Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Anita's Attic: What If...

I was looking at my folder of writing tips and ran across this list of possible plot devices from Patricia Kay. I took an excellent class from her a few years ago. As you can see, she isn't sure where she got the original list, but she's added to it. I thought it was worth passing on. We're always looking for plot devices and hooks. Here are some great what if's.


$          is caught in a hurricane
$          loses a job
$          has an accident
$          loses his or her memory
$          gets pregnant
$          has a miscarriage
$          can’t get pregnant
$          loses his or her parents
$          witnesses a crime
$          is kidnapped
$          is jailed
$          is bitten by a snake
$          gets lost
$          is being blackmailed
$          falls in love with a married person
$          is forced into marriage
$          is abused or has been abused
$          is on the run from someone or something
$          is raped
$          has been ostracized for some reason
$          has been tricked or duped
$          has been lied to
$          has his/her reputation ruined by a lie
$          is involved in a scandal
$          is accused of something by mistake
$          is knocked unconscious
$          is stabbed
$          is choked
$          loses his/her eyesight
$          is robbed
$          is poisoned
$          has an idea stolen
$          is thrown from a horse
$          loses an inheritance
$          is cheated out of an inheritance
$          is seduced
$          is tricked or duped
$          survives a crash that kills someone he or she loves
$          is unjustly accused of a crime
$          is forced to adopt a disguise
$          has broken a promise
$          must go into hiding
$          is exiled from his or her country
$          is being discriminated against
$          discovers he/she is adopted
$          falls in love with a forbidden person
$          is having an affair
$          is stealing from his/her employer
$          discovers the person he/she loves is involved in criminal activity
$          witnesses a murder
$          is an unwilling accessory to a crime
$          finds a body
$          is illiterate and trying to hide it
$          has something in his/her past he/she needs to keep hidden
$          is jilted
$          is ashamed of his/her past or background
$          is working undercover
$          is in the witness protection program
$          disapproves of the person his/her son or daughter wants to marry
$          is betrayed by someone he/she loves
$          has to choose between a lover or a child
$          has to choose between two children
$          has to choose between two friends

$          arranged marriage
$          lovers from two different worlds
$          scarred from past hurt
$          revenge separates lovers
$          mistaken identity or masquerade
$          secret or lie threatens love
$          marriage of convenience
$          whose child?
$          finding one’s own identity before love
$          battle of wills
$          hero and heroine have common enemy or common goal from past
$          second chance at love
$          innocent vs. playboy
$          reversal of life
$          amnesia
$          Cinderella
$          selfless denial
$          rival for hero or heroine’s heart
$          comedy or errors
$          split loyalties

(Note from Patricia Kay): I no longer know where these lists came from or I would have attributed them.  Over the years I’ve added to them and found them very useful, especially as a brainstorming tool.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Liz’s Lair: Is It Writer’s Block or Writer’s Life

I know. I know. There are writers out there who say there is no such thing as block—that you just need to put your butt in the chair and write. To them, I say bullshit! It’s like having a migraine and someone tells you to get rid of the stress in your life or to take two Tylenols.

Please. Anyone who has ever had a migraine knows two Tylenols ain’t gonna do it! It leaves me wondering why people say stupid things like that. I confess I may have said a dumb thing every now and then, too.

But I am here to tell you that I am in serious writer’s block right now. And God help the person that tells me to put my butt in the chair!!

It’s not so much writer’s block as writer’s life. I have been so incredibly busy this month that I can’t even find the time to come up for air. You’ve heard the whining before, so I won’t even go into why I am so stressed. I just know that even when I do find a little time to write—and that happens very infrequently lately—the words won’t come or they suck.

I am in deep trouble here with a deadline looming, followed by another one 5 months later. It’s one of those “be careful what you ask for things.” My agent said she wants her writers to always love the actual act of writing.

