Monday, August 31, 2009

Pick yourself up, dust yourself off...




And start all over again...



Well, not over again, but certainly from somewhere farther back in the process than I wanted to be.


This week is devoted to some seriously deep edits on a novel. I'm five chapters in, and reworking a storyline, tightening it up, making it stronger. I'm ironing out some inconsistancies or vague parts.


Upon the suggestions of my excellent content editor, I'm digging deeper into the story to pull out better motives for the characters, to justify their actions and reactions.
I'm five chapters in and so far, though the edits have been challenging, I'm sure they will make the story better.
But it's going to take lots of tea and rewriting.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Friday Five


This week's Friday Five is:
My five favorite zoos and aquariums. My family loves zoos, aquariums, wildlife parks, etc. We just love animals.
So, here are my favorites:
1. The Minnesota Zoo. (Minneapolis, MN)
2. Rolling Hills Refuge. (Salina, Kansas)
3. Lincoln Park Zoo. (Chicago, IL)
4. Busch Gardens. (Tampa, FL)
5. Como Zoo. (St. Paul, MN)
Other notables: The Kansas City Zoo, Sedgwick County Zoo, Oxbow Park Zollman Zoo, Superior Zoo, Shedd Aquarium. Sea World (Orlando, San Antonio, and the one that used to be in Aurora, OH) St. Louis Zoo, Reptile Gardens (hee hee, what a tourist trap.)
So, are you a fan of zoos? Do you have any favorites? I have some I'd love to see. San Diego Zoo, Columbus Zoo, Henry Doorly Zoo, The National Zoo.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Garden Day on the Blog

Today is Garden Day. My friend, Eileen, suggested that some folks join her today in posting photos of what's growing in their gardens. You can check out Eileen's fabulous garden HERE.

I know the first picture isn't of a garden, but it was too good to pass up. For some unknown reason, my husband got it into head that he wanted to make banana bread. So he did (with the help of both kids.)





I sent James outside with the camera to get flower pictures, and he exhibited his usual creative flair. I went out awhile later and took some other pictures.




Geraniums. I LOVE red geraniums, and since the front of my house faces due west, it gets a lot of hot sun in the afternoons. Geraniums seem to do well in the flower boxes. ( took this photo.


This is a Russian sage, and it's taking over the lower part of the garden. Beneath it's lavender blooms are some bell flowers, some lungwort, and lots of primrose (another garden thug). Another picture I took.



This cunning little flower is a vining black-eyed Susan. It didn't do as well as I'd hoped this year where I planted it, but it still blooms from time to time. Next year I'll try it in a different place and see what happens. Yep, this is one of the pics I took.




Not an unusual thing for James to find a bug or two while he's outside. He has a future as a naturalist, if the rock-shell-bird's nest-pine cone-whatever-else-he-finds-outside-that-interests-him collection I'm housing is any indication. And no, he doesn't get to keep the bugs. I have to draw the line somewhere. James's picture all the way.



My Black-eyed Susans are stunning this year. Love them! My picture.





The grass was wet. James has BIG feet. :D James's picture.



James took this picture. Red Leaf Maple in front of Green Ash. Kinda cool.
James snapped this one too. (Can you see why I had to go out and take some pictures of actual flowers?) The geese aren't an unusual sight here in Rochester where there are more geese than people. (And there are over 100K people.)
So, what's in your garden. And do pop over to Eileen's website to see her fabulous flowers. She'll show you how a garden is supposed to look!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What's in a Name?


Yesterday, I got a message on Facebook from a friend who is an avid reader of Christian Fiction. She asked how I came up with names for my characters. She had recently finished a book where she thought the character's name didn't fit the story/time period it was written in.

This got me to thinking about how I come up with a character's name. Here's what I wrote back to my friend:

I think there are as many ways of chosing a character's name as there are writers out there. I like to use Census lists of popular names if I can. I go back to around the time I think my character was born, then try to find a Census ...list of popular names for that era. If I'm going to use something really out there, I try to justify it by telling the reader why. (Old family surname, a place of special meaning to the parents, or something.) And if all else fails, I use a Bible name. Those are timeless. In a series I'm writing now, the heroine's names were all chosen to be alliterative for the titles, Clara and the Cowboy, Lily and the Lawman, Maggie and the Maverick. Each name belongs to the era (1883-84 Idaho Territory.) Caitlin, Lauren, and Madison just wouldn't work for me, too modern! But if I had been writing contemporary romance, these would've worked great.


So, for you, does the name come first, or does the character? (For me, both of these happen pretty simultaneously. And I don't have much trouble changing a character's name partway through the story if I have to. I wrote one book with the idea that all three brothers would have names that started with the same letter...which my crit partners quickly pointed out was too confusing. So I changed two of the names...interestingly enough, the middle brother kept his original name. Nathan became Jonathan, Noah stayed Noah (sort of) and Nick became Eli.)

