Tag: writers (Page 1 of 2)

Cross Waves: Five Reasons You Should Preorder Now

Cross Waves: Five Reasons You Should Preorder Now - Picture of book cover | Amanda Uhl

In 2015, I sat down and wrote my debut novel, Mind Waves, the first book in the Mind Hackers series, little knowing the book would eventually find an editor and a home with The Wild Rose Press. It finaled and placed in several contests and generally received all around favorable reviews. Readers call it “fast-paced,” “intense” and “not your cookie-cutter paranormal romance.” I eagerly started working on the second book in the series, Cross Waves.

But then I got distracted (which happens a lot with writers) and found myself writing a whole different story, a contemporary romance called Charmed By Charlie. The words poured out of me and the finished manuscript quickly found a home with Boroughs Publishing Group. The book also finaled and won a contest and received numerous five-star reviews to thrill my writer’s heart.

So then I went back to finish Cross Waves.

And I couldn’t.

What had once seemed easy and exciting, now seemed difficult and frustrating. I wrote, rewrote, edited and wrote some more. I floated the book to beta readers and critique partners, hired many editors, and labored over the plot, until I felt like giving up.

But I couldn’t. This story needed to be told. This “child” must be born. I couldn’t abandon it. But I couldn’t bring it into the world with developmental issues. Which brings me to reason number one why you should buy this book.

1.) It’s a labor of love. From start to finish, it took me four years to perfect the storyline. Four years of continual revisions. Four years of twirling my hair, biting my nails, and fretting over the plot. I promise you the finished product
is well worth the wait. You are gonna love this story. The copyeditor I hired enjoyed the story so much she offered a contract to bring it to a new serialized romance app called KISS. She said she thought it would do well on that platform. Which brings me to my next point.

2.) It’s fast paced and keeps you reading. Pacing is an issue a lot of writers face: How to keep the reader’s attention so they continue reading until the end. As an avid reader myself, there is nothing worse than not being caught up in the storyline. I want the books I read to keep me up past my bedtime. I want to be so engrossed in the story I must turn the page.  I want to be left guessing what happens next. Early reviewers are using phrases like, “a non-stop reading experience,” “fast-paced,” “heart-pounding,” and (my personal favorite), “I couldn’t put the book down.”

3.) You won’t guess the plot. As I mentioned, I labored over the story line. I don’t like stories where you can guess the ending, which happens far too often for my taste. To me, having the unexpected happen is what makes reading so much fun. I promise you, Cross Waves’ ending is surprising, which prompted one reviewer to label it “explosive.”

4.) The characters are fun, unexpected, and likable. The heroine possesses a dangerous talent. The hero guards a dark secret. The hero’s grandmother plays a pivotal role.  And one character, who you’ll meet towards the end of the book, surprised even me, seeming to appear on his own without conscious thought on my part and setting the series up nicely for the yet unwritten book three, Dream Waves.

5.) And finally, there’s a fantastic incentive. But it won’t last. From now until Oct. 19, you can purchase the ebook for only $2.99 on Amazon (40% off the regular price). And if you preorder the book, you can enter a special raffle to win one of two $10 Amazon gift cards, which you can apply to purchase other books you love.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

So go on, give Cross Waves a try. I promise you, you won’t be bored!

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Apple
Kobo

P.S. And if you haven’t read Mind Waves, you should give it a try, too. The book is only 99 cents on Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble through Oct. 16!

Five Reasons You Should Preorder Cross Waves Now #fallreads #readromance #HEA #paranormal #books Click To Tweet

First Time EVER! Charmed By Charlie $.99 Cents, May 2-22

It’s May, winter is over, and the sun is—hopefully—shining. I’m in a great mood and celebrating with a special deal. For the first time ever, the award-winning Charmed By Charlie is on sale! May 2-22, 2018, you can find the book for just $.99 cents on:

This is a great price but it won’t less forever. But if that doesn’t convince you, here are five great reasons why you might want to check this book out:

  1. It won a bronze medalist in the 2016 Cleveland Rocks Romance Writers Contest.
  2. It was the recipient of Books & Benches Reviewer’s Choice Seal of Excellence.
  3. Library Journal calls it “A lighthearted and engaging read.”
  4. Long and Short Reviews gave it five glowing stars and named it “Book of the Month” for November 2017.
  5. It may be a long while before you see this price again.

