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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Put Some Clothes On

I critique other's work and they read and critique mine. We look for superfluous words, grammar mistakes, things that don't ring true and dead weight sentences or paragraphs among other things. One of the things I hear little of is: I didn't get it.

Several in my critique group have written short stories that I've read and while I enjoyed the writing I was left wondering what the point was. I knew there was one because the stories were strewn with symbolism. Symbolism I could only guess the meaning of.

The critiques came back on those stories with the usual red marks. I didn't want to be the only one to ask, "what did that mean?" So, I almost didn't. I didn't want to appear stupid. Obviously, everyone else understood it.

Remember the story: The Emperor's New Clothes? Well, that's what came to mind. "Yes, great story. Deeply thought provoking. Yes, absolutely amazing." Or in other words, "Yes, I see the emperor's clothes. Beautiful. Just beautiful."

I would hate someone to read my work and come to a wrong conclusion. What if at the end of the story the reader is unclear what it all meant? They will surely fill in the blanks for themself and most likely their perceived meaning of my work will be way off from the one I intended. Maybe the one they provide is hell is only a figment of my insane main character's imagination and as soon as she gets on medication, she'll stop hallucinating?

Ahh. All my work would be in vain. That is not what I want the reader to come away with. The point was that there is a hell, demons are real, and their is a very real spritual battle being fought all around us. That's no good.

If your reader is unsure of the meaning of your story, they will provide one. It very likely will not be the one you intended. To me, that's a little scary.

I decided I want to know what people think my stories are about, and so I ask. With Saving Eden, my readers were clear on it. That was good. I don't mind some wondering about inconsequential things. For instance, in The Demon Chaser, I have the devil carry around a skull he says belonged to his first human recruit.

One of my critters asked, "Is it Eve's?"
Another, "Is it Cain's?"

I didn't think it was Eve's, personally. But, for my story, it doesn't matter. So, on that point, I'll let there be debate. But not on my overall take away message. That one's non-negotiable.

As for my critique friends, I decided to allow myself to appear stupid and ask them what the meaning of their stories were. One friend simply said it was literary fiction and it didn't neccesarily have to make sense. In fact, some of the best appreciated literary fiction didn't. He didn't explain his story, or change it to make the meaning clearer.

With another critique partner, I suggested she ask everyone who read it what they thought it meant. I'm guessing she gets some interesting answers. Maybe some she doesn't like. But, the truth is certainly better than everyone telling you how beautiful your garb is when you're actually walking around butt naked.

So, go ahead and ask, "Does my story make sense to you? What do you think it meant?"

And if you get some answers that make you cringe, go back to your work and rewrite to clarify.

In other words, put some clothes on.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Levi and Jacob. The loves of my life. Posted by Picasa

Tunnel Vision

The first day of nursing school my instructor told the class to look to our left and right, which we did. "One of the people you're sitting next to won't make it," she said.

Huh, I thought, I wonder which one. Then I realized two people were looking at me and wondering if I would.

The instructor was right. Nearly half our class dropped out along the way.
Every day, I thought about it too. Nursing school was incredibly hard. I ate, breathed, and slept pathophysiology and microbiology for three long years. I hated almost every minute of clinicals.

Every day I considered quitting. Every day. Lucky for me I had a boyfriend at the time,(hi Mark) that shared his motto "never say die". Anytime I cried that I just couldn't make it another day, he repeated that phrase.

My motto was that I would quit tomorrow. I'd get through today and then consider giving up in the morning. Well, when the morning came, I said the same thing.

I graduated near the top of my class and their vice-president. I'll never forget the face splitting smile I wore down the aisle to pick up my diploma and degree. I was so proud of myself. I couldn't believe the day had really come that I'd made it.

I read somewhere, so believe me I'm not saying it's a fact, that one in 20K novels gets published. Gulp. I don't know if that's right but it probably is.

I read lots of ms (manuscripts). Some are better than others. Some writers reek of talent. Some just reek. But, I have an idea of which will eventually make it...and it's not neccesarily the most talented ones.

The writers who have tunnel vision.

You have to in this business when you're trying to break it. You may write four novels, like Stephen King, before one actually sells. Imagine that.

I'm only on my second and I can't tell you how freaked out I was that I spent two years writing something that may never sell.

So, look to your left and right and in front of you and behind you and then go to a stadium full of people and know that only one of you will get your novel published.

You know which one of you it will be? The one who's still there when everybody else goes home.

To get published:

Learn your craft. (give it years)

Learn the publishing business.

Be teachable. This is a big one.

And don't give up.

As for myself, I've decided to quit, but not until tomorrow. Today I'll write my heart out.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Brain Storm Session

I gave notice at the clinic today. My director took my leaving depressingly well. Guess I kinda secretly hoped she'd be mortified. Oh well.

It's Friday again! Hooray. A whole day tomorrow to write.

Well, after I go to DMV and renew my license..but then the rest of the day for my novel.

Only working on my novel on Saturdays is no good I've decided.

Because five to six days go by without me reading/writing or editing this work, I end up spending two hours just rereading what I've written before the current chapter to reacquaint myself with what's going on in the story.

Going back to being able to write on a daily basis will be good, I think.

Two more weeks.

