Just Like That: You’re the Inspiration

The people in a writer’s life soon learn a couple of fast, hard rules.

1.  Nothing is sacred.

2.  Everything is open for scrutiny and expansion into a full-length story.

My daughter, Dora, knows this firsthand, and never more so than after this morning. The moonroof on her car was stuck in the open position. Again (although just a crack). And that prompted memories of the good old days (a year and a half ago), when she first purchased the car used. The previous owners told both me and her point blank, “You shouldn’t open the moonroof because sometimes it sticks.” Now, I heard, “don’t open the moonroof,” and took it as a warning that the device needed some mechanic’s attention. Dora heard, “sometimes it sticks.” I’ll bet you can even guess what happened next! She had to touch the switch. The moonroof got three-quarters of the way open and then stopped. She tried to close it. Nothing. She tried to open it…it moved another inch open. Close…nothing. So, being the helpful mom, I suggested at least it wasn’t raining. My point being she had a little time to get someone to look at the thing. She heard, “Don’t worry about it until it rains.” The short version is that we had a very wet fall, and because her hours were cut, an actual car mechanic was not an option. Her brother looked at it but only succeeded in making it open the rest of the way.

Enter….the bright pink umbrella and a ShamWow! Dora was able to open and close the inner door of the moonroof but that has no seal and also rain water tends to collect on top of that inner door, meaning when it was opened, water poured into the car. Driving with an umbrella was out of the question (and I really don’t want to know how she figured out that would be a bad idea, but my black umbrella mysteriously went missing around that time). So she crammed a ShamWow into the edges of the inner door, and always kept a dry spare so she could change it out once her makeshift “seal” became saturated. And whenever she parked, if it looked like it was going to rain, she poked a bright pink umbrella through the moonroof and opened it to protect the interior of her car. She finally found someone to help her get the moonroof closed (until this morning) but the pink umbrella rests in her backseat “just in case.”

Today, while we were reminiscing about the black Neon and the pink umbrella, I said I thought it would be really cool to start a romance between two people based on that scenario. In the space of a 15-minute ride between Walmart and home, here is what we came up with.

1.  The above car/pink umbrella/moonroof circumstance.

2.  A sweet and steamy-appearing new neighbor, who notices the umbrella and uses it as a way to approach this cute but flaky girl.

3.  Steamy Guy fixes Cute Flaky Girl’s moonroof and it operates perfectly.

4.  When they have a disagreement that threatens to permanently tear them apart, the moonroof stops working.

5.  Steamy Guy notices the umbrella sticking out of the roof again and it BUGS him, but he is determined to ignore it. But it’s an unusually wet spring. So he sees it a lot. Grumbles: At least she could use black or some color that wouldn’t draw his eye every time he pulls into his own driveway.

6.  Finally, unable to stand the lure of the umbrella, Steamy Guy stalks across the yard in the rain and begins fixing the car.

7.  Cute Flaky Girl sees Dreamy Guy’s nice rear end hanging out of her car. Oh, no! He’s not fixing her car again! Look where that led last time! She runs out and asks him what he’s doing.

8.  Steamy Guy hides behind sarcasm–what does it look like he’s doing? Fixing her car since she obviously can’t take care of herself.

9.  “You broke into my car to fix it?” “I didn’t break into your car.” “How were you able to get in then?” “You still don’t lock your doors!”

10.  Hot kiss and make up scene.

Do your friends and family have to be careful with what they say and do around you unless they find a recognizable situation suddenly in print? Come on, you know you want to confess…

http://www.astraeapress.com/#ecwid:category=662249&mode=product&product=2626233

 

 

Coming from Astraea Press, April 2011

Six Sentence Sunday

This week’s entry is from Hidden Echoes – current wip, and third in the Echoes of Orson’s Folly series. Watch for the first of the three, Lifeline Echoes, scheduled for release in early April 2011.

 

“I know this sounds lame, but you really do look familiar.”

“Outstanding line. You must never want for a date.” Ren sighed with exasperation, and wondered what it was about the words I’m in a hurry this man simply did not get. “I work here, so maybe you’ve seen me around. Now, if you don’t mind, please move your compensatory truck so I can leave.

