Meet Our New Secretary, Katina Drennan!

katina1A huge congratulations and thanks to our new board! 🙂

Next up in our introductions, we've have our new secretary, Katina Drennan.

Welcome, Katina!

Q. Please tell us a little bit about yourself. What drew you to writing?

A. I’ve always loved to read, so writing and language have always come easy to me. My first story idea came full blown after seeing a piece of jewelry in a magazine. At the time I had no idea what was proper or right, I just told the story the best way I knew how. I got a lot of interest in that story, but no sale. Years of study and commitment have helped me put method to my madness. That story remains one of those I plan to revisit with the unique perspective only writers get to indulge: If I knew then what I know now.

Q. Why is contemporary romance important to you?

A. I just really love the time we live in.  How lucky are we to have all the modern conveniences, fast cars, airplanes, cell phones, and a romantic and sexual freedom. Even when I straddle into the past, it always seems to be a time travel, with one foot firmly in the contemporary world.

Q. How has the chapter helped you with your writing career?

A. I am inspired by the many successful authors in our chapter, many of whom have contributed their time and energy to present classes and share experiences. Writing is such a solitary venture, it’s important to establish relationships with other authors as a reality check, if nothing else!

Q. What does your position involve? What are some of your main roles?

A. As secretary, I record and post meeting minutes to our RWA archives and help to welcome new members to the group, and I have a vote on matters of importance to keeping the chapter strong and vital .  This year, we have stepped up to help our members keep their memberships up to date by reminding them their membership is about to expire. This is really important, especially if a member is interested in holding office at some future date. RWA is working on a system to notify members about Chapter memberships coming up for renewal.  Until then, I am doing what I can to give members a heads up before their membership expires.

Q. What are your goals for the chapter? What would you like to see happen over the next year?

A. I would like to do what I can to get more engagement in the group. A member doesn’t have to serve on the board to volunteer to keep the chapter vital and engaging. I love the idea of revitalizing our crit group and making the Stiletto Contest the GOTO contest among the chapters!

img_2025Q. Other than the fact that you’re a writer, what else would you like us to know about you?

A. I try to balance my time in the chair in front of the computer with getting myself outdoors.  I am a rabid bicyclist and my husband and I try to get two or three bicycle adventures in a year.  Our next trip will be to the big island of Hawaii, where we’ll ride the entire perimeter and visit the volcanoes. Last October, we rode from Seattle to Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Hood. My other great love is cooking and I try to incorporate that into my stories when I can.

Thank you, Katina, for all of your hard work and dedication to the chapter! 

Meet Our New VP of Communications, Louise Knott Ahern!

louiseA huge congratulations and thanks to our new board! :-) Over the next few weeks, we'll be introducing each new board member. Next up, come meet our new VP of Communications, Louise Knott Ahern (w/a Lyssa Kay Adams)!.

Q. Please tell us a little bit about yourself. What drew you to writing?

A. I've always been a writer. My family tells me I would carry around a notebook and a pencil before I could even read, so I was born with the writing bug. I spent the first 20 years of my professional career as a reporter and editor before finally realizing my lifelong dream of publishing my first novel, Seventh Inning Heat, in March 2016. I can't imagine NOT being a writer. In fact, if I go more than two days without writing, I get cranky.

Q. Why is contemporary romance important to you?

A. I read and enjoy almost all genres of romance, but I write contemporary because it's the genre where I feel I can tell the kinds of stories I write best -- stories of real women facing real-life obstacles in a modern setting. I want readers to see themselves in the small details of my books, whether it's through the tough-as-nails struggles of women in male-dominated fields or the eye-rolling nuisances of dealing with the pressures of being social-media perfect or even just the daily joys of motherhood.

Q. How has the chapter helped you with your writing career?

A. Primarily through the friendships and relationships I've made through the chapter! This chapter is full of wickedly talented writers who I learn from every day. Chapter events are also a huge benefit, such as the webinar last year featuring K.M. Weiland and the Novelicious retreat at the last RWA National conference. I can't imagine trying to navigate a romance writing career without being part of RWA or this chapter.

