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Thursday, June 28, 2012

BUTTONOMICS by Pat Hauldren

Are you a healthy writer?

Most of us don’t put “healthy” and “writing” into the same sentence, much less in the same universe. If you’re like me (and Gawd help you, you are not), the better you get at writing, the better you get at sitting. And the better we get at sitting, the better we get at eating, and the better we get at eating, … well, you can imagine the rest.
I am not a particularly healthy writer. (OK, you might say, then why is this woman bothering me about it?) However, I am a writer who wants to become healthier. And, that might describe you, too. (And even if it doesn’t, why not read a bit further and see how easy it just might be?)
Writing is a sedentary career, for the most part, with hours in front of a computer screen. Some of us can dictate while we walk or exercise, typing it in later, some few and quite fortunate of us have a secretary or assistant (and I want to meet you if you do!), but the rest of us end up in front of our computer, pounding away at the keyboard… sitting….on our bottom.
So how can we make writing and our chosen calling a healthier profession? There in one way to begin:
Well, what would you call it? We are all anatomically similar (most of us are human), and most of us probably don’t type standing, however, a few writers are quite well known for writing while standing.
“The sedentary life (das sitzfleisch—literally “sitting meat”) is the very sin against the Holy Spirit. Only thoughts reached by walking have value,” said Nietzsche about Flaubert’s innocuous statement that “one cannot think and write except when seated.”
According to the author of Madame Bovary (1856), Flaubert previously informed Guy de Maupassant, “a civilized person needs much less locomotion than the doctors claim.”
We are all civilized persons here, and to write our best, we also do not need as much “locomotion” as our doctors would have us do. Yet, to be a healthy writer, we actually do.
This is where “buttonomics” comes in. You have two choices:
1.       Avoid bottonomics by standing while writing
2.       Practice buttonomics while writing
3.       Don’t write
Some of you more fashionista-types might know all about cellulite and liposuction and silicon injections and even butt-padding. Others of us go “ew.” Either way, you can help avoid all that by practicing buttonomics.
While sitting in your favorite writing chair, squeeze your buttocks together for several minutes at a time, either constantly squeeze or squeeze off-and-on. If you are especially sedentary (like me), you might like to start slow, say five squeezes, rest five minutes, then five times more, or rest 5 pages, whatever works for you. In a few weeks buttonomics will be habit and your bottom will be healthier while earning it’s dollar with your writing.
Or maybe you’d prefer to stand?
Virginia Woolf, Lewis Carroll, and Fernando Pessoa all wrote standing, while Mark Twain, Marcel Proust, and Truman Capote took the Flaubertian creed to its ultimate extent by writing lying down. Capote went so far as to declare himself “a completely horizontal writer.”
It was the early twentieth century labor journalist and suffragette, Mary Heaton Vorse, who pithily described the art of writing as “the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.”
However, Earnest Hemingway declared, “writing and travel broaden your ass if not your mind and I like to write standing up,” which he did by perching his typewriter on a chest-high shelf, while his desk became obscured by books.
Thomas Wolfe, at six-foot-six inches tall, wrote his novels using the top of the refrigerator as his desk. Of course, refrigerators were a bit smaller in his time than today, but at his height, it wasn’t a problem.
Roald Dahl, the author of such books as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, also six-foot-six, climbed into a sleeping bag before settling into an old wing-backed chair, his feet resting immobile on a battered traveling case full of logs to write. Dahl claimed that “all the best stuff comes at the desk.”
Another stander, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.—the Supreme Court justice who coined the phrase “clear and present danger” to limit the First Amendment when its practice endangered the state—wrote his concise legal opinions while standing at a lectern because “nothing conduces to brevity like a caving in of the knees.”
And not to be outdone, the former secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, when handed a list of approved torture techniques being used at Guantanamo Bay, infamously scribbled a query on it: “I stand for 8-10 hours. Why is standing [of prisoners] limited to four hours?”
Indeed, if they can do it, can we? Probably not, or at least, not often.
But there are ways to help counteract the settling of our body into an unhealthy blob of humanity while we are writing and sitting, and many of these methods we’ll discuss in my upcoming class: Me & Chi: Increase your creativity and health with Tai Chi and mediation for writers scheduled here in July.
Pat Hauldren writes speculative fiction in Grand Prairie, Texas, and has just returned from a conference with 4 out of 4 agent requests on her current urban fantasy. She’s training to become a tai chi instructor and has taken tai chi training around the world. She enjoys chanting and meditation as well. Pat also writes 5 gigs for Examiner.com and writes and edits freelance. Learn more about Pat Hauldren at www.pathauldren.com
I hope you will join my class
Increase Your Creativity and Health
with QiGong and Meditation
Hosted by
Fantasy-Futuristic & Paranormal
Romance Writers
This 7 Day class starts July 16th
For more information click HERE

