Pantera at Panera

Dellani Oakes with glasses smallerA few weeks ago I was standing in a long, slow moving line at the Panera Bread Company. Ahead of me was a very tall, thin man in his twenties. Quite good looking and broad shouldered, he was wearing a black leather jacket. Across his broad expanse of shoulder, stitched in pale yellow letters was the word Pantera. However, because there was a white skull behind the T, it looked like it said Panera.

The older lady beside me was staring at the jacket with a puzzled look. She leaned over to her husband, speaking in what she probably considered a confidential tone. “Why do you suppose he’s standing in line if he’s wearing a Panera jacket? Surely if he works here, he doesn’t have to stand in line.”

I couldn’t let the poor old girl suffer under that misconception, could I? No. I had to set it right. I turned around, smiling pleasantly at her. (So I was eavesdropping, so what!)

“It doesn’t say Panera,” I explained patiently. “It says Pantera. There’s a T in the middle, see?”

They both squinted at the jacket as we took a couple small steps forward.

“Oh,” she said with a grin. “So it does! Well, what’s that? I’ve never heard of that. Have you heard of that?” She asked her husband.

“It’s a band,” I explained, feeling like I was conversing with Miss Emily Lotilla.

“Oh, what kind of music do they play?”

“Heavy metal.”

“Heavy what?”

“Metal. Very hard rock, loud, lots of screaming.”

“Well, fancy you knowing something like that,” she looked very impressed.

“I have teenagers,” I told her with a smile.

I didn’t tell the old girl I had a CD in my car with a couple of Pantera songs on it that I’d been listening to on the way over. I probably would have given her an aneurysm.

Dellani Oakes is an author, mostly of romantic fiction. Her novels, Indian Summer – historical romance, Lone Wolf – futuristic romance are available at Second Wind Publishing and The Ninja Tattoo – contemporary romantic suspense is available from Tirgearr Publishing

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Do you write the stories or do they write you? What does a writing session look like?

Does anyone ever really write alone? I don’t mean with someone in the room. I am talking about the party in our heads.  “The committee” as I refer to them as includes the inner editor, and its boss the inner critic, the characters in the book: protags, badasses and a cast of 1000s.  It’s like in impromptu jam session or a night at the Improv. It’s enough to think I have become schizophrenic;  about the same effect but writer is much easier to spell.

The party sometimes goes as follows:

You forgot to dot the i. My inner editor was looking over my shoulder as I was making some rough notes for the w.i.p. I was working on.  I mentally shushed him. Meanwhile my protagonist was nudging me.

Don’t forget I get the good lines.

“Ha” said the villain, don’t be a pig.”

“Look you jerk, I am the hero in this piece. You’re goin’ down!”

“That’s what you think. Look writer, make sure I get a few zingers before I get what’s coming to me. She’s not getting the last word. I will die dramatically if I have to but make it a good one.”

I heard snickering behind me and my inner critic stepped out. “That scene sucked.”

I harumphed loudly “Did not!”

“Did!”

“Shut the H e double hockey sticks up.”

“You are a hack! You call that the great Canadian novel? Your characters are one dimensional cookie cutters?”

The hero and the villain shouted in unison. “WE ARE NOT YA BUTT HEAD.”

The editor jumps in with “BUTT HEAD IS HYPHENATED! Did I not teach you anything?”

I stood up. “Enough. I can’t think with you guys bouncing around up there. I am going to get a drink and when I get back you better be gone.”

There was silence, finally I could get some work done.

 

That’s a typical discussion in and amongst the grey cells.  There was a cute little meme crawling around face book this week. 

I ONLY WRITE WHAT THE VOICES TELL ME TO.

I can probably say that a lot of writers would agree judging by the number of likes and shares it got through out the week. Sometimes our characters are the writers and we are merely taking dictation. On the other hand:

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What the $%^& is writers block anyway?–Karen Vaughan

What the $%^& is writers block anyway?

Is it a real condition or just an excuse we use not to get motivated?  I think it is real.

It occurs when I sit at my desk looking at whatever project I am working on for an hour straight and have to admit to myself:  I’VE GOT NOTHING!!

Now if you don’t have a deadline, writers block is a matter of frustration. I simply go do something else and wait for a brilliant or at least an acceptable idea for the story.

