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Friday Favorites – Dating, Writing, and TV

Busy week around here again. I’ve been saying that a lot lately it seems. Between Trouble’s birthday and RT and getting my revision letter from my editor, I’m a bit crazed. By the time this posts, I’ll be back at RT for a full day of workshops and fun. I’ll get another post up about it next week (or earlier if I’m really ambitious).

On to this week’s list of favorite blog posts. I bet you’re wondering how I managed to read all of these posts (and maybe even question if I did actually read). I read some throughout the week as I discover them on Twitter. Then I sit down with my Google reader and scan everything I’m subscribed to and pick the best. So really, in addition to these, I’ve read lots of others.

Dating and Love–

image courtesy of recruiterpoet.com

Ingrid Schaffenburg has another post to partner with the one I linked to last week about finding “the one.” This week she talks about finding your type (or not). As I said last week, I married my opposite and it’s worked out pretty well for us.

Jenny Hansen is participating in the A-Z blog challenge, which means she’s blogging every day in April, working her way through the alphabet. This week for H, she wrote about being a hussy and online dating. This is yet more evidence that I should never again enter the dating world. Have a laugh.

Finally, this post is great and it shows exactly why I love Romance Man. He writes about how men have to put in effort to make marriage work. Excellent advice that should be shared with men the world over.

Writing–

Angela M. is also doing the A-Z challenge and has a post about Alpha males that I wanted to include because I love Alphas.

Both Jami Gold and Kristen Lamboffered posts this week about finding your voice in writing. I kind of stumbled into my writing voice. When I started writing romance, I

image courtesy of lifeislifeislife.blog.com

followed the old saying “write what you know.” I read romantic suspense more than anything else. It’s a genre I feel I know and understand well. My first 2 manuscripts are both romantic suspense and will probably never see the light of day. About halfway through the second one, I knew it wasn’t working, but couldn’t figure out why. When I had the idea for my third manuscript, I realized it could be nothing but contemporary romance. I dove into the subgenre and read and read and read. Then I wrote and found a natural fit for my voice. That is the book that will debut later this year.

Chuck Wendig has one of his list posts this week called 25 reasons I hate your main character. Must read.

Elena Aitken has a post about her new release and the soundtrack she made for it. It really makes me wish I had created a playlist for the book I’m working on now.

TV–

As a quick follow-up to my post and link to others about the anti-hero, Sonia Medeiros continues with another post about Dexter, everyone’s favorite anti-hero.

Tiffany White covers Bent, which is a show I talked about when it premiered. I haven’t watched comedies in a long time, but this one attracted my attention (probably after Tiffany mentioned it on her blog). But I am a sucker for a man in a toolbelt. It’s a fun, campy show, but Tiffany brings up some good points.

One of my favorite shows, Justified, ended for the season this week. It seems like it crept on me too quickly and I’m not quite ready to let go. Adam Bellotto has a good recap of the last episode.

Allison Brennan did an excellent post on her hatred for Raylan’s ex-wife Winona. I hadn’t thought much about it, although I never really liked Winona. Allison makes fabulous points about why she hopes Winona is gone for good and I’m inclined to agree. Allison wrote this post before the season finale and it’s probably good because at the end of the show, Winona is so slow on the uptake when Raylan is telling her about all the bad shit, that I wanted to slap her. So clueless (and not good enough for Raylan).

Last, but not least–

Emma Burcart writes about the old adage “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” This expression has always bugged the shit out of me. Yes, I was a teacher. No, I am not less than other people because I chose that career. Teaching is damn hard work and all of you should go out and thank a teacher for helping you get where you are today.

What expression or adage drives you a little batshit?

(I probably won’t get around to responding to comments until this weekend but I will get to them – promise)

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Emotion and Conflict – What’s Enough?

The idea for this post has been percolating in my brain for a while and I recently read a blog post by author Janice Hardy which sparked me to want to write it now. Her post is about stakes for the characters in a novel. I’m a little torn about what she says. I agree that you have to make readers care about your characters. You have to have something at stake. The hero and heroine have to have something personal at risk.

