Friday, May 29, 2009

Memo to Self: Don’t Quit.

Are you having the day/week/month I’ve been having?

Notes next to computer:

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” ~ Lance Armstrong

“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.” ~ Vince Lombardi

“It's always too early to quit.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale

“Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never - in nothing, great or small, large or petty - never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” ~ Winston Churchill

“Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul.”
~ Douglas MacArthur

“Never quit. It is the easiest cop-out in the world. Set a goal and don't quit until you attain it. When you do attain it, set another goal, and don't quit until you reach it. Never quit.”
~ Paul (Bear) Bryant

“It's when things get rough and you don't quit that success comes.”

~ Unknown.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
~ Mark Twain

Please, excuse me. I’ve got work to do.

~ Roxanne Sherwood

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

PJ Sugar: Nothing But Trouble by Susan May Warren

So what's Susan May Warren's latest book, PJ Sugar: Nothing But Trouble, about?

PJ Sugar knows three things for sure:

After traveling the country for ten years hoping to shake free from the trail of disaster that’s become her life, she needs a fresh start.

The last person she wants to see when she heads home for her sister’s wedding is Boone—her former flame and the reason she left town.

Her best friend’s husband absolutely did not commit the first murder Kellogg, Minnesota, has seen in more than a decade.

What PJ doesn’t know is that when she starts digging for evidence, she’ll uncover much more than she bargained for—a deadly conspiracy, a knack for investigation, and maybe, just maybe, that fresh start she’s been longing for.

It's not fair to say that trouble happens every time PJ Sugar is around, but it feels that way when she returns to her hometown, looking for a fresh start. Within a week, her former teacher is murdered and her best friend's husband is arrested as the number-one suspect. Although the police detective investigating the murder--who also happens to be PJ's former flame--is convinced it's an open-and-shut case, PJ's not so sure. She begins digging for clues in an effort to clear her friend's husband and ends up reigniting old passions, uncovering an international conspiracy, and solving a murder along the way. She also discovers that maybe God can use a woman who never seems to get it right

I read Nothing But Trouble in two days. It would have taken me less time to read the book, but I had to eat and sleep and do some writing of my own during the same time. The book grabbed me from the first two sentences: PJ Sugar would never escape trouble. Clearly she couldn't shake free of it--regardless of how far and fast she ran.

Nothing But Trouble is a fun read and I'm already looking forward to the next book in the PJ Sugar series. How can you not like a gal who disguises herself as a massage therapist and a lawn maintenance person just to help prove her best friend's husband isn't a murderer? And in between running down answers to questions, PJ battles her past--with her old boyfriend, with her mom, and even with herself and the choices she's made.

Susan May Warren left me--and all her other readers--hanging with a few unanswered questions. What's PJ stand for? And what's going to happen between PJ and her high school sweetheart, Boone? Or PJ and the mysterious new guy?

Warren does a good job at getting to the heart of her characters. I find myself thinking about them after I finish the book, wishing I could call them up and give them some advice to help them figure out their lives. Or maybe they could help me figure out mine. I find myself reading and nodding my head, thinking, "I know just how you feel."

That's when you know you are reading good fiction--when it feels like real life.

That said, Warren's plot gets a little sidetracked with PJ's sister's Russian in-laws--see how convoluted that looks just when I write it? Try keeping track of it as a subplot in her book. It added some comic relief, but at times I found it distracting.

To get a dose of PJ Sugar, go here to read the first chapter of Nothing But Trouble. Be forewarned--you're gonna want to read the whole book!

To find out what other bloggers are saying about Nothing But Trouble, go here.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Tools You Can Use: Ebook Publishing

"And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt" —Sylvia Plath

By Scoti Springfield Domeij

We've Come a Long Way, Baby

When Gutenberg invented the printing press, it made the Bible and books available to the every day man. In The Wall Street Journal, author Steven Johnson wrote, "While we now possess terabytes of data at our fingertips, we have nonetheless drifted further and further away from mankind's most valuable archive of knowledge: the tens of millions of books that have been published since Gutenberg's day." Read his article "How the E-Book Will Change the Way We Read and Write."

