Monday, January 31, 2011

Mystery Monday Musings

Mystery Monday Musings... say that three times real fast! I am currently enrolled in Misa Ramirez's SavvyU Course - Building a Mystery from Back to Front. I'm very excited about this six month journey and I want to take you all along for the ride. Now, it is a paid course, so I won't be sharing the details of the classes, but I'd love to share with you the process I'm going through to create my mystery on Mondays.

For my first Mystery Monday post, I'm going to introduce you to my two main characters. To do this, I'd like to share a little excercise I did called the WalMart Q&A. Please meet Aiden and Lottie:

Me: When was the last time you stood in a long line at Walmart, and how did you react to the wait?

Aiden O'Reilly:

Walmart? *scoffs* You’re kidding, right? I can’t stand to drive by one, let alone go in. The packed parking lots, the swarms of shoppers, the malodor of the store, the shoppers with too much time on their hands and not enough checkout clerks. My ex used to disappear in there for hours. Tell me she was going to one section, and an hour and fifty laps later, I’d find her in the dog food department. We didn’t own a dog. And she wouldn’t even be close to finished.

You can keep your Walmart. I drive right past and down to Gus’s Grocer on 2nd Ave. Yeah, it’s still open, and Gus still cuts the meat with a cigarette hanging from between his lips. I can get everything I need right there. The cashier always has a smile on her face and the bag boy offers to take out your groceries.

Huh, Walmart. *grumbles and looks back down to the stack of papers he was grading*

Lottie Hendricks:

*smiles and looks down at her clasped hands sitting on her lap* I don’t mind waiting in line. Somebody has to be last. Just the other day, Ms. Mirna Fields asked the woman in front of me if she could cut in line. She’d be late for her doctor’s appointment if she didn’t. The younger woman was terribly rude. I can’t stand to see the elderly treated that way. So, I stepped in and told Ms. Mirna she could go in front of me. And her granddaughter was with her, with a separate cart. I let her go too, because they probably needed to leave at the same time. Then, Ms. Rose Etheridge needed to be somewhere. I’m not even sure she’d been standing in the same line as us, but I let her go ahead too. It took me a while to get out of the store that day. But, I did help the others by letting them go first.

*her hands smooth her skirt, and she finally meets my gaze* Nice talking to you, but it’s my day to volunteer down at the animal shelter before helping with spaghetti dinner at the VFW hall, and Lucille is out sick, again, so I have to change the sheets at the B&B myself because Katie has a date.

I hope you get a giggle out of this short interviews! And please, tell me how you react to long lines in WalMart.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Warrior Wednesday: Tales from the Unpubbed Welcomes Anastasia V. Pergakis

Hello friends. Welcome to another Warrior Wednesday. I love having guests on my blog and reading their trials and tribulations as they relate to the fickle world of writing. I hope you are enjoying them too. Please give a warm welcome to Anastasia...

Thanks Melinda for asking me to be here today. I feel honored! It’s great that you have the unpubbed warriors on your blog!

Well, my love for stories was there since the day I learned what a story was. I fell in love with Disney movies and read as many books as I could. It didn’t matter what genre (granted I didn’t know what a genre was at the time). I just read for the adventure and the characters.

While I read all the time, the first book I actually remember that has stuck with me my whole life was Call of the Wild by Jack London. I read that book over and over again! In fact I read it so much, one day the book literally disintegrated in my hands! I cried for a long time after the book fell apart because I couldn’t find another copy of it at my school library and at the time, I had no idea there was such a thing as a public library!

I started writing poetry and fell in love with words. I think I was one of the few kids – the only kid at my school – that loved English class. Words and their meanings and how to use them fascinated me! No, to this day I still can’t tell you the difference between a transitive verb and an intransitive verb without really thinking about it. I was more interested in the meaning of words. Especially words that meant one thing but people used it in another way, or words that mean different things depending on the context of the conversation. I loved word riddles (well riddles of any kind really).