Have you read a book recently where the character's name didn't seem to fit with the story? (I can't think of a specific story right now, though I'm sure I have. I always wondered about Michaela in Dr. Quinn. It was such a trendy Mid-90's name, that it seemed out of place and contrived for 1880's Colorado...though I could be wrong. I've just never come across it in a Census name list or history book for that era.)


Have you read a book where the character's name was perfect? (I love the names of the heroes in Dick Francis' books. Torquil Kelsey, Alexander Kinloch, Peter Darwin [no relation to Charles] Max Moreton. Great names, and so very British.)

Is there a name you would never use for a hero or heroine? (I will never call a hero Jerry...bad experience in fourth grade.)

One you'd never use for a villain? (I could never name a villain Peter. :) )

How about you?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Summer Reading Blog Tour



Here are three end-of-summer must-reads from Waterbrook.

The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper
The future is clearly mapped out for New York socialite Eugenia “Gennie” Cooper, but she secretly longs to slip into the boots of her favorite dime-novel heroine and experience just one adventure before settling down. When the opportunity arises, Gennie jumps at the chance to experience the Wild West, but her plans go awry when she is drawn into the lives of silver baron Daniel Beck and his daughter and finds herself caring for them more than is prudent–especially as she’s supposed to go back to New York and marry another man. As Gennie adapts to the rough-and-tumble world of 1880s Colorado, she must decide whether her future lies with the enigmatic Daniel Beck or back home with the life planned for her since birth. The question is whether Daniel’s past–and disgruntled miners bent on revenge–will take that choice away from her.

The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love
Once a month, the six women of the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society gather to discuss books and share their knitting projects. Inspired by her recently-wedded bliss, group leader Eugenie chooses “Great Love Stories in Literature” as the theme for the year’s reading list–a risky selection for a group whose members span the spectrum of age and relationship status.As the Knit Lit ladies read and discus classic romances like Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights, and Pride and Prejudice, each member is confronted with her own perception about love. Camille’s unexpected reunion with an old crush forces her to confront conflicting desires. Newly widowed Esther finds her role in Sweetgum changing and is surprised by two unlikely friends. Hannah isn’t sure she’s ready for the trials of first love. Newcomer Maria finds her life turned upside-down by increasing family obligations and a handsome, arrogant lawyer, and Eugenie and Merry are both asked to make sacrifices for their husbands that challenge their principles.Even in a sleepy, southern town like Sweetgum, Tennessee, love isn’t easy. The Knit Lit ladies learn they can find strength and guidance in the novels they read, the love of their family, their community–and especially in each other.

Rose House
A vivid story of a private grief, a secret painting, and one woman’s search for hope. Still mourning the loss of her family in a tragic accident, Lillian Diamon finds herself drawn back to the Rose House, a quiet cottage where four years earlier she had poured out her anguish among its fragrant blossoms. She returns to the rolling hills and lush vineyards of the Sonoma Valley in search of something she can’t quite name. But then Lillian stumbles onto an unexpected discovery: displayed in the La Rosaleda Gallery is a painting that captures every detail of her most private moment of misery, from the sorrow etched across her face to the sandals on her feet.What kind of artist would dare to intrude on such a personal scene, and how did he happen to witness Lillian’s pain? As the mystery surrounding the portrait becomes entangled with the accident that claimed the lives of her husband and children, Lillian is forced to rethink her assumptions about what really happened that day.A captivating novel rich with detail, Rose House explores how the brushstrokes of pain can illuminate the true beauty of life.

About the Authors:
Kathleen Y’Barbo is the best-selling, award-winning author of more than thirty novels, novellas, and young adult books, with more than a half-million in print. A graduate of Texas A&M University, she is currently a publicist with Books & Such literary agency.

RITA Award-winning Beth Patillo combines her love of knitting and books in her engaging Sweetgum series. Pattillo served churches in Missouri and Tennessee before founding Faith Leader, a spiritual leadership development program.

Tina Ann Forkner is the author of Ruby Among Us. Originally from Oklahoma, she now lives with her husband and three children in Wyoming, where she serves on the Laramie County Library Foundation’s board of directors.
If you're looking for an entertaining read, you can't go wrong with any of these books. Action-adventure, literary, heart-warming, there's something for everyone in this line-up.
If you'd like to learn more about these books, or to purchase one, click on these links:

