RSS

Tag Archives: Books

Happy New Year 2018l

deer-1605673__340

While sitting in my family room with my first cup of coffee this morning, we noticed tracks in the back yard. A deer had passed through while we slept. Wish I had seen it.  But then if I’d looked out in the night and saw it looking in, I might have been a little less enthusiastic about the whole experience.

Which brings me to my reason for this post – my  2018 writing project. I will be writing a mystery with a paranormal twist that involves death by werewolf. I know sounds a little gruesome but hey, it is a childhood fear. We’ll see how it goes.

I am sending this message out a few hours early. The new year won’t start until after midnight but I decided to get a head start.

This is in the very beginning stage of writing. I have been thinking about the idea for a while and taking notes but I haven’t actually started putting words on the page.

I plan to share my writing process this year. Hopefully it will help you with your project and help push me forward. If I have learned anything over the years it is that there is no one way to write a novel and from what my author friends have shared, it changes with each novel. Writers are always looking for their process. Hoping that it will make the next one easier. But once you’ve written a few, you know that is not true. Each project is different and you just have to do the work until you get to the end.

I am not a plotter or a pantzer but something in between. So my goal for this week is to figure out my plot points. I use those to guide me through telling the story. If I can figure out my plot points, then I can create scenes that will get me from say the beginning to plot point one and then on to plot point two and then to plot point three and then the resolution. Sounds easy but it’s not. There will be lots of writing and editing before it is ready for publication. This is all about the first draft and I do know that when it is done, it will not be done. It will be crappy because that is what first drafts are. So this will be my journey to write my crappy first draft. I can blog later about edit and revision.

Once I have that figured out, I’ll have a loose outline.

I need to know my characters so they can help me tell the story. So I will also be completing character sketches this week. I use the term complete loosely because as I write, I discover more about my characters and continue to write down information all the way through to the end. I will go into more details about this with my next post.

To help me get there I purchased my planner for the year. I am a geekster when it comes to office supplies. I have used several planners over the years and this year I have settled on the Top Down Planner. The concept is to help you discover your goals and the steps needed to accomplish them. It is supposed to help  you focus on what is most important. It looks like an upside down food pyramid except food isn’t involved, unless you snack as you plan but that wouldn’t help my other annual goal of weight loss but again, we won’t go there.

636318482052153699-MagpieMurders-HC-C

Besides writing my other favorite pastime is reading but if you’ve followed my blog for any length of time you already know that. Currently I am reading – Magpie Murders. I won it at a Christmas gift exchange with my local SINC chapter – SINC-Iowa. It had been on my radar for a while so it was a huge win. And by the way, if you live in Iowa and write either Romance or Mysteries and are looking for a writer’s group, I belong to both chapters. In fact I will be President again this year of the local Romance Writers of America Chapter. Both organizations are always looking to add membership so comment here if you’d like more information. Or go to the National websites and sign up and then you can locate our local chapters or one near you for more information.

I have had personal issues that have kept me away from my blog longer than expected but I plan to post more often, at least a couple times a month.  I hope you will follow my posts and feel free to comment often. Maybe together we can make 2018 a productive year.

Feel free to share your writing process and books you’ve read and since I’ve been fighting a Holiday cold and staying in from the bitter temperatures – a little chicken soup wouldn’t hurt also.

Stay safe and have a wonderful New Years Eve – see you next year!!!

Virginia

Advertisements
 

Tags: , ,

Creating Characters

face-2413959__340

I have been working on a new project for a while. Not getting as far as I had hoped. It takes me forever to get into my story. This project, I have been working on the plot and characters at the same time. Most of my stories start with an idea and then I try to find characters who might fit the situation.  I am neither a plotter or a pantzer, I am somewhere in between. (A pantzer is someone who doesn’t plan their novel, they sit down in front of a computer and write.) I am not a pantzer because I get too distracted with too many choices. I try to make as many choices about the story up front.

I chose this photo because it describes how I feel about my characters at this point. You can see the face but it is still part of the background. I need to pull them out of the background to make them living, breathing characters; well as living and breathing as you can in a novel.

I have been filling out forms and answering questions about my characters and they are beginning to feel more real. I write a little and build my characters a little at a time.  On the other hand, while I develop characters, I also start developing the plot. Once I know my characters better and I know what they want and need and their motivation, then my story starts unfolding.

