Monthly Archives: April 2015

Getting Real with Readers at Barbara Vey’s Reader Appreciation Luncheon

bvrlWhile I’ve been to forty-six of the fifty states, I’d never been to the city of Milwaukee until this past weekend.  The wonderful Barbara Vey invited me to her fourth annual Reader Appreciation Luncheon and, to put it simply, it was a blast!  Honestly, the only thing that would have made it better was if I’d been a reader coming to the lunch.  With sixty other authors in attendance, I had more than my fair share of fan girl moments.

The weekend started with an awesome dinner hosted by the WisRWA (the Wisconsin Romance Writers) at one of the area’s more famous restaurants–The Packing House.  Later that evening, we went back to the hotel to introduce ourselves to readers.  Each author was given a random question to answer.  As you can imagine, quite a lot of fun was had answering the questions.  That was followed by a cocktail party and a book signing featuring members of the WisRWA.

But the real fun began on Saturday.  That’s when the authors headed to the ballroom to decorate their individual tables.  All I can say is that there are sixty people who are MUCH more creative than I am!!  Here’s a sneak peak at a few of the tables.

 

Check out the Granny Bus on Nancy Naigle and Kelsey Browning's table!

Check out the Granny Bus on Nancy Naigle and Kelsey Browning’s table!

Aren't these cute?

Aren’t these cute?

Creative, huh?

Creative, huh?

 

Key note speaker Tess Gerrittsen brought Rizzoli and Isles hats for her table!

Key note speaker Tess Gerrittsen brought Rizzoli and Isles hats for her table!

Cherry Adair had an entire ecosystem on her table!

Cherry Adair had an entire ecosystem on her table!

 

Mary Burton's table was really sweet!

Mary Burton’s table was really sweet!

When in Wisconsin... Of course I had a football on my table!

When in Wisconsin… Of course I had a football on my table!

The fabulous readers at Table 44:  Barbara, Windsong, Bobbi, Alyce, Dani and Judy.

The fabulous readers at Table 44: Barbara, Windsong, Bobbi, Alyce, Dani and Judy.

Readers buy tickets to authors’ tables in advance.  (Tickets for the 2016 luncheon go on sale August 1 and they sell out FAST.)  Each ticket comes with a chance to win one of the awesome door prizes donated by the authors.  Mine was a beach bag filled with everything you need to read by the pool or ocean, including my complete backlist.  Others included Kindles or being named a character in a author’s book.

barbara vey 1Then it was on to the raffle baskets.  Barbara puts on this luncheon not only to connect readers with their favorite authors, but to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of her late mother.  Over $10,000 was raised benefiting ACS last weekend!  The day was capped off by a book signing open to the public.  My Out of Bounds series of books sold out pretty quickly, but it was fun to stick around and chat with fans and readers.  Over $8,000 in books were sold!

There are lots of opportunities to connect with authors at events like Barbara’s.  The RT convention begins in a couple of weeks in Dallas.  (The prodigal son is graduating from college, so I won’t make it this year.)  Tickets are still available for the Heart of Dixie Luncheon in Huntsville, Alabama on June 13.  I can’t wait to connect with readers there! Also, I’ll be at Lorraine Heath’s tenth annual Buns and Roses Tea in Richardson Texas on October 4.

Thanks Barbara and thanks Milwaukee for a wonderful time!  See you again soon!

Living With Attention Deficit Disorder

When my son was diagnosed with ADD in second grade, my husband and I were advised to read up on the condition to better understand it and how to help him deal with the condition. ADD is a hereditary condition and one of the books listed the signs and symptoms of ADD. Assuming the person reading the book either had ADD or was the parent of someone with ADD, the authors pointed out that having a certain number of those symptoms probably meant you too had ADD.14888580601_12679ac7c2

Turns out I had ADD, and so did my husband. In truth, I think most people have some form of the disorder. As a classic case, I used exercise to counteract the effects of my ADD. For years, I couldn’t focus my mind unless I’d gotten the willies out by taking long walks, runs, and spending hours at the gym. Not only did I settle my mind, but I ended up helping my body as well, a win-win.

In fact, I continue to use exercise to balance my lack of focus, and now I do so consciously. I’ve purchased a shelf that straps onto my treadmill and exercise bike so I can exercise and work on my laptop at the same time. I find this really gets my creative juices flowing. Walking my two dogs around the neighborhood helps whenever I need a break and also generates many story ideas and helps navigate through plot holes. Even something as simple as vacuuming or changing sheets on the bed frees the mind and helps with focus.

Do you suffer from ADD, either diagnosed or suspected? How do you cope?

photo credit: Squirrel! via photopin (license)

Breaking the Writing Commandments

Kitten lying on its back among flowersAs I mature as an author, I’ve started to realize that a lot of writing advice—even advice that’s widely touted as “good”—is really quite bad for me.

Whether advice is good or bad for you has more to do with you than with the advice. For instance, a lot of people struggle with negative self-talk. That’s not me, and never has been. I’m fond of saying that I don’t have an inner critic—I have an inner cheerleader. So advice that’s aimed at silencing the inner critic is really quite awful for me.

