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, October 31, 2011

Yep, it's Halloween, and I'm goin' there...

‘I am the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and Fries.’
~ Stephen King

Oh, but don’t we love a Big Mac and fries?

Okay, some of us don’t, but when you think about what he’s saying, he’s absolutely right. A Big Mac, both when you break it down into its components and consider it as a whole, is disturbing, scary, and to some delicious. So, you might say, is a good Stephen King novel.

I’m a huge fan of his early work. Cujo, Christine, ‘Salem’s Lot (shiver), Pet Cemetery… The Shining, the first horror novel I ever read, by the way, gave me nightmares and inspired me to hide all of my stuffed animals in my closet after the topiary scene. (I was sixteen, so it was probably time anyway.) Misery had me so enthralled that my husband at the time left for work and came home to find me in the same spot on the couch two days in a row. (I’d spent the time in between taking care of our brand new baby, cooking, cleaning and doing laundry while he was gone, but it didn’t look so good from his perspective.) It was simply a period self-torture because I, like lots of other people I know, get the big-time willies from clowns, even when they’re just supposed to be funny.

I’ve never been a big reader of horror novels in particular, but I like to shake myself up every so often. I love Richard Kadrey and Chuck Palahniuk's dark and twisty minds. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is the scariest vampire novel I’ve personally ever read. Period. I’ve got a dog-eared copy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as well. I didn’t get very far into her vampire series, but The Witching Hour and The Mummy (hubba hubba) are two of my favorite Anne Rice novels. Neither of those is particularly scary, but they're loaded with lots of love, angst, and drama, drama, drama.

And whether we write it or just enjoy reading it, who among us doesn’t like a little of the paranormal in our romance novels? I bet there aren’t a lot of hands up right now.

The world of romance can be a murky bog to wade through - especially if you head into it hunting down the vampire/witch/fallen angel you’re meant to love forever and ever - but there’s always sunshine, or moonlight, when you make it to the other side. Do you find you like to travel out of the traditional romance world and into the dark on occasion? If you do, what are some of the books that take you there?

And whether you like it squeaky clean or bone-chilling, I hope your weekend has been fun!

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Waiting Game

As we’ve become a society dependent on instant gratification, I believe our patience for waiting has plummeted. We live in a world where we pull into a fast food drive-through and in minutes have a hot meal. With a click, a cable TV station or Internet site gives us the latest details on world weather, political platforms, and entertainment news. With online banking, I can withdrawal money at the ATM and by the time I get home, the updates to my account can be found online.

We deliberately make choices in our lives to wait the least amount of time, if possible. As a consequence, we’ve become bad waiters (not to be confused with lousy servers at a restaurant). But sometimes, we have no choice. We must wait for reports from health tests, the perfect autumn day, and babies to come into the world.

As writers, I think we experience more than our share of playing the waiting game. We enter contests and don’t find out the results for months. We send out query letters to agents and editors, and send our partials and complete manuscripts to those who’ve requested them. We wait. And wait some more. When we finally have reached the publication stage, time continues to drag until we are given a publish date. Of course, then we wait some more until we find our book on the bookstore shelf!

But waiting doesn’t have to mean idle time. Life can't be put on hold. We need to hope for good test results, anticipate with excitement that first perfect fall day, and knit baby booties in pastel colors. As a writer, we must keep plotting, continue writing, and not stop querying. I know—easier said than done.

How about you? How do you play the waiting game?

Jenna Rutland
   Writing stories of love, laughter 

          and happily ever after

Monday, October 24, 2011

Why I Write

I often compare writing a book to having a baby. Okay, so this comparison really only works for women who have had babies, and therefore, understand what the heck I'm talking about, but seeing as I have four kids, it's a comparison that works well for me.

One: Getting a bright, shiny new idea is a lot like deciding it's time to have a baby. It's all you can think about, the idea consumes your mind every waking hour of the day. Despite your other responsibilities, having that baby (i.e. getting that idea down) is all you think of.

Two: The process begins. For conceiving that baby, that means lots of time between the sheets. For writing a book, it means getting those initial thoughts and ideas down, however that works for you. For me, that means deciding who my characters are, naming them, and spending some time considering where they will be when the story opens as opposed to where they will be when the story ends.

Three: Then begins the gestation period--when the baby grows to the point it can be born, and when the book grows, one word at a time, slowly morphing toward being an actual story.

Four: Ah, now we're to labor. Labor isn't fun, ask any woman who has gone through it if you don't believe me. It's hard. It's painful. It makes you wonder why the heck you thought it was a good idea to have a baby in the first place. In writing, this is when I'm approaching my deadline and the book is close to being finished, but isn't quite there. This is when I'm not sleeping, barely eating, drinking tons of coffee, and wondering why the heck I decided to write novels. This is when I think I would rather do anything else EXCEPT write.

Five: Then, lo and behold, it's time to push the baby out into the world. This is when your energy is at its lowest, when the last thing you want to do is push (or write), but you're so close and you can't not finish. I mean, the baby (i.e. book) has to be born. So you give it your all, maybe scream a bit, possibly shed a tear or two, and then...suddenly, after all that work and sweat, you're done.

