Thursday, June 27, 2013

Creative Partners Provide Inspiration in Writing and in Life

It seems that a number of my author friends are also partnered with a creative person.  My husband is a musician. He plays guitar in three different groups—a rock band with four other members, and in two different acoustic trios--one where he is the lone guitarist with two female singers, and a second where he is one of two guitarist and all three of the members sing in harmony.  Another author I know is also married to a guitarist and songwriter who tours extensively half of the year.  Some authors are married to actors or dancers, or in the case of one friend, a multi-talented musician, dancer, singer, and actor. 

The influence of these other creative endeavors is important to my work and how I fashion my novels. In fact, it is my exposure to my husband’s endeavors that was a part of me writing my Sweetwater Canyon series of books, beginning with Undertones and Healing Notes.  In my books it is an all female band. However, my knowledge of the daily life of a musician--the hours of practice, the planning for gigs, the ups and downs of finances and relationships for people on the road-- was founded in my husband’s work and dreams, as well as the experience of other musicians I've met and become friends with along the way.   

When I'm stuck in the choreographing of a scene or in determining how the emotion of the scene will play out, I often rely on my acting background. In my 20's and early 30's I pursued being an actor. In addition to small theater productions, I did summer stock at Sundance for three years and had three opportunities to play bit parts in movies that were filming in Utah. Now, I rely on that background to play out important scenes in my home office. I will read the part of a character and act out the emotion, the facial expressions, the gestures, the body language and the choreography I would as an actor.   Then I capture that action in the scene by being able to describe it, or use it as part of the dialog.

Another technique I use for inspiration is to go to a dance performance,  where the story is completely told through body language and music.   I am entranced with the way the dancers' bodies mirror or juxtapose, create tension or soften to provide the emotional impact of the story. I often come away from a dance performance with a new way to describe how a character moves or presents herself/himself in a scene.

Embracing many different creative endeavors, whether as a participant or as an observer, has always been a great way for me to get new inspiration—both in my writing and in life in general. So much of our human experience is not in words at all.  Being able to capture all those non-word moments in a novel and use it to speak for the character's experience is my aspiration with every book. 

What do you use for inspiration? Are there particular creative endeavors you pursue? Or particular forms of creative expression you love to watch?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Wisdom (Teeth)

I’ve decided that getting teeth extracted is not for sissies.

I had all four wisdom teeth yanked on Thursday. I exchanged the molars for four gaping holes in the back of my jaws, and I’m already mourning any possible wisdom that might have gone the way of the missing teeth.

It’s not like I had wisdom to spare in the first place.

My dentist had been trying to talk me into having the teeth pulled for years. I resisted. After all, I have a big mouth. My jaws were large enough to hold my wisdom teeth without the molars growing sideways or overly crowding the other teeth.

“But they’re hard to work on,” my dentist complained.

Wah, said I. They make chewing steak easier.

The teeth weren’t impacted. They weren’t causing me any pain. But they were hard to clean around. All four had fillings and two of the teeth recently broke.

It was time to bite the bullet.

So my husband waited in the waiting room while the oral surgeon and his team did their thing. I chose the sleeping option. Go to sleep a whole person, wake up missing four chunks of yourself, plus some hard-earned wisdom. Dang it.

My good friend, Paty sent me a get well card with an owl on the front. My grandma Aggie collected owls. I asked her once why she liked owls so much. She said because they seemed so wise. I’m trying to decide whether Paty was trying to make some sort of statement about me losing my wisdom with a wise old owl card, or if it was just her way of saying, “Nah, nah, na, na, nah!”

Just kidding. Paty isn’t that sort of person. I’m positively, absolutely, almost completely sure she meant nothing but well wishes with the owl card.

All kidding aside, there was a positive result among the bed rest, soft foods and pain meds. I pretended I was having a writers retreat in my room all by myself. And in between the surges of pain and the surges of sleepiness from the pain medication, I wrote. And wrote. Ate some pudding, rinsed with lukewarm salt water and wrote some more.

I got the rough draft of an 11,000 word short romance story finished while laid up – “Love at First Click.” Paty helped me name it. I think it was her way of making up for that “Nah, nah, na, na, nah!” comment.
; ) Ha! Really, truly just kidding, Paty. Seriously, I loved the card.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Writing With A Partner

Some people warned us, it couldn’t be done.  Writing a book with a partner could potentially end a decades long friendship.  However, undaunted by nay-sayers, my writing partner, Wendy Warren and I, (Carolyn Zane) landed a contract with Entangled Publishing and set about proving the party poopers wrong. 

