Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Passion in Prose - Maass

After attending Donald Maass' workshop at the ACFW conference two weeks ago, I've made it a point to really soak up everything I find written by him. October's issue of Writer's Digest has two articles by him (and one by James Scott Bell)...and I thought I'd summarize one of them here.

Everyone wants to know what is it in a novel that sweeps us away. If we could go into a store, buy it in a bottle and sprinkle it over out fingers and keyboard before beginning a novel endeavor, we would. So what is it that transports us?

Maass indicates the following all have a part in making a story matter: intriguing premise, protagonists we immediately care about, three-dimensional antagonists, gripping scenes, a richly developed world, a singular voice, high believability, and micro-tension on every page.

However, Maass doesn't think either of those things is what would be in that elusive bottle on the shelf. He thinks its passion, but not in the overused, buzzword sense of "write what you're passionate about." Maas says this "passion" is actually code for dedication.

So, to quote Maass, "How do you that necessary passion on the page--and in a way that pierces through to the hearts of crusty, seen-it-all agents, editors and (finally) readers? And how do you summon that passion at every writing session, no matter how many months and drafts you've already devoted to the project?"

1) Realize that every moment of a story that you choose to set down matters. Every scene should enact a change and have hidden in it why that change is important. You have to pin down that importance.

2) Nothing in a story is meaningful until its meaning is clear to a character. Don't ask the reader to intuit by themselves the significance behind something, but don't have "clunky moralizing." Maass mentioned at the workshop that too much internal POV from the character gets old, fast. He suggests measuring the impact of what is happening in the story by those experiencing it: the characters. But how to do this?

  • Don't include what a particular plot point means in the grand scheme of things, but what it means to the POV character instead. Maas says, "Illuminate for that person not what has changed, but how she has changed."
  • Find the overall story's meaning and make it come through. Not just by sticking moral at the end, but by infusing the entire manuscript with meaning. For this to happen, he says you must discover every day why this story matters to you. Ask yourself at every writing session why you care about what is happening in the scene at hand. Once you transpose your own powerful feelings, opinions, joys and sadness to your characters, then you instill in your pages the wisdom living inside your novel--and your self.
Maass says that to do the above daily will make your "passion" a practical tool.

Hope this spoke to you as much as it did to me! Don't forget, the contest to win Mary DeMuth's new book, A Slow Burn, is still going on until Friday night! Sign up here!

Q4U: How are you keeping the passion in your pages? Doing any of the above?

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Treatment Tuesday - Bonding with an Estranged Child

Find out how to do it over at The Character Therapist.

And don't forget to sign up for a chance to win Mary DeMuth's new novel, A Slow Burn, and it's prequel, Daisy Chain, in yesterday's post below!

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Monday, September 28, 2009

A Slow Burn Blog Tour and Double Book Giveaway!

Mary DeMuth's new book, A Slow Burn is an incredible read, people, and I'll give my reasons below.

Here's the back cover copy:

She touched Daisy’s shoulder. So cold. So hard. So unlike Daisy.

Yet so much like herself it made Emory shudder.

Burying her grief, Emory Chance is determined to find her daughter Daisy’s murderer-a man she saw in a flicker of a vision. But when the investigation hits every dead end, her despair escalates. As questions surrounding Daisy’s death continue to mount, Emory’s safety is shattered by the pursuit of a stranger, and she can’t shake the sickening fear that her own choices contributed to Daisy’s disappearance. Will she ever experience the peace her heart longs for?

The second book in the Defiance, Texas Trilogy, this suspenseful novel is about courageous love, the burden of regret, and bonds that never break. It is about the beauty and the pain of telling the truth. Most of all, it is about the power of forgiveness and what remains when shame no longer holds us captive.

Mary, with typical courage and boldness, tackles some difficult issues in the second book in her Defiance, Texas trilogy. My review, coming from a therapist's perspective, will hopefully shed some light on the psychological power Mary conveys with her words.

Emory Chance could very well be one of my clients (in fact, I've definitely seen her in my office before). Addictions are so difficult to deal with (and some would say to write)...but Mary realistically portrays Emory's sunken state after finding out about her child's death. The passages where Emory is standing over the toilet bowl, hesitating over flushing her "little white pills"...that really happens! The dissonance Emory feels in herself when she remembers her daughter's admonishments to quick "smoking that stuff," so at odds with what her body wants and craves...incredible how it jumps out at you on the page.

