Monday, December 27, 2010

1000 visitors!! Time for something special...

We've had 1000 hits to "Unwritten", so time for a giveaway! Comment here, and on January 1, when Melange Books launches their new website, I'll draw a name and YOU can win a free copy of my first novel in the Tallenmere series--A Ranger's Tale !!

I'll announce the winner here, and when the book is out in February, I'll send a free copy to the winner. Get to posting!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I woke up stressed today, and then thankful. Odd combination, you say? It took me a while to put it into words, but I came up with something. Writers tend to do that.

Christmas has stressed me out this year. It didn't help that it occurred only weeks after we moved to a new town with a new house and new bills and new everything. I've hardly took the time to sit and ponder the true meaning of it, except for the 7-day nativity I do with the kids each year (thank you, dear friend, for that gift). We've watched a movie or two, cuddled up some, but today I realized that I've got a Savior!

Uh, yeah, you say--that's Christmas, you know, Christ's birthday. Well, I say, it's even better than that. I've got a Savior who loves me even when I burn the biscuits, even when I yell at the kids for sneezing in the cookie dough,  even when I freak out because I forgot to send a card to my fifth cousin Pat, once removed. I've got a Savior who was born a perfect being into an imperfect world, who loves me despite all my imperfections.

So, I can be stressed and thankful all at the same time, and be happy that He gave me the best gift of all. He's trumped everything I can possibly buy, bake, or mold into a bundt pan. I can rest assured, that when one of the kids has a meltdown because Santa brought "Dance Dance Your Feet Off" instead of "Dance Dance Revolution", my Savior still loves me, still loves us, all of us, no matter what the season.

Now, to all my friends and fellow writers all over the world, no matter what you're celebrating or not this time of year, I wish you a Merry Christmas, a happy holiday, and most of all a few moments of peace among the craziness to enjoy special time with family and friends. Until next to you and yours.

I bring you good tidings of great joy."

~ Luke 2:10

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Are you literally GROWING as a writer?

See, 'cause writing isn't exactly a form of aerobic exercise. It's more of a brain thing. What few calories are burned with those pecking little fingers of yours are offset by that tall mocha latte and the donut you keep nibbling on all morning. Actually, I'm pretty sure the calories from those goodies override the ones lost from the keyboard pecking.

Okay, so here's the deal. We (which I'm sure you understand as "I", but it makes me feel better when I include the rest of the understand) are not getting fit by sitting in front of the computer eating and pecking out our next best-seller (that delusion is another thread altogether). So, we have to make some changes. It's that tired old New Year's resolution all over again. Call it "losing weight" or "getting fit" or "trying not to split our pant seams"--whatever, but the point is, we need to step it up.

Chances are we have a dusty treadmill and weight bench somewhere hiding in the basement, or hidden under clothes or  our kitty's litter box, so let's get that stuff out, set it up somewhere sensible. In front of a big TV is nice. Nature lovers might want a big window where they can watch the birdies and squirrels duke it out over the stale donut remains we just threw out.

Start with something manageable--20 minutes a day. Too much? Ok, 10 minutes. And do some stretches. Throw in a few push-ups. Don't forget those neglected abs. We can sit in a chair and do ab excercises--trust me, I've done it.

To up the stakes, as one writer friend on FB suggested, for every overused word (we could also add adverbs, dangling participles, etc) that we find, the penalty is 10 squats or 10 sit-ups, the choice is ours.

So, after all this Christmas candy/cookie/sugar and trans-fat overload is complete, let's get moving. Grow as a writer in talent alone, get fit, increase the blood flow to our brains so we can peck out that next best-seller.

All right, now who's with us?

Friday, December 17, 2010

900 visitors!! Another excerpt in celebration!

Chapter 15


Cali’s locket felt heavy on my neck as I stood at the wheel. I’d left many things behind in my life, but leaving her there alone was about the hardest thing I’d ever done. She was more than just a spoiled, rich girl. I saw it in her eyes when I met her—uncertainty and hopelessness, and when I trained her, she had lit up, like a wilted flower bursting into life. If anyone understood how she felt, it was me, and I’d not shown her the compassion she needed.

The sun had just dipped under the horizon. Shyler joined me at the helm. We set sail, the wind pushing us along, farther from Faewood, farther from Cali. As the sun dipped under the horizon, Shyler joined me at the helm. I’m not sure how he knew what I was thinking; perhaps it was the way my body slumped over the wheel, and how I’d pulled her locket out, rubbing it between my thumb and forefinger.

Shyler slapped a bony hand on my back. He and Bob had sailed with my father all those years ago when they were still in their teens, and I was grateful they had agreed to join me when I started up his business again. They had aged considerably, and I owed them a comfortable life at sea, not a frenzied life on the run with a noble woman I’d foolishly fallen in love with.

His spindly fingers squeezed my shoulder. “Tis a good night to sail.”

I smiled down at him. “Mm-hmm.” 

“I’ve known ya a long time, Cap’n. You’re about a decent a man as I know, like yer father was.”

A lump settled in my throat, and I stared out at the darkening sea. “Sometimes I wonder if he’d be disappointed in me.”

