Archive for September, 2011

30
Sep

Elbow Grease

Posted under Bits & Pieces Fridays 3 Comments

In honor of the scarecrow-making workshop my girls and I will be taking tomorrow morning, I figured I’d go in a creative direction with this week’s Bits & Pieces.

1) What’s the last thing you made with your own two hands?

2) What’s something you’ve always wanted to learn to make?

3) What’s your favorite tool?

4) Any big projects on the horizon?

~Elizabeth

29
Sep

Ask Away

Posted under Writing Thursdays 1 Comment

For today’s “Writing Thursday,” I’m opening the floor to YOU.

Shoot me a question about writing in general, any of my books (either written or on the horizon), or whatever you feel like asking. If you tend to lurk and not comment, I encourage you to ask, too. It helps me to know you’re out there and blog readers do NOT see your email address so no worries about that.

I’ll be checking throughout the day and will answer any questions in the comment section.

Anyone?

~Elizabeth

28
Sep

May I Pick Your Brain?

Posted under That's Life Wednesdays 4 Comments

I was wondering if I could pick your brains today.

I’m in the process of giving this website a once over. I’m keeping the look/the feel, but it’s time for some content tweaks. The first change is on the “home” page (which I have my weblady do). If you click on the tab at the top, you’ll see that we’ve added the cover of the upcoming book and placed ordering information beneath each available title (if you haven’t pre-ordered Dangerous Alterations yet, now might be a good time to take care of that 🙂  ).

The page I’m feeling the most need to change is the “about” page. But I’m not sure if I should change it completely or simply add some stuff.  Any thoughts? What kind of information do you think would work well here? Any particular format that might be fun?

~Elizabeth

27
Sep

When THE END is not The End.

Posted under Reading Tuesdays No Comments

A few weeks ago, I took myself to see THE HELP. I hadn’t read the book but, because of what I’d heard about it, I gave it a shot and it did not disappoint.

Three weeks later, I find myself still thinking about something one of the characters does/says throughout the movie. The story follows a colored maid in the south who has essentially raised more than her fair share of white babies (in her role as the family housekeeper). When the story opens, she’s taking care of a little girl who is, essentially, ignored by her mother.

Every morning, in a beautiful attempt to let this kid know she matters, the housekeeper takes the little girl in her arms and says the following…

You are kind.
You are special.
You are important.

The little girl repeats it back…with the “you’s” in place.

By the end of the movie, I was literally crying when the little girl repeated it back because I realized something I hadn’t picked up on in the beginning. Early on, I simply took the little girl’s verbatim repeat as just that…a little kid not knowing to change the pronoun. Yet, by the end, I realized that by saying it the way she was, the little girl was giving the same validation she was getting to a woman (the maid) who needed it every bit as much.

Because no matter how old you are, you need that validation. Somehow, someway.

So tell me, has there ever been a line in a book (or book-inspired movie) that has stayed with you long after you reached “The End?”

~Elizabeth

26
Sep

Snapshots

Posted under Dreamer Mondays 6 Comments

Wanna see some pictures?

 This first picture (on your left) is a chipmunk just after he scurried up a plant in an effort to hide from Angus (the 28-toed cat). You see, Angus is the personal critter ferry in our neighborhood. He scoops up chipmunks, mice, and frogs in his mouth and carries them to various points around the yard. When he gets them to wherever it is he’s determined to take them, he drops them. And, nine times out of ten, they get up and run away. This particular chipmunk didn’t necessarily want a round-trip back to where he came, so, instead, he picked a plant to climb while he waited for Angus to get bored or distracted (doesn’t take long, trust me).  Here’s another view on your right…

Next, comes a quick peek at one of my favorite things to do–decorate for the holiday/seasons. I’ve been assembling this collection for a number of years and it’s just one of those things that makes me happy.

Dear Daughter # 2 and I found this little pilgrim (on your left) at K-mart last week…isn’t he really cute? He’s got a really happy little face. 

As for the turkey, he was just too fun to resist when I stumbled across him last year.  The Autumn-colored candle has gotten a little warped this past year (we have a very hot attic) but it’s hanging tough! 

