Thursday, September 30, 2010
Lexi writes stories about alpha male heroes and the sassy, hardheaded heroines that rock their world. Her books are peopled with quirky or just plain outrageous characters. Writing is not a hobby for her, it is an obsession. Or, as her husband says, “The dang woman is consumed.”
Her debut novel, Demon Hunting in Dixie, is scheduled for release by Kensington Books as part of their Brava line in May of 2011. The Bride Wore Demon Dust, a novella, comes out in the Fall of 2011 as part of a Halloween anthology from Kensington entitled So I Married A Demon Hunter.
Lexi is hard at word on book two of the demon series, Demon Hunting in the Deep South.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
I'm busy. We're all busy. We juggle family, friends, jobs, spouses, and I know many writers who admit that housework drops to the bottom of the priority list most of the time. It definitely has for me. We're told to research, read, and most importantly ... WRITE!
One of the most important things we can do as writers is volunteer our time to our chapter. A real commitment. It’s only a year. Little tasks you do here and there. You'll build friendships. You'll learn more about the industry than you ever will by just attending meetings. And you can feel good knowing you'll be giving back to your chapter.
I joined RWA what feels like a hundred years ago. I didn’t have a local chapter at the time, and even though I had RWA, I accomplished very little other than writing books that never sold. My membership expired. I began talking more about writing than I spent actually writing. It started to sound more like a dream I once had than a burning desire I lived with daily.
But I was overwhelmed. Life was difficult. I procrastinated. I gave up.
For a while...
Years later, I moved. My schedule was still insane, but I had grown tired of talking about writing all the time. I wanted to write. I wanted to take charge of my life. So, I found a local writing chapter, joined RWA again, and joined Southern Magic.
Okay, I’ll admit I didn’t get involved right away. It was intimidating. People were talking about quorums and by-laws, for petesake. Sounded so … legal. I was there to write.
I don't know why I volunteered one day. I hadn't attended a meeting in five months. But I had hit a wall. I couldn't kid myself any longer. I needed to jump in with both feet. Make myself do it. What better way than to force myself to attend every meeting by becoming a Board member. So one day I did it. We needed a Membership Chair. How hard could it be? The most difficult part of it was climbing out of my shell and meeting people. On email. Seriously, how difficult is that? Well, it wasn’t. I actually started to like it. I was chatting with the Board online and we were putting great minds together to come up with ideas to improve the chapter. It became a challenge and a joy.
The following year I re-upped. And again the next year. Then one day I was VP. Somewhere in there I became a contest coordinator. I had judged numerous contests for years. Of course being a coordinator would be cake, right?
BUT, it’s a lot of fun, and again, you learn so much. If nothing else, you get a great perspective of the ins and outs of contests. The pains and complaints. The work involved. You'll respect others who volunteer their time on contests and you'll never complain about another contest again. It's worth it, trust me.
Then I think I was stretching one day during a meeting, my arm was in the air, and I was suddenly in charge of a massive, annual luncheon. Holy cow, how did that happen? Seriously, getting ideas and people together isn’t always the easiest thing. But once you get the hang of it and get a routine, it’s not difficult at all. From there I became a PAN Co-Liaison, because hey, I needed yet another job, right? I'll say right now I’ve made a wonderful friend in my co-liaison, and I love working with her to offer our published authors as much support as possible. Plus, I’m learning tons I’ll use in my own career once I get published.
Okay, that was it! I had too much to do. I wasn’t reading as much as I used to, and finding time to write was more difficult than ever. Something just had to go. So I gave up being a contest coordinator for the chapter's unpublished contest. Whew. I’d have free time now … to … become the main coordinator of the published contest.
Yes, I think I have a volunteering syndrome of some sort.
I can tell you that I’ve learned so much from volunteering. It's empowering, for one. I had no idea I could make a difference in someone's day with a simple email. I’ve received so many thank-you notes from published authors, unpublished authors, editors, readers—and countless others … people I’ve never met. You send a postcard to thank someone for donating books. Maybe an email to thank a librarian for judging your contest the third year in a row. Or my personal favorite ... you make a phone call to tell someone they're a double-finalist in your published contest. You hear the squee on the other end of the phone, the sudden silence, then the barely audible, "Really?"
Seriously, are you smiling yet? It's just that cool.
Volunteering is a rewarding experience. Trust me, you’ll get something out of it. I have more energy and write more with even less time than I ever did before I became a volunteer. It's worth it. You’ll make friendships. You'll network. You'll make a difference. And you’ll learn more about this business than you will by just sitting back and observing.
Support your chapter.
