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April 2013

Who’s Got Time for That?

In today’s busy, crazy life, who’s got time to give one more second for anything else? Not me. But what would happen if we all felt that way all the time?

Today I want to talk to you about giving back. I have been a member of a great organization, the Carolina Romance Writers, for a few years now.  I guess you could say I’m a faithful member. In the years I’ve been a member I’ve only missed a couple of meetings. I’ve learned so much. My writing has grown by leaps and bounds. I’ve been taught by many great speakers, consisting of authors, agents and a few publishers. I’ve also learned from fellow members and my writer friends, too. In fact, I really don’t know where I would be in my writing without Carolina Romance Writers. Don’t even get me started on the great friends I’ve met along the way. To sum it up, my chapter has provided me with so much more than I could ever repay.

This year, I did something I never thought I’d do. I stepped up and volunteered to be Treasurer. I felt it was time for me to give back to the organization that had given me so much. WOW! I quickly learned that it takes A LOT to keep a group like ours up and running. And it’s all done by volunteers. Do I have time to be Treasurer? No. Do I know anything about being a Treasurer? Not really, but I’m learning. Do I have things I would rather be doing with my time, like writing and trying to get published? Yep. But if people didn’t volunteer their time, there wouldn’t be a Carolina Romance Writers or a Romance Writers of America, for that matter.

Being a board member, I get to see what everyone else does too. Trust me when I say, it takes many hands to keep CRW going. If you have been warming a seat in your meetings for a while now, I encourage you to step up and give a couple hours each month to your local writing chapter. You may be saying, “I don’t know Lori, there isn’t really anything I could contribute.”

Yes there is. You may have a bubbly personality-volunteer for the welcoming committee. You may be good with numbers-run for Treasurer. You may be a born leader-run for President. You may be a great right-hand kind of person-run for Vice President.  Work on the Newsletter, Membership, Web Chair, but just do something. Give back.

Do you have time? Probably not. Is it a big pain in the butt? Sometimes. Is it going to require you to step out of your comfort zone? Sure. But what if no one did? What would happen to the groups we cherish that contribute so much to our writing careers if no one volunteered? And you’ll probably learn and grow from the experience.

A board position lasts only 12 months. Let me change that. It’s only a few hours a month, for twelve months.

At least take a little time to think about it.

Remember to Dream Big!

Lori

3 Comments

The Writing on Your Character’s Walls

When I went to my first job interview when I was 22, I realized 2 things: 1. I shouldn’t have worn a short, silk skirt on a windy day and 2. I could use the information found on the walls of someone’s office to learn who they are, find common ground with them and get a job offer. In that first meeting, the man who interviewed me played golf, had more pride in his college degree than his honors within his company, was married with 2 kids, drank coffee, was a little messy yet didn’t use post-its. I noticed a lot of details. What I didn’t realize that day was that years later I would use that same technique in crafting characters.

A great way to show and not tell who a character really is beneath it all is to show their environment.

I love setting descriptions. I’ve even been known to indulge in a little interior design porn at times in my stories. (This is the point in the blog post where at least 2 of the bad girls are laughing and nodding in agreement. *grins*) But there can be value in the endless rambling about the hero or heroine’s favorite room in their home. Just like in my job interview that day, it shows who they are at their core. So I thought we would play a little game here today and only partially because I like pretty pictures of houses. What kind of person would live in the following homes? What does each space say about them?

design pic 1 design pic 2 design pic 3

Now, take a minute to think about the protagonist of your story. What idiosyncrasies could be found in their favorite room? How could you use their favorite setting to add character depth to your story? Try adding in a little detail to show who your characters are without telling who they are. Happy writing!

xx- E. Michels

4 Comments

#80khotfoot – Week 7

running-in-heels-wk7

 

Bad Girlz’ Book Race
March 15-June 7th
We’re racing to 80K!
#80khotfoot

Friends don’t let other friends rough draft alone! Save the #80khotfoot hashtag and check back every Friday for the weekly post about the challenge.