Emory wasn't a good parent. She feels guilt, name it. And this will touch the hearts of readers everywhere...because everyone who is a parent can relate (perhaps in smaller or larger ways) to not being the type parent we want to be at least some of the time. There's always room for improvement, and for Emory, that's an understatement. But she comes from such a place of brokenness....her tragic history actually explains her actions in such a believable, tragic way...not to make light of what Emory did or didn't do with her daughter, but to give a backstory that makes you ache for her in understanding.

And parents all over who have lost a child, whether at the cruel hands of someone else or just at the cruel hands of fate, will gravitate toward Emory as she deals with the death of her daughter. The waiting period (about 2 months) before she found out, the shock, hallucinations...these will all speak to parents still grieving. Grief is nothing to be afraid of, and Mary writes it so well. So real. So sad. Her poignant flashbacks from Emory's own childhood and Mama are so well situated throughout the novel, punctuating Emory's current state of emotion with ah-ha type revelations. Excellent. the kind of stuff therapists DREAM would come out in sessions, so thanks, Mary. :)

But this book ends with an incredible message of redemption and restoration and healing. It didn't end the way I wanted, but it was satisfying nonetheless...probably more so the way Mary did it, actually.

So now, with my stellar, 5-star review, I'm sure you're dying to read this book for yourself! So leave a post in the comment section to win not only A Slow Burn, but also Mary's first book in the trilogy, Daisy Chain! The contest will end Friday night and I'll announce a winner Saturday sometime.

Learn more about Mary at her website (click here). And if you don't win, visit the Amazon link here to buy a copy for yourself!

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

T3 - Therapy Basics: Treatment Plans

What goes into a treatment plan? Find out at The Character Therapist.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Treatment Tuesday - Death Row Counseling

What on earth would be talked about? Find out over at The Character Therapist.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

And So It Ends Begins...

For those who have already gone through the blog circuit discussing the ACFW conference, you will notice a few similarities we have in common:

1) sleep deprivation
2) being overwhelmed
3) gratefulness to attend and learn
4) excitement re: pitching sessions with agents/editors
5) meeting the blogging community = WONDERFUL (it was like having built-in friendships amidst a throng of people we didn't know or only knew of b/c we had read their book!)

I'm still recovering from #1. I must have suffered some sort of altitude sickness of some sort...and I'm still not 100%. Thankfully, I had gotten all my pitches out of the way the day before I really felt bad!

SO....on to the big news:

I had TWO PARTIAL REQUESTS! This is the beginning. I'm nervous about it, of course, because I feel like this is some sort of invisible line I'm stepping over. Before I email off these partials, I'm really just a girl who likes to write. But as soon as I hit Send, I'll be a girl who is actively seeking representation and eventually publication. Scary, exciting. I'll be going over some last-minute edits, of course....and most of that will be cuts. So please be in prayer for me about that!

Now...I had a camera at the conference on my phone, but took very few pictures. So I'll have to steal a few off fellow blogger websites in order to round out the picture (no pun intended) of who all I got to meet (and of course, this isn't everyone)!

Here I am with my fab critique partner, Katie Ganshert, before the Saturday banquet. Not all of us had the benefit of lovely spray tans.

This is a big group of us fellow bloggers, all of whom met online in the months preceding the conference. People at our tables always knew we had some other connection besides ACFW. :)
Back: Jody Hedlund, Katie Ganshert, Jessica Nelson, myself
Front: Ralene Burke, Eileen Watson, Krista Phillips, Cathy Bryant

Erica Vetsch and me at the banquet. If I look like I'm about to hurl, it's because most of that night, I really was about to. Erica and my other dining companion (Jessica) were very nice about it. They just said to aim away from the table toward the wall. :)

Here I am with Eileen again at the My Book Therapy pizza party/presentation. I guess we both got accused of having accents at this shindig.

So that's the low down. I also met fellow blogger Jaime Wright Sundsmo, writers Mary Connealy, Julie Lessman, Mary DeMuth, Deborah Raney, Debbie MacComber, Christina Berry, Deborah Vogts, Janet Dean, Michelle Sutton, Camy Tang, Karen Young, Jenny B. Jones, Denise Hunter, Susan May Warren, Rachel Hauck, and so many others, I can't even begin to try to put all of those names down!