Q. What does your position involve? What are some of your main roles?

A. As VP Communications, I'm the go-to person for the chapter's Facebook group, website, Yahoo group (which was what we used before creating the Facebook group) and other chapter communications. If you need any help accessing any of our various groups, you can ask me! I also monitor the chapter's main email account: RWAContemporaryRomance@gmail.com 

Q. What are your goals for the chapter? What would you like to see happen over the next year?

A. I was so glad to see us switch to a Facebook group last year, and I'd love to see us continue to make use of that social media platform to build our community and nurture relationships. Primarily, though, I want to make sure every member feels they are always aware of the goings-on of the chapter!

Q. Other than the fact that you’re a writer, what else would you like us to know about you?

A. I live in Michigan and never complain about winter. I actually love snow. Love, love, love snow. I'm a happy little penguin when it snows. But the real light of my life is my family-- my 11-year-old daughter and my husband of 16 years. We are an unconventional family, and if we ever had a family photo shoot, it would have to feature my husband yelling at someone on the phone (he's a sports editor), my daughter grumbling about changing her lucky basketball socks, and me with a disgusted look on my face as I cleaned out whatever rotten vegetables have turned to goo in the fridge. We also have a pesky Maltese who buries things all over the house. I once found a donut in my underwear drawer, and just last weekend, my daughter yelled down from her room, "Mom, there's a pancake under my pillow." Yes, he will end up in a book someday!

Thank you, Louise, for all of your hard work and dedication to the chapter! 

Meet Our New VP of Programs, Melanie Greene!

MelGreene 2A huge congratulations and thanks to our new board! :-) Over the next few weeks, we'll be introducing each new board member. Next up, come meet our new VP of Programs, Melanie Greene.

Oh, and, guess what?

Today is her birthday!

Welcome, Melanie! And happy birthday!

Q. Please tell us a little bit about yourself. What drew you to writing?

A. Because my 5th grade teacher told me I was her only student allowed to start a sentence with ‘because,’ I decided to be a writer when I grew up.

Q. Why is contemporary romance important to you?

A. I love using the best age-old story – the journey to love – to explore the world we live in. It’s great fun to create a heightened reality that feels ready to step off the page and into our lives.

Q. How has the chapter helped you with your writing career?

A. In addition to the networking with so many talented and charming fellow novelists, I’ve benefited from many just-what-I-need-right-now CR-RWA workshops over the years.

Q. What does your position involve? What are some of your main roles?

A. As VP of Programs, I will be ensuring our members, and the wider community, are aware of the many exciting workshops we are offering in 2017. I'll facilitate workshop signups and attendance. I'll also be lining up 2018 workshops, helping to plan our National Conference event, and working with the Stiletto Committee.

Q. What are your goals for the chapter? What would you like to see happen over the next year?

A. I’m excited about the workshop presenters and their offerings for 2017, and want to see our members taking full advantage of their expertise. I’m always interested to hear what other topics our members would like to see offered, so reach out to me – mel@melaniegreene.com - with your workshop wish list!

Q. Other than the fact that you’re a writer, what else would you like us to know about you?

A. I’m a total night owl. If your in-box chimes at 2 a.m., it’s probably me. Sorry in advance! 

Thanks for all you do for the chapter, Melanie! :-) Enjoy your birthday! 

pexels-photo-104963

Melanie Greene is a native Houstonian, a life-long writer, an avid reader of every kind of fiction, though mostly of romance. 

Melanie's greatest pleasure is in creating characters who feel like friends, then giving them challenges to overcome on the way to Happily Ever After. 

She shares her life with her own hometown hunk of a husband and children so amazing they defy superlatives.

Meet Our President, Casey Clipper!

caseyA huge congratulations and thanks to our new board! :-) Over the next few weeks, we'll be introducing each new board member. First up, come meet our new president, Casey Clipper. Welcome, Casey!

