Weekly Roundup 12-12-18 Jump-starting Your Creative Flow

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Sometimes the well of creativity and imagination runs dry and it’s up to you to find a fresh source. There are many ways to get the juices flowing again, but it may not be from the comfort of your favorite chair. Great material is all around us if we are paying attention, so try these the next time you need new ideas or inspiration:

  • Conversations – go ahead and eavesdrop at work, home, or the grocery store. The breadth of topics is astonishing.
  • The news – always full of colorful characters and interesting story ideas.
  • Dreams – sounds crazy I know, but as your brain cleans house every night you may pick up an idea or two. Keep pen and paper on the nightstand to record them before they disappear!
  • Books – you aren’t the only one with good ideas, so feel free to borrow from other writers (not in a plagiaristic sense of course!)
  • Entertainment – movies, concerts, TV, even your 5 year old’s school play.
  • People watching – go to the Mall or search your favorite magazines to find your next hero, romantic character, or bad guy.
  • Advertising – there are signs everywhere and many are clever or amusing. Churches, businesses, yard signs, billboards, and posters abound.
  • Change of Venue – get out of the house on a regular basis. Try visiting a library, cafe, park, museum, Botanical gardens, aquarium, pet store, or even a subway ride.

Sometimes the greatest story ideas come from a single word, a new face, or a familiar smell, jump-starting your imagination. So get to it! We’re all waiting to see what that creative mind of yours can come up with.

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Traitor’s Moon – Chapter twelve is finished! Word count stands at 100,498. (I love crossing the 100,000 milestone!) I have at least one more chapter, plus the Epilogue and then the book is done. I’m still hoping to have the writing finished by December 31st.

I had a blast working with Everet in this latest chapter, one of my sub-plot characters who is about a hundred years out of date. As it turns out, I probably could have written an entire novel about him alone, but this wasn’t the time. The Gladstone Shifters is primarily a romance series, with a healthy dose of intrigue and drama thrown in to keep things interesting, and Everet’s journey hasn’t reached the romance stage (yet).

 

Weekly Roundup 12-5-18 Reference Material for Romance Writers

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

I prefer to get my news online and like to save articles which might help my writing, be it general information or new story ideas. Back in June I was intrigued by this one: “Sixteen Hot Spots on a Man’s Body You Should Know About” by Carina Hsieh. Naturally, as an M/M romance writer, I was intrigued and wanted to know more. It never hurts to introduce some new ideas into a hot bedroom scene, and I certainly can’t claim to know it all.

While the list contained the usual suspects (lips, penis, nipples, perineum), there were a few odd places mentioned:

  • Adam’s Apple
  • Lower back
  • The dip under the ankle

I am uncertain how much serious research is represented, but the author claims the advice comes from “experts”. I can think of at least two hot spots which were left off the list, though most gay men are not shy about taking advantage of them. You’ll have to read the article for yourself and decide if the information is helpful!

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Traitor’s Moon – I’ve made some great progress this week and am deep into chapter twelve! Word count stands at 96,300+. This part of the book is both winding down towards the end and building up to the final conflict. During a short break in the action, I’m having fun with one of the sub-plots, fleshing out a newer character. Too many new people tend to distract from the primary pair in each story, so I have to be careful. It remains to be seen if he will be featured, or only mentioned, in future books.

Since I’m near the end, I occasionally have trouble remembering details from the early chapters. Research is often required to make certain I am being consistent with important details (thank goodness for the “search” feature in MS Word!). I suppose it could be said that many readers would not notice minor errors, since they have most probably forgotten the details by the end of the book anyway. Perhaps, but I simply can’t let things like that slide. As an author, I feel obligated to give readers my very best, and I hope it shows.

My goal is to complete Traitor’s Moon by the end of the calendar year and publish it early next year. Stay tuned for the cover reveal!

