Monday, December 27, 2010

Antagonist Hate

So, I'm supposed to be on blog holiday. Well, I am, but I'm not, and such is the state of my life sometimes.

On my blog holiday, besides some work, some vacation, cooking a heck of a lot, and eating even more (if that's possible), I've also been reading.

I just finished reading Book III (Shadowrise) and Book IV (Shadowheart) in Tad William's Shadowmarch quadrology. It was supposed to be a trilogy, but he overwrote Book III and split that book into two books. Luckily, the distance between publication of Book III and IV was only about 5 months. Woo-hoo.

Anyhow, I waited until Book IV was about to come out before I started Book III so I could finish the series in one sitting (or what amounts to one sitting over a period of a few weeks).

There were two main villains (well, one villainess) in the story: Sulepis the Autarch of Xis and Yassamez of the Qar (the fairy people). These two were the antagonists.

As every writer knows, the antagonist is normally what the protagonist faces to complete their goal. The antagonist is the one throwing the wrenches in all the well laid plans and making life difficult for the poor, put upon protagonist.

In most cases, the antagonist is an evil person (and/or entity). In most case, at least in my opinion, the reader should dislike the antagonist, if not outright hate the antagonist.

I must admit, in Books I - III, I disliked Sulepis the Autarch, but I didn't really hate him. He was just another mad emperor set on world domination. Hello, Napoleon!! Well, then along came Book IV, and all redeeming qualities went out the window. Madness or not, there wasn't a redeeming quality about Sulepis to be found. FINALLY! Here was an antagonist with no redeeming values - not even his harsh childhood as growing up as one of a bunch of children of the current Autarch. Woo-hoo!

Early on in Book IV, the hate was flowing toward the Autarch (almost as much as I had for Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter - now she was a character to hate).

Now, Yassamez, well my hate, even my dislike for her began to diminish as the truth behind her hatred for the mortal race began to unfold. Compassion settled in for this woman, centuries old, who suffered loss upon loss. I could understand her rage. I could understand her hate.

In the end, she allied with the mortals and lost her aspect as antagonist.

Sulepis remained.

So, now my question: is it necessary to inspire hate in your readers toward the antagonist? Do you attempt to show redeeming qualities? Do you show why your antagonists became who they were? Is creating compassion toward an antagonist a good thing or bad thing?

As for me, in my writing process, I normally try to show why the antagonists became who they became. I think this is easier to do when not writing epic fantasy because such a strong/forceful antagonist isn't always necessary in mystery or commercial fiction. Sometimes, the antagonist is as simple as the inner turmoil facing the protagonist, versus an actual physical being. Agree? Disagree? Give me your thoughts.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Blog Holiday

So, I've been scarce of late because . . . well, life's been a bit busy and hectic lately, and I've gone into hibernate mode. Okay, I've gone into reading mode. Read, read, and read some more. Curl up on the couch with a good book, and the cat if she's in the mood for attention . . . which she normally is if I'm in the mood for reading . . . and/or the dogs.

As for writing, some ideas have been swirling around in the primordial maelstrom that is my brain. I'm trying to work out the details of Book II. Okay, I already wrote Book II, but I think it makes a better Book III, so now I need to figure out Book II. Yeah, that's how my thinking works. Crazy scary at times. Okay, crazy scary the majority of times!!!

So, blogging has taken a backseat lately because, well, can't think of much to blog about right now. In fact, I'm thinking of taking a bit of a blogging holiday until January 1.

This means . . .

. . . I'll probably come up with tons of posts and you won't even know I'm gone! Ha!

So, my plans for the next few weeks . . . finish query, finish synopsis, beat the last beta reader over the head because she still hasn't gotten me her input, digest the input of all beta readers and implement some changes, do another read through, and - hopefully - do another edit phase.

So, I won't be kicking back sipping on the egg nog reading the last two books in Tad Williams shadow series. Okay, I will be kicking back sipping on the egg nog and reading the last two books in Tad Williams shadow series, but I'll also be writing as well and . . . I'll still be lurking in the blogsphere and making comments here, there, and everywhere.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Best Post Ever

I'm not posting today. Okay, I am, but . . . I'm directing you here to a post written by Rachelle Gardner because she wrote the post every single writer needs to read.

So, click, read, let the words sink into you, and . . .


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

So, Thanksgiving is here . . . already. It seems just like yesterday that the year started. Time seems to be zipping by me the older I get.

This week, well, work's been crazy, life's crazy, Thanksgiving is just days away and I have way too much to do.

What sacrifice will I make?

Yeah, you guessed it . . . blogging. I'm still lurking around, just not posting or commenting too much this week because . . .

Wednesday - finish cleaning house, and start Thanksgiving prep: cranberry sauce to make, two pies to make, bread to bake for dressing.

Thursday - touch up bathrooms, prep turkey, make vegetable dish, make sweet potatoes, get turkey ready, make dressing, set table, prepare for guests. Oy, somebody get me a Bloody Mary!

Friday - start decorating for Christmas. Oh, wait, it's Friday . . . meet friends for margaritas.

Saturday - continue decorating for Christmas.

Sunday - collapse in exhaustion!

Well, that's it for me this week . . . oh, I started rereading The Deathly Hallows so I'll try and fit in some reading throughout this crazy week as well.

I hope everyone has a fantastic and safe Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

WiP Wednesday - November 17, 2010

So, the edits - for now - are done. Typos and unclear sentences fixed. Sentences, a paragraph or five deleted, and a total of 8 pages cut from the manuscript . . . at this point.

Input from three out of four beta readers in hand, the fourth input should arrive in my email Monday morning.

Major change: deleted first few chapters and started the manuscript with the fourth (I think) chapter because . . . survey said: this is where I really started to get into the story. So, I went with the 2 out of 3 survey response.

I need to do another read through - .pdf format so I don't change things willy-nilly that seriously don't need changing - and then compile the beta readers opinions and see what I will (and won't) change based on their feedback.

Then . . . more work on query, start the synopsis, and do some agent research. I do have the logline done for the query, so the rest is just - brief, to the point, voice speaking loudly - filler.

So, how about you? Where are you with your writing projects? What great and exciting adventures have you created?


Monday, November 15, 2010

The First 250 Words

Okay, what is it about the first 250 words? Why do they have to be stellar, amazing, awe-inspiring, hook-grabbing, and all that jazz?

I don't judge a book (or a writer, for that matter) by the first 250 words. I normally - bad on me - judge a book by, well, it's cover. Yes, I'm a cover snob. I'm more apt to pick up a book with an interesting cover, than one with not. Okay, a catchy title will grab me as well, but both combined . . . ah, the ambrosia that tickles my literary senses.

Now, after the cover and title, or a combo of both, I like to - whether in a book store or not - read the first chapter before making a definitive decision on the book.

So, to me, the first sentence, the first paragraph, the first 250 words or, well, whatever, really don't matter.

What does matter is the writing within the first chapter!

So, why is there this myth, perhaps a reality, that the first 250 words, or whatever, matter so much?

I don't have an answer to that question. I only have my own way of deciding if I'm going to buy a book, and the first 250 words really don't come into play with me. The cover, often the title, and, yes, the cover jacket or back cover blurb are taken into account as well, but, not, I repeat, not, the first 250 words.

Now, I understand agents getting a ton of submissions and having to make a decision quick. But, don't many of them ask for the first five pages, which, last time I checked, is greater than 250 words? Why, yes, it is. Hmmm . . .

Okay, I love me some Miss Snark's First Victim. I love her blog and what she does for all aspiring writers. I've submitted my first 250 words to contests in the past. I haven't recently because, well, the MS isn't complete. But . . . I couldn't submit my first 250 because I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that the first 250 of the current project isn't the expected - wham, bam, right into the action - norm that I seem to see out there. The first chapter - 4 pages - sets the stage for everything. Yes, there's a bit of wham, bam, right into the action, but not in the first 250 words.

My readers - so my betas tell me - love this first chapter. They've all said they get a sense of the two lead characters within those first four pages, as well as who they are and what they, well, one of them, wants out of life, i.e., the goal of the book.

Trust me, they wouldn't get this in the first 250 words. Sorry, it's just not happening.

So, you tell me: are your first 25o words wham, bam, right into the action? Do you prefer this in the first 25o words? Do you prefer something a bit more subtle? Do you base your buying on the first few pages or the first few chapters of a book? Comment away.


p.s. Please note I'm not intending to dis' Authoress in any way, shape, or form. I love her blog, I'm friends with her on Facebook, and we've chatted back and forth in emails in the past. I think - heck, I know - the main reason for this post is the fact that I knew the first 250 words of my current manuscript would fail the litmus test of her blog, and really, just wanted some other input out there from my writerly brethren! : )

Friday, November 12, 2010

Editing vs. Writing

Editing takes more time than writing. Yeah, most of you probably know this . . . at least on some level.

Writing, at least the rough draft, and at least for me, is all about getting the words out of my head and onto paper . . . well, the computer screen since I don't write things out by hand any longer. It's about running with the idea, careening through a dark forest, the path sometimes barely discernible, and suddenly discovering myself at, well, The End.

Editing is, well, tedious. There's not this onward rush, a dash of sorts, over the hills and through the woods to grandmother's house we go. No, there's a steady, slow, tedious, long and arduous progression from word 1 to word 63,057.