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Importance of Titles


One of the things that will make me pick up a book quickly is a catchy title. When I stroll through a bookstore, I will search for the best, most intriguing titles. It's hard to say what will pique my interest. Sometimes it's a clever rhyme, or alliteration, or a title that hints at a mystery.
I love the titles of Dick Francis books, because each one has a double meaning...not a double entendre, but one that could and does mean two things in the story. I'm currently re-reading my favorite Dick Francis, To The Hilt.
In this story, the title means "all the way" and it also refers to the hilt of the ceremonial sword of Prince Charles Edward which features in the story.
I was also thinking about how strolling through the library, a bookstore, a local thrift store...any place that has a lot of books...I read titles and try to imagine a story to fit that title. Have you tried this? It starts the creative juices flowing.
For my own works, the titles come pretty early in the process. So far, I haven't needed to change any of them with the editor. In fact, recently on The Edit Cafe, my editor picked out The Bartered Bride along with nine other titles that she really liked. You can read her list here.
Also on The Edit Cafe on Friday, JoAnne Simmons, editor of Heartsong Presents, listed her top five contemporary romances and top five historical romances for 2009. I'm so honored that The Bartered Bride made her list. To check out her other favorite titles, click here.
So, how do you choose your titles? Do story titles ignite your imagination? Have you ever spun stories and asked 'what if' questions when you see an intriguing title?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A winner!


We threw all 8 entrants names into the day-glo orange hunting hat and my husband pulled out the winner of Tiffany Stockton's Hearts and Harvest.
And the winner is:
MEZ!
Congratulations, mez. I've forwarded your information to Tiffany, and she should be contacting you soon!
Thanks to everyone who entered, and thanks to Tiffany for giving away a copy of her latest release.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Friday Five


Okay, so the big news in the North Star State is the signing of Brett Favre to a two year contract by the Vikings. Can we all say Yay? And I'm really looking forward to the preseason game we're supposed to have tickets for in a couple of weeks?
In keeping with the team's tradition, when Brett arrived at the Viking's practice, the coach, Brad Childress, had the new guy on the team tell where he was from and something unique about himself. Brett said he was from Mississippi, and that he was the only player on the roster born in the 1960's. Hmm...Brett and I are the same age. Makes you think, don't it? Soooo.....
This Friday's Five is
Things that have changed in my life since Brett Favre came into the NFL in 1991
1. I have had two children. That's a life-changer!
2. I was a general contractor on a house.
3. I moved to Minnesota from Missouri.
4. I taught high school history.
5. I started writing fiction.
How about you? What milestones have you passed during Brett's career?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Teachable Moments

A couple of weeks ago, we had a guest speaker at church. He told a story of visiting a park one day, and on a bench all by herself sat a little girl somewhere between two and three years old.

She was sobbing, broken-hearted.

As a father, this guest speaker was concerned that the child was lost or hurt, so he carefully approached her and asked, "Why are you crying?"

She looked up at him and sobbed, "Because my expectations are not being fulfilled."

We all laughed at this precocious statement. (The girl's father was nearby, and he was watching over her, having placed her there as a form of discipline.)

Last week, I had myself a good cry. Now, I'm not an easy crier. I don't like to cry, I avoid it as long as I can. But things had accumulated inside to the point that they needed an outlet. And as I sat on the side of the bed sobbing into my hands, I started thinking. (This happens to me a lot. I'm wallowing in self-pity and the wheels start turning, trying to figure out why, and when I think I might stop, and if this crying is really justified. I think it is the reason I rarely cry. I end up talking myself out of it most of the time. And while I'm crying, I'm analyzing, which takes all the enjoyment out of a good cry. But I digress.)

I realized that just as the toddler in the sermon illustration, I was crying because my expectations were not being fulfilled. A doctor's appointment didn't go the way I had wanted it to. My husband didn't act the way I had expected him to act. The scale didn't say what I wanted it to say (quite the reverse, actually!). I had expectations, and they were not fulfilled.

Fast forward a week. I'm working on some interview questions for the Romantic Notions Newsletter that goes out with each month's shipment of books. One of the questions asked was:

What is the most important message that you want your readers to gain by reading your book(s)?

After a lot of thought, I came up with this:


I want my readers to know that our most teachable moments tend to come when our expectations are not being fulfilled.

I don't know about you, but I'm not at my most teachable when things are going great. I tend to float on the surface, doing the good things, and not facing any conflict or life lessons. It is not until something unexpected comes along, some conflict, some catastrophe occurs, that my heart is contrite, broken, weak, a mess. THEN I am teachable. Then I can learn a lesson that changes my outlook and my behavior. And that's what happens to my characters too. I throw a conflict at them, and they are forced to evaluate their thinking, beliefs, and actions and make changes.

