A Slice of Orange



September 15, 2008 by in category Java Plots by marianne h donley tagged as

Marianne Donley

On one of the many loops I belong to, someone mentioned a free writing program ywriter4 . About a dozen people on the loop chimed in saying they used the program and loved it. They mentioned story boards, and “problem word” finder, total word count along with chapter and scene word count, and other neat stuff I didn’t know I wanted. Curious, I downloaded the program and tried it. (For the faint of heart –no viruses, I swear.)

Okay, I love this program.

It has a Daily Word Count Tracker, so I know how many words I need to write each day to stay on target for finishing my work in progress. I don’t know why I like knowing I need to only write 300 words a day to finish by December 31. I suspect it’s because, heck 300 words is something I can practically finish in my sleep. 300 words is not as overwhelming as 300 huge blank pages of white. If I have to skip writing a day or two or okay, okay a week, and that Daily Word Count starts edging up toward 400 words a day, then I find myself working really hard to move it back down to my target of 300. And I can’t cheat –one word on a page doesn’t count as a page finished no matter how many paragraphs HAD been on that page during the day.

The Story Board feature is pretty cool too. After you create empty files of all your chapters and scenes (should you write like me and plot first) then you can decide from whose POV to write each scene. The Story Board then plots the book using your main characters as threads. At a glance I saw that I had six scenes from the heroine’s POV and my hero completely disappeared from the book –not a good idea. So I was able to rework the outline before writing to make sure the poor man was included.

Do you find yourself over using words? This program will run a problem word finder, either predefined (as, then, suddenly, all “ly” words, etc.) or user defined (for this book, seriously). It will even give you at total word usage count. I currently have written “seriously” 192 times and the word “and” 502 times. I suspect I need to get rid of some of both of them –seriously.

But my all time favorite part of this program, Scene Notes. I always have these brilliant ideas in chapter ten about chapter two. It is so very tempting to go back to chapter two and used said brilliant idea. Yet, noodling around in chapter two doesn’t move my story forward toward the finish line. I want to get to the finish line! So I can click on the Scene Note tab for chapter two, write my brilliant idea down, then get back to chapter ten. The note is “hooked” (high tech word –I know) to the scene for which I think I will use it and not in a Word document that I may or may not remember weeks later. Every time I bring up chapter two I see the note attached. This way I don’t rewrite chapter two, over and over unless that brilliant idea was really brilliant and I can do it when I get to polishing the second draft and not while slugging out the first.

So if you are looking for something to help organize your writing ywriter4 could be for you –and best of all it’s free. Let me know what you think of it or if you have something else you use, I’d like to know that too.

Marianne Donley writes quirky murder mysteries fueled by her life as a mom and a teacher. She makes her home in Pennsylvania with her supportive husband Dennis and two loveable but bad dogs. Her grown children have respectfully asked her to use a pen name which she declined on the grounds that even if some of their more colorful misdeeds make it into her plots, who would know the books are fiction. Besides they weren’t exactly worried about publicly humiliating her while growing up.

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PRO Blog

September 14, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as

by Kitty Bucholtz

I’ve been writing stories since I can remember, the first ones in chalk on a blackboard in the hallway outside our bedrooms. In 1996, I let someone try to convince me I could maybe really publish something. I did in 1997, and I got my first “thank you” email from a reader. That was “the moment” for me. The moment when I thought maybe I could change the world with my words.

In 2001, I joined RWA, can’t even remember why. Someone must’ve told me it would be good for me. I expected broccoli (something I like, but it is a vegetable) and instead I found a buffet (broccoli, pot roast, potatoes, jello salad, death by chocolate cake – the works!). Unfortunately, I didn’t realize the buffet was spread out on so many tables and I missed a lot of it, still don’t know a lot of the benefits. There are so many and I’m finding new ones all the time.

In 2004, my agent sent out my first book – very exciting. We got two “we would’ve bought it six months ago” replies, and my agent told me to just write another book and keep going. So I did, not realizing there was this thing called PRO and that it would be helpful for me to join it.

