Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Balancing Life As A Writer

Creating balance in the life of a writer is probably the hardest aspect of a writer’s life. As a mother of four, ages 23, 20, 17, 12; a husband of 36 years who loves home-cooked suppers after his one and a half hour drive home each evening; entrepreneur of a Vacation Rental Business on our five acres in the country; owner of a 110-year-old Victorian home that is also on the Real Estate Market; AND a MG/YA Author of two current series plus more works in progress, I have to follow a fairly strict regime or nothing would ever get done.

For example: Tuesday my 12-year-old son had a home soccer game. Since my husband works so far from home we have a system worked out—I attend home games and he does away games. So I attended my son’s home soccer game along with my two young adult daughters (spending some quality time with them during the game). That evening my oldest daughter and I went to our standing Tuesday night movie date to see Girl With A Dragon Tattoo. When I got home, everyone went to bed. I began my writing day…or should I say night. 

With the house quiet, I answered emails, wrote blog posts and edited my current work in progress until about 2:30 am. Since my husband drops off the sixth-grader on his way to work, I can sleep a little in the morning.
Not every day requires so much juggling. Some days I can cajole my oldest son to do the drop-off and pick-up, allowing me a full day of writing in peace and quiet. It’s important to may hay while the sun shines on those occasions and often I don’t even eat until my husband arrives home.

I consider myself fortunate that my children are all self-sufficient and no longer require as much of my attention as they did when younger. But that’s also why I waited to retire from teaching and begin this new phase of my life as a writer. For those who don’t wish to wait—or can’t—you need to evaluate your minutes in each day and decide where they can be grouped for short sessions; especially while the kids are in school or napping. But probably the most important thing for a writer to do is: Just Do It.

No excuses.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Writing While Ill

By YA author Andrea Buginsky

You know how hard it is to fit writing time in around school. So what happens when you’re sick? Now you’re stuck with makeup work that you don’t feel up to doing and still trying to figure out how to get some writing time in. There are several things you can do to help with your writing even while you’re sick.

     1.   Don’t worry about it.

You’re sick! Take the time you need to recover. Relax, watch TV, listen to music, sleep…whatever you need to do to take care of yourself.

2.      Kill two birds with one stone.

While home from school, you probably have plenty of writing assignments to make up for your English, social studies, and history classes. Use your makeup work as a writing exercise. They’re a great way to work on your spelling, grammar, and writing style.

3.      Catch up on your reading.

You’ve heard plenty of times that writers need to read. While you’re laid up in bed, use the time to catch up on your reading. You don’t have to read your textbooks all the time. Take a break and read some books that are on your To Be Read list. Enjoy!

4.      Use the time to think.

If you have a story you’ve been working on, use your down time while you’re sick to go over the story in your head. You can think through plot and character development, and come up with ideas on where the story should go. Downtime is also a great time to think of new stories you want to write.

5.      Use time management skills.

When the time comes that you’re ready to jump in and work on your makeup work, use your time management skills that you’ve put to good use in your writing endeavors to get the work done. You can reward yourself for completing missed assignments by giving yourself free writing time in between.

When you’re sick and missing school, don’t make matters worse by worrying about losing writing time. Take care of yourself and use your downtime wisely.

Andrea Buginsky is the author of "The Chosen" and "My Open Heart," both available from Solstice Publishing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Writing Romance

Happy Valentine's Day! In honor of this lovely day, let's take a look at the love-factor in the books we, well, love.

If you google "writing romance" you'll get a long list of helpful tips. You'll find suggestions on creating your characters, knowing your setting, and wrapping the romance throughout the plot. I love how Ally Sestito adds the "cheese-factor" into the mix, or rather warns against it. Ever read a book where the romance dripped with so much sweetness it sent you searching for a wet-wipe? That's the "cheese-factor." You'll want to avoid that. Then there's the steam element, can you write a romance scene that grabs the readers heart or do you write the ones that leave them feeling jipped? (This is so me, I struggle with the romance scenes. That's why I did a lot of research, before I wrote this post :).

Just like finding that perfect Valentine's date, writing YA romance can be a bit tricky. You don't want to write romance that leaves the reader feeling like you just spent time with a fake and you don't want to write romance that leaves the reader creeped-out and looking for every available exit door. You want to write romance that makes a reader watch the main character's texts and wonder why he hasn't gotten back to her, yet. So what do we need to keep in mind when writing romance or romantic scenes? All the articles I read touched on one common point. Keep it real. From the characters to the setting to the design of the cover, keep it believable.

