Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Plotting Trail

Check out:
Return to Fairy Cove
Season of Truth
Silence the Whispers
Sleepless in Montana
When Night Falls
Hidden Secrets

Start Here on The Plotting Trail: If you haven’t read Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer, you just must. It’s not just another how-to, but is the foundation of many other how-tos.

If you write fiction, you need Swain's book. I’ve studied this book repeatedly and find some new inspiration each time.

But moving on to my 30-yr experience in Plotting: When I first started trying to sell, I soon discovered two things:
1.)   Publishers bought me for my stories and ability to churn fresh ones quickly.
2.)    I did not know how to plot well. That is, to write to a specific number of pages granted by the publisher, and to develop and round off the story within those allowed pages.

Okay, Big Note Here: Label Me a cross between a Plotter and a Plunger.

So I had the stories and plenty of them and I was regimented, fast and a good learner. And so it began…

My first editor wanted 10 paragraphs (this was for a category). Each paragraph was to have 2 sentences pertaining to: 1.) The story line 2.) the main protagonists. The midpt of 10=5. Chapters 1-3 introduced the characters and their backgrounds and the conflict. 3-5 developed the relationship/conflict. 6-9 more conflict/relationship. 10 the resolve and in romances, it’s happily ever after. A category basically translated to less than 200 pages, so that was 20 pages per chapter.

Then the Magical Flow Chart: The most help I’ve ever gotten to really see the linear idea was from a programming course. The big IF/THEN FLOW chart. If this happens, then that happens, right. The beginning is a straight end to the desired ending, but there are all sorts of diversions and If/Then’s and conditions built within the flow chart that always reach back to the main story line. Somehow, this clicked more of a trigger than anything else. We all have our little clicks/snags, something that grabs us, and a programming flow chart did it for me. If you haven’t studied one, take the time?

Moving right along, there’s the circle, where all questions begun at the first must be resolved by the end. Well, as writers we may want unresolved to lead to a series.

Add the historical Brown Bag programming stuff, basically where you’re using Framework to separate plot points into 3 or 4 different screen-play segments. I recognize that the 3-part screen play is a favorite, but I prefer the 4-part as I like that midpt.

Then, lots of other stuff. But then, PAGEFOUR outliner for PC. Pure Magic. I had everything I wanted on screen… if I wanted. No more opening and closing file folders for characters, scene snapshots, etc. PageFour was exceptionally helpful when planning a series and keeping track of essentials. I loved how I could click from one part of essentials to another easily. It saves to .rtf, and I wrote a number of short stories and articles on it, fine-tuning in Word.

Life sailed along just peachy until I changed from PC to Mac. (I’m loving Mac, btw.)

Then Disaster!!: PageFour my absolute must, was not available for Mac. Mac’s Apps have a few this and that’s, including a Cork Board, but nothing compared with PageFour (I almost begged them for a Mac version).

Scrivener is recommended by Mac people and I’ve tried that, but many of my books were already in progress and stuff had to be copied/pasted, stuffed in, worked around. Just recently, I’ve found how to work with it, so far as plotting, characters, notes, etc. But I still use Word, though Scrivener is set up for Pages. A hybrid Plotter/Plunger and software user, I have Pages, but still use Word.

Then even more critical (so far as I know today): Scrivener does not yet have an iPad version. They promise one in 2015. I hope so, because if you need Scrivener, TextEdit, etc. and Dropbox are the workarounds. Since I use my iPad as a working sidekick, I hope that dream comes through.

But PageFour was the ultimate of anything I’ve tried for handy-dandy and last I heard, they did not have plans to develop a Mac version. I did a huge amount of work on PageFour which is still good, saved in ye olde .rtf, including Title and Story Ideas, interesting words and a huge TOYBOX of developed ideas to pull from whenever I needed to churn fast. I highly recommend keeping your own TOYBOX.

The moral of this endless story is we change, stories change, work systems change. Get used to it and move on the best you can. :)
 Check out:
Return to Fairy Cove
Season of Truth
Silence the Whispers
Sleepless in Montana
When Night Falls
Hidden Secrets

Monday, April 13, 2015

Spring in the Ozarks

I thought you'd like to see some of my spring shots.

I usually take my camera and drive around, taking shots, and have that planned pronto. There were some gorgeous white bark sycamores along one creek, but parking/walking there is dangerous. Those will have to wait until I have a "spotter" with me.

These are called different names, "Johny Jump Ups," "Wild Violets", etc. They are lovely in my back yard. Do you have other names for them?

