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Limited Movement, Foggy Brain June 29, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in Living Life.

I’ve said this before and now I’ll say it again.  It’s good this blog is called Raw & Dangerous, because that is just how I’ve been these last days.  Living in pain, occasionally eclipsed by a Percocet fog, due to an ailing lower back (complete with throbbing legs) thanks to limited dorsiflexion, courtesy of the broken ankle that I was blessed with 170 days ago.  I am fast concluding that the older one gets, the more courage it takes to live.

Yesterday, at Physical Therapy, I was talking with a newly made friend who started her PT about the same time I did.  About 20 years my senior, she had both knees replaced, *at the same time*.  Needless to say, her PT is more of the painful sort, yet she bears it with smiles and jokes even when tears rim her eyes.  

In truth, I don’t know where I’m going with this post, as I bring you, trudging through my brain fog.  I just wanted to stop in and say hello to the twenty or so folks my WordPress Blog Stats say visit here, everyday.   I have loads of ideas flying around my head for this blog, from “How To” posts on making money selling dead people’s stuff (something I’ve done for the last three years), to offering affordable Macro-Editing to new writers looking for feedback and direction, to creating an “e-harmony” like site for writers seeking the right critique partner.  Who knows what else I’ll find when the fog lifts and the pain ebbs.

Until then, thank you for faithfully visiting.  Your patience is much appreciated.




Good News & Bad News June 23, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in Living Life, Writing Life.

First the Good News.   Last weekend’s Yard Sale was a smashing success!  The total take just over $600, Anna and her friend Rachel have the funding for their trip to California.  It will be an experience from which YA novels are born.  Anna and Rachel did a stellar job at the sale, too.  More than once, buyers commented on the sale’s organization, item cleanliness and the quality of the signs that led them there.  I am very proud of the girls.

Now for the Bad News.  Taking on the Yard Sale in conjunction with returning to household duties has set my ankle and my lower back, back several paces.  On Percocet, again, my creative brain is solidly fogged in.   When the weather lifts, I’ll return.

Until then… how’s your summer shaping up?

Confessions of a Contest Judge: Making Conflict (part 2) June 18, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in How 2 Write.
1 comment so far

Monday, I threw the first punch on how to write throat-gripping conflict.  That post, Confessions of a Contest Judge: Conflict (part 1), garnered the second highest number of views since I started Raw & Dangerous, three short weeks ago.   

Conflict is obviously a hot topic for us writers.  And well it should be.

Conflict is your most lethal weapon.  Chapter one, page one, word one, stab me in the heart with your pen.  Pull no punches.  Never hold back.  Knock me to the ground, grab me by the throat, glare into his my eyes and tell me that the only way your pen is coming out is when I’ve turned the last page. 

Do that, and I’ll buy your book.  And, if the ending is as good as the beginning, I’ll recommend your book to my friends, while keeping a sharp eye out for your next cover.

Conflict creates writing careers, me thinks.

So, now that you’re back for more, the question is, can I deliver on my promise to show you how good, solid, believable conflict, always begets more conflict?  That you never need to hold back, stringing the reader along because you’re afraid you’ll tip your hand too soon.

I think I can, if you’re willing to help.

Conflict that keeps on giving starts with your opening line.  Here is an earlier post I did on building knockout first lines.  But conflict rarely begins there.  Conflict begins (and ends) with your characters, no matter what genre you write. 

Many excellent books have been written on developing a character’s GMCs (goals motivations and conflicts), Debra Dixon’s bestseller being primary.  But I’m a “pantser,” of sorts.  Excessive planning drives me nuts, gags my muse, and leaves me with nothing but a well-organized laundry list of empty, emotionless scenes.  If that is how excessive planning leaves you, perhaps my “system” of freethinking will help. 

You game?


Now, all we need are two good characters.

Into our hero, Cole Turner.  Cole is a business entrepreneur.  He learned business by working with his father and expected to inherit the company he and his father built.   Instead, the profitable company was dissolved in his father’s will with all the money given to the mega-church that Cole grew up in but rarely attended as an adult.

Enter our heroine, Jenny Boyd.  Jenny is one-year sober thanks to one of the inner-city missions managed by said church.  On her way to her new up-town job, Jenny rear-ends Cole’s new BMW at a traffic light.

The First Line of the story is “Shit.”  (nope, the story needn’t be an Inspirational)

Time to extrapolate some conflict.  I’ll start in comments.  You post from my post, and then our neighbor will post from your post, and then our neighbor’s neighbor will post.  Well, you get the idea.  By the time we’re finished, we should have a boatload of churning, heart stopping, throat-grabbing conflict that will carry Cole and Jenny (and the reader) through to the end.  And we’ll have something else too, but we have to build it first in order to see it.

