Contemporary Romance: It is a truth universally acknowledged that your lovely husband enables your reading obsession. Care to elaborate?
Lia Covington: Gladly! Larry Jerome Covington III is the most unbelievably stubborn man I have ever meet in my entire life. If he believes in you, he’ll do everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING in his power to make sure you reach the goals he believes you can achieve. He’s stubborn. He’s strong willed. He’s always so quiet, yet always observant! He’s also charming which makes winning any type of argument extremely hard, especially since the center of his eyes are hazel pooling into deep brown until lost within a ring of pure black, I know how common!
When you have a man standing a foot taller than you, pouring all his focus, strength, and determination into you as he tells you that you’re going to grad school to fulfill your passion; that he’ll pay for any expense for the blog as long as it makes me happy; or that he’ll try to send me to any event I ask to attend if it means meeting an author would make me happy, it makes it very hard to argue back, let alone focus.
So if he says he’s happy to buy books, send me off to meet authors, fellow bloggers, and such, well how can you argue with such abundances of loving support! Thus making me spoiled.
CR: How can I put this delicately? You were once in a situation wherein you had to deal with a librarian who, unlike your dreamy husband, wasn’t tolerant of your reading choices and habits. What exactly happened and how did you deal with it?
LC: Simple. I wasn’t “allowed” to read books at the YA section of the library. I had a full range to read the romances novels that she approved of, or the historical fantasy novels that she approved of, but not the YA section. The excuse was the YA only has one copy per book and “if” a true teen wants to read it should be ready for them. Every time I tried to check out a book I wanted to read, that wasn’t on her approval list, I didn’t get it. I would check my bag and it would be a different book. The worst thing she did was deliberately take a v-e-r-y long time cleaning up her desk so a librarian-ade would have to help me but only AFTER finish their original task.
I wish I could say I handled it like a proper adult. Marching right up to the front desk, demanding to be checked out, with switched books either! Instead, I would leave the books on the table, then leave the library all together crying.
I would cry to my mom on the phone, or if my husband was home to see me walking in the house with wet cheeks, he would turn me right around to get back in the car. Sometimes he would march to the library, grab the book in question, then wait 15-30 minutes to be checked out. There were times when the library was closed, so he would drive us to the local bookstore, telling me to get as many books as I want. I would tell him that just being around books was enough.
Little did I know he was keeping a list of all the books I wasn’t “ allowed” to check out. So! Imagine my surprise a month after giving birth to our daughter, he turned one of the spare rooms of the house into my own personal library, filled with each and ever books I ever wanted to read, or a complete collection of books from an author I mentioned to him. How can anyone deal with such a GIFT!?! I’ll tell you how. I cried. I cried on the floor and I cried from the soul. I cried. Cried! Not that cute cry, I mean heart swelling with so much love type of cry, and he just held me until I either I had no more tears.
CR: Sorry, but I have to ask. What was it like being on the Smart Bitches podcast? How did you meet Sarah Wendell?
LC: Ohhhhh Sarah Wendell is amazing. I meet Sarah Wendell at the RT Book Bloggers Conferences at RT BookLovers Convention-Las Vegas this year. While stuffing my face with food, I managed to tell her between bites what brought me to RT, let alone how I managed to become a blogger. She couldn’t believe the story, especially about the librarian, double shocked when I told her my husband sent me, and possible, triple shock at the blog being a gift.
Larry, really truly believes that the blog could be something more than what it was then. He, being as stubborn as he is kind sent me packing! He bought the tickets, ALL THE TICKETS! Sending me from Minot AFB, North Dakota to Las Vegas, Nevada to meet authors, book boyfriends, booklovers and to learn how to book blog properly thus sending me to the book blogging conferences hosted by Sarah Wendell.
After she hearing my story she asked if I could be on her podcast. Honestly, I didn’t think my story would get much attention, plus I didn’t think anyone would believe me about the “librarian” in question. She told me that librarians listening to her podcast would freak out. So I said sure why not! Sarah seemed confident in herself and my sister bought me Amazon Prime, there was no way I was ever going back to that library so I did it, I did the podcast, and it was a MARVELOUS revenge!
CR: What? Reading isn’t enough for you? You have to write about what you read? Why is it important for you to share what you’ve read and communicate with other book lovers?
LC: When I first started the blog, I never thought anyone besides Larry would ever see it. It was just meant for us to stay connected through the long distances of his job. I would read such adventures, heartbreaking stories, and desperately needed someone to talk to. Unfortunately, his job took more time away from him than it gave, so he could never read as fast as I did. Thus the blog was made, it was a simple way for me to write about all the books I read, and for him to keep up with all my reading activities, even adding books to his TBR pile.
