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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Autobiographical First Novels

Blog Tour Buddies: Today I'm over at Ralene Burke's blog, so please stop by!

I've been thinking about something lately...self-imposed writer's block. A young lady wrote in to me the other day, which got me thinking about this. Her character sketch fairly screamed of autobiography, and I pointed this out in a private email to her.

She 'fessed up and said that yes, the character was basically her, as were the situations she was putting the poor girl through. After hearing the old adage, "you write what you know" enough, I got to thinking that perhaps all authors need to write this autobiographical masterpiece (of sorts) in order to get past the writer's block it can create.

I've heard it said that most authors' first book has a main character very much like the author. I know mine did. In fact, I might as well have called her Jeannie. (As it was, I used my middle name. And, consequently, all the characters in the book--every one--went by the middle names of the real people associated with me.) Rookie mistake.

But this was the book that screamed in my head for me to write it. I was helpless against it's persuasion. I also know that this book will never see the light of day to anyone--and I do mean anyone (even my crit partners, Katie and Sarah). Seriously. Heinous stuff.

But once it was typed out...and hidden away in a corner of my hard drive reserved for cobwebs and dust bunnies, my creative mind exploded with other things to write about. I wasn't fixated on my own profession or my own hobbies or pet peeves that I felt like my characters had to have. Writing the autobiographical novel freed me to really find myself.

Q4U: What about you? Was your first book--even if it was fantasy or historical or what-have-you--set up to present a character very much like you front and center? Why do you suppose that is? Surely it's more than the "Write what you know" proverb. I'd love to hear your thoughts....and NO, not so I can analyze them. :0)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Character Clinic: Mary Olsen

Blog Tour Buddies: Today Jaime Wright is hosting me over at her blog! Stop by and say hello. :)

 This week's assessment is for Annette. She's writing about Mary, a divorced female, who, in her late 60s and after 40 years of marriage, finds love again with Mitchell, an old high school friend. He's twice divorced and has two sons by his first wife. One son has shown downright disapproval about his Mitchell's choice of Mary. Mitchell's second marriage to Evelyn was one full of love, even though she died after only four years of being together. Evelyn is, however, lauded by the man's family, and this disturbs Mary, especially after Mary finds papers that indicate Evelyn wasn't an angel and had some hidden secrets (like Mitchell was her fourth husband). Mary's obsessed with "righting the issue," shows Mitchell and hurts him.

Annette wants to know: How can I make her heal? What does she have to do to release this? I don't plan for any external action to make everything rosy, but her insecurities are holding her prisoner. Since the circumstances will not change, what will it take to free Mary from herself? She's a dichotomy: loving, giving, kind, and selfishly vengeful.

Mary -

After reading the above about you, it makes me think that you are as real as the women in my office. Real people have genuine love and on the flip side harbor selfish vengeance.  We all have a mean streak in us somewhere, and it would be highly unnormal for you not to want to seek justice where Evelyn is concerned. After all, it's basically unfair that she's thought of so highly.

So some normalization of your urges is needed. However, the obsession part isn't so normal. Especially given how hurt Mitchell was when you showed him the papers proving Evelyn a liar/keeper of secrets. You're incessant need to be right--to be justified--where's that coming from?

I'd wager that the issues that you're presenting with actually have less to do with Mitchell and his family lauding Evelyn as a saint and more to do with your own issues of self-worth and esteem. If it weren't Evelyn, you'd find something else to get "stuck in your craw," some other social issue to get up in arms about or champion.

You're going to have to think back to what time in your life when you felt like you weren't good enough, or weren't measuring up. It's that part of you that needs healing. This will be a challenge to your author, who is thinking more about the current story line than the story that brought you there.

We all enter into relationships bringing baggage. Whether that's baggage from other relationships, from our family of origin, or from a mean high school cheerleader, the baggage weighs varying pounds based on how far we've carried it, where we're going with it, and what's in the bag.

Mitchell has actually done things very right. He's talked to his sons, told them to respect you. He tells you he loves you. So I'm not sure, based on what info you've given, if your insecurity comes from doubting him or not. In therapy, I tell people that if someone says they love you, do things that show they love you, then they probably love you. (Spade's a spade, and all that.)

