Friday, July 29, 2011

What to do, what to do?

I am a book-aholic. I LOVE BOOKS. I love the feel of a book in my hands. I love the smell of the ink on the page. I love book cover art. Walking into a bookstore is a pilgrimage of sorts for me. There is something calming and reflective about the insides of a book store that speaks to my soul.

As I mentioned in a previous post, reading is a life long love affair for me. Buying an e-reader made me feel as if I was committing some sort of sacrilege. And while I will NEVER stop buying a published book (now referred to as p-books), I do love having a whole library of books at my disposal on my e-reader. And it fits very nicely in my purse.

With that said, when Borders announced they were closing, to my great dismay, I stormed their doors with my ‘books to purchase’ list in one hand and credit card in the other. Needless to say the romance section shelves were a bit barer when I left and I’ll probably return to purchase more.

I spend a lot of my free time researching and reading romance. And while trolling the internet doing research and reading book reviews, I realized the huge amount of romance, as well as other genres, released every week. Many of which are only available as e-books and a lot of self-published books. Which, as I mentioned last week, I think is a growing option for many new authors.  I’ve also discovered there’s a lot of free downloads out there too. And I think to myself, I’m doomed. How am I going to keep up with reading the new releases (and old) from much loved, newly-minted and recently discovered authors? It’s all so overwhelming. Who/what should I read next and should I find a way to organize this mess?

The topic of organizing your TBR pile came up on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books facebook page the other day.

Some readers suggested using excel spreadsheets to keep track, others use Good Reads and then there was the suggestion of using the library on your e-reader to house and organize you books.

And then there’s me.

I have a HUGE TBR pile, physically and digitally, and it only keeps growing. Mine is totally unorganized. Most of my TBRP is in boxes, stashed next to or under my bed or the bag in which they arrived at my house. Quite often it’s the bright shiny new release that gets my attention first. I’m so easily distracted by shiny baubles ;) I also have a hard time remembering what books from my 'to buy' list I've actually purchased that is now hiding in a box or bag somewhere. 

I’ve created an account on to help organize my reading/books, but I haven’t taken the time yet to learn how to use the website. But I see a lot of people raving about it, so maybe I’ll do that this afternoon.

Or maybe I’ll break out one of the new books I bought at Borders—decisions, decisions.

How do you keep your TBR pile organized or, for that matter, decide which book will be the next one you’ll buy and/or read?
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Friday, July 15, 2011

No excuses

OK, I did exactly what I had hoped not to do and that was abandon my blog. So, without making any excuses I'm going to try this again.

Well, there an elusive topic and something I've found little time for. A few poems, a short story or two and starts and stops on two romances - one of them contemporary. But, in the way of an accomplishment, I did complete the NaNoMo challenge back in November, 2010 and did complete a 50,000+ word novel in those frosty thirty days of November. And without cheating. The working title was "Little Bird Lost" and was a twist on one of my all time favorite Mary Stewart books "The Ivy Tree". Not sure if it will go anywhere, but I liked the story and I think with a little work it could be something.

An author friend of mine is contemplating e-publishing his second novel. He asked my thoughts and I have to admit the idea is gaining ground with me. In a recent stumble around the internet I came across Carina Press and have fallen in love with several of their authors and am impressed with their business model. I am considering querying them with my first romance. I also read a great e-zine article about the future of publishing at Randy Ingermanson's web site It was published July 2010, but Randy makes some great points, it's definitely worth a read.

One of the blogs I follow regularly - Vauxhall Vixens (see the link to the right) - has been busy lately. Lots of new things happening with the four lovely ladies who maintain that blog. So, if you're looking for some book recommendations, go check out their latest blog. Several of the authors have new books that I have added to my ever expanding list of books to read.

There's a new blog out there called It's a group of Avon published romance authors who will be making guest appearances on the blog. It just launched on July 14, 2011. Check it out.

Currently Reading
Carina Press sponsored a week of free downloads and I downloaded them all. So far I've read three of the five free downloads. I especially liked Demon's Fall by Karalyn Lee. I've gone on to download some other offerings from Carina Press and am reading Steam and Sorcery by Cindy Spencer Pape, a steam-punk romance that I am really enjoying. Carina Press offers some free downloads on a regular basis. 

