by Barbara DeLong
Thank you so much for giving us a chance to review your work. We have enjoyed taking a look at your project but, while there are appealing aspects to the story, it does not ultimately meet the present needs of xxx .
â€¦the hero was sexy and likable, but the story never quite came to life. There was a lack of that fantasy element we look for. Also, the pacing of the story seemed slow.â€
These are some of the comments from the rejection letter that earned me my Pro pin, and landed my manuscript under the bed with the dust bunnies (aka tumbleweed).
For the past couple of years, I have started a number of projects and many versions thereof, only to toss them aside because I didnâ€™t feel the thrill, the passion to complete them like I had my dust collector. Iâ€™d find myself working on a scene for one of those stories and end up thinking about the one under my bed.
Finally I succumbed to the inevitable and dragged it out. My critique group, always at the ready with an abundance of suggestions, provided much-needed encouragment. I re-read the whole thing in one day while I jotted notes on a yellow lined pad. Damned if that editor wasnâ€™t right on the money with her comments â€“ yes, my hero sure was sexy! New ideas began to flow, along with a renewed energy I hadnâ€™t felt in years. Writing is fun again! In the spirit of The Secret (read it, please!), I created a mock-up of my book cover and posted it on my Vision Board. My goal is to finish the rewrite by the next National Conference so I can pitch it.
So, if you have a project under your bed that just wonâ€™t let you alone, drag that puppy out and give it a read. Itâ€™s bugging you for a reason. It just might release you from the doldrums and kick-start your engines. Happy writing!
By Jann Audiss
For the last several years, I have been fortunate to spend time a few terrific days with close friends in a home on the north shore at Arrowhead Lake. We read, discuss our writing, watch movies, take walks and generally chilling out from our hectic work schedules and life in general.
Our days start at just before sunrise. Clad in hats, coats, gloves and wrapped in blankets, we sit on the deck sipping coffee from steaming mugs. Every morning we hope to see the local beaver swim by. Itâ€™s a quite time. We look out over the lake whose mirrored surface is broken only by the ripples of the occasional fish as it jumps to catch a bite for breakfast, or by the small wake left by paddling ducks. Itâ€™s paradise.
We usually take our retreat in October. On daily walks through the neighborhood we revel in the leaves as they start to turn the rich, vibrate colors of autumn. The oak trees drop acorns by the bushel. This time, one such oak tree dropped two particular acorns that found their way under my right foot. My ankle turned painfully and down I went. Needless to say, I let out several unladylike words to the astonishment of the local squirrels watching from near by.
After I crawled on my hands and knees to bed that night, I decided that a trip to the local ER was in order. While I sat in the examining room waiting for the doctor, my imagination began to work overtime. I must have dreamed up at least five or six different scenes between hero and heroine. There was the â€œcanâ€™t get out of the bathâ€ scene. The â€œER doctor who makes an after-hours house call to check up on his patientâ€ catches her in a very provocative position after she drops her crutch. The â€œlocal Ranger finds the heroine crawling along the trail on her hands and knees.â€ The hero whoâ€¦
I think you get the idea. It vividly showed me how a writer draws from her experiences. Although I canâ€™t recommend spraining an ankle, I can advise that you take advantage of your adventures for everything they are worth. Thereâ€™s nothing like â€œwriting what you knowâ€ from first had experience.
In a special note – my heart goes out to all the residents in Lake Arrowhead and throughout Southern California who have been devastated by the fires. To the men and women who are on the front lines fighting to protect lives and property and those working in the evacuation centers – God Bless.
by Barbara DeLong
Hey, are you new to OCC meetings? If not new, are you so used to the lonely life of a writer that youâ€™ve lost what social skills you might have known in a prior life? Maybe youâ€™re just shy, or intimidated by the many stars of romance who attend our meetings. You walk in, find a chair and sit. Youâ€™d love to be included in the many conversations going on around you, work the room, network. But you donâ€™t. You just sit.
Let me tell you about my first experiences with OCC. It was Jann Audiss who told me about the chapter when we met at Maralys Wills novel writing class many years ago. She persuaded me to try out a meeting and join the organization. I met her at the Days Inn the following month. For many months we attended every meeting and for some reason we felt we were still on the fringes of the group, outsiders, kind of like two kids pressing their noses to the candy store window.
Then one meeting, Jann said, â€œYou know what? Weâ€™re going to turn around and introduce ourselves to the next person who sits behind us.â€
We did. Thatâ€™s how we met Cathy Oliver. The three of us quickly became fast friends and formed a critique group. Ok. Now there were three of us pressing our noses to the candy store window. What to do. What to do.
