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Elisabeth: Marked

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33,126 / 95,000

Joan: Buried Secrets

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:~: Friday, December 29, 2006 :~:

Ah, the Peril!

You know, plotting to kill people is hard.

It's not just enough to have an opportunity or a method.

It's that darn motive.

It's understanding forensics and how investigative technique works.

I was telling my best friend earlier today that I must be utterly twisted, because one of the reasons I watch so much Court TV, Dateline, 48 Hours Hard Evidence and other documentaries about the evils humans do to one another is so I can write about it.

Because I make up murders all the time.

I have to understand how people kill.

Why they kill.

And what the police do afterwards.

My husband came home last night to find me on the couch, typing away. He barely got an acknowledgement of his arrival, because I was busy killing someone. He knows not to interrupt when I'm going like that. He knows I'll start asking questions about law enforcement or shove the laptop under his nose to check my reality-quotient.

Poor guy probably wishes he'd never gone into law enforcement.

Or married a crazy English teacher who plots murders for fun and profit.

I've heard writers claim that love scenes are notoriously difficult to write, as are gripping emotional moments and beginning and ending scenes. You know, I tend to have a grip on those.

It's plotting out those darned murders.

And making sure the killer gets caught, leaving clues for the reader along the way.

What's your most difficult thing to write?


:~: Wednesday, December 27, 2006 :~:

Reflections & Futures

With the holidays behind me, I'm starting to look forward again. It's that time of year to reflect on how the past year went, what you did right, wrong, what you could have done better, which often leads into plans for doing whatever didn't go quite right better in the year ahead.

And so come the goals or resolutions.

I, myself, have never been big on either. Resolutions--or what I consider a commitment to make a change and stick with it--seem silly. I mean, what's the difference between January 1st and July 1st? Or October 1st? Changes should be made when you're ready to make them, not because the 1st of January came around again.

And goals--or what I consider a concrete end product/end result of something you're already doing or want to do--at least the solid goals you write down, tape to your computer screen and track by the day, are way too regimented for my personality.

I have lots of goals, and they're pretty solid and even realistic. But they usually stay in my head.

Making and keeping goals is a pretty intuitive process to most people. 1) Have a big idea--the real "what I want" concept. 2) Create smaller goals--steps on a path toward that big idea. 3) Follow through with the steps and follow the path until you reach your big idea. 4) Alter your plans and revise your steps as you go, always keeping your big idea in view.

I read a few different articles on the subject today, hoping to offer a few tips to creating and achieving your goals. (Lord knows I'm no expert on the subject.) And I did find one that was simple, straightforward and helpful.

For now, I'm keeping my goals for the upcoming year in general terms. I like to stay flexible in the big picture and more specific in the small picture, and make goals related to things I can control (or at least think I can control). So, while I would love to make my first sale this year, I can't set a definitive goal to do that, since I don't have control over whether an editor chooses to purchase my work or not. But I do have control over my writing, my professionalism, my attitude and my perseverance.

Unfortunately, I haven't worked out my goals for the upcoming year, so I can't share them with you today. But I'm going to work them out this week and post them next Wednesday, the 3rd.

I'd love to hear what your goals and/or resolutions are for the coming year--personal and/or professional. Tell us how you create goals and, even more importantly, how you make them happen.

:~: Friday, December 22, 2006 :~:

The Value of A Good Break

First, I wanted to share my cover art for my February release, What Mattered Most:

Anne did a fabulous job.

I'm in a love with it.

I did restrain myself from putting it on my Christmas cards.

But I did think about carrying around cards with the cover and ordering information on them . . . just so I could show it off.

I sound like one of those insufferably proud new parents, don't I?

One more note before I get to the point: I'm running a contest through my yahoo group. Beginning 1/1/07, I'll draw for a Samhain gift certificate every other week until WMM releases. To be entered, all you have to do is join my group (send a blank email to Linda_Winfree-subscribe AT yahoogroups DOT com). The group is for my monthly newsletter, so you don't have to worry about a flood of messages filling your inbox. Also, joining will give you access to my free online read, coming in January.


I've been on holiday break now for a week, and I've thoroughly enjoyed it. No alarm clock, no papers to grade, just me and the Monsters, doing whatever it is we need or want to do. I'm sure by the end of next week, I'll be thinking about school again, working up plans, getting excited about teaching Romeo and Juliet and The Crucible, followed by poetry in the spring.

The next week, I'll even be glad to see my students, the same kids who had me pulling my hair out in the days before Christmas break. I'm sure after taking my exam, they were ready to go a few days without seeing me, too. But when they return to school, they'll be smiling and chattering, telling me about their holidays, asking about mine, ready to go to work. (No. Seriously. They will be. I promise.)

