Sunday, February 28, 2010

I’ve Finally Snagged An Agent. I Should Hit the Bestseller’s List in Two Months!

I know most of you out there are laughing your butts off, especially those who have agents. In a perfect world, this might be true. Hello! We’re not in a perfect world. There is still crime, poverty, hunger and yes, the dreaded rejection letters in our world. Not that I’m comparing the first three to the last one, mind you. But still, a rejection hurts, even if it’s sugar-coated with “You’re a talented writer, but...”

I signed with an agency three years ago and just knew I was on my way to being published. I had a great story and an enthusiastic new agent who loved it. I started dreaming about book signings and - God help me for wanting this so badly – in every dream I saw myself wearing the pink first sale ribbon at Nationals. Most people want the cash. I wanted the ribbon.

Nine months later, after getting my hopes up more times than I want to remember when editors showed an interest in my story, I was still unpublished. So, after I finally buried the notion I would be an instant hit in the publishing world, I began another story. In the meantime, my agent left to spend more time helping her daughter, an Olympic hopeful, and I was handed down to my present agent.

Again, my expectations soared. As a slow writer, it took another nine months to finish the novel. I was already planning a trip back to Ohio, my home state, for a book signing with all my family and high school buddies.

“This book isn’t big enough to be your breakout novel,” new agent said. “Keep writing.”

Because I had instant chemistry with her and trusted her judgment implicitly, I started a third story. She was excited about this one, which in turn, excited me. Nine months later – did I mention my snail-paced writing?- I turned in my ghost story.

She loved it. Halelujah! Best seller’s list, here I come!

Not!

She sent the story to several houses and an editor at Berkley loved it. She asked if it was a series. Of course it was a series, I said, imagining a four book deal. Again, I checked the airlines for cheap flights to Ohio.

Fast forward to “I love the story but I can’t use it for my line.” I’m sure they heard the sound of my dream crumbling back in Bridgeport. What else could I do? I had an agent I believed in, I’d written a story we all loved, but I had no sale. What happened to getting my first sale two months after signing with an agent?

Here’s what happened. The expectation was ridiculous. Granted, my chances escalated when I signed on the dotted line, but come on. The same horrible economic downswing that has me clipping coupons and eating out less has also hit NY and the rest of the world.

So, what good is an agent, you ask?

I can only speak for my own who spends hours on the phone with editors, me and other clients and even hops on a plane to NY at least once a month for face to face contact with editors to find out what each one is specifically looking for. She took the rejection for my ghost story and turned into something positive. Knowing the editor loved my voice, she told her she would have something else from me that better fit her line. Six weeks later, I had a three book deal from a proposal.

So, I’m here to tell you patience is a writer’s friend. The reality is, if you’re fortunate enough to have an agent, you have to give her time to find the right market for your story. Trust in her judgment when she gives you a page full of edits or tells you the story needs more work. She spends hours researching and she knows what’s selling.

And, BTW, even if you sell today, chances are your book won’t release until 2012, so that blows the “from sale to bestseller in two months” right out the window. Let’s get real. An agent isn’t a miracle worker. Keep doing what you do best – writing- and trust her to do what she does best - finding a home for your story.

Patience – pray for it!

I’d love to hear your comments whether you have an agent or not.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Do You Make Lists?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the crutches I have in my life. You know what I mean. The little things we cling to that keep us out of trouble—mantras we repeat so we don’t forget where we parked the car (Section 3, Row D), alliterations we create to remember the three things that we have to buy at the grocery store (meat, milk, meals for lunch), and even emails to family members (will you write me tomorrow and remind me that I have to talk with you about….). Been there?

I find I’m more and more using private-only-known-to-me tricks to keep me on track. Call it age, call it menopause, call it laziness—I have no idea. But, I do know there is a freedom that comes from letting my brain become unencumbered from some of the details while passing the responsibility over to my crutches. It is as if I have opened up mental hard drive capacity while not losing any function. Are you following me?

I’ve needed lists with my writing as well. I make lists of what must be included in my synopsis, lists of what scenes I think are so cool they really must be not overlooked, even lists of what I don’t want in there. One of my lists I use for each book is for names. Have you ever read a book where you can’t keep track of the characters? Was it Michael or Mickey or Mitchell or Matthew who was the cousin? I hate feeling as though I can’t keep track. So, one of my lists….

I have a three-column table with the alphabet down the left side. The next two columns are for first and last names. So, my name would fill in the “C” space for Cassy and the “P” space for Pickard. Doesn’t matter that they don’t line up. The point is, as I name more characters, no one else gets the “C” or the “P” spots. This includes phonetic names. So, no Chrissy, Carry, Caitlin, Kathy, or even Kevin. And, no Peterson, Philips, Potter, or Peperdine. Each character must have an auditory identity as well as a behavioral one.

The second list I create for the humble (well, that is an overstatement) beings who live with me both in my dreams and nightmares is one of their emotions and reactions. We all have those phrases and words in our writing we fall back on. You do a search in your document for “ran” and discover you’ve used it 352 times. Doesn’t work. Plus, each of our special characters has his or her own ways of doing things. So, the list of emotions and behaviors isn’t about the typical ones we all have been told to create: color of his hair, what school did she attend, what is her favorite dinner. You know the drill. No, this one is about reactions.

For example, the book I’m working on now has a gutsy but emotionally challenged woman as the protagonist. My list of emotional responses for her range from tight fists to biting words. She “owns” those. My antagonist can’t be the same. He needs his own list of how he reacts—when his jaw clenches, when he yells, when there is a tick in his left eyelid. As I write, I keep my lists close by, assuring that I don’t have too many repetitive responses and assuring that my characters don’t steal their actions from each other.

My list of lists goes on, both for writing and for living. At some other time I’ll tell you my uses for rubber bands, binder clips, and post-it notes! Share with us how you use lists or any other methods of staying on track. I can use all the help you are willing to offer.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Writing through Life's Crisis's

As a writer I have daily goals. I want to obtain that word count or the edited page count I've set for myself. But when there is a crisis it makes things difficult. I'm not talking a little head cold, or you sprained your ankle. I'm talking the kind that aren't about you but has a direct effect on your writing schedule.

What do you do when you have a death in the family? Or someone is ill with cancer and you need to help with chemo appointments, etc. Your grandchild's health is at stake. Or your husband--the sole bread winner--loses his job, or his job is threatened. And the list goes on.

This is a time when you have to take care of yourself. It's stressful, and you can become sick easily. Keep eating, drink lots of fluids. Rest--if you take nothing else away from this listen to this one. Rest and sleep when you can. You will need your strength to get through whatever crises life has thrown at you.