But if that’s not enough to convince you, the book is featured as part of this special Love and  Laughter Contemporary Romance Giveaway. Enter May 2-22 for your chance to win. You could be one of 7 lucky readers to take home a Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle Fire 7, ebook prize pack, or Amazon gift card.

(Sponsored by the 34 authors listed below)

Allyson Lindt • Amanda Uhl • Chiquita Dennie • Christine d’Abo • Daphne James Huff • Diane Louise • Donna R. Mercer • Eva Winters • Holly Cortelyou • Jacqueline Diamond • Jacquie Biggar • Jennifer Vester • Joanne Dannon • Karina Kantas • Karly Morgan • Kat Drennan • Leigh LaValle • Lori Sizemore • Lucy Lakestone • Marlow Kelly • Michele Barrow-Belisle • Michelle Jo Quinn • Mimi Barbour • Monique McDonell • RM Alexander • Robyn Neeley • S.L. Sterling • Shaniel Watson • Soraya Naomi • Stephanie Queen • Tara Wyatt • Victoria Pinder • Weston Parker • Aileen Harkwood

Plus, shop the book fair where you’ll find Charmed By Charlie for 99 pennies and plenty of other books for $2.99 or less. There’s  even  a bonus giveaway!

Enter the LOVE & LAUGHTER GIVEAWAY at Bookwrapt.com and you could win a Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle Fire 7, Ebook Prize Packs, or Amazon GCs. https://bookwrapt.com/love-laughter/ #IARTG Click To Tweet

A Little Birthday Advice To Rev Up Your New Year


No, it’s not a national holiday, and no one famous has died (at least I hope not). It’s just an ordinary day. The second to the last day of 2016. BUT it is my birthday (and LeBron James’). It’s also “No Interruptions Day.” So excuse the interruption, but this entitles me to share a few thoughts, right?

You see, I’ve picked up a bit of wisdom this year, what with writing and publishing a book and all. I figured today would be a good time to impart a gem or two to whoever is reading this post. YOU!

Consider this your lucky day.

Don’t Give Up (Too Soon)
I read a recent blog post encouraging the reader to toss out anything in their life that doesn’t make them happy. Stuff like their job that’s less than satisfying or a spouse or a friend who never gives back. It’s all about focusing on yourself the writer urges. Hmmm. Seems a bit…I don’t know…selfish?

The truth is the job is not always going to be satisfying even if you love what you do for a living. As I wrote in a previous blog post, I don’t like to write. Writing takes hard work and discipline. I have to force my butt in the chair, day after day, month after month, year after year. I have to suffer through gobs of rejection from readers, critique partners, reviewers, editors, agents, friends, family or anyone else who has an opinion. More often than not, writing sucks.

But then there are those precious moments, few and far between, when the long days of writing, critiques and bouts of insecurity reap dividends. Like the moment I wrote the last word of my 86,000-word manuscript or the time I won a writing contest or the day I saw the cover of my published novel for the first time. The high during these moments can’t be bought or manufactured. Their worth is measured directly by the effort I devoted to achieving them.

People will fail you.
Whether it’s your spouse or family or friends, they’re bound to disappoint. The easy choice? Dismiss those people who annoy you, hold you back or cause you pain. Why not? Won’t that make you happier? Maybe. But maybe you’ll miss out on some of the most satisfying relationships life has to offer.

