Monday, September 30, 2013

Rule Busters: Romance Genre

Ever read a book about the craft of fiction writing? I've read (and own) many! I'm grateful for talented authors who share their hard-earned knowledge with the rest of us. Advice about the writing craft tends to focus on the same concepts, such as plot, structure, dialogue, action, and narrative, but some of the "rules" need to be tamed for the genre you write.

Romance novels have been my favorite genre to read since I was a teenager. Naturally, I write romance novels, too! But I went overboard on the advice when I started writing, and my books suffered for it. Here are three "rules" to be cautious about when writing romance.

1. Conflict

Have you ever started reading a romance novel and been turned off at the hostility between the hero and heroine? I know. It's confusing. You've bought the book with the hopes of reading a love story only to be flung into a war--one you don't want to continue reading. What's romantic about that?

Romance novels need a compelling romantic conflict--a reason the hero and heroine can't fall in love and live happily-ever-after. The book would be B.O.R.I.N.G without it. But writers can go overboard on the conflict, creating unlikable characters whom the reader can't root for or extreme circumstances no couple can realistically recover from.

If you have a hero and heroine at war with each other, show us the backstory. Let us in on why they are at each other's throats. Don't make them mean just to make a point. And give them downtime where they call a truce and begin to understand each other. Whatever your romantic conflict, make sure neither character is coming across as petty, immature, or spiteful. I can't fall in love with those traits, and most other romance readers can't either.


2. Character Growth

Another rule romance writers can take to the extreme is character growth. Character growth doesn't mean giving characters terrible personality traits to overcome. Readers will toss the book or Kindle across the room rather than continue reading about a spoiled, jerky, or mean main character. Character growth should be about making a character stronger in some way.

3. Action/Introspection

Romance is character-based. We want to feel what the heroine is feeling. We need to understand why the hero reacts the way he does. And more than anything, we want to experience the rush of falling in love.

Mainstream fiction rules talk about action, pacing, and dialogue, and they typically say to minimize introspection. Obviously, all writers need to strike a balance. But romance writers shouldn't skimp on introspection or deep point-of-view. Remember, romance readers crave an emotional read. If your characters are running from one crisis to another without any time to reflect, the romance gets lost.

What is your favorite genre to read? Any pet-peeves when reading it?

Happy Monday!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Three Tips for Managing Your Day

I've been reading about time management, routines, creativity, and schedules. This week I altered my daily schedule, and, what do you know, I accomplished more than usual. Felt better too!

So what did I do differently? Nothing much, but it made all the difference.

Here are three things you can do to take charge of your day.

1. Get centered.

For me, getting centered means inviting the Lord into my life.

After my family heads out the door, I read two chapters of the Bible (one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament) followed by a prayer session. God wants us to come to Him. He loves it when we pray, when we rely on Him, when we study His word. This practice is vital to me. It sets the tone and keeps needless anxieties from taking over.


2. Write down one to three tasks that will move you closer to your goal.

I'm a writer. My goals usually revolve around my books. A sample of tasks I've tackled in the last six months includes:

Write two scenes.
Revise chapter thirteen.
Read chapters six through ten out loud.
Create two pages for mobile website.
Write Friday's blog post.
Email so-and-so about guest post.
Brainstorm possible turning points for upcoming book.

You might only be able to cross one of these tasks off your list. That's okay. Just move the other tasks to tomorrow's calendar. The important thing is creating movement in your project.


3. Set limits on your time wasters.

My time wasters are all Internet related. Facebook, in particular, can suck me in for way too long! All week I've been diligent about logging off in 10-15 minutes. Mission accomplished. I'm getting more done and feeling better about it!

These three steps give me a sense of control over my day. I feel better overall because I've placed my time into God's hands. I feel better at night because I made progress toward my goals. And I feel better about myself because I'm not turning to the Internet to fill a void in my life.

**For fun, head to Scott Belsky's website and check out his Clever Tip Jar Collection. I love the idea of clever tips--cash or ideas!**

What's your best tip for managing your day?

