Monday, March 31, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Hop!

A gifted writer and dear friend, Silvia Villalobos, invited me to join the blog hop–My Writing Process–which offers viewers a look at the writing processes of different authors and artists of the pen. Please take a look at Silvia's blog, Silvia Writes. She's participating in the A to Z Challenge through the month of April (as am I), so in the coming weeks she'll be posting new articles six days per week. That means it's a good time to get to know her and her work. I've had the opportunity to read her novel, SRANGER OF FRIEND, even though it isn't out yet, and I'm definitely looking forward to the glorious day when it is.

Now–drum roll–what am I working on?

Jeez. Too many things.

 I'm working on the revisions to a fantasy novel for middle graders, a literary  coming-of-age novel, a genre romance sprinkled with bits of mystery, and a literary love story. When I'm not working on a novel, I'm working on short stories. I've had shorts published in the Writer's Journal, Woman's WorldShort Stuff  for Grown-ups, The Storyteller, and Once Upon a Time. Last December, I had my first online  publishing credit, a short romantic story in Downstate Story. Currently I'm working on a sci-fi short story and three literary shorts, one about Alzheimer's disease, one about the power of jealousy, and one about a mentally handicapped boy who helps his sister discover who she is.
Paul Cubitt, Pinterest

I'm in trouble when they say you are  what you write, because I jump from children's stories to adult stories, from happily ever after to horror, and anything in between when the mood strikes me. So I'm a little bit of everything, which is much like my heritage. I love short pieces where characters face a situation that can take place in as little as five minutes or stories that unfold over years. Sometimes I like it simple, the sweet romance that started in a special but unsuspecting moment, and sometimes I like layers of complexity that I fully emerge myself into in order to fully appreciate the world I am reading.

My writing process

 I NEVER close a day of writing without leaving the project I'm tackling on my desk so that I know where to begin the next day. I generally stop writing at the end of a scene or chapter. If I only have an idea of what’s going to happen next, I make a note of that idea. This way, I never face a morning wondering what I'm going to write about. If I don't have an idea, I seriously use a one-word prompt. I might look around my house and see something weird or odd in some way. It might be my husband taking forever to peel an orange. Watching that process might be my prompt. 

Throughout the night, I'll be thinking about it and find a way to associate at least the process, if not the orange, to one of my characters. I'll have left that note on my desk, so I will think about the image the next morning. (Keep in mind, this is only if I don't already have an idea of my character’s next move.)  Once I start thinking about the peeling process or any other process in the morning, I've already awakened my creative brain. At that point, I reread and perhaps do a little editing on the writing I did the day before. This plants the voice back in my brain and reacquaints me with any tension I left off with. I let myself feel it again and then start writing. 

If I get stuck, I look for another prompt. Usually they work. If they don't, so what? There's a delete button and at least the prompt will have awakened the creative part of my brain and pushed me into writing. I don't have the patience to deal with a blank screen, so I found ways to work around it.

I pin up my long hair with a clip, because I'm one of those weird people who believes that having hair fall on either side of my face blocks my ideas from coming out freely. It's distracting. If I lean forward a little, I can see that hair out of my peripheral vision. The hair clip avoids any distractions the hair might otherwise cause.

 I bring a cup of decaf coffee to my desk and let myself  be fooled into thinking it still works like regular coffee, and maybe a snack or two so I don't have an excuse to leave my desk, and then I commit to spending the day seat-to-seat (butt in chair) and work until quitting time.

Sometimes, rather than edit my own work to get my brain into the writing mode, I start the day critiquing another writer's work. This also wakes the brain up.  Whatever works, I do it. Chocolate helps. Sometimes I use it just as a reward. I promise myself that if I accomplish my goal during a given day's writing, I get a guilt-free chocolate bar that night. (Bribery is good for more than raising kids.)

 Again, many thanks to Silvia for inviting me to this blog hop. I’m tagging two excellent writers to share their stories–Lynne Hinkey, author of MARINA MELEE and soon to be released YE GOD! A TALE OF DOGS AND DEMONS, and Sherry Gloag, author of many titles including two wonderful reads coming to you soon. Take a look at Sherry's blog, The Heart of Romance.


Friday, March 21, 2014

A to Z Blogging Challenge—Theme Reveal!

Hello stories or novels; goodbye writer’s block! My theme for April’s Blogging Challenge is to give you story ideas from A to Z, using the alphabet to nab one-word prompts. And get this—since ideas can’t be plagiarized, you are free to use any of them you.

You can twist them into any shape you want. You can use them as starting points to bring an idea simmering in the back of your mind into a more concrete form. You can print them out and paper your writing room with them.

The ideas will work for more than one style of writing: literary, romance, mystery, or children’s stories.

It isn’t a bad idea to pull up the first word that comes to your mind for any given letter of the alphabet. I actually wrote an entire novel this way. Seriously. I had the goal to write it in thirty days, and I had a day job besides. So, many mornings I would wake after my two hours of sleep, and I would use the first item that caught my eye in my next chapter. It was actually fun to write off the top of my head, grabbing ideas from either the first word I spotted when I flipped the dictionary open, or the first item I saw in my kitchen, bathroom, or garage. It was not only an inspiring challenge to weave different ideas together into a plot, but it also got my creative juices going on high-speed.

The ideas I’ll be offering you can also trigger unique ideas of your own, or at least get you in the spirit of looking for them. It exercises your creative brain. It’s better than staring at a blank screen, and if you follow this technique for yourself, writer’s block will be something of your past. Still, just in case you have a dry moment, check out my free ideas that will be posted throughout the month of April, just for you.
Happy writing!


