June Rodriguez
JUNE: I made an attempt to decide on a writer that I could use as a contemporary example of my writing genre and /or style. It was more difficult than I expected. After going through about a dozen of my favorite authors I found that most of them were printed 10-15 years ago. Not quite the up to date examples I needed. How can I give my fellow critique partners an idea of what I write when I can’t even find one myself? It looks like my search for a contemporary needs a little more research on my part and a closer look into my own writing.

DORI: June, I understand your reluctance to read too many authors writing similar books but I think it is important to have a general idea of the market. I know you want to tell your story, untainted by what others are writing. That makes sense to me. However writing today is very different than 10-15 years ago. It’s different because readers today have different expectations. What worked for Shakespeare wouldn’t work for us. Understanding reader expectations is important. It won't change the story you want to tell, but certainly can affect how you decide to tell it. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with as an example.

SARAH: Writing evolves. The romances of the 80’s and 90’s are not the styles of today. Readers want more heroic heroes and heroines with smarts and independence. I know where you’re coming from in not wanting to venture out, but there is nothing wrong with getting a taste of what has changed. Have fun-you may just find an author to begin following.

JACKIE: Who's to say we won't actually find a greater range to our "voice" by reading other authors. I know I am certainly still growing up as a writer and there are aspects of what I want to reach for that have not reached my imagination. I think reading the work of others in our genres (and beyond) allows us the opportunity to glimpse a piece of our writer selves expressed in phrases and style we may not have thought of but are in our repertoire waiting to be discovered and used. So--I will gather my favorite stuff and take a serious look at what influences me and opens me up.

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SARAH: Write your character NOT you. We all have inhibitions. That one little thing we wouldn’t normally do, but that may not be so for our characters. While I might draw the line at chasing down a killer, my heroine, Melanie is hell-bent to attract one! As writers, we have to remember to get the heck out of our character’s way and let their voice shine through.

DORI: Characters in books are larger than life, that’s what makes them entertaining. If they mirrored my reality they would be REALLY boring. What’s hard is to allow ourselves to explore personalities, lifestyles, and situations that are outside our normal humdrum lives. Those lifestyles may be more vulgar, more risqué, more polished than ours. In other words, more interesting that ours. Getting into writing about from different perspectives doesn’t reflect badly on who I am as a person. I am not my characters.

JACKIE: There is a wonderful freedom that comes from writing stories. We can create characters and give them words and experiences that we would never seek to say or do (and may not want to). Remember that what your character says and the actions he/she takes are telling a story. It's the story that comes from you, that you want to place out there.

JUNE: When writing my characters I have to remember they are not me. I find I have a tendency to want to control them using my own standards. I will hold back on the urges to let my characters do and say things I personally have a hard time doing or saying. I have an inner me that is evidently a little repressed. I would never have believed that was true with the early life I led. My mother definitely would never believe it. I need to let loose my character's own head of steam and send them on their merry way and I might learn something from them.

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DORI: Life has a way of always interfering with our writing lives. Kids, jobs, bills, you name it they demand our undivided attention while our writing is relegated to the wee hours of the night or early dawn. What we need to assuage our writer’s cravings is to carve out some time, away from our crazy lives, to dedicate to writing. I’m excited that we're going to try to plan a retreat (hopefully on an annual basis) where our Friday Night Write group can meet for a long weekend of nothing but helping each other on our novels. I think June’s suggestion of a cabin at Yosemite is ideal. Now let’s make it happen!

SARAH: Since becoming a stay-at-home mom, one of the things I miss is the ability to grab “me time.” My writing is being pushed to the wee hours of the night the older my kids get. Therefore, I’m in full support of a Writer’s Weekend. How fun!!! No distractions, no chores, and certainly no diapers! Sounds like heaven to me.
A few days of concentrated writing could open the door for a lot of possibilities…like finishing our darn books!! Count me in and I’ll bring the chocolate. Bears don’t like that stuff right? No scenes from The Great Outdoors, please!

JUNE: Oh, what a great idea. We just flew with this one. Can we all say, we all need a stress break to write? I have visions of beautiful vistas outside a large patio door, a kitchenette stocked with good and bad writing fuel and plenty of writing space with no distractions (no internet). I will start researching info right away. We can start the next meeting with an update.

JACKIE: I am really excited about this. It feels like taking the bull by the horns. This is an important step we are taking together. To BEND our worlds to fit our need to write and finish our books. And that we are pursuing this together only strengthens it more. Yosemite here we come!
I too can envision it June. The filtered light coming into the windows through the tall trees. The scent of the mountains-especially in the evening. Ahhh, there is a place to write a story.

