Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Kissing Index

All the mistletoe hanging in entryways has me thinking about kisses, those delicious tastes of nectar shared between two people. Do your kisses reveal the relationship between your characters to the reader? Whether you are writing an innocent first kiss in Young Adult or a smoking-hot Romance, compel the reader to finish with believable splashes of magic.

You can keep the PG-13 rating and still turn up the heat by using all five senses to capture a first kiss. If she licks her lips nervously and draws his gaze to her mouth, the anticipation mounts. Are his fingers smooth or rough against her cheek as he brushes her hair back? Body temperatures rise and the simple scent of a shampoo is intoxicating in close proximity, triggering more reactions than just his pants becoming too tight. A shortness of breath and racing hearts all lead to the moment their lips meet for the first time.

A couple with time to explore each other engages in the slow lingering dance of tongues. Heighten sexual intrigue by adding tactile sensations to capture a scene and raise the hot factor. His lips are soft, tasting musky and very male. She bites hard into his neck, eliciting a deep moan from her lover that vibrates through her. She unzips his worn jeans and her body slides slowly down his legs with the denim. How can the rough plaster against her back feel so cold, while his hands are searing her skin? The story pace builds and the intensity between your characters drives the reader to a cover-to-cover read.

Passionate kisses exchanged between lovers should leave the reader squirming in their seat hoping no one interrupts them while reading the scene. The slow exploration is over; this is full body contact and clothes are flying around the room like a clearance sale at Feline’s Basement. While lip-locked, hands arouse responses hastening along all their partner’s sexual triggers. The hard tweak of a nipple evokes gut wrenching desire, fingernails raking across his hip and lower to mark claim has him pulling her closer, and the heavy musk of sex adds vivid tension to the scenes. She kicks a drink off the side-table, the glass shatters and neither notice. They are beyond caring about anything, but what's happening between them, and your reader is too.

So how hot are your kisses? If they need work, remember to use your senses, take time to feel through the scene and it doesn’t hurt to practice. Whether the kisses are innocent nibbles or a toe-curling lip-lock there is always another level to compel the reader into your story.

I hope this holiday season has you in happy spirits, good health and lots of mistletoe!
~ Diane Sismour

Sunday, November 6, 2011

To E or not to E, that is the Question

    Reading is my escape from reality; a wondrous world created just for me at a moments notice. From the second my eyes scan the words, a new world transforms into the one beholden by the writer. Imagery and character’s blur the lines and I become one with the novel: giggling at sarcasm, crying in empathy and agonizing through conflicts. Call me old school, but I still prefer walking into a store and smelling the ink on paper. Not that I don’t  love  my Kindle for traveling convenience or to snag a read occasionally, but the feel of pages whispering through my fingers has a satisfaction unfilled by an e-reader.

     However, the benefits to e-books are tremendous and I'm not disregarding them. The ease of having so many titles readily available without driving to a store still amazes me. People are reading more because of this and with far greater variety than ever before. E-readers also place authors on an even playing field, allowing readers to choose what interests them, instead of which books have the biggest advertising budgets. There are so many beautifully written stories overlooked because they are indie published with a limited advertising budget. Without e-readers, many would go completely unnoticed.

     I guess my biggest complaints with e-readers are I prefer knowing how many pages there are to read a book from cover to cover, instead of wondering how long it will take to finish the remaining thirty percent; and most importantly, books don’t have batteries. The pleasure of staying in the story until The End and knowing those characters are usually in a better place, makes my reality a little easier in which to return. When the story hits the home stretch, the last thing I want to see is “low battery.” I couldn’t imagine waiting for my plane to land and having to recharge before finding out how Katniss chose to end the contest in “The Hunger Games.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Voices in my Head

   Some days it doesn't pay to shut out the voices in my head and at others times I wish for a fleshy toggle switch just to concentrate. You know...a remote to turn on my creative side and shut out the annoying static from everyday life, or off to allow me to listen to a conversation without having a character make a side bar comment. On the other hand, where would a writer be without those voices banging around attempting to push a story out of us?

     Most writers I know have characters talking to them, not just a shout occasionally, but full arguments that can shove a story into unplotted waters. What would happen if they went silent? I shutter the thought. Mine have evolved with me since my teens. They were the constant reminder of who I was in those odd high school years at a new school. Without them, I can't imagine the silence and isolation after so many years together.

     When "Did I just say that out loud!" became a frequent statement, and "Learn to curb your snarky mouth," was a constant lash back from Mom, I started to notice my creative side. Of course, I couldn't tell anyone about these characters. Everyone would think I was nuts, so the thoughts went into a journal. The voices got louder, I began to listen and those ideas became stories.

