Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Growing As We Write

As of today, September 28, I am 9 chapters into 'Beyond the Valley', which I began writing on August 1. This is the first novel I have written this fast -- 20,000 words in less than 2 months, and I'm picking up the pace.

For my readers: This is a story of love being tested by prejudice, tragedy, and extreme hardship, in a time when class boundaries ruled. It is the third book in the 'Daughters of the Potomac' series. If you liked 'Surrender the Wind' you are going to love this series. Each story takes place in a turbulent time in history --- the American Revolution and post-Revolution eras. Each story has settings in England and along the Potomac in Maryland and Virginia. Each story is about a woman searching for truth, love, and redemption. Each story blends with the others.

For my writer friends, I listened to an interview with author Geraldine Brooks that had me nodding in agreement. She gives some simple answers to good writing.

Listen for her take on research. She's so right on about overloading yourself with the research that it takes forever to write the novel. I was at that point at one time. Research is important, but now I do it as I write, and I pull myself away once I find the answer instead of going off in other directions and spending hours reading about other details.

What writing tips did you pick up from this interview?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

ACFW and Surrender the Wind

Lots going on this month. The American Christian Fiction Writers is holding their annual conference in St. Louis. I was unable to attend this year. However, my writer friends that are there are posting on social networks all the happenings.

ACFW's book club chose my inspirational historical romance, 'Surrender the Wind', for the read this month.

To celebrate, I'm letting everyone know that Cokesbury Bookstore is offering copies at 71% off the retail price of $13.99. The cost ---- only $4.00. If you haven't gotten a copy, please do. Or perhaps buy a copy for a friend for Christmas.

I was saving the best for last. My prior editor at Abingdon Press has joined WordServe Literary Agency as an agent. She asked if I would be interested in being one of her clients, and if I were the shoutin' type, I would have screamed 'YES!' I didn't scream, but I gave her a resounding yes and shed some tears. She is such a godsend. Barbara is an amazing person. Not only does she know the industry inside and out, and have connections everywhere in CBA, she is an advocate for writers. I am so blessed. Three years ago, I was sitting at my desk staring at my Word doc for Surrender the Wind feeling like I was fighting an uphill battle. I prayed that day, committed my work to Him that gave it to me, and that very day the doors swung wide open. You can read my journey on my website.

If you are pre-published, hold onto your dream. Do not give up. I could have so many times and missed out on God's blessings.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Reading Into It...

Avid readers,

Were you the child t
hat sat in the classroom, chin in hand, staring out the window, the voice of the teacher drowned out because you were somewhere else? Are you still the one among family and friends that has a vivid imagination, that craves the telling of a good story.

I was the child staring out the classroom window 'day dreaming'. My p
arents got plenty of complaints. They were not book readers. Newspapers and the church bulletin were their literary fix. The earliest reading adventures I had, though, were Golden Books. Some of them were small, and I can still see in my mind the watercolor pictures of castles and princesses.

One book that sparked my desire to read and to write was a story about a little girl who wanted to be so small she could live in her family's garden. The illustrations were fun and provoked my imagination. This fearless, tiny heroine flew on the back of a butterfly and lived in a tin can. Sounds weird, but it was a really good story.

What has nagged at me though, is I cannot remember the title or the author. I wish I could discover it again.

When I write, I visualize everything and everyone in a scene. It is important, because if the writer cannot do this, we shouldn't expect our readers to. So writers, challenge yourself to write so well that you see, hear, taste, and touch all that your characters are. And readers, next time you pick up a novel, ask yourself if you see the characters the same way as perhaps the writer did.

Here is a couple lines from the novel I am writing. . .book 3 in the Daughters of the Potomac Series, 'Beyond the Valley'. Do you see the scene in your mind's eye?

The rattle of the carriage wheels over the sandy road seemed endless, until it slowed and drew to a halt and the din of the sea overtook the quiet. The coach door swung open.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hero and Heroine ~ Making an Entrance

It is commonly referred to as making a stage entrance when an actor / actress steps out onto the stage or on-screen in the persona of their character. The audience is given the first glimpse at the character's physical appearance. Their costume reflects the period, as does their hair, makeup, and the setting surrounding them.

It's much the same
with writing the novel. When your hero and heroine make their first appearance, you want to give your readers the building blocks that create a mental image in their mind's eye. Begin at the opening of the book. Deftly weave their image into the narrative. Mention it in dialogue. Let your reader see them from the eyes of the one that is destined to love them. You want your readers to be drawn into your character in order to care about him/her, just as much as you want them drawn into the story. Without living, breathing, characters, a story will fall flat.

You ask how can one do this without being overly descriptive, or what is commonly referred to as 'wordy'. Here are a few things to do.

First, write out the description, whether in a notebook or a character chart, as if you are meeting your character for the first time and looking straight at him/her. Here is one I wrote, loosely based on my husband.

He's not a tall man, but towers at least four inches over me. He has the most interesting shade of brown eyes, gold like autumn wheat, and when he laughs little crinkle lines form in the corners. His hair is the same shade, but I've started noticing he's getting a lot of gray. His nose is Romanesque. His jaw strong. His lips are full, and when he smiles he has dimples in his cheeks. At age fifty-five, he weighs about one-hundred and ninety pounds. His legs remind me of a Greek statue, firm and muscular, and I envy him in the fact he has no hair on his calves.

Now, when you are doing the actual writing, do not give your reader a long paragraph describing your character. Break it up. For instance, when your heroine first sees the hero, she might lock first onto his eyes. Most people do. You write what she sees. There follows some dialogue and when he laughs at a comment she makes, you describe the crinkles in the corners of his eyes, or the way his cheeks dimpled. He strides to his horse, or his car, and she notices his built, the way he swings up into the saddle, or into the front seat.

Some charts have everything lumped together, from physical descriptions to occupation. In my writing notebook, you could break the categories down into sections. Here's a site that offers a printable pdf version of a character chart that is broken down into sections.

Which ever method you use, the goal is to flesh out your characters in your description of their physical appearance, in their actions, their speech, and their motivations.
Is there another method you use for fleshing out your characters?
As a reader, when you are reading a novel, what things stand out to you the most that help you visualize the characters?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Jam Roly-Poly

While writing book 3, 'Beyond the Valley', in the Daughters of the Potomac Series, I had to do a bit of research on the kinds of foods they ate in Cornwall, England in the late 18th century.

Jam Roly-Poly was one I came across, and it looks delicious. Most claim this dessert was made popular in the 19th century Victorian era. But who is to be sure when it comes to recipes passed down in families.

I won't be using this food in my novel, just to be on the safe side historically. But I'll save it in case I need it for a future book set in the Jam Roly-Poly era.

Traditionally, Jam Roly-Poly was made with suet. But this recipe from Bon Appetit is made with butter. . . my preference.