Friday, December 23, 2011

Feeling Better!

This week I saw my spine surgeon for my two week follow-up. I’m happy to report that my cervical fusion is doing well! He cleared me to drive, but I can only do so with the help of pain medication. I made the mistake of driving to my pain specialist before taking them and had a difficult time turning my head while driving and was so relieved to make my round trip safely.
It still hurts to stay on the computer for longer than five minutes, so I will end this post by asking: Are you ready to celebrate Christmas? Does anyone celebrate Hannakuh?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Recovering from neck surgery

I'm afraid of getting shots and blood work done, and I never thought would willingly have neck surgery on December 5th as a result of my two cervical herniated disks. Actually one of the disks had completely worn out and I had bone-on-bone, with some bone spurs and arthritis in surrounding it.

Eleven long days later, my neck and shoulders still hurt when I get out of bed or bend down to pet one of my cats, and sitting in front of the computer for longer than ten minutes feels like someone hit me in the back of my neck.

The huge plus for me is that my mother, who is terrified of flying, flew from Pittsburgh, PA to Houston to help and pamper me. I hadn't realized until now that it would take getting my throat sliced open for her to come visit me for the first time.

So, does anyone have advice they would be willing to share for a patient who wants to write/edit her novels without over doing it?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Enduring to the end....

Writing 50,000 words in thirty days was a test of endurance for me, to see if I could write almost all the time. Even when I was tired, or had terrible neck and back pain.

I realized something about myself from NaNoWriMo: whenever life's challenges get in my way of accomplishing one of my goals, I find creative ways to get through them. When it seemed like I wrote every scene that I thought of but my word count was only a little over 20,000 words, I wondered how the heck I could ever add another 30,000 words in two weeks.

So, I read through the novel and knew there were many details to add to each scene, it seemed more like a short story than a novel. So, instead of panicking and giving up, I thought of things to add that could cause both my protagonist and antagonist obstacles. These thoughts were added into the novel, some as scenes to add in later, and some scenes were written as fast as they entered my head.

The Time Control: Deception novel now involves kidnapping, a twist on the typical teenage romance, and an advanced method to remove brain damage and tumors that result from using the time machine.

Do you find writing to be a test of endurance? Or do you write no matter what happens in your life?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I'm a NaNo Winner!

I'm so happy to have my certificate after a hectic month of writing a very rough draft of the time travel novel that has been in my head for 2 1/2 years now. But I'm far from finished writing this draft now that my characters are so fully developed.

Did you participate in NaNo this year?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Creating a Story Bible

Having a story bible (a place to hold all of your novel planning) is critical when keeping everything straight when you are writing a novel, especially one in thirty days!

Some of the formats you can use are: an electronic file on your computer, such Word, there are new online services that allow you to fill it in as you write, and you can leave the story bible open while you work on your novel.

Here is a list of methods I've used:

Character profile: everyone from the main character to the waitress that serves your character's drinks.
I am a visual person, so I write down their physical characteristics, such as hair color, eye color, etc. I also treat them as though they really exist - where do they live, what is their childhood history, relationship with their families (at least for the crucial characters) what makes them tick, such as are they materialistic, or do they wear the same clothes on an almost daily basis. What kind of education do they have, high school, college, trade school, etc. if/where they work. Are they are in a romantic relationship? Do you want them to be?
One of the most important character profiles for me was why does my antagonist behave the way he does? What his his childhood like?

Next I wrote about the setting of my book, in the Pittsburgh Pennsylvania area. Since I used to live there, I know which ice cream shops and restaurants to send them to. I even printed out pictures of homes I want my main characters to live in. :)

Potential plot conflicts are another important area for me: should my villain attempt to kill off my protagonist and anyone who gets in his way, or not make him too evil. Making this decision in the beginning helps keep me focused if I'm not in a 'mean' mood. What conflict should I include for my both the protagonist and antagonist? I think of some ideas and write them in my developing scenes outline. Each chapter had a general outline of what needed to happen, but I was free to add in additional scenes.

My story bible also holds some words I looked up in the thesaurus so I could think of different ways to write walk, and talk. My binder is large so I can add additional bits of information when I find it.

