Welcome Laura Drake! 2014 RITA Winner!
Laura’s back on the blog with her newest release
Sweet on You
Ex-army medic Katya Smith has always healed other people's pain. Now she has to deal with her own. Taking a job as an athletic trainer on the Pro Bull Riding circuit seems like the perfect escape from her grief-except Katya doesn't know anything about bulls, and even less about the tough men who ride them. She doesn't expect to fall for the sport, or for one tantalizing cowboy who tumbles her defenses.
For rodeo champion Cam Cahill, fifteen years of bucking bulls have taken their toll on his body. Before he retires, he wants a final chance at the world title-and he doesn't need some New Age gypsy telling him how to do his job. But when the stunning trainer with the magical hands repairs more than his worn muscles, everything changes. Soon Cam finds himself trying to persuade Katya to forgive her past so she can build a future . . . with him.
Out of over 300 writers I’ve taught in my four-day intensive Immersion classes, Laura did something no one has ever done. On the last night, she grabbed my hand, squeezed tight, and told me she was determined to make her writing stronger and stronger—to do everything I taught her—to get published.
That was May, 2011. And her grip, her tone, her expression were I-will-succeed intense.
Less than 2 ½ years, five-books-in-print, and a RITA award later, Laura is just as determined to make every book strong.
Margie Asks Laura: Do you remember grabbing my hand that night, and telling me how determined you were to get published?
Honestly? No. But it sounds like me . . . Pollyanna with Labrador-puppy enthusiasm. Yeah, I’m a dork – but I’ve learned to embrace that part of me, because look where it got me! Squeee!
Examples from Sweet On You:
If you’ve taken my online courses, you know I put NYT by examples that are so well written they’ll boost you toward a contract, toward bigger sales, toward the New York Times Bestseller list.
I just counted the number of sentences or passages I marked NYT in Sweet On You.
That’s 91 times Laura’s writing wowed me big time.
And I have at least a couple hundred other examples marked in Sweet On You that impressed me. They’re fresh and strong. Strong enough to use in my online courses as Teaching Points.
Sweet On You – Description
Laura makes anything she describes multi-task. Look what she accomplishes in these three examples.
She crossed the room to the coffeepot sitting among beakers and test tubes like a hillbilly at a black tie dinner.
Love that Humor Hit! Smart to use an unexpected simile.
Tourists were an extinct species in a war zone. The shops were shuttered. Still, people needed to eat. Intrepid vendors had set up tables in the narrow band between the buildings and the street. Vegetables mostly, sold by men with light, loose clothing and disrespectful eyes.
If you’ve taken my Deep Editing course, you’ll spot two rhetorical devices in that sentence frag: parallelism and zeugma.
Read it out loud. Hear the parallelism? … light, loose clothing and disrespectful eyes.
Zeugma – clothing is on one track, disrespectful eyes jumps that track.
Powerful Backloading: disrespectful eyes
Behind her, on a platform high above the bucking chutes, the spotlight hit Cam. The blast of white light flattened him to a two-dimensional study in light and shadow. He looked bigger than life and badder than bad. His chaps flared, following the slight bow in his legs up, to hug his hips. His huge gold champion’s buckle flashed in the lights. When he doffed his hat, the crowd’s voice swelled to ear-split level. He looked like a movie star—unknowable, untouchable.
Two Quick Deep Editing Notes:
Parallelism: He looked bigger than life and badder than bad.
Powerful Backloading: unknowable, untouchable.
Margie Asks Laura:
Does it take a lot of brain power to use the deep editing tools you learned from me? To empower those examples with rhetorical devices, power words, backload, and make every sentence cadence-driven?
That’s the magic of Margie. Seriously. I don’t know how you do it, and I don’t even know if you know you do it, but somehow, your lessons seep into the brain, and come out the fingers. There’s no way I’m smart enough to do that and write a book, too. Not consciously, anyway.
It’s not just me, either. I’ve heard other of you students say the same thing.
Now we’ll dive into Dialogue Cues and Visceral Responses from Sweet On You.
Sweet On You -- Dialogue Cues:
“You are very pretty. You know it too, don’t you?” the voice whispered, soft, close, creepy.
Doc spoke in his calm-a-spooked-horse voice, his hands running over the cowboy’s neck, checking his skull, his facial bones.
The tiny voice tried for sultry and missed.
“How was that your fault?” His pushy tone pricked her wounds like a dirty knife slicing a scab.