I told her that ship had sailed for me. Ever since I got deadlines, I’ve felt pressured. And here’s why. It took me over ten years to write my first book, and in a little under two years, I’ve had to write 3 more with another two in the next 8 months. So what’s a girl to do?

I’ll tell you what. I made a promise to myself today first of all to quit whining. Sheesh! I’m beginning to sound like one of those people who tell you their whole unhealthy life story when you ask “How are you?”

I’m making a pledge today that I will write 25 pages a week until I finish the book with the deadline coming up. I know that doesn’t seen like much, but for me, it is. I am an OCD editor and can’t just keep on writing without editing. 

I just got home from a week with my kids and grandkids, and although we had a blast, I was without wifi and inspiration the entire time. In the middle of the week I got the copy edits for MURDER FOR THE HALIBUT which will release January 1st and realized I hadn’t even debuted the cover yet. I wasn’t crazy about the cover for LIVER LET DIE, but I loved both BEEF STOLEN-OFF’s cover and this one. Berkley really did a good job. So—drum roll, please—here it is. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Fortunately for me, the edits are not too bad and will only take about a half a day. So tomorrow is the day for eating healthier and writing with more discipline. Anyone with me?? Tell me how you deal with pressure and block.

And just because I want to, here’s a picture of the family at Salt Lick. My SIL watches the food channel and he was dying to go here. The other picture is of three of my grandkids. Is it any wonder I haven’t written in a while with adorable faces like that wanting me to play with them?? Good thing I am not in Nana block!!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Barbie's Bunkhouse: Lazy Days of Summer...yeah RIGHT!!

Lazy days of summer....ah, yes, I remember them well. Notice I said "remember". They don't happen anymore. Maybe in the singular form, meaning there is nothing going on - no family event, no sports event, home repair, cleaning or yard work. Yeah, singular and that's if I'm lucky. Lazy days of summer have passed me by and when I have a minute, like right now, I can reflect on those days from my younger years and smile and think: What I wouldn't give to be lazy right now!!!

Of course I can be a slacker, and I'm very good at procrastination. I'm actually excited that the next few weeks are pretty clear on the family calendar. Which means my butt can be in the chair writing from dinner on without distraction and no where to go! I need this terribly. For once, I haven't been procrastinating, but life has thrown the usual curve balls and my self imposed deadlines for my upcoming holiday anthology have gotten derailed in a major way. I've been almost in panic mode, but not quite. The day job has been killing me this week so that I haven't been able to sneak any time in there, either, and summer sports stuff has been winding down. Barbie's universe is about to align!!

Now, when I could possibly have the time for a lazy day here or there....NOT POSSIBLE. I have 2 (yes, 2) stories to write for my anthology. They have been completely in my head, so if I can sit myself down the words should just spill out and they should write themselves. (should). Which basically means I need to be a writing junkie. I've done it before, years ago, and I do believe it's time to push myself again. A pack of twizzlers, a big bottle of water and an occasional potty break can work wonders when under the gun - I once wrote 200 pages in 2 weeks doing this.

Tonight I am off to the wilds of Canada with my sisters-in-law for some much needed girl time. I'm really looking forward to it!! And because I am a morning person, I will be bringing a book and my laptop. I just might get to slip in a lazy day this weekend, but in between I will be writing and laughing it up with my family. So I guess, really, a lazy day is any day I'm not the "mom taxi" :-)

Here's to hoping you all can still remember what you're lazy days were like. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cassy’s Corner- Friends and Acquaintances

