Thursday, February 4, 2010

Write what you know. Research what you don't.

I had the perfect blog topic as I was falling off to sleep last night. It was brilliant, witty and even funny. This morning it was gone. Not even wispy shadows of it remain. Don't you hate when that happens?

It also annoys me when I'm loving a story, reading along, drinking it all in and then, SLAP. A bit of faulty information. Blech!   Cliche doesn't mean correct. And artistic license has its limits, unless you've prepared your readers for the change.

If you were reading a story which included a location, hobby or past time you know well, wouldn't ignorance or improper artistic license annoy you?

My favorite example is in the film, 'The Fabulous Baker Boys.' Jeff Bridges character enters Pike Street market and comes out the front of 'Ivar's on the Pier'.  Okay, this restaurant is situated with the back overlooking Puget Sound. The entrance is south, west and down the hill from the market.  It was a major annoyance to the residence of the Seattle area. A piece of masterful editing to the rest of the population.

Why do I bring this up?  Readers are more sophisticated. They have fewer dollars to spend and more authors to chose from. Under estimating your readers is a costly mistake. If they buy one of your titles and are disappointed, they won't be telling their friends to pick up a copy, nor will they be looking for new titles. Or worse? They may not buy your book at all.

The internet is at our fingertips. Even if you've never clapped eyes on a live horse, there is a plethora of websites dedicated to educating people about horses.  Never been to Seattle? Go to Google maps and view the city from street level. This resource is a major advantage, which shouldn't be ignored.

Every writer should find other writers to interact with, on a regular basis. The improvement in my writing was off the charts when I met up with the Writing Wombats, my most beloved writers group.

A writer's group also affords first hand experiences which can enrich your stories and make them more believable.

Good is in construction. Great is in the details. I don't know about you, but when I pick up a book filled with rich, pertinent details in well crafted sentences it's a thrill. Making a believable neighborhood or area is good use of artistic license. It says to the reader, this author cares enough to get it right.

I've had the privilege to be part of a submissions screening process. If the piece is well written, I'm excited. If there is no clear start, but I can find it, we're still okay. A senseless oversight in research will give me pause, two, I'm done.

Sending out queries is a laborious, nerve fraying, process. All of us do it. All of us hate it.

Give the editor reason to keep reading. Write well. Write what you know, and if you don't, do the research to make it what you know.  Nothing excites me more than finding a submission I can get behind and say, "Hey, look at this little beauty!"

What pulls you from a story? What makes you want more? And as authors how do we do a better job?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Adding 'Author' to Resume'

Okay, so I'm redoing my ancient resume'.  The kids are grown. The economy sucks and we still need to retire sometime before the next century.

Can I just say Hooray for Google maps! They made finding addresses a snap. I remember 'where' I worked, but not the address. I'm address impaired, what can I say?

I listed my past employers and realized,  'I'm a published author.'
Well, duh you may say. The truth of the matter is I don't think about it in the context of work and marketable skills. Or I didn't until refreshing the resume'.

Authors and aspiring authors are proficient in Word. Some of us use other programs, but most of us know Word inside and out. Excel? Why yes, many of us use Excel to chart Goals, Motivation and Conflict. Familial interactions with our characters and so forth.

Written language skills? If an author has been actively seeking to improve their craft, this is a no brainer.
Communication skills? We tear it up. Thank you very much.

Disciplined? Okay, so not all of us have this in abundance, but having 'Author' on your resume' sure makes it look as if we are disciplined.

Dedicated/Determined? We finished a novel length manuscript. Shopped it. Sold it. YIP!
I will admit, those who have never tried to be published can't, in any way, appreciate what kind of dedication this takes, but we do.

Dependable? Can you say deadlines up the wazoo? I thought you could.

Team-player? Not something generally thought about with a writer, but think about it. We all learn to listen and interact with editors, beta readers and see 'our' story as it fits into the publishers vision. Could there be anything more team than that?

Creative? Goes without saying.

Able to think outside of the box? Oh yeah.

Able to work independently without much supervision. Duh! smile

I got a bit of thrill and surge of pride as I added, 'Author' to my resume'.  It is a sense of accomplishment each of us should experience in this lifetime.

So the next time someone suggests you are wasting time on the writing gig, smile and tell them you are building job skills.

Now we'll have to wait and see if it impresses prospective employers as much as it does me.

What other skills translate to the office, job, resume'?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Finding time to write.

