Friday, June 27, 2008

Part Deux of Caring Whether The Character Lives or Dies

Thanks for coming back for Part Deux of making us care whether your character lives or dies. Or in other words; how not to get your book thrown across the room or your audience fleeing the theater.

Sally Walker’s 36-point Character Chart.
(Sally J. Walker,
http://members.cox.net/sallyjwalker)

Remember comments in CAPS are mine.

In-Depth Personal Data

Now that you know where the character came from, you can move into where the character is at the moment of the story. You flesh out personal data with the kind of information your closest confidants know about you!

13. Best Friend: Who and why? "You are known by the company you keep." OR THE COMPANY YOU WANT TO KEEP...A LIE? A SECRET LIFE?
14. Male and/or Female Friends: Again the choices reflect needs met and subliminal reasons. AGAIN, SEE ABOVE.
15. Enemies & Why: From frivolous to vicious, no one relates positively to everyone else. 16. Hobbies: What entertains, distracts, attracts, challenges, and why? Even ancient peoples carved, painted pottery, told stories. Why?
17. Music, art, reading preferences: Tastes reflect satisfaction of needs, even if peer or social pressures, but what if the preference is an oddity or adversity?
18. Dress & Grooming Habits: Direct correlation to self-image and preferences.
THIS ONE WAS FUN. IS MY HEROINE A GOTH/EMO OR A SOCCER MOM? OR BOTH, ONE FOOT IN EACH WORLD?
19. Typical Day: From beginning of wake-up ritual through the mundane meals and work routine to night’s sleep patterns, every moment of the "typical day" presents an opportunity for something to go awry, to frustrate and rattle the character...forcing a change that will become the story. THIS ONE WAS REALLY INTERESTING TO ME AS I WALKED MY HEROINE THROUGH HER NORMAL DAY, I COULD FIGURE OUT HOW TO SHAKE HER UP BY TAKING THAT AWAY FROM HER.

The Psychological Profile

After each key area, I’ve highly condensed Sally’s context for each element in parentheses to help you answer the questions below.

This builds on the Character’s History, and goes one step further, actually delving into three key areas for storytellers:
1) Self-awareness. (Is achieved through a deep examination and comprehension of self. Some like themselves, others are totally dissatisfied. Why is there such a disparity of between dysfunctional people and the Tiger Woods of the world? Self awareness. I believe one can "see" it in the eyes and actions of those with low self-esteem and those with confidence, those that hate themselves and those who are comfortable in their skin.)
2) Social Status. (This boils down to position in life. Some positions and roles we have no choice over (where we are born and to whom.) Social status provides opportunity but does not force CHOICE, each human makes their own choice. Social status can be changed whether climbing up to a life with more opportunity or down to less, to the level of brutal survival on the streets.)
3) Motivation. (Is the reason humans act, the reason behind the behavior, the choice. It is not always reasonable or honorable.)
Good story telling is the result of DEPICTING the angst of self awareness, the insecurities vs abilities of social status, and the dilemmas of motivation. It can never be about "the happy people of the happy village" for that enthralls no one.


Now dig deeper into the list and see how it works for you.

16. Strongest/Weakest Characteristics:
17. Greatest Fear:
18. Sees self as
...social status and familiar. Then bam, all hell breaks loose.
RIGHT!
19. Is seen by others as...OOOH I HAD FUN WITH THIS TOO, I REALLY GOT TO PLAY GOD TO MY CHARACTERS
.
20. Sense of humor about...
IS AS IMPORTANT AS THE CHARACTER FACING HIS GREATEST FEAR.
21. Basic Nature:
22. Ambitions:
23. Philosophy of Life:


Story

29. Present Problem:
30. How will it get worse?
31. What is the best that can happen?
This is where you play the "What If" game and avoid predictability. Brainstorm wildly then choose.
32. What is the worst that can happen? This too is where you play the "What If" game to avoid predictability. Again, Brainstorm wildly then choose.
33. What trait will be dominate thus be vital to story? Same as above, play the game and then choose. Some examples...Stubborn to the point of obnoxiously tenacious...pertinent to a forensic pathologist. Proud to the point of refusing charity...pertinent to the man whose gifted daughter is not allowed to accept a scholarship. 34. Why is this character worth writing about?
BUILDING CHARACTER DEPTH WILL GIVE YOU THE ANSWER, AND SOMETIMES UGH, YOU REALIZE THIS CHARACTER ISN’T WORKING AND YOU EITHER HAVE TO FIX ‘EM OR DUMP ‘EM.
35. Do I like/dislike this person? Why? This is important because this profile can be created for your ANTAGONIST OR about a character who is CHANGED by the story.
36. Why will this character be remembered?
OH, THIS HIT HOME. I INVEST A HUGE AMOUNT OF TIME IN MY WRITING, SO OF COURSE I WANT MY CHARACTER REMEMBERED, WHO CAN FORGET RHETT, OR INDIANA JONES, OR PRINCESS LEIA (NO, NOT BECAUSE OF THE CINNAMON BUN HAIRSTYLE.)

UNDERSTANDING EQUALS MOTIVATION
The essence of "Character Profiling" is creating a realistic, credible fictional character...or making fictional suppositions about a real-life person. The only person you can truly "Profile" is yourself. Even then you probably will not be 100% truthful or totally knowledgeable. After all, don’t we learn more about ourselves every day we live?


Documenting the backstory and personal data of a character can certainly be as flexible as our own self-awareness. Watching "Top Gun," we understood a boy’s dream to be a fighter pilot like his old man. But why did he have to overcome the bad reputation? How crucial was that backstory to the character’s motivation? Aw, therein lies the subtle need of both character and writer to overcome stereotyping. That one element gave the character consistency, complexity, individuality, and exaggeration that carried the story forward.


So, try Sally’s list before you start your next story. Don’t angst over what you put down at first, you’ll see your character building as you continue to add to the list, and can go back and refine.

And if you find you need help on your current WIP, either your pace is boggy, you seem to be at a dead end or you have WRITER’S BLOCK (which I don’t believe in, and yes you can ask me why,) I hope you’ll find using the list makes a strong difference in both your character and story.
LA


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Do WE Care Whether The Heroine Lives or Dies?

Characterization PART 1

How many times do you watch film and just plain lose interest. I don’t think it’s the cheesy SFX or the awful sound quality of films these days (you strain to hear the dialogue, yet cover your ears moments later because of loud music or those SFX again)...well okay, maybe that’s part of it! No really, I think it’s because you’re not invested in the character. You don’t care whether s/he wins or loses, lives or dies.

So what can you do to make sure from the first reader (judge, editor, producer) to the final curtain, people care about your characters and love your film? "Duh," you’re saying, "create good characters!"

To which I reply: "Duh, don’t we all TRY to create memorable characters every time we put pen to paper?" Why then do we sometimes fail?

There’s a huge amount of information available on characterization, so periodically I’m going to post some of the techniques I’ve found that have made a difference in my writing and will hopefully make a difference in yours.

Today: Profile Lists, Part 1

I’ve tried profile lists before, and wasn’t impressed until I USED this one during an online class taught by Sally J. Walker,
http://members.cox.net/sallyjwalker

Sally, who is President of the Nebraska Writers Guild,
www.nebraskawriters.org, asked me to make clear that there are many MANY other character outlining tools available, and so there are. I used this one because I was starting a new script during class and wanted to see if there was any new information in the Universe to help me create a dynamic, multi faceted hero and heroine.

