Saturday, April 30, 2011

Last Chance

Don't miss out. Today's the last day to enter the Grab Bag Contest (click tab above for details), and to leave a comment on Wednesday's post to win my copy of the "mystery" book. Winners announced tomorrow.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Field Trip - Around the Yard

Hubster provided some of the pictures he's taken recently. He likes checking out all the wildlife, both flora and fauna. These shots are all from our yard, many taken from his window.

Reminders: Don't miss my grab bag contest (see contest tab above) or a chance to win my "mystery POV book" from Wednesday's post. Come back Sunday to see if you're a winner.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Revisiting a Ride Along

Don't forget my grab bag contest and my 'leave a comment' drawing from Wednesday's post! Or to check back Sunday to see if you're a winner.

Today, I'm going to be on a ride along with a Teller County Deputy Sheriff. I thought it might be interesting to compare the rural setting with the more urban one in Orlando, where I did a ride along several years ago.

To make the comparison easier, I'm going to rerun that post today (from June 2007), and then I'll write up my experiences on today's journey for next week.

I had the pleasure of doing a ride along with a deputy sheriff on Friday. I opted for the mid shift which gave me a chance to see both day and night. I also chose the sector in which I live, even though it might not have as much "action" as some of the other ones. I thought by doing this, I would learn more, as I might have more time to chat with the deputy. After all, I was doing this to learn about the 'little things' that will add realism to my books, as much as for the fun.

Their day begins at 3:00 pm with a briefing and runs until 2:30 am. As a rider, I was free to decide how long I wanted to stay. Since two days earlier, two deputies had been shot in a hotel parking lot, their briefing ran long, and it was close to 4:00 (I still think in am/pm time, although everything was done on a 24 hour clock system) before I met Chris, who would more or less be responsible for my life for the next few hours. I asked if he drew the short straw when he got the assignment, but he said he normally does the ride alongs in the sector because he enjoys showing the general public what they really do on the job. I was also a tad surprised that I was doing more than 'riding' because for most of the calls, he brought me along and introduced me as a 'colleague.'

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hiding your POV character

What I'm reading: The Eagle Catcher, by Margaret Coel.

Thanks to Sharon for those wonderful insights into the inner workings of a Navy SEAL.

I recently read a book by a very well-known romance/romantic suspense author and it gave me another look at what a writer can do with Point of View. Deep Point of View means the reader sees and knows only what the character sees and knows. Yet it's possible to deliver only the information that the author wants to disclose while still being in that character's head.

First, it's a testament to this author's skill that although I knew I was being set up, and had a pretty good idea of the final twist, I wasn't tempted to stop to analyze the 'hows' or look for clues or slipups as I read. But once I got to the end, and my suspicions were confirmed, I went back to see whether the author had in fact, "cheated" in her use of POV.

And, no, she hadn't. Which is probably why she's a best-selling author. And if you'll leave a comment, I'll enter you in a drawing to win my copy of this "mystery" book so you can see for yourself.

I don't normally like spoilers, but there's really no way to demonstrate the author's technique without giving away some major plot points. I won't name the book or the author, but you may recognize it if you've read it. If not, and if you do read it, I hope I haven't given too much away. As I said, I figured it out very early on, and the story is still a good one regardless of whether or not you know the 'truth.'

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What's in a SEAL?

Today my guest is Sharon Hamilton, who writes paranormal and contemporary sensual romance. She is currently working on a three-novel series involving Navy SEALS. Her debut novel, Angel, is launching in May. She also writes erotic shorts under the pen name Angela Love. And while Sharon is taking over Terry's Place, I'm over at The Blood Red Pencil talking more about using Track Changes from the author's viewpoint. Welcome, Sharon.

My son is a Navy SEAL. His graduating class started with 192 trainees, and by the time the class was through, 7 of the original men were left. My son was the youngest in the group.