And see the “candy corn” table runner on the table to your right? That was made for me by one of my readers. Isn’t that really cool?  And while the framed photographs on the left hand side of the table may be too small to see in this picture, one is of Dear Daughter # 1 on her second Halloween (wearing a Halloween outfit I decorated) and one is of Dear Daughter #2 on her second Halloween (also wearing a little Halloween sweatshirt I made for her).

That’s it for pictures for now.

As for decorating, I’m hoping to locate a box with a few more Autumn favorites inside before I call it a day. Worse case, there will be a full sized scarecrow sitting in the middle of our yard by the week’s end (we’re taking a scarecrow-making workshop next Saturday morning).  🙂

Have you started decorating for Autumn  yet?

~Elizabeth

23
Sep

Autumn in the Air

Posted under Bits & Pieces Fridays 9 Comments

Autumn is officially here, at least as far as the calendar goes. It is, without a doubt, my favorite season of the year. I love the colors, the slight nip in the air at night, the increased baking, etc.

So here’s to a Bits & Pieces worthy of Autumn:

1) What’s your favorite part of Fall?

2) Favorite Autumn treat?

3) Crock pot or barbecue?

4) Favorite pie?

5) Scarecrows or ghosts?

~Elizabeth

22
Sep

Series vs. Standalone

Posted under Writing Thursdays 6 Comments

This week’s discussion topic was suggested by blog reader, Chris C…

Q: What are some of the differences between writing a whole series vs. a standalone book (ie, the planning, deciding what goes into which book, what gets resolved in each book vs. what is carried on to the next or delayed to the last, etc)?

A: While I have not been published with a standalone in mystery, all three of my romances have been single stories so I think I can address this topic fairly well.

When I’m working on one of my series (either the Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries or the upcoming Amish Mysteries), some of the work is already done when I come to the keyboard to work on the latest installment. I know the main characters–how they act, what they do, etc. I know the setting. And I know the kinds of things that can and can’t happen within the framework of my series.

When you write a standalone, it’s not like that. Everything is new all the time. Now don’t get me wrong, the first book in a new series is very much the same as a standalone in that regard, yet it’s different, too. With a standalone, your character’s arc is the length of the book. When you start a series, you have to think long range. You can’t box your character into a hole or do something that makes him or her difficult to redeem in future stories.  So the thought process from one to the other is very different.

In a standalone, what you have with your character in terms of issues, trials, etc must play itself out in one book. Yet, in a series, you can plant a seed in one book and not play it out until a future one (something I love, by the way). For example, in a standalone I’ve been working with for a few years now, I mention that my main character was swimmer in school. I don’t yet know why I said that but I suspect it will need to play out in the story.  With a series, I might mention that fact about my character in book one, but not address it until a future book, thus giving myself options.

As far as delaying storylines, I, personally, don’t do that. I don’t have any idea how I’m going to “wrap up” my series because, at this time, there’s no need to worry about that. My characters are thriving along with the series.  

 In a series, you need to continually introduce readers to your characters to benefit those who may start reading you at book 3. Yet, at the same time, you can’t introduce too heavily for fear of irritating your loyal fans. It’s a difficult balance. But with a standalone, one doesn’t have to worry about that. You introduce everyone once, what people know they know from that book, thereby making it easier for the writer in some ways.

Interestingly, I don’t find myself delaying anything from book to book in my series. I write the story I’m telling and wrap it up at the end. The  next book I do the same, though there’s usually something in the story that ends up using a tidbit from a previous book. For example, in books 1, 2, 3, and 4, my readers know that Leona Elkin doesn’t get too emotionally attached to anyone she dates. She kind of loves them and leaves them.  We don’t know why. We just know this is the way she is.  However, in book 5, readers will find out why she is the way she is…and because they’ve come to know her, they’ll care more now than they might have in book 1.

When I’ve written my standalone romances, I love the characters while I’m writing them, but I truly feel as if their story is told when the book is done. There’s no need to revisit them. My series characters are different. I find myself wondering what each woman is doing and why they are they way they are. In a series I can explore those answers. In a standalone it’s more of a delivery.

Interesting topic, Chris.

Any comments? And while we’re at it, I’m curious what all of you, as readers, see as pros and cons to series/standalones…

~Elizabeth

20
Sep

Home

Posted under odds and ends 3 Comments

After spending a few days away from home for the Bouchercon 2011 mystery conference, I’m now back–ready to write (I better be), ready to blog (I’m here, aren’t I?), and ready to try and find the motivation I’ve been lacking for just about everything.

