Sunday, June 19, 2016

Character Study

As authors, we're given a lot of advice on how to write compelling characters, even to the point where we should take hours, days and even weeks before we begin writing to determine their characteristics, traits, birth order, number of siblings, etc. All these are things that help shape that character's personality.

I prefer to draw on my family for inspiration.

For instance, my brother, John, or Buzz, as we call him, is the only boy in a family of five children. When people hear that, they ask if he was a spoiled child, with all these girls taking care of him. Not only is he the only boy, he and my sister are twins and are the babies of the family. I can hear the 'awws' even now.

To set the record straight–we did not coddle our brother, even though he had to have major surgery when he was only six months old. He was all boy, playing sports throughout school, riding his bike all over Ohio, spending time with his guy friends rather than playing dolls with his sisters. We each had our own interests when we were growing up. Some of us learned homebuilding from our father, others spent time in the garden, growing produce which helped feed our large family. What Buzz did learn from growing up with girls is that girls are every bit as strong as boys and we can be as intelligent as boys. As a result, my brother is one of the most sensitive and caring men I've ever met. If that's the result of being raised in a family of girls, all men should be so lucky.

Photo courtesy of Barb Daisher
This was proven again during our latest get-together. We manage to get all of us in one place only once every three or four years, and it happened last week. One of my sisters, my brother, and I are considering buying a condo together, and spent a day with a realtor, also a female, examining several places. This realtor directed all her remarks to my brother, as though my sister and I were not there. As we were leaving, after an unsuccessful afternoon, this unenlightened realtor asked my brother if he would let her know when we were going to list my house. I was standing right there, alongside her, and she was aware I was the one with the house to sell, yet her remarks were directed to my brother.

Buzz grinned broadly, and said, "It's entirely up to Becky, if and when she will sell her house, and who she'll list it with." He nodded in my direction and I took it from there. Just as a strong, intelligent woman would.

So, when I'm writing a strong male character, who has a tender side and is able to relate to women, I don't need to come up with a long list of character attributes. I simply draw on my brother's personality. That's all I need to know.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

As most of you are aware, I'm branching out and beginning to work with different publishers. Each publisher I've worked with has a different way of doing things, including editing, which is where I'm at now in the process.

Over the years, I've developed my own list of words to not use ever, along with words to not overuse. I carefully go through my checklist of things to watch for as I finish up each manuscript. It's tedious work to do a "Find and Replace" for each of the "no-no" words, but no one said this was easy. I thought I had a pretty good system going, but as I was going through the editing guidelines for this new publisher, I came across more words to add to the list. This is why I prefer to work with multiple publishers. Not only do you widen your circle of author friends, you also pick up new ideas and tricks, all of which help make a difference in your work. 

The difference can be subtle. A word placed at a different point in a sentence, a weak word replaced with a stronger one, an extra word eliminated altogether to tighten the story line. Little things that make our work stronger. That's what we authors have to strive for in every sentence we write. Strong images, strong characters, strong writing.  You can teach an old dog a new trick.

And, as with everything, there are exceptions. There are some times when the "no-no" word has to stay in the finished version. But each time you make an exception, you'd better have a really good reason for it. 

I hope to finish up this round of edits later today and ship them off to the publisher. Then, I will turn my attention back to my YA historical, adding new "no-no" words to the list. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Murder In The Garden

My title this week may sound like a cozy mystery, but if only that were the case. The events I'm about to relate actually did happen.

I had hired a lawn service this summer to mow and edge the yard every two weeks. The first time they came, a few weeks ago, everything was fine, except they left the fence gate open so Mary could run out and play in the street. Fortunately, we discovered the open gate before she did.

But this past week, they came again when we weren't at home. The guy wielding the edger had obviously been told the only things to keep were the flowering plants, regardless of whether they were in a flower bed or not. So all my hostas with their big fat leaves,
so evenly spaced out at the edge of the house, and my wild ferns,
which had looked so lush just that morning, were mowed down. Even the back fern bed, which had a rock border around it, was not spared. And the rose bush, who dared to not have a bloom on it? Cut to the quick. What he did manage to leave behind were some weeds that were blooming. Thanks, guy.

I called the owner of the lawn service who came out and witnessed the carnage. All he could do was put down some fertilizer and offer his condolences. I'm now searching for a new lawn company.

This would have been devastating to me if not for two things happening in the same week. I was offered a contract from Wild Rose Press for a Christmas novella in their Sweetheart Rose line,
and another contract from Prairie Rose Publications for a full-length historical. I have just added two new roses to my repertoire. So...out of the ashes of my desecrated yard came two new flowering bushes. My garden is growing once again.

To quote Bruce Willis from the Die Hard movies--"Yippee-kai-yea." You know the rest.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Day

I have a confession to make. Yes, I'm an American, deeply rooted in our history and culture, as is obvious by my Cotillion Ball series, my History Imagined blog and a few other things I've got going on. But until my sister, who is a veteran of both the Army and the Navy, moved in with me two years ago, I didn't fly the flag off my porch or think much about Memorial Day, other than it was a welcome day off work.

