Monthly Archives: January 2014

Random Fan with Daisy Prescott

Today’s post is a segment we like to call Random Fan and here are the rules:

Once a month Morgan and I will invite one of you to ask us three questions, but be prepared because we get to ask three of our own in return.

If you’d like to opt in, please leave a comment below and your name will be entered into consideration.

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This month’s Random Fan is Daisy Prescott, author of Geoducks Are For Lovers and Ready to Fall.  Many thanks to Daisy for signing on for this experiment.  If you’d like to know more about Daisy and her novels, be sure to visit her website: http://daisyprescott.com/

geoducksReady To Fall

Morgan and Jennifer: We first met John Day in Geoducks Are For Lovers and then saw his story more fully explored in Ready to Fall. We’re curious to know if you had a thing for lumberjacks before writing your first book or was that something you discovered in the process of writing the story?

Daisy Prescott: Can I plead the Fifth? I’ve always loved the Monty Python song, but not sure if I have a fetish for lumberjacks. I think I have a thing for real men of the Pacific Northwest. It’s no secret that I lived on Whidbey and have spent time in the area my entire life.  I’ve met real-life loggers, but none of them hold a candle to John Day.

John’s story surprised me. He had such a small supporting role in Geoducks. When I read through his parts in Geoducks before starting to write Ready to Fall, I was surprised how little we knew about him other than the plaid shirt,  his logging job, and Quinn’s “Paul Bunyan” nickname. Yet readers loved him and begged for more. I read a lot about modern logging, forestry majors to make sure I got that stuff right, even if you don’t see it on the page.

I know I’m not the only one who has a thing for a rugged, bearded, alpha male in flannel.

flannelguy

Daisy Prescott: When writing “steamy times”, do you do personal research? lol I ask because Ready to Fall is all in John’s POV.  My husband was a much appreciated research consultant on the book. 😉

*The Locklear’s glance surreptitiously at one another*

Morgan: For the most part…no.  Although that’s not to say that working on a love scene hasn’t brought about an inspirational moment or two.

Jennifer: Let us just say that it usually becomes obvious to one partner when the other has been working on a particularly amorous chapter.

writing sex

Morgan and Jennifer: Would you ever consider collaborating on a writing project with someone else? Or do you prefer to go solo?

Daisy Prescott: I came really close to co-writing a project with another author recently. Our schedules didn’t work out, but I’m open to the idea. My husband has been a part of my plotting sessions on all my writing projects. I love his input and couldn’t have done John’s story in male POV without it. Even if I’m writing solo, it’s a collaborative endeavor from plotting to working with beta readers. Each reader or editor leaves a mark on the story.

Daisy Prescott: As co-writers, what is your writing process? Do you plot or pants?

Morgan and Jennifer:  That really depends on the story.  So far, plot ideas have been either Morgan’s or Jennifer’s and not the result of brainstorming together. We do outline to a certain extent, but we also like to allow enough room for the characters to have their say. Sometimes, they take us on a journey we weren’t expecting to go on.

Once an idea has been brought forward, that person decides what kind of help or input they want from the partner. Sometimes one writes, while the other edits. Sometimes we write together. When that happens, we discuss scenes or chapters before writing and determine which one of us is more excited about tackling a particular portion of a story. The first draft is always written by one of us, and then we’ll go through that draft together to figure out what things could be added or amended.  The second person will then take their pass at it, and then we’ll meet up again for a second edit.

chapter one

Morgan and Jennifer: If you could live in any city for a year to research a setting, which one would it be? And what kind of book would you write as a result?

Daisy Prescott: Great question. For me it is impossible to write about a place I’ve never been. I need to know how it sounds and smells—things you can’t get from Google Maps. Luckily I’ve been blessed to travel. My next book takes place away from the familiar beaches and towns of Whidbey Island. Right now it takes place in three settings: Portland, Amsterdam and Ghana.

I’d love the chance to go back to Ghana for a year to live in the capitol of Accra and write. My husband and I visited there for a few weeks several years ago, so in addition to online research, I’ll be writing descriptions from memory. The book will be a contemporary adult romance with a few Out of Africa influences.

outofafrica

Daisy Prescott: Do you have a favorite genre to read/write that the other person dislikes? How do you balance that?