There's nothing like a good break to change your perspective.

Recently, I took a break from writing. A looooong break.

Like a year-long break.

Oh, I fiddled with stuff. I subbed what I already had to my editor. But I wasn't really writing anything new, I removed myself from most things writing, and I focused my concentration on teaching and parenting. I'd gotten so wrapped up in writing and the ups and downs of it, that I'd lost myself. I'd let it take over my life, to the point that I couldn't find enjoyment in anything for worrying and stressing over the writing.

I let it make me unhappy.

So I let it go. I needed to let it go.

I never really doubted that at some time I'd find my way back. C'mon, we all know being a writer is more than putting words on paper. It's more than landing an agent, selling a book, becoming the top of the NYT list.

It's who we are. It's the people and images we carry around inside us, the stories that bubble and fizz and simmer within us until they spill upon the page.

I think my break is over. One of the things that pushed me away from writing in the first place was the manuscript from hell, otherwise known as Memories of Us. Yesterday, I blogged about my love-hate relationship with that book. I wanted to trash it, yet couldn't let it go. I refused to be beaten by that darn book. But I was too close to it.

So I let it go.

Well, other than sending the first three chapters to my editor to see what she thought.

She thought she wanted to see the rest when I finished it.

So I came back to it this week. I read through what I'd written (a little less than half the book), not thinking about plotting or characters or anything, just reading. When I got to where I'd left off, the end of chapter seven, I asked myself, "Now what?"

I picked up my notebook and my favorite blue pen and scratched out the answer to that question. A page and a half of plot points. The answers to "Now what?"

The best part? I went to bed last night, able to see the "what happens next," a pivotal part of my writing process. I woke up this morning with the movie of the next scene in my head. I woke up ready to write.

Ready to finally finish this darn book!

All it took was a really good break.

:~: Wednesday, December 20, 2006 :~:

A Holiday Chuckle

The holidays are often stressful for a variety of reasons--shopping, sickness, celebration, etc.

So, I thought it would be a good time to share a laugh. Here's my most humorous moment thus far related to my writing. I'd love to hear yours.


I often print out my manuscripts to edit them on paper. Because this sucks up the reams, and because reams cost money, and because I'm not independently wealthy, I usually print these "roughs" out on the backside of previously printed paper and continue to recycle.

One day, my husband printed some research information out for work. He gave the information to his coworker, a fellow fireman. The man came back to him, thanked him for the research and for the "bonus" on the opposite side.

My husband had printed on the back of the rare manuscript pages I'd originally printed on clean paper and put into the pile for reuse. Out of a four-hundred plus page manuscript, he'd printed on the back of a rather juicy sex scene from the book.

When my husband explained about my writing, the man asked my husband to let him know when the book came out.

To this day, that coworker asks how the "reasearch" for my writing is going.


Share your funnies.

:~: Monday, December 18, 2006 :~:

How Do You Measure Success?

My husband recently asked me why I wasn't writing. He's right, I haven't been, but I didn't realize I'd slacked off so much that he'd noticed. I could have given any number of reasons for my lack of creativity as of late - holidays, kids being home, busy time of year - but none would have been the real answer. The real reason I haven't been writing is stress, anxiety and worry about things I have no control over. We chatted for awhile about my writing, and being the supportive DH he is, he basically told me to get my butt back in gear, that stressing over things out of my control is anti-productive. And he's right. I know he's right, but sometimes it takes someone else to reinforce the things I instinctively know to get me back to work.

The whole discussion didn't simply jumpstart my writing (which I'm just now starting to get back into), but it made me think about how I view my success and failures in this business. The last few months, I've measured my success as a writer by the inevitable sale of my book. I didn't get an offer a week after it had been out? Failure. A month and still no offer? Bigger failure. It's weighed on me, affected my progress on my current wip, affected my overall thinking. But the more I step back and look at it, is the sale of this book really anything I can control? The answer, unfortunately, is no.

I read somewhere that 35% of this publishing business is perserverence, 35% is talent, and 30% is luck. When you take into account the only thing you can really control is the writing, that leaves a lot of room for failure in the whole I sold, therefore I am a success mentality. So how do you define success? Is it static, or does it change?