I have been struck lately by connections and communication via the Internet. There is nothing new about email, listserves and the variety of loops many of us share. But, nevertheless, I’ve been taken by how far reaching it can be. We’ve all been told that to promote our work we must have a website, a Face Book page, a Twitter account, LinkedIn, and the list goes on. Some publishers have admitted that they won’t consider a submission without seeing if you have enough “followers” to warrant their attention. On Amazon the rating of a book can dramatically change by how many “likes” are posted—that translates to sales once the book is higher on the list.
But, this isn’t really what I’m writing about today. I’m caught in a quandary.
Recently an old boyfriend from high school emailed me to just say hello. I graduated from high school in 1971. That tells you how many years ago it’s been. I use my married name, one he would never have known. I have an email address that has no connection to anything he would know. Yet, a friendly “how are you?” email came to me filled with details of his family. How the dickens did he find me?
Yesterday I received an email from a colleague I haven’t had contact with in about 15 years. We did work closely together, but times do change. She also knew me by my maiden name. Yet, a short “I miss you and how are you?” email arrived late in the evening.
Three days ago I received a call from my banker who wanted to pick my brain on ways to protect one’s identity. He has an elderly client who is at risk of being compromised. I’m no authority, but we did have an interesting conversation about what constitutes risk.
Here is the quandary. We are told we must be out there using social media to promote our work and create a branding for ourselves. At the same time we are “found.” I was delighted to hear from two old friends and a bit taken back that they took the time to find me. How wonderful. It also means that I have no idea who also might find me, whether I want it or not. So, how much do we share? How much do we sell ourselves at the chance of going too far? Where are the lines?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Kari's Kave: A Repost on Prioritizing

Hi, all, Kari here :-) This is a repost of an earlier post a long time ago. As I am struggling with this very issue of getting organized and staying organized, I reread this post and gave my own butt a kick. Just thought I'd share in case you are in need of some motivation as well. Summertime is so hard to stay on track. Good luck and I hope this post helps in some small way :-)

Lesson #1 - Getting Organized
Prioritizing is all about organization. In order to get organized, you must first figure out what all of your priorities are. Priorities consist of any demand that is placed on you and involves a certain amount of your time. Work, spouse, children, pets, cleaning, grocery shopping, eating, exercising, writing, volunteering, sleeping, etc. I am a very visual person, and since we are all writers, why not combine the two. Lists and schedules work wonders. They allow you to see exactly what you accomplish (or don't accomplish) in the course of a day, what you have time to do, and where you might be wasting time. So I am going to share some of the techniques I use in my own life in hopes of helping some of you become more organized.

First, make a list of your own priorities, then beside each item, write down the amount of time each item requires for you to complete. Some items might have a time that is easily figured out like four hours or eight hours for work, thirty minutes for exercise, and one hour for grocery shopping, etc. while other items you might have to determine how much time you are going to spend on them or with them like children, pets, a spouse, etc. Don't worry about the hours in a day just yet; simply fill in what you think is fair.

Next, write down the hours in "your" day from the time you get up in the morning until the time you go to bed. Go back to your priority list and fill in your priorities in the appropriate time slots. Some slots are easy to fill like the hours you work and time spent with pets or children or spouse. You know when they need a walk, are going to be home, and when they have activities scheduled. Other slots are harder to fill like exercising, writing, grocery shopping, cleaning, etc.

Last, take a look at your list. No time for all your activities you say? I say make time. It's time to prioritize! Determine what items you absolutely have to do, and then determine what items you simply want to do. Can you afford to let some of these items go, or pay someone to do them for you? Learning to say no is a start.

Or maybe you've assigned too much time to spend on some of your demands. See if you can cut back on some of the time you spend on a couple of items, so you have more time for other items. And combining some of the items is also a possibility. Writers have to learn to become pros at multi-tasking.

Finally, maybe you need to add more time to your "awake" hours. Try getting up an hour earlier or going to bed an hour later. You'd be amazed at how those hours add up in the course of a week, month, year. Once you have an acceptable and fair schedule figured out, you have to let everyone in your life know about it, and then stick to it.
Lesson #2 - Staying Organized!
First, call a family meeting and let everyone know in no uncertain terms that you are human. You are one person trying to do it all and be it all so everyone will be happy. But if you're not happy, then what's the point? You chose this life--got married, accepted that job, had children, bought that pet, etc.--but that doesn't mean you have to go insane while living it. You need a reasonable amount of time to complete your priorities, and each priority has its own merit and value to you or it wouldn't be on your list. Your family needs to learn patience and accept that your list is sacred.

