Story Structure... Harmony in four parts?

At my very first regional RWA conference I went to a great workshop given my Patricia Grasso. Now, I admit to being very much a greenhorn at the time of that conference, but believe me when I tell you that the things I learned in that 45 minutes are tools that I've used in the fourteen years since. Basically, I learned to break down the book into sections. Some break them down into three parts. I do four. Each section represents a specific goal for the book. The first would be the introduction of characters and conflict. The second is building the relationship and escalating the conflict. The third section is where I twist the conflict and shift the focus of the relationship until it seems that they can't make it. And the fourth starts with the black moment and ends with the resolution. For me, I know that when I'm writing my books this is where I want to shoot for. Each one does not necessarily flow in the same way. But it works for me.

So, does anyone out there do three parts? Calculated linear forms of plotting? Or are you just a take 'em as it comes writer? What works for you?

In the name of research... family trips

In my research for the Nocturne Bite that I am writing I did a little digging into the past when it came to Cherokee. I knew that somewhere, buried beneath the mounds of pictures that I had stored away when my mom passed was one picture in particular that I wanted to represent this story. My daughter and I spent about an hour going through pictures until I found it.
I was 9 the summer of 1976 when we made our first trip to the Western Mountains of North Carolina as a family. (For those of you who are doing the math... STOP IT RIGHT NOW!)


Anyway, while we were there we made a trip from my aunt's house on the side of the mountain to the Cherokee Reservation. It was a long time ago, but I remember being fascinated by the dancers in full regalia (especially the ones that were my age) as they performed for the gathering spectators. Anyway, there was a few other thing that I remembered very strikingly... this moment.... Three things to be exact. One, the seventies were not fashion-kind to anyone. Two, that bear was so hot that if I'd actually sat on it I'd have had serious burns. And Third? By far I had the coolest cousin for putting up with me over the years. He may not be so nice when he realizes that I've unearthed this little gem. Love Ya, Steve!


It's time for Blatant Shameless Promotion...



I'm very excited because I just got my copy of the Summer edition of Mystery Reader's Journal and my article is one of the many great articles in their Irish Mysteries edition. There are over 40 different stories and articles in the edition and the authors span the globe as they discuss Irish Mysteries and why we love them. My contribution is entitled "The Elusive Irishman" and I talk about my experience writing OBSIDIAN and the inspiration for the story. If you get a chance, check out the Mystery Reader's Journal website. Their journal is just one benefit of membership into Mystery Readers International, and according to their journal they are open to all readers, fans, critics, editors, publishers and writers. You can find their membership information there and find out how to order a copy of the Irish Mysteries Edition.

Organized thought process...

Do you keep track of your writing? On a daily basis? Page amounts? Any kind of process made on your writing?

Well, you should be. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. Just a simple accounting or notes or your work. The IRS likes notes when it comes to taxes, but there are other benefits as well. It's a reference at a glance for where you are with you work.

I keep an excel sheet that I list everything together. My sheet looks something like this...

04/05/08 Mooncusser Worked on redoing the chapter where he sees her mom again pages 7
04/06/08 Mooncusser added two pages and started off next chapter pages 2

I also add on here any kind of promo that I do, any queries sent, or even something as vague as brainstorming.

I call it a work log. You can call it whatever works. But I keep a shortcut icon for it on my desktop an that way I have very few reasons to avoid keeping my log.

What kind of things do you do to keep track of your writing?

Inspiration...

One of the questions that I get asked the most is... Where do you get your inspiration for your books from? Now, sometimes, this is accompanied by a snide look or a bit of a lopsided leer. Especially when people find out that there is romance in my stories. But there are those who are genuinely interested in where my ideas come from. Frankly, I'm just as interested in knowing why the same ideas that run through my head are running through others. They are always with me and frankly, when I look back I can't remember a time when there weren't stories running through me. I was a bit of a loner as a preteen and teen and I turned to writing stories (mostly in my head) as a way to make a life that was more exciting then mine. Everynight as I would go to bed I would think about the story and push myself to continue on with it. Kind of creating my own serial romances and mysteries in my head. It really wasn't until I was pregnant with my daughter that I thought about actually persuing my stories and putting them on paper. The first book was horrible. But it was complete. I actually wrote it three times since I wrote it first long hand, then on a Brothers word processor and then again on a word processor after my daughter (then about two) banged on the keyboard and my book disappeared. Anyway, this is more about a continuation of inspiration. Everything is fodder for a book... and I see the same inspirations in both of my kids. They've grown up with words like, plot, hero, black moment and perseverance. Maybe those aren't bad examples of inspiration to pass along.

In the name of research... or procrastination

Check out this list of what Yahoo Travel calls their Top 10 Places to Visit in the US Before You Die. I looked it over and while it has definite merit, I decided to come up with my own list of places I'd like to see.

1. St. Augustine Lighthouse and the Old City -Again, I've been close, but not there. I love the pictures of the lighthouse and the history of the old city.
2. Key West, Florida - And a margarita while I watch the sunset. Enough said.
3. Seattle, Washington - Mostly because it looks so darned beautiful.
4. Chicago, IL - I actually have a chance at seeing this one next year with my daughter's chorus trip. I've been a long time fan in awe of Frank Lloyd Wright and I also have always wanted to see the Great Lakes.
5. Tombstone, AZ - I loved the tales of the old west and gunfighters. I devoured all of the books in my grade school library on the subject when I was in first grade.
6. Savannah, GA - I got close. I got to the highway that passed the city, but I have a real yearning to see the old city. Especially, after I read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Oh, and of course.... there's Paula Dean.
7. San Antonio, Texas - I've been to Dallas twice, but I've always wanted to see San Antonio and the Riverwalk.
8. New Orleans - Now, I've been there once. Pre-Katrina. I'd like to go back and see the city that I loved so much as she is now.
9. Natchez, MS - The old homes on the Mississippi. I used to dream of going there.
10. All of the House of Blues Restaurants - Sounds strange, I know. I've been to two of them so far. One in New Orleans and One in Orlando. Both several times. Think of it as a pilgrimage of the blues along with good food.

What's your list? And why?

New Project...

About a month ago I took on the task of writing a Nocturne Bite (a paranormal short ebook for submission to Harlequin). I liked the idea of writing something short, basically 40-60 pages and also taking the opportunity to combine the two genres that up until now I've been writing separately. Paranormal. Suspense. I won't go into great detail about it because... frankly, it still under submission at harlequin. But also, because the story is intensely personal to me. When I say paranormal I get a lot of people who think I write werewolves and vamps. Sorry, none of those in my stories. But there are characters who are having a hard time dealing with their own personal demons. Or in this case, they are dealing with the "gift" of pyschic abilities. I wrote the first story in less than 4 days. This is remarkable, even for me because I tend to write in rapid bursts that will accumulate quickly. When this happens I try to get as much as I can on the page (or screen) because when it hits it's a gift of it's own. The first story takes place in a lakeside town in Maine. Kind of an odd place to set what is supposed to be a high tension paranormal. I have taken on the task of writing the next in the series of sisters that I have created. This one takes place in another of my favorite locations, the mountains of Western North Carolina near Asheville. Even more surprising to me is that the hero came to me as a Cherokee Indian. Since then, I've been busy trying to research the Cherokee beliefs. I want so badly to make sure that I do justice to their legacy. Interestingly enough, the more that I research it the more that I see a definite similarity between the Cherokee spiritual beliefs and my own Celtic background. Both are nature based, both believe heavily in a matriarchal society (or a society that at least elevates it's women to a place of honor). Each believe heavily in the elements of nature playing a major role and they both believe in little people. That can't be a bad thing.

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