I spent most of 2006 in Sydney, Australia, and strangely that’s when I learned about PRO. I was making friends at OCC by being involved through email and in online activities and Gina Black told me about it. Then I think Mindy Neff encouraged me again to get the paperwork filled out. But I didn’t see the point – it was just a pin, right? Finally, Sandy Chvostal all but printed out the form for me! I sent it off, got the pin – then an amazing thing happened. I finally started to see that going PRO was about more than a pin!

We get our own retreat at the RWA National Conference with lots of great speakers and information just for us. We have our own Yahoo Groups with tons of information and mini-classes every month. (All free, mind you!) We get treated like professionals instead of wannabes. Respect! I love it! All for proving that we have the capacity and fortitude to say we’re going to write an entire book and send it to an editor or agent. Even if we’re not picked up, people give us the respect of knowing we have it in us.

Now that I know so much about PRO (and I’m pretty sure what I know is only a part of everything that PRO is!), I encourage all my friends to fill out that darn paperwork! When else in your writing career is someone going to give you a medal for being rejected by an agent or an editor! LOL!! Going PRO has really helped me grow as a writer. So join us – go PRO and grow!

Kitty Bucholtz is a co-founder of Routines For Writers, a new web site to help writers write more. She writes light urban fantasy novels with a romantic comedy spin – and loves every minute of it! Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

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And the Emmy Goes To….

September 13, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as ,

By Bobbie Cimo

Have you ever noticed that when the cameras pan over the audience at an awards show, you very rarely see an empty seat? That’s because they have seat fillers. Yes, even when someone has to get up to go to the bathroom, the director wants those seats filled.

No, it’s not a paying job, but the list of volunteers is aplenty–as you have to know somebody to be put on “The List”. But once you’re on “it,” it’s like being in the Senate…you never get replaced, until somebody dies. You can see why–I mean who wouldn’t like the opportunity to play dress-up and be admitted to the hottest ticketed show in Hollywood, excluding the Oscars?

The year my name was added to the list, nobody actually died, but a new firm was in charge of handling the seat fillers, plus the network I work for was televising the show. (Update, here) Since then, my name has been removed, as the company handling the seat filler have made new friends of their “own”. Proving once again, that old adage–“It’s who you know in this business” (sadly, even for seat fillers).

I was thrilled when I learned I had two tickets (one for myself and my sister, Tricia) to attend the 53rd Annual Emmy Awards ceremony, scheduled for Sept. 16, 2001. But then came Sept 11th and for obvious reasons, the show was cancelled. Later, we got word that the show had been rescheduled for October 7th. Our hearts weren’t in it, but like the rest of the country, we felt lost and didn’t know what else to do, except to grab on to something that felt normal–like going out for an evening.

A few weeks later an inter-office memo was issued, requesting a photo ID and informing us that the FBI would be running a background check on everyone attending the ceremony. And because the show would be taking on more of a somber note, all attendees were told that they should be dressed in dark business attire, rather than tuxedos and ballroom gowns.

On October 7th, after finishing our box lunches served on Stage 33 at Television City, and before boarding the bus heading for the Pasadena Civic Center–just hours before show time, once again the show was cancelled. This time due to a US air strike in Afghanistan.

Then the fate of the 2001 Primetime Emmy Award Show became even more uncertain, when it was learned that Don Mischer Productions(who has produced the show seven times before) might have to scratch the Emmys altogether, because of previously made commitments to other shows.

They say the third time is the charm, but in this case it was the forth time. Finally, a new date and a new location had been set for the 53rd Annual Emmy show for November 4th at the Shubert Theatre. But instead of busing us as previously planned, this time we were told we had to drive ourselves.

If the cement barricades and the closed off streets that were lined with police offices and FBI agents didn’t make it seem surreal enough, then the mirrors placed under our cars, searching for bombs and other explosives, certainly did.

