Giving Up

Laura Threntham~ By Laura Trentham 

I was discussing TV shows with my hubby the other night. He wanted me to binge watch a show with him. I told him I did not have time to pick up another show. His response? “You have the time; it’s just not a priority.”

Well…he’s right.

My free time is limited these days, and I’ve cut back on certain things. I went from stay-at-home mom with plenty of time to volunteer at the school and watch TV to a full time writer on deadline while trying to do all the a stay-at-home mom stuff like making dinner (These small humans running around my house require constant feeding!) Things have changed, priorities have shifted, and it’s a work in progress. One thing I’ve had to work hard at not letting fall off my list is my relationship with my hubby. It’s honestly been difficult to find the right balance.

Here are some things I’ve had to cut back on or cut out of my life entirely:

  1. Morning television. It was nice knowing you, Kelly Ripa. Maybe we’ll catch up over the holidays.
  2. Volunteering. I know the greatest joy we get in life is giving back. And, I’ve done a lot of it over the past few years. From helping to run a local Mom’s Club to organizing our PTA Carnival to corralling eighty kids for an afterschool Lego Club. Someday, I’ll dip my toes into something worthwhile, but right now, I’vebacked off from volunteer commitments to focus on something else that gives me joy. Writing. Do I feel guilty? A little, but I’ll get over it.
  3. Cleaning. I’m not going to claim to have been a neat freak even before getting the writing bug. But, my family never had to dig through the pile of clean, unfolded laundry on my bedroom floor for a pair of undies. I can say with ~95% confidence you will not leave my house with a food-borne illness. However, if you are allergic to dog or cat hair, you’d better bring a bottle of Benadryl and/or an inhaler.
  4. Reading. I know this seems counter-intuitive. Most writing advice tells you to read, read, read in order to be a better writer. And, I do agree…to some extent. I AM reading for huge chunks of my day. But, I’m reading/editing my writing or reading/CP’ing for other writers. I’m also hesitant to read in the genre I’m writing, and these days I’m writing both contemporaries and historical romances. I’ve read interviews from Big Time authors who don’t read in their genre either, so I feel justified. I’m mostly afraid I’ll subconsciously transfer something. But, I’m a member of a kick-butt book club, and I always read our selection. Usually something highbrow and literary and depressing.
  5. Exercising. This is one area where I’m searching for balance. Mommy no likey the writer’s muffin-top I’ve cultivated, and as I am over forty now, it’s proving more difficult to control the expansion. But, I have a difficult time leaving my writing for a workout if I haven’t reached my word count goal for the day.
  6. Socializing. My days of gossiping in the PTA room or grabbing coffee or heading out for girl’s nights are on the wane. Besides my book club ladies and my local writing friends, who I see on a regular basis, there are only a handful of people that I call on a regular basis. I’m still close to a group of college girlfriends, and we get together a couple of weekends a year and email regularly. But, to be brutally honest, I don’t have time to expand my base of friends. Don’t I sound terribly unfriendly?
  7. Sleep. I think we’re all in this dozy boat, right? I’m either going to bed late to spend time with my hubby and/or getting up early to write before the kids wake up for school. The result is a deficit. Lack of sleep makes me very grumpy. So, back to Number 6…maybe you don’t want to be my friend anyway

* What about you guys? Anything you’ve given up to pursue writing or another dream? *

An award-winning author, Laura Trentham was born and raised in a small town in Tennessee. Although she loved English and reading in high school, she was convinced an English degree equated to starvation. She chose the next most logical major—Chemical Engineering—and worked in a hard hat and steel toed boots for several years.

She writes sexy, small town contemporaries and smoking hot Regency historicals. KISS ME THAT WAY, Cottonbloom Book 1, is a finalist for the Stiletto Contest and for the National Readers Choice Award. THEN HE KISSED ME, Cottonbloom Book 2, was named an Amazon Best Romance of 2016 and is a finalist for the National Excellence for Romance Fiction. TILL I KISSED YOU, Cottonbloom Book 3, is a finalist in the Maggie contest. When not lost in a cozy Southern town or Regency England, she’s shuttling kids to soccer, helping with homework, and avoiding the Mt. Everest-sized pile of laundry that is almost as big as the to-be-read pile of books on her nightstand.

Visit her at www.LauraTrentham.com or connect on Twitter at @LauraTrentham or on Facebook or Pinterest.

Writing Sprints Make a Difference

Leigh Duvan~ By Leigh Duvan When you hear the word Sprint your first reaction might be to think of Olympic Runners or Track & Field Events - you know like the 100-meter dash. Sprinting is associated with “going fast” and the actual verb definition is: run at full speed over a short distance. Today we’re going to take the sprint to another level - a writing level. A few years back when I started writing “for real”, I came across a group of writers who would “sprint” together. The more I learned about writing sprints, the more I fell in love with them. I found they fit my tight schedule well: 30 minutes here, 45 minutes there, and if I was lucky a full hour tucked away at Starbucks. What I found even better than sprinting alone was sprinting with others because I have always done better with someone to “run” with giving me some accountability. It was harder to talk myself out of writing when someone was waiting for me to start a sprint or report my word count. Writing can be lonely. We may find writing buddies, beta readers, critique partners and such over time, but the reality is, it is usually just the individual writer and their trusty computer or notepad. Clever writers will add sprints to their arsenal for word count and connection. Setting Up A Writing Sprint A writing sprint is simple to organize. Find a friend or two and commit to writing together at a specific time. For example in the Romance Writers Sprinting Group that race horseI run on Facebook, we have writers from all over the world. Someone will make a post saying “Hey anybody around to do a 30 or 45 minute sprint this morning?” Then a time gets picked to start and off they go. Sprints usually start on the : 00, :15, :30, :45 and increments go for 30, 45 or 60 minutes. When the time is complete, participants come back and report word counts. Sometimes we might have 2 people sprinting together, sometimes we’ll have a larger group. It’s all flexible and depends on who is around. At the end everyone who participated has moved their MS forward. And that’s a great feeling! Note: If you are participating in NaNoWriMo, you can use this tool for personal or group sprints. It'll even give you prompts! Also be sure to follow @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter where you can participate in sprints happening around the clock.  Benefits of a Being a Regular Sprinter  I find the habit of sprinting to be valuable especially when you can do them with others. Sprinting with others is not a competitive thing. It is more of a social thing. A virtual cheering squad. Let’s face it, any new words written puts you ahead of where you were before you started.I find it gratifying to be part of the process of helping writers moving towards their finished chapter or manuscripts - it’s fun! Sprinting also helps you become a faster writer. When I started writing I was slow, painstakingly slow. Over time I became faster and now in an hour I can do anywhere from 800 to 1000 words as long as I know where I’m going with the story. Whether you’re at 200 words or 1,000 words an hour know that getting the words on paper as quickly as possible helps build your writing habit. And writing consistently helps you get faster too. Every day I look forward to a 30 or 60 minute sprint. And on the days that I don't get the chance to do them I don't feel bad about it. But I do miss them, which is part of building that daily writing habit. If you're a part-time writer, like me, this is a great way to connect with other writers and make friends. It's also a great way to find encouragement for what you're doing. Even if you only sprint three or four days out of seven you're still getting words on paper and honing your skills, which is the important piece of the puzzle Remember: you can do anything for a short burst of time. This helps you make writing a priority. Maybe you work a job, maybe you have family responsibilities, maybe that particular day is just completely cray cray. And you think, “I can’t write today.” Instead, you shift your mind and to say to the world, “Gimme 30 minutes” then I’ll make dinner. And you go get some words on the paper. I find that writing sprints help the creative process because one you have a short focused and you have to be ready to sit at the computer no distractions and get out whatever comes in that time period. Sprints keep you IN your book. If you’re interested, check out my Romance Writer's Sprinting Group May the words come to you swiftly and easily and may all of your writing dreams come true! Leigh Duvan is a digital marketing strategist by day & a contemporary romance writer by night. She writes sweet and sassy stories and loves a loveable hero. She's a specialist in marketing & brand building designed to drawn in loyal and sticky fans. Complete with two decades of sales/marketing experience, she teaches new and experienced authors how to build and keep an engaged audience through brand awareness and community building, starting even before their first book release. An avid napper, she spends time running her kids here to there and traveling with her husband as often as possible. You can visit her at http://LeighDuvan.com.

Writer’s Block

~ By Mellanie Szereto

What happens when an author’s creativity slows to a tickle or stops altogether? Besides PANIC, Writer’s Block is the most common term for the condition. What are the causes? What’s the cure?

Lots of issues can lead to writer’s block, but one of the most frequent causes is burnout. Authors tend to write every day, usually eight or more hours a day and close to three hundred sixty-five days a year. A few days away can recharge the brain and allow the mind to focus on something else. Writing inspiration often comes from observing—people, nature, etc. Think of the time spent on “vacation” as research.

Stress is another major factor in abandonment by the muse. Unfortunately, it’s often a fact of life—but exercise can combat the effects of stress, leading to a relaxed mind and free-flowing thoughts. Diet, which may be affected by stress, can also affect mood and health, which in turn can cause stress. Break the cycle. Physical wellbeing can improve the state of the mind. Since writers tend to lead sedentary lives, proper diet and exercise can make a substantial difference in reducing writer’s block as well improving stress levels and general health.

Lack of sleep and some medications can also affect the ability to focus on a story. Note taking and in-depth plotting can be helpful aids in dealing with medication-related concentration problems. Better sleep habits or daily naps may make a difference with sleep deprivation and/or insomnia-related writing issues.

woman at computer Possibly the most frustrating of all causes is the story itself. Oftentimes, the author’s subconscious mind notices problems with the story before the author does. Logic lapses, plot issues, and inconsistent characters aren’t always immediately apparent. Does the story start in the right place? Is each scene written in the most effective POV? Setting aside the manuscript for several days reduces familiarity, and mistakes are more easily spotted on a read-through. A critique partner or beta reader can also help in these instances. Fix the issues, and the story will likely begin flowing again.

Lack of confidence is another creativity killer. Some writers need to complete multiple drafts of a single manuscript before it’s ready for editing. Others edit as they go. No matter the process, writing should be as enjoyable as it is hard. Perfection isn’t the immediate goal. A finished manuscript comes first. Edits and feedback follow to improve the story and/or the craft.

Take a deep breath, give the muse a boot in the behind, and WRITE!

* What do you do when writer's block hits? Share your tips in the comments! *

When her fingers aren't attached to her keyboard, Mellanie Szereto enjoys hiking, Pilates, cooking, gardening, and researching for her stories. Many times, the research partners with her other hobbies, taking her from the Hocking Hills region in Ohio to the Colorado Rockies or the Adirondacks of New York. Sometimes, the trip is no farther than her garden for ingredients and her kitchen to test recipes for her latest steamy tale. Mellanie makes her home in rural Indiana with her husband of thirty-one years and their son. She is a 2016 recipient of the RWA Service Award, RWA Chapter Advisor, and a member of Romance Writers of America, Indiana Romance Writers of America, Contemporary Romance Writers, and Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance Writers.

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NaNoWriMo – Why You Win Even When You Lose

Leigh Duvan~ By Leigh Duvan

There are only a few days left to sign up for NaNoWriMo 2017.

You may still be on the fence about NaNo or thinking there’s no way you can win, so why bother even doing it. Today I’m going to tell you in Nike form to JUST DO IT! Sign up! Unless you’re going to be hiding under a rock for the month of November, there’s no reason not to be a participant. I’ll even make it easy for you. Here’s the sign up link: https://nanowrimo.org/

Now, before you think I’m crazy, hear me out. I've participated in NaNo four times over the course of the last four years. And in that time I've only officially won ONE TIME - yep, once. That very first year. It wasn’t easy and life was crazier than crazy - my strategy then was to panster my way through my book and lock myself in a room at home or coffee shop for hours at a time on weekends to make up for weekdays I didn’t write. But dagnabit, I’m competitive and HAD to win. I HAD to hit 50,000 new words. Even if they were crappy. And many were. I used every trick in the book - first and last names of characters, fully writing contractions out. Writing a useless scene I knew I would cut. You name it, I did it. I WON and had something in MS format to work with at the end of the month. Did I mention it was my first year taking writing as a profession seriously...so yah, I HAD to win!

With the goal of NaNo being to create habits and get it done because consistency leads to achievement. I had to have a plan - even for a Panster. Here’s how I did it:

I added padding in for the days I knew I wouldn't be able to write 1,667 words, like the days work would be insane and for those days around Thanksgiving where I knew family and friends would take up my time. What that meant was that on another day I would need more time to get three, four, or five thousand words in (remember that locked room?).

