FlashFlood

writing about writing

Based on A True Story

Posted by Flood on June 14, 2006

Those of you who read The Rehearsal, might have found the end unoriginal. True, we've all read in horror stories of this kind in the news. Deliverance may come to mind or maybe a disturbing episode of the X-Files. This isn't a nothing-new-under-the-sun post, though.

The Rehearsal is based on a true story, in that:

  • South Mountain is a real place in which a clan has been procreating via incest (and non-familial sexual abuse) for over 7 generations
  • The girl in my story is based one of the girls I went to school with after the clan was raided one time
  • The final words spoken by Leesa in the story were actually said, though to a teacher and not a woman she met on the street


Growing up during the time that members of the clan were arrested and kids were integrated into my school was like a nightmare. There was a lot of injustice, both to the victims and the abusers.

Most of my writing has some truth behind it, in the sense that something happened directly to me or affected me in some way. Jane Stafford's Flag is also based on a true story, though I took huge poetic license with it. I've been obsessed with the biography Life with Billy since I was a kid. (I lived also near the Staffords.) Jane Stafford's death in 1992 was mysterious and added a morbid fascination to an already unsettling story.

It could be said that real writers make up things that never happened. However, I am not the kind of writer that can make up a world, person, plot, that I didn't come in contact with in reality. I admire those of you who can do this, because without you, we wouldn't have Star Wars or Dracula or E.T.

I love Jack Ketchum. My favourite book of his, The Girl Next Door, is a fictional account of the 1965 torturing death of Sylvia Likens. He creates a much better ending than the true story. I think that's the attraction to this kind of writing. Not only can you work out things that impact you, but you can compose an improvement of the facts.

Not all of my writing is dark and dreary, but the same applies to the lighter stuff. My what-if's come from people around me or events that moved me.

Today, I want to know where your ideas come from. Specifically. Like Bernita's fondness with the Luck Of Edenhall. Or the painting that moved Jaye. What kind of things affect you enough that you write about them? You don't have to give away plot, just give us a sense of what kind of real life events move you to create a story. (I am guessing some of your answers.)

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A Gabbly Environment

Posted by Flood on June 13, 2006

There's a lot of activity around me at home no matter what room I'm in, so I spent 4 hours at the library on Saturday. I got more done in that time than I did in the previous week. I credit this to several things. First, my laptop couldn't pick up a wireless signal, so when I got stuck on something, I couldn't surf around for a while and get lost in other people's work. I was forced to labour on it without distraction. Eventually, I was working back and forth on two projects, as I tired of one or the other.

Secondly, I was in a new environment, and one that breeds writing.

Third, the library can be a great place to people watch. Lots of interesting character studies there, and most people are so wrapped up in what they are doing, they can't tell that you are taking notes about them. I was privileged enough to watch two adults argue over using a computer.

Stout Little Balding Man: (booming voice) Sorry there, Miss! I have these two computers booked for the next two hours!
Curly Haired Angry Lady: (stern voice) Well how come I am still logged in, then?
STBM:They've been booked since yesterday, dear. I am not trying to be rude, but I'm telling you it's my turn now. Mom, hang on we'll get this sorted.
CHAL:I am not letting you log in on my time. The computer tells me when I am finished! Not you.
STBM: I'm getting the librarian.
Scared Librarian: (meekly) I'm sorry, but these computers are booked for the afternoon.
CHAL: That's just fine. I'll get up when I get an apology.
Scared librarian: I'm sorry. Our mistake. You are welcome to log-in on another station.
STLBM: Technology isn't all they say it is, dear. They've screwed with my time, too.
CHAL: Whatever. (gets up to move on)
STLBM: I'm not trying to anger you, dear. I am being self-defecating. Deprecating!
Flood: A-HAHAHAHA!

The man spends the next hour teaching his mom how to open her hotmail, and then goes out to smoke. He gave me a wink on the way out. I hope I see them again.

Still, I got a lot done. Worked on my current project and did research for another. Three flashes for the Gutter (2 went up on the weekend) and outlined my blogging entries for the week. Total success. Plus, the whole experience knocked me back into some self-discipline.

Invention Strategies (UofW, Stevens Point) suggests the following fun ways to get unstuck:

Change your writing environment

Write in a different place (indoors, outdoors, elevators, closets, cars, cafe's, on the toilet, while eating, anywhere you're bored, at the gym, in a bubble bath, in a meeting, at or away from computer, at or away from keyboard, while walking like the British poets did, sit in a seat you've never sat in before, sit in a rocking chair, go fishing without bait like Edison did, at a daycare, in a playground, one of your favorite places, etc..)

