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Elisabeth: Marked

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Joan: Buried Secrets

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Linda: Facing It

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:~: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 :~:

I Believe...

In ghosts and spirits and energy fields and karma. I believe in all those intangible paranormal elements you can’t see or qualify, but that have the ability to influence your psyche and your life.

I’ve never experienced anything paranormal first hand. In college I worked as a bookkeeper at a historic local restaurant that had been a rather large house way back in the day. Weekend mornings I’d go in early and tabulate the sales and tips from the night before. I always worked alone in a tiny office upstairs.

Sometimes I’d wander around the restaurant, sneak a piece of their famous mud pie from the huge stainless industrial refrigerators downstairs, draw myself a soda at the fountain. At about ten AM, the prep cook would come in and spend half an hour hitting on me before he got to work.

I found out after a year of working there it was reputed to be haunted. There had been numerous and consistent sightings of translucent figures—men and women—throughout the restaurant, but especially on the stairs and the second floor. After that, I was a little freaked out when I went into work, looking over my shoulder, peeking around corners before I went into the next room, jogging up and down the stairs instead of walking.

What reminded me of this was today’s local paper—again citing incidences at this location past and, evidently, continuing into the present.

I must have lacked some element ghosts look for to show themselves. And I’m not sure whether I’m grateful for that fact or offended.

In the last 5-7 years, I’ve noticed that I occasionally know what a person will say before they say it. Those moments are brief and scattered and wholly unexplainable. Never with someone I know well. Never what one would be expecting them to say. I don’t know it’s coming, the words simply fill my head a second or less before the other person speaks them. There’s no purpose, no hidden message, just the words, which mean nothing more than they were meant to. It happens maybe three times a year.

Okay, so I’m no psychic. But I definitely believe in psychics. I absolutely believe in the varied levels of consciousness (loved, loved, loved Dragonfly with Kevin Costner—if you haven’t seen it, rent it!), and the ability to see into the past and the future. I believe in angels—good and bad.

I draw the line when paranormal meets Sci-fi. I don’t believe in Vampires or Werewolves or demons.

Do you have any ghost stories? Any paranormal abilities? Know anyone with any?
What do you believe?

:~: Monday, October 29, 2007 :~:

Things I'm No Longer Afraid To Admit

As I sit here trying to think of something pithy to blog about, I keep coming up blank. My brain seems to be elsewhere these days - in the book I'm reading, in the book I'm writing, contemplating the fact I am no longer a young spring chicken. My birthday is this coming Saturday and it's one of those milestone ones. You know, the kind where you think about your age and say, "OMG, I'm THAT old?!" My mother didn't help matters much when she was here on Sat. and I mentioned how old I'm turning. Her reaction was a slack-jawed, "Oh, my word. You can't possibly BE that old!"

Um. Yeah. Thanks, Mom.

So in thinking about that old-age milestone (which, as I said before, is occupying way more of my brain-time these days than it should) I've been contemplating what I'm not afraid to admit anymore. Here's the list I came up with:

1. I like country music. Never thought I'd EVER admit to that, but there it is. Not the twangy stuff, but the newer bands/singers, though I've always had a soft spot for Kenny Rogers and John Denver. Most of my WIP song lists have country songs (lots, actually).

2. I don't like literary fiction. I've tried to read it, but the result is always the same. I put the book down and never look back. I hated it when I was in school, hate it even more now.

3. I read Lord Of The Rings solely for the love story and felt gypped in the end when it was an "addendum" at the end of the book. Granted, it was a great book, but if I hadn't known of the love story hiding in there I wouldn't have ever made it through the first 100 pgs of which hobbit beget which hobbit. Gah. Boring.

4. I don't enjoy reading ebooks. Probably because I spend too much time on the computer doing my own writing/editing. I love being able to hold a book in my hand and soak in the tub (and that ain't easy or safe to do with the laptop). I'm thrilled when my ebook author friends have print releases.

5. I hate Halloween. Truly hate it. Dressing up has never interested me. It's one of those holidays I suffer through for the sake of my kids.