Now that the blog has grown, I feel that it’s even more important to share with the book community! It’s fun to see what other people are reading because readers are always interested in reading a book but never sure they want to take the chances to BUY a book if it might not be so GOOD. That’s why book reviews can save someone some cash or encourage them to spend it!
Book lovers will always support book lovers! I found this to be A-B-S-O-L-U-T-E-L-Y TRUE when fellow blogger and friend Kat from Bookthingo.com.au meet my favorite contemporary author Rainbow Rowell, who I’ve desperately tried to meet n’ failed, meet her and made a little video of her saying hello to me. When I say I cried like a newborn baby, I mean I cried. To have someone that I meet at RT Las Vegas remember me to talk/ask an admired author to say hello on camera! O-M-G Booklovers 4lyfe! So it’s very important to me to spread the love!
CR: You know, you kind of make some of us look bad. You’re in graduate school, and you’ve got a young child to take care of. How do you find time to blog? (Maybe you’re a superhero?)
LC: Ha! Thank you, that’s very kind of you to say! But no I am no superhero, although if I were I would want to be Storm from Xmen. I would make a thunderstorm every time I wanted to stay inside to read. At first, I didn’t truly have time to blog, as a new mother I felt every time I took my eyes away from my spawn she was going to French kiss a light socket! In the beginning, Larry would take everyone out the house so I had time to create/ schedule blog post along with finish homework assignments. Now that our daughter is turning two next week I find that we are very much alike. She doesn’t like to be bothered in the morning during her PBS Kids shows, leaving me with 4 to 6 hours to read, do homework or blog. When she feels alone she just snuggling next to me in my papasan chair in the library with her own book or project close in hand. My family really supports me going to school as well as blogging, it’s incredible how much time they let me be to myself without worry.
CR: You’ve got some beautifully created graphics on your blog. Can you share some tips and tools for authors who might want to create graphics for their own websites?
LC: I’m happy you think so, I actually have no tips on website graphics because I actually don’t like my website design, I’m currently working with Anna Moore Design to help createa more unique design on my blog. If there were a tip I could give, it would be don’t be afraid to get professional help! Gawds know I’m thankful to Anna Moore for all her help thus far!
CR: Do you have any advice for readers who are interested in starting their own blogs?
LC: Yes! Make sure you are passionate! There are going to be times when you think the devil himself is hiding behind the 0’s and 1’s of your computer! Post goes missing! Things that were scheduled don’t post on time. But as long as you are passionate about your blog and treat it with kindness/determination others see it, feel it when they read your post, that’s what’s most important. If you’re only trying to start a blog to get free books then you have a better chances just going to the library. Blogging is hard work, and the best make it look easy. I found that out the hard way!
CR: In your opinion, what is the appeal of contemporary romance?
LC: Seeing yourself in the romance itself. When you read a historical fantasy romance novel, no matter how much you love or admire the characters the characters are always so far away. But when you read a contemporary romance novel it’s like watching tiny bits of yourself in the characters you see before your eyes. Sometimes you feel so excited when a character has made a choice that you yourself have made, or perhaps you yourself would have made if you were in that situation! Plus it’s fun to read contemporary romance novels because they really make you think about things like:
Why is the button on a man’s jean the hardest button to unbutton when you’re trying to be discreet!
Why is it when you’re not EXPECTING to have sex you’re now having to pretend you’re non-sexy undergarments are the sexiest pair you have!
Beyond that it’s also nice to see characters that are so close to my own life fall in love, it makes me feel like I’m living my own feelings of my own relationship which is always a nice way to start an evening
Thanks for stopping by, Lia!
Greetings! I’m Lia Covington from Lia’s Bookish Obsession. When I’m not chasing a naked baby, or a Siberian wolf pup, down the hall, you can always find me reading, writing, and studying in my gifted library my husband created for me. I love books, a lesson taught to me by my mother while living in the isolated island life of living in the Bahamas. Currently stationed in Minot, North Dakota with my family, with a love of books in my heart I see no stopping my love for blogging!
Podcasts are a hands-free way to learn new things, especially when you’re on the go. Think of them are your own personal radio show, custom-tailored to both your interests and time-slot. If you aren’t yet listening to them, you should be.
Here are my favorite 4 podcasts that will inspire and motivate every writer.
