Monday, May 31, 2010

Cover Copy #2 – Blurbs and Egos

First – It's Memorial Day here in the US. The holiday commemorates U.S. men and women who died while in the military service. Please take a moment to give thanks to those willing to put their lives on the line for our freedom.

Next: a quick Wildlife Report. Yesterday, we drove up to Florissant for breakfast. On the way down our street, we saw two foxes in the road. One was kind enough to pose for a picture.

Then, after breakfast, we took the scenic route back to the highway, and saw a bear lumbering through the trees. He stopped to check us out, but it was tough to get a decent shot with my little camera.

And back to writing stuff:

On Friday, I posted part 1 of this discussion of another aspect of writing—the part that doesn't end up between the covers of the book, but rather, lives on the outside. For someone who enjoys the storytelling, dealing with the requisite marketing side of the business, especially when you're with a smaller publishing house, can be daunting. Part 1 dealt with the excerpts—the story teasers that will (one hopes!) make a reader want to read the book.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Foodie Friday

I told you there was going to be something special today. We're going to visit Cleo Coyle's Kitchen! She's got some pictures of food AND recipes. Enjoy!

Click on the images for the recipes.

Cake Pan Dutch Baby

Fresh Strawberry Pie

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cover Copy #1 - Excerpts

Wildlife report: raccoon got onto the deck while we slept. Broke the seed bird feeder and spilled a bunch of the hummingbird nectar – he left sticky paw prints all over the deck. Then a woodpecker pecked a nice chunk out of the door jamb. But the bear and the mountain lion passed us by.

I got an email from my editor for WHERE DANGER HIDES about the excerpts I'd submitted to her.

She's got a better handle on what the publisher wants than I do. I'm still dealing with the fact that although they publish romance, and they include sex-on-the-page scenes, they don't want you to use the word penis. It's a reader thing—and they ought to know their readers. It's also a reviewer thing--more on that Monday. Since that's their job, not mine, I follow the rules.

So, although the voting was overwhelmingly in favor of excerpt #1, my editor felt selection #2 would be more appropriate for the target audience. And since I know none of you remembers the excerpts, much less which was which, here it is:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Transitions, Detours and POV

First -- Glad to see so many new followers. Welcome! There's coffee and brownies on the sideboard, so help yourself. And Cleo – thanks so much for being my guest yesterday, and for all the great responses. You're definitely among friends here, and I hope you'll visit often. How many readers tried or will try those recipes?

Today should be the last day of painting, except for touch-ups as some of the demolition/replacement work takes place. I'll be glad to be finished with paint fumes for a while.

I've talked about writing environments, and those things that get a writer into the zone. Maybe it's the right playlist, or the right chair, or turning off the e-mail. Whatever it is, for many of us, we want it to "feel" right when we write.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Writers Block and Thunder Thighs

Today it's my pleasure to welcome Cleo Coyle to Terry's Place. Cleo Coyle is the pseudonym for a multipublished author and New York Times bestselling media tie-in writer. In collaboration with her husband, she pens two nationally bestselling mystery series for Penguin—the Coffeehouse Mysteries and the Haunted Bookshop Mysteries. Today, not only is she sharing some writerly advice, but RECIPES! Read on.

On Writer’s Block, Thunder Thighs, Haitian Coffee, and the Most Common Hazard Authors Face

Crime writing can be a challenge at times, but it can also be barrels of fun—-double barrels. Where else can you get even with the employer who laid you off with the line: “I wanted to do this myself because it’s such good experience for me as a new executive!” (No kidding, that’s how she did it.)

In one of my mysteries, I cast this sadistically perky charmer as the murderess and brought her to justice via a nice, solid smack to her noggin with an extra thick bestseller. In another, her lifeless body was found on the chilly floor of a women’s room. (She’d mistakenly ingested a poisoned soy muffin. :-)

Yes, in the end the pen can be mightier than the corporate pink slip.

