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Elisabeth: Marked

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:~: Monday, December 31, 2007 :~:

Into the Woods

Happy New Years to everyone!!! Looks like Joan is going to talk about resolutions, so I'll stick to fun medical facts for your fiction.

We all love to throw our Heroes curve balls, move them out of their comfort zones, give them physical challenges to overcome, and place them in life or death situations.

One of the most common of these is the wilderness--the stuff of Grimm fairy tales, boogey men and primal nightmares. But what to do once we get our characters out there in the deep, dark woods-- how do we realistically get them back to the ranch in one piece?

Let's use an example from one of my old manuscripts. The hero, Lucky, is a city boy, an ATF agent whose cover has been blown by some renegade militia types. Poor Lucky, he's been shot, the bad guys are hot on his tail, and the only place to go is into a wilderness area. Oh yeah, it's January and a nor'easter is heading right toward him.

What does our hero need right now to ensure his survival?

The most important survival tool is attitude. Not just a stubborn will to live, although that is vital, but also the ability to focus and prioritize, to accept that something bad has happened and move on, and to improvise, think outside the box.

Aron Ralston, the climber who amputated his own hand when pinned beneath a boulder, didn't waste time on self-recrimination. He spent five days improvising various methods to either move that boulder, attract help or free his arm. At the same time he also attended to his other physical needs: temperature stability, water, food.

Top of my wish list if I was stranded anywhere: duct tape.

Got a broken arm or leg? Duct tape holds your splint together. Deep cut or gunshot wound (as in Lucky's case)--duct tape holds the edges together or secures a dressing. By the way, your heroine can really help out if she's prepared for that time of the month-- maxipads make ideal dressings.

Need to build a shelter? Or make a pair of sunglasses so you don't go snow blind (punch a small hole in the duct tape for each eye to look through); wrap it around your ankles as gaiters to keep snow or water out; tape up a sprain; make a sling; blaze a trail; patch up some blisters (once applied, try not to remove it until you're back in civilization or major ouch); you can even fashion clothing from it!

A few trash bags can also come in handy. Lightweight, easy to carry, cheap and versatile. Got rain or snow--instant rain poncho. Need a shelter to bivouac the night in? Fill one with dry pine boughs or leaves, and you've got an itchy but warm sleeping bag. Or cut it open and use your duct tape to fashion a "pup" tent. You can also cut strips to blaze a trail or to use as lashing. Caught wearing sneakers in the snow? Make goulashes.

For first aid it gives you waterproof dressing material, also use the bag part (Ziploc bags work great for this as well) to flush out and irrigate wounds or burns. Just cut the corner off the bottom of the bag, fill with water, hold the top tight (or duct tape it) and poke a hole in the corner, and you have a high pressure irrigation system. And if you need to carry water but didn't bring your Camelbak, you can haul as much as you can carry.

What if you are caught out in the woods with "nothing"? Do a quick inventory, you'd be surprised what you really do have. Nasty gash on the scalp-- tie the edges together with your hair; it worked for the frontier pioneers. Got a broken arm or collarbone? Use the cuff button to attach your shirt sleeve to your collar and viola, instant sling.

Bitten by a snake and no Acewrap handy to use as a compression dressing to stop the venom flow--use your sock. (Note: compression means you can slip one finger beneath it--NOT a tourniquet, and please, no cutting and sucking snake bites! Depending on the kind of snake, almost half are "dry" or venom free, and all you're doing is making it worse by adding a laceration and your dirty mouth germs to an area that's already damaged.)

Fall in the water and need a flotation device? If you're wearing anything water repellant, take it off, tie it like a balloon and blow it up. This technique is one of the reasons people in Alaska swear by Carhartt clothing--there have been several people there literally saved by their pants!

Need lashing for a shelter or to make a splint? Shoelaces or your belt. Need a signal mirror--wearing any jewelry? Want a compass--use your watch, or make a "sundial" compass with a stick. Got matches but no dry tinder? How about the lining from inside your coat or fuzz from your socks?

You get the idea. Remember, attitude is the most important survival tool there is, followed by imagination. Writers, with our positive, no quit attitudes and familiarity with the realm of possibilities, should make for the perfect survivalists!

Anyone with their own wilderness survival techniques or stories? I'd love to hear them!

Thanks for reading!


:~: Wednesday, December 26, 2007 :~:

Holiday Hibernation?