I have to admit I bought a Libre e-reader over 8 months ago and have just recently started using it. I thought I wouldn't care for reading this way, but I am loving it. It's great to drop it into my purse and have a huge selection of books to read when I find myself waiting some where. But I don't think I will ever stop buying physical books. I like having both options and I having a feeling I'm not alone in feeling that way.

Tell me what you're reading right now, or let me know your thoughts on e-book versus p-book.

Until next time
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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Omega Publications Part Two

Again this week Gayle Farmer from Omega Publications is my guest blogger.  Here she talks about some of the different types of books Omega has published. Omega has a very diverse background of offerings. 

I hope you've enjoy reading the Q&A format we've presented this in.

M: Tell me about the poetry book you’re working on.

G: Tapestry. I’m very excited about the prospect, really. You don’t see too many books of poetry, so it’s kind of unique. I’ve collected a wonderful group of poets whose work runs the gamut from funny to romantic. It’s uplifting, heartwarming, all the poets are very talented, and we’ve decided to put everything together and create a kind of heirloom piece. Books are wonderful keepsakes and they make the ideal gift for family members.

M: I bet it’s different from working with one author on one story.

G: Well, of course, everyone has an opinion on some level, but with this particular group, as well as the short story writers from Mosaic, they’re professionals who left their egos at the door. What they want is the best possible book they can get and they know we’re determined to give it to them.

Now, when you have a debut book from a debut author, it’s very different.

M: Mama’s and their babies!

G: And then some. The fic editing usually goes pretty quick and they have no ideas about setup for the interior pages, like the non-fics often do, with their photos and graphs and such. It’s usually fine until we get to the cover. Then they can start to unravel.

Whenever possible, I like to speak with my authors, so we usually have at least one phone conversation. I want their idea for a cover. I’m very chatty, so if I have to, I’ll start asking questions and throwing ideas at them, making them give me an answer until finally we begin to hear what they want, what they see. Because it’s much better that we all ‘see’ it early on than to have put hours into a cover only to hear them start to voice concerns then.

Do you love black and white? Does a lot of color suit your theme, do you see a particular image? Finally they get comfortable enough with me that they relax. Next thing you know, they’re telling me exactly what they see. Still a perilous journey ahead, but at least everyone’s heading in the same direction, lol.

Then, just when you think it’s ready to go, done to perfection, they want to add something, or worse, take something out. Every time the pages change, as you know, the spine width changes and there goes the cover! Jeff refers to himself as a ‘natural bald’ and he means it. It can be frustrating but it’s very fulfilling.

M: I know just what you mean! How about non-fiction? Is there a difference there?

G: Oh yes. Well, depending on the subject it can be a lot of fun. We’re in the process of publishing a book by Elizabeth Joyce, a well-known and highly regarded psychic who has worked with various police entities in solving crimes. This particular book, Ascension, deals with New Age philosophy regarding the year 2012. Seems that in December of that year, all the planets are going to line up and usher in some very big changes in this world. Her books had all kinds of graphs and charts and it was a wonderful experience for Jeff, as was the cookbook.

That was interesting, but depending on the subject, it can get pretty dramatic. We published a non-fiction book by Sasha Petrova called A Leaf on the Wind, the true story of a woman who’d been raped and abused by her father from the age of four into her teens. Now, that was hard.

M: I can imagine, especially if it was at all graphic.

G: Well, it was, y’know? Not at all salacious, just clinical, factual, which made it worse, somehow. When it’s fiction, then it’s just that. You just go with the words. When you’re reading things that make you want to scream or cringe and you know it’s someone’s life story, oh dear, it can be very intense.

And by the way, if any of the readers have a specific question, I’ll do the best I can to answer it. It’s always fun getting together, Margaret. Thanks so much.

I want to thank Gayle for taking the time to join me again on my blog. I think she’s given some great insight into the world of self-publishing.

If you have any questions for Gayle you can post them here in the comments field.

If you want to know more about Omega Publications, there is a link on the right that will take you to their website.

