Welcome to the official blog of Maumee Valley Romance Writers of America! We're a local writers' group in the Toledo, Ohio area. Most of us write romance, but we also have members who write other genres too. New members are always welcome to visit or join the group. See the meetings page for details. We post every Monday and Friday about all things book-related. Whether you're a writer, reader, or both, we hope you'll stop by often and get to know our dozen contributors.

Friday, August 29, 2014

On Making Yourself Happy and Remarkably Less Disturbable

Click to purchase at Amazon
Click to purchase at Amazon

When I first went to visit my counselor (Jennifer), I related a long list of all my problems and failings and when I was finished, she looked at me and said, “You're your own worst enemy, aren't you?”

And I suddenly realized she was right.

I had spent practically my entire life feeling a failure, despite being a successful person. I graduated sixth in my class, but I got a D in trigonometry. I worked hard at my job, but somehow never felt good enough. Every time I made a mistake, I saw it as proof that I was a failure, and that led to hopelessness, misery and depression. I took refuge in food, television and obsessive reading. Anything that would help me forget—at least temporarily—how unhappy I felt deep inside.

Just prior to my first appointment with Jennifer, my hairdresser (Ellen) told me about a book called How to Make Yourself Happy and Remarkably Less Disturbable, by Albert Ellis, Ph.D (no relation). I started reading the book and began to realize that it was my negative thinking that was to blame. My personality is what it is. If I work really hard, I can change some of my negative tendencies, but for the most part, I'd just better learn to live with it. What I can do is learn to recognize my self-defeating thoughts and replace them with healthy ones.


I'm a Procrastinator


Perfectionists demand perfection. But fear of submitting work that is less than perfect can make me fearful of even getting started. Maybe it will turn out better if I think about it awhile. I'll get started tomorrow. So I keep delaying the project and feeling more anxious as each day passes. Giving myself another day “to think about it” temporarily releases the tension—much like eating a banana split the night before starting a diet—but the end result is more anxiety and guilt.

Human beings have innate, self-destructive tendencies, so simply pretending they don't exist doesn't work. Simply trying to be positive won't do it. The first thing you have to do is accept that you are who you are, that you have these tendencies, but that you can learn to recognize them and reject them for more constructive, healthy ones.

Realistically, the harmful thinking will never completely go away. You will still mess up and sabotage yourself and that is why the title of this book isn't How to Make Yourself Happy and Completely Eliminate Disturbable Thinking, but How to Make Yourself Happy and Remarkably Less Disturbable.


Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (or Cognitive Behavior Therapy)


The next step is to recognize your disturbing thoughts and realize they are wrong. For example: 

I'll never be a successful author so why bother trying? 

Now think about it. Is it really true that you'll for sure never be a successful author? Do you have a crystal ball telling you that? If you work as hard as you can, isn't there at least a chance that you'll be successful? If you never even try—or give up too soon—then you know for sure you'll never be successful! 

And if you don't try, and never reach your goal, will it make you feel better to know that you never wasted any time trying? Not likely. If you're anything like me, you'd forever regret that you never tried and thus are doomed to wonder what could have happened.

There are some things you can control and some things you have no control over. You can't control the book market. Publishers. Trends. Readers. Opinions. Weather. The Stock Market. Anything that happened yesterday.

What you can control are your own thoughts. It makes no sense to give up before I've even started. While I can't possibly know the end result—so what is the point of worrying about it?—I do know that this is what I've wanted to do for a long time and I owe it to myself to make the effort. The worst that could happen is that I never make the best-sellers' list and nobody likes my writing, but at least I've made myself happy by daring to make the attempt. It wouldn't have made me feel better if I'd spent the time watching television or keeping my house spotless or reading some other author's books and wondering whether I could write better ones. Would it?

REBT is more than just recognizing and disputing destructive thoughts, though. You have to teach yourself to utterly destroy them. This takes a great deal of effort and time, and while you won't completely conquer it, you can make your life ever so much more pleasant by becoming proficient at this remarkable cognitive technique. When I find myself backsliding, I take out one of my Ellis books and start re-reading it for a few minutes every day to remind me that in this uncertain world where so much going on is out of my control, I do have the power to control my own thinking. And the harder I work, the less disturbable my life becomes.

Try it: it works!

Albert Ellis, Ph.D., (1913-2007) was a psychologist and founder of the Albert Ellis Institute for Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy in New York City, with affiliated centers throughout the world. His popular books include How to Keep People from Pushing Your Buttons, Sex Without Guilt, Anger: How to Live With and Without It, and A New Guide to Rational Living. He was perhaps the best-known and most honored psychologist of our time.


About the Author


A former teacher, Susana is finally living her dream of being a full-time writer. She loves all genres of romance, but historical—Regency in particular—is her favorite. There’s just something about dashing heroes and spunky heroines waltzing in ballrooms and driving through Hyde Park that appeals to her imagination.

Susana is a resident of northwest Ohio and central Florida, although she has lived in Ecuador and studied in Spain, France and Mexico. More recently, she was able to travel around the UK and visit many of the places she’s read about for years, and it was awesome! She is a member of the Maumee Valley, Central Florida, and Beau Monde chapters of Romance Writers of America.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friends for Lunch

I met up with writer friends for lunch recently. Our schedules, like most, are full and when we get together topics bounce around swiftly from fictional characters and topics, to real people and events.