Has your laptop keyboard seen more of the screen than you have lately? (In other words, has it been closed more than open?)

Holidays, whether filled with joyous family or barely tolerable in laws (or even vice versa) are busy. Visits, dinners, parties, cooking, cleaning, shopping, decorating...it can be both exhilarating and exhausting.

I haven't been as sluggish with my writing this holiday season as I usually am. I attribute that to my new Alphasmart. Maybe because it's portability is working for me. Maybe because it's still a new toy I like to play with. Maybe because I've been working on breaking through my creativity blocks and pushing past the apprehension of writing new.

Whatever it is, I'm writing.

Has your holiday this year been hectic or harmonious? Productive or futile? Mine's been both hectic and productive. I can't say there's been anything harmonious about it, although I'm home for New Years with 4 days off. The bedroom-slash-office is going to get cleaned and organized even if it kills me...which it might.

Next week I'll talk about goals/resolutions for the coming year...put on your thinking caps so we can chat about it.

Wishing everyone a published new year. :-)


:~: Tuesday, December 25, 2007 :~:

Merry Christmas!

Have a wonderful holiday!!!

:~: Friday, December 21, 2007 :~:

Excerpt 2: HOLD ON TO ME by Linda Winfree

I was going to write this spectacularly helpful post on crafting a marketing plan, but the cold medicine is working against me. Next week. I'll even share my marketing plans.

Instead, here's a second excerpt from my latest release, Hold On to Me, now available from Samhain Publishing.

She keeps a secret buried in the past. He wants the truth—now. But an unknown killer could destroy their future.

Hold On to Me by Linda Winfree
Book Three in the Hearts of the South series.

Outside, he glanced up at the thunderclouds gathering in the western sky, backlit by the afternoon sun. He couldn’t shake the gut intuition that said Caitlin’s disappearance had more to do with him than with something case related.

She waited under the porte-cochere, leaning against a column, staring across the parking lot, tapping her cell phone against her lips.


Not looking at him, she straightened. “Ready?”

Her voice sounded raw, strangled, the aftereffects of tears plain on her face. His chest tightened and he reached for her. “What’s wrong?”

She pulled free of his light hold, her movements jerky. “Can we go, please?”

“Not yet.” A couple entering the lobby cast them a curious look and he lowered his voice. “You were fine earlier and you’ve been crying. Tell me what’s going on.”

“It’s none of your business and I wish you’d simply leave me alone.” She turned on him, eyes narrowed to green slits, sparking with bad temper. “Which part of ‘we’re colleagues’ did you not get, Calvert? I don’t go around sharing my personal life with Cook or Schaefer. What makes you different?”

Her anger set him back for all of two seconds before his own rose to match it. “Maybe the fact we had a personal relationship? Remember that, Cait? That’s what sets me apart from Cookie or Jeff, the fact you all but told me you loved me, the fact I’ve had you wrapped around me and screaming my name.”

“So the sex was good.” She strode toward the parking lot. “Get over it. I did.”

“No.” He caught up to her halfway to his truck, grabbed her arm, spun her to him. He leaned down, his face close to hers. “It was more than that and you know it. Something got in the way and hell if I know what it is—”

“God, you’re stubborn.” She fairly growled the words at him, pushing away, continuing toward his dusty Z71. “Did it ever occur to you that maybe I met someone else while you were gone? Or maybe I decided I wanted something different? Or even that maybe I just didn’t want you anymore! How many times do I have to say it before it sinks through that thick skull of yours?”

Holy hell, but he was tired of this. “So that’s it?”

“That’s it.” She tugged at the door handle. “Unlock it.”

“You don’t want me.”

Ire flushed her face. “Didn’t I—”

He smothered her protest with his mouth. For a half second, she stiffened in his embrace and lifted her hands, probably to shove him away, before she clutched the front of his shirt and pulled him to her, kissing him with a hunger close to desperation. Desire barreled through him, blending with the frustrated anger, making the kiss rougher than any they’d shared before. He flattened her back against the truck, opening his mouth over hers, stroking his tongue between her lips.

She wound her arms around his waist, arching into him, and he pulled her closer, as near to him as he could get her. She stroked the bunched muscles at his lower back and he groaned into her mouth. Lord, he loved the way she touched him and it had been too damn long since he’d had her hands on him. He’d needed this since she stepped out of that car at Ash’s, since he’d come home from Missisippi. Hell, he’d needed this, needed her, the whole damn time he’d been gone, pretending to be everything he wasn’t.

