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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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So You Think You Can Dan…er, Write

This post is also available at romancemagicians.blogspot.com today…

I was watching So You Think You Can Dance last night (yes, I can’t live without my DVR–I never watch live TV anymore), and something the judges kept saying caught my attention.

The gist was that if the dancers got “into character” and put the appropriate emotion in the performance, they could get away with a few technical errors. But, the opposite was not true. A flawless technical performance lacking emotion or story was not enough to cut it.

I think the same could be applied to writing. Grammatical problems or minor plot issues can be overcome with a great voice and style. It’s more about the execution of the story, than its mechanics.

As I was flipping through The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman at BAM today, I was happy to see that he agreed. He basically said that execution was more important than plot for catching an editor’s or agent’s eye. If they don’t get past the execution, they’ll never read enough to get the plot anyway.

Not that we can afford to discount grammar or other technical issues–after all, we need to put our best foot forward–but we shouldn’t forget that in the end, the story and how we tell it is what will grab the reader.

I guess I’d say, “Always improve your craft, but don’t forget your voice.”

The Daily Squirrel: soap

The scent of gardenias filled the steamy shower as she worked up a lather on the bar of soap. A familiar peace settled over her as her slick hands washed away the sweat and the lingering odor of cigarettes. Some day soon, she’d finish her degree, and she’d never have to work in a smoky bar again.

Dog Days

Zoe
Zoe

After I quit working full-time, we bought an adorable golden retriever puppy that we named Zoe. I envisioned the sweet bond forming between boys and dog, sitting at my desk with her curled up at my feet while the boys were at school, and a furry running partner.

The reality has been a little less ideal. Even though the kids love her, walking the dog, or playing in the yard with her quickly became a chore for them. And that dream of a lazy dog curled up at my feet hasn’t quite materialized (although she will occasionally submit).

When I take her running, she drags along behind me showing little inclination to keep up (and I’m by no means speedy). This earned her the nickname “furry boat anchor” from my husband who recently took her jogging while I was away for the day.

Zoe has become an adorable distraction from writing who requires a daily walk, several trips outside, a watchful eye around paper products and trash cans, and who must be monitored carefully lest she dig a hole through to the neighbor’s yard.

But, when she’s not around the house feels empty. She makes me smile, she soothes my stress (when she’s not digging!), and she never talks back.

Oh, I guess we’ll keep her for now.

The Daily Squirrel: guitar

She rested the guitar on her thigh, running her hands over the smooth surface. Hesitantly, she plucked a few strings and listened to the rich tones as they reverberated through the instrument. She smiled as she tuned it the way her dad had shown her so many years ago. Satisfied, she closed her eyes and began to play.

Veteran’s Day reading list

To celebrate Veteran’s Day, I thought I’d mention some of my favorite authors who honor the men and women who serve–or have honorably served–in the armed forces by writing about them.

Suzanne Brockmann‘s Troubleshooters series is devoted mainly to Navy Seals, as well as heroes and heroines from military, law enforcement, or clandestine services. Her characters are complex, brave, imperfect, and irresistible. If you wish Flynn and Baldacci put more romance in their stories, Brockmann is for you. High passion and high stakes.

The High Risk series by JoAnn Ross features heroes from special forces (Navy SEALS, Air Force CCT), as well as some military heroines. While she has a similar style to Brockmann, her books are more focused on one main story at a time. Hot and fast-paced.

For a more light-hearted approach to Navy SEAL heroes (yes, they are popular right now), try any of Christina Skye‘s contemporary books. Still hot, with a dash of humor and spunky heroines. Fun reads.

I suppose the Special Ops types are more fun to write about, but I salute everyone who has served in our armed forces in any capacity. From Mission Support and Finance to Medical and Maintenance, no matter what your role, you are important and appreciated. Thanks!

The Daily Squirrel: a blade of grass

She plucked the blade of grass from the carpet of green along the soccer field, and ran her finger over the rough leaf. She remembered a time when she and Eddie lay in the grass, plucking dandelions and laughing at how silly teenagers were. Then one day, Eddie became a teenager himself, and left his little sister behind. It was as if he’d stepped through a doorway that she couldn’t enter, and closed the door.

The Daily Squirrel

squirrelYears ago, when I was in Toastmasters, we had a member, Ken, who was truly a remarkable speaker. Anytime we had an unfilled speaking slot, he would give an impromptu speech using a random topic from the audience. His most memorable speech was about gray squirrels. He gave a humorous, completely off-the-cuff, 7-minute speech about hunting squirrels as a kid. True? Who knows? Impressive? Absolutely.