I did take some good yard shots by the house, and the following are some of them:

We're having lots of storms in the Midwest, and we use our weather alert radios--keep those batteries fresh!
We're due for rain and more storms right now, so I'm working away, sliding into the finish with a new book before they hit. :)

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The Scarry Inn: Shirley McCann

KINDLE 2.99~PPRBK 11.63 Prime
Introducing: Shirley McCann has been writing for over twenty years. Her short fiction has appeared in various publications over the years, including Woman’s World, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and The Forensic Examiner, as well as many confession magazines.

 ~~REVIEW for The Scarry Inn
The Scarry Inn by Shirley McCann is a YA/New Adult Horror Story about a group of four teenagers driving to Flagstaff, Arizona for their Christmas break from school. Their car breaks down and leaves them stranded in a small town called Frighton on Christmas Eve, in the middle of a blizzard. The only lodging available is a new motel, called The Scarry Inn, named after the owners, Dick and Thelma Scarry. The inn isn’t open for business yet, but Dick’s sister Madge is sure he will let the teenagers stay. Sure enough, the kids are able to rent two rooms, one for the girls and one for the two boys. But when terrifying things start happening, the kids think Dick and Thelma are playing jokes on them as a publicity stunt for their new inn—until Kara gets murdered, that is. While the book isn’t exactly graphic, it is pretty scary, and not something I would recommend for young YA. But for older YA, new adult, and even adult, it’s an exciting, chilling, and well-written tale that will keep you glued to the edge of your seat. ~ Regan Murphy, Reviewer.

Let’s Get Started:

Q: Shirley, I’ve just read The Scarry Inn and enjoyed it.  Tell us a little about the story from your intimate/writer’s POV. How did you get the plot idea? What triggered it?
A:  The trigger came from a time when my husband and I were stranded in a small town called Ashfork, Arizona. We were on our way to Missouri from California, and our car broke down. Good thing is that nothing weird or scary happened. Just a rundown motel was the only thing we could find. We finally rented a car and made it to Missouri. But you, know the writers mind…


Q: There are so many great characters involved. I loved the friendly helper (Madge) who arranged for the teens to stay at the Inn—which isn’t quite ready for opening day, btw. She went home to make chocolate for her husband and left them there! If you had to pick one character, who did you like the best?
A: Probably Heidi. Although she was fighting for her life, she learned a huge lesson. You have to take what you get in life and keep moving forward. Dwelling in the past and what once was can stop you from enjoying the life you have.

Q: On the other hand, if you were a murderer and had your choice of what kind of personality you might kill, what would that person’s traits be?
A: Ooh. What an evil question? I think I’d kill all the skinny people in the world because they make me look fat. These people would constantly be shoving food into their mouths with nothing happening to their bodies. I’d probably have to stalk them awhile to make sure it was just their good metabolism that allowed them to eat. If they’re purging, I’d let them live. That’s horrific enough. And even exercising and dieting would be enough to let them live. It’s those good metabolism people that would have to die.

Q: The Inn serves a horrible dinner to the teens. What would you expect for a pre-opening holiday meal?
A: Well, considering the inn wasn’t open yet, and the owners weren’t expecting guests, I probably would have expected sandwiches. But if it were operational, I’d expect a nice soup or salad, followed by a plate of salmon, asparagus and baked potato. And a roll. And my choice of coffee or tea.

Q: Speaking of teens, The Scarry Inn is labeled as a Young Adult (YA) book. Many of life’s problems are included: divorce, the usual teen problems, etc. (BTW, I loved how you described the parents’ worrying when the teens went off the grid.) Why did you choose this market?
A: I’ve been a YA fan all my life. I read a lot of YA. I think a lot of adults still read YA. Look at the popularity of Hunger Games and Divergent. Even Maze Runner. It’s not just teenagers that are seeing these movies. There’s a lot of old folks like me too.

Q: Which is your favorite holiday and why? You’re not going to kill characters on Valentine’s Day, are you?
A: Hmm. Hadn’t thought of that. But certainly not at the Scarry Inn. I’m not doing a holiday theme with The Scarry Inn. But Christmas is my favorite holiday. And like I said earlier, my husband and I were stranded on the Christmas holiday, so writing about that seemed appropriate at the time.