Honest, using this list made my character jump off the page and I was creating a better story because I began to see how they would behave in the story.

I emailed Audra and T with my hero and heroine’s sketched in the profile and they were mightily impressed that a tool could quickly create such depth, and you better believe these ladies are tough to impress.

Comments in CAPS are mine, so here we go:


The Basics


1. Name: Evokes images, cultures, ancient meanings, as in "A Boy Named Sue" or a recognizable Russian first name and an Irish last name, a child repeatedly being told to live up to his name which means "Warrior."
2. Age: Life stage evokes expectations.
AIN’T IT THE TRUTH!
3. Height & Weight: Again cultural expectations, voluptuous versus starvation-thin, tall & muscular versus small & wiry.
4. Hair: Color, style, especially if it characterizes as in U.S. Marine cut or matted & filthy.
5. Eyes: Unusual coloring, telling characteristic, or expressive habits.
6. Scars/Handicaps: History of incident or development creates expectations.
I CAME UP WITH SOME INTERESTING THINGS HERE....YOU’LL JUST HAVE TO WATCH THE MOVIE :) AND SEE IF YOU CAN SPOT THEM! I’LL LET YOU KNOW WHEN IT’S RELEASED. HECK, I’LL LET YOU KNOW WHEN IT’S WRITTEN.
7. Birthdate: Era or circumstance can impact or typify social status as in "Far and Away." MANY PEOPLE TRY TO BEHAVE YOUNGER/OLDER THAN THEIR YEARS FOR A MULTITUDE OF REASONS.
8. Birthplace: Again reflective of social status in eyes of audience as in the each of the players in the original "Highlander" movie.
9. Parents & Childhood: Foundation of character’s life expectations either as exemplary or defiance.
10. Education: Forced feeding of information and social interactions, as in royal guard of Montezuma versus contemporary, orphanage-reared U.S. Navy SEAL.
11. Work Experience: Similar to Education category in impacting social and cultural expectations and attitudes.
IMAGINE, WHAT IF YOU’D WORKED AT ONE JOB/CAREER YOUR ENTIRE LIFE, THEN IT’S TAKEN AWAY? THAT WOULD INFLUENCE A PERSON’S REACTIONS WOULDN’T IT?
12. Home & its physical environment: A reflection of personal priorities and opportunities.

Out of this basic information, the character begins to take on a personality in your mind. Why? Because you, the writer/creator, begin to understand how that personality developed and what provided the major influences. You consciously choose what internally motivates that character’s choices.


Please come back tomorrow for Part Deux, the list keeps getting better. And please if you have thoughts, share.
LA.


List of upcoming classes Sally is teaching:

Brick and Mortar
Moondance International Film Festival
"Romantic Screenplays 101"
Boulder, CO
Fri, Aug 29th and Sat, Aug 30 1-3pm


Metropolitan Community College
"Research for Fiction"
Omaha, NE
Sat, Sept 13, 1-4pm

On-Line
WritersOnLine Classes
"Writing from the Anxiety Curve"

http://www.writersonlineclasses.com/
November, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

Continuing Education for Writers

When I was a kid, college was what happened after high school. The only question about college was where you wanted to go and what you wanted to study. When I hit high school, I was stunned by friends who told me they didn't know what they wanted to do after graduation. How could you not know? I grew up believing you didn't get the cool, fun jobs without the proper education, and in my house, only school relayed that knowledge.

As an adult, I can say that there are plenty of jobs that are probably a ton of fun (barrista, anyone?), and they don't require much or any formal education. Even so, systems change, trends change, businesses evolve or die, and that means more training. I can't even think of a job that doesn't require some type of continuing education even for long-time employees.

As professional writers, it's our job to stay up on the market. After we've managed to acquire an agent, and after an editor has fallen in deep lurve with our books, we still have to know what will sell. The human population is in constant flux. What's cool this year will be so ten years ago in just five years. If we want to keep readers interested in what we're writing, we have to entice them with the ideas, characters, plots, themes, styles, and subjects that appeal to them. Sure, we should write something we want to read first, but if we're only writing for ourselves, we're not likely to be successful professionals.

Beyond the craft of writing, we also need to stay up on effective marketing, new technology, literary trends, trends in other genres, etc. The world continues to evolve around us, and we have to remember that or else suffer the consequences. So where can we go to get the education we need? What are the best places to learn the various locks in hapkido? How do we get insight into the life of a midwife? Who provides the best craft lessons in creative writing? Where can we go to learn about developing, maintaining, and growing an audience?

Since my personal thang is higher education, I'm going to list the programs I considered in my college search.

Writing Popular Fiction MA from Seton Hill University
StoneCoast MFA from the University of Maine
University of New Orleans MFA
Warren Wilson MFA
San Diego State University MFA

Of this list, only SDSU is a full-residency program. The others require just a few weeks on campus each year. (SDSU is local to me.)

Now it's your turn. Where do you go to learn about writing, whether it's your RWA chapter's online workshops, conferences, community college classes, websites, etc? Or do you have a different opinion about the value of education for writers?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Seton Hill Supplemental

Since I've gotten a few questions about Seton Hill, I want to offer up some info. As I said in my last post about SHU's WPF program, I've only completed one term. I don't have a lot of experience, so I don't claim to be the go-to gal for this information. But if I can fill in some gaps for someone and either make the decision to attend easier or reduce anxiety about what goes on at residency/during the term, I'll consider this a post worth having.

The Thesis
You spend two years writing your thesis, which you begin immediately. The thesis is a complete, market-ready novel of popular fiction. (Children's books are a different thing, and I'm not sure what that requirement is.) To support your thesis and your edumacation, you also journal the reading you do for school and write a critical genre essay. During your final residency, you present a one-hour workshop for other students, and you present your thesis (yes, that means you have to read it, out loud, and then answer questions from mentors and students).

The Residency
I've already gushed about the faculty at SHU. They are incredible. So is the administration at the school. My undergrad experiences left me thinking that all schools see students as faceless, nameless numbers who must be dealt with and promptly forgotten. SHU is the polar opposite. I showed up a day early to residency in January because flights from San Diego to Pittsburgh start early and end very late, and I would miss orientation if I flew in that day. It had snowed, and the view of campus coming up the hill were incredible. I'd heard students call the campus Hogwarts, and there's a very good reason for it. I think JK Rowling had SHU's campus in mind when she created her school.

I walked around campus, found the admin building, and went in. My undergrad experiences have included issues with parking, so I decided to get the word straight from admin's mouth about where to park, how to obtain a pass, etc. I'm sure now they thought I was a complete goof, but they let me know that parking was free during the winter break (when winter residency takes place) and to park in the lot closest to the building.

Needless to say, I nearly passed out from shock and delight.

Orientation began the night before residency kicked off. The talk went quickly, leaving plenty of time for everyone to chat, nosh on niblets, pick up information, and check out the schedule board. A graduate of the program gave all the newbies (first term students, aka 1s) a tour of the building where classes take place and even showed us where restrooms and the dining hall are.
I'd already met one of my critique group partners at a dinner some of the students put together off-campus prior to orientation, so I had someone to sit with and talk to. Even if I hadn't run into her, everyone I met was so friendly I doubt I'd have felt wallflowerish for long.