While you’re kicking your goal’s ass, make sure you’re also taking care of yourself. Drink lots of water, exercise, and stay healthy. Your book needs you alive!!

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Top Five Things NOT To Say To Your Romance-Writing Friends

Once upon a time, a fair number of years ago at this point, I used to be a teacher. When I started writing romance, I was still teaching, and as a result, I was pretty neurotic about keeping my writer life and my professional life separate. Even after I quit, it was still just instinct to protect that part of what I did. A lot of my friends were literary snobs, and a lot of them were religiously conservative, and I feared both would judge what I wrote.

Since moving last summer, I’ve loosened up a little. I’m not exactly sending my husband’s co-workers the buy links to my explicit male/male stories, but I at least admit to the genre I’m writing in. Most people are interested, even impressed. Some are curious. Some brighten up and say they love reading romance!

And others…well, others say some really annoying stuff.

And so today, I share with you my top list of the most annoying things people say when you tell them you write romance:

Oh, Fabio!5)    So…like, bodice rippers? Oh, geez. Are those even really a thing anymore? Not all romances are tawdry, and not all of them include bodices, and very very few of them still refer to turgid members and heaving bosoms. Get with the times.

4)    …Does your mom know you do this? No. Are you insane? I’m 32 and have been married for almost a decade and I’ve yet to admit to having had sex. Of course she doesn’t know about this.

 

3)    You should write a book about that! Okay, honestly this is a headache for authors in all genres, but I’m including it here regardless.

Oh, really?You know the drill. You’re sitting in a coffee shop and your friend is telling you about her brother’s cousin’s best girlfriend’s run-in with a violent platypus. Then she freezes. She smacks the table. And then she says, “You should write a book about that!”

It’s hard to even start with why these suggestions are never worth pursuing. Usually, the anecdote isn’t actually interesting. It pretty much never has a satisfying narrative arc. It’s definitely never fleshed out enough to carry a novel.

And it is never, ever, ever the makings of a good romance.

 

2)    So…do you think you’d ever write something I would actually read?

First off, you’re insulting my entire genre, and me by association by implicitly informing me that you would never read it. Second off, you’re showing a profound lack of understanding for how the publishing industry works. Yes, people can write outside their genre, but it’s a really, really difficult sell. It makes building an audience and brand more difficult. And it may require maintaining alternate pen names, which in the age of social media is a huge amount of work.

And the number one, worst thing to say to your romance-writing friend is…

Scrooge McDuck1)    Wait a minute. Did you write those ‘Fifty Shades’ books? Again, so many issues here. One, the writing on those books is…let’s say it shows room for improvement. Do you really think I did that? Two, the identity of Ms. James is well known at this point and I am not her. Three, Ms. James is a multi-millionaire, and I just asked to go dutch on lunch with you because I am broke. No, I am not her.

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A Hero Only a Mother Could Love

Recently I had coffee with a friend of mine who’s also a writer, and she mentioned how hard it’s been writing her latest manuscript.  Her problem?  She hates her hero – which isn’t a good thing when you’re writing a romance.  Her bigger problem?  She’s already sold this guy to her editor, so she’s kinda stuck with him now.

My first question was, of course, why don’t you like him?  Does he have crooked teeth?  A Dracula-like widow’s peak?  Tiny chicken legs, perhaps?

crooked teeth                dracula                   everlast-chicken-legs2

Unfortunately, her reason for disliking her hero had nothing to do with his physical appearance and everything to do with his personality.  The guy was a flat out male chauvinist – and what woman wants to fall in love with a male chauvinist?  Not many.  And when you write romance that’s a HUGE problem.

So, I got to thinking about what I would do in her shoes.  After all, I’ve been known to create protagonists that, at first glance, wouldn’t be very likable.  For instance, the protagonist in my second manuscript was a beautiful, wealthy, adulteress.  She had what seemed like the perfect life, and yet she wanted to steal someone else’s.  Hell…I hated her at first.  And I remember asking myself how I could make this home-wrecker into a character my readers want to root for.  And the answer was in her backstory.

