Wednesday, December 27, 2006

So you want to be a writer?

The holidays are over ... um, somewhat. It's kind of hard to get the children back in the groove of things when there are so many new games to play and the tree is still up. But for me, personally, it's time to put nose to grindstone -- butt in chair; fingers to keyboard -- and get cracking! I have to get this book, DREAM WALK, done. It's been way too long a work in progress...and since I finally have my paranormal world figured out, I need to let these two would-be lovers fight their demons (literal and figurative) and find their happy ever after.

But first .... on to my promised 'lessons'. I'll start with a question I was asked at my recent book signing:

How do you get started writing?

That one is kind of tough. I feel you need at least two things to begin your career as a writer:
1. Talent
2. An idea

Let's take the second one first:

Where do ideas come from? Well, for me, they can come from anywhere. The lyrics of a song. Another book, a movie or play. A 'what if?' question that pops into my head. A lot of ideas come from the age old past-time of people-watching. No, I'm not talking about peeping Tom here...I just mean sitting in a public place or event and watching the people around you. Everyone has a story -- most probably wouldn't make for a great adventurous novel -- but add a little imagination to the mix and you just might find an idea germinating.

Now for the hard part:

Talent, well, there's somewhat of a debate there. Are writer's born or made? Many have strong feelings on either side. I feel it's a bit of both. However, if you aren't 'born' with the writing gift or inclination, no amount of tutoring is going to turn you into the next Nora Roberts or Stephen King. (Let's face it, there probably will never be another King.)

Writing has to come from within. There has to be a storyteller lying in wait inside your brain -- a voice that 'speaks' to you and demands you write it all down. Some say there is a fine line between the insane and writers. I say there's not much of a line at all. ;) But as long as the voices aren't telling you that you're God or that someone (except a fictional character) needs to die, you're probably as sane as any writer can get.

In my not so humble opinion, if you have the urge to tell stories...if your imagination goes into overdrive anytime you see a glove on the side of a road or hear sirens in the distance... if you really and truly desire to write, then you can learn to do just that.

But how do you learn? Hopefully you paid attention in English classes -- no, you don't need to conjugate verbs or identify participles, thank goodness -- but you do need to understand and make use of basic grammar, punctuation, etc. Then you have to feel free enough...and be good break those rules in the process. At least some of them.

Writing...good, strong writing...comes from years of doing two things: reading & writing.

Sounds trite? Too easy? Think again. You don't copy what others do, but you learn from their mistakes and their triumphs. If you read a scene in a book that sweeps you away -- figure out what it is that makes it so. Is it the use of verbs? The description? The dialogue? How is it unique or special to you?

If you read a novel that you just want to heave against the wall (yes, I have actually done this, but I won't tell who the author was) -- decipher those emotions as well.

Writers must constantly grow, learn and hone their craft. If they stop; the writing suffers. Read the classics you ignored during school. Get a word-a-day calendar and make yourself increase your vocabulary. If you hear or read a great metaphor or simile, make note of it. Words are your paint and the more you know, the more vibrant your writing can become.

So... do you still want to try? Do you have determination? A thick skin? Are the voices in your head clamoring for their turn? Then sit down, put you fingers to the keyboard and WRITE!
Don't worry about being perfect at the start -- chances are, you won't be. But if you don't write something, ANYTHING, your dream ends here.

Follow your dream and hold on tight. It's bound to be a bumpy ride.

**Next time: What is point of view?**

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Autopsy of a booksigning

First off, let me say that my first booksigning went fairly well -- it was not a rousing success that will establish my career, but I did make a few sales, made a couple of contacts. All in all, it was an interesting night. Out of 18 copies Borders had in stock, I sold a total of five that night. The manager was very enthusiastic and wonderfully nice -- she asked me to come back the weekend before Valentine's Day to give it one more try. :)

Those are the let's tear the night apart, dig in and see what really happened.

Thank goodness for friends!

One tip that I followed from a fellow writer was to print out little pamphlets regarding my book, SECRETS AND SHADOWS, to pass out to possible customers. It may bring in another sale or two, we'll see. I am glad, however, that I had those and my homemade bookmarks & business cards on hand.


Two things that did NOT surprise me: a couple of older gentleman stopped and asked what the book was about. When I mentioned romantic suspense, they immediately lost interest. LOL! Which, honestly, is a little sad. I strongly believe that any man who is interested in how women feel, think and approach a loving relationship should read at least one well-written romance novel. Seriously guys, it would save you a lot of grief.