We've all heard from veteran authors, who've found success that their secret is to write everyday even if it's only a sentence. And that works during every day stress, etc. But I'm talking the type of crises that fills your life with 48 hours of things to do in 24 hours.

There literally may not be a minute to put away for a sentence. However, what do you do if you need to write for you? Or for a deadline, or you're at the end of your manuscript and you need to get it submitted.

Be selfish. Grab an hour away--even if it's one time during the week or in a few days. Take that time for yourself and lose yourself in your writing.

What do you do if you have found that space of time, but your mind won't let you write? It's listing all the things you should be doing, calling the social security office to stop direct deposits or calling the insurance company to cancel. Calling to make an appointment for labs before Chemo.

I do one of two things. If my mind is racing too much I take ten minutes out of my precious time to meditate. I play relaxing music softly. Every minute I may be forcing myself to clear my mind, but by the end of my time I can concentrate on my story. Or if I'm just antsy and I'm thinking too much about my story, how it ends instead of the next scene. I exercise. I have an elliptical machine in my office--which usually just lurks behind my chair--but when I use it for ten minutes I have a scene in mind to write and the words flow.

So when your life is in crises, my advice to you first and foremost is take care of yourself. And second, find time for yourself and if you're a writer that's losing yourself in your story.

If you've ever found yourself in one of these situations, what have you done?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

From a Reader's Perspective

Please give a big M & M welcome to our guest blogger this week, Pamela James. She’s the author of: A MATCH MADE FOR MURDER by Pamela James & Merry Stahel, A MURDER MADE IN STITCHES by Pamela James & Merry Stahel, A MURDER MADE IN PIECES by Pamela James & Merry Stahel and The CROSSED STITCHER by Pamela Sue James.

But more importantly for this blog subject, she is an avid reader. In fact, she’s the owner of http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cozyarmchairgroup/ and would love to have you come visit.

Here she is giving us her perspective of mysteries as a reader.

When reading a mystery my first thought is that I want to be entertained. As a mystery author I know that entertaining readers is not always easy. Here are the ways I like to be entertained when I curl up with a good mystery. I want humor (not a lot of humor.) Quirky is good - crazy not so much. I love smart protags who know how to use their noggins for more than pretty hats…and I want a strong plot.

In other words when I become lost in a mystery I want to believe the story. I read traditional mysteries, cozy mysteries and some chick lit mysteries. These are the genres that speak to me as a mystery reader.

As the author of four mysteries myself, what I try to give my readers is a sense of fun and adventure. Living in Kansas, I can tell you a snowstorm in October here is no fun unless it's Halloween… and you add a murder… now you’ve got fun. For me writing and/or reading mysteries is like creating a new recipe. You have to see what works for you.

I am the owner of cozyarmchairgroup, a yahoo group where today's most savvy mystery readers and authors come together as members to share their favorite books, their not-so- favorite books and anything else they want to talk about. They’ll tell you in no uncertain terms what works for them when reading and writing mysteries.

Our world is so never ending with to-do lists and meeting goals that I can’t sit down in my comfy armchair and relax with a good mystery. At the end of the book I can close it and walk away with a sense of justice. I had fun getting there, became involved emotionally with the characters, and if the mystery had a good plot twist I never saw coming, then I have a sense of satisfaction. I hope I provide that same satisfaction in the books I write.

I close by adding that atmosphere plays a huge part in why I write mysteries. Whether I read a mystery with a ghost or a mystery that takes place on a cruise ship, in a bookstore, a small town or a coffee shop, I want to love the atmosphere. I hope as you read this blog you’ll think of the reasons why you love to read mysteries and blog your thoughts to us.

Careful What You Wish For!

Okay, so we decided that having guest bloggers and doing interviews would be a really nice addition to our blog. Give our readers some variety along with our own posts about craft and tidbits about the industry, etc. So we each took a month to line up guest bloggers. Well, the month of March is mine, so I decided to hit up some of the loops I'm on to see if anyone wanted to take part.

Holy moly, people, be careful what you wish for.

Literally within minutes my email exploded with replies. Fabulous writers of all different stages in their careers and different genres as well replied. And not just writers, but people who have a certain skill or expertise they'd like to share. I was in awe. Don't worry, I not only booked March, but set up a bunch of interviews that I will be conducting on my own blog day (Tuesdays) so we all (me included) can learn a bunch of cool and interest tidbits. Gee...I think I'll call it Tuesdays Tidbits with Kari :-)

Anyway, this whole experience got me thinking about promotion. Selling in this industry is hard enough....staying sold and promoting yourself is even harder. I truly believe that's why so many many many people responded. Your publisher only does so much to promote your books. A lot is left up to the author. I'm beginning to see why guest blogging is so important. You not only reach the people who read that particular blog, but then those people might come over to your own blog, etc. This also helps the owners of the first blog. Every time they have a guest blogger, that person is going to mention that they are posting on this blog, and then their readers come over here, etc. Word of mouth is huge in this industry, and with the world wide web....it's free.

For me, the internet is a no-brainer. I have 6 unwritten books to finish with overlapping deadlines and I have 4 children! It's hard to find time or even afford to go to that many conferences, so I have to do what is easy, free and convenient for my life style. The internet is exactly that. I work hard to be on several loops, blog, do interviews, give workshops, etc. Even if all I'm doing is cheering on others for their success (when I'm not announcing my own :-), people are still seeing my name and appreciating my support. It might take a lot of careful scheduling because let's face it, having a book to promote is key and that's not going to happen if you spend all your time on the internet, but it is so worth it.

So tell me, what are your tips for promotion? What do you do to get your name out there? Or even what have you heard others do that worked for them?

Curious minds want to know!

Kari

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Writing Mysteries is like Playing Jenga




What the heck is Jenga, you ask? It’s that game where wooden pieces about three times longer than they are wide are first pushed into a tower-like formation with the help of a loading tray. According to Wikipedia, the first player takes one and only one block from any level (except the one below the incomplete top level) of the tower, and places it on the topmost level in order to complete it. Only one hand at a time may be used to remove a block; either hand can be used, but only one hand may be in contact with the tower at a time. Blocks may be bumped to find a loose block that will not disturb the rest of the tower. Any block that is moved out of place may be left out of place if it is determined that it will knock the tower over if it is removed. The turn ends when the next person to move touches the tower or after ten seconds, whichever occurs first.

The game ends when the tower falls in even a minor way—in other words, any piece falls from the tower, other than the piece being knocked out to move to the top. The loser is the person who made the tower fall.

