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Fun, sexy reads

Fun, sexy reads

Looking for fast-paced, sexy romantic suspense with military heroes? Blind Fury (#1) is a hot friends-to-lovers story in D.C. Blind Ambition (#2) is a sexy, second-chance romance on the run in the Caribbean.

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Scrivener Training for Everyone

Scrivener Training for Everyone

Need help with Scrivener? I provide Scrivener training to individuals and groups all over the world through online courses, in-person workshops, and private training sessions.

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Resources for Writers and Scrivener Users

Resources for Writers and Scrivener Users

A great reference for new and experienced Scrivener users, a guide to software and apps that help with productivity, and essays on every facet of writing from the Writer Unboxed contributors.

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My first request

Today I got my first agent request for a partial (first 3 chapters & synopsis). Insert “woo hoo” and a happy dance here. Very exciting! The timing seems serendipitous since I recently blogged about revising the manuscript for just such an event. I didn’t expect to have to jump into it today, but I was more than happy to tackle it. ūüėČ

In the scheme of things, a request doesn’t mean publication is imminent. I know plenty of writers who’ve been getting requests for partials and completes for years, and are not yet published. Still, I’m excited because my query letter generated some interest, and that’s the first step.

Knowing that I’m doing my best to get in the game keeps me motivated to move forward, and forces me to do the hard work (like revisions). I learn more about the art and business of writing every day, and when the call does come, I plan to be ready.

The Daily Squirrel: goodbye

The ballpoint pen left ink blots on the paper as she wrote out words of goodbye. Or badbye. If badbye were a word, that would more accurately describe this parting. Badbye to the angry outbursts and sarcastic remarks. Badbye to the forgotten anniversaries and birthdays. Badbye to the whole damn waste of three years. Her heart lifted and she smiled. “Badbye, Gary.”

Off the hook

A writer’s life is filled with hooks. The first scene, page, paragraph–heck, the first sentence–must grab the reader/editor if you want them to keep reading. But, don’t forget the hook at the end of each chapter or scene, the hook in your query letter, synopsis, website blurb, back cover copy…

Well, I’m apparently hook-challenged. (I never was cut out for marketing.) I have a tendency to wrap up each scene and tie it off with a bow, instead of leaving the reader with a mystery or a situation they can’t wait to read more about.

My CP recently read my entire manuscript (thank you, thank you!!), and so many of the scenes ended with the comment “Hook?” that I felt like I was reading Peter Pan. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) ¬†There were several scene-endings she did like, so I’m getting a feel for the difference, but in the heat of writing, I have a hard time figuring out what’s an effective hook and what’s not.

I’ll have to see if I can find a good book to address this, because if I can master the art of the hook, it will improve so many areas of my writing. If you have any ideas for books to read, or guidelines for writing good hooks, I’d love to hear them.

How do you hook your readers?

The Daily Squirrel: Wool

The rough wool of the sweater made her arms itch, and she clenched her hands to control the urge to scratch. She hadn’t worn a long-sleeved shirt underneath because it wasn’t cold enough, but she regretted her decision to wear the lovely sweater. It accentuated the green of her eyes, and the moderate V-neck flattered her bosom without revealing too much, but no matter how good she looked, acting like a kid with chicken pox wasn’t going to impress her date.

The End is just the beginning

Most non-writers believe that once you type “The End”, you’re done. Hah! Far from it. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve revised Counting on You (a.k.a. COY) since I “finished” it.

The first couple of revisions were based on things I’d learned (through workshops, books on writing, and experience) since starting the book. When I let a few trusted people read it, I got feedback about plot issues and unanswered questions. Back to the keyboard.

Later, I found a critique partner, entered a couple of contests…more (very helpful) feedback. Back to the…well you get the idea.

As much as I love my story, and mostly agree with the feedback I’ve received, the writer in me has moved on. I’m about halfway through Floater. That’s where my brain is focused, and where I want to spend my time.

On the other hand, I’m hoping to get a request for the complete manuscript of COY from an agent or editor one of these days. If I do, I won’t have time to go back and fix it then.

Should I be lucky enough to get a publication contract for COY (hey, one can dream), the editor will surely require more revisions. Truly, to be a writer, is to be a re-writer.

If I want to be a published author, I have to figure out how to deal with this now. The more experience and feedback I get, the better I am at avoiding the amateur mistakes from the beginning, but even the best writers–yes, even Nora Roberts and Ken Follett–have to revise their work before it’s ready for publication.

I guess it’s just a fact of writing life.

The End…for now.

The Daily Squirrel: composure

Standing behind the curtain, she cursed her shaky hands, the adrenaline flooding her veins, and the sweat trickling down her back. She should be used to this by now, but it never changed. Once on stage, she’d be fine, but the minutes leading up to her speech were pure torture. Finally, the emcee called her name. She took a deep breath, stood up straight, and smiled. Cool composure settled over her like a veil, and she walked onto the stage with her head held high. If only her parents could see her now.

Happy Thanksgiving

In honor of the holiday, here’s an acrostic representing some of the things I’m thankful for in my life.

