June 30, 2009

Tired Beyond Tired

I feel like I haven't blogged in forever. But I have been tired. Really tired. After analyzing the tiredness, it struck me that I have alot of changes going on in my life right now. And goodness, if anything sucks the energy out of you, it is having to change.

My boys are extremely tall (6'6", 6'7", and the third is on his way...5'11" at 13) When they had thier growth spurt in middle school, their legs HURT! Growing pains! Yes, there was pain involved. It's the same way with us. We all change and grow and we all show symptoms at some point. There could be pain, but sometimes it is more subtle, like tiredness.

We have a new church home, which I love, and the people are so warm and welcoming. But they are new to me and their is some tension in getting to know them. I am not relaxed like I am with people I have known forever. It's draining! It all takes time and soon I will be able to be free to be more...well, me.

There also have been changes on the home front. My oldest got married in December, my second graduated and is trying to get things in line for college, and my third has just started dating. All are changes that I have to adjust to. All sap me in some way. Not that they are bad changes, but changes nonetheless.

So, as I adjust, I find I need my sleep. I have to escape in books or movies to recharge. And all the while I feel guilty for not writing. Why can't my escape be writing? What does that say about me as a writer? I don't know, honestly.

These are just ramblings in my mind today, such as they are.

June 25, 2009

Unused Potential?

As a parent, I struggle with the hard balance of motivating (or rather, nagging and pushing) my children to be better at things they excel at and freeing them to pursue the areas they are passionate about.

You see, I think sometimes we may excel in certain areas that we don't particularly care about. At the same time, we may be passionate about things we really aren't that good at. So how do you know when to let them pursue their passions instead of getting even better at something they have so much potential at? Do you push to the point they are miserable? Or do you let them free to explore their interests? Are the passions ones that God has placed on their hearts or did God give them giftings to excel in areas they are "supposed" to love?

I don't know.

I wish I did.

But, as a parent, I tend to let them explore their interests and just pray that God instills in them the skills and the work ethic it will take to be good at what they love to do.

Sometimes it is difficult to let them quit certain things and I think it probably more of a pride issue for ME. I know the potential. Others SEE the potential. And then I wonder if others think I may be a bad parent for not insisting they work on what they are already good at and get even better. But...it is not about me, is it?

Part of me, sees myself in this type of situation. I'm good at certain things, so why don't I keep at those instead of trying to do something that I am not that good at? (yet) I want the freedom to try. The freedom to fail. The freedom to do what I am passionate about, without the guarantee of success.
Has anyone ever dealt with this? Any advice? Reproach?

June 24, 2009

Is Your Voice Shouting?

Are you stylish? I'm not talking about what's in your closet, but about your narrative style. In Donald Maass's book, The Fire In Fiction, he goes into the importance of a writer's voice, how you tell your tale. He points out different ways to make your voice "shout out".

GIVING CHARACTERS VOICE - This doesn't mean just taking their dialogue and dialect and making it different, but it means their outlook...their take on life. You need characters who have a unique way of looking at things, without becoming cartoonish. Their opinions need to be heard, however different it is from the norm. Sometimes we make our characters "safe", when we really should let them be real.

DETAILS AND DELIVERY - Maass asks why we avoid making a hero really different. He says, "Even the most ordinary people have a life that's unique. The details that make it so are a secret source of what critics glibly refer to as voice." Details are important. They give a story life and a voice. The way you state things, or the way your character speaks, gives your story its voice. It can be through syntax and/or details of what they say, do, or feel.

DIFFERENT WAYS OF RELATING STORY - Writers need to choose beforehand which POV and which tense to write from. There's no right or wrong way, but whatever you choose, you need to go deep into it. Make the character real, flaws and all.

I think VOICE is such an elusive thing. While I don't think your voice can be manipulated, I think Maass has some good suggestions for making your voice come through loud and clear. His ideas give a spring board to amplify your writing and letting you ....the real you...be heard.

It's not just the words that make a writer's voice unique. It's all the little things like details, delivery, outlook, original perspective, opinions, etc, that make an author's voice shout out.

I haven't found my voice yet. Not sure how I would go about finding it, other than just writing alot. Just getting started in this journey, I feel I am whispering...a little bit afraid to speak up. Do you think you have found your voice? Is it shouting yet?

June 22, 2009

Your Story's World

I read another chapter of Donald Maass's book, The Fire In Fiction (only $12.23 at Amazon), and it was all about setting. When I think about setting, I usually think about the place and the details, but Maass says it is oh-so-much-more! You "bring the setting into the story in a way that integrates it into the very fabric of your character's experience." Easier said than done, I know. But he gives suggestions on how, like:

LINKING DETAILS AND EMOTIONS - Take a childhood home, for instance. Describe the place and let your character experience the feelings the place evokes. Together, details and emotions make a place a living thing.

MEASURING CHANGE OVER TIME - Tangible things in your scene can bring out passage of time, such as ice cream trucks, crew neck sweaters, leaf blowers, Popsicles, swim suits, scarfs, snow plows, etc. Of course, these things can evoke emotions as well, to enhance the experience of your character.

HISTORY IS PERSONAL - Historical detail is a good thing, but a story doesn't have to be chock full of it. Creating a sense of the times is not just about the details (or even coupling them with emotions). The times are also enhanced by infusing a character with strong opinions about both the details and the emotions. What does the character feel about historical events? What shapes his views?

SEEING THROUGH CHARACTER'S EYES - Use different POV characters to "see" the setting. Each character's personality will see with different emotions and from a different perspective.

CONJURING A MILIEU - Yeah, I had to look that word up. (*blush*) It means a social or cultural environment. It is not necessarily a "place", but something like the world of pro-baseball players, or the life of stage actors, etc. This is what Maass said about it: "A milieu exists not in a time or place, but in the mind and hearts of the characters who dwell in it. Their memories, feelings, opinions, outlook and ways of operating in their realm are what make it real."

SETTING AS A CHARACTER: A setting may participate in the story, like a blizzard, drought, or nature. It can be a place of significance, like The Boardwalk on Coney Island. It could be the place where your husband proposed and you spend every anniversary at. You make it real by making it significant to the character.

As always, Maass gives many examples of each point from many different author's works. It is very helpful to see how others are doing it. The next chapter is on Voice and I am curious how he explains THAT! lol

Setting is one of my weak points in writing. I like dialogue and action best, so all the details slip me by. I will definitely need to focus on my story's world when I get to editing.

Do you love to build your story's world? If not, how do you make yourself write the setting? What tools or rituals do you use?

June 19, 2009

I'm A Big Girl Now

This is totally humiliating to say, but this week I stayed at home all alone. By myself. With no one else around. And I survived.
You may be wondering why I have been tweeting about the rise in my word count. Well, that is because I have been coming home from work to an empty house. A BIG empty house. Seriously, this house is 3600 sf, WITH a 2000 sf basement, PLUS an 800 sf attic. HUGE! (and way overbuilt for the neighborhood, I'll have you know)

And no, the photo is not a picture of my house, but it is what I think it looks like in the dark. Yep. I have always had an irrational fear of staying home alone, without my husband. When he would go out of town for a week, I couldn't sleep because I heard all the creaks and moans in the house. I would jump out of bed, phone in hand, ready to dial 911 and check all the doors and windows. It was crazy. And that was even with my kids at home with me!!!!

But this week, I stayed home all by myself. True, I had the help of Benadryl each and every night. (that's the ingredient they put in Tylenol PM, by the way) Ahhh, I slept...though I must say my sinuses are sure drying up! lol

So tonight my husband and children are coming home. They have been away at camp. My husband teaches at this camp and my second son was a counselor this year. The two younger ones just went for fun and learning more about God and His kingdom.

I am ready for them to be home. While I loved the quiet around the house, which is great for word count, I find that I miss the steady hum of their existence within the walls of this big ole house. In some ways the silence is distracting.

So, I am a big girl now and can stay by myself. Thanks to all who offered to let me stay with you! I am so thankful to be victorious over this fear. God is good!

So what are some fears you have had to overcome, rational or not?

June 15, 2009

I Said, He Said....Really?

Okay, I am reading some chick lit. Not my normal reading, but I've read some different authors and really enjoyed myself. So I picked up a book not to long ago at the library by an author that is fairly popular.

Now in my understanding, chick lit is in first person...usually, right? Well, this one started out in first person, then switched to third person for the hero's POV. It was a little confusing for me.

What is the right way to do it? Stay first person? Or is it okay to change back and forth?

June 12, 2009

Plot Helpers

I had dinner last night with a very special niece and we got started talking about my WIP. I have been stuck for a couple of weeks and can't seem to get past my...block? After telling her about it, she immediately told me where I was going wouldn't work and why. I had been thinking there was a problem, but couldn't see it, so when she stated it outright, I wasn't too shocked. We ended up talking about different ways to make it work and I think I have found the solution.

I have heard a few times of others who get together to brainstorm and I wondered how many authors have that kind of support? How many people utilize others to find ideas, help them through plot problems, and encourage them in their writing?

It was soooo helpful to me last night, I thought maybe I really should find a group that could help me in this way. It would be so helpful to throw lots of ideas around and stimulate my creative juices. Of course, that would be just another time eater-upper, which I don't need!

Do any of you have people to help you plot or brainstorm for story ideas?

June 10, 2009

Sagging Middles

Oh, the sagging middle. And no, I am not talking about that part of some of us that jiggle and sag when we walk. Ahem... I am talking about that part of your book the rests between your exciting beginning and your triumphant end. (lol...I am totally cracking myself up tonight with my use of body part imagery!)

I am continuing my read of The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass and the chapter I just read was all about Middle Scenes. Sometimes middle scenes sag and have no sparkle. Many times authors don't want to take the time to freshen up their middles because of self-imposed or editor deadlines. They want to meet their quotas and dadgumit, they are gonna meet them, sagging middles or no.

Maass believes authors write scenes for a purpose and the task is to open those scenes up and discover two things: Outer and Inner Turning Points. An outer turning point is "the way in which things change that everyone can understand." An inner turning point is "the way in which a scene's point of view character changes as a result" (of the outer turning point).

Maass also talks about dialogue as a common downfall. It can be wordy, with too many attributives. Bring tension into your dialogue by paring it down and making it flow.

Another area to check in your middle scenes is what Maass calls Striding Forward and Falling Back. We all know every scene needs a goal, but sometimes we may want to keep the readers guessing as to the outcome of the goal. Yes, a goal is a must, but each scene must either fulfil the goal or fall back from the goal (like with obstacles) This will keep the readers on their toes in expectation.

Another way to up the ante in your middle scenes is to focus on your first and last lines. Maass likens them to the checkered flag on the last lap of a race. They increase the drama. They set the stage. Bookend you scenes, even if you think its over the top. Make it memorable!

And last, Maass talks about The Tornado Effect. Its the huge events in your novel. He says our of all the many works he has read, most novels don't have enough big events. Also, it doesn't really matter the size of the event, but the consequences...or the scope...for more than just the protagonist.

Maass has some great questions and exercises at the end of this chapter to help develop your own work. He also has many excerpts from books to "show" you what he is talking about, which is so helpful to me, a visual person.

Let me ask you this... How do you deal with your sagging middles? Do you tend to ignore them? Cut them out? Or do you do surgery on them, like a lift and tuck...no more sag! (LOL...I am just so weird today.)

June 08, 2009

I Have a New Church Home!

Some know the journey I have been on in life, but for those of you who don't...

I have been married to a preacher for 24 years. He is gifted by God to preach the Word and we have been at some wonderful churches. Three years ago, after hearing clearly from God to start a church, we did just that. We started a church and had about 30 members. Well, three years later, we still had 30 members. We had depleted our savings and retirement and after much discussion and prayer, our wonderful, little church decided to close its doors in March.

God opened a door fairly quickly for possible employment and I am happy to say that we have a new church home at Plymouth Park Church of Christ in Irving, Texas. (happy sigh...) It is 15 miles from our home and so we can leave the last 2 kids in their schools and not have to move. (Maybe in 5 years, after the kids leave home we can get over that way!) The people at the church are warm, friendly, and very welcoming. I am so excited to be a part of this group of believers and am looking forward to many years of fellowship and growth in our Lord.

We begin on Father's Day, which I find appropriate, at least for me. For you see, in this journey I've been on, if there is anything I have learned, it is that God is God. He is my Father, my ultimate Provider, my Guide, my Comforter, and my Peace. I may not have all the answers, but I have the knowledge that He does know and He cares so very much about me.

Keep me and my family in your prayers as we begin a new path on this life's journey. It is full of hope and expectation and I anticipate great and mighty things to come! Let me hear some Woo Hoo's!!!!

June 07, 2009

We Have A Winner of A Passion Most Pure!!!!

Can I just say WOW!!! Julie sure draws a crowd wherever she goes! At 10 p.m., my lovely daughter drew a name out of a pretty glass bowl and the winner of A Passion Most Pure is...

Jeanne Campbell

The Character Therapist

Congratulations Jeannie! Shoot me an email (sherrinda[at]gmail[dot]com) with your snail mail and I will get this wonderful book to you!!!!

And Julie, thank you soooo much for stopping by and visiting with everyone! You are a gem! (And may I just say that I have been shaking my head at Charity and her driven obsession!!!! I am loving book 2!! )

June 06, 2009

Our Staycation

So what is a Staycation, you ask? Well, instead of vacating the home and traveling away for fun (vacation), you stay at home and do fun stuff not too far from home! With the economy like it is, that is what we did!

I had Friday off so we headed down to the Brazos River in Mineral Wells (1-1/2 hour drive) and took a 10 mile/5 hour canoe ride. We rented one canoe, one 2 person kayak, and one 1 person kayak. The kayaks were light weight and easy to maneuver, but boy, to they require alot of upper body strength. (Which I do NOT have!) I ended up in the canoe for the most part.

The day was cool starting out, with a light breeze, and we zipped right along. The sun shone bright and we had lovely red tail hawks flying overhead, with the occasional buzzard hogging the airways. (shiver...nasty creatures)
We stopped several times along the way to swim, search for shells (the boys did no searching, just my daughter. I am sure they would want that clarified!), eat a picnic, and also do a little rock climbing.

We were all tuckered out by the end of the ride, and I soon learned I must have either arthritis or carpel tunnel in my hands/wrists! I was nearly in tears with the pain in my hands by the time we got home. Growing old...not for the wimpy.

Then today, Saturday, we went to the Kimbell and Amon Carter Museums, ate at Pei Wei at the old Montgomery Ward Plaza, shopped at Barnes & Noble in Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth (I didn't buy anything, can you believe it???), then saw Angels and Demons at the Palace.
I came home happily tired and so thankful for some fun time with my family. I love to tuck away the memories for future smiles.
What are some of your favorite vacations or staycations?

June 03, 2009

Review & Giveaway: A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman

She's found the love of her life. Unfortunately, he loves her sister ...
As World War I rages across the Atlantic in 1916, a smaller war is brewing in Boston. Faith O’Connor finds herself drawn to an Irish rogue who is anything but right for her. Collin McGuire is brash, cocky, and from the wrong side of the tracks, not to mention forbidden by her father. And then there’s the small matter that he is secretly courting her younger sister. But when Collin’s affections suddenly shift her way, it threatens to tear Faith's proper Boston family apart.

I loved, loved, loved this book. This is not your typical Christian romance. In fact, it has been called "edgy" by CBA standards. But that is one of the things I love about it. There is real and honest physical attraction portrayed in this book that you don't see elsewhere, at least not in a Christian bookstore. It's all just kissing, but (sigh) it is all the emotions and turmoil amid the romantic scenes that causes your heart to skip a beat. Julie takes you through the moral journey of passion and purity. And what a lovely journey it is!

I love how Julie allows her secondary characters to take a major role in the book. She draws you into their heads and are drawn into the drama of their lives. Julie does an amazing job in developing these characters to where you feel you really know them. They come alive on the page!

I cannot say enough good things about this book, A Passion Most Pure. I first heard about it on The Seekers blog where Julie was blogging about romantic tension (passion) in writing. I felt like I had hit the jackpot.

You see, I had read romance novels since I was a teen. Now, I admit that not all of these were books I should have been reading at that young age, but I read them anyway and was swept away by romance. I love a good heart skipping, sigh-producing romance.

Once my faith grew, I tried to find these kinds of novels in the Christian book store, but never could quite find what I was looking for. Granted, these were clean reads from a Christian worldview, but lacked the kind of romance I felt all women want and experience in real life.

So, after reading about Julie, and reading her thoughts and her heart come through her interviews, I knew I had to get my hands on her book. I checked the library and there were tons of holds on the books, so...I cyber-stalked her! I entered every giveaway I could and low and behold, I won 5 books!!! Yes, it's embarrassing. I won the first one and read it, then won all three in another contest. Then, I won another one...but I put it back for a redraw.

Since I now own TWO copies of A Passion Most Pure, I am giving away a copy to a lucky commenter. You have until Sunday night to post a comment for a chance at a random draw for this wonderful book! Remember to leave your email address like this: sherrinda[at]gmail[dot]com, so I can contact you if you win. I will draw a winner Sunday, June 7.

June 02, 2009

Graduation #2

My second child graduated from high school this Sunday. It was only a two hour event and then we had a reception afterward with many friends and family in attendance. It was so nice to see friends we hadn't seen in awhile!

The highlight of the evening was his two grandfather's speaking blessings and prayers over him. That a treasure to
have two godly men speak those encouraging words and send him forth covered by prayer.

I am so blessed and my heart is full. Two down and two to go!

June 01, 2009

How Memorable Is Your Secondary Character?

I've been slowly reading The Fire In Fiction by Donald Maass. I'm a fast reader and sometimes miss important facts, so I've been taking my time with this one in order to make the most of the book and learn all I can to apply to my writing.

I just finished a chapter about secondary characters and was struck by the fact that I really ignore mine! I have been so focused on the H/H, I have stuck my secondaries into the background, safe and sound.

Here are three types of secondary characters to think about:

1. Special Characters: Who are the people that make an impact on your character's life? How have they made a difference in your protaganist's life? What makes these characters special is how they have changed your hero/heroine. What details show this to be true?

2. Ordinary Characters: These are the people in your protaganist's life that are taken for granted. One way to spice them up is to make them eccentric, make them quirky. While making them unique, you need to make them human too, so give them a conflict they must overcome.

3. Antagonists: To often these can become "cardboard" characters who are entirely evil, which makes them entirely boring. These bad guys need some redeeming qualities. We need to somehow relate to them and even root for them at times. They need be in the forefront and in the hero's face, not relegated to the background.

According to Maass, secondary characters are just as important to the story as the protagonist. We need to make sure our supporting characters are real, are human, are memorable.

I have to confess my secondaries are in the background. In fact, there aren't many secondaries in my WIP and I'll have some major revisions ahead to beef up these quiet characters in my story.

How about you? Do you enjoy writing quirky secondary characters? How much thought do you put into these? What is your favorite type of secondary character to write?

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