header('Cache-Control: max-age=259200'); Writing Exercises Archives – Kristen Koster

Upcoming Class: Secrets of A Research Ninja

 Writing Life  Comments Off on Upcoming Class: Secrets of A Research Ninja
Sep 262013

It’s not to late to sign up for Secrets Of a Research Ninja, Class Starts Monday

You can register with PayPal, don’t know why it chose that text to “call out” as important.

Hope to see you there!

Jan 252013
Steaming Hedge - Version 1 before self-editing process

Raw image as downloaded from camera.

I’m trying to develop/discover my self-editing process and this week in my accountability group How I Write series was asked, “Do you have an editing process? If so, what?”

This is one of the things that I’m honestly struggling with as a writer. I do not currently have what I would term a self-editing “process” and have just sort of flown by the seat of my pants in this area. But this year, I decided I needed a process that I could follow and would cover the necessary bases instead of just getting lost in an endless circle of line edits as my internal editor argued with itself.

So, what did I do? I started researching it. I’ve read through Cathy Yardley‘s Rock Your Revisions, by Renni Browne and Dave King‘s Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, and Noah Lukeman‘s The First Five Pages. However none of them really felt like a good fit with what I have in my mind as what an editing process should look like. Just call me Goldilocks… cause they’re either too vague, too fluffy, or too small and only cover a particular part of the self-editing process.

Now, that’s not saying I don’t recommend any of these books. I absolutely do! They are ALL great books, they’re just not what I’m looking for right now. They may have PART of what I’m looking for, and I haven’t discounted that either. I have one more to read through that I have high hopes for that Danie Ford recommended: Alan Watt‘s The 90-Day Rewrite: The Process of Revision. On the surface it sounds like it has the stuff I’m looking for.

So what is it I’m looking for that I haven’t found yet? Something that’s kinda like a checklist, but organized in a logical fashion. Something that details not just what I should be looking for, but how to address any problems I find. Something that holds my hand through the process and doesn’t just say, “G’won! The water’s fine! Just jump in!” Something that’s a comprehensive game plan to tackle these projects. Tall order, right?

I think I’m also looking to clarify in my mind what I should be doing at this point to get a manuscript to a state that is “good enough” to send out and hopefully one that better matches what’s in my head.

As I sat down to write this post, I immediately started thinking about what photo I was going to put with it that would be illustrative of the self-editing process. As I was looking though my digital collection, I realized I do a lot of preliminary editing “in the camera” as well as a bunch of post-processing, especially on my close-ups of flowers to get them to pop.

By “editing in the camera” I mean that I take several shots of the same subject. Often with identical settings, but sometimes I purposely try several different ones to get different effects. Then once I download the photos from the camera, I’ll sift through the multiples and pick the ones that appeal to me. Sometimes, it’s a no-brainer — blurry, badly composed, and/or poorly lit ones get tossed. But I’ve found some that had lots of potential, but it hadn’t been captured in a very flattering way.

Take the photo at the top of this post, for example. Lighting and composition were the first things that jumped out at me at problematic. In writing, this would probably translate to tone and structure. If that photo were a book, I’d say it had a lot of extra irrelevant scenes and odd tone choices that were detracting from the overall story I wanted to tell.

Steaming Hedge after self-editing process

Final image after cropping/resizing, desaturation & additional affects applied.

I’m not sure if I tackled the lighting or the composition first. I suspect I probably played with the lighting first, trying to minimize the glare from the morning sun and then added a few special affects to get the hedge to pop more visually. In that process, I’m sure I decided to play with the saturation levels and the black & white struck me as the best way to show off the contrast between the hedge and the steam rising from it. Then, a quick crop (re-framing the picture and cutting away parts of it) to fix the composition and further eliminate the big ol’ glaring sun from the top left corner.

I guess my next question is, how do I take the ideas of what I do instinctively (now?) for photography into something usable for writing.

YOUR TURN: Do you have an editing process? If so, what?

And if you’d like to check out the rest of my accountability group, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney * Susan Saxx

Overcoming Obstacles

 The Writer  Comments Off on Overcoming Obstacles
Jul 202012

This week for our How I Write series, my accountability group was asked, “What’s your current biggest obstacle to success? Name at least 3 things you can do improve your chances of overcoming obstacles.”

