The Writing Process Blog Hop

Last week my Starcatcher & Lucky 13s sister Nan Dixon tagged me to carry on the Writing Process Blog Hop. Nan is a five-time Golden Heart finalist and has recently made her first sale to Harlequin SuperRomance. Southern Comforts will be published in December 2014.

So on with the blog hop questions:

What Am I Working On?

Jinn on the Rocks is the third book in my Jinn series, following Jinn & Tonic and Bathtub Jinn. Zee, the heroine of this installment, is a changeling, a jinn left in the mortal world as a baby a century or so ago. Curran, the hero, is a jinn cast into the mortal world by the breaking of his bottle—and not, it would seem, by accident. Together with a smart-mouthed goblin and a dog who probably isn’t really a dog, they are trying to figure out how Curran can return to the world of the jinn, who Zee really is, and, of course, the route to a Happy Ending.

How Does My Work Differ From Others of Its Genre?

I write Funny. Well, I hope I do. I mean to. But of course humor is a terribly subjective thing, and not everyone will agree on what exactly is funny. If I tried to write vampires, they’d probably be allergic to hemoglobin, and my werewolves would likely have fleas. I can’t help it. I used to slip jokes into environmental impact reports for the Corps of Engineers. But just look around you—love is funny. Every romance needs a generous helping of humor if it’s going to last beyond infatuation.

Why Do I Write What I Do?

I write humor because, well, that’s who I am. I love to make my critique group chuckle. I love to read humor in almost any genre. I have written historical Wizard of Ozand time travel romances because I have some academic and practical background knowledge of nineteenth-century Texas. But mostly I write paranormal, and when I look back I realize that my favorite childhood books included the Oz series, Hugh Lofting’s Doctor Doolittle books, and Edward Eager’s Half Magic series. I started reading science fiction when I was about ten years old, and still love the genre. Am I escaping from “reality?” Maybe, but it’s always been a fun trip.

How Does My Writing Process Work?

Mechanically: all over the place. I’ve written longhand in spiral notebooks, on typewriters, gone through at least half a dozen word processing programs before settling on Word, and tried too many writing accessory programs to count. About a year and a half ago I fell in love with Scrivener, and now I useScrivener it for nearly everything (including blog posts).

Creatively: I’m more on the pantser end of the scale than the plotter, but that’s not really intentional. I usually have at least two or three chapters ahead plotted, maybe more. I plotted the second half of Bathtub Jinn in order to enter a contest that required a synopsis, and that synopsis allowed me to finish the book (just barely) in time to enter the Golden Heart—and final. But I’m not usually that disciplined. I tend to be a very linear writer (I keep hoping Scrivener will help me loosen up on that a bit), and I find it hard to predict what will happen a hundred pages or more ahead until I get there.

I don’t do character interviews or biographies, and I often have to write several chapters before I have any real idea who my characters are. Sometime I have to write, and throw away, several chapters before I know what my story is, or more to the point, where it starts.

A note on titles: My 2011 historical Golden Heart finalist, Paper Hearts, was simply “the newspaper story” for a long time, until the title popped into my head one day. But the Jinn books have all started with their titles—if you think of any good gin puns, I’d love to hear them. My next Jinn book may be hiding behind one of them.

The Dress ThiefNow I’ll pass the Writing Process baton on to my Firebird sister Natalie Meg Evans, who has promised to post her version next Monday. Natalie’s first novel, The Dress Thief, has just been published in the UK by Quercus Books, and is available from the Book Depository.


Back to the Bookshelf

Yesterday afternoon I fell into a decluttering spiral that quickly spun out of control and kept its grip on me until after midnight.

It started innocently enough when I looked at the long row of neatly labeled brown cardboard magazine boxes on the bottom shelf of the wall-to-wall bookcase in my bedroom.  The magazines were the RWA’s Romance Writers Report, and the labels ended with 2010.  The RWR is an excellent resource, and I didn’t want to throw them away, but I wasn’t using them, either, and they were taking up several feet of potential book space.  And the TBR stacks were sprouting all over the house.

So I found a good-sized carton, broke down the magazine holders, and stacked the copies in the box.  There was a bit of room left, so I went looking for 2011 and 2012 in the living room, where I found them mixed with the last two years’ worth of several other magazines (Smithsonian, Writer’s Digest, Texas Highways, and so on), and phone books.  An amazing number of phone books–I kept five, for Houston and the local suburbs, but there are now seventeen in the garage, waiting for their turn in the recycling bin.  Good thing the bin has wheels, or I’d never get it out to the curb this week.

Now that I had the coffee table mostly visible and the small bookcase in the living room cleared out, I started moving those TBR stacks.  There were still obstructions in the book case (see my last post for a before picture), stray gifts still in their boxes, an extra scale, assorted pillows, an empty box too nice to throw away, so I found myself cleaning out the hall linen closet.  I left the vacuum cleaner on the floor–I haven’t used it in years, but I’m pretty sure it still works–and concentrated on the upper shelves, full of sheets and blankets for beds I no longer own, old curtains, and some rather grungy pillows.  Out those went (straight into the trash, no mulching in the garage), and in went the obstructions from the bookcase.