Tonight I'm going to do nothing much except relax and mentally outline what my next chapter ought to be about.

I just found an envelope on my desk with: "next chapter--Val visits Bobbie in the hospital," scribbled on it.

I don't remember why I thought that should come next, but I'm sure I wrote it when I was fresh from writing so I'll trust it.

So Valencia visits her maimed friend. Maybe she brings up God. Probably Bobbie doesn't want to hear it. Or more likely Bobbie is furious with God for letting this happen to her. Maybe she curses him? Maybe Val cries and says "don't say that". Maybe the love interest, Doug comforts Val and they grow closer. Oh yeah, the chaplain maybe shows up and sees Val again. They talk about the demon possessed boy she exorcised but who is now worse than ever. Maybe he offers to go with her to deliver him again. Yes, and this time it works. Cool, another loose end tied up and Val learns what she needs to before she travels to Cyprus to face the main demon antogonist.

But, what about the chapter end hook. I gotta have one. I always have one. Something about missing brother Bailey. A post-card from him? Nah.
Another strange phone call from the mysterious stranger? Yes!
Then, I can begin the new chapter with the stranger hanging up the phone so the reader will know it was him and wonder why he wants Valencia to come there.

Heck, I wanna know why. I feel like I oughta know, but I don't just yet.
That makes me nervous but this book has dictated the storyline to me page one through 200, why keep fighting it?

Well, thanks for the brainstorm session. Mental research over. Time to finish the book I'm reading. "Flabbergasted". Great book so far. Love the guys style.

Keep you posted if I finish Chapter 22 tomorrow like a good girl.

I'm Going To The Conference!

I've mentioned before that going to my first writer's conference a few years back was an eye opener and all the good stuff that happened for me there. If you didn't read that you can go into the archives and look for "What Can A Writer's Conference Do For You".

Anyway, a couple of my friends from my critique group mentioned they were going to the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference in Sept.

I love the conference I normally go to: The Blue Ridge Mountain Writer's Conference. It feels like a family reunion. I couldn't justify spending another five hundred or so on going to a second conference in one year.

But, then our family vacation fell through because of my husband's new job. So, I'm going!!

If you've never been to a writer's conference, just imagine: four days away from kids. You get to be referred to by your name, not mommy, daddy, or that "skinny nurse with the dark hair".

You're surrounded by hudreds of people who are interested in hearing about your long as you will listen about theirs.

You meet some of your favorite authors and they talk to you like a peer.

You meet editors and agents that actually give you their undivided attention (for fifteen minutes of course).

Lots of witty conversations since writers are good with words. That translates into lots of laughing.

You sit in class after class, but its not work, 'cause it's all about writing. And you've just learned something that will take your novel to the next level.

The cost is difficult to justify to my husband and my self. The last money I made from writing was years ago. It would be a whole lot easier if I actually sold my book and could re-invest in my career. But, I've got a spouse who doesn't understand my need to write, or attend conferences, but he does understand "the look" I gave him that told him without words that I need this and will be a much happier person to live with if he doesn't give me a hard time.

So, here I come Nashville! Five of my critique group members are going too. Our group's name is the "Penwrights" but we call ourselves "Pennies".
So, if you're going and see a bunch of girls/ladies with a penny taped to their name tag, you know that's us. Some of us have never met in person so we needed an identifier.

Time to go to work...that's right and give notice. Writing life, here I come again.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

What's Your Mission?

When I started writing for publication those long eight years ago, I have to laugh at myself. I would send an article out, forget about more than one rewrite. I'd wait a couple of weeks and then start casing the mailbox.

The waiting was torture. And then the form rejection letters would stream in. That was worse.

After maybe six months of rejections, I had a talk with God. Basically I told Him, if you want me to continue, send me some encouragement. After only six months, I prayed this! Naive and impatient little girl.

Anyway, God answered my prayers. Everytime I was ready to concede to failure, I'd get something published or a request to see more, or "write it on spec" or even a contract that would later fall through.

Honestly, everytime I was ready to give up, something would happen to propel me on a little longer.

I still need that kind of encouragement even now. I just don't need it as often.

I find myself praying a similar prayer lately. Please God, let me get a contract.

I know it will happen in His time.
But, the Bible does say you have not because you ask not.
So, for good measure, I'm asking.

Will I give up if my second novel doesn't sell?
If only I could.

I've read over and over that if you can do anything else besides writing--do.
Writing for most is not lucrative. It's lonely. Its strewn with years and years, for most, with rejection and heartache.

I make a good living as a nurse and it's satisfying, but giving up writing would be like cutting off my arm. It would hurt and forever maim me.

I must write. I'm absolutely addicted and I truly do feel it is one of my callings in life. Not my only one, but a major one.

Being a mother is another. A nurse, another. Teaching God's word is another and someday, God willing, I'd love to support an orphanage in a big way. That's my dream if I should find success.

So, while writing isn't my only calling, it is a calling. And you don't just ignore God's call on your life. It only leads to misery.

So, what's your mission?

Why are you on this planet for this very short time?
I'm here to teach God's word and to get the word out that there is a spiritual battle we fight everyday that many don't even think about. God is real. Demons are real. Hell is real and you really don't want to go there.

