Monday, May 2, 2016

The Top 11 Reasons I Love Telling Stories

By Kimberly Jayne

Like woman, I am writer. While I have a few years of womanhood on being a writer, the writer aptitude kicked in only a short five years after birth. Whether by nature or nurture through my father's colorful storytelling, writing is part of my DNA. And now that I've been a writer for many decades, here are my top 11 reasons for loving it.
  1. I get to make up stories about people in quirky situations and conversations that make me laugh. And, like Elizabeth Bennett, "I dearly love to laugh."
  2. I get to say things through my characters about people's wrongdoings that I wish I had the presence and quickness of mind to say in real life at the very moment the wrongdoing occurs.
  3. I get to immerse myself in new adventures and misadventures I might never get the chance to in real life. Who doesn't getting themselves into hot water from time to time? We can't always be good girls, can we? Especially when we can so easily control the outcome.
  4. I can go anywhere. The world is my jalapeno popper. With a little research, some great camera shots, or a practiced imagination, I can hop a trundling train to Hungary during World War I or sail the stormy South Pacific with a swashbuckler on a pirate ship. All I need is a story in which to fit my sojourns, and I'm on vacation.
  5. I get to form tight bonds of friendships and relationships, and out of that sometimes I even get to fantasize sex scenes. Of course, it's much more clinical when you're writing it—the right arm goes here, the left leg goes there… But the end result is fun.
  6. I get the chance to work out life's little complexities, uncovering the right words with the right nuances that give me those revealing "ah-has!" And for some time afterward, I'm happy to tell everyone that I'm quite the smarty-pants.
  7. I get to figure out what motivates people to behave in ways others might not understand, and then dole out the reasons bit by bit through my characters' actions, personalities, and deep, dark, haunting secrets.
  8. I get to fool people into thinking the story is going one direction and surprise them when I lead them through a door they weren't expecting. BOO!
  9. I get to experience every range of my characters' emotions, from titillation to pain, joy to sorrow, excitement to dread. Not surprisingly, I always loved the teeter-totter when I was a kid.
  10. I get to be immersed in a new romance: first flirts, first dates, first kisses, and first sex. It's actually my job to kiss and tell.
  11. I am in charge. Whether my characters live or die is entirely dependent on me. From a character's appearance to his words and actions, I am the unequivocal Queen of the Universe. This is why you always want to be kind to a writer. You never know when you will end up in her story, dead.

And, I get to leave my desk after a productive writing session with a huge sense of accomplishment, especially after I've been "in flow" and the words pour out of my fingers. I like it so well, I'm going to do it again tomorrow.

Take My Husband, Please! By Kimberly Jayne
Sophie Camden is trying to impress an exciting new dating prospect when the two of them fall in a lusty embrace on top of her husband who's asleep on the couch. That's the springboard for this hilarious romantic comedy Take My Husband, Please! by author Kimberly Jayne.

After 20 years of marriage, Sophie is divorcing Will—the man who broke her heart—and re-entering the dating world. Will has accepted their situation, until he experiences a financial apocalypse that sends him back under her roof. To complicate matters, Sophie's new guy, Mitch, isn't keen on dating her without proof that Will is truly out of the picture. But Sophie can't throw the father of her children onto the street in his time of need, so she and her best friend concoct a brilliant bet to keep Will out of the way. The tension between all three escalates to a feverish pitch after Sophie gets roped into sending Will on five blind dates and parlays that ill-fated task into a delicious payback that ultimately forces her to choose between starting over and starting fresh.

Also by Kimberly Jayne:

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Clicking Our Heels - Our Last Supper - Mystery Writer Style

Our Last Supper – Mystery Writer Style

Most of the Stiletto Gang enjoys food and murder, so it seemed natural to find out what some of us would want to eat for our Last Supper:

Marilyn Meredith – Crab cakes, lobster tail, garlic mashed potatoes and asparagus

Jennae M. Phillippe – A series of small plates of delicious dishes, like the hangar steak I had at a French-Vietnamese restaurant the other day, each paired perfectly with wine, and finishing with at least three kinds of dessert, most of which included chocolate.  I would aim for as much flavor variety as possible.  And, no mushrooms!

