Sunday, June 28, 2009

Newton, NC Workshop

Last weekend, the Carolina Conspiracy gave a writing workshop at the Catawba County Library in Newton, NC.

There was a great turnout and many people took notes as different authors talked about setting, the revision process, keeping motivated, agents and editors, and creating characters.

I took notes, too. There are so many different ways to come up with a finished manuscript. I love to hear different ideas from authors on getting the job done. Trying someone else's approach, even if it may not work as well for me, keeps me interested in my project and helps me look at my manuscript with fresh eyes.

I'm looking forward to the other writing workshops the Conspiracy is giving: August 8 in Concord, NC and October 3 in Mint Hill, NC. Check out our website at for updates.

On other topics---it's summer reading time! What's on your list? Right now, I'm getting caught up on books I wanted to read earlier. P.D. James' The Private Patient is currently on my nightstand and I'm hoping to pick up the sequel to Girl with the Dragon Tattoo next.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Keeping your stories straight

One of the most frequent questions people ask is how Jim and I keep our stories straight. When you write more than one book a year, it's a valid question.

I guess to me it's like anything else in life. It calls for a plan and committment. Once you have a plan, you've done half of it. Then you just follow through.

Our plan was always to write everything down and we do; characters, places, plots, red herrings. We keep it all in a file for each story and take it out before we start on a new book in each series. We have notes on each book, maps of the places we talk about and series notes.

Most things you can recall. It's the details that will bite you in the butt if you're not careful.

We also keep photos we took for the book (people, places), newspaper articles or anything else we used for research. We write down where our ideas came from and how we formulated them. It's a big help when you want to review. You understand the ideas behind the story as well as what you've written.

We usually have at least two or three versions of the beginning of each book. We keep those too. Sometimes the character is there but the rest has to come out as you go along. It's right when you know it's right. The early versions show us where we've been and what we've done.

If that seems like a lot, sometimes it is. But writing is a job, not always an easy one either. You have to be willing to do what it takes to get the job done right!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Decision is Yours

At some point in your writing, you’re going to have to make a decision whether or not this is going to be your career or if it'll always remain a hobby. And if you fail to make a conscious choice, don’t worry (or maybe you should worry) the decision has been made for you. Not deciding is a decision itself – the decision that you’re going to let fate decide for you without any input or action from you. And that’s okay, if that is what you want – BUT if you really want to be a writer, you’re going to have to decide to be one.

As Dr. Phil often says, “Keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.”

Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but these exceptions are rare. I don’t know of many famous writers who slid into the profession without any conscious decision or preparation on their part. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure many writers have held down other positions before they decided to write for a living. But if you check, I wouldn’t be afraid to bet that somewhere in their history you’ll find they harbored the desire to write a book or story and made the decision to write if only part-time.

Hundreds, maybe thousands of people have said at one time or another, “I’d like to write a book someday” or “I’ve thought of writing a book but I just don’t have the time” or even “I might write a book someday” or some variation of these statements. Are these people writers? Unless they actually sit down and do it the answer is NO, they’re not. They’re in the same category as the people who say “I’d like to travel in Europe and maybe live there someday” or “Sometimes I think I’d like to chuck it all and join the circus” or “If I became president, things sure would be different.” All legitimate thoughts, thoughts many of us have had, but are they decisions to do these things. Of course not. They are just whims or passing fancies.

If you want a writing career don’t let it be a passing fancy. Make the decision to do it. Your children can’t make the decision for you! Your parents can’t make the decision for you! Your husband can’t make the decision for you! Your friends can’t make the decision for you! This is one you have to make for yourself. It is YOUR decision and whatever you decide will be the right decision for you.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My Chuck E. Cheese blog

Not everyone has a Chuck E. Cheese blog in them. I didn't know I did until I took Jason, Eric and Gabrielle there for their Annual End of School reward.

In case you don't know, Chuck E. Cheese is like Las Vegas for kids. They feed coins into the games, play them, then run and get more coins. Kids, of course, have no idea how the coins relate to money. They just know they need them in their little plastic cups to continue playing. They come back when the smiling rat cup is empty, take a drink of soda, and head back to the games.

Watching them is fun, but watching their parents and grandparents who aren't happily content to let them play, is even more fun.