Check here for more Six Second Sunday fun: http://sixsunday.blogspot.com/

Purchase Heartsight from this link and generate a donation to the USO Wounded Warrior Program, now until June 1, 2011.

http://www.astraeapress.com/#ecwid:category=662249&mode=product&product=2626233

 

 

Hippity Hop to the Head Shop

WHOSE HEAD AM I IN???

What does point of view mean? If you’re a writer you have probably at some point in your life seen your editor question your POV. Simply put, this is the perspective from which the story is currently being told. A large trend these days is to tell stories from the third person-limited point of view. This means the story is written as though being observed by an outside party, but with the added ability of the narrator to tell the thoughts and feelings of the main characters, usually two per story, and one at a time. Good-sized chunks of the story are told through the eyes, or point of view, of each of the main characters. The chunks don’t have to alternate, and sometimes they don’t, but generally each character’s points of view should end up approximately equal at the end of the book for a more balanced read.

The focus of POV for each chunk is usually chosen for which character will show the scene in the strongest light. Who is going to have the greatest impact on that particular part of the story being told? Which character has the most investment in that scene? For instance, if a woman is waiting to see if she’s pregnant, that scene will probably be hers. However, if her husband is waiting with her and he’s got a significant stake in the outcome, for instance if he has a fertility-robbing type of cancer, or if he knows he has Parkinson disease (which is a genetically transmitted disorder, which he could pass to the child), his stake might be slightly higher and the emotional impact greater if the scene were shown through his eyes. Or if the writer wants to keep his thoughts about these things secret, it would be shown through the heroine’s eyes with no explanation given about any negative reaction (that builds tension and is a whole other subject to post).

Once the POV is chosen, it should be an easy thing to simply tell the story from that character’s perspective, right? Not so much as you might think. For some reason, we writers like flashing eyes, whiskey-honey voices, luscious red lips, and sexy swaying walks. All of these are fine if the character relating these can actually see, hear, feel, and THINK about them.

However, when we are being shown the story through the heroine’s eyes and she says something to the hero using her best sexy voice, he may hear it as a whiskey-honey voice, but she wouldn’t necessarily think of it — or describe it — in those terms. Reading and writing from a specific point of view means we must think like that character. Would you see your own eyes flash in anger? Assuming you don’t chronically look at your reflection when you’re mad at the hero, probably not. Would you think of the way you talk as sounding like honey? Even if you knew you had just put on your best blazing red lipstick, would you think of your own lips as luscious and red?

Successfully writing in from one POV or the other, without hopping to the next head mid-scene is a matter of paying strict attention to what the character would logically see, hear, feel, taste, smell, and think. If we are in “her” head, it’s highly unlikely that she will know how entrancing “he” finds the wind lifting a tendril of her hair (unless he speaks the thought out loud). From her POV, the tendril isn’t some sexy reminder of how soft her hair is or how glorious it looks when it spills about her shoulders; it is an irritating piece of hair that keeps getting caught on her hoop earring. When we are in “his” head, he isn’t going to be thinking in terms of his flexing muscles or the way his behind fills out his jeans. He’s going to grunt when he picks up something heavy and wonder if the jeans are going to hold or split up the middle when he bends over to lift the tire onto the car.

One way I’ve found to keep the POV straight is to put myself into the character as I’m writing. Inside the POV, the character sees (everything but himself), feels, smells, tastes, hears, thinks (but in a specific way ABOUT him/herself), acts, reacts, and speaks. The non-POV character can only be shown acting or reacting, and speaking. By remembering the limits of the scene’s secondary character, we can police our work and edit out things the POV character in that scene cannot possibly know or see, etc.

The trick is to realize that even one tiny word can signal a POV shift into the other character’s head. Think about the following several lines and try to figure out if they are being shown from the main pov or could be the secondary character.

1.  “I’m the medical examiner. I’ll nail you to the wall.” She snapped her latex glove into place with a knowing smile.

Her POV or someone else’s?

2.  She secured her hair with a pony tail, gasping at the pinch from the elastic band on her fingers.

Hers? Or from the outside?

3.  He ran a hand through his sun-kissed hair.

His? Or not?

4.  It was obvious she didn’t believe him, and he wondered why he kept trying.

His or hers?

What do you think? Go ahead and answer in the comments below.

Heartsight, available now at http://www.astraeapress.com/#ecwid:category=662249&mode=product&product=2626233

For every purchase of Heartsight at the Astraea Press website, $2 will be donated to the USO Wounded Warriors Program until June 1.