The fervor of the holidays is a but a memory, so where is my writing time?

I do have a stolen moment here and there but life has been really getting in my way.
Just put my butt in the chair? Well that works until my three year old granddaughter, known in cyberland as 'The Pixie Princess' links her arm around the arm of my office chair and starts to swing.

"Good morning Grandma!" Morning hugs ensue, and then we decide what she's going to do until her mom gets up.  Okay, it's quiet now. Yes!  I can ignore the yell-along-with-Dora going on in the next room.

A wail raises from the basement. The baby is awake. He's my Tiger Prince and not quite three months old. My daughter trudges up the stairs, sleep in her blood shot eyes. "Not a good night. Could you take him while I (fill in the blank)?" I take the little man and much commiserating and shushing begins. Just as I get him to settle down, his mother comes to collect him.

Yes! It's quiet. There is a trill whine and banging at the back door. Hang my head, no one remembered to feed the dogs. My daughter's English Brittany Spaniel is very good at reminding us about feeding time. My dogs, appreciate his efforts and calmly wait while he gets my attention.

I'm feeding the dogs and notice the cat's (6) dish is empty and they need water. Scoop food into their dish before filling the dog bowls. Oh and they need water too. My alpha cat glares at me from the empty water bowl. I apologize to Miss Kitty and get her water, while calling reassurance to the Springer that breakfast is indeed coming.

I collapse into my chair and pull up a puzzle game to focus my thoughts.  A hum of energy mounts the stairs. My daughter's future husband. He's getting ready for work and we all have to hear about it. Not that he's talking to me, he's just very animated. Okay, there he goes out the door.

Slump over keyboard to finish game and hope it will focus me.

Pixie Princess swings from the arm of my chair. "I miss you Grandma."
Me: "Really?"
PP: "Yes."
Me: "Aren't you watching Dora?"
PP: "Naw, are you done?"
Me: "Almost. Are you hungry?"
PP: "Yes."
Me: "Where's your mom?"
PP: "Feedin' Averick."

Okay, so off in search of breakfast. Sliced bananas and hot chocolate is her all time favorite morning treat. I notice, now that I'm awake, the dishes need to be done. I feed the child and quick do the dishes.

I round the corner and daughter is at my computer. Blank stare. She explains she can hear Kylei from my computer better than hers.

Hang my head. I start a load of laundry and kick my dear, darling, daughter off of my computer, and it's nap time, for the kids.

I settle into my chair, check my social sites. And then realize I'm too tired to write. Gee I can't imagine how I don't find time to write.

They promise this living arrangement is only temporary. Oh heavens what did I sign up for? Big smile.

What keeps your butt out of the chair?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The scale is my friend; Em, no.

I've put off getting ready for Christmas this year, because we have a three year old in the house. A tree with lights and shiny things? This is good for mach 3, minimum.

Wrapped presents beneath it? Jack it up a notch or two. Squeal! Santa is coming!

Everything is ready and an Advent calendar with nummy chocolates is holding the three year old in the lower atmosphere.  Me? well, I seem to be the excited one.  I kept looking for things to do today. More cookies? Nope, don't need them. Think of the scale, yeah that's the ticket. Fudge? No, we have enough. My motto is usually, 'There's no such thing as too much chocolate."  Think scale Sherilyn, think scale.

I'm determined not to add any extra padding this holiday. Okay so not so much.

This time of year it seems highly unfair, all of these goodies and I can't eat what I want anymore without consequence. Pounds are consequence. Bouncing blood sugar isn't nice either.  Once it was no worry.  No more.

My characters never have to worry about their weight. Or balancing sugar with protein and carbohydrates.  Of course my characters aren't my age. The age when everything gets stored in case of starvation. As if.

The women of the world have enough pressures on them without the characters they read about pushing them into depression over weight issues. Then of course there are the young ones, hopefully not too young if they're reading my books, who seem to think it's the way of the world to have bones poking out everywhere.  Okay. What man do you know would want to cuddle up with bones?  I've not met one.

They tell me they like to look at thin girls. On the women they date? Some padding is okay. Apparently we're supposed to have curves and soft spots. Who knew?