I also met agents Donald Maass, Tamela Hancock Murray, Greg Johnson, Rachelle Gardner, Chip MacGregor, and Natasha Kern...which was all very exciting!!

Well, I gotta get to work!

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

T3 - Therapy Basics: DSM, cont.

Learn more about how it can help develop character backstory. Visit The Character Therapist!

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Conference Time: Here I Come

Heading to the ACFW conference this morning. There will be a Thursday Therapeutic Thought tomorrow, but unless I'm feeling "Industrious in Denver," I'll be back on the blogosphere Monday!

Everyone have a great weekend! Pray for all of us traveling and pitching our novels with quaky knees! :) We'll be having a blast as we get to meet each other and hone our craft.


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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Treatment Tuesday - Death of a Fiancé

How might it affect a person? Click here to find out.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Parent Pointers

My first article is up for Sage Ministries Online Magazine. Check it out here!

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Vampire Diaries - The Review

So I watched the show. Finally. I've given up on actually catching shows at the time they come on. When you have an 18-month old, television takes a distant sixth or seventh, if that. But I've found Hulu and Amazon Video On Demand, and you can watch just about everything that comes on tv for free using these two amazing mediums. (I mean, with Hulu, you don't really need a television. Seriously.)

And the thing that impressed the most was how the cast was "perfected" from the book. If you haven't checked out Katie Ganshert's post here on Donald Maass' recommendations for the Perfect Cast, you should. I think this is exactly what the producers of The Vampire Diaries did.

Here's a rundown of the characters from the book and the cast from the show. Notice the differences.

Elena (MC)
Bonnie (best friend)
Meredith (best friend)
Caroline (former BF, enemy)
Vickie (classmate)
Tyler (classmate)
Matt (former boyfriend)
Stefan (MC - vamp)
Damon (MC - vamp)
Margaret (Elena's lil sis)

Bonnie/Meredith (combined into one person)
Vickie (Matt's sister)
Tyler (dating Vickie)
Jeremy (Elena's brother, likes Vickie)

So you can see that the producers upped the stakes by adding more associations between the characters. Bonnie incorporates the two friends, and she's still sorta friends with Caroline (who hasn't become all mean yet). Margaret was gotten rid of in favor of a brother who would be in high school with Elena. The fact Jeremy had some sort of summer tryst with Vickie also ups the conflict, because Vickie's set her sights on Tyler now (who actually has a thing for Elena in the books...not sure if that'll play out in the show). Making Vickie and Matt related definitely brings Matt a bit more into the fray, as well.

So kudos to the producers for the casting. This same sort of thing was done in True Blood, as well. Characters were given associations that weren't in the books, like Tara and Lafayette being cousins; Arlene and Terry being friends with benefits, Jason's entire involvement in the stories being manufactured to some degree to give him (a) a reason for being in the cast and (b) conflict in his storyline. These type things are necessary to increase reader apprehension.

Vampire Diaries promises to be a weekly entertaining diversion that I'm looking forward to. Plenty of surprises (i.e., scenes that make you jump) and lots of teenage angst. :)

What characters in your book could you combine? Get rid of? Give a different association to?

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Friday, September 11, 2009


Glee is my new favorite show this fall. It's got all the elements for an exciting, funny series that captures your attention and pulls at your heart strings at the same time. It's only two shows into the season, so if you want to catch up on an excellent fall program, you can watch those two shows on Hulu for free.

The reason I like it so much? The pilot episode was like sitting down to a good first chapter. I mean, I was HOOKED.

How'd the producers do it? Larger than life characters, for starters, a rockin' plot fraught with conflict, and a setting that adds to them both. Here's a rundown.


Glee is set in McKinley High School. Matthew Morrison plays Spanish teacher Will Schuester. He takes over the Glee Club when the current Glee teacher makes inappropriate moves toward a student. When Will tells the principal he wants to take over, the principal asks him if he'd like the captain the Titanic, too. F U N N Y.

