Saturday, May 02, 2009

Fiction Fest 2009!

Hey all, I'm at the Connecticut RWA's Fiction Fest Conference today, presenting my first-ever workshop...wish me luck!

And just a reminder: the Brenda Novak Auction is up and running full-steam. Stop by and place a bid or two!

Friday, May 01, 2009

I Hate Endings

"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand." ~George Orwell

Endings. In a really good book, or a really good movie, I hate when the ending rolls around. My favorite books as a child always left me with a sense of loss, because I was saying goodbye to characters and a world I'd come to love. Maybe that's why I read most of them more than once!

On the other side of the coin, though, as a writer, it's a little different. Sometimes I know exactly where I'm going, so the ending is easy to write. Sometimes I don't, and it surprises me. But sometimes I don't, and it frustrates the heck out of me. That's the case with my current WIP, Entwined. I have an idea of the ending -- I have since I started -- but now that I'm close, it's more of a mess than I imagined. Blech. I can't get it straight. I'm having the trouble getting the main plot and subplot worked out the right way. I thought taking a few days off for perspective would help, but it hasn't.

So...any suggestions when it comes to writing endings?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Taking a Day Off

"On the occasion of every accident that befalls you, remember to turn to yourself and inquire what power you have for turning it to use." ~Epictetus (Greek philosopher)

Hey all, I'm taking the day off from official blogging today, mostly because 2 days ago 2 of my students were involved in a serious car accident (nice weather + good friends + the freedom to drive to school + winding back roads + speeds over 80 mph = nothing good). One girl is OK; one boy is in very critical condition with internal injuries.

Sometimes I wonder how much more the universe will give me to deal with this year...

Anyway, I'll be back tomorrow...and by the way, if you haven't signed up for my e-newsletter (over there on the sidebar), go ahead and do so. The May issue goes out tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Liana Laverentz

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! I'm happy to welcome back my first-ever repeat guest, Liana Laverentz, who has so much going on with her writing she just had to share it with us. Enjoy!

Liana, I know you've been busy in the last year. Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

My next release, a murder mystery romance titled Ashton’s Secret, was also my first published book, only now it’s a lot better and different.

I loved revising Ashton’s Secret. When I first submitted it to The Wild Rose Press, it was rejected, because it was out of date regarding the writing, the relationship dynamics between the hero and heroine (me man, you woman), and a few modern conveniences, like video games and cell phones.

One main difference between the first version and this new, much improved version (I am so excited about this…it was a real eye-opener to see how much I had grown and changed as a writer) is the hero’s occupation, which is another secret in the story and is not revealed to the heroine the end of the book. Astute readers, I am sure, will catch on quickly. His former occupation is now his hobby.

But his new occupation makes much more sense and adds a lot of tension to the story. She knows he has secrets, but he’s not saying, and that makes it hard to establish trust between them, which heightens the conflict. I also changed the ending. Not the happily ever after part, but how they got to it, and this time gave a glimpse of their future through their dialogue.

How do you go about developing your characters?

I start with an external conflict, and try to imagine what kind of person would be involved in that conflict, try to figure out what kind of past or emotional baggage would lead them to be in that situation, and build from there. I am fascinated by why people do what they do, so all my stories deal with issues stemming from my characters’ childhoods, and all my characters are built in layers. They don’t come fully formed, and they continue to surprise me with little details about themselves until I send the manuscript in to production.

What kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?

I love to read romantic suspense, or just plain suspense. Some of my favorite authors are Lisa Gardner, Rachel Lee, Erica Spindler, and Eileen Dreyer, who also writes romances as Kathleen Korbel. She has an obvious love for the written word and knows how to use it. When I read her books, it’s like looking forward to checking in with old friends at the end of the day. She makes her characters that real for you. In her book Sinners and Saints, she even made the setting, New Orleans just before a hurricane hits, a character in the book. You can tell she does her research. But she weaves it into the story so skillfully you don’t even realize you’re learning something as you read. And that there’s more going on than just the story, here. It’s a story written on several levels, and you can read it at any level you choose and still be satisfied at the end of the book.

How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

That’s a tough one. I’m still working on it. I find that when my life is balanced, I don’t get enough writing time in (and I get irritable), and when I am writing, my life veers completely out of balance. Just recently, an agent asked me to send her two proposals for non-fiction books I’m working on, and I dropped everything to start writing the first one. For nine days I did nothing else. Didn’t go anywhere, see anyone, barely went to the store and the house did not get cleaned. Sent the first proposal off and got to work on putting my house and life back in order. Now that that’s done, it’s time to start the second proposal. I want to, but I also know how I am…so I have to make sure the fridge is stocked and bills are paid and the house is reasonably clean before I start.