After twenty-five years of marriage, I’d be lying if I told you there weren’t moments when I wanted to strangle my partner. There are times we can’t see each other’s point of view no matter how hard we try. There are moments of resentment and anger when it seems we argue about the same stuff, like we’re trapped on an endless merry-go-round spinning in circles.

We could jump off and save ourselves the pain and nausea. Or we could stay on the ride and work together to bring it to a satisfying end. It’s a choice we make. Walk away or hang on tight. We choose to hang on tight. The ride isn’t always easy or fun, but it’s now bigger, better and more exciting than we could have ever imagined starting out.

Don’t get me wrong. There are instances when no amount of hard work can keep a relationship alive. But if you give up at the first sign of stress, how will you ever know the heart-warming laughter of a deep and abiding friendship? The friends I have who go way back–back to college and first jobs–are some of the most enduring, loyal and truest friendships I possess. These are the friends who made a choice to stay during life changes or arguments. They’ve put up with me, offering a rare and precious gift I’ll treasure forever.

Don’t be afraid to try something new
Fear is a thief, robbing us of future joy. Often it’s easier to stay in a situation we know is not good for us or allow ourselves to be placed in a role that doesn’t fit. We grow beyond the role or situation but are afraid to move for fear of failure. We let other people’s view of us define who we are.

Stop. Now. Today.

Don’t do what I did. It took me forty-six years to drum up the confidence to focus on my writing. I made dozens of excuses to keep me in the same place. I let others opinion of me and my fear of the unknown guide my thinking.

The last two and half years after I took a giant leap into the unknown have been the truest, most productive and satisfying of my life. I only wish I would have made the jump sooner.

A few weeks ago, I met a local Cleveland author who survived cancer twice. She wrote about her trials and what she learned from them in her book, A Beautiful Journey. She told me she’s now living for a higher purpose. It took a dreaded disease to shake her from her comfortable life and move her into a profession of blogging, speaking and authoring books.

Sometimes we need these life events to shake us up and show us what truly matters. But you don’t have to wait for something tragic to happen.

So do it. Follow your dreams. But work hard, stay disciplined and don’t give up on yourself or others too soon in the process.

As my birthday buddy, LeBron James has said, “You can’t be afraid to fail. It’s the only way you succeed.”

Great #Birthday #Advice for the #NewYear! Click To Tweet

 

If You Put a Writer In a Window…

All settled in the window at Appletree Books and ready to write.

All settled in the window at Appletree Books and ready to write.

A few Fridays ago, I spent four hours surrounded by glass, struggling to type the words to my next novel, Cross Waves. Appletree Books, a quaint bookstore in Cleveland Heights, has been hosting writers all month in honor of National Novel (NaNo) Writing month, which takes place each November.

Cross Waves is the second book in my Mind Hackers series, but that doesn’t make it any easier to write than the first. Also, my job as a communications manager doesn’t leave much time to write.

So I was expecting big things from my day in the window, eagerly anticipating its arrival. But like most things in life, anticipation is the half the reward. We never know what’s in store.

Here’s how it went down.

…They’ll give it a try.
I attempt to start my car, but the battery is dead. Not even the keys will work to unlock the doors. That’s when my terrific husband figures out I left the lights on the night before.

I call the store to tell them I’ll be late, arriving at my destination an hour behind schedule. I push a dollar in quarters in the meter, knowing I’ll need to return two hours later to feed it some more.

Starbucks is next door, so of course, I visit the coffee shop to purchase my Chai Tea.

Back at the store, hot tea in hand, I size up the window. There isn’t a lot of space for my cup, laptop, iPad, purse and glasses. But I promised to sit in the window, so I set my belongings on the small table, kick off my boots, and hike myself into the tiny seat, making a mental note to start that Yoga class soon.

Heating up
The weather is unseasonably warm for November–a balmy 72 degrees. Sunlight streams through the tall glass. I open my laptop, hands poised above the keys. Sweat beads on my forehead.