You don’t necessarily have to be a writer to enjoy this podcast. But you do have to be an artist – or one who embraces a creative life.
This podcast is #1 on my list for writers, because as writers we all know what it is to become stuck; we can’t write, we fill with self-loathing, we feel empty, vapid and don’t believe in our creative abilities.These feelings weigh us down and pull us into a downward vortex from which it seems impossible to extricate ourselves. But it’s Elizabeth Gilbert to the rescue. Through her Magic Lessons podcast, and her interviews with amateur writers, artists and even experts, we’re better able to understand the process of creativity which helps us learn to be more patient with ourselves and ultimately helps us crawl out from the depths of despair and triumph to the pinnacles of our creativity.
The Creative Penn is the inspiring and motivating podcast from author and entrepreneur, Joanna Penn. It sometimes takes time for Joanna to actually start the interview because she very sweetly acknowledges her listeners’ comments on social media – usually Twitter (so, yes, if you enjoy the podcast take the time to let Joanna know – @thecreativepenn). But when Joanna does get to the podcast, it’s sheer value. You will always learn something new. Joanna meets with different guests – authors, entrepreneurs and other creatives, and together they tackle discussions on the writing process, writing techniques, nifty tools, tips and other helpful information that will inspire and motivate you to become more efficient, productive and better writer.
This Portfolio Life with Jeff Goins is another podcast for creatives, not necessarily writers. But it’s definitely a podcast every writer needs to be listening to.
The crux of the podcast is that as creatives our portfolio consists of many different activities. And that to be a successful creative you must consistently create. So you may writing in addition to creating images (if you’re a photographer or graphic designer) and blogging and travelling – or any number of different things that make up your life. Jeff Goins, master blogger and writer chats with creatives to learn how they’re making a living from their life’s portfolio, talks about their passions and struggles. Listening to this podcast you’ll gain insight and perspective into making your work and our world more rich and exciting.
Writing Excuses is the podcast with the most comic tagline – “fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry and we’re not smart.” The real reason that Writing Excuses is short (a bit longer than 15 minutes but not usually longer than 25) is because listening to this podcast is a great writing excuse – but it’s a short writing excuse to remind you that you took a break from writing only to get back to it with renewed energy. Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells and Howard Tayler are knowledgeable, intelligent, and entertaining. They do their listeners a great service by discussing different elements of the story – what works and what doesn’t, conducting great interviews, and fielding questions from their audience – but not all at the same time. You can however consistently count on them for a thoughtful and inspiring prompt as well as a book recommendation.
Longform was recommended to me by my friend and columnist Tiffanie Wen. It’s a podcast of compelling conversations with journalists, authors and editors. At times it focuses on reporting experiences, other times it will give you a rich insider’s view of the writing life. Alternating Longform hosts Aaron Lammer, Max Linsky and Evan Ratliff are skilled interviewers. And every single time you finish listening to this podcast, you will walk away feeling fascinated, excited and inspired to keep writing. Because though the writer’s life is not a glamorous one, it is exciting and authentic living that will always lead to surprises.
I know I said 4, but here’s a bonus podcast from Melina (aka Melissa):
The Journeyman Writer, hosted by Alastair Stephens is just one of the many podcasts produced by StoryWonk. Any podcast from StoryWonk will help you spark your imagination improve your craft.
But The Journeyman Writer delivers bite-sized writing tips and answers your burning questions about storytelling, industry, and your life as a writer in a straight to the point format.
Note: While you’re checking out StoryWonk, grab a drink and listen to Will Write for Wine, the podcast that preceded the StoryWonk empire. You’ll learn as much about craft as you would from graduate school, but you’ll laugh your heart out while you’re studying.
* Do you listen to podcasts? Which have helped you? *
Liat Behr is a copywriter, novelist, and blogger. When she’s not writing she’s either reading, learning a new skill or listening to a podcast. Her evening hours are devoted to her family who love her pizza and sushi but hate just about everything else. You can visit her on her blog – The Behr Truth at http://liatbehr.com/.
Like most writers, it tends to be just me and the keyboard. And I like it that way.
But when it comes to book marketing, I decided a few years ago that it was time to break out of my comfort zone and start collaborating with other authors. I had seen what could happen for my author friends who were brave enough to try it, and I wanted in on some of that collaborative magic.
For me, the first step was joining a group blog. I was incredibly fortunate that the week I’d decided to start looking for this kind of opportunity, I saw an announcement that Sweet Romance Reads was forming. We are a group of clean, sweet romance authors who blog together. We each have our day, once a month.