Watch for a special announcement about Lifeline Echoes, coming from Astraea Press in April 2011.

Six Sentence Sunday

From Lifeline Echoes, release date pushed forward by the publisher so a portion of the proceeds can be donated to The American Red Cross to aid with Japanese relief efforts. Stay tuned for details.

She stopped mere inches away and her body heat assaulted him like a five-alarm blaze. While she rocked in rhythm with the thumping music and sang about a devil in disguise, Ryan forced himself to remain completely still. Sending him a cheeky grin of appreciation, the sexy singer reached up, plucked the hat off his head and set it on her own. His gaze was imprisoned by luscious red lips singing about being addicted to love. Breath backed up in his lungs when she walked two red-tipped fingers in tempo, from his belly to his throat. Then all sense of his surroundings became lost in the steamy regard of those chicory-colored eyes.

Coming in April from Astraea Press.

And the USO Wounded Warriors donation partnership is still going on with Heartsight. Until June 1, 2011, all copies of Heartsight purchased at this link will generate $2 to the USO Wounded Warrior program.

http://www.astraeapress.com/#ecwid:category=662249&mode=product&product=2626233

For more Six Sentence Sunday fun:

http://sixsunday.blogspot.com/

Tag, You’re It! The Art of De-sterilizing Your Story

If you were a director, or producer, would you make a movie that was nothing but a blank screen and a bunch of people talking? Maybe every once in a while a light would come on and show who was speaking so people wouldn’t lose track. Would that help?

How about a book? Would you write a book that was nothing but dialogue with an occasional “said John” or “Jane said,” tossed in?

Your characters have a lot to say. And it’s up to you to sort through it all and help them say it. Now, as the story teller, the writer has a fair idea of how things are unfolding. The writer hears it as the character is saying it, sees it happening as the character does it. The writer knows what the characters feel, what they think, what plans they may be making. The reader has only the knowledge the writer imparts. So a writer may have a firm grasp of the scene, but the reader starts out with absolutely no clue.And that’s where the writer’s job come in. The writer advances the story through action, thinking, dialogue, and narrative, all wound up into a presentable package that the readers shouldn’t want to put down until they get to the last page.

To set up mood in a scene, there is nothing better than action. Clenching fists, punching a wall, stalking away — great demonstrations of anger. Biting fingernales, lip chewing, fidgeting in the seat, shuffling from one foot to the other — great depictions of nervousness. The author can use dialogue here as well. “Where do you think you’re going?” or “I’m not sure I want to.”

In the past, extensive use of dialogue tags and adjectives conveyed the tone to the reader. “Where do you think you’re going?” he demanded angrily. The most recent trend has been to eliminate all but the most common dialogue tags and to limit the use of adjectives, especially those ending in -ly. In the light of this trend, how can the writer make certain the emotions are communicated? With the tag and the adjective eliminated, we have the simple statement: “Where do you think you’re going?” The words themselves show a possible degree of firmness. If two people are in an argument and this statement is used, there is little doubt the words are said with at least a somewhat angry tone. But to emphasize it, the writer has the option of inserting an action. Actions, when used in passages with dialogue are the punctuation that explains the emotion. “Where do you think you’re going?” He grabbed her arm and jerked her back against him. “Where do you think you’re going?” He slapped his palm on the door and slammed it shut before she got it all the way open.

But what if the tone is not meant to be angry? “Where do you think your’e going?” he asked playfully. Take off the tag and the adjective and add an action and the picture becomes crystal clear. “Where do you think you’re going?” With a chuckle, he hooked an arm around her waist and pulled her back into his embrace, tickling her until she burst into helpless laughter.

The actions in your story give the readers a visual to go with the audio they are reading. Combining action in dialogue passages not only keeps the reader immersed in the story but also keeps the story from becoming stagnant and motionless.

