Friday, December 29, 2006

Romance or Erotica?

Romantic Times explained it this way:

Erotica - Contains explicit sexual content. Anything goes. Sex is the story. The descriptions are frank and the language graphic. Don’t look for a happy ending here.

Erotic Romance - The hero and heroine make love very early on in these books. No Flowery euphemisms in bed, just straight-talking graphic language. There’s a solid plot and the sex scenes are integral to the relationship. Although multiple partners are acceptable, most couples are in a monogamous relationship and there’s a happy ending.

Hot Romance - Sexual tension permeates these books, and the love scenes, although steamy, are not as frank as in erotic romance. The language and descriptions are tamer. They follow a strict romance format: monogamous relationships and happy endings.

I believe Romantic Times' descriptions are excellent.

Now you ask why I am writing about this subject. Well, for one thing, I had a conversation with a friend and she was really confused about the differences between the genres. She wrote a love scene and was really upset with herself about it possibly being erotica. I read it and no it wasn’t, but to her (she’d never written a love scene before) this was a line crossing. She had entered a place that subconsciously she was embarrassed about, which is very common not only with authors but readers also.

As for me, I write romance--Fantasy and Contemporary Romance, and I'm proud of it. Why? Mainly because I love to read it. I also write love scenes in my novels. Why? Because that is the natural flow of what two people in love end up doing. So what is wrong with that? Well, if you’re honest, there’s nothing wrong with two adults in love making love.

I don’t write Erotica or Erotic Romance. I’m not even sure if I ever will but I don’t believe in saying never. That always comes back to bite you. So if one day I do make an attempt at it, I will do so with my eyes open and focused on the story.

Each of these genres has large followings. Each one sells tons of books. It’s up to the reader to choose what they want to read. If you’ve never read any of the above genres, look them up, buy one of the better authors and read it. Then you decide whether or not you like it.

Now, as an author, I feel in my heart that to close the door to an avenue of growth will stunt my ability to write. If I decide to write Erotica one day, does this make me a bad person? No, I don’t believe so. If I end up writing a thriller, I am still the same person I was when I wrote romance. So just as you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover don’t judge an author by her genre.

For those who have never read any of these genres, keep in mind that just because you don’t read them doesn’t place them in the off-limits category because of the sex/love scenes. Just like in Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham, you might like Green Eggs and Ham.

Judith Leger

Posted by Speck for Judy, home on vacation with no internet:--)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Why does it matter?

Hey all...

I've been reading Miss Snarks Happy Hooker Crap-o-meter most of the week and had an epiphany early this morning.

One of the things she mentions quite often is why? Why does it matter, why should she care? I know we have to hook the reader, agent, or editor. But I applied this question to my novel and came up something I thought I'd share.

For last year's NaNo novel...Dragons of Jade...I have the bad guy killing dragons. But it hit me this morning as I was snuggled under my covers trying to sleep...why does it matter if the dragons die? I need to have an important reason the killing must stop. Just cause I like dragons doesn't count. Talk about a not so polite way to wake up:--( Sure my dragons have special abilities...but what does that mean to the people in the novel? Why should they care if all the dragons are gone? I've got some pondering to do....sigh.

In a romance, we know the big stakes are the hero/heroine getting together and living happily ever after. Them not being happy is the "why it matters, why we should care". For most romance novels, that is enough.

But...for other stories...we need a powerful "why" to hook the reader.

So....take a day or two if needed. Ponder your work in progress and see if your "why" is powerful enough.


Monday, December 25, 2006

Setting realistic goals

In a few short days, we will bid farewell to 2006 and welcome in the new year. Since I began writing full-time, I've used the final days of the year as a kind of review - what did I accomplish and where did I fall short.

The funny thing about goals is that you have to be realistic when you set them. On the heels of NaNo I posted I would finish "A Shepherd's Journey" this month. Who in the heck was I kidding? I knew how busy this month would be, and I also knew how much research I needed to do to move forward with this project. Yet, I set that lofty goal knowing I had an ice cube's chance in hell of achieving it.

Some might say it's good to push yourself; I would tend to agree. But when you continually set goals which you can't possibly meet, all you do is guarantee failure. And over time, not obtaining your goals will affect how you approach your writing.

Putting together a list of realistic goals takes a while, but I suggest every writer compiles one. Consider what you can honestly dedicate to each item on that list. While it might feel good in the beginning to write out 30 things you wish to accomplish in the next six months, you will soon become bogged down when it is March and you haven't even finished the first 3 items. Just because one person's goals include a dozen writing related projects for the first quarter of 2007, doesn't mean you have to work at the same pace. You are the only one who knows how much time you can dedicate to your writing.

