Wednesday, February 29, 2012

5 Easy Questions with Cynthia Herron!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming…Cynthia Herron!!

Cynthia and I met through blogging, and we were both blessed to be offered representation through Books & Such Literary Agency within months of each other. Cynthia is just—how do I describe it?—someone I can’t wait to run to and give a huge hug when we finally meet! She writes heartfelt, homespun fiction and she’s a heartfelt, wonderful person.

Let’s get to it!

1. Beverage of choice?

I'm definitely a coffee drinker. Strong blends, no cream or sweeteners for me, and for optimum health, I limit my intake of coffee/caffeine to no more than three cups per day. I'm also a big water fan, and I carry my mondo-size mug with me wherever I go. Because I drink so much, I usually slosh when I walk! (We have delicious well water so I'm a bit spoiled.) I rarely do sodas, but if I do, it's usually Dr. Pepper and not diet.

2. Any pets?

Sadly, as a result of a tornado, our beloved black Lab passed away several few years ago. We've not really had a pet since then unless you count Mr. Limpet and Maurice, our daughter's two Bettas. They each lasted about 6 months before entering the Grand River Of Life. Now, darling daughter would like to try her hand at raising a chameleon. Hmmm...

3. Dream vacation?

The beach. White sandy shores and no noise other than the sound of the incoming tide and the seagulls overhead.

4. What are you listening to right now?

The Carpenter's. I admit it. Their greatest hits. Up next: Harry Connick, Jr.

5. What's for dinner?

Comfort food all the way. Meat loaf, mashed taters and gravy, green beans, spinach salad, and drop biscuits. Oh, and cherry crisp. With vanilla ice cream. ;)
***

Cynthia, I love Dr. Pepper, but I always drink the diet version of it! I’m so sorry about the loss of your sweet dog. Fish just aren’t the same. Chameleons either. Keep that foot down on the subject of the reptile!

Doesn’t the beach sound like perfection right now? It’s my favorite place in the world. Sand, sun, water, relaxation, a great book, and a tube of Pringles—it’s vacation! It’s okay to add The Carpenters to the mix, too. And comfort food. There’s nothing better than a plate of mashed potatoes! Thanks so much for being my guest today, Cynthia!
***

Cynthia writes heartfelt, homespun, contemporary Christian romance novels and is represented by Mary Keeley of the Books and Such Literary Agency. Cynthia is a collector of gingerbread men, miniature teapots, and all things apple. She and her family live in the beautiful Missouri Ozarks, otherwise known as "God's Country." For more information about Cynthia, stop by her website and follow her on Twitter.

***

Doing anything special this Leap Year day? I mean, let's face it, we finally got that extra 24 hours!

Have a fabulous Wednesday!

Monday, February 27, 2012

WSG 3: Taking Care of Our Needs

Writer's Survival Guide Part 3: Taking Care of Our Needs

The writer's life is a busy one. On top of all our regular responsibilities (work, family, bills, chores, etc...), we're squeezing in writing, revising, story planning, social media, and many other things unique to our career.

Add the dead of winter to the mix and an on-going recession and it's easy to let our personal needs slide until they eventually disappear. (I'm too tired. It's too gray outside. We can't afford it.)

Heavy raining outside my Window
Photo by alanflai

When I started writing, I was excited, so excited about the future. But as time wore on, more ups and downs passed, and, eventually I moved from a perpetual mood of excitement to a gripping hope.

I'm not sure exactly how or when, but during the last years, I neglected some of my needs in the anticipation of getting published, as if somehow a contract would give me the right to need them again.

How dumb! We have to take care of ourselves. Every day. Period.

Now, I live in a more grounded reality, and it's one where I take care of my needs. No more waiting for someday to happen. I have to take care of me NOW.

