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Conversations with Barb and Jann

May 2, 2012 by in category Jann says . . . tagged as , , , ,

What do you read during your WIP?

Jann:   Barb, when you’re starting a new WIP, do you only read books in the genre you’re writing?
Barb:  I like to read the genre I’m writing in because it gets me in that frame of mind, that contemporary world. I especially like reading humor, which I try to write. Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Jennifer Crusie both know how to construct a laugh-out-loud scene. For category romance, our own Sandra Paul (aka Sandy Chvostal) has always tickled my funny bone. I still find myself pulling out her Reluctant Hero and Domesticating Luc to see how she incorporates animals in her stories, and Linda Johnston also, with her pet sitter and pet rescue stories.
Jann:  Totally agree. You know I’m writing a series category romance, but I read anything and everything romance–historical, paranormal, urban fantasy, contemporary. But I find it’s easier to plot when I read only series romance for at least a couple of weeks before I work on a story idea.
Barb:  Since we were discussing this subject, I asked the Orange County Chapter Pros what they read while they’re writing. Ottilia Scherschel, who writes suspense, is of like mind. She says, “I always read some suspense to get my juices flowing.” She also reads craft books, and interestingly enough, her husband’s magazine American Hunter. She likes the website artofmanliness.com for “anything a man does or ever wanted to do.”  Gotta check that one out!
 Joyce Ward also stayed within her genre when she started writing paranormals, but like you, enjoys a change of pace with other genres. Erin Pryor says, “I tend to read things that are related to whatever I’m struggling with while writing…so, if I’m working on a mystery element I’ll read full-on mysteries, if I’m working on an action scene I often turn to sci-fi/fantasy. Contemporaries for friendship and banter, 19th century novels when I’m worried about tone and manners.”
Jann:  Erin has a good idea mixing the genres to draw on their various strengths. 
Barb:  Now, Mary Kozlowski writes contemporaries, but loves reading Regencies. She says she can keep a pretty consistent voice, so is not affected by reading in another genre. And this reading your husband’s magazines must be catching on. She reads her husband’s VFW, American Legion and NRA mags because “they have lots of interesting articles about real heroes.”
Roy (Griff) Griffis also reads outside his genre. As he says, “I don’t want to read anything in a
similar genre to avoid contaminating my vision and voice.” Research is the focus of Dolores Else’s reading, both for accurate historical information and to get a feel for the time period. 
Jann:  I have a couple of story ideas that require substantial research, and have put them aside for awhile. What I need to be doing is “writing what I know” for now. Research can be a lot of fun, but it can be very time consuming if you’re not careful.
Barb:  I know what you mean. Been there. Researching is not writing. 
Shauna Roberts, who I know would use her time wisely, finds herself so interested in some of her background research topics that she will keep reading about them after her book is finished.  She also will read articles and how-to books on the craft of writing to reinforce her writing skills.   She reads in different genres regardless of her writing, so I assume they don’t influence her voice.  

Jann:  The Pros have some great comments, and it’s interesting to see what others do. I better get back to my WIP. Remember those goals we talked about a couple of months ago? Well, I just set one with our critique group at our last gathering that I’ve got to make.

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Conversations with Barb and Jann

April 2, 2012 by in category Archives tagged as , , ,

Where Do You Get Your Story Ideas?

Barb: Hey Jann, someone at work asked me where I get the ideas for my stories. Interesting question. I thought we’d talk about that subject, because it fascinates me to hear authors talk about all the different ways they’ve come up with their weird, wacky and wonderful plots and characters. I can blame OCC and Dean Koontz for my current WIP. I sat in an Ask an Author session at an OCC meeting awhile back and one of the ladies talked about her paranormal project. Something clicked, a witch was born, along with her familiar, a ferret who can disappear and reappear at will, like the dog in Koontz’s Relentless.

