Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Of Strawberry Pots and Breaks

 This is my strawberry pot.

These are my strawberries.

Go figure.

This is a great analogy for my writing life at the moment. I'm still producing strawberries, but not as I'd hoped or planned. If I leave those strawberries growing from a crack, they'll become stunted, miserable things, the fruit not as palatable as it could be.

I need to get those strawberries back in the pot.

Consequently I'll be taking some time off from blogging. I'll definitely be back in full force for the April A-Z Challenge, or I may come back sooner. Those strawberries are tricksy things, so it's hard to say for sure. I hope you'll all forgive my absence. I'll still be around Twitter and Facebook and I'll occasionally pop in to visit.

So tell me, how are your strawberries growing?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Christine Rains: Writing Romance

Christine Rains is here today to share with us some tips for writing romance. Take it away, Christine!
It's that time of year when love is in the air. Hearts decorate store windows and chocolates fill their shelves. The best restaurants are booked up and jewelers tell you every kiss begins with a diamond. There's the lovely scent of fresh flowers and greeting cards.

None of this sounds particularly romantic, does it? No, certainly not. How would we write romance stories if it was only about pretty baubles and good food? Romance is the most popular genre for a reason. It's about two people falling in love. It's about intense emotions and noble actions. It isn't an easy tale to write.

Here are four key things to remember when writing romance:

1. Sympathetic and realistic characters. Even if you're writing a love story about vampires, the reader has to be able to identify with the main characters. They must have human emotions and flaws, and they must tackle conflict realistically.

2. Conflict and common ground. Of course there has to be something or someone trying to prevent the couple from having their happily ever after. It might even be the protagonists themselves wrestling with inner turmoil. But for a relationship to be believable, they must find common ground somewhere. A goal, a belief, or a beloved hobby. Opposites do attract, but something other than lust and external conflict must bind them together.

3. The relationship must be central to the plot. If you could write the same story without the relationship, then it isn't a romance story. The romance must propel the story forward.

4. Sacrifice. The characters must be willing to give up everything to be with the person they love. In some stories, it's their own lives, but not every tale requires it. Yet it must feel like the ultimate sacrifice to the one giving whatever it is up.

We may be bombarded by the commercial aspects of Valentines Day, but we are celebrating loving another person despite their flaws and spending time with them doing something both of you enjoy. We realize that our lives wouldn't be the same without that person in it, and we'd be willing to sacrifice anything to make sure they stay.

Happy Valentines Day!

Is this not the hottest dragonslayer you've ever seen?



Monday, February 11, 2013

Carol Kilgore: Balancing Social Media

Today, I have a special guest, the lovely and talented award-winning author, Carol Kilgore. She is here to share with us her social media experience. When she's not busy writing, you can find her here: website . blog . facebook . twitter . goodreads . amazon. Take it away, Carol!

Hi, Lynda! Thanks so much for having me at your blog today. It’s still winter in San Antonio, and it’s great to find a touch of summer here with you.

I’d planned to write about writers and social media, but I had so much to say it was turning into a full-length article complete with subheadings, bullet points, and a sidebar feature. So I dropped back and regrouped to try for a more personal touch – my own social media experience.

Four years ago, I started my blog, Under the Tiki Hut. Blogging has been a totally rewarding experience, and I’ve met so many fabulous people. Present company included, of course :-)

Two years ago. I made a big leap into Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google+, and Pinterest – all at the same time. I advise not doing such a stupid thing. The learning curve was huge.

Google+ and Pinterest fell by the wayside. I’m still signed on, but I don’t participate.

And after all this time, I still don’t have a good handle on Goodreads. I hate to say this, but as much as I love the site, I’m there pretty much in spirit only. I need a Goodreads Fairy Godmother to totally handle my presence there because I simply do not have extra time. I could spend my reading time at Goodreads, but that would kind of defeat the purpose. See my problem?

Where do we draw the line so we still have time to write and read and have a family life?

The only answer I know is that the line will be different for each of us.

For me, the answer is this. I spend my social time almost exclusively on my blog, Facebook, and Twitter. In that order.

I like that I can do a lot on Twitter in a short amount of time. I don’t like the feeling of tweeting into a vacuum.

I like that on Facebook I’m almost able to make the same kinds of connections I make on my blog but with much less time and effort. I don’t like that Facebook doesn’t send my posts to everyone’s news feed.

A good friend of mine is very tech savvy (I’m a techie idiot). And she knows much about networking and social media. When I decided to join Facebook, she told me I needed an author page as well as a personal profile. I balked. She insisted. And she won.

So for two years, I’ve posted the same type of posts on each one and struggled with how to make the two different from one another. And I think I finally found a way. Time, of course, will tell.

Beginning February 1, my author page is now devoted to all things Book. We’ll chat about reading, favorite books, favorite authors. I’ll post new releases from authors I know. I’ll talk about my books, give some story behind the story and inside info on new releases. And the first Tuesday of each month will be a “Tuesdays Are Texas” feature. All my books are set in Texas, and I will post photos and tell things I know about the place or event or whatever the photo is about. All posts will be short. Everything will be open to comment. You’re invited to chat with me and with each other. And to post on the page.