Have a terrific weekend!!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Handbag Hoopla! Guest Post by Jenny Sulpizio

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Jenny Sulpizio, author of Confessions of a Wonder Woman Wannabe: On a Mission to Save Sanity, One Mom at a Time. I loved Jenny's book! Funny, faith-filled, with tons of tips--it's perfect for Christian moms. (My review is listed later in the post.) Jenny agreed to share an excerpt. So grab a cup of coffee and enjoy Jenny's advice about handbags!

Handbag Hoopla

(An excerpt from “Confessions of a Wonder Woman Wannabe: On a Mission to Save Sanity, One Mom at a Time.”)

Gosh. If there’s one thing we moms have a lot of these days, it’s got to be an overabundance of stuff.  It fills up our cars, homes…and especially those handbags we’re forced to carry. Indeed, our purses have become magnets for lost trinkets, unexplained junk, and loads of other useless items that can’t help but make us wonder how they even got there in the first place.

Chances are, if you’re a purse-toting mom like me, you’ve found yourself bombarded by the overwhelming contents of your oversized handbag on more than one occasion. And with all this junk taking up valuable space within our purse(s), it’s no wonder we can’t locate important items when we need to.

So what are moms like us supposed to do?

In an effort to get our satchels under control, and avoid being swallowed (whole) by the contents within them, check out these tips to get that purse of yours clean, organized, and functional:

1. Go smaller: As we’ve already learned, bigger isn’t always better…especially when it comes to our purses. Think small after all.

2. Clean your clutch: Often and all the time. Rid yourself of old receipts, used tissues (ew!), and the likes. Make it sparkle!

3. Stock it: Stock your purse with only the essentials you’ll need. We’re talking a wallet, cell phone, a feminine hygiene item or two, some antibacterial goo, and that’s it. No more, no less.

4. Pick pocket: Designate specific areas in your purse for holding important items. For example, always place your wallet, cell phone, and keys in their assigned areas. Major sanity-saver here, girls!

5. Go new: If your purse has been to war and has the battle scars to prove it, it may be time to invest in a new one. Or, if your current handbag just isn’t doing the job, looks like it’s time to go shopping. Remember friends--finding a purse that will work for you and your needs is of utmost importance. Don’t be afraid to spend a little bit of money in this area. You’ll be happy you did.

Jenny Lee Sulpizio is a wife and mother of three who enjoys writing about anything and everything under the sun, but especially loves to instruct, motivate, and guide other moms with practical advice, tips, and a whole lot of comic relief in the process. Jenny is a contributing writer for The MOB Society and Moms Together, and is the author of the recently released guide for all mamas titled, “Confessions of a Wonder Woman Wannabe: On a Mission to Save Sanity, One Mom at a Time.” To find out more about Jenny or to follow her blog, visit Connect with Jenny on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

My review of Confessions of a Wonder Woman Wannabe: FIVE STARS!!

The breezy style and solid advice in this self-help book for Christian moms had me laughing, nodding, and taking notes. Ms. Sulpizio shares her struggles, her hard-earned wisdom, and all of her tricks in this lovely book. Moms of small children will appreciate the chapters on finding time for themselves, and moms of all ages can pick up tips about taking care of ourselves, organizing, and saving money.

I appreciated the resources included--websites to help us figure out our body shape, lists of must-haves in the car, etc...

Prayer is a major theme--just as it is in my life. We can't be perfect, but we can take our struggles to God.

Confessions of a Wonder Woman Wannabe is a must-read for Christian moms!

(I received an advanced reader copy with no obligation to review this book. All opinions are my own.)

