Doing My Homework

Goal, Motivation, & Conflict by Debra DixonAs I continue to flounder through my current Work In Progress (WIP), I am looking for ways to make the process come together more quickly.  Another author with my publishing house, Peggy Jaeger, recommended Goal, Motivation, and Conflict By Debra Dixon.  I’ve read through it quickly once, but now I am going back through and doing what the book told me to do.  That means I am doing homework! It’s been many years since I’ve been in school, so homework is a bit of a foreign concept to me at the moment.  There’s also that whole “old dogs, new tricks” thing that plagues many of us over the age of 50.  I am no exception.

I originally checked the book out from the library, because I wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted to spend money on or not.  That first read showed potential, so I found a used copy online and bought it.  It’s been a few years since the book was published (1996), and although it’s still in print, used copies are going for almost the same price as brand new.  Still, if it helps me get to my goal (writing a second novel) it will be money well-spent.

And so far, the homework seems manageable, and sort of fun.  Today, I will be watching the The Wizard of Oz, which was assigned in the first chapter.  So, before I can move on (I just finished chapter 2), I need to watch that movie.  There are others on the list, but it is well-known that I am not a movie/television person, so I’m not sure I’ll get through the rest of the list.  I hate losing an evening or sunny afternoon to a movie, even an entertaining one.  My German, semi-rural upbringing makes it virtually impossible for me to sit still doing “nothing” unless it is productive.  If I’m sitting and writing, that’s productive.  But sitting and watching a 2 hour movie is not productive. I cannot fathom how people can spend an afternoon or day or weekend binge-watching some popular television series, unless they are bedridden with illness or injury. It is a foreign concept to me. I do watch sports mostly football and baseball), but it’s always while I’m doing something else – working on a craft project or quilt, cleaning house, folding laundry, etc.   I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

Anyway, back to the homework.  I have seen The Wizard of Oz many times.  Probably at least ten times.  But it has been at least a dozen years since I’ve seen it, and I’m sure there are parts I have forgotten, and will need to know in order to do the homework in GMC.  So I will sacrifice part of a sunny afternoon today to watch a movie, instead of doing something outdoors, or finishing the weekend chores.

Have you read Goal, Motivation, and Conflict?  What do you think of the process, and have you used some of the process (or all of it?) to write any of your novels?  I would love to hear your thoughts!


Fairest of the Faire – available now!

Fairest of the Faire book coverBlurb:

Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law’s Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.

Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie’s don’t-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.

When she is threatened by her late husband’s bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.

Available NOW!

Buy at Wild Rose Press:  (eBook and paperback)

Buy at Amazon (Kindle and paperback)

Buy at Barnes and Noble (Nook)

The Cooking Heroine

Green beans

Some of my home-grown green and royal purple string beans.

My heroines are sometimes so much like me.  Or maybe, I just feel compelled to insert some of myself into them.  After all, who do I know better than myself?  But one thread running through all of my heroines is that they cook.  Every work-in-progress, my published novel, all have a heroine who cooks.  In Fairest of the Faire, Connie makes a mean buckwheat pancake.  In Second Chances, my terrible self-published novel, Genevieve runs a bed and breakfast.  The entire story is sprinkled with her cooking.  In my current WIP, my heroine cooks some plum-braised pork chops, and uses her own canned peaches to flavor her fresh-simmered steel-cut oats.  The historical novel I’ve been piddling with for the last ten years has a heroine who spend all of her time in the kitchen on an Italian estate.  Another WIP that I drag out and work on once in a while woos the hero with a home-cooked Italian meal, even though she has spent much of her adult life traveling the country in an RV as a freelance photographer.

It’s all about the food.

Maybe it’s because I’m fluffy.  Maybe it’s because I like to cook.  Maybe it’s because I like food.  Maybe it’s a result of my generation, where women did cook, and cooked a lot.  Or more likely, it’s how I bring my heroine back to earth.  It’s a way of making her “real” in a way.  I often refer to my heroines as “sweet,” and my stories are sweet as well.  So having a cooking heroine seems natural to me.  Her appeal to most men would be pretty assured.  At least in my mind.

I have read books that were sprinkled with recipes, or where the heroine was a caterer or baker, and there would be recipes at the back of the book that I could try myself.  I always like these types of books.  It’s like getting a bit more for your money.  “Look!  Free recipe!”

I know I don’t think about it consciously.  It is just something that sort of happens.  I am fascinated by recipes, never pass a facebook post with a recipe without clicking, and pick up used magazines from the free table at the library if they have a recipe on the cover.  I love to cook, and spend a lot of time in my kitchen working with delicious ingredients.  Maybe I missed my calling somehow.  Maybe I should have become a television chef.  The thought amuses me.

What down-to-earth things do you have your heroine do?  Is the purpose to make her more “real,” more like a woman you would actually meet in real life?  Do you talk about cooking in your novels?  Let me know in the comments!

Happy Valentine’s Day

Weddiing RingsToday in the United States, it is Valentine’s Day.  The day of all things love.  The day of all things chocolate and roses.  The day of charm, and proposals, and embellished cards and chocolate covered strawberries.

The history of St. Valentine and his connection to “love” is rather dubious, and I’m not sure how we got to this maddeningly sweet celebration that can be a polarizing event for many people.  Those who have a valentine go all out, and those with no valentine lament the way singles are “singled out” as being single on Valentine’s Day.