  • I do crafts. This relaxes me and takes my mind off the blockage.
  • I simply write something besides the project in question—like my blog
  • Visit groups on Facebook or tweet.
  • Nap
  • Go for a walk/drive
  • Organize something either on my laptop or something in my house.  This is good to make up for the stuff I don’t do when I am writing.

My editor keeps me honest. She has this certain cartoon to send when she feels I need a nudge. It’s as subtle as a cattle prod but it does the job.

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I even gave this to my step-son as he was writing his book.

For those poor souls who are on a deadline of sorts writers block can be paralysing.  People get burned out easily as there is so much pressure to do it and do it well.

I suggest for you to be gentle with yourself. If you feel overwhelmed nothing is going to work unless you take a mini break.   One half hour is not going to hurt you if you can’t write anyway.

I often get ideas when I am doing something else.  I cannot write when out side factors are bogging me down. Nasty things like life can get in the way of the creative process.  Arguments with friends family or co-workers can cloud your mind from the thing it really wants to do which is write.   Meditate, breathe pray –or as Dr. Phil would say: DO WHAT WORKS!

I’d be in deep doo-doo if I ever suffered from this.

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TAKE IT EASY AND REMEMBER “THIS TOO SHALL PASS.”

When is it too soon to write your memoirs?

 

I am in my last year of my forties and it has been a very busy nine years. It was the decade planned to do so much.  Is it too soon to write about what I have done? Does one have to wait until they are noteworthy?  I feel like I want to dive right in and share “my” story. 

So if you decide to write an auto-biography, what will it look like?

Is there a message? Is it a tale of survival?  Do you want to convey hope?

My story will be my survival as someone with anxiety. I don’t want it to be maudlin or morose. I have a good life despite the struggles I have had in life. That will come out for sure. I will share my coping skills and strategies I developed over the years that help me get by.

Yes the story is about hope for others who suffer from these issues.

I even have a title in mind. I QUIT MY DAY JOB FOR THIS?  Yes as you who have read stuff I have written will know that nothing gets written without a few laughs along the way.

So what inspires a person to write something so personal?

Yesterday I was at a Women in wellness seminar. There were three brave souls who got up and told their stories.  They were funny and moving and I realized it takes a lot of guts to bare ones soul to a room full of strangers.  Is it any easier to put it on paper and publish?  Not sure yet.

You decide if it’s a story worth telling but I am sure it will be.

Real Life vs. Fiction – How much of me is in my books?

As I told my students many times, “write what you know”.  Glancing through the four novels I’ve written so far, I find that there is a LOT of me scattered around.  In Adrianna, for example, the paraplegic main character is nothing like me looks-wise, and she’s a billionairess…of course that doesn’t fit me at all! However, what she says during her recovery from the car accident that killed her father came right out of my memory of what I said twenty-six years ago when I first became paraplegic.

Example:

“It will be wonderful riding Thunder again! I bet he has missed me almost as much as I have missed him,” she exclaimed exuberantly.  She ran her fingers through her long, wind-tangled hair and sighed. “I just don’t know what I’d do if anything happened to Thunder! Take whatever you want, but don’t take my Thunder from me!”

I was never horse-crazy, but I had a friend in high school who practically worshipped them. What Adrianna says about anything happening to her horse…now that’s from a statement I made shortly before I became paraplegic.  It turned out to be prophetic and almost like I challenged the powers that be, and in Adrianna’s case, she lost Thunder for a while because she couldn’t ride him.

Wanting to get on her horse and ride with the wind was one of her prime motivations for working hard to overcome her paraplegia.  In my case, I wanted my children to see that one doesn’t have to let life’s surprises stop him from doing whatever he sets his mind to accomplish – something good with his life. I went back to college and became a teacher…and I think that made my kids proud of me.

 I have a feeling that any author, regardless of genre, puts a lot of happenings, characteristics, and thoughts from their actual experiences into their books.  That’s what makes fiction so much fun to write. The author can say things in a book that he or she might have wished to say at some point in real life.

Maybe he or she would have liked to stand up to that bully in elementary school and still remembers how it felt back then. Voila! A mean bully character appears in the book, and sometimes that happens although the writer hadn’t planned on having that particular character. In the novel, by contrast to real life, the main character overcomes the bully in some significant way, and the writer feels vindicated.

