Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Is It Time to Let Go?

Today my guest is R. Sampson, who is discussing 'letting go', which may be hard for some of us, especially when we love our prose. There's some good advice here, so read on.

You have been working on a writing project for a while now. You thought about the plot and the characters and outlined every part of the story. Then without warning, all of a sudden, you hit a brick wall. The problem arises when your great idea just won't work anymore and now you're stuck. Does this sound like you? Are you "married" to an idea or phrase that you absolutely love, but for someone reason it won't fit into you book, paper, script, or project? Don't worry. You are not the only author that goes through this process. You might just need to rework you idea to make it fit or in the worst of circumstances, you might need a "divorce."

Let's start at the stage when you realize that you hit a road block and you are trying to find a way around it. Below are some techniques that you can use if you are in such a situation.

1. Talk to a friend- If you are stuck trying to implement an idea, put the pen down. Look around your room and find a stuffed animal or cardboard cutout. He is you new best friend. Explain all of your ideas out loud and record yourself doing it. If you feel comfortable sharing with a real person, you can always ask a friend or family member what they think.

2. Skip to another section of the assignment and start writing there. For example, if you are stuck at the beginning of the story, skip to how you want it to end and work backwards.

3. Brainstorm new ideas that are similar. For example: Say you really like the phrase, "Just Do It" but you know it reminds people of Nike. So instead you can change it to "Take A Chance." It has the same meaning, but is phrased differently.

Monday, November 29, 2010

My New NOOKcolor, part 2

What I'm reading: Husband for Hire, by Susan Wiggs (eBookwise); Killer Heat, by Brenda Novak (NOOKcolor); The Object of His Protection, by Brenda Jackson (print)

Since I bought my NOOKcolor primarily as a book reading device, I thought I should spend a little time evaluating it in that regard. Yes, it does a lot more, but I'm saving those bells and whistles for future posts. If you missed my overall first impressions of the device, they're here. And again, I'm doing these posts to try to help others who might be considering getting an e-reader. As I've said before (often), it's about choices.

The NOOKcolor (NC) comes with some sample books pre-loaded. Some are free; others are samples only, and you have to purchase them. For starters, I used those books as a way to test the features of the NC.

The home screen has 3 pages. The top portion of each page displays whatever covers you care to put there. Right now, I'm only using 1 of them. The bottom shows your most recent downloads and they scroll separately.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Sorry this is a little bit late. Kathleen had jury duty, and then I was down with family and didn't have computer access. But, Kathleen's Random Number Generator picked the following winners:

... Darlene, Nas and Maggie

Email her at kobrien at aol dot com so you can claim your prizes.

Thanks to all who participated, and I hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

Friday Field Trip - Sunrise, Sunset

Happy Day After Thanksgiving. This week, we're staying home with some sunrise and sunset shots from our deck. If you're out shopping, be careful. And don't spend too much. I'll be back Monday with another NOOKcolor report.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Homicide-Hussey: Dead Turkeys Don't Fly 2

Before I continue with part of of Dead Turkeys Don't Fly, I thought I'd share one our our own family traditions.(for some reason, you'll have to click the 'keep reading' tab in order to see it. Sorry - Blogger and I have the occasional issues.

May you all find something to be thankful for, no matter where you are.

If you haven't read Part 1, you'll need to scroll down and read it before this one.

I guess I still didn’t understand the seriousness of the situation. As I got out of the car, I could hear yelling and crying from the inside of one of the disheveled trailers. As I got still closer, I noticed that on a direct trajectory from the inside of the small mobile home’s kitchen and on a line with the broiler pan and the turkey, the window had been broken out.

When I looked inside the open door, I saw a familiar scene. Inside the one room camper were three people. The man, a white male with a bushy beard clothed in filthy shorts and no shirt, covered with tattoos, was standing over a thin cowering female. The woman was obviously afraid of the man and had what appeared to be a red mark on her face. The two children, a girl and a boy, around five or six years old, were also filthy. They sat clinging to each other in a corner, crying softly.

Now this was back in the days before domestic violence was a serious crime. I had seen this a hundred times. You would ask the woman if she would be willing to press charges. The answer would inevitably be, "No, I just want him to leave for a little while."

We would explain that we would ask him to leave, and if he was willing, there was no problem.. If not, we were unable to make him leave his residence. Many times we would leave without the situation being resolved, and would return later to a tragic situation.