Of course this writing gig is not all fun and games. Every day we authors bang out thrilling tales about cops and firefighters, gumshoes and adrenaline junkies. We put our protagonists in deadly danger from car crashes, crazy killers, or (in my case) over-caffeination. And where are we the entire time? Sitting on our assets—not so great for the cardiovascular system.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Name Game

What I'm reading: Hour Game, by David Baldacci

The first serious work begins on our house today, and I'm hoping it won't be totally disruptive. We'll have to see. We're starting with the painting and the master bedroom closet installation. I'm hoping that the closet installers show up at the beginning of their window so we can put all our clothes away, meaning less stuff in the way of the painters.
Last week, I talked about a story "bible" for keeping track of things, and how I hadn't really done as much along those lines as I should. Keeping track of characters' names is one of the basic skills any author should acquire. Regardless of how one chooses to do it, you really have to avoid confusing your readers. I'd like to share my system.

I recently read a book by a major, big name, best-selling author. It was a good book, but I wondered why she'd chosen the character names she used in the book. And I don't mean places where she was locked into names because the characters were in the same family—that's unavoidable, so you have to be careful not to refer to them by their last names.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Field Trip--From our Windows

Last week, our Field Trip was to the mailbox. This week, we're staying even closer to home. Thanks to the Hubster, we've got some halfway decent shots of the local wildlife. Most were taken right through our windows. He's having a ball, especially watching the hummingbirds every evening.

Broad-tail hummingbirds

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Adding Tension to the Mundane

Thanks to so many of you who went over to Author Expressions yesterday. If you didn't check my 'audition' post, you can find it here.

While doing edits definitely qualifies as writing, yesterday was the first time in about 10 days that I’ve been able to sit down and work on the new WIP. I’ve tried once again to analyze my process.

My basic premise in writing a scene is to decide what needs to happen to move the story along. I’ve discussed keeping tension in the story, so I’ll try to go over my points and show how I attempt to add that tension.

The scene: Elizabeth and Will return from shopping. Will is in his room drawing with his new pastels. Elizabeth is trying to relax by reading. (Yawning yet?). The moving van driver calls to set up delivery in two days. Elizabeth thinks about her husband and the risks she’s taking with her new life. Will comes in and shows her a picture he’s drawn—the hero’s dog. She puts it on the mantel. The welcome lady shows up to tell her about the neighborhood and gives her a basket of goodies. The welcome lady notices the picture and comments that it’s an excellent likeness. She asks if Elizabeth’s son drew it.

By now, you’re probably not just yawning, you’re asleep. Well, wake up for a moment and let’s see if I’ve managed to kick it up by adding some tension.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mystery, Suspense and POV

What I'm reading: Almost Like Being in Love, by Christina Dodd
Thanks to Rosemary Harris for being my guest yesterday. My editor received my revised manuscript and is working on it. With that off my plate, I'd planned on jumping back into my new WIP, but the hubster and I went all the way down the mountain and spent copious amounts of money on new everythings for the house.

Eventually, they assure us, they'll actually be delivered and then our contractor will start installing stuff. Today it's supposed to be a water softening system, so that our new appliances won't get all gunked up with mineral deposits. And, living up here, one learns to consolidate trips, so we made at least half a dozen stops (ok, one was lunch) trying to take care of everything in one day. We did, but it was a LONG day.

On another front: I've just hooked up with a group of other Five Star Expressions authors in a new blogging venture. It's still very loosely organized, but today's my day to post there. Some of you might be aware that I hold job interviews for my characters, but if you haven't read what transpired when Frankie Castor auditioned for the female lead in WHEN DANGER CALLS, why don't you pop over to Author Expressions. You know the drill. I'll be waiting.

Right now, we blog on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I'd love to see some of you there.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ripped From the Headlines

Today I'm pleased to welcome author Rosemary Harris to Terry's Place. One of the most frequent questions authors get asked is, "Where do you get your ideas?" Here's what Rosemary has to say about that.

Ripped from the headlines is such a cliché these days. Can we go back to the much classier sounding roman a clef? Why is the RFTH label so compelling to editors, publishers, reviewers and, one would assume, readers? Isn’t everything, sort of, RFTH? Haven’t writers from Lady Murasaki to Shakespeare to Dominick Dunne ripped from the headlines?