Write in different lighting (in the dark, wearing sunglasses, wearing 3-D glasses, in a room with stained glass, with one eye closed, strobe lights, randomly clicking in FINALE with your eyes closed, etc..)

Write at different times (in the middle of the day, first thing in the morning, right before you go to bed, in class, during church services, surprise attack–set your alarm for 3:30am, during sunset, during meals, etc..)

Write for different periods of time (write for 30 seconds, 10 seconds, 5 minutes, 30 minutes, one minute, an hour, until you get an idea you can use, pull an all-nighter, etc..)

I dunno about that toilet thing.

Out of all the expert tips offered to make sure my pen is on fire, changing my writing environment is the most practical for me, and for now, works like a charm. Do you change your writing location regularly? What works for you?
____________________________________________________________________

Fun toy alert: We've all seen blogs that include tag or shout boxes. A way to test that kind of feature, without committing anything to your template, is Gabbly. Add "http://gabbly.com/" before the URL with which you want to chat with others. Users can even use the RSS in the window to keep track of new posts. Let your readers know you are trying it out and see if it takes off. Note: If you can't use instant messengers or chat programs from work, this probably isn't a good idea. You can test it on my blog now by clicking here.

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Bernita Harris – The Interview

Posted by Flood on June 12, 2006

Bernita Harris is the author of An Innocent A-Blog. She discusses with us her previously published accomplishments, her current project and her Hang-Ups.

Thanks for agreeing to meet with us. You look great.

This is so nice of you, Flood.

This isn't your first interview. How were you previously a subject?

I was interviewed over a lost and no-longer-lamented non-fiction title, for example and for the odd thingy now and then. Nothing much to expand on – and this covers many years, you understand. I think the last one was a telephone interview by a freelancer who saw a letter to the ed. of mine on the Unknown Soldier (my son was part of the Honour Guard which brought him home). It must have gone OK because he sold his interview.

Sadly, I will not be getting paid for your time.

Nevertheless, these interviews are an excellent idea. You are both good and clever to feature other writers this way.

You are too kind. I love learning more about people so I don't feel so alone.

It is lonely at times, isn't it? Blogging helps assuage that a little.

What is your writing genre?

Romantic adventure in this latest incarnation. Cross-genre. Not a formula story. I think.

Did you write something else before?

Long, long ago and far, far away, I wrote a non-fiction how-to book as I mentioned. I secured a publisher. When we reached galley stage, the publisher developed financial problems and eventually released the book. The book was promptly snapped up by another publisher, who almost as promptly went bankrupt. Life intervened and other books came out on the same topic. So, like Prospero, I drowned my book. Before and after that at sporadic intervals I've sold the odd magazine article, but not many and not recently.

Having been published in non-fiction, is that a help or a hindrance to what you are trying to achieve now?

It may be both. One learns to be flexible to the demands of an editor. One learns to write succinctly to fit word limits for a requested article. On the other hand, the urge to support a point can lead to a fiction writer, freed of those restraints, to wander and include wallops of info dump.

What is your current project?

A projected series of romantic adventures called Tempest in Time – the first book, temporarily titled A Trio of Dragons, features a forensic occultologist, Dr. Damie Tempest, as the main character. The series involves time travel, terrorists and temptation (insert hunky male member of the anti-terror squad) – because every age has its dragons.

Sounds exciting! Do you find one aspect more difficult to write? I have a hard time with action scenes.

Not really. Time consuming since one has to visualize every movement and then decide if they contribute to the scene or not. I worry about making the linking scenes interesting. Or fussing if the rare sex scenes are cliche.

Querying your fiction yet?

Slowly querying. Snail pace. Contrary to the very good advice to query in batches of half a dozen or so, I've queried one at a time, while continuing to revise and polish. I have a full out on request at the moment.

Has that been nerve wracking?

Do you mean do I sit for long periods in the corner, rocking back and forth and moaning? Metaphorically, yes. One part of my tiny mind does that, while the other part is exasperated with such stupid behaviour.

Do you have any writing rituals or superstitions? Do you ever write by hand?

