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Posts Tagged ‘C.D. Hersh author’

Where were you when you got

THE CALL?

I’d always dreamed that I’d be in my perfectly ordered office (which is a dream of its own), plugging away at some book or another when the phone would ring and a New York editor would be on the other end gushing over my writing. I’d do the happy dance and be so flabbergasted that I couldn’t even speak. Once I got over the shock, I’d yell so loud the whole neighborhood would hear and then I’d rush to tell everyone I knew.

But that’s not how it happened.

When Donald and I  got THE CAll from Soul Mate Publishing this November, I was at the eye doctor, and I whooped it up in his office. Perfect strangers heard my good news first. I think the phrase, “Oh, my gosh!” and “It’s a romance book,” must have been repeated by me a dozen times. Aside from the those phrases, spoken in a fairly normal volume, I was surprisingly quite calm. Not at all like the ear-splitting shout I’d envisioned.

Donald fared a bit better. When I forwarded the email to him, he was at lunch with co-workers who knew of our aspirations to be published. They heard his first “Yahoo!” over our co-authored book The Turning Stone Chronicles–The Promised One getting a contract. He gave another yell when he saw the email that said I was also going to be published as a solo author. Then he called me and we agreed not to make the announcement public until we had seen the contract and ironed out any problems. What if it was a horrible contract and we had to turn it down? (Which it wasn’t.) Or what if they wouldn’t agree to what we considered deal-breaking changes? (Which they didn’t.) We’d feel stupid telling everyone and then having to say, “Sorry, false alarm.” So, we held the news in, wanting to broadcast it to family and friends but afraid that it might jinx the deal before we signed the contract.

I know, that sounds silly, but it’s how we felt. After all, two book contracts in the same day, arriving at the same time—what are the odds of that? And when you wait so long for your dream to come true you don’t want to do anything to jeopardize it.

So now, nearly a month after THE CALL, the good news is really sinking in. Many of our friends and family know and those who don’t will be hearing about it soon through our Christmas letter. We are spreading the word. Dreams do come true.

Every time I say, “We’re going to be published authors,” a big smile crawls across my face.

It feels really good.

Have you got THE CALL? Who did you tell first?

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Photo by Pennie Gibson

We’ve been watching Dancing With the Stars—The All Star Season for several weeks now. Our hometown  favorite Drew Lachey was kicked off early, in spite of the numerous votes we gave him. The show is coming down to the semi-finals and we are rooting for Apollo Ohno, Kelly Monaco, Shawn Johnson, Giles Marini, and Melissa Rycroft. They’re all so good it’s hard to choose a favorite. But this blog isn’t about who we want to win, but how the show is soooo like becoming a writer.

At the beginning of the season there was a segment where the stars told why they wanted to come back and put themselves through 10 weeks of grueling 8-hour day practices, risking injury, sore aching bodies, and possibly failure. We found their reasons interesting.

They came back because:

  • It’s fun
  • They want the challenge
  • They want to get the shiny mirror ball prize this time
  • They want their children /family to see them dance
  • They want to get redemption
  • They want to do it different and go forward this time
  • They fell in love with dancing

As we listened to all their reasons, we realized as writers we share some of the same desires the All-Star Cast members have. We, too, write because it’s fun. We enjoy the challenge of figuring out a plot, finding the story twist that will make our writing unique and memorable, creating characters readers love, or love to hate. We want that shiny prize—that book contract, the New York Bestsellers listing, the money! Sometimes we want to write to encourage our family, or leave a legacy for them. We keep writing because we want to get redemption—to have someone prove that we are worthy of our calling. We want to go forward in our writing—get better, learn the craft.

But most of all we keep writing, going back to that blank page, working through the writer’s block or writer’s avoidance, facing those rejections, because we LOVE to write. And, like Dancing with the Stars Cast, we just can’t stop. Nor would we ever want to.

So, fellow writers, keep on writing and dancing to your own tunes. The prize is within reach. We know that for certain.

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(c) CD Hersh

Most people think of Halloween as a holiday for trick or treating, dressing up in costumes, a time for ghouls, ghosts and monsters to roam, a celebration of the harvest, or an excuse to have a really scary party.

