Monday, April 30, 2012

Books I Love ~ Dangerous ~ 4/30

I had a truly wretched time picking a favorite to recommend from this author, Amanda Quick.  If you like historical romance, I can't recommend her highly enough.  I've been pouring through one of her more recent novels, Burning Lamp, trying to finish it in time for today's blog post.  Alas, I've not been able to finish it in time.  That said, this book is not my favorite one by her, and I decided to highlight one of her books that I truly love.

Let me reiterate before I move on, there is nothing wrong with Burning Lamp, but it is one of her Arcane Society Novel's where the heroes and heroines have psychical abilities.  These are good books with wonderful story lines, but sometimes I feel we are asked to go out on a limb to enjoy these books and I like the straightforward romantic suspense of her earlier tales.

My pick this week is Dangerous.  Book description from Amazon: From a magnificent ballroom ablaze with lights to an imposing country house steeped in shadows comes a breathtaking tale of an impetuous miss--and a passion that leads to peril...

At five and twenty, Prudence Merryweather knew very well tht risks a woman took by visiting a gentleman in the dead of night. But bearding the notorious Earl of Angelstone in his den was the only way to stop him from engaging her hot-headed brother in a duel. And that was why she found herself ushered into Sebastian's frobidding presence at three int the morning--and thoroughly kissed before dawn.

She was a country-bred innocent--and an intriguing experience for a man who dwelt more in the shadows than in the sunshine. Yet as her boldness drew Prue into one dangerous episode after another, Sebastian found himself torn between a raging hunger to possess her and a driving need to protect her. And the reckless beauty would soon need all the protection she could get...

Really, any of Quick's earlier books have a special place in my heart and I've read all the ones I own several times. In fact, while researching for pictures to use on this blog, I found three early books that I've yet to read! I can't wait to order them and get to it. Some of you may know, Amanda Quick is the historical suspense writing pseudo name for already-recommended contemporary romantic suspense author Jayne Ann Kretnz. I've yet to read any books from her future romantic suspense alter ego, Jayne Castle, but I imagine they are probably good reads as well.

Just to caution you, sometimes her heroes can be a little alpha (a bit more than I like anyway) but her strong females more than make up for this and often end up saving the big male instead.  She never disappoints with anything she delivers, and I don't think you could go wrong with any of her books if you like historical romance with a splash of mystery. 

Happy reading, everyone!  Deadlocked, the new Sookie Stackhouse novel by Charlaine Harris (recommended previously by me here) will be to my house on May 4th!  I'm going to be in reading Heaven for a while as I re-read that series this week! Have a great one!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

#SixSunday ~ 4/29

This is the last Six Sentence Sunday I am going to post for a while.  There seems to be much more interest in my other blog topics and frankly, I've been a little too busy and getting very little writing time.  Since there are fewer visits to this page, I'm going to focus on other things -- mainly working on the new book!  For those of you who have been coming, I hope you have enjoyed it, and I really appreciate your support and comments along the way.

I didn't want to stop without a word and so decided to sign up one more time this week.  Who knows, I may post a few snippets in the future on my new story when I have more done on it. :-)

This week's snippet follows last week's from Always & Forever.  Zach has followed Lilly into her kitchen and is watching as she arranges the vase of flowers he brought her.  We are in his POV.

She seemed attracted to him, though today's events may have changed her mind.  At the very least, she appeared to enjoy the frequent flirting he instigated.
It was a different story when he touched her.  An innocent pat on her arm or a slight caress against her shoulder altered Lilly’s demeanor noticeably.  Tension consumed her body on those occasions, breaking the comfortable companionship they had achieved.  Not for the first time, he wondered what happened in Lilly’s past to make her so cautious.
Thanks so much for reading and for your comments. To join in for yourself or to read other snippets from some truly talented authors, visit Six Sentence Sunday.

Have a wonderful week, everyone!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Now I Have to Network?

So, I made the decision to self-publish.  After agonizing over that for weeks, I finally stuck to my decision.  What now?

Now, I enter the wonderful world of promotion (important for self-pub and traditional alike).  I already started this blog (and if you are thinking about starting your own blog, I've personally been happy with Blogger--and it's free)  and then I bought the domain name for my web site.  What did I have left to do?

Boy, it's a good thing I've found a few friends along the way to clue me in!

World Literary CafeMy first stop was World Literary Cafe.  This web site includes a lot of information for the aspiring author or the published.  It is a place for readers and writers to connect.  Mostly, I've been trying to build my network, so I became interested in the follow programs for both Facebook and Twitter where you follow other authors and they follow you back (or like you in the case of Facebook).  Sounded good to me.

