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These are my writing posts from my former blog, spanning 2009-2012. To see new writing posts, click on the blog tab above. To see these archived post organized by topic, click "For Writers" above.

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Wednesday
Sep142011

Speak Out With Your Geek Out: My Contribution

September 12 - 16, 2011
Today's post is not about writing, well not directly anyway. Today I'm participating in the campaign Speak Out with Your Geek Out. When I first saw the info about this earlier in the week via Chuck Wendig's blog, I knew I had to participate.

Definitely go here and learn what's it's all about. But to give you the gist, it's a week (Sept. 12-16) of celebrating why it's great to be different, to be you, and to be a geek. A week to show that we, the geeks of the world, can be positive role models. A week to share what hobbies and interests make you all giddy inside.

So I know it's going to come as a shock, but I wasn't in the popular crowd in school. I know, it's breaking news. *snort* I was, and still am, the quiet girl who would rather read a book than hang out at a party. I've always kept a very small group of friends (fellow geeks usually) who I can relax and be my dorky self around.  

In school, I kind of learned to hide the more "uncool" aspects of myself or my hobbies. I don't think I even told anyone that I was writing a book sophomore year even though that was all I thought about. My goal was to blend in. If you blended in, no one made fun of you, you just went unnoticed, which was fine by me. Well, except when it came to boys, I would've liked to have been noticed by them a little more, lol. But alas, I had no one to take me to junior prom, I didn't have my first date until 16--and even then it wasn't someone I met through school, and I tended to get caught in the "friend" zone with guys.

But even with all that, I never wanted to be someone else or be in the popular crowd. I didn't like what they liked, I didn't understand how they acted, and I knew if somehow I worked my way into that group, I'd be totally bored. So in a way, I've always been pretty damn comfortable with being a geek. 

And as I've grown older, I've learned to wear it more as a badge of honor than something to hide. The people I love and respect the most in my life are oddballs too. My parents, my husband, my closest friends.

And that may be part of the reason that when I found out my son may be diagnosed with high-functioning autism or Asperger's (he's still getting evaluated), I didn't totally freak out. Everything I read about Asperger's says things like--they have intense interest in certain subjects, they are often wildly smart, they don't understand or play the social games that others play, they can be brutally honest. And really, I don't wish this for him because if this is what he has, his life will be more difficult. But on the other hand, what's wrong with having passionate interests, with being honest, with not engaging in those social games we use to manipulate each other? It's sounds oddly similar to being a "geek".

So when people find out that he's being evaluated for this and say "Oh, I'm so sorry." I think to myself--don't be, it's going to be okay. He's amazing. My kid has been reading since two and a half, he knows the makes and models of every car that passes on the road at age 4, he has a photographic memory that absolutely stuns me. The fact that he hasn't yet figured out how to have a social conversation is okay. We'll get there.

So when I say I'm proud to be a geek and to know and love geeks, I mean it. Being "like everyone else" doesn't appeal to me at all. Who wants to be generic? *shudders*

Therefore, here is my contribution to Speaking Out with My Geek Out. These are things that I geek out over:
  • Books (duh)
  • Writing related things like conferences and craft books (also duh)
  • Cooking (Don't even ask me how many cookbooks I have. My favorite gift my husband gave me on our first Christmas was a fancy can opener. And a trip to the gourmet grocery store gets me giddy.)
  • 80s hair metal (Yes, I'm the girl who is still going to see Motley Crue, Poison, Def Lepard, etc. in concert on a regular basis.)
  • New Kids on the Block (yes, still.)
  • 80s movies (I'm highly nostalgic in general.)
  • Guitar Hero (me on Guitar, hubs on drums)
  • Office supplies (hours can be lost in a Staples)
  • Romantic movies and TV Shows (Things like pulling out my DVDs and watching all the seasons of Dawson's Creek or Friends over a multi-month marathon or watching Dirty Dancing for the bazillionth time.)
  • IKEA (do I have to explain this one?)
  • LSU Football (my friends used to want to go to the games to socialize, but I spent my time yelling at bad calls and acting like the boys)
  • Weather (totally fascinated by it)

The list could go on, but I won't bore you. : ) Hell, I'm surprised you've read this far. 