There had to be something in this woman’s past to lead her to starting an affair with a married man.  There had to be a reason why she continued it, even though she hated herself for being involved with him.  There had to be a motivation for her to want to change it, other than getting caught or finding someone new.  I knew I couldn’t make my readers agree with her choice of adultery, but could I make them understand it?  If I could, I just might be able earn her a little sympathy.

This isn’t always an easy thing to do, and there are definitely some flaws or wrong doings that can’t ever be understood or overcome.  But think about it for a moment – these characters are built every day.  A serial killer who hunts down those who slip through the cracks of justice.  A chemistry teacher dying of cancer who begins producing crystal meth to safeguard his family’s future.  A suicidal bodyguard who goes on a killing spree to avenge the kidnapping of the little girl he was hired to protect.  We root for these characters; we don’t want them to get caught.  These characters are intriguing to us, and these characters sell.

dexter     BreakingBad     manonfire

So, back to my friend’s problem at hand.  My suggestion to her was to go to the root of the problem.  Why was her hero a male chauvinist, and was there anything at all that would make her forgive him for being such?  Maybe he was raised by his father who taught him this was the way to treat women and he didn’t know any better.  Maybe he’d been burnt by a woman before and vowed to never let that happen again.  Maybe it was his defense mechanism to keep everyone away.

Whatever the reason, it only had to be enough to make her understand.  Once she had that, she would learn to love him as the story went on and his character arc brought him to the man she wanted him to be.

So the next time you sit down to character build, give yourself a little bit of a challenge.  Sometimes the heroes we love most are those who are strong enough to make it the furthest!

the godfather

Hugs!

Jenna P.

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Can you write your ass off–or, at least prevent it from getting too big for your chair?

richard simmons                                                                                                                                                                           So summer’s almost here, and you’re writing like a champ. You are logging in some major butt-in-chair time, and the words are flowing. Then you remember summer is right around the corner: the beach, the pool, weddings, reunions, and of course, a writer’s conference or two. Does this realization come with dread, or anticipation? What happens if writing has hijacked your fitness routine, or made your lack thereof even more sedentary than usual?

I’m writing this because in the past couple of weeks, my metabolism has gone through a major change, and not one that’s been particularly friendly to skinny jeans or bikini bottoms. Yeah, turns out all the fat you burn breastfeeding doesn’t keep on burning itself after you wean. Big surprise, right? Apparently it was for me! Seriously, the only thing smaller about me right now is my bra. Good times, folks, good times.

So naturally, it’s time to get this thing back on track before i’m totally in the ditch, and that means all the typical stuff: eat less, move more, yadda, yadda. Except for one little detail: writing productivity is commonly thought of as the opposite of all that. Do I have to sacrifice my writing time to exercise and plan healthy meals? Or do I add that to a list of stuff I already struggle to accomplish in a day? If so, it ain’t gonna happen.

It may seem like I’m defeated before I’ve begun, but I’m not so sure. One thing I noticed about that magical summer when I really got the writing bug was that with my fingers occupied on the keyboard, and my mind on my plot, I snaked less. I actually lost weight in spite of the time my ass was glued to the seat. If you’re a boredom grazer like I am, a good run of inspiration can be beneficial to the waistline.

On the other hand, I sit and ponder a lot when searching for ideas, and my effort to get up early and squeeze more writing time into my day has resulted in a serious coffee with fancy-schmancy creamer habit. It’s only 35 calories a serving, right? Well, today I did some measuring, and in my large-ish mug, I’m using four tablespoons, not one. Multiply that by two to three refills and I might as well be downing a liter of Mountain Dew.

So, no more extra-large cups of coffee and enough International Delight destinations to fill up my passport. Tea was good enough before, and it still is now. I’ll be taking my pondering on the road instead of confining it to the couch. It may not be much, but it’s a start. And, with fingers crossed, I’ll get a good enough dose of inspiration for the words to keep my fingers out of the cracklin bag 🙂

How about you? Have you found writing to be good or bad for your health and waistline? How have you found a balance? GImme some ideas, ladies!