What would it look like for you if everything was perfect? What does Mitchell have to do to prove himself? Why do you have that need for him to do so?

What would it take for you to find contentment where you're at? To be truly happy? The Great Wall wasn't built in one fell swoop. It was built brick by brick. You'll have to start somewhere. I'd recommend going back--however long you have to go back--to where your insecurities took root.

I hope this has been helpful, but I'd love to see you back on the couch to go deeper.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Review of Delia Latham's Kylie's Kiss

Blog Tour Buddies: I've got two giveaways going on today at Fiction Groupie and The Bookshelf Muse. Stop by and read my guest posts on the importance of moral premise and how to avoid last line "lemons"!!!

I'm pleased to share with you my therapeutic review of Kylie's Kiss, the second book in Delia Latham's Solomon's Gate series. Here's a blurb from the author's website:

On a dare, Kylie Matthews lands smack in the middle of Solomon’s Gate—Castle Creek’s new Christian dating agency—and she finds herself revealing exactly what she’s waiting for in a relationship: “The kiss that steals my breath away.” 

What she doesn’t reveal is her lack of self-esteem or her irrational reaction to facial disfigurement. Neither is applicable to her quest to find the perfect match. But that seemingly superficial malady becomes all-important when her first agency-arranged date is Rick Dale—a man who is everything Kylie is searching for. He’s handsome, smart, fun. Rick has it all…including an angelic six-year-old daughter with severe scarring on one side of her face. 

Hard at work founding a therapy camp for young female victims of deformity or disfigurement, Rick wants Kylie to be a part of those plans. She’d love to say yes…but how can she, when every contact with the facility’s guests—and Rick’s own daughter—will make her violently ill? 

Kylie is ready to admit their relationship doesn’t stand a chance, but she’s forgotten that God makes a way where there seems no way.

This book was so interesting to me professionally because very few authors have tackled the issue of deformity or disfigurement in fiction. Kylie has a serious reaction to facial disfigurement in particular, which is a form of Dysmorphophobia. (Any of the -phobias fall under Anxiety Disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.)

There are a few methods of treatment, and I was pleased to see Delia had obviously done some research in this regard. No red flags popped up when I was reading Kylie's interactions with her therapist, and that's always relieving. 

Delia was genius in how she made Kylie's love interest have a daughter with severe scarring. I mean, for a person with this type of disorder, just seeing someone with any kind of facial issue can be very discomforting at best and cause a nauseous reaction (accompanied by throwing up) at worst. On the outset, it would seem this would never work. 

I appreciated how Delia set up the background for Kylie's disorder to manifest. Usually these types of anxieties take root early in childhood, and Kylie was no exception. You'll have to read the book to figure it out, but it makes sense. Kylie's black moment was handled well, too. It truly made Kylie face her greatest unexpected version of in vivo desensitization (a common treatment for phobias and a type of exposure therapy) at its very finest! Well done, Delia!

You'll appreciate the sweet romance, and your heart will bleed just a little bit each time Rick's daughter is brought on the page. Such an angelic portrayal. I hope you'll enjoy this book as much as I did.

Leave a comment below to be entered to win Delia's giveaway of a an oil bottle necklace/pendant with Queen Ester anointing oil that she got from The Master's Jewels. You can also increase your chances of winning one of FOUR .pdf copies of Kylie's Kiss or Destiny's Dream (Book One in the series) if you leave a comment on all the other blogs that are featuring Delia today in a Kylie's Kiss blog blitz! (A list can be found here.)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Weekend Funnies

Perhaps even better than yesterday's. The artist Darrin Bell HAS to be a fan of True Blood. It can't be coincidence that these corresponded with the start date weekend for Season Four.

(copyright Darrin Bell, 6-23-11)

See you all on HBO tonight!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Weekend Funnies

In honor of it being the premier of True Blood's Season 4 tomorrow, I've got some vamp/therapist cartoons for you this weekend! Click on them to enlarge. Gotta love vamps.