Ernest Hemingway preferred to write standing up.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Modern Physics and Magic: A Few Words by Valerie Roberts

Hello fellow writers. I’d like to take a few minutes today to talk about modern physics and magic (or magick,  if that’s your preferred spelling).

Now I know you already think I’m crazy, but hang on for a minute. Because I have a few words that I think you might find interesting.
The first one is “fields.”

Specifically, the electromagnetic fields of protons and electrons. They’re why we perceive matter as solid, even though the average atom is mostly empty space.
The not-empty part is a nucleus of protons and neutrons with some number of electrons wandering around at various distances and configurations that can be predicted via quantum mechanics.  The number of electrons depends on the number of protons in the nucleus and the ionic state of the atom.

Molecules are atoms linked together with more empty space between, but they can also merge the fields of their individual atoms to create even stronger fields. 
If you’ve ever tried to stick two “North” ends of bar magnets together (or ridden a mag-lev train), you have an idea of what I’m talking about. The closer together you get the magnets, the stronger the fields become.

What happens when you can negate the EM field of matter? You walk through walls and sink though floors, unless you can also negate a gravitational field and fly. Magic.
The second word is “Phase.”

When light bounces off a surface, the wave (light is both waves and particle streams), the phase of the wave is shifted by 180 degrees.  Now, if you mix two waves of opposite phases, they cancel each other.  From this we get noise-canceling headphones and the possibility of invisibility.
But wait, there’s more.

If you expand the thought to quantum phases, you can end up with the multiverse – different realities that could exist alongside ours, but instead of having possible electron spins of Up and Down, their quantum phase has electron spins of Left and Right.
What happens when two universes occupying the same space but with different quantum phases experience quantum phase drift? Maybe we start seeing things that aren’t really there. Almost like ghosts.

The third word is “entanglement”
Say you have a pair of big particles, like electrons (or even as big as microdiamonds, according to some people), that interact and are then separated.

Now the electrons have a description that is indefinite in terms of stuff like position, momentum, spin, and even polarization; when they interact they adopt opposite spins. Until you look at one to determine its spin, you don’t know what it is. And if you change the spin of an electron that is entangled, you can change the spin of the electron it interacted with, even if that other electron is at the other end of the universe. Magic.
Those are only three of the words that link modern physics to magic. If you want to know some of the others, I’m teaching an online workshop in August through FF&P that explains the concepts without going into the math.

Footnote: The math is weird; it doesn’t use numbers because pretty much nobody knows what the numbers are. Einstein, in his general relativity derivation, divided by zero at least once, which was found by someone else. And he still came up with his famous equation relating energy to mass.
In closing, I want to leave you with a few more words, these from Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the science fiction writer (which is a bit like calling Einstein the patent clerk). This is Clarke’s Third Law, written as a footnote to Clarke’s Second Law in the essay “Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination” in the collection Profiles of the Future (added, I believe, in the 1973 edition):  “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

And, lastly, the Roberts (that’s me) corollary to the Third Law: “Why choose?”
Val Roberts Bio

I was born in Boise and received my first paycheck for writing at the age of twelve, for winning a father’s day essay contest. I spent nine years as a Boise State undergraduate before eking out a chemistry degree, but I ended up with enough credits for a PhD…spread across six wildly disparate majors. Now I’m a mild-mannered technical writer for a software company by day. By night, I write science-fiction romance or space opera with sex, depending on your point of view. I still live in Boise, with a Spooky Man as crazy as I am and a small pack of cats and dogs. My second novel, The Valmont Contingency, is coming out from Carina Press October 1, 2012. Links:
Website      Twitter:  @valmroberts

Hosted by
Fantasy-Futuristic & Paranormal
Romance Writers
This 4 week class starts August 6th
For more information click HERE

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Intro to MyRWA Part One by Elizabeth Schechter

       I bet I can say one word that will have the majority of readers screaming in either terror or fury. Ready?


