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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

Major Revision/Rewrite of Inspirational Historical #3
Status: 28,500 words out of 100,000

Words added/rewritten this week: 1,500


I'm a member of a Goal in a Month group where we post our progress each week. My goals for Week 22 were to enter a writing contest and add 3,000 words to my wip.

Sounds manageable, right? Well, I didn't achieve my goals.

I did enter my wip in a contest. Two, actually. I haven't ventured into the contest circuit in a while, but with the encouragement of my awesome CP and my tremdously supportive hubby, I decided to take that step. I welcome the judges' feedback. I've learned so much from those who've judged my entries in the past and am indebted to them.

I didn't make my word count though. I wanted to. I tried to. But it didn't happen.

Why?

Because my family just transitioned into summer mode. Yup. Gwynly, a high school teacher, and the Fashion Queen, our recent high school graduate, are on vacation. He's off until early August. She starts college in September. It's great to have more time with them.

My hubby and daughter know I write all year long and are fine with that. However, I get sidetracked. It's fun to go on convertible rides in Gwynly's classic MGB roadster or go to lunch with the Fashion Queen. How can I resist?

Despite the draw to do other things, I did make progress, even if it wasn't as much as I planned. Maybe I'll do better next week. I can try.

As I adjust to having my loved ones around 24/7, I hope to create a schedule that balances family time with writing time. I'm eager to finish this revision and begin another story.

• • • • •

Some of you work outside the home or have young children around all day, every day, and yet you write. I'd love to know how you structure your day, how you keep from getting distracted and how you get back into your zone after dealing with family members' needs.
Care to share your secrets?


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Review of a Great Read: A Promise for Spring

Long before I began writing, I was a voracious reader of romances. I still love a great story, and there are many wonderful authors writing them. Check back on Saturdays when I share my reviews of some books I've enjoyed recently, both historical and contemporary.

The Review

A Promise for Spring by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Emmaline Bradford gave her heart and her pledge to Geoffrey Garrett when she was a young girl of seventeen and bid him a tearful farewell when he left England to seek his fortune in America. He’d planned to return in a year, marry and take his bride to his sheep ranch in Kansas. Five years pass before he sends for her, years in which Geoffrey has, at her overbearing father’s request, corresponded with Mr. Bradford but not with his daughter. She obeys her father and travels to the foreign land to marry Geoffrey, who has become little more than a stranger.

Geoffrey has spent five years working to make his ranch viable, all the while keeping Emmaline’s father and biggest buyer of his wool informed of his progress. As soon as Geoffrey can, he sends for his fiancĂ©e, eager to show the woman he loves the home he’s built for her. When she arrives, wary and unwilling to marry him, he’s confused and crushed. Reluctantly, he agrees to a trial. She stays, working as his housekeeper, with the understanding that if she doesn’t feel differently come spring he’ll pay for her return to England. Will he be able to rekindle the love she once felt for him, and will she be able to accept his in return?


A Promise for Spring by Kim Vogel Sawyer is a beautifully told story of two hurting souls, each fearful and wanting the other to be the first to change. I fell in love with Sawyer’s characters, aching for both Emmaline and Geoffrey as they dealt with the challenges thrust upon them, those of the heart as well as those dealt them as ranchers in what can be an inhospitable land. Sawyer wields the pen with consummate skill, crafting an endearing tale rich in period detail that will stay with readers long after they heave the final sigh of contentment. I highly recommend this book, one that has joined the few treasures on my Keepers shelf.

• • • • •

Win a Book

If you enjoy reading inspirational romances, leave a comment for your chance to win my once-read copy of the title I just reviewed. Be sure to include your email address when prompted, so I can contact you. (I don't share this information.)

I'll choose the winner from all those who leave a comment by the Friday after the post and will list the winner's name the following Saturday.

Last Week's Winner

Congrats to Amy De Trempe, winner of my once-read copy of Love Finds You in Last Chance, California.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Five on Friday: Favorite Aspects of Writing

I love writing!

Anyone surprised? I doubt it.

Writing is one of my favorite activities. I'd rather write than do many other things, as my license plate frame says.

Sometimes I'm asked what aspects of writing I like best. Here are my top five:
  1. Rough draft -I love the thrill of a story pouring forth for the first time.
  2. Research - I enjoy gathering the facts needed to make my stories historically accurate.
  3. Reaching "The End" - Finishing a story and getting my characters to their Happily Ever After feels great.
  4. Receiving my CPs' feedback - They offer wonderful suggestions for making my story even better.
  5. Rewrites - Putting on my editor hat and taking my manuscript to the next level is exciting.
• • • • •

What aspects of writing are your favorites?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Motivation for Monday

On this Memorial Day I add my thanks to our military personnel, past and present, for your sacrifice and service on our behalf.