Your needs will be different than mine. The important thing is to identify what yours are and find ways to fulfill them. Easy, right? Just:

1. Identify what your needs are.
2. Fulfill them.

It's a magic formula, folks. :)

Read through my blog archives and you'll see my needs haven't changed much. Here are some of the things I do to keep my spirits fresh. (In no particular order)

a. Read magazines that inspire me--cooking, home decorating, celebrity gossip, and writing craft magazines keep me dreaming.
b. Listen to soothing music on my iPod. (How hard is it to slap earbuds in and click a button? And yet, too many days go by with me hearing only background noise. Blah.)
c. Care for my skin. I take Fish Oil vitamins to keep my skin clear, nails strong, and hair healthy.  I also like to put on a skin mask once a week, use witch hazel as a toner each night, and slather on rich, thick nightcream. All of these tasks take little time and are inexpensive.
d. I make my bed each morning. We have a beautiful bedspread, soft throw, and several accent pillows. I like arranging them. It makes me happy to see my pretty bed.
e. Take a walk outside. Fresh air is vital to my soul. Vital. I don't care what temperature it is outside, I try very hard to take a quick walk. Plus, I like to talk to God outdoors.
f. Keep my tootsies smooth. Maybe this is TMI, but I want my feet to be sandal ready all year long, so I keep a foot file and a small tube of Bath & Body Works lotion by my bed. Less than 60 seconds a night keeps my feet soft.
g. Indulge in homemade treats. I love to bake. I love coffee. I love hot tea. If I want a brownie on a Thursday night, I grab a box mix and have one. I try not to compartmentalize my day with food, nor do I have off-limits treats. Since I know I can have a hot cup of coffee or a cupcake whenever I want, I don't want them as often. :)
h. Check in with friends. Most of us have a group of besties. My sister and my mom are my tight inner circle, but I also have wonderful, close relatives from my husband's side of the family in addition to good friends. I'm not always great about reaching out, but when I do, I feel better. It's good to have friends.
i. Head to the library. The library is my happy place.
j. Dare I say it? Exercise. Yes, I avoid it as much as the next person, but I always feel great after a workout. Go figure.

I could go on and on. If I'm at a point in my life where I can't take an hour to read a magazine, listen to my iPod, or pop a fish oil pill, well, I know things are spiralling out of control. This list is full of simple, cheap or free pleasures.

Sometimes I think we wait for someone to give us permission to take care of ourselves, but we're making a mistake. First of all, they don't know exactly what we need at any given moment, and secondly, we give away our power by expecting others to meet our needs.

We need to meet our own needs. Find a way to incorporate your essentials into each day!

What is one need you neglect? Is there any way you can find a way to meet it this week?

Happy Monday!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Is Your Workspace Inspiring?

I splurged last week on an expensive magazine. As soon as I leafed through it, I knew it would light up my world. I was right!

my desk
photo by jmv

Where Women Create: Inspiring Work Spaces of Extraordinary Women lightened my heart and brightened my mood. It opened possibilities in that closed-off, winter area of my brain. The spaces and women featured within were unique, individual, and amazing.

I'm blessed to have a workspace all my own, but it does not resemble any of the spaces featured. And guess what? It shouldn't. It's one thing to get inspired by photographs and another thing entirely to copy them.

The most satisfying rooms in my house are the ones I pieced together with my style, borrowing from this look or an idea from that magazine, but ultimately, my own.

I'm starting to get an idea of my ultimate workspace. It will cost money. But I can wait for it. I'm gathering ideas now. I want floor to ceiling cabinets with open shelves and hidden drawers. I want a few shelves mounted to the wall. I would love a comfy chair and ottoman plus a coffee table to spread my work on.

Just because I have a vision of a future workspace doesn't mean I'm not grateful for what I have now.  My current workspace does inspire me. It's quiet. I have a large desk and a door to close out noise. There's even a window to enjoy the birds playing in the backyard.

Even when my office consisted of a tiny table, a folding chair, and a laptop, I was satisfied with my space.

Maybe because it was mine?

I think that's the key. Any workspace can be inspiring, but we have to claim it and make it ours.

Does your workspace inspire you? If yes, why? If no, can you tweak it?

Have a fun weekend!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

5 Easy Questions with Regina Jennings!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming…Regina Jennings!!

Regina and I met through our social networks, and we’re Twitter pals, yay! We share the same agent, and I was so excited to see Regina’s great news about her debut book, Sixty Acres and a Bride—out now!!—through Bethany House. If you like inspirational historical romance, you’re going to love Regina’s books! 

Let’s get to it!

1. Beverage of choice?

Water with lemon. Boring, but oh, so cheap.
2. Any pets?

We have one beautiful Great Dane named Esther. At two years old she’s bigger than I am and is only now growing out of the chewing puppy stage.

We also have a friendly barn cat that the kids named Taylor who appears at our kitchen window every morning and meows for the left-over cereal milk.
3. Dream vacation?