I made sure my family was supportive and knew that mommy needed some alone time, and hubby was on deck to handle the basics for an hour or two or five when needed. But this post ISN’t about winning NaNo. This post is about being a winner whether you officially win NaNo or not. You see, the second year I participated, I only wrote25,000 words over 30 days. By NaNoWriMo standards, I LOST.  I was a BIG LOSER. I had two business trips that month for 4-5 days each and Thanksgiving. I barely had time to breathe much less write and I felt terrible. Here’s when reality hit me - for someone who didn’t have time to write consistently 25,000 NEW words was an incredible amount in a month. That’s a good ⅓ of a book. Most people don’t write a ⅓ of a book in a quarter or year much less a month. That’s a WIN.

Now if you are used to writing one, two, three or four thousand words a day and you’re consistent you go get that book out there and I can’t wait to read it. Use NaNo the way you need to for you which is different and a separate post.

If you get a few hundred words a day or maybe you get a couple thousand words over the course of a week or two or a month then Nano is the jumpstart that you need to get consistency under your belt. That’s why you want to be a participant. Back to my story of year two and those 25,000 words that I wrote.  I was technically a “BIG LOSER” yet I had a strong mindset so I turned things around on myself.  I was really a winner in my book because I had 25,000 new words to be able to edit and adjust and do something with. More than I started with on November 1st. That’s SOMETHING to celebrate and as writer’s we need to celebrate the wins. Sure I didn’t get the sponsor prizes, but new words on the page to edit meant so much more to me.

Year three was a complete bust. I wrote something like 3,000 words in the month. I was working a day job for 70 hours a week and had all the kid and family duties as hubby was traveling too. My house was cray cray. There was no way any writing was going to be done much less 1,667 a day. This had nothing to do with mindset. This was reality. I didn’t have to to think much less write.

Basically I signed up and didn't fully participate. I don’t count that as a win or lose.  But I realized that it was a time that I probably should not have even put the stress of NaNo on my plate. Year Four I didn't do Nano. I didn't sign up. I didn't plan to do it. I just let it go and pass me by because I was in the same boat as year three.

Now in my fifth year as a committed writer I am signed up for NaNo and what I realized is that when I get started on November 1st - no matter what I write, as long as I write, I am starting and finishing a winner. And I will admit I’m only working about 50 hours a week and there are no business trips coming up. So, there IS less external pressure. There is definitely a time to be a realist versus an optimist ;-)

I’ve decided, this time around, I'm a winner whether I get 10 words a day, 100 words a day or the magical 1,667 a day. If I win by their standards of 50,000 words - I get some prizes, Yay Me.  And yes, that’s what I’m going for this time. The “Official Win”. However, if I get 20,000 new words for the month I STILL win and so do my readers.  That's the beauty of mindset. Mindset helps you be the winner. Your mindset is where it's at. How you think about the experience will guide your experience.

I'm going into it and I want you to go into it thinking about the fact that you are a winner as long as you get words toward your story done and you begin to create some pattern of consistency.

Maybe in those 30 days you can only write four days a week. But if those four days a week yield words and you're consistent you're a winner. Or maybe you can only write on the weekends but you crank out five to six thousand words on the weekend. You're a winner.

Maybe you write every other day and that becomes your pattern. If you come out at the end with more words than you started with YOU ARE A WINNER.  I want you to remember that. Whether you “officially” win or lose NaNo if you get new words on paper you win and your readers will too.

Leigh Duvan is a digital marketing strategist by day & a contemporary romance writer by night. She writes sweet and sassy stories and loves a loveable hero. She's a specialist in marketing & brand building designed to drawn in loyal and sticky fans. Complete with two decades of sales/marketing experience, she teaches new and experienced authors how to build and keep an engaged audience through brand awareness and community building, starting even before their first book release. An avid napper, she spends time running her kids here to there and traveling with her husband as often as possible. You can visit her at http://LeighDuvan.com.  

What Does It All Mean?

The confusing world of Editing and Proofreading

Liz Dempsey~ By Liz Dempsey

For the new writer, understanding the function of the professionals involved in the process of readying your book for market, and the terminology used by the editing and proofreading world, can be daunting. It doesn’t help that often the same job comes with several different titles. To help you get your head around it all and decide which type of editor and proofreader you need, here is a quick guide.

Editor—Content/Developmental/Substantive/Story

These are all pretty much the same thing. This type of editor will help you sort out the book as a whole. They will look at details such as plot, character arc, structure, and genre points. If you’re looking for someone to talk to about your story and characters as a whole, then this is the person you need. If you sign a contract with a publishing house, this is also the function of the editor you will have assigned to you.

