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Writer Wednesday Welcomes BACK Melissa Foster!

Well, I am excited to welcome back a great author I had the pleasure of hosting here last month as part of her Wow! Women on Writing sponsored blog tour. Melissa is such a fun friend and amazing author. When she agreed to stop back and talk about her book, Chasing Amanda, I marked the date immediately! Last month Melissa provided a great guest post  on Weaving a Theme Throughout Your Novel, but this time around we set aside some time for some girl talk. Eh-hem, I mean serious writer to writer discussion. (I’ll keep the girl talk under my hat *winks*).

First, a refresher on Melissa. Who is this gal?

About the Author:

Melissa Foster is the author of two novels, Megan’s Way and Chasing Amanda. She is the founder of the Women’s Nest, a social and support community for women, and is currently collaborating with Director Wendy Crouse, Dream Real Pictures, in the film production of Megan’s Way. Melissa hosts an annual Aspiring Authors contest for children, she’s written a column featured in Women Business Owners Magazine, and has painted and donated several murals to The Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC. Melissa is currently working on her next novel, and lives in Maryland with her family. Melissa’s interests include her family, reading, writing, painting, friends, helping women see the positive side of life, and visiting Cape Cod.

Just Thought You Should Know:
Melissa is working with a Texas director to on a script and casting for a movie based on her novel Megan’s Way. They hope to have the film completed by the end of the summer and then it’s on to the film festivals!

 

*Leave a comment for a chance to win Chasing Amanda*

Now, the interview!

M: Julie, thank you for hosting my blog tour today. I really enjoy your blog and can’t wait until your book is out.
Oh! Of course! I love having you over and I’m honored you’d come back! LOL
When did you realize you wanted to be a published author? Did it come before or after the idea for your novel?
M:I think the day I actually thought I’d like to do it full time was in 1990. I had two young children and began writing. I couldn’t stop writing, actually. Once that ink started, I knew I had found a path that one day would fill my days. It stemmed from a different, not yet written novel.
How do you work around your life to find time to create these amazing stories?
M:I am a scheduler. I schedule time to do everything from making the kids’ lunches to talking to friends on the phone. If it can go on my calendar, it does. Most importantly, other than my children’s needs, I schedule my life (during the week) around my writing, and I’m pretty selfish with my writing time. I don’t take time to meet friends for lunch or even chat on the phone when I’m writing. I tried to write around my life, but it didn’t work–too many distractions. I only write while kids are in school, though. Once I have picked them up, my writing day is done.
Tell us something about the process from concept to today that we don’t know, but should.
M:You probably hear that writing the book is the easy part, and that, in many ways, is true. What you may not know is that the road from concept to final product can be a long and twisted one. My stories don’t always end up as I had envisioned. Even characters can change. In Chasing Amanda, Pastor Lett was a male character until my very last editing session.
I hear your books are “filming” now! Tell us everything! And Wow are you freaking out or what?
M:We’re actually in the process of casting right now, and hope to be filming within the next few weeks. I’m past the freaking-out stage, and now I’m into what I would call the numb stage. The director will be coming to Cape Cod while I’m there to do some filming, which should be very exciting! I am sure that after this stage will be the nerves-afire stage about the final outcome of the film, but I have every confidence in Wendy Crouse, the director, and I can’t wait to see the film! We’ll be taking it to the film festivals first, then…who knows!
Are you working on another project now?
M:Yes, my third manuscript, COME BACK TO ME, an international love story/tragedy, is undergoing a few final edits, and after my vacation, I’ll jump back into my fourth novel, SHADES OF GRAY, which is a YA/women’s fiction crossover.
Here’s a sneak peak at COME BACK TO ME:
Tess Johnson has it all, Beau, her handsome, photographer husband, a thriving business, and a newly discovered pregnancy. When Beau accepts an overseas photography assignment, Tess decides to wait to reveal her secret—only she’s never given the chance. Beau’s helicopter crashes in the desert.
As Tess struggles to put her life back together and deal with the pregnancy she can no longer hide, a new client appears, offering more than just a new project.
Meanwhile, two Iraqi women who are fleeing Honor Killings find Beau alive in the middle of the desert, his body ravaged. Suha, a doctor, and Samira, a widow and mother of three young children, nurse him back to health in a makeshift tent. Beau bonds with the women and children, and together, with the help of an underground organization, they continue their dangerous escape.
What happens next is a test of loyalties, strength, and love.
Any advice for those of us still waiting to one day see our words in print?
M:Yes, keep writing. The world of publishing is changing so quickly that I fear many will take shortcuts. My advice would be to edit, edit, edit. Don’t take shortcuts with your work. Some authors are producing books in ten weeks and publishing them as ebooks, which is wonderful if the work is solid, but I receive letters all the time from ebook readers who complain about the unedited ebooks they are sent. If you are publishing, take pride in what you do. Every book has errors–it’s very rare to pick up a book and not have them. In fact, the last three books I read from Borders each had 2-3 errors, but when you hit the 8-10 mark, it really hinders the reader’s delight.
Write, edit, publish. Those are the steps that I think every writer should follow. There are many other steps along the way, but skipping the middle will lead to a bad rep.
Lastly, never give up. Writing is a solitary endeavor for most people, and it can be a very trying one at that. Believe in yourself, push yourself to write the best book you can, and don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you.
I’m happy to chat with readers and writers anytime. Simply drop me an email: thinkhappygirl (at) yahoo
Good luck!