I’d received a few tips from writer friends who’d sat in the window earlier in the month to dress in layers. I strip. Off goes my vest, shirt and socks. There I sit in t-shirt and jeans, my bare feet resting on my purse, feeling a bit like a plant in a greenhouse about to die of heat stroke.

A little encouragement from a spectator.

A little encouragement from a spectator.

My fellow writer in the opposite window is a local whose friends stop by in a steady stream. One of them holds up a sign to spur me along. I’d better start writing.

I push my laptop back an inch and bump my tea. I watch in horror as it dumps to the floor, muddy brown liquid dripping on the wood and into my open purse. Ugg. Down from the window I go in search of paper towels.

I return and get settled again. The writer is changing in the next window. My friend Marin arrives, taking her turn behind the glass.

“I need a water,” she says. Off she goes to the Starbucks next door.

A fairytale bookstore--I want these steps in my home.

A fairytale bookstore–I want these steps in my home.

Time to write
I type a sentence or two. I haven’t worked on this story in six months. I struggle to recall the plot. I reread.

Marin returns, water in hand, which makes me wonder what time it is. I look for my cell phone. It’s gone! I must have left it in the car. What if someone needs me? I scramble down from my perch, slip on my boots and grab my keys.

Off I trot to the car to find my cell on the front seat. Good timing as the meter needs fed. Except my change is in my purse at the store. Sigh.

Back I go to retrieve my purse, my heels clunking on the hard pavement. You should be writing…you should be writing…they seem to chant.

I feed the meter and return to the store. Up I climb in the saddle again.

Photoshopped
A man comes by with a large, expensive-looking camera. He motions to take my picture. I nod. Dutifully, I smile, wondering where the photo might end up.

I write a few more sentences, fanning my face in between. Sweat trickles down my back. Marin tells me she’s had enough and exits the window for a cooler table in the next room. I briefly contemplate doing the same. But then, what’s the point? I came out here to write in the window and write I will!

I place my determined hands back on the keyboard. A few more sentences appear on the page. Yahoo! It’s now a paragraph. I’m writing. I’m writing!

My gracious hosts at Appletree Books. Notice the book wallpaper behind the counter.

My gracious hosts at Appletree Books. Notice the book wallpaper behind the counter.

Bippity-boppity-boo
The store owner approaches. “I’m heading to Starbucks. Would you like an ice-water?” she asks.

Would I like an ice-water? “Yes, please,” I say, looking at her like she’s my fairy godmother, and I’m going to the ball.

I write a few more sentences. The words are coming easier now. I check my word count. 500 new words. Yay.

The store owner returns with the largest ice-water I’ve ever seen. “Bless you,” I say, and I mean it.

I wrap my hot hands around the giant cup and bask in the instant relief. Now all I need is a sandwich.

I check the time on my cell phone. Two o’clock. My time under glass has come to an end.

Marin decides she’s heading back to the office, so I take a solitary lunch at the restaurant next door, selecting a seat far from the window.

I prop open my iPad and churn out a thousand words.

What happens when you put a #writer in a window? Celebrating #nano at #appletreebooks. #amwriting #amediting #writingtips #asmsg Click To Tweet

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Late Night Ghost Auditions: No Callbacks Allowed

young woman in bed with alarm clock and eyes opened suffering insomnia and sleep disorder thinking about his problem on dark studio lighting in sleeping and nightmare issues

It happened last night.

I awoke to see a dark stranger standing by my bed. My heart leaped out of my chest, forcing a gasp, as adrenaline rushed through my body. I scooted across the mattress, nearly pushing my husband over the edge in the process. He, poor man, groaned, rolled over and went back to sleep. But I lay there sweating. What was that…thing?

I didn’t know. When I tried to take a closer look, it disappeared.

In the warm light of day, I brush this encounter off as an over-active imagination. I am a fiction writer after all. And I did have that chocolate mouse for dinner last night. That has to be it, right? RIGHT?

