MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018, Uncategorized

Woohoo! Celebrate Good Times! #MFRWAuthor

Today’s topic: How I celebrate completing a manuscript

By starting a new one?

I’m only kidding–sort of. I’ve always been blessed with tons of ideas, more than I could hope to write in five lifetimes. Thank goodness for Evernote to keep them all straight. I’ve always got tons of new story ideas that I’m excited to explore.

The truth is that writing “The End” is always an enormous relief. I’m usually excited to get to the end of the current story and start something new, with new characters and issues to explore. Plus, my books always end happily so I’m sending the characters off to enjoy their new life, with their own happy ending.

Having said that, it is a bit more difficult to end a series. When a series is still going on, I can always drop in and visit on the earlier characters. Ending Cupid’s Coffeeshop was especially heart-wrenching for me, which is probably why I have not one but two spin-off series in development.

For a while, I commemorated each book by purchasing a small piece of jewelry. For example, when I wrote a book with a teacher heroine, I bought the Alex and Ani apple bracelet. But then, I realized I wasn’t really wearing all that jewelry so I stopped that tradition.

Writing this prompt made me realize that maybe I should have some smallish sort of celebration for finishing a manuscript. After all, it is a big achievement and the occasion should probably be marked somehow. I’m just not sure what I would do. Anyone got any ideas they’d like to share?

 

MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

Seeking Gold Stars (#MFRWAuthor)

Week 14’s topic is “What I learned from my worst review.”

NB: I’ve missed a few weeks due to travel and illness and will be posting catch-up entries for weeks 11-13 in the next few days. I apologize for the delay.

Courtesy of Susanne Nilsson via Flickr Creative Commons

So reviews. Love ’em, hate ’em, can’t live without them. Of course, it’s always lovely to get a gushing review. Those can buoy one’s spirits for days. Often, a rave review will come in on the days I most feel like throwing in the towel forever and that’s always nice.

Sometimes a review will point out a pattern in my overall work. Reviews made me realize that all my books are sweet in tone, if not sensuality level.

And the ones that provide criticism, if done kindly and constructively, can be wonderful too. It’s all too hard to be objective about one’s work. I appreciate the beta readers and editors along the way who help.

Courtesy of Susanne Nilsson via Flickr Creative Commons

But my worst reviews happened on Pumpkin Spice, the 10th in the Cupid’s Coffeeshop series and actually alerted me to a problem with the file Amazon provided to pre-orders. It allowed me to fix the problem within just a few days. I wish that the reviewers that gave me a 1 star would go back and assess based on the book instead of the technology glitch but they haven’t so that book always has a low average. Still, I appreciate the reviewers telling me so I could fix it.

Courtesy of Susanne Nilsson via Flickr Creative Commons

Authors often fret about reviews, good, bad, and the lack of them. How do you feel about reviews? Do you think they’re important?

Do you read reviews before purchasing a book? Do you rely on them? How important are reviews anyway?

MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

Egg in a bowl #mfrwauthor

This week’s prompt was a tough one. I was stuck for ages. Finally, after reviewing some family stories with my husband and my sister, I narrowed it down to this one for the prompt: “Things only my family would understand.”

When I was growing up, three of my mother’s five sisters lived in the DC area. My Aunt Pam had three kids close in age to me and our parents often traded babysitting time. Once, when I was about 6, I attended a sleepover at my aunt’s house.

The next morning, she asked me how I liked my eggs. I answered, “In a bowl.” She blinked but rallied, “Okay, but how do you want them cooked.” Once again, I said, “in a bowl.” We went through this multiple times and I remember her saying, “You can have it in any bowl in the house. How do you want me to cook the egg?”

Finally, desperate, she handed me scrambled eggs in a cereal bowl. These were not the eggs in a bowl my mother prepared but they were tasty anyway.

When my mom arrived to pick me up, Pam was like “What on earth is an egg in a bowl?”

My mother explained that “egg in a bowl” means a soft-boiled egg.

How about you? Does your family have any special names for food?

MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

Casting Off #MFRWAUTHOR

Today’s prompt: What would I invent if I were stuck on an island?

I am not an outdoors-y person. I like my outdoors nicely screened off and preferably at a considerable distance. When I go to the beach, I take residence in my beach chair under a nice shady umbrella and read.

