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, October 24, 2014

The Life of a Mexican Jumping Bean

by Sophia Strathmore

I still distinctly remember a road trip that I took with my family in 1977. I was nearly seven years old when we embarked on a trip that would be remembered by me for the rest of my life. It was the early morning hours on a crisp June morning when we all piled into our family’s white Ford LTD station wagon to travel by car from Ohio to California. It was to be a three week long adventure; six people and one car, we were ready for anything.

As we said good-by to our home and settled in for our journey, we had no idea what escapades lie ahead. As children, my brother, sister and I spent much of our time stretched out in the back of the car, playing games or singing. My grandmother sat in the back seat relaxing and sleeping. Unlike the children of today, we had no electronic devices to keep us company, all we had was each other.

We took the northern route out to California, stopping at famous places like Pike’s Peak. Riding the train up the mountain was quite an adventure. We spent a week in California and then we headed home. The southern route back to Ohio is what I remember most.

Likely we were in New Mexico or Arizona when we went into one of those famous tourist type stores. As a starry eyed kid, I took in all the items. They had scorpions encased as paper weights, maracas, everything that an almost seven year old child would want to buy. Staying close to my Mother, we walked around until I saw them, the Mexican jumping beans. They were in a small plastic case that you could open and you could put the beans in your hand and they moved about. I was mesmerized.

This certainly didn’t seem possible. These beans appeared to be inanimate objects, but somehow they jumped and wiggled. I looked up at my mother and she indicated that we could make this purchase. I was so excited that I would be able to show these magical beans to my friends in Ohio. As we exited the store, the beans were clanging in the plastic case and I was enthralled. This was better than anything that I had ever owned before, a veritable treasure. I proudly got back into our station wagon, and we were off.

As you can imagine, not knowing much about jumping beans and how to preserve the small larvae inside, the beans eventually stopped moving and by the time we were back home, they moved no more. They were just hard outer shells no longer possessing their magical abilities that had drawn me to them.

Sometimes I wonder if Valentino and I have failed our daughter Elle. She is nearly ready to leave our nest and set off on a life of her own. What memories have we built for her? She has no memories of long road trips and Mexican Jumping Beans. Well, we have decided that this year during the holidays we will create our own memories of a road trip. We will drive from Ohio to Key West, Florida and who knows, we might even be able to find the world’s largest ball of twine.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Winterize Your Writing

I celebrated fall's arrival by digging into the back of my closet for jeans and sweaters. 

It's at this time of year, I hear talk about winterizing one's wardrobe, car, lawn, house, etc. So why not winterize our writing?

In my mind, that means preparing to use the winter time to write faster. It also means to prepare against derailment by installing new tracks.

Take quick inventory and assess your writing needs. Decide what will help make you more productive, efficient, excited and/or happier in your writing career. Then take steps toward achieving those goals.

I think one exciting tool at our disposal is National Novel Writing Month. Look them up online. It's free to participate. In short, the goal is to write 50,000 words of new fiction in the thirty days of November.

For some authors that number might not be impressive enough, and you're welcome to set your bar at 100,000 or more! The approaches and decisions by fellow writers is endless.

As the day light hours shorten, I become more easily distracted and worry that I'm not putting in the writing time I should, I begin to let holiday worry creep into my timelines and next thing I know I'm stressing over the calendar and clock more than moving forward on my writing.

But NaNoWriMo, as it's affectionately called, helps me keep my fingers on the keyboard. I feel inspired knowing that out there are thousands of other people pounding away writing stories as well.

NaNaWriMo was born when a small group of people complained how their busy lives kept them from writing the story they wanted to write. They decided to act and part of the legacy they created is now this annual one-month endeavor which has grown into a national phenomenon and continues to expand.

Over the last week, I've thought about the premise of my new novel and I jotted down a few scenes, but, for the most part, I'll let the characters reveal themselves next month while I type (pantser style).

I like that once a year, I squash all the fear demons, worries over plot and the editorial gremlins that pound in my head. Instead, I become consumed with the need to write as fast as I can on that one story and let the whims of those imaginary characters take over.

Others I know, studiously plot and outline their new novel this month. Their plan is to be prepared to strike that keyboard on the first of November with exacting purpose (sigh, I so admire those plotters).

Some people are so meticulous they even write-up a month long meal plan for their family and farm out chore duties. I make sure there's sufficient coffee, tea and chocolate in the house and the rest will have to fend for themselves.

