Revolving the Plot

Easter got me thinking about holidays. I love holidays. Mostly because of days off work, special food, and time spent with family and good friends. And I’ve also used them in my writing a time or two. One book took place in the fall so Thanksgiving seemed a natural fit.

And of course, there was a marriage at Christmas. They are just as popular in real life as they are in romance. Who doesn’t love all the decorations? Especially in fiction because we don’t have to clean them up after? I’m on board.

Plus the fact that holidays seem to come with built in conflict in so many directions. Crazy relatives, sulky relatives, controlling relatives, you name it. And a whole host of behaviors that only seem to come out during times of stress. In-laws and outlaws are all great fodder for fiction.

We can’t always use holidays as a plot device, but I think there’s a place for them if they are used as an accessory to great characters who drive the story forward. They can also add interest to the setting, which is one of my favorite things.

I confess, I do love a good holiday read.

Do you like writing or reading holiday stories?

About Sutton Fox

Sutton Fox has been published by Lyrical Press, Gypsy Shadow Publishing and wrote a bi-monthly column for an auto racing magazine for several years. She traded life in Bluegrass Country for life in the Windy City in a home she shares with The Man, a lonely cat, and her beloved dog, Lucy. When she’s not working the edj, you can find her writing or spending time with her extended family.

On Critique Partners, Part 1

I’ve seen people say some pretty harsh things about crit partners. Yes, when you have crit partners that are a bad fit, they can damage your story and your writing. You don’t want those and if you feel stifled, move on.

However, if you think all crits are bad or unhelpful, then you don’t know the purpose of critiques or how to accept them. That sounds harsh. Sorry, not sorry.

The first rule is that you will have CPs you trust implicitly and you will have CPs that you take some of their advice and discard the rest. However, you never argue with a critique. If more than one person says there is an element to your story that isn’t working, you should look at it with a critical eye. Either way, you thank them for their feedback and then you move on.

The problem with arguing with a critique, that something is explained later or it’s really okay because their motivation is real and true, is that you can’t argue with a reader. Best-case scenario, they get to that section of your novel and they’re pulled out of the story. You do not want that. Worst-case? Your book becomes a wallbanger.

If there are questions the CP is asking or suggesting, then maybe you’re not giving enough information at the right time. That’s an easy fix. A few lines peppered in. It is not a reason to have a meltdown.

Bottom line, there are some bad crit groups out there. We’ve all been part of them. The vibe is off, people are mean with their feedback, or they start lecturing you about writing rules. Leave those groups because you can’t grow as a writer there.

There are also awesome groups that encourage you and help you become a better writer. Is it easy? Hell no. Does the feedback hurt sometimes? Yes. This is your beloved story and it’s no fun when someone says it isn’t working for them. But if it’s a solid group with good writers who build you up? Don’t run. Do some introspection and ask yourself why you’re so afraid to change your story. You know what they say—you have to murder your darlings. Sadly, they don’t lie.

Come read Landra Graf on April 29th for part two!

P.S. Be sure to check out our Heart-Shaped Glasses Facebook group because today I’m giving away a free book from my to-be-read pile. You have to comment to win, so come join us on Facebook!

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever – @oddlynn3 #LynnCrain #HSGBlog

Bet you’re wondering where I’m going with this…aren’t you?

First, let me apologize for this being late but to be honest from the title, you can probably tell where I was at. The weekend before this one was beautiful here in New Mexico. We were getting temperatures up to 80 degrees and were spending more time outside. Unfortunately for me, being outside means I have to deal with allergies. Since I’ve done that for twenty years, not problem. Except this time, it wouldn’t go away.

Matter of fact, I found myself feeling worse and worse every day. This is bad since my husband is on chemo and supposed to stay away from people like me. So, by mid-week, I was feeling horrid and started sleeping in the guest room and downing cold remedies night and day. The weather had also took a turn and on Thursday this past week, we had four inches of snow.

I know that was part of why I got ill as I always do with drastic weather changes. Whenever, I’d go from the desert to Austria, I’d get a slight cold. Anytime I was in a place with more humidity, I’d come back to the desert and get a cold. It was just part of me being me.

