Monday, June 29, 2009

Genre writing

"A good writer can write in any genre." - Mike Arnzen, SHU ~ "As long as they read, read, read in that genre."

When I heard this at my Master's residency this week I thought, "YES!" You see, after writing 33 romances and only publishing 9 -- 7 western historicals and 2 romantic suspense--I have begun to wonder if I would be more successful in another genre. So, I've immersed myself lately in YA and thrillers/mystery. (Sorry Mike, no horror for me...yet. Although I came close with a dark urban fantasy I wrote.) My immersion in other genre's has met with some resistance by other writers. They smile kindly to my face and whisper-"Good luck with that" behind their hands. Because the prevailing wisdom is choose a genre and stick with it always. There is some truth in this-you really learn the market and you build an audience that translates into better sales with each book. (so the theory goes.) It's smart. Think of the old cliche- "jack of all trades master of none."

But I've been writing romance for 15 years- I've published 9 and really haven't found my breakout point. Once you hit this level of experience, it's not necessarily a bad thing to explore other options- many famous novelists do- Steven King, and Nora Roberts to name a few. (And no, I have no illusions that I'm at their level.) But that doesn't mean that exploring other genres isn't the right thing for me to do at this point in my career.

I knew this- I believed this- and I am doing this despite the whispers behind my back- LOL- Still it was good to hear someone else agree with me. When you break a solid rule, sometimes it's nice to hear someone else validate your reasons for doing so.

Point being- no matter what genre you write- read, read, read- in that genre and others and don't be afraid to try something new. Cheers!

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Today is the Summer Solstice--the longest day and shortest night of the year. In honor of the celebration I'm posting some interesting information. (Writer's take note--cool story ideas come out of old traditions.)

Summer Solstice Fun Facts:*

Awed by the great power of the sun, civilizations have for centuries celebrated the first day of summer otherwise known as the Summer Solstice, Midsummer (see Shakespeare), St. John's Day, or the Wiccan Litha.
The Celts & Slavs celebrated the first day of summer with dancing & bonfires to help increase the sun's energy. The Chinese marked the day by honoring Li, the Chinese Goddess of Light.
Perhaps the most enduring modern ties with Summer Solstice were the Druids' celebration of the day as the "wedding of Heaven and Earth", resulting in the present day belief of a "lucky" wedding in June.

Pagans called the Midsummer moon the "Honey Moon" for the mead made from fermented honey that was part of wedding ceremonies performed at the Summer Solstice.Ancient Pagans celebrated Midsummer with bonfires, when couples would leap through the flames, believing their crops would grow as high as the couples were able to jump.Midsummer was thought to be a time of magic, when evil spirits were said to appear. To thwart them, Pagans often wore protective garlands of herbs and flowers. One of the most powerful of them was a plant called 'chase-devil', which is known today as St. John's Wort and still used by modern herbalists as a mood stabilizer.

Enjoy the first day of summer!! Maybe even build a bonfire if you are able--eat a s'more or two and remember the darkness begins it's return tomorrow... (Cheery thought, isn't it?) Cheers!

*Thanks to for the information on the 2009 Summer Solstice.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Flag Day

Today is Flag day in the United States. Most people don't even blink. They go about their day as if it is any other. But as a veteran of the US Air Force, I have particular pride in the flag and what it stands for. I see the millions of men and women who have stood behind it and fought for what it stands for - home, civil rights, freedom from tyranny. Yes, I'm a patriot. Having moved a lot in my life, I don't really have a "hometown." But where ever I go they all wave the same flag. So, I'll leave you with the following taken from the official U.S. Flag website - I know, who knew the flag had it's own official website. :)

"Franklin K. Lane, Secretary of the Interior, delivered a 1914 Flag Day address in which he repeated words he said the flag had spoken to him that morning: "I am what you make me; nothing more. I swing before your eyes as a bright gleam of color, a symbol of yourself."

Inspired by these three decades of state and local celebrations, Flag Day - the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777 - was officially established by the Proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson on May 30th, 1916. ...(and on) August 3rd, 1949, that President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day.

Yea for the Stars and Stripes. Long may you wave.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Your Creative Process or The Importance of Abandoning Crap