For me, this is where it gets sticky. I agree that characters have to have something personal at stake. In many books I’ve read lately, that personal stake is letting go of the past and the personal baggage that is mucking up life. Ms. Hardy says, “Stakes make the reader care, and stakes are about personal loss…If you feel it, then the characters will feel it. If the characters feel it, the reader will feel it.”

I agree with all of this and I’ve read a ton of books that drew me in emotionally as a reader because this is done well. My question then goes to conflict. Many writers will argue that you can’t have good conflict without an antagonist, a bad guy. The antagonist doesn’t have to be a serial killer or terrorist; it just needs to be someone that stops the protagonist (hero) from getting what he wants.

Kristen Lamb wrote about it here. I agree with what she says, especially when she says that the antagonist is the hardest concept to understand. Bob Mayer writes about it here. I’m sure if I spent some more time searching, I’d have a million more examples.

While I agree with the concept, I’ve begun to wonder if it matters to readers, specifically readers of contemporary romance. Of course, this interests me because this is the genre I write, but it’s also the genre I read. I’ve read quite a few books over the last year that have been light on the antagonist.

And I didn’t care.

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed me talking about Ruthie Knox’s book, Ride With Me. This is a great read. It’s about two people riding their bikes across America and they fall in love. I suppose at a stretch, you could call the hero’s sister an antagonist because she pushes him from his comfort zone and makes him interact with people. She’s the one who tricks him into having a riding partner. Ruthie does such a good job of making me care about the characters, that it didn’t matter to me that there was no antagonist. The conflict revolved around each if them getting over their own issues.

A few months ago, I wrote about one of my favorite books from last year, Inez Kelley’s Sweet as Sin. I adore this book. It’s dark and emotional and totally sucked me in. Now, it’s been a long time since I read it, but I can’t remember any antagonist. If there was one, it was unimportant to me.

Shannon Stacey has a trilogy that I read last year about the Kowalski family. The first and last book of the trilogy do have antagonists, but they read like antagonist-lite. In the first book, the antagonist would be the heroine’s boss, who is forcing her to get an interview with a famous writer, the heroine’s ex-boyfriend. In the last book, the heroine’s grandmother would be the antagonist because she wants her granddaughter to be married so she’s not alone. In the second book, there was no external antagonist that I can recall.

All of these books were published by the digital division of big publishers. Ride With Me is a Loveswept book (Random House), Sweet as Sin and the Yours trilogy are both from Carina Press (Harlequin). These books have found an audience.

It bears repeating. These books found an audience even without strong antagonists. Shannon Stacey hit best seller lists with her books and Harlequin decided to publish print editions.

In addition to these authors, many self-published authors are also finding success. Both Marie Force and Bella Andre have published with New York houses and are currently self-publishing their books. While I haven’t read everything they’ve put out, I have read at least a couple of books from each their contemporary romance series. The stories have been enjoyable, but from a craft standpoint, light on the conflict because of a lack of antagonist. I say this not as a criticism, but as an observation.

These authors are enjoying great success. Readers are gobbling up their books. If they don’t have strong external conflict and no antagonist, shouldn’t their stories be lacking? Experts might say yes, but I don’t think the readers agree. The emotional pull of the characters keeps us glued to the page.

As a reader, do you notice if the book has an antagonist? Is the emotional journey of the characters enough to sustain the novel for you?

Friday Favorites – Writing and Publishing

For my Friday Favorites posts, I usually try to find a balance of fun and educational posts to offer as links. This week, however, is a little heavy on the being a writer posts. There were just too many to try to narrow them down more.

Being a writer–

Trish Loye Elliott posted 10 ways you know you’re a writer over on the Wordbitches blog. It’s funny, but oh so true. A gazillion books? Check. Carry pen and paper everywhere? Check. Talk to yourself? Check. We all know these things about ourselves, but it’s funny to see them in writing.

Merry Farmer has a post on casting your characters. I’ve talked about this before, when I wrote about creating a collage as part of my discovery writing before starting my WIP. I got so much out of it that I’m actually going to go back and create come collages for the manuscript I’m in the middle of revising. After doing a healthy edit, I discovered that during one of the many revisions, I took out every description. No one knows what any of my characters look like. I think doing the collage with help.

August McLaughlin has a great post on using deadlines to increase your productivity. Even if you don’t have a contract yet, creating reasonable deadlines for yourself helps. I’ve always done it. It also helps if you have a critique partner who can give you a kick in the pants when you fall behind your goals.