So, let’s be real here, in the zombie apocalypse, I’m going first. The only thing I can think of to invent on an island is a nice raft to get me off it. How about you?


MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

A Cautionary Tale #mfrwauthor

Today’s prompt is the worst writing advice I’ve ever gotten. Before I share my story, let me say that writing advice is very much an individual thing. What works for one author may not work for another author or even book. So take what advice you like and ignore the rest because it can really derail you when you get bad advice.

I’ve always been a scribbler but I didn’t seriously pursue my goal of writing a book until after I joined Romance Writers of America (RWA) in 1998. Back then, the only path to publishing was via a traditional publisher which involved papering New York City with query letters, along with a synopsis and the first few chapters. The query process could be quite lengthy–6 months to a year.

Though established authors could query proposals for unfinished manuscripts, unknown authors were expected to complete the entire book and then query. From a publishers perspective, this makes perfect sense. It didn’t make sense to me though, as a writer. I didn’t want to write an entire book, only to have it rejected. It seemed a waste of effort to me. Now, of course, with the rise of independent publishing, a finished book will always be published but back then, I didn’t want to have stacks of unpublished manuscripts lingering under the bed.

So, not wanting to waste time writing a full book that wouldn’t ever see the light of day, I seized upon the advice given to me by an established author to just send a proposal query.  Then, when I received a request, write the manuscript and send it in. What could go wrong?

Well, I banged out my query letter for a vampire romance (they were hot at the time) and sent it off to all the major publishers in NYC. I think I kept working on it but it was slow going back then as I’d never written a book before. Six weeks later, I got requests from not one but three different NYC publishing houses for the completed manuscript.

Which, of course, I didn’t have and had no idea how to finish it. I never managed to finish that book and thus, never managed to respond to my requests for proposals. For years, I felt like I’d wasted my one chance to get published and it was devastating. I didn’t write for years.

To be clear, I don’t blame the established author at all. Now that I have two dozen books written, I could easily have finished that manuscript and sent it off in a timely manner. Her advice would have worked for a journeyman, experienced author. But, as a first-time author, I had no idea how to complete a manuscript and couldn’t do it under pressure like that.

Also, with the advent of indie publishing, I’m glad I never had a contract with NYC at all. The Kindle was truly a revolutionary device, a total game changer in the world of publishing, and I’m much happier being independent.

How about you? Did you ever suffer from bad advice?

MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

How Full Is Your Bucket List? #MFRWAuthor

Today’s blog challenge is a fun one. We’re talking about bucket lists. Made famous by a film of the same name, bucket lists are experiences or accomplishments that a person would like to complete before they kick the bucket.

Since I’ve never met a list I didn’t want to make, I have not one but two bucket lists. One for travel and one for everything else. I’m always adding more so the list tends to grow not shrink. I’ve achieved quite a few things on the list–not least of which includes publishing not just one book but twenty and counting! But I’ve still got more to go. I’ll just share five of them with you today–some from each list.

  1. Visit all 50 states. 
    My friend’s father just recently completed this challenge. When my son heard about it, he decided to take the same challenge so now, it’s become a family goal. We’ve got the Eastern seaboard more or less covered (My son hasn’t been to Georgia yet) but we’ve decided to dedicate the next decade or so of spring breaks to achieving this one. This year, we’re off to sunny California 🙂

2) Watch all the Disney animated movies. 

You may recall I started this challenge on the blog but didn’t get very far. I need to watch Pinocchio and get back on track with it. Bonus points if you can tell me what movie the two fairies in the picture are from (answer at the bottom of the post).

3) Take a hot air balloon ride. 

I’ve always wanted to do this one. My husband, who flies private planes for a hobby, is terrified of the idea. I might have to do wait until my son is old enough for this one.

4) Run the Disney Princess Half-Marathon

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not in the least athletic. And I don’t really like to run. But I’ve always wanted to participate in the Disney Princess Half-Marathon. It just seems so fun with characters along the route to encourage you and ending the race in EPCOT. I even went so far as to register for it a few years ago but was sidelined due to health issues. Maybe in the next few years.

5) Go to Paris (And Disneyland Paris)

London is my actual favorite city in the world. I studied abroad there when I was in law school and loved it. I would love to go back and share it with my husband and son. But I’ve always wanted to go to Paris too. We’re planning it for my 50th in a few years. I’m having a great time learning French via the Duolingo app (If I manage it, I’ll get to check off another bucket list item–learning a second language) too.