So if you consider yourself a geek, wave that flag proud. If I hadn't been such a nerd about reading and writing in high school, I never would've ended up with a career I absolutely totally adore. If all the boys had fallen at my feet, I wouldn't have had the need to conjure up romantic fictional stories in my head. My weirdness has served me well.

fishingboatproceeds:Gah it happened twice! This is coming to you directly from the tumblr of Wil Wheaton. 


Do you consider yourself a geek? What do you geek out about? What hobbies/interests did you/do you keep under wraps until you trust the person? And if you decide to join this campaign with a post, feel free to leave a link in the comments!



"Revved up and red-hot sexy, CRASH INTO YOU, delivers a riveting romance!" --Lorelei James, NY Times Bestselling author of the ROUGH RIDERS series

CRASH INTO YOU is now available for pre-order!
Read an excerpt here.


All content copyright of the author. Please ask permission before re-printing or re-posting. Fair use quotations and links do no require prior consent of the author. ©Roni Loren 2009-2011 |Copyright Statement|

Monday
Aug292011

Creating Strong Female Characters by Sierra Godfrey

 

 

Welcome again to genre Monday! Today I have the funny and talented Sierra Godfrey who will be sharing posts every 5th Monday of the month on topics related to women's fiction and/or marketing and promotion. Though today her post can definitely be helpful across all genres because none of us want to create a wimpy heroine. Ick.

So over to you Sierra...


Creating Strong Female Characters by Sierra Godfrey


In April, I had a baby boy. I also have a four year old son, which means I’ve become very much outnumbered by males in my house. Sometimes I have to work to understand them, I admit. My four year old is at the stage where he’s exploring and playing with his parts almost nonstop, and my infant son uncannily pees on me at diaper changing time with an arc of urine that boggles the mind in its reach. (In fact, right after I birthed him, he celebrated our post-utero bond by soaking me with pee. Kind of the same way you break a champagne bottle on a newly commissioned boat.)

 

Anyway, with all that male in my house, I found myself recently pondering strong female characters. Well, to be honest, I’ve always been interested in them. Some of the greats that come to mind:

  • Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games

  • Lisbeth Salander from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

  • Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice

  • Claire from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

Because I write women’s fiction, creating a strong female character is of particular interest to me. Strong leading ladies are independent, smart, and plucky. But there are some other key elements to strong female characters:

 

She’s got it hard
Create sympathy with your character, but don’t overdo it. Put her harm’s way, trot her through hardship, or dump a heap of bad circumstances on her. She’ll come through it swimmingly and without feeling sorry for herself if she’s strong.

She’s relatable
Strong women are also normal ones--and we want to see that we can identify with her. Then when she doesn’t cave under pressure, or she takes high road, it’s particularly satisfying because we know that could be us, too.

She’s witty
Funny ladies are also usually smart ones. We like a sense of humor and a good attitude. There are notable exceptions to this rule--Scarlett O’Hara is one. She’s got a terrible attitude and is super selfish, but she also nails the sympathy vote.

She has great inner conflict
She’s fearless, she’s sure, and she takes action. Great! Strong character, right? Well, no. We want some inner conflict that shows she’s also human, that she struggles with the same doubts that we do, that she works her way through life figuring things out as she does, just like us. But she does these things with grace and with ultimate success. She doesn’t hurt people on the way toward solving her conflict, either. She’s a fighter--and we love her because we know she’ll fight her way to solve her conflict.

The above traits don’t just apply for strong female characters, but serve as a good blueprint for all characters.

What are some of your favorite strong female characters? What are some of the things you've done to make your ladies strong?

Sierra's recommended read for August:

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
In the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary in  the English countryside lives Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired), the  unlikely hero of Helen Simonson’s wondrous debut. Wry, courtly,  opinionated, and completely endearing, the Major leads a quiet life  valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations:  honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his  brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali,  the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Drawn together by their  shared love of literature and the loss of their spouses, the Major and  Mrs. Ali soon find their friendship blossoming into something more. But  village society insists on embracing him as the quintessential local and  regarding her as the permanent foreigner. Can their relationship  survive the risks one takes when pursuing happiness in the face of  culture and tradition?

