Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pride and Prejudice ~ Emoticon Style

Sorry for the late post, but I'm traveling today...escaped the mid-western blizzard and am somewhere between hubby's family's (where we spent a lovely Christmas) and my family's (where we will be celebrating later in the week).

So today, just a short little something that my friend, Katy Madison, sent me. The classic Austen novel, Pride and Prejudice, as I've not seen it before...no, not zombies or vampires or even sea monsters (all which have been done this year, btw. Well, maybe the sea monsters were Sense and Sensibility). Get ready for the entire novel in three acts, told only by emoticons!


Enjoy, and I shall see you again in 2010! Happy New Year, friends.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Gretchen's Fantasy Santa List of 2009

Okay, for some readers my blog title last week conjured up images of actual “fantasy Santas” rather than a wishlist. Since I hate to disappoint, I’ve decided to remedy the situation.

So, appearing one time and one time only at Heather’s Historical Hodgepodge...here are the hottest “Santas” I could find.

What? He’s hot. Don’t you think he looks awfully warm under all that fur? I mean...what did you expect? This is (mostly) a historical blog. I had to put a Victorian Santa first!

Is that more what you were expecting? I hope you’re enjoying this, because I can feel the blush creeping up just posting these!

Nice scarf...

Gretchen, here’s as close to your “Fireman Santa” as I could find. At least he has the suspenders.

Sexy Santa bearing Mistletoe.

My face is flaming right now, I hope you know! (Please don’t let my mother stop by the blog today. Or my hubby (hi honey!) ...oooh, or my high school basketball coach from Facebook. That would be mortifying.)

And finally...

Another Victorian Santa, just to assuage my scandalized sensibilities!

There you are... I hope this post lived up to its title. The next partially clothed person you’ll ever see on my site will either be in a work of art or on a book cover (hopefully mine)!

And thanks, Gretchen Jones, for the idea for this post.

Merry Christmas, everyone. We’ll see you next week.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Fantasy Santa List of 2009

Writing has been very difficult these past few weeks. I’m not sure why. I’m guessing it’s because I’m at the point in my WIP where my hero and heroine are starting to see each other as more than adversaries, and things should be getting all gooshie... Intimidating stuff to write for the analytical chemist in me!

As every writer knows, the best one can do in this situation is to PUT YOUR BUTT IN THE CHAIR and keep writing.

So I tried. I sat and stared at the screen. Whatever I did, I wasn’t going to get up from the chair. I trudged and I sludged through and came up with something like 5 usable words. But that was okay, because I was NOT getting up from the chair.

Hmmm. Still in the chair. Nothing coming out. Some writers, when they hit this point, distract themselves with computer games. Friends I know play Solitaire, or FreeCell or Farmville or Mafia Wars.

Me, I looked around my office and thought, “You know what? I need some inspiration in this room. I need a new desk. If I were writing on a period desk (or at least a reproduction, which would be easier on the pocketbook), I would be so much more inspired.” So I Googled “French Writing Desks” and boy, did I find some. Which started this exploration into time wasting that has now become my “Fantasy Santa List.”

So, Santa Baby (purred in my most gravelly Eartha Kitt tone)...I hope you’re listening.

For a mere $75,000, I can have this lovely Napoleon III Tortoise Shell writing desk.

Can’t you just see the words beginning to flow as I sit before it? A bit much? Okay, I’ll settle for something much more reasonable. For less than $5000, I can have this.

Although, as my husband so practically pointed out, why would I spend so much on a desk that I couldn’t even sit a drink on without fear of ruining it? Hmmm. True. Maybe I’ll just keep my $99 thrift store desk I’m currently writing on. Think I could gilt it???

Next on my list, of course, is a country home in the UK. I mean, that would be VERY inspiring to a historical author, right? I could sit in my office looking out of the expanse of my wooded park and just breathe in the inspiration!

So, Santa, I’ll take this:

It’s only GBP £4,250,000 for this Classical Country house built by Sir William Bruce in 1685. And when I need some inspiration, check out this view from the back.