He has auditions, and the five (eventually six and will grow in later episodes) people he gets are extremely talented and quirky, and actually follow typical high school archtypes. There's an African American diva (Mercedes) who belts out Aretha Franklin's R-E-S-P-E-C-T, an Asian girl (Tina) who dresses more grunge and definitely sings an edgy number, "I Kissed A Girl and I Liked It." Then there's a gay guy (Kurt) who can really sing great and a guy in a wheelchair (Artie) who just cracks you up when he's doing the shows. They wheel him around while their singing and he sometimes crashes into things. F U N N Y.

Then there are the two main Glee members, about which there swirls an awkward attraction that's not without hindrances. Rachel is a girl consumed with Glee Club. She's extremely talented, a little dorky, definitely a loner at school, and beautiful. Finn is the quintessential jock. He's quarterback on the football team and the boyfriend of the captain of the cheerleader team. He's essentially coerced into the Glee Club by Will, who "plants" marijuana in Finn's locker and "finds" it later. (Will tells the audience that it was his lowest point as a teacher, but he'd just heard Finn singing in the locker room while taking a shower, and he's amazingly talented, as well.) Rachel is in love with Finn; he doesn't know she exists (well, until he hears her sing).

There are four other characters worth mentioning: Will's wife, Terri (she's a whiny prima donna; their marriage isn't going so well, but she tells Will she's pregnant--which she learns later isn't true but doesn't own up to it); the cheerleading coach Sue (played brilliantly by Jane Lynch--from The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Role Models; Sue feels threatened by Will because Will is scouring her cheerleading girls for Glee Club recruits; she makes life difficult for him...but F U N N Y!); the guidance counselor Emma (Amy in Paul Blart: Mall Cop; she's in love with Will and also has an enormous phobia of germs...she's likely OCD); and the football coach Ken (who is trying to get a date with Emma and knows she's got a thing for Will). you realize all the conflict? Throw in the mix Finn's jealous girlfriend (who's president of the Celibacy Club) who wants to join Glee Club to "get her boyfriend back" and who the cheerleading coach recruits to be her "eyes" on the inside; Finn's growing attraction for Rachel - which he acts on with a kiss and a little hormonal surge that's pretty funny; the fact that for the Glee Club to even continue in existence, they have to final in the regional competition (and to do that, they've got to have at least 12 people); the stereotypes of jocks and nerds (and Glee definitely falls into the "loser" category)'s awesome people. Awesome.

If you haven't seen it...DO. The singing numbers are awesome. I especially like the more modern songs. Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" is sung in the pilot...I was singing it all week long. So good.

Anyway...just thought I'd share. If all our first chapters could end up with the hooks that the pilot did....we'll final in every contest and be published within hours. No joke.

Q4U: Have you seen Glee? What were your thoughts?

And on a monumental aside, let's send up a prayer for those families who lost a loved one or a friend in the 9-11 attacks.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

T3 - Therapy Basics: DSM

What is it? How can it help your writing? Click here to find out.

Oh, and check out my word count to the right for Blessed. Heck yeah. :)

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Vampire Enthusiasts Click Here

I'm not ashamed to admit that I am a vampire enthusiast. Not now, after I've read so many other Christian authors admitting to loving Twilight. I also admit to watching True Blood (I know, I know...slap my hand) and having read all Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Series featuring Sookie Stackhouse.

Recently, I've stumbled across The Vampire Diaries series by L.J. Smith. The CW will be hosting the first season of The Vampire Diaries premiering this Thursday at 7:00 Central Time. This was the main reason I found out about it, so then I did some research.

I found I could read the first book online. I liked it, so I wanted to see if I could find the other 3, and I found a site where you can download all four of the first books (click here. Apparently some people had problems downloading them, but it took me to a site and I managed to download them all. They are .rar files, so make sure you have a program on Windows or Mac to read .rar. There are plenty of free ones. I used iArchiver's 15-day free trial for Mac.). So now I'm starting on Book Three.

If anyone else has read these books, please let me know if it escaped your attention how very similar they are to the Twilight series? Now, I suppose there aren't too many spins on the whole vampire-human love relationship thing. But seriously. L.J. Smith wrote this series in 1991. Stephenie Meyers published Twilight in 2005. Fourteen years later.

Here's my rundown of the similarities between The Vampire Diaries (VD) and Twilight, despite the very obvious similarity in the pictures below, given that I'm only through Book 2.