Speaking of our life's calling. I'm sure almost everyone has heard of "The Purpose Driven Life". If you haven't read it, it's amazing. It could change your life. It certainly has helped me narrow my focus of my personal mission.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Competing With Friends

Recently a new author joined my writer's critique group. Wow, she's good, I thought. Really good. She write's clean and gives wonderful critiques of my work too.

Happy day...or not. I found out she is in competition with me with a certain publishing house. A small publishing house. A publishing house with like four slots for new books.


Her prospects look great far as I can tell. I thought mine did too but now I'm much less enthusiastic.

I told her I was depressed that I had to compete with someone as talented as her.

She, being a sweetheart, told me the same.

Though it's weird being in competition with a new friend, I'm really excited for her. When she gets the call and I don't, I think I'll be sad, sure. That's always dissapointing. Particularly since I wrote my latest novel with this publisher in mind, I will still be very excited for her.

I must be maturing. I don't think the twenty something year old Gina would have felt the same.

In this business, should I someday find success, I will find my sales compared to other author friend's sale numbers. I will (in my wildest dreams) be up for an award or two against friends. I will be competing in countless ways for readers and publishers.

I don't know if jealousy will be a factor, but I hope not. May I be content with my niche, my story, my audience. And if I don't get a contract on Demon Chaser, may I be content with waiting.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

In A New York Minute

I've mentioned before that this past year has been awful. My husband lost his job right before Christmas. I had to go back to work full-time. I had my first novel rejected after coming close to being contracted.

Today, I was taking care of a patient and thinking how much I need time off. I love being a nurse but every day, all day is hard when you figure in I'm also writing every minute of my spare time and taking care of my children. I've been getting close to burn-out.

But just like my world was turned upside down seven months ago, today it was flipped right side up again.

My husband accepted an excellent position as a wound care specialist, (or something like that :) That means that come September, I can go back to working part-time and writing during the day, so I can actually have time in the evening to take care of chores, play with the kids and relax??

I am so happy I could cry and I think I would if I wasn't so tired.

And to top off this great day, I won a free book by Kathryn Mackel. I'm so psyched!!

The moral of this story is no matter how many rejections you get. No matter how many days, months, years that go by without a contract, it can all turn around in a New York minute. I'm telling myself that as much as I'm telling you.

Hang in there, Gina (or insert your name) Someday you'll get the call: "We would like to offer you a contract!"

Sunday, July 24, 2005

How I balance my roles as nurse and writer... Posted by Picasa

In And Out Of Love

Remember falling in love?

Butterflies. Names carved in a tree. Listening to the same song over and over because it reminded you of the captain of your heart?

Beginning a new novel is a lot like that. The initial excitement is intoxicating. When you're away from your story too long, you go through withdrawal and can't wait to get back to it.

You speak of it to anyone who'll listen and they nod politely, trying not to be obvious about glancing at the clock.

You just know the admiration will last forever. You'll never grow complacent. This novel is the love of your life. Your magnum opus.

Then you get to, oh I don't know, Chapter 21. The half way point and the real work.

Just like your significant other, you begin to see its faults. And another idea, a really hot idea for a new book comes to mind and its all you can think of.

You must make a decision now. Stay with your commitment and see the first book through or jump ship for a hot little number that beckons you.

We all know the adage, the grass is always greener over the hill, but you still have to mow it.

No matter what story you're working on, there will come a time that it becomes actual work. It is toil. But, just like an enduring marriage, you must work through the bad times and the good will come again.

But, if you keep fluttering around new stories and ideas like a butterfly in a field of wildflowers, you'll never have the satisfaction of completing what could be the book you were meant to write.

It's not easy writing a three to four hundred page book. Some days it is. And for those times be grateful. But, for the most part it's toil. God has promised us our work would be. Writers aren't exempt.

And remember that writing a novel will probably only take you a year and then you can move on to that exciting new book you've been pining over.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Drudgery

Superman Saturday is here again. I was so excited. I woke up at six am, went for a bike ride, came home and made some coffee and then sat my butt in the magic writing chair. I was sure this was going to be another delightful day spent doing what I love to do most. Writing wonderful words that would flow from my brain to my fingertips and onto the computer screen.

Okay, it is now 3:30 and I just finished this blasted chapter. Do the math. I've been writing more than eight hours when you figure in snack and bathroom breaks. All for six, little pages.

I rewrote the opening paragraph a bunch of times, stuggling over every word. I just wasn't "on" today.

Sometimes, the words come so easily. I sit, I write, I leave pleased with my work. Yeah, that didn't happen.

Every word came begrudgingly. Every sentence was a struggle. I thought I'd never finish. I don't know if what I wrote is good or if it's garbage. I'll look again later, or maybe tomorrow. But, probably it will be just as good as the chapters that flowed out like honey.

I don't know why its like that. Some days my muse shows up and we get the chapter written without breaking a sweat. Other days, the adage about pulling teeth fits nicely. But, when you go back and read both together, the quality of the work is the same. Crazy.

The Power of Networking

The writing life is wonderful, no? Drink coffee, write beautiful prose, and get paid to do it.

Well, there is a little more to it than that.

Being a writer, doesn't just mean writing. It means editing, marketing and networking.