Emma Burcart has a post called Don’t Poop on My Parade, and while she wrote the post about her move to Florida, I think it definitely applies to writers. People are quick to put down what we do and try to squash our dreams with a dose of reality. I hope we can all have poop-free parades 🙂

Chuck Wendig holds nothing back, as usual, as he offers 25 things he wants to say to aspiring writers. My favorite is #8. It’s so good, I think it deserves its own quote:

I’m just going to type this out a dozen times so it’s clear: finish your shit. Finish your shit. Finish your shit.Finish your shit. Finish your shit. Finish your shit! FINISH YOUR SHIT. Finish. Your. Shit. Fiiiiniiiish yooooour shiiiiit. COMPLETO EL POOPO. Vervollständigen Sie Ihre Fäkalien! Finish your shit.

Publishing —

Emmie Mears wrote an open letter to New York. She’s writing about wanting that traditional book deal, to be able to hold a bound book in her hands. I understand this dream, as I think most writers do. The publishing world is in the middle of a whirlwind of change. Publishers either have to get on board with making changes, or they will fall apart like my beloved Borders. Many companies are. As I’ve written before, I’ve accepted a 2-book deal with Kensington for ebooks. Ebooks are the here and now, not the future, but that doesn’t meant that paper books will disappear.

Kristen Lamb writes a great post about the new publishing paradigm. She too loves New York and doesn’t want Amazon to swallow everything. No one is saying that self-publishing is bad. It is a viable route to publication. But it shouldn’t be the only route.

Just for Fun–

Jennette Powell has follow-up post one one she did last week about not finishing a book. This week, she wants to know what big name book you haven’t finished. For me, the DNF (did not finish) happened most often with classics. I was an English major and there were lots of books I was supposed to read that I couldn’t. Most British lit falls in that category. I love American lit, but I started The Great Gatsby at least 3 times and never even got to the halfway point.

Last, but certainly not least, Tiffany White has a couple of great TV posts for the week. She talks about some new and returning shows.

What’s your favorite piece of writing advice? Or which show are you most looking forward to?

Friday Favorites – A Little Night Magic and Writing Links

Before I get to my mash-up of awesome links this week, I want to tell you about a book I just finished: A Little Night Magic by Lucy March. If any of you have read my Friday Favorites posts, you know that I’ve talked about Lucy March (AKA Lani Diane Rich) before. She’s a great writer and an excellent teacher. I was intrigued by this book when Lucy posted an excerpt of an earlier draft on her blog.

Here’s the blurb, taken from Lucy’s web site:

Olivia Kiskey needs a change. She’s been working at the same Nodaway Falls, NY, waffle house since she was a teenager; not a lot of upward mobility there. She’s been in love with Tobias the cook for the last four years; he’s never made a move. Every Saturday night, she gathers with her three best friends – Peach, Millie, and Stacy – and drinks the same margaritas while listening to the same old stories. Intent on changing her life, she puts her house on the market, buys a one-way ticket to Europe, and announces her plans to her friends… but then she meets Davina Granville, a strange and mystical southern woman who shows Olivia that there is more to her small town life than she ever dreamed. As her latent magical powers come to the surface, Olivia discovers that having an interesting life is maybe not all it’s cracked up to be. The dark side of someone else’s magic is taking over good people in town, and changing them into vessels of malevolence… including Millie, who has been a shining example of sweetness for Liv since they were kids. Unwilling to cede her home to darkness, she battles the demons of her familial past and her magical present, and learns that the important things in life – friendship, love, magic and waffles – can get a girl through almost anything the Universe can throw at her.

I really like this book. It is phenomenally crafted and will keep you involved every step of the way. There are no parts to skip here. As you can tell by the blurb, the book is about Liv. This story is all about her growing and changing. It is also a romance and you do get the requisite HEA.

I have a small confession to make: I fell in love with Tobias long before this book was near publication. As I said, Lucy posted an excerpt and I was gone.(FYI – the scenes are still up on her blog and they’re NOT in the book. It’s like the out takes from a really good movie) Anyway, my one and only complaint about this book, and it’s not even really about the book, is that there’s not enough Tobias in it.