If you sign up for NaNoWriMo, I recommend checking to see if there's a community liaison in your area. Over the next few weeks, they usually will have a get-together for a chance to meet other fellow writers in your area. You may meet someone who writes in the same genre as you and/or shares the same interests.

During the November challenge, fellow NaNo writers will invite you to join them at libraries or coffee shops to write.  If you're not achieving your writing goals at home, you may want to try the "community" support approach by meeting with others to get more writing done.

If you browse the NaNoWriMo website you'll see they have created also e-mail loops which you can select for advice from grammar and plot lines, to historical nuances, weaponry, horror, death, romance, etc.

So, please check out NaNoWriMo and see if it's something that you'd like to participate in. 

Take a little time to winterize your writing by thinking about your goals and some of the steps you could take to achieve them. Whether that's writing more, implementing a new marketing strategy, taking a course or two, finding beta readers, an agent or editor.

Placing your focus on a few key goals as we approach winter will help you get through the colder days ahead and hopefully keep you on track through the holiday season.

I will feel really good if my December is spent editing a 50,000+ manuscript I typed up in November. Who knows? I could have a brand new novel finished by the New Year!

We'd like to hear from you. Share with us your insight on achieving writing goals through the winter. Are there things you do to "Winterize your Writing" or prepare for NaNoWriMo?

About the Author
Tanja Fazzari writes mostly science fiction, paranormal and contemporary suspense romances until some Viking or Highlander shows up demanding his story at sword point. Then, invariably, there is a delay.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Making a Soup Connection




It happened in the soup aisle at the grocery store. A man turned to me with three cans of Campbells Cream of Potato in his hands and said, “This is my 85-year-old mother’s favorite soup.” 

I replied, “I make mine from scratch.”

The twenty minutes that followed was him flirting with me, my husband informed me after I arrived home. (Yes, I’m married.) I did not believe him because people talk to me in the store all the time. I have one of those “I listen” faces. People spill their life stories to me regularly. So I didn’t find it unusual for the Soup Man to tell me where he worked, that he’d inherited his grandparents’ house with acres of land and was restoring it, that he took care of his mother, that he’d invested his retirement in antique cars and, although he’d never married, he still hoped to.

I’m not a temptress. I’m middle-aged, but even when I was young and skinny I did not drive men to pursue me. I managed to lasso my husband when he was young and skinny—socially awkward 17-year-old boys are fairly easy to catch—so how adult people shop for potential mates is a bit of a mystery to me.

But I’m a romance writer; I should be an expert on flirting. However, I failed to mention that it’s easiest to catch a socially awkward 17-year-old when you are the same. Clearly, Soup Man had been one, too. Perhaps he recognized a kindred soul. He thought “She likes Campbells Soup. I like it too.” He found something in common. Then, like a male peacock displaying colorful feathers, he rolled out items he thought would attract a middle-aged woman.

Many relationships begin in such a way. I’ve read untold contemporary romances where the hero and heroine share a moment over something.

His heart stirred in the soup aisle. There’s something heartwarming about that.


Shay Lacy writes romantic suspense, erotic romance and futuristic romance. Find out more about her and her novels at www.shaylacy.com.
 

Monday, October 6, 2014

THOUGHTS on THOUGHTS

Question:
If a tree falls in the forest…
And no one is there to hear it…
Does it make a noise?
Yeah, I know…
We’ve all heard that question before…
But how about this one:
If you blog and no one comments….
Does the blog post matter?
And if so…
To whom?
I often wonder about the value of blogging.
I do have my own blog…
That I blogged on for five years…
And I had 250 followers…
Some very loyal.
But then one day…
I put my blog on hiatus…
Thinking that I would devote my blog time…
To actual writing and submitting time.
I felt guilty at first…
But then I realized…
The world didn’t come to an end…
When my blogging days ended.
And in actuality…
I don’t know if I’m any more productive…
Then when I was blogging.
So another question:
If work fills the time allowed…
Does procrastination do to?
But the bigger question on my mind is …
If I post on this blog today…
And there are no comments…
Does my blog post even matter?

Always always,

Em-Musing

Author's Note: I do believe in the value of social networking,
especially when published including maintaining a web-site 
and blog.

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.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Of Marketing and Messages

Here’s the thing about being a published author. You can write the greatest story ever told (yes, I know that one’s been done already but just go with me on this for a minute). However, if no one knows about the story, you’ve wasted all your time and effort. A decade or so ago, the publishing industry was a well oiled, if somewhat cranky, machine. An author wrote a book. The book was submitted to a publisher for consideration. With luck and the right alignment of the planets, the publisher made an offer to publish the author’s book. Frequently that offer included significant marketing efforts to let readers know about this newest great read.

