Thoughtful Tuesday – Valentine’s Inspirations – Or Singles Awareness

Being single around Valentine’s day – or Singles Awareness Day as I used to call it,  never really bothered me.  This was mostly due to whomever I might have been dating never seemed to remember to send flowers anyway.  But looking back at those months, where all the singles gathered together in forces, they were really good times.  Those times and memories now help inspire new stories, new ideas, and new jokes.heart

Of course my husband does a great job of remembering this Hallmark holiday and I have no room to complain anymore. But the great times are usually not the inspiration to a novel.  Bad boyfriends, horrible fights, and the let downs usually give you the meat of any Romance story.  Sad but true.

Fun fact about me.  I remember how to spell valentine because of a song I learned in first grade.  No it isn’t a hard word to spell, but I now can not spell it without singing in my head every time.

What about you? Do you like the hallmark holiday?

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Fun Fact Friday – Vonnie Davis and the Men in Her Life

And the winners are: Kiersi and Nona!! Congratulations.

Have you ever wondered where the men come from in stories?  I know I often wonder about the brain behind the hunk and today we have a huge treat! Vonnie Davis, a very entertaining woman, is talking about the men who have popped in and out of her life – on paper that is.  Kleenex might be necessary to keep drool off of your shirt or to wipe away tears as you laugh out loud at her experiences.  Stick around to the end of the post and comment.  Vonnie is giving away copies of her short story A Taste of Chocolate.

Get your comments in by Saturday the 9th at Midnight!!!!  You don’t want to miss out your chance to win A Taste of Chocolate.

Take it away Vonnie!

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VonnieI’m thrilled to visit with you today on Michelle’s blog. Who on earth is Vonnie Davis, you’re probably asking? Well, I’m a retired technical writer and an extra-fluffy grandma who also writes sweet to steamy romances. And I’m here to tell you the men just won’t leave me alone!

My heroes come to me at night when I am in that fragile, fluttery state between wakefulness and sleep. With them, they bring their stories. Take the cowboy who strutted into our bedroom wearing nothing but a Stetson, cowboy boots and a go-to-hell sneer. My snoring husband never noticed, but I was certainly all eyes. This “sighting” became the beginning to my award winning, debut novel, Storm’s Interlude.

One night a man on a Harley roared into our bedroom. When he uncurled his frame from the bike, I somehow knew he was wearing a prosthesis to replace the leg he’d lost in Iraq. He removed his helmet, sat on the edge of our bed and introduced himself as Win. He’d met a woman, you see, and wanted their story told, and it was in Those Violet Eyes.

 Imagine my shock the night a tumbleweed blew into our bedroom followed by a huge man on horseback, a little boy settled on the saddle in front of him. His horse prancing and turning, the rider tipped his cowboy hat. “I need a mother for my son and a woman to warm my bed.” And Tumbleweed Letters was born.

I’d been tossing around the idea of writing a romantic suspense trilogy set in Paris, my favorite city. While I loosely plotted, I hoped my subconscious would once again be open to nocturnal male visits. One night when I was especially tired, our bedroom door slammed. I sat straight up in the bed. What was that? Thinking I was dreaming, I snuggled against hubs and was almost asleep when the door slammed again.

This time I saw the rascal—dark, wavy hair like a GQ model and mega doses of sex appeal. Niko told me he was second-in-command of the French counterterrorism unit and would do whatever he could to keep the women in his life safe—even me. Alrightie, then, one hero down…two to go. A couple months later, a man slowly coasted his motorcycle around and around our bed. He was dressed totally in black with alabaster angel wings flowing down his back. Jean-Luc flashed me a slow sexy-as-hell grin, and I was lost. Hero number three? Oh, he took longer to form. Until one night a man with a blond braid sat on the edge of our bed and plaid soulful notes of jazz on his saxophone, his eyes closed as he poured his soul into every note. Then Derrek opened his eyes—cobalt blue rimmed in black. “I’m here for you, Vonnie.” His voice was deep and gravelly as if he gargled with razor blades.

I’d read about an open anthology at Still Moments Publishing regarding a bit of magic and a matchmaker. Could I write something so “short” being the wordy soul I am? Declan came to me that night, holding purple roses. “They signify love at first sight,” he told me. “I’ll show you how to write my story in under twelve-thousand words.”

“Can’t be done.” I mean, it would take twelve-thousand words just to describe the magnetism of this ex-SEAL. Quite often my characters teach me valuable lessons. Declan taught me how to write short.

giveaway

I’m giving away two copies of this short story, A Taste of Chocolate, to two lucky commenters. Just tell me your favorite color of roses and leave your email address.

