Dawn Montgomery

Archive for August, 2013|Monthly archive page

In the Bag: Chocolate Kiss

In #amwriting on August 30, 2013 at 1:03 am

In the Bag

Submission away!

There’s nothing in the world like it. Imagine being at the top of a roller coaster. The cars slow down and the sound of metal clicking blends in to the wind beating against your ear drums. Your stomach is tight and you’re waiting for the drop. Any second now. Any. second. now.

Then it’s off and your stomach twists and you want to scream (but it’s midnight and the rest of the house is asleep. Oh wait, the roller coaster metaphor…right). You reach the bottom and there’s more twists and turns, loops and dips, until finally it’s done.

Writing the book is that long climb up the first hill. The forming of words, paragraphs, chapters. Where the expectation inside you grows. Personal edits. Critique Partner read throughs.

Reaching the top is when it’s ready to submit. You do it and off you go.

Every twist, turn, loop, and dip afterward is part of the post submission process, but you never get over the first plunge.

Decadence Chocolate Kiss is in my editor’s hands.

Later today Red Velvet: Hidden Confection. G’night peeps. I’m wore out.

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Edits and Things

In #amwriting on August 22, 2013 at 7:27 pm

My Writing Work in Progress and #ROW80 update


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Last week’s goals:

  1. Hidden Confection completed. Done! Starting edits this week!
  2. Last Rites Waiting on a final fact verification from my Alaska State Trooper contact. The moment I have the go ahead on the protocol I used at the end (or an alternative), I’m good to go. Sitting on standby until then. 
  3. Feral Hunger edits. I’m not in a rush with this one as I have some in depth changes that need to be made. My goal is to make it through a chapter every three days or so. I’ll pour more of my energy into it once the kids are back in school and I can focus with less interruption. Slow start as expected. No worries, though. It’ll come. 🙂 
  4. Voodoo Carnival continue at 500 words a day (equates to a scene every couple of days or a chapter every four or so). It’s working for me, and anything working is going to stay that way. LOL. Until it’s not. 😉 Voodoo took a side trek while I was working on the other two books. I’m back to it again this week. 🙂 

New Goals: 

  1. Finish Hidden Confection and have it off for submission
  2. Finish and submit Last Rites.
  3. Feral Hunger edits. The kids go back to school on the 26th so I expect to hit this one hard soon.
  4. Voodoo Carnival. Back to 500 words a day.
  5. Dragon. This week begins my latest WTF Dragon book.
  6. Carter’s Legacy. My contemporary romance I’m polishing up for Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest. I need to get started on edits.

Cool things that happened this week: 

  • Finished Hidden Confection.
  • Attended the Savvy Authors Summer Symposium. Learned so much! It continues through the weekend. 😀 I found their maximizing efficiency and managing multiple pennames workshops especially helpful. They have several on platform building and marketing. The ongoing pitches are pretty amazing too.
  • Received an amazing message from my first editor. I’d given her one of my recent books to read (as I always have! She keeps telling me not to and buys them anyway, but this is the lady who encouraged me to keep writing!). She was ecstatic. Lately she’d found most of the books she read to be boring and predictable, and worried that paranormal romance was dead. I think I completely recharged her love of the genre. She was over the moon and I was so happy. I even did the “I still got it” dance. 😀 You never forget your first, you know. LOL! To know she still loves what I write after all these years…yeah. Incredible feeling. 😀

Now it’s back to work for me. Have an awesome week!

I’m part of a fantastic group called A Round of Words in 80 Days, and if you’d like to see how everyone else is doing, check out the list HERE.

Would you like to be a part of our writing challenge? Check out the rules HERE.

Keep Writing!

Cold Turkey and Smart Edit

In Software on August 18, 2013 at 7:08 am

PWCicon2Today I’m going to tell you about two pieces of software that have changed my writing life. Both are free. Both are amazing. As with all downloads, verify your source is safe and that your computer meets the requirements of installation.

At no time have I received compensation for reviews of this software. Both are my own opinion and based on my personal experiences. 

Two areas of my writing need serious work (And probably always will.)

  1. Staying on Task
  2. Repetition in my Writing.

Staying on Task


Reading back over my previous posts (all the way back to the beginning of this blog when I was stationed in Turkey away from my family) told me I suffered from the staying on task part of it for a while. A simple solution would be to shut down the ‘net on my computer.

There are several major problem with this, fellow writer…my phone line is a skype number and I have to keep my net up to receive calls. With my brother in the military and my mother alone in Texarkana, not having a way to get a hold of me in an emergency is a no-go. The timers I use to stay focused while writing are all net based. Google docs is a primary go-to for my writing day. Skype and chatzy (and a couple of other chat rooms) are places where I meet up with other writers and do some group encouragement for writing. The list goes on.

Blocking the ‘net, then, isn’t a good plan (Though there are MANY programs out there who will do it for you at a ridiculous fee).

About ten years ago I had a program that would prevent me from going to certain sites in a particular time frame. The mother company of the program has long since gone the way of many dot bombers. Ashes to Ashes and Dust to Dust.  You have no idea how long I’ve searched for a program to replace it. I found a few but the price tag was *low whistle*.

