Posted in Conference, For Writers, On Writing, Writing

Murdering Darlings: Revisions

When we writers struggle with edits, inevitably someone will mention the phrase often (but questionably) attributed to William Faulkner, or Stephen King, or Colette, or F. Scott Fitzgerald, or… You get the idea.

Whether the chosen word is murder or kill, for a slow writer such as myself, this concept can bring tears, especially when entire scenes (and the precious words that change a novel to a novella) are lost.

I’m almost ready to submit a new manuscript, but only because this week, I sacrificed my darlings.

Teddy bear knife block found on pinterest
sadly not available

My first page has been a years long education. I first conceived of this work as a short story.  I was ready to contribute my 8,000 polished words to an anthology or anywhere else looking for short work. And then, at a conference, the acquiring agent revealed the most overused cliché in her rejection pile – the opening in a rainy cemetery. Guess where my story started. Oops. I set the manuscript aside.

I next picked up the manuscript with the “brilliant” idea of the heroine driving into town after a long absence, I layered in plot and new depth. The short story grew to novella proportions of 22,000 words. My beta readers loved the idea but one thought it started slow. Nevermind. I was ready to pitch until I was an a conference and an acquiring editor called the car ride open her instant “no.” Oops. I set the manuscript aside.

Still, I couldn’t let the story go. All through my broken arm induced writing hiatus, these characters sat with me. I expanded the story, adding subplots and conflict. I reached 56,000 words. A Novel! Almost. I still didn’t have a good opening.

I spent a week recrafting the opening chapter, and an entire day hand writing various opening sentences and more time tweaking and revising and finally, I had it.

“C.E disliked sticky mud, but grass alone didn’t give the grave the necessary freshness.”

Victory! You are intrigued and I get a cemetery. Win! Win! Win!  Except the first chapter was totally wrong for the book. I scrapped it. I murdered that sentence I worked so hard on. The one that absorbed days of my time, where every word had been carefully considered and my beta readers swooned – at least until they reached the end of the second paragraph and then slogged through to the 10th page where the story actually began.

This week, I murdered some words. I have no guilt. Killing them made my heart lighter and my story better. I have a new opening sentence, one that I love and will share wide and far when the time comes.

Until then, if you are wondering what is in that grave, I’ll tell you. It’s murdered darlings.

Posted in Talking with

Talking with: Sarah Ballance

Today I’m talking with Sarah Balance about Forsaken, her latest release from Samhain publishing.

Forsaken72lgSarah, what inspired you to write this book?

If you ask my husband, he’ll say the idea of this book was born solely to aggravate him, LOL. I don’t remember where I got the idea, but this plot is hinged on a rare gun owned by the heroine. Going in, I knew nothing about guns, but my husband knows ALL THE THINGS. I spent a couple of hours trying to find the right weapon for the job (read: asking him question after question), not realizing what I needed wasn’t so much a rare gun, but a rare caliber. ERMAGERD. Once I got past that little detail, the book practically wrote itself. And my husband decided to stay married to me, LOL, so all is well.  Always good.

What types of books do you enjoy reading? What is on your nightstand?

I have always kept piles of Harlequin Intrigues (category romantic suspense) on a shelf by my bed, while my kindle is full of books from Entangled Publishing. (They are, without exception, SO GOOD—so good that I auto-buy pretty much everything they publish.) When I’m not on a tight deadline I’ll read a book a night. I don’t mean to, but if I don’t read between writing and attempting to sleep, my mind just goes crazy with ideas for my work-in-progress. Then I get wrapped up in the story I’m reading and can’t put it down until I turn the last page.

Tell me about your favorite place to write. What makes it special?

My favorite place is inside the cabin of our boat. The marina is SO peaceful, and the creak of the ropes and the slap of water against the hull make for perfect background noise. SO much better than listening with one ear as my kids tear down the house.  (Not really, but sometimes I wonder!)

How do you make time to write?

I usually do so after dinner. We are a homeschooling family so I spend most of the day with my children, which means at the end of the day, taking time for myself is pretty much a guilt-free endeavor. My kids range from ages 4 through 16, so they’re all old enough to understand that I need to be left alone unless there’s a true urgency. If my husband has to work he usually takes kids with him, and if not my older kids help watch the younger ones. It’s getting easier, but a couple of years ago it was tough! You are busy and productive.

