Sunday, April 12, 2015

Retreat!

I’m co-chairing the big annual retreat for my local chapter of RWA this year, and it’s happening next weekend, whether we’re ready or not. Although, just to be clear here, right at this moment, there are no unanswered emails in my inbox so as I write this we AREcurrentlyready.

So, if you’re registered for the retreat, Don’t panic!

As the Geoffrey Rush character in Shakespeare in Love says, when they ask him how it’s all going to work out: “The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.”

“So what do we do?”

“Nothing,” he says. “Strangely enough it all turns out well.

“How?”

“I don’t know. It’s a mystery!”



Because of all this, though, the word “retreat” in all its various forms has been much on my mind. And I’ve decided to use it.

There’s the zen form of retreat:


But right now, when I look at that lovely istockphoto image, I know deep in my heart that those rocks do not represent zen or a retreat into serenity. Those rocks are fricking weapons… and not for nothing, but I'm pretty sure that says something.

Then there’s the battle form of retreat:


Ah! Now we’re getting closer…

I’ve been living my life for the past few months, telling myself, “After the retreat, things will get back to normal.”

Before the retreat duties picked up, it was, “After the holidays, things will get back to normal.”

Before that, it was, “After the summer, things will get back to normal.”

And when I said “normal” what I meant was “And I will get back to writing.”

I’ve come to understand that will never happen. Life will never be “normal” and I need to write anyway. I need to make writing my normal.

I seem to have been very good at filling my time with writing-related activities. It’s time to start cutting them loose. Start cutting me loose. Because, to paraphrase a famous line, talking about writing is like dancing about architecture…

Time to stop dancing. Time to stop putting “normal” off until after the next big event.

Time to stop. Period.

And my first stop will be to stop blogging with the Rockville 8.

Hopefully they won’t kick me out completely, and if I ever get my zen back and stop wanting to throw rocks, maybe I’ll find my way back to blogging about the writing that I’ll actually be doing. That would be cool.

Right now, I don’t know how that’s going to happen. It’s a mystery!

But I’m hoping it will all turn out well…

Monday, April 6, 2015

Confessions of a Technology Refugee

I have computer burnout. I’m not even talking about writing. Between the day job, receiving endless emails from my daughter’s school to check the website to find some vital piece of information, taking online training classes for a certification I need, and filling out endless forms found on whatever website that keeps my life going, I’ve basically had enough. By the time I actually get to WRITE, which is the one thing I really want to do on the computer, I feel like I can’t sit for another minute in front of a glowing screen.

So, during a trip to Michael’s to get craft supplies for my daughter’s social studies project, I saw it—the answer to my prayers.

The sketch book in the sales bin.

The steampunky cover drew me to it but what I found inside was just what my tired brain needed—blank space and lots of it. Fresh, virgin paper. No visual information staring back at me, nothing to click to distract me from allowing my imagination to run wild.
The Notebook
Notice the papers sticking out.
Even a mystical notebook can't be
everywhere at once
.


I’ve been writing down my story ideas for my newest WIP and plotting in it ever since. I’ve discovered something about myself during this. I need to hand write during my creative process, at least some of the time. Once I have a clear pathway, then the computer is fine.

Turns out others have actually studied this. In “Digitizing Literacy: Reflections on the Haptics of Writing” by Anne Mangen and Jean-Luc Velay 
(DOI: 10.5772/8710), the authors state, “Typically, handwriting is…a slower process than typewriting. …the visual attention of the writer is strongly concentrated during handwriting; the attentional focus of the writer is dedicated to the tip of the pen, while during typewriting the visual attention is detached from… the process of hitting the keys. Hence, typewriting is divided into two distinct…spaces: the motor space (e.g., the keyboard), and the visual space (e.g., the screen).”


What does this mean to a visual person like me? That I want to savor the creative process and slow it down by writing my ideas in a notebook but when I want to get to work before I forget what I was thinking, I grab my computer. Each has its uses. The added bonus is that shaking things up by going back and forth between the two processes keeps my brain percolating new ideas.

The authors also address my ennui with technology. “Writing has always been dependent on technology; indeed, in a very literal sense, writing is technology, for… without the crayon or the stylus or the laptop, writing simply is not possible. From using clay tablets and animal skins via the medieval manuscript and the ancient papyrus roll, to the mechanization of writing with the printing press and the current digitization, writers have always had to handle physical devices and then [apply] these to some substrate. The outcome of the writing process has always relied on the skillful combination of technical/manual skill and intellectual/aesthetic aptitude.”