Chasing Amanda by Melissa Foster

Nine years ago, Molly Tanner witnessed a young girl’s abduction in the busy city of Philadelphia, shifting her occasional clairvoyance into overdrive. Two days later, the girl’s body was found, and Molly’s life fell apart. Consumed by guilt for not acting upon her visions, and on the brink of losing her family, Molly escaped the torturous reminders in the city, fleeing to the safety of the close-knit rural community of Boyds, Maryland.

Molly’s life is back on track, her son has begun college, and she and her husband have finally rekindled their relationship. Their fresh start is shattered when a seven-year-old girl disappears from a local park near Molly’s home. Unable to turn her back on another child and troubled by memories of the past, Molly sets out to find her, jeopardizing the marriage she’d fought so hard to hold together. While unearthing clues and struggling to decipher her visions, Molly discovers another side of Boyds, where the residents–and the land itself–hold potentially lethal secrets, and exposes another side of her husband, one that threatens to tear them apart.

Melissa’s novel, Megan’s Way has just won the 2011 Beach Book Award for Spirituality.
Chasing Amanda and Megan’s Way have both been nominated for Dan Poynter’s Global eBook Awards
These are wonderful books. I hope you’ll all stop by and check out her site, of get to know Melissa better on twitter or by email. She’s absolutely delightful!

Find Melissa around the web:

Melissa Foster’s websites:
http://thewomensnest.com/
http://melissafoster.com/

Melissa Foster’s blog:
http://melissafoster.com/blog/1

Are You A Purple Proser? A Rant from Me

Some writers have a voracious, insatiable, avid, piggy, urgent, hungry need to use description. I think they want to paint a picture so painfully beautiful and poetic the reader will lay down and weep from the sheer emotion of their words. Or maybe they’re going past the mark trying to bring the reader into the scene with them. Whatever the reason behind the prose…

I say sometimes it was just a sunny day. I mean really.

Take today for example, it’s July in the Midwest. The sun is shining, kids are playing, and life is good. Now, if I were writing the day into a novel, I’d describe it better of course. I’d try a couple words about the scent of BBQ in the air and maybe the sounds of childrens’ giggles dancing over a dozen neighborhood radios. I don’t know, something. I’d try to draw you in so you could imagine sitting there with me poolside, sipping pina-colada and dodging spray from the unending cannonballs at your feet.