“But, I’m stuck on how am I going to kill the ex?” mingles with the “Get the dressing on the side or else your salad will be drowning in it.”
“Did you say drown him?”
“Huh? I guess you could drown him in your backyard pool.”
“I don’t have one.”
“Start digging.” Chuckles.
“Pass the sugar, please.”
“Are you going to be at that meeting next month?” Some heads shake, some nod.
“How much do you hate the ex?”
“Can’t be a pool, I don’t want him found right away.”
“Take good notes for me, will you?”
“I hate this hot, humid weather.”

Topics continued to shift. Overall, our gardens haven’t done as well this season as last year. We seem to be eating more fast food lately and diets start next week. Workouts have been sporadic mainly interrupted by scheduling conflicts and health issues. One of the kids broke an arm right before school restarts. In addition to our own difficulties, however, we talked about recent sad and bad news we either saw on television or heard on the radio.

It became apparent as we finished our meals, that we didn’t wish to end our luncheon on a sorrowful note, but we struggled. We support each other on all sorts of topics and writing dilemmas, but this rough patch of recent events has affected us all.

“Well, I rarely have room, but I’m ordering dessert!”
Everyone stayed. Everyone ordered a dessert.

I couldn’t quite shake off the gloom, and doubt anyone else could either, but we did attempt to place the sad subjects behind us.

But it was the extra time we took, seated together shoulder to shoulder for a little while longer, that made a big difference.

In this small shared act we silently screamed our support and care of one another and it helped buoy our spirits. Or maybe it was the sugar.

“Hey! It’s football season!”
There were a few groans, a few smirks. Comments about rival teams were made as we left the restaurant feeling better.

Sometimes writers need hugs, a big dose of sugar and a little extra time with other people.


 About the Author
Tanja Fazzari writes science fiction and paranormal romances, mostly, until some Viking or Highlander  tramples incessantly through her head demanding she hurry it up and write their story about conquest and love. Fortunately she has an understanding, loving husband who mans the fort and can protect his own. At this time, Tanja's working on a contemporary suspense novel.

Friday, August 8, 2014

BUILD-A-WORLD

Question…
Can you imagine where you’ll be…
In three years?
I’ve asked many friends to visualize…
Where they’ll be in three years.
Most cannot see it or feel it.
But as a writer…
Can you?
I mean…
You always create worlds…
a.k.a. world-building…
For your readers, don’t you?
Always imagining people, places, and things…
That have never existed before…
Until it was up in your head.
But do or can you…
World-build your own real world?
Because until your future arrives…
It has never existed before…
Just like your stories.
And just like the storyteller for your readers…
What stories are you creating…
For youself?
And if you have done this for yourself…
How did you do it?
So?
Where will you be in three years?

Always,

Em-Musing

Leigh lives on the Riviera Maya in Mexico. She writes humorous women's fiction
and is putting together a writer's retreat for next spring.

Friday, August 1, 2014

My New Project: An Anthology

I've thought about doing an anthology project for some time, but it was only after Kim Jacobs' presentation at the MVRWA July meeting that I seriously considered organizing one for Regency authors. Why? It sounded like fun, for one thing, but as Kim mentioned, with several authors all promoting the book at the same time, it would likely bring us all to the attention of new readers who might well decide to check out our older titles.

As to the theme, it didn't take long to come up with Waterloo. The Napoleonic War is an important reality during the Regency period, and 2015 is the bicentenary of the victory at Waterloo, which was June 18, 1815. If we could release our volume by April 1, it might capture the interest of Regency readers interested in commemorating the battle that defeated Napoleon once and for all.


Apparently a number of authors thought this project of merit, because almost immediately I had 22 authors interested in joining our group. My research advised starting out with at least three times the optimal number, which has proved to be good advice, as there were several dropouts as specific decisions were made regarding heat level, deadline, etc. Since I write sweet and my readers expect sweet romance from me, it didn't seem advisable to include steamy stories in the same volume, although there's no reason the others couldn't do their own steamier volume. The other factor was deadline, and several authors were already so busy with current projects that they didn't want to commit to a January 1, 2015 deadline.

Other issues to consider were goals—with half a dozen people to split royalties with, it seems unlikely to generate a huge profit, but it could stimulate interest in our other work. And while these projects can be done almost entirely in-house with very little investment required, I'm inclined to hire a professional editor and have an experienced literary attorney draw up the contract. And there may be promotional expenses as well. It seems to me that if we're going to do it, we should make sure it's done well.

Although I'm willing to handle the finances and a share of the copy editing, the other authors will have to lend a hand to things like the cover, formatting, marketing plan, etc. I have my own writing to consider, and it won't get done if I'm spending all my time on this project.

I'm excited about all we've accomplished in less than two weeks. Kim Jacobs' presentation was apropos, occurring only days before the beginning of the RWA conference, and I was able to attend presentations on this topic as well as network with other authors. I think we have a plan that will work.

