Sunday, 10 September 2017

Saving the cat, one story at a time.

I’m finally dipping into Save the Cat this weekend. Written by Blake Snyder, it’s a craft book for screenwriters that is highly recommended for writers of fiction. Basically, the concept is that if you want people to invest themselves in your novel, your protagonist needs to do something fairly early in your story that makes your reader feel sympathetic or empathetic towards him or her. It has to be meaningful enough to provide some insight into why a reader should hang out with your character for a few hundred pages.

We watched St. Vincent the other night, starring Bill Murray as an alcoholic curmudgeon. The writer starts Save the Cat moments very quickly tapping into Murray’s grumpy quirkiness as he feeds the neighbour’s son sardines, insists the kid buckle up in the car, and funds a hooker’s ultrasound. As a result, you’re rooting for this loser to find his way out of the quagmire of his life.

In Cutting to the Chase, Lizzy is not a likeable protagonist. She’s not meant to be. Told through her point of view, she is an angry teen submerged in pain. Yet she has a Save the Cat moment fairly early in the story. We get a glimpse of Lizzy’s core when her father bails on her brother’s basketball tournament. She steps up and goes to the tournament in place of their father. Interesting that it’s there even though I did not consciously choose to insert a Save the Cat moment. Of course, as Lizzy’s life unravels, we get more and more insight into what is going on, but the tournament is where we first see clearly that there are layers to this unhappy girl.

There is much more to the book and I look forward to exploring Snyder’s concept of beats. For now, my husband is thrilled because I actually want to watch another movie this weekend. He loves movies and I’m just not a big fan of sitting and watching television. So he will be getting his fix, while I get to apply and analyze the craft of scriptwriting. It’s a win-win!

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Writers keep writing and publishers publishing - it never grows boring. —Michael Dirda

Many of you have read this news elsewhere, so I apologize for the repetition. However, I have some people who only check in here so I’d like to ensure they have the most recent update on my writerly life. Mags’s story has officially been picked up by Evernight Teen Publishing. Color Me Gray should join Cutting to the Chase out in the world in October.

What does this mean for my writing goals? More energy, more drive, and even more enthusiasm. It was incredibly affirming to see my first novel in print. To be fortunate enough to have two published? Well, darn it all, it makes me feel like I just might be a real writer!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Oh, Spring! I want to go out and feel you and get inspiration. —Emily Carr

I’ve always loved hot weather—the hotter, the stickier, the better. But the last few weeks of 30-degree-plus weather, combined with the haze of smoke from forest fires on the mainland, knocked the stuffing out of me. I was lethargic and unmotivated. I continued to walk my hour a day but switched it to early morning before it got too hot. I still worked for a couple of hours in the garden each day, but it was sweaty, uncomfortable, and not remotely fulfilling. Fatigued by heat, I could not summon much enthusiasm to be productive in the afternoons.
Last night it rained for the first time in two months. Not a deluge, mind you, but some honest-to-goodness splattering on parched soil. Today the skies are blue, the sun is bright and the air is refreshingly cool. I’m sure I can hear the flowers and trees burping in contentment. My energy is surging along with the rivers and ideas for writing are popping up like the neon green buds in the pasture beyond our property.

I guess I’m no longer a summer girl. I’m more of a spring woman, appreciating the gift of new opportunities for growth whatever time of year they arrive. Thank you, Mother Nature, for nurturing the land. And now, riding on the high of crisp smoke-free air, I’m off to cultivate the fallow field that has been my mind these past two weeks.

Wishing everyone a little spring in your lives! J

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life. Omar Khayyam

One day young,

Next day old.

What happened in between?


I wrote this…I think. It’s in my notes dated March 22, 2017. I usually attribute quotes, so I’m pretty sure it’s mine. If not, please correct me. I tend to jot down short poems, single stanzas, isolated sentences, capturing random thoughts, transient memories, elusive emotions. I scribble them in my notepad or dictate them into my iPad. They are everywhere—a writer’s chaotic comfort.

This is the third time I have to apologize for my delinquency. I haven’t even kept up with reading blogs that I love to follow. Blogs, not just of interest, but written by people I want to support because they are good and kind and talented. I apologize for that too.

Alas, I have been busy with the “in between.” I’ve been enjoying a season of gardening and outdoor living, editing the final copy of Mags’s story, relishing in the company of good friends and struggling with personal loss. Life.

I think I’m back now, ready to move ahead on so many projects, including returning to historical fiction and historical romance. I still have some YA stories that need to be told, so I suspect I will be playing in the writers’ playground of see-sawing genres and spinning on the carousel of ideas. It’s an enticing vision and, like a child, no doubt I will exhaust myself and go to bed each night dizzy, weary and smiling.

So third apology. But third time’s the charm, right?

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

My cup runneth over.

Wow! This was a longer absence than I planned. We had a lovely getaway on Salt Spring Island and enjoyed a week-long visit with friends. We’ve freshened up our verandah downstairs and refinished our side deck. In the spirit of full disclosure, I must confess that I have been preoccupied with overindulging…too much food, too much wine, and too much fun. Is there really such a thing as too much fun?

It’s back to work for me this week. Mags’s story has rusticated on the shelf for a month. It’s time to pick it up, dig through it and see if I’ve got a second YA on my hands. I’ve been looking forward to it and will be diving in as soon I post this.

This month I’ve had amazing feedback on my historical romance, Love Denied, as well as a “revise and resend” from two publishers. Revision ideas are percolating in the back of my brain. One publisher has a call out for novella-length stories. I have three that I haven’t looked at in a while. Perhaps I should be delving back into those and seeing if they’re up to snuff? I’ve been missing historical research and am pulled toward returning to my Raven’s Path sequel as well. And, as always, new concepts beckon—in young adult, in historical romance, and in historical fiction.

I am grateful that my well of ideas is full. Now I just have to figure out how I want to go about emptying it.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Content is king, but promotion is queen.— P.J. Feinstein

How much author promo should I be doing? I tweet, post on Instagram, make all calls on my Facebook page and update my YA blog. While it is part and parcel of being an author, you would think that I could keep things to a minimum since I am not self-published. Yet I see very well-known authors doing the same. Authors with an agent, a large publishing house behind them and a history of sales. It seems it is now embedded in publishing. For me, the reality of online sales is that my book is competing with millions of other books. How does one gain visibility if no one even knows it exists?

I spend too much time on my devices working to develop exposure. Trying to balance promo with social media fatigue is proving to be challenging. It is a fine line between getting the word out, wearing yourself out and tiring out your followers. I mean, folks only want to see my book flogged so many times. When does it shift from interesting and informative to eye-rolling frustration? I wish I had the answer.

In an attempt to keep things varied, I’ve been experimenting with a variety of free software. My latest is Adobe Spark Video. I’m doing a giveaway over at Goodreads, a signed copy of Cutting to the Chase, and I wanted something different to promo.

What do you think? Does it add interest or is it just another way of presenting same old, same old? Are you tired of seeing authors endlessly promoting? Have you found a way around it? If so, what do you do to get the word out about your book or someone else’s? I would love to hear from both readers and writers on this.

And if anyone has any ideas about how to get my book into the hands of my target audience—teens—please, pretty please, share those too!