Category Archives: Kerri Carpenter

BFF = Brave Fiction Fan

Think it’s hard being a writer? Try being the best friend of a writer! My BFF, Danielle, reads everything I write before anyone else. She is joining the Waterworld Mermaids today to give us her side of the story.

Brief History: D and I have known each other since we were five years old, but we’ve been BFFs for the last 16 years. I live in Arlington, VA, while D is up in Pittsburgh. We have many differences, but we do share the same sensibilities regarding tanning (always wear SPF), Nora Roberts (we heart her), Pittsburgh sports teams (they’re awesome) and the movie Newsies (yay!).

Warning: D and I have a tendency to be silly and go off topic. Enjoy!

Kerri: Do you know we’ve been BFFs for 16 years?
BFF: OMG, we are that old already? Those years have been filled with some crazy times, haven’t they?
Kerri: IKR! When did you start reading romance novels?
BFF: I think it all began when you MADE me read a Nora Roberts trilogy. I think it was the “Born In” trilogy. And if I remember correctly, I had to read it so I would be educated when reading what you would write someday. You are bossy like that.
Kerri: By “bossy” do you mean “talented”?
BFF: Ummm. Sure.
Kerri: What are you reading right now?
BFF: Well, I am reading two books right now and one of them is the final book of the Nora Roberts wedding series, Happily Ever After.
Kerri: Ah Nora!
BFF: I have to admit I did not want to start it as I did not want the story to end. She has a way of having you fall in love with her characters.
Kerri: She’s the best!
BFF: Kinda like someone else I know.
Kerri: Who?
BFF: You know I love your characters but you are not published… YET!
Kerri: What is your favorite thing I ever wrote?
BFF: Ohhh, I love that short story about the girl sitting on the dock with her legs outstretched…what’s the title?
Kerri: I hate that story!
BFF: Shhhhh! I also loved your story set at Christmas and the ideas for your Halloween Story. Now that I think about it, you’ve written a whole lot, haven’t you. And I LOVE everything you have written about Steelers Nation! Black and Gold represent.
Kerri: Go Steelers!
BFF: IKR!
Kerri: We better have football season this year!
BFF: Heinz Field is prepared.
Kerri: How do you stay objective when I ask you to edit my writing?
BFF: It is hard sometimes, but usually I just let myself get into whatever I’m reading. It’s your writing and has your voice, which makes it easy to read. Commenting is comfortable, just like chatting on the phone. Plus, I know you love when I ask you for more details and you won’t get mad at me if I give you advice. Or so I think.
Kerri: You are a fan of “details” in books. [Kerri is rolling her eyes.]
BFF: You have so many great details to share. I can only imagine what it takes to put a whole story together from start to finish. I am here to remind you to describe the weather or the feeling someone has at a certain moment because I want to know as a reader. But readers can be greedy and sometimes books leave us wanting more.
Kerri: How do you feel when I get rejected?
BFF: Like I want to kick the $*[email protected] out of the person who rejected you!!!
Kerri: Right!
BFF: But really I just want be there to tell you to keep going, take their advice and run with it. I know it is hard to be rejected but don’t let anyone stop you from your dreams. If that one person does not like your book – their loss.
Kerri: When I am rejected or having a bad writing day, I like to send “I suck” to you embedded in song lyrics, a poem or in all caps. Which do you prefer?
BFF: I love the songs! But I HATE when you say you suck. Ooooo it makes me soooo mad. You do not suck! [Kerri imagines D is now rolling her eyes.]
Kerri: Te-he. Do you think I should use a pseudonym when I get published?
BFF: No way, you have an awesome name.
Kerri: Thanks, boo. What do you think I should wear to my first book signing?
BFF: Something with glitter, of course.
Kerri: That’s a given. How do you feel when I base a character, situation or trait on you?
BFF: I think it can be fun. I assume you take some liberties on the details but it can be interesting to see how someone sees you from the outside. I also love the situations because I think back to those times, even if they are tough times to relive. It has to be harder for you to relive tough times though.
Kerri: It has its moments of suck-a-tude.
BFF: Oooo good word!
Kerri: Thanks – I just made that up! What advice do you have for other BFFs of writers?
BFF: I would say, hang on for the ride. It can be a truly fun, and at times, scary rollercoaster. I think anyone who has a friend, family, or loved one in the arts knows that there are high highs and low lows and it is our job and responsibility to be there through it all. And it can be a lot of fun living vicariously through our friends.
Kerri: Okay, time for our final question. What do you want to do when I finally get published?
BFF: Remember when I always said I wanted to be your maid when you were rich and famous? Ha-ha, memories. When you get published I think we should go to the beach or some fun trip. You and I have had some great adventures and who knows it may inspire your next best seller.
Kerri: I think we should go to Kennywood! [Amusement Park in Pittsburgh]
BFF: Fright Nights at Kennywood!
Kerri: Weeeeee! Thank you for joining us today, Danielle.
BFF: WOW! Now I am famous!

