Wish you were here…Pensacola Beach Silken Sands Conference March 16-March18

Today I am going to feature Pensacola and Pensacola Beach in anticipation for the 2012 Silken Sands Conference. There has been a lot of publicity over the last two years about this wonderful beach and the tragic BP oil spill. Today our beaches are beautiful and ready for visitors. The conference is scheduled during one of the best times of the year for visiting the beach.

March is a great month to visit for any reason. The weather is usually at its best during the two month period of March and April. I can’t promise perfect weather, but if I had to choose an almost perfect month it would be March. Spring is evident everywhere, trees are returning to lush green, flowers in a variety of colors are blooming, the temperature is warming up, but not to the point where you work up a sweat just walking out the door.

Furthermore, Pensacola is one of the oldest cities in the United States. With so many historic sites to visit, I couldn’t begin to list all of them in this post, but anyone writing historical romance should take advantage of one the historic village tours in downtown Pensacola or explore it on your own.

During one of the breaks you can even visit one of the old forts and visitor centers located in Ft. Pickens or the large white cross memorializing the first Christian mass in 1558 without leaving the beach.

Finally, the theme of this year’s conference is Take Your Muse to the Beach. As you can see from these pictures, you and your muse can just simply sit and enjoy the white sands and tan bodies while your story unfolds.

All of the members of the Greater Gulf Coast Romance Writers Association hope you come for the conference and stay for the fun. It is not too late to register for the whole weekend or just Saturday so you can meet with editors and agents and pitch your story.

So I think I speak for all of us when I say…Wish You Were Here -MARCH 16 -MARCH 18, 2012

The Happily Ever After

Phantasy Friday: When Writing Eludes You, Listen

It’s been a yucky week. Between a miserable earache and the resultant heavy-duty antibiotics, I feel dulled to near Zombie-ism. Even my thought processes are slow and stumbling. So I sat here I know for twenty minutes thinking “What to write? What to write? What to write?”

Then it dawned on me. I pulled out my grandmother’s cure-all I haven’t used in a while. Settle somewhere, chair or grass doesn’t matter, and ground yourself. Breathe deep, then exhale slowly and fully, allowing yourself to go limp, chin falling to your chest. “Thinning yourself” as she called it. With each exhalation allow a bit more of yourself to slip away and spread out. Three or maybe four breaths and you’ll be amazed at how relaxed you are . . . and how aware of your surroundings you’ve become.

The first thing I noticed were the coyotes howling in the distance. I hadn’t heard them over the television. Got up and opened the window a little to hear better.  The cold seeped in immediately, somehow one with the distant white face of the waxing moon. Settled again, legs stretched before me on the bed, inhaled, exhaled, thinned, and just connected. There had to be a dozen voices in the pack, discordant, yet strangely melodic; some prolonged and strong, some warbling, some yipping, yet together they created a night time chorus. The sound seemed to shiver in the cold, making me as acutely aware of the individuals as their combined effect.

Inhale, exhale, thin. I caught the sound of horse hooves moving at a slow loping gallop. I was attuned enough to smile as my mind followed Shamrock around the moonlit field, each stride lazy and stretching, not at all bothered by the coyote pack circling closer. I knew exactly when she rounded the far corner by the heavier staccato thuds as she spun in a new direction, driving hard to pick up speed for the sheer joy of running. Heard her snort in rhythm with her rolling gait as her hooves thudded in the grass; blow soft horsey grunts when she dug into the ground in a burst of power.

Inhale, exhale, thin. The sharp, trilling one-two-threee note of a night-bird. Probably the same one who kept me awake all night earlier in the week. An owl hooted ‘who-cooks-for-you’, somewhere closer to the pond. Caught myself hoping he missed the small bunnies come out nibble on damp grass.

Inhale, exhale, thin. The loud unexpected bray of the neighbor’s jackass a half mile up the road causes me to jump. Intrusive, carrying in the clear night, he overrides all the gentle sounds. He keeps up his brash sawing for an impossible length of time, sounding so much like a hoarse, harsh horn I start to laugh. His noise has broken my concentration.

