Monday, April 29, 2013

New Exercises for a Sagging Middle

Every time I sit down to start a new book, the same thing happens. I start off with an intense and burning desire to tell my new story. Then, at about page 40 or 50, I promptly crash and burn. When I look back, I see that in the first chapters I've established my protagonist, antagonist, setting and plot. All of my basic elements are there, but now I have to DO SOMETHING with all of it. This is what is termed the sagging middle. Ironically, this has happened to me with every book I've written. And while past experience should teach me that with a little faith and patience, this too shall pass, I still always panic...or find interesting ways to procrastinate. This time around, as I work on my new middle grade, I've chosen to tackle my sagging middle by joining a gym and taking Pilates. Fitting, don't you think? But while one sagging middle is being attended to, it's my unsightly plot that is suffering.

Recently, my Triangle-Twin, Kimberly Ann Miller, came to speak to my creative writing class. She gushed over Karen Wiesner's book, First Draft in 30 Days. I must admit that my first inclination is to poo-poo a DIY model for novel writing. I am after all an arteeest :) and I shouldn't have to resort to such measures, right? Also, I tend to resist outlining a book before I begin. I know this works for many writers, Kim being one of them, but it hasn't worked for me. The one time I did go this route, I was very proud of my outline but had no desire to write the book. Why should I write it? I already knew what was going to happen!

But I've decided to give Karen Weisner's book a whirl. It's full of exercises that I'm hoping will stimulate my imagination. I'll let you know how it goes.

How about you? How do you deal with sagging middles? Or are you one of those people who were just born with a six-pack plot :)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Audio Books

I keep noticing on Facebook all of my friends who like the Audible page. This got me thinking about trying them, but I am very wary of doing so. You see, I have a box of audio books sitting in my shed that my mom gave me, a decent size box of good books too. Thing is, I have not listened to a single one, and she gave them to me years ago. And I just cannot seem to get myself to join Audible or check out audio books from the library.

So what gives?

First, I have a preschooler who is constantly asking for my attention. It is very difficult for me to put headphones on and listen to a book while watching him at the same time.

Second, when we are in the car said preschooler usually wants to watch his movies or listen to music. He refuses to have anything to do with listening to what he deems boring. I have tried to listen to my German lessons in the car and it ends with me turning it off because he is too busy complaining about it or asking questions. I cannot pay attention.

Third, I think I am ADD when it comes to sitting and listening to anything. I have a hard enough time with my German audio lessons at least they are interactive and I have to repeat everything. I find I drift off and lose track of what is being said on those occasionally. Imagine me trying to listen to an audio book where my active involvement is not a requirement. If I am actively reading a book I do not drift off, listening is a whole different issue.

All of this made me wonder. Does anyone else have this issue or am I alone? If you listen to audio books, which do you prefer more, reading or listening?

Monday, April 22, 2013

The secret life of unfinished manuscripts

As a writer, we’re partial to certain words. ‘The End’ is a phrase I like. ‘First draft’ sounds good.  ‘Revision’ is another one. Then, there are those words I hit the ‘delete’ key on. ‘Writers’ block’ anyone? Or ‘stuck in the sagging middle?’ For some reason, I’ve never liked the word ‘unfinished.’ ‘Unfinished business’ sounds scary. ‘Unfinished laundry’ sounds tedious. ‘Unfinished manuscripts’ sounds the worst. It sounds lazy. It sounds as if you’ve given up.
So I am still working on my WIP that I began a few years ago not allowing it become ‘unfinished.’ I may go away from it for months but if I ever think of moving on to another project I reprimand myself. No, I must finish this one! I must revise it until I’m happy with it. I cannot let it languish unfinished in a proverbial drawer in my desk.

Lately, I’ve been even more tempted to put it away. The characters are consistent, the plot structure is working but the whole thing is not coming together. The story isn’t working.
On the other hand, I’ve been talking to writer friends who are pulling out their unfinished manuscripts from years before and re-working them. They have had no trouble calling their incomplete manuscripts unfinished. An unfinished manuscript can stand for many things. It means you’ve learned how to write a 60,000 word story, you’ve learned how to revise it, and you’ve learned that it isn’t working. You’ve learned that the story needs to age until precisely the right time to be converted into the final draft. You’ve learned to move forward to the next story.

