Category Archives: Art

The Art of Rule Breaking

Welcome friends! Casey here.

Newbie writers often receive this bit of wisdom - You have to know the rules before you can break them.

I’ve heard this before. I thought I understood it, and at some level, I do. But it took an artist to drive the lesson home. Being a visual person, I often stare at paintings before I start writing. Something about the images, the colors, bring me to a happy place. I especially enjoy trees.

This is a painting of trees in autumn. Pretty straightforward, right? Clearly, this artist can realistically render a forest.

image

Recently, I purchased a Kindle App - Impressionism HD because I love impressionist paintings. What most people don’t always understand is that artistic endeavours don’t happen by magic. Often years of study, practice and knowing the rules are required to produce “art”. And, even then, like the Impressionists, that art may not be appreciated in that person’s lifetime.

The Impressionists broke “da rules” twisting light and colors into surrealistic landscapes and images. At the time, I imagine, the art “experts” concluded that these people weren’t any good at all. Many of them were unappreciated in their lifetime.

The same is true with writing. We have to know the rules of grammar and storytelling before we can do our own thing. Which brings me back to the forest above. Go ahead, take another look. I think it’s lovely and pleasant to look at.

Won’t you be surprised when I tell you the artist’s name?

Vincent Van Gogh. Yup. He could paint “correct” trees. Van Gogh knew the “rules” of painting.

And then he broke them. Thank goodness for that!

image

MisfortuneCookie2_850

Cover Reveal – Misfortune Cookie!

Happy Friday! Casey here!

I hope everyone didn’t overindulge their sweet tooth yesterday. I was surprisingly good. Largely, because we decided a few years ago, to stop buying tons of Halloween candy.

I don’t have much to say today other than . . .

Feast your eyes on the cover of Misfortune Cookie! Another outstanding design from Rae Monet!

In other news - Mystic Hero is done (well, the first draft) and is in the hands of my beta readers. Yay!

But don’t think I’m sitting around doing nothing. Next up – completing Lachlan’s Curse. I hope to finish the first draft by the end of November.

Wish me luck!

What’s on everyone’s plate these days?

MisfortuneCookie

Multi-Author Signing

PJ here. First things first.

Thank you to those who shared in the launch celebration for WESTERN DESERT last week! I had fun entertaining the party-goers who stopped by to chat and wish me well. I can’t tell you how much your support means to me. Congratulations to Lysette Lam who won the Nook Simple Touch! I am in the process of contacting the other winners, so a big thanks to those who entered my contest and shared my celebration with the world!

Now that I’ve had a few days to breathe and take a break from all the hustle and preparation of the book release, I’m gearing up for another busy weekend. Technically, I’m off from my day job, but this weekend I’ll be doing what authors live for. Along with a host of other authors, I’ll be at the Enfield 4th of July Celebration in Enfield, Connecticut, meeting readers and signing books. Everyone’s books will be available all day on Saturday and Sunday, but we’ll be rotating shifts to spread the coverage among us. I’m scheduled for Sunday from 11:30-5:30, but I’ll be around to help out on Saturday as well.

I hope you’ll join me, Katy Lee, Casey Wyatt, J Monkeys, Susannah Hardy, Rebecca Rose, T.L. Costa, Marian Lannouette, Gerri Brousseau, Jesse Hayworth, Belle Calhoun, Kourtney Heintz, Lon Unghire, Tammy Young Cote, and Renata Bowers at the Town Green on Enfield Street right in front of the town hall, Saturday, July 6th and Sunday, July 7th. And huge KUDOS to Katy Lee for organizing the signing for us.

I grew up in Enfield, so this event will have special meaning for me. If you haven’t attended a 4th on the Green, you’re missing a great time. From the live bands to the awesome parade, and the fabulous eats to the fantastic fireworks on Sunday night, there is tons of fun to be had. I participated in a few of the pie eating contests over the years, but my favorite event was the opportunity to dunk a local high school teacher who was sporting enough to take the plunge for a good cause. It’s supposed to be a great weekend weather-wise, so if you’re looking for a fun family event to attend and you’re in the area, stop by and meet some of your favorite authors and hang out with the Scribes.

I hope to see you there!

The ARCs Have Arrived!

Hi there, Sugar here.

photo (10)

When I got home from work on  Friday I had a big package waiting for me at the door. I knew it wasn’t a pair of shoes. (I haven’t ordered any in months.) I suspected they were the bookmarks I ordered from Earthly Charms. (Great site!) But when I picked up the package and felt its weight I knew it couldn’t be just book marks. The address confirmed that the package was from my editor, but for some reason I couldn’t imagine what was inside. My book is not out until nearly September and since I only have a vague idea what goes on behind the scenes I wasn’t expecting Advance Reader Copies yet.

401226_10100112381862869_1881892343_n
So happy together!

But there they were and when I saw them I squealed a little. I had a book! An actual printed book. No longer was it an idea in my head, or words on a screen. It was on paper. It had a binding. I could hold in my hands. I could inhale the pages. I was excited to say the least. But I realized that this was a huge step in the process. ARCs mean that now real people are going to be reading my book. They are going to be reviewing it. Some of them will like it, some of them won’t. And it scares me a little because, my baby, my first book, the thing I’ve thought about and sweated over for the past year and a half is being released into the world to be critiqued.

