Writing

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Over the years I’ve had numerous jobs. And when I say numerous … I mean like over 50. Really. I’m the female version of George Plimpton. (Only he was into sports. And a writer. And he made TONS of money … but you know… kinda like him.)

Anyway, I started working when I was 15 at the local Micky D’s. This was the beginning of drive-throughs and when we used to make shakes the old-fashioned way, with a mixer. A squirt of flavoring and ice cream, then blend. That stupid machine and I didn’t get along. I can’t tell you how many times it exploded all over me. But my most memorable moment was when a container of strawberry topping slipped from my hand to the floor. It hit the tiles flat on it’s bottom which caused the most interesting eruption of strawberry sauce, easily 5 feet in the air. How do I know this? When it was done, it was dripping off my face and the brim of my hat, and down the front of my uniform. And all of this happened in slow motion in front of a lobby filled with the lunch crowd. FULL! Oh, yeah, that was a fun job.

Let’s see, I’ve worked at a jean store, a mortgage company, an aquarium, a frame store, a processing plant, an overnight summer camp, and a daycare. I’ve been a waitress, a “gofer” for a game warden, a science teacher, a lab assistant, a janitor, an ed tech, a tutor, a resident assistant, a substitute teacher, and a secretary at a job recruiter and a real estate office.

Some of those jobs I didn’t really like. Being a janitor in a girls’ dormitory wasn’t really something I enjoyed. I’m not even going into the whole bathroom situation. Nor the job working second shift at a processing plant for computer components. I spent the summer straightening wire leads with plyers and boiling components in oil to watch for bubbles. *shudders* Those were long days. But the summer I worked on an island off the coast of Maine at an overnight camp was awesome. Working as a lab assistant, teaching physics labs in college was pretty cool as well. And I didn’t really suffer when I worked as a waitress. All those people to visit with … yeah, it was fun.
 
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I’m going to admit that I haven’t done many things that are “typical”. I didn’t pretend not to be smart just to impress a boy. I didn’t sneak makeup in my book bag and put it on at school. And I never pilfered romance novels from my mother’s nightstand.

The first one no doubt had to do with being a middle child and always trying to prove myself to my older siblings. There was no way I was ever going to look dumb in front of them. And the second two things on the list were definitely influenced by Mom herself. My mom’s really pretty and I don’t remember her wearing makeup. So the whole thing was a non-issue in my house. There was no one saying I could or I couldn’t, so why rebel? The whole makeup thing seemed like a huge hassle in my opinion. And then there are the books. My mom was a reader. She took 4 and 5 books out of our little library every week and carried them home. She was pleased as punch when we picked one up and thumbed through it. I can’t say for sure when my love of reading began, but by the time I hit middle school I was reading adult books … including romances.
 
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supportI’ve been thinking a lot about my support systems of late. Both personal and writing. Mostly because Mr. Nina is spending his weeks 2 hours north of me and I’m alone so much of the time. All I can say is … thank goodness for the Internet!!

I was once asked what the most difficult part of my writing journey has been and by far it had to be the period time when I was alone before I found other writers to share my celebrations and disappointments. My family has been a steadfast cornerstone of my career, believing in me even when I stumbled. I love them for that, but they don’t really understand the kick-in-the-gut feeling of getting a rejection, tumbling sales or the inability to find your writing mojo. Only another writer totally comprehends how difficult this stay-at-home-I’m-having-an-amazing-time-making-things-up-and-killing-bad-guys writing career can be.
 
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With the changing face of publishing it seems books are going through fewer and fewer edits these days. Print publishing houses are cutting back on staff to save costs from submission to publication. Some digital publishing houses are pushing books through to keep up with the high demand of their readers. And authors are now going the self-publishing route and may not have the financial resources to send a book through several sets of edits.