Not in the budget? Fine, I guess I’ll take this one instead. It’s only GBP £1,600,000 for Balmory Hall, an Early Victorian mansion house with spectacular views over Ascog Bay. And look, there’s a lovely desk already in it, just waiting for me!


Still a bit much? Fine...it is a recession, Santa. I understand. I’ll be just as happy with this one at £950,000, just outside of Glasgow. Yes, it’s a little “newer”, built in 1914, which is outside of the period that I write, but I’m quite certain I would still be inspired greatly!

And finally, I’ll take this custom car built by N2A (no two alike). It’s called a 789.


It sits on a Corvette C6 chasse with its front styled like a ‘57 Chevy, sides like a ‘58, rear like a ’59, hence its designation “789”. The base price for this custom car starts around $140,000. And yes, I know. No one in Georgian, Regency or Victorian England had a car like this, or any car at all for that matter. I don’t want it because it will inspire my writing. I want it because it’s COOL!

Well, there ends “Heather’s Fantasy Santa List of 2009”. Now, I’d better get back to reality. And writing! Husband says that when I sell my first book, we’ll talk about a nice “reproduction” French writing desk—one that I can sit a drink on as long as I use a coaster. And that sounds lovely.

Of course, as nice as all of those other things would be, I wouldn’t trade them for the things that I have: my wonderful husband and son, and the love of our families and friends.

What’s on your “Fantasy Santa List” and what do you have that you wouldn’t trade away for everything on it?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Writing: Scenes, Purpose and the CASTS system


Newsflash. Scenes must have a purpose. Preferably more than one purpose. They must have an easily discernable goal--stated pretty much upfront--that the character clearly meets or doesn’t meet, followed by the realization that our character can NEVER go back to the way things were before this scene occurred.

Not just some scenes. Every. Single. Scene.

Man, I wish I’d have known that back when I first started writing. I wrote scenes I loved, full of character development and action and sexual tension and lovely description. Yet no matter how lush or funny or sexy the writing, none of those things alone is enough to justify a scene.

Oh, the pain of having to cut 230 pages of pointless stuff from my first manuscript and basically start from scratch with what was left!

But without a goal, without that purpose, scenes lose their tension...and ultimately, lose the reader.

While I’m sure we’ll talk about this in another post, I am no longer a writer who gives myself permission to write crap. I know...I know...you can flog me for that later. But having to cut so much from my manuscripts has made me very stingy with my words. When I put them on the page, I want them to count.

So before I write any scene, I lay it out on paper. Not entirely, just the bones...but before I type a single word, I have to know what the purpose/goal/conflict of my scene is going to be. If I can’t justify it to myself, I shouldn’t be writing it.

The first thing I do is write down the scene goal for each character: What do they come into this scene wanting, specifically? I may have an alternate scene goal as an author, which is fine. But that doesn’t change that each character must have their own scene goal to justify how they will react to whatever I throw at them.

Next, I write down the word CASTS. This is not my idea...I learned this in a craft program given at my local RWA chapter a couple of years ago. I wish I could remember who the speaker was so I could give her credit, but I’m sorry...I don’t. However, her advice has stuck with me and I use this system to this day.

C = Conflict
A = Action
S = Senses
T = Turn
S = Surprise

If your scene doesn’t have each of these five elements, it is not complete. Period.

(Not to be confused with a “sequel” to a previous scene. For more on Scenes and Sequels, read “Scene and Structure” by Jack Bickham).

Let’s look at each more closely.
Conflict—what or who specifically is going to stand in the way of your POV character meeting his/her scene goal and how?
Action—something must be happening in the scene...we don’t want to watch someone sitting in their car, or doing needlework or something. This must be something that moves the story along.
Senses—make sure you engage us by utilizing your POV character’s senses at least once during this scene.
Turn—this is where the story takes a distinct shift because of what has happened during this scene...from this point on, your character can never go back. Whatever they learn or experience during this scene leaves them changed, even just a little.
Surprise—either one of the characters or the reader must be surprised by something in your scene...it doesn’t have to be a huge surprise (√† la a secret summer lovechild). While you’ll want the occasional big surprise in some scenes, others can be as simple as your character being surprised by how he feels about what he’s just experienced.