So while I'm thinking scale and blood sugar, at the end of the day I'm not a woman who's going to do anything drastic about my weight. In raising a daughter and now having a granddaughter I think about theses things when I write. What is a healthy view of the female form?  As romance writers do we play to the media view or a more realistic view?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

This Blogger's Disclaimer

There have been some interesting developments in recent weeks regarding the FTC. (Federal Trade Commission)  While I seriously doubt what I do here has anything to do with their new ruling, I have an instinctual aversion to having to deal with the Federal Government.

I mind my business, they mind theirs and we're good. So here we go.

To the readers of this blog, I do not get paid for my articles, links, content or for any reviews I might post.

The links I have posted are there because I believe they are reliable sources of information and the creators have earned my respect. There's lots of crap on the internet and it's refreshing to have safe havens on which to rely. They don't pay me in any way. Should you discover they are not living up to expectations, tell me and I'll review.

If I post a book review, it's because I LOVED the book. I'll make note when the book was given to me. I'm so picky as to not be much of a reviewer. So if you see one; I'm impressed. Not paid.

I am an author of Romance. It is my genre' by choice. If you happen to buy one of my books as a result of reading this blog. Way Kewl! If not, well I enjoy having you here and we'll chat it up anyway.

My intent is to have an open dialog and encourage people to read. If someone, somewhere happens to make money as a result more power to them, they didn't pay me to promote them.

Okay, that's out of the way. I feel better, how about you? smile  So did I make it clear enough that I'm not getting paid? Royalties to my books aside, as I have no way to link them to the blog there!

I'm done being a brat now.  Carry on.

Friday, December 4, 2009

If Fantasy is hard to sell, why are fantasy character's talking to me?

A few days ago I read a post from a friend. Her agent told her Fantasy was a hard sell right now.

Well, great. I've got three of them jockeying for finger time. And they aren't being nice about it.

The first manuscript I finished is a fantasy. In an age before a plethora of internet research tools, no it wasn't that long ago - sheesh, I didn't have the time to spend hours at the library. My kids would have thought it was great at first and then forcibly rebelled after a couple of weeks.

Me, get lost in research? I have no idea what you're talking about.

So anyway, I decided to do fantasy. I set up the social structure, climate, terrain, abodes and everything else that goes with creating a world. I have glossaries, maps and calendars to keep it all straight.

I knew there would be sequels at some point, even knew which character it would be. That was my Nano last year. And then in true writer fashion another idea had me chasing a completely different stick.

All the while the third book in the series was swirling on the edges, so I started that to shut it up.

Okay, so now I'm in it.  I've got a contemporary, I want to finish, not to mention it has a better chance of selling in this market.

My bully warriors won't be quiet. T'nok isn't a bully, but his stupid brother, Keegan is.  Their ladies are more polite, but still chatty And the secondary characters? Oh heaven help me.

The original is mocking me. 'You created us. Deal with it.'  Hang my head.

So I need to round this unruly lot up and corral them somehow so I can finish the one that has a chance of sale, or do I give in and work on them in turns?

No wonder I don't discuss my writing with the general populous. I'd be stuck in a looney bin.

How do you handle more than one story at a time?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I'm them

When I was young I marveled at the aunts. They were living libraries. Ask them any family related question from medical conditions to birthdays and one, if not all, of them would know. Mom didn't know?  No problem, one of the aunts would, or vice versa.

Today it hit me. I'm one of the family walking libraries.

I should have seen it last year. My mother-in-law died and my sisters-in-law and I were fielding questions ranging from, 'When did grandma get this?' to 'Who's this picture of?'  In my defense I was in shock.

Today as I sat in a doctor's office with my son for the first time in over two years it came around and slammed me in the back of the head.  I know and, more amazing still, remember all of his asthma medications, what years he took them and which ones don't work anymore. My son was seeing this doctor for the first time for his asthma and wanted back up. That and instructions on how the doctor should write the scripts for our insurance made his eyes cross.

I know basic medical information on every family member of this generation, and my friend's kids. Privacy? What's that when mom's get to talking.  I remember how old they were when they started driving, dating, their first heartbreak and greatest personal achievements.  I've become one of the aunts.  I'm the keeper of what came from where and who got what, when and how.

And then I wonder why my short-term memory isn't what it used to be? LOL

As a writer this data base serves to deepen and strengthen my stories.  There is a bottomless reservoir of emotion, facial expressions and silly, wonderful laughter.  I'm pretty sure none of them would see themselves in any of my books. My characters are an amalgam, not featuring any one person in my life too pointedly.  Still they are there and it makes my heart smile.