Some of my friends say that their characters talk to them. I really wish it was that easy. When they say their characters won’t leave them alone and keep them awake at night,  I so want to tell them that there are drugs for that, but I don’t.

I am aware that I make my characters speak and they will not say or do anything that I don’t want them to say or do. There is a point though part way through the book where I write a scene and it feels wrong. Something isn’t right. Most of the time when that happens it is because I tried to force my character to do something to fit the plot. I hate when that happens. Usually in the books I read it happens at the end. It feels like the author got tired of the story or they had to have a certain word count and instead of editing the third act, they stick in a – the end- too soon. But that’s a later blog post about revision.

I still struggle to find my method of writing. Each project is a little different. I’ve never found  ‘the formula’. Maybe that is why I love to hear other writer’s talk about their process. Do you have a certain process you follow with each book? Would you like to share your process here? If you are a published author, would you like an interview on my blog where you could tell us about your latest book and a little bit about your writing process? If so, comment to let me know.

Though I read daily, I haven’t completed anything since our last post. So many books, so little time. I always have a few books that I have read a little but not completed. I usually go back to the one that pulls me back and the others wait until I am done.  I do read to improve my own writing. Some of my writer friends say they no longer enjoy reading because they read as a writer. I am not there yet. I still enjoy escaping into a good book.

How is your writing going? Do you have questions about the process or trying to work through something with your current project? Feel free to comment and if I don’t know the answer, I am pretty sure I know someone who does.

I mentioned last time about a bullet journal. My next post will be about getting organized and I will share the planner that I am using.

Hope you have a great week writing and reading.

Virginia

 

Tags: ,

A Few of My Favorite Reads

Books Read2

 

“Reading usually precedes writing. And the impulse to write is almost always fired by reading. Reading, the love of reading, is what makes you dream of becoming a writer.” – Susan Sontag

Often when I find it difficult to write, I read. I have been dealing with some life changes, some health related and probably the most difficult was my brother’s death. He was in home hospice for several months before he died this past December. I tried to spend as much time with him as I could while working full-time and trying not to neglect my husband and kids.

I wanted to write but my heart wasn’t in it. During those months when I did have some spare time, I spent much of it reading. That has always been my favorite escape.

As you can see I got through quite a few since September. I discovered some new authors and caught up with some of my favorites.

I have been a fan of Jodi Picoult for years. “Breathing Time” is her newest and it was fantastic. It was one of those stories that surprised me at the end. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone. The twists and turns will keep you up late.

Dorothea Benton Frank was an AVID (Author Visiting in Des Moines) author this past year. I picked up a couple of her books and because she talked so much about “Sullivan’s Island”, I bought it even though it was not her most recent book. She said there is a scene in there that actually happened so of course I had to read the book to find out what she was talking about.  I can’t tell you about the scene here, I really think you need to let her tell you about it. If you get a chance to hear her speak, do it. Her stories are women’s fiction – set in the south.

Mary Kay Andrew’s “Christmas Bliss” was one of my holiday choices this year. I love her books. The characters are spunky and you never know what they are going to get into. She is another author I have read for years.

I discovered a new author to me – Julia Keller. I read a couple of hers – “A Killing in the Hills” and “Bitter River”. She has a third out and I plan to get it as soon as I get my to be read pile down a little bit more. Her stories are set in the Appalachia area. Her protagonist is a prosecuting attorney who has a teenage daughter and an ex-husband. Her stories are a little more nitty-gritty about the side of life that isn’t so pretty. She has won awards for more than one of her books. If you like suspense, you will like these.

I met an Iowa author –  Heather Gudenkauf. I had read her first book a while back – ” The Weight of Silence” and didn’t realize that she was from Iowa. This time I read – “These Things Hidden” Her stories are well crafted and will keep you guessing. She also is a great speaker. It was one of those really cold Iowa winter nights that she spoke at the West Des Moines library. I ran into some writer friends and it was so worth it.

My Sisters in Crime group has a book exchange every year at our Christmas party. We share a book that we really liked. This year I got one that had been on my wish list for a while. William Kent Krueger’s “Ordinary Grace”. It was just as wonderful as I thought it would be. His protagonist told the story of a murder that happened in his hometown when he was a boy. It is no wonder he won so many awards with this book.