I can't write willy-nilly, not worrying about typos and incomplete sentences, chasing my muse, hoping she'll wait for me and not rush off four pages ahead so, that by the time I get there, she's long gone and the words, for the moment, dry up.

No, with editing, I must examine each and every word, fix the typos and the incomplete or unclear sentences, replace her with here, or vice versa, and ha with he and there with their and . . . well, the list goes on and on. I must delete the unnecessary and think does this make sense? If it doesn't make sense, then it must go - edit, delete, eradicate. I must think forward and backward - no, this doesn't make sense here, but later, in Chapter 12, it will make sense or did I leave a clue in Chapter 6 that makes this scene plausible . . . and so many other things.

So, while I might be able, on a good day, when writing, to sit down and write 8,000 words. In editing, the process is much slower. I am the tortoise, slowly progressing along, whereas, when writing, I am the hare, racing forward, content - so to speak - in my arrogance that I'll win the race.

Yes, I know, writing isn't a race. Writing is, in many ways, the tortoise - a slow progression to the finish line.

So, as I near the end of this edit phase, I acknowledge that editing takes more time than writing.

Just another glimpse into the warped and twisted space I call my mind. Ha!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

WiP Wednesday - November 10, 2010

Okay, first, how in the heck did November 10, 2010 arrive so soon? Seriously, people, where in the heck has the year gone? Geesh!

As for Work in Progress (WiP) Wednesday . . . I'm still in the fix the typos and unclear sentences phase of the editing process. I have 71 pages to go. Woo-hoo!

I also have the feedback from two beta readers, partial feedback from the third, and should have the feedback from the fourth this weekend. The next phase of my editing process will be reviewing their feedback and deciding what, if any, changes to make.

I have completed the logline (for the most part) with the fabulous help of Holly Bodger over at Random Notes from Holly Bodger. Holly took time out of her busy life to give me some tips and honest feedback. I can't thank her enough, but, I can send people over to her site to read her posts on loglines and everything. Go on, click on over and show some love! She really has helped me narrow my focus when creating a logline. That, dear readers, is invaluable assistance.

I always struggled with loglines. I just couldn't get the knack of them until . . . I, thanks to Authoress, found Holly's site. So, if you're having trouble with your loglines, click on over and see if what helped me can't also help you.

Now, back to me (ha) . . . after I finish this edit phase, and before I start the full review of the betas feedback, I plan on writing my query. You know what? I already have the logline, so the rest of the query is just filler. Ha!

I'm also reading The Distant Hours by Kate Morton, who also wrote The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden. I loved, loved, loved The Forgotten Garden and I'm loving The Distant Hours. I haven't read The House at Riverton but plan on doing so at some point.

So, that's my Wednesday update. How about you? What's going on in your writing life? Are you immersed in NaNo? Some other project?

Whatever it is, may the words flow freely and your muse always sing, just not off-key!


Friday, November 5, 2010

Loglines - My Process

Today I'm going to write a bit more about loglines. Specifically, my process - at least at this point - as I try to come up with a logline for my cozy mystery.

As I mentioned yesterday, all thanks to Authoress and Holly Bodger, there are five elements to the logline: main character, inciting incident, conflict, goal, and consequences.

This all seems pretty straightforward. Yeah. Right.

In working on my logline, I realized as straightforward as this seems, it is often far more complicated.

So, what I did was this . . .

Main Character = name of main character
Inciting Incident = well, the inciting incident, which, for example, was the attack on the victim
Conflict - the suspects would rather their secret remain secret and will do pretty much anything to keep their secret secret
Goal - solve the case (yeah, that was a hard one to figure out - ha)
Consequences - twofold (as in my Little Red Riding Hood example), but, for brevity I'm going to say . . . MC could end up dead

So, then I went about constructing my sentences. Now, I'm not giving you what I wrote, but I have come up with similar sentences, that hopefully show my process:

  • Inept, amateur sleuth Porky Pig (main character) gets the career-changing opportunity of a lifetime when he's asked to solve (goal) the death (inciting incident) of Foghorn Leghorn.
  • When Foghorn Leghorn is attacked (inciting incident), his good friend the Chicken Hawk asks amateur sleuth Porky Pig (main character) to solve (goal) the case. The problem: Porky's pretty much inept, and ever since he began investigating the case, dead rabbits have been showing up on his doorstep. He's afraid he might end up as dead (consequences) as the rabbits if he doesn't solve the case soon.
  • When Foghorn Leghorn is attacked (inciting incident), his good friend the Chicken Hawk asks amateur sleuth Porky Pig (main character) to solve (goal) the case. Porky Pig’s investigation (conflict) begins simply enough, but soon dead rabbits start appearing on his doorstep and he’s afraid he’ll end up just as dead (consequences) if he doesn’t solve the case . . . soon.
  • When amateur sleuth Porky Pig (main character) begins investigating (inciting incident) the death of a rooster, he doesn’t understand how desperate (conflict) the suspects are to keep their part in the death secret. As the clues add up, and dead rabbits start appearing on his doorstep, he’s afraid he’ll end up just as dead (consequences) as the rabbits if he doesn’t solve (goal) the case . . . soon.

Let me dissect the examples above, in order of appearance:

  • One - I'm missing conflict and consequences
  • Two - I'm missing conflict
  • Three - I have all five elements
  • Four - ditto

The difference, at least to me, between example three and four is that four - again, my opinion - is a bit more clear. I also took out all names except that of the main character.

So, these are my feeble attempts at example loglines for your reading pleasure. I think the main thing is to include the elements so that you - hopefully - hook potential agents, editors, publishers, readers, friends, lovers, and mortal enemies. Ha!

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Loglines, it's all about the loglines - one or two sentences to sell your 70,000 words (or more) of brilliance to . . . everybody: agent, editor, publisher, friends, lovers, and mortal enemies.

Holly Bodger over at Random Notes from Holly Bodger did two recent posts about Loglines: here and here. Authoress over at Miss Snark's First Victim provided the link to the second post here. Go on, check things out. Thanks.

Now, back to the loglines. According to Holly Bodger, there are five elements of the logline as follows:
  • Main Character
  • Inciting Incident
  • Conflict
  • Goal
  • Consequence

In her first logline post, Holly provides a description of each element and examples as well. In the second logline post she does a bit of clarification and provides a few more examples.

Since I've been working on my own logline for my cozy mystery, this information has come in handy.

But, being the generous person I can be (shhhh, don't let my sisters know), I'm going to share the knowledge by providing an example of my own by using a well-known fairy tale character: Little Red Riding Hood.

Main Character = Little Red Riding Hood

Inciting Incident = going to grandma's house to deliver a basket of goodies

Conflict = Big Bad Wolf

Goal = reaching grandma's house safely . . . and delivering the basket of goodies

Consequences = twofold: ending up dead or grandma starving to death

So, in the grand tradition of loglines, using the elements provided by Holly Bodger . . .

When Little Red Riding Hood (main character) sets off through the woods (inciting incident) to grandma's house, she encounters (conflict) the Big Bad Wolf. Suddenly, the forest isn't so inviting, and Little Red must use all her cleverness to make it safely (goal) to grandma's house before the wolf eats (consequence) her and grandma starves (consequence) to death.

Okay, I'm winging it here and adding a bit of drama . . . just for funsies. Still, the logline - 2 sentences - contains the five elements outlined by Holly Bodger: main character, inciting incident, conflict, goal, and consequences.

As I work on my own logline, I'm making sure I incorporate all these elements into the logline. So far, so good.

Oh, and just for fun, Authoress is having a logline critique session on her blog. Go over, look at some of the loglines, and see if they have (or don't have) all the necessary elements.

Have fun.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Beta Readers and WiP Update

So, my beta readers have been, well, beta reading. Woo-hoo.

Initially, they had a short deadline, on the rough draft, because I was going to enter a contest. Well, in the meantime, I decided not to enter the contest.


Well, my cozy mystery, rough draft, came in at about 65,000 words. The word count for cozy mysteries is between 60,000 and 70,000 words. Yep, I was right there in the middle and ended up with about 286 pages.

Fine! Dandy!

Oh, wait, the contest only wants 220 pages which meant I would have to eliminate 60 pages.

Well, when I mentioned this to my beta readers there was a collective: Noooooooooo!

Well, talk about a consensus on that subject.

Okay, I'd pretty much decided the same thing, but I did pose the question just to be on the safe side.

Yes, as I go through the edit process, I'll eliminate pages. I just don't see where I can eliminate 60 pages. In fact, one of my readers made the following comment: every page is pertinent and fun!

So, the idea of entering the contest, well, bit the dust. I really wanted to enter the contest.

But . . . to do so would have meant eliminating far too many pages that, at least in my opinion, would hurt the integrity of the novel.

So, my focus now is creating the best manuscript possible so I can query after the first of the year. I've written the query - needs work, I'll be emailing Elana at some point - and plan on working on the synopsis as well over the course of the next couple of months.

Lastly - my beta readers rock. They don't always agree with each other, and sometimes they do:
  • one was distracted by a subplot, while another one loved the subplot.
  • three agreed that I needed to begin on Page 8, and one said that my initial beginning was fine.
  • they all wanted more!


On that note, done for blogging . . . at least for today. Ha!


Wednesday, October 27, 2010


How much distance do you put between yourself and your writing to create objectivity?

