Category Archives: author blog

Why the Talents Have Potty Mouths

Now, obviously, the simplest answer to that is: because I do. As you know, I’m back from a weekend up home, having seen some peeps I went to school with, and have been talking to people who use “f**kin’…” the way other people use “uh…”. This is the way we talked, from middle school on, much more gratuitously foul than the language that went into Hush Money.

Now, this isn’t confined to the place or people of my childhood. When I was a military wife, it was the same thing–only taller. And you’ll notice that while the girl Talents also cuss, it’s more often a matter of emphasis, while the boys tend to be more conversational about it.

Now, this post comes out of some of the reviews I’ve had that give me a bit of a wrist-slap and a 1-star demerit for the language. I want to say, up front, that these demerits are COMPLETELY VALID. One of these days, maybe I’ll write a post about reviews and the disconnect between writers and readers in that regard, but the short version is that writers (as I’ve read them around the ‘net) tend to think readers should be evaluating their book on some kind of objective criteria, while readers tend to rate a book based on how it affected them personally. So if my cussing kids diminished your enjoyment of the story, and assuming that a rating reflects a reader’s enjoyment of the story, then what do I expect them to do, lie? No. That would be dumb. So there you are.

Anyway, on with the behind-the-scenes stuff.

When I started to write Hush Money, I really put myself back in that time.  When I felt my way into these characters, the language just came out. Right away it gave me pause. I hadn’t really set out to write YA. When I started the book, I actually didn’t know that writing about teens would automatically make the book YA. I found this out soon after beginning the book, and I was very concerned. I’ve read YA that I consider far worse than mine in terms of adult content, but not a lot of it. Kait told me, “Don’t worry about it. Just get through the first draft and edit later.”

And, of course, that’s always excellent advice.

So why didn’t I tone down the language in the edit? I’m fairly good with words. I probably could have taken all those problem elements and re-worked them into something that still carried some strong emotion, without the actual cuss-words, right? It’s not like censoring a movie for TV and having Johnny say, “No, flip you, Dad!”

I kept the language because it’s not just words or emotion. For kids, forbidden language is part of posturing. And, as some of you may recall, posturing is very important in the wild. For those of you who went to schools where the threat of violence seemed pretty constant, maybe you’ve had that feeling that you needed to have a facade that was a little harsher and a little less vulnerable than who you really were. And maybe that’s not something all readers relate to. But I do.

The Talents live in that kind of fear state, under a constant threat, and they build walls. When I went to do the edits, I couldn’t see reworking the language as anything but removing bricks from those walls and weakening my characterization overall.

I’m not defending it like I want to change anyone’s mind. If a reader doesn’t see that, it’s probably because they either don’t relate to those feelings, or because they have personal values which override them. No book can be all things to all people, and while some people enjoyed the style of the book and have said the characters seemed very real to them, in part because of the language, others didn’t like that. I totally get that.

The point of this post was more just that it’s a thing I’ve struggled with, and I thought maybe you’d be interested in a little insight into my world.

I’m not defending it like I want to change your mind or anything. It’s more that you had mentioned being able to talk to authors about the books, and I thought you might be interested in how that particular element developed for me and why it remains.
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Filed under author blog, characters, Hush Money, ideas, insecurities, Talent Chronicles, writing

Konrath’s Cross-Pollination: What do you think?

This post is eventually going to be about character cameos, guest-appearances, and working with other authors on the same book. It’s inspired by this post on Joe Konrath’s blog. Readers, I would love to hear what you think of these ideas.

I’ve talked a lot about Kindle rank lately and one thing I think about often is that it’s going to be harder and harder to break into those higher numbers as more authors/publishers seriously enter the ebook market. (Seriously as in stop insulting us with higher-prices for digital than paper, $10+ ebooks, etc.) As we continue to analyze what works and more motivated people do what they need to do to move up those ranks more quickly.

And, as Joe Konrath keeps hogging up all the slots and filling more…

Did you read that post? Does it make you grind your teeth how you’re pushing for a few hundred measly words a day, and he’s at a point, reached through a combination of talent, drive, experience, and discipline, at which he makes it look like child’s play.