The state has now in its infinite wisdom overreacted as usual, and taken the discretion away from the officer. At present, if there is any complaint or evidence of domestic violence, including threats, the accused gets arrested and must stay in jail for 24 hours without the benefit of a bond. So what happens, is the guy stews for twenty-four hours, comes back, really pissed off and either beats his wife some more or kills her.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Homicide-Hussey: Dead Turkeys Don't Fly 1

First, thanks to Kathleen for her wonderful post, and her generous offer - there's still time to leave a comment on her post to be in the running for one of her books.

As so many of us prepare for our Thanksgiving holiday, I thought it appropriate to revisit another Homicide - Hussey post: this is part 1 of a Thanksgiving story from a cop's point of view.

One Thanksgiving morning, I was working the day shift. When you work uniform, you miss a lot of holidays with the family, and even the days that are special to everyone else end up being just 'another day in paradise' for the cops. In Lakeland in those days, the Sergeant would usually let you go home for dinner, no matter where you lived and take a long lunch with your family, depending on the call load situation.

This particular Thanksgiving I was working for Sergeant Roy Raines. Roy or 'Doc' as he was commonly referred to was a prince of a guy. He was the SWAT Team Sergeant, and was chosen for the job I suspect, because of his cool disposition under pressure. Basically, Doc didn’t worry about anything; he was just a great guy to work for.

Well it was around dinnertime, and the officers were taking their turns at meal breaks. It had been pretty quiet. One guy was working a shooting suicide, which is very common during holiday periods. People find themselves alone and depressed at a time when everyone else is getting together with family and friends. Many times the isolation is unbearable and the guy decides to check out. Sometimes, the cop who gets that call is having some of the same feelings; he’s just gotten divorced, or he’s going through an internal investigation, and just working the call sends him into a greater state of depression.

Cops are also the world’s worst at dealing with stress. The usual remedy is alcohol. I’m speaking from experience when I say, being drunk only intensifies the problem. So it goes in the cop world. Holidays are happy times for some and not so for others. Sometimes the day starts out happy and then the two most volatile, dangerously explosive chemicals in the world are mixed. No, it's not nitro, or gasoline, or even petroleum and fertilizer. I’m talking about alcohol and testosterone. The deadliest chemical mix in the world.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Room of One's Own

Kathleen O’Brien writes for Harlequin Superromance…whenever she can get the stars and the furniture to align perfectly. She can’t remember when she got so picky about her writing conditions, and she’d love some advice on how to relax. Or, failing that, at least some company in her misery! Be sure to leave a comment: Kathleen is giving away THREE books. Welcome, Kathleen.

Sometimes I think I'm the author equivalent of Goldilocks. I find it hard to write under just any conditions. Every little detail makes a difference. This chair is too hard. This one is too soft. This music is too loud, and that light is too bright.

Ugh. I'm not sure how I ended up such a prissy hothouse flower. I didn't want to be. I didn't used to be. My earliest professional writing years were spent at a daily newspaper. There, you plop yourself down in an open-plan newsroom, amid the chatter of other reporters and the rat-tat of countless keyboards, and bat out your 12 inches of copy by your six o'clock deadline. No whining allowed.

I loved it. Most journalists do. The noise and the urgency provided a current that swept me with it. Prowling the thesaurus for the perfect word would have seemed juvenile, because the quest was for clear, concise communication, not grandstanding. Writer's block wasn’t in my vocabulary yet. I composed my first paragraphs in my head as I drove home from my interview, and "downloaded" them the minute my rear end hit the chair. Sometimes not even my own chair, if another writer had confiscated it for a more urgent story, a tighter deadline. No big deal. I just found a free computer and got busy writing.

Monday, November 22, 2010

My New Nookcolor

What I'm reading: Espresso Shot, by Cleo Coyle

Since there's too much to cover in a single post, my 'review' of my nookcolor will be ongoing—especially since I'm still learning. I'm not trying to promote this reader over print books or any other readers; as my earlier post said, there should be choices in book formats, so why not choices in readers? I hope my notes will help you decide if the nookcolor might have the features you want.

My new nookcolor (hereafter abbreviated as NC, so as not to confuse anyone who thinks this is a 'regular' Nook) arrived on schedule Saturday afternoon. Aside from the usual difficulties in separating the contents from the secure packaging—the section with the cables was very hard to get at, and the spot marked "pull to remove" on the plastic covering of the NC itself didn't have an easy way to grab it so one could actually pull—step one, charging the unit was easy. And because you can use it while it charges, I didn't have to wait (although I did run through the simple user's guide that came with it.)

