Friday, July 25, 2014

Twenty-One Days Does a Habit Make by Debra H. Goldstein

Twenty-one Days Does a Habit MakeExercise has always been an anathema to me. I hate the idea of glistening, smelling, or messing up my hair. My idea of joy tends to be sedentary: reading, writing, talking or watching a show. Unfortunately, recently I was forced to embrace the concept of exercise. I shuddered at the thought and then wondered if I should buy some cute clothing to make it palatable.I rejected the idea of spending a penny on something I knew would be a temporary activity. Instead, I went to a shoe sale at my favorite store that carries a wide selection of 6.5 Ns and spent my clothing budget on something I would enjoy. You may recall, in my earlier blogs, I have admitted my “I’m not going to buy anything” resolve slips for two things: shoes and books. Nothing I purchased resembled a sneaker. My logic was simple – why waste money on something that would soon be relegated to a back shelf. For twenty-one gym sessions, I groaned, made jokes, and thought about ways to avoid the treadmill, free weights, and recumbent bicycle, but on the twenty-second day something funny happened. I woke up looking forward to wasting my time at the gym. By the thirtieth day, a Sunday, I felt something was lacking when rain forced me to cancel my plans to take a long walk. Who would have thought I would be the poster child for “do something twenty-one times and you’ll develop a habit?” Not me. The reality is that I think exercise has become a habit. The problem is that it is encroaching on other elements in my life.Exercising and allowing for recovery from it cuts into my “hit and miss when the mood moves me” writing style. This type of writing style requires waiting for the muse to strike. There is no predictability of what project will be undertaken or when. Excuses and other activities leave few hours for writing, but there are even fewer available because of the amount of time taken up by exercising.What to do? The answer seems simple enough. If twenty-one days produced a desire to exercise consistently then, perhaps, the same method can be used to make my writing efforts more balanced.  I’m three days into the experiment and so far, I’ve finished a novel (keep your fingers crossed), wrote and submitted a short story, and tackled this blog. I don’t expect years of work habits to be discarded overnight, but I have a funny feeling that eighteen days from now I will be boasting two new habits. If so, expect me to report that I’ve bought a pair of real exercise pants (and maybe a new pair of sneakers) plus written something I’m pleased with. In the meantime, I’m curious. What have you done for twenty-one days that has resulted in a sustained new behavior? Do you think I’ll make it? 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Case for It's

By Bethany Maines

Recently, I was ranting on Facebook about my hatred for the periods in a.m. and p.m as well as the comma between city and state in addresses (see what you miss by not being my Facebook friend?) and one of my friends posted a link to Weird Al Yankovic’s new song "Word Crimes.”  As a long time Weird Al enthusiast and a Facebook friend to several editors and writers I had already seen the video (click here if you haven’t).  The video parodies “Blurred Lines,” Robin Thicke’s insanely catchy hit from 2013.  If you haven’t heard that one, then you probably weren’t living in America all of last year, but here you go – Blurred Lines.  (Warning: may not be suitable for work and my cause you to get in arguments with your feminist friends over whether or not the song is “rape-y”.  Double Warning: If you use the word rape-y at me, I will smite you.)  But back to the story, as I watched the Weird Al version again (because why wouldn’t you?) I was caught by the line “You do not use “it’s” in this case!”

But why don’t we?  Yes, yes, the current rules state that “it’s” is a contraction.  “It” is not possessive; “it” cannot own anything.  But I say, “Listen up English – if you’re not going to provide me with a gender neutral pronoun, why can’t I use the defacto pronoun already in use in conversation – it?”  Clearly, the language is lacking such a word. English should stop being stuffy and allow this clearly needed possessive to enter the dictionary.  I’d willingly delete "tweep” from the Oxford-English Dictionary if I could have “it’s.”  Who’s with me?

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery series and Tales from the City of Destiny. You can also view the Carrie Mae video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, July 21, 2014

San Antonio Bound....