And as always, we’ll be here to support you.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Every second of the night I live another life
These dreams that sleep when it's cold outside
Every moment I'm awake the further I'm away.
Heart, These Dreams
In August, I read an essay on querytracker.net entitled “Unleash Your Creative Genius.” The essay was about the power of dreams and how to unleash your creative mind. The writer had some interesting things to say about the dream state and suggested a number of things to do to harness all that untapped creative energy.
First and foremost, get your zees. If you don’t sleep you can’t dream. Makes sense, huh?
Second, keep a pen and notepad by your bed and when you wake up from that dream about Linda Ronstadt the Singing Fish, write it down. An actual dream of mine, I kid you not! They kept her in a special aquarium and . . .
Never mind. You don’t want to hear about Loren Greene from Bonanza and how he saved Linda Ronstadt the Singing Fish from drowning. (She was actually a dolphin, but Linda Ronstadt the Singing Fish sounds better.)
And, no, I never did shrooms.
Third, think about your dreams and look for hidden messages. Your mind may be trying to tell you something about your current project. Or it might be giving you a whole new book idea!
Fourth, give your creative mind a project to work on while you’re asleep. Plot problems? Tell your mind to solve it while you’re asleep.
Fifth, take power naps. This is one of my favorites. Being a working mother/wife/chauffer to a teenager/writer with a deadline/sometimes housekeeper/personal shopper (hey, groceries count!) I often take a quick power nap during my lunch hour. I am fortunate to have my own office, which allows me to partake of this luxury. I close the door, prop my feet in a chair, put my head back and cop a snooze. You’ll be surprised what your busy dreaming brain can come up with in the space of twenty minutes.
Why does it work? Think about it. Your dreaming mind is free of the blocks and negative drains we carry around with our waking selves. The things that shut us down when we’re vertical can’t stop our unfettered creative alter egos!
On a personal note, I am not a morning person. It takes me a while to face the new day. What works for me is to take advantage of that drifting time, the few minutes that I doze, half awake/half asleep before I’m fully alert. In that drowsy state, my creative mind is gnawing on a writing problem, whirling with ideas, and stretching into places I would not venture when fully conscious.
So unleash your dreams and become a better writer.
Think this is a bunch of hooey? Try it. It works. At least you won’t lose any sleep over it.
Friday, September 24, 2010
You can also find Gwen on Twitter: Gwen_Hernandez
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
As a result of the positive experience I had with the Linda Howard Award of Excellence, I started looking at other contests. But there are so many. How do I know which ones to enter? I'm tight with a dollar, and it is difficult to know which of the dozens and dozens contests are right for me. This could easily turn expensive. My primary criteria have been the final round judges and cost. If the judge is an agent or editor who I would love to place eyeballs on my writing, I am much more likely to enter the contest. However, I'm not willing to pay $75 for the chance. Call me cheap. I won't deny it.
I would love to hear everyone's contest opinions, pro and con, as well as recommendations of contests where they've have positive experiences.
Oh, and if I forgot to mention it, the deadline to enter the Linda Howard Award of Excellence (http://www.southernmagic.org/lindahowardcontest.html) is October 11. Why are you reading this blog? Shouldn't you be getting your entry ready? Go on now . . . get to entering!
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Needless to say, my writing and editing this week has taken a back seat. However, I’ve the writing bug and it’s a chronic condition…if I don’t have a little writing-related connectedness in a day, I’d go stark raving mad (um, yes that’s a level worse than my usual mad-hatterness). Technology has been a boon.
I recently turned in my dinosaur of a cell phone and upgraded to a smart phone. How can a phone be smart? Well, it can do a whole lot more than just let you make and receive phone calls. And, bonus here, I end up feeling like a genius for making the switch. While waiting in line at the grocery store, I can quickly check my e-mails, Facebook and/or Twitter. While cooking in the kitchen and thinking about murder (hey, I’m a writer), I can do a quick internet search about poisonous food.
Facebook and twitter have been wonderful. Just a quick status update, and most of my friends and family immediately know why I’m suddenly so scarce. Also, a quick glance brings me abreast of all the things I care about…like this boat called publishing is still afloat, and what agents are dishing about, and where I can find a $184 cheese sandwich (In the U.K.) and, of course, the Zen thought of the day.
Google Reader lets me keep up with all the blogs I love to read (as bad as caffeine addiction) in a time efficient way. A front page lets you glance through new posts and news items without having to click all over the place or having to visit every single site.
Pen and paper on hand: I’ve been revisiting and rehearsing the story in my head, doodling when I’ve the chance, drawing non-linear, free-form diagrams, jotting down thoughts. I always carry these tools with me. So I can plug into my mind anytime and anywhere.