Next, I started a Facebook page.  Honestly, my blog seems much more useful to me than this.  I have some followers though, so I'll keep trying to figure out what to do with the Facebook page.  I would suggest this be the last thing you attempt, as I've found it to be the least useful.

After that, it was time to move on to Twitter.  Now, this was actually a bit fun for me, and I've been meeting some really interesting people.  In addition to that, I've connected with both readers and writers over the last few weeks (and even other people who watch Ghost Hunters!).

The real power comes when you combine your blog with Twitter in a newer media called triberr.  It is best if you don't join this web site on your own, but ask a friend who is in triberr to invite you into their tribe.  If you get invited, it is free.  If you join on your own, then to get into a specific tribe with people you know it causes what they call "inbreeding," and it costs money (bones) to get into the tribe of your choice.  Basically, we all share our blog feeds with triberr and with a simple click to approve posts, we share each other's blogs over our Twitter feeds.   This has really increased the number of viewers I get to my blog each day, increased my blog followers, and is helping to spread the word about information I'm sharing... hopefully it is all interesting enough to keep people coming back!

Just a cautionary tale... do not commit one of the Seven Sins of Social Networking as detailed by the vastly entertaining Rachelle Ayala on her blog Rachelle's Window.

Do you have any great networking tips I've overlooked?  Anything else I should be doing?

Thanks so much for reading!  Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wednesday Writing Tip 4/25 ~ Breathing Life Into Characters

Continuing along with last week's tip dealing with character, I decided to go in that same category this week.  How do you keep from having cardboard, one-dimensional, boring characters?  What brings a character to life and causes readers to fall in love with them beyond what the characters think and feel?

As a writer, it is our job to fully flesh out our characters, to make them real people.  This isn't an easy task.  I've spent some time reading reviews of books on goodreads and I'm not surprised that one- and two-star reviews often say something negative about character creation and how "fake" the characters seem.

Honestly, in the course of my writing journey I have met many different types of writers.  One of my friends doesn't plan anything at all - he just sits at the computer and waits for the words to come to him.  Another friend plots out everything meticulously on note cards and knows from start to finish exactly what will happen every second of her book.  In fact, she worlds builds and includes much more stuff than she will ever use.

Me? I'm mostly fly by the seat of my pants and let my characters tell me what they want to do.  They usually speak to me at night before I fall asleep, and if the idea is a good one it sticks and I write it the next day.  This is how I work with one exception.  I know my characters inside and out, backward and forward before I ever type a word.

And what things do I need to know about my characters?  It's a simple list really.

I ask them what they value most.  Basically, what things would they give up anything for.  What kind of things do they look for in other people.  Honesty, family, love, money, power, their children.  Whatever they would sacrifice almost anything to have.  Then, I have to know what they wouldn't sacrifice.  What is so important to them that they wouldn't even give it up for their most valued things?  This will be their one value that can't change throughout the book, which can sometimes make things tricky in writing, but will help you stay true to your character without any convenient changes of heart.

I then move on to asking them their beliefs.  This is anything they believe beyond a shadow of a doubt.  These beliefs do not have to make sense, they don't even have to be true.  As long as the character believes it to be true, I write it down.  Lilly's beliefs were:  I can only trust myself.  No one will love me if they know my secrets.  I will be a horrible mother.  Zach's beliefs were:  I will never find my soul mate.  My family is most important. There is nothing worse than a liar.

Next comes secrets.  This is where the magic happens for me.  Whatever my characters are hiding from the rest of the world, whatever happened to them to make them bury the secret and never share with others, that is where all of my best ideas for my novel come from.  I can't share my characters' secrets with you, as I hope one day you will consider reading Always and Forever, but let's just say this category is for the really important stuff.  Did your character kill someone?  Did they cheat on an old girlfriend?  Have they been cheated on?  Do they long for a family even though they say they don't want one? Whatever their deep dark secret is, hold it close to you and spend your book exploiting that knowledge!

Now, your character needs a skill. This can be anything, but it has to be something that helps your reader connect with the character.  Lilly loves to cook.  Zach loves to dance.

From all of this information, you will be able to figure out your character's strength and flaw, and after all, every character needs a fatal flaw to overcome.  Lilly's strength is self-reliance.  Her flaw is that she can't trust others.  Zach's strength is bravery.  His flaw is arrogance.