The character of Mrs. Jasmina Ali is a fantastic example of a strong woman. She has a wonderful dignity, she's resolved, she's smart and funny, and she has great inner conflict.

 

 

Sierra  has enjoyed crafting stories for as long as she can remember. She  especially likes stories that feature women who grow from the choices  they face—and get the guy at the end. She's a member of RWA and RWA-WF, the women's fiction special interest  chapter, and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two  little boys, and two annoying cats. She is always working on a story. When she's not writing stories, she works as a freelance technical writer and designer.

Find Sierra at her blog or on Twitter.

 

Thanks, Sierra! And remember that all of our guest contributors have their own blogs, so if you like what they have to say here, be sure to check them out on their own blogs as well. :)

 

    All content copyright of the author. Please ask permission before re-printing or re-posting. Fair use quotations and links do no require prior consent of the author. ©Roni Loren 2009-2011 |Copyright Statement|

 

Monday
Jul182011

Author Intrusion: 12 Pitfalls To Avoid

 

Invisible Mode
Photo by Garry Knight

What should be one of the key goals of an author when writing?  

To be invisible.  

Writers are the ultimate behind the scenes people.  Besides our name on the front cover, the reader should not realize that we are the ones actually telling them what's happening.  Instead, as they start reading, readers should be swept into a story told (shown) by our characters.  

The last thing you want to do is break them from the magic of the story and their "suspended disbelief" to wave a big sign in their face that says "Hey, author here!  What's up?"  Doing so is called author or authorial intrusion.  Here's a definition:
Authorial intrusion is where you express a personal opinion about a character, situation or scene. Or where you describe anything your characters could not be aware of. (source)
This technique was used often in Victorian era novels when the author wanted to state their opinion on how crappy they thought some political situation was or whatever.  It was also used in gothic horror novels to let you know something sinister was going on outside of the main character's knowledge.  However, these days, this device has gone out of fashion to the point of being considered an error except in very rare circumstances.    (I haven't read them, but I've heard the Lemony Snicket books use this device successfully.)


*Added note: Some in the comments have referred to this being a 1st person/3rd deep POV issue vs. a omniscient 3rd POV. That is true. If you are in omniscient POV you can say what you want because you are from the all-knowing perspective. However, especially in genre fiction, 3rd omniscient is a tough sell and has gone a bit out of style. It was much more popular in the 19th century. It IS done still. And can be done well.  But, in general, it creates distance between the reader and the characters, and unless used by someone with a very deft hand can create the tendency for the author to head hop. So be aware that you can use this POV and not worry about author intrusion, but you may face different challenges with trying to get your readers to truly sink into the heads and hearts your characters.

Now, most likely you aren't going off on long asides to share political commentary, but these AI (author intrusion) moments can pop up in much more subtle ways.  Here's what to watch out for...


Twelve Pitfalls of Author Intrusion


 1. Foretelling
This is where the author inserts things like "Jane had no idea that one decision would change everything." OR 
"Little did Jane know that as she curled up in bed the killer was watching her every move from his hiding spot in the closet."
*See how this pulls us right out of the story?  We're suddenly not with Jane anymore.  Instead, we're up in the heavens looking down at the scene with the all-knowing author--distant and detached.  Plus, how much more suspenseful is it if we don't know about the killer, but instead Jane hears an unfamiliar creak of the floorboards or she gets the feeling that she's not alone?*


 2. Telling us things the character couldn't know (for 1st person and 3rd deep/limited POV)
Jane sat on the curb in the rain and closed her eyes, letting the deluge soak her clothes.  Shoppers hurried by her, huddling under umbrellas and giving her strange looks.
*If her eyes are closed, how can she know how shoppers are looking at her?*
Jane held the yoga move until her face turned red with strain.  OR A pained expression crossed Jane's face.
*If we're in Jane's POV, she can't see the color or expression on her own face.  You can say her cheeks heated because she can feel that or she grimaced because we know how to make our face do that.*
"We need to talk about this," Jane said, crossing her arms over her chest and staring at Bill.  No way was she going to let him dodge the discussion this time.  She needed closure. 
Bill stood and walked to the window to avoid looking at her.
*We're still in Jane's POV.  She can't really know why Bill walked away--she can guess, but not truly know unless she's a mind reader.  So just describe the action and let the reader assume why.  Or, you can say something with a thought from the MC like "Bill stood and walked to the window.  God, could he not even bear to look at her?"  OR show that she's guessing "Bill stood and walked to the window, apparently too angry to even look at her."