My mother made me give her a copy. That’s an even bigger thing than having strangers read it. She hasn’t read anything I have written in years and she doesn’t normally like romance novels. I’m afraid she won’t like it. I told her that if she doesn’t like it to lie and tell me she did. Which of course she will.  I’m not sure why, but having my mother read something I wrote is weird for me.

What about you all? Do you let your family members read your work?

Blogs to Help Enhance your Work by Katy Lee

Writing fiction is more than getting your character from point A to point B. Your characterpics needs to experience the world and everything in it just as we do in our everyday lives. Our days are filled with intrusions like weather and sickness, but there are also things in the world that have the ability to cultivate us like the arts and architecture around us…most times when we’re not even looking for it.

Now I could spend a lifetime reading and studying the things in our world just so I can write them into my stories, but if I did I’d never get anything written. As much as I would love to spend my days at the library, or better yet, traveling the world to experience everything in it, it’s just not possible. But I also can’t neglect the fact that these things exist in my life and in the lives of my characters. So what do I do?

Well, while I wait for my cruise tickets to come in the mail, I have found a group of blogs that offer little tidbits of information a little at a time. Ideas and information that I can file away to use in moments where my stories are flat and are in need of some excitement or detail.

So today I wanted to share some of these go-to blogs that help enhance my work. I hope there is something in here for you, too!

1)      http://www.redwoodsmedicaledge.com/

stethsThe Redwood’s Medical Edge Blog is medical facts for your fiction. Jordyn Redwood, a nurse by day, author by night, designed her site to help both historical and contemporary authors learn methods to write medically accurate fiction. She fields medical questions from followers, analyzes medical scenes, and posts on topics that can increase the tension and conflict in any story. No one person can be an expert in all things so she also hosts medical experts in other areas: EMS and obstetrics to name a few. Historical authors who have done research in a particular medical area such as civil war medicine are also featured. You want to know the protocol of an accident with injuries, or an illness a baby could have but go undetected? Jordyn is your woman.

2)      http://gailingis.com/wordpress/

Gail Ingis is known as a “Renaissance Woman” for her varied accomplishments. She is a professor of history of architecture & interior design, photographer, artist juror, writer, design critic, and founder of the nationally accredited Interior Design Institute. On any given day, her blog can be about how lighting affects a room, drinking coffee in a café in Portugal, or a description of a Victorian era chair. You never know when your character might need to sit in one. Whatever the topic may be, Gail’s information can bring a flare for the exotic into your stories.

3)      http://www.dailywritingtips.com/

Not just for writers. Whether you are an attorney, manager or student, writing skills are essential to your success. The rise of the information age – with the proliferation of e-mails, blogs and social networks – makes the ability to write clear, correct English more important than ever. (See my blog from last week about good writing here.) Daily Writing Tips is about that. Every day they send out a grammar, spelling, punctuation or vocabulary tip. And we can all use extra tips.

4)      http://www.romancingthepalate.com/

Finding a passion for food in every love story is R.L. Syme’s motto for her blog. I took a heart applefood class with Rebecca Lynn last year and she helped me learn how to use food like another character in my stories. She brought life to cooking and eating and encouraged us to incorporate the feelings we experienced into our books, so our readers could feel them, too.  *This blog is in the process of being changed, so not much is going on there these days. I’m looking forward to her updated site soon.

Until then, I recently found this one and it has the same premise:

5)      http://platedromance.wordpress.com/

Romance on the Plate: Taste the Emotions…Feel the Food. Here is a quote from the site to show how food helps to bring your character to life:

“He could not control his curiosity; he could smell the delicious aroma of caramelizing onions wafting from the copper vessel that was fired up on the stove. He stood upon a chair in the kitchen and watched as his mother evoked the magic of food……”

I feel like I am standing on that chair and inhaling right along with the child. Which is what we want to do for our readers, so they can get a taste, too.

The Unlocked Secret: Experience is key, but if you can’t experience it yourself, find a source that has. It will make your writing authentic. Check these sites out for ways to enhance your writing. If not these, I’m sure you can search for sites that meet your genre and style.

Question: Do you have a go-to blog or website for expertise or vicarious experience? Please share in the comments below.

And as always, thank you for your Tweets and Shares.

How Writers are Like Gardeners

I hope you all had a wonderful Earth Day and that you did your part in saving our beautiful planet. I spent a much needed day off in the garden this past weekend and it felt wonderful. Every drop of sweat, speck of dirt, and brutal scratches from wayward forsythia brought me closer to Nirvana. Crazy, I know. But how many writers love puttering in their gardens and digging in the fresh dirt? PJ Sharon here, sharing some of my interesting observations from my time with the earth. IMAG0023

While deep in thought as I toiled away, my mind could not fully escape my writer’s life, and lo and behold, I began to realize that writers are much like gardeners. Here’s how.