Until next time



Friday, September 17, 2010

Omega Publications

This week’s blog is going to be a bit different. I’ve asked my friend Gayle Farmer to talk about her company, Omega Publications, and the kind of books they publish and what they can bring to an author interested in self-publishing. So, with Gayle we will explore the world of Omega Publications and self-publishing over the next few weeks. If you have any questions for Gayle, just post it in the comments area and Gayle can respond in the next blog.

We decided to set the blog up in a question and answer format. 

M: Hi Gayle welcome to my humble little blog.

G: Hey Margaret, I really appreciate you giving me this opportunity.

M: Knowing that I have some writers in the audience, most of whom want to be published, I thought it would be a good match. So what have you been up to? I hear you’ve been pretty busy.

G: I guess! We took on two ‘firsts’ for us, an illustrated cookbook with photos and a non-fiction book with a variety of graphs and boxes. Prior to this, our experience dealt with novels and text-only kind of things.

Jeff survived, and claims he is the better man for it, but there were times in that learning curve when it got pretty hairy. Imagine trying to put a dark, poor quality, B&W Polaroid photo circa 1960, into a book in 2010. But Jeff did! Perseverance and the grace of God, I say, but wait until you see it. We’re feeling like new parents with a beautiful baby.

M: I love cookbooks. What’s the title?

G: Tastes and Tales of Sicilian Cookery, A Back to Queens Cookbook. I can’t tell you how much fun it was. Our wonderful Author/Chef, Thomas Ciapi, found our site on the web and called me on the phone. We spoke for a while, he explained what he wanted, asking me if I could ‘make it pretty.’ “I want the reader to feel it, smell it, but not just the cooking and the recipes,” he said. “The cookbook is more than that, it is the story of my Nonni, my Grandpa Renda and what he means to me and my family. Can you do that for me?”

Thrilled to my toes, I told him yes and I think we have. Jeff did the cover, warm and inviting, yet ultra simplistic, with Chef’s photo on front. I am familiar with both the neighborhoods and the times and I found a lot of nostalgic tears flowing in this one as I grew up outside Manhattan.

M: I get the feeling this is much more than a job for you, isn’t it, Gayle?

G: Oh yes. Just publishing the books I wrote kept Jeff and me pretty busy for the first several years. We published my first two books in 2004, but at the time, we didn’t feel qualified to take on other books, even through we’d been approached. We were still finding questions we had no answers for! God bless the net. If you can figure out how to phrase it, there’s an answer out there. It’s just, who has time for that kind of research? One by one we were able to overcome the obstacles, and of course, as my books began to sell, people sought us out.

M: So basically, you do it all then, from beginning to end? I’ve seen several of your books on the Amazon site and I have to admit I can’t see a bit of difference between your books and something put out by Penguin or Random House. I have a feeling that’s no accident. I’m holding a copy of Mosaic, leafing through it, and it’s beautiful. Love the front cover, but the back cover is really clever, too.

G: The clock! Lol, that was Jeff’s idea and it came out great. He wants to incorporate a clock and autographs on the back of the new anthology of poems we’re doing. You just might be familiar with that!

M: Yup! I haven’t said much about it here, so go ahead and explain.

G: It’s called TAPESTRY, Poetic Threads of Life. It’s still in the production phase and is kind of a, well … pairing is too strong a word, but, maybe a flip side of Mosaic, which contains short stories. I’m so proud of that one. I think the cover is super and wish there were places like Writer’s Digest where they judge covers like they do novels. I really think it’s a winner. It was the first Fanstory anthology book and I have to say there’s some really good stuff in there, from funny to scary to outrageous and everything in between.

Speaking of covers, I certainly can’t pass over the newest cover on the OP horizon, done by Margaret Clark! That is so exciting, such a plus for OP to have you there in the wings. Gives me a sigh of relief, and I love your ideas for the Paris Metro cover.

M: Thanks Gayle, I appreciate the opportunity. You gave me a clear vision of what the book was about and the author’s ideas, and such. I like what we have so far! 