When I piled all the unread books from various places into the shelves, they fit, more or less, but I shook my head in dismay.  There were a truly embarrassing number of them, and they were shoved in randomly, so I had no idea what I had  or where any individual book might be found.  And my back was beginning to ache.

had been taking breaks. I was doing the laundry.  I watched the news and did the newspaper puzzles.  I watched two episodes of As Time Goes By (a favorite old BritCom) on PBS, and of course Hell on Wheels (lacrosse as a blood sport?  and I knew Eva shouldn’t leave the baby alone!).

Then I turned the TV to a marathon of Star Trek: The Next Generation (and why am I watching that on BBCAmerica?  In honor of Patrick Stewart?) and attacked the books.  After three hours (with breaks for the sake of my back–crawling around on the floor just isn’t as easy as it once was) I had the unread books sorted (romance, science fiction, mystery, general fiction, non-fiction, and in a place of honor above my bed, books by my Golden Heart sisters, the Starcatchers, Firebirds, and Lucky 13s), alphabetized (what, you didn’t think my books would be alphabetized?), and thinned out (I had to admit that any book I’d been passing over for more than a couple of years was probably never going to grab me again, so I now have a carton for my next trip to Half Price Books).

Here’s the result:  a little neater, a little more manageable, and I discovered a few forgotten gems while I was at it.  With a few exceptions, the bottom half contains my To Be Read collection. (I need the stool to reach the top shelf.)

How long do you hang on to an unread book before you admit you’ve lost interest?



At RWA 2013 – Saturday

RWA 2013 wrapped up on Saturday, July 20, with attendees looking increasingly bleary-eyed as we stumbled from workshop to workshop.  In the morning I had a chance to visit with a number of friends, and even met someone from New Zealand who had read my Golden Heart entry–that was a thrill!

I went to a workshop on Key Writing Skills, giving by agent Jill Marsal and Starcatcher (and now multi-published author) Robin Perini.  This was an excellent hour; I have a whole page of notes.  Four main areas: Develop Great Characters (characterization means observable traits, while character is true nature revealed under pressure; goal and motivation always important); Create a Compelling Story (braiding plot and character, internal versus external conflicts); Focus on Story and Pacing (show character changes in every scene, while turning points change the story’s direction); and Revise and Polish (watch out for backstory, telling rather than showing, overwriting, etc.).

The rehearsal for the awards ceremony, a precaution against someone falling off the stage, accompanied by a plea not to drink beforehand, only took about half an hour.  Then I caught a sandwich with fellow Firebird and Lucky 13 Oberon Wonch and her roomie.

I went to two more workshops on Saturday afternoon, “Visceral Rules: Beyond Hammering Hearts,” by Margie Lawson (I’ve been to Margie’s workshops in the past, but she’s always interesting), and a really terrific presentation of Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat! methodology by Jessica Brody.  I’m reading Snyder’s book now, and I’m going to see if that helps me plot the new novel I haven’t been making much progress on.

The last event of the conference, on Saturday evening, was the Awards ceremony for the Golden Heart and RITA winners.  Cheryl Bolen, my long-time friend and conference roomie, and I went downstairs about 7 PM and had a glass of champagne (in spite of that warning) while we waited for the VIP door to open.  We made out way to our table near the front and found it full of West Houston RWA folks:  Lark Howard and I as Golden Heart finalists (both in the paranormal category), Sophie Jordan as a RITA finalist (novella), and Sarah Andre standing in for a finalist friend, Krista Hall (romantic suspense) who was unable to attend the conference.  Cheryl, Susan Breeden, Tera Childs, and Sophie’s husband were our guests.  As it happened, the only one of us to accept an award was Sarah, reading a thank you from the absent Krista.  Rounding out the West Houston participation were Colleen Thompson presenting a RITA and Christie Craig, the evening’s emcee (entertaining the audience with her usual humor and standing on a box to reach the microphone).  Winners, finalists and audience all had a wonderful time.

Kay and Cheryl at the Awards Ceremony

Kay and Cheryl at the Awards Ceremony

Sunday, and time to go home, came all too soon.  Somehow I managed to stuff all the free books I’d picked up (yeah, I need more books.  But, she added virtuously, some were for my neighbor who looks after Nutmeg when I’m away) into my suitcase.  Cheryl, Colleen Thompson, and I caught the shuttle to the airport, where a Skycap who had clearly been dealing with ladies from RWA all morning, cheerfully told Colleen that if she could pull “one hardback and one paperback” out of her suitcase, it would slip through under the fifty-pound weight limit.  He was right.

Even with a stop at the grocery store, I was home in time for dinner.  Nutmeg the cat was glad to see me (and the roast chicken I’d picked up on the way home) and I was glad to sleep in my own bed.  But I’m still processing all I learned at the conference, getting in touch with new friends, and catching up in general.

And definitely looking forward to RWA 2014 next summer in San Antonio!



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