Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wednesday Writing Tip ~ 3/28

 Motivation and Reaction

One of the most important things I learned through all the various writing courses I took was the correlation between motivation and reaction.  This is a concept easy to confuse, and it is easy to lose readers if things aren't in the correct order.

This was very confusing to me when I first started learning about it, and is harder to master than it might sound.  Basically, an action happens first to motivate a response in your character.  Then, the character responds.  The characters response also must come in a certain order:  involuntary body reaction, thought, and finally speech.  The character doesn't have to have every step in their reaction (they can go straight from pounding heart to "What is that?" or even skip the first two and only speak).  However, the reactions cannot come out of sequence ("What was that?" I think someone's after me, she thought, as her heart pounded).

It is hard to remember the motivation must always come first as well.  As a writer, you will lose your reader if you have a paragraph combination like the following:

"I wonder what that could be?", she asked, heart pounding.  A crash sounded through the brush. 

Now, of course, if you are writing a clairvoyant, maybe she did hear it before it sounded.  Barring this, the crash needs to occur first:

A crash sounded through the brush right behind her. 
Jenny whirled around, heart in her throat.  She thought she was alone out here.  "Hello?" she called, trying to control her trembling. 

Then, you are ready for another motivation.  Basically, at the end of every reaction, another motivation happens.  This is what keeps your story moving forward.

The crashing came closer.  Suddenly, a figure burst into Jenny's camp site. (motivation)

Jenny scooped up the machete next to her. (reaction)  "Who are you?" (Speech.  Notice we skipped thoughts, but everything is in order, so this is okay).

The person spread his hands wide, firelight flickering in his eyes.  "It's me, Jen.  Don't hurt me." (New motivation for Jenny.  Since it is her POV, every motivation is focused toward Jenny).

The weapon slipped from her hand and Jenny ran across the encampment.  (reaction) "I thought they killed you." (Speech)  

Tom shook his head.  "I escaped, but I've been hiding for days.  We can't stay here long." 

She wrapped her arms around Tom's dirty body, unable to stop the tears streaming across her face. (reaction)  Thank heavens.  He was safe and she once again had an ally. (thoughts)

Now comes the next motivation, and the next response, and another motivation, and another response.  Books are crafted from these little scenes.  Everything that happens in the novel is either motivation or response.  Now, the motivation or the response to it can each last longer than one paragraph, but after the motivation is done occurring, immediately comes the response.  After the response is completed, follow it up with another motivation.  When you run out of motivations/responses for that scene, your scene is finished.

This is just a little sketch I came up with to explain the motivation-reaction cycle, but the mind of a writer never stops, does it?  Already these characters want to force their way into my head, and I'm having to beat them back.  I have a lot of questions now.  Who's chasing them?  Why are they running?  Are they the good guys, or the bad guys?  Oh well.  There are already too many voices in my head for comfort--I'll have to let these two go.

A good example of what not to do:  I had a scene in Always and Forever where Lilly is injured, and Zach tried to fix her breakfast.  The line read something like - Lilly put one of the syrup-drenched pieces of waffle into her mouth that Zach cut into small bites.

A very astute critic of my book said - "Ha, see, now what have you been telling me? Zach would have cut it first before Lilly put it in her mouth. Maybe switch the lines around."

He was absolutely right (this is definitely not the only time I did this, just the most recent example :-) )  I quickly changed the order of the actions, so Zach cut the waffle before Lilly ate it.  So easy to mess this up.  It always helps to have a few beta readers for extra eyes to make sure you haven't made this mistake and put things out of order.

If your writing is out of sequence, even if the reader doesn't understand what is wrong, it will feel fake.  Readers will not feel like your characters are real people they are sharing an adventure with.  They may not be able to explain why, but they won't connect with the story or find it believable.

Randy Ingermanson has a terrific article on this subject that also deals with the bigger aspect of an entire scene sequence (the motivation-reaction information, or MRU's as he calls them, are explained at the end of the article).  This really helped me fully understand this concept.  You can read it here.

I hope this post helps explain how to correctly write small-scale scenes.  Master the motivation-response reactions, and you will craft compelling scenes readers will love.

Happy writing, everyone.  Have a terrific week!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Books I Love ~ 3/26

This week's choice goes to the darker side of reading.  I've always loved a story that could keep me up long past my bedtime, afraid to get up and go to the bathroom or to even stick my foot outside the covers.  Really, I'm very hard to frighten, and there aren't many stories that do this for me.  But Stephen King finally managed it.  After years of reading his work, mostly being impressed with it (though at times I do find things a little bit slow and have a tendency to skip pages) he never really managed to have something that terrified me.

