Blogs, Books, and Blithering

Barrett_GCLS 2014 ad (1)

 

images-2Spring is beginning to show its tender shoots, and walking with the canine triad is becoming more enjoyable, especially  with the impressive amount of ballet and aerobics. (you are missing quite a sight.)

I just got back from a walk and it made me think about springtime as a child. Where I grew up, there was a vacant lot between our house and our grandparents. We called it images“no mans land.” Closer to the street hung an incredibly long tire swing. Some local tree surgeons hung it on the high branch of an oak tree—at least 25 feet. You can imagine how far that tire would swing. It was strong enough that two of us could ride it. Many hours were spent out there playing, exploring, or making up games.

imgresBetween that and the garages at the back, lay a large wild flower bed. There were a couple of trees, a few bushes and scads of flowers. We had lily-of-the-valley, violets, and a trillium. We spent hours playing out there in the summer, and to this day I remember the smell the flowers. Dad got us an army surplus hammock with a tent cover. Perfect!

Life was so very different back then. It sometimes makes me nostalgic thinking about the simplicity and slower pace. We rode bikes everywhere and images-1had our own skate-keys. Alas, I have no moral to this trip down memory lane. Just remembering.

What I really wanted to write about was my fourth book in the Damaged series. It’s taken a few years for me to get Zeke and Anne through the trials of Scylla and Charybdis.

Throughout, it has been a challenge and a pleasure writing about two women I’ve grown very fond of. The road has been rocky for all of us. But the takeaway lessons have been worth it. I’ve both resisted and embraced the many facets of post dramatic stress disorder, but learned a great deal in the process.

From the very start, in an unpublished story, Zeke has been a very complex character. Anne was much more linear. Because of those differences, they adapted to problems in very unique ways, which added to the fabric of the story. It was a challenge for me to switch POV’s (point of view) during some of the challenges they faced. I needed to jump from Anne’s linear, emotion-laced logic to Zeke’s compartmentalized rigidity. So when I got to book 4, I was able to discover and reveal what Zeke was like before the trauma that started with the serial killings in Chicago.

I won’t give it away, but I’m very pleased by the direction these two women chose. I think you will be too. I know there are many readers reluctant to start a series until all the books are published. For those special people– you won’t have to wait long. The book is finished and in the hands of my beta readers. As soon as I finish their reviewing their notes, it will be off to the editor. In the meantime I do have a brand spanking new cover to reveal. Once again Ann McMan and Tree House Studio have put the icing on the cake.

deliverusfromevil_lg Many thanks to all of you who have followed the series providing me with inspiration and support.

The next project is forming out of the mist and I’ve begun the research.

Stay tuned and have a happy spring.

2014 WWW of New Mexico “Reader Writer Exchange”

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A little over year ago, and intrepid group of writers came together on a rainy Saturday morning to set up the campsite for the first annual WWWofNM grill ‘n’ gab.

The sun poked its head out and we enjoyed several hours of congenial fun and food.

We read excerpts from our books, met new friends, grilled hotdogs and hamburgers, and talked about everything—especially doing it all again a year later.

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On Saturday, September 27th, we gathered at a new venue (read: indoors, A/C, chairs) for the 2nd Annual get together to talk books and writing. With help from the WOA (Women Out and About) 29 people gathered at Total Wine & More-Uptown, in Albuquerque. The classroom was large, open, and quiet.

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CK and Boz

 

 

 

Mary Ann Bosworth arranged for coffee and donuts, which allowed everyone to mingle and meet. CK provided a wonderful program with full-color pictures, bios, maps, and directions to local sites.Plus, she got most of the great photos

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Nat Burns and Kayt Peck

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Janie Franz, Isabella, Kayt Peck, Nina Knapp, Julie Cannon, Nat Burns

Our diverse panel of authors included: Nat Burns, Julie Cannon, Janie Franz, Isabella, Nina Knapp, Kayt C. Peck, and Barrett.

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Barrett and Julie Cannon

 

The program was designed to provide readers an opportunity to ask questions about writing process, steps to getting published, reading, and critiquing. And even though we prepared a stack of index cards with common questions, our enthusiastic audience members were able to keep a lively conversation going until after 4 p.m..