Six: Birth! That moment you hold your baby for the very first time, the elation that swarms in and overtakes everything else, the strange amnesia that strikes so you forget how HORRIBLE labor actually was, is--to me--pretty dang close to how I feel when I finish a book. It's this wondrous moment of pride and joy and exhaustion.

And that feeling right there is why I write. Sure, I love the shiny-new-idea phase, and I love getting those initial thoughts and ideas down, but I always forget (truly, I do) how miserable I am near the end of any book I write. How tired I feel, how I want the story over--NOW--and how I'd rather be doing anything else other than finishing that book.

But the moment I type the final words in my manuscript is a moment that is so awesome, it makes everything else worthwhile. Because while I enjoy many parts of the journey, it's the satisfaction of finishing that pushes me on to the next shiny new idea.

And then, naturally, the process begins again.

So, that's why I write. Well, that and these dang voices that refuse to leave my head...

Tracy Madison is an award-winning author who writes contemporary romance novels for Harlequin Special Edition. Her first book in the Foster Brothers series, Miracle Under the Mistletoe is available now. Visit her at www.tracymadison.com

Friday, October 21, 2011

Try it, you'll like it!

So many of us are resistant to change.

That was made exponentially clear to me as our group, the MVRWA, held a fundraiser at the Applebutter Festival in Grand Rapids, OH a few weekends ago.

We raffled off a Kindle.

Many festival-goers were unsure what it was.

Others refused in every way to ‘let go’ of their ‘real books,’ and even entertain the idea that this little device might be amazing.

I must admit, I too was guilty of not ‘letting go,’ at first. But when my husband bought me a Kindle for Christmas last year, with the explanation of, “So you can read your books,” not only did he ‘get it,’ (my hobby-profession of being published—and he made be cry because he does get it), but I embraced the reading technology whole-heartedly.

I can now carry 3,500 books on an airplane without cost or losing precious packed-clothing space!

I love my Kindle. It has a cool leather cover with a built in light—I can read in bed and not disturb the huz while he’s snoring. The device rests better than a regular paperback on my elliptical trainer’s little ‘book ledge.’ And, I don’t have to binder clip and rubber band the pages down keep the book open while I’m exercising.

Kindle books are less expensive than their paperback and hardcover brethren and sometimes are released sooner. I can get a book in less than thirty seconds as opposed to going to the bookstore or library or waiting for a delivery to come.

While beautiful ‘real’ books will always have a place in my heart and on my bookshelves, the convenience of this technology allows me to enjoy any book at any time.

Some releases, like my own (Respite and The One He Chose) are only available in e-formats.

So, for you ‘real book’ lovers out there, granted a Kindle, Nook or other device will never replace your precious tomes, but you’d be surprised how your reading experience might be enhanced with an e-reader and e-books. Your books are still there—just more conveniently.

As the old Alka-Seltzer commercial encouraged, Try it, you’ll like it!

Wendy currently has two works on the Decadent Publishing shelves, and is in the process of writing 274 more stories which she hopes DP will be interested in! Find her on Facebook, Twitter and lurking about the internet. You could send her a nasty email-wendyburke1994@bex.net. When not playing with the people in her head, she has silly life with her way-too-cute chef husband and two furry feline kids in the Great Lakes area of the Midwest.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Writing Friends

One of the most important things an aspiring writer or even a long time writer needs is friends.

I know, right now you are saying, "Duh, Deanna, everyone needs friends."

But what I am talking about are friends that are writers.

Some days stuck in out little office, furiously typing on out laptops we feel like we are all alone on this journey. Maybe this morning we even feel like everything we write sucks. Other days we might feel as if the publishing world must be crazy because they haven't bought our amazing book yet. And then there are those days we jus have no idea where our story is even going...the dreaded Writer's Block.

That is why one of the most invaluable things at any time like this are other writers.

They can share their experiences, good and bad.

They understand that we have people talking to us in out head all day.

They help us feel inspired and they motivate us.

They even some times have to break out a finger pointing and say "FOCUS!" when we are starting...yet again...a new story.

So my little tidbit for all you writers out there is this:

Find a local writing group and join. Romance Writers of America is a great place to start. There are tons of resources in social networking too.

Facebook is my personal drug...er, I mean social networking site of choice. I have met some great people and it had enabled me to keep in contact with writers I have met at conferences.

You never know, not only might you find your new best friend, but you may also find the best support group for your illness...um, remember those voices in your head?

Yeah, other writers won't think you are crazy at all.


You can find Deanna Wadsworth on Facebook and at her own Blog and at Decadent Publishing

Monday, October 10, 2011

Inspiration and the quality of writing

Like Patrice in her search for the perfect simile, I find myself occasionally in search of inspiration—that one perfect thought or sensation which sends a torrent of creative juices from my twisted brain, ripping down my arms, bursting through my fingertips, roaring into the keyboard and flooding out onto the screen, producing pages, reams, forests worth of dynamic, enthralling prose.  Yes, I agree that description is a bit much (especially for a single sentence) and certainly doesn’t lack for inspiration.  So why is this inspired sentence of such poor quality?  Duh—because the sentence is overdone. 