Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Bonus Tuesday: Snip, An Update, and Input Request

{Note to followers: if you want an email to reach you every time I post, there's two ways. (Thanks, Ane M., for reminding me of this.) Either follow again or go the the left column and subscribe for emails. Thanks.}
 
 It's been an earthquake month in my writing world. My WIP is six and a half years old. Wouldn't you think it's about time I really understood the story? ;-) It started with a working title of MOTHER'S DAY. The basic story was of a recently widowed, retired teacher who was still aching over the fact that she is childless. When she meets an abused foster child, she begins a journey that leads her to become a foster and adoptive parent. Slowly it evolved into a story about abuse in all its various guises and the working title changed to FRIENDLY FIRE.

This month I attempted writing a synopsis and ran into to a huge problem--I had too much story for one book. ;-) And so, with the help of some friends, I revamped and rejuvenated the original theme and MOTHER'S DAY is on again. Now my Cherry Hill series has grown to a potential list of five books centering on the Chandler and Talley families.

I thought I'd get your input on the one paragraph "back cover" version of MOTHER'S DAY:

 Newly widowed retired teacher, Laura Grace Chandler's long-buried ache of childlessness is becoming an open sore. But after meeting Samantha Smith, an abused foster child, she finds that abuse is rampant in her hometown. And she’s at ground zero.  Though Laura Grace isn’t a mother, she knows the look of a child whose parents are missing in action; she’s seen hundreds of children in this position during her thirty years of teaching. Samantha has all the signs. As she gets to know the girl, Laura Grace is drawn to be the mother this child needs.  But to dive into the breach and become this child’s shield, she must open herself to heartache—again.


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I'd love some more input from you, my loyal readers. Since I've been doing the new topic rotation at The Shade (June, July, August, and September) I've noticed that author interviews get the most page views. Mini book reviews and snips weeks come in second. The tips week is lagging behind. 

Comments on the actual blog have been lagging. Though, comments on Facebook and Twitter have been growing. I've been working on promotion through those two outlets and Google + as well. Though, now that I've found the answer to "How do you add share buttons to the bottom of each post?" I'm hoping traffic picks up.

So, what do you think? Is the new schedule working? Do you have any suggestions? Please give me some feedback either here In The Shade, on Facebook, on Twitter (#InTheShade), or at Google +. I can't wait to see what you think?

Speaking of blog posts, check out Rachelle Gardner's post on "13 Simple Tips for a Better Blog"

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Next week: Snips!
Peek-a-Boo!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

September Author Interview--Lara Lacombe

Lara Lacombe is one of my Forum, blogging, and Facebook friends. Her romantic suspense stories are quick and enjoyable. Check out here blog HERE.

IT'S A RACE AGAINST TIME—AND A FATAL OUTBREAK—IN THIS THRILLER OF A DEBUT
In one passionate night, Special Agent James Reynolds and scientist Kelly Jarvis went from friends to lovers. Then Kelly walked away with only an apology. Now James is charged with solving a bioterrorist attack—and Dr. Jarvis works at the suspected lab.


Is Kelly an accomplice or a victim? Just what are her secrets that drove her from James's bed? Soon one thing becomes clear: the ghosts of her past have nothing on the terrorists targeting her and Washington, D.C. Another threat bathes the city in red alert, and now there are lives at stake, in addition to hearts….

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Torn between duty and desire, two strangers must risk all for love. 


Nuclear physicist Dr. Claire Fleming has one rule: never get close to anyone. But when her colleague is murdered and she's targeted next, she must place all her trust in FBI agent Thomas Kincannon. Soon Claire forgets her tenet as she fantasizes about Thomas's touch.
Thomas is wildly attracted to Claire. But his life and his job are too complicated for any romantic entanglements. Despite this, they share a mind-blowing kiss, and there's no turning back. When Thomas's niece is abducted, the stakes become dangerously higher as Claire insists he trade her for the child. Somehow, Thomas must find a way to rescue his family and protect the woman who let her protective walls down just for him.

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ZM: Your novels are delightful, tense romps! I find I can’t put them down. What draws you to romantic suspense?

Lara:  Thank you, Zan Marie!  I’m so happy to hear you enjoy them!

One of the things that drew me to romantic suspense is the inherent conflict in these stories.  Conflict is such an important element of a good story, and with romantic suspense, there’s generally one or two external conflicts driving the plot.  Plus, it’s really easy for characters to get into trouble, and that’s always fun as well.

ZM: Your heroines are all so brainy. How has your personal connection to science helped you develop your leading ladies?


