My Seriously Overdrawn Bank Account

Courtesy of "The Atlantic"
Courtesy of "The Atlantic"

I am seriously overdrawn. And I have to think that many of you out there as well. No, I’m not talking about your real money bank account. I’m talking about your emotional bank account. The place where when things are going great, you’re making massive deposits, building up that rich volume of happy, fun, chipper, and all sorts of “good collateral.”

Also the place from which you make withdrawls in the form of fear, worry, anger and other “bad debt.” The election has been a serious draw on my emotional bank account. I’ve seen friends and family, people whom I love, respect, and want to be around, change into happiness-sucking, vitriolic, swearing, overbearing, bankrobbing….Whew, you get my drift, right?

I am so glad it’s over. I have absolutely no comment either way on how it went because my opinion is my own and no one else is going to change it. I also know that I’m not going to change anyone else’s. Which is how it should be.  According to Merriam-Webster, an opinion is: a belief, judgment, or way of thinking about something; what someone thinks about a particular thing. Period.

As writers we have a vast quantity of words we can use. We have big, honkin’ thesaurus’ sitting next to us. So let’s focus on kind words. Interesting words. Compelling words. Thrilling words. And maybe, for just a little while, put away the swear words. Whether you are happy or sad about how things went/will go, remember that this same thing happens every four years. And every four years approximately half the people out there are in your shoes, good or bad.

I hate being overdrawn. Especially when it’s because someone else wiped out my account. I keep that account for things like a call in the middle of the night about a family member. Funerals. A fight with my husband. The loss of a treasured pet. I NEED to have that cushion in my account so that I can keep my sanity when something bad happens, and can’t afford to waste it on what might happen, what someone thinks is going to happen, what the media tells me is going to happen. I am more than willing to expend some of that collateral on behalf of others outside my family and close friends, but I have to weigh how much I’m willing to give to someone else, especially someone who may not value that sacrifice and just want more.

Photo from Jocuri
Photo from Jocuri

So please, let’s all be friends. Try to make the best of everything, and work toward ensuring no one suffers from anything we can help alleviate. Give yourself time to recoup your losses in that account so that you aren’t too emotionally depleted to write, to enjoy, to be happy to wake up in the morning.  And remember all the millions of things for which you get to be thankful, since Thanksgiving is right around the corner.

And then, Write On!

The RMFW Spotlight is on Terri Benson, Education Chair and Western Slope Liaison

Our monthly feature, The RMFW Spotlight, is intended to provide members of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers with more information about our board members as well as featured volunteers. This month we're pleased to present Terri Benson. You can also connect with Terri at her website.

2016_terri-benson1. Tell us what you do for RMFW and why you are involved.

I am the Education Chair and the Western Slope Liaison, and the western slope events take place where I work so I get the room ready and put together the press releases, etc. I initially stumbled into RMFW from a newspaper ad about a workshop and was so excited to find that there were actually people like me out in the world. I have gotten so much from the group, both in terms of camaraderie and education that I felt I needed to do whatever I could to give back.

2. What is your current WIP or most recent publication, and where can we buy a book, if available?

I am currently working on a new series. It’s a female amateur sleuth who is also a classic car restorer. I’m having fun with the story, but finding I need to be a sneakier person to get enough “mystery” in there to qualify. I have one book out (paperback and ebook), an historical romance, titled An Unsinkable Love which is set half on the Titanic, and half in the New England garment factories.

3. We've all heard of bucket lists -- you know, those life-wish lists of experiences, dreams or goals we want to accomplish-- what's one of yours?

I want to travel the world for research – SEE the history that I love to write about. My bucket list would have that at the top, but then several hundred “sub-items” because there are so many places I want to go.

4. Most writers have an Achilles heel with their writing. Confess, what's yours?

I get so involved with my characters that sometimes I lose track of what it is they’re actually supposed to be doing, as in the case of the Bad Carma character – solving a mystery instead of having fun restoring all those cool cars. And research. Lots and lots of interesting research often sidetracks me from putting words on paper.

