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.

Monday, April 21, 2014

How to kill your career in one easy step.



Failure is easy. All you have to do is nothing. Procrastination, silence, inaction all will have the same result the relationships dependent upon your interaction will die. While this post is about writing careers, the principles given here apply to any profession or endeavor. I’ve seen this happen to friends, and I know the truth from experience.
Success (regardless of how you measure it) is hard work. Enjoying the fruits of your labors (fame, fortune, peer respect, whatever) isn’t difficult, but gaining and maintaining those fruits requires involvement. Successful folks do not procrastinate. They carefully analyze their goals and situation, decide on a course then act. 

Before I published, I decided on a course of action—write as much as I could as fast as I could then revise and edit the dickens out of what I wrote before submitting my work to agents and editors. Once I submitted manuscripts I would continue that pattern of work. 

Then of course, life got in the way. The first time life seriously intersected my self-determined path to success, I did not recognize what happened until years afterward. My mother passed away, and I promised myself I would write soon. Six years later I was still making promises. A small delay in writing to allow myself to grieve would be reasonable. But to shut down almost all social interactions; to not even bother to start manuscripts, research or brainstorming; to lose touch with all my professional contacts; all were far from reasonable or even rational conduct leading to career success. My mother had not been supportive of my choice to pursue a career in writing, and that got tangle up with my grief. I had a lot to resolve, but sought no help, no grief counseling or other assistance because I wasn’t even aware I had a problem. As a result, my infant writing career died from lack of attention brought on by procrastination, silence and inaction.

What changed?

I ran in to an old author friend who asked me what happened to my writing. The question shocked me. I hadn’t realized anything had happened. Awake now to the problem, I set about re-establishing my writing career. I used a pseudonym but followed pretty much the same work pattern that had previously proven successful. I achieved greater success, partly because I didn’t want to go back to that sad, lonely, procrastinator ever again.

Despite my best efforts life got in the way and threw me another curve (this one much more painful than losing my mother). The hidden blessing in my first experience is that I only needed a few months to realize I was back on the road to failure, procrastinating, not communicating, failing to act.  Overcoming this situation has been and continues to be difficult. I must force myself to write, to communicate socially, to act when the easy thing to do would be to let it all slide. However, failure is only an option if I allow it, and I am determined not to. On this I will act. 

Check up on me occasionally and see how I’m doing. Meanwhile leave a comment. Let me know if you’ve ever struggled to keep your dreams alive. Or if you allowed one or two to die what will you do to resurrect it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Running With Blinders On, Focusing on our Own Race.

I'm sure most of you have heard that reason behind why racing horses wear blinders. It's often used by motivational speakers. For those of you who haven't, essentially blinders are used so that the horse can't see the others around them. So they run their own race and don't focus on their competition.

I often use this analogy when others ask me for advice on writing and the publishing business. Though, I find it's the hardest advice for me to take.

I think it's human nature for us to want to compare ourselves to what others are doing, especially those who are in a similar business -- or have written and published a similar book.

Even though I know it's advisable to keep those blinders on, I can't help but do some comparisons every know and again.

But what I've found is that even though comparisons can give you a good idea about what other authors or do, or what topics and genres are trending at the moment, comparing myself to others usually makes me feel defeated.

I find myself asking why someone is selling better or why they have more visibility. I try to figure out what I'm doing wrong instead of focusing on what I'm doing right. I'm like that horse that doesn't have the blinders on. I'm worrying about someone else's race and not my own.

The more I focus on others, the further I fall behind.

So today, I'm giving out this advice again, mostly for my own ears to hear.

Whether we're talking about publishing or any personal goal you may have, put on the blinders. Don't focus on what others are doing. Focus on being the best you can be.

Run your own race.

Constance Phillips lives in Ohio with her husband, daughter, and four canine kids. Her son, now on his own, is planning a wedding, reconfirming that romance still lives and breathes. When not writing stories of finding and rediscovering love, Constance and her husband spend the hours planning a cross-country motorcycle trip for the not-so-distant future…if they can find a sidecar big enough for the pups.

Find out more about Constance and her books at her 
websiteFacebook,TwiiterGoodreads and Pinterest
 pages

Friday, April 4, 2014

Liquid Courage in My Purse








Health care makes me anxious, so I took a small bottle of Moscato (very sweet white wine) to my ultrasound appointment for liquid courage. I didn’t end up needing to drink it, but it had an effect anyway.

First, I showed it to every health care worker who interacted with me, from the registration clerk to the ultrasound tech. All of them smiled. Several of them laughed. Several confided their day warranted sharing that bottle (and this was at 7:45 in the morning!). A couple asked what kind it was because they wanted to mix it with orange juice. Every person was nice to me. Now it might be that particular facility treats everybody well. But I think people were so surprised that I had booze in my purse that I became something more than a patient number. I was out-of-the-ordinary, and people stepped out of their ordinary roles to interact with me.

Second, the fact that I had liquid courage on hand gave me the patience to sit calmly during computer snafus. It settled my nerves a little knowing if F.U.B.A.R. happened, like it did at my last appointment, I might be willing to go with the flow with a little lubrication libation. Strangers talk to me. I must have one of those “happy to listen” faces. So even when other people in the waiting area told me their horror stories, the little Moscato kept me from panicking too much.

I would not have gotten the same effect from having a rosary or rabbit’s foot. (I’m more into voodoo dolls anyway.) Those items don’t enter your bloodstream and make you feel good. So from now on anytime I have to visit health care, my liquid courage is going with me. And I may expand its travel to anyplace else I might be nervous. My little Moscato may make the world a better place with my sunnier disposition, and the happiness it seemed to spread in its wake.


Shay Lacy writes romantic suspense, erotic fantasy romance and futuristic romance. You can find out more about Shay or her novels at www.shaylacy.com.
 

Monday, March 31, 2014

I'M EXPECTING!

Recently, I was told by my editor…
That when a person buys a book…
There’s an expectation…
And it's up to the author
To meet the readers expectation.
And of course the reader has an expectation
Because doesn’t everything we buy…
Come with an expectation?
Say for instance Jello…
If I buy Jello and make it
I expect it to, well, gel. Or is it Jel?
If I buy eggs…
I expect when I crack the shells…
To find eggs inside.
So why hadn’t I thought about expectations…
When I was writing my manuscript?
But in my defense…
It wasn’t like I was trying
To short circuit the author's expectations 
I enjoyed every word I wrote in the story 
Ah, and there’s the rub…
“I” was enjoying the story.
And what’s wrong with you that, you might ask?
Nothing, if I was the only one going to read my book.
My editor also pointed out that the reader
When reading my book
Might have a dialog in their head
That goes something like this…
“Why doesn’t she leave her putz of a husband?
Will she ever kiss the hero?
Why is there all this backstory? I’m not dumb!
Why is this chapter even in the book?
Or, huh? 
I thought I was reading a romance…
And now it's switched to contemporary? C’mon!”
And I’m not saying that the reader…
Would have a bitch session with other readers…
But in the reader’s mind these objections…
Might make them put my book down…
And use it as a coaster for their coffee cup.
Or worse - never buy from me again.
So?
My question to you, dear writer is this…
Do you picture your reader when you write?
How do you do it?
And do you have someone in particular?

Always,
Em-Musing

P.S. Coming soon—with soon being a relative concept—I will be providing details on my upcoming Writer’s Retreat.

Leigh Caron writes humorous women's fiction. She lives
in the jungle in Mexico on the Riviera Maya Caribbean coast. 




Friday, March 28, 2014

RENEW, REFRESH and RESTART

Sometimes the simple approach is necessary to remind ourselves what we are about...

For months my writing suffered, stuttered and stalled and I couldn't seem to find a way to recharge. Finally a month ago, I filed the drafts away, cleared the desk and hit the "Restart" button.

I started with one simple, doable and ahievable goal:
Write for 30 minutes every day for 30 days with a minimum daily word count of 300 (and no editing).

I was a bit embarrassed for not setting a loftier goal, especially when I announced my plan to a group of fellow writers. Now everyone knew.

I called it 30/30. It had a start date, deadline and a minimum word requirement to keep myself writing rather than staring and wilting before a blinking icon. The first few days were excruciating. I would open the document, set the timer and tap the keyboard. My fingers felt knotted, my ideas were chaotic and even the sentences seemed stilted and messy. I caught myself praying the timer would buzz.

I e-mailed my writing support group.They encouraged me and every day, I set the timer opened the document and went at it again.

I kept a daily log naming the project I was working on, the time I started, ended, the number of words I accrued and once in a while, a few additional comments were tossed in, such as surroundings, mood, possible story angles, etc.

By the end of the first week, my word count improved, but I made a much more important discovery:
I looked FORWARD to starting my writing sessions!

My mind finally stopped with the recriminations and regrets; instead it hummed with renewed hunger to write. It didn't matter how much I had done or failed in the past, I woke up looking forward to today's story.