10646779_10203297120085682_443821343058451637_n   We held a raffle to defray the cost of the morning break, and each author donated books and other swag to the winners.

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As planned, the very supportive staff at Total Wine prepared and delivered and informative wine tasting for those who wished to stay.

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After final cleanup, we already assembled at Sadie’s east for margaritas, nachos, and a delightful meal with good friends.

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The overwhelming majority agreed to do it again next year, the last weekend of September, at our new venue.

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The Day’s event was summed up beautifully by one of our participants:

“Nevertheless I was delighted to see all of you sitting up in front and the smiling, laughing comments and answers to questions. The power and joy I felt was akin to the early days of developing Women Studies at UNM when we were equally proud and self-assured and smiling. Thank you and all the women for a wonderful taste of joy!”  ~Ann Nihlen

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Many thanks to all who helped make this event so successful especially the readers who so generously support our writing!

*Julie Cannon   *Nat Burns   *Isabella   *Janie Franz   *Nina Knapp  *Kayt C.Peck, *Barrett

 

“My Writing Process Blog Tour” Barrett’s Turn

BinkLook! A Blog!!

At the behest of Jody Klaire, I am participating in the #Mywritingprocess Blog Tour. The purpose is to give each author and opportunity to discuss her work briefly and pass the torch to another author.

I’m delighted and honored that the irrepressible Jody—one of the bright new stars in the Bedazzled TOTS Brigade—chose me. (Look for her new book, Empath soon)

On with the questions.

1. WHAT AM I WORKING ON?

At the moment, I am working on revisions to book 3 of the Damaged series, Dispatched With Cause. After books 1 and 2, Damaged in Service and Defying Gravity, I needed a mental-health break and worked on a brand-new romance, Balefire.

The Damaged series was started in 2009. At the time, the story manifested so quickly, I could hardly keep up let alone worry about grammar or punctuation. That was a painful mistake that I am still correcting.

After some wonderful editorial coaching on my earlier works, I needed to make some signification changes to the third book in the series. In addition to cosmetic changes, I wanted to amp up the tension since this is the third book of four, it needs to produce a major turning point.

Now that I have pushed Zeke and Anne to another new challenge, I will begin work on revising book four.

 

2.   HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS IN THE SAME GENRE?

I guess I would say that the major difference is the story arc, which is deliberately written over a span of four books.  I envisioned the story like a television drama. It would be an end to season with a cliffhanger, then resume with the next season. Evidently, that’s not how commercial fiction is written. Who knew?

If you read the series, you’ll know that cliff-hanger was not a popular option for many of the lesfic community. They wanted HEA – happily ever after, as well as all the loose ends tied neatly.

I radically changed the story in book 2, but needed to keep the storyline intact. (Note: writing “by committee” is not the wisest direction.)

I consider this series romantic intrigue. However, that wouldn’t describe each individual book. Yet there are strong elements of both romance/love and intrigue in all.

 

3.   WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO?

 

Like many others, I write the kinds of books I want to read. And in fact, it’s one of the things that make it difficult for me to read them critically. Almost every time I start to don my editing cap, I get caught up in my characters lives and don’t see the minutia. It makes me lousy editor. But…a good reader!

Recently I had this discussion with a friend and told her that I enjoy writing romance because I want to learn to be a better writer. I want to learn the craft by reading and writing stories that resonate with so many people.

When I’m ready, I have at least three books in my head that will be much closer to literary fiction. In the meantime, there are at least three or four manuscripts already written that I want to revise and submit.

And besides, I can’t NOT write.

 

4.   HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK?

Glad they saved this one until last.

I would best be described as an imaginative, unrepentant, undisciplined, procrastinating Panster (someone who writes from the proverbial Seat of her pants). This is the polar opposite of a plotter (someone who lays out a foundation with a plan, notes, and or an outline.) I attended a conference with a very successful plotter who brought her outline in the form of an excel spread sheet 12 feet long!

At that moment I feared that I just didn’t have the fortitude to become a writer. But, at some point, I realized my strong suit was story-telling. I come from a long line of Gaelic story tellers.