5. What do you love most about the writing life?

I can be anyone and do anything I want. I have no limitations on what I can write (that’s not to say anyone will want to read some of it). It is so much fun to decide what I want to know about, and what I have to do to “become” it and how I can make a story from it.

6. Now that you have a little writing experience, what advice would you go back and give yourself as a beginning writer?

Read more. Turn off the TV or go somewhere no one can find me and write (and hope my husband doesn’t divorce me).

2016_terri-benson-office7. What does your desk look like? What item must be on your desk? Do you have any personal, fun items you keep on it?

The room my desk is in is also the “Christmas present” room, so right now it’s full of bags and boxes of shopping. When it’s usable, I have 4 bookcases full of (mostly read) books, binders of WIP and/or finished manuscripts and research, and a big wall calendar that was supposed to keep me on task and on schedule (but since I’m not in there writing….). I don’t keep much on my desk. I’m not a knick-knacky kind of person – I prefer to have my space pretty utilitarian.

8. What book are you currently reading (or what was the last one you read)?

I’m in the middle of a post-death Sidney Sheldon (written by another author) that a friend gave me, as well as a cozy mystery on my I-pad. I’m really terrible about book names and authors (unless I know the writer). I generally don’t worry so much about who wrote it, if it was a best seller, or that it had all 4 star reviews – it’s usually because the blurb sounds interesting, it’s a genre I like, or a writer I know or have met or who was recommended by someone at Gold/in RMFW. I like finding someone with a style I enjoy – I have a ton of Dick Francis novels because I really like the way he writes.

Thank you, Terri. One of the many services Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers performs for its members (and non-members as well) is education. Thank you for filling that important role of Education Chair and coordinating programs for the Western Slope.

If Only I Had One More Hour a Day…

too-busyI’ve been struggling to juggle a lot of things lately which is stressful enough, but now I’m being barraged with NaNoRiMo e-mails, vacation requests, and holiday planning schedules. After Colorado Gold I had three requests for chapters, one of which turned in to a request for a full read. What do you think I want to be doing? GETTING THOSE REQUESTS TAKEN CARE OF, of course. What am I doing? A whole lotta spinning my wheels.

I feel bad for neglecting my family because when I get home from work I need to edit, polish, revise, and revise more. Events that have been planned in the past, and which I normally would be excited about and enjoy, feel like a burden I can’t avoid.

Thinking about all the upcoming get-togethers, travel, and time-sucks that are the holidays, is beginning to give me hives.

Deep breath.

I know I’m not the only one with these problems. And having requests for chapters/full reads is absolutely fabulous, don’t get me wrong. I think the problem is when I read blogs or articles from writers out there with small children/sick family and a full time job but who still manage to volunteer with food banks or do other “save the world” things, AND write, I think I must be incredibly lazy or totally uncommitted to writing. They can get up at 3 in the morning to write, they write on lunch hours, they write into the wee hours of the night – so what’s wrong with me?

I just can’t do it. I’m tired when I get home, but I can manage a few hours a day a few days a week around dinner, laundry, ironing, vacuuming, and having an actual conversation with my husband. I already get up at 5:30 to be at work at 6:30. If I’m getting up earlier than that, it’s so I can work out (which I don’t have time for either, but that’s another rant).

I consider myself a professional writer. I’ve made money (not a lot) between my book (shameless plug: An Unsinkable Love, a Titanic Love Story) and articles in newspapers and magazines, and I work with deadlines. I write all day long as the Marketing Director where I work.

I’m asking/begging/pleading for comments from all of you out there in the world of writers: give the rest of us struggling to “git ‘er done” your methods for managing your writing while staying sane/married/out of jail, etc. I can’t be the only one who would appreciate this resource from our collective of writers.

So, my blog today is a public service request for ideas. Let me (and all the other readers) have them. If you relieve the guilt and/or exhaustion for even one writer, you will have done your good deed for the day/week/month/year. And we'll all Thank you as we continue to Write On!