 3. Describing things that the character would never notice.
Bob loved how the Vera Wang dress hugged Jane's curves.
*Okay, unless Bob is into fashion or she just told him the designer's name, he's not going to know or care to mention the dress designer.  Only describe things and parts of settings that your character would notice.  This is also a voice issue, but is related to author intrusion because it reminds us that someone else besides Bob is telling this story.*

**The above section is from a previous post, but I found a GREAT article in the Romance Writers Report (the magazine RWA members get.) So, I'm going to add author Sherry Lewis' tips to the ones I've already covered. Don't miss the full article though "There's Not Enough Room For Both of Us." Totally fab info.**


 4. All your characters sound the same.

 

This usually means all your characters sound like YOU. Make sure your characters have their own speaking patterns.


 5. Burly Detective Syndrome (I love Sherry's terms, lol.)
Jane climbed over the fence to get away from the man. The young policewoman crouched behind the dumpster hoping the man wouldn't see her. 
*Jane would not think of herself as the young policewoman. It's sometimes tempting to do this so we don't keep using her name or "she", but this is not the answer.


 6. Perky Sidekick Syndrome

 

This is where you have a secondary character just there to lecture the MC and to tell the readers things you think they should know about the MC.


 7. Information Dumping

 

We all know this is dangerous, but look out because it can sneak in to the narrative in so many ways. The best test is to ask: "Would the character be thinking about this in this moment and why?" Don't just toss in a memory/backstory because it's convenient in that spot. Something must spark that memory.
She threw her engagement ring at him and yelled. "This is so over!" They had been dating for nearly four years and had met at their jobs. He'd been the lawyer who had mentored her when she first started at Fancy Pants law firm.
*Dude, she's throwing the ring at him and breaking off he engagement. She is not going to be thinking about what jobs they had when they met.*

This also can pop up if you've done a lot of research on your book and you want to squeeze in all that info. Historicals are notorious for that. I don't need a history lesson. Give me the pertinent info as it applies to the character and story and leave the rest out. 


 8. Paying too much attention to the setting or not enough.

 

You want to ground your readers. Don't just jump into a scene without giving us at least a little something about the surroundings. Paint the picture. BUT also don't go into long narrative descriptions unless your character would somehow being paying that close of attention.

For instance, if your character is in thoughtful mode, staring out at the forest, they would probably notice little fine details like the different kinds of trees. However, if they are running for their lives, they are only going to know what is right in front of them--branches scratching their face, vines tripping them, whatever. 


 9. Lecturing

 

Nothing annoys me more than when I'm reading a book and then all of sudden you hear the author jump on their soapbox to lecture about some moral or societal issue via their character. If you want your story to have a moral SHOW it, don't tell it. If you want to tell teens--drugs are dangerous, show characters who make bad choices and then suffer consequences. Do not have you MC be like:
"Those kids over there are the stoners," she said to the new girl. "I would steer clear of them. All that crap they're doing is going to melt their brains. Anyone who thinks spending your day smoking weed is going to get you anywhere is crazy."
The thunk you just heard is your reader throwing the book against the wall.


 10. Putting the Cart Before the Horse

 

This is when you have the reaction or result before the action. I'm guilty of this and have to watch it. Look for the word "when", "after", (and sometimes  "as") to catch these.
She screamed when a man jumped out of her closet.
*We're in her head, she wouldn't scream before she saw what happened. Things need to happen in correct sequence.*


 11. Switching the Style of the Writing Around

 

If we're in your character's head, we're in it. So don't get all flowery and formal when describing a scene, then go back to the short clipped sentences of your detective MC. Everything is seen through your POV character's eyes, so make sure it's all in his/her voice.