So what does this mean for a reader? That more and more books are making it to publication with errors. No one is immune. From the USA Bestseller to the self-pubbed author, more and more books we pick up have at least one error. And let me just tell you from an author’s perspective … it’s not at all because we don’t care. Unfortunately, even several pairs of eyes on the same manuscript can miss an error.
 
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circuitsI’ve been at this crazy business of writing for awhile now. As you know by now, it didn’t start out as a hobby for me… I jumped in with both feet. Put all my pens in one container and started.

Easy… nope.

Worth it… oh yeah!

Often the first question asked of a writer… “Where do the stories come from?”

For a long time I couldn’t answer that question. Mostly because I felt silly telling people that I simply wrote romances I’d like to read. It wasn’t the book of my dreams or a story that had been nagging me to be told. It just was…
 
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One of the things I love about self-publishing is the freedom to design my own book covers. Making the decision of how to present my books to the public is HUGE! Though my publishers have been good, there have been several of my covers over the years that have disappointed me. Those are the covers where I felt the publisher wasn’t considering the marketing of my book when they sent me the final draft. And unfortunately, after the initial paperwork, there is no changing a cover once the design department has finished with it. 🙁

So now, I’d like to share with you how I go about creating a book cover … or more accurately … how I share my vision with my cover artist.
 
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Shame on you … get your mind out of the gutter. I’m actually talking about something lots of authors wonder. Does the size of the STORY matter? (Didn’t see that coming from a romance author now did you?)

I’ve written all lengths of stories. From a short novella to a several full length novels and many in between. Now, if you’re looking for my opinion on the matter (which of course I’m going to offer since this is my blog) I think size makes a huge difference in a story.

But here’s ny caveat–but it depends on the genre.

I really enjoy reading erotic romance. But when push comes to shove or pull comes to … yeah, I won’t go there … anyway, I read for the other parts of the story. Like the paranormal or suspense thread. Yes, of course I want the heroine to save the hero and for them to fall into bed and hopelessly in love, but sometimes, if an erotic story goes on too long … I skip the nookie. LOL! Should I be admitting that? It’s not that I don’t dog-ear the pages for perusal later, it’s just that I’m really enthralled with how these two are going to get out of trouble or bring down the villain or make it to their happy-ever-after. So when it comes to erotic romance I prefer the short and sweaty … er, sweet. 😉
 
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Life has been a little hectic as of late. But Mr. Nina and I are trying to settle into what we affectionately call “our new normal”. Which means my muse is a little off-kilter and not ready to jump into anything new. The best I can do for her at the moment is update a book which I’ve just received the rights back and now we’re spit-polishing it for re-release. Hopefully, before the end of the year, I’ll be re-releasing my SHIFTING BONDS series (including a new book)!

In the meantime, I thought I’d share how I came about finding the names of my main characters in this sexy erotic suspense novel.

Being the visual person that I am, I can’t even get one sentence down without knowing exactly who my characters are. And it’s not so much who they are and where they came from, as a pantser that stuff just sort of unravels itself while I write. Nope, I’m talking about their names.
 
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As a writer all I have is my words. Words to bring the reader into the setting. Words to convey danger or passion. Words to make the reader fall in love with the characters even as they fall in love with each other. It’s not like a movie where a well orchestrated soundtrack strokes the viewer’s emotions, carrying them … biting their nails into the epic battle … or sighing with satisfaction into the first kiss.

Each word and phrase should create a visceral reaction in the reader. A reader whose emotions are involved in your story is a reader who continues to turn the page. No needy pet, ringing phone or burning dinner will pull a readers who’s emersed in your story from finishing the chapter. Hell, if you’ve done it really well … finishing the book. (Oh, come on, it’s happened to all of us. Raise your hand if you stayed up all night just to finish a book … yeah, I see you out there.)