After enjoying a catered dinner and listening to some live lounge music in the basement of the Plaza Hotel, we were escorted through a secret passage to the Shubert Theatre. Once inside we were led around a narrow path around backstage. I see a few familiar faces of Stage Managers, and after giving a few Hollywood kisses on the cheek, I was back to marching with the commoners(seat fillers). Deep down I had hoped one of the Stage Managers would have pulled me aside and said something like, “What are you doing there? Here, I have some extra tickets”…but it never happened.

I can’t remember exactly when, but somewhere along the line we were handed our duel badges. One had our picture with our name and a number printed on it. (think mug shot here), the other simply stated the following: “I am filling this seat TEMPORARILY (in bold lettering) in order to avoid empty seats for camera purposes. THANK YOU.” This apology–disclaimer or whatever you want to call it (embarrassment was the word that came to my mind) I’m sure was for the purpose of not freaking out some celebrity who might be wondering what happened to the person who had been seated next to them and now was gone. Both badges hung around our necks on black lanyard that seemed more like a rope.

We were told that under no circumstances were we to talk to any of the celebrities…not even to tell them how much we enjoyed them or their shows. And when we walked down the aisle, we had to remember to swing the lanyards around our necks, so our badges couldn’t be seen on camera. Two things happened by doing this, 1) I felt like I was strangling myself and 2) I inadvertently slapped the person behind me with my badge.

You could have almost heard “action” when that first commercial break happened and the doors of the lobby flew open. Like a heard of cattle we trampled down the aisles, wondering which row we would be entering first.

Hurry, hurry, hurry” are the only clear words I remember hearing, as a silhouette stood in the darkness, waving his arms like a traffic cop, directing me where to go.

Not only were we told to walk fast and to cover up our badges, but we also had to remember how to enter the row to get to our seats. I think we were told we had to face the people, rather than put our backs to them. Or maybe it was we had to keep our backs to them, and not bother looking them in the eye. Either way, it seemed like a lot to remember just to get to a seat–a seat that was only going to be mine until the next commercial.

Ten minutes later, snapping fingers told me to get up and once again I was on the move, stepping on important people‘s feet as I made my way back into rotation, awaiting my next assignment (seat).

By this time, my sister and I were separated, so I have no way of knowing if she’s landed a good seat or not. However, I did find out later that she had a terrific seat for about a minute when Megan Mullally (Karen on Will and Grace) claimed it back. My sister, absentmindedly, asked, “Now?” In which Miss Mullally replied, “Y-E-A-H!” And begrudgingly, my sister got up.

On my third time around, I was placed in the third row, center stage–prime territory by any standards.

When the curtains opened up, Ellen DeGeneres stepped out and continued with her job of hosting the 53rd annual Emmys Show by introducing, Barbra Streisand, who just happens to be my sister’s favorite singer.

I briefly looked around, wishing I could switch places with her, so she could take my seat…and then it hits me like someone who should have had a V-8,….was I crazy? This wasn’t even my seat to be giving away. Besides in this Army it’s every person for themselves. I sat back and enjoyed the rest of the song. And hopefully, my sister was somewhere close, doing the same. (I later found out, she remained in the lobby not only during Barbra’s performance, but for the rest of the show, along with a bunch others whose services were no longer needed)

As for me, I had the feeling I must have had either Ellen’s seat, or someone who was a sore loser and had walked out on the show, because no one claimed my seat for the rest of the evening. I was, however, afraid to make eye contact with any of the people in charge of seat fillers–fearful, that once they saw me, they might ask me to move.

Did I break any of the rules that night? A few, when I smiled cordially at a few of the celebrities who sat around me.

Would I ever be a seat filler again? In a New York minute! Let’s face it, I couldn’t have had a better seat, than if I had been up for an Emmy myself.

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A Writer’s Pursuit…

September 12, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as

Of Inspiration

Have you ever strolled into a room and just been struck by the intricate details found in every corner, by the colors, by the traditions, by the history? Did the room ever become inspiration for part of your story?