When I first started writing, I defined success by whether or not I finished a manuscript. I did it. I was successful. Then my success morphed into not only finishing something, but finishing something someone else loved. I mean, I loved it, or else I wouldn't have written it, but in order to be a successful writer, someone else had to read it and love it. And that too happened. Again, I was successful. Once I knew I could write a book worth reading, my definition of success again changed until a success for me was not only finding someone to love it, but finding an agent to love it. That idea of success lasted a long time for me, it had its ups and downs, but it too also happened. I felt successful, even though I'd never seen my words in print. Just knowing another professional believed in me was a success that I'd never experienced before. And that lasted all of a month, until my book was sent out to publishers. For the last two months though, my success has hinged on the sale of this book. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that's not such a healthy idea.

What can I control? The writing, the dedication, the perserverence. Can I control if someone else loves it and wants to buy it? No. All I can do is write the best book I can at the time I'm writing it. And I know I did that. In that respect, I am successful. Am I a failure because a sale hasn't happened when I wanted it to happen? Am I a failure simply because I haven't sold yet? The answer is no.

I know a lot of writers who get down when things don't happen in the time frame they establish. When the frustration over rejections weighs heavily on them. I've been there. As writers, we all have goals we're working toward - whether that's publication or not. But because you haven't reached your goal doesn't mean you're a failure. It simply means it's not your time yet.

We're coming up on the end of the year, when a lot of us take stock in what we've accomplished over the last twelve months. When you look at the list of things you've done, focus on the positive, the successes you've had, not on what you haven't done or achieved yet. Your definition of success will morph as you grow in this business. It's inevitable and important for your career. Try to enjoy each success along the way and celebrate what you have done rather than what you have not.

:~: Friday, December 15, 2006 :~:

Promotional Links

Ah, school is out for holiday break. A friend and I treated ourselves to several hours at our favorite salon -- pedicure, manicure, facial.

While I lay in a darkened room, music playing in the background, my skin being hydrated and detoxified by a layered sea weed mask, I let my mind wander away from school and exams to something that has been much on my mind lately: author promotion.

With the release of What Mattered Most mere weeks away, I've been reading a lot on the topic lately. There's also been quite a lot of discussion about author branding and promotion on the author loops I belong to, so I thought this week, I'd share some of the links and resources I've gathered along the way.

Author Branding 101

Author Chey McCray on Promoting Yourself and Your Books

Charlotte Boyett-Compo's page with samples of her brochures and buying forms (helpful if you're putting together press packets)

Below are a few links to sites where authors can advertise (many also have boards -- loops seem to be the most popular form of author promo):







If you have other links to recommend for reading or advertising, please leave them in the comments! Have a great weekend!

:~: Wednesday, December 13, 2006 :~:

Paradise Isn't Always What You Need--Part Two

When I read E's title on Monday, I thought she'd stolen my blog topic!

Not the case...lucky for me.

What writer hasn't wished for a vacation? Preferably alone in some secluded location (maybe tropical, maybe a winter cabin) where all they had to concern themselves with is eating, sleeping and writing?

This week I tagged along on my husband's convention trip to San Diego. It was wonderful. The weather was gorgeous, my kids were being happily spoiled with friends or grandparents and my husband was busy most of the day in meetings.

I walked, I swam, I shopped, I ate, I socialized. I even took a rowing lesson on Mission Bay, something I've wanted to learn to do for years.

But I didn't write.

Oh, I dabbled, edited, read things over, but I didn't make any serious progress.

Unfortunately, I realized this week that not only is paradise not always what you need, but most of the time, paradise can be royally distracting.

I write for a lot of reasons, but one of the supreme benefits of writing (for me) is the ability to escape. Escape the everyday stress of bills and kids and work, or things I don't want to face or think about all the time like that water heater that needs replacing, that other kid calling my kid names on the bus, or that nasty coworker I've got to face.

But, when I'm in paradise, I don't have to escape. I'm already there! Which makes writing a chore instead of a pleasure.

Interesting, I thought.

I'm home now and relishing my writing and the routine I'd established to get me through a lethargic vacation hangover.

Does anyone else there experience this phenomenon? Is escape one of the benefits you experience with your writing? Or is there a greater personal benefit for you?

:~: Monday, December 11, 2006 :~:

Paradise Isn't Always What You Need

I had another blog topic in mind, but when I was uploading a picture, I saw this in my folder and decided to do a 180. Gorgeous isn't it? Makes you want to drop everything and take a tropical vacation.