And we support each other’s marketing efforts.
You know what it’s like when you have a new release and you send out a few tweets about it. You hope your followers will notice and maybe retweet. But what if you were guaranteed that 30 other authors would retweet your posts to all their followers, too? Imagine how much larger your reach would be.
If you knew your whole tribe would promote your blog posts, feature you on their own blogs, re-pin and Instagram you and support your Thunderclaps, wouldn’t you feel more confident about your marketing efforts?
Group blogging and marketing support networks aren’t the only joint ventures open to writers. Other joint venture projects could include:
Collaborating on a book with another author, or several others, who write in a similar genre
Pooling your modest marketing budgets together into a sum significant enough for some serious advertising
Entering into collaborative arrangements with people who can open new markets, for example, translators, illustrators and narrators. You might not be able to afford thousands of dollars for a translator. But some freelance translators are willing to work in partnership, translating your book for a split of the royalties. If you’re an indie writer who’d like to take a gamble in, say, Germany’s booming romance marketplace, this may be a path to consider. These kinds of arrangements also mean that your translator will have an incentive to market the book, too, and will probably have more contacts than you do in the foreign language market. The same goes for illustrators and even narrators of audio books.
The synergy of joint ventures can be powerful, enough, at times, to catapult mid-list authors to NYT best-selling author status with a single boxed set.
On September 27, we at Sweet Romance Reads will be releasing our fourth collaborative publication: a boxed set of 17 holiday-themed, all new, wholesome romances by New York Times, USA Today and National Best-Selling authors, that take you around the globe from small-town USA, to London, England, and even to Africa. (The African one is mine!)
As you probably guessed from our title, in past years, we’ve put out two other anthologies, both of which were USA Today bestsellers. We also have a cookbook, Recipes for Love, which is a collection of menus and recipes for romantic dinners for two. It’s a privilege to work with a wonderful group of women on projects like this.
When working with a group, everyone gets to bring her or his own special skills and experiences to the table. It’s incredibly educational. And when a group of writers and artists pulls together, it’s amazing the creativity that can be unleashed. Suddenly, you can find yourself doing things you never thought you could — and probably couldn’t if you were doing them alone.
But you’re not alone.
And the possibilities are suddenly endless!
Milou Koenings is a USA Today bestselling author who writes romance because, like chocolate, stories with happy endings bring joy to the world and so make it a better place.
She is the author of the Green Pines Romance series and her new novella, The Kampala Peppermint Twist, is part of the 17-author box set, Sweet Christmas Kisses 3.
We all enter this writing career with dreams of best-sellerdom and fame. We all hope to write for a living and maybe even a little extra. Reality often derails those plans—your numbers were never big enough, you were orphaned, you never received support from your publishing house, your agent left the business; readers never discovered you in the morass of Amazon. Whatever.
Honestly, your experience is not unusual. Few authors have had a smooth ride to superstardom, and I’d wager you can name authors who were on top a few years ago, but you don’t see them much now. Most of us have had setbacks or seemingly career-ending events. Or we’ve made mistakes. So now what do you do?
The word is flexibility.
“Wait,” I can hear you say. “I’ve always heard that perseverance is the key to a writing career.” It is. Flexibility is merely an aspect of perseverance, a subplot if you will. You’ve tried and tried in one genre and didn’t break through/didn’t sell/the genre died. You have two choices: give up or move on.
Giving up is easy, and, if you can, I highly recommend it. No more worries about deadlines, editing, revisions, or (gasp!) a synopsis. You can live a “normal” life. Learn to cook healthy meals. Exercise and learn to really touch your toes. Have friends. However, if you’re like me, that isn’t an option. So moving on it is.
You can continue to write the same books and expect the same results (Einstein’s definition of insanity) or you can try something new. A new genre. Surely there is more than one genre you read and love. Why not try writing something in that area. Do you write historical? Well, what about historical mysteries? Or fantasy? Many fantasies are set in medieval-like worlds. Do you write paranormal? Well, what about urban fantasy or steampunk?
Then there’s always the self-publishing alternative. You no longer need to wait for NY to call. You have a viable route to get your work out there (Just do your homework and get professionals to help you along the way, please.).
Look, I’m not telling you it’s easy. This business is heart-breaking. I was first published in historical romances. I wrote seven under contract, orphaned, agent left the business, whatever. I had lovely reviews but never broke through. So I changed and wrote paranormal romance. New contract, new name. Reviews were good. Orphaned again, agent issues again, whatever. I have been able to put my entire backlist up as ebooks and have published three original books by myself, and a short story collection of tales that frightened my husband. My latest career move is into straight fantasy, and I’m working on a novel in collaboration with my daughter.
