Southern belle with a story to tell. Refreshing iced tea served after literary punches thrown.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Wyatt (our Dog) Joins the Rebellion!

Our 4 year old Havanese, Wyatt, loves this commercial!

May the farce be with you!

Hiding in Plain Sight

This is one of my favorite tricks I'm using in my manuscript, with regard to a key scene, which revolves around an item containing information accidentally taken from the Antagonist which will be eventually used against him, using a similar item and principles.  

I've read tons of other thrillers where there are elaborate plans made to safeguard secrets, and sometimes that's simply not needed.  In my opinion, some of the smartest criminals or spies, are the ones who make the best use of camouflage.  

One of my favorite thrillers was THE DA VINCI CODE by Dan Brown, and the entire premise of this book was built around a two-thousand year old secret being supposedly hidden in plain sight within a painting created by Leonardo Da Vinci. This is another example of the whole "hiding in plain sight" phenomenon.  The simplicity of the message hidden within the painting was sublime, and made this work of fiction almost blend into fact for its devotees who devoured this book.  

This one painting in one scene, brought controversy into the pulpit, and made millions worldwide reconsider the big "what if" with regard to Christianity.  That's a lot of power wielded by a simple picture.  Ah, the power of the pen when wielded with perfect precision.
Dan Brown's book based upon this painting and a supposed secret message made
for the sale of millions of copies of THE DA VINCI CODE. 

Have you ever lost your car keys or something you needed in your home and realized they were there all the time sitting right under your nose?   Maybe you misplaced your sunglasses, only to find they were sitting on top of your head all the time?  Those are other examples of items hiding in plain sight.  

Let's see if you can name some other popular works of fiction which employ the whole "hiding in plain sight" phenomena.   I can't wait for you to find out about the little secret I've hidden  in THE DEATH BROKERS, and how it gets out! 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

You've Hit a Writing Stalemate? Just DO IT.

"Bacardi & it."

A few minutes ago, I just got a tweet from a friend of mine, a thriller writer with amazing voice, who is going to attempt to climb the literary version of Mt. Everest this weekend, and write 15k words, to finish his manuscript, which I have to far is beyond fabulous.

He's ready to do it.  But you know something, sometimes life gets in the way of your writing progress, or you hit a wall, creatively speaking.

For example, I need to also lay down a few more chapters this weekend as I am itching, itching to finish my manuscript also, but alas, life has stopped me cold in my tracks.

"Mom, Jeshua and I want to go to the movies and see Red Tails with dad, can you run to the bank and get me some cash?"

"Honey, can you take the dog to the groomer?  Wyatt is all muddy from the walk in the torrential downpour this morning, and he smells funny."


I need, want, have to write, but all these road blocks keep popping up before my eyes.

You know what?  Sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves and DO IT.

Get into character, find that storyline, put on your cowgirl hat (or cowboy) and boots, maybe even a fake mustache, and DO IT.  GET INTO CHARACTER.  Feel it.  Imagine using the movies of your mind, what your characters are saying or doing at the last spot in your manuscript, and pound those keys on your laptop, and DO IT.

Think about your characters.  They're waiting on you, too, and they're probably bored they've been frozen in position, maybe mid-kiss or with a bullet floating in the air, only inches from their heart, as you take out the trash, take the dog to the groomer, or sit around mindlessly watching t.v. and some dumb reality show.

I'm going to bet that most of us, don't write as our day job, and I'm one of you.  I can however, think and imagine what my characters are doing, and then rush home and try to enact that inspiration electronically and write a few more pages, keeping the action going.

But if you're stuck, just DO IT.

I'll DO just that, when I return from driving about 20 minutes to go pick up the dog from the groomer.  They just called, he's ready, fluffy hairdo and all.  He should look really cute.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Makin' Whoopie (Pie) and Low-Fat Love!

I love whoopie pies.  They're rather en vogue right now, but somehow I never thought they ever truly went out of style.

If you've never had one,  let me introduce you, dear readers, to the magnificence of the whoopie pie.

And let me say at this time, NO they aren't really pies at all.  They are small cakes, shaped like cookies, made of chocolate-y goodness, with creamy frosting on the inside, or a whipped cream-like concoction.

A luscious whoopie pie from Labadie's bakery.  Check em out:!

But if you're attempting to stick to your New Year's resolution of working out, eating healthy, losing weight, or another lofty goal, you might realize they aren't the lowest of fat treats.  In fact, the filling makes most major blood vessels shudder violently, then suddenly clog. But they're darn good, and like I say..every rule is made to be broken!

