Monday, April 29, 2013

Which Cover Do You Like Best?

Keep in mind this is a sequel to Stealing Mercy, set in 1889. I love this one, but I wonder if I'll get comments about the missing corset.

In this one, Rita is properly dress, but she lacks the drama. And this is a very dramatic book. It's about an actress, after all.

My New Books

Here’s a sneak peek at my latest project. Gemma is book one of the time capsule series. I’ll do the research for Tessa, book three (I know, the banner is wrong) this summer when I visit Asia. Book two, Deidre’s Decision, which as of yet doesn’t have a cover, is a rewrite of my very first completed novel, Rosie’s Cafe. So that’s scary. Book four, Maisie’s Shell Charm, will be a rewrite of a novel I wrote about four years ago.

I’m tinkering with the idea of waiting until all four books are finished before I publish them (one at a time, a month apart.) That way, if I get a brilliant idea in book three I can go back and fix the previous books. I’m also wondering if it’s not a better marketing strategy than making readers wait for very long for the next book, although these books can all stand alone. I’m writing, thinking and wondering if I need a degree in marketing.

My newest to be released, Rescuing Rita, novella and sequel to Stealing Mercy, is currently with my editor. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Friday Writer's Forum, Narrative Hooks

Narrative Hook
Definition:       a literary device used at the very beginning of a story to engage the reader's curiosity

A story is a promise. As writers, we make a promise to our readers at the beginning of a story. How well we keep our promise depends on how well we tell the story. This promise is also called a narrative hook. Numerous hooks can be found throughout a good story, but they are most common at the end of chapters and ideally they should be found in the first sentence or two of any story.

Not unlike the topic sentences of our school day essays, the first sentence shoulders a heavy burden. It needs to make a promise and reflect the over-all tone and theme of the story.

Here are several of my favorite first sentences (no surprise that they are all my own.)
New York City’s night noises seeped through the wall chinks and window: the jingle of horse harnesses, the stomping of hooves, the mournful howl of a dog, but one noise, a noise that didn't belong, jarred Mercy awake.
(Stealing Mercy, Kristy Tate) This sentence promises danger and suspense. We also know that this is a plot driven novel with a historical setting.
Penny loved Richard and she adored Rose, but her feelings toward pralines and cream were mediocre at best. She didn’t want to look like a giant pralines and cream ice cream cone on Rose’s wedding day.
(Losing Penny, Kristy Tate) This sentence tells us that unlike Stealing Mercy, this is a character driven story and this particular character has weight issues and a sense of humor.
“A lemon that’s been squeezed too many times ends up in the compost pile…” I started out strong, but my words faded away when I noticed Savannah Everett’s father staring at me. He stood beside a cart filled with vegetables, grinning, as if he had caught me in my lie.
(Hailey’s Comments, Kristy Tate) What do we learn? Our main character is living a lie and some grinning man has discovered it.

Think of your own favorite first sentences. Notice how all promise a different reading experience. Think of the first sentence as a movie trailer. If we see a trailer with Tom Cruise carrying a gun--things had better blow up and if they don't, as a movie goer, we're going to be mad. 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, (A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens)
I began these pages for myself, in order to think out my own particular patterns of living, (Gifts from the Sea, Lindberg)
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. (Pride and Prejudice, Austin)
 It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. (1981, Orwell)
There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. (C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader)

I put my own sentences cheek with Austin and Lewis, not because I feel that my work is in anyway comparable, but because I can freely talk about my own writerly intentions. I wouldn’t dare to presume to know the thoughts or intents of the literary great…all I can say is they wrote darn good sentences—first and otherwise.

If you have a first sentence you’d like to share, please leave it in the comment box, along with your title and name (just in case we’re so intrigued with your story promise that we want to rush out and buy it.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013


I love this song. I wish I could memorize it, have my children memorize it and then we could all live it. Honestly. Words are so powerful. They can change lives. That means that those of us who spend our days with words, speaking or writing, are much more powerful than we probably realize.

I plan on starting a Friday Writer's Forum--writing activities that anyone can participate in, or not. It will be just here on Fridays, waiting for anyone who wants to join in. Tomorrow I'll be talking about hooks of the first paragraph sort. Stay tuned.

Until then, stay brave.

