Elizabeth: What’s Your Shelf?

Terry Pratchett’s shelf seems to be quite full.

Earlier this year I attended a business conference in a lovely resort hotel in sunny Phoenix.  The days were packed with workshops and networking sessions, which I was eager to escape from at the end of the day for a little down time.

While other attendees were engaging in even more networking over dinner or dancing the night away in the silent disco, I was lacing up my sneakers and setting off to explore the surrounding area.

There wasn’t much around the resort itself – rocks, cactus, golf course, cactus, parking lot, cactus, rocks and more rocks and cactus – but a little less than a mile away there was a sprawling shopping center with dozens of stores, restaurants, and random works of art. More importantly, there was both a Starbucks and a Barnes & Noble bookstore.

After caffeinating and enjoying the “12 WEEKS. 12 ARTISTS. 12 MURALS“ art installation, I made my way to the bookstore, lured by the promise of wonderful bargain books just waiting for me in the clearance section. Continue reading

Jeanne: Enneagrams

On Sunday, Jilly talked about the class we’re taking, Inside Out: Crafting Your Character’s Emotional Conflict, with award-winning author Linnea Sinclair.*

LinneaSinclair13

Linnea Sinclair

One of the things that makes me such a slow writer is because it generally takes me 100 or more painfully typed pages to know my characters well enough to understand what they’ll do in any given situation. Up to that point (and sometimes, as with my current WIP, even longer) I head off in wrong directions and follow blind alleys and generally wander in the wilderness while I get to know them.

It’s not an efficient process.

Now Ms. Sinclair has given me a tool to (I really hope) shortcut that painful process–the Enneagram (pronounced any-a-gram). According to the Integrative 9 website, the Enneagram is an archetypal framework that offers in-depth insight to individuals, groups and collectives.  Put more simply, it’s a psychological test that categorizes people into 9 different groups based on personality/character factors. Continue reading

Nancy: Name That Character!

Later this week, I will finish the final pages of the first draft of Three Husbands and a Lover. While I will then walk away from it for a few to several weeks before starting on revisions, there is one change I already know I have to make: changing the name of the hero’s sister. Percival (Percy) Carlyle, Captain Lord Granville, is an earl with three younger sisters. The younger two are sixteen-year-old twins named Lily and Iris. The oldest is eighteen and is named Priscilla, Prissy for short.

You can see the problem. Percy and Prissy. As much as the sister just felt like a Prissy, as much as the name suited the character, even I started getting confused and typing one name when I meant the other. Now this character, who plays an important secondary role in this story and who might get a story of her own someday, needs a new name.

This oldest sister is chatty, bubbly, and hopelessly romantic. She is has fallen head over heels for her first earnest suitor, who doesn’t really deserve her affections. And she welcomes her brother’s new wife with open arms, thrilled to have an older sister to balance out the two younger ones. She is tallish for a woman, and has pale freckled skin and light reddish-blonde hair like her brother, and unlike her mother and sisters who are petite, dark-haired, and dark-eyed.

The two younger sisters are named after flowers, obviously. Flower names became very popular in the 19th century, and it wouldn’t be too big a stretch to imagine a family naming all their daughters after symbols of prettiness and sweetness. So, like her sisters, the character formerly known as Prissy will be named after a flower. I’ve narrowed down the list to the following three, with their meanings, and the pros and cons of each from my perspective. Continue reading

Jilly: Uglycry stories

Do you enjoy books and authors that make you uglycry?

I’m currently participating in an online workshop offered by Jeanne’s RWA Chapter (Central Ohio Fiction Writers). It’s called Inside Out: Crafting Your Character’s Internal Conflict, taught by Linnea Sinclair. So far, so very good—the class is challenging me to dig deep into my characters’ innermost selves. It’s also making me think about how best to use the discoveries I’m making to tell the kind of stories I want to tell.

This week Jeanne, who is also taking the class, raised a question about her WIP. One of the other students offered a suggestion that brilliantly fits the heroine’s situation and is so gut-wrenchingly powerful it would hurt my heart to read it. I know this kind of storyline makes a book unforgettable. I believe it would earn reviews and might potentially win awards. I think it could make lifelong fans of readers who seek out this kind of emotional torture and the catharsis that follows when the heroine triumphs and everything turns out okay after all.

That’s not me. I find that the emotional distress of the tense build-up makes me feel miserable long after the relief of the satisfying resolution has dissipated.