Morgan: I read a Men’s Adventure series called Death Lands.  I have since college, and Jennifer has never shown any interest in reading it. Even so, I know it has greatly influenced my own style of writing, including the more erotic scenes.  I think Jennifer reads more romance than I do, but I enjoy writing romance with her.

Jennifer: Reading is something we’ve both enjoyed since we began dating, so many times we do pass books back and forth to one another.  We also read several books together each year and I think this act helps to balance out our differences.

Morgan is right, I’ve never read one of his Death Lands books, and probably never will. It’s not an enticing idea to me.  Morgan also tends to read more reference books than I do, and I’m good with letting him summarize it all for me. I’m still recovering from my time in college (when I was buried in Accounting, Finance and Economics textbooks)and am mostly very content with losing myself in fiction.

*****

Our thanks once again to Daisy for stopping by our blog.  If you’re looking for intelligent, witty and sweet romances set within the rugged beauty of the Pacific Northwest, do yourself a huge favor and give Daisy’s novels a go.  We promise you won’t be disappointed!

Charity Spotlight: Why I Volunteer…

MLK Day

On January 20, Americans will observe a federal holiday commemorating the birth of civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As an added element to this holiday, a call to action requests citizens to dedicate their time away from work with a day of volunteer service in their community.

So, rather than focusing on a specific charitable endeavor this month, I thought I would write a bit about my own personal experiences with volunteering.

I first became active in community service during my adolescence. The town I lived in was fairly new to me. I had moved there when I was twelve years old and had come from a situation with less than stellar circumstances.  I arrived in a new place, knowing no one and having to adapt to a new home, a new family situation, and an entirely new way of life.  I was tentative and anxious, but realized rather quickly that I was glad to have an opportunity to start my life over with a clean slate.  I was fortunate enough to be welcomed into my new community with a kindness and compassion that I was largely unaccustomed to receiving.

Within a few months of arriving in this new place, I no longer felt a like stranger in a strange land. I made wonderful friends (many of whom remain friends to this day) and I thrived in my new school.  I excelled in my studies and, as a result of this, I was inducted into the National Honor Society at my high school.  One of the requirements of NHS membership was to volunteer a certain amount of time to community service. I started out by participating in local food drives and beach clean ups, and these hours spent helping my community sparked something within me.  I enjoyed the work immensely and felt a sense of accomplishment every time I gave up a bit of personal time to do something important for the town that had nurtured me.

When I graduated from high school I did so with honors, and left for college a few months later having secured enough scholarship money from several local funders to fully cover my university expenses for five years. Once I began college, I had limited free time to spend on volunteer service, but I always kept thinking of ways I could eventually utilize my degree to serve others.

As I neared graduation, I made up my mind to return to the community that had, in many ways, saved me. Simply put, I wanted to offer my thanks for the town’s investment in me.  The town itself is not a large one. The location is rural and often struggles to maintain a booming economy, making secure career work difficult to come by. Some considered my decision risky and made it clear to me how they felt about it.

Once again, I was fortunate.  I returned home, and landed a job working in fundraising and development for one of the region’s largest non-profit facilities, where I’m proud to say I still remain today.  I work with a dedicated crew of volunteers on a daily basis, some of whom are so eager to donate their time and talents to the organization that they will commute for hours from other parts of the state to do so.  They will accept any task with alacrity and are constantly a source of inspiration to me.

Over the years, I have continued to volunteer my free time to several local causes – volunteering for the American Cancer Society, mentoring teen parents, promoting the performing arts, fundraising to develop ocean literacy programs for school children throughout my state and working to obtain affordable healthcare for women and children in my local area, among others.  I have found great joy in donating both my time and my dollars to various organizations, and know that my life would be incomplete without these experiences.

There are so many worthy causes and so many needs to be met in our world. At times, it can be difficult to understand how one person can truly make a difference. But if nothing else in life, I have seen time and time again how just one action can radiate through a community and bring about life-altering change for those in need.

It truly is an amazing thing to witness, and something that never fails to remind me how much goodness there really is in the world.