Lara:
I think being a scientist has made it easier for me to get into my heroine’s heads.  I think most people don’t know what it’s like to be a practicing scientist, and it’s gratifying to hear that readers enjoy getting to know a character who has a somewhat unusual job.  Plus, as a professor, I always try to make sure that I get my details correct so that people can (hopefully) learn something new.

ZM: What was your path from drafting the first book to publication? Who is your agent? How did the contract with Harlequin come about?


Lara: Oh, man.  Do you want the short or the long version?

Basically, I started to write DEADLY CONTACT in 2011, and I attended the RWA National conference in 2012.  At that point, I had a full draft of fifty thousand words, and I was looking to pitch to Harlequin.  I met with an editor at the conference, and she told me that the word limit for the line I was hoping to sell to had just been expanded to 75K.  Cue my heart dropping.   Fortunately though, she asked me to send the manuscript to her and she’d take a look.  I did, and a few months later she emailed me with a list of issues to fix and an invitation to resubmit.  It took me a while, but I addressed all her points and sent the book back in.  I was gearing up for another wait, but she contacted me after a week and made an offer!

At this point, I started to panic.  I didn’t have an agent, and had just started seriously looking for one.  Amara Royce (another Forum friend!) mentioned that her agent, Jessica Alvarez with BookEnds, was acquiring, so earlier in the week I had sent her an email.  When I got the offer from Harlequin, I sent her a series of increasingly panicked messages.  Fortunately, she didn’t hold my crazy against me and she responded.  We chatted for a bit, and I really liked her.  I signed with her and she took over the legalese from there!

ZM: Many craft books stress that writers must read and read a lot. Who is your favorite author, or what is your favorite genre? What draws you to a book you read for enjoyment?


Lara: My favorite author?  I’m not sure where to begin…

Seriously though, there are so many authors I admire.  Diana Gabaldon, Jim Butcher, Larry McMurtry, Joanna Bourne, Christopher Brookmyre, Geraldine Brooks, Charlaine Harris.  The list goes on and on.  Romance is my first love, but I’ll read in just about any genre.

The thing that draws me is story.  If the story is good, I’m hooked.  Writing is second—I love a well-crafted sentence, and I learn so much from reading good writing.  I try to take the lessons I absorb and apply them to my own work.  I’m not sure how successful I am, but the nice thing is I can always get better.

ZM: Tell us about what’s next for your books?


Lara: My third book, LETHAL LIES, will be released this December.  I’m also happy to report that I just signed another 2-book contract with Harlequin Romantic Suspense, which means additional books next year!  I’m really excited to share these stories, and I hope people enjoy reading them!

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Zan Marie!


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What do you want to ask Lara about her books?

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 Lara Lacombe earned her Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology and worked in several labs across the country before moving into the classroom. Her day job as a college science professor gives her time to pursue my other love--writing fast-paced romantic suspense.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

September Mini Book Review--Ev Bishop, L.A. Heller, S. Monk Kidd, T. Walsh

Here's a healthy dose for reading with the rain sets in. Enjoy!



BIGGER THINGS Ev Bishop--Women's Fiction

Bishop deftly deconstructs all the faulty self-images women fall prey to, especially the ones associated with body image. All three of her focal characters have a secret and are fully rounded, understandable, and growing. This is a lovely read.




 THE NEVER NEVER SISTERS L. Alison Heller--Women's Fiction
 No two people grow up in the same family--even if it's the same one. The Never Never Sisters is a good exploration of this idea. Good read.


 THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES Sue Monk Kidd--Literary Woman's Fiction

Kidd conjures up a magical coming of age story that takes a deep look at the feminine divine. The collection of images of bees and women is intense and powerful. This is a must read.

THE MOON SISTERS Therese Walsh--Women's Fiction
This is a complex story that follows Olivia and Jazz Moon through the stages of grief. Neither sister has the complete picture. The Moon Sisters is a deeply felt read that will stick with you.

Which of these good reads catches your eyes the most?
 
Happy Reading! Next week I'll introduce you to Lara Lancomb, a romantic suspense author. ;-)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

September Writing Tip Week: How To Start Your Novel

Source

We all know that the first 250 words of our novels can make or break getting an agent, publisher--but most of all--readers. So, how do we make sure our beginnings are pulling readers in? Thanks to the weekly Industry News from Women's Fiction Writers Association, I found a great blogpost on Anne R. Allen's blog. In it her guest, Janice Hardy, analyzed four failings of opening pages.
  1. Having too much backstory and information
  2. Crafting a one-dimensional scene
  3. Using a fake opening
  4. Having a lazy protagonist
Our next step is to analyze the way we usually open. I have to admit I'm most prone to including too much backstory and information. Cutting out the fat and saving it for later is a challenge. Thankfully, I've been a member of writing groups who have helped me see all the necessary bits that needed to be cut. My buddies at the Books and Writers Forum have been the victims readers of many of my failed attempts. 