See, there you go. The new social networking/website system that is slowly being implemented by RWA National has probably engendered more debate than Coke vs. Pepsi, Star Wars vs. Star Trek, and Batman vs. Superman combined. People either hate it, are afraid of it, or just don't get it, and even the most tech-savvy among us are left scratching our heads and wondering just what RWA was thinking. 

According to Judy Scott, from RWA National, "RWA had been looking for a way to offer online forums, file libraries, blogs, classes and communities for quite some time.  Most of the systems we found did not integrate with our existing database which meant that the staff would be responsible for subscribing and unsubscribing members to all the benefits listed above.  When we came across Socious - we found a vehicle that would A) Integrate with our database, which meant that we didn't have to subscribe/unsubscribe anyone ever again and B)offer us the ability to provide customizable private communities (PAN, PRO, Boards, Task Groups, etc.) C) Offer a better user interface for our events - the old system was unwieldy and not at all user-friendly.)" 

So, what does it mean? It means that most RWA chapters will be moving over to MyRWA based websites and mailing lists in the very near future. FF&P will be making this transition shortly, and this blog is first in a series to help people make the switch in as painless a manner as possible. This entry will be to get you set up in the mailing lists for the chapters. 

We'll start with an explanation -- despite the fact that everything Nationals has sent out about MyRWA refers to the new lists as 'forums,' they are NOT forums. You do not need to go to the website to read or to answer emails. Everything will come into your inbox, and you can respond to those messages the way you would to any email. The email address for FF&P's general discussion mailing list through MyRWA is ffp@lists.rwa.org, and once you are subscribed to that list, you just need to send an email to that address to have it post to all the members. Easy, right?   

Great! Let's get everyone subscribed! 

To start out with, go to the RWAnational website. Go ahead, I'll wait. The URL is http://www.rwa.org/ . Once you're there, log in. If you are already signed up for MyRWA, it will bring you to the MyRWA splash page (this is my personal definition for splash page. Usually it refers to comic books, and pages with single images. In my brain? The splash page is where you land when you go to a website. In other words, SPLASH!) If you're not signed up for MyRWA, there will be a box on the home page where you can. Then you'll find yourself on this page: 
        You can find your chapters one of two ways. The simple way is to pick My Chapters off the menu on the right side of the screen. Or you can pick Connect off the drop down menu across the top, and pick Communities there. If you go that way, then on the next screen, click on the button on the left that says Chapters (we'll cover the rest of those buttons later).Then you'll see a list of all of your chapters that have MyRWA websites. Click on  the chapter you want to visit. If you are signed up for MyRWA, are a member of a chapter that has a presence on MyRWA, and you don't see that chapter on your list, email the webmaster -- you may not be listed in the membership rolls yet (we had to do this individually and by hand, so some people may have been missed.) 
Now, once you are on your chapter website (the one pictured here is Central Florida Romance Writers), you'll see a series of gray boxes on the right side. Pick one to subscribe to and click it. It'sthat easy! 

       Clicking that button will take you to another screen, where you can set your mail preferences. If you want your mail to come into your inbox as it happens, do nothing -- the default is immediate email. You can opt to change that to any of the following:

  • Immediate Email with links -- you will be provided with a link to download any attachments associated with that message.
  • Summary Digest -- will provide you with the SUBJECT LINE ONLY. You will have to go to the MyRWA website to read the messages. I don't recommend this one, unless you are comfortable with the new system.
  • Full Digest with Attachments -- this is the one that is closest to Yahoo. You will get the digest of full messages, as well as any attachments that were sent.
  • Full Digest with Links -- You will get the digest of full messages, with links provided to download any attachments.
  • Vacation settings -- you can set all of your mail to Vacation by clicking the button under your name. That will put a hold on all of your email until you turn it off. You will not get any RWA emails at all while you are set to vacation.
Once you have your mail setting done for that list, go back to the chapter page and pick the next one. Repeat until you are subscribed to all the lists to which you wish to be subscribed.