On Being a Waffle

Yeah, that’s me. The human waffle. No, I’m not running for office, but I am trying to be Elastic Writer Girl and make my story fit all the different opinions I managed to attract at Colorado Gold.

waffleSee, I have this great story. Everyone I’ve talked to loves it. So of course I submit it for a Critique Roundtable, Pitch Coaching, Hook Your Book, professional editor discussion, and Pitch Sessions. Because, everyone loves it, right?

Hmmm. Not so much. My first indication that Houston has a problem is when I get in the Friday round table and the agent says they really don’t like the paranormal aspect of my mystery and suggest I “skirt around” that concept. Maybe just a hint of “unusual.” OK, that’s just one opinion, you know?

Then I have a pitch coaching and it’s a real struggle for my coach to come up with a concept that can be shoehorned into a short and snappy pitch. It gets done, while sort of downplaying the paranormal aspect. Hmmmm.

At Hook Your Book I get one “I don’t really think this concept will work” and another, “Great concept, but you might need to play the paranormal down if you really want to sell this.” Double Hmmmm.

The professional editor thinks I need to consider going Fantasy with Mystery, but it’s really not a fantasy and I can’t make it so.

And then another agent at a pitch says she likes the concept but tried to sell something along the same lines and couldn’t get a bite. “Could you just have your character have a bad feeling instead of ‘knowing’ something?” She was very gracious and offered to read chapters and a synopsis either way, but warned me it might be a tough sell.

So there I am, taking my first several chapters and writing multiple versions to see how I can alter the story, and still be true to THE STORY. I’ve talked my dilemma over with a couple BFaW (Best Friend and Writer-types) and they laid it on the line: WRITE THE STORY I want to write and not what someone tells me it should be to be marketable.

Yeah. I know. But… Ouch.

So I said to myself, “Self, just get on with it and quit waffling.” Really. I did. Just like that. And so I did. Quit waffling. I decided that while I COULD write the story with intuition and “skirt” the paranormal I didn’t like it as much. It was too vanilla. So, damn it, I’m writing the story I started with. I hope to hell I’m a good enough writer that when they actually read it the editors/agents will be so in love with the characters and the concept that it won’t even occur to them that it might be a tough sell and they will be my champion with the powers-that-be who try to tell them the story doesn’t fit in the box.

pancake
So, as a Human Waffle turned to a fat, syrup-sucking pancake, I’m writing the damn story. Just as you should make your story YOUR story.

So, let’s get with it and Write ON!

Why I Entered the Colorado Gold Contest

I was thrilled to hear this week that I was a finalist in the Colorado Gold Writer’s contest, but why should you care? Well, if you are a multi-published author, you probably don’t, and shouldn’t. But if you’re a writer struggling to get your work in front of agents and/or editors, maybe you should.typewriter winner

Colorado Gold, and other contests like it, is a GREAT way for you to get your work exposed to acquiring editors and agents. They are also really good at making you hone your craft. And teach you to be careful with submission guidelines (I lost 2 of 5 points for submitting a DOCx file instead of DOC).

The score sheets and comments on the manuscript are really helpful for seeing if there is a consensus that something may need to be tweaked, and they make you look closer at your writing. I always have to read them, rant just a little, then re-read and determine which comments I have to (sometimes grudgingly) agree with.

I’ve entered several contests over the years, with my scores starting below 50 (out of 100) and gradually, as I improved my craft, rising until I’ve finaled in the last four I entered, with three different manuscripts. So far, always a bridesmaid, never a bride – but I have high hopes for Gold.