Yes, I greatly esteem him. And not in an Elinor Dashwood way, though I’ll admit that past posts of his have induced Misery-inspired thoughts from time to time.

But beyond being boggled by the output, and by the amount of different stuff he must be able to hold in his brain at any given time, the massive amounts of creativity, I really enjoyed that post because the concept of working with other authors to cross-promote is one that has been very attractive to me.

Besides talking about his own characters crossing into different series, he also talks about working with other authors, having his characters appear in their series, and vice versa, writing stories together, etc.

Since Kait Nolan and I talk every day, work so closely together, and have complimentary specialties when it comes to writing fiction, we’ve often said that we should write something together. But it never happens. And there are good reasons for that. She has multiple jobs and not enough time to write her own stuff. I have to spend a lot of time spinning my wheels with this whole emo-artist persona that I wear around the house like bunny slippers. But I sort of think that, at the end of the day, we just  might not be ready to do that yet. I think maybe ego-wise, and probably mine more than hers, we might not be ready for that level of sharing and cooperation yet.

We do have a super-seekrit project proposed with a handful of other authors. An over-arching world concept under which each participating author would be able to write their own, autonomous story or stories. Sort of like writing fan fiction, except that the aforementioned concept was an original one that Kait came up with, not something taken from a book, movie, or TV show.

This was a marketing idea that captured my attention when I saw the Legend, TN website, the group of authors who created it, and read their first collection of novellas. I stumbled across that while Googling for something else and was intrigued because the fictional town is where I lived. The concept was able to get me to read not one, but four authors I had never read before. I thought it was quite brilliant.

It was not a new idea for me. Have I ever showed you my wall of Harlequin Intrigues. Remind me to dig up a photo when I have more time. Need a few hundred of those from the 80s and 90s? I need to move them and the idea of recycling them is too sad. Anyway, Harlequin’s done a lot of short series branding, having a few authors write books about the same family or bits of the same over-aching plot. A great idea that had customers looking for the next book in the story, no matter which Harlequin author had written it, possibly generating new readers for some of their authors.

I’m not really optimistic about us getting around to the super-seekrit project any time soon. Everyone is really busy with their own worlds right now, but fictional and real-life.

I’ve recently been offered a spot in an anthology. I would LOVE to be able to participate in that. It was an honor to be asked, as there are really good indie authors involved, and I’m sure it would help me find new readers. And yet, I’m not sure about my ability to write something at the requested length. I’ve never done a short before. But I’m going to try.

Anyway, I’ve gotta wrap up this rambling, so…

Q for writers: What do you think about the idea of working with other authors? Think you could do it? Think you could let another author write YOUR character into her book? Think you could stand back and let someone else tinker in your universe?

Q for readers: What do you think about these ideas? Do you buy anthologies for a single author’s story and find new authors to love? How would you feel about trying a new author in order to follow your favorite character?

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Filed under author blog, books, characters, ideas, Laws of the Universe, self-publishing, Violations, writing

What’s My Line? Help Me Figure Out My Content

Off and on, I’ve been reading Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone. It’s a social media guide for writers, and it’s very good. The first part is kind of a long introduction, and talks about why social media is important, why you need to get involved, when you should start (which, btw, is now, even if you haven’t finished your book, but how you do things will be different if you don’t have anything out yet.)

The second part gets more into the action, by having you really think about who you’re going to be, in a professional sense. I guess the best shorthand to use is that she’s helping you focus your brand. And she has you get together some bios and posts to get you started when you launch yourself. (The book is written with the assumption that you haven’t done any social media yet, but is still totally relevant if you’re already in it.)

The book then moves into the nuts and bolts stuff, with a For Dummies level guide to setting yourself up with a WordPress blog, and on Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace, and how you’re going to tailor things there to be most effective for you, going forward. What was cool about the way Kristen went about it, was that even though I had done most of the stuff already, she wrote it in a way that wasn’t boring. Dude, I read an explanation of what hyperlinks are, and didn’t roll my eyes or want to skim over it! So that was really well done. This is not a dry, technical book.

