Brainstorm Becoming a Drizzle?
If your brainstorming is becoming more of a drizzle than a storm, do I have the book for you!
The Brainstorming Kit
is absolutely the best book I've found to help you jumpstart your imagination.
When I'm just starting a book, I'm mainly working only from a synopsis and the idea that I had for the story several months before. So it's not always easy getting into the minds and hearts and motivations of the characters. Sure, by the third or fourth chapter, things are beginning to cook! But the trick is, GETTING THERE.
For me, this book has been just amazing. It comes with a set of 'character cards' and the book pages are numbered to match the cards. You pull several of the cards out of the deck, go to the corresponding page and TA-DA!! There, you'll find dozens of happy little ideas designed to spark your own creativity. There are sections for Character Traits, Goals, Internal and External Conflicts, Growth, Plot, Trigger Events, Black Moments and even Resolution.
I'm not saying it'll ever replace a writer's own imagination, but boy, until you know your characters inside out, this book can help you stumble around in the dark with a lot less falling on your face!
Yep, today's my birthday. And like every other writer I know, it was a mandatory day off.
We'll work weekends, especially when the deadline is crashing down on top of us. We'll work Sundays, even though that just feels so wrong, somehow.
Some of us, have even managed to squeeze in an hour or so on Thanksgiving day. But your own birthday? Nope. Sacrosanct.
It's a day to put your feet up, watch a movie, read a book, eat chocolate and in general, enjoy just...BEING. On this one day, you try not to think about the current book that's making you insane. You don't write out bills. You don't go grocery shopping. If possible, you don't cook. You don't do anything that isn't pure enjoyment.
And you know what? We're worth it...
Writers write, right?
At least, that's what we're supposed to be doing. But in truth, when you work for yourself, it's all too tempting to give yourself a day off.
However. I'm being good. I'm working hard on my next Desire and getting into the heads of my characters. An always interesting place to be.
But while I'm at work, I'm also still thinking about my good friend, Kate Carlisle
. See, she's at the beginning of the road I've been traveling for the last fifteen years. And in the last year, some really incredibly exciting things have been happening for her. She's won several regional writing contests and was a triple finalist in this year's RWA Golden Heart contest. She also won for her book Snooping in Stilettos. Now, she's a finalist in the American Title III competition held by Dorchester press and Romantic Times Magazine.
But the good fortune that's been flying about her head for the last year only happened because of one reason. Well, okay, TWO. One, she's very talented. But talent isn't enough to get you noticed. It's not even enough to get you published. There are lots of talented writers out there.
Nope, the reason these good things are happening for Kate is because of a decision she made a year ago. We were at a meeting at our local chapter of RWA. And while we sat there talking, Kate made the decision to 'go at it hard this year. Enter all the contests. Approach agents." And because she made a conscious choice to put herself and her work out there (not an easy thing to do at all), things started happening.
Like I said, it's not enough to be talented. You have to WANT it. You have to be persistent. And you have to believe in yourself enough to take a chance.
Woo Hoo, Kate!!!
Well, happy to note that for whatever reason, Blogger has decided to allow me to post a picture!!
The photo on the left was taken at RWA's national conference in Georgia, this past July. That's Christine Rimmer, Kate Carlisle, me and Susan Mallery, all decked out for the gala awards night!
And this blog is about Kate! Over on our team blog, Deadline Diaries
, Kate is our Unpublished Princess, so close to making that first sale, we can all taste it!
At the RWA conference, Kate won the Golden Heart Award (think Oscar for unpublished romance writers) for her novel, SNOOPING IN STILETTOS. Well, today her life just got even more exciting!
She's now a finalist in the American Title competition, sponsored by Romantic Times Magazine and Dorchester publishing. It's sort of an American Idol type of contest. Every month, snippets of the finalists' books are published in the magazine and everyone votes!! Two writers are eliminated every month until the last book is standing and then the winner is published by Dorchester!