Thank goodness for newsletters. 😀 I signed up for Ilona Andrews’s a while ago. I’ve subscribed to many and seem to skim through most to pick up the key points. This post, however, gave me exactly what I’d been looking for.

Let me tell you about Cold Turkey. First of all, it’s free, though it runs on donations. Don’t worry, you have the option of donating later if the program works for you (and I WILL, since I love this program!). There isn’t a version available for Mac, but if you look at the FAQs on the Cold Turkey page, it shows you what software WILL work for you guys (We’re half Mac/half PC so knowing this stuff is a big deal for us all).

Here’s how it works:

  • You bring up the program
  • Agree to the blocked website list by clicking in the check boxes
  • Add any additional websites or programs from your computer (WoW? Solitaire? Plants vs Zombies? Pinterest? )
  • Tell it how long you’re blocking it for (It even gives me the option of a 24 hour clock. That makes my heart happy)
  • Engage the program. It asks if you’re SURE. LOL. Smart program. When you say yes, it does exactly what you ask.

Some things to know before you begin:

  • You will not be able to get to those locations no matter what. So, if youtube is blocked, a gray screen with a broken link shows up where someone has posted a video. Blocked websites will show up as “Site not available”. Nice, right? Blocked Programs you attempt to open on your computer will not work.
  • There is no way to stop it. (Disclaimer, if you’re really talented with computers and don’t mind playing around in files you shouldn’t, you can stop the program. Or you can go back to Cold Turkey and follow the FAQs about getting rid of it). For the rest of us: Restarting your computer won’t stop it. Force-quitting the program won’t stop it. Once you set up your time, it’s done (unless you go back to the site and download the uninstall program).
  • Restart your computer after you install the program. I ended up having to restart mine at the end of my first session because I didn’t get the automatic popup.
  • Close the programs/webpages you’re going to block before you begin. Keeps it simple and prevents some *interesting* side effects.
  • Don’t worry about adding every program and website that distracts you. You can add those at any time in the process.

Friday was a phenomenally productive day. Facebook is a huge time sink (I love me some games). I had to restart my computer at the end of my time because I didn’t get the popup (see my notes above).

Saturday was rough. I set it up from noon to five. About two hours in, I’d popped onto Pinterest. Realizing the time sink for what it was, I added the website to my list and kept going. A friend popped up in skype IM and asked me if I’d seen something new on a zynga game at zynga.com. I was on a break and said sure…popped over and there goes half an hour. So zynga was blocked.

My son and husband came into my office three times during my writing session to ask me questions about shows we’d watched on hulu. I’m horrible with names so I brought up the site and checked out whatever they asked for. It took the third time for me realize how often I look up stuff when people ask me questions. So I told them both Hulu was now blocked on my list and I wouldn’t be able to look it up anymore. Strangely enough, the questions weren’t brought back up until my writing session ended.

Oh man was I hurting by the end. My brain was tired. The word count was fabulous. I didn’t feel distracted (or frustrated with my word count), but I was exhausted. The popup occurred naturally and it asked me if I wanted to go again. Um. No. I’m good, thanks. One time a day is more than enough. This Cold Turkey stuff is painful. 😀 I’ll use it again and again. I have to stay focused.


Repetition in Writing


Another program I came across last week is something called SmartEdit Lite. Another newsletter find. 😀 Cat Johnson did a review of the full program (SmartEdit) on this post. The Lite version is free to use and insanely awesome. It’s also available for MAC users.  *Note to MAC users: Smart Edit for Mac will be, according to the site, available at the end of this year. I apologize for not following through on the links before posting. Thank you to Shah for the head’s up* While I love the free version, I’ll be upgrading to the full as soon as I can.

Let me cover what SmartEdit Lite did forote me.

  • It catches my repetitive words and phrases. I have new ones in every book and my editor usually points them out. It’s good to know if I’ve used chilling forty times in a novella. Or if I’ve said darlin’ twenty five times (Six on the same page). Since my repetitive issues are different for every book, this little tool is invaluable and will save some serious time and edits later.
  • The adverb list. It shows every instance of the evil -ly words, alphabetically. Oh do I need it.
  • Watch List. I have words I either use too often, misuse, or otherwise shouldn’t use. This. That. Like. All three of these are ones I need to nix from my fiction writing. Was. Should, could, would. The list goes on.

The program is simple to use. When you click on something it flagged, it will take you to the next instance in the document.

Some things to know before you begin:

  • SmartEdit Lite will only open .rtf files.
  • You can save any changes from inside the program.
  • SmartEdit Lite hits all the problem areas I have (despite my decade of doing this crazy writing thing and much editorial guidance). If you’re self-publishing, this is something I highly recommend you look at using.
  • I’ll likely never submit another book without using this program first.
  • Easy. Simple. Free. 

I’ll be upgrading as soon as possible to take advantage of the sentence start , misused words, proper nouns, and Acronym lists. Do you want to know if you started 75 sentences with She? Proper nouns…ever change a character’s name halfway through the book? What if your fingers misspelled it once or twice? The eye slides right over it. Wouldn’t it be terrible to show up in your final product? The Acronym list…I use Acronyms a lot. It’s imperative that those you create or use stay the same throughout your book. Since word processors usually overlook Acronyms, it becomes an invaluable tool.

