Thursday, December 5, 2013

What photography taught me about life and writing...

Look for different perspectives.
A few years ago I taught journalism and yearbook in a local high school. Photography was an important part of my instruction in both courses. One has to develop an eye to be able to take in and tell a story—visual and otherwise. I had been thinking about that concept all this week and was trying to distill the thoughts into a cohesive whole. As life would have it, I had lunch with a former teaching colleague today, and do you know what he brought up? That we should look at life with perspective (through a photographer’s lens—in so many words). Our conversation crystalized my thoughts. So, here goes.

One must know when to pull back—take a wide angle shot—to get the big picture of what is going on. This is true in life and in writing, as well. Look at a situation or scene in a general sense. Get a feel for place and time, the major players, and what might be lost or gained. And would it be worth the effort?

One must also know when to get close to a subject—to zoom in and get a “head shot” of sorts. A closer inspection or more involvement is sometimes required in life and in writing, too. In a personal way, this may be concentrating on a relationship or a problem. In writing, it may be focusing in on a conversation between two characters. It is about the perspective of the here and now.

And then sometimes we need a macro or a more detailed shot of something. Minute details are important and nothing is too small. In life this is might be about doing something yourself, like making your daughter’s prom dress by choosing the fabric, the pattern and sewing and fitting it specifically to her. In writing, it may require detailed text about how a character who had just lost her beloved dog picked at chipping nail polish until all her fingernails were jagged red and partially bare—half exposed, vulnerable, perhaps like her heart.

Knowing which angle to choose at what time makes all the difference. I remember once I supervised a group of students at the school’s beauty pageant. During the “big numbers” when all the girls were singing and dancing, my journalism/yearbook students had no problem standing back and taking wide-angle shots, but when it came to capturing the emotion on individual faces, they became uncomfortable and wouldn’t walk close to the stage. I had to grab my personal camera and stand by the stage to capture the anxiety and joy on each face. It is that way sometimes in life and in writing. We become uncomfortable and don’t want to get too involved. And at other times in life—with our families and our jobs—we lose perspective of the big picture because we don’t want to stand back and let go of the details.

So I said all this to impart my wisdom about perspective. Consciously think about which is best for each situation. You could end up with more understanding about your community, your job, your life and the people in it. By adjusting the zoom, you could also end up with a better-told story. And ultimately, you could end up with great photographs!


Friday, November 1, 2013

Winner of the Bikers and Pearls Stop on the All Entangled Eve Halloween Hop!


Thanks to everyone who joined in on the fun at the All Entangled Eve Halloween Hop! For my leg of the tour, I wrote about my love of Gothic fiction during the season, and I had a number of readers make a comment on the post to enter my giveaway for a set of pearl earrings as a tribute to Bikers and Pearls, my Bliss novel with Entangled Publishing!

It was exciting to place all the entrants into a basket for an old-school random drawing. After much mixing of the entries, I pulled a slip of paper. Michelle Willms is the winner of a set of pearl earrings! Congratulations, Michelle!

Check out the pics of the drawing basket beside my seasonal decorations!

Bikers and Pearls is the first in the series of Summerbrook novels, and more are on the way.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Entangled Publishing's Halloween Hop

Since it’s October, and Halloween is upon us, I thought I’d let you in on a little-known secret of mine. I love Gothic romances. Give me some Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, or Frankenstein, and I’m a happy camper, although a slightly on-edge camper.

My Gothic romance fetish might seem a little odd to some because I write sweet romances with a lot of humor thrown in, for good measure. But it’s all about the season and a mood for me. Just as I enjoy a good holiday book for Christmas, and I enjoy a relaxing beach read in the summer, when the weather turns cool, and reminders of ghouls are everywhere, I’m in the mood to be a little dark and brooding.
I see writers’ websites and blogs devoted to the darker side, as well as promotions and giveaways aligned to the season. Even students get in on the dark mayhem at school, enjoying a bit of Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. When I was a high school English teacher and taught American literature, I’d plan my schedule around teaching Poe in October. When I taught British literature, I’d schedule Frankenstein to coincide with Halloween. I’d also throw in a few ghost stories for good measure.
But my Gothic romance fetish didn’t simply end with reading the literature; I also love to write it. Which is not such an easy task. Writing the kinds of convoluted stories that are inherent in Gothic fiction takes some planning. Things have double meanings and secret significances and symbolism oozing from their intricate cores. People in Gothic romances are broken and there are few happy endings to be had, and if a happy ending is found, it is hard-fought and paid for with a great price. The stakes—as it were—are much higher in a Gothic romance. And, for me, the rewards of such a journey are great—no matter the work to get to the conclusions.
Writing Gothic romances, however, takes a huge amount of planning. I’ve always been a plotter, but that kind of writing takes far more effort to plot than a contemporary romance. First of all, having a meaningful theme is essential. The characters cannot be put through all the hullaballoo if the reader cannot learn some kind of valuable lesson from the ordeal. Many Gothic stories are filled with allegory, and the reader must search for the double meanings in the plots. And then there is the symbolism—ah, the symbolism. Do not even attempt to begin to write a Gothic novel without huge doses of symbolism. A crack in a wall may stand for a fissured family. Icy mountains may represent the barren interior of a man’s soul, and a silver tea service may stand for the wealth of a family. Let that silver get tarnished, and the family is affected, too. Damage or sell the symbolic silver and the family is destroyed.
One of the most important things in a Gothic romance, however, is setting. Don’t even try to set a Gothic story on a sunny Caribbean island—though it’s possible, it’s way more difficult and not a likely setting. Try a dilapidated castle or an old church or an ancient forest—or the frozen tundra. Throw in some bad weather, and you’re off to a good start. In fact, it is tempting—though never a good idea—to start Gothic stories off with “It was a dark and stormy night.”

No matter the difficulty, though, I’ll be tempted during the month of October to conjure stories of a more intense nature, to look beyond the blank gazes of strangers on the street to try to figure out their secrets and sins, and to imagine characters for future novels. October is my prime time to take notes and file them away in my “melodramatic file” because my little secret love of Gothic fiction needs to breathe—at least for a season. And then I’ll get back to writing sweet romances like Bikers and Pearls, my last release with Bliss through Entangled Publishing. Until then, Happy Halloween!
If you’d like a chance to win a set of pearl earrings, comment on this blog (comment about Bikers and Pearls, Gothic romances, Halloween—or just say “Hi”) and your name will be entered into a random drawing. The winner will be announced on this blog and on Twitter!

Vicki Wilkerson
Bikers and Pearls
Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo



Friday, August 23, 2013

Release Day!

Release Day!

So, it’s release day. You’ve worked tirelessly FOREVER on your book. You’ve submitted it, waited YEARS for a response, and signed a contract. Then you’ve worked on edits. Lots of them, and even some that were WAY beyond your pay grade. And then you’ve waited. And waited. And waited. And then it’s Release Day.

So, what do you do? Well, after the gauntlet you’ve been through, you’d think it would be all champagne and partying. But, no, sister. That’s not so. Now it’s time to REALLY get to work. To pimp your wares.

I thought the hard part was over—all the writing and editing and re-writing. But no. When all the work in the trenches was over, I had to come OUT of the trenches and actually interact with more than my computer (and editor).

This is my story. I woke up on Release Day and ran downstairs (like a little girl on Christmas morning), and I checked to see that the book was actually live. And you know what? It was! Then I checked the stats and rankings to see where it was. And you know what? I actually HAD stats and rankings. OMG! I was a REAL author.

Then it was time to hit the “social” scene. I opened up on facebook and Twitter and my blog—and with email—and I let everyone know how excited I was. But the big secret here was—that I was still in my pajamas—with no make-up—or shoes—or friends to help me celebrate. I was alone in all my “glory” and so happy to have been blessed with this experience I’d dreamed of for years.

And you know what? It didn’t matter that it wasn’t glamorous. It was my Release Day!

I was also secretly buoyed, knowing that at the end of the day, I would have this “hunk” I know come pick me up for dinner and take me to some super nice restaurant in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, to celebrate my big occasion. And that was priceless. The lovely staff at Oak knew about my special day and made me feel like I was a princess. The food was amazing. The wine (a ’10 Klinker Brick  red Zinfandel) suggested by the sommelier was to die for. And when I ordered the layered chocolate cake with spicy candied peanuts and salted butterscotch, caramel-banana ice cream to end the meal (I NEVER order dessert), it was brought out with “Congratulations” written in chocolate on the plate. And on the house.

You see, the best thing about Release Day was not all the personal satisfaction and gratification I received alone. It was the interaction with people—people I knew and people I didn’t. I had accomplished what I had set out to do as a writer—to connect with people. What a lovely Release Day it was!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sharing Mushrooms Charleston

There are two kinds of cooks in the South--those who share their favorite family recipes. And those who don't. I am of the former variety. I always feel honored when someone asks me for a recipe. And even more honored when I hear it has become a family favorite of theirs, as well. Below is my recipe for Mushrooms Charleston...and my homage to my dear friend Margarite Carpenter. You may also find the recipe on my website at .

Mushrooms Charleston
(an appetizer)
1 lb container of medium mushrooms (washed and dried)
4-5 TBS butter (divided)
¼ cup chopped bell pepper (very small dice)
¼ cup chopped yellow onion (very small dice)
1 ½ cups soft bread crumbs
½ tsp salt
½ tsp thyme
¼ rounded tsp turmeric
¼ tsp pepper

Remove stems from all mushrooms and finely chop enough stems to measure 1/3 cup. Melt 3 TBS butter in skillet and sauté chopped stems, bell pepper and onion approximately 5 minutes until tender and turn off heat. Stir in remaining ingredients (except the 1 TBS butter). If mixture is too dry, add 1 more TBS butter. Melt an additional 1 TBS butter in shallow baking pan. Fill mushroom caps with stuffing mixture and place filled side up in baking dish. Bake 15 minutes. I always serve these on the pictured pheasant platter that my dear friend Margarite Carpenter gave me years ago. And it had been in her family for many years before that. Though she is gone, I remember her fondly and everything she taught me as a cook each time I use the lovely tray. She and the platter remain very special to me

Bon appetite, y’all!





Friday, August 16, 2013

Interviews, Chats, Blog Appearances, Giveaways, Promotions, Book Signings
At the end of the Blog Tour, Sizzling PR will have a drawing for a pearl necklace!

  • August 6, 2013 New Authors' Chat at Writers Space 6 pm PST
  • August 7, 2013 The Bliss Anniversary Celebration, Twitter Party, #BlissBall, 9 pm EST (lots of giveaways)
  • August 15, 2013 Meagan-Inside The World of Books-Review
  • August 16, 2013 Kelly Mueller, Books-n-Kisses Interview
  • August 16, 2013 "Why We Read" GIVEAWAY of Pearl Earrings! at The Reading Addict BlogSpot*
  • August 19, 2013 Romancing Rakes for the Love of Romance, Excerpt
  • August 23, 2013 Reading Until I Fall Asleep, Guest Post, Topic: "Why do women fall for hot, dangerous guys?"
  • August 26, 2013, Carlene-Spotlight 
  • August 28, 2013 Must Read Faster, Guest Post and Review
  • August 29, 2013 "Moved by Reviews" on Reviews by Crystal Blog * GIVEAWAY of Pearl Earrings! *
  • August 30, 2013 Kayla's Place Interview
  • September 2, 2013 Laurie-Reader Girls-Guest Post and Review
  • September 3, 2013 Daryl-My Erotic Notions-Spotlight
  • September 4, 2013You Gotta Read This-Spotlight
  • September 6, 2013 Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews Interview
  • September 10, 2013 Kari-From the TBR Pile-Spotlight
  • September13, 2013 Kendra-Reader’s Edyn-Spotlight
  • September 15, 2013 For the Love of Reading-Review
  • September 16, 2013 Ramblings from This Chick Guest Post
  • September 17, 2013 Harlie’s Books-Interview
  • September 18, 2013 Kami-Indie Authors Books and More-Spotlight
  • September 19, 2013 As The Pages Turn Guest Post & Spotlight
  • September 20, 2013 Books and Needlepoint Interview
  • September 23, 2013 Layna-Lunar Haven-Review
  • September 24, 2013 Lori-Lusty Penguin-Spotlight and Review
  • September 25, 2013 Krisit Ames-Spotlight and Review
  • September 26, 2013 Book Reviews and More by Kathy-Spotlight
  • September 27, 2013 Harlie’s Books-Review
  • September 28, 2013 April-Literal Hotties Naughty Book reviews-Spotlight
  • October 1, 2013 In Shadows-Review

Debbie Suzuki, Publicity Director, Entangled Publishing, LLC
Melissa Caldwell, Sizzling PR, Publicity Tour

* Tour stops marked with an asterisk are not a part of the Sizzling PR tour and are not a part of the pearl necklace giveaway. They may, however, have their own giveaways as noted.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I Am Braveheart!

I am Braveheart!

Yes, right now I feel like Mel Gibson a scene in his 1995 film, Braveheart. Writing for me is not a pastime; it is a conviction. Yes, like Mel, I’m passionate about what I do and want to share that passion with readers. But in this one scene in Braveheart—where Mel and his men are waiting to advance and strike at the best possible moment—Mel cries, “Hold…hold…hold!” I identify with him because I am restrained in that “hold” moment at present with my new novel, Bikers and Pearls, which is to release from Bliss at Entangled Publishing on August 12, 2013.

I am SUPER excited about sharing this story about a Southern belle’s attempts to resist a bad-boy biker while still helping him on a charity event to raise money for the sick little boy they both love. I even have tons of plans to share and promote the book, however, I am positioned like Mel. I even wake in the mornings with his battle cry resounding in my head. “Hold…hold…hold,” I tell myself.    

What am I holding back on? Well, I—at first—had to keep the cover under wraps until Amazon, Barnes & Noble, KOBO, etc., revealed it for presale. And then, Bam! It was out! But some readers wait until the book is actually live, so now I must hold back on Twitter, Facebook and other social media because if readers are driven to look at the book too early, they may lose interest on Release Day. I have giveaways planned and a blog tour and lots of Southern recipes to share, but I must wait. Release Day is the moment that writers look forward to the entire time they are writing their books. It’s the culmination of all the preparation—like with Mel (or rather William Wallace)!
Upon their Release Days, writers are unleashed to spray the world with their excitement and enthusiasm. Their babies (books) are unveiled and readers can acknowledge their hard work, learn, laugh and cry because of the stories. It is my sincerest wish that all writers experience the joy and excitement that I’m experiencing in my “hold” pattern right now and that all readers get lost in the worlds that writers create for them.

Yes, I am Braveheart! Happy writing and happy reading! 

Who said tempting a sweet, Southern belle would be easy?