An Update on #TheWriteStuff

Wanted to start the week off with an update for you guys, especially for new followers who don’t know that I used to run regular weekly or monthly features here on The Write Stuff. Most of you do know that I’ve been generally whining, and grumbling, and otherwise making a nuisance of myself about being so far behind on everything I’m trying to do. Well, it’s time for that to STOP!

No, I haven’t magically caught up with everything overnight, but the good news is, I’m making slow, steady progress, knock wood! And I am ready to start reintroducing the features we used to enjoy around here. It might take me a few weeks to get all of them “up and running,” but you can expect to see the following things coming back on board–and some of them will probably start this week, alongside a few that never totally went away.

  • #MondayMeme – Memes with a writing/reading/books theme
  • #Thorsday Smile – Things I think are funny & hope you’ll enjoy
  • #WhyWriteWrong? – Words I see misused fairly often
  • #ShareAReviewDay – Recent/favorite reviews submitted by you guys
  • #ExcerptWeek – A week of sharing excerpts from your book of choice
  • #FabulousFridayGuestBlogger – Self-explanatory
  • #LifeLessonsFromOz – Vids I share for a smile (and perhaps a lesson?)
  • #MidWeekPOV – Just some things/ideas I share now and then
  • #InspirationBoardSunday – Images/Ideas/CoverArt I find inspiring

Some of these are meant to be weekly features, though it might take me a couple weeks to get them up and running. Some are posted randomly as the mood or subject matter strikes my fancy. But ALL are coming back over the next couple of months. And many of them involve you wonderful bloggers and authors “out there.” You’ll be invited when these come up, and I’ll explain how to participate in them at that time.

Hope you’ll enjoy having these features back again, and will want to take part in some of them. I know many of you would probably love to share your reviews and excerpts with us, and your latest promo news, releases, cover reveals, etc, as well. And I’m really looking forward to helping you do just that.

To begin, I’ll be posting some archived samples of these features over the next week or two, so you see what they’re all about, and will feel comfortable joining in.

Stay tuned, my wonderful friends! I can hardly wait to get the ball rolling!

#MidWeekPOV #wwwblogs – Let’s Talk

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Let’s get a conversation going this morning. I’ll start. 😀 I have a new mantra: It takes what it takes to tell the tale that needs tellin’. Bulky, yeah. Probably won’t look so great on a t-shirt. But I’ve finally realized that it embodies the way I write.

My beloved beta readers often ask me how many chapters will be in a book I’m working on. My answer is, I don’t have the slightest clue. I don’t work out the number of chapters at the start of my draft, because I never know where the story might take me. I know what it will be about, in general–where  it will start, and where it will end. As for all the stuff that happens in between, not so much.

I may have one or two things I know must occur, but overall, the characters tell me what they want to do and why. And I let them. Not because it’s how it should be done, but because it’s the only way I, personally, can travel from point to point. I turn my characters loose in a setting and see what they decide to do, and write it down. They almost always surprise me.

In my current WIP, That Darkest Place, all I knew going in was that I’d left one of my characters from Finding Hunter in a horrible mess, and another one unharmed, but unhappy. I knew what I needed to do to fix the first one, and that the second one needed to find an HEA by book’s end. And that’s all I knew. As the story began to grow, the details came pouring into my mind, and the overall theme of the book came to me:

“There are dark places in every heart, in every head. Some you turn away from. Some you light a candle within. But there is one place so black, it consumes all light. It will pull you in, and swallow you whole. You don’t leave your brother stranded in that darkest place.” (Hunter Painter)

That Darkest Place is a book about brothers–how  they stand together in the worst of times, and help each other make it out of those black holes of despair. As I wrap up my draft, and get ready for editing, I hope I’ve been able to tell their story in a way that will resonate with readers everywhere. But whether it works out that way or not, I’ve been true to who the characters are, and how they relate to each other, in good times and in bad. I’ve told the tale that needed tellin’, and I hope I’ve done it well.