And never fear...if you are more of a "pantser", you can still apply this during revisions. Just write down CASTS and see if your scene is missing any of these elements...if so, you can decide to fix it or scrap it.

Sound daunting? It may be a little, at first. But I promise you, if you get this down and make it part of your writing routine, your scenes will be stronger for it. And if each and every scene moves your story along, readers will be pulled along with them. And that’s always worth it!


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Start as you mean to go on...

So, looking back at my first three posts, I realized something disturbing. They were all about me!

A friend once told me that writers inherently have big egos. Otherwise, how could we ever think other people would spend precious time and money to read words that we’ve written? That may be true...

As any writer does, I like to think that the stories I’m telling will be enjoyed by others, but I don’t have ego enough to expect you’ll just keep coming back to my blog to hear me talk about myself week after week...how dull! I really want this blog to be more about YOU! I want people who stumble across this page to get something from it. But what?

Here’s where I run into a snag. I’m not an industry professional, so I have no great insights for you. I’m not a historian who can offer you fabulous new tidbits about life in olden times. I used to come across interesting info in my readings/research that I could have shared, but now I have a young child at home—there is NO extraneous reading anymore and the only places I go these days are playdates and critique group (also known as writers’ playdates).

So what could I possibly offer you?

(cue crickets)

Hmmm...I’m not sure, exactly. Which is why I named this blog “Hodgepodge.” You’ll get a mix of things: snippets along my journey to publication, a book review here and there, interesting stuff I pick-up about history, writing craft tips I glean, life lessons I learn from my toddler, recipes (I put my Chemistry degree to work in the kitchen!), as well as any finds in movies, books, or music I might come across when I have the time. And I’m sure to throw in the occasional reflection on my life.

Still don’t know what you’ll get from my blog? Me either, precisely. I imagine it will evolve. I’m expecting the craft of blogging to be a bit like writing--the more you do it, the better you get at it! I hope you’ll give me a little rope and stick around to see what this ‘hodgepodge” becomes...

Up next week? Writing Craft - a blog about Scenes with Purpose.

What would YOU like to see more of?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Navigating the Net

Okay, for the past week I have been getting myself up to speed (well, maybe just a notch above neutral) on all this nutty net stuff. I now have a MySpace page, I’m on Facebook and I’ve even tweeted...twice!

I even figured out how to link to those pages from my blog—thank goodness they make it easy to do that these days! Of course, I still have a lot to learn...like, ‘how do I get the cool first paragraph of a new blog post onto my “wall” on Facebook,’ and ‘RSS feed??? WTH?’ It’s been fascinating, frustrating and very time consuming.

I have to admit it’s also been fun...the most enjoyable so far is Facebook. I’ve reconnected with friends I haven’t heard from in more years than I’m going to say publicly. I even got to talk to one of my favorite peeps that I’d lost touch with, who is now teaching English in Thailand, for goodness sakes. How cool is that?

However, it’s now time for a reality check. I am a writer with a young child at home. I have limited free time. Time which must be spent WRITING. And as fun as all of these other things are, they distract me from job number two. (Job one being my family, of course).

One of my favorite authors, Lisa Kleypas, said once that she didn’t allow herself to even check e-mail until she had 1200 words under her belt for the day (not in those words, exactly. She would have said it much more eloquently and with some lovely description).

I am going to have to take a page from Lisa’s book and limit myself to checking Facebook--and my blog and everyone else’s cool sites and blogs and walls and pages that I’ve discovered this week--to once a day AFTER getting in my word count goals. And I’d be smart to save it until night time, when I’m creatively zapped.

After all, my goal is to be a published author, and I’m not going to get there if I’m not writing!

That being said, I’m off--back to work on “Sweet Enemy”.