So, does this mean that the ancients sometimes threw down their papyrus roll and wished for the good old days of the chisel, hammer and cave wall so that they could get in touch with their creative roots?

What methods get your creative ideas flowing?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Marching To The Beat Of Your Own Drum by Michelle Monkou

Today's guest blogger is the wickedly talented author, Michelle Monkou. Join us at R8 this week as Michelle talks about Marching to the Beat of Your Own Drum. Welcome, Michelle.



In my college day, I joined the newly formed Drill Team. We marched in formation where uniformity, smooth transitions, difficulty of choreography, body placement and alignment and so much more mattered. If there was going to be a solo performance, the person did her part and then, fit right back into the formation so we could move as one. The performance was a hit when our peers cheered from the bleachers and then offered a rousing ovation at the end.

And that was probably the last time that I participated in anything where I’d been in step with others, matching my movements with the group, and staying in my lane.
One to Love is released April 1, 2015

You see, from the moment that I can remember my parents and teachers reading to me, they unlocked my imagination to release a creative spirit that would no longer be caged. From the childhood books by Enid Blyton that made me want to head off to boarding school for the fun times, or from the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys series and creepy Alfred Hitchcock series that made me fall in love with suspenseful tales, or the beginning of my love for romance with my high school consumption of Barbara Cartland’s and Harlequin/Mills and Boon’s books, I devoured story after story because it fed my voracious appetite to jump in and stay a while.

That love for books probably decided my college major in English. I can still remember my passion for the Arthurian legends and talking about them in class. Add Dickens, Shakespeare, Faulkner, and Dante to the mix and my reading palette expanded, soaking it all in. After college, the writing bug hovered and zapped me at the right time with a wonderful infectious desire to start writing my own stories.

Once I carved that outlet for my imagination, I knew that being an author was my passion. While people offered advice about the hardships of writing, the odds of success, the difficulty to making a living from writing, and on and on, I still kept at the dream. I’m not going to bash the messengers for accuracy to some of their messages.  I think it’s always necessary to be aware of the realities. But that’s when the drum beat sounds for only me to hear--a beat in rhythm with my steps, my passion and desire to be a writer.

Going on 13 years from the first book, Open Your Heart, published by BET Books, to my upcoming April release, One to Love, with Harlequin Kimani, I have enjoyed this sometimes solitary, offbeat journey marching to the beat of my own drum.



Michelle Monkou is a multi-published author with over 20 books in print and digital. She began her writing career in 2002 with Black Entertainment Television (BET) Books, Arabesque imprint. She writes contemporary romances, paranormal/urban fantasy, and publishes her backlist and original stories on her independent digital platform, Stella Maris Publishing. Her stories speak to the heart and offer that happy-ever-after ending for the romance fiction reader.

Michelle is also an active participant with romance writers’ advocacy efforts. She served on the boards and as president of Washington Romance Writers as well as president of the 10,000-member Romance Writers of America organization. She’s a weekly contributor on USA TODAY’s Happy Ever After Blog providing commentary on romance fiction.

She resides in Maryland writing many more stories to fill the hands and e-readers of romantic bookaholics. Michelle's One to Love is available for purchase this week. Preorder your copy now and catch Michelle's fabulous other titles if you're looking for your next great romance novel to read. 

Find Michelle on Twitter at @MichelleMonkou and on Facebook or visit her at her website to find out about her latest releases.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Private Eye Spy

James Bond.

Napoleon Solo.

Kelly Robinson.

From childhood on, I think I've seen every film and television episode featuring those fictional super-spy guys at least a dozen times. And as a grown-up, I still love to catch them when I can. But you know what? Even in childhood, I wondered why should guy spies get all the fun?

That question, and my grown-up answer, is how I came to write The Kill Shot (Random House Alibi), Book #2 in the Jamie Sinclair series, which hits the virtual shelves this week!



The Kill Shot stars Jamie Sinclair, a private-investigator-turned-security-specialist who was raised by her tough-as-nails father. Of course, after an upbringing like hers, Jamie's no shrinking violet. Still, she has a soft spot in her heart for stray dogs and a particular military police officer named Adam Barrett.

So when Jamie travels to London to safeguard a State Department courier at the insistence of her demanding father, she can handle an ambush or two...until a would-be assassin opens fire on her on the cobblestone streets of Covent Garden. Worse yet, someone takes down the assailant with a single kill shot and Jamie could swear the face of the shooter belongs to Barrett himself. Except Barrett is supposed to be 3,000 miles away.