We're going to talk netwworking today.

When I attended my first writer's conference a few years back, a light bulb went off. I realized there is a gate-keeper in this business and they're at writers conferences. Editors, agents, and authors are there to meet others. They're there to meet you.

Writer's conferences are great for learning your craft, socializing with other writers, but in my opinion, above all--networking.

I told you I made friends with some well known authors at a conference. We've maintained contact. They've given my work endorsements to aid in marketing. They've given me invaluble advice. I promote their work through word of mouth, Amazon reviews, this blog-site and and anyway I can. Networking.

One of the benefits of having a blog is also networking. I met CJ on this site. She has offered me advice and recently given me a couple names of authors whose work may be in the same genre as mine. Information I didn't know but can definitely use. I told her of a publishing house that might fit her writing. (Too bad she already knew. Oh well.)

Writing can be a lonely business. But, it doesn't have to be. Write authors from their web-sites. Tell them you enjoy their work (if you do), make friends. They're just people. Go to a conference if you can afford it. They're invaluble. Belong to critique groups and writers groups. You need other writers. They can help your career in ways you've never imagined. And you can help them.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Your Secret Weapon

Every writer should have three kinds of readers for their works in progress.

1. The encourager: they read your book and tell you that you're a genious. Which of course, you are.

2. The writer. They can pick apart your run-ons, tell you when you've used superfluous words, help you with word-smithing and that type of thing. They know the rules and aren't afraid to let you know them too.

3. The reader. This person will read the book, cover to cover, and tell you that the love interest who had blue eyes on page one has brown eyes on page 233. They will also tell you the symbolism was too heavy handed. That the freaky store owner was not funny, just plain creepy. Was that what you were aiming for? That type of thing.

If you find a good reader, who is able to articulate what is right and wrong with your story, hang on to them tooth and nail. They're priceless to you and your career.

I am blessed enough to have a few whose critiques have bettered my work. One such person is our lab tech, Mandy. She read the proposal for The Demon Chaser today. She told me she liked the tag line. She told me the possession of Nana was good but she said, never diverting her gaze from me, you have nana smelling wrong.

"Heh?" I say.

"You should have her smell almost the same as she used to, but not quite. Have an underlying decay smell since she's possessed."

"Hmmm," I say as I consider her suggestion. "That's not bad."

She smiles and goes back to her office.

She's full of tidbits like that and isn't the least bit shy about telling me.

Those are the kind of people you really need if you want your story to be the best it can be.

If you have an encourager, or a writer or a reader, cherish them, thank them, buy them lunch if you can afford it. But, never, NEVER, get defensive or believe me, they will cease to be completely honest. Who needs the hassle?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Blurb for The Demon Chaser

She wanted to serve God. She didn’t know she’d have to go through Hell to do it.

Being a woman exorcist isn’t the most lucrative business, but Valencia believes it’s her life’s calling. As soon as she hangs her sign out for business, terrible things begin to happen. First strange phone calls and frightening visions, then her business partner is disfigured in a brutal accident. Worst of all, her twin brother, the only family she has, is implicated in the hit and run. But while Valencia chases demons and answers, something is chasing her.

Valencia Shannon is...The Demon Chaser.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I was always a little backwards... Posted by Picasa

Writers Read

You've heard the adage: writers read? I'll bet you have.

Too busy to read? I'll bet you're too busy to write well too.

I guess there are exceptions. I'm not one of 'em.

Most, if not all, writers begin as avid readers. I grew up reading Hardy Boys Mysteries. I tried to like Nancy Drew but, she was no Hardy boy! Then, I moved on to VC Andrews. Too bad my parents didn't take a closer look before they let me read that. Talk about innappropriate for my age! But, I got the Flowers in the Attic series for Christmas and had all the books read before Christmas break was up.

Then, I moved on to Stephen King, Dean Koontz, John Grisham and others.

It was only in the last few years that I discovered Christian fiction with the Left Behind Series. I read Deborah Raney and then discovered Francine Rivers, Alton Gansky and Frank Peretti.

Non-Christian books I've read lately: Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas (great writing, great story, some non-Christian content) and Lovely Bones (also interesting story and good writing but non-Christian ideas of Heaven).

Some of my favorite recently read novels:

Francine Rivers-- Redeeming Love, The Scarlet Thread and The Last Sin Eater.

Randy Alcorn, Safely Home.

Frank Peretti, Monster.

Deborah Raney, A Nest of Sparrows

Alton Gansky, Submerged and The Incumbent

Don Brown: Treason

Ted Dekker: Black

Jefferson Scott, Operation Firebrand.

I've got about five new novels sitting on my bedside table waiting to be little time.

Reading teaches writing probably better than any how to book or course. So, don't feel guilty doing what you love to do. You're not wasting time when you read, you're doing research.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Instant Gratification? Yeah Right.

I was thinking today about my Partial MS (manuscript) for my second novel, The Demon Chaser.

You may recall my agent sent out a proposal to an editor who had requested a peek.

The editor read the first three chapters and synopsis and said he was "interested" and through my agent, I sent on what I had completed. Which at the time was about 130 pages.

It seems like at least two months ago I sent it. Time to start asking the agent or editor what's up, right?