Ok, lemme ‘fess up here. I posed this question this week to my accountability group. And you know what sucks? This question sounded good in my head. It even looked good on the forum where my accountability group meets. However, when I realized I had to answer it too… it suddenly looked a lot more daunting. So forgive me, while I try to do this justice. I know it’s something I need to force myself to look at closely, answer honestly and use to build a game plan.

I’ve been skating by on minimal effort and making far too many excuses lately. And honestly, I’m not sure I can answer this with just one thing. I could point my finger in a number of directions: drive, follow-through, time management — hell, even blaming disruptions of my writing schedule on the people around me, but that one would mostly be a lie I tell myself to feel better. I still have the house to myself most days from around 9 am until noon or so, and I’ve failed to make the most of those hours.

I could also point to the many things I know are NOT obstacles. I can string a sentence together. I can even put together some workable paragraphs that read smoothly. I’ve been told I have a good historical voice. However, some spark is missing between me and the page. The ideas in my head aren’t translating properly. I get feedback that asks if I was going for a certain effect until I want to bash my head against the wall, because… Yes. Yes, that’s EXACTLY what I was trying to do. Only apparently, I didn’t quite.

So what’s my obstacle? Me. Sounds too easy right?

Lemme break it down by tackling three things I need to do in order to up my game and get past this hurdle.

First, and I’ve done this to some degree, but publicly own up to the idea that I am a professional writer. I just haven’t gotten paid for it. But in order to do so… I need to put in my hours and do the work. Nothing is going to write itself. To this end I’m renewing my commitment to use a time tracker on my iPad to make sure I log a minimum of 500 hours this calendar year toward justifying this as a business and not a hobby.

Second, I can’t let my head get in this place where nothing I do is any good. I’ve gotten fabulous feedback in some areas. I just need to work harder and improve the others. How exactly I’m going to accomplish this one? Yeah, I’m not sure either. I know what I can do toward this end is to take the valuable feedback I’ve gotten so far this year, and see if I can tease it apart from the exact manuscript, figure out how to make that work in general and then apply it back to the manuscripts in progress.

Third, I’m going to the RWA National Convention next week. This is part of the first step in treating what I’m doing more seriously, but also a great way to talk shop with experienced writers, take some workshops in some areas to get ideas on how to address the craft issues I’m having and also forcing myself out of my comfort zone and embracing that this is something I want to seriously pursue.

I think that last bit there is probably the most important piece of this post. “This is something I want to seriously pursue.” Pursue, not just allow to happen, not react to it happening around me, but to actively go out there after it, which I believe to be a very important piece of the puzzle when you’re looking at overcoming obstacles of any sort.

And if you’d like to read about the rest of my accountability group’s plans for overcoming obstacles, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney

Jul 132012

This week for our How I Write series, my accountability group is talking about guilty pleasures, both in our regular lives and in our writing.

Guilty pleasures shouldn’t be ignored. Indulge in them, because there’s a good reason that you like them. It doesn’t matter that no one else gets why you like it. They don’t have to. What matters is that this activity feeds your soul, your muse or your happiness. Ignoring them means cutting off a part of what makes you, well, you.

Guilty Pleasures: Photo of several different dark chocolate bars. Notably from Chuao and Ghirardelli.

It may be cliché, but chocolate is ALWAYS a winner! The Maya bar has been there a while. Obviously not a favorite compared to the others, but it’s almost time to restock!

Everyday Life: Good Quality Dark Chocolate

I’ve always liked dark chocolate. But since my DH and I started following the Paleo Diet and gave up grains, potatoes, legumes and most sugar, we needed to find a treat that was indulgent, yet also had some benefits associated with it. One of the suggestions made was an ounce or so of dark chocolate for dessert. Preferably above 70% cacao to get the antioxidant benefits.

Most times we stretch this a bit and will go as low as 60% cacao for our favorite chocolate bars from Chuao (pronouced Chew-wow!). It’s a fairly local chocolatier with several shops in the local malls, but they are also stocked in our local grocery stores for slightly less. The first time we went in one of the stores they were trying out new flavors. One of those was a chocolate bar with potato chips in it. Oh, did I forget to mention that they’re a very artisan type chocolatier? They’ve got some really cool flavors: Honeycomb, Caracas (a pistachio/almond/hazelnut mix), and Firecracker (one with cinnamon and cayenne in it). Our favorite is the Caracas even though it’s Guilty because it has closer to 60% cacao, but Pleasure because it’s the flavor we like best and it’s not the worst thing we could be eating.

