Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Building My Circle of Friends

I have a Magic Circle of writing friends. I love them all for what they bring to the table of my life. Each woman represents a different take on writing, a different genre, a different approach and a different style. I go to them with my ideas, my pages, my contest entries and my contest results. I feel very fortunate to have met each woman in my Magic Circle. And best of all, the circle is growing. I've made several new friends in the south and have been fortunate to find a few brave souls to read my pages, vet my story ideas, encourage me during low times, and share in my victories.

Why? I hope it's because I'm practicing the art of civility and acting like a writing hostess in my corner of the world.

I started off as a lone writer. Then I met my first CPs, K & S. They "vetted" my writing and invited me to join their critique group. I worked with them for over a year, meeting once a week, to hash out the pages we'd sent to each other. Knowing these ladies improved my writing tremendously. But more so, knowing these ladies improved the quality of my life. They are my friends, my sister writers and my mentors. They are very important to me.

And I was very sad when I had to say goodbye to them and move to Alabama. We all floundered that year. I with no one really to connect with even for a cup of coffee and they with their various life hijacking issues. But we kept up our contact via phone calls and emails. Together we charted new courses and plans for our writing future. And we've seen various levels of success, celebrating the victories of our CPs as part of the joy. One is published in middle grade fiction and has a YA novel out  on full requests! The other is a blasting through the contests with wins and finaling entries in prestigious contests for unpublished writers, including this year's 2010 Golden Heart. I am so pleased for them.

I got lucky in Alabama. I have great writing chapters, Southern Magic and Heart of Dixie to start and, after I went to Moonlight and Magnolias, Georgia Romance Writers of America was added to my list of support chapters. I also met another amazing woman who became a friend and a critique partner. We'd meet in Birmingham, talk on the phone, share pages, help vet pages and help grow each other up in the writing industry. This CP has read the drek of the drek of my pages with patience and grace. I am so fortunate to have met her. She's dedicated and persistent in pursuing the goals we all have as writers.

But darned it all, she moved! And where did she move to? Yup, to my old stomping grounds in Virginia. Thank goodness I have email, a cell phone and the Internet. We continue to schlep through the writing process together. But as a Writing Hostess in my corner of the world, I want to introduce her to K&S. After all, they are fabulous and wonderful. They might be around when my CP has a victory to celebrate or a rejection to moan about. Today I get to fulfill my desire to connect her to my VA CPs and friends.

I can't wait. Although it is a bit sad that I am going to miss out on all those stolen latte moments, not to mention a bit of alcohol in the evenings, I am happy I have this opportunity to bring them together.

How are you welcoming writers and people into your magic circles?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

You Don't Know What You Don't Know

I'm on vacation and part of the time I'm away I'm staying with my dear friend in Oakton, VA. Her mother is a super person and has come along to the pool with us (along with dear friend's darling daughters aged 4 & 6) as we hang out. It's been fun not having a regular schedule, floating through the lazy days of summer vacation with young children, smelling the scent of chlorine & sun block lotion. Playing games, coloring and reading stories with little ones is always a fun treat for this mom of a teen. And the hosts are beyond generous and super people.

As the lazy days progress, I have managed to write a little here and there, but I've been taking in life at a gentler pace, too. And that means getting into interesting conversations with interesting people like my dear friend and her parents. Her mother brought up a New York Times series that dear friend's sister had forwarded to her: a series about the concept YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW. We've had a lot of fun with the play on words, but based on our conversations, it's really about the human ability to deny the existence of problem before they undertake something or to not know what problems lie ahead of their efforts to perform some task.

Okay, she used a bank robber who believed if he rubbed lemon juice on his face, no one would see his face in a photograph. He didn't know what he didn't know. Obviously or he wouldn't have attempted his bone headed attempt to rob a bank with lemon juice on his face. I know that lemon juice doesn't prevent my face from being recognized. I know what I know. But had I known five years ago what I know now, would I have begun writing?

I didn't know what I didn't know. I didn't know how hard it was to get published. I didn't know how painful it was to revise. I didn't know how frustrating the task of unthreading a story multiple times and sewing it back together again would be to perform. I didn't know how much I had to know about plot, craft, POV. I didn't know about RWA, writing chapters, and online writing classes. I didn't know that I would stop doing everything I was into doing to give my heart to writing.