But I didn’t mean to write a review. I’m not even done with it yet. What I wanted to talk about was the middle part of the book, which, perhaps I should read over again. It had me focus on what I was trying to do eventually. So I decided that I wanted to be the name you think of when you think Superhero Romance. (I know, who ever thinks that? But you know I think you should.) So next was thinking about how I would focus my blog in that direction, which seemed to involve talking about, you know, superheroes.

And where are they? In comics, generally. ‘Cept I don’t read too many comics. One of the reasons I put off the Talents for a while was because I didn’t feel qualified to write them because I don’t have that background knowledge in what everyone expects superheroes to be. (But then I decided, screw that, we’ll get by, and we do.) Anyway, I realized that the comic fans are not my audience. They like comics. I like things like Buffy, Smallville, and my memories of Wonder Woman and the rest of the SuperFriends (which are better than the actuality of watching those now). And a bunch of the people I know who like that stuff? They’re not much for comics either.  I don’t know why I’m so focused on this.

Anyway, I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what I’m supposed to talk about here? What would anyone want to know about? What do I consider myself an expert in? Well, sewing, knitting, and spending money on expensive dolls are not really relevant topics. I think I know a lot of stuff about writing, but I’m also not thrilled with the idea of being yet another author who writes about writing all the time. There are plenty of those blogs about that, and if I have something to say, it’s probably better served as a guest post somewhere else.

But that leaves me with a whole lot of empty days, and/or posts about things happened to me on the internet, memes, and junk like that.

Which is fine every once in a while, but it’s hardly content that makes for interesting reading on a regular basis.

So I don’t know, what am I an expert at? What kinds of posts would my readers like to see? What kinds of posts will draw people who will want to read my books?

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Filed under author blog, books, ideas, tools, writing

Interview: Stacey Wallace Benefiel

Today I’ve got an interview with indie author Stacey Wallace Benefiel, creator of the Zellie Wells trilogy. But before we start talking to Stacey about Glimpse, Glimmer, and Glow, I’m going to tell you how I met Stacey.

Having heard a buzz about Glimpse, I took myself over to Smashwords to buy a copy. There, in the spirit of supporting a fellow indie, I decided to try out the little tweet button on the side there that tells the world, “I’m looking at such-and-such by so-and-so on #Smashwords [link].” I’d never done that before.

Well, next thing you know, @Christel42 tells me that she followed my link and thinks this author is a long-lost friend from college. Christel is a friend I had only “met” a few weeks before when @kaitnolan suggested she might be willing to beta read Hush Money for me. And that was why she was following me, to see the link, to Google the friend, to get back in touch…and then we all lived happily ever after.

I was happy too because I got a great read and a cool new friend.

Here’s a great little blurb:

Zellie Wells has a devastating crush on Avery Adams. At her sixteenth birthday party, held in the basement of her dad’s church, she finally finds the courage to talk to him. Turns out, the devastating crush is mutual. As Avery takes her hand and leads her out onto the dance floor, Zellie is overwhelmed by her first vision of his death.

Here’s what I had to say about it:

This was a very enjoyable read. I enjoyed the two different character viewpoints, and seeing their mutual attraction. The author has an authentic teen voice which manages to create a vibe between the main characters that is undeniably sensual, and yet layered with a kind of young and clueless innocence that’s very sweet. The psychic concept on which the story is based felt fresh and had some nice surprises (nice for me, not always for the characters). I look forward to continuing reads in this series.

And now, on to the interview…

Glimpse, Glimmer, and Glow

Part of what I think is awesome about the Zellie Wells trilogy, is that, within the realm of paranormal romance, Zellie has an unusual ability which is portrayed in a way that’s very unique and refreshing. Do you remember what got you started in that direction and how you developed Zellie and her family?