The days started at 9am and ran late into the evening, even if the schedule for that night was a social event or thesis readings (which are awesome fun). Though I didn't know a single graduating student (known as 5s, since they are completing their fifth residency), I found myself cheering on plenty of them and being bummed when two I wanted to attend ran simultaneously.

The most difficult portion was the workshop. I was the first person to be critiqued on the first day of workshops, and since I didn't know what to expect, I freaked out. All on the inside, of course. The feedback was really helpful, and being in several large critique sessions showed me that other genre viewpoints can help you in your own genre. (As an aside: The pages I workshopped formed the opening scene of the novel I entered in the Sandy.)

Speaking of extra-genre perspective, each term, everyone in the program reads a book that represents one of the genres the program covers, and then we break into groups to discuss it. Last residency, we read Bet Me by Jenny Crusie, and discussed it and the romance genre. This residency, we'll discuss Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora, and from some of the comments I've seen, I can tell it's going to be a fascinating hour.

There are four module sessions (three hours of learning) during each residency. Last residency, I took Point of View: A Guide for the Baffled - A Balm for the Bewildered with Tim Esaias; Function, Framework, and Formula with Anne Harris; Business of Writing with Victoria Thompson; and To Wand or Not to Wand: Creating a Magical System with Maria Snyder. Next week, I want to take Conflict and Plot with Tim Esaias; Write Short to Break In and Break Out with Dr. Lee McClain; Showing, Telling, and Style with Dr. Al Wendland; and Selected Elements of Style with Tim Esaias. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Did I mention I can't wait?

During the Term
At residency, when you meet with your mentor, you come up with the work you'll do over the next four months. You sign a contract that specifies those details and then, when res is over, you get to work. What's in the contract?

You choose the number of pages you'll complete over the course of the semester. For example, my goal was 120 pages, so that worked out to 30 pages per month. You also choose books to read. One should be a critical or historical text related to your genre. Another should be a how-to book (for example, I chose to read James Scott Bell's Plot since that's usually where I fall down in a story). At least three more should be genre reads or more how-to. The critical/historical texts and the genre reads should be used for the genre essay you write during your fourth term.

Each week, you're expected to post at least one time to the discussion boards. There are also three online chats during the term - four chat rooms have specific topics, and one is free range. It's a good time to pick the chat leader's brain or even just experience the community.



As I head into my second term, I'm excited to keep moving, but I don't want it to end. I'm having such a blast, learning so much, and feeling so connected to a wonderful community of writers, that I can't imagine not having this anymore. I guess I'll have to take a page from those who've graduated and just plan to come back in the summers for the WPF Retreat.

Why Seton Hill Rocks the Casbah

In T minus 4 days, I'm hopping a plane and flying to Pennsylvania for school, and I'm so excited, I might just wet myself.

Once upon a time, I was a writer. I wrote romance novels that truly sucked. I did improve over time and even ended up with a few of those wonderful "with edits, I'll reconsider" rejection letters, but I had given up on that path in 2005 when I had a one-year-old and found out I was preg-o with another. I thought I'd never have the chance to write again, so I might as well focus on my career as a software engineer. So I gathered all my files, all my notes, and all my disks and CDs, and I chucked them in the trash. I sobbed the whole time.

Cut to last year. In July or thereabouts, I was trying to decide what to do with my life. It was clear that I needed a Master's degree if I wanted to go anywhere with software engineering, but the thought of yet another technical degree made me want to sell everything, change my name to LulaJo, move to Arizona, and take up truck stop waitressing. When I considered a creative writing degree, I buzzed with anticipation. What a fun degree! And if I still couldn't get my stuff published, at least I could be a community college teacher. I'd be that wonderful, bitter, snarky type who assigns crappy homework with no understandable grading rubric and threatens the students with failure unless they put in at least four hours of study per night. Muwahahahaaa!

It was a dilemma, for sure, but I thought the computer science degree would be the more intelligent option. Then my husband pulled out several files of my writing ideas, charts, drafts, and rejection letters he'd rescued from the trash.

Decision made. Writing set me on fire. Computer science made me want to set fires.

I chose to apply to one program: the Writing Popular Fiction Master's degree program at Seton Hill University. I was actually in Crested Butte with Leslie, Audra, and T, watching the Witch Fire come within two miles of my SoCal home, when I got my acceptance e-mail. Bliss! Glory! Hallelujah!

My first residency was in January. It was amazing, surreal, wonderful, scary, fun, and so inspiring to be surrounded by talented and dedicated writers. My mentor in the program is a Nebula award-winning author. At residency, I had the chance to hear Donald Maass speak, and I learned plotting and writing tools that have become invaluable as I write and edit both my thesis (an urban fantasy) and my paranormal romance. I met horror authors I've read for years. I met the mystery writer Victoria Thompson, whose Texas historical romances made me fall in love with the romance genre. I talked books. I listened to published authors and their tips and tricks of the trade. I schmoozed with the amazing Maria Snyder and got to be a total fangirl. I listened to thesis presentations and delighted in knowing I'd see those books on shelves in just a few years because they were that amazing.

During this past term, several of the first-term students became good friends. We've squeed together, we've whined. We've fretted and brainstormed. They're a group of extremely talented women, and they form the first line of community for me at school. But that's one of the largest benefits I've seen so far: the community. Social events pepper the week of residency, and the mentors take part in the online discussion boards and monthly chat sessions. We are encouraged to get to know each other, to form connections of both the professional and personal flavors, and the reach is amazing.

In mere days, I'll be immersed once again in this fantastic program, surrounded by a strong community, learning amazing writing tools. And I. Can't. Wait. Part of it is the amazing experience of being a student (just check out the list of faculty members). But there's also a part of me who's so excited to be among the alumni of Seton Hill:

Shelley Bates
Suzanne Forster
Nalo Hopkinson
Rhonda Mason
Susan Mallery
Mary Sangiovanni
Dana Marton
Maria Snyder

Next I'd like to discuss the importance of education (even beyond publication) and where you think are the best places to learn. I hope you'll join me tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

He's SUCH a Character!



My sister's in love with Star Trek's James T. Kirk. I'm enamored with Boston Legal's Denny Crane, while Shatner's cop series, T. J. Hooker does nothing for either of us. So of all three of William Shatner's most memorable characters, what is it about each one that draws us to these particular characters?

Maria says that Creator Gene Roddenberry produced in James T. Kirk a compassionate, yet take-charge personality. Kirk was strong, and when one of the members of his crew died (which was in every episode by the way), Captain Kirk suffered -- possibly because he was running out of crew members -- but that's another blog topic. James T. Kirk was the epitome of a sex symbol in the sixties. Just ask any Trekkie today.

Fast forward to the year 2008. Denny Crane of Boston Legal personifies what so many men go through in the last stages of their careers and lifetime. A sexy, never-defeated powerhouse in his younger days, I find it endearing that Denny is protected by his associates who have the grace to remember who he was -- and is -- as he suffers the ravages of Alzheimer's aka his mad-cow disease. Kudos to the series creator, David E. Kelly and the writers who allow Shatner's character, not only to provide comedic relief to the compelling drama, but to have moments of brilliance. And to William Shatner as well, who in this blogger's opinion, is one of the acting greats of my generation.