No rituals or superstitions. I began writing by hand but as I become more familiar with the computer, I have found I can compose direct – much to my surprise. Still scribble notes and scenes though. I must have a general outline of the plot in mind before I begin. I tend to focus exclusively, perhaps obsessively on a project until it is done in draft.

Why did you start blogging?

Blogging seemed a necessary step to establish myself as a serious writer. It allows me to share opinions and ideas, ask questions, and, most importantly, learn from other writers and from those agents and editors kind enough to share their experience and knowledge. I wrote the book first though.

Why 'An Innocent A-Blog'?

Because, though a take-off on Twain, it was the bare truth. And like Miranda, I began totally ignorant of this "brave new world".

What's your blogging style? Do you have a schedule for blogging or an overall theme to your blog?

My style is familiar essay – sometimes very familiar. One blogger, Bonnie Calhoun calls my blog "a civil living room." I blog most every day as a morning ritual. Anything to do with writing – from punctuation to sexual positions – seems to have developed as the main theme.

Does blogging daily and coming up with clever entries ever create a sense of pressure for you? It's obvious you give each a great deal of thought.

It hasn't until lately. I may alter my blogging to every other day.

Interfering with your writing time?

Not so much the time as the concentration.

What is your favourite entry on your blog?

Better to ask which one you enjoyed most. Probably the short fiction pieces.

I love the discussions that go on in your comments. I go back a few times a day for that.

I do that to with my favorite blogs, too. Comments make a blog live, otherwise one is yelling down a well.

What advice do you have for new bloggers? New writers?

Read blogs and more blogs. Especially industry blogs. Finish the book first.

Whose blog do you use most as a writing resource?

Easy question. Miss Snark.

Do you have a lot of support for your writing?

My family and fellow bloggers have been most encouraging – and very kind.

Tell us about the coat hanger cartoons. They are very cute, and don't think I didn't notice your fine penmanship.

Thank you. The study of Anglo-Saxon affected my style forever. My "Hang-Ups" – some of which are just raw sketches/scrawls – are products of my aborted career as a cartoonist. I re-discovered them rooting through some old files and thought they might add a bit of fun to the blog. My favourite is an early one of the little dress dreaming of an evening gown.

You seem to have a real love of the english language, and a strong vocabulary.

Words are exciting, fascinating. I have a Masters in English Literature with minor things like anthropology, history, classics and languages. The last time I counted we had over 5,000 books littering our house and straining the floor joists. I'm a victim of book lust.

You are a fellow Canadian. How will that affect your writing and quest for publishing?

I am quite happy to go with an American agent. Few Canadian agents deal in genre fiction and there are few Canadian agents. I use American spelling in my ms.

Your blog is lightly peppered with your poetry.

At one time I had the usual immature ambitions to be a poet. Even won some awards for poetry in undergrad and had a few published.The few I post are those I consider fit to be seen.

Are you hard on yourself when it comes to your work?

Oh yes. One of the most detrimental qualities in a writer is conceit and satisfaction about one's own work. There is ALWAYS room for improvement.

You often use your garden as a metaphor for writing.

It seems fitting. As one must dream a garden into being, imagining color, flowering season, height, spread and habit, so must one dream into being the reality of fiction. A WIP needs occasional pruning, transplanting and – most of all- weeding.

You mentioned habit. I find myself stuck sometimes with the same ideas or using a word too often or just overusing the same literary device.

We all have our modus operandi and have to watch for those repetitions. The trick is to decide which are part of "voice" and which are simply careless, obvious and irritating.

You recently shared the opening lines of your current project.

Do you mean "La Belle Dame?" It began as a novella but may become the beginning chapters of the third in the Tempest in Time series. Fascinated by a legendary artifact "The Luck of Eden Hall" (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum). I wanted my heroine, Damie Tempest, to have a hand in its acquisition.

Is "La Belle Dame" any relation to the Keats poem?

Indirectly, yes. Both "Belle Dames" have qualities in common.

To what do you credit your blog's high readership?

I don't place any great value on statistics – they are so often used out of context or for competitive purposes. My blog has generated over 30,000 hits to date, and I have no idea if that is large or small. I'm just grateful so many take the time to read and comment. They are quite splendid people and I have learned so much from their comments and advice.

What are your goals from this point forward?

The normal ones: acquire a publisher. Learn more. Write more.

Bernita, thank you for opening up with us today.

Thank you, Flood. Very much.

