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Elisabeth: Marked

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33,126 / 95,000

Joan: Buried Secrets

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Linda: Facing It

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:~: Saturday, September 30, 2006 :~:

Who Talks Like That?

Picture this:

Me, sitting at my desk, after the final bell on Friday afternoon. Make that the Friday-from-hell afternoon. I've taught my six classes (with kids who for some reason have all freaked out because the weather has changed -- I mean, they are wound), subbed during my planning period, and it's five minutes until I have to be at One Act practice.

I have a new book on my desk. One someone passed along to me, one by a well-known author, one that the cover, the blurb and word-of-mouth all make me want to read. I'm sneaking a peek before I have to go wrangle eight Friday-hyper teenagers through an hour and a half of play practice.

I read through chapter one, which is actually an epilogue. I skim into chapter two. Flip over to chapter seven. Flutter pages until I get to chapter twelve. Sipping at the book -- looking at the author's style (this is my standard MO when I get a new book to read).

My classroom door opens, one of my favorite students walks in to get some forgotten item from his locker. "What are you reading?"

I grimace a little. "A book Mrs. Brooks gave me. I'm probably not going to finish it."

He pulls his independent novel from his locker and gives me a questioning look. "Why not?"

I put the book aside, pick up my script for One Act. "Because the dialogue is unrealistic. They don't sound like real people. The main character is an FBI agent, and he doesn't talk like a man or a cop."

He nods. "Yeah, that's like that book I read for my novel paper. The story was good, but I skimmed what the people said."

I walk out with him, locking the door behind me. My team is waiting on the stage, already practicing lines and blocking. For days, they've been complaining about some of their lines, the ones where the playwright didn't use contractions. They feel like it's stilted and unrealistic, which in places it is. "Do no and did not and can not . . . Ms. Winfree, who talks like that?"

Who, indeed?

Dialogue is a strong tool in any writer's toolbox. It's more than just what the characters say . . . it's a way to reveal plot, backstory, characterization, subtext, and more. Dialogue brings a story and the people in it to life.

Unrealistic dialogue can kill a story quicker than a wicked teacher look can quell a classroom.

When I teach creative writing, I usually find that my students tend to write dialogue that has everyone sounding the same. To combat that, I have them complete this little exercise. I turn them into spies.

For a week, their task is to listen to conversations wherever they go. They eavesdrop. They take notes. How do their friends talk? Their parents? Their teachers? The old ladies at church? The farmers having coffee at the local diner? It isn't so much the topic of conversation I want them focusing on, but the syntax and diction used. Do men talk differently than women?

At the end of that week, we come back together and discuss what they've discovered. Their insight always amazes me. At that time, they go back to their short stories, really think about their characters, and revise the dialogue accordingly. It's amazing the difference this simple exercise makes.

The next step involves having them read the dialogue aloud to their peer response partners, revising again if needed. By the time I get the final drafts of their short stories, the characters sound like real people.

Individual real people.

I don't find myself asking, "Who talks like that?"

And that makes all the difference in the world.

What strategies do you use for crafting realistic dialogue?

:~: Wednesday, September 27, 2006 :~:

Check Your Ego at the Door

A few weeks ago I attended a local writer's conference. Despite the small town setting and relatively small number of attendees, we had some big names running the workshops--multi-pubbed, bestselling authors, well-known and respected agents, university instructors.

Friday night I took a course on character development.

If you keep up with this blog, you know that I've been steeped in character development since my agent made the vague comment on Cassie, Rio and Saul in Safe In Enemy Arms: "They're not...3-D enough."

That was about six months ago.

In accordance with my compulsive nature, I went on a quest for those "real" qualities. I analyzed my manuscript, outlined each character's GMC, history, quirks. I literally spent months and months researching the hell out of the all-important character development. I read books and articles by the best of the best, took courses, discussed it via e-mail with bestselling authors. I even wrote a three-part article on the subject and posted on this blog: Deepening Character with a Powerful Tri-Fecta: Internals, POV Filters & Props.

So, when I took this course at the conference, I wasn't really expecting to learn anything earth shattering, but rather seeking that mysterious element of understanding, grasping at that elusive skill that continued to hide in the shadows, just out of my reach.

I enjoyed the lecture and the instructor. There was no ah-ha moment. There was no identification of the missing link. The majority of his points were things I'd heard or read somewhere else. He echoed quite a bit of knowledge I already had rattling around in my brain.