I daydreamed a lot as a kid about knights in shining armor, wizards, faeries, elves and damsels in distress. Evil princes, mean step-mothers, and true love. I got in trouble in school A LOT for daydreaming!

While I did write some stories of my own in Junior and High School, they were mostly prompted by an assignment. In high school I wrote lots of poetry but not much else on my own. It wasn’t until I got my first car at the age of 17 that I decided to write my own stories. I don’t know why the car was the catalyst for me to write down the daydreams I’d had for years. Maybe the freedom the car gave me also gave me the courage to share the stories in my head – to get out there in every sense of the way.

The problem was my drinking addiction. I never noticed at the time of course and would continue to drink for a few years after, but the harshness of my life had caused me to see the world in a different way. There wasn’t a day that didn’t go by that I wasn’t drinking or thinking about drinking. Words, life, everything had lost that magical appeal to me. I’d been to the puppet show and I’d seen the strings. There was no magic. This spiral into the dark began many years before in actual truthness, but for the sake of this blog post, I won’t tell you all the gory details!

This is where some of my darker poetry comes from and my twisted short stories. Life had lost all its magic and so I wrote these twisted stories – with a happy ending – in order to escape the harsh reality of life. Because let’s face it, at the time, there was no such thing as a happy ending except on paper.

My writing was put on hold after that for a few years as my personal life took over. Okay, truthfully, my first husband was a horrible person and didn’t ALLOW me to write, and even after we split up, I just didn’t write. Love had been magical to me once and after that relationship ended, it wasn’t anymore.

It wasn’t until I began to recover – through AA – a little over 4 years ago that the writing and story bug came back to me. I met my second husband then and he has always been supportive of my writing – and he is often the catalyst to much of my imaginings.

I started attending workshops, meeting other authors, meeting other authors in AA even! And I realized that while life wasn’t the happy, rosy place, I thought it was as a kid, there was still a happy ending – even for me!

I’ve been writing ever since and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon. Writing is my new addiction and I love everything related to it. It’s my life. It’s hard sometimes and sure I cry about it, but it’s SO worth it.

I submitted my first novel last year – twice. Both times asked for partials but in the end both rejected the story. But I wasn’t as torn up about as I thought I would be. In fact, I was happy in a way. It wasn’t the end of the world – I mean come on, I’ve lived through worse right? It was a rejection of me personally or my stories or anything like that. I just wasn’t ready for publication. Nothing wrong with that.

I believe in the power of positive thinking and forward motion. So as long as I keep learning and trying and moving, everything will be okay.

And I’ll live happily ever after.

Thanks so much for stopping by Anastasia! To continue to follow Anastasia on her journey to publication, click here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Warrior Wednesday: Tales from the Unpubbed Welcomes Nas Dean

I'm so glad you've decided to join me for another segment of Warrior Wednesday: Tales from the Unpubbed. The authors I've asked to be guests I've met from various places all over the web, and I am happy to call each of them friends.

Please welcome my next warrior and friend - Nas Dean...

Thanks very much to Melinda, who asks unpubbed writers (warriors) to show their scars. God, these scars hurt too much, yet being a warrior so here I am.

My love story with books started when I was around nine years old and had appendicitis removed. Bored, alone and crying in hospital, my dad brought me some books to cheer me up. For me this was a special gift specially and not to be shared with other siblings. Yay! I was in heaven. So books became my special passion. Later the same year after coming first in my class I received a big colorful picture book of “Gulliver’s Travels”. The world depicted in that book kept me enthralled for hours. So I was away in my dreamland most of the time. Though poor, our family life was happy but rather than squabbling with other siblings I preferred to escape in my books. The common refrain from that time is “Earth to Nas!” because I was always dreaming about my characters and their stories!

Then came Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five series, Secret Seven series, Nancy Drew series (I loved the little bit of romance amid the mystery and the thrill!) The Hardy Boys, The Three Investigators. I still remember character names from all these series.