In reality Halloween has its roots in four religious holidays, three that deal with death:

  • The celebration of the Celtic Druidic holiday Samhain
  • The celebration of the pre-Christian Roman goddess Pomona
  • The Roman festival of Feralai
  • And Christianity’s All Hallow’s Eve, also called All Saints’ Eve

Samhain, celebrated on October 31st, marked the end of summer and the beginning of winter

for the Celts. Druid priests performed ceremonies in honor of their sun god Baal, whom they thanked for the harvest and asked for support to battle the coming winter. They also believed that the veil between the world of the living and the dead was opened during the celebration of  Samhain, and the souls of the dead roamed the earth. The ghosts were believed to play tricks on the living and cause supernatural events to happen, the origins of today’s belief that ghosts and ghouls roam freely on Halloween evening.

The Roman celebrations honoring the goddess Pomora and the festival of Feriala were also held in late October. Pomora was the goddess of fruits and trees. The use of these fruits for fortune-telling stems back to her celebration. The feast of Feriala honored the dead, much like the Celts’ Samhain festival.

The Christian festival of All Hallow’s Eve is a celebration honoring the dead saints and martyrs of the church.

When the Romans conquered the Celts their autumn festivals and the Celts autumn festivals were combined until the Roman’s decided too many of their Roman citizens were adopting the Celtic religion. Rome’s answer to this problem was to ban the Druidic religion and kill its priests. But the Romans could not wipe out the old Celtic beliefs and many people continued to keep the traditions alive.

When the Christians came into power they, too, wanted to do away with the very popular, old pagan rites. So, the church moved their feast of the saints (which was held in May) to November 1st , and later to October 31st, in an attempt to absorb the ingrained Samhain traditions and rites into a Christian holiday. By doing so they hoped to hold onto their new followers by allowing them to celebrate a festival on a date they had long held sacred. Once they had established the new Christian festival the church tried to discourage the old practices in favor of more Christian ones, but, like the Romans, they were not successful.

Using Christian holidays to absorb pagan ones was a tactic the church used often. Elements of pagan celebrations can be found in Valentine’s Day, Easter and Christmas celebrations. Over the years, most of the pagan holiday traditions in these celebrations were christianized. Not so with Halloween. Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Puritan founding fathers of America, who banned the celebration in the New World, could not christianize this pagan holiday.

It’s no wonder that Christianity hasn’t been able to overcome the pagan elements of Halloween. Celebrating all that death seems to be a perfect transition into one scary holiday. Ghosts, ghouls, and all things magical keep Halloween’s roots firmly planted in the other world that many people are drawn to… and you have to admit, they are perfect elements for stirring up for a wild paranormal tale.

While not normally thought of as a romantic holiday, Halloween has its share of divination traditions for finding true love. Since this is a website of a romance author, we would be remiss not to include some of this holiday’s romantic folklore in this article.

  • Insert a plain ring, a coin, and other charms in a fruitcake, known as a barmbrack( báirín breac), before baking. The one who gets the ring in their slice of cake will find true love in the following year.
  • You can divine your future spouse by peeling an apple in one long strip. Toss the peel over your shoulder. The peel will land in the shape of the first letter of your future spouse’s name.
  • Unmarried women should sit in a darkened room and gaze into a mirror on Halloween night and the face of their future husband will appear in the mirror. But beware. If you are destined to die before marriage a skull will appear instead of the face of your intended.
  • Name nutshells after prospective love interests and place them near a fire. If they burn steady it indicates true love. If they crack or pop or fly off the hearth your prospective love interests are only a passing fancy. Another version of this divination involved throwing two hazelnuts, named for two different suitors, into the fire. The nut that burns steadily is the suitor who will be true. The nut that bursts will be the one who will be unfaithful.
  • Bobbing for apples is a traditional game used for fortune-telling on Halloween. (Bet you didn’t know that when you had your head in the barrel with some boy or girl.) The first person to pluck an apple from the water without using their hands will be the first to marry. If a bobber catches an apple on the first try it means he or she will experience true love. If it takes many tries they will be fickle in their romantic endeavors.
  •  Water was often used for divination. To determine someone’s romantic fate, fill four bowls with water. Place soap in one, pebbles in another, clear water in the third, and leave the fourth bowl empty. Ask blindfolded guests to stick a hand in one of the bowls. If they choose the bowl with the clear water they will have a happy marriage.  Soapy water foretells widowhood, the pebbles predict a life of hard work, and the empty bowl represents a single, happy life.
  • Another popular, and dangerous, activity– practiced when young women wore long dresses– was jumping over lit candles. If a woman made it over all the lit candles without extinguishing them she would be married before the year passed. Every candle her long skirt blew out meant another year without a husband.

Do you have a romantic divination you’ve practiced on Halloween or another time?

