Friday, June 29, 2007

The Story Behind My Stories by Vicki M. Taylor

10:06 AM 0 Comments
I get my ideas for stories from a lot of different places. The newspapers. Television. Magazines. People watching. Dreams. My own weird imagination. I keep several four inch binders full of newspaper clippings, starts of stories, scraps of paper with notes on them, and other odds and ends that remind me of an idea for a book. I started keeping the binders way back when I first started writing full time in 1999. I’d had so many ideas for books I couldn’t keep them all in my head and I was worried that if I didn’t write them down, I’d forget them.

You see, I had a tendency to do things like that. Forget things. Call it old age, call it menopause, call it side effects to the various pills I take, but whatever it was, it wasn’t going to get me. So, all my notes and ideas went into those binders. And, let me tell you, I’m so glad I did. They’re a goldmine. Whenever I get stuck for an idea, I pull a binder off the shelf and flip through it. Loads of items separated by categories like police procedurals, murders, domestic violence, suicide.

Oh yeah, I write about some weird stuff straight out of real life. Take my novel Not Without Anna for example. It’s about drugs, alcohol, murder, and suicide all involving teenagers. Sound like something from the latest news report? Could have been. My daughter actually had the idea first. She wrote a short story for school and I borrowed the characters and wrote the book. It got great reviews, but it’s not a touchy-feely happily ever after story. Be prepared for the grittier side of life.

Now, I do have another book that has a really beautiful ending. It’s my latest book, Trust in the Wind. It’s definitely a romance. A look at the life of two tragic souls who find each other and fight the odds against them.

Trust in the Wind developed from a dream. A very vivid dream. When I woke the next morning, I could recall everything clearly in my mind. I knew I had something special. I instantly grabbed pen and paper (which I always keep next to my bed for just such occasions) and started writing. Furiously. I didn’t want to lose any of the story before I could get it all out of my head and onto the paper.

When I finished writing, I had the entire thing. The whole synopsis of the book. Even now, I can still recall parts of that dream clearly in my mind; it was that dramatic. The story is about a fiercely independent, young teenage mother who only wants to make a good life for her son, Joey, and herself. It tells what happens after she meets a county sheriff who makes a lasting impression on her young son and gets under her skin as well, no matter how hard she tries to fight it.

The sheriff has issues of his own; invisible demons that haunt him, and a job with a lot of risk. He too fights the attraction he feels for the small family he befriends, but can’t seem to help himself. He’s putty in little Joey’s hands. The drama increases ten-fold, when little Joey is kidnapped.

You can read more about Not Without Anna or Trust in the Wind by going to my website at http://www.vickimtaylor.com/books.html. You can click on the links to read an excerpt or read recent reviews.

Award winning author, Vicki M. Taylor writes dramatic stories with strong women as her main characters. Her novel, Not Without Anna won 2nd place in the 2003 Florida Writers’ Association’s Royal Palm Literary Awards and was published in January 2004. She won an honorary award for her short story, And Justice for All in the Fire to Fly contest from Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine. Her manuscript Out for Justice was a finalist in the recent 2007 Golden Acorn contest.

A prolific writer of both novel length and short stories, she brings her characters to life in the real world. Her memberships include the National Association of Women Writers, Short Fiction Mystery Society, Romance Writers Association, and many more. She has had hundreds of articles published in electronic and print publications. She is one of the founders and past President of the Florida Writers Association, Inc. She speaks to local writing groups.

When she's not writing, you can find her lurking about the many writing boards and various forums while sitting at her computer in Tampa, Florida where she lives with her husband their dog, Jack and their parrot, Bailey. To find out more about Vicki and her writing, visit her website at
http://www.vickimtaylor.com.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

What Is A Muse? by Karen Magill

12:05 AM 0 Comments
I have been asked in interviews about my muse or muses. And I never know how to answer that question. It always confuses me so I usually just say whatever pops into my head and sounds good. Because truth be told I don’t know about my muse. Or I didn’t until recently.

If I had to put a name to my muse it would have to be: Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Poison, Bryan Adams, and so on. In other words music. Nothing frees my mind and releases the creativity like the sweet sounds of music. Once I allow the sounds to flow through me and set my feet tapping, once I start singing along, and focusing on the words I get into the mind set needed to write. Not that I start then but the ideas are coming. Sometimes I will jot down ideas but most times I just let them ferment in my mind. I gaze around me; gathering inspiration from my surroundings or else I just enjoy the beauty. And beauty is everywhere is you just look.