I’d like to visit the notable libraries of Great Britain. If anyone can score me a pass through the archives, please let me know.
4. What are you listening to right now?

On my ipod for the gym I have Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire, Fairy Tale by Alexander Rybak, and Rolling in the Deep by Adele. When I’m writing I like to turn on the Pandora Bluegrass station

5. What's for dinner?

Tonight Pa Jennings cooked. He made chicken-fried deer steaks and gravy. I warmed up a bag of those sweet Hawaiian dinner rolls and called it good.
***
Ooo, Regina, I wish Pa Jennings would head north and cook dinner here. Yum! Although I am wincing a little at your healthy beverage choice. Tell me you have a weak spot, like a secret need for coffee or Mountain Dew? No? That’s okay, you have an adorable dog. My little wiener dog would bark non-stop at Esther, who would not deserve to be yapped at.
Notable libraries of Great Britain? Can I tag along? It sounds perfect! You have a few artists on your iPod I haven’t heard of. I’m off to remedy that! Thanks so much for being my guest today, Regina!
***

Regina Jennings is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English and a history minor. She has worked at The Mustang News and First Baptist Church of Mustang, along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. She now lives outside Oklahoma City with her husband and homeschools their four children.
For more information about Regina, head to her website, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.
***



Sixty Acres and a Bride:
She's Finally Found a Place to Call Home... How Far Will She Go to Save It?

With nothing to their names, young widow Rosa Garner and her mother-in-law return to their Texas family ranch. Only now the county is demanding back taxes and the women have just three months to pay.

Though facing eviction, Rosa falls in love with the countryside and the wonderful extended family who want only her best. They welcome her vivacious spirit and try to help her navigate puzzling American customs. She can't help but stand out, though, and her beauty captures attention. Where some offer help with dangerous strings attached, only one man seems honorable. But when Weston Garner, still grieving his own lost love, is unprepared to give his heart, Rosa must decide to what lengths she will go to save her future.

What are you looking forward to now that Valentine’s Day is over?

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Monday, February 20, 2012

WSG 2: The Art of Not Writing

Writer's Survival Guide 2: The Art of Not Writing

Have you ever opened your work-in-progress and had no idea what to write next? (Yeah, I know, every day, right? Ha!) Well, this happens to me too. Inspired by the fabulous Jessica R. Patch who generously shared her vlogging tips, I decided to help you make the most of your "not" writing session, vloggy style.

Here's how I procrastinate.



If you have your own special style of avoiding writing, please share! I love to hear how you procrastinate!

Enjoy your Monday!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Great Social Media Sites For Author Platform

I remember when I joined Twitter. I'd already taken the plunge with blogging, and I enjoyed the interaction on Facebook, but here was a new, hot, social media site and I reluctantly decided to at least check it out. For months, I barely used it because I really didn't understand it. But then something clicked, and Twitter quickly became a favorite site.

Group Hug
Photo by carbonnyc

Shortly after, I kept hearing about Goodreads, so I signed up, telling myself if it became too time consuming or if I just didn't like it, I could quit. Goodreads made sense to me from day one, but I use it less for networking and more as a reader to keep track of the books I've read.

Enter Google+. This site was different from the start because you needed an invitation to join. I kept wanting to try it but couldn't since no one had invited me. Lucky for me one of my local writer friends did have an account and she promptly sent me an invitation. Did I see what all the buzz about Google+ was? Not really. It seemed a mix between Twitter and Facebook to me, but I figured I'd give it a try.

The latest craze to hit social media is Pinterest. I joined a few months ago--again, I needed an invitation to join--and wondered how it would differ from the other sites I already frequented. Pinterest proved unique. It's basically a place to keep virtual bulletin boards. The only things we're sharing there are pictures (or "pins"), boards, and the occasional comment on a pin.

I often get asked which social media sites provide the best bang for an aspiring author trying to build a platform. We all are crunched for time, and we don't want to spend a drop of it on a social media site that we don't "get" or that proves ineffective at getting our name out there.

Personally, I still think Facebook is a great place for authors. If you understand Twitter and are willing to check in once or twice a day, do that too. And there's no question if you are published, you need a Goodreads account right away. But if you're on the fence about Pinterest or Google+, here's my take on them.