Our other standbys are Ghirardelli bars. They have an Intense Dark chocolate line that’s wonderful. This line ranges from Midnight (86% which is a tad TOO intense for us. It’s more of a gritty than a smooth feeling.), Twilight (72% – not too gritty and above 70%!), Evening (60% – below the threshhold for us except for special treats and we prefer the Caracas from Chuao if we’re going to go below 70%. However, our favorite Ghirardelli bar from the Intense Dark line has to be the Sea Salt Soiree. It has sea salt and almond bits in it, but I had to check the label a couple of times because it tastes just like pretzel bits. Perfect blend of sweet & savory.

There are a few other brands we like… one of them has a wolf on the wrapper and is very environmentally conscious that has cranberries and almonds—Yep, I’m being too lazy to go look it up, sorry!—but the Chuao and the Ghirardelli are our favorites. Our kids can’t stand dark chocolate, but that’s ok… just means we don’t have to share!

Writing Life: Dialogue, Introspection and Character Vignettes

If I can just get my characters talking to each other, I’m usually in good shape. I can always go back around and fill in what things look like, what they’re doing or what’s going on around them later. But once I get them talking, everything else drops to the background and I’m lucky if I get to put in minimal stage directions and blocking as I go. It’s similar to people watching, but more like taking transcription as you eavesdrop on the characters. Guilty because I tend to ignore everything else to run with this, but Pleasure because it’s fun, allows my sense of humor to play, and it feels like the word count racks up quickly.

The flip side of this is when the characters start thinking and want to hash everything out in their heads with long, rambling bouts of internal monologues. Any action stops dead in its tracks and all forward momentum comes to a screeching halt. However, this is where I learn the most about my characters and it seems to be a process I have to go through in order to work things out in my own head. The problem is when I can’t jolt them out of their heads and into their world and into conversations with the other characters. Guilty because it helps me in the long run, but Pleasure because once I get going, it’s hard to stop and redirect, especially if I don’t know where the story should be going next.

I love little set pieces. I’m currently doing a 100 words/day challenge to just get back into the joy of writing for writing’s sake. Of course, what did I naturally slip into? Yup, little character vignettes that may or may not see the light of day. I like playing with character and seeing what I can draw out in that limited space to give you a sense of the person from so little. Guilty because I should be focusing on my WIPs (works in progress) and the characters in them, Pleasure because it’s been fun! It’s different and there are no restrictions other than getting at least 100 words down on a page.

Guilty Pleasures: Black and White photo of a dandelion gone to seed.

Yes, this was taken blind. The exposure was way off and the original image is mostly black. It’s amazing the hidden gems you can find. Did I mention I LOVE digital photography?

Photography: Flowers & Intuitive Shots

With the 2012 365 Photo Challenge, I figured this would be a good section to include since I’ve definitely been indulging in a couple of guilty pleasures. I have such a wide variety of flowers in my yard here that it’s very easy to get good looking pictures without much planning or effort. One of the things I love to do is to shoot blind. By this I mean, I don’t always look through the view finder or at the screen when I set up a shot. The Guilty part here is that I know I should be stretching my eye and sense of composition beyond the easy stuff and the Pleasure comes in finding hidden little gems like a stray insect or bird I hadn’t noticed in the shot when I clicked the shutter and being surprised by what appears and works.

YOUR TURN: What are your guilty pleasures? In general or in your creative endeavors. What do you do just for the joy of it?

And if you’d like to read what the rest of my accountability group considers their guilty pleasures, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney

Apr 202012
Ways to Flip Your Brain: right brain/left brain spin dancer optical illusion

Click on image if not moving. Which way does she spin for you? Can you get her to switch directions?

This week for our How I Write series, my accountability group asked, “How do you balance between your muse and your internal editor? (and/or) How do you make your internal editor work for you, and not against you?” In otherwords, how do we find ways to flip your brain back and forth?

There’s a lot of talk about right-brained and left-brained people where the labels “logical” for the left side or “creative” for the right are assigned. My more Vulcan-esque left side frowns and is confused by the lack of research supporting this split, because in fact, both functions are present in both hemispheres. On the right, the flighty and timid sprite is feeling extra whimsical today so we’re going to run with this analogy. You can even take a quiz if you’re not sure which side you exercise more.

I’ve always loved this gif. She’s got all the grace I lack and she can’t seem to make up her mind about which way to turn. Oh wait… does she only spin in one direction for you? You guessed it… this gif is a quicker test. If you see her turning clockwise, then you’re using more of your right side of the brain and vice versa. Can you make her change directions? Is it easy, is it hard? Do you find it just spontaneously happens or can you make her flip at will?