(copyright Darrin Bell, 6-21-11)

Today you can find me over at the Reflections in Hindsight blog with a giveaway! Stop by!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Free Association Chain

Since I'm still celebrating my new website, the word is........


First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!

Today I'm guest blogging over at Inkwell Inspirations on stress reduction! Stop by!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Co-Authoring is like Co-Leading a Group

Giveaway Alert: Writer's Guide to Creating Rich Back Stories is up for grabs at K.M. Weiland's blog! See yesterday's post for two more opportunities to win different guides! I'm also over at Jordan McCollum's site, so pop over!

I had a really great group experience yesterday at work. I normally lead a parenting class by myself, and yesterday invited an Associate Social Worker intern to co-facilitate the group with me.

This was a big deal, because I've not had the greatest experience with co-leaders. You either gel or you don't. And when you don't gel, you're reluctant to stick your neck out there again. There's so much that goes into the co-leader relationship and actual facilitation.

It got me thinking that it's got to be like co-authoring a book. I've been approached to do so, and I'm actually eager to work on it when the time is right for both of us. But I can imagine you either gel or you don't.

The factors that go into co-facilitating a group are similar to those that would go into writing a book. Read on and be amazed.

1) Style

Group leaders, like authors, have different styles and ways of interacting. Some are more directive, others passive. Some procrastinate on getting the group materials together, others have the chairs arranged in a perfect circle ten minutes prior to group starting. Some are flexible, others are dominating.

How co-authors approach a book would be crucial. I would think a plotter and a pantster are going to have a harder time working together than two plotters. Two pantsters can work together fine too, just so you know. Jack Kilborn wrote a quite gruesome little ebook with Black Crouch called Serial. They way they wrote this book was they each sat down and thought of a serial killer for chapters one and two, and then quickly bounced back and forth for the remaining chapters to conclude the book (horrifically, I might add--it was kind of like a literary version of Fear Factor.) There was no outline and it worked....although I couldn't eat anything for a day or so.

2) Pacing

Good counselors know that group process can take a while to be cohesive. They know this and expect it. Others get impatient. Perhaps they are uncomfortable with silence or tears. Perhaps they can't quit looking at the clock and thinking, "We've GOT to get through this material in the next five minutes!"

Knowing when to probe and when to sit back is a skill that's honed after years of experience. You can do damage if you push too hard or you could do the client a disservice by enabling them to continue in a downward spiral.

Co-authors have to have a sixth sense in knowing when to do the same with each other and with their mutual characters. Since they are interacting on the page, pacing is crucial. One author's chapters wouldn't need to read so differently from the other. Literary fiction has a different pace from chick lit and thrillers definitely go at a different pace from romance. When do you push? Which author will do it? Which will sit back and give the reader a chance to breathe? (Or, as in Serial, give them no chance?)

3) Personality

Last but not least, the co-leader's personalities need to work well together. Notice, I didn't say need to be the same. If you haven't had a chance, you should grab my Writer's Guide to Personality Types (only $3!) from my store. In it, I talk about the personalities that mesh well together and those that don't.

There is more at stake in a therapeutic group with hurting clients if the group leader's personalities don't mix than when co-authors don't jive. Most co-authoring happens in different locations across the globe, not sitting side-by-side. But little things can be annoying and add up quickly, making the experience less than pleasant unless you've had the foresight to hash things out before.

Q4U: What about those of you out there who have co-authored? Any words of insight on how you weathers the process? What would you never do again? What could you not do without?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Psychology of MRUs

The Writer's Guide Giveaways continue as I'm beginning to wrap up my blog tour to launch my new website! You can win the Writer's Guide to Personality Types at Tori's Book Faery blog and a guide of the winner's choice at Kathy Harris' Divine Detour blog!

Today I'm featured over at Pentalk Community and Tommie Lyn's blog, so please stop by!

Most people have heard of Dwight Swain's motivation reaction unit (MRU). I'd like to present the psychology behind why it works so well.