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BLURB: 

Hope Morningstar has the worst luck with men. One boyfriend wrote her a “Dear John” letter while serving overseas. Her latest romantic interest broke up with her in a text. When a traffic detour puts her in an unfamiliar neighborhood, she stops at Freya’s Coffee Shop where she gets more than directions. She gets another chance at finding love.

Declan Fleming, scarred by a cheating ex-wife, has given up searching for love. He’s taken the route of a few other men and engaged the services of Freya, the matchmaker. Still, he’s been waiting for a year and he’s just about given up hope. Then Freya sends him Hope.

When feelings of insecurity and trust issues come into play, can finding love stand a chance? Can the magical influence of this matchmaker create a happy ending? After all, finding that one special love often involves a bit of special magic, does it not?

“A man’s kiss should taste like chocolate, dark flavor melting, doing sensual things to you.” Freya, the Matchmaker

Excerpt

Her stomach cramped, and she couldn’t seem to take one deep, complete breath. She eyed the paper bag she kept in her purse. If she hyper-ventilated, she’d need it. Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God, I am freaking insane.

Once he came, if he came, she’d give him ten minutes, and then she was out of here. She didn’t care how good looking he was. Wait, she’d decided to go for content of character, not looks. This change in priorities would take time. Old habits were hard to break. Her gaze swept the area. With any luck he wouldn’t show.

“Don’t turn around.” A deep voice behind her sent chills up her spine. “I’m Declan, the man Freya sent. I know you’re scared, but don’t be. There’s no need.”

Why couldn’t she look at him? Was he butt-ugly? Short and fat? What? Remember, I’m not going to concentrate on his looks. I’m making wiser choices this time. I’m looking at the man on the inside, not the hunk on the outside. She exhaled a long, slow breath. “Okay.”

“Close your eyes for just a second.”

Oh, this was just too weird. Even so, she closed them. Something satiny soft rubbed over her cheek and she jerked. Roses. She smelled roses. Velvety softness caressed her chin.

“Rose petals are very soft, aren’t they?”

“Yes.” They were also very sensual when rubbed over her face. “I’m opening my eyes now.” Enough playing games. Every person in the food court had to be watching them.

“As you wish.” He held a small bouquet in front of her. “Purple roses are for love at first sight. Purple irises are the flower of hope.”

There were two purple roses and two irises snuggled in a bed of baby’s breath and tied with a pink ribbon. What a charming gesture. Don’t weaken. Be strong. Don’t let him suck you in.

“And the baby’s breath?” She’d yet to look at him, but took his sentimental offering from his calloused hand. “What does that flower mean?”

“Sincerity.” He stepped to her side, and her gaze lifted. “Hello, Hope. I’m Declan Fleming.” He extended his hand and she placed hers in his for a handshake. Something swift and searing zinged to her heart.

He had the most incredible blue eyes she’d ever seen. Not pale blue or sky blue, but cobalt.

Declan settled in the chair across from her. “Thank you for agreeing to meet me on such short notice.”

Something about his voice set her insides to trembling. She lifted the small bouquet to her nose and inhaled their heady fragrance, giving her nerves time to settle after that handshake—as if they could settle with those cobalt eyes taking her in. “Thank you for the flowers.”

“I thought if I showed a measure of gallantry, you wouldn’t be so scared of me.”

“Gallantry?” Who used that word anymore? She shook her head. “This is very kind of you, but I’m not scared.” One of his dark eyebrows arched. “Okay, yes I’m nervous. Scared spitless, actually.”

“Understandable.” He had black hair combed straight back and touching the collar of his blue shirt. A closely cropped mustache and beard lent a dangerous air to his narrow face. Oh, my.

“Freya was right. Blue does bring out the color of your eyes.” Gracious, but the man was muscular. Round, firm shoulders and large biceps. His knit shirt stretched over well-defined pecs. What would it feel like to be held against him? Oh, girl, don’t even go there.

Buy through AMAZON 

Visit me at my website

I’d love to see you at my blog: http://www.vintagevonnie.blogspot.com

 

I just want to say I realize now at 3:34pm on THURSDAY that it is not Friday.  I will blame my pregnancy brain, but more then likely it was wishful thinking.  Enjoy a day early.

Finding My Way – The Search for a Niche

It’s really a Monday.  I just threw my bagel across my desk.  This was not intentional and now I am wiping cream cheese off of my files and papers.  Who knew eating could be so hazardous?

hmmmI had a different post in mind for today, but based on a recent blog post I read I thought that I would change directions. I recently came across a blog post – Finding Your One Thing, and it got me thinking.  How did I figure out what I wanted to write? Apparently there are millions – or hundreds, of writers trying to find their niche.  Even an agent I follow had pondered this process a few months back.  Here’s my story.

