I think I can… I think I can…

25 01 2010

I’m at a point in my life where I have so much going on in my non-writing life, I have to keep putting writing on the back burner. It’s not because I want to. It’s not (only) a procrastination device. I really can’t make writing my one priority, no matter how much I want to. That will change in a few years, but until then, I feel like I’m locked in a cycle of writing—not writing—writing—not writing. And the not writing periods tend to grow.

I’ve declared that 2010 will be different, that this year I’ll make time for writing no matter what.  While it can’t be priority number one, it can be a priority. I’m working to ensure I don’t let writing fall by the wayside. I’ve taken on more responsibilities with my writing groups, promised to maintain a critique partnership, set goals… And even though it’s only a month into the new year, so far so good.

I don’t want my writing to feel like a job, but if I want it to eventually be a career, I have to work at it. So even when I’m exhausted, even when I just want to veg out in front of the tv, even when I just want to get more than four or five hours of sleep in a night, I have to do something writing related. It might just be a little thing—a quick read through for a critique, writing 100 words, reading over something I’ve already written, doing a little work on RWA chapter stuff, etc. etc.—but it will be something.

Little steps to big results. I think I can, I think I can…

The Winner of JD’s Christmas Wish is…

10 11 2009

Sherri Buckner

Staci asked me to post this because her computer is still in the hospital. She’ll contact you privately via e-mail about your prize though. Congratulations!

Camp NaNoWriMo

9 11 2009

It’s November, and that means it’s National Novel Writing Month. I’m a huge fan of NaNo. Without it, I wouldn’t have finished my first completed manuscript. Without it, I wouldn’t have met a group of people two years ago who became my local writing group that still meets on a weekly basis all year long. Without it, I wouldn’t have found some of the people who’ve become my best friends. Without it, I wouldn’t have the kick-in-the-pants motivation to start writing again after the hiatus I’ve taken for the last several months.  Without it, I wouldn’t have had an excuse to go on a weekend writing retreat in the mountains with eight other people from the writing group mentioned above.

retreat sign

We truly had a Camp NaNoWriMo this year. We ordered and wore these shirts for the event. You can get your own here.

camp nano pic

I just got back from the retreat yesterday, and I’m still pumped up.  We planned the retreat for the first full weekend in November so it could be a Nano fest, and while there was plenty of laughing, talking, game playing, margarita and pina colada drinking (I took along my trusty Margaritaville Frozen Concoction Maker)…there was also plenty of writing. I went into the retreat way behind on my word count and still fairly unmotivated. On November 6, I barely had 3k, but I knocked out a little over 10k at the retreat alone!  Today (as of 12:30pm), my word count stands at 13,620 and I haven’t done my daily words yet.

I did almost all my writing at the retreat outside. The house we rented had a huge front porch, and the weather was perfect—breezy and cool without being cold. I had the company of birds, lady bugs, and a ridiculously large number of walking sticks (the insects).

retreat house

I’d never done much writing outside before, so I learned something new about myself—I’m incredibly productive when I write outside. In fact, I’m sitting on my own front porch as I write this. I don’t have the company of any walking sticks, but I am being helped by an incredibly irritated cat who doesn’t understand why I’m holding this electronic device in my lap instead of him.

Nano pushes you to do adventurous things, things you didn’t think you could do, things you never thought you would do. And you do it for yourself. You don’t get an official prize. You may end up with 50k of unusable crap at the end of the month, but if you get into the spirit of it, you discover things about yourself and your writing that you carry with you into less hectic times.  AND, if you’re fortunate enough to have friends who join you in the writing frenzy then you get to make some amazing memories and collect some awesome blackmail worthy photos.

To the outside observer, NaNo seems silly, a colossal waste of time. “So you’re writing all these words really fast and then will probably edit most of them out?” they ask. “Yes,” I reply enthusiastically. When I try to explain it to my non-writing friends and acquaintances they get this look on their faces—a sort of I-don’t-understand-you-I’ll-never-understand-you-have-you-spent-time-in-the-looney-bin type of expression. And that’s okay, because I know what NaNo means to me, and nobody else except my fellow NaNo’ers have to understand.

This year, NaNo has given me a priceless gift:  I’ve fallen in love with my story again, with writing again.

I’ve been messing around with this particular story idea for well over a year—starting, scrapping everything I wrote, starting again, scrapping all that, re-outlining the whole thing.  It’s given me fits.  I had a new, very detailed outline going into November, and I restarted the story AGAIN.  And now I’m rolling with it.  Ask me tomorrow and my attitude may be completely different—isn’t the roller coaster emotions part of what NaNo is all about?—but right now, I feel good. And that makes it all worth it.