You know, I don’t remember exactly how Zellie’s abilities came about.  It’s been five years since I finished the first draft of Glimpse and it has been through a lot of edits since.  My goal was to write a paranormal that didn’t have vamps, werewolves, faeries…any of that stuff because I’m not good at research (Okay, I’m super lazy) and I didn’t want to piss people off by not getting mythology right.  It had to be completely made up from my own brain.  I started off with something I thought was cool and a little bit controversial for a pastor’s daughter to have-visions of the future.  The rest of the abilities materialized as I wrote.  I tend to get myself in the weeds and then just write myself out of it.

Have these books be long in the making, or was this sudden inspiration?

Glimpse was a long time in the making-I had two kids between the time I wrote it and when I published it!  Glimmer and Glow-I’ve always had an endgame.  I may be crappy at plotting, but I always know how they are going to begin and end.  Compared to Glimpse, Glimmer and Glow have happened in a blip.

When you started with Glimpse, did you know that you had a trilogy on your hands?

Glimpse was originally much shorter and I sort of had a plan to write six short novels-like Gossip Girl sized.  However, when I started submitting it to agents I got slapped on the hand for trying to pitch novellas.  So, Glimpse became twice as long and I figured I could tell the whole story in three 50K-ish books.

Are there any spin-offs planned, more books about the Society?

Because Glimpse started out as more of a Family Saga type novel than strictly YA, I have lots and lots of backstory on Grace, Mike, Becky, Paul, Grandma Rachel, and Aunt Hazel.  At this point I feel like the Grace/Mike story has sort of played out through Zellie and Avery.  I do have some straight up crazy notes for a Rachel/Hazel prequel set in the 60’s that I might do something with.  I would love to do a Ben spin-off, but maybe more episodic novellas.  Ack-I just can’t give too much away on that one! J

Glimpse is out, Glimmer is in the latter stages of editing now, and Glow is on the horizon. Do you have projected release dates for the second two books in the trilogy?

Glimmer will be out in e-book and print November 1, 2010.  I’d like to be done with Glow by April and release it in June 2011.

What are your post-Glow writing plans?

Deep depression? J  I’ve got a bunch of beginnings of things on my hard drive.  A PNR novella series about human sacrifices and their guardian angels- although I’m going to start working more on that in the next couple of weeks.  I started writing a very dark, very adult novel when I was having a hard time getting Glimmer to cooperate.  I’m kind of skeeved that those characters live in my head, but I feel like it could be really good if I could get over myself.  It’s called The Perv and it’s about sex offenders.  Yeah.

I also want to try my hand at writing a YA romance about completely normal kids.  Daring, I know.

Like me, you didn’t set out to be a YA author on purpose. What happened?

Zellie wasn’t always the main character of Glimpse.  The original version paralleled her mom and Mike’s story along with her own.  So, they were all teenagers, but in two different times, obviously.  One publisher I sent it too told me there was too much stuff about adults in it for it to be YA, but that was what she thought it should be.  I Googled just what the hell constituted a YA novel and I mostly agreed.  I cut, OMG, I cut sooooo much.  And voila!  Glimpse became YA.  Since then I’ve realized that half the books I like to read are YA, so I think I’m in good company.

Tell me about your self-publishing experience…

My self-publishing experience has been very positive.  Getting to be involved in every aspect of the work is amazing and I’ve met so many awesome people!  I’m super cheerleadery about it.

You recently wrote a blog post on why you went indie. Are do you fall into one of the indie camps: I’m hoping to be picked up by NY vs. I’m indie forever? Or are you more of a put it out there and you’ll decide what happens if it happens?

When I first published Glimpse it was because I just wanted to do something with it.  I thought it was good and didn’t see the sense in letting it live on my computer.  My plan was to see what happened and then try and sell Glimmer and a newly revamped Glimpse together to NY.  That is not how I feel anymore.  I’ve had a great response to Glimpse and thoroughly enjoyed writing Glimmer.  I don’t want anyone to come along and eff that up.  I’m doing just fine on my own, thank you.  Now, foreign rights, tv or film rights, those are different.  I’ve always thought Glimpse would make a great television show.  They can use the old Everwood sets.