How about you? What’s on your list?

*Answer to Disney picture: They are Flora and Fauna from Sleeping Beauty

MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

You never forget your first (romance novel) #MFRWauthor #MFRWBlogChallenge

First, a brief Pinewood Derby update. Thank you all so much for your good wishes and pixie dust last weekend. My son (and his devoted Gramps) took 3rd place overall in his Cub Scout pack and first place in his den with Okie II. We’ve been calling him #1 bear ever since. 🙂 They were thrilled!

Now, on to the #MFRW challenge: A book that has influenced my life.

Books are like potato chips! I can’t pick just one!

I suppose it would be cheating to say my own book(s), right?

The late great Ursula Le Guin had a great answer to this here but I’ll give it a shot.

So, there are many, many, many books that I could choose here. I can’t remember a time before I could read. If you listen to my sister, I spent my entire childhood with my nose in a book. Truthfully, not much has changed. I read constantly, listen to audiobooks, and spend a lot of time finding new books to stockpile–that is to add to the TBR (To Be Read) pile that is teetering near my bed and cluttering my Kindle.

But, if I have to choose just one book that influenced my life, I’m going to pick Partners by Nora Roberts. It’s an old “Language of Love” Silhouette category romance title of hers. It was published in 1985–making me probably about 13 when I swiped it from my mother’s library bag. It’s not her best. I can’t honestly recommend it as a great read but it was the first romance novel I ever read.

 

It was set in New Orleans and centered on two journalists figuring out a murder. It’s crazy sauce. I can’t recall much about the plot other than there were copperheads as part of the swampy resolution. Interestingly, the leads were Matt and Laurel. I suppose my subconscious had a grand ole time naming the hero in Forever a Bridesmaid (Matthew Westbrook) and the heroine in Once a Bridesmaid (Lauren Bennett) but I never realized that until I just read the summary on Goodreads. Weird, huh?

Since cracking that first romance over thirty years ago, I’ve been a life-long romance reader and now a writer. This book, though it’s not Nora’s best by a long shot, holds a special place in my heart for being the one that influenced my life the most. How about you? What books influenced you the most?

 

 

MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

If I couldn’t be a writer, I’d… #mfrwauthor

It’s time for another #MFRWAuthor blog post for my 52 week blogging challenge. But before we get to the prompt, Fox is competing in the Pinewood Derby this weekend. If you know anything about Cub Scouts, you know this is one of the biggest events of the year. He and his grandfather have worked so hard on their car, named Oaky II. Please keep your fingers crossed and send pixie dust our way tomorrow.

Today’s prompt is what would I do if I couldn’t be a writer.

This is actually incredibly hard to imagine as writing has been such a huge part of my life since I was very young. I can’t remember a time before I could read. My mother read to me from an early age. Story was always a huge part of my life.

I suppose I could be doing something “writing adjacent” but I’d be spectacularly ill-suited for any of them. I’d be a dreadful teacher and an even worse editor. I can’t really see myself working in a collaborative or visual medium such as film or stage.

 

But, I think my answer would be to be a lawyer, which I am already, so it’s rather a boring answer. But, other than an author, it’s the only career I ever really considered. So, there you are.

MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

Me but not me #mfrwauthor

I’m having a great time writing Marina and Dylan’s story in Never a Bridesmaid but I’m taking a quick break to participate in the MFRW blog challenge.

 

Today’s prompt is how much of myself is in my writing.

I’ve been told that I write like I talk. I think I have a fairly strong contemporary voice and that my voice is basically true to my personality. Once I tried to participate in a historical romance round robin writing contest. Though I love to read historicals, my voice sounded way too modern for the characters.

But as for characters? It depends. I think different characters are like me. I think Erin from Forever a Bridesmaid is a more extreme version of me. I’m very introverted and quiet so I often struggle with writing more extroverted characters, like Dylan from Never a Bridesmaid. I’m less like other characters–like Lauren from Once a Bridesmaid–than others. But, interestingly, I didn’t have a hard time writing Lauren. When I’m actually writing the character, I’m not thinking how I’d react in any given situation but how they would react, say, act, etc.

Of the Lockharts, Patrick is the most like me, by far. I often defaulted to his POV and had to consciously choose to write in Zooey or Joe’s point of view sometimes. He was also the first character I developed for the Cupid’s Coffeeshop series.