Today the thought of hitting a white sand beach and leaving all my cares behind is pretty tempting. It's raining here - no, wait, not raining, POURING. As I was watching the weather this morning, I couldn't help but frown at the seven day forecast for the Pacific Northwest: rain, rain, wind and more rain. Christmas will most likely be soggy, so will New Year's. Some people might hate that, but since I don't spend a lot of time going in and out of doors and I'm used to it, it's not a big deal for me (except when I have to walk my kid to and from school and come back looking like I stepped out of the shower...but that's another matter entirely.) Yeah, there are times I wish I lived somewhere warm 365 days per year, but I like the Pacific Northwest. The rain keeps things green, and crazy as I may be, part of me likes these blustery days.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about setting recently, trying to find that perfect backdrop for my wip. It started out in a place very similar to the picture above. I love writing about tropical destinations, partly because I love traveling to them - they're very different from the everyday backdrop that is my life. But for this story, a sandy beach didn't work. So I switched locals - still warm and sunny, but not on a beach. Still didn't work. After much thinking, I decided to rework the entire opening and moved my characters to a cold climate. No more sun. It's now snowy and wet, cold and windy. And surprise!, suddenly the story's taken off and the plot and characters are clicking in a way they weren't before.

Setting can be as important as your characters' goals, as their motivation, as the plot you're developing. How your characters react to external elements such as weather, climate and amount of daylight/darkness reveal clues about their characterization. A woman from Alaska is suddenly stuck in sunny Southern California. She's not used to the dry heat, feels like she might just burst into flames at any time. She doesn't understand how people can walk around in 99 degree temperatures as if it's nothing. The heat feels claustrophobic. She's irritated with everything. In fact, she's convinced LA might just be the first level of hell. Conflict? Sure. And we haven't even introduced the hero yet - a man who lives in LA and loves the weather. Can you see her hating him for that reason alone?

Setting sets the tone and mood for a book. A serial killer's on the loose. Does he kill on a bright, sunny beach at high noon? Or does he wait until it's dark, when clouds cover the moon, when a storm is forecast to blow in off the ocean? Which one screams dark and scary to you? Which do you buy if you're looking for a dark and gritty crime drama to read?

When you find yourself stuck, and you can't quite pinpoint just what's wrong with a scene, perhaps try changing your setting. Kick up the wind and rain, throw in a few snowflakes or a down-and-out blizzard if you want your hero and heroine stuck together for a good length of time. Experiment with light and dark, think about the mood you want for each particular scene. Sometimes the simplest answers to your scene problems can be found in your setting.

How do you decide on the setting/weather for your scenes - or for your book as a whole? What season is your current wip set in and how did you pick it?

:~: Friday, December 08, 2006 :~:

Idol Worship

This was Homecoming week at the school where I teach. The week's festivities culminated in Friday Afternoon Live, a comedy revue in which the high school classes competed with parodies for bragging rights.

My homeroom (a freshmen class, I might add!) won both the Friday Afternoon Live competition, plus the overall spirit award. I'm very proud of them for all the hard work they put into both.

As part of their skit, my kids chose to parody my love for Stephen King. It was hilarious, involving my passing out at the sight of him, needing CPR and throwing myself adoringly into his arms.

I assure you, that although I would be excited to meet Mr. King, whom I believe to be an absolute genius, in person, I would not do any of the above.

Who is your writing idol? Who would you love to meet in person and why?

:~: Wednesday, December 06, 2006 :~:

*** Signs ***

I went to a furniture store today to look for a Christmas gift for my DH. We added on to our house over two years ago so he could have his own office because he works out of our house. Since the office has been finished, he's done very little to the room. He has pictures leaning against the wall waiting to be hung, his built-in bookshelves are crammed with knicknacks and books and binders. His desk - when you can find it - is usually a mass of work, and the recliner he hauled in and left in the corner is forever hidden under - yet again - a mess of books and papers and boxes and toys the kids drag in there and bombard him with. So for his present this year, I'm planning to clean up his office, hang his sports pictures, decorate it the way I know he wants it done but hasn't ever gotten around to doing himself. (It's the only room in the house that hasn't been touched by yours truly, and I figure two years is long enough to wait for him to do it.) There's one empty wall near his beat-up recliner that needs something, so I was at the furniture store this morning looking for just the right piece to fill the space. Did I find it? No, but I found something else.

The doubt demons have started to creep in on me, and coincidentally, the reason I braved the furniture store with my youngest two gremlins this morning was because I needed to get out of the house and away from writing to clear my head. It's December, my book's been out for a while, and I'm making myself antsy waiting for news. And the longer I wait, get updates from my agent, stress and angst, the more those darn doubt demons push their way in. So as I strolled through the store today, I tried to banish all thoughts of writing from my head, but it never really worked. In the back of my mind I kept hearing a little voice saying, "It's not gonna happen. Just give up. Accept defeat." I could literally feel the darkness pressing down on my shoulders, welling into a knot in my stomach. And then, just like magic, I looked over at a living room display, and sitting on an end table was a small wooden sign that said simply: BELIEVE.

