far and wide, and visited after hours to take advantage of what he learned by day.

Along the way, he robbed banks, warehouses, trailers, and estate homes. He engaged in rooftop shootouts with the police. He walked the streets of Boston in disguise while dozens of policemen were out searching for him. The Art of the Heist is part confession, part thrill ride, and impossible to put down."

I’m truly excited Jenny’s coming to respond to comments and I hope y’all will make her feel warm and welcome.

Feel free to ask her questions—including how to eat sushi, since she was the one who taught me! ;) Y’all just don’t know how cool it is to stand in line to have all your books autographed by a favorite author and then be invited to lunch! (Or maybe you do, lol! ;) )


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Just a Few Notes for the Upcoming Week :)

Hey everyone :)

Monday: We'll announce the winner of the Chocolate Recipe contest so get your recipe in today for your chance to win a free autographed copy of my awared-winning romantic suspense novel, "My Biker Bodyguard." If you're not into romance, it might make a great Mother's Day gift and I'd be happy to personalize it with Mom's name and a wish from you :)

Tuesday: Dreams really do come true! :) Jenny Siler, aka, Alex Carr is dropping by the blog to celebrate Talent Tuesday with us and share about her new release, The Art of the Heist: Confessions of a Master Art Thief, Rock-and-Roller, and Prodigal Son

Writing Wednesday: This week we'll discuss how to use narrative closeness and details to master "showing" instead of telling. A must read for anyone who has been struggling with this concept!

Thrilling Thursday: I'll be leaving for LA on this day, but I'll be checking in when possible, so don't forget to drop by and share your thoughts on favorite childhood spooks and find out which is mine :)

Fun Friday: Yes, I'll be in LA by this time, but I wouldn't miss a chance to create some fun! You'll have to tune in to find out what the contest and the prize are (I'm still working on a donation that I think you'll all find hard to resist! :)
I'll try, if I can, to blog in every evening and share what's happening with the book festival, who I've met and what I've done to make good on all the faith friends and family have in me. I don't know when I'll have a chance to connect to the internet, but I'll do my best!


Friday, April 17, 2009

Fun Friday: Chocolate Love!

Happy Friday everyone!! :)

This week's contest is really simple, but one of my favorite kind: chocolate!! :)

How to Enter: Submit your favorite chocolate recipe. It can be any kind of recipe, from combining ready-made products (like 'Smores) or totally from scratch (like brownies or truffles.)
Over the course of the weekend, I'll be checking back regularly and may even try out a few of these yummy recipes myself! :)

The Prize: Since chocolate and romance go hand in hand, I'll be giving away a free copy of my award-winning romantic suspense novel, My Biker Bodyguard. Now, if you don't read romance, but know someone who does and deserves a lovely gift, you can have it personalized and sent to them directly as a gift ;) Spreading the love (of romance and chocolate) is an awesome way to spend a weekend, doncha think? :)

The winner will be announced on Monday, so spread the word and the love around to all your peeps! :)


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thrilling Thursday: Boo!

As y'all know, my Extreme Hauntings YA series from Quake is all about ghost stories. Some of you might have read why I chose to go with ghost stories, but honestly, I'll tell you much of the decision rested on my desire to see more really great ghost stories on the shelves. The last great series I read about ghosts was Anne Rice's "The Witching Hour" even if she decided to bring these ghosts to life and created the Taltos to explain how this was possible.

I've read books and watched movies with ghosts. "13 Ghosts" was pretty awesome and I enjoyed "What Lies Beneath" in a more intelligent way (rather than visceral great fun.) Probably becuase I didn't recall seeing Harrison Ford play a bad guy before.

I think my love for ghost stories was sparked by the original movies "The Uninvited" and "The Haunting." These weren't scary because of special effects or the predatory nature of the ghosts out for blood--they scared me by appealing to some strange human trait that speaks to us about life beyond death. I can't think of anything else that people want to believe is true, but which also instills real fear as the possibility of our spirits living longer than our bodies.