He splayed his fingers at the curve of her hips. She tasted of mint and passion, the essence of her rocking him to the core. He was growing hard and heavy, an uncomfortable snugness at his groin. Heat trailed through him.

She nipped at his bottom lip, then soothed it with the tip of her tongue, pushing his need higher.

An engine rumbled on the side street and brakes whined. A horn blared, followed by a piercing male wolf whistle. Caitlin went rigid in his arms. Tick pulled away and stared into green eyes almost black with desire. His chest heaved as he struggled to catch his breath and get his body under control.

“Now tell me you don’t want me.”

Copyright © 2007 Linda Winfree
All rights reserved ~ a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication

Link to book (and another excerpt): http://www.samhainpublishing.com/romance/hold-on-to-me

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:~: Thursday, December 20, 2007 :~:

Now Available: HOLD ON TO ME by Linda Winfree

{Pssst, E! This is an added scene in the new version.)

She keeps a secret buried in the past. He wants the truth—now. But an unknown killer could destroy their future.

Hold On to Me by Linda Winfree
Book Three in the Hearts of the South series.

For FBI profiler Caitlin Falconetti, immersing herself in her job is the only way to quell the memories of a vicious, near-fatal attack and what it cost her, including the only man she ever loved. Better to let him think she simply rejected him, rather than reveal a painful secret that she's certain would have destroyed his feelings for her.

Investigator Lamar “Tick” Calvert is determined to clean out the corruption-riddled sheriff’s department in his hometown. While he understands Caitlin's drive to excel at her job, that doesn’t mean he's happy about the prospect of working with his former lover, the one woman he tried and failed to hold onto.

A rash of unsolved murders, including a politician's daughter, brings them together to find the murderer before another woman dies. Daily contact re-ignites the lingering attraction between them, but Caitlin won't risk opening herself and revealing her secret. She plans to complete the killer's profile, make an arrest and get out of town for good.

Tick plans to solve this case, too, but now that Caitlin's back in his life, he also plans to finally dig up the truth about why she left him.

But there's an added complication—the killer isn't done, and Caitlin could be the next target.


The squad room lay quiet and deserted. A subdued rumble of activity drifted up the stairs from the dispatch area, mixing with the scent of stale coffee lingering in the air.

The few bites of chile relleno Tick had forced himself to eat formed a lump in his stomach. He tucked his cigarettes in his pocket, the two he’d smoked back-to-back on the way over here not really settling him down.

He paused in the doorway to the conference room. Jeff and Cookie were nowhere in sight. Caitlin sat, reading the red leather-bound journal they’d taken from Amy’s room, a cup from the local java joint at her elbow. He watched her, the thick black silk of her hair pulled into a loose knot, the Fibbie suit traded for jeans and a simple white T-shirt under a neat seersucker jacket. One loafer-clad foot tapped the floor, a frown of concentration wrinkling her brow.

Damn, she was beautiful.

Beautiful and scarred. Not visibly damaged, but something had stolen her away from him.

Damned if he wasn’t going to find out what. If he was trapped into this working arrangement, so was she. This time, he’d make it a hell of a lot harder for her to dodge the issue.

“Find anything interesting?”

She startled like a scalded cat. The diary slid to the floor and one flailing hand collided with her coffee, sending the dark liquid across the table.

“Oh, hell!” She jumped to her feet and righted the cup. He grabbed a handful of napkins from the shelf by the door and began mopping up the mess. She glared, her eyes big and dark with fury in her pale face. “Don’t sneak up on me like that, Calvert.”

“Who’s sneaking?” He dropped the sopping mass of napkins in the trash. “I just walked into my own department and asked a simple question.”

She leaned down to retrieve the book, but he reached it first. They straightened and he proffered it, merely the length of the volume between them. She took it from him with ill grace. “A little advance warning would be nice.”

“You’re awful jumpy.” He studied her as she sank into the chair again. The color didn’t return to her face and tiny tremors shook her slender fingers. A warning flag waved in his mind.

“I was reading.”

He pulled out the chair cater-cornered and closest to hers, an old interrogator’s trick. She flicked a glance at him and shifted to the farthest edge of her seat.

“So how’ve you been?”

“Fine. Thank you.”