This book did.  It is fabulous!  I literally could not put Duma Key down.  The only thing I stopped for was to go to work, and even that I begrudged.  This book is definitely on my re-read list!  The chilling images, the intricately-woven plot... I would easily say this is King's best book, and possibly the best horror/thriller novel I've ever read.

Here's the synopsis from  After a construction accident in which he loses his right arm and his divorce, Edgar Freemantle moves from Minnesota to Florida to begin what his psychiatrist described as a "geographic cure." He rediscovers his love of painting and finds that he is good at it but his paintings seem to have something "more" to them. On Duma Key he also finds a new friendship with Wireman, a kindred spirit seeking refuge there as a caretaker for Elizabeth Eastlake. Elizabeth's past also contains painful memories that have been reawakened bringing all of them together to face an evil entity named Perse.

Perhaps there's a better description out there... that synopsis doesn't speak of the greatness of this novel.  Really a terrific read!  Five stars from me and highly recommended!  He has some other great books too, though this is the best.  I also enjoyed Pet Sematary, Rose Madder, It, and Misery, giving them all four stars.  My second-favorite book of his gets four-and-a-half stars (it's a ghost story--those of you who know me know how much I love that stuff!!) - Bag of Bones.

What are you reading?  Have a great week!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday ~ 3/25

This week's six follow the meal from the six sentences last week in Always and Forever and the conversation shown in Wednesdays writing tip.  Leticia and Zach have revealed they want Lilly to date Zach as a decoy date to a boat party, since Zach's mother is trying to force him back into the dating scene, and planned the party to introduce him to women. Zach told Lilly she is a perfect decoy.  Since she doesn't have any money or family, she can be totally devoted to him as far as his mother needs to know.  He also told her she was beautiful, and would quickly win his family over.

Lilly pulled her hand out of Zach's and brushed aside the compliment. She tried hard not to feel offended by his unconscious arrogance. Before she lost everything, she probably looked down at poor people the same way he looked at her, without ever knowing she did it. What would Zach think if he discovered she used to have money and connections and family of her own?

The silence stretched out between them. Lilly tried to think of a way to refuse him without putting her job in jeopardy--she couldn’t afford to offend Zach or Leticia, which she feared outright refusal would do.

I hope you enjoyed this week's six.  To check out other authors' sentences or post your own, visit 6 Sentence Sunday here.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I've been tagged by The Lucky 7 Meme

I was tagged by Angela Quarles this week to participate in the Lucky 7 meme.  Although I can't 100% follow the rules, as I don't have seven writing friends with blogs, I thought I would participate and tag my friends that I could.  Here are the rules:

  • Go to p. 77 of current WIP
  • go to line 7
  • copy down next 7 lines/sentences & post them as they’re written
  • Tag 7 other authors
  • Let them know

Zach’s free hand balled into a fist and he forced down a little sip of water.  “You’re mad about school?  Hell, I’m the one who got you in all the right social circles.”  He clung to the promise he made his mother.  It might take all his control, but he would not throw Crandall overboard.  “You slept with my wife, damn you.  And when I caught you, you didn’t even have the decency to stop.”

I hope you enjoyed.  The excerpt is from Always and Forever.  I'm not to page 77 yet on the new WIP.  I don't know who else will participate, but these blogs are all worth checking out; they are terrific writers:
I'm always looking for new writer friends who blog.  If you've made your way to this post and want to participate, I'd be happy to tag your blog here. 

Happy Thursday, everyone!  I hope it is terrific!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Writing Tip Wednesdays

Well, I decided not to do a website this week, but to pass on some of the wisdom I've learned.  My critique buddies have taught me wonderful information about writing that I didn't know before joining their group.  However, there was something I brought to the table and I think it is very important.  It's something newbies and seasoned writers alike struggle with. 

I'm referring to Talking Heads ... dum, dum, dum...

Really, this is a horrible problem, and one of my biggest nitpicks.  Take the following scene between my two MCs in Always and Forever.  I also threw some of Grandma Letitia into the mix, just to add extra confusion.  I've redone this scene as talking heads (not actually how it ended up):

“As you probably know, Zach has come here to concentrate on writing a mystery novel.”