My grandmother believes in ghosts. She talks about a house she had in Superior in WI when my father and uncle were little boys. Apparently my uncle would not go up the back staircase because "the old lady in the black dress" wouldn't let him get past her. She tells of how she saw the woman once herself.

Another family favorite story is the sea captain who lives in my grandmother's Victorian house in the middle of Milwaukee. He is said to stand at the foot of your bed and watch you sleep. I can't tell you how many times I tried to pretend I was asleep then pop open my eyes and try to catch a glimpse of him--all the while freaking out and hoping I didn't see anything at all.

Are there any ghost stories or hauntings in your family history? Did a relative ever tell you about the place they lived or the house they visited where they had a close encounter with a ghost? Or maybe there's a building or town legend where you live about ghosts wandering about in the wee hours of the morning?

I'll look forward to reading your comments!


P.S. Michael Norman, author of Haunted Wisconsin (and many more!) is an awesome guy! Maybe I can coax him into doing a Talent Tuesday with us? Would y'all enjoy that? :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Jenny Siler aka Alex Carr Rocks!!

Hello everyone!

Personal circumstances have kept me away from the computer for the last few days, but I’m going to be using this Writer Wednesday to share some great news and combine it with Talent Tuesday.

Jenny Siler, aka Alex Carr, is a favorite author of mine. I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a big fan of first-person in fiction. However, Jenny Siler has made a believer out of me that when it’s done right, and by a talented author, first-person really shines. I’ve collected all her novels and I’m eager to share with you why Jenny Siler is not just fantastic, but awe-inspiring!

(Don’t miss the end of this post for some awesome news!)

Easy Money:

This is one of those books where you forget that you’re reading about a character who doesn’t actually exist. Voyeurism at its best; because it’s so unexpected. At first, I thought I was in for a great read along the lines of Dean Koontz’s “Intensity.” This was more than that though. In Intensity, China relies on the survival skills her past gave her to survive a psycho on the loose who’s only motivation is to fulfill his insane fantasies. In Easy Money, Allie doesn’t rely solely on her past as the daughter of a drug runner, but also on her heart and mind to resolve a crime committed during Viet Nam, one where the cover-up has recently led to the execution of a retired CIA agent.

Jenny didn’t make the mistake of letting up on the gritty reality of living and growing up in the underworld to introduce a Bondesque style plot where government intrigue catapulted the reader into some sleek and sophisticated realm of suit-wearing, gun-toting posh villains with British accents and impeccable taste. She stayed true to the sensory input that made this story real to me.


If I thought I loved Easy Money, Flashback was to make me a fan for life. How could I, the lover of action and strong heroines, not fall completely in love with Eve? Her memories buried, she took refuge with nuns in France. When the nuns are massacred by someone wishing to kill Eve, she’s forced to figure out who she was before she lost her memory or die trying.

For me, the brilliance of this story (beyond the opening hook) was how I felt like I had lived and breathed the alleys, streets and shops of Marrakech when I came away from the story. Even with a fabulous plot I couldn’t guess before hand and Jenny’s wonderfully realistic and unique characters (who are all flawed with profoundly human weaknesses) it was the sense of living and breathing in the full moment, including the setting, that kept me riveted to her writing.

An Accidental American:

Writing as Alex Carr, this was a long awaited new novel for me and I was happy to get my copy within the first week of its release—but even more thrilled when I was introduced to Nicole, a woman well known for her abilities as a forger. Instead of sharing with you all the wonderful things about this book—as they again would praise Jenny’s strengths as a writer (which are numerous) I’d like to share this quote from the Carr website:

"I once heard it said that there is no such thing as an accidental American. That we are, all of us, citizens by conscious choice. Of course it was a Frenchman who posited this, some self-proclaimed modern philosopher on one of the political discussion shows on France 2, so I’ve always taken the theory with a grain of salt. After all, to be an American has never been my choice. I was raised in Lebanon and have lived most of the rest of my life in Europe. I’ve claimed France as my home and chosen the one profession in which these things can be changed. I’m my own universal consulate. I can whip out any decent passport in a matter of hours.