*

Next Week: Scott, of Hard To Want

Weekly, FlashFlood interviews writers who blog. Any writer at any stage of publication is interesting. If you would like to know more about your favourite blogger or want to be interviewed yourself, email me.

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Weekend Update-Great News!

Posted by Flood on June 10, 2006

I am happy to share that Lorelle on WordPress linked (click it! click it!) to Jaye's interview and included a portion of it in today's entry.

I was so excited, I completely spazzed out and commented twice. (Same comment, one with an error.) That's what I get for trying to play it cool.

Whew.

Remember to check in on Monday for Bernita Harris' interview.

FlashFlood is booked for interviews for the next 4 weeks, but I'm still taking volunteers. Any blogging writer at any stage of publication is interesting, so don't be shy. Email me: flood.vax@gmail.com.

Posted in Blogging, Interviews, Personal Thoughts, Writing | Leave a Comment »

Jane Stafford’s Flag

Posted by Flood on June 10, 2006

The phone rings early. He says, "Sorry I woke you, but I wanted to talk." She yields to listen. Again.

"Last night. When I tried to hit you…I didn't mean it. We were drunk, it was only a joke."

That night he comes over, on top, beneath and when he's done, she lies there, wondering. What's the point? His liquored musk hangs an aura around her. He tells her it was good, then stands, stumbling to find the remote.

In the flickering light, she says quietly, "You've never understood that when the white flag is flying, it doesn't mean anyone actually won."

He moves closer to the bed and asks her to turn down the television so he can hear her. She doesn't move. He screams at her to move her lazy ass to the television and turn it down. As his hand pulls back to slap her, she smiles. Changing his mind, he traces her body's silhouette with his finger. He climbs on top of her again, like a irritable child, wanting mommy to make him feel better.

"It's not like I don't have a choice," he whispers into her neck. "I know it's wrong and I do it anyway." He lifts her hair to his face. "I'm glad you let me in tonight. I know I don't deserve it." She remains still as she tells him that the checkered flag is down.

"You win." Her limp body concedes.

"Turn off the fucking television then," he shrieks, without getting off of her. She makes no move, no tightening of muscles, only the soft flesh of a low woman with no choices. He calls her vile names but her brain bearly registers his words. She focuses on letting fear go and senses her weight becoming lighter. I am more than a gash. Her mind floats.

He puts his hands around her neck and she reaches her arms around his torso. The warmth of her body meets his tight chest. Head back; her eyes are closed. She clings fiercely to him for death. He mistakes this for weakness and rages at her fragility. His grip stiffens at her throat until she comes.

Then goes.

Posted in Flash Fiction | 2 Comments »

Friday Round-Up

Posted by Flood on June 9, 2006

Not a lot to review this week. Jaye's interview was an insightful success. Thanks Jaye! Bernita Harris is next in the hot seat, on Monday. There has been some back room talk about my own interview, which I was loathe to do, but I've been having so much fun with other people, I thought I would provide opportunity for anyone who wanted to interrogate me. I'll collect questions here, over the next few weeks. Help yourself.

Yesterday's game was a hit as far as humour goes. Schprock runs with the monkey people (last link not safe for work), Bernita needs a lawyer and Jason offered to represent her. I am a little worried about Scott's boys though.

Fringes moved to a new home, with her own domain here.

HACK is a funny addition to anonymous advisors, but Blogger was being such a pain this week for comments. Got a writing dilemma? Be sure to email HACK.

Melly discusses blog goals and how to achieve them.

Jeff makes with the funny in Hillary Goes Hunting.

After reading about Dahni the Wonder Cat, Lorelle challenges us to blog about someone or something that changed your life.

Jamie Ford is on his way to Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp, and he's left us with a cliffhanger in his latest post. Zing good mojo his way.

Finally, MG Tarquini has a really great little story on Flashing In The Gutters (where yours truly appeared this week)

Yikes! One more link: The SurLaLune Fairy Tales Site A portal to the realm of fairy tale and folklore studies featuring 44 annotated fairy tales, including their histories, similar tales across cultures, and over 1,300 illustrations. Discover hundreds of fairy tales from around the world here.

The no comment thing is driving me insane. How can I make new friends and influence people without comments? How can I maintain the love I got going with the friends I have already?

