Writing Disparate Genres

Like most writers, I have reasons why I write what I do. And, like most writers, the writing can grow stale without a catalyst to infuse it with freshness. While I tend to think of freshness as a cleansing breeze, I have recently discovered it can be a tornado, leveling everything, leaving you little choice but to pick through the rubble and start over.

Nearly two decades ago, a younger cousin came to me for help. He wanted to write, but his skills needed honing. At the time, I had a contract pending (that I, later, refused–a long story that I shall spare you), several monthly newsletters for which I was responsible, publicity pieces for our local youth baseball league, a quarterly magazine column, and three teens with myriad obligations and nary a driver’s license yet among them. Being the elder cousin, however, precluded saying no (at the time. I’ve become much brighter since then), so I conjured an alternative: We would work on a Science Fiction Romance together. Although the genre didn’t exist in the 90s, it didn’t matter. This would just be a fun little exercise to help him and let me play (Cuz worked in the aerospace industry, and, although historical romance is my first love, science fiction has been my guilty pleasure since junior high).

Disparate genres. Stretch my wings. Expand my imagination. What could go wrong?

Within days, I created a world, characters, and a folder filled with particulars. I still smile recalling the fun I had, jotting things down as they occurred to me, things that would never fly in historical romance.

Long story short: Life happened. The story, while about three-quarters done, languished in a box (and on floppy disks) for fourteen years. Even so, it wouldn’t die. Cuz and I would meet at family gatherings and it would, invariably, take over the conversation until we finally admitted defeat and did what needed doing.

Enter the aforementioned tornado. Major overhaul. While the core remained viable, things change and much is learned in fourteen years.

I recently typed THE END on that story. I’ve edited it to within an inch of its life, cutting more than 10,000 words, adding half that many, filling holes and oopsies the lengthy hiatus left behind, attending the minutia particular to the world that, over time, dear cuz forgot, and trying to bring it up to snuff. Its evolution has been amazing. It’s a far cry from the original outline, character profiles, and such (which still reside in their white folder on the bookshelf behind my desk), but, thanks to my cousin throwing curve ball ideas at me with the speed of a pitching machine run amuck, it’s all the better for it. (That’s what I get for encouraging him to read Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel.)

The Starship & The Sword has become Book One in our Earth Colony Chronicles. We’re hoping to publish it sometime this summer. Book two is underway.

Thus, our little exercise has become a serious workout.

That brings us back to the title of this piece.

The Seer is a Golden Heart® finalist this year. (I should probably change my blog header to 4x, but does anyone, other than me, really care?) I know I wrote an ending. I didn’t like it, but I wrote it. Now, I can’t find it. I probably deleted it, planning on a rewrite, but I usually save the deleted bits for reference. However, in the interim, I purchased a new computer. It’s possible some bits didn’t make the transition. Whatever the reason, the current manuscript ends with my heroine in the villain’s hands.

Not the end of the world. It needed a new, more dynamic ending anyway. I know what needs be done, but can I do it? No! It’s driving me crazy! I’ve put so much time into Valara & Gordain’s story, making sure the quirks in their language and whatnot are uniform throughout, that I keep finding myself using those same quirks in Anora & Marcus’s story. Which wouldn’t be too horrible if I didn’t transplant them at the same time. Talk about a one track mind. Sheesh.

Here’s why it happens.

Anora & Marcus’s story is set in 1472. Valara and Gordain’s story takes place after our sun dies. That should make it easy enough to differentiate, one would think, but being better versed in the past than the future, yours truly has her genetically engineered heroine interacting with a medieval Celtic Warrior. (If you want to find out how that happens, you’ll have to read the book.) I’ll be in the middle of writing from Marc’s point of view only to realize I’ve given him Dain’s dialect or taken him someplace that doesn’t exist on 15th century Earth.

I told you the story wouldn’t die. It insisted on being told, took residence, and now, like a rubber band kid, won’t leave home.

Therefore, I suggest, if you choose to write in more than one genre, try to keep them sufficiently different to avoid this kind of conflict. It’s maddening in the extreme. I’ve gone so far as to read The Seer from the beginning, editing as I go, hoping to retrain my focus. It works for a while, but then there’ll be a blip, a hiccup, a something, and I’m back at square one.