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Hey baby, what’s your sign?

At the end of this month, I celebrate another birthday. Yay! I’m not one to fret over getting older. Once the biological clock was answered, the whole age thing stopped mattering to me. Maybe I’ll feel differently when I hit the big 4-0, but somehow I doubt it.

age

I’ve always loved birthday celebrations. They should be a big deal. There should be date nights or weekends away. When my old school friends and I all turned 30, we went on a girls’ cruise. When we all turn 40, we’re going to an all inclusive spa and resort in…somewhere tropical. I’d also like to do a Disney cruise with the fam if money suddenly starts growing on trees. Life is short! Celebrate! 

Barcelona_Fans_Celebrate_freecomputerdesktopwallpaper_1280

Looking toward my birthday got me thinking about my sign. Y’know, my zodiac sign. I’m a Taurus.

taurus-zodiacs

Even though I don’t put tons of stock in astrology, allow me to break it down for you about the major Taurean characteristics:

Patient and reliable
Warmhearted and loving
Persistent and determined
Placid and security loving

Jealous and possessive
Resentful and inflexible
Self-indulgent and greedy

Solidity, practicality, extreme determination and strength of will – no one will ever drive them, but they will willingly and loyally follow a leader they trust. They are stable, balanced, conservative, good, law-abiding citizens and lovers of peace. In the main, they are gentle, even tempered, good natured, modest and slow to anger, disliking quarreling and avoiding ill-feeling. If they are provoked, however, they can explode into ferocious anger. Equally unexpected are their occasional sallies into humor and exhibitions of fun.

LIKES
  • Stability
  • Being Attracted  
  • Time to Ponder
  • Comfort and Pleasure

DISLIKES

  • Disruption
  • Being pushed too hard
  • Being rushed
  • Being indoors

taurus book

Sound like anyone you know? Because if you know me, some of this sounds very familiar. I don’t fall into every Taurus characteristic, but a lot of them. And the ones I do fall into, I fall way in there.

What does this have to do with writing? I’ll tell ya: Personality traits. Your characters. Have you ever been stuck with figuring out exactly WHO a character really is inside? Maybe you know a little, but they’re blocking you on the rest. I suggest browsing the zodiac. As you read, it may hit you. “OMG this is SO my heroine!” You spy a few traits you recognize and the zodiac can fill in the blanks. You may never use all these traits in your story, but it will help to know your characters inside and out when the unexpected derails your plot.

So…what’s your sign, baby?

pickup

10 Comments

#80khotfoot – Week 6

running-in-heels-wk6

Bad Girlz’ Book Race
March 15-June 7th
We’re racing to 80K!
#80khotfoot

Friends don’t let other friends rough draft alone! Save the #80khotfoot hashtag and check back every Friday for the weekly post about the challenge.

Six weeks down and six more to go! This is usually the point where I start to throw things and, if I’m writing a Romance, this song by Lady Gaga takes on new meaning…

…It’s a Lady Gaga video, so ya know, it’s loud and contains awesome dancing…

…Yes, I know the dance…

…Enjoy! ^_^

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How A Bunny Becomes A Book: The Dar Implementation

(And yes, I do just like making my blog titles sound like episodes of the Big Bang Theory. And, I also just got way distracted by the awesome things in our media library. Like seriously. I think all the Bad Girlz use it to stockpile distracting images that are not porn but fall into a cousin category of AWESOMELY DISTRACTINGLY HOT AND COOL THINGS. Moving on.)

Bunnybookseries

Bunnies… Unlike my comrades, I know the truth. Bunnies are not cute or cuddly. Bunnies are in fact… EVIL.

E-V-I-L.

Yes, that’s right. Bunnies are secretly the world’s worst pet and how would I know this? I spent a year caring for them, along with a wide assortment of other future pets in a store, during which I conned many a foolish parent into buying one of these floppy-earred rats for their kids.