I’ve learned that not all judges are great, and some are truly fantastic. One judge became a mentor for me, reviewed my edited submission, and gave me a blurb for my novel (which, alas, hasn’t sold enough to prevent me from qualifying for Gold!). I’ve also learned to thank my judges, if I’m given a method for doing so, and to NEVER dis a judge. Reading is subjective. I can’t always explain why I love or hate a book, scene, or character, while others rave about them. Judges are human, and have likes and dislikes; one judge may give you very low scores, while two others are much higher. Those same judges might be sitting next to you at a conference or workshop. They won’t know whose pages they judged, but if you’re sitting there telling them about your story and how bad the judge was, trust me, they’ll remember. Likewise, if you talk about how much you learned about your writing from the judge’s scores and comments, they might just be willing to open a door that helps your career along.

My biggest challenge now is to make sure I put as much effort into the other 350 pages as I did those first 10 the judges saw. I’ve heard a lot of stories about editors and agents who can tell, to the word, how far into the manuscript the writer had polished for submitting to contests and critiques and then didn’t bother with the rest.

winner imageIf you didn’t submit, and you do qualify for the contest, consider it, or others, in the future. For the small price of admission you get new sets of eyes on your work, and get a feel for how you fit within your genre in relation to other writers. If you, like me, notice your scores are rising, it’s a great feeling to know that you are improving as a writer – plus the plaques look really pretty on the wall.

So, as always, I urge us all to Write On!

Writer’s Stew and the Snake

I might be the only writer suffering from information overload, but I doubt it. I subscribe to several writer’s blogs, as well as RMFW, RWA, etc. I read a ton of great information on writing every week including mechanics, marketing, story structure—you name it. I go to as many workshops as I can, glomming on to handouts and PowerPoints, because it’s such fabulous information from seriously experienced writers. I know I have issues with my writing that need to be fixed and I’m getting amazing How-Tos for it.overload

But all this information causes its own problem. Here I am, trying to figure out how to write the best possible novel, and I’m assailed by things I know I need to consider in order to make sure MY novel is head and shoulders above YOURS (sorry, but that’s real life, man). It leaves me thinking I’ll never be able to absorb, let alone remember, it all.

And then I think, maybe I don’t have to. There is this really cool secret technology I know about. I’m sure you’ve never heard of it so I’m going to give it to you right now. You’ll thank me forever. It’s called a “save” command. You use it to save those words of wisdom on your computer (or you can “print” – it works for hard copy if you roll that way). You can even sort & index the articles by topic.

I know, right?

If this “Great Computer Secret” isn’t enough to cure your info overload, there’s always the fact that YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO ALL IN THE FIRST DRAFT. You can refer back to that wisdom when you’re at the end of the story and want to make sure you used that serial comma correctly, have Mother capitalized in the right places and not capitalized in the wrong places, can review your story arc, or see if you used the full range of senses.

Wow. Who’d a thunk it?

I know there are those truly remarkable authors who write from beginning to end, write THE END, and send it off to their editor/agent who can’t find more than a comma or missing quote to complain about. But I’m not one of those, and odds are, you aren’t either.

I have a file on my computer I call “writing tools.” I have it sort-of indexed, enough so I can skim through the articles and pick up pertinent items that struck me as weaknesses in my writing when I first read the article. I read through these when I’m in the “stewing” mode—when I’ve gotten to the end of the story and am letting it stew for a week or two before starting to edit with fresh eyes. I’m sure (at least I hope) that over time, because I’ve recognized them, I’ll overcome most of my weaknesses. But until I do I need to be reminded of them. BEFORE I hit SEND and have that cringe-worthy moment when I re-read my submission and just notice that I just have that issue with using the words “that” and “just,” or wrote “sit down” or “stand up” when you can’t really do it any other way, or all the other simple but ingrained ooopsies we each have.

Crystal skull snakeI’m not going to stop reading those blogs or going to those workshops because I know I have a lot to learn about writing. But I’m going to strategically use the tips I glean, and apply them if/when I need to, instead of letting that overload suck me into a quagmire of information. In case you have the same problem, I’m throwing you a snake (hopefully, you watched Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and get that I’m doing you a favor here and, by the way, you’re welcome). Now, get going and Write On!