The beauty of the National Day of Service is that everyone can participate, benefitting any cause they connect with and volunteering their time and talents in just the way they wish to.  If you’ve been thinking of volunteering and are looking for a place to begin, this is a wonderful opportunity to do so.

For more information, you can visit the following Martin Luther King, Jr. Day sites:

Website:  http://mlkday.gov/

Twitter: @MLKDay

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mlkday

I can think of no better way to begin the New Year than this.

Enjoy and Take Care,

Jenn

Wordslinger: Chapter Length … It Matters

I love to read short chapters, but I have only recently begun writing them.  Like movies, I tend to string many scenes together and even switch POVs at my leisure.  This may work in the movies but in a novel it can be confusing and, worse yet, annoying.

George Lucas and his film American Graffiti helped begin a movement in the film industry where multiple story lines were advanced at once and even intertwined.  We as audience members have grown so accustomed to this fast pace that now even sit-coms have three different story arcs going at once.  (I’m thinking of some of my favorite Seinfeld episodes).

When writing, I invite you to embrace the last bastion of intimate story telling; the chapter.  A chapter can be as long as a novella and works for many authors, but it doesn’t have to be a series of separated scenes.  Any single scene can be an island.

If you’re looking for a rule to follow, I submit that any change in POV or location should be strongly considered a good place to start a new chapter.

Worried about length? (And who isn’t)?  Don’t be, I’ve read plenty of 400 word chapters and you know what it got me?  A bigger sense of accomplishment.

However, in the interest of putting a figure on it, I’ll submit that a chapter that is 1 to 5 thousand words is a great target as well as a fairly consistent modern standard.

I try to keep web posts such as this one to about a thousand words because I know it’s long enough to be worth the time to explore any given topic, but not so long as to intimidate readers.  Maybe it’s even because of my relationship with Bookish Temptations that my fiction has segmented into more bite sized morsels over that last two years.  In that case, I say thank you, because it has the added bonus of making novels easier to edit.

It should be noted that my endorsement of short, poignant chapters in no way changes my sour views on a web fad known as “drabble” posts.  I heartily maintain that purposefully dinky chapters (250 words or so), is seldom going to fully engage a reader no matter how much instant gratification it gives the writer.

Beginning with a thousand words is  just a starting target and a great daily writing goal in addition.  Keeping it under 5k allows the reader a chance to settle into your writing without subjecting them to a lengthy parade of characters and locations.

Side trips can be fun, but ultimately hurt your final product if they don’t directly serve the story.  Just like in real life, too many side trips results in running out of gas before you get to your final destination.

I mostly write in a third person narrative and often dive down into the heads of many of my characters, but too much head hopping even confuses me later on.  Separating these sections by making them their own chapters is greatly assisting my quest for clearly defined plot lines while giving me the freedom to even switch them around from time to time.

It takes guts, but chapters that have only one scene can be shuffled like drink coasters at the Elks Lodge.  You never know what combinations can be unlocked by simply shuffling the order of events.

THIS IS SELDOM NECESSARY AND NOT A COMMON STEP IN THE EDITING PROCESS, But, it is eye-opening and has inspired both my wife and I. The changes we make usually stick.

Don’t you like to come up for air every ten to fifteen minutes when you read?  I sure do, and I can’t believe I’ve subjected readers to colossal 15 to 22 thousand word chapters in my fan fiction days.  If I re-edited those books, the chapters would quadruple.

Most of the advice I offer is pretty well vetted and tested but I want to acknowledge that there are countless examples of amazing books with chapters longer than a Dakota freight train and I don’t knock it one bit;  I only suggest that current styles and preferences are leaning toward screenplay sized scenes.

Fortunately, that trend lends itself to clear and considerate writing and I am a fan of both.  As a person who suffers from being a little too wordy, this is the kind of thing that keeps me in check and makes my stories tight and focused.  (Again, a big help in editing).

I still encourage writers to follow those rabbits down their respective holes and let characters off their leashes once in a while. I just think it helps more to keep changes in points of view separate for the sake of simplicity alone.

Here’s hoping that you have twelve excellent chapters in the year 2014, and as usual, I’ll be here every first Saturday to lend my blurry perspective.

Your Pal,

Morgan