"Yes, we already talked about that," Lilly said. "Did you need some help researching? I’d be more than happy to help if you’ll let me read your book as you go along."

"The book is not what I need your help with."


"I could probably be persuaded to allow you to see it, however."

"I’ll hold you to that."

"I knew you two would hit it off. That’s what makes you so perfect for what we need, Lilly."

"And that would be?" Lilly asked.

I critique many novels with conversations similar to this one. I'm constantly begging, pleading for the author to add in some movements, thoughts from the point of view character, or at the very least some more he said/she said so I have a clue who is speaking.

At every third line of dialogue (at least), there needs to be some sort of action going on.  Readers like to use their imaginations, true, but they also like to see the scene you have created, and the above example, frankly, bores me to tears.  While dialogue is considered by many the most interesting piece of writing in a book, make sure it is, in fact, interesting. 

Here's how that scene actually reads:

“As you probably know,” Leticia continued, oblivious to Lilly’s anxiety, “Zach has come here to concentrate on writing a mystery novel.”

Lilly smiled despite her nerves, excitement overcoming her. There were few things she’d rather do than lose herself in a novel. “Yes, we already talked about that.” She flicked her gaze to Zach. “Did you need some help researching? I’d be more than happy to help if you’ll let me read your book as you go along.”

Zach looked amused, though he didn’t display his devastating smile that had shaken her so much. “The book is not what I need your help with.”

“Oh.” Lilly stifled her disappointment. During her darkest times, she could escape into a book, travel to a different world, and forget her troubles for a while.

Zach leaned forward to set his cup on the coffee table and grinned at her. “I could probably be persuaded to allow you to see it, however.”

“I’ll hold you to that.” It might also provide more opportunity to spend time with him.

Leticia smiled benignly at both of them. “I knew you two would hit it off. That’s what makes you so perfect for what we need, Lilly.”

Lilly’s anxiety flooded back. “And that would be?”
I hope you can see the difference the bolded section makes toward bringing the scene to life. 

For more information on how to avoid this phenomenon, do an internet search for talking heads.  Talking heads kill your story.  Be ruthless!  Go through your manuscript and show what happens.  Remember, if three lines of dialogue have gone past and no one has snorted, smiled, scratched, or spit, you need to add something, because you're probably losing your readers. 

Happy writing, everyone! Have a great week!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Books I love ~ 3/19

Here it is--the book that started my love affair with romance novels.  It was quite an unfair entrapment, I might add.  I didn't read romance novels, had no interest in them.  I thought they were all about whiny women wanting to trap a super alpha male/grouchy jerk into sex/marriage.  The only romance I ever read as a teenager fit this description, and I didn't even make it through the book, discarding it in favor of my mystery and fantasy books.

I was in Barnes & Noble a few years ago, looking for a new author, as I had read all the books by my current favorites.  Nothing caught my interest, and I went up to the front of the store to wait for the rest of my family.

And there was the bargain book table.  I had nothing better to do, so I started reading the inside covers of the books.  All Night Long by Jayne Ann Krentz caught my attention.  It sounded like a fantastic mystery, and for $5.98 (cheaper than a paperback these days), I figured it was probably worth the price.

I started reading, and boy was I right!  Not only did the book contain a fabulous mystery and masterful story telling on Krentz's part, it also had that little spark of romance twined throughout, leading to hot passion, and culminating in the satisfying 'Happily Ever After.'  As anyone who has ever been to a movie with me knows, I HATE movies that don't make their way to a happily ever after.  I don't care if the critics claim it's the best thing since sliced bread--if the cute little kid helping the town come together dies at the end, I'm gonna complain, loudly, about how horrible the movie is, how much it sucks.  If the nice guy who's totally right for the girl does the 'noble' thing and gives her up so she can be happy with the jerk she thinks she loves, I'm gonna stand up in disgust, professing my anger at whomever talked me into seeing that movie.

But this wonderful world of romantic suspense novels ... no one ever told me there was something out there so perfect for me.  Mystery, chills, suspense, a strong male who is most often worthy of capturing the heroine's heart, and I know that I'm always going to reach 'and they lived happily ever after' in some form or another.

Krentz has many books available, and I've read most of them.  In fact, right now, I'm reading Family Man before going to sleep at night.  It's hard to pick a favorite book of hers, but I highly recommend you check out some of her titles.