You're an inspiration to us all.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

Major Revision/Rewrite of Inspirational Historical #3
Status: 27,000 words out of 100,000

Words added/rewritten this week: 5,000


I've passed the first quarter mark in the major revision of my historical, and I'm delighted with the story so far. In order to make things better for my heroine in the long-term, I had to take away something she valued more than almost anything else. The poor woman is suffering, but things will get better. She can trust me.

My own life was filled with change this week. I'm now the mother of a high school graduate. When the nurse handed me that adorable baby girl swaddled in a snowy white blanket over eighteen years ago, I never dreamed I'd be witnessing her wonderful graduation ceremony so soon.

I'm an emotional person by nature. That's why I love a story that takes the characters through the range of emotions. However, writing such a story when I'm in the middle of a dramatic change was interesting.

What I learned this past week was that writing was the best thing I could have done. When tears threatened as I reflected upon my daughter's life, I hastened to the computer, opened my manuscript and imbued my characters with deeper responses to their experiences, making the story richer and even more fun to read.

• • • • •

How do you deal with those times when events in your life become intense and emotions are running high? Do you put your story on hold, or do you use your writing as therapy?

Review of a Great Read: Love Finds You in Last Chance, California

Long before I began writing, I was a voracious reader of romances. I still love a great story, and there are many wonderful authors writing them. Check back on Saturdays when I share my reviews of some books I've enjoyed recently, both historical and contemporary.

The Review

Love Finds You in Last Chance, California by Miralee Ferrell

June 1877. After the death of her father, Alexia Travers finds herself with a horse ranch to run. Strong and independent, she’s up to the challenge. After all, as her father’s only child, she learned all there is to know about the ranch at his side—or thought she did. What she didn’t know was that her father mortgaged the ranch just before his death. Clad in men’s trousers, she takes over but encounters one setback after another: hired hands quitting, horses missing, fences cut.

Justin Phillips arrives in answer to a telegram from Alex’s father saying he’s in trouble. When Justin learns that his friend is gone and Alex is now in charge, he has to convince her to hire him, a widower with a young son needing care, so he can honor his promise to her father. She does, but will she ever be able to trust this stranger who’s captured her attention when he’s unable to tell her his real reasons for being there?

Miralee Ferrell has helped Summerside Press launch its new line of Love Find You stories with the first historical in the series. Set in the Mother Lode of California not far from the Sierra Foothills town where I live, I was eager to read Ferrell's story. She does a wonderful job creating the setting. Her characters come to life on the page. Alex exemplifies the spirit of the West and has what it takes to run the ranch. Bearing the emotional scars of a painful past, Justin captured my heart.

The story moves along nicely, picking up speed about halfway through. Ferrell weaves a mystery into the tale, complete with a great twist at the end. She kept me up late as I hungered to find out how things turned out for Alex, Justin and the ranch. If you’re a fan of Western historical inspirationals, I think you’ll enjoy this book.

Win a Book

If you enjoy reading inspirational romances, leave a comment for your chance to win my once-read copy of the title I just reviewed. Be sure to include your email address when prompted, so I can contact you. (I don't share this information.)

I'll choose the winner from all those who leave a comment by the Friday after the post and will list the winner's name the following Saturday.

Last Week's Winner

Congratulations to Jody Hedlund, winner of my once-read copy of Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Five on Friday: Fun New Words

I'm feeling my age today.

Why?

My daughter graduates from high school tomorrow, and I'm asking myself where the years went.

I remember all those older and wiser moms who used to watch as I chased my active toddler through the store when she went exploring. They would smile and tell me to enjoy the experience because "the time will go more quickly than you think."

They were right.

My daughter heads to college in the fall. I'll miss her, but I have oodles of online friends who'll still be there, many who haven't celebrated nearly as birthdays as I have and who help me keep a youthful perspective.

One benefit of having younger friends is that they teach me new things, including new words. My daughter, the Fashion Queen) is shocked when I drop one into conversation, and I kinda like seeing the surprise on her face.


Five Words I Added to My Vocabulary This Past Year

  1. ginormous (The FQ couldn't believe I didn't know this one. Yeah. She laughed.)
  2. gobsmacked (A recent addition. Sounds so cool rolling off the tongue.)
  3. lurve (Not a new word, but a great new spelling of of my favorites.)
  4. snark (Anyone have a clear definition? If so, please share.)
  5. squee (Probably my favorite. Love to squee with writers who get The Call.)
• • • • •

What are some other catchy new words you know? Please share them with me, along with a definition, so I can prove to the Fashion Queen I'm not a total dinosaur.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Motivation for Monday

The first time I watched this short video (2:40 minutes), I was in tears by the end. What an inspiration.