As authors we have all kinds of tools in our writing kits to create our story and bring our characters to life. Dialogue, both spoken and internal is an immediate way to portray a character. The words they choose and how they’re spoken take a two dimensional character and give them depth. Are the words strong and bold or nervous and tentative? Are they quick to respond or thoughtful and use few words? We must think about all of that. A CIA agent might see the sun setting and think only of the convenience of night’s arrival and how that will help them hide their actions. An artist type would take time to notice the colors, how they mix with the clouds and take a moment to enjoy the scene.

What the characters are saying and what they’re thinking is important. But you can add another layer by including how your characters act and what their body language communicates. Especially if what they’re saying isn’t really how they’re feeling. Let’s look at some body parts and actions and the emotions it conveys.


HEAD
Lifted and tilted back = arrogance
Ducking head = submission
Head in hand = boredom

MOUTH
A smile quirked to the left = lying
Tight-lipped smile = keeping a secret
Licking lips = nervousness or attraction
Biting lip = shyness, insecurity
Trembling lip = sadness

EYES
Long, hard stare = anger
Furrowed brows = confusion
Slow blinks = hiding, avoiding scrutiny
Rubbing finger over eyelids = working to deceive
Wide eyes = surprise

ARMS AND HANDS
Clenched fist = anger
White knuckles = strong negative emotion (nerves, anger)
Steepled fingers = confidence

LEGS AND FEET
Dragging toes = reluctant
Tightly crossed legs = in a woman it’s protection
Crossed ankles = won’t compromise in an argument
Shifting weight from foot to foot = lying

Everything your characters do, every thought you share with the readers creates memorable characters. From the dating dance to the first kiss to the ultimate night of passion we offer our readers cues to the emotions of our characters. Skip the body details and you miss the opportunity to make your characters jump off the page and into the hearts of your readers.

So are there any body language moves I’ve missed that you really enjoy in a story? Any that are overused? And tell me some of your most memorable characters and why you just can’t get them out of your head and heart.

Whew, life has been throwing me some interesting curve balls as of late and truthfully … I haven’t handled them well.

Just about 2 1/2 years ago Mr. Nina was downsized from a job he’d had for over 20 years. Despite the blow to his ego, the change had been one that needed to happen. I was ECSTATIC to finally move out of the wilds of northern Maine. We finally sold our house in the spring of 2010 and I put all of our worldly possessions in storage and joined Mr. Nina in Rhode Island in a two-bedroom furnished apartment. I was soooo happy! We were finally only 2.5 hours from southern Maine where our families live! Life was an adventure! By late fall 5 offers on houses had fallen through FIVE! Even our realtor couldn’t figure out what was going on. In this house market you’d think we could have a couple of those for a steal. Hmmm …

Anyway, we rolled into the holidays blissfully unaware our life was going to take another turn. Right after the first of the year, Mr. Nina lost his job. (Which made me grateful someone was looking out for us and we hadn’t bought a house.) A week of unemployment turned into a month of unemployment turned into a winter then spring then a summer of unemployment turned into 10 months of unemployment. It was rough going to say the least, but we managed.

Then in October Mr. Nina landed a job in Vermont and off we went back into the wild woods. Not quite off the beaten path, bet definitely not the quick-paced life of Rhode Island I’d come to enjoy. (Hey, 20 years in the middle of nowhere of northern Maine had left me with a lot of civilization to catch up on!)

I’m sitting now in a rented home with all of my things out of storage, but still in boxes as we’re in the process of building a handicapped accessible home a couple of towns over from where we are living. All of this is great, but it’s left me in a little bit of a tailspin without the ability to plant my feet on solid ground.

Hence the lack of blogging. Lack of keeping up with social media. Lack of writing.

But there seems to be light shining from somewhere. I’m hoping within the next couple of months as we get settled in our new home in our new state, that life will once again find a comfortable rhythm and words will begin to flow. I can already feel them swelling and story ideas coalescing with the warming temperatures of a January thaw.

So keep an eye out for me. I might have been down for the count, but I was never out. Thanks so much for sticking with me and continuing to read my books in 2012. I’m looking for bigger and better things in 2013!

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