I didn't know what I didn't know. I didn't know I'd meet amazing people who didn't know what they didn't know. I didn't know that I'd grow tough skin and learn to deal with rejections. I didn't know that I had more than one story in me. I didn't know that I had something to offer other writers as a reader, a judge, a friend, a motivator. I didn't know what I didn't know.

I'm glad I didn't know what I didn't know. If I had known about the hard stuff, I might not have started writing. And then I wouldn't have learned about all the wonderful, good stuff about writing.

I'm sure I don't know what I don't know about many more things. I'll leave the gathering of the knowledge to time, experience and the pursuit of knowledge.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Road Trip to Virginia

I am going on vacation with my darling daughter and I can't wait to hit the road. We love traveling together and this time I know we'll have a blast. We're driving up to Virginia to see University of VA, Monticello, friends in Northern VA, my Critique Partners and the beautiful nation's capitol. I love DC and the surrounding area and I always look forward to returning to visit. Darling Hubby will be up for a bit to work, so I get to play tourist with him and stay in a hotel while DD spends time with her BFF.
Afterward, darling daughter and I are heading to NJ and PRINCETON. I'm excited to see the campus and the town as I've never been there before. Then we're heading back home via Roanoke. A nice long getaway with no workshops to moderate, no house to clean and a minimum of laundry. Best of all, I get to spend quality time with my quality girl!

While I'm on vacation, I'll pop in every once in a while, but for the most part I plan to work on my revision. I am at the midpoint and cresting over that bump, but there are still 31 scenes to go before I finish this plot pass through. Most of my spare time, if any, will be devoted to this project. I must finish it.But you never know, while I am out and about seeing the sights, I may have to share some of my photos with you as well as some of my adventures.

See you on the road!


Monday, June 21, 2010

Good Intentions Are Paving Stones

Good intentions. Everyone's got them. What do we do with them? My father used to say "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." He probably heard or read that statement from somewhere/some famous person, but I always attribute the phrase to my dad. I heard him say it a LOT (usually after I had failed to clean my room, wash the dishes, sweep the floor, etc.--what can I say? I am a sloth).

And let me tell you, being grounded for intending to do something and then not accomplishing it is a little like being in the pits of hell.

But being a kid who fails to follow through on a promised chore who is grounded is not the same as being an adult who intends to become, to do, to be ANYTHING and then the adult fails to follow through on her intent. The resulting hell is not filled with brimstone and fire and a man wearing a bizarre red cape who pokes you with a pitchfork.

The hell is one's own sense of worth going down the toilet. Flushed. Gone. The man with the pitchfork is really one's conscious saying "you're a failure and a loser." Ouch. Pretty big poke in the head, right?

And here's what else that dude in the cape who lives in your head says (I don't care what religion or not a person is--we all have egos and a conscious capable of creating this negativity), "You may as well not bother to intend to do anything again cause you will not succeed. Just quit before you start." Bigger blow to the psyche, right?

What is the solution? Do not INTEND to anything unless you plan to carry through your intention. You're writing a book? You want to write a book? You intend to write a book? Then write the darned book. Don't tell yourself you'll fail before your start writing or while you're writing. Regardless of your religion or lack of one, I think that's the dang man with the pitch fork talking. Really. It is. If you fail to become who you were intended to be, then that dude in the cape wins.

Now in this case, I use writing the darned book because that's what I'm geared up to do. That's my desire and my intent. I am fulfilled by the action of carrying through on my intention. The end result is a happy and satisfied ME. The rest is gravy, icing, cherries, you name it. But I have the substance. I have the full satisfaction one feels after eating a super wonderful meal that's been plated up for me to enjoy.

As long as I live the life intended for me, carry through on using my gifts and talents to the best of my ability, then I am in a place called heaven. And finding heaven on earth is a great discovery.

What's your good intention?