What advice would you give an indie author on the fence?

My first inclination is to say, “Stop being a big fat chicken. The world will not explode if you put something up on Smashwords.”  But, some people are delicate flowers.  To them, I would say, it makes me happy.  Don’t you want to stop getting rejection letters from interns and let the readers decide if they like your work or not?  Adjust the dreams you think you’re supposed to have.  Make your own way, you won’t regret it.

Did you format your own work for Smashwords, Amazon Kindle, and your CreateSpace print release? How was that experience?

I do format my own work.  I’m not a very computery person, but I at the very least can format so that it’s readable.  There were many tantrums the first go around. It will be much easier with Glimmer. I’m particularly proud of the print layout.  I think it looks lovely.

About Stacey

I’m a Midwestern chick.  I was born in Indiana, but grew up in Columbia, Missouri.  I’ve always written and done theatre.  I have degrees in English, Theatre, Culinary Arts, and floral design.  I’m still trying to pass my medical transcription final so I can work from home as an MT. I don’t embarrass easily and will perform a kick ass interpretive dance to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” whether drunk or sober.

Your Twitter moniker is @MomJeans1975. What’s that about?

That is me being a smartass and thinking I’m pretty dang funny.  It just makes me laugh.  I have a collection of “mommy” essays that is tentatively titled, “Bury Me in My Mom Jeans When I Die.”  It’s not professional and people don’t know it’s me half the time, but y’know, live a little peeps.

Vital stats:

Married, how long, how met or any interesting tidbit you’d like to offer, or not

Rob and I have been married for eight years, together for eleven.  We met while working at Tower Records in Marina Del Rey, CA.  He’d published a book of poetry that we sold at the store and I read it and pretty much decided that he’d be the guy I would marry.  We moved in together after dating for three weeks and that’s that.

Kids?

We have two kids.  Our oldest, Gus, will be 4 in November.  Our daughter, Arlo, will be 2 in December.

Pets?

We have two dogs-Ophelia and Chief and two cats-Simon and Willis.  Ophelia, Simon, and Willis have been with me since I was 20.  They are all on the verge of dying any day now and I am in denial.

What’s the worst job you ever had?

When I was in college one of my roommates and I were maids at a Ramada Inn in Eugene, OR.  This was the early ‘90s and The Grateful Dead toured in Eugene.  Cleaning rooms that 12 hippies and all of their assorted dogs and drugs had stayed in was just about the least fun ever.  I’ve also been a cook in an Alzheimer’s facility.

What are your non-writing interests? Any on-going projects? Play any musical instruments? Dance a mean tango or sew a fine seam?

My non-writing interests are community theatre, cooking, and reading.  I am the most terrible seamstress in the world.  I got a D+ on the apron I made in Home Ec.  I can play the piano, clarinet, and oboe.  I’ve always wanted to play the drums, though.  For my 40th birthday I’m considering going to Rock n Roll camp to fulfill that dream.

I hope you enjoyed learning more about Stacey. I did! She’s funny and fun to hang out with, and so are her characters. Buy Glimpse, and go follow Stacey all over the place.

Glimpse is available at Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats and on Smashwords in a variety of ebooks formats.

Stacey can be found at her website, on her blog, on Twitter, and Facebook.

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Filed under author blog, book review, books, Guests, interviews, romance, self-publishing, writing

Blueprint Series Part 5: Main Plot Points

(I’m not sure what happened with the scheduling of this post, but I apologize for the delay and for the fact that it’ll be two today with another one this afternoon.)

If you’ve been following, you’re totally bored with the following:

If you’ve just arrived, I’m doing this series explaining the story blueprint I use. I’ve got a link to the file on my download page–see tab above. Click here for Part 1.

But now it’s over and we can move on to our focus today:

Step 5: Main Plot Points

  1. What is the Second Plot Point?
  2. How does the SPP event or sequence of events force the main character into the climax of the story?
  3. What is the First Plot Point? What is the event or sequence of events that brings the characters into the story world?
  4. What is the Midpoint of the story?
  5. How does the MP change everything? How does it put your characters into attack mode?