All of that has changed (for most authors). The chance is minuscule that a publisher will spend money and resources to market any single author’s book. E-publishing and the much wider acceptance of e-reading has produced a glut in the market. At .99 cents (or less) per item, books are some of the cheapest entertainment available. You might say this is great. Readers have more choices, and reading dollars have greater purchasing power. Hooray! I’m a reader. I love getting inexpensive books. What I don’t love is spending even .99 cents for drek.

How do I, as a reader, decide which of the millions of available books will give me a satisfying read? The avenues I once used have dwindled. Book stores no longer have friendly sales associates who’ve actually read the books and can hand sell them to me. Heck, brick and mortar book stores are disappearing faster than water in a desert. On the up side, book reviews have increased in number, but even the best reviewers cannot keep up with the thousands of books being published every week. In addition, reviewers are not without bias, so taking a recommendation from a reviewer involves some risk. Nor can I count on the reputation of a publishing house. I’m absolutely certain that every publisher believes the books they publish are the best books out there. Sometimes the publishers are right. Just as often they fail to meet the entertainment mark.

At one time in my life, the most reliable measure of book quality was an author’s name. Almost every reader has at least one ‘favorite’ author. A 'favorite' author represents consistent entertainment quality, and readers purchase that author’s books simply because of the author’s name. I must have a dozen or more ‘favorite’ authors. Sadly, I found those authors years ago, before the market glut and dwindling referral resources. Now days, some of my favorites rarely publish more than once a year. I can’t wait a year between books. I need more quality authors, and I’m not finding them.

Guess what? Other readers are also not finding new ‘favorite’ authors. I know. I’m one of those authors whose books languish for lack of a reliable conduit to readers who would love my stories, if only the readers knew the tales existed. I, like most of my fellow authors, spend time, effort, and money (which I’d rather spend on books) with social media, public appearances, building websites, running drawings, and announcing all these marketing efforts with little or no return on my investment.

I’ve taken countless marketing classes, attended numberless chats about how to reach readers, and exhausted myself both physically and mentally. I’ve worried myself into writer’s block. What I worry about most is the message sent by all the marketing and announcing followed by a close to deafening silence when I reach the point of exhaustion. In the end, this author is left with more questions than answers. What impression am I really leaving on the audience I hope to reach? Do readers know how much I care that I give them the best possible book? Do they have as much trouble as I have, finding new favorite authors? What’s the best way to increase my readership without being annoying and/or hopelessly whiny?

In an ideal world, I would do no marketing. I would write and spend time interacting with readers who love my books enough to let me know I’m one of their ‘favorite’ authors. The world is far from ideal, but if I could give readers one message it would be this. I write because I want to entertain you each and every time you open one of my books.

Please leave a comment. Let me know how you’re dealing with the market glut and the search for new 'favorite’ authors.

Rue Allyn is the author of heart melting historical, contemporary, and erotic romance novels. You may find more information about Rue and her books via the following links:  Rue's E-mail  Rue's Website  Rue on Facebook  Rue on Twitter  Rue on Goodreads Rue on Amazon

Monday, September 8, 2014

WHAT THOUGHTS MAY COME

I have a little thought…
That goes on inside of me…
And what can be the use of it…
Is more than I can see.
OK, yes…
This is a rip off…
Of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem…
“My Shadow” from A Child’s Garden of Verses
But it works…
With what I’ve been thinking about lately…
 “a little thought”
(actually, lots of little thoughts)
And if we believe Albert Einstein…
That everything is energy…
And nothing ever really goes away…
It just changes…
Into another form of energy…
Then what happens to all my little thoughts?
Where do they go?
What do they turn into?
Or do some thoughts…
Just go out into the ether…
Drifting along some quantum field…
Where someone else can connect with them…
And then to pick them…
Like juicy cherries…
And make something out of them…
Like pies…
Or Jams…
Or a book...
And then this someone…
Can claim it as their own original thought.
I can’t even guess…
How many little thoughts I’ve had…
That I have now forgotten.
Poor little thoughts…
I didn’t mean to let you go…
But alas, I did.
Sorry.
But you too, no?
You've had thoughts you've forgotten, yes?
So?
Where do you think your thoughts go?
Or does energy only have to do with matter?
And really…
In the whole scheme of the universe…
Do forgotten thoughts really matter?
Your thoughts, please.

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.