Next, post that list on your refrigerator for all to see, and post a second copy right by your work station as a reminder to yourself. Again with the visual, but it really works. Out of sight, out of mind. So keep your schedule in sight, and then no one can say, "It's not my fault. How was I supposed to know you were doing something important?" They will know that everything on your list is important, and unless the house is burning down, don't mess with the schedule. Because a happy writer, means a happy everyone! It's like with teaching. If kids know what the rules are and what the consequences are for breaking them, they are much better behaved and more apt to follow them. It's the adults who take a bit of smacking upside the head to finally get it :-)

Finally, stick to your schedule. If you stick to your game plan, your family will know you're serious and things become routine. Kids aren't the only ones who thrive on routine. When you have routine and structure in your life, you can accomplish all of your goals and things get done!
Lesson #3 - Meeting Deadlines!
First, accept no excuses, especially from yourself. I don't have time to write, my children won't take naps, I have writer's block, etc. I repeat, there are no excuses. Make the time. As I said before get up an hour earlier, stay up an hour later, write on your lunch break, write at your child's sports practice, in the waiting room, etc. If you want to be a writer badly enough, you will find the time. When my children were little, I wrote during naptime. When they stopped taking naps, I made them have quiet time. Set that rule, stick to it, and it will become routine. As for writer's block, it doesn't exits.
Nothing can stop your hand from moving, even if only crap appears on the paper. Just keep writing and eventually inspiration will strike.

Second, set the mood for whatever priority you're completing. I wear my iPod while cleaning. I sometimes have a glass of wine while cooking and I like to try new recipes since I hate to cook just to feed my family. Figure out your meals for the week so you're not scrambling and wasting time each day. Don't make writing turn into a chore. Yes you have a deadline (even if it's just one you set for yourself), but you can still find the joy that drew you to become a writer in the first place. I have my favorite drink close by, I light candles, sometimes I play soft music. For me, writing has always been my "me" time. Just because I have insane deadlines, I refuse to let that take the joy out of the process for me.

I also make the most of my non-writing time. For example I read the last page of a scene before bed and keep a notebook and pen by my bedside. Since we often dream about the last thing we see or talk about, this technique sometimes leads to wonderful inspiration once we wake up. I do the same thing in the morning after checking email, etc. I read the last page of what I wrote so while I'm making lunches, cleaning or whatever, my mind is thinking about my story. This way by the time I sit down to write, I already know exactly what I'm going to say. It allows you to stop wasting time when you first sit down to write, trying to figure out where you left off and what you need to do next.

Another essential tidbit you should know about yourself is at what speed do you write? Figure out how many pages per hour you can write, and how many hours you have set aside each day as your writing time. This will give you a rough idea of how many pages per day, week, and month you are realistically capable of writing. That way when you do get "the call," you will be able to set up realistic deadlines, knowing exactly how long it takes you to complete a book (based on your schedule). No matter how desperate you are to sell, you need to know this ahead of time before you agree to something and then become overwhelmed and unhappy.

Make the most out of your schedule by combining some of your priorities. Take your child grocery shopping with you and let them help you clean. Turn the radio off and talk on the way to and from your child's activity. Let your child go with you when you walk or feed your pets and make dinner. Have set bed times early enough so you and your spouse can watch your favorite shows and movies together each night. Set aside date night at least once a week, even it it's at home. Don't forget to talk and share your day with each other. If you truly understand each other, it's easier to be there for each other...and get them to stick to your schedule :-) Build in time for your friends and a social life. Build in at least one day a week that you take off. Everyone needs a break, and a day off with "no" schedule can be heaven. It's like a one day cheat on a diet where you get to eat whatever you want, or in this case, "do" whatever you want. And if you get behind in anything during the week, it also gives you a makeup day.