You can imagine what goes through your mind when your child tells you he has elected to put himself in harm’s way. One of the first things I told him was that he was a better person than I was. But I didn’t realize what kind of a course they would be going through, and what kind of commitment it took to finish.

In the original class, there was a Senator’s son, an astronaut’s son, captains of several Annapolis and West Point sports teams, and several pro football players. There was a young man who gave up his chance to compete in the Olympics to try out. Most of these didn’t make it. No shame in that. The training teaches a young man what his limits are. The ones that remain would jump off a twelve-story building if they were told. Just like the young SEAL did in Iraq when he fell on a grenade and saved four other team guy’s lives, at the expense of his own. And he’d already been wounded earlier in the day.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Time Management

What I'm reading: Screenscam, by Michael Bowen; Kiss Me Deadly, by Michele Hauf.

My April contest is almost over - don't miss out on a chance to win a batch of goodies. Click the contest tab to enter. And thanks to all my followers: I hit the 300 milestone on Sunday.

Not long ago, I attended a workshop on time management. I couldn't stay for the whole presentation—I had to leave on time, but the speaker wasn't finished yet. (Her time management skills didn't seem to carry over to workshop time.)

While I didn't agree with everything she said—such as blocking out one hour a day for exercise—she did make a lot of valid points. (And I don't dispute the value of exercise, I just follow a different regimen.) She also said she checks her email on a fixed schedule (never first thing in the morning), regularly deletes messages that have been sitting around too long (if it's important, they'll get back to you), and only checks her phone messages at specific times. That was a little too regimented for me. Then again, I'm not inundated with phone calls. But I do have aging parents, and the thought of telling them that if there's an emergency, they should leave a message and I'll get back to them between two and three is a bit over the top. My circles aren't the 'call and chat' types, although I spent a lot more time on the phone back in my 'stay at home mom' days.

I also don't have a day job. And, at the moment, I'm not working on deadline, so I have a lot more flexibility with my time. That doesn't mean I use my time efficiently.

One 'trick' she suggested was one I used to use when I did have kids at home, worked, and things seemed to pile up until they seemed too daunting to tackle, and I thought it worth sharing.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

And The Winner Is ...

The winner of a signed proof copy of SEPARATION ANXIETY from Jenyfer Matthews is ... LAURI

Congratulations - you'll have to email Jenyfer to arrange to get your prize.

And thanks to all for your comments.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday Field Trip - Florissant Fossil Beds

Since nobody has sent me any pictures to share, you're stuck with my last trip to Florissant Fossil Beds. Now that I'm dealing with coming up with my own cover art, I thought I'd take some pictures that might end up with some sort of potential someday, as my next book is set in this vicinity. And please, if you like this feature, send me something to share!

I'll also remind you to check back tomorrow to see who won Jenyfer Matthews' giveaway. And don't forget my contest.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

On Being a Minority

Thanks and welcome to my new followers. I can't believe I'm almost at 300. And don't forget to leave a comment on Jenyfer Matthews' post (scroll down to Tuesday). She's giving away an ARC. And why haven't you entered my contest? It's not that hard!

We're in the midst of Passover, and it's interesting to compare our celebrations over the past few years. Two years ago, we were still in Florida. No family around, so I invited another couple (non-Jews) to share our Seder. Last year, we were renting a small apartment in Monument, and although I had no real kitchen, family was nearby, so I went to my daughter's house and cooked, and we had the first "family" meal in quite some time. This year, we're up in Divide, and we can have a family Seder again.

I discovered that ethnic foods here are 85% Hispanic. A little Asian, and a smattering of Indian. I was able to find a few "Jewish" items in the local chains. (We have one small grocery store in Divide, and its ethic food section is more like 95% Hispanic. For "real" shopping we go to Woodland Park, where there are 2 grocery stores and a Walmart.)

