Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Out of Her League Wins First Place!

I'm thrilled to announce that Out of Her League has won first place in romantic suspense category of the 2009 Volusia County RWA Laurel Wreath contest.

It beat out entries from several highly accomplished authors, but what tickles me the most is that the judges chose an e-pubbed book as the winner for the category. Sometimes it feels like e-pubbed authors don't get recognition or respect from other sectors in the publishing industry, so it was nice that my entry (and my publisher) was taken seriously. And, they liked it! They really, really liked it :) I greatly appreciate their support.

Plus, two fellow Greater Vancouver RWA chapter mates placed along with me. Susan Lyons placed second in the long contemporary category with her erotic romance She's On Top (Kensington Aphrodisia), and Mary J. Forbes won the short contemporary with Their Secret Child (Silhouette).

Monday, November 16, 2009

Suck It Up Princess

This was one of my best coach's favorite expressions. Admittedly, we were a pretty hardcore bunch of ballplayers. We trained and played eleven months a year, and in season it was rare to have more than a day off a week. Whenever someone got hurt, this same coach would undoubtedly ask, "Are you hurt? Or are you injured?" Meaning, if we don't need to cart you off to the hospital, quit whining, suck it up and get back out there.

We got used to his tough love routine pretty fast. I still hear him sometimes in my head when I'm staring at my blank laptop screen wondering what the heck to write next. "Suck it up, princess." And he's right. As Todd Stone wrote in his book Novelist's Boot Camp, you can whine or you can write, but you can't do both.

Writers have to write, and if they want to succeed, they have to write constantly. They can't sit around waiting for their muse to show up, and they can't wait for inspiration to strike. Not all of as are as hardcore as Nora Roberts, who writes eight hours every single day--including Christmas, I'm told. Wow. Now that's a level of dedication I can't even aspire to, because I know it would never happen. I need my downtime to recharge my batteries, and I could never work on Christmas!

Here are some ideas for the less militant among us that have worked for me. Set a page or word count and a schedule you--and your family--can live with. If possible, pick the time of day when your creative juices seem to flow the best, and make it part of your routine. This is the only way my family has learned to respect what I'm doing. The schedule thing seems to make my hubby happier, otherwise he grumbles about me being attached to my laptop all the time. I write in the morning for an hour or two, then when hubby puts our little ones to bed. If I get an extra bit of time in between someplace, bonus.

My point is, even if it's not as much time to write as I'd like to have, at least it's something. I've got to make that window of opportunity work. No one's going to hold me accountabale but me. No one can make me quit but me. No one's going to do the writing for me. Yes, writing is hard. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it! But that's no excuse. Just write. No whining. You can't fix a blank page. Get the words down, and even if they're awful, you've got something to work with when you go back and revise.

Okay, I'm hopping off my soapbox now. And as promised, here's a picture of me on my way out for trick-or-treating on Halloween.

Happy writing! No whining.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Remembrance Day Reflections

I'm prouder to be a Canadian on Remembrance Day than on any other day of the year. When I was 12, my parents took my best friend and I over to Europe, and my dad made sure we visited some of the most important Canadian WWI sites. I've never forgotten that trip, or how I felt standing on those battlefields and in the cemeteries. Humbled and awed, and incredibly sad that so many young men died in the war that was meant to end all wars...but didn't.

A month ago my best cousin and I traveled to Europe, and visited Normandy, France. Our first stop there was to Juno Beach, where the Canadians landed on June 6th, 1944 for their part in the D-Day invasion of Operation Overlord.

A few days before arriving there, I happened to learn a very interesting fact. To give you a point of reference, my father was president of Ritchie Brothers Auctioneers for a long time, and worked as the right hand man of the CEO, Dave Ritchie. The Ritchies are from Kelowna, a small city in the interior of BC.

Turns out, Dave's eldest brother volunteered to fight during WWII, and was killed at Juno Beach. My father says Dave remembered his eldest brother marching through the streets of Kelowna on their way to war while the crowd cheered them on. Dave ran after him, and his brother told him to go stand with their parents. That's the last time Dave ever saw him.