Editor—Stylistic/Line

A line editor will look at the way you use language to communicate your story to your reader. Their job is not to comb through your book looking for technical errors. They are looking at the creative content, writing style, pacing and language used at the sentence and paragraph level. They will check whether your language is clear, fluid, and enjoyable to read, and whether the words you’ve chosen convey a clear message, or are clichés and broad generalizations. If you want to ensure your story reads as well as it possibly can, in terms of language used and writing style, this is the editor you need.

Editor—Copy/Sub-Editor

This type of editor isn’t concerned with the overall story, character development or whether your book fits within the publishing house’s genres. This editor is concerned with flaws on a very technical level. They are interested in things such as appropriate word usage, consistency within the manuscript concerning story details andcharacter attributes, paragraphing and word choice, grammatical mistakes, spelling consistency, fact checking and general random mistakes. They will often make a style sheet for your work to ensure consistency. If you’re looking for someone with an eye for detail, who will take note of everything, including the colour of your characters’ hair and eyes and the spelling of your town’s name, to ensure they remain the same throughout your book, this is the editor for you.

Proofreader

A proofreader will read the final draft of your manuscript, after it has been through an editor. They will look at it with an eye towards grammatical correctness, consistent and correct spelling, spotting typos, accuracy in headings/footnotes/chapter and page numbers, and checking layout to ensure there are no extra gaps/lines or formatting errors. A proofreader is often the last person to look over your manuscript before it goes into mass production.

Typo checker

This person provides the extra service of reading your book in the same format as your reader, usually on an e-reader (such as a Kindle). A typo checker isn’t concerned with stylistic consistency or correct grammar. All they are looking for are mistakes, such as spelling errors and typos—the things that will jump out at a reader as incorrect when they read your finished work. They provide a final polish to ensure your book is as ready for your readers as it can possibly be.

What type of professional involvement you want in your work is up to you. You should go with what you are most comfortable using, what you feel your work most needs, and what your budget allows. The work I do mainly falls into the copy-editing, proofreading and typo checking categories.

I find that most writers, once they are happy with their overall storyline and comfortable with their style and use of language, work best with a Copy-Editor and then, as a final check, a read-through by a Typo Checker. With a bit of negotiation, a good Copy-Editor will be willing, and able, to catch most of the things that a proofreader would, but you will get more feedback for your money.

I hope this clarifies the process somewhat and helps you to choose the type of professional you need to work with to ensure you produce your best book possible. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Liz Dempsey (The Error Eliminator)

My name is Liz. I am a single mother of one wonderful daughter. I work part-time in education administration, and in my spare time I love to read! As a self-confessed perfectionist, I pay attention to detail and I take great pride in my ability to spot mistakes in the books that I read. I have many years of experience working on fiction and corporate writing. Although I’m based in New Zealand, I am comfortable working with US/UK/AU/NZ spelling and grammar. If you would like to work with me, please get in touch with a sample of your work for a free quote.

email: theerroreliminator@gmail.com

GMC, Wonder Woman, and Unlocking Your NaNoWriMo Story

Melina KantorWow, okay. So NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) begins exactly a week from today. Have you figured out your plot? Eh, don't worry, neither have I. Besides, as they say, "no plot, no problem." Right? NaNo is the time to write with "literary abandon," forget the rules, and just write. Right? Well. . .

The Problem

Personally, I can't do that. I can not handle not knowing what I'm going to write, and even though I've been successfully NaNo'ing since 2007, I have yet to learn how to let loose and "just write." And if try to do so without any mental preparation and just one idea to cling to, the struggle gets very real. But I've got a trick. (It's likely review for many of you, so feel free to chime in and expand on this awfully simplistic overview.)