1) Setting: small town high school, USA

2) Vampire Stefan in VD is a mind reader. He had other Powers, too. He also "feels" the mind of Elena (main girl) differently than the rest of the high school.

3) Stefan is immediately attracted to Elena, but absolutely repels every attempt she makes at friendship (and is quite rude).

4) Stefan rescues Elena from a near rape by a high school boy when she's alone out being stupid with the guy at dark.

5) Stefan doesn't trust himself to ever be alone with Elena after they have their initial first kiss and it's so passionate they both are overwhelmed.

6) There is absolutely no sex mentioned (at least thus far). Just kissing, and not much of that.

7) Stefan's evil vampire brother Damon (sort of like the James character) wants Elena for himself, but not to drain. Damon forms the third of the love triangle (which would be like Jacob from Twilight, although Damon's no werewolf. Damon has incredible Powers b/c he's been feeding on humans all this time.)

8) Stefan is generally a "vegetarian" vamp, like Edward and the Cullens. He hunts animals to quench his thirst, although they don't help advance his Powers much (only the human life essence can really do that).

9) Elena has a "good guy friend" named Matt who absolutely is in love with her and isn't happy at all about the developments between Elena and Stefan.

10) Stefan has a thing about manners and being a gentleman, born from his birth era in the Italian Renaissance.

11) The producers of The Vampire Diaries on CW have definitely cashed in on the Edward Cullen look-alike type thing.

I'm sure there will be more just from reading the back cover copy of the next books, like how Bella eventually joins the vampire ranks, Elena does, too.

There are some typical vampire traits that L.J. Smith works with that most all vamp books incorporate: aversion to sunlight (although Smith has Stefan and Damon wear a ring like a talisman to protect them from the sun), ability to "influence" others with their mental powers, pale and cool skin, incredible physical power and prowess, increased/attuned senses, extreme sexual attraction/good looks, can't go inside a dwelling without an invitation.

So I'm curious what Twilight readers thought of The Vampire Diaries. L.J. Smith has written 3 new VD books now, and I imagine the idea was to cash in on the success vampire books are having right now. But how many Twilight readers have read VD? And who read what first? Any other vamp books you'd recommend to this enthusiast?

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Treatment Tuesday - Identity Crisis

How would you feel if you found out your dad wasn't really your dad?

Would love to hear your answers to such a deep question over at The Character Therapist.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day Proposal Writing

Seriously. Isn't that like a misnomer? Writing a proposal on Labor Day has to be counterintuitive to everyone. Yet here I am. With conference so close, I've got to get this puppy finished!

So overwhelming to write the marketing strategies, comparables, market analysis...yikes. But you know, I'm almost there! It's actually looking pretty good so far. I mean, I'm proud of it.

Who else has gotten their proposals all fit and tidy for the conference? Or, if not for the conference, ready to actually submit?

Here's wishing you a great Labor Day doing something more fun than proposal writing. (Unless you consider proposal writing fun. If so, email me and I'll pencil you in later in the afternoon.)

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday Film Reel

The Phantom of the Opera

I won't be posting a Friday Film Reel every Friday, just on the Fridays that strike me. Someone suggested I review movies from a therapist perspective, so I picked The Phantom of the Opera because it's a favorite.

One reason is that there are many juxtapositions in the play, of course. The main one being between the dark, sexy Phantom and the heroic, noble Raoul. Besides the fact that Gerard Butler (an all-time fav of mine) plays the Phantom in the Hollywood film version, the therapist side of me really feels for the guy, which is another reason I love the flick. I mean, come on. He doesn't even have a name. He was "Devil's Child" when being paraded around the the circus and then just "Phantom." His facial scarring left him emotionally scarred, as well. I don't condone his killing or anything like that, but I can see how his anger and angst provide the raw materials to do the things he did. The Phantom has got to be one of the most haunted (no pun intended) characters in the history of filmography/theater.

The third is the lyrics. I'm just blown away by them. Charles Hart did most of the lyrics, but there was some collaboration on some songs. I'll be looking at two songs in particular.

Both the Phantom and Raoul do their best to woo Christine, and the girl has to decide between the two. Phantom woos her with his song "Music of the Night." I've included a few lines below, or you can click on the YouTube video if you have a few more minutes and want to listen to Gerard belt it out:

Softly, deftly music shall caress you
Hear it, feel it secretly possess you
Open up you mind let your fantasies unwind
In this darkness which you know you cannot fight
The darkness of the music of the night.