After sitting down to write this blog entry, I thought about my own little list of goals posted in the Elevator section. I think it's time to take my own advice and review it to see if my goals are realistic. I still want to push myself, but I also want to be sure I am able to complete items on my list on a fairly regular basis. If I can't, then those feelings of failure will come creeping around the corner, and I don't have the time to waste in dealing with them. Do you?


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas

That's right, Merry Christmas. The day is almost upon us. It's sorta lurking over the shoulder laughing at us as we make that last trip to the store with everyone else in town.

Take the weekend off from everything but enjoying the family. Of course I know some of us will be cooking and such, but put the writing aside along with all the things that can wait. Enjoy the time you have with your kids, grandkids and each other. Time is a precious gift, one that we can't ever get back. When my kids were little, someone gave me a pix with poem. I don't remember it all but part of it was this...

" and scrubbing can wait til tomorrow, cause babies grow up we've learned to our sorrow, so quiet down cobwebs dust go to sleep, I'm rocking my baby cause babies don't keep."

Making memories with our family is so important. So, take time this holiday season to make some great family memories.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Fourth of July 07

I know, I know, we haven’t gotten through Christmas yet-why think about the Fourth of July? Because that’s what the major magazine editors are working on…issues due out in July. (Well, probably June but there aren’t any holidays in June so to make my point I needed to use July J )
It is going to be tempting to write a cute story about something that happened to you or someone you know this Christmas. Your muse may even give you a sweet little fiction short that will be perfect for your favorite women’s magazine. But editors don’t run after Christmas stories the way Wal-Mart runs after Christmas sales.

Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t hang onto the story/article, filing it away until next year. It may be a good idea to write the story while the tree is still up, using the visuals to inspire you. The minute the tree comes down though, we should begin to think of stories and articles about summertime. A Fourth of July bar-b-q where the slab of ribs -on closer inspection- looks a little too human for your characters taste. Or friends June wedding that is called off at the last minute because the bride -to -be just caught her maid of honor loving up on the prospective groom. If non-fic is your thing, you might have a great travel article about hiking and camping in the Great Smoky Mountains that you have been meaning to write.

If freelance is your choice, or at least what you want to do with your writing to make some money while writing the next great American novel, learn to be timely. Search out your favorite magazine markets and find out how far in advance they plan their issues. Most e-zines for example layout their issues about a month ahead of publication. You can send them your Christmas story in October. But, if you want to send a Christmas story to Readers Digest, or Good Housekeeping, you want to get it to the editor no later than July. Each magazine differs on deadlines for submitting timely articles so do your research. You don’t want your article rejected by an editor with a note saying they loved the story but you got it to them too late for inclusion in their December 2007 issue. GASP!

While the weather outside is frightful, dream of warmer days ahead. Picture yourself or your characters on a sailboat off the coast of Maine wrestling with the great Atlantic. Or maybe a beach house in the Bahamas, the site of a gruesome murder. If you are like me, warm weather brings to mind gardening and maybe doing an article on healing herbs you can grow in small spaces. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s finished and ready for submission by the end of January.

And don’t despair if you have written a Valentine’s story or an Easter article but haven’t submitted it yet. There are always the e-zines, (and yes, some of them do pay) as well as magazine contests where your story may find a home. And, if nothing else, you can file it away for those same holidays in 2008. I have a filing cabinet with all of my writing stuff in it. Some things are filed by story/article titles, but some are filed chronologically. The stories I write over this holiday season will be filed away under June, for submission then. It’s a good system I learned from studying how the pros of freelance run their businesses. You may want to give it a try.
In June of 2007, while you are sunbathing in the backyard, sipping on a wine cooler and editing your novel think "snow". Then grab your Christmas story and dash to the post office. The goodie that fills your stocking Christmas 2007 may just be a check from Woman’s Day.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Show vs. Tell

As a writer, I now have the ability to surf the web or go to the library to research writing techniques. That’s all very good, but to achieve what published writers do, the best way that I've found is to read the type of books, articles and stories that I enjoy and would like to write. The next step is to utilize what information I gather from reading and put that into my own writing. This is where the test is passed or failed. To touch my readers and to invoke a reaction from them, I have to show not tell the story.

Webster's Dictionary meanings:

Show – to cause or permit to be seen, exhibit, reveal, disclose, a demonstrative display, a theatrical presentation.