That’s it. I’m just asking you to come up with 3 things today. But they’re really important things.

This all comes out of a brilliant series of articles on Story Structure by author, Larry Brooks. Click here for Part 1. Read the whole series, then buy his book on the subject and read some more. If you want to know how to make a series of unfortunate events that makes a story, rather than a pile of them that makes a mess of dreck, reading Larry is great place to start.

Ok, so there’s no sense in me repeating everything I just linked to. So to boil down what you need to know for this part, I’ll explain that we’re talking about a classic 3-Act structure, in which the middle act is broken down into two parts, separated by the midpoint. Because that’s awkward to talk about, for now until the end of time, we’ll be talking about the story in terms of 4 parts. These parts will be separated by 3 key plot points. So the story goes like this:

  • Part 1
  • First Plot Point (FPP)
  • Part 2
  • Midpoint (MP)
  • Part 3
  • Second Plot Point (SPP)
  • Part 4

Now, especially since these are out of order, you’ll probably have a much easier time understanding what I’m asking of you if you go read through the Storyfix series and come back. But I’ll do my best to explain what these things are and include.

Part 1 is the setup of your story. While it will have a something that hooks the reader, things will happen in there that are important, etc, the story hasn’t actually started in part 1. Grasping this, by the way, has been huge for me. In part 1 you’ll need to be introducing most or all of your characters. You’re giving us a sense of where your protagonist is, both in terms of place and place in the world. What is his life like now, before everything changes? What does he need? What does he want? What does he have to lose?

Did I mention that everything changes? That’s your FPP, and it’s the most important moment in the story. This is the thing that pulls your character from where he is and sets him on the path toward his destiny (which is the story’s end). And it’s probably going to be something your character is reluctant to do because, hey, scary, plus there are probably things in his life he doesn’t want to risk. But whatever happens at the FPP is such that he MUST move forward into the story world.

After the FPP, your hero and your story move into Part 2 in which your hero makes an effort but…let’s face it: if he were man enough to take this on, the story would be over. He’s got a lot of work to do. There are some different ways to approach part 2, as failed attempts to deal with the problem, as avoidance, as gathering a team to combat the problem or focusing on training…

Part 2 ends at the MP. And this is a big turning point in your story. There’s something that happens here that puts a different spin on things, shows everything in a new light, changes everything again. Again, endless options and you’ll want to go and read more about midpoint elsewhere. But it’s something that really changes things for your character and puts him into attack mode.

Because that’s what part 3 is about. Your hero really stepping up his game and approaching this problem with a new outlook or commitment or whatever.

Part 3 ends with the SPP. The Second Plot Point is the thing that sets the wheels in motion for the sequence of events that lead to the climax. Sometimes it’s the last piece of the puzzle falling to place. That bit of information the hero was lacking to really go after the villain, whether that’s knowing the villain’s location, discovering his weakness, or the hero finally getting the right size gear to finish his giant mecha warrior robot beast. I don’t know. You figure it out.

I do this backward because, like I talked about in the last post, I need to know that where I started is going to get me to where I’m going in an effective way. I probably either know the FPP or have a good idea of what kind of FPP I need. So I focus on the SPP first, trying to figure out what kind of scene I will need to plunge these characters into the series of scenes that leads to and makes up my climax. From there I can sort of refine whatever idea I had about the FPP to give me a starting point. Then I can work on the MP and try to figure out how things escalate, what big deal will happen in the middle, and how it will change my characters.

The order in which you choose to do this doesn’t really matter. I think it’s really something you work on all at once and keep refining as you work deeper into the story.

If, after reading the Story Structure Series over at Storyfix, you still feel a little unsure of how that works and need more examples, poke around at the site some more. Larry’s also been doing deconstructions of movies as examples of how the structure works and how to recognize the main points. (Then get his book and read it.)

By now you’re getting a good, solid idea about what your story is and how it’s going to play out. You might want to take a little time to let that marinate. Meantime, since you know what it’s about enough to talk about it now, we’re going to go on to some Pitch and Blurb stuff next time.