Here is the link to the book I bought if you would like to buy it on Amazon:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Writing Next Month

Instead of starting my time travel novel, I’ve been writing additional scenes with Anthony for The Enchanted Locket. Since next month is National Writing Month (NaNo), that will provide me the perfect time frame to write 50,000 words for Time Control: Deception.

Is anyone else participating in NaNo this year?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Increasing your plot's intensity

When my back hurts from cleaning my house, I often read one of my Writer's Digest Books. The one I'm currently reading is Creating Plot by J. Madison Davis. Click here for the link.

To increase the plot's intensity, the scenes move to more important and dangerous level as the story moves forward, while the protagonist is caught in tighter situation with the possibilities for action decreasing with each scene.

As I've plotted my time travel novel, this sentence hit me like a brick (but without the migraine :). My antagonist, Sam, wants to make a name for himself and please his father. As he plots the best course of action, he receives disturbing news and makes poor choices that lead to his becoming evil.

Once my character profiles were developed, the event that led to Sam's dark path flashed in my mind. It takes a good bit of time for me to improve my writing skills, so these great aha moments helps me write better fiction.

What are your thoughts? Do you have any great tips for increasing your novel's intensity that you care to share?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Book Review of Vanish

A week ago today I met Sophie Jordan, author of the young adult novel, Firelight, at one of her book signings. Vanish, the second book in her Firelight series about draki, was released on September 7th.

I read the book yesterday and flew through it. It was one of those epic books where I didn't notice the style or pacing because I was so enthralled  in Jacinda's life. Her life is pretty difficult as she returns to the pride with her sister Tamra and mother, and I enjoyed Jacinda's back and forth between Cassian and Will.

Rather than give anything away, I highly recommend you read this book if you enjoyed reading Firelight.

Friday, September 9, 2011

My plot thickens....

After a long break, I've returned to my young adult novel, Time Control: Deception. After much thinking and talking to my husband/co-author Jim, my antagonist, Sam, has solid, believable reasons to form his dark plans.

It's fun to write about characters who travel down a dark path when greed and lust for power takes control over them. I have always been interested in 'why' people behave the way that they do, so giving Sam a complicated past helped me understand what motivates his choices.

Do you enjoy getting to know your antagonist and understanding what makes them behave the way he/she does?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Write Great Dialogue: Part Two

I was out of town this Friday and did not have the chance to post this on Friday. My father-in-law passed away and I traveled to Pittsburgh, PA for his funeral.

Last Monday I wrote the first half of how to write great dialogue. Today we'll talk about the importance of conflict or tension in fiction, something I'm still learning how to do.

Great dialogue leaves the dull parts of conversation out, so that the protagonist is dealing with the change, threat, or challenges. Imagine reading this conversation:

 "How is that new toaster working for you?" Babs asked.
"Oh, it's marvelous," Mary said. "I'm really glad I got this one. It's at Target, on sale."
"Really? I may just have to get one for myself."
"Do. You'll love it. You'll absolutely love it."
Babs took a sip of her coffee. "Mm, this is good. What blend?"
"French Roast."
"I adore French Roast."
"Me too."

In reading this, you would think neither one has a care in the world, and wouldn't believe that Mary's husband is in the hospital.

This conversation seems more realistic:

"How is that new toaster working for you?" Babs asked.
"The toaster. How's it working?"
"It toasts."
"Yes. It toasts."
"I didn't mean to-"
"What do you think it does?"
Babs took a sip of her coffee. They sat in silence for a long moment.

This shows a distracted Mary not paying attention when Babs asks about a toaster. Their conversation takes an awkward turn which leaves them in silence.

Writing dialogue like this is taking me a long time to learn. What are your tips for writing dialogue?

*This post was taken from the book, "Revision & Self-Editing" by James Scott Bell.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Write Great Dialogue: Part One

 I've been studying my writing books as I edit The Enchanted Locket and wanted to share some essentials to writing great dialogue from the book, Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell.

Dialogue is another form of character action in fictional stories. It must be essential to the story with three goals in mind: advance the plot, reveal the characters, and reflect the theme of your story.

To advance the plot, dialogue reveals important information for the story, such as background, exposition, or help us understand what's happening in a scene. An example of this is:

"Bill," Sheila said. "What are you doing here? I thought you were going to be in Baltimore."
"We have some unfinished business, sweetheart."