After days of moping and not getting any writing done I know what I need to do. It feels right. Putting away my manuscript, making the decision to not finish it, to set it aside, feels right. I tell myself that I have learned quite a bit from my current WIP. It has helped me become a better writer. It has helped me to realize that it’s a story not ready for publication.  I can move to a new writing project to which I can apply my improved writing skills. My unfinished manuscript no longer scares me. Rather, it gives me a good nudge to continue writing and trying harder.
Do you have an unfinished manuscript in a desk drawer? How do you feel about it?   

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Contest Winner!!!




Monday, April 15, 2013

The Grave Winner by Lindsey R. Loucks

Leigh Baxton is terrified her mom will come back from the dead -- just like the prom queen did.
While the town goes beehive over the news, Leigh bikes to the local cemetery and buries some of her mom’s things in her grave to keep her there. When the hot and mysterious caretaker warns her not to give gifts to the dead, Leigh cranks up her punk music and keeps digging.
She should have listened.
Two dead sorceresses evicted the prom queen from her grave to bury someone who offered certain gifts. Bury them alive, that is, then resurrect them to create a trio of undead powerful enough to free the darkest sorceress ever from her prison inside the earth.
With help from the caretaker and the dead prom queen, Leigh must find out what’s so special about the gifts she gave, and why the sorceresses are stalking her and her little sister. If she doesn’t, she’ll either lose another loved one or have to give the ultimate gift to the dead – herself.

Lindsey R. Loucks works as a school librarian in rural Kansas. When she's not discussing books with anyone who will listen, she's dreaming up her own stories. Eventually her brain gives out, and she'll play hide and seek with her cat, put herself in a chocolate induced coma, or watch scary movies alone in the dark to reenergize.
She's been with her significant other for almost two decades.

Add The Grave Winner to Goodreads.
Check out Lindsey’s website.
Follow Lindsey on Facebook.
Follow Lindsey on Twitter.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Love Your Antagonist

That's right, I said it - Love your antagonist!


In order to write the truth within the world we have created, as writers we must understand each and every one of our characters, and love them. We need to know what makes them tick and why they do the things they do. Not only will understanding all of your characters help you to love them, but it will also add a new depth to your story. And this includes those nasty villains.

Think of your favorite book. Now think of the antagonist. Was the antagonist entirely evil for no reason. Chances are he or she had a past that hurt them, creating this new direction in life that made him or her the antagonist of this story. The author probably understood this concept of loving and understanding all of the characters they wrote, adding that extra depth.

Think of it this way. No doubt you've been hurt at some point by someone else. I'm going to bet that the person who hurt you was not out to hurt you, or evil. On the same note, you have probably hurt someone else at another time, and you're not evil. Everyone has reasons for their actions. Most of all, no one thinks of themselves as bad or evil or wrong, or the antagonist of any story.

Therefore, we need to truly understand our characters. And in understanding them we learn to love them. We need to get inside them and figure out what it is that makes our antagonist the "bad guy." Give them pasts, weaknesses, and pains they must bear. Possibly it is through this pain that he or she has become that person who is antagonizing the heck out of your wonderful protagonist's journey.

Put yourself in the shoes of your antagonist and ask yourself these simple questions. If I were this antagonist what would I do? Why?

As Robert McKee says in his book, Story:
"If you can't love them, don't write them."

Monday, April 8, 2013


Everyone needs to be bad once in a while. But for seventeen-year-old Milayna, being good isn't a choice--it's a job requirement. And it's a job she can't quit. Born a demi-angel, Milayna steps in when danger and demons threaten the people around her, but being half-angel isn't all halos and happiness. Azazel, Hell's Angel, wants Milayna's power, and he'll do anything to get it. But he only has until her eighteenth birthday, after which she becomes untouchable.
With the help of other demi-angels, Milayna thwarts the trouble Azazel sends her way. Fighting with her is Chay, a demi-angel who's sinfully gorgeous, and Milayna falls hard. But is Chay her true love... or her nemesis in disguise?

Because when she learns of a traitor in her group, there's no one she can trust... not even the one she loves.

Title: Milayna
Author: Michelle Pickett
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
ISBN:  978-1-937053-83-3
Release Date: March 11, 2014
Formats: Paper, e-book

If you'd like to request an ARC, please use the reviewer form on the SHP website.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Two Month Countdown to the Release of Triangles!