And how in the world does this have anything to do with mystery writing? Hold on. I’m getting to that. When you write your story, you have all the clues carefully placed in your chapters, but if one is pulled out too soon, the mystery falls apart. For me, the worst thing to hear when I let others read my stories, which isn’t too often, is “I knew who the killer was halfway through.” I once went back and completely changed who the bad guy was for that very reason.

And you know what? It made the story so much stronger because I caught everyone by surprise. I hate it when I’m reading a book and know who the villain is somewhere in the middle, or worse, before the middle. I spend the rest of the story critiquing the clues instead of just enjoying the story. Unfortunately, because I do write mysteries, this happens more often than not. The perfect book for me is when I get slammed in the end with something I never saw coming.

The movie with Bruce Willis, Sixth Sense, comes to mind immediately. The ending blew me away.

So I’ve come up with three simple rules to keep from pulling out the Jenga pieces of my story too soon. Lucky you, I’m gonna share.

Number One – Don’t be obvious. The story I’m currently writing started out with one killer and because of an added subplot now has an entirely different one. When I decided to make him the villain, I had to go back to when I introduced him and take out some of the character traits I’d given him so I didn’t give it away too soon - things like how quickly his anger turned to rage and how physically strong he was. Instead, I used these to describe another character, a red herring I wanted the reader to suspect.

Number Two – Speaking of red herrings, throw in a lot of them. A great example of how this is done is Law and Order. Just when they think they know “whodunnit”, they find out they’re barking up the wrong tree, yet they come away with another promising clue. The killer may actually be one of the people they’ve questioned previously and ruled out, but mostly the viewer doesn’t see it coming.

Unless you’re me. I can usually tag the killer right away. A definite clue is if a character is a popular actor/actress. He’s getting the big bucks, and nine times out of ten, he’s the bad guy. In your story, don’t tip your hat with too much attention on the “best-known” actor.

Third and most important in my opinion – characterization. Never make your killer villain-like when you first introduce him. Show him being nice to old ladies, leaving an extra tip for a down-and-out waitress, or opening doors for women. That way the punch is so much greater when you reveal that he’s a bad ass. That way, your tower of Jenga doesn’t fall until you decide it’s time.

So what about your stories? Any tricks up your sleeve for sustaining the drama until you’re ready? I’d love to hear your comments.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Revision or Refuse?

To edit, correct, and fix the offending scenes OR to hit the delete key, fill the trash bin, and shred the offending pages. That is the question.

Today I’d like to talk about revisions and share with you a simple story. We all write like the dickens. We type our special words on the screen (or write on the page if you are Liz), loving each phrase and sentence. Then, BAM, we re-read it and it’s garbage- refuse. We scramble find a better verb, get rid of the extraneous adjective, evoke as many of the senses as possible. Is this resonating with you? How many files do you have with labels such as “Draft 1,” “Draft 2- November 2009,” Draft 3- December 2009,” and…?

I have many. So many, that at times I forget how I have labeled them. How many revisions are really necessary? And when should we just throw in the towel and begin anew?

A simple story…

A few years ago I won a “read” from Kate Duffy in the Brenda Novak Diabetes Auction. Wow! I thought. This is Kate Duffy! I submitted however many pages were expected and sat back, absolutely not waiting to hear from her. It would be months. After all, this was Kate Duffy!

I was sitting at my kitchen island THE NEXT MORNING when the phone rang. Yup, Kate Duffy. I grabbed a pad of paper and tried to calm my pumping heart. What ever she had to say, I was definitely going to capture it as best I could.

She loved my voice. She loved my use of the first person. She loved the story, but there were some plot issues that needed to be resolved. She was absolutely encouraging. I was high enough to be hovering over my kitchen island.

So, I asked, “What shall I do to fix the story, to make it right?” I waited for the pearls she would soon drop in my lap.

“Nothing, my dear. Throw it away. By the time you fix this you could have written an entirely new book. You have potential. Actually you have talent. But this is not the project on which to waste your time. It’s not worth the energy. Throw it away.”

I was deflated. At least a year had gone into this story. Could she be right?

Of course I thanked her. Nearly a half an hour of Kate Duffy’s time! And what did I find out? Refuse. Garbage. Trash.

Thinking back. I can’t thank that woman enough. She said it like it was. She was right. Today I am more critical of my work and I am writing better stuff.

So, the question for all of us is: When do we attach so tightly to our prose that we really can’t let go? When is it better to acknowledge that revisions are critical, but sometimes not appropriate? When is the litter on the cutting room floor our best gift to ourselves?

Today’s plan is to start the edits on a manuscript that has sat for months. I’m fearful of the words that will be scattered across my office floor, no longer needed or wanted. But, Kate Duffy’s comments still linger. “Make it good, girl. You can do it. Don’t hang onto baggage.”

And you? How are you dealing with the baggage we create for ourselves?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Writing Organizations

Good Morning, Afternoon or Evening depending on your location. Last Thursday I discussed a bit about conferences. Today I'm going to discuss and ask your opinions on writing organizations.

There are several out there and like anything else you have to find the one that fits you. I belong to Romance Writers of America, (RWA). When I began my foray into writing--after wanting to for years--I didn't even know such a thing existed. Can you say green? And I don't mean environmentally conscience. I mean pretty much dumb as far as the workings of how to get published. So I Googled Agents and started at the 'A's' need I say more.

Then I found RWA and found out all kinds of information. Some good. And some bad, and some just not for me. Through the years I've learned to sort through the information, like sorting socks. The wholy ones go in one pile, the miss matched ones in and another and the pairs are the keepers.

But I've also found I don't necessarily write romance yes I usually have a hero and a heroine, but they don't always meet during the first chapter, etc. And they don't always ride off into the sunset to have little babies either.

Do I quit RWA? Not on your life. Their network is far reaching and the information about agents, editors, the industry alone makes it worth every penny. I belong to the local Utah RWA chapter. In fact I'm their president, I'm still not sure how that happened, anyway their support and friendship helps me through any writing crisis.

No matter what I write.

Did I mention I finally met my dream agent at our local Utah RWA conference last fall and have since signed with Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency.

There are a lot of other organizations out there, and I intend to continue to explore them. I'd like to belong to Mystery Writers of America and several others. The information I have and network oppotunity the further my career will soar, in my opinion anyway.

What's your?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Having Multiple Publishers Works For Me


Please welcome today's guest blogger and good friend, Melanie Atkins. She's a multi-published author of romantic suspense, a fan of crime dramas, and an avid reader. Writing is more than an escape for her—it’s a way of life. She grew up in the Deep South listening to tall tales and penning stories about her cats. Now she writes gripping stories of love, suspense, and mystery with the help of her furry little feline muses.