12. Rehashing information for the sake of the reader through dialogue.

Do not have characters discussing things they would've already covered. Sherry refers to this as the "as you know, Bob" conversation. 
"Yes, Bob, as we discussed last month, the department is really struggling with this issue."

I'm sure their are more examples, but I think these are a pretty good place to start. And if you are a member of RWA, be sure to read Sherry's full article, there's much more information in there. :)

So have you seen yourself pop up in your manuscript with a big "hello, i'm here" sign?   Do you struggle with any of these?  Have you read any books that use this device effectively?

 
 
 
*This is a revamped post from Nov. 2010*

 

 All content copyright of the author. Please ask permission before re-printing or re-posting. Fair use quotations and links do no require prior consent of the author. ©Roni Loren 2009-2011 |Copyright Statement|

Wednesday
Apr202011

Guest Blogging Etiquette: Let's Make a Deal


So if you've been blogging for any amount of time, you've probably had some experience with guest blogging--either inviting people onto your own site or doing a post on someone else's site. It's a great thing to do to cross promote and once you've got a book coming out, it's often a big piece of your marketing. Blog tours are all the rage because the internet is a great place to find readers and build word of mouth.

I get requests on a pretty regular basis both to be a guest on other sites and from people wanting to do a post here. It seems once you get past 500 or so followers, a good number of people want to hang out on your site. :) That's awesome. I love doing guests posts and I certainly love having people stop by here.

However, there is some etiquette that goes along with this process. Some people follow it and others fail miserably. So I figured I would give some quick tips I've gathered from my experience that may help you navigate the guest blogging waters.

If you are going to ask someone to be on your site...

1. Be polite when asking and give them a clear out so you don't put them on the spot. (i.e. if you're too busy, I completely understand.)

2. Give them an ample amount of time to get back to you, but it is best to give them a deadline
Don't say, "Hey, I'd love you to be a guest, can you get me a post by next week?" Give them a few weeks minimum. And you can give them an open-ended--whenever you can--kind of deadline. BUT, be warned--this may result in less success of getting that post. I am an epic failure at saying "yes" to open-ended, can you guest post for me sometime and then I never get to it. (To those of you waiting for a post from me, I'm sorry. I plan to go on a guest blogging marathon after I get done with this draft.)

3. Provide options.
A guest post takes a lot of time. I can whip out a daily post over here in under an hour, but when I know I'm going to be on someone else's site, I feel more pressure to get it perfect, for it to be epic. So, it takes more effort and time. Therefore, if you really want someone on your site, maybe offer to interview them instead of a guest post. This makes it easier for the person to just answer questions and not have to come up with a topic, etc.

4. If you are going to ask for a post (not an interview), provide suggestions for topics you might like to see from them (while also leaving it open for them to choose whatever topic they want.)
It is SO helpful when someone approaches me for a guest post when they say--hey, maybe you could do something on yadda yadda yadda. I may not know what topics they've already covered on their own blog, so this saves me from having to research what's already been covered on that site.

5. Once you get their post and schedule it, email the person on the day (or day before) the post is going to go live.
This a) reminds the person and b) gives them a the chance to do some promotion for you and send people there.

If you want to approach someone to be on their blog...

1. Do your research and know that blog/blogger (at least a little bit).
I have a pet peeve about people emailing me wanting to post here (to promote their book) and I've NEVER had any interaction with them. They don't follow the blog, have never left a comment, have never talked to me on Twitter, etc. They're a complete and total stranger. I feel like they stumbled across my blog, saw I have 1200 followers and said--ooh, ooh, let me hawk my wares here! I love promoting other authors, but my blog isn't here as an advertisement board for anyone who wants to stick a flyer up.

2. Offer the blogger a number of options--an interview, guest blog, contest/giveaway.
Show them that you can provide whatever type of post they need. And just like the reverse of the above, an interview is more work for the host blogger, so don't just offer that. It's also a lot of work to ask someone to review your book. That means they have to have time to read it, like your genre, etc. When people email me asking if I can interview them or review their book, I usually respond with--can you do a guest post instead? I just don't have time lately to come up with interview questions specific to you and your book.