That's it! You're now subscribed to your chapter mailing lists, and all the chapter emails that you have opted to see will be sent to your inbox, and you can respond to them as you would to any other email. You never have to go back to the MyRWA site again... unless you want to explore the new chapter File Library. 
       In the next blog entry, we'll take a look at those other buttons on the Community page. For now, explore the chapter site, and if you have any questions, please feel free to ask! 

Elizabeth Schechter is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Central Florida with her husband and son. Her first novel, Princes of Air, was published in 2011 by Circlet Press, and her second, a steampunk novel entitled House of the Sable Locks,  is forthcoming.

Elizabeth can be found online at http://easchechter.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Writing Outside the Box – A Gift or a Curse by Lisa Kessler

Hi everyone –

Thanks for inviting me to the FF&P Blog today!
Do you write outside the box? Maybe you write paranormal romance with secondary characters who are under 18, so you keep getting rejected because it’s straddling the line of Paranormal Romance and Young Adult. Or maybe you wrote an Urban Fantasy with intermittent blurbs of omniscient point of view.What about that Korean War historical with one character who is a ghost? You get the idea…

For me, I never set out to write out of the box, it just happened. Over and over.LOL 
I’ve found that if you write out of the box books, you need to brace yourself for lots of rejection.  Sometimes it’ll break your heart, because the editor or agent will tell you how much they enjoyed your book… BUT  they can’t figure out how they would market the book so they have to pass.

Don’t you hate those buts?  Ugh!
My debut novel, Night Walker, is a contemporary paranormal romance, but it has quite a few historical flashbacks throughout the first half of the book. The historical flashbacks made the book tough for me to sell. I had more than one agent advise me to cut the flashbacks, but I really believed they were necessary. Without them, the heart of the book, and the source of my hero’s angst would be erased.

So rather than conform, I wrote a new series and set my Night Walker world aside. I couldn’t face more rejection at the time.
But an opportunity arose and my husband (Who also believed in my out of the box vampire novel.) encouraged me to submit the book one last time. It was a new publisher, and I thought I might have a chance at getting my foot in the door.

I held my breath and hit send…
Now here comes the gift!

The publisher loved that this was a different take on vampires, and they embraced the flashbacks.  So far, readers have also embraced the concept as well. Night Walker has gone on to win a San Diego Book Award for Best Published Book in Fantasy-Sci-fi-Horror, and it’s a double finalist for the Book Seller’s Best.
I think readers are hungry for something new, but publishing is a business. Taking a chance on a book that might be too far out of the box is risky for a publisher.

But, the other side of the coin is that it can also make you stand out.
So if you’re writing the book of your heart and it speaks to you in first-person present tense, or maybe you have that story set during the Korean War with a ghost for a hero, keep in mind that it’ll be a bumpy publishing road outside the box.

However, it’s not impossible!
And I’m here to tell you that once you get to the other side and you hold that book in your hands, readers will be excited to see a new angle, and with any luck they’ll tell their friends and your audience will grow.

Is writing out of the box a gift or a curse?
I guess it depends who you ask.  For me, I wouldn’t have it any other way…

Lisa Kessler

Lisa Kessler is an award winning author of dark paranormal fiction. Her debut novel, Night Walker, won a San Diego Book Award for best Fantasy-Sci-fi-Horror, and was also a double finalist for the Book Seller’s Best for Best Paranormal and Best First Book.

Her short stories have been published in print anthologies and magazines, and her vampire story, Immortal Beloved, was a finalist for a Bram Stoker award.
When she's not writing, Lisa is a professional vocalist, performing with the San Diego Opera as well as other musical theater companies in San Diego. You can learn more at http://Lisa-Kessler.com

Lisa lives in southern California with her incredibly fun husband and two amazing kids.

Night Walker Blurb:
He gave up his soul for a second chance to love her...

Two and a half centuries ago, Calisto Terana lost everything when a zealous priest murdered the woman he loved. Now, desperate for another chance to love her, he wants redemption for the mistake that cost her life.

She's haunted by dreams of her own death...