Two elements comprise an MRU:

1) Motivating Stimulus—occurs outside your character
2) Character Reaction—occurs within your character

The stimulus has to come before the reaction. A person can’t react to something that hasn’t happened yet. If your character screamed before opening the door, it would cause a lapse in logic. How did she know to scream before opening the door and seeing the villain? It’s a classic MRU problem—getting the stimulus and reaction out of order.

According to Swain, there are four elements of the Character Reaction, all of which have to stay in order as well:

1) Visceral Reaction—an automatic gut reaction your character has no control over
2) Thought—what your character thinks
3) Action—what your character does
4) Speech—what your character says

Read on to see what element Swain left out....

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Character Clinic: Evelyn Oneeye

Before I forget, you have two chances to win my Writer's Guide to Personality Types! Click over to read the guest post I did at Keli Gwyn's blog and at Tori's Book Faery blog! I'm also doing a giveaway of one of the four guides at Kathy Harris' Divine Detour blog, so please stop by! As if that weren't enough, I'm also over at Casey Herringshaw's blog. Whew!

This week's assessment is for Timothy, which will be my first free mini-character assessment from my website (meaning, Timothy filled out my character intake form found if you click here).

Timothy's writing a medieval fantasy about Evelyn Oneeye*, a woman disowned on her wedding night when she ran off with Tobias*. The two lived as happy bandits until Tobias died, leaving Evelyn pregnant and alone. Five years later, she has become the personal guard to Baron Damian Lutin, but she isn't thought of very highly in court and is something of a anomaly because of a large crocodile tattoo that coils around her face and body and the fact that she has one eye and wears an eyepatch. Her son is her outward protection against any romantic advances. When all of humanity shift into centaurs, Evelyn finds solace in an abandoned town and a wounded champion fighting dog she nurses back to health and names Horrible. She learns that her son didn't survive the change and Tobias' spirit visits and tells her to go back to her family. Evelyn exposes Baron Lutin as a traitor and earns the title of Kingsman (she is now Lady Evelyn Oneeye). She has a run-in with her father, Sor, who seeks reconciliation with her after all this time.

* Names have not been changed to protect the fictional. It is fictional.

Timothy wants to know: How long might Evelyn use the dog Horrible as a sort of substitute lover? What can I expect when she finally meets someone who isn't trying to betray her or screw her over and lets him inside the walls? I'm just shooting in the dark with her father disowning her. Apart from a motivating factor of fear on Sor's part, what would cause him to seek reconciliation? What can I expect when her father attempts to reach out to her?

My first all-out fantasy! Centaurs? Awesome.

Evelyn --

You believe you have to be seen as tough, yet deep down, you're vulnerable. You put it all on the line for the love of Tobias, and it cost you. The death of a partner, especially a young love such as the portrait your author painted (and you were only together 5 years or so, right?) is very traumatic. Generally it takes 2-3 years for a person to feel ready to move on, so you're well past that rule of thumb guideline.

You meet up with Horrible who is even more vulnerable than you are. You probably instantly connected with this animal, and perhaps even see him as a substitute son since you don't have yours around. It's a fine line between Horrible as a substitute lover when you think about it--your author mentioned that you used your son to ward off romantic attachments. Now you're using the dog, only instead of an external shield, he's an internal one.

Horrible doesn't demand anything from you. He's loyal, faithful, would do anything for you. You might even despair of ever finding a true human/centaur match that will quite measure up to such a high bar. Horrible is comfortable, and doesn't bring the threat of possibly opening up to someone else. However, it's important for you to realize that Tobias wasn't perfect. After all, he left you to an early death, however not his fault that might have been. This fact, more than others, might come to make you more bitter towards Tobias than deifying of him.

About your're initial thoughts of him trying to reconcile with you to have someone to look out for him in his old age are just that...initial knee-jerk reactions. When you can get past the immediate defense that his attempt at reconciliation inspires in you, it might be helpful to realize that Sor is in the Late Adulthood phase of Erik Erikson's Stages of Development (which is 55-65 to Death).

