Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Level Head

I have to thank my mother. I will never, no matter if I rocket to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List, get a big head.

She is a wacky lady who frustrates and challenges me in turns, sometimes without even trying.

On the subject of my writing, she generally frustrates me. As a kid, she would ground me from books. I would sneak them. It was my candy. If it came to 'those made up stories,' she wasn't the mother who sat for hours listening to my painstaking efforts at character creation. She was the one saying, "Go outside. Breathe air. Run or something." I snuck writing, too. I was 'writing a report' and would have my social studies book open and hope she did not see the header on the page was 'chapter three.'

As an adult, she would occasionally make weird demands. "If you are going to write, why not write a nice dragon story. Those seem to do well." Blink. Okay. A nice dragon story. About???

Well. Okay. I will get on that.

Or, "Children's books do so well. And you draw. Just write a children's book."

Like I had picture books just rolling around in my head waiting for escape. Nope. Not the way my head space is filled. It is made of darker stuff than that.

But sometimes, she would say something really interesting. Like, "Why do you bother writing all that if no one will ever read it?"

For pleasure. Because I have to. Because the stories are there whether I note them on paper or not.

"So why aren't you selling them?"

Because publishers aren't going door to door looking for them? Because I am a single mother of three kids and who has the time for that? Because (honestly) they may reject my work, therefore making my joy seem stupid and worthless?

"Well, you are writing it all anyway... they aren't going to say yes if you don't ask."

Okay, mom. So I started sending out query letters. Because research suggested that was the next step. Research did not say 'this is how you write one.' That was more of a trial and error process. One notable one was sent to the wrong name. I still feel bad about that one.

People did reject me. It became a second hobby. Create query. Send query. Smile in amusement at the neat letters I got back.

But someone didn't. Someone asked to read more. Finally, someone asked to read the whole manuscript.

When I got offered my first contract, after shock wore off, I was a bubbling, crying, squealing mess of hysteria. I called Mom. "Well, wasn't that the point of all this?" Um. Yeah. "Well then, why are you surprised?"

I sniffled. Well, she was right.

I decided it was a good idea to respond to the email.

Just like that, I was an author. Mom was right and I dedicated the first one to her. Because of her asking, "Why not?"

So, now, here I am and I called her today to read her my most recent reviews. First she asked about edits. "Still? You spend a lot of time doing that." Yes, I do. But the book is better than ever and... "Well, I should hope so. It is all you eat and sleep."

Mom, I got reviewed. "Is that good?" I answered that it was. I read her the reviews. I asked if she could believe people liked it? Wasn't that awesome?

"What did you expect?"

Again, logical. I guess I should expect good things. It is a lesson, even if she doesn't always mean it to be. Expect good things. Try, because if you don't, you failed already. If you work hard, expect results.

All logical lessons delivered with a mother's frustration to a daughter who looks at her and thinks for someone who will never read my work (because it is too long for all that sitting around just reading when there is work to be done) she sure can be wise sometimes.

Love you, Ma

What's in a name?

So, I haven't been one to offer up much advice to budding writers out there due to the fact that I still have a hard time remembering that I am now on the other side of the coin. I have reached publication. Book two will be out soon. I have done what many are trying to do or are doing.

They may be curious as to some of what I think on the subject of writing.

And when I do think of doing a blog about writing-how-to's, I tend to want to give links to some of the other fantastic sources I have found over the years. There aren't many topics that haven't been covered beautifully by other authors, editors and publishers.

One that sticks out and suddenly bugged me in books I am reading is the use of characters names.

I realize if you give your character an amazing name like Chyna or Bartholomew or Epicurious (okay, that last one was sort of silly, but stay with me) you want to use it. In your head he is that, she is that and that is that.

But in real life, people don't work that way. We tear names apart-- Into tiny shreds.

I was discussing this with my friend Sarah today and she has gone by many variations of her name and even been called Dani. I looked at her curiously... "Dani?"

It is her middle name.

I have been, and this is not an all inclusive or organized list, Virginia, V-dawg, Vinnie, Ginger, Ginnie, Vinnie, Virg and Turkey. I have been Miss Shallenberger, Mrs Nelson and Ms Nelson. I have been babe, toots, sweetie and ladybug. I have been many things to many people.

Only a few consistently call me Virginia. Most, at some point or another, bring up that Santa Claus bit.

I call people strange things. I know JuJu, Jolly Sue, GooBob and Turtle.

Some people are never even named. There is that 'bald guy' and 'that fast talker' and then there is 'thathotguythatmakesmelosetheabilitytospeak." I like the last one. Yum.

So if you have a seven foot tall angel waving a blazing sword... someone is going to call him Barry. Another person is going to call him Bart. Someone is going to say, "Duuuude."

Few are going to call him Bartholomew.

Especially those who interact with him with any consistency.

Using nicknames, terms of endearment, shortened names can help your reader fall into the story. Become one with the characters.