DORI: All right, now we definitely have to do it. I'm salivating already!
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June Rodriguez
JUNE: With the beginning of the New Year most of us have been working on beefing up our writing expectations. I think we should include a dose of healthy expectations. For me the holidays included a few extra pounds for the start of January. I want to get back to adding some exercise time to my day. I’ve already made changes to my family menus to include more whole grains and vegetables. I am hoping to lose those new year pounds and a few more.

DORI: Ugh, now I feel guilty about my need to lose weight, exercise, and write! Of course they say exercise boosts ones creative juices, so maybe I should find time to exercise. At my house, we have integrated healthier eating this year so I can cross that off the list. Now to find a way to address the rest.

SARAH: Ha! Good topic, June! We writers sure hate “sagging middles.” With my own health at issue right now, I’ve realized the importance of setting goals and sticking to them! A healthy diet is fuel for our writer’s brain. Stay focused and aware. After all every wants a big rock, just not one in her gallbladder.


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SARAH: It’s amazing how many people are out there chasing the dream of publication. I visited a new blog site and was aghast at the number of aspiring writers congregating in the comments sections. I wish I could say I wasn’t affected, but I’d be a liar! It was a mixture of awe and fear swarming my head. Rather than getting bogged down in doubt, we need to stay focused on crafting a manuscript that will stand out in a crowd.

DORI: It can be very intimidating when you stop and think about it, so I don’t. I’m committed to writing my book, whether it is ever published or not. Yes, I would love to see it on shelves. Better yet, have it make a best sellers list. I’ll certainly strive to write a novel good enough for both. However, in the end I have to write it for the sake of writing it and let that be enough. If it is a success, that’s just a bonus.

JUNE: It feels like two ends against the middle as we struggle to achieve the best of both worlds. You have to write something in a form worthy of sending out to a publisher but at the same time you have to put who you are out into the internet in all its current got-to-do-it forms. I feel sometimes that being a writer is like being a mother. You give birth, nurture it, clean up the messes it makes, and then finally send it out into the world to live its own life.

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DORI: In reviewing my work tonight it dawned on me that all of us write in different genres (or at least sub-genres). These differences should be considered by each of us as critique partners. For instance, historical romances may use a lot of description whereas thrillers do not. To increase our effectiveness as critique partners it would be helpful for each of us to be more familiar with current writing in each others genre that represents our “market.” In that way when I’m editing I can keep those things in mind, so I provide pointed feedback.

JUNE: That’s a good point Dori. I have noticed some of our differences before but never thought about making a cheat sheet of my genre style. There are defiantly some aspects of my genre that do not pertain to yours. My dialogue is punctuated with more tags and we rely on more descriptive phrases. Providing each other with a sample of a writer with a similar style is a good idea as well. I found a site the breaks down the different genres and sub-genres. I was surprised at the breakdown. http://www.writersdigest.com/article/genredefinitions/

SARAH: I can see the benefit to doing that. It makes a lot of sense. Each genre has its own rubric. If we have an example of current market trend, we can better identify whether the work in front of us is following the ebb and flow.
Another benefit is we have to identify an author whose work is most like our own-which is a tidbit that might come in handy for query letters.
Good call, Dori!! I’ll take you and your fisticuffs any day. *wink wink*
June Rodriguez
SARAH: I found a really cool Plot Structure sheet. It helps you to figure out the stages of the manuscript and the critical turning points. Another find was the WIP Workbook from Jeannie Ruesch. The sections she has on Characters really helped me focus on what my H/H's Internal and External conflicts were and how they tie into GMC (Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.) Using the WIP Workbook and the Plot sheet (as found on Kimberley Killion's website), I have a MUCH better grasp of my plot--and the places where I needed to ramp things up. I realized that I'd been focused on making my plot work and not developing my characters. I felt like I'd been visited by Little Bunny-Foo-Foo! Talk about seeing the light!

JUNE: Thanks for all the great information on plot structure, Sarah. I can’t wait to get started on it. Working on my internal conflict has also taken a back seat to the external conflict.

DORI: Since I write plot-driven, versus character-driven, novels it is easy to skim over the internal conflict issues, but to do so is a mistake, since plot-driven books with strong characters are better stories. The character's internal conflicts are the things that readers understand and empathize with. We can more easily put ourselves, as readers, into the character's shoes if we experience and feel his/her internal conflicts. It is also what helps us accept the things they do as being reasonable (in character) or not (out of character). Without internal conflict our characters are more two-dimensional than three. What many refer to as cardboard characters.

JACKIE: I've already started on the WIP workbook, and I love it. I began listing things about my characters that I never thought of before. Doing so made me realize the "why" behind the decisions I had my characters make, and this was important because for one, it led me to better understand what future actions they would take (this is soul of storytelling) and two, what actions they would not be taking (thus saving missteps and plot drops in my storytelling). All Hail Bunny Foo Foo!