"Get that one! You can do it! Roll the ball faster!" becomes "Let me show you how!" These parents definitely need their own smiling rat cups and coins but they probably wouldn't admit it.

Chuck E. Cheese is loud, expensive and their food is bad, but they know how to entertain kids. Now if they just had a helicopter and pretend horse BIG enough for parents to ride or maybe I could crawl into that tube that runs along the ceiling and jump into the ball pit . . .

Joyce Lavene
2nd Ren Faire Mystery
Coming September 1

It's time again for the annual Writerspace Beach Party, to celebrate summer and find some terrific beach reads for this year's vacation! So please join me and dozens of your favorite authors at the 2009 Beach Party at Writerspace on Sunday, June 28th from 8pm ET to 11pm ET.
Authors will be dropping in to chat all during the evening and we will be giving away 100s of new books and other fantastic prizes -- autographed, hard-to-find, advance copies plus special treats like gift baskets and more. We hope to see you Sunday night! You don't have to be present to win, but you must be registered. To register, and for details on all participating authors and the prizes they're giving away, visit

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Writers who give up

Sometimes, writers say they give up. Usually what they mean by this is that they give up on trying to get published. It doesn't mean they are going to stop writing. Writing comes as naturally as breathing to most people who write. You write because, well, because. It's a part of you, like your hair and your toenails.

But publishing is NOT as natural. Especially because most writers are introverts. Publishing means you have to let other people see your stuff. They get to touch it and change it. As many writers have said to me when I talk about revisions, "It's not really yours anymore than, is it?"

I still feel like it's mine, but I get their point. Publishing is a joint effort. Writing is solitary, you and your story. Publishing isn't right for all writers. Some people are better off writing because they love to write, not worrying about what the market is or what your editor is going to think.

Because despite all the times you've heard that you should write the book of your heart or that writers don't worry about the market for their next work, none of that is true. Even the BIG name writers worry when it's contract time. It's a crap shoot whether you will be picked up again or not.

As writers we live with this insecurity, not because most of us make a lot of money, but because we all love doing what we do. We all live for the next book, the next words, regardless of whether or not anyone EVER reads them.

It's madness. It's addictive. And it's divine.

Joyce Lavene

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Conspiracy welcomes author Linda M. Faulkner

What Next?

Coming up with ideas isn’t always easy.

Sure, when you’re in the shower and access to a keyboard is either impossible or deadly, they crop up like weeds in the garden. I’ve also found that some of my best ideas come to me in the middle of a business meeting when I’m paying more attention to the other people attending—along with their idiosyncrasies, than I am to the boring speaker or the topic.

So what do I do when I’ve just finished writing a scene or a chapter, my outline has a big hole in it, and I don’t know what to write next? This happens to me with every book, kids. Always has and probably always will. While I may not be an expert in telling you what to write next, I’m pretty darned experienced in the matter.

Here’s the scoop. I generally start a book with either a detailed back-story for one of the characters or a spectacular plot point. I know the story’s ending…or, okay, I usually have a vague idea how it ends. My outline is pretty detailed up to the mid-point. Then—nothing ‘til the ending. I used to worry about it. Now I don’t. It’s my personal way of allowing my unconscious, and the characters, to finish the story the way it needs to be finished.

Sometimes, though, when I get to a scene, I can’t write it the way I planned because it simply doesn’t work. Or I do write it and it stinks. Here are some things I do:

· Follow Lawrence Block’s advice in Telling Lies for Fun and Profit. He says that the stakes have to keep mounting as you tell a story. He uses a terrific example of a guy fleeing a bear. The bear chases the guy, who climbs a tree to escape. As he’s sighing in relief, the guy notices the bear climbing up behind him. He scrambles out on a branch and the branch breaks and falls into a river. The guy sees another branch and grabs for it. Another big sigh. Only the branch isn’t a branch, it’s an alligator… While your story might not be suited to bears and alligators, dream up some important obstacles and challenges—and keep dreaming them up. Just as your character achieves a feeling of comfort, shake her up!

· Free associate. Gabrielle Lusser Rico’s book, Writing the Natural Way, talks about right-brain/left-brain techniques and the one I love best, and have used successfully for years, she calls “clustering.” Take a piece of paper and jot down your dilemma in the middle of the page. What to write next, for example, and circle it.