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Filed under author blog, Blueprint, links, story structure, tips, tools, writing

Blueprint Series Part 4: Story World

Welcome back. And, if you’ve just arrived, I’m doing this series explaining the story blueprint I use. I’ve got a link to the file on my download page–see tab above. Click here for Part 1.

So today we’re on Story World, which is pretty straightforward in terms of understanding my questions. Which are:

Step 4: Story World

  1. In what time period is your story? (Current day, historic period, future, alternate reality…) Jot down some things you know about the time period in which your story takes place and how that will affect the story and/or characters.
  2. Where does your story take place? (Town, country, planet, school…) Jot down a general idea of the world in which your story takes place and how the world itself will affect the story and its characters.
  3. Are there background or details about your story world that will impact the story and/or characters? (Politics, regional history, layout, flora/fauna, ethnic influences, socio-economic differences, wars, tech…)
  4. What season is it? Are there any weather events, climate, or holiday details that will impact the story?
  5. Location, location, location. Jot down some of the locations you can already envision in your story, and any details you see as important.

You can spend as much time on Story World as you want. You can get incredibly detailed here. The thing of it is that the more brilliant stuff you come up with, the more you’ll be tempted to put it into your story, whether it actually enhances it or not. So BEWARE.

That said, there’s a lot of stuff that goes on in a novel. In addition to your plot, your subplot, your characters, their relevant backstories, their interpersonal relationships, you’ve also got to be a director, dialectician (possibly not a word), a costume designer, and, yes, a set designer. So don’t forget that we do need to have a sense of place in your story. Sometimes working through your locations outside of the story will keep those details at your fingertips to be inserted when you need them, rather than the info-dump that often occurs when you’re designing on the fly.

Let me know when you’re done describing the curtains so I can get back to reading your story…

Yeah, just don’t go there.

For some of you, story world is everything. And I’ll confess that I LOVE a good world-building. I love the endless surprises that can happen in a fantasy world. While I choose books for character development and relationships, the books I remember are most often the ones that also delivered a richness of place.

Author Larry Brooks has a nice article about thinking of the concept of “Arena”. It’s about how thinking of telling a story from a specific time and place, one that has critical impact on its events and characters, can really elevate a story to greatness. (This is an awesome blog for writers. Subscribe while you’re there.)

And that’s kind of what I want you to take away from this part of the series. When you’re developing these places for your story world, really give thought to how those details may be relevant to the story you plan to tell. Sometimes details are just there for the sake of detail, and that’s ok. Often that’s your subconscious at work, and those details are picked up and made relevant later on–in the story or in the series. Finding the balance between a rich sense of place and boring the crap out of your reader with your inner Martha is something to strive for. Part of that balance can happen at this stage by finding ways to connect story and place at this stage.

If you need more help with world-building, you might check out that section of Lynn Viehl’s Novel Notebook.

In our next episode, we’re going sketch out your Main Plot Points. I’ll be doing an overview on some story structure basics to get through it.

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Jo Leigh’s Kidnapped!

Kidnapped!When I finally realized my mental health would benefit from picking up a book and getting away for a while instead of trying to do everything, I picked up Kidnapped! by Jo Leigh

It was a really enjoyable read.  One of the things I love about category romance is that when you find an author who knows how to write at category length, the story really moves without extra baggage to slow the pace.  That’s how this book was.  I was never bored.  I picked it off the shelf in the evening and tried to read it, and wouldn’t you know that that’s when my husband, who rarely speaks, decided to be all interactive guy.  See book, cue conversation mode.  After he went to bed, I read for a few hours, didn’t really want to put it down but did, got up this morning and finished it. 

It’s a bodyguard story; gotta love it.  Michael’s been Tate’s driver/bodyguard for about six months when the story begins, and there’s already an unspoken attraction between them.  Tate’s an heiress who’s already had two traumatic kidnapping experiences.  Her father and her own fear keep her in a very controlled and secure lifestyle which she begins to feel is keeping her from actually living.  Her therapist suggests that she try hiring a “fake” kidnapping, so that she can face her fears in a pseudo safe environment.  Michael thinks this is a lousy idea, and then everything goes wrong.