So what does someone do when faced with utter chocolate lust, and the need for that frosting-like filling, yet can't pencil in a cardiologist visit during their lunch hour?

Easy.  They improvise.

Like my favorite internet and now t.v. low fat chef, Hungry Girl!

She totally saves the day with her low-fat version of the whoopie pie.  You learn how to make this uuber yummy creation when Lisa Lillien (aka Hungry Girl) drops in on the Rachel Ray show!

Tonight before hubby and I made dinner (jambalaya), I had to run out to our neighborhood Publix to retrieve a few more ingredients and saw the Vita-Tops Muffins were a buy one/get one free, as well as the fat-free Cool Whip!  Instantly this turned on the light bulb in my head, and I decided it was whoopie pie night at our house.
= Lusty, Low-Fat Love!

Trust's good.  Try it.  Incidentally, your cardiovascular system will thank you.

But when there's nothing but real whoopie pie on the brain, when it's all about the real deal, then you need to hop over to Bakerella's blog and check her recipe and this new book out!  
A delicious reading experience, by Nancy Griffin!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What If This Was Your Internet Experience?

Do you wish more government intervention?  I know this is something I absolutely do not want.

Take a stand, dammit.

Or we'll end up like a country where the government controls everything we do, say, think, and feel.

and browse.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

For Our Followers, a Thank You and Sneak Peek at a Coming Contest!

If you're wondering where your wonderful face or icon is under followers, don't worry,  I contacted them a few weeks ago with this problem, and they haven't yet fixed it.   Fear not my friends,  I will attempt to get to the bottom of it.  Soon I hope all your smiling faces or avatars will be shown as followers.

 Right now I'd like to give all the friends, visitors and followers of  "Soul and Sweet Tea", a huge, huge thank you for helping me get my blog off the ground.  You ARE appreciated and these are for you.  Cheers!

Without you, none of this would be possible.  Keep reading, because in the coming weeks, a fabulous contest will be launched, to celebrate the blog launch, our readers and our friends who are writers.  It's for you!  Shhh..but let's keep this a secret for a while longer.


I'll be teaming up with a wonderful bookstore from Chicago, called Open Books, which gives back to school-aged children and enables them to explore the magical world of books!  Go check them out, and see the good they're doing one book at a time.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


YOU are the director of your manuscript.
The characters don't do a thing unless script calls for it.  And yea, you are not only the director, but you're the writer and also the editor!  In fact, you're running this whole production.  So don't let the characters run amok in your manuscript.

And as writers putting together our manuscript, we're kinda lucky because unlike motion picture studios, we don't have to deal with temperamental actors and actresses in real life.  Our characters do what we say, and we also don't have to endure mouthing off to us  simply because some over-paid actor or actress feels like having a Sheen-tastic "winning" moment.  We don't get the stress over threats from the production staff to go on strike.  In fact, our characters had best do what we tell the them to do, because we also have the wonderful ability to fire them at will, or extinguish them forever from our book with either the strike of the delete key or with a swipe from the eraser.  Yea, we wield that type of power!

Don't be afraid to use it.

You may know the next scene in your manuscript, and how it plays out if you're like me and you are an "outliner" (one who meticulously drafts the book, carefully crafting each chapter or scene), or you could be a writer called a "pantser" who follows their gut feeling and artistic inspiration.  Neither approach is right or wrong, it's all just a matter of artistic license.  I've read fabulous books by both "outliners" and "pantsers".  Go with what works for you.  However, both "outliners" and "pantsers" alike have to deal with the frightening possibility of egads....superfluous words suddenly appearing in the manuscript.

I'm as guilty of this as each of you are, also so don't think I'm getting all preachy on you, or that I'm going to attempt to walk across Lake Lanier any time soon.

So how do we avoid the horror and proactively deal with the unnecessary garbage which falls into our manuscripts? We learn from the mistakes of others, in this case, we learn from my mistake!

Look we all hit a wall, and sometimes when this happens we do stupid stuff.

Really stupid stuff.

Like this:

Or  like this..writing more dialogue when you are stuck.  And this is the suck-a-licious mistake I made (that word was first coined at the 2010 Red Clay Writers' Conference..I didn't make it up!).

Believe it or not,  I was once advised by someone (and I no longer really follow the advice of that someone) "Look, Joey when you hit a wall just keep on writing dialogue until the story gets back on track."  