The Trick

The trick is simple. Put all your thoughts and ideas about your novel aside. Write them down if you must, and then get them out of your head. And then, focus on three things:
  • Goal
  • Motivation
  • Conflict
Otherwise known as GMC. Figuring out your protagonist's GMC is like having a key that unlocks your story. Because your protagonist is working towards something, you'll find that she isn't wandering around aimlessly and spending a lot of time in deep thought. Because of her goal, your story will propel itself forward. Which means you'll reduce the amount of time spent in front of your computer spinning your wheels and suffering. Let's discuss. (We'll use Wonder Woman / Diana as an example because it's a movie familiar to many and her GMC is crystal clear.) Goal
  • What does your character want?
Diana's goal is to leave Themyscira, go out into the world, and kill Ares, the God of War. Motivation: 
  • Why does your protagonist want what she wants?
Diana wants to put an end to the suffering war brings, which makes sense because her culture and upbringing have taught her to value peace. Not to mention that she believes her island is in danger and she wants to protect her home and the people she loves. High stakes, no? Conflict:  Why can't your character have what she wants? At first, Diana's mother is against the idea of her daughter fighting Ares. Then she has to deal with Steve, her antagonist, who has a conflicting goal. And then she has to pass through a war zone to get to Ares. And poof! Right there, Diana's GMC has given us a basic but pretty solid story.

A Bit of Vocabulary

It's much easier to figure out your character's GMC if you truly understand the following terms and how they relate to each other: Protagonist: A character who has a goal and wants something (a McGuffin). Antagonist: A character who wants to stop your protagonist from reaching his or her goal thus creating conflict, but isn't necessarily a "bad guy." (A grown-up who stops a toddler from running into the street after a ball isn't being mean or bad, but is preventing the toddler from reaching the ball. Diana's mother and Steve are antagonists, but aren't necessarily bad.) Villain: Well, you know... But just to clarify. . . please note that your antagonist and villain can be the same character. But if they're not, like in the case of Wonder Woman, don't forget that your antagonist is really the one who has the biggest impact when it comes to moving your story forward. If you want to get really creative, your protagonist can be your villain, like Dr. Horrible. McGuffin: What your protagonist wants (her goal). It can be a bag of pretzels or it can be world peace. It doesn't matter, as long as she truly wants something, and for a good reason (motivation).

Get to Work

Here's a chart I give my elementary school students. No, you don't have to color (though it would probably thrill your muses). I hope it'll help you over the next week and through November and beyond. If you start your noveling process by figuring out GMC, the details and specifics of your story will work themselves out along the way. I promise. [One more tip: Give your protagonist a taste of what she wants and take it away. Or give her what she wants and make her hate it.] For more info on GMC, listen to this fantastic episode of How Story Works.

* Who are the protagonists, antagonists, and villains in your favorite stories? Why?*

Melina writes contemporary romance with a pinch of oregano and a dash of chutzpah. She loves to travel, especially to her family’s village in Crete, and turn her adventures into research for her novels.  In July of 2012, she moved from New York to Jerusalem with her adorable but sneaky cocker spaniel. Her family now includes an incredibly sweet yet troubled rescue puppy. Melina likes the color pink, baking, daffodils, teaching girls to code, running her small business, learning to use power tools, practicing self-defense, Krav Maga and karate, and breaking cinder blocks with her fist. She has been freakishly dedicated to and enthusiastic about NaNoWriMo for over ten years, and enjoys acting as a Co Municipal Liaison for Jerusalem.  You can visit her at http://melinakantor.com.

NaNoWriMo Word War!

~ By Melanie Greene 

Who's up for a writing challenge? 

Those familiar with writing know it can be a solitary occupation, even with the friendship and resources of a great group like Contemporary Romance RWA.

Those familiar with NaNoWriMo -- National Novel Writing Month -- know it can be an overwhelming pursuit to generate 50,000 new words in a one-month period. 

Fortunately, the pursuit of those 50,000 words can be made more fun, and less solitary, by engaging in the community of others working towards the same goal.

This year, Contemporary Romance RWA is joining in the RWA Word War, an informal competition wherein RWA chapters pit their average word counts against those of other chapters. It's a friendly rivalry (so friendly, you can represent as many of your chapters as you like – give everyone credit for your words!) designed to encourage NaNoWriMo participants, to cheer on all those fast typists, and to maintain a sense of community during the often-isolating task of immersive writing.

Each week, I as team lead will send our word counts (gathered from the NaNoWriMo site) to the organizer, who will post the individual and chapter frontrunners in the closed Word Wars Facebook group. The Facebook group will also be a spot where people can cheer each other on, find word sprint buddies, share resources and prompts, or just growl about how hard this whole thing is! It’s a tighter and more easily navigable community than the NaNoWriMo boards, and participants get a chance to get to know writers from throughout RWA. (It’s not required that anyone join the group, or participate in it.) If you’re a member of our Word War team and are not yet a part of the group, send me a message (see below) so I can sort it out for you.