Lastly, I want to know what they look like - body build, age, hair color, eye color.  This includes any special characteristics.  Lilly has an injured leg, walks with a limp, and uses a cane, which is a very important part of the story.  Zach has a habit of running his hand through his hair and messing it up.  I never really thought about the special characteristic.  Lilly's was a plot element, Zach's just kind of happened.  However, I've heard the advice from many places that a special characteristic will help readers feel like they are reading about real people.  That might even be true :-)  I haven't planned anything for my new characters yet in this regard, but something might pop up as I'm writing.

There are, of course, as many different ways to go about building a character as there are characters and writers.  The method I use is a mixture of methods suggested in two different classes I attended and blogs I've read.  I've merged them into a format that works for me.

Here is a quick recap of what I learn about my characters before writing:
1.  Values.
- Include what they absolutely will not give up; i.e., they would die for this thing.
2.  Beliefs.
3.  Secrets.
4.  Skill.
5.  Strength and fatal flaw.
6.  Physical description.
- Include any special characteristic.

I know my way will not work for everyone.  For more methods, check out the following blogs:
Anthologies Online
Holly Lisle How to Create a Character
Create a Fictional Character From Scratch

Good luck, and happy writing!!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Kreativ Blogger Award Nominee

I'm so honored! I was nominated for the Kreativ Blogger Award from some awesome bloggers, and I truly do thank them for thinking of me.  I was nominated by both Kimberly Sullivan and Melinda Dozier.  Thanks so much ladies!  Please check out their blogs.  Kimberly has a writing/travel blog, and she posts fabulous pictures of all of her travels.  She writes Women's Literature.  Melinda posts writing-related material and funnies and books she is reading.  She writes Harlequin-type romance. 

According to the rules for those nominated, I have to:
  1. Thank the blogger who nominated me for the award and provide a link.
  2. List 7 things about myself that readers might find interesting.
  3. Nominate 7 other bloggers, provide links and let them know
7 things about me:
  • My favorite vacation spot is the beach.  Also, I love exploring lighthouses and I have been whale watching on a little ship! 
  • In high school I played the flute, and I was first chair all through my senior year.  Sophomore and junior year I teetered between second and third chair depending on chair challenges, but we won't talk about that :-) I loved being first chair because I got to play all the solos at concerts and festivals. 
  • I love bowling.  It is a sport my entire family enjoys.  My daughter bowls on a youth league and is one of the top girl bowlers in our city.
  • I love to ride horses, though on my 15th birthday my horse bolted on me, throwing me off, and giving me a concussion as my birthday present.  I lost my memory for the rest of that day!
  • My favorite animal is the dolphin because they are so smart and friendly.  My greatest wish is to one day swim with dolphins.  I did feed them once at Sea World and pet them on the nose. 
  • I don't really like to watch TV all that much, but I love the show House.   Besides loving the medical mysteries, I think Hugh Laurie, the actor who plays House, is a very good looking man. ;-) 
  • I have a terrific son who is going to be a police officer, and a beautiful daughter who is going to be a forensic scientist. 

7 other bloggers I’d like to nominate:

  • Rachelle's Window ~ Rachelle posts a lot of book reviews, helping readers find great new books by Indie authors.  She also posts a lot of helpful information for the author exploring the world of self-publishing. 
  • Travis' Trail of the Tale ~ Travis writes hilarious stories about his life and his writing journey.  He posts for both entertainment and some writing tips. 
  • Author Tonya Kappes ~ Tonya is a cozy mystery writer.  Her blog is great, including writing tips and reviews/interviews.  She often has funny things posted as well. 
  • MOODY WRITING ~ Moody posts a lot of interesting tips on writing, from character creation and plot line all the way up to publishing.  Always great information here. 
  • J. A. Beard's Unnecessary Musings ~ J.A. Beard does a lot of author interviews.  If you are looking for a new author, this is the place to go. 
  • Angela Quarles ~ Angela participates in Six Sentence Sunday.  She also does one of my favorite blog spots... Monday Hunks Who Read! Nice pictures here!
  • Lorraine Paton ~ Lorraine participates in Six Sentence Sunday.  She posts other blogs about different aspects of her writing journey. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Books I Love 4/23 ~ Think Fast Die Last

This is the first self-published/Indie book I have offered up on this blog. I read this book last week, and I tore through it in only a few days. It's a very fast paced and enjoyable book. I have Elliston's other book, Tick Tock Run, downloaded to my computer, and I can't wait until I have a chance to read it!

From the opening line, H.C. Elliston's Think Fast Die Last is a non-stop, can't put it down thriller. I found the characters to be engaging and likable, and I quickly grew attached to them. I fearfully read through the situations the main character, Jenna, finds herself trapped in, caught up in the story and concerned for her well-being. I thought Elliston's villains were convincingly portrayed as well.