Google+ has a more uppity feel to it. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's full of snobs! It simply doesn't have the comfort level Facebook does. Maybe it should encourage conversations, but for some reason, it doesn't. It feels more intimidating, less "friend"ly, if you know what I mean. And Google+ lacks the punchy feel of Twitter. I like Google+ enough to stay on it, but I'm not raving about it to my friends.

Pinterest, on the other hand, is perfect for writers. We can create inspiration boards for our current projects, hobby boards to appeal to fellow hobbyists, and any other type of board we feel like. Since Pinterest can be linked through our Facebook or Twitter accounts, it makes it easy to connect with contacts we already know on other sites. I haven't connected my Pinterest account to either, but I always follow back when someone follows me.

What I like the most about Pinterest is how non-threatening it is. We don't have to think up something witty to say. We don't have to worry about linking our blog to it. We can just pick pretty pictures out and put them on one of our boards. And other people get a good idea of what we're all about when they view our boards. Since so much of author platform is getting our name out in a variety of places, this is a great way to get our name out without much trauma.

If you'd like to see my boards, head to http://pinterest.com/jillkemerer/. If you haven't joined Pinterest and would like an invitation, put your e-mail into the comments section, and I'll invite you!

What social media sites do you like best?

Have a fabulous weekend!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

5 Easy Questions with Loree Huebner!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming… Loree Huebner!!

Loree and I met through blogging, and I loved that I got to be one of her very first followers! Loree is friendly, down-to-earth, and warm, and I hope I get the chance to meet her in person someday. She’s also an expert about all things American Civil War related, and she recently announced the wonderful news that she signed with literary agent Mary Sue Seymour!

Let’s get to it!

1. Beverage of choice?

I’m a tea and coffee person. I prefer Earl Grey tea with a spot of cream in the morning, and for my mid-afternoon jolt—coffee with cream, no sugar.

2. Any pets?

I have two dogs. A 14 year old Border Collie named Fly, and we have a 9 year old rescued Greyhound named, Pickles. Flysie is still pretty active for her age. I think she’s beginning to lose her eyesight though. Pickles enjoys her life as a 45 mph couch potato. I do take her to the old Babe Ruth field, shut the gates and watch her run. It’s amazing to see. Greyhounds are so fast!

3. Dream vacation?

Austria! My maternal grandmother was born where The Sound of Music took place and was filmed. I remember her crying every time she watched the movie and saw the mountains. She left Europe and her family when she was a young girl. Some of the parts of Austria look as green as Ireland, but the mountains just look incredible. Like the old saying— “Vegas, baby!” Mine is—“Vienna, darling!”

4. What are you listening to right now?

It’s pretty quiet in the house right now. Huebie and I are empty-nesters. After raising 3 awesome kids, it's quite a change. I do look forward to the house being filled with the laughter of grandkids one day.

5. What's for dinner?

Wednesday is always left over night. I made Italian stuffed shells with meat sauce on Sunday, so we’ll finish those up with salad and garlic bread.
***

Loree, our beverages are swapped. I go with coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon, and I about spewed my tea out when I read your Greyhound, Pickles, is a couch potato. That just doesn’t seem right! Ha!

How touching for your grandmother to watch her old homeland in Austria. Wouldn’t that be a gorgeous vacation? I’m with you on the “Vienna, darling!” By the way, stuffed shells are on my favorite dinner’s list. I don’t care if they’re leftover, I’m stopping by for dinner! Thank you so much for being my guest today!
***

Loree has had a love affair with American history all of her life. She writes historical fiction and inspirational historical romance. She adores the Civil War era. She shares this passion for history and writing along with her husband, Eric J. Huebner.

Loree and Eric J. Huebner are published in the Indiana Historical Society's Spring 2011 issue/June 2011 - of the IHS's quarterly magazine, Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History. Their ten page Civil War article is titled, Among The Bravest Of The Brave, The Battle History Of The 9th Indiana.

Loree and her husband have made the Civil War period a personal study and hobby. They are both living historians and serve as Union Civil War re-enactors with the 9th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Company E, and the 21st Indiana Light Artillery.

Loree is an active member of the ACFW, the ACFW Indiana Chapter, and the RWA. She resides in Indiana with her husband. Loree is represented by Mary Sue Seymour of the Seymour Agency.

To learn more about Loree, head to her blog, BetweenYou, Me and the Gatepost, be friends with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

How did you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

(I made shrimp scampi, followed by strawberry shakes, and we stayed in to watch a DVD.)