“She was gorgeous.” She held her voice to a “whatever” tone. It wasn’t as easy to pull off as it should have been.
She fell back to lie staring up at the ceiling. “I lost my healing.” Her voice cracked on the last word, like ice, when hot tea is poured over it.
Sweet On You – Visceral Responses:
Kayta’s heart rate shot up, kicking into triage mode.
A gut-bomb went off in her stomach.
The ground tilted, and her stomach staged a hot-dog rebellion.
Katya grabbed the trauma kit and put her hand on the gate latch. Her lungs heaved, and her heart banged her ribs so hard it hurt. Sweat dampened her armpits. When she put her hands to his chest, her stomach flipped. Her heart banged like a tank laboring uphill.
Katya jerked, and before she could control her body, she was crouched under the table, sweat popping in her armpitsand her heart hammering like the piston of a redlined engine.
Her heart beat so fast it almost fibrillated.
Her stomach heaved. She swallowed bile and bent, reaching for the cervical blocks. From the end of a long telescope, she saw her hands moving. The periphery of her vision darkened, closing to a small tunnel. Her stomach heaved again.
The light at the end of the tunnel winked out.
Margie Asks Laura:
What tips can you share with our blog guests about writing visceral responses?
Wow, I guess the above proves I’m in love with stomach viscerals! I don’t search for words. I close my eyes, and remember what it feels like. That last paragraph is a key scene, and Katya passed out. I never have passed out, but I’ve come close. I tried to describe that weird, tilting, queasiness, and how reality just doesn’t seem a part of you anymore.
Don’t think about the words. Dig into how it feels.
Margie Asks Laura:
What kept you writing through 413 rejections in sixteen years?
I wrote a blog post on that just the other day! This is what I wrote:
It’s not for the struggle, or the accolades (awesome as they are). It’s for the joy of writing – getting down that one perfect sentence that describes JUST how something feels. Something that matters deeply. My goal has always been to give others the experience I’ve had so many times in my life; to read something, stop, and think, that’s just how that feels, and I’ve never heard it described that way, but it’s true.
One perfect sentence, telling the perfect truth.
That’s what your teaching showed me, Margie – how to do that. It’s still not easy, and I still can’t do it all the time, but at least now I have the tools!
Margie Asks Laura: What's your writing process, including time line for each book?
It takes me about 8 months to write a book. I can do it in six, but then there's a lot of stress and whining involved. Okay, no one throw tomatoes....I only have one draft. I write a chapter, turn it over to my 'critters', edit based on their changes, then I'm done. I work through, chapter by chapter as I go, and then turn it in.
Now, before you get process-envy...I write v-e-r-y slowly. 1500 words in a day is absolute max for me. Since I don't plot much, it takes me a long time to work out scenes, and what comes after that.
Margie Asks Laura:
We’ll wrap up with hearing about your book signing experience at the Professional Bull Riding World Finals in Vegas last October. It must have been such a sacrifice to watch cowboys for three days. :-)
That book signing was an experiment - I'd heard book signings were dead. A Vegas B&N employee told me they had John-freaking-Grisham come to sign, and FIVE people showed up. Yeah, I couldn't believe it either, but she swore it was true.
The PBR has their World Finals in Las Vegas every year, and I attend every other year. This was an 'on' year, and I had two PBR books out, so I decided to give it a try. Melissa Cutler (another Western author) and I shared a table at the 'Fan Zone' - a marketplace for all things Western. A good match, right?
This was my target audience!
B&N came and sold our books, and we signed them. Sold some books, and met tons of potential readers! You know, they used to say that someone had to see a reference to you three times before it rang a bell? With all the distractions that day, that has increased to 9! Hopefully I made inroads on that stat during that week. Besides, it was FUN!
Thank you Laura. Your writing is so fresh and strong. I’m proud to claim you as an Immersion-grad!
Laura responds: The above says it all, Margie. I’m serious that a lot of my success is due to you and everything you teach!
Want to win a print copy of Sweet on You
The Reasons to Stay
a Lecture Packet from Margie?
Leave a comment below!
Drawing Sunday night, 8 PM Mountain Time
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Laura Drake and Fae Rowen and RITA!
Lawson Writer's Academy -- Courses Starting Nov. 3rd:
1. Diving Deep into Deep POV, Instructor: Rhay Christou, MFA
2. Proofreading Like a Best-selling Author, Instructor: Kathy Ide
3. Triple Threat Behind Writing a Scene, Instructor: Tiffany Lawson Inman