Good thing I keep records of what I send out and when. It's actually not even been a month yet. If I start hounding agent and editor, that'll put a bad taste in their mouth and that ain't good. They may decide to swirl with some Listerine and spit me down the drain.

When waiting on responses, wait at least three months.That's the standard. And that's about how long it usually takes.

Everytime I've been impatient and inquired early, I've been met with a prompt rejection letter.

You see, it's easier for the editor, agent, or whomever to reject you than it is to be hounded by you.

I'll bet one of the most annoying part of their job is the impatient would-be author.

Need instant gratification? Eat a pint of ice-cream. The gratification in writing is there but there's nothing instant about it.

Takes you a year to write a book. Another year to edit. Another year to get a publisher interested. They buy it. Hooray. Another year before it goes to print. And all this only if you're good, worked hard and have been incredibly blessed.

So, I'll try to focus on anything but a contract and plunge ahead, writing the book that may or may not sell and try my best to find gratification in the process. And of course, there's always Ben and Jerry.

My Top Advice for Prospective Authors

I've got a plethora of advice for other writers.

Heck, I've got a plethora of advice for everyone on almost any subject. Ask my friends!

If I could offer up one piece of advice on getting published it would be this:

Get better before sending your stuff out.

I've been writing for publication for about eight years now.
I spent most of that time spinning my wheels.

I started writing non-fiction articles and got a couple of things published. But, mostly, I got rejected.


I didn't know my craft well enough. It's been said by others and I'm paraphrasing here: it takes eight years to become a doctor. Four years to get just a basic bachelor's degree. Why do people who want to be writers think they can just scribble something down and send it off for publication?

Don't know, but that's the way I did it. For Six years! Now, I wasn't a complete idiot. I did read lots of how to books and articles, but the truth be told, I didn't take all the advice literally. I was going to be the exception. I sent my stuff out with typos because, well, it didn't make that much of a difference, did it?

Eight years later, I can tell you, YES IT DOES!

My first eye opener was at the 2004 Blue Ridge Mountain Writer's Conference. I sat down next to (my now very dear friend) Ane Mulligan. She looked at my MS (manuscript) and pointed out some no-no's. Yeah, yeah I thought, whatever. She smiled and said, "okay, you keep it that way, but you'll see).

And see I did! I finally got to the point where I was tired of form rejection letters and I did something about it. Better late than never.

I joined an on-line writer's critique group and they tore my work to shreds.

I was in a state of shock. I thought I was good. I thought I had talent. How could they do this to my baby?

I did have talent, but I wasn't good. I licked my wounds, made the changes and reread my work to see if they were right.

Surprise, surprise. They were. I've since left that group to go on to a tougher group. The crits don't hurt anymore, believe it or not. The tougher the critique, the more grateful I am to the critiquer for taking the time.

Now, I'm still waiting for my big break and my first book contract but there's a big difference. Two years ago, I recieved form rejection letters, nearly every time out. I don't anymore. I'd like to say never but that wouldn't be completly honest, I'm sure I've got one or two of those still lying around without dust. But, almost never.

Now, I get phone calls or handwritten notes on what the prospective agent, editor would like to see or why they can't buy it. I get compliments and smiles and requests to see more.

While those things don't pay the bills, they do keep one going.

So, to recap, my advice: Join the toughest writer critique group you can find and hug the cactus. (That means embrace the painful critiques).

And don't just embrace them: Do what your team suggests. Of course, sometimes advice is wrong, but if 2 people say the same thing, take notice. If 3 or more do, they've probably got a point.

Just like I did when I started this. Though, now I can't remember...oh yeah, before you send your stuff out, get better and let others help.

Or, you can do like I did and wait for a pile of rejection letters and then take my sage advice. Either way. Your call.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Gina taking a break from writing to ride with son, Jacob Posted by Picasa

Off To Hell...Again

I'll bet that title got your attention. Don't worry, I haven't gone off the deep end. Well, I guess maybe I have, but I've learned to tread water pretty well.

My next chapter, 21, is back to the antagonist demon's pov (point of view). That means, back to Hell. He is so much fun to write. I gave him human characteristics, like wanting his "father's" (aka satan's) approval and a promotion in the kingdom of darkness.

He's disgusting and dispicable but also to be pittied.

He's a smart guy. The unfortunate part is he's smarter than me.

I took an iq test and though I can't remember my score, I did pretty well, above average, but far from genious.

So, how do I think like someone much more intellegent than myself?

I don't know, I'm asking.

He needs to come up with a plan to pit good Christian people against each other. It will take a brilliant plan. But, I'm not brilliant.

So, like usual, I'll spend the week pondering, praying, letting my subconcious work it out. So, by Superman Saturday, I'll be ready to write it.


You'll Never Be Good Enough

"You'll never be good enough." We all tell ourselves that, don't we? Or is it just those of us with the melancholy personality? (If you don't have a clue what I'm talking about, check out Tim LaHaye's, Why You Act the Way You Do. )

I'll never be a good enough Christian, wife, mother, friend or writer.
Truth is, no matter how hard I try, I'll never be perfect. Not at anything.
I should strive to be the best I can. We all should. But, I'm trying to come to terms with my humanity. My imperfections.