There are days when I may think my journey is tough and my road all uphill, but this puts things perspective.

I hope you enjoy the video clip as much as I did.

Are You Going to Finish Strong?
with Nick Vujicic
.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Weekly Writing Recap

Massive Revision/Rewrite of Inspirational Historical #3
Status: 22,000 words out of 100,000

Words added/rewritten this week: 3,500


I'm currently performing a major revision of a story I completed a year and a half ago. I've revised this story once before, but I knew it needed major work. I've learned a great deal the past year and am excited about making this story better.

Numerous contest judges said this story had a slow start. Gwynly, my incredibly supportive, very bright hubby, is a great brainstorming partner. He gave me an awesome idea for a great beginning. Making this change required a complete rewrite of the first quarter of the book, but it's well worth it. I'm delighted with the result. The story is better than ever.

• • •

Have you ever had to toss a major portion of one of your stories and start from scratch? How did taking a hatchet to your "baby" make you feel?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Review of a Great Read: Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas

Long before I began writing, I was a voracious reader of romances. I still love a great story, and there are many wonderful authors writing them. I'm going to use Saturdays to share my reviews of some books I've enjoyed recently, both historical and contemporary.


The Review

Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas by Sandra Bricker is the laugh-out-loud funny story of un-athletic Lucy Binoche’s attempt to capture the attention of the outdoorsy new guy in her church’s singles group.

When Lucy learns Justin Gerard signed up for the group’s weeklong camping trip to Snowball, she adds her name to the list. Sporting new athletic wear and a can-do attitude, she embarks on an adventure, sure she can endure anything to attract Justin’s attention.

With the support and assistance of longtime friend, Matt, Lucy arrives in Snowball determined to become the gal of Justin’s dreams. Sure he’s the man God has for her, she puts her all into each activity. But she’s in for surprises—and the reader is in for some serious laughs as Lucy learns that being loved for who she is rather than the person she’s pretending to be is far more satisfying—and a whole lot safer

Bricker does a wonderful job of weaving fun into her romance. I was pulled into the story by her great writing and delighted by each new development. Each chapter is a treat. The characters are fun. I grew to care about Lucy even as I laughed at the situations in which she found herself. Two characters in particular are very engaging and are used by God to teach Lucy valuable lessons in love and acceptance.

I thoroughly enjoyed Love Finds You in Snowball Arkansas and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone wanting a fun, well-written, engaging inspirational romance.


Win a Book

If you enjoy reading inspirational romances, leave a comment for your chance to win my once-read copy of the title I just reviewed. Be sure to include your email address when prompted, so I can contact you. (I don't share this information.)

I'll choose the winner from all those who leave a comment by the Friday after the post and will list the winner's name the following Saturday.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Five on Friday: Creating Characters

My Five Steps to Creating Characters I Love

I write inspirational historical romances, so many of my resources reflect that.

1. I choose an image

I generally begin with a photograph. One day I entered an antique store and gasped with delight. There before me sat a huge wicker basket overflowing with cartes de visite, historic 2-1/2 x 4 inch cards with gloriously clothed Victorian men, women and children staring unsmiling at the camera. (Since it took so long to capture the image, they were instructed not to smile, because it could fade, causing the image to blur.) I purchased enough images to people around a dozen books.


When I needed additional or secondary characters and learned the store had closed its doors, I turned to the Internet. Here are sites I found, which have many great photographs to stir a historical writer's imagination:

Carte-de-Visite Victorian Photographs
http://victorian.fortunecity.com/carroll/642/index.htm

Victorian and Edwardian Photographs
Roger Vaughan Personal Collection
http://www.cartes.freeuk.com


Once I have the character's photograph, I decide upon his/her hair and eye color.


2. I select their names

I purchased a baby name book, but I soon discovered that didn't work for me since I had no idea when the names were popular. Again, I resorted to the Internet. The following sites have been helpful:

Connecticut State Library
A Listing of Some 18th and 19th Century American Nicknames
http://www.cslib.org/nickname.htm

Social Security Association
Popular Baby Names
http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/index.html
(You can input any year from 1879 on and get a list ranked by popularity.)


3. I choose the hero's profession and heroine's, too, if applicable

One resource I've consulted is Everyday Life in the 1800s: A Guide for Writers, Students & Historians by Mark McCutcheon - Chapter 5: Occupations

Another is The Old West Series by Time Life Books, which has several volumes. Some focus on a single profession such as The Chroniclers, The Loggers, The Expressmen and The Townsmen. The books are out of print, but you may be able to find them at your local used bookstore or on Amazon.

A resource for those writing contemporaries is:
Careers for Your Characters: A Writer's Guide to 101 Professions from Architect to Zookeeper by Raymond Obstfeld and Franz Neumann.