I could have written it off as just that--nothing knew. But on the drive home, my mind drifted back over the lecture, reanalyzed his examples. There I found several concepts I hadn't considered in quite the way he'd presented them, hadn't taken notice of their importance in my writting to the degree I should have. (If/when I get my head around any of them sufficiently, you'll be the first to know.)

The more I thought about it, the more I saw. The more I saw, the more I learned.

And, the more I learned, the more I realized I didn't know.

Many of you, or rather, those of you with an open mind, are probably familiar with that phenomenon.

The next day I was lounging on the steps of an outdoor sitting area with the other conference attendees, doing what all good writers should always be doing: eavesdropping.

Several of the people in a group nearby had been at the same course on character development the night before and were discussing the quality of the lecture and its content.

I heard things like:

"Nothing I haven't heard before."

"He went off on too many tangents, not a very good lecturer."

"Have you read his work? It's not very interesting."

And, my favorite, which several of the group's members echoed: "I got about fifteen minutes of good information out of it."

It was a ninety-minute lecture. The speaker had written eleven novels, sold nine of them. He'd taught writing courses at a Los Angeles university for over twenty years. He ran his own editing business on the side.

And they got fifteen minutes of good information? They didn't hear anything they didn't already know? He's not a good lecturer? His work isn't interesting?

I had the biggest revelation of the conference right then: The reason so many writers write for years and don't improve, the reason so many writers write but never get published, is because their egos are too damned big.

As Ashley Grayson said in his lecture How to Write a Book Worthy of a Second Printing: A writer has to be a master of the craft.

The first step toward mastering the craft (IMHUO): check your ego at the door.

:~: Monday, September 25, 2006 :~:

The Unheroic Hero

I was online this afternoon with a friend brainstorming the hero's backstory for my WIP. He's your classic alpha male - a take charge kinda guy who wants things done his way. He's dark and moody and jaded. Seen too much, lived through too much, and is convinced there's very little good left in the world. And if that weren't bad enough, I'm toying with the idea of his having done something totally unheroic in his past.

The unheroic heroes. I'm drawn to them because their character arcs are so dramatic. They're the ultra-irredeemable men. The kind you don't think will ever find salvation. When I think about my favorite keeper books, there's always something unheroic about the heroes in those books. Always. They do or have done things I hate or find appalling, and yet I love them more because of it.

I read a book recently where the hero did something I consider a deal breaker. This happened in the middle of the book, and because it cut me so bad, I was ready to toss the book right out the window. Lucky for him, I was on an airplane at the time and the windows didn't open. I kept reading for two reasons. One, I already liked the hero by that point, and although I completely hated what he did, I understood his reasoning. It didn't make his actions right by any means, but because I felt I knew him so well, I could see his screwed up thinking. The other reason I kept reading was because I couldn't for the life of me figure out how the author was going to make me like this guy again. How could she bring him back after what he'd done? It was like a train wreck I just couldn't look away from. I had to see what happened next.

By the end of the book I was rooting for him again. He knew what he'd done was wrong. He suffered - more so than the heroine - because of his actions. What he did stuck with me long after the book was over, and I still hated it, but it made his character arc so extreme, it worked. I used to think there were things I just wouldn't ever write, actions a hero (or heroine) couldn't ever do, but I've learned that's just not true. It's all in how it's done. And those unheroic souls are the ones I tend to love most.

Do you have any 'deal breakers' when it comes to novels? Are there things you just can't forgive a character for doing? I'd love to hear what you consider no-no's in romantic fiction.

:~: Thursday, September 21, 2006 :~:

Growing Roots

I wish I had the source for this, but I don't. Our school counselor shared this little story with my High School Transitions class this week (these are my thirteen freshmen at risk for not graduating).

One day I decided to quit. I wanted to quit my job, to quit my relationships, to quit my spirituality. I even wanted to quit my life. I went to the woods to have one last talk with God. "God," I said, "can you give me one good reason not to quit?"

His answer surprised me. "Look around," He said. "Do you see the fern and the bamboo?"

"Yes," I replied.

"When I planted the fern and the bamboo seeds, I took very good care of them. I gave them light. I gave them water. The fern quickly grew from the earth. Its brilliant green covered the floor. Yet nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo.

"In the second year, the fern grew more vibrant and plentiful. And again, nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo."

"In the third year, there was still nothing from the bamboo seed. But I would not quit.

"In the fourth year, again, there was nothing from the bamboo seed. Still, I would not quit."