So as soon as I have the website link for the voting process, I'll be posting it often, hoping you'll all go and vote for Kate's book! And if you'd like to read a little something on her nominated book, THE KAMA SUTRA CHRONICLES, go to Kate's website
you can read an excerpt of this very funny, sexy book!
Until then, WAY TO GO, KATE!!!!!
Okay, I give up. For three days now, I've been battling the Blogger Powers That Be trying to upload a pic of mom and me at my daughter's wedding. Blogger will NOT allow this. (I think maybe it doesn't like my hair in that photo!)
So onward and upward. Or at least straight aheadward.
I'm working on a Desire at the moment, the first in a new trilogy. And this one is based on three women. Great friends. Now usually, my trilogies are centered on the heroes. I love writing about brothers or cousins or...you get the idea.
But writing about this tight friendship between these three women is really a lot of fun. Heroes are where our hearts live, true. But to really capture your audience, I think a writer has to make the reader fall in love with the heroine, too. She has to be someone we could hang with. Someone we want to succeed. Someone we can identify with.
My mom says that most of my heroines remind her of ME. Not that I do it consciously, but I suppose my own character traits or personality quirks are bound to come through in my heroines.
In FINDING YOU, a single title contemporary I wrote a few years ago, the heroine, Carla Candelanno, had her morning coffee on the front porch of her home. She'd sit there and talk to her Golden Retriever, Abbey, about the world at large and how Oreos and caffeine made the perfect breakfast food. Well, yes, that was me. And it's not just Carla. Bits and pieces of me show up in all of my characters.
I wonder if that's what makes storytelling so interesting. If that''s what makes it possible for twenty writers, given the same idea, to each tell a wildly divergent story?
Fun to think about.
Rambling Thoughts WITH A PICTURE AT LAST!
So this weekend, my mom was here on a quick overnighter visit. We call her the Traveling Granny, since the woman is always on the move! That's her with me and my son at my daughter's wedding last summer.
Anyway, mom came in this weekend so she could go with me to an author panel event at the Cerritos Library. Four other romance authors (and friends) and I were speaking on the world of writing! Sandra Paul, Charlene Sands, Patricia Thayer and Barbara McCauley and I were all sitting on a stage answering questions while the audience had a great time with a fabulous tea lunch and truly spectacular desserts.
But the funny thing is, when the questions were asked, one was posed directly to me--signed by 'a bridesmaid in your wedding'. I was so stunned, I immediately jumped up and shouted, "Who's here?" When I found my old friend, I couldn't believe it. I raced off the stage to hug her--accompanied by a lot of laughter. We hadn't seen each other in about twenty years.
And just like that, it was old home week. Years rolled away and we were in high school again. We've already made plans to get together. Her older sister, who had come too, said, "You're the same Maureen!" Which gave me a hard moment or two. You mean I haven't grown as a person? Whoa. That can't be a good thing.
Or is it? Do we, no matter what, remain the people we were when we were kids? Despite life and all of the ups and downs of it, are we, at the core, the person we always were?
Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe it's comforting to know that if you happen to stumble across an old friend, that same connection will be there. Sure, you don't share a lot in your present day life, but the memories are clear. The love is clear. And just for a minute or two...it was nice to feel eighteen again.
Best Vacation Spot
Ah...I love this place. It's a self catering cottage in County Mayo, Ireland. My parents, my husband and I spent two weeks there a few years ago and frankly, I can't wait to get back.
There's something great about a 'self catering' vacation. Sure, you have to cook (or hey, hit the local pub for dinner and entertainment), but having your own house to live in while you're visiting a different country is just so cozy.
This place is called Knight's Cottage
it's owned by Tom and Maura Staunton and they are incredibly wonderful hosts. When we were there, they had four kids with one on the way and the cottage itself sits alongside the Staunton family home that is also a B&B. Plus, it's on their working sheep farm.