Later, when I discovered Mills & Boons, mind you, at the time (1979-80) the covers were not that hot but still I covered the novels with newspapers so my parents would think it’s school work! I read one M&B in two days. Now I finish one in a day, by the way. Many times I’ve burnt food while cooking because I’m too busy reading. I blame M&B for that and these other things, eg. Being a virgin till the wedding night (around that time all heroines were virgins!) then later expecting romantic gestures from my husband without telling him!

And all these times I wrote. Not exactly a journal, but whatever caught my fancy. I have whole note books filled about my trips abroad. About the hotels, hire cars, exchange rates and the sightseeing.

By the time I had my first baby, I had read so many baby magazines and books that for a while I wrote articles for a community newspaper ‘The Community Globe” on Baby Nutrition, Mother/Child Nutrition. It was a new publisher trying its hand at publishing but folded up later. This was in 1987-88.

I think I was a closet reader and writer. Living in Auckland, New Zealand, I became a member of Manukau Libraries and took out books. All my colleagues and contemporaries were skeptical and I was asked a lot, “You still read?” They went out dancing or nightclubbing and I preferred to spend a quiet night in with a book.

It was only last year, August 2010, that I heard about HM&B Medical Fasttrack, and I decided to submit for the first time ever. God, that rejection hurt! But I had by then discovered the subcare on eHarlequin forum and the support, advice and hugs were awesome! The multi published authors hang out with aspiring writers and answer all their questions and give so generously of their time and support, it simply is staggering. I made many friends online and one such friend (Nancy) asked to see my work. She did a line by line critique of almost five thousand words! I can never forget her generosity. She was gentle with me and said she believed in my plot. And advised me a lot.

It was then I saw that I needed to work on my craft, technique, and the mechanics of writing. I started spending twenty three hours on line out of twenty four! Visited all published authors websites for writing articles and honing the craft articles. For example there’s Liz Fielding, Kate Walker, Lynne Marshall, Michelle Styles and many more authors who all have articles for aspiring writers. Then there are writing workshop handouts from RWA America conferences, hundreds of articles from previous few years. I was submerged in these for some time. At the same time I was writing a Nocturne Bite, using the mechanics I was learning. Start all chapters with a hook, end with a cliffhanger, see that the story and plot moved forward with every scene. Michelle Styles and Donna Alward advised on the forum when I asked about writing craft, to get Kate Walker’s 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance and a few other craft books(Writing Romance Novel for Dummies by Leslie Wainger and Donald Mass’s Writing the Breakout Novel). So I invested in these books from The Book Depository. I think it must have been my best move.

I submitted the Nocturne Bite and started on a Medical. Almost but not quite! forgot about the subbed NocBite. After a turnaround of twenty eight days, I received another rejection, but it hurt less! This time the letter contained the magic words,” Although your story contains some of these elements, it lacks others.” This meant I was doing something right. I also realized that I have to make my presence online. So I started a blog and found a whole new world out there. Almost everyone was blogging about their writing so what could I blog about that would be different, I asked myself. My writing journey is not that interesting!

After winning books on blog giveaways I remembered the RWA handout saying that the whole purpose of book giveaways is to create a buzz by word of mouth of the book. It’s marketing strategy by authors to do giveaways yet I realized that the winners were keeping quiet about the books after reading… so I decided to start blogging about all these new release books after reading them. And I invited the authors to talk about their latest releases on my blog: Yet again I must be doing something right as my followers increased and I have a presence online.

Now for the next step I asked HM&B Desire Author Rachel Bailey:
I don't have critique partners or belong to any writers organisation, the nearest being RWA Aust/ RWA NZ.... the membership is not a problem but the airfare is!.....can you recommend any online writing groups/courses?