"Then, in the fifth year, a tiny sprout emerged from the earth. Compared to the fern, it was seemingly small and insignificant. But just six months later the bamboo rose to over one hundred feet tall. It had spent the five years growing roots. Those roots made it strong and gave it what it needed to survive. I would not give any of my creations a challenge they could not handle," He said to me.

"Did you know, my child, that all this time you have been struggling, you have actually been growing roots? I would not quit on the bamboo. I will never quit on you! Don't compare yourself to others. The bamboo had a different purpose than the fern. Yet they both make the forest beautiful. Your time will come," God said to me. "You will rise high."

"How high should I rise?" I asked.

"How high will the bamboo rise?" He asked in return.

"As high as it can?" I questioned.

"Yes," He said . . . .

Everyone has days when they want to "quit." When there are struggles . . . obstacles in life, remember we're just growing roots.

My students loved the idea of this . . . that while they were struggling in math, in English, in World History, in every class where others seemed to effortlessly sail through . . . they were growing roots and they would flourish in the future.

I instantly thought of what a struggle the writing life can be, how some days we feel as though we're getting nowhere, despite how hard we work. Each rejection, each stalled story, each setback hurts.


We learn.

We grow roots.

And one day . . . we flourish!

:~: Tuesday, September 19, 2006 :~:

Contest Winner & Tough Love

First: The winner of our 100th post contest is...


I will email you a list of book lots you can choose from including full-size hard bounds, big names and even some writing craft!

Now...Onto the post: Tough Love

I'm a proponent of slogging my way through the hard times. When the mountain ahead makes my shoulders sag in anticipated defeat, I typically put my head down, look at my feet and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Unfortunately for my CPs, I also bitch, grumble and moan the whole way.

This last month or two has been really tough...unusually tough. I attribute it to a few coinciding factors, some of which I can control, most of which I can't. But I've noticed I've slipped off out of my regular routine. Stepped off the path, so to speak.

I've found myself seeking out antidotes, remedies and/or inspiration as cure. Maybe to distract me from each painful step, maybe to procrastinate, most certainly to avoid what I know I've got to do if I want to reach my goal.

This struggle reminds me of trying to lose weight--desperately wanting to shed those extra pounds, yet even more desperately avoiding the work and sacrifice it takes to see results.

I recently read this article, which affected me like a splash of water in the face. Here is just one paragraph:
It's easy to fall into the trap of stroking our creative egos with spiritual and other ritualistic activities, but these don't guarantee productive work. Most writing problems, actually, don't originate in a lack of inspiration but in some fear related to the act of creating. While creative blocks have simple quick fixes, the solution to achieving stronger and more focused writing skills lies in a concentration on how to bridge the chasm between the will to write and the act itself.

A little like tough love, don't you think? Like taking the shadowy concepts of inspiration, muse and creativity and turning them on their head.

No elusive muse to blame? No lack of inspiration to cover up the minimal progression of work? Good Lord, no creativity drain to point a finger at?

That would mean...would mean... I'd have to be responsible for my own slump.


A piece of me will always believe in the whim of a creative pop and that spark of inspiration that flares as the result of an obscure conversation, although I do have to admit that I've never quite managed to wrap my mind around the idea of a muse.

But the very cold, very hard fact is that the most important element in good writing, in refining the craft, in taking that next step toward bettering your author-self, is within our reach twenty-four-hours of the day, seven days a week. We only have to choose to use it.

Here’s the link to the whole article...a very worthwhile read!
Constructing Creative Identity: Four Steps to Strengthening Your Writing Muscles

:~: Monday, September 18, 2006 :~:

Taking A Great Big Juicy Bite Out Of A Series

I'm reading my first paranormal romance. Okay, that's not entirely true. I've read paranormals before, but they weren't true paranormals. More like, romantic suspenses with paranormal elements. We still had humans doing all the action in those books. In this one though, the humans are on the fringes and the main characters are all from other worlds. What's it about you ask?

Well, let me tell you: Vampires.

Now, I'm not a vampy gothic girl. Far from. And to be honest, Dracula's never done it for me. Personally, I've never really "gotten" the whole vampire paranormal movement. Someone who bites you and drinks your blood is sexy? How???? And I'm supposed to swoon because he wants to give me a puncture wound? Have you ever seen an infected puncture wound? One word: Ew.