So, I invite you to weigh in. What do you think about the first 250 words of FRIENDLY FIRE?

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A cloud of sweet baby powder tickled my nose as Jen’s daughter Kayleigh helped a toddler to the serving tables. I hugged my arms to keep from grabbing the child from the teen and burying my nose in his bright silky hair. So many little foster children and none of them would spend Mother’s Day with their moms tomorrow.
 

How many times had my best friend Rosemary told me I needed to get out and back into the swing of things? Her constant concern chafed like a new shirt.
 

The foster family respite party wasn’t what she had in mind. All these poor children. So, what had I been thinking to choose this party of all places? Yet, here I was, pushing cookies, home-baked of course, on grade-school kids at the church’s foster family party.
 

Though I wasn't a mother, I knew the look of children whose parents were MIA. The tall thin blond at the end of the table was a poster child for them all. Her shoulders hunched as the noise of little children at play ricocheted off the fellowship hall’s block walls. Of course she was a foster child, too. But, unlike the others, she wasn’t playing. She didn’t even have a plate of goodies. Her only movement came from her curls that were caught in the current from the air conditioning.

My Tom, God rest his soul, would have sat cross-legged on the floor playing games with the kiddies or giving piggy back rides like some of the men were. We’d poured out our love on other people’s children for over thirty years in our classrooms. Now all I could do for them was bake cookies for them.

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Here's another nifty link for you. Check out The Secret of How to Make Your Book Un-PutDown-able.

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Next Week: September Mini Book Reveiws!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Very Special Day

Since September has a fifth Tuesday, I thought I'd swap the topics and give you a very personal post today. Thirty-seven years ago on September 4, 1977, I married the perfect man. Yes, I know, perfection is in the eye of the beholder, but I promise you that John is the perfect man for me. He's loving, caring, sacrificing, loyal, and always supportive. I owe my entire writing life to him and his support. 

So, I thought I'd share a few pictures from our happy day. We met at what was then West Georgia College, now know as the University of West Georgia in a political science class titled Foreign Relations. Since we're from two different towns in this area, we were blessed to share this class. By the way, the first day of class was on my twentieth birthday. Now that's a gift that keeps on giving. ;-)

May you all find the happiness we've shared. 


I love you!
The entire wedding party on the steps of Kennedy Chapel
Oh, how young we were! And we'd do it all over again.

Yes, it's the perfect setting for a small wedding

Next Week: A Writing Tip ;-)


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Author Interview--Barbara Rogan: Writer, Agent, Editor, Teacher

I’ve read Barbara’s SAVING GRACE, CAFÉ NEVO, ROWING IN EDEN, and A DANGEROUS FICTION. I love all of them. Each is unique, compelling, and populated by wonderful characters. This across-the-board excellence is the mark of a great writer. Barbara Rogan is just that and a fabulous writing teacher, too. Besides regularly facilitating writing exercises at the Books and Writers Forum, she also teaches for Writers Digest’s online school and her own Next Level Workshops. For a full appreciation of her love of helping writers, you have to visit her blog—In Cold Ink—too.



I met Barbara Rogan at the CompuServe Books and Writers Forum when I became a member in late 2008. Her ability to teach, mentor, and write showed through immediately. She has worked in all areas of publishing as an editor, agent, and writer.  On August 13, 2013, I interviewed Barbara when A DANGEROUS FICTION was published and I thought it was time to catch up with her.
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ZM: You’ve worked in all aspects of publishing. What’s been your favorite part of the publishing business?


Barbara: That would undoubtedly be the people I got to work with when I was a literary agent. I was an agent during what in retrospect seems like the heyday of publishing, and I had the pleasure of working with some of the great publishers, like Roger Straus Jr. of FSG, Barney Rossett of Grove, and Bob Gottlieb of Knopf. I was 23 years old when I founded my agency, and to them, I must have looked like a kid who ought to be working in the mail room. But they treated me with the utmost respect and collegiality, considered my submissions seriously, and talked up the books on their current lists. I got to know some amazing writers as well: Isaac Bashevis Singer, Nadine Gordimer, and Madeleine L’Engle in particular stand out.


ZM: You’re blog covers all sorts of craft and marketing tips. I particularly like your interviews with industry insiders. What’s been the best part of blogging for you?


Barbara: As a writer who has worked in the publishing industry, I’ve seen that world from both sides. There are so many misconceptions and myths circulating among writers that I felt compelled to try and put a different perspective out there, demystify the industry a bit. So that is satisfying, and so are the many friendships I’ve struck up through the blog.