The second unsurprising occurrence: the number of people who hurried by, avoided direct eye-contact and basically went out of their way (or my way) to enter the bookstore. LOL!

Trust me, folks -- I am not going tackle you and try to mind-control and/or guilt you into buying my novel. Really. For one thing, I haven't the foggiest how to do that -- otherwise my children would be much better behaved 24/7 AND my book would be with a big NY pub like Ballantine or Kensington. I love Samhain, don't get me wrong, but we all know where the bigger bucks are, don't we? ;)

The Unexpected:

One thing that did surprise me, however, were the number of people who seemed in awe of me. Just because I had written and had a book published. I felt a bit like a celebrity...actually, I felt like I was somehow impersonating a celebrity. I felt a little...guilty? Out of place?

It could have been my 'power suit' or my sudden and instant 'in the spotlight' status that created those feelings. Or it could have been the three young people -- two teenage boys, one girl -- who all had questions about writing. How do you do it? What's the process? How do you get published?

This is where I had to start thinking fast and talking like .... well, like I knew what the heck I was talking about.

Yes, I suppose I am now an 'expert' of sorts. I am published, so I must be doing something right, somewhere. And yes, if I really think about it, I can give advice -- which I did that night -- and I can maybe teach others a thing or two about the process and the mechanics of writing a novel.

But I am more of a natural writer. In other words, I sit down and the words flow. I don't stop to think about conjugating verbs or whether this is a metaphor or simile...yes, I often leave participles dangling **GASP!** and I still don't catch it until some more grammar-oriented person points it out.


I've decided for the good of the few ... at least those few young souls (or the young at heart) who truly desire to write but do not know how to begin ... I've decided to give this rather mediocre blog a more positive direction. I've decided to share my insights into the written word. I'll start by trying to answer -- in my most humble way -- those questions asked me by the eager and very flattering young men and woman at that booksigning.

How do you start?

What's the writing process?

What do you do from there?

So, if you want to learn at least as much as I, personally, can teach you, come back frequently. Writing takes time, patience, work, a thick skin, and perseverance. If you really, really want to reach the goal of publication, those are the qualities you must possess or strive to obtain.

A good dose of talent doesn't hurt, either. ;)

Another meme

Here's another list courtesy of my friend and colleague, Laura Hamby. The things I've done are in bold...some with further explanations attached. ;)

1. Used real snow to make/eat a snow cone -- Yes, with Kool-aid

2. Slept in you car while parked at the side of the road

3. Didn't go to bed until 4 in the morning on New Year's Day

4. Dyed an Easter egg, using all the colors available

5. Catch a scent on the air that reminded you of something from your childhood

6. Taken a picture of the sky because it was a remarkable shade of blue that day

7. Caught a fish and cleaned it yourself, then cooked it for dinner

8. Wished you bought two pairs of your favorite shoes -- Orange sandals with sparkly, sequined flowers...I love them and they're wearing out. :(

9. Made a list like this

10. Taken art lessons -- In college -- loved it!

11. Taken ballet lessons -- As a child -- hated it! LOL!

12. Driven a really scary stretch of road

13. Read a book from cover to cover in one sitting -- More than once. ;)

14. Written a letter to your Congressman

15. Changed political parties

16. Made a boat yourself, and sailed in it

17. Worn mismatched shoes by accident

18. Been so happy you wanted to burst into song -- And did so! Many times. ;)

19. Watched Barney, as an adult, without becoming annoyed -- When the show first began and I watched with youngest two children. Not sure I could do it now.

20. Thought you could walk to Sesame Street -- As a child, I so wanted to go to Sesame Street!

21. Invented something

22. Came up with a new recipe -- really just a variation of another recipe.

23. Snorkeled or dived a coral reef

24. Been in a shark cage

25. Been told that a character in a Nora Roberts book reminded a friend of you

26. Howled in the car with your kids -- Yes, but only during a full moon, naturally.

27. Loved someone so much your heart hurt

28. Painted a house

29. Painted a picture in the style of a famous painter

30. Seen the Mona Lisa

31. Seen the Hope Diamond

32. Been the president of the PTA

33. Sat on Santa's an adult -- Actually, I was 17 -- it that adult enough? :)

34. Lost your spouse

35. Driven a race car

36. Eaten fried okra

37. Climbed Mt. Everest

38. Seen Mt. Rushmore

39. Saved a baby bird that had fallen from its nest

40. Tried a food you always thought was gross and discovered you loved it -- Yep, Guacamole.

41. Been to Hawaii

42. Been to Africa

42. Had an "old-time" picture taken with your family, your friends or alone -- At Pigeon Forge, Tenn., now Dollywood. LOL! My mom still has the tin-type.