6. I like the Backstreet Boys. 'Nuff said there. Won't embarrass myself further.

7. I love to read good romance. I don't care what genre it's in - whether it's contemporary, historical, erotic or suspense. If it's a great story, I'm hooked. Unfortunately, there are less and less "great" stories out there (at least that I can find).

8. I'm the most impatient person in the world. Old age hasn't helped me develop my patience skill. Neither has parenting.

9. I live in my own fantasy world most of the time. The DH says it's like talking to a wall a lot of the time because I'm off in la-la land with my characters. I lead a very sheltered life because of it (boring to the outside world) but I wouldn't want it any other way.


10. If I couldn't write, I'd be a very unhappy person. It's amazing how much writing has become a part of my life in the years since I started. I can't remember what life was like before I was serious about writing, but I know I wouldn't want to go back to that. I'd feel empty.

What things are you no longer afraid to admit? Give it a try. It's very freeing to be able to admit you're a closet Backstreet Boy junkie. (Okay, maybe.)


:~: Friday, October 26, 2007 :~:

A Promotional Primer

Many times as writers, we focus only on making that initial sale. Visions of The Call and our reaction dance in our heads. Very rarely do those imaginings include the realities of what lies in wait once that first goal is realized.

For the past few months, between edits and writing a new manuscript and teaching and . . . well, you get the picture, I've been slowly developing and getting a handle on my marketing plans. Luckily, the house for which I write has a marketing director who is very accessible and eager to help. I'm also surrounded by other authors willing to share their promotional expertise. So slowly, sometimes agonizingly so, I'm getting a handle on this new learning curve called promotion and marketing.

Here's the deal: whether one sells to a large New York house, a small commercial press, an academic small press or an e-publisher, a writer will have to promote herself on some level. Samhain, the house I'm published with, has several authors who also write for larger New York companies. They've said over and over, they are expected to do as much promo on their own for their New York books as they are for their small press books. Although the print runs and distribution might be larger, the need to promote is the same.

So what works, you ask? I'm not sure, I answer. (But I'm working on it.) Buzz and name recognition are key. Branding is important. I'm getting that much down. The best ways to build buzz, etc. still eludes me (but I'm learning).

The key, I believe, is knowing your target audience. With Samhain, I have two: those who buy and read e-books and those who buy print books. (That's within those who buy romantic suspense). Therefore, I have a marketing plan for my e-releases and one for my future print releases. Although some of the techniques are the same, the approaches are different. (Why do I have to worry about promoting for an e-release, I can hear people asking, I'm only subbing to print houses. Well, the reality is that many houses, such as Harlequin and Kensington, are now producing electronic versions of their titles. And people who read e-books often buy print titles as well. I sincerely believe targeting to both markets is a smart decision.)

Now that I've rambled, here are promotional ideas that seem to have worked for me:

1) Web presence. Website, blog, MySpace, somewhere readers can find out more about you and your books. Offer them a reason to come back. No, wait. Make it impossible for them NOT to check back. Connect with your readers.

2) Reader loops. I choose these over writer loops (although I also participate in a couple of writer loops as well). Rather than joining many, many loops, I have four on which I post regularly -- my publisher loop, one for readers of suspense books, a review site's reader loop and one for readers of romance. Because drive-by promotion is annoying, I strive to be a regular presence, taking part in everyday discussions so when I am promoting my books, it's less intrusive.

3) Chats. I have not had great luck with live chats, but I believe this is due to the fact I've always gone to free-for-all chats, where many authors can chime in. It gets cluttered. I'm looking at scheduling one or two with just me or a few other authors. However, I have success with chat loops, such as Novelspotters. My sales usually increase after one of these loop chats.

4) Newsletter. I have a Yahoo group I use solely for my newsletter, which goes out once a month. I try to offer my subscribers something they won't get just by browsing my blog or website. For instance, my free reads are available through my newsletter group and often I will run a newsletter-only contest.

