Thursday, March 27, 2014

Tools of the Trade

Well, Spring break is almost over and what do I have to show for it? Nada.
0 words written.

My best laid plans clashed with my husband's. As I write this, stretched out on my bed, laptop open, headphones in, I can still hear the tree trimmers lopping off years worth of Eucalyptus tree overgrowth right outside my bedroom window. The sound of a half dozen or so chainsaws mingles with the soundtrack from "Wicked", which one of my darling children is blaring as they shower. In retrospect, perhaps I should have taken my husband up on his offer to buy noise-cancelling headphones. Right now, $300 seems like a pretty good deal to me. Lord knows I can't do much writing in such a noisy environment and my self-imposed deadline won't be met if I don't spend at least a little bit of time caressing my laptop's keys. GRRR.

Every profession has their tools of the trade. Tools, which are so vital to the job, you can't do without them. But what tools do writers need other than a pencil and paper?

Here are a few of the tools I need:

  • laptop (obviously! My hubby bought me a Macbook Pro for Christmas.)
  • Scrivener (the writing program I use)
  • headphones (preferably the noise-cancelling kind)
  • Lots of music to listen to (check out the Sherlock Season 3 soundtrack)
  • index cards & post-it notes (for plotting)
  • an endless supply of writing utensils (highlighters & mechanical pencils)
  • journal to record ideas in
  • hot tea and/or coffee (would it be too much to ask to have my caffeine mainlined?)
  • favorite aromatic scent in my Sentsy warmer (spiced apple wreath)
  • junk food - preferably Cheese-It's, and every kind of candy known to man
  • comfy chair, couch, or bed to sit on
  • Yoga pants to lounge in
  • Critique partners on speed dial or accessible at a moment's notice by email
  • a thick skin to handle the endless cycle of rejection that invariably comes with the job
  • in hand or online dictionary & thesaurus
  • Google and YouTube for conducting research
  • maps detailing the setting of the story
  • timeline of events
  • an overactive imagination (which I have in spades)
  • photos of the setting or characters to inspire me
  • a chef to keep me fed
  • a maid to keep the house up while I neglect all my duties (or just a really understanding spouse)
  • my muse chained to a chair where she can't escape! 

  • Hey, I never said I had all these tools. But I sure do need them! 

    I also need to watch where I'm going. Mid-post, in my effort to provide you with an accurate list of tools, I went to a cabinet where I was sure I would find my Sentsy wax. While trying to find it, I walked headfirst into the corner of the open cabinet door. Thankfully I have a thick skull. I'd post the photo of my battle wound, but it's too embarrassing. Maybe I'll post the scar once it's all healed up. 

    Ok, Writers - What other tools do you need? Did I forget anything? 

    Tuesday, March 25, 2014

    Romance Weekly

    Love romance? Me, too. I love experiencing romance, reading about someone else's romance, and, most importantly, I adore writing about hot, steamy romances. Each week, I'll be bringing you the Romance Weekly chat, where romance writers answer all sorts of questions. At the end of my post, I'll link to the next author on the list, who will answer the questions and link to the next writer, and so on. You'll know you've finished the blog tour when you wind up right back here on my blog.

    So let's dig in. This week's questions come from author Nina Mason. When you're done with the blog tour, be sure to hit Amazon and pick up Nina's debut novel, The Queen of Swords: A Paranormal Tale of Undying Love.

    How does your writing impact your inner life?
    Writing has always been a creative outlet for me to explore and deal with my feelings and overactive imagination. As a child, making up my own stories and songs was a good way to overcome my fears. As an adult, I get to enjoy falling in love over and over again each time I start a new story. When I write, I sprinkle bits of myself in each character and storyline. For example, Maya, from Redemption For Liars, is a roller skating waitress because I used to competitively roller skate. Jack's mom, from Assassin P.I., has suffered a stroke, just like my father. Through these characters, I can deal with complex emotions. Think of it as my version of free counseling.

    How do you hope your books affect your readers?
    Honestly, I just want to entertain people. When you turn that last page and put down my book, I hope you've enjoyed spending time in the towns I've created, with the crazy people who've occupied my mind for so long. I want people to be surprised at each plot twist, laugh out loud at the inappropriate things my characters tend to blurt out, and root for the happy ending that is just out of reach.

    Has anyone ever told you your book changed their life? If so, how?
    Haha. No. Nor should it. But when my mother died last year, I found out that my poem, Walk Amongst Angels, is our local funeral home's second most popular poem. On a whim, I'd given permission to add my poem to their selection nearly twenty years ago. Periodically, someone will return from a funeral, memorial booklet in hand, and ask if the poem inscribed there is mine. I love knowing that a poem I wrote when I was eighteen has the power to give someone comfort in their time of grief. According to my students, I'm popular with dead people.

    Next up on this week's blog tour, Nina Mason. Click on over to her website and show her some love!   Don't forget to pick up her new release, The Queen of Swords: A Paranormal Tale of Undying Love.

    See y'all next week! 

    Friday, March 21, 2014

    Meet Author Ryan Jo Summers

    Please welcome fellow romance writer, Ryan Jo Summers. She's joining us today on the Blog Hop Tour. 

    What are you working on? 
    For the first time, I am working on multiple pieces simultaneously. One is a YA/NA novel of a young girl coming of age, immersed in a world of family, growing up, choices and consequences. Another is a one novel trilogy of three sisters each finding love in the wonderful little North Carolina town of Sweetwater Harbor. The third is still heavily in the plotting and outlining stage but basically it's a woman's lit novel about living life as a military widow, with her young son, only to have her son discover one day his dad is very much alive and amnesic fromTBI. Taking him back in under her new roof, she discovers he is being hunted by the military because of 'special' skills he possesses.

    How does your work differ from others of its genre? 
    Well, first of all, I can't seem to just write the story. I have to twist and blend and crank it around. For example, my debut contemporary romance was about horse racing. But the heroine had supernatural Celtic gifts and then there was the mystery of who was trying to sabotage the hero's horses. All strong elements in a basic love story. The story coming out this fall through Soul Mate, Shimmers of Stardust, is much the same. It's a basic Christian love story, except it begins and centers around the hero having traveled through time. That, of course, conflicts with the heroine's core Christian beliefs.

    Why do you write what you do? 
    I am a sentimental softie at heart. The characters and settings and conversations come to me, asking to be recorded. I couldn't stop writing even if I wanted to. All this stuff has to come out. And I love to see how it all grows and becomes so real.

    How does your writing process work? 
    It starts with an idea, which can honestly come from just about any tiny, obscure phrase, comment, picture, or just about anything. My friends are amazed at how that tiny little thing became such a big thing in the story. Whatever the origins, the tiny nugget becomes an outline and character worksheet, filling in details and setting and dialogue. I research things I don't know, which is a lot, and start writing. Each day starts with review of previous writing, adding new stuff that was scribbled down during the night, and then running from there.

    Ryan Jo Summers is a fellow romance writer and Soul Mate Publishing peep. Her first novel, "Whispers in her Heart', is published with Black Lyon Publishing.  Click here to purchase. "Shimmers of Stardust" is slated for release Fall of 2014. 

    "Shimmers of Stardust" Blurb
    Civil War hero, Logan Riley, turned outlaw is hanged in 1869. He survives, traveling through time, until he is found by modern day anthropologist, Dr. MacKenzie Lynne. Hired by team of physicists, she soon learns real fate they have in mind for him and takes him and runs. Now, pursued by obsessed physicists and the military, they race across deserts and mountains of AZ and NM. If they get caught, it’s a lifetime of imprisonment and tests for him and probably worse for her. But staying free means forever on the run, hunted and homeless. Running and hiding, hunted like criminals, they also discover attraction and love blooming like desert flowers. Kenzie's strong Christian faith works to convict Logan of his past crimes better then the hangman’s noose had. As their love grows and their pursuers close in, their love will face the harshest test of all—Christian morals against nineteenth century outlaw justice.

    Visit Ryan Jo Summer's website.
    Read Ryan's blog.

    Monday, March 10, 2014

    All Aboard! The Writing Process Blog Tour

    Grab your coffee and hop on board for the Writing Process Blog Tour! On this tour, writers and authors spill the beans about their writing process.

    Fellow Soul Mate author Emelle Gamble, tagged me to join the tour. You can read all about her process, and her fabulous books, on her website.

    Are you ready? Let's go!

    What am I working on?
    Assassin P.I. is a romantic, noir intrigue story set in Ellington Bay, where the only thing worse than the dirty politicians, are the dirty cops who double cross them. Former boy in blue turned private eye, Jack Gaines is on a mission to sidestep the red tape and clean up the city streets. His way. But when Angie, his former lover, comes to him with a case he can’t say no to, Jack finds himself on the wrong side of the law. With the Feds breathing down his neck, and his former partner acting as his fairy godfather to keep the heat off, Jack learns one very valuable lesson: The vigilante justice business gets mighty complicated when the killer you’re tracking . . . just might be you. I’m currently 45,000 words into writing my first draft.

    I also have a new project in the works. It’s currently untitled as of yet, but features Mateo, a surly wounded ex-Marine who exudes testosterone, and Sophie, a kind-hearted school principal who won’t take no for an answer. ‘Teo meets his match when he tries to boss around Sophie. Turning the tables on him, the petite principal orders ‘Teo to serve 100 community service hours volunteering in her school. What could go wrong when you’ve got a dozen or so well-meaning, matchmaking kids hanging around? EVERYTHING. I’m plotting up lots of twisty trouble for these two would-be lovebirds to get into.

    I might be a slow writer, but don't worry, I'm brewing up new storylines all the time.

    How does my work differ from others of its genre?
    My storylines never seem to be very straightforward, no matter how hard I try to wrangle them in. I love all the twisty complications and delicious disasters my characters face. Growing up, I loved to read mysteries, especially Mary Higgins Clark. As an adult, I ventured into romance. I'd like to think my stories are a good blend of both romance and mystery.

    Why do I write what I do?
    It’s all my mother’s fault. She once suggested that I’d make a good romance writer. And here I am.

    Before I got married, my family accused me of being a serial monogamist. I had a string of boyfriends who never lasted long. Some were nice, some were not. I supposed I was in love with falling in love. I wrote all the requisite bad love poetry to cope with my feelings, which later was a gateway to me writing short stories and plays. Now that I’m happily married, I can fall in love along with my characters, and my hubby gets to enjoy the fringe benefits. ‘Nuff said.

    How does your writing process work?
    My writing process seems to always be in flux. Sometimes my ideas come from real-life situations, a floating line of dialogue, or a cute guy I see. Over time, my characters become real to me. I can see them in my mind. I know their likes and dislikes. I can even imagine their go-to drink, and how they’d react in any given situation. Once I begin writing that first scene, I tend to “hear” the dialogue first and try to capture that on paper.

    When I wrote Redemption For Liars, I had to write in complete silence. With Assassin P.I., I have several songs I listen to while I write. Often I play one song on a never-ending loop for hours on end. Since I barricade myself in my bedroom to write, I also surround myself with a soothing candle scent, my favorite snacks, and lots of hot tea.

    The first few chapters virtually write themselves. Then then I hit the dreaded middle act where all progress slows to a crawl. Writing might be a solitary activity, but personally, I prefer to bounce storyline ideas off my friends and family. Especially when I get stuck. They get subjected with phone calls and typed missives describing how I might be able to get my beloved characters out of the trouble I got them into. Their questions and ideas help me flesh out the storyline.

    Eventually I reach the end of the story. Then the editing process begins in earnest, and I pull out all those revision love notes I'd been writing myself throughout the months. First, I go back and add the setting details or facial expressions I might have neglected to include on the first draft. I try to tighten up the story and drop any scene that doesn't absolutely have to be included. Then, I begin cleaning up my grammar and word choices. Searching for all those annoying superfluous words is the most tedious part of editing for me.

    Along the way, I meet with my critique partners to foist my characters (and all their unsightly drama) on to them. They don't let me get away with anything. They question me about the choices I've made and force me to spit shine my manuscript until it gleams. Then off to publishers it goes!

    And now it's my turn to tag a couple fellow writers.

    Dianne Gardner is an amazing award-winning author and illustrator, and I'm proud to call her one of my first critique partners. She writes young adult fantasy books that are absolutely rich with details. If you think her books are fabulous, wait until you see her artwork! Drop by her website next week to read all about her fascinating writing process and visit her Amazon author page to purchase her books.

    Up-and-coming romance writer, Ryan Jo Summers is a fellow Soul Mate author. Look for Shimmers of Stardust, a Christian time travel romance, to hit Amazon in September. While you're anxiously waiting, visit her next week to get the inside scoop on her writing process. Come on friends, show her some love. and Visit her Amazon author page to purchase her debut book, Whispers in her Heart.

    Tag! You're it! Leave a comment below and I'll randomly select one commenter to receive some swag. Come back next week to see if you're a winner. 

    Sunday, March 2, 2014

    Life in a Small Town

    Sometimes living in a small town can drive you a little bit crazy. Ok. More like A LOT crazy.

    As a teacher, living and working in the same town where I grew up can be more drama than it's worth. Everyone knows you. Either they went to high school with you and still remember you as that geeky girl no one quite knew how to handle, OR they now know you as their child's teacher. Sometimes both.

    You can't schlep into the grocery store in your favorite grubby sweats, bare faced with your hair all askew, on Saturday morning like a normal person would. No, ma'am. Why, you ask? Because the minute you do, you'll immediately come face to face with at least 2-3 co-workers and a handful of wide-eyed students and their parents. If you don't believe me, try it.

    Co-workers will suck you right back into a heavy conversation about work, the kind of stuff you spend all weekend desperately trying to forget. Forty minutes later and you might as well be stuck at a staff meeting.

    Students gawk in awe and peer curiously into your cart. Parents, too. Who knew teachers actually had lives outside of the classroom walls. Mortified, you try to conceal the huge bottle of wine or Vodka you were planning on diving into that night with dinner. In your haste, you inevitably forget about the huge, bright pink box of tampons sitting atop the four frozen pizzas that serve as week night dinner when you're too tired to cook.

    Trust me. Nothing is more humiliating than grocery shopping in a small town when you are a well-known, although not always well-liked, teacher. N.O.T.H.I.N.G.

    Red-faced you try to carry on a civil conversation with the parent who, after missing every pre-arranged conference, suddenly wants to ask how their child is doing in school. Now?

    But then there are those times when small town life suddenly surprises you. Makes you forget all the embarrassing moments that loop throughout each day.

    Friday, a local man lost his life in a weather-related car accident, leaving behind a wife and three very young children. Within hours, the townsfolk pulled together. They raised organized diaper and formula drives, lined up a dinner schedule to feed the family, and raised $20,127. It took only 1 day.

    Suddenly that claustrophobic little town, doesn't seem so bad after all. It gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling deep in your belly.

    Redemption For Liars is set in a small town, just like mine. Smaller even. Hill's Creek, Texas is the fictitious town where everyone knows everyone. The local diner serves up gossip alongside it's famous Heart Attack dinner combo. And, just like my town, when tragedy strikes, everyone is there to lend a helping hand.

    How about you? What's your favorite fictitious town?