As a reader, how do you like to read about the emotions in a scene? As a writer, how do you convey the emotions in a scene?

http://www.astraeapress.com/#ecwid:category=662249&mode=product&product=2626233

Wacky Wednesday

Blahahaha! I’ll get you my pretty…you’re in my lair…um, at my blog now. Welcome, Kim Bowman, author of one great paranormal read, Wayward Soul, available at Astraea Press. I promise this will be painless (for the words anyway). Here’s the deal. Kim and I have entered into a story premise challenge. I tend to come up with an idea and then plot the story from start to finish. Kim comes up with an idea and writes by the seat of her pants. That’s why I’m called…wait for it…a plotter…and Kim is called…ta-da! A pantser. I’ll be posting three words in the comment section here on my blog, and Kim is going to try and come up with a plot revolving around those words. Now, Kim is going to do the same for me on her blog. http://kimbowmanauthor.blogspot.com/ She’ll be posting three words for and I’ll have to come up with a plot. Then we decided we wanted to add to the fun. We’d like everyone to leave a comment trying to stump us. You can post three of your own words that you’d like for us to use to come up with a creative plot. Or post a word for us to have to use along with the three we have!! Please keep your posts G-rated. The words you use to challenge us can be edgy but not offensive. We will then combine all the posts from mine and Kim’s blogs and use randomizer.org to pick one lucky winner of a beautiful necklace! And now….on to the games!

Wayward Soul and Heartsight are both available at http://astraeapress.com/ along with many other fine titles.

Thank you so much for having me, Kay. Be gentle with me.

Like Kay said, I write by the seat of my pants. I take an idea and go where it takes me. For instance Wayward Soul came about because of a personal experience I had that lead me to believe we do have “little voices” that guide us. Long story short, I developed an extremely high/irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure on top of that. My cardiologists scheduled a heart cath. It’s a procedure where they make an incision in your thigh and run a camera up to your heart to take a look and make sure everything’s okay.

Three days before my procedure I got this awful, sinking feeling in my stomach. It was like someone was whispering in my ear not to have the test done. At first, I thought it was nerves, but as the day went on the feeling got worse. I called and canceled the appointment. My husband was angry, the nurse was upset. She told the doctor and HE called me himself telling me that as fast as my heart was beating and with my high blood pressure I was a walking time bomb and I needed to have the procedure done.

I stood firm.

My husband even played the parent card and called my parents. I didn’t care.

Three days later (coincidence? I think not) I woke up in unbearable pain. My son took me to the ER where I almost died. My gallbladder was ready to explode. It was twice as big as it should have been. It was infected and the infection was running wild through my body. So much so that the doctors made me take four different antibiotics for a week before they would try to operate.

After the surgery to remove my gallbladder I went back to see the cardiologist. He told me how glad he was I didn’t listen to him because had he performed the heart cath he most definitely would have hit my gallbladder, possibly rupturing it and killing me before he realized what happened!

From this experience I had the thought, Wouldn’t it be cool to have a story built around that “little voice” we all hear at times?

That’s how my stories start. I see something and think “oh, it’d be cool to have characters doing that” or “what if I had this happen” and after I write the scene that pops into my head, I figure out how they get to that point. I ALWAYS know how a story is going to end before I write the first sentence. Ironically, in my new release Wayward Soul I wrote the last chapter first and then figured out (mostly in reverse order) how I was going to get the hero and heroine to that point. Okay, technically that’s not true. I wrote the last chapter first and then my hero went rogue on me and became the villain so I ended up having to add a chapter at the end. As a matter of fact, I wrote the first chapter last!

I’m excited to do this and I can’t wait to see what three words Kay comes up with for me. Okay, honestly I can’t wait for Kay to see the words I’ve chosen for her!! The gloves are off, woman!

Six Sentence Sunday

To raise awareness of the plight of people affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, I have chosen one of my works in the pipeline, Lifeline Echoes, about the relationship between an LA firefighter trapped in the rubble after an earthquake, and his voice lifeline, the EMS operator on the other end of the radio.

“You should turn off your radio, save the battery.”

“It’ll be all right for a while yet.” He was obviously reluctant to let go of the human contact. “It’s black as pitch down here, Angel. It’s disorienting. Knowing you’re out there helps some with that.”

http://www.redcross.org/

Pass on this link or share another link to aid for Japan, and let me know about it, and I will enter you in a drawing for a free PDF copy of my current release, Heartsight, available through Astraea Press (winner to be announced at 6 p.m. EST Monday).

http://www.astraeapress.com/#ecwid:category=662249&mode=product&product=2626233

Each copy of Heartsight purchased from the Astraea Press website from March 1 to June 1 will generate a $2 donation to the USO Wounded Warrior Program.