If anything, I am a mongrel, the daughter of a father who was, himself, a drifter and a con-man. My mother was a half-breed with French and Maronite parentage and an Arabic name. A woman whose own country had been stitched together by naive outsiders to form an optimistic whole."

I could go on and on about all her books (most of which I've been fortunate enough to have autographed! But I don't want to make this post overly long! :) )

If you’re looking to write in first person, if you want some great examples of how to craft a first person perspective that has your audience gobbling every word, devouring every page, and starving for more, read Jenny Siler aka Alex Carr.

And if you do want to read her, pick one of her many novels and get it read by Tuesday April 21st because Jenny is celebrating the release of her first non-fiction book, “The Art of the Heist: Confessions of a Master Art Thief, Rock-and Roller and Prodigal Son” because….


OMG! Jenny Siler is going to be on my blog next Tuesday to celebrate the launch of her book and answer questions. As she’ll be busy with other commitments early in the day (it is the launch of her book) she’ll be by later on, but she is coming and I’m so stoked that y’all will get a chance to meet with her!

I hope you’ll make her visit at my blog the warmest and best time she’s ever had on a blog ;) I’m even going to be giving away a very special gift during the event so don’t miss out!

Jenny :)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Thrashing Friday Fun!

Good Morning Everyone! :)

I have an AWESOME contest this week! You'll want to spread the word over the weekend so everyone has a chance to win.

Here are the rules: Find home videos of the sickest, most crazy skateboarding moments you can and post the link here in the comments. Your own videos, home movies of your friends or family, or any internet video that you can find that shows someone either wiping out, or blowing everyone away--doesn't matter. The one that makes me and the family here go "HOLY COW!" loudest wins! :)

You have until Monday morning when I make the announcement to spread the word and get everyone in on this fantastic contest :)

What are the prizes? Well, take a look!

A Tony Hawk skull shirt (sizes S-XXL)


Tony Hawk's Autobiography--purchased from Tony Hawk's Official Site which will enter you into his monthly contest to WIN an autographed Tony Hawk skateboard deck!

Even if you're not a skater, if you know a person who is, or who would love to have the shirt, the book and a chance to win the deck, take a few minutes and submit a link to a thrashin' video!

I look forward to watching all those great stunts!


Thursday, April 09, 2009

Doubtfire and Demons

(Imagine kindly old Mrs. Doubtfire, sitting in her chair by the fire, a nice big book in her manly lap.)

Good morning boys and girls, today we're going to discuss the finer points of DE-mon PO-ssess-ion! Yes indeedy! Nothing finer on an April morn than a good ol' fashioned tale of...


Now isn't she a lovely lass? Yes, this lovely demon traveled the world, jet setting from one birthing mother to another to deliver her wicked brand of good ol' demon fun. Oh my, yes. Let's not forget either, her bloodlust for children of any age, including those that had yet to be spanked by the good doctor in the delivery room.

When she isn't busy keeping the fine funeral vendors rolling in the green, she enjoys long walks through rivers and lakes, turning them to cesspools of disgusting disease. For a nice dinner, Lamashtu enjoys a splendid young man paired with fine red blood. To finish off her feast, she often chooses a serving of death and disease.

Back in her girlhood, Lamashtu's father, Anu--a very respected sun god from Mesopotamia--said early on that his young daughter was beyond control. She was the original rebel, doing as she pleased without the blessings of the gods. As you can imagine, this did not suit them well at all.

And do you know what the gods did, boys and girls?

Why they sent their fierce warrior Pazuzu to protect women and children. (I imagine they believed young men could take care of themselves, though I wouldn't want a boy of mine to cross such a heinous lady as Lamashtu!) Poor Pazuzu was saddled with the burden of bringing drought and famine. Perhaps this was a means of filtering out frivolous summonings from mankind.

Of course there was that dreadfully frightening movie "The Exorcist" where dear Pazuzu was cast as a possessor of children. Imagine how offensive that must have been. All these centuries protecting our young only to be cast as a nefarious villain? For shame.