I don't want to give too much away, but situation after situation arises in this book. Elliston's weaves a complex, fast-paced plot. Just when I thought surely the tension must slow, that things would settle down a bit, something else would happen to leave me breathless and quickly turning pages.

Just for clarification, I see this has been tagged as a romantic suspense. While there are some romantic elements, to me this book is better classified as a action/thriller/suspense with some romantic themes.

If you are looking for something that you can read in just a few sittings, and you enjoy books with a lot of action, this is the book for you. It is great!

What are you reading? Happy Monday!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday ~ 4/22

It's time for Six Sentence Sunday again.  This week I decided to let you all know what happened after Lilly answered the door last week.  Poor Zach, he really needs to work on his charm!

“You might as well bring those things into the kitchen,” Lilly said.
Zach stepped into the house and kicked the door closed behind him, following as Lilly led the way through her tiny living room.  She leaned heavily onto a cane with every step she took, her limp more pronounced than usual.  He hadn’t meant to startle her earlier.  He had only wanted to be near her, to be helpful.  Nearly knocking her down hadn’t been part of his plan for seduction. 
Thanks so much for reading! To read other people's six sentences or join in on the fun for yourself, visit Have a great week!

Friday, April 20, 2012


Well, as many of you know, I finally made a decision.  It was not an easy one!  I must have changed my mind thirty-seven times.

Ever since this idea of writing entered my head, I always assumed I would write the next Great American Novel, it would magically be wonderful, and I would send it off to a publisher, land an agent, and the rest would be history.  Okay, that's really never what I expected.  Though I did expect I would one day be published, I never imagined it would be an easy process.  And I know it isn't!  I have nothing but admiration for all the traditionally published writers out there.  It is a hard world to break into.  Many terrific books are passed over in favor of other books, as publishers try to guess which fad will catch on, what book will catch the attention of millions of readers.  Self-publishing is an entirely different ball game.  You can make this a very easy process in which you put forth no effort, and most likely will end up with a product that will not sell and will hurt your reputation.  Or you can go about it the correct way, professionally, just like a traditionally published author, and build a brand for your name that will eventually lead readers to you *crosses fingers and takes a deep breath*

Now there is the new  world of E-books and the publishing venture offered through Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Smashwords, Google Books, and many others.  Suddenly, anyone who strings a few lines of text together can slap a book up on the internet and attempt to sell their work.

Honestly, I didn't view these as "real" books.  Please don't come after me with the pitchforks and burning torches.  In fairness, the only self-published book I had ever read was absolutely horrible.  I downloaded it for 99 cents, thinking that for the price it was worth taking a chance.  Boy, was that a horrible assumption.  Spelling errors, basic grammar structure problems, and the plot ... let's just say it was not well thought out.  I swore I would never buy another self-published book.

Enter Critique Circle.  Suddenly, I'm reading works in progress (WIPs) by awesome authors and I'm excitedly sharing my work, getting great help, perfecting my craft.  Everyone is talking about their editors, and I'm so naive and clueless about this new way of publishing, I think they must have publishing deals.  I was amazed that all of these people seemed to so easily land a deal, and wondered what the heck the secret was! :-)  When I realized they were self-publish authors, who actually hired editors just like traditional authors, my brain suddenly started wondering what world of possibilities could be opened by this new development.

I gave self-published work another chance, and I have to say, it's unfortunate I happened upon that first book.  The majority of these self-published novels really deserve to be published, as much as any other book I've read.  There is something a little sad about reading digital books, but I'm slowly getting used to this new way of reading--I love the feel, smell, and experience of holding a book in my hands, turning the pages.  I've told my family I want a Kindle for my birthday this year.  We'll see how that compares to a paperback.  It has to be better than reading at my laptop.

My plan is to publish Always and Forever on Amazon.  I'm learning a lot about promotion, Facebook, Twitter (I'll have more on my experiences with this later).  It's a scary world, but also fabulously exciting.

My editor, Stephanie, sent the first 5000 words of Always and Forever back to me this evening.  She has some great ideas and some great catches.  In fact, Chapter One listed on this site is not going to make it to the final edit--well, parts of it will, as far as information given about Lilly, but the chapter itself will undergo a radical change.  I will update the website in the future and put the final Chapter One up.  Stephanie made a suggestion for an alternate first chapter.  Interestingly, it's the same suggestion my good critique buddy and fellow aspiring author, Travis Casey, made.  It was a good idea when he made it, and it's still a good idea.  I'm going to run with it.  She had a lot of other great suggestions.  I can already see the benefit of hiring an editor.  I'm very, very excited to embark on the next phase of editing.