Create. Publish. Share Your Own EBook.

Like the digital music revolution, myebook.com, a free eBook creation and publishing platform with social networking features, gives back total control to the content creator and the reader. Some say everyone has a book in them. If that is true, then MyEbook, allows anyone to publish his or her book with a single button and release it to the world before the (virtual) ink's dry.

Once you register and launch the application, you can choose how many pages your book will be and whether you want to use a template or a blank canvass. You can create from scratch, beautifully simple or adventurously complex page designs and covers online, in no time. If you failed to select enough pages, it's easy to add more pages. The many ways to use myebook.com is as unlimited as your imagination.

  • Novels
  • Comics
  • Leaflets
  • Brochures
  • Magazines
  • Photo albums
  • Children's books
  • Instruction manuals
  • Family photo albums
  • A child documents a family trip
  • Personal or corporate publications
  • A student's short story in English class

MyEbook Features

  • Free browser-based eBook publishing platform
  • Upload and publish your eBooks online with just one click
  • Include beautiful colors and graphics
  • Link to videos, audio, documents, images and flash files from the eBook
  • Nothing to install or download
  • Join and interact with the community
  • Browse eBooks published by other members
  • Receive feedback on your eBook
  • Lists your eBook in their library section
  • Over 1100 published eBooks
  • Browse eBooks by popularity or category (Business, History, Travel, etc.)
  • View and read eBooks online on a sleek eBook viewer
  • Register to post comments and create your own eBook
  • FREE

Myebook Facebook Application

Add your eBooks to your Facebook profile. Send your eBook to colleagues. Put all your Facebook photos into a slick, page turning eBook with the click of a mouse. Then publish and share it with family and friends.

Ebook Price Comparison Site

If you decide to publish an eBook, how do you price it? Ebookprice.info is an online eBook price comparison site. After evaluating eBooks comparable to yours, you can determine a competitive cost.

Ebookprice.info Features

  • Search by author, book title or ISBN
  • Search results are sorted by device type: Kindle, Adobe, Mobipocket, Microsoft, Palm and PDF
  • Compare eBook prices across popular eBook stores—Amazon, eBooks.com, Diesel, eReadable and Powell's
  • No registration
  • FREE

Friday, May 22, 2009

Take 5: A Daily Dose of Writing Quotes

"In the beginning you may be writing around what you want to say instead of getting to the core. Keep writing. The route may be circuitous but after you zero in on what you truly want to say, you'll see that during all those false starts and detoured storylines, you weren't wasting time, as you feared. You were developing as a writer, developing a discerning eye and ear, finding your own voice, learning to respect self-imposed deadlines."
~Madeleine Costigan, editor and author

"In nearly all good fiction, the basic - all but inescapable - plot form is this: A central character wants something, goes after it despite opposition (perhaps including his own doubts), and so arrives at a win, lose, or draw."
~John Gardner, author

"A writer's job is to imagine everything so personally that the fiction is as vivid as memories."
~John Irving, author

"Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil - but there is no way around them."
~Isaac Asimov, author

“Like the committed writer, the passionate writer is sure of herself. Not only that, she's on fire with certainty. Ideas explode from her like hot spots from the sun. When she writes, she tears the paper with her enthusiasm.”
~Judy Reeves, writer & teacher

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

5 Reasons Characters' Careers Matter

Raymond Obstfeld and Franz Neumann, authors of Careers for Your Characters: A Writer's Guide to 101 Professions from Architect to Zookeeper, list five reasons the professions of your characters matter.

1) Establishing credibility. A professional who's believable (i.e. a well-written cop) will allow the reader to "check their skepticism at the door."

2) Character. The profession implies a lot about the character and spares the reader pages of pace-hindering narrative. Readers can instantly apply their pre-conceived ideas about occupations, even if those notions are later turned on their side—as the convict with a heart of gold.