Take it away, Mel.

Liz, thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to guest blog. For those who don't know me, I write romantic suspense and have eight books out right now with three different publishers: Cobblestone Press, The Wild Rose Press, and Desert Breeze Publishing. All are epubs, and the Wild Rose Press also releases its titles in print. I enjoy writing for multiple publishers—and I do so because I was burned a few years ago when my then-publisher (which shall not be named) filed for bankruptcy and I had twelve titles tied up in red tape for over six months. I vowed then and there to never again put all my eggs in one basket.
My latest print release, SKELETON BAYOU, is a single title suspense released in December by The Wild Rose Press. According to You Gotta Read reviews, SKELETON BAYOU is "very gripping… It all plays out in the end with action packed, bite your nails moments… Overall a good read.” — rated as a You Need To Read by Jennifer.
Blurb: Savannah Love is emotionally and physically battered, but is determined to survive after escaping the hellish imprisonment imposed on her by her psychotic cop-husband. After seven months in hiding, she resurfaces at Mossy Oak, her ramshackle family home on a Louisiana bayou, and attempts to restart her life. The empty house provides shelter, but isn’t the fortress she needs when her cruel ex comes calling.
Mack O’Malley, former cop turned handyman conflicted over a bad shoot on the job, comes to Savannah’s rescue when the psychopath draws them into a deadly game of cat and mouse. Fearful of Mack at first, she soon discovers that beneath his steely exterior lies a resolute defender with a heart hungry for love. Will their alliance save them, or will they fall victim to the Legend of Skeleton Bayou?
PRIME SUSPECT, the second ebook in my New Orleans Detective series, is now available from Desert Breeze Publishing and many other online outlets, including Amazon and All Romance ebooks. It will soon be up at Barnes and Nobles, too.
Blurb: New Orleans Assistant District Attorney Marisa Cooper prosecutes murderers for a living, but the tables are turned on her when her ex-husband is found dead in her garage. To prove her innocence, she must team up with her former fiancĂ©e, Slade Montgomery, the detective who risks his career–and his heart–to help her find the real killer.
All of my books contain edge-of-your-seat suspense. It's what I like to read, and what I write. But I don't want that kind of suspense in my everyday life—and certainly not in the publishing world. So I'll continue to spread my submissions around and reap the rewards of having my name in many different venues. You can check out all of my work on my website at http://www.melanieatkins.com and my blog at http://melanieatkins.blogspot.com.


*Look for New Orleans Detectives Book 3, CHOSEN TARGET, coming in June 2010 from Desert Breeze Publishing.

Settings and Procrastination

Okay, so I was sitting here trying to think of what to blog about today....but all I can think about is coming up with a name for the town my cozy mystery is set in. The book isn't even DUE until September, and I have two other middle grades to write first! Ugh.

Am I procrastinating...yes! I'm still working by plotting my second Samantha Granger book, but I haven't been writing. so that got me thinking...what makes you procrastinate? Fear of not meeting your editors expectations? Fear of not meeting your own? Or like me, having something else looming in your mind preventing you from doing anything else until you figure that sucker out!

So that got me thinking ... how do you come up with your settings and the names of your towns?

For that matter, help me figure out mine so I can move forward :-))

Usually something in a story jumps out at me and the town seems to come to me naturally. But sometimes I have to call my peeps and brainstorm. I know I want the story to take place in a small town in Upstate New York. But what do you do when you have a name you like, but your editor wants you to change it? My story revolves around a psychic who uses fortune telling tools to help her see her visions more clearly, so I called the town Mystic River, not even thinking about the real mystic river. I was just thinking about the word mystical because of her and the town Black River which is a real town, so I came up with Mystic River.

Now I'm stuck. Do I go with Charmed or Charmville or Freedom or Miracle or Divinity? I want something mystical but that hasn't been done to death or is a real NY town. Utopia, Paradise, Heaven , Hope? Or do I go with something that says danger instead of reflecting the mystical like Mischief or Cryptic or Vengeance or Retribution or Penance or Rumor?

Any ideas??? Desperate minds need to know :-)

Writing can be so frustrating! What gets you stuck? What do you do to get unstuck? And for God's sake, what name should I call my town!

Kari

Monday, February 15, 2010

Politically Correct

When I was thinking what I would blog about today, I tried to remember some of the things I see in contests and comment on. Since I judge at least four contests a year, (not always the same genre) I see a lot of different writing styles. It's my way of getting even for all the crappy scores I've received.

Just kidding - about the getting even, not the less-than-genius scores I've received. In my case, I usually got at least one judge who thought I was the next Evanovich and one who advised me to keep my day job. I've been told it was because I had a strong voice - a politically correct way of saying some love me, some would rather see me back in a nurse's uniform.

So, I try to really be tolerant when I judge an entry. There's a way of pointing out an error and giving a suggestion on how to fix it without shattering the person's self esteem in the process. Sometimes, the only good thing I could say about the writing is that they handled POV well, but at least, it's something positive. In today's economy, people are entering fewer contests, so I try to give them the best bang for their buck

But there's one thing I never let go unnoticed when I see it in an entry.

Nothing gets my blood boiling faster when I'm watching TV or reading a story than having a person with access to the public putting out their political and/or religious views like it was bible (pun intended.) I don't care if you're a Democrat, a Republican or like me, somewhere in between, or if you practice Buddhism or Catholicism. I gave up my time and money to be entertained - so entertain me. If I wanted politics, I'd watch one of the news channels.

Stereo-typing is something else I see sometimes in contests - another no no. I try to remind the writer as gently as I can how many people their words may offend on so many difference levels. And in my opinion, (it's my post, you have to listen. Your opinions will come in the comments.) if even one person refuses to buy your book because of something you wrote, that's one too many. And what we may not realize is that there are readers as well as other writers who buy a lot of books out there reading our Facebook entries and Tweets. I can think of one really big name author, a favorite of mine, who will no longer get the price of her next novel out of me because of exactly what I'm talking about. A certain recording artist also got nixed from my "have to have" list. I know I'm only one person, but I have to think if it made me mad, chances are it affected a few others the same way.

So, every one of us needs to be more aware of making sure there is nothing in our stories that could offend anyone. I use a lot of "Bubbas" as villains. Usually, they're comic relief. I think I'm okay with that because nobody really thinks he's a "Bubba", or as Jeff Foxworthy says - "You're a redneck IF...."

Enough serious stuff. It's time to add a little humor to the subject. I confess to receiving these over the Internet and have no idea whom to credit.

