Monday, February 27, 2017

Play it Safe Newbie Writers

This week I'm taking a break from writing and instead am shushing some great powder in Steamboat Springs. Sound like a fantastic getaway? Yeah, it would be, if it weren't for a killer headache, perpetual nausea, shortness of breath, and a general feeling of being hit by a Mack truck. Turns out skiers from lower altitudes like me shouldn't hit the highest slopes on day one because of altitude illness. Apparently I should've acclimated myself first.

Which is a really good idea for newbie writers as well. A wannabe writer needs to acclimate or risk a writerly-type version of the same sort of malaise. How to do that? Here are a few tips . . .

#1. Don't expect to write a best seller with your very first manuscript. Slow down. Take your time to practice on a few stories before you expect to sell one.

#2. Slow and steady wins the race. Rushing to pump out a novel is going to sound like a rushed novel. Take your time to learn the basics and practice with them.

#3. Give yourself a break and don't be so hard on yourself. It's normal to feel like a loser when you don't land a contract right away, but don't give up. Most writers I know took 5-10 years before selling something. Others even longer.

Yeah, I'll be hitting the slopes again tomorrow but I won't be going to the top peaks again. I've learned my lesson to take it easy for the first few days. Learn your lesson, writer, and don't be overly ambitious in what you expect to accomplish at first.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

How to Uncliché a Cliché

If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times . . . avoid clichés like the plague. Okay, so yeah, that whole first sentence was a royal no-no, but today I'm here to say you can use clichés in your writing, as long as you know how to do it. So slap on a helmet and let's go.

The reason clichés are frowned upon is because they're so overdone, readers not only gloss over them, they do so with a gag reflex. Using common phrases are a sign of a rookie writer. No one wants to look like a novice, so here are some handy dandy ways to incorporate clichés with a fresh twist.

3 Ways to Uncliché a Cliché  

1. Freshen up the old with the new.
A fun way to surprise a reader is to use an old phrase but give it a new twist. Add on to it. Example: The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence — because his neighbor uses fertilizer.

2. Do the unexpected.
Spicing up a cliché is really an opportunity to get creative. Instead of using "not in a million years" you could use the same concept by applying it to something else that lasts a long time.
Example: Not in an ocean's lifetime.

3. Go opposite.
Twist a negative cliché into a positive one, or vice versa. Instead of the positive: you have to look through the rain to see the rainbow, tweak the end so it's negative.
Example: You have to look through the rain to see the tornado that's headed straight at you.

As you can see, it takes way more brain work to breathe life into an old, worn-out mess of words, but when done creatively, it's a great way to perk up your writing and delight a reader.

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Case for Inspirational Romance

When people ask me what I write, I usually say historical fiction -- not historical romance. Why? Because a good Christian girl shouldn't be interested in that sensual kind of earthly stuff. Right?

Wrong.

Granted, romance has some negative connotations, but there is a flip side. Think about it for a minute. God is the author of love. He's the one who created it and put into motion an everlasting romance between Christ and the church. Stories about heroes loving their heroines are a dim reflection of that. Is it any wonder we love a happy ending?

We all have an inner craving to be loved. Deep down in everyone's heart there is a desire to be cherished. Reading/writing about that desire (note: not talking about sex/erotica here) reminds us that feeling is but a shadow of what will be some day be fully consummated.

We cannot out-imagine God when it comes to things that delight our souls. When you enjoy a romantic story, imagining wonderfully awesome things, let it put you in a spirit of worship via 1 Corinthians 2:9 ~ "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him."

What's more lovely than love? Philippians 4:8 says, "Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable." Am I taking that out of context? Maybe. But thinking on grander concepts such as mercy, grace, justice, or yes indeedy, love fit that bill.

Even God uses romance via story in the Song of Solomon as a picture of a desirable romance. Inspirational romance stories provide the same sort of picture, of a beautiful, overcoming love. A turning point for my faith that gave me a greater sense of God's love for me was via just such a story. Streiker's Bride, in case you're interested.

All this being said, of course you can take this to the dark side. Lusting after a fictional character, becoming dissatisfied with your "real" relationships, using inspirational romance as a springboard to erotica (giving in to the hey-that's-just-a story-too mentality) are not only ill-advised but are outright rebellion against God's plan.

Personally, I'll probably still say I write historical fiction instead of romance. Not because I don't believe in it being perfectly acceptable. It's the slanty-eyed looks of of condemnation that I'd rather not endure.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Stop the Political Madness

Is anyone besides me sick to death of the current political feeding frenzy on social media? Yeah, our country has problems, but here's a newsflash for you: we always have and we always will. Getting frothed up online damages your reputation.

Case in point: I moseyed over to Facebook the other day to check out a particular actor who's picture was an inspiration for one of my heroes. Whewie! The venom this fella was spewing about the current administration kept me from 'liking' his page. Not that I'm a huge Trump supporter, but the man's negativity was a huge turn off.

There was also a blogger who I used to avidly follow until his posts morphed from awesome writing advice to rant-filled nastiness about those in charge.

Now don't get me wrong . . . I'm not saying you shouldn't voice your opinion. The first amendment is still my all-time fave. I'm simply saying make the extra effort to be kind in how you express yourself.

It's an ugly world out there. Bring a little beauty to your little piece of turf by smiling at someone today.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

New Book Announcement

Pull out your jing-dingle-horns and bang on your twiddly-drums because it's time for an announcement . . . drum roll please . . . Coming your way sometime early next year (yes, I know it's still early this year, but patience is a virtue, my friend), I give to you THE INNKEEPER'S DAUGHTER.


Tension is high with the threat of a Napoleonic attack in Regency England, but risk from abroad means nothing when there’s danger at home.

Officer Alexander Moore goes undercover as a gambling gentleman to expose a high-stakes plot against the king—and he’s a master of disguise, for Johanna Langley believes him to be quite the rogue . . . until she can no longer fight against his unrelenting charm.

All Johanna wants is to keep the family inn afloat, but when the rent and the hearth payment are due at the same time, where will she find the extra funds? If she doesn’t come up with the money, there will be nowhere to go other than the workhouse—where she’ll be separated from her ailing mother and ten-year-old brother.

Alex desperately wants to help Johanna, especially when she confides in him, but his mission—finding and bringing to justice a traitor to the crown—must come first, or they could all end up dead.

It’s a race against time for them both.


Now then, is that hero's name ringing any bells? It should be if you read Brentwood's Ward. Alex is a fellow officer of Nicholas Brentwood, so yes, there will be a cameo scene featuring Brentwood and you'll get caught up on how he and Emily are doing.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Writing Software Tools

Scrivener is the top dog when it comes to organizing story material. It's the writerly tool of choice for lots of writers. I'm not one of them. Not that I have anything against the program. It's just that I'm old school, preferring actual slips of paper and writing in cursive with a pen. But old school and Scrivener aren't the only 2 choices out there. Here are a few more you might want to consider . . .

This word processor helps you track plot, characters and settings while keeping all of your writing organized and accessible. This one is great for screenwriters as well. And as a bonus, this includes all the tools you need to output your final novel if you're planning on self-publishing.
Pricepoint: $59

This program is the step between old school and high-tech. yWriter was made by an author, so while there aren't a whole lot of bells and whistles, it does break your novel into chapters and scenes. But the best thing about this program is that it's free.
Pricepoint: $0

In their own words: "A pleasant, focused writing experience combined with effective document management, fast syncing and flexible export make Ulysses the first choice for writers of all kinds."
Pricepoint: $24.99

Bibisco
Here's another freebie that's even jazzier than yWriter. You can organize chapters and scenes, manage revisions and even export your novel in pdf or rtf.
Pricepoint: $0


Friday, February 10, 2017

The Edge of the Cliff

And now for something completely different . . .I love to encourage writers, especially newbies who are eager to learn the craft. Today I'd like you to meet Faith Culbertson, an up and coming dynamic new voice on the writerly scene. So without further adieu, I'm handing the reins off to her. Enjoy!

Author Faith Culbertson
Have you ever had to make a hard decision? If you have, then you know what it’s like to be at the edge of the cliff. We make decisions every day, but occasionally, we have to make life changing ones.

When big decisions that are life-changing and possibly irreversible come up, we often rely on our wisdom, instinct, and wit. But, how often do we rely on God? When we put our own desires and emotions aside and focus on what God wants us to do, it’s honestly one scary leap. However, that’s what true faith is. It’s letting go of all those important dreams, and aspirations and leaping, across the dark void of the unknown, and into God’s arms. 

A lot of us, myself included, think that we would always do what God tells us to, but trust me . . . it’s not until you’re in reach of your dream job or perfect spouse and God calls you in another direction that you are really tested. It’s when everything seems to be going perfect and then God wants you to step out of your safety bubble, that’s when things can become suddenly very, very real. 

Being a Christian isn’t always about going to church, reading your Bible, and making sure you’re extra nice to the drive-thru workers; sometimes it's the nitty-gritty-I’m-scared-out-of-my-mind kind of faith that God calls us to. So, here’s an encouragement: keep your mind and heart open, don’t be afraid to be scared, but don’t let go of God’s hand. He’s got this.