Not sure you’re up for writing 50,000 words in one month? Don’t worry – neither am I! It is a daunting undertaking for many of us, but part of the fun of Word War is the motivation to write as much as possible in 30 days, however much ‘possible’ turns out to be. Per the organizer, last November the 289 Word War participants (from 21 RWA chapters across North America) wrote 9,732,788 words! It’s great fun to know that 37588 of those words were mine. And even though I didn’t end up with a Winner’s Badge, I did end up with a novella I love. 

This year, I hope to finish another novella and get back to work on a novel, so when November 30, 2017 rolls around, I can schedule publication dates for the next two titles in my Roll of the Dice series. And that’s a goal that will leave me feeling like a winner, no matter how short of 50,000 words I end up. Word War participants learn to celebrate each success, even the ones not on the official metric. Won’t you join us? Message me on FB or email mel@melaniegreene.com if you are ready to accept the Word War challenge!

Melanie Greene lives in a little cottage in a giant city, with her husband and kids and cat and dog and all the people inhabiting her imagination. Find out more about her contemporary romances, including her Roll of the Dice series, at www.melaniegreene.com.

La Tavola

Jo Thomas~ Jo Thomas

‘Write about what you know,’ people would tell me when I first started writing. The problem is, I didn’t know about anything…or so I thought! I knew I loved food, but I wasn’t a chef, or even one of those foodie types with fancy knifes and a cupboard full unrecognisable ingredients. I just loved to feed my friends and family. I loved the way food brought us around the table together. But what could I really write about?

Then, my husband was asked to go and work on the west coast of Ireland. We went over on a research trip and I had never seen so much rain. But whilst I was there we went to a seafood restaurant. It looked like a fisherman’s cottage at the end of the pier. When we stepped in, it was like walking into someone’s front room. The fire was roaring and there were candles on the tables and on the windowsills. We sat by the window and just for a while, it stopped raining. The moon threw out a silver shadow across Galway Bay and as I sat and ate oysters from the same waters I thought, this is sexy. This is what this place is all about. I began to realise that where ever you go, when you discover the food of the place, it takes you by the hand and introduces you to its people, history and culture. It was there I wrote my first book, The Oyster Catcher, set amongst the oyster beds of Galway Bay.

notebook I was then researching my second book in Southern Italy, in Puglia, where my brother owned a small place. We were in one of our favourite restaurants, a family run tavern in the middle of a rural olive grove. After dinner, the owner joined us and brought a bottle of homemade limoncello, pouring us each a glass. He didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Italian. But somehow, we had this conversation. He asked me what kind of books I wrote. I told him I wrote about food and love. He explained that, for him, life was all about the food they grew on their land, and he held out an arm; to cook in the kitchen; to put on the table, la tavola, and he banged his hand down on the scrubbed wooden table; for the ones he loved! Then he placed his hand on his heart. ‘That’s it!’ I replied. That’s what I write. Stories about the food that’s grown on the land, cooked in the kitchen and put on the table for the ones we love. I write about la tavola, because it’s there that I share my love. We have our arguments, share our problems celebrate and show our love, at la tavola. Given that I’m from partIrish and part-Italian heritage, I think there must be something in the genes! It is the heart of my home and that’s what I know about.

Since Italy, I have written about wine making in south west France in Late Summer in the Vineyard, honey making and herbs in Crete in The Honey Farm in the Hill and I have just finished my new book set in Spain, Sunset over the Cherry Orchard. The more books I finish, the more places I want to explore through their food and the more tables, wherever they might be, I want to write about.

Jo Thomas worked for many years as a reporter and producer, first for BBC Radio 5, before moving on to Radio 2's The Steve Wright Show. In 2013 Jo won the RNA Katie Fforde Bursary. Her debut novel, THE OYSTER CATCHER, was a runaway bestseller in ebook and was awarded the 2014 RNA Joan  Hessayon Award and the 2014 Festival of Romance Best Ebook Award. Jo lives in the Vale of Glamorgan with her husband and three children.

Too Many Cooks? It’s Not Just About the Cowboy Beans. . .

Jeff SalterBy Jeff Salter

Note: read this true experience (from 6-26-2016) and then tell us what you would write for the very next line.

He: “I'm thinking about making some cowboy beans this evening for supper. You okay with my beans?”

