Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Column: Critique Groups and the Five Stages of Grief by Cindi Madsen

I was at a writers’ workshop and a girl sitting next to me started talking about critique groups. She was in a group she wasn’t sure about, and none of the other writers were even close to her genre. In my group, we all write different genres as well. My group rocks. I think the fact we all write different genres makes us look outside the box a little more, and every writer’s goal, no matter what genre, is to write well and keep our readers hooked. Getting my work critiqued isn’t the easiest thing I’ve done—especially in the beginning when we were just getting to know each other. But I felt like I’d done all I could do on my own, and I really wanted my book to be the best it could be. That meant feedback. It wasn’t always easy, but I learned so much, so fast. My writing jumped to a new level. I started seeing the difference it made in my book.

Now we’re comfortable with each other and trust each other. Critique group is an encouraging environment where we cheer each other on, help brainstorm, and have become friends. That doesn’t mean I take every suggestion. But I always consider them. My chapters are always better afterward. Sometimes it can get a little crazy—we get passionate about each others’ characters. We feel like we know them. One night after an especially lively session, I was driving home, trying to wade through all the comments and figure out what I needed to do to make the chapters stronger. I thought about how I went through stages after critique group. So, I compared them to the five stages of grief.

Five Stages of Critique Group Grief 

Denial – My stuff is awesome the way it is. They just don't get it.

Anger – I can't believe they're finding problems after all the hard work, heart, and soul I put into writing this!

Bargaining – But see how if you know this, it makes it all work out. Kind of.

Depression – I give up. Everything sucks, and I worked too hard on it already. I don't think I can look at it again. It's never going to be finished.

Acceptance – Okay, it needs some work, and after some time brainstorming, I think—no, I can—do better. This is what critique groups are for; to get input and make my book the best it can be. It’s going to take some work, but I will fix this!

About the Writer:  Cindi Madsen sits at her computer every chance she gets, plotting, revising, and falling in love with her characters. She has way too many shoes, but can always find a reason to by a new pair. She lives in Colorado with her husband and three children, and is a member of PPW and PPRW. You can check out her blog at cindimadsen.blogspot.com.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Quote


If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.  – Toni Morrison

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sweet Success! - Beth Groundwater, Carol Berg


Beth Groundwater's mystery novel, Deadly Currents (ISBN 978-1410438317, large print hardcover, 397 pages), was released in large-print format on July 27, 2011 by Thorndike Press.  The large print edition should be available "everywhere fine books are sold."  Visit her website atbethgroundwater.com and her blog at bethgroundwater.blogspot.com.

The Arkansas River is the heart and soul of Salida, Colorado. It fuels the small town's economy and thrums in the blood of twenty-seven-year-old Mandy Tanner, a river ranger. When a whitewater rafting accident occurs, she deftly executes a rescue, but a man dies anyway. But it wasn't the river rapids that killed him, it was poison. Tom King was a rich land developer with bitter business rivals, who cheated on his wife, refused to support his kayak-obsessed son, and infuriated environmentalists. Mandy's world turns upside down when her beloved Uncle Bill—the respected owner of a raft outfitting business—dies of a heart attack. Suspicious that his death is somehow connected to Tom King, she goes on an emotionally turbulent quest for the truth—and ends up in dangerous waters.     

In addition, Beth's mystery novel, A Real Basket Case (ISBN: 978-0738727011, trade paperback and ebook, 312 pages), will be released in trade paperback and ebook formats on November 8, 2011, by Midnight Ink, and will be similarly available.

Feeling neglected by her workaholic husband, forty-something gift basket maker Claire Hanover joins an aerobics class. In a moment of weakness, Claire agrees to let charming aerobics instructor Enrique come to her house to give her a massage. She realizes she has made a deadly mistake when Enrique is shot and killed in her bedroom and her husband Roger is arrested for the murder. Determined to clear Roger's name and save her marriage, Claire sets out to find the real killer, encountering drug dealers, jealous ex-girlfriends, and angry cops along the way. 

Beth Groundwater writes the Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series (A Real Basket Case, nominated for the 2007 Best First Novel Agatha Award, and To Hell in a Handbasket, released in May, 2009). She also writes the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventures mystery series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner. The first, Deadly Currents, was released in March, 2011. Beth lives in Colorado and enjoys its many outdoor activities, including skiing, hiking, and whitewater rafting. She loves talking to book clubs, and not just for the gossip and wine! Visit her website at bethgroundwater.com and her blog at bethgroundwater.blogspot.com.

