Friday, December 31, 2010

Last Day of 2010--Lets Celebrate!

Hard to believe the year has gone by again, just when I was getting used to it.

Today is the day I look back at the past year and see what I have done. Oh, it's easy to see what you haven't accomplished this year. (I am not going to talk about the revision or the dust bunnies that I call George and Fred).

Instead, I am going to look at what I did accomplish. Writing wise, this year I managed to meet several of my goals.
  1. I went to a writing conference, Moonlight and Magnolias. (For those of you who can't afford National's this is SO worth going to).
  2. Pitched to an Agent.
  3. Entered 4 contests (some were painful, others showed I was going in the right direction)
  4. Receieved a request for a FULL. (again, lets not look at the fact I am still finishing that revision,---oh have I told you? Guilt is on my list to work on this year).
  5. Blog regularly and to interact more with fellow writers (I have hermit qualities as a few of my friends can attest to)

So, tell me what DID you accomplish this year? Writing wise? Personal? Work? It can be anything.

I'm going to sweeten this last day with Giveaways for those who comment. This is to ease the bitter pill called "New Year's Resolutions". (Personally, I don't set resolutions--I set goals its far more palatable.)

I am going to give away Amy Atwell's E-Book "Lying Eyes" (and this is open to everyone. Yay!)

The rest of the items I have to limit to those within the continental U.S.--sorry! But I am going to look into alternatives the next time I do a giveaway.

I also have the hilarious and witty book by Peggy Webb, "Elvis and the Memphis Mambo Murders"

And for those who just can't let Christmas slip away so easily, "Regency Christmas Proposals" an Anthology by Gayle Wilson, Amanda McCabe, and Carole Mortimer.

I also have a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card for one lucky person. (Who can't use a card from there?)

I will award these prizes in the comment section of this post tomorrow, New Year's day. You have one week to claim your prize, after that I will have to award them to someone else.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Love-Hate Relationships With WIPS

Sounds kinda like something to do with S/M, doesn't it? Actually, I have a love-hate relationship with editing. Yes. When I finish a book, I let it sit for about a week and then I print it out and read it. Well, that is, I read it eventually. I’ll start reading out loud and then decide I really need to skip the first three chapters. Those have been edited to death as most of the books I start have been entered into at least one contest and been seen by one critique partner and/or beta reader. So I move to chapter four. By chapter six I realize I’ve mentioned something that was never answered or explained in the rest of the book. When I reach chapter twelve (I like short chapters), I’ve decided the whole book is trash. Why would anyone want to read it? And, Lord of Mercy, why did I let anyone look at it?

So more often than not, I let one of my beta readers go through it before I do a lot of editing. I promise, it gives them a feeling of accomplishment to muck through such drivel. I know they feel sorry for me. Such a delusional writer. Or is that disillusive? Doesn’t matter. You get the drift.

Like a lot of writers out there, I edit along the way. I’m not a fast writer, so wherever I leave off, I go back to the beginning of a chapter and read, correcting and checking, until I’m back in the mood of the scene and start writing again. So technically it’s edited numerous times.

I write by the seat of my pants, in the mist, or like some people call it, make sh*t up. That’s something I would like to change. Next year I plan to do some light plotting. Nothing in-depth. Just something that will keep me moving it along and help my daily word count. I normally do a little plotting about midway into the story. Enough to ensure I hit all the high points and know where the heck I’m going. So it shouldn’t be a problem. Riiiight.

So in the spirit of the holidays, I’m giving away a former critique partner’s book away. Christy Reece survived critiquing a few of my books and even became published despite what little help I was to her. I have two copies of NO CHANCE to give away. All of Christy’s books are my kind of books. Love each couple’s dynamics and the danger of undercover work.

I also have one of Linda Howard’s to give away. If I remember correctly Linda doesn’t go over her book again after she completes it. She said she edits along the way and that’s enough. I say, “You go, girl!” I have one copy of DEATH ANGEL. I love her alpha males and this one is for sure alpha. He’s a little cold, but there’s something still redeemable about him. It’s a little different from her other books, but I still enjoyed it, especially the balcony scene. HOT!

All you need to do is comment and I’ll place your name in a hat to draw at random. So you can tell me any or all the following. 1) How do you feel about editing? 2) What is your editing process? 3) What are you planning to change about your writing process to be more successful next year? E.g., to finish that first of tenth book or make that book zing and editor worthy.
And for the sexy picture of Bruce Willis? I just wanted to share.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What Comes Next? UPDATED with winners!

I composed this blog post originally by hand. That's right, old-fashioned, pen in hand, blue ink on lined paper low-tech writing.

You see, my work computer went wonky a couple of days before I wrote this post, and while I was waiting for it to return from the computer doctor, I was left with little I could do at work. Since working a full-time day job, in addition to my writing career, means I have to write during my lunch hour as well as weekends and evenings just to keep up, I couldn't afford that much down time.

So I kicked it old school. Me, my blue-ink Bic pen and my yellow lined legal pad, writing a blog post 70's style.

Of course, there weren't blogs in the '70s. Computers were still in the early stages and out of reach for the average consumer. When I stared working years ago as an advertising copywriter, my writing tool was an electric typewriter. Do people even use those anymore?

My first computer at work was a DOS dinosaur. Windows? What was that? It would be a couple more years before our boss stepped into the future and upraded us to the Windows 3.0 system. Whoo, we were high tech then!

Now I use a laptop, running Vista and dreaming of Windows 7. Others of you run Macs and make fun of the rest of us. The world changes faster than we can keep up, sometimes. Most of us readers and writers are now wondering what e-books will do to the bookstores we love and the good old ink and paper books we put out these days.

But if I've learned anything over the years, it's that the more things change, the more they stay the same. People have been telling stories for centuries. They'll still be telling them centuries from now if the asteroids haven't wiped us all out by then. All that will change is the medium.

Although, I must admit to wondering just where we'll go next. What comes after e-books? Chips implanted in our brains that allow us to experience a story playing out in our brains? Or will we decide technology is too much with us and we make a collective decision that the old way of reading—ink on paper—was the best way after all?

What do you think comes next for books? Give me your answer in the comments, and I'll draw for four winners who'll either win a signed copy of any Cooper Justice book of their choices or a $10 eGiftcard from the online bookseller of their choices.
UPDATE:
The winners are Anne Gallagher, Liz, MV Freeman and JoAnn! Please email me at paulagraves (at) charter (dot) net with your preference--book or eGiftcard. If you want a book, tell me which one and I'll need your snail mail address. If it's the giftcard, I just need your email address and which ebookstore you prefer.
Thanks for commenting!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Looking forward

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you had a fabulous one. If not, I hope you’re enjoying the winter. We had snow in Virginia, and I know many of my Southern Magic friends in Alabama did as well. I’m not a cold weather lover per se, but I love how beautiful everything looks covered in snow.

So now that Christmas is over, I’m looking forward to the new year and the promise that it holds. This week is when I take stock of the previous year’s goals and accomplishments and start thinking about what I want to accomplish in the next 12 months, both personally and professionally.

Since I can’t directly control the outcomes I really want—land an agent, get published, lose five pounds—I focus on the things I can control. Things like how much I write/edit each day, how many agents I query, how many class proposals I submit, how many minutes a day I work out.

But having goals doesn’t mean anything if I write them down and stick them in a drawer never to be seen again. I need to break them down into smaller chunks of months, weeks, and days. Then I have to make room for them in my schedule. Otherwise, with blogs and TBR piles to get through, friends and family to spend time with, volunteer work, errands to run, and a house to keep, it’s easy to get sidetracked.

I’m a master procrastinator, but I’m also competitive, so setting goals gives me the accountability and push I need. That’s one reason I did NaNoWriMo this year. It was a stretch goal, but once I told everyone I was doing it, I couldn’t stand the idea of failing.

And when it was over, I finally cleaned the bathrooms and ate dinner with my family again.

So, are you setting specific goals for 2011 or taking a more casual approach? What strategies do you use to make sure you meet them, or at least make a good effort?

One lucky commenter will receive EAT THAT FROG by one of my favorite time management gurus: Brian Tracy. Happy holidays!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Peace on Earth

Tomorrow it is Christmas Day. For many people it is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. For others it is a time to gather and be with friends regardless of their religion, culture, or faith. Some people have different traditions and religious celebrations to express their faith and their conviction in a higher power.