So, have you had a teachable moment recently?
Was it due to an expectation not being fulfilled?
What is it that you want your readers to gain by reading your stories?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

One Sheet

So, all the buzz this last month before the ACFW Conference is centered around mental and phyiscal preparation. One of the big facets of preparation is the One-Sheet/Pitch Sheet/Sell Sheet. This piece of paper goes by a lot of names, and it causes a lot of consternation and fear in unpublished authors, but basically it's a sheet of paper that tells what you've written and why you think it is cool. It is to be used during your agent or editor appointments or if you happen to have a moment with an agent, editor, mentor, or otherwise interested party to help you organize your thoughts and give you something to refer to and/or hang on to so your hands won't shake.
Often I hear the question "What goes on a One-Sheet?"
So I thought I would show you the One-Sheet I used to help sell my first novel. I'll walk you through what I put on it, and hopefully, the picture isn't so small and grainy that you can't tell what it is. I think if you click on the picture you should see it a little bigger.
I created my One-Sheet using a newsletter template from Microsoft and Microsoft Publisher 2007. By fiddling with the colors and the text boxes, I arrived at a layout that I liked so much, I've continued to use it for each One-Sheet I've prepared since.
As you can see, I chose to use the front and the back of the sheet. I got tons of information on the back that helped focus the book specifically for the publisher I was targeting.
On the front:
  • A picture that illustrates the book--theme, historical era, something that gives the flavor of the story. That's why I chose black and white for the picture.
  • Contact information (removed here for obvious reasons) for both myself and my agent.
  • Story genre and word count.
  • A hook line.
  • The title of the work and the author's name again.
  • A brief overall summary of the story.
  • Very brief character GMC's.
  • Author photo and brief bio. (I put my new photo on the sheet for the purpose of this demonstration, but used the one I had from two years ago when I actually pitched this story at the conference.)
On the back:
  • The title and author again.
  • Setting of the story. Because this was targeted at Heartsong Presents, there were several pieces the editor was looking to see. One is the setting, in this case, Historical Minnesota. A description of an actual historical event that spawned the story, as well as the time period of the book.
  • Bible verse. Heartsongs have a Bible verse or verses that the spiritual theme centers on.
  • Spiritual takeaway. A brief overview of the lesson that will be learned or the change that will take place in the main characters in the story.
  • Series development ideas. A brief synopsis of potential story ideas for the series along with potential titles.
  • Manuscript status. Tell the editor/agent that the manuscript is available if requested or give them an accurate idea of how long it would take you to get a manuscript to them.
  • Another photo, this one of the actual ship that wrecked that I got the story idea from in the first place.

Do you need a pitch sheet to sell a novel? No. Not at all. I just happen to like them. I also like that I use the same format for each so I can find the information I'm looking for quickly, even when I'm nervous or the question asked is unexpected.
Will an editor take your one sheet with them? Not always, though in the appointments I've had, the editor has made notes on the one-sheet and taken it with her.
How long does it take me to create a one-sheet? The answer is, it varies depending on how much I know about the series. My first attempt at a one sheet was distastrous. You can read about that HERE. One of the cool things about one-sheets is that they are as varied as the authors who create them. I love reading other people's one sheets and seeing how creative they are and what their vision for their book is.
So, have you created a one-sheet for a conference? What trials or successes have you had with one-sheets? Is there anything I didn't cover that maybe I could share with you?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Guest Blogger Tiffany Stockton

I'm so glad to be able to post this blog from my friend Tiffany all about her love of writing historical fiction. Tiffany is a fellow Heartsong author and fellow history lover. Please give her a warm welcome to OTWP. And don't forget to read all the way to the end for a cool surprise.


Hi! My name is Tiffany Stockton, but I publish under Amber Stockton (my middle and last names). Erica has been kind enough to invite me here today as a guest blogger to share a little about writing historical fiction and the process I utilize as a writer. She'll also be spotlighting my available books with ordering information along with this post.

So, let's see. My journey began many years ago. I wrote my first short story in 5th grade with several accolades from both my teacher and my fellow students. It was even entered into a "Young Writers of America" contest and placed but didn’t get selected for publication. In 1994, during my Senior year in high school, the writing "bug" bit me. My English teacher saw potential, and as an author herself, she encouraged me to pursue the talent further. I dabbled in fan fiction, short stories and other writing for a few years. Then, in 2002, I took the step professionally to begin a career by joining a national organization called ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers).

Four years later, I sold my first book and took a rather scary step into the world of authorship. When I received the notification that my first book was going to be bought, the first thought that went through my mind is, "I have to tell someone!" Since the hour was late, and everyone had gone to bed, I logged online. The only one signed on was the man who is now my husband. Some people would call that ironic. I call it God. One of the biggest moments of my life, and the first person I tell is the man I would marry just 8 months later. Amazing!

But how did I end up writing historical fiction? Well, I've always loved history. I even minored in it during college. The lives lived, the experiences that took place, the emotions and feelings of those who have gone before us. All of it. Sadly, history classes don't often delve deep enough into those lives. So, I decided to tell some of those stories.

Quite often, I'm asked what my writing process is like. Well, I don't plot my stories in great detail. I begin with a basic framework and fill in the details as I go. It becomes more of an adventure for me as I journey with my characters from beginning to end and grow along with them. I've now written 8 books and I could never tell you how any of them would end until I finished them.