Now, I mentioned before that my primary reason for buying the nc was because it was getting harder to find content I liked for my eBookwise and because the NC was one of the only new readers with the back lit, LCD screen. Since I haven't used any other readers, my notes are based on comparing my eBookwise with my new NC.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Field Trip - Cabo

My photographer son is sharing some more of his nature shots, taken on a recent trip to Cabo. Sit back, relax, and enjoy.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Unveiling

What I'm reading: The Oilman's Baby Bargain, by Michelle Celmer; Taken by Moonlight, by Dorothy McFalls

First, the 'official' unveiling of the cover for my next Five Star release, WHERE DANGER HIDES. The release date isn't until May, but since I turned in my last round of edits several months ago, it's nice to get a reminder that the book working its way through the system.

The publishing industry moves very slowly, so every step needs to be celebrated (So slowly that I had to go back to the manuscript to confirm what my characters looked like. Turns out the eye colors on the initial cover weren't what I'd described, and I'm fortunate the publisher was willing to make the swap. I also asked for confirmation that the flowers on the cover actually grew where the book was set, just to make sure.

WHERE DANGER HIDES picks up one of the secondary characters from WHEN DANGER CALLS. Those of you who have read the first book will recognize Dalton, Ryan's former partner. But I'm sure there are a lot more of you who haven't read the first book (and why not?).

To make it easy, you can find WHEN DANGER CALLS in digital formats just about everywhere—Kindle Store, the iBookstore, and Smashwords has links to just about every other digital format, so if you have any kind of a reader, it should be available.

When I wrote WHERE DANGER HIDES, I had no guarantee it would sell, so I wrote it to stand alone. If you've read the first, you'll know Ryan and (I hope) feel like an insider when he appears in the sequel. But if you haven't, I'm hoping I've walked that tightrope between back story dumping and having the reader wonder what I'm talking about.

What do you think? This is one of the scenes that reintroduces Ryan. As a bit of a setup, Dalton is in his car outside Miri (the heroine's) apartment after a tension-filled evening.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Reading? It's About Choices

What I'm reading: All in Time, by Ciana Stone

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and pictures, Patricia. And if you ever want to send me another batch for a Friday Field Trip, I'd love to have them.

There's been a lot of buzz about e-books lately. The Blood Red Pencil Blog is running a series on all aspects of the digital world. The New York Times will be doing best seller lists of e-books. More and more authors are taking their back list titles and offering them digitally. More and more companies are coming up with e-reading devices. You can read a book on something as small as a cell phone, or as large as an iPad. Or, on your own computer, laptop, or netbook.

One thing that seems to hover at the base of all these discussions about "the future of publishing" is that some people seem to think it's all or nothing. There will be e-books OR there will be print books. But isn't everything about choice?

I have shelves and shelves of print books. I have boxes and boxes of print books, awaiting bookshelves. Even here, there are choices of formats. Hard cover? Trade paperback? Mass market paperback? And what about those newer tall skinny paperbacks? So why not a choice of electronic as well?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Writer’s Eye

Today I welcome fellow Five Star author, and frequent visitor to Terry's Place, Patricia Stoltey. As many of my regular visitors know, I enjoy sharing photographs. What a treat to have Patricia talk about writing and photography in today's post -- with pictures! Enjoy!

Before I began writing, I took very ordinary photographs. Empty beer cans or fast food trash littered my beach shots. Framing a distant view with nearby trees never crossed my mind. When I look through my albums of old 35-mm photos, I understand how limited my powers of observation were.

Writing has taught me to pay attention to detail, to imagine a scene as though planning the props for actors, to see the main subject of the photo and then observe the subject’s surroundings. Where are the shadows? Is there a natural frame if I move a little to the left or right? Are there interesting clouds in the sky? Is everything in the landscape the same color?

Since I began writing in the mid-80s, and as I became a better writer over time, I also improved my photographic skills. I still have a lot to learn. Thank goodness I’m not still practicing with a 35-mm camera (and thank goodness, I’m not still writing at a typewriter).

Here are five of my favorite photos from over the years.

1. At the Wagon Wheel Bunkhouse of Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, Loveland, Colorado

Monday, November 15, 2010

All About Time

What I'm reading: Day of the Dragon, by Rebecca York

A brief commercial message: I've uploaded a new free read at Smashwords, "The Other Side of the Page." It's a collection of my 'job interviews' with Randy and Sarah, plus a look at what they say about me when I'm not around. It's just for fun, and I hope you'll download it. And don't forget—the coupon for "A Summer's Eve" will expire on the 16th. Download it now while it's a free read. Coupon Code BL83R. Click on the 'story' tab above for the links.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog post:

One challenge I faced when I wrote my first novel was how to deal with time. The plot required that my hero and heroine be separated, which meant that time moved forward for each of them. Thus, a scene with Sarah might start in the morning and carry her through to lunchtime. Meanwhile, of course, Randy's story didn't stop. When I shifted point of view from Sarah to Randy, it was important to let the readers know when they were.