Prejudices aside, I decided to give it a go because my roommate from Nationals talked endlessly about this vampire series and how great it was. Endlessly. (Did I say that plainly enough? ENDLESSLY.) Grudgingly, I agreed to read it. Because my friend is hilarious and I love her, and because she likes a lot of the same stuff I do, so she must know a good book from a bad one. And I'm always on the lookout for a good book.

That was yesterday. I have now almost finished the entire book. All 400+ pages of it.

It's true, I'm a fast reader, and I'm obsessive, so there's rarely a book I don't read start to finish. So it's no real surprise that I've gone through this one quickly, although this is even rapid for me. What is a surprise is that I'm enjoying it - really enjoying it. I never in a million years thought I would. I can't wait to see what happens next.

Why? I'm not sure. I still don't like vampires. The hero's a vampire-ass through a good chunk of the book, the heroine's a little flaky, and the bad guy really gets on my nerves. I don't like the blood and gore, and I'm not wild about the whole "sucking blood from someone else thing". But I like the interplay between the hero and his vampire cohorts, and there's one vampire in particular I absolutely LOVE. The baddest, meanest, most viscous vampire of the bunch. He has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and I adore him. I find myself turning pages just to get to him again. So much so that I called said book-loaner girlfriend and told her I NEEDED to have the third book (his book) even though I'm still only in book one. No, not just needed, I'd DIE without it, just like my favorite vampire will die unless he feasts off some poor woman's neck to revitalize himself.

Whew. I'm almost ready to volunteer to be said victim. And I don't even like puncture wounds!!!

Where was I? Oh yeah, vampire series. I love a good series. One that makes you want to read more and more even after the last page is turned. Doesn't have to be RS, it can be a straight romance, a paranormal, even a historical. For me, it all comes down to character development. When I think about my new favorite authors, it's not surprising to learn most of them are writing series of one form or another. I keep buying them, because I can't wait to see how the secondary characters from one book transform into main characters in another, and I have to admit, I love seeing "old friends" pop up now and then in future books. Would I read another of this author's books if they were stand alone, not in a series? I'm not sure. I don't think the writing's super fantastic, and the plot's okay, it's the characters that shine. It's the build-up for the next connected book that keeps me reading.

Do you like reading series or connected books? Do you like writing them? Is there any reason you wouldn't read a series or connected book?

:~: Friday, September 15, 2006 :~:

Three Questions

My students and I are delving deep into how writers write, so I'm indulging my curiosity tonight. Here are three questions, with my answers,

1) When you develop a new story, what usually comes to you first? Characters, setting, plot?

My answer: Usually, a character and the plot, etc. spawn from there.

2) Where do you get your best ideas? Shower, driving, etc.?

My answer: There is no specific place. If I'm driving alone, I'll get good ideas sometimes. Shower works, too. A testing situation, when the kids are quiet and I'm bored is great.

3) What is your greatest strength as a writer? Your weakness?

My answer: I know how to use a comma. ;-) It's hard for me to say what is my greatest strength -- diction, maybe? Imagery? My greatest weakness? Lately, it's lack of stick-to-it-iveness.

So what are your answers? Satisfy my curiosity!

:~: Wednesday, September 13, 2006 :~:

Celebrating 100 Posts!! And...Today's Post: First Lines.

Whoo hoo! This is Romance Worth Killing For's 100th post!

(And to think I almost forgot! Life is currently insane!)

In celebration, I'd like to offer a contest. I've got some great books to give away, and I'll let the winner choose between several lots including authors like Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, Elizabeth Lowell, Debbie Macomber...the list goes on.

So...anyone who posts a response to any blog between now and my next post (Wed. 9/20) will be entered into the contest.

Now...onto my post. Topic: First lines.

If you keep up with the loops, you'll have seen a heavy discussion on this topic recently. I'd like to add my two cents here - which is actually worth a little more than two sense IMUO (In My Unpublished Opinion), because it came from a class with Catherine Ryan Hyde, a multi-pubbed, best-selling author whose books have gone on to become movies.

She said: Your first line doesn't have to be a blockbuster, but it has to have traction.

What she went on to explain was that while having a killer first line is always a good thing, what you really want is an intriguing first line that pulls the reader in and makes them want to read the second line. The second line temps you further to the next. And so on, and so on...until you're so deep into the book you're invested.

Yes, you can do that with the best of the best first line, but there are downfalls to trying to get ultimate shock value in your first ten or twenty words.

