Blog Part Two

March 12, 2015 | Writing

The Super Bowl is over. Did your team win or were you on the floor during the last play sobbing? The Australian Open is over (thank goodness the sixteen hour time difference disrupted my sleep). Groundhog Day is over, six more weeks of winter I sympathize with the groundhog nipping the Wisconsin mayor’s ear. Valentine’s Day over – not enough chocolate. It is cold everywhere and people are tired of snow, below zero temperatures, ice, and more cold. There’s been a break in the weather and Spring is less than two weeks away – we hope.

My final questions posed to writers dealt with social media, advice given to them, and what is their biggest fear? Issues all of us face whether our book is in manuscript form on our computer, self-published, traditionally published, or eBook.

The first question was about social media and the part it plays in their writing. Since it’s been so cold and lots of snow, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, et al. have become addictive and easy ways for people to stay in touch, commiserate about like conditions, and ask why Katrina was still on Sleepy Hollow. It’s also a tool writers can use to meet like writers, reach out to agents, publishers, the market, and find resources. LeAnne did just that. She found her agent on social media, made friends and discovered writing resources. Shaila said “Some use it simply to advertise and I think they’re missing the point. It’s social – it’s meant to help you connect with your readers, fans, potential readers, etc.” She also called it a time suck. Something I agree with and several other writers also agreed. Tina is stingy with her writing time and doesn’t use social media. She does have a Facebook author’s page and agrees it’s a great way to promote friends. Edwina is a self -professed tech luddite with no social media accounts. Ane Ryan uses Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook to promote and keep up with others. Renita mentioned the book ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ by W. Chan Chankim and Renee Mauborne. She says the book has helped her learn about creating new market space in an ever increasing market competing for our attention. Leigh agrees with Shaila that it can be time consuming. She has Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter accounts for her pen name. Tracey found NaNo and Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, http://www.rubyslipperedsisterhood.com, as a valuable resource sites. She uses Facebook to brainstorm and chat with writers.

Advice is given and received, both whether we ask for it or not. I asked what was the best and worst advice they have received. LeAnne said her husband tired of her talking about wanting to be a writer and told her to just do it. The best advice Shaila received was to enjoy the words. The worst advice was that any critique group would do. Advice I think we should consider. We want to be among ‘like’ writers who understand our genre and have experience reading romance.The best advice Edwina received was to join RWA and find her local chapter. The worse advice was someone told her she was a good writer but wouldn’t be published. I wonder if anyone ever said that to Nora Roberts? Ane Ryan thinks her best advice was to turn the Internet off when she writes and never write without knowing where you need to go in your story. As for bad advice she says she hasn’t received any so far. Tina was also advised to join RWA and a local chapter. Worse advice Tina heard was to stop writing Sweet Romance because it’s not selling. Tina continues to write writing Sweet Romance. There is an audience for this and she’ll find it. Renita’s husband gave her really good advice. He told her not to fall in love with the first book she wrote. He advised using it a practice to perfect her craft. Worse advice for Renita came from contest entries. She’d receive conflicting feedback and now keeps a Q-Tip on her desk (Quit Taking it Personally). I’m thinking of framing a Q-Tip on my desk. Leigh’s best advice is the worst thing you’ve written is better than what you didn’t write.

Procrastination should be an art form. Like Twitter or Facebook, when faced with such ‘shiny’ what’s a writer to do? Are there writers who don’t suffer from procrastination? Edwina uses a kitchen timer set for fifteen minutes. When it dings she sets it for another fifteen because she finds she’s in the writing zone. She learned this useful tidbit from RWR. LeAnne finds wasting time on Facebook a form of procrastinating. If she’s suffering a real slump she takes break, read or watch TV. She’ll even make a deal with her self, one thousand words and then she can check Facebook. Shaila reads when she finds herself procrastinating. Assuages her guilt. She feels there’s no need in beating yourself up if you’re not in the mood. After a break she’s anxious to get back to her characters and wip. Leigh says she’s in a bit of slump right now, winter blues, and hope the upcoming seasonal change helps. She’s changing up her routine, setting aside her current project, do something different and start plotting another book. Ane Ryan feels like she’s dying if she misses three days of not writing. Tina also makes a deal with herself. Thirty minutes in the morning and thirty in the evening. Because she has several manuscripts in various stages she can move from one to the other and avoid a serious slump. Renaita allows herself no more than a week away from writing. If it is longer she’ll read Jodi Picoult. Her backup inspiration is her husband. If she’s watching TV he’ll ask when was the last time she wrote. Tracey tricks herself by writing a few ideas of just finishing a chapter. This works in getting her to continue writing.

