Tag Archives: writing

Lost My Crown & Other Lines

Isn’t this cover photo lovely? What a gorgeous veil. Like a crown. And gorgeous like Alice Hoffman’s writing. She writes like velvet. See, I write that sentence and it lays there. She would write. “Her words are pinned like bright stars on a deep blue velvet sky.”

Why can’t I write like that? Oh, wait. I can. I just don’t bother. Until I read someone like Hoffman who is a master on the sentence level, on the word level, on the vowel level. Honestly. Read her. The new one is The Marriage of Opposites and the story is just as captivating as the prose.

It’s so important for writers to read really good writing. No matter your genre, reach for the greats. I love my thrillers and my rom coms but sometimes you just have to go deep to reach high. Hoffman will inspire you to do that.

Meanwhile I really did lose my crown. Luckily it is only temporary and even more fortuitously my dentist is seeing me as an emergency at 10 am in the morning. Meanwhile I am eating a banana on one side of my mouth and sipping a coconut rum drink from a straw. This is all Hoffman’s influence. Her story takes place on the island of rum and bananas and coconuts…St Thomas in the nineteenth century.

My husband is away for the weekend and this whole tooth thing just has me feeling reckless drinking rum in the late afternoon all alone reading a really good book. Life could be worse, even minus the crown.

Guns & Opera: Blasting Through Stubborn Starts

I’m talking about a novel but this could be advice for starting anything, from a diet to an exercise program to a new career. I’ve been working on a book for awhile now. Various things got in the way, mostly myself. I was ill, I was tired, the room wasn’t the right color.

Maybe not the worst excuses but nevertheless there comes a time when you have to say “today I begin.” And then you do. And if you’re like me maybe you dither and take days off and lose the plot and just don’t get that groove. The book, the diet, the whatever has not had a chance to dig in and become a habit.

That takes a month or two. Of every day (or every week or whatever your commitment is) to happen. It’s those first 60 days–at least for me, for you it could be 30 or even less–that I need under my belt to cement the habit and begin to crave it. There is one way that this stubborn woman (me) who never does anything on a schedule has been able to get a schedule and here it is. Ready?

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Write it down. On a calendar. Make a special chart if you’re doing a diet with certain foods or an exercise program with several components. Nothing feels better than checking a line on a list. Nothing. I didn’t think this would work for me, but it did. Another thing that works is DO IT FIRST. Or at least first thing after coffee.

I do not know why I only know it works. The third part, for me, for the book, is a page limit. Mine is three. Write three pages. It is easy. It is doable. It doesn’t have to be good. I just have to fill those pages. So there you go. Write it down. Do it first. Limit yourself to something easily accomplished.

That might sound counter-intuitive but if you write three pages consistently, pretty soon you’ll write more. If you walk 20 minutes, soon it will be 30. If you eat one bowl of kale, well, never mind, if you eat one bowl of kale you are a rock star, okay?

It’s just starting. And these three things are the easy on ramp to start. For me, personally, I like to think of life as art. Always refining, revising, reinventing. I find housework a drag unless I also rearrange the furniture, you know? And for all the mundane, I use the breath and the now. I take in the space around me in present moment time and I breath, I follow my breath and what is happening. It is endlessly changing and fascinating. No, honest!

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My talent (everyone has a talent, find yours!) is writing and I like to always have a novel going. And it has to be totally different than the one before. I’ve been called a romance writer, but I’ve written really only one pure  romance novel out of the ten books I’ve published. The new one is a thriller, I think. For the thrill of the new, of course. I’m researching not just this new genre and structure but also things like guns and opera. It is so fun. And that’s the real ticket to starting anything new and keeping it going: make it fun.

Coming Out of the Cold Dark Cave

I woke up this morning and nothing hurt. Not my heart, not my knee, not my spine, not my belly with its girdle of barbed wire. True, I’d only had six hours of sleep, but I’ll take it. Nothing hurts. All is well. Like a miracle I am me again. And all it took was one year and two gallons of ardent coral paint.