I started to write in Paranormal Romance.  I had intended to write YA, but unfortunately that wouldn’t work.  Six years ago New Adult would have fit that story.  So I guess I was a little of head of my time – but only partially.  After realizing the market was flooded with vampires no matter how “new” the story was, I simply realized that I had to change my approach, or at least until I made a name for myself.  The issue was that I was so in love with that story and those characters that at first it was hard to put everything down.  But I had to.

I had to put that first manuscript aside to learn everything I was doing wrong aside from genre.  Don’t write a 300,000 word manuscript.  Don’t write something because it is hot for the moment, you are already too late.  Don’t expect your first manuscript to be your first publication – although it does happen.  Don’t be afraid of change.  So I set out on another Paranormal Romance and this one truly was YA and still is an idea that hasn’t been done.  The issue again though, was that something was nagging me.  The idea that I still wasn’t falling far enough away from the huge influx of paranormal stories.  Someday that second manuscript might see the light of day.  For now I’ve moved on.

Later that week I cuddled up to a book that wasn’t Paranormal.  It was contemporary and the idea struck me that I struggled a lot to find this new book with a balance of humor and realistic women and  a story plot that didn’t make me uncomfortable or want to toss the book after chapter five.  So it hit me,  why couldn’t I take my paranormal stories and make them contemporary?  My voice didn’t have to change, my knowledge could be applied anywhere, and I love contemporary Romance just as much.  It didn’t hurt that I had just had the cutest story idea ever enter my head either.

I sat down and started to write.  After reaching three chapters I took my story to my critique partners.  When they all laughed out loud and not in a ‘you’re crazy way’ I knew that I had hit on what felt off about writing before.  I wasn’t making people smile and giving them an escape.  I may love to read dark or suspenseful, but I would like to be the one making someone smile instead.

Three years later I found a publisher that validated my choice.  They liked my style and my voice.  Sure I still have things to learn, that is life in general.  At least for now I found someone in the industry that saw my potential and solidified my choice to change sub-genres.  Will this lead to millions or maybe just an appearance on the New York Times Best Seller list?  Who knows.  But at least for now I am very comfortable with what I write and things only get better with each new laugh I hear.

I found something that made me feel good and could make me giggle which are two things that matter to me.  It was nice hearing that the voices in my head weren’t the only ones, but I would still write it even if I hadn’t had a few good friends at the time.

How about you?  Are you still looking or have you found it?  There are very few authors that I know who are writing what they started in.  Some have gone back, while others just keep moving forward.  I thinking reading and seeing what you enjoy should help influence what you think you might love writing.

Write a story for yourself first and then curtail it to your audience in the next draft.  Share your story of how you got to where you are today.

Inciting Incident Part 2 – Examples

For those that still aren’t sure about what the inciting incident is, answers.com gave the best summary:
* The conflict that begins the action of the story and causes the protagonist to act
*Without this event, there would be no story. Also, it is better described as the State of Imperfection made explicit.Maybe This Time

I tried to find some big name books to give you inciting incident examples; it’s a little harder than I thought. Mostly because I have been sticking my nose into romances for a while and sadly those are not always the big, big names out there.  But I will try anyway.

So here are some books that I think everyone has heard and/or read:

The Hunger Games (YA) is a great example, thank you to my commenter- Jamie  .  To see her response click here.

Marked (YA) – PC. Cast and Kristin CastDarkest Power - Kelley Armstrong

Inciting Incident occurs in the first chapter where Zoey is marked by a vampire to be destined to be a vampire.  Her mother’s reaction to the marking changes the course of her life and her actions.

The Summoning (YA)– by Kelley Armstrong

The inciting Incident again appears in the first chapter when the main character is encountered by a ghost in school.  She reacts as any normal person would – badly – and is sent away to a special school.  Her father’s lack of interest in her situation and his decision to send her away changes her life.

Twilight (YA) – Stephanie Meyer

The inciting incident is in the first chapter after the prologue.  She moves because of her mother.  Not exactly exciting, but the move to live with her father and changing school is what allows her to meet Sense and SensibilityEdward.

Sense and Sensibility (Romance) – Jane Austen

Their father dies in the first chapters and because women in that time period don’t get to keep anything their lives are altered forever.  Without the father passing and the greed of the half brother their lives would never have changed course.

Anne of Green Gables (YA) – L.M. Montgomery

Again – in the first chapter Anne is sent in mistake of a boy for adoption.  Matthew is too sweet to turn her away and takes her home anyway.  Because of Matthew’s actions Marella is forced to get to know Anne and allows her to stay.