Inhale, exhale, thin. I notice house sounds now. The soft slap of ceiling fan blades, set to spin slow. The dog sighing after a stretch, falling immediately into a puttering snore. The dulled pulsing rumble of the cat purring against my side. Another dog, at the other end of the house, settles in his crate, ready to sleep after an active day.

Inhale, exhale, thin. Cellophane crinkles. Hubby peeling and eating his hard candies–

Wait. Hubby’s watching TV in the living room. Jarred back to immediacy I hang over the edge of the bed just in time to see Spider Monkey dive head first into the industrial size bag of hard candies, snatch up a cinnamon disc and streak out of the room with it. Weird cat. The only ones she steals are the cinnamon ones.

I know there’ll be a few more sounds later tonight. The sharp ping, skid, pop-pop-pop, cr-rack of a candy ricocheting off the baseboards up and down the hall as the cats indulge in a midnight game of cat hockey. Maybe even a “Dammit!” or two if hubby steps on it barefoot.

And just like that my senses are stirred and I’m in the mood to write. Have to get up and close that window first though. I’m shivering and my fingers are so cold they’re stiff! Grandmother was right though; if a person want to find peace or inspiration, the first thing they need to do is to step away from themselves. It’s surprising how much can fill that extra bit of room.

Good writing everybody!

~Runere~

Visit Runere at www.RunereMcLain.com Friend her on Facebook at Runere McLain. Follow her on Twitter@RunereMcLain

Phantasy Friday: NaNoWriMo; Complete With Interruptions, Special Ones

National Novel Writing Month commenced the 1st — and it’s not too late to join in! The goal is 50 thousand words by the end of November. It can be a complete story, or the beginning of a story for those who write long. And it’s very achievable at 1,667 words a day! If you write the typical 2500 word chapter, you can have it done early. You can write by yourself purely on an honor system, or hook up with NaNo writing buddies. There are online pep talks and everything. Well, almost everything. There’s nothing for what happens at my house.

I’m doing NaNo for the first time. And I actually took into consideration the need to write extra words every day to cover weekends I’m ghost hunting. But the main thing NaNo does is prove you can write a novel in a month. Rough draft it may be; but they’re all rough drafts at the start. Give it a try! And if you do, buddy up with me. You can find me as Runere.

HOWEVER— it’s as if there’s a great conspiracy to keep me from completion. Despite all the wonderful encouragement you get from NaNo and writing buddies, I feel compelled to point out there are things NaNo has no control over. I’m going to give you a condensed version of interruptions from my household. I swear, it’s like watching a movie only to have a commercial break leap out at you during the deepest, most exciting part of the film! Certain situations have arisen that have me leaning toward a murder mystery next year. A perfect murder. With no bodies found. Lots of life insurance to collect. It’s about a writer who just can’t take any more interruptions . . .

Sorry. Plotting moment there.

Writing at a good pace on day one. This is pretty cool! You know, if a person sets this goal for each day you really could write a book a month! Enter my word count at the NaNo site.

Second day, scene: a chase ensues in a dark New Orleans alley, sounds and scents amplified by terror. My heroine looks up to see the nightmare version of my bad werewolves. It’s thick lips bare bloodied fangs as it prepares to speak. *snarl* “I can’t get the damn microwave to work right.”

Poof. Scene gone with a jolt. Wh-what? He wasn’t supposed to say that! And what happened to that gravelly, raspy voice I devised for him? I lean into the screen and peer closely at the words, trying to reclaim the momentum.  Hubby’s voice repeats, “The microwave won’t heat my soup.” I twist my head around and glare at him (probably resembling Linda Blair in The Exorcist. More than a little). He recoils at the sight and tries to shut the office door. But it’s too late. I stomp in to investigate. Turns out hubby thought he should adjust the temp control. We’ve only had this microwave for ten years. Why did he think it suddenly operated differently? Sigh.