I checked out the "Jewish" offerings at the two grocery stores there. Yes, they had a few items, but not the special "Kosher for Passover" variety. I figured the kids down in Colorado Springs would be able to get the appropriate foodstuffs, and would take advantage of their finds.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

7 Considerations When Writing Descriptions

Thanks to Jenyfer for her post yesterday. Most of us haven't had to pick up stakes without notice, especially not knowing if or when we can get back to what we considered "normal." And don't forget, she's got a prize for one commenter, and you have until Friday to enter. Scroll down and leave a comment under her post if you haven't already.

On Monday, I talked about how descriptions are tied into the depth of POV you're using for your story. I write deep POV, generally 3rd person. I prefer it, so this post is geared toward descriptions using that viewpoint.

Seven things to consider when writing descriptions.

1. What's happening in the story? Is it an action scene? If so, would your character really be noticing what you've spent three paragraphs describing? If bullets are flying, or the bad guys are on the way, or even if they think the bad guys might be on the way, where's their attention going to be focused? They're likely to be listening and watching—but for things 'bad guy' related, not that the sounds of the surf reminds them of that delightful vacation they took five years ago to Hawaii—and, this is definitely not the place to stop and have them remember what they did on that vacation.

2. Who is your character? Would a guy who's idea of a good time is sitting on the couch, thumb on remote, flipping between 3 football games actually notice (or even know) that the woman entering the room at a banquet is wearing a specific designer label? Would he recognize the music playing in the room as Vivaldi? Would he know the painting on the wall is an original (or copy) of a Degas? Would he describe the color of the walls as mauve, taupe or ecru? Does he know what those colors are?

3. Where is your character? Often, you'll see a character mentioning that the character entering the room is wearing a "grey wool suit" or a "red silk blouse" or something to that effect. I don't know about you, but I can't recognize fabrics from a distance—heck, I probably wouldn't recognize them if I touched them. Can you spot the difference between 'silk' and 'silky'? These sorts of observations, while adding to description, can slow the pace if it's not something that would be logical for the character to recognize. Those sorts of details put the author on the page.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Story of My Life

I’m pleased to welcome Jenyfer Matthews back to my blog. I met Jenyfer Matthews online when we were both writing for Cerridwen Press and she had just moved with her family to Cairo, Egypt from the United Arab Emirates. Jenyfer is back in the United States now, but not entirely by choice…

As a rule, I don’t a write mysteries so I don’t have to know each plot point before I start writing my story. I am what is known in the writing world as a “pantster”, meaning I write by the seat of my pant - or in other words, I make it all up as I go along. Something will inspire a story idea, I’ll get an inkling of the big turning points, and I might even have a glimmer of how I want the story to end then off I go.

Generally, my stories start with me exploding my character’s life and then waiting to see how they react. I have to admit, the process is much more fun in my head than it is in real life. Up until February 1st, I lived in Cairo, Egypt. Then everything… changed.

I was just minding my own business – putting the children on the school bus in the morning, grocery shopping, doing (never ending) housework, and planning out my writing goals for the year when the Egyptian Revolution occurred.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Scenes, Descriptions and POV

What I'm reading: Snake Skin by C.J. Lyons, Wicked Becomes You, by Meredith Duran

Want to win 21 mystery books? Check the Deals and Steals tab.

One of the "perks" to getting the rights back to a previously published book, especially one you wrote years ago—and ever more especially, your very first published book—is that you can make changes. I've already talked—at length—about updating the book to make it more current. But what about just making a better book?

So, as I await getting the rights back to my first book, I'm working on improving it. I've gone back and looked at some early drafts, and parts I cut before submitting. The first draft of the book was 143,000 words long. The published version: just under 90,000. So there were a LOT of cuts.

I went back to some very early drafts. One scene showed my hero and heroine in a restaurant. In my efforts to paint clear pictures for readers, I'd spent several paragraphs on the waiter coming to the table, taking orders, and the usual "mundane" stuff that accompanies eating out.

I was tempted to include some of that scene. After all, aren't we supposed to include descriptions, involve the senses, and make things realistic for the reader? And I thought I'd done a halfway decent job, trying to Show, not Tell.