To be politically correct, remember:

She isn't a BABE or a CHICK. She's a breasted American.
She isn't EASY. She's horizontally accessible.
She's not a DUMB BLOND - She's a light-haired detour off the Information Superhighway.

And my personal favorite:

That's not his Line of Demarcation hanging out of the back of his pants. It's rear cleavage.

Come on, people, you know you're smiling. Now comment on being politically correct in general or any good ones to add to my list.

Friday, February 12, 2010

From Expert to Novice

A great deal has been written about the transitional processes someone goes through when learning new skills, languages, or just about anything that takes us out of our comfort zone. There are two terms often associated with the mastering of knowledge and competences that dig into our sense of self: “novice to expert” and “imposter syndrome.”

I want to take just a sentence or two and explain these two concepts. Bear with me. I think there is a strong relationship to what’s out there in the scientific literature and what we do as writers.

First, “novice to expert.” This is the process that occurs when we really begin to internalize data and translate that into information. What do I mean by that? As an example, a novice will collect bits and pieces of data—such as a medical student might monitor a patient’s blood pressure or temperature or lab results or whatever. Then the student would sit down and try and piece the puzzle together. While, the attending physician will glance at the chart, listen to the patient, and offer an opinion without needing much time to think. How does this happen? Experience isn’t the only answer. It’s more than that.

Something comes together as we really know our stuff. Often we can’t explain why that is. “I just know,” is frequently the response. There are examples in all of our lives in which we really can’t explain the step-by-step process our minds take. We just jump to the answer and we are correct.

“Imposter Syndrome” is when we have the credibility to stand tall and be in control or take the credit. But, deep in our stomachs we really wonder if we deserve it. “Do I have the knowledge and the expertise to pull it off?” “Am I really good enough?” “Why do all these people think I am capable?” “Maybe someone will wake up and notice that I am faking it, an imposter—the whole thing might collapse.”

Ever had those thoughts?

I have labeled this blog as Expert to Novice, for many of us have been experts in fields far apart from our current writing experiences. We have been at the top of our game. And now? We are learning new skills, a new industry, a new vocabulary, finding new friends. We have had to face the experience of yet again becoming a novice moving towards becoming an expert. We’ll do it. Many of us have already made the leap.

But I suspect even among those who are multi-published, there is at times that niggling feeling—am I really good enough? “What if someone discovers I’m actually an imposter?”

Has this happened to you? What are your thoughts on this? I’d love to hear.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

To conference or not to conference, that is the question

Every year there is a buzz about the RWA National Conference. It opens registration around the first of February and immediately on the Yahoo groups a debate about the pro's and con's of conference attending begins.

So here is my two, three or four cents...

If you can afford, go.

That's it.

Just kidding.

I live in Utah. So after the registration fee, hotel, and airfare I'm looking at $1500-$2000 for Nationals. A hefty fee. Is it worth it? Yes it is. The Networking, contacts, and workshops double the value. And I always buy the CD's because it's impossible to attend everything. I listen to a session once a week and the motivation I couldn't get any other way.

So yes if you can afford to go, Go!

And if you can't, find a small RWA chapter conference close to you to attend. Sometimes the contact with the visiting agent and editors are even better at those.

So what are your opinions on conferences?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Journey to Publication

A warm welcome goes out to fellow BC client and good friend, Anita Clenney, who is still on top of the moon over her three book deal for her Paranormal Romance series about a Scottish Warrior. Here's her bio in her own words.

My name is Anita Clenney and I write Paranormal Romance. I’ve been a secretary, executive assistant and a Realtor, but mostly I’ve been in love. Sometimes it was wonderful, sometimes it hurt so bad I could hardly breathe. Then I found Mr. Right and the two of us multiplied into a family of four, living in Virginia, not far from Washington, D.C.

With scenes rolling nonstop in my head and my feet rarely on the ground, I should have realized that I was born to write much earlier in life, but alas, no, not until I was 43 did I hear the keyboard calling me. But then I tend to do things backwards.
When I decided to wrestle the stories in my imagination and dreams onto the page, my husband and kids encouraged me all the way. Even when I was in the middle of a heated battle with warriors and demons and forgot that people in the real world had to eat dinner and that dishes didn’t wash themselves, my family still supported me. Finally it paid off. After nearly four years of writing, I got THE CALL from my wonderful agent Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency. A publisher wanted to buy my story. MY STORY!!! Not just one, but three of them. Now, a new journey begins.


Take it away, Anita.

Hi everyone. I want to thank Mysteries and Margaritas for having me as a guest blogger. I’m Anita Clenney and this is my first blog, so excuse my stammering fingers, but I’m so excited to say….drum roll please…..”I finally got THE CALL.” That elusive, glorious rainbow that all writers chase from the moment they seriously pick up a pen or sit down at the computer, daring to bare their souls for criticism or praise.

On February 6, 2006 I bravely—and ignorantly—sat down at the computer and planted my fingers on the keyboard. I knew nothing about RWA, critique groups, POV, goals, motivation, conflict, black moments or character journeys. And most of all…I had no idea how many others were in the same boat as me, dreamers driven to put their ideas on paper like an artist strokes paint on a canvas. All I knew was I wanted to write, that I had been building scenes in my head for as long as I could remember. Why it took me until age 43 to realize I should be writing…I have no idea.

Thank God I didn’t know how difficult it can be to get published, how overworked (and picky) editors are, or I would never have attempted writing. But the one thing that has amazed me as I’ve progressed on this journey is the willingness of writers to help other writers. It’s a competitive business…if they buy your book will they spend the money on mine? But the generosity and camaraderie of authors just blows that away. Unpublished writers sympathize and encourage while published writers offer articles and tips and how to’s on every writing topic under the sun. I soaked up every bit of information I could, backing off when I got too overwhelmed, then I’d dive back in again.

The past four years has been a whirlwind of ideas, stories, synopses, queries and oh yes…the painful rejections. I’ve been lucky. My husband is supportive and my kids tell everyone mommy is a writer. You’d think I was Nora Roberts. It’s almost embarrassing. I have to keep reminding them that I’m not famous or published…but now, with their support, and the help of the best critique partner on earth (waving at you Dana), I’ve arrived. Closer to the published part anyway.

That’s another story. Where have I arrived? What do I do? How to I merge into this wriggling mass of writers and overflowing bookshelves that line the stores? Frankly, it’s as terrifying as it is exciting. How do I stand out and fit in at the same time? I would love it if you’d drop by and chat about how you got started, what drives you, what drives you crazy, what works for you? Or just to say hi!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Meeting Your Characters in Person!

Ever come face to face with one of your characters?