I think it's a definite advantage to join RWAust or RWNZ even though you're not in the country. Both organisations have members living in other countries - and a lot further away than Fiji - Switzerland, America, Scotland, etc. You can get the monthly newsletters online or posted (I'm just retiring as RWA's newsletter editor, so I'm biased, but they're choc full of info and craft articles), you can join the CP scheme and match yourself to someone, or a group, be on the e-loop and ask authors questions, etc, etc. The only thing face to face you might want is the annual conference, but not everyone goes to that anyway (RWAust has a Claytons Conference online for those who can't make the main one each year).

Rachel Bailey is another such multi published author who takes time out from her busy schedule and answers any questions I may ask, so huge thanks to her and all other authors I’ve mentioned. I’ve also gone to Joanna St James for advice, so you are also included.

At present I have a partial in the slush pile from the first week of November 2010, v-e-r-y- s-l-o-w-l-y moving towards the editor at the Medical HM&B!

Thank you Nas for guest blogging this week. To continue to follow Nas on her journey to publication, click here. And, join me next week as I spotlight another warrior fighting their way to publication.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Warrior Wednesday: Tales from the Unpubbed - Joanna St. James

The new year is here, and with it comes new dreams, expectations and the chance to build our arsenal of tools for the ultimate fight: getting published.

No, I'm not asking you to go all G.I. Jane, but it's a basic story we can learn from. Don't give up, and don't let anyone tell you you can't.

I'm starting a new segment on Wednesdays to honor my fellow battle-scarred warriors and to share a few tales from the frontlines. Tales from the Unpubbed is about the unpublished author's experiences and hopefully will encourage other warriors to keep up the good fight.

So, without further ado, I'd like to introduce my first guest - Ms. Joanna St. James...

You know one thing I have learned in my little while here on earth is that every individual is stressed out just up to their maximum limit. One other thing I have learned since I started blogging, is that it is always good to be able to share your experiences with people who understand you. So when Melinda told me about this series I jumped at it mainly because, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to let other writers know that there are loads of us in the same boat as you.

Amongst other books I read the complete works of Shakespeare when I was eight years old (I did not understand the olde english but I read it anyway) so you see my love for books started before I can remember. It also did not help that I had a dad who inspired me to reach for the stars - he encouraged me to write when I was a kid but I said I would whenever I became ready after all 'how hard can writing be?' - I now like to refer to this as my ego induced haze.

This haze/era lasted till I became an adult and had a baby two years ago, I felt empowered by the birth of my son and my shiny new and hard earned masters degree so I picked up a notepad and a pen and started to write.
I did no homework, all I knew was that I was going to write for harlequin and they would love me, and then it all started to go wrong; my story could only go as far as 5k words (I eventually reached 7.5k), I looked at the harlequin website and the only line I could submit my word count to was Spice Briefs so I sent my plotless and sweet story to Spice Briefs and even had the nerve to get huffy when they told me they would get back to me between 2-4 months - I got rejected six weeks later.

Of Course I was not well equipped to handle a rejection so I went into hiding for another 2 years, I did not write but at least I did my research, read articles and anything I could get my hands on till June 2010. In May my family moved to Corsica and I decided I was going to follow my dreams, I quit my job and decided to stay home with my kidlet and write. In two months I completed two first drafts and then on August 2nd I heard the HMB medical line was offering a fast track to newbie writers like me, so I jumped on that train and now have a requested partial in that office with my fingers crossed.

My rejection count to date is 2 rejection letters (I hope it stays that way because my writer's skin is still kinda tender) During the day I spend time with my toddler and you bloggers, then I write in the dead of the night when everyone has gone to bed usually from 12-3 or 4am, I wake up at 9am or earlier sometimes and start the day over again.

I know my life as a writer might sound tame compared to some of you but believe you me, that is about all I can handle. Does anything about my life resonate with yours? and of course I love hearing advice on ways to get pubbed.

Thanks for having me Melinda.

Thank you for being here Joanna!! To follow Joanna on her path to publication, click here.

Stay tuned next Wednesday for yet another special guest and more war stories.