Now let me read to you this lovely passage:

Great is the daughter of Heaven who tortures babies
Her hand is a net, her embrace is death
She is cruel, raging, angry, predatory
A runner, a thief is the daughter of Heaven
She touches the bellies of women in labor
She pulls out the pregnant women’s baby
The daughter of Heaven is one of the Gods, her brothers
With no child of her own.
Her head is a lion’s head
Her body is a donkey’s body
She roars like a lion
She constantly howls like a demon-dog.

Wonderful, isn't it? This is a Mesopotamian incantation against Lamashtu. Remember this should you happen across her as she travels the world. I hear she'll be at by Barclay Hall, a very respectable reformatory school for young ladies. (A fitting destination for the original lady rebel!) I understand Kaylee Hensler is being sent there for vandalism--in a graveyard on Halloween no less. Do join me in praying for Kaylee's soul. She will need every good wish we can send her. (Crime never pays!)

That brings us to the end of our story hour this fine Thursday. I hope you enjoyed this thrilling tale and learned a thing or two about Lamashtu!


Details brought to you courtesy of Wikipedia

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Writing Wednesday: Narrative Distance

Good Morning Everyone!! :)

Mick Jagger is singing "Sympathy for the Devil" in my earbuds at 7:00 a.m. this morning. Why is this important to this blog? Well, because if we wanted a reader to have sympathy for the devil, we'd need to understand the technique of narrative distance.

What exactly is narrative distance? It's how close or far away our writing is from the character. In first person writing, we have an extreme sense of narrative closeness because the whole narrative is coming directly from the character. In omniscient, we have the opposite extreme because none of the narration comes from within the character.

Seems simple, right? Nope. Not at all. Writing from a close narrative takes a lot of practice, concentration, focus--and acting ability. The author needs to be the character in order to create narrative closeness. This can be especially tricky to maintain when you have a few characters in a scene. Here are some things you can do to create narrative closeness:

1) Borrow vernacular. Study the way people talk from the place or setting your characters are living in and from where they come from. Someone from Wisconsin is going to sound very different than someone from Texas. East coast and West coast sound very different. This isn't about accents, it's about language.

Texas: I carried my mom up to the Circle K to get some coke.
Wisconsin: I drove my mom up the Kwik Trip to buy soda.

If you're unaware of how someone speaks from the area, or want to familiarize yourself with that vernacular, google videos and documentaries on the net where they interview the local people. For instance, when I was writing about the Inuit, I watched many home movies from the area--sometimes right before I started writing so I could correctly channel the sound, texture and pattern of their words.

Of course, this is one of those reasons why new writer's are told to "write what you know" time and again. Anyone who's a fan of Stephen King know how people in Maine speak and your readers should walk away knowing the difference in your character's language.

2) Gender specific language: Men and women think and speak differently than each other. Men have a tendency not to mince their words--which often makes them sound abrupt even when they don't mean to. Women tend to pad their language with extra words meant to set people at ease. Of course there are always exceptions and an author can deliberately switch out the language for the gender in order to convey a more feminine male or masculine female, depending on their needs.

Men are "fixers" by human nature. They listen intently with an ear for how to solve problems. Women are more "healers" and listen intently with an ear for how they can make the person feel better. This does NOT mean that women aren't into problem solving (they are!) and it doesn't mean that men don't want to offer comfort (they do!) It means that their approach to another person's upset is different. Men believe they are offering comfort by helping to solve the problem and women believe they are helping solve the problem by comforting the person.

Read up on the psychology of each gender if you're having difficulty writing from the gender opposite your own.

3) It's in the Details: Or in the case of writing, it's in the descriptions. A soldier might look at a sunset and think it resembles Napalm, a poet housewife will see it as a dying bloom of gold on the horizon. No two characters should see their environment in the exact same way (unless it's sci-fi and they're clones ;)) Character-specific observations are important and they need to come from the emotional place the character is in as well as their personality. An optimist will see the glass half-full, the pessimist, half-empty. Know your character and how they'll respond.