3) Setting. The setting of a character's profession (a law firm, a forensic office, a cattle ranch) adds rich details.

4) Plot. A character’s profession may be the main catalyst for the story’s plot. If she's a detective or a lawyer, then there will usually be a crime. If he’s a teacher, there will usually be a conflict with a student.

As the old adage says, “If a gun is hanging on the wall in act one, then somebody better fire it by act three.” If your character is a fireman, then a fire must be pivotal to the plot. There must be a reason for your character to have that particular profession.

5) Theme. A story’s theme is often directly related to the protagonist’s profession. Obstfeld and Neumann give this example: a lawyer may seek order in life because she fears the chaos that human emotions sometimes produce. As a result, she may repress her own emotions and therefore be closed off emotionally, unable to form relationships.

People read novels for many reasons. One of them is to learn about unique jobs. Give your characters unusual careers and allow your readers to experience professions they’d otherwise never know about.

~Roxanne Sherwood

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Much Ado about Nothing and the Writing Life

"And nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man's best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind…"—C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

By Scoti Springfield Domeij

Much Ado about Nothing and the Writing Life

Are you a "wishful" or a "wish-come-true" writer?

Take a page or an electronic document filled with—nothing. Not one letter, not one paragraph.

Empty. Void.

Don't type. Just think about writing. Now watch your page until something happens. How long will it take for your page filled with nothing to write that story you've always wanted to write? Does your writing ambition mirror that Spanish proverb, "How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterwards"?

Just How Patient Are You?

If you don't write or type, your wait will be endless. Nothing plus nothing equals? Your novel? Your article? Your story? NOT(hing)!

Only wishing you'd write—not putting words on paper—never produces anything. Nothing creates nothing.

To write risks exposing your heart, telling the truth, discovering your writing skills, and receiving rejection. The more you write, the less risky it feels and you develop more confidence to take risks.

What's the Greatest Hindrance to Unlocking Opportunities for Publication?

Risking nothing.

Want your writing wishes to come true? Adopt this writer's proverb, "Don't put off tomorrow, what you can write today."

Now write! Start today.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Contest: Sugar Bomb from Author Susan May Warren

Susan May Warren's latest book, PJ Sugar: Nothing But Trouble, hits stores today! To celebrate, Susan is throwing a "Sugar Bomb!"

Every one who purchases a copy of the book will be entered into the contest to win a Sugar Spa Basket. All you need to do is purchase a book at Amazon or CBD (or anywhere else) and then come back here and leave Susan a message letting her know where you bought your book. Easy.

I've read Nothing But Trouble and will be blogging about it later this month. It's a great read!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Choosing Careers for Your Characters

"Write what you know."

If there is a single, universal phrase heard by every writer, it's that one. But it's true. Nothing beats writing from your experience in a career. Interviewing an expert in your character's occupation is a close second. When neither of those options is possible, research through the internet and books. This keeper sits on my writing craft bookshelf: Careers for Your Characters: A Writer's Guide to 101 Professions from Architect to Zookeeper by Raymond Obstfeld and Franz Neumann. The authors hope this book will give you the confidence to portray 101 professions well. You may not need another source. If you do, this book lists the best resources to aid your research. Information on each occupation includes:

The Lowdown: provides an overview to help determine if the career is right for your character.

Job Description: gives a general description about the responsibilities of the job.

Daily Life: shows a typical daily schedule with buzz words and clothing worn.

Education: provides educational requirements needed.

Job Conflicts: includes ideas to develop plot and character conflicts inherent in this profession.

Myths about the Job: exposes stereotypes. If you avoid stereotypes, you'll create more believable characters.

Jobs within the Profession: lists specific jobs within the field. Resources are provided for further research.

Additional Occupations: lists different, but related jobs.

Nonfiction Resources: lists books and documentary movies for additional research.

Fiction Resources: lists novels, movies, and TV shows to immerse yourself in the field.

Web Sites: provides the best web sites for additional research.