Floating, falling, sweet intoxication
Touch me, trust me, savor each sensation
let the dream begin let your darker side give in
to the power of the music that I write
The power of the music of the night

Then Christine gets wooed by Raoul with a song that's almost the polar opposite, "All I Ask of You." Patrick Wilson seriously has one of the best voices ever. I like to close my eyes and imagine Jesus singing this song to me. Try it yourself:

No more talk of darkness,
Forget these wide-eyed fears
I'm here, nothing can harm you
my words will warm and calm you
Let me be your freedom,
let daylight dry your tears.
I'm here with you, beside you,
to guard you and to guide you...

Let me be your shelter
let me be your light
You're safe, No one will find you
your fears are far behind you...

So Christine's got the most basic choice of all mankind before her: good or evil. That's what it boils down to. Bad guy Phantom loves her, all right, but his love is warped, as he doesn't understand love and never had any kind of example. Raoul, though, growing up with a family in tact (he says his parents have always been great supporters of the arts, so he is the patron of the opera house now...and I draw from that the conclusion that Raoul likely emulated his parents in more ways that just that) understands what love and true sacrifice is. He makes a counteroffer Christine just can't refuse.

I really like to think about the Phantom and Raoul as human representations of much larger scale. The devil is out there, wooing people with his night music, while Jesus sings a song of light and love. It's truly beautiful.

[You can stop reading here...otherwise, you're going to get a therapist run-down of her favorite scene and how it relates to the goals of writing.]

The scene of Raoul singing to Christine "All I Ask of You" is my most favorite in the Hollywood movie made in 2004. The reason for this isn't just the love song and great singing. It's because its the first time the viewer actually feels pity for the Phantom's plight. Now, up until then, he wasn't really this awful villain just yet, but seeing Raoul and Christine together gives him the push over the edge of insanity a bit. But it's played so well that the viewer actually still feels sorry for him, understanding how his broken heart could lead him to such terrible actions. We've all been there. We can pity him because we have empathy with him.

And this is exactly what we need to do as writers with our villains, as well! Make the reader really feel for them by giving them an incredibly horrible backstory or some other weak point that made them like who they are today.

At the climax of the film, when the Phantom descends into his cave with Christine and Raoul comes after her, the Phantom makes Christine make a choice, once he has Raoul trapped:

Start a new life with me
Buy his freedom with your love!

Refuse me, and you send your lover to his death!

This is the choice,

This is the point of no return!

He uses the very choice she had made earlier (to love Raoul) to bring her to this huge decision. This is MAJOR!! Our heroines (and heros) have to face this black moment, as well. It's made more psychologically powerful when it plays on the emotions of the one making the life-altering decision. She's seriously in a no-win situation, but when she thinks of the type of life the Phantom has had:

Pitiful creature of darkness,
What kind of life have you known?

God give me courage to show you,

You are not alone...

She is playing on the emotions of the villain! Ah-ha! This is brilliant. Striking him at his Achilles' heel. It's like she creates her own Option C, blindsiding the Phantom (with two major knee-buckling kisses) and getting what she wants in the process (Raoul). Although the kisses horrify Raoul as he stands there and watches, Christine actually does it all for him (and the romantic in me likes to think she did it to show the Phantom compassion despite all the things he had done).

This is just poetic and beautiful and perfect to me. of my favorite movies ever. And hopefully we can all learn a bit from it when we're creating our characters.

Q4U (if you actually made it down this far): What is one of your favorite movies from which you took away writing nuggets for your WIPs?

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

T3 - Therapy Basics: Assessments

Ever wondered what goes into a therapist's assessment? Find out at The Character Therapist.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Interview with Author Lynnette Bonner and Book Giveaway!

Before I get to my post, I wanted to let you know that I'm guest blogging today over at Seriously Write: A blog for Christian writers. Check out their site!

OK. Today I'm doing my first author interview, combined with a blog tour and book giveaway! Lynnette Bonner is with me today to talk about her new release, Rocky Mountain Oasis. I read this book in just a few days and really enjoyed it. Lynnette was kind enough to answer some questions from my therapeutic angle, which I've included below.