Lastly, check your emails and do your blogging, social networks and promotion while eating breakfast or lunch, or making lunches early in the morning. Never let it spill over into your writing time. And even if you're on a roll with your writing, stop at your designated time. Never let any of your priorities spill over their time slots or your whole schedule will be off and you will fall behind. And just like with a new diet or exercise program, if you fall off the wagon and have an off day, pick yourself up and get right back on the next day. No looking back, no regrets, just move forward and in no time you will have completed your goals :-)

You don't have to do anything exactly the same as someone else, but if even a small part of my routine works for you, then that's progress. Good luck and stay strong, my people! See you on the shelves someday soon!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Anita's Attic: The Trouble With IT

I'm finishing up copy edits on Guardians of Stone and I have to say I'm very impressed with the copy editor. I think all CEs are uber picky, but this guy really did find the things I tend to get lazy with. For instance, I'm forever using "it" when I should be specifying exactly what I'm referring to. He found several places in the manuscript where I had "used pronouns without antecedents." 

For instance in this sentence:

She was trembling but he didn't know if it was from anger or fear. 

The CE did not like that "it". Technically I suppose the sentence should have read:

She was trembling but he didn't know if her reaction was from anger or fear. 

Here's another one:

It wasn't a come-on but the need for warmth and human contact in a place of death.

He didn't like that "it" either, so I changed it... (Oops, just did it in this sentence too. Geez! And I did it again just now!!!) Ack!!!!  Okay, I've changed the SENTENCE to read:

His move wasn't a come-on but the need for warmth and human contact in a place of death.

So I need to pay more attention to my "its" from now on. 

Do you guys have weird things like this that you don't catch?  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Liz's Lair: Need a Shot of Humility?—Spend 5 Minutes With a Kid

Need a Shot of Humility?—Spend 5 Minutes With a Kid

As we speak, I am at Canyon Lake in the Hill Country of Texas with my entire family having a blast. I decided to use a blog that I posted on Fresh Fiction last week. Hopefully, none of you saw if, but for those that may have, read it again!! There is limited wifi, so I probably won't be able to respond to any comments until I get back, but I will. The first blog I wrote for FF last October was about my three-year-old grandson and how he impressed upon me that names are important. Today, I'm going to write about learning humility from the now four-year-old boy wonder.

Humility is defined in the dictionary as a modest or low view of one's own importance. Authors as a rule are usually not accused of lacking humility. We've been beaten down so much that when we finally do get published, we are forever looking around corners, waiting for someone to tell us it was all a big mistake.

Last October, LIVER LET DIE debuted, and I was thrilled. After all the years of writing and rejections and getting my hopes dashed, I was finally going to hold my very own book in my hands. Although I had a huge launch party at a local bookstore with cake and sangria, I decided I wanted a more intimate party to celebrate with my family and close friends.

Unlike my heroine in the Clueless Cook mysteries, I am a pretty good cook, so I made all the food for the dinner myself. My house was packed with well-wishers who bombarded me with congratulations and praise for finally accomplishing my dream. I was loving all the attention and found myself getting a pretty big head. I was an author, after all, and I'd written a pretty good book. I deserved all the accolades, which was my reward for all the hard work.

And just when I began to see myself as the next Cleo Coyle with my book on the New York Times Bestsellers List, my bubble was traumatically ruptured.

That same four-year-old who had reminded me not to take names lightly wandered into my kitchen where I (the big time author) was holding court with a group of people talking about my wonderful book. His pants were around his knees, and he looked up at me with his big blue eyes and declared, "Nana, I pooped. Come wipe my butt."

Humility – – it's a beautiful thing.

I don't know why writers, who are normally self-confident in every other aspect of their lives, are so "needy" about their own writing. When I signed my first contract with Berkley three years ago, it was with a lot of doubt that I could actually do it. First of all, I had to write a book that the editor liked since she’d signed me to a three book deal on three chapters and a synopsis and not the completed book.