I loved my father, and I know that he loved me, but he seldom said it, and he wasn’t the affectionate type. Daniel, one of the main characters in Roller Coaster Ride, is patterned after the father I wish mine had been.  He’s almost the total opposite of what mine was…and I mean no disrespect to my Dad as he had his good qualities, too.  I cried when my father died, and I know that …somewhere in the distant future, if Daniel dies in one of the five remaining books I have waiting in my head to finish the Grisholm County Chronicles, I will have trouble seeing the screen to write his demise.  I’ll need lots of tissues!

I wonder how many authors recognize how much of themselves and their lives appear in some form in the fiction they create.  Is that monstrous alien who threatens the earthlings that visit a faraway planet actually the bully that stole the writer’s lunch money and beat him up after school?  Could that loving, wonderful woman who appears in a dream to encourage or warn a character be like the writer’s mother…or perhaps her opposite?

It would be interesting to read your comments, fellow authors – perhaps you’ll share an instance in one of your books that you know came from your real life experiences, or a character that has the personality of someone in your life. I hope you’ll write one of those experiences in the comment.

My journey in self-publishing

I never really set out to get published when I started writing 8 years ago. I just wanted to see where I could go with it.  After completing the manuscript I sent it to friends who agreed that although it needed serious editing they loved the story DEAD ON ARRIVAL, was really good and that I should try to publish it.

Who me? Publish I had no clue what to do.  I was a newbie and I had no hope in hell of getting it done in the traditional sense.  That meant using a vanity press that charged for the privilege to get my work in print.  That in itself is a long, expensive yet rejection free process.

I approached several which I will not name as I had read predators and editors on line and discovered some of them to be disreputable houses. I settled on one that seemed legit and put down a fair chunk of money. I was satisfied with the results for my first book but decided I needed better distribution. I am still trying to sell DEAD ON ARRIVAL on my own. I purchased a distribution package for DEAD COMIC STANDING. That was a good deal as people can buy it in print and e-book formats.

I decided after someone wanted more Laura and Gerry from my first book. Suddenly I was writing a series but I had decided to try another press. It was still a print on demand service but it was Canadian and I am all about the red and white.  OVER HER DEAD BODY was born and published. By this time I am in debt but I think the experience has been worth the journey.  I wrote and am publishing DAYTONA DEAD the same way as the others but that is it.  I am going to use a different press that only does e-books for other projects as I no longer can afford the previous method.

Drawbacks for self-publishing:

  • expensive
  • marketing is mostly done by the author with a little guidance but basically it’s sink or swim for the writer
  • Hard to get Self published works into bricks and mortar stores
  • You are the writer producer and p.r. person for your work –I would suggest this route for the independently wealthy folks with lots of time to take care of the whole shebang.

Benefits

  • No deadlines
  • writer has full control on pricing and the creative process
  • it’s a great learning process
  • there are many ways now that you can publish for free–Smashwords, Createspace etc.

Be brave and patient it can be done and I have read so many books by indie authors that are just fantastic-including our own Write minds authors.

I don’t regret the experience despite the cost.

And The Part Goes To…by Karina Gioertz

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It probably comes as no surprise at this point (you know, because I may have mentioned it before ;-) …once or twice…) that the books I write come to me more as movies. Well, actually they start out as little movie trailers that play in my head over and over again. Little scenes, bits of dialogue and hints of the plot are all neatly tied up in a sweet little brain flash that replays itself a gazillion times a day until I grab a pen and paper and make it stop.

I attribute these mind movies to the fact that I initially leaned toward writing screenplays rather than writing novels. Or perhaps it’s the other way around…who knows. Regardless, once I get to typing it’s essentially the same thing as the director calling out “ACTION”. The opening scene developes, the characters come to life and the story leads the way.

Just like any other director, I like to have an amazing cast to work with. Most of the time I know who I want for each part as I write it in, but other times it’s not so easy. When I started writing Country Girls, most of the cast was clear right from the start.

Emma Wilson was played by Jennifer Aniston. Eli’s part went to Reese Witherspoon and I was kind of undecided between Burt Reynolds and Tommy Lee Jones for Harry, but it was definitely one of the two! Evey was a little harder, but it eventually went to Amanda Seyfried. Shawn on the other hand was instant – Taye Diggs. Unfortunately, while I can picture Doc as clear as day, I can’t say for certain who he is…or if he exists beyond the realm of my imagination at all…so, that part’s still up for grabs I suppose, along with a few others.