Sometimes when I get home, I boot up my computer and start to write. Many times the ideas begin to flow. If the walk went particularly well I could miss meals, appointments, favorite shows and life will march on by as I sit mesmerized by this little screen. The magic of the tunes have done their job and set my fingers flying. There are times I put on my portable music player and type to the music to keep the rhythm going and the muse active. The muse is happy, cooperative at least some of the time.

Or else the time isn’t right and I do other things, letting the ideas simmer a bit longer. I may answer emails or do chores around the house. But the music has planted the seeds that are going to grow and need to be nurtured.

To every artistic person, the muse is something or someone different. I’m not a musician – I can’t play an instrument, I’m not a singer. But to me music is sustenance. I need it to survive and to feed my creative juices. To me, that’s a muse.

Karen Magill
Author of Let Us Play - A Rock 'N Roll Love Story
http://www.karenmagill.com/


Friday, June 15, 2007

The Inspiration Behind Writing THE TRUTH, I'M TEN, I'M SMART AND I KNOW EVERYTHING! by Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein

12:00 AM 0 Comments
A few important thoughts I’d like to share with you—let’s say “wisdom thoughts” that I have accumulated as a positive psychologist:

"1. As women, when we fly, we don't fly in a straight line. We fly in circles. Yet we can home in like the greatest guided missiles!

2. Each of us has an ENCHANTED SELF—a place inside of us where we can feel peace of mind, a sense of well-being, purpose, and happiness—where we can mobilize for action using our best talents, strengths, and even lost potential.

3. Yet, we diminish and disregard our Enchanted Selves and often are influenced by other factors and persuasive circumstances that keep us from feeling good, fulfilling our dreams, and even remembering what those dreams are!

4. We forget how to read ourselves so we can help ourselves recognize what is most unique about ourselves, what is most central to our beings, and what is right for our health in mind, body, and spirit.

5. We don’t always have a good enough framework around which to sort through the complexities and distractions that come into our lives and push us from our Enchanted Selves.

6. We can come home to our Enchanted Selves.

7. What most of us knew as girls is the missing key to all of the above. As a culture and as women we have forgotten where to look for wisdom and life-sustaining energies. Having been convinced to look externally and often in all the wrong places, we have made a terrible mistake not looking into ourselves, to the positive parts of ourselves, often very alive when we were kids, rather than the negative parts, for valuable information, advice, encouragement, and inspiration."

The above list is part of a rough draft for the book before THE TRUTH. That book, You Don't Have to Be A Princess to Live An Enchanted Life, Seven Gateways To Happiness, still lives peacefully in my computer. I would say sleeps in my computer, except I have some good news about a rough draft that never made it into book form-at least yet. The good news is that the creation of that rough draft was the initial birthing process for THE TRUTH. As I came more and more in touch with the wisdom and insights of the ten year old girl inside of me and the girl inside of each woman, I realized that the energy stored up from childhood must be better understood and utilized by women.

We are so depleted, so overloaded with chores and obligations. It is a tragedy not to grab whatever free resources we have available to replenish, to have fun, to feel good. As a positive psychologist I was so aware of our needs as women to feel competent, capable, special. Yet again and again I saw my clients and my friends and even myself reaching only for wisdom and guidance and energy from the outside, rather than restimulating the essence of ourselves.

By the time I started a new draft of a book, the 'girl' was just waiting to come out to play! And she was truly a character with her own personality and adventures. As I began to write I realized that I was sharing positive psychology truths, but I was also writing my first novel. This was fiction. How exciting. The Girl came to life and so did her story. She grew from 10 to almost 12 and before I knew it, a short novel in diary form had emerged. She had a story to tell about growing up. She had messages to get across about the importance of holding on to what is special and appreciating the good things in life. She had painful experiences but she also had successes and lots of courage. And best of all, what she had to say turned out to be exactly what I wished to teach. We were a perfect team. Within her story are embedded many positive psychology principles. And within these principles are embedded the genius of a life well lived. A perfect match.

And that's how the inspiration for this book took place.

Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein
Author of THE TRUTH: I'M TEN, I'M SMART AND I KNOW EVERYTHING
http://www.enchantedself.com/


Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Story Behind THE ROUX IN THE GUMBO by Kim Robinson

10:50 AM 1 Comments
I started writing The Roux in the Gumbo in March of 1993 when I was pregnant with my second son. She was with me when all three of my childen were born. Though she didn’t understand why we needed to go to a hospital, I told her, “Because you don’t have an epidural.”

I did not start off writing it to be a book; it was going to be something I made copies of to give to the family. I was bedridden during the end of my pregnancy and my grandmother came from California to Texas to help me out.

One day when we were watching Oprah talk about her life and upcoming book, Grandmother said, "Shoot, I had more stuff happen to me than she did, someone should write my book. Shoot, you should write one too."

She started telling me her old stories; you know the kind you have heard a few times growing up, and since the computer was set up right next to the pull out couch in the den where I spent my days, I said, "Let's do it. I bet everybody in the family would like to read it."

When she went back home, I bought her a tape recorder so that when she thought of something, she could tape it and send it to me.

Every few months, I would send her tickets and she would come and stay for awhile while we worked on the book. I also went to Lafayette, Louisiana, where where my great-grandmother’s name still rings like a church house bell.

My grandmother suffered a stroke during a spinal cancer surgery and went into a coma. I printed out what I had and went to California. I would sit by her bed reading and the family asked me what I was reading and when I told them they said they wanted to read it, my mother made some copies and gave them out. One day while I was reading to my grandmother she said my name, though still in a coma.

She died the next day.

Everyone said that I had to finish the book and share it with the world. When I went back home my family members would call and give me their memories and send tapes that I added to the book. My grandmother's sister, Genevieve, and I would talk over the phone and I sent her a ticket to come, but sadly she got sick and died before she could come. But, I did get everything she wanted in.

My mother came and started reading and giving me her memories and there you have it. The title is because everyone who has someone who influenced their lives just as the Roux (Roo) base or gravy in Gumbo influences every spoonful. The book details my families life from the 1800's to 1997.

Kim Robinson
Author, The Roux in the Gumbo
http://www.kim-robinson.com/


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Are Dedications the Hardest Part of Writing Books? by Dorothy Thompson

8:05 AM 1 Comments
Interesting post today in the Book Trade newsletter I subscribe to. It led me to an article that was in the Telegraph (U.K. based) which was about how authors agonize over their dedications as it is the most revealing page in the whole book.

The article went on to say despite all the fact-finding, fleshing out the plot, making characters believable, etc..., "The book may be good, bad or both, but once it is finished you can dodge it, stand by it, disown it, move on, say you did or didn't mean it, point out that you made it up, insist that it has nothing to do with you or anything that has happened in the past. The dedication, on the other hand, is where you have to say exactly what you mean. The dedication is where you can balls up the rest of your life."

I hadn't really thought about it before now, but maybe they are on to something.

One thing I agonize over is just what to say in the dedication. Truth be known, I dedicated my first book, Romancing the Soul, to my dead, departed soul mate when actually I said, "This book is dedicated to all the soul mates in my life; but, especially to my twin flame, for without his guidance from the beyond, this book would never have been born. It was he who encouraged me to follow my dreams no matter where they lead, to keep my head up, and to always believe in the power of everlasting love. It is through him that I dedicate this book as proof of the power of two souls finding their way into each other's realm again."

Now, to look at it, it looks perfectly tame as it doesn't exactly name names, and I'm sure certain other people in my life would be offended if they really knew who it was intended for.

Dedications are a tricky thing. You don't want to offend, but you also want that special spot in your book to go to the one who was the most responsible for why the book was written.

There are two pages in which the author can do this - the dedication and the acknowledgments page - and most authors reserve the dedication for the most important person who means so much to them. So, you see, that can get tricky.

Most authors dedicate their books to either their spouses/girlfriends/boyfriends or their children as they are the ones who mean the most to them. In The Bridge Across Forever, Richard Bach's dedication page reads, "For Leslie, who taught me how to fly."

Some authors dedicate it to people who have died but created an impact on their lives. In Sandy Kahn Shelton's book, A Piece of Normal, her dedication page reads, "To Nan 1956 - 1995."

Lemony Snicket always dedicates his books with "For Beatrice" or "To Beatrice," and as it turns out Beatrice is Lemonsy's dead lover who died in a fire.

In Alice Sebold's book, The Lovely Bones, she simply writes, "Always, Glen."