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving! I’ll see you next week...but only AFTER you’ve completed your own goals for the day, right? ;)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wearing The Tiara...

I have many flaws, but the thing my husband says he wishes he could change most is that I tend to brush off successes in the overall push for perfection. And since perfection isn’t possible, I always feel like I’m failing. I have trouble appreciating my accomplishments, and usually say something silly like “Yes, but I still have to do X and Y before I can get to Z.” I never just enjoy the moment.

So, one of the things I’m working on is to celebrate little victories.

To that end, I will tell you about “The Tiara”. Early on in my critique group, we decided that we should do something to reward our milestones on the path to publication. We were all pretty new to the craft, so we decided we would celebrate all manner of things: first novel completion, contest finals, requests, first submissions, etc.,--all the way up first and subsequent sales.

So, off to Walgreen’s I went, and purchased the $3.98 plastic princess tiara with matching jewelry set and a bunch of big fat stuffed plush roses (it was around Valentines Day, so there were plenty of romance type things to choose from—a great time to buy things for promotions, btw).

Whenever a member hits a writing related achievement, she gets to wear The Tiara all through critique group. We make cards, take pictures…it’s great fun. We’ve celebrated some fabulous triumphs, most recently Fran Abram’s 2009 Emily final (with request for a full) and Katy Madison’s 2-book contract with Avon.

A couple of weeks ago, I learned that my manuscript, “Sweet Enemy”, is a finalist in the SpacecoasT Authors of Romance’s “Launching a Star” contest. I was very excited when I got the call, as I’d been beating myself up about my writing for a few weeks. Soon, however, my exhilaration wore off, and I started the “Yes, buts”. I won’t bore you with all of my negative self-talk, but I did subject my poor critique group to it and let me tell you, I got a lovely but firm e-mail butt-kicking from my friend (and fabulous author) Katy Madison. I’ll spare you that, too , but in a nutshell she told me to BE HAPPY. And she signed off with:

“And you are absolutely wearing The Tiara”.

So, here I am, wearing The Tiara.

Sunday night, I found out that “Sweet Enemy” is also a finalist in the Romance Writers Ink’s “Where the Magic Begins” contest. I am over the moon (clich√©, I know!). It looks like I’ll be wearing The Tiara again on Wednesday. (Don’t worry...no more pics).

It is an honor to be among the incredibly talented finalists in the historical categories of “Launching a Star” and “Where the Magic Begins”. Therefore I am going to celebrate it and leave my “Yes, buts” behind.

So, let’s use this comment section as The Virtual Tiara…go ahead, toot your horns! I want to hear any and all tiara worthy things you’ve accomplished of late…

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Stepping a toe into the blogosphere….

Hi. My name is Heather. And I am a Luddite.

Okay, not quite a Luddite. After all, I do love my new netbook (it’s pink!) and my schmancy new Keurig coffee maker totally rocks, but suffice it to say this is my first attempt at blogging. I don’t Tweet. Facebook? My Space? Oh my gosh, I’m so far behind. I do actually have accounts on those two sites (as a dear friend of mine forced me at virtual knifepoint), but I haven’t touched them since signing up. I suppose one of these days I will have to figure all of that out, too.

The sad part of this is that I’m only in my thirties. I don’t even have the excuse of not knowing how to work a computer… (Does having an 18 month old who won’t let me anywhere near a keyboard or mouse while he’s awake count?)

So why, you ask, am I starting a blog? Because even a youngish technophobe like myself recognizes that the internet is THE venue in which to connect with people – friends, family, other writers, agents, editors and hopefully someday, readers!

I’m sure I’ll start slow. Remember that 18 month old? Well, I have to use every spare second of nap-time to actually get my writing done. But I hope in the months ahead to build on this humble beginning and create a blog we’ll both (you and I, that is…he’s too young) find interesting!

For now, I’ll leave you with a question. Since I am new to the blogging world, why don’t you share with me what you love about your favorite blogs and why you read them? I’d love to learn from those more savvy than me!

Until later,