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Top Ten Ways to Recognize Bad Writing

  •  When u lk at it u c something tht lks lke txt—I ♥ u ☺.
  • there is no capitalization—anywhere.
  • The characters all laugh, comment and argue their dialogue, when a simple said would suffice.
  • There are no tags—dialogue, identifying, or action—on any dialogue.
  • The page blooms with purple prose and author intrusion.
  • There’s no white space on the page.
  • There are very very long run on sentences with very little punctuation in them to give the reader a break or clarify the meanings just a period at the end of the sentence and it looks a whole lot like this.
  • There is so, so, so, much punctuation, commas, semicolons, and, colons, on every line, and, or, every page, that, in a matter of only a few seconds of reading, you lose track of what’s being said, as well as your train of thought.
  • The word was appears 20 or more times on a page.

And the Number ONE way to recognize bad writing:

  •   You didn’t write it. ☺

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A couple of weeks ago, at the Columbus Ohio Writer’s Fiction conference, agent Kristin Nelson, President and Senior Literary agent of Nelson Literacy Agency, read a selection of two page openings from attendees’ books. We entered one, but didn’t get chosen. However, we gleaned a lot of good information from her workshop.

Here’s as quick rundown of the tips Kristen gave.

  • Don’t retell what you’ve shown already
  • Don’t start your opening with a dream sequence.
  • Watch overdoing descriptions.
  • Physical descriptions must be organic and important to the scene.
  • Use the most powerful words you can.
  • Beginning a story with bodily functions (i.e. vomiting) is a no-no.
  • Anchor your opening in physical space and time.
  • Streams of consciousness are hard to follow, especially when they aren’t anchored in time and space.
  • Everything in your first two pages has to count.
  • Start with emotionally resonating stuff.
  • Immerse the readers in what your character is feeling
  • Watch the overwriting—less really is more.

While her critiques may have been disheartening to those writers who were read, she left us with this piece of advice: Where you are as a writer is not where you will be as a writer in six months.

If you go back and read some of your earlier writings and compare them to today, after you’ve practiced and studied the craft you’ll see just how true her statement is.

Are you guilty of any of these writing mistakes?

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All creative activity has come to a screeching halt at our house as we have been frantically trying to avoid a flea infestation. Before you give us the advice to bathe our animals or put flea collars on them, realize that we don’t have animals. Never have, never will, and yet this is the third time in 42 years we’ve had to deal with this problem.

So how, do you ask, did we discover the fleas? We found them sealed in the plastic bags we put our clothes and luggage in when we travel.

Catherine’s a bed bug phobic and insists on taking extraordinary measures to protect against unwanted insects. Bugs in the garden are fine, that’s where God intended them to be in her opinion. They don’t, however, belong anywhere in the house.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago we were in Columbus, Ohio for the weekend.  When we checked into the hotel and checked the room for bed bugs, there was an odor that had the unmistakable scent of cigarettes and citrus. We can’t abide cigarette odor as it affects our sinuses, and we had asked for a non-smoking room, which was clearly marked on the door. Catherine debated about whether or not we wanted to stay in that room, but since the bed and all the other places we routinely check for bed bugs seemed clean, we opened the window to let the room air out and sprayed air freshener into the air conditioning vents. A bug landed on Donald’s arm when he went to the window to turn on the AC, but it got away before we could identify it. Thinking a gnat or other flying insect had entered through the window, we dismissed the incident. We were only staying one night, and when we came back to the room later the scent was noticeably reduced.

The next morning we discovered 3 bugs strolling around inside the plastic bag where Catherine had sealed her clothes from the previous day.  We squished them and took them to the front desk where the manager calmly identified them as fleas. “It is, after all,” the manager informed us, “a pet friendly hotel.” Needless to say, we demanded our night be refunded. They agreed and said they would do so.

We haven’t seen the refund yet, but you can be certain we will follow-up on that, because one night in that hotel has ruined the past three weeks and several more in the foreseeable future as we have to stay on high alert to be sure we haven’t transferred fleas from the hotel or our car, which we suspect has become infected, into our house. We have spent the past three weeks vacuuming the house, the car, applying natural products to kill fleas, and running everything that will take the heat in the dryer.

So what does our “flea phobia” have to do with writing?

Trust your gut.

If Catherine had acted on her first instinct when we opened to hotel room door and smelled something off, we would have asked for another room. The scent, which we later discovered smelled a lot like the Hartz flea spray we put on our luggage, alerted her senses that something wasn’t right. But because we had gone to all the work of checking the room for bed bugs, and didn’t want to have to do that again, we opted to put up with the odor.