We are now into the third month of 2015. I asked writers what was their BIG goal for 2015 in the first post. This time I asked how they planned to implement it. Leigh is working toward submitting her first manuscript and working on the second one, which is connected to her first. Tina has an older manuscript she’s given time to mellow and now editing. She plans to pitch at RWA in New York. Renita intends to find a critique partner or a group with no more than three members. She’s also working on twenty minute writing sprints. Focus is her mantra for 2015.Rechecking her short stories for passive voice and using the emotional thesaurus suggested by LeAnne is Tracey’s plan. Edwina is going to learn more about social media and join Facebook. LeAnne has already accomplished one of her goals, to finish her manuscript and send to her agent. She set up a writing schedule and plans to write two thousand words per week which means her second manuscript will be finished by summer. Shaila, shop book one and consider self-publishing it, and build a website are her goals. She’s made a ‘how to’ list for each goal and is considering attending conferences to pitch in person. Ane Ryan should have returned from her cruise by now with her husband. So now she’s working on three new covers for her books and two manuscripts out for edits. These writers have big goals and are working toward making them reality.

My final question was what is their biggest fear. Writers fear a lot of things. These writers voiced the biggest ones we share. Ane Ryan’s is no one will buy her book, or she won’t have repeat success. Tina has no fears. She wants people to read her work and be honest. She may not agree with one opinion but if repeated by several readers it’s telling her something. Renita fears she’s do all this work writing and no one will like it. Her family would stroke her ego but if she wants honesty she’d give it to another writer. Rejection is Tracey’s fear. She says no one can avoid it. She says everyone has their own style of writing and readers enjoy different genres so what she writes probably won’t appeal to everyone. If she is hit with rejection she takes a few days off to process. Edwina is afraid of disappointing her readers. LeAnne fears being unable to fulfill a contract or rushing to finish a manuscript and submitting it before it’s ready. Once published, Shaila fears her book won’t be noticed and it will be lost in a sea of other books.

I’ve had a great time with these writers. They opened their minds and hearts and took the time to answer questions that jumped out of my head. Writing is a journey, one word at a time.


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2015 The Year of The Writer

January 29, 2015 | Writing


First it’s always The Year of The Writer. Everyone looks at January first as the time to make resolutions, get in better shape, get control of your finances, and for writers, published and unpublished, write, edit, submit, and publish. Then repeat.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Last one was to limit my intake of salty snacks. I should have defined ‘limit’. Major immediate fail. I did resolve to be more proactive on my website and decided the best way to start was to engage my fellow RWA Pro writers in a dialogue on writing. We’re the unpublished struggling to write and be published. We write romance, that’s the major genre. But after that comes subgenres and sub-subgenres. We’re a diverse group that shares common issues.

I asked the question they answered truthfully. I want to thank each writer who took the time and opened up. They offered support to each other and that’s a major part of a writing community.

I began by asking each to introduce their self, tell me what they wrote, and why.

Edwina Moore writes fourteenth century historical romance. She holds a PhD in medieval history and is an adjunct professor. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, a toddler, and a ‘soon to be born’ baby. She won second place in the Beacon Contest for her current wip ‘A Knight’s Ransom’. Edwina writes medieval romance because she wants to show ‘love isn’t unique to the modern world, and this is a wonderful way to show that love can develop anywhere, anytime.’

Renita Bradley lives in the Florida panhandle with her husband and eleven year-old son. Renita writes contemporary and suspense. She thought she’d write action/thriller stories because of her background but found them evolving into romance. Her single title ‘Five Stages’ was a 2014 RWA Abalone Award Finalist. She once worked for NSA and now is a warhead engineer.

Shaila Patel writes multi-cultural teen paranormal romance and lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her heart has been in the happily-ever-after since elementary school when she threw her copy of Cinderella across the room because the story didn’t say what happened next. Shaila likes to write teen love stories with the added paranormal element.

Tracey Clark writes fantasy and paranormal romance. Tracey likes the paranormal ‘get out of jail free’ card, the option to bring back a dead character, or make a character move faster than lightning. She also loves cowboys. Tracey lives in Kentucky. She has MS but that hasn’t stopped her from filling her life with pugs, art projects and anything to fight the disease from taking control of her life.

Leigh Malone has a B.A. in History and English, a J.D. and four years ago started a mother-daughter book club with her daughter. She’s coached book team competitions, moderated online literary discussion groups and hosted fan symposia for Harry Potter fans. She lives in Texas with her two children, an ill-behaved beagle and a cat she suspects is secretly plotting to kill her. Leigh writes contemporary but also has a strong interest in historical romances set in the WWII era and YA set during WWII.

Tina Newcomb is a wife, mother, step-mom, and grandmother with lots of family and loves to write. She finished her first manuscript in 1990 and put it in a box until 2010. Then she started a new one, attended a RWA conference and found ‘her people’. Tina lives in Northern Colorado with her husband, six of her eight children and one grandchild. Tina writes the sweet side of contemporary romance. She’s finished four manuscripts and has another eight in draft form. Her inspiration comes from her travels and always keeps a notebook handy.

Ane Ryan Walker was born and raised in suburban Philadelphia. She started writing at four and soon became disappointed with the brevity of comic strips so she added additional panels. Ane, as a natural born storyteller, began with tall tales she told to cover the hours she was kept after school by nuns. In 2003 she joined RWA and Savvy Authors. She has a weekly blog for aspiring authors, Her Story Called.

Apryl Adams was born and raised in CA and had never lived any place else until March of last year when she and her husband moved to Florence, Oregon. When she moved her goal was to write a book. So far she’s written 35,000 words of an erotic romance. She’s been married for ten and a half years. Her family also includes two dogs, a cat, and fish. She writes erotica because she feels she’s good at writing it.

LeAnne Bristow began her love affair with books at an early age. She started with Laura Ingalls Wilder and Beverly Cleary and graduated to Walter Farley and Judy Blume. She fell in love with a country boy who moved her to a small town in Arizona and spent the next twenty years corralling three children and teaching kindergarten. She caught herself creating stories about people and when her characters wouldn’t give her peace she pulled out her old stories and began writing. LeAnne writes inspirational and contemporary romance. She didn’t start out writing inspirational but as her first story developed she found it required a faith element. One day she wants to write a historical which is her favorite genre.

My next question concerned a very important element of a writing career. You must write. And then of course where you write is important.

Edwina tries to write everyday but with a two year old and with another one’s soon arrival her schedule will change. Until then she writes in the morning at the kitchen table. Renita is a full time mechanical engineer so she writes in the evenings, two hours at night, and weekends, five hours each day. Her husband built her an office in the family guest room. Shaila was for a time writing every evening after work and all day Saturday and Sunday. Burned out she produced two and a half books. She’s slowed down taking more workshops, reading, and Twitter. Tracey writes in her office or bedroom. Since she can’t get out much writing is a creative process for her. Leigh is a full time mom and part-time attorney. For 2015 Penny wants to set aside three hours each morning to write, and she has a standard coffee shop writing date twice a week. Tina tries to write every day but she keeps her grandson so she sneaks time in while he’s naps and then once he leaves she writes until dinner with her husband. Ane Ryan is committed to writing five days a week in her home office has Saturday all to her self and writes on her laptop. LeAnne works full time and several evenings so she writes whenever and wherever she can fit it in. Her goal for 2015 is to develop a better routine. Does any of this sound familiar? Each one is trying to carve out time from our schedules to write.

Goals. You have to have goals. My third question was – It’s 2015, what is your one or two BIG GOALS you want to accomplish this year? Do you have a plan how to make it happen?

Edwina wants to add published to her bio. She plans to submit and write the next book while waiting to hear about the first one. She calls herself a ‘luddite’ and intends to learn about social media. Renita is going to find a critique partner, finish her current novel, book one in a six book series. Shaila’s first goal is to shop the first book in her series once she finishes edits and create a website. She also plans to take an online workshop on web design and has bookmarked tons of great authors sites for ideas. Tracey plans to be published and go to a rodeo. “Learning to develop my voice into something that others will enjoy…” is her goal. She plans to continue building her platform and find an agent. Leigh’s goals are to carve out of her busy schedule a specific writing time, pursue editors and agents for her completed manuscript and investigate the pros and cons of self-publishing. Tina’s goal is to have books three and four of her series completed by the end of the year. She plans to reach this goal by having two chapters a month ready for critique.

Ane Ryan plans to keep her Blog active and look into self-publishing in two genres. She’s got six books planned for the year. Apryl wants to reach the eighty-five thousand-word mark for her book by April. Next have it critiqued, edited, and beta read by August so she can start pitching it. Leanne’s goal is to set a writing routine. Her next goal is to finish revisions on her latest manuscript an agent requested and submit to Harlequin. She has her second book plotted and wants to write it and start on the next story.

I put the writers on the spot with my next question. Writers read and read and read. Our TBR (to be read) piles could be nightstands. I asked who was the one author they wanted to meet and if they could ask one question what would it be.

Edwina said Anne Bishop. Her question would be does she start with a single ‘what if’, a map, or a character? Renita named Jodi Picoult. Her question ‘How does she do her research?’ Shaila named Jennifer Armentrout. Tracey would like to meet Lyndsay Sands and ask her to ‘Describe her favorite part of Canada?’ Leigh wants to meet Tracey Brogan and ask ‘Where does she find inspiration for the humorous situations she weaves so well into her novels?’ Tina wants to meet LaVyrile Spencer and ask ‘Where did her inspiration come from?’ Ane Ryan couldn’t decide. She said there were just too many authors she’d love to meet. But she would ask any of them ‘Was your second book easier to write?’ Apryl would ask J. Kenner where does she get her inspiration. LeAnne wants to ask Marsha Canham where did she begin her research for her Robin Hood Trilogy.

Books, books, and more books. I have two bookshelves filled with books on writing, character building, editing, point of view, etc. Files from online classes on plot and motivation, worldbuilding, scene and structure. But I asked my writers to name one book they absolutely needed.

Edwina named Strunk and White The Elements of Style. Renita and LeAnne value The Emotional Thesaurus-Character-Expression written by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. Shaila The Chicago Manual of Style but she said she Google for grammar and writing questions. Tracey doesn’t use any particular book, but when she needs to understand animal behavior of her shapeshifting stories she uses the Internet. Tracey is waiting for the Internet to come out in hardback. Leigh Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon. Tina Megnon Fogarty’s Quick and Dirty Tips. Ane named ‘Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne, Dave King. Apryl does her research on the Internet and by reading other erotic romance and through personal experience.

Although these writers come from different backgrounds, have life responsibilities, physical handicaps writing brings us together. The next group of questions will be posted after the SuperBowl.


2013 Are You Ready?

January 4, 2013 | Inspiration,Writing

I just purchased a new Hoover bag vacuum cleaner. I dislike bagless vacuums. Cleaning the tank is messy. Dirt gets all over the place; then you have to vacuum it up – again. Here’s the symbolism. A new year sweep or vacuum out the old so you have a clean slate to begin with. Actually I saw a Coach purse and I had a coupon for 25% off and had to decide if I needed another purse or should replace my dying vacuum cleaner. I couldn’t clean with the Coach bag. But then I couldn’t carry the Hoover vacuum on my shoulder. So clean house won out.

Last New Year’s Eve, 2011, I sat waiting for the year to end. Each tick of the clock brought me closer to the end of a tumultuous year. I’d survived a 360 degree change in my life. A nightmare that caused me to question my identity, my sanity, my self worth as a woman. I needed 2011 to end to prove I had exited my personal Twilight Zone. In 2012 I found guidance, friendship, love and if truth be told happiness. I found me again. I wasn’t going to go along to get along anymore. I hadn’t seen ME in years. It was great getting reacquainted. I didn’t stand on solid ground by myself. On my Facebook page, December 29th, I gave a major shout out to my team. The women who lifted me up, brushed me off, told me I was beautiful, intelligent, stronger than I thought I was, and they’d be by my side when ever I needed them. There was one man, my son, the quiet one. I know that in his eyes I am more than mother, I am a Queen with super powers. And who am I to correct him?

As 2012 ended each tick of the clock made me giddy, excited, thankful, and prayerful. There were definite, mind numbing challenges in 2012 but I grew stronger, wiser, and confident. I was overjoyed when I heard the fireworks at Navy Pier announce the arrival of 2013. Diana Ross’s song, “I’m Coming Out”, blared on my iPhone. Then I went into 70s’ Disco mode dancing in my bedroom, with a little Annie Lennox thrown in.

I started writing down my goals for 2013 in December. In January I’ll expand my list and then organize them according to personal, professional, physical, spiritual, and financial by the end of February. My Muse reappeared too. She wasn’t in hiding, she was waiting until I could concentrate on writing and had adapted to my new life.

Melody Beattie in her book, ‘The Language of Letting Go’, writes we should make New Year’s goals. “Dig within, and discover what you would like to have happen in your life this year. This helps you do your part. It is an affirmation that you’re interested in fully living life in the year to come.” She says goals give us direction, they give our life direction. She says we should take our time, think about what we want to do, big and little. What problems we’d like to see solved. Decisions we’d would like to make.

I believe if you set a goal, you need a plan on implementation. So after all the holiday parties, food, drink, party, here is my number one goal and what’s I’m doing to succeed.

Health: Making health my number one priority. There’s an old saying, ‘If you don’t have your health you don’t have anything.’ You can’t be an effective writer if you don’t eat right, exercise or take time to enjoy life. Refill the well and refill it often. I’m taking my Weight Watchers program serious. I pay a monthly fee for the online tools so I better use it. Recent improvements in the program have actually made it easier for me to track using my iPhone. I began a Six Months to Sixty Program, to lose weight, be fit. I plan what I’m going to eat each day in the morning, plug in the points and make sure I don’t go too far over. Points for a glass of red wine is always tracked whether I drink it in the evening or not. Doctor Ian Smith has written several books on dieting. There are a multitude of programs available. Pick one that works for you and check with your doctor first. PS this also a good time to schedule a physical. Don’t wait until the end of the year.

Writers sit at their desks for hours and snacking goes with writing. I’m a crunchy, salty snacker. Add chocolate and I’m done. Light popcorn and dill pickles come close to satisfying my potato chip cravings. Exercise should be what you enjoy. I love tennis and I plan on joining a local tennis club for my birthday in May and start playing again. It’s a great mental and physical exercise and stress reliever. I take daily walks because I have a dog and live in an apartment building. It’s great for fresh air, clear the brain, and friendly conversation with other dog owners. I also hula hoop three times a week. The hula hooping was ugly in the beginning and is done behind closed blinds. It seemed so easy when I was growing up. Frack it was easy when I was a child! Another Weight Watchers suggestion for exercise is combining brushing your teeth and performing squats. My electric toothbrush has a two minute time. Done twice a day. Your dentist, your thighs, waist, and posture will thank you.

Make a commitment to get some type of physical exercise. Your writing will improve as will your health.

Next up Sunday: NO MORE MULTITASKING!! How performing multiple acts can slow down your writing. And remember: ‘Honk while driving if you love Jesus, text while driving if you want to meet him.’

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Mise En Place and Writing

June 25, 2012 | Writing

Mise en place is the French term defined by the CIA (that’s the Culinary Institute of America) to mean “everything in place”. I’m a BIG Food Network fan and an even BIGGER fan of Anne Burrell. I watched her on Iron Chef America as Mario Batali’s sous chef and personally believe she got robbed on The Next Iron Chef competition. I watch her show, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, and root for her team on each round of America’s Worst Cooks. She’s undefeated by the way on that program. She also scares the crap out of me and I want to meet her one day.

