Spooky Noise in the Dark Bathroom

Jeff Salter~ By Jeff Salter

We writers tend to have vivid imaginations… especially when it’s night time and we’re alone in the house. This is a true story from May of 2014. See if you can figure out the actual solution to this mystery. OR… how would you WRITE the solution?

Tap...clack-click. Tap...clack-click.

My ears are more finely tuned to spooky unknown sounds at night when my wife is out of town.

I had just gotten into bed, around midnight, when I heard this repeated eerie sound, Tap...clack-click. It seemed to be coming from the bathroom, the door of which I had just closed (as I always do before retiring).

Tap...clack-click.

It wasn't King Sipper (our cat), because he was up on the bed beside me.

dark doorwayTap...clack-click.

It was not a distant train.

Tap...clack-click.

Turned off my 'white noise' machine and listened closely.

Tap...clack-click.

It was definitely coming from the bathroom, and apparently from the other side of the door my face was presently pressed against. I don't know Morse, but I knew this was no S-O-S. But what was it?

Tap...clack-click.

 — —

 Here are some of the suggested solutions to my mystery that I’ve already received. Add yours to the mix and I’ll return later tonight (or tomorrow morning) to tell y’all the REAL solution.

* walls cooling down

* tap dancing cockroach

* dripping faucet

* battery operated grandkid’s toy

* branch tapping against a window

* Poe’s story, "The Tell-Tale Heart," come to life

* And my favorite of the suggested solutions: attempted communication from aliens who use the old-fashioned “tap....clack-click” language.

Add your possible solution in the comments section and I’ll return later tonight (or tomorrow morning) to tell y’all the REAL solution.

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 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.

Purposeful Romantic Cinema

Sally J. Walker ~ By Sally J. Walker

Pairing up is a recognized life experience of the human species. Awareness of the need surfaces in puberty.  Some people sublimate it for a variety of reasons.  Others embrace it and evolve a determination to find that special Someone to share life experiences.  Sometimes those determined folk succeed.  Other times they are frustrated.  And sometimes people simply stumble upon the person meant to travel with them for the rest of their lifetime.

Attitudes toward the “Pairing Process” are as unique as each human for a variety of reasons.  Those of us who write romance observe and incorporate those attitudes into the pairing stories we weave.  Our objective is to depict the journey of discovery that others will enjoy reading and watching.

Frequently romance writers deal with cynics and people discomfited by the principles of romantic relationships.  We are not deterred.  We know what a thrill it is to have life’s obstacles overcome in order to end up in the arms of the beloved.  That makes us perpetual optimists.  In a world full of negatives and disturbing threats, romantic storytellers provide the Hope of happiness  through pairing.

ROMANTIC FILMS

Novels are a 1:1 experience.  The cinematic world is a relative group orgy.  A huge group of artists MAKE the film then many people gather before their TV sets or settle in a public theater to experience the story.

rosesCreating the characters and events that will absorb the awareness of the audience demands a specialized form of storytelling, from script formatting to manipulation of time and place to stimulating the imaginations of all those other cinematic artists who contribute their expertise to the creation of the film. The reality of writing a romantic film is that the writer fades into background.  We are not important beyond the blue print we created.  All those other collaborators take over the storytelling.  Ultimately, they too are not meant to be obvious.  Even the actors become the characters in a well-done film. That happens for one purpose:  to enthrall the audience.

AUDIENCE ATTITUDE

The genre of “Romantic Comedies” is not intended to create perpetual laughs.  It is about the “feel good” quality of the story.  There certainly may be drama or tragedy, however, ultimately the problems will be resolved, the obstacles overcome and the pairing will take place.

For some people—mostly males—this concept is too sugar-coated and the ending predictable.  If they had their choice, they would go to an Action-Adventure film. They share this film to please the romantic-minded people in their lives.  A writer’s challenge is to absorb that cynic’s imagination, to surprise him into discovering he can “care.”

The Romantic film-goer doesn’t sit in the theater expecting a depiction of the worse life experiences in the characters’ lives.  They KNOW the couple will end up together.  They want the story to depict HOW that happens.  The ending is not rocket science complicated . . . but the story’s events need to be in order to enthrall the audience, both genre enthusiasts and reluctant cynics.

ROMANCE SCREENWRITER’S CHALLENGE

Screenwriting is a specialized discipline that requires knowledge of what the film industry needs, just as romance writing is a specialized craft.  One cannot create a screenplay without studying the craft, just as one cannot depict a fictionalized romance without knowledge of reader/audience expectations.

A romantic story is more than Beginning-Middle-Ending structure.  It is a complex depiction of dreams and needs, character angst and joys.  Most importantly it is about awareness of the desire to pair with another human being, the need to survive WITH another human being whatever life circumstance is thrown at them.