For me, write rough draft, set it aside for 2 - 3 weeks, then begin edit phase. Complete first edit phase, set aside for 2 - 3 weeks, then begin next edit phase. And so on . . .

I mentioned to a friend of mine, who is also a beta reader, about needing to create the necessary distance. What I said, well, wrote, since it was in an email, was this . . .

As much as I love writing, as much as I believe in what I write, I always fear that I cannot create the necessary distance between myself and my writing to look at it objectively, i.e., with the eyes of a reader and not the eyes of the writer/creator.

The response I received is . . .

And Scott, honestly, don't be so critical of yourself. You have such a talent in your writings. When you write....I am literally there. I can visualize the characters, feel the mood, and become enthralled. Not many have this talent. And don't distant yourself from the writing....that again is what makes it very very special and wonderful!!

Now, stop thinking: oh, it's a friend, she has to be nice. You don't know my Suzi. This is the woman who told me one day: You look like crap!!! Yes, she did! She's brutally honest with me, and with everybody . . . which is one of the things I love about her. She's not going to hold back, she's not going to coddle me, she's going to tell me a) if I look bad, b) if my writing sucks, and c) what the hell were you thinking wearing that outfit.

Yes, I know, writers shouldn't let friends beta read because friends - allegedly - can't be objective enough. I beg to differ. If a friend can tell me I look like crap, said friend can be honest about my writing.

Anyhow, back to this distance thing. What do you think of her statement - and don't distant yourself from the writing . . . that again is what makes it very very special and wonderful!!?

Are we creating too much distance between ourselves and our writing in the editing process? Is the whole distance thing just a big myth used to create havoc in aspiring writers lives? Do we, as writers, create too much distance in the different phases of writing, and is this a good or bad thing?

I don't know. I always fear I'm too much in love with my writing to be objective. If I'm too much in love with my writing, can I edit objectively? If I create too much distance, do I somehow, during the editing phase, edit out too much and somehow diminish the work? Is there a fine balance between distance and objectivity that we, as writers, as humans, can somehow find so that we don't lose what makes our writing very very special and wonderful!!?


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Flawed Characters

What issues do your characters have?

Oh, I'm not talking about the fact that Character A made the fashion faux pas of wearing white socks with dress pants and shoes - the horrors. I'm talking about the issues that make your characters a) more human and b) relateable.

Lynn Price over at Behler Blog did a great post about Character development - Ken and Barbive vs. The Seven Deadly Sins. Go check it out!!

The post talks about the importance of character development. Go on - check it out!

Now that you've checked it out . . .

. . . let me tell you a bit about my characters: they're flawed! Yup, flawed. They're far from perfect.

My characters . . .

. . . have receding hairlines. Yup!
. . . have weight issues.
. . . have money issues.
. . . have other issues.

I have a character who, just upon seeing a cookie, has fat cells that go into a multiplying frenzy similar to the feeding frenzy of piranhas when a stray cow happens to fall into their path!

My characters are far from perfect.

Okay, I've had a perfect character . . . or twelve, make an appearance in my writing. It happens. Perfect hair. Perfect teeth. Perfect life. Perfect relationship. Blah, blah, blah.

Personally, I don't want to read about perfect people who have their lives perfectly together.

I have bad hair days. Boy, do I have some bad hair days.

My characters have bad hair days as well. My characters step in cat vomit that squishes up between their toes and make them curse their cat. Yes, that character is based more than a bit on my real life. Dang cat, throwing up just where I'll step on it in the dark. She's sneaky, my Squeaky! Ha!

Nobody, not nobody, has a perfect life, and the characters we create shouldn't - aside from the imperfection of the main conflict of the story - have a perfect life either.

What fun is perfection?

What fun is having an unrelateable character?

You know what I love about the character Stephanie Plum - created by the amazing Janet Evanovich? She can barely make ends meet and often, the only thing in her refrigerator is peanut butter, bread, and olives so she can make herself a peanut butter and olive sandwich. Eeeew! She also, more days than not, has bad hair days. Woo-hoo for bad hair days. She struggles to make ends meet, she has a dysfunctional family, and . . . I can relate to the character.

I want to relate to the characters I read about . . . on some level.

So, what issues do your characters have? Are they too perfect? Do they suffer from the Barbie and Ken Syndrome? If so, perhaps you need to add some flaws to your characters.

Just saying . . .

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Still Here

Sorry, been absent for a bit, had some things going on.

I've started the initial revision phase - typos, incomplete sentences, etc. My betas deadline is this weekend, so I should have input from all of them and can delve into the depths of despair! Ha! Kidding.

I have the most recent issues of Writers Digest and The Writer, so next week I'll post some things on the blog from the magazines. Those are two great magazines with great info. If you don't subscribe, you should. Just saying . . .


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Read Through - FINISHED

So, I finished my read through of the rough draft of my cozy! Woo-hoo!

Boy, are there some typos out there. Okay, there are a lot of typos. It's all part of the writing process.

I've written . . .
  • her for here
  • here for her
  • down for done
  • Jospeh for Joseph - and a few other misspellings as well. What the heck???
  • I have a few incomplete sentences or sentences that just don't make sense.
  • There are a few other issues as well - things to fix, time spans, etc.

All in all, I'm pretty impressed at how little needs to change . . . at least at this point in the game. Yeah, there's a chapter I want to delete and incorporate a small portion of said chapter into another chapter. There's a sentence here or there that needs to come out as well.

I didn't find any major plot holes. Okay, I found a few small ones - easy to fix. I have my clues laid out, one or two more to add, but . . .

Overall, the revision process - knock on wood - shouldn't take that long.

I still have to hear back from my beta readers, but I plan on starting on fixing the typos and other issues this weekend. My instructions to my beta readers were quite simple: I'm looking for flow issues, as in does it flow easily, are there plot wholes, and are there moments that make you go huh!!!?

Any of those issues can be fixed at a later date, well, not too much later, since I'm on a deadline.


Friday, October 15, 2010

100 Pages and . . . Stuff

So, I've been doing the read through of the rough draft that's out to beta readers because I want to submit this manuscript to a contest.

I have 100 pages left to read. This has been an interesting experience. First, I'm reading the rough in .pdf format so I can't change things as I find them. If I was reading the document in Word, then I'd be changing things here/there/everywhere and not getting the essence of whether the story flows or not.

Yeah, I'm noticing mistakes. Mistakes happen. Such is life.

I also know, when I sit down for the actual revision stage, I'll find those mistakes.

I have printed off a few different pages where I needed to make notes. A few, i.e., less than 10. I think that's pretty good.

I also think, in the future, I'll always do my read through this way since I'm less tempted to start changing things because I really can't change things in PDF format.

Project Runway - what can we learn from Project Runway?


Last night, one of the designers didn't go with her instinct she, as she put it, lost herself somewhere. She wasn't listening to her inner voice.

We need to listen to our inner voice. We need to believe in ourselves. If we don't, then like this person on PR last night, we'll come very close to losing the competition.

We screw up our lives when we don't listen to our instinct, when we pay attention to what other people our saying/doing, versus what we know we should be doing.

Case in point: one designer last night told another designer that his/her outfit looked like it was a madame (i.e., street walker) outfit. The designer in question really began to doubt his vision and couldn't get the image of a hooker dress out of his mind. In the end, he stuck with his gut and didn't change things.

Now, back to the person who said the dress looked, basically, like a hooker dress: personally, I think said designer did it on purpose because it's all about the competition. Later on in the episode, said designer was like "oh, maybe I shouldn't have said anything" . . . Yeah, ya think?

Which, brings me to the second lesson from PR: sometimes people aren't going to like our work, they're going to criticize our work and we, as is part of human nature, are going to think "OMG, I just wrote the biggest piece of crap ever!" Then, hopefully, we're going to take a step back, realize that everybody has their own opinion, everything is subjective, and that if we believe in our work, that's enough.

So, when a critique comes back, look at it both subjectively and objectively. Examine it, study it, analyze it, and really think about what the person is saying before you go off willy-nilly and change everything!

Have a great weekend.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

WiP Wednesday - October 13, 2010

Well, I'm done! Woo-hoo! I finished the rough draft of Book II on Monday! Yeah!!

At this point . . . I'm in downtime mode. No writing. I'm reading a book. Yes, just reading. No writing. Did I mention no writing?

I'm on a writing break . . .

Okay, it's a very brief break. I don't want to immerse myself in any other writing project because I'm about to immerse myself in revision mode on a project I'm thinking of submitting to a contest.

I have a very narrow window of time to get the edits complete. The rough of that project is out to beta readers. Their deadline to finish is fast approaching . . . like this coming Saturday.

So, once I hear back their initial thoughts/impressions/whatnot, I'll delve into edit mode and whip the manuscript into fighting shape to submit to the contest.

Then . . . I'm not quite sure what I'll do. Will I finish up another project I set aside so I can finish Book II? Will I edit other rough drafts? Will I write something new? Will I work on that query I've needed to work on for-like-ev-uh?? Who knows? Only the shadow knows . . . Ha!

Seriously, I don't have a clue. I just know, here and now, I'm gearing my mind toward the edit phase. I sent off for the guidelines - haven't heard back yet, but should soon - they do have my SASE envelope, and I'm not going to be happy if I don't hear back. I'm just saying . . .