Shyler shook his head, his sun-bleached hair swishing above his ears. He sighed, hunched shoulders sagging even further. “He’d not be disappointed with ya, not for what happened back then. There weren’t a thing you could do about that. If I remember your father correctly, I’d say he’d be right proud, except for one thing.”

I raised an eyebrow. “What’s that?”

His squinty eyes met mine. “That you didn’t follow yer heart and go after the woman ya love.”

“But, I can’t just-“

Shyler grabbed the wheel and nudged me out of the way. “Time’s wastin, Cap’n. She might get ate up if ya don’t hurry.”

I stared back at the shoreline. Not quite a half-mile yet. I took off my boots and grabbed a waterproof leather sack, one of many we kept nearby on hooks, just in case we had to abandon ship. The boots went in the sack, along with my dagger and a good bit of gold. I cinched it up tight and tied it on my belt.

When I reached the railing, I yelled over my shoulder, “Send Razor to shore. Head to Arkis. I’ll get word to you there.”

Bob joined Shyler as I climbed atop the rail. They both saluted me.

Bob yelled, “Aye, Cap’n! Go get ‘er!”

I saluted and dove in. The water was fine.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sticking the Landing

It was 1984. An eight-year-old me watched with bated breath as Mary Lou Retton seemed to defy gravity itself and scored two perfect 10's for her vaults in the Summer Olympics. I cheered along with the rest of the country for the little hero who could. Her performances gave us all a surge of joy, of hope that we too could aspire to great things. She made us forget for a time (not that I ever thought much of it back then) about the wobbling economy and the threat of nuclear war.

And, if there was one thing that girl could do, it was sticking her landing. A perfect ending. An applause-inspiring summation to a great show.

I struggle with endings. By the end of a story, I don't know if I'm tired of challenging my characters, or if I feel sorry for them because they've been through so much strife. But, more often than not, my endings are rushed. In my hurry to get to "happily ever after", I sometimes leave my readers saying, "Wait a minute, that was too easy" or "But what happened to so-and-so?"

Just one weakness out of many for me, but if I don't stick that landing and wrap up my endings so that my readers can snap the book shut with a feeling of warm satisfaction, then I haven't done my job as a writer. I haven't scored my perfect 10 and sent the crowd to its feet.

Where do you struggle as a writer? What keeps you from the perfect 10?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why I Write Romance

In case you've ever wanted to ask, which you probably didn't, but I gotta blog about something, right?

It's a life-force, a necessary element, a crucial cog in the machinery of who we are. To some degree or another, we all crave romance. Be it heavy or light, you'll be hard-pressed to find a story or movie without at least a hint of romance somewhere. From our earliest childhood stories, we can remember "they lived happily ever after".

Romance warms us, thrills us, takes us beyond the mundane, removes us from the stresses of everyday life. We want it in our own lives, that whimsical feeling of falling in love and beyond, to have a love so deep that we can't imagine life without our significant other. There is a difference, yes, in that first romantic love and the unconditional love we choose to show our spouses. But, it's never something we forget (or shouldn't, anyway), never something we can't rekindle on a great date night.

This is why I write romance. It's like the first bloom of a fireworks show, the first crimson glow of an extraordinary sunrise, like biting into a warm chocolate chip cookie. It's the icing on the cake of life.

Now, where's my hubby? :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

My gift to you...

Super Easy Dark Chocolate Fudge

2 & 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 & 1/2 tsp vanilla (use the pure stuff, please)
Dash salt

Combine chips and milk in large microwave safe glass bowl. Cook on high 3 minutes. Stir until smooth. Add vanilla and salt. Mix well. Turn into wax paper-lined square pan and spread evenly. Chill for 2 hours. Turn over onto cutting board, peel off wax paper, and cut into squares.

Now, you can either engorge yourself until you are in a chocolate-induced coma or you can arrive at the Christmas party with a pretty plate of fudge and let everyone think you spent hours stirring and watching the candy thermometer. I won't tell, either way.

Merry Christmas, and happy writing!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

New Writer Blog

Another writer buddy just made her first blog. Head over and say hello:

Winter Blues

I woke up this morning not wanting to get out of bed. More snow. Frigid temperatures. The neighbor across the street gave up on shovelling his driveway when the snow started again. At least we're not in Minnesota, but still...the weather outside is frightful.

My mood isn't much better. It happens to me often this time of year. Seasonal depression, I guess. I hear a lot of people talking about it. Maybe it's all the stresses of the year before coming to a head as the year ends. Feeling like there are too many loose threads, things left unfinished, goals left unfulfilled.

Do any of you experience the same thing? Writing is my usual therapy. Being in the presence of God is the best, which is why we need to find a church in our new town toute suite. What do you do when the winter blues hit?

Edit: So why didn't I think of this? Baking. It's actually a running joke in my family. "Mysti's baking again. Must be something wrong." I started the morning with writing, and then I took a break to bake a giant gingerbread cookie man/girl with my kiddos.

See our creation? It was supposed to be a "man", but the girls turned him into a girl. My hubby's worried about our boy, the youngest of the three. For good reason, probably.

