Thursday, October 29, 2009

What do Elliptical Trainers & Writing Have To Do With Each Other

No, I'm not kidding. We finally got our coveted LifeFitness Elliptical Trainer today and I jumped on. (Okay it was awhile ago I started this in the summer, and now it's snowing in OCT!!)

Well, I can walk a mean pace on the treadmill and ride a decent hill on the bike or hike up the trails of Chautauqua Park, but when I got on the elliptical, I was stunned at how hard it was, using muscles I hadn't used for a long...long time.

So after I got off 10 measly minutes later and covered in a film of, I glistened, I thought about how we all need to cross train our writing muscles.

I write suspense, drama, action adventure, scripts, even romance but no comedy. And people think I'm funny (I don't think I'm funny) maybe I need to try a romantic comedy.

Try and not be afraid if it stinks.

I heard a friend of mine speak at his High School Honors Dinner and he said, I'm paraphrasing here, we tend to be afraid to make mistakes for fear people will think less of us. That is so true. So after I'm done with my current script, I'm going to tackle this...


I'm tackling it...Oh My Goodness, it's not easy.

For fun and likely needed therapy, I'm going to periodically nuggets of wisdom I've found while writing this RomCom (Romantic Comedy.) So stay tuned...and you can learn with me and pick me up when I'm down.


What are you going to do to exercise your writing muscles?

Let me know.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Frustrations, Comfort and Cravings

Anybody who knows me, knows I’m a submission slut. I ALWAYS have material being looked at by agents and editors. If it’s not out there; ya can’t sell it people. So I get a fair amount of rejections—and my rejections lately have been particularly frustrating. “Though there is much to like and admire about this work, I’m afraid I didn’t connect well enough with the material to offer representation at this time.” Well, shoot. How’re supposed to learn from that? I’ve never heard of a workshop on “Helping Agents Connect with Your Book.” Perhaps once I bust through, I’ll have to give that workshop.

You must realize that I’m NOT whining here—I don’t whine. To everything there is a season and my time will come. But I have to share that I really found comfort in Kristin Nelson’s Blog .

From what Kristin reports, it seems that NY Publishers are playing it safe—safer than usual. If they can’t see how to break a book out in a big way, they don’t want it—despite it’s many admitted strengths. If they don’t see it as a blockbuster book, they’re passing—or if they don’t see it fitting a very narrow, proven genre—like Kristen’s example of say, something like dark YA angsty romance, then they are also passing. She admits it takes courage and chutzpah to take a chance on a book they don’t envision as a “big, breakout book”, but she’d appreciate a little vision.

And I couldn’t agree more, but I’d like to take it even a step further—or maybe it’s the same step, really. I’m not quite sure. I’d like some variety and balance in the reading selections offered. Though I know some close friends who probably will take issue with this sentiment. I'm REALLY tired of vampires, zombies, and serial killers. They've had a LONG run and I'm ready for a choice of interesting long contemporary romances among other things.

Silly as it seems, I’d love a great Bewitched-style book. I always appreciate a little magic in my life. Heck, I’d write it myself if my talents at all leaned in that direction, but sigh, they don’t. Perhaps they’re there and I’m just missing them.

What about you? What are your eyeballs tired of scanning on bookshelves and what would you LOVE to read more of?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Do you write to the seasons?

It's clear that the publishing industry will save a book for a seasonal release. I suspect P.J. Alderman's Haunting Jordan was packaged to come out around Halloween. And while this makes sense from a marketing standpoint, it got me thinking while I was out raking my mountain of leaves last week: Do you write to a season? If you're sitting by a warm fire drinking hot chocolate, do you have an urge to write a beach scene? If a new book pops into your head, do you write it based on the time of year you're in, or is the time of year irrelevant?

Since we're approaching Halloween, does it bring out your scary muse? Or can you just as well write about Valentine's Day? Does Thanksgiving give you the urge to write about family and friends and old lang syne? Or can you write about the Easter bunny?