TRIANGLES will be released in about two months! As the countdown continues, I'm introducing the six major characters, one each month, until the release on June 18! I'm also including a contest with each character. The details follow the introduction. Today, Nisha Singh, the best friend of the main character, Autumn, is up!

Hi, I'm Nisha Singh, Autumn's best friend. We work together at the auto store as cashiers and spend our days making fun of customers and sharing pizza for lunch at Tony's. I try my hardest to get Autumn to lighten up and enjoy life, but she punishes herself for what happened to her parents. If she doesn't let go of that guilt, she'll never get out of her crabby mood.

I think she should go out with Joey, the mechanic at our shop who's practically in love with her. He's a nice guy, and he's cute, and she could benefit from someone treating her well. But she's hell bent on leaving Jersey and everyone else behind, including me.

I'm not going to let that happen.

TODAY’S Giveaway:

1. Comment on this blog post about anything that strikes you today!

2. Please tweet about this contest using the hashtag #MysteriousBermudaTriangle. The link to that tweet may be included in your comment. If you don't have Twitter, you can do a status update on Facebook. Include that link. Doing both would be even better!

3. If you’d like, add Triangles to your Goodreads to-read list here:
Like the Triangles page on Facebook here:
That's it!

Now for the prize:

Your choice of a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card!

Giveaway details:
Contest starts April 4, 2013, and ends April 17, 2013, 11:59pm EST. Winner will be announced April 18 on this blog.
Contest is for US readers only.
Each month, I will introduce another major character and have other prizes!
You must be 18 years old to enter.
Winner will be chosen using
For a complete list of rules, see our contest/giveaway policy page.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Can You Believe? Resurrecting Harry.

A big welcome to our guest blogger Constance Phillips. Constance is the author of Resurrecting Harry. Here's what she says about creating a believable world for readers.
One of the key elements of writing paranormal and fantasy books is creating a world in which your reader can believe. Of course, with these brave new worlds, the possibilities are endless. Often the worlds we create look nothing like this one we live in.
None of that matters if the reader understands the universe we create and trusts that it can exist according to the rules we’ve outlined.
 The world I’ve created in Resurrecting Harry is one where Harry Houdini escapes the confines of death to return to this world and help his beloved Bess come to terms with her mourning. He is charged with saving her from a path of self-destruction.
Seems like a pretty unbelievable premise, even if you accept that a new life exists after we pass from this one. But the process – and one I hoped I’ve done well – is to create a set of circumstances that allowed my reader to believe.
That kind of unyielding faith is it the cornerstone of what made Houdini so successful. In his act, it was essential that he get his audience to believe he could transcend time and space or move unmovable objects to escape his confines, even though it was only an illusion.
Faith, love and belief in a spouse are the emotions that would keep a widow in mourning longer than normal. The desire to keep an illusion alive could keep a heart lost in grief and unable to move forward. Teaching that woman to believe in humanity, and the healing power of love, is quite a task.
And that is the heart of Resurrecting Harry, learning to believe.
A Blurb from Resurrecting Harry:
Can the greatest escape artist ever known break the grim reaper’s chains to save the only woman he’s ever loved?
In order to save Bess from self-destruction, Harry Houdini puts his afterlife on the line by entering a wager with purgatory’s keeper. He gives Harry a younger face and body, and a new name: Erich Welch.
Bess clings to his promise to deliver a coded message from beyond the grave, determined to provide the bridge for him to cross, even if that means befriending her husband's sworn enemy.
Erich needs to help Bess over her loss and put her on the road to healing, but will any good come from resurrecting Harry? 
Constance Phillips lives in Ohio with her husband, two ready-to-leave-the-nest children, and four canine kids. Her perfect fantasy vacation would involve hunting Dracula across Europe with her daughter, who also digs that kind of stuff. When she's not writing about fairies, shifters, vamps, and guardian angels, she's working side-by-side with her husband in their hardwood flooring business.
Constance is actively involved in her local Romance Writers of America chapter (MVRWA) and the Southeast Michigan chapter of the United States Pony Club. When not writing or enjoying the outdoors, she loves reality television or can be found at a Rick Springfield concert (just look for the pink Converse high tops).