Here are some of my favorite blogs that have information about self-publishing, what authors are doing about promotion, and just some general guidelines:
Rachelle's Window
Victorine Writes

Good luck to everyone, in whatever dreams you pursue! Anything is possible!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wednesday Writing Tip ~ Character ~ 4/18

Connecting with the Reader

Ah, characters.  The people who make your book go 'round.  Let's face it, without engaging characters that your readers fall in love with, your book is going nowhere, doing nothing.  I can't tell you the number of books I've started and quickly set aside, never to finish.  In the past, I never understood why I didn't like these books, what element was missing.

When I started posting my novel on Critique Circle, I received a critique that greatly perplexed me.  The critic told me my characters had too many internal thoughts, and I shouldn't spend so much time living in the heads of the characters.  We ended up starting a discussion about this with others, and it seemed to be split on what people believed was the correct way to go about writing.  Most men, it seems, don't like to write a lot of internal thoughts and feelings.  Women spend more time in the heads and hearts of their characters.  And, of course, this is a total generalization--it was a woman who told me I had too much! :-)

I didn't change the way I wrote after this discussion, however, but continued with the internal thoughts of the people in my little world.  After all, my argument was this:  how can I possibly care about someone I know nothing about?

I recently took a class on mystery writing and this subject popped up again.  Boy was I happy to learn that the expert teaching the class agreed with me.  Steve Alcorn says plot is events that happen in your novel to move the action forward.  But the real heart of the matter, the thing the reader cares about, is the story.  And that, my friends, is what is going on within your characters.  The emotional part of your novel.  What your MC thinks and feels, his hopes and fears.  The effects situations have on him personally.

I finally understood why some books I just couldn't care about.  It is this missing element of internal thoughts.  Of actually knowing the character, being invested in what is going to happen to her.  Caring about the things she cares about.

Take the following snippet from Always and Forever.  If I were taking out Lilly's internal thoughts, I would basically remove everything that is underlined.  Try reading it both ways, and see what you think.  This scene includes Lilly, Zach, and Zach's grandmother, Leticia:

Lilly exited the elevator at the top floor and knocked on Mrs. Woodbridge’s door. She opened it and backed into the room, dragging the food cart with her.

“Lilly, you should have had one of the orderlies bring that up.” Zach’s voice filled the room all at once and sent a shiver down her spine.

She had always been a sucker for a deep, seductive voice. Unfortunately, experience with Charles taught her a sexy voice and the face of an angel could hide the heart of a sadist. She didn’t get the sadist vibe from Zach, but how well could she really know a person she only saw once a week? Charles fooled her for almost a year. 

Lilly turned the cart in the small space and pushed the door closed. “Don’t worry about it, Mr. Woodbridge. It’s my job, after all. I’ll have dinner set out for the two of you in a moment.”

“You’ve known us three months now.” Leticia wagged a finger in Lilly’s direction. “I’ve told you there’s no need to be so formal. This is Zach, and you must start calling me Leticia.”

“Of course, Leticia.”

At night, during her most secret fantasies, Lilly always called him Zach.

As a reader, I want to understand characters--know their thoughts and hopes and dreams. 

One caution, however.  Make sure the characters don't experience the same thought over and over, or that they don't go on to tell another character about the thoughts they just had.  I did have a teensy little problem with this in a few chapters.  In one chapter, Lilly thought about her skills at cooking, looked at/smelled her cake, then Zach arrived and they talked about her cake, and then she explained how she loved cooking while thinking about the cake.  Overkill!  WE ALREADY KNOW LILLY LIKES COOKING!!! my crit partners screamed, and rightly so. 

Here are some more blogs dealing with this topic:

Breathe life into your characters with internal dialogue, and your readers will think about them long after they put your book down!

Enjoy your Wednesday, everyone! Have a terrific week, and happy writing! 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Books I Love ~ 4/16

First off, I must apologize for missing last week's pick.  Time slipped away from me and before I knew it, Monday had passed.  However, this week's pick more than makes up for missing a week:

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."

The haunting first line of this book often plays through my mind at random moments.  We were required to read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier senior year in high school.  I was determined to not enjoy it.  After all, who likes required reading?

It's impossible not to become intrigued by this story, however.  I soon went from reading only the required pages every night to racing through the entire book in a few evenings.  Even my other classmates got into it.  Most of us finished long before our time limit was up.  That had never happened to me before with required reading.  Sure, I was a bookworm, so I often finished the books early.  But to have my classmates also read it that quickly? That proves this is a great book!