However, this time, I told my husband I was going to feed my cold because I didn’t have a fever. Or at least, I thought not. Still, it got me wondering about some of the clichés we use when talking about specific things. Here are just a few that I seem to use a lot.

  1. Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever – This can be traced to John Withals in 1574, who noted that ‘fasting was a great remedy of fever.’ The original thought was that when you had a cold, if you ate you generated warmth thus avoiding your body overheating. Recent science however, refutes the fact and says that you should actually feed both.
  2. Hell in a handbasket – This basically means heading for a course of disaster. It’s really unknown where this comes from but it is thought that it refers to the handbaskets used under a guillotine where the head drops. It was first noted in Samuel Sewall’s Diary in 1714. Another euphemism was ‘Going to heaven in a wheelbarrow’ which actually meant ‘going to hell’ in the 17th The handbasket version came about in 19th century American
  3. Eggs in one basket – This is something many parents tell their kids, financial advisors tell there clients and so on. It’s a piece of advice meant to dissuade us from concentrating all our efforts and resources in one area. But did you know that the phrase actually came from the novel Don Quixote? Here’s the quote, written by Miguel Cervantes in 1605 “It is the part of a wise man to keep himself today for tomorrow, and not venture all his eggs in one basket.”
  4. A piece of cake – This is often used to describe an easy situation. The idea originated in 1870s America when cakes were given out as prizes for winning a competition. There was a tradition in slave states where the slaves would circle around a cake in the middle and the pair who danced in the most graceful manner would be awarded the cake. From that period, the terms ‘cake walk’ and ‘piece of cake’ originated.
  5. Let sleeping dogs lie – This idiom is derived from a long-standing observations that dogs are often unpredictable when suddenly disturbed. Chaucer was one of the first to put the notion in print in Troilus and Criseyde, circa 1380, though the belief is said to be much older: “It is nought good a slepyng hound to wake.” However, the phrase became more associated with 18th century British politician Sir Robert Walpole and was his motto. It also should be noted, that this may have started in the Bible itself with this quote from Proverbs 26:17: He that passes by, and meddles with strife belonging not to him, is like one that takes a dog by the ears.
  6. Take it with a grain of salt – This comes from the fact that food is more easily swallowed if a small amount of salt is added to the mixture. In 77 A.D., Pliny the Elder translated an ancient antidote for poison that had the words ‘be taken fasting, plus a grain of salt’ thus giving the suggestion that an injurious effect can be moderated with just a grain of salt. It has been in the English speaking world since 1647 when John Trapp wrote the Commentary on the Old and New Testaments where he stated: This is to be taken with a grain of salt. More recently, the phrase has become ‘pinch of salt’ and was noted in Cicero & the Roman Republic, written in 1948 by F.R. Cowell.

I can go on all day with idioms and finding their meanings. They are one things they tell us writers not to use but in all honesty, it says a lot about where a character comes from and their state of mind.

Hopefully, you enjoyed this little foray into the idiom world. See you all next month!

About Lynn Crain

Award winning author Lynn Crain has done it all in her life. From nursing to geology, her life experiences have added to her detail rich stories. She loves writing full time as she weaves contemporary, fantasy, futuristic and paranormal tales, tame to erotic, for various publishers. Her home is in the desert southwest and she’s just returned from her latest adventure of living in Vienna, Austria while her husband worked his dream job. You can find her hanging out online at www.lynncrain.blogspot.com, https://www.facebook.com/LynnCrainAuthor, and on Twitter, @oddlynn3. She loves hearing from her readers at lynncrain@cox.net.

Novel Settings

At the moment, I am plotting a book. If you’ve read my books, you know I don’t get excited about the typical setting for historical romance, the London ballroom. I love the lesser known places, the slightly wild and occasionally remote–Durham, Northumberland, the Lake District, Yorkshire, the northern coast of Maine. That’s where my heart lies.

The first book in my new series is set in the 1850s in Kendal, Cumbria, the southernmost gateway to what is now Lake District National Park.