Writing is what I do. I have a proven track record, but no real fame. That’s okay. Don’t count me out yet. I’m still writing (perseverance) and I plan to continue in the foreseeable future. Just this week I heard cozy mysteries were making a comeback. I love cozy mysteries. Hmmm. Gives me yet another avenue to explore. I can bend. I can move. I can touch my toes in more than one way.
Gabi Stevens latest work is THE STONE KEY, a self-published time travel novel about a kick-ass heroine who can’t get home to the middle-ages unless she finds an ancient artifact. Too bad the one man who can help her doesn’t believe in magic and such nonsense. She is currently working on building a fantasy career, while still pursuing the romances she loves. You can find her at www.GabiStevens.com and on Facebook and Twitter.
I may not bake as well as Mary Berry (though not for lack of trying). But I’m proud that that we have one thing in common.
We both adore Carole Matthews.
It was from Carole Matthews that I learned about The Great British Bake-Off, and I’ve been an addict from the first episode I was able to get my hands on.
The show is so soothing, with its rivers, fields, and adorable animals walking around.
Even the music relaxes me.
The encouraging atmosphere in “the tent” reminds me of RWA meetings and conferences. Writers and bakers are clearly among the world’s loveliest people.
Writers and bakers are clearly among the world’s loveliest people.
And of course, the show is a great injection of enthusiasm for my muses (as is kneading bread dough and mixing batter).
The Great British Bake Off is the perfect show for a writer, and Carole has graciously offered to share some of her thoughts on the show.
Thank you so much, Carole!
It’s the time of year in Great Britain when everyone goes a little bit cake bonkers. As the nights draw in and the trees turn to gold, the nation becomes hooked on the latest series of The Great British Bake Off. Never has there been so much tension involving cake. We weep with them over their biscuit disasters. Empathise when their bread fails to rise. Commiserate with their soggy bottoms.
We all love Mary Berry’s wisdom, Paul Hollywood’s steely blue eyes and the terrible innuendos from Mel and Sue, the comfort that comes from nothing more complicated than a bit of cake.
For me, it’s a great time of marketing activity too. As well as keeping my eye on the trials and tribulations of the bakers, I live tweet during Bake Off while simultaneously balancing a plate of biscuits on my lap – for no one can possibly watch Bake Off without having something cakey-based to snack on.
Every week during the show we also give away signed copies of my book, The Cake Shop in the Garden, which has been one of my most popular novels worldwide. Helped in no small measure by having a glowing quote from THE Mary Berry on the cover. I also throw in a bit of chocolate for good measure.
I had the pleasure of meeting Mary when she was doing a book signing in my local bookstore. When it was my turn for my books to be signed, I gave one of mine and thanking her for all the pleasure gives to me and my readers – we are all Bake Off fans and chat about it on social media. She said she would love to read it and I thought no more. So I was very surprised when, a few months later, I saw a piece from her in a magazine and she said that she was ‘addicted’ to my books. Go me! Now, of course, she can have free books for life as far as I’m concerned!
You can keep all your celebrity chefs, for me there is only one cook. Her recipes always work and don’t have any weird and wonderful ingredients. I was chatting to a friend about her yesterday and we were saying, that in an age where it’s still very unusual to see older ladies on the television, Mary is a fabulous role model. She’s elegant, refined and a complete style icon. Long may she reign!
And, of course, with all that fabulous cake on the telly, my diet goes completely out of the window as I reach for the flour and try a few new bits and pieces. I’ve always loved baking, but too often find that I’m doing it against the clock. In the winter, I feel happier to set time aside for a bit of baking therapy.
Perhaps that’s why my books, so often, have a cake or chocolate theme.
This week on Bake Off is batter week. Looking forward, already, to pancakey goodness. What could possibly go wrong?
Carole’s latest book is The Chocolate Lovers’ Wedding.
Our stories cover a wide range of time periods, but the one thing profoundly rooted in each is family—whether it is a large family or no family members at all. The heart of our stories come from deep emotion concerning family ties. This can be the loss of a family member, a substance abusive mother or father, even caring for a sibling. Some sort of tragedy or desertion of a family member shapes the characters in our books.