Friday, June 18, 2010

On Being Dressed

Okay, I have been working on this crazy plot revision for my fourth book and it's coming along. No, I'm not pounding out thousands of words per day. Can't manage that kind of output when I am hacking away weeds and jungle growth from the first three drafts. However, I am getting close to the midpoint of my WIP, polishing and shining up the story as a I go along. I occasionally back track and fix something -- a sentence here or there. While it may not be 100 percent DONE by Nationals, it will be close.

I'll have to go back and layer in deeper POV, which I am feeling better about executing. Oh, and the setting is weaving together nicely, and if the plot is not what people want to buy/read/rep then I'm okay with it. I just want to prove to myself I can flesh out this story and see if it flies. It might die. But it might, it just might, fly.

However, as I've been merrily fixing the plot and heigh ho'ing through  my story line, my constant reading has opened my eyes to a big problem. My people aren't wearing anything as they go about their business. The category and single title romance books have lots of descriptions of the clothing and hairstyles of the characters, usually as seen by another character looking at the person in question.

My characters are tooling around the USA on a publicity tour and I've forgotten to describe their clothing for at least 3 chapters. Despite the racy content, shall we say super sexy content, they do actually wear clothes. But I've forgotten to add that element. Yikes! My peeps are naked to the reader. Or will the reader miss the paragraph long descriptions about the clothing? I don't know.

I guess I was so busy getting the plot and the pacing to work, that clothes were not on my mind for a while. Ah well, I'll layer my peeps' clothing into the story in bits and pieces. A slip of a dress here, a show of color there, a bejeweled hand waving at someone over here, and a heck of nice set of buns in tight jeans added as a dash of interest. Really FINE interest!

The thing is, I'm not a fashionista. I don't have a lot of clothes in my closet. Some women might even be shocked by the fact that I SHARE my closet with Darling Hubby. Seriously. How many women share their closets? I know of some women who have two or three closets filled with clothes while their darling husbands have a woebegotten corner of a small closet for their stuff. Before darling daughter was born, I had more clothes, but honestly, half my wardrobe was BUSINESS ATTIRE *yuck*,  and I've cheerfully given that wardrobe the heave ho.

It was easier to dress my heroine when she was in starchy pin stripes and pencil skirts. But now she's supposed to lose her business armor and go about in much sexier clothes. It's a good thing I have a few fashion magazines hanging around (okay, just one and I think it's my darling daughter's magazine subscription), or I'd be in big trouble. Now my hero? Oh, he's easy. Butt hugging jeans, torso kissing T-shirts, a Glock and other concealed weapons make him GOOD TO GO. He's got to dress up on occasion, but throw the man in a tux and voila! I'm in heaven again.

Apparently, dressing men is just as easy as it is for them to buy pants and shirts in real life. Women? Don't even get me started on how hard it is to find clothes that fit even the best of bodies, especially bathing suits.

I guess that's why my wardrobe is so small. I loathe the hunt for the perfect fit.

So check out your own characters today. What are they wearing? Or did you forget to dress them, too?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Magic Circles of People

Last Saturday, during our monthly Heart of Dixie meeting, we were all treated to a wonderful review of the rules of etiquette. Now I already knew how to use my knife and fork and, given my European background and strict parents, how to behave properly in restaurants and during banquets. I know how to set a proper table and how to eat from the outside in regarding the cutlery. But before you think this is going to be a review of how to eat properly and zoom out of this page, I want to share with you the greater lesson I learned on Saturday.

Etiquette is more about how to live and create gracious civility in the world where we live than it is about how to hold a knife and fork properly. In other words, etiquette is about treating the people around us with honor, dignity and respect.

Cool, right? Think about how the world is today. We have cell phones and people having intense conversations on them in all manner of places. I have heard more delicious gossip while standing at the checkout counter waiting my turn to toss groceries on the belt than at a party. What are these people thinking? They aren't. And they aren't being very gracious to the person running their food products through the scanner.

I don't do that to my cashiers. I have conversations with them. I believe I know almost every one of the people working at my local grocery store: there's a gal named J**** who is probably the best bagger I know. She's very proud of her work and whenever I see her, I get a hug and she asks me about my day. Then there's the retired gentleman who takes my groceries to the car. The other day he asked me about my favorite wines. We had a lovely conversation. I know about his cheerleading granddaughter, his former places of residence and more.