I have read Rebecca many more times since that long-ago day in high school, and it still grips me and excites me every time I read it. My heart breaks for the main character all over again while she tries to understand the relationship between Max, a man she loves more than anything, and his dead wife, Rebecca, who died in a boating accident.  The mystery continues to spin, as the sinister Mrs. Danvers convinces the MC that she will never live up to Rebecca's memory.

I love this story!  Definitely a timeless classic that I will never tire of reading.

What are you reading today?  Have a great  week everyone!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday ~ 4/15

Well, Zach stuck his foot in it, and now has to try to mend some fences with Lilly.  This week's scene is from Zach's point of view and happens after the disastrous scene from last week.

     “I come in peace.” He held up a bouquet of pink and white lilies and bottle of wine for her inspection. “I made an ass of myself today. I’m hoping you’ll forgive me. Can I come in?”

     Lilly bit her lip and stared at him so long, Zach was sure she would refuse him entry.

To read other people's sentences, or join in the fun with some sentences of your own, visit Six Sentence Sunday. 

Thanks so much to everyone who has been coming back each week and posting!  Your support means a lot to me!  I've decided to post the first chapter of Always and Forever as a teaser while I am editing and getting it ready for publication.  Please take a look and tell me what you think. Chapter One 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wednesday Writing Tip ~ 4/11

Editing - Cutting Unnecessary Words
Continuing on from last week's tip, another trick that really helped me tighten my writing was to find filler/filter words that I overused.  Filler words are ones that don't really belong in your novel in most cases.  For some reason, they trip naturally off your fingers as you type, and seem like they belong.  Here is a pretty comprehensive list someone once gave me:

 just, then, that, feel, feeling, felt, there, knew, know, maybe, see, saw, hear, heard, could, couldn't, ly adverbs, up, down, was, were, wonder, think, thought, realize, watch, look, can, decide, sound, so.

Again, as with was, sometimes you do actually need a word on this list and it is appropriate to use it, just remember, a little goes a long way.  See if sentences can be rearranged to take the filler word out or use a stronger word to express the same idea.  Let us live through the action with your characters, instead of using these words and distancing us from them.

Example:  Kelly felt the cool breeze against her skin.  She knew tomorrow would be a hard day when the trial started.  She wondered what Eric was doing right now.  Was he watching the same stars, thinking of her?

The bold words need to go (if possible) right?  We want to feel Kelly's anxiety, be inside her head.

A cool breeze caressed Kelly's skin, raising goosebumps.  She shuddered.  The trial started tomorrow.  It would be terrifying to face all those people.  Perhaps she caught Eric's fear while visiting him this afternoon.  Kelly shook off her melancholy and gazed into the night sky.  Maybe Eric sat in his jail cell right now, peering through the bars on the window at these same stars.  Did he even consider her? Did he worry what the trial would do to her? 

I know, I always add so many more words when I show how to get rid of the ones that don't belong.  The deal is, when I visualize the scene, sometimes it requires more words to explain so the reader can live in the moment with me.  I hope you agree that it is easier to become invested in Kelly's plight with the second example.

Notice I did use the word maybe even thought it's on the "Do Not Use" list.  As with everything, not all advice is absolute. Personally, I like the word maybe.  I like the feel of it.  I'm always aware when I choose to use it that I'm not 'supposed to,' but I do choose to use it.  Artistic license, writer's voice, all that good stuff.  Don't compromise yourself or your writing voice, just to follow someone else's rule.  This little tidbit took me a long time to figure out, so keep it front in your mind.  Ultimately, you are the creator.  If you really want to break one of the rules, break it, just know that you are.

My biggest word problem, not on the list, was the word "had."  On my first-ever critique, a critter told me to do a search for had and take them all out.  Apparently, she thought I overused it.  She must have not understood my vision, my wonderful writing abilities and my... Oh, no!!

Boy was my face red!  Had appeared in one single paragraph five times! And it only needed to be there once!  I'm also quite partial to "so" and "that" and always have to go through to ax those suckers.

Tighten words wherever you can.  Be brutal!  At first when I started revising Always and Forever, chapters 12 and 13 were horrible, even though I redid them several times.  That's when I realized a lot of stuff needed to be cut out.  I axed over 1000 words, turning two chapters into one, and it was horribly difficult to do.  But really, cutting is much easier since then and I've improved in my ability to see when something doesn't work.  I will now cut entire paragraphs without batting an eyelash if they aren't really helping the story.

Ruthlessly cut any word that isn't adding to your work.  I won't lie, it hurts at first to throw away your words, but will help you in the long run (besides, if it is a lot of words at a time, you don't have to really throw them away--save them to a different document and maybe you can use them later).