Regardless of one's faith or background, this day brings to my mind the reason people celebrate the day. It is about wanting Peace. The Christmas saying "Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men" makes me pause and reflect upon the concept of peace itself.

For where do we find peace in this world of strife, war, disease, pestilence, dictators, terrorism, brutality and more atrocities than I could ever describe? Where is the good will? Does it exist at all? Why do we sing about peace on earth when it doesn't exist?

I don't know about other people, but I sing about peace on earth and good will toward men because I choose to believe it CAN exist if I put forth the effort to create peace on a daily basis. For me creating peace is not about influencing the world in a big way, it is about trying to live by the tenets set for me by my faith and my own beliefs regardless of who else does or doesn't try. And it is about forgiving myself for not always making the grade in that effort. 

For I am human. I came into this world born with no innate desire to be good. Nope. I personally believe we come into the world with the natural instinct to survive. To win at the survival game means putting ourselves first, not last. I recently learned that man's first weapons were not weapons at all. They were tools to obtain food. To obtain food is to survive. Then some ancient human realized that if he took a stone and threw it at another man who had food and knocked out the man he could have that man's food. Voila! Survival of the fittest and the smartest! And in that moment weapons came into existence. 

I have news for you. Weapons aren't going to evaporate. Not anytime soon. At this stage of my life, I no longer wear Pollyanna Glasses and believe wars will fade away and that terrible things will cease to happen. As long as there is one person who chooses to put him/herself first over the rest of humanity, the world will never achieve Peace. 

Yet the world seeks peace. People of all faiths seek peace. How do they seek peace? Through these words:

Baha'i: It is our wish and desire that every one of you may become a source of goodness unto men, and an example of uprightness to mankind. Beware lest you prefer yourself above your neighbors. Baha'u'llah, Gleanings 315

Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. Undana-varqa: 518

Christianity: As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. Luke 6:31

Confucianism: Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto others that would not have them do unto you. Analects, XV, 23

Hinduism: This is the sum of all true righteousness: deal with others as thou wouldst thyself be dealt by. Do nothing to thy neighbor which thou wouldst not have him do to thee after. The Mahabharata

Islam: No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. Sunnah

Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow men. That is the entire law, all the rest is commentary.  The Talmud, Shabbat 31a

Taoism: The good man ought to pity the malignant tendencies of others; to rejoice over their excellence; to help them in their straits; to regard them in their gains as if they were his own, and their losses the same way. The Thai-shang, 3

How do I live a life by the tenets set forth to me given that I was born into this world with the same innate natural instinct to survive? How do I bring peace into my world when there are days that my nature overrides my desire to choose to be good and put myself last, not first?

For me it is a matter of trying again despite the failure to succeed. My hope is to one day have more A's than F's. I don't have lofty ambitions about changing the world. I don't have power over these other countries and their people. I am not in a position to make a huge difference that way. But I can make a difference in my own corner of the world.

For if we can't have peace at home, in the workplace, with our fellow writers, with our neighbors, with our communities then who are we to harp about lack of peace in the world? So here is my challenge to all of you--every day start the day with the desire to put yourself LAST. Try to practice patience in those long lines, bite your tongue the next time you want to nag your spouse, wait for everyone else to fill their plates before you fill your own, and treat the people you meet with dignity and respect.

I'm not asking you to be a doormat and let people walk all over you. I am asking you to stop, pause, think about what you are going to do when you are annoyed with the grocery store clerk, the slow driver in front of you, the co-worker who drives you batty, the neighbor who hasn't weeded in a week. Ask yourself HOW you will present yourself in that situation. Choose the kinder way.

Choose the way that might lead to more peace. Not just peace in your corner of the world, but peace in your mind and peace in your heart.

As we head into 2011 let's move into the year with the spirit of trying to bring Peace into Our Corner of the World.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. John 14: 27

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

So...do you have one of these?



The Complete Writer's Kit. I found it in a catalog, with this description:


New York Times bestseller list, here you come. Get that great American novel out of the back of your head and down on paper with a motivating kit that kicks your ideas into action. Step-by-step direction and inspiration includes 30 Steps to Becoming a Writer; Get Published in 6 Months or Less has practical, actionable advice. Paperback, 208 pages plus a 52-card deck for fighting writer's block. $22.95


First: I have to take issue with the use of the word "complete." Nowhere in this description does it mention chocolate. You can't take the writing journey without pounds and pounds of the stuff. And what about the sandpaper you need to toughen up your skin? Where's that? How about the babysitter to take care of the kids while you hammer out that NYT bestseller? And the takeout restaurant gift certificates so your family can eat while you do research?


The creators of this kit are reputable and well-known in the publishing industry. And yet, there's just something about it that raises my hackles. Just a teensy-weensy bit. Maybe it's not the kit itself, but the description in the catalog. Somebody, some innocent soul without a clue, will look at this and say "Oh, wow! For $22.95 plus shipping, I can become a real, live writer! Let me get out my debit card!" And that makes me sad.


If you were creating The Ultimate, Best-Ever, How-To-Be-A-Writer Kit, what would you include?


(P.S. I have a copy of James Scott Bell's incredibly awesome Plot & Structure -- the only and best how-to-write "kit" you'll ever need -- and a brand-new set of highlighters to give away! I'll pull a name from all the commenters and post the winner's name Christmas Eve.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

CHRISTMAS VACATION

After dropping my kids off this morning, I was running through my mental to-do list and realized I hadn't written today's blog. It's not that I had forgotten; I really didn't. I had a blog all planned with bells and whistles. But, alas, my mind and efforts are on Christmas vacation.

So, I started to wonder, how many of you guys incorporate a Christmas vacation into your writing schedule?

Also, in the spirit of the season, I am giving away an autographed copy of RED, WHITE and BLUE by Laura Hayden. (The winner must be someone within the continental US.) Check back Tuesday morning to see if you won.

Happy Holidays!!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

All I Want for Christmas

Oh, me.

My mother said that all the time. And I bring back that phrase for the holidays because [suspenseful music here] I'm turning into my mother!

That's right. I'm impossible to shop for. If I want it, I bought it already.

I know that's no fun. Because we all get a big kick out of giving. Getting is a fine thing, and not to be casually dismissed (like getting the call would be excellent!) but giving is the part of Christmas that encourages creativity.

So tell me. What's the best gift you've given in a Christmas past, and why?

One lucky commenter will win one of Paula Graves' Cooper Justice novels--Case File: Canyon Creek, Wyoming--perfect to get or to give!

The fine print: This is a name-out-of-the-hat drawing. Winner will be notified via e-mail after the next post goes up. This is a print book, so I'll need your continental U.S. snail mail address in order to deliver your prize. Be prompt! If I don't get a response from the first winner within a week, the prize will be regifted to another lucky commenter.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A WRITER'S TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

This season tends to get a bit crazy when you run a bakery. And are working on a rewrite of your latest manuscript. And trying to keep a maniacal cat from destroying your Christmas tree. And trying to get a homicidal chihuahua to sit still in his Christmas outfit long enough to get a picture to give to his Nana. And trying to get Christmas cards out to friends and family all over the world. And ... well, you get the picture.

At times like this I really wish I had a Magic Fairy in my corner. A Housecleaning Fairy would be nice. A Christmas Gift Buying and Wrapping Fairy would be helpful. A Personal Chef and Physical Trainer Fairy would be great, especially if he looked like Gerard Butler. (If he looks like Gerard Butler who the heck cares if he can cook?)

So, at this magical time of the year, what sort of Magic Fairy would you wish for? And here is my take on what a Writing Fairy might bring me, if such a thing exists. Quick! Clap your hands if you believe in a Writing Fairy! Maybe she'll show up!




The Twelve Days of a Writer’s Christmas

The first day of Christmas I wish the Writing Fairy would give to me – AN EDITOR who LOVES my stories!

The second day of Christmas I wish the Writing Fairy would give to me – TWO Characters who hate each other and take exactly 95,000 words to fall in love and AN EDITOR who LOVES my stories.

The third day of Christmas I wish the Writing Fairy would give to me – THREE Rita nominations, TWO Characters who hate each other and take exactly 95,000 words to fall in love and AN EDITOR who LOVES my stories.

The fourth day of Christmas I wish the Writing Fairy would give to me – FOUR New York Times bestsellers, THREE Rita nominations, TWO Characters who hate each other and take exactly 95,000 words to fall in love and AN EDITOR who LOVES my stories!

The fifth day of Christmas I wish the Writing Fairy would give to me – FIVE Books already written and ready to sell. FOUR New York Times bestsellers, THREE Rita nominations, TWO Characters who hate each other and take exactly 95,000 words to fall in love and AN EDITOR who Loves my stories!

The sixth day of Christmas I wish the Writing Fairy would give to me – SIX Offers on my next manuscript, FIVE Books already written and ready to sell, FOUR New York Times bestsellers, THREE Rita nominations, TWO Characters who hate each other and take exactly 95,000 words to fall in love and AN EDITOR who Loves my stories!

The seventh day of Christmas I wish the Writing Fairy would give to me – SEVEN Days of uninterrupted writing, SIX Offers on my next manuscript, FIVE Books already written and ready to sell, FOUR New York Times bestsellers, THREE Rita nominations, TWO Characters who hate each other and take exactly 95,000 words to fall in love and AN EDITOR who LOVES my stories!

The eighth day of Christmas I wish the Writing Fairy would give to me – An Extra EIGHT Hours each day just for writing, SEVEN Days of uninterrupted writing, SIX Offers on my next manuscript, FIVE Books already written and ready to sell, FOUR New York Times bestsellers, THREE Rita nominations, TWO Characters who hate each other and take exactly 95,000 words to fall in love and AN EDITOR who LOVES my stories.

The ninth day of Christmas I wish the Writing Fairy would give to me – NINE new research books on Regency England, An Extra EIGHT hours each day just for writing, SEVEN days of uninterrupted writing, SIX Offers on my next manuscript, FIVE Books already written and ready to sell, FOUR New York Times bestsellers, THREE Rita nominations, TWO Characters who hate each other and take exactly 95,000 words to fall in love and AN EDITOR who LOVES my stories.

The tenth day of Christmas I wish the Writing Fairy would give to me – TEN Trips to writing conferences all expenses paid, NINE New research books on Regency England, An extra EIGHT Hours each day just for writing, SEVEN Days of uninterrupted writing, SIX Offers on my next manuscript, FIVE Books already written and ready to sell, FOUR New York Times bestsellers, THREE Rita nominations, TWO Characters who hate each other and take exactly 95,000 words to fall in love and AN EDITOR who LOVES my stories.

The eleventh day of Christmas I wish the Writing Fairy would give to me – ELEVEN Heroes who are too mad, bad and dangerous to know, TEN Trips to writing conferences all expenses paid, NINE New research books on Regency England, An extra EIGHT Hours each day just for writing, SEVEN Days of uninterrupted writing, SIX Offers on my next manuscript, FIVE Books already written and ready to sell, FOUR New York Times bestsellers, THREE Rita nominations, TWO Characters who hate each other and take exactly 95,000 words to fall in love and AN EDITOR who LOVES my stories.

The twelfth day of Christmas I wish the Writing Fairy would give to me – TWELVE Days and Nights with Richard Armitage (for research purposes, of course!) ELEVEN Heroes who are too mad, bad and dangerous to know, TEN Trips to writing conferences all expenses paid, NINE New research books on Regency England, An extra EIGHT Hours each day just for writing, SEVEN Days of uninterrupted writing, SIX Offers on my next manuscript, FIVE Books already written and ready to sell, FOUR New York Times bestsellers, THREE Rita nominations, TWO Characters who hate each other and take exactly 95,000 words to fall in love and AN EDITOR who LOVES my stories.


Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years to some of the best writers and greatest ladies ever to come out of the South!

Dear Santa...

Dear Santa Claus,

Hey! It's Naima! How's Mrs. Claus doing? Wonderful woman you have there! And the elves? They treating you right? The singing isn't getting on your nerves, is it? Cause all that whistling while you work could really work a sista's nerves...oops. Wait. Wrong little people.

Anyhoo...Santa, I've been awesome this year! *Ahem* Great. *Cough* Well, pretty good. And so I'm sending you my wish list of what I'd like this Christmas. I only want one thing, Santa. Peace on earth and joy for all men...HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAH!!! Whew! *knuckling tear from eye* Okay, seriously, Santa, here's the real list:

1. Patience. I've requested this every year but I think there must be a hole in your sack. I'm not complaining or anything. But, Santa, my supply ran dry a long time ago and since my husband and kids stop whispering every time I walk in the room and slide me these long glances, I'm guessing they're planning a coup. I really need it this year.

2. A clue. Not for me but for the hubby. I compose a list every year of acceptable presents, including size, color and location. I even sort them 1 through 10, in order of preference. Now, I appreciate creativity and forward thinking as much as the next person but, Santa, can you put a big, neon clue in his Christmas stocking that he is not to be thoughtful and deviate from the list? When he does I end up with stuff that I need a receipt and 30 day return policy for.

3. Vin Diesel. Still not complaining here, but I've asked for him year after year, too, but yet every Christmas morning he isn't standing in my shower, water pouring down over his rock hard pecs and abs, just glistening from clean-shaven head to big, BIG feet...Last year you left a note with something about my husband, but really, Santa, what does that have to do with the price of tea in China?

4. Domestic ability. Frankly, Santa, I put this on the list because my husband is leaning over my shoulder, breathing in my ear--and not in a sexy way. If there isn't room in my Christmas stocking for this, I understand. You're a busy man and Vin takes up a lot of room...

Well, that's all I have this year. Not too greedy, right? I can't wait until Christmas Eve and hey, tell Mrs. Claus I have plenty more of those books to keep her warm while you're out and about on the 24th! *wink*
Sincerely,
Naima

P.S.--Last year you left quality time for the DH and I. Here's what we did with it:



Hiya!! I'm giving away a free download of my new short story, Claiming Christmas, along with a small gift! Just leave a comment about what you'd like to see under your tree this Christmas morning and I'll randomly choose a winner!

Check out Claiming Christmas :




Merry Christmas, everyone!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Taking a Chance or No Chance?

Are you adventurous? Normally a risk taker? Or, are you paralyzed by indecision, studying the situation backwards and forwards, afraid to act for fear of getting it wrong?

It has been said if you risk much you may gain much. I had never been a particular advocate of this type of thinking until twelve years ago. That was when I quit my well-paying job, moved across country to a town I knew nothing about, and opened a small business. Turns out this was the best move I almost never made. The business has endured and at the same time, has allowed me time to write that as yet, undiscovered, great American novel.

In keeping with the spirit of the holidays, Christy Reece has generously donated a copy of her novel, No Chance, to the person who shares the biggest chance they have ever taken. It didn't have to turn out well. The fact that you took a chance is enough. Christy will be reading the comments as they come in to the blog. She will pick the winner and announce her/his name on December 23 on this site.

Take a chance, post your response. You just might win an autographed book from one of our best authors.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Romance Magician Carla Swafford

Carla Swafford’s a lithe twenty-nine year old with long auburn hair and sparkling dark eyes who loves dancing with her gypsy friends. Geez! Can you tell I love writing fiction? Now for the real stuff. I live in Birmingham and love being a member of all three Alabama RWA chapters. I’m a two-time GRW Maggie finalist and feel I’m so close to being published, I’m tempted to buy the little gold stickers that read “Autographed Copy.”


For information about me and my books go to http://www.carlaswafford.com/.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I Want A White Christmas

I want snow for Christmas.

I grew up in the Midwest, where the first snow was always celebrated by us kids, even if it was in the middle of October or November. I loved to see the snow accumulate, although my parents did not (Shoveling was and is never the favored activity).

The one thing I disliked was the sub-zero temperatures. There was a winter once when we were getting minus 75 below Fahrenheit. That is so cold it hurts, engines freeze, and you do not want to be outside.

Now I live in the South and I adore it. The winters are mild. Sometimes too mild. I like the cold (or getting chilly) because it kills the bugs and it reminds me of Christmas.

Yes. I still want snow for Christmas.

I want three feet of snow, enough to build snowmen, cover the trees, make the air sound so quiet as the snow falls you can hear yourself breathe. It makes you appreciate the hot chocolate and snuggling indoors.

Unfortunately, what I'll probably get is rain, or worse an Ice Storm. All the cold without the benefit.

What would like for this Holiday Season? Do you want snow just for Christmas? Or something different?

Since it is getting so chilly out there I'd like to help get everyone in the festive mood! I am giving away books. I will award them both randomly tomorrow (December 13, Monday). Please check the comment section for the winner.

I have an e-book, "Lying Eyes" by Amy Atwell (This is open to anyone, inside and outside the U.S) This should be a nice and toasty read.

Now for those of you, who miss summer, I have a YA book, "Endless Summer" by Jennifer Echols (This is can only be given to someone within the continental U.S.).

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Saturday Gift!

It is Saturday.

If you're not working--you may be cleaning, shopping, or some doing some other type of chore. Maybe you're lucky and going to a party.

Perhaps you're not feeling well?

I have just the remedy--I am giving away a Barnes & Noble $10 gift card to someone who comments on this blog. (One draw back, you have to be in the Continental U.S. to get the Card--But be here tomorrow I have an E-book to give away and it doesn't matter where you are!)

My question of the day is: What gets you into a festive mood? A movie? A book? Hot drink?

Winner to be announced tomorrow in the comment section of this post.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bring On Christmas!


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Christmas Romances

I've been wondering about something lately and thought maybe someone out there could clue me in. I find it interesting how strongly people feel about Christmas romance books. It seems they love or hate them. What's that about? Anyone?

I can’t say I feel strongly about Christmas romance books. I don’t think I’ve ever read one. So I'm making a point of it to read one or two this season. I'm looking for something to knock my socks off. Something so sweet I'll need a box of tissues to get through it.

If you're into Christmas romance books or know someone who is, I'd love it if you'd leave a comment with a recommendation.

Monday, December 06, 2010

IN THE MOOD

Before I became a writer, I thought writers sat down at their desks, took out their pens or booted up their laptops, cracked their knuckles and began to write. Just like that, the words flowing in a never ending stream from the writer’s brain onto the paper or screen, novels springing forth fully formed like Athena from Zeus’s head. Effortless. Seamless. Easy.

As if.

Writing is hard work, as I have since learned. It is also deeply rewarding at a visceral level to create something, to pull it kicking and screaming out of your creative self like a newborn child.

One reason, perhaps, that we writers continue to put ourselves through this torture.

I try to write every day. I don’t always achieve this goal, especially during the holiday season, but if I’m not writing everyday I’m thinking about it. At work, at home, in the car. Mulling characters and scenes over in my head, worrying about NOT writing as I bake and clean and do sundry other tasks that don’t—gasp! heresy!—involve writing.

Most days, it’s like pulling teeth. Some days—and they are few and far between—the words come easily. I don’t have rituals like some writers I know. I don’t listen to music or light a scented candle. I don’t brew myself a cup of tea before I sit down to write, or don a particular hat or sit in a particular spot. I work full time and I have a brilliant, talented, demanding fourteen-year-old daughter who requires my attention and a husband who is stretched to the max, too. I lead a very busy life. I have to write when and where I can.

Or . . . er . . . TRY to write.

I guess the closest thing I have to a ritual is that I always go back and reread the previous chapter to put me in the mood. This also allows me to take a fresh look at what I’ve written, to see the words with new eyes and to tweak them. I am an inveterate tweaker.

I write at home propped up on my bed with my miniature Dachshund warming my feet. Or I write at work on my lunch hour or after hours at Books-A-Million or in the car while I wait for my DD, or late at night after everyone else in the house is asleep. I write at my church on the weekends to escape the telephone, and the sound of the television in the living room, and the hubby playing war games on the computer. If our little town had a Starbucks, I’d live there. But, alas, we do not. Too podunk.

So I sit and I write wherever, whenever, with a glass of iced tea or diet coke (or a glass of red wine and a bowl of ice cream if it’s a love scene!) at my side.

What about you? What rituals or triggers do you employ to rouse your recalcitrant and uncooperative muse from slumber and put her to work? How do you make the words flow or, if you’re anything like me, trickle onto the page?

What gets you in the mood?

Oh, and in the spirit of Christmas and our December give-aways, one lucky person who comments on this post will win a Starbuck's gift card. Drawing and winner announced tomorrow!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Romance Magician Lisa Dunick

Lisa Dunick is a recovering academic who recently moved to Birmingham, Alabama. After spending almost a decade reading, studying, writing about, and teaching in universities across the mid-west, her new motto is, those who can't teach, do. She now works as a freelance writer and editor when she's not pounding away at her newest manuscript, a supernatural romantic suspense.

You can follow her adventures in living, dining, and writing in the South at http://www.northernaggressions.com/.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

On My List of Things to Do, Shopping is at the Bottom

Every year, I find myself smack dab in the middle of the holidays with a million things to do.  Shopping always gets shoved to the bottom of the list.  Work pushes its crabby way to the top, insisting on priority status (the nerve!).  I've made a concerted effort to put writing immediately below work, and that is much harder than it sounds.  Cleaning, a task I loathe, detest and abhor, keeps screaming out for attention.  I can't ignore it.  What if someone actually shows up at my house?  How do you explain to someone they can't come in because you live in a pig sty?  We aren't even going to talk about cooking.  If one of you so much as mentions a Martha Stewart cookie recipe that is a perfect homemade gift, you will be on my Naughty list.  

That leaves shopping as the neglected item on the to-do list.  For the last three years, I have tested Amazon's delivery promise.  Last year, we got down to the wire.  My mother's gift arrived on Christmas Eve (but it arrived).  I swore this year would be different. I'd get my shopping done before Thanksgiving.  I think we all know how that plan worked out.  I haven't resorted to doing my shopping at a convenience store on Christmas morning, yet.  So I am hitting Amazon for one last year.

I would love to hear how everyone manages to balance writing, life and the holidays.  I am open to any and all time management suggestions!  At 8:00 tonight (Alabama/Central time) I am going to number all of the comments, and pick a winner at random for a $15 Amazon gift card (so you can join me in last minute online shopping)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

DECEMBER KICK-OFF

Are you ready for Christmas?

In the spirit of the season many of us here at Romance Magicians Blog have decided to celebrate this month with giving away books and prizes.

Our hope is to bring a bright spot into your life. We may not be able to take what weighs upon you this month, but we can make you smile.


There is only one caveat: Prizes can only be sent within the continental United States, and Canada (I apologize, shipping becomes prohibitive after that). The only exception is Electronic prizes (We have a few of those! So make sure you check!)

So come check out the blogs this month, you never know what you will find or win!

To kick it off, I am giving a book away to someone who posts a reply to this. It is a Christmas Anthology--
REGENCY CHRISTMAS PROPOSALS, with stories by by Gayle Wilson, Amanda McCabe, and Carol Mortimer. --a Perfect way to start the season.

The prize winner to announced tomorrow, December 2.
(I will put all the names in a hat and pull out a name randomly).

May this season bring good things for you!
**Winners announced in the comments section--Congrats to the winners! ***
***IF YOU DON'T CLAIM YOUR PRIZE IN A WEEK (send email, etc) IT WILL BE GIVEN TO SOMEONE ELSE***

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A view from the castle ramparts

I’m writing this under siege.

Since I signed the first check July 7 to cover the framing materials for the addition to our circa 1894 cottage, I’ve had the contractor or some member of his crew dropping by every day. Or almost every day. At a specified or unspecified time.

The contractor gave us a six-week completion estimate. My husband and I, experienced in this game, scoffed and allowed for twelve. In this, the twenty-second week, our countenances grow long.

Way back in the beginning, the appearance of framing crew was exciting, despite the intermittent whine of saws and the bang of nail guns. More difficult to tune out was the post-adolescent guy who liked to sing. And giggle.

Our heavily-accented ditch-digging foundation specialist doesn’t think much of the current wave of immigrants, but he was a hard-working charmer, fit enough to qualify as a Blaze cover model. The plumber was a congenial fellow, as was the HVAC guy. The longsuffering city building inspector, who yearns to retreat to his acreage near Gadsden, was a fine man.

During this half year, the painter and his assistant/girlfriend accepted that their long-term cohabitation qualifies as a common law marriage. The trim work assistant advanced to a full-time position with the contractor. The contractor sold his rental property in Tuscaloosa and his salvaged his marriage. Maybe these happy endings signal that the work will soon be done.

I’ve hoisted several white flags, and it appears that I might be writing the final check this week. Or at least by next week.

The payoff for all this story material I've collected won’t arrive until I get the source material out of here. Then, I expect to resume a normal, regular and productive writing schedule. Or to be distracted by the holidays. I have to furnish the new room before company arrives!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Staying Focused

I started writing mostly as a lark.  I had ideas and wanted to see if I could do it--finish a book beginning to end.

I did.  I liked it.  Okay, I loved it when I was writing. 

But now I'm staring at the blank page again.  I have ideas.  Really, I have way too many ideas--a historical, a YA supernatural, the sequel to my first manuscript, a new contemporary.  I have characters floating around and keeping me up at night, but I'm not writing.

So much for National Novel Writing Month. 

I'm hoping that it's just stress.  The move has finally caught up with us.  I still haven't found a job that pays anything worthwhile.  Holiday pressure is already building.  And I miss my old life more than I ever expected to.

I just can't seem to focus.

I have the time-- five hours, three times a week without the kids--and I'm not writing a word. 

So what helps you keep focused?  What keeps you motivated to keep your fingers on the keyboard when everything else feels like too much?  What keeps your butt in the chair?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Blurting (Better than Burping) Out Blurbs in the Burbs

Couldn’t resist that title. Gets your attention doesn’t it. LOL!

Blurbs are a funny thing. The book I’m reading right now had a pretty good blurb, but so far I’ve had to push myself to keep reading after the first chapter. The author has several books with the same publisher. So we know the editor likes them, but there’s no pizzazz. The sexual tension gets lost in the plot. They’re running around trying to figure out who killed a woman but so far they have five candidates. Considering this book is a small one, that’s way too many. It actually drags down the story.

Out of curiosity, I sat down and read the blurbs on a few of my favorite books and realized, if I hadn’t liked the author so much, I probably wouldn’t have bought the book.

Blurbs can be misleading and they're so hard to do for some authors. Or is that marketing departments?

Around a year ago, I bought a book from a well-known author I had read a time or two. Nothing in the blurb or the cover indicated it was a sci-fi. I couldn't enjoy it because, first, I don't normally care to read sci-fi, and second, I felt betrayed. It took me a while before I would try another book from that author.

I remember talking to one author whose romantic suspense had a hero who was unknown and mostly unseen by the heroine for three-quarters of the book. The heroine fell in love with his voice and touch despite how afraid she was of him. The blub actually gave away his identity. The author was furious. Certainly not her fault. Thankfully the reprint corrected that. I have the reprint and love it.

Blubs are like walking a tightrope. You don't want to give out too much information but giving out too little and misleading a reader can alienate her too.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Job or a Joy?


When I first started writing fiction, it was like a game for me. There was an element of pure elation in sitting down in front of a keyboard (a typewriter, when I first started), and tapping out characters, scenes and stories that seemed to come from the very ether. I easily entered what I came to call "the zone" and stayed there, sometimes for hours, cocooned in storytelling bliss.

Then I started writing for publication. The zone was still there, and I could still enter it pretty regularly, but things like page count, hooks, chapter cliffhangers and turning points began intruding on the transportive pleasure of writing just for myself.

I soon came across a nightmare called "the synopsis." I learned about preferred fonts, double-spacing, query letters and the difference between ordinary rejections and the much-coveted "revise and resubmit" letter.

And then I sold.

The veil was lifted. I was no longer writing for the fun of it. It was now an endeavor that involved deadlines and edits, proposals and proofs. I was supposed to pitch new ideas regularly to my editor, even when I had unfinished projects already on my agenda. Editors wanted me to produce three or four books a year. More, if I could make it happen. They wanted back-to-back trilogies and, oh, by the way, the line is putting together a six-book miniseries and we'd like you to write one of the books. It would look good to the higher-ups in the company if you're seen as a team player.

Suddenly, I'm writing blog posts, trying to remember to update my Facebook status and take time to tweet my latest release. I have galley edits due in two weeks and a book due in two months. My editor wants me to come up with a new multi-book proposal ASAP to get on the 2012 schedule, and on my own, I'm working with two other authors on a Christmas 2012 anthology.

Now it's crystal clear: writing is a job. I have to work every day, plan to write when I'm not actually writing, track my receipts and expenses for tax season and figure out the best way to promote a book (or three) that will be on most book shelves a maximum of two weeks.

Yup, definitely a job.

But can it still be a joy?

Yes, it can. There are still times when I find myself transported to that beautiful place called the zone, when the story in my head plays out in vivid color like a great movie, pouring from my soul to my fingertips almost effortlessly.

But there are also plenty of times when I can't find my way anywhere near the zone. Yet the book must still be written.

That's where the job comes in. I wish I had formed better work habits earlier in my career. I managed only four books in my first four years as a published author. But I managed to navigate that steep learning curve to get to a more prolific place in my career. I persevered—as all writers do, sooner or later—because the joy in writing was still worth it.

Everything worth doing requires effort. Even something we love.

Maybe especially something we love.

So is writing still pure joy for you? Or have you also come to see it as a job? How do you keep the job part of writing from stealing your joy in the process?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Author Interview: Kieran Kramer



Please welcome Kieran Kramer, debut author of the Regency historical romance WHEN HARRY MET MOLLY. In the two weeks since its release, her book has already reached the USA Today Bestseller list, and after reading the book I understand why. I met Kieran in Orlando at RWA10, and was immediately struck by her friendly, upbeat attitude. We kept in touch, and she graciously agreed to answer a few questions for today’s post.

Here’s a quick bio:
Kieran Kramer, a former CIA employee, journalist, and English teacher, lives in the Lowcountry of SC with her family. Game show veteran, karaoke enthusiast, and general adventurer, her motto is, "Life rewards action." Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and at www.kierankramerbooks.com.

GH: Tell us a little about the Impossible Bachelors series.

KK: Four Regency gentlemen who are experts at avoiding the marriage altar wind up falling in love! The series is light, funny, sweet, sexy, and even poignant in places. My goal when writing the series was to have fun as I wrote. I dearly hope you, my readers, will have fun as you read them.

GH: I loved the premise for Molly and Harry’s story. It’s not always easy to say where our ideas come from, but was there any particular inspiration for their story that
you’d like to share? Or maybe a spark of a scene or character that got it started?

KK: I knew that I wanted to have a beauty pageant of some sort back in the Regency era. That was where the whole idea started. So how could I pull that off? I came up with the idea of a competition between mistresses, and I knew that one of them had to be a fish out of water, like Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality.

GH: Your books are chock full of fun, and that’s reflected in the titles. Did you get to choose them, or help?

KK: When I submitted my proposal to my agent and then to my editor, I had come up with some very unusual titles. I wanted them to be sassy and fun and fresh. We wound up keeping one out of
four of the originals, which was WHEN HARRY MET MOLLY. The rest we came up with together. We throw ideas back and forth and have a lot of fun. It's a great feeling when we find a title we all love!

GH: What element of writing do you feel you struggle with most, and how do you overcome it?

KK: Plotting. I spend hours and hours thinking and getting nowhere because I have too many ideas. And then I'll walk myself into corners and give up and start over the next day. The only thing that has made plotting palatable to me is Blake Snyder's book series, SAVE THE CAT. That adds a huge dimension of fun to plotting. I like it, and it helps me a lot to use his 40-scene structure storyboard.

But in the end, it's really just me and my imagination, feeling lonely, scared, and frustrated, not knowing what I'm going to do next.

GH: So I’m not the only one! I’m reading SAVE THE CAT right now and already wishing I’d picked it up a long time ago. You obviously managed to plot a winner with WHEN HARRY MET MOLLY. Did your editor request any major changes before publishing the book?

KK: Oh, sure. I had a mistress contest or two that I had to either tweak or drop because I wrote this book WAY long!

GH: Did anything surprise you about the publishing process?

KK: Definitely. I knew nothing about what went on behind the scenes. I've learned it takes a great team to publish a book, and I'm super grateful for mine at St. Martin's Press.

GH: You have such an interesting background. Former CIA agent--is agent the right word?--game show winner, journalist, bar maid in Scotland. Do you have any idea what influenced your decision to write romance, and specifically historical?

KK: Good question about the CIA. At the real CIA, no one is called a CIA agent. That's movie talk. James Bond, if he worked for the CIA, would be called a case officer. I was hired as a career trainee (CT), which was a big honor—you're basically selected for specialized training that very few people at the CIA receive. I was in the same CT class as Valerie Plame. We slogged through trenches together at the Farm and slept in the same quonset hut for a couple months. Incidentally, I can't believe she's having a movie made about her. I can't wait to see it. She was very together…very confident. I'm NEVER that girl. I'm always the one who trips over her feet or says the wrong thing. I often did that in the CIA, and you know what? I love that goofy younger version of myself. I was fully involved in everything I did there. I tried. I was adventurous. I occasionally embarrassed myself. But that's okay. I like that I'm all right with stepping out and messing up and starting over again.

Looking back on the other stuff—game show winner, journalist, bar maid (and college student) in Scotland—I don't think any of that influenced my decision to write historical romance. What influenced me most was my love of reading, my love of books.

A lot of my sense that life offers endless possibilities comes from my immersion, as a kid, in the world of story. The irony is, I applied that principle of believing in endless possiblilities to the pursuit of a career in story, specifically in writing romance novels.

GH: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

KK: Yes. Start from a strong foundation. By that, I think it's important that you know yourself and like yourself before you write a story. Why? Because if you don't believe in yourself—if you think you're unworthy in some way—what you write won't be a good story as much as it will be either a strained attempt to prove yourself to the world or an apology of some sort. The best stories are those that don't exercise your demons. The best ones are those that come from a solid Truth that you know, from a place inside you that's deep and protected from the whims of the moment, or the viccisitudes of life.

Yes, you need your brain to help you put your story's plot together, but you need your gut more than your head—and so you need to be able to trust yourself. This is essential. Trust your instincts. Embrace who you are and be excited about shining your unique light on the world. That sort of enthusiasm is interesting and attractive. That will win you an audience.

Another way to say this is, don't be your own worst enemy. If you are constantly sabotaging yourself, become aware of your patterns—work at emphasizing the positive and releasing the negative until you come to an honest acceptance of who you are. Be gentle with yourself while you try to alleviate or work around your weaknesses—and be proud of your strengths.

When you approach writing with this attitude, you can't help but write strong. Powerful words, powerful stories—whether they're humorous, dark, complex, or simple—flow from the minds of people who claim their place in the world. Imagine thinking along these lines: "I'm here, and I have no need to prove anything to anyone—I'm much more interested in noticing these cool/interesting/poignant/funny/dark things about the world that I want to share with you because I can. I want to interact, to share, to participate in life!"

Writing stories is living. It's living in the moment and living to the fullest. It means we're here right now and we're engaging, being a part of the world. So pat yourself on the back for taking that extra step forward, for daring to put pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard and writing. You're brave. You're reaching out. You're trying to connect. So many people don't even attempt that. So believe in the rightness of your purpose. Write your stories. They're important. All the stories we write connect us to each other, and there's no higher purpose than that.

Thanks so much for joining us Kieran!
---
We have a copy of WHEN HARRY MET MOLLY, and an ARC of DUKES TO THE LEFT OF ME, PRINCES TO THE RIGHT to give away, so be sure to leave a comment before Monday at midnight EST! Kieran will try to check in periodically if anyone has questions.

Look for WHEN HARRY MET MOLLY on bookshelves now, and DUKES TO THE LEFT OF ME, PRINCES TO THE RIGHT coming November 30th. To learn more, visit www.kierankramerbooks.com.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Necessary Losses

I've been at this writing game for a few years now. Not as many as some, but definitely longer than others. My level of commitment and time to this wonderful and crazy obsession has increased steadily over the years. I'm not just writing stories for myself anymore. I'm writing, revising, submitting, going to conferences, pitching, taking online classes, attending meetings, going to workshops, moderating online workshops, blogging, twittering, facebooking (is that a verb?), networking, and entering contests.

I'm spending a lot of time writing which means I've had to cut some things from my life. Here are the necessary losses I've incurred as I've grown as a writer who is actively trying to get published:

*Regular manicures and pedicures. I only get them prior to a conference and even then I cheat cause my fingernails are so short and stubby now it is a "why bother to use any other color than clear" kind of moment for me.

*Scrapbooking. I used to scrapbook once a week with a friend. I'd go to the store and buy paper and notions and plan out beautiful pages. Most of my scrapbooks have a lot of writing in them. Scrapbooking is my first foray back into writing. I still drool over paper and make cutesy things but I don't fill entire scrapbooks anymore. That's why the Mac and making albums online was invented.

*Long lunches and shopping with friends. I used to go for long walks and talks up north with a dear friend. Now? Well, I'd walk and talk still, but we also used to go for lunch once a week and explore the area together at least twice a month along with our walks. Now? Well, I'd schedule it, but it would be less frequent due to all the writing I am doing.

*Long talks on the phone. I let the phone ring till the answering machine picks up. I still have long talks with long distance friends, but I tend to use my walk time as talk time now. I multi-task. There are two or three people that I will drop all my work for if they call. They know who they are. But for the most part, I am typing on my computer.

*Uber volunteer mom duties at church and at the darling daughter's school. Now I keep it to a minimum. In fact, I stopped going to church on a regular basis just to avoid getting sucked into the volunteer vortex. I know. Selfish. But I still read my bible, pray, and love God. I just don't want to get stuck in "Martha Land" again. And those of you who read and study the bible know exactly who Martha is--she was that sister in the kitchen doing all the cooking and cleaning while her sister Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus loving Him and adoring Him. I guess I am "Mary" now. I can love and adore Him at home or when I am outside walking in His glorious world.

*Putting up with negative people. If someone isn't positive or edifying in my life, I tend to cut that person out pretty quick. I need positivity. I crave it. This business is tough enough without having a Negative Nellie whining about life or putting my dreams down. I don't have patience for that kind of stuff anymore. Course this could just be because I am getting older and pickier about my friendships. There's only so much time in the day. Why waste it with someone who isn't fun or positive?

Those are the main things that I have given up. They were necessary losses because I had to cut them in order to make room for the new growth in my life. I think the most important thing I weeded out was the impact of negative people.

So what about you? What necessary losses have you incurred to pursue your dream?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Secret Engagement

What keeps you engaged in a book?

Oh, I know the front cover might have enticed you to pick it up. Or maybe it was what you read on the back cover. Or maybe it's an "automatic buy" because you love the author's other books. But what keeps you turning the pages, staying up late at night to finish a chapter, and leaving the laundry piled beside the washing machine just so you can find out what happens next?

Recently, I recommended one of my favorite books to a co-worker who is also working on her master's degree. I was a little worried when I loaned it to her because we have very different tastes in many things. I thought there was a good chance she would not be as enthralled as I had been with this book.

I gave her the book on Friday, and on Monday she appeared at my desk with a scowl on her face. "If I fail anatomy this semester, it's going to be your fault. I cannot put that book down!" We launched into an intense discussion about how the author had sucked us in. For me, it was the perfect recipe of character, plot, and detail. For my friend, it was voice and the eloquent writing style.

How about you? What keeps you in the book?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

NAME THAT BLOG!!

Okay. I wanted to do something different this month and thought a give-away would be fun.

I'm always interested in finding new blogs and/or pages that deal with writing. So, in the comments section, let me know what some of your favorites are and why you like them (no worries - it could be simply because it's a fun read).

In exchange, I'm giving away a $10 BAMM gift card. Your comment will be numbered in the order it is posted. I will draw a number from a bowl for the winner. (Thanks in advance to my "bowl-holder" Jeanie!!!)

The contest will close at the end of the day and I will draw a winner first thing tomorrow morning. Good luck!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Is That a Gun in Your Pocket or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

Anyone who wasn’t there for Lyn Stone and Peggy Webb’s wonderful, funny and informative speeches on Saturday missed a real treat! These two ladies are two of the best romance has to offer and I learn something new from them every time I meet them.

This time I found Peggy’s talk about “triggers” to be somewhat intriguing. While I know we would all love to be able to fall asleep and dream half a novel (I really want to hate her for that, but she is just so darned cute and funny!) not many of us have that ability. BUT, I have a sneaky suspicion we all have the ability to find what our writing “triggers” are and make good use of them. Perhaps some of you already have!

I have discovered, for instance, that if I am driving along in my car and let my mind wander to any one of the stories percolating in my head, invariably I hear this great conversation or see this great scene in my head. Fabulous, right? Not so fabulous! Ever try to write down dialogue on a McDonald’s bag with an eyebrow pencil? That poor sheriff is probably STILL scratching his head! I did buy a little mini recorder for just that reason. And as soon as I figure out how to operate it I’ll be in business. So, one of my triggers is driving in my car. Got it.

I also find that if I am busier than the devil in a high wind at work my characters INSIST on piping up with some vital bit of information that they think I just have to write down at once. Fortunately I always have a pocketful of index cards handy. The girls in the bakery are used to seeing me stop in mid-sentence, hold up a hand and scribble something down before I continue whatever it was I was doing. Trigger? Who knows! Bread baking. Kids screaming. Really BAD fashion statements. Something amid the hustle and bustle of Walmart sends me to Regency England.

Now, where it becomes more difficult is when I have no trigger at all. Nothing. Zippo. Not just no trigger – no gun, no bullets. I might as well be at an anti-NRA rally! As if I’ve been strip-searched at the Frankfurt airport by a big security guard named Helga and had everything that even LOOKS like it might have a trigger thrown in the trash and been sent merrily on my way with a nice Wiedersehn from my current WIP.

That’s where Peggy Webb’s mention of writing triggers comes in. If none of my automatic triggers works then I just have to come up with some triggers on my own. Sounds easy, right? Well let me see. I do have to have tea to write. Milo’s iced tea (sweetened, of course, are you nuts?) in warm weather and Earl Gray when the weather is colder. No tea, no write. Sometimes I need music – particularly for love scenes or scenes of great emotional conflict. Instrumental music – no words. I haven’t tried lighting candles or anything of that nature, but maybe I should.

So, what are your writing triggers? What helps you to sit in the chair and pour your heart out onto the page? What helps you to get jump started when nothing else seems to work. Let’s talk about triggers, y’all. Being Southern Belles we know all about guns and ammo. What sorts of things will help us all to bag that book contract, that agent, that contest win or the prize buck of them all – that NYT Bestseller? Ready. Aim. Fire Away!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

People Watching

Take a cruise--get material for your next manuscript.

At least that is how I will justify it when I give the information to my accountant. To my way of thinking, it should be okay to write off the expense of the trip. I spent most of the day laying by the pool people watching. Well, that doesn't account for the breaks I took to get breakfast, a snack, lunch, a snack and a couple of adult beverages but I needed to keep up my strength.

With my shades in place, I religiously maintained my vigil, keenly observing my fellow passengers as they enjoyed the trip. My husband accused me of being a slug. No, no, I assured him. I'm getting material for my next book.

I identified the newly married. They were attached at the hip to their spouse; while all the time, gazing lovingly into each other's eyes. The single set was also easy to identify. Both males and females were dressed to be noticed and consuming one after another adult beverage without a comment as to their cost. I know for a fact that all of them must still be living at home, because no one with rent or a mortgage to pay could afford the number of drinks they guzzled at $9.75 per pop.

On day two at sea I delved deeper into my research. I now began to guess the vocation of each of my fellow cruisers. One group of middle aged women had to be sorority sisters holding a reunion. An elderly man and woman appeared to be celebrating some milestone wedding anniversary. They even acted alike. One very uptight man was surely an accountant. He wore a long sleeved shirt the whole time and was never seen without his laptop.

Finally, there were the LSU fans. They were impossible to miss; walking arrogantly around in their purple and gold jerseys. I decided they were not to my liking and would never be a part of my next book as I watched the Alabama-LSU game on that sad Saturday afternoon. When it finished playing out, I headed for an adult beverage or two. The heck with what it cost--I needed consolation!

Later I would find that the group of women were not sorority sisters, but neighbors in a subdivision, the elderly man and woman were not a couple, they were siblings and the accountant was actually a pest control inspector who just loved his laptop.

I think I might need to do some additional research. Now, if only I can afford another vacation to perfect my skills.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Romance Magician Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey's writing for hire has appeared online, in numerous U.S. newspapers and in mailboxes across the U.S. and Canada. The hopeful author-to-be is circulating a completed manuscript featuring a political consultant who combats fraud on the campaign trail. And continuing to write.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Self Worth

Our self worth is tied to our successes. We don't even recognize it until we flunk a class or burn a meal. It is then that we face that wall of failure. How do we react? Anger? Depression? Sadness? Sometimes it's a combination of all. It may not even last long, just a glimmer of it sliding across our consciousness before we move on.

Think about it, every day we succeed at something. Even if it means that success is measured in getting to work on time or the socks are picked up. That is a triumph. As writers it is finishing the story, writing your pages, editing something that measures our success. Interestingly, we tend to focus on those successes in a fleeting way.

What we like to do is zero in our failures. We pick up the phone to call our friends or family to complain about what we did wrong; forgetting to call a client, losing your temper at work, or leaving your freshly made coffee in that special travel mug at home (sacrilege!). We even gather together over coffee to dwell on the rejections that arrived today or the judge in a contest that ripped the story apart.

With each negative thing our self worth, even our creativity takes a hit. Staggering we get back up, but the damage is done. The scar is there. As writers, the wounds are deep and we nurse them, even as we attack our stories to fix them and make them better, stronger. Just like that burned meal, when you remake it you remember what did not work. The next time it comes out perfectly.

The point? Keep writing.

In order to strengthen our failing self worth, we need to fortify our writing. The scars are still there, but if we allow the blows of negativity to bring us to our knees and we stop writing -- what was the point of starting in the first place?

Do you think someone like Julia Child could make the perfect French meal the first time she tried or the second, or third?

Every success comes from numerous hits to your self worth. You have to hit the bottom to appreciate what it looks like on top. It takes hard work and tenacity to get where you want to go.

Look at what you have accomplished: Have you finished a book or more? Have you plotted the next story? Determined characters? Reworked the scene? Sent out a partial? Have you taken a class to work on what you struggle with?

If you don't strive, you don't move. I'm going to move and drag my self worth along with me.

What kind of blows to your self worth have you taken recently? What are you doing to counter them?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Romance Magician Rashda Khan

Rashda Khan is a West Texas-based food enthusiast and writer. She teaches culinary classes and writes The Family Table column for her local newspaper. She also day dreams of hunky paranormal heroes, magic and mischief and writes them down as stories. Other than that, she's raising a family of two children, two cats, two dogs and a husband.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

New Author?

I love discovering a new author. I’m especially amazed when I read a great book and discover that my new author isn’t new at all, that his/her work has been on the bookshelves for years. Then it’s time to play catch-up.

I was privileged to see Lisa Kleypas speak a few years ago, and I started reading her shortly after. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge fan of historical romance, partly because I don’t write it. I'm in awe of those who do. Lisa writes historical romances like no other. I’m ALWAYS captured from that first page and riveted until the last. Her descriptions are wonderful, her characters unforgettable, and she seems to easily pull me into a world I never want to leave.

Have you discovered a new author recently? Maybe one you realized is not so new?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

HALLOWEEN-HYPHEN

Last week, I received my first ever copy edits from my editor at Kensington. The good news? No rewrites, only minor tweaking. Whew! The bad news? I discovered I am hyphen challenged. As in every single time I hyphenated a word, the editor took it out.


Now, I knew I was comma challenged. I use too many of the pesky little suckers or not enough, or I put them in the wrong place. But hyphens I thought I understood. Uh uh. Bonk. Wrong.

So, figuring I can’t be the only one with the problem, I thought I’d set out the rules for how and when to use a hyphen. Er. (growling noise)


Here are seven rules for hyphens taken from an article by Heather Marie Kosur at http://www.suite101.com/:


1. Use a hyphen between certain prefixes and suffixes, i.e., all-inclusive, ex-husband, and president-elect.

2. Use a hyphen in some compound nouns, such as T-shirt and mother-in-law.

3. Use a hyphen to join two or more coequal nouns, i.e. pairs of nouns that are equal in function. For example, actor-director, singer-songwriter.

4. Use a hyphen to join compound noun phrase modifiers that precede a noun especially when (1) adverbs such as better, best or ill modify an adjective, (2) the second word is a present participle or past participle of a verb, and (3) the compound modifier contains a number. For example, ill-equipped mechanic, blue-collar worker, third-floor suite, self-fulfilling prophecy, ballet-hating husband.