I'm a pretty good writer. Some might say very good. Some might say terrible, I don't know. But, I think I do okay. Heck, since I'm practicing taking off my mask, sometimes I think my writing rocks. Shhh, don't tell.

Then I read something like Francine River's, Redeeming Love or Randy Alcorn's, Safely Home or Frank Peretti's, Monster and realize, I'm a hack. These people, and others, are so unbeleivably talented, so why should I bother?

I bother because we all can't be Francine Rivers. I don't even write in the same genre. She was meant to write her stories for hurting women.
And I was meant to write mine. It's hard, maybe impossible to judge our own abilities and talents.

I recently had an extrodinarily talented author friend tell me I was the most talented writer he knew. I mumbled a thank you and convinced myself he was blowing smoke.

I recently told one of my critique partners that he was one of the most naturally talented I knew. He mumbled a "thank you" and changed the subject.

We can't know if what we're writing is a masterpiece or drivel. The world will judge for themselves. And we know how that goes.

I've read books that I've literally hugged when I finished, they were so good. Sick, aren't I? Then I go on Amazon to give a glowing review and see someone else has tore the work to shreds.

One man's literature is another man's cage liner, I guess.
I'll just work as hard as I'm able and if it gets praised, great. If it gets pooped on by some bird or hamster, well, at least it was useful to someone.

Gina and Levi Sunday afternnon Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Gina and some of her nurse friends.  Posted by Picasa

Taking off My Mask

Hooray! I reached a milestone with my latest work. Chapter Twenty is written.

The halfway point.

You know, sometimes writing is a pleasure. Like this morning.

I woke up at 5 am. Worked on a couple of critiques for my writer's group, then went back to bed for a couple hours.

Woke up again at 8 am. Made myself some coffee and sat down at the desk. I had no idea what this chapter would be about. So, I read the last few dozen pages and as I did, it came to me what needed to be next.

And then, I wrote it. It's not the most rivoting of chapters. Kind of just a neccessary bridge. But there was enough conflict and one raw moment, where I was able to take off my mask and be veracious.

Even though the soul bearing moment wasn't mine, it was my main character's, I had to feel it with her and draw on a similar experience. Relive it. Open an old wound. Bleed.

And that's a good thing because what readers really want is truth, not a watered down version. They want to know they're normal. Others have been where they've been. Done what they've done. Felt what they've felt.

We all wear masks that hide who we really are. I wear the mask of having it all together. Knowing a lot. But behind the mask is someone quite insecure and vulnerable. Only a few people ever get to see that side of me. But, my readers should, through my characters.

So, I'm proud that I got to be honest with my words and let down the mask, even though I hid behind my fictional character to do it.

That was one of those rare magical moments in writing. I hope when others read it, it will drudge up their vulnerable moment too and make them remember, make them think, but above all, make them feel.

The books that are best loved are ones that make the reader experience the emotions of the characters. Even if the emotion is pain: think, Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas.

Great book, by the way.

Friday, July 15, 2005

The Truth

Night is day. Wrong is right.
Darkest blackness claims the light.

Legions search without sight,
each seeking his own truth.

Seeking them is one who knows.
The one who is. The one who sows.

The one who lights the path less chose.
The only truth to find.

His guiding light reveals a book.
Words of life. Given. Took.

The truth is there for all to look.
The truth in black and white.

The truth is black and white.

Where's My Cape?

After a very busy week at the ob/gyn clinic, I get to temporarily trade in my busy and satisfying role as nurse and go back to being a writer. Clark Kent gets to be superman for two whole days.

Being a nurse is a great job. Really, if anyone's thinking of doing it, do. It's as satisfying a career as you can get. But, as much as I love what I do, I am so giddy about throwing on a pair of sweats and sitting at the keyboard with a cup of coffee and my thesaurus.

If I make mistakes in the clinic, I could hurt someone. A mom. A baby. Forever. Wow, that's a lot of responsibility.

If I make a mistake writing, I send it to my critique group, they point it out and I fix it. Wow, that's a relief. No heavy burden there. Or is there?

Come to think of it, if my book gets published, my words could be around for centuries, affecting forever, those who read them. Shaping opinions, representing my savior Jesus Christ to fiction readers. Now, that is a big responsibility.

Huh. So much for a low stress weekend. But, at least with writing, there's always the final edit. Not so with medicine. No do overs there.

Come to think of it, I guess I'm superman during the week and Clark Kent on the weekends when I write. What do you think?

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

He's Driving me Crazy

The weeks half over and I haven't started the new chapter.

I haven't even finished the last one. I mean it's written, but something isn't right. I know it in my gut, the same way I know when my son sticks his tongue out at me behind my back. I can feel it.
I can't move on until I iron out what's bothering me.

I introduced a new character in a foreign country and set up the details that later on will hopefully make the reader realize I played fair when this character's true identity is revealed.

But, something's lacking. This character, he's driving me crazy. He's not stirring up any trouble. I like trouble. Readers like trouble. There's none.
That spells disaster for writing.

No conflict, no story.

I wonder if I can take just one little chapter off and let things be still, but, hello, this is a thriller I'm writing.

Thriller - conflict = yawn.

So, I'll let the story stew another day or two, let my subconcious work it out and then I'll fix it.