I do make sure to get to the Y at least five times a week to exercise and do something besides sit at my computer. And I balance that out with yoga, Tai Chi and cardio work. I’ve recently taken up salsa dancing, because it’s an excellent workout and gets more parts of the body moving than just the cross-trainer. Another important thing I started doing was shutting down the computer each evening around 8:00 p.m. to watch a DVD with my son and get my mind on something besides what I’m working on.Watching something on DVD (I don’t watch television—hate commercials) allows me to both relax and think about something else before I go to sleep. We usually watch comedies, so that helps to put laughter in my day.

This has become such an important goal and topic for me that I now host two day long chats called Balance With Liana—one the first Thursday of the month at Long and Short Reviews, and another every Tuesday at The Bookspa, where writers get together to talk about all things related to writing. At The Bookspa, we break it down into Mind, Body, Heart, and Soul, and each week tackle a different area of balance in our lives. I then take the best of what we’ve discussed at The Bookspa and present it at Long and Short Reviews. It’s great fun, and the exchange of ideas seems to help everyone who participates to create a little more balance in their lives. Anyone is welcome to join us at either or

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

I don’t suffer from writer’s block. My biggest problem is finding the time to put all the stories I have in my head and heart onto paper. Writers write. It’s what we do. We write because we can’t not write. But every word doesn’t have to be written for publication. So if you find yourself stuck, just start writing, even if it’s stream of consciousness, and it may take a while, but once you get started, you won’t want to stop. Even if the first thing you write has nothing to do with what you’re currently stuck on, just opening yourself up to the flow of creativity in your brain and enjoying the moment will eventually bring you to where you want to be. Something you write will undoubtedly spark an idea that you can tie back in to your WIP.

Either that, or pick up a book in an area that is different from the one you are trying to write. That works a lot, too. It shifts your conscious mind to something else, so that your subconscious can work out the problem. In a sense, you’re getting yourself out of your own way.

Or you can do something mindless, like the dishes, or folding laundry, or even take a walk. Slow down enough for your creativity to catch up to you again.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

My favorite activities are reading, writing, watching movies on DVD, making soup from scratch, martial arts, road trips, and all things spiritual. I’m a huge fan of self-improvement, and am always looking for ways to keep my life balanced between writing, working, and being a Mom.

What is the best and worst advice you have ever received?

Worst advice…that category romance was the only romance worth writing. I was never going to fit into the category romance mold. It was like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, and I lost a lot of years trying to write something I wasn’t suited for.

Best advice…never give up. If you don’t write the books in your heart, no one will. No one will even know they exist except you, and they will die when you do, never having been released into the world. Never having even had a chance.

What would be the best way for readers contact you? Do you have a website? MySpace site? Blog? Message Board? Group?

How can readers find out more about you and your books?

Just stop by my website and sign up for my newsletter, or check my blog every now and then.

Readers, look for Ashton's Secret releasing June 26th - and another hearty thanks to Liana for being here today!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tales of Cover Art

"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep." ~Scott Adams

So last week, my editor sent me a first draft of the cover for One Night in Napa, with the caveat in her email, "I'm not particularly happy with it..."

I agreed. Without going into detail, the cover really didn't take any of my suggestions/points about the story into consideration. Plus the color was...well, odd. My editor and I tossed around some suggestions, and the next day I got a new cover. This one I loved -- it seemed a much better fit and really suggested "sensual love story set in a sensual place."

It isn't approved by the publisher yet, so I can't post it here, but I do hope the second version is the one they go with!

One thing about small presses/e-publishers: from what I've heard and experienced, those authors have much more input with cover art than those with New York publishers. Now, don't get me wrong: I certainly wouldn't turn down a NY publisher! But be prepared: you probably will have minimal say on the cover.

And if you haven't heard this funny story about a cover-gone-wrong, here's the classic Three-Armed Heroine that appeared on a major romance novel a few years back.

Hope to share my cover with you soon!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Susan Boyle, Instant Super-Star

"Judgements prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances." ~Wayne Dyer

I'm sure you know the story of this overnight sensation, from the Britain's Got Talent TV show. Frumpy, 47-year old Susan Boyle, who lives alone and occasionally goes to the local pub for karaoke night, wowed the judges (including the ever-persnickety Simon Cowell) with her amazing rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream."

It's a great feel-good story, and if you haven't watched the YouTube clip yet, here's the link. The judges' reaction alone is worth the view...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I Need Your Help

"Public speaking is the art of diluting a two-minute idea with a two-hour vocabulary." ~John F. Kennedy

OK, fellow writers, I need some input:

Next Saturday, I'll be presenting a workshop at the Fiction Fest 2009 conference on "Tightening and Trimming Your Prose."

My question is, if you were planning on attending, what kinds of things would you like to see covered/included in that workshop? I have an hour, and I do already have a brief outline/idea of what I'm going to discuss. But I'd love some suggestions as well. What would you expect from a breakout session with that title? If you've gone to conferences in the past, which workshops did you most enjoy, and why? Handouts, or not? Self-promo, or not?

I'm looking forward to the experience, despite the nerves...I figure it'll be good for me :)