What I am here to talk about today is when writers take the descriptions too far and ruin a beautiful thing. Purple prose is the name the industry has assigned to writing that goes on and on and on pontificating on its awesomeness in the form of description. Take the scene I set above for example and we’ll roll with that. What if I’d said …

…the scent of BBQ in the air was tinged with vinegar and charcoal, tantalizing and beckoning to me while the precious, priceless, angelic, tinkling of giggles from joyous little children tugged at my pain-loosened heartstrings  and danced a bittersweet jig in the sticky summer air already saturated in chlorine and memories but somehow barely audible over a dozen neighborhood radios so near and yet completely separated from the lives just beyond their yards.

What if I’d tried to draw you in so you could imagine sitting there with me sipping the luscious coconut and sweet banana frost of homemade pina-colada in a sunshine gold glass while dodging  tiny droplets of spray, each  decorated with tiny rainbows as the sun reflected from the perfect cloudless blue sky into drops sent heavenward from unending cannonballs into the crystal clear pool which beckoned you with an invitation at your feet, flowing in the form of silent ripples that whispered your name.

Sometimes, and I’m just saying….it’s a little much. Sometimes it’s so purple I have no idea what the writer’s even talking about by the time I finally find a period and, I’m gonna say it, **here comes the hate comments,** but sometimes: it really is just hot. It is hot.

Believe me, I feel your pain. writers are told SHOW it, don’t tell, SHOW! Make the reader feeeeeel the scene. I’ve written many posts about showing something to the reader, and I’ve written those posts as a direct result of being told I was too telly. I get it. We’re tempted to pull out all the stops to accomplish this *showing*, but nothing’s more amateur than trying to *show* your unending creativity and depth through a truckload of descriptions. I think part of the craft is knowing how much is enough. We have to choose the best way to convey our image. Dumping all that “extra” on your already lovely scene will only serve to bury it, accomplishing the exact opposite of what you intended.

Closing thoughts from me: Added word count does make a writer feel good, BUT let’s be sure every word we choose adds value not just more words.

Book Trailers Are For Winners

Do you know about book trailers? They’re all the rage now for readers and writers alike. They’re the literary answer to a movie preview. They’re slides or video, plus music and words. I’ve seen it all. I really have. I spent a ridic amount of time on YouTube this month watching trailers for books I love – some for books that harnessed a 6 or 7 figure advances and others my friends made.

Book trailers, it seems, are the thing to do.

I figured I’m a smart girl. I have Movie Maker and internet access, I can do this.

I really couldn’t.

Trailer making is hard. It’s intricate and much like writing the novel, it’s very very involved. I have a novella coming up in January/February-ish and thought I’d make a trailer to use this fall for promotion. Nope. Not happening.  My trailers look like a drunken monkey created them right before a semi truck ran them over. In short, they sucked.

I now have a new-found respect for those who make book trailers. You are brilliant people. I curtsy to your craft and humble myself at your YouTube channel, nodding along “very nice.”

To those of you who’ve made a book trailer: Kudos. I tip my hat to you my friend because book trailers are my nemesis. I’d post the total heap of poo I’ve concocted for fun’s sake, but I can’t bring myself to that level of humiliation.

Make ‘em Meat-n-Potatoes Characters

There’s nothing worse than a superior story line with paper thin characters. It won’t matter if you have the next must read story to tell, if you can’t command the characters to matter. DO you know what I’m saying? Have you ever picked up a book whose back cover blurb made your eyes go wide? Then you rush home, lock yourself in the closet and hide under the clothes so you can get started immediately? No? Then You don’t have a bunch of little kids like me or you’re a man. Anyhow, you tear into the book and find the imagery fascinating, the world building superb, the intrigue um intriguing, and the characters major lame, perhaps weak, bland, blah, who cares, why are they ruining your story characters? I have. I’ve stopped reading books I waited months to get my hands on because I didn’t care what happened to the characters. They were so flat and transparent the rest of the story lost its weight and my interest.