So, there’s my cast for Country Girls. Even if Country Girls is never made into a movie, it’s a fun excercise to do as a writer…and I won’t deny that seeing my stories come to life on the big screen would be the ultimate dream come true for this writer ;-)

For those of you who have read the book, do you agree with my cast? Who would you choose if it were up to you??

LEVELS OF LANGUAGE IN NOVELS BY KAREN VAUGHAN

Language in novels.

Depending what you write a certain level of language is acceptable or expected. For instance in a regency romance no one is going to use the F word. Some writers might describe what they would like a character to do with the horse they rode in on in much more flowery terms.

However, in a police or military related novel and horror more colourful language is acceptable and expected.   You can pretty much expect the seven words you can’t say on television.

Some people are shy about using certain words in their writing. In a gritty crime novel “OH PHOOEY” just doesn’t work after you have just found the grotesquely dismembered body of your best friend or lover.

I don’t use a lot of really disgusting language in my books. I use the basics like ass-hole, shit and I am not afraid to drop a few F-bombs where it would be necessary to emote like that where applicable.  Two terms I refuse to use in life or writing –one starts with c and rhymes with runt and the other rhymes with brother-trucker. They are crude and totally violate my liberal sensibilities.  I would rather find more descriptive phraseology that has the same meaning and does the job.

As far as talking dirty when it comes to those steamy sex scenes I don’t really do that. I am a tad shy but like my fellow writer and friend Eileen, I get the point across creatively without being crude. Ellen stated that she writes love scenes like she did when she was twenty five. It was clean but had the same effect that purple prose would have. I blushed and still headed for a cold shower. It was tasteful and entertaining. I carry the same attitude with mine.  Explicit dirty language is fantastic for Erotica and may be the trashy novels with Fabio on the cover. My books don’t center on sex or the type of prose used –although I have heard people wished I would ramp up the sex and throw out a few more colorful expletives.

Do use language appropriate to the genre, and age level.

Don’t use language you aren’t comfortable with.

And again HAVE FUN!

WHY I WRITE MYSTERY BY KAREN H. VAUGHAN

I have always been fascinated with detective books and shows on TV. I grew up reading THE HARDY BOYS and NANCY DREW. I loved the way the detectives searched for clues and put the puzzle together. I am not police material and I hate the sight of blood so I write about it.

My mysteries aren’t heavy with a lot of violence.  Yes there is usually a dead body hence the word in my titles  like DEAD COMIC STANDING and OVER HER DEAD BODY.  I love light mysteries as well as the gritty police procedurals. I am all for the average Joe coming along and inadvertently solving the crime.

My protagonist Laura is an average citizen . She got sucked in to the first situation as it was her floor where the body was found in DEAD ON ARRIVAL.  Laura is not one who stands idly by and watches from the side-lines like she is supposed to. She sometimes puts her self in the line of fire, albeit accidently.

Most amateur detectives are natural snoops. They can sniff out a crime at fifty paces get involved much to the chagrin of their friends and family.

I wanted Laura to be a well rounded individual with a life which includes a romantic interest and a few quirky friends willing to stand by and pick up the pieces.

In OVER HER DEAD BODY, Laura and Gerry stumble upon a dead neighbor and unearth the plot of a stiletto wearing bimbo  seeking revenge on the eighty-something paramour of her rich husband.  Laura jumps in head first and goes toe to toe with the woman scorned to avenge the senseless murder and protect her new friend Sanford Brown.

This amateur meddling causes a rift with Gerry who would really rather she let the police do the dirty work.  She even gets into the thick of things in my soon to be released DAYTONA DEAD. Even on their honeymoon things get interesting and they end up on the bad side of a criminal.

As most people who have read my work know that I love comic relief and quick-witted dialogue. Police on TV and in books have that kind of rapport and it just adds a dimension to the over all story.

If you want to write a book carefully decide what elements you want to include. If you are a crime lover still try to include a bit of romance and humor to make the character more well rounded and not just a cookie-cutter “just the facts ma’am” kind of detective.