Ghostly encounters
“Ghosts are all around,” my writing buddy Joyce tells me. If anyone would know, it’s Joyce, who I met through a local writing group–the Northeast Ohio Romance Writers Association (NEORWA). She’s a member of a ghost-hunting group, called EVP Mediums and carries the title EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) investigator.

“Aren’t you afraid of ghosts?” I ask her, while visions of my mysterious late-night visitor dance in my brain.

“No, I’m not. The spirits don’t feel threatening. To me, they’re just people.”

Dead people, I think on a shiver. The thought of getting close to a ghost, let alone inviting one to speak, is, in a word, terrifying. I’ve been avoiding them my entire life, though they insist on appearing at my bedside on a routine basis and adding a dose of realism to my books.

Joyce doesn’t share my misgivings. She regularly volunteers to investigate sites known to be haunted along with other intrepid ghost hunters. They routinely tape apparitions speaking and observe dark shadows in eerie places. They even do…gasp…sleepovers.

EVP Investigator Joyce Caylor takes a break at her first overnight outing with the ghosts at Malabar Farms.

Not my kind of pajama party
Armed with camera and audio equipment, a psychic and an ordained minister, they call out to spirits, asking questions guaranteed to invoke an answer. What is your name? How old are you? Why are you here? What do you want?

In the old Mayflower Hotel in Akron, Ohio, which used to house drug addicts, the gang hears shades cry out for their drug of choice. At the Slovak Club in Lorain, ghosts are recorded speaking in…you guessed it…Slovak. At Malabar Farms in Lucas, the spirits issues words of support, uttering “I’m happy,” “He’s going,” and “Pray with you,” after the team performs a cross-over ceremony. The ceremony is performed by the group’s minister to encourage ghosts to “go to the light.”

“We always get ‘help us,'” says Joyce. “I don’t know why.”

Maybe it has something to do with being…gulp…dead.

“Has this been detrimental to your faith?” I ask.

“It’s strengthened it,” says Joyce. “I don’t worry about death. It’s made me think about my relationship with God and why this work is important to do. I kind of feel like this path opened up for me.”

In addition to the spiritual growth, there’s another benefit ghost-hunting is providing Joyce — material for her novels. She has a whole series planned, including five story ideas.

Not bad.

Hollywood has even come calling. Six members of the group (before Joyce joined) have been featured in a new series pilot on Lifetime called American Murder House.

Maybe I should encourage my late night visitor to audition?

At least he won’t have to worry about ‘breaking a leg.’

Eeks! Late night ghost encounters @EVPMediums #amwriting #ghosts #paranormal #psychic Click To Tweet

What If Your Greatest Frustration Powered Your Next Big Idea?

A writer’s life is filled with some highs, lots of lows and even more waiting around in between. The glacial movement of the publication process can be frustrating, especially for doers like me.

When I began the writing journey two years ago, the only thought in my head was whether or not it was possible for me to finish a novel and have the story make sense. I gave little consideration to what comes after.

I didn’t know I would spend a year querying agents and editors, attending meetings, reading and learning about the craft of writing and rethinking the work until I could barely look at it again without feeling a dead weight in the pit of my stomach.

But that is, indeed, what happened.

Big Idea Rocket

Frustration spurs creativity
The greatest source of my frustration during this period was how difficult it was to be heard and seen in such a crowded marketplace. Ironically, this led to renewed inspiration. I wondered: What could I write that would make me stand out from the crowd? What is the hardest story to tell?

My brain fired back–one that contains humor and is told mostly in dialogue. I happened to be watching Gilmore Girls with my daughter at the time, which contains a lot of face-paced, witty scenes. I’d also just read, Bet Me, by Jennifer Cruise, and the idea for Charmed By Charlie was born.