What are you reading?  Have a great week!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday ~ 3/18/12

This week's six comes from chapter three of Always and Forever.  Zach is taking a meal with his grandmother, Leticia, at Woodbridge Manner where Lilly works.  Lilly has served food to the pair (with problems abounding, not shown here) and Zach is upset because Leticia didn't have Lilly bring a meal for herself, but asked her to join them. This is from Lilly's point of view.
Zach shook his head at Leticia and placed the crystal dish of raspberry sorbet in front of Lilly, handing her his spoon.
Lilly took a few small bites while she studied Zach.  His black hair had been smoothed slick against his head when she first entered the room, but now stuck up in places.  He was forever running his hand through his hair, and Lilly found it quite endearing.  To her eyes, he was a lot more handsome with that imperfection.  She’d once had perfect, and knew perfection couldn’t fulfill its own promise.
Thanks for stopping by.  You can check out other author's sentences here.

Friday, March 16, 2012


The kids with Tigger
Writing a book is a bit like planning a vacation.  When the idea first hits me, I can hardly wait to begin.  I plan out a few details of what I'd like to do, keeping open space for those unexpected things that come up.  My family went on a trip to Disneyland a few years ago.  It was nonstop fun to the point of pain, and very much the way I feel about writing a novel.

When I first boarded the plane, excitement abounded.  I'd never been to Disneyland (or to Serenity, Oregon--my fictional town in Always and Forever where Zach and Lilly live).  There is a certain joy found in the beginning of the adventure.

The problems started when I finished exploring Disneyland (or Serenity) and decided to go on a ride (write a scene).  There's always that pesky line (or in the case of writing, a problem with the plot).  At Disneyland we had no choice.  We stood in line, bored out of our minds.  Perversely, being bored is the best way to forward my writing, too.  Housework usually does the trick (folding laundry is especially good for this purpose).  Eventually, my Muse starts speaking to me, and I can hop on and enjoy the ride.

About halfway through the vacation, exhaustion sets in.  All I want is a day by the pool, relaxing and resting my aching feet.  However, the kids (or characters in the book) aren't content for this to happen.  They want me to play with them, chase them around, have races in the pool.  Even if I have a chance to rest, I'm sucked in to thinking about what will happen later. 

Eventually, as fun as they may be, all trips come to an end.  My family got back on the plane and returned home; Zach and Lilly finished telling me their story.  However, that didn't mean my work was over.  We destroyed the house with everything we set down upon entering our home, suitcases needed unpacked, the laundry needed started, the five million pictures I took needed downloaded off the digital camera and placed on zip drives.  In the writing world, this process is known as editing.  Unfortunately, editing goes on almost as long as the trip itself. With the help of my good friends at Critique Circle I'm finally seeing an end to all the chores I need to do.  I'm exhausted, but happy. 

The crazy thing is, even as I grumble about having to clean up, even though I'm exhausted and I just want a break, immediately the next trip is forming in my mind.  In real life, we began planning a trip to the coast as soon as we got home.  In my writing life, Madeline Scott started speaking to me, trying to force her story into my mind, before I even got close to being done cleaning the mess Zach and Lilly made.

There is a certain joy to writing, or perhaps it's an addiction.  All I know is, I'm excited to take my next trip!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Writing Tip Wednesdays

In the spirit of deciding what I'm doing with this blog, I've decided Wednesdays will be for my writer friends and want-to-be-writer friends.  I'll share a site I've found that help toward this goal on Wednesdays.

The hardest thing about writing is knowing where to start.  As I explained before, when I started with my first book (the one that fizzled at 150 pages) I had no clue what I was doing.  I tried to remember anything I might have learned back in school.  I knew there were problems with my book, characters, plot--I just didn't know exactly what they were.

I decided I needed help.  Lucky for me, I found Holly Lisle. Ms. Lisle is a wonderful author (and for those readers who are here, if you like fantasy, try her books--my favorite is Talyn).  She has tons of articles on writing.  If you are just starting out and learning, you will be sucked into her web site for weeks, unable to do anything else--at least I was.  To get started, check out her how-to articles here.  I eventually ended up purchasing a couple of her clinics and moved on to take her How To Think Sideways writing boot camp.  Very informative.  However, the article section of her site has a lot of free information.

If you are looking for writing inspiration, or need help because you have an idea for a book, I'd recommend you make this your first stop.  She has free articles on how to plot, how to create characters, how to decide if the book you are writing should be continued or burned.  She even offers help on learning to listen to your Muse.  I love this web site!

