Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sharon Wildwind, my Spring Equinox Guest

Happy Ostara, Happy Spring Equinox!

Today is one of my favorite days, the spring equinox. It is a day of balance and fertility (e.g. creativity). I will be celebrating the balance and creativity in my life and writing today.

For now, it is my pleasure to welcome Sharon Wildwind as a guest on my blog on this special day:

What Comes Next is Not the Way to Plot

Today the world balances on its polar axis, and soon the northern hemisphere will make a joyful tilt toward spring and summer. What comes next is longer days, warmer weather, and a plethora of enjoyable outdoor activities.

What next is a good question for equinox, but when I ask a writer about her work in progress, all too often her answer is a litany of events that don't reflect the book's heart.

Tell me about your book.

It’s a mystery-romance about a woman who got in trouble at work and left home in disgrace. Her friend runs a fishing lodge where she used to live. He calls in a panic, insisting she come back, but won’t say why. When she returns, she discovers her brother and his new bride honeymooning at the lodge. She doesn’t like her brother’s wife. Her friend has family problems, too. His grandfather, from whom he’s been estranged for years, decides to hold a family reunion at the lodge. When his grandfather is murdered, the two of them have to find the killer.

This is a what-comes-next summary. This happens, then this happens, then this problem happens, and then they solve that problem, but this other problem comes up. It might be interesting (or not), but is it compelling? It took me a long time to realize there was a better way to summarize a story.

Tell me about your book.

It’s a mystery-romance. A woman was forced to leave a small town in disgrace after making an unethical business decision. Her brother’s unexpected marriage compels her to return. She immediately discovers why her brother didn’t invite her to his wedding, and she fears that his new wife is a gold-digger. The man she once loved was responsible for her being fired. She’s not sure what their relationships is now, especially when his estranged grandfather’s murder forces them to work together. Finding the killer is certain to put her in more ethical hot water.

Focusing on what’s at stake in place of what comes next works for plotting, too. For the writer who prefers to plunge in without a lot of planning, two questions will suffice:
When the story begins, what is the character’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual situation?
What is his/her first challenge and how does he/she meet that challenge?

Karen Hogarth is tired. She’s grateful to have a job, and a furnished room in a boarding house. Working casual means her schedule, and her sleep, changes daily. She hasn’t time, energy, or inclination to make friends. Thank goodness for library cards. She taught herself to knit from a book, is already bored with scarfs, but can’t focus enough to try anything more complicated. She’s not sorry for what she did, but regrets getting caught. Someone needed help and she helped. That’s the way life should be.

Being told her brother is married is her first challenge. Why in the world would he get married without telling her? For his sake, she has to go back, right away. Returning to the small town she left will be inconvenient, expensive, and scary, but this is her brother we’re talking about. She didn’t spend eight years raising him to have him throw his life away on the wrong women.

That should be enough to kick-start the writing.

For writers who like to plan in more detail, repeat those two questions for each major character. Attempt to have characters start from opposing positions. For example, Karen doesn’t like her new sister-in-law; her former lover thinks the woman will be a good influence on her brother. Bingo: instant tension.

Here’s my token to celebrate spring. Hope you have a wonderful equinox.


Sharon Wildwind is a Calgary, Alberta mystery writer. Her most recent book, Loved Honor More, was published in 2012 November, and that completed her first series. She’s currently at work on a stand-alone mystery set in the folk music world. Her web site is and she tweets @sharww.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Kim Coates starring in Ferocious

Do you have a hankering for a psychological thriller?

The movie Ferocious, starring Kim Coates, 
opens in Calgary on Friday at the Globe! 
**See media release below for more dates, times, and cities**

I'll be honest, I've never met Mr. Coates, but I do know Robert Cuffley, the writer and director of the movie Ferocious. I love supporting Canadian films and local talent. It is my pleasure to share with you the press release. Enjoy!
PS, Robert, I write outdoorsy adventure romance, maybe you'd consider a romcom next time? ;)
PPS, Happy Weekend!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

W. Brett Wilson Chats With ARWA

Thursday night ARWA (Alberta Romance Writers' Association) was pleased to welcome W. Brett Wilson to chat with our group. 

I have to admit I had no idea what to expect, and I imagine we were not his usual audience. But my personal evening started with a good long walk in the balmy Calgary air and going out for beers with a couple fellow writers. So, the night was a success before I even got to ARWA. Excellent.

Sarah KadesW. Brett WilsonLorraine Paton at ARWA.
Enter Brett. Entrepreneur, philanthropist, former Dragon (CBC TV Show Dragon's Den), and author of Redefining Success. . .  in a room full of romance writers. How is this going to go?

Brett told his stories, shared  insights, lessons learned, wisdom culled, listened to our questions, answered thoughtfully, and through the evening, quietly took us for a walk along on his journey. It was a thoughtful, inspiring, and a rather awesome night.

A few highlights stick out for me and inspired my own self-reflection. . . 

Priorities was a big one. Getting them in order, straight in our head, so to speak, and having our actions match our priorities. I've been asking myself this same question, too. What are your priorities? Are they in line with how you want to live your life? Are you rocking it or blowing it? What are you spending your time on? Mindfully prioritize, live, adjust as necessary, repeat.

The Power of a Word
The importance of word choice was another. Although the context was in labels (e.g. corporate social opportunity instead of corporate social responsibility), he spoke of the importance of using the right word. Writers practice that, but for me, it goes farther. Words have power. They are energy. Take care to use the word you really want to use so you communicate exactly what you want, not what you don't. 

Words have Power and Energy
There are numerous books and authors that address this concept. I'll mention one here, Masaru Emoto. His books on water crystal healing speaks to the impact energy, in the form of thoughts and words, have on water, on us, and the world around us. Emoto's books ask we take care in what we are communicating, what energy we are sending out with our words and thoughts. Makes sense to me. Send out love and up the frequency of all around, send out grump and tank the vibe of what's around you. To be clear, I have no idea Brett's take on water crystals and happy thoughts, he did not go there. My brain did.

What is Your Frame of Reference?
It was interesting to hear an entrepreneur's angle, side to some of the topics. It reminded me when I was working on an interdisciplinary academic grant project years ago that included archaeologists, geo-archaeologists and geographers. Several profs, with like a million years of higher learning among them, all from different backgrounds, stared at a single soil stain and gave their theory on what it was from. Each one explained the anomaly with theories from their chosen field. Makes sense, you explain with your frame of reference. But for a bystander it was a fascinating anthropological study. And quite a show. Our history, our background, frames our experiences, gives us lenses from which we view the world around us. Of course we can choose to broaden our views and maximize our possibilities. But it helps to remember if we are looking at a soil stain as a physical geographer, it might not dawn on us the stain could be from, say, a boil pit. 
How are you viewing the world?

When We are Lucky, Books Help Us on Our Own Journey
He mentioned people have resonated with the book, some a bit surprised about it. Nicely done. A sneak attack of resonance is fun. 
I have no idea if this one is going to do that for you or me, but it sounds like it certainly has for some.

Overall, great night of reflection, sharing, and inspiration. Am I looking forward to reading the book, yes. Am I looking forward to redefining my success, oh yeah.

Thanks Brett and thanks ARWA. ;)

PS, I dig hyphens, too.
PPS, Honor your writing process.  Whatever it is, whatever path it leads you on, it is perfect. Sometimes writing a book is as much about the journey and getting there, as it is about your end product. Honor that. Some chapters are 900 drafts of journey. Some fly out of us and we nail it the first round. Books are teachers for the reader and writer, when we let them be. 

Happy Reading, Happy Writing!