And, I’m happy to report that—thus far, anyway—we did it!

Why work with a partner, you ask?  Good question.  It is not for everyone. 

There is a bit of a learning curve.  We stepped on each other’s toes as we felt around for our territory.  However, we are thick-skinned from years at the mercy of various editors and reviewers and eventually we began to trust the process. 

Wendy and I are also fortunate to have a similar voice, similar publishing history and complimentary skill sets.  Wendy is wonderful at plumbing each scene for its emotional depths and engaging the reader’s heart and interest in the internal life of our characters.  I, on the other hand, am fond of the rough draft process.  I think visually and can see the movie playing in my mind and enjoy moving the plot forward. 

Our process took some time to refine, and there were one or two false starts, (we didn’t really like those chapters anyway) but now it goes something like this:  We start with a premise, then toss out ideas.  When we have a really rough synopsis, we break it down into chapters.  Then, scenes. 

Once that is accomplished, we take one scene at a time and fill out this really cool form we concocted called the Discovery Sheet.  When we’ve answered all those questions, we start getting to the emotional heart of the matter.  What is the character’s vision of a better life?  That’s Wendy’s forte.  Then, we figure out where they are and plug in some description.  That’s my area.  Together we role play out the dialogue.

When we’ve done every scene, I go to work on the rough draft and start organizing the huge jumble of stuff in our notes and put it on Google Docs.  Then Wendy jumps in and begins adding in the emotional elements and in some scenes, performs some major surgery.  Usually, the patient is better off when she’s done, but if I have an idea, we’ll toss it around and sometimes I’ll rewrite her rewrite.

Wendy says working from my rough draft speeds up her process, because she is not staring at a blank page and trying to reinvent the wheel.  I like my part because I don’t have to let the polishing stall my momentum. 
When we have a chapter that we feel has arrived, we read it aloud and then go into the polishing process together.  It is critical by this juncture, that you check your individual ego at the door and look at it as a product written by your mutual pseudonym and don’t take criticism personally.  Several key phrases I like to use—and hear—when we are at this stage are, “YOU ARE BRILLIANT!  I COULD NEVER DO THIS WITHOUT YOU!  THIS IS THE MOST FUN I HAVE EVER HAD WHILE SOBER AND FULLY DRESSED! 

When it comes time to polish the other guy’s stuff, it helps to ask permission before you begin making major/sweeping changes.  It’s also Kosher to say, “Though what you did is FREAKING FABULOUS…I was thinking that perhaps killing the hero in chapter one might stall the romance and we might look at another hook?  To this, the answer should look something like, “Hey!  You know, come to think of it…YOU’RE BRILLIANT!  I LOVE IT!  I COULDN’T DO THIS WITH OUT YOU!  I’M SO GLAD I’M NOT DRUNK AND NAKED BECAUSE THIS IS SO MUCH MORE FUN!”

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ideas are like weather... by Paty Jager

Ideas are like weather. Some days are shiny and bright with ideas, characters, and scenes abounding in my head. But some days there are storm clouds, hurricanes, and tornadoes invading my mind and not allowing me to think creative thoughts. Those are the days I could use a good rain to wash the nasty weather away or even a good brisk wind to blow them away and bring back the sunshine and ideas.

My best ideas come when I'm doing busy work. You know the kind. Washing the windows, the floor, or painting a room. When my mind is detached from the actual work, I can conjure up scenes for a book I'm working on, or characters cavort in my head saying they need a book. When I'm raking hay, scenes will come to me and I'll stop the tractor and jot them down in my ever-present notebook I carry when driving a tractor. The monotonous back and forth driving in a field with the steady "put-put" of the tractor or "ka-chunk, ka-chunk" of the baler seems to feed my imagination.

But when I have a multitude of tasks to accomplish or feel the pressure of deadlines, it is harder to make the creative side of my mind work. That's when I have to take a step or two back from the pressures, do a little yoga breathing, and collect my priorities. Family, health, and home. Once I get back on track the creative ideas start flowing once again.

What works for you when life is hectic and you feel pulled in a hundred directions?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

An Introduction... of Susan Lute

First and foremost I'm an author, wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend, and dreamer. I am traditionally and Indie published. My debut novel, Oops…We’re Married? was a Reader’s Choice nominee and Holt Medallion Finalist. There are a few things you should know. I was born the oldest child of a military family. I've traveled a bit, but have never been to Hawaii, Paris, or Crete - an omission I hope to correct soon. My favorite places in the whole world are New York City, Sedona (Arizona), Ouray (Colorado), and Bath (England). More than anything, I love to tell stories (the good kind, not white lies). And I love, love, love dragons. There are not enough of them in the world. Currently I'm following my heart - working on the second novel in my Dragonkind Chronicles, and starting the research for a new urban fantasy.