Kendal Castle, which I visited in October. (HSG’s very own Nina Croft used to play in these ruins when she was a child.)

So when plotting the second book, it’s been fun to peruse maps and the web for an even wilder and more remote spot, isolated, in a crumbling castle within which is hidden treasure beyond price. These are my contenders:

The Isle of Skye (off the west coast of Scotland):

Isle of Skye. By John Allan [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

An as-yet-undetermined location near Hadrian’s Wall:

Hadrian’s Wall between Housesteads and Once Brewed (fabulous name!). By Michael Hanselmann (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 County Powys, Wales:

Looking through one of the remaining walls of Castell Dinas Brân towards the north east. Source: Wikipedia.

Lundy Island, off the coast of Devon:

Four Celtic inscribed stones from Beacon Hill cemetery, Lundy. By Grantus4504 [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0, from Wikimedia Commons.

The Yorkshire Dales:

Swaledale. By Kreuzschnabel (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0, GFDL or FAL], via Wikimedia Commons.

I might come up with something entirely different in the end–it’s often more fun (and okay, easier) to look for settings than to actually write the book. 🙂

Writers: how do you come up with your settings?

Readers: What kinds of settings do you like the most? Civilized cities, or natural places? Glittery ballrooms or spooky castles?

And which one do you think I should choose? I’ll give away an ecopy of one of my books–your choice–to a randomly selected commenter!

 

About Marin McGinnis

A lawyer in real life, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing Victorian era romance and mystery. She's spent almost half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She's been married to the same great guy for over 20 years, and has one teen-aged son. They all live together in a drafty old house with their two standard poodles, Larry and Sneaky Pete. While her very first book will languish under the bed, the next book, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next two books, Secret Promise and Tempting Mr. Jordan, are also available from Wild Rose Press. Marin currently serves as President of the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America and is hard at work on the next book. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

The Writing Blahs

I had a rough January. My grandmother passed away after a long battle with dementia, my mother was in the hospital for the first 25 days (she’s doing much better now), and my daughter had her baby 8 weeks early due to pre-eclampsia (mama and baby are also doing very well). My brain, my energy, my heart–it was elsewhere.

And I had self-imposed deadlines to meet. Those may seem unimportant, but they’re just as important (to me) as “real” deadlines. I suspect many of you understand. Unfortunately, my writing output began to slow to a trickle. I was in that dreaded middle of a story, before you top the hill, when it seems like there are a million bad words behind you and a million new words to go. I had the writing blahs.

I asked the wonderful ladies here at HSG for advice and they, to a one, suggested reading a good book. I haven’t taken their advice yet, though I tried, because I just can’t seem to turn my brain off. When I do read, I have writer-brain. “Oh, nice hook,” or “I see what you did there.” I’m going to persevere, even as I try to reach my writing goals daily.

I did some research (because I certainly wasn’t writing) and came up with some great quotes and articles I thought I’d share with you.

From Lydia Sharp on Writer Unboxed:

There are times I must immerse myself in research, or pull out an old story and do line edits, in order to refresh. This is the result of a right brain/left brain imbalance. The scales are tipped, and equilibrium can only be achieved by adding to our noncreative side. Fact begets fiction.

From Carly Sandifer on One Wild Word:

If you’re tapping out your sentences on your computer, pick up a pen or pencil and write by hand in a notebook. For that matter, some people enjoy typing on an actual typewriter.

I’ve done this plenty of times in the past, but deemed it too slow for my higher output. I’d cut out the middle man (I thought), but maybe sometimes you need the middle man to negotiate a treaty between you and your brain.

This great post (which is more about writing blogs) from Henneke Duistermaat at Smart Blogger:

Feeling a little frustrated?

Well, let it out.

Before you start writing, curse like a sailor. Get angry. Be emotional.

Write something you’re passionate about. Have a good rant. Don’t worry about going too far.

There’s worse advice out there. After all, if you’re writing flat, your reader will be able to tell. Maybe move on to a particularly moving scene?

What’s you best writing advice for defeating the writing blahs and getting past a block?