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Carol Berg's fantasy series, Collegia Magica (The Spirit Lens, The Soul Mirror, and The Daemon Prism [forthcoming]), has been licensed for audio by Audible.com.  No release dates have been announced yet.

Also, her fantasy novel Song of the Beast (ISBN 978-0451464231, trade paperback, 400 pages) will be released in a new trade paperback edition by NAL/Roc books.  The book will be available at brick and mortar bookstores as well as online.

Seventeen years of brutal imprisonment has broken Aidan McAllister. His voice is silent, his hands ruined, his music that once offered beauty and hope to war-torn Elyria destroyed. The god who nurtured his talent since boyhood has abandoned him. But no one ever told him his crime. To discover the truth, he must risk his hard-bought freedom to unlock the mind of his god and the heart of his enemy. 

Carol Berg is a former software engineer and PPWC success story.  Since selling her first books at the 1999 PPWC, she’s been flown to Israel, taught writing in the US, Canada, and Scotland, and answered mail from New Zealand, Kuwait, the slopes of Denali, and beneath the Mediterranean Sea.  Her twelve epic fantasy novels have won national and international awards, including multiple Colorado Book Awards and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature.  In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews calls Carol’s latest novel, THE SOUL MIRROR, "compelling and altogether admirable."

Visit Carol's website at www.carolberg.com for more information.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Column: The Business of Writing - First Two Pages Checklist (From Iowa) by Linda Rohrbough

Recently, a couple I knew when I lived in another state contacted me. Their youngest daughter, the one with Care Bear flip-flops on tiny feet who used to crawl up in my lap for a hug, is now ready to go to college. She wants to be a writer and they asked my opinion on the best school for writers interested in being novelists. They mentioned a couple of prestigious schools and I am pretty sure I shocked them when I recommended the University of Iowa.

But I read a piece in the New Yorker a few years back about that school. Evidently they turn out more New York Times best-selling novelists than any writing program in the country. I said all that to say, I have a checklist of what a professor teaching at the University of Iowa Writing Festival this summer said he found was common in the first two pages of every best-seller currently in the bookstores.

Want to see it?

Okay, here it is, courtesy of guest instructor Gordon Mennenga of Coe College, (who got his MFA at Iowa).

Checklist of the common nineteen things found in the first two pages of best-selling novels:

a sentence containing three commas
a one-word sentence
alliteration
food (the universal ritual)
body fluid--sweat, blood, tears, urine
reference to sex or death
something sinful or painful
a color
a physical feature
a personality trait
question mark
mention of nature
anything with a brand name
furniture
body part or parts
smell/odor
metaphor, each of which saves five pages of description
city, state or street
walk/gesture/overbite/musculature

Now, what’s interesting to me is the person who sent me this list, also said the students taking Professor Mennenga’s workshop started counting to see how many of the nineteen they had in the first two pages of their novels. The person in the workshop with the most had ten. I did a check of my recently published novel The Prophetess One: At Risk and I had sixteen. Then I did a check of my new work in progress, The Prophetess Two: A Son For A Son and found fourteen, but was easily able to change the text to add three more to make it seventeen from the list.

(Will these changes stay? Depends. I usually go back over the first chapter once the book is done to make sure the first chapter and the last chapter are connected. But I was able to say to you guys that I now have seventeen. <grin>)

The temptation here would be for newbees to say, “Okay, when I write a book, I will make sure I shoe-horn those nineteen things into the first two opening pages. Then it’ll be a best-seller.” If only it were that easy. But I noticed the items on that list are all things that show up when you’re writing well, meaning showing the reader what the characters want and feel, creating the environment, the initial conflict and setup for the book, with very specific details. In other words, when you are weaving a world that hooks readers.

Like it or not, hooking the reader has to happen in the first couple of pages of a novel. Or else the reader isn’t going to stay with you. I think this is doubly important with the advent of ebooks because it’s so easy now for readers to get a sample chapter - give a writer a test drive. This is what you want if you’re doing the job right.

So my suggestion is take this list and compare it against the first two pages of your novel. See if it helps. Then compare it against the first two pages of a best-seller you like. Why take Professor Mennenga’s word for it?

