Jilly: What I Learned About Writing From My Builder

What I Learned About Writing From My BuiilderIt’s been a crazy week at Casa Jilly. I’m desperately trying to Finish The Damn Book, and we have a crew of builders working on the exterior of the house. My preferred place of work is on the sofa, with my laptop. It’s not as comfortable as usual with the outside doors open letting in the cold November air, along with the sounds of scraping, sanding, mixing and hammering, and the smell of filler and paint.

If you’re thinking it’s a little late in the year to be doing outdoor maintenance, you’d be right, although so far the weather has been kind. The story is that there’s a team of Polish guys who do most of the building work in our street. If they aren’t next door at my neighbor’s house, or fixing something for the neighbor’s friends across the street, they’ll rarely be more than a few houses away. They’re a better harbinger of spring than any cuckoo; they disappear for a month in August, and then stay until the end of the year, weather permitting. The only downside is that they’re unbelievably busy, always, so you have to put your job on their radar and wait your turn. My turn came around in July, just as I was leaving for RWA Nationals, so I had to pass. I got a second chance a couple of weeks ago, and took it before somebody else could jump in.

The builders have been under my nose and on my mind for the last couple of weeks, and in addition to making the house look as good as new, they’ve taught me a few things. Continue reading

Michaeline: The Name Game

Alice in Wonderland with Tweedledee and Tweedledum

‘No way!’ ‘No how!’ Well, maybe, if Tweedledee and Tweedledum are what you are going for — two peas in a pod. (Tenniel/Wikimedia)

Names are such funny things and in a lot of magical systems, they hold a lot of power. When I start a draft, I need to have a placeholder name, usually, because I feel funny just calling a character Him or Her – it gets confusing when I start to meet more Hims and Hers in the story. So, I need a label. Sometimes, the character grows into the label, sometimes I stumble into the new perfect name for the character, and sometimes I have to spend a lot of time researching the name. A name has power, and I don’t want to do the wrong thing. For example, one of the villains in my earlier drafts started out with the name of George Brett. It was serviceable. George was a solid, good-ol’-boy name, and I thought that Brett had that air of sophistication to it. DeBrett’s is a famous registry of famous British people. But I did have a little niggle, and I think it was Nancy who confirmed my niggle – she said very cautiously something like, “Wasn’t George Brett a baseball player in the 70s?” So he was. George Brett morphed into George Diaz. And it was a better name. Mr. Diaz is a first generation American, fighting for his family and for his town. His wife, Janine Evans Diaz, still has that “oldest family in town” aristocracy about her, and I love the dynamic that the two of them have between them now. George Brett was just cookie-cutter town aristocracy; George Diaz offers a different experience from his wife. When choosing final names, there are at least seven things to remember. Continue reading

Kat: Killing Off Catfish Deveron

Goodbye Catfish Deveron

Goodbye Catfish Deveron

A recent post by Jennifer Crusie reminded me of a story problem that I’ve been ignoring for a while.  In earlier drafts, Cheyenne was a loner—no family and few female friends. The story was populated with mostly males, and most of those characters were a part of Reed’s community, not Cheyenne’s. One such character is foster-father to Reed and witty Australian, Catfish Deveron.

Catfish hasn’t been on stage much lately, but initially I had big plans for him. A year ago he was pivotal to the house rehab Cheyenne must undertake to get what she wants, was a foil for Hawk, and a central component of Reed’s character arc (Catfish wants to promote Reed to manager of the construction company he owns; Reed wants to remain a site supervisor so he can be where the action is.)

Making Catfish disappear from the story has benefits, however. For one thing, it would eliminate a huge plot hole in a plot line that explains why Reed is under Hawk’s thumb. In order to allow his wife (and Hawk’s daughter) Kara to die at home, Reed quit his job and moved back to Dry Creek, taking a house and a loan (for medical expenses) from Hawk. It’s the old man’s ace in the hole and the whip he uses to keep Reed in line. With Catfish around (a successful businessman and foster-father to Reed) one has to ask why Reed would go to Hawk for money (and put himself under the thumb of a power-hungry crazy man). It wasn’t plausible, but I couldn’t get rid of Catfish.

Continue reading

Michille: Romance Sociology (or me as Gregson and Lois Fangirl)

Jen-Lois_Joanna-GregsonI met Joanna Gregson (Sociology Professor at Pacific Lutheran University) and Jen Lois (Sociology Professor at Western Washington University) at the 2010 RWA Conference in Orlando. At the time, they were in the beginning stages of their research on romance sociology and the stigmas romance writers face and the feminine culture they have created among themselves. In the last couple of years, they have attended writers’ conferences, writing groups events, and readers’ events as well as interviewing authors, agents, editors, and reviewers in search of the reasons behind the social behaviors of the romance community and its critics. And I love the work they are doing. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Collecting Happiness

LoveWriterToday, as I usually do, I did a quick read through my Facebook news feed and the various blog posts in my mailbox before settling down to the business of writing.  I can usually count on a number of amusing pictures and maybe a few interesting thoughts on writing or life, but recently there have also been a number of posts on the blue side. Some friends are battling depression while others are struggling with the changing of the seasons and the stresses of the upcoming holiday season. All of them, it seems, could use a little happiness.

So, instead of the post on originality that I had planned for today, I thought I’d talk about something that gave me a shot of happiness this weekend. It’s the silliest thing, really, but whoever said happiness had to be serious business. Continue reading

Justine: Finally Figuring Out This Writing Gig

writing, editing, writer, justine covington, eight ladies writingI’ve been writing Three Proposals for two years. In those years, I’ve tried a plethora of tools/strategies/etc. to keep me organized, brainstorm, etc., including, but not limited to Continue reading

Nancy: NaNoWriMo: Midset Break Edition

High-Intensity Workout

In the workout/weight training/athletics world, there is a concept called the midset break. To understand what that is, you first need to know the definition of a set, which is doing the same exercise for a defined number of times, or repetitions (reps for short). From that, you can probably decipher that a midset break is, in fact, a break you take in the middle of a set.

So let’s say I’m doing a set of bicep curls with a 20-lb weight, and for that set, I plan to do 15 reps, so I’m going to curl that weight 15 times. But around curl number 8 or 10 or 12, my arm is hurting, my muscles are burning, and if I push it to 15, my form is likely to suffer and I’ll do something stupid like hurt myself.

At this point, I have some options. Continue reading