A family is defined as a social unit consisting of parents and the children they raise. On parent, two parents, uncles or aunts, a family member somehow has instilled family values pertaining to the character’s structure, function, roles, beliefs, attitudes, and ideals. They can be good or bad, we decide. We choose one for our characters and create a world for them to live in. We don’t always show the details and never early in the book. But we need a foundation for shaping our characters.
Whether Medieval, Victorian, Regency, Civil War or current day, readers become involved with our character’s family background. Maybe an incident from a century ago is an important fact. Whether tragic or happy, family life is critical. The deeper we go, the more we create a world for our characters.
As with any good story, research, plotting, and planning is a major part of writing a book. All of these are an important part of creating our character. Readers love a hero or heroine who has some sort of tragedy, struggle or sacrifice. Hints weaved throughout the chapters, the more elusive they are given, entices the reader. The reader becomes involved and needs to know the mystery. The more challenging the problem, the more traumatic the incident, draws the reader deeper into our story, creating emotional ties with the characters.
My latest book is all about family. Not only did I become involved in this heart-wrenching saga, but my readers claimed they needed a box of tissues.
As authors, something touches each of us, drives us, pushes us to write that story. I’ve found that developing a character with strong family ties hooks the reader and involves them deeper in any book.
Author of sizzling romance, Samanthya Wyatt currently has books published in contemporary and historical romance. She married a military man, traveled and made her home across the US and abroad, and now lives in the Shenandoah Valley. She loves the beach, her favorite color is blue, has a weakness for vanilla ice cream, and a book is a constant companion.
To kick off the weekend, we’ve got a writing prompt direct from the last scene in the 2001 Bridget Jones’s Diary.
Imagine you’ve been courting that special someone, but in the mix of it all – he drives you insane¦ Like any respectable lady, you keep a well thought out diary. It includes your fears, accomplishments, hopes, dreams, and even the people you despise. It just so happens that the one your heart yearns for is the one that it loves to hate at the same time.
On a cold night, during a blizzard, he shows up at your doorstep to confess his undying love for you. You, on the other hand, have been lounging in your cupcake pajamas and fuzzy socks, eating your favorite snack. Excusing yourself to your room to change and freshen up, you forget that your diary is out on the end table for the world to read your deepest darkest secrets. Upon reentering, not only has the man you love vanished, but the last entry that you wrote about him is open.
Did he get cold feet and run off?
Did he read your private thoughts, and decided to run away?
Do you take the time to change and search for him?
Do you run around mad in the cold with nothing but your undies and tank covering your body?
Do you plop down and sulk in your nonexistent love life?
Now you tell us how you’d write this scene? Leave your scene in the comments below.
Need inspiration? This should help.
International Bestselling Author, A.M. Willard is a true believer of soul mates, and happy ever afters. She enjoys reading, sailing, and of course writing contemporary romance, and romantic comedy with some saucy scenes. Releasing her first novella of the One Night Series on April 12, 2014, has sent her on a new journey in life.Â
A.M.’s passion for writing started at a young age, but with the love and support from her husband of nineteen years pushed her to follow her dreams. Once she hit that first publish button, she hasn’t looked back.
Publications available from A.M. Willard include the Chances Series, Love on the Screen, Fading Memories, Hearts in Florence, and A Taste of Love Series. She’s also had an article published in the Writer’s Monthly Review Magazine and accepted into the Romance Writers of America organization in May of 2015.Â
A.M. Willard was born and raised in the Panhandle of Florida, but resides in Savannah GA with her husband, son, two cats, one rotten dog, two goats and her six chickens.
I have a confession to make. I’m a bit of an organization junkie. I fantasize about having a house that’s worthy of Pinterest. I’m not there yet, but when I put my mind to getting something organized, it always makes me feel so much better.
The big thing I tackled this year was organizing my time. Both my kids were in school, so I had a full day to work for the first time ever. I just knew I’d get so much work done.
But then there was laundry to do. Boxes to unpack (we moved a month after school started). Cleaning and shopping and… Squirrel!
Yeah, it was easy to get distracted.
It quickly became clear that if I didn’t organize my time I’d spend all my afternoons working instead of taking my kids outside to play and stay up too late instead of getting much needed sleep. Trust me, it’s not pretty when I’m tired. If I was going to achieve some semblance of work-life balance, I knew I needed help. Help to keep me on track and know what I needed to do every day so I could actually get my work done. Preferably before the bus showed up. Here’s what I did…
Create Reasonable Goals.