About the Writer: Linda Rohrbough has been writing since 1989, and has more than 5,000 articles and seven books to her credit along with national awards for fiction and non-fiction. New York Times #1 bestselling author Debbie Macomber said about Linda’s new novel: "This is fast-paced, thrilling, edge-of-the-seat reading. The Prophetess One: At Risk had me flipping the pages and holding my breath." An iPhone App of her popular three-step formula workshop for writers, “Pitch Your Book,” is available in the Apple iTunes store. Visit her website: www.LindaRohrbough.com

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Quote

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. – Ray Bradbury

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sweet Success! - Mandy Houk, Laura Hayden

Mandy Houk's creative nonfiction article, "It's the Little Things," will be published online in Fall 2011 by Christianity Today /Kyria.com.  The author's website is at www.forbetterforworseforlife.wordpress.com.

The article will list creative ideas for romantic gifts and dates on a budget.

Mandy Houk is a freelance writer and editor, home schooling mom, and high school creative writing teacher. She's sold several nonfiction articles and stories and placed in a couple of short fiction contests, but she has yet to break into book-length fiction. She is currently working on her second novel, Things We Leave Behind. It's a literary/mainstream tale of a brother and sister trying to mend their broken family--but first, they have to track down their runaway dad.

* * *

Nicole "Coco" Marrow and Laura Hayden's urban fantasy novel, Angel (ISBN 978-0765330239 softcover/hardcover/trade/ebook), will be released on September 13th by Tor/Forge.  The author's website is at http://suspense.net.  The book will be available from online and brick-and-mortar bookstores and from the Author, Author! store.

Moments before a New York-bound plane goes into a nosedive a beautiful passenger awakens with no idea who she is. Miraculously she survives and is dubbed “the Angel of the Hudson,” but remains confused even when it’s learned her name is Angela Sands.

Reporter Dante Kearns is stunned by Angela’s ability to hear men’s thoughts and how, when a man gets close, she transforms into the woman of his dreams. But Angela shocks Dante with yet another disclosure: she believes she was murdered and now inhabits the body of a stranger….

2012 PPWC Conference Director Laura Hayden started writing in 1990 and celebrated her first sale shortly after attending the first Pikes Peak Writers Conference.  Since then, she's attended all but one PPWC and sold twelve more books and four short stories.  Although she lives in Alabama, her heart is in Colorado and she tries to follow her heart whenever possible, especially when she gets frequent flyer miles for the effort.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Column: Random 10: Ways to Use the Weather in Your Writing by Deb Courtney

Writing comes from inside us, from the secret places, from our joys and our experiences and from our imaginations. It can also be impacted by external events and phenomena. Weather is one of those mundane things which we give little thought to, but which can impact us greatly—from our moods, to directing the events of our lives in small ways. Here’s a look at how that bit of mundane might be put to work for you, as a writer.

Actual Weather, impacting us as writers:

Cold—On a brisk, cold day, place your hand on a windowpane. Take a walk in the chill. Feel the invigoration, or the pain, of two degree air as it hits your lungs. Know that for most of us, the cold is an ephemeral experience, a fleeting part of our time, but it can get in the way of things, much like writers block or a day job can. But it passes.

Gray—Oh, how a dreary day gets some of us down. The barometric pressure drops, the grey mimics twilight, and calls for a fire, a cup of something warm, and a comfy blanket. Or a nap! But what an opportunity for quiet reflection. On your goals, on your stories, on your progress. As a writer, the ability to revel in this quiet time may lead to discovery, or new ideas, or breakthroughs on old ones. So, revel.

Brilliant—When there are no clouds, and the temperature is as close to perfect as it ever gets, take a notebook and get outside. On your patio, on a hike, at a pool. Interact. Through interactions with people and nature, you build experiences upon which your characters can draw, and through which your settings can manifest.

Caliente—Summer’s heat can wring the life out of us, melt composure, wilt our good intentions. But the heat of summer can also remind us of the emotive interactions between our characters, or how they might feel on a tropical beach far away. Grab your notebook—no matter how damp—and capture the sensory experience and delights that only summer’s heat can bring us.

Windy—Whether a hot summer’s breeze or the chill thrust of winter, wind can remind us of the changeable nature of things, and also how to remain flexible in the face of strong forces. Watch the trees bend, or the dust blow, and think through how your story and your characters remain strong but flexible and unbroken in the face of adversity, or how they might splinter under the force of something too strong to resist.

Weather in your story: Setting—though a cliché, ‘It was a dark and stormy night’ does have the benefit of creating a setting of sorts. What is your setting’s weather and how does it relate to your story, plot and characters? Could this story only happen in a dusty and dry desert, or might it as easily take place in the Arctic? Why?