For research, if I come to a point that requires it, I make a note and come back later to fill in the accurate information. That way, I don’t interrupt whatever flow I might have at the time. If I get stuck, I usually skip it and work on another scene, or go do some research, then return later. Oftentimes, having a future scene completed gives me the inspiration I need to connect what I've already written to what I have upcoming, and that blocked scene becomes unblocked.

Another question I'm often asked (as is just about any author) is where I get my ideas. That's easy. Real life. *grins* It might seem like a pat answer, but it's true. An idea can spark from a conversation, a TV show, a movie, an article in a paper, a book I'm reading, and so much more. There is no end to the stream of ideas and inspiration. People get ideas all the time. It's putting those ideas down on paper and crafting a story others will want to read that takes the time and dedication and hard work. it's fun to take those modern-day sparks and transplant them into a historical setting.

Researching the specifics of these ideas is a core part of the story. I sometimes get lost in the pages of the newspapers or documents or books I studied and forget I was supposed to be taking notes! In this world of modern technology and fast-paced living, there is something to be said for that uninfluenced way of life. At times, I wish I could chuck it all and live like that, but then I realize how much I'd miss my electronics. :)

The characters I write wouldn't miss it, though. I've covered quite a bit so far, from Colonial America, the Great Awakening, the French & Indian War, and the Revolutionary War, to the development of factories, the invention of electricity, the creation of the automobile and the Industrial Revolution. It's fascinating to me to allow those characters to tell their stories and share their experiences. It's like living life through their eyes and getting a glimpse of what life might have been like 100 years ago or more. There's something to be said for those "simpler" times, and I love getting lost in the past.

Certain aspects of writing can be easy and others difficult. Writer's block for me is cured by jumping to another scene and coming back to that troublesome scene once I've filled in spots further along in the story. Oftentimes, the act of writing something that will happen in the near future to my characters gives me the incentive and inspiration I need to jumpstart the scene that had me stuck before. I am by no means a stickler to writing a book in order. Movie and TV producers don’t film them in order. Why should I write a book from start to finish? :)

And every book is usually a team effort. Rarely does an author go from start to finish to publication without a group of editors, proofreaders, critiquers and readers looking at it and making changes or suggestions. I am extremely grateful for the team who helps me from start to finish. My books wouldn't be what they are without each and every one of them!

So, what's next?

I have sold 6 books with 2 anthology collection repackagings of those 6 novels coming by the end of 2010. This year, I'm working on finding an agent so I can diversify a bit more and get my foot in the door with trade-length fiction. I have 2 historical fiction novels and 2 romantic comedies that I'd love to sell. Right now, I just turned in book #6 and am praying for another contract soon. It's rather humbling and somewhat disconcerting to be in limbo right now, but it's the life of a novelist and the truth for the majority of us out there.

And that's about it for me. Sorry for being so long-winded, but Erica asked for it. LOL! Kudos to those of you who have stuck it out with me and read all the way to the bottom. You deserve a reward.

I know just the thing. Leave a comment and be entered in a drawing for a FREE autographed copy of my 5th book, Hearts and Harvest. If you like historical fiction and the Industrial Revolution era, this book is for you. It's set during the Panic of 1893, but the premise could just as easily be applied today with the financial recession and loss of hope so many feel. And if you want to read the first chapter, you can visit the books page of my web site (www.amberstockton.com/books.html).

Erica will get in touch with me in a week or so to let me know who won the drawing. Good luck!

Thanks again, Erica, for having me here. It's been fun.
Erica Here: Thank you, Tiffany, for dropping by, and for being so generous as to give away a copy of Hearts and Harvest.
As an added bonus, I asked Tiffany to do a "Five" for you all. So, here are Five Things About Tiffany:
Topic: History
1. I minored in history in college.
2. My great-grandfather's cousin married President Woodrow Wilson during his presidency, so I'm "somewhat" related to American "royalty." :)
3. I spent most of my life living within 2-3 hours of historical landmarks and monuments in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City and Williamsburg.
4. I lived 20 years just outside of Old New Castle, Delaware, which was originally set to be what Williamsburg, VA, is today, only the residents didn't want to approve the legislature that would make it happen.
5. I am in possession of a family heirloom that includes 6 letters signed by President Woodrow Wilson and written to my grandfather, thanking him for providing oysters to the White House during the 19-teens.
Remember to leave a comment on this post before Friday, August 21st for a chance to win Hearts and Harvest. And remember to stop by Tiffany's website which you can reach by clicking HERE.

