Monday, November 23, 2009

Gearing up to promote the new book

Sorry I haven't been around for a while. Last minute line edits and rewrites on another book have kept me from blogging and my nose to the keyboard. But it's almost over. My new book, A Neighbor's Ultimatum, releases tomorrow (fingers crossed, LOL) from Loose Id, LLC. It's a sequel to my August '08 release, Meeting A Neighbor's Needs, and finishes where the first book left off.
(Shameless plug :))

As for the rewrites, they're still going. Had hoped to have them finished this weekend, but was only able to get 2/3 of the way through them. One of these days I will learn how to write a snappy opening and keep the sexual tension and conflict going from the first page to the last. Just like my books, I'm a work in progress, so the more I practice, the more I learn, and the better my writing gets.

Other things in the works for me include a short novel centered around a ten year high school reunion, the rewrites for Diablo Blanco Club: Midnight Masquerade (Mike Halsey's and Lyssa Lawrence's book), At the Claiming Moon-my first attempt at a paranormal story (time-travel/vampire), and perhaps some rewrites to In A Lover's Silence, my serial killer in Alaska book.

I sometimes wonder if I've bitten off more than I can chew when it comes to writing and working full-time. Fortunately, after today, I'll have almost all of the week off for Thanksgiving holiday. Then only three weeks before Christmas vacation. Keep your fingers crossed that I can get most of this stuff done and out of the way before the new year.

As for now, the day job calls. Hope you all have a great Thanksgiving (if you celebrate it) enjoy the day and the week. And watch out for those crazy shoppers on Friday!!


Monday, November 16, 2009

City Life vs. Alaska Life

Unlike some of my wonderful AKRWA friends, I'm new to Alaska. I moved here almost three years ago after fleeing my high-stress Los Angeles lifestyle. A lot of people ask me what's different about life here, so I put together this side-by-side comparison.

City life versus Alaska life

Drove adorable VW convertible beetle/Drove Subaru down a ravine

Dated dysfunctional comedians/Fell in love with a sweet-hearted carpenter

Learned how to program my TiVo/ Learned how to run a chainsaw

Avoided vicious office politics/ Avoid vicious hungry bears

Never left the house without makeup/ Hoping to take a shower this week

Favorite designer: Cynthia Rowley/ Favorite accessory: duct tape

Thought fifty degrees was a cold snap/ Would kill for fifty degrees

Kept a running tally of celebrities spotted/ Saw twenty moose the other day

Big project: organize shoe closet/Big project: dig a new outhouse

Awesome view of neighbor's driveway/Awesome view of Grewingk Glacier

Two actress/models for every guy/Two bearded eccentrics for every gal

Obsessed with losing weight/Hey, that extra fat layer's for survival

I could go on and on. So many things in my life have changed, but the only really important one is number two. My sweetie. I'd live anywhere with him, and I think I'm proving that on a daily basis. (See: outhouse.)

So yes, life in Alaska can be challenging, but when you wake up to this...'s all worth it.


Friday, November 13, 2009

Stranger in a Strange Land

I like a rut as much as the next person – a comforting, familiar routine where you can accomplish a lot because you know what you’re doing. On the other hand, I hate a rut as much as the next person – living with hamster-wheel dull days and a lack of inspiration as you take the same steps over the same terrain.

So, which emotion is more powerful? For me it depends on the day or the project. If things are going well, I see no need to change the routine. However, if I’m spinning my hamster-wheel, well, it’s time to think outside my comfort zone and head for new territory.

I’ve always felt sorry for people who aren’t willing to TRY something new and different if what they’re doing isn’t working. I’m not talking about Über-Efficient people whose processes work for them all the time. (I only know about three of those people anyhow.) I’m talking about those who follow that definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Very very often that’s me in a nut(case) shell. So, for my next project I decided to take my squeaking hamster wheel to a strange land. Let me begin by explaining that I LOVE the world of Pantsing. I love the discovery of random conversations leading to the next situation in my story. I love an organic process where I let my characters think for me—tell me their story as I do nothing but data entry. Unfortunately, most of my characters talk just as much as I do. And they like pretty scenery just as much as I do. And the book just kind of goes on and on -- story in there somewhere.

I realized, I don’t wanna deal with editing another book where the last half contains a solid plot and the first half must be edited to fit. Not that it can’t be done-I’m living proof it can. I just don’t wanna.

So my new destination is a place called Plottingland. At first my little hamster wheel rolled down streets I sort of recognized: What Color Are Your Hero’s Eyes Avenue and How Does the Book End Lane. But then we got into the heart of the new country and my wheel tipped over after hitting a plotting board. Let’s just say, Toto, we weren’t in Pantsingworld any longer.

I looked around a landscape of precisely marked-off grids, piled with neat stacks of sticky notes and instructions carefully labeled: Character sketches, Setting sketches, Beginning, Middle, End. And three words that scared me silly: Goal Motivation and Conflict. How the heck was I supposed to navigate this neighborhood? It was Beverly Hills compared to the redneck chaos I’d come from: a place where characters pop out from somewhere in the junkyard of my imagination. How could I possibly know goal motivation and conflict before I’d written the dang story?