In honor of Ken’s “squirrel speech”, I’ve started a (mostly) daily exercise that I call “The Daily Squirrel”. I think of a random topic (my squirrel), and then try to write a short scene around it. You can do this while brushing your teeth or waiting in line at the grocery store.

As an example, I chose a water bottle as my squirrel, and here’s what I came up with…

He reached for the water bottle tucked into the truck’s console, but it slipped from his grip as he lost the feeling in his fingers. The bottle fell to the floor with a thud, water pulsing out onto the dirty carpet. Every lost drop made him more desperate to quench the fire in his throat as his heart stopped beating and he gasped for his last breath.

Okay, morbid, but you get the idea… To force myself to practice, I’m planning to add a daily squirrel to the end of my (almost) daily blog posts.

Wanna try it? Share your own daily squirrel.

UPDATE 1/14/2010: The Squirrel has gone weekly as it became too time consuming. Look for it on Sundays. Click here to see all of the Sunday Squirrel installments.

No rest for the query

After a week of back-and-forth with my CP (thanks, C!), I finally got my agent query letter honed to a point that I’m satisfied with. Could it be better? Most likely. But, at some point, I just have to get it out there.

After reading articles about specific agents, trolling their blogs and websites, and talking to other writers, I picked out several agents that I think would be a good fit.

My main criteria:

  • Does she represent the subgenres I’m interested in writing?
  • Does she have a flexible approach to working with an author?
  • Is she interested in supporting an author through career changes and growth?
  • Does she take email submissions? (optional, but highly desirable for environmental and cost concerns)

So, today I took the next big step toward publication, and sent those letters (emails) out there in hopes of enticing an agent to ask for my MS. Exciting and scary.

So, the long wait begins. Now back to work!

RWA: Playgroup for romance writers

When my boys were toddlers, I eagerly looked forward to weekly playgroup time. It was great for keeping them entertained and wearing them out, but the biggest benefit was for the moms.

Your child is almost three and still not potty trained? No, that’s not weird. Others have been there. There’s a sense of relief in knowing that others parent like you and face similar struggles.

The same is true with writers. At the readers’ luncheon in Birmingham yesterday, I was reminded of why I joined my local chapter of RWA. Because writing is a solitary pursuit, and being around other writers assures you that you’re not alone, or (too) strange.

During Anne Stuart’s speech, she discussed why she likes being a writer. For example, she could lie down on the bed in the afternoon and tell her husband she’s working. I totally do that! Sometimes when I’m thinking about where I want to go next with the story, I just need to close my eyes and daydream.

And, it turns out that plenty of published authors are pantsers, just like me. During the luncheon, I sat with Lynn Rae Harris, an author for Harlequin Presents, and she assured me that the editors are used to working with pantsers. Whew!

The best thing about being around other authors is that everyone is supportive and willing to share their stories and advice. From novice to long-time-published authors, we support each other.

Just like being a mother, writing is more fun when you don’t have to go through it alone.

The traveling pantser

There’s this notion that every writer is one of two types: plotter, or pantser.

In the extreme, a plotter plans out the whole story from start to finish before she sits down to write. She knows how the story begins, what happens in the middle, and how the story ends, and probably has a detailed outline or synopsis written out before she starts the book. All she has to do is write the full scenes as she moves from A to B to C.

A pantser, on the other hand, sits down to a blank page–maybe with a ghost of an idea–types Chapter 1, and makes the story up as she goes along.

In reality, of course, most of us fit somewhere in between, but we usually lean in one direction or the other. Kind of like politics.

The most surprising thing for me is that in spite of my technical background, and my rather logical, organized approach to life in general, I lean much closer to the pantser end of the scale.

I know who my main characters are, how they meet, what the conflict is–though it’s subject to change :-)–and I even try to plan the major milestones along the way. But, in the end, I go where the story takes me as I write.

I like to compare it to a cross-country trip. If I’m on the west coast, and I want to get back east, I know my goal. How I get there is the adventure along the way. Do I take I-80, I-40, or I-10?

For each new book, I start with a general idea of where I’m starting, who’s going with me, and where we’re going, but only a vague notion of how we’re going to get there.

It’s not always the most efficient method, and I’m trying to instill more structure to prevent backtracking, but in the end, it’s the adventure along the way that I enjoy the most.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Does it surprise you?