Most of the stories I’ve created initially character driven, so I begin by creating the individuals around whom the story will grow. For the purpose of this blog I’ll use Balefire is an example.

I scoured several name lists to find Kirin Foster and Silke Dyson. I made up birthdays and did horoscopes on each woman, including their compatibility.  I threw them into an actual situation based on a true story to see what would happen. I knew I wanted a Romance that was fairly uncomplicated. (Insert snickering)

I transported each woman to the airport. Coincidently, both left from the Milwaukee airport, where their paths did not cross. During this process, I found out who the secondary characters were. I also learned some of the back story.

Each scene unfolded moment-by-moment depending on whose point of view I was writing from. If it was Silke’s point of view, everything was painted with a level of anxiety, resignation, and her visual disability.

When I was with Kirin, I became a type A impatient, irritated, and disconnected frequent traveler.

Voila! The scene is set and I just need to navigate my two characters through it. The rest comes from my own history of traveling the same route, from the same airports, with the same conditions. The only thing I needed to change was the point of view. Then add to the mix a circus-trunk full of imagination.

One scene begets the next scene. For me, it’s linear and organic. I don’t create scenes independently and try to fit them into the story. On rare occasions, when I have been asked to move the scene or event to another part of the story, it’s been incredibly difficult, because each piece of the story is built on the information provided by previous blocks.

I have tried outlining a new story first, and I’m stopped at the gate. My brain just doesn’t work that way. I can use the structure to evaluate AFTER the story-line is written.

The downside of the linear approach is breaking the scenes and chapters into manageable pieces, while still keeping the reader turning the pages. I like to take breaks 😉

The upside? I love to makeup stories and then “Spackle” them with ambiance and emotion. It’s been fifteen years since I started writing the Epic Medical Mystery with 22 characters and 6 subplots, all from a singular omniscient narrator.

Thanks for stopping by!   I’d be interested if anyone has questions, please share.

 

And now, it is with great pleasure I pass the baton to another of our Bink TOTS, Baxter Clare Trautman. 

Baxter Clare Trautman earned a Masters degree in Biology at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and promptly turned her hand to writing. Her thesis became Spirit of the Valley, published by Sierra Club in 2000, and was immediately followed by Bleeding Out, the first in the critically lauded L.A. Franco mystery series. Her latest Franco book is  in the pipeline.

A practicing wildlife biologist, Trautman lives in central California with her wife, dogs, cats, and chickens.

Her latest release: The River Within

 

 

Part Two of the Collaboration Cha-cha with McMan and West

The Blog Mistress chimes in.  Again…. The results are in.

Friday  Jan.10th 2014  Results:
Ann’s number is:  10  (the winner is Elizabeth Sims)

Salem’s number is:  1 (the winner is Mary Anne Frett)
(believe it or not, these were from random.org)
Most interesting question: mesaraven’s question for Salem about how to attract knowledgeable readers to lesfic, etc.

* Thank you to all who joined us, we loved your enthusiasm and contributions. Mesaraven Please contact me (barrett.writes@gmail.com)  Elizabeth and Mary Anne contact Annmcman@gmail.com)

TOTS!

Ann, Salem and Barrett –Conference Nurse

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If you remember in our last episode (day before yesterday-scroll down) Ann McMan stepped up and strapped on with her memorable responses to some questions about the collaboration on Hoosier Daddy.  Today, we’ll hear from her wife of 21 months, Salem West.

DSCF7275But first my intro to his part. Ironically, I also met Salem through her review of my first book. I was thrilled by her spot-on analysis of my intent in writing the experience of a veteran FBI agent afflicted with PTSD.

Long story short. We’re corresponded, chatted, and Skyped for months as she helped 2012-03-30 10.50.49with my Nanowrimo project. Within months, she introduced me to Ann–“the love of her life” and the rest is history. We all met face to face for the first time in Austin 2012 for the Lone Star Fest.

So it is my great pleasure to share the pensive half of team AMFA, Salem West.

Since 2011 when you debuted The Rainbow Reader, you have reviewed a variety of books from both large and small publishers, including independent and self-published authors. You have earned a well-deserved reputation as an independent and balanced reviewer.