Five Scribe Blog Questions for the Day:

Can you think of any actor who's portrayed such equally memorable characters?

And what do you do in your own writing to make a character like Captain Kirk or Denny Crane leap to the page?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Writing Roots Run Deep

You know those fun little projects people start like the giganto ten thousand piece puzzles of gumballs, or a replica Titanic-In-A-Bottle renown for its attention to detail, or gluing together sofa-size mosaic tiled portraits of Elvis? It can take years, and only the most dedicated (or foolish) ever complete these undertakings, but when they do, they’re hailed for their tenacity.

Now, I’m not calling myself tenacious, or dedicated, (a bit of foolishness does run in the gene pool), or anything else that conjures up images of worthiness. I’m simply a work in progress. Much like the beginning of creation, many churning seas, gale force winds, and hot dry droughts have sculpted me into the writer that sits before you. . .bruised, pitted, and scarred.

Okay, enough poetic license, let’s get real. Contests molded me into the writer I am today with the finesse of a ruthless toddler attacking his favorite colors of Playdoh. . .and with about as much grace and insight too, I might add.

Back in the early nineties, before a lot of judges’ trainings were offered, I eagerly released my masterpiece to contest after contest expecting the kudos appropriate for the next Kathleen Woodiwiss. Imagine my horror when entry after entry returned to me with ink of many colors dripping from the pages of my most angst-torn feelings. Many of you can relate to the hurt and tears. I’d cover up my 286 computer and put my tractor-feed printer away and turn my back on the industry that obviously didn’t know great writing when they saw it.

Alas, pride wouldn’t let me go that easily. Soon, while the kids were napping, I’d find another take on my manuscript, revise and enter contests again. Different contests hosted by chapters that sounded like they knew what they were doing.

Hmm, same scores; same colored ink. What was I doing wrong? I’d look at my pages and I’d read all the charts and profiles I’d created for my amazing characters. I’d read more how-to books. Nothing made sense. I went and knocked on God’s door and essentially told Him, I wasn’t the right person for the job. I give up.

Then the Aha! time of my life began. You know the feeling. Everything rolls out of the fog and you gain new sense of wonder each time you sit at the keyboard. It was at this time I also listened to my heart and started writing in a new direction. No, not abandoning romantic fiction, just tweaking my road map and adding the elements necessary to declare my work as Inspirtional. A whole new world opened up to me.

I went back and looked at the comments on those score sheets, I listened to my critique partners, I went back and read the stuff I’d highlighted in yellow in all the how-to books on my shelves. Only this time when I reviewed all the advice, I picked and chose the comments that seemed consistent. I weighed the differences. I shared my writing with only two people whom I trusted without a doubt.

In essence, when I gave up, God took over.

Working through old manuscripts that harbored great ideas created new challenges. I grew as a writer. I learned discernment. I gave contests another chance. Scores got higher; ink bled less. I read the comments judges offered and found flaws in my plot, my structure, my time period. Months --I daresay-- years passed and my craft grew stronger. I started finalling in the same contests that once raked me over the coals. I started winning. I started meeting editors and agents and developing treasured relationships with them.

Today, an arduous fourteen years later, I continue to sit at my computer and fight with every last word I write. I no longer barge into God’s office and declare I quit, but rather I pray for direction and patience. I’m winning contests now which sooth the ego, but it’s not a sale. Have I learned anything through the trials of fire?

Yes. God is in control. Look at how far He’s brought me. I can’t wait to see where we go from here.

As far as advice to others? Listen to your heart, not the market, and write the stories you know best.
Happy writing!!
-audra

Friday, June 13, 2008

Words Of Wisdom

"One writes out of one thing only -- one's own experience. Everything depends on how relentlessly one forces from the experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give." – James Baldwin


"I have always felt that the first duty of a writer was to ascend -- to make flights, carrying others along if you can manage it. To do this takes courage, even a certain conceit." – E.B. White


From CS Weekly
csdaily@creativescreenwriting.com

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Do Our Job Titles Define Us?

"I am a screenwriter."

I awoke in the middle of the night with those words reverberating in my head. Why? I mean I write screenplays and have for awhile (please don't ask how long,) so why did these four words feel so different?

Eventually I dozed, but the question kept nagging me awake. Why? Why now, why different, why at all?

As dawn crept closer, incredibly bright lightening flashed though my blinds, and my closed eye lids, followed immediately by sharp bursts of thunder. A heck of an alarm bell.

I wasn’t ready to rise and go to my part time job as a senior bank teller. I wasn’t ready to be treated by customers as the lowest of peons. I wanted to stay home and mull this persistent question. But a PT job with health insurance bennies was where I had to be and soon. But I don't like to be titled a "teller," because it's a simply a job, and while I'm pretty darn good at all the banking stuff, it's not my life, my passion.

When I get the opportunity to tell people what I do, I tell them I write, or I’m a writer. They’re intrigued especially if I tell them this while working at the bank, (I liken my job to a waitress working while she auditions for parts) as if meeting a real writer, let alone one working in a bank is as alien as one from space.

Their next question is what do I write and for the past 6 years, my response is "I write screenplays." Now they’re even more intrigued and excited for I live outside of Hollywood. So it’s been fun to say I write screenplays, but some how it must not be enough for me any longer as evidenced by this nagging question.

All through my hectic "first of the month" morning at the bank, through lunch, dinner and watching the Golden Compass...a very disjointed movie, I was still wondering why waking up to those words was becoming a literal headache, until it hit me that I really am a screenwriter, it’s in my bones.

I can’t imagine not doing this even though it takes up a huge amount of time, effort and discipline. I haven’t won an Oscar or an Emmy...yet, and I’m doing my best every single day to put words on the page that will translate into magic on the screen.

I am a screenwriter.

And that title defines a major part of me, pleases and thrills me. It makes me stand taller. Even my attorney husband loves to say his wife is a screenwriter. So now when people ask me what I do, I’ll proudly, yet simply say; "I’m a screenwriter," (not just "a writer" or "I write") and watch their jaw lower, maybe even drop, especially when I’m at the bank, behind the line and "teller" is seemingly written all over me.

So if you have a dream, go for it full throttle, then adopt the title that manifests that dream. And don't let anyone tell you differently.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Writing Pals and Conferences

Hi Everybody,
This is a picture of me and John on Elk Ave in downtown Crested Butte. That's Mt. Crested Butte in the background.

I'm really excited about the Crested Butte Writers Conference June 20-22. I get to catch up with my friend, Susan Wiggs.

I met Susan at a San Diego writers’ event more years ago than either of us want to remember. I managed to pick her up from the airport and drive her to the workshop without any mishaps. Okay, to be fair, Agent Stephanie Kip Rostan was really the only ill-fated guest I ever drove who I did get lost with and made carsick. I’m a good driver—really. I’m a stellar driver. It’s her. Stephanie her—not Susan.

Anyhow, I can’t wait to share the beauty and friendliness of my favorite mountain town with Susan during the Crested Butte Writers Conference. Susan and five other award-winning authors --including a favorite fantasy author of Kerri-Leigh's, Mario Acevedo, are giving dynamic workshops.