“Busy?” He leaned back and folded his arms behind his head. He stretched his legs, crowding hers a little, forcing himself into a semblance of casual relaxation. “Probably had to drop a lot of things to come down here.”

“Not really.” She scratched a note on a legal pad, her knuckles white. “I’ve been out of the field.”

That surprised him. She lived for the damn job. At one time, he’d been fully prepared to take a backseat to that drive of hers, as long as they could be together. “Why?”

Her Montblanc pen faltered, ink smearing on the paper. She dropped it and looked up, her eyes cool and shuttered. “Did I miss something, Calvert? When did we agree to play twenty questions?”

He smiled, the “aw-shucks-good-ol’-boy” one he used whenever he had to worm his way under the defenses of a local suspect. “You said it, Falconetti, we have to work together. I’m just playing nice, making conversation.”

“Try selling that line of bull to someone who’ll buy it.” Her hands were in her lap now, but he’d bet his next pack of smokes her fingers were wound into fists. The whole line of her body screamed with tension and the need for escape. How many times had he seen that posture on a perp? “You’re digging.”

“That implies you’re hiding something.”

She pushed her chair back, obviously preparing to flee. “Hiding something? You’re deluded—”

“What is it, Cait?” He grasped her wrist, holding her in the chair with a light touch. “What the hell happened while I was in Mississippi?”

“Let go.”

“Tell me.”

“Don’t touch me.” They stared at one another, the power struggle pulsing to life, growing and twisting between them. “I mean it, Tick, let go or—”

“Or what? You’ll slap a sexual harassment suit on me? Ruin my career?” He leaned forward, ready to call her bluff. “Go for it, precious.”

The endearment he’d only ever used with her slipped out and her eyes widened, darkened. She moistened her lips and tugged against his hold. “You’re hurting me.”

Not physically. He wasn’t holding her tightly enough to do that, but he released her. She had a trapped, hunted air about her now and grim satisfaction curled through him. Oh, yeah, she was hiding something. If he could just find the weak point, break through that damn control of hers…

“I’d never hurt you and you know it.”

“Stop.” Her voice trembled and his chest tightened.

“Not until you—”

“Until nothing. We’re colleagues, Tick,” she said, cold dismissal not quite covering the lingering nervousness in her tone. “That’s all.”

“We used to be friends.”

And lovers. The words hung in the air, unsaid.

“Well, this looks cozy.”

Damn. Tick smothered a wave of frustrated anger. Cookie had the worst timing known to man. Tick straightened, making sure his expression was blank before he looked around at the other man. Cookie’s face was a study in smooth guilelessness that didn’t fool Tick for an instant.

Copyright © 2007 Linda Winfree
All rights reserved ~ a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication.

Link to book (and another, longer excerpt): http://www.samhainpublishing.com/romance/hold-on-to-me

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:~: Wednesday, December 19, 2007 :~:

Procrastination cures?

Procrastination cures?

I picked up a used Dana on Ebay a couple weeks ago. I was interested in an alternative writing source to my laptop for several reasons, but what made me finally decide to try out the Alphasmart was my recent bout with procrastination. I found myself avoiding the hard business of writing through the tough spots and knew I needed to make some changes. The Dana was only one of the many alterations I’m trying out, and I have to say, I love it.

A few reasons I wanted to try the Alphasmart:

~ My laptop is heavy. It’s actually one of the lighter models, but when you’re lifting it from the floor of a car or tugging it in and out of it’s case a dozen times a day (or more)…it really does get heavy.

~ My laptop has wireless internet. It also has other software. Way too easy to get distracted and find yourself 3 hours later thinking, oh, crap, I’ve got to pick the kids up from school already and I haven’t written anything new yet.

~ My laptop was taking a beating for the very same reasons stated in the first point.

~ I liked the thought of having a limited amount of material on the screen in hopes of keeping my auto-editing brain focused on creating.

Anyway…although I was skeptical about the value of the Alphasmart, it seems to work for me. I’m procrastinating less and writing more.

What works for you?


:~: Monday, December 17, 2007 :~:

Real Romance Novel Heroes

I've had a crazy day. So instead of boring you with chat about craft or business or my lack of progress on the wip, I thought I'd entertain you. Take a look at this clip about "real" romance heroes:



:~: Friday, December 14, 2007 :~:

Fun Times: Linda's First Booksigning

I don't believe the author learning curve ever ends. I'm editing book five, after the recent releases of book four in ebook and book one in print. Some of the learning curve is fun, though.