The last book on my list is from one of those authors that I have been reading since his first in the series. Alan Bradley writes cozy mysteries with a little girl sleuth named Flavia De Luce. It is set in England in the 1940’s and they are so cleverly written. I have reviewed some of his books here before and I continue to look forward to each new one. This one was “The Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust”. If you like cozy mysteries, you have to check this series out.

One of my goals is to read more this year. I can’t count all of these toward my goal but I am starting with this Alan Bradley novel as my first for this year.

I read for pleasure but I also read because it motivates me to write. I read novels and books on the craft of writing too but novels are what I turn to most. What do you read? Do you set reading goals?

This year I also want to review more, not just here but on Goodreads, Librarything, and Amazon. Do you know that reviewing a book could be one of the best things you could do for your favorite authors?

I hope you add at least one of my suggestions to your to be read pile.

Until next time,

Virginia

 
1 Comment

Posted by on January 23, 2015 in What I'm Reading

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Where Do Your Ideas Come From?

I decided to start something new this week. I posted about something that happened several years ago on fb and it seemed to get a lot of attention. Several years ago when I my kids were younger we were at the state fair. We wandered into this house up on the hill next to the antique barn. It was full of old photos. I saw one photo that caught my eye. By the clothes, I am guessing it was from the 1920’s. It was a crowd standing in the grand concourse and in the middle of the crowd was a woman who looked just like me. I got goosebumps. I tried to get a copy of the photo but they refused. I thought at the time there might be a story there but it was before I took myself seriously as a writer. So it has been simmering in the back of my brain for quite a while now. For whatever reason it came forward this week and a story started unfolding.

I have wanted to write stories before but this is the first time I have ever felt like I have to tell this story. My friend Tamara Siler Jones who has three books out knew exactly what I was talking about and she got almost as excited about it as I am.  It is all fiction but it feels like something only I can tell. So I have set some goals. I want to get it developed as fast as I can and pump out a first draft in say 60 days.

This story started with that little seed. I gave it time to germinate into something more and now I think it is ready to tell.

Where do your ideas come from? Do you start with the plot or a character?

Today I met both Tammy Jones and Shirley Damsgaard at a book signing at Beaverdale Books. Shirley has a new Jess McConkey book – The Widows of Braxton County that came out this week. Afterwards we had a late lunch and time to talk about our writing projects. Shirley left a few signed copies at the bookstore so if you want an autographed copy, stop by.

Hope your writing is moving forward.

Virginia

 

 
4 Comments

Posted by on July 27, 2013 in Writing a Novel

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Tuesday Tip

I don’t know about you but every four years we get pulled into this political insanity. I believe that everyone has a right to their opinion but I am tired of it already. They shove it down your throat with commercials, they call you night and day for surveys, they knock on your doors, and it gets old. I get enough from the political parties. I don’t want it from authors. I don’t care who you support, it’s your business but I do care about what you write and if you piss me off, I won’t read you.

I may not have sold a book, yet, but I’ve sold a few houses in my day as a REALTOR for fifteen years. There are certain things you don’t discuss with a buyer and politics is one of them.  It is easy to get sucked up into the political rhetoric and I’m not saying you can’t have a view, but if you are an author and you are in the business of selling books, I’m not sure you need to share your view with everyone. The elections will be over in a few weeks. Will all of your readers still be interested in your books when it’s over?

Yes it takes talent to write a novel but it is a business and no matter what you think, there are people who will disagree with you. People who may decide not to buy your books because of something you said that offended them.

I am not talking so much about the big authors out there who have made it because, they can pretty much do what they want to do. But if you are not there yet, why push away possible readers because of politics?

Just my humble opinion.

Virginia

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 28, 2012 in Writing a Novel

 

Tags: , , ,

Sarah’s Key – a Book Review

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay

I discovered this book when someone recommended the movie. Can’t remember who it was but they said it was a very good movie. I have yet to watch it but I did read the book. Figured if the movie was good the book would be good also.