I don’t think anyone in The Lost Art of Second Chances is particularly like me. People often assume I must be a good cook because Lucy loves it so much. Nothing could be further from the truth! I am a barely competent cook. As for gardening, I’m a total disaster with plants. My house is where plants go to die (which I recognize makes me sound like I’m running some sort of mad plant hospice. I actually gave up hope of raising plants long ago and, should anyone ever send me one, my mother takes immediate custody and scolds me because I’ve over/underwatered it/burnt it to a crisp by placing it in direct sunlight or kept it out of the sun and that’s why it’s a pale green Victorian heroine now. I am a disaster with plants, ya’all.). Belladonna isn’t particularly like me either. None of them are. When I set out to write that book, I wanted to write a second chance love story/childhood friends to lovers which is what Jack and Lucy are. Belladonna just showed up whole cloth and took over.

As I’m a lawyer in my day job, I have quite a few lawyer heroes and heroines. Jack from The Lost Art of Second Chances. Ruby from Cherry Blossom Cappuccino. Charlie from Coconut Iced Coffee. I’ve given other heroes and heroines hobbies of mine-like photographer Kyle from Once a Bridesmaid or jobs I’ve previously had like card shop worker for Val in Cupid’s Kiss.

But then others have had jobs that I couldn’t do if I tried, like cancer researcher Ben in Java Frost, accountants Grayson March and Claire O’Shaughnessy in Lucky Latte, football coach Natalie from Pumpkin Spice. Really, their job is usually directly related to the plot of the story. For example, Ruby is the lawyer handling the Lockhart’s grandmother’s estate. She just happened to get her own story too.

There’s some strange alchemy about ideas and muses that combine to give me the inspiration for any given story, including the characters. But, once I start writing, the story is up to them and so, while they may have started with me, the result is more or less independent of me. It’s similar to the way people peer at a new baby, trying to identify Aunt Mabel’s nose or Cousin Jeff’s chin. There are traces of me in each story, each character, similarities based on heritage, but also something entirely new.

MFRW 52 Week Blog Challenge 2018

What do Bridesmaids, Salem Cigarettes, and Tomato Plants have in common? –#MFRWAuthor

I’ve never been a particularly consistent blogger but 2018 is the year I’d like to change that. To that end, I’ll be participating in the Marketing For Romance Writers (MFRW) challenge. Look for new posts every Friday!

Because I’m joining late, this will be a double post just for this week (answering prompts 1 and 2). After this, it’ll be a single prompt each time.

So, prompt one: Favorite Thing I’ve Written (and why).

Wow. Way to start with the impossible question out of the gate. I’ve loved all my books (and hated all of them too) for different reasons. I think my answer is Forever a Bridesmaid because it was the first book I finished so I’m proudest of it for that reason.

There are a few other lines or scenes that I was really delighted with but I think Forever will always be especially beloved for me because it was the thing I didn’t think I could do, to paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt.

Prompt Two: My earliest memory

For years I thought this one was my earliest memory. I remember rounding the corner of our brick fireplace into the living room, trailing my fingers along the rough brick. My mother sat in our burnt orange armchair (you remember that popular color from the 70s–like squash caramelized over a nuclear reactor, right?) by the picture window in the living room.  The late afternoon sunlight streamed in, highlighting the ghostly smoke surrounding her dark hair. She was reading a novel and I walked over to her chair. On the arm, an emerald green pack of cigarettes sat next to a cut-crystal ashtray. I read out the letters to her S-A-L-E-M and she said “Salem.” I remember being so pleased that I could read the letters. My mom quit smoking before I was 3 so it had to have been no later than summer 1974.

As I said, this always seemed to be my earliest memory but, several years ago, I picked up a tomato plant at the local supermarket and caught the spicy scent. I suddenly remembered my dad, dressed in plaid Bermuda shorts and a white t-shirt, calling my name and waving at the end of a row of tall tomato plants, their ripe fruit heavy on the vines. When he called me, I tried to crawl to him. According to my dad’s gardening records, that was probably summer 1972 so I would have been not quite one year old. So I guess that’s my actual earliest memory now.

Come back next week for prompt #3. In the meantime, what’s your earliest memory? How old were you?

Don’t forget to check out my fellow #mfrwauthors answers to this week’s prompt!