A lot of artistic types talk about their muse or their characters speaking to them, of being unable to create until that spark of inspiration hits. Others claim there is no such thing and you can train yourself to be creative on demand. Another term that comes up a lot is “internal editor”. You know, that voice that complains when you use the wrong word or says it all sucks, or wants those paragraphs or scenes switched around. Yeah… that annoying pest. I don’t know about you, but they always seem to want to get to work when I want to just write.

  1. Practice with the Gif above This is kinda fun and feels like you’re wasting time, but only you can tell if it’s worth it. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by my internal editor, I’ll pull up this gif and wait until I can get her going clockwise before trying to write.
  2. Visualization Sometimes before a writing session, I’ll visualize stuffing my internal editor into an iron-bound box and shipping her off to Timbuktu for a while. This, combined with a timer, helps me focus on the creation of new words instead of getting caught up in futzing with ones already on the page.
  3. Give Both Sides Time To Play It might sound weird giving your worst critic time to play, but it doesn’t always have to be on YOUR stuff. A critique partner can benefit too! So… Give that IE a vacation (forced if necessary like above), but also give your analytical side some exercise too.
  4. Compartmentalize Set boundaries for yourself. Maybe you can only allow yourself 30 minutes rereading what you wrote previously and make changes and catch typos. Maybe you feel more creative in the morning, so use that time to create and do your edits and revisions later in the day. You might even find alternating days or longer periods work better for you.
  5. Prime the Pump Similar to compartmentalizing… do some warm-ups before jumping in to your project. If you need to be creative, try do something for 5-10 minutes that stimulates one or more of the items on right-side brain function list below. If you need your best analytical skills, pick something from the left side.
Left Brain Right Brain
uses logic feeling
detail oriented “big picture” oriented
facts rule imagination rules
words and language symbols and images
present and past present and future
math and science philosophy & religion
can comprehend can “get it” (i.e. meaning)
knowing believing
acknowledges appreciates
order/pattern perception spatial perception
knows object name knows object function
reality based fantasy based
forms strategies presents possibilities
practical impetuous
safe risk taking

YOUR TURN: Which way did she turn for you at first? How do you switch gears between creative and analytical tasks? Easily, consciously or do you need to wait for inspiration to strike?

And if you’d like to read about how the rest of my accountability group answered, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris *
* Angeleque Ford * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney

Mar 162012

Cover image for Dorothea Brande's On Becoming a Writer
This week’s topic for my accountability group in our How I Write Series is “What do you wish you had known before you had even started to write? What would you have told your past self? Would you have discouraged yourself or encouraged? Would you have gone a different route?”

So… this post isn’t so much general advice to newbie writers, but more specifically tailored to what I wish I’d known back in 2007 when I decided I was going to do this writing thing as a creative outlet. I was bored and at loose ends during the summer of 2007. I picked up my husband’s copy of Becoming A Writer by Dorothea Brande and was blown away.

The book was written in the 1930s, but here she was in my head, speaking directly to ME, telling me I COULD do this! She believed in me. Total and complete unconditional belief.

Ok. That sounds hokey, but it’s exactly how it felt. And, so armed with that boost in confidence and not much else, I set out to write a Regency-set historical romance, just like the ones I’d been devouring at an astonishing rate. In retrospect, probably not the best plan, but not the worst either. If I’d tried something too simple, I would have been bored easily and not stuck with it. Instead, I’m still eager to tell the first two stories I began the right way. And some day, I’ll pull it off! I’m getting closer all the time.


What do I wish I had known before you had even started to write?

How to better tell a story. I’m still working on learning this one, but knowing where to look for guidance would have been a godsend. These books will be some of the most influential to your writing process and understanding of how stories work: Emotional Structure: Creating the Story Beneath the Plot by Peter Dunne, Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee and On Writing Romance: How to Craft a Novel That Sells by Leigh Michaels. Go read them now.

Also, listen to Dorothea… write daily. The journaling is a good start, but keep it up and try playing with fiction in there too.

Oh, and going Gluten-Free will help instead of losing so much time to the boy’s almost daily migraines between 5th and 7th grade. Push to find the cause, not just treat symptoms.

What would I have told my past self?

This is harder than it looks. What you read in a published book is NOT a first draft. Don’t give up because the first draft isn’t perfect.