Windtree Press is the perfect marriage of authors helping authors to reach out to you, the reader. It's a new adventure, and I'm very excited to be a part of it. I hope you'll come back to see what's up next.

What is your favorite place, the one destination you would go back to in a heartbeat?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Magical Worlds

Though I've trained as a scientist, I've always been a believer in Magic. I simply never outgrew my childhood sense of wonder at the amazing world around me and the ability of people working together to create things or actions that are far more than the sum of those individuals contributions.

I don't believe in the ability of an individual to create fire, rain, winds, or to do spells that cause people to fall in love or to destroy each other.   However, I do accept that these kinds of things may actually exist. There is so much about how our brains work and what we can do together to change things that I can't completely dismiss the possibility.  This is probably what draws me to writing about magic or special powers in my books.  It is a way to ask questions about how that kind of power might impact someone and what types of decisions that person would be making in order to harness and use or diffuse that power.

Futurist and Science Fiction writer, Arthur C. Clarke, said: "The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible." In many ways, committing to that venture is magical to me. I do believe in many things that do not have a logical, scientific explanations: love, trust, beauty, God, karma, a universal spirit I cannot deny that is embodied by the good works of all. Whatever you call those things in your life, I think it is important to embrace them and allow the magic to work.

As I've been writing my YA Fantasy series, I've delved into lots of magic myths from around the world. It has been fascinating to learn not only the differences from one culture to another but also the similarities.  There is definitely something that ties us together throughout cultures and time in the way we form ideas about the world and how we live.

Another definition to consider. This is one of the three definitions of "Wonder" in Mirriam Webster's Dictionary. "rapt attention or astonishment at something awesomely mysterious or new to one's experience."  That is how I approach magic.

What do you define as Magic?  If you enjoy reading books that have magic as an important part of the plot or world, what is it that draws you to those stories?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

America's first Samurai was a teenage girl

Hi! I’m Jamie Brazil.  Last month I joined the Windtree group and I’m thrilled to announce my upcoming release, The Commodore’s Daughter.  While the story begins in Newport, Rhode Island, most of this novel is set in Japan. Year: 1853.

This coming week I'm releasing a novel that took a long time to write.  Years.  And I feel bad about that, given that I keep some rather prolific writerly company.  Not only was this book research intensive as it’s based around an actual event (Commodore Perry’s historic treaty that opened the doors of trade with Japan) (note to self: never attempt another historic novel!), writing the heroine became a sort of personal journey… Jennifer Perry wasn’t just in my brain, somehow I sort of absorbed her into my whole being.

If it weren’t for writing this novel with my husband, I’d still be swallowed up in the nitpicking perfectionism of it all, my worst maternal instincts running amok, and never letting go of my baby.  But that said, I also know it’s time to share.  Time to return this baby to the universe and let it find its way. 

I hope you enjoy reading this first chapter excerpt of The Commodore's Daughter. ~Jamie 

Emily Bronte wrote about being poor and female and not having rights or even the chance to have a better life. She died five years ago. That was in 1848. She was only 30. Of the Bronte sisters, Emily was my favorite author. I can completely relate to her, not that I’m poor.

My name is Jennifer Perry. I live with my family in Newport, Rhode Island. Our house is quite grand, but not nearly as grand as our neighbor’s houses that are filled with maids and butlers and cooks. I know this because my mother and I visit often. Too often as far as I’m concerned. For every dreary hour spent in the company of Mrs. Astor or Mrs. Vanderbilt, my mother would nag me for three about the importance of marrying well. Like my older sister did.

The very sister who introduced me to Emily Bronte’s novels, and who, now, showed up at my door with an evening gown, stockings, silk shoes and corset.

“I can’t breathe, Caroline,” I wheezed as she mercilessly cinched me into the corset. The whalebones that lined the inside crushed my ribs together. If my sister pulled it any tighter I swear my eyeballs might pop right out of my head.

“You must suffer to be beautiful,” she replied and gave the corset another hard tug.

“I don’t want to be beautiful,” I gasped for air, silently cursing whoever came up with that ridiculous saying. I mean, really, who decided that beauty equaled a waist measurement of twenty inches or less? And who came up with the idea that if a gentleman placed his hands around a ladies’ waist, and was able to touch his thumbs and middle fingers together, he would consider her marriageable? Of my mother’s wealthy friends, all their waists were considerably larger than the ideal. So was my mother’s. My sister’s waist, too, but then she was pregnant and unable to wear her corsets.