You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up
Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
And they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

I wanna see you be brave

Everybody’s been there, everybody’s been stared down
By the enemy
Fallen for the fear and done some disappearing
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, stop holding your tongue
Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

Innocence, your history of silence
Won’t do you any good
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Hanging With Heroes

What’s the best part about writing? Creating new worlds? Plotting twists and turns? Summoning my inner ee cummings? Playing God with a cast of characters of my own creation? Getting to stay at home in my jammies while the rest of the world scurries around me with to-do-lists? Yes, yes, yes and sometimes. But for me, the very best part of writing is hanging with my heroes.
I know. Embarrassing to hear from a (young) grandma. But I find that for me a story really doesn’t find its legs (or chest or whatever) until I have sufficiently fallen for my hero. Hard. It’s not always easy. I first introduced the bad boyfriend, Drake, in The Rhyme’s Library years before I decided to make him the hero of Losing Penny. Since when I started Losing Penny, Drake, Blair, Aunt Charlotte and the rest where residing in a dark desk drawer, I had to resurrect them and help Drake clean up his act…a little. My daughter, who read the books in the order they were published, rather than in the order they were originally written, admitted that it was hard for her to like Drake at first. Which is what I intended. I didn’t want him to be the Hollywood hero cliché. And he’s not. But I still love him.
Romance writers in my writing group complain that my heroes are too real. They bake bread, cut hair, and raise vegetables. They like children and play with dogs. They’re witty…they have to be witty.
Who are your favorite heroes? Gregory Peck as Atticus Fitch? Clark Gable as Rhett Butler? Cary Grant in North by Northwest? So many men…I have to fall in love with my heroes. Because that’s the very best part of being a writer.

I just noticed something. All of these heroes have my husband's coloring, height and build. Go figure. Since all of these movies were made before I was born, then it stands to reason that I loved these men even before I met my husband. How sad for my family if I had fallen for a beach blond surfer dude. But I don't think that would have happened. I think I knew from the very beginning, even as a young girl watching old movies, that I knew exactly what I was looking for.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Making Time to Write Verses Taking Time to Live

Last week was spring break and my daughters had the opportunity to travel to New York with their choir. I thought I would use the week to write. And I did. Some. Maybe not as much as I had thought because I was invited to the beach and that took all day and on another day I went to lunch and that was too much fun to hurry through...and so it went. But no matter, here is another week. The girls are in the thick of play rehearsal, so even though they sleep, they do little else and my husband is away on a business trip—my life is one big empty slate. But on Monday morning my daughter has a dental appointment and she didn’t go to school until it was over (3:00—for play rehearsal.) No problem. I promised myself that I would write in the evening. No one would be home. So I take a quick trip to the mall…something that I never do. I come home with dinner from Paradise Bakery thinking that I’ll have hours and hours of a quiet house perfect for writing and dinner from Paradise Bakery. My oldest son, the attorney, who is never home, walks in. He had to pay his taxes. And he had questions.
Today my house is quiet. I wrote until I don’t want to write anymore. Know why? Because yesterday's tragedy in Boston made me rethink how I balance my life and my writing. My husband and I ran a marathon once. It took me more than five hours, but it took my husband almost exactly four. Which means that if he had been in Boston yesterday, he would have been there for the blast. 
And I think that maybe sometimes, maybe most times, what we do isn’t nearly as important as who we happen to be standing beside. 
There will always be time for writing and life will always (if we're lucky) get in the way.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Doubts and Fears

Last night I was plagued with nightmares. I don’t know why. I’m blaming it on the chocolate bunny I ate. That way, if I ever come across another chocolate bunny begging for consumption, I’ll remember my night of terror and abstain. In reality the bunny probably had nothing to do with my series of scary dreams, but it seems like an effective dieting ploy and I’m going with it.
The other day I came home after being gone for several hours, let the dog in the house and went upstairs. Grendal, my dog, followed. At this point, things turned strange. Grendal, usually mild mannered, became a lunatic. She was sure there was an intruder/creature/monster in Miranda’s room. Having read more than my fair share of murder mysteries, I armed myself with one of my husband’s crutches (to keep the unseen fiend at bay) and a can of aerosol hairspray (to blind  fiend.) Grendal and I entered the room. I slowly circled, hairspray aloft and crutch extended, while Grendal continued her Schnauzer gone crazy yipping. I refused to look under the bed or in the closet or leave the house. I closed the door, tied Grendal up next to the door, so should the intruder/creature/monster be silly enough to leave via the hall the dog would sound an alarm, and I took my computer to the furthest corner of the house and sat down to write. After a few minutes I forgot the intruder/creature/monster.
This is a parable  to real life and especially to the life of the artist. When we are afraid, we’re a lot like Grendal—barking for little reason, making ourselves crazy with doubt—and eventually someone, usually ourselves, will tie us up until we can be sane. It's so easy to get tied up in our fears and our doubts. And the justifications of stepping away from our art are legion--I'm not any good, the critics are mean, I'm wasting my time and money, that one star review really hurt, I should become a nurse, trash collector, teacher, janitor and engage in something that makes a contribution to the world.
We read about this in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic, The Secret Garden. (If you aren’t familiar with this story, then you need to stop reading my blog and go and read everything by Frances Hodgson Burnett.)
“So long as Colin shut himself up in his room and thought only of his fears and weakness and his detestation of people who looked at him and reflected hourly on humps and early death, he was a hysterical half-crazy little hypochondriac who knew nothing of the sunshine and the spring and also did not know that he could get well and could stand upon his feet if he tried to do it. When new beautiful thoughts began to push out the old hideous ones, life began to come back to him, his blood ran healthily through his veins and strength poured into him like a flood. … Much more surprising things can happen to anyone who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has sense to remember in time to push it out by putting in an agreeable determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place.
‘Where you tend a rose, my lad,
A thistle cannot grow.’”
If we (I) continue to nurture our (my) fears and doubts, books won't be written and we'll become like Colin  a hysterical half-crazy little hypochondriac, or maybe just a chocolate eating bunny person prone to nightmares.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Gemma Goes to Hollywood