I have been on so many RFTH panels that I recently said No Mas to one at a mystery conference. Believe me, I thought long and hard before pushing that Send button. There are few things a new writer enjoys more than yakking about her path to publication, her protagonist’s dysfunctional family or damaged relationship with her partner and her struggle to get attention for her masterpiece at a publishing house where a book is old news before it even hits the shelves. All of which you can do no matter what question you are asked if you are skillful and polished enough. (“I’m glad you asked that question, Sarah, let me tell you about…”) I was thrilled to be invited, but wasn’t sure I could contribute to the discussion without sounding like I was phoning it in. And I did push Send. Mercifully the conference organizers put me on another panel.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Which Way Next?

What I’m reading: Smash Cut by Sandra Brown

How much should you plan ahead? One of the first thing you learn when you’re starting out is that nothing moves fast. You spend months—maybe longer—getting the manuscript ready to submit. Then it’s time for queries. Agents might have response times of weeks or more for a query. You’re lucky; you get a request for a partial. There’s another month or more waiting for a response. Lucky again; you get a request for a full. Tick, tick, tick.

What do you do while you’re in the midst of this waiting game? Write the next book. Ah, but there’s the rub. What do you write? There’s no guarantee book 1 will sell, much less a series, or a spin-off, based on it.

After I wrote When Danger Calls, one of the secondary characters wanted his turn front and center, so I started writing Dalton’s book. When I got an agent, she suggested we make it stand alone, so I had to go back and make sure there was nothing the depended on a reader having read the first book. Publishers often don’t want to buy book 2 in a series. So, while she was shopping the manuscript around, what was I doing? Writing another book. I took a hiatus from the Blackthorne, Inc. world and wrote Hidden Fire, the sequel to Finding Sarah.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Field Trip - Down to the Mailbox

Sometimes there's beauty in our own backyards. Or at least right down the street. Our mailbox is located 0.7 miles from our house. There's more than a 200 foot elevation gain in that distance (Actually, most of it is in the first five minutes, but it's downhill that way. The killer is that last five minutes going back UP the hill.) At any rate, we gave it a test the other day, and took a few pictures. A collaborative effort: I composed them and the hubster used his camera to shoot what I told him to, more or less. I did a little cropping when he finished. Hope this shows why we're enjoying our new environs.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Discomfort Zone

Congrats to Lil, the winner of Karin Harlow’s L.O.S.T mug.

We’re always talking about taking our characters out of their comfort zones, making them do things they don’t want to do, making them face things they don’t want to face. These are usually things that mark critical turning points in a book. The claustrophobic hero has to rescue someone from a cave. The guy with the snake phobia has to drop into the pit filled with the slithering beasties.

But what about the little things? The simple, physical discomforts? I’ve been working on editing WHERE DANGER HIDES. I’ve done edits for five other books, so it’s not something new or different. But this time, it’s not “comfortable”. I don’t have my desk. I have a computer stand that’s only a little wider than my monitor. It does have a pullout keyboard drawer, but that’s about the extent of it. No drawers. No handy places to put things, or much room for taking notes. I do have my ‘real’ desk chair, but working doesn’t feel the same.

Until we get the new window treatments, I’m almost unable to work at the computer for several late-afternoon into evening hours because of the sun’s glare. I shifted the “desk” 90 degrees, but although I’m no longer looking into the sun, there’s still quite a glare. So, why not rearrange my schedule so that I’m not working during that time. I could be fixing dinner, or doing laundry, or reading, or any of a myriad other tasks.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

There's Edits And Then There's Edits

First – thanks to Karin for being my guest yesterday. If you haven't read her post, or left a comment (there's a PRIZE, gang), Go. Do. It. Now. Winner announced Thursday, so there's still time today.

As I mentioned, I got my edits for WHERE DANGER HIDES back from the editor late Sunday. I refrained from opening it until Monday; otherwise I might have been up all night, and done a sloppy job.

She'd said it was a very clean read, not much for me to do at all, and that I could probably turn it around in a couple of days. Feeling pretty good, I opened the document. My first reaction was, "Did she send the wrong file?" because I didn't see any markups. I scrolled down, and at the bottom of page 7, at the end of the first scene, was her first comment. It said, "Great beginning." I felt even better. The next comment came at page 16, and was a "LOL." I was stoked.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

What A Character!

Today I'm delighted to introduce the debut paranormal suspense author, Karin Harlow. Join me as we learn about her new series. And don't miss a chance to win the special prize she's offering. Read on.