Where’s a refreshing tornado when you need one?


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I stole this info directly from the Opening Ceremony post at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood site (although the photos disappeared en route).  If you need a boot in the butt to get your writing on track or just want some encouragement through the Dark Ages of winter, this is for you.  Add swag and a chance to win a $250 Gift Card (of your choice), and what’s not to love?


The 2014 Ruby Slippered Sisterhood Winter Writing Festival OPENING CEREMONIES!!

We now declare the Fourth Annual Winter Writing Festival OPEN! Let the Games begin!!

To get your BONUS point for today, add a comment on the regular Ruby Slippered Sisterhood blog (rubyslipperedsisterhood.com) in which you:

1) define how *you personally* will earn your Festival “points”


2) declare your commitment to earning 50 points by the end of February. (Further details on goal-setting follow below).

That’s all you really need to do–we’re a pretty casual bunch around here. (Leaving a comment today also puts you in the running for some cool prizes–the first round of our fabled Festival Swag, which includes lots of gift cards, awesome Ruby books, and the ever popular WRITING CRITIQUES, which we give out in random drawings every Friday from now until the end of February!!)

This year we’re also offering a GRAND PRIZE!! A $250 gift card to the online merchant of your choice–and we’d like to point out to those planning to attend RWA Nationals that we can give it to you in the form of a gift card to Marriott Hotels or the airline of your choice!

To be entered in the random drawing for the Grand Prize, you just need to:

a) check in every Friday during the Festival on rubyslipperedsisterhood.com

b) confirm on the final check-in on February 28 that you met your 50-point goal!



To get the most from the Winter Writing Festival, leave your comment today on rubyslipperedsisterhood.com, then jump over to our special Festival site, rsswwf.com, and officially register. Click on the “Member” snowflake near the upper right of that page, then click on “Register for the site.” When you log back in throughout the Festival, you can add points to your progress bar and see how far you’ve come. (Should there be any technical problems, don’t worry! Just leave your comment here–we’ll consider you part of the Festival no matter what!)


The very BEST thing about the rsswwf.com site, though, is the CHAT ROOM, which we use for writing sprints. Those of you who’ve participated in the Festival before can testify that writing sprints are pretty darned miraculous at helping writers be super-turbo-powered productive–even if your busy life normally makes it hard for you to get much written.

You just click on the Chat Room link in the box near the upper left of the rsswwf.com site (right under “Sprint Schedule), and you’ll jump to the chat. Give yourself a name, and you’ll find yourself in a virtual space with other writers also eager to get work done. A Sprint Hostess will be there to greet you and show you the ropes. Sprint Czaress Kim Law has some great instructions here.

Typically, we chat (via typing) for a few minutes between sprints, then write like crazy for 20 minutes, then come back and chat some more. Just knowing other people are writing while you are–and waiting to hear your new word count when you chat again–will keep you in your seat and cranking out those words. You can get inspiration, great advice, and (in half the chats I’ve been in) just laugh yourself silly. DON’T BE SHY!!!! It’s fun and easy…and practically magic!

Writing sprints start TODAY and run non-stop from 9a.m. to 3 p.m. EST. Jump in anytime!!!


To help keep you inspired between writing sprints, grab yourself a Participant badge (right-click on the one below and then click on “save image as”) to upload to your personal website.  (You can also find the Participant badge in the About section of the Writing Festival site.)

You can also check in daily at the Brag Blog (scroll down towards the bottom of the rsswwf.com site), where you can report on how your writing day has gone, and celebrate whenever you earn a point! You’ll also find inspirational daily quotes and links to Ruby posts on craft to pull you through when you’re feeling a little stuck.


Also, check out the fantabulous Winter Writing Festival swag you have a chance to win during Friday Check-Ins if you meet your goals each week. (You can also purchase some cool Winter Writing Festival swag yourself–including coffee mugs, tees, sweats, and totes with the Festival logo–at our Cafe Press store.)