Weekly Roundup 11-21-18 Thanksgiving – More Than a Holiday

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

George Washington proclaimed the first nationwide thanksgiving celebration in America marking November 26, 1789, “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God”.

Growing up, I loved Thanksgiving because it meant a big family dinner and time off school. I didn’t care why it existed or when it started or what it might mean for me personally. Introspection and history were for grown ups, and I couldn’t have cared less.

I’m happy to report my attitude of gratitude has changed over the years, but Thanksgiving provides a crucial reminder to get me back on track. Many have forgotten or ignore the spiritual side of the holiday, which is more than regrettable considering how blessed we are as a people in this country. God has been so very good to me, and I am eternally grateful for His love and provision.

I must confess, however, it’s entirely too easy for me to focus on the negative and gripe about what I don’t have. If you’re like me, then I challenge you spend some time tomorrow making a list of blessings and place it where it can be seen every day. As more things come to mind, add to your list and review it when your attitude starts to sour. While we often can’t change our circumstances, we DO have the power to change our attitude, and a thankful heart will go a long way to lifting your spirits and encouraging friends and loved ones.

My best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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I’ve made some progress on Expectant Moon this week and am more than halfway through chapter 11! Have you ever planned a memorial service for shifters? Well, neither had I! This was another difficult and emotional portion of the manuscript, and I found my self choked up and crying as I wrote. Good thing the tissues were close at hand! Hopefully I managed to create something unique to the wolf shifter community, yet still recognizable to my human readers.

This event marks the end of the dramatic attack sequence and leads into the final wrap-up portion of the story. I still have a bad guy to deal with and a number of dangling threads to tie off, but the end of the book is now in sight. With the holiday tomorrow, I have a long weekend ahead and plan to spend most of it writing. No promises, but if all goes well, I may actually get the book finished before the end of the year after all!

Weekly Roundup 11-7-18 Ten Unusual Things About Me

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Today I’m responding to an unofficial tag from H.R.R Gorman, who published a list of unusual things about himself. Check out his blog – he always has interesting things to say! Anyway, the challenge sounded like fun, so I’m going to give it a go.

  1. I come from a family of eleven children. This was something my parents planned right from the beginning, and if my mother hadn’t miscarried once, they would have had twelve. I have eight sisters and two bothers and am number nine in the lineup. OK, enough math.
  2. I really hate getting lost while driving, as in stressed out worried I will never find my way back to civilization. It’s even worse if I’m running late, the weather is bad, or I’m in a strange city. If you’re ever riding with me when this happens, you may hear some colorful words!
  3. Not sure what the percentages are, but I never had my tonsils or appendix removed. Sad to say, this is not true of my perfectly healthy gall bladder which was mistakenly yanked from my insensate body at the hands of an HMO physician (don’t get me started!).
  4. I learned to drive on a Ford Pinto, a stick-shift gas-saver without any amenities which my father purchased new and kept running well beyond its normal lifetime.
  5. Since leaving home for college, I have moved a total of thirty times. Yes, I’m getting too old for this, and no, it won’t be the last.
  6. As far as I know, I have only wet the bed once. I was nine years old, and my family was vacationing in Minnesota. On the very last morning, I did the deed thinking no one would notice – including my older brother who shared the bed with me. You must understand; we were staying in a cabin by the lake where it was pitch black at night and a family of skunks was living under the outhouse. There was NO WAY my nine year old scared of the dark (and woodsy creatures) self was going to venture out to pee! I certainly didn’t get any sympathy from my mother, who was forced to delay the trip home while she dashed to the laundromat in town to wash the sheets.
  7. I have a master’s degree which I used for less than a year and will never need again. Yeah, I would definitely do some things differently if I could go back in time.
  8. At one time, I was serious about becoming an actor or a singer. Later came the nature photography phase, followed by the current author career track. Hey, at least my recent choices are a bit more exciting than the mailman or garbage man I wanted to be when I was kid!
  9. People who are afraid of heights normally stay away from them, yet I still enjoy riding roller coasters. The worst part is the slow clink-clink-clink up the long hill to the top. Once you drop over the edge, the certainty of plunging to a gory death outweighs the mere fear of heights. Go figure…
  10. I feel lost with out access to a clock. I not only wear a wrist watch but have clocks in every room of the house. I think it’s part of a need to feel in control of my day and avoid being late. Perhaps I should have been a horologist.