Sometimes it was possible to start the new scene with a quick "catch up" transition, if , as in the above example, I was going to pick up with Randy at lunchtime. But what if something important was going on with Randy at the same time readers were busy with Sarah? Then it would either be a flash back (yawn—not recommended) or I'd have to jump back in time.

Time became fluid. We'd move forward, then back up, then catch up once again as the POV characters switched. . For the last chapters of the book, where Sarah was missing and Randy was trying to find her, I actually wrote their scenes separately, then dovetailed them so the reader didn't have to go too far forward before backing up and starting time over again. But I was always writing chronologically.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Field Trip - Quw'utsun

Today, I'm turning things over to my sister-in-law, Amy Daraghy for more pictures from her trip to Vancouver Island. If you missed her first pictures, they're here. This trip is to the Quw'utsun Cultural Center in Duncan, BC.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day

Please, take a moment to honor those who have served.

And don't forget the coupon code for a free Smashwords download of A Summer's Eve, a never published epilogue to the Randy and Sarah stories. Check yesterday's post for the details.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NaNo? Not for Everyone

Thanks to J.E. for sharing her thoughts yesterday. Nobody likes rejection, but dealing with it is part of the job.

First things first - an exclusive for my faithful blog readers. I was going to wait until I hit 250 followers, but 249 is close enough. For ONE WEEK (ends Nov. 16th), I have a coupon offer at Smashwords for A Summer's Eve. The story costs 99 cents and the coupon is for 99 cents off, so do the math. For this week, it's a Free Read. And it's short enough so you don't really need a dedicated e-reader. It's available in almost every possible format, so I hope one will work for you. Just enter Coupon Code BL83R at checkout. (And if you want to use your savings to buy either of my other two titles there, I won't complain.)

Yesterday, we signed the contract with the contractor for our basement remodel. He left, certified plans in hand, to begin the process, which starts with getting the necessary permits. He's estimating two weeks before they're approved, and so we have that long to get everything moved out of the workspace. He's promised that once they start, they'll work "straight through" but with the weather and the holidays, I'm sure there will be delays. But it's exciting to know that in a few months, we'll have a 'complete' house.

The month of November for many writers is the annual National Novel Writing Month, where people vow to write 50,000 words in thirty days. Do I participate? Nope. Why?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Dealing With Rejection

Rejection is part of the writing business. Today, my guest is author J.E. Seymour who shares her methods for dealing with it. Welcome.

Rejection is something that every writer has to learn to deal with. The only writer who has never experienced rejection is the writer who has never sent anything out. Like it or not, every story is not going to be every editor’s cup of tea. I keep hoping that someday I’ll grow immune to those little slips of paper. I can’t say that it ever gets easier. Even when the little slips of paper turn into real letters, signed by an actual editor, starting with my name instead of “dear author.” It still hurts.

Every rejection takes some little piece of my ego. Then I’ll get an acceptance. For a short time, that changes everything. Once in a while I get that acceptance that makes it all worth it, like the one where the editor said I'm one of the best noir writers around. That makes the rejections worth it. Then another rejection comes along. And they’ll keep coming, as long as I keep sending out short stories and novels. My favorite word? Persistence. Seventeen years, three novels, hundreds of rejections, one published novel. Priceless.

Monday, November 08, 2010

How Light is it?

What I'm reading: Husband for Hire, by Susan Wiggs

The clocks fell back Saturday night. Since we've moved a bit farther north and a lot higher up, I've noticed much greater variations in sunrise and sunset hours. Although it's nothing like our trip to Alaska, where it didn't seem to get dark at all in Fairbanks, there are more differences here. In Orlando, it was barely noticeable. But here, when we moved into our house in mid-Spring, we noticed the sunlight waking us up hours earlier than it ever did in Florida. One of my first purchase requirements was window treatments that would block out the pre-five a.m. wake up call. And since I don't drive at night, daylight until after 9 pm made life easier. Of course, the flip side is that winter days will be much shorter. But we're not so far north that we'll be living in darkness for the better part of the day.

Light is important when we're writing—and I'm not talking about having enough light to work by. I'm talking about how much we can describe in our scenes. One of my critique partners questioned a scene I'd written:

Friday, November 05, 2010

Friday Field Trip: The View From Here

First, a reminder that I'm over at the Author Expressions blog today. Please pop over.

And now, on with our regularly scheduled Friday Field Trip. Today we're going no further than The Hubster's Office. Between his spotting scope, camera, and binoculars, he's set up to keep an eye on everything going on outside his window, and he's happy to spend hours making sure no living creature goes by undocumented. Not only does he take photographs, but he keeps a spreadsheet. Every Day.