We know from this exchange that as far as Sheila was concerned, Bill was supposed to be in Baltimore, and he has something on his mind that he wants to discuss that may be terrible for her.

Dialogue reveals both character and character relationships by the way people talk. One character may talk in casual and short, clipped sentences, while another character speaks in a refined, formal manner.

Dialogue illuminates theme such as the simple life of the hobbits made them much less tempted to use the evil ring and man's desire for power in the epic tale, The Lord of the Rings trilogy. All of the nine men who took Sauron's rings desired power and were the easiest to to seduce and corrupt to the evil of the ring.

It comes from one character to another character
gives a good example of what not to write:
Ted stood there.
 "Oh hello, Ted, our family doctor from Baltimore," Mary said. "Please come in."
 Ted walked through the door.
 "Mary," Ted said, "I'm so glad you were home here on Mockingbird Lane."
 "I am too, Ted. I am comforted that you're here. Having a doctor who is six feet, four inches and in good shape, but even better knows what he's talking about, is a wonderful thing for a forty-year-old woman in crisis to have visit her."
 The author is attempting to slip information to the readers by hitting them over the head with it. It's so bad you can't help but snicker at it. While dialogue is an excellent way to impart information, it must be written from one the view point of one character to another. (We'll come back to this in Friday's post).

Friday's post will discuss conflict and other essentials to writing believable dialogue. Which books have you been moved with dialogue? Do you have any favorites you wish to share?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Back and Forth

I’ve been adding and deleting sections of my novel countless times, trying to create a unique story without the overused words I find, such as: was, I, took. etc.

I have a word document for the scenes I've removed, and some of these are making their way back in. Now I'm pouring over my manuscript and asking myself, is this important or just useless words to the reader? As I read more books and write/edit my book, it seems easier to find my useless words and either delete it or improve it, maybe even add an additional small but important scene. My thesaurus and dictionary have been great friends to me as I search for better words to express my characters’ reactions to their problems.

Do you either delete or improve your story countless times like me? Do you copy and paste the deleted words to a separate document?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Observation Galore!

My family and I spent ten action packed days out west, flying from Houston to Boise, and then driving through four different states. We rarely stayed in the same hotel each night!

Being out of my element raised my observation skills; as I drove through the change of scenery from flat land to mountains, rivers which ranged from narrow to very wide, and a HUGE change in temperature. Instead of the 90-100 degree days in Houston, we enjoyed anywhere between 75-90 degree days.

I took lots of pictures of people, scenery, and the parks we visited so that if I need to use them for any future writing, I won't have to search very far.

 What do you observe while on vacation?

Monday, August 1, 2011


Finding the motivation of our characters, the ‘why are they behaving this way,’ takes lots of investigating. Why does a ghost live in this old house? Why does Olivia stay when most people leave?
As I’ve edited The Enchanted Locket my teenage ghost character, Emma, has revealed an interesting family and past. They lived in the early nineteen hundreds, so their worldview was very different than ours. For instance, when Olivia looks at a cell phone, she knows what it is and what it does. In 1915, cell phones were not invented yet, so when Emma sees this cell phone, she thinks it’s a result of ‘strong magic’ and if she had her body she’d be afraid.

In order to understand a character’s motivation, it helps to create an in-depth character profile. Questions like ‘personal history,’ ‘early childhood years,’ ‘relationships with parents,’ and ‘education,’ allow us to know our characters and write from their perspective.

It’s fun to write as two different people with different emotions life perspectives. How deep do you dig for your story?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Hook 'Em!

Some first lines are so enthralling that you must keep reading. I've read many books on how to write strong opening stories. In Noah Lukeman's "The First Five Pages," he teaches that these hooks start out as an opening line, then paragraph, page, and opening chapter. The intensity of the first line that draws the reader in should apply to the book as a whole. This takes a great deal of focus and endurance for me. But it doesn't mean the story doesn't need to slow down and let the reader digest what they have read so far.

Often when the protagonist's life is stable or improving from a recent problem, it's the break before a worse problem begins. I lost count of how many times my manuscript has changed as I attempt to make it flow better. Lukeman also warns us about creating such a hook that caused the story to flop from the inability to maintain the pace.

How do you handle the pace throughout your story?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Interview With Allen Schatz

I met Indie Writer Allen Schatz a short while ago from the
fabulous Writer’s Unboxed group on Facebook. The print version of his debut novel, GAME 7: DEADBALL was released on July 1st.