Remember, the only rule is creating gripping conflict.  Let’s get started. (see my first comment on how to proceed)

Making Money: The old fashion way June 16, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in Living Life.

Today, I have my daughter Anna with me to talk about a moneymaking tradition that dates back centuries.  No, dear romance writer friends, we’re not talking about that.  We’re talking about selling your used unwanted stuff.   And in this tight economy, every penny helps.

My daughter Anna is a consummate “yard sailor” who knows how to strike a bargain and get every last dime out of a sale of her own.  With three yard sales under her management belt, the last one netting over $700, I turn the mic over to Anna, with this question.

What, in your opinion, are the main elements of a successful yard sale?

Thanks Mom, it’s wonderful to be here.   Thanks for having me.

So, the elements of having a successful yard sale….

Good adverting and clean and clearly priced items are key. The cleanliness is important! When I see a grimy piece of Hall Poppy Seed china, I don’t see the value.  I see the dirt, I don’t buy, and you just missed out on making six bucks!  It’s also important not to load all the work of washing, pricing, and packing into one day.  Do it over time and price as you go.  Trust me; you’ll thank yourself later.

You say good advertizing is important, but newspaper/classified ads are so expensive.  Is there a way to advertize without paying for it? 

Craigslist!   It’s free with unlimited ad space, and loads of people visit the site.

When writing your ad, give details.   Don’t just say “clothes, baby items, kitchen stuff, china, dolls and more.”  Instead, write “boy’s clothes 0-12, Graco stroller and crib for girls, Tupperware, Hall Poppy Seed china, old collectible cabbage patch dolls (never played with).”  Details get people’s attention and make them come to your yard sale FIRST with their freshly filled wallets.

Also, don’t forget those signs.   Make them big, eye catching, and easy to read.  Include date, time, and street address.   Be sure to waterproof them, (laminating with clear packing tape is cheap and effective) and mount them on cardboard so they will withstand the blowing breeze of passing traffic.  Never hang your sign on a Stop Sign or poles that hold up traffic lights, it is technically illegal to do so, however some people go it anyway and get away with it. Be sure to remove your signs as soon as your sale is over.  It is the neighborly thing to do.

On “the day of,” what can I do to encourage people to buy?

Appearance is everything!

Drape your tables (old clean sheets work great) or purchase some plastic tablecloths at the Dollar store.  

When people walk into your yard sale, get up, walk around, maybe adjust a few items, say hello, ask how they are, and then ask if they are looking for anything in particular. Sometimes people need some engagement. Trust me; I’ve landed many sales using this technique.

Set up your tables in a way that supports comfortable flow of traffic and leads customers to you at your station ready and waiting to take their money, give them change, and bag their purchases.   Remember to have plenty of “Wal-Mart type bags,” change and an organized moneybox.   Having blank paper for an impromptu sign, extra price tags, pens, sharpies, and scissors at hand is also helpful.

Departmentalize your items.  When you walk into Wal-Mart, you don’t see the poultry next to the cereal do you?  No, you don’t.  You wouldn’t expect to find baby toys in the electronics section either.  It’s the same way with yard sales. Don’t stick a drill with doilies or mesh jewelry with kitchenware!  When Mommies and Grandmas come looking for your advertized baby stuff, they should find all you have in one department.  The same is true of collectables.  Your yard sale is your store.  Good organization is pleasing to the eye and suggests better quality. 

Pricing.  Price fairly and according to your market (the neighborhood where your sale is located).  Never price an item compared to what you saw on Ebay! This pains me every time someone says “Well it is worth 50 bucks on Ebay!” at a yard sale.  Ebay is a very different market whose pricing doesn’t apply to “yard sale” markets.  Pricing an item according to what you saw on Ebay will just make your shoppers mad and mad shoppers talk to each other at other sales going on that day.  An overpriced, disorganized yard sale will be squeezed out while better sales are quickly recommended. 

Be ready to bargain, but at the right time.  Experienced yard sailors know that there is a time for bargaining, and that’s late in the day or on the last day of the yard sale.   But they might try to bargain sooner.  It’s up to you to say yes or no, but don’t panic and say yes to a bargain you didn’t want. If you have more time, just say no. I’m sure you’ll get another offer.

Finally, ask for help!  A yard sale is a tough job that often needs at least three helpers.  Yard sailors are impatient people. It’s often hot, they want to get a move on, and there are other bargains to be had!  So, enlist family and friends to keep things moving. After all, what better use do you have for your teenage children and their friends in the summer?

