Good Writing is Like Good Sex

I'm reading "Eight Keys to Making a Good Book Great" in RWR magazine. Would you like to follow along on one of their exercises with me?
"I know you've heard 'write what you know': Write the emotions you know, and they will give authenticity to your writing."
Funny, I've just been priding myself in writing what I know.  My current book is about Grand Lake and Tulsa Oklahoma and  about the world of people who grew up in the oil business. And yes, that's my life.  

My dad was a welder, but created components used in oil wells and pipelines. My second husband (stay with me here) was from a pipeliner family. Both he and his father had traveled the world, building pipelines that carried the oil from place to place.

My third (and final) husband is a  Reservoir Engineer.  That's the guy (or gal) who keeps track of how much oil a company has in the ground.  Very complex stuff.  Even I work for a software company that creates software for energy trading and logistics. I am a weapon of mass instruction. I help teach people how to use the program--create the lessons for use both online and in the classroom.

So yes, I'm writing about what I know, but this question threw me for a loop. Writing about the EMOTIONS I know?  Hummm.......
The first Key in the article is "Discover your story." OK. Let's go.
The article instructs you to list your three most powerful childhood memories.

 Well, there was the time , when I was very young, maybe four or five, when we found baby rabbits (yea--lived on a farm) and my Daddy threw them over into the chicken pen, where our mean rooster promptly gobbled them up. To make it worse, that rooster was the cute baby chick that a magician had pulled out of a hat and given me a few years before. Yep. True story.

 Then there was the time I killed my dog. I, my little sister and maybe some cousins were riding in the back of a pickup truck. My dad was driving. For some reason, we had to stop and back up (It was a tiny country dirt road). I was holding our boxer puppy, but he wanted to jump out, and he pulled and fought me. Finally, my arms were so tired that I (about eight years old) thought, "I can't hold on any longer," and he jumped out of the truck and was promptly run over and killed. I COULD have held on longer. I know now that I could have.

For the third memory, I'd lump several together, but prefer not to describe any of them here. What they meant to me was embarrassment that no one ever taught me how to act around people, or in society. I grew up poor in the hills of Arkansas. My parents (salt of the earth) used poor grammar and were not, themselves, comfortable with people they didn't know well, so they didn't know what to teach me.  

What emotions did these three experiences evoke?  

Maybe the first evoked horror, but also taught me that life is complex. The rooster who had started out so cute and cuddly turned into a monster that chased me around and ate baby bunnies.  We ate that rooster soon after that incident, with my complete approval. And my Daddy, who'd chosen to feed him the bunnies. Well, I still loved him after the horror he'd put me through. Life is complex.

The second experience taught me firm determination, the value of never, ever giving up.  You don't let go, even when you think you can't take another second. You save yourself when your car goes into a skid. You finish grading those papers even if you don't sleep a wink. You FIND a way to send your son to that expensive college.  You don't spare yourself and you don't give up.

The third experiences? Well, humbleness, and also determination again. I read tons of books growing up, and lived in other people's heads and worlds. I learned early that life offered more, but I'd have to reach for it. I determined to teach myself how to be comfortable out in the world.  Even though I almost (abd) completed a Ph.D. in English, I still have to watch the way I speak. Hopefully, my son is much more comfortable in the world than I will ever be.

Was there a common emotion that each experience evoked?  I'm not sure. From them I learned acceptance and determination.  Is it an emotion that makes you grit your teeth and dig in when you could give up?  Is it an emotion that makes you look forward, not backward or to try not to judge others? It's something.

The next step in our exercise is asking what book I've written that was easiest to finish, who was the most compelling character and what are his or her five strongest characteristics (focusing on emotions). Well, I haven't quite finished my first book, but I'm choosing it. 

In my book, my most compelling character is the heroine, Hadley.  She is impulsive, open to life, goal driven, and confused by her upbringing. I guess, in some ways, that describes me too.  My character starts out thinking life is not terribly complex and that her mother had settled into a comfortable life where denying most emotions made her happy. Hadley learns a lot about her dead mother's emotions...and her own.

But the thing that I learned from this exercise was not really this answer.  It made me think about strong emotion itself.  

I once read  that a book should be like sex.  Or like classical music. The action should swell and grow, and rise and fall, and there should be crescendos and lulls. And of course the grand finale. I realize now that emotions should do the same, maybe even more so than the action. My book is full of emotions, grief, desire, curiosity, fear, joy, as Hadley learns about her mother and herself. 

I didn't think much about the pattern until I worked on this exercise. Now I will consciously play with it, and, if this book is a success, remember to create a different rhythmical, emotional (and complex) pattern for each of my books in the future.