I like goals. I make them all the time. It’s the reasonable part that usually trips me up. I forced myself to do that over the last year. I figured out how many words I can write in an hour and gave myself a goal per day. From there I could plan my work. If I needed about three hours of solid writing time each day, I had plenty of time for all the other stuff I had to get done. (Um, Pinterest anyone?) Then I knew how long it would take to complete a first draft and could go from there. Voila, my publishing schedule was set. With some buffer because… Life.
Write a To-Do List.
I like to feel like I’m accomplishing something. Writing a book takes a long time. It can be discouraging because even as the words appear on the page it takes forever until you feel like you’re actually making progress. My to-do list became a good friend. Words this week? Check. Newsletter? Check. Laundry? Check. Playtime with kids? Check. Exercise? Check. I already feel more accomplished.
Prioritize and Keep Moving.
Don’t forget to prioritize your to-do list. If you know what really needs to be done but you aren’t ready to tackle it yet, do some of the smaller, easier tasks. Getting a few checks on your list inspires you to keep going. Yes, you need to finish that manuscript, and the vacuuming can (probably) wait until tomorrow, but if it’s bugging you, get it done and go back to your manuscript fully focused. It’s okay to do something else as long as you go back to the most important items on your list.
I already confessed I get distracted easily. When we first moved, we had boxes stacked to the ceiling. (I wish I was exaggerating.) That was the biggest distraction I’d ever faced. I couldn’t work. At all. Those boxes stared me down every minute of the day. But I had deadlines and I wanted to get back into the flow of work. I couldn’t let it get to me. So I rewarded myself. Knowing once I got started it would be a while before I’d stop, I played a game. If I hit my goal on word count, or editing, then I could go through boxes for an hour or two. I was able to focus because I knew I could get everything done, eventually!
This is my achilles heel. When I have plenty of time to finish something, I put it off until later. Tomorrow is my favorite day to get things done. Then I end up with those late nights and busy afternoons I despise. To combat this, I bought a new planner. Even more than I hate procrastinating, I hate being wrong. I set my word count goal for the day and push myself to meet it, because I don’t want to be wrong. When I have a goal for one day instead of for the week, I’m less likely to get overwhelmed by how much I need to do. Overwhelm leads to procrastination (no one said it had to make sense) and then it’s just a snowball from there.
At the end of the day, you’re still going to have more you want to do than time to do it. It happens to all of us. Create your list for the next day and keep going. Because if you do everything today, you miss out on the things that really matter. The things that are the most important. Like spending a day at the pool with your kids. Or going on a date with your other half. Or finishing your latest manuscript.
Don’t beat yourself up for that messy kitchen so you can enjoy life a little. Just put it on your to-do list. It’ll probably get done before that manuscript your editor is waiting for!
Mary E. Thompson writes scintillating stories with a side of hope. She’s been indie published from the beginning and just released her 23rd novel. She spends her days hoping she’s raising her daughter and son to be good people and her nights snuggling with her own romance novel worthy husband. Visit her website at http://MaryEThompson.com to learn more!
Sometimes when we’re writing and have a particular scene going, we realize that all kinds of things could happen AFTER that initial scene set-up.
The following actually occurred, in early July, four years ago.
Sometimes you see things that make you wish you hadn’t. My wife and I were eating supper at a local spot we like. Seated next to the windows, we couldn’t help but notice two guys approaching from a newly-parked vehicle.
“His barn door is open,” I said… with the casual observation skills of an experienced writer.
“Why’d you tell me? Now I’m gonna have to look,” she replied. And she did.
“He made it easy to spot since he’s wearing red skivvies,” I added. I’d begun to think his display was purposeful.
“You’d think his buddy would’ve told him,” my wife mused out loud.
I, on the other hand, wondered if the buddy had deliberately withheld that info.
“He’ll probably come sit right next to us,” she warned me. You’d have thought she was viewing a horrific traffic collision in progress.
“Well, it won’t show so much if he’s sitting down,” I replied.
But my wife was not to be calmed. So she hurried me through my last few bites and we departed… in time to see the furtive glances of the service crew behind the counter taking the orders of the new arrivals.
Okay, that’s the scene as it actually played out. But what if my real-life anecdote had been only the introduction to a much larger scene?
If this were your story, given this introductory scene, where might you take it?
What if the guy walks up and introduces himself like this, “I couldn’t help noticing you watched me coming in. Do I know you?”
What would you say?
What would his buddy be doing at this point?
As we authors are composing scenes, let’s not be too quick to end them prematurely. Sometimes the characters can take us in a totally different direction.