It's only happened to me once, but it was the most surreal experience I've ever had.

It was a couple years ago when I belonged to a gym. I was working out with a friend and telling her all about this book I was writing. I adored the hero, an undercover detective who loved to work out at this old gym, boxing. He had black hair slicked back in a ponytail, sparkling blue eyes, a goatee, and a chain link tattoo across his bi-cep.

Forget the pretty boy types, I love bad boy, tough guy hero types!

So anyway, this wasn't an old gym, it was new, and there was no boxing ring, but new equipment with personal trainers walking around. Suddenly I hear this voice behind me...a voice I knew well because, hello, I'd created it. And now it was asking me if I needed help figuring out this new piece of gym equipment which was NOT like the old equipment I'd used in years past, in fact, I think I was on it the wrong way (but that's another story:-))

It couldn't be, could it? I must be daydreaming because I'd been spending so much time on this book. I turned around slowly, and literally gasped out loud. No freaking way! There stood my hero, in the flesh, as though I was a genie and had zapped him out of mind to stand before me. He frowned and asked if I was okay. I uttered a few grunts , my jaw still hanging wide open, my breathing all choppy. He backed away and smiled a little warily, then told my friend to tell me to take it easy, I didn't look so good, and he was around if we needed anything.

I was in total shock. He looked EXACTLY like the character I'd created in my mind, right down to the ponytail, goatee and the same tattoo on his bi-cep. How was that possible? Had I seen him somewhere before and his image was stuck in my mind? I don't remember every having met him. And I loved that character, so needless to say I kept following this guy around for weeks (all in the name of research, you know :-), studying him, trying to make my character even more three dimensional and real. After all, I had a real life model to go by now.

He transferred to another gym soon after. LOL! Gee, wonder why?

So my question is, have any of you ever met one of your characters in the flesh? What was the experiece like? What do you think we draw upon when creating our characters? Fantasies, people we admire, what? This mystery writer wants to know!

Kari

Monday, February 8, 2010

Think Your Story is Original? Think Again!!

Before I get into my blog, I want to tell everyone about a good friend of all of us at M&M, a fellow Book Cents Babe who will guest blog on Wednesday. Anita Clenney will tell us about chasing the elusive dream from starting out as a wannabe writer to publication. She's pretty qualified to talk about this since she just got the call on her Scottish warrior paranormal romance. Yeah, Anita. I'll let her tell you the juicy details on Wednesday.

Now onto the topic.

Okay, you've come up with an original idea...Oh wait! You read a book similar to that several years ago, or you saw an episode of "Law and Order" that was kinda like it. Actually, you can think of several stories that used your "original" premise.

Now quit whining and keep reading. "How can you come up with an original idea?" you ask. I hate to be the one to break this to you, but you probably can't. Now don't go getting all discouraged on me. The truth is, unless you've come up with a plot line so far out there no one else has attempted it, you're using a "tried and true" idea.

To quote NY Times Bestseller and fantastic motivational speaker, Bob Mayer, every idea has already been done. The difference comes in the "transfer to story, usually through unique character, unique setting, unique POV and unique intent."

Easy for him to say!

My Romantic Suspense is about a team of operatives whose main character is a woman who's emerged from a deep undercover assignment scarred because of what a certain villain did to her. This is so great, I thought. I am so freakin' creative, sometimes I scare myself.

Anyone watching "24" this season? Renee could be my heroine. A woman so psychologically damaged by a bad guy, she thinks no one could ever love her again.


Well hell!

Then I came up with a great story about my Bunco group. I've known some of these women over twenty years. We laugh together, cry together, even vacation once a year together. There is no collection of funnier women on this planet. I'm back to being a legend in my own mind again.

Found "Bunco Babes Gone Wild" by Maria Geraci when I Googled Bunco.

Well double hell!

I hope by now you're getting the message and already thinking about ways to turn your "original" idea into a great story. I'd love to hear how you're going to do it.

Oh, I almost forgot. I do have one story about a woman who has to steal a sperm specimen from a perfect stranger. Bet you've never seen that one at Barnes and Noble!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Research - How much fun do you have?

Cassy blogged a bit about research on killing people yesterday, I'm sure she doesn't actually go through with the deed, but that would be a good story--Author kills for research. Anyway I thought I'd tell a bit about how I research.

First, let me say that I love the research part of writing. I can search the internet for hours to the point I have to remind myself that it's time to call it enough and write the story. But man I get caught up in the information, so that's a bit dangerous for me and my writing schedule. Another dangerous research avenue is the library. Books, books, books and all chock full of fun knowledge. I could spend days there.

To save time I've turned to interviewing. In the past I've interviewed; a research assistant professor at the University of Utah, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, a Federal Probation officer, a DEA Agent, a martial arts expert and the list goes on and on. Currently I'm waiting for two interviews to come back, one from a Coast Guard officer and another from a marine biologist. And I'm thinking of a two part paranormal interview, the 1st with a medium and the 2nd with a ghost hunter.

I love this tool. I can use them on my blog, and it saves me from having to think of a topic. (Yeah I know lame) Another nice thing, I can share with others. But most important, I can ask specific questions of what I need to know for my story or stories. True its not as fun, I don't get lost looking, but it saves time. And the interviews are interesting and fun.

Do you like to research? Or is this one of the chores of writing for you?
Have a wonderful day!
Mary

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Last week I shared news about my car accident. Many of you wrote back (thank you!) and we began a conversation about what we do as research for our stories. I’d like to continue with that theme. No more automobile accidents, please, but what other techniques do we use?

My books take place in Italy. I happen to go frequently (such a burden—cough, cough) and have had the opportunity to plot out my former work-in-progress on the site where I wanted it to happen. For the manuscript that is now ready for the next revision (please make this the final one), I literally ran the streets in Rome to be sure I could tell the sequence correctly. No woman runs in Rome. I had men trying to stop me and offer help. How could I tell them to back off? They were messing with my stop watch.

In the outskirts of Rome I drove in the pouring rain to find a small town that I knew would be perfect as a second setting for the last scenes of the book. It was, but the drive was also a story unto itself. I’m keeping those notes for a future opportunity.

As I write in the mystery/suspense genres, I worry a great deal about how to kill people and create a certain level of mayhem. My kids are very concerned about the research I tend to do to attain the right level of both accuracy and graphic detail. I certainly have never murdered anyone, nor plan to do so, but it is important to get our facts correct, right?

Now, I do need to give you a little background so you’ll understand why my daughters become anxious with this topic and with the process. My husband travels internationally a huge amount of time. Often that is to the Middle East, Dubai, and parts of Asia. The kind people in customs and immigration have told him there is no way they can add extra pages to his passport. It’s too thick. You get the picture.