T – Time to write and work on the things that are important in my life

H – Husband who is the love of my life and my best friend

A – Air Force lifestyle that lets us live all over the country and feed our need for travel

N – New writing friends who have taught me so much and been an incredible source of support

K – Kids: two boys who grow more caring, intelligent, and handsome every year

S – Stories that come to me when I least expect them

This day wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t thank all of my family for their love and support, and friends old and new for being so great.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Cult of personality

Have you ever met a person who rubbed you the wrong way, but you couldn’t figure out why? Have you ever had a boss or coworker you didn’t know how to deal with? Did you ever wonder how two siblings raised by the same parents could be so different (like my own boys)?

It’s all in the personality.

Understanding your personality style can be valuable for determining career choices and understanding why you act the way you do. Recognizing others’ personality styles¬†can help you get along better with the people you deal with every day.

But as a writer, you can use an understanding of personality styles to craft complex characters who act in a consistent and believable way. Besides knowing your character’s goals and motivation, choosing a personality style for her will help you create a believable reaction when she meets an obstacle.

Using The Platinum Rule‚ĄĘ¬†Behavioral Styles developed by Dr. Tony Alessandra, here are four potential responses for your character when she’s faced with an obstacle:

  • The Thinker might gather information, make a list of pros and cons, and plan a response, finally acting when she has as much information as possible. Her response will probably be timely, but not immediate.
  • The Socializer would probably make a decision based on impulse. Leap then look.
  • The Relater would worry about the problem, try to avoid it, ask for other’s opinions, and hope that someone else would take care of it. Head in the sand.
  • The Director would quickly size up the options, make a decision, and execute it, even if others think it’s the wrong choice.

It should be clear that the type of character you choose can have a great effect on your story. Each of the four options above could take the same story in a different direction.

If you’d like to find out more, here are some of the popular personality assessments you might want to check out. Take a quiz as yourself, and then take a quiz as your character. You might be surprised what you learn.

The Daily Squirrel: acrobat

In her dreams, she was an acrobat, flying high above the circus floor while the audience looked on with awe. The gasps of the crowd filled her ears, the wind ruffled her hair and cooled her face as she flew from swing to swing. She could smell the popcorn and cotton candy mingled with the scent of hay and animals. With a sudden bang on her bedroom door, the dream vanished, slipping through her fingers like sand. She stared at the loose drywall tape on the ceiling of her ordinary bedroom, in an ordinary house, where her boring, ordinary life took place.

The written word…without Word

You’re probably intimately familiar with some sort of word processing software, especially if you’re a writer. But, while Microsoft Word and similar programs are great for formatting a finished manuscript, business letters, and other documents, they may not be the best software for writing a story.

There are several¬†programs out there for writers, and there’s a good reason for it. Traditional word processors force you to write linearly, or cobble together multiple documents if you don’t. ¬†Good writing software can free you to write in the way that works best for you.

At a friend’s suggestion, I tried Scrivener (UPDATE 1/13/11: Which now has a Windows version in the works) and ended up buying it well before the free trial ended. Each writing project is organized as a collection of files, all accessible from the same screen, much like being in Finder (or Windows Explorer).

I can write a scene–or an outline of a scene–when inspiration strikes, and save it for later (see Unused Scenes below). I can easily move scenes around, create scene cards for them, search for terms across all scenes, search by keywords, keep project and scene notes, import research documents and web sites, and so much more. I don’t know how I ever lived without it!

I use the Resources section to hold links to research web sites, a file where I keep track of my daily productivity, a character list, photos of places or character inspirations, character questionnaires, and most important of all, a folder called Unused Scenes, where I store cut scenes to scavenge for useful bits, and potential future scenes.

For those who are easily distracted, Scrivener even offers a full screen mode. And, in the end, you can export the whole project to Word, or another program, either fully formatted, or ready to format.

If you’re serious about writing, consider switching to software that works with your writing style, not against it.

The main writing screen…


Resources Section…


Happy Writing! (No Daily Squirrel today, this post is already long enough…)
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An idea whose time has come

My ideas usually come not at my desk writing, but in the midst of living.  ~Anais Nin

People often ask writers where their ideas come from. I even find myself wondering the same thing after I read a great book. The answers? Everywhere, nowhere, hard work.

We get them from things we see in our daily lives, that is, everywhere. Places we go, people we meet, new stories, and personal experiences all have the power to generate the seed of an idea. Many authors become intrigued by the “what if?” and pursue that until they have a story.

But, they can also come out of nowhere. For example, I often think of storyline bits, or plot ideas right after I wake up in the morning. I’m not actively trying to work on anything, it just comes. I keep a pen and paper by my bed for this reason, because if I don’t write it down, I’ll surely lose it.

Sometimes, a writer just has to work at it. There are all sorts of techniques for generating new ideas. I even wrote about one of Einstein’s creativity methods for the Southern Magic blog¬†a while back.

For me, often the key is to give myself permission to let the ideas flow. I sometimes have this sense that ideas are waiting for me if I would just stop whatever I’m doing and let them out. At those times, I sit down with plenty of paper, and start taking notes.

No matter how a writer generates ideas, the real trick is to put in the time, day after day, writing them down. Some will turn into a story, some won’t, but all the best ideas in the world won’t make you a writer if you don’t put fingers to keyboard and write.

The Daily Squirrel: nose

Amelie stared at her nose in the mirror. The purple bruising had turned more green and yellow over the last few days, but at least the swelling had gone down. She touched it gently and winced. Stupid John and his flailing racquet. That ball had been hers. She knew one thing for sure: she was never going to play doubles tennis again.