Do you NaNo? Do you have any stories about your experiences? Love it? Hate it? Why? Comment and tell me.

Remember that we’re giving away a copy of Hanna’s debut novel Widow’s Peak and a copy of Delilah Marvelle’s Lord of Pleasure at the end of the month. Comment on this post or any of our other November posts throughout the month to be entered to win!

Scary Places

19 10 2009

Mutter‘Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world.
~William Shakespeare

This week I caught part of a television show on the Travel Channel about the Top Ten World’s Creepiest Destinations. I noticed lots of specials on creepy and haunted places while I was channel flipping, and I’m sure they were all in anticipation of Halloween.
Mutter 2I have to confess something. I’m a bit of a Halloween Scrooge. I live in the sticks with no close neighbors. I don’t get trick-or-treaters. If I did any creepy decorating, no one would see it but me…so I can’t get too enthused. But I did get pretty excited about something I saw on that Creepy Destinations show…but then, I have always had a fascination with the morbid (which is why I love Mary Roach’s book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers so much).
I did not know this place existed: The Mutter Museum of Medical History. But now I’d like to go. They even have a Day of the Dead Festival there on Halloween, and I don’t think they have to decorate for the holiday.
You can find more information about the museum at the following websites.

The College of Physicians of Philadelphia: The Mutter Museum

Scary Happenings
Mutter 3Where there is no imagination there is no horror. ~Arthur Conan Doyle, Sr.
Comment away for a chance to win this month’s contest. Do you share my fascination with the morbid and grotesque?

Hero Worship

7 09 2009

First of all, Happy Labor Day!

We’re celebrating here at Write Direction as we jump into the month of September because two of our author bloggers have new releases this month. Wish for the Moon by Sandra Jones and Widow’s Peak by Hanna Rhys Barnes will both be available later this month. They’ll tell you more when they post in the coming weeks. They’re both also planning contests in honor of their releases so make sure you check back and comment on the blog throughout September!

This month we’re all pondering What Makes a Hero? As a writer, I put a lot of thought into my characters because to me, they’re the most important part of the book. I have to know my characters as people, and know them well before I go very far with my plot. How can I know how my hero will react in a certain situation if I don’t know him, know how he thinks, know his insecurities, know his motivations, know his fears, know his sense of humor?

I’m a fan of character sheets. I know the thought of filling in worksheets for characters makes many authors shudder and fight nausea, but I like them. I don’t necessarily enjoy spending hours filling them out, but I make myself do it because I need to. It’s part of my process—the getting to know you stage. And it’s the stage where I fall in love with my hero. I have to know him better than the reader ever will because I have to love him enough to write him in such a way that my readers will forgive him his flaws and inevitable stupidity that leads to him almost losing the heroine in the black moment. 🙂 I have to write him in such a way that the reader will fall in love with him too.

I’m a pre-published writer (I phrase it that way because it sounds so much more optimistic than unpublished), so I can’t use heroes from my own works in progress and expect any of you to know who I’m talking about. Instead, I’ll just go into my own hero worship mode and tell you about my writing idol and her hunky heroes.

If you haven’t read Suzanne Brockmann, you should. I have a lot of keeper authors in the romance genre, and of those I have a very short list for whom I buy hardcover. Suzanne’s at the top. Even of my keeper authors (not naming names), many huge blockbuster best-selling writers tend to re-write the same hero. Oh he’s mutated from book to book, and his name’s always different, but his insecurities reappear, or his mannerisms are the same, or his brooding alpha male persona that actually masks a wounded sensitive man feels familiar.

Suzanne’s Troubleshooters heroes are different. When I’m talking to someone about her books, I don’t ever have to think “hum…which book was that? Was that in the book with the FBI agent or the military guy? And what were their names?” The characters, not just the heroes, in the Troubleshooters books are as different as each of my family members, work colleagues, and writing buddies. They’re distinctly unique. And that’s what I consider the pinnacle of good characterization. Her accomplishment is even more impressive because it’s a fifteen book series with over fifty recurring characters and extremely complicated overlapping plotlines.

[Digression: The fifteenth book came out in July and contained an announcement that there would be one more book but that it would be the last one in the series. At that point, my heart and breathing rates elevated and I rushed to my computer to send Staci Culver a panicked e-mail instructing her to tell me I had read it wrong and it wasn’t true. I have since read an online interview with Suzanne Brockmann where she explained that she was merely taking a “hiatus” from the series for a while. Please mean it, please mean it, please mean it. I can understand her wanting to move on to other projects, but at the same time, she’s created an addiction for me and I really don’t want to be left without a fix, LOL.]

I should clarify that my personal writing goals do not include writing characters like Suzanne’s. I don’t want to write or sound like anybody else. I hope my writing has the stamp of my own unique style and voice. I don’t want to recreate Tom or Decker or Dave or Izzy. I just want to hone my characterization skills to the level of Suzanne’s (or as close as I can get) so that the heroes that spring forth from my head can be just as unique and to-die-for-sexy as hers.

So… Talk to me about heroes. Who’s your writing hero? Who are your favorite heroes from novels you’ve read? If you’re a writer, what methods do you use when creating heroes? Comment away, and remember to check back for more details on Sandra’s and Hanna’s new release contests.

Ideas Everywhere

24 08 2009

As a writer, I don’t lack for inspiration. Now, dedication…that might be a whole other post. But I find inspiration everywhere. Story ideas can be found in almost every facet of everyday life and I constantly find myself playing a mental game of “what if?”

Oh…that woman over there in the grocery story has six small children! Red haired, freckle faced stairsteps from about age two to no older than eight, and they are a lively bunch. What if… one of the kids disappeared? (I’m not literally contemplating kidnapping, just to be clear. Plot bunnies are completely separate from real life.) What if… she forgot one of them in the store?  What if… she walked away from her husband and kids and left her hubby to suddenly have to raise them on his own?  What if… she’s widowed and no one wants to date her because of her kids?  What if… What if… What if.

I get a lot of ideas from pictures.  Some online writer friends and I are currently doing a little challenge where we’re using an old photo of a couple of kids holding watermelons outside an old farm stand and bait shop.  The challenge is to write about 1000 words based on the picture. It can be the start of a bigger story or a small stand alone short story.  Then by August 31st we’ll all e-mail each other our stories so we can see how different they all turned out.  It’s just a fun thing we decided to do on the spur of the moment.

I also love writing prompts.  A writing group I meet with every week has a writing prompt game we play sometimes.  We call it the box-o-doom, and it contains tons of slips of colored paper. One color represents character, another setting, another a plot twist, and the other an object. Every person randomly draws one slip of each color and then writes a story including all the elements. We periodically add new ideas into the box, and let me tell you, we can get pretty wild with what we put in there. It’s a challenge.  My current WIP actually started from a box-o-doom prompt. That night I drew: A cornfield, the car breaks down, pancaked makeup, and a wizard with his pet dragon.  I had to think on that for a minute, but I set my story on Halloween and ran with it.

The birth of ideas and reveling in creativity is one of my favorite parts of the writing process. It’s the fun stage where anything can happen, and I love the endless possibilities.

So what sparks your imagination? Leave a comment and tell me all about it.

The July Winners Are…

1 08 2009

Wow, July went by so fast!  I can’t believe it’s August already…it will be fall before we know it.  🙂  But the good news about time flying is that I have the winners for the July contest.  We didn’t have many commenters this month, so guess what…  You all win.  I just threw another book into the mix because I hated to leave one of you out.  I added A Coal Miner’s Wife by Marin Thomas, a Harlequin American Romance.  Then I randomly drew to see who won which books.

Lainey Bancroft — A Coal Miner’s Wife

Mary Ricksen — The Playboy’s Ruthless Payback

Afshan N — A Kiss to Remember

Heather — A Firefighter in the Family

Julie Robinson — Make me Yours

I e-mailed you all privately to get address details for your prizes.  If you don’t receive an e-mail from me, then comment on this post and we’ll figure out the glitch.  Thanks for reading The Write Direction and congratulations on your new-to-you books!

July Contest Update

27 07 2009

Ooops…  I promised to add a new book for the contest each week, and then what happened?  I forgot all about it.  🙂  Better late than never, right?  so here are the three additional titles I’m purging from my shelves.  On Saturday, August 1, I’ll randomly draw the names of three commenters and post the winners.  Then the winners can e-mail me to receive their prizes.

You already know about Make Me Yours.  The other three books I’m giving away are:

A kiss to rememberA Kiss to Remember by Kimberly Van Meter, a Harlequin Super Romance

Firefighter in the FamilyA Firefighter in the Family by Trish Milburn, a Harlequin American Romance

Playboy's Ruthless PaybackPlayboy’s Ruthless Payback, a Silhouette Desire

Comment on any July posts to be entered to win.  In fact, comment on this one…give me a list of your favorite books.

Good luck!


6 07 2009

book hug

Hello, my name is Estelle and I’m a bibliophile.

Now, all you fellow bookworms out there say, “Hello, Estelle.”

The American Heritage Dictionary defines a bibliophile as a lover or collector of books. I think “love” might be putting it mildly. For me, it’s more of an obsession.

Years ago (in my former life as an English teacher) I went to a workshop on teaching writing, and the attendees were given the classic paragraph assignment: Describe your bedroom.

The fact that this is a silly assignment for either students or teachers aside, I had a sort of revelation while completing it. I started with the bookshelves—two six foot shelves, and two smaller three foot shelves on either side of the bed, all brimming. Then I moved on to the piles of books on the floor—the mini towers that the cat constantly knocks over. Last, I described the heaps of books on the empty side of my double bed (I was—and still am—single). Yes, I sleep with my books. I realized there was probably something Freudian (and therefore disturbing) in the fact that my bed companion was (and still is) a pile of books. Then the timer went off, ending the exercise, and I happily quit thinking about it.

I do love books though. I love to look at them, smell them, hold them. It’s a comfort to have a book in my hand. If I have extra cash, I want to spend it on books. If I have time to kill in town, I want to spend it at the bookstore. A dream vacation for me would be to travel across the country visiting all the unique and hole-in-the-wall bookstores I could find. Unfortunately, it would be a short vacation because I’d spend all my money after the first few stops.

My biggest pet peeves are book related, too. I don’t dog-ear. Ever. I don’t crack open spines. Chills go down my own spine when I see someone do that. I consider it an accomplishment for the book to look pristine and unread when I’m finished with it. I also have issues with price stickers. If there’s a sticker plastered on the book, I have to remove it as soon as I’m out of the store before the heat can seal it on forever. It’s one of those things that shouldn’t matter, but it does—I want the stickers removed. And if you wait too long to take it off, the residue is there forever and even Goo-Gone won’t truly take care of the problem. I told you—it’s an obsession.

My to-be-read pile resembles a small mountain, and it has a little bit of everything in it—I’ll give you a glimpse.

At the top is Lisa Kleypas’s Smooth Talking Stranger. I recently read Sugar Daddy and Blue Eyed Devil by her and LOVED them. I picked up A Hint of Wicked by fellow Romance Diva, Jennifer Haymore the other day. On the spicier side, I recently discovered Bella Andre’s erotic romances and have Red Hot Reunion in the stack. Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees and Prodigal Summer are there—The Poisonwood Bible was the best piece of literary fiction I’ve read in ages. The Chosen by Chaim Potok is there because a friend recommended it. Amanda Quick’s The Perfect Poison is there because I’m addicted to the Arcane Society books. Toward the end of the month when Suzanne Brockmann’s newest Troubleshooters book comes out, it will go to the top of the pile, although I may have to fight my mother for who gets it first. I have Donald Maas’s The Fire in Fiction in there too. And tons more. I never get ahead of the stack. I wouldn’t want to. Where’s the fun in that?

When people ask me what my favorite book is, I usually can’t give just one answer. I love so many of them. I have lists of favorites on my website, and I have a Shelfari shelf of what I’m currently reading on my blog, but I’m constantly reading new books and gaining new favorites.

It’s so hard to stay committed to just one. (Don’t get all Freudian with that.)

It turns out that I get to pick the theme for July here at The Write Direction, so I hereby officially declare it In Love with Books Month.

Let’s celebrate with a CONTEST! I’ll take a few romance books off my shelves to make room for new ones. I’m gritting my teeth at the thought of parting with them, but it’s a little easier when I know they’re going to someone who will love them like I do. Only bibliophiles need apply.

If you’re a true book lover, then comment on this post and tell me about your love of books. Which are your favorites? What’s in your to be read pile?

Then come back to The Write Direction throughout the month of July and comment on other July posts. At the end of the month, I’ll randomly select four commenters who will each get a new (new to you–and in good condition, though maybe not pristine because some of these may have found their way to me via the used book store) book to love.

I’ll post an additional book for the contest each week.  The first one is Make Me Yours by Betina Krahn.

Make Me Yours

Not Going to Conference Conference at Romance Divas

5 07 2009

NGTCC Banner

So, you can’t go to the RWA conference this year? Well, don’t fret for long. Romance Divas is hosting their annual NGTCC (Not Going To Conference Conference) and it’s going to be fun-filled. Already they’ve got great guest spots lined up, including: Josh Lanyon, Rowan Mcbride, Jet Mykles and Shayla Kersten, Carrie Jones, Marley Gibson, Linnea Sinclair, Patti O’Shea, Ona Russel, Steve Hockingsmith, Joey W. Hill and Sasha White.

There will be workshops for just about every genre, from Young Adult to Erotic to Historical. Plus, a workshop on Deep POV, one on going from e-publishing to NY, and a Q&A on how avoid and deal with burnout. And there will be a few surprises, too. icon_wink.gif

The NGTCC kicks off July 14th and runs until July 18th. If you’re not already a member of Romance Divas, all you have to do is go to the website and register! Best of all–it’s FREE!

NGTCC Banner