Well, for one of my scenes I needed to have a poison that would kill someone (this is about my writing, please know that) and could be hidden in a meal. My fingers flew over the keys. The Internet search engines were talking with me. Oleander!! It’s a beautiful flowering bush, very common. Did you know about Oleander Soup? Deadly. This might really work, I thought. A few months later I was walking with one of my daughters in Rome and the Oleander was in full bloom. “Oh, boy,” I said, “think of the damage you could do with that.” My daughter stumbled on the step and gave me a look I’ll never forget.

Then there was the time I needed to understand how a Molotov cocktail was made. Yup, it’s all out there. Then there was the time I needed to blow up a house. I posted a question to one of my writing groups—any ideas? The responses flooded back in.

My two daughters have now begged me to stop. Dad, they say, travels to parts of the world that have risky safety issues. YOU, MOM, are Goggling bombs, poisons, guns, and methods of creating havoc. Is this really the best plan for the family? What if men in dark suits arrive at the door? What if they wonder what our family is really about? Stop!

I nod with a sincere look on my face, hoping my girls are buying it. I haven’t told them yet that I’m thinking about joining our local gun club. For those of you who know me, this is a truly shocking admission. But, how else will I really experience what the recoil feels like or how long it takes to reload with trembling fingers? Then, there is the evasive driving course offered at the Lime Rock race track. This is the one for security personnel and others who offer protection. The list is endless.

I have no defense other than all this just lives on my hard drive. Go look at it. It all is research. I promise I have no ill will towards anyone, but---- Yes, that’s the catch. BUT, I really do want to know how it all can happen.

Tell me. Your wildest research story. Bring it on.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Guest Blogger Leann Harris

I’m excited to guest blog with a long time friend, Liz and the other ladies on this site. Y’all have some interesting stories. Cassy, I am glad you can tell us that story. I once missed a high school reunion and decided to make that into a meet of the hero/heroine.

Let me introduce myself. I write as Leann Harris but the name on my driver’s license is Barbara Harrison. I do murder. Funny murder. Now when I started writing a long, long time ago (sometimes we never mentally get past our 30th birthday) I worried that I couldn’t come up with a story without a dead body in it. I love reading romances and romantic suspense, but when I write, it’s just boring to have boy meet girl, fall in love and live happily ever after. You need action, suspense and when things get boring, put a dead body in the mix. I’ve had bodies show up in a field, floating in the Mississippi, in an antique store, in the oil fields of West Texas, in the wall of a house in Houston, and in a compost pile. And do you know how quickly a body decomposes?

For a long time, I worried about my mental health. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t come up with a story without murder? I worried about it until I started going to conferences and discovered there were other weird—no exceptional--people like me. After that, I just accepted the fact there will be dead bodies in my books and went with the flow.Now when you go to murder someone and have questions on how to do something, you simply can’t call your local cops and say, how would I go about shooting a person, then hiding the weapon? No, you have to develop some contacts with your local PD. There are now citizen police academies where you can learn about your local police. I’ve been to the one in my city, the next city, the county and the DA’s office. You simply can’t have murder without the justice part.

I met a lawyer/cop and he helped me with certain aspects of one story. All the different PD’s have been great and willing to share with me. One of the most unique things I did was spend the evening in the 911 call center listening to the different calls coming in from around the county. It was Halloween. Need I say more?I will say writing murder certainly helps me cope with being a mother. If I’m irritated with my husband or children, I can vent it on the pages of my manuscript. I remember one time when I was so mad at my husband, I went to my computer and vented. He never knew, but I can tell you exactly what book that scene is in. It certainly is cheaper than therapy.

I bet you didn’t know writing was more than telling a good story. Do y’all vent through your writing?

Leann

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Do Our Past Lives Influence What We write???

Okay, so I have an open mind to the possibility of all sorts of things. I love anything paranormal, especially psychic tools, hence my adult paranormal cozy mystery series, The Fortune Teller Mystery Series. I also love anything action adventure like my upper middle grade paranormal action adventure series, The Samantha Granger Experiment. It seems I am most drawn to writing books filled with paranormal action adventure as well as romance and laughter (gotta have that :-))

I've often wondered what draws a writer to write in a certain genre. So when my RWA chapter brought in a Past Life Reader a while back, I was intrigued. Anyway, here's how it went. She held my hand and stared at my face for several minutes, then she closed her eyes and took several deep breaths, then smiled big and said, "There you are, I can see you clearly now. Oh, and you're so cute! (ahem, I loved her right then!) And smart, wow, are you smart. And bored. Holy cow are you bored with your life."

Turns out I was a young attractive smart woman born in France or England somewhere back in the 1800's, and I guess I was like "My soul landed where? You've got to be kidding me." This is when marriages were arranged and women were not expected to do or be anything important. Only I'm very smart and I have this huge longing for adventure and to do something with my life. My mother was very rigid and expected me to follow the rules, where my dad was secretly like, "You go, girl!" Because his marriage to my mother was also arranged and there was no love there.

So along comes this man. He's older but I married him anyway because I knew he could give me what I wanted. And he did. We traveled and ended up in South America where I got to use my smarts and help children in the jungle. I was in heaven, but my husband was angry. He was upset that he gave me everything and yet I couldn't get beyond the fact that he's not dreop dead gorgeous, so I didn't love him. He became snappy and short with me and others thought he was the one who was cruel, when in reality, the cruelty was that I was holding back my love.

He ended up dying and I had this huge sense of regret that I never gave more of myself to him. So in this life, it is my mission to right that wrong. To love fully and have a long lasting relationship, but still maintain my sense of adventure.

So I took a look at my life today, and holy cow she was right. I met my husgand when I was 18, married him when I was 21 and 4 kids and 20 years later, we're still together ... even better, still happy! And hello talk about adventure. I've been para sailing in Acapulco, scuba diving in the ocean and zip lining over the rain forest and helicopter riding over a volcano in Hawaii, and kayacking in the ocean and taking a train up the gold rush in Alaska, and swimming with sting rays in the carribean. Not to mention I have always wanted to sky dive and bungee jump someday. Is that not cool or what?