The book is told in first person and I love Liv’s voice, but in general, I’m a third person kind of gal. Being in first person fits with Liv’s journey, but I wanted more time with Liv and Tobias. Granted, there’s a lot of bad shit going on in the story that needs to be dealt with, but the romance lover in me wanted more time with them. Don’t get me wrong, the scenes between Liv and Tobias are unbelievably emotional and charged with tension (the good kind). I just personally wanted to get inside Tobias’s head.

That’s enough blathering on about Tobias. Go get the book; you won’t be disappointed. And I’m obviously not the only one that feels that way since it went for its second printing after only being out for a day.

On to my weekly mash-up. This week all of my links are writing related, but even if you’re not a writer, you’ll enjoy them:

Music as inspiration:

Catie Rhodes did a great post about how music can inspire us. I listen to the radio all the time and the lyrics to songs have helped me create many characters.

Lucy March is back with Jennifer Crusie and Anne Stuart and they talk about using a soundtrack and creating a collage for your novel. I never did either of these things until I took a Discovery writing class with Lucy (Isn’t it weird how when we know people on line, we refer to them as friends, even if we’ve never really met?). First, don’t get discouraged by looking at Jennifer Crusie’s collages. They are works of art. You don’t need to be that talented. I struggled with doing both the collage and the soundtrack, but I’m really glad I did. Now, when I’m away from my WIP because I’m revising and editing other projects, I have the collage and music to pull me back into the story. At some point, I’ll post my stuff that I did for the class. I really wish I’d made them for the book I’m revising now. I have no doubt it would help the whole process.

On perseverance:

Tawna Fenske talks about pushing through the crap to find success in her post “Taking One Mouthful at a Time

Over on the Wordbitches site, Elena Aitken talks about finding the time to write. It’s a question that a lot of people ask writers, especially those with small children. My answer: write when the kids are busy. I am the master of pounding out 1000 words during any practice for any sport or activity. You’d be surprised at how quickly those words add up.

Kristen Lamb talks about what it takes to become a career author, which is the ultimate goal for most of us. It’s more than just pounding out the words, but we have to maintain a balance or it won’t work.

Finally, just for fun, Marcy Kennedy has a post for the Geek in all of us. What Star Trek Race Are You? I thought I would’ve been Spock, but it turns out, I’m Borg, like Seven of Nine (if only I could look that good too 🙂  )

Who are you most like?

Friday Favorites – Trusting Yourself

So very many excellent writing blogs this week. Before I get to those, let’s run through the just for fun ones —

Tiffany White does an awesome roundup of TV shows that she’s reviewed and talked about. If you’re looking to add something to your lineup, check out this list. Heck, even if you’re not looking to add, you’ll find something anyway. She keeps hooking me into new stuff 🙂

Merry Farmer has a great discussion going on her blog about the appeal of paranormal romance. If you love all things paranormal, stop by and explain the fascination.

In addition to having a really funny blog full of dirty jokes, Tawna Fenske is a launch author for Coliloquy. Basically, she’s writing a choose your own adventure for adults. I did download it (Kindle only), I haven’t ahd a chance to read it yet. Coliloquy is giving away a Kindle to one of Tawna’s blog readers, so go check it out and enter.

Now, onto the writing posts.

First up – Craft

Lucy March, along with Jenny Crusie and Anne Stuart did a couple of great posts about character. They have one on heroines and one on heroes. With these 3 fabulous authors, you have to learn something.

Last week, I linked to a post by Jenny Hansen about Man-speak. She follows it up again this week with part 2. This is must-have information if you’re writing male characters.

The next 4 posts are all about being a writer and taking yourself seriously:

Kristen Lamb tells us not to eat the butt (avoid the poison that will ruin our writing careers). I have to admit that I am a little guilty of what Kristen talks about. Although I take my writing seriously – I write every chance I get by making time for it, I don’t talk to other people about it. I don’t introduce myself as a writer. Mostly, this is because I’m always afraid the next question will be “Where can I get your book?” and I’m not published yet.

Trish Loye Elliott (via Wordbitches) points out that if writing is what you want to do, then you need to act like a professional.

And finally, two post from Chuck Wendig. Warning — if cursing bothers you, don’t click on these links.