     Where did this constant distractions I relish come from and why me? Is there not enough constantly going in my life for one of me knocking around in my mind? Oh my gosh…my character just collectively gasped. I smile. “Hey, just kidding guys.” However, this creative side developed, I cannot imagine a life without writing, or my constant companions.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Losing my Plugged-in Nation

     I'm about to go into uncharted territory, camping in the mountains on the first frosty weekend of autumn in no electronics land with no plug ins or phones, wifi or anything. Gulp. Nothing, but me and a couple of my favorite kind of books to read, the real paper and cover ones; with my luck, the e-reader would lose power in a good scene and I'd have to leave the site to plug in!

     Preparing for this trip makes me realize, I've walked the same two-mile route several times a week for years and remember stopping to chat with various people and catching up on neighborhood gossip. The walks would take twice as long, but it felt refreshing connecting with friends. For some time now, I find myself waving as I pass their homes, chattering away on the cell phone, checking messages, or staying connected electronically instead of stopping for a moment.

     As a nation, we're becoming a society who can't hold an intelligent conversation face to face with another person, where writing a letter is a forgotten art and even e-mails are turning into Twitter feed messages. People can sit in the same room all night and text each other instead of talking. I'll be the first to take blame after sitting at the computer chatting for an hour with someone who lives within walking distance from my house.

     The solution isn't an easy one for the plugged-in generation, but well within everyone’s grasp. Instead of Googling the size of Snooki's shoes, reconnect with society unplugged. Your fingers may tremble as you back away from the smart phone, but I have faith in all of you to remember there are other real people outside your cubical and living under your roof. I for one will reconnect with my neighbors.

     On second thought, I had better grab a couple more books off the to be read pile. I love reading by the campfire. It might even make me forget how much I enjoy the daily routine of sending events, chatting with my friends on Facebook and the luxury of indoor plumbing : )

Monday, September 19, 2011

Secret Muse Revealed

     Who is this muse, which appears out of nowhere and manifests our words into creative thoughts of artistic prose? The process of putting thought to paper as writers comes naturally to most of us. At times, we may hit a snag, but eventually our muse returns, the phrases begin to flow and stories turn into colorful renderings of our imaginations. Hence, we lust after the gifts of a muse, the individual or a situation that inspires us with a wealth of passion to create.

    Paul Hendrickson's article, "The Muse of Kilimanjaro" in Town & Country, about Ernest Hemingway and his real life muse revealed, fascinates me. Hemingway found ways to continue his dream of journaling his life's adventures with the ability to take us on them through his stories. His muse was secretly written into them. I wonder if Hemingway's muse knew she is what helped to inspire his artistic flow.

    Does your muse know the power he holds over your creative aura, or are you keeping his identity a secret? A secret so guarded, to reveal her could make the difference of finding a new one. You have to admit, to feel the words seep out and wonder where those thoughts hid, is far better than struggling to scribe a cohesive phrase with no emotional connection. The one individual who can turn the areas outside our comfort zones into intriguing playgrounds, allowing us to draw from experiences and to enhance our storytelling.

     Mine fills me with emotional energies from which to draw upon and when invoked by a situation, propels thoughts into poetic prose or creative writing. Muses aren't easily found. They're not listed in Google or the Yellow Pages. Those of you who acquired a muse or two understand, but for those of you still seeking, when you find one you'll know...it's the moment your words have more meaning. Would I dare ruin the benefits of using my muse's attributes by revealing his name? Never.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Voyeurs and Lurkers

     While parked at the mall, I watched a man and woman embrace and passionately kiss, oblivious to the world. Instead of going on about my own business, I lurked hidden in my car behind tinted windows. They didn't care; they continued to kiss, gently touching each other's faces and gazing at one another. I rationalized my behavior as character development for the next novel in the series. Really!

     Cars pulled away, others parked and they were still vertically entwined. I glanced at the time. Holy cow, ten minutes later I was still a voyeur behind the glass. In truth I couldn't open my car door. Not because of wanting to see what happened next with the heart melting couple, but because I couldn't open the car door. After sitting there so long saying, "Excuse me, could you move a little so I can shop," just felt slimy.

     While checking Facebook friend requests and searching bios yesterday I realized, the electronic age is creating voyeurs and lurkers. I'm not saying its wrong, but sometimes the truth is a rude awakening. We hide behind a persona, clicking into other peoples lives to learn more about someone we'll likely never meet than our immediate neighbors. We also lurk on blogs and Yahoo Groups without leaving a message, but are excited when a comment comes close to our own opinions.