On that note . . . what are you up to? Where are you, dear readers, on your current projects?


Monday, October 11, 2010

First Chapters

Nathan Bransford had a great post about first chapters.

My problem: in what I'm reading, I'm not seeing this phenomenal first chapters. I'm seeing so-so chapters that give me an intro, but nothing standout dynamic.

Yes, I know, we're all supposed to be writing these phenomenal first chapters. It's one of those rules.

Well, if we're all supposed to be doing this, then why am I reading more and more first chapters that aren't phenomenal. Oh, they're good, some are bad, but . . . I keep reading.

Agent A might discard a potential book based on a so-so first chapter. Agent B might snap up the book. The thing is . . . it's all subjective.

None of us are psychic. If we were, we'd know which agent to query so we become the next hot author.

None of us can know whether we've written a phenomenal first chapter or a so-so first chapter. We might think we know, but, in the end, it comes down to the subjectivity of an intern and/or agent and whether they think we've written a phenomenal first chapter or a so-so first chapter.

So, in the end, we have to write the best first chapter, and subsequent chapters, that we can write and understand that, to some, those first chapters might not be phenomenal. To others, those first chapters might be literary gold.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

WiP Wednesday - October 7, 2010 and . . . things!

First - WiP Wednesday: I'm at the Ta-Da Moment of Book II, i.e., the Climax. Woo-hoo. Next is Falling Action and then the Denouement. As I was working on the Climax scene - confession, gun, life threatening moment - I suddenly shifted gears. This was something I had considered, very briefly, earlier in the novel, and somehow the idea stayed with me and appeared, almost on it's own, while working on a chapter Monday evening.

As I was writing the chapter, I had a different scenario in mind for the end of the chapter. I'm typing away and suddenly - BAM - I end the chapter a bit differently. Now, I have to pick up from that point and begin the falling action.

Check out this prior post about The Basics as well as the links in that post. Good stuff.

Now, on to other things . . .

Here's my question: when setting fiction in a real town, do you use real television stations and newspapers, or create fake ones?

To me, if I set something in New York City, I'd probably, at some point, have a character reference The New York Times. If I set something in Nashville, I'd have them reference the local paper The Tennessean and/or an actual television affiliate like Channel 2 - WKRN. It's just me.

Okay, the reason for my question: reading a book, set in Nashville, and the author created a fictional newspaper. I'm just wondering . . . why?

How about you? Would you create your own newspaper or use an actual one? I'm just confused.

Is it easier to make up newspapers and/or television stations? Does it give a novel a more realistic feel to reference actual realities of the setting? I mean, yeah, most people aren't going to know there isn't a newspaper called The Nashville Hound Dog (no, that's not what the author in question used in their book). Still, I like, especially when reading about cities I've lived in or visited, seeing the, well, realism.

Case in point - I just read a book set in Salem, MA. I go there every year for a work conference. I knew the streets and landmarks the author mentioned in the novel. I could, well, relate.

So, I'm thinking - yes, I know, a dangerous thing for me to do - that by inserting actualities (i.e., real newspapers, landmarks, etc.) into my writing I'm creating a bit of realness.

How about you? Thoughts?


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

One Clue

So, I'm reading a cozy (mystery) this past weekend and I'm taking notes. Yes, you read that correctly: I'm taking notes.

As the amateur sleuth compiled her lists of suspects, I compiled my list of suspects. As the amateur sleuth crossed names off of her list, I crossed names off of my list.

Holy Oleo, Batman, we've crossed off every name on the list . . . and still haven't found our murderer!

Yes, every single name gone from the list and the murder was still at large.

Never fear, Polly Purebred, Underdog is here!

There was one clue only to the alleged identity of the killer.

One Clue!

Yes, this confused me just a bit. You see, the author gave a list of names in the beginning of the book - first/last, you know the drill. Then, slowly, the last names disappeared.

Now, I'm lucky to remember my own first/last name (on a good day) let alone a list of 10 or so suspects! Yes, 10!

So, when the one clue appeared, I took careful note. I traversed my memory trying to match up the one clue (an email address, btw) with the names of the alleged suspects who - did I mention this - had all been crossed off the list already.

Then, I thought - gee, I bet the author is being really clever and the I need to decipher the meaning of the email address. Then, I thought - oh, wait, the author used these specific initials multiple times already . . . and my thought process continued as I kept reading.

The end result: I didn't have a clue who the murderer was until the big reveal.

Not fun, not fun at all. This was no fair game I was set to play. How in the heck can I solve a mystery with only one clue? How in the heck, with the amateur sleuth's ah-ha moment shrouded in mystery - she knew more than she (or the author) told - could I solve the crime?

I couldn't.

Yes, again . . . this was no fair game! The clue was obscure and there were multiple possibilities for the email address in question. The last name was only briefly mentioned - possibly twice - at the very beginning of the book. So . . .

. . . as I examine my own cozy, I realize I'm pretty safe because I clearly identify the suspects, and provide their motives, early on in the manuscript. There is no doubt who the suspects are, and it is only through the clever - okay inept with a bit of luck - work of my detectives that both they, and the reader begin to suspect the truth.

There isn't a vague clue about a person who - if I remember correctly - wasn't ever on the suspect list in the first place.

So, this author - while writing a great book, and I'll read more of her stuff - left this reader feeling a bit, well, cheated.

You see, according to some things I've read, the reader is supposed to learn the clues along with the amateur sleuth. The killer shouldn't be a total surprise. There should be, at some point fairly early within a novel, a hint of the killer's identity.

This didn't happen.

Still, reading this particular cozy was an enlightening experience and has helped me know what is needed, and not needed, as I immerse myself in the revision process.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Random Things

Book II - in the homestretch. Lead in for the BIG CLIMAX was written this weekend. This week I'll write the climax chapter, and then wrap things up. I should end up around 50K words. Woo-hoo.

Book I - revisions should start this weekend. Well, maybe not until the following weekend since I'm waiting for input from beta readers before I dig too deep into revisions.

Authenticity - okay, I live in the Nashville area. No big secret. So, I know a bit about the city, local haunts and dives . . . how people talk. Yeah, just a few minor things. Everybody in the south doesn't constantly say y'all. There are educated people in the south. We also don't always say you'uns (this is basically y'all but in a different context) or fixin' (as in I'm fixin' to go to the bar with my friends) and not fixings (which is the side dishes at dinner). I've also rarely heard people say Well, he's itchin' like a hounddog with fleas.

Sorry, those are stereotypes more fit for television than real life . . . not that some people might say those things.

My point - still in Authenticity for those trying to keep up with my randomness (ha): if writing about the south, don't play into stereotypes. Learn a bit about the location, especially if you're not a native, and make it true to the area, rather than true to your perception of the area. You never know, someone who lives in Nashville might read your book set in Nashville and might get a bit ticked at the dumbing down portrayal.

Yes, I'm reading a book set in Nashville that is so stereotypical it's not even funny. The writer is from New York. I don't have a clue whether the writer has ever been to Nashville. At this point, four chapters in, nothing is coming across as authentic and . . . I've lived here 18 years.

Now, in the writer's defense - the main character is a transplant, so some of the non-authentic stuff could - in an odd way - make sense. Then again, maybe not.

I set the majority of my stories in Nashville for a reason: I know the area, the backroads, the slang, the places people hang out, the subdivisions, where the wealthy live, and some historical info as well. If in doubt, I get in my car and drive around to make sure I'm being authentic.

To me, to do otherwise is, well, just wrong.

Yes, I probably shouldn't bash - not that I'm technically bashing - another writer's work. The writing is good. I like the book. I'm just sort of pulled out of the reading by the less than authentic vibe that keeps coming across time and again.

I think, in the end, my goal as a writer is to keep my readers immersed in my writing. I don't want moments that make them stop reading, shake their heads, and go WTH?? I want uninterrupted reading for my readers . . . and my self.

So, if writing about an unfamiliar location (i.e., you're from Nashville trying to write about Chicago and have never been), do some research, take a trip, explore the town, listen to how people talk, look at how people dress - the locals, not the tourists wearing their cowboy boots (little known fact: more tourists than actual residents wear cowboy boots in Nashville) - and so on and so on. Don't play into stereotypes that aren't the norm. Yeah, we talk a bit funny in the south . . . but have you ever been to New England! Ha! Oh, I have and have friends in New England.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Doing It Right

How much of writing is instinct versus knowledge? How much is a pool of knowledge in our subconscious that is just waiting for our brain cells to synapse in the right direction and pull forth from the pool of hidden knowledge within our brains?

No, haven't been drinking . . .yet! It is Friday, and margaritas are in my future this evening.

As any reader of this blog knows, I recently wrote a cozy mystery. I pretty much did it on instinct, that is . . . after writing the manuscript, I went back and researched cozies and found that - somehow - I had used most of the elements for cozies in the current project. Woo-hoo!

Now, my question: how much was instinctive, and/or pulled form that pool of knowledge slumbering in my subconscious?

I don't have a clue. Yeah, I read Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Goodman. I devour Mary Higgins Clark's books. Her books, for the most part, are cozies. I also absolutely love the Midsomer Murder series (television, only read a few of the books) that used to air on the Biography Channel and were always followed by the Peroit Mysteries. So, knowledge of cozies, while not in the forefront of my brain, was in my brain.