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When you live with situational depression, in my case I had a falling-apart marriage and a too-stressful job, or chronic physical pain that almost comically morphs from torn ACL to fractured bone to shingles to strep throat with all the pills and their side effects in between, and one thing just happens after the next, there comes a point where you accept the pain and learn to live along side it. I don’t want to say I made friends with the pain, but I didn’t try to ditch it every second of every day anymore. I sat with it. I let myself feel it.

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I’m a reader and a meditator, I have tools. First I got a therapist. There’s something about cognitive therapy that feels like unpicking a knotted gold chain. And another thing happens calls transference. Sometimes the patient (that’s me) transfers her anger, pain, distress, or even love onto her therapist. In my case, I transferred my friend-gene. I had lost the ability almost entirely to talk to my friends. Physical sickness does that to me. And I didn’t want to tell anyone about my crumbling marriage, either. So Dr. B became my confidant, she became my best friend and gold knot untangler. Stars did she do a heavenly job.

We were almost done with the mental aspects, and the marriage was looking pretty good, when the physical stuff hit. Dr. B, like any good best friend, stuck with me through that because I needed her to cope with the way the pain wore me down and also all the pills. My aim is to get out of this cold dark cave un-addicted to food, to pills, to wine, to whining. I want nothing less than shining health.

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See that light on top of the room? Al brought that home for me from his travels. It had been his mothers and his father had given it to him. Now Harrison men are not vocal in their appreciation and love, but I knew that Al’s dad didn’t give Al the light for his man cave. And I knew Al didn’t show it to me so I could say it was pretty. I knew it  for the gift it was. Love of a mom no longer with us shining down on my new room where I can write in peace on the other side of a year of pain.

Here’s to Bob

Bob just published his first novel! Yay!

And I had the pleasure of taking that journey with him, from the minute he sat in my Advanced Creative Writing class with at least one completed manuscript and a whole lot of determination.

To be a writer you need those three things: determination, some pages with words you wrote upon them, and a tribe. That’s my tribe, above: I’m sitting next to Bob, next to Tom, next to Vernie.

That writing class was Bob’s tribe for the moment. We writers move around. I don’t even teach college anymore; I write full time now. Neither Bob nor I were published when we met.

How Bob Baker became a friend of mine is pretty straightforward. I recognized his talent. I encouraged him. I was apparently nice enough so that he felt okay emailing me after our school semester was over. I was confident enough in his talent to invite him into my writing group, and he was confident enough to accept. Thus, a tribe was formed.

My writing group–it’s a small group, just four of us–came about through many offers for participants on my part and much comings and goings on the part of others until we settled into a fine quartet. We’ve been meeting there or four years now once a month with 10-20 pages each. We spend five hours tearing each other’s work apart giving each other constructive criticism and talking about writing in general. Publishing, too.

When the group began, we had two published writers and two unpublished. Bob has rounded it out so that now with the advent of Hiding Tom Hawk we are all published, all quite pleased with ourselves. And my best advice to any writer is to find your tribe. There’s no mystery to getting published. Practice and show your work to a few trusted souls and follow the well worn path that the internet is very happy to set out.

Here's to you, Bob!

Here’s to you, Bob!

I’ve got a book about it. I wish I could give every one of you a copy but it sold out in print although there’s a newer edition of Your Words, Your Story anyway with the whole scoop on indie publishing, and whether you are published by a traditional press or as an indie, (and I’v been both) nothing will ever feel better than holding your first book in your hands.

To help say congrats to Bob, I will send free copies of both e-books, mine and his, to the first three people who comment today. And thanks for reading about my lovely band of merry writers.

Sacha’s Awards

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I voted, did you? Had to tip my hat to the lovely and talented Ali at A Woman’s Wisdom. This woman created a true community and I met so many people in the short time I wrote reviews for her. She didn’t just do reviews. She interviewed with verve. She wrote hilarious Tales From the Manor about her hectic and heroic home life. She tirelessly promoted indie authors for absolutely no compensation and introduced me to worlds of books and some wonderful women I never would have known if not for her.

I voted in all the categories and have my faves but for best blog it had to be her. And I just want to encourage you to vote. Sacha spent a great deal of time on this award project and I hope it has the success it deserves. Whoever wins!

