Are You Listening?

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Are you really listening? As authors, many of us are introverts, perfectly happy to spend hours alone in silence with only our imaginary friends to talk to. Others of us love to write, but we also love to talk. I love to talk. When I teach, I tell my students please interrupt me at any time. I can talk for hours. In fact, when I talk at home, my dog eventually talks back, telling me that he has heard enough.

But how do we rate as listeners? We are full of words but do we listen and learn from others. Recently on a trip to Ireland, I was listening to our bus driver give a history lesson. I was interested, but his discussion developed a germ of an idea. While I was developing that idea, he continued. When I heard the name Stuart, I asked, “The Mary Queen of Scot’s Stuart.” No, he answered. He had said earlier that it was a different family of Stuarts. I hadn’t been listening. My mind had wandered. In addition to being embarrassment, I totally forgot the idea that had started in my mind. Must not have been that good, right?

Does your mind wander when listening to someone talk? My friends and I have one word for someone who is daydreaming – squirrel. You can capture a dog’s attention with a treat, right? But if a squirrel runs between you and your pet, how much of his attention do you have now?

In addition to all of the above, I also have a bad habit of listening and then thinking of a story/memory to tell when they are finished. Do you do that too? I go from listening to wanting to share part of my life. No, I am not listening. I’m waiting until I can interrupt. I don’t sound very nice, do I? I don’t do it often, but I have to admit I do. Do you? Be honest.

So I have decided to become a better listener.  Here are a few thoughts from a company called the “Telephone Doctor.”

  • You hear with your ears, but you listen with your intelligence. As a romantic, I have to add, you also listen with your heart.
  • To be a better listener, you have to realize when you aren’t listening and may a commitment to do better.
  • Give the speaker your undivided attention. Don’t be distracted by dogs, squirrels or even story ideas. Your speaker may have a better one if you just keep listening.
  • Don’t interrupt. They have the floor and it won’t be a filibuster. Give a person a few moments.
  • Remain objective even if you don’t agree with everything you hear, unless it is very offensive. Then don’t argue; walk away.
  • Nod your head; give verbal feedback that you are listening.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Be a better listener. You don’t know what you will learn.

Remember: The most important gift we can give someone is to listen with our ears, our mind, and our heart.

I’m Patricia Charles, and I would love to hear what you have to say. I promise I won’t interrupt.

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One word, two words, three words, more . . .

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The written word should be         
as clean as a bone,
as clear as light, as firm as a stone,
two words will never serve
as well as one alone.
–Anonymous

I ran across this quote in the 1990’s and have always kept it as one of my rotating wall signs.

You see I have eight “job ticket holders” on hooks on my office wall. One is directly above my computer monitor. Periodically I change the sayings or add a new one.

The occupant of the holder on the wall opposite my computer station is a quote from Emilie Barnes—

 “Goals are access line to the future.
 They allow us to run the race
 with the finish line firmly established.”

Others holders contain starscapes (I write sci-fi/fantasy and love looking at Hubble images).

The smallest message board is the size of half a sheet of paper, framed with a gold photo mat, and says: “Today is a great day, an exciting day!”

The trouble with this particular message is that exciting can be a pleasant surprise or disaster. However, today, it is an exciting day because I planted a number of new varieties of oriental lilies early this spring. One has begun to blossom. It’s pink tinged outer petals hint at a while lily with a bright yellow throat. I was hoping it would open enough to get a picture, but, no, not yet, maybe tomorrow. Still, it’s exciting to see it open and exciting that I get to look forward to photographing it.

If you’re writing words today, may they all be clean bones.

If you’re having an “exciting” summer day, please share.

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Actress or Author?

Dawn as Anna (1)I’ve been fortunate enough to play roles in our local theater, such as Anna in The King and I. (My favorite musical. I still have the ball gown I made.) Little did I realize that my acting would be ideal practice for developing characters in my books, only instead of playing one role, I play them all.

When I created a character on stage, I had many things to consider: physicality, back story, motivation, just to name a few. The audience isn’t privy to the character’s internal dialogue, so everything must be shown. Very good practice for the “show don’t tell” rule.

When you begin, you must decide how your character moves. Are their movements always hurried or do they shuffle along, not letting their feet get too far off the ground? Do they swagger, sticking their pelvis out, or are they collapsed in on themselves, shoulders hunched? The way your character moves tells your readers something about them. Decide how you want them to be perceived and match the movements. Be consistent. If the way they move changes, it had better be for a very good reason.

Next, look at mannerisms unique for that character. Does your heroine play with her jewelry whenever she’s trying to avoid a situation? Does your hero steeple his fingers when he’s thinking? These “tells” can also help show that your hero and heroine are very familiar with each other. For instance, in my book Love’s Guardian, my heroine twists her bracelet whenever she’s nervous. At one point, my hero doesn’t say anything, he simply reaches over and keeps her from her nervous habit.

Then you have to decide how your character dresses. What’s their style? We all have clothing preferences. Do they wear trendy matching outfits, casual clothes for comfort, or anything in shades of blue?  If you write historicals, does your character keep with the fashion of the day or shun convention?