Alright, so let’s have some fun. Tell me the first three items you find after reaching into your handbag right now (include your email address) and get entered to win a copy of “Confessions of a Wonder Woman Wannabe.” Ready? Go!
**Must be a U.S. citizen and 18 years or older to enter. Winner will be randomly selected from qualifying entries.**

Thank you, Jenny, for being such a fun guest!
Have a terrific day!!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Autumn Thoughts in Hot Weather

Hmm... Notice anything strange lately? It's past mid-September, and it's still pretty warm in my neck of the woods! Usually I would be wearing jeans and a long-sleeve tee. Maybe a hoodie. But right now I'm hot. Humid hot. I'm wearing shorts every day and not even thinking about packing my flip-flops away. What is this strange phenomenon?

The unusually warm weather has not stopped me from dreaming of autumn. Colorful leaves, crisp air, apple orchards, hot cocoa, curling up with a good book and a blanket--I anticipate them all. Yes, I love fall!

Tons of swoon-worthy reading spots have popped up in Pinterest lately. Cozy, overstuffed chairs next to a fireplace get me every time. Or the table settings with pumpkins and lit candles--yes, I'll take one of those. Pie recipes, chili recipes, and biscuit recipes have me drooling.

Magazine covers beg me to buy them. Halloween candy beckons at the supermarket. Let's not forget about harvest festivals and trick-or-treating. Football is in full swing, and I make a lot (A LOT) of nachos in October and November. Why not?

The only thing I get a bit sad about is the waning sunlight. Our days grow really short around here. Gone are my long walks outdoors. Hello, moon, at 6pm!

This morning Sophie, my mini-dachshund, trotted into the living room with a brown leaf in her mouth. Then she proceeded to shred it to bits. Even she loves fall! And I have a feeling the cooler weather is right around the corner...

What do you love about autumn? What don't you love?

Have a terrific day!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Do You Produce or Fritter?

I'm reading a fascinating book, Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind, edited by Jocelyn K. Glei. It's a compilation of short essays by leaders and creative types.

One of the essays, "Scheduling in Time for Creative Thinking," by Cal Newport, discusses how much of our day is wasted on pointless e-mails and other social media interactions. I enjoyed the piece and headed over to his website, where I came across another great article that really made me think.

"Woody Allen and the Art of Value Productivity" (linked) argues it's not how much time we put into a project; it's how much value we produce from the time we put in. This is true for me.

When I'm mindful about using my block schedule, I produce more value content, whether it's plotting, writing a first draft, revising, or planning my future.

My natural impulse is to check e-mails, pop in on Facebook, send a quick text, and any other "quick and harmless" activity throughout the day. But when I resist, when I focus on my project, I double, even triple my output.

I can interact on Facebook in less than ten minutes. But I often find myself scrolling through for an hour. Does more than ten minutes on Facebook help me reach my current goals? No!

My reality? It's much easier to fritter away my day on "busy" work that produces nothing than to sit down and create something of value.

What is something of value?

For me, it's writing novels.

Last year I used a block schedule to organize my day. Not surprisingly, I accomplished more--much more--than I did when I wasn't being mindful of my time. Summer throws new challenges my way, but now that school is back in, I'm reverting to my block schedule.

My dreams are important. I don't want to fritter this moment away.

Are your dreams worth it to you?

Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My Post-Conference Routine

Last week I had the pleasure of spending five days surrounded by other Christian writers. To say I enjoyed ACFW's annual conference would be an understatement! All good things do end, though, and my post-conference duties kick in.

Once home, I jot a quick list of must-not-forgets. Then I plan for as much of a quiet day as I can. This year, I had a full day of rest after coming home, but it's not always possible!