It might be a fun escape if you're able. Particularly if you live in Colorado and snow covers your driveway and you're up to your neck in flannel and thermal socks. Stay warm, everyone, and whatever season you're in, I hope you savor it. Happy writing whatever the time of year.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Proof of Life: Exactly who is Misty Evans?

If you remember several months ago, I hauled Misty Evans into my interrogation room for a little chat. The former Marketing grad, wife and mother of twins tried every which way to convince me she was just that. I fell for it then. But what's that old saying? Fool me once? It's time to shame Misty Evans into a full-blown confession. You'll never believe what she's written this time. A book called Proof of Life. It's the third book in Evan's Super Spy series, and this time the story's about that hunk...I mean CIA Deputy Director Michael Stone.

I'm telling you, nobody can make up details like this without firsthand knowledge. It's back to the interrogation room, and this time, I'm showing no mercy.

D.B.: Welcome back, Misty. You look a little surprised to see me.

M.E.: Hello, D. Do you have bugs in your coffee pot again? I assume that's the only reason you'd insist I return to Five Scribes.

Ah, the old CIA trick of trying to put me on the defensive. Did you think I wouldn't read Proof of Life to find out what you've been up to? Tell me about this Dr. Brigit Kent person. She's not a U.S. citizen, and yet she works for Homeland Security. Her brother's a well known IRA terrorist. You expect your readers to believe she's one of the good guys?

M.E.: Yes, she's definitely one of the good guys -- but she has a lot to hide, and her sister to rescue, so sometimes the lines between right and wrong get blurred! Brigit did obtain U.S. citizenship as a child. She's working for Homeland Security as a consultant to the president, but she's also undercover for the British Secret Intelligence Service.

A double spy, eh? And you know this... how?

M.E.: Because I wrote it that way. You see, the SIS has covered up the facts about her half-brother, Peter, and her family has kept him a secret as well. One of her greatest fears is that Michael will find out just how screwed up her family is.

As well she should be. Your books are just full of secrets, Ms Evans. Secrets I feel it's my duty to expose. So Dr. Kent just happens to be a consultant to the president who finds herself dead center in a little girl's kidnapping. A psychotherapist who just happens to be a code breaker. C'mon, Misty, come clean. How do you know all this stuff?

M.E.: Simple. People are one giant code to Brigit, so breaking down what makes them tick is no different to her than deciphering a code. She's an excellent observer and knows how to take the pieces of any puzzle and put them together into something identifiable. She ends up involved in the kidnapping because she sees the pattern no one else sees.

As for me, I know this stuff because I have a cool source who consults for Homeland Security and she's full of interesting facts that make my imagination run wild! (I also did a lot of research. I even read books by Steven Pinker, who's an experimental psychologist and cognitive scientist. He's fascinating and his ideas blew me away!

Don't you worry, I will check him out. And, if necessary, bring him in, too! I find it more than a little coincidental that Brigit and her sister Tory were kidnap victims as children, and that Tory's sympathies lie with their criminal half-brother while Brigit's out for justice. Explain that one!

M.E.: One of the reasons Brigit is so good at her job is because she was kidnapped as a child. She understands the minds of victims as well as the way kidnappers work. And while her kidnapping and subsequent death of her mother drives Brigit to work for the U.S., British and Irish governments to bring justice to criminals, her sister Tory has joined Peter's group because she, too, wants justice. She's however, chosen a different path to obtain it -- one that goes against everything that Brigit believes in. Trust me, you'll like her.

Let me decide if I like her or not. I must admit she has had her share of conflict. Poor Brigit ... (Interrogator hardens heart, refuses to be swayed. Picks up Misty's latest cover of Proof of Life and stares dreamily. Clears throat.) You expect me to believe that someone as rock solid as Deputy Director Michael Stone wouldn't look into Brigit's past, and even more astonishing, he would fall for Dr. Kent -- and not me?