Even freakier, other people in our chapter had some really awesome reading, too. My CP found out she was a former black man from Africa. She was from a really good tribe and was spoiled, but she wanted more. So she got on the boat, thinking she was headed for an even better life, when she ended up in slavery. As soon as she got on the boat, she realized she made a mistake. She ended up hating the water and boats, and from then on she longed for her childhood becaus that was when she was happiest. To this day, she has a huge fear of water and boats. She never knew why, she just knew she had this almost irrational fear of it and never learned to swim until she was 34, and only then because she had children and they all wanted a pool. And she admits she was spoiled as a child and still is. She kept trying different genres when writing, but it wasn't until she started writing YA that she found her niche. She loves the Disney channel and those type of movies and TV shows. Even her tagline says "Release Your Inner Teen!" Isn't that amazing?

We had another woman who is so quiet and reserved and is obsessed with Scotland. She's really drawn to it and writes it, but never quite knew why. Turns out she was a Scottish Monk and was sad when she had to leave her beloved country.

And finally we had yet another woman who they thought had throat cancer. She had surgery and miraculously didn't need any chemo or anything and there was no trace of the cancer after. She was thrilled to be cancer free, but was left with a scar across her neck so she wears a scarf. She loves paranormal books as well and writes them. Turns out she was hung as a witch in the Salem witch trials. (mind you the psychic didn't have a clue about any of our stories, what we write, etc, yet she was dead on with everyone. It was seriously wild!)

Crazy, I know, but it does make you wonder. Why do you write what you write? Could it possibly be linked to who you were in a past life? Inquiring minds want to know!

Kari

Monday, February 1, 2010

Music is My Story Board

First off, let me tell you about our first guest blogger at M & M this Wednesday. Leann Harris is a chaptermate of mine whose next book will be her lucky number 13th. She's currently writing inspirational mysteries for Steeple Hill and is coming by to talk about the mindset of a mystery writer. She worries she's not wired right in the brain ...until she talks to another mystery writer. Be sure not to miss this one.

Now on to my topic. I blogged about this a long time ago on a friend's blog and got an outpouring of comments. I decided it was worth another blog entry to see if y'all do this, too. It's a little trick I learned that helps me pack gut-wrenching emotion into my scenes. Hopefully, it will get you thinking about your wip and how it might help you.

First a little backstory.

I grew up with four sisters in a small town in Ohio. We didn't have iPods or Nintendos or even CDs, so we sang, usually in harmony. The Everly Brothers were our favorite. If you ask either of my kids what they remember about their teenage years, they'll tell you it was rolling down all the windows and the moon roof (called sun roof back then) of my Thunderbird and rocking out to our favorite songs. We could be heard singing Little River Band, Dr. Hook and Linda Rondstad clear across town. Give me a song with a fantastic beat and great words or a slow dreamy one that tells a story, and I'm in heaven.

So it stands to reason, when I started writing years ago, I would somehow find a way to connect my two favorite things, writing and music. Yeah, I've been to a lot of woorkshops and learned how to use story boards. They make it easier to keep up with external and internal motivations as well as plotting and character profiling, I was told. But I never could get into them. Like grocery lists, to-do lists, etc., I forgot where I put them.

Then one day I was listening to one of my favorite singers, Marc Anthony, and it dawned on me how well the song related to a scene in my manuscript. The more I listened, the more I pictured my H/H in a tent on an isolated beach in Colombia waiting to be first interrogated, then killed the next morning. My Hero had finally found her after searching in Costa Rica despite rumors she'd been killed in a car explosion. Long story short (a joke since I never tell short stories!) they had surrendered to a cartel hit squad in order to save the members of a Colombian vigilante group they had grown to love.

A little manuscript back story - two weeks prior to my Heroine 's trip to Costa Rica, she discovers this bad boy has spent the night with an Ex. Needless to say, she's got a trust issue with him.

Fast forward to "How Could I?", a beautiful love song hidden on one of Marc's albums. In it, he says he would fight a thousand soldiers for the woman he loves. A woman whose tears he caused.

OMG! Had Marc read my book?

Again, long story short, when a rescue attempt is made by the women and children from the camp, my Hero, a doctor accustomed to saving lives, kills to save the Heroine. I played that song a zillion times as I rewrote the scene, my own tears falling onto the paper (I write longhand). Even now, every time I hear it, I am taken back to that tent and reminded of the anguish I inflicted on my characters in order to make them grow emotionally. I'm sure there are a few truckers out there on Interstate 35 still wondering why the crazy lady in the blue car was crying like a baby. They obviously couldn't hear Marc on my CD player.

Now picture this. Opening scene when my heroine is getting on the plane to go to Costa Rico for a friend's bachelorette party, her heart broken. Her intent is to drink as many margaritas as it takes to forget the betrayal and get on with her life, maybe even toss in a Latino one-nighter. Can you hear Shania Twain's "Man, I Feel Like a Woman"?

Oh, Oh Oh. Go totally crazy, forget I'm a lady. Oh. Oh. Oh.

I hope you're starting to see how the songs inspire me to add more zing to the scenes. All in all, that 95K manuscript has twelve songs. When they make a movie of my book, all twelve will be included in the album of the same name.(I dream BIG!) I even burned an album called "Shattered Dreams."

I'm getting kinda windy, so I'll head toward the conclusion with one final example. In an earlier gunfight with the cartel squad, as a secondary character is dying, she begs my Heroine to take her fifteen-month old daughter out of Colombia. After my H/H are rescued and the soldiers killed, they make plans to start their journey to the American Embassy in Bogota with the toddler. Then another woman asks them to take her orphaned niece and nephew (two other secondary characters). The niece, a sixteen year old, pleads with her aunt not to make her go. Swears she'll be good if she lets her stay. You can imagine the emotions I had to get past to write this one as the three Colombian orphans head out in a boat. Something about a child in that much pain gets me every time.

Listen to Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You", and you hear what I needed to put into that scene. Think about when she sang it to Kevin Kostner in "The Bodyguard". Then picture Dolly Parton singing it to Burt Reynolds in "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas". As the boat pulls away, the children are huddled together, torn from the only life they have ever known and the only people who have ever loved them, and that song is playing in the background. I had another good cry, then I rewrote the scene.

When I was offered representation, I was told my agent cried as she read that scene and was a big emotional mess until the end of the book. I don't know why she decided to take a chance on me, but just in case it had anything to do with that chapter, thank you Whitney and Dolly.

I've only written one other story where I used an entire album of sings for the scenes because I began writing mystery and humor. Right now, I am writing a cozy with a cast of zany characters. As I'm typing, I'm already thinking of songs I can use for that one. "Sweet Dreams" pops into my head.

So now I'd like to hear how you motivate yourself when you write big emotional scenes. Aromatherapy? If you do use music, do you have a favorite artist? I'd love to hear about your process.

In the meantime, I'll bet you'll never hear "I Will Always Love You" again without picturing the tears of my teenage orphan.