I can't begin to tell you what that one word did to me. I stopped. And stared. And my kids started fussing and making noise. But all I could do was look at that sign and read it over and over and over again. I'm convinced that's exactly what it was - a sign. Here I was, questioning myself more than I have in months, and what I most needed popped up right in front of my eyes.


I bought the sign, brought it home and put it on my desk. I'm looking at it now, at the black block letters with the sanded edges. And everytime I consider the possibility I'm not going to make it in this publishing business, I look at that sign. I'm a firm believer that things happen for a reason. There was a reason I went to that store this morning - a store I haven't step foot in in over a year. There was a reason I walked right by that sign. Maybe this book won't be the one, but that doesn't mean it won't ever happen.

So doubt demons, be gone. I believe.

Do you believe in signs?

:~: Monday, December 04, 2006 :~:

Your Writing Environment

I'm trading blog days with E because I'm going with my DH to his annual firefighters convention in San Diego. With no kids and DH in long meetings all day, I'll be doing a lot of writing, excercising, walking on the beach, shopping... You get the picture. :-)

Okay, onto business...

Last week I waited down to the wire to get my GH entries in. Typical of me, really. But I wanted to make them the best they could be, which meant making some deep changes--story of my writing life.

And I've learned over the years that waiting until the last minute creates a multitude of problems: stress being number one. This last week I've been moody and snappy, trying to do everything I usually do and hammer out those entries (loooong hours revising). My compulsive, perfectionist nature didn't help matters.

Then of course there are other issues: mistakes (making changes to the wrong version), rash judgment calls (cut that scene, rewrite that scene), financial burdens (it's expensive to send those things express!), unexpected problems (I still have ink stains on my hands from my dang printer jam).

Which brings me to the support topic.

My husband saved me the night before I had to get the entries in the mail, and it struck me how far we've come and what a supportive environment I have for my writing, one I sometimes take for granted.

That night, my kids gave up the computer without argument and endured my snippiness while I fought with the stupid printer. When all my attempts to fix it failed, my husband took me out to his fire station, which recently closed for the winter season, and set me up on three different printers so I could get the entries done. He made sure I had snacks and heat and music before he left to play taxi for the kids. Then he called every half hour to check on me and make sure the printers were working.

We just had our sixteenth anniversary.

But it wasn't always this way. The road of acceptance didn't come over night--from my husband or my parents or my friends. Writing is my ninth career, and I'm not even sure you could call it a career since I don't get paid for it. Yet. I guess you could call it a serious endeavor.

In my early years, probably through about my sixth career change, I was met with a lot of opposition and criticism and negativity across the board. Career changes, especially into the creative field (art, music, writing), aren't typically met in our society with excitement and glee. They're seen as risky--so is making changes in general. Do it too often, and you're seen as flaky.

I challenged and debated and endured, sometimes unhappily, sometimes grudgingly, sometimes challengingly. All my endeavors have been successful to some degree, and over the years, my loved ones have come to accept the fact that this is who I am, and that I'm fully capable of doing several things at once. I proved that I could make my ideas work while still playing mother, wife, daughter, aunt, sister and friend.

Because of that, my shift to writing wasn't a huge leap for my circle of supporters. And as the years press on and I continue to write, win a contest here and there, rack up the industry rejections, they spur me on.

A long time ago, I learned to cull the negative nay-sayers out of my immediate circle. And I give my family and friends the same kind of positive, constructive, loving support that I expect in return. It's made my marriage stronger, my friendships deeper and my familial relationships richer with mutual respect and belief and support.

Laurie Wood just wrote an article on the subject after doing surveys. I'm hoping she can give us some statistical reference on the topic.

So, what's your writing environment like? What conflicts do you face and how do you handle them? What highs and lows have you had in an attempt to carve out your positive writing environment?

:~: Friday, December 01, 2006 :~:

The Wish List

For some reason this week, I've been obsessed with the cover art for What Mattered Most, my February release from Samhain. Even though I haven't seen the cover yet (and don't know when I will), I can't stop thinking about it. I've looked at other Samhain covers, gone back over my cover art form, and still I keep wondering about what it will look like.

Instead of a white Christmas, I'm dreaming of (and wishing for) a beautiful cover.

I figure for my birthday wishes in February, I can wish for great sales!

What's on your wish list this December? What are you obsessing about?