Thursday, January 28, 2010

Discovering Yoga!

In my effort to de-stress, lose weight, and get out of the house during the rainy season, I signed up for a yoga class at the local recreation center.  My teacher, Margaret, is in the most fabulous shape of anyone I've ever seen.  I'm in awe of the poses she can get into.   According to Margaret, yoga is her medicine.  She takes absolutely no pharmaceuticals and is in perfect health, not a bad goal to have.

I got into the class with some friends.  We're all beginners, so we immediately headed to the back row, hoping we could hide out there with our inflexible bodies.  Unfortunately, Margaret likes to roam the class and pay special attention to the beginners.  So pretty soon we're using blocks and belts and stretching every which way.

My favorite pose was the "Warrior" pose, maybe because it made me feel strong even as my legs started to shake.  I couldn't understand all the words Margaret used, and am still a long way from putting my head on the floor while bending over at the waist, But I did love the stretching and the slightly sore achy feeling at the end of it.  The next day I realized I was feeling muscles I hadn't felt in a long while.

As we were practicing one of the poses -- lying down, resting on forearms and putting hands behind small of back and kicking legs into the air in a bicycle fashion, my friend exclaimed, "I used to do this when I was a kid". I remember doing it, too, but couldn't quite fling my legs into the air the way I used to.  But I'm determined to progress slowly but surely.  I hope to get to the point where I'm concentrating less on doing it right and more on just sinking into the pose and letting the stress of life melt away.

So Yoga is my new hobby -- anyone else gotten the itch to get into the lotus position?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Writing Tips #1

Once a week I thought I'd share some writing tips that I've learned over the many years that I've been publishing.

Today, I'm focusing on beginnings ... a handy topic as I'm just starting book 4 of my Angel's Bay Series.

First chapters are so important. They serve several functions, introduce the characters, start the story rolling and set the tone, three critical issues. The opening must be compelling. It has to grab the reader by the throat and not let them go. And that has to happen even if you're not writing a suspenseful story. You still have to set a plot in motion that creates a question in the reader's mind, a reason to keep going.

I always dither about my openings. I probably rewrite the first chapter a dozen times over the course of the book, often going back halfway through the story to foreshadow something I hadn't anticipated. Which brings me to my first tip -- Push past those opening lines even if they're not perfect. Just write something -- anything, kick off the story. You can always go back and fix it later.

Another important tip about openings is that the reader has to immediately care or connect with one of the characters. It doesn't have to be instant liking -- in fact it can be just the opposite -- fascinated horror, but whatever the tone, you don't want the reader to look away, which means you have to introduce just enough details to make us curious about the character. Tell us something about them, not a lot, because we don't want to get bogged down in back story. But something that makes us realize they're about to hit a turning point, a crossroads, and the path they choose will forever change them.

In my book, DON'T SAY A WORD, the heroine is visiting a museum where she is planning to have her wedding reception in the garden area. As she is wandering through the collection, she is struck speechless by the fact that the painting of a famous Russian orphan looks exactly like her, but she's never been to Russia and she knows who her parents are -- at least she thinks she does ...  That painting makes her question everything she thought she knew about herself.

In my book, GOLDEN LIES, the hero, former war hero, accompanies his elderly grandmother to an antiques roadshow.  She has a red wagon filled with her attic treasures hoping that one of them will make her rich.  They discover that the ugly dragon statue that has been gathering dust for the past fifty years might just be from an ancient Chinese dynasty.  And suddenly more than a few people want that dragon, including the heroine and her family.  The hero's good deed in helping his grandmother with some spring cleaning changes his life forever.

In my book, ON SHADOW BEACH (Book 2 of Angel's Bay), the heroine returns home, the first line of the book ... "It was just like before ... the front door was open, the lights were on, the TV blaring, but no one was there. We learn quickly that the last time the heroine found the house in disarray, her 15-year-old sister had just been murdered. It's been 13 years, since she's been back, and she's only returned home now because her father is ill.  Her past and her present are colliding and as much as she wants to run away, she knows that this time she has to stay and finish it.

Hopefully, all these examples of beginnings make the reader want to know more about the story. Each one starts with the "day that was different". It's a moment of change for the pivotal character. Whenever you're debating where to start your story, think about "the day that was different".

Don't bog down your first chapter with a lot of details. Readers want to know what's happening now, and they're far more likely to want to know what happened in the past if you hook their attention in the present.

I personally love a good prologue if it's short, compelling and tells me something important. Some readers hate prologues, so it's something to consider when plotting out your beginning.  If you can relate that information elsewhere, then why not do that?  But if you have something out of the past, or some key moment that really seduces the reader into the story, I say go for it.

My last tip for beginnings is to make sure that Chapter one ends with the same compelling need to go as it begins.  I'll talk more about transitions in one of my upcoming writing blogs.

Hope these tips have helped. Any questions? Ask away.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Reality Shows ... Which ones make the cut ...

So as a new season of reality shows begins, I thought I'd take a look at some of my favorites and not so favorites.

 At the top of the list is Project Runway ... while Heidi and Tm, Nina and Michael were battling out with Brava and Lifetime networks, I tried to get into some of the copycat fashion shows ... like Launch My Line and the other one with Isaac Mizhri -- The Fashion Show.  I must say -- both disappointing.  Launch My Line didn't even take fashion designers, people who could sew, but rather just people who thought they could be designers and matched them with experts who basically do all the work.  The message here that bugs me is that anyone can be designer and launch a line without paying their dues in the trenches.  For heaven's sake, if you want to be a designer, why not take a few sewing classes and learn the craft.

The Fashion Show used designers, but there wasn't a high level of talent.  The problem with both shows in my opinion and where they miss Project Runway -- is that they don't have a Tim Gunn.  While the hosts go visit with the designers, they don't tell them anything, just sort of stare at their designs and not say a word.  It's awkward and not particularly interesting.  When Tim gets in there and tells them where they're heading wrong, that's fun and entertaining.  So I hope if these other shows continue, they'll offer some helpful insights.

But while I love Project Runway -- the Models of the Runway that follows after seems like a waste of 30 minutes.  There's about 5 minutes worth of excitement.  Again, they've built a show on nothing.  The models don't control their own destiny.  Being good doesn't necessarily mean they'll win.  Being likable or bitchy makes no difference either.  This show would be so much better if something happened ... or if they force the designers to shake things up.

As a writer, I tend to analyze the shows and it's so glaringly obvious where some of them are going wrong.

So what's your favorite reality show?  And do you ever wish you could rewrite the rules and make it better?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Welcome to my new blog!

I've set up a new blog to match my new website.  If you haven't had a chance to explore the new, I hope you'll take a look.  I've added a section of FAQ's, new book pages with excerpts for my upcoming books, ON SHADOW BEACH, out March 30, 2010 and IN SHELTER COVE, out April 24, 2010.  There's also a contest kicking off February 1st.  And lastly, I've set up a BEHIND THE SCENES pages for my Angel's Bay Series, where I discuss how the series got started and the legends behind the town as well as the original Angel's Bay quilt.  Check it out at

I'm hoping to mix up my blogs as I go along with writing tips, publishing biz info, guest authors and other fun topics.  Hope you'll bookmark this site or set up an automatic feed.

Happy reading!