Book Excerpts: gives short excerpts from movies and novels about the profession.

Careers for Your Characters will save you time researching professions. Entries include broad description and fine details, including salary, hazards and jargon. The book is a wonderful resource packed with information to help you create believable characters with interesting professions. If you don't have access to an expert in profession, this book will let you fake it. ;-)

~Roxanne Sherwood

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Fiction Writer’s Guide to Psychology

"In the old days villains had moustaches and kicked the dog. Audiences are smarter today. They don't want their villain to be thrown at them with green limelight on his face. They want an ordinary human being with failings."—Alfred Hitchcock

By Scoti Springfield Domeij

Need Psychology Information for Your Fiction?

  • Does your character need psychotherapy?
  • Looking for the psychology behind a really great villain?
  • Wish you could ask a real clinician your psychology questions?
  • How can you make the psychologist in your fiction sound like a real shrink?

Before you lobotomize your character or send her off to electroshock therapy, check out Archetype: The Fiction Writer's Guide to Psychology.

Archetype Features

Friday, May 8, 2009

Take 5: A Daily Dose of Writing Quotes

“One nice thing about putting the thing away for a couple of months before looking at it is that you start to appreciate your own wit. Of course, this can be carried too far. But it's kind of cool when you crack up a piece of writing, and then realize you wrote it. I recommend this feeling.”~ Steven Brust, fantasy writer

“Writing is like hunting. There are brutally cold afternoons with nothing in sight, only the wind and your breaking heart. Then the moment when you bag something big. The entire process is beyond intoxicating.”~Kate Braverman, novelist & poet

“If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it."~Toni Morrison , Nobel Prize winning author

“You have to learn how to use your energy and not squander it. In the writing process, the more a thing cooks, the better. The brain works for you even when you are at rest."~Doris Lessing, Nobel Prize winning author

“In my first writing class, I was given the most valuable advice that a young writer could receive. The professor said, 'Take a situation that intrigues you and ask yourself two questions: Suppose? and, What if? Then turn the situation into fiction.”
~Mary Higgins Clark, suspense novel author

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What do I want (my character) to be?

What did you want to be when you grew up?

As a preschooler, I wanted to be a singer. I stood on the family toy box, hairbrush in hand, imagining myself wearing a formal gown and standing in the spotlight on a huge stage. I’d march along to the music in my mind and belt out, “I’m the Girl Scout of the Americas . . .” I'm not sure why I combined the Miss America Beauty Pageant with the Girl Scouts in my young mind. Hey, I was a preschooler, so please cut me a little slack.

Since I can’t carry a tune even if my life depended on it, I changed my career goal in elementary school to acting. I practiced dying. A lot. Ever seen The Princess Bride? “Only mostly dead” had nothing on me. Alas, my father encouraged me to take up typing . . . just in case.

I’ve always loved books, and by high school, I wanted to be an editor because I needed to earn a living and didn’t believe I could be an author. But my friends’ jeers, “Why on earth would you want to read all day?” and adults’ advice, “You’re good at math and science. You should go into computers; it’s the future,” made me doubt myself. In college, I majored in computer science, followed by speech therapy, and then education. Next, I chose majors in the college of journalism: advertising, magazine journalism, and public relations. After three universities and half-dozen majors, I no longer cared. I just wanted to graduate.

A fun perk about fiction writing is that you can explore many different careers. If you’re interested in learning about something new, or if you think your readers would like to delve into an unusual career, you’ve got the perfect opportunity to “grow up” and become someone else, at least for a little while.

Though David Morrell grew up to become a professor and the author of First Blood, which introduced the world to Rambo, it's possible Morrell writes fiction so that he can try-out the careers he once dreamed of. Morrell is noted for thorough research. His website says he’s “been trained in firearms, hostage negotiation, assuming identities, executive protection, and anti-terrorist driving, among numerous other action skills that he describes in his novels.