After catching her fiance with another woman, Kate Bradley returns to San Diego to clear her head. The last thing she needs is romance, but after meeting Calisto she's drawn to him in ways she doesn't understand.

They've waited in the shadows for centuries...

Calisto has no doubt Kate is the reincarnation of his lost love, but the Fraternidad Del Fuego Santo has a new watcher with dark ambitions of his own. As old enemies reemerge and a new threat arises, the betrayal that enslaved Calisto to the night might destroy the only woman he's ever loved again.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What the Heck is Deep Point of View? by Carrie Lofty

So often when receiving critiques from peers, editors or agents, the subject of “deep point of view” can rear its head. What, exactly, does that entail? How can we add depth to characters--and therefore depth to our stories--by immersing readers into unique, powerful points of view?

My upcoming course for FF&P is title “Beyond Research: Stronger Point of View and the Effective Use of Detail.” I initially approached the topic from the perspective of a historical romance writer--hence the workshop title "Beyond Research." Originally, I wanted to convey to workshop attendees that research was not the be-all end-all. It's not about how many obscure details you can cram into a book, but how meaningfully those details create individual characters who resonate with the reader.

I accidentally stumbled on this idea for myself while teaching an introductory creative writing class for senior citizens. We were in a spare, industrial room, where florescent lights glared down on long gray desks--a wholly uninspiring space. But as I looked out across the room, I noticed that all of the chairs were brightly colored plastic. My daughters, then age three and four, would've loved that room. They would've run along the four tiered levels, probably skipping back and forward along each one, and most certainly counting the number of blue, red, yellows, and green chairs. They would've used the chalkboard to keep track of each color.

To write a description of that room from a non-parents' perspective might have been a dull affair, but to describe it from my POV would've demonstrated a mother's affection for her blossoming children. To write it from a child's POV would've been to create a place nearly as much fun as a playground. Perspectives make the scenes, the characters, and the story as a whole.

Grounding any information--from historical details to paranormal world-building--within POV not only provides the reader with a sense of location, but helps her connect to the characters. Details that do not contribute to this goal are expendable. 

With that in mind, consider the following passages. One is from my June 26 release from Pocket Books, STARLIGHT, and the other was taken from Wikipedia. Both describe the Northern Lights.

Being able to name each star held nothing to way he saw the aurora anew. Through her eyes. He had wanted to show her a natural marvel. Instead, she had given him a gift. He saw color like a field of flowers and movement like a dancing angel. Science fell away to reveal only beauty. Now, this moment with Polly wove into each of his veins and promised to remain just as bright.

Auroras seen near the magnetic pole may be high overhead, but from farther away, they illuminate the northern horizon as a greenish glow or sometimes a faint red, as if the Sun were rising from an unusual direction. Discrete aurorae often display magnetic field lines or curtain-like structures, and can change within seconds or glow unchanging for hours, most often in fluorescent green.

The second, factual description is pure research, but readers would be disappointed if that was the full extent of how information was relayed to them in fiction. The description as seen from Alex Christie’s point of view is more personal. He’s a scientist who’s suddenly looking at a familiar sight in very new ways.

That is deep point of view. Take research. Make it personal. Use it to enrich characters and further the plot or romance.

I hope you’ll come along with me as we further explore the concept of deep point of view, and how little tricks and details will enrich your writing. Once you start to see through the eyes of your characters, you’ll never see research or your writing the same way again.

Next up for Carrie:

STARLIGHT, the second full-length romance in the Christies series, is set in Victorian Glasgow. It just received a 4½ stars Top Pick from RT Book Reviews. Then comes Pocket Star digital original, HIS VERY OWN GIRL, an honest to goodness historical romance set in WWII! Available September 4.

Carrie on the internet

Twitter: @carrielofty


I hope you will join my class
Beyond Research: Stronger POV
& Effective Use of Detail
Hosted by
Fantasy-Futuristic & Paranormal
Romance Writers
This 2 week class starts July 2nd
For more information click HERE.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

TOP TEN PACING TIPS by Alicia Rasley

1. Fast is not the only pace! There's measured, slow, leisurely, contemplative, intense, depending on the story and genre. Even inside the book, you can (and probably should) vary the pacing of scenes in different parts of the book for different purposes: Slow down to create suspense, speed up in the climax.