Mood Enhancer—Use of weather in a story can enhance or complement the mood you create in scenes. Also a cliché is rain at a funeral, but what about light snow during a romantic walk? A change in weather during a climactic moment? To avoid cliché it is advisable not to dwell overly on weather conditions as a mood enhancer, but do not ignore them altogether.

Plot Driver—Some stories really can only happen in certain climates with certain weather. A flood in small town Massachusetts might not play, but would easily in a drought- ridden Midwest town where a freak storm drops unexpected amounts of water on soil baked to bricks. That same storm would be a drop in the bucket of water absorbed by a tropical rainforest, and considered run-of-the- mill in Central Florida.

Character—Much as noted above, the weather has an impact on people. It may also have an impact on your characters. How do they respond to the weather of your story? How does it enhance or negate their moods, or the events of your plot?

Juxtaposition—A powerful tool is to play against the expected. A bright sunny gorgeous day may feel offensive at a funeral, or during a strongly emotional scene in your book, while a dreary rainy day might be an opportunity for your characters to be playfully full of joy and laughter.
As writers we are told to use what we know, and we all know the weather and what it does to us. So use it. And, as the old saying goes, if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes—it’s sure to change.

(Originally published in the Pikes Peak Writers NewsMagazine, May/June 2009.)

About the Writer:  Deb Courtney has a degree in fiction from the University of South Florida, has published several short stories, and has written freelance for such publications as The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Business Journal. She is a frequent speaker at Pikes Peak Writers events.

She lives in the foothills in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she has a winter view of Pikes Peak (which is to say she can see it only when all the leaves are off the trees). She shares her home with a driving-age teen, two cross-eyed slightly brain-damaged felines, and likely has squirrels in her attic. And that's not a euphemism.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Column: Screenwriting – Ready to Adapt? by Karen Albright Lin

STEP-BY-STEP PREPARATION FOR ADAPTING BOOK TO SCRIPT

In previous postings I discussed what to consider when deciding whether or not to adapt your story into a screenplay, various forms of story that have been successfully remade for the big screen, the upsides and downsides to turning book to script, and methods that are commonly used to do so.

Are you ready to take the next step?

Preparing adequately will make the screenwriting process go more smoothly.  If you are adapting another author’s work, seek rights first.  Consider the budget, audience and attached stars (if you are lucky enough to have them lined up).  Then prepare.  Whether it’s your work or someone elses, there are several useful steps to take. 

1)  Read the book over and over until you are infused with its spirit.
2)  Ask what the story is about.
3)  What scenes stick in your mind and why? (Ted Tally, who adapted The Silence of the Lambs, usually latches on to 6-7 scenes.)
4)  Reduce each event to a 1-2 sentence statement; be sure it’s a story well-told.
5)  Who’s the main character? You may change the POV – The Silence of the Lambs had three other POVs, but Tally considered it Clarice’s story.
6)   What’s the ending? Can you make it more visual? Add unity with it? Maintain sympathy for the protagonist?
7)   Can you make the beginning grab the audience? The novel The Silence of the Lambs starts with Clarice Starling heading to learn her assignment. The movie starts with her on the training range – showing she’s a dedicated trainee.

Now prepare to reinvent.

1)    Reorder events in proper time line.
2)    Cut, combine, and create scenes as needed.
3)    Turn internal into external.
4)   Decide which characters to keep (7 or so).
5)    List key dramatic action scenes.
6)    Find the powerful dialogue that drives the plot.
7)    Be aware of where the passion is.

What needs cutting?

1)    Facts unnecessary to the less complex plot.
2)    Incidents (Clarice’s confrontation with Senator Martin in The Silence of the Lambs).
3)  Some subplots (Detective Crawford’s dying wife in The Silence of the Lambs).
4)  Minor characers (or combine characters).
5)  Meld several scenes into one.
6)  Flashbacks.
7)    Philosophies and over thematic content.
8)    Pare unnecessary verbiage.
9)   Preserve only the best bits of business.

Can you tell I like the adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs?

Do not remove feeling and humor.

What needs to be expanded?

1)   Build up certain characters or add some.
2)   New scenes to tie bits together (but scenes shouldn’t look like they are there just to fill holes).
3)   Missing information that builds your story.
4)    "If you need something for the story MAKE IT UP!” – Syd Field
5)   Expand character development and subplots in a shorter work like Stephen King’s The Shawshank Redemption.

