The Week in Review

Lately I find myself thinking a lot of the old Bible story, where God was so disgusted with mankind that He instructed Noah to build an ark, load it with his family and a male and female of every animal species, then decimated the earth with flooding. It's starting to feel as if He is about to do it again, between the deadly earthquakes, tsumanis, and tornadoes that have been striking all over the planet. Hurricane season starts next week. Heaven help us.

The worlds of poetry and music lost an icon this week. Gil Scott-Heron, master of the spoken word and self-described "bluesologist," passed away after becoming ill upon returning from Europe at the young age of 62. He was a talented and deep-thinking brother who, like so many artists, struggled with addictions throughout his life. RIP.

In politics, Sarah Palin announced a motor trip through the East Coast, fueling speculation of her intent to run for President. Personally, I think she's just looking to shine the spotlight on herself, as Mitt Romney becomes the latest Republican to announce that he's going to announce his candidacy (a redundancy reminiscent of those old "pre-engagements") next week, and Michele Bachmann's people say that she will announce, either yay or nay, sometime in June when she visits her hometown in Iowa. I expect it to be a yay. As for Palin and her oxygen-sucking tactics, she's just a female version of Donald Trump, with better hair but no intent of running.

Some folks criticized the President for traveling to Europe, including a trip to a hamlet in Ireland (population), where a maternal ancestor lived before emigrating to the States. Imagine the flak if he'd dared to venture to Kenya to view his paternal roots!

This is Memorial Day weekend, honoring those who lost their lives while in service to our country, God rest them.

This weekend is the traditional kick-off of summer. On this holiday weekend three years ago we moved into our current home. I was stunned to see that we had to run the heat at night/early morning, and yes, the heat kicked in last night as well. It gets cold in Wisconsin. But at least it's supposed to be about 70 on Monday, plenty warm enough to barbecue.

A bit of personal news: Our family has new baby twins, a boy and girl (pictured above), just home from the hospital. This is especially meaningful for me, because this is the centennial of my father's birth. He would be so tickled by his great-grandchildren, none of whom he ever saw in person...the ones who just entered the world; the oldest one, who, incredibly, graduated high school this week (pictured above on his prom night), and all the ones in between.

So how was your week?

Anatomy of a Novel

I've gone quite a while without adding anything to my Ideas Word file. And that's fine with me.

It's easy to come up with a basic plotline for a book. It's harder still to write a complete synopsis of the same. But the hardest part by far is to actually write the book. Every phrase has to be scrutinized for cadence and flow. Every aspect of the plot has to come together. The reader has to understand certain background factors without feeling like they're on information overload or being preached or talked down to. Word overuse must be eliminated. All pressing loose ends have to be tied up by the end of the book.

In other words, writing is hard.

I am presently working on a project that I started outlining about five years ago. That's right, five years. I saw a news report that said that with all the layoffs elsewhere, the job market was thriving in the unlikely location of Bismarck, North Dakota. Right away my imagination went to work. Bismarck, North Dakota. I've never been there, but who among my readership has? With a low percentage of African-Americans among the population, I realized I'd never done a fish-out-of-water story, and here was the perfect scenario.

I quickly came up with a the hero and heroine (this is a romance) would meet. Since "meet cutes" are one of my strengths, I wrote an opening chapter and sent it to my personal editor, Kim. She loved it and bugged me for more. But I couldn't get beyond that because I had no real conflict, and without conflict there is no story. Anyone familiar with my work knows that I avoid the standard can't-ever-love-again-because-I-don't-want-to-be-hurt scenario, which in addition to being more common than rain in April, is staler than a four-day-old roll. If that's the best I can do, why bother to spend years developing a story in the first place? Why not just write the first dull, unimaginative plot that comes into my head?

Stuck on this--even Kim, a harsh taskmistriss, eventually let up on her demands to see more--I turned my attention to other projects in subsequent years, periodically pulling this one out and adding to it. I wanted to do a scene at a ski was North Dakota, right? Check. I wanted my heroine to be forced to spend the holidays with the hero's family rather than with her own, and I came up with a plot device--a natural-sounding one, of course--to make that happen. Check. I wanted plenty of sexual tension woven throughout the story. Double check. I even wrote a love scene so sizzling that I ended up waking my husband from a sound sleep at 3AM on a weeknight (and believe me, when he went back to sleep he had a smile on his face). I even had a wonderful title. But still no conflict.

As usual, I didn't worry about it. I remained confident that an idea would strike me eventually, even though it was taking years. Haven't I always maintained that no story will be written before its time? And, most important of all, didn't I have other projects that had no such issues?

Sure enough, one day a year ago it started to come together, after four years of germinating. I suddenly had my conflict. It just came to me out of nowhere. I added other layers to the story, and voila! It was done!

So now I'm writing, with the goal of trying to have this out by the end of this year at the latest. (I'll have to safeguard the title until just before release.) I've been writing up a storm, to the point where I had to take a few days off and rest my brain. It's moving along nicely, and unless an event arises that takes me away from writing or I realize that something about the plot doesn't work, I should meet my goal.