And there you have it -all my weirdness in one list! Well, the list probably could have been longer, but I don’t know you well enough to reveal anything else.

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I wish I could report some progress on Traitor’s Moon, but I’ve been swamped with work and getting settled in my new apartment. Except for wall art, I’m almost done unpacking boxes and finding new homes for things. While I like my kitchen, its layout is opposite of the last one, and I find myself turning in circles trying to find things which used to be next to the stove but are now on the other side of the fridge. Light switches also have me goofed up, and if it weren’t for strategically placed nightlights, I would be slamming into walls in the middle of the night.

I dearly miss writing, and my poor book cries out for me to finish it! Now that I’m getting used to my work schedule and the move-in is almost complete, I should be able to make some progress. My goal is to start again tomorrow, or as soon as I can get caught up on changing addresses and paying bills. Tune in next week to see what happens!

Weekly Roundup 10-24-18 Looking for Work

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

As you may know, I completed a major move at the end of September and am trying to get settled. I can’t speak for anyone else but looking for a job is at the top of my “Least Favorite Things to Do” list. It saps my energy, makes me doubt everything, and reduces my already low self-esteem. Almost four weeks and… nothing.

Yesterday, I spent over three hours at one employment agency, trying to secure a job I didn’t really want – they’re still looking. You know things are bad when you send in an application to the one place you swore you’d NEVER work, and they turn you down. At this point, the bottom of the barrel would be looking up.

All righty then, enough complaining! There are some perks to my current situation:

  • I get to stay up late and sleep in.
  • There are no annoying co-workers to put up with.
  • My morning commute is only as far as the bathroom.
  • I have more time to write!

Current manuscript – I’m now on chapter 11 of Traitor’s Moon. In order to fit in the rest of the story, I’ll probably need three or four more chapters. Word count = 86,000+.

I ran into a curious problem in Chapter 10. Two sets of characters were recently mated; one gay and one straight. Now, I couldn’t ignore the straight couple completely, so yeah they get some sexy time together. When I attempted to get more detailed about their love-making, I felt very uncomfortable and had to delete it from the manuscript. I still managed to give them their own moments, but I simply couldn’t go much beyond pleasant generalities! It’s not a matter of being shy or ignorant – I was, after all, in a presumably straight relationship for twenty years!

Writing intimate situations for gay couples is easy, and yes, I get a kick out it. This was the first time I attempted to write a straight sex scene with any depth, so the whole “I don’t think I can do this” feeling really took me by surprise. In the end, it’s probably for the best. My readers aren’t looking for hetero sex in my romances, and since I don’t feel comfortable writing about it, I think we’re on the same page. This is another example of characters teaching me something about myself, and I’m OK with that. At least I know my limitations!

WEEKLY ROUNDUP 10-17-18 May I quote you?

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

This week I want to share a mix of wonderful book quotes:

  • “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.” Groucho Marx
  • “The library is inhabited by spirits that come out of the pages at night.” Isabel Allende
  • “You cannot open a book without learning something.” Confucius
  • “The worst thing about new books is that they keep us from reading the old ones.” Joseph Joubert
  • “Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.” G.K. Chesterton
  • “Why can’t people just sit and read books and be nice to each other?” David Baldacci
  • “A book is a dream that you hold in your hands.” Neil Gaiman
  • “In books I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own.” Anna Quindlen
  • “Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.” Christopher Hitchens
  • “A book is a gift you can open again and again.” Garrison Keillor

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Traitor’s Moon – I’m deep into chapter 10! Two of the minor characters have been brought together as mates and were named after my parents. If they were still alive they would not be amused! I didn’t do it on purpose…it just happened that way – really! Anyway, I’m unpacking the story box at a faster pace, revealing jewels which had to wait their turn. I’m not sure if I get more pleasure from revealing it to myself or to my readers. Word count stands at 80,000+.