On the way to Normandy from Paris, my cousin and I passed a Ritchie Bros. yard on the main highway. I didn't think much of it at the time, except to point it out to my cousin. We visited Juno Beach and the visitors center, then went to the Canadian cemetery and found Dave's brother's grave--not forty five minutes' drive from where the yard now stands. It gave me goose bumps to know the eldest brother had died liberating France, and because of him and his fellow soldiers turning the tide of the war, sixty years later his baby brother was able to set up part of his empire there.

So this Remembrance Day I'm thinking of Corporal William Ritchie, and the ultimate sacrifice he made. I wonder if he knows the part he played in helping his little brother.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Warrior Writer: Reflections

Got back last night from Bob Mayer's Warrior Writer workshop, and during the drive home mulled over what resonated with me the most.

The first day was a writing workshop where we focused on the main story idea and conflict, plus reviewed critiques of our opening pages from the other participants. Except for my critique partner (who you can't have--she's mine! All mine!), all other criticism I usually have to read and then put away for a day or two before coming back to it. Otherwise I get too stuck on the negative things pointed out, and get down on myself. You know how that goes, right? Instead of thinking, Aha! I see how I can improve this, and I'm so glad someone pointed this weakness out, we wallow in the abyss of self-pity. Instead of seeing it as constructive criticism, we hear people saying, "You suck, and somebody should take that keyboard away from you because clearly you shouldn't be using it", or "I would rather stab something sharp into my eye than have to read another word you write". Yeah. Feeling like people hate your work (or worse, you) can cripple a writer.

Bob put it perfectly, saying that writers are a different breed, and it's usually that one "aw, shit" that wipes out the ninety-nine "atta-boys" that came before it. That's why I always let the feedback marinate a while in my subconscious. I'm always better off that way. Of course the comments are just opinions, but if there's something constructive I can work with to improve my writing, I'll at least take a hard look at it. And let's face it, when NYT bestselling author points out weaknesses in your work, you'd better sit up and pay attention and then work to improve your craft/story.

After day one, I was suddenly left questioning my entire plot and main characters for the WIP I've been struggling with. The good news is that my subconscious already knew there was a problem with the story, but I couldn't put my finger on it. After mulling it over this weekend, I think I've got a few ideas up my sleeve to make it better.

I learned from Bob that most writers are introverts by nature. We kind of have to be, since we hole up in our little cocoons and type on a keyboard for hours on end, day after day. Month after month...Yikes, year after year even. That's why most of us are not very good at promotion. We're more comfortable being in the audience than on the stage. We tend to get discouraged easily, either because of negative feedback, or because of the way the business is set up. That's why so many writers give up before they get published, and why others give up before they've attained their dreams. Bottom line is, nobody can make you quit except you. And nobody's going to do the work for you. It's up to you to figure out how you want your career to be, and then keep writing until you turn out a product that publishing can't say no to.

Here are a few thoughts to ponder about your current project:

-How can you make your main story idea more special and so unique that it grabs the agent's/editor's eye right away in the query letter? You want something that can knock their socks off and set you apart from the other fifty manuscripts with a similar plot already sitting in their inbox.

-What attribute(s) can you give your main characters to make them different than any other character ever invented? Make them so interesting and riveting that no reader, agent or editor could ever forget them.

-How can you up the stakes of the conflict so that your protagonist is the only person on Earth fit to take on your antagonist?

-Do you have at least two layers of conflict in every single scene? Verbal, emotional, physical, psychological.

-You should write in the point of view you enjoy reading the most.

-Study authors and books that you love. What is the POV? What is it about the characters and story that draws you? What have those authors done that you haven't?

Finally, the biggest thing I took away from the weekend is that pretty much everything is fixable in a manuscript. It just takes the willingness to change and a lot of hard work. But above all, you only get one chance to hook an agent or editor, so make sure you only put your best work in front of them, and never ever give them an easy reason to reject you. Make it really hard for them to say no.

I challenge you to put these ideas into action. See if you can really push the envelope with your plot and characters. I'm looking forward to watching how much life it injects into my current work.

Remember, style and craft can be fixed, but in today's writing market, it's the story itself that has to be brilliant.

Happy writing!
Kaylea :)