 In 2013 you moved onto the stage as a fiction writer. Working with your wife, Ann McMan, you co-authored Hoosier Daddy: A Heartland Romance.

 Would you please share your thoughts about working both sides of the street?

Well, technically, “working both sides of the street,” means to engage in deceitful or duplicitous behavior. And, while it is true that my sisters often registered formal complaints with Grandpa Hames that I hid extra Hoppy Hippo cards up my H.R. Pufnstuf pajama sleeves when I was three, I can assure you that my good fortune in Animal Rummy was simply a combination of preparation, strategy, and providence.

I’m not sure what the proper idiom for reviewing books and being an author is, but it’s probably closer to ‘batting both ways’ or ‘straddling the fence.’ Be that as it may, the experience has been utterly terrifying. As a reviewer, I deconstruct a story and try to present an informed opinion as to whether or not the characters, plot, point of view, setting, style, and themes hit the mark—and are interesting, innovative, surprising, or challenging. However, as an author, I am the one the readers, reviewers, critics (and Ann’s mother), put under that very same microscope at 100x magnification.

 How has this experience differed in both preparation and execution from preparing your reviews?

For me, the preparation and execution required to write fiction is quite similar to what is required to write reviews.

WP_20131211_025 Before any words hit the Hoosier Daddy page, Ann and I talked ad nauseam, usually while eating dinner or taking a bath, about major and minor characters, plot lines, point of view, our setting for various scenes, how to combine our styles into one voice, themes, metaphors, and how to effectively mangle idioms for maximum literary impact. We knew the beginning, middle, and end of the story before we started writing, and we spent more hours than I can count doing research about UAW organizing efforts, union busting, the economic meltdown, transplants, the automotive manufacturing process, lockout/tagout, OSHA violations, monster trucks, and chair caning techniques. Heck, one night Ann and I spent hours driving around the highways and byways of southern Indiana and southeast Illinois on Google Maps so she could get the lay of the land and visit the small towns we were writing about.

When I review books, I often do comparable research about the type of book the author is writing, the area they are writing about, jobs and names of characters, and why certain chosen elements may have been used or not. I also consider wretched little things like pacing, editing, and realism of dialogue, and whether or not each scene has a purpose, and whether transitions are effective.

 Do prefer writing fiction or non-fiction? And would you consider another novel?

Well, there may be another novel down the road a ways, but in 2014, I really want to WP_20131206_008focus on taking The Rainbow Reader to the next level. By that, I mean that I’m concentrating on things like morphing TRR into an eZine—offering more reviews, op-ed pieces, and additional content. Having a Bully pulpit will be an added bonus.

As for fiction versus non-fiction, I honestly prefer being an essayist and the challenge of mastering my own voice. There could always be a book in that, but I’d still need to do some serious thinking and planning, and that would require more bath gel than we got for Christmas.

 You have married into the job of “first reader” for your wife Ann’s recent releases. Has your work as a well-read reviewer affected your beta reading skill?

First up, Ann doesn’t use beta readers. She is probably the ‘cleanest’ writer I’ve ever met—every time she opens her working file, she edits everything that came before. She is meticulous. So, if there is a mysterious beast called a ‘beta reader’ in her camp, it is surely she. As for me, I’m really a ‘first listener’ because I always ask her to read for me— I do so love to experience Ann McMan’s stories in her own voice. You could say it’s my guilty pleasure.

[ed. if you ever have the opportunity to hear Ann read–don’t miss it!]

WP_20131208_015Beyond that, I offer suggestions, ask questions, and flag inconsistencies, but I rarely do anything more substantial than proof and limited line editing on Post-it® notes before she submits the manuscript and the typeset galley. For the long-term health of the household, and in accordance with §7, Section 4, Part 2.E.3.c of our prenup, I must clarify that only Ann McMan makes actual editorial changes in her manuscript.

 And did writing Hoosier Daddy affect your objectivity for reviewing?

No. It didn’t affect my objectivity for reviewing. In fact, my objectivity for reviewing is one of the few things that weren’t influenced by the experience. I will say that it did fortify my policy of being honest yet respectful in my reviews. Now, knowing from personal experience, any book, whether praised or reviled, came about because of some author’s hard work, passion, and persistence.