My graphic artist is busy working on the cover for Traitor’s Moon! I love seeing the book come to life visually this way. In fact, she is creating covers for the series, which means Expectant Moon will get a new one too. I may give you a preview but will definitely reveal it when Traitor’s Moon is released. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Weekly Roundup 9-12-18

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Grandparents Day was Monday September 10th, and this year turned out to be super special. While I already have two granddaughters, my grandson was born on Monday – nine days late! I certainly appreciate my daughter-in-law’s sacrifice in waiting to give birth just to make the day even more magical for Grandpa!! Don’t know when I will get to see the little guy, since he’s all the way out on the east coast and I’m getting ready to move.

It’s crunch time now. Yesterday was my last day of work, and I have a few days to finish packing and cleaning before traveling to my younger son’s wedding. After that, I return here, pack up the truck and head back out again, arriving on the 28th. I’ve moved MANY times before, but this one is proving to be a bit more complicated than I would like. I don’t relish the thought of doing it all by myself, but there is no one available to go with me. I’m grateful for friends here who are helping me prepare and pack the truck for an eight-hundred-mile trip.

The farthest move happened many years ago when I went off to attend graduate school. The journey was eighteen-hundred miles and took over twenty-seven hours across mountains and two time zones. Two years later, I turned around and did it again. No way in the world I would try it now, and most certainly not by myself! Looking back, I have moved at least thirty times since graduating from high school. I’d like to think this month’s relocation will be my last, but I know it won’t be. Maybe someday I’ll be able to afford a house and put down some roots.

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Traitor’s Moon: chapter eight is complete and initial feedback was very positive! There was a lot riding on this pivotal chapter which included action, danger, drama, and the set-up for relationships in the second half of the book. You’re going to love it! Word count stands at 64,000+.

I was pleased to get it done, as I have to set aside my writing until I get moved and settled. It bugs me not being able to continue – I feel as though I am shirking my duty! I’ll try to keep you informed during the next couple of weeks, but don’t be surprised if I have to skip a Roundup or two.

Weekly Roundup 8-1-18 CURSES! Using naughty words in fiction.

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Curse. Swear. Expletive. Oath. Profanity. Cuss. Invective. Malediction.

Virtually everyone does it; from presidents to the smart-mouthed kid next door. Swear words may be pithy or profane, mild or malevolent, productive or pointless. Even mild euphemisms such as darn, shoot, and heck are simply substitutes for the “real” thing, and everyone knows exactly what you mean (sorry Grandma).

It follows, then, that fictional characters will also run a blue streak from time to time, and most readers would find it strange if they didn’t. Swear words are verbal emotions; cathartic for the speaker, able to evoke a visceral response in the hearer. It’s a non-physical way to let people know how you really feel and a powerful part of our interaction with others.

I grew up in a household where the strongest language included hells bells, ship ahoy, and crapola. Why? My parents were determined to raise respectful, educated children and they believed excessive swearing was a sign of moral failure and below average intelligence. Consequently, the cuss words I generally use are mild and infrequent and this spills over to the characters of my books.

I find strong language offensive (especially the F-word), and have no interest in creating foul-mouthed characters, even if it makes them more realistic. I believe I can convey the proper meaning and attitude with minimal obscenities, and my readers seem to agree.

I can’t tell you how many times I have stopped reading due to excessive use of profanity, even though the story up to that point was quite good. You might be surprised how much I put up with, but if the writer can’t tell the story without gratuitous curses every other sentence I will look elsewhere for my entertainment. Your standards and mine may differ, and that’s OK – just don’t expect to find F-bombs scattered through the pages of my books!

