Category Archives: Auth: Jessie Smith

For the Love of Sticky Notes – Lessons from Farrah Rochon

All the Janes from See Jane Publish recently attended Rose City Romance Writer’s annual Writing Conference. This year the presenters were Allyson Longueria, Farrah Rochon, Amy Liz Talley, and Cecilia Tan and we decided that each of us would write about our lessons learned from each class. It’s my privilege to share with you my admiration for Farrah Rochon and our mutual love for Sticky Notes.

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(Left to Right) Jessa Slade, Farrah Rochon and Jessie Smith

Farrah’s presentation was called “For Serious Plotters Only: How to go from an idea to a fully-developed plot before you ever type Chapter One”. As a reminder, there are generally three types of writers:

Pantsers: People who write by “the seat of their pants”. They don’t outline their stories. They feel like if they know where the story is going, it’s not fun to write it.

Plotters: People who like to plot out their story before they begin to write their story. They enjoy the security of knowing exactly where their story is headed on the pages.

Both: People who do a little of both methods. They do some plotting to jumpstart their stories but leave gaps for creative inspiration.

The way people write their stories is part of their own personal process and there isn’t a specific method that works for all types of writers but there are some universal tips to help train your brain to bring out your best story. In Farrah’s presentation, we learned about the power of post-it notes. With my Type A personality, I was immediately drawn to the idea of color coding my thoughts to double check that my storyline and character arcs were fully developed and left nothing unresolved for the readers.

Farrah walked everyone through her process of taking an science project tri-fold heavy-duty poster board, which would naturally break-up the white space into 3 sections and create chapters with two different color notes, one for the heroine and one for the hero. This gave her an overall view of her story and allowed her to make sure both characters were active participants in their happily ever after. I had seen this process before and it was within my writing comfort zone.

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My ah-ha moment was her other example. When she was under a tight deadline, she did the opposite process. After she wrote the story, she used the post-it process to make sure she covered all her bases. She went beyond a two color system and even used different shapes to cover certain subplots and additional characters.

The post-it note plotting process can be used to create your story and then validate that authors included all the necessary elements. I love plotting stories and the fact that I can do it twice made my heart happy. Of course, there is a danger is that I will spend too much time plotting and not enough time actual writing but for now, I am having the time of my life covering my wall like a television detective trying to solve a homicide.

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Now for those who are still following me down the rabbit hole, there is a whole new level of plotting for the extremists.  Did you know that there is actual dry erase paint? You can paint an entire wall with a material that will allow you to write from base to ceiling with dry erase markers. I feel like I have found my summer home improvement project. If you have already done this to a wall, please share your experiences with us.

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Breaking News from Monster Girl and Sammy – Our Mommies are RITA Finalists!

Breaking News: We interrupt your day with a very special announcement from Monster Girl and Sammy…

Sammy say my mommy, Asa Bradley, got TWO Rita nominations!

Sammy says my mom, Asa Maria Bradley, got TWO RITA nominations for her first published book!

Monster Girl says that her mommy got an Editor Nomination for the second year in a row

Monster Girl says my mom, Jessa Slade, got an Editor Nomination for the second year in a row! Woof Woof!

The 2016 RWA Rita and Golden Heart nominations have just been announced and it’s with great pleasure that Jamie Brazil and I announce that our fellow Janes, Jessa Slade and Asa Maria Bradley are RITA Finalists!

Asa’s book, Viking Warrior Rising, has been nominated for best Paranormal Romance AND Best First Book!

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Must Love Chainmail by Angela Quarles has been nominated for best Paranomal Romance with Jessa recognized as the book’s editor.

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The RITA is the highest award of distinction in romance fiction. It’s the equivalent of the Oscars for romance authors. Winners will be announced at the 2016 RWA convention in San Diego on July 16th during the RITA and Golden Heart Awards Ceremony. I’m going to to be in the audience during the awards ceremony, cheering for these two amazingly talented women that I am lucky to call my friends.

Please join Sammy and Monster Girl in celebrating their mothers’ professional writing achievement!

 

Wanting to meet a K-9 dog without Breaking the Law

My friend recently posted this image to my Facebook timeline and I think it perfectly captures my enthusiasm for dogs.

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My love for dogs goes beyond my own home. If you are my friend and you own a dog, there is a good chance I have smothered them with affection. Even dogs of my fellow Janes have to deal with me. See evidence below.

Jessie with Asa's Sammy

Jessie with Asa’s Sammy

Jessie with Jessa's Monster Girl

Jessie with Jessa’s Monster Girl

So when my friend Terri Reed put out an announcement about a 2.5 month citizen’s academy with our local sheriff’s office, I wasn’t jumping up and down to give up my Tuesday nights until I found out that there would be a class about the K-9 unit and I would be able to meet one of the dogs.

I realize that K-9 dogs are not pets. They serve a role in our community and have a purpose for their lives. I have seen the media footage of K-9 dogs tracking a person or substance, tackling a suspect, and protecting their handler from harm. Since I have no intention of breaking the law, I never thought I would have the opportunity to interact with a K-9 dog. So getting to meet Chase, the newest member to the Washington County K-9 unit was a real treat.

It turns out that most K-9 dogs are a European bred of German Sheppards, selected for their agility, ability to focus and honed prey instincts. Thousands of dollars are invested in these animals even before they are matched with their handlers to begin the long process of training them as a team. I have the upmost respect for what they do and since Chase’s handler gave us the green light to interact with him, I was the first one to try…and succeed.

