Courtney’s Blog

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!

2018 Sugar Free

2018 Resolution

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? I always do but it wasn’t until I came across Gretchen Rubin‘s Four Tendencies framework that I understood why I struggle so hard with keeping them. According to Ms. Rubin, I’m an obliger meaning that I can easily meet outer expectations imposed by others or outside forces but struggle to meet my inner expectations or goals that I set for myself. The way to fix it–turn an inner expectation into an outer by providing outer accountability.

And that’s where you come in.

First, the resolution: For 2018, I’ve decided to give up sugar. No sweets, no candy, no cake, no ice cream, etc for the whole year.

Why? Because I’ve always suffered from a sugar dragon and really want to free myself from it. I’ve done several rounds of Whole 30 and I always feel so much better during one. I’ve already given up dairy and most grains due to sensitivities but sugar has proven to be my tempting bugbear.

Sugar also lurks in a surprising amount of processed and restaurant food. And, as I’m planning to travel and live my normal life, I will still be eating out during the year. I’m not going to drive myself nuts wondering if sugar is hiding in any given plate of food. I think giving up sweets is enough to be getting on with (obviously I’m not going to order something obvious like sugar-coated bacon or anything 🙂

But I need your help to stick to it. So, every month, I’ll be reporting on my success and/or failure here on the blog. I’ll be keeping daily track in my bullet journal.

I gave up diet soda–all soda actually–this year so the no sugar thing should be super easy in comparison, right? **whimper**

How about you? What’s your resolution?


Happy International Podcast Day!

Happy International Podcast day!

Do you listen to podcasts? After my dear friend, Hannah, kindly showed me how to access them about three years ago, I have become a podcast junkie. They are my jam. I listen whenever I can–when driving, cooking, folding laundry, going to sleep…

If you’re interested in podcasts, but don’t know where to start, head over here to Gretchen Rubin’s site for an excellent explanation of what apps you need and how to access the shows.

I personally use Overcast because I listen at double speed and Overcast has some nifty features that allow for that.

So, in celebration of International Podcast Day, I thought I’d share my current “must-listen” list. I’m only including active shows here so my list doesn’t include podcast classics like Serial or the iconic S-Town. I loved them both though 🙂 I’m also not including all the writing podcasts that I listen to because (1) I already did and (2) we’ll be here all day.

Onward to the podcasts!

1) Happier with Gretchen Rubin

You may recognize Gretchen as the author of The Happiness Project. Her sister, Elizabeth Craft, is her co-host on this and it’s the first thing I listen to every Wednesday morning. It’s like a standing coffee date for me! I love the practical, pragmatic advice.

2) Happier in Hollywood


Elizabeth Craft’s spin-off from Happier features her talking about life as a Hollywood scriptwriter with her best friend and writing partner, Sarah Fain. Not just for writers though! This one drops on Thursdays so I’m always enjoying my coffee with Liz and Sarah then.

3) How Story Works

Lani Diane Rich, formerly of Storywonk, presents a free college-level seminar explaining elements of story. Not just for writers though–you’ll get a lot more out of books, movies, and TV shows after listening to this.

4) BigStrongYes

Lani Diane Rich hosts this with her friend, Dr. Kelly Jones, as they take a deep dive into three of my favorite books–Rising Strong by Brene Brown, Big Magic by Liz Gilbert, and A Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. Love this one. Get something new out of it every week.

5) Hidden Brain


All about the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior. Fascinating stuff. I just glommed the entire back catalog and can’t wait for more!

How about you? What do you listen to? Tell me what to add to my list!

Bridesmaid Trilogy

Kiss a Bridesmaid is out now!

Kiss a Bridesmaid, third in the Always a Bridesmaid series, releases today at the super low introductory price of 99 cents. Don’t wait until it goes up to $2.99 next week! Buy now.

Kiss a Bridesmaid is Shortie and Abby’s story. If you’ve read Forever a Bridesmaid, Shortie is introduced in that book as Matthew Westbrook’s friend. He owns The Pie Plate. Now, he’s working with Erin as a wedding caterer and cake baker. When a naughty canine ring bearer dashes through Forsyth Park, Shortie gives chase. Abby catches the dog’s leash and ends up in the mud. And that’s how Shortie and Abby meet.

I had a great time writing Shortie and Abby’s story and I hope you enjoy reading it!

Dragon Riding

Dragon Riding

You guys! I am a Dragon Rider!

Have you heard of Nuance Dragon Naturally Speaking software? It’s voice recognition software. I initially I tried to use it two years ago and it was an unmitigated disaster. I gave up after about a month of trying and getting nowhere with it. My dragon just seemed to garble everything I said and it was more trouble than it was worth.

However, Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing Formula podcast featured Scott Baker last week and, after listening to him, I decided to give dragon riding another go. After listening to Scott, I realized that I’d set up the software incorrectly and used a wireless microphone while dictating directly into Scrivener and Word—all things that will make Dragon really confused!

I also chose the Mac version of the software which isn’t as good as Windows. However, since I’d already sunk that money and didn’t want to install Windows on my iMac, I stuck with it. I’m using version 6.06 and it seems stable so far.

So, I ordered a Blue Yeti desktop microphone (NB: Affiliate Link) from Amazon and, when it arrived the next day, set it up, without really having high hopes. I set up a new profile in Dragon and dictated for about 15 minutes. When I reviewed the file, I’d written 822 words—the core of the next scene I needed to write—with a fair degree of accuracy. In fact, the only error was that Dragon misheard the character name “Erin” as “Aaron.” Easily fixed.

Amazed, I downloaded the iPhone app that Scott recommended (Voice Record Pro) and used the five-minute ride home from dropping my son at school to dictate some more. After uploading the file to iCloud and transcribing it, I had another 266 words.

I am hooked. This is a game changer.

So, I thought I’d document how this changed my writing process here on the blog. I’ll try to update every month or so about how things are going with Figment. Yes, I named my dragon after a Disney character.

Working with Dragon also helps to ward off health problems associated with sitting, hunched over a keyboard all day. So far, I haven’t experienced repetitive stress injuries (RSI) or carpal tunnel, though I have dealt with it in the past. I’m able to be much more mobile and be up and moving around while using Dragon. I’m also able to go for my walk and finally fit in some exercise during the day—all while racking up the word count.

Today, I got my walk-and-talk set up with a Sony voice recorder and a gaming headset. I initially tried to do this with my iPhone but the headphones just required too much power. I think it’s a little more challenging to transfer the dictation files to my iMac from the Sony voice recorder than my iPhone but it’s not that much more difficult.

I’m also able to write in spare moments, like above after I dropped my son at school. For example, today, I ran errands. Since I write during my child-free time, usually when my son is at school, I had been resisting going out during the day to run errands. But sometimes there’s no other time to do it, as any mom of a school-aged child can tell you. In three dictation bursts, lasting about 5-7 minutes each, I wrote 1600 words—the first draft of this blog post and another scene done in time that I would not otherwise be able to be productive.

I also noticed that, probably because I’m not able to see the words as I dictating them, I tend to be more creative and more able to get into the flow and less inclined to edit as I go along.

Additionally, I can use Dragon to just record a few short bursts. I did a two-minute description of the wedding chapel in my next book today while I waited for my coffee to brew this morning. Another 200+ words that I can use to get a jump on the next scene in my work-in-progress.

I do have to make corrections still. Dragon is really rough—not least because, once I get going, I forget to punctuate so I end up with just one big paragraph. Working on that! But, then again, it’s only been three days.

So, all told, since I already had the software, it’s been about a $200 investment—$130 for the desktop Blue Yeti and $70 for the walk and talk set up. The iPhone app is free and, so far, it’s worked perfectly in the car. I haven’t had any transcription issues or needed a more powerful microphone for that. Not cheap but, hopefully, worth it.

I learned from Scott’s appearance and book that getting the right equipment makes all the difference when it comes to dragon riding. Transcription is amazing—it’s the secret sauce. Honestly, it’s like magic.

So far, I’m loving dragon riding. Will keep you posted. Now, I gotta get back to chatting with Figment 🙂

I would highly recommend Dragon. If you’re interested in finding out more about dragon riding, here’s some helpful links:

Dragon Nuance Software

Scott Baker’s Training Your Dragon website

His book, The Writer’s Guide to Training Your Dragon, is excellent (NB: Amazon Affiliate Link)

And here’s Scott’s appearance on the SPF podcast.

The Dragon Riders Facebook Group

Here’s the Blue Yeti desktop microphone that I purchased (NB: Amazon Affiliate Link)

Here’s the Sony Voice Recorder and headset I purchased. (NB: Best Buy Links are NOT affiliate links)

Here’s the app I’m using on my iPhone 6s. It’s FREE. Voice Record Pro.

If you have questions, let me know and I’ll try to help. Tell me, have you tried Dragon riding? What are your thoughts on it?




April Showers Romance Blog Hop

Welcome to the April Showers Romance Blog Hop!
This fun and quick hop will take you on a journey to meet some fantastic authors who write some amazing stories!
$50 Amazon Gift Card 
$25 Amazon Gift Card
$10 Amazon Gift Card
Increase your chances to win by visiting all the stops listed below,
and leave a comment with your email address.
Don’t forget to check out the MEGA April Showers Giveaway
And have fun with the April Showers authors by joining them on April 21st for their Facebook Party!
Thanks for hopping with us… have fun… and away we go….!!!! 
Visit all of the stops in the bloghop by using this list below…
Laura Haley-McNeil