And let me tell you, it was a train wreck.  A disaster.  Sort of like this cinematic representation:

I took this ridiculous advice and let me tell you, like Lady Liberty above, a wall of words just came crashing down upon me like a wave of idiocy, and inundated my poor manuscript with a lot of nothingness, stagnation, and silliness  It was in the end, a bunch of...

which ran me over, ran over the plot, and any good points I had actually made at all in my manuscript.

Thus I had to take the bull by the horns and turn it around, and lead the beast out of my novel.  There is no room for bull in my book.  By the way,  I did this about two months ago.  It took the sudden realization that not every single word really is needed to make the plot work.  Not every nuance or thought which filters into the head of the main character needs to be mentioned.  My sister, an awesome writer, reminded me to "show the readers what is going on".  Don't explain every little detail, SHOW them!

So I went back to the very beginning, and began to cut..and I won't lie, it was painful in the beginning, but some of the software I use in writing helps soften this blow, as it allows me to put in asides on virtual note cards, so I have even more fabulous back story which will either come into play later in the novel, or can be whipped out in the sequel to aid in greater depth of character.  

I cut..and cut..and cut some more.  Soon, I was able to IDENTIFY what needed to be cut and what didn't.  It became less painful, until it wasn't anything but a tap of the delete button.

So what DO you cut?  Here's a few tips:
  • dialogue which does not advance the action
  • superfluous language which do not help create scene, plot, or atmosphere
  • words which do not create depth of character
My sister summed it up rather succinctly, and said, "Don't have them talking because you have a lull in the plot, or don't know what's coming next."

She advised me to instead, when I hit that creative wall (as we all do, sometime) to stop writing, go for a run or walk, or go read something else.  Watch the news.  Walk the dog.  But most importantly she told me to quit looking for a quick fix, that inspiration comes for us when we least expect it (like when we're walking the dog).  In my opinion, some of my best ideas and plot twists have come from doing mindless activities, so sis is right.

So when the action in our manuscript isn't just right, or the feel isn't there, just stop.  Say CUT and take a step back and wait.  Shut down the production for a bit, and go seek some quiet spot or as we discussed above, find a fun or mindless activity and wait for the inspiration to return.  

Maybe you're almost done with your manuscript, and if so that's great!  So now is the time to go back through the plot and see what is needed and what isn't.  I'm sure you can always find a few lines to cut here or there.

Our goal is to make our manuscript flow for the work to tell a complete story, not some disjointed, awkward, and pointless tale.  Don't write dialogue because you don't know what else to do.  If you need help with this, imagine the characters in an endless boring conversation.  Would you want to see that in a movie?  Duh..I don't think so.

You're the director, you're in the chair, you call the shots.  Don't be afraid to say cut!
That's a wrap.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Each Day He Waits By the Door..

For his boy to come home from school.

This is too precious a moment to miss sharing with you, so I had to take a photo of it today.

Every day, Monday through Friday,  Wyatt, our rescued, four year old  Havanese, waits patiently for the glimpse of a yellow bus.  This little fluffy fella has done this since he was eight weeks old.

He stands or sits by the door for hours,  usually beginning somewhere near two p.m. and will do so until the school bus drops Michael, age 13, off around four-thirty.  When his boy is finally in sight, Wyatt shakes and wiggles all over and you can just see the love and excitement.

The unconditional love our pets feel for us is truly amazing.  Sometimes I think we should be more like them.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

To Humble Beginnings on New Year's Day..

^My son's first by-line is in his school newspaper last year!

It's a brand new year, filled with surprises around the corner for each of us.  If you're someone who writes, as I do, you may be thinking of what your writing goals will be for this new year.

My goals are as follows:   finish my manuscript, send queries to agents, and to become a writer with one helluva agent.  One, two, three.. these three things, which I wish for, will not be accomplished as simple as that, but I'm determined to try to achieve these goals.

We all know the query quest is one giant, hair-raising roller coaster ride, but I'm buckled in for the duration, and I won't get off the ride until each goal is accomplished.  I will check each goal off one by one.

So I am going to do as Julie Andrews advised in song to the Von Trapp kids and "start at the very beginning, a very good place to start" this new year, and focus on the goals.  I'll take my manuscript day by day, hammer out the dialogue and the last half of the book with as much style and creativity as I can possibly muster, and then when it is truly ready, I'll send out query numero uno, hopefully in spring of this year.  I'm going to do that, and when I hit a wall, creatively speaking, I will work on my second manuscript, Stagedoor Johnny.  I won't stop.  I'm not going to.