Q. Please tell us a little bit about yourself. What drew you to writing?

A. I can’t say for sure what drew me to writing. I’ve always been a reader. My mother helped encourage that love for reading and as a teen, even though I came from a family with 4 girls, without much money, my mom would make sure I had a book to read. I vividly remember the Sweet Valley High book series littered over my bedroom. But when I actually started writing was a few years ago, when I read a popular novel and thought that I would have written it much differently. So essentially, I wrote my version of fan fiction. Of course, that first penned manuscript is so badly written it will never see the light of day.

Q. Why is contemporary romance important to you?

A. Contemporary is what I connect with best. It’s what I read. Whether it’s suspense, erotica, or new adult, it’s the genre that I enjoy the most and I can easily get into when writing. I could never be a good researched when it comes to a genre like historical or even be that inventive when it comes to making up worlds like fantasy or paranormal. Contemporary just plain works for me.

Q. How has the chapter helped you with your writing career?

A. The Contemporary Romance Writers and the RWA in general has taught me not only about the romance genre itself and vastly improved my writing through workshops, but also about the professionalism and industry connections. I truly believe that RWA and its chapters are invaluable in that manner. I’m a self-published author and I read a lot. There is a significant difference in RWA authors/writers than non-members. You can tell from Facebook posts and from reading novels of authors who haven’t been given professional advice and training.

But more than anything, the connections I’ve made through RWA and the CRW and other chapters are invaluable. I’ve made such good writing friends, who understand this world I have created for myself. They “get” me and I get them. So many kindred spirits that I now know are out there, when previously, I thought I had been all alone.

Q. What does your position involve? What are some of your main roles?

A. Lol! I have no idea. Kidding. As president of the chapter, essentially I oversee everything. So the president has her hands dipped into all the roles, as oversight of the chapter and to make sure everything is running smoothly and as should be. She calls all board meetings and schedules the general membership meeting. The president can also hold the vote that might break a tie on the board regarding policies and procedures. The president has to make sure that any new policies and procedures voted by the national board is put into place by the chapter, documented, and voted on by chapter members. The president of a chapter also represents the chapter at nationals. There is actually a lot of little, but big things, the president is responsible for that aren’t nearly as visible as some of the other board positions when it comes to the running of a chapter.

Q. What are your goals for the chapter? What would you like to see happen over the next year?

A. One of my main goals is to open up the board meetings to all members. I’d like the board meetings to be open to all CRW members so each member can see what’s happening behind the scenes. Currently, this is not in place and I’m not a fan of that. I truly feel that this is important. That all members should be given access to what the board, that they voted in, is doing for the chapter that they have paid to be a part of. So, I’m in communications with RWA to utilize one of their meeting forums to be able to open up our board meetings for members to watch in on, since we meet online.

Another item is to bring back the Stiletto contest. Right now, I’ve been spearheading the Stiletto committee and they’ve been doing a fantastic job with suggestions and their vast knowledge of contests. The Stiletto used to be one of those contests that authors would love to win and I want to bring that back to the chapter. We’ve been discussing new categories and I think this committee will definitely bring something different and valuable to the Stiletto, once again, making the contest thrive.

Also, the party at nationals I’d like to see become the party that it was well known for in years past. So, this is one of the first items on the agenda I’ll be bringing up to the new board, since it takes months to plan.

But the main agenda I have is getting the chapter back on track where members benefit from having a Contemporary Romance Writers membership. I don’t want any member to feel that they got nothing from their membership dues. I understand that every dime in today’s world counts and there are so many chapters to choose to join. I want all members to feel that they’ve chosen correctly with joining CRW.

Q. Other than the fact that you’re a writer, what else would you like us to know about you? A. I do work full time as a secretary for an outpatient physical therapy office in Pittsburgh, PA. I changed jobs for the first time in 13 years this past May and man, did it rock my world, especially my writing. I went from a mom-and-pop business that was dying to one of the busiest corporate companies in Western PA. Talk about a shock to the system and the writing mojo. It took months to get back into the writing groove.