So there you have it. Two programs that saved my bacon this week and are on my perma-use list. They are free and fantastic. I highly recommend them both.

Now it’s time to do my Round of Words in 80 Days update.


#ROW80 update


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Goals this week:

  1. Hidden Confection completed. Looks like I’ll wrap this baby up today/tomorrow. It’s almost done. 🙂
  2. Last Rites edits done. I expect to be working on the synopsis/submission by next check in. Halfway done with edits. I want them done and completed by Monday/Tuesday. Got some serious work ahead of me.
  3. Feral Hunger edits. I’m not in a rush with this one as I have some in depth changes that need to be made. My goal is to make it through a chapter every three days or so. I’ll pour more of my energy into it once the kids are back in school and I can focus with less interruption. Slow start as expected. No worries, though. It’ll come. 🙂 
  4. Voodoo Carnival continue at 500 words a day (equates to a scene every couple of days or a chapter every four or so). It’s working for me, and anything working is going to stay that way. LOL. Until it’s not. 😉 I didn’t write in Voodoo yesterday, but it’s still on schedule. My primary concerns are Hidden Confection and Last Rites

Last Rites is still on schedule for submission this week. Hidden Confection should be done in the next day or so and then I can start edits for submission (it’s a short story!). 😀

I’m part of a fantastic group called A Round of Words in 80 Days, and if you’d like to see how everyone else is doing, check out the list HERE.

Would you like to be a part of our writing challenge? Check out the rules HERE.

Keep Writing!

In the Mood

In #amwriting, Write Talk on August 14, 2013 at 11:46 pm

Summer to ChristmasIt’s the raging middle of summer here in Texas. We’re busting 110°F without batting an eyelash. The heat waves hitting our home in the day are enough to slow roast you to perfection.

This summer, like five previous ones, is packed full of holiday writing. Halloween was back in May. Veteran’s Day in June. July and August are Christmas, all other winter holidays, and New Years.

How do you get in the mood to write a holiday story when you’re staring at beaches and swimming the day away? When your favorite day wear includes shorts, a tank top, and sandals? I could point out that our Southern Hemisphere peeps have heat in their Decembers and cold in their Augusts, but that won’t help get me in the mood to write.

About five minutes before I begin my scene I’ll listen to Christmas music (Jazz instrumental, actually. It lets me write with it playing in the background). I close my eyes and imagine the sounds, smells, and sights of Christmas in the town I’ve created. I can see the town square’s Christmas tree and the frosted grass (we’re in Texas, so not much snow, I’m afraid). The fountain is shut off but beautifully decorated.

There are two bakeries on opposite sides of the square. A Boy and his Cake is the heart of our story. It has all the great smells you’d expect: cookies, cakes, pastries. The windows are decorated like Santa’s Workshop and the customer line stretches out the door and around the corner.

The other bakery is actually a bagel shop and they’re made fresh daily (Asiago Cheese and Roasted Garlic is on sale today). Can you imagine the delicious scents? I admit I had to walk to my local bakery a few times during my prep for this story to get a good idea…sacrifices…I know.

I imagine all of this and when I can see it…Really see it…I write it. My heroine can feel the whip of cold air on her face.  She hears kids laughing and exhausted parents arguing. The square is busy as ever despite the time she’s been away (four years). Everything’s the same. Except for one small thing…A Boy and his Cake used to be Devyne Pastries and this picturesque Christmas scene isn’t hers to enjoy any more. Now the Christmas world around her is bittersweet. 🙂

The next time you’re not feeling a scene, take a few minutes to close your eyes and imagine it. Use all your senses and touch the world you’re creating. Let your characters experience it for a moment and then plunge them into their new challenge.

Second Book Syndrome

In #amwriting, Arc Talk, Write Talk on August 14, 2013 at 6:05 am

Welcome new followers and subscribers! I try not to look at the numbers as it can be intimidating to wonder about audience reactions, but last week’s emails, subscribers, and interest (link backs and such) took a jump. Forgive me, but I’d like to keep the illusion that you and I are just sitting down and having chats about writing. 😀

This post deals with intimidation on writing the second book of a series (where the first one was surprisingly popular). It’s a current journey of mine so the post focuses on the three things I had to repair this week. As I go along, I’m sure I’ll hit other stumbling blocks along the way. Take what works from what you read and discard the rest. 🙂

Scroll down to the bottom if you’re here to see the Round of Words update for the week. 🙂


It has many names. Second Book Syndrome is my favorite. Your first book was successful ( by your standards, by other’s standards, by reader’s reactions, etc.). Everyone is waiting (in anticipation) for the followup and you are ready to write it. Then you start it and a part of you dies.

It’s not as fabulous as the first one. 

The characters aren’t interesting. 

The plot is stagnant. 

Nothing’s working. 

I’m not having fun. 

There is no energy behind it. 

I’ve spent the last four days combing through my favorite writers’ blogs trying to figure out the magic formula to a problem where the second, long-anticipated book is nightmarish to write. How do you overcome the fear of failing expectations?

Let’s look at what you can control.

