Astrology, Life Changes and Author Newsletters

My cousin likes to follow astrology. I believe there’s something to that but to truly understand astrology seems quite overwhelming … much like my life lately. The latest astrology report said the alignment of the planets were bringing a time of change and disruption. On that I would have to agree as I wind down a consulting job I’ve had for twenty years. As a Taurus, I don’t like huge surprises or forced changes in my life. I appreciate a degree of organization and certainty. On the other hand, I have to appreciate the old adage, “when one door closes, another opens.” I’ve had two consulting jobs come through LinkedIn recently and discussions are opening about helping a Caribbean medical school with disaster planning. (I could live with that). I regret having little time for writing, but I’ll get there. Besides work, there’s taking care of dogs, chickens, planting vegetables and pulling weeds. I guess life eventually finds its own balance.

On a separate note, a promised newsletter for this group has keep slipping through my fingers and I feel quite guilty about that. I’ve subscribed to several authors newsletters to get an idea of what the content is, how they’re formatted, what things I like, dislike, etc. It’s been rather interesting. Here’s some things I’ve noticed:

  • I don’t need to see three e-mails a day from the same author with almost identical content.
  • Plain text is boring.
  • Short and sweet is good. One author has huge covers and so much content that if I printed it out it would be about twenty pages. Most people aren’t going to bother to find their way to the bottom for the freebie.
  • I enjoy a newsletter with something new to report. I see a lot of redundancy.
  • A clever subject line is good. That determines if I’m going to open it.
  • Although I enjoy hearing things about the author’s life, several pages of health issues, pet photos and “what kids did today” can become annoying.
  • Speaking of annoying – many seem to call their readers by cutsie little names. I can deal with Sunshine, Gorgeous, Angel, Beautiful, Lovely, and Historical Honeys but I’m not sure about Bees, Sweetie (most of them could be my grandchildren) and Goddess. Sorry, but Vixen, Stoner and Smut Queen is a little over the top.
  • Lastly, I read all kinds of romance and I’m hardly a prude, but a newsletter filled with sexual innuendo may not be appreciated by everyone.

A nice example of a newsletter comes from our own Claire Gem. It has her logo followed by the topic  which is “5 Great Ways to Find Your Next Great Read”. Then there’s a nice photo of books in a field. This is followed by a neatly formatted discussion of the topic. The only thing that’s a surprise is that there’s nothing about her books. Anyway, kudos to Claire.

Chickens

Well, I’d love to chat more but I have chickens to feed and weeds to pull. Oh, BTW, here’s my books. I’d love it if you’d tell me what you think.

Partners, Odyssey of the Phoenix http://amzn.to/2dqqSb9
Partners, Challenge of the Phoenix http://amzn.to/2ewyFUN
Partners, Sacrifice of the Phoenix http://amzn.to/2l1IcXN
Partners, Transformation of the Phoenix – ready for publication
Partners, Heart of the Phoenix – in process

 

 

 

Pinging Back . . .

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Kathryn Jane’s post from January 8th, The Magic of Story, resonated so much with me that I just had to “ping back” to that topic today. I’m a big fan of Nora Roberts (okay, so she’s my idol, I’ll admit it), and I begin each day by posting one of her quotes on Twitter.

Nora says story is magic. I, like Kat, agree. And it is brilliant.

Many of my own story ideas came to me in the middle of the night, just like the one Kat talked about in her blog here–including my present almost-finished work in progress, CIVIL HEARTS.

In fact, one of the first story ideas I ever had came to me on a sunny, Sunday morning about twelve years ago, when I was lying in bed. Floating in that place between waking and sleeping, the plot, the characters–everything came into my head. I jumped up and ran to my laptop to outline the story before the idea went away.

Unfortunately, this story idea has not yet come to fruition. I say “not yet” because it’s still alive, in multiple forms and variations, in my thoroughly backed up computer files. I’m just not good enough a writer yet to do it justice. It will be, when it happens, my “magnum opus.”

art-2000984_640I hope.

As for CIVIL HEARTS, the story came to me in the wee hours of a restless night when a memory from my distant past came drifting into my brain like an errant cloud. You see, many years ago we toyed with idea of following some close friends of ours who had moved to Birmingham, Alabama. We even went so far as to go around with a realtor and look at homes in the area.

One of those we visited was an 19th-century antebellum-style home that had been left empty for many years. The house spoke to me. (Was it the house? Or the spirits still living there?)

Now, decades later, those spirits finally found me in Massachusetts, a mere 1200 or so miles away, in the middle of a sleepless night. They whispered in my ear, bringing back my visit to that house, complete with visceral, crystal-clear details: sights, sounds, smells, and a presence.

A “presence” that became the ghost of a Civil War soldier who still lives there . . . in my imagination, and in CIVIL HEARTS.

Coming soon.

