Conflict in Life & in Our Writing

“Plot is characters under stress.”  — Henry James, The Art of Fiction.

As you can tell from my recent posts, I have had my share of stress recently but that is all getting better.

I had a wonderful weekend.  I spent Saturday with the Iowa Romance Novelists for our monthly meeting.  Our program was fantabulous.  Three members of the Omaha chapter put on a “So You Think You Can Write” program.  One was Nigella with the great British accent, Lizzie Star – who portrayed a rapper and a pirate, and Sherrie S. who loved gossip, fashion, men, and all that that implies.

Sunday I met with a fellow writer friend to discuss a new project we will be working on.  It felt wonderful to find someone with the same interests.  With lunch, we started planning our strategy.

Tonight I meet with my critique group.  It motivates me to read what they have to share.  The group is diverse as far as genres but it is mostly women with one guy.   I love reading the wip and watching everyone grow in their writing abilities.

Later this week, I am meeting with a couple other writer friends to see about starting up a Sisters in Crime chapter.

Life has been stressful with my job situation but it has ebbed and now it is starting to flow again.  I understand that life doesn’t stay the same, it is always changing. And that’s okay. I can use those feelings of stress for my writing. That’s a good place for it.

All of this leads into what I wanted to discuss – Conflict.  Conflict causes stress in our lives and naturally, we try to eliminate it.  But with our writing, we need to create as much conflict as we can to create something that someone will first –  pick up to read and second – continue through to the end.

Without conflict in our story, we have no story.  It’s that simple.  Who wants to read about happy people? That isn’t to say you can’t write something with a happy ending but you need to give them some conflict along the way. When we see characters whose lives are more difficult than our own, I think it makes us feel better about ourselves. We also have a natural tendency to root for the underdog.  So if your characters are flowing smoothly through the story, you are doing something wrong. In a book I’ve been reading – Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us by Jessica Page Morrell, she suggests these forms of conflict:

  • Man against man
  • Man against nature
  • Man against the supernatural
  • Man against himself
  • Man against fate
  • Man against society
  • Man against machine
  • Man against God

To see how to use these forms of conflict, I recommend you check out her book.  Conflict is only one chapter.  She covers every aspect of writing.

I have barely touched the surface of what she recommends you do to improve the conflict in your story.  Have the courage to torture your characters.  Your readers will appreciate it.

My goal this week is to finish a chapter and possibly write a short story that keeps floating around.  What are your goals this week?  Do you have any favorite writing books you want to share?

Until next time,


What Have I Been Doing This Week?

“Life is like an ever-shifting kaleidoscope–a slight change, and all patterns alter.”     Sharon Salzberg

I have had a slight change in my life this past week with my decision to give up my career as a Realtor.  It was a very difficult decision for me to make because I really felt I was a good Realtor and that I was making a difference with the people I worked with. Even though it was apparant that some people ranked Realtors either right above or right below Used Car Salesmen and Lawyers, I felt that finding someone a home was an honorable profession and I worked with some very nice people who I now consider my friends.  This was one time that I had to do what was best for my family so I gave up my business and now I’m turning a page in my life, a new adventure.

As far as What Have I Been Doing This Week? The best answer would be not writing.  At least not putting words on paper.  I have been plotting and I did start working on a short story but my novel has been on hold.

This week, I have been cleaning out my office, figuring out what to do with my signs, selling lock boxes, mailing back my lock box key, selling office equipment and notifying my clients that I am no longer in the business. 

The rest of my time I have spent searching for a “real” job, along with who knows how many other unemployed Iowans.  It can be depressing but I am working hard not to go there.  I have exceptional office skills. Before getting my real estate license, I had been an Administrative Assistant for one of the largest insurance companies in Des Moines and before that, I worked in the group underwriting department calculating group rates. And yes, I finally found a need for algebra, twenty years after graduating from high school.  Before that, I was a Commissions Clerk for another insurance company and before that I was an Office Coordinator.  So as you can see, I really do have a lot of experience.  Now all I need to do is catch the attention of the right human resource person. 

I also did a mailing for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  I like volunteering for charities.  It is one thing I do that gives me immediate gratification.  Up until this past year, I have gone to jail for MDA.  Really you don’t go to jail, you go to a local Italian restaurant at a scheduled time for a few hours and call everyone you know to see if they will donate money to get you released.  I enjoyed that because it gave me a good reason to talk to most of my past clients.  I normally raised a few hundred dollars, each time.