Paffi Flood – A filet mignon, cooked medium well, with a Caesars salad and a vodka tonic

Sparkle Abbey – That’s so hard, we like all types of food.  Italian, Mediterranean inspired.  We do better with the drink.  For us that would be a margarita!

Bethany Maines – I would order something with a lot of courses that took a lot of time cook and eat.  Let’s just see how long we can make this last. J

Juliana Aragon Fatula – Tamales, arroz, frijoles, cheese, quacamole, sopapillas.  My mom was the greatest cook in my hometown. She sold tamales to make money for Christmas gifts.  She was very popular with the community because of her cooking. Tamales always remind me of the tamalera in my mom’s kitchen once or twice a year with all the Viejas, tias, cousins, comadres.  It was beer and chisme and I learned a lot about life from those parties.
Kay Kendall – Cold shrimp with cocktail sauce.  Hot French bread with lots of garlic butter. Hagen
Daz coffee ice cream.

Dru Ann Love – I would have collard greens, rice, fried chicken, baked macaroni & cheese and for dessert, chocolate frosted yellow cake.  This is the holiday meal I grew up with and its comfort food and makes me think of years past with the family.

Debra H. Goldstein – I’d keep it simple and in line with my usual cooking style: a cheese pizza followed by coffee, chocolate mint, or German chocolate cake ice cream.

Paula Benson - For my last supper, I would ask to go back in time to a place no longer existing called "The Captain's Kitchen." They served wonderful fried seafood in paper bowls and would bring all you could eat of shrimp, scallops, oysters, and perch (with delicious cocktail and tartar sauce) as well as hush puppies and cole slaw. Just when the servers thought my father had no room for more, he would ask for one last bowl of shrimp, "for dessert."

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Bag of Tricks

By Bethany Maines
On my last blog I discussed how I keep the fictional worlds of my books organized (answer: spreadsheets and lists!), but recently I gave a talk on writing to a local high-school and they wanted to know the more nitty-gritty details. Since they are at the start of their writer journey they have yet to discover that many of the struggles of writing are shared by all writers.  What’s that? You have two great scenes, but you’re not sure how to connect them?  You have half a novel written, but you don’t know who the bad guy is yet? You really need the hot guy to land in the heroine’s life, but you don’t know how he gets there?  These are all questions with many possible answers, and like common core math, many possible ways of getting to the answer.
I thought Kimberly Jayne’s recent post about Mindful Daydreaming was a great way to answer many writing questions.  And yesterday’s post from Sally Berneathy’s post about “pantsing” vs. plotting a novel showed how she dives and discovers her book as she goes along.  I have discovered that being a plotter is usually a faster more efficient way for me to write.  When I have all the answers before I start writing, I can write even when I’m not feeling very creative or if I only have five minutes.  But recently, I found myself stuck on the outline.  I stared.  I hammered.  I picked.  I ignored it.  Nothing happened.  And at some point I decided to start writing because you know what happens when you don’t write? Nothing.  So I wrote all the way to where I had outlined and I was just as stuck as I was on the outline.  I was back to being a high-schooler – how do I connect those two scenes? How do I get the hero from point A to point B? Dear God, what happens nexxxxxxxt????
Which is when I decided to take my own advice.  I grabbed a notebook and a pen. Changing the medium can sometimes change my perspective.  I wrote a synopsis of the story from the villain’s point of view.  I wrote a synopsis from the love interests view point. I drew little diagrams about how the storylines connect. I wrote a few paragraphs about the villain’s history and motivation, really diving into what he thinks about the events of the story.  It’s an old saying that each of us is the hero in our own story, and that goes for villains too (see the great post from Jennae Phillippe about A Villain’s Voice).  How does a villain think that his actions are justified? As I answered that question, I discovered more and more about how my story moved forward.  Which is when I put down the pen and typed up my scrawling notes. 
Organizing a novel isn’t just about filing systems; it’s about herding all your characters and ideas into a coherent plot and making sure that everyone gets to the end (or the right end if they happen to be the designated dead body) in a satisfying manner.  But sometimes a writer needs to reach into her bag of tricks and try more than one technique to get the job done.  As I told my room full of high-schoolers, when in doubt…  try, try something else.