3. If you get the go ahead to do the guest blog, make sure you send something with quality content, no typos, and include your bio and pic.
Don't make the blogger have to correct your work.

4. Get the post to the person on time. And do not ask them to send you a reminder. 
If they give you a deadline, keep it. And it's your job to remember when it's due--they are doing you a favor.

5. Promote that post on your own blog when it goes live. This helps you and the host blogger.

6. Always offer to reciprocate. If they let you on their blog, let them know they are welcome to stop by yours.

Overall: The key to remember with all of this is to know who is holding the power in the exchange (can you tell I write BDSM romance?) The person who benefits more from what the other person has to offer has to go out of their way to make it as convenient as possible for the other.

For instance, if I want my book reviewed on some big book blogger site--the power is in their hands. I'm the one who has to go out of my way. But if a brand new author who just self-published wants me to do a feature on their book here where I have a big following of potential readers, then I'm the one holding more cards. Sounds kind of snotty, but it is what it is. You'll be on both sides of the equation at some point.

So what do you think? Have you had any negative guest blogging experiences? How do you like to be approached for a guest blog?

Friday
Apr152011

How To Amp Up Sexual Tension In Your Story


Kidlet's dolls having a special moment

Today's topic...sexual tension. From YA all the way to the steamiest of romances, this is a vital ingredient if you have any kind of romance thread whatsoever. Even if a kiss never happens, you can have you're reader sweating through the will they/won't they tension so bad that even if the characters grab each others hands you're holding your breath.

 

Romance writers are known for this talent, but YA is also a fabulous genre that does this well. The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare is a good example. The tension between Jace and Clary is palpable. Sexual tension is also a huge part of the appeal of Twilight. Each are so aware of each other, but a mere touch or kiss could cause Edward to lose control. And of course, in tv shows, this is the workhorse. Dawson's Creek (pic above) held me for all seven (?) seasons with their use of sexual tension. Oh how I love Joey and Pacey, but I digress.

So how do we create this tension so that when you finally give your reader the big payoff--the kiss, the I love you, the bom-chicka-wah-wah, whatever is right for your story, you have your reader cheering.
To build tension:
Make the attraction that each feels for the other obvious to the reader.
--The characters are hyper aware of all the little details of the person when he/she is around. Use all the senses not just sight.
No conflict=no tension
--Make sure there are good reasons why these two can't be together--internal and external. Bella and Edward can't get together because, well, he may kill her.
Use internal dialogue
--The hero may be clenching his hands at his sides, but tell us why. The urge to reach out and touch the heroine's hair is overwhelming him.
Always on each other's mind
--If your hero and heroine aren't together in a scene, then have their thoughts go to the other so that we know he/she can't get the other off his/her mind.
Patience, grasshopper
--Don't relieve the tension too quickly. Frustration must build and build. There's a reason why the first love scene doesn't usually happen until 2/3 the way through a book.
Here we go, wait, not so fast
--Give you characters a taste of what they could have, then make them stop. This is the famous device on sitcoms where they start to kiss, but then someone burst in to interrupt. It doesn't have to be that obvious. One of the characters could be the one to stop (usually for some internal reason related to the conflict between them.)
It's addictive
--Once you do let the two get together the first time (be that a kiss or full out lovin'), leave them wanting more. Instead of satisfying their need/curiosity/etc., they want each other even more. Now they know what they could have if not for all that pesky conflict. Damn those mean authors who put so much in their way.
When all looks like it's going to work out, pull them apart again.
--Romantic comedy movies do this all the time. The characters seem to resolve some conflict and get together. Oh but wait, there's more! Some conflict wedges between them again.
--Don't resolve the relationship until very near the end. Otherwise, the reader will lose interest.
So how about you? Does your novel have a romance or undercurrent of one? What author do you read that is a master at creating sexual tension? (I love Charlaine Harris for this. I wait with bated breath for my Eric and Sookie scenes.)

*updated post from 2009