This coming week, I will continue my job search, try to relax and not worry, and write.  I promise to make some progress on my novel and the short story.  As far as author interviews, I have several that I am waiting for, Donna Ball and Cindy Gerard are two of them.  I will be posting them within the next few weeks.

When dealing with crisis situations in your personal life, does it make it easier or more difficult for you to write?  Do you immerse yourself in the writing or do you find it hard to focus? How do you get past the worry to where you need to be to write? Are any of you sharing this same experience of job hunting right now? How is your job search going? Do you know somone who could use a good Administrative Assistant?

I did make a change on my Blog Site. In case you didn’t notice, I did change my heading and my tag line.  I realized that Virginia’s View On Novel Writing really was too long. Drop one letter and I disappear.  I liked my tag line. It’s shorter and easier to type. Hope you like the change.  Let me know what you think about that too.

Until next time,


Getting to Know Phillip DePoy

I discovered Phillip DePoy when I read one of his Fever Devlin novels and loved it, The Witches Grave. I then read The Widow’s Curse and that started my quest to read the rest.  He has a great voice and his novels are filled with well-rounded quirky characters who are involved in mysteries with a twist.  He kept me guessing right up to the very end. Now let’s find out a little more about Mr. DePoy:

phillipWhere are you from? I was born in Rockford, Ill., but I don’t remember it. We moved to Atlanta when I was five because my father got a job playing French horn in the Atlanta Symphony. Despite the accidental placement of my birth, I seem to consider myself from the south. The south doesn’t know that. It seems to consider me an oddity: a leftwing Taoist who prefers jazz to NASCAR. Still, the south is as much in me as I am in the south. So.

How long have you been writing? I consider 1965 the beginning of my so-called writing career. My 10th grade English teacher, Marilyn May, liked a short story I’d written, told me I ought to be a writer, and submitted the story for a prize. I really loved Marilyn May, so I thought I should go along with her assessment. My first poem was published in 1973 (and I published poetry for many years after that) so that’s also a good, you know, marker.

What do you write?I’ve written two mystery series, one stand-alone thriller, which is my newest book (see below) and one very strange, unclassifiable book. The first mystery series, featuring detective Flap Tucker , is urban, arch, as much a parody of noir as an example of that genre. The second series, the Fever Devlin novels, concerns a folklorist in the Appalachian mountains and veers toward literary fiction, but let’s not mention that. The strange book came out in 1979 and is called MESSAGES FROM BEYOND. It is essentially messages from famous dead men who appear in alphabetical order to tell me what the afterlife is like for them. Each message is particular to the man, and it is preceded by my own biographical sketch of the spirit in question. I also write plays, and have done so for twenty years. I’m currently working on a commissioned play about spies.

Tell us a little about your publisher and agent.My agent is Maria Carvainis of the Maria Carvainis Agency in New York. The publisher of the Flap Tucker books was Dell, the current publisher (for the Fever Devilin novels and the new book) is St. Martin’s Press, also, of course, in New York.

How many books have you published so far? The newest book makes eleven for me.

What is your writing day like? I generally write in the morning. When I’m on a contract I write from a general outline, though I always depart from the outline, and I set an arbitrary number of pages I have to write before I can stop. Structure is good, if only to have a launching pad from which to depart.

Can you tell us how you found a publisher and/or agent?I signed my first agency agreement after sending out queries with samples to several New York agents that I’d found listed in the book Writer’s Market. It’s still a great source for writers, very clear about what to do, what to send, who’s looking for what. I think that’s a great place for any unagented writer to start. And in the current climate, alas, it’s almost impossible to get any notice from a publisher without an agent.