What do you think? Have you ever been a part of a similar anthology project?

About the Author

A former teacher, Susana is finally living her dream of being a full-time writer. She loves all genres of romance, but historical—Regency in particular—is her favorite. There’s just something about dashing heroes and spunky heroines waltzing in ballrooms and driving through Hyde Park that appeals to her imagination.

Susana is a resident of northwest Ohio and central Florida, although she has lived in Ecuador and studied in Spain, France and Mexico. More recently, she was able to travel around the UK and visit many of the places she’s read about for years, and it was awesome! She is a member of the Maumee Valley, Central Florida, and Beau Monde chapters of Romance Writers of America.

Her latest release is A Twelfth Night Tale, a sweet Regency Christmas novella in Ellora's Cave's Blush Cotillion Christmas series.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Daunting Task of Writing a Blog


As many of you know, I am a new writer and writing my first blog post.   Much consideration went into what I would write about today.  I started a deep meaningful soul searching blog, and I scrapped that.  Then, I started an insightful blog, but how much insight can a new writer provide.  So, I decided that I would just write about ice cream.

I was sitting yesterday in Mayberry at the ice cream parlor waiting for my daughter that was swimming with her friends at Centennial Quarry.  Did you ever notice how many flavors of ice cream there are? Just the selection process is overwhelming, so many varieties and you can select just one, sometimes two if you do a double scoop.  You could select more, but then the flavors will get all jumbled together and you won’t appreciate each for what they offer.

If you think about it, ice cream flavors can be likened to writing.  We have so many types of novels we can write, but we must pick just one or possibly two “flavors” for each book.  Do we write a Historical Suspense, a Futuristic Paranormal, etc… we are free to decide what we will flavor each book with, keeping in mind that we can’t combine too many flavors or the reader may get confused. 

Point of View is another “flavor” that needs to be selected.  With this, you need to be careful, selecting just one at a time, you can never have two mixed together.  A point of view can be likened to the single dip cone.  You can go back for another, but only one flavor at a time will suffice. 

Choices, choices, we are always afraid to make the wrong one.  After all these thoughts were racing through my head, I finally decided on my ice cream flavor….. Moose Tracks!

Friday, July 25, 2014

New homes inspire novel ideas

As writers we try to keep our senses open to ideas and events we can incorporate into our stories. 

One of those components includes setting up the location, the scene, the space – AKA, the stage. One of those stages might be a home, a room or backyard.

Last weekend I visited the BIA Parade of Homes in Columbus, Ohio. In this year’s annual event, presented by the Building Industry Association of Central Ohio, a dozen custom builders are showcasing their homes ranging from $679,000 to $1,195,000.

I hiked up stairs checking out bedrooms, baths, walk-in closets, laundry rooms and balconies. I hiked back down the stairs viewing master suites, kitchens, great rooms, dining rooms, libraries and study rooms, and toured further down into finished basements with media rooms, bar areas, rec rooms, workout rooms and covered patios.

Interior designers decorated the rooms and I oohed and aahed my way through these houses absorbing not only the latest styles, colors and finishes, but also the latest home products. It was a Sunday smorgasbord for the brain and senses.

I enjoyed listening to builders and designers talk about the exciting features in their houses. I listened to people reacting to different rooms and hooted, silently to myself, as husbands and wives passed by arguing about a space as they imagined themselves already living there.

I left that evening with information and details that I might use to help me better describe settings more vividly. My head spun with ideas and possibilities and my fingers itched to write them down.

So if you’re looking for inspiration and ideas about a room or a house, check and see if there is an upcoming home tour in your area. Not only do you meet wonderful and helpful people in the construction industry, you can also pick up terms and processes that can inspire greater interest and color to your scenes.

While I won’t be able to include the cappuccino/espresso bar in my historical highlander novel, I know the hidden compartment in the pantry might prove useful.


About the Author
Tanja Fazzari writes science fiction and paranormal romances, mostly, until some Viking or Highlander tramples incessantly through her head demanding she hurry it up and write their story about conquest and love. Fortunately she has an understanding, loving husband who mans the fort and can protect his own. At this time, Tanja’s working on her first contemporary suspense novel.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Balance and brain-freeze

Ever ingest too much cold (usually ice cream) too fast and end up with brain-freeze? Fortunately this type of brain-freeze doesn’t last long and may even be worth the delicious imbalance that causes it. However, you get brain-freeze of a different and debilitating variety when your life is out of balance. Whether the imbalance is due to stress, poor health, mental distress, you name it, the source of a life imbalance only matters when searching for a cure. The brain-freeze symptom—the inability to make decisions or progress toward your stated goals—can occur at the slightest imbalance. The cure is a willingness to take a hard look at where the imbalance is in your life and then take action. Preventive actions, which include meditation, exercise, healthy eating habits and supportive relationships, can minimize the effect of brain-freeze due to life imbalance. Having a plan for how to handle a life imbalance can help too—sort of like having a plan for escaping a fire in your home. Should preventive measures fail, your whole life can go up in smoke without an escape plan. Writing until I can locate the source of the imbalance and act on it is my plan for escaping brain-freeze. What’s your plan?