G: Me too. You captured the whole idea perfectly. But there’s so much to it, isn’t there? Now we have to knock gently on the author’s muse and hope for concurrence! This can be a very emotional time for the author.

M: Well, I have a lot questions I’d like to ask you about Omega. I understand that Omega doesn’t accept every ms offered, which is very different from most POD’s. Tell us about that.

G: We won’t publish junque, regardless how you spell it! Mostly we turn away the far-out stuff. OP will not publish material that will incite violence or hatred based on race, sexual orientation, religion or ethnicity. Added to that, we do not publish porn or anything that glorifies sexual violence. It’s on a case-by-case basis, of course, unless you’re talking Klingon. We especially like Klingons.

M: I have to chuckle at that. Give me an example.

G: Okay, we had a guy who was a Native American and wanted his book published. He had the money and was ready to go. I requested he email me the ms in an attachment. Shortly thereafter, the ms arrived. It was incomprehensible, even with what he considered translations. We’re just not equipped to do that.

Not long after that I got an ms from a guy, also money in hand, who’s rewritten the Bible, New and Old Testaments, mind you, and wants to publish. He warned me that there will be NO EDITING. Solid caps, bold, yet. Well, I passed on that one, too. There have been others, actually, but you get the picture.

M: So how does your submission process start?

G: We deal with electronic ms only. We ask for a short synopsis, the first chapter, total word count, genre and target audience.

I check every ms we receive. If it looks like something we want, I read random passages for continuity, spag, style issues and if it’s something we want, I get back to the author. I have three other editors available to me and depending on what the ms needs, I’ll send the book to the proper editor. Then we talk with the author about the costs, any special editing needs and the price of the package they choose. My edit covers spag… spelling, punctuation and grammar issues as well as POV loss and is included in the price of all the packages. If the ms needs editing beyond what I am able to provide, there is an extra charge.

We spend time on the phone with the author if they’re unsure what to do, but most of our contact is email. We stress how important it is that the ms be as clean and ‘publishable’ as they can make it before we get it, since most authors don’t have the extra money required for an in-depth or line edit, especially if they can do a good bit of it themselves.

M: How is Omega Publications different from other POD’s?

G: Well, first off, we follow industry standards regarding fonts, type/format style, setup, drop caps, offering every feature you see from a traditional publisher. All our covers are original, not made from some standard template. It’s of paramount importance at OP that we meet or exceed industry standards. I’m hoping some day that there will be another level of publisher, who accepts paying clients based upon merit and high standards without the stigma…which is fading fast, by the way, of the old vanity press. POD’s have to have standards, we have to provide the same values of quality, good craftsmanship and expertise the trad houses do if we expect to compete in the marketplace.

Also, we allow the author to pay half his package price when we commence editing and the final payment made just before it goes to print. That gives the author a little time to get the money up, although our prices are low and very competitive. We also allow the author to determine the selling price of her book. Once we hear from Lightning Source what a book will cost to produce, the author pretty much takes over. We highly recommend that ‘your’ book be priced the same as others in your similar genre and size, so if Stephen King is getting $8.99 for his latest endeavor, it just doesn’t make sense for an unknown writer to price his debut novel at $23.95.

M: How about marketing the novel once it’s in print? What do you do?

G: Every book we do has the ‘check inside’ feature on Amazon. We also include an author’s page on our website where the author can link to other sites, sell things, talk about themselves. We belong to Smashwords and a variety of similar sites that promote our works, like Google. The ebook market is huge and we want to ride that wave.

But as all best selling authors will tell you, they’re expected to do the marketing. You have to be crafty; talk with your town librarian, see if they have a ‘local authors’ area where your book might belong, and donate one or two, same with bookstores, especially the smaller local ones. We give a fair return rate, so they are inclined to provide the space as a service to local talent, especially in resort towns. If you’re big on seminars, they encourage you to bring books to display and sell. Any kind of community thing, fairs, swap meets, events like that are a good place to market your book. Check with your local high schools and colleges, see what they might be planning. Also, for those of you who can do public speaking, see if you can’t give a little talk at mid-grade and higher, especially if you write for YA. To kids, anyone who has published a book is pretty cool, at least in my experience.

