Tag Archives: fiction writing

My life in three words….

and those words would be, “Help me, Jesus!!”

Let me ‘splain.

I’m doing a presentation for my Romance Writers writing group in March 2017 and then giving it again at a conference to the New England Romance Writers group in April. It’s a good talk, even if I do say so. Timely and to the point. Plus dotted with humor.

But, I digress…

The lecture/talk is accompanied by a POWERPOINT presentation. Now, I am a great talker. I could ramble on for hours about any topic that strikes my fancy. I was on debating club in school so I can argue for both sides of almost any discussion. But I have never before used a machine to aid me in my discussions, and this is why I need celestial help. I have no freaking idea how to effectively use PowerPoint.

Now, because this is, well, me, and most of the things I’ve learned about in life I’ve learned about in books, I did the logical, smart, quick thing to do and bought a PowerPoint Manual. 2 in fact. Powerpoint for Dummies, ( because this is, like, me!) and Teach Yourself Visually PowerPoint.

Last night I started learning how to navigate through the PowerPoint system. Chapter one was called NAVIGATING THE POWERPOINT INTERFACE. Okay, what?? Navigate and Powerpoint I knew the definitions of. Interface? No friggin’ clue. This is Webster’s definition of Interface:

  • a device or program enabling a user to communicate with a computer.
  • • a device or program for connecting two items of hardware or software so that they can be operated jointly or communicate with each other.

Okay, once I got over being panicked by a simple word, I read on. How to choose a theme, how to decide on a design, how to create a SLIDE, how to navigate around the RIBBON. That’s another word I had trouble with because, you know, RIBBON signifies something I tie my hair back with or the backs of fancy dresses.

I dutifully created my first slide after about 50 stops and starts and deletions and begin-agains. I had some text – no pictures yet because my mind was boggled by now – but a starting point.

Okay, so now, how to save it? I did everything the manual instructed me to do. Perfectly, I might add, the first time.

Then I went back to check and see where the document had saved to and….couldn’t find it. Yup. Two hours of sweat down the drain. Another fifteen minutes of frantic checking and I “found” it listed in an obscure compartment titled PRESENTATIONS. Well, Du-uh and FML!

2 hours and fifteen minutes on just one slide. Here is what it says because –of course– I couldn’t figure out how to cut and paste it here!

Romance and the Baby Boomer Generation

or

Writing Romance about and for the Seasoned Crowd.

2 hours fifteen minutes, people. For that. At this rate, my presentation will be complete in 2020.

When I’m not pulling my hair out trying to learn something new, you can find me here:Tweet Me//Read Me// Visit Me//Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me//Google+Me//

 

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, Life challenges, Pet Peeves, research, Romance, RWA

NaNoWriMo…How to make it a habit

nano

Three days down, 27 to go. So, how are you doing?

In yesterday’s post, I shared with you that I thought the main impetus behind the NANOWRIMO culture was to get writers into the habit of writing every day. I believe that. I live that.  But that got me to thinking, what exactly does it take for something to become a habit? To become so ingrained within your psyche that you don’t even question why you’re doing it, you’re just doing it?

When I was in nursing school (a 175 years ago!!) I remember reading in one of my psychology courses that it takes 7 days to make something a habit and 21 days to break it. That always explained -to me at least- why it was easier to gain weight than to lose it!!  Think about it….

But I digress.

Since I read that first article, lo those many years ago, I’ve actually heard those numbers disputed. At the end of this post I’m going to list a few links you can peruse and decide for yourself what the actual number may be, but suffice it to say, habits don’t form OVERNIGHT. They take time, dedication, and concentration before they are so ingrained in your thought processes that you just do them. Without thinking about what you’re doing or saying, Or even singing.  Like when you hear a song on the radio over and over again ( do people still listen to the radio??? Heehee. I’m old) until you’ve got the words memorized. They become  a part of your unconscious thought processes.

Here’s something that’s fun to do with friends. Don’t even stop to think – just respond the moment you read what I’m about to write. Ready?
Trix are for ????

ChooChoo Charlie was an ?????

It’s fingerlickin’ ???

Between love and madness lies  ????

?????. There is no substitute.

Takes a licking and keeps on ????

How many did you get correct? If you said all, you need to know you’re probably in the majority and not just super smart. Sorry! But the reason you got them all (or most of them!) correct is because you’ve heard these slogans over and over and over and….you get the idea….again. The first rule of advertising is to make sure people remember what you’re selling. How do advertisers accomplish that? By repeating, reminding, and reinforcing the product name or slogan so many times over a course of time that your brain automatically shifts to it the moment you begin to hear the slogan or jingle. The slogan becomes, for lack of a better word, a memory habit. You know what’s going to be said as soon as you hear the first word or so.