I've read books with awesome first lines. But the second line paled. And the third was downright ordinary. And it was all downhill from there. I've read books where the "perfect" first line lead to a second line that began a story seemingly unconnected, and found myself befuddled and frustrated (a great way to get your readers to wall-slam your novel).

But with traction, everything connects. With traction, you engage the reader enough to pull them in, then deeper, and deeper. With traction, you're not agonizing over that "irreplaceable" first line. I could spend YEARS looking for the stellar first line and never get any writing done. Which leads me to my next point about beginnings...

Somewhere along the way (can't remember where) I learned that a good beginning can only be written after the ending is complete. Only then do you have all the plot lines smoothed, all the characters developed. Only then can you write a beginning that intrigues and foreshadows, a beginning with originality and punch.

So, if your agonizing over that first line, that first paragraph or even that first chapter, MHUS(My Humble Unpublished Suggestion) would be to get the bones down and move on, check back at the end of chapter three, chapter ten. And when you think you're finished...go back and rewrite your beginning.

:~: Monday, September 11, 2006 :~:

Never Forget

I had a host of blog topic ideas for today's post, but when I got up this morning and flipped on the news, I realized everything writing-related I could possibly talk about would be overshadowed by today's anniversary.

In some ways it's hard to believe the events of September 11th happened five long years ago. In other ways, it feels like they happened yesterday. I live on the West Coast, and as such was not directly impacted by the terrorist attacks, but I know people who were. I have friends who were in New York when it happened. I have friends who live in Washington DC, relatives in Pennsylvania. My girlfriend's husband was on business in New York that week. He'd been in Tower One the day before the attack and was scheduled to be there again the afternoon of the eleventh. His life was spared simply because he'd made his appointment for the afternoon instead of the morning.

We all have stories, we all know someone who was directly impacted, who was there, who lost someone they loved. And no matter where you were that morning, you will never forget what you saw and felt and heard every time the images were replayed on television. But did it change your life? Our world is a different place today than it was five years ago. In many ways our country is stronger, we banded together in grief, we supported each other no matter our background or political affiliation. I for one, was overcome with emotion in the way Americans came together after that day. But in the long years since, there are days I wonder if people remember that fact. Especially in parts of the country - like my home state of Oregon - where terrorism isn't a major threat, where we don't think about our national security every single day. Our country is divided on so many fronts, over social issues at home, political ones overseas. What will it take to bring us back together? To make us remember?

There's a memorial going on at the waterfront park in my town. A group has erected thousands of flags in memory of those who died on 9-11. Each flag stands almost six feet high, marked with the names of every person who died that day, and the display covers the entire park. I took my boys to see it over the weekend, and the sight brought tears to my eyes. I plan to take my daughter to see it tonight after school. She was only two on September 11th, 2001, but she remembers. I want to make sure she doesn't forget.

How will you mark today's anniversary? I hope you, like me, take a moment to remember. To never forget those who died that day, and those who put their lives on the line every day since then to protect our freedom.

:~: Friday, September 08, 2006 :~:

That Lovin' Feeling

Since last week I turned up here moaning about my week from hell, I thought I'd share something really neat going on here with you.

I wish I could write about finding tons of time to write, or even tons of enthusiasm and motivation to write, but it hasn't happened. Instead, I've been buried in teaching and re-teaching the concept of literary analysis. I like teaching it because it gives me an opportunity to see how authors accomplish their purposes -- Poe's unity of effect, King's use of symbolism, Jones's deft utilization of point of view. My students? They don't always like it so much. It's hard, especially if they've been used to merely reading for surface meaning or reading to summarize or getting by without reading at all.

That's the one that always gets me -- kids who don't read.

I know, I know . . . not everyone enjoys getting lost in a good book, people have different tastes and find better things to do than sit with a book. I know it, but it doesn't mean I get it.

So the other mission I embark on every fall is getting kids to not only read more, but to find something they like to read. I read them excerpts from really great books, really cool books, newspaper articles, anything I can get my hands on that I think might hook at least one of them.

The last three years, I have not been successful. The only readers I had were the ones who came to me liking to read. I was surrounded by masses of teenagers who simply did not read unless they had to.

Believe me, it was like living in a country where no one speaks the same language as you.

This year, I picked up a high school transitions class for at-risk kids (yep, lost my second, highly coveted planning period, too). I found out the week before school started that I was also going to teach "study skills" -- basically, remedial reading. Yes, I was going to have two groups of kids who really didn't want to read. Whoo-boy, was I lucky.