Now. Your turn. How do you do it? Do you work out every scene in advance, or go with the flow? Do you have an overall theme in mind when you begin, or does it grow out of the story in a more organic way? I’m hereby inviting you to share your thoughts and ideas today, so we can enjoy getting to know more about each other, and possibly learn a few new tricks along the way.

Let’s talk!

 

#MidWeekPOV #wwwblogs Genre & Category: Reader Expectations

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Among the many new things I’ve learned since I started writing three years ago, nothing has been more of a surprise than the idea of reader expectations. As an avid reader of 3 to 4 books a week for most of my adult life, my own expectations were simple. I wanted good writing, fantastic characters I was totally invested in, and solid, believable plots, even in fantasy. That was about it.

In today’s world, the relationship between readers and writers seems to be expanding. Writers no longer lock themselves in  tiny rooms, sweating blood while they aim to produce literary masterpieces that will live beyond them for centuries. Well, maybe a few still do. But mostly, it seems like writers today are forever asking themselves what  it is that readers want. This week. And then trying to write a book that fills that need, even if it’s not the story they really want to be telling. I’m not so sure that’s a good thing, but it is one way many are going about the process.

I have to say, I don’t think a lot about what’s trendy in fiction. I know I probably should, but my brain doesn’t work that way. I have a hundred stories in my head, waiting to get out, and those are the ones I want to tell. Some of them have current subjects woven into them, and some don’t. Most do have age-old themes threaded through them, and those are the things I want to focus on, no matter what the tale is outwardly about, or what’s popular in the industry today. I do my best to make my stories entertaining, but I don’t spend a lot of time wondering if the topic of the book I’m writing is going to be a hot one in the months ahead.

However, having said all of that, I also want to SELL my books. In fact, for me, this is not a paying hobby, as I’ve heard it described. It is an honest attempt to tell good stories and be compensated with a small but steady income every month. I don’t expect to get rich. I do hope to augment my husband’s retirement income, in a few more years. So, I write the stories I want to tell in the best way I can, and I look for ways to get them in front of the right audience. Once there, I expect them to stand on their own merit, or fall by the wayside. But getting them there–in front of people who might enjoy my writing style and subject matter–is the hardest part of this whole endeavor, if you ask me. Continue reading

#MidWeekPOV #wwwblogs

 

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“I Can’t Believe I  Ate The WHOLE Thing!”

Short and sweet POV today: Don’t bite off more than you can chew!

There’s an old expression (someone remind me who said it) that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, else what’s a heaven for? While I think this is true in the main, as I said last week, I do think goals should be attainable. With lots of work, perhaps, but within reach. Except for those truly lofty ideas  we might expect to receive only after reaching whatever afterlife we might aspire to.

And that’s it. Aim high, but not impossibly so. Reward yourself for each goal you accomplish, and most importantly, never give up. Makes sense to me.

NOTE: BTW, I answered my own question. The quote is from a poem by Robert Browning, just in case anyone else was wondering. 😀

#MidWeekPOV #Goals

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Believe it or not, and I’m struggling to do so, 2016 is more than halfway over! Pondering this last night gave me reason to stop and reassess my year, so far. I do set goals for myself, though I try not to make them so impossibly difficult they become self-defeating for me. I keep them realistic, bearing in mind that I’m not quite as energetic as I once was. So I aim high, but not clear into the stratosphere. And I check things off my list as I accomplish them, just to give myself a visual validation of what I’m aiming for.

When I wrote Wake-Robin Ridge, 3 years ago this month, it was to fulfill a life-long dream of becoming a writer. I didn’t set out thinking the book would soar to the top of the New York Times Best Seller List. I didn’t expect to rake in heaps and piles of money, either. I just set a goal to write a story I’d had in my head a long time, publish it, and then share it with friends and family. Now, I’ve never been to college or taken a writing class, but I figured my goal was doable, and I went for it. The fact that the book has garnered some lovely reviews and still sells steadily was an unexpected bonus, but I attained my goal. And then I set a new one: Do it again.

And that’s how I think goals ought to work. You commit to one with all your  heart, and when you reach it, you set another one. Rinse and repeat.  Before you know it, you’ve changed your life, and you’ve made setting reasonable goals a habit. At least, that’s how it’s turned out for me.