Think it’s easy? Try it. No. Really. Don’t.

Why? Because the other thing that has really shifted is my frustration with shortcuts. That is, authors who don’t take the time to do the research, significant consistency errors, plot lines that disappear, and disregard for a pesky little worm known as grammar. Respect for the effort is one thing, but quality (or lack thereof) always comes through.

 Last summer you participated in an interesting panel with two other reviewers.  Can you share some thoughts on the changing landscape of lesbian fiction?

IMG_1132Not long before that GCLS Panel (featuring Elaine Mulligan and Lynne Pierce, and moderated by Carleen Spry) I published an editorial on The Rainbow Reader titled The Lesfic Boomtown Foretold: A Cautionary Tale by Salem West.  The thesis was that growth is a good thing, but too much growth too quickly can easily overwhelm an industry. Along with the huge increase in demand by readers of lesbian literature in the last three years, I see a significant decrease in the quality of writing, editing and publishing across the industry. I also see a reading population that has not yet found its voice when it comes to speaking up for their rights and expectations as readers. That is not to say that all writing, editing, and publishing is bad, because it isn’t. Likewise, there are several loud and proud voices in the reading community that continue to call for a correction. Still, across-the-board, we all need to consider our pursuit of growth in conjunction with our ability to develop authors, publish their products, and advance the legacy that our foremothers entrusted to us.

 And what do you see in the near future?WP_20131208_020

I need to run out to do my trading, and then home again for thirty minutes on the treadmill. After that, I may get back into the book for my next review, and start on dinner before Ann comes home from her regrettable day job. This is Tuesday, and that means meatloaf.

Thanks for participating in this unique joint effort. Let the questions commence!

**Wrap: Winners of a copy of Hoosier Daddy …OR a book of your choice from Ann McMan,will be selected by a random pick of the commenters. I have asked Ann and Salem to select the most interesting Question from either set of responses for a copy of Balefire. Winners will be announced Friday Jan 9th at 8 PM EST.

Turkey, Thanksgiving, and Chocolate Silk Pie…oh my

from my house to yours…

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It’s hard to believe November’s over, well nearly. October was so busy with traveling, and the first part of November finishing up Balefire, while simultaneously doing a NaNoWriMo novella.

Happily, Balefire is available and doing well. The novella is finished and will hopefully be unavailable around Christmas—fingers crossed. The story for the novella stems from a comment Kirin makes at the end of the book and a suggestion by my editor. Essentially, the novella picks up several months after the story ends. It essentially finds the two protagonists joyfully working in the tropical splendor of Belize. Their three months sabbatical is coming to a close and it’s time for them to make some decisions about their lives.

Silke has a plan and Kirin has a problem. Both will be resolved by the time the story ends.

This was a fun little exercise for me. I had no plans to continue the story, but as I said there was one line that begged for embellishment. Ergo, a story was born. The switchbacks and plot points that popped up were complete surprise, and a couple of times I wasn’t sure how to get out of them. But I trust the process, and they worked out.

Since Nano is 50K words, and the novella was only about 44,000 words, I’ve been cobbling together the pre story for Zeke Cabot. If you recall in our last two episodes, the intrepid Zeke Cabot continues to struggle with the nefarious effects of her PTSD—which continues to be the elephant in the room. Of course, I am privy to the fact that she will, whether she likes it or not, be receiving treatment in book four. And I hadn’t given that much thought until recently, when I realized that I have been working with Zeke as a character for almost 15 years. But I know very little about her life prior to her time in Chicago. In order for her to get better, I had to know what “better” is for her. So I have taken her back to one year after Quantico when she is a fresh faced, enthusiastic, and patriotic young special agent. Young, single and living the high life in Washington, DC.

It’s a fun ride.

I’m going to take a break next week and visit friends for a few days of R & R—Rest and Ribaldry, and perhaps an adult beverage or two. When I return refreshed, I will jump into the revisions for book three of the damaged series, Dispatched with Intent. In which, murder and mayhem will commence.

I will also be offering free copies of Balefire on a Goodreads giveaway. Stay tuned.

And I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has bought, commented, reviewed, or promoted my work. You have made my dream job all the better for your support.