I delved into Kelly Gallagher's Reading Reasons and Deeper Reading. I went looking for more high interest books. I decided I wouldn't try to change the way my kids approached reading. Instead, I'd merely show them the different ways reading can benefit someone, and I'd introduce them to books they could read comfortably and which would hold their interest at the same time.

Also, I was joined by a new English teacher this year (I'm not the only one anymore!). We both require independent reading. Kids grumbled, parents grumbled, we held firm.

Something cool has developed. My transitions and study skills kids come in and read without being asked, cajoled, begged, forced. Kids across our high school are carrying around books and talking about them -- outside of class. Students come to me looking for the book so-and-so has and making me promise I'll hold it for them once it's returned.

Y'all, I swear the pod people have taken over this small corner of Georgia.

We have teenagers reading.

And they like it.

The absolute best moment of my day? Haley W. coming in to study skills this afternoon and settling down with her book (one of the Traveling Pants series) and a grin. "I don't like to read, but I've been dying to get back to this book all day," she said.

I wanted to jump around and shout for joy. You know the feeling she was experiencing, don't you? That oh-my-gosh-this-is-the-best-book-ever-and-I-can't-wait-to-finish-it-but-I-don't-want-it-to-end feeling. Because I still remember the books that gave me that feeling, I know this book (and hopefully others) will stay with Haley for a long time.

I remember . . .

The Outsiders, S. E. Hinton
Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House Books
All the Nancy Drew books (and a few of the Hardy Boys, too)
A huge box of old Harlequin romances someone gave my dad and which he passed on to me, clearly not knowing what he was starting . . .

My list would be huge, because those early reading loves led to other books and ultimately to both of my careers -- the writing and the English teaching.

What are the books that made you a book lover? And what are the books that helped tumble you into the mad, mad world of writing?

:~: Wednesday, September 06, 2006 :~:

Adding more hero into all your characters

"At the root the idea of hero is connected with self-sacrifice."
~Vogler, The Writer's Journey

For those of you who don't already know this, my husband is a fireman. He recently completed air attack training and now works out of an airbase. He flies in the second seat of a small plane, mapping out the fire, directing the tankers where to drop their retardant and guiding ground crews on the best way to approach and fight the fire.

It's always made me nervous. I wasn't thrilled with the idea from the first time he mentioned his desire to go that direction in his career. But I rarely deny him anything, and in return he supports my many and varied endeavors.

Recently, one of his fellow fire fighters told me, "He's probably safer in the air than he is on the ground."

This put a new perspective on my husband's job and gave me something to hold onto this last year while he spent hundreds of hours in the air.

But today my husband called me from a union meeting to tell me another air attack plane had crashed just a few counties away. He didn't want me hearing it anywhere else.

News travels fast in an organization like CDF (California Department of Forestry) where everyone is interconnected by work, union, friends or family. And even though the accident had occurred just hours before, he already had the identity of both pilot and firefighter manning the plane. He knew them both. The firefighter had been in the same training class as my husband.

He called back a few hours later to tell me they had found both bodies, both men declared dead, the plane consumed by fire.

Then he told me the almighty "they" were sending him to the site as part of an accident investigation team.

I didn't think that was a good idea. He flies in the same plane. Does the same job. Knew both men. It, too easily, could have been him.

I asked if he thought he'd be okay. He gave me a non-committal hum, then a sketchy, "I'll be fine."

When I didn't respond, he attempted reassurance. "It'll be okay. I have to do it."

He didn't have to do it. The accident investigation team is made up of volunteers. Nobody would fire him if he'd said no.

After 16 years of marriage, I knew "I have to do it" translated into his need to find an answer for the men's families, an answer for himself, and, maybe most importantly, an answer for me because he's acutely aware of the fact that I have to live with this ugly possibility everyday he's in the air.

The men who died were heros. They saved lives and property by managing the fire from the air and kept their fellow firefighters safe on the ground.

Many others will now pitch in to perform their heroic work. Others who have pulled their brothers from the wreckage, have and will continue to support the families in their time of grief, and will search for the cause so these men's families will have answers. So that other families might be spared the same tragedy.

There are as many types of self-sacrifice as there are heros. Just as the villain is the hero of his own story, consider taking another look at your secondary characters from another perspective and see if there isn't a touch of hero in them as well.

:~: Monday, September 04, 2006 :~:

Do You Write What You Watch?