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Game Thursday

Posted by Flood on June 7, 2006

It's interesting to think about what messages were missed with Blogger's outage yesterday. Maybe someone waxed so poetic it would move others to tears. Maybe a flame war was averted. Perhaps a declaration of love was made and lost, which, in the end, was best. It might have passed that the funniest comment ever written was shipped out into the ether, never to be recaptured again. We'll never know.

Because, with Blogger, you get what you pay for.

All that aside, now, because it's Thursday and today's game isn't really a game at all. I am gonna test your mettle. Don't wimp out on me today. As in, do not.

In a conversation with a pal recently, we talked about our future selves. The daydream game was really moving, because it happened during a time we were both feeling low about our writing. It was uplifting in the moment. You may not require such an inspiration right now, but chances are you will later, so make this good.

Write a brief paragraph describing you-the-author in 10, 20 or 30 years from now. It should read like a blurb encapsulating your writing career. It's not an obituary. It could be the introductory paragraph to an interview or the About, on the backflap of your novel. You get the idea.

I'll go first in case you're chicken:

Flood turns the everyday into magic with her unique perspective of life. Her latest novel is Down From the Mountain. Her belief that in every evil there is virtue and every good can enable bad is what transports her work into a place readers can recognize in their own lives. Seven novels behind her, she writes on, spinning tales of the ordinary turned extraordinary world around us. Her best-seller status is supported by die hard Floodlings

Flood and her husband live in the Muskoka Highlands of Ontario, where they enjoy life's mysteries without having to worry about paying bills. She rarely gives interviews.

This is where I hope to be in about twenty years. I'd like also to be a grandmother, but I have no control over that portion of my life.

Sadly.

OK! It's your turn. Give us a glimpse of your writing future in a few lines. Where do you hope to be? How do you hope to be perceived? What do you hope they say about you? Make it third person, please. Less chance of "I hope's" or "I think's."

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I/You/They

Posted by Flood on June 7, 2006

I've been having problems lately with my big project. It's in first person right now and I like the tone, but at times it moves slowly because the protagonist doesn't have all the pieces to the puzzle while moving through the plot.

Third person would allow for greater exposition, not in back story, but in the readers understanding of what's going on. Giving the reader the whole picture as it unfolds might maintain interest throughout the story to see what happens. I would like to think I am a strong enough writer to keep people rapt in the first person, discovering with the protagonist what's happening, but it's a lot more work.

In the end it might be worth it, though.

My understanding is that there are gender lines for POV, in this respect. Women tend to write more in the first. I can't find an argument for why that is, other than "the implied intimacy of first person, as well as the fact that many men tend to be event and action oriented, not character oriented" [Linda Adams]. This makes sense in action scenes with many characters. It wouldn't flow well from in just one character's mind.

First person can sound gimmicky or amateurish. The author could conceivably think that it will be easier to deal with one POV. Sometimes it can read like the author is finding out what happens with the reader, giving little confidence in the writing.

But. I really like what I have so far. It's just taking a little longer to get where it's going. I know about the dangers I could get into. I hope.

This is exactly why I need a writer's group, like Jaye mentioned in her interview earlier this week. How are you guys faring in the world of POV? Do you prefer one to the other as readers, or as writers?

BTW, speaking of Jaye, she starts a new feature today, so be sure to check it out.

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Pay Attention, Kids

Posted by Flood on June 6, 2006

In grade three, I was easily distracted. I had selective hearing and was often lost in my own imagination. I was a princess or a pirate, depending on my mood, but I was rarely Flood, 'cause that's no fun. So, I often humiliated myself because I wasn't on the same page as everyone else.

I will share with you what turned that around. In class, Mr. Hunt was diagramming sentences for us. Terribly boring and a perfect reason to day dream. I half listened to his drone in case my name was called, but was lost in a world of pioneers, in wagon caravan to settle western Canada. The natives were sure to attack just as Mr. Hunt was recapping.

"So. Who can tell us what a noun is? Flood?"

"Yes?" Stunned bunny wakes up.

"What is a noun?"

My brain rewinds the tape and I am searching for the info. I am positive I know this. The answer clicks.

"A person who plays with their thing?"

It wasn't until I was 12 that I figured out why he laughed so hard. Or why my mother did when I told her of the day's news. Still, I knew they were laughing at me and not with me, so I tried to pay better attention after that.

I am sure most of you were young when the writing bug bit you. The joy of writing was reward itself and getting the story out was all that mattered. Publishing wasn't a consideration, it was just getting praise from one person that made you keep going.