.
4. I decide upon each character's personality, hobbies, interests, mannerisms, quirks, way of speaking, etc.


5. I develop the character, creating backstory, goals, motivations, etc.


By time I've worked through these steps, I've gotten to know my characters. They start chatting, and the real fun begins as I capture the stories they tell me.


• • • • •

What steps do you go through when you create your characters?

Which is/are the most fun?

What are some resources you use in developing your characters?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Motivation for Monday

Mondays can be challenging. After a great weekend, getting back to work doesn't always sound like fun.

So, here are some motivational thoughts for your Monday.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Analysis Paralysis

Personal Weather Report - Sunny with refreshing breezes

Writing Activity - The rewrite of my Historical Inspirational #3 is at 16,000/100,000 words.

Ever struggled to find just the right word to express a thought? It's there. You know it. But it eludes you.

Frustrating, isn't it?

Happens to me too. However, I've learned to drop in the closest word I can think of, even if it isn't exactly the one I was after, in order to keep the conversation going. This beats grinding my teeth, smacking a palm to my forehead and keeping someone waiting while I search the many files stored in my rather cluttered mind.

Realizing my internal hard drive is nearly fifty years old and that I've got zillions of bytes stored in my beleaguered brain, I allow time for my mind to perform the search. Sure, I may not come up with the exact word I wanted until hours after the conversation ended, but it will come, and perhaps I can use it the next time.

I experience the same phenomenon when I'm writing. The words may be flowing from my fingertips when suddenly I come to a full stop, slamming my creativity into a wall.

What can I do in a situation like this?

1. Sit and stare at the screen while waiting for inspiration.
2. Riffle through my Roget's or dive into the dictionary.
3. Pull out my hair, hoping I only dislodge gray strands.
4. Ask my daughter for help.


The last option has worked on occasion; however, the Fashion Queen is often at school when I'm writing.

What I do is make a note and move on. My manuscript looks something like this:

It was a dark and >>INSERT ADJECTIVE<< night.

The same thing can happen when I'm working on one of my Historicals set in the 1870s and encounter a fact I need to verify. In that case, rather than stop to perform the research right then, I insert a reminder, like this:

"Hello >>IS THIS WORD PERIOD?<<, Prudence. You're looking lovely today. New frock?"

or this


He spied the cut barbed wire >>INVENTED YET?<< and groaned. Who could have done this?

The idea is to keep my creative side in high gear and not let my editor side take over. Later, when I return to read through the manuscript, I may see one of my notes and think of just the right word.

When I'm feeling less than inspired and need a break, I can search for the special characters I've inserted, consult my references, find the facts I need and work them into my story.

I still suffer from analysis paralysis at times, but at least I now have a plan to combat it. By making the notes and moving on, I stay in the flow and have more fun with my story.

• • • • •

Have you ever struggled to prevent your internal editor from hijacking your writing time? How do you get yourself back on track when that happens?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Past is My Present

Personal Weather Report - Gale-force winds of change

Writing Activity - The rewrite of my Historical Inspirational #3 is at 13,500/100,000 words.

A year ago I'd completed five Historical Inspirationals, submitted them to a number of contests and received several placements. Knowing they needed serious work, I set them aside and focused on establishing a Web presence.

A few months later, I began work on an idea I had for a Contemporary Inspirational. I had a lot of fun at first, but then I began to have doubts about my ability to write young. My progress slowed until a few weeks back it had come to a complete halt.

The story wasn't working. The dialogue dated me. So, I asked myself some tough questions: "What now? Do I delete the file and forget it? Or do I forge ahead in hopes of recapturing the surge of excitement I felt initially?"

I stepped back from the manuscript, focused on other things, waited and prayed.

During my break from the story, I attended the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. For five days I had no computer or Internet access to occupy me. I spent time with other writers on the journey and many gifted authors, wonderful people who shared their knowledge and experience freely.

In that special setting, I received my answer.

One question other conference attendees asked me repeatedly was, What do you write?" I came up with a quick answer: "I write Historical Inspirational Romance." The more I said that brief sentence, the more at peace I became.

I felt a call to return to my first love: the stories that had flowed from my fingers as freely as warm syrup over pancakes. The stories that earned me two finals in the 2008 Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® contest for unpublished romance writers. The stories that brought me joy.

I didn't delete the file for the Contemporary Romance, but I haven't opened it in weeks. Instead, I've begun a major revision on one of my Historicals. The first week, I wrote 11,000+ words. I hadn't experienced a week like that in nearly 18 months.
.

My fingers are once again flying over my new iMac's nifty aluminum keyboard. I'm enjoying the thrill of writing again. For me, the past is my present, and I couldn't be happier.


Have you ever experienced a time when you had to say no to something that had seemed so right at first? How did you handle it?