ZM: New writers often make rookie mistakes. What are some you’ve noticed over the years? If you had to pick one bit of advice for rookies, what would it be?


Barbara: Almost everyone goes through a period of confusion about point of view early on, but that is a natural stage in learning to write fiction. Generally my advice would be for writers to keep working on their craft. Learning to write effectively is a lifelong endeavor that doesn’t stop once you’re published. The best way to break into print is to write a book that, regardless of current trends and issues in the publishing industry, is simply irresistible.


To get there, most writers have to endure rejections along the way, so that is my second piece of advice. Writers need to toughen up, because rejection, though painful, is part of the process and may even be beneficial, in a cod-liver oil sort of way.


ZM: I still say your characters are the best things about your books. Do you have specific exercises for discovering them, or do they just show up when you start a novel?


Barbara: They evolve during the process of writing. I do a lot of preparatory work before I start a novel, and that involves thinking about who the characters need to be for the story I’m trying to tell. But no matter how much I plan and think, the characters don’t come alive until I begin writing them into scenes. Eventually, after multiple scenes, they take on enough heft of their own that they can surprise you.


ZM: Tell us how the sequel to A DANGEROUS FICTION is coming.  (By the way, I can’t wait to read it. ;-)


Barbara: Thank you! It’s coming along splendidly. A lot of the characters from A DANGEROUS FICTION come back in the second book, including Jo’s German shepherd buddy, Mingus. And Jo is revealing secrets I never knew she had. In addition to contending with another murder, Jo is forced in the new book to delve deeper into her own past.

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Barbara Rogan is the author of eight novels and coauthor of two nonfiction books. Her fiction has been translated into six languages. She has taught fiction writing at Hofstra University and currently teaches for Writers Digest University and in her own online school, Next Level Workshops.  She lives on Long Island.






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Next Week: A very special day!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August Mini Book Review Week--Emily Giffin, Barbara O'Neal, Lind Yezak

I have only three new books for you this month, but because I'm slowly rereading Diana Gabaldon's WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD and devouring the details I missed in my first headlong read. That's a testimony to a great book, don't you think? ;-)
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WHERE WE BELONG Emily Giffin--Women's Fiction

Giffin has written a poignant tale of the unintended consequences that a couple of teens set in motion with their explorations of each other. Every choice Marian makes to deal with her pregnancy at 18 reverberates down through the years until her daughter hunts her out. There's love, pain, and healing in this story. And a measure of peace and hope.



THE ALL YOU CAN DREAM BUFFET Barbara O'Neal--Women's Fiction

What happens when four women food bloggers all reach a turning point in their lives at that same time? They reach out to each other and take the journey together. O'Neal weaves these different characters' stories into a rich tapestry of love and growth.


THE CAT LADY'S SECRET Linda Yezak--Humorous Christian Romance

What happens when a woman with a secret, an eccentric cat lover, a veterinarian, and a small town mix? A delightful tale of love and laughter. Yezak's tale is a fun read, perfect for the beach. 

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Have a great time reading and be sure to share a few suggestions for me to check out. 
Next week, you're in for an interview of a wonderful writer--Barbara Rogan. Don't miss it! 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

August Tips Week: Structuring A Story

All stories must have structure. At least that's what all the craft books say. ;-)

And this is a time when what everyone says is true. Think about trying to figure out a "story" that just meanders from one event to another without any purpose in the telling. It's annoying. So, in the interest of story structure, I thought I'd share three new sources of info I've found in the last few weeks.


Story Spine

Check out the full post HERE. This one excited me so much that I turned right around and did a spine for FRIENDLY FIRE. And it worked!!!! ;-)


Five Key Turning Points

This article shows the way story is structured around doors of no return in 6 stages. Check out Michael Hauge's post HERE. He shows how turning points work in Erin Brokovich and Gladiator. This is very detailed, useful information.


Dan Harmon's Story Structure

Charlotte Rains Dixon has a great post on Story Structure, too. In it she introduces Dan Harmon's structure that I think is a great way to explain many Women's Fiction stories.

Picture this as a circle with point #1 at the top and then each point follows clockwise.

1. A character is in a zone of comfort
2. But they want something.
3. So they enter into an unfamiliar situation
4. And adapt to it.
5. They get what they wanted!
6. But pay a heavy price.
7. They return to their familiar situation
8. Changed forever.


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I can foresee a lot of my time working on finishing the draft of FRIENDLY FIRE involving these ideas. I hope it's helpful for your writing, too.

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Next week: Mini Book Reviews!