I wanna remind some of you why you do this and bring you back to those days of pure creativity and fun. To that end, I present:

Little Puddle

She's 12, and she's a writer. She's also sad that no one but me has commented on her blog yet. And one of my comments included a threat to ground her if she didn't use the blog wisely. She was as excited to open the blog as I was when I made Flashing In The Gutters, yesterday. (Shameless plug via inappropriate segue.) You don't have to go through all her work so far, but throw the kid a bone, huh?

In Jason's interview, he mentioned one of his first stories he wrote as a kid, that got him excited about writing. Do you recall writing as a kid? What were your stories like? Did you get lost in them? Ever draw pictures to accompany your masterpiece? Did you keep any?

Let's hear it.

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Jaye Wells – The Interview

Posted by Flood on June 5, 2006

This week we sit down with Jaye Wells, of jayewells.com. An author, wife, mother and art scholar, Jaye tells us about how her blog began, her completed manuscript, and how she killed Fabio.

Jaye, thanks so much for taking some time for this interview. You look terrific. Can you tell us when and why you began writing with publishing in mind?

Thanks for letting me talk about myself. And by the way, those shoes are fabulous.
How did I get started? Well, I was a magazine editor before my son was born and a freelance writer after that. So I’ve been published in magazines and on web sites. But articles and copy writing lacked excitement for me. I had talked for years about writing a book, but had all the tired excuses for not trying. Then as my thirtieth birthday approached, I decided I needed to take a chance. Fate stepped in one day as I was scanning a list of continuing education classes at a local college. The class was about how to write a romance novel. Since I read a lot of romance it seemed like a good place to start. I started my first book in that class. I also joined RWA and the local RWA chapter in Dallas, called DARA. That was a year and a half ago. I now have one completed manuscript and am halfway through my second.

Wow. How long did the completed manuscript take you?

When I started that book I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I wrote on it for about six months. Then finally I hit the dreaded wall. I won't call it writer's block cause it was really just that I didn't understand plot structure. I sent an email out to my local RWA chapter asking if anyone was looking for a critique partner. To my delight a lady emailed saying that her critique group had an open spot after one member had to leave for family reasons. I met the three remaining members and we hit it off instantly. It was amazing to me because they're all published and have been working together for over ten years. Anyway, they taught me about story boarding. I threw out all I had (about 50,000 words) and started over. It took me three months to finish the book after that.

What's the best thing about writing, for you?

The days when it’s fun and things are flowing. It’s like an addiction. You spend the not so good days trying to reach that high again. One of the worst things about writing is process of getting published. It’s demoralizing in many respects. Sometimes I wish I was the type of person who could be content just writing without wanting to be published. But I’m not. I love having an audience, which is one reason why blogging is so great.

It's really a fun way of communicating with people you would not have met otherwise.

Totally. I've met some great people. I find it interesting how many of the bloggers I interact with are from genres other than my own. It's a great way to get different perspectives.

I am not sure what paranormal romance entails. That's your genre, right?

Paranormal romance is a love story that involves characters such as werewolves, vampires, ghosts, etc. I write about vamps.
My books are what is sometimes called “light paranormal.” I can’t stand these guys in capes lumbering around bemoaning their damnation. Dude, you’re immortal. You’ve got preternatural lovemaking skills. Have fun with it! But I see myself branching off into other genres—maybe women’s fiction? Who knows?

Are preternatural lovemaking skills based on anyone you know?

Are you trying to get me in trouble?

Haha. The protaganist in your novel is a museum curator. Is that a reflection of your art history education?

Yes. I got the idea for that book when I was working at a museum. One of our galleries had a portrait of a fine looking man in uniform from the 18th century. And I thought, what if a woman had a crush on a guy in a painting and then out of the blue he showed up?

Interesting twist. So, how did you come to start blogging?

This is kind of a funny story. My best friend and I were talking one night. We decided we needed to write an advice column. I’m a suburban housewife and she’s a single lesbian in New York. We figured between the two of us we’d solve any problem out there. I had heard about this thing called a “blog,” and said it might work as our medium for all this great advice. So I went online and checked out blogging sites. As a test, I signed up for a Blogger account. It was so easy I decided to start one for myself. Somehow in my excitement I forgot all about the advice column. Although it might be a fun feature in the future.

Sounds like a great ad for Blogger: Even *I* could figure it out!