In working on the three goals, I think back to my beginnings as a writer.  Those days in elementary school when my teacher would assign us a book report or ask us to write a paper about what I did during my summer vacation.  Some kids would groan or moan, but I would get a glazy look in my eye, kinda like Ralphie got  in the movie, "A Christmas Story" when his teacher told the class they would be writing a Christmas theme.  He got to write about his favorite stuff!  That darned Red-Ryder B.B. gun, with it's fabulous options such as, a sundial and "this thing which tells time".  Yea, I was like Ralphie, I got to write, and I loved to write.

When we find that spot in our soul, that place where we stuff the magic of our wonder years,   we awaken our child within.  That kid who wrote for the fun of it suddenly returns, if for only a little while.  It's when this happens, I'm truly convinced we create our best work.

Today my inner child was coaxed out to play once more, after finding my son's first by-line ever in a newspaper, his middle-school paper called, "The Golden Times".  You see, last year he served on the school newspaper staff as a sixth grader, and wants to do it again next year in eighth grade, but his schedule didn't allow him to do it this year, in seventh grade.
^My son is M. Sullivan

Over a cup of Blue Mountain coffee, I read through the paper, and suddenly I was transported to my 9th grade year, when I first joined the newspaper staff at my school.  I wanted to write gripping, thought-provoking articles.  I wanted to make people laugh.  And yes, I wanted to write about the sports teams and pep rallies, as I was also a cheerleader.  But I never got started this early.  I got started at fourteen, not at the tender age of eleven, as my son did.
^Ah!  One of his articles.  I love how the basketball is "swoosing" through the hoop..and love each little typo.

I sipped more coffee and read some more, and found myself grinning ear-to-ear.

After refilling my cup again,  I walked into my son's room and found on top of a bookshelf, a page from a paper he had recently written in a class about Mt. Everest.  His seventh grade social sciences teacher assigned this project, and it was to be a fictional account of a climb on the mountain. I read the paragraphs over and over and realize my son is just as I was so many years ago, as he turned this assignment into an gripping adventure.
^The last paragraph in his Mt. Everest adventure!  He is progressing as a writer, and I think it's pretty good.

I remember the grade he got for it, it was a 99.  Almost quite perfect to her, but  more than perfect to me.  Later that week, after he finished the assignment, he sat down at another laptop beside me (as I plugged away on my manuscript) one evening before dinner and announced, "You know what mom?  I want to write a book too.  I want to write a spy novel.  There needs to be a kids' spy novel now."  And you know what?  He began to write for fun!  His first attempt at writing a book.

My son wrote for about an hour until he decided his work wasn't good enough.  He got frustrated and stopped typing.  I looked at him and said, "No honey..wait.  Don't stop for good.  Just keep writing.  Tell the story you want to tell.  You're a good writer, you put heart into your work.  Come back after dinner and try again."

He went back and piddled in it a bit longer, then decided to go outside and play football with his friends until it was too dark.  He is also an amazing football player, by the way.  His work in progress is saved on the computer.  I think he'll return to it when the time is right.  I'll encourage him too.

^Michael with Coach G, at the awards ceremony at the end of football season 2011

By the way, his first choice of a book to buy, at age three, was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  By age three and a half, he was picking out words on his own, and was learning to read.  We spent glorious hours together in the rocking chair in his room, with him sitting in my lap as I read the book to him.  He loved it, every bit of that book, and his little wide eyes would plead with me to keep reading, after I would tell him it was time for bed.  I had so much fun making up the voices for the characters in the book.

Remembering all of this today is bittersweet, as it is on day one of a new year.  Michael will turn fourteen at the end of August, and he will enter eighth grade next fall.  He's no longer the three year old who picked out words sitting in my lap, he's a young man now.  And today, my young man has taught me the greatest lesson of the new year.  We're alike, he and I, and he has shown me that my inner child needs to come out and play more often, and I should often embrace the joy of writing simply because I want to tell a story.

 I think I want to go outside to play now.  The weather is really nice in Atlanta.  Amazingly warm for a January day.

So this leaves us here, on day one of 2012, and I want to ask a few questions of you before I go outside, to try to poke at, tease, and beckon your inner child to come out to play.  What was the first thing you ever wrote or read? When did you feel the urge to write?  How old were you when you began writing? What life events inspired you to pick up a pen or peck away on a typewriter (yes, I am over forty, and when I began writing it was on the typewriter)?
^Michael, my thirteen year old football player who loves to write.  He is getting help opening his present by Wyatt, our mischievous Havanese.