Third day: I’m in the process of laying an intricate trail of clues. I’ve made notes, and it’s pretty cut and dried, so when I hear Hubby hollering for the dog outside the office window, it wasn’t too much of a distraction. Until he yelled, “Dixie!” for the third time. That penetrated. Dixie is in heat. I walk her on lead. Not Hubby. She listens to him. (Yeah, right. Like a teenage daughter with the hormonal hots for a bad boy with a fast car!) That hump-happy hound was probably off fornicating with every male in a ten-mile radius. Since I’d be the one stuck taking care of any puppies, you better believe I left a cloud of papers fluttering in my vapor trail on the way out! Found her and dragged her back inside before she went behind a bush with Romeo. Or Cisco. Or Pancho. Or Duke. Or that one I’ve never seen before. Or that little brown dog that humps my leg.

Fourth and Fifth days: Ghost hunting! Loved both nights of it. Did I ever expect to use my experience as a maritime captain during ghost hunting? No, never. But it turns outs this house was supposed to be haunted by an old sea captain. Things were quiet until I asked questions about Celestial Navigation and using a sextant for taking sun and star shots. We got a LOUD response then!

Back to NaNo on Sunday night. Hubby tried to help by cooking. Took me two hours to scrub that burned pan. We had doctor’s appointments out the wazoo on Monday; but I stayed up later to write. Had a migraine; gritted my teeth and wrote five hundred words while trying not to be ill.

But something happened this week that made me shut the computer down. It was just too much. I literally stayed in shock for a full day. Still get a little wobbly in the legs if I think about it too long while walking.

I got the phone call informing me I’m going to be a great-grandmother in June.

Yep. Full mental shutdown.

But after the initial shock wore off (two, maybe three days later!), I got really excited. Not many people get the opportunity to actually hold a person who will live so far past them in the future. I can’t wait to hold him or her, wrap them up in loving arms. To whisper in their ear to treat him or her self with care and respect because there will never be another one just like them. I’ll whisper to be sure to walk their own baby down to that certain tree near the pond.

That tree will be grown by then and I’ll be long gone. But I want that later baby’s father or mother — the baby I held — to press tiny hands to the bark and tell that little person, “Someone believed in me so much that she planted this tree the day I was born. For you to hang your swing from.”

Hope they both feel the love, because that’s truly the one thing that never changes, never dies. I’m thinking an Oak.

~Runere~

Visit Runere at www.RunereMcLain.com Friend her on Facebook @ Runere McLain  Follow her on Twitter@RunereMcLain

The Lure of Old Cemeteries

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If you know me, you would know, I’m a scary cat when it comes to watching horror movies. At the same time. I have this passion for paranormal, witches, voodoo, and old cemeteries. The old ones are my favorite, aged, and covered with moss, and some defaced from weather, and climate.

When I visit an old cemetery I love the old crypts, or graves. Love to see their names and wonder  what their life was like when they were alive. A defaced and broken crypt is ideal for a scene in any paranormal story which might include a vampire, goul, ghost, or whatever your fantasy might take a writer.

So with this in mind, here are some great pictures of some crypts located somewhere in the deep south. Let your mind wonder, and your imagination run wild, and free.

Writing Under Pressure

Sorry this is late… I let it slip my mind. I have seen my mentor write under some extreme pressures and thought to myself how does she do it. Lately my personal life has hit bottom. I will not go into details, but I have to say I totally get it. For a few days I couldn’t write I became distraught, but I thought to myself if I was under contract I’d have to write. So, I pulled myself out from under the covers and started working and with some help I learned about POV and so, I’m working on my story to fix it.
It’s a slow process trying to change things around without losing the story. I have cussed a few times, and wanted to throw the computer.
The thing is my friends. I learned something new while struggling personally, and by using the negative against myself I changed it into something positive. Thank you Rita, and my sister Runere. You are my lifeline and I love you more then all the stars in the sky.

Ghost at the La Belle Bed & Breakfast

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So many ghost stories, center around New Orleans, but we have our own ghost and culture for the country folks in, Picayune, MS.  At the Bed and Breakfast which is no longer a B&B, this beautiful home was constructed in 1904 as a private residence, a boarding house, and at one point brunch to Sunday worshippers from nearby churches.