M.E.: Michael does look into Brigit's past and puts his best undercover operative, Conrad Flynn, on her tail. As the story progresses, Michael discovers she's quite a conundrum, and he has a rough time figuring out whether he can trust her or not. At one point, she's being accused of being the one who's kidnapped his niece, but because he can read people so well, he doesn't believe it, even when all the evidence points to Brigit. All through the story, he wonders the same thing as you (well, almost ;) -- why he's so attracted to her. In the end, though, he realizes her heart is pure and she's the woman for him. (Sorry D.).

Interrogator wipes eyes and sniffs. What about Conrad and Julia, Zara and Lawson? People came to care about them, you know. Sheba won a 2008 Reviewer's Choice Award from eCata Romance and a 4-star review from RT. Tell the truth. Do we see these fantastic characters again? Or like all of you CIA-types, are they merely collateral damage?

M.E.: Wow, you're really being tough on me today! Conrad and Julia play big parts in Proof of Life, and Zara and Lawson find out they're going to have a baby, so, yes, all the main characters (and a few of the minor characters) from Operation Sheba and I'd Rather In Paris appear in Proof of Life. I had THE best time bringing all of my super agents together and even Smitty, Del and Ace got to tag along.

D.B. : You're smooth, I'll give you that much. You seem to have an answer for everything. What happens next, Misty? Do you return to Washington?

M.E.: Okay, okay, Donnell, you win. Yes, I'm returning to Washington to consult with the president, the director of the CIA and a Homeland Security team about a new army of spies that will take us into the next decade of counterintelligence. And while I'm working on that, I'm guest blogging all over the web and giving away free copies of Proof of Life. Readers can find me at:

In the meantime, anyone who comments here today on Five Scribes is also eligible to win an ecopy of Proof of Life! I'd especially like to hear which of my characters (like Smitty, Del or Michael's Secret Service agent, Brad) should get their own story in the fourth Super Agent book. Thank you, Donnell and Five Scribes, for insisting I visit with you again. Now, I insist on checking the coffee pot.

Interrogator shakes head. All right, readers, while Misty wastes her time checking for nonexistent bugs, know this. You're invited to interrogate her, too. And whoever does, might just wind up with is or her own copy of Proof of Life. Then it won't be only me who's suspicious, we'll all be out to read Misty Evans! Questions? Comments?


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Heart of Denver's Outstanding Mini-conference

Audra wrote an interesting post a couple of weeks ago called Lurking through Conferences. To be sure, it's a great way to keep our writing blood pumping and our pocketbooks in check. Another way is to attend conferences close by. Saturday, Heart of Denver put on a stellar conference, inviting Agent Laura Bradford and Author Shirley Jump to speak.

Wonderful topics, reasonably priced, I was indeed happy and excited to attend.

Each of these speakers give workshops, and without infringing on their topics, I'd like to share what I got out of their talks. Laura Bradford, presented How to Catch Flies: Choosing Your Own Business Reputation. First and foremost, she emphasized that writing is a business and that what we do when we write our blogs, post our messages to our writing loops and more is no longer confidential -- it's out there -- forever. Just as in the workplace, what we say and write gets out there -- Ms. Bradford's suggestion was to keep things professional, do not engage, no matter how tempting the subject is or how badly somebody pushes our hot buttons.

Ms. Bradford also took questions and pitch appointments to the delight of attendees. If you have a chance to hear her present this workshop, it's well worth attending.

Margie Lawson introduced New York Times bestselling author Shirley Jump who then presented Scene Transitions and Hooks that Keep Readers Reading (complete with an adorable slide show and graphics), followed by Show Me You Can Write, Don't Tell me.

I love these types of workshops because not only did she give handouts citing examples, Ms. Jump engaged the audience and had them participate in writing exercises. In this conference attendee's opinion, these types of workshops are the most effective. We all know that the speaker can write; that's why she's there. But when she shows the audience they can do it too -- talk about Show Don't Tell -- that's why I highly recommend Shirley Jump's workshops.

HODRW Contest coordinator Grace Laralde announced winners of the 2009 Molly and the 2009 Aspen Gold and the 2009 Aspen Gold

Congratulations to the winners and finalists.