PRACTICE, practice, practice. Practice with ideas, synopses, hooks, blurbs. Oh.. and when you download Scrivener, don’t give up on it. It’s far more powerful than you think it is. It WILL help you see and build the structure you crave.

Would I have discouraged or encouraged myself?

I don’t think there are any valid reasons to discourage myself about writing in general. I definitely needed pushed and bless my DH, he’s encouraged me every step of the way.

Valid discouragement would be to avoid time sucks, avoid long stretches of not writing new words or ideas.

I would encourage putting myself out there sooner and networking earlier. Social media is a force to reckon with, but it’s not the only thing to spend time on.

Would I have gone a different route?

I don’t think I would have done things very differently, just sooner. And more consistently.

Life is going to happen around you. You will hit some serious road bumps, control what you can. Don’t hide from the world, don’t stop writing. Find your escape in the ballrooms, the salons, the characters. Yes, it may be easier to just play facebook games, and you may even convince yourself that you’re “helping your DH”, but you’re wasting valuable time and eneergy. *head smack*

Two other things, you know that Warrior Writer workshop with Bob Mayer?! It didn’t kill you, right? 1) You SHOULD take both days. *head smack* 2) You SHOULD listen to Pam and Margaret and join RWASD right away. *head smack*

YOUR TURN: What career advice would you go back and give yourself when you were just starting out?

And if you’d like to read about what the rest of my group would go back and tell themselves, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris *
* Angeleque Ford * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney

Mar 092012

Photo of a rabbit munching on grass.

The seemingly innocent-looking plot bunny
(Cuniculus ex machina).

Before we get to plot bunnies, let’s talk about creative insecurities for a minute. Many people worry to the point of paranoia about having their ideas stolen. This notion isn’t specific to any one industry either. Movies, music, writing, game design, car makers, electronics, everyone’s got something they’re afraid someone is going to overhear and take off with it and make their millions with it.

Unfortunately, ideas are cheap. Ideas are the easy part! It’s the execution of those ideas that are the equivalent of the MultiMillions Lotto ticket. Or not.

So… what’s a writer to do?

If you’ve ever heard the term plot bunny, you already know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, a plot bunny is an innocent looking idea that hops up to you, nibbles at the carrot you’ve been dangling in front of your muse’s cave, and promptly scampers off in completely unpredictable zig-zags only to disappear down some plot hole, dragging you and your work-in-progress (WIP) with it because you refuse to let go of the string tied to the carrot. Way to go!

Today, we’re going to talk about what we can do to harness these wild critters and tamer, more domesticated story ideas and put them to work for us when we need them. Generating ideas, once you start is easy… you play the “What If…” game enough and the ideas start breeding like… well,… bunnies.

How to keep track of story ideas?

You need a way to corral these pesky varmints! Whether you use a notebook, a scrapbook, a WORD document, some other fancy piece of software on your computer or a combination of all of the above really doesn’t matter. The important thing is that your system works for you and that you can periodically retrieve and review your ideas.

Personally, I keep a set of nested folders on my computer for projects I’d like to one day write. Several have simple notes, others are more detailed, complete with pictures and outlines. Others have exploratory writing where a character, a voice, or other aspect captured.

How to decide if an idea goes into the story idea file?

The middle of a brainstorming session is NOT the time to let internal editors out of their box. Leave the censoring until later. Ideas shouldn’t be tossed before they’ve had adequate time to ripen. Some will definitely be “off” when you look at them again. Toss them then. It really doesn’t cost anything in the meantime, and luckily there’s no physical mess or smell to deal with. The ones that only seem a bit stale? Let them percolate a while longer. They’ll either bloom given more time, or prove rotten later.

Yep, I periodically review my idea file (not just when I’m bored or procrastinating) looking to see what’s interesting, might spark other ideas, or just to see which ones need a little air and attention. This is all part of the next section…

How to decide if an idea will make a good story? If it won’t?

Some ideas won’t let go. Like earworms, they’ll keep coming back. Often when you least expect it. These plot bunnies are more like the vorpal rabbit of Monty Python fame. They’re the kind that leap up and grab you by the throat and refuse to let go. These shouldn’t be ignored, but carefully explored and exercised regularly. They can be tamed, although some may take longer than others. If it holds your attention over time, it probably has some merit.

Many people talk about the “Book of your Heart” and “commercial ready” fiction. Only you can decide if an idea contains a story you want to tell.