We went in March, when all the lambs were being born and it was great. Sitting outside in the chilly dawn, with fog clinging to the surface of the lake that stretched out in front of us. We watched the newborn lambs playing in the front field and at least I tried not to think about their destiny as lambchops.
The other picture I've got pasted up there, (if it comes out right, I'm still getting used to Blogger), is the view of the cottage and the B&B from the lake.
I love Ireland. I've been in love with it since my first trip there when I was 18. I stepped off the plane, got slapped by that cold Irish wind and immediately felt a sense of 'coming home', though I'd never been there before. I still feel that sensation, the moment I set foot in that beautiful, lush, welcoming country.
And when deadlines are too tight, or traffic is ugly or I'm just feeling cranky...I look at pictures of Knight's Cottage and tell myself it's still there, just waiting for me.
Yes, I actually do know the plural for synopsis, it's just that I thought that title was funnier.
Anyway, wanted to whine about writing synopses for awhile. I've got synopses on the brain at the moment since I just did a conference call with Susan Mallery
and Chris Rimmer
, to plot my next book for NAL. Got a lot of great stuff, but now I actually have to write the damn thing!
I don't know a single writer who enjoys this part of the whole book process. It's impossible to get down all the nuances of character and story arc and plot in a ten page synopsis.
And yet, it's something that can't be avoided. Thankfully, editors always insist that they don't buy or reject on the strength of synopsis writing (since they know none of us shine at that), but they do need to see it. They need to know that we've got a beginning, middle and an end. They want to know that we've got a road map to guide us on the way to finishing the book.
Still, for your own sake, you have to try to make that synopsis as fluid and compelling as possible.
The best way to do it, (Just my opinion by the way), is to write the synopsis as if you're telling a friend what your book's about. That way you hit all the high notes and leave out the insignifigant details. Yes, the details will be important when you're writing the book, but in the synopsis, we don't need to see snatches of dialogue or know what the heroine's wearing or what kind of car the hero drives.
So keep it simple and smooth. I suggest doing one paragraph on the heroine, then the next on the hero. Then you flow with the story arc, showing the editor the growth of each character. And looking at the storyline through the two very different viewpoints can give you some ideas for when you're actually writing the book. Always useful.
Oh, and most importantly, always
tie up all loose ends in the synopsis. Never ever write a synopsis ending by saying, 'if you want to know how the book ends, I'd be happy to send you the manuscript'. The editor will not be amused.
Orange County RWA
So, I've got an RWA meeting tomorrow. For those of you who don't know...RWA is the short hand version of Romance Writers of America.
The national organization is huge, with nearly ten thousand members. And I do belong to National. But it's the Orange County chapter I call home.
When I was first starting my quest to be published, my first agent suggested that I join RWA and the Orange County chapter in particular. She assured me that I'd meet great people and learn everything I would ever need to know about surviving in the publishing industry. Well, I was never big on joining clubs. Give me a book and some time to myself and I'm a happy camper.
But I did join, because I was determined to sell and needed all the help I could get. I walked into that first meeting...back in the day, the chapter meetings were held at a Sizzler restaurant in Fullerton, CA....I didn't know a soul. Now everyone who knows me will laugh at this, but I was sooo intimidated. A whole room full of women who were laughing and talking and sharing war stories about books and plots and agents and editors. It was mind boggling!
But I was hooked. I took a seat in the back of the room and listened to everything I could. I took notes. I considered bringing a tape recorder so I wouldn't miss anything, then I found out the chapter tapes their meetings, so hey. Covered.
The next month, I talked to a few people and within a few months, I'd made some great friends, learned so much more than I could have on my own and I realized that there were lots of people like me--you know...the ones with stories and people and dialogue running through their brains all the time!
Since joining OCC, I've sold more than ninety books in several different genres. I've had a few agents, many editors and I've worn out four keyboards. But I'm still at OCC. I still look forward to the meetings and getting a chance to talk to my friends. I still learn something every time I go there. And I know that for me, OCC will always be my writing home.