How to test your writing:

Take a random few paragraphs of narrative in third person and switch it to first person.

Does it still sound like the character?
Does it sound like it comes from the correct gender?
Are the details related to the character's experience?
Are word choices ones the character would use?

Here are a few links for further reading:

Decoding Narrative Distance by Dave King
(Exceptionally awesome and understandable information)

Narrative Distance from the blog of Jennifer R. Hubbard
(Excellent example of three narrative distances in this one.)

The Mechanic of the Introspection Fiction-Writing Mode by Mike Klaassen
(Great 4 Part Article at Helium)

Any thoughts or questions? I'll be around all day to help with further explanations or to absorb what you have to offer on the subject :)


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Milli Thornton and Fear of Writing: Talent Tuesday!

Good Morning everyone :)

I can't think of any person I'd love more to showcase on our very first Talent Tuesday than Milli Thornton. She single-handedly pulled me from the brink of despair and encouraged me to keep going no matter how horribly I felt about my abilities or my goals.

As many of you know, being a writer isn't easy, especially if you're not published. There are people who don't understand the time you spend working on your manuscript. In fact, if you had an office like me, holing up of 8 hours (or more) a day in your basement to type away on a computer seems pretty kooky to those folks who don't even read or never understood the artistic drive. I don't blame them--that sort of drive (to work for no money) isn't something our society touts as admirable.

I attended a writer's chat--not even sure where now, I had stumbled across the announcement. A published author was going to be taking questions from writers--how could I resist? I never expected to spend half the night bawling like some dummy! Milli has that effect on people--no, not to make them cry :) But to really get in touch with their emotions so they can overcome those obstacles holding them back.

And that was exactly where I was: facing an obstacle that was holding me back. Someone had commented on my writing that I didn't have a unique voice, that I sounded too much like my favorite authors and that mimicking them made me a sad second. Yes, that doesn't seem like much today, but ten years ago, I was very frustrated and had begun to question if I was even smart enough to figure this all out.

Along came Milli :)

Not only did she listen to me, but she encouraged me and when she couldn't answer my question as in depth as she wanted in the chat, asked me to email her privately when it was over. There are some people you just instantly click with, some people who speak your language and have the second half to your half and together you make a whole. Milli was like that for me, and I truly was not surprised to discover how aswesome her book, "Fear of Writing" was for me and many others.

I know some of y'all have seen her book showcased on my blog before, but I've never dedicated a whole blog post entirely to her and of all the people I've met in this writing life, I can undoubtedly say she deserves as many accolades as possible. Not only did she take me under her wing and help strengthen my belief in my own abilities, but she does time and time again for authors everywhere. Her entire career is carved out the desire to be encouraging, comforting and uplifting to writers of every type and stripe.

Fear of Writing is a collection of short stories and writing prompts called "Fertile Material." Those prompts got me over many a blank page when I was trying to make my way into the short story genre, and the short story "Jack's House" saved me from a nasty bout of writer's block after 911. She and I have become close friends over the years and I count her as a very special person I'm lucky to know.

If ever you struggle, if ever you faced writer's block, if ever you needed encouragement, I can't recommed her book enough. When 911 happened, I was targeting Harlequin/Silhouette and writing romantic suspense. The horror of that tragic day left me feeling like those hours I spent in my basement were a waste of time and the love stories I created were silly, childish, and had about as much purpose as hand-painted toiletpaper.

When I read "Jack's House" about a woman who felt much the same way as I did at the time, asking herself, "Why write at all?" I never expected by the end of the story that I'd be--yes, again!--bawling like a dummy :) From that moment on, I realized that it didn't matter so much what I wrote (though that is part of it) as much as it mattered that I didn't squander my talents (or as they say biblically 'bury' them) and made good use of what the good Lord had given me. (Or fate, or mother nature, or genetics, or answered my calling--however you want to phrase that.)

So I encourage everyone to visit Fear of Writing at read the information there and if you believe this book can help you like it did me, get the book and email Milli, let her know how it helped you. My respect for her began in the chat room, grew when I read her book, and blossomed when we became friends.