Take your plot bunnies to the equivalent of a county fair. Talk about them with other writers and readers. If they get excited about a story idea, it probably has some merit.

My biggest problem is identifying story ideas that are with the range of my technical capabilities. I often feel like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. Practice and patience are probably the best tools to use in this situation. I keep telling myself that anyway.

How to choose which story idea to work on?

The one that won’t go away. That’s easy for me to say, because I don’t have any external deadlines yet. I’m free to pick and choose between which characters are vying most loudly for my attention. Shiny New Project Syndrome (SNPS) is a valid concern. This is when anything new looks more interesting than what you SHOULD be working on. Set a limit on how long you’ll allow the new idea out to play. Use it as a reward for progress toward completion on the dreaded old project.

How to take an idea and form it into a plot?

Once I have an idea selected, I play with it for quite some time before I ever try to begin putting together a plot. I have to know the characters first. I have to know what drives them and how they’ll react to certain things. Don’t get me wrong, I like to be surprised along the way too, but I need to know the lay of the land first.

What to do when a story idea hits while working on another WIP?

First, make sure it’s not just SNPS rearing it’s ugly head. If it is, feel free to set aside 5-15 minutes to jot down everything you can think of about it. Remember, at this point the idea is probably not ripe. You can’t judge its merit yet. Let you muse play with it for a bit, then let it sit. Of course, I’ve also taken ideas like this and run with them and I think it shows that they weren’t quite ready to go because there are either gaping holes or I run out of steam after a certain point with them. They’re still in my folder, waiting for more information.

What kinds of ideas are in my story file?

Regency Romance Ideas: Beyond my big three projects (BHT, Revealed, and a new one I just started writing, but have been playing around with since last summer), I have 2 sequel ideas for BHT, a sequel to Revealed, a story about horse breeding and bloodlines in the nobility that’s based on a folktale at the same time, a Regency-set romcom involving mistaken identity and gender role reversals.

Other ideas: contemporaries: chef & foodie/reviewer/blogger, Holiday story with two blizzard-grounded travelers paired up in hotel because the airline assumes she’s male because of her name, then there’s the game developer heroine who finds true love online.

Also, before I go, I’ll apologize for any mixed metaphors or even abandoned ones above. I’ll blame it on the free-ranging wild bunnies and not on distractions or the lateness of the hour.

YOUR TURN: How do you keep track of your ideas? Do you have a wishlist of things you want to work on (feel free to talk about artistic projects, or any other projects around the house, the organization methods are likely similar)?

And if you’d like to read about what the rest of my group suggests for ways to deepen characters, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris *
* Angeleque Ford * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney

Jan 202012

Last week in my acountability group’s HOW I WRITE series, we posted our take on writing advice and mine in particular struck a chord with readers. This week’s topic is “Name up to 5 unexpected finds/treats/treasures this weeks. Things that caught your attention that you may not have noticed normally.”

It could be a book we’ve read, a movie, joke, funny story, a quote, a commercial, a t.v., a compliment, etc – basically anything that happened this week that was out of the ordinary that made us stop and take notice and/or smile.”


1. How my kids still get out of the car at school and say “I love you” even in front of other students

This isn’t an unusual occurrence, but it did make me smile to actually notice it this week.

2. The strong smell of guavas that have ripened after they were brought to us to try

I’ve never had guavas before. Did you know they’re called “guayaba” in Spanish? I didn’t. They smell wonderful and we need to eat them soon before it’s too late.

3. How when it’s cold enough the hedges and mailboxes will “steam” when the sun hits them

Photo of the water vapor rising from a hedge in the morning light.Similar to how a pond will steam, but weirder. I dunno, I don’t recall noticing this when I was younger. It’s definitely from thinking “What am I going to take a picture of today?!” I’ve noticed that I get a lot of compliments on my photos (*whispers* you know I only pick the best ones, right?) but it’s not something I’ve been working hard at. It’s all intuitive. I’ve got to do some thinking on why it works for me with photography, but not writing, but I suspect it has to do with 3 factors: practice, internalizing some rules and quantity of output. I’ve thrown away far more pictures than I’ve written pages.

4. The way my friend answered the phone when she recognized my number”

I could hear the smile in her voice when I called to check up on her. She’s been sick, but brightened to know someone was thinking of her.

5. “Shit the Dowager Countess Says”

It amuses me that the hysterical comments that Dame Maggie Smith’s character on Downton Abbey says has basically turned into a meme. I love the way that character is written and how she’s played. Love her.