Each summer, 2000 romance writers invade a different city, a different hotel chain.  This year, our annual get together is on the River Walk in San Antonio.

I've been to 2 Nat'ls. The last one being held in NYC. I loved the energy of being in the city. Since my friend and I stayed off site, we road the subway. Once I navigated it on my own and felt like Mary Tyler Moore in the opening credits when I emerged in the middle of Times Square, totally lost, but loving it.

This year, I've been invited to a dinner, two parties, and a lunch for one of my on line groups. And I'm having breakfast with my editor. The last time I went to a conference, I snuck into my one and only party as a plus one.
Stiletto Gang at NYC - me and Laura Bradford

But it's not all party time. I'll be signing at the Literary Signing and signing MISSION TO MURDER at the Kensington signing. Must order signed by author stickers.

And there's the workshops. And I'll have to hit a few of the signings and drag a new bunch of books home to share with my MIL. And see a few local sites, like the Alamo.
The Dakota

I'll be home soon, tired and back at the day job. But the memories from Nat'ls will bode me over until my next conference in October.


11 days away from release date for the digital version of MISSION TO MURDER! Can't wait? Buy your paper copy here.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Out of Character

by Linda Rodriguez
My husband and I have been binge-watching Prime Suspect on Netflix lately. Helen Mirren is awesome, as always, but the ensemble cast is of extremely high quality, also, and the writing is superb. Until. (You knew there had to be an “until” hanging around there somewhere, didn’t you?)

Suddenly, one episode begins with Mirren’s character DCI Jane Tennison doing something so out of character and just plain stupid (for a very smart, savvy character) that both husband and I are screaming, “What? Jane would never do that!” This out-of-character action she has taken is an obvious set-up to provide lots of conflict later for Jane, but between us, we came up with four different ways the author could have set up the exact same conflict without having Jane commit an action totally wrong for her character.

Normally, I don’t even worry about this in movies or TV shows because I usually simply can’t hold them to as high a standard as I do books, but this series is so well-written that I do expect that kind of intelligent writing. It’s happened before in books by excellent writers, as well. I can understand the impulse behind it because I think there are times we all are frustrated in our plotting and tempted by the lazy way to put our protagonists where they need to be.

The writer of one of the strongest, best-written mystery series around (who shall remain nameless because she’s never done it again) did this in one of her books, causing her protagonist to violate the essence of the character the writer had spent four books building up in order to allow that protagonist to learn something the author needed the protagonist to know and to create conflict for the protagonist. It was darned near a throw-the-book-against-the-wall moment for me, and if this author hadn’t already built up so much respect, I would have.

I finished that book, in which the character went right back to being the person delineated in the previous books, and have continued reading that author. Although we stopped midway in the Prime Suspect episode, the others have been so good that we will probably give it a chance and finish it. But I have stopped reading some less-stellar authors’ series when they’ve pulled that kind of boner. If you can’t believe in a character’s reality, it pretty much blows the whole show, I think.

How do you feel about a major character making a move that’s not just a surprise but completely wrong and out of character? Do you just shrug and move on, or does it bother you as it does me?

REPLIES TO COMMENTS (because Blogger):

Mary, yes, a good editor will catch these moments, so if they show up, they're a failure in editing, as well as in writing. It can be a temptation to force your character to do something s/he's too smart/ethical/whatever to actually do, simply because you need it to happen for plot purposes. But there's no sense in working your butt off to create a realistic character to turn her or him momentarily into a cardboard cutout for convenience's sake. 

I know just what you mean about that itch, Mary S. The right motivation can make anyone do just about anything (Sophie's Choice, anyone?), but you've got to show me the motivation. My Skeet Bannion is not a hot dog/cowboy cop like so many protagonists and wouldn't normally charge in alone after an armed murderer with a child hostage, but in Every Last Secret, she does just that because the antagonist has started hurting the child.