My personal profile/timeline (and see, I still don’t know what to really call it) will be devoted strictly to writers. Same rules apply except my posts will be something related to writing or something I find so funny I just have to share. Mostly my ‘posts’ will be one-liners about a shared image.

My goal is for both page and profile to become totally interactive and destinations for readers and writers. I say ‘destination’ because Facebook won’t supply my posts to everyone’s news feed. The trick will be for readers and writers to add my sites to their favorites and remember to visit every once in a while.

Sure it’s a gamble, but it costs me nothing except a little time. Will I succeed in reaching my goal? I have no idea. But it’s better than muddling around like I’ve been doing.

So my best advice to you?

Try anything and everything. The established places like Facebook. Newer places. Places no one knows about yet. Find what works best for you.

And above all else … do it your way. Be yourself – your individual, unique self.

How do you handle social media? What works for you?

I hope you’ll share your secrets and give me new ideas to ponder.

And while you do, I’m sneaking off to the beach to dig my toes into some warm Aussie beach sand :-)

No home. No family. No place to hide. For Summer Newcombe, that's only the beginning.

The night Summer escapes from a burning Padre Island eatery and discovers the arsonist is stalking her, is the same night she meets Fire Captain Gabriel Duran. As much as she's attracted to Gabe, five years in the Federal Witness Security Program because of her father’s testimony against a mob boss have taught her the importance of being alone and invisible.

No matter how much she yearns for a real home, Summer relinquished that option the night she killed the man who murdered her father. But Gabe breaks down her guard and places both of them in danger. Summer has vowed never to kill again, but she's frantic she'll cost Gabe his life unless she stops running and fights for the future she wants with the man she loves.

Available at Amazon
Kindle and Paperback

A missing belt. Buried treasure. And a sexy former SEAL who makes her crazy. What more could any woman want. Right?

U.S. Coast Guard Commander Taylor Campbell is on a quest to unearth her uncle’s buried treasure. There’s one other minor glitch. She's certain the buried treasure was all in Uncle Randy's dementia-riddled mind. Now he’s dead.

Jake Solomon is in Rock Harbor under false pretenses. He doesn't like the charade, but if he doesn't follow the plan, his dad will make Jake's SEAL training feel like a day on the monkey bars in kindergarten.

Jake is definitely not supposed to become involved with her. That was his first mistake.

Available at Amazon
April 2, 2013
Kindle and Paperback

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

4 Reasons Not to Compare Yourself with Other Writers

Being the gooses that we are, one mistake we writers will inevitably make is to compare our work and our progress toward success with that of other writers. It usually starts out innocent enough, with a genuine interest in improving our writing. We'll look into how other writers have succeeded. We'll read their work and learn how they use language. Learning is good, right? But then the cracks begin to show.

You know the signs: you'll read a book that's so great you'll think you'll never be able to write something as good. Or you'll secretly grumble because someone published the very first book they'd ever written and you're slaving on book seven with no signs of a contract.

And so the spiral into a morass of negative thoughts begins. The threat of giving up becomes all too real and the very thing that started as a way towards helping your writing becomes the thing that harms it. Below are my reasons why it doesn't need to get that far:

1. The volume of work is hidden. As writers, we sagely claim no one can understand the amount of work that goes into writing a novel. Certainly, none of our friends or relatives could possibly have an inkling. I'm sure most of my friends think I spend all day goofing off or staring into space. Only other writers get that it's not just about writing a story; there's all the rewrites, the edits, the countless scenes that had to be written, polished, then tossed. So why do we forget that when it comes to comparing our work with that treasure we found in the bookstore? Like crows to a shiny, all we see is the finished work and marvel at its glory. Common sense? Pish posh! Leave that to the mathematicians.

2. The lone author is an illusion. Even though only the author's name is printed on the cover as the creator of a novel, no one produces a book on their own—not even self-published authors. There's a team of people behind every good book. The critique partners, the beta readers, the cheer squads, the editors, the publishers. So when you compare yourself with other writers, you're actually comparing yourself with a whole team of experienced professionals.

3. Overnight successes don’t happen. You want the manuscript you’re working on to be the one everyone falls in love with. You want a bestseller. You want recognition. You want the world when it comes to your writing. And you want it all now. If other authors have it all now, then why can’t you? Well, you can’t have it all now. Not even the authors falling into the 0.0001% category of those who earn millions from their writing got it all now. Overnight successes are a myth. Good writers need to be thrown into the fiery pit of big candy-floss dreams, claw our way up from wastelands of self-doubt and knock backs, and cling with tenacious hearts to the ugly rope of hard work until we drag ourselves free only to go through it all over again. And that takes time.

4. Everyone is unique. Trite, but true. While a lot can be learned from listening to other writers' processes and their journeys to publication, it's impractical and improbable that you’ll take exactly the same road. You’ll have a different background, different connections, a different approach, and a different voice. This doesn't mean different is bad. Different is simply, well, different. There’s not a whole lot you can do about it except suck it up and find what works for you.
How does comparing yourself with other writers affect your work? How do you avoid it?

This post was written for Alex J Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers' Support Group. We post on the first Wednesday of every month. If you'd like to learn more, then click here.