Maybe This Time (Romance) – Jennifer Cruise

In the first chapter– Andy goes to try and get closure from her ex husband, but lucky for him his distant relative just died and named him guardian of two children.   If it weren’t for this morbid start, North would never have had a good reason to get Andy back into his life.

Cell (Horror) – Stephen King

In the first chapter a tone is sent out over cell phones that causes anyone who was talking on their cell to become a Zombie like creature. Creepy right? The main character doesn’t even own a cell.  Because the tone was sent over cell phones and he doesn’t own one he is now immersed in an apocalypse like world trying to get to his son.

It’s hard to think of any big books where the incident that gets the story going isn’t named in the first chapter or two.  I had stated that you need to cover it in the first three and still stand by this, although it is best to get it done quickly.  Some background may need to occur before the inciting incident is given.   That isn’t to say that all the details of how the incident occurred are reveled in the first chapters, but it is very clear as to why the story is moving forward.

Do you have any great examples of inciting incidents or any examples breaking the rules that actually work?  Even better – where is your inciting incident in your story?

The Inciting Incident: Is Your Character Unlikable or What Are You Missing?

Don’t you hate criticism that leads you to a lot of head scratching, but little to no idea how to fix the issue?

I had a beta reader – yes just one, tell me my character was nearly unlikable.  I sort of wanted to cry.  That wasn’t going to get me anywhere though.  I had to stop and think.  Why did beta reader A think that. The character is cynical and she has every right to be that way.  She is throwing around  sarcastic comments like they are as common as air. She can’t see anything for what it is and men, well men just drive the nail into her emotional coffin of mad.Incite

So I asked myself: is her entire outlook unlike any other woman scorned?  No.  She is who she is and she isn’t happy.  What I had to do was make it more apparent as to why she was so sarcastic about everything around her that day.  I had to figure out why it is the reader couldn’t identify or at least see why it is that she was acting out in her emotional tornado.  That’s when it hit me.   I was missing the inciting incident!

It better be apparent to your reader sooner  rather than later what the catalyst is to your characters actions.  The middle of a story is too late to explain why Fred is up and leaving, or why Sally was running in the rain, or why Ted just robbed a liquor store.  You can have undesirable traits in characters – heck they are supposed to be someone real so they better not be perfect.  The issue is making the cause for the not so positive traits visible to the reader.

In the first 3 chapters your inciting incident better be apparent.

Have you had any experiences with this confusing the reader because you didn’t make it clear or put it in too late?

Who is Your Audience

How does one appeal to their indented audience? Reading the genre that you write could be a start, although I do hear from a lot of writers that they don’t like to read that particular genre. My question is, how then can you understand what your intended audience wants to read?
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Sure you know the mechanics. Sure you know the sequence of events, but what If you are missing some key elements that only stick out when you read. I understand reading other genres while in the midst of a story because subconsciously we sometimes copy ideas we’ve read. I don’t agree that you can write the best book possible if you are not familiar with what your audience wants to read. I am not telling you to read one genre exclusively either.

How do you relate to your audience? I for one love reading the genres I write. I am inspired by the good books and am motivated to outdo the bad ones. The key is I can identify what books are bad to understand how to make them good. I then incorporate that into my own writing. When I get tired of contemporary romances, I head over to paranormal.

Do you know who your audience is? Just because you have a story in your head does not mean it is marketable. Remember that when starting out. Try and see who you are writing for and this may curtail the elements of your story and appeal to a real type of person. If you can’t find a category for your story who is going to read it? I know we are writing for ourselves – but isn’t the end goal to hopefully find someone who wants to buy it too?

So I ask again, how do you appeal to your intended audience?

Fun Fact Friday – Laura Monahan and Candy

I just got done with a “Mom’s Night Out”  photography class.  A full-time job, writing, and being a mom isn’t enough to keep me busy I guess.  While there the photographer, Laura Monahan, gave away a great secret. flowers laura

Distract a child with candy and you will get a smile. No the child isn’t going to do exactly what you wanted, but you will still capture a memory to last a life time.

I put that into my own words, but isn’t it a great point?  If you distract someone with a few great points you get the outcome you wanted even if there are some shortcomings.

So although she isn’t a writer, she is an artist with a few of her own tricks. Add the things that someone wants to read and whatever you fail at will be ignored.  I’d love to give you a list of what the ‘must haves’ are, but that depends on you, your genre, and how you write.  I’d say for me, readers would expect some sarcasm and a crazy and headstrong heroine.