Getting to Know You: The RMFW Member Q&A Project #2

The Getting to Know You Project is intended to introduce RMFW members with short responses to three questions, a photo, and a few social media links if available. If you would like to participate in the project for future months, please email Pat Stoltey at blog@rmfw.org

Terri Benson

Website: http://www.terribensonwriter.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/terri.benson.104?fref=ts

Terri Benson11. We know the who (that's you), so will you give us the what, why, when, where, and how you write?

I’ve been published in historic romance and have several manuscripts “looking for a home”, and am currently working on a “amateur sleuth” mystery series that I’m really excited about. I love history, so it’s likely that no matter what I write, there will be an historic bent to it. I work full time and have a large yard and serve on a couple boards (including RMFW), so I have to work hard to find time to write. Usually I write in the living room with the laptop and a TV show in the background. I don’t listen to music when I write, but I don’t like it to be too quiet. I’m a binge writer. I can write for 8 hours straight and never even notice I missed a meal or two (but my husband does!).

2. What is one fun thing few RMFW members know about you?

I have a fetish for garden gnomes and other yard art, after owning an “outdoor” store for several years. I love to find little faces peeking out at me from under shrubs or bright blooms, and can’t pass up a weird statue or other item that I think might find a home in my yard.

3. What is your most favorite non-writing activity, the one that gives you the greatest joy?

Camping and hiking with my husband, Rick, and dog, Tank, and any friends or family we can talk into heading out for a weekend. There are so many great places to visit in our neck of the woods. I usually find some time to write if it’s just my husband and I, so that’s a bonus.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Margaret Mizushima

Website and blog: http://margaretmizushima.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/margaret.mizushima
Twitter: https://twitter.com/margmizu
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8446201.Margaret_Mizushima

Margaret Mizushima1. We know the who (that's you), so will you give us the what, why, when, where, and how you write?

I write the Timber Creek K-9 mystery series which has KILLING TRAIL out now, and STALKING GROUND releases this September. Each morning I tread upstairs to my home office with a cup of herbal tea, and I write for three to four hours. I work at my day job in the same office in the afternoons when I'm brain dead.

2. What is one fun thing few RMFW members know about you?

I'm a cattlewoman. (Is that a fun fact?) I was raised on a cattle ranch and my husband, a veterinarian, and I started our own ranchette with 3 registered Angus cows about twenty years ago. We now have over a hundred head and produce breeding stock for other cattle growers.

3. What is your most favorite non-writing activity, the one that gives you the greatest joy?

I love to hike and try to go into the Colorado high country whenever I can. Since writing has become my main priority, I don't get away as often as I used to, but it's my goal to figure out how to work that habit back into my schedule. It nourishes my soul.

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Steven Moores

Website: http://stevenmoores.net/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/steven-moores-ab371118
Steven has a low profile on the web. He collects manual typewriters, somewhere around 25, at last count. He's poised to become a publishing tycoon when civilization collapses and there's no more FaceBook or MyFace or other internet.

2016_Steven Moores1. We know the who (that's you), so will you give us the what, why, when, where, and how you write?

I’ve finished four romance novels, one middle-grade fantasy, and two mysteries. Basically, I write stories that interest me, regardless of the genre. I have a day job, so I write in the mornings and on weekends. Because I have ADD, I find it hard to write in a quiet space. Give me a bus station or a busy coffee shop where I can let the never-ending circus in my mind run free. Needless to say I don’t do a lot of plotting up front. I just watch the scenes unfold in my mind, then I describe them as well as I can in words before I lose them.

2. What is one fun thing few RMFW members know about you?

While I don’t claim to have any such talent what-so-ever, I’m on YouTube a couple of times singing St. James Infirmary with the Mile High Community Band. Actually, I can't say it's me. I’d never have the courage to sing in public. I just channel Louis Armstrong.