Yes, Kat, story is magic. And magic is supernatural. I have another confession to make: sometimes, I get a little creative help from my supernatural friends.

~~~

Claire Gem is an award winning author of contemporary romance & supernatural suspense. You can find out more about her work at her website & on her Amazon Author Page.

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Filling in The Blanks

One of the maladies—and joys—of being a “pantser” novelist is that the story’s not over until it’s over. The raw, clay model of a novel can be reshaped, added to, and trimmed at any point in the process. Just like a sculpture.

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There is no outline. No rubric. Nothing written in stone. Anything, and everything, can change at any point along the way.

I am a devout, committed pantser: can’t write by an outline if my life depended on it. It would be like feeding hemlock to my muse. But the novel I’m working on now has been giving me fits. Why? Because I veered off my path of “purist pantser.”

First, because unlike many of my previous works, I actually have a working synopsis. Did I work long and hard on this? No. It’s a pantser synopsis. It sort of came to me, all in a jumbled lump of 4000 or so words, right after a coaching session with my favorite writing coach of all time, Joanna D’Angelo. Before that, all I had was a premise, and a general idea of characters and plot line. Very general. That’s how most of my novels are born.

But after a lengthy Facebook discussion with Joanna, the smoke started to clear and the mirrors came into view: the magic with which I could create this masterpiece. The manuscript sat for few weeks, while summertime activities and medical issues and life in general got in the way. My muse spent a few weeks in Tahiti (wish I could have gone with her). In fact, once I guilted myself into getting back “at it,” for the first few sessions, I had to cajole myself into even opening the document that held my raw beginnings—about 10,000 words or so—and force the words onto the page.

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They weren’t good. They weren’t even mediocre. They personified that legendary “shitty first draft,” a la Stephen King.

Then suddenly, the magic began to happen. All on its own.

The problem is, my magic muse gets in a hurry sometimes. She frantically whips my fingers around on the keyboard, moving the story along at breakneck speed. Often leaving gaps. Omissions. Holes in the plot line. Skipping over the waves like a water skier. Like a stone across a peaceful stream. Like a restless dragonfly flitting across that stream to light briefly on a reed or a rock along the way.

I am not one of those people who can blast through an entire 80,000-word manuscript, call it the “shitty first draft,” and then go back to “lick my calf over” (can you tell my husband is an old cowboy?). No. These gaps and omissions and plot holes haunt me, waking me up in the wee hours of the morning, declaring their existence at screaming decibels. They insist—demand—that I go back, right now, and fill them in.

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Which is why, at 3:30 a.m. this morning, I climbed out of bed, my brain throbbing from their rants. Somehow, by some magic of the muse’s wisdom, the plot holes had made themselves known to me at some point in the night. And once I knew they were there, well . . . you know the rest of the story.

But now, 2000 words later, I am breathing a sigh of relief. Because I know, now that the omissions, the gaps, the plot holes are filled in (at least some of them), the writing of this novel will progress much more smoothly. Much more rapidly.

Until Ms. Muse again takes possession of my fingertips and races forward at warp speed. Only to pause some tens of thousands of words down the line, at which point she will find something else for which she feels it necessary to disturb my slumber.

~~~

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Claire Gem is an award winning author of contemporary romance & supernatural suspense. You can find out more about her work at her website & on her Amazon Author Page.

 

Getting to Know My Cast

Happy Friday! What better day than this to share some writing inspiration—and perhaps inspire us to make use of some the weekend to further our works-in-progress.racehorse-152697_640

I would have made a bad racehorse. My writing on a new project tends to start out like hellfire: I get a fabulous idea, a great premise for a story, and there I go—bang!—out of the starting gate with all the speed of Affirmed or American Pharaoh. I’m banging away at the keys in a fevered frenzy, the first ten thousand words or so flowing out of my imagination with effortless exuberance.

But then I get to page fifty or so. My burst of writing energy gets winded. And just like a racehorse who leads the pack until he reaches the first turn, I find, sadly, I’m out of gas.

Why does this happen to me? Because although I began with a great story premise, I never really had a story to begin with. Just a story idea.

This doesn’t happen to plotters, who carefully outline their projects and know exactly (or pretty close to exactly) what’s going to happen in Chapter Two and Chapter Fifteen and at The End. I’ve never been able to write that way: out of a box. I’m a confirmed pantser. Perhaps because the other side of my life, my day job, is in scientific research. There I am ruled by outlines and protocols. I find them confining. They are a quick kill for my creative muse.cube-1002897_640

The same muse who finds herself scratching her head around page fifty. We both (she and I) know how the story ends, but getting from that first turn and on toward the finish line is like trying to cross the Rocky Mountains on horseback—with no guide, limited rations, and in January.

This time, I’m trying a new tactic. I’ve acquired some help. I figured, who better to help me write my story than the people most closely involved in it: my characters?

So before I began writing my current WIP, I selected four of the most prominent characters in my book and decided to interview them. I didn’t use a template of pre-determined questions I found in some writing book. I just created an imaginary scene, in the place where my book is set and where my characters live, and met them at various places. I started by taking my heroine out for lunch at a lovely cafe in downtown Tampa overlooking the waterway.

And you know what? A funny thing happened. First, I got to know her—I had no idea she had a Southern accent! She also seemed the very reserved, nervous type—what is she hiding? She exhibited some character-unique tics and mannerisms she will carry throughout the book.

When I followed my imaginary heroine back  to her place of work, a strange man walked in and encountered us in the lobby—not the hero. This guy was sort of sinister-looking, not terribly warm, and looked at my heroine like she was lunch. He was her coworker and superior, but I have the feeling his intentions will become much more intense as the story progresses.bat-2029809_640

My story has an antagonist. One I never planned on.

It’s either an amazing trick of the imagination, or a mental illness, but by simply creating a scene in which to interact with one of my characters, an entirely new facet of my story revealed itself. I highly recommend the practice. You never know who will walk in on you as you get to know your character.

I can’t wait to see what happens when I interview my hero.

This time, I think I may just make it to the finish line a whole lot easier.

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~~~

Claire Gem writes supernatural suspense and contemporary romance. She recently released an Author’s Resource Book, The Road to Publication, which you can find along with all her other books on her Amazon Author Page.