Writers should trust their guts when writing. A lot of time and thought goes into putting those words down and weeding them out isn’t an option most writers want to face. They become invested in them, like we were invested in the time we spent bug checking our hotel room, and don’t want to start all over again. Listen to your gut when it tells you that you’re spouting too much narrative. Listen to your gut when it tells you to cut that first chapter because the book starts to slow. Listen to your gut when it tells you that you’ve taken a short cut and rushed some part of your book. Listen to your gut when you see there’s not enough white space on the page. Listen to your gut when you know you have a good book even though editors and agents are telling you it’s not right for them, and listen to your gut when it says, “Don’t give up.”

Everyone has a gut instinct—a little voice, or rumble that comes from deep inside, that warns us, encourages us, or gives us insight. But you have to be open to hearing it. The novice writer might not be able to recognize gut reactions easily—it is an acquired thing. As each one of us gains  knowledge in the craft and puts in  practice time, that little rumble from deep inside will be discernible.  Once that funny feeling in the pit of your stomach tells you something is wrong— or right—don’t ignore it.

Listen to your gut.

Follow your instincts.

Write, rewrite, rewrite some more…

and submit until you reach that goal.

Have you ever experienced a time when your instincts told you something you didn’t, or did, follow through on?

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Writing is full of challenges, from the perfecting the actual craft to getting the book published to mastering marketing. Along the way, if you’re like me, you’ve probably had your share of writing mishaps-things you hate to see happen.

Here are ten of my I-hate-when-that-happens moments.

  • When I miss the wrong word in a sentence that spell check didn’t catch and I send the piece to the editor for publication. Sliver and silver—both are spelled correctly but can’t be used interchangeably.
  • When I see the transposed letters of a word in my blog comments AFTER the comment has been posted and I can’t get to it for a do over.
  • When my hero’s eye color changes mid-book because I forgot to check my character sheet.
  • When the find and replace option in Microsoft Word replaces ALL the spaces between the words, instead of the one extra space after every sentence I targeted, turning the manuscript into one loooooong run-in sentence. Yes, it happened to me. That’s why I don’t recommend using the replace all function.
  • When everyone in my critique group hates my favorite part of a scene. That usually means I’m going to be rewriting it.
  • When I press the delete key instead of the save key. Thank goodness for UNDO buttons!
  • When I realize the whole chapter doesn’t go anywhere, doesn’t move the plot forward, and I have to slash it from the book.
  • When my critique partners love my secondary characters more than the hero or heroine.
  • When I love my secondary characters more than my hero or heroine.
  • When I close down the computer and it crashes the next time I open it. This is why I print out a hard copy every time I create new pages and store them in a three ring binder. Paper is my friend.

Do you have an I-hate-when-that-happens moment? I love to hear it.

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  1. Give them a quirk. This doesn’t have to be something big, just consistent and something that will set them apart from the other characters.
  2. Give them a flaw. No one is perfect. I know I’m not. It’s the flaws, big and little, that make us human.
  3. Give them a secret. As an actor, my drama coach always said to create a secret for our character to give them depth. No one needed to know what the secret was, but it would show in our performance.
  4. Give them a phobia. Everyone has fears. The most memorable characters will show those fears at some point, yet be able to conquer them.
  5. Make them true to themselves. Readers will be jarred out of the story if your character does something that’s out of character, without good reason. It’s the equivalent of a perfect child suddenly doing drugs.
  6. Give them something to care about. No one likes people who don’t care. If your characters, even the villains, are totally heartless they become stereotypical. Even bad guys care about something or love someone.
  7. Give them appropriate tags to show, not tell, the reader about them. I can’t say enough about show don’t tell. Appropriate tags that let the reader see the character rather than telling the reader what you want them to know makes characters, and stories, sparkle.
  8. Make them reveal emotions. Your characters emotions are the readers’ window to the heroes’, heroines’, and villains’ souls. Let the readers see, and figure out for themselves, what the characters are all about.
  9. Give them something they must do or achieve to gain happiness. This speaks to goal, motivation and conflict. If a character doesn’t have to stretch and grow, then you don’t have a full
  10. Provide only enough background to make you reader believe in him. Burying the reader under mounds of background that doesn’t matter to your story is like putting honey on top of jelly. It’s superfluous and unnecessary. Less is more. Just be sure you include the important stuff that speaks to the character’s motivation. Leave the rest on your character sheets where it belongs.

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