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Is it okay to reblog one of your favorite old blog posts? Something you know no one has read before? I’m going to give it a shot today because my neck is bothering me and I need a typing break.
What I love about this post is I wrote it while I was working on The Six Train to Wisconsin. It’s kinda neat to look back and remember the process of creating the characters for the book I’m now shopping to agents.
Here’s the original post on Character Birthing from 2010.
I’m not one to lose it in the moment. The more serious the problem the more composed I seem.
I’ll navigate through the hurricane…and collapse a week later.
The worst thing I’ve ever heard someone at the wheel say to me: I feel like I’m going to pass out.
My mind races with possibilities. A car slamming into us from behind. Her passing out and the car swerving into traffic. What to do. What to do.
I calmly tell her to pull to the side. She signals and brakes. I reach over and cock the wheel into a nearby driveway.
I get her to ease up on the brake. The car inches into the driveway.
I tell her to brake. Then I put the car in park and turn it off.
We sit there. I stay calm. Eerily calm. Because that is what I do.
I repress in the moment and deal when there is time to do so.
I wait until her dizziness eases and then we switch seats.
I take over the driving.
We have lunch.
I come home.
But I can’t get the emotions to surface again. I guess I buried them too deep.
And a week later, my neck is spasming and I’m having nerve pain in my hand.
I’ll panic later has its consequences.
There are certain foods that are forever linked with my best friend’s beach house: oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter kiss cookies, pasta, and Tostitos with a Hint of Lime.
So many summers were spent snacking on those delicious foods. For me, Tostitos with a Hint of Lime are the ultimate beach memory.
They are salty, sweet, tangy, bitter all at once. A carnival for my taste buds.
I bought a bag and risked ruining the memories by eating them inland.
And it happened. They weren’t unputdownable. They tasted okay but nothing like how they taste at the beach house.
So I tried to figure out what was wrong.
It couldn’t just be the magic of Ant’s beach house. Or could it?
Actually, it was a trick of the taste buds.
We always eat something sweet–like Ant’s mom’s cookies before we dive into the Tostitos with a Hint of Lime.
So I experimented by eating chocolate chips and then eating the Tostitos with a Hint of Lime Chips.
For some reason my taste buds have to have a hit of sweet first in order to appreciate the limey goodness of the Tostitos.
Still, I think I might keep them for beach time. It’s such a perfect beach food. And I don’t want to be gorging on them when inland since I spend most of my time inland.
The last MWA Symposium panel I’d like to talk about was Agatha’s Heirs, Smart Women, Smart Fiction. The panel was moderated by S.J. Rozan. Panelists included Sandra Brown, Meg Gardiner, and Dandi Daly Mackall, and Sara Henry.
Sandra Brown has published 70 novels. 61 of which were NYT Bestsellers since 1981.
Meg Gardiner is also a Bestselling author and won an Edgar in 2009.
Dandi Daley Mackall is an award winning author with 450 books published.
Sara Henry was a columnist and soil scientist. She is also an award winning author.
Sandra stated her career in writing after she was fired from her job. She didn’t want to join junior league and be the consummate wife and mother. She wanted something of her own. She started writing romances because they were hot at the time.
Dandi taught part time at college and wrote magazine articles. When her first husband left her, she made writing into a paying gig and wrote for Hanna-Barbera.
Meg always wanted to write. Her dad told her she could write but she’d also have to wait tables. So she went to law school so she’d have income while she was writing.
Sara spent ten years working on a novel and stuck it in a drawer.
Being Agatha’s Heirs
Meg mentioned that you stand on the shoulders of those who come before you.
Sandra said that everything she read is still up there. She also stressed the importance of living up to herself. She has to be the first one she entertains.
Sara said she didn’t feel like an heir to anyone.
Dandi reminisced about how she read Agatha at a young age and felt it was almost like a YA.
Sex Scenes in Books
Meg mentioned that there shouldn’t be sex scenes if they are just a snack for the reader.
Sandra talked about how love and sex are the most compelling motivators, especially in romantic suspense.
What the upshot of sex scenes in books?
Sandra talked about how sex reveals a lot about a person.
S.J. joined in by reminding that there is a whole dimension of human interaction in a sex scene but it needs to propel story in a whole other way.
Sandra had a terrific perspective on whether she wished she started earlier. She explained that she would not do it differently because she would not be the person she is now if wrote then. She did regret writing under pseudonyms.
Sara regretted not writing down a story concept that came to her on a long car drive as it came to her.