2. Use linking devices, especially the theme and motifs, to connect the three major acts of the book and provide propulsion forward in the plot. A fast-paced plot especially benefits from story links, first, because they help the readers make sense of what's going on by reminding them of the goal and journey, and second, because they leave something in that scene unfinished and unresolved, and that makes the readers need to read on to provide closure.

3. Pacing has a "meta" aspect in the structure of the entire story, but is "carried" by individual scenes. Pacing often requires preparation to get the reader anticipating and dreading what's to come. Scene sequencing (a sequence of scenes that are like a mini-story, rising to a climax/turning point) can increase the pace. For example, you "set up" a conflict in Scene 1 and 2 of a sequence, make danger/action inevitable in Scene 3, and then have it "explode" in fast-paced, high action in Scene 4.

4. Pacing is all about a propulsion forward in the story, so anything that "pulls" the reader into the next scene or makes her speculate about the future will quicken the pacing. The most important technique is to make the reader ask a question in one scene and then postpone the answer for another scene. Another (at the start of the scene) is to have the character state or imply a scene goal, and the attempt to get the goal during the scene and the ultimate success or failure will provide the "pull." For real power in pacing, use Jack Bickham's scene-ending questions (especially "no, and furthermore") to keep the goal pulling the reader and character through more than one scene.
• Yes, but.
• No.
• No, and furthermore.

5. In action scenes, use inter-scene links (like scene goal/question and magic rule of 3 related items or events in the scene) to pull the reader forward, and to give coherence to what might otherwise be a bewildering sequence of action. And you might think about showing emotional motivation and reaction in scenes, so that each major scene event has an emotional component affecting the main character's journey or some aspect of his/her relationships in the story. That gives the "velocity" some thematic depth too.

6. The end of the scene is crucial for pacing. Don't end a scene on a resolution (except maybe the last two scenes in the book), but on some question or issue that won't resolve until at least the next scene. If the scene ending is too "complete," add some tiny question or doubt at the end.

7. Within a scene, to quicken the pace, go physical, tangible, concrete. Whenever you go abstract and "mental," you're slowing the pace down because thought is slower (in rendition) than action. Emotion, by the way, is usually done in a slower pace, as the characters and readers need a bit of time prepare to feel and then contemplate what feeling felt like. So if you're ever told that there's not enough feeling in your story, or that it's "superficial," slow down the pace in emotional scenes and take your time.

8. Use "moments of grace" (like tender exchanges or quiet revelation in conversation) to provide pacing variety and intensify the reader's emotional investment in what is to come. These quieter, slower-paced scenes are especially effective right before a scene of high action.

9. As you revise, aim for the "cleanest" scenes, that is, clean out any unnecessary diversions or distractions, emphasize coherence in metaphors and motifs, use ambiguity deliberately to create suspense but not accidentally to confuse. Try to anticipate reader reaction and use that to tell you what improves pacing and what slows it down. Even a moment's unplanned and inessential hesitation—"Wait. He looks up at the sun? I thought we were inside"—is enough to "break the fictive dream" and slow the reading way down. Make sure there's a clear and logical chronology in the events of the scene. Flashbacks, especially short ones, will disrupt the forward momentum by throwing the reader out of time, so you might want to avoid them in the scenes you mean to be fast-paced.

10. Strong, meaningful sentences are all-important so that the reader won't start skimming. Clarity is essential here because the second readers have to go back and puzzle out what a sentence means, the pacing stops. But also, generic, "voice-less" sentences will bore the reader, and even an instant of boredom is death to pacing. Every word has to count to add to that sense of urgency that makes for effective pacing (of any speed). So challenge yourself to seek out and find the bland, vague, generic, do-nothing sentences and either delete them or improve them.

I hope you will join my class 
Intensive Pacing Workshop--
Two Weeks to the Page Turner
hosted by
Fantasy-Futuristic & Paranormal Romance Writers.
This Two Week Class starts July 2nd.
For more information click HERE.

Alicia Rasley is an award-winning, best-selling writer of women's fiction and regency romance. She teaches writing at two state colleges and in workshops around North America.
Her Website
Twitter:  @aliciarasley