I’m married with two boys, one 24 and one 16, and a cat named Bob, who is the king of our castle. So, I’m surrounded by men. I am the oldest of four sisters, all crazy Irish women, who give their poor father headaches daily, still. Lol. And I have a slight obsession with penguins. Well, maybe not so slight. ;-)

Thank you, Casey, for all of your hard work and dedication to the chapter! 

Writing is Hard. Why Do We Do It?

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 inspire us with some thoughts on why we write. Which for those of you who are striving to write 50,000 words this month, may feel like an extremely timely question.  Take it away, Mary!

MaryEThompson~ By Mary E. Thompson

Eight months ago a friend of mine released her first book. Leading up to the release, she did a countdown to release day on social media, shared it with everyone she knew, and was crazy excited. Three months later, sales were dismal. Recognition wasn’t there. She was discouraged.

Another friend took on a second job because her writing income wasn’t what she hoped for.

Yet another friend waited months to hear back from a submission only to get rejected.

None are new stories. Most authors start out the same way. No one knows who you are. No one is interested in your books. You pour yourself into a book and get a horrible review that rips the book, and your heart, to shreds.

So why do we do it? Why do we keep writing, keep pushing through in a career that may never be much more than a hobby? Why don’t we walk away and do something with more stability? A higher chance of success?

I think there are two reasons we keep going. Maybe only one of them drives you. Maybe it’s both. I’m guessing it’s both.

Faith

You know, without a doubt, that you have a book inside you that is going to make it all worthwhile.

We all want that elusive mega-success that seems to come so easily to some. We all computer-pc-workplace-home-office-159760want our book to be the next breakout story. The one that has movie producers and readers knocking down our door. We want the bestseller list and the raving fans that make every book bigger than our wildest dreams.

And we’re creative people. We have some crazy dreams.

If you don’t have faith in your own storytelling abilities, you’re going to give up. You know you’re good. You keep writing and learning and writing some more. Your books get better. Writing gets easier. You gain more recognition. You know it’s all going to pay off.

You have faith.

Compelled

You truly have no choice. You’ve tried something else. Maybe you had a different career before. Or you have a second one now. Maybe writing was something you’ve always wanted to do.

No matter what, you’ve thought about walking away. Giving it all up and doing something else.

But you just can’t.

There are stories inside you. Stories that are demanding you tell them. Stories that you have to get out. It doesn’t matter if you have a million fans or one, you have to tell your stories.

How could we not do it?

Readers flock to romance. Everyone wants love. Romance novels make us believe anything can happen when love gets involved. Your best friend’s cute older brother will want you. The hot guy from your favorite coffee shop asks you out. Your sexy boss is pining for you. Anything is possible. 

Is it any wonder we simply can’t stop writing our stories? Helping people fall in love? Pushing them to their limits only to shove them a little further to help them find that one person we all want to find? We can’t stop writing any more than our fans can stop reading. And that is a beautiful love story!

Mary E. Thompson writes scintillating stories with a side of hope. She’s been indie published from the beginning. Her 26th release comes out November 29. 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.

Surviving NaNoWriMo When You’re Not Writing

brendamargriet~  By Brenda Margriet

Note: On Wednesday, we posted an alternate view of National Novel Writing Month

I am currently not writing. It doesn't feel good, but I am trying not to beat myself up about it. So with NaNoWriMo going full swing and many of my online writer friends posting amazing word counts I just want to say:

Shut up already!

Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh. But for those of us (and I know you're out there!) who aren't doing NaNoWriMo for whatever reason, here's some encouragement on getting through the month and beyond.

Live your life

Yes, in order to be a better writer, to finish a book, to make a sale, you have to write. But you also have to read books you love, discover new authors. You have to watch the world go by, study people in a coffee shop, spend time enjoying your surroundings.

All these things colour your words, and can often get ignored while under the pressure of hitting a deadline or daily word count. Use this down time to experience life, to store up feelings and sensations and observations so that the next time you are writing in a white heat, you have them to draw on.