Tell – narrate, say, to inform.

When I first started to write, I often wondered about the difference between the two. After much research, I realized that the main ingredient for accomplishing showing was missing in my work. I wasn’t including the five senses in each scene. No matter what I describe, I have to add the senses to it. Does the grass tickle your bare feet? Cool the bottoms off, dampen them with the dew? Are birds chirping and flying across the clear blue sky? Is there a strong pang of black coffee in your mouth and the rich aroma of the steam traveling up your nostrils?

I find that when I immerse my whole mind into that of the character’s Point of View that I’m in during the scene, the showing becomes almost second nature. How do you do this? Well, I am an observer in that character’s mind. Every reaction, touch, and thought that he or she has or feels, I share and I put all of this into words. Sure, I don’t use all of what I've writen but sometimes it’s better to have too much than too little. As an author I can go back and review my work and change, delete or add to what I’ve already have in the scene.

For me, my favorite method is to show by pretending I am staring through a telescope. What does that mean? Well, when I am in my character’s Point of View, I take notice of all about me, atmosphere, room, decorations, taste, smell, etc. Not only do I have external aspects to consider but also internal ones also.

In other words, I don’t want to tell a story like I would at the office to a friend. I want to put on paper a black and white movie that will play the story out for the reader. I want them to not only see the beautiful scenes but I want them to feel the anguish and laughter of the characters inside and out. When I do this, I have a longer version of what I want to say. I create a vivid picture in the reader’s mind thus causing them to react to the story. One way that I do this is to replace linking verbs with more active ones. I also use very descriptive adjectives and nouns.

In the end, my story is stronger, fresher and has a wonderful flavor to it.

Practice with the senses. See how this will work with your story. I’m happy I did.

Judith Leger

Posted by Speck for Judy

Monday, December 11, 2006

Jumping Up and Down

I had this week's blog entry figured out in my mind days ago. I even considered writing it and saving the entry as a draft to make my life easier. I' m glad I didn't, because late Monday night my free newsletter from Writer2Writer popped into my Inbox.

Do you know what was inside that newsletter? My first paid piece.

Wow, does saying that feel good! So now, I am in a euphroic mood because not only am I writer -- I am a paid writer. While I consider all my clips valuable, it somehow feels different to say I got paid for my work. Like it validates the opinions of those who have believed in me since I started my writing career.

I hope I don't embarrass her when I say this, but I owe a tremendous amount of debt to our dear Sassy. She was the first person outside of my family and friends to tell me the articles she saw were good enough to publish. As Editor of Destiny3 Fiction she gave me the confidence to move forward with my ideas and to continue plugging away at my writing when I felt I was headed towards failure.

Thank you Sassy. I will never forget it!

So as I jump up and down, trying to type this little note to you all, let me say one other thing (if I can find the right keys), for all those of you who are still waiting for news of an acceptance -- it will come. If you are determined enough to make it happen -- it will.

For those of you who have already known the joy I am feeling, good for you. Can you remember what it was like when you got that first check? I bet you can, no matter how long ago it was.

And to all of us, as we leave 2006 behind and move into the New Year, let it be with firm resolve that we decide to make 2007 the best year (yet) for our writing careers. With all of our friends at StoryCrafters behind us, we can make it happen.

Good luck!


Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Disease of Writing

"Against the disease of writing one must make special precautions, since it is a dangerous and contagious diesase." Peter Abelard, 1079-1142

I found this quote the other day and just had to save it. For me, writing is an obsession. No matter how often I get discouraged, I still come back to it. I love the "rush" that happens when the words just flow, the way time seems to stand still and everything around me disappears. Everything except the story.

I even like the hard times. Those rejection letters without comments cause me to study my writing and improve my craft. The days when words come hard give me reason to consider the direction I'm trying to go and decide if it really is "right" for the story.

I like the many things that go along with the life of a writer too. The 3 a.m. visits from the plot bunny, the "ah ha" moment in the middle of shampooing my hair, or how that problem scene just seems to come together about the time I hit 75 mph driving down the highway and I have to pull over and make a note.

I like brainstorming ideas with writing buddies. I like just chatting with other writers, knowing they know how it feels to get that form rejection or what's it's like when the words don't want to be put on paper.

One of my favorite writer things to do is just listen to more experienced writers. When I was growing up, my grandmother had a stitched picture of an owl sitting on a limb. The poem under said..."The wise old owl was a wise old bird. The more he heard, the less he spoke. The less he spoke, the more he heard. The wise old owl was a wise old bird."