I’m still scarred by the ending of Gone With The Wind, and I last read that when I was a teen 😉 .

Or take Loretta Chase (love, love, love Loretta Chase). I happily read and re-read Lord of Scoundrels, The Last Hellion, and all her Carsington family books, over and over. Those books pack a powerful emotional punch, but the story momentum always heads in a positive direction, and humor balances the serious undertones, so I never feel distressed. I can relax and enjoy the ride. Conversely, her first Dressmaker book (Silk is for Seduction) knotted my heart in my chest. The writing is brilliant. The black moment is one of the best sex scenes I’ve ever read, and it made me uglycry. Continue reading

Michaeline: Random Writing Advice

Do you ever take a book, and just let it fall open, put your finger on a paragraph, and read it . . . hoping to find advice and guidance? This is a very, very old fortune-telling technique, and while I don’t believe in fate, I do believe that the sudden juxtaposition of random nonsensical elements can make a lot of sense.

Brian Eno did juxtaposition with his cards of Oblique Strategies (today’s advice on Twitter: “What are the sections sections of? Imagine a caterpillar moving”).

David Bowie did juxtaposition with his music and his cut-up technique, which he borrowed from William Burroughs who used it in the 50s and 60s. (Burroughs was well known for his writing about the Bohemian subculture he was involved with; Jack Kerouac was one of his Beat buddies.)

I like just opening up a book of writing advice, and seeing what “the universe” wants to tell me. Of course, it isn’t “the universe”. It’s my own subconscious. If “the universe” tells me nonsense, I ignore it and go on. But if I like the paragraph, or if the paragraph really bothers me and refuses to let go of my imagination, I pay attention to it.

Today, I was looking at Creating Short Fiction by Damon Knight. The book has been in my backpack for the past three weeks, and last Monday I placed it in the bathroom, hoping I’d finally take a minute to start reading it again. I’m still not ready for a re-read, but opening the book and picking a paragraph at random gave me this:

“Notice that it isn’t enough to be interested or informed; it takes both. If you are interested in your subject but know little about it, you can’t satisfy the curiosity you arouse. If you know a great deal about the subject but are not passionately interested in it (like some scientists and teachers), you will put people to sleep.”

Since we were talking about research this week with Jeanne on Tuesday, I thought it was timely advice. I’ve got the third edition of Knight’s book, which was revised in 1985. It’s got a lot of practical advice for any writer, and can be read from start to finish, as well as being used for diving for pearls of wisdom.

So, I’m off to do some guilt-free research! If it interests me that much, surely I can make it interesting for at least some niche audience!

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints

This week started with a twisted ankle and is ending with a multi-day mail server outage at work – someone must have released a bucket of negative energy into the universe.  Hopefully next week will be better.  True it starts with Tax Day (in the U.S.), but that means it can only improve, right?

Although this week has been a bit of a loss, the weekend should make up for it.  The cloudy grey weather of today is supposed to transform into clear skies and sunshine.  Perfect for my plans which include a band, a parade, and an adorable dog or two.

Theoretically my plans should also include some writing time, but we’ll have to wait and see how that goes.  I have a stack of books from the library, as well as The Lion in Winter DVD, so there will be some tough choices to make.  Especially since there are those pesky taxes to finalize as well.

I was able to spend at least a little time brainstorming about  today’s writing prompt while working out at the gym earlier today and would like to get those ideas down in writing before theyfall completely out of my head . . . as my ideas often do.  I’m determned to set aside at least a short bit of writing time before I get distracted by something else bright and shiny.

Care to join me? Continue reading

Michille: Grisham’s Do’s and Don’ts

John Grisham Ryan Pfluger NYT

John Grisham on productivity: “Nothing will happen until you are producing at least one page per day.” Credit Ryan Pfluger for The New York Times

I read the New York Times every day. Well, not the whole thing, but I scan the home page and find enough articles that catch my interest to keep me on the site for a while. I’m not sure how I missed this gem from May 2017. John Grisham’s Do’s and Don’ts for Writing Popular Fiction. Some we’ve all heard/read before. Some are new to me. Even with the list, JG gives the caveat, “All suggestions can be ignored when necessary. I do it all the time.” Many writers do. But for those of us who aren’t multi-best-selling authors, it’s good to review every now and then.

Here they are: Continue reading