I wrote in one of my daily blogs this week about finding a great link from twitter to a series of videos of Ira Glass speaking about the story process. I promised I would write more about it on today's blog.
Hopefully you can follow my thought processes on this...I was on twitter when I saw this tweet by @ThereseWalsh "Not enough gets said about the importance of abandoning crap." Ira Glass on Storytelling I thought- BINGO- the importance of abandoning crap. So many would-be writers spend years on the same story- the same few chapters-not moving on until they get someone to tell them those chapters are perfect and will garner them an immediate sale and NYT bestseller listing... except it won't. It doesn't work that way. Some people cling to a story thinking it is the only one they have in them... maybe it is... most likely it's not. The point being to finish the story-it's imperfections are what make it unique. Then move on to a second story. You can revise story one and query for it once you start story two.
What? you say, no!-- one thing at a time... Listen trust me. Stories need to peculate or cook. Finish story one and then start story two. Give story one time to cook. Then go back. You have to write more than one full book to discover your story learn, to grow. Each person's process is different and that's OKAY. Really.
Unfortunately, as I've mentioned before, writer's are superstitious. Due to the vast subjectivity of what gets published, what gets marketed, etc. This superstition leads us to search out "rules" that will give us instant searching for the perfect diet that will make us all slim, beautiful and young for life... Which leads to a lot of so called "rules of craft" out there. Now, don't get me wrong most of these are valid and important to learn. But following them does not mean you will be published and dazzle with your talent and hit the Times list the first time out. No matter how many people tell you "it's a rule."
A few years into my "writer's journey" I had written five full manuscripts, hired an agent, fired an agent, I was told by a "published author"..."Your problem is you write too fast." What? "You write too fast. You skip too much. You're all over the place." Huh. An unpublished critique partner of this author nodded. "That was my problem. I wrote too fast. I've since slowed way down and really take care with my words." (To this day she is still unpublished.)
How does this relate to Ira Glass?-- in the video, he said that what people don't talk about is how much time it takes to find a good story. How many stories you have to sift through to find the one that sparkles. This hit me. That is what I do. (Thank you Ira for validating my process) My writing process is fast because I'm exploring the stories in my head, sifting and creating, searching for the one that will draw you in and entertain you. Or sifting through the ways to best tell a story that I know is good, but I've just not written it right yet. It's MY process. And yes, I have learned "the importance of abandoning crap." Some of my stuff is crap. *shrug* It's a process.
But you can't know it's crap until you write it-all the way through. Think of it like cooking. You see a recipe-sounds good- you try it. It tastes bad. You throw it out. BUT- a good cook will think about what made it taste bad-over cooked, too much salt, a wrong ingredient...and try again. It's part of the creative process. No one just cooks the first dish perfectly-there are too many variables-oven temperature, humidity, etc. And no one-no one- can be a chef if they don't ever finish a recipe all the way through.
Write the entire book...write another... learn your process... abandon the crap that doesn't work...use your process as the basis for your career and you will succeed. And more importantly if you need a published author to validate your process- I'm here, right now to tell you that when you finish a book-no matter how you finished the book- your creative process is valid. Now- go write another.

(Ira Glass speaks on story telling using video-but his words work for writing as well. A special Thank You to Therese Walsh for the link.)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

WAG, part 15

“WAG #15: Best Tool For The Job” Thanks to Paige for the topic idea! Paige’s idea was to have the topic this week be about writing tools such as a keyboard or favourite pen, but I’d like to expand this to be any type of tool, whether it’s a gardening tool or a jackhammer or a toenail clipper. Describe a favourite tool in concrete terms, but also show how you (or whomever it belongs to) feel about using it, and how it leaves an individual or particular mark on the end product.

An old woman, Sally has her favorite container of gardening tools. She puts on her big floppy hat to shield the sun from her face and neck. Then tugs on her gardening gloves-thick strong canvas with a red speckled flower pattern on white. Well, they used to be white but are now stained with the green and black of plant juice and mud. She picks up the wooden container and goes out to her flower bed, kneels on her knee pads and looks over her container for the right tool for the job. Rather like an experienced golfer will look over his bag of clubs, perhaps pulling one out, then changing his mind and putting it back. The scent of lilacs on the cool breeze washes over her face as she studies her tool box. Finally she selects the right tool. A shiny hand spade with a dark brown wooden handle. She takes good care of her gardening tools. Unlike her gloves, they are carefully cleaned and shined after each use. So, the tip of the spade is sharp enough to cut through hardened dirt and errant roots.

The first slice into the dirt fills her with satisfaction as her arm absorbs the shock of it. She tastes dirt in the air. The sun warms her through her cotton blouse. Her shoulder and back muscles bunch and elongate as she digs out weed roots and mixes in compost. Then, again, the blade cuts smoothly through the ground as she creates holes a few inches deeper than the plant pots, a few inches wider.

She doesn't plant her flowers in rows. That seems archaic and unimaginative. No, she groups them in groupings of three and five, ensuring the smaller plants are in front while the larger plants take up the rear. Like good little soldiers.

She sits back on her heels and surveys the work. The flower bed is picture perfect. Her gloves covered in dirt lost any pattern they once had. The small shovel is caked in dirt and compost. It is a good tool. She gets up and knows she will wash it off, sharpen the edge and oil it out of respect for the help it has given her. The job it will do the next time she gardens. Job complete she walks back to her tool shed, tired but content. No one will ever suspect her late husband rests under her flowers, happy to finally be of use.

To read the other wonderful WAG blogs or to join in on our writing adventures, click on Nixy Valentine's blog. Cheers!