I was going to post about pseudonyms today, but my 4-yr old just gave me my blog topic instead. So I've decided to leave the pseudonym discussion for my personal blog. If you feel like talking alter-egos and secret identities, head over there.

What do you watch? I'm not a big TV watcher. I don't have time. Between herding three small Gremlins and focusing on my writing, I don't have a lot of time to veg in front of the TV. When the kids are in bed, I write. When the kids are awake, either they're watching cartoons or a movie, or DH is watching the news or ESPN. Usually - during daylight hours when I can't sit and write - I'm trying to work through plot issues in my head as I go about the mundane demands on my day.

A few minutes ago my 4-yr old brought me National Treasure and said, "Mom, I want to watch this." I went to the cabinet, popped the movie in the DVD and went to put the case away. And as I was standing there looking at the other movies on the shelf, I realized I watch exactly what I write. When I have time to sit and watch TV or a movie, I choose action/adventure hands down. My DVD cabinet is filled with movies just like National Treasure - The Indiana Jones series, Lord of the Rings trilogy, Romancing the Stone, Jewel of the Nile, Zorro, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc.

That doesn't mean I don't enjoy other movies and shows. I like comedies - Wedding Crashers is on my shelf because it's so drop-to-the-floor funny. I like psychological thrillers - although I'm not a huge fan of Silence of the Lambs or Seven, they both left lasting impressions on me. I even like a good straight romance now and then - loved Someone Like You, which was just on TV the other day. But when I think about the stories I write, they always circle back around to the action/adventure movies I love to watch. And when I think about the struggles I've been having with my WIP, part of me has to wonder if maybe that trouble is because the root of the story isn't an action/adventure. It's a straight suspense, missing that element I love so much - the race to find something or someone before time runs out.

Sort of a lightbulb moment for me as I sit here thinking about what I'm going to do with the WIP and how I'm going to make it work. All because my 4-yr old said, "Mom, I want to watch National Treasure."

So I'm here to ask you, do you write what you watch? If so, what? If not, then what do you watch? And have you ever thought about the connection between your viewing habits and your writing style?

:~: Saturday, September 02, 2006 :~:

When Life Attacks

Okay, this was supposed to be a good week. Not a fantastic week, but a good one. Friday was early release; I'd have a short teaching week. My plan was to finish up my art forms, get them to my editor, and start adding to MOU again.


Life had other plans.

Wednesday, Joan blogged about staying motivated. Last weekend, I was motivated! Even with the horrific set of essays I'd graded (and they were BAD!), I was good.


Monday started.

I handed back essays. Kids flipped out. Parents stressed out. Administrators came looking for me. Any thoughts of personal writing went out the window.

Tuesday? Parent conferences. Scared, rather whiny students. My own Monster #2 had issues at school.

Wednesday? More parent conferences. More scared students.

Thursday? You got it . . . parent conferences. My meter box blew up. Georgia Power shut off all power until it was repaired. DH was three hours away, and there was no way it was getting fixed. We also had PTO -- the first of the year -- and the meeting ran until after 9:00. Still without power, we drove thirty miles to the nearest motel and laid out $75 bucks for a place to sleep and shower.

Friday. The clock in the hotel was fast, so I ended up waking everyone up at four A.M. instead of five. We had our matriculation ceremony at school, I had to give a test, blah, blah, blah. We did get out early, but Monster #2 had a doctor's appointment and after that I had to follow my mother to another city to return my sister's car. DH had gone to Florida, with the intention of returning to fix said power outage. He ran into delays and by the time he returned . . . well, we shelled out another $75 for a hotel room.

Right this moment, he's outside trying to fix the power issue so we can have it restored. I'm typing this on the laptop with the battery steadily ticking away.

Needless to say, my art forms have not been submitted to my editor. I have not added any pages to MOU. Oh, heck, I haven't even thought about my own personal writing this week.

Am I complaining about my week? No. I'm feeling blessed that I smoothed out the parent issues. I'm feeling blessed that I have the money to fix the power issue and that I had the money to shell out for those two hotel nights. I'm blessed in many ways.

But sometimes, we simply have to accept the fact that no matter how motivated we are as writers, life is going to get in the way. Things happen. We don't make our goals. We don't finish a novel when we'd planned.

But it's okay.

That's life. Writing should be a part of our lives, not the totality of it. We deal, we move on, we write another day.

What are your coping skills for those times when life attacks?