A book is an author's baby. Because he/she has put so much sweat into its birth, the dedication page remains a sacred place for the author to reveal his/her innermost feelings toward the person or persons they are dedicating it to. But, if you read the dedications of some of these books, have you ever wondered why it feels as if you are stepping into the author's world for a second and that there could be hidden meanings?

How did Leslie teach Richard Bach how to fly? Who is Nan? How did Beatrice die and why does Lemony mention her in every single book?

The next time you write your dedication page, think about this. You could learn an awful lot about the author without the author even realizing it.

Dorothy Thompson
Editor/Co-Author, Romancing the Soul
CEO/Founder Pump Up Your Book


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Transforming the Non-Fiction Writer to Novelist by Lynn Voedisch

10:12 AM 2 Comments
When I left my cushy newspaper job about ten years ago, I had no idea that writing fiction was going to be anything taxing. I had grown up wanting to be a novelist, but practicality took over early. I knew that I wasn't going to be living in an attic somewhere sweating over a portable typewriter. (They did have typewriters when I was growing up.) So, I decided to set my sights on journalism, where I knew I could be paid for writing. First, I was on the high school newspaper. Then worked on the college newspaper while studying at a liberal arts college. In my senior year, I was editor of my college paper. My career moved swiftly because of my early efforts. I found myself at the Los Angeles Times working as a fill-in reporter for staffers who
were on vacation. From there it was back home to Chicago for the Chicago Sun-Times. My dream came true! I was a staff member of a metropolitan daily!

The problem was that the goal of writing novels never disappeared. I thought I could try hammering something out on the weekends or in my spare time. That didn't work. I suffered through a divorce and found myself a single parent of a little baby boy. I brought my son up
while working the demanding job of daily reporting--which often required night and weekend work. I went through so many babysitters, I can't count them. So, there was no time at all to write a novel. I could barely get enough sleep.

Years slipped by and I started to despair. Maybe I would never have to the chance to realize my dreams, I thought. But then I met the man who became my husband. I told him of my desire to write novels, and he agreed to foot the bills while I did freelance work and wrote a novel. So, romantic fool that I am, I quit my newspaper job, sat right down to write. I didn't want to write the Great American novel-- heck, "The Great Gatsby" has already been written--but I knew I had something to say. I ripped out a novel in nine months, all the while doing freelance jobs for various newspaper and online venues. Then, on a whim, I joined an online bulletin board, Poets & Writers Speakeasy (www.pw.org) and found out all things I didn't know.

In order to sell the book, I'd need an agent. At the bulletin board I discovered just how hard it is to get one. Then I learned that some of the things I had done in my novel were not considered correct for fiction. I jumped from one head to another instead of sticking to one point of view. I skipped detail, because that's what copy editors always cut out at newspapers. My sentences were short and direct-- perfect for newspapers, but a bit lacking for fiction. I also found out something that shocked me to the quick: many of the people in the fiction world looked down on journalists. We were considered a lesser sort of writer, which drove me crazy. I was considered one of the best writers in my newspaper department and the copy desk loved me for my clean style. But here, people were turning up their nose at my twenty years of background. One person--who was a bit unbalanced, I admit--called me a "wannabe" and attacked me on line, citing the uselessness of a journalism degree. I didn't have a journalism degree, but a BA with an English literature major, but my words were lost on this harpy. My enthusiasm for online participation dropped after that, but not my desire to make it in the fiction world.

The only solution for the problem was to get into a writers' group and also take some classes. When I couldn't find a writers' group, I formed my own at a local Barnes & Noble. I went to the University of Iowa Summer Writing Workshop for two years in a row. I took classes with a Northwestern University professor who also taught classes off- campus.

I learned. Wow, did I learn. I went back to my first book and completely transformed it. Gone were weak verbs, flashbacks within flashbacks and stuffy dialog. I learned to take my time and not rush the pace. I put description in my work--although this still is a tough one for me, because when I read, I tend to skip description. I stopped telling the reader what was happening and started showing him or her with plenty of action and dialog. And thanks to my professor,
I learned to put rhythm into my words.

The results were riveting. I did get an agent, but she couldn't sell my first book, mainly because it had an angel theme and the publishers complained that "the angel fad" was over. So I wrote
another manuscript, and another. I did some ghostwriting. Then found another agent. Now, while I'm waiting now for my current agent to sell my third manuscript to a New York publisher, I decided to go ahead and self-publish my first novel, "Excited Light" through ASJA
Press, an imprint of iUniverse. It's available at Amazon.com, bn.com, and most online bookstores. You also can order it at any Barnes & Noble store. It's about a little boy living with an alcoholic mother, who talks to angels. In the style of magical realism, they talk back and come to his aid when his mother's life is at stake.