This was what I had (and I've not edited it at all—it's here for content only; this was written in 2003, so be kind with your thoughts.)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

And the Winner Is...

The lucky winner of Laverne Clark's contest is ... Chris Eboch. Chris, you should email LaVerne to make arrangements for getting your prize.

Thanks to all who entered. There will be more contests, so keep checking back.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Field Trip - England Scotland 2

My 20% discount offer expires Sunday. Don't wait. And contest entries are low--odds are good you can win my grab bag.

Jessica sent me more pictures than I could use for one post last month, so here are the rest.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Updating a Novel - Yes or No?

A quick follow-up to yesterday's post. I had originally sent an email to the phone provider questioning their repeated "don't forget to send your defective phone back" even before I had my phone. While I never got an answer to that email, I did get a phone call from someone who wanted to tell me there would be no problem as long as I sent everything back when I had it all. Needless to say, he got the full story. I admit he was very apologetic for all the mixups. Shortly thereafter, I got an automatic email asking me to take a survey about my experiences with the email response.
Since the poll specifically said to answer with respect to the email response, and not to phone calls, I fear they didn't fare well.

And, a follow up to my quickie hints for Track Changes. One frequent visitor to this blog, Elizabeth Spann Craig, tweeted about another, more detailed explanation. You can find it here.

My writing endeavors have been focused on editing, and for the last two days, it's been one of my earlier books. It's kind of nice to be able to go back and fix things—I don't think any author is ever 100% satisfied that the book is perfect. But beyond things like being able to apply everything I've learned after writing many more books, I'm trying to decide whether to leave the book set in an early 2000's time frame, or to update it to be current.

Normally, there's quite a lag time between submitting a book, accepting a contract, and having the book hit the shelves. We're probably talking several years between writing and publication. But with being able to publish these books myself, they can be current (at least for a few weeks!).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Character Frustrations

First, a few reminders:

Thanks to LaVerne for her post. She's giving away a book, so scroll down, read her post, and leave a comment. Winner announced on Saturday.

FREE STUFF. Leave a comment over at my post at the Guide to Literary Agents blog, and you're entered to win a free book. Enter my "Grab Bag" contest, and win a whole bunch of stuff, from books to bookmarks to cover flats. Click the Contest tab above.

CHEAP STUFF. 20% OFF What's in a Name and When Danger Calls at Smashwords and All Romance eBooks. This one expires April 17th, so take advantage of the reduced prices while they last. Of course, the books are also available at Amazon's Kindle store, and even without the discount, they're only $2.99. Click the Deals and Steals tab above.

One of the points I made in my blog at the Guide to Literary Agents, which was about characters, was that you should kick them out of their comfort zone. I wonder how my characters might have dealt with what should have been a very simple problem, easily fixed.

I've had issues with the cell phone I bought when we moved here. Given our remote location, there's only one provider, so choices were limited (not to mention the cell reception up here is terrible anyway), so even with this provider, there's no point in using a cell phone at home. But it's something I like to have when I'm away.

So, about two weeks ago, I noticed that the external button that's supposed to control the volume wasn't working. And, if I wanted to text someone and turned the phone sideways to get the larger touch screen keyboard, it wouldn't display what I'd typed. I stopped in at the closest store, and the clerk agreed the phone (actually this was phone #4 in less than a year) needed to be replaced. But, of course, they can't do that at the store, so I could either drive an hour down to the Springs and hang around there (speaking from experience—first and last trip took over 3 hours), or call customer service. She documented the problem in my file, and told me to request a different phone entirely.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

An Alien Writer in an American World

Today my guest is author LaVerne Clark who's come all the way from New Zealand to Terry's Place. Welcome.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog Terry! I’m thrilled to be here.

I’ve read Romantic Suspense novels for years. Throughout those years, I’ve traveled all around America, discovering hidden pockets of the country through the adventures I’ve read and loved every minute of it.