Patience. Persistence. And keep pounding those keys. It will come together.

The Week in Review

Donald Trump (the Chump) made it official...he's not running for President. He then hemmed and hawed about an invitation he accepted from the Iowan Republican Party to be their keynote speaker at a major fundraiser before finally pulling out. I'm still scratching my head over why they would invite an undeclared candidate to be the main attraction...what did they think would happen if he decided against running (and many said it would never happen)? Maybe he dismissed them as a bunch of goobers who don't count, but in Iowa, as one man put it, "A man's word is his bond." So in Iowa, Trump is in the dumps.

We all had an a-ha moment at the revelation about Arnold Schwarzenegger's love child. For now the salacious reporting seems to have died down, with the press camped out on the quiet street where the boy lives with his mother (in a nearly $300,000 house...payoff, anyone?)disrupting everything, after the mother's name, photograph, and even the name of the street she lives on was published. I was afraid the media wouldn't rest before they got a shot of the minor child. But I have to makes me ill to think of Arnold puffing out his already overdeveloped chest as he watched both his wife and his housekeeper walk around with swollen bellies, knowing he impregnated them both. Ugh.

President Obama is having a major disagreement with the Israeli government over his suggestion that the pre-1967 borders be a starting point for future negotiations. Republicans were quick to jump on the President, saying he's anti-Israel, calling his words "dangerous," "a disaster waiting to happen," and accusing him of "throwing Israel under the bus." Yet President Bush II while in office said he supported use of the post 1949-borders...which essentially the same thing, referring to the agreement time period after the 1948 conflict and before the 1967 conflict. I'd love to see the GOP contenders explain why it was all right for Bush to take that position but not for Obama. Yeah, I know why it was all right, but I'd like to hear them explain it. Because it's purely partisan. These "party animals" are getting on my nerves.

Finally, Tim Pawlenty plans to make his candidacy official next week, bringing to mind that song from Porgy & Bess: "I've got Pawlenty of nuttin'..."

Have a great weekend!

Nothing Like Having to Clean Up Afterward

Strauss-Khan, Schwarzenegger...what's up with the politicians and the maids?

Arnold "terminated" it, all right.

One Scene at a Time

With everything else involved in being a publishing do-it-yourself-er...expanding a germ of an idea into a complete novel, getting it down on paper, getting it ready for prime time, maintaining a website (actually two, for Bettye Griffin and Bunderful Books, respectively, etc.), making book trailers (I still haven't done a revised one for If These Walls Could Talk, which was re-released two weeks ago), maintaining a Facebook presence, and the rest, it's hard to carve out time to simply write, which is the favorite activity that got me into this in the first place. Add that to the fact that I balance three projects simultaneously...doing ruthless red pen pre-publication edits on one and writing the others, and it becomes even more of a challenge.

Obviously, I do this in small steps. I'll devote a morning to edits, an evening to writing my story with the wounded hero, and the next day, worn out by that hero's angst, I'll start writing my story with a charming rogue of a hero and his pursuit of the weakening heroine, and on and on. I find myself breaking it down into scenes; while my husband is snoring I'll be thinking about the next scene I want to do. And I rarely write in chronological order; I believe in writing the scene that I'm feeling the most (I synopsize my storylines before I write, so it's not as though I don't know what happens next).

With this piecemeal approach to novel writing and focus on scenes, I was delighted to learn about a software package that allows writers to create novels one scene at a time, then link the scenes in the order they want and import it to a dedicated word processor. The program is free as the designers are working out the kinks in preparation in putting it for sale (at which time the free download will be discontinued) later this year.

If you're a piecemeal writer, you might want to give it a look. Here's the link.

What's in a Name?

As I work to complete the revisions for my upcoming eBook release (actually an updated version of my well-received 1999 Arabesque romance, A Love of Her Own), I am simultaneously working on my next new project, which ideally will be for sale by year's end.

The writing is going splendidly. But what to call it?

This is usually a dilemma for me. The title A Love of Her Own seemed perfect for a story about finding love in the face of infertility. My current work-in-progress is a mainstream romantic story (in other words, the characters behave in a natural manner without those pesky publisher restrictions that say they can't do this and can't do that) about an active state official and gubernatorial candidate whose son injures the son of a struggling, divorced single mother. Both father and son witnessed a fiery car crash in the Caribbean that killed their wife and mother, respectively, and their emotional scars remain even after four years.

That's all of the plot that I want to give this far ahead. I haven't written the back cover copy yet...and yes, even an eBook that has no back cover still has to have copy. While some of the titles I've been tossing about are better than others, none really get me excited...

Suddenly, You
In an Instant
From Shadow to Spotlight
Then Came You
Very Special
A Compromising Situation
Isn't She Lovely?

What about you? Do any of these titles speak to you, grab you? And if you can think of something that does, feel free to share it. If I use it you'll be able to read the book before anybody else and, of course, for free.