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Friday, August 12, 2011

My Gratitude Journal: Characters

PLEASE NOTE: I am running my first-ever contest. To learn more, click on the little blue "Contest" tag at right. Welcome!


I've already admitted that authors of fiction are crazy. We hear voices in our heads, listen to them, even respond. What's more, since we are writing fiction, everyone expects it.

My colleague Barbara Samuels, who writes brilliant books as Ruth Wind, calls her muses "the girls in the basement." I suspect mine occupy the attic, since they always seem to be floating at the top of my mind, keeping me preoccupied when I usually have more practical things to do.

They speak to me in symbols, images and (mostly) words, sometimes in song lyrics (tunes included) or lines of poetry. More often they speak in the voice and the guise of a particular fictional character.

Today I express gratitude to those characters who have popped into my head and stayed, refusing to be evicted until I had given them their due.

I'm thankful to Brandon and Robin, my firstborn fictional creations, who populated the story in BENEATH SIERRA SKIES, my first release back in 1990. I'm thankful for Meg and Jim, my first characters in Rainbow Rock, Arizona, for Jim's brothers Kurt and Chris, and for Alexis and Sarah, who showed up to keep them busy.

I'm thankful that Rainbow Rock kept giving me interesting characters to work with including Logan Redhorse and Eden Grant, Cretia and Max, Angelica and Joe.

I appreciate Sarah Kimball and her cast-of-thousands family, Craig Emory and all the Burnetts.

Today I'm especially thankful for Maggie who has been insisting on having her say, even when I tell her I'm too busy and she is going to have to wait. She simply won't be silenced, bless her.

I'm thankful for all the real people in my life -- the ones who see me through good times and bad, and I'm grateful for all the fictional people whose voices continue to inspire me. May they nag succesfully for decades yet to come.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Care and Feeding of Our Characters

PLEASE NOTE: I am running my first-ever contest. To learn more, click on the little blue "Contest" tag at right. Welcome!


This week I've looked at the huge changes overtaking traditional publishing and the care and feeding of modern authors. While doing so I had to admit that our characters need love, too.

Sometimes they need us to get them out of a jam (or a pickle, depends on your home canning preferences) and other times they just need a little understanding.

Here is a segment from Stephanie Burnett, one of the narrators of A SECRET FAMILY RECIPE. She is waiting in her favorite yogurt parlor.

Just then I saw Jessica at the entrance and jumped up with a grin.

Jess held out her arms for a hug as I drew near. I was grateful. It had been a while since we’d seen each other and well, I wasn’t sure how happy she’d be about this meeting.

We hugged and then turned to the counter. “Order whatever you like,” I told her, quickly adding, “my treat.”

Jess looked wary. “That’s not necessary, Steph. I can buy my own yogurt.”

“I know you can, but you’re the one doing me the favor. Let me get this for you.”

Jessica gave me a long, appraising look, but then she smiled. “Okay,” she answered. “Thanks.”

We placed our orders and went to the booth I had chosen. It was the one we always preferred, back when we came here as a group of roommates, back when Jessica and Megan, Allie and I all lived together and occasionally came here for a cheap outing, back before . . .

“We heard about your grandma,” Jessica said, derailing my thought train just when it might have crashed on its own. “Are you doing okay?” The expression on her face had a whole sub-text written in the worry lines.

So there it is. Aren't you just champing at the bit to know what's going on with Stephanie? Yeah. Me, too. I'd better get busy!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Writer's Survival Guide

PLEASE NOTE: I am running my first-ever contest. To learn more, click on the little blue "Contest" tag at right. Welcome!


Writing fiction can be a lonely, lonely living, yet you are not alone. There are many of us struggling along. We may all have varied degrees of talent, vastly different interests in the topics we choose, and amazing differences in the make-up of our lives, yet we share the writing.

Author/agent Kristine Kathryn Rusch has blogged about the "sea change" sweeping the publishing industry and she too concludes "you are not alone." She has recently published (both as an online download and a trade paper book) her "Freelancer's Survival Guide." Filled with useful information, this guide gives both newbies and industry insiders tips for negotiating the rough waters derived from that sea change.

Have a look. See if it may be something you want to keep on hand.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Proper Care and Feeding of a Writer

PLEASE NOTE: I am running my first-ever contest. To learn more, click on the little blue "Contest" tag at right. Your chances are as good as anyone's, right? :-) Welcome!


Many writers I know insist on chocolate, chocolate and -- oh yeah! Chocolate.

For me that's one migraine after another and therefore, not conducive to writing (or thinking, or standing up, or much of anything!). Yet I have my weaknesses.

Give me a bowl full of caramel popcorn and a half-dozen chilled, caffeinated sodas -- oodles of caffeine and sugar to feed my muses and push the creative mind. Then give me hours in front of the computer with nothing else to do or think about so the writing flows like water or, um, caffeine. That's what my muses like!

Life is full of conundrums and here's another: What my muses like and what's really good for me (not just as a human body, but as a writer, too) are very different things.

What my mind wants is one thing; what it needs is another. The proper care and feeding of a writer requires some mild to moderate exercise at least several times a week, lots (and LOTS!) of clean water to drink -- usually 3 to 4 quarts a day -- and healthful meals with plenty of vegetables.

The proper care and feeding of a writer is, after all, the care and feeding of a human mind and body. Darn it all.


How do you prefer to feed and care for your muse?

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Sea Change in Publishing

PLEASE NOTE: I am running my first-ever contest. To learn more, click on the little blue "Contest" tag at right. Welcome!


First there were the big-box bookstores that practically shut down the independents. Around the same time used bookstores (UBS) came about, making certain that UBS owners made money on resales, but authors and publishers earned nothing.

While authors were still adjusting to those changes, along came the online bookstores (think Barnesandnoble.com, Amazon, Books-a-Million) and the mom-and-pop bookstores (think "The Little Shop Around the Corner") virtually disappeared.

Then e-books, Kindle and Nook showed up (along with Rocketbook and a dozen other lesser known reading platforms) and -- what's a writer to do?It's anybody's guess!

An author friend recently issued her opinion in an article titled, "An Author Without a Publisher is Like a Fish Without a Bicycle." Um-hm. That's a good image. And it may soon be the truth.

Out there ... somewhere, you can find almost anything, including reading material of any and every kind. What does this mean to authors? The ones I know are still figuring it out.

I like the old pattern: a publisher believes in your book, takes the financial risks to publish and promote it, and you (the author) sit in your home or your office writing more books while the royalties on the first book build.

That model of publishing, which lasted for centuries, now seems to have gone the way of the Dodo bird. Those of us who write can either learn to adapt to the new wave in publishing and ride it to the shore or we can become just as extinct.

I think I'll learn to surf, thanks. Join me?