Be forewarned though. Life will sometimes conspire against you, throwing up roadblocks at every turn, just in case it was all getting too easy. While some obstacles  must be handled in order to move on, others are merely minor road debris. Dust, leaves, and shallow puddles. Skirt around those and stay focused on where you want to go. You CAN make it to the Finish Line. (Which, of course, is just the starting line for the NEXT goal.) And you can build a productive, satisfying life for yourself that way. It’s worked for me thus far, so that’s my story, an’ I’m stickin’ to it!

Now let me hear from you. Do you make a habit of setting goals? If so, how do you go about it? Do you keep track of each one you reach? Inquiring minds wanna know.  🙂

 

#MidWeekPOV #Deadlines and Revelations

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For the last three weeks, I’ve been clomping around the house, snarling at everyone within range, including the cats and dogs. I’ve grumbled and fretted and whined and complained, and generally let stress become my constant companion. Why? Because my . . . *shudder . . . DEADLINE was approaching, and I wasn’t making fast enough progress on finishing my fifth book.

I railed at every delay, shaking my fist at the sky, and shouting imprecations. Okay, maybe not quite that much drama, but I can assure you, I was not a pleasant person to be around. Ask my husband. I had set my mind to having this book published before the end of May, and it seemed obvious to me that the Fates were conspiring against me. The last edits were hampered by everything from me falling ill (Stress-related? You think?) to an uncooperative internet that had emails taking up to six hours to reach my editor.

Oh, it was SO unfair, and I was just totally wrecked by the very idea that I was going to miss that hideous,  looming deadline. It became a certainty, and there was simply no way around it. Even tossing and turning for two straight nights didn’t improve the picture. (Imagine. As if that ever solved anything.)

But guess what? Yesterday morning, I awoke calm and stress free. (Mostly. Let’s not try to alter my basic make-up, here.)  Somewhere during the night, I’d had a revelation, to wit: I am not in control of Time. Not on a cosmic scale, or even on a day-to-day basis. It is far beyond my capacity to do anything about Time, other than aim at certain, usually arbitrary goals.

And therein lies the other part of my revelation. My deadline, which I’d been slaving and sweating and stressing toward reaching, was arbitrary. Arbitrary. As in, “Based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system. Whimsical. Capricious.”

Excuse me? Whimsical? Capricious? Well. In a word, yes. I did it to myself, for no good reason other than I thought I could have the book done by that date. And then I beat myself up day and night, because it wasn’t happening the way I planned. How stupid is that? (Rhetorical question. Please stop shouting out the obvious answer.)

The bottom line is, I set that deadline, and I could, by golly, eliminate it! I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen firsthand how many times release dates get pushed back, even by my favorite authors. Not naming any names here ( Jim Butcher), but it happens. And the world doesn’t stop spinning on its axis. Rifts in the space/time continuum don’t suddenly appear. Life finds a way to forge ahead, with or without that particular book on the Kindle Store shelves.

Revelations rock! Yesterday, I smiled at the morning sun, and strolled outside to water my slowly recuperating garden, just as if I had all the time in the world at my disposal. What happened, you ask? (You did ask, right?) Simple. I let go. Of the stress. Of the worries. And mostly, of the freakin’ impossible to reach deadline!

***

How about you? Ever stress yourself out in this way? Setting impossible to reach goals and then smacking yourself around because you fail to meet them? If so, you might need a revelation of your own.  Deadlines? Put ’em to rest!

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#MidWeekPOV #ThorsDaySmile #FabulousFridayGuestBlogger

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The whole kit and caboodle at one time! That’s what happens when I’m under the weather for a few days, barely getting the necessities taken care of. Poor neglected blog! But I’m making up for it, all in one post, to wit:

#MidWeekPov

When you are sick, dishes pile up, laundry is ignored, and meals are whatever can be found in the pantry or fridge that isn’t covered in mold, like week-old bread. Tuna- Peanut Butter Surprise is the dish du jour. But the worst thing of all is having to accept that any brain activity more advanced than breathing or blinking becomes nearly impossible. That includes creativity. Enough congestion, and one simply does not have room inside one’s skull for a single, creative thought. Raise your hands if you have found this to be the case, yourself.