1. Characters. Did you give them proper goals, motivation, and conflict to begin with (book, scene, chapter)? We’ll use the hero from my current book. Goal: Escape the lab he’s been imprisoned in…ultimate goal is freedom Motivation: Captivity is painful, dangerous, and killing him (literally). Conflict: The only way out is through the one bright point of his captivity…the heroine. The heroine’s GMC. Goal: Protect the hero without blowing her cover…ultimate goal is to shut down the facility. Motivation: The asteroid is a strategic necessity to win the Sheon/Valorian war (not to mention the havoc it plays on her conscience). Conflict: Ignoring the hero will kill him, but when he takes her, she has to get back to her job to continue the mission and save lives.

If you start the book without any idea what your character is doing or why, it’ll reflect in your story. Even those who write by the seat of their pants…consider this. Every person has a GMC at almost every moment of their lives. Lounging around the house all day (goal) is motivated by the need to “relax”. Conflict arises when friend/family/neighbor/work interrupts your down time. When a person becomes “numb” after a traumatic event, their goal is to remain numb (not think) and they’re motivated by the fear of pain. Reality’s intrusion is the conflict. See what I’m saying?

You don’t necessarily have to create fifty pages of background information on your characters, but you do need to know why they’re there and how to throw a wrench in what they want. I realized I had no GMC for either character in a section I was working through. Figuring it out helped so much.

2. Plot. If you know the beginning and end, you’re in a good place. Linear plotters (and there are many pansters who can follow this logic line) write from beginning to end. No stops, no skips. For many years I thought I had to write this way. I still do, especially with short stories, but when I write a novel, I find myself skipping around. There are tons of ways to make sure your plot is solid. and a bazillion websites showing the step by step process of scene development and plot progression.

Great advice…IF you know how to get from point A to B. What if you don’t? This was a problem I suffered through all last week.

What happens if you have no idea how the characters go from escaping the lab to blowing it up? Every step I made from their escape and return fell flat. Annoyed me. Was crap. Insert insult here. I kept trying to figure out the way forward, but maybe, just this once, I’d have to work backwards.

Work backwards: a lesson I learned when writing research papers back in the day.

My high school son received word (yesterday) that he’ll have a research paper due at the end of the first semester so, while keeping him calm, I was thinking through some old lessons my teacher had taught me.

I had the same English teacher for most of high school. He had accelerated learning curricula and I loved the way he worked. Unlike most of the other teachers, he treated all students with the same respect. I was a student aid in one of his Senior English classes. Research papers were second nature to me by then (we had to do one every year in his class. I was an old pro with four under my belt), but this class was the first time most of them would do one.

While I was entering grades into his books, he was teaching the basics. One student, a stereotypical jock who’d rarely had to crack a book in high school, asked a question. He wanted to know why we had to have a thesis statement before we began the paper. I almost laughed (self-important much?) but realized no one else in the class was laughing. They were all curious. My teacher (after giving me a withering glare, he caught my amusement) said it was a good question (he would have snarked us to death if any one of our class had asked such a thing). He said the libraries we were going to were vast (they were) and we had one day to get all the work done. Knowing what you wanted to prove saved time, effort, and money (cost of copies).

Another person raised their hand and asked why it had to be a statement to prove/disprove and not a general statement about the subject.

He smiled and said…if you know where you’re going, you’ll have a roadmap to get there. By knowing how it ends, you can work backwards to get what you need. By this time, I’ve stopped entering grades and I’ve got my chin propped up on my hand.

Another raised his hand and my teacher held up his. He pointed to the jock from earlier. “How many sheep do you need for next year’s show?” The guy was in 4H, something I didn’t remember until that moment.

Three was the answer.

My teacher asked him what it would take to get the sheep ready for next year. The jock listed them quickly. Feed, grooming, vet visits, show practice, etc. My teacher smiled and pointed out that knowing the end result told him how much work would be involved leading up to it. He then showed examples using farming, baking, car repair, and summed it up in the research paper.

After class was over I asked him a lot of questions. The first was why he’d talked to them that way when he would have treated us differently. His answer stuck with me all these years. No one learns the same way. In our class, if someone didn’t know something, we’d talk to one another (and make fun), but in academics we had confidence enough to speak our mind. They, on the other hand, had questions but would never ask out of fear of being made fun of by a teacher rumored to be extremely intelligent (he was).

Why did he teach them to work backwards but never told us that…

He said people like me loved the library so could pick up a book, read a bit, and create a thesis on inspiration alone. Unlike those in the class I aided, I understood where research materials were stored, how to get from one point to another, where to ask for help, etc. For someone who doesn’t find writing to be intuitive, you give them a roadmap. They take their thesis and then, at the library, search for five sources. Those sources will provide the information they need to formulate a provable paper. He continued in his explanation. There are times, he said, where you have to change the way you work. Getting stuck is part of writing. When that happens, go back to the basics.

I woke up at 1 am this morning with his advice on my brain. Writing book two in a series is new territory for me. I’ve done it once before (with mixed results) so going back to the basics might work.

I took my book and broke it down by asking the question…what got the characters to this point? (What tools did they need and how did they get them?)

Strangely enough, my mind clicked.

Now I’ve written through the gaps in my plot and the words are flowing again.

***Note: Mystery writers have been known to use this type of process, so it’s hardly a new concept. In a mystery, the author knows how the crime was committed. The key is to figure out which clues (and in what order) to give the hero as he cracks the case.***

3. Acceptance. Accept that you can write to the best of your ability. Trust your instincts to guide you. Know that you have no control over the audience reaction. Give yourself permission to suck in the first draft.