These are my big four. I'm working now on developing an advertising plan and I'm learning to send out press releases in advance of print releases. Also, I'm working on bookmarks and postcards to use for mailings and conference goodie bag promo. In the weeks to come, I'll share those experiences as well.

Do you have unique promotional ideas to add here? What does or doesn't work for you? Please share!


:~: Wednesday, October 24, 2007 :~:

Lighter Side

I've been submerged in character development all morning and when I come up for air after that, my brain is always a little fuzzy. So, let's talk about something else...something fun.

Have you all seen the FlyPen? It's been out for a few years, but, as all technology, has advanced and morphed into a multi-element power tool.

I saw a commercial recently that caught my interest -- you can write with the FlyPen on the FlyPaper (in notebook form) and then upload that to your computer...digitize it. This includes graphics/images you draw.

How cool would it be not to tote a laptop around with you 24/7? To utilize a pen and paper and not have to retype your progress into the computer? To jot notes, develop theories, draw associations or a map or even a flow chart with plot points and upload them into your computer?

Do you know how many tablets and random pieces of paper I have floating around with nuggets of information on them--character traits, plot ideas, names, location information? Or how hard it is to keep them all together, find the time and organization to get all those elements into a binder for current or future use? Or how hard those notes are to read days, weeks, months later?

It sounds like the FlyPen might be a really fun and useful, even potentially sanity saving, little toy for a writer. Not to mention the fact that our kids can use it for homework and we can write it off on our taxes. :-)

Does anyone have one? Have you seen it? There may be (probably is) drawbacks I'm not aware of. I mean, you have to use their products -- their paper, their software, their ink...but none of it is outrageously expensive. Even the main Fly Fusion Pentop Computer is only $80 bucks, and comes with lots of software already loaded. And if I wanted to add French for my high school aged daughter, it's only $15.

Christmas is coming...might want to take a look at it for your kids, your writer friends or, of course, for yourself! I think it will be on my list.

What's on your Christmas list? What cool writer's toys have you found?


:~: Monday, October 22, 2007 :~:

Have You Hugged a Volunteer Today?

So if you've been following the saga of my life over on my personal blog, you know that I was recently elected president of my local RWA chapter. I don't officially take office until January so this should be my "easy" time. Unfortunately it's not. We're redesigning our website, making changes in our meeting structure and appointing new positions. My new vice president is awesome - full of energy and new ideas - but every proposed change we make is sucking up my time. You all know I have young kids and I only have a two-hour window in the afternoons to write while the littlest one is napping. Since I've agreed to take over as chapter president, that two-hour window is being sucked up with RWA business and little to no writing is getting done.

Luckily, I'm a night owl and I generally get my best writing done after the Gremlins are all in bed. And once all of our changes are in place - new website's up and running, speakers have been scheduled, my VP gets over the excitement of her newfound power - hopefully we'll fall back on maintenance and won't be quite so busy. But between now and then we're all working hard (and probably more than one of my new officers is getting tired of the ten-thousand emails I send out every day).

I'm not sure how any of this happened, but when I was waffling over the decision to run or not, my friend and Intrigue writer, Alice Sharpe, told me it was my Star Wars moment: "This is one of those moments where you have to just step up and face your destiny." I hate to admit it (don't tell her), but she's a very wise woman. Certain people, I think, are destined to pitch in and dig deep when needed (all of my officers are like that). Sometimes they do it because others won't, but deep down I know its because they believe in the cause. They start RWA chapters because they believe writers need that connection with other writers (like Joan did), or they simply have a desire to give back (like any writer who runs for a national RWA office). I'm sure my hubby wishes the hours I've spent so far doing chapter business were bringing money into our bank account (so do I for that matter), but I do believe the long-term benefits will eventually outweigh the time suck I'm experiencing now.

There's no real point to this post except to say that if you are a writer and you're part of a writing chapter - RWA or not - take a moment to tell your officers how much you appreciate what they do for the group. A lot of what happens goes on behind the scenes. The same is true for any organization where the leaders are volunteers. We all know writing is often a lonesome and thankless profession. Sometimes, so is being an officer. So if you haven't hugged a volunteer yet today, go find one. Trust me when I say, you'll make their day.