25 Things Writers Should Know About Finding Their Voice – For me, finding my voice as a writer was difficult. I love to read romantic suspense, and as writers, we’re told to write what we know. That’s great in theory. I know romantic suspense. I wrote my first 2 manuscripts, which were romantic suspense, and about a third of the way through the second one I knew it wasn’t right. It wasn’t “suspense-y” enough. I tried to fix it, but nothing worked. When I began writing contemporary romance, I discovered why the romantic suspense didn’t work. It’s not where my voice is. I was trying to force something and it didn’t work. Don’t be afraid to play around with different stuff.

25 Things Writers Should Start Doing – This post just has so much, I don’t know where to start. I think that like many of you, I’m good at some of these points, others not so much. I think I’ll start with getting out more. Between being a writer and a mother of 3, I hardly get out at all (at least not alone). But you know what? All 3 kids are in school during the day and my day job is work from home and I make my own hours. I’m setting a goal to get out more.

What goals are you setting to get you closer to your dream?

Versatile Blogger Award

You know, I’ve only been doing this blogging thing for a couple of months, but because of Kristen Lamb’s class on blogging to build your author brand (hello WANA1011 people), I have a whole team of people to network with both on my blog and on Twitter. It’s made the entire experience so much easier and less frightening. One of the perks of having a ready made group of on-line friends is the passing on of blog awards.

Last month, Emma Burcart bestowed the Liebster Blog award on me. I was surprised to receive any award, much less one after only a few weeks of blogging.

Then, earlier this week, Debra Kristi passed the Versatile Blogger Award to me. Thanks so much, Debra!

Part of receiving the award is to reveal 7 things about myself and then pass the award on to more people. so without further ado, here are 7 things about me:

1. I love popcorn. It is by far my favorite snack. I make hot air popcorn at least 3 times a week. If my hot air popper broke down, I think I might cry.

2. I’m a no-frills kind of girl. I only wear make-up when I have to look like a grown-up. I like to keep everything simple, including my wardrobe. I don’t want to have to think about what to wear. Jeans, t-shirts, and gym shoes.

3. I’m a natural night owl, but my kids keep trying to change that about me. Having to get them to school on time (which is always in the morning and I’m not  morning person), makes staying up until 1 a.m. difficult.

4. I only do housework when I need to work through a plot point in my book. I hate to clean, but I find that distracting myself with mundane tasks (like cleaning out closets) helps free my brain to figure out my writing problems.

5. My day job as an editor involves me reading a lot of news articles. I have to pick out headlines to assign to my writers. Because of this, I never pay attention to the news (TV or on-line) when I’m not working. In general, I don’t like to watch the news because it’s so depressing. Then, if something major happens between Thursday afternoon and Saturday afternoon, I totally miss it.

6. I am a total wallflower. People who have known me a while never believe this, but it’s true. I tend to hang back in social situations and observe for a really long time before I talk to people. I almost never initiate conversation.

7. And to build off #6, I lack some basic social skills. I don’t know what happened during my childhood that made me miss out on something, but at least as an adult, I recognize it. I’m the kind of person who has to remind herself to ask someone how they’re doing. I often put my foot in my mouth without realizing it until later. And sometimes, people get mad at me for being honest with a side of sarcasm. It’s who I am and I’m usually unapologetic for it. Now you all know why I hesitated to join Twitter — a huge cocktail party with an endless supply of people to offend. 🙂

Phew — now that I have the first list out of the way, on to the second list: the people I’d like to hand the Versatile Blogger Award to. Most of these writers I have linked to in the past during my Friday Favorites posts, so their names will look familiar. A couple are new-to-me bloggers that I’m sure I’ll be adding to my Friday Favorites in the future:

1. Asrai Devin – The Maven of Mischief

2. Catie Rhodes – Full-Tilt Backwoods Boogie

3. Tawna Fenske – Don’t Pet Me, I’m Writing

4. Elena Aitken – Don’t Forget to Breathe

5. Emma Burcart – Occasional Epiphanies

6. Jillian Dodd – Glitter, Bliss, and Perfect Chaos

7. Merry Farmer – An Historical Romance

8. Jessica Ward – The Mental Ward– If you can’t handle the truth, don’t look…

9. Shelli Johnson – Author

10. Renee Schuls-Jacobson – Lessons from Teachers and Twits

As award recipients, please pass the award on to up to 14 other bloggers and don’t forget to give us 7 things about you.