Jennifer: Where did the idea for GAME 7 : DEADBALL come from?
Allen: A combination of things. The title, originally simply ‘Game 7′, came first. I have a tendency to do that, hit on a title from seeing or hearing something and then filling in the blanks. I thought it might be neat to use a series as the ‘clock’ on a story, ending with the ultimate of a Game 7. Putting it on the baseball canvas came from my love of the game. I’ve been a lifelong baseball and Phillies fan, it was clear this was my best “write what you know” option, at least for a starting point. Having an umpire be the lead character was a way to get me in the story without me being in the story. And it is a completely different take on mystery/suspense.

Jennifer: Have you always wanted to write a novel?
Allen: I’ve been contemplating something like this for the better part of my adult life. I just never really had the courage to jump in and do it. A work situation several years ago gave me that opportunity and I ran with it. Several of the story’s characters are actually my way of saying thanks to some folks who helped with that opportunity. The “real” Mark, Gabi, and Terry all get credit for being part of the push into this world.

Jennifer: Was it your first attempt at long-form fiction writing?
Allen: Yes. This is the first time I intentionally sat down and decided to do something     about all the “you should be a writer” comments I’d heard over the years. I’ve done a fair share of business-writing in my career, but this is the debut of my fiction novel work. I love doing it. It isn’t really work at all.

Jennifer: What was your primary inspiration for writing the novel?
Allen: I’m not sure there was a primary inspiration. Finding myself with a lot of down time as part of the real work I was doing might be the closest thing. I used the writing as a way to fill the days and keep myself from going totally nuts wondering if I’d still have a job. From a ‘what kinds of books do I like’ standpoint, I’ve always been a big fan of mystery/suspense stories. Harlen Coben, John Grisham, and several others are my favorites. Some readers have noted that my style is somewhat “Grisham-like” so I’d have to give a nod to his books as being an inspiration.

Jennifer: How long did the writing process take, from first draft to final edit? How does the process change as you become more experienced?
Allen: My original method was to write whatever came out. At one point in the process I had almost 200,000 words. It was in the continuous re-writes that followed where I pared things down to something more reasonable. I don’t use a “draft” methodology per se. I usually lay out notes or do an outline of the basic path of the story. From there, I add and tweak and adjust as the plot moves along. I found early on that things kind of write themselves once you get into it, at least for me.
I started Game 7 in May of 2008, finished (a relative term) around the end of that same year. During 2009, a version was used to procure an agent. At the beginning of 2011, I was released by that agent. That provided the push to do another rewrite which got me to the final version that hit the eBook stores in February.
I’ve changed in that I have a better initial process. The first book was a lot of cutting and pasting things together. I’ve learned to be more organized at the start. It still allows flow of ideas, but with some finish line in sight.

Jennifer: What was the culture shock of making the change from full-time businessman to author?
Allen: It wasn’t as much of a shock as might be expected. I was in a position where I was employed in a full-time situation, but the details of said job left me more as a baby-sitter than a day-to-day to-do list kind of thing. I have been working virtually and/or on the road for many years anyway, so it kind of fit nicely into what I wanted to do. Of course, not getting paid at anything remotely near that of a full-time businessperson is a shock. Hopefully, that comes, but I try to take it as it comes. I still do consulting work to help pay the bills, but being a full-time writer is the goal.

Jennifer: What are you currently working on?
I’m in the final stages of prepping Game 7 for its print launch, coming July 1 via CreateSpace. I’m also bringing book 3 into final edits for its eBook launch, tentatively scheduled for August 1. From there, I’ll be starting the next project — I have a title (Liars Ball) and a preliminary story outlined, but will be filling in the blanks shortly. Otherwise, self-promoting and doing what I can to help other Indie writers succeed.

Jennifer: Thank you for your time today, I just bought the eBook and plan to read it soon. I wish you the best with all of your books.
Allen: Thank you for the interview.
Click here for Allen’s Website. To order the book on Amazon, click here: If you would like to read the eBook, click here. Also check out the second eBook in the series, 7th Inning DEATH. 


This is the first post on my new writing blog. I love learning new writing methods and following the publishing industry trends and I'm excited to share the lessons I learn.