3. What is your most favorite non-writing activity, the one that gives you the greatest joy?

I’m learning to play the saxophone and pondering the mysteries of jazz improvisation. I also plink around on the trumpet, ukulele, and guitar. After a long day at the office, playing music changes the brainwaves almost as nicely as a cold beer.

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Terry Odell

Website and blog: http://terryodell.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/terry.odell?fref=ts
Twitter: https://twitter.com/authorterryo
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/897369.Terry_Odell

2016_Terry Odell1. We know the who (that's you), so will you give us the what, why, when, where, and how you write?

I write mystery and romantic suspense, but I call them all "Mysteries With Relationships." When I started writing my first book, I thought I was writing a mystery, but my daughters told me it was a romance, which surprised me because I'd never read a romance. I'm a "pantser". I set a minimum word count goal of 1000 words a day. I'm usually able to get there, although I'm often distracted by watching the sunrises and sunsets, birds at the feeder, or the wildlife in the yard.

2. What is one fun thing few RMFW members know about you?

I doubt anyone knows we have a skull collection in our home. I'm not divulging what kind.

3. What is your most favorite non-writing activity, the one that gives you the greatest joy?

If I'm not writing, I'm either reading (I normally have 3 books going at once), or enjoying the outdoors with our shelter dog, Feebie. I also love testing recipes for the What's Cooking Wednesday segments on my blog.

 

Many thanks to Terri, Margaret, Steven, and Terry for volunteering for the Getting to Know You Project. If you'd like to participate in future GTKY posts, please email me at blog@rmfw.org

I’m Guilty – Throw the Book At Me (I really need to catch one!)

JudgeYep. I’m guilty. I didn’t mean to do it. It just happened. I stopped writing and started doing yard work. With a shovel. I became enamored with a battery-operated sprayer for my weeds. I couldn’t resist the siren call of the annual plant displays at every store in town, including the pharmacy. I found a cute little raised bed garden kit and made it my own. And I didn’t write.

In my defense, I did manage to submit two already-written stories to Colorado Gold, but I don’t think that will be considered justification for letting me off. My self-imposed sentence is to put my butt in chair and shackle myself to my computer and get some words on the page.

I know that if we, as writers, were truly judged on how easily we are led astray, the docket would be filled with regretful authors being handed long sentences (hah! I didn’t even notice this the first time around!). Whether it’s catching up on all your recorded Game of Thrones or Walking Dead shows with a box of pizza, summer vacation planning, gardening, or another fun in the sun summer activity, it’s all too easy to convince yourself that you’ll write later. But then you’re tired, or it’s time to fix dinner, or pick up the kids at the pool or summer league.

Hold up your right hand (if you’re writing, you can skip this part), and repeat after me: “I solemnly swear to set up a schedule to get at least 5,000 words on the page per week.” Ok, maybe 2,000 words. I am swearing, I guarantee (but then I do that all the time). Are you with me? Can we make a pact to close the curtain to block out the beautiful sunshine, turn on some music to drown out the birds singing, and turn up the A/C so we have to wear sweaters and pretend it’s deep, dark winter and there’s nothing to do but write? Or, I guess I could just put on some sunglasses, take the laptop out to the patio with a nice cold drink and hang out with the nice birdies and butterflies while I write. gardening graphic

Yeah, like that stupid weed that had the gall to grow over there will let me. Or the lawn that grew two inches overnight….

Sigh. It’s going to be a long hard row to hoe to keep on the straight and narrow this summer. But I’m going to try, because I want to be good and ready for Colorado Gold. How about you? Let’s Write On!

 

Terri Benson Sets Fire to Words Along with Genre Con (Literally)

I’m coming out of the closet. Yep. I’m an…introvert. What, you already knew?

That’s a pretty simple reveal. Most writers are introverts, and since writing is a fairly lonely job, it can have theWhy-Introverts-Are-Like-Cats makings for hermithood (you know, like motherhood—no wait, it’s not at all like motherhood unless you’re a mother and don’t have any friends with kiddies). Anyway, you know who you are, and what it’s like to try to network in a busy room, or to stand in front of a group and say things that make sense: right up there with a trip to the DMV.