Now I’m writing for the American market, with my debut novella, Guardian of the Jewel released by The Wild Rose Press late last year, and a whole new world has opened up to me. Seeing Guardian take its place on the virtual shelves alongside more well-known authors was a bit like sending my child off to its first day of school. I was proud and terrified at the same time. Would it be okay? Would it make friends or would it be bullied? How would it get on out there in the big, wide world? And how would people react to an Alien writer on their shelves?

Selling in America was the Holy Grail to me, but I admit to a case of killer nerves wondering how my Kiwi flavor and voice would be received. I desperately hoped the American public would ‘get’ what I had to say and how my characters said it, with the minimum of confusion along the way. I needn’t have worried – you are a smart lot : )

Monday, April 11, 2011

Edits, Edits, Edits

What I'm reading: The Sex Club by L.J. Sellers (and despite the title, it's a mystery, not erotica, or even a romance); Detachment Fault, by Susan Cummins Miller.

Another reminder – please check the Contest and Deals & Steals tabs above. There are some great bargains (and on a lot more than just my books).

This Just In: An article I wrote about characters is featured at the Guide To Literary Agents Blog. Please pop over. Please? And spread the word.

I've been dealing with edits for several projects lately, and they've all been different. I've got edits from a publisher, edits I'm doing myself, and edits from a professional editor I've hired. I thought I'd share.

First are the long-awaited edits for one of my mystery short stories which will be part of an anthology. This is one of two connected stories, but I've only received edits on the first of them.

These edits come from the publisher. I get a marked up document (using the dreaded "Track Changes"). Her instructions say to accept any changes I agree with, and leave Track Changes on for anything I add or change myself.

Upon opening the document, I discovered that most of her edits are changes in speaker tags. I figure it's easy enough to accept them, because if she can follow who's speaking without those particular tags, other readers shouldn't have any trouble.

(Hint, if you're not familiar with Track Changes: every time someone touches the document, it'll show up in the margin as an insertion or deletion. This means if someone changes "the" to "a", you have to approve the deletion of "the" AND the insertion of "a". This can be a royal pain.

However, if you highlight the section with the changes, and look at the "reviewing" toolbar, there's an icon that allows you to accept all the changes (both insertions and deletions) for the highlighted section. There's one that lets you accept them for the entire document, but I wouldn't want to do that at this stage of editing.

The editor also has comments in the margins, and a few "vague" suggestions, such as, "if you want to expand this section, we're OK on word count." Those are up to me to deal with as I see fit.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Friday Field Trip - In Search of a Cover

A mixed blessing of publishing your own book is that you are in charge of the cover art. If you're talented and have a good vision of what you want, that's a plus. If you're more of a "well, I'll know it when I see it" kind of person, it's a tough call.

I'm working with a graphic artist for a potential cover in anticipation of getting the rights back to one of my books, and then publishing it myself. Since it's set in Oregon, I asked my sister in law if she had any images that she'd like to share. You've probably seen some of her work before.

She sent me some pictures, and I sent some I thought would work to the graphics artist. Things we had to consider: vertical vs. horizontal, and high enough resolution, since when she took the pictures, she wasn't really thinking of book covers.

This week, I'll share her pictures. On future posts, I'll share the various steps we've been going through to come up with a cover for the book.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Expectations - Great or Not?

I think it's part of human nature to want to know what's going to happen, or to go into just about any situation with a set of expectations based on either past experience, word of mouth, or our own (perhaps flawed) logic.

When the phone rings, do you wonder who it might be. (And do you wonder what people did before caller ID?)

Do you go to a movie without some idea of what you're going to be seeing? Do you like to read the reviews first? Same goes for books. Or restaurants.

How many times have you actually done something totally cold?

Now, if something doesn't match one's expectations, does that make it bad? No, of course not.