Happy writing, everyone.  Have a terrific week!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Books I Love - 3/12

I've been trying to figure out what to do with this blog, more than just tell stories about myself and what I am doing writing.  I thought it might be fun to swap titles of great books.  Every Monday, I'll recommend a book that I like, and you guys can tell me what you like.

I know it would be more appropriate for me to start with a romance author for my first suggestion, but my first book is actually a mystery because Mary Higgins Clark is having a sale for e-books on six of her novels this week, and since she included my all-time favorite book of hers in the sale, I wanted to let you know about it.

A Cry in the Night is the ultimate Cinderella story gone wrong.  Amazon Description:  When Jenny MacPartland meets the man of her dreams while working in a New York art gallery, she's ecstatic. Painter Erich Krueger -- whose exquisite landscapes are making him a huge success -- is handsome, sensitive...and utterly in love with her. They marry quickly and Jenny plans a loving home on Erich's vast Minnesota farm. But lonely days and eerie nights strain her nerves to the breaking point and test her sanity. Caught in a whirlpool of shattering events, Jenny soon unearths a past more terrifying than she dares imagine...tragic secrets that threaten her marriage, her children, her life.

This is a great mystery/thriller and one of Mary Higgins Clark's best books ever.  You can get to the sale on it here for Kindle or here for Nook.  She's put these promotional books on sale from regular price of $7.99 to $3.99 for the next week.  No, normally I won't be trying to sell every book I recommend, but since these are on sale, I thought I would mention it.

Really, I would recommend any of her earlier books that are mysteries.  In the last few years, she has changed to just straight suspense, telling you right away who the bad guy is, and I don't like that as well.  Although she is still a wonderful author.  Her first book, Where Are the Children? is also on this sale, and I highly recommend that one too.  It was, in fact, the first book of hers I ever read, and the story that got me hooked on mystery novels.  My mom's boyfriend brought it home one day, trying to butter me up.  Since he married my mom and is now my loving Poppa, I guess that's okay! :-)

So, what are you all reading?  What do you recommend others try?

Have a terrific week!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Six Sentence Sundy 3/11/12

I think this could be fun for everyone.  I will post six sentences from one of my books every Sunday. Feel free to comment or give me suggestions to improve--whatever you feel like doing.  This first post is from chapter one of Always and Forever and I don't think requires explanation.  Enjoy!

The man eyed her with undisguised pity, and his gaze flicked to her left leg. He’d obviously noticed her limp. 

That limb would never be the same, but at least she could walk. A whisper of fear laced her spine as she remembered the cold steel at her neck, the white-hot pain as the knife slid into her belly. The man’s breath had smelled of onions, though he wore an expensive brand of cologne. Lilly’s mind refused to release these odd little details, and the terror of them returned in random moments.
Thanks for stopping by and taking a look.  You can look at other sentences from published and aspiring authors here  Happy Sunday, everyone!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Falling Without a Net

Growing up, I never really knew what it felt like to fail.  I mean, I didn't accomplish everything I tried, but there was always someone to pick me up, kiss my bumps and scrapes all better, and send me back out to try again.  Writing ... not so much.  Starting was a scary prospect, because I always knew it was utterly possible I might fail--perhaps colossally fail--with no one around to pick me up and kiss away my hurts, or even tell me why I failed.

safety netsI kept my work secret from friends and family, not wanting them to see in case I wasn't any good.  Well, except my mother.  She's known about my writing from the beginning, encouraging and urging me on, just like she has been my whole life.  Still, it's my mom's job to tell me how terrific I am, no matter what. I needed the truth, unsullied by the rose-colored glasses of motherhood.

Believing it would be easier to fall on my face in front of strangers, I went in search of an online critique group.  Thank goodness I found Critique Circle.  I'd recommend this site to any person wanting to have terrific, helpful critiques on their work.  Here, finally, was that safety net I'd searched for.  A group of people who understood me and knew exactly what I was going through.

These terrific people tell me when something doesn't work and needs changed in my book, and often act as sounding boards to help work out those changes.  These same wonderful people are just as eager to tell me when I've written something brilliant.

As Zach and Lilly have finished out their story and my critique buddies have gone through the chapters of Always and Forever, I've started to believe I may actually be a writer, that I can do this.  I now associate with some wonderful authors, and although readers haven't heard of them all yet, one day everyone will be reading their wonderful books.  I've learned more in a few short months working with these new friends than I learned in any of the classes I paid to take.  Check out the blogs that I'm following (left-hand column on this screen) if you want a chance to meet some of these talented people and see what they are writing.