Rule #1 of how to treat people with dignity, respect and honor: BE NICE, stop to ask questions. Be interested, genuinely interested in what they have to say.

Another thing we learned as we prepare for our annual RWA National Conference is that we are only famous among our peers. Sure, I know who all the famous authors are who are going to be at Nationals. I've all but admitted my obsession with Nora Roberts (really I will have a meltdown fan girl moment if I am within 5 feet of her--I don't want to, but I think I will--either that or I will lose my ability to think coherently and babble). But in the outside world? Nora Roberts won't be as easily recognized.

I thought a lot about that concept. For instance, my darling husband is considered the "Genius of MDA" by many of his peers and co-workers in his industry. Scientists and engineers know him and go to him for his expertise in his specialty of Physics. He's sort of famous in his world, but to most of you, he's just my darling hubby. I'm glad he's thought of that way because he's earned it. As have the famous authors who are going to attend the national conference in Orlando. When I am in that conference world, I will not stampede them, I will respect their right to privacy (tho' I might be hyperventilating inwardly), and I will treat them with dignity, respect and honor.

Rule #2: We are only famous in our own circles of peers. It is not about us, it is about the world around us that counts.

Now those of you who know me, know I am not exactly a shy, retiring "wall flower." I am a people person and I love to socialize. But I'm probably the exception to the rule in the writing world. In fact, I'd wager that most writers are shy, or good at hiding their discomfort if they are in their world of peers. Or they might have their trusted circles of friends and not stray too far from them so they can feel safe.

I have a secret to tell you. I am a reformed shy person who early on learned a trick or two about how to feel more comfortable in new situations. I am also a former, maybe current, geek who was never in the popular crowd and has learned she doesn't want to be in the popular crowd. My few good and cherished close friends are all I need--I don't need people to validate me, I am validated by my own set of rules and accomplishments. I validate myself for myself. But I remember how hard it is to walk into a room and not know a single soul and just feel, well, just feel overwhelmed. And that's a lonely feeling.

Rule #3: Always act like the host/hostess in your corner of the world. Bring civility, grace, dignity and respect into the world by your actions.

Now I've learned how to handle this by actually enjoying my own company a lot. I eat lunch by myself in public, walk alone, sit and listen to the outside world as I sip coffee or read. I am cool with it. But it's tough to be alone in a huge convention of people where there are all these MAGIC CIRCLES of groups who aren't always aware of the fact that there are a few individuals out there who might want to be included, but are too polite to bust their magic bubble. If I walk into a room, I already know where to go. I go to the first person I see who is standing by herself and strike up a conversation. Chances are I will eventually end up with my own little herd of people after a while (as said the Etiquette Lady).

But what if I already am in a circle of friends or peers and someone comes in who is clearly alone? The etiquette lady said something that spoke volumes to me: treat every situation you are in as if you are the host/hostess and welcome new people into your circle. Try to make them comfortable. Treat the world as your party and you are in charge of making sure your corner of the world is filled with civility. You are in charge of making sure you treat that one lonely person standing by the coffee cups on the banquet table with dignity, respect and honor. You will invite that person into your MAGIC CIRCLE of people.

You never know. You might just be inviting a famous person into your world.

Now, I'd like to thank Laura Rich, the business etiquette expert, who came into our world on Saturday and treated us all with dignity, respect, honor and a dash of great southern humor.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dear Books I've Written--I Owe You A New Look

Dear Christine's Books,

I have been busy revising my fourth book (you know who you are and we'll talk later), and I've been making my plans for my next two Contemporary Romances tickling my idea center of my brain. But I've been rude and I have forgotten to remember you, my first three books, in all my pushing forward and planning for my future.

First of all, you might want to know that it was one of our CPs who reminded me about you. She suggested that I go back and take a look at all of you again and transform you into contenders in the writing world. What? I thought about it. Why would I want to face you all again? I was "just learning." I didn't even revise the #1 or #2 (I believed copy editing was revising--laugh now). But she suggested I review you all again, think about entering you into contests after I tweak you into shape based on all I have learned.

Interesting idea. And you know what? I agree.