Hopefully, once it's rewritten, I'll be able to move on to the seemingly elusive half-way point...Chapter Twenty.

Hey, whaddaya know! While I was writing this, it came to me. What I need to up the ante. Bailey's going to run.

See, just like I've said before, sit butt in chair and the muse will come.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Research...the easy way

I mentioned before I wanted to take my story to an exotic location.

At this point in my life, I can't exactly jet set off to research one.

But, I want my setting to have the details, tastes, smells,authenticity, of a real place. A place people live. A place many have been to. A place I would need to get the facts straight about.

What to do?

Easy. I chose a place I'd already been. Cyprus.

Cyprus is a Greek island in the Mediterranian. It's absolutely beautiful. A lot like Hawaii in setting but with old world charm.

I spent a couple months there with my boyfriend's family, years ago. Talk about juicy material for later. I stayed in their house, ate their food, walked their streets and learned their language. Well, kinda.

But, a lot can change in a decade (plus). So, I went on-line and pulled up as many pictures of the town I wanted to base my story in as I could find.

Happy day, the place looks remarkably the same. They still drink the Cyprian coffee in the little cups with the thick residu in the bottom.
Keo beer is still the choice of the locals and tavli remains the game of choice. Wonderful!

I could have picked another setting, say Jamaica. I've never been there, so we'd be talking a lot of research. Why not go with what I already know?

The best part is I get to relive a wonderful memory. And share it with my future readers. How cool is the writing life?

Get Real

I'm so thankful I have Christian friends I can be honest with.

Lay it all on the table.

The naked truth.

And still be accepted and loved.

One of the things I love best about my church is the ability of at least a good many of the members to get real with each other.

There are always those that walk around with a super-glued smile and don't sin. Don't even seem to struggle with wrong doing.

That's not reality. Not for any of us. We're human and fallible.

It's good for us to be honest with each other. When someone asks us "how you doing?" Its good to say, "not so well" when we're not.

Sin loves darkness. We as sinners, love to keep our sin in hiding. But, bringing it into light by confessing it, will help overcome.

Darkness hates the light.

What does this have to do with writing?

We need to get real with our words to make them powerful.

Shine light on the darkness.

Sometimes we write and worry what our grandmother would think if she read it and then tone it down until it lacks flavor--and authenticity.

Christians struggle with sins, just like the unsaved do. We're no better. Just forgiven. Its okay to admit it.

I struggle with sin. Shocked? Didn't think so.

If we want our writing to touch people, really speak to them where they live, we need to get real. Let it all hang out. Raw emotion. Bare our souls, good and bad. Be vulnerable.

Others need to know they're not alone in their battles, others struggle too--we struggle too. And God willing, overcome.

So, get your razor out, sit down at your desk, and open that vein. Let your readers know, you bleed, just like they do.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Out of Control

Okay, I am close to finishing Chapter 19. I've taken the story across the world to Cyprus. Introduced yet another pov character. Remember I wanted to keep my pov to 3?

Can't do it. I'm at 4 now. I've got a lot of characters to juggle. Much more than I'm used to. This book is a monster. Its complicated and getting more so with each new chapter.

If I can pull it off, it has great potential.

If I fail--great potential for disaster.

I was going to go along without plotting the rest for a few more chapters but I don't think I can at this point.

Too many things have to come together. So many twists and turns and potential surprises.

You know how hard it is to surprise today's savvy readers? Very. And to do it by playing fair feels near impossible.

But if I want this novel to be a winner, I need to do just that.

This week, I'll work on getting a rough outline for the rest of the book. Chapter by chapter. There's about twenty left. That's a whole lot of plotting.

I can do this.

Of course I can.

Can't I?

Saturday, July 09, 2005

My Boys Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Not so Magical Process of Creation

I thought it might be of interest how I go about writing a new chapter. I'm interested in how other writers work.

This weekend I need to write Chapter 19. Do or die. Must be done. The end.

I have no idea what to write. What to do?

Well, guess I'll do what I always do. I'll read the chapter before it. Browse the chapter before that to remind myself what the heck is going on in the story.

Then, I'll move my cursor about half way down the first blank page and type "chapter 19".

I'll sit at my desk for about 5 or 10 minutes, looking out the window at the passerbys and the pretty blooms in my flowerbox. I'll rub the back of my neck and think, Impossible. I can't do it. I'm blocked. There's nothing to say. I'm a hack. A has been before I have been.

I'll get up, open the fridge and peer in. A turkey sandwich? Nah, it's not even breakfast time yet. Another cup of coffee? Perfect. A little milk, no sugar and back to the desk.

I set my mug down on my dictionary, stare at the blank screen and take a sip. Can't think of a thing. This is it, I think, the chapter that will cause me to quit.


Then I put my fingers to the keyboard and type in "She", and then it all comes pouring out. And then dribbling out. And then pouring again.

I start to edit and remind myself to wait. Get it down on paper first. Editing can be done later.
Get 10 pages down first.

I only get 8 but the chapter is done. Its a short one, but that's okay. Its good. I think.

I take another sip from my cup but the coffee is cold now. I look at the clock, two hours have passed.

Can that be right?

"Mommy," my 3 year old yells as he races toward me, wrinkled from sleep, with his chubby arms outstretched.