First, a blurb about the book:

She's been living in a desert all her life. Suddenly she's come upon an oasis. But is it just a mirage?

Brooke Marie Baker, eighteen, has been sent west as a mail-order bride. As the stage nears Greer's Ferry, where she is to meet the man she's pledged to marry, she tries to swallow the lump of nervousness in her throat. Can it be any worse than living with Uncle Jackson...or Hank? she wonders. All men are the same, aren't they? But with her parents and sister dead, she has no choice.

Sky Jordan, a rancher, holds a single yellow daisy in his hand as he watches the ferry cross the river. Ever since he'd found out his surly cousin, Jason, had sent for a mail-order bride, his mind and heart had been ill at ease.
No woman deserves to be left with the likes of Jason. But now he questions his own plans to claim the bride for himself. Why am I drawn to this woman I don't even know?

Rocky Mountain Oasis is Book One in Lynnette's The Shepherd's Heart series.

Jeannie: Tell me a bit about what got you into writing. Readers always love hearing about an author’s journey.

Lynnette: I always loved to read. And after awhile I started having stories of my own floating around in my head. Writing is something I’ve toyed with for a long time. But I didn’t seriously start writing until about 1999.

The oasis is a desert metaphor prominent in Brooke’s life as she thinks about her history with men and how different Sky is from them. What made you choose this metaphor?

I think there are many women today who may feel a little like they’ve been living a dry, parched life. I want them to know that it doesn’t have to be that way. Not all of them can have a nice guy like Sky. But all of them can have the relationship with Jesus that Brooke finds in the book.

What is it about a marriage that brings the hero and heroine prematurely and permanently together early in the book that just touches a chord with women? If this happened in real life, we wouldn’t have such warm fuzzies. Why do you think it’s different when reading about it?

Romance is all about the happy ending. I think we all know how hard that situation would be in real life – so the happy ending is all the more fulfilling when it comes about.

For someone with such a battered past as Brooke, it’s not any wonder that she found trusting Sky hard to do. What primary method did you choose for Sky to win her trust and why?

Sky had to show her he was trustworthy through kindness and patients. She wasn’t going to believe him until she experienced safety and True Love for the first time in her life. I chose that method, because I honestly think it would be the only one that would work in that situation.

It’s said that Christian marriages have 3 partners: the husband, the wife and the Lord. But in Sky’s marriage, there is another partner: Brooke’s baggage. How hard was it writing Sky’s perspective as he dealt the fourth party in his relationship?

I don’t think it was any harder than writing the other scenes in the book. In a sense we all bring some baggage into our relationships.

Brooke suffers from terrible nightmares about her past. These are bad enough to effect how she views her present. In effect, she has post-traumatic stress disorder. Did you know anything about this disorder when you were writing?

No. I’d heard of it. But had no firsthand experience with it. I just tried to put myself in the shoes of someone who had been treated in that way and imagine how that might affect Brooke and her relationships with others.

What kind of research did you do on the effects of opium withdrawal?

I did most of that research online. There is so much information available online now. It is wonderful for writers. If you are typing a scene and you don’t know what the symptoms of opium withdrawal are, within 5 minutes you can have your answer.

Usually there is only one salvation experience in fiction books. What was behind your decision to include two?

I didn’t originally intend to redeem Jason. But as the story unfolded I just fell in love with him. And I knew I couldn’t leave him wallowing in his misery. He is the hero in the second book in The Shepherd’s Heart series, High Desert Haven.

Where did you find And Five Were Hanged: And Other Historical Short Stories of Pierce and the Oro Fino Mining District by Layne Gellner Spencer from which you based your book?

I lived in the town of Pierce, the setting of the book. That book was in our local library. The history of Pierce (previously known as Pierce City) was so interesting that a story begged to be told.

I want to add a note of thanks to Jeannie for allowing me to be here today. I’d also like to give away one e-copy of Rocky Mountain Oasis to a winner drawn randomly from this post's commenters. The winner will be announced next Wednesday the 9th of September.

Big congratulations to Lynnette for her book release and thanks for being on my blog. Don't forget to leave a comment in the comment section to be entered to win a copy of Lynnette's book!

If you aren't the lucky winner, you can find Lynnette's book at Amazon or

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Treatment Tuesday - Savantism

How's it different from autism? Get in on the discussion over at The Character Therapist.

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