The following are some of the sights.

Abert's Squirrel

Abert's Squirrel and Stellers Jay

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Turning the Tables

In the world of writing, one of the dreaded chores is submitting. Whether it's a simple query letter (or is that an oxymoron?), a proposal, a partial, or the exhilaration resulting from a request for a full manuscript, you're still left relying on the decision of someone else. And, odds are, given the percentages of acceptances in the business, you're going to have to deal with a dreaded rejection letter.

Right now, I'm waiting to hear from one publisher about a full manuscript submission, and from my agent about a new proposal. To avoid stressing, I'm also back to working on my 4th Blackthorne novel (although that's stress enough, since it's book number 3 that I'm waiting to hear about). I'm a little over 200 pages into it, and I'm still a non-plotter. Yesterday was one of those two steps forward, three steps back days. However, even though I'm writing 'on spec', with no guarantee of a sale, I find even a day of frustrating writing is better than a day of not writing at all.

As followers of the 'real life' portion of this blog might recall, we've been renovating and remodeling our house. Whereas the upper floor was a simple matter of swapping out existing materials, downstairs, we're converting a basement that's basically one large L-shaped room with a bathroom and laundry area into functional living space, including a tv room, an exercise area for those snowy days, and a dedicated guest room..

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

But Don't Start Here

What I'm reading: Pirate Latitudes, by Michael Crichton

Thanks, Carolyn for your post yesterday. I admire someone who can write historical fiction.

(and a brief commercial message - I recently discovered many of my titles are now available for the iPad and iTouch. If you have one of these gizmos, you can find my books in the Apple iBookstore by searching on my name.)

On Monday, I talked about starting a book in the wrong place by dumping too much back story about the characters. So, it's better to start with action, right? Maybe. Maybe not. Again, it's a matter of what kind of action and how much. What's more exciting than a battle scene? Or a car chase? Or a hostage situation? Well, if you don't have a vested interest in the characters—those scenes can be as enticing as watching paint dry.

Hubster and I watched the first episode of "Hawaii Five-O". The show opened with a crisis situation—but not knowing the players, it was hard to worry too much about the outcome, because I had no clue who were the good guys, who were the bad guys, or even where the opening took place—other than it clearly wasn’t in Hawaii. Once we got past that opening gambit, it was still challenging to empathize with the characters, although it was clear that the writers were making the attempt to show more about their individual goals and motivations.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Facts of Fiction

Carolyn Schriber is a historian by training and profession. Here she discusses how her academic background helped her make the transition from classroom to novelist.

Six years ago, I retired from a career as a college history professor. I had a string of books and articles to my credit and some skills, like deciphering twelfth-century Latin handwriting, that were relatively useless in the real world. What surprised me was discovering that once I was free from the "publish or perish" rule of academia, I still wanted to publish. I knew I had always been a story-teller at heart. The stories behind the history were what fascinated me — not the dates or treaties or economic theories. But was I equipped to write fiction? That, I didn't know.

Making the switch from academic historian to historical fiction author required some fundamental changes in how I looked at writing. I had to re-think what was most important about the story I was trying to tell. I no longer had to document my research or prove a point. Believe me, giving up footnotes after a lifetime of teaching careful documentation was painful. But then I remembered a prescription one of my own advisors gave me in graduate school. "If your footnote contains information about your story, put it in the story," he said. "If it's simply a reference to your source, and if its an indisputable fact, leave it out. Only footnote those ideas or details that are likely to antagonize some important old goat looking for a reason to be cantankerous." Voila! My footnotes disappeared. And good riddance.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Where to Start

What I'm reading: Soul of a Highlander, by Melissa Mayhue

Lately, I've read a few books that were difficult to get into. One, I've abandoned, at least temporarily. Why? Back story and info dumping. The author spends chapter after chapter not only introducing each character, but also giving the reader that character's life history—or so it seems. While it's important for the reader to understand what motivates the character, spending the majority of each chapter 'telling' and not getting into the action of the story tries this reader's patience.

There's a delicate balance between introducing characters and bogging down the story either with back story or "action" that the reader doesn't understand, because they don't know who's who. It's one thing to open with an action scene; it's another to give the reader enough information to know who the good guys are, and why they should care about the outcome.

When I started writing, I was guilty of the common beginner's mistake of wanting my readers to understand who my character was, and make them "care" so that when I got to the "good stuff," they'd be hooked. Wrong. When dealing with back story, as I've said before, you have to ask yourself two questions: