Friday, August 26

Looking for my GMC

Some of my writer peeps have been floundering in their writing recently. Searching for the muse, the time, the inspiration, the sheer strength to deal with it all… And I’ll confess I’m there with them. I know I just released a book, which is a thrilling culmination of months and years of effort, and maybe I'm simply resting on my laurels as a result. However, as the saying goes, “You’re only as good as your last book”… which translates into a stress-inducing mantra of “just keep writing.”

Exceedingly stress-inducing when you’re not writing.

It has been at least a month—maybe more-- since I’ve written a word. I desperately need to work on book number three because, at the arduous pace I’ve set, it won’t come out until 2018! But every time I consider working on my story, even though I’m already several chapters into it, I think “Meh…”

I blame the kiddos with their start-of-school-schedule-shake-up. I blame the twenty-five other story ideas clashing in my head, keeping me too distracted to really sit down and concentrate on writing any one thing. I blame the rainy weather. I blame the sunny weather. I even blame myself because I know I’m just making excuses.
If my heroine's GMC was a car, it would be this!
However, I think maybe the real blame lies with my heroine. I have my other characters figured out, except her. At present, she is just another woman who is seemingly along for the ride. My first two heroines dealt with changing their careers… a sort of “what do I want to be when I grow up?” crises. This third gal already knows what she wants: she's a hair stylist. And, even though I’m transplanting (ok, “abducting”) her to an alien world, simply re-establishing her career on the new world isn’t enough. She needs to be more than just a romantic accessory for the hero as he fulfills his character arc. She needs to be her own character with her own arc.

She needs a Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. She needs her GMC. And we're not talking cars.

This is my struggle: what goal can my heroine have, besides getting off the alien rock and returning to earth? This could be a minor conflict for my characters… she wants to go home, he wants her to stay… but it can’t be the main one. Otherwise, when the hero gets his way and she stays, she is (albeit happily) defeated in the attainment of her one and only goal. And what sort of meager character arc would this give her, much less my story as a whole?

According to Storywonk and other savvy people, a goal needs to be something urgent, intensely meaningful, even life-or-death (unlike my personal goal at the moment, which is to find a bite of chocolate). The protagonist must reach her goal no matter the cost. And the antagonist must stop her no matter the cost (herein lies the awesome conflict that will carry the story). The protagonist must have sufficient motivation for reaching her goal. Going back to earth to continue a career as a hair stylist, when a sexy alien king wants you to stay with him in his castle as his queen, isn’t much of a goal, motivation, or conflict. It sounds more like a punchline to a joke!

Which is why I haven’t written anything on this story in a long while. I can’t fall back on the same themes from my previous books. And I haven’t figured out what this next book needs, except to know it needs… something.

I need inspiration: What sort of goals, motivations, and conflicts pique your interest? What sort of character arcs do you like to see in a story?

Thursday, August 25

Moving Rocks

by Margie Senechal
In the past few months, I've worried about the state of our nation--so filled with angry rhetoric, hate-spewing politics, and just a general sense of hopelessness. Like, this is what we've come to????

But, in the past few weeks, two things happened to give me hope.

The Olympics and Vancouver "Rocks!".

The Olympics remind me of opening a retail store. When I was with Walgreens, I helped open the majority of the stores in Vancouver and a number in Oregon as well. And there would be a point, about a week before opening, when we thought, "How is this going to be ready in five days???" But, inevitably, on opening day, the store was done and beautiful and the opening went off without a hitch.

Olympics are like that--there are always rumors about the host city--not enough hotels, venues aren't ready, questionable security--but then the opening ceremonies begin and all that worry is forgotten as we get down to the business of watching our athletes compete and we get swept up in National pride.

And then there's Vancouver Rocks.

About three weeks ago, my friend found these two rocks on her walks at different times and places. She posted them on FB and I was a little jealous that she'd found the rocks. But, how cool, right?

Then a coworker told me about the FB group, Vancouver "Rocks!" and I joined. 
It began in June and now has over 17,000 members. And their/our main motive is to spread joy by painting and dropping rocks all over town.

I have yet to paint or find one, but I find inspiration in the posts. I love that the Vancouver Rocks posts are dominating my feed, pushing the political waste aside.

I've read about a chemo patients finding "hope" rocks as they left the center, people finding rocks after a particularly hard day at work, kids finding them in parks.

And the creativity and talent in our town is astounding. They say creativity inspires creativity and we're watching it in action on this page.

Families are sitting down to paint together and then sharing the rocks around the county in various locations. Friends are finding each other on the page and getting together to paint. People find one rock and replace it or rehide it somewhere else so someone else can have the joy of finding a rock.

The craft stores and local Wal Marts are running out of paint supplies because so many people are joining this movement. A movement that began in June and shows no sign of slowing down. Because who doesn't need a spot of hope and spontaneous joy?

Wednesday, August 24

It's Game Day to Celebrate a New Book

Is this cover adorable or is it adorable? I don't think anything is sweeter than a guy and his kid...and this guy is especially yummy and the kiddo is just adorable.

Also, it's my new book! Well, my new bundle of books. Last spring my publisher told me they had selected What a Texas Girl Needs (my second Texas Girl book) to be part of a bundle of secret baby books called Sweet Child Of Mine. The secret baby trope is one of my favorites, and Vanessa and Mat are two characters that have stayed with me during this crazy publishing ride! The best part? You can pick up all six books for less than $1 for a limited time! Here are the book links:

Book Links:    Amazon   B&N   iBooks  KOBO 

To celebrate the new release, I thought we would play a game: Readers, grab the closest book to you. Turn to page 107 and count down seven lines. Copy that line into a comment below, along with the title and author of the book...and tell us what you love about the story. If you're a writer, same thing goes. Writers, same rules apply, but turn to your most recent WIP, flip to page 107 and count down seven lines. Copy that line into a comment below, along with the title and name yourself as author. And tell us what you love about the story. You can do both, if you want.

I'll start: This is from page 107 of What a Texas Girl Needs:

He wouldn't add an outright lie to his sins against the Witte family. First, he'd omitted his background. Second, he'd gotten Vanessa pregnant. Third, he'd avoided her like an alcoholic avoids the liquor aisle at the grocery store.

What do I love about it? This entire scene was one of my favorites from the entire book - it marks a bit of turning point for Mat, the point where he begins moving forward come hell or high water...and there is still a bit of both to come at this point. I love a good moment of change!

Okay, readers (and authors), your turn to share!

Blurb for Sweet Child Of Mine: 

The bonds of love are truly tested for six couples in these enthralling romances featuring secret babies and surprise pregnancies. Your heart will ache in all the right ways as baby makes three for these winning duos.
  • What a Texas Girl Needs: Matias Barnes knows all about society women like Vanessa Witte. It's part of the reason he left his wealthy family behind and took a job on a ranch. But while Mat knows she's so not right for him, can he resist her charms long enough to really let her go? The clock is winding down to the moment when Vanessa's secret will force her to flee and take away his choice forever.
  • Marrying the Wrong Man: Morgan Parrish's dad planned her marriage to a man destined to be president of the United States, but she fell in love with the town drunk's son, got pregnant, and fled. Now she's back and waitressing at the bistro Charlie Cramer manages. If they give in to the attraction and screw things up again, their daughter will deal with the fallout - or they just might get that American dream after all.
  • The Rebel's Own: In high school, a cruel prank left shy Kennedy Bailey pregnant and alone. Now grown-up and gorgeous, she won't let anything stop her from saving her five-year-old son's life when he's diagnosed with leukemia. Even if it means confronting his father, NFL quarterback Ryan Carville, who just wants a second chance to show he's a man worth loving.
  • A Taste of Honey: Charli Honey knew it was a bad decision to end up in her boss's bed, and to make matters worse, now she's pregnant. William Knight is happy to do the right thing, but can she live with a man who doesn't love her? Or can William convince her a change of heart is not only possible, it's real?
  • Sutherland's Pride: Pride Donovan's former lover, Flynn Sutherland, does not recognize her little boy as his when she returns to their Texas Gulf Coast town, but he definitely wants their relationship back. Can their second chance withstand the bombshell she's about to drop into his life?
  • Her Soldier's Touch: When U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Colten Taylor returns briefly to Phoenix to bury his brother, he's shocked to see Rachel Madison waiting for him at the airport. He regrets the morning he walked away from her; coming from an abusive home taught Colt to put limits on all his relationships. But now that she has his son in tow, will he keep running?
Sensuality Level: Sensual

Buy The Bundle:  Amazon   B&N   iBooks  KOBO 

Tuesday, August 23

Looking for My Mojo

It's Sunday afternoon and I've just written my quarterly blog for Romance University--it's coming up tomorrow (Wednesday to you), so check it out, okay? So often lately, I've wondered if my writing mojo has taken a hike because making myself get settled down to write has been nigh onto impossible these past few months. I know I've talked ad nauseum about not being able to write--either work or lack of motivation or life stuff keeps getting in the way. But now, I'm wondering exactly why I'm not writing. Yet, I just wrote 1,039 words in less than an hour. And they are good words--it's a great blog.

But you know what? It's a blog about what I do as a copy editor--not a romance novel. And that's making me wonder if perhaps the romance novelist in me might be taking a backseat to the copy editor. And would that be such a terrible thing? I love working on other people's books and from what I can tell, authors appreciate my services. I'm fair, I leave their voice alone, I try my darnest to help them make their stories the very best they can be. I'm a good editor.

Publishing is changing so much and I'm not convinced it's all for the better. I'm trying hard to see where I might fit in and at the moment, it seems as though Editor Nan has more of a secure place than Author Nan. But then the people in my head start talking to me. I dream about them at night. Strangers in my dreams is weird I know, but there they are, knocking around in my head looking for a story and I, once again, think that I want to write.

Maybe it's that I can't find a place in the romance world--my older characters are not what people want to read. Old people (and by old I mean older than 40) in love is a yucky premise apparently; after all, who wants to know that Grammy has sex? Ironically, I don't even write hot sex . . . but still, "I can't sell characters older than 40" is what I hear all the time. Readers, even readers who are Baby Boomer age "read down," according to the folks who are kindly but definitely turning my novels away. Is it possible that Boomers "read down" in age because publishers aren't offering any kind of romance that includes people of a certain age? A question for the universe, I guess. Oh, heck, this rant is so familiar, you're all probably as sick of it as I am, but still, it's demoralizing.

In two weeks, Liz and I will be on our annual (it's officially an annual trip now!) writing trip to Michigan. We'll be blogging our way through the week and we'll include pictures, so stop in and say hello. I'm hoping for a shot of inspiration before that week arrives, but I have work to finish before we go, so no guarantees. However, I'm beyond excited to be on the road with Liz and our plan is to inspire one another. Hold a good thought for us and we'll keep you posted as we go.

Oh, hey, look at me! I just wrote another blog . . . maybe Writer Nan isn't completely lost . . . hmmmm. . . 

Monday, August 22

A little splash...

It's Sunday. I've taken the day off. No, I mean it. As soon as I finished washing a load of towels this morning, I declared that to be the end. Saturday was long and exhausting just by nature of the beast--helping someone move--so today I wasn't doing diddly. So there.

But yesterday we brought a bookcase home from my in-laws' house. It's a barrister case. Nice and roomy. It will be good for storing fabric. So I've done some rearranging. Some cutting. Cutting fabric is soothing. Sorting it is less so--I'm not good with color. Balance escapes me. I have to separate flannel from cotton. I have to decide how small of a scrap is too small to save. To cut. To sort.

It starts with just a little bin of material. Mostly black-and-whites, and I remember as I fold and arrange, that I've used these prints in
my grandson Shea's quilt. And in smaller quilts I've made in case a child from the school needs that kind of comfort. Sometimes they do. If they are hungry or hurt or the next day looks impossible to survive, a quilt helps to warm the cold places. I put some red pieces into that stack of newspaper-colored fabric, because red, black, and white are the school colors. Colors that can make a child feel less hurt, less alienated, less cold. Safe.

Oh, on the bottom shelf in a narrower bin I find brights. Lavenders and aquas and yellow polka dots and some bold chevron stripes. I don't mean to be sexist, but they fit into quilts for little girls. Because sometimes they need the softness of those pinks and mints, but the bold circles and the waves-on-shore slap of teal? They're every bit as necessary. In Summer in Stringtown Proper, I called it splash.

I have a ton of fat quarters on the shelves. Because it never costs much to just buy one or two or seven and I can never resist the jewel-tone display of their colors. But I've grown weary on this day that I will do nothing. The fat quarters will have to wait for another day to be sorted.

It's like writing. I get so tired of it. My muse is napping in the corner. I ask myself (and my husband, poor guy) over and over if I should call it a day. Just use the computer for Facebook and playing solitaire as I watch the sun go down both literally and figuratively. Because it's hard. And I can't get the colors right. And I'm tired of thinking, Oh, that will work, and finding out I've got half smooth cotton and half flannel in my process and it doesn't work at all.

But wait, just as those scraps will go with those fat quarters, the words will go into place. If I push them and pull them and look for the balance. Combine the gentleness and the bold. Create warmth and comfort and a safe place--because you're never alone when you're reading.

It's okay to be tired. To be discouraged. But in the end, you just need to sort the colors. The fabrics. And don't forget the splash.

Have a great week.