Vote! Vote! Vote! It makes these bloggers who win incredibly happy. They work for free and they work tirelessly, all of them. I could make special mention of some others but I’ll stop here and just post the link so you can go right now and vote for your faves before it’s too late. Only a few days left!

http://sachablack.co.uk

Happiness Encore

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Today seems a good day to review those ten happiness booster tips from Mindful magazine and UC Berkeley that I’ve been posting about:

1. Savor Life’s Joys

2. Drop Grudges

3. Get Moving

4. Give Thanks

5. Keep Friends Close

 I’ve been off the market for a few months owing to some injuries, and yesterday was my official day to release the crutches and walk unfettered in the world again. Yay! I had lunch with a group of friends, made plans with another friend to see an art exhibit tomorrow, and had a neighbor over for a glass of wine at cocktail hour.

Was I feeling cooped up? You bet. I’m so ready to be social and this is the weekend for it. We have a party with good friends on the 4th and then my Seattle family comes in next week. Al and I have been planning for a big party and some smaller “just us” time too. Then we’re going to visit his dad. Seems I’ll see almost every member of my family and some of Al’s in the next few weeks and all happy occasions.

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#6 “Get With the Flow” and I can see some of what that will mean to me beginning on July 15 when I receive my edits from The Wild Rose Press. I also have another book contract to sign with Amazon Encore, something pretty exciting I need to look more closely at today. With book contracts and edits come writing and promotion and this is the flow I’ll be entering after a long winter of writing, writing, writing. Of course I’m still writing…just needing to fit more of the big picture into my flow.

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#7 “Practice Kindness” is a big one for me. I always have love in my heart, but it doesn’t always translate into action in the real world. So I’ll be working on that too and letting you know next post some practical steps I took to practice kindness. And of course I hope to finish out those final three tips in my next few posts.

Happy Birthday, USA

Plotting a Thriller

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I’ve had the idea for a psychological thriller for almost a year now. The minute I finished my latest novel (on my editor’s desk as I type this) I started planning the new one. I quickly realized there would be a LOT more research than usual. I had a new genre, a new setting, a new profession, which has since turned into several new professions. I almost said “maybe not.”

But my critique group meets next week, and a month ago I’d promised them a first chapter of the new book. I’d already done quite a bit of research on the setting and I knew the character since I’d written about her in two previous novels. Also, I had read How to Write a Damn Good Mystery by James N. Frey when I wrote Sweet Melissa, so I knew some stuff. Enough for a first chapter.

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I had also done “research” of a sort when I attended Sleuthfest in Miami last month. I picked up a few books, read a couple of them, skimmed the reference text I knew I’d wear out before the WIP is finished. I’d attended workshops and even had an enlightening talk with an editor who gave me some names of agents who might be interested in the type of story I was planning to write.

Sometimes writing gets interrupted by social media. Occupational hazard. I “somehow” saw a post by Tim Baker yesterday, a writer I follow on Twitter.

Tim’s guest post had the word “research” in the heading. Because I finished my first chapter and realized I had a lot more research to do, I clicked the link. And learned a lot. Inspired, I got out James N. Frey’s How to Write a Damn Good Thriller and started taking notes. It turns out that a thriller does not have to be a mystery! It ONLY has to be “nonstop action, plot twists that surprise and excite, settings both exotic and vibrant, and an intense pace that never lets up until the adrenaline-packed climax.”

I sort of knew I wanted to write an action packed page turner. I wanted to challenge myself to write at that intense pace. I have the exotic and vibrant setting (just hope I can bring it to life). I didn’t know I’d need a high concept that can be contained in one sentence, not more than thirteen words. So I thought about all that and got some ideas. I actually wrote my high concept sentence! And then outlined a few of the twists coming up.

I found out that some high concepts are cliches. Like 9/11 terrorist stories. Oh. That was one of my first ideas…because of my setting. But I had another idea, so I went with it. James N. Frey says the goal of a mystery is to catch a killer, but the goal of a thriller is to stop evil. Makes sense; the page-turning thing would be easier to execute if the stakes are higher than just “catch a killer.”

So thanks for giving me some timely reminders to do my research, Tim, as it is already paying off. And thanks to Sonya for hosting Tim on her blog. It takes a village (of authors) to write a book.

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