Then free associate, writing ideas on the page inside their own circles, and connecting them to previous ideas (or the central idea) with lines. For example, if your hero and heroine have just made love for the first time and have achieved their feeling of comfort (yes, the pun was intended!), you need to shake them up and deliver an obstacle or challenge.

The following might be some ideas about how to shake them up: the dog jumps on the bed, his mother not only arrives unannounced—she doesn’t ring the doorbell and surprises them by walking into the bedroom, the smoke detector goes off because the kitchen caught fire, a machine gun blast rips through the window, etc. You get the picture. Avoid the trite and expected (i.e. the phone ringing, the doorbell ringing, the dog and mother-in-law.) Of course, whatever obstacle/challenge you create should tie into the storyline and move the story forward. I’ve come up with some terrific scene ideas this way. They don’t always fit into the story I’m writing, but if they’re good—I always find a way to use them later.

The kicker about not knowing what to write next is that my mind always tells me when I’m in trouble—and how to get myself out of it. Yours will too—if you listen to it. If I can’t figure out what to write next, I’m probably in a fix: a character is acting out of character, the plot/storyline is stale, or my train [of thought] has simply run out of steam. If I’m not sure what’s going to happen next, chances are the reader won’t know what’s coming next either—unless I do something expected. Which gives me the perfect opportunity not only to shake my characters up, but also to deliver a powerful punch to the reader—emotionally, that is.

What do you do when you need to figure out What Next?

Linda M. Faulkner
June 2009
For Carolina Conspiracy Blog

Monday, June 8, 2009

Tied to Technology

I really like to think of writing as the go-anywhere, pick up any-time wonder-craft.

And it is.  But boy, it sure is nice to do it on a laptop.

It’s been a rough few weeks at my house.  For some reason, everything at our house decided to kick the bucket at once.  Is it like that with everyone else?  You know….one minute everything is just fine and dandy, and the next you’ve got a bunch of car and house repairs on your hands.

Then the worst of all possible things happened to me—my laptop died.  I’m sure I gave a scream heard round the world.

Everything was backed up—that wasn’t the problem.  The problem was how accustomed I was to writing on the sofa with a computer in my lap.  And writing in the library.  And writing in the coffeehouse.

For some reason, this laptop order is taking a very loooong time.  In the meantime, I’ve been working upstairs in the kids’ playroom on the desktop.  But I have suffered! 

I’ve also written a lot in notebooks.  The only problem with that is that you have to later transcribe your scribblings back into a Word program, so it takes twice as long.

Isn’t it funny how quickly we get hooked on something?  And how quickly we just can’t do without it?


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Do you have a book trailer?

Do you have a book trailer?

I didn't until about a month ago, just before the release of A Corpse for Yew. I talked with Carol Green at Serenity Promotions and she gave me a great deal on a trailer and some other promo items.

I've never had a book trailer before because I can't decide if they're worth much as far as selling a book and they were too expensive. I probably could've done one myself but frankly, I have enough on my plate already. It was a treat to hand it over to someone else!

Carol did a good job. It was kind of stop motion with good pictures and some promo words about the book. I especially like the red, red flowers when the words say Peggy found someone dead with curously red lips.

Did it help book sales? Hard to say. The book started out #13 on the B & N bestseller list but Perfect Poison (last May's book) was about the same. Sales are good on Corpse but is that because of the trailer or because of everything else we put into it? I asked around to see what other writers and readers thought.

Here is what I found out:

LaVonne Stein said: "I've only seen one by Dana Stabenow and one by Brad Melzer. They were great! I think they aren't done much, but with all of the access to YouTube and other social media sites, it seems like a good way to spread the word."

Author John Desjarlais said, "It's much too early to tell whether or not book trailers help to sell more books, especially since, in my case, the book isn't out yet. However, I've noticed some of my Facebook contacts are passing the trailer (or a link to it) along to their friends. It's just another way to get the book's title out there, create a buzz and stand out from the clutter." PS: Here's the trailer link for BLEEDER:

CC's own Judy Nichols said: "I've heard authors talking about their book trailers at great length, but I've never heard a single reader say a word about having seen a book trailer, let alone buying a book because of one."

So if you're a reader or an author and have some ideas on this, please speak up. Maybe I can get some concrete answers to the question before I buy a trailer for GHASTLY GLASS this fall!

Thanks! Joyce Lavene

PS - Here is my trailer. Does it make you want to buy my book?