This is a fictional story written around an actual event. It bounces back and forth from present day Paris to Paris, July 1942. The present story is told by Julie, an American woman who has lived most of her life in France and is married to a Frenchman. They have a young daughter. Her husband’s grandmother has moved from an apartment to assisted living and Bertrand, the husband is remodeling the apartment for him, Julie, and their daughter Zoe.  Julie introduces the reader to all of her friends, including a gay couple she shared an apartment with before she was married. All of the characters are well developed and interesting. It becomes clear, early on, that she feels that she has never been accepted by her husband’s family.  No matter what she does, she is just an American.

 

Every other chapter moves back to the past and starts with that infamous day in July in 1942. That night, the French Police gathered all of the Jews and took them to several different camps to be processed before going on to Auschwitz. It is the story of Sarah, a young Jewish girl and her family. The night of the raid that dragged them from their home, Sarah committed an innocent act that would haunt her for the rest of her life.

 

The present day Julie is a journalist who is assigned to write an article about Vel’ d’Hiv, the night the Jews were gathered. She discovers clues about this piece of French history that most people would rather ignore and forget. The mystery unfolds as she discovers connections between the past and a family secret. Her husband discourages her but she finds an ally in her father-in-law who supports her efforts and eventually acknowledges his appreciation for answers to questions that relieved a burden of guilt his family had locked away.

The author weaves the two stories together in a way that makes it difficult to put down, until the very end. I felt that the story ended a few chapters before the author actually stopped writing. I couldn’t wait to find out the secret but once that was revealed, the author continued to tell me more than I needed to know about Julie. I did need to know the very ending but some of the stuff between felt tacked on and not so well thought out as the rest of the book. Even with the less than perfect ending, I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the holocaust and man’s ability to survive after unthinkable horror.  I will look for more from this author.

I am currently reading ‘The House of Many Shadows’ by Barbara Michaels. I recently recommended this author to a friend and decided to pick up a few more that I had missed reading. Love the gothic mystery feel and her use of paranormal.

 

As far as non-fiction, I have been reading several books on outlining and will share some information from them in future posts.

Hope your writing week is productive and enjoy a good book.

Virginia

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 16, 2012 in Book Review

 

Tags: ,

Miss Me When I’m Gone – Book Review

          This book was described as a “Honky-tonk” Eat, Pray, Love. I wouldn’t have described it that way. It is the story of two women who were college friends. Both write, one, Gretchen, is a successful novelist working on her second book and the other, Jamie is a pregnant journalist.

The story begins when Gretchen falls down the stairs outside of a small town library after doing a book signing. At first it looks like an accident but when they find her purse several towns away in a lake, they know it is much more.

Gretchen’s first novel called ‘Tammyland’, was about the women of country music, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, and of course Tammy Wynette. She draws parallels of abuse from those women’s lives and compares them to her own mother who had been murdered when she was a child.

Jamie is asked to be the literary executor by Gretchen’s mother to oversee her unfinished work and hopefully complete it.

While reading ‘Tammyland’ the fictional book in the story – that reveals some interesting anecdotes about the country music icons-(like the time Tammy Wynette took a bubble bath with Burt Reynolds).

Jamie soon discovers that Gretchen may have found out something about her mother’s murder. Someone breaks into Jamie’s home and steals some of Gretchen’s notebooks and a couple laptops. Gretchen had also left a cryptic voice mail message that she had the feeling someone was lying.  The same message, Jamie now feels guilty for having ignored.

Jamie’s pregnancy progresses as she digs deeper into the mystery of both Gretchen’s death and her mother’s and she knows that she has to finish this before the baby comes or she may never find the time. Ignoring her husband, Sam’s, concerns she plunges herself into the past hoping to explain her friend’s death. She feels she owes it to Gretchen to catch her killer.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes women’s fiction and mysteries. It’s one of those stories that straddle the line between two genres. It reads like women’s fiction but feels like a mystery.  Though I took a few days to read this one, I was pulled back often to finish it. This story was well written with believable characters and setting. I especially liked how this author brought in information about several well-known songs and how they came to be.

It may have been just me but I really enjoyed the stuff about Tammy Wynette. Probably because my cousin played guitar in her band and I have always been curious about her because of that connection.

I am currently reading ‘Sarah’s Key’ and will review it when I have finished it. It is one of those that I seem to be breezing through because I like it.

What are you reading?

Virginia

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 4, 2012 in Book Review

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: