Saturday, October 20, 2012

Blogging Break

I'll be taking a mini blogging break. I'll be back on 1st November.

In the meantime, please enjoy this picture I took of a dandilion, a little ray of sunshine:


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Guest Post: The natural order of writing

Today I have the lovely Jocelyn Adams visiting. She is the author of The Glass Man and Shadowborn, which is a new release. Take it away, Jocelyn:

Writing a story is complicated. What, you ask? Just slap down a bunch of words onto a page and voila!

If only it were that simple, we’d all be J.K. Rowling and be rolling in the dough, right? :)

There are certain rules that often—not always—should be followed to make a story work. The one I’m going to talk about is how to create a scene—which is an event that takes place within a book. A novel is a collection of scenes that progress the story from beginning to climax.

Scenes need a natural order. In life we do things in a certain sequence, and we usually have a reason for doing them.

First, our character—let’s call her Jane—needs a goal in this scene. It makes for a more compelling story when there are obstacles making it hard for her to reach that goal.

Goal: Jane is trying to get to work on time. Simple, right? Goals don’t need to be complicated, and one goal can span multiple scenes.

Conflict: The phone rings. Without thinking, she answers it.

Disaster: It’s a woman who asks for Jane’s husband, and when Jane asks who’s calling, the woman hangs up.

Here’s where we get into the natural order.

In real life, when faced with a crisis, we tend to follow this sequence:

Emotion: Perhaps Jane cries or whips the phone against the wall because she assumes her husband is having an affair. Her stomach clenches, maybe she rants.

Thought: Maybe she overreacted? Maybe it was the florist confirming a delivery her husband had arranged for Jane’s birthday? Or maybe it’s that floozy two doors down who’s always making eyes at him? Jane could *69 the call to find out who she is. Or call and confront her husband. Either one would make her late for work, and she’d probably end up fired since she was late every day this week.

Decision: Although Jane is furious, she decides work comes first, and she’ll worry about the mystery woman later.

Action: She gets her butt to work. The next scene begins with a new goal, to find out who the woman is.

Even though each of these elements may not appear in every scene, the ones that do should be in order, creating a magical ebb and flow in the story.

Back of the Book, Shadowborn:
Why me?
That’s the question Lila Gray asks every time yet another bad guy tries to destroy the earth, and she learns she’s the only one who can stop it. Once again, something’s on the prowl, leaving hundreds of comatose, soulless victims in its wake.
Couldn’t the deadliest assassins of the Otherworld go after someone else instead of the brand new Queen of the Seelie? One who still hasn’t adapted to her new role.
Lila would ask Liam Kane, King of the Unseelie, for advice, but something’s off with him, too. He’s holding back. In some way. About some thing. In fact, he refuses to tell her what’s going on.
The truth holds Lila back from the greatness of her role—the people she was born to lead—the man who she desperately loves—and the solution to the latest war raging around her.
To find the answers, she’ll need to fight through her own darkness and embark on a journey through her psyche.
If she doesn’t succeed, the Shadowborn will claim not only her world, but her soul.

Connect with Jocelyn Adams:

Shadowborn: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
The Glass Man: Amazon, Barnes & Noble


Monday, October 15, 2012

Sudoku and the Art of Writing

I love puzzles. The more difficult, the better. Sudoku* is one of those puzzle games that varies in difficulty, but when I find a challenging one, I can't let it go. The other day I was pulling my hair out over an expert level Sudoku puzzle and I realised how similar it was to writing. Here's what I learned:

Practise improves performance. The more I do the puzzles, the better I am at solving them. I grow familiar with what to look out for, plus it takes me less time to get it right. The same with writing. The more I write, the better I become. I grow more skilled at creating believable characters, I grow more familiar with what to look out for to improve the story, and it takes me less time to get it right.

A methodical approach aids clarity of thought. When I approach Sudoku in a haphazard way, I inevitably get lost in the maze of possibilities and I make a mistake. When I approach the puzzle in a more methodical way, carefully mapping out, and taking note of the possibilities, mistakes are far fewer. The same goes with writing.

Patience eases the process. When I'm in a hurry to solve a puzzle, I invariably make a mistake or I simply don't do a good job. The process becomes a struggle and, when I'm in that frame of mind, I'll be more likely to give up. Writing also takes time and requires oodles of patience to get it right. And without patience, I forget to enjoy the process.

Breaks are necessary for clearing the mind. For the more difficult puzzles, I'll get stumped and can't move on. If I take a break from the puzzle, then when I return I'm more able to spot the solution because I'm looking at it with a clearer mind. Writing requires me to take occasional breaks from it as well. If I don't take a break then I get mired in the little details and can't see the big picture, or my writing simply becomes stale.

Sometimes it takes stubborn persistence to finish. While some Sudoku puzzles seem impossible, I know there is always a solution. It just takes some persistence to get it done. The same goes for writing. If I stick with it, I'll get the result I want.

Just because the way is messy, doesn't mean the end result can't be achieved. I might be an artist, but I'm terrible at visualising an end result. I have to write or draw everything down to be able to 'see' it. I guess that's why I love to outline first. For Sudoku, this means I write down all the number possibilities in the little boxes. As you can see in the picture, there's hardly enough room for all that mess, but it brings me the result I crave: a solved puzzle. With writing, I make a similar mess in the outlining process. I used to stress about the amount of notes I needed, about the scribbled changes, the tangled arrows, the scratched out ideas. Then I realised that mess is great if it gets me the end result I want. Besides, no one will see the process. They will only ever see the shiny finished manuscript.

Which of these points resonates with you the most? Can you add any other similarities? Have you ever played Sudoku?