For some reason, that has stuck with me over the years. And you know's true. It's amazing the things you can learn just by listening. One of these days, I want to be the one new writers are listening to and learning from. So, today I study, I listen to wiser folks and do my best to apply the knowledge.

For me, writing is definitely a disease. It has consumed me. Heart and soul. There is no cure...I've got it bad. And today, I don't mind at all:-)


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

187 Pages

One hundred and eighty seven pages of text. That's what this writer will be doing on her unplanned 'vacation' from the keyboard. Editing. One hundred eighty five novel pages, and two pages of an unfinished article. Nearly one hundred thousand words. It seems like so many, until I saw them printed out in black and white, printed by PIP, paper and ink. Suddenly it seems both small and overwhelming at the same time.

When a writer is cut off from their keyboard and doesn't care for hand-writing, what are they to do? Apparently, they edit. They read, and take time off.

This writer will be enjoying the holidays and editing the first 1/3 of her novel. Using notes from beta's and thoughts that have been nagging in my own head, I will drag out the red pen and move to strike. It's a task that I've been longing for, and afraid of since I started this rewrite. Now knowing where I went wrong, and sometimes still unsure I have to face my fears of finding horrid writing and unleash the internal editor I've kept chained up for six months.

So, here's to food and drink to the unchained internal editor.

Here's to the holidays.

Here's to continuing on our paths to success, however life lets us.

Monday, December 04, 2006

P and P

I am blessed to have a dear friend who is one of the best psychologists I have ever known. She goes right to the heart of a problem, never dancing around a subject. Life is short.I talked to her once at great length about procrastination. Of course it took me a while to get around to the subject as I was afraid of what she has to say about me. Nevertheless, I had to know why I’m this way so I can cut it out.

If you want to continue being stuck in the rut of “I’ll do it later”, then close this blog now. But if you want to stop this nonsense and get on with it, then read on.

“Procrastinators are perfectionists.” Linda gave me a minute to let this sink in.

How can that be? Procrastinators are notorious for never accomplishing tasks or putting them off until they must be done then running around like a chicken with our heads cut off trying to finish up. Perfectionists, on the other hand are folks who strive for perfection. They don’t stop until their task is free of imperfections.

“There is no such thing as perfect Sherry. Think about it.”

I did.

What happens to a perfectionist when they realize that what they hope to accomplish isn’t turning out perfectly? They quit. They make excuses. They put off the task because it isn’t turning out perfect.

Hmm…sounds much like a procrastinator doesn’t it? That’s because the two go hand in hand.Now that we understand that procrastination/perfectionism is a two edged sword, what do we do about it? The answers are not as hard as you may think.

First, we have to identify which type of P&P we are. There are two types; normal and neurotic. Let’s start with the ‘normal perfectionist’. They set high standards for themselves but drop their standards if the situation requires it. A normal P&P will set high standards that are just beyond their reach, enjoy the process as well as the outcome, and bounce back from failure quickly and with energy. We (I say we here because I have identified myself as this type), keep our failures and fears within bounds. We see mistakes as an opportunity to learn and grow and we react positively to helpful criticism. (If we understand it that is)

Then there is the neurotic perfectionist. They never feel that they have done their job well enough. They are very intolerant of mistakes and extremely self-critical because they set standards beyond reach and reason. They are never satisfied by anything less than perfection and become horribly depressed when they fail. In other words, they set themselves up for failure. They become pre-occupied with failure, see errors as evidence of unworthiness and become overly defensive when criticized.

No matter which type of P&P you have identified yourself as being here are a few ways to kill the beast and get on with a productive, healthy and happy existence. By the way, I don’t know where this list came from originally but Dr. Linda Willett gave it to me.