5. Use a hyphen to separate words in a phrase that is functioning as a noun phrase modifier that precedes a noun. For example, all-you-can-eat seafood buffet, out-of-this-world experience, over-the-counter medication.

6. Use a hyphen in numbers between twenty-one and ninety-nine, or to separate the numerator from the denominator in a fraction, as in one-half and two-thirds.

7. Use a hyphen to avoid confusion. For example, re-sign instead of resign, which have different meanings.


There, clear as mud? You can see why I remain a little confused on the subject.

So, it being Halloween and all, what grammar rules scare you?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Chosen by the Sheikh


My 4th book from Harlequin Presents officially releases on November 1st (though it's in stores now!). Chosen by the Sheikh is actually a Harlequin Presents 2-in-1 featuring stories by me and Kim Lawrence.

My story is called "Kept for the Sheikh's Pleasure." From the back cover: King Zafir bin Rashid al-Khalifa does not care for surprises like the reappearance of his ex, Dr Genie Gray! But now Zafir has the power to demand a willing Genie in his bed…

Zafir is my first sheikh. He’s as gorgeous and ruthless as you would expect a sheikh to be. But he’s also deeply emotional, and he’s been hurt before. When his ex-lover crashes into his life after ten years, he finds that he can’t quite let her go. Not without tasting her one more time.

Dr. Geneva Gray is an archaeologist who once loved a prince of the desert, but who walked away when she realized they could never be together in the way she wanted. Now, she’s been captured and given to Zafir as a gift—and the feelings she once pushed away are demanding to be dealt with before she can leave him a second time.

Naturally, nothing is as simple as either of them hope it will be. This is a reunion story -- and I love reunion stories! When two people have a passionate and emotional past, there's a lot of baggage to work through on the way to that happy end. It's never easy, but I promise it all works out in the end.

I'll be signing copies of Chosen by the Sheikh at Brooke's Book Stop in McCalla tomorrow, starting around 1PM! I hope to see some of you there!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Trial and Error

I'm in trial this week. It isn't nearly as glamorous as books and movies make it out.  There are no late night runs to follow a lead and find the witness that saves the day (because the court requires witnesses to be disclosed well in advance of trial and the trial schedule doesn't permit field trips). There isn't a smoking gun document that materializes at the ninth hour (again - the court requires exhibits to be disclosed well in advance of trial - a trial is more like a game of chess than poker). And there certainly isn't the Perry Mason moment where the witness collapses into a blob of gelatin and admits everything (I'm not saying witnesses lie, but I am saying there may be a few with a loose association with the truth). Being in a generally surly mood, this experience has me focusing on my literary pet peeves about the legal system:

1.  Counselor.  I am going to say this once and for all.  Lawyers do not call each other counselor.  Judges don't call us counselor.  I don't care what you hear Jack McCoy say on Law and Order, cut this word from your courtroom drama.  Everyone is referred to as Mr., Miss, Ms. or Mrs. So and So.  This is at the top of my list of things that will send a book flying toward the wall.  Be warned.

2.  The "Put Yourself in My Client's Shoes" Closing Argument.  I know you've seen the movie A Time To Kill.  That closing argument can be summed up in one word - Mistrial.  Or, if you are more verbose, we can can sum it up in two words - Reversible Error.  A lawyer is prohibited from asking a jury to put itself in the position of his or her client.  Can't do it.  If you write a closing argument with that in there, you will have an army of lawyers coming after you.  Considering that in most cities you can't swing a dead cat without five lawyers running up to you and threatening to sue for the dangerous condition you and your dearly departed feline are creating, avoid this error at all costs because a large portion of your audience will turn purple and start screaming.

3.  The "Rocket Docket."  Let me make this clear.  The wheels of justice move slowly.  Painfully so.  The case that has led to my trial was filed in early 2008.  It is now late 2010.  If your story deals with a civil case, this timing isn't unusual.  A lawyer with whom I am good friends has a simple employment termination case that has been in court for over fourteen years.  People don't walk into a lawyer's office with a claim and wind up in trial a few weeks or months later.  Remember, court clog exists and plagues many dockets.  Criminal cases tend to move a more quickly than civil cases due to the Constitutional promise of a fair and speedy trial, but do your research.  The more serious the crime, chances are, the time it will take to go to trial will be longer.  If you want your legal drama to be realistic, don't have a case going to trial within a month of a client walking in the door.

I will get off my soap box now and return to writing my closing argument which should have people weeping (considering my case focuses on the titillating topic of overtime payments, I am expecting stock in tissues to sky rocket).  As a self-absorbed attorney whose favorite subject is herself, I love reading stories that deal with the legal system.  It makes me feel more important.  A great character or story will excuse a few boo-boos, but if you plan on writing a courtroom drama, go watch a trial or two.  You can call your local court and find out the trial schedule.  Show up with a notepad in hand.  While the lawyers may seem like the best sources of information, you will get the best scoop from talking to the deputies, marshals, court reporters, and clerks.  They will have the best tidbits that will make your book shine.  Just today, one of the marshals told me about a juror coming back to the courthouse because he left his pants.  Now, that's a story!   

Monday, October 25, 2010

Overheard

One day, in an acceptance speech for some grand writing prize, I will express my gratitude to the many writing advisers who have licensed me to eavesdrop in the name of dialogue research.

Mid-morning in a coffee shop, two baristas and a customer discuss airport security hassles.

“Yeah, you can fly with a gun. You just have to pack it in a special case.”

Good to know.

Saturday afternoon at the airport, a man explains to a woman:

“You done a lot of time in school, but you ain’t learned all you need to know. What I’m saying is, there’s more than you know what you don’t know.”

Not that I could use this carefully recorded conversation verbatim, but there might be a place for a minor character whose way with words leaves the protagonist no more enlightened than she was before.

Friday morning before work, two guys in shirts and ties in a breakfast café reveal their plans:

“My wife’s going on a women’s retreat with the church.”

“All three kids all weekend? You’ll be exhausted.”

“They said I have to feed them, too.”

Unguarded conversation is a valuable aid to understanding the male perspective.

Sunday afternoon at the pet store check-out, a grandmother calls to her excited and bouncy elementary-age granddaughter:

“Get back here and carry your own damn hamster.”

Reality demonstrates how easy it is to create a villain.

At a public boat launch, three men wrestle a boat onto a trailer:

[Crash.]

“Whoa, Nelly!”

[Thud.]

Proving that not everyone uses expletives, even when landing on his. . .patootie.

When the characters in my head begin to sound alike, I go out for a listen. I call it a writing exercise--sometimes enlightening, sometimes alarming, and always worth a note or two. Also, a lot of fun.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Readerly Life

I went to a book club meeting last night. It was actually the first book club that I've ever been to, which is kind of strange, considering that I've spent pretty much my entire life reading, studying, and thinking about books.

A book club, it turns out, isn't that different than any of the college classes I've sat through. Everyone sits around trying to say just enough to look intelligent without saying so much that they look (gasp!) too intellectual. They talk about other books they've read--usually ones that are listed under the "Literature" section at the big box bookstores. Rarely things published in mass market sized paperbacks. Never, never romance.

It's okay to have a happy ending, but only if it's in a somewhat serious book. Otherwise, Nicholas Sparks is about as close as one should come to admitting that they read anything as low-brow as a bodice ripper. At least his books usually balance out the love story with an appropriate tragedy, because we all know that tragedy is serious writing.

I can understand that. For a while I was thankful for the self-checkout stations at the local library. No one needed to see that the piles of books I'd check out were all covered with couples in amorous embraces. My husband asked once, "Aren't you embarrassed to be seen reading those?"

And in truth, I was.

I came to romance novels fairly late in life. I pretty much refused to even consider them when I was younger, and then I majored in English and only wanted to read Important Literature. And then. . . I just got tired of all the "isn't it pretty to think so" endings. I read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander and was hooked.

I haven't looked back.

Or, if I have looked back, it's only because I can see now that while Toni Morrison and William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf may have taught me to love literature, Nora Roberts and Julia Quinn and Eloisa James and Karen Marie Moning and about a hundred others taught me to love reading again.

Who taught you?