YOUR TURN: What have you discovered that tickled your fancy lately?

And if you’d like to read about what caught the attention of the rest of my group this week, you can find their blogs here:

* Alexia Reed * Kimberly Farris*
* Angeleque Ford * Danie Ford * Emma G. Delaney *

Oct 172011

My friend Cassandra Curtis is hosting #WritersDuel – But because Twitter limits to 140 characters, the challenges are posted to twitter, but answered on FB or blogs, and shared through links on Twitter or other social media.

You can find the #WritersDuel Rules on Cass’ site.

I received the following Duel Challenge:

“Your heroine wakes up at bus station in robe & slippers. Include a scary looking stranger & an umbrella.”

This was a bit tricky for me as I write Regency set Historical Romance. There weren’t buses even stations, so I had to think of an equivalent since I didn’t want to get into time travel either. My heroine is a demirep — a kept woman, and she’s an adept player of Whist. So here’s how I imagined the challenge might have happened for her.

A draft woke Amanda with the thought that her bedchamber shouldn’t be this chilly.

It also shouldn’t be rumbling and shaking.

That realization brought her fully conscious enough to examine her surroundings. She was dressed in an inadequate silk dressing gown and a pair of slippers dangled loosely on her feet. The ribbons tied hastily and far too sloppily to have been her own handiwork. No wonder her limbs felt encased in ice.

“We’re on the mailcoach, hurtling up the North Road toward Scotland.” The strange gentleman turned to look out the window as the rocking of the coach slowed and pulled up before an inn.

They watched as the yard sprang to life, rushing to change the horses.

“To Scotland?” No one willingly traveled to there. Did they? Well, maybe if one wished to elope. But her marriage prospects had been lost long ago.

Confused, she looked up to find the imposing gentleman staring at her from between the brim of his hat and the scarf wound round his neck and lower face, making him impossible to identify. His gloved hands folded neatly over the carved, wooden handle of the umbrella planted firmly between his boots.

He didn’t directly answer her question, but said, “We should be there in a few hours. I thought you might want to freshen up, change into some respectable clothing and perhaps break your fast.”

Unsure of the man’s game, Amanda nodded. That he played long and deep was evident and a chill seeped deeper into her bones than the temperature alone could account for. Her memories of last night’s card game were sharp and specific. Brandy and champagne had flowed freely, but she never drank as much as her companions believed she did. It was one of her secrets weapons in her arsenal for winning at cards.

Jack Hartley and his brother had provided last night’s entertainment as they played a flawless game of Whist. Even she had to admit she admired the way the man played cards. Her protector had proven a sore loser and had tried to take out his frustrations on her, but she had slipped out of the club at nearly two o’clock in the morning and into her own bed, alone, shortly after.

“I should like that very much. I trust you have provided something suitable to wear?” A delicate sniff, was all she allowed to show of her displeasure.

“Of course. Your bag is beneath your seat.” The man clambered out of the coach and shrugged out of his great coat. “Unfortunately, we were unable to bring your cloak.”

Amanda accepted the coat and settled it around her shoulders, savoring the warmth of his body retained by the heavy material. She reached under the seat, found the bag and clutched it to her.

The driver called out that he would be leaving within a half hour, with or without them, before he ducked into the inn.

Without a trace of urgency, the gentleman leaned heavily on the handle of his umbrella and extended a hand to assist her. He obviously wasn’t going to tell her anything now, but perhaps in the next thirty minutes, she could pry some additional information from her mysterious companion.

So, what do you think?

If you’d like to become an active player in the #WritersDuel challenges, just search Twitter for the hashtag #WritersDuel and say hi and that you want to be added, and we’ll know you’re interested in playing. Just be prepared to be challenged! LOL.

Apr 132009

Bria and Mel are at it again! I’m late to the party, but wanted to play along again. I’ll be back in a bit with more links to follow

I think this excerpt started life as a response to a challenge on Divas and never made it anywhere because I’d cheated in the challenge and used characters other than the ones Andi meant for me to use. I still liked it enough to keep it. The challenge was “Your 1800’s heroine loves a man she shouldn’t, a man her family she knows won’t approve. WHY does she love him? Show us.” So here’s part of Juliet’s story.

It’s still pretty rough and suffers from a bad case of the talking heads at the end, but I hope it does what I set out to answer above.

Continue reading »