Do you have anything that just came out?My new book is called THE KING JAMES CONSPIRACY. It’s in all bookstores and on Amazon. The first reader to buy 5,000 copies gets a house in Tuscany. Sure, you’re saying, “for that kind of money I could buy my own house in Tuscany,” which is true. But then all you’d have as a big old empty house with nothing in it to read. The book is set in 1605 and concerns intrigue surrounding the creation of the King James bible. The main character is Brother Timon, a spy for the Catholic Church who is possessed of the remarkable ability to memorize thousands of pages of writing. His mission is to steal the bible without taking anything away from England except in his mind. The character is based on the real life Catholic Saint Giordano Bruno. The book has been compared to Umberto Eco’s NAME OF THE ROSE. In a real review. No kidding. I say that because it’s, I think, the highest praise I’ll ever receive, so I want to make the most of it before, you know, something happens. Like the reviewer realizes he’s gotten my book confused with something else he was reading.

What are you working on now?I’m in the middle of two novels, one about the discovery of the Nag Hammadi library in 1945 and one, called THE MAN ON THE RADIO, about my grandmother who helped to raise me when she wasn’t in a mental institution—which explains, I think, a lot about my perceptions in general. I’m also about half-way through the first act of the play I’ve been commissioned to write.

Do you have some words of wisdom for us unpubs? I have no wisdom, but I do have personal experience, and it’s told me several things that have had a personal effect. I’ll say those things. The only reason to write—the only reason to do anything—is because you love the process. If you don’t love it, the other rewards will never be enough, and if you do love it, the universe very often opens doors for you. On a more practical plain: finish something. Write a whole novel or play poem or something. Show it to everyone. Listen to what they say without answering back. Take everything the say into consideration. Rewrite. Then get an agent. And don’t ever stop. If you just keep going, something will happen.

My website is

Hope you enjoyed our interview.  Are there any particular questions you like answered in future interviews?  Also do you have a favorite author you’d like to know more about?

Until next time,


Finding Solace in Writing Whatever Life Throws Your Way

I have been away from my writing this week and it isn’t a good feeling.  I’ve hinted at what I’ve been doing but now I have to confess. I’ve been a Realtor for the past 10 years and this market has made it so difficult that I’ve had to make the decision to give it up.  It hasn’t been easy. It almost feels like cutting off a limb because that is what I was, a Realtor.  Now what am I?  I have several applications for jobs out and have talked to a temp to hire agency so I feel confident that I will be doing something else soon. 

In the meantime, I am trying to focus on the parts of my life that are constant.  Besides the given, wife and mother, I am a writer.  Though it has been hard to focus on the writing this week, it’s still there waiting for me to  return. 

I had come up with a very interesting back story for my protagonist.  I had been trying to figure out how to add it to my story but while working with it, I think I may have either a short story or possibly even another novel idea.  I shared it with one of my writer friends recently, who specializes in short stories, and she encouraged me to maybe work with it as a short.  Besides, lots of authors have taken short stories and later turned them into a novel. I suppose it is possible. 

I do think the decision to give up my real estate career has stalled my writing but I’m determined not to let it kill my effort.  I’m going to keep pushing the story forward until it is finished.  I may decide to bounce back and forth between my original idea and this short story idea.   I need to feel successful at something right now because giving up real estate has been a big blow to my self-esteem.

What do you do to get back into the story?

I promise to have something positive to post next week.  As a teaser, I will be posting a new author interview with Phillip DePoy on Monday.  He has a new stand alone book just out.  If you haven’t read him, you should.  He currently has two mystery series.  I have been reading his Fever Devlin series and think it’s great.  I won’t go into details here because I want you to come back next week for the interview.

Until next time,


Writing When the Words Won’t Come

I have been thinking about my story a lot over the past few days.  I have also been fighting sleep.  Never got to bed until 1:00 AM, last night.  Worried, mostly about things I cannot control or maybe it’s just my age.  They say that as we grow older, we need less sleep.  Maybe that’s all it is.

The days have been so warm and beautiful, each day filled with clear blue skies, emerald green lawns, and no need for an air conditioner.  I think part of my melancholy is thinking about the change in seasons coming soon. I love summer and have not found much to like about winter except visually when it covers everything in a white blanket that lights the night. Yeah, I do like that part of winter, to look at it as long as I don’t have to actually experience the icy roads and bitter winds.

Like I said in the beginning, I have been thinking about my story but I haven’t been able to put very much down on paper.  I have been at a crossroads in my personal life and the past week, I’ve been taking care of things so that I can move on.  It’s always sad to give up something that has meant a great deal to you but there is also the adventure of starting something new.  Whatever I do with my personal life, I think once everything is settled, my writing will become easier.  It’s like I’ve been travelling to that new place but I still don’t see the destination. I know it’s out there. It scares me but it also excites me, just a little.