It was from Chef Ann I first heard the term, mise en place. She used it in a demonstration and said was it very important for cooks. She explained that mise en place means that before a cook prepares a dish, they must organize, arrange ingredients and utensils before they crack an egg. From Wikipedia “Preparing the mise en place ahead of time allows the chef to cook without having to stop and assemble items, which is desirable in recipes with time constraints.” This is vital to the dish being successful. Only on Chopped will you see cooks running around a well stocked kitchen searching for ingredients. In a normal kitchen, the chef doesn’t have time to track down flour, eggs, or a whisk when assembling a souffle. They have everything within arms reach. Even the oven is preheated to a specific temperature.

I started thinking mise en place could be applicable to my writing life. In the past, I would just sit at my desk, open up my manuscript and start plugging away. If I needed a highlighter or the dictionary I had to search for it. If there was an article I’d printed out for reference, I had to remember where I last put it. This wasted valuable time and I was bound to be distracted and start surfing the Internet looking for shiny things. Or watch the news and then maybe an old episode of The Closer.

Applying mise en place has made my writing time a lot smoother, more productive, and I’ve created a routine. Routine is an absolute necessity in my opinion for a writer. Forming a routine means creating a habit, an effective habit. It takes about six weeks to create a habit, good or bad.

So first, I stand at my desk and survey the territory. Just like a cook this is my prep time. Most of the time my desk is cluttered and requires swift removal of papers not pertaining to the current day’s writing. I stand because I can see the area better and because I’m going to be sitting for a long period of time. A chef can’t cook if their area is messy, I can’t write if my desk is as well. This prep time serves two purposes, first it gives me a clean slate for the day and second it mentally prepares me for work. I sweep everything off my desk not pertinent to the first manuscript I’m going to work on. Other works in progress go on the shelf next to my desk. everything else in neat piles on the floor in a corner. I’m working on the whole ‘must file’ issue.

Like a trained chef, I make sure all my utensils are at the ready. Pencils are sharpened, highlighters are full, email account(s) are signed out of, ink in printer, coffee, ice water, or juice is on the coaster, a piece of fruit or cheese or chocolate and my ever present Writer’s Digest Flip Dictionary. If you wear glasses, clean them. I lineup what I plan on working on that day. I put my phone on silent, sometimes I leave it in the bedroom. Now I’m ready to cook (write). This takes no more than ten minutes. As chefs have a properly preheated oven, I use the timer on my iPod Touch. Crickets or jazz alerts me when my fifteen to thirty minutes of work time is up. Chefs don’t want to burn their food, I don’t want to burn out before my work for the day is completed. Once I hit that fifteen minute mark, if I’m particularly motivated, I reset for another fifteen and keep working. I’m always motivated after the first fifteen. After thirty minutes I need to get up, move around, and maybe do a quick household chore. Then it’s back in the chair and back to work. If I’m finished with the first manuscript, I put it on the shelf and pull out the next one. I’m training myself not to open any email account until I’ve gotten at least an hour and a half of work done. Again – shiny things, sales, gossip. I schedule a time for lunch and decide what’s for dinner. It’s been drilled into unpublished writer’s heads that this is a journey, not a race, or sprint.

So by the end of my writing day, my desk looks like a well used kitchen. No great smells, no frosted cupcakes, no huge lump meat crabcakes. Bummer. Just the smell of future success. It’s time to clean up, return utensils to their proper place, plan for the next day, and relax. And after seeing what a kitchen looks like after cooking, I think my cleanup is easier.

There are a couple of knickknacks on my desk for inspiration. But they’re off in the corner where I can see them. First is a plaque with the poem, ‘Don’t Quit’. Next is a statue of the green wicked witch from Sleeping Beauty. She holds two buttons one in each outstretched hand. One says ‘Write, Revise, Submit’. The other one says ‘Finish the #%&* Book!’. Around the witch’s neck hangs a sign Marilyn Brant passed on to me. It reads: Future Award Winning Author At Work’. So hope to pass it to another Chicago North author one day.

Mise en place rules and thank you Chef Ann.


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