Enjoy your Wednesday!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Writer's Survival Guide 1: Dealing with Negative Emotions

The last year challenged me in ways I hadn't anticipated when, years ago, I pumped my fist in the air and declared I would be a published author. Negative emotions weaseled into my normally easy-going, upbeat personality. I ignored them, pretended I wasn't feeling them, or occasionally justified them. But recently, I was forced to acknowledge that, despite all of my attempts at positive thinking, deep down, fear was tearing me up.
The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain.
Photo by krikit

Dealing with negative emotions is only one part of a writer's health. I don't know about you, but I'm struggling to keep my body fit, my eyes clear, my brain creative, my soul happy, and whatever else possible to be the best writer I can be.

So... I decided to share what I'm doing to keep my body, mind, and soul powerful. Welcome to the first installment of the Writer's Survival Guide. Every Monday will be devoted to helping writers grow strong. I realize how vital mental and physical health is to power through this journey. I've been very, very blessed to have a huge network of writers to talk to, either in person or online, and I know that every stage of a writer's career requires stamina.

For six months, I've read book after book about staying positive, about the power our mental state has on our physical life. For over twenty years I've kept up with the latest exercise and nutrition fads. Health fascinates me. It also confounds me, especially...

When negative emotions attack.

As I mentioned earlier, the last year disrupted my equilibrium. I think most writers can relate to what I'm talking about. I have not met an author who hasn't dealt with ups and downs, fear, excitement, hope, despair, envy, bitterness, joy, and gratitude. Is it part of the job description? Maybe!

Looking back, I would say I reached a point where I was no longer content with where I was at on the publishing totem pole. Unfortunately, I had it in my head that all the years I'd already spent climbing the sheer cliff to traditional publication were payment enough. After all, I had served my years on rejection row; I'd spent hours, weeks, months, years learning the writing craft; I critiqued others' books, had them critique mine. I knew my writing had improved, and I revised and polished until I knew I'd done everything I could to make my books the best they could be.

I'd been blessed beyond belief to find an agent who believed in me and loved my writing. Simply put, I felt it was my time. My time to shine!

I've always firmly held to the belief that perseverance and hard work would pay off. I prayed. I prayed for the exact outcome I desired. I stayed positive, let myself dream, brushed off all "why don't you self-publish?" queries, and yet, I still didn't feel...good. Often, envy would clench my heart at all of the people who announced book deals online. Bitterness pierced my soul that in four years of blogging, submitting, and doing everything "right" I still was sitting on the sidelines, twiddling my thumbs.

My inner confidence eroded as my outer confidence grew an edge. I knew something wasn't quite right within me, but I couldn't acknowledge it. Wouldn't acknowledge it. Peace eluded me. Gratitude came with price tags.

But God has a way of getting our hearts right--even when it's painful. Several challenges entered my life, leaving me scared, sad, and ultimately quiet with an empty heart.

When my heart emptied, I found grace.

I shook off my pride and confided in trusted friends. I prayed. (I pray a lot.) My confidence changed, shifted to an appropriate level. Gratitude no longer had price tags. The bitterness and envy? No place for them to stick. When your heart is wiped clean, the negative emotions slide off.

Maybe I never anticipated my publishing and personal journey would have so many bumps in the road, but I also never imagined I would be blessed with so much support along the way.

Simply put? I'm a billionaire in friendship.

And I'm open--wonderfully, ecstatically open--to my future.

At some point, most of us plod through a period where all the things we worked hard and hoped for refuse to come. Not only that, we get bad news in our personal lives. Then we step in dog poop. Yes, even authors who have experienced success don't always get the outcome they want. If negative emotions attack you, I hope you will be more proactive about them than I was.

When envy, pride, bitterness, or despair hit, we can meet them head on. Ask ourselves what's the worst that can happen? What is really causing you to feel this way? I can't speak for you, but one of my problems was that I had a sense of a ticking bomb. Like, if life didn't improve soon, I'd combust. I worried that another setback would put me over the edge. More than anything, I was scared I wouldn't be able to handle more bad news.

Maybe the old "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade" adage didn't quite apply to me. I'm more of a when life gives you lemons, pucker up and cry a little type of gal. But the cool thing is--I'm surviving. I found out that more bad news didn't destroy me. It gave me clarity. God gives us the strength to get through anything. We can't prevent bad things from happening, but we can control our attitude and our reactions.