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JUNE: There are a lot of writing conferences and workshops available this year. I’m looking at a mystery cruise in November and maybe a small conference later in the year. I would love to go to the RWA National conference in July but it is too far away to fit into my budget. I know some ladies that are going and I am looking forward to hearing all about it when they get back.

DORI: I have only been to one major writing conference back in 2006, which was a conference specifically for lawyers writing fiction. The conference was held in Cape Cod. Definitely worth the money, but expensive none-the-less. This year I am planning on attending three that are affiliated with the mystery genre. March is Left Coast Crime, which will be held in Los Angeles this year. So close to home I couldn't pass up the opportunity. October is Bouchercon, which will be held in San Francisco this year and therefore an event close to home that I will go to if possible. November I'm booked on the mystery cruise being organized by our former critique group member, author Sunny Frazier. I'm working on June to go with me on the Mexican cruise, both for the vacation and for the conference. Budget and time are always an issue, but if possible I'll make it to two if not three of these events. Looking to be quite the year for writing conferences.

SARAH: There are three conferences this year that I'd like to attend. The RWA Nationals in Nashville, the Desert Rose in Scottsdale, and the Emerald City in Seattle. If I had my choice, it would be the Emerald City. My hope would be to pitch my completed MS to an editor and agent. What a prize to keep my eye on! Better make sure I cross the finish line this year, huh?!

JUNE: I like the info for the Emerald City conference. I have lived up by Seattle before. Maybe we can go together. I think I am going to go on the cruse with Dori. Can’t pass up the chance to mix writing with a vacation.

JACKIE: I don't have a conference on my immediate agenda, but I do want to attend any small venues close by. There is one in Palm Springs for all genres that is in early Fall. Every year I have had to pass on it but this year, I am going to try and sneak over there, even if it is just for a day. I will share info on this when I receive it.

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JUNE: I found some good sites for you guys. They are submission trackers. We can use them to keep track of our submissions to contests and publishers.
The first one is http://www.writersdb.com/. You have to sign on first to get into the info.
The second one is http://www.duotrope.com/ and it has a great Deadline Calendar that tells you the publisher and the theme of submission they are looking for.

DORI: I recently discovered duotrope as well. It is a wonderful source for keeping writers informed of contest and publishing opportunities. I will certainly check out the other site that you've listed. Can never have enough resources. Now the issue is producing work for submission. As we all discussed Friday night, this is the year everyone wants to complete their first novel. In the meantime, it would be nice to chalk up some publishing credits and if earn a few dollars in the meantime. However, that means writing short stories, articles, etc. that take time away from writing those novels. Key will be to find balance. I have found a lot of satisfaction in finishing up a short story or article, while I'm working my way to the end of a novel.

SARAH: I hadn't heard of either site. I'm looking forward to scoping them out. Thanks for sharing, June. Another site full of tips and charts for tracking submissions is Jenna Petersen's Passionate Pen. Before I had the good luck to find you ladies, I referred to that site religiously.

JACKIE: Excellent, ladies. I look forward to gathering them all up.

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JUNE: The best thing about our group is that not only do we work together online but we do get together in person every week. And this week Sarah updated our Blog with a new WIP progress bar. Sarah thanks for being our go-to girl for the latest and greatest in the blogosphere.

DORI: Kudos Sarah for making us all look better on-line. As I told all of you Friday night, when you are talking webese it's a foreign language to me. Glad you all can figure it out, since I don't ever plan to. The WIP bar looks great and will certainly up the ante in putting the pressure on getting the words written, especially when my bar is barely out the shoot and way behind the rest of you.

SARAH: Not a problem! Nothing like putting it all out there for the world to see! I love the challenge of figuring out the HTML "stuff". I'd really like to take a class in website design. Additionally, I think a lesson or two in making banners and titles would be a benefit, too. That way when the time came to make my own video trailer, I would know how to contribute to the process.

JACKIE: You did a great job, and made working with the HTML "stuff" not seem so daunting. Thanks a bunch. It is beautiful!

JUNE: Maybe we can get some help from my son. He is teaching himself how to do You Tube videos and I already asked him to teach me.
June Rodriguez

JUNE: This is our first new year as a group. I think we should start the year off with our own resolutions. Writer resolutions. No big long list for me. I liked the idea of writing 100 words a day but I want to be more specific and set an amount of time to write. My first resolution is to write for one hour every day. My second is to finish the first draft of my novel by the 1st of November. In November I want to begin something new during NaNoWriMo.


SARAH: I think your goals are very attainable, June, and not too life altering. It seems we're always placing huge mountain-sized goals upon ourselves- as moms, as writers, as business women, and as wives. The more we pile into our schedules, the more likely we are to fumble in the end zone. (Yes, I've been forced to watch TOO much football this weekend!) With that reality in mind, I was very careful to set goals for myself that I KNEW were feasible. 300-600 words a day. My darling hubby gifted me with a wonderful mini-PC for Christmas and I plan on utilizing the hell out of it.