But she did move in, and made me focus on what America does to pay back the brave men and women who serve our country. The VA hospital here in Cleveland is one of the best in the country. Every time I go with her for an appointment or a procedure, I'm continually impressed by the courtesy, the organization, the care and the dignity they show each person. Even those of us who never served are made to feel welcome.

So Monday's another Memorial Day. A day off from work for some, a time to crank up the grill and have a picnic with friends and family. But it's also a day to remember. Remember those good men and women who have fallen in service to our country. From the Revolutionary War to Afghanistan,
there are those who have answered the call to protect and defend. So take a moment today or tomorrow, or both, and remember. And thank them. Every time you meet someone who has served, thank them. We wouldn't be the great country we are if not for their service.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Reboot, Relearn, Recreate

Our chapter had an all-day workshop yesterday with Bob Mayer. It was structured to have appeal to everyone regardless of the stage their career is in. We covered story structure, POV, dialogue, setting as well as the state of the industry today, and the future of publishing.

It was a good time to sit back and go over the basics as well as learn a few new things. My purpose going into each workshop is to look at my work from a different perspective at the end of the day, and to possibly learn something new.

Today was no exception. In this industry, in order to be successful, one must constantly shift with the publishing tides. To become a hybrid, either in the way you get published, or in what genre you write, or both. Regardless of the direction, there are things to be learned and in most cases, the learning curve is steep.

By day's end, I was exhausted, but energized at the same time. I am confident in the direction of my career now, and eager to finish my WIPs.

It was a very good time to reboot, relearn and recreate.

Sunday, May 15, 2016


Birthdays are wondrous things. They mark the fact that you made it through another year, despite the ravages of Father Time. They allow you to reflect on life. And then, there's cake.

Yesterday was my birthday. We won't examine how many years I have under my belt now. But I will say that the past seven years, since I got serious about having a romance writing career, have been the most challenging and rewarding years of my life, so far.

And while we're on the subject of birthdays, I'll reveal that the book birthday for the print edition of The Forgotten Debutante is this week as well. This book is very special to me, because it's dedicated to Aunt Dot. She was never my aunt by blood, but definitely by spirit. I last saw Dot a couple years ago, and she raved about my books, although she thought I needed to spice up my sex scenes. She was 94 when she passed on, unfortunately too soon to see the book in print.

I still have milestones to hit and awards to shoot for. My five-year plan is now a ten-year one, since things tend to move more slowly in publishing. Sure, there are some authors who become overnight successes and are able to quit their day jobs in a matter of months, but that's the exception rather than the norm. I read somewhere recently that the average author makes about $10,000 a year from her writing.

So, I'll keep chugging along, reaching my goals and then trying to exceed them. Some things will change, some things I thought were important will fall by the wayside. But I can rest assured that other goals will take their place, other areas of writing will be explored, other voices that had formerly been merely whispers in my head will now no longer be denied center stage and will be able to take to a soapbox.

That's what keeps me excited to leap out of bed each morning. I sit with my coffee and my WIPs, caressing each file with my cursor before one of them calls to me for attention. Today, Kathleen, my child of the Revolutionary War, stomped her foot, demanding I spend time with her. Tomorrow, it may be Taffy, my adventurous contemporary woman. Or Raoul, who makes my heart race. I never know where my muse will show up until I get there.

And of course, I can't forget a bit of self-promotion. Today's the final day to vote for the RONE awards. I have three titles up for the award, and you can only vote for one, so I've been requesting votes go to A Widow's Salvation. Here's the link, and Pepper and I will appreciate your vote:

Regardless of when your birthday is, I wish you a happy one.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Writing In Multiple Sub-Genres

Yesterday, I had two conversations with fellow authors on basically the same subject. If you're a loyal follower of this blog, you know I've been taking some time this year to try on all kinds of writing styles and sub-genres, to see which ones fit me comfortably and which ones tend to pinch my toes.

Conversation #1
went something like this–I have a paranormal series going and book one will come out this summer, but I had this idea for a contemporary and I started writing it and fell in love with the story. So, I'm putting paranormal on the back burner while I finish the contemporary up and send it off.

Conversation #2
was quite different, and went this way–I see you're all over the place with your writing now, not only with various publishers but with various writing styles. Maybe you should rein it in?

Which one is right? Or is there no right or wrong? It's hard to know. All I can do is follow my heart and my muse. When I wake up each morning and turn on the computer, which file do I want to open and work on? Right now, it's the contemporary that's in my driver's seat. Maybe next month, I'll wander back to my YA historical or spruce up my novella and send it elsewhere if the current publisher who is looking at it takes a pass. I have heard many authors who are much more successful than me state that you need to write in more than one genre, so who am I to argue? I think the key to this whole crazy industry is to keep writing, regardless of what genre your muse happens to lead you to.

Happy writing, everyone!