Like author appearances. Now, I'm a social animal at heart. I don't like crowds, but give me a gathering of likeminded people and I'm in heaven. You know, like people who want to buy my book . . . and have me sign it.

Now, let me preface this by saying I realize this first booksigning of mine was a fluke. I live in a relatively small town (okay, so small that almost everyone is a relative -- that kind of relatively small) and the release of this book generated huge buzz.

I sold sixty copies in a week, which included the forty-plus I signed during the two-hour booksigning.

(That's me handing Carol her copy.)
Anyway . . . this part of promo I could get used to: talking to people about my book. Everyone wants to know where your ideas come from and they're eager to read it . . . which leaves you wondering what they'll say if they don't like it!

(Luckily, everyone who's read it so far has loved it. I'm figuring the ones I haven't heard from . . . don't.)

Being "famous" in a small town? Oh, that's fun. Former students bring you flowers:

(That's me and Kyle -- he designed the floral display. I taught him for three years. Isn't he a sweetie? Yes, my eyes are closed.)

Then, there's having your #1 fan show up. (I get flashbacks to Stephen King when I say that, but I don't think she'll chop my foot off.)

(This is me and my mama, definitely my newest and #1 fan. I don't thinks she's read the book yet. She keeps selling her copies to people every time I sign one for her. I think she's my top marketing tool right now.)

And then all the relatives (e.g. my sisters and my niece) show up as well.

My niece loves books. I told her to pick out books for her birthday present while she was there.

I, by the way, am in trouble because the relatives (mom, sisters, niece) are not in the dedication in What Mattered Most. I will fix that before Truth and Consequences releases in April!

Overall, even with my glitches (I called an old acquaintance I'd not seen in ages by the wrong name and offended him, then got rattled and spelled someone's name wrong on the title page -- try fixing that!), it was a really great, very positive experience.

So, this part of the learning curve -- surviving my first author appearance -- I like.



I am coming back with a "real" post later today. I promise. :-)

But first, go check out Kate's blog for a contest in which you could win a copy of your choice from my backlist.

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:~: Tuesday, December 11, 2007 :~:

Homicidal Holidays

Hi guys! First of all, thanks to Joan and everyone here at Romance Worth Killing For for inviting me!

I'm CJ Lyons, and my first medical suspense novel, LIFELINES, will be released by Berkley in March, 2008. LIFELINES is unique because although it has been praised by Publisher's Weekly as a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller" it is told solely through the point of view of the women of Pittsburgh's Angels of Mercy's ER.

As a pediatric ER doc who has practiced in some of the country's busiest trauma centers, it was great fun bringing my experience to life with this behind-the-scenes drama of the most dangerous day of the year in a hospital.

I love talking with mystery/suspense authors because we can talk about the really important things in life: namely, the best ways to kill someone and get away with it.

So, given the winter holiday season, I thought I'd throw out a few ideas on Homicidal Holiday Hazards.

1. O Tantebaum—not only do they make for excellent firestarters (arson, anyone?) but think of the possibilities of actually obtaining one. Imagine: deserted tree farm, you and your victim far out of sight of anyone else, it's getting dark, and there you are with hatchet and saw in hand….or better yet, cutting down and hauling a live tree is a great time to induce a heart attack and given the holiday rush, it probably would go undetected as the medical examiner would be too busy to do more than a cursory examination.

2. Auld Lang Sang—do you have any idea how easy it is to slip poison into New Year's champagne or eggnog? The possibilities are endless: antifreeze in a sweet drink, an overdose of barbiturates or sedatives in an alcoholic one….

3. Dradle, Dradle—holidays with all that candy and cheating on diets make for a perfect time to induce a diabetic coma in those old folks with fat life insurance policies. Just swap out their "sugar" pills or insulin for a few days, ply them with some gelt or candy canes and pouf! There goes granny, here comes the inheritance!

4. Up on the Rooftop--Hmmm….climbing up rickety ladders, hammer and nails and aluminum gutters and electrical lights, snow and ice all around—anyone else seeing a great set up for "accidental" electrocutions or slip and falls???

5. Over the Hills—all that ice and snow (for those of you in northern climes) not to mention crazy, hectic drivers all rushing hither and yon make for a perfect recipe for disaster. Mix a slashed brake-line with faulty power steering, add a little too much holiday cheer and voila!

