Welcome Laura Drake,
Author of The Sweet Spot
The Sweet Spot is a Romantic Times Top Pick!
Laura has always been a storyteller. She began on her front porch, telling ghost stories to the neighborhood kids. They ran screaming, but kept coming back for more. If she wasn’t telling a story, she had her nose in one, bumping into students in the halls on her way to classes.
Her settings are Western, but Laura grew up in the suburbs outside Detroit. A tomboy, she’s always loved the outdoors and adventure. In 1980 she and her sister packed everything they owned into their Pintos and moved to California, sight unseen. There Laura met her husband, a motorcycling, bleed-maroon Texas Aggie, and her love affair with the West began. You can visit Laura at Lauradrakebooks.com. Like her on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter at @PBRWriter. And find her blogging at Writers in the Storm.
I am excited to debut Laura Drake on my Pubbed Margie Grad Blog today!
Laura is a multi-Margie-grad, and an Immersion Master Class grad too. It has been my joy and my honor to watch her grow her writing craft, get an agent, and get offered three contracts for a total of seven books.
KUDOS to Laura Drake!
Margie Asks Laura :
Please share your road to publication. Other contests? Rejections?
I began 16 years ago, with an idea that wouldn’t leave me alone. But who was I to write a novel? I didn’t have the guts to try until I realized I had a ‘Delete’ key. I could get the story out of my head, and after typing The End, I could hit delete and be done.
Of course, a year-and-a-half later when I typed The End, I had a new goal. I wanted to hold a book in my hands with my name on the cover. Fifteen years, three books, and 413 rejections later, I realized that dream. Yes, I’m stubborn, and a bit obsessive. But it was worth it – It’s been more rewarding than I could have imagined!
BLOG GUESTS: You noticed - Laura received 413 rejections. And now she has 7 books contracted.
Never quit writing. Never quit honing your writing craft. Never quit querying.
Check out this time line:
May, 2011 -- Laura attended a 4-day Immersion Master Class with Margie in Colorado
July 2011 -- Laura got an agent, Nalini Akolekar, Spencerhill Associates
Photo: Laura and her agent, Nalini Akolekar, at RWA National, 2012.
January, 2012 -- Laura landed her first contract, a three-book deal with Grand Central.
June, 2012 -- Laura got another contract, this time for a Superromance.
March, 2013 -- Laura nailed a third contract for three more Superromances!
Laura, Faye, and Margie's miniature dachshund acting out a scene in Immersion class.
Why was Laura offered two additional contracts before her first book was released?
Before publishers could check her sales?
Read the opening of The Sweet Spot, and you will know the answer.
The Sweet Spot is set in the world of professional bull riding.
The grief counselor told the group to be grateful for what they had left. After lots of considering, Charla Rae decided she was grateful for the bull semen.
Charla Rae Denny wiped her hands with her apron and stepped back, surveying the shelves of her pantry. This month’s Good Housekeeping suggested using scraps of linoleum as shelf paper. It had been a bitch-kitty to cut, but cost nothing, would be easy to clean, and continued the white-pebbled theme of her kitchen floor. And for a few hours, the project had rescued her weary mind from a hamster-wheel of regret.
The homing beacon in the Valium bottle next to the sink tugged at her insides.
She sipped a glass of water to avoid reaching for it and glanced out the window to the spring-skeletal trees of the back yard.
Her gaze returned to the two-foot wide stump the way a tongue wanders to a missing tooth. Tentative grass shoots had sprung up to obscure the obscene scar in the soil.
She hadn’t thought that an innocent tree could kill a child.
She hadn’t thought that an innocent coed could kill a marriage.
And if those pills could kill the thinking, she’d take ten.
Kudos to Laura! Stellar opening!
What makes Laura’s opening so powerful? I’ll share my Deep Editing Analysis, and ask Laura some questions about her writing.
Laura loaded her opening with power words. She used 25 psychologically empowered words in 202 words. Kudos to Laura!
Power Words: grief, bull, semen, bitch-kitty, rescued, weary, regret, homing beacon, Valium, insides, avoid, spring-skeletal, stump, tentative, obscure, obscene, scar, innocent, kill, innocent, coed, kill, marriage, pills, kill
What else did Laura do to add power to her opening?
Strong cadence throughout.
Rhetorical Devices: Alliteration (several times), simile, parallelism, a cadence-driven double (She hadn’t thought that an innocent _____ could kill a _____)
Emotion-themed (grief-themed) Words: tentative grass shoots, spring-skeletal trees, obscene scar in the soil
Visceral Response: tugged at her insides
Slipped in Backstory in a compelling way.
Kudos to Laura! Your deep edited opening is guaranteed to wow readers and reviews. It’s enviably stellar!
Photo: Laura working, in Immersion class, May, 2011.
The Sweet Spot has strong teaching examples on every page. Here are some of my favorite dialogue cues.
Bella’s voice could freeze meat.
His deep rumbly voice held no sleepy edges.
“We’ve missed you in church, Charla Rae.” Reverend Mike’s deep voice wasn’t accusatory, but she felt caught just the same. That would teach her to pick up the phone without checking the caller I.D.
The concern in his voice and calm, assessing look had her nerves dancing like water drops on a hot skillet.
She yelled over her shoulder in a New York truck driver voice, “Hey, Russ, the cavalry is here!”
“What hat?” Her voice went all skinny.
Photo: Laura's Immersion class on a break, a five minute walk from Margie's house.
Margie Chats with Laura:
Your dialogue cues are so fresh and fun and fantastic!
Do you go back and layer them in?
Do you amplify some of your dialogue cues in subsequent drafts? Or does your brain pop them out fully-powered?
Oh, I wish!
I edit as I go. I’ll write a sentence, or a paragraph, and go back over it. Then the next morning, I review everything I wrote the day before. That’s when I catch boring, overused tags. Reading it over puts me back in the scene, warms me up for writing, and I’m fresh enough to think of something to replace those tired tags. Some of my best writing is rewriting!
Laura threatening to take Calypso home from Immersion class.
BLOG GUESTS: Check out these descriptive paragraphs.
Just where do you go to get an outfit like that? Red shortie cowgirl boots, a lacy black square-dance miniskirt puffed with petticoats, a white bustier cut down to there, and a black lace bolero jacket. Char swallowed, attempting to focus on the woman’s features. A nimbus of black curls overwhelmed her deathly pale, sharp-boned foxy face. Huge dream-catcher earrings bobbed with her every move. She looks like Dolly Parton gone Goth.
She had to smile at Junior’s massive backside in overalls, waddling beside her tall, lean father. Their personalities were the flip sides of a coin as well; her dad’s Atticus Finch to Junior’s Vinnie Gambini.
Margie Asks Laura:
Can you share any tips for our blog guests regarding writing descriptions, or using a physical trait to trigger comparisons?
To me, the main thing is to match the type and amount of description to the character. If you describe everything about every character, the reader will skim. The ‘Goth Dolly’ character described above became the protag’s sidekick, and she’s very different than the heroine, so I gave her a vivid, detailed description.
She’s also an Italian New Yorker with an attitude, so I went for a funny, flippant description, which sets up the tone of character.
I thought I’d overwritten Bella, but she turned out to be a reader favorite. That taught me; push just beyond where you feel like you should, and it’s probably right on. Trust your crit group to tell you if you step over the line.
Laura --So glad you made Bella's character extra-quirky. She's as memorable as she is fun.
Plus, quirky characters sell books. :-)
Photo: Laura and Margie are quirky too.
Having fun at the Sawdust Art Festival before RWA National, 2012.
BLOG GUESTS: One more example for you. This is a Power Internalization.
There’s comfort in knowing someone as well as you know yourself.
Her new life was so precarious. At any time, a prize cow could die or a hay crop could fail. She was one bad decision, one unlucky break away from disaster. Char propped her elbows on her knees, and rested her chin in one palm. Oh, she knew a relationship was a flimsy shield against life’s pain. She’d learned that lesson the hard way. It would be nice to be half a team in the traces though, sharing the yoke of responsibility. The sweet burden of power is better shared.
Yeah, right. Maybe in a Disney movie.
Disaster had hit them like a Kansas cyclone, and instead of her and Jimmy hunkering down together to weather the storm, it tore them apart. She’d poked her head in a Valium bottle, and Jimmy’d lit out for another woman’s bed. Worse yet, a girl’s bed. Frozen frame pictures of Jimmy, knocking boots with the little blonde shot through Char’s brain like machine gun fire.
Margie Asks Laura:
Can you tell us about your process, how you dug deep to capture that powerful piece on the page?
This was a turning point in the book. It's a scene where Charla shifts from seeing her ex-husband as the big-ego cheater that he's been the past few years, to seeing him as he is now; a grown-up version of the boy she fell in love with so many years ago. It's one of those times that subtlety and nuance wouldn't do -- I had to lay out her reasoning in a natural, seamless progression. I used what I call the 'teeter-totter:' the first paragraph is her wishing things were different. Then, why she'd be a fool to consider it.
Farther into the scene Jimmy stakes his claim by singing her a love song. It gives her hope that he has changed. Laying the groundwork for her falling in love with him again.
Thank you for sharing your process. Excellent!
Laura’s Power Internalization is from page 189.
The Sweet Spot doesn’t have a sagging middle. Its beginning, middle, and end are all page-turners.
Margie Asks Laura:
Did you have some scenes that made you crazy? If so, what did you do to get through your angst and make them strong?
Men are my nemesis, in more than the usual ways! I have a hard time digging deep into their thoughts, because I feel like I don’t belong in their heads. I tend to want to write the surface only. My crit group and I joke about my first couple of heroes – they were handsome, but you could have stood them up in the corner; they were cardboard!
I still have to force myself to dig deeper with my male characters. Knowing it’s a weak spot, I spend a lot of time rounding out the male characters, trying to make them as rich and well rounded as the women.
Margie Asks Laura:
What did you learn from me that strengthened your writing?
I took more than the requisite three classes from Margie before I attended Master Immersion Class. I treated Margie’s online classes like college courses, doing the homework and sweating over every word. I think what helped was seeing her before and after examples. They really helped me understand the lessons.
I knew I needed emotion on the page, but hadn't a clue how to do that. Your Empowering Emotions class taught me to use non-verbal communication (powerful!) The four levels of powering up emotion and when to use them really helped too. Visceral responses, writing fresh, rhetorical devices...they all combine to amp up the emotion.
But even so, spending 10-12 hours a day, ‘immersed’ in a small group and working with Margie one-on-one in four days of an Immersion class was an epiphany.
Something clicked. My mind had fully absorbed all the lessons into my subconscious and it began flow out on the page.
My crit group was amazed at the difference in my writing, post-Margie. To me, it was as though I wrote in black and white before, and now I write in color!
Laura, Thank you. I love working with you, and I know I'll get to work with you in another Immersion class too!
Congratulations to Laura for The Sweet Spot. Her story and her writing are both superb.
I can't wait to read Laura's first Superromance, Her Road Home, will be released in August. It's Laura's biker chick novel!
BLOG GUESTS –
Post a comment for the drawing by Sunday evening, June 2nd, to win
a free online class from Margie Lawson
or one of two copies of The Sweet Spot from Laura Drake!
Laura teaches an online class for Lawson Writer's Academy:
Submissions That Sell!
After taking Laura's class, Jennifer Goodnight finaled in the Music City Romance Writer's Pitch Contest.
Laura's teaching Submissions That Sell! again in September.