Advice for New Authors
Sandra stressed the need to write a good book. She mentioned that there is so much social media and called the Internet “a giant blue whale”–the more you feed it, the more hungry it is. There are so many intrusions on your writing, make sure they come in second and third place.
Sara talked about the year before her book came out as the time to build up an audience with Facebook and other social media. The Internet gives you possibilities for an unknown book to find publicity. She also mentioned writing on laptop without Internet.
Meg mentioned the need for uninterrupted time to write. 1.5-2 hours where she can’t think about her blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
S.J. has no wi-fi in her house. She had made getting online a conscious decision and a chore.
Dandi cited the need to write cause you love it. If you lost that joy, something is wrong.
“Everyone in here has books in them that no one else has in them. Only you can write your book.”
I want to thank every one of my amazing blog followers for supporting me throughout the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. It was a terrific experience and I’m delighted to have been a semifinalist.
That being said, the contest is still going on…for the top three finalists in YA and in adult fiction.
And now is the really cool part, where you get to vote for the winner for YA and adult fiction. The two writers who gets a contract with Penguin.
I’ve read through the excerpts and there is a crop of wickedly talented writers for each category. I don’t feel bad about losing out to them. I’ve place my votes and have my favorites I’m rooting for.
If you have time, stop by and vote for your pick of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest Finalists . It’s pretty amazing to know your vote could change someone’s life by helping them reach the holy grail–a publishing contract.
I’ve gotten some amazing blog awards that I’ve been hording for an awards post.
It’s really wonderful to have fellow bloggers recognize my writing. But I’m going to tweak all the rules for these awards so this post isn’t insanely long. Thanks to every wonderful blogger who thought of me and nominated this blog for these awesome awards.
If I nominate you for a blog award, there is zero requirement that you pass these awards on. You can bask in them. You can nominate others. It’s just my way of saying your posts are appreciated and that what you write matters.
Reader Appreciation Award and Genuine Blogger Award
Big thanks to the fabulous Carrie Rubin for nominating me for the Reader Appreciation Award and Genuine Blogger Award. And to the intriguing Bluesander for the Reader Appreciation Award. I happily accept them.
Part of this award is to tell you what I’ve been up to…er, I pretty much do that on this blog. So here’s 3 highlights from today:
- Learned that I am incredibly calm when a car accident is imminently possible because the driver is about to pass out.
- Appreciated that I am incredibly aware of my emotions as they are roiling inside me so that I walk away before the anger steals over my voice box and says something I’ll regret.
- Enjoyed having my dog sleep in my lap while I write. It’s like having a security blanket in my lap.
And my lovely nominees are:
Very Inspiring Blogger and Inspiring Blogger Award
The Inspiring Blog Award and Very Inspiring Blogger Award each require that I list 7 things about me and nominate 7 to 15 blogs for the award. I’m going to do 7 total instead.
Seven things about me:
1. My favorite bird is a peacock.
2. My favorite insect is a dragon fly and they tend to visit me whenever I’m outside.
3. I like crossing genre lines in my books. It’s not a conscious decision, it’s just where my stories go.
4. I love swimming in the ocean almost as much as walking the sandbars at low tide.
5. I drink a cup of warm milk with a dash of coffee to get the morning started.
6. I bought my Iphone for the thrill of Siri.
7. I am excellent in a crisis but terrible with a hiccup.
My nominees are:
Beautiful Blogger Award
Thanks again to rockstar blogger Carrie Rubin for the Beautiful Blogger Award. The rules are simple here. Just pass along as you like to beautiful bloggers. So I nominate:
Sunshine Award and Versatile Blogger Award
I would like to nominate:
Thanks to the wonderful Nizzamhappieboyz for the Hug Award. I pass this award on to:
Thanks to the always interesting Cecile Writers for the TMI Award. You can find the rules on their blog. I love how much these bloggers share about their life experiences, including embarrassing moments. I’m going to tweak it to 3 nominees and a really brief TMI moment of my own.
The nominees are:
I got an ear infection that derailed my hearing. I’d think I was yelling when I was whispering. Unfortunately, I’d also think I was whispering when I was in fact yelling.
I was in the hall with my coworker and we noticed a very very heavyset woman walking way ahead of us. She had chosen to wear a leopard print sweater stretched across her ample behind.
I whispered, “Leopard? Doesn’t that just draw attention to her butt?”
My coworker cringed as the woman whipped around and gave me a dirty look.
I asked, “How did she hear me from that far away?”
My coworker said, “Uh Kourt, you were talking loud.”
Darn ear infection.