The Swag you can win today just for leaving a comment on the regular Ruby site includes:

1) An autographed copy of Last Chance Book Club by Hope Ramsay (USA ONLY)

2) A Ruby Slipper wine Topper and $25.00 gift certificate to wine.com by Liz Talley

3) An autographed copy of Seized By Darkness by Autumn Jordon (USA ONLY)

4) A $10.00 Amazon gift certificate from Shea Berkley.

5)A Kindle copy of Romanced By The Redneck by Lindsey Brookes.

6) A $15.00 Starbucks gift certificate from Rita Henuber.

7) A first chapter critique (any genre-25 pages) by Tamara Hogan

What’s not to love? (Our thanks to mega-talented Ruby Sister Liz Bemis of bemispromotions.com for designing both sites!!)

If for any reason you have technical problems registering today: don’t panic!! Just leave us a message here in the comment trail, and get started earning points for the Festival.  We’ll make sure you get registered ASAP.

You don’t want to miss out on those sprints!!


Everybody gets one BONUS point TODAY for coming to the Ruby blog and leaving a comment that makes a public declaration of your commitment to take part in the Festival and a public announcement of your goals. Then, for each of the 50 days of the Festival (including today), you work to earn an additional point—and you define what it takes to earn that point.

Here are some examples of the sorts of things you might define as worth one point (you fill in the variables with the amounts that work for you):

-writing X number of words or pages -deep revising Y number of pages -polishing Z number of pages -freewriting / brainstorming for Q number of minutes/hours -doing R number of 20-minute writing sprints -keeping butt in chair and hands on keyboard for S number of minutes or hours

For instance, one person might commit to earning points according to the following terms:

-writing 500 words per day OR -deep revising for one hour per day OR -doing a final polish on 25 pages per day

Any day that person meets ANY of those goals, she gets a point.

YOU set the goals that meet your personal writing style and writing needs. (For more advice on how to set up your goals, see here).

If you can’t meet your goal on any particular day, you can certainly double or triple or quadruple your goal on another day to catch up. And if you know ahead of time that you can never work on certain days (say, Saturdays) feel free to add something like “keep balance in my life by taking Saturday off” to your personal list of ‘ways to earn a point.’ Really. You can earn a point by taking a planned day off!! Don’t be shy.

Remember, we all have different life commitments and different approaches to our writing lives, so we all need to set our own goals. All goals are equally worthy. This isn’t a competition, it’s a supportive process for MOVING FORWARD WITH OUR WRITING.

We want the Festival to work for YOU!

Check in at the Ruby blog every Friday during the Festival to report your progress (and be entered in random drawings for some of the Festival Swag and to build up eligibility for the Grand Prize).

If you reach the end of February with a nice round 50 points, YOU WIN!!

Spread the word to all your writer friends–all genres are welcome!!!

Good luck all, and GET WRITING!!

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Writing Characters: Who Do You See?

I know numerous writers who assemble storyboards or character files prior to writing a single word.  These boards or files include photographs, snagged from the internet or various publications, with the facial and physical characteristics they will ascribe to their characters.

I can’t work that way.  My characters reveal themselves a little here, a little there, until the picture is complete.  That said, by the time I’ve come to know them well, I realize the character isn’t a random accumulation of parts but is, rather, someone who has impressed me enough that, although I probably can’t name the person or recall the why or wherefore of the encounter or observation, I made a mental file.  The character’s physical attributes spill from that subconcious file and reassembled on the page.

This makes finding photographic representations somewhat difficult.

My critique partner illuminated this problem as we discussed cover art.  She knows me well and understands my aversion to covers—and titles—that don’t honestly convey the books they represent.  Thus, the hunt commenced.

I started with my first heroine (who you will not meet until Book Two of my Merlin’s Prophesy series), since she first entered my pages in the mid 9os, and I knew everything I could know about her.  Hours and hours later, it occurred to me who she resembled.  The problem?  I didn’t know the gal’s name.  I could only recall seeing her in a Riverdance production.  More hours, but I found her:  first, in the cast of Riverdance, then, reprising her Riverdance role as Erin the Goddess in Feet of Flames

While my heroine’s hair is darker red, longer, and less curly, and she describes herself as “too tall, too thin, and too plain”, a far cry from anyone portraying a goddess, here is the woman who jumped from those mental files I mentioned earlier.  Meet Anne Buckley aka my first heroine.   