*sigh* The hardest of all. Fear is a big drain in all three areas, but this one most of all.

There’s only one sure thing…not writing it will leave your readers disappointed and you disappointed with yourself. Lots of weight on the shoulders.

So that’s where I’m at, all. I’m finally in the middle of writing the second novel in a series and freaking myself out. I can’t remember what it was like to write the first book, only the frenzy involved in whipping it out. It became far more popular than I expected and I buried myself deep trying to ignore everyone telling me to write the next one.

I’ve avoided the ‘net for the past week in my attempts to get this baby on a good trek. I wasn’t there until this morning. So here I am. Writing again.


#ROW80 update


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Last Week’s Goals: 

  1. Hidden Confection I didn’t make 7.5k, but I’m on target to finish the book in the next few days.
  2. Last Rites now above 25% overhaul. I’m also using a new program to help with edits. Will give a review later in the week.
  3. Finished the unforeseen edits. *sigh* Wasn’t happy about them, but they were necessary.
  4. Voodoo Carnival I’d set up a goal to write a scene a day, but it only came out to 500 words a day. I’m going to let it be until the kids go back to school.

Nailing two out of four ambitious goals aren’t bad. 😀

New Goals for the Week (update on Wednesday next week):

  1. Hidden Confection completed
  2. Last Rites edits done. I expect to be working on the synopsis/submission by next check in.
  3. Feral Hunger edits. I’m not in a rush with this one as I have some in depth changes that need to be made. My goal is to make it through a chapter every three days or so. I’ll pour more of my energy into it once the kids are back in school and I can focus with less interruption.
  4. Voodoo Carnival continue at 500 words a day (equates to a scene every couple of days or a chapter every four or so). It’s working for me, and anything working is going to stay that way. LOL. Until it’s not. 😉

It’s now the midpoint to August so let’s see how we’re doing on the month’s goals: 

  1. Submit The Collector by August 1st: LOL! Wrong submission day. *sigh* But I still have a short story to submit at a later time. 🙂 
  2. Finish and Submit Voodoo Carnival by August 5th: Didn’t make August 5th, but I decided to keep going and submit through traditional channels. Still a work in progress, so I’m still happy with it. 
  3. Work on the super secret pulp fiction project (goal is 20k by August 31st): Coming along well. Story is outlined, first chapter is started. It’s my freewrite project on the weekends. Since I do the writing away from my main computer, I don’t keep track of word counts until it comes time to put it on my active projects list. 
  4. Submit Feral Hunger by August 31st: Still working on this one. Edits will pick up once the kids are back in school. 
  5. Work on chapter one for Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest. Chapter is written (book is, actually). On schedule to start edits on this in next week’s challenge. 
  6. Polish up (and update) a novella I wrote back in 2008. Submit it for publication as soon as it’s ready. Last Rites is this novella. 

I’d wanted four submissions in August. So far one (The Collector, with a polite rejection) has happened. Feral Hunger is still an unknown for the end of the month submission. Hidden Confection is up for submission, but not this week. 🙂 Last Rites is on schedule for submission next week. Wow. Completely surprising. 🙂

So, there you have it, I spent a week digging in deep and trying to find my way. My Christmas Story Red Velvet: Hidden Confection is coming along well. Lots of edits on my plate and books to submit and turn in next week. Not a bad haul at all. It feels good to be busy again.

I’m part of a fantastic group called A Round of Words in 80 Days, and if you’d like to see how everyone else is doing, check out the list HERE.

Would you like to be a part of our writing challenge? Check out the rules HERE.

Keep Writing!

Nose to the Grindstone

In #amwriting on August 7, 2013 at 11:20 pm

PWCicon2I’ve got my head down and eyes on target this week. I may have bit off more than I can chew on the write-a-scene-a-day challenge, but so far so good on my other goals for the week. Since I’m working my brain overtime by doing edits AND creating new content at the same time, I’m gonna keep this Wednesday update short.

I will, however, send you all over the net to other cool stuff I’ve found this week. Click if you’d like to see. 🙂

For Romance Writers with aspirations to work for Harlequin, they’re about to launch their So You Think You Can Write Contest. If you’d like to see what their editors are saying (and it’s GREAT stuff!), CLICK HERE.

I love this infographic listing the top ten Robert A. Heinlein Quotes.

Samhain Publishing has a Horror line and a Gothic Horror Submission Call (call ends 15 September).

I did some work on my author site. I’d love it if you’d take a look and tell me what you think. If you click on the banner arrows, it stops the change.

For a great list of submission calls (no genre limits), check out Cindy Myers’s blog. There’s this really cool Mad Scientist sub call I found on her page.

If you’d like to check out my books, here are the links (warning, it’s ah…spiiiicy stuff, only 18 and over):


#ROW80 update


Week’s Goals: 

  1. Hidden Confection is moving along nicely. 😀 My 7.5k goal is on target. 
  2. Last Rites at 25% overhaul. Almost done here. 
  3. Have some unforeseen editing to wrangle, but once it’s done, I’m done with it for a while. *growls* Yeah, That’s how much I’m loving these, but they’re almost done. 
  4. I’m following Kait Nolan’s advice this week and pushing myself 10% harder than last week by upping my writing for Voodoo Carnival by writing one scene a day. Might have bit off more than I can chew here, but I’m trying. I’m sitting at my average of around 500 words a day on this project. *sigh*  

I’m part of a fantastic group called A Round of Words in 80 Days, and if you’d like to see how everyone else is doing, check out the list HERE.