Friday Favorites – Resolutions, Writing, and Inspiration

Resolutions–

Since this is the first week of the new year, most bloggers have talked about resolutions. I’ve said lots of times that I’m not a resolution kind of person. I’m a goal setter, which is something I do throughout the year. So, in looking at the posts out there this week, I chose the ones that are the most realistic (I think):

Kristen Lamb writes about planning for success in the new year. These are resolutions I can get behind. I agree with the entire list, but of the items, #3 is the most difficult for me. I am a member of an RWA chapter and I attend meetings regularly. We are a critique chapter, so there is so much to learn, even when it’s not my stuff being critiqued. The hard part is finding critique partners who fit with you: you write at about the same pace and are at about the same place in the journey toward publication. I know people who are already published and are dealing with issues related to that and people who are somewhere behind me, like just finishing their first manuscript. Finding the right fit is hard.

Ginger Calem, who is a fitness trainer in addition to being a writer, is issuing a challenge to writers to become more fit. WritersButt will appear on her blog weekly with a plan to increase your exercise. I found this post late because I was behind (no pun intended) in reading this week, so I haven’t started, but plan to. For the first week, Ginger wants us to drink 100 oz of water a day and do 10 squats every time we go to the bathroom. That sounds easy enough. It’s not taking lots of time away from other stuff, so I might actually follow through.

Writing Advice–

E.J. Wesley talks about the 5 things we can do to become better writers in 2012. Not really resolutions, but things we should be doing anyway (like reading). For me, I think I’ve got these covered. I read a book per week on average, I’ve finished writing 5 1/2 books in the last 4 1/2 years (not all revised, but they’re written), I take at least 1-2 craft classes a year, and I haven’t given up despite the rejections I’ve received. The one I skipped over was to quit being hard on myself. I don’t walk around thinking that I suck as a writer (or I probably would’ve given up long ago), but I am hard on myself. It’s how I push myself to do all the other things on the list.

Jenny Crusie and her friend Krissie (Anne Stuart) have started a new blog called Re-inventing Fabulous. They both have some major life changes they’d like to make and are journaling on the blog for both accountability and support. Now, if you read Jenny Crusie’s books or her author blog, you know that she is a phenomenal writer. She could write her grocery list and I’d pay money to read it (she’s that good). Not only is she funny and great with words, but she’s so damn smart and educated that I always learn from her. This particular post is about not being able to write, as in being stuck, and how pushing harder isn’t necessarily the answer. She ends with:

image taken from Re-inventingfabulous.com

Something that a lot of writers do before they begin the first draft of a manuscript is create a playlist of songs that go with the book. I did it for the first time for my current WIP and I love it. Whenever I’ve been away from my book, I can play the songs and get right back into my characters. The problem for me is finding appropriate music. Although I love music and listen to it all the time, I don’t seek out new stuff. I’m the kind of person that can put on one radio station and never change it — like for years. When creating a playlist for a book, you don’t want to choose songs that have a personal connection for you (or you’ll be bringing up your own memories instead of focusing on the book) and you don’t want something that’s going to be overplayed when you’re not focusing on your book. Angela Peart did a great post on music that inspires her. I had a lot of fun listening to the different bands and songs. It gives me a place to start looking for new music when I need another playlist.

As writers, words are everything. We all have what is known as our “echo” words. Words that we overuse because they’re just part of our everyday vocabulary. (one of mine is just). Julie Glover did a fun post on words that should be banished because of overuse or misuse. Most of these are words or phrases that become popular and then become embedded in everything we read and see. It’s an interesting list. I don’t think I’m too guilty of those.

Just for Fun–

I wanted to include this link because the artwork is amazing (one of Julie’s overused words). I’m not an artist and I love seeing what some people can do with something that seems so simple – chalk. Myndi Shafer posted this on her blog and the art will take your breath away because it looks so real. It reminded me of the scene in Mary Poppins when Mary, Burt, and the children jump into the sidewalk painting.

How is the first week of the new year treating you? Are you following your goals/resolutions?