And just because I love this song and there is none to stop me from indulging: 

My second heroine (who you will meet in the first book of my series), entrances the hero on page one.  Seeing her in silhouette against a setting sun, he thinks her an angel, albeit a stacked angel, and is unsettled by his uncharacteristic viceral response.  I searched high and low for a good photo and found a few that came close, but none were quite right.  Then another friend said, “Have you looked at your oldest daughter?”

Well, duh!  I’d written the character, but didn’t realize the physical representation came from my own brood.  (Thus, it’s fair to conclude, not only am I not a linear thinker, I can be as dense as diamonds.)

Genetics blessed my oldest daughter with her father’s golden-blond hair and dense, Highland Scot bones, while youngest, also blonde, received my mother’s Irish “bird-bones”.  My heroine is golden-blonde, has Highland antecedents, and thinks of herself a “over-tall for a woman”, so the resemblance is a no-brainer—or should have been.  (I’ll not insert photos since there are a couple on my photos page, but if you look, you’ll see exactly what I mean.)

Two down.  One to go—at least for this series . . . I hope.

Heroes are an entirely different battle and will wait for another day.

Do you start with photos?  Drawings?  A friend or acquaintance?  Or are you like me, scrambling after the fact?


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A Taste of Scots Music

I’ve made no secret of my Gaelic antecedents or my fascination with their history.  So it will come as no surprise, considering my love of music, the wail of the pipes can make my heart swell to bursting.  

I realize many think the sound akin to scalding cats, but there is just something uplifting—militant, if you will—to the bagpipes’ skirl.  Once a form of communication across the glens, the pipes became a call to arms, a call so stirring they were outlawed for a time.

A while back, I had the pleasure of seeing Clann an Drumma (Children of the Drum) at the Pennsylvania Rennaisance Faire.  I think I marched to the rhythm for days afterward.  Now, when it seems the world has claimed my shoulders for a pedestal, I put on their CDs and arouse my fighting spirit.  I’ve Scots blood in my veins.  I will not be defeated.

It’s with that in mind, I share this video.  I hope the music rouses you to strength as it does me.

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500 Years of Portraits of Women

A friend sent this to me, illustrating how our concept of beauty has changed through the years.  I found it fascinating and hope you do, too.


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The Three Little Pigs—in Shakespearean English

This is so funny, but it makes it plain why historical writers don’t try to mimic the English of their eras.

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March 4, 2012 · 10:00 pm

The Winter Writing Festival is over—’til next year!


The Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood’s  second annual Winter Writing Festival ends today.  So sad.  The success stories are a joy to read, and even those who didn’t make their goals report excellent progress.  (To see those glowing reports, click here.)  If you didn’t or couldn’t join the productivity this year, consider marking your calendars for next—so many people look forward to plowing through winter’s Dark Ages with us, we had to make it an annual event.

Fifty days of friendships made, critique partnerships founded, everyone like-minded and racing toward similar goals.  Weekly swag, fun, encouragement, and comradery available and happily shared.  And writing.  Lots of writing.  What’s not to love?

Like many of the participants, I made my posted BICHOK (Butt-In-Chair-Hands-On-Keyboard) goals, for which I can display the winner’s badge.  I did not, however, finish my manuscript, a personal goal that I’d hoped the writing sprints would see accomplished.  Still, vast progress is vast progress.

I shall miss the festival and all the gals who joined me in the chat room for sprints.  Some of their output proved beyond amazing, and the give and take made what is normally an insular experience energizing.  A sounding-board (or six) at hand has much to recommend it.

To those who made their goals, congratulations!  To those who didn’t, congratulations, as well.  Goals are wonderful things, but it’s the striving, the not giving up that will bring success.  Thus, you’re all winners.