Would you like to be a part of our writing challenge? Check out the rules HERE.

Keep Writing!

Own the Way you Write

In #amwriting, Write Talk on August 4, 2013 at 7:03 am

DM on writing

Ten years ago I tentatively stepped out into this writing world with a simple intention:

Write a book

I didn’t care how popular it would be or what my name would look like on the cover. I said…teach me how to translate the stories in my head to words on paper. At the time my life was full of rules and regulations. My job was very demanding and detail-oriented (calibrating medical equipment like x-ray machines, lasers, and ventilators were like that).

I needed something to let my imagination roam free so I could sleep better at night and vent my frustration in a creative way. Drawing and painting were things I loved, but it didn’t quiet my brain the way writing did.

There were hundreds of resources if you knew where to look. Plenty of people who would tell you exactly what you needed to know to succeed in writing as a career. I listened and absorbed as much as possible and then tried it all.

Snowflake method for plotting, Morgan Hawke’s Writing the Novella layout, Lynn Viehl’s Novel Notebook, Holly Lisle’s plot workshop, countless RWA and online workshops and events were how I spent most of my non-writing time. I won’t even get into the thousands of dollars in “how-to” books I purchased.

For a brief period I followed a by-the-seat-of-your-pants way of doing things (Panstering). Pure Pantstering is like dropping me in a fog-filled bog without a map or light and expecting me to stroll home in time for dinner. It didn’t work at all for me.

I couldn’t follow any of their suggestions consistently. No matter how many times I was told it would get easier and easier with every use, it didn’t. Trust me, guys, I didn’t try it once and say meh. I forced myself to follow these strict guidelines. Now, I need to note that Morgan, Lynn, and Holly have all put up disclaimers stating you should do what works for you and discard the rest. What they teach is invaluable, so don’t think I’m talking smack. I’ll get to what I learned from each of them in a minute.

These three are authors I respect more than anything. It must be a total fail on my part. Right? A quiet shame. While people talked about muses and amazing word counts with perfect Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, I stared at my novellas and novels with agonizing deliberation and wondered what was wrong with me.

It was two years into writing and I was an active participant in a fun writing group where we had monthly picture prompts for stories and no limit to the genres. Most of us had decided to pursue publication and several, including me, had succeeded. They talked about muses and how wonderful it was to have one. I asked, innocently enough, what if you didn’t have one? Well. Let’s just say I got quite a surprise about how screwed up my writing way was.

Lectures. Oh, the lectures about why muses are important and how I should picture this individual in my mind and how they’re pushing me to write. I have a very vivid imagination, but this muse thing seemed a little too much like an NCO hovering over my shoulder while I did intricate calibrations. My biggest issue with the muse is that it takes away your creative freedom. By saying you’re at the mercy of this thing, you empower it to prevent you from doing what you want to do…when you want to do it. I started writing because I needed that control. I’m not knocking muses, guys. Stephen King has one but he puts him to work at the same time every day. 😀 Many other extremely successful authors have them. That’s cool…for them. Remember, we’re talking about the path I took and my bumps in the road. I may not have a muse, but that has NOTHING to do with your writing. 🙂

A weird thing happened while I was getting the lecture of my life on why being muse-less is a nightmare of wrong. I received an IM from someone else who said they didn’t have a muse either, but didn’t want to say anything because everyone else had one.

So then I started wondering. Everyone has an opinion on the “Right Way” of writing a story, but most of them conflict with one another. I knew it reminded me of something, but couldn’t remember what.

One day I was in the shop and we started up a conversation about holiday traditions. We had an extremely diverse group (religious and otherwise) from all over the world and every one of them had stories they remembered about Santa Claus. Each of them was an interesting take on the jolly ol’ elf and I was fascinated. Some of the stories had similar events while others were so far removed from what I know that I sat in stunned silence. Not once did anyone argue with someone else about how their version of Santa Claus was the wrong one. You should know this shop encompassed thirteen individuals, twelve of which were males. Our ages were 19-42.

No arguments about which one was right, but an appreciation that despite our religious and cultural backgrounds, we all knew SC. He was supposed to represent good will through giving gifts from the heart. We all agreed on that (though there was a jump over to commercialization of Christmas, but I digress).

Writing is like that. You, as an author, give the gift of story to your reader. Does it really matter how many elves (tools) you needed to build this story? How many times did you have to start over or discard the story because it didn’t work? The reader doesn’t care about the process. They care about the gift you give them (Take a second to see it from the eyes of a reader and you’ll agree. I know I’m that way).

So why does one person tell another that their process is wrong? I’m not talking about edits, mind you. I’m talking about the writing process.

Once I realized that others were feeling the same doubts and worry I suffered through, I started paying attention to those disclaimers I mentioned earlier. In order to really apply anything to my writing, I had to understand my OWN process first. How do you do that? Write a book. Document how you did, where you struggled. Then, once it’s done, look back at it. What do you need to do? Add words? Take away words? Overhaul dialogue?