Wham! It hit us like that great story idea that makes our hearts race at three in the morning and has us scrambling in the dark for a pen and pencil. Volunteer! How many times had we heard that volunteering is a great way to meet people, make friends and help the organization? Since that great epiphany, weâ€™ve been everything from co-president, to secretary to ways and means, audio, Write for the Money, Orange Blossom Contest co-ordinator and assistants, first OCC conference co-ordinator, newsletter distributors – you get the picture. Now we have no problem working the room. Weâ€™re in the candy store.
So, when the call for volunteers goes out, step up. Grab some candy. Oh, and say hello to the person behind you. They just might become your next BFF!
Hot August Nights…..and Romance Writers
by Johna Machak
Theis what some people call them. Those long, hot sultry days of summer when all you can manage is resting on the patio with a tall glass of sweet iced tea. It’s too hot to do anything else, even sleep. But maybe these lazy, hazy dog days are a good thing for romance writers. Gets you thinking about stuff. Sitting on the porch during a hot August night, doing nothing but letting your mind wander back to other hot summer evenings. Long days of heat and sunshine, with even longer sweltering nights. The air so thick it’s an effort just to breathe. There’s a restlessness about, a dissatisfaction with everything, a palpable tension.
Use that memory or feeling to help write that first kiss, first love scene, or ratchet up the sexual tension between your hero and heroine. That restlessness may cause your heroine to do something she wouldn’t normally do, or the hero to reveal his true feelings for the heroine. They act or react out of character, and when that happens it starts to get interesting.
As romance writers we know the act of writing is part mechanical, writing or typing words onto that blank white page; part intellectual, creating and plotting our story; and part emotional, making that love story between our hero and heroine come alive and be believable to readers. To write that emotion we need to feel it, or remember it. So, instead of staring at the blank page and stressing out, sit and relax, and let your mind drift during these hot August nights. You may be surprised what comes to mind. And, it’s really too warm to do anything else, or is it?
Hmmm……there’s something about memories of a long hot summer night in a small town, where it’s so quiet you can hear crickets down by the creek, that gets me thinking about a teenage girl sneaking out to meet……
That’s a fact: The Dog Days of August is a phrase coined by the ancient Romans, and referred to the time of year when Sirius, the dog star, rose just before or at sunrise.
Johna Machak is a member of the “Writers Rock” critique group, along with Barb DeLong, Jann Audiss and Cathy Oliver. She has served on the OCC board as Co-President (1999, 2000), Vice-President (1998), Membership Director (1996, 1997) and Webmaster (2002, 2003)
Blog #1: Whatâ€™s in a Name? or Brainstorming Blitz
When Sandy first asked us as a critique group if we would be interested in contributing blogs for the OCC website, we scratched our collective heads. We being me, Barb DeLong, along with Jann Audiss, Cathy Oliver and our newest CG member, Johna Machak. What would we write about? Would anyone be interested in what we have to say? Who are we, anyway?
We decided to discuss all this over dinner and drinks that very evening at the Taps Fish House and Brewery in Brea. As the meal progressed, we came up with possible subjects for future blogs. Yes, we decided we might actually have a few words to say from time to time, and yes, perhaps because weâ€™re ever so witty and wise, someone might actually enjoy reading them. But first and foremost we needed to name our critique group. It had to be something clever and upbeat. Hmmm . . .
What better way to come up with that definitive name than to brainstorm. As most of you know, brainstorming is a fabulous tool that writers use to list all the possible and impossible plots, scenes, consequences, etc., that will aid the writer in finding that perfect happening, that perfect thing, that will set her book apart from the rest. I pulled the napkin out from under my lemon drop martini and scrounged a pen.
We started off staidly enough with The Creative Quills (too stuffy, sounds historical), The Bookworms (Cathy wasnâ€™t going to be any darned animal), The Red Liners (too harsh), The Wordsmiths (hard to say), The Prose Polishers (ditto). O-kay. This was good. We were all contributing, throwing stuff out there. One admonition: no comments on the names until we were through. Brainstorming means get it down, no matter how bad or good or improbable. Or inappropriate. I grabbed another napkin. Drinks all around.
The Word Proâ€™s (copyrighted, I think), Word Divas (not bad), Words R Us (canâ€™t get that R to go backward), The Book Babes (Cathy wasnâ€™t going to be any darned babe), Happy Hour Critique Group (now we were getting somewhere). Oops, we just couldnâ€™t help it â€“ the comments and snickers continued.
The Drama Queens (we laughed till we cried), the Quivering Quills (Jann passed out the tissues), The Query Dearies (my fave). By that time weâ€™d begun disturbing the other diners. The waiters gave us dirty looks. We decided to continue this brainstorming activity on-line, where we could make all the noise we wanted.
Well, one month and one dining experience later, we settled on the Writers Rock Critique Group. For now. Subject to change without notice. So, brainstorming is a great tool. Enjoy it over dinner and drinks. Just bring lots of tissues and a designated driver. A notebook is optional. After all, they have plenty of napkins.
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