If you follow this advice I’m sure you will have a very successful yard sale that will put a nice bit of extra coin in your pocket.

Thank you, Anna.  Will you let us know how your June 18 & 19 yard sale goes?

You’re very welcome, and I most certainly will!  I’m looking forward to serving buying customers who will supply me with cash for a trip to California.  And I’ll be rid of my clutter, too!  A yard sale is a great time to tan up a little as well, haha!

Anna will be hanging with me at Raw & Dangerous, today.  So, if you’ve got Yard Sale questions, tips or woes, here’s your chance.  Post in comments. 

Ohoh! I love questions, please do ask something. 🙂

Confessions of a Contest Judge: Conflict (part 1) June 14, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in How 2 Write.

This is my third year volunteering as a RWA chapter contest judge.  Judging, for me, is win-win.  While I give back, as so many writer friends have given to me, I am forced to explain why a certain contest entry, or story element within said entry, doesn’t work.  The effort teaches me a lot about craft.  That’s my win.

Here’s yours.

Conflict is your most lethal weapon.  Chapter one, page one, word one, stab me in the heart with your pen.  Pull no punches.  Never hold back.  Knock me to the ground, grab me by the throat, glare into my eyes and guarantee me that the only way your pen is coming out is when I’ve turned the last page.

Do that to me on page one and you will win every time (with this judge, at least).

The problem is, most new writers invariably pull that first punch in the very first line, then the second soon after when the first character is introduced, then the third part way through scene one.  As a judge, I continue reading.  But as a reader who was hoping for a black eye, I’m emotionally gone.

I think I know why writers do this, because, as a writer, I’ve done it, too.  Why did I do it?  Why did I feel like I had to string you (the reader) along, slowly luring you in, not wanting to give too much away?  Because, quite frankly, I didn’t believe in my story; or more to the point, the conflict holding my story together.

But good, solid, believable conflict, always begets more conflict. 

Don’t believe me?  Check back on Friday and we’ll give it a go. 🙂

Answer the Sphinx June 13, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in Living Life.
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Good Sunday Morning!  For those of you who are wondering, here are the answers to Friday’s Riddle the Sphinx.

#1: Truth

#2: Life

#3: Man

Funny, how #3, while living #2, searches for #1. 

Hope your day is a sunny one.  It’s 3am Sunday morning as I post this, so please forgive any errors.  Just got the family out the door to the William’s Grove Flea Market.  I did the Newberrytown Market, yesterday.  Doing flea markets is one of the ways we make money.  Always something different, the experiences never prove boring.  There are some very interesting people in this part of the world.

I’ll be back on Monday with Confessions of a Contest Judge.



Riddle the Sphinx June 11, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in Living Life.

Today will be a bit nutty between physical therapy and other appointments.  So, here are two of my not-so-famous riddles along with a tidbit about the most famous riddle in history.  Enjoy!  I’ll be back later with the answers.

The Sphinx is said to have guarded the entrance to the Greek city of Thebes, and to have asked a riddle of travelers to allow them passage. Early tellers of the stories did not specify the exact riddle asked by the Sphinx, but it was said in later lore that she asked all passersby the most famous riddle in history. (# 3, below) Those who could not answer or answered wrongly, she strangled and then devoured. 

I promise to do neither.

Riddle #1:  I am as a thief in the night, deception my quarry.  All seek me, few love me, but I remain the same.  What am I?

Riddle #2:  It can’t be touched, tasted or smelled, but will mean nothing if you don’t cultivate it. It must be owned before it can be spent, but will mean nothing if you don’t give it way. What am I?

Riddle #3:  Which creature in the morning goes on four legs, at mid-day on two, and in the evening upon three, and the more legs it has, the weaker it be.

Post your answers in comments. (link at top of this post)  If you have a favorite riddle, include it too.

I’ll be back later.



When Writing is Not Like Life June 9, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in Living Life, Writing Life.

Good thing my blog is titled Raw & Dangerous, because that is how I feel. Raw in spirit, and a dangerous person to talk with. Continue reading at your own risk.

If you read Sweet Lover Mine (posted last week), you met a mini form of “me,” a woman out of control of her life, seeking a single place to be queen, or at least someplace where she can know what’s coming next. So, she sits down to write.

When I write, I always know what’s coming next. Even if that Next Thing is not good, I know when That Good Thing my characters so desperately need, is coming. And it always comes. This is what puts my butt in the writing chair; my driving need to love and rescue my heroes and heroines.