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Genre Romance or a Literary Love Story?

I’ve had a few short romantic stories published, but I haven’t exactly sent any novel-length romances out into the world. I’m working on a couple, but the task seems to pan out much like my laundry—as soon as I think I’m near done, I find more to do and never seem to make much headway.

In the meantime, I’ve studied the genre and learned that a love story is not the same as a romance. Romance follows specific expectations readers demand and publishers insist upon. But a love story doesn’t have to fit into a genre’s mold. It can be a literary gem. What this means is that in a love story, we don’t have to follow the rules of the romance genre, yet we can still have characters fall in love. We can use that love as a strength or weakness (addiction) explored through characterization. For literary love stories, two novels by Louise Erdrich come to mind—LOVE MEDICINE and TALES OF A BURNING LOVE. Keep in mind, the focus in literary fiction is not solely on the development of love, but more on the human condition to which that love is a part.

For genre romance, look at Avon Books, Zebra Contemporary Books, and Harlequin.

So how do you decide if the romantic theme you are nourishing fits the romance genre or if it’s a literary love story?

In genre romance, the happily ever after is the promise readers want to see. It offers an escape from reality, which isn’t always so happy. Reality is real life. Life is messy. Romance stories can have some mess in them, but only as long as it halts at the end, when the lovebirds recognize and admit their feelings for each other and come to some type of commitment in honor of that love. (I consider genre romance a promise of love and hope, not just an escape.)

In literary love stories, sometimes a couple falls in love, then one of them dies. Sometimes it is after a death that the depth of the love is finally realized. But someone doesn’t have to die to make a literary romance work. The couple might fall in love and face the basic struggles most couples face. For literary, there will still be a satisfying ending, albeit it may not be what readers are expecting (or wanting). There’s a strong sense of union between the couple, but you can never be sure from page to page that everything will work out for them (the way you wanted). But it’s still a love story and therefore, you can tap into your romantic soul.

Just remember that in literary work, plot is secondary to character, and relationships are viewed from the perspective of how they define the human condition. (But there can still be some spicy romance in that relationship.)

What I never considered until I read a stockpile of “rules” for genre romance is that the characters should not be over the age thirty. Seriously? Reading that, the bratty little rebel in me immediately started creating a character who was thirty-one. I guess I’d have to go for the literary arena.

Then I read the rule that the hero or heroine cannot have any disabilities, and he should be good-looking, strong, virile, and well to do (preferably rich). The heroine, of course, is gorgeous, strong-minded, and independent.

To sum it up, if your hero or heroine has a handicap of any sort, whether physical, mental, or financial, you better stick with literary writing. A good thing about that market is we’re allowed to acknowledge and understand that people in their forties can fall head over heels, and so can that handsome gent in the wheelchair and the dirt poor couple down the street. If these are the characters you enjoy creating, you may be writing a love story, but it is not a romance—it is a literary love story, and it will tell is much about the human condition as a whole is it will the process of falling in love.

If you’re looking to get noticed by one of the big publishers looking specifically for the happily ever after, you do need to pay attention to the expected conventions. And keep this in mind—it is not because the publisher is close-minded about real love between real people, but it is because readers of romance expect a tidy happy ending, an escape of sorts, and they will not tolerate you coming up short in that area.

Something to keep in mind for a literary love story is that literary works explore multi-layered themes, and the conflicts are more of the human condition, not just a murder to solve or an obstacle standing in the way of love. Some say there’s also an expectation of stronger voice and that more attention is put into the language (descriptive, use of metaphor, etc.). While that may be true for the latter, I don’t agree that literary fiction always has a stronger voice. True in some cases, yet I know some genre lovers with very authentic voices.

For myself, I’ve concluded that one of my stories is literary, while the other is a traditional happily ever after. So much for consistency.

What type of romance are you writing, and why do you consider it such?

Happy Writing!





Wednesday, March 12, 2014


As you can see by the lovely badge to the right, I  am now a bona fide member of the 2014 A-Z Blogging Challenge, which starts April 1 (and from the starting date, I might be April’s fool for even thinking I can do this on a daily basis. Time will tell).

 I really wanted to join last year, but since I only learned of it a few weeks before it was to start, and I was already booked to attend a conference during part of April, I had to pass on it. Not so this year. I am busier than life, but I’m going to jump in anyway and either swim or drown.

I really debated on giving editing tips each day in my A-Z blog chats, but the idea didn’t thrill me. Basically, there’s nothing I can write about that you can’t look up in a book, and probably a lot quicker than reading one of my windy blog articles.

So I’m going to surprise you and write about lots of ideas, but all following the A to Z format.

I’m hoping some of you, preferably a lot of you, will cheer me on when I’m thinking of reading a book, editing a novel, or watching a movie instead of blogging. I also hope that you will actually read the twenty-six blog articles I will be posting throughout the month, and please leave a comment or two. Feel free to lie if you’re in a negative mood. :-)

Happy writing, and if you feel like writing a lot, click on my A-Z Challenge badge and sign up to join the fun.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

You are Never Too Young to Enjoy the Wonder of Books

The time to steer your child toward becoming the greatest novelist of all time is now!

Pictured here is future author Mason Buscovick, sitting on daddy Derek's lap.

This is the perfect age to nurture those early interests. When you read to a child, he is learning the art of story as surely as he is learning to speak.

Just as forming words and later sentences become apparent to a child, so can an ear for rhythm and cadence, patterns and surprises, all those little things that exist in story.

Everything in a child's life becomes an influence in some way, so it only makes sense to make sure the influences of wonder are present. Stories can do that. They create wonder.
Have you read to a child today?