* Click here for more information about Sally's upcoming workshop. *

Sally Walker’s published credits include literary, romance and western novels, a nonfiction essay collection, several creative writing textbooks, stage plays, poetry, and many magazine articles on the craft of writing, including staff contributions to two international film magazines for 10 years. With 32 screenplays written, several under negotiation at various studios and her novel-to-screenplay adaptation on her plate, Sally has an entertainment attorney representing her in Hollywood. In addition to long time active memberships in such national writing organizations as RWA, WWA and SCBWI, she was president of a state-wide writers organization 2007-2011. She keeps to a strenuous writing schedule and still has time to work as Editorial Director for The Fiction Works, supervising acquisitions and sub-contracted editors, as well as Script Supervisor for material sent to TFW’s affiliated Misty Mountain Productions. Sally has taught writing seminars, both on-site and on-line, for over 30 years and is the facilitator for the weekly meetings of the Nebraska Writers Workshop in Ralston, NE.  For more information on her works and classes go to her website at http://www.sallyjwalker.com

Thoughts on being an “RT VIRGIN”

~ By Peggy Jaeger

This past week I’ve been in the lovely city of Atlanta for my very first RT Convention. I’ve been hearing about RT for a long time, but have never had the opportunity to attend until this year, so I came without any expectations and a whole bag of nervous energy.

I’m that girl who spends a lot of time in her hotel room during conference downtown writing and blogging. I usually don’t take advantage of the parties or any networking prospects because I’m basically an introvert.

This year, though, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to “get myself out there” more at conferences and conventions. Talk to fans, publishers, agents, and other authors. Start up conversations, and ask questions – two things I’m not comfortable doing. I shouldn’t have been concerned about looking pushy or annoying to strangers, because at RT no one is a stranger! I just love that concept.

Peggy Jaeger with RT conference badgeRT is, in my mind, an awful lot like Comic Con for Romance Lovers. There are themed parties, where fans and authors alike go all out dressing up in period costumes. There are scavenger hunts, photo ops with the most hunky of male cover models, chocolate parties, movie nights – you think of it, and RT is doing it. Billed as a book lovers conference, I found RT was heavily stacked with romance readers. Most romance conferences I’ve attended have been heavy on the writer end of the spectrum, so it was eye-opening for me as a romance writer to actually connect with the people who put us, and keep us, in business – the reader.

I met some of the most delightful, well-read and well-rounded people I’ve ever met this week. And I met them while waiting in line for events, at workshops, and at book signings. These readers and romance fans know what they like. They move the industry in the direction they want it to go by reading, talking, blogging about, and promoting their favorite author’s work. I had one new fan to me, who was also an independent bookseller, say she loved my book so much she promoted it at her store. You gotta love that!

A few things I learned this week that I wish I had known prior to attending RT, though, needs mentioning.

First of all, be prepared for crowds. Big crowds. Disney-theme-park-during-school-vacation crowds. This convention is held once a year and fans/readers/authors /industry people come from all across the globe. This isn’t some dinky little get together; there are literally thousands of people attending.

Because of these crowds, be prepared to wait in line for everything. Everything. Every book signing, every workshop, every author meet and greet, every giveaway. I thought I was being proactive getting to an event scheduled for 5:15 at 4:50. Nope. There were 500 people ( not kidding!) in line ahead of me.

Bring snacks and something to drink with you wherever you go, whether it’s to a workshop or an event. Believe me, you’ll need it.

Wear comfortable shoes and clothing. I know this sounds like common sense, but as an author, I still feel fans want to see you in a dressy, professional, romance-writer-like outfit complete with stocking and heels. Because I think this way, my feet hurt and when I had to wait in line, I couldn’t sit on the floor like everyone who was dressed comfortably because I had a skirt and stilettos on, and by the end of a very long days, my legs turned to jello. Flats and jeans are, truly, acceptable wear.

If you’re an author, always ALWAYS  have some kind of author swag on you. Business cards, placards, notebooks, chapsticks, whatever has your name on it and whatever you routinely give away, carry it with you. I had more readers ask me for a business card so they could remember my name than I’ve ever been asked before.  Luckily, I’d filled my purse with them, and new release promo cards.

Be approachable and open. This was the hardest one for me because, you know…introvert, here! A smile and a “how are ya doing?” went miles in gathering new readers to me. Love that.

I’m so glad I made that New Year’s resolution. RT has been one of the most intense, interesting, and rewarding book conventions I’ve ever attended. I’m already planning on being in RENO next year for RT2018.

Peggy Jaeger is a contemporary romance author who writes about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can't live without them.  You can read all about her writing journey, and more about her time at RT, at http://peggyjaeger.com

Writing Romantic Comedy

~ By Janet Elizabeth Henderson

Writing romantic comedy is hard. I’ve written fourteen romantic comedies and I still struggle to get the balance right in each and every book. If you lean too much on the comedy side of the novel, your readers won’t take the romance seriously. And if there isn’t enough humor in the book, you’ll get blasted for not being funny. So how do you get it right?

Well first up, you need to decide what type of romantic comedy you’re writing. If your intentions aren’t clear from the outset, the reader can become confused and lose interest in your book. Here are some of the basic formats:

  • In it together

This type of comedy points out the absurdities of life while the writer encourages the reader to laugh at them from a position of superiority. (Only the writer and reader can see how humorous the story is.)

Example: Anything by Jane Austen.

  • All in the tone

This is where the author’s voice in itself is humorous, but they still manage to achieve depth within the story. This one hard to pull off without becoming so flippant that you alienate the reader.

Example: Kresley Cole does this brilliantly in her Immortals After Dark series.

  • It’s a garnish, darling

This is the type of book that sprinkles humorous dialogue or scenes sparingly throughout the novel. The humor in these books tends to be more subtle and less “wet-yourself-laughing.” (Although sometimes the odd laugh out loud scene will happen.)

Example: Anything Susan Elizabeth Phillips writes.

  • It’s all a farce

This is where pretty much everything is over-the-top and silly. The problem with this is that the reader won’t take anything seriously in your book. Therefore, if you plan to put in some depth, it will be missed.

Example: Mel Brooks movies and the screwball comedies of the thirties.

  • Counterpoint comedy

You see this work best in action movies. In this type of book there is drama, pathos and then suddenly a burst of comedy to lighten the mood. The comedy in these books is relevant to the story and can sometimes be quite dark. Example: Lethal Weapon movies.

My books lie on the line between “It’s a garnish, darling” and “Counterpoint comedy.” When I’m writing I try to balance the humor to ensure there are moments that make the reader smile as well as at least one moment that makes them laugh out loud. But, and this is important, humor in a romantic comedy should NEVER outshine the romance. Readers come to the book for the romance. That needs to be your main focus—always.

So, in saying that, once you know which type of book you want to write, how do you include humor without going over-the-top and alienating your reader? Here are some tips that might help you get the balance right:

1. Put the emphasis on romance

It’s far too easy, when writing romantic comedy, to tip over into just plain comedy. Always remember that the reader is reading for the romance and all humor should be within the context of the developing romance. For a romantic comedy to work well it needs emotional depth. The humor works best when the readers can identify with the characters and their struggles.

2. Make the characters take it seriously

You don’t want your characters to come across as trying to be funny. You want them to take whatever situation they’re in very seriously. This exaggerates the humor for the reader. Characters who are naturally sarcastic or humorous are wonderful, but you want to limit the number you have within each book. Otherwise, it will sound as though every character has the same voice and the book will start to feel flippant and shallow in tone.

3. Keep dialogue sharp and watch sarcasm

Couple LaughingA character who is continually sarcastic can put a reader off the story. But, if a character makes a humorous/sarcastic observation about something that is very serious it can affect the way the other characters, and the reader, view a scene. One comment can turn an emotional scene into a humorous one. The key to achieving this is being aware of who’s making the comment and where it’s placed within the scene. As they say, timing is everything! Banter is also great for comedy and for developing character relationships. Remember to keep it tightly written and don’t let it go on for too long—otherwise, it will slow the pacing of the novel and distract from the overall theme of the story. Remember, all banter should be in keeping with each character’s individual voice. If you don’t do this, they can sound too similar and pull the reader out of the story.

4. Include one set piece per book

Instead of trying to think of a funny situation for each and every chapter, come up with just one laugh-out-loud set piece for the entire book instead. This can be a ludicrous situation the characters find themselves in, or a serious scene that takes an unexpected turn into dark humor, or something that goes badly wrong for a character and only the reader (or other characters) can see the humor in the situation. This set piece should be a natural fit for the character and the story. I try to place the set piece in the middle of my books, for pacing’s sake. It boosts the middle—allowing me to show something about my characters that I’d previously been unable to show—while at the same time it’s far enough away from the ending to stop it from interfering with emotional depth as the characters resolve their feelings for each other. I’ve found that very few stories can work well with more than one set piece. This is because the more there are, the more they detract from the emotional depth of the romance.

5. Keep the reader in on the joke

I’ve found that having a character take themselves seriously, but come across as absurd or funny, is more humorous than having the character aware of how funny they are. The reader can see how ludicrous the situation/character is, but the characters involved in it are oblivious. Don’t try to be too clever with this technique, it can come across as patronizing. Like everything else in writing romantic comedy, the focus should always be on the romance and not on the comedy.

6. Pay careful attention to how other characters treat a comedy element

Sometimes it’s fine for a character to laugh at someone who’s being funny. That tells the reader that the person who’s enacting the comedy, but isn’t aware it’s comedy, is in fact seen as humorous by those around them. Sometimes, the humorous tension in the scene is increased when the characters around the funny person take them seriously and don’t see the humor. I use both techniques in my books. I’ve found that, if characters laugh at each other too much the reader doesn’t take the humorous characters seriously when they need to.

7. Humor works best as contrast

You need the emotional depth in a romance to offset the comedy. You need the gamut of emotions within your book. Aim to make the reader cry as well as laugh. The contrast will emphasize both the romantic side of the book and the comedy side. Remember the relationship between your hero and heroine is your priority. A reader will laugh louder and harder if they’re invested in the characters.

8. Keep it natural

There is a lot of humorous potential in romance, but it should always be a natural product of the story you’re telling, otherwise, it will feel forced. If the comedy element you’ve written doesn’t tell you something about the characters, or move the story along, or create conflict—it isn’t worth having in your book. Comedy, like every other element in a novel, needs to reinforce the overall premise of the story.

9. Be careful of crass humor

Because of the subject matter—all that physical interaction—it’s easy to slip into crass humor as a romantic comedy writer. This can seriously put a reader off. In the fourteen books I’ve written, I’ve only done this once. I still have mixed feelings about the scene, because I feel both amused and embarrassed when I read it, but it fits the characters and it moves the plot along and it was essential to the dynamic between the hero and heroine. Be really wary of crass humor. Unless you want to write like Benny Hill or a Carry On movie, this can kill your story.

10. Have fun with it

The chances are, if you find something funny, someone else will too. So entertain yourself as you write. Keep notes on situations in real life that make you laugh. Look out for situations that are ironic or absurd, but are taken seriously by those involved. Write down witty one-liners you hear, you might be able to use them later. But through it all, remember you’re writing romance. The comedy is just the icing on the cake.

I hope this helps. Writing romantic comedy is a serious business, but a whole lot of fun.

Happy writing!

I grew up in Scotland, but after I met my Dutch husband in America we decided to move to New Zealand and that's where we've settled. We bought a patch of land that we've filled with other people's unwanted animals - we didn't advertise for them, they found us! So far we have three miniature, three anti-social alpacas, a grumpy cow, one pet sheep who wants to live in the house, a crazy goat who keeps eating my manuscripts and an escape artist chicken who breaks into our house through the cat flap. And that's just the pets who live outside the house - don't even get me started on the demented, farting dog who keeps burying my shoes! On top of this, I have two small girls, one DIY obsessed husband (I said "obsessed" not "skilled") and a 92-year-old neighbor who thinks she lives with us. In between cuddling animals and herding kids, I write books.

April PANorama — Writing a Series

Dear Readers, It’s the last Sunday of the month, which means that it’s time for one of our chapter PAN members (PAN stands for Published Authors Network, a professional designation within RWA open to members who reach a certain level of sales) to visit the blog to share some of their wisdom and expertise. This month, Mary E. Thompson is here to give us her advice on writing a series.  Take it away, Mary!

Writing a Series

Mary E. Thompson~ By Mary E. Thompson

Series has been a buzz word in romance for years. So much so that now, it’s just how things are done. Writing a book? Turn it into a series. Have an idea? Make sure you can expand it. It’s standard operating procedure.

But why? Why do we write series?

The better question is why do readers love them?

How many TV shows do you watch? My DVR has twenty-one shows we record. It’s a lot, I know, but that’s not the point. Why do we record shows? Or watch them online? Or on Netflix? Is it because the shows are unique and different and interesting? Or is it because you enjoyed it when it started and got invested? You liked something about it at the beginning. But every episode follows a formula. You knew Lorelai and Rory would both learn something at the end of Gilmore Girls. You knew the bad guy was going to get caught on Hawaii 5-0. You knew someone would get eliminated at the end of The Voice.

So why do you keep watching?

We always want the bad guy to lose and the good guy to get the girl. We want characters to grow and change. We want to believe the same is possible for us. The overweight woman can end up with the SEAL. The dorky guy can get the model. The invisible girl can catch the attention of the jock.

Gilmore HouseIt’s not the main story that captures our attention. I loved Gilmore Girls. I loved it so much I have the DVD’s of every episode so I can watch them whenever I want. With each episode, we knew that Lorelai was going to do something crazy. Emily and Lorelai would argue. Rory would try to keep the peace. And Richard would barely pay attention.

But that wasn’t what kept me returning week after week to watch what was going to happen. It wasn’t what made almost 6 million people tune in the weekend Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life premiered.

https://youtu.be/Hjqrr7nss3s

I wanted to know what crazy thing Lorelai would do, yes. But I also wanted to see Rory go to Harvard and then Yale. I wanted to know if Lorelai would marry Max. Or Christopher. Or Luke. If Rory would end up with Dean. Or Jess. Or Logan. If she’d go back to school. If Rory and Lorelai would make up. If Rory and Paris would ever truly be friends. If Lane and Zach would get together. If Richard and Emily would ever take it easy on Lorelai.

The individual episodes didn’t keep me going back. The characters did.

That’s what readers want from us. They want that familiarity. That sense of knowing what to expect. They want to see their favorite characters again and again. They want to know the one character they relate to the best is going to end up with her happily ever after.

That’s why a series works. Grab their attention at the beginning and they’ll be begging you for more. A reader knows what the series stands for. What each book will be like based on the ones before. All their favorite characters are there. They know the backstory. They know who’s going to have a snarky remark and who’s going to keep the peace. They know who the introvert is and who’s going to bring the party. It’s like sitting down for a few hours with their best friends, if we’re lucky.

Because hearing a story from your best friend is the best kind of story.

Mary E. Thompson writes scintillating stories with a side of hope. Her series, Big & Beautiful, is eleven stories long… and counting, because her readers asked for more. When Mary isn’t writing, she cheers on her daughter at gymnastics and her son at every other sport. Mary is lucky to have her own romance novel worthy husband to tag-team if things get too crazy. Visit her website at http://MaryEThompson.com to learn more.

BICHOK, But Then What?

~ By Tanya Agler

Note: Tanya's companion post, Writing During a Family Crisis, can be found here

Okay, we’ve all been there. We’re about to start writing and bam! The robocall of congratulations comes as you’ve won a free cruise to Nebraska if you turn over our checking account number now. A knock on the office door precedes your youngest running in with blood gashing out of his forehead and an ER trip is in your immediate future. A pop-up notification alerts you a prince in Nigeria wants to give you a million dollars because you’re a wonderful person. Okay, I’m exaggerating on purpose, but think about it. When you sit down to write, how often do you check your e-mail or your Facebook feed for just a second or tell yourself it will be one game of Solitaire? Even right now, thank you for reading this blog, but were you about to open your manuscript? If so, this might be the article you’ve been waiting for. If, on the other hand, you are rewarding yourself by reading one of your favorite website blogs after a productive day of writing, please come write with me and let your discipline rub off on me!

To Do Lists. Why are they the rage this year? Because they work. One caveat. Make a to-do list on a sheet of paper or in a day planner or in a notebook. Crossing items off with a pen or pencil often helps you feel like you’ve accomplished something. How specific your to-do list is up to you. (My wonderful husband has fun whenever he finds my to-do list. He often writes in watch Doc Martin with WH). If you like crossing off lots of activities, go ahead and include items like brushing your teeth and getting dressed. Often crossing off the little things gives a sense of accomplishment. If, however, you only want to itemize your writing goals to stay on task, do that. These are only suggestions on maximizing your writing productivity. Find what works best for you. When you see positive results, stick with that method.

Priorities. Say you’ve used a to-do list for a week and have discovered you can only get two out of three writing activities done each day. Now you know what you are capable of, and you have the power to decide whether to classify those activities in terms of importance or work a little at a time on all three. One caveat. First and foremost, when you are prioritizing your writing tasks, make sure that number one is writing or editing your work in progress. 

Turn off notifications. When you are actually in the chair with your hands on the keyboard, eliminate as many distractions as possible. If you can turn off notifications, do that. You don’t even need an app. Just click on system preferences, click on turn off notifications when you start writing and turn them on again when you’re done for the day. Caveat. I have kids in school, and the nurse calls when there’s a head injury. So I can’t turn off my phone when they’re in school. Do what you can to minimize distractions while taking your personal circumstances into account.

Timers or Sprints. I love my timers. I write for twenty or twenty-five minutes, then I read a book about writing for ten or get up and walk around. If I’m really into a scene, I’ll keep going when the timer goes off, but I’ve discovered I can write for longer periods as a result. Some writers swear by word sprints. If those help you, find friends on FB or go to Twitter and look for a group of writers who will sprint with you.

Spreadsheets. Okay, some of you are now running for the hills. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It can be a notebook where you write the date and your word count. I use an Excel spreadsheet. Why? So I can see at a glance the numbers adding up and know I’m writing daily.

Rewards. Yes, I know some of you read the word bribes. I prefer to call them a reward. There are scenes that will be harder to write than others. On these days, I load a little bag with M&Ms or Hershey Kisses. Every five hundred words or so, I reward myself with a Hershey Kiss. I try not to make this an everyday occurrence but, in a pinch, the small treat helps me keep going.

So those are some tips that might make your BICHOK time more productive.

*If you have any tips you want to share, please leave a comment.

This write-at-home mom lives in Georgia with her husband, four kids, one Basset Hound (Vera) and one rabbit (Gandalf). She writes a mixture of inspirational category and sweet contemporary Southern front porch romances. In 2016, she placed first in the Great Expectations Contest (Contemporary Category) and the Catherine Contest (Contemporary Short) as well as finaled in the Maggies and TARA Contests.

When she’s not writing, chauffeuring her children or folding laundry, Tanya loves classic movies (preferably black and white or anything with Cary Grant) or enjoying a cup of tea alongside a good book.

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Irish Alpha Heroes and St. Patricks Day

Casey ClipperHappy St. Patrick's Day! 

Our chapter president Casey Clipper has agreed to tell us a bit about writing Irish Alpha Heroes. 

How's that for good luck? 

So it back and enjoy. 

If you also create heroes based on aspects of your own cultural background, please share in the comments. 

Contemporary Romance: What was it about growing up in an Irish family that you wanted to translate into fiction?

Casey Clipper: It wasn’t necessarily the growing up in an Irish family but more watching the men, like my father and grandfather and uncle (I have a few, but the one who reminds me of my dad the most), that made me fashion the heroes in my stories after them, in a sense.

Watching the way the men in the family treated their wives, gave me first-hand knowledge of the whole alpha personality, who loves and adores the woman in his life. They treated their wives in an extremely respectful manner, acknowledging their wives ran the household and being perfectly fine with that, with zero macho ego thing, holding them in such high regard in their lives.

Yet, they were also the “men of the house”, taking care of their families and spouses. From the outside and looking back on the interaction and daily routines, it’s quite fascinating. (I unfortunately have to speak in past tense because my grandparents and my mother are no longer with us.) 

CR: Do you have any favorite family stories or anecdotes?

CC: Well, my grandmother was probably the most superstitious woman I’ve ever known and managed to pass that down? I don’t spill salt, walk under a ladder, and definitely change directions if a black cat crosses my path. And do not bring an outside broom inside. That was a heated battle in my house a couple years ago between myself and my husband.

four leaf cloverThere is also the memory of Sundays at my grandparents’ home. After church, the entire family—aunts, uncles, grandchildren—would go to my grandparents for dinner and then after the three oldest granddaughters (yes, I’m in the top 3) did the dishes, the aunts and uncles and my grandfather played cards with nickels, dimes, and quarters.

CR: Are your heroes based on actual people from your life? 

CC: Not one of my heroes are based off anyone in my life. They’re really based off an ideal man (though with his own issues) in my mind at the time of writing a novel.

Of course, they’re all alphas and all love their women and are all supportive of their heroine and naturally have to go through their arcs, but I can honestly say that not one character is written with someone specific in mind.

CR: Do you have a process for researching Irish culture?

CC: Names. I research names and their meanings. Even last names. For instance, Murphy (which is used in The Love Series) in 2014 was the most number one surname in Ireland. O’s in front of a name mean “grandson of” or “decedent of” while Mac’s in front of names mean “son of”. Ryan (used in Unexpected Love) means little king. Neil, which I use for a last name in my The Men of Law series, means passionate. 

CR: Are there any stereotypes / myths about Irish culture that bother you?

CC: That the Irish are drinkers. Yes, you’ll always have those in any culture that are stereotypical, but for the most part, we aren’t going to the pub every night and downing Guinness or whiskey and getting into brawls.

CR: Why do you think St. Patrick’s Day has become so universal?

CC: I think because it’s a time where you can go to the pub or to a neighbor's (which is where I’ll be), decked out in your green, listen to Irish music, maybe have some Jamison or Baileys or a Guinness, eat some corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes and relax in the company of friends and family.

In an atmosphere that is just plain fun. I think the American version of St. Patrick’s Day has become more about celebrating good times with everyone, even strangers at the pub. And I think we all need that in our lives right now more than ever. Right?

CR: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

CC: Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! We’re all Irish today!

* Thank you so much, Casey! *

Learn more about Casey at http://caseyclipper.com

Bringing Back The Stiletto Contest

Dear Chapter Members,

One of the major items that had been discussed last year, when the board was getting ready to transition into the 2017 year, was bringing back the Stiletto Contest. A contest that had been well known among RWA members as one of the best among RWA chapters to enter. But how did we, as a new board, bring back a contest that had essentially been abandoned and make it great and a sought after

A contest that had been well known among RWA members as one of the best among RWA chapters to enter. But how did we, as a new board, bring back a contest that had essentially been abandoned and make it great and a sought after contest, again?  It begins with a list of to-do items.

1. Pulling together a great committee.

It’s not easy for chapters to get volunteers, especially online chapters like the Contemporary Romance Writers. But we put the call out and sure enough, we got a great group of members who not only gave great input but have stepped up to contribute to make this contest great again.

2. Improving the judge’s score sheet.

Luckily, writers and authors save everything. And I mean everything, right? We tend to not delete anything on our laptops. One of the committee members had saved the Stiletto Contest score sheet from the last year it had been held and the committee agreed that it needed an overhaul. Entrants enter contests for reasons. Maybe it’s to nab an award-winning author tag or to get their manuscript in front of a specific judge or to get feedback from judges on their manuscripts. Whatever the case, a good score sheet is vital and the Stiletto’s now has more in-depth questions to help writers get better feedback for their entries.

3. Final Round Judges.

This could have been a daunting task. Finding final round judges for the unpublished division was something that we wanted to be sure we got right. Thankfully, even though the Stiletto hadn’t been around in a few years, editors and agents jumped at the opportunity to judge the unpublished final round. Yay, CRW! We still got it! ;-)

4. Categories.

Another discussion in the committee was categories. Naturally, we chose only contemporary romance, because, well, we’re a contemporary romance chapter. Leaving paranormal, fantasy, historical, etc to the chapters that focus on those genres was a bit of a no-brainer for us. But, choosing the subgenres within contemporary romance was a further discussion. There were reasons for the categories chosen and reasons for categories not picked, but mainly it came down to max number of categories and leaving some to chapters that focus specifically on those subgenres, like YA and erotic.

We also wanted to include published authors as a new part of the Stiletto. Many of our members are published and self-published authors and we wanted to give them the opportunity to enter the contest. So we unanimously decided on two divisions−published and unpublished−to give every CRW member, and author and writer outside of CRW, an opportunity to enter a contest.

We are also one of the few chapters that has given published authors an entry choice of either ebooks or paperbacks. Many traditionally published authors don’t have access to their ebooks or maybe an author isn’t comfortable handing off their ebook. The committee came together and agreed that having both options available would be best. We’re truly happy with this decision that includes every author’s publishing route.

5. Category Coordinators.

Recruiting category leaders was not an easy task by any means. No one wants to volunteer time that they don’t have. But once again, the women who have agreed to be categories coordinators have been fantastic. And I can’t thank them enough for stepping up for the chapter.

6. Last but not least - Entrants!

We need your entries! The Stiletto Contest cannot run without entries. So if you’ve been on the fence, enter your novel or manuscript. If you’re a member, a published ebook entry or an unpublished manuscript is only $15! That is the lowest price of any chapter contest. How could you possibly beat that for the possibility of becoming an award-winning author or getting your manuscript in front of some of the best editors and agents in the industry?

I’ve severely paraphrased the process of bringing back the Stiletto Contest. It has been a great undertaking by all involved, from the committee to the category coordinators to the board. Every member who has played a part has been significant in bringing this contest back. And for that, the Contemporary Romance Writers board cannot thank you enough. We’re thrilled to have the contest back and better than ever!

Now, get those entries in before the submission date ends on Friday, April 7th.

Casey Clipper

President

Contemporary Romance Writers

Why We Should Enter Writing Contests

~ By Liza Keogh

So, you're thinking about entering a contest sponsored by RWA, or one of RWA's local or online chapters?

Good! I have some thoughts to nudge you along.

Some of us are plotters, some are pantsers, and some of us have created a hybrid of the two that works. Some of us are traditionally published, some of us are self-published, and some of us are hybrid.

What's important is we all started somewhere, and if we're even contemplating entering a writing contest, it means we also finished something we started. Woot!

When you're new to writing, a contest provides a concrete deadline. Some of us need a little pressure to get to the finishing line.

A contest can also provide you with feedback, from a bare-bones numbering system, to a few sentences, to a healthy chunk of pages that have been marked up by thoughtful, attentive judges.

A contest can also help you find other writers within the vast community that is the RWA. It can be daunting to wade in to a thriving organization and find your place. Entering a contest is one way to get to know the waters. Volunteering to judge the preliminary round is another. 

But, if you're curious, then just do it. Pressing send might feel a bit like jumping into your favorite swimming hole a few weeks too early, but the plunge is worth it.

Before you press that send button, let's review:

  • Do you have a completed manuscript?
  • Have you polished that manuscript so it's nice and shiny?
  • Run it through spell check and grammar check one more time. Just in case.

Awesome!

Go back to the contest rules page and read through carefully. Then, look at your manuscript.

  • Does it fit into one of the contest's categories?
  • Have you formatted it correctly? 
  • Have you removed all traces of identification from the file(s) you are sending?

Go back, again, and triple check those pesky formatting rules. They're important. You're submitting a piece of writing you believe in. It hurts to be disqualified because you forgot to remove your name from the file's properties, or you've formatted your pages into .docx, not .doc.

Good luck!

Liza is a pantser who craves organization and deadlines. She has a modest amount of experience with entering writing contests and knows what it's like to press send on a polished project, and what it's like to press send on something half-baked. Believe her, it feels much better to send in a piece of writing that is ready!

Most days, she can be found in her writing cabin, working towards her next Life Goal: becoming a published author. You can find her blogging at https://lizakeoghblog.wordpress.com, and on twitter @lazy_liza_k.

Writing During a Family Crisis

~ By Tanya Agler

Overall, writing is a rather solitary endeavor. Many people, who’ve never finished a book, believe it’s the easiest thing in the world to let the words flow onto the computer screen or onto a sheet of paper. In reality, many writers have day jobs, families, and responsibilities.

Many wake up early to write or stay up late. Some use their lunch breaks or the time after their children go to bed. Day by day, they see their word count add up until lo and behold, they have a first draft and finally a revised and edited book.

But sometimes real life intervenes in a way none of us can prepare for.

Sometimes a loved one gets sick. Worst of all, sometimes our loved ones pass away.

When those crises hit home, how do writers sit down and write when it seems as though everything they knew is falling apart around them?

Believe me, it’s better to think about how you’d keep writing in a crisis when trouble isn’t swirling around you. In the four years since I’ve been seriously pursuing writing as a career, my father has died and my teenage daughter has been diagnosed with a rare disease, VHL, which has required numerous scans, tests, eye laser procedures and outpatient surgeries.

Life happens as you’re trying your best to capture emotion on the page and write a story someone will want to read. So, here’s my advice on what to consider before the crisis hits and you wonder how on earth you are ever going to find time to write or even find that inner writing spark again.

Know why you write. This seems like a basic question. Why do you want to write? Why are you the best person to write the story burning in your head? It’s important to ask yourself why you write because when life hits the fan, you need to know why, out of everything you could be doing with your time, writing means so much to you.

Know your writing style. I’m not talking about your writing voice, although it is important to know that. I’m talking about whether you’re the type of “have laptop, will travel” writer or “a dedicated time and space” writer. Depending on how you work best, you know then how to adjust in those times of crisis. I’ve written in hospital rooms, doctor waiting rooms, and school parking lots, but I also know people who have to write at home and would have awakened two hours early to write at their desks. When you know how you write, you can adjust your schedule to accommodate your writing, if it’s a short term adjustment.

Know your writing priorities. Preplanning, writing or editing (and more revision) all are integral parts of writing. A long time ago, they might have been the only job a writer had. Today, not so much. A writer wears different hats. A writer may have a critique partner or beta readers, should have a website, is usually active on social media or found on a blog hop, and even more. Some writers assign priorities to all the different parts of their writing responsibilities. On days when I’m on the go, I might not have time to write the black moment, but I might have time to set up tweets (one caveat-if you write social media posts ahead of time and bad news breaks, pull the tweets or FB posts) or critique a couple of pages or beta read a chapter. The great thing is when I do get a bigger chunk of time, I can write.

Know when to take a break. All of this sounds great until you’re in the ICU with a family member or best friend or when you get the call from the doctor that you have to start chemo. Sometimes you have to give yourself the freedom to call your agent or postpone your indie release because the crisis is too big. It’s okay to say I can’t write because I have to figure out how my family gets through a car wreck, or I have to undergo cancer treatment, or I have to say goodbye. But when you know why you write, you’ll know when it’s time to open that laptop screen again or sit down at your desk, and the story will pour out of you.

So that’s my advice. Sit down and figure this out when life is good. Then, when life happens, you’ll know why you write and you’ll know when it’s time to get all the emotion you went through into a story that readers will love.

This write-at-home mom lives in Georgia with her husband, four kids, one Basset Hound (Vera) and one rabbit (Gandalf). She writes a mixture of inspirational category and sweet contemporary Southern front porch romances. In 2016, she placed first in the Great Expectations Contest (Contemporary Category) and the Catherine Contest (Contemporary Short) as well as finalled in the Maggies and TARA Contests.

When she’s not writing, chauffeuring her children or folding laundry, Tanya loves classic movies (preferably black and white or anything with Cary Grant) or enjoying a cup of tea alongside a good book.

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