Have you tried to push away negative emotions? Did they fester? How did you ultimately overcome them?

Have a fantastic Monday!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Revising: My Evolution

There was a time the term "revising" sent fire ants marching up and down my spine. It meant the fun part--the actual writing--was over, replaced by the mind-numbing, toe-curling nightmare of trying to gel my initial vision. I had no idea where to begin, and when I did throw myself into the draft, within two days my focus fled and I found myself trying to fix everything at once. No amount of Slurpees, chocolate, or "Best and Worst Beach Bodies" rag mags could erase the panic that set in.

Fire Ant
Photo by azrainman

There was also a time--a much earlier time--when I didn't think revising was a big deal. Well, let me back up...way back to my first novel. The one I wrote in four weeks. The one that induced champagne bubbles of joy in me every time I thought about it. It was the one that would get published. Of course. Of course!

The word revise seemed vague. After all, I'd written a good book, in logical order, with fabulous characters, a killer setting, and a finale to die for. Revise? What, like spell check and make sure I didn't misplace any commas?

Oh (insert laughter...sad, nonjoyous laughter), those were the days. Yes, I ran the spell-checker and read the book through for grammar issues.

And that was about it.

(Dear editor who had the misfortune to pick my book off the slush pile--I'm sorry. I owe you dinner.)

Okay, so book two got the full revision treatment, right?

Nope. Wrong again! It wasn't until I was writing book four that I discovered the blog community. I read cool terms like "critique partners," and "craft books."  Black Moment? What on earth is a black moment? Yes, I was the Rumpelstiltskin of the modern aspiring author age.

But time went on, and I purchased, read, and studied craft books. I found critique partners. I studied blogs, and I kept writing...and revising.

During this phase (see above reference to fire ants), I mistakenly thought I would somehow find the magic formula to be able to skip revising. I thought I would get to a point where I would write the perfect first draft. Revising no longer took one week. It went on for weeks, sometimes months. And it hurt. It bothered me I was not executing the way I wanted to.

Why couldn't I just be a good writer? Why couldn't I get it right the first time?

Fast forward to now.

Revising, for me, isn't something I'll someday be able to skip. But it's no longer torture, either. Actually, I enjoy it. I've accepted that I will NEVER write a perfect first draft. Revising is simply house-cleaning and decorating now. Sure, scrubbing the toilets isn't my favorite thing, but I like to spend time in a neat, tidy home, and someone has to clean it.

For any of you confused or frustrated by revising, I am nodding, high-fiving, and giving you a hug. I've been there. We all have our strengths, and evaluating a manuscript--mine or someone else's--has become one of mine. I've spent years polishing a system of revising that produces a quality manuscript, and I continue to pick up tips and practice new strategies. If I can do it, you can to!

How do you feel about revising?

The lovely Cheryl Reif is featuring my blog as her "blog of the week." How nice is that? I always learn something from the talented Ms. Reif, and I hope you'll stop by her blog, Cheryl Reif Writes, and check her out.

Have a fun weekend!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

5 Easy Questions with P.M. Kavanaugh!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.

Thank you for joining me in welcoming…P.M. Kavanaugh!
I met Patrice through Maumee Valley RWA a few years ago, and we instantly hit it off. She is really unique—a highly respected professional in the world of corporate branding, a down-to-earth, coffee-drinking devotee of yoga, and an incredibly gifted writer! Patrice and I work together as president and vice-president of MVRWA, but we also are each other’s support team. If you don’t have a trusted accountability partner, I urge you to find one! I’m so, so blessed to have Patrice in my life.

Let’s get to it!

1. Beverage of choice?

Mornings: Decaf grande non-fat no-whip mocha, courtesy of Starbucks. Once a week, usually on Mondays (when I need extra motivation to tackle life), I “upsize” to a venti!
Afternoons: Diet Coke, or if I’m being healthy, water.

2. Any pets?

One cat, Maximum. He also goes by: Max, Maxie, Maxie-pie, baby boy (me), big boy (husband). No wonder he’s a little spaz. How many names does a 10-pound cat need?
3. Dream vacation?