:~: Friday, October 19, 2007 :~:

Things I Learned from My Editor

# of pages I have to edit daily this week to meet my deadline: 47.

Anyway, little lessons I've learned from the Editor Goddess.

1) Less can be more.

2) Sometimes, you need more. (As in, I'm too subtle with my suspense clues sometimes.)

3) You do not need a scene break each time you change POV. (I knew this one, but she lets me use it to my advantage and sometimes she suggests it, so . . .)

4) The world will not end if sometimes there isn't a comma where the MLA handbook says one should be.

5) Readers are harder on heroines than they are on heroes. (Well, I kinda knew this one, too, but it was nice to have it confirmed, even if I'm the odd one out there who will accept a less-than-sympathetic heroine and root for her to change . . .)

6) Never, ever give the reader an opportunity to put the book down. This is more than the obligatory "hook" at chapter's end -- it's every sentence, every scene.

7) Fact check, fact check, fact check.

8) Each new release can sell more of your backlist. (Suspected that, nice to know it's mostly true.)

I'm sure there are two more, but my brain is fried.

What writing lessons have you learned recently, from other authors, editors, agents? Do share!


:~: Thursday, October 18, 2007 :~:

Newsletter and Contest Info

I wanted to share a little information about my newsletter group. I've recently begun sending out a monthly newsletter. It includes news (of course) about my books, trivia tidbits, a monthly recipe, reviews and contest information.

In the files section of the group, you'll find The Cutting Room Floor (scenes that didn't make it into the final versions of my books). Coming soon will be a series of online reads available only to my newsletter subscribers (the first one kicks off October 31 -- a nice Halloween treat!).

Also, by subscribing, you're automatically entered for the contest celebrating the print release of my debut book, What Mattered Most. On December 1, I'll draw from all subscribers for a goodie basket including a signed copy of What Mattered Most and some Southern surprises.

Interested? Send a blank email to Linda_Winfree-subscribe at yahoogroups.com (you know what to do!).

Linda Winfree -- Sultry Southern Romantic Suspense
HIS ORDINARY LIFE -- Available now, Samhain Publishing
HOLD ON TO ME -- December 2007, Samhain Publishing


:~: Wednesday, October 17, 2007 :~:

The Daunting Agent Search

You’ve all heard the writer’s mantra: No agent is better than a bad agent.

Great concept in theory, but the truth is you don’t know you’ve got a bad agent until you already have the bad agent.

Beyond the recommendations on Predators and Editors, the heresay or experience of other authors, an article or two on the Internet giving you a few basic rules of thumb, you’re on your own when it comes to choosing an agent. Even if you land the big one—the one everyone raves about and covets, he/she may not fit your personality, may not have the same big picture for your author career as you have.

In my humble unpublished opinion, it’s a daunting task. Here you are, busting your ass everyday—writing, revising, developing, dreaming, growing, stretching, learning—and at the end of the day you have to choose another human being to garner you compensation for all your sweat and frustration and creation.

With mantras out there like no agent is better than a bad agent, it’s no wonder so many writers cringe, balk and procrastinate when it comes to securing a professional to represent their work.

And here I am again. After two years, I parted ways with my agent. Wonderful gal—personally, I adored her. Unfortunately—for both of us—I didn’t sell with her, and at some point you have to decide to move on.

I’m going at the search a little differently this time. I’m two years more experienced with several contest finalist credits to my name and a much better understanding of how the industry works.

My style has always been to cast a wide net. As a new writer without one writing credit to provide credibility, that’s what I did the first time around. I researched agents and sent queries to any and all agents whose profile stated that they accepted fiction. I figured my work fell into the category of fiction. I figured if they repped suspense they might be interested in romantic suspense. I figured romance wasn’t that far a leap from women’s fiction, etc.