 What is your favorite part about being an author?

The flexibility. I’m a full-time author and can literally work anywhere. My husband (who also has some flexibility) and I love road trips and have made it a mission to take our kids to see all 48 contiguous states, and over the course of our travels I’ve worked pretty much everywhere. There’s something incredibly inspiring about the changing view, and the fact that I can share the astounding beauty of this country with the kids and be paid at the same time is a blessing for which I am truly grateful.

Thanks for stopping by. I’d love to know more about your book.

FORSAKEN Forsaken72lg

Her past is back to haunt her—and this time, it’s got a gun.

When Gage Lawton finds his brother shot to death on his back porch, every shred of evidence points to one person: Gage’s ex-lover, Riley Beckett. The only gun in town that fires a bullet of that caliber belongs to her.

Certain the shooting is payback for his part in the loss of her parents, he abandons his promise to stay out of her life and confronts her, his rage backed up with a revolver. Yet when she steps through the door, all thoughts of revenge burn to ashes.

A year after Riley unwillingly walked away from Gage, she enters her home to find him sitting in the dark, gun pointed at her head. One look into those achingly familiar blue eyes reminds her how wrong she was to let him go. But now there’s more standing between them than their heated past.

A twist of fate—and a hail of sniper bullets—puts them in the cross hairs of a killer, leaving Riley with just two slim options: trust her greatest betrayer, or face a murderer alone.

Warning: Prepare to get caught in a crossfire of profanity, danger, and desire. Intense violence may trigger the desire to wear body armor…and take it off. Very, very slowly.

Find ForsakenSamhain Publishing | Amazon US | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes 


Sarah and her husband of what he calls many long, long years live on the mid-Atlantic coast with their six young children, all of whom are perfectly adorable when they’re asleep. She never dreamed of becoming an author, but as a homeschooling mom, she often jokes she writes fiction because if she wants anyone to listen to her, she has to make them up. (As it turns out, her characters aren’t much better than the kids). To learn more about her work in contemporary, historical, and supernatural romance and romantic suspense, please stalk accordingly. FIND THE AUTHOR HERE:   @SarahBallance     Facebook      Website     Good Reads     Pinterest

Posted in Books, On Writing, Writing

Another year

Another year has come and gone. I reached one of my writing goals–to have another book in contract–but missed another–polishing a work in progress.  That’s okay.  I have a new year ahead of me full of opportunity.

I no longer make New Year’s Resolutions. Not only did they tend to be way too lofty (lose 10 pounds, write a best seller) but also lacked concrete steps.  By February, I failed to make good on the promise of a year.

The arrival of a new wall calendar still offers me opportunities for a fresh start.  A few years ago, I committed to having a smaller environmental footprint. Although that phrase smacks of over ambition, I found ways to make it work by looking for small shifts in my behavior.  I committed to composting coffee grounds and banana peels. Now, composting is routine and throw out less garbage.  When I learned the plastic beads in cosmetics and soaps end up in the ocean, I stopped purchasing polluting products.  This year, my goal is to learn more about my local eco-system since I know little about Minnesota and how my life choices influence the land of 10,000 lakes.

Professionally, I’m challenging myself to write a short story and have it ready for publication by the end of the year.  A slow writer like me is at a disadvantage in the current market which favors frequent publication.  Since it is year-long process, I have broken it down into small steps, but I’m not ready to share those.

Do you make resolutions or is January first just another day?

Posted in On Writing, Reading, Winter Fairy, Writing

Release Day

Today Winter Fairy is available at fine ebook outlets everywhere.  I’m over the moon excited.

Many years ago, I read that over half of the Americans surveyed said they would like to write a book one day.  I personally know many who harbor that dream. For many years, I told myself that I should and for many years, I ignored that impulse. My “one day” came when I found the courage to put ideas to paper, and then to persist and not give up the dream.

It took patience, persistence, a lot of coffee and a dedication to working every day, but I’m here to tell you, dreams can make a wonderful reality.