Sor is trying to make sense of his life, and that includes all the choices he had to make, right or wrong. At this point in his development, he's warring between integrity and despair. Integrity is what he's grasping at by approaching you. He wants to fill content with like, that his life has meaning and that he's made a contribution to the world. He's fighting despair at his perceived failures (clearly) and is likely doubting whether anything he said or did was worth it.

I hope this has been helpful, but I'd love to see you back on the couch to go deeper.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

And the Winner Is....

The winner of Elizabeth Camden's The Lady of Bolton Hill is Melissa! Congratulations!! I've sent you an email to request your snail mail addy.

Thanks for participating everyone!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Free Association Chain

Since I'm still celebrating my new website, the word is........


First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!

Blog Tour Buddies: Today I'm being hosted at two blogs: Catherine West and Delia Latham, so stop by!

Click here for a chance to win Elizabeth Camden's The Lady of Bolton Hill!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Character Quiz: Does Your Character Have Trust Issues?

I stumbled across this little quiz while doing research for one of my relationship classes. This is the Trust Scale (developed by Rempel, Holmes, & Zanna in 1985) that measures the level of trust within close interpersonal relationships.

I got to thinking that so many characters nowadays have trust issues. They were burned in their past and just can't see putting their neck out there again. Why might that be?

According to Rempel, Holmes, & Zanna, there are 3 components of trust that come into play:

1) Predictability - the consistency and stability of a partner's specific behaviors. This is based on past experience.

2) Dependability - the qualities of the partner which warrant confidence in the face of risk and potential hope. This is based on the partner's disposition.

3) Faith - feelings of confidence in the relationship and the responsiveness and caring expected from the partner in the face of an uncertain future.

You'll see Ps, Ds, and Fs next to the questions below that let you know which item in the quiz is measuring one of the above components (called subscales when doing psychological testing).

So what are you waiting for? Instructions are below:

Using the 7 point scale shown below, indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree with the following statements as they relate to someone with whom you have a close interpersonal relationship.  Place your rating in the box to the right of the statement.

          Strongly Disagree                  Neutral                       Strongly Agree
           -3              -2             -1              0                1                 2                3

My partner has proven to be trustworthy and I am willing to let him/her engage in activities which other partners find too threatening.
Even when I don’t know how my partner will react, I feel comfortable telling him/her anything about myself, even those things of which I am ashamed.
Though times may change and the future is uncertain, I know my partner will always be ready and willing to offer me strength and support.
I am never certain that my partner won’t do something that I dislike or will embarrass me.
My partner is very unpredictable. I never know how he/she is going to act from one day to the next.
I feel very uncomfortable when my partner has to make decisions which will affect me personally.
I have found that my partner is unusually dependable, especially when it comes to things which are important to me.
My partner behaves in a very consistent manner.
Whenever we have to make an important decision in a situation we have never encountered before, I know my partner will be concerned about my welfare.
F am an even-tempered person.another person.t me.ant.h Life Scale. Psychological Assessment, 5, 164-172.ality Assessme
Even if I have no reason to expect my partner to share things with me, I still feel certain that he/she will.
I can rely on my partner to react in a positive way when I expose my weaknesses to him/her.
When I share my problems with my partner, I know he/she will respond in a loving way even before I say anything.
I am certain that my partner would not cheat on me, even if the opportunity arose and there was no chance that he/she would get caught.
I sometimes avoid my partner because he/she is unpredictable and I fear saying or doing something which might create conflict.
I can rely on my partner to keep the promises he/she makes to me.
When I am with my partner, I feel secure in facing unknown new situations.
Even when my partner makes excuses which sound rather unlikely, I am confident that he/she is telling the truth.

Reference: Rempel, J.K., Holmes, J.G. & Zanna, M.P. (1985). Trust in close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49, 95-112.

The total measurement of Trust is the sum total of the 3 subscales. So how did your character fare? Trust issues? Send them my way. :)

Blog Tour Buddies: I'm doing a Q&A over at Susie Dietze's blog, Tea and a Good Book. Stop over and say hello!

Fans of Historical Fiction: I'm giving away a copy of Elizabeth Camden's new debut novel with Bethany House! Click here to enter to win The Lady of Bolton Hill!