And then there's always the cold and hypothermia and all the possibilities the wilderness can offer us. But I'll save that for next month when we discuss Wilderness Survival—another perennial favorite worst-case-scenario!

In the meantime, what's your favorite Homicidal Holiday Hazard? C'mon, if you can't talk about it with your fellow suspense authors, who can you talk to?

I'd love to hear them!


PS: I feel honor-bound (the pediatric ER doc in me) to point out that the holidays actually do pose a very real risk, especially to children and pets. Clean up ALL remnants of alcohol after parties before you go to bed (kids tend to get up early and love sipping at all the left over drinks and it only takes a few swallows of alcohol to poison a little one) and please dress everyone warm, even for short trips. Always, always buckle up and have a designated driver! Happy--and safe--holidays to all!!

:~: Monday, December 10, 2007 :~:

Drive vs. Want

My RWA vice president and I are in the process of filling our '08 calendar with speakers for our local meetings. I'm of the mindset that a good speaker isn't simply one who fills a slot and takes up time but who has something worthwhile to present to our membership. This could be a writer, though often times it's not. In my experience, most writers don't make the best speakers - unless of course they were teachers at one time, or in a profession where they were often in front of crowds giving public speeches or lectures.

One of our themes for the coming year is remotivation. We have a lot of writers who are, what I think of as, hobbyists. They come to the meetings, they're good writers, they have great ideas, but something's holding them back, be it fear or doubt or worry that they might not be good at something they really love. They've heard writing speakers go on and on about craft, they know the mechanics of writing a good book, most can even take an idea and plot out an entire story that makes perfect sense. Yet they're not doing it. They write three or four chapters and then slack off, or life interferes and writing gets pushed to the wayside. They talk about what they really want and they attend workshops and conferences in the hope it will inspire them, yet it doesn't.

It seems to me there's a huge gap between this concept of want - what we say or think we want as writers - and that internal drive that pushes us to go after our goals. Why is it some people have the ability to push past everything in their way and focus on the end product until they're done? Is it possible to inspire someone to have that drive, or does it have to come from within?

We're in the process of trying to schedule a life coach to come in and talk to the group about setting realistic goals and sticking to them, but I thought I'd toss it out to our RWKF readers and see what you come up with. What keeps you motivated to write (or to do whatever else it is that is your passion)? What inspires you? And most importantly, what is it that drives you, and was there ever a time when you were willing to give up on your dreams? What pushed you forward?

:~: Saturday, December 08, 2007 :~:

How Do I Forget to Blog?

Let me count the ways . . .

1) I somehow lose an entire week in some weird timewarp

2) A Christmas party. I did win an awesome windbreaker with our school logo.

3) 90 literary analysis essays to grade

4) A graduate paper that I waited until the day before to write (I made an A, though. I'd done the reading . . . just not the writing)

5) Complete revisions on the March release, that I'd been working on for a month, but saved the last two chapters to do the same day my graduate paper was due. Obviously, I like being insane.

6) A booksigning. The same weekend my revisions and my grad paper were due. Lots of fun, lots of socializing, lots of sales.

Again, weird timewarp. Lost the entire WEEK. Not sure where it went.

Really hope I didn't forget anything beside blogging . . .


:~: Wednesday, December 05, 2007 :~:

Monsters of Chaos

I'm a forward movement kind of person. A go-out-there-and-get-it-done type. So slowing down to reflect or regroup amps my stress levels.

I decided not to plot out my current WIP. I had a couple of scenes churning in my brain for a while, let them bubble to the surface until they were about to boil over and then started writing. Works great--for those scenes. Then I sit back and wonder...what now?

I've learned--the hard way--that is way too stressful for me. I need to know where I'm going. Even if I veer from the path along the way, I need to have a path set out before me when I start. That's not to say I need to know every nuance, every thread. My characters don't develop into someone I identify with until I'm about 1/2 way through the first draft. My plots sprout subplots along the story journey. Theme grows with each layer of detail, with each weaving of internal and external conflict, with the upward and downward slope of character arcs.

So...here I am, 210 pages into this WIP and my pantster britches have finally fallen off. I need to regroup, rethink and plan. Man, I hate that. Not the planning part, but the stepping back part, the slug of forward motion part. Makes me grind my teeth at night and wake up with a popping jaw. And after going over the ms from the beginning and looking at everything happening in each scene, I realized my work is just too complex and intricate to work without a net.