Monday, August 17, 2009

First Day


It's time! Time to start school again.
New books, new subjects, sharp pencils, empty notebooks.
Pre-Algebra, American History, Health, Grammar...
Today is the first day of the school year for us. Which means that writing has another thing to balance with. But with my kids getting older, the workload shifts more to them and off of me. More autonomy, more responsibility for them to get their homework finished and lessons completed. My job is guidance and checking.
So, school in the mornings, writing in the afternoons, bookkeeping when I can squeeze it in. Mostly in the mornings between lessons.
The challenge will be to get everything done and still be sane at the end of the day.
How about you? What challenge are you facing regarding your writing?

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Friday Five - Heather!


This week's Friday Five stars my daughter Heather.
Five things Heather is afraid of.
1. Heights. Just looking at a picture of the Royal Gorge bridge gives her the heebie-jeebies.
2. Snakes. That's my girl!
3. Failure. Heather is a perfectionist and a firstborn. She does NOT want to fail, or even do anything kinda good. She wants to succeed.
4. Morning. She must be afraid of the a.m. because she hides from it as much as possible.
5. Refrigerated Biscuit Tubes. Those pop'n'fresh rolls. She HATES opening those. You can never tell if they will POP open before you're ready or if you'll really have to lean into it with the spoon before it gives a little pop.
And a bonus...the thing Heather is MOST afraid of? Needles.
Thanks, Heather, for giving me the Friday Five.
So? What are you afraid of?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Renovations and Edits



This week I am deep into the renovations on James's room. Yesterday was two coats of paint. My arms and hands are a bit sore today from the paint roller and all the wall that got painted that is higher than my head.

His dragon wallpaper border arrived yesterday as well, and I'm sooooo happy that it matches the curtains and bedspread so well. The pieces are all coming together for a great ending. I think James is going to love his room.



I'm also doing edits on Lily and the Lawman and on one sheets for some projects I want to pitch at the ACFW Conference next month. (Man, is that ticker clicking off the days!) I realized today that the renovations on the bedroom are much like the renovations to a novel.
  • The structure is there in the room, the walls, the windows, the closet, the light fixtures. And the structure is there in the novel, the characters, the setting, the plot.
  • The room needed organization and cleaning up, and some color and window treatments added. The novel needs organization and cleaning up for sure, and a deepening of the description and dialogue and some color.
  • With the novel, I'm hoping for an exciting payoff at the end, a pleasant surprise for James--one I hope he will be satisfied with. And with the novel, I'm hoping that a reader will be pleased with the payoff, the happily-ever-after they were anticipating, that they will be satisfied.
How about you? Are you doing any renovations? Are your edits about rebuilding from the ground up or about redecorating what you've got done already?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New Research Books!


New research books arrived in the mail this week. Yay! Can you tell what I'm researching?
Yup, lawless behavior in the wild west. R. Michael Wilson authored these three books, and I'm really enjoying reading them, getting lots of ideas from history to incorporate in new stories.
I love books that are as specific as these are, with names, dates, places, times, weather, etc. Taken from newspaper articles, diaries and letters, legal transcripts, and testimonies, these stories are great for ideas because of their detail. Rather than bare facts and figures, these details bring the characters and the times to life.
I really enjoy reading old newspaper articles from the time I'm trying to portray, because the language used is always so interesting. Journalism of 130 years ago
was flamboyant and descriptive. In the days before commercials, sound bytes, and CNN, the newspapers of the Old West provided information and entertainment.
And they're carrying on that duty still today, because I find them highly informative and entertaining.
How about you? Is there a particular source you enjoy using in your research? Is it Google? Wikipedia? Diaries? Movies? Family stories? Legends?



Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Under Construction


Here's my boy, dressed as a construction worker/crossing guard/something or other at the Paul Bunyan Logging Camp Museum.
At the moment, I have a couple of construction projects going. While my son is at camp this week, we're doing a "While you were out" makeover of his bedroom. New paint, curtains, bedspread, wall paper border, closet system, the works. And hopefully (though it won't happen this week) a new bed.
I'm really enjoying what I've gotten done so far (a lot of shopping and room prep) and looking forward to painting and everything else. A chance to step away from the keyboard and do something different. A chance to let my mind wander to story ideas and plots and characters while my hands are busy doing something else.
My other construction project is One Sheets for the conference. I've got two ready, and two more to do. Upon the advice of my wise and sagacious crit partner, I need to do some heavy-duty rewrites of the sample chapters for one of the stories. It is a ressurection of a previous work, and as she so aptly pointed out in a recent crit, the writing, while adequate, isn't in the voice she's come to recognize as mine. Too many of my early-writing trappings are there. She suggested just outlining the story scenes that I had, then going back and rewriting them without looking at the old manuscript. Letting the writer I am now form the story I thought of back then.
Occasionally, a particularly pithy piece of advice will clobber me over the head, and the resultant ringing resonates in my skull. She's right. She's so very right. And she showed me a killer place to begin the opening scene. Now, if I could just get all the painting done that I need to so I can get all the writing done that I want to! :)
So what about you? What projects do you have going? Anything under construction? Do renovation/decorating/creative ideas in one area spark your writing?