Somehow, without trying, without thinking, I was able to write a cozy, incorporate the necessary elements, and - very freaky - end up in the mid-range of the genre word count. That, dear readers, freaked me out.

So, in writing the manuscript, I would veer off the case and insert bits and pieces of life for the main characters. They might be thinking about the case, but life itself still existed beyond the case. I wasn't totally positive whether this was the right thing to do.

Well, yesterday, at Borders, I bought a cozy mystery and immersed myself in the pages of the book. You know what? My little forays into the lives of the main characters is pretty standard.

You know what? I was doing it right.

So, this long, rambling post is really about doing it right . . . even if we don't know we're doing it right. Every chapter, every sentence, every word doesn't have to involve the forward arcing plot. Yes, plot is important, the story must move forward, but we - or rather, me, I, whatever - must also realize that our characters have lives outside of the plot, or the mystery in this case. Just because Character A is investigating a murder doesn't mean that he doesn't have a tension filled dinner with his mother or can't realize he's attracted to another character or . . . whatever.

So, this long rambling post, beyond being about doing it right, is about going with your instinct.

On that note . . . have a great weekend. Back to reading.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

WiP Wednesday - September 29, 2010

48 Degrees this morning! Woo-hoo! This week, well, since last Friday, has been absolutely amazing with autumn temps. I spent a good part of the weekend outside just soaking up the autumnal weather. I love the early Autumn/Spring when the temps are just - baby bear - right!

On the writing front . . . I'm still plugging away at Book II. I'm in the home stretch, standing on third base, just waiting to run for home once the current batter knocks the ball out of the ball park. Woo-hoo.

I'm about to hit the big climax scene. I've typed up some notes regarding that scene. Now, I just have to do a few lead up chapters, do that chapter, the follow up chapters, and then . . . The End!

Once this project is done, I'll immerse myself in the revision phase of Book I. I have the rough of Book I out to two beta readers right now. Normally, I don't do this. Normally, I wait until, like, the fourth or fifth stage of revision. The reason: there's a contest I'd like to enter, which means I have to polish up this cozy a bit quicker than normal. I can't submit a rough draft, but, with the amount of time I have until deadline I should be able to do two revision phases and then . . . off it goes.

Why? Well, why not? Why not take this little book that came out of nowhere, that poured forth from my brain in less than two weeks, that hit right in between the required word counts for cozy mysteries, and - cue Abba - take a chance???

We only live once in this life. We can be passive or active. I choose active, in this moment, if not always in other moments. I choose to take a chance with a first draft, in a contest, because . . . well, just because. So what if it doesn't win? It might not. It might.

Things happen when they're meant to happen and not when I want them to happen.

Maybe, just maybe - the margarita glass half-full - everything has fallen into place so far for me to enter this contest, this year. Ha!


BTW - I responded to comments on yesterday's post this morning. Yeah, a bit behind! Sorry.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Write What You Read

"The most important thing is you can't write what you wouldn't read for pleasure. It's a mistake to analyze the market thinking you can write whatever is hot. You can't say you're going to write romance when you don't even like it. You need to write what you would read if you expect anybody else to read it." ~ Nora Roberts

The above quote comes from the Writer's Digest Facebook page. If you haven't LIKED the page, you may want to do so. Tons of useful information.

And, as normal, an established writer says it like it is!! Woo-hoo!

It's a mistake to analyze the market thinking you can write whatever is hot.

Amen, Sistah!!

As an aspiring writer, I found the best joy and freedom with writing, when writing what I want to write . . . not what I think is the current trend to write. It is the moments when I quit thinking about trends and audience (yes, audience) that I feel I do my best writing . . . because I'm writing solely for me.

Yes, at some point, I have to consider a broader audience. Every writer must do that at some point.

The fact is, trendy today is not trendy tomorrow and, to the best of my knowledge . . . writing a fabulous novel, query, synopsis, agent research, finding an agent, editor, publisher, revisions out the ying-yang just doesn't happen in a day.

So, even if I write the best been-there-done-that-vampire-novel-EV-UH . . . by the time I go through all the stages of the writing process . . . vampires have been eradicated from the literary world, only to be replaced by a kid who loves pickles. Yeah, go figure.

You need to write what you would read if you expect anybody else to read it.

Amen, sistah!

I don't read the current trend of vampire books. Okay, I read Anne Rice back in the day. I loved the first few books in the Lestat series. I also loved the one and only book in her mummy series. Please, Anne, write another one! Please???

The Mummy, or Ramses the Damned is an excellent book, btw! Loved, loved, loved the book! I always hoped she would write another book. She never did. Perhaps now that she's come out of her religious phase, she'll get back to writing another book about Ramses the Damned!

But, I digress . . . hey, it happens.

I write what I want to read, and, in some part, what I've been reading. I also write, to a greater extent, about what I know.

In the end, every writer will write what they write. Every writer must - should - follow their heart and instinct with their writing.

Best of luck to all . . .


Monday, September 27, 2010

Revision Phase

I'm getting ready to delve into the revision phase of the cozy mystery I wrote a month or so back. You know, the one I wrote in a bit under two weeks. Yeah, that one.

I'm still working on Book II - slowly, but surely. I have about 1/4 more to go before I'm done.

Still, my brain has begun to drift toward revisions of the first book (of hopefully many - ha). I did a read through of the first few chapters the other day. I already know that one chapter is going to disappear . . . for the most part.

The chapter in question is mainly backstory . . . which, in some cases is needed. It is needed in this case, but with less length . . . and all that can easily fit into the next chapter. Woo-hoo!

On a side note . . .

The read through . . .

My main problem with the read through is that I have a tendency to want to fix things. It's an irritating, borderline OCD, tendency. A read through should include reading only, no editing . . . at least in my opinion.

I finally solved my - somewhat - OCD tendency to edit: Adobe Acrobat Reader. Yes, .pdf format is how I do my read throughs. I might come across a scene to edit/delete/whatever. The Adobe format doesn't - well, not the free version anyway - allow me to edit the document. This is a good thing.

So, in the first few chapters of the read through I came across "here" instead of "her". I came across a paragraph I pretty much knew I wanted to delete.

Both things will still exist when I begin the editing phase.

As easy - obsessive, perhaps - as it is to edit on demand (Ha!), I think, for me, it's better to not have the edit option available. Sometimes, I just need to read and not edit. If I'm always stopping to change "here" to "her" . . . or whatever, than I'm not getting a sense of the flow of the novel.

Yes, my mind reacts to what is wrong within the novel, but . . . I can keep reading with only a brief pause, rather than a long pause to fix what I find that I think is wrong!

And, if worse comes to worse, there is the bookmark option which allows me to mark a specific page for later reference.

How about you? How do you handle your read through? Do you have a tendency to edit as you go? Do you hold a red pen in hand? Do you read through totally, from beginning to end, with out an edit at all? How do you turn off your inner editor?


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Influence of Writing

So, last week, or the week before, I was reading a blog. The blogger was ranting about this, that, and that and this, and a whole lot of other stuff. Fine. Dandy. Not a problem. Then, the blogger stated that he/she was the first person to use a particular writing technique . . . or something to that effect.


I think not.

In fact, I'd used something similar more than once.

OMG . . . I'm psychically plagiarizing!

No. I'm. Not.

The whole post started my brain cells synapsing. In fact, they were doing the synapsy-dance thing.

The end result: the influence of writing.

I firmly believe that every single thing I read . . . influences my writing AND eventually, permeates my writing to a certain extent.

We all know there are no new ideas. There are only ideas used over and over and over and over and over again . . . with a unique twist we, as writers, can call our own.

We should also know that what we read influences our writing in some way, shape, or form. It happens.

So, if someone writes a story about dragons that communicate telepathically with humans . . . well, they've been influenced, most likely, by Anne McCaffrey (Dragonriders of Pern - LOVE IT!) or some other story they've read that used a similar idea.

Tolkien set the stage for Elves. Seriously, people, he did. My image of Elves is firmly set in Middle Earth. When I write about Elves . . . they're influenced by Tolkien's imagery. I can't help it. I forever see Elves as tall, somewhat ethereal, individuals. I don't see them as small, pixie like beings . . . and I don't write about them in that way.

Tolkien influenced my concept of Elves. It happens.

The whole point is . . . while I'd love to take sole credit for something, in reality, I really can't when it comes to writing. I can take credit for a great concept and a great story. I can't take credit for comparing a relationship to a flower. Many, many writers have been there, done that, and have multiple t-shirts to prove it. It's been done before.

I can't take credit for telepathic dragons. I might use them in some fantasy novel in the future, or a story idea that's outlined but hasn't gone anywhere, but I can't claim credit for the original concept or say I'm the first to have telepathic dragons in a story.

My imagery of dragons was firmly established by the brilliance of Anne McCaffrey . . . just as my imagery of Elves was firmly established by Tolkien. Oh, and he established my imagery of dwarves as well.

In the end, I can take the influence of everything I read, and acknowledge that influence in what I write. I don't live in a vacuum. I don't NOT read books. I devour books. An author's irreverent and quirky writing style might inspire me to try something similar. An author's long, narrative descriptive passages might inspire me to try the same thing. Then again, it might not. If my Elves are tall and my Dragons telepathic, I can acknowledge, to myself and others, that the writings of Tolkien and McCaffrey influenced my Elves and Dragons. If I don't acknowledge the influence of all that I have read, and all that I will read, am I not lying to myself?