After all these years, I still tell people proudly of my journalist status. I don't feel there's anything shame there. Journalists can write beautiful prose, and do so by making tough deadlines. We aren't coddled by the copy desk and we are used to working closely with
editors. If someone has a problem with my journalist past, I chalk it up to ignorance.

But I was a babe in the woods at one point, too. It took some real study to transform myself from nonfiction writer to novelist. Fortunately, now I can say I'm a two-fisted writer: fiction and non- fiction. Bring it on!
You can visit Lynn Voedisch on the web at www.lynnvoedisch.com.


Friday, June 8, 2007

All for the Sake of the Al'Mighty Pen by Dorothy Thompson

3:14 AM 0 Comments
Interesting story in the NY Observer yesterday.

The title was what caught my eye: "My Book Deal Ruined My Life."

Say it isn't so.

Here's part of it:

Brendan Sullivan, 25, moved to New York after studying creative writing at Kenyon College in Ohio. He hasn’t landed a book deal for his novel, but is determined to find a publisher. “Writing has ruined my life and cost me many, many girlfriends,” he wrote in an e-mail. “I have thrown away several careers and one college degree to spend my time working in bars, D.J.’ing in bars and drinking my rejection letters away. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy, and I’ve made many of them since I started …. I also abandoned my agent with words harsher than those I’ve saved for lost loves.”

That's only one case. The article quotes other cases where one's life was disrupted by the al'mighty pen.

Six years ago, I had a life. I was thirty pounds lighter, I actually knew where all members of my family were going after they told me and rather enjoyed frivolous waste-of-time shopping trips where I had nothing to do all day but ogle clothes I only wish I had the money to buy.

I showed up for work on time and actually volunteered for overtime to increase the paycheck so I could have more money for said shopping trips.

The car got washed and the garden got watered, not to mention my body took on a golden glow from all those trips out in the summer sun.

Relatives were visited, neighbors were checked in on and playing in the park with my dogs was an every day thing.

Clothes were thrown out on the line to save on the electric bill instead of tossed in the energy-guzzling dryer and food actually was prepared up on top of the stove (or the grill) instead of the microwave.

All for the sake of the al'mighty pen, I have given up all those things.

Every morning, there is a mad dash for the computer to either read email from my writing group, write in my blog or start working on a scene in a novel that was hauntingly driving me to write it down, lest I forget it.

All for the al'mighty pen do I do this because...

I'm not quite sure.

I'm thinking it might be a disease that inflicts ordinary people that drives them to give up on what they used to know as everyday life and turn it into a frenzied marathon of writing, editing, revising, writing some more, sending said writing to agents and publishers, reading the rejections, screaming, writing again, sending again and repeating the whole process over and over until you finally give up and start on another novel and repeat the same process over and over.

It's a disease of the al'mighty pen.

Anyway, what prompted me to get out of bed, empty my bladder, grab a sandwich and some pepsi and turn on the computer at 4 a.m. in the morning when I could still be sleeping is a condition that strikes every known man or woman on the face of this earth if they decide to become a writer. And, God forbid them to want to become a published author because if that happens, they're in for a treat and their life will never be the same unless they take that al'mighty pen, lay it down and refuse to pick it up again.

But, we don't do that.

We can't.

We just can't.

So, I'm sitting here at the computer at 4 in the morning - errr, make that 5 by now - and I come across an article in the NY Observer titled "My Book Deal Ruined My Life" and I'm thinking...no matter how much my life has changed and no matter how much I long for the times when I could kick back and enjoy life without having to turn this blasted computer on, I still think because of the al'mighty pen, my life has become a little richer, and a little more meaningful.

I don't know how or why because that book deal is just not happening; but somehow, somewhere, I just feel it and if I wait just a little while longer, and pray a little harder, and keep on writing and revising and submitting, I'll finally get to where I'm going.

All for the sake of the al'mighty pen that just won't let me let it go.

Dorothy Thompson
Editor/co-author Romancing the Soul
CEO/Founder Pump Up Your Book
www.pumpupyourbook.com



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