Oy! Talk about self-doubt. I even parted ways with a critique partner who sometimes made me doubt myself and my writing. I did that enough for both of us.

It took me nine months to write LIVER LET DIE and another year to get it out there. By this time BEEF STOLEN-OFF was already written and accepted by Berkley with very few edits required. I was halfway through writing MURDER FOR THE HALIBUT when Berkley offered me another contract. I’ve just recently sold my mainstream paranormal mystery series (Coming next June from Midnight Ink) and I’m on cloud nine. I’m even halfway convinced I might actually be good at this, but I have a feeling I’d better bask in my glory while I can because I’m sure that precocious four-year old will find a way to bring me back down to earth. The last time I tried to impress him with my storytelling abilities, he quickly informed me that I didn’t tell it as good as his preschool teacher did.

It doesn’t matter to him that I have 3 books out and 4 more coming soon. He just hopes I get better with The Three Pigs. And you know what? That's the way it should be.

Can you share any humbling moments?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cassy's Corner- The wonderful Sheila Redling

Today it is an honor to welcome S.G. Redling. Sheila is a wonderful author with a new book out that's rising to the top of the charts. Flowertown is scary, funny and a very human story. If you know Sheila, you'll hear her true voice loudly and clearly. I can picture her reading each page to me as I zipped though. 

Sheila and I belong to a great group of writers who have met for the last two years in Matera, Italy to brainstorm our work. This is also the spot of the Women's Fiction Festival, a conference I also have attended twice. It's a fantastic venue and always has an incredible line-up for the program.

I do need to warn you, dear readers, that Sheila is one of the funniest and irreverent people I know. All the more reason I love her. I asked Sheila for a short bio. And, her response:

Sheila: How can I beat an introduction like that? And seriously, is there anything more cringe-inducing than writing your own bio? I wanted to post mine as "An optimistic hillbilly with a foul mouth and a Viking liver" but my publisher didn't go for it. So, let's just say a Georgetown University graduate and proud West Virginian. (It's kind of the same thing.)

Cassy: Sheila, you have had a long career in radio. Granted that took communicating in a careful and considered manner. Just like writing. But the translation of your stories from the spoken word to the written one is, well, a transition. First, why? What drew you to the keyboard from the microphone? I'll ask the next question in a moment.

Sheila: I think my years in morning radio gave me an advantage in the transition to writing. An important skill I honed was a keen ear for speech. Often you only had ten to fifteen seconds to determine if a caller was going to be funny, boring or crazy and adjust accordingly. The ability to pick up unique tags and clues in the spoken word has been a real asset to my writing. Also, you learn quickly the skill of keeping the ball rolling - no dead air allowed! - so those inevitable lulls when writing a story don't frighten me too much. I just keep on talking (on the keyboard, of course.) And finally and probably most importantly, radio helped me become very well versed in poverty - an incredibly important skill for anyone trying to make a living as a writer. Ramen noodles, anyone?

Cassy: The second part of the question is: Why writing? And why the genre you write?

Sheila: Writing and radio really aren't that different in a lot of ways. For one thing, you can do both in your pajamas. (When my guidance counselor asked me what color my parachute was, I said 'flannel.') But all kidding aside, both are about communicating, connecting with people and drawing them in. A big part of radio is actually listening and oddly the same is true with writing. You need to listen to your characters, listen to their world, and somehow convey that scene to the strangers reading your story. You need to make everyone - characters and readers - feel like they know each other, like you're somehow the host of this surreal imaginary party that you hope everyone wants to attend.

Cassy: Tell us about Flowertown. It's a pretty rough story in spots. I'm talking about the plot--not your writing style! How did you visualize this tale? Can you give us a quick synopsis so folks understand the depth of this plot?