The Dreaded Synopsis

Tell me, how do you write the synopsis to your W.I.P.? Because here’s how my typical synopsis writing day goes. 

First, I remind myself and anyone within earshot of how much I hate writing the synopsis. Then I open a Word Document. After staring at said blank page for about three straight minutes, I toggle over to Twitter and tweet about how I despise the synopsis.

Then, I eat something. After that, I let the food digest. We’ve all heard our mothers remind us to wait twenty minutes after we eat before working on our synopsis. Don’t want any writing-related cramps after all.

Finally, I go back to the blank page and eek out two lame sentences. I berate them. I judge them. Then I take the time to berate and judge myself. You suck, Kerri!

If there is any time left I send my BFF an email expressing my extreme suck-age. And then she tells me over g-chat that I don’t suck and reminds me of her favorite thing I ever wrote, which was my first attempt at a romantic suspense novel and involved a shattered woman, FBI agent and a fat cat. Personally, I think it blew. But seven years later, she still insists it was fabulous.

And then she tells me what she had from Starbucks that day. Usually, a Chai Latte.

Why do I hate the synopsis so much? It’s a part of writing after all. And I love writing! When I’m writing a novel the words just flow from my brain (or heart?) through my fingers onto the keyboard and out to my computer.

But the stupid synopsis? That feels like work. Like school. Except I actually liked school. So like the gynecologist. Yes, that is more appropriate. The synopsis as a gynecological visit.

Or, maybe… writing a synopsis reminds me that I have finished a manuscript. I’ve spent countless hours conceiving of an idea, creating characters and plotting out the best story I can. That means it’s time to send all that hard work out into the world for editors and agents to have the opportunity to reject.

I’ve dreamt the same dream scenario as many of you. You get a call on the first query you send out begging you to sign with that agent or editor. I will be the exception to all of the rejection stories we’ve heard.

But dream time is over. I have to send my baby out into the world. For better or worse. (And then I call my BFF just to hear once again how much she liked that sucky story seven years ago….)

So I ask you, fellow writers: Any synopsis-writing advice?

Who Are You Meant To Be?

You know how some things are a secret? Like the chocolate stash behind the canned vegetables at the back of the pantry. Yep, no danger of anyone finding the mini candy bars hidden there in my house.

Writing was one of those things for me.

I grew up in a less than ideal home and I used writing as my outlet. Over time the journal entries and poems of my youth evolved into short stories. Not very good ones at first, but it was still satisfying to see the story in my mind come to life on the page. And yes, for those of you wondering…I do in fact carry on conversations with my characters. In what other profession is it possible to get paid for talking to your imaginary friends? Yeah, in most places they medicate you and introduce you to a little thing called a straitjacket!

But I kept my writing a secret. No one knew. Not my friends, not my family, not even my husband, a wonderful man I have been married to for almost 18 years! I never set out for it to be a secret. It’s not like I lead a double life as a secret agent or anything. I just never felt good enough, talented enough to make my deep, dark, crazy dream of being able to walk into a bookstore and one day see my name on the shelf a reality. So, I didn’t say anything.

Then about three years ago a friend asked me to be a beta reader for her manuscript. She knew I was an avid reader and I jumped at the opportunity to give her feedback. Boy, did she get more than she bargained for! Fortunately, she was so happy to get constructive feedback that she called me again and again to ask questions and get opinions. In return, I was thrilled to be involved with a real author; after all she had an agent. We worked well together and I quickly became her critique partner.

Since that fateful day, Anita Clenney has encouraged and cajoled me into coming out of the writer’s closet and embracing the insanity that is the publishing industry. I have written my first full-length manuscript and pitched it at the WRW Retreat. Although, I have been fortunate enough to receive multiple submission requests I now realize that it doesn’t matter. The true gift that my friend has given me is confidence in my own abilities. She has opened a door to an entire community of incredibly talented nut jobs that talk to their characters too.

My friends and family have been very supportive since my coming out. The first time my husband read an excerpt of my work he said, “Holy crap! I had no idea you could write like this!” and “Oh yeah, now that I know, can you edit my master’s thesis on water management in Europe?” For the record, I would rather edit an entire manuscript than his incredibly dry academic thesis again.

And by the way, my dream of seeing my name on the bookstore shelf came true April 29, 2011. My friend and critique partner, Anita Clenney, published Awaken the Highland Warrior (the first in a trilogy) and bless her heart, she dedicated it to me.

The point is we all come from different places and have taken different journeys to get where we are today. For some of us the path has been relatively easy, tripping over wonderful opportunities at every turn. For others, the road may have been wrought with challenge and constant reminders of past failures. But the question I ask is this–Have you ever looked back at your life and thought… Wow, that was so not worth it. I really wish I hadn’t tried. Or, do you more often look back and think… That was such a great opportunity. I wish I had learned to _____________. Or, I should have _____________.

At the end of the day, no matter what your journey is, put it all out on the line and see what happens. Because you miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take and along the way you short change yourself out of being who you’re meant to be.

 

Waterlogged

I like to read in the bathtub.

In fact, reading a good book in a nice, warm bubble bath is on my list of favorite things to do. Sure, I’m a writer, but I was a reader first. And trust me, there is no better place to read than in the bathtub. (Except for maybe the beach. Hmmm….)

But reading in the bathtub is not a simple process. Many years of plotting and field research have contributed to my idea of a perfect evening. So here are my thoughts on this sacred ritual.

What to Read
Now, I don’t have to read a Nora Roberts (swoon) novel, although it is preferred. However, since I have pretty much read all of Nora’s books at this point, I’ve had to branch out.

Hard covers? I don’t think so. Hard covers are for bubble bath virgins. Unless you have impressive arm strength, or are some kind of martyr, this is just not going to work. I suggest sticking to bath-friendly paperback options.

While I prefer romance novels and other works of fiction, I do sometimes include magazines during bath time. People magazine is one of the best due to its light weight and short articles. I adore Glamour magazine but sometimes it’s just a tad too heavy and the bottom of the pages edge dangerously close to the water. I would also think long and hard before bringing In Style or Vogue in the water with you.

E-reader folks ? Don’t even consider it!

Bath Accessories
I like to keep it simple. Sure, I’ve purchased a bath pillow in the past but honestly, a washcloth strategically placed behind my neck can offer the same support. And I like to keep a dry hand towel nearby… just in case.

Next, find your bubbles. This is kind of like finding your signature drink at a bar or favorite coffee beverage at Starbucks. I prefer lavender-scented bubbles myself.

Some people go for bath salts. This is a personal choice. If I use bath salts, I like to mix them with my bubbles. Bath salts by themselves might smell wonderful, but I like the look of frothy bubbles.

Candles add a certain ambiance I enjoy. However, please be mindful of how you hold that paperback or People magazine when a lighted flame is involved. And find the right scent. Bath time might not be the ideal time to spark up that pine tree or Christmas cookie-scented candle. I enjoy matching my candle aroma with my bubbles.

Music
Again, this is a personal choice. I love to play music while I write. In fact, I don’t know if I could write in total silence. But reading is a different matter. In my humble opinion, Nora does not need accompanying sound. But if reading to music is your thing, go for it. Just keep any electronics far from the water.

I hope I’ve given some good bath time suggestions. If you’ve had an unproductive day of writing or just a lousy time at whatever you do, think about running an indulgent, luxurious bubble bath tonight with a book in hand. I promise it will make you feel better.

So now you all know what I’ll be doing later. Reading, relaxing and dreaming of the day someone can’t wait to read a book written by moi in their very own bathtub. (Paperback version, of course.)