ThorsDaySmile

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#FabulousFridayGuestBlogger

Sadly, we don’t have an actual guest blogger today. Just me. So I’m sharing a scene from my upcoming book, Harbinger: Wake-Robin Ridge Book 3. In this scene, Rabbit is letting his best friend, Finn, know how he feels about Finn’s new nickname for him. As usual, he does so in his own, irrepressible manner, outmaneuvering Finn completely. Enjoy! (But do be prepared for Rabbit’s “raised in the wilderness,” mountain dialect.  He’s being home-schooled, but has a long way to go. Those aren’t spelling errors, I promise.)

***

Rabbit grinned. “You always know the right words, Daddy. That there’s just what I was tryin’ to say.”

“You said it good, Rab,” Finn chimed in. “I understood just what you meant.”

Studying his friend through narrowed eyes, Rabbit finally asked, “So is ‘Rab’ what you’re gonna be callin’ me from now on?”

Finn gave him a devilish grin, all dimples and straight, white teeth. “It’s my new nickname for you. What do you think?”

Rabbit pondered his answer, then he shook his head. “It don’t seem fair, you get a nickname to call me, and I don’t got one for you. Reckon with a name as short as Finn, onliest thing I can call you is Ffff.”

Finn’s mouth dropped open. “Ffff? What kind of nickname is that?”

“That’s the kind you get when your name don’t have but one of them ol’ syllables,” Rabbit announced, and changed the subject. “So, are you gonna eat that there sandwich, Ffff, or just keep starin’, like I grew me another head?”

“You can’t call me Ffff! It doesn’t make any kind of sense.” Finn sputtered with indignation. “It’s just dumb.”

“I reckon it ain’t no dumber than makin’ up a nickname for a nickname. Rabbit ain’t my for-real name, you know.”

Mac could almost see the wheels turning in Finn’s head. He wondered if the boys might be getting ready to have their first real disagreement, but he should have known better.

The two friends simply stared at each other in silence, and then Finn started to giggle. “Ffff,” he said, with a shake of his head, and another giggle.

The corner of Rabbit’s mouth twitched. “Yep. I reckon that’s what it’ll have to be. Just Ffff. Easy to spell, though, ain’t it?”

The dam broke, and the boys flopped on their backs on the dusty road, hysterical with laughter. Rolling from side to side, they clutched their stomachs, barely able to breathe. Raleigh and Mac grinned at the sight, and then the sheriff burst into full on laughter, as well.

“Mac, that boy of yours is just too much.”

“He is that, all right,” Mac agreed, and joined in with the rest of them.

When everyone had calmed down enough to catch his breath, Finn wiped his eyes, and gave Rabbit an arm poke. “Tell you what. If you promise never to call me Ffff in front of anyone else, I promise I won’t call you Rab in front of anyone, either.”

Rabbit pursed his lips, pretending to think it over. “Hmm. I got me a better idea. Let’s don’t call each other neither of those things ever, no matter whether anyone else can hear us or not. Deal?”

“Deal.” Finn held out his hand, and the boys shook on it, faces completely solemn. Then they both erupted in giggles, and the whole thing started up again.

Mac and Raleigh let them enjoy the moment. It was a release they all needed after their earlier fright, and they’d have to get serious again soon enough.

***

Freshly Tweaked Cover for Harbinger
(I made Ol’ Shuck’s eyes creepier.)

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#MidWeekPOV – Sometimes Fate Needs a Helping Hand #wwwblogs #Poetry

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I’m pretty sure I believe in Fate. Karma. What goes around, comes around. You reap what you sow. That kind of thing. At least I do today! And because I’m editing, editing, editing  like a thing possessed, here, I don’t have time for a very long post. Instead, I’m going to share a poem from Summer Magic, wherein a young lady takes matters into her own hands, in order to give Fate a wee, little nudge. Enjoy!