Sheila: Some people have been surprised that my writing tends to be on the darker side. As I said, I'm an optimist and I love to laugh and generally have a very high opinion of people. But I am fascinated by what compels people, what frightens them, what makes them fight and what makes them forgive. In Flowertown, the main character, Ellie, has lost everything. By horrible chance, she happened to be in rural Iowa when an experimental pesticide was spilled. Seven years later, she's still quarantined, still contaminated, and still fighting an ever-simmering rage. There seems to be no hope, no escape, no relief from the tedium of containment.

The story is rough. The idea of chemical contamination scares me deeply. I grew up down river from Chemical Valley in WV, a stretch of land crowded with the world's chemical heavy-hitters and I don't have a great deal of faith in corporate oversight.  (We'll just leave it at that.) Ellie is slovenly, sarcastic, and foul mouthed but let's face it - she's contaminated and trapped in a quarantine zone with no hope of release. She's going to be a little grumpy. She doesn't think she's brave; she's no superhero. She's just human and circumstances beyond her control force her to dig deep to decide what she's willing to fight for. Who hasn't felt trapped at some point in their life? Who hasn't felt that crispy feeling of burnout? In Flowertown, I take those emotions to an extreme. (And for the record, I have never bashed anyone over the head with a two-by-four although I have been sorely tempted.)

Cassy: As I said, your voice is strong in your writing. Having spent a few hours (ha!) with you and heard you critique others’ work, I hear you so clearly in your writing. That’s a gift.

Cassy: You have gone to the top of the charts with Flowertown. Kudos and handclapping from this end! What strategies have you used for marketing? There is so much buzz about social media, personal attention to appearances, book signings, and the list goes on. Your thoughts on how to do it right?

Sheila: Believe me, if I had any idea what I did right, I would tell you. This entire experience has been a whirlwind of surprises. You and I and the rest of the Matera Brainstormers have gone around and around discussing the pros and cons of social media. If I had to declare a verdict right now, I'd say 'do what you enjoy.' We've all seen people grinding it out on Facebook and Twitter and blogs, half-heartedly throwing themselves onto the world. It's awkward at best, more often embarrassing and annoying. I happen to love Facebook and Twitter and, God help me, Pinterest is sucking me in. But I decided early on to be on these sites as myself, not as a product to be sold. I've made connections with people and groups with whom I share interests. I'm a fan of the projects I follow. I interact with enthusiasm and most people have responded accordingly.  In this aspect too, radio has been a huge learning tool. People are smart.  People are clever and observant and they can sense insincerity from a mile away.  If I tried to pull off a blog like M&M (of which I am a HUGE fan!) it would sink like a stone.

That said, I'm also lucky enough to be published with Thomas & Mercer, a division of Amazon Publishing, and they sort of have the hang of this marketing thing. So you'll understand if I don't take too much credit for this!

Cassy: You have another book nearly finished. Spill, girl. Are you willing to tell us the general plot? Title (I happen to know it but won't say until you do)? Release date?

Sheila: I'm just putting the finishing polish on a new sci-fi novel that has taken me places I've never been as a writer. You asked earlier, why writing? At this point in a project, when you've really stretched yourself and pushed yourself and felt that unbelievable charge of being plugged into that universal groove of creativity, you can't imagine ever doing anything else but writing. The working title is THRUM. The last time you heard about it, Cassy, was in Italy when we were brainstorming, remember? I think my description went something like "It's, um, these people...and space...and then they talk...and stuff..."  Happily, it's come along quite a bit since then. Without giving too much away, it's about two very different branches of humanity who meet before either side is prepared for contact. It's less a story about science, more about humanity and language and how we reach out to each other.  I'm in that post-first-draft-mushy-love stage of writing and I have to resist the urge to actually cuddle the pages to me when I sleep. No date set yet for release but I'll keep you posted! 

Cassy: Having colleagues who really understand the business is so critical. Would you like to put a plug in for the wonderful agent we both know so well?