Do you have a particular story about a book that saved you in some way? Maybe it was a book of financial, marital, or relationship advice? Maybe it was a how-to book that helped you leap a hurdle and accomplish your goals? I'd love to create a lovely long list of books in the comments here for everyone to refer to over time, so please leave a comment if you have a title or an author you'd like to share :) And of course, your personal experience ;)


Saturday, April 04, 2009

And the Winner is....

Shredder!! :) Head over to Michael's MySpace profile and congratulate him, if you wish :)

This is a free for all Saturday and I thought it would be great to open up the blog for everyone to share what they're reading today :)

Today, I'm actually re-reading a favorite of mine. "Justice Incarnate" by Regan Black. This was the first Echelon full-length book I read in print and I was blown away by the story. It's an absolutely intriguing tale about a woman, Jaden Michaels, who's been reincarnated time and again to slay a demon, or face dying a horrible death--which has happened for the century she's been trying to kill him.

What I really, really loved about this book was how real Regan Black made the year 2096 for me. Not just the technology, but the differences in the societal norms between my time and this future. This, I think, was the first 'awakening' I had an as author to the possibilities of creating a believable universe. Not because I hadn't read other books that do the same thing, but because this combined everything I love about fiction--and I read it at a time when I was deeply consumed with the study of the craft. At this point, I was working so hard to make every detail of my books be absolutely accurate--the idea that I could change that reality in the way Black did, was something I found thrilling.

Aside from that, though, all by itself it's an awesome read! :)

I'm nearly finished with this book (and loving it all over again) and have two other books waiting in the wings. Invasion of Justice, the second book in the Shadows of Justice series from Regan Black, and Immortal Bride by Lisa Childs, a book in the Nocturne line by Silhouette. (Here's the trailer.) I'm intrigued by this paranormal romance category and wonder if I might try my hand at putting my old favorite (romance) together with my newly discovered passion (paranormal) somewhere down the road.

Okay, so what are you reading? If you're not reading today, or between books, what would you like to be reading now? Maybe your interest will be a book someone else has read and they can let you know if the book did or didn't live up to its hype ;)

Enjoy your Saturday and be thankfurl Birds Don't Read!! :)

Friday, April 03, 2009

New Blog Schedule

Hello everyone ;)

As many of you know, I’m under doctor’s orders to *destress my life as much as possible. This has led me on a campaign to get organized and map out my days to achieve the most productive outcomes possible.

One of those areas that’s been difficult for me is maintaining my blogs. Oh, I’ve got lots to say and lots to share and lots I want to do, but half the time I’m struggling to figure out when, what, and how I want to do all that. So, I’ve decided to create a schedule for my blogs:

Monday: Maybe—maybe not. This will be my free-for-all day in which I can post whatever is needed or wanted, but I may take a break on this day as I find Monday’s can be a bit overwhelming for me.

Tuesday: Tuesday is now Talent Tuesday. On this day I’ll be discussing other authors, what I’ve gained from reading them, or showcasing an interview with another author. (I also plan on having y’all submit questions to ask these authors.)

Wednesday: Writer Wednesday: this is the day I’ll be offering advice and tips and tricks of the trade. On this day will be the query and excerpt critiques I’ve offered in the past. (Such as the Hook Critique—first three paragraphs, etc.)

Thursday: Is now Thursday Thrills. This is where I’ll be sharing information about what I’m working on, which happens to be my YA horror Extreme Hauntings series. I will also be sharing genre-related information and updates on when books are coming out, reviews, and open calls for collaborations ;)

Friday: You guessed it: Fun Friday! From here on out, every Friday will feature a fun contest of some kind with varying degrees of prizes. From Amazon gift certificates, book thongs (of course! ;)) downloads and print books.
(I'm a day late posting here, so the contest this Friday is on my MySpace blog and you don't want to miss it! Great gift for the winner!)

Weekends will be an anything goes—socializing, chatting and all around getting to know each other ;)

I hope y’all enjoy this plan!