Of course, I miss the dedicated time I usually spend on editing and writing projects. My early morning hours and my late evening hours are now taken up by three very important patients rather than heroes and heroines, dragons and wizards. That’s okay. At this moment I need to wife, mother and nurse and this is a temporary situation. Meanwhile, I’m nurturing the muse as best as I can and when it’s time, she and I will get to work at full throttle.
I don’t think that day’s too far off. My hubby must be feeling better since he suggested today that I should get one of those short nurse’s uniform.... ;P
Saturday, September 18, 2010
So whenever I go into a store or through a drive-thru I make sure to look the person in the eye and smile.
It’s amazing how easy it is to be polite. But I know I mess up sometimes. My excuses can be that I’m tired, rushed, distracted, or just plain ignorant. Whatever the excuse is I try to learn from my mistakes and listen to those who know.
Even in the writing world, we have our own etiquette. No passing manuscripts beneath restroom stalls to visiting editors. No pitching manuscripts without being asked by the agent. No bad mouthing agents or editors at conferences. You never know who can overhear.
With the many ways to communicate with each other, I believe we forget other little ways to be polite to each other, even though we’ve been told many times. Like snipping posts on emails. In effort to condense all of the emails we’re flooded with, we go on digest on our loops and people continue to leave the email their responding to or a whole digest of emails on their answers. It’s so simple to highlight and delete. In fact, YAHOO has it set up under Edit Member where you can choose Full Feature. Then when you respond to an email on a loop, it will automatically clear the other emails. Just remember to retype the same subject. That way the string will stay intact. And people don’t have to read the same emails over and over again to follow the conversation.
A newer form of etiquette is tied in with our blogs. When you send a note on a loop asking for everyone to come to your blog and read your latest post, it’s only polite to include that loop’s blog or/and website on your blog. Hey, you have an opportunity to advertise free, it’s only polite to offer the same to them. I bet you haven’t thought of that.
With Twitter and Facebook, I bet we can think of many more infractions. All new ways of being polite.
What do you see that people need to work on?
Thursday, September 16, 2010
The beautiful old library was built in 1927 and served the Howard College East Lake campus. (Howard College later became Samford University, my college alma mater). I remember well the tall ceilings and the enormous stacks, full of the most marvelous, musty, mysterios tomes. I wanted to read every one of them!
One of the earliest books I remember loving was Sam, Bangs and Moonshine by Evaline Ness, a whimsical story about a young girl whose whimsical fantastical tales lead her friend into danger, forcing her to understand that fanciful thought has consequences as well as rewards. I loved it so much I later bought a copy as an adult.
I also loved a book titled The Green Poodles, by Charlotte Baker. I loved quirky British girl Fern, whose show poodle Juliet introduced the world of dog breeding and training to her American cousins. It was actually my introduction to Shakespeare, too, as Fern and her cousins named their puppies after Shakespearean characters. (And, of course, there was a dogsnatching mystery to be solved, whetting my appetite for all things mysterious).
Besides the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries I used to borrow from my church library, I discovered a more adult mystery series at the old East Lake Library: Dell Shannon's Luis Mendoza police procedural series. Discovering this odd, gritty series featuring a Mexican-American Los Angeles police Lieutenant and his stable of detectives addicted me to mysteries and police procedurals. I think they've also had an enduring influence on the kinds of books I write today.
It was an introduction to a city I'd heard of but really knew nothing about, and the Luis Mendoza mysteries displayed both the beauty of the glittery town of Los Angeles in its sixties and seventies heyday as well as the darker, seamier side of Tinseltown. It taught me a really good lesson about verisimilitude in my storytelling. Even if I'm writing about a fictional town rather than a real one, I try to create a place with its own character and history. I want it to feel as real as Dell Shannon's Los Angeles feels to the readers of Luis Mendoza mysteries.
And I also discovered Harlequin romances at the library. One of my earliest was Gone Before Morning by Lilian Peake. Though the hero was a brooding alpha who didn't always treat the heroine the way he should, I was sucked in by the hooks--a heroine pretending to be someone she wasn't, a somewhat misogynistic hero with a good reason for being so, and a troublesome little moppet in desperate need of a mother's love. Plus, the heroine had been an English Lit major who'd had trouble finding a decent job with that kind of degree--something I would later in life sympathize with a lot more than I did when I first read the book.
I read as many of Lilian Peake's books as I could get my hands on, then Elizabeth Hunter, Anne Mather, Betty Neels, Debbie Macomber, and finally—FINALLY—I discovered Harlequin Intrigues and knew I'd found the kind of stories I wanted to write.
So, you may ask, what brought about this bout of nostalgia now? Well, my eighth Harlequin Intrigue, Bachelor Sheriff, came out this week. The story reunites a pair of people who'd been polar opposites in high school--the nerdy brainiac girl with a dark family secret and the handsome, popular football star from a loving family who barely knew the girl existed. When a mysterious arson fire brings them back into each other's orbit, Aaron Cooper discovers that Melissa Draper, the girl he can barely remember from high school is quickly becoming the woman he can't get out of his head.
Over the course of the story, both of them get to indulge in a little nostalgia, which led me to think about my own past, and especially the wonderful library that introduced me to a passion for books that would eventually lead me to my career as a writer.
So, readers and writers--do you have some library nostalgia to share? Or maybe it was a favorite bookstore or a family members whose wall of bookshelves proved a temptation far too powerful to resist. Tell us your favorite book memories.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
You thought this post was going to be about writing sex scenes didn’t you? ;-) Sorry, but I’m talking about passion in the larger sense as defined by the Mac dictionary: strong and barely controllable emotion.
What are you passionate about? Global warming? U.S. involvement in the Middle East? Sea turtles? Education? Adoption? Animals? School arts programs? Immigration?
Pick your passion—no matter what side of the fence you’re on—and find a way to write about it. I don’t mean a position paper or a letter to your editor, though you could. I mean imbue your character with that passion and build a story around it. Or structure or book or series around a group that fights for or against your cause. In researching opposing viewpoints, you might even see the subject in a new light, and it should be easy to make the sparks fly between your characters if they’re on opposite sides of an issue.
Laura Griffin’s Tracers series features a forensics lab that’s dedicated to processing all crime scene evidence and helping law enforcement catch violent criminals. She came up with the idea after she found out that much forensic evidence is never processed or entered into a crime database. She took her frustration and created a fictional group with the passion to make it happen.
The late Michael Crichton made a fortune writing books about what could go wrong with the research he read about in scientific journals. Jurassic Park, Timeline, and Prey hit a cord with readers because he took a stand on a topic and built a story around it.
Robin Cook did the same thing for medical topics. Just try to eat a fast-food hamburger after reading Toxin. I dare you.
If emotion is the key to memorable characters and keeper-shelf books, then by writing about a topic that gets you emotional, you might just find that all-important element easier to write. And an interesting topic makes the research more fun.
So, figure out what shocks, angers, or delights you, and build a story around it. You might even teach your readers something, and get them passionate too. Good luck!
Sunday, September 12, 2010
The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both. James Michener
To me this quote embodies my life as a writer. I love writing. It's sheer joy to discover the story, to write the first draft and to wrestle it into shape. Yes, it is hard work. Yes, I battle the demons of doubt and discouragement. Yes, I question this journey when I do not see the fruits of my labor in terms of tangible elements like money and recognition and books on a shelf. But even in the moments where I question the journey, I cannot shake the simple fact that I am born to be a writer. This is my calling.
There are other people in my life who embody this quote. They aren't all writers. They are scientists, doctors, mothers, students, teachers, and truckers. They are the people I seek out. I want to surround myself with them because I love to soak up their enthusiasm for life. Yes, they have days that are difficult. Yes, they aren't always happy and bubbly. Yes, they have setbacks. But even in the moments where they question their journey, they cannot shake the simple fact that they are born to live their life as who they are. They are called to their journey and they embark on it every day.
Every day we have a choice. We can wake up and choose to let the things over which we have no control gobble up our enthusiasm for life. Or we can wake up and choose to hopscotch over the things that are in our way. We can choose to dance around illnesses, deaths, fights with spouses, leaking roofs, cloudy days, and unexpected pitfalls. We can choose to get over petty grievances, lingering doubts, and unwelcome disappointments. We can choose to stare these issues in the face and say, "Sorry, you're not going to stop me from playing today. You're not going to stop me from embarking on my journey."
If you are reading this, then you're lucky. You're here. You're breathing. You're educated.
How are you going to go about working and playing? Playing and working? How do you choose to go about living the life you are intended to live?
Friday, September 10, 2010
The only genre I can dive into for the pure pleasure of reading is mystery. I recently discovered author Ian Rankin's Detective Rebus series, and I have to tell you that I adore these books. I don't examine, analyze, or evaluate. I just read. And read. And read.
How about you? What do you read for pleasure?
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
Now, the tricky part. Like many of you, time is not my friend. I work fulltime and have two little ones at home; squeezing chair time into my daily routine is like trying to save extra money in an already over-extended budget. It rarely happens.
So, how do you fit it into your already overworked schedule? Do you set a minimum timeframe in which to write daily or do you have a minimum work count?
Monday, September 06, 2010
When my brothers and I were kids, any challenge that started with the words “I’ll bet you can’t do…” had to be answered. It was one of life’s moral imperatives. The results usually weren’t pretty. Some of the more memorable manifestations included a broken arm, an almost completely severed thumb (sorry about that, Jim) numerous stitches and a full face slide down an English village road after exiting over the handlebars of a bicycle. (Needless to say the Flying Wallendas have NOT called me.) You get the picture.
My brother Jim and I were not merely participants in these antics. Where my youngest brother, Brian was concerned we were often instigators and cheerleaders. We convinced the poor kid there was nothing he couldn’t do. However, the incident with the bath towel cape and his leap from the top of the storage shed DID end rather badly. (Of course you can fly, Brian. Those people who say you can’t are just jealous.) He is a surprisingly well-adjusted adult and has accomplished a great deal in his life. Jim and I like to think we had a hand in it. We never told him he COULDN’T do something no matter how dangerous or even stupid it might appear.
If only we as writers had such devoted siblings cheering us on and telling us we can do anything. More often than not, while our families do support us in this writing madness, we writers tend to listen to one voice more than all the others. That voice comes in many forms, each unique to our particular weaknesses and quirks. You know. That annoying little voice, sometimes called the internal editor, sometimes the devil on our shoulder.
I call my little voice THE GNOME OF DOOM. He sits on my shoulder as I write (when I don’t flick him off) and says inspiring things like “you are never going to make it” “nobody will ever read this mess” “why are you wasting all this time writing when you could be doing something more constructive or fun or relaxing?” I really hate that little twerp. He’s always there. Nagging. Insinuating. Irritating. And dangerous. Very, very dangerous.
You wouldn’t think a harmless little gnome could do so much damage, but he can. In fact, when it comes to my writing, he is more dangerous than jumping off the storage shed with a bath towel cape on and no net in sight. Because if he tells me I can’t long enough; and if I begin to listen to his ugly gnomey butt, I might just start to believe it. And I can’t do that. Not even for a minute.
That’s the thing about believing you can do something. The longer and harder you believe, the closer you get to being what you believe yourself to be. Indiana Jones starts out as a mild mannered professor. He ventures out of the confines of his real life and out maneuvers all those booby traps and tripwires not because of what the world believes him to be, but because of what HE believes himself to be. He just goes with it. People tell him it’s dangerous, it can’t be done, impossible, a million to one shot and he looks the GNOME OF DOOM, I mean the TEMPLE OF DOOM in the eye and says “Oh yeah? Watch this.”
He does it blindly with no clue where he is going most of the time. He keeps doing it because the prize at the end is just too good to pass up. And more often than not he gives the prize away. For the most part, I think he does it because people tell him he can’t and for the thrill of outsmarting that still, small voice that tells him “You’re a professor, for God’s sake. What makes you think you can do this?”
There are a lot of days I pause and look around me and think “This is SO not the life I ordered.” Other days I rush around doing my bakery job for Walmart and think “It isn’t much, but I guess it’ll do. After all, lots of people don’t make it in this writing business.” I’m not fooled in the least. That’s the GNOME OF DOOM talking. His mantra is “You can’t do this. Na na na na na.”
But I don’t want to listen to a gnome, even one who has taken up residence in my imagination, more often than not because I’ve put him there. I’d rather listen to Thomas Edison. He said:
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
So the next time your own GNOME OF DOOM tells you that you can’t do this writing thing, look him dead in the eye and say “Oh yeah? WATCH ME!” Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a bath towel cape and a storage shed with my name on it – just as soon as I detach my Chihuahua from the mailman.
Saturday, September 04, 2010
As I was perusing the magazine and trying to overcome my disappointment, I came upon an article about the mistakes new authors make. To my dismay, I found myself checking off paragraph after paragraph. Yup, I do that. Guilty of this one. I've done that too.
It is clear that I need to reform. No more picking obscure subject matters that appeal to my twisted sense of logic. No more skipping around genres. I don't want to be guilty of the other transgressions this article details.
Okay blog mates and blogger audience, you are now viewing a reformed woman. I vow to pick a genre, get to know its "ins" and "outs" and master my craft.
Phew! I feel so much better. Now, if I can only decide what genre and what "ins" and "outs" I need to master; I might make it as a published author.
'Fess up. Are you guilty of these beginner's errors? What mistakes have you been making and what steps are you taking to overcome them?