 I'm posting an excerpt of my new book, tentatively titled, Gemma goes to Hollywood. It's the first in a series about four friends, recently graduated from high school who bury a time capsule stating their hopes and dreams for the next four years. Each book will tell how their hopes are (somewhat) realized.

Gemma shivered when Maisie pulled open the doors, not because of the cold breeze that blew into the hot and crowded gym, but because she expected an alarm to sound—if not the actual fire alarm—which was a distinct possibility—but the dreaded Mom alarm. That alarm that had no sound, was less visible and harder to trace than radar and yet, was more powerful than any force known to man…or to at least to Gemma.
            She cast a worried glance in the corner where she had last seen her mother. Couples swayed on the dance floor beneath sparkling lights. Some students, although Gemma supposed she could now call them—and herself—alumni, after all they had just graduated, hovered around the refreshment table, guzzling lemonade and munching on the cookies. Gemma spotted her mother. Maggs was busy with Marissa Lyon, a busty girl in a spaghetti strap dress who had snapped a strap. Marissa would keep her mother occupied with safety pins and if Gemma was lucky—and Marissa unlucky—a lecture on modesty, vanity clothing and the general ineptitude of spaghetti straps.
Having her mom in her orbit usually made Gemma want to crawl under the bleachers, but Maisie tugged on her hand pulled her through the high school gym doors. She sent her mother one more worried glance and met the gaze of Mr. Harmon, the hottest biology teacher to tease the girls of Twain High. It was painful enough to have to listen to a lecture on the reproductive cycle while being surrounded by sniggering football players but to have Mr. Harmon deliver said lecture made Gemma’s insides twist in uncomfortable knots. Hormonal for Harmon, Deidre called it—referring her own seventh period perpetual pink cheeks. Mr. Harmon saw them leave. Would he tell her mom? Gemma swallowed and followed Maisie.
            Up ahead, Deidre and Tessa ran through the moonlight, their shoes dangling from their fingers. Gemma and Maisie hurried to catch up, tripping across the black top, stepping over where they had once played hopscotch and passing the jungle gym, affectionately called the “big toy.”
            Gemma had to fight back a wave of nostalgia when Deidre and Tess disappeared behind Fred, the tree where they had spent every recess and every lunch break since first grade. She couldn’t remember who had first named the tree—or why—but they had been saying “meet me at Fred” for more than twelve years. Tonight could possibly be the second to the last time they would meet at Fred.
            A wind picked up and a shiver ran down Gemma’s spine. She looked at her friends and tried to return their smiles –she wouldn’t let envy spoil their last night at Twain High together. She loved her friends. She wanted them to have shiny, bright futures…she just wished that her own had more sparkle and less dirty diapers.
            “Hurry!” Tessa called/whispered.
            Deidre held up her hands like a police man conducting traffic and Gemma and Maisie both stopped.
            “No,” Deidre used her normal speaking voice. “A time capsule cannot be hurried.”
            “What if we’re caught?” Tessa asked, bravely raising her voice to almost audible.
            Gemma thought about mentioning Mr. Harmon, but she didn’t. If they were caught, they were caught. “What can they do? Expel us—after we have already graduated?”
            She wasn’t as nearly as worried about Mr. Harmon as she was about her own mother, but she agreed with Deidre. Something as important as a time capsule shouldn’t be hurried.
            Deidre picked up the mason jar they had previously hidden in the patch of honeysuckle that grew around Fred’s trunk and shook out four pens. “Be very careful, your futures are at stake.”
            Gemma accepted the pen and slip of paper and sat down on the stone ledge. Writing something down made it real. It also made it traceable. And accountable. She had learned that the hard way back in seventh grade when Mrs. Bartlett confiscated the note she had written to Tessa during biology. She shot Tessa a glance; it was so hard to believe that Tessa, who had always been so scrawny and small, had grown up to look like Twiggy, but with boobs.
Tessa sat hunched over her paper, the pen sticking out of her mouth and her lips turned down. Gemma wondered what Tessa was worried about—her future lay before her like a golden carpet. Gemma elbowed Tessa. “Go ahead, write it down, Mrs. Teresa Donnelly.”
Tessa flushed pink, the color spreading over cheeks.
“Mrs. Jackson Donnelly—” Deidre began.