Number 3? You've been resurrected already. I had all but buried you when same CP said, rename your book and enter it into the MAGGIE again. Now you're on your way to two other contests and I've submitted you to a publishing house. Woohoo. Where will that lead? Who knows? But I am glad we're working together again.

Number 2? Oh, I was so proud of you when I finished you. I had a structured plot, a virgin (haha), a big story and I set it in CANADA. According to a writer I met from Canada at last year's RWA National Conference, Canadian settings don't sell. What the heck, eh? Well, that might be true, but I have news for you. You're going back out there. I'll change the setting to reflect this interesting tidbit of information and send you back into the gauntlet. We can do this. Really. We can. You deserve a chance.

And now, my Number 1 manuscript? The first book of my heart. The one I wrote with joy, freedom and an absolute lack of understanding about POV changes within a scene being VERBOTTEN. Well darling, I am going to give you another chance. You deserve it. You taught me that I had the power within me to make my dream come alive. You made me a WRITER. Thank you for that gift. I want to give you another chance.

You see, my darling books, I have a tendency to cut my losses and move forward rather quickly. If at first I don't succeed, I try again with another book. Oh, I know all about revision now (thank you book number 3 and number 4 for that lovely lesson). And I know I have to keep producing new material, but I had moved forward believing the old was useless. And for that thought, I owe you an apology.

You are not useless. You are my first books. You have potential. I have grown as a writer with each and every one of you. Book 1? You restored my childhood dreams. Book 2? You enriched my understanding about the craft of writing. Book 3? You validated my writing when you finaled in the 2009 MAGGIE, and when you were requested many times. Wow. Proud moments. Happy moments for me.

Book 4? You continue to make me stretch out of my comfort zone and you've taught me to understand how to approach my next book. Thank you for making me face the one person in my life I never addressed emotionally in my prior books. I love you for that gift.

So my darling books, we are going to head into the next months of writing with a renewed commitment. I'm redressing you in finer clothes and sending you back out into the world. You're going to travel again to contests and publishers and agents. It's time to up the ante and challenge myself to pursue my dreams in a new way.

And now a brief note to my as yet unwritten books. You know who you are. I will write you. I will begin plotting book 5 after Nationals. I'll write the first draft before October rolls around (thank God I am a fast first draft writer). And then we'll journey forward. You'll be a part of my collection of arrows. Arrows I am sending out into the world every chance I get.

Thank you my books. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your creative and intellectual gifts to me.



Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dowager Feline's Advice for the Day

Yesterday, I blogged about busy-ness leading to dizzy-ness. The best way to counter busy-ness is to learn how to relax and just be in the moment.

The Dowager Feline meows in agreement. She knows all too well the importance of finding a cozy spot and curling up to rest for a long while. She's learned that she needs to take time out from her busy schedule of harassing me for more food, pretending she's still a kitten and playing with her younger feline friend's toys, and watching the birds play outside when she is on the screened in veranda. 

Remember to take time out. Take time to be in the moment. Take time to relax and refresh your soul. If you don't have a soul that is refreshed, if your spirit is in constant "go mode" you will get frazzled and your work, whether it is writing or painting or mothering or ... you get the picture... will suffer. You will suffer. And you will not give your best to your work or your projects. 

And do this without guilt or angst. Who decided we had to be busy all the time? Who made that plan? I didn't. Our society tends to put a lot of pressure on us to go all the time, be connected all the time via the Internet and email. Do you realize how brain sucking this is? I do. 

So does the Dowager Feline. That's why she's curled up in my office, sleeping comfortably and dreaming about mice and fields and fun.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Busy-ness Can Lead to Dizzy-ness

People's lives are busy. Some people actually define their lives by saying, "I'm so busy, or too busy or these are busy days." They revel in the busy-ness of their lives. They revel in the going out and about to do a zillion errands, or projects, or luncheons. They revel in being seen as "busy." Busy-ness defines their lives.

But sometimes I wonder if these people who are so "busy" are actually just avoiding themselves. Avoiding personal introspection. Avoiding examining who they are or where they need to go. Other times I wonder if these busy people are busy because it makes them feel important. The busy-ness defines them.