My Post Conference Routine


a. Compose important business e-mails

This one is pretty self-explanatory!

b. Upload and tag pictures to Facebook while everyone's names are still fresh, also add new contacts to my social networks

I know this probably seems self-indulgent, but all of those lovely friendship seeds won't sprout if we don't water them. Adding pictures, leaving messages, and just reaching out to our friends is important. Do it while you're still excited!


c. Unpack conference materials and stack them in my office to deal with later

I'm usually too excited about returning to a manuscript to review and file my workshop notes, so I keep it all in my office until I'm ready to deal with them.

d. Nap

Conferences are so much fun--but they're also exhausting. I rarely sleep enough or well. Add to that the extra energy of meeting new people, trying to get to appointments on time, finding the right room for the workshop, and making sure I look presentable--well, it adds up to me being super tired! Frequent naps are a must when I come home.

e. Drink extra water

I've yet to attend a conference where the air didn't suck the moisture from my body. I drank extra water during my stay, but I still feel parched.

f. Create a game plan for the next week or month

Chances are I have ideas for a new book, plans for my current work-in-progress, tweaks to make to a requested proposal or manuscript, and any number of other tasks banging on the door for my attention. I can't do everything at once, so I spend time prioritizing and planning.

g. Thank everyone who made my conference extra special.

Some people go out of there way to make me feel special. I appreciate them and want them to know it.


Thank you for keeping me in your prayers! Thank you also for the well-wishes with the Genesis Contest. I didn't win, but I felt like a winner just for being there!

What does your post-conference routine look like?

Have a fantastic day!

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Panic Before a Writing Conference

Lists. Heartburn. Unfinished laundry. Random papers everywhere. Weight gain from chocolate. No, it isn't the week before Christmas. It's even better! It's time for ACFW's annual conference!

Why do I get so wound up? I have no idea. It's ridiculous!

Maybe I'm nervy due to my life being in a busy phase. I'm afraid I'll forget something important. I don't envy my hubby for the weekend he has ahead! We are definitely a divide-and-conquer couple.

Pitching my novel also contributes to the tension. The fact I have trouble sleeping when overexcited has me a little frayed too. And, as much as I caution myself don't butt into conversations, don't accost the author you're dying to meet, don't act like a moron...I know--deep down know--I will butt into conversations, accost the author(s) I'm dying to meet, and yes, I'll act like a moron.

One thing I'm not stressed about? The ride there. I really enjoy driving by myself. I get to indulge in a large coffee with triple cream, quadruple sugar, and no one is there to judge me. The radio? All mine. I can sing at the top of my lungs or let my mind wander. Good times!

I'm taking a week off of blogging, but I'll be back next Wednesday with a full update.

What stresses you out most about a conference or business trip?

Have a wonderful week!!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Celebrating Small Successes: 2 Minute Resolutions Vlog

The 2 Minute Resolutions vlog series is back!

Today I'm sharing how to be mindful of small successes and why celebrating them is important.

September 2013: Celebrating Small Successes 2 Minute Resolutions

Do you celebrate small successes? Share your story!

Have a fabulous weekend!!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Smile--It's September!

September? I love it! Love it!!

Every September represents a new beginning for me. The kids go back to school, the hot, humid days grow cooler, and visions of new projects, fall colors, cozy sweaters, and hot tea come to mind.

I already cleaned off my desk, organized my office, and emptied my bulletin board. Like I said, September is all about renewal in my world!

All month this song runs through my head. It's a goodie!

When Earth, Wind & Fire start playing, I feel like dancing! Oh, yeah!

We're celebrating a few birthdays this month (including mine, gulp!). I'll be shuttling my kids to sports events every weekend. College football pre-shows dominate Saturday mornings in anticipation of the afternoon games. And I love it!

Apples will be picked. Roasts will slow cook. Shorts will be packed away.

The thing I'm looking forward to most this September, though, is heading to ACFW's annual conference. It's the only time I see the majority of my writer friends, and I plan on smooshing every bit of fun into the four days as possible. Yes, I'll take lots of pictures. When I get back, I'll share my embarrassing moments--they're inevitable in my world--and anything else you might be interested in.

How do you feel about September? Love it? Hate it? Why?

Have a wonderful day!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Enjoy Your Labor Day!

I'm relaxing and hanging out with my family today to honor Labor Day. :)

I think every Monday should be a national holiday. Let's make a petition!

Hope you're relaxing and enjoying it too!

What's on your plate today?