SPACE...THE FINAL FRONTIER...

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Cluttered Desk & an Organized Mind

I wonder who first said a cluttered desk is a sign of an organized mind. If that old saying is true, my mind must be organized indeed! Case in point? Here's a photo of my desk. It's a mess, isn't it? Each and every item, though, connects to a writing project I've got going on in my mind--and on paper. Let's a take a tour and you'll see what I mean.
First, front and center is my laptop. That's Misha's recent blog post on the screen. My desk would look pretty empty without my laptop and I bet yours would, too. That laptop is Grand Central Station for my entire day. My day job and my personal life are both connected to it. And of course, so is my writing life. My new series featuring Jamie Sinclair, a private investigator with nerves of steel and a shattered heart, is a December Random House release and this laptop played a vital role helping me reach that milestone.

To the left of my laptop, you'll see my huge coffee mug. Of course, the mug changes daily if not sooner. Hey, I'm cluttered, but I'm not icky! More often than not, though, there's a glass of water in that spot. Water is important to the health and well-being of your entire body, but especially to your brain. I try to stay hydrated because I need my brain to write. I may need it for other things too, but I'm a girl with priorities!

Moving on, you'll see a blue notebook behind the coffee mug. That notebook holds all kinds of tidbits related to the any story I'm working on currently. If you took a peek inside, you'd find a list of turning points for The Kill List: A Jamie Sinclair Novel as well as an entire string of juicy conflicts for the next books in the series. You just might find notes for other series, too. Hmmm...

And that green pen? The rest of the Eight know it well! That's my critiquing pen. I also use it when I move through line edits from my editor. The green ink is a signal to myself that I've seen a requested change and addressed it in the new, digital file I'm creating for her.

The background of the photo is stacked high with books. Admittedly, not all of them are mine. I share space with Mr. Christoff and he's got some bookish pursuits of his own. Sharing space can be a challenge, but I'd rather share space with him than have a room full of desks to myself.

So, now that you've seen my cluttered desk, tell me about yours. Is it cluttered? And is it the sign of your organized mind? The Eight and I would love to know!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Your Hobo Sack of Writing Tricks

"Are you a plotter, or a pantser?" 

This question, heard at writers gatherings 'round the world, is the author's version of "Hey baby, what's your sign?" It's how writers get to know each other, how we find compatible associates, maybe even learn a few secrets.

For those not familiar with the terms, "plotters" are authors who like to plot out their books before they sit down to write. "Pantsers" are the opposite: they like to fly by the seat of their pants, just get in there and start writing.

But, whatever category we fall into (and even when we defy categorization), we all have our bag of tricks: those little tidbits we pick up on the way and tuck into our hobo sacks, in case we need them on our writing journeys. Whether we use them or not, it's always good to know they're there.

So, without further ado, I'd like to open up my personal hobo sack and let you take a peek inside: 


Also known as "Save the Cat," Blake Snyder's beat sheet originated as a tool for screenwriting. Using the basic three-act structure, Snyder breaks down this time-honored pattern of storytelling into manageable "beats" that most stories (especially films) usually hit to achieve resonance with the reader (or viewer). This post, by Tim Stout, does an excellent job of explaining the beats, and how they work together to create a satisfying story experience.


Romance writing is a very specific kind of storytelling, and crafting a good romance is hard work. Of course, writing of any kind is a challenge. But to tell a believable love story within the bounds of 250 or so pages, often creating an external plot around which the romance grows, and maintaining tension when everybody knows that the guy and gal will be together in the end? Well, that takes real skill.
 
Thank goodness for paranormal author Jami Gold, who created this Romance Planning Beat Sheet. Taking the basic structure of Blake Snyder's beat sheet (along with other writing tools she credits on her site), Jami has created a template that deals specifically with the evolution of the romantic relationship in your story. And even better, she provides a downloadable spreadsheet that will help you figure out at what point in your story each of these beats should strike. It's an amazing tool. Thanks, Jami!

Hero's Journey

The term "hero's journey" as it relates to fiction was first introduced in 1949 by Joseph Campbell. This series of seventeen steps is especially interesting because it's essentially the place where characterization meets plot. Regardless of who your hero is, or where his adventure takes him, most heroes will pass through very specific phases of development, both internally and externally. Fascinating stuff!