My Dream Makers trilogy, which sits awaiting a paranormal makeover, was inspired by my husband’s car club, the Orange County Mustang Club. They were approached by the Make A Wish Foundation to restore a Mustang for a teenager. The foundation’s representative said they don’t do a lot of makeovers because of the liability, and they especially don’t cover the engine rebuilds. That got me thinking about the children whose wishes are unfulfilled because they are either too expensive, too dangerous or pretty darn impossible. Well, my Dream Makers foundation loves a challenge!

What about your stories, Jann? From where do you draw your inspirations?

Jann: Most of my story ideas generate when I’m someplace new, especially when I’m on vacation. Seeing new places and being relaxed always opens a window of ideas. I know some people start with characters and some with plot. I seem to start with a location and think about what my characters are doing there. Recently I spent the weekend at The Oaks at Ojai. Entering the beautiful lobby, I found myself imagining my heroine coming back to the beloved family-owned resort and having to face the one man who broke her heart. He is now trying to steal the resort that has fallen into financial difficulties. From that point on, every experience I have has me thinking of another possible scene. It’s great. The only trouble is when I’m travelling with non-writing friends, they don’t understand why I’m always writing down a note or taking a picture of the restaurant dining room.

Your question got me thinking about how some of our mutual writing friends get their ideas, so I asked them.

Linda O. Johnston, who I’ve known for years and writes a Pet Rescue Mystery series as well as Romantic Suspense and Paranormal for Harlequin, says, ”Ideas are everywhere! I read. I eavesdrop. I ask questions and brainstorm with friends. I look around me and think how things I see might fit into a story. I usually have a theme in mind, or at least the kind of story I intend to write–cozy mystery, paranormal romance, romantic suspense or whatever. I let my subconscious mull on what I’ve seen or heard… and then I spill it out in stream of consciousness onto the computer to see how it fits!”

Laura Drake, who we met through OCC and just recently sold her debut novel The Sweet Spot in a three-book deal to Grand Central, says, ”Plots come to me many ways — riding my motorcycle, watching bull riding, seeing an old wreck of a house, talking to a friend. It’s a spark – something that catches my attention and fires my imagination. What if . . . And I’m off!”

Tessa Dare, 2012 Rita finalist for A Night to Surrender, finds that she’s ”very much a character-driven writer. Many of my stories originate when I think of two people on polar opposites of some personality trait or issue. For example, a woman for whom family and hospitality are paramount, paired with a man who can’t stand social gatherings (One Dance with a Duke). Or a shallow, charming rake paired with a scholarly, socially awkward geologist (A Week to be Wicked). The more my hero and heroine are opposites on the surface, the more fun I can have pushing them into uncomfortable situations that reveal their deeply-buried similarities.”

Barb: Linda Johnston is right. Ideas are everywhere. The trick is finding one that resonates long enough to finish the damn book!

Let us know where you get your story ideas.

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Conversations with Barb & Jann

March 2, 2012 by in category Archives tagged as , , ,

Barb:  Hey, Jann, how’s the story coming? Got it nailed down yet?
Jann:  Well, I can tell you that my brain has been storming, that’s for sure. I have this seed of a story I’ve been wrestling with for months (soon to be a year). My plot and characters are all over the place. For years I have read and listened to some talented writers explain their writing techniques. I’ve tried out several, to the point that I’m totally confused on how to get this story on the page. I was pulling my hair out by the roots, so I sat down and asked myself this question, “which one do I feel most comfortable with?” Answer – The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. I guess it goes back to the beginning when I joined OCC and the first writing technique I was exposed to was a workshop given by Jill Marie Landis on the hero’s journey. I found the handout Jill gave us breaking down the 12 steps (but can’t locate the one she had completed with one of her books – darn it) and pulled The Writer’s Journey off the shelf and started to reacquaint myself with a tried and true concept. I have to say it’s working.  It’s slow, but working!
Barb:  That’s super, Jann! The Hero’s Journey is a great tool for a lot of writers, but I have trouble using it for some reason. I usually start out with a germ of an idea for a story, a hook of some sort, and think about it for days before I write anything down. When I’m really excited about it and can’t wait any longer, I get out a legal pad and start writing a story blurb or even a short outline. At that point I consult GMC and the three-act structure with its turning points (or plot points), midpoint, etc., to get the characters and story filled out. The three-act structure process seems to work best for me. I guess it’s my love of the movies. I can break down my favorite movies into their three acts, and frequently refer to them for inspiration when I’m stuck.  I believe the best handout I have on the subject is Lou Nelson’s Basic Paradigm Plot Definitions.  She provided it to everyone who attended her “pajama party” at OCC’s birthday bash last October. She included a blank three-act paradigm for everyone to fill out.
Jann:  Barb, I think what we can take away from this is that not one process works for every writer. I say, whatever works for you, go for it.
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Conversations with Barb and Jann