Friday I get to announce the winners of The Sandy Writing Contest—which is my baby. The editor final judges were all impressed with the quality of the entries they ranked, and I’m so proud of our finalists. More proud than I have any right to be since I really didn't do anything I can take credit for. As contest coordinator I'm just a matchmaker of sorts. So it's silly for me to be so absurdly pleased with my finalists' successes, yet I am!

Last year, writing pal, Donnell Bell, was a finalist in the romance category and took first place, and this year Kerri-Leigh Grady is a finalist in the romance category. Can Kerri-Leigh keep up the tradition Donnell set of my writing pals impressing the NY editors??? No pressure, Kerri. Stay tuned to the after-conference posts.

Saturday, after a day of presentations, includes the authors’ book signing followed by appetizers and a cocktail hour with our guest authors and speakers. Then we partake in the fun of a silent auction—of which Susan, other authors, and experts in the publishing field have generously donated critiques. NYT best selling author, editor and agent critiques--what a treat!

Unlike other conferences, CBWC offers lots of unstructured time to hang out with the guest speakers in a relaxed environment. Check it out at www.cbfriendsofthelibrary.org.

Come on out, we enjoy making new friends and reconnecting with old ones. Hope to see you there!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Melissa Singer, Tor and Tom Doherty Senior Editor on Voice

Tom Doherty & Tor Sr Editor, Melissa Ann Singer's take on voices:


Every good author's voice is pretty distinctive. (Not necessarily, imo. Sometimes a “voice” is very plain or simple, and it’s hard to tell one of those writers from another.)


Not that it really matters--since agents and editors are primarily looking for a terrific story they can sell, but I wonder; can you tell from a chapter if the author is a man or a woman?

Sometimes you can tell, sometimes you can’t. Sometimes it depends on the content of the scene. Some male writers who are trying to write in a female character’s point of view are not good at certain details—putting on makeup or sexual matters, for instance. Others are very good at it. Similarly, there are women who are unconvincing when writing from the male point of view, about similar matters—shaving, erections, etc. The little things, in other words.

Judging contests has given me an interesting perspective on this. A lot of the time, I’ve no idea if the writer is male or female . . . but I tend to assume female when I’m reading romantic fiction since the majority of writers of romantic fiction are female. And then I’ll hit a particular sentence and think, “wait, this writer must be a man.”

However, in general, I don’t consider the gender of the writer when I’m looking at a manuscript. I consider the manuscript. A lot of the time, with submissions, I barely clance at the writer’s name before reading the material, so I don’t always have an gender-association in my mind when I’m reading. Only if there’s something in the narrative or dialog that seems “wrong” or “odd” will I go back and look at the gender of the writer. Generally, however, it doesn’t matter to me, at least not in terms of assessing the quality or publishability of a manuscript.


A young person or adult? Across all genres, or is it easier to tell in some genres compared to others?

Again, sometimes you can tell, especially if the young person is quite young. The under-16s are pretty obvious. But there are many adults who write in a na├»ve style, whose work reads as if it were written by a young person, so it can be hard to tell if the work you’re reading was written by a 19-yo or a 30-yo.

It is often easy to pick out the work of a much older writer—a person in his or her 70s or 80s. I can’t really say what the markers are, but a number of times I found myself thinking, “this person is older,” and then checking the cover letter or bio and seeing that the writer is 72 or whatever.

Of course, most of the time I don’t notice anything in a manuscript that gives hints about the age of the writer, so undoubtedly I’ve looked at many things by young people and older people without knowing it.

Genre does make a difference. A young person may have a difficult time writing about certain elements of a relationship, for instance, because he or she has limited experience in relationships. Or a young person may have difficulty handling elements about family life or the working world, again because of limited experience. But this isn’t really about age, it’s about experiences. Someone who has never lived in a big city will probably not write about living in a big city as well as someone who has lived in a big city, just as someone who has never lived in farm country may have difficulty writing convincingly about living in farm country.

Research can make a huge difference to a writer, and a good writer can be convincing about anything. After all, historical novelists haven’t lived in the eras they’re writing about, and science fiction and fantasy writers don’t really have spaceships or dragons in their backyards. Good writing is good writing, regardless of the writer’s age or personal experiences.


A really great character writer will give each character their own personality—so there should be no hints there. It must be in the narrative. The narrative must give it away. (not sure what you mean by this. There isn’t always room in a book for a lot of personalities, especially if you have a larger cast/bunches of supporting characters. You can build personality over a series, of course, but sometimes there’s only room for a few personalities in a book, and other characters will have collections of traits/personas rather than full personalities.)


Just curious, but with a great writer, what can you tell about the author from her writing voice?

Sometimes nothing, sometimes a great deal, depending on the particular book, what was going on in the writer’s life when he or she was writing it, how old the person was when it was written, etc.

Sometimes a writer under contract to me goes through a tough time personally, without saying anything to me. There have been cases where I’ll be reading a delivered manuscript and I’ll call or email the writer and say “who died?” (well, the polite equivalent). Because I can see in the manuscript that the writer has suffered a trauma.

One of the hardest things for a writer to do is write a book with romantic elements when he or she is going through a divorce. It’s really hard to keep divorce and separation out of a book . . . and while there are times when it’s wonderful for a project to have that extra layering, it can be difficult to write well about the beginnings of a relationship when you are going through the end of one.

I should say, however, that I, personally, am a story-driven reader. If the voice is convincing, I often don’t notice it as “voice” until I’ve already swallowed a big chunk of the writing. Other times, of course, the voice jumps up and hits me over the head on page one. But is it the author’s voice or a character’s personality that does that? And does it matter, as long as it’s a good book? I’m not sure.

Revealing Voices

We all know that voice is one of the most important tools a fiction writer has. You might have the most amazing story, but if it’s not told in a way that’s appealing and entertaining to many people—you’re probably not going to be bought. One thing that’s occasionally plagued me, is what if my voice just isn’t that likable, or popular? It’s not exactly easy to change. I don’t think it’s even as easy as acquiring an accent—which I am very good at. I’m an excellent mimic even when I don’t intend to be. It’s a little embarrassing being such an unconscious copycat. I bet Freud would have a lot to say about that, but I digress.

Right before bed last night, I had this thought. Everybody’s voice is pretty distinctive. Not that it really matters, but do you think editors and agents can tell from a chapter if the author is a man or a woman? A young person or adult? Across all genres? A really great character writer will give each character their own personality—so there should be no hints there. It must be in the narrative. The narrative must give it away.

What do you guys think?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

New Agent Interview


Rachel Downes, a junior literary agent at the Caren Johnson Literary Agency, is making her conference debut at the Crested Butte Writers Conference June 20-22.

Rachel began as an intern for CJLA. She works closely with Caren to develop and nurture CJLA authors and is looking to represent romance, science fiction, YA fiction of all kinds, and nonfiction in the following subjects: narrative, history, pop culture, humor, science, women’s studies and social science.

TR: Which categories do you acquire? Which category is your favorite?

Rachel: I accept all types of romance and YA fiction, in addition to nonfiction in narrative, history, pop culture, science, women’s studies and social science. I also am looking to represent science fiction. This would be my favorite category of all.

TR: In terms of submissions, what are you sick to death of and what would you like to see more of?