After three manuscripts and 300+ rejections, I found an agent who loved my third story and saw some degree of potential in me. After talking with her over the phone and finding we had similar aspirations for my career, similar working styles and similar personalities, I accepted her offer of representation. She was young and new to the industry, but then so was I. I felt it was a fair risk-taking adventure for both of us.

This time around, I’m doing a different kind of research. I’m cross-referencing the agents who accept romance fiction with how many romance fiction they’ve sold, whether they’re taking on new clients or accepting unsolicited queries, what comments I can find about them via Predators and Editors and their general reputation within the romance community.

And I’ve created a tiered system to which I’ll submit, wait and continue to the next tier, most likely before I’ve heard back from the agents from the prior tier—we all know this industry moves like cold lava.

I’ll be posting my tiered agent list on my website when I get around to the redesign—probably over the holidays—with the criteria used to develop the placement.

Tools I’ve found useful in my search:
  • Agent Query: Great beginning, but not an all-encompassing list of agents representing a particular genre.

  • Internet Lists: In conjunction with Agent Query and research, I’ve discovered a few additional prospects.

  • Publishers Marketplace: Invaluable to know who’s selling what. I’ve discovered several agents working in romance who are not considered “romance agents”—some selling more romance than other well-known romance agents.

  • Predators and Editors: I believe this site gathers information via other authors, which can be biased, but over time I’ve come to realize it’s eerily accurate and depend on it when culling my lists.

  • Internet: A search on an agent's name can bring up a wealth of information as posted by other writers and authors who have dealt with that agent. Just remember, it’s all personal opinion—consider the source before basing a decision on their account.

Share your personal agent stories with us. How do you conduct your searches? How do you decide who you send your work out to? What successes or failures have you had?


:~: Monday, October 15, 2007 :~:

The First To Fall

I've been reading Susan Elizabeth Phillips lately, specifically her Stars/NFL series which a friend recommended to me. Fun, easy reading, and I really love SEP's characters. While there's generally no suspense (there was a minor suspense thread in the first book of the series), I find myself turning the pages faster and faster to get to the end. A sign of a great writer in my book.

After reading several in the series though - and a few of her books out of the series - I realized all of her books follow the same pattern. Guy and girl meet. Guy and girl fight attraction, have sex, deny their feelings, then the heroine realizes she's in love and it takes the hero a while to wise up to reality. In every book the heroine knows first. I suppose that's because generally women are more in touch with their feelings than men are, and often times it takes them a while to catch up to what we already know, but in life that's not always the case. I find myself wanting to read a book of hers where the hero knows he's head-over-heels in love with the heroine and she's the one dragging her feet.

I suppose this has more to do with me than it does what a story calls for. When I look back at my own work, nine times out of ten my hero is the first to fall and my heroine's slow on the uptake. There's just something really sexy about a guy who knows he's found the woman of his dreams and has to convince her of that fact. In fact, I like this concept so much, I'm not even sure I've written a book where the heroine falls first. (I think the proposal I just sent my agent might turn out to be a heroine-falls-first book, but it could very well change as I get more into it.)

What about you? In the books you read or write does the hero fall first or is it the heroine? What kind of stories are you drawn to?


:~: Friday, October 12, 2007 :~:

Cops: Stranger than Fiction

Monday, Elisabeth blogged on writing about cops. One of the reasons I'm so drawn to writing about the law enforcement field is the fact I spent the first half of my marriage immersed in it, via being married to a dedicated police officer. (I'm still married to him, but he left the career shortly before our first child was born. He's a miner now. Big swap!)

Yesterday, a classroom discussion sparked memories of the years my DH spent working in Florida. He was a K-9 officer trained in drug interdiction and later served a year as interim chief for a smaller department. His road time coupled with his desk job gave me insight as a writer into the layers and complexities of LE life as well as the impact it can have on an officer's home.

But that's not what I'm writing about today. Today, I thought I'd share with you some of those "I could never get away with that in a book" scenarios that actually happened during the DH's LE days.