So who's lying?

And who's spying?

Jamie must find out when that single kill shot plunges her into an international game of cat-and-mouse.

You can pick-up your very own copy of The Kill Shot here or anywhere e-books are sold. And I hope you will. Because with Jamie on the case, those guy spies really don't get all the fun!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Better Late Than Never

So... guess who was afflicted with a near terminal case of Spring Fever, compounded by Spring Forward brain fog, and forgot it was her turn to blog?

Yes, that's right, it was me. Sigh. Cue the "wah-wah" music.

To pay tribute to the force which bested me this weekend, here are three of my favorite quotes about the evil genius known as Time.

Douglas Adams

In addition to being the drop-dead funny writer of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and other books, Adams was apparently a notorious scofflaw when it came to deadlines. Looks like I'm in good company!



Groucho Marx

Famous for his cigar, his heavy greasepaint eyebrows and mustache, and his razor-sharp wit, Groucho and his brothers overcame an impoverished childhood to become one of the biggest comedy acts of the early 20th Century. Whenever I get stressed about time, I try to remember this quote. It kind of translates to: You can't control everything. Just go with it.

Lao Tzu

It's not surprising that the man whose writings are the foundation of the Taoist philosophy has a lot of impressive things to say about life! I actually find this quote kind of intimidating, but it's also inspiring. I would love to have this kind of deliberate and conscious attitude toward time! Gives me something to work toward.



So, do you have any advice for me on coping with deadlines? And how have you been dealing with the time change?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Rock Stars & Love

Keith Urban
So who doesn't love rock stars? In this day and age, they come in all genres of music. Whether it's pop music, country music, rap, hip hop, new age, etc. What draws us to rock stars?

They're larger than life. They are the best at what they do. And they're usually sexy as all get out. Well, at least my favorites are sexy. There's something about their voice and their story-telling ability that draws us in and hooks us. The songs they sing touch us, they move us, they tell us something about ourselves and our culture. They are the poets of our time and the chroniclers or our present state. Through them we see ourselves and our generation reflected in the lyrics and music they write. We can tap into emotion through music and the songs we hear. We visit the past and are pulled back to memories evoked by the music of the rock stars of our childhood and teenage years. We've been formed and shaped by the music and words of artists we've internalized. Words that lull us, teach us, challenge us, heal us, recharge and energize us.
Katy Perry in Vogue Magazine

I'm fascinated and drawn to rock stars, as many readers are these days. I love the larger than life status. The expertise and hard work they pour into their creative careers to achieve their goals. They inspire me.

As you can see by at least two of my photos, a few of the artists who inspire me are Katy Perry, Keith Urban, Little Big Town, Imagine Dragons, John Legend, Blake Shelton, Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, and many many others.

In my new contemporary romance release, Every Heart Sings, which is out on March 4, 2015, I explore what happens when a rock star loses his way and needs to re-find his voice when he has creative differences with his manager. By going back to his musical roots and helping to mentor a young teenage boy, Josh Nicodemus becomes the artist he needs to be and discovers what it is that has helped form him along the way. Of course his interaction with heroine Jordan Drake pushes Josh to face the fissure in his past with his grandfather--the primary relationship that formed him creatively. 

Josh has his own work cut out for him because Jordan Drake allows the fear of her own past as a former childhood actress to trap her on Serenity Island, a dying island community, and she refuses to support her nephew, Tony, who wants nothing more than to become the next big rock star. In Every Heart Sings, rock star Josh Nicodemus finds his true voice and true love when he helps former actress Jordan Drake break out of the self-imposed prison she’s created for herself in Serenity and at The Down Dog CafĂ©.

A whole island of quirky characters comes together to meddle, forcing Josh and Jordan to admit their love for each other and help expose the injustice done to Jordan’s sixteen-year-old nephew, who is more than a little music crazy and a huge fan-boy of Josh Nicodemus.
Find my hot contemporary romance at Amazon.

Stop by and let me know a few of your favorite rock stars. And why you love them. I'd love to know.




Sunday, February 22, 2015

Snow Day!

This blog is being cancelled on account of snow. And contest entries that I have to judge and return with comments. Also known as procrastination...



This isn't Boston, that's for certain, but my shoulders don't know that--having shoveled the walk, the steps, and two entire parking spaces.

And now, after a good dose of ibuprofen, I'm off to get the judging done...

Have a good week, everybody. Stay warm!