Rachel: I am tired of paranormal romances and women’s fiction. I would like to see more YA fiction, social science nonfiction, and science fiction, such as Brave New World, White Noise, Fahrenheit 451, etc., or books that represent an ideal world gone horribly astray, often due future developments in science and technology.

TR: Do you accept unagented and/or email queries? E-mail queries?

Rachel: I accept both unagented and email queries.

TR: What length synopsis do you prefer see with a partial?

Rachel: A synopsis anywhere in the vicinity of 500-1000 words is preferable to me.

TR: Many editors now need to get far more involved in the business side of writing and have less time to spend on the actual editing end of your job. Fact or Fiction? Do you think this is more genre specific—or industry wide? What do you spend the majority of your days doing?

Rachel: I think it’s true that agents have been doing increasing amounts of editing in recent times. I see this as a phenomenon that’s been occurring more so in the fiction genres than in the nonfiction genres, as it’s a lot easier to take a critical eye to writing that presents factual information, rather than descriptive writing that can be read subjectively.

I spend the majority of my days often just keeping up correspondence with authors and editors, whether it be through email, on the phone, or in person. A fair share of my time goes into reading proposals and manuscripts and giving suggestions to authors to improve them. Researching and keeping up with the book market (in my represented genres and for the market in general) comprise a large part of my job too.

TR: What are the compelling elements that you think are necessary for a good read? What particularly grabs your attention?

Rachel: I believe it’s extremely important that a book pull you in within the first 50 pages. Even if you have the best book in the world, people will never know it if they lose patience with reading too much back story. This is especially the case since leisure time is a rare commodity these days. Also, I’m all for complex plots and larger-than-life characters, but all fiction needs to have some believable, human elements to it. To me this means that the target audience will be able to relate to the book’s characters (fantastic or not) on some sort of level. It means that the characters’ back stories and the plot line aren’t so unbelievable that even a science fiction fanatic has a hard time buying into them. All in all, writing that moves along at a decent pace and with a clear purpose, as well as relatable characters are what grab my attention in a book.

TR: Besides the writing, the story and the talent, what are the most important elements you look for in an author, ie. contest wins, cooperativeness, affiliations to writers organizations, knowledge of publishing industry, promotability, etc?

Rachel: I look for independent writing achievements (whether they be national, local, etc.) and promotability. Cooperativeness is a definite plus.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Westerns aren't selling - NOT

Ever put your heart and soul into your work only to have naysayers circle the wagons and say no one's buying your genre at present?

Thankfully, Elaine Levine 2007 Golden Heart winner for Sager's Passion, Best Long Historical, doesn't listen to naysayers. She believes in her story and found a major industry professional who believes in it as well.

D.B. Welcome to The Five Scribes, Elaine!

E.L. Hi Donnell! I'm excited to be here! I love the premise of your group blog!

D.B. Thank you! I think it's going to be fun. Your cover is fantastic and exemplifies a western novel in my mind. Some fantastic things are happening in your world. Would you share what's happening?

E.L. My Golden Heart winning manuscript has been sold to Kensington and is due out in January '09. The next in the series (working title, McCAID'S WOMAN) will follow in the summer. And I'm hard at work on the third one, tentatively titled LEAH AND THE AVENGER!

D.B. So Sager's Passion is now...?

E.L. RACHEL AND THE HIRED GUN! I love that title. It quickly identifies the book as a western historical. When Kate Duffy made me the 2-book offer, one of the things she mentioned was that titling the stories they buy was Kensington's responsibility. Frankly, that was a relief. Titles are an important marketing tool, and I knew my story's working title wasn't as strong as it could be.

D.B. Sounds like you’re learning the business and handling it like a pro. I wanted you to be here today because during 2007 RWA National, even though it was an exciting time, you were on a roller coaster mentally. To some, being a Golden Heart finalist is all glamor and lights. What was going through your mind at the time?

E.L. One of my many fears is public speaking. I was terrified I would win my category of the Golden Heart competition and then have to make a speech. I wouldn't have entered if I'd known that was part of the whole deal! I didn't need to win--finaling was all the affirmation for my work that I needed. I seriously contemplated not attending the conference because vomiting in public is rarely enjoyable. But something within me said I needed to suck it up and go. Face it, whatever it was.

Turns out, I had a blast. National was a hoot. There had to be a million people there. And with just two elevators working at any given time, there were plenty of opportunities to network, which was so easy for an introvert like me.

But every day of the conference, every hour, my fear grew. My internal chatter sounded something like, "Pleasedontletmewin. Pleasedontletmewin. Pleasedontletmewin."

D.B. LOL I have this image now of every GH finalist from here on out slipping into elevators chanting, "Pleasedontletmewin." Glad your roller coaster came to a stop safely. Tell us about the week before, Saturday evening and then the surprise that came afterward.

E.L. Well, it did come in for a smooth landing, but not before my elevated blood pressure shaved a few years off my life. I still had to get through my editor appointment. RITA and Golden Heart finalists get first pick when RWA opens its editor and agent slots for the annual conference. I figured what the heck--I picked the queen of NY publishing, Kate Duffy. Why not start at the top?

The morning of my appointment, I practiced my pitch for two hours out loud in my hotel room. My voice was raw by the time I had to meet with Kate. Finally, I was escorted to her table for my ten minutes. The first thing she said to me was that she was asking everyone who had an appointment with her to submit a full, so I didn't have to be nervous about the outcome of our session. I asked if she even wanted to hear my pitch. Pokerfaced, she said it was up to me. Well, you can imagine what went through my head. Do it! Don't do it! Run! Sit!

Standing in front of her, I had an epiphany. I hadn't worked as hard or as long as I had to quit out of fear. I gave her my pitch. She was an avid listener. She leaned forward and asked questions and got into the story. She put me at ease. I left her table knowing I had conquered a fear. And that was worth everything.

One hurdle down, one to go--I still had to face the awards ceremony. By now, my internal commentary was a roar, "DONTLETMEWIN. DONTLETMEWIN. DONTLETMEWIN." You sat on one side of me, our CRW sister, Laura Stephens, sat on my other. I gripped your hands so tightly I'm sure I left bruises. You probably couldn't hear the ceremony for the screaming in my head. I couldn't, but I saw the slide behind the announcer showing my book as the winner. It was horrible. It was wonderful. And I cried for hours afterwards.

So, now the funny part of the story. I left the auditorium to call my husband. While I was outside, Kate passed me. She congratulated me, which was totally cool. Then she said, "But it's Sager! Sager!" giving my hero's name the hard "g", not the soft "g" as the announcer had said it. Kate remembered my protagonist's name from my pitch the day before and sounded indignant that the announcer had gotten it wrong. Amazing.

D.B. The fact that she made a mental note of your hero’s name says lot about Kate Duffy AND your story, Elaine. As we bring this interview to a close, if you could give advice to an aspiring author what would it be?

E.L. Don't adhere to rules--break them if it frees your creativity. Don't believe in limitations. Be fearless, in your work and in networking. Come to National so that I can meet you. I'm a whole lot braver--I'll be the one on stage with a goofy grin as I award the 2008 Golden Heart winner in the Historical category.