Somehow, I was led to the perfect support group, and I'm grateful for them everyday.  Not only have they strengthened my writing, I know they are there to catch me if I fall.  I'm no longer writing without a net.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dancing in the Rain

One of my very first memories is of a rainstorm.  I must have been around two or three years old.  I stuck my head out the sliding glass door and let my hair get wet, delighting in the feel of the cold rain splashing against my hair and face.  Well, until Mom caught me anyway.

Summer rainstorms were not a time to head indoors.  Heck no!  I'd play until soaked with a never a care in the world.  I could always be found in the water somewhere as a child, swinging on an old rope across the canal or jumping off a bridge into the water rushing below.

As a teenager, I remember driving down the road during heavy rainstorms, Def Leopard blaring in the cassette player, rain sheeting across the front windshield.  Pull over?  No way!  I'd roll down the windows and get my friends in the car to help see where we were headed, trying to stay on the road as the windshield wipers cruised at max speed, doing absolutely nothing to help visability.  I suppose that right there is a prime argument for the case against teenager drivers.

There is nothing as awe inspiring as a thunderstorm.  The crackling intensity of the lightening, followed by the crash of thunder, just knowing any second the sky will open up and flood the streets in a matter of seconds.

I love visiting the coast, falling asleep as waves crash against the shoreline.  Taking mountain hikes to roaring waterfalls.  Sitting idle by the lake or spending the day swimming--all these things rank high as perfect vacations.

What is it that draws me in?  Water is a relaxing and magical presence to me. It symbolizes all things great to my mind, and makes its way into each book I write.  Lilly Price fled from her past, and ended up settling in a small town on the shore of a lake.  In my new book, Madeline Scott also moved recently and settled in a little town along the Pacific coast.  It's a dream of mine to live in a little cottage that overlooks the water somewhere...anywhere.

As a parent, there are too many things to worry about for me to enjoy that carefree aspect as I once did.  After all, the kids might catch cold if they go out in the rain. And swimming across the lake now requires life jackets and sunscreen, rather than guts and glory.

Maybe my characters gravitating toward water is a message from my subconscious.  Perhaps that little girl inside me is whispering what my responsible adult self has pushed away--sometimes, to be truly happy, I need to dance in a downpour.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Where to start?

I almost find staring at the blank page on this blog more scary than the pages in my book.  It's been a long journey to create Always and Forever, my romantic suspense novel about a former socialite, accused of murder and trying to start over in a new life.  My journey's not over yet, and at times I'm overwhelmed.

I always thought writers were born, and that I could never be one. I thought some of us just may be destined to be readers, never imaginative enough to come up with the fascinating tales we love to live through that other people create. But some things are worth the work.

The first story I ever remember writing was titled My Pencil.  It was a first-grade project of a page-long tale about my pencil coming to life when I left school.  All the pencils got in a circle to play Farmer in the Dale and jump rope. I suppose my thinking was that my pencil was never where I thought it should be when I went to find it in the morning (though, more likely, that was due to my lack of organization).  I won first prize on that story, out of all the kids in first grade.  I later wrote stories about my friends, for their reading pleasure, while in middle school, but then the creative spark faded away, and I never thought of writing again for many years.

Five years ago, an idea came into my head, and it just wouldn't leave. I told it I couldn't help it, I wasn't a writer and couldn't become one. The story persisted, until it eventually interrupted my sleep and wreaked havoc on my thought process. I finally starting writing it down, just so I could function again. The fact was, I knew nothing about writing, and I went in search of information. I started taking every class I could afford, reading every article on writing that I came across.  The book made it to 150 pages before I ran out of things to write about.  I let that one go and started with the next one, and the next one, and the next one.  They all fizzled around 30,000 words.

That's when it clicked for me ... I was trying to write fantasy books, and I obviously didn't have one of those in my head.  That's when Lilly Price started speaking to me with the line that inspired the entire story, "Always and Forever."  The story has been a firm task mistress, commanding any spare time, keeping me awake at night, waking me early in the morning. My life has been consumed by Lilly and Zach, and it has been an amazing journey.

There is more to come, and I have a lot of work to do, but I've realized the most important lesson taught to every grade-school child is true--you can do anything you set your mind to.