Pretty awesome words from an 18-year-old, eh? Expect to see more from this chick in the future. And don't forget there could also be a signed copy of OUT OF THE FRYING PAN in your future if you enter the Rafflecopter drawing. But hurry . . . it ends on Monday.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Holding Hands With Failure

Want to know what all successful writers have in common? They're failures. Every writer starts out mucking about in the wallows of ugly failure:
- failure to finish a manuscript
- failure to land an agent
- failure to sign a contract
- failure to get good reviews
- failure to sell bajillions of books

Fail. Fail. Fail. Depressing, eh? Nope. Not really. Not when you make failure your friend. Here's how . . .

Failure isn't your enemy.
Sometimes something as easy as changing your mindset helps alleviate stress. Think of failure as your friend rather than an enemy. How can failing possibly be positive? Because it's an opportunity to start over again with a fresh slate. And this time you'll have a clear sense of what doesn't work because you've already tried it.

Failure isn't weakness.
Real strength lies in picking yourself up and trying again. Not getting something right the first time (or the hundredth) doesn't prove that you've got a flaw. It proves that you're determined to continue plugging away at a particular skill. Babies don't start out walking without falling many times. It's the same with art.

Failure doesn't define who you are.
What you did failed. You didn't fail. Failure is an event, not a person -- not you. Stop the negative self-talk.

Failure isn't the end.
Actually, it's the beginning. Failure is a critical learning experience in figuring out what works and what doesn't work.

Nobody likes to fail, but it is part of life, so you might as well embrace it and make it work for you rather than let it curl you into the fetal position.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Sharing the Love with a Giveaway

So, it's February. Around here the days are gray. I'm sick of cold and snow. And I still haven't lost that 5 pounds I gained at Christmas. Depressing, eh? Yeah. Cue the morbid pipe organ music.

Or not. Let's do a giveaway instead! Here's your chance to snatch up a signed copy of OUT OF THE FRYING PAN, a zany romantic mystery with plenty of action and bodacious shoes. Sign up and don't forget to share the love! You've only got until February 20th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, February 3, 2017

A Smattering of Editing Tricks

Whether it's your manuscript, a friend's manuscript, or a letter to your Great Aunt Gertrude, at some point you're going to have to edit. I understand some folks would rather poke out their eyeballs with forks than have to proofread some copy. I'm not one of those. I'm the freak who adores editing. That being said, I've acquired some handy dandy sure-fired tricks to hasten the process.

Read it Out Loud
Yeah, I know. You'll feel weird doing this at first. Yes, you can wait until nobody is home before you start. Reading things out loud makes you slow down and you'll hear the cadence of the words.

Print it Out
Quit freaking out about wasting paper. We can plant more trees if it makes you happy. Print the dang thing out and read a hard copy. I guarantee you'll see things differently than on a computer screen.

Make Sure You're Bright-Eyed and Bushy-Tailed
Editing when you're tired doesn't work. You'll gloss over things, like entire paragraphs. Only proofread when you're jazzed up and good to go for the day.

Give Yourself Time
Reading each words takes time and plenty of it. Allow for that time in your schedule. Rushing through an edit makes for missing boo-boo's and that's the whole point, Hoss.

Find a Buddy
It always helps to have an extra set of eyeballs (or two or three) to read your stuff. You can't catch all your mistakes. I don't care how stellar you think you are, you will miss some errors because the words in your head sometimes mask the words you've actually written.

Limit Distractions
Shut off the wifi. Shut down your phone. Put the cat outside and kennel the dog. Once you start editing, you don't want to break your train of thought.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Finding Your Moxie

It can happen to the best of us. There you are, skipping down the center lane of the creativity highway, singing la-de-dah-de-dah all the way, when all of a sudden, BLAMMO! A Mack truck of criticism hits you at full speed. You're not just flattened. You're tiny splats of matter blown to kingdom come.  

How do you bounce back from that?

It's not easy to regain your confidence when you get a horrific review or suffer some scathing comments from an editor or agent. But it can be done and it must be done if you're going to survive as a writer. Here are a few ways to get your moxie back.

Introspection
Take some time to really think about why it is you're a writer. If it's for the money or the kudos, then honestly this isn't the gig for you. But after some deep soul searching, if you feel like writing is the air you have to breathe, then it doesn't really matter what other people say. Glean what nuggets of truth you can from the criticism then move on.

Change of Pace
Instead of writing something for the direct purpose of publication, write something just for you. Just for fun. Something you can take risks with and love and pour your heart into without ever showing it to anyone. 

Shelve the People Pleasing
Not everyone is going to get your writing because it's art. Art is subjective. Writing isn't about being perfect. It's about writing. Period. And any comments about writing are opinions, not facts.

Consider a Mindset Shift
Turn that negativity into positivity by letting it spur you on to work harder, write better, and prove those naysayers wrong in the future. 

Without the willingness to risk criticism and embarrassment, you will never develop the writing skills you desire. Moxie is about attitude, and sometimes you just have to fake it till you make it. Be bold whether you feel like it or not.

 
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