Friday, December 10, 2010

And the next tale is..."Serenya's Song"

But you'll have to wait a while for excerpts. If all goes right, you'll see it next fall. It's the next in the series after "A Ranger's Tale". Meant to be a novella. Hopefully I can keep it that short!

Here are a couple of songs I'm thinking will play a big part in the "theme".

I Want to Know What Love Is by Mariah Carey

When I Look At You by Miley Cyrus

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New Writer Blog

Hey loyal readers (all six of you) and those who sneak in--I've got a writer buddy who's started up his own writer's blog.

Read, post, follow! Let's support each other on this crazy ride!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The good, the bad, the ugly

My new office and desk: good.

Throat on fire, fever, and chills: bad.

Spending so long in the doctor's office and pharmacy that we're feeling worse than ever: ugly.

At least I'm back in the comfort of my office. It's quiet down here in the basement. Got my nature sounds CD's, no kids running amok, and some warm tea with honey for my throat. Now all I need is a lounge chair for napping.

What's that? Am I actually going to write in here, you ask? Or just listen to "Caribbean Breeze" and nap all day? Of course I'm going to write, you ninny. I'm writing right now, aren't I? What do you mean blogging doesn't count? Ok, ok, I'm slowly working on rewriting yet another romantic fantasy, and after the new year, I plan to get way more productive than I am now. I DID just move and it IS just a couple weeks before Christmas. Give the poor sick mama of three a break, will ya?

Speaking of more ugly, here's a question for you. This one trips me up big time. I'm not a planner. I've tried outlining some stories. I've got an outline for a historical romance done, and I've done a few character outlines, which can be helpful, but extensive story planning to me is about as fun as waiting all day in the doctor's office with two sick, crying children (just ask me how fun that is--go ahead).

Do you plan your stories? And how extensively? And is there a way to make planning them fun? Writing is work--yes, got that. I work very hard on what I write and revise, but the whole planning it out thing just hasn't stuck with me yet. I'm not even sure how essential it really is, but there's your question of the day/week/whenever I get around to posting next.

The comment area is open. Feel free to write away. I'll get more tea.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Woot! 800 visitors! An excerpt is in order...

From Chapter 5 (Galadin):

As if history pulled me along, I headed in the direction of our old cottage. The stone foundation still stood, covered in vine and brush. I pulled back some of the growth and sat on one of the old stones. Razor climbed from my arm and sat beside me. Life had taken its toll on this place. And me. Maybe Claude had been right. Maybe I was fooling myself. I’d hoped running my father’s old business and doing an honest day’s work would absolve my sins. Forty-five years old, still young for a half-elf, but old enough to know life didn’t work like that. People reaped what they sowed. Eventually, I’d have to gather a bitter harvest.

We hunted for another hour or so, circling around in the direction of Leogard. Another rabbit ran past, and I sent Razor after it. I hurried through the bush, draeberry thorns catching my clothes. Pulling my way free, I stumbled and smacked directly into…her.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Are you all right?” I asked.

Caliphany lowered her hood and smoothed out her robes. She smiled. I admit I’d held a vague hope we would cross each other’s paths again, but I’d also told myself a woman of her class and a man of mine had no business being seen with one another. Even though I didn’t know who she was exactly, the clothes she wore told me she didn’t mingle regularly with us working classes.

She tucked some hair behind her ear and blushed. “Captain Trudeaux.”

I bowed. “My lady.”

“Please don’t bow.” She avoided my gaze and clenched her robe. “You weren’t at the docks this morning. I thought you had gone.”

Razor had started tearing into the rabbit, so I held up my finger. “One moment, please.” I knelt to retrieve him and the carcass before it was gone.

Razor eyed Caliphany when I returned to her side. “I sent my men on to Faewood. They’ll be back by the week’s end. We had some Tilliyan coffee beans to deliver.”

Her shoulders slumped. “I’ve read a lot about Tilliya Island.” Her eyes focused somewhere in the distance, and then rested on me again. “So, you’re a falconer?”

“I’m a ranger. Razor accompanies me from time to time. We sell what we hunt and gather. Sometimes I help thin out wildlife. It’s just my job.”

The words rolled off her tongue. “A ranger.”

I nodded, a bit annoyed she found my profession so curious. I killed things for a living. It was a hard, dirty job, one I was sure she could never understand. I cleared my throat. “I’m glad to see you’re in one piece, though still unescorted. Would you like me to walk you back to Leogard?”

She held up a satchel. “I’m gathering plant specimens.”

“As you wish. Well, good day then. I’ve got work to do.” I began to walk away.

“Wait,” she said.

I turned, and Caliphany approached me, opened her mouth, shut it again, and finally spoke. “I wanted to thank you for rescuing me.”

If she was any other woman, from the lower end of society, I might have thought she was flirting. “You already did, I believe, and it’s not necessary. Good day.” I tried to walk away again.


Razor screeched and puffed his feathers when I turned back around. “Easy, now. Look, Caliphany, it’s really not necessary-”

“I want you to train me.”

I stepped closer. She blushed. I wrinkled my brow and asked, “Pardon?”

The words tumbled from her mouth. “You know how to handle yourself, handle weapons. I want to learn that as well. Will you train me?”