Oh, and let’s not forget the voice. Is there an accent, what kind of syntax do they use, is it a pleasant voice or does it raise peoples hackles? Forget “said” and give me an idea of how the character sounded when they tell their terrible secret. Emotion reads in the voice as it does on the face.

Ah, facial expression. Does your character have crow’s feet from laughter or squinting in the sun? Can they only raise one eyebrow? Remember, especially in an older person that the expressions they do all the time will show on their face.

Finally, as an actor, you have to decide how lines will be said based on the character’s back story and motivations. As authors we have to make our character’s dialogue reflect who they are and differ their dialogue from others in the story.  I had fun with this in my new book. (To be released July 20th.) In Highland Yearning, the hero has a Scots burr and uses formal syntax, while my heroine speaks her mind and has a more casual speech pattern.

Have any of you created characters on stage? I’d love to hear what part you played, and how you developed your character.

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Writer’s and their creations

Hello Everyone.

Whoops. I forgot today is my day to blog. I’ve been knee deep in Sheepsquatch scat with my new story. Anyways, I posted this post on a different site a few months ago. I apologize if you’ve seen it before:)

Most writers not only create stories on the page but they also have some other creative outlet. Some like to make jewelry, teddy bears, or even paint.

I guess we need to have an additional outlet for our creativity.

Putting around in my fairy garden is not only relaxing, but helps me brainstorm. There’s something about digging in the dirt that spurs my imagination. I can spend hours out there pulling weeds and rearranging the furniture or setting up little doors. I even have a miniature graveyard. The sunshine and fresh air clear my head and gives me a new perspective on things.

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Unfortunately, I live in the north and can only garden about four or five months a year. So when the cold hits, I make videos of animals up for adoption at my local rescue. Not only does this push my creativity but these videos help the animals find homes. The adoption rate for the animals that have videos is much higher than those who don’t. It’s my way to give back to society.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVZe7JKsLMY

Max was adopted a couple months after the video went live. He was in foster care for almost two years prior. He had some special needs so it was harder for him to find a home. But he did find a family who loves him very much.

Halloween is another very creative time for me. I pull my skeletons from my office and attach them to my home in different poses. I also made a haunted house from a dollhouse. Decorating and crafting is so much fun this time of year.

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Being creative is a lot of fun, but writing stories is the best feeling. Just knowing you created a whole world with characters that people actually enjoy and want to spend their spare time with, fills my heart with such joy.

What do you do to be creative when you’re not writing?

Bonnie 1Bonnie Gill grew up in the suburbs right outside Chicago. As a child she loved making up ghost stories at night to scare her sisters and friends.
She writes Paranormal Romance with a twist of humor. When she isn’t writing you can find her on a haunted tour, volunteering at pet rescues, or digging around in her fairy garden waiting for fairies to show. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America, the Fantasy, Futuristic, & Paranormal chapter and the Windy City chapter.
She lives in Northern Illinois with her four rescue dogs, a big fat cat, and her ever patient boyfriend who laughs at all her goofy jokes.
She loves to hear from her readers

TemptingTheLight_105x158Click here to purchase

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what’s OLD is NEW again

Indigo Sky

Indigo Sky

I’m thinking about the future of Indigo Sky.

In a whirlwind romance, a lovely New York socialite marries a fêted, debonair author. But beneath the charm is a cheating husband addicted to hasheesh. Her dream marriage turns sour and the simplicity of her life runs amok when a handsome stranger, her husband’s business partner, threatens her staunch loyalty to her wayward husband. When she faces the ugly truth about her marriage, her need to finalize her divorce sends her on mad chase across the wilds of nineteenth century America with a handsome stranger—she learns hard lessons of murder, kidnapping and more that almost destroy her.

A new release in paperback and audiobook will be here sometime soon. After last week’s blog, I Write and I Paint, my novel, Indigo Sky needed a blog of its own. If you like romance, and you like adventure, Indigo Sky is for you! Shopping at Tiffany’s, getting caught up in the New York Draft Riot, the Civil War, and the wilds of the Great Plains. Here’s an excerpt from my book that will curl your toes.

Excerpt

Dawn finally broke, and Leila sat listlessly on the pallet. Would today be the day she was raped? Death was preferable.

Little Star peeked through the doorway and crooked her finger. “Come.”

Leila crawled out and blinked against the strong light. Rising stiffly, she stretched, enjoying the sun on her face. She smiled at children laughing and playing between the tipis.

A group of women waited for her. “You bathe.”

Bathe? Leila almost laughed with relief.

The women led her silently to a copse of trees. A stream gurgled over rocks. They stripped her clothes off, urged her into a deep pool and washed her with a chunk of herb scented soap.

She reveled in the cold water until an elder hustled her out, drying her with scraps of soft hide.

Stony faced, the elder worried her gums and mumbled something rubbing herb oils on Leila’s body. Deep crevices on her face sagged in a perpetual expression of discontent. The elder peered over Leila, her small black eyes glittered with malice. She rattled off in an angry tirade.

One of the young women giggled behind slim fingers.

Leila glanced from one to the other. “What did she say?”

Little Star arrived with a hide garment over her arm and handed it to the elder. “She say you white like chicken fat, and don’t know why Red Arrow want you.”

