I have always known I am a writer. Always.  Here’s an example:

In third grade, I was supposed to write a book report. I hadn’t read any books worth doing a report on, so I wrote a book report on a book I would have like to have read. I made it up. All of it. All I remember about it was there was something about fairies and ponies in it. The teacher never checked on the title, the author, or anything else. I got an A+ on the paper, too.

How cool is that?

But the night before the last day of school, my conscience starting tweaking me. Badly. After my dad left for work that morning, I crawled in bed with my mom to tell her the awful, dishonest thing I had done. She told me I needed to tell the teacher. On the last day of school. Oh boy.

Except when I got up for school a little while later, I noticed my stomach was covered in red spots. Sure enough, I had the “three-day measles.” I couldn’t go to school and confess my transgression.

I have come to terms with what I did. You know why? I write fiction.

Welcome to a new season of Work In Progress Wednesday. Today’s guest is my good friend Alee Drake. Welcome ALee!  January is National Hobby Month—what’s your hobby? How did you start?

AD: My hobby is writing and reading. I started to love reading in first grade when my teacher read Charlotte’s Web to the class…I was the only one who cried when Charlotte died. I wanted to be able to tell a story that would make readers either laugh or cry.

MJ: January is also National Soup Month—what’s your favorite soup? Do you make it yourself?

AD: My favorite soup is split pea with ham but my mother always called it ham soup, because I didn’t like peas when I was young. Yes, I make my own after a ham dinner, and a dinner of scalloped potatoes and ham….

MJ: If you didn’t write, what would be your creative outlet?

AD: Gardening is my spring/summer outlet. I would probably make primitive things, or jewelry, or be a photographer… (too many things to do, so little time).

MJ: Other than writing, what would be your dream job? Why?

AD: My dream job would be teaching children to become creative writers…OH, I did that already (I am a retired elementary library teacher). I guess it would be to have a cozy writer’s retreat/ bed and breakfast. (I currently host writers retreats at my home.) I am living my dream.

MJ: Describe your ideal/dream writing space.

AD: My office is my dream writing space. I have windows overlooking acres of fields and trees, with birds and deer . I write at an antique half-circle desk. 

MJ: What do you love most about your WIP hero?

AD: He is wealthy and handsome and is totally down-to-earth.  

MJ: What do you least like about your WIP heroine?

AD: She doesn’t have confidence in herself. 

MJ: What genre is your current WIP?

AD: Sweet romance.

MJ: How did you come up with your hero and heroine’s names?

AD: I like names that are unusual and reflect the character’s personality.  My Hero is Zayne and the heroine is Keely. My other characters are named after friends and family. 

MJ: How did you choose the setting for your current WIP?

AD: So far my books take place in upstate NY.  I have one book that starts out in a freezing wintery upstate NY setting and ends in Hawaii.

MJ: Are you willing to share the first five to ten sentences of your current work in progress?

AD: Yes. This is from His Birthday Suit.

      “Mother, I don’t dress up.  I wear jeans. You know that.  Now drop it.” Zayn Roberts stood beside the wet bar in his parents newly renovated parlor and tipped his head back to swallow the last dregs of Jack Daniels. He was tempted to pour himself another glass but refrained knowing it would be harder to stop after two and he had to drive home. Soon. 
            “Dear, don’t be so obstinate. You know that you have to be presentable at the party.”
            “Seriously, Mother. I know everyone who will attend, and they know I only wear jeans.”
            “Yes. And won’t it be lovely to surprise them by wearing a tailored suit.”
            He crossed the room and gently touched his mother’s shoulder.“Mother, what have you got up your lovely silk sleeve? I sense something deviant…something that definitely will not please me.”
MJ: I understand you had a book released earlier this month.
AD: Yes, Men In Ts by Alee Drake is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and The Wild Rose Press website.
MJ: And how can readers stay current with you?
AD: My blog, my Facebook page, and my Amazon author page.
MJ: Thanks again for joining me today!

Every January, I re-read The Cabin, by Carla Neggers.

This book is the second in a series involving Boston, Texas Rangers, and murder. I’m particularly fond of The Cabin because a good portions takes place the Adirondack Mountains of New York State. In the winter. In addition to featuring a couple of (sexy) Texas Rangers, there’s a Texas Ranger wannabe, a wife who’s not sure she still wants to be married to the man she loves, and a solid suspense plot.

Have I mentioned the brutal winter of northern New York is also a character? It’s one of the most dangerous characters in the book. And Neggers is very, very good at developing characters.

Available from Amazon

(note: this blog is repurposed from one posted June 2, 2013, called “Walk a Mile In My Shoes”.)

Image credit: andrejad / 123RF Stock Photo

As a writer, I’ve learned if a scene isn’t working, try changing the point of view (POV) in which it is written. That means to write the action from another character’s perspective; see what a character sees, hear what he hears, smell what she smells, do what the character would do; use the character’s motivations and background to filter what is happening on the page. It’s amazing how much situations can change.

I watched exactly one episode of the 1980’s TV show thirtysomething, but that episode has stayed with me. A single incident was shown over and over, but each time from a different character’s perspective. The various interpretations were wildly diverse. And eye-opening.

Law enforcement knows the same event may not be reported in the same way by eyewitnesses, which is why they prefer one-on-one interviews.

Seeing the Broadway hit Wicked reinforced my belief that POV is one of the most powerful tools in a writer’s toolkit. L. Frank Baum’s Wicked Witch of the West presented as a sympathetic character while Dorothy becomes the villain? Oh yeah. Completely.