She: “Sounds lovely.”

- - - Later that evening - - -

He is browning the meat and hears chopping behind him.

She sneaks over and dumps a pile of fragments into the meat.

He: “What was that?”

She: “Just a few onions.”

After some more stirring, he is briefly looking the other way when she squirts in a considerable volume of something from a squeeze bottle.

He: “What was that?”

She: “Just a little ketchup.”

He continues to stir and is checking the clock (in the other direction) momentarily when she shakes in several dollups of something.

He: “What was that?”

She: “Just a little Liquid Smoke.”

He: “Hey, who's making these cowboy beans? You or me?”

She: “You are, of course.”

[Okay, now that you’ve read the actual experience, tell us what you’d write for the very next line, if it was in your own story.]

Jeff Salter, who has written 12 novels and five novellas, already has 14 fiction titles released with three royalty publishers. His most recent is “The Duchess of Earl” released in mid-July by Clean Reads. Two more titles are due out this year and he has several works in progress.


So…my weekend, or The Benefit of taking a Master class

Peggy Jaeger~ By Peggy Jaeger

There really should be something done about lousy internet in hotels and conferences! I was at a fabulous conference this weekend and couldn’t blog about it because it took FOREVER to get connected to WiFi. Oh well…better late than never.

Friday night I took a master class with marketing guru Jane Friedman. It quite literally changed the way I view all the social media stuff I have to do as a writer who wants to get her book in front of strangers.

For two hours she spoke about all the ways a writer can engage readers and get them to — not only visit their websites — but purchase their work.

First things first. Your website. You’re reading this so obviously you stopped here! But how did you find out about the website? Did you see a Twitter mention of it? Catch it in a newsfeed roll on my Facebook Author page? Or do you Follow me on WordPress? Since I don’t have a newsletter (a major faux pas in Jane’s opinion), I don’t have a one-on-one way to let people know about new content on my site. I’ve debated for several years about having one because it’s just one more thing I have to do, but she says the benefits are worth it.

Tree Next. The website content, itself. I don’t update my website frequently except for the blogs. My banner, headers, widgets, etc., are all pretty stagnant. And that’s the kind of traffic you never want: stagnant. You want your website to be fluid, moving, and new. So, Saturday morning between the hours of 1 am and 4 am (since I never sleep. Damn this menopause insomnia!) I updated my website. I added a new category, changed the banner and some of the graphics, and posted new info on the pages.

Last. Your work. Or in my case, my books. It’s inconceivable to me that I never thought of this, but nowhere on my website was there a page for a reader to purchase my books. Not even a direct link except if I was blogging about the book. So, ta-da- new page. MY BOOKS lists all my work from newest to oldest, the covers, and all the buy links across the e-book network and traditional publishers. Whew! That was a ton of work but I think it’ll be so worth it in the end, especially when I start to see an uptick in sales.

Jane spoke of several other ways to drive traffic to your work that I’ll be discussing tomorrow. Today I wanted to focus on the website itself.

When I’m not attending conferences of updating my website, you can find me here: Tweet Me//Read Me// Visit Me//Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me//Google+Me// Triberr

Fiction Fest Peggy Jaeger is a contemporary romance writer who writes about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can’t live without them.

Family and food play huge roles in Peggy’s stories because she believes there is nothing that holds a family structure together like sharing a meal…or two…or ten. Dotted with humor and characters that are as real as they are loving, Peggy brings all topics of daily life into her stories: life, death, sibling rivalry, illness and the desire for everyone to find their own happily ever after. Growing up the only child of divorced parents she longed for sisters, brothers and a family that vowed to stick together no matter what came their way. Through her books, she has created the families she wanted as that lonely child.

Tying into her love of families, her children’s book, THE KINDNESS TALES, was illustrated by her artist mother-in-law. Peggy holds a master’s degree in Nursing Administration and first found publication with several articles she authored on Alzheimer’s Disease during her time running an Alzheimer’s in-patient care unit during the 1990s. In 2013, she placed first in two categories in the Dixie Kane Memorial Contest: Single Title Contemporary Romance and Short/Long Contemporary Romance. In 2017 she came in 3rd in the New England Reader’s Choice contest for A KISS UNDER THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS and is a finalist in the 2017 STILETTO contest for the same title. A lifelong and avid romance reader and writer, she is a member of RWA and her local New Hampshire RWA Chapter.

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