When Penny and Linden(no last name) bought the place it was in horrible condition. They worked for months, and when you first walk in the wall paper you’ll see in the pictures are now back to the original paper. The old wood walls has been restored, and the B&B is beautiful for visitors as well as the owners giving you a country welcome, and a spoiling. The thing is, the old place has more than the great owners. There is a smoker in the bathroom. A customer reported to Penny once, I swear I haven’t smoked in your bathroom, but somebody did. Penny remarked… Ahh, it’s just my ghost, If you tell it to leave … the cigarette smoke dissolves.

Another event, was a woman’s slippers were moved when she awakened the next morning. She put her slippers back on the floor straight, and later when she returned to her room, again the slippers were askew. She reported the drama to Penny and Linden, who just shrug their shoulders and said, ahh pay it no never-mind, it’s just our ghost.

A woman pulled up with anther woman for some function, and the driver happened to be a sensitive. The passenger jumped out and said, “let’s go.” And the driver replied upset, and anxious. “NO, I don’t think I’ll be coming in. There something in that house.” She told Penny how the woman reacted.

All was done with a friendly smile and replied with humor. “There is nothing to be afraid of.. it’s just my friendly ghost.”

One night, Penny woke up in the middle of the night running to the kitchen thinking she left a roast in the oven. The closer she was to the kitchen the smell of a roast cooking dissipated into nothingness. This has happened on more than one occasion.

I know all of this to be true. I never seen a ghost before, but I have house sat for 2 different Christmas’s. The first Christmas was uneventful, but the second. I bought blue slippers(seems the ghost had a preference.) nothing happened. But, when I made the bed in the other room. Every time I passed, it looked like someone had lay upon the coverlet with the indention of a body, even on the pillow. I went into the room repeatedly to repair the bed only to return to the same disorder. (I loved it.)

I would run over once and awhile to help Penny clean the place if someone special was coming over, and I would talk to the ghost. I’ve always wanted to see one, and I thought. They can tell how much I love the place. Surely they will let me see them. But to my heartache. I never received the honor, just the honor of the shadows of their presence.

I was working at my job, and Linden came in looking for me. He told me, I have something to talk to you about. So I came from behind the counter, and thinking something was wrong immediately fear raced down my spine. I asked him in a choked voice as the hairs raised at the base of my neck, and it alerted the goose-bump squad to come to attention if everything was ok?

Linden grabbed my forearms and looked at me. “your going to be upset.”

I gulped a sick feeling hit my stomach as if I turned into gusher volcano about to erupt. I said, “Ok, tell me.”

He then begin his tale… I was sitting watching Television in the back area, and when he looked up he seen the old woman coming from the hallway and she walked through the French Doors. I almost died in jealousy, but I was tickled at the same time. I wanted to run over and go say  I want to see, please. In one of the pictures you’ll see the French Doors, she was coming towards you.

So here is my story, and a few pictures of a beautiful haunted B&B in Picayune.

Wednesday Welcome to Margie Lawson!!!

Good morning all!! Had some technical difficulties, but here we are!!

No eye-candy today, chicas. In anticipation of RWA11 next week, I am being serious and talking about craft today. And no one knows more about craft than my guest today, the fabulous Margie Lawson!!!

Everyone I know who has attended one of Margie’s workshops raves about them, so y’all put July 23 on your calendar – that’s when Margie will be doings workshop for our buddies at the Southern Magic RWA in Birmingham!

So with no further babbling by me, here’s Margie!!!

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New York Times Writing and the EDITS System
By Margie Lawson

A big THANK YOU to Donna for inviting me to be her guest today. I’m pleased to be here.
Today I’m diving into how to write so well, that your strong writing craft and fresh writing boosts you toward the New York Times Bestseller list. Sound good?
New York Times Writing and the EDITS System
By Margie Lawson

If you’ve taken some of my editing courses on-line, you may recall I recommend adding NYT to your margin tracking list for your WIP. Why? Because when your writing is powerful, it gives you a boost toward the NYT Bestseller list.

I developed six writing craft courses (two courses debut this fall). Each course is loaded with Deep Editing techniques that teach writers how to add power to their writing. One of those techniques is the EDITS System.