No, this isn't an actual picture of my office...but it could be!
My husband swears that when the next big earthquake hits, they're going to find me dead, buried under a mountain of books. I say, what better way to go??
Seriously, can you ever have too many books? I don't think so. I like having a TBR mountain
close at hand. I've always got at least one new book going and sometimes more than one. If I simply cannot wait to get going on a book I've been waiting for, I just dive in and then go back to the one I abandoned when I'm finished with the new one.
And you can't open a closet in safety in my house. Stacks of books will come tumbling out. My husband does not get this. Why keep a book once you've read it? he asks.....So I can read it AGAIN, I tell him. The concept of Keepers is lost on him.
I just added another one to the Keeper pile yesterday. Nora's latest, Morrigan's Cross. I rushed through that book like a starving woman finding a Hershey bar. Couldn't stop. Didn't savor. Just felt the pull of the magic and dove in. When I was finished, I started over at the beginning and this time, took my time, relishing it like Godiva. It was even better the second time and I know I'll be reading that one again.
About fifteen years ago, I read a book called THE MIRROR, by Marlys Millheiser, and it's STILL with me. Out of the blue, I'll think about that story and wonder. Remember the characters and the chills I got reading it. That really is a kind of magic, don't you think?
Like good friends, books are always there when you need them most. Just have to remember to be careful when opening my closets!
Have a book that's stayed with you? What is it? Why do you love it?
One of THOSE Days
You know the days. The ones when you sit down with your synopsis and you know exactly what you've got to get done. You know your characters, know what they're supposed to be doing ...
You're not feeling the magic, you're not feeling the 'muse' whatever the heck that is and at the end of every page, you want to pick up your computer and pitch it through the window, just to hear the crash!
That's what my day's been like today. At least, writing wise. Maybe it's the heat. Maybe it's that I'm too busy thinking about one of my best friends who's dealing with getting her first agent. Maybe I've just typed all I'm going to type today.
Whatever the reason, the computer is still here, looking at me out of its one big eye and daring me to close the lid. Actually, I think its glaring at me. Plotting revenge. Hmm. You know, you're not really paranoid if they actually ARE out to get you!!
Where is Autumn???
When I think of Autumn, this is the kind of image that fills my head.
Not sure why, since I was born and raised in Southern California. But ever since I was a kid, I pictured scene like this one at the end of summer.
I really do think I'm living on the wrong coast!
September in California is hot and lately, (thanks to the hurricanes in Mexico) steamy! I long for a change. A big weather change. I want cold winds and turning leaves and black clouds with lots of rain caught inside them. I want the dreary days that seem to fill my imagination much more completely than sunshine does. I want to feel the nip of a coming winter in the air and huddle inside a sweatshirt against the wind. I want to sit on the banks of a river like this one and listen to the sound of the water battering the rocks. Hear the whisper of wind in the trees.
Yep. Definitely living on the wrong coast.
So, what does Autumn mean to you?
Had to do a book review today. Just finished reading GETAWAY GIRL by Michele Hauf and had to say, this is a terrific read!
If you like your romances to come with non stop action, then this is the book for you! The heroine, Jamie MacAlister, a good scottish girl with 30W oil running through her veins, is a getaway driver. She's been working for years on the fringes of a crime organization and now she's determined to go straight. But La Lapine (the rabbit) as she's known to the Paris underworld, has people who want to keep her right where she is.
The hero, Sacha Vital, has his own problems. He's got to find his missing sister Ava before she's swallowed by the very underworld Jamie's trying to escape. But is he the good guy? Or the bad guy? All Jamie knows for sure is, he's the one man she shouldn't trust--and the only man she wants.
Michele has written a book that keeps readers turning pages, wondering what could possibly happen next. You get such a feel for the streets of Paris, you can almost smell the baguettes baking! If you want a great read that will keep you up late into the night.......go buy Getaway Girl!