Ha. That's true. Although I am proud that in the year or so I've been blogging I have learned some of the more advanced tricks, like setting up RSS feeds, changing my template and such. I am addicted to checking my stat counter, too.

What's the theme of your blog?

If I have a style or theme, I wish someone would tell me, cause I have no clue. I try to blog every week day. I hate it when people go more than a couple of days without an entry, even if it’s a link or something. Gotta keep the readers coming back.

Without readers, we're nothing. What's your favourite entry on your blog?

I enjoyed the series I did on personality types. My critique group uses them when we’re developing stories, and it’s a subject I find fascinating.

I just liked personality-profiling for my own ego stroking, rather than anything to do with character work.

Please, it's that way for me too. Total mental masturbation. But it does work with characters too.

What do you enjoy most about blogging?

First, I get to talk about anything I want. Second, I love that some people make a point of checking out what I have to say every day. How awesome is that? Third, I get to count doing a blog entry as writing on days when I make no progress on my book. Fourth, I love the community. For the most part, everyone is supportive and there’s a real exchange of ideas. It’s exciting.

I agree. It's also nice to not feel so alone in the craft.

That is one reason why I encourage new writers to join writing groups. RWA gets a lot of flack, but you can't beat it for resources and networking, even if you don't write romance. It's nice to be around people who get what you're going through.

What other advice do you have for new writers? New bloggers?

The best advice I have for new writers is not to believe every bit of advice you read about writing. It’s so easy to get bogged down in advice from people, books, etc. Then you think of a million stupid things to distract you, i.e. what font should I use or when I finish my book how do I find an agent. Just shut up, put your butt in a chair and write. Worry about all that other crap once you’ve finished something.
New bloggers should avoid discussing the minutiae of their day. The best bloggers who talk about their lives make the tales entertaining. Don’t tell us what you had for dinner unless it’s a good story. For example, Reality TV isn’t real. There are producers editing the tapes to make mundane events seems more dramatic. Don’t lie, but don’t bore us either. I also think trying new things is fun too. Do a contest. Ask questions of your readers. Make it interactive and people will want to hang around. Also, I’ve also found a large part of my new traffic comes from people who click on my profile when I’ve commented on other blogs. So if you want readers you have to be a reader and commenter.

It's a quid pro quo kind of deal for a lot of people.

Like you said, without readers we're nothing. If you want people to read your blog you have to share the love.

Whose blog do you use most as a writing resource? What website?

Miss Snark, Evil Editor, J.A. Konrath, Paperback Writer, and Buzz, Balls and Hype are all excellent sources for info about publishing and writing. I probably have about fifty writing-related blogs I check out though.

What blogger would you like know more about?

Well, you of course. The first time I saw you on Jason’s blog and after when you commented on mine, I thought you were a guy. I’d love to hear more about the name “Flood” too.

It's my second name, but the one I generally answer to. Weird, huh?

I love it! As someone with an unusal name, myself, I appreciate it. Oh, I forgot to say, I’d love to know who Miss Snark and Evil Editor are.

Wouldn't that ruin the game?

I suppose, but I am intensely curious by nature. I love trying to solve mysteries.

Tell us about your writing process.

I do a lot of writing at Starbucks while my son is in school. I also write at night. I am not one of those people who has to do a certain number of pages a week. I write pretty fast when I can focus. It’s making myself focus that’s the challenge. I don’t have any rituals or superstitions related to writing. My only habit is sitting on my patio and smoking while I write. I enjoy writing by hand although I don’t do it as much as I should. I do have to edit on hardcopy though. My hubby bought me a beautiful pen from Levenger for Christmas. It writes beautifully. It was my first pretentious author accessory. I also couldn’t live without my laptop. I belong to a critique group. We meet plotting days when we’re all starting on new books. When we plot we do a storyboard for the next book we’ll be working on. The board is divided into twenty squares. Each square is a chapter. We make notes for each scene in a chapter on Post-Its. The board is not set in stone, but definitely helps us get an idea of structure. However, for shorter pieces I rarely plot. Sometimes it’s fun to shake things up and write by the seat of my dungarees.

How does your family feel about this path you are on?

I wouldn't be where I am in my writing without my husband. He's the one who doesn't let me make excuses or hide behind fear. I’ve already written the dedication to him for the first book I get published. He rocks. The rest of my family is supportive, but they don't really understand why they can't just walk into a bookstore and buy my books. I try to explain that it's a long process, but you kind of see the suspicion in their eyes–like they think I'm lying and I really must suck. What will really be fun is when I sell and they all assume I'm rich.