D.B. And we'll be cheering you on. Congratulations on RACHEL AND THE HIRED GUN, first in your series for the Zebra debut program. Oh, I almost forgot! Will you give us a blurb?

E.L. Fleeing from a brutal past to the father she's never met, Rachel Douglas must rely on the survival skills of the hard-edged gunman her father sends to guide her across the rugged terrain of the Dakota Territory. But Sager's got another plan...and a blood debt to settle. Time doesn't always heal old wounds. Sometimes it takes a little vengeance!

Thanks for having me here today, Donnell!

D.B. It's been my pleasure. I'm particularly happy to reinforce westerns “are” selling, believe in your story, and, like Elaine, make it happen. I hope you'll check out her new website http://www.elainelevine.com. I'll wager January '09 feels like a gestational period. I, for one, can't wait.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

When Heroines Throw Down... or Meet Chris Green (part 2)


Yesterday’s conversation with Chris was fantastic, yes? Let’s jump right back in. Today, I’ve asked Chris to give us a peek into how her mind works.

ETA: Again, don't forget to leave a comment. Chris has generously offered up two books today to one lucky winner. Post a comment (any comment at all) for a chance to win Mommy and the Millionaire and One for the Road!

KL: It’s throw-down time! Who wins, and would they go for beers after?

CG: Whoo-hoo!

1. Dawn Madison vs Buffy

The win goes to Buffy since she’s got that super slayer strength and skill. Dawn was trained as a stuntwoman and she’s gradually developing powers, but at this point, Buffy’s more advanced. I think Dawn’s co-hunter, Kiko Daniels, would talk Dawn into having beers with Buffy afterward because he would probably have a crush on Buffy, but Dawn would have bottled water.

2. Dawn vs Anita Blake

Ooo, this is tough because Anita is very skilled. I’d say it’s a draw, but both women would come out pretty bloody and there’d be no beers afterward. The reason for the draw would be that Dawn would feel inferior because of all Anita’s men backing her up, and that’d probably give her a lot of extra incentive to brawl.

3. Dawn vs Sara Pezzini of Witchblade

The win goes to Sara unless the Witchblade, which can be so ruthless yet unpredictable, decides it likes Dawn and takes it easy on her. But I do think Sara and Dawn would understand each other pretty well. Maybe there’d even be a drink afterward if there isn’t some pressing paranormal emergency for either of them.

4. Sara vs Elektra

Elektra, but only because I think Elektra is probably one of the only beings who could outwit the Witchblade. Elektra is a freakin’ witch when it comes to springing a trap and carrying through with a mission.

5. Buffy vs Anita

Buffy, and not only because of her super powers, but because, now, she has, like, hundreds of slayers to back her up, plus Willow and maybe even Dracula.

KL: Did you choose Dawn’s name for its significance to the story, or was the choice unconscious?

CG: Oddly enough, I named Dawn after one of my good friends, and that was it, LOL. The “original Dawn” and I have known each other since grade school, and it was only after I named my heroine that I realized there was a Buffy connection. Also, Night Rising, the first VB book, had an “evil rising” theme, and my editor, Ginjer Buchanan, took the concept a step further with all of the initial trilogy’s titles. It all worked out, because Break of Dawn (book 3) is symbolic not only in its imagery, but because it says a lot about what’s happening to Dawn Madison mentally and emotionally, as well.

KL: You’re banished to an island for the rest of your life. You’re allowed to take five books with you. One has to be by Stephen King, one has to be one of your own, and the other three are open. Which will you choose?

CG:
  1. The Stand, by Stephen King. It’s one of my top 5, island or not.
  2. Baited (written by me as “Crystal Green”). It takes place on an island and might offer inspiration for survival.
  3. The Secret History, by Donna Tartt. I read it every few years anyway because it’s just that awesome.
  4. The Promise of Jenny Jones, by Maggie Osbourne. Best historical romance ever.
  5. Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry. The characters would keep me in good company.

KL: How do you feel Dawn’s kick-assness compares to other heroines you’ve written?
CG: As far as my action-adventure heroines, Dawn’s right up there with Camille from The Huntress and Katsu from Baited. They’re all tough, but that toughness comes with certain vulnerabilities. One of Dawn’s vulnerabilities is her family and how they’ve shaped her self-perception. One of Camille’s vulnerabilities was her love for her boyfriend and her determination to save him at all costs. Katsu was bullied by her peers when she was younger, and that turned her into a survivor. None of these women ever give up.

KL: What was the last romance novel you read that sucked you in and made you forget the world around you?

CG: Recently, I’ve been catching up on reading, and I came across a historical called The Lady Killer by Samantha Saxon. It’s about a high-society female assassin, and I was just really taken by how much sympathy I felt for the heroine. Because of the characterization, I enjoyed every page.

KL: Who makes the best Batman: Christian Bale, George Clooney, Val Kilmer, or Michael Keaton?

CG: As weird as this will sound, I really liked Michael Keaton, even though he’s hardly the spitting image of Bruce Wayne, LOL. He was hot in that Batsuit, mostly because there was something about his eyes. You could see how on-the-edge he was, how haunted. Out of all the Batmen, only he and Christian Bale convince me that the character would go as far as he needs to in order to bring about a reckoning.



Thanks, Chris! I had a blast, and I hope you'll come back and hang with us again.

You can read Chris’s current Crystal Green release now. The Second-Chance Groom is available through June. Chris’s second Vampire Babylon book, Midnight Reign, was a February 2008 release, and Break of Dawn will appear on shelves this September.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

On Kryptonite, Vampires, and True Love... or Meet Chris Green, part 1


For the last eight years, Chris Marie Green has been on fire. Not literally, of course, though she’s probably burned out a few keyboards and hard drives as she’s pounded out nearly thirty books. Yes, that’s right. Close to thirty.

Writing as Crystal Green, she pens wonderful novels for Silhouette Romance, everything from Special Editions to erotic Blaze novels. After falling in love with the paranormal element during the creation of The Huntress, she began writing urban fantasy as Chris Marie Green. Her Vampire Babylon series takes on the seedy, noir underworld of Hollywood with a real kick-ass heroine and her very naughty lover. Very. Naughty.

Chris took time out of her very busy writing schedule to answer a whole bunch of questions for me. Today, we’ll tackle Chris’s craft.

KL: You’re contracted through book six for the Vampire Babylon series. How many books would you like this series to run, or are you willing to leave that open-ended?

CG: I think “open ended” is the best answer at this point.Even though I’ve only written books 1-4 so far, I do know what’s going to happen through book 6 since I need to plan ahead due to how the series uses trilogy arcs (like Star Wars).But I have ideas for books 7-9, if that should ever come to pass. Beyond that? We’ll see what the future holds….

KL: Do you find writing a series challenging? How do you keep up with so many different series and continuity books?

CG: It is challenging, because you have to try very hard not to betray the world and characters you’ve previously fleshed out. And I like that you’ve used these two different terms: “series” and “continuities.” To me, a “continuity” uses stories that are linked by something such as the same town or world, or even a group of friends or brothers. Each continuing installment focuses on new main characters. I’ve written quite a few of these for romance, like Montana Mavericks and The Suds Club. A “series,” in my mind, at least, furthers the adventures of the same main characters book by book, allowing your hero/heroines to grow from one story to another. Thus, I would say that my Vampire Babylon books are a “series.”