Hmmm . . .

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Perils of Familiarity

There are ups and downs to the writing process. Sometimes the words flow and other times they don't. Sometimes a brilliant ideas remains brilliant and other times, well, the brilliance fades and the idea gets placed in a folder to collect dust. Yes, it happens.

There are perils to writing as well. The peril I'm going to discuss today is the peril of familiarity.

What is this dreaded peril? Well, in simple terms, it happens when a writer becomes so familiar with their characters that, well, every character they create is pretty much the same.

There's one series of books, well, two series, same characters, very well written. I've read the series many, many, many times. The author had great success with this particular series, so-so success with another series, and then, many years later wrote a stand-alone, single volume book.

Well, enter the perils of familiarity. The characters in this book - perhaps intentional, perhaps not - were carbon copies of the characters, down to personality traits, of the oh-so familiar characters I knew and loved from the author's previous works. In fact, the only difference was the names. Yes, the characters were that familiar.

Now, on to a different author that I love. She makes me laugh out loud every time I read one of her books. Heck, one time, I had to quit reading because I was laughing so hard. I walked the dogs, still laughing btw, and couldn't pick up the book for almost twenty minutes because the one scene was so ingrained in my mind. Great writing.

So, anyhow, new book by this author, good concept and characters, loving the book, even though there is a sense of familiarity about one of the characters. There's enough difference, however, to make the sense vague . . . unlike my previous example. Then, wham, bam, this vaguely familiar character happens to drive the exact same vehicle as a character in another series by this same author. Screeeeeeeeeecccchhh! Apply the brakes. WTH??? Yes, pulled right out of this great story by the perils of familiarity.

I mean, couldn't this similar to another character have driven a different type of vehicle? Couldn't the explanation for where the vehicles came from have been a bit different than used in the other books by this author? Couldn't . . .

Yes, more than one similarity (i.e., familiarity).

So, all of this got me to thinking about my own writing and whether I too might suffer from the perils of familiarity.

Why, after careful inspection, yes I do . . . to a certain, but hopefully not jarring, extent. At some point, in most projects, the characters end up drinking margaritas. At some point, the individual characters might drink Jack Daniels and Coke, or Crown and Coke, or Scotch and Water, or . . . some other type drink that my real, not fictional (ha), friends drink.

This is okay.

The fact that all the characters in each different project drive the same vehicle, at least in my opinion, isn't okay.

The fact that every character I write is exactly the same except for a change in name, at least in my opinion, isn't okay.

Now, back to the book I just finished reading. Here's my hope: the author, in book II or III or whatever, will link the vehicles to the character in her other series. Yes, wham, bam, right out there for every one to see the author will insert a sentence that says "Yeah, we get the vehicles from this dude in Chicago who runs a . . . " This, dear readers, would be neat, and a great tie in to the other series, and make the perils of familiarity not so jarring.

How about you, do you suffer from the perils of familiarity? Is there a way for this not to happen? Is it okay that this happens? Thoughts, comments???


Friday, September 17, 2010

Project Runway

This post is for Tess!!!

This post doesn't have much, if anything to do with writing! Fair warning!

This post probably contains spoilers about last night's Project Runway episode. If you haven't watched, don't read. I'm just saying . . .

Okay, Tessinator, here I go . . .

Can someone run over Gretchen with a steamroller? Push her off a high building? Lock her in a closet? My nerves can't take much more of her! Ha!

So, last night, in the current incarnation of Project Runway (i.e., Big Brother meets Project Runway) the claws, as usual were out again! Why? Well, one designer summed it up the best I think too many of the designers have an elitist attitude and think they're way better than everybody else! Ya think? Yes, that designer nailed it on the head.

As I've mentioned with writing, distance is required for objectivity. Yes, we, as writers, must defend our work. Yes, sometimes, we as writers write, well, crap!! Yes, crap! Designers, sometimes, especially on a reality show, sometimes design, well, crap!!

Last night was no different than any other week. The designers talked bad about each other behind their backs and then were all smooches when they saw each other face to face. The worst of the worst is Miss Sickly Sweet She Makes Me Want to Puke Gretchen. In her one on one with the camera she doesn't have a nice thing to say about any body, but put her in a room with a bunch of people and the saccharine pours out of her like water at Niagara Falls. Ha!

The winner - stop reading - last night, oh, wait, did anyone see Mondo's personal outfit? OMG! I couldn't stop laughing. Okay, I was laughing because I could picture a friend of mine wearing that outfit on Halloween . . . or just a night out at the bar. I'm just saying . . .

Anyhow, Mondo won with a neat outfit that, at first, I thought a clown had puked up the skirt. But, with the other pieces, everything worked and, for the first time ev-uh, Mondo was the big winner.

Poison Ivy redeemed herself from last week and proved she's more than just a seamstress, though, she made a bit of a goof which cost her the win. So sad . . .

Did I mention Gretchen was pissed that she wasn't in the Top Three? Oh, the look on her face . . . priceless.

Andy made an outfit that, well, Michael Kors summed it up best . . . it looks like MC Hammer met Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies! Yes, it was that bad, though Andy loved his look . . . which he should!

The loser . . . Michael D. I'm gonna miss that man. He added humor to the show . . . which'll be sadly lacking the rest of the season. I really thought Valerie was going home. As Nina said about Valerie . . . she bores me. I thought that was the final nail in her coffin. I was wrong! Go figure.

And that, dear readers . . . and Tess, is the sum total of my recap of Project Runway. Here's hoping Gretchen goes home soon. I haven't disliked a contestant this much on PR since Wendy Pepper from Season 1!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

WiP Wednesday - Sept 15, 2010

Okay, it's the middle of freaking September already!

Sorry, about that, this whole time is flying way too fast is really getting to me.

Works in Progress Update:
  • Book II Rough Draft - Cozy Mystery - just over the 1/2 way point of the rough draft. Words are flowing and alibis are being dissected!
  • Fantasy Project Rough Draft - not working on this as much because of a crazy hectic weekend last weekend. Still, progress is being made. The exposition (i.e., into) has been completed and the rising action has begun. Not bad, not bad at all.

Blogging! Well, I've been a bit absent from actual blogging, but I am out there reading the blogs and leaving some comments. I just haven't had much to say lately. Yeah, I know, go figure. I'm sure this is only a temporary thing on my part as I'm more immersed in my personal writing than my blogging, which does count as writing . . . btw!

So, never fear, Polly Purebred, Underdog is . . . well, on a sabbatical, so you'll just have to deal with those pesky villains all by yourself. Ha! Kidding!


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

WiP Wednesday - Sept 8, 2010

First - where in the heck did summer go? Seriously? Heck, where is the year going? Why is it racing away so fast?

Second - spent the past weekend in Chicago eating, drinking, and walking way too much. Had a fantastic time with friends and family. Ate the best cinnamon roll ever, and some excellent deep dish pizza. Riding the train . . . oh, the inspiration to be found riding the "L" in Chicago. You outta try it some time. At one point, had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing out loud at the one conversation. Then, there was the woman with the - at least - six inch stilettos riding the train. You should have seen her try to stand up and maintain her balance. Oy!

Third - still plugging away at the two projects as I maintain distance from the project that I need to edit. Just a bit more time.

Speaking of distance . . .

I love Project Runway. Okay, not so much this season because it's become Big Brother Meets Project Runway. Not pretty, not pretty at all. Too much drama. I liked the show better when it was more about the designs then drama.

Anyhow, last week's episode reminded me that as writers, we are some times way too close to our work. We can't see the flaws because of the closeness . . . which is why we need distance between the different stages of the writing process from the beginning to the i'm ready to query.

Now, on Project Runway last week, five or so designers who didn't make it into the top three, were sitting back discussing the six designers that, together, were in the top and bottom three. There's one designer that they DESPISE. They are ripping this designer and his design to shreds. "Blah, blah, blah!" Now, at the same time, the judges are praising this designer. PRAISING! In fact, said designer is the winner.

Said Despised Designer comes back to the lounge area, announces his win, and nobody congratulates him. NOBODY!

Each of the designers in the room thought their design was the best design ev-uh! In fact, one of the designers said "I just don't know what the judges are thinking". Well, when she's in the top three, the judges are doing their job. When she isn't, the judges don't know what they're thinking.


So, this episode brought home to me, that distance is needed between ourselves and our work so that we can look at our work objectively. If there is not enough distance, if we do not create the necessary distance, than objectivity of our work doesn't exist.

Now, back to Project Runway and the petty designers that cannot congratulate someone on a win. I'm sorry, but even if I despise a person, don't admire them, or whatever, if said person does an excellent job, I'm going to congratulate said person. I don't like one of the designer's on the show - her attitude sucks, she's arrogant and manipulative - but she makes good clothes. I admit, she makes good clothes. I might not like her as a person, but, as a designer . . . she's good.

On that note . . .


Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday Update

So, this week has been about not one, but two project: Book II in my cozy series and the fleshing out of a fantasy idea.

Normally, I'm a one project at a time kinda guy! Focus! Focus! Focus! It's how I work.

Okay, there was that point earlier this year when I was working on three projects at once, but only because I couldn't decide which I wanted to work on the most, and once I figured that out, I set the other two projects aside! Whew!