Let me tell you what I found out about the way I write. 

  1. I create short and sweet character bios, usually with a picture of who I think represents them. The ABCharacter Traits I’ve mentioned before is greatly influenced by Lynn Viehl. If I have a detailed world, I’ll set up some specifics in my notebook, paste in some pictures, and follow Lynn and Holly’s world building guides.
  2. I create a very vague outline.
  3. My first draft pours out the words in quick, concise, and boring sentences without emotion and barely any description. I write down (in a notebook I keep handy) a couple of sentences about what I want out of each scene just before I write it. My attempts to try it any other way end up causing me heartache, headaches, and busted deadlines. The first draft (my roughest draft) is for me, and only me. It’s difficult to let even a writing/critique partner see it because it’s raw and uncut. I’ve only done this on a handful of occasions with the disclaimer that it’s my very (very) rough draft. Criticism, however, rears its ugly head here, and I’ve learned to keep this draft to myself. Only extreme desperation and absolute trust from someone who understands how I write this draft will let me show them my content at this point in my career.
  4. I take a few days off from the first draft and think about what emotions I want in each scene, the motivations I need to emphasize, and areas I want to make more vibrant. All from memory.
  5. I sit down and begin the second draft. During this session, I weave in emotion and tighten dialogue. The senses are expanded and sentence structure is strengthened. My word count jumps significantly despite nixing any scenes that don’t forward the story (this includes worthless subplots). Here is where I apply Morgan Hawke’s five senses and several other aspects of her writing way. Once it’s done, I’m comfortable sending the copy to critique partners.
  6. Again, the book sits for a couple of days while I review Holly Lisle’s editing workshops and a few of my personal notes on known bad habits with grammar, structure, and storytelling. My critique partners will get back to me with their notes, and I’ll jot down recurring issues in my notebook. Here is where rules and structure are important, btw. This part of the process is necessary. Editing. Is. Necessary. 
  7. I then do a full sweep of grammar and content, tweaking it for submission. My CPs notes are invaluable at this point. I may have to overhaul a scene or two. If a lot of changes have to be made, I’ll send it back to my critique partners with notes on the sections I’m most concerned about. Replies come back. I do the final edits. Once I finish this, it’s sent off to Beta Readers for evaluation, or, if I’m on a tight deadline, it’s formatted and submitted.

This is my Santa’s workshop. My house. The way I do business. It’s en ever-evolving process, but it works for me. If my Writing Way (or anyone else’s) causes you to break out in hives, I urge you to see if some aspect resonates with you before dismissing it completely as something you can’t do.

Also, if you don’t like my Write Way…I don’t care. And you should feel the same way. Here’s why: that person who is telling you what you’re doing is wrong will NOT be sitting up at two in the morning with bleary eyes and a pounding headache writing the book FOR you. If anything, they’ll ask you what’s taking so long. LOL.

A note to make here…there’s no point in being angry with them because you took their advice on your writing process and lost valuable writing time. Own the way you write.

Does this mean you should ignore everyone’s advice and just blindly stumble on? Nope, but you should look at the advice objectively before applying it to the way you work.

For example, there is little point in me taking a workshop or searching for articles on how to cut down your rough draft’s word count. Remember, I have to add content. My rough drafts are nothing but skin and bones. On the other hand, if there’s an article or workshop on how to strengthen scenes with the five senses or expand on the emotional arc of a character, I’ll take it. Those are areas I work on between one draft and another.

Embrace the way you write. Love the process because it’s not going anywhere. For goodness sake, realize there IS NO RIGHT WAY. That’s why the blog’s title is The Write Way, My Way. Take whatever works from any of these posts and discard the rest. You’ve got stories to tell. Don’t waste time and energy getting fussy over someone else’s toy workshop organization.


#ROW80 update


ROW80LogocopyRemaining on the list

  1. Final Frustration with Spirit Lake has me setting it off to the side. I just don’t have time to untangle whatever I’ve done wrong with it. My critique partner’s response to the rough bit I sent was that it seems like there’s a different story there and asked if writing an earlier event in the heroine’s life might work. So I’m thinking, maybe. It’s a genre I’m branching out into so I’m okay with taking it slow while I get my feet wet.
  2. The Collector is done. It was submitted, but I missed the deadline (my memory was off by a day). The editor’s quick response and sweet message was kind, but I’m kicking myself for not double-checking the date! So now I’m going to expand it a bit and send it elsewhere for consideration.
  3. Last Rites is a completed novella I found in an old WIPs folder. It’s dark, sexy, and fun. I’m a much different writer now so I have to overhaul it. A lot. LOL! It’s a fun project because I love the story.
  4. Hidden Confection is a short novella (around 10k words) with a looming deadline. It takes place in the Kitchen With world and is set for holiday release this year. I agreed to do it back in the spring, but T&R took away more time than I ever expected.
  5. Voodoo Carnival won’t make the August 5th deadline, but it was a personal one, so I’m not stressing it.

Week’s Goals: 

  1. Hidden Confection at 75% completion (7.5k)
  2. Last Rites at 25% overhaul
  3. Have some unforeseen editing to wrangle, but once it’s done, I’m done with it for a while.
  4. I’m following Kait Nolan’s advice this week and pushing myself 10% harder than last week by upping my writing for Voodoo Carnival by writing one scene a day.