Midway through the month, I began to feel a budding sense of confidence. Along with that, came renewed energy and surprised wonder. Could it really be this simple? Was it really necessary to hit a big imaginary "Restart" button to clear the deck and start over?

Looking back, I realize I had fallen into a rut and couldn't shake it loose. The longer and harder I stared at my work, the muddier it seemed to become. Projects blurred until I had to reboot!

Sometimes stepping back and taking a simpler approach is necessary to remind ourselves what we are about and what is important. The 30/30 may be oversimplified, but it did clear the air and help me focus on writing. I made the leap and I like the new writer that is emerging -- stronger, refreshed and much more alert.

On Day 30, I woke early, wrote and spent the rest of my day relaxing and basking in the glow of success. OK, I confess, I was so excited I couldn't wait to make new plans and goals.

How do you periodically "Refresh" or "Reboot"? What are some of the signs that help you recognize when it's time to hit the "Renew" button?


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, she's working on her first contemporary suspense novel.

Monday, March 24, 2014

What is My Author Brand?

Author branding encompasses a lot more than just logos and designs. Your brand is the face you present to the world, through your writing, your promotional activities, and your social media presence. Your brand telegraphs who you are to your readers.

Lately I've become aware that my brand sends a lot of mixed messages. The pretty theme I used for Susana's Parlour is the same or similar to other people's blogs, who apparently thought it was pretty too. Hmm.

The theme on Susana's Morning Room was equally pretty and not so popular among bloggers, but it didn't really convey Susana. Ditto with my website. It's pretty and functional, but you wouldn't know by looking at the design that it was mine. And what about my Facebook and Twitter headers? All pretty, but mismatched and inconsistent.

Reflecting On Swag


Last year when I designed my swag for Treasuring Theresa, I had no idea what I was doing, but I ended up using a distinctive gold color in my collector cards, bookmarks, etc. It looked nice on the table in the Goody Room at RT and RWA, but as far as an author brand…I wasn't even sure what that was. I did find it gratifying, however, when one of the authors who was signing a book for me looked at my name tag and remembered my display. She probably didn't stop long or take a card, but the name made at least a brief impression on her because of the color.

So this year when I was planning what sort of swag to order, it occurred to me to use that gold color and design a distinctive graphic for Susana's brand. When you see that logo, the name Susana Ellis should come to mind, as well as historical romance. And while there's nothing overt that says sweet romance, the image is pretty and sweet and there are no naked hunks or disarranged clothing anywhere in sight.

Mug Design


Coincidentally, I am taking a Wordpress course and learning all sorts of things I never knew about, so I took the opportunity to customize the design of both Susana's Morning Room and Susana's Parlour to reinforce my new brand. I used the new graphic for both Facebook and Twitter. The website is next, but that's a bit more complicated. When I get that done, I'm planning to have a big party to celebrate the new look.

In the meantime, though, take a look and tell me what you think so far. Both blogs are also being tweaked a bit with each lesson in the course. Pat Haggerty is an excellent instructor. I'm planning to take his Scrivener course later on in the year. While I thought I was proficient in Wordpress, there is a lot of the nitty-gritty that I didn't know. I'm sure the same is true with Scrivener.



Stickers

Poster


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.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Reading Lessons

My daughter is learning to read. To this point (she's 5) she has been a really, really good memorizer and word recognizer but now that Kindergarten is in full swing (11 snow days this winter notwithstanding) she is truly become a good reader.

Books have always been part of her life. During the lo-o-ong nights as a newborn I would read or sing with her to settle her down.

She carried around those board-books with a picture and single word on the pages so long they started to fall apart and we had to buy new ones.

We have early reader books in our house and phonics books and (what's left of) two of those single-word board books. Her two favorite days at school are Wednesday and Friday - Wednesday because it's Computer Morning in the Library and Friday because it's the day she gets to pick a new book to bring home.

What all this learning to read has taught me is the difference between recognizing words like 'the' or 'boy' or 'play' and understanding that all of those words together have meaning - the boy wanted to play baseball - and that meaning can be the basis of a story.

As I'm watching her learn how an exclamation point means anger but a question mark needs an answer and seeing comprehension dawn in her eyes, she is also teaching me. She is teaching me to fall back in love with words and sentences and punctuation. She is teaching me to take a bit more time to get the emotion of a scene exactly right. And she is encouraging me to understand what my characters are saying, what they need.

Turns out, I'm having reading lessons while she is learning to read.