Heroine's Journey 

And let's not forget the ladies! Heroines, just like heroes, have their own mountains to climb and rivers to cross. Laurie Schnebly Campbell did an online workshop about this very subject. Even though I'm not sure or if Laurie plans to do this workshop again, I wanted to share the link with you so you can check it out. And for a list of Laurie's upcoming workshops, email her at LaurieClass-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

3 Acts, 9 Blocks, 27 Chapters

For writers who reeeeeally like to plot, here is a tool that I just tried recently. It breaks your story down into twenty-seven chapters, each touching on a specific phase of story development... and that's pretty much your whole book! It's a really good exercise that made me seriously think about how my story was going to get from the beginning to "the end."

The author even made a YouTube video, which you can check out here:





So, come on, let's see inside that spotted kerchief you carry on a stick over your shoulder! What kind of writing tricks and tips have you picked up along the way?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Lynne Silver's First Match

We at The Rockville 8 are pleased as punch to help with the launch of Lynne Silver's prequel to her fantastic Coded for Love series, 
First Match

Below is her SWOON worthy cover, how to find the book, how to stalk Lynne via social media, and not one, not two, but THREE mega-licious story excerpts.



Allison Macclesfield wants—no needs—to be a rock star, and what better decade to do it in than the ‘80s? Music is her passion. She’s got her future mapped out. Move to New York, find a job, audition to be lead singer in a band.

Plans don’t include giving it all up for Peter Shepard, the sexiest guy she’s ever met. He’s nothing like the guys she’s known. Peter’s life is full of mystery, and though they believe they’re a perfect match, she can have him or her rock star dreams. But not both.


This is a Coded for Love Prequel


About the Author
 Romance author, Lynne Silver, writes the popular Coded for Love series and other hot contemporary romance novels, such as Love, Technically. Before writing romance, she wrote fiction of a different sort, drafting press releases for technology corporations. Washington DC is her home (non) state, where she resides with her husband and two sons. She is represented by literary agent, Jessica Alvarez of Bookends LLC.





Buy Link:

Stalker links:
Twitter: @LynneSilver

EXCERPT 1:
“And yep, this is cannabis. Reefer. Pot. The old Mary J. Have a toke; it won’t hurt you, and maybe you’ll loosen up and enjoy yourself.”
He moved closer to the blonde. “I am enjoying myself.”
She laughed, and it was a throaty noise he felt in every inch of his skin. “Dude, you’re a terrible liar. If you were any stiffer, you could double as one of the beams holding up the stage.”
“This is my first concert,” he confessed, deciding it wouldnt hurt to get closer to someone who so obviously was enjoying herself.
Her eyes widened. “For real? No way?” She shook the shoulder of her friend who’d melded in a bit more with the crowd. “Amy, get this. It’s his first concert ever. He’s a virgin.”
Peter felt his cheeks heat as she boldly and unintentionally stated two truths about him. He’d never been to a concert, nor had sex.
She glanced at him and started laughing harder. “Dude, relax. You’re blushing as if I announced you’re actually a virgin.”
He had no response. If she were male and had made a physical threat, he’d know how to react. He’d eliminate the threat in seconds without breaking a sweat. As she was a beautiful girl and only a threat to his emotional equilibrium, he went for the fight or flight response, and chose flight.
He was five feet away when she caught up and grabbed his shoulder. It was the first time he’d ever been touched by a woman who wasn’t his mother, and his whole body stiffened.
“Wait!” The blonde had come running after him. She was breathing a little hard from her sprint, and he was tempted to tell her she should stop the illegal drugs if she wanted to be in better shape, but he kept his mouth closed and watched her. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you. You’ve got to mellow out.”
Something made him blurt the words, “Will you teach me?”

EXCERPT 2
Peter leaned in until their faces were inches apart. “I am nothing like the other guys you know.  If my life were my own, I’d buy you a house in the suburbs and marry you and make babies. But I don’t have that to offer you, and, trust me, you don’t want what I have to offer.”
“Marriage? Babies? We’ve known each other two days. And I’m going to—”
“New York. I know,” he said almost bitterly. “You’re going to be the next Blondie, and I will not stand in your way.”
“Then what do we have?”
“This,” he said, and leaned in to find her mouth and take her in a deep kiss. As soon as his lips touched hers, all her fear and anger morphed quickly into passion, and she tugged him down to deepen the kiss. Just like at the concert, their passion exploded into an inferno. His large body pushed her willingly back into her mattress, and the comforter crushed up between them as an unwanted barrier.
She couldn’t get enough of his mouth and ached for more. “Get under here,” she ordered and tugged the blanket out from between their bodies. She heard him kicking off his boots and she sat up to yank her extra-large T-shirt over her head. Her panties were next. Peter stood next to the bed, ripping off his clothes silently and quickly.