Take a look at your main characters, even your supporting characters and ask yourself, “Do I like these guys?” Figure out why or why not and them work on it some more. Remember people are complex. We each have a lifetime of unique experiences molding us into who we are. Use those experience to build people readers will care about. Don’t use your MC to drag the story along like a narrator. Use your MC to propel the story forward, to pull your readers onto the edge of their seat, and make me press my back against the closet door and plug my ears so I can swallow just a few more words before I’m ripped away.

In other words, chub em up. Feed em from the feast. You don’t have to dump backstory to show they lived before page one of your manuscript. Drop hints and touches that they lived, like “it smelled like childhood, fresh apples and coffee.” or “barbecue and nostalgia scented the air, fireflies decorated the sky.” Oh, how about a city character seeing a cop on a horse and thinking, he looked like an amateur up there, perhaps the MC thinks she/he could teach them a lesson or two. You see depth, now the reader knows this character can ride. You didn’t have to go into a 2 page flashback of riding lessons from their childhood. Or- Your MC sees a hot guy wink at her and turns away. “She doesn’t have time for heartbreak.”  Heartbreak? It was only a wink, but now we understand… she’s been hurt before and probably pretty bad if a wink turmed her away.

Take the time to sprinkle your story with things that matter. Let us really know your MCs so we can get attached to them. I tell ya, I’ve read a few books this year I wasn’t at all interested in reading, but everyone was all “Squee and woo-hoo” about them online so I made myself check them out – after all I’m greedy when it comes to reading and I don’t want to miss out on anything. So I started a sci-fi (not my thing) and a steamy romance(also not my first choice) and I was sucked into both from page one. Why?  Because I LOVED the characters. They were rich and full and I identified with them. I would’ve gladly followed them anywhere in a spaceship or otherwise just to be on their adventure.

So I say: Fatten those characters. Your  story and your readers will thank you.

The A-HA Epiphany Moment

Every writer knows the moment. It’s that second when you think of the Zing! that makes your WIP far more fabulous than you’d ever imagined. The A-Ha! I have one of these during the plotting and sometimes mid execution of every novel. But in these moments I don’t care if the A-Ha requires massive reworking of plot or character because I know in the end it will be what makes the reader gasp, or laugh out loud or cry and say “A-Ha!” right along with me. The A-Ha works for the reader too, you know.

Think of reading your favorite book when it all comes together. Sometimes you begin to put it together early on, sometimes it hits you as hard and fast as it did the writer. Either way, the A-Ha! is golden. All those longing glances, or hot and cold behaviors, or whatever was thrown in all along come to a hilt and you go OOoOOOOOoooh! I’ve even read a few where I actually re-read the book when it was over so I could see it again knowing what I knew. Then every little word means more, says more, carries more.

I live for those moments as a reader and as a writer. So a couple thoughts here from a writing standpoint…

1. Make sure you’re writing. I hear the argument that writing when you’re not inspired will only produce crap. I say, meh. Maybe. Maybe not. But I can guarantee you won’t write a great novel when you’re not writing. Sometimes waiting for your muse is counter-productive. There. I said it. You don’t like it. I know.

2. If you’re looking for that big twist, start thinking what’s the absolute WORST most complicated thing that could be happening here? Who’s the most unsuspecting? for example. Then run through a slew of  “what if’s” to get your imagination going. Be extreme. Brainstorming should be crazy. The amazing thing about crazy is sometimes an idea sinks its hooks in. Maybe a Killer Clown from Outerspace didn’t do it, but what if  it was someone in a disguise and reports were wrong on gender and hair color? Or Killer Clows might make you wonder if maybe the happiest person was really the disgruntled arms dealer. Killer clowns might get you  thinking up a barber shop debacle. (clowns have bad hair or no hair). Maybe the clown suit lends itself to your chic lit as the bridesmaids get their dresses. You never know what will come up, but I do know all ideas have value.

Every word you write does too, maybe  not value like a place in the book, but value. Don’t underestimate it.

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