And then I found my first guideline. It was, horrors, a “template.” A series of who-what-where-when-how-why type questions that, when filled out, gave me a one-paragraph sketch of My Book. Amazing! Before I’d written a word. And that led to a one-page character sketch, and a full page summary and … and I’m still here in Plottingland working on figuring out my story before even writing the first line. And you know what? It’s fun!

It’s also been several weeks and I still don’t speak “Plotting” very fluently. And there are moments I search desperately for a way to fix my hamster wheel and flee back to Pantsingworld. But I haven’t. I’m planning to stay a stranger in this strange land a while longer, just to see if I can make this something different work.

Okay, this may have sounded like a pitch for that tired old writer’s subject, pantsing vs. plotting with me taking the plotting side. No way. Trust me, my right brain hates me right now. What I want to do is encourage you to try rolling away from that comfort zone when you feel stuck or are tired of the rut that keeps you safe but spinning the wheel. If you’re a pantser—follow me. If you’re a do-or-die plotter, don’t say you can’t do it any other way: set a timer for fifteen minutes and write a scene out of order. Or a chapter. Or, gasp, a character sketch. You never know—your new strange land may end up full of wonderful new friends—and books!

What have you done lately to “think outside your comfort zone?”

Liz Selvig

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Military Life-Straight from a Spouse's Mouth

Hi, all
This isn't really a traditional writing related blog, but I think the subject is important, especially as the country observes Veteran's Day. As a military spouse for the past seven years, I've often been asked questions about military life, and how civilians can show true appreciation to service members. I'll try to shed some light on both those topics today, a day when the nation remembers those who've served, and those who sacrifice every day to protect the freedoms we hold dear, .
What is military life like? . The biggest sacrifice a military family makes is stability. Not just in the sense that you can be shipped 4,000 miles away from everything you've ever known with only two months notice, like my family recently was. I'm talking about the little things...the daily sense that as an adult in a free country, you can do whatever you want, when you want to. That's just not the case for us. I haven't planned a vacation in years; after so many ruined trips, you sort of give up. Even a dinner reservation is a stretch, because the Army has a pesky way of assigning my husband to some extraneous duty on the very night I'd planned to enjoy a meal out. These are basic things that most people take for granted. I never have any assurance my husband can be with me, from doctor's appointments for our son to emergency situations, everything has to be cleared through his chain of command. It's admittedly maddening.
If it seems like I'm complaining, I am, and I've got a right. I feel the need to paint a realistic picture of what the day to day is like for us, because those outside the base gate often don't understand. There are also some good things- the sense of doing something immensely important, the health care benefits, and the sense of camaraderie with other military families. Some days the scale tips in the favor of the good things, and some days it doesn't. The point is that it doesn't matter how I feel about it, military life in unpredictable, and it's the adaptability of the military family that allows our men and women in uniform to do their jobs efficiently.
So, what can the average citizen do to make us feel appreciated? Good question. Business owners should offer a military discount whenever possible; you'd be surprised how little our spouses are paid to dodge bullets. Much like police, firefighters, and teachers, military members are among the most essential employees in this country, because what they do preserves and protects the American way of life. Lobbying to your senator/representative for improved military benefits is also a good way to show you care. Support military charities, such as the Fisher House, Armed Services YMCA, and the USO. Display your flags and yellow ribbons with pride. Offer to babysit, or do laundry for a harried military spouse. And when you see a uniformed service member, out with their spouse and children, why not offer them your heartfelt thanks to them all?
Because when Mom or Dad serves, the whole family does, too.

Kianna Alexander

Monday, November 9, 2009

Writing Historical Romance: It’s the Journey

I write sweet Alaskan historicals. I’m working on a Gold Rush series; my last manuscript was set in 1898 Skagway, and the current one is set in 1900 Nome. For me, the most fun is creating the setting and characters. To create that world, I start with a lot of research on the place and time period. I love reading books on the topic, and digging around the internet to find interesting things my characters would be doing back then. (If you’d like to see a list of books on Alaskan Gold Rush history, see my Schoolmarm’s Library at my web site, I’ve even been lucky enough to go to the places I’ve written about and do some research there. I went to Nome this summer and learned a great deal from some very generous people in town.

The hard part is deciding when I’ve done enough research and need to do some writing. Sometimes I’d like to go on and on, finding out more obscure facts and figures that might be helpful for my book. But at some point I have to admit I have a good sense of the time period and place and I’m ready to move on to the actual writing. Now the real work begins.

When I am writing, I am conscious of all the fun things I know about that setting and want to cram them all into the book. But as Jackie Ivie says in her online class on historical romance, “DO make the story a romance - above all. The emotion is what counts, not how vast your knowledge of the era, nor how spectacularly you form words for the description.” So I have to add little tidbits at a time, and try not to shortchange the characters or the plot just because I know some cool stuff about Nome in 1900. If it’s cool and useful for the story, it’ll find its way in. If not, I’ll have to keep it in my notes and see if it finds a home elsewhere. Sigh.

But along the way, I learn about interesting things and people, fall in love with a setting and its characters, and get to live life in their world for a little while. That’s why I write historicals. It’s the journey.