EXCERPT 3
“I’m in love with you, Peter, but—”
“I know you can’t be trapped here. You have a family and other dreams,” he said, feeling a piece of his heart crumble.
“Is there no way we can stay together but not here on campus? Could you come with me to New York?”
“I don’t think so,” he said. “No one’s ever done that before.”
“Why not?”
“Well, first of all, I was bred to be a soldier for the US government. If other countries ever discovered that our country was enhancing humans, it’d get ugly. The Soviet Union would retaliate. Or they’d try to copy the science.”
She shivered. “Enhanced Soviet spies. Scary stuff.”
“Exactly.”
“Also, my family is here. I don’t always love living here, but it is my home. And what about our kids? They’d have to grow up here,” he said. “They wouldn’t fit in at a normal school. They’d be smarter and stronger than the teachers.”
“But you…”
“I what?”
“You hide it well,” she said. “I thought you were a little weird, but nothing too different.”
“But I am,” he said. “Remember when I fought those jerks in Annapolis?” he asked.
“Yeah. What about it? You kicked their butts.”
“I was holding back. I purposely didn’t break bones or kill them. I could’ve killed them in a heartbeat.” He watched her to see how she handled that revelation.
Allison held very still watching him carefully.
“It would take only a loss of temper,” he said. “Regular humans wouldn’t stand a chance. And getting into your house at night was a piece of cake. Any door, any window, any room. Nothing would’ve stopped me from getting in.”
“Peter, stop, you’re scaring me.”
“Sorry, but I want you to understand who I am, Allison.” He knew he was being harsh and a little scary, but he had to make her understand why she had to leave and pursue her dreams in New York. If she stayed, he’d have to watch her inner flame burn lower by inches year after year. It would kill something inside him.

Allison is faced with an impossible decision: choose love and give up on her dreams or pursue her dreams and say good-bye to her perfect match. Have you ever run into an either/or dilemma like this? How did you solve it? 


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Guest Post: Reissuing Mary

Mary Blayney has been writing both contemporary and regency romances since 1986, though her writing began in earnest at age fourteen when she drafted a script for her favorite TV show. While her attempt never made it to the small screen, she eventually pursued writing as a career, first with contemporary romances for Silhouette and later with historicals set in the Regency period.

That's from her official bio.

Off the record, I can tell you that Mary Blayney is a Lifesaver. And one of my critique partners. And that makes me lucky because she's also one of my favorite authors. so I am very happy to have her as a guest here on the Rockville 8!

~*~*~*~ 

This past year with the essential and knowledgeable support of my writing group I dipped my toes into the world of epub. The five of us each wrote a novella and published them in an anthology (Paper AND ebook) titled ONCE AND FOREVER. You may have heard about it here one or five times since the remarkable writer Evie Owens is a member of the Rockville8 and our writing group. Her novella in ONCE AND FOREVER is a stand out. It alone is worth the price of the book. [Note from Evie: *blush*]

So my next big step is to reissue the five stories I wrote for Kensington in the early part of this century. (I recall I was just sitting down to work on the second book in the series when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Needless to say, with a son working in New York, it was a few days before I got back to work.)

The first of the series, HIS HEART’S DELIGHT will be out some time this week – I promise that as soon as the date is firm it will be announced loud and clear – a promise I make to all the marketing mavens who have been so helpful.

These stories are what I would class as “comfort” reads – a subject discussed recently in a blog post by Mackenzie Lucas. Comfort Reads (my term) are stories you turn to when your world is stress filled and you want to escape, not to someone else’s pain and torment but to a world that is a little kinder and more gentle than your own. The Braedon Series books are romantic, but not erotic. They are short but not novellas. The characters are real but far from perfect. And, praise heaven, they live happily ever after.

So I have three questions for you. Feel free to answer one, two or all:

  1. Do you have any suggestions on how to find the market for my comfort reads?
  2. Do you have any suggestions on the best places to get the word out that there is a new player in the game?
  3. And did any one else think Louise Penny’s second mystery was awful after a terrific first, prize-winning effort? 