I’m not quite as intrepid as Mr. Morrell. If I have a character parachute from an airplane, I may depend on secondary research. I am fortunate three of my college-age children jumped last summer, so I’ll rely on their experience leaving the terra firma. I'm not that adventurous in my primary research. Still, as I zipped along on the back of a motorcycle this spring, I imagined a new character venturing out of her narrow, middle-aged world.

Meanwhile, I’ve started a notebook about careers of the people I know. On a recent trip, I met a physician’s assistant, a realtor, a financial advisor, a missionary, an attorney specializing in cases of imminent domain, a psychologist, an English pub owner, and a glass artist. I can’t wait to interview the artist because I’ve been developing a character who expresses herself through an unusual art form.

What interesting careers have crossed your path lately?

~Roxanne Sherwood

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tools You Can Use: Google’s News Timeline

"Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away." —Marcus Aurelius

By Scoti Springfield Domeij

What's Going On in the World? A Visual Map

Research is part of a writer's life whether you write fiction or nonfiction. Google's News Timeline helps you research through time and space. Finding ways to save time researching, adds to your actual writing time. What news stories, personalities or events denominated your novel's timeframe? What recent statistics would support your book proposal? Google's News Timeline offers numerous creative opportunities to use this tool to beef up your writing.

Google's News Timeline Features

  • View daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, or even decade-centric stories
  • Follow important stories over time
  • Find older stories hidden in newspaper and magazine archives
  • View trends in events, culture and society or the careers of famous people
  • Refine your search to specific times, magazines, newspapers, or blogs
  • Search specific categories, including news quotes or news photos, blogs, TV shows and even prizes, like the Nobel
  • Display all recent New York Times book reviews
  • Organizes information chronologically on a zoomable, graphical timeline
  • Set the specific time period
  • Filters movies, sports scores, music, and magazines
  • View news and other data sources on a browsable, graphical timeline
  • Searches historical news, scanned newspapers and magazines, blog posts, sports scores, and information about various types of media, like music albums and movies
  • Click on an area of the timeline to zoom in and look at a shorter date range in finer detail, or simply double-click to zoom out
  • Control the width of the columns, by selecting sizes of small, medium or large, to change the scale to shrink or enlarge the data on the timeline
  • Go directly to a specific date by entering the date into the "Date" field on the control bar
  • Date field recognizes phrases like today, yesterday, this week or last week, and this month or last month
  • "Wikipedia Events" and "Time Magazine" are built-in by default, but you can turn those sources off
  • Add events, births, and deaths from Wikipedia by selecting "Wikipedia" from the menu bar and entering the category you'd like displayed on the timeline
  • View information from Freebase about various types of media, including books, music, and movies

Friday, May 1, 2009

The 100 Most Beautiful Words in English

For all my "wordy" friends, here's some Friday fun: The 100 Most Beautiful Words in English.

Sez who?

The list was compiled by Robert Beard, aka Dr. Goodword, who has been making dictionaries, creating word lists, and writing poetry for 40 years. For five years he wrote the Word of the Day at YourDictionary.com and since 2004 he has been writing the series, "So, What's the Good Word?" at alphaDictionary.com.

Without further ado, here's a peek at some of the Top Ten words on the list. For the complete list, go here.

Aestivate -- (verb) to spend the summer, to summer somewhere
Ailurophile -- (noun) a cat-lover, a fancier of cats
Assemblage -- (noun) may be the act of assembling or the state of being assembled
Becoming -- (adjective) The fundamental meaning of becoming is “attractive” but it may refer either to attractive people or attractive behavior (behaviour outside the US), where the meaning leans more toward “appropriate”.
Beleaguer -- (verb)to overburden with troubles
Billet-doux -- (noun) a short love note
Brood -- (noun) a number of young produced or hatched at one time
Bucolic -- (adjective) suggesting an idyllic rural life
Bungalow -- (noun) a one-story cottage
Chatoyant -- (adjective) changing in luster or color

Many thanks to my well-read sister, Theresa, for sending me the link to this list!