*Sudoku is a puzzle traditionally solved when each of the digits 1 to 9 appear once in each of the 9 rows, 9 columns and 9 3x3 boxes.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Winner! Awards! And Other Cool Things!

Last Thursday I put an advanced reader's copy of Make Believe up for grabs. Thanks to all of you who entered and thank you to all the encouraging comments I received regarding reviews. Your responses really warmed my heart.

And now to announce the winner of Make Believe:

Rachel Morgan!!!

Yay!! Congrats, Rachel!!

It seems my name turned up in a list of those eligible for the 2013 Ditmar Awards for my short story, The Red Button. It's an award that recognises achievement in Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror. I'm only eligible for the prize, but it's the first step. How super cool is that?

I was also recently awarded 'Dezmond's Angel', in the Hollywood Spy's 2012 awards. Thanks Dezzy. I've visited your site for many years now and it's still the primary place I go to get in the Hollywood know.

Other Cool Things:
I know I promised in the title there'd be other cool things in this post, but really all I can share is this image of some ice crystals… (giggle).

Monday, October 8, 2012

Guest Post: The Darker Side of Writing

Theresa Milstein writes about writing teaching and life at Theresa’s Tales

She’s visiting to get the word out about her short story “My Moment”, which is included in From Stage Door Shadows and looks at the darker side of show business. Today she tackles the darker side of writing.

Thanks for having me on your blog, Lynda.

 Writing takes mental stamina.

I’m not saying it’s the hardest job. It's certainly not harder than working in the heat, lifting heavy objects, or dealing in customer service.

But we do a lot of upfront work with no feedback. So, some days we’re like, “That’s brilliant! Did that just come out of MY head?” We sit in our seats a little straighter, knowing that this is THE book.

Panster or plotter, when we’re done, there’s all this tidying up to do. Sure, there are some rough spots, but we’ve done it all with no help. We’re AWESOME! And when we tell our writer friends on Twitter and Facebook, they bask us in the glow of congratulations.

Yeah, that’s the best.

But, even with those nice virtual pats on the back, this part of the journey has mostly been walked alone. Now it’s time to pass our precious, perfect papers to persons with more distance to peruse our papers with a pen.


When we receive our feedback, we’re tempted to argue. But we don’t because someone has been nice enough to tear our works of art into tatters take their time to make us better writers. There might be rants, pints spoonfuls of ice cream consumed, and bottles glasses of red wine gulped.

We sit on the critique. While we do, some of those comments, though painful, make sense. Yeah, why did I think it was a good idea to kill off the only romantic interest in chapter one of my romance novel?

Other suggestions might not sit so well with us. No, I don’t think my YA protagonist should be seven years old because it would be cute if she had the IQ of 2500 and had to skip a bunch of grades to have all these teen experiences.

Then we hunker down and fix the worst piece of drivel since… there is no since. I’m a hack. Why am I wasting my time? Why did I waste anyone’s time in the hopes they could suggest a way out to fix this mess. I’m pathetic. the manuscript until it shines like my eyes filled with tears.

And we repeat this process until it sparkles.

Yeah, this could take a while.

Then it’s time to write the query a million few times, research agents, and hit send…

…only to receive rejections in return.


But there’s always hope that one person reads our query and pages and requests the rest and loves the book and signs you on and shops your manuscript and gets a bunch of offers and there’s a bidding war and they give you cruise-ship-fulls of money and the book winds up on the NYT Bestseller List and sells more copies than that big hot mess novel everyone is raving about…


It could happen.

Hope for more, prepare for less, and be happy with anything in between.

Good luck!

Writers, how do you maintain mental stamina?

Want to add From Stage Door Shadows to your list?

Purchase info:
Barnes and Noble
The Book Depository
eMergent Publishing

On the emergent site, the book is $19.99 and the ebook formats are $4.95.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Giveaway of an ARC of Make Believe!

Since today is the first Wednesday of the month, it's time to post for Alex J Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers' Support Group. To find out more about the group, or to join our growing masses, click HERE.

For this group I try to write mostly encouraging posts or ways to deal with insecurities writers might harbour. Today, however, I must confess an insecurity of my own: the dreaded review.

I've not had to worry about reviews before today. The most I've had is star ratings attached to some of my published works, and thankfully I've received good ratings, but an actual review, where strangers spell out why they liked or didn't like my stories? Nope.

Reviews are one of those things that are both exciting and terrifying at once. Exciting, because it means I’ll get honest feedback from my readers. Terrifying, because it means I’ll get honest feedback from my readers.

What if they don’t like my work? What if they find a terrible flaw in my story that I somehow missed even though it’s as big as an elephant? What if they say I should quit now and never return to writing ever again?

I know I’ll keep writing no matter what is said. I know I can’t please everyone. But the thought of someone reviewing my work sends me into a spin because it’s based on a work that has been deemed finished—no more fixes, no more tweaking, no more excuses.

However, hoping there will be many reviews written about my published works, I need to be less of a princess about it, suck it up and accept that reviews happen: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And you know what? That's part of the joy and agony of being a writer.

And now for the scary/exciting bit: 
The Giveaway!
I'm offering an Advanced Reader's Copy (ARC) of Make Believe (in ebook) to one of my readers in exchange for a review. My short story, Birthright, features in this anthology. Yay!

If you enjoy reading fantasy, urban fantasy and romance, and you are willing to write up a review and post it up in all the cool places before December, then please say in the comments you'd like to enter. I will announce the WINNER on Thursday 11th October.

This Giveaway is also hosted by the other wonderful authors featured in this anthology, so feel free to check them out:
J.A. Belfield
Jennifer M. Eaton
J. Keller Ford
Terri Rochenski
Kelly Said