~*~*~*~
Comment here for a chance to win the kindle edition of Mary's lovely story, Father Christmas.



Monday, September 1, 2014

Professor Cancer

The last year has been difficult.  Four surgeries and a cancer diagnosis have taken a toll on me.  I wasn’t always able to get in front of the computer.   But I didn’t give up writing.  I may not have been writing with regularity but I did carry my notebooks and pens and wrote in them.  I brainstormed in the hospital.  Some of the ideas conceived on the pain meds aren’t fit for public consumption.  But I did keep my brain percolating.

When something negative happens, I like to find the good parts of the situation.  I thought about what I learned this past year and came up with this list.  Though some of these have been said before, I found out they really are true. 

You can get through this.  Even if you think you can’t. 

Don’t allow yourself to dwell on what might happen.  Set short-term goals to get from one thing to another.  Only think about the next step in the process.  Example: Doctor’s appointment on Tuesday.  

You are stronger than you think.  I found that I could take a lot more than I thought.  So can you.   

There are many people who love you and who would miss you.   People tell you how much you mean to them when they think they will lose you.  One friend sent me a utube video of friends who shaved their heads for the friend who had cancer.  She told me she was glad she didn’t have to do that for me.  This was one of the handful of times that I cried.  But it was a good cry.  

Don’t worry so much about small things.  Like cream, what’s genuinely important rises to the top and the trivial sinks to the bottom.

You are not in control. The more tightly you hold on, the less control you have.  All you control freaks, please take note. 

Reach out to others when you need them.  I often feel badly for asking for favors. Learn to do that when you need it.  Plus, others will often volunteer before you even have to ask. 

Let yourself deal with your issues in your own time and in your own way. Realize that you will be dealing emotionally with this long after it is over.  Accept the fact that facing your frailty can be a long process. 

I want to write more than ever.  Looking forward to being able to get back to my normal writing schedule kept me going.  Focus on the things you love, and visualize doing them. 

I enjoy helping other people.  I want to pay forward the wonderful things that people did for me since I realize that it won’t be possible to pay each and everyone back in kind. 

People and things that I love, I love more deeply.  People and things that I dislike, I dislike with less intensity. I focus on what I truly care about.   What I don’t like, I’m able to let it roll off my back more easily. 

Be careful with what you consider important. You only have a certain amount of time on this earth.  Spend it doing things that are important to you. 

People act differently when they hear you have cancer.  You have to show them that it’s permissible not to.  My family didn’t treat me as they normally do.  You have to be as normal as possible and honest about your feelings and it will help them to do so as well. 

It’s good to cry when you need to. It loosens the knot in your stomach and eases the tension.  But don’t let it go on too long.  Otherwise, you won’t be able to function.  Keeping your usual routine is key. 


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Romance Novels: Why I’m Still Standing

Photo Credit 123RF.com
Life hit me pretty hard in the month of August. Just this past week, I sent my oldest off to college (yes, my first to fly the nest). If that isn't enough to send a mom into a tailspin, then having to do it while holding down a demanding day job that sucks more and more family/personal/writing time would certainly push most people over the edge.

Yes, the day job went from zero to eighty in the month of August. Perfect timing, right? Not so much. By Thursday of this past week, I was at the end of my rope--emotional from leaving the kiddo 2oo miles away, I returned to a job that keeps changing from hour-to-hour. That day, I was pulled off one project to start another. Add to that a vehicle breakdown and another personal family crisis that blew up, and I was holding on to the knot on the end of that rope and felt myself slipping. 
Photo Credit: 123RF.com

What did I do? When the dust settled and I got back home and crawled into bed, I did as any good romance reader-writer would do, I pulled out my Kindle and I fell into a romance novel.

The only thing that has kept me sane this month has been my love of reading romance novels. Seriously. It’s why I started reading romance in the first place. When my life is crap, I can escape into someone else’s world. I can push aside everything that’s wrong for just a little while and get a break from the emotions, the stress, the demands that seem to claw at me 24/7. Yeah, I’ve got one of those minds that won’t shut off. I don’t find oblivion in a bottle, I find it in a book.