And thank you to Heart of Denver including but not limited to President-elect Cher Gorman, Patricia Morgan, Alice Burton, Margie Lawson, Linda Fillingim and Grace Laralde. When people put on a great conference, with clearly a lot of time and energy involved, I think people should know about it.

The Italian lunch was wonderful, the hospitality and the camaraderie appreciated. Well done and thank you!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What do dysfunctional Families Look Like?

Hi all,

Yesterday I was to participate in a mass blogging, but I'm up in the mountains and had trouble with my internet connection, so unfortunately, I'm a day late. But hopefully this'll still work and be fun. WOW! Women On Writing has gathered a group of

blogging buddies to write about family relationships. Why family relationships? We're celebrating the release of Therese Walsh's debut novel yesterday. The Last Will of Moira Leahy, (Random House, October 13, 2009) is about a mysterious journey that

helps a woman learn more about herself and her twin, whom she lost when they were teenagers. Visit The Muffin to read what Therese has to say about family relationships and view the list of all my blogging buddies. And make sure you visit Therese's website to find out more about the author."

Family relationships are complex and usually rife with conflict, which is why I too love to write about them. Okay, so I admit it's also great therapy--and cheaper than going to a therapist! Now that I've survived three teenagers and am living through the last child's angst-filled teenage years, I'm keenly reminded that dysfunctional is such a strange label—and far more common than one would credit.

This isn’t the 1950’s anymore and I’m not sure that the leave-it-to-Beaver families aren’t FAR in the minority. Perhaps dysfunctional families were common in the 50’s too, but hid under a shadow of shame and now-a-days it’s more in vogue to almost brag about family dysfunction or because the communication venues weren’t nearly as plentiful today, family problems simply weren’t splashed across the news and internet, hence they didn’t seem to exist.

Whatever the reason, I think the dynamics behind family dysfunctions are fascinating. When exploring dysfunctional families, I often discover not truly evil parents and family members who wish to harm others, but more weak or misguided people trying to do the best they can with what they have—and sometimes their best simply isn’t good enough.

What do you all think?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Lurking through Conferences

When you can't afford the conference registration fee and the conference you'd love to attend is being hosted in your home state, and friends from all around the country will be there...

And you won't because of that silly money issue...what do you do?

You politely enter through the front doors of the hotel and join the fun after hours : )

Yes, that was my dilemma this year at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference (ACFW) hosted in Denver, Colorado. So close to home, how could I just turn my back on the event of the year?

All of the pieces fell into place perfectly this year:

  • I have my manuscript currently under consideration, so I didn't have to try for an editor appointment;

  • Saving the conference fee now allows me to purchase the workshop tapes to enjoy all through the year while walking the dog after work;

  • I lurked the conference with two good friends who also could not afford the fee;

  • If you are familiar with the Seekerville blog, we are 15 women who banded together 4 years ago to encourage each other through to publication. None of us were published when the group formed, now only 4 are left. Anyway, this is the first time all 15 of us have been at the same conference together! Couldn't miss that!

Don't get me wrong, attending the conference the conventional method is really the best way, but in these economical times, I really had to weigh my options. I'm still thanking God for bringing the conference to me when I couldn't go to it : )

AND, the beauty of the entire experience stemmed from what my friends and I could do for the other attendees! Since we couldn't attend the workshops, Tina scouted out the best places to take visitors and we escorted groups of conference attendees and/or their spouses with a little time on their hands on tours of Denver. Tina and I had vehicles so transportation was not a problem. We investigated the light rail system in Denver with great fun and success. We tried the free shuttle service in downtown Denver to make the most of our Friday evening excursion to Ted Turner's Montana Grill.

Of course, night time gave me the opportunity to socialize with the Seekers and other conference attendees. How fun was that! I mingled with friends, authors, agents, editors and anyone else who bumped into me. Hi Margie Lawson! Great seeing you!!