Sheila: There is absolutely no substitute for a solid support system. I'm lucky enough to have as my agent the human tsunami who is Christine Witthohn. She's a tireless cheerleader, whip-cracker and workaholic and, ahem, a fellow West Virginian! She's the one who gave me my favorite piece of advice back when I was making the rookie mistake of trying to write to please the market rather than myself. "Sheila, do what you do best. Kill people." (I'm assuming she meant on the page.) This is a tough industry. It's important that writers surround themselves with supportive but honest people. The eve of submitting your manuscript is no time to count on someone who's going to blow smoke up your skirt.

Cassy: I totally agree about Christine. I can’t think of anyone more encouraging, supportive, and serious about getting her writers out there. Christine also is a leader in our Matera Brainstorming sessions. She adds a huge component to the discussions, both on industry and on book content.

Cassy: Okay, I've asked a few questions. But, I now open the forum to you. Imagine a brand new writer, someone who wishes to get a product out the door. Could you list three or four things (knowing you, Sheila, I shouldn't put a number on that) that would be helpful to someone who wants to make writing a full-time job?

Sheila: Ah, the freeform advice segment! You know what? I'll assume M&M readers are well aware of the most basic and hard core tenets of writing. Read a lot, write a lot, discipline, etc. We've all got the craft books. Here are some other bits of advice. To quote the great Dorothy Parker "Four be the things I am wiser to know."

1. Write what you would want to read. If you have a secret but overwhelming desire to write about cape-wearing chipmunks who fight crime, write it. Write it as well as you can. Write a story that you would run through fire to read. If you love to love, write romance. Everyone tells writers to study their genre and learn its rules but don't let those rules cripple you. Let the story thrill you. Believe me, if you're bored writing it, the audience will be bored reading it.

2. Finish! I am a firm believer that you learn more from finishing one craptastic manuscript than you do starting and not finishing a thousand masterpieces. On my favorite TV show, Supernatural, a writer character says "Endings are hard. Any chapped ass monkey with a keyboard can poop out a beginning but endings are hard." Truer words were never spoken. Endings are hard but they're worth it and I don't believe anything separates writers from wanna-be's more than this.

3. Don't just let writers read your stuff. My first readers are my book club, the terrifying and intimidating Book Thugs. These women are voracious readers and, shall we say, exceptionally candid. They're not interested in technical details. They don't want to know about the process. They demand solid storytelling. It's tempting as a beginning writer to crave the empathy of other writers but what often happens is writers inflict their own style and process on each other and the results can be mediocre. Originality can be lost. Readers may not be able to explain why your middle is saggy or that your story arc is vague but they can tell you what worked for them and what didn't. After all, you're writing for readers, not grades. And finally...

4. Go there. Go further in your story than you ever dreamed. If you imagine a building blowing up in Chapter Ten, blow that puppy in Chapter One. Write at the very, very top of your game. I don't mean write fancy or complicated or overblown but be daring in your writing. Scare yourself with how hard you're going to have to dig to get to that thing that makes your story unique. I've yet to finish a manuscript that didn't cause at least one significant crisis of confidence halfway through. You only get better when you push yourself. Like I said, this is a tough business. Why not go too far? Exceed your expectations. Blow the walls off your story. Write like your life depends upon it because, as far as I know, once you've touched that place where the story lives, where worlds erupt from your fingertips, it kind of does.

Oh, and one more thing, never never never try to write without chocolate. You're just setting yourself up for failure.

Cassy: Sheila, as always, I love spending time with you. Folks, you’d be never disappointed by checking in with her at www.SGRedling.com or on Twitter and Facebook as SGRedling.

On another note, Blogger has been fighting me about posting photos. Sheila generously sent me shots of book covers. My ineptitude or whatever has not let me post them here. I will try again. So there could be an additional posting today. BUT, if it doesn’t happen, you can find Sheila’s work on Amazon.