I never use contractions. So let me tell ya, this is not coming from someone who never has to edit. I don't think in contractions so I rarely write in them. So they get added after to make my people sound less cardboard. I am being honest. Sometimes I remember to put them in... more than not I use full words.

In dialogue, people talk in contractions. People shorten up names. People from the south speak with a twang that is not only noted by a modifier tag. If you aren't sure if it sounds right, read it out loud. Treat it like a play and say the words. Can you hear the richness of the south in that man's voice... almost smell honeysuckle and taste the salty sweetness of a watermelon on a hot day just in the way he drawls, "Sun don' shine on the same dog's tail all the time..."?

So names are like my contraction issue... it is something you may have to double back to catch. But in the back of your head, while you are writing, let the characters speak. Don't try to speak for them.

And listen. To the people around you. To the conversation in a restaurant. All fodder for the writery brain.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Odd Stuff gets another great review!!

Bitten By Books reviewed Odd Stuff and gave it 5Tombstones
You can view the whole review here at

"Janie Smith, recently divorced mother, is returning to her home town, and is not altogether happy about it. Being able to stay at her best friend Mia’s is infinitely preferable to living with her mother, and Janie is grateful that Mia made the offer. So what if she has to help run Mia’s shop and participate in a few community events while Mia is out of town? Janie has a safe place for her and Vickie to stay, and some time to find a job and get settled. No problem.

Mia’s instructions about the shop had not been too clear, but knowing there is a manager of sorts, named Sven, calms Janie a bit. However, she is not prepared to see a huge man, wearing a leopard blazer and a fuzzy pink scarf, materialize outside the car window. Entering the shop, Janie is surprised to learn she is expected to make a late-night visit to the cemetery with a group of ghost hunters, and upon entering the upstairs apartment, is stunned to discover a drawer with bags of blood in the refrigerator. Odd Stuff is not only Mia’s shop, it is Mia’s life. Janie tries so hard to appear normal, but would she be able to maintain in this environment, or would her secret come out?

I can relate to Janie on several levels. Being a newly divorced, single parent…been there. Not feeling like I fit in…yep, been there, too. While I never kept a secret as huge as Janie’s, there are still some things I do not want the world to know. I love Janie’s sense of humor, and that she is not broken too badly from the divorce. She is still strong, and showing her attitude all the way, even at times when she should keep quiet. Wow…another similarity!

This fast-paced story moves smoothly from vampire to witch to ghost, has a lot of humor, and easily draws you in and makes you care about the characters. Mia’s generosity in allowing Janie and Vickie to stay in her apartment, Sven’s kindness at helping Janie with the shop and with Vickie, Vance’s protection of Janie, and Janie’s own determination to clear Mia’s name of false charges are just a few examples of the caring within this community. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and would love to read more about Janie and her friends."

So exciting and so thankful to Bitten By Books for this fantastic review!!


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Odd Stuff got its 1st Review ^_^

Coffee Time Romance reviewed Odd Stuff. You can view the entire review at their site

When Janie moves into her best friend Mia’s apartment she has no idea what she is letting herself in for. Within a short span of time she meets Mia’s very tall, and very gay assistant, is attacked by a vampire who looks like death warmed over, and finds out that Mia is on the run from the police for said vampire’s supposed murder. Needless to say Janie, who just wants a normal life, is experiencing anything but as soon as she hits town. Fortunately for her Vance, once he gets some blood into him, is positively hot. The two find themselves very attracted to each other and maybe if they quit finding dead bodies, and people stop trying to kill them, they might be able to act on it. Oh, and then there is Janie’s big secret which she discovers if Vance finds out about it, that it may prompt him to kill her. Will Vance and Janie be able to overcome all these obstacles and find true love?

I really enjoyed reading Odd Stuff! The humor alone is worth buying this book. I laughed so hard in places that I had tears running down my face. Janie’s determination to both protect her daughter and chart her own path are very admirable. I loved her pure stubbornness in the face of such crushing pressure from her mother and others in the paranormal community. I also enjoyed reading about her budding relationship with Vance. The descriptions of him are positively yummy. It was obvious to this reader from the get go that these two were made for each other. The conclusion to some of the problems were not quite what I was hoping for, but in spite of this the book is still very enjoyable. If you enjoy reading about things that go bump in the night, and love to laugh often, then this is the perfect book for you!

Reviewer at Coffee Time Romance & More

For the resolution of the "problems" she was referring to, tune into Siren's Song, book two of the series, available later this month. All in all, super excited about this terrific review ^_^

Sunday, June 20, 2010

banana peels...

I have been very busy lately and life has been crashing down which has made me remiss on my blogging. Sorry!
I have been busy in edits on Siren's Song which will be soon released by Sapphire Blue Publishing. Aside from that, I have also submitted an erotic short story, entitled "Clothing Optional" to the same house. No word back on that but I just submitted it this week.
I had to travel back to my hometown unexpectedly due to some deaths in my family so our summer vacation has been... rather not summer vacationy yet.

But there was a camping trip for Memorial Day. And I hope to swing back into the summer spirit soon...

*crosses fingers*