Jeff Salter, who has written 12 novels and five novellas, already has 13 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.
I have been a fangirl of the CW’s Supernatural for years. If you don’t watch the show, or never got past some of the more gory, monster-of-the-week episodes, I am sad for you, because in my opinion, it’s one of the best-written shows out there. It’s about Sam and Dean Winchester, two brothers who hunt all things evil in an attempt to save the world. Played by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, the two characters were the inspiration for my heroes in the first two Portland Rebels books.
Want to know why the two of them are worthy of Hero-spiration (or just why Supernatural rocks the Casbah)?
Here are my top ten reasons:
1. Sam without a shirt on.
(I could stop here, because seriously, do you need more reasons than that?)
2. Dean’s expressions.
Dean is the soldier of the two brothers, powering through no matter what, but he’s also the comic relief. And whether he’s smiling, laughing or crying, Dean makes some of the best faces out there. I sometimes work on writing down the way he looks to practice how characters express emotion. Check out this Buzzfeed post of the top 25 Swoonworthy Dean faces.
3. Real men do cry.
Sam and Dean are some of the toughest characters out there. They’ve lost both their parents, as well as their pseudo father figure Bobby Singer. They have both literally been to hell and back. Everything in their worlds wrecks them, so when their emotions break lose, these guys aren’t afraid to cry. And their beautiful crying faces motivate me to write characters whose sadness breaks through in the same way.
This show has some of the most incredible made-for-TV sex scenes I’ve ever seen. If you’re looking for some hot and heavy inspiration, here’s Sam and Ruby.
5. Angels watching porn.
Sam and Dean are both befriend by the angel Castiel in season four, and many of their adventures with Cas have him trying to understand human behavior. I’m always struggling to put a bit of comedy in my books—they’re usually extremely angsty—so I’m always looking for comic inspiration. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anything funnier than an angel trying to understand porn.
6. A seriously badass soundtrack.
AC/DC to Iron Maiden, Metallica to Led Zeppelin, and even nabbing Kansas’ “Carry on My Wayward Son” as the theme song, Supernatural is a classic rock lover’s dream. I’ve often pulled songs from it for some of my writing playlists. Even the actors rock out to it.
7. Awesome pop culture references.
While the overarching theme of the show is on the dark side, many of the episodes are on the lighthearted side, and the writers are always poking fun at pop culture. This doesn’t necessarily help with my writing in anyway, but it is pretty entertaining! Season 6, episode five is about vampires and is titled “Live Free or Twihard.” One of my favorite episodes, “The French Mistake” has Sam and Dean magically appearing in a world where Supernatural is an actual TV show. There is also more than an occasional reference to the Back to the Future movies. (Thanks to Buzzfeed for this awesome side-by-side comparison.)
8. The concept of brotherhood.
I don’t have any siblings, which makes it challenging to write about both sibling rivalry and the bond that exists between brothers. Supernatural has both in spades. Sam and Dean often poke fun at one another, but they will also do absolutely anything for one another. They literally have died for one another. (And come back to life afterward several times over– yay for TV’s reality-bending rules!) Nothing is more important to these two than family, and the actors are really like brothers in real life, which I love. Here they are at Jared’s wedding.
9. “Wink wink, nudge nudge” moments.
The writers are always putting in little mentions to current events which break across that fourth wall, such as this awesome line from Crowley, the King of Hell, in Season 11, episode 22. He’s another character you can be inspired by, because he’s a villain and a bit of comic relief all rolled up into one with a lovely accent to boot.
10. Jared’s always keep fighting campaign.
Recently, Jared admitted to suffering from depression, and has now become very vocal about it with his Always Keep Fighting Campaign. I’m always impressed when any celebrity speaks up for mental illness, and in recent months, he has spearheaded a bunch of fundraisers. Other cast members from Supernatural have gotten on board with his campaigns as well.
If all that’s not enough to get you watching, and maybe gaining some hero-spiration of your own, I don’t know what is. Check back with me this November after I go to my first Supernatural Con!
Rebecca Grace Allen writes sweet, sexy and soul searching romance, emphasis on the sexy! She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a double concentration in Creative Writing and Literary Comparison, as well as a Master of Science in Elementary Education, both of which seemed like good ideas at the time. After stumbling through careers in entertainment, publishing, law and teaching, she’s returned to her first love: writing. A self-admitted caffeine addict and gym rat, she lives in upstate New York with her husband, two parakeets, and a cat with a very unusual foot fetish. Her new release, The Theory of Deviance, is out on August 2, 2016.