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mysteries, Tales from the City of Destiny and An Unseen Current.  You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

The Creation of My Books

by Sally Berneathy

In real life, I’m a spontaneous, unorganized person. Want to go on a trip? Sure, I’m in! Airline reservations? Okay, sure, when I get time. Motels? Oh, we’ll find one.

Fortunately my boyfriend is very organized. He does all those things and I go along.

A couple of years ago I wanted to attend the Writers’ Police Academy. My mystery writer friends had been telling me all year how wonderful it is. They all signed up. I was so excited about going!

Usually I go to conferences with a friend who has the same personality as my boyfriend. She registers, gets a hotel room and a flight, then orders me to register for the conference and get on the same flight.

But she isn’t a mystery writer. When I finally got around to signing up for the Writers’ Police Academy, registration was closed. All spots taken. That sucked! Well, maybe next year.

Then a friend got word that they had a cancellation. Did I want it? Yes! She gave the conference organizer my name, so when I finally got around to contacting him, the slot was, amazingly, still open. Yay!

Then there was the matter of the hotel room. I got on the Internet and checked. No rooms available. Bummer. I called the hotel to find out the closest place I could stay and still get to the conference. Well, the hotel was kind of isolated. Not much else around. Yikes! But as we were talking, someone called and cancelled! I got a room!

In spite of being a pretty flaky person, I manage to get through life with a little luck and a lot of help from my friends.

My writing style follows my life style. There are two types of writers: (1) Plotters who create an outline of the entire story then write the book. (2) Pantsers who write by the seat of our pants. We begin with the beginning and write the book as it unfolds in our brain. I’m a pantser.

I get an idea for a new book. I create a new folder on my computer for that book then the first document entitled “Notes.” In that document I write whatever comes to mind. “Trent’s ex-wife is going to cause problems.” “A body appears on Lindsay’s lawn, and Henry didn’t drag this one in.” “Rick has a scheme for taking over the international chocolate market.” I also keep notebooks stashed around the house and in my car so I can make notes as ideas occur to me. “Rick GF bro drugs.” Those notes are often hard to decipher, especially the ones written while sitting in my car at a red light or in bed in the middle of the night when I don’t want to turn on the light and wake the boyfriend.

The first chapter unfolds in my head like a movie. I simply write it down.

Then I take that first chapter and my cluttered notes to my critique group and they say things like, “Are you crazy? Fred can’t have a secret baby!”

With a better understanding of what may or may not happen in my upcoming book, I go home and continue writing. Each scene is a surprise. Magic happens. I realize that the cast iron skillet I put in Chapter 2 has a purpose! It’s exactly what Lindsay needs in Chapter 9 to whack her ex over the head.

As I reach the halfway point of the first draft, new plot points come up as if by magic. I write a sticky note for each one. “Go back to Chapter 3 and insert something about the witch in the window.” “Check for references to Chaille and be sure each one shows she’s bat crap crazy.” “Give Chuck a gun in Chapter 7 but he doesn’t know which end the bullets come out of.”

When I do my first round of revisions, I throw away each sticky note as I make the designated change. When my desk is clean, I know my story line is logical.

I sometimes wish I could be a plotter. Like having airline and motel reservations in advance of a trip, an outline of my book would make writing it much easier and reduce the stress of wondering if the Scene Fairy will give me the next one.

When I wrote for Harlequin/Silhouette in the 1990s, I had to turn in a proposal for each new book. A proposal consisted of the first three chapters and a synopsis of the rest of the book. Writing the first three chapters was easy, but the synopsis was a nightmare. I’d call my editor almost every day and bounce ideas off her. She was The Best Editor and always willing to help. Finally after twice the time it took me to write those first three chapters, I’d finish a satisfactory synopsis and send it off. They’d buy the book and I’d write the rest of it…and from Chapter 4 through the end, it had nothing to do with that stupid synopsis.

Now that I write for myself, I don’t have to pretend I know the ending of the book until I get there. Amazingly, I always get there…with a little luck and a lot of help from my friends.