1) Naked Guys Want Coffee, Too: DH gets a call about a disturbance at a local Holiday Inn. When he arrives, a man is standing in the foyer, a bed spread thrown over his head. DH looks at the night auditor, whom he knows well. Sam looks back at him and shrugs.

"He wants me to make him a pot of coffee."

DH is exasperated, rolls his eyes. "Make him one."

"But he's naked."

DH turns to naked guy wearing a bed spread over his head. Naked guy says, "You can't see me. I'm invisible."

Obviously, even invisible naked people go to jail for indecent exposure.

2) Alligators, alligators and more alligators, oh, my!

A wetland area backs up to the section of I-75 where we lived in Florida. Many times, traffic would have to be stopped on the highway while everyone waited for the department of natural resources officers to come remove huge gators from the highway.

One night the DH and his partner are checking the parking lot of a local motel. They see a young man furtively trying to stuff something into his car trunk. They stop.

The guy is trying to put a four-foot alligator in the trunk of a Honda Civic. He was planning to take it home to New Jersey with him after finding it in the parking lot. He changed his mind after DH informed him this was a felony.

Another night, DH and his partner chased a pair of would-be robbers on foot from a gas station. The men ran into the wetland area. DH and his partner stopped at the edge of the swamp. DH yells, "Keep running! Maybe we'll find all the pieces after the gators get you. Maybe not."

The men emerged, chagrined and pale, a few minutes later.

3) Rookies really do stupid things sometimes.

The poor kid in this story shall remain nameless to protect his identity (although I understand once he had some experience on him, he became a pretty good cop later). My husband was training him and kept lamenting that he wasn't the brightest bulb in the socket in terms of common sense.

The rookie was married and his wife insisted he unload his gun every night when he came home. (We won't discuss the night he left the bullets ON THE STOVE and they exploded . . .)

So a traffic stop involving a stolen car evolves into a tense situation in which guns are drawn (btw, if you write LE, please, please, please understand that drawing a gun is a BIG deal -- it isn't done lightly because if one fires a weapon, the investigation is huge and stressful, even if no one is shot -- there are entry situations where the gun is automatically out and in hand, but if your hero/heroine is drawing on a suspect and preparing to shoot -- they don't just fire indiscriminately).

Anyway . . . shots end up being fired at this traffic shot. Then DH realizes he's hearing click-click-click from the other side of the car.

Someone had forgotten to reload his gun before the beginning of the shift.

If I had unlimited space, I could tell you about . . .

a) Local women speeding on purpose so the good-looking deputies would pull them over.
b) The deputy who tried to cross the median during a high speed chase who got stuck in the mud and his car was inundated by hundreds of frogs.
c) What happened when one deputy was the first to reach the suspect in a high speed chase . . . after the deputy's brother (also a cop) had been injured in the same chase. (It's true that sometimes cops react like real people, instead of the trained professionals they are)
d) The time the drug helicopter crashed. Guess who's afraid of heights and who was on said helicopter when it crash-landed?!
e) Multiple trips to the emergency room, including one memorable incident in which the DH, a tad high on painkillers, kept asking for his gun so he could shoot the PA in the kneecap if he hurt him again while putting in thirty stitches (They were old friends. The PA laughed and asked if he was going to have to strap him down to finish.).
f) The crazy things cops do on a slow night when they're bored.
g) The fabulous ways they look out for each other when things go bad (i.e., the night DH chased a suspect on foot and lost his handheld on the way. When no one could reach him, half the officers from two departments showed up as backup.)

Yeah, I write about cops a lot. Like Joan, I worry sometimes that it gets old. But I think it's all in the execution -- it's the writing and the story and hopefully the realism that keeps it fresh.

And real.


:~: Wednesday, October 10, 2007 :~:

Keeping It Fresh

Monday, E talked about writing cops, which got me thinking about something that’s been niggling at me for a while now—keeping my work fresh. Fresh, I suppose, might not be the correct term. Unique would be more accurate.