Proverb:  To succeed, if you fall down six times, you must get up seven.

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The Legend

I have added yet another bit to my Books & Excerpts page to, I hope, entice and intrigue.

The Legend is written in the oral tradition, mimicking how it would have been told prior to the advent of the printing press.  After a short reprise—-to allow it to stand alone—- it picks up where my previous narrative tale, In the Beginning . . ., ends.  It is NOT, however, the end of the story.  That is still in the formulative stages.

Writing in the oral tradition proved far more difficult than I imagined it would be.  Please feel free to let me know if you find a place I slipped back into a more modern, character point-of-view writing style.

As always, enjoy.

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In the Beginning . . .

For any who are interested, I have posted a short, narrative prologue to my current series on my Excepts page.  While set well before the 15th century time-frame of my novels, this is the root from which those stories grew.

Yes, it’s just a taste, and I hope to expand it later, making it a story of its own.  Sadly, I can see no HEA for Merlin and Morgan—yet.  But as Scarlett O’Hara says, “Tomorrow is another day.” 

 Anything can happen.

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Come One, Come All!!!

I know I’ve been quiet lately, and I’ll explain later, but for now, I have an announcement:

The Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood’s
2012 Winter Writing Festival
will soon commence!
Here’s the info:
Craving some serious writing productivity this winter? Need to clean up the mess you left in the second half of your NaNo novel? Want to finally, finally fix that pesky plot hole in your WIP?
Great news—it’s almost time for the Second Annual Ruby Slippered Sisterhood Winter Writing Festival!
Through the bleakest part of winter—January 11, 2012 through the end of February—the Winter Writing Festival will keep your creative fires burning. Unlike NaNoWriMo and other writing challenges that (much as we love them!!) have a one-size-fits-all approach, the Ruby Winter Writing Festival is designed for you.
We work with a “point” system, and YOU decide the terms for earning your point each day.
Everybody gets one bonus point on January 11, 2012 just for stopping by the Ruby blog (rubyslipperedsisterhood.com) or signing up at rsswwf.com and making a public commitment to take part in the Festival. (Short aside from me:  The page says it’s closed right now, but if you click to register, you can.  AND if you participated last year, you can just log in and update your info.)  Then, for each of the 50 days of the Festival (including January 11), you work to earn an additional point—and you define what it takes to earn that point.
No matter what stage you’re at right now (brainstorming, plotting, free-writing, fast-drafting, slow-drafting, revising, layering, polishing…or any combination of the above) you can make it work for you.
Here are some examples of the sorts of things you might define as worth one point (you fill in the variables according to your needs) :
-writing X number of words or pages
-deep revising Y number of pages
-polishing Z number of pages
-freewriting / brainstorming for Q number of minutes/hours
-doing R number of 20-minute writing sprints
-keeping butt in chair and hands on keyboard for S number of hours
For instance, one person might commit to earning points according to the following terms:
-writing 500 words per day  OR
-deep revising 10 pages per day OR
-doing a final polish on 25 pages per day
-participating in an hour of writing sprints
Any day that person meets ANY of those goals, she gets a point.
If you can’t meet your goal on any particular day, you can double or triple or quadruple your goal on another day to catch up. And if you know ahead of time that you can never work on certain days (say, Saturdays) feel free to add something like “Keep balance in my life by taking Saturday off” to your personal list of ‘ways to earn a point.’ Yes, really, you can get a point for taking a planned day off!! Don’t be shy.
This isn’t a competition, it’s a supportive process for MOVING FORWARD WITH OUR WRITING.
Check in on the Ruby blog every Wednesday during the Festival to report your progress. If you reach the end of February with at least 50 points, YOU WIN!!
Throughout the Festival, the Rubies will  be offering lots of inspiration and support, including frequent public writing sprints in our rsswwf.com Chat Room and the possibility for winning terrific Writing Festival Swag—including writing critiques from Ruby Sisters!
Join us January 11 at rubyslipperedsisterhood.com or rsswwf.com to get started! And spread the word on your loops, Facebook, and personal websites! The more the merrier!!
I know I’ll be there.  Hope to see you!

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