Six months at a villa somewhere in Italy. Close enough to a fantastic city like Florence or Venice or Rome to take in museums, shopping, people-watching and delicious Italian food. Far enough from a big city to be “forced” to speak Italian to the locals. I studied the language in college soooooooo many years ago and still think it’s one of the most beautiful languages in the world. I’m sure I was led to that point-of-view by my Italian teacher, whose long-ish blond hair, brown eyes and high cheek bones inspired the looks of the hero in my novel. Bellisimo!
4. What are you listening to right now?

Max’s non-stop meowing. I like to imagine he’s offering helpful plot ideas for my newest novel, suggesting clever lines of dialogue or, at least, memorable metaphors. More likely, though, he’s just saying, “Can I have another Pounce treat? Please? Isn’t it time for my next Pounce treat? Please? A cat could starve to death around here for lack of a Pounce treat! Come on. Have a heart. Please?”
5. What's for dinner?

Chili leftovers from Super Bowl Sunday! Even better, since it’s Wednesday and we’ve made it through the middle of the work week, my husband and I will open up a bottle of red wine. Maybe a nice Chianti. So I can dream about that dream vacation in Italy!
***
Patrice, if it's a weekday, I would always go with a venti! I don't know how people function without major coffee in the morning. Have you tried Coke Zero? I really like it. And I just want to give your Maxie a big hug! Ten pound kitties are right up my alley. Well, any pound kitty will do. I love cats. By the way, get that baby a Pounce treat. He deserves it. :)
Italy sounds wonderful! My sister lived in Ferrara for a while, which sounds like the ideal location for you--it's close to all three cities you mentioned. If you happen to see anyone who resembles  your Italian teacher, all the better! Hey, it's research. It's all research! Enjoy your chili and wine and thanks so much for being my guest today!
***
As a writer of thrillers spiked with romance, PM Kavanaugh loves to create stories that challenge her characters to open their hearts while they fight, shoot and run their way out of danger. Her novel, DIE RUN HIDE, placed first in two RWA chapter contests and finaled in the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. She’s a member of RWA and President of her local chapter. She blogs about her experiences and perspectives as a writer, marketing consultant, yogini, cat-lover, wife, sister, friend on her chapter blog: http://www.mvrwa.net.

For more information about P.M. Kavanaugh, head to her NEW website, follow her on Twitter, and "Like" her brand new Facebook page!

Did you eat any special foods for Super Bowl Sunday or was it Sunday as usual at your house? (We had nachos and hot wings...mm, mm!)

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Things We Don't Consider in High School

This weekend I went back to my high school for a basketball tournament. It looked the same...but different. You know what I mean? The furniture had been changed. A huge television replaced the two tiny TV's from when we hung out in the commons. The booth where we ate lunch everyday had disappeared and a Coke machine took its place.


basketball hoop
Photo by acidpix

As I watched my kids play basketball and cheer on the same gym floor where I performed countless dance routines, memories bombarded me, most of them good.

It wasn't until I headed to the bathrooms that everything just kind of came together in one of those weird moments. The bathrooms were exactly the same.

How many times had I hung out with my girlfriends in there? How many times had we giggled and gossiped and wasted time in that room? We applied lipstick, checked our hair, talked about boys, talked about lunch, other girls, homework, you name it! And here I was, with roots that needed touching up and a purse full of "mom" stuff.

I never--not once--considered I would someday bring my own children back to the school where I spent my teenage years! My future was always kind of fabulous and murky in my head, like a glossy magazine photo shoot. Not quite grounded in reality.

But I washed my hands and looked in the mirror where years ago I'd shown up in a perm, huge bangs, and questionable make-up choices, and I smiled. If I would have been able to see in the future to  now, I know I would have been blown away. My life turned out just the way it was supposed to.

Do memories pounce on you when you revisit old landmarks? Are you ever surprised at where life has taken you?

Have a great Monday!

Friday, February 3, 2012

What the Publishing Debate Means to Me

Traditional publishing. Self-publishing. E-publishing, Print publishing. A lot of sides have been taken, and I cringe at the continuing warfare. Don't get me wrong, I understand it, but I don't like it.


perfect stranger
Photo by mezone

I've been writing full time for years. Four years, to be exact. I've had the dream of someday becoming a published author for many years before that. Basically, publishing has been on my mind a long, long time. I remember my first brush with the business side of books. Way back in 1996, a thick paperback, How to Write a Romance and Get It Published by Kathryn Falk caught my eye at the local bookstore. Article after article about the writing craft, how to submit, and the writer's life jammed the pages. I devoured it, and still have the poor, ripped, broken thing in my office.