Make the characters live, eat, and breathe in the minds of the readers. Give them normal characteristics the reader can identify with, good and bad. Show us their physical and mental reactions to the events of your book. Make them people a reader will miss when the story is over. If you do this, readers will feel what the character feels, including love and hate (an equally powerful emotion).

The plot is fundamental. This is where the events, problems, situations, and conflicts in life will press your characters together, rip them apart, and just when we can't stand having them apart any longer, it'll pull them together with a death-grip. There are two main romance threads you'll see in writing articles: romance that rides through conflict, gaining strength through the process and romance that is born from hatred (either mutual or one-sided). Romance that rides the wave, is the kind that brings two characters together early in the book. They have to survive the insurmountable in order to make it to the end of the story. And when they make it to the end, they have a deeper love than when they started. Think the Twilight Series, by Stephanie Meyers Oh, they had their moments, but we all knew they never really hated each other.

Then there's the romance born out of hatred. Because opposites can magnetize readers, this can be a very effective plot tool for a romance novel. This plot involves one or both main characters disliking, even hating, the other, but a conflict arises that forces them to work together and as they conquer (or fail) they find their feelings take on a new direction. They see things in the other they hadn't seen before; things they like. Think Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi. There exists a distrust and dislike in at least one of the characters from the beginning which changes as the story unfolds. (These plots can be combined to make a together-apart-together-apart-together plotline in any pattern of your choosing--you get the picture:).

Dialogue. If you fill your romance scene with oodles of "oh, honey pork-chops," we're liable to run for higher ground. But if the dialogue is like watching a super movie, the reader becomes part of the story, captivated by the romance you've created. The reader becomes engaged! This is where the "cheese-factor" becomes an essential watch-label. I encourage you to read Ally's article and keep that dialogue far from sounding like the things your parent's say just to gross you out.

Whether you write contemporary romance or YA dystopian, you are bound to bump into the occasional romance scene. If the google-experts are right, and they usually are, remember to keep the moment realistic, in character, fitting to plot, and be believable. How do you do that? Well, I wish I could give you a step-by-step method, but in truth it takes practice. And lots of critiques.

Now it's your turn...

What is the number one irritation in a bad romance scene? (What makes it bad?) What makes a good romantic scene sing?
Where do you go for romance writing resources?
**My favorite ? of the day** Should every story have a romantic element, even if it's a small one?

Just Released: Amazon.com

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Midnight Oil: Asking the gods for a favor

It's time to start talking about oil. Midnight Oil, that is. The color of the font is close to the color of the magical oil that can be used at midnight on the day of summer solstice. What's it for? Probably a lot of things. It's the WD-40 of magical ointments. However, in the YA fantasy of the same name, it's for healing ailments that cannot otherwise be cured.

Let's take a brief hop to the island Novaya Zemlya (and another important place described further down in this post) which is the extension of the Ural Mountains into the Barents Sea, Arctic Ocean, and Kara Sea way above the Arctic Circle. I wonder if this is the only island surrounded by three separate seas? Hm. Have to look that up.

The occupants are the Nenets, an indigenous tribe of hunters similar to the Eskimo and Inuits of North America. Their close cousins, the Samis, are also in the vicinity stretching across northern Siberia, Finland, and into the Finnmark region of Norway.

The Samis make up the paternal side of my heroine's family. If you read Bad Spelling, you'd also know that Kat's boyfriend is a Sami (formerly a troll changeling).

The unfortunate the Nenets have a problem, a big problem. Russian nuclear testing in the 1950's left about as much radiation spread about as the explosion of Chernobyl. The Cold War certainly made major nations do some really stupid things.

In Midnight Oil, the radioactive has caused the Nenets' children born after the nuclear period to mutate. No, they didn't change into giant spiders. However, they were deformed and sick. The Nenets didn't get a lot of help from the former Soviet Union. Left to their own devices, they worked out that only one thing would save them; return them to normalcy: The Midnight Oil.