To know whether writing advice is good for you, it’s important to understand what the advice is meant to achieve. If it’s trying to solve a problem you don’t have, following it can make you unhappy and unproductive. Here are some examples of writing advice that’s turned out to be terrible for me.

Set Word Count Goals

Purpose: Ensure productivity

Productivity has never been a problem for me. I love to write. I’ve got a great relationship with my muse. Nothing makes me happier than writing fiction all day long. But the moment I set a word count goal, writing goes from being a joy to being a chore. I look for reasons to avoid it. So, no more word count goals for me.

Write Every Day

Purpose: Establish a consistent writing practice

As with any intense activity, if you write every day, there’s a good chance you’ll burn out. You need time to refill the well, because that’s where your stories come from: your experiences, your joys, your worries. You must have a life outside writing, and that means some days, you won’t have time to write. That’s okay.

If you’re writing most days, that’s probably good enough. If you’re writing a day or two a week (or less), then setting up a strict writing schedule, and sticking to it, might be a good practice for you, at least for a while. But even during periods when I’m not writing as often as I should, telling myself I have to write every day turns it into a chore (see above).

Finish the Book

Purpose: Complete a manuscript instead of continually tinkering with it

Obviously, at some point, you have to finish the book, or there’s no point. (Well, some manuscripts turn out to be practice ones with no future, and that’s fine, too.) But you don’t have to finish one book before you move on to another. I’ve probably got a dozen manuscripts in some stage of development. I like to write things down as they come into my head—whether it’s a logline, a scene, a synopsis, or whatever. My stories develop slowly, with my unconscious mind working on them over time. Some manuscripts I tinker with a lot as the story unfolds in my brain. Then there are the crunch times, when I know the story, and just have to get the book out to meet my publishing goals.

I’ve learned that I spend a lot of time cocooning, which is then followed by a flurry of activity. That’s my process. You need to find the process that works for you, and it may not be the one prescribed by a writing instructor.

Show, Don’t Tell

Purpose: Write scenes instead of summary

I naturally write in scenes. My first drafts are almost all dialogue, with a few stage directions, like a screenplay. But fiction isn’t like television or the movies. It requires much more description. Sometimes you need to state outright what the point-of-view character’s scene goal is. “She needed to convince the banker to let her into her brother’s safe deposit box, so she could find a clue to his whereabouts” sounds a lot like telling to me. But without this information, readers might have no idea of the purpose of the scene, or why they should care.

Limit Backstory

Purpose: Avoid a data dump

I naturally open my stories in media res, at the height of the action. I tend to start too late, with the inciting incident, rather than too early, talking about the protagonist’s childhood. I probably care less about the protagonist’s childhood than readers do. I need to add backstory, not to eliminate it. (If you want a great example of the importance of backstory and how to weave it artfully into a novel, read Ain’t She Sweet by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.)

No one ever created art by following the rules. Art comes from breaking them, from trying something no one’s ever tried before. If other people’s voices are limiting you, like they did me, then stop listening. Trust yourself first.

What writing advice that sounded good at the time has turned out to be bad for you?

Image Copyright: vvvita / 123RF Stock Photo

Secrets to Staying Young

This past week I turned 50, and while some of you might be groaning at this feat, I’m rejoicing. Celebrating! For a whole week, which at my age, can prove challenging. But I refuse to give in to the aging process. It’s not for sissies, that’s for sure. I mean, getting out of bed each morning can prove daunting in and of itself, what with stiff joints and muscles, puffy eyes and an over-tired brain from an over-active mind throughout the night. But should I let that stop me from enjoying the day?

Freemont Street

Heck, no! I’ve got too much to do, too much to see–and that’s the key to aging well, or rather, staying young. Action. Intrigue. And the element of surprise…

For me, that translated to a trip to Vegas. It was my first time and probably won’t be my last. From the fountains of Bellagio to the free-wheelers on Freemont Street and the sky-high Ferris Wheel, there’s something for everyone to see and experience in this town–and everyone has an opinion on what that should be.

Venice in Vegas

I felt like a virgin getting advice on her “first time” when I told people I was going to Vegas and had never been. Their eyes lit up, smiles curled their lips and they whispered in disbelief, “You’ve never been?” Then all proceeded to tell me what I HAD to see and HAD to do while I was there.

sweet delights

I confess I didn’t make it through all the suggestions, but I certainly ate and drank my way through the town, trying a little of this and a little of that… I also took time to stop and “smell the tulips” and appreciate the significance of turning 50 and everything it meant to me. I’m on the back side of the slope, sliding down toward my Golden Years in my last “hurrah” — decades of hurrah! While many feel their best days are behind them, I think mine are still ahead. Why?

smell the tulips

Because I’m trying new things, setting new goals and going new places. I refuse to allow my life to become routine and instead, I choose to challenge myself to reach farther, jump higher–even scare myself a little. A 550 ft. high Ferris Wheel will do that to a gal with a tad fear of heights!

But it was worth it. Great views, great sensations rolling through my emotions, churning old fears into new accomplishments… It simply felt great to be alive. And that’s what living is about, right?

Yes. In my book, life is a journey. Living is a process. A very active process, one that continually stimulates the brain cells! The adrenaline cells, the panic cells, the exuberant cells…all of them. Now, where will I go at 60? No idea. I’m still recovering from 50! 🙂

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