Look at any RS book and what do you find? Cops. Whether that be city, county, state, federal, you find cops. It makes sense. Law enforcement is an inherent part of meaningful conflict and tension when we’re writing about murder, rape, drugs, assault, theft, conspiracy, etc

I suppose there doesn’t have to be a strong LE presence in such situations—Elisabeth does a fine job of creating suspense using these elements with no cop in sight.

For me, the cop always takes the lead, elbowing their way into the spotlight. Hence, I write a lot of cops.

To keep things fresh, I’ve stretched into different rolls for my cops—sheriff, F.B.I., C.I.A. (I know—C.I.A. aren’t really cops, but you know what I mean.) I also do tweak my characters to make the story unique—or at least I try.

One of my detectives is a people reader. He has the highest case closure rate in the department because he’s studied body language, honed his intuition and used it to gather and uncover information.

In my current WIP, I’ve pitted the F.B.I. against the C.I.A. with my F.B.I. heroine dedicated to rules, regulations, step by step investigative techniques, never coloring outside the lines, and my C.I.A. hero entrenched in lies and aliases and manipulation as a way of life. How will they ever solve a case? How will they ever fall in love? How will they find a way to live together? I don’t know. I’m still waiting for them to tell me.

Of course this has all been done before. Jeffrey Deaver has a new novel out where the heroine interrogator is a kinesics specialist, and the way he depicts his heroine reading people through the story is both educational and entertaining. And pitting the hero against the heroine is surely nothing new—it’s called conflict.

Something I’ve been toying with lately is switching roles—take the male role and put it on the female—not all that difficult, but taking the female roll and placing it on the hero? When I attempt that, I’ll be taking on another challenge in my writing.

I’m coming to realize freshness is more a combination of elements rather than just one—character afflictions, conflict depth and origination, plot complexities and, of course, voice.

How do you keep the freshness and originality in your writing? What have you seen other writers do to attain their uniqueness? Which writers do you feel do this well?


:~: Monday, October 08, 2007 :~:

Cops, Cops and more Cops

The big joke amongst Joan, Lin and I is that while I write RS like both of them, I'm unique in the fact I don't write about cops. Actually, the truth is I have an aversion to writing about law enforcement (or, LE as Lin calls it). Most of my characters are normal people put into extraordinary circumstances, and while I may have LE (hey, did I use that right?) secondary characters who are important in pushing a story forward, I've (for the most part) avoided writing an entire book with an LE main character. Why? Simple.

I don't know nuthin' 'bout cops.

Okay, wait. That's not true. I know probably as much as the next person. I've been pulled over (but never frisked), I had to deal with the Co. Sheriff and the bomb squad in my last job (long story I won't bore you with), and I have a good friend who's married to a state cop. But I don't know enough about police officers to feel as though I can write about them effectively, and for that reason I've steered clear.

Until now.

My local RWA chapter put on a suspense conference on Saturday. We started with a ME and Sheriff's deputy who both work for Search & Rescue. They were funny, informative and easy to talk to. After lunch we had a state police detective who talked to us about crime scenes and procedures and gave us lots of fun slang. And after that we had three assistant district attorneys who took the information we learned earlier in the day and explained how they prosecute a case from the clues the police obtain.

It was informative, insightful and fun. And after the conference I went out to dinner with my friend and her state police husband and couldn't stop asking him questions. He was more than happy to answer anything I came up with, and hopefully one of these days I'll talk him into taking me out the firing range so I can play with his guns. In the meantime, this conference convinced me that I should definitely sign up for the local citizen's police academy to learn more, and in some way it's alleviated my worry about writing about police officers. There's a book I've been putting off writing because the hero is police detective. Maybe after all this I'll finally have the guts to write it.

What about you? Are there any topics you won't touch because you aren't sure you can write them well? And if so, what could you do to alleviate your worries?


:~: Friday, October 05, 2007 :~:

Thank God for Rejection Letters!

I was going to blog about reviews. I should probably still blog about reviews and whether or not reviews influence people to buy books.


I thought I'd talk about how writing can prepare one for real life.