When creating the EDITS System, my goal was to determine what components of a scene set the strongest emotional hook. What made a book a page-turner.

The EDITS System is the ultimate SHOW DON’T TELL power tool. Writers use the EDITS SYSTEM to analyze scene components. It shows writers what they have on each page. It shows writers where to add power. It shows writers what’s working, what’s not working, and what’s missing.

When writers use this highlighting system, patterns emerge for each scene. They may be surprised to see that in an emotionally-driven scene, they kept the POV character in their head, locked in internalizations. All thoughts, no visceral responses. If the writer slipped in a few visceral responses, they’d take the scene from the POV character’s head, and the reader’s head, to the reader’s heart.

The EDITS System helps writers find a compelling balance of Emotion, Dialogue, Internalizations, Tension/Conflict, Setting, as well as dialogue cues, action, body language, senses, and more . . . that works for their specific scene dynamics.

Given that the story is compelling, the plot is strong, and the characters live in your heart or dreams or nightmares – what writing craft processes could make the difference between a skimmer and a winner?

How can writers present their story in ways that keep the reader so committed to the read, that they’d rather finish your book, than sleep late, eat chocolate, or have sex?

The answers? I teach writers dozens of techniques that contribute to gluing the reader to your pages. They include writing fresh. Adding psychological power. Using the incontrovertible power of the visceral response, in the right places – accelerated heart rate, sweaty palms, dry mouth, tight chest, clenched stomach, weak knees, blood rushing to chest, neck, and face, adrenaline pumping, heart pummeling rib cage . . .

I’m sharing a few examples of NYT writing in this blog. You’ll find one character description, five dialogue cues and three visceral responses.

CHARACTER DESCRIPTION:

Tana French, THE LIKENESS:

I’d been expecting someone so nondescript he was practically invisible, maybe the Cancer Man from The X Files, but this guy had rough, blunt features and wide blue eyes, and the kind of presence that leaves heat streaks on the air where he’s been.

Kudos to Tana French! Don’t you wish you’d written that description?

DIALOGUE CUES:

Here’s one more Deep Editing goodie. I coined the term DIALOGUE CUES to describe the phrases and sentences that inform the reader how the dialogue was delivered. Think: subtext.
Dialogue Cues are not just dialogue tags. Dialogue Cues share how the words were spoken, the psychological message behind the words.

Writers may write short dialogue cues that describe the voice in a basic way:

ν His tone was rough.
ν Her voice jumped an octave.
ν His voice had a sarcastic edge.
ν Her words sounded harsher than she intended.

Writers can go beyond those basics, and add interest and psychological depth to their dialogue cues. They can write dialogue cues in fresh and empowered ways.

Dialogue Cues from Tana French, THE LIKENESS.

1. All the laughter and façade had gone out of his voice, and I knew Frank well enough to know that this was when he was most dangerous.

2. “You’ve always been a funny guy,” I said, hoping the wave of relief wouldn’t leak into my voice.

3. “Hey, fair enough,” Frank said, in an equable voice that made me feel like an idiot.

4. His voice didn’t sharpen, but it had an undertow that made my shoulders go up.

5. Out in the kitchen, Doherty said something shaped like a punchline and everyone laughed; the laugher was perfect, unforced and friendly, and it made me edgy as hell.

NOTE: Examples 3, 4, and 5, have a similar structure. All three share a STIMULUS and RESPONSE in the same sentence. Powerful technique.

That’s one deep editing technique that can take your writing from good to stellar.

Tana French writes fresh. It’s not surprising that her debut novel won a Macavity Award.

VISCERAL RESPONSES:

In my EDITS System, VISCERAL RESPONSES are the only things highlighted in PINK. Not a kick in the shins. Not an expletive. Not watching someone get shot.

Everything can carry emotion but the only component of the scene highlighted in PINK is a visceral response. Dialogue, action, facial expressions, thoughts (internalizations) – all may carry emotion. But it’s the visceral response that carries the biggest emotional punch.