With a series, in particular, I use “bibles” to keep track of details—because there are sooooo many. And before I write each new book, I try to go back and read the previous ones so there’s hopefully a flow to the narrative and growth.

KL: You’ve said that your novel The Huntress gave you a taste for writing paranormals. Was your transition from series romance to urban fantasy easy?

CG: I barely noticed a transition, LOL. The Huntress was one of those stories that came easily, thank goodness. I had to write it, and it felt so right that I gravitated toward writing more urban fantasy. Earlier in life, I wrote lots of short horror stories, and it was actually more of a surprise to find myself writing romance than anything! But no matter how dark my published novels have gotten, there’s always going to be a romantic element, because I love reading romance, too.

KL: You are so busy between your Vampire Babylon books and your romance novels. Do you ever just need a vacay to clear your mind?

CG: Yes—and this is such a timely question. I just took some time off after a heavy string of deadlines. I was finally able to sleep through the night without waking up to scribble down an idea for my work in progress. And this is something I need to improve in my life—scheduling. I haven’t been allowing time for sickness and emergencies, and that time doesn’t magically create itself when something happens to throw you off schedule.

KL: What element of the writing process do you consider your kryptonite, and how do you overcome it?

CG: My kryptonite has to be revising after I’ve written the first draft of a chapter. I just get so darn antsy to move on, even though the revising stage is where I add more layers and polish things up. Getting me into a chair to revise is probably like watching Superman squirming around in the face of kryptonite! I overcome it by reminding myself that it’s absolutely necessary and there’s no getting around it and to just suck it up and get it done. (Besides, the sooner it gets done, the sooner I can goof off.)

KL: Do you have designs on other paranormal creatures or worlds, or have you considered writing outside of UF or romance?

CG: I’m actually working on another “world” right now. It’s sort of a gunslinger paranormal that takes place in a desolate future. Also, I’ve been dying to write this atmospheric thriller paranormal that’s a cross between The Shining and Friday the 13th. And then there are more Vampire Babylons, of course!



I’m really looking forward to the futuristic gunslinger – I loved Firefly and Serenity! Tune in tomorrow to hear about Dawn’s kick-assness, beer, Batman, and remote islands with plenty of pre-packaged food. But if you just can't wait to see more of Chris, visit her Crystal Green website or the official Vampire Babylon site.

ETA: Leave a comment, and you'll automagically be entered in a giveaway. Chris has generously offered up a copy of Midnight Reign, the second book in the Vampire Babylon series!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Meet the Power of Five...


Welcome to the Five Scribes first formal blog. My name’s Donnell, and I’ll get this party started. An indelible force named Theresa Rizzo – or T as we call her – brought us Scribes together. T just happens to have this amazing getaway in Crested Butte, Colorado, home of the Crested Butte Writing Conference.

For anyone who’s ever longed for a quiet, breathtaking place to write, picture four bedrooms, three bathrooms and solitude. Alone time a writer adores, bathrooms no woman can do without, and inspiration as far as the eye can see. After T’s introduction, it occurred to us, that although we wrote different genres, we had the same goals. As aspiring authors, we wanted to blog, just not all the time – And we wanted our writing to come first.

What I plan to bring to this group are topics on craft, my love of words, and the mortar and brick that hold a story together. I plan to blog on the topic of publishing, call stories, invite my friends and associates to share their insights, and also discuss what I've learned as a contest coordinator, judge and entrant. Most of all I hope to bring fun and passion, which is why I write in the first place.

So enough about me. Who has their hand up next?

Me, me, me.....Leslie (LA) here!!

What I hope to bring to the blog is simply my writing life; tips I've found that really intrigue me (and beg me to ask the question, "Why didn't I think of that," or even worse, after writing for a number of years, "Why didn't I already know that?"), plus interviews and guest blogs with industry professionals.

Having writing buddies who are honest, loyal, and eccentric is a blessing because honestly, not all our colleagues, even though they may offer fantastic critiques or high fives, really mean it. Our failure is success to them. Yes, what I've just said may sound mean, but if you search your heart you'll know it's true. So these women on the Five Scribes Blog are a treasure.

Check on us often, we'll always have something to say. Who's the next Scribe on base?

Though I'm morally opposed to being on base, since that entails digging out my military ID and a round or two of parking lot fisticuffs, I'll bite. I'm Kerri-Leigh, or just KL. Of all the Five Scribes, T was my first friend. I met her at our local RWA group, but I think the first real conversation we had was when I saw her sunbathing at our local chapter conference. Even though it meant I had to lean out my hotel window, I felt morally obligated to let her know it should be illegal for a woman to look that good in a swimsuit after four kids. She didn't kill me for ruining her time away from her children, I forgave her for being a hot mama, and we came to be good friends.

Since I've gotten to know Donnell, Leslie, and Audra, I've been honored to be counted as one of this gang of incredibly talented, wonderful, and funny gals. My contribution to this blog will probably be a bit of potpourri - news, opinions, interviews, and very likely a bit of nonsensical rambling. Next!

Audra here. Aren’t we a diversified group? Fiction writers are so creative, indulgent, enthusiastic, helpful, and, oh yeah, talented! Where else can you find mystery, suspense, womens’ issues, westerns, fantasy, inspiration and many other wild hairs all playing together so nicely in the same sandbox? Hmm, makes me think there might be an idea for a screenplay bubbling in the background, hee, but hey, I’ll leave that to Leslie.

Me? I write Inspirational Romance. No, not your grandmother’s inspirational fiction – more like hero, heroine and God mixing it up, getting it all together and making life happen. I’d love to offer insight into the new breed of Inspirational Fiction, offer up opportunities to meet authors, editors, and agents high on excitement and adventure, and low on status quo when it comes to the new groundbreaking twists to this age-old genre. I’ve spent years entering, judging, and placing in contests; enjoyed being the lucky recipient (or pitiful victim) of more critiques and feedback than I’d care to admit; and forged endearing friendships with the very people I compete with for the coveted few spaces on the publishing roster.

Most of all, I count myself blessed to be numbered among the five who, collectively, have experienced most all of what the writer’s life has to offer and arisen all the better for it. Oh wait, I’m only four. Where is our Fantastic Fifth?

Fantastic Fifth? Hmmm . . . I like it. A so it falls to me to officially wind up our first post. Purr of satisfaction here—I SO love having the last word!

Though I’m the middle child of our five, the others would probably say I’m the most childish and impatient—and they’d be right. It’s okay, I don’t mind ‘cause it’s wonderful having such amazing friends. That we share an unwavering commitment to each other first and craft secondly, is a totally unexpected gift brought to me through this long journey towards publication.

Enough gooey sweetness; sentimentality makes me squirm and break out in hives. Which the others exploit mercilessly, by hugging me, saying sweet things, and making my heroines eat after the heroes ‘cause apparently, it’s a turn-on to share food. Swapping germs is sexy? Whatever!

Anyhow, I want my emphasis for our blog to concentrate on passing on industry/business news to help all of us identify potential opportunities. It’s damn hard breaking into this business and most bestselling authors admit to an element of luck contributing to their success. But you know what people say about luck . . . luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity (Seneca).

I have faith that the power of five will be our good luck charm, we’d be happy to share it with you too.

Theresa (T)