February 2, 2012 by in category Jann says . . . tagged as , , , , , ,

by Barb DeLong and Jann Audiss

Jann:  Well, Barb, how are you doing in Kitty’s on-line Time Management class?

Barb:  Not so well.  Can’t seem to find the time to get assignments done.

Jann:  I know what you mean.  I did my first two assignments and posted every day what I loved about my writing, then fell off the wagon on Sunday.

Barb:  We’ll get back on track.  What’ll help is when we get down to the nitty gritty and mark up our calendars. 

Jann:  Calendars?  Last night I counted five: my Smart Phone, my Franklin, my day planner, my pocket planner and the cutest Mary Engelbreit calendar, if I could only find it.  I want to settle on only one because it’s driving me crazy.  I might miss a hair appointment if I’m not careful.

Barb:  And we can’t have that.  I’m afraid after I fill out the calendar or calendars with all my appointments, working full time, yada yada, there won’t be enough time to write.

Jann:  That’s what we’re taking this class for, Barb.  Where are your priorities?  Is writing even among them?

Barb:  Okay, mom.  I am getting some writing done, but there’s only so many quality pages one can do in the bathtub.

Jann:  Thanks for that picture.  Seriously, it’s all in how you figure out your goals and prioritize them.  You’ve got to take a hard look, decide what you really want.

Barb:  Well, baths take a long time.  I could cut them out, but showers will get my paper wet.  Yeah, yeah, I know.  I’m following the class.  I’m working on Lecture Four.

Jann:  Hate to tell you, but Kitty has just posted Lecture Five.

Barb:  Oh, crap.     
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Conversations with Barb and Jann

January 2, 2012 by in category Jann says . . . tagged as , ,

 by Barb DeLong and Jann Audiss
We have been friends for what seems like forever and been struggling with our writing as well.  So to start 2012 off with a bang, we have decided to blog on the Slice of Orange.  What better place to get our mojo working.  We decided to do a conversational blog between the two of us exchanging our thoughts and ideas about our writing.
Jann:  Hi, Happy New Year. Yada, yada…been thinking about blogging again.  What do you think about blogging together?  I remember when we were doing it as a group several years ago?

Barb:  Yes, I remember.  I also had a Pro blog and my own blog for a while.  But I stopped writing them, as it seems I do regularly with my creative writing.  I plunge in, all excited about a new story, write feverishly, then more slowly, then I hit the skids.  How can I make this year different?

Jann:  I know what you mean. One problem I have is getting sidetracked with other obligations. Remember when we use to meet once or twice a month for critique group?  We were actually getting pages out, why don’t we try committing to – oops backup and remove “try”, let’s commit to meeting twice a month to write for 2 hours or critique.  If we critique, let’s set a page minimum – doesn’t’ matter if the pages are good, bad or ugly. 

Barb: The goal is ACCOUNTABILITY! 

Jann: Hey, what about taking Kitty’s Online Class for January.  Going the Distance: Goal Setting and Time Management for the Writer??  Sounds like we could use it.
Barb:  Setting goals, supporting each other – sounds like a plan, Jann!  And hey, I think we just did our first blog!  Blogging is writing, so we actually wrote something.  I like this already.  

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