“Appearance is everything,” Caroline chided. “Besides, don’t you want to be just like me someday?” She patted her big, round belly.

I didn’t. Not that I would say that to her face because it would hurt her feelings and then she would tell mother and that would lead to more afternoons of sipping tea and being educated in the importance of marrying a rich husband like Caroline’s, only richer. Being the younger, blonder and even more blue-eyed version of Caroline, my chances of outdoing my sister in the marriage department were excellent. Except for one thing… I didn’t want to get married. Possibly ever.

 I glanced to my bedroom mirror and caught the reflection of my sister who waddled to the bed where my gown for tonight’s party was laid out. Sometimes it seemed like just yesterday that Caroline and I had spent lazy winter afternoons laying on my bed reading and rereading passages from Wuthering Heights. We had promised ourselves an ocean voyage to England to visit the castles and moors, then together we’d write books about our travels. It was a silly notion, especially now, with Caroline’s growing family.

Caroline raised the dress to her body and swayed to and fro. “Mother never spent this much on my dresses. Not even my wedding dress. You’re so lucky.”

I felt anything but lucky.

Until today, all my dresses had been Caroline’s hand-me-downs, re-sewn and re-styled with buttoned up collars that covered up my small, bony chest and long sleeves to hide my pale, skinny arms. I liked those dresses. If the urge to climb a tree and write in my journal hit, I scaled my favorite oak with a notebook tucked in my petticoat and pencil between my teeth. If I ripped a seam or tore a hole in the hem, my mother would roll her eyes and lecture me on the proper way a young lady should address nature: wildflowers pressed tight between the pages of a large book.

Our library was full of them, wildflowers and large books. The dried bouquets were Caroline’s, not that she had time to collect flowers anymore, and the books were mine. Actually, the books belonged to my father, but being away so much of the time, the only books he ever read were on his ship. I was the only one who spent time in the library. And I was most definitely not pressing flowers.

But there was little time to read or write now.

My new dress, along with a pair of matching shoes, had been purchased in New York. Both cost a small fortune. The gown’s floor-length silky layers were embroidered with tiny pearls. Delicate sleeves barely covered my shoulders. A deeply cut neckline, trimmed in ruffles, framed my small breasts – now pushed up high by the corset. I looked much older than I felt.

The only thing I really liked were the shoes. They were sky-blue silk with plump bows. They had identical mother-of-pearl buckles, hand-carved in the shape of mermaids. The shoes looked magical. When I slipped them on my feet I felt like anything was possible. Too bad the shoes would remain hidden below the gown’s long, sweeping skirts.

I’m not like other girls my age, at least not the ones I know. While they giggle about boys who might ask them to dance at the ball, I daydream about worlds far away, exotic plants and animals and discovering new cultures. I’m a lot like my father. Except he doesn’t dream, he really does these things. If I had the chance to travel I’d explore the world with him.

Instead, I’m supposed to get married.

It’s not like this is something new. Men have asked my father for my hand in marriage since my thirteenth birthday. He has always declined their offers, telling them that unless they were wealthier than the German industrialist Caroline married, the answer was “no.” Few men have that much money. I counted my blessings… until yesterday when I found out that my brother-in-law had a brother.

His name is Heinrich and he’s older and even richer than Caroline’s husband. It was arranged that we’d meet at tonight’s ball even though he’d already asked my father for my hand in marriage. My sister told me so. She also told me that father had accepted his offer! This was awful news, but there was little I could do to protest. Father had agreed. He was a man of his word.

I took the dress off the bed and dutifully put it on.

I’m only fifteen years old. Too young to be a wife!


There’s so much I haven’t done yet.

While everyone tells me that my life is just beginning, I feel like it’s over.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Fast Summer Read - Sunday Promo

If you're like me and find it even harder grab a moment to yourself let alone read a book, I have the answer. My recently published novella, Western Duets - Volume One are two short historical western romance stories in one ebook. They are short satisfying reads that will help you drift away to another time and become a woman shanghaied or a woman who realizes the man right under her nose is the one for her. 

Shanghaied Heart
Tossed together in the underbelly of a ship, strangers Finn Callaghan and Prudence Hawthorne must learn to trust one another in order to escape, but their freedom may be short lived once Finn discovers Prudence's brother wants her dead.

Last Stand for Love
U.S. Marshal Chas Brown agreed to be Sarah's proxy husband in order for her to keep her dead husband's ranch. Little did Chas know, he’d lose his heart in the process.