I purposely kept my goals simple this year. Finish my book and increase readership on my blog. Now, if I can just whip my chocolate and diet coke habit into shape, I'll be in like Flint!

JUNE: I second the breaking of the chocolate and diet coke habit. Could we just start with chocolate? I will work on the diet coke part at a later date. 300- 600 words a day is an awesome goal. We will do what we can to help keep you on goal.

DORI: New Year's resolutions aren't on my agenda this year. I rang in the new year at the emergency room after the news that my husband's leukemia was back in full force. Still struggling to deal with not having a full-time job, kids, juggling multiple projects trying to maintain a roof over the family's heads, etc. Sigh. One of my sons asked me yesterday, "What about your writing, Mom?" I had to reply that there's no time for that right now. I've resigned myself to taking life one day at a time. When I can I'll sneak some writing in, but that's the most I can commit to. To commit to more would add more stress to my life than I can handle at the moment. So, I will simply be thankful for whatever writing I accomplish this year and being part of this group.

SARAH: And we are glad you're a member of our group! You're a kick-ass writer, Dori! We'll be here for you, always!

JUNE: Same here. Plus we can send our support via the internet, ect…
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JUNE: I read a lot of books this year. It’s hard to pick a favorite but the one that sticks in my mind the most is Killjoy by Julie Garwood. I read mostly romance but this year I tried to read out of my comfort zone and this is one I picked up because it was a crossover with a familiar name. I could not put it down. The romance took a back seat to the chilly, evil presence that ran amok throughout the book. Another book I enjoyed was How I Write, Secrets of a Bestselling Author by Janet Evanovich with Ina Yalof. I initially read this book with the intent to learn something about how an author writes and I did succeed with that goal but I also laughed my butt off. I like learning something new when it is presented in a fun way. My third book on my best of list is one I reread this year. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. Sometimes you just have to go back to a classic.

SARAH: Oh, June!! KillJoy is awesome!! You should try
Ms. Garwood's Heartbreaker!! Very chilling! 2009 started a little slow for me in the reading department. In early summer, I was introduced to the Twilight Saga books and promptly read all four into two weeks! Definitely worth it, people! Next, I took on reading the much waited for Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon. I think I read all 800 pages in four days. This fall I was introduced to books on CD. Since then, I have "read" two mysteries: The Night Stalker by James Swain and Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain. I liked Sweetheart the best. It was very interesting to see the "hero" of the book not be so heroic. That kind of trait would never fly in romance. Plus, I got to experience the writing cadence of a mystery novel. I'm planning on adding some more mysteries to the list very soon. Hey, it's free!!

Besides the mysteries, there was Shadow Music by Julie Garwood, Mountain Laurel by Jude Deveraux (which hubby enjoyed listening to, as well!), To Distraction by Stephanie Laurens, and Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey. Actual reading wise, I tucked Stephen King's On Writing under my belt, both 2009 releases from Lorraine Heath, and novels by Kathryn Caskie and Julia London. It's been a wonderful year of reading AND research!! Some of these authors will even be appearing on my blog this year!!

DORI: Love to read, but find that all my reading these days is linked with my author interviews. This last year I enjoyed reading Phillip Margolin's Fugitive, James Grippando's Intent to Kill, Jeff Abbott's Trust Me, and Kelli Stanley's City of Dragons (due out February 2010). I get a lot out of reading other books in my genre, but also ventured out and read the Twilight saga and a few other books outside my normal reading library. Something to be learned from all of them. Now if I could find time to read the other 50+ books sitting on my desk (not to count those on my book shelves) I would be happy. Unfortunately, time is in short supply for me, so they may gather dust, but I'll read when I can. My favorite writing book this year was Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne & King. I highly recommend it to all fiction writers. It earned a permanent place on my writing desk.


SARAH: You should try lending books on CD from the library! It gets addictive, shopping through the library system's online catalogue. You can log on, select a book on CD, and have it delivered to any library you chose- for free!!! LOL You should see how long my "Request List" is. Plus, the library will send you an email when the book or CD arrives and is ready for you to pick up! You don't have to do anything more than pull up, go in, check out, and leave!!! I've done it in less than 5mins! You get the book for up to 3weeks! Try it, Dori! I find listening to the audio books very relaxing as I drive my kids hither and yon. I even listen to them at the gym. I also think that by "hearing" the story, I pick up a lot on "craft" and writing styles. Think about it, lady!

JUNE: I like your suggestion about checking out CD’s from the library as a request. I have done that many times with research books but never thought to do it with the CD’s. Thanks for opening another door for me to start the new year.
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