Tricks to deal with procrastination:
 Take advantage of impulsiveness. When you get the urge to start working on that project, start right then. Don't put it off.
 Figure out what you need to do first. Then do it. What needs to come next will probably fall into place as you're doing the first step.
 Use your imagination. If something seems terribly hard to do, go over it in your mind, imagine doing it, or talk about it aloud with a friend.
 Be your own best friend: be positive, not critical, of yourself.
 Work in a study group
 Ask for help Use your friends. Talk about it with someone; let all your frustrations out in an e-mail to a friend or family member, etc. This may help get a block out of the way. (Don't spend too much time and let this turn into another procrastination technique, though!)
 Remember that nobody's perfect. Don't expect your work to be either.
 Rewards: give yourself rewards when you complete a task--and really earn it, don't just let yourself have it if you haven't accomplished your goal
 Tell people what you're going to do. Be affirmative, direct, and clear. Say "I will ..." (not "I'm going to try to ..." or " I think maybe I'll ..." or ...)
 Get off the phone. Yes, you. Delegate when possible. If you're the president of the ScubaSurfing club, you don’t have to do ALL the minor tasks involved in running the organization.Ask others to help you.
 Avoid busy-work rationalizations: Your room can in fact be messy.
 Relax before you start. This will help deal with fears and perfectionism, which you can handle better when you're relaxed.
 "The Secret to conquering procrastination": Start now. Just begin. Don’t agonize, do. It will be much easier to work on it once you’ve begun.
 Ask yourself if this is a piano. A what? A piano. Is what you're working on a piano or a barn frame (picture?)? Not everything you do has to be perfect. You can spend less time on the little things and when a piano (or a term paper) comes around, you can spend extra time on the minor details.

I’ll close with this; a parable called The South African Monkey Trap. Dr. Linda says the reason so many P&P’s never change is because we can’t let go of our idea of perfectionism, even when we know our thinking is wrong. I have this parable on my bulletin board next to my puter. See if it helps you as it does me.

The trap was developed by villagers to catch the many small monkeys in that part of the world. It involves a hollowed out coconut shell chained to a stake. The coconut has some rice inside which can be seen through the small hole. The hole is just big enough so that the monkey can put his hand in, but too small for his fist to come out after he grabs hold of the rice.

Tempted by the rice, the monkey reaches in and is trapped. He is unable to see that it’s his own fist that traps him. He rigidly holds onto the rice because he values it. He cannot let go, so he is trapped.

I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be trapped by P&P. I want to succeed in my endeavors so I am learning to open my hand. I hope you will too.

*Posted by Speck for Gwanny cause blogger is being a pain:--)

Saturday, December 02, 2006



Top ten reasons I procrastinate:


You've seen this, right? Okay, I read Speck's entry about writing less during the holidays and not stressing over it. While that is very true, today I had the distinct displeasure of realizing that I am still a procrastination queen. So, while I flitted away another hour in a hot bath, I decided to make a wish list of sorts for this blog. I am a bit early with the New Year's Resolutions and I generally don't make them. I feel like I'm setting myself up for failure that way. Here is a Procrastinator's Wish List for the Coming Year. (Forget about it in December as our illustrious troll has given us permission).

In 2007:
I will set a schedule and stick to it.
I will learn to say no to things that are unnecessary.
I will learn to say no when I do not have the ability to help and quit trying to find every solution under the sun.
I will hide my MSN profile more often.
I will wake up early enough to exercise so that the body is fit as well as the mind.
I will find new ways to organize my thoughts and writing life.
I will stick to my commitments and not whimp out.
I will continue to reach for my goals, and when I reach them, I will set new ones.
I will love much, laugh often, and enjoy life at its finest.
and Sassy's own personal goal (I will earn my tattoo in 2007).

Maybe your list isn't as long as mine, or maybe it is longer. Either way, December will soon be over -- yes, I know it just got here-- and The Elevators will begin in earnest. Now is the time to take an evaluation of your career goals for 2007 and break them into reasonable time periods. Don't overload yourself but at the same time, make it a challenge to rise to the top. I'm sure you will agree that the sweetest victory comes through struggle.

Be careful on the roads now. Holiday shopping can be vicious!

Madame Sassy

Friday, December 01, 2006

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas...

What's that got to do with today's blog? Nothing:-) I'm just a bit cool and since it is Dec. first, it seemed appropriate.

Actually, why not? Christmas, or whatever December holiday you celebrate, is a general time of giving. We give to charities, friends, family and who knows how many others. But what do we give ourselves?

How about permission to write a little less during this holiday season. There are so many things going on and who needs the guilt.

And of course more time with the family. I say enjoy them while you can. The kids only stay small so long. You will always have dishes to wash, laundry to do and things to dust.

But don't forget to take time for yourself. Get that hot bubble bath, quiet alone time or bite of chocolate you've been wanting. If you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to get all the things you need to do done.

Oh...when someone asks what you'd like for Christmas, tell them. My favorite gift is that gift card from Books a Million. That lets me get the books I want, whether it be another writing book or just something to read for pleasure.

Now...if I can just find the dogs barking Jingle Bells cd:--)