The Pick Up    

Standing near the shop,
I watch.
People rush in and out,
Jostling, hurrying.
Carrying steaming cups
To offices nearby.

I wait for the right one.
Finally! He exits and
Heads toward me.
My heart stutters
With pleasure
As I admire him.
He’s tall, wide-shouldered,
Very blonde.
A Viking in Armani.
Yes, I think. Oh, yes.
He’s just as perfect as
He looked yesterday.

With careful timing,
I step into his path,
And we collide.
Oh! I’m so sorry!
He stops, surprised.
Then bends to pick up my purse.
Handing it back, he smiles.
My fault, he says.
I should have been paying attention.

We stand for a moment,
Assessing each other,
Then I laugh awkwardly,
And flash him a look
He can’t mistake.
His eyes widen slightly,
His smile, as well.
And I know.
He’ll be here tomorrow,
Ordering latte, and
Looking for me.
I’ll be waiting.
           by Marcia Meara

#WednesdayPOV What’s In a Name? #wwwblogs

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Fitzchivalry Farseer
A name and a character I can love!

Having come to epic fantasy reading very late in life (like in the past two years), I probably have no right to issue complaints or requests, however, that’s never stopped me before. And I am issuing both. I’ll start with the request. You fantasy writers out there, please . . . I beseech you in the name of every god and goddess on your wonderfully creative worlds . . . have mercy on your readers. Please stop using names for your characters that can’t be pronounced by the human tongue.

I think it’s James Scott Bell who warns writers against filling their books with “speed bumps” that slow readers down, and I promise you that giving your hero a name that starts with three consequetive consonants is a speed bump of major proportions. Every single time I come to a line featuring something that Sir Hrvetrkzll is involved in, I will slam on the brakes and try to pronounce his name in my head. It pulls me right out of the story, without fail. And like a Sunday driver out for a ride in the country, enough speed bumps in a row will send me home again, too frustrated to continue the effort.

I do realize that your dragon-slaying knight of the realm would sound silly with a normal, guy next door name like Fred. And his damsel in distress probably needs something jazzier than the equally girl next door name of Sally. Sir Fred and Lady Sally just don’t cut it. But imaginative names don’t have to be unpronouncable, do they? Perhaps they could be combinations of words, like Trollslayer or Flamingaxe, or even a series of words like He Who Whistles Dixie. I can read those without slamming on brakes.

Or they could be variations of names we’re already familiar with. Peeta and Katniss come to mind. This type would be more the way Robin Hobb went in her Farseer and Liveship Traders books. Names like Wintrop, Chade, Fitzchivalry, Brashen, and Malta are easy to pronounce, yet memorable in that they aren’t likely to be the names of anyone you’ve ever met. The habit of Hobb’s royal family in Bucktown naming their children after traits they admire is fun, too, resulting in characters named Chivalry, Regal, Shrewd, and Verity, for example. You get my drift, here, I’m sure.

And now my complaint. A name that sounds more like a sneeze than a word is no fun, and I wish fantasy writers, as much as I love them all,  wouldn’t hurt my brain with such.  Kvothe the raven, “Nevermore.”

 

#MidWeekPOV – Gratitude – #wwwblogs

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In today’s crazy, dangerous world, sometimes it’s hard to remember to be grateful for all we have. I know I’m guilty of being upset about the negative things that show up, uninvited, and forgetful of the good things I have around me every day. Even the roof over my head and food on my table puts me in a better place than the majority of people on this planet, and that’s the unvarnished truth.

Every morning when I get up, I do try to remember to be grateful for all I have–family, friends, remarkably good health for someone my age, and a new path in my life that has brought me so much joy. But some mornings are more difficult than others. Getting out of bed stirs up a few aches and pains, and it’s harder to remember to say thank you. And then, you find something like this.

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(Completely unretouched or Photoshopped, I swear!)

If a rainbow on your library floor isn’t a “gentle” reminder to express gratitude, I don’t know what is. So today, I simply want to say thank you to everyone who is dear to me, and that includes all my wonderful online friends!

You guys make Life so much better. And you ROCK, too!