Q: While traveling, have you ever experienced staying somewhere you really didn’t like?
A: Oh yeah. Definitely Ashfork, Arizona. The motel wasn’t well insulated, so it was cold, but the one thing I thought most interesting was that despite the cold weather, there were ants crawling along the doorframe. I HATE bugs of any kind. Creeped me out. Other than that, I don’t get to travel much. Pretty much a homebody these days.

Q: All these teens needed to top off the absence of phones and cells, a horrible hostess, was an Alfred Hitchcock movie—which I think Scarry Inn would make a great movie, btw. But what is your special pick for a scary movie and why?
A: I’d LOVE to see The Scarry Inn on the big screen. Send producers my way. But my favorite scary movie is an old one called, I Saw What You Did. It’s about a couple of teenagers who call random people and tell them they know who they are and they know what they did. One guy they called had just killed his wife. I can’t remember how he finds them – I’d love to see it again- but it is one scary movie.

Q: The Scarry Inn stuck-travelers were served iced tea on a freezing day. What would you drink during a blizzard? Or any day?
A: Hot tea, hot Chai tea, hot chocolate.  But I’d still have an iced tea too. Can’t beat good tea. But no coffee for me. Hate the stuff.

Q: Okay, this is where I ask the really deep questions, like favorite hobbies, favorite author, favorite way to pamper yourself?
A: Reading is my hobby. I devour books. I also like to crochet, although I don’t find much time anymore. Mary Higgins Clark is my favorite author. YA author is Lois Duncan, who wrote such classics as I Know What You Did Last Summer, and Killing Mr. Griffin.
Pamper Myself? You kidding? I’m still trying to figure out time to do that. I’d love a massage once a month, but can’t even find time to have my hair done, so probably not gonna happen. These days, pampering includes a pair of pajamas, cup of green tea, a huge bowl of popcorn and a good book.

Q: Deeper yet. If you were to choose a color of polish for your pedicure, would it be blood red, or would that remind you too much of the murders you commit on paper? What shade would you choose and why?
A: I’d love red. It’s my favorite color, but I think it chips too easily. Pink is usually my choice. It’s serene. But I like the idea of red for my book signings. Will have to get that done this week.

Q: When you write, do you have favorite music or absolute quiet? What is your writing schedule?
A:No schedule at all, unless I can make myself get up really early on my days off. I get up at four when I work (which isn’t much, by the way), so sometimes I like to sleep later. I have a paraplegic husband and babysit three grandkids during the week. I grab whatever time I can. BUT, IF I can get up early, I have a thunderstorm CD that I love. (CAIT'S NOTE: This is one of the reason I admire Shirley so much. Writers deal with life issues and if you're meant to write, you will, through almost everything. Almost.:))

Q: ANONYMOUSLY YOURS is also popular now. You mix characters well in it, too. This cast of THE SCARRY INN characters is large, each with a special background and relationships, i.e. the worrying parents, the conflicted daughter, the remarried father, a teen who feels unloved, the truck driver and the pregnant wife, etc. You seem comfortable bringing all the lives together. Is that a result of having your own very busy life?
A: It’s possible. But I think everyone has busy lives in one way or another. I think as writers we probably do include some of ourselves into our writing.

Q: Can you tell us more about your intended series, The Scarry Inn as the first? Also, tell us more about anything else you’re writing?
A: The Scarry Inn will include six books in the series. The first one sets it up. The second book, which I hope to finish soon, will include a murder mystery weekend. Except the murder won’t be fake. Of course a few of the characters will also be in the next book. I’d tell you who, but it would let those who haven’t read it yet know who they shouldn’t suspect in the first book. You’ll just have to read the next one to find out.

Q: Would you like to give a special shout-out or thank-yous to those influencing you or your writing?
A: My family has always been supportive. My sisters, brothers, and my mom have rooted me on from the beginning. My immediate family has never read a thing I’ve written. The writers groups, Sleuths’ Ink and Ozark Romance Authors are great for writers because we get a lot of support and push from them. And, of course, there is Cait London, who is quite the PUSHER of writers, herself.

Be sure to check out THE SCARRY INN and more of Shirley's writing: Anonymously Yours, Got Time? 13 Solve It Yourself Mysteries, A Collection-13 Short Mysteries, and The Necklace-A Middle Grade Mystery.


!!!Keep up with Shirley by visiting her Website/Blog and Social Media:  Facebook and Twitter.

From Cait: As a longtime friend, I've found Shirley to be always cheerful, positive and truly enjoyable company all the way around. But I'm sure Shirley would love to hear from you, so please comment or share with the icons below this post. Let's hear it for Shirley McCann!