What I’ve learned is when I hit that wall, or I’m hanging on by just a thread, when my life rockets to out-of-control, I need to take a breather, pull out my Kindle, and read a romance. Only by submersing myself in story--in a romance novel, where a hero and a heroine have problems that they overcome to find their happily-ever-after--can I find rest. Some might say, oh, well, you’re burying your head in the sand. Ignoring your problems. No. I’m finding a spot of peace in a chaotic world that at that moment I can’t handle. It’s my only harbor some days. And I clutch it tightly with both hands. Yes, I’m a romantic. I’m in love with falling in love. I’m an optimist. Life can suck that all out of you if you let it.

Photo Credit: 123RF.com
So when life gets me down and pushes me too hard, I turn to my safe harbor, my Zen place, and I read a romance. I know I’m not the only one who does this. I hear it again and again from women who read romance. How they find respite from the hardships of their lives when they read romance novels. I applaud them and I say hell, yeah, go for it. I know, firsthand, how hard life can be and how often I can attribute my ability to push through a tough situation or to remain standing in the midst of a crisis to some great romance novel that has swept me away for an hour or two and given me a break from my own life.

And this is also why I write romance novels. There are women out there just like me who need to find that next demilitarized zone so that they can handle whatever it is that life is throwing at them. There is peace from the chaos. Grab it with both hands--and if it comes through your Kindle by way of your favorite romance author--even better. At the end of the day, all that’s important is that you maintain your sanity and you’re still standing. If you’re still standing when the dust settles, you are stronger than your problems. Plus, when you give your brain a break, you can usually figure out a solution to overcome the slings and arrows of life.
Photo Credit: 123RF.com

So, go, find your Zen place today. Pick up a book. Be good to yourself. I’m here cheering you on.


I’d love to hear from you if you've ever experienced the saving grace of reading in times of trouble. We all like to know we’re not alone. ;0) And that’s what romance does for us, it helps us build community. So give me a shout out and comment if you've been there.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Opportunity Costs - Balancing Yes and No

Over the past few days I've been thinking about opportunity costs. Here is a highfalutin' definition that I don't quite understand, but sounds official and deep and all, just in case you're interested in the real deal. My own home grown take:

An opportunity opens itself up to you. What will it cost you to say yes to it? What will it cost you to say no? What will it cost you to make a yes/no decision and then change your mind?

One weekend this spring my day job and my writing life collided in the form of two conferences that fell on the same dates. My options were attend one or the other. I couldn't do both.



"Torta casera argentina con crema chantill√≠ y duraznos" by Carlosdisogra - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - 

I couldn't have my cake and eat it too, dang it. 

I chose the writing weekend, which worked for me, but the costs included: I had to pay my own way (literal cost), I missed out on time with my work colleagues, I missed out on some professional training (ephemeral, but no less real costs).

In fact, I felt so bereft that I arranged for some of those day-job colleagues to come to town for a weekend getaway - a mini-conference of our own. In saying yes to this gathering, I had to say no to the August session of Lady Jane's Salon Silver Spring, where the Rockville 8's own Mackenzie Lucas was reading from her upcoming release, Courting Cinderella.



It's times like this when I wish I had a clone so I could be in two places at once.  

Now, in the scheme of things, one might say neither of these examples was a high stakes decision. But in each case, I had to do weigh the costs of saying yes or no.

This fall, I will begin a term on a non-profit board that meets on Tuesday nights once a month. Saying yes to this means I miss the opportunity to attend my Tuesday Nights Write group on the night(s) in question. I will lose butt in chair, fingers on keyboard time, but I will trade the time for a chance to expand my knowledge about something important to me and give back to the community.

Saying yes to a night of TV can help relax you after a stressful day, or spark story ideas, or create a situation where you'll overeat, or keep you from writing. Saying yes to a publishing contract can net you a monetary advance and increased distribution/visibility, but it might tie up your rights for longer than you're comfortable with. Saying no to a volunteer position might mean more time to spend on your writing or your family, or it could keep you from expanding your network of contacts and/or being Jill On The Spot when other opportunities arise.

This week I'm plunging into a Fast Draft session. For the next two weeks, I'll devote my "free" time to working exclusively on my book and post my progress on a social media accountability group. Saying yes to this, means I'll have to say no to: TV, pleasure reading, pool time, video games, hanging with friends who aren't writing (and cleaning the house, which is possibly not that big a loss....).

Do you ever wonder about your opportunity costs? Has there ever been a time when it hurt to say yes to one thing because it meant the other opportunity/ies were lost forever? When saying no was the stupidest decision you ever made?

Just how do you balance yes and no?