As if to conspire against my attempted writing freedom, the universe is sending messages.

I watched part of a KCET (channel 9) seminar the other day: Change your thinking, change your life. Happened to turn to it at the point where the doctor/instructor was talking about accepting your location in life, realizing it is where you're meant to be. My creativity coach, a psychologist who is tutoring me along for free via one of Eric Maisel's coaching programs, encourages me to embrace my conflicts and work with them, not against them. Today, in my email, I received this message from the author of Blockbuster Plots, a woman I recently took a plotting course with via Silicon Valley RWA:
Winter solstice, December 21st, is the shortest day of the year.

Celebrated among the ancients as a turning point -- this day, when sunrise and sunset is at a minimum for the year, marks the return of the sun. The Mesopotamians were first with a 12-day festival of renewal, designed to help the god Marduk tame the monsters of chaos for one more year.

I hope during the season you might find time to use candles, evergreens, feasting and generosity as a way to tame the monsters of chaos for 2008.

This is also a good time until January 30, 2008 to withdraw and regroup, examine and rework the way you express, experience, and integrate new information in your life.

This is a time of magic.

I'm listening, I'm listening! I'm backing up, slowing down and developing a plot for my complex WIP. I'm taming my monsters of chaos.

What monsters are you taming for 2008?


:~: Tuesday, December 04, 2007 :~:

New feature: Fiction First Aid

The first Tuesday of each month (well, except for this month :-)), CJ Lyons, Berkeley published author and pediatric emergency physician, will guest blog. CJ will cover topics from medicine to craft to publishing.

Next Tuesday: Holiday Homicides.

Stop by for some “killer” ideas and ask CJ your medical or writing-related questions.

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:~: Monday, December 03, 2007 :~:


I recently finished a debut work by a (now) well-known romance author. Granted, this book is about four years old and the writer has gone on to publish several novels since then, but I often enjoy looking at an author's first published work to see how they change and grow through those early books. Normally, writing style, voice and sentence structure are things I see change dramatically from books one to three, but in this case, the element that stuck out to me most about this particular author's work was introspection. There was a loooot of head time in this book. Pages and pages of the main character thinking through what she would do next, what had just happened, etc. Both characters (hero and heroine) were guilty of this, but much more so in the heroine's head. So bad so, there were times where I found myself thinking, "Okay, get on with it. We've been-there, done-that several times already."

I like introspection. I like to know what a character is thinking and feeling, but there are moments where it gets to be too much. If a reader is tempted to put a book down because the character is rehashing an emotion or thought they've already shredded to death, it's time to do some cutting. Introspection is one of those things that seriously slows pacing in a novel, along with description and backstory. When done well, it enhances a novel and brings the reader right into the character's head. When overdone, it pops you so far out of the book, you may have trouble picking it up again.

It's interesting to compare how authors handle introspection. The book I recently started reading has almost no introspection. I just blew through the scene where the hero and heroine met and it was so dialogue heavy and so non-introspective, I only had a glimmer of insight into what each of the characters were thinking. The scene moved fast. Almost too fast in my opinion. I would have liked for the author to slow it down a little with a thought here and there. The heroine admits she's not afraid of those spooky woods where people have been murdered? Doesn't the hero have an internal reaction to that revelation?

Balance is key in my opinion. I once had a critique partner who loved to add in "Okay, so what's he thinking or feeling here?" all over my chapters. Back then I used very little introspection, and her comments were warranted and made my work better. But on the flip side, my agent recently read a proposal I put together and her reaction was, "I love it. Now cut some of the head time." I - obviously - have gone from one extreme to the other. When I edit now, one of the first things I look for are introspection paragraphs or sections that don't need to be there. Did I already say that somewhere else? Am I beating the reader over the head with the same emotion? And sometimes (though rarely), do I need to elaborate a little more here? Because introspection is one of those things I know I need to be mindful of, it's something I notice in others' works. And too much introspection is the first thing that makes me dislike a character, because too often, too much introspection tends to make a character come off as whiny.

Would you consider yourself a mild, medium or heavy introspection writer? And when you read, is introspection something that pops out at you - too much, not enough, etc? Can you think of any writers who handle introspection particularly well?