Recently I did a little traveling on family business. The airport we flew into was a first for me. On our approach, which seemed to take forever, took us directly through a city! A city with high rises! Lot’s of high-rises. Thank goodness, on the outbound flight home, we took off over water. The airport had other issues, and, as much as I love the area, I won’t be flying into that particular airport for a while.

But the hassles of this airport aside, which were many, and I won’t bore you with the details, the reason for the trip was priceless: Family. A mile-stone birthday for a favored elder uncle. I was able to visit with and catch up with family members I have not seen in almost 30 years! Even cousins I have never met. It was interesting to see how this particular side of the family, which has been hit heavy with divorce, desertion, devastation and alienation, had managed to heal.

There was one person who was not invited to the party, the catalyst of it all that destruction, the woman who more than 40 years ago ripped that family apart. As a writer, I found the character arc’s of this side of the family fascinating. I mean, I look at the initial damage one person caused and then over the span of 40 years how that damage played out in the main characters’ lives before coming full circle. I saw a family who was bruised, battered and battle weary, tho’ never beaten, come together in love and celebration of their patriarch. By their presence and peace of mind, they showed their true character.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I'm Really a Normal Person

What I'm reading: Winter and Night by S.J. Rozan

I feel like a normal person. I mean, I don't have two heads, and although I have my quirks, I don't think they put me outside the box of what "everyday" people do. Yet the reaction when I tell people I'm a writer is always one of surprise and amazement.

While at Barbara O'Neal's discussion group at the library last week, Barbara pointed out that in addition to book club members, and some 'off the street' attendees, there were also a couple of writers present, and she pointed us out. Jaws dropped.

While I was getting my library card last week, I was chatting with the librarian, who remembered me from the discussion group. I mentioned my interest in doing programs for their library, and as we chatted, a woman standing in line waiting to return her books spoke up. She said, "Am I in the presence of a real author?" My response was, "Yes," although I didn't continue with, "and it's not really such a big deal."

I never got that reaction when I said I was a teacher, which I think is a much more difficult and honorable profession. And certainly not when I was a part time assistant to a non-profit scientific organization (although when I mentioned it was a group involved in marine mammal science, I got a few questions—mostly about dolphins, about which I know very little. I was the person who entered membership data into a computer.)

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mothers Day

Happy Mothers Day to all moms, aunts, grandmothers, and everyone who does the "mom" thing!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Friday Field Trip - Tucson, Arizona

A few years back, the Adult Literacy League sent me to the national literacy conference in Tucson, Arizona. I had the pleasure of hooking up with an on-line crit partner (who, rumor has it, will be providing some of his own shots for a future field trip) for a day before the conference, and he showed me some of the sights. I think there's something beautiful in the stark desert landscape.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Pikes Peak Writers Conference 6

House/Move recap. We're starting to order major stuff—to the point that we're asking for higher credit limits on our credit cards. One headache: One of my cards that was due to expire didn't make it. For security reasons, they're issuing a new card with a new number. I dread having to figure out all the places that have my card on file where automatic purchases will be rejected. But, of course, the alternative—that someone else got the card and might use it—is even more of a headache.

"Meet the Author" recap: Barbara O'Neal (Samuel) led a great discussion & Q&A at the library. Members of two book clubs, plus "regular" people discussed what they liked about her books, and asked questions about her writing process. I did meet two librarians and hope that I can hook up with a program there as well. I didn't get my library card, though, because the desk had closed by the time we wrapped up. Maybe tomorrow, since I'm going all the way down the mountain—Mom sent a gift card to BB&B!

Writing: I've moved forward a tad—one scene from Chapter 3. I'm trying to apply what I've learned at the recent workshops. Mixed feelings there. I'd rather deal with that after I've written the scene, not feel bogged down and outside the action trying to see whether I'm handling tension, pacing, and suspense properly. I think I'm going to revert to my old system of writing the scene, then re-reading it and doing the edits the next day. I'll let you know if it's working. But second-guessing every paragraph is slowing me down.

And, speaking of workshops: The Last Pikes Peak Workshop – Characters

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Pikes Peak Writers Conference 5

Thanks to Amanda for her delightful post yesterday. I'm sure we can all relate at some level. And (which seems normal for me), Publisher's Weekly was updating its website, so it's quite possible you weren't able to get over to Barbara Vey's Blog. Such is life. I updated it when I got the new URL, but if you missed it, it's here.