I know everyone says to just plant your butt in the chair and write.  I have but nothing worthwhile has come of it. So I decided to write today about how I feel and maybe by writing about it, I can purge it and go on.

I promise to get back to my story…tomorrow.

Tell me, how do you handle writing everyday when life gets in the way? What motivates you to go on? Tell me your secrets, I really need to know.


All About Eve Savage

Eve Savage is an author from a sister chapter of RWA in Omaha.  She is currently the chapter President and she’s a whole lot of fun.  She has offered to send a free copy of her latest book “Ice Cream, You Scream” by Kat Alexis, to one lucky winner. (It’s an erotic novella so you have to be 18 years old to participate. Void where prohibited. The odds of winning depend upon the number of participants. Contest ends Monday September 14th at midnight.) Just comment on my post that you would like to be included in this free drawing and the author will send it to the lucky winner in one of the following formats, adobe.pdf, mobipocket and microsoft e-reader.

Now let’s meet Eve:

Virginia: Where are you from?

Eve: I was born in Arizona, but grew up in England and San Antonia, Texas thanks to the USAF.  I’ve travelled the world and think there is nothing better than to experience new cultures.

Virginia: How long have you written?

Eve: I’ve written my entire life: mostly poetry and short stories.  I started writing novels in high school.  They featured my friends and our fantasy guys.

Virginia: What do you write?

Eve: I write everything from contemporary erotic romance to near-futuristic erotic thrillers.  I’ve also got a contemporary medical I’m working on as well as a new idea from an Agatha Christie-esque mystery. As well as a historical set in the 1860’s. Basically, I write whatever I fell like at any given time. I write by myself as Eve Savage and with my best friend as Kat Alexis.

Virginia: Tell us a little about your publisher and agent.

Eve: I’m currently published with Ellora’s Cave and The Wild Rose Press. EC is the foremost electronic and print publisher of erotic romance.  The Wild Rose Press is a wonderful company started by my friend Ronda Penders.  They are both every writer-friendly and I’m thrilled to write for both houses.  I don’t have an agent yet, but I have been looking and two agents have requested samples of my work.

Virginia: How many books have you published so far?

Eve: I have two books published under the name Eve Savage “Out of Control and Wicked in Walesand four written as Kat Alexis with my best friend Allie Standifer, “Candy-Coated Passion, Berry Bliss, Ice Cream, You Scream, and Set Me Up.

Virginia: What is your writing day like?

Eve: I wish I could say I get up, get the children to school then sit down for eight hours of work but it just doesn’t work that way in my world. I write when I can and where I can.

In the summer while I’m trying to entertain my children, I take a notebook to the pool or skate rink and write longhand then transcribe it into my laptop.

During the school year, I write some during the day, but mostly at night when the house is settle down.  I always write with music on. I know some people prefer silence but I can’t work that way.

Strangely enough I also get a ton of work done while my husband watches sporting events or Professional Wrestling on TV. For some reason, it focuses a part of my brain and I just crank out the work!

Virginia: Can you tell us how you found a publisher and/or agent?

Eve: I know Ellora’s Cave because I read a lot of their work and quite a few of my friends are published with EC.  I really like how they present erotic romance.  I sold my first book to a different electronic publisher which went under.  Once my rights were returned to me, I reworte the plot, doubled the length and submitted to EC.  Luckily my editor, Helen Woodall, got hold of it loved it and bought it.

Virginia: Do you have anything that just came out?

Eve:  I have a Kat Alexis book releasing on September 1st from Ellora’s Cave.  It’s called Ice Cream, You Scream.  It’s the sequel to Candy-Coated Passion, but can be read alone.

Here’s the blurb: Lana Semenova is living life on her own terms. Too bad that life currently sucks. Enter one sexier-than-sin ice cream shop owner who’s hot enough to meld his products. Drizzle with enough steamy passion to keep the neighbors awake and add a sprinkling of raw sex on the floor to liven things up.  Lana may have found the perfect recipe to spice up her life. And if not? The sex is great and that’s all a woman needs on a hot summer night, right? Well that and ice cream.