As you can see, adapting a story is a complicated undertaking.  Typically a writer can’t simply transcribe from a novel to a screenplay.  Fidelity in adaptation – how faithful you are to the original – varies.  But one must accept that the author’s original vision is typically altered in order to suit the cinematic format.


Best of luck in changing your book to a screenplay.  Let us all know when it hits the big screen!  In the meantime, keep your dialogue snappy and your directions brief.  Don’t step on the director.  Avoid dusk and dawn.

About the Writer: Karen is an editor, ghostwriter, pitch coach, speaker and award-winning author of novels, cookbooks, and screenplays. She’s written over a dozen solo and collaborative scripts (with Janet Fogg, Christian Lyons and director Erich Toll); each has garnered international, national and regional recognition: Moondance Film Festival, BlueCat, All She Wrote, Lighthouse Writers, Boulder Asian Film Festival, SouthWest Writers Contest, and PPW Contest. Find out more at http://karenalbrightlin.com.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Reminder: Write Brain - Tuesday, August 16, 2011

WHAT: Worst Case Scenario: Ratcheting Up the Tension in Your Novel with Denise Vega

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. (doors open at 6:00 p.m.) on Tuesday, August 16, 2011

WHERE: Police Station Community Room, 7850 Goddard St., Colorado Springs

COST: FREE!

Story is conflict, whether you're writing an action-packed adventure or a thought-provoking drama. Learn how to ramp up the tension in your scenes for maximum reader interest. Bring a couple of scenes from your work-in-progress to use for exercises during the session.

Learn more about Denise Vega on her website at: www.denisevega.com.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Quote

You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. – Jack London

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sweet Success! - Lynda Hilburn, Darby Karchut


Lynda Hilburn's urban fantasy/paranormal novel, The Vampire Shrink (ISBN-10: 0857387197/ISBN-13: 978-0857387196, hardcover, trade paperback, and ebook, 450 pages), will be published in a revised/expanded edition on September 1 (UK edition) and in 2012 (US edition) by Quercus Books/Jo Fletcher Imprint, UK.  The books will be available everywhere online and in many bookstores.  The author's website is at http://www.lyndahilburnauthor.com

Denver Psychologist Kismet Knight just wants a little excitement in her life. She doesn’t believe in the paranormal. But when a new client pulls Kismet into the vampire underworld and introduces her to gorgeous Devereux--who claims to be an 800-year-old vampire--Kismet finds herself up to her neck in the undead. And if being attracted to a man who thinks he’s an ancient bloodsucker isn’t bad enough, someone--or something--is leaving a trail of blood-drained dead bodies. Enter handsome FBI profiler Alan Stevens, who warns her that vampires are very real and one is a murderer--who is after her.

Lynda Hilburn writes paranormal fiction. More specifically, she writes vampire books. After a childhood filled with invisible friends, sightings of dead relatives, and a fascination with the occult, turning to the paranormal was a no-brainer. In her other reality, she makes her living as a licensed psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, professional psychic/tarot reader, university instructor, and workshop presenter. Her first novel, “The Vampire Shrink,” is being re-released (in a rewritten/expanded version) by Quercus Books in 2011 and Sterling Publishing/Silver Oak in 2012. 

* * *

Darcy Karchut's young teen (10 and up) urban fantasy novel, Griffin Rising (ISBN: 978-1-60619-210-8, trade paperback, 176 pages) was released in June 2011 by Twilight Times Books. The book is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell's, Tattered Cover, Twilight Times Books, and many other online and independent bookstores.  The author's website is at www.darbykarchut.com.

Griffin Rising has also been nominated for the 2011 Reader's Favorite Award from ReadersFavorite.com.

For centuries, there have been rumors about supernatural beings known as the Terrae Angeli. Armed with the power to control Earth, Fire, Wind and Water, these warriors secretly serve as guardians for mortals in danger.

And one teen angel-in-training, Griffin, is determined to complete his apprenticeship. But first, he must overcome a brutal past if he is to survive in the modern world. Will the perseverance of his father-like mentor and the love of a mortal girl give Griffin the strength he needs to triumph over the monster still haunting him?

Darby Karchut is a writer, a teacher, and a compulsive dawn greeter. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and owns more backpacks than purses. As she should. Her next book in the series, Griffin’s Fire, will be published April 15, 2012.