Here’s a few quotes I like:

“Grant me some wild expressions, Heavens, or I shall burst.” George Farquhar

“The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.” George Washington

“I think the reason that swearing is both so offensive and so attractive is that it is a way to push people’s emotional buttons, and especially their negative emotional buttons.” Steven Pinker

“There ought to be a room in every house to swear in. It’s dangerous to have to repress an emotion like that.” Mark Twain

“I’ve never found an interesting person with a foul mouth.” Marilyn vos Savant

“Swearing was invented as a compromise between running away and fighting.” Finley Peter Dunne

“Writing for adults often means just increasing the swearing – but find an alternative to swearing and you’ve probably got a better line.” Steven Moffat

“Profane swearing never did any man any good. No man in the richer or wiser or happier for it.” Robert Lowth

You may find these resources interesting:

Why Do We Swear? by John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

What’s Wrong with Swearing? from the Cuss Control Academy

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Traitor’s Moon update. Another Gladstone pack member finds their mate! Word count is now 40,000+.  I finished chapter five on Sunday and will complete the editing today. I prefer to clean up each chapter as I go so the task isn’t so daunting at the end. If I don’t, the errors I KNOW are lurking in the text become so distracting I can’t concentrate on new material! I have read advice from established authors who do all the writing, followed by all the editing, but that method doesn’t work for me.

One step forward, two steps back. As an Indy author, I don’t have access to professional help to improve my writing skills. I’ve learned so much since I published my first five books almost a year ago, with advice coming from beta readers, reviews, various articles and blog posts, and a daughter-in-law with an English major (thanks J.)

When I become aware of an issue, I have to not only incorporate it into my current manuscript, but I also correct the others which came before it. This takes time and headache-inducing editing!

Recently, I’ve been working on three areas of concern:

  • 3rd person POV – apparently I missed the memo about Third Person Omniscient being decades out of fashion and should therefore be using Third Person Limited. What? Not going to happen! Well, not the way it was described in the article I read. I’m not prepared to ditch the Omniscient view entirely, as I find it quite useful, and will most likely continue the combination of Omniscient/Limited I have been using. What I am going to do is limit the view to a single person or group of people in any given scene/paragraph to reduce head-hopping.
  • Quotation marks – “When dealing with quotations that extend over more than one paragraph, you need to put quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph but at the end only of the final one.Great! What wonderful advice! Do you know how long it’s going to take me to fix this? Now would be a good time for an expletive….
  • Several reviewers have commented that they feel they are being told the story rather than living it, but none have gone on to explain exactly what they meant. After consulting with someone who has read all of my books (thanks T.), the suggestion was to include more specific descriptors. Nothing extensive, but by adding occasional colors, textures, sounds, smells etc. to the text, the reader will be able to experience the story in a way which echos real life. This is not a bad suggestion, but will take time to correct retroactively, and force me to change the way I write going forward.

Well, that’s more than enough from me today. Time to get some $!#*&@ writing done!

Age-Revealing Words!

I ran across an article the other day which reminded me once again of my age – not a pleasant topic of conversation considering my birthday is this week. Here’s a few words and phrases which will reveal your age:

Fuddy Duddy  – Just say “old fart” and you’ll be understood.

Dear John Letter – if you have to explain what a “letter” is, you can forget the “John” part.

Davenport – stick with sofa or couch to be safe.

Long-distance call – Ha! even the word “telephone” is fading, along with “operator” and “collect calls”.

VCR and Videotape – now inhabiting every antique store in the nation.

Little Black Book – hmmm….perhaps check your contacts list.

Wet blanket – I prefer party-pooper myself!

Making Whoopee – “hooking up” or the old standby “having sex” will get the idea across.

See the full article HERE if you need more!