But in life, knowing what’s coming next is not part of the equation. Of course, I used to think otherwise, until Life felled me like the hollow tree I was. Twice.

Now, I know I don’t know. I wish I could claim comfort in knowing at least that much. But, truth is, I would find more comfort in a bi-weekly paycheck that could disappear at any second (which has happened to me three times in the last seven years) than knowing I am not in control.

People of my Faith are quick to quote, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you.” (Jeremiah 29:11) Today, I boldly (and unapologetically) hand back this thought; nowhere does the Bible say those plans of hope and prosperity, which I do believe in, are for this life. In the grand scheme of eternity, that’s okay. But today…

This is why I write. I know the ending, and I know it will be good, and my characters will have what they need and be healed, and live happily ever after. Because I wrote it that way.

There is comfort in that.

I thank God I can write.

What’s on your heart, today?

Romance Writer Jokes Redneck Style June 7, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in Living Life.

Good Morning!   Here’s a little Jeff Foxworthy… romance writer style.  Enjoy!

If your closest friends all live in your head and you’ve yet to be declared mentally insane, you just might be a romance writer.

If you own more research books than Paris Hilton own shoes, you might be a romance writer.

If all you need in a perfect man is the right word to describe him, you just might be a romance writer.

If you do your best work in bed and you’re not a prostitute you just might be a romance writer.

If the best you’ve ever had has all been in your head, you just might be a romance writer.

If you spend all your time away without ever leaving the house, you just might be a romance writer.

If your bathroom is wallpapered with rejection letters, you just might be a romance writer.

Be back later.  I am off to knock down a mountain of “little things.” Hope your day is a good one.

Writerly Pickup Lines June 4, 2010

Posted by ninapaules in How 2 Write.

The best pickup line I’ve ever heard was the one my husband tossed out at me, before I became his wife. 

I, however, am not a pickup artist.  When I meet someone new, I am lucky to remember the person’s name along with my own, never mind a witty turn of phrase that bends them to my way of thinking.

But, good — no, make that stellar — pickup lines are a *must* in today’s writerly world. 


The first line sells the book.  To the reader.  To the publisher.  To the agent.  To the contest judge.  The rest of the story must be good, too.  It sells the author’s next book.    But the first line… those few magical words must pluck money from the pocket like a two-fingered Louie.

Luckily, I am blessed with teachers — very good teachers — who are excellent writerly pickup artists.  Here are a few of their pickup lines, and a bit on how they’ve helped me fashion my own.

The Pickup

“War was hell.  Letters from relatives could be worse.”  Never Less Than A Lady by Mary Jo Putney (2010)

“She was willing to die, of course, but she had not planned to do it so soon, or in such a prolonged and uncomfortable fashion, or at the hands of her own countrymen.”  The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne (2008)

“Then what you’re saying is, I have to sell myself,” the gentleman said.”  A Bride For His Convenience by Edith Layton (2008)

The Lesson

A good pickup line seems to do three things.  Divert.  Contrast.  Elicit emotion. 

Go back and read those pickup lines again, in slow motion.   

I’ll wait.

Still waiting….


You done?

Good.  Now, let’s examine.

Receiving a letter from a relative is worse than enduring war, or even hell.   Most will agree that war is hell. (diversion) Whether you, as a reader, can relate to explosive relatives or not, the contrast between war and relationship intrigues, stirring emotion from empathy to concern to even morbid curiosity.  What in the world, does “that letter” say?

A woman is willing to die, but never imagined it would be at the hands of those she was willing to die for.  And she’s young and in a bad place expecting even worse things to happen.  I am diverted by the compelling contrasts.  Immediately, I want to root for her, help her, make sure she gets her happily ever after. The only way I can do that is to buy & read the book.

A gentleman forced to sell himself.  This line has contrast in spades. Not only is selling one’s self unpalatable in general, it is doubly unpalatable for a [English] gentleman (stirring emotion), and, for a female reader, feels a bit like “just deserts” as it is usually the heroine doing the selling. (diversion)  But, Lady Layton doesn’t leave us there, wanting to “stick it” to her hero.  She elicits our compassion via the gentlemen’s surprise (backhandedly suggesting disappointment) and austere acceptance (because he is after all, a hero).  Now, we must know what went wrong and why our English gentleman must sell himself… and to whom

Did you get all that the first time you read those opening pickup lines?  I know I didn’t.  I just bought the books.

So, what are some of your favorite pickup lines?  Share from your favorite authors, or post your own, unpublished first line. 

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