Rats actually make better pets.

So when I thought about the comparison to my writing process to a bunny, well, it’s pretty much perfect.

Bunnies bite.

Bunnies kick.

Bunnies scratch.

Bunnies will shit all over your home and life.

When I’m trying to write a book, on deadline and in some sort of rational manner, the book rebels and becomes just like one of those evil bunnies. I’m the dumb parent who has been conned into thinking this will be a great pet for their kid, but instead I’m the writer who thinks this book will bring her peace of mind or sanity or-

NO. Nope. It’s a battlefield to finish a book, just like it is to have a bunny for a pet. And there is no happy ending to this story of war and pellet-littered pantries, because after you write one book… you think it’s a good idea to write another. Just like the mysterious appearance of another bunny in your home, because HA, that bunny wasn’t a boy after all. And bunnies, just like books, have a way of multiplying.

Be brave. xoxo Dar

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How a Bunny Becomes a Book: Hopping Lori’s Way

 

 

 

I’m sure by reading the previous posts in our series you’ve figured out that we all do things a little differently. This is how the writing process goes for me.

Pantser: As much as I envy my plotter girlz for their organizational skills, I’m afraid I’m mostly a pantser. I say mostly, because even though I pants my way through the writing process, I do some plotting before I get started. I have a general idea of when, why, and what’s going to happen in my story. Not enough, however, to plot them out on a board or cards, but enough to come up with something that resembles an outline.

The Idea: I usually find the idea for a story in a life experience, a nightmare, a news article and some other crazy places. My first manuscript was about time travel. It came to me as I sat on a sofa in my front yard exhausted from a garage sale I was hosting. As I sat watching people rummage through my possessions, I wished for a moment that I could escape my life and go back to a simpler time. And just like that, the idea was sparked and my mind ran with it. So really, the inspiration can come from anywhere.

Creating Characters: I’m not so sure I create my characters at all. It’s more like they create themselves. They are stalker-lunatics that haunt my every waking thought until I agree to tell their stories. I’ve always said there‘s a fine line between creative and crazy!

I focus on my main characters first. I record their features: Eye color, hair color, dimples if they have them, body shape, and other unique details. Then I write down their personality traits: What they like, what they hate, the cute things they do, the annoying things they do, and their strengths and of course their vulnerabilities.

The Notebook: Once I have the premise for my book and my main characters start to come alive, I reach for my spiral notebook. I carry it everywhere and write everything down! It’s mostly a collection of partial scenes, settings, and a lot of dialogue between my hero and heroine. If I forget my notebook and things come to me on a drive, I’ll jot it down on receipts I dig from my purse or a napkin out of the glove box to be transferred as soon as possible.

Creating the Story: The newborn creating process is the part my family hates the most, because it’s when they lose me. We will be in the middle of conversation and they’ll see my eyes glaze over.

“Mom did you hear what I said? I need money for a field-trip.”

“Who cares about a field-trip? Sarah is being chased down an alley by her stalker! Don’t you think that’s more important?” And off I go running for my notebook.

They don’t understand this process at all. 🙂

Fingers Hit the Keyboard: Once the constant noise or scenes in my head slow down and I feel my notebook has enough information, I look over what I’ve written and try to make sense of it all. I read it over and over and then I organize my modest little outline. The important thing here is to decide if there will be enough GMC to carry the story. My goal, motivation and conflict need to be strong enough or the story will never survive. If I feel it meets the requirements, I break out my laptop and start to write. And write. And write.

I try not to bog myself down with edits as I’m writing the first draft. The most important thing for me is to get the story out of my head and onto the page. Mostly so my characters will leave me alone and I can lead a normal life again.

Editing: Once the story is done, I dance around the house, rejoice in the fact I finished and then I walk away from it for at least two weeks. This way, when I start edits, I’m looking at it through fresh eyes. Then I EDIT. And EDIT. And EDIT SOME MORE.

That, my dear friends, is how my bunny becomes a book!

Remember to Dream Big!

Lori

 

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