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K-9 fascinate me because they show that man’s best friend can help keep this world a better place. They are loyal, fearless, and save lives. They are four-legged heroes. It’s my dream to write a series about K-9 dogs and their handlers. My classmate Terri Reed has already accomplished this goal by using the knowledge she gained in the classroom into her upcoming story, Protect and Serve, which will be released on April 5, 2016. I can’t wait! But that’s just me, I’m a sucker for any book with a good dog on the cover.

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Terri Reed and I at a recent author event where I was lucky to get an autographed copy of her latest novel

 

A Bonus to being a Writer: Moving your “Office” to a New Location

It’s the end of January and I’m already struggling to keep up with my ambitious 2016 writing goals. I have a slight case of writer’s block and other self-defeating behaviors that plague many writers. There is a saying that if you are stuck in a rut, try a new environment. Since writers just need their imagination to spill onto a laptop (or with a paper and pen), their location to conduct their work can be subject to change at any moment.

That is what happened this past weekend. My friend and fellow writer, Linda Mercury, decided that we were going to step away from our “offices” and try a new place to write for the day. We ended up treating ourselves to a posh lunch and then writing in the hotel lobby at the infamous Heathman Hotel, which was used as a setting in the Fifty Shades of Grey. This hotel has a prestige reputation but they have embraced their connection to this erotic novel (and I’m sure there is a significant financial incentive in doing so). In the bar, there is a 50 Shades inspired cocktail that comes with a complimentary set of decorative handcuffs. But the most impressive part of this hotel is their library, where guests can find autographed books of authors who have stayed at their hotel. It’s alluring to be writing your work-in-progress surrounded by bookcases and daydreaming that your book could one day be on their shelves.

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It was an afternoon treat to write in a new location, do some interesting people watching, and break out of my writing rut. A question to my fellow writers, where is the most interesting place you have held an “office”?

Touring the County Jail – Worst Haunted House Ever

Several of my writing buddies decided to take a local law enforcement citizen’s academy because it would give us insights to enhance the details of our own stories. How long would it take for a real law enforcement agent to show up at the crime scene to aid our fictional hero battling a villain? What are the real physical and mental stressors that uniformed officers experience when they are called upon to save my fictional damsels in distress? All these questions have been answered and so much more has been learned taking these classes. I highly suggest, to any writer, to take advantage of any local citizen’s academies available to you. Your characters will be well-developed and you will become an educated citizen in your community.

There were several class topics that peeked my interest and some that gave me dread. Top on the dread list was the opportunity to tour our County Jail. From my limited knowledge of jails, based on television, inmates are in their cells or in the yard while guards are behind glass or above in towers. But this is not the reality of my local jail system. Inmates are placed in pod systems based on the severity of their crimes and personal aggression levels. In the higher level pods, there are lots of locks and closed doors. However, in the majority of the pods, there is one deputy in the open spaces with the inmates. It was explained to us that if the guards stay behind glass walls, there are lots of nooks and crannies where inmates can misbehave with each other. If the guard, aka “Mommy and Daddy”, were in the room with the “kids” it would more difficult to get away with misconduct. They have statistics that this system works.

And it all sounds very logical until you find yourself in one of those pods, on an escorted tour, and there is no glass to hide behind for a sense of security. I found myself more sacred than I care to admit. I felt like I had agreed to go on the worst haunted house tour ever. I loathe Haunted Houses. I hate all things scary. I can’t believe I found myself going on a jail tour at 9pm on a Tuesday night. The memories of what I saw are lingering with me.

We were warned that jail can be quite boring so seeing us would break up the monotony of their day. The second we walked into the first pod, we got the full attention of one of the inmates. I believe this guy watched too many episodes of Prison Break and idolized the character of T-Bag. While the deputy was explaining jail pod life 101, this guy sharpened three pencils while gyrating his hips and making sound effects. While we were trying to exit, he took an imaginary phone call so everyone would have to walk inches past him to leave the area. I don’t know if the guy was crazy, evil, bored, or a little or each. I wouldn’t voluntarily be in the same room with that guy again and all I wanted was the deputy to be safe behind some glass (and even the other inmates to be safe against this guy). But he was just the tip of the iceberg. In the medical unit, where they keep inmates on suicidal watch, with infectious diseases, etc, their faces seemed void of sanity. In the highest level pod, finally behind some glass walls, there was an agitated man who appeared to have more dementia than criminal intentions. At the end of the tour I witnessed a woman who was so upset at her situation that she just screamed at the top of her lungs until she ran out of energy.

I could barely stand being in that place for an hour. At the end, I was less fearful but my heart ached. Many of the inmates gave me the impression that they would benefit from a Mental Health Counselor or an Addiction specialist, which would be way beyond the abilities and talents of the jail guards hired to maintain order. These guards are called upon to do a difficult job dealing with a wide variety of personalities. However, every single employee we came across seemed to be the type of person you would want as a co-worker. They treated everyone with respect, were extremely knowledgeable and did their jobs with a sense of purpose.  Those were the thoughts that flooded my mind as I fled the jail as soon as the tour was over.

Yet my final lingering thought, that I tell everyone who has asked me about my jail tour experience, is that you wouldn’t believe how many Nora Roberts books I saw in these pods. Her books are everywhere!

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