Virginia: What are you working on now?

Eve: I’m currently knee deep in a contemporary romantic suspense set in Morocco.  I’m also at the beginnng stages of a historical mystery.  I need to work on more than one project at a time to keep my brain engaged.  Along with these two works, I’ve also got some shorter erotic stories I’m working on with Allie for ellora’s Cave.

Virginia: Do you have some words of wisdom for us unpubs?

Eve: You’re not unpubs -you’re pre-pubs.


Learn your craft and learn about the publishing business because it is a business.


I hear way too often, “I have this great idea…” but it’s not aon the page. If you don’t get it on paper how can you ever get it to an editor or agent?


Read the current market. See what’s popular, what’s being bought.  But, don’t be afraid to write outside the box and to go with your own heart and ideas. You never know, it might be the next big thing!!

Eve’s website is www.evesavage.bravehost.comand her blog is

You can also find her at where she has published articles about writing.

Thanks Eve for taking the time for this interview.



Inciting Incident or Plot Point? 9/7/2009

I will spend part of the day writing, even if it doesn’t happen till midnight.  I have a critique group that meets tonight and have a chapter and a synopsis to go over for someone in the group. 

But before I can do anything I have to meet with a seller to get some paperwork signed.  My day job is as a REALTOR and I wish it could be put off until tomorrow but alas, it can’t.

I know I need to set some goals and stick with them but I am hesitant to make a word count goal until I know where this story is actually going.  I thought I had a premise but now I’m not so sure if it is correct.  I’ve written the scene that  introduced the premise now I’m not sure if that scene is a plot point or an inciting incident.  For now, I plan to just continue writing and work out the details later. 

How do you determine the difference between an inciting incident and the actual plot point?  Can they be the same thing?

Let me know what you think?

One of my author friends who has already published six books and was stumbling along like I am, with one of them.  Her agent was very supportive but finally, she told her to just write the da*med thing.  I think that is where I am.  I need to just write so that is why today’s post is brief.

Until next time,


Writing a Novel 9/6/2009

I am going to try to change the way I am posting about writing.  I realize that I haven’t been posting as often as I should be. I am going to try to post more often hoping that it will encourage readers to participate in this process of writing a book with me.  I want to help you but I need you to help me too. I am open to all suggestions. When I get busy and am unable to write, it affects my mood.  I get grumpy until I actually take time to sit down and put something on paper.  I am disappointed with myself that I haven’t gotten further than I have by now but I also know it’s no good to worry about what’s past.  I have to make changes for today and the future. When I get stuck, I turn to books on writing. Hoping to get motivated.  It does work.  I am in the process of making a personal life change that I’m hoping will help me to be able to focus more on the writing.  I have so many things that are taking my attention that I am finding it difficult to stay focused on the things that are important to me and writing is one of those things.

In case you haven’t noticed, I read a lot and I have discovered some great stuff out there about writing.  Since I have just started this current manuscript recently and haven’t gotten that far into it, I pulled out an older book I’ve had for a while and had never read completely.  The title is Hookedby Les Edgerton. 

I have been writing and re-writing the beginning because I am not sure where the story actually begins.  So I have been writing some scenes that I like but I’m not sure exactly where they will fit into the story.

I believe that it’s not just the first chapter that has to hook, but each chapter and each scene.  I have practiced with starting out with dialogue, description, and action.  I think it needs to have a little bit of all three to really reel the reader in but I haven’t been able to find anything definitive about writing beginnings.  Since I’m struggling with this part of the process, let me know how you decide to begin.  How do you write your hook?  Do you start with dialogue, description, action, or do you do something else?  I have been reading the beginnings of novels that I love.  What are your secrets?

A few other books, I’m perusing are: Thanks, But This Isn’t For Usby Jessica Page Morrell.  She has several books about writing that I intend to check out along the way.  She is a developmental editor and teaches writers in workshops in the Northwest. 

I’ve read ‘The Writer’ and ‘Writer’s Digest’ for years.  While at my local bookstore this week, I discovered a couple new magazines on writing.  You might want to check them out also.  ‘Writers’ Forum’ and ‘Script’.  Lots of information. 

I plan to post something again tomorrow.  And I do have another author interview to share with you this week. 

Do check in and share your experience with me.

Until next time,


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