Sunday, August 09, 2009

New Scrapbook Pages


My daughter, Heather, is putting together a scrapbook for me of my writing journey. I've posted about it Here and Here.

A couple weeks ago, Heather added some scrapbooks pages to my author scrapbook. This first page is the article that appeared in my church newsletter, October 2008. The oval on the upper left reads "Dare to believe in the reality of your dreams." The paper is dark brown with some lady-slipper type flowers in the lower left corner.




This page with the purple background is from the December 13th, 2008 Rochester Post Bulletin newspaper. They did an article on NaNoWriMo. There are stickers that look like typewriter keys, and the orange note has a special meaning.

It says "Happy NaNoing. Love you, Your Sweetie." My husband slipped it into my closed laptop just before he went to bed one night, knowing I was going to be up and away early the next morning to the library to work. Imagine my surprise when I opened the laptop and found his note. I've got such a supportive husband. He even cheers me on when I do something off the wall like NaNo.

This final spread is from the June 2009 edition of Guideposts magazine. The article is entitled It Takes a Family, and is about my first weeks as a diabetic. Heather included basketball stickers, the photographer's business card, and the entire article, along with all the photos and the cover.





So, how are you archiving your writing journey? Are you a scrapbook-er? Are you like me and love the pages, but don't feel you have much vision for scrapbooking?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Guest Blogger Camy Tang!


Yay! I'm so happy to have Camy here today in this bonus edition of On The Write Path. Be sure to stop by her blog and visit. It's loaded with great information for writers, as well as updates on Camy and Captain Caffeine. Also, today is my mom's birthday (Happy birthday, Mom!) so I'm giving her a copy of Camy's Deadly Intent as a birthday present.


Hi there! This is Camy Tang, and I'm thrilled to be guest blogging on Erica's blog today!

Erica asked me to address the differences in writing category suspense (DEADLY INTENT is a category romantic suspense published by Steeple Hill in their Love Inspired Suspense line) and trade contemporary romance (my Sushi series books—SUSHI FOR ONE, ONLY UNI, and SINGLE SASHIMI—are trade-sized novels published by Zondervan).

I have to admit, switching to category writing was and yet wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.

It wasn't hard because I got to read LOTS AND LOTS of Love Inspired Suspense novels to research the line. Oooh, the hardship! I was soooo willing to take one for the team, let me tell you!

At the same time, I had to really pay attention to things I hadn't had to think about when writing trade novels.

1) What characters, careers, plot devices, settings, red herrings, etc. that had already been used in books recently published.

With Zondervan, they didn't have many contemporary romances like my Sushi series, so I didn't really have to worry much about copying a story that had already been published by them.

However, Steeple Hill puts out 12 books a month—soon to be 14 books a month when their Historical line goes to 4 books a month—which translates into a LOT of different characters and plotlines published each year. They don't want any book to be too similar to something recently published, so I had to read a lot of the books and know what had already been used so that I wouldn't make the mistake of using it in my book.

2) The atmosphere of a romantic suspense versus a humorous romance.

I admit, it was hard to remember that the book wasn't a humorous contemporary romance! I kept forgetting that, Helloooo, there were dead bodies, which meant the heroine wasn't going to be thinking about romance very much. I think I have an irreverent mindset, which lends itself well to humorous romances—but to romantic suspense, not so much. So I had to really work to get into a more serious mindset, so I could write more serious characters in more serious situations.

3) Length.

This wasn't as big a challenge for me, personally, because I plot my books extensively. For my suspense, I just didn't have as long a synopsis or as complicated a plot as I would for my humorous romances. I kept to the shorter word count (60,000 words for the suspense, versus 90,000 for a humorous romance) without too many problems.

I also have a tendency to write sparsely—no long-winded pages of verbosity for me—so my book was actually under word count rather than over it. I know, I know, all the writers are hating me. Sorry—it's the curse of the plotter writer.

Anyway, those were the main differences between writing DEADLY INTENT and writing my Sushi series. Thanks for having me here, Erica!
Camy


DEADLY INTENT

SCENE OF THE CRIME

The Grant family’s exclusive Sonoma spa is a place for rest and relaxation—not murder! Then Naomi Grant finds her client Jessica Ortiz bleeding to death in her massage room, and everything falls apart. The salon’s reputation is at stake...and so is Naomi’s freedom when she discovers that she is one of the main suspects! Her only solace is found with the other suspect—Dr. Devon Knightley, the victim’s ex-husband. But Devon is hiding secrets of his own. When they come to light, where can Naomi turn...and whom can she trust?