Another amazing panel at the MWA Symposium during Edgars Week was moderated by Reed Farrel Coleman and discussed what makes characters memorable. The panelists included: Megan Abbott, Diana Gabaldon, Sara J. Henry, Kelly Ragland, and David Hale Smith.
Diana Gabaldon talked about characters as: onions, mushrooms, and hard nuts. With onions she got the inner self right away, but the character became more layered over time. With mushrooms, they pop up and walk away with scene they are in. Hard nuts are the ones you are stuck with because they are a real historical person or the plot requires them. These are the characters you just live with.
Megan Abbott mentioned how F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife Zelda drew sketches of Gatsby because the the editor told Fitzgerald he didn’t see the character. The sketches are credited with helping Fitzgerald nail down Gatsby.
It isn’t important for the reader to know the character’s worst fear. BUT the writer must know it.
There are many ways to flesh out a character, the important thing is to figure out what works for you. For some it’s knowing their birthday. For others it’s having a sketch. Do whatever it takes to make a 3-D character for you and the reader.
Readers want to follow people who are human beings. Make sure it’s not the character’s first day, but his first day with you.
Characters have to feel real and be interesting.
Secrets are important to characters. Diana mentioned that her characters’ secrets are revealed to her over time. They are something she discovers not something she makes up.
Reed spoke of touchstones–not a secret but knowing that the characters have secrets. Things that make you nervous to think about.
Kelly Ragland said that there is no checkilist for what a character has/is/needs. Humans with foibles and secrets. She went on to talk about how plot is fixable, but characters are not. Plot is the mechanics to show the character.
Plot was defined as what characters do because of who they are and what they want.
Diana confessed that she does not outline. She stressed that writers all write differently. “Anything that lets you get words on the page is good.”
Megan put it this way: Characters animate the book. Plot moves it.
Being eccentric does not equate with being unique. A unique character is a person. Try to avoid gimmicks.
On final thought I appreciated: Kelly said that good writers usually have a sense of what is and isn’t working. She reminded us to “listen to that little voice.”
To make the best of my four days of tech hell migrating laptops, I read Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard.
Ms. Shepard is going to be speaking at the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA so it was prime time to read something she wrote.
The books made me think Gossip Girl meets The Babysitters Club.
I loved having the four POVs of each of the best friends who became strangers after the mysterious disappearance of their fifth best friend in middle school. The story unfold three years later.
The pacing is fantastic. A definite page turner. By spending a chapter with each of the four girls, the reader gets to watch everything unfolding in their lives.
There are a few mysteries in the story. Firstly, all four remaining friends are receiving notes and texts about their biggest secrets from the past and their current secrets. Things only their missing friend would know and things no one should know now. Then there is the mystery of something they did together back in 6th grade and refer to as The Jenna Thing from 6th grade.
And finally, the mystery of what happened to their fifth friend, Alison.
There’s a good amount of flirtation and sexual situations too. I found myself rooting for Spencer and Wren.
“Never trust a pretty girl with an ugly secret” is a fantastic hook.
It was a fun read and a fast read. Definitely worth checking out. I can see why it made the NYT Bestseller list.
Every run of good luck comes to an end.
Today, I must confide a sad fact. My phone did not ring on May 14th. My email did not get a note from Amazon. I did not advance to the finals (Top 3) in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest.
I still get to retain my title of semifinalist (Top 50). I still get to keep 3rd prize and 2nd prize. I got to place in the contest. That’s pretty awesome. I’ve been able to add it to my bio paragraph in my query letter. I have more writing credentials. Logically, I am thrilled that I made it one round, let alone 3 rounds in this contest.
But when the phone didn’t ring, sadness settled over me. My mind knew it wasn’t the end of the world. There was still laundry to be done. Queries to be sent out. And that gosh darn sun would rise the next day like nothing happened.
Inside, it just felt like the end of my world right now. At 34, I felt the searing sadness of a teenager. Like everything was collapsing inward.
It was the death of a hope. After making it three rounds, I thought I had a shot at the finals. Granted only 20% advanced each round. And as a semifinalist, I only had a 6% chance of making it to the finals. So mathematically, my hope should have dwindled.
I had this really intense dream a week and a half ago too. I saw on a computer screen that I did not make the finals. And I woke up so downtrodden and certain that I hadn’t made them. I tried to shake the feeling and say it was only a dream, but it felt too real. Maybe it was intuition or my mind preparing me for the probable loss.
I am so grateful to have been in the contest and really appreciate the Amazon and PW reviews. For a free contest, I gained so many fantastic prizes.
But this week, I’m going to let myself feel the loss. Appreciate the previous wins. And know there’s another route to publication for me.