Writers start with a seed of an idea—a beautiful spark that takes hold deep in the fertile soil of imagination. The roots begin to spread, fashioning a network of connections to other characters and relationships, the story unfolding in our minds and shooting to the surface in search of the light of day and discovery. Our fingers dig away at the keyboard. Eventually we bring to life the intricate buds that seem to come from the cosmic funnel above—too perfect for our mere mortal ability to create without acceptance of divine intervention. Most days, I feel as if I’m a spectator in my writing process just as I understand that I am merely an extension of the Divine when I am in the garden–that I am ultimately not the one in control. That leaves me free to play, unencumbered by expectation. It would be nice if I could be so yielding in my writer’s life.

Interestingly though, even the technical aspects of writing mimic the gardener’s habits. As we writers plot and plan before we begin, so the gardener takes stock of their canvas. They prepare the soil, gather their tools, and imagine the larger picture and end result of the task ahead. They come to know their plants (characters), see all the necessary pieces (plot points), and work to put them in place with some semblance of order. Just as authors must balance narrative, dialogue, description, and backstory, the gardener must seek that same perfect balance, sometimes having to rearrange the plants and bulbs to assure proper flow of colors, textures, heights and compatibility.

Where the gardener adds water and fertilizer, the writer layers in depth of character and adds important details to show growth and development. When weeds invade the space, the gardener ruthlessly plucks them out in order to preserve the harmony of the whole. As such, writers too, need to be willing to be ruthless in their edits. As Stephen King says, we must be willing to “kill our darlings.” Although some weeds can add lovely color or thick greenery, left unchecked, they will infiltrate and destroy the harmony we seek to bring about, distracting us from the vibrant beauty of the flowers we plant.

Ultimately our reward comes when we share our story (garden) with others. Each story is unique to the writer as each garden is unique to the gardener. If the job is well done, the onlooker can see the soul of the creator on the page or in the beauty of a flawlessly designed garden. The love and care that goes into creating—whether it be a novel, a quilt, a beautiful painting, or a colorful garden—is what sets us apart in the animal kingdom. Our ability to create and enjoy beauty is a gift that we humans share, and it should not go unappreciated no matter if you are a novice or master–writer or gardener.

One of the wonderful lessons I have learned from working in a garden is patience. It’s easy to become discouraged by rejections, but just like rainy days, the harsh weather is sometimes necessary to bring the needed motivation for plants to grow and writers to forge on. Recognizing that we need both sunshine and rain to fully mature, the gardener takes this understanding in stride much better than the writer, who often becomes frustrated by those seemingly endless weeds and rainy days. A great review, a contest win, or kind word from a critique partner are sometimes enough of a reward to keep us going when we feel overwhelmed by the tasks ahead, but as any gardener will tell you, the greatest satisfaction comes from basking in the joy of knowing that you have co-created something magnificent that grew from your own soul and from the hand of God.

But that’s just me.

So, dear readers, does this resonate with you? Are you a gardener, quilter, painter, or creator of some kind? Can you see how writing mirrors so many other creative endeavors? Kind of fascinating, isn’t it?

Writer Beware (How much should you spend on learning your craft?)

Hi there, Sugar here.  So I have a secret. Before I sold DANGEROUS CURVES AHEAD to St. Martin’s Press I never spent a dime on learning how to write. Oh I joined the RWA and my local chapter. I went to the monthly meetings, I read  a lot of the writers I admired. I found good critique partners and beta readers. But I never paid for a class, bought a book or shelled out hundreds of dollars on workshops. Am I that good of a writer? Well, I would like to think so, but the truth is, I’m not. I know I can be better. I know that there is always chance for growth. But do I want to pay thousands for a chance to grow. Absolutely not.

I don’t spend a ton of time surfing Twitter but when I do, it seems that somebody is always trying to sell writers something. Classes, books, retreats, all day workshops. They all promise to make your characters stronger, your dialogue wittier, your sex scenes filled with more… Umph. But with all that stuff out there how do you know what’s worthy of spending your hard earned cash on.

So I put together a little list of things you should think about before you shell out your money.

  1. Look carefully at who is giving the workshop/ writing the book/ selling the product. Do they have any credibility?  If they are teaching about craft, have they ever sold a book to a major publisher? Have they taught before? Have you heard good things about them?
  2. For self pubbers. If they are claiming that they are successful and can teach you how to be, can they prove it? Are they willing to share numbers? Secrets?
  3. Can you get what they are selling else where for free? There are a lot of blogs out, A LOT, for writers by writers where you can get good info for free. Read them.
  4. Can you use your friends?  Just before I was about to submit my manuscript I thought about paying to have a professional critique it, but then I saw the prices. They ranged anywhere from $300-$800. Way too rich for my blood. Plus it’s only one person’s opinion. What one person might love another might hate. So use your friends when you can. They are readers too.
  5. Have you checked out writer’s forums like Absolute Water Cooler or Query Tracker. You can learn much from reading the posts on there. 

Sure there are classes and books out there that are well worth it. But the best way to get better at writing is to get your butt in the chair and write. The more you write the better you get. I promise. It works. I’m proof.

Now it’s your turn. What do you think about before spending your money on craft? And if I was going to spend some money, what books/ workshops/classes would you recommend?”