Anyway, the issue, as it relates to my writing, is the challenge of creating believable dialog for characters who come from outside my own age group. Fortunately, I don’t write for children or young adults so most of my word/phrase choices are at least minimally understandable to my readers!

What can I say? I’m a product of my generation, which includes the way I speak and the words I use to communicate. Now don’t repeat this, but I enjoy utilizing uncommon words or phrases when possible to make the text more interesting. If my readers don’t know what something means, it’s easy to look it up and learn something in the process.

It is thought there are at least 250,000 distinct words in the English language, with 171,000 in current use and 47,000 on the obsolete list. What richness to draw from when writing! So, go head, choose a few antiques for your next book, story, or blog entry which no one uses any more. You can educate your readers AND rescue some perfectly good words from the “obsolete” list at the same time! You don’t want to be a party-pooper do you?

 

Reader Roundup 6-20-18. Using the Contact Hypothesis in Fiction.

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Several factors came together this week from my own experience, my writing, and from society at large. This post is going to be a bit more personal than usual, but it is a subject close to my heart.

Many authors of gay novels make use of the tension between gay and straight as a theme in their stories, as I myself am doing in my current series, Gladstone Shifters. Why? Despite a general increase in acceptance in recent years, the aforesaid tension remains an unfortunate reality in the lives of GSM (Gender and Sexual Minorities) folk everywhere. It’s been present in my life all the way back to grade school and remains an issue today. Mine is not a unique experience, as many of you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Much of the hostility out there is a result of ignorance and fear, along with a lack of personal connections which put a face on the issue. Incredibly, there are a multitude of straight folk who claim not to know one single GSM person, and yet have plenty to say concerning a subject they know nothing about! As we share our stories, there is a familiar thread which binds many of them together – a change in attitude and position came about only after personal relationships developed. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work this way, even among family members, but the concept has been around since the 1950’s.

The Contact Hypothesis, or Intergroup Contact Theory, is often credited to Gordon W. Allport (1954). The premise of Allport’s theory states that under appropriate conditions interpersonal contact is one of the most effective ways to reduce prejudice between majority and minority group members. If one has the opportunity to communicate with others, they are able to understand and appreciate different points of views involving their way of life. As a result of new appreciation and understanding, prejudice should diminish. Allport also claims that prejudice is a direct result of generalizations and oversimplifications made about an entire group of people based on incomplete or mistaken information.

In other words, (and as common sense would tell us), as we build relationships with each other the fear and misinformation can be replaced with acceptance and understanding. Unfortunately, it’s something of a catch-22 trying to overcome the barriers which prevent the relationships in the first place.

Many a gay person, myself included, has been rejected by a neighbor, co-worker, or family member after our orientation was discovered. Being burned this way makes us cautious and less likely to be honest about who we really are. Meanwhile the straight person has no idea they are rubbing elbows every day with GSM folks, and they continue on blindly with their prejudices based on what they already “know”. One remains in ignorance while the other hides in self-protection. We aren’t going to get anywhere this way!

Without mentioning the Contact Hypothesis directly, I will be using the concept in my current manuscript as part of the story. I want to show what is possible under the right circumstances from both perspectives. Is this pie-in-the-sky idealism? Perhaps, but it presents a positive option to the deadlock we often see in modern society, and I really don’t want to dwell on that any more than necessary! For the story, it will provide a bit of drama, solve an immediate problem, and perhaps plant a seed in the minds of my readers.

NOTE: I am not a trained psychologist or make any claims regarding the usefulness of the Intergroup Contact Theory. I wanted to share my thoughts on the subject because they are germane to the story I am working on and dovetail with my own observations and experiences. Take from it what you will!

For more information regarding the Intergroup Contact Theory, click HERE.

Update on Traitor’s Moon: working on chapter 2, word count: 14,000+, three new characters introduced, Jack and William make their reappearance,  Alaska becomes part of the story. I wish I could write faster, but even then it would not be enough for some of my readers! Good things come to those who wait…