So, I've been alternating, since this past Sunday, between Book II and New Idea.

For the New Idea, I just wanted to get down the basics: premise and main characters. I did that! Woo-hoo!

Then, for whatever reason, I began to write more and more. I'm 6,000 words into the project. I'm at the 20,000 point on Book II.

I'm also probably at the point where I'll set the New Idea aside . . . well, after whatever I complete today. Sometimes, I just need to work through the initial rush of the new idea so I can then shift my focus back to where it needs to be . . . on Book II!

How about you? What are you working on right now?


Monday, August 30, 2010

Unlikable Chracters

I'm currently reading a good book with a totally . . . unlikable character. So far, almost finished, and there's not one thing I like about the character.




In fact, this unlikable character, at least for me, totally pulls me out of the story every single time I have to read from this character's perspective.

I hate being pulled out of a story. Hate! It!

I'm pulled out of the story every single time I must endure this character's perspective.

Thankfully, the perspectives are just a bit here and there, but . . . I'm still jarred out of the story.

Now, there are characters I don't like, that I hate - The Dursleys and Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter series. Oooooh, Dolores made me grind my teeth, but . . . she never pulled me out of the story. She never made me skip passages of narrative because her character was so unlikable.

I'm not even sure the character in the current book I'm reading is necessary . . . other than to irritate me, which some people (probably my sisters - ha) would say is a good thing.

What about you? How do you deal with unlikable characters in books you are reading . . . and writing? How unlikable do you make them? Do they serve a purpose?

As for me, yeah, I have some unlikable characters. Sometimes they are needed as a balance, a counterpoint to the hero/heroine.

If no obvious purpose is served, then what's the point?

If the unlikable character pulls the reader out of the story time and time again, what's the point?

Thoughts? Answers??


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

WiP Wednesday

So, right now I have two Works in Progress (WiP).

The first is the rough draft that is currently in the distance stage - that is, I can't begin editing until I've created the necessary distance. Okay, I've pretty much failed in that endeavor. I have added things here and there, but nothing . . . too major, well, just a bit major, maybe! Ha!

Still, I haven't delved into the major edits of the post Rough Draft phase . . . yet. That should happen this weekend.

The second project is Book II. I'm working on this a bit, but not wholeheartedly . . . at least not at this point.

At this point, I have the introduction - crime, motive, suspects, detectives introduced - done, and a start to the rising action. I'm almost 50 pages into the project, maybe 5,000 or so words.

The whole reason I'm even working on this project is the off chance that, with the way Book I ended, an agent (woo-hoo) might ask Well, what else do you have planned for these characters?

So, a bit of pre-planning on my part, combined with a driving need to write now, meant I needed something to work on beyond the editing phase of a project.


Monday, August 23, 2010


I've given you what you thought you wanted, but it's not enough.

Cinderella wished for happily ever after. She married her prince and found out that happily ever after only happens in fairy tales. . . and her current life isn't a fairy tale.

Cinderella's current life is one of adjustment, fear, longing for a past she is only just beginning to remember, and for a future where love exists outside the spell of a fairy godmother giving Cinderella what you thought you wanted.

Michelle effortlessly creates a world ouside the Disney-fied (nope, not a word, but I'm using it) imagery so closely associated, and a bit beyond the Brothers Grimm's intentions, with the classic fairy tale. From a palace filled with darkness and shadows, blood on the floors, to burnt out villages, to 'dark maroon ground' that 'spreads itself straight to the edge', and a 'watery horizon in the distance churned', and . . . so very much more.

Gone, and not in a bad way, are the glittering visions painted forth in the Disney version of Cinderella. Here is a realistic world where both light and darkness exists, and where the darker depths of humanity shine forth as those in power play out their games of power, oppressing those they fear, and embracing the past so fiercely they cannot set their feet on a path toward a different future.

You must control your future now. It is a choice.

The above words are spoken by Eolande, Cinderella's fairy godmother, and define the journey Cinderella takes throughout the pages of Cinders.

Life is about choices - good, bad, or indifferent. Cinderella makes all of these, some with devastating consequences. In the end, magic aside, a spell broken . . . or not . . . Cinderella must face her doubts, her indecision, and forge a life that is enough . . . for her.

I loved this book. Okay, there were parts I didn't love. I love the fact that Michelle created a compelling, entirely fallible woman. I loved Cinderella (the character). I hated her. I empathized with her.

Cinderella doubts herself. She struggles with who she wants to be, who she has become, and who she might become.

In the end, Cinderella must face all the decisions she made, the reasons she made them, and decide what the future holds for her. Whatever she might have wished for, whatever her fairy godmother granted her, the next steps in her life are entirely up to Cinderella: You must control your future now.


You can get your copy of Cinders by Michelle Davidson Argyle at Amazon. It is also available in Ebook format on Kindle or at Smashwords.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday . . . Update

Yes, I've been a wee bit absent from blogging this week. Such is life sometimes.

I finished Cinders by Michelle Davidson Argyle. Check out my review here, which also contains links to where you can purchase this great novella. Oh, and technically, the review should have posted yesterday, and not Monday, except I started the review on Monday, finished it yesterday, and didn't pay attention to technical aspects like when it would post. Yes, even I fail in the technology department from time to time. So, if you missed the review, go here and check it out.

As you know, Inspiration decided to strike this week on Book II of a potential series. No, nothing like Robert Jordan's ginormous Wheel of Time series. This will be a cozy mystery series with all the books being stand-alone. Still, from a license plate, Inspiration struck and I've worked out the first few chapters. Okay, this was easy enough since I've developed a format for the books, and the beginning chapter sequence will remain the same for all the books. So, it really wasn't that hard.

I think I mentioned that I have the following for the next book: the victim, the motive, the suspects, and, of course, the detectives. Woo-hoo. Now, I just have to get to all the good stuff that leads up to The End.

That will happen in time. I plan to start the editing phase of the first book next week. I've been trying to maintain a distance before starting the editing. My goal today is to finish the notations on the Table of Contents regarding the timeline, and then Monday I'll dive into the editing full force. Once first draft editing is done, I'll send it off to my beta readers to get their opinion. Woo-hoo.

Have a great weekend.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

License Plates

I got your attention, didn't I? Come on, admit it!

What the heck do license plates have to do with writing? Well, in my delusional little world, quite a bit . . . at least since yesterday afternoon on the drive home from work.

TN License Plates have the following format: ### (mini image of state) 3 Letters.

So, in the boredom of sitting in traffic, I've been known to attempt to come up with words based on the three letters on the license plate. Example: ### HXG. Well, easily enough, I can come up with the word HeXinG. Woo-hoo. Yes, I'm easily amused. So, for quite some time, while stuck in traffic, I look at license plates and attempt to come up with words. Most times I succeed, some times I fail.

Well, yesterday, brilliance struck and I thought, what if the three letters were initials? Voila! Inspiration strikes. She (Inspiration that is) is quite clever at times.

I began to look at the letters with renewed interest and - BAM - two new names for some future project, and a - hopefully - endless supply of names in the future. Woo-Hoo!

Now, in using the letters HXG, I could come up with Henry Xavier Goldblumstein. Okay, maybe not the best name, but the ones I came up with yesterday were, well, genius.

Speaking of yesterday . . . as you know, I've finished the rough draft of my cozy which is probably the first book in a series. Well, I hadn't - until yesterday - had a clue what Book II, III, or whatever might be about. I'm still too focused on Book I . . . which is as it should be. Still, I might need a bit knowledge about Book II, etc., once I query and an agent asks "Do you have plans for future books?" Ha!

So, yesterday, I - thanks to those handy-dandy TN license plates - came up with three names for Book II, the crime, the victim, the motive, and the suspects. Woo-hoo.

Now, back to you, dear readers . . . what clever tricks do you have for coming up with character names?

Friday, August 13, 2010


Happy Friday!

I wasn't planning on a post today. Nope, not at all! I was going to sit back and relax today. Why? Because it's going to be 110 freaking degrees with the heat index. I'm not going outside!

So, I planned on doing a bit of this, a bit of that, and a whole lot of nothing today. I'm allowed. Okay, not as often as I'd like, but today . . .

Then again, the best laid plans of . . . well, I'm sure you know the phrase.

Have I mentioned I love my Table of Contents for my latest project? Love! Love! LOVE!

You see, this handy-dandy Table of Contents has come in, well, handy. Ha! Not only does it show me the course of the novel from beginning, middle, to The End, it has also allowed me to map out the - ta da - timeline (like how I weaved in the title of the post) of the novel as well.

As I've pointed out before, the contents looks something like this . . .

Chapter Title .........bunch of dots ............... page #

It's simple and precise. I've been known to notate in the ...... bunch of dots ...... about things that I need to do in specific chapters. Very handy indeed.

Well, today, in mapping out the actual chain of events, I've done this . . .

Chapter Title ....... Early July ................... page#
Chapter Title ....... few days later ............ page#
Chapter Title ....... August

Isn't that clever? I amaze myself sometimes.

So, not only can a Table of Contents help track the progress of a novel, it can also help you - me - map out the span of time of the novel. Woo-hoo!

On that note . . . have a great weekend and try to stay cool.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

WiP - Update

Sorry, been a bit absent this week. Just life in general and not enough pre-planning on my part. Go figure.