Free Romance Novels from Amazon

Just decided to go out there and see what's free. Here's my list:

Restoring Hope (Native American Romance Series Book 1)
Restoring Hope (Native American Romance Series Book 1)
by Ruth Ann Nordin

Stuck With You

Stuck With You [Kindle Edition]

Trish Jensen
Product Details
by Elizabeth Bevarly (Kindle Edition - Jun 30, 2011) - Kindle eBook
Justice Incarnate (Shadows of Justice)
by Regan Black (Kindle Edition - Nov 11, 2010) - Kindle eBook
 Speed Dating (Harlequin NASCAR)
Speed Dating (Harlequin NASCAR)
by Nancy Warren (Kindle Edition - Feb 1, 2007) - Kindle eBook

Skinny Dipping: A Painting

I love to paint, but I haven't done enough painting lately. I painted a picture of our favorite place in the Keys for my husband a couple years ago, and since then, I've been itching to paint something else.  

I am finishing up a novel that takes place at the lake where we hang out in the summer, and I decided to paint a picture from it--just for fun. I've bought the canvas, and a couple new tubes of paint and one new paint brush, to supplement my collection. 

And I've chosen the scene to paint. It's a skinny dipping scene at night.  So. now, where do I start?  I know what my characters look like. I chose people online to model them after.  The couple have been out on a boat that's just like our Chris Craft Sea Skiff, and I have pictures of that. 

So I started by assembling some major components of the scene in Photoshop. I found bodies of the two characters and pasted in their heads. And, of course, the boat is in the background. I have a start to my painting!  Pretty rough, but a start!  

Stay tuned to see how it turns out!

Free Stuff for Writers, Oh My!

free ebookswish I could be a member, but I haven't written two books yet...

BUT...I can still enjoy and use their website! Yea Ninc!

They have published on their website a collection of material from workshops at their 2011 Conference.

A Comprehensive Guide to the New World of Publishing can be downloaded as a PDF, and includes:

  • Guide to the New World of PublishingA Glossary of terms, right there at the beginning, and written in language that doesn’t have you hunting up a dictionary in order to understand the definition.
  • How-to explanations with examples, taking you step-by-step through the e-book process, soup to nuts…or Vision to Sales (I like that second one better…).
  • Solid, easily understood advice from a stellar array of experts, presented in a friendly, non-threatening way.
  • Links everywhere. Not just a vague “see more online,” but “here’s the link to that page.”

    I also came across this blog that lists seven free e-books for writers, including books of general advice, getting published, marketing and business, and the industry.  Enjoy!!

Fantasy Trip into a New Adventure

I want to walk down the ancient stone steps to the dry river bottom of the Perernales River. I want to drink Margaritas high over Lake Travis. I want to buy brunch and eat it on the picnic tables where I can feel the spray of the Comal River emerging from underground to start it's short three mile journey above ground before it disappears again. I want to stay in a hotel on the RiverWalk in San Antonio and ride the River Ferries. And I want to go when the Bluebonnets are in bloom.

I am trying not to jump ahead. I have a book to finish. I have entered one chapter in a contest and plan to enter it in a couple more this month because I want a diverse set of feedback on my style. And I have submitted the second and third chapters to my RWA group for critique next Saturday. I have almost 50K written, and I'm chugging through the last chapters. They are a little hard...and I have to actually DO MY JOB this week. Next week, I'll be able to write more. Maybe some tonight!! I am devoted to these characters and committed to finishing their story.

But I'll admit it. I am thinking about the next one. Actually, that story has been around much longer than the one I'm currently finishing. And one step I am taking in that direction is trying to convince my husband to take me on a trip this spring through the area where that story takes place. It's somewhere I only visited once, many years ago, but it's magical. I can imagine sacred rites taking place in that setting. I can imagine the hero's journey through the hills and rivers of Texas Hill Country, and I want to go there so badly. 

So yes, I'm finishing up my current book and staying true to my characters, but I am making plans, and I hope by April, when the Bluebonnets are in bloom, I'm ready for a new adventure.  And how romantic will that be?

Pining for the Seventies

I was a teenager with a subscription to American Girl magazine in the sixties and early seventies. I had a tiny clothing allowance and a sewing machine. We couldn't wear jeans to school. In fact, if we wore pants, they had to have a matching vest or jacket. 

And I wore Vogue. I learned how to make bound buttonholes and pleats and I could sew in zippers like a champ.  

Today I find myself pining to see one of those old fashion spreads that American Girl carried every fall. The girls were tall and thin, of course. They wore plaid. And they were photographed in foggy British-looking woods.  I really NEED to see what I'm picturing in my mind's eye. I might even need to paint it.

Although I'm usually pretty good at searching Google, I couldn't find what I was really looking for today, but I had fun trying, as you can see from the images below:

1970s Fashion Hippy

D&G Floral Fashions Trends Summer Campaign 2011.

French Connection Ladies SS'11 Floral Scoop Neck Dress.

Worth the Wait

 I actually chose a later date for my knee replacement surgery so I could attend the last two last weekends' gallery openings, and I'...