Well, the NaNoWriMo challenge is a bit like that. You write every single day, no matter what, no matter where, until you’ve become so used to pushing words out everyday, you continue doing it even after the challenge ends.

Does that make sense to anyone other than me?? I hope so.

So…onward. Keep writing EVERY SINGLE DAY. No matter what, no matter where, no matter what time it is. You’ve got this. 3 days down already. Just keep pushing and moving through.

Here are some articles on making something a habit I found interesting. What I find really interesting is that a few of them dispute one another, but that’s just me!

http://jamesclear.com/new-habit

http://jamesclear.com/three-steps-habit-change

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/featured/18-tricks-to-make-new-habits-stick.html

And just because some people may not know all the answers to the above slogans/jingles, here they are:

Trix are for kids. (Breakfast cereal)

ChooChoo Charlie was an engineer. (GoodNPlenty candy song)

It’s finger lickin’ good. ( Kentucky fried chicken slogan)

Between love and madness lies  OBSESSION ( really lousy smelling perfume. My opinion. Don’t hate me.)

PORSCHE.  There is no substitute. (Ridiculously expensive male-menopause car)

Takes a licking and keeps on ticking. ( Timex watch slogan)

And here’s a little eye candy motivation to keep you going strong on the challenge….nanosuperhearos

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Into the mind of a writer…

I thought I’d give you a little glimpse into what I do during the day, from a writing perspective. Writing’s not all rainbows and unicorns, with award winning phrases tripping from your tongue and onto the keyboard all day. Nope. It’s hard work, lots of thought, and some days you wind up with more deletions than written saves.

When I work, I already have the gist of the story plotted out. I also make a vision board now for each new book for a number of reasons. One, it helps me to remember what the characters each look like so I don’t have to continually look back at my character notes to make sure I give them the same color eyes and hair from day to day. Two, it keeps me focused on the current story I want to tell. Without the board in front of me, propelling me to keep writing the story, I have a tendency to open up other files and work on other things…or troll through pinterest…or facebook. None of those are productive. Third, it actually helps me with the character dialogue. When I see the characters in front of me, I can actually hear how they talk, see how they move their mouths, listen to the way they phrase words, how their faces contort and twist  and move, and I can envision the dialogue speaking from their lips.  I know that sounds…well…weird…but it’s true for me.

Here’s a glimpse of my current vision board for my newest work in progress, book 2 in my cooking series.

visionboard

If you look closely you can see pictures of my hero and heroine, and on either side of the board are images that pertain to each of them. Yes, it’s a lot of work – some may call it plain busy work – but I am a visual person. I see things in their entireties and individually much easier than having to conjure them up from my imagination. This board keeps me on track, focused, and prevents me from making character mistakes.

So, that’s a very tiny glimpse into my day.

Yeah, I know…I have a great life!

When I’m not writing -and even when I am! – you can find me here:

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Filed under Author, Contemporary Romance, Dialogue, Life challenges, Literary characters, love, Romance, Romance Books, RWA, Strong Women, The Wild Rose Press, WIld Rose Press AUthor

Truth in Fiction…good or bad?

Yesterday I visited my lovely and talented Wild Rose Press sistah Angela Hayes with a blog piece about reality. Well, it was my reality, really. I wrote a piece about the birth of my daughter, the accident I’d had on the day she was due and how I used that little piece of reality to drive the plot of my new book The Voices of Angels.

This got me to thinking…how much personal information is too much when you’re using it as a springboard to your fiction?

truth2

Case in point. Using one of my books again, First Impressions, I wrote a simply heartwrenching scene about the death of a much-loved family pet. It took me three days to write because every time I sat down to do it, I started bawling. My editor even wrote me after reading it to tell me she thought it might be too emotional for readers and might turn them off to reading the rest of the book.  She thought I might want to temper it a little. I had to give that some serious, serious pondering and consideration time. In the end, I left the scene written as I had originally for two reasons. 1.) I knew that any reader who had a pet could and would sympathize with the feelings the heroine was experiencing from the death, and 2.) my own 18-year-old cat had recently died, so I knew every emotion I wrote was real and raw. Just this week I had someone I know who’s read the book tell me they were bawling their eyes out on a beach on vacation when they read that part. I asked how did they really feel about the scene. Did it turn them off? Make them not want to read ahead? And was told “I kept imagining my own cat dying. The scene was so real! I felt every emotion Clarissa did. I finished the book that night!”

Manna from heaven to a writer.

truth3

Now, I’d never use something grossly personal about myself or someone I know in my writing – too much potential embarrassment, not to mention lawsuits, could come of  doing that. But there have been things have had happened in my life that I will slip into a scene or a plot. I think in some way doing this lends more credibility to the work. Truth in fiction stories always seem to grab me by the throat and not let go until I finish the book.

truth

So, writer friends….how much is too much reality for your fiction? Truth in fiction…good, or bad? Let’s discuss….

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The benefit of having hobbies…

Some people I know who shall forever and always remain nameless, still consider my writing a hobby.

Yeah…I know. I’m surprised they’re still breathing, too.

Anyway. Writing, as you know, is like oxygen to me. I need to write in order to live, much the way I need oxygen in order to survive. It’s not a hobby, but a necessary facet of my life. A hobby, on the other hand, is nice, but I don’t need to have one to live.

awriter

This got me to thinking, though, that having a hobby is a…good thing, to quote Martha Stewart. Hobbies distract us from the mundane aspects of our work lives; they bring us a little fun in a day that can be fun-less and soul-sucking. Hobbies can clear our minds of the detritus and negative energy our work can bring, and focus us instead on something positive and enriching.

hobbies

Now, my writing gives me all those positive things I just mentioned. But it’s still not a hobby. Nor, is it in reality, work. Not for me. Writing is as necessary to me as water is to the balance of nature and all living things. Writing centers me; keeps my mind sharp, my memory intact. Writing makes me smile and laugh. Of course, when I’m writing something sad it can also make me weep and wail. Well, maybe not wail…but you get the premise. A hobby doesn’t do that. A hobby doesn’t make you sweat and toil, worry and wallow when you aren’t getting the thought you want just right, or the dialogue as tight as you can and still convey the essence of the words. A hobby doesn’t make you bleed emotions and rip your heart into shreds. A hobby doesn’t make you feel immortal or powerful or omnipotent.

So, don’t call my writing a hobby, because it’s not. It’s a…vocation; a calling; a mission. But  it’s not a hobby.

 

New release 3 WISHES (A Candy Hearts Romance)perf5.000x8.000.indd

Valentine’s Day is chocolatier Chloe San Valentino’s favorite day of the year. Not only is it the busiest day in her candy shop, Caramelle de Chloe, but it’s also her birthday. Chloe’s got a birthday wish list for the perfect man she pulls out every year: he’d fall in love with her in a heartbeat, he’d be someone who cares about people, and he’d have one blue eye and one green eye, just like her. So far, Chloe’s fantasy man hasn’t materialized, despite the matchmaking efforts of her big, close-knit Italian family. But this year for her 30th birthday, she just might get her three wishes.

Get it here: Amazon //  The Wild Rose Press // Nook//  Kobo //

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In defense of being a hermit…

I could so easily be a bear. They eat five times their caloric needs just so they won’t starve when they hibernate during the winter season. They stay, cloistered, somewhere solitary and warm, sequestered away from the frigid temps, sleeping up to 23 hours a day.

I could so be a bear! I hate, HATE the winter. On my days off now from my paying job I find myself at my writing desk in my loft, typing away, day dreaming, coming up with plot twists and turns and looking out the window at my forest filled with snow. And I never go out.

I have friends who like to go for walks during subzero temps, claiming it’s invigorating and endorphin producing.

Uh, no, it’s not. Not to me anyway.

I like nothing more than to stay in my flannel pjs, my ugly and falling apart Elmo slippers on my feet, my hair in a knot and my glasses on my face, and just typing away… and away…

I can write an entire novel or two during the winter if I don’t go out. That’s very productive, don’t you think? My friends worry about me not interacting with other humans, not getting any socialization or camaraderie. They think I’ve turned into this antisocial hermit who shuns society.

I don’t shun society. I shun the cold! Big difference there.

I tell them not to worry. Come the spring they will see me again.

Until the time when black fly and mosquito season starts. Then I could so be a bear again.

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just one piece of advice…

During an interview recently – and I can’t tell you how much I LOVELOVELOVE saying I was “interviewed!” – I was asked about the one piece of writing advice that has stuck with me and gotten me through publishing hurdles, humps and heartbreak. It was actually difficult to come up with just that one exclusive iota of writing  wisdom that has resonated with me.

My first thought is the one I received from a literary agent many moons ago which I’ve written about before. Although this agent didn’t accept me as a client, she wrote a handwritten note at the bottom of her letter (this was pre-email, folks) stating, “…you are an excellent writer and I have no doubt I will be reading your published works one day soon. It only takes one “yes” to make a difference in your writing career…” I have never forgotten those words.

Another piece of writing advice that comes to mind is when I heard Nora Roberts speak at the National RWA conference in 2014. She was asked how she can be so prolific a writer and what was her secret. She replied, “Put your butt in the chair, your fingers over the keyboard and write. That’s it and that’s all.”  Butt in seat, fingers on keyboard, write. Can it be any simpler than this?

I would guess the piece of writing advice I’ve learned to repeat daily to myself, is actually one I gave myself  many years ago and had nothing to do with writing at the time I came up with it. I call it THE TAO OF NGUNGI ( pronounced na-goo-na-guy). It means, NEVER GIVE UP AND NEVER GIVE IN. I was going through a difficult period of my life and the days ahead looked bleak and scary. But when I started saying this to myself, it resonated loudly and I was able to get through the period relatively emotionally unscathed.

Now, when I want to have a writing pity party for myself, I repeat the phrase as many times as I need to in order to dig myself out of my depressing black hole. By practicing the TAO Of NGUNGI, I have pushed onwards all this years and finally have a publishing contract.

Never Give up and Never give in. One piece of really good advice – for life and for writing.

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A few words about editing…

One of my writing Bibles ( and I’m not being sacrilegious here) is a book titled HOW TO WRITE SHORT  – Word Craft For Fast Times by Roy Peter Clark. I’ve mentioned this book before in blogs, but I was re-reading it today and  few key phrases jumped out at me.

I’m currently writing my newest book, and editing the one that came before it. I’ve noticed – as has my editor – that I have a distinctive writing style that sometimes goes on a little longer than necessary. Especially when I say the same thing several ways.

Here’s an example. Moira’s breath quickened, deepened in intensity, the speed of the breaths faster with each inhalation and then exhalation.

Now, aside from being a perfectly AWFUL sentence, I told you the same damn thing three times! Okay, we get it. Moira was breathing fast. I could have just said it like that. Moira was breathing fast. But that sentence has no punch, no pop, no…  Oh, dear, God, I’m doing it again!

Clark writes, “The best place for an important word in a short passage is at the end.” The italics are his.

So, rewriting the above wordy sentence into something shorter, I could have said, Moira was breathing fast. But using Clark’s notion to put the important word last, fast just doesn’t do it for me. Finding words to describe the fast breathing is the next step.  Quickened, accelerated, sped-up are a few ways to describe it. If I resort to the deadly “LY” words, I could say, speedily, rapidly, hastily quickly, swiftly.  So, which word works best for what I want to convey? Maybe none of them. Maybe I need to write a descriptive phrase to indicate what I want to say. But if I do that, I will be assured to over-word my sentence again.

Egads! I hate editing.

Sometimes your first gut instinct is the best way to go, so reworking the tense just a hair, I wrote this: Excitement rolled through her and Moira’s breathing quickened.

Not a bad sentence. Not pulitzer prize winning, but a much better conveyance of what I wanted, than  Moira was breathing fast. A total of 8 words instead of the original  18.

Woot!
Now, onward to the other 90,000 words that need to be edited…

Tedium…the definition of editing!

 

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What motivates you to keep writing?

NaNoWriMo2014 is over and I was lucky enough to reach the goal of 50,000 words early this year, due to a kick-ass and thorough plot line/outline and the ability to devote time to it every single day. I’m not done with the story yet, not by a yardstick. This challenge is a huge motivator for me to keep on writing after November 30th rolls around. The fact I’ve been able to keep the writing momentum up and sailing is a major reason why I’m so far along in my w.i.p.

With the holidays just next door, this ability to devote so much time every day to writing may – out of necessity – take a back seat. I don’t want it to, and I’m planning on it not, but life does intervene. It’s difficult for anyone, whether they’re writing, or training for a marathon, to keep the momentum at such a high level. So this got me to thinking: How do you stay motivated to keep on writing? What, exactly, motivates you to continue?

For me, the story and the characters won’t leave me alone until I commit them and their antics down on the page. This is the truth: I get woken up from a deep sleep many nights by storylines and characters intruding on my slumber. They want their stories known. Now, before you start to think I suffer from delusions or latent schizophrenia, hear me out.

When my mind rests ( as in sleep ) my characters come out to play in my dreams. They say exactly what they want to say, do exactly what they want to do, and basically tell me what I should be writing about them.

Okay. So maybe it does sound a little delusional and schizophrenic.

What can I say?

Anyway. These characters and their stories inspire me to put their lives down on paper.

And there are a lot of them hanging out in the backroom, tiny recesses of my mind. They will not leave me alone and get out of my head until they are locked into my laptop, so I have to give them a platform. This kind of sounds like a Stephen King plot line: irate characters torment fiction writer until they literally pop-out on the page!

You know…..

So, for me it’s the characters and their desires to be freed from the confines of my imagination.

What motivates you to keep writing? What will be your driving force to keep the momentum going  after NaNoWriMo 2014 is but a memory?

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