The truth dawned on Leila. This was the moment she’d dreaded. She backed away holding up her palms. “N—no!”

Snarling, the elder grabbed Leila and issued brief instructions. The other women hastily pulled the buckskin dress over her head. Beads and feathers decorated the soft garment. Had circumstances been different, the dress would have delighted Leila. The women took her arms and led her back to the lodge.

Red Arrow stood in the center of a clearing between the tipis, hands behind his back, black eyes impassive.

Leila’s heart pounded and she hung back. The women shoved her and she fell to her knees at the warrior’s feet. “I—I will not be your woman—your whore.” She took his callused hand. “Please, I have a husband.”

He shook her off. “You obey.”

“I can’t—won’t!”

Red Arrow looked at Hook Nose. The leader nodded at a group of warriors. They stepped forward and hauled Leila up, dragging her from the clearing.

She twisted around. “What are they going to do to me?” She cried.

For you viewing pleasure, here’s the Indigo Sky trailer;

Indigo Sky_07_11_15 – Small

Stay tuned for more . . .

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The Feels, and in defense of Romance By: Rose Lange

Romance-Books-FeatureEarlier last week, I connected via Facebook with a reader who told me my book made her cry. Several times, and that  she wasn’t ordinarily a crier. This in turn, made me cry, and was such a joy to hear. Knowing a reader connected with your work, that she was moved to the point of tears. I can’t tell you how wonderful that made me feel, and I had a permanent smile on my face that entire next day. It made all the blood, sweat, tears, doubts, and anxiety worth it.

Fast forward to later in the week, and things took a turn. I’m sure my friend meant no harm, but the conversation began when she told me her stylist writes children’s books. I said I couldn’t picture myself being a kid’s author; it’s not my thing. She said, jokingly, and something to the affect of: “Well, you can’t just have them jumping into bed you know.” Wow. All righty then. What do you say? I mean I’ve had to defend the romance genre since I began writing almost twenty years ago, and I’m sure the battle will never stop, but I’ll be blunt here. I was pissed, and mostly, I was hurt. In that moment that comment cheapened what I do. Writing is never ending and mentally, and physically draining. It’s more taxing on the body than I could ever imagine. This is what I wanted, ugly parts and all. And don’t get me wrong I thoroughly enjoy what I do, but when folks make jokes they think are funny, it is hurtful. When I put words down on paper, I am, in a sense, baring my heart and soul. I’m putting everything into my work.

Writing is not easy.  Creating something out of nothing, can sometimes feel like pulling teeth, one at a time, without anesthesia to numb the pain, and depending on the scene I’m writing, it can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Oftentimes, I avoid heart wrenching, hard to write scenes for that reason. Because I know it will be hard to write, and hard for my character(s) to go through. Eventually I force myself to get to the keyboard, otherwise the voices clamoring, and fighting for attention, never stop. Writers spend most of our time alone, with nobody except our characters to keep us company. Unless I’m suffering a brain blockage, I enjoy what I do. I love, and hate, the way it makes me feel, but I’m a lifer, a word addict. So, yes, it upsets me when someone makes snide remarks, because it’s not all about “jumping into bed” and romance novels are not “trashy romance novels.” (That’s another one I’ve heard, and I did say something to this woman). It’s about two people falling in love. It’s about emotion, hence the “feels,” that readers tell me they get.

Sex is part of the books I write, yes. It’s part of the hero and heroine’s story, but it is not the entire journey. Romance is more than sex; romance is the flutters in the belly, the first time they meet, the anticipation of the blossoming feelings between them. Their first kiss, the first time they realize they’ve fallen in love with each other. The odds they must face, together, to get there happily ever after. Reaching someone, touching another human being with words, with people in your imagination. The two of them falling in love, even as circumstances try to keep them apart. For the writer to hear “Your book made me cry,” or “I couldn’t put your book down,” or “I can’t wait for your next book.” When I hear and see these comments, it brings everything full circle.

My goal is to capture these emotions, to capture the love between them, and get it down on paper. My goal is to make people feel something when they read my book. Romance does get a bad rap, and I have no control over what ignorant minded people say, but I do have control over how their remarks make me feel. The “feels” and lovely comments I get from my readers are much more rewarding, and I’m going to choose to focus on those instead.

Rose Lange

http://www.roselange.com

Facebook: Rose Lange, Author

Twitter: @writingdiva82

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A Sense of Place

ONE MORE TIME IS NOT ENOUGH (3)

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, California, in the remains of an orange grove that over time was sold off and became a typical Valley tract home neighborhood. Reading was my time machine ticket to the world, my escape from the mundane world in which I lived. Hence, I was never without a book in my hand. While other kids played outdoors on a Saturday, you’d find me laying on the living room couch reading a book. Often times those were classics since we had a full set of Shakespeare, Dickens, Bronte, Tolstoy, well, the list goes on and on. I think my mother was in a mail order book club that sent a new classic literature book every month. Of course, I progressed to more current literature like Dr. Zivago (one of my favorites), and all of the James Bond books (loved those), and Ayn Rand’s Atlas…

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