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

Decades of Love and Life ~ #DecadesofLove #LynnCrain #amwriting #amreading

I really hate missing my blog date like I did last month. It always causes me some angst but last month was the month for angst. Now I’m not saying this for sympathy or anything but to let you know where my mind has been then you’ll understand my cause for the later celebration.

My beloved husband was diagnosed with Stage IV Colon Cancer. He’d had his required colonoscopy for people our age and had been having gastro problems for a while. We were told immediately after the test on January 3rd but the diagnosis wasn’t finalized until the next week. All through January, it was a flurry of tests and things to see what the prognosis was and so on. I am happy to say, his prognosis is 100% cure with about 8 rounds of chemo and two surgeries to remove the two tumors they found. Yippee!

One of the things we did during that month was re-evaluate our lives and what we’d been doing. That included a long hard look at writing and what I did for a living. I am also a life long learner and had been waiting to go back to college for some classes I wanted then onto a Masters in Writing program so I could teach more. Writing and teaching others about writing are the two things I love most.

Anyway, after many discussions my husband told me adamantly that no matter what happened, he did not want me to give up what I was doing as far as writing goes. He loves the fact it makes me happy and told me he wouldn’t trade it for the world. He then told me to plant the butt into the chair and make sure I did these things. This was one of the reasons I married him all those years ago.

Fast forward to today and I’m pleased to announce my next release, the anthology Decades of Love. It’s all about Vegas, baby! And there were moments that I never thought it was going to happen. Why? Because I was the ebook producer and the print formatter for it. And those things were due in January. I announced to the group right away my life issue and they were all so supportive. I was truly blessed with such a great group of authors and found it within me to get everything done only about five days late. But enough about me…here’s a little more about the book…

Love hits the jackpot in these six seductive tales, each set in a different decade in the hottest, wildest, most sinful of cities – Las Vegas.  In Elizabeth Spaur’s Miss Atomic Bomb, a beauty pageant brings a cowboy and city girl together.  A desperate singer finds new hope with a not-so-jaded casino owner in B.A. McIntosh’s Home at Last.  In Lynn Crain’s, Hooked on a Feeling, two Vietnam vets get a second chance at love while facing enemies at home.  A rodeo star falls hard for a showgirl in Diane Deeds’s Total Eclipse of the Heart.  In Kay Phoenix’s An Unexpected Knight, a hero on a mighty steed captures the heroine’s heart. A good girl learns that being bad can be very, very good in Tami Cowden’s It Happened One Vegas Night.   Mobsters and G-men, cowboys and showgirls, singers and dancers, and even a knight in shining armor all find that Sin City is not just a place to have fun – but  also a great place to fall in love.

It is a truly amazing collaboration of authors and talents. You should check it out at the pre-order price of just $0.99 at Amazon. We’re also during a release event on February 28 at our Facebook Page. Come join us for fun and prizes! We’d love to have you.

I also need to say a very big thank you to the Passionate Critters group, you know, the ones that bring you this blog every month. These ladies have been my support for many years and I am so blessed to have each of them in my life. They’ve allowed me the latitude to figure out this huge life challenge by talking to me about anything and everything. Cancer is definitely one of those big life issues and it’s only when you have the great support of wonderful friends that you can overcome even the most horrendous thing you’ve ever face. These ladies are those friends, through thick and thin…and I love them all!

Like they say, when life gives you lemons…make lemonaide…and it’s so true. I am so blessed with an amazing life, author friends and a husband who believes in me. See you next month!

About Lynn Crain

Award winning author Lynn Crain has done it all in her life. From nursing to geology, her life experiences have added to her detail rich stories. She loves writing full time as she weaves contemporary, fantasy, futuristic and paranormal tales, tame to erotic, for various publishers. Her home is in the desert southwest and she’s just returned from her latest adventure of living in Vienna, Austria while her husband worked his dream job. You can find her hanging out online at www.lynncrain.blogspot.com, https://www.facebook.com/LynnCrainAuthor, and on Twitter, @oddlynn3. She loves hearing from her readers at lynncrain@cox.net.

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