Here is another blog that shows an example on cutting these filler/filter words writeitsideways.

Happy writing, everyone!  Have a fantastic week!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday ~ 4/8

This week follows along with the same scene from Always and Forever

Well, Lilly has finally had it.  Following last week's bungle when Zach offered to pay Lilly to date him, he continued to stick his foot in his mouth by insisting that really was what he meant.  Disgusted, Lilly told him she must decline his offer and attempts to leave.  He stopped her at the door, demanding to know why she won't help him.  Here is Lilly's response.  Enjoy!

“Sir, if what you are looking for is an escort, I am sure they have a service you can call.”  Any concern about the loss of her job faded against her growing rage at his presumptions.  “If you are looking for more than a date and need bed services too, find yourself a hooker.  I am no prostitute!”
Zach’s eyes widened in shock, and his hand dropped away from the door frame.
     Lilly yanked the door so hard, it flew open and bounced off the wall.

Thanks so much to everyone who is following along reading these and making comments.  It really means a lot to me!  To read other author's six or to join in on the fun and post your own, visit Six Sentence Sunday.

Happy Sunday!!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Are We Too Busy for Kindness?

In the spirit of the Easter Holiday, I've been thinking a lot about how times have changed since I was a kid.

While leaving a store last night, I had my hands full and couldn't open the door.  A teenager came up on the other side, opened the door, and raced into the store, as though someone were going to beat him inside and get the last of something he wanted if he took two seconds to help me by holding the door.  I shook my head, wondered what had become of society, and went back to my struggle of figuring out how to exit.  Then a... hmmm... we'll call him a 'more mature' gentleman, appeared on the other side of the door.  He opened it, made a sweeping gesture with his arm to the world outside, smiled, and said, "After you, miss."  I smiled widely, thanked him (to which he responded, "Think nothing of it"), and made my escape to the parking lot beyond.

This is what I worry about.  We live in such a "get it now, on demand" society, many people are not even willing to take a few seconds out to help a fellow human being.  Common manners seem to no longer be a priority. 

My brother can never decide if he is a true believer in faith, but he often tells me his personal theory on getting into heaven.  He says if there is a God, He doesn't care about how many times you go to church.  It's my brother's opinion that God counts how many times you let another car out into traffic.  

It's an interesting theory, really, when you think about it.  In the end, are we really judged on how many things we did that appeared to be right?  Or are we judged on our inner intentions, the number of people we hold a door for, the number of times we give money to the beggar on the corner... the number of people we wave in front of us in traffic?

Growing up, we rarely went to church, but Mom had three cardinal rules:  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (which went along with Treat thy neighbor as thyself).  Judge not, least ye be judged.  And finally, Thou Shalt Not Tell a Lie. 

I remember her saying these things all the time.  To me they translated to:  Be nice to everyone (even if they are hard to get along with), mind your own beeswax, and always tell the truth.  Honestly, these were so ingrained into my brain, I had a hard time even teasing someone, as that was telling a lie.  Do young people not understand these rules?  Is everyone so busy text messaging and listening to their MP3 players and playing with their Smart phones that they only care about themselves and the next cool thing?  It's a scary thought. 

I think that's part of the reason I like fiction and writing.  My hero will always open car doors, hold a lady's arm, shield her from danger (okay, maybe not at first, some heroes have rough edges, but they learn).  My heroine can be a caring person, concerned with the well-being of others (she can open doors and hold arms too...if she needs to). 

This Easter (and beyond) I want to focus on the true meaning, not the hype put out by the stores to get you to buy new dresses, shoes, and chocolate bunnies (although I'd never say 'no' to a Cabury Creme Egg--yum!).  To me, it's about caring for one another:  Helping an elderly lady put her groceries into her car, taking soup to a sick neighbor, calling a friend just to let them know I'm thinking about them, sitting down to a dinner surrounded by my family.

Whether you are a believer, sitting on the fence of faith, or a nonbeliever in heaven, God, and Jesus, to me the message is universal.  Kindness is an art that shouldn't be lost.

And my personal belief on what life should be about?


Thank you to everyone who is following along and reading my posts, encouraging me in my writing, and helping me along the way!  It means the world to me!  Feel free to leave a comment.  What have you encountered?  Is there still more kindness in the world than "me" mentality?  I sure hope so!  It warms me every time I start to think there is no kindness left, and then someone appears and holds the door :-)

Happy Easter everyone! 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Writing Tip Wednesdays ~ 4/4


The hardest part of writing, for me at least, is editing.  Until having critique partners at Critique Circle look at my work and tell me all the things I did wrong, I didn't know about the rules of writing.  That said, don't worry about this stuff too much while you are actually writing.  Creating is much different from editing.  Thinking about the rules make it hard for me to put two words down, let alone create an entire scene.