For more Six Sentence Sunday fun: http://sixsunday.blogspot.com/

Japan Earthquake/Tsunami Disaster

I want to take a break from all things romance and writing to express my sympathies and concerns for those in Japan and other places affected by this terrible disaster. The news coverage on this event is incredibly difficult to watch. The American Red Cross is already gearing up to send relief. I am posting a link to their website in case any of my readers would like to make donations. Help me get the word out. If anyone reading this blog posts a fresh link to a relief organization dealing with this tragedy, in my comment section here, or passes on the Red Cross link, perhaps on Facebook, or on your own blog, (tag me with it on facebook or send me the link to your blog) I will enter you in a drawing for a free PDF copy of Heartsight. Winner will be drawn on Monday.

http://www.redcross.org/

Pass the word with the Red Cross link or show me on my comment section here another relief organization than the Red Cross. Tag me (Kate Tate) on Facebook or leave me with your blog address to show me your repost and I will enter you in a drawing to win a PDF copy of my book, Heartsight.

Six Sentence Sunday

This is from Lifeline Echoes, a promising wip:

From his core, adrenaline kicked in and Ryan mustered the energy to drag himself to his feet. Rage born of fear pushed him past the threshold of pain. He rammed his fist into Bull’s gut. When the big man doubled over, Ryan clasped his hands together and aimed the double fist to the bottom of Bull’s jaw, knocking him backward. A feeling of pure disgust coursing through him, Ryan grabbed Bull by the collar, pulling him up and glaring into his eyes. “The hell you will,” he said, accentuating each word with alternating left-right blows to Bull’s face.

Don’t forget to check out Heartsight, now available. Remember, each purchase of Heartsight directly from Astraea Press will result in a $2 donation to the USO Wounded Warrior Program.

http://www.astraeapress.com/#ecwid:category=662249&mode=product&product=2626233

For more Six Sentence Sunday fun:

http://sixsunday.blogspot.com/

Wax On, Wax Off

Maybe this would be the time to admit I love movies of all kinds. I fell in love with the 2010 version of The Karate Kid. I didn’t expect to because I thought it was going to turn out to be just an updated remake of a pretty good classic. And while the similarities of the story are such to dictate the title of the movie remain the same, there is enough difference to make it interesting. The acting involved in the telling of this story drew me in immediately, and the cinematography was beautiful enough to bring tears to my eyes.

Instead of “wax on, wax off,” Mr. Han tells his pupil, Dre Parker, “pick up your jacket, hang it up, take it down, put it on, take it off, throw it down, pick it up…” as the way to teach the repetitive motions required for learning Kung Fu.

What does this have to do with writing? Aside from the repetitive motions involved with keyboarding, it can serve as a reminder that there are certain elements necessary to the writing process that can only make the writer better at his or her craft. “Throw it down, pick it up, hang it up, take it down, put it on, take it off…”

Throw it down: Get the story from your head to the computer. Pick it up: Add in the details of plot, setting, character, dialogue and so on that begin the process of breathing life into the story. Hang it up: Fine tune the grammar, tighten the prose, make the dialogue realistic, add action to dialogue and introspective scenes. Take it down: Read it over and look for weak places, overused words, passive voice, and other things you can improve. Put it on: Pass it to your critique partners. Take it off:  Act (or decide why not to act) on the feedback of your crit partners. Throw it down…

Writing fiction is training for the competition, building endurance for the marathon. And if you’re dedicated enough, give it the right amount of discipline and attention to training, and above all maintain the proper respect for the craft, you can end up with something people not only pick up to read, but finish reading and recommend to others.

Heartsight is getting some great reviews. I want to thank those who picked it up to read the work of a debut author. As well, I want to thank my supportive family, friends, crit partners, editors, beta readers, proof readers…this really was a Village Effort and I appreciate all the work everyone put into helping me reach this goal.

Each copy of Heartsight purchased from Astraea Press between March 1 and June first will generate $2 for the USO Wounded Warrior Program, thanks to the wonderful matching gesture of the publisher.

http://www.astraeapress.com/#ecwid:category=662249&mode=product&product=2626233

Follow me on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kay-Springsteen-Author-of-Romance/143469035711422

Of interest to other writers:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fiction-Writing-Brainstorming-Critique-Partnership/165368366836672