I recently read Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse series. Then my husband and I started binge-watching True Blood (the TV series based on the books). The first thing I noticed was that while the books are all written from Sookie’s POV, the TV program used multiple points of view in order to include multiple story threads. It was interesting to see how an incident in the books was changed for TV and which character’s POV was chosen for that particular story arc.

The next time a scene doesn’t hang true for you, try reimagining it from another point of view. You might just find the correct angle from which to tell your story.

Category: Writing  8 Comments

When I was about 2, my parents started building the house in which I grew up and in which they still live. My parents, not a contractor, built it, with the help of an aunt and uncle. We lived in the cellar (basement) for a bit. Yes, I do remember this.

When the upstairs was nearly ready to move into, my father took me to one of the stores in the small, nearby village in which he’d spent his teen and young adult years. We went to Annie Long’s for just about everything. This day, we were picking out wallpaper, and I, all of about three years old, could pick out the wallpaper for the room my younger sister and I would share for most of the next 15 years. I found what I wanted right away.

childhood wall paperYes, this is the actual wallpaper from my childhood bedroom. My parents papered the walls, then my dad build closets, shelves, and bureaus against one wall. Although the room has been redecorated numerous times, the wall remains in the back of the closets, unfaded by sunlight, as bright as the day it was pasted onto the sheet rock.

I knew, even at age three, this was the perfect wallpaper for a child’s room. The doll in the green dress looked like my beloved Suzibelle. And there were letters, those magic symbols that marched across the pages of the storybooks my mother read to us. In later years, I would first try to find all the letters of the alphabet, in order, as I lay awake in bed. And later still, I would try to make words from those letters.

These brightly colored walls eventually gave way to lavender (which turned gray too quickly), then yellow (with zodiac bulletin boards!).  But I still get a thrill whenever I think about my dad taking me to Annie Long’s and letting me pick out what I wanted.

 

Yes, it’s true! I officially have a cover for And Jericho Burned, which is being released February 11, 2015. I love this cover!

 

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Lucy Callahan will do anything to save her sister, even if it means marrying a stranger. Even if that stranger is an undercover government agent out to destroy the cult holding her sister hostage. Even if that stranger is a . . . werewolf.

Category: Writing  28 Comments

Starting Tuesday, Jan 6, I’m going to be looking at the colorful descriptors used by wine reviewers and poking fun at some the ways they try to be original. I’m not saying the people in question don’t smell those aromas or taste those flavors when they preview a wine, but sometimes the examples they use are just plain silly.

And I’m doing it all on Twitter. You can follow me at @comptonplations.

GOALS 2015

I divide my goals into categories: writing; family; personal; and so on. This year, I added a new grouping: Promotion & Marketing. Items such as newsletters, blogs, Tweets, Facebook, Goodreads, and Tsu belong in this category. They used to be under Writing, but they multiplied too quickly. One of the things I need to do in the coming year is focus on the writing when it’s time to write, and the promotion/marketing when it’s time for those activities.

Another thing I’m trying to do this year is be specific. “Be kind to myself” is a nice sentiment, but what does it mean? So I added “Monthly date with myself.” I’m also going to set up and maintain a Happiness Jar. I meant to do this a year ago, but until I reclaimed my office, I didn’t have a place to keep the jar. It’s now all set up and ready to go.

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Speaking of my reclaimed office, once of my goals for 2015 is to maintain and refine the writing space. I actually worked on this the day after Christmas by moving books off one shelf to another where they would be more easily accessible.

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I also hung my book covers.

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And there are goals that have been successful and will stay on the list: calling my aging parents once a week; a monthly date with my husband. Because my parents are “local”, I didn’t make an effort to stay in touch, which is really self-absorbed. So for the past several years, I make a point of calling once a week. When X-Chromo was a senior in high school, I realized TV Stevie and my identities as “parents” was about to shift and we would once more be a couple instead of Y & X’s parents. So we started dating again. It’s been wonderful.

What New Years goals have been successful for you?

Do you remember the first time you ever heard of the Bogeyman?

I do. My mom had asked me to run down to the cellar and make sure the door to the hatch was locked. I didn’t want to do it. The cellar was dark, dank, spooky. The hatch was even worse. And there were spiders.

My older cousin was staying with us at the time, and she said, “What’s the matter? Do you think the Bogeyman is going to get you?” I had no idea what she was talking about, so she explained.

That made my trip to the cellar and the hatch so much more . . . memorable.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I do set goals every year. My best friends, my writing peeps (a.k.a. The Purples), and I have been doing goals together since 2005. We even gave a workshop on goal-setting to our local chapter in October of last year.

I first started seriously thinking about goals–specifically writing goals, but all goals–after attending then listening to a workshop by Barbara Samuel at the RWA National Conference in 2004. It seemed appropriate to run into her when thinking about my goals for 2015. I found this blog by her shortly before Thanksgiving.

I shared the link with the Purples. One Purple friend shared this link. And this one. Another Purple shared this. And another link showed up on our e-mail loop.

I think the recurring theme in most of these shared blogs is that we’re all feeling overwhelmed. We’re juggling too many roles. The demands on our time are increasing and any support systems seems to be vanishing. I once read a book–I thought I’d written down the quote, but I can’t seem to find it–in which the author wrote, “If one more person tells me to get up an hour earlier to do whatever they think I should do–eventually, I will never get to bed.”

We are too demanding of ourselves when we set our goals. We need to take a step back and take a deep breath.. Setting our goals needs to be rooted in reality–our reality, with our families, our homes, our day jobs, our spiritual communities, and other obligations.. We need to create realistic expectations for ourselves, and the number one goal should be, “Say No.”  Our goals need to be grounded in truth, not fantasy. One person can do only so much.