“Travels to China,” Tessa finished, putting her pen to paper.
“You’re writing that down?” Maisie asked.
“The China part—not the Mrs. Donnelly part,” Tessa said.
“Better not tell Jackson,” Maisie said.
“Of course I’m going to marry Jackson.” Tessa flipped her long golden hair over her shoulder. “Just not yet. He has to finish law school and I…have things I want to do.”
“What things?” Deidre asked. “You never mentioned things before.”
“Things like traveling to China.” Tessa straightened her spine.
“I can see you picking out China…but going to China?” Maisie shook her head.
“Why not?” Tessa wrote down China again, but this time in big capital letters. “I want to make a difference—help people.”
“In China?”
“Well—what are you writing down?” Tessa looked over at Maisie’s blank paper.
“Hot, steamy romance,” Maisie said slowly as she wrote down the three words.
Gemma laughed. “That doesn’t sound like you.”
“Why not?” Maisie borrowed Tessa’s phrase.
“Hot, stinking baseball cleats sounds like you,” Gemma told her, ignoring her own blank piece of paper.
“Baseball players are hot—that’s why kissing is called first base and not first in ten.”
Gemma didn’t want to argue sports sex definitions so she lifted her shoulder and hunched over her paper. She didn’t have anything to write. In fact, she didn’t have anything to look forward to except a life sentence of babysitting. All of her friends had a future waiting for them and Gemma had her mom pacing in the gym, wondering where her daughter was and how long she managed to get out from under her thumb. Gemma twisted her lips and looked over at Deidre’s paper.
“I don’t have anything to write,” Deidre admitted. “I’ve been thinking about it all day.”
“What about the Cordon Bleu?” Gemma asked.
“That’s boring.”
“But tasty.” Gemma looked down at her own blank piece of paper. Nothing was as boring as staying in Twain, so she wrote down, “Hollywood.”
Deidre lifted the corners of her mouth. “You can’t just write down Hollywood. We can go to Hollywood in an afternoon.”
Gemma bit her lip and wrote down, “Dylan Florence.”
Maisie raised her eyebrows. “Your future is Dylan Florence?”
“And Hollywood.” Gemma copied her mother’s holier than thou tone. “Hey, if you can have a hot and steamy romance, I can Dylan Florence.”
Tessa lowered her pen. “This is supposed to be serious.”
“I am serious. I’m seriously in love with Dylan Florence.”
“Whom you have never, and most likely, never will, meet.”
Gemma tried to will the secret away, but it sat at the edge of her lips, bursting to be said out loud. It killed her that she couldn’t tell her friends that Dylan Florence was actually much closer than Hollywood—which really wasn’t so far away, either—but her parents would kill her if she shared. She pressed her lips together, took a deep breath and said, “It’s a very one side and one dimensional sort of relationship.”
Tessa nodded. “Sometimes those are the best kind.”
Gemma stared at her paper. She was serious. She would spend the rest of her life watching Dylan Florence on TV, even though he was almost within kissing distance, and occasionally driving into Hollywood whenever her grandfather snapped his fingers. Deidre would go to cooking school, Maisie would go to UCI on an athletic scholarship, and Tessa would shop for China with Jackson. If her friends could have futures—then it was only fair that she could have Dylan Florence.
Even if she had to share him with millions of fans.
Deidre searched the honeysuckle until she found the trowel they had hid with the Mason jar. She held up the garden tool like a scepter. “Remember, by writing down our dreams, we’ve made them real. We have sent our predictions into the Universe. What we visualize we will realize.”
Gemma imagined Dylan Florence like a hologram, wavering before her eyes. Folding her slip of paper, she put it in the jar and imagined Dylan Florence, as tangible as the smoke of a magic genie, floating into the jar as well. She watched her friends place their futures into the jar. Tessa kissed her paper before she dropped it in. Deidre held the jar up so it caught a ray of moonlight. An unfamiliar wave of reverence swept over Gemma as Deidre handed the trowel to Maisie. 
After a moment of digging, Maisie stood. “It’s finished.”
The girls stared at the hole next to Fred, it looked like a tiny grave. Gemma wanted to be happy, but she felt like she was burying all her hopes and dreams, even though she hadn’t even written down her real dreams. She’d been mocking, joking—making light of her dim future.
Deidre placed the jar in the hole and Maisie tapped the dirt back in place. Tessa rearranged the honeysuckle so that no one would even be able to tell that they had ever even been there.
“Until 2020,” Deidre said.
“2020,” the girls echoed.