You've queried. You've been rejected and accepted. How have you kept an even keel with that?

Well first of all, I have yet to be accepted. Unless you’ve heard something I haven’t. If that’s the case you’d better call me ASAP. No?

Sigh.

Oh you were talking about the e-zine? Yes, I was published at The Square Table. See, now that I've moved on to fiction, I tend to discredit my previous publishing credits. It's like starting all over again because editors don't care if I had a couple dozen articles published in a lifestyle magazine or an essay published about getting a tattoo. They want to know I can write fiction and keep the reader engrossed for 400 pages. And it's a very different animal from a 2000-word article on the newest bathroom trends.

As for rejection, it's part of the deal. It sucks. Like everyone, I have days when I swear I will never send out another query again. And really bad days when I swear I will never write another word. But then hubby laughs at me and tells me to get back to work. Or my critique group reminds me that the road to publication is long and I need to just do what I love and not pressure myself about the publication part. I hate it when people are sensible. But you know what really keep me going? My son. I never want him to let a little discouragement keep him from pursuing his dreams. What kind of role model would I be if I gave up because some faceless agent (or fifty) didn’t fall in love with my story?

I’m impatient. And I have control issues. Not a good combo for someone in a business this slow with so much out of the writer’s control. I try to focus on getting the words on paper and enjoying the ride. But I won’t lie. It’s frustrating as hell. That’s why it’s nice to have friends who are writers. People who have been there. They remind you that you aren’t special. Getting rejected is part of the dues paying.

And you'll just keep going for as long as it takes?

I know I will be published in book-length fiction. I feel it in my bones. So, yes, I'll keep at it. Although, I have to remind myself that getting published isn't the finish line.

Romance Is Murder is a smart and funny story.

Romance is Murder is the result of a post I did a few months ago. I had seen a write-up about Thriller Fest. They had all these cool author events, like mock autopsies and trials. I complained that romance conventions didn’t have cool things like that. One of my readers, Jamie Ford (who has a fantastic blog—check him out) said it would be funny if someone wrote a suspense set at an RWA conference. He said, “Lock the doors, Fabio’s been murdered.” I thought the idea was funny. So I sat down and started writing. It started as a very short story, but took on a life of its own. I decided to do it as a serial on my blog. It’s gotten some good reaction and I’ve had a lot of fun with it. It’s one of those things I haven’t plotted out. I plan to do more installments in the future. I don’t plan on making it into a book. I mean, can you imagine Fabio’s rabid fans busting down my doors? Not to mention his lawyers. The story has made me interested in writing humorous suspense though. We’ll see.

It cracked me up but it also had a kind of hardboiled feel. Pulp-y.

Honestly, I don't read a lot of mystery. I inhaled the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich though. I loved her voice in those books. I enjoy suspense or mystery when there's some humor to soften the edges a bit. But I wasn't trying to sound like anyone or anything with that story.

What do you think has changed about your blogging style since you began?

As I said earlier, I started my blog on a whim. At first, I didn’t make it public. I just wrote stuff I found funny for my friends. I basically harassed everyone to comment and it became kind of a joke. I’d write outrageous stuff to see if I could get a reaction.As I got more into the blogosphere I realized the potential for getting my name out there. Plus I wanted more comments. What can I say? I like the attention. So I made it public and started talking more about writing. I stopped talking so much about my family and doing things just to amuse myself. Now I try to remember that I have an audience that isn’t required to read me everyday.

You mentioned Jamie Ford earlier, he's very funny. You also lean heavily on humour in your blog and writing.

Is this where I am supposed to be self-effacing and say I don’t think I’m funny? I don’t know that I could write without some humor involved. I’ve written some darker stuff, but I think my voice just naturally lends itself to humor. I love making people laugh. Plus, I think having a good sense of the ridiculous helps keep me sane. Sometimes it’s a matter of having to laugh at life, otherwise I’d cry.

Jaye, it was great of you to share some of yourself with us.

Thanks for having me. It was fun exposing myself in public.

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Next Week: Bernita Harris

FlashFlood interviews writers weekly, who blog. Any writer at any stage of of publication is interesting. If you would like to know more about your favourite blogger or want to be interviewed yourself, email me.

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