If the writer neglects to have the POV character experience a visceral response after an emotionally-loaded stimulus – the passage is not as powerful, not as credible. Not a page-turner.
Here are three examples from a debut novel by RWA Golden Heart winner, Darynda Jones. FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT was released Feb. 2011. It’s the first novel in a three-book series sold in a pre-empt to Jennifer Enderlin at St. Martin’s.
Darynda Jones is a Margie-grad. I received a note from Darynda thanking me for what she’d learned in my on-line classes. I’m always so proud when Margie-grads receive awards and contracts and hit bestseller lists.
Darynda Jones, FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT, First Example:

Still reeling from the potential identity of Dream Guy, I wrapped myself in the towel and slid open the shower curtain. Sussman poked his head through the door, and my heart took a belly dive into the shallow end of shock, cutting itself on the jagged nerve ending there.

I jumped, then placed a calming hand over my heart, annoyed that I was still so easily surprised. As many times as I’ve seen dead people appear out of nowhere, you’d think I’d be used to it.

Visceral Response: . . . and my heart took a belly dive into the shallow end of shock, cutting itself on the jagged nerve ending there.

Second Example, FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT:

When I opened the door, Zeke Herschel, Rosie’s abusive husband, stood across from me with vengeance in his eyes. I glanced at the nickel-plated pistol clenched in his hand and felt my hearbeat falter, hesitate, then stumble awkwardly forward, tripping on the next beat, then the next, faster and faster until each one tumbled into the other like the drumroll of dominoes crashing together.

Visceral Response: . . . felt my hearbeat falter, hesitate, then stumble awkwardly forward, tripping on the next beat, then the next, faster and faster until each one tumbled into the other . . .

Third Example from FIRST GRAVE ON THE RIGHT:

My breaths stilled in my chest, my lungs seized, suddenly paralyzed, and a prickly sensation cut down my spine. “What . . . are you talking about?”

“PD got called to his house this afternoon. We found his wife in their bedroom, marinating in a pool of her own blood.”

The room dimmed and the world fell out from beneath me.

“One of the worst domestic cases I’ve ever seen.”

I fought gravity and shock and a pathetic panicky kind of denial. But reality swept in and kicked my ass, hands down.

Visceral Responses:

1) My breaths stilled in my chest, my lungs seized, suddenly paralyzed, and a prickly sensation cut down my spine.

2) The room dimmed and the world fell out from beneath me.

The examples in this blog share fresh psychologically empowered writing. It’s cotton-candy-on-your-tongue writing. It makes the reader want more and more and more. It’s the caliber of writing you find in some debut books, and in some New York Times Bestsellers.

In my six writing craft courses, I have over 2300 pages of lectures loaded with strong examples, dig-deep analyses, and teaching points. Please drop by my web site and check out the line-up of courses offered by Lawson Writer’s Academy.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN!

1. You may post an example of fresh writing from your WIP or fresh writing from one of your favorite authors.

2. You may write something fresh – and post it.

3. You may post a comment — or post ‘Hi Margie!’

You could WIN:
1. A Lecture Packet
2. An Online Course from Lawson Writer’s Academy

I’ll post the names of the winners on the blog tonight – between 10 and 11 PM Mountain Time

FYI:

Visit my cyber Open House for Lawson Writer’s Academy, July 14, 15, and 16.

You’ll have a dozen more chances to win a Lecture Packet or an online class!
Margie Lawson—psychotherapist, writer, and international presenter – developed psychologically-based editing systems and deep editing techniques used by everyone, from new writers to multi-award winning authors. She teaches writers how to add psychological power to create page turners.
Margie taught psychology and communication courses at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. Her resume includes adjunct professor, clinical trainer, facilitator of trauma response sessions, and director of a counseling center.
In the last six years Margie presented over sixty full day Master Classes across the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Writers who have studied her material credit her innovative editing approaches with taking their writing several levels higher—to publication, awards, and bestseller lists.
To learn about Margie’s 3-day Immersion Master Classes in Colorado, online courses offered by Lawson Writer’s Academy, full day Master Class presentations, Lecture Packets, and newsletter, visit: http://www.MargieLawson.com.

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