     I guess admitting to lurking sites and people watching is the first step to moving forward. Is there a Ten Step Program for this problem? Who knows, but the next time I'll probably leave a comment behind a blog post or just people watch in plain sight. It's easier than getting stuck in the car again; the mall is filled with so many more interesting character subjects.
     You wonder how I managed to remove myself gracefully from the parking lot predicament? I started the car and found another parking space : )

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Reinventing your Wheel

     Just as cave dwellers chiseled the first wheel from stone, a writer must learn to edit and layer words to smooth patterned thoughts. Someone had to instruct other potential wheel makers of the pitfalls to avoid and how to shape the stone into a cohesive design. Otherwise, carts would thump along on different sized squares, instead of similarly circular discs of rock. Although a crude example, this format is how apprentices learned many crafts throughout time. How can you avoid the tar pits which could mire your novel? We all know the importance of proper sentence structure, but unfolding a story takes a reader through your character's world..

     Workshops on how to build believable worlds and creating characters is your opportunity to learn from others. Experience is an excellent teacher and workshops provide the forum to hone your writing craft. Regardless of your writing level, there's a workshop for you. They're available on-line, at conferences and local chapter meetings, any time of most days and can range from an hour to several months long. You're making a commitment to yourself to learn more, so the schedule must suit "your" time. Signing up for classes, but not completing them because of time management issues is a waste of money and hope.

      You'll adapt more to the story if you find classes to fit its immediate needs. For instance, a cover design workshop might sound exciting, but probably isn't the best choice when you really require help with character development. My Facebook page, "Network for the Arts," has workshop events popping up daily and one event that covers a wide level of writers and story progression is Bootcamp for Novelists. They offer individual and package subscription at your writing level.

     So what are you waiting for my friends? Classes begin soon and there's no better time to recommit yourself to writing than today. Just an FYI...I don't have any ties or affiliations with Bootcamp for Novelists, but I do find their course list interesting and worth sharing forward to all of you. Please direct all questions about specific programs to them.

Happy writing~Diane

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Romance Writer's of America's National Conference-a First Timer's View of Pitching

Pitching at the Romance Writers of America National Conference can make veteran conference attendees quake in their shoes. As a first timer, there’s a lot of luck involved in getting the right agent/editor appointment for what you’re writing, if you get a choice at all. The rest is up to you.

The alarm blares and my eyes spring open…pitch day. I groan knowing how many appointments are scheduled for me. Zero. Late registrations don’t allow for much planning. Today the only way to get any agent/editor face time is by waiting for opportunities to open. Not everyone shows up for their scheduled time slot. It’s a matter of standing all day ready to spring forward at any given moment to snag an opportunity.

The hardest part of pitching is self-confidence. I know my story backwards, upside down and blindfolded; I wrote and edited the words countless times. It’s whether I’m projecting the story clearly to someone else where the problem may arise. Usually not, it’s why I write, there’s unlimited editing.

A huge confidence boost is laying out a no-fail outfit the night before. Okay, I had two ready, but it’s still easier than stressing over what to wear. The next item to check off is easy makeup application [guys don’t nick yourselves shaving]. Comfortable shoes help, but don’t overdo the comfort level. Flip flops have there place when hanging with friends, not at an important meeting.

The stilettos clip while sprinting across the street to the Marriot Marquee. I’m dressed to impress, my feet can feel comfortable later. The uniformed security guard waves and smiles, as I dash for the elevators with a wave. By now he’s seen me more than most guests from racing back and forth to my room at The Paramount Hotel.

The doors open and its pandemonium. A mass of people mill at the room entrance and I’m not certain if they’re petrified to enter or awaiting appointments. I stand in the long line to sign for pitch openings when I hear, “An opening for so and so, editor.” I turn around, smile and wave. “I’ll take it.”

After receiving instructions, I wait two minutes and sit for the first pitch. My hands shake a little as I remove the story notes from my purse just in case of brain freeze, but my voice sounds confident. Ten minutes later I find myself in line again and in no time returning to speak with another agent/editor. I guess when you jump right into the mix there isn’t time to get nervous.

So far today’s pitch sessions were positive with varying results. My brain is burning out, my adrenaline is fading fast, but I can handle one more time in line. If I have to wait more than fifteen minutes, I’ll have to run to Starbucks as my next stop. Within moments I get another opening for my last pitch.

I introduce myself and begin anew. She picks up a few pages of the story I accidentally grabbed with the notes and begins reading them. I finish speaking and she doesn’t stop reading. She’s smiling while reading and I’m smiling at her smiling. Remember the writing better than I speak thing? She thinks so too and begins asking me what I’m looking for in an agent. Holy cow!