I’m part of a fantastic group called A Round of Words in 80 Days, and if you’d like to see how everyone else is doing, check out the list HERE.

Would you like to be a part of our writing challenge? Check out the rules HERE.

Keep Writing!

Which Version is Which

In #amwriting, Write Talk on August 1, 2013 at 12:05 am

20621648_sPicture this…you open up your WIPs folder and find an older story, one you’d love to work in again. You’re excited, right? Can’t wait to work on it. Then you see…another document with the same title. What? Which one is the most recent? You look at the date on the document and you see one is more recent, so that’s the right one, right?

Or is it? In your older version, you have a lot more words, but the newer version has sharper content.  You notice the changes at the end, but do you work with the one you like more? Or the one you have more words on? What if there are other differences?

You have three choices: 1. go line by line with the versions side by side, 2. walk away (don’t do this one!), or 3. say the Hell with it and pick one.

What if you have three versions? Or four?

What if you have beta readers who do edits and send them back to you? Do you change the name of the beta versions before you save them to your hard drive? What about the date? I mean, if you open up the beta document and put a space in the thing, you’ve “modified it” so the date changes (autosave is a great thing, but…).

Classic rookie mistake. Combing through my cobweb-filled WIPs folder showed me this problem. I thought I’d overcome it by now, but…well…I wouldn’t be making this post if I didn’t come across a more recent version of it.

How do you keep this from happening?

For our example, let’s use my current WIP title: Voodoo Carnival.

I have a folder in my writing documents entitled Voodoo Carnival.

My working document name is:

“VoodooCarnival_1stDraft”

Call it what you want, but this works for me.

Now, save this document to the same name throughout your 1st draft’s writing. Easy so far right?

What if you send it to someone to read? Let’s say I wasn’t sure if this plot direction works, and really wanted a read-through by my trusted critique partner (CP), Cynnara Tregarth. I would save my current WIP then do a “save as” and change the document name to:

“VoodooCarnival_1stDraft_Cyn_30Jul2013”

I have the title, the draft number, the person it went to and the date I sent it. This is important. Trust me.

So Cynnara does a quick read-through and documents some places where I’d veered off track. She sends it back, and most times it will be the EXACT SAME TITLE as when you sent it. Other times it’ll be a different title based on how it was saved by your crit partner of beta reader. Hang with me a second, I’ll show you how to fix that.

You get the document back and you do a download and “save as”.

note: keep it in email. Uploading over IM or Facebook leaves you no paper trail in case you lose a version along the way

When I save it, I go to the Voodoo Carnival wip folder and select the version I’d sent to Cynnara originally (“VoodooCarnival_1stDraft_Cyn_30Jul2013”). When it pops up with the old title, make this change:

“VoodooCarnival_1stDraft_Cyn_Back_31Jul2013

During this time, it would be best if you didn’t continue writing on your original 1st draft copy, but let’s say you do. Now what? Take your working 1st draft and put it side by side with your CP’s edits/comments. Make changes to your working copy (NOT the one they sent back to you). Then…once those changes are made, either delete everything but your working copy or set up a new folder called CP Feedback and dump those docs in there.

Out of sight=No mistakes later

There are some who say it’s easier to merge documents! Easier? Maybe if you have four or five changes, notes, etc. When you’re talking about a 24k, 55k, or 94k book, it’s a little more complicated. Approve every change. Don’t make the mistake of just accepting them all. You have NO idea what formatting nightmares, plot holes, or random stuff you’ve added. Reading through the WIP will be required either way, so save yourself some heartache. Is my way the best out there? Probably not. Is it effective? Hell yes!

Let’s say you’ve finished your draft. Your critique partners have given you their notes and you’ve made changes. Save the document as:

“VoodooCarnival_PostCP_1Aug2013”

It’s now got the timeline (Post CP) and the date it was completed. Now, if you’ve got Beta Readers you’ll send the POST CP copy to them. When you get it back and you make whatever changes, you’ll change the version to:

“VoodooCarnival_PostBeta_1Aug2013”

You’ll then do a final read through and edit. Save the document as whatever it’s supposed to be for submission. Then, for freak’s sake, take all the other documents you have and put them in your archive folder or delete them. You have one copy. Just the one.

Remember: Out of sight=No mistakes later

Now, to answer some questions I received earlier on the difference between Critique Partners and Beta Readers.

Critique Partner: A person who edits and critiques your work for continuity (time line, prop checks, plot line stability, etc). Gives in depth notes. Use only those you trust. In movies this would be your script supervisor or “continuity person”.

Beta Reader: A person who reads through the book for readability and page-turn quality. In movies this would be the test audience for the film. Use only those you trust.

In your writing life, it’s possible to have a hybrid of the two. If your assistant can do both, it’s VERY important for you to tell them “please look for x, x, and x during the read-through.” Once the changes are made, give it back to them and say something like “Now read it as a normal reader and see how it goes.” If you attempt to combine the two, it’ll stress your partner as they have to use two different parts of the brain to do both.

What do you do with your works in progress? Let us know in comments.

Keep Writing!

Dawn

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