What do you think?  What elements can you throw out to your reader like candy to give them enough distractions no matter what our weaknesses are?

Switching Gears – Short Stories vs. the Novel

 

Have you ever had manuscript burn out?  I have and I am sure more people have.  For me manuscript burn out comes from having to write the same story for 80,000 words and figuring out the centers.  I love beginnings and the climax.  I feel like endings are my stronger points.  What I hate are the middles – or the filler parts.  How do you stop your story from dragging or adding in information that isn’t getting you anywhere?  My answer?  Well I don’t have a good one.  I do on the other hand have a brain break.

I decided to try my hand at a short story or two.  Give my mind a small break from the big picture and work on a few smaller ones.  The outcome is I feel rejuvenated and refreshed.  I feel like I just accomplished something.  A short story can vary depending on who and what you are writing for.  Anywhere from 1,000 words to 30,000 words.  With all the new emerging e-publishers there is a demand for a short story talent. If nothing else you can really focus on your voice and writing style.Refresh

In a short story you can’t have a lot of back story and you don’t want to start in the wrong place.  If you do your short turns in a blob of too long.  It’s easy to pinpoint pointless filler or maybe that you started in the wrong spot.  This can actually help you with your longer stories.  Sure you aren’t going to start a novel in the same place – or maybe you are.  A short story might actually only be the beginning, the minor conflict, and the resolution.  A short story probably won’t have every element a novel would have, there probably won’t be a few minor conflicts and then massive blowup’s.  You simply don’t have the time.

Short story writing can help your novel writing and even editing.  Because there is less to focus on it is easier to train your brain to be patient and make it through to the end.  For me the true benefit was figuring out my show vs. tell issues.  For some reason a shorter story will show your true weaknesses quicker and it’s probably because each word suddenly has more weight on it.

If you are struggling or need something to make you feel accomplishment, try putting down the novel and start a short story.  You can always turn it into a novel at a later time, but at least for now you are giving you mind a shorter plot to focus on.  The short story is an art of it’s own and will teach you so much about your writing.  At least if you are making a colossal mistake that no one has pointed out yet, it is a whole heck of a lot easier to find it and fix it in 20,000 words rather then 100,000.  What a stress free way to hone in a your craft.

What do you do when your going on burn out?

 

Fun Fact Friday – Where You Learn the Big Words

Winnie the pooh has some very large words in it.  Words that I didn’t even know existed.  This has to be good for me and our children, right?

So I’m thankful for some new words from an unlikely source. Who knew toddlers would expand my horizons.  Sure they suck up all your time, but at least I am being educated.  A word that only Winnie the Pooh could have taught me: Remuneration.  That being said why is it that they spell honey wrong throughout and use the wrong tail = tale spelling?  For those that use words every day I am sure that we are all trying to inspire adults to keep learning and young children to stretch their imaginations.  Is Winnie the Pooh helping or not?  I learn new words but repeatedly see another word misspelled.  I actually had to sit back and think hard about what was the correct spelling for a word that is almost second nature normally.

This isn’t my typical fun fact Friday but I am interested in where we all learn new words to write the impossible or express human emotion.  At some point you have to expand your own horizons in order to fully express what it is you are trying to communicate to the rest of the world.  I hope you will share your thoughts; sorry no remuneration other then gratitude will be given.

 

 

Are You Character Driven or Plot Driven?

A character driven story is a story in which the character is what drives the plot to move.  Anne of Green Gables, Twilight, and Rachel Gibson novels are character driven.  In these cases the stories wouldn’t have turned out the way they did without the character.  The characters are the stories and how the stories progress.

A plot driven novel is one where the plot defines who a character is and how the story will go.  Lord of the rings is an example of plot driven, as is Harry Potter.  You could have thrown anyone into these stories and they would have turned out the same – well okay not anyone.  The point is though, that the characters, although we care for them, are not what make things occur.  Action happens to them, they did not cause the action.

It seems with character driven books you get a deeper understanding of the character and their inner workings.  With a plot drive story you usually see the character at a birds eye view rather then know what their individual thoughts are.

I personally like stories that focus more on the characters rather then on the story.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love Harry Potter, you could still get lost in the story. The difference is that I wanted to know where the story went more then I wanted to see how the characters would progress.

Depending on your story, taking one view over the other can make or break what you are attempting to show.  Most romances will be told with the characters as your driving force, where as an epic fantasy will most likely take the plot driven approach.

I write character driven stories.  My characters talk to me and somehow the plot molds and shifts with each action. Even when I swear the story was going a different direction somehow my characters write the story the way they want.
What is your story and why?  List your genre to help put it all into perspective.