M: From the things I’ve heard today and the horror stories you read about authors and their POD experience, Omega sounds very different.

G: It’s like night and day. Everyone who knows me knows that I’m all about being the best I can be and that translates directly to my work. After seeing some of the junk other POD’s put out, I wish there was another word for Omega Publications; I like Indy Press.

M: Well, I think we’ve covered quite a bit here. Thanks Gayle for the information on Omega Publications and the great advice on self-publishing. We look forward to next week’s blog.

In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments just post them in the comments field.

Until next week



Friday, September 10, 2010

Life is busy, busy, busy!

Lots going on these days.

Next week I will be welcoming a guest blogger to my blog. My friend Gayle Farmer and her husband Jeff are owners of Omega Publications. Gayle will be sharing information about some aspect of self-publishing. I’ll be nattering on about graphic design—a little thing that I have 33 years of experience doing. I hope you’ll check out my blog next week and see what interesting things Gayle has to share.

A humbling offer

Gayle has also asked me to design the cover for a book that her and Jeff will be publishing soon. I am humbled that she has asked me to do this. I love what I do, both with my writing and with graphic design, and hope that Gayle and Jeff will like what they see. Next week I’ll share some thoughts I have about the future of graphic design and book covers as books move to electronic publishing.


Some might recall my blog from a month ago when I talked about my interview with Linda Fildew at the RWA conference in Orlando. I was a bit disappointed that they were pushing their interviewees to a contest they are starting on their website. Well, I still feel a little disappointment, but I haven’t let that stop me. I went and registered for the contest. I am in the process of writing a summary of the book and doing a quick read through of the first chapter of my book “Is This Love?”. Then I will be entering the contest. I think sometime this weekend I will push the submit button. If you want to check it out, or even enter the contest, go to and check out the contest and my entry, under the name Margaret Clark.

New book

As if I need more to do, I’ve started working on a new book. It’s a contemporary romance/suspense novel. It’s been rattling around in my head and I just need to get it out. So far it’s coming along pretty well. I needed to start a new project. I’ve been living with the old ones too long. They don’t seem to be going anywhere at the moment, so I thought maybe something new would get me going again.


I am also working on some poetry that will be published in an anthology. Poetry is a challenge for me. Most of the stuff I'm really proud of have been poems I've written as an emotional reaction to something. When I try to write one because I have to, it never seems to come out like I'd like it to. But I have about 10 poems ready for the anthology and I'm hoping for 12. The publisher, my friend Gayle, has been gracious enough to give me an extension to get my poems completed. 


I had thought to talk a little bit about a particular topic that's been in the news this week. But I think that the news media has done a pretty good job of escalating that story to a higher level of importance than it deserves. Let me just say this, what we need right now is tolerance and to ask ourselves, what would Jesus do? Because the person behind the news story, who claims to be a Christian, seriously needs to ask that question himself.

Until next week



Friday, September 3, 2010

What have you read this summer?

A favorite question this time of year is—what book are you taking to the beach with you? When I was a kid it wasn’t a question of book, it was a question of books. I couldn’t get enough reading in during the summer months. There was a library branch only six blocks from our house and I would walk there at least once a week to pick out books.

Neighbors as lending libraries

Half way down the block from our house lived a retired schoolteacher and her widowed sister who had worked as a telephone operator with my grandmother. Their names were Grace and Bell. Grace was the retired schoolteacher. I always thought there was a bit of irony in the fact the Bell had worked for Bell Telephone as an operator. I digress. During the summer, when my friends were either gone on vacation or otherwise occupied, I’d stop in for a visit at Grace and Bell’s. Grace had a collection of children’s books for the neighborhood children to enjoy. I’ll never forget when a copy of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory appeared on her bookshelf. I immediately wanted to read it. There was one catch to reading one of the Grace’s books, you had to read it out loud to her and Bell. This was never a chore for me, these two women where my adopted grandmothers and I loved them. So sitting and reading a chapter each time I visited, which was usually rewarded with a dish of ice cream, was a double joy for me—reading and spending time with these two smart and endearing women.