The most helpful editing tip a critique buddy told me was to try not to use the word "was".  Every class I took said - show, don't tell - but I didn't really understand what that meant.  However, if you are using was, were, is, or are in your writing, you are probably telling.  Another way this is stated is passive writing.  The action isn't happening, but instead the narrator tells the reader what happened.

Consider this group of sentences:  The pedestrian was hit by the car.  The car tires were screeching when the vehicle came to a halt.  A spectator was running around screaming.  911 was called and the ambulance soon arrived. 

Horrible to read, right?

For more action and less passive wording, consider what happens when I take "was" out of that group:  A car slammed into the pedestrian.  The vehicle's tires screeched in protest as the acrid scent of burnt rubber issued from beneath the car.  A spectator ran around, uselessly screaming.  Within minutes of the 911 call, an ambulance zoomed onto the scene.

One of the easiest ways to get rid of was is to look for any was -ing word constructions:  was running, was singing, was eating.  Change these to the past tense form (which will automatically give your writing more action): ran, sang, ate.

The trickier ones to find have a word between was and the -ing word:  was seldom trying, was always teasing, was still shouting.  These should be changed: seldom tried, always teased, still shouted.

You can't always get rid of was, but taking out as many as possible, restructuring sentences with "was" in a more action-oriented way, will definitely give you an edge on the whole "show, don't tell" philosophy.

A great resource I use all the time for more editing tips A-Z can be found here.

Happy writing! Have a wonderful week!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Books I Love ~ 4/2

Vampires and werewolves and telepathy... oh my!

This week, I'm going to tell you all about my guilty little pleasure... well, not so little.  A few years ago I read Twilight with my daughter, which made me realize I'm not so big on the whole sweet vampires/teen angst-type of books.  Those are perfectly fine for anyone who likes that type of book, but I realized I'm not that person.  So, I thought I would stay away from the vampire culture shock taking over the reading industry. 

However, one night I flipped through channels on TV before bed (no matter how many channels you have, there's never anything good on!).  I landed on HBO.  There was some weird show on. A vampire, just awakened after first being created, wandered the forest with her maker, Bill, looking for dinner.  I thought, "This is strange.  What the heck is this?"  For some reason, I kept watching.  It's an addiction, really, and from then on I started religiously watching True Blood.  It comes on in the summer on HBO, and my whole family became addicted.  I always know where everyone will be Sunday night in the summer, with me, in the living room, watching True Blood

DeadlockedThen came my birthday, and my daughter (knowing how much I love to read) went out and found the first two books the series is based on.  The Sookie Stackhouse Novels by Charlaine Harris.  OMG! I became obsessed! These are not your typical vampire novels, and Harris has been writing long before Twilight took over our vampire culture.  These books are wonderful!  I raced through those first two in three days and had to run to the store to buy the next seven books. 

So goes my ongoing love affair with Sookie and her fierce--yet deliciously sexy--vampires.  The twelfth novel, Deadlocked, will be out in May, so if I disappear for a while, you'll know where I am.  I normally re-read the entire series and then go on to read the new book each year when the new release comes out. 

Charlaine Harris also writes several other series of books.  I've read them all and they're all great, but Sookie remains my favorite (though the Lily Bard mysteries are my daughter's favorite).  You can visit  Harrris' page here.

What are you reading?  

Have a terrific week!  Happy reading, everyone!  

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday ~ 4/1

Happy April Fool's Day to all you fools out there!!

This week's 6 take the thread of the story up right where last week's left off in Always and Forever.  Zach and his grandmother have asked Lilly to be a decoy date for Zach, and she is trying to figure out how to get out of the situation without losing her job.  It is from Lilly's point of view.


     If Zach asked her on a date without all this explanation, she would have been delighted; but as things stood, she didn’t fancy being a decoy to fool his parents and keep other women away.

     Zach seemed no longer able to take the tension. “I would pay you for your time, of course.”

     Lilly’s eyebrows drew together. “You want to pay me to date you?”

     “Now, dear,” Leticia said quickly, “that’s not really what he meant.”

I hope you are enjoying this series of sentences.  This was the first scene that formed in my mind when I starting thinking of this book, and I'm quite partial to it. 

To check out other author's 6 or to contribute your own, visit Six Sentence Sunday here.

Thanks for reading!  Happy Sunday!