So, when I went to my first Left Coast Crime conference, I automatically expected it to be very much like SleuthFest, the only other mystery conference I'd attended. It wasn't. While there were many areas where they were different, I'll pick out only one here--the overall format, which was similar in both.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Left Coast Crime - Research

Thanks to Sherry Gloag for her great post yesterday. I'm looking for bungee cords to keep my muse in her seat.

And please - don't forget my next contest, and my special Tax Relief Pricing on When Danger Calls and What's in a Name? Click the appropriate tags above for details.

Other panels I attended at Left Coast Crime discussed doing research. Even though we write fiction and tend to make things up, we can't simply ignore doing our homework.
For one of the panelists, a former journalist, doing research is second nature, and he's not really aware he's doing it.

The question came up as to when authors did their research. One, whose background is in geology, which plays a part in her books, said she read books, collected maps, and was familiar with the setting before she ever arrived to do the "actual" research.

One author writes books based on things that actually happened. His publisher wouldn't let him use the name of a former governor because the man was still alive. The author reluctantly changed the name, but anyone familiar with the history of that state would wonder where that stranger came from. As he put it, it would be like reading a book where "After the Civil War, President Schwartz freed the slaves."

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Elusive Muse

Today I'm welcoming Sherry Gloag to Terry's Place. Sherry lives in the beautiful English county of Norfolk and considers the surrounding countryside an extension to her garden. When she is not writing she enjoys reading, gardening, crystal craft work and walking. While out walking she often enjoys lengthy conversations with both, her characters and, if she has not gone ‘walk-about’, her muse.

I'm sure some of you remember the novelty song, They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa! While this song may be about a ‘mutt’, it could just as easily be about a writers’ elusive muse. You know the one that suddenly decides to take off for the day, muse– week – month- year, when you sit down to transfer that wonderful idea into the computer the! The hardest thing for most writers to do is to write.

Sometimes, when I sit down and attempt to transfer that ‘amazing’ idea for a story into a word document, something happens. That idea shifts like smoke and evaporates before I can capture it. And I swear I hear my muse laughing at me. It is so frustrating. I’m just glad to know I’m in good company. Even writers such as Paul Valery, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Maeve Binchy and Morris West have all announced, at one time or another, their intention to quit writing then carried on.

But wait! Does this mean the writer always relies of their muse to create a book? It shouldn’t.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Left Coast Crime: Pigeonholes

What I'm reading: Daphne contest entries and The Next Best Thing, by Kristan

First – Welcome to April. New for this month: Another contest (click the Contest tab for details). Also, in the spirit of Tax Relief, I'm offering discounts on two of my books (click the "Deals & Steals" tab to see those.)

Next, I filed an overview report on Left Coast Crime which is at Barbara Vey's Publishers Weekly "Beyond Her Book" blog today. Author Rosemary Harris also gave her take.

And on to the 'meat': another Left Coast Crime panel recap.

David Morrell moderated a panel about rule breaking. (Actually, the panel was entitled "Breaking Barricades and Opening Doors" so I went in expecting something more like SWAT techniques, but more on that in another post.)

Takeaways from the panel.
Mysteries and Thrillers are starting to sound the same. Don't be afraid to write your own book. One author on the panel, Johnny Boggs, has twenty-three 1st person narrators in one of his books. Didn't keep it from being published.

Pigeonholes for books isn't necessarily a good thing. Michael McGarrity said, "Don't write a "type" of story, write the story.

Panelist Zoe Sharp spoke about two kinds of books: good books and bad books. Everything else is just a "flavor." Voice is what matters.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

And the Winner is...

The winner of March's "Follow Me" contest is Shirley. She wins an ARC of WHERE DANGER HIDES. There's a new contest for April, so be sure to check the Contest Tab. Thanks to all who entered.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Friday Field Trip - Santa Fe, NM

While I was busy going to panels, the Hubster was roaming the streets of Santa Fe (and hitting a lot of eateries). I'm sharing some of his photos today. And while he's here, it's my day at Author Expressions where I'm getting in the spirit of this first day of April.