The day itself gives me very mixed feelings.  I married my first husband on Valentine’s Day, in a misguided wish to have him remember our anniversary.  We argued loudly outside the wedding venue that day, I remember.  Yet I still went inside and married him.  Gosh, was I stupid!  It was certainly a sign of things to come.

And I met my current husband at a Valentine’s Dance.  We’re still married, have made it more than twice as long as that first marriage.  Things aren’t perfect, but when are they, really?  And my husband is a romantic.  There are flowers, and chocolates, and sappy cards on Valentine’s Day.

You would think that I would be the romantic, since I am the romance writer.  But I’m way too practical for that.  It’s the German in me.  I love flowers, and chocolate, and sappy cards.  But my brain just thinks, “hey, we could have bought ____ with that money.”  My heart may be romantic, but my brain sure isn’t. Not that I don’t appreciate the flowers and chocolate.  You know I’m eating those chocolates.  And sniffing those flowers. And getting moist eyes when I read the sappy card.

As a romance writer, I put a lot of romance in my stories.  Sweet gestures of love like small gifts, a sweet or steamy glance, a small but powerful touch, a romantic meal in a dark cafe or a sunny picnic in a park.  Showing you love someone is not hard, and doesn’t have to be costly or complicated. In fact, I would say the smaller gestures stack up in a much more meaningful way than large ones.  And smaller gestures should happen year-round, not just on Valentine’s Day.  True love happens every day, not just on February 14th.

What gestures do you like on this day, and other days with your partner?  And what do you think about Valentine’s Day?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Location, Location, Location

You’ll pardon me a bit today, I hope.  The Big Game is on tonight, and I’m a bit distracted.  It’s All Broncos, All The Time around here right now.  Half of the people you see walking around anywhere are wearing orange and blue.  Yesterday I found the grocery store packed, with everyone doing what I was doing – buying snacks and chicken wings.  We can’t help it.  We’re Colorado, and this is our team.  Go Peyton!  Not that Cam Newton isn’t a hell of a nice guy and all, but as we like to say around here, “If God doesn’t love the Broncos, then why are our sunsets orange?”

This also means that our local paper was digging through the archives, pulling up interesting stories from years past when the Broncos were in the Super Bowl.  Being a Woman of a Certain Age, I find it amusing that the throwback stuff from the 70’s still seems fresh and new to me.  I mean, wasn’t that just last year?

One of the throwback stories was a recipe from 1978 for an “Orange Cake.”  And the photo with the original article puts the cake in the hands of a woman dressed in a plaid shirt, sitting on a lichen-covered rock with a background of pine trees and blue sky.  I can hear the conversation that took place before this picture was taken.

Orange cake in the mountains

“Delores, we’re gonna have to ask you to meet us up in Rocky Mountain National Park with that cake, so we can get a decent picture.”

(photo courtesy of the Denver Post, photographer Bill Johnson.  Model was food editor Helen Dollaghan.)

Because if we’re in Colorado, we must all live in the mountains, and all of our pictures will show pine trees, rocks, mountains, and blue sky.  I’ve lived here for five years.  I do not live in the mountains, although I live very close to them (less than six miles).  I spend a lot of time in them and have taken plenty of pictures of myself on rocks, with pine trees and blue sky in the background.  But I’m not carrying cake around in the mountains.  Because Magpies love cake.  And we’d all die.  Kind of like what happens on the beach with seagulls when you decide you are going to eat your lunch.

What does any of this have to do with writing?  I like to think many of our preconceived notions about any geographical locale is formed by what we’ve heard, or by what media has portrayed over the years.  If I think of California, I think of Venice Beach.  I’ve never been to Venice Beach.  There are only two places in California I have been – San Diego and the San Jose area.  Neither of those places look like Venice Beach.  But my memories are full of images of people roller-skating on a sidewalk with the beach and the ocean nearby.  Accurate?  Hardly.  When I think of New York, I think of tall buildings and streets where the sun never reaches the ground.  When I think of Texas I think of cowboy hats and cattle walking the streets.  Mexico looks like a small adobe village, with a church, two cantinas, a big stone fountain in the middle of town, and women wearing colorful swirling skirts.

Those are nothing more than ideas that have ended up in my head because they were portrayed to me that way in the first place.  Accurate or not, there they are. Is that picture of the orange cake in the mountains even close to accurate?  Funny, but definitely not accurate.

Are we doing this to our characters when we write?  How realistic are our settings, our locations?  Are we taking the time to do some research, so that our locations feel “real?”  Can we mix the accuracy of the location with the need for some poetic license before we set our characters in our scenes?  I know that now that I live in Colorado, that old draft of a novel set in Colorado is in serious need of a location overhaul.  I made a lot of assumptions, even though I had done some research.  I was pretty off-base.  Like the picture of the orange cake – now that I live here, that picture seems wholly ridiculous.  Not that we don’t bake cakes in the mountains (I live at altitude, and I definitely bake cakes).  But we don’t all have a rock-pine-blue-sky backyard.  The  picture makes me laugh at its silliness.  And I know I don’t want readers laughing at my locations in my stories.  Silly is not really what I’m going for, for the most part.

Not that we shouldn’t or don’t want to idealize our locations in our novels to best effect.  But we should be keepin’ it real.

Now, who wants some orange cake?  Go Broncos!