This year’s conference was in St. Louis. The moment the plane touched down at Lambert, I felt this overwhelming sense of happiness. And it wasn’t hard to figure out why.

I was home.

Despite having been raised in the northeast and making many subsequent moves to places like; Ohio, South Carolina, Alabama, and Tennessee, St. Louis is the place I consider “home.” 

Now, when I say “home,” I’m not referring to the actual structure where I put my head at night–that’s in New York with my family. What I’m talking about is the rest of the stuff–the sense of place, the overall feel. And in that respect, St. Louis is home for me. I suppose that’s because I spent the most years there…17, to be exact.

It’s the kind of “home” where I can find a way to get to a particular place in a half dozen different ways, at least. The people make me smile (just the folks working at the hotel made me ache for that midwestern friendliness). Heck, seeing the devastation at the St. Louis airport (from April’s tornado) made me sad because it affected people “at home.”

All too soon, it was time to think about leaving. But I’ll be honest, I’m already trying to figure out when I can go back…

So, if you’ve moved a few times in your life, what’s “home” to you? Is it the place where you were born? The place you live now? Or a stop you had along the way?

~Elizabeth

15
Sep

Spin-Off, Anyone?

Posted under Writing Thursdays 5 Comments

Oooh. Oooh. Today’s question is a super fun one from Chris C. in GA.

Q:  What are your thoughts on a ‘spin off’ from your series? For example one of your old ladies going to NYC to see her niece graduate from NYU. What would/could you do different? Would it be good or bad for the series?

A: First, let me say I LOVE this question. I’d never thought of it…until now. And since I feel as if the ladies of Sweet Briar are truly my friends, it’s kind of fun to imagine for  a while. Hmmm.

Of course, not that you’ve got me thinking along that way, I find myself thinking, who could leave? And why? Leona could leave…on the heels of some uniformed man. This southern-to-the-core woman could end up in, maybe, Chicago?  (If you read this series, you know Leona has issues with Chicago–which we’ll learn more about in the November release).  Or mayBeatrice could go back to England…or take on a new family to nanny in, say, California–footloose and fancy free (she’s rather English proper so the change might be fun to see with her).

The differences potential spin-offs might provide would be a change in setting first and foremost. And for a while, that difference could play out in atmosphere/supporting character changes, I suppose. I also think that by removing a character like Leona–who is rather full of herself, largely because she’s comfortable–you’d change her somewhat. Would she be as cocky in a town where she didn’t know anyone? I’m not sure. I think I’d almost have to sit down and write a scene with her in an entirely new place with an entirely new group of people to find out how she’d behave/what she’d say.

As for whether it would be good or bad for the series, I think I’d have to say bad. At least at this point. With each new book that releases, I gain new fans. People who read the new book, enjoy it, and then search out the previous titles. And while the series has a main character in Tori Sinclair, each member of the circle as their place–with different ones being the favorite of different readers. As the writer, I can’t imagine Leona or Beatrice not being part of certain scenes. I need them for what their unique personality brings to the overall story/tone.

That said, if the original series had played itself out and there was any indication I could keep writing even one of them in a new series…depending on the character (like Leona), I’d certainly give it a try. 🙂

Great question, Chris!

Anyone else? Questions? Thoughts on my answer? Frankly, I’d be curious on what some of your thoughts are about spin-offs from series–either mine or others?

~Elizabeth

14
Sep

Escape Hatch

Posted under That's Life Wednesdays 4 Comments

Sometimes, when life seems just a wee bit more than a person can handle, they either turn toward destructive behavior or find a more productive relief valve.

From the time I was about twelve, my valve has always been books. When I read, whatever book I was devouring at that time allowed me to escape into someone else’s world for a little while. It didn’t always have to be stories of flower dotted praries to escape. Quite the contrary. In fact, some of my favorite go-to books at that crazy time were suspense stories. I guess they enabled me to lose myself in someone else’s issue. An issue that would be over when I turned the last page.

When I write (particularly my series books), I escape with people who have become my friends. People who come to life (quite literally in some respects) the moment we meet. They make me laugh. They make me teary-eyed. They even surprise me at times. But they’re steady and true. Like books.

What’s your go-to when you’re in desperate need of an escape?

~Elizabeth