Ever met somebody like that? I've met a few. I may have actually been guilty of committing the act of "busy-ness" myself. Heck, I was young once. I did my fair share and plus of extra work when I was employed outside the home and afterward. I remember an incredibly intense time after I became a mom where I spent about 6 or 7 years volunteering in the school, the church, the neighborhood--basically did it all. For free. But then I think part of my motivation was the free babysitting *grin*.

Yup. I was a "busy" person. And I knew a lot of "busy people." It wasn't until I was forced to sit down and take stock that I truly began my inner journey. I admit, I was a self-help book addict for years. Heck, with the crazy dysfunctional background I came from, who wouldn't be? But I never really examined who I wanted to be until I couldn't be out in the world being, well, you know, "busy."

Yup. I couldn't be busy cause I got this weirdo bug in my ear that made me dizzy. Beyond dizzy. I had a serious cases of perpetual vertigo. It was the kind of vertigo that made me sick, blackout, with tremenous heat and frightening moments of disorientation. And the only way to beat it back was to STOP BEING SO BUSY.

I was felled by a tiny bug in my inner ear for 6 MONTHS.

At first I was so sick, I didn't have much energy. I napped. Unheard of in my house. I am a "get up and go" kinda girl. Naturally, after I had a few months of serious downtime, I got bored. You know boredom is actually not a bad thing. Boredom means you're healing. Boredom means your mind is getting ready for the next creative adventure.

Now if a "get up and go" girl can't really, uh, go anywhere in the real world, what is she going to do? Oh, hmmm, any good guesses out there? Oh, yeah. Write. And that is how I rediscovered what I know I was always meant to do. I began writing my first novel. It was an escape, a joyful experience, and I fell in love with my childhood dreams again.

That was a wonderful year. The said book was finished, queried and requested by Silhouette Desire BEFORE I even knew about RWA, CRAFT, ETC.

Fast forward almost five years. I'm still focused on the writing. I love it. I have four books under my belt (though I call them 8 given all the recent plot revisions) and I am submitting, being requested, and happily involved in all my RWA/PRO/Chapter organizations. I am also blogging, FaceBook connecting (imagine if they'd had facebook back when I first got DIZZY? I might not be writing cause I'd be "busy" connecting with my social network), TWEETING, helping with an online workshop, volunteering to help with the PRO Retreat, judging contests, entering contests.... YIKES! I am afraid I might get dizzy again.

And yes, before you ask, I am blond. Let the jokes begin and end now.

But I won't get DIZZY. You know why I believe in my heart I won't get dizzy? Because all my "busy" stuff is what I want to do for my career (and my family--which comes FIRST). I have learned the fine art of saying "no." Or, better, "let me get back to you about that request after I think about it." Or better yet, "I would like some help with this please."

Most of all, I've given myself permission to walk away from my commitments and take a breath. When dinner starts, if the phone rings, I don't answer it. Period. I keep my commitments to a set amount and I don't feel obligated to be perfect (losing perfectionism is a great way to give up the "busy" life). I don't say "yes" to make someone think better of me. And I don't say "yes" to gain approval or puff up my ego. Frankly, I don't consider saying "yes" to anything that does not reflect my Top 5 Priority List.

Ah, the Top 5 Priority List. I shared this list with you in January. I learned about this method of establishing boundaries from a LIFE MAKEOVER book I read when I was dizzy. I reevaluate it every quarter. Usually it stays the same, at least the top 2 items stay the same. The bottom 3 vary depending on season, where I am in my life, and how the rest of the family is faring.

But what is a priority? What does this word mean to you? Here is a brief dictionary explanation:

Priority Defined:


*A thing that is regarded as more important than another.
The housework didn't figure high on her list of priorities.
Seriously? It never does figure high on my list of priorities. Sure I want to prevent my toilets from being deemed toxic & hazardous, but if my house is dirty and you want to come over cause you're down or need a friendly face, I'm your girl!

*The fact or condition of being regarded or treated as important.
The safety of the country takes priority over every other matter.
Or, the health and welfare of my family, and myself, is regarded or treated as important. If I am trying to do too much, everyone suffers, including me. 

*The right to take precedence or proceed before others.
Priority is given to those with press passes.
Now I love this. The items/things/people who take precedence or proceed before others in my life are my family first, my writing (actual writing, not blogging or stuff of that nature), my health, my dearest friends, my spirit and my soul. Everybody and everything else must wait in line. Period.

This getting your priorities straight isn't a perfect process. Sometimes I revert and nibble a bit more off than I can chew. Usually the first thing that suffers is my health. So I get a pretty quick reminder to get my priorities sorted.

Ironically, my weirdest time to keep my priorities straight is through the summer months. I've got these writing goals, but I scale them back a bit, or make room for flexible writing time, during this time of year. Darling Daughter is underfoot, we've got summer travel plans, and I want to enjoy my family during these lazy days. I don't stop writing, but I do break it up differently. And again, my priority is to work on my MS or WIP in Revision. If I'm not on Facebook or I miss a blog post, well that means I'm focusing on my first priority: health and happiness of my family. We're probably at the pool, or shopping, or visiting some museum. And that's okay.

That's the key to maintaining your priorities and boundaries: telling yourself it's okay to let something slide or go slack every once in a while. REALLY!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I Blogged on Romance Magicians Today--Come Visit Me!

Come read my first ever impromptu PROMPT about Deep POV over at the ROMANCE MAGICIANS BLOG SITE.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Driving Lessons

My darling daughter is learning to drive. I've been her primary teacher for a few months. I remember the first time I took her out. There are claw marks on the door handle! But with each trip out, she's gotten better and more confident. I believe I've managed to get through the experience without getting too many gray hairs. My door handle is starting to return to its original shape as I become more relaxed with her sitting behind the wheel. In addition to my personal lessons, we've paid for her summer school driving lessons. Today she gets behind the wheel of a huge Ford Expedition.

Fortunately for the people at large, she is not leaving the parking lot till Monday.

She's nervous about driving a different car. I don't blame her. Driving is a scary deal until you master it. And even then, despite many years of experience, driving is potentially dangerous, even deadly. The most experienced driver is no match for the inexperienced or incapacitated driver.

It occurred to me that learning to drive is much like mastering the writing craft. How?

*You can't go anywhere until you switch on the ignition and turn on the car. Well, you can't become a writer until you stop talking about doing it and you start actually putting words on paper. How many people have you met who "are going to write a book?" How many of those people have written a book? Talk is cheap, switch on your writing ignition and get started.

*You can't go anywhere until you put the car into DRIVE and move forward. If you are writing and you're not submitting your work, you aren't going to get anywhere. You'll be stuck in your writing driveway with a manuscript. You have got to get your work out of the garage and send it somewhere. You have got to risk rejection just as a driver has to risk the road if you wish to reach your destination.

*Driving is a skill you must master one step at a time. You can't become the next NYT best seller until you hone you craft and build your skills. I am not the writer I was 4.5 years ago when I wrote my first manuscript. I hope to be a much better writer than I am in 5 years. How? Practice! Practice writing every day and you will be become a better writer.

*People drive at different speeds. Some people hit the accelerator and reach their destinations fast. Other people go too fast and they crash and burnout. Some people go very slow and watch other cars go around them, but eventually they might get there. Other people follow the speed limit. They are less likely to crash and most likely to reach their destination at the right time. My dad used to say, "Better late, than never." I agree. Find your comfortable writing pace. Go at your speed limit. You will get there.

*No matter how skilled, drivers are not guaranteed a safe ride. There is always danger and problems you will encounter along the way. Potholes, road rage, poor road management, other accidents along the way, flat tires, no gas stations to refuel--they are all out there. Be aware of the dangers and pitfalls when you get behind the wheel and prepare for them mentally. Writers must refuel, dodge negativity, fill their minds with positive thoughts, avoid creating negativity and prepare for all possibilities.

*There are always detours when you're driving. The same can be said about writing. Life happens. And sometimes the detours offer a better, different way to reach your destination. Be willing to adjust your driving and writing goals. Be willing to adjust the way you believe you will get to your destination. Everybody has a different, unique way of reaching their goals and destinations. Be flexible about how you will reach your destination.

Today my daughter is getting into a Ford Expedition and learning how to park, perform turns and more. Next week she will be out on the road with 5 other teenagers (God bless the coaches who are teaching them!). In a year she'll be driving her own vehicle to school. If I hadn't sat in the car with her for that first lesson, in the church parking lot, with my hand gripping the door and my heart lodged in my throat, she would not have the confidence or skills to drive.

Don't be afraid to take changes on yourself. Write your stories, send them out into the world, keep learning how to write and improve your craft. Develop your skills and confidence will naturally grow out of that development. And don't forget to enjoy the scenery along the way as you drive toward achieving your dream.

Happy Writing!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Great Southern Magic Chapter Event on June 26, 2010

Southern Magic's June 26 Meeting 

Angela James with Carina Press will be at the Southern Magic June 26 meeting in Birmingham, Alabama. As a member of Alabama's Southern Magic Romance Writing Chapter. I try to attend as many of the meetings as I can despite living an hour and a half away from Birmingham. First of all, I love catching up with  my friends and I love learning about the writing world through their fabulous programs.

However, I can't attend June 26's meeting even though I had planned to attend due to a travel conflict--darling daughter is touring colleges and I am her chauffeur. But I really really really wanted to attend and I believe that if you are in the Birmingham area and can make it to the Southern Magic meeting, member or not, you might want to as well. 

Why? Because even if you never plan to be published by an E-Publisher, you might learn that this is a viable option for you as a writer. Yes, we’ll always have paperback and hardback books. But those are getting more expensive each year and electronics (expensive on their own) will become more popular. 

E Publishing is part of our writing future. I know I need to find out everything I can about it to be prepared for this future. And I must confess, I actually tried to persuade my daughter (okay, I BEGGED) to wait one more week to head north because I desperately wanted to attend this meeting.

But I didn't convince her and I don't blame her--part of the caveat of this trip is to head north to see her best friend in Virginia. I promised her we'd find a way to get her and her BFF together despite moving her to Alabama and I've kept that promise. Yes, I chose motherhood over writing life because I don't get to do any revisions if I mess up in the mothering department. Promises made are promises kept (tho' I did stoop to begging, she and I knew that I'd miss that meeting).

So please go to this meeting for me! Take copious notes if you attend--share them with me. 

This is me, shamelessly begging again....

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Perseverance or an Obsessive Stubborn Refusal to Give Up?

I've been reading a lot of blogs about how the writer's life. How do we sit in the chair, often without pay, to write these stories? Why do we sit in the chair at all? And how does one know if a writer, new and unpublished, will become successful? 

Is it perseverance or an obsessive stubborn refusal to give up on one's dream? Or is a combination of both qualities along with a measure of self-delusion about the difficulty in achieving the ultimate dream of publication? 

Perseverance defined: 
Noun: steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success: her perseverance with the technique illustrates her singlemindedness

"Perseverance with the technique" stands out for me. 

Read it again. It says, try try try again BUT with the technique. 

If we sit in a chair and write every day, meeting our word count goals and more, then yes, we're persevering. And we often do it without affirmation or pay. Even harder to persevere if we don't have a paycheck or an editor breathing down our necks for our works. 

I believe writing and making writing goals is not enough. I believe that we need to learn, we need to persevere with our technique. We are never finished with the process of learning, regardless of where we are on our writing journey. 

So persevere with your technique. Accept constructive feedback, take courses about writing, ask for help, read books in your genre, attend workshops, enter contests, find a critique partner you trust (I've been super lucky in that regard), and then when you say, "Never Give Up, Never Surrender," you're saying it as you steadfastly work toward refining your technique.

What are you doing to achieve your goal? How are you accepting the changes you need to make as a writer so you can step inside the hallowed halls of publication? Don't just write. Write with purpose, with a willingness to grow and change. And as you struggle with the difficult tasks you face as a writer, try to remember why you embarked on this journey. 

Rediscover daily the JOY you have as a writer. The sheer amazing wonderful way your heart sings when you put words onto paper. Then become a master, an empress, of your joy and harness it with knowledge and technique.

Above all--Persevere with your technique.