This particular room inspired a couple of famous authors, Lewis Carroll and J.K. Rowling: The dining hall at Christ Church in Oxford, England.

Charles Dodgson, a.k.a. Lewis Carroll, taught mathematics at Christ Church, but entertained Dean Liddell’s daughter, Alice, and her siblings with stories about Wonderland and often drew his inspiration from his surroundings around the college. At the far end of the photo, you can see the High Table where the faculty members eat. From what we were told on our tour, the senior members of the faculty would exit the dining hall through an extremely narrow staircase behind the table, which eventually led to a senior common room then outside to the Tom Quad. It’s believed this may be the inspiration for the Rabbit Hole.

And, of course, Harry Potter fans recognize this hall as the inspiration for Hogwarts’ dining hall, too. However, the portraits here didn’t move, although I did hear a tale that one of them does… I wish I knew the full story behind that! 😉

I know lately I’ve been inspired by historic homes, abbeys, villages, and small towns…At least enough to incorporate a piece of what I remember about those places into my stories, those special details to make the tale my own, to make it pop off the page.

So what about you? What places have struck you with inspiration lately? Was it a room? A town? A college? A dining hall?

Take Care,


Michele Cwiertny writes dark paranormal romance. To find out more about her, please visit her website, michelecwiertny.com, or her personal blog, Michele’s Writing Corner.

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My Video Interview with Burn Notice Author Tod Goldberg

September 11, 2008 by in category Archives tagged as

by Jina Bacarr

“When you’re a spy, certain things come easy…” writes Tod Goldberg in the opening of his Burn Notice book, “The Fix.”

For me, writing this blog on September 11th isn’t one of them.

I’m not a spy, but the heroine of my latest Spice release, Spies, Lies & Naked Thighs, is. Meet Breezy Malone, a female Indiana Jones and one tough chick. I asked Breezy what she would say if she was writing this blog on this important day in our history.

These are her words:

“Everybody knows the game has changed since 9/11. No longer are attacks planned and executed by a single al-Qaeda mastermind. Fueled by an ever-increasing well of recruits bound together by motives and causes, it’s up to me to find out what the target knows and who he’s working for.

I’m a spy. A covert op, a trained intelligence agent. I deal with graying KGB agents with prostate problems, punks from Pakistan flaunting peach fuzz and assault rifles and Iraqi militants eager to trade intel for explosives. It’s an international grocery list and it’s my job to roll up as many of these lowlifes as I can.

I go where other government agents can’t, taking down sophisticated men in grey tweed as well as terrorists who view the world with a piercing gaze and an AK-47.

If you passed me on the street you’d never know I was a Federal agent carrying a concealed Glock while keeping the eyeball on the punk ahead of me, ready to go into auto-mode to immobilize him if I’m threatened. I like my job and I do it well.

They say in the field, it’s all about people, not theory. Never was it so true as it is today. We’re fighting a war on terror and terror doesn’t take a holiday. The Federal agents out there know that and risk their lives every day to keep America safe. They do it because they believe in America and what we stand for. So do I and I know you do, too. So don’t forget the agents in the field. Not now, not ever.

Duty calls. Gotta go. It’s the business I’m in.”

Thankz, Breezy.

And thank you to author Tod Goldberg for bringing Michael Westen from the Burn Notice TV series to the page in his novel, “The Fix.” As anyone who watches the show knows, Michael Westen does his job with style, brains, a quick wit and fast moves. That also describes Tod. I had the opportunity to interview him after the August OCC meeting and totally enjoyed it.

Check out my video interview with Tod Goldberg then check out Tod’s blog at http://todgoldberg.typepad.com/

Best, Jina

Jina Bacarr is the author of The Blonde Geisha , Naughty Paris, Tokyo Rendezvous, a Spice Brief, and Spies, Lies & Naked Thighs, featuring a female Indiana Jones.

Coming in April 2009: Cleopatra’s Perfume, set in Cairo and Berlin during WWII.

Jina says, “What if Casablanca was erotic…”

“Get Caught in the Act!”

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