A star is born
It would be an office romance with several colorful side characters. Charlie, the hero, would be a flirt and a creative genius. Val, the heroine, would be a math whiz, who is wary of charmers due to a bad experience. There would be a mystery to solve–someone is embezzling money from the firm–which can only be resolved by the hero and heroine joining forces. Val would have to confront and adjust her prejudices about Charlie. Charlie would need to give up his freedom-loving ways for Val.

The first chapter wrote itself, and every chapter since has rolled fluidly from my keyboard onto my iPad. I began sharing chapter installments with several beta readers who were enthusiastic about the work. Write faster, they told me.

I, too, want to write faster. I, too, want to know what will happen next.

Last week, I flew into Phoenix for the Desert Dreams conference, where I met with two agents. I had intended to pitch my paranormal romantic suspense series, Mind Hackers. But a few weeks ago, I signed a contract with The Wild Rose Press for Mind Waves, the first book in the series, and as a result, neither of the agents were interested in that world. So, I pitched Charmed By Charlie instead, and both agents I spoke with asked for sample chapters.

One of my critique partners suggested I enter the first few chapters into the long contemporary category of the 2016 Cleveland Rocks Romance Writers Contest. On Monday, I learned that Charmed By Charlie was a finalist in that category. Winners will be announced on May 21. I couldn’t be more excited.

When the going gets tough
Sometimes, when we feel like giving up, we just have to keep going. We have to ignore the naysayers (we all have them) and the little voices in our head that keeps us from going after what we love. We have to use the roadblocks in our way as fuel to take a different stance, look at the world a bit differently, and try something new.

It could be our greatest hurdle will produce our next big idea.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

That is the question:
Whether tis better to embrace Twitter
And all it has to offer or to remain in blissful ignorance
And by opposing avoid it entirely?
To tweet or retweet; or give or get a favor.
To see your followers go up and down then up again.
Aye there’s the rub.

Chances are if you’re an author, you have a Twitter account, which you are using to follow other writers, agents and publishers and post your own news and comments. You probably have quite a few followers, too. Twitter followers seem to come and go like waves on the ocean–they rush in, they depart again.

Writers go social
From the moment I completed my first manuscript, I was advised to develop an author profile on social media, especially Facebook and Twitter. Facebook was easy. I already had 300+ friends, so it wasn’t hard to create an author page and invite them to like the page. Twitter, on the other hand, took more effort. I had to learn the hashtag concept, figure out how to tweet, determine frequency and decide who or what to follow.

Although it’s been a year since I posted my first tweet and garnered my first follower, I have made a few observations:

  • It’s fast. Like a speeding bullet, life on Twitter happens much more rapidly than on other social media platforms. The minute I tweet, someone else is there to retweet, comment or favor.
  • It’s mostly impersonal. Unlike my 300 Facebook friends, the majority of whom I have met in person at one time or another, I think I know maybe five of my current Twitter followers. The rest are strangers who share a common interest in books and writing. Do we talk? Sure in about ten words or less.
  • It’s noisy. Scanning my Twitter feed is a lot like being in a roomful of people with everyone shouting at once. Who do I tune into? Who do I tune out? What important conversations do I miss while I’m trying to make up my mind? And how can I possibly be heard with all the noise going on around me?
  • It’s powerful. Over the last two weeks I participated in two Twitter events: #Pit2Pub (to pitch publishers) and #PitchMatch (to pitch agents). Each involved composing a compelling tweet describing my book and posting it during a certain time period. The first event garnered seven favors from publishers and generated one contract offer (so far). The second did not win me or the majority of the other participants any favors. But I came away with a new respect for Twitter as a tool that might, with the right amount of luck and timing, attract a legitimate agent, editor or publisher. Neither of these events were time consuming, and both allowed me a glimpse into what those on the receiving end of our pitches are seeing.

Recently, a writer friend sent me a list of 91 free Twitter tools and apps. Many of these are designed to provide users with a better idea of who to follow. Clearly, there are a lot of eyes on Twitter.