While I was in elementary school my favorite authors were E.B. White, Beverly Cleary, P. L. Travers and Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew Mysteries), to name but a few. Oh and I have to mention the Pippi Longstocking books by Astrid Lindgren. I wanted to be Pippi and live in her incredible house.

When I moved from elementary to junior high and high school my taste in books shifted a little, although I was still reading E.B. White (The Once and Future King—absolutely love this book. It lead to my writing my English essay on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table) and another neighbor’s house became my favorite lending library. My life-long BFF, Debbie, and her family lived two doors down from mine. Her mother, Peggy, was another incredibly intelligent and important woman in my life. She was a second mother to me. When she died of cancer in 1987 it was the closest I’d come, at that point, to feeling like I’d lost a parent. Peggy LOVED to read and she read everything. Harlequin romances were her guilty pleasure—she had boxes of them. She also loved Leon Uris, she raved about what an important book Exodus was. I don’t believe there wasn’t a book genre or author she hesitated to take on. But romances where her first love and beyond the Harlequin books, she adored Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt. And so those three authors became my favorites and I would wait for each new book to be published, knowing that Peggy would buy it and once she was finished with it, I would be given the book to read.

Parental influence

My dad was also a big influence on my reading choices. Both of my parents were avid readers, my mom loved Stewart, Holt and Whitney and we shared books all the time. But it was my dad who got me reading Arthur Conan Doyle. One year for Christmas my mom suggested my brother and I buy my dad a compilation of Sherlock Holmes stories for my dad. We bought him this thick tome that contained all of the complete Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories. My dad loved it. He loved to re-read his favorites and would write on inside front cover of the book the dates he had read it. The volume of Sherlock Holmes stories had a long list of dates. It was such a beloved book that over time the binding began to crumble.

Favorite high school teacher

During high school I had the joy of enrolling in my first literature class taught by Miss Carlson. I can’t recall her first name now, but I adored this woman. She had what I thought had to be the best job in the world. She got paid to read books and then to teach about them. She introduced me to Poe, Dickens and Bradbury—now how’s that for a diverse lot? I couldn’t get enough of these authors. To this day Bradbury will force me to think like no other author. And the chills I got from Poe, especially when Miss Carlson played a recording of Vincent Price reading The Cask of Amontillado, were thrilling beyond words.

As you can see, reading has been a life-long love affair for me. The romance genre has become my favorite, but I also love mysteries, literary fiction and even some sci-fi and fantasy. It is my love of reading that has lead to my dream of being an author. I’ve always had stories rattling around in my head. I’d hear a news story and I would soon have made up a whole mystery around what could have possibly happened. Or I’d see someone in an airport or shopping mall and something in their behavior would soon me making some intriguing story about them. I always thought everyone made up stories like that. But talking to my sister one day I discovered that wasn’t the case. She didn’t think like that. I also learned that most writers are constantly writing in their heads, thinking up story lines and asking themselves “What if?” I’ve been doing this all my life and so now I not only enjoy reading, I enjoy writing too.

So, what have I been reading this summer? Linda Howard, Sherry Thomas and a recent discovery and now a favorite romance author, Georgette Heyer. She wrote Regency romances and began her writing career in 1921. She also wrote mysteries, but I haven’t read any of those, yet. If you haven’t read any Heyer you must, especially if you love Jane Austen. Two Heyer favorites are Bath Tangle and the Reluctant Widow—very fun romps.

And this leads me back to my original question—what have you read this summer?


Friday, August 27, 2010

Life getting in the way of life? Maybe

OK, OK, here I am. Sorry for being absent last week. Life has been crazy busy. Last week, Aug 16-22, was county fair week here in Northern Illinois and I spent 4 of the seven days attending the fair for at least 3 to 4 hours each visit. Plus my niece was visiting from California. Then we had one of our children, with spouse and child, staying over the weekend and one child heading back to college—all in all a very crazy week. So finding the time to sit down and write was nearly impossible.

The Impossibility of Writing

Which leads me to a problem that has been plaguing me today. I’m trying to write some poems as I’ve committed to being part of a poetry anthology. Why I was asked is still a bit of a mystery to me. Don’t get me wrong, I have composed several poems I am exceptionally proud of, but I only have 8 poems to offer up for the anthology. But those poems were written as an emotional reaction to something happening in my life. One that I’m particularly proud of was written in response to our daughter Dayna getting married in May. I’ll post it here some time for you all to enjoy.

Anyway, now I’m trying to write poems on purpose and finding it a difficult trail to navigate. I’ve written one poem a dozen times now. I think what I started doing today may be the final, but it’s going to take me days to finish what I think will be a seven stanza poem with an abcb rhyme scheme. Meter I’m not even worrying about. If I can get this one done that will make nine poems and I’d like to have at least a dozen written for the book. But I only have 7 weeks and this one poem has taken me nearly two weeks. Not looking good.

Sitting on the Deck

So in order to get a different perspective on things I sat on the deck on this absolutely beautiful August afternoon. Low humidity and mid 80 temps—heaven. I went out armed with an old notebook, dictionary, thesaurus, and my notes and handouts from the RWA conference in July. Thought I might have time to read through some of my notes—um, yeah, right.

Anyway, I started out just observing the day. I live in the middle of twenty acres, 3 miles from the nearest town of 1,100 and 15 miles from the nearest city of 150,000 and only 4 neighbors bordering our property and those far enough away that I can only really see one of the houses. The view from my deck is currently a field of corn with a woods at the far edge of the cornfield—very relaxing. As I sat there thoughts of my dad, who passed away a year ago, crept into my mind. My dad loved to sit on the front porch on summer afternoons armed with the radio tuned to WGN for the Cub’s game, wood for whittling and a cold beer at hand. Sitting there in my solitude I understood why he loved it so. It refreshes the soul and clears the mind like nothing else I know. And it made me think of him and smile. I miss seeing him sitting on the front porch. I’d stop if he was there and we’d talk and share a beer. My mom is now living in a Alzheimer’s care facility and I drive a different route back and forth to work so I don’t go past the house very often. And I did find a little inspiration for my poem—I decided on the abcb rhyme scheme and actually accomplished writing two stanzas in the new rhyming scheme.

Notes for 2009 RWA Conference

In the back of the notebook I took out on the deck with me I found notes from the 2009 RWA conference in Washington D.C. I started reading through the notes and came across some from a workshop I attended on building layers into your writing. It was a very interesting workshop. The presenter was author Renee Ryan and she explained how she writes. She creates her first draft and then so goes back through her first draft and begins building layers into her ms. There are seven layers she adds into her scenes, but not all scenes will need all seven layers.

The first layer is action. Renee made a point of noting there a no talking heads in her books. Stationary people do not exist in real life and so they shouldn’t exist in your manuscript either.

The second layer is adding in the five senses. The sense of smell can have a very powerful pull on a person’s memories, as do songs. These things can be layered into the scene to add dimension.

Layer three is setting the scene. Putting your characters into a setting adds richness and puts your readers into the time period of your story.

The fourth layer is emotion. This is an important aspect of any fiction, but is especially important to romance. You want your reader to feel what your characters are feeling. When you add emotion you give the reader a richer experience.

Layer five is dialogue. Make sure your dialogue rings true, is true to your character and to your character’s gender. Dialogue that is stilted or rigid or is not something your reader thinks that character would say will throw the reader right out of the story.

The sixth layer is weaving in your backstory. Be careful not to do a backstory dump. Keep the reader on a need to know basis when it comes to backstory by only giving them the essential information for that scene. Do you really need to tell the reader the heroine loved to bake pies with her Aunt Maude? Only if it pertains to the scene.

Layer seven is sexual tension. Adding this in gradually and carefully will make the romance believable. If you skip building sexual tension and it’s just lust that brings your hero and heroine together your reader won’t buy into their being compatible and staying together for that all important HEA (happily ever after).

Now, not all of this layering has to happen in each scene. That’s where the talent and creativity of the writer comes into play. As a matter of fact I believe that adding all of this into each scene will make your writing rather tedious for your reader. Be discerning and look at each scene and see what it needs to have more depth.

If you have any thoughts I’d love to hear from you.