About Camy:

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. She used to be a biologist, but now she is a staff worker for her church youth group and leads a worship team for Sunday service. She also runs the Story Sensei fiction critique service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels every week, and she ponders frivolous things like dumb dogs (namely, hers), coffee-geek husbands (no resemblance to her own...), the writing journey, Asiana, and anything else that comes to mind. Visit her website at http://www.camytang.com/ for a huge website contest going on right now, giving away fourteen boxes of books and 24 copies of her latest release, DEADLY INTENT.

Friday, August 07, 2009

The Friday Five


This week's Friday Five is:
More Numbers.
1. The number of bookmarks I ordered this week: 500
2. The number of pounds I've lost in the last three weeks: 6
3. The times I've wanted to gorge myself on ice cream this last week: about a zillion.
4. The number of proposals I've worked on this week: 4!
5. The number of albums on my Mp3 player: 14 at the moment, plus ACFW workshops.
How about you? What's on your iPod?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Peaches


Okay, so my latest kick is peaches. I'm eating them for breakfast and for snacks. Soooo yummy and juicy and full of flavor. Freestone peaches, ripe, golden and....I'm getting hungry for one even now.
Biting into a peach is like tasting summer.
Also, yesterday I ordered my bookmarks for The Bartered Bride. Great news, they should be ready from the publisher in time for the ACFW conference. I'm so excited. Each of these steps just bring the publication date that much closer.
Have I mentioned how much I love writing for Heartsong Presents? Everyone I've encountered there has been so supportive and nice.
So, what makes you think of summer? Do you have a food that makes you say, "Ah, summer!"

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

How Do I Love Thee?


From the back cover...
She dreams of love for others but never for herself...
Elizabeth Barret is a published poet--and a virtual prisoner in her own home. Blind family loyalty ties her to a tyrannical father who forbids any of his children to marry. Bedridden by chronic illness, she has resigned herself to simply existing. That is, until the letter arrives...
"I love your verses with all my heart," writes Rober Browning, and admiring fellow poet. As friendly correspondence gives way to something more, Elizabeth discovers that Robert's love is not for her poetry alone. Might God grant her more than mere existence? And will she risk defying her father in pursuit of true happiness?
Told in rich language, the story of Elizabeth Barrett Browning is one of suffering, daring, longing, and tenderness. Nancy Moser's research and the depth of her characterization shine in How Do I Love Thee? Nobody does fictionalized biography better than Nancy Moser.
To order a copy of the book click HERE.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

August Goals

It's the beginning of another month, so it's time to reevaluate those goals.

So, I'll just plunge right in.

1. Finish Lily and the Lawman, the writing and editing.
The writing is finished. Now I need to edit it. Look out, crit girls, it's coming soon.


2. Complete whatever edits on pending books with Heartsong as may arrive this month.
For the next year or so, this will be a constant on my goal list. Galley proofs for The Bartered Bride were returned July 31st. Waiting on a content edit for two other novels and the copy edit for one.
3. Piece together two proposals, one for another Heartsong series, and one for a trade-length series.
So far, so good. I've got two proposals almost finished, and another one simmering along.

4. Begin work on Maggie and the Maverick.
This is going to be my NaNo Novel this year, so I will need to devote quite a bit of October to getting it all plotted and ready to go.

5. Attend ACFW Denver.
I'm getting so very excited. I'm super excited to be able to combine some research along with the conference on this trip.

6. Prepare and teach a workshop at the Wisconsin Christian Writer's Conference. I'm excited about this conference. One day in Baraboo, Wisconsin, meeting new friends and talking writing.

7. Enjoy some summertime activities with the family.
We're having a great time, day trips to museums, staying up late, sleeping in a bit. A much needed rest.


How are you doing on your summer goals?

Monday, August 03, 2009

Galley Proofs



This last week I received my first set of Galley Proofs. This is a PDF file of the layout of The Bartered Bride. How thrilling to see the title page with my name under the title. To see the little hearts tipped sideways that denote a scene break. And the dedication and author note and the author bio.


Guess what noise I made? It sounded something like:


SQUEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!


Undignified, I know, but straight from the heart.


My job was to read for tiny errors that had slipped through the cracks in previous edits. This is the last chance to catch things before it goes to print.


And I found some.


I made note of them on the Galley Changes sheet and then submitted that sheet to the publisher.


The next step for me is to see some cover art, which I've been told will show up in a few weeks. I can't wait to see it.


But in the meantime, there are other things to keep me busy, like proposals.


How about you? What's keeping you busy these days?

Saturday, August 01, 2009

We Have a Winner!



Woohoo!


The kids put all THIRTEEN names in the day-glo orange hunting hat, and Heather pulled out a winner of Stephanie Morrill's



Me, Just Different



And the winner is:








KEVIN!


His wife and daughter are going to love this book.


Thank you to everyone who entered. I'll be giving away more books in the near future, so come on back as often as you can.