So should we tweet? I’d twitter a guess we should.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet? Click To Tweet

Cooking Up a Book Takes Perseverance

Writing a book calls for a recipe of careful planning mixed with blood, sweat and tears. And don’t forget to stir in confidence, persistence and stubbornness.

And just when you start to get excited, thinking you are onto something, someone tells you the batter looks kind of funny. Why is it that weird orange color? There are no oranges in this recipe!

So you mix and stir and mix some more. This time the recipe will be perfect…won’t it?

Fingers crossed
On a wish and a prayer, you pop the doughy mass in the oven (which in this case takes the form of an email to an editor or agent you think might have interest) and then there’s the inevitable wait, wait, wait and wait some more while it bakes.

What will the finished product look like? A lopsided mess? Or will it, perhaps, take shape and form while it’s baking, rising to the perfection you know in your heart it can achieve?

But even if it looks good, what about the taste? What will the critics think?

And then self-doubt moves in. “What do you know?” the little voice says. “You didn’t go to culinary school. Your degree is in marketing. You don’t know how to cook. In fact, you have no business wearing an apron or being in the kitchen! Just because you made one pie years ago, which your mother and father said was delicious, doesn’t qualify you as a chef. And yes, I know your friends and coworkers all rave about your cooking, but they have no professional experience in the kitchen.

What will it be this time?

What will it be this time?

Looking for love
Still you hope and pray someone, anyone will give you a word of encouragement. Just enough to keep you going another week or day or minute. But the words you crave are few and far between because…well..because everyone else is dreaming up their own recipe and waiting for it to come out of the oven like you.

Ding! The oven timer (and believe me, my email ping, indicating an agent, editor or contest coordinator has responded to a submission, sounds just like my oven timer) has rung. What will it be this time? With shaky hands you open the over door and peer inside, pull the pan out and look it over with a critical eye. Looks and smells okay to you. The dough has risen. One taster even remarks on that. But most of the others agree it wasn’t ready to come out of the oven yet. You should have added extra flour or a bit more sugar.

With heavy heart, you tweak the recipe, which takes weeks and months until you don’t want to fiddle with it anymore. Because the more you fiddle, the more you’re afraid you’ll end up ruining the inspiration for it, which got you excited about concocting the darn thing in the first place.

But finally, finally, it’s perfect and ready to go back in the oven.

You wipe a sweaty hand across your brow and with churning stomach and a dollop of courage, reach for the over door again.

This time, you tell yourself. This time’s a real winner. I just know it.

Cooking Up a Book Takes Perseverance Click To Tweet

Light Up Your Inner Muse: Join a Writer’s Group

I’ve joined many groups over the years. Some have been paid experiences, some volunteer. Some I joined to chase after boys I liked; others were to get away from boys I did not. Many I joined because a teacher, parent or employer insisted I needed the educational experience. And then there are those few, far and in between that I joined…well, just for me.

Theatre days
One of those came when I majored in theatre in college. Acting was my dream, and I was determined to join the theatre crowd with all the passion in my young heart. And I did.

I once acted in a play that was entirely improvised every night for a new crowd of ticket holders. I stood in the wings, quaking with fear, and sang songs to calm myself. That’s how I discovered and accepted a profound truth–I was much more comfortable behind a stage than on it. I achieved more personal satisfaction (and a better grade) after I wrote a play about a young man who discovered he had AIDS. I should have known then that writing was the path for me.

But I didn’t.

It would take many years and a few unsatisfying job experiences before I would have the courage to admit to myself and those around me that I held a deep, inner desire to express myself in writing. And not just any writing–romance novels, where relationships between a hero and heroine take center stage, and I, the author, can stay hidden within the pages.

Match meet heaven
In April, I had another one of those life-altering moments. I joined a writer’s group and attended their monthly meetings. I didn’t expect much from the experience–perhaps my theatre days had hardened me to other artists. But from the moment I walked through the door of my first meeting, the unexpected happened. I felt a tingling, and the tingling spread. As I talked to writers at different stages in their careers, creative sparks appeared, first here and then there. This one is self-published and has advice on cover artists and promotion. That one is a former English teacher with a talent for developing other writers and willing to share her vast knowledge. This one dreams of plots at night and has advice for my next scene. That one is releasing her tenth book with her fifth publisher and warns me of who to avoid. Whatever stage I’m in, whatever questions I have, there is someone in the group with the knowledge I need to improve my writing and pursue my dream. They welcome me with open arms, bolster my inner critic and recharge my creative juices.

Like that final piece in the puzzle, I fit perfectly.

No naughty girls
Saturday was the annual holiday party at Punderson Manor. We dined, exchanged gifts, passed out awards and honors, and generously shared advice and words of encouragement with one another. No cutthroat competitors and bah humbuggers in this audience. In the true spirit of Christmas, I am given a generous dose of literary cheer to put in my writer’s stocking. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. Enough to last well into the new year–or at least until that next rejection.

My new writer friends spreading the holiday writing cheer.

My new writer friends spreading the holiday literary cheer.

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You Can Get More Than Mashed Potatoes at Thanksgiving

Ah, the holiday season. Time to kick back, relax and enjoy family time, right?

Only in fantasy land folks, as this recent Saturday Night Live episode with Adele illustrates. But there is a silver lining to Aunt Mabel’s fear of refugees, Cousin Dan’s loud condemnation of Republicans or your brother-in-law’s liquor-filled expositions on life. At least, if you’re a romance writer.

Romance writers are keen observers of the world around them. Although many of them dread interaction with other humans, relationships compose the core of their work.

Thanksgiving leftovers
When I began writing my first manuscript, I thought the developing characters were pure fantasy–whipped up from some hidden part of my psyche with no basis in reality. But a funny thing happened when I read the story in its entirety for the first time. The heroine, Grace’s personality was strangely like my own, complete with all my quirky insecurities and inner fears. Although exaggerated, Grace’s mother, Elaine’s anxieties mirrored my mother-in-law’s, who frets over her children and grandchildren. And certain aspects of the needy sister, Claire, in the story, are drawn straight from my relationship with my own dear sister (sorry sis). Even my father-in-law, who couldn’t imagine he would ever end up in a romance novel, pointed out that he wants royalties since I gave the hero, David, his crooked finger.

These authentic personality traits, although unintentional on my part, made the story come alive. Contest judges reviewing the entry remarked, “I understand Grace’s worries. I have felt the same way” and “The sister is believable.”

Once I understood the importance of real-life situations and personalities to literary character development, I became much more conscientious about my own powers of observation. Everything…and I mean everything…has become fertilizer for the next crop of words. Yes, family and friends, beware!

Stuffing for the brain

This year's Thanksgiving turkey.

This year’s Thanksgiving turkey.

Besides the obvious writing inspiration, there’s an emotional payoff as well. It’s easier to ignore your cousin Cheryl’s barbed comments when you are analyzing their cause and effect. Instead of taking the words to heart, your mind is occupied with the words unspoken. What are Cheryl’s goals, motivations and conflict? Has she just lost her job and the fact that you landed a brilliant, new position hard to stomach? Perhaps she doesn’t feel loved by her husband and her bitter words reveal her pain and disillusionment. Or maybe she has never shared the close relationship you have with your mother, with her own?

Art doesn’t just reflect life, it mirrors it back at you in exaggerated form. The core of character development has its roots in reality. When I take the time to listen and observe the dynamics of the conversations taking place around the dinner table, I gain in perspective. Not just a greater openness and sense of wonder to explore my own life’s journey, but a wealth of material for my next great masterpiece.

So, thank you dear Aunt Mabel. Now would you please pass the mashed potatoes?

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