So, my current cozy project - rough draft DONE - has been simmering in my mind as I put the necessary distance between rough and first draft stage.

Okay, I haven't given it a ton of distance. I've tweaked things here and there. Nothing major, mind you, just some things I knew I needed to add - a plot point here, an explanation there, and that's been about it, until . . . Sunday afternoon.

On Sunday, I began the read-through of the first draft phase. I'm not making major changes . . . yet. I'm going more for the is this story flowing, does it make sense, and what is missing phase of the, well, edit phase. Ha!

My Table of Contents is coming in quite handy. I'm putting check marks next to each chapter as I finish the read through and minor revisions. Woo-hoo!

Who knew a Table of Contents could be so beneficial? It helps me track where I've been, where I'm at, and where I'm going! Woo-hoo!

So, for the most part, this week is about reading my rough draft and making notations of what the heck, oh no, seriously, and other such stuff that stops the flow of writing or, well, just doesn't make sense. It's also about correcting glaring mistakes. Somehow, in the obsessive flow of writing, I changed one of the major character's names. Okay, it was only in one sentence, but still . . . Ha! So, I'm reading, notating, and waiting for the next phase where I seriously begin the editing process as I polish my little piece of coal into a sparkling diamond.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Chapter Titles

As I might have mentioned, I love my Table of Contents. I love staring at all the chapters, the fruits - so to speak - of my labor.

Now, Scott Bailey posted some chapter titles from his current WiP, so I figured, why not do the same.

Yes, Robyn, I'm stealing ideas from somebody. No, not stealing, just borrowing a bit of genius.

Now, here are some of the titles in random order
  • The Bitch of Belle Meade
  • Dinner with Mumsy
  • The Married Detective
  • Sensory Overload
  • The Moral Soapbox of the Hopelessly Deluded
  • Afternoon Tea with a Crazy Man
  • The Pink Pigeon
  • Detective Abworks Loses His Patience
  • Not the Cleverest Idea in the Universe
  • Pandora's in a Mood
  • Confession is Good for the Soul
  • It's Raining Men

Now, in chronological order, at a glance, at least to me, the chapter titles tell something about the story. Heck, even out of order, at least to me, the chapters tell a story.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Don't Write Every Day

Yes, I'm a rebel. There are many schools of thought about writing. Two of those schools are: write every day and don't write every day.

I graduated from the second school . . . just in case you were wondering.

So, in defense of not writing every day, I'm going to let author James Scott Bell explain the philosophy instead:

Don't write every day.

I'm a big believer in word quotas. Some of the earliest, and perhaps still the best advice I ever got, was to set a quota of words and stick to it. I used to do a daily count. But a thing called life would intrude and I'd miss a day. Or, there were times when writing seemed like playing tennis in the La Brea tar pits, and that'd be another day I'd miss.

Such days would leave me surly and hard to live with.

Then I switched to a weekly quota and have used it ever since. That way, if I miss a day, I don't beat myself up. I write a little extra on the other days. I use a spreadsheet to keep track and add up my word count for the week.

I also intentionally take one day off a week. I call it my writing sabbath. I find that taking a one-day break charges my batteries like nothing else. Sunday is the day I've chosen. On Monday I'm refreshed and ready to go. Plus, my projects have been cooking in my subconscious. The boys in the basement, as Stephen King puts it, are hard at work while I'm taking time off.

I also advocate taking a weeklong break from writing each year. Use this time to assess your career, set goals, make plans - because if you aim at nothing, there's a very good chance you'll hit it.

Okay, now for my thoughts: woo-hoo!

Oh, you want more? Geesh!!

I love this advice. I followed this advice even before I was officially given this advice. I'm ahead of the game. I'm a trend setter. Okay . . . maybe not.

Word Count - in my most recent project, I set a weekly (M - F) and a weekend (S - S) word count. There were days I couldn't meet the daily goal, but I always made up the words. Did I mention I achieved over 60,000 words in less than two weeks. This was an anomaly, btw. The words just flowed like crazy and I went with the flow.

Writing Sabbath - Tuesday is normally my writing sabbath. Why? Well, during the television season, that's NCIS night. I love NCIS. It's one of the few shows I watch.

There are writers everywhere who follow the write every day adage, and others who follow the don't write every day adage. Neither way is correct for every writer. Every writer is different. What works for one writer might not work for another writer, and vice versa.

As writers - as individuals - we need to learn what works best for us, and follow that path. Nobody but you (or me, in this case) the writer truly knows what works best for you. Nobody.

In writing, as with life, follow your heart and instinct and do what works best for you.


Note: the above italicized material comes from the September 2010 edition of Writers Digest and the article: 10 Experts Take on the Writer's Rulebook - p. 28.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Table of Contents

This whole writing experience of the last two or so weeks has been . . . interesting, to say the least.

The latest voyage into the Realm of the Unknown is . . . The Table of Contents.

Why? Oh, stay a while, and let me tell you why . . .

For this project, my chapters all have nifty little titles. I don't normally title my chapters. Okay, one time in the past. One time out of so many projects isn't a problem, or anything . . . is it?

So, this project has nifty little titles for each chapter.

I decided to create a Table of Contents. Not as easy as you think, though Word does have nifty little menus and videos that helped me along the way. The neat thing: if I add or delete a chapter, I just hit 'update' and - voila - updated (ha) Table of Contents. I've done this a few times already. W00-hoo!

Okay, back to the post and hand and the reason why . . . I'm absolutely loving this table of contents thing.

I printed it out - it's so pretty - and I stared at it quite a lot this past weekend. On one hand, I'm proud of what I accomplished. The Table of Contents shows my hard work. On the other hand, the Table of Contents will help through the editing phases. I've already made notations next to some of the chapter titles about things I need to add. I also, as previously mentioned, have notated on the ToC (for short) the different areas of The Basics.


Nifty Chapter Title ..............................................................................................................................3
Nifty Chapter Title ..............................................................................................................................7
Nifty Chapter Title ...........(add photo of three suspects) ............................................................12

Okay, you get my point. For me, on this project, the Table of Contents is not only an outline of my story, a chart of the five stages of The Basics, but also where I can make notations throughout the editing process of things I need to change. Or, if I need to move a chapter earlier and/or later in the novel . . . move this chapter to this point.

Has anyone out there ever done the same thing? Have a created a fancy new - and very helpful - editing tool? Have I completely lost my mind? No need to answer that last question! Ha!

Okay, off to stare at my Table of Contents a bit more!


Monday, August 2, 2010


Today, I'm going to talk about Cozies. No, not tea cozies, though, with a bit of irony, tea does play about in the cozy I'm going to talk about, which is . . . the sub-genre of the mystery genre.

I just finished writing my cozy last week. I didn't know I was writing a cozy. Sorry, not up on the hip and happening language of the mystery sub-genre. All I knew was I wanted to write a mystery. I did just that.

Perhaps instinct guided me. Perhaps it was something else. I don't have a clue. All I know is I wrote what I did and it - amazingly - turned out to be, well, a cozy.

First - some basics about cozies: set in a benign environment, little violence, few gory details, amateur sleuth, and mystery solved.

Okay, that's very basic. For a bit more in-depth discussion go here. Now, anything from this point forward references back to this site.

Elements of the Cozy Mystery:
  • no explicit sex
  • no gore or violence
  • no graphic language
  • amateur sleuth
  • centers around a puzzle or whodunnit
  • local setting

Now, in my normal fashion, I'm going to discuss each point in relation to my recently finished (woo-hoo) rough draft.

No Explicit Sex - my characters aren't romping around in the bedroom. Okay, one of them is, but . . . I don't provide any explicit details. I just let you - the reader - know that the character is doing the big nasty.

No Gore or Violence - in Cozies, the gore or violence takes place off the page. Such is - somewhat - the case with my mystery. Not totally, but close.

No Graphic Language - okay, this point doesn't get checked off. My story takes place in the here/now, not some quaint, English village in the 1920s when people didn't cuss like there was no tomorrow. This is one rule I'm bending. I'm allowed to bend a rule here and there. It's my delusional little world after all.

Amateur Sleuth - I have two of those. Woo-hoo.

Centers Around a Puzzle or Whodunnit - there is a murder, after all.

Local Setting - yep, I have that based covered as well.

Did I mention I did this without having a clue how to write (or that I was writing) a cozy mystery? Seriously, no clue at all. I just wrote, the words flowing in a torrent, and then on Friday I researched word-counts for mystery novels (btw, cozies come in between 60 - 70K, and my rough is complete at 60K - coincidence? I think not) and came across the term cozy, which I then researched. Again, I find it very odd that, pretty much, without having a clue, I wrote this rough draft in the first place.

Back to the setting - many cozy mysteries are set in a small town or small section of a larger city. Uh, yeah, big check mark for that one. In addition, the story may center around a tea shop. Uh, give me another big check mark for that one. Yes, there is a tea shop in my novel. This happened a little over half way through the novel. There were no plans for a tea pot when I started this project. None. At. All.

Coincidence? I think not. Instinct? I don't have a clue. I'm not about to question why I was able to insert the majority of elements of a cozy without knowing such elements were a requirement.

Perhaps my years of watching all the British mysteries instilled these concepts into my subconscious. I don't know.

I'm just finding it a bit odd that I have the required elements and the word count. Very. Odd. Indeed.