43. Made good friends via the Internet -- Oh, yes! Most my good friends are IM buddies. :)

44. Met a movie star

45. Seen the Queen of England in person

46. Indulged in a tinsel fight while decorating the Christmas tree

47. Attended a family reunion

48. Couldn't turn out the lights for the night after reading a Stephen King novel -- The Stand...the summer after I graduated high school.

49. Gone on a cruise

50. Can you remember where you where the day the Challenger exploded? -- Vividly... English Lit., during college. Saw it replay in the student lounge.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Words of wisdom

This was passed along by a's a long list, but one worth reading.

Lessons in Life By Regina Brett The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio

To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons lifetaught me. It is the most-requested column I've ever written. Myodometer rolls over to 50 this week, so here's an update:

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don'tworry; God never blinks.

16. Life is too short for long pity parties. Get busy living, or get busy dying.

17. You can get through anything if you stay put in today.

18. A writer writes. If you want to be a writer, write.

19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the secondone is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don'ttake no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancylingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: "In fiveyears, will this matter?"

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Yourfriends will. Stay in touch.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anythingyou did or didn't do.

35. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.

38. Read the Psalms. They cover every human emotion.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyoneelse's, we'd grab ours back.

41. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

42. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

43. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

44. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

45. The best is yet to come.

46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

47. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

48. If you don't ask, you don't get.

49. Yield.

50. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

Since I'm(Deborah Brent) now 52 I have 2 more to add to the list.

51. It is easier to ask for forgiveness than ask forpermission. (I learned this from one of my local churchleaders.)

52. From <http://www.mayaange .html> MayaAngelou I learned just because I'm in pain I don't have to beone."A REAL FRIEND IS ONE WHO WALKS IN WHEN THE REST OF THE WORLD WALKS OUT"

Monday, December 11, 2006


I'm having my very first booksigning!

When: Friday, Dec. 15th, from 6-9 p.m.
Where: Borders Express, Clearview Mall, Butler, PA.
For: Secrets and Shadows (Now in Print!)

If you happen to be in the area, stop in and say 'Hi!'

Books make great holiday gifts, by the way. Just thought I'd throw that out there. ;)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

We got angst...grab a bucket!

I have two teenagers at home. Females. Yeah, I hear the women snickering and the men flinching at those words. Can we say: Angst by the Boat load? Grab a bucket, folks, it's time to bale!

Now I also have an 11 year-old son who has sprouted pit hair -- this knowledge thanks to his big sisters -- and is showing all the signs of also hitting that horrific time in anyone's life. Puberty.

I shudder at the mere thought, believe me.

His voice is cracking...he's growing an inch a month...his feet are now bigger than mine...and he sweats like, well, like a guy. Luckily (knock on wood) he has NOT discovered the complex attraction of male to female. Just shoot me when that happens. Please.

Truly, I am enjoying watching my children grow and change. I rejoice in seeing them make good decisions -- and apologizing when they make rather stupid ones. I enjoy seeing them as more 'equal' than as the tiny humans I had to do everything for. Now they can do for me.

And the angst? Yeah, well, it's like revisiting my own teen years. The whining...the moping...the certainty that MY zit is really the most hideous zit to ever appear on anyone's face. Their insecurities take me right back to my own.

Now I can look back, laugh and shrug my shoulders. Did I ever really think such trivial things were "The End"? Yep. Sure did. With all the melodrama involved. And yes, I can tell them -- someday you'll see that this really does NOT matter. But they don't believe that. Just like I didn't.


My mother sat across from me at lunch recently as I complained about life with teens and pre-teens and began to laugh hysterically. She pointed a finger at me, this somewhat evil grin on her face and said: "Pay back is sweet!"

I was shocked. Then I laughed. So true...I just can't wait until the day when I can say the same to my kids.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Another meme ;)

I learned one thing from this particular 'meme' -- I really need to get out more. ;) The things I've done are in bold.

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said “I love you” and meant it
09. Hugged a tree-------for photo purposes only :o)
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game (and survived the crush afterwards)
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played touch football
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Touched a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad - and the Odyssey
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone’s life

Copy and paste it to your own blog, hi-liting the things you've done!