Wednesday, July 18

Sprinting (limping) to the Finish Line @JanaRichards_

My sprint to finish this book has felt more like a limp.
I’ve been working hard to finish my current work-in-progress, a contemporary romance I call TAKE A CHANCE ON ME. I’ve written it as a companion piece to my permafree book RESCUE ME, using some of the same characters, and I plan to give it away to anyone who signs up for my newsletter.

That’s the plan, but things haven’t gone so smoothly. This novel has given me fits and shaken my confidence in my writing. However, through sheer stubbornness I’m getting to the finish line, and soon I’ll be able to send it off to my editor; my goal is to get it to her by July 31. I won’t really know if the book works until I read her comments.

But even before that happens I think I’ve learned a couple of things during the writing of TAKE A CHANCE ON ME that I believe will help me with subsequent books:

- Writing this book confirmed my belief that I’m a plotter. Actually, it confirmed my need to plot. I need to understand what the plot is going to be before I start the writing process. I’m currently listening to the audio book “Four Nights with the Duke” by Eloisa James. The heroine, Mia, is a writer of popular novels, a sort of eighteenth century romance writer. Due to a lot of things going on in her life – the deaths of her father and brother, getting jilted at the altar, blackmailing a duke into marrying her – she’s understandably suffering from writer’s block. We see her struggling to figure out her characters’ motivations and actions. At one point, Mia says that after writing six previous books, she’s discovered that once she nailed her plot and knew where her story was going, the writing itself went very quickly. I couldn’t help thinking that was Eloisa James telling us how her writing process works. And I also couldn’t help thinking that’s my writing process, too, and I deviate from it at my peril. Which is what I did with this novel in an effort to write faster. Ha. So much for that idea.
Four Nights with the Duke
 - Along with understanding my plot, I also need to understand my characters. How do I know what they’re going to do in any given situation if I don’t know them inside and out? With this book, I didn’t fill out the character sketches and do the background work that I usually do. It meant I had to figure out backstory on the fly, which slowed down the writing. I did some work on their goals and motivation, but it wasn’t enough. At least not for me and the way I write.
These are lessons I thought I’d learned before, but I was trying something new. What I really learned is that for me, there’s no shortcuts. Needless to say, I’m going to do a lot more pre-writing on my next book.

Before I move on to something else, I still have to polish up TAKE A CHANCE ON ME, and like I said, it’s been a beast. But as one of my writing friends told me, when I finally wrestle that beast into submission it will be oh so sweet. Here’s hoping.

On that note, what’s something really difficult you’ve had to do? How did you feel once you accomplished your goal? Help! I need some motivation to get me going!

Monday, July 16

It’s Never Too Late

The Wranglers welcome Laurel Sparks-Sellers today. 

At this juncture of my life I have acquired a major checklist.

Workforce career completed…CHECK. Marriage for third time, and right time…CHECK. Healing from family lost: both loving parents, and now a sister/best friend…CHECK.  Learn to live without children or grandchildren…CHECK.

OK, I could add to this list, but I’m digressing away from this writing article.

Because my history started long ago, most of it included snippets of creations. I composed poems, short stories, and song lyrics in my younger years, and advanced to novels as an older seasoned woman. But as we all know, life can get in the way. And, it sure did. Sigh….

However, I took the reins and made the ultimate decision to make writing a full-time job, having
retired from those previous jobs. It had been my dream forever. Did I reinvent myself? I don’t think so, as writing had always been factored in my life.

These days, I’m privileged (and blessed) to have the chance, and time, to follow the path/passion I’ve always longed for. My projects fulfill me like no other urge. It doesn’t hurt that I also have the financial means and supportive resources at my disposal. Yay for me!

Now, granted, all the social media, technology, and resources and advice have been quite the challenge in this endeavor, but confront it I will. Sometimes, there are not enough hours in the day to tackle it all.

But my mantra remains: You’re never too old, or young, to learn new things. I’m still formulating my own future (4th career?)  so that I can add to that checklist mentioned above. 

I’m not sittin’ on top of the world, just rollin’ along. At this point, I don’t need anyone’s approval, but praise would indeed be nice, and welcomed.

But back to that list…

Daily self-care…CHECK! I maintain a healthy eating regimen and make time for working out five out of seven days a week. It’s so important to me. Self-worth with love…CHECK! Meditation is crucial for my mental well-being and connecting with loved ones even more valuable.
And last but not least: Plenty of faith…CHECK!

Laurel Sparks-Sellers is author of LEATHER HORIZONS, PRIVATE PURSUITS (upcoming in 2018), and  THE MINK WRAP IN THE ATTIC (upcoming in 2018). All contemporary romances and penned under the name of Laverty Sparks, a combination of her parents’ names.

Twitter: @Sparkswriting

Wednesday, July 11

Knowing What I Do Know

by Ava Cuvay

Happy Wednesday, Wranglers!

We had decided to blog monthly instead of weekly in hopes it would provide us the respite to fill our blog space with more knowledge, wisdom, wit, emotional impact, etc… I can’t speak for the other gals, but mine seem to be just as much “oh, crud, what the heck am I going to talk about?” as ever.

On the plus side, I’ve been writing more.

Notice that I said “writing” and did not choose the verb “publishing.” Yep, I’m still “writing,” “editing,” “tweaking,” and “overhauling” my third book. Still not close to the “publishing” of it.

Which is a huge source of frustration for me. I know I’m not supposed to beat myself up over the pace my artistic muse takes me (although I do question whether there’s much “musial” influence--is that even a word?--this time around… it’s been a struggle from the get-go). And I keep reminding myself that Book One took four years to write and publish, and Book Two took two. I’m only slightly beyond the two year mark on Book Three, so I should consider myself right on track, right?

I don’t. I keep attributing the ease (Hahaha! I mean “relative ease,” right? Cuz there ain’t nuthin easy about the process) of the first two books to my beginner’s naiveté. Basically, I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and the words flowed and the editing process was filled with wonder and a thirst for knowledge to be gleaned.

But now, I know what I don’t know... which is a lot. And even what I do know I know (so very little), those skills haven’t pushed my writing up any quality levels. It just throws up road blocks. In fact, I think my head is so filled with what I do know, that I’m getting in my own way. As I write, all those rules I do know are like a rude crown in the stands, shouting at the refs and stalling the game. What’s her goal, motivation, and conflict? He has too much back story! Watch your dangling participles! That’s a telling phrase, SHOW instead! No, it’s too soon for them to have sex, you have to build the tension first! Drop a red herring or the reader will get bored! This scene is slogging down the pace, you’ll have to fix it or delete it! Needs more dialogue! Don’t be repetitive! And Nooooo, why are you “checking Facebook for a just minute”?!?

How can an author possibly move the ball down the field with all this rattling in her brain? It’s bad enough when the characters are clamoring for attention, but the rules? Ugh!

So I’m still muddling through. Fixing all the rules that I do know, because even when they’re shouting at me, I still miss abiding by them. Like all the sentient body parts that are doing things. Eyes that are landing, hands that are clasping, legs that are flinching… If this were a zombie story, that might work. But not in Book Three. At least each pass of edits pushes the story that much closer to “Published,” but it’s been a muddy, ground-losing, hard-won-inches kind of ballgame with this book.

(Makes ya wanna pick up a ball and give it a go, doesn’t it ;-)

Wednesday, July 4

Happy Fourth!

by Margie Senechal
I had a hard time deciding what to write about--should I go sentimental, political, nothing at all to do with the fourth?

 Growing up as a Navy kid and the granddaughter of two WWII soldiers, patriotic holidays were always celebrated. We had a family BBQ on the Fourth, as dusk arrived, Dad would do our meager supply of fireworks--screaming petes, twirly things, and usually a big cone of something. Then we climbed up on Grandma and Grandpa's roof to watch the fireworks that were set off from Fort Vancouver.
Image result for fort vancouver fireworks 
I wonder if Dad and Grandpa were still alive, what they'd think of the man occupying the White house these days. My Grandpa served in the Army and marched through the liberation of Europe. I can't believe he or any of the brave men who fought in that war could support this new world order. 

There were many people--celebrities, me--who said, if Trump won the election, that we'd leave the country and none of us did. I know there have been celebrities that have been taken to Twitter task for it. For myself, there are a couple of reasons--I don't have the money, being a big one. But, the main reason is that I love my country. I have faith that good and common sense will rise to the top soon. I have to believe that or else I'd wallow in despair.

I love the Red, White, and Blue of us. I love our history--even the bad parts, because like our own stories, it is our past that makes us, shapes us, and changes us. Without those bad times, we wouldn't appreciate the good times, the victorious times. And we have to hold strong and believe that the victorious times will return soon.

And now for a beach read recommendation, because sometimes you just need a beach read. I picked up Rainy Day Friends by Jill Shalvis at B&N the other day and read the first two chapters in the cafe, and then had to buy it. I read it in a day and half even though I didn't want it to end.

Look, I got a little bit of everything from the first paragraph in. 

Happy Fourth to everyone! Stay safe,cool, and hydrated! 


Wednesday, June 27

The Slippery Street

Photo by Paul Gilmore on Unsplash
"art is more than a product of your efforts - it should be about feeling, life, attitude, soul..." ~Sergio Bongart

I love this quote, and it seems to me to go with the picture over here. Because it's all about frame of mind. If you focus on the long, slippery, empty road, it's a rainy day...but if you focus on the sky, you can see the sun beginning to break through the clouds, the lushness of the green grass and trees, and you can see that the day is about to change.

Around here, this would turn into a muggy, humid yukky afternoon. The kind that requires a lot of cold beverages and a cool pool to float in. I imagine, with the mountains in the background, that maybe it wouldn't be so humid in the picture. Maybe the ground would remain wet and maybe the leaves on the trees would make that slippery sound as I walk through, and maybe the road would make that swooshy sound if a car were to pass by.

Back to the quote. To me, art is an amazing painting or a great photograph or a really well made quilt. It is something that I can look at, something I can't touch (because museums frown on that sort of thing), and that ability to only look and imagine might, in turn, change the way I look at things.

Which, I suppose, means the books I read (and write) are, in fact, art. Because while I can touch the cover, I can't reach out and touch the sunrise or the first kiss or that horrible, terrible black moment when all is lost. I can experience those things, but I can't touch them. Like I can't touch the paintings at the museum or the quilts on display at the county fair. However, if you ever hear me say something like, "I'm an ahhhtist", please feel free to slap me about the head, mmmkay? Back to the topic of art.

There are days when I look at my computer and I am the rainy, slippery, lonely road: I need to be avoided. I'm focusing on what is wrong with my book or characters or whatever kerfuffle abounds on the interwebz that day. Lately there seems to be a new kerfuffle every day and it's maddening and its tiring and I'm getting of the subject really quickly, aren't I? Those are the days when I'm in the wrong frame of mind. I'm missing that beautiful moment when the sunshine (a review, a new contract, a kind word from my agent or editor) breaks through  to change the day.

Those are the days when I remind myself to change my frame of mind. Not to focus on the slippery road of a bad review or another writer whose career seems to be going places faster than my own. Instead of that negative focus, I look for the sunshine breaking through. Maybe it's a new freelance job or maybe it's a "OMG, how did you make me like *him*" comment from my critique partner. Sometimes it's something wonderful happening for a dear friend. Sometimes it's a bebe moment of triumph. More often than not, that sunshine is as simple as re-reading a sentence that I wrote a week or a day or a month ago that makes me see a character (or something happening in my real life) in a different light. And I realize, even if things aren't all roses and success, that I get to do this wonderful, amazing thing. I get to tell stories and the stories that I tell might change the way someone looks at their corner of the world. Maybe just for a moment, but maybe, that change will be longer lasting. In either case, I've done my job well.

What is your art? How will you celebrate it today?