I smile at him. He's lovely. And I pull him onto my lap. I hit the save button and turn the computer off. I'll fix breakfast and then take my boys to the park.

Then I'll come home and edit.

That's the way it usually goes. I hope it goes that way tomorrow. I'll let you know.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Like Sand Through the Hourglass...

So are the days I can write.

Its Thursday already. And have I started writing Chapter 19 yet? No. Have I even thought about what the chapter might be about or who's pov it would be in?


I am supposed to be aiming for 2 chapters a week.

Tell you what folks--it ain't gonna happen.

This week was busier than usual. Last night the drug rep took us out for a fancy dinner. No complaints. Tonight I had to go to the salon. Also, no complaints.

But, that's not the reason for my slack. My critique group is the culprit!

Our group is growing by leaps and bounds. I sent chapter 1 through of Demon Chaser through. Got about 5 crits on it. I thought the chapter was polished but 3 of 5 critters found errors. I'm so glad I sent it through. I don't want to be walking around with my fanny showing!

But, in return, I must crit their subs. We sub a chapter at a time. Which can be anywhere from 6 to 20 pages. If the subber is a "veteran" the crit is pretty easy. If it is a greener writer, it can take A LOT of time. POV errors, tag line problems, etc. One crit can take me an hour.

I've got about 5 to do right now. But I also have other friends not in the group that rely on me to edit their work. That along with working full time and the kids. Well, somethings gotta give.

So, I'm back to aiming for writing one new chapter a week. I can do it. I think. This weekend will be tough going though. I'm going out with friends Sat night and I promised I'd take the kids to the fair.

When shall I write?


Don't know.

But, I shall.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Author Or Nurse?

A friend of mine raised an interesting question today. Am I a nurse/author or an author/nurse?

I love being a nurse. Most of the time. I love helping people. Teaching. And the technical skills like drawing blood, dressing changes and sometimes saving lives.

I love being a writer. What's not to love. Most of the time.

I think if I could choose to do only one though, I'd choose writing. But, thankfully, I don't have to choose.

It's fun to have two careers--identities so far removed from the other. Kind of like Clark Kent by day, Superman by night. Balance.

If I wrote full time, I would be constantly inward focused. That can't be healthy. Judging by all the depressed writers out there, it's probably not.

Being a RN, I have to be outward focused from 8-5. That's my job. Caring for others.

Writers dream about giving up the day job, but it's the balance that day job provides that makes the writing so enjoyable.

Icecream sundays are wonderful but if you had to eat them 3 meals a day, every day. know.

Monday, July 04, 2005

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Bada Bing, Bada Bang.

I was away for the weekend, in Raleigh, NC visiting with my in-laws and mulling over the next chapter I have to write. I didn't do any writing while there but I did do a lot of thinking about writing.

So, to my family, it seemed I was taking a break, but I was actually hard at work. Chapter 18 was the introduce the cops scene. And I wanted my main cop to have a crazy quirk. So, as I sat in the NC sun, getting bit by mosquitos and drinking lukewarm sweet tea, the attribute he would be remembered for came to me.

Dyed orange hair. He's got a good reason for it and it fits into the whole theme of the storyline quite nicely. And, at least to me, its funny.

I really get into a scene if I can add some humor. It's what I'm best at and it comes easy for me. Unlike writing in general.

After thinking the scene through in my head in NC, I came home to VA and sat my butt in the chair and an hour later, maybe two (I lose track of the time when I write), Bada Bing, Bada Bang, I have 10 and a half pages of very rough Chapter 18.


I've already erased "Chapter 18" off my kitchen chalkboard and replaced it with "Chapter 19". Almost halfway!!

I love this story. It's so quirky, just like me.

I'm on page 166 now. I've tried to outline the rest of this thing and can't. I don't know where its going exactly. I have a vague idea but every time I try and force it, I get blocked. So, for now, I'll maintain the seat of the pants writing with an idea what needs to occur to tie up all ends. I know the surprise ending. I know where my main characters will end up, more or less. Although, I'm fully aware that could change.I won't force them to do something ununatural for them. I'm open to whatever feels right.

It's unsettling sitting at the computer not knowing what I'm supposed to be writing about, but the funny thing is, it works out. Without a hint that my muse is nearby, I sit down, put fingers to keyboard and the words begin to flow and the characters tell me the story. And I record it, fascinated by their actions, wondering about their motivations until they tell me.

For instance, I wondered why my crazy pumpkin-haired cop was taking this particular hit and run so personal and then he told me. His daughter was born with a birth defect--one leg. The hit and run victim lost her legs in the accident. She's about the same age as his daughter. No wonder he's wants his man.

"Oh...," I say to myself as I tap. "That's why." Writing is a fascinating process. Subconcious talking to the concious. Every character revealing parts of me, the writer, I didn't know existed.

Now, at 0930 on July 4th, I'll go back and start polishing up my last chapter. Happy that no other eyes will see this early draft full of typos, inappropriate nouns, too many adverbs, and lack of sensory detail, emotions and interior monologue.

If anyone was to read what I just put on computer screen they would shake their head and tell me to keep my day job. I should keep my day job but the writing, I suspect for every author, is almost always bad the first draft around.