One thing I acquired pretty quickly when I started writing as a thick skin. Critiques. Rejections. You name it, it hurts, I had to learn how to slough it off.

I never thought I'd say this, but thank God for those fifty-plus rejection letters I have filed . . . somewhere. Because this week, the experience those letters represent has enabled me to pretty much slough off having something I worked very, very hard on (pretty much by myself, thank you very much) picked apart over several days, with more negative comments than positive. Granted, the last two feedback forms I found in my teacher box today did push me to the "Oh, my God, I'm going to cry now" point, but for the most part, I've shrugged off the criticism, looked for the nuggets of constructive feedback and moved on. A few years ago, before I suffered through "Not right for me" or "didn't love it enough" or "not special enough" or "not as special as other manuscripts under consideration" time after time after time, I'd probably have given in to those tears earlier. And they'd have lasted a lot longer.

So thank God for rejection letters!

What writing lesson has helped you in "real" life?


:~: Thursday, October 04, 2007 :~:

A Day Late & A Dollar Short

...but maybe some good information none-the-less.

I've been looking at demographics lately, something I never thought would interest me.

I sought wisdom from a marketing professor for 30+ years at a nearby university, also a friend of mine, when I was putting together a website design presentation for my local RWA, and he turned my perspective on the topic 180 degrees.

I've always designed websites from the inside out, meaning I take what's inside me or inside the company or person I'm designing for and project outward. I create an image of the person or that company on that website from my (or my client's) perspective.

My professor friend urged me to look at it differently. He asked me all about my visitor--who he/she was, how old they were, their economic status, their health, their family life. He wanted me to know who would be coming to my site and suggested that the more I know about them, the more equipped I'd be to provide them with something that would satisfy as well as keep them coming back.

We all want that, right? For our visitors to come back to our website? That's the "stickiness" quotient everyone talks about.

And in looking at the demographics of my audience then, considering what that audience thinks about, worries about, needs, would appreciate, the way I looked at designing websites was forever changed.

My current website doesn't reflect these new-found kernels of wealth -- I have to redesign when I find time. But IMHO this is valuable information and put to use, a powerful tool that with "draw" people to your site rather than the common idea of "driving" traffic there.

Food for thought. What do you think? What are some of your favorite sites--ones that you return to for information? Why do you go back?


:~: Monday, October 01, 2007 :~:

Slacker With A Capital "S"

She was looking kind of dumb, with her finger and her thumb in the shape of an "L" on her forehead...

Be forewarned, people, it's not only for Shrek.


It's 9:17 pm. I knew I needed to blog earlier. I chose not to. I won't apologize. I've done that before. It gets old. I will, however, blame a certain dark-haired diva who has seen fit to torture me by giving me books she knows I will read beginning to end, thereby ignoring everything else in my life - including my computer which I can't live without on a normal day.

I plead insanity. This is what happens when you read a book you've been looking forward to for more months than you can count only to be so thoroughly disappointed you have to read everything else under the sun until you find something that makes you smile again. (No, diva, I won't go into how sucky that ending was again. I know you're sick of hearing me rant about it.) The solution to this problem though has created more havoc - the diva giving me a stack of books - contemporary romances, no less - that I seem to be hellbent on plowing through like there's no tomorrow. No suspense. No blood and guts. No people dying or guns going off or people running for their lives. Not even a hint of paranormal chaos to get my thinking about my recent proposal. No. These are straight forward romances with alpha males and kooky women. I already know how they're going to play out. The couple will meet. One will do something pretty awful to the other. They'll be thrust together. They'll fight. They'll make up. They'll have sex. Someone will cry (I prefer when it's him and not her). One will walk away. Then they'll make up and live happily ever after. And yet I keep reading.

That to me is a sign of a good book. Or series. Or writing. And I've almost forgotten about how horrible that first book was I couldn't wait to read.

I know we talk about suspense a lot here, but do you like to read straight contemporaries? And what do you do when you read a particularly horrific book - esp. when it's something you've been looking forward to? How do you get that awful taste out of your mouth?