Therein lies a part of the tale. It's up to Rune (Kat's smarty-pants younger half-brother, who also happens to be half-vampire) and Ivansi (Kat's Sami grandfather) to first ask the Nenets gods where the oil is. The gods reside on a small island south of Novaya Zemlya called Hebidya Ya. You can see why it is called the Easter Island of the arctic with shrines to the various gods (illustrated on the map). Rune and Ivansi have to find the right god's pyramidal altar. The afflicted Nenets supply a totem to lead them.

After that, they have to steal the Midnight Oil from the forest elemental who happens to have it stored in her root cellar. Ajatar, however, is not a kindly elemental who'd be happy to help the distraught Nenets. Oh, no. Her mind is set on destroying her sister, another elemental spirit. In the meantime, Kat has been lost at sea along with her frozen father's block of ice. Yes, that's a bit odd, but it really does have a logical explanation.

You might be thinking that this plot is worthy of Days of Our Lives in complexity. Not really. Nobody has been married more than twice. Nobody has an identical cousin, and very few people have died and been resurrected (well, one).

Okay, maybe it is as complicated as a soap opera. But it's a lot more fun and filled with puns. I hope you'll want to read it when it's published next month.


Rune gazed toward the island the Nenets called the Home of the Gods. He noted, with some discomfort, that it teemed with people. This wasn’t going to be an easy drop-in, say hi to the gods, and ask where the Midnight Oil might be found.
“Ivansi.” Rune pointed to a small inlet further south on the shore. “Head that way. Fewer people around.”

Ivansi complied, steering the motorboat southward, angling in toward the land. He ran the boat up on the beach. Here, at least, there were some low-lying shrubs. Rune jumped off the bow with the mooring line and pulled the rope toward a sufficiently large, although ragged, bush. He grabbed the main trunk and tugged. It seemed firmly rooted, so he lashed the line close to the ground. Sucking on his finger scratched by the nasty bush, Rune swore under his breath. His own blood didn’t tempt his vampiric hunger. It just plain old hurt to get scratched by thorns.

While he was doing that, Ivansi left the boat, too. He held the Nenets totem high in his right hand and slowly turned, waiting for the totem to show him the way to go.

“Like a water witch, eh?”

Ivansi nodded and continued the slow scan of the island. The totem pulled his arm downward. Ivansi nodded in the direction it pointed. Rune joined the older man, and they set off across the rocky, barren landscape.

They walked about a hundred yards inland, when Ivansi stopped, looking puzzled. The totem pointed in a different direction. He held it up and tried the slow turn again. The totem pointed; Ivansi followed. Again, the totem changed direction. He tried a few more times, but the totem kept pointing a different direction every time he took a few steps.

Rune extended his hand. “Let me try. Maybe I can get a feel for what it’s trying to say.” He held the totem up as Ivansi had and turned. When it pointed, he pulled it back upright and turned some more. The totem seemed to be telling them the gods were all over this island, not just in a single spot.

"Oh, great. Now which way should we go?” Rune scratched his head with the totem. It slipped from his hand, and he grabbed for it, but the totem took off. Rune jogged after it. “Hey! Wait up!”

* * * * *

MIDNIGHT OIL - Book 2 of the Witches of Galdorheim
Shipwrecked on a legendary island, how can a witch rescue her boyfriend if she can’t even phone home?

Kat discovers that an evil forest spirit has kidnapped her brand-new boyfriend. She sets out with her brother, Rune, from her Arctic island home on a mission to rescue the boy. Things go wrong from the start. Kat is thrown overboard during a violent storm, while her brother and his girlfriend are captured by a mutant island tribe. The mutants hold the girlfriend hostage, demanding that the teens recover the only thing that can make the mutants human again–the magical Midnight Oil.

Mustering every bit of her Wiccan magic, Kat rises to the challenge. She invokes her magical skills, learns to fly an ultralight, meets a legendary sea serpent, rescues her boyfriend, and helps a friendly air spirit win the battle against her spiteful sibling. On top of it all, she’s able to recover the Midnight Oil and help the hapless mutants in the nick of time.

by Marva Dasef http://mgddasef.blogspot.com/
MuseItUp Buy Page: http://tinyurl.com/6wswbsf
Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006UTL54A
Midnight Oil Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdfNTVeMS1s
The cover is featured on February 4th You Gotta Read Cover Contest. Voting Feb. 21st-26th.