Snapping my jaw closed, I listen to what she can offer me as an agent. Some semblance of my brain is working and I ask who she’s signed lately and what they write. I agree to send her the full manuscript and we shake hands at parting. One final polish and it’s ready to send.

I’m a firm believer in making my own luck and preparing ahead makes it possible, even at Nationals. Was I nervous? Heck yeah, but stacking the deck in my favor with a little confidence certainly helped. Remember to check back soon to see how I made the workshops I attended produce immediate results.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Romance Writers of America National Conference...A First Timer's View

I enjoy the frantic calm of the city and keep pace with the crowd to the Marriott Marquee a few doors down with the registration confirmation in hand. My biggest fear is David Cook's personal serenade at the Paramount Hotel would eclipse the week. Seriously, he stood twenty feet away and I didn't notice anyone else in the lobby...it qualifies as personal to me. After a quick ride up the glass elevator and a hello to the concierge, I find the sixth floor mobbed with women at the far end. I hurry forward.

Writing is a solitary vocation.The Romance Writers of America is a formidable group dedicated to helping its members produce quality romantic fiction and lend support along the way. Over 12,000 members rely on volunteers in all facets of the organization in order to accomplish this monumental task. The organized chaos of women lining up beneath alphabetic cards were rattling off more aliases than mob bosses. The registration volunteers sorted through each person and explained the pertinent information with a smile.

I receive my badge with a first timer ribbon, a goody bag of books and conference agenda and did the unthinkable..I ask if they need help. They let me loose after a superspeedy orientation and it all works out. Oh yeah, the registration attendees immediately noticed the first timer ribbon hanging above my new blue volunteer ribbon. I do travel extensively, but I've never heard so many, "bless your hearts" in so short a span. Between checking in registrants, unloading skids of boxes and replenishing goody bags to shelves, three hours flew past in a snap and with the "Readers for Life" Literacy Autographing only a few hours away, it was time to prepare for the evening.

Sporting the badge I find my way up to the sixth floor all dressed and polished to meet so many writers I've admired for years. A funny thing happens in the elevator; a mascaraed eyelash pokes me and my eye begins watering. All attempts to dislodge it only makes matters worse. I ask for help. A very nice woman offers to look and see how she can assist me, but the dim elevator bulbs doesn't provide enough light to see the problem. The doors opens, we exit to where the lighting improves and she spots the culprit. A quick remedy and we are on our way.

Believe it or not I'm a shy person, but walking down the corrider in silence when she just aided me felt awkward, so I make small talk. She asks what I write and I ask what she writes, she hands me her card and I ask to submit. We walked to the front of the line together, past the guard and into a room with hundreds of authors and fans lined up awaiting autographed books. A smile to writers everywhere knowing our fans love us no matter what name we use.

I can't say it was an elevator pitch, but I'll never forget the lesson learned: You never know who's in the elevator with you and to stay on your "A" game. A huge thank you to Amy Pierpont, an Executive Editor at Grand Central Publishing, for coming to my aid. You'll see my pages soon!

I learned a lot more about the conference by getting answers for other people while volunteering, than if I'd stumbled along on my own. So if you get a chance, volunteer somewhere at a conference and help out the people who are helping you. Volunteering also helps with information about pitch sessions, but that's another story you won't want to miss.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Romance Writers of America National Conference...A First Timer's View

I heard "Nationals is amazing, it's exciting, the workshops are great," the Romance Writers of America National Conference was even better than I dreamed. So many incredible published and yet to be published writers in one place at the Marriott Marque in Manhattan, New York. The city that never sleeps combined with writers known for burning the midnight oil...I was in for some very long days. The week flew by making me reflect on what I'd learned from this experience.

Personal issues forced me to register late and find lodging a week before the conference; tricky, but doable. The Paramount's accommodations are very metro and only a few buildings down from The Marriott Marque. A perfect location, more affordable and a mental hiatus from all the creative conference energy, which if captured could have lit up the lights on Broadway.

Not knowing what to bring, I packed half of my closet into a huge suitcase. My husband shook his head as I sat upon the luggage to zip it closed. I did wear most of them. There are so many activities at the conference, plus publisher parties and don't forget all the events ongoing in the city; it's always better to be prepared for anything, than not have what you need at a moments notice.

The hotel registration had early check-in availability too. An added bonus, David Cook, an American Idol favorite, celebrated his new album release by rocking out six songs with his band on the hotel's famous curved staircase immediately after I checked in. Oh yeah, this is how my week began and it was a nonstop ride.

Return back here to learn how I managed through the organized chaos at the conference registrations and news about the fabulous Author Signing Event. You'll never believe what happened!