I’m not going to say any more about it, because I like to be surprised when I read.  It was a solidly good book that kept me turning the pages.  Recommended.

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Interesting Bloggy Stuff

I’ve been reading a bunch of interesting things lately, and was thinking: hmmm, maybe I’ll post them.  Then I was thinking, damn, wish I’d been saving them all along. 

This led me off on a tangent about how Lynn Viehl has to be the most organized person on the planet.  She often posts lists of interesting and helpful links a PBW, leading me to believe she must be some kind of born-organized (BO to flybabies), natural note-taker.  I suppose she’d have to be.  The other day I said to Kettle: “[expletive-heavy phrase deleted]! She writes nine books a year and restores quilts too?”  /tangent

So anyway, here are some interesting things I’ve been reading lately:

Kettle pointed me to this post at Women of Mystery which lists a number of interesting, writerly blogs.

That lead me to 101 Reasons to Stop Writing, so funny, and this post in particular which, after the hilarity faded and I dried my eyes, left me with a nervous suspicion about subconsious Star Wars fanfic themes in my writing.

The other day, Alison Kent excerpted from and linked to a post at Access Romance about graphic violence in the romance genre.  It was both interesting and intelligent without being highly intellectualized, as such discussions so often are.  Hurray for that.

At Murder She Writes, Deborah LeBlanc posted Madeline L’Engle’s acceptance speech for the 1963 Newberry Award.  I’m not even going to try to tell you what’s in it.  If you’ve never read it, go.

And shopping!  I know some of you don’t even want to think about Christmas.  So don’t.  But maybe when you’re ready you’ll remember ThinkGeek for all those geeks in your life whose vocations and hobbies you can’t even begin to comprehend.

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The Seventy Days Goodie Box

You may remember that a few weeks ago I won the 70 Days drawing for a goodie box from Jo Leigh.  It came yesterday, but I’m just now getting a chance to get pictures uploaded and show it off.

all itemsIt was a box packed with stuff- books, bath stuff, tea stuff, journal stuff.

mug journal penThere was a mug with a tea-brewing insert, a leather bound journal, and fountain pen…

bath stuff…a bunch of bath stuff, including a pillow, four, pretty, butterfly-shaped soaps, a bathball–Romance in a Stone–and one of those scrubby things I’m sure has a name…

 books

 …and what you want to know about, books.  Autographed copies of Viva Las Bad Boys by HelenKay Dimon, Discarded Promises by Candice Poarch, Closer and Kidnapped! by Jo Leigh.  Also a pocket-sized version of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones

This was really above and beyond, Jo!  Thank you so much!

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WOTM Update: Too Little Too Late

In a manner of speaking.  I only managed to write 453 words now that I finally got the chance to sit down by myself and do it, and it’s now after midnight and I don’t think I’m lucid enough to do more.

Basically my hero just reacted to finding out the heroine left town behind his back.  We knew this because we went with her, so we’ve been watching him go along his merry way to see her and waiting for the BAM!  Poor Matt.

Well, things didn’t go so well for Alex, so she’ll be back.  I don’t like to keep them apart for long–they end up talking to themselves.  It annoys me.  So yeah, bringing her back tomorrow and I’m not putting them together yet, so I’m not sure how it’s going to go.  This is the last bit of darning for this hole and I want to match up to the chunk I’ve already written that comes after.

Because, Lord knows I don’t want to change anything.

Ugh, I keep hearing this from PBW in my head:

If you find you’re reluctant to change even a single word in your story, you’re either 1) the best damn writer in the world or 2) you’ve fallen in love with your manuscript. Chances are it’s #2 and it’s paralyzed your internal editor, who doesn’t want to get between you and your sweetheart.

What does Darcy say?  “You don’t know how those words have haunted me”?  Something like that.

Please note: It is late.  I am punchy and not particularly serious about not wanting to change anything, k?

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