I’m learning to come out of my shell. And the major reason is that I volunteer for RMFW. It started perfectly innocently, helping Vicki Law with the Western Slope workshops. Then, when Vicki decided to run for President of RMFW, she asked if I’d be willing to step in to run the W/S workshops, and be the Education Chair. Innocent that I was, I accepted, thinking it would be a piece of cake. Hmmm, maybe an upside down cake. I quickly realized I would have round up speakers, arrange a venue, stand up and talk in front of large groups, and all kinds of scary things.  And guess what? I survived. OK, except for the fire alarm and smoke and firetruck at the annual event last month in Golden. But there was that hunky fireman….which sort of made up for it. And despite rumors, I DID NOT set e fire. So our romance workshop got a little hot…it wasn’t my fault.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say (oh, no, there goes that song again) is that to grow as a writer I believe you have to do two things: learn to do new things, and get yourself out there. Become an ambivert - that’s someone with a little of both introvert and extrovert. The perfect place to debut the new you is at Colorado Gold. It’s too late to present, but you can still submit your story to the contest (until the end of May), which can be a little scary, but might get you a read by an agent or editor, or at least will be a good learning experience. And then there’s the Gold Conference itself. Three days of non-stop immersion in writing. You’ll be surrounded by other intro/ambi/extr-overts, all of whom are writers like you. THEY have the same worries, fears, and interests you do. They want to talk about their WIP just as much as you do. They want to discuss genres, protagonists, POV and all that ad naseum, just like you.

Take the plunge. Go to Gold. Don’t make excuses. It’s the best money you’ll ever spend. You will learn more than you ever imagined about the craft of writing and marketing, you’ll make friends that will last as long as you do (and if they put you in their book, longer), and you’ll have a chance to strut (or show) your stuff to agents or editors, but only if you DO IT.

Come on, if I can do it, so can you. It’s much more difficult to take that first step than it is to be there, in the moment. Trust me. And Write ON!

Real Life Research

I’ve always written historical fiction, mainly romance, which required a great deal of in-depth research, digging around in old documents, looking at ancient maps, reading tattered journals, even finding out what they ate that last night on the Titanic. Google was my very best friend. But after the latest “thanks but no thanks e-mail” I’ve decided to start working on a more contemporary series, and suddenly a whole new world of research opened up.

Now, I can actually find living, breathing humans who’ve been there, done that. I’ve used in-person interviews before, quite a lot, actually, for articles published in magazines and newspapers. Now it’s time to put those interview skills to work for book research.Interviewing

I started out like I always do, with a list of questions that I knew I needed answered to be able to fill in holes in my story. But the fun part was that several of the answers actually started a chain of domino reactions that took my story in different and exciting directions.

If I’d been sticking to internet or books for my research, I would have missed out on that. It’s a little out of my comfort zone, because it means going to places I wouldn’t choose to normally, like the police station. Putting myself into uncomfortable situations, like having a martial arts specialist show me what to do if I’m on my back, an assailant sitting on me, being strangled (NOT fun). But it also meant finding out some cool tricks of the trade for restoring classic cars.

Phaeton with title copy

My point is that in-person research is hugely valuable. Not only do you get information you need, but you see expressions and hear inflections in their voices that give you insight into their emotions. All of that can help your story be more realistic.

I also received more information than I needed, but since I’m working on a series, I’m pretty sure the “extra” will be useful somewhere down the line. I have a couple more people I need to meet with, and some of them are going to be difficult to find, but I’m persistent, and I can write around the missing pieces for a while. I could end up having to re-write some parts once I get that data, but I usually do with my historicals, as well, when I find a tidbit that I just can’t leave out.

I think I’m going to enjoy being in the real world again. But then, there is that paranormal, historical part of the series that will give me my history fix….

How about you? Do you use in-person interviews to add realism?