Okay, truth to tell. I haven't stayed up until one in the morning for 4 consecutive nights in a long time. By Sunday afternoon, I was cooked. But I had a smile on my face : )

I attended the booksigning and purchased books. Since we had so many Seekers signing their books that afternoon, I took tons of pictures while they did their jobs : )

One more perk. In these days of additional fees on airlines, I loaded up my SUV with extras from the conference for my buds and mailed them out the next day so they didn't have to lug them onto the airplanes and pay far more than postage just to bring goodies home.

What did I get out of my conference experience? A lot. I found it good for the soul to just kick back and socialize without the rush of trying to get your money's worth out of the event. I had nothing to pitch, so I chatted with editors and agents on a social level. I loved providing entertainment for those visiting Denver.

All in all, the ACFW conference was an event not to be missed.

And I didn't : )

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Writing Larger Than Life

When I settle into my seat at a theatre, or snuggle down with a new book, I'm anticipating a story that’ll whisk me away from my world. I want characters, plot, setting and conflict to be bigger, bolder, brighter.

In fact, even most commercials today are larger than life, and the good ones take you on a short ride. I'm sure you all have seen the Caddy whizzing through a tunnel which turns into a blur of colors as Kate Walsh murmurs, "...when you turn the car on, does it return the favor?" I'm pretty sure I want a car that does that, and I've never salivated over a Caddy in my life.

So how can we write larger than life?
1) By making the ordinary...extraordinary.
2) By not forgetting that EVERY BEAT of the story has to show the character's goal and conflict. EVERY BEAT. Good conflict makes good drama.
3) ...see below.

Here's two examples of taking ordinary events and making them larger than life.

Good Night and Good Luck, is a slice-of-life movie about Edward R. Murrow, starring David Strathairn, and written by George Clooney and Grant Heslov. Shot in B&W, the story grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. It wasn't heavy on action, adventure or FX. It was plainly a great story about a momentously black period in our history.

Edward R. Murrow (Strathairn) has to make a decision, something we all do countless times on a daily basis. But by using one of Murrow's more famous moments, the McCarthy hearings, the movie took us on Murrow's journey as he struggled to keep the trust of the American public by not compromising his integrity or bending to the will of CBS studios that wanted him to keep a lower profile and not take on such a high powered Senator.

The story never let the tension of that conflict diminish. Murrow's newsroom hummed with crisis. You inhaled the smoke and felt the sweat. I wanted Murrow to win because his integrity meant everything to him, it was his life, it's what his viewers expected of him. The screenplay writers never let up, never let me forget for a minute how important this was.

Okay, on to print. I recently read an older Nora Roberts series; the Key trilogy. The internal crisis in the Key of Knowledge was Dana Steele's broken relationship and subsequent lack of trust. Nothing new in that crisis, right? But Nora made me weep and cheer because Dana fights so hard against falling in love again with the same guy, and the risk being so broken that she could never again be whole.

Since this was a romance, I knew Dana would find her all important love, but until she did, every argument, every tear was bigger because the risk of pain was so great. Dana wasn't me or you, she was smarter, sassier and bolder. And all this was woven into the plot, because without the love relationship, Dana couldn't solve the puzzle of the key.

Nora made the ordinary, extraordinary.

How did these writers accomplish this? I'm not pretending I know their secrets or am privy to their methods, but I do think this kind of vibrant, larger than life writing is as simple and as difficult as remembering that when we're writing, we're not in Kansas anymore.

By that I mean, we live everyday, go about our lives, deal with dramatic life crises and then we pour all that hard won experience onto paper. Great. But then you must go from Black and White everyday Kansas Farm Life to the Technicolor Land of Oz with your conflicts, plots and characterizations, while keep your character's goals simple.

Dorothy wanted to go home again. Dana Steele wanted love and Edward R. Murrow wanted his integrity intact. It's how they got there that sweeps us away in beautiful, bold Technicolor.

In my opinion, this kind of larger than life writing is what will win over our audience and keep our careers moving straight up the charts.

Oh, yes...lesson number 3? Learning to stop when you see too much purple on that Technicolor page. That's not writing larger than life, that's just overwriting.