Before I move on with another workshop recap, I decided I'd share an email I got from an agent I met at a conference. She'd told me to send 3 chapters, which I did. This was her response:

Thanks so much for offering me the chance to consider your material. Unfortunately, your project doesn't seem right for me. Since it's crucial that you find an agent who will represent you to the best of his or her ability, I'm afraid that I'm going to have to step aside rather than ask to represent your manuscript.

That's fairly standard—at least among the rejection letters I've received (and there have been a lot of them). But she went on to explain more about why she decided to pass.

You have a great imagination - I love the premise - and you're a good writer, but I'm sad to say that I just wasn't passionate enough about this to ask to see more. I wish I could offer constructive suggestions, but I thought the dialogue was fine, the characters well-crafted, and the plot well-conceived. I think it's the kind of thing that really is subjective - why some people adore the book on the top of the NYTimes bestseller list, and others don't.

Anyone getting into this business has to know it's subjective. Not only do you have to write a good book, but it has to resonate with the right people at the right time. With a response like this, it's impossible to 'fix' the manuscript—because it doesn't seem to be broken. It's a matter of moving on.

And now to Pikes Peak.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Looking for the Blue Danube

Today I'm especially pleased to welcome author Amanda Flower to Terry's Place. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the guest scheduled for today was unable to make it, and Amanda stepped in at the last minute, with a post I know you'll enjoy. As writers, we work with words. What happens when they fail to communicate?

And while Amanda is here at Terry's Place, I'm over at "Beyond Her Book", Barbara Vey's Blog at Publisher's Weekly, with an overall view of the Pikes Peak Writers Conference.

The best part of travel is it reduces you to thinking about the basics: food, shelter, and transportation. When you’re standing in the middle of a foreign city alone with a bad map printed off the Internet and zero knowledge of the native language, your everyday worries from back home just seem to melt away.

When I was twenty-five, I got this ridiculous notion in my head that I should travel to Budapest, Hungary alone. I was already in Eastern Europe visiting a friend, and my friend had to work the day of my Hungarian adventure. I didn’t want to waste one minute in Europe by sitting around her apartment when a whole continent was right outside the window.

I took the train from Bratislava to Budapest without incident. I felt confident I knew where I was going. I had a map and a travel guide—what could possibly go wrong? I figured I’d find the Danube River and would be able to follow it on foot to the Castle Hill district where the museums and other tourists would be. Sure, the travel guide told me to use the funicular to get up the hill, but I was a poor twenty-something on a strict budget, willing to hoof-it to save money.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Pikes Peak Writers Conference 4

What I'm reading: Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, June 2010

First – the moving update. (To go straight to the Pikes Peak recap, click the "keep reading" link below.)

Movers showed up with our stuff Friday morning. Although we got rid of (we thought) most of our stuff before leaving Florida, there were an awful lot of boxes and other bits and pieces. Hubster ran the checklist, and for most boxes, it was a matter of 'upstairs' vs 'downstairs. Rooms indicated on the boxes were relatively meaningless, as we don't have those rooms in this house. Plus, we plan to do some upgrades and remodels, so keeping non-essentials out of the way should make it a little easier. The 'fun' was that the labels on the boxes weren't necessarily indicative of the contents. Opening and unwrapping was like a day-long birthday party.

It's nice to have some furniture again, even if it's not necessarily where it will end up. And since I'm lousy at visualizations, I can finally see how things will fit and work. Of course, for all the boxes we unpacked, there are trees and trees worth of packing paper. Traversing the downstairs level is like parting the seas. And we learned that waste management up here isn't like our Florida home. There, our taxes covered pickup. Twice a week, as many cans or bags as you put by the curb. Major discards, such as furniture, etc. could be put out on Thursdays. Yard waste picked up once a week. Recycling once a week.

Here: you hire your waste management company directly. They will sell you ONE can, or you can use your own. That's it. Once a week, one can. We definitely have to look into how we can recycle all the cardboard, and what to do with the bags and bags and bags of all that packing paper.

We've had some regular visitors to the property. In addition to the critters in the picture, hubster put up a bird feeder and is happily marking off all the new species he's seeing. I've got my camera and binoculars on the windowsill of my office.

On to Pikes Peak recaps