Since then, computers and the Internet have changed aspiring writers' lives. We no longer have to find a copy of Writer's Market and search for agents or publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts. We can e-mail a query, sample pages or a requested manuscript.

The competition seems to increase by the minute. More authors are trying to get published than ever before. It can feel impossible to land an agent or find a home with a traditional or e-publisher. So when self-publishing became a viable option, I understood why so many flocked to it and why they continue to publish their books themselves.

I've read many blogs and listened to writers debate the pros and cons of the publishing options. I'm a huge believer in self-awareness. Whatever decisions we make, we need to be honest with ourselves about exactly what motivates us, and we need to be willing to accept whatever consequences our actions bring.

Jamie Raab, publisher of Grand Central Publishing (a Hatchette division), shared an insightful look at what authors can expect from editors at GCP.  

Here's an excerpt from "So What Do You Do Jamie Raab, Publisher of Grand Central Publishing?" courtesy of MediaBistro (full article is linked, emphasis is mine).

"And I really do believe that we nurture talent by working hard, and we pay advances that offer writers the time and luxury they need to write the book they want to write. The truth is writing and putting a book out into the world is only a small part of it."

The article really is fantastic, and I hope you'll pop over and read the whole thing. One item Ms. Raab touched on is often overlooked in the big debate.
Traditional publishers--print or e-pub--offer advances. This means an author gets money before the book is published.

One item usually not overlooked in the big debate?

Do traditional publishers offer today's writer anything special? I believe they do. I've always had tremendous respect for the talented teams put together to make a book the best it can be.

Of course, many authors will argue that advances have dwindled. Self-published authors might say that they don't have to wait months or over a year to start making money on their books. Both would be accurate--for some writers. For other writers, these statements will prove completely untrue.

Maybe that's what all the fighting is about? We writers want a guarantee. We want to know if we do X, Y, and Z we will, with certainty, get A, B, and C.

If that's what we expect, then...we're in the wrong business.

If there's anything I've learned over the years, it's this. Every author's experience will be different. One might find blazing success with a traditionally published print book. Another might find scorching sales with a self-published e-book. One might be thrilled with a nurturing small-press publisher, while another might be happy with modest sales of their e-published book. And many, many authors will be disillusioned no matter what publishing path they take.

There are no guarantees in publishing. That's the bottom line.

I am willing to risk the lack of guarantee by staying true to my original dream. I want the traditional publisher still. I realize the climate and particulars are changing by the hour, but right now, I still believe in my dream and I'm not giving it up.

Another thing I will not give up? Supporting my fellow writers in the choices they make, whether they come to the same decision as I did or not. We have to find our own answers, and I hope we can nurture each other while we do.

How do make decisions about your career?

Have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Stale Decorations?

Sunshine streams into the patio door and kitchen window. It's such a gorgeous, sunny day, and my entire soul smiles at the hint of spring. Of course, high winds drill the outdoor comfort level down, but here on my couch, I'm snug and happy.

Antique garden furniture
Photo by crinklecrankle

Except the sunlight is like a spotlight on the dirty windows. Dust populates our coffee table (I just dusted yesterday--where does it come from??). Now that I look around, I realize our elderly couches, while standing, need TLC. And half of the art on our walls? Over ten years old. Even the throw pillows, which I remember purchasing vividly, will be turning double digits soon.

No, I will not be throwing them a party.

But...

I like most of our furniture and decorations--old or not. It still fits our life. Still comes together to provide a unified, comfortable place to sit and relax.

So, I brainstorm how I can rearrange everything to make it feel fresh. The picture in the living room corner moves to the half-bath. Another picture heads upstairs to our bedroom. The one in the hall moves to the empty spot in the living room. I shuffle pottery and hand towels, even soap dispensers, and when I'm finished, I grin.

The same old stuff now feels new. I'll just push the throw pillow an inch or two over to cover the most worn section of the couch cushion. There, now it feels new.

Do you ever move your decorations around to make them feel fresh?

And I have wonderful news to share: P.W. Creighton's debut novel, Nightfall, released yesterday!! I'm guest posting about choreography and characters at his blog today, and I'd love it if you stopped by and congratulated him!!

Oh, and 5 Easy Questions will return next Wednesday. :)

Have a magnificent day!