Keep writing – even when you can't

I may not be working on my next romance, but I am still writing. I'm doing this blog post, as well as blogging weekly on my own site. I'm lucky enough that my day job also involves creative writing to a certain extent, so I am working there. I am networking with other writers on Facebook through Messenger, which is also writing.

It's not, you say?

Well, think of it as a writing dialogue exercise. Study the patterns of the people you are messaging with. How does what they write "sound" different than what you write? How can you use that once you are again putting words on paper?

This too shall pass

Unless you're dealing with a true crisis of faith in your writing, remind yourself of all the times this has happened before. 'Fess up – you know it has. My first book took more than ten years to finish. I certainly wasn't writing every day during that time, and yet I GOT IT DONE!

Since publishing that book in October 2012, I have completed five more manuscripts and published two (soon to be three) of them. When I consider the ten-plus years MOUNTAIN FIRE took to complete, that's a furious pace for me.

During that time, I've also taken on a fairly stressful management level day job, helped three children grow to adulthood, and been generally busy. Maybe the last few weeks has simply been my brain telling me it needs a break.

Remember who you are and where you came from

I think part of the worry and frustration for me, personally, is I feel like I am wasting precious moments of writing time. I usually work on my novels for about 1.5 hours a day, maybe slightly more on weekends. With such a limited amount of time to write, any day I don't use that time makes me feel like I am falling deeper into writing "debt."

Yet even when I am writing full steam ahead, my daily quota is only 500 words. It's a total I find reasonably easy to achieve even on a bad day, and if I don't it is also reasonably easy to catch up. Would I love to have a higher number? Sure! Would it do any good? Probably not.  I have to stop comparing myself to those writers who have published 30, 40, even 50 books since the self-publishing craze caught on. They are who they are – I am who I am. I am not a risk taker.

I need the stability of a regular paycheck. Maybe someday that will be from writing. But until it is, I need to accept my limitations and work within them.

How do you deal with not writing? Do you have a daily quota? If you do, do you find yourself wishing you could do more, no matter what it is? How are you planning to survive NaNoWriMo?

Brenda Margriet writes contemporary romances with heroes you'd meet at the grocery store. And by that she means real-life men – sexy, smart and looking for the love of their life. Her heroines are bold, savvy and determined to accept nothing less than the man they deserve.

A voracious reader since she was old enough to hold a book, Brenda's idea of the perfect holiday involves a comfortable chair near the water (ocean, lake or pool will do), a glass of wine, and a full-loaded e-reader.

She lives in Northern British Columbia with her husband (as well as various funny and furry pets) and has three adult children. Find out more about Brenda on her website www.brendamargriet.com

Why I’m a Wrimo – My Top 5 Reasons

melissa~ By Melina Kantor Note: On Friday, we'll be posting another point of view about participating in NaNoWriMo. Everyone has a different process, Only you know what works best for you.  So come back Friday, and see what you think.  Apologies to all of my Facebook friends, friends in general, and everyone who has to put up with me in November. Since 2007, National Novel Writing Month has made the entire month of November the highlight of my entire year. And I let everyone know it. My Facebook cover photo is from the NaNo site, and my profile photo is of me in my NaNo hoodie holding a NaNo mug that reads, "CAN'T TALK, NOVELING." nanocover2 I post my word count publically every night. I'm one of the Municipal Liaisons for Jerusalem, and my local wrimos hear from me A LOT. I know. It's insanely ridiculous. Why would an event in which I nearly kill myself to get 50,000 words written in thirty days make me so hyper, giddy and otherwise filled with joy? Here are my top 5 reasons for participating in NaNo:

1. Anyone Can Do It

In fact, hundreds of thousands of people do. Never written a novel? Doesn't matter. Are you a best-selling author like Sara Gruen? You can throw you hat into the ring, too! It's an event for anyone who wants to celebrate story.

2. I'm a Plotter

As somebody who leans more to the plotting side of the pantser / plotter spectrum, I should possibly run screaming from the idea of writing so freely for thirty days of "literary abandon." But here's the thing. Left to my own devices, I could spend years plotting and crafting my opening scene into a perfectly formatted, error-free, work of art. In other words, without the pressure, I'd get nowhere. I do plot my NaNo novels, and I so wish that my apartment was as crazily organized as my Scrivener documents. Because I plot, I can jump around from scene to scene. NaNo doesn't let me get stuck. NaNo forces me to move forward and not get hung up on details.

3. I Adore the Community

When I began NaNo'ing, I lived in Manhattan. I was able to surround myself with hundreds of other crazy but brave local writers. Before I moved to Jerusalem, I checked the NaNo site to make sure there was a Jerusalem region. There was! During my first November in Israel, we were dealing with rocket fire from Gaza. At the time, the NaNo community was small. But I couldn't have been more grateful. Writing, especially in the company others, was a huge distraction and comfort. Last year, our local community grew. We even wrote on a boat. Best of all, thanks to social media and podcasts, the entire world can be your community.

4. Living in the Word of Story

During NaNo, I live and breathe my story. When I'm not writing, I listen to my story playlist as often as I can, which makes it almost impossible to escape my world. My desktop is my story collage (example here). Yes, life happens in November. I teach, I take care of the dogs, etc. Though I truly wish I could, I don't write full-time. November is my chance to make my story my #1 priority.

5. The Accomplishment

I'll never forget the moment I won my first NaNoWriMo. I was sitting on my couch with my computer on my lap. When I reached 50K, I went into shock. It took effort not to cry. I'd never written fiction, and suddenly, I had my own novel, in my favorite genre. The only reason I'd participated in the first place was that one of my favorite authors, Lani Diane Rich, had podcasted about it. That year, she won too. My favorite author and I had accomplished the exact same thing at the same time. How freaking cool is that? (Read our NaNo themed interview with her here.) If you can write a novel in a month, there's very little you can't do. Try it, and I promise that you'll feel like a superhero.

A Whole Month Ahead

14908217_10208977905298378_127976547929272390_nIt's only Day 2, and I'm already tired. Luckily, we've had our first of three write - ins this week. I have no doubt that my fellow wrimos will help me stay on track. Want to learn more about NaNoWriMo? We have a whole archive and tips, tricks and resources to help you. It's not too late to dive into the maddness. The chapter is here to help and support you. Good luck, and write - on! (Add me to your NaNo buddy list!) * Are you participating in NaNo? If so, 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 to Jerusalem with her adorable but sneaky cocker spaniel. Her family now includes an incredibly sweet yet troubled rescue puppy. You can visit her at http://melinakantor.com

Three Simple Tips for Winning NaNoWriMo

MaryEThompson~ By Mary E. Thompson

Writing a novel in a month can seem like a daunting task. 50,000 words? I’d like that many zeroes in my bank account just as much as I’d like them in my WIP, but sadly, both have far fewer zeroes.

Getting the zeroes in my WIP is much easier than my bank account though, and by the end of November, I’ll have my 50,000 words. I’ve never done it before, but this year, I know I’ll succeed. I can write 50,000 words in a month, I’ve done it before, and with these simple tips, you can do it too!

Make a Plan

Nope, I’m not going to try to make you pantsers out there plotters. Knowing what crw-oct-nano-pic-1-smallyou’re going to write ahead of time is a good idea, but don’t change your process when you’re trying to bump up your production.

The plan I’m talking about is figuring out how many words you need to get on a page each day. Breaking it down into smaller chunks can help. If you intend to write each of the thirty days of NaNo, you’ll need to write 1,667 words daily. If you’re like me, you won’t write all those days. There’s weekends, there’s Thanksgiving if you’re in the US, and don’t forget Black Friday and Veteran’s Day - a no school day for my kids which means a no work day for me.

When I add that all up, I’m left with 18 writing days for the month. That pushes my daily word count up to 2,778. It’s a lot, but it’s very doable for me. Especially since I know going in what I need to accomplish.

Find a Friend, or a Few

crw-oct-nano-pic-2-smallNaNo is a community. We’re all there cheering each other on. There’s no competition because you winning doesn’t mean I lose. We can all win together. Because of that, everyone is very encouraging. Add friends to your list of Writing Buddies and let out your inner cheerleader to encourage others. They’ll encourage you right back!

You can also join RWA’s Word Wars! There are a bunch of chapters participating in the challenge, some offering prizes for members with the most words written. If you like a little spark of competition, Word Wars might be just the thing you need!

To keep you going during the month, you can also go to a local Write In. Authors from your area will get together through the month and sit and write. It’s an amazing opportunity to meet others in your area and feel the connection to others who love what you love. Writing!

Enjoy the Process

crw-oct-nano-pic-3-smallWriting is a fun, exciting job. NaNoWriMo shouldn’t change that. If you don’t win NaNo, it’s not the end of the world. Things come up, and stories don’t always work out, but if you stress yourself out about the process, it’s not going to be something you’ll find enjoyable. And let’s face it, when he kisses her the first time, you should be enjoying it as much as she is!

When November 1 rolls around, be ready to go. Whether you’re old school or a rebel, you can get your 50,000 words on the page. And hey, maybe you’ll get that $50,000 one day too!

Mary E. Thompson writes scintillating stories with a side of hope. She’s been indie published from the beginning and is kicking off NaNo with her 25th release on November 1. 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.

Diving Back Into My World

melinafive~ By Melina Kantor Note: This post was written in August, 2016.  Confession: A few days ago, I opened my WIP for the first time in. . . Well, I don't know how long it had been. But let's just say it had been long enough that when the document opened, I swear I heard a creak. Like all of us, I've been busy with a lot of regular life stuff (new rescue puppy, busy schedule, etc). But busy I can handle. What's hard is that I now write for my day job, and after work I just can't look at a screen, much less force my brain to produce yet more words. So what changed a few days ago? Well, I've been in research mode lately, looking for details to spice up last year's NaNoWriMo project. It doesn't hurt that I'm currently visiting my family in Crete, where the book (and the two books that come before it), take place. Having extra time to write has helped, but what's helped even more is living in the non-fictional version of the world of this trilogy. I've said it before and I'll say it again: World building is just as important in contemporary romance as it is in fantasy and science fiction. For readers, it's the little details that make the world of a book relatable and believable. For writers, those same little details of our imagined worlds can keep us connected to our stories and spark our imaginations even we're not actively writing. And yes, while the vacation photos I'm about to subject you to are from somewhere exotic, I could make the same point with photos from my own neighborhood. Here are some of the powerful little details that have helped me jump back into my world.

Food

Greece being Greece, the book naturally has a lot of scenes with food. One of my characters, after having been away from Greece for six years, returns and is served snails. In the original scene, that's it. A relative is cooking snails. But thanks to an actual experience in my cousin's kitchen, the scene now has the added flare of a snail climbing out of the pot.

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And about the snails, they were collected in the mountains after heavy rains (no, I couldn't bring myself to eat any, though I've been told that I'm missing out). I also realized that I have a scene where a character is served wine. When I was recently served wine, it occurred to me that I'd forgotten to mention the traditional copper pitcher.

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Then, to my delight, I got my hands on some family recipes, including the recipe for a cake that appears in the opening scene of the second book of the trilogy.

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Around the Village

In my fictional world, the village bakery is owned by protagonist Katerina's family.

Here's the real thing, complete with dakos.

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On a whim, I decided to tell the real-life baker that I was writing a book about a Cretan bakery and asked if I could look in the back. She gave me a quick tour, but wouldn't allow photos.

Still, I now have a better idea of what I'm writing about.

Then there's the village museum, old church and school where protagonist Evi spends time with Mathaios.

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Whenever I pass through the area, I feel like they're going to show up.

(Note the retsina bottles in the museum window. I haven't decided how to work that into the story, but the possibilities are endless.)

The Beach

Let's not forget the beach. My characters spend a lot of time there, doing yoga, drinking frappe, taking boat rides, swimming, etc.

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Enough said.

The Donkeys

All three books revolve around a fictionalized version of a donkey sanctuary that's in the mountains right above the village. While I was writing the drafts, all I had to go on was the sanctuary's Facebook page. But now I can say that I've actually been there and I've fallen in love with the donkeys and the rescue dogs. IMG_3314 IMG_3356 13166005_10207561755415516_5222794573132564215_n Because I've learned what it feels like to hug a donkey (they're so dirty and fly-covered, but it's worth it), I must, must, must rewrite a few of the scenes. I also visited the sanctuary's gift shop, which they use for fundraising. Some of my characters paint rocks and knit toy donkeys, and now my descriptions will be more authentic. IMG_3359 IMG_3360 IMG_3457 IMG_3459 As an added bonus, on the way home from the sanctuary, I got to visit a farmer who picked fruit for us and introduced us to his animals. IMG_3430 IMG_3402 IMG_3413 IMG_3417   My books are already filled with goats (and sheep, “and stuff”), but now I have this experience to draw on. I can't wait!

The Bees

The second book of the trilogy involves complicated scenes involving beekeeping. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the village beekeeper gives workshops and was thrilled to answer my many questions. 14051625_10208326681538191_7412875337126664034_n14051632_10208326667377837_8137894373846029079_n 14095799_10208326672177957_7987520462519058911_n 13907016_10208326676298060_6847223864717613641_n  13938564_10208326673257984_528589258876330168_n14045737_10208326670457914_4757292418618400564_n                 In Greek, my name means honeybee. Sorry about the silly selfie, but here I am in front of "my name."

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The beekeeper is anxiously waiting to read my books, which may have something to do with the fact that I promised to put him in the acknowledgments.

Whatever the reason, I appreciate the pressure.

The Pretty

Lastly, I'll leave you with some random but pretty village pictures that are rotating as my desktop wallpaper as inspiration. IMG_3483 IMG_3531 IMG_3478 IMG_3475 IMG_3474

Now What?

I know that most of my writing won't happen here, but I'm thankful that I've got my photos, my souvenirs, and my memories to keep me going once I leave. I've also got YouTube, so I can close my eyes and pretend I'm there. (Cretan music sounds nothing like "Zorba." It's its own genre.) There you have it! Let's give the science fiction and fantasy writers a run for their money. If you need some inspiration, take some time to build your world. Take or find photos (even make a collage), listen to music (even create a playlist), bake (smell and taste are surprisingly powerful), or do whatever it takes to dive head first into your contemporary yet fictional world.

* How do you build your world? Leave a comment and let us know! 

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 to Jerusalem with her adorable but sneaky cocker spaniel. Her family now includes an incredibly sweet yet troubled rescue puppy. You can visit her at http://melinakantor.com  

Friday Writing Prompt – With Help from Penny and Leonard

bigbangHappy Friday! To kick off the weekend, we’ve got a writing prompt. This week, your protagonist slips up and unexpectedly reveals some true feelings. Yes, it sounds like a cliche, but we dare you to put your own spin on this tried and true trope. Don’t be shy. Dive in and give this a shot. It’ll get you warmed up for a weekend of writing, and prompts are a great exercise in learning about your voice. It’s also, um, kind of stolen borrowed from this episode of The Big Bang Theory.

The Scene

Your hero does something stupid and upsets your heroine. While your heroine is ranting and hurling insults, she lets out an unexpected "I love you." He's told her he loves her, but she's never said it back. Your task: What happens next? Does the mood become awkward or romantic? Do they keep arguing or jump into each other's arms? Is your heroine embarassed? How does your hero act?  Feel free to reverse the roles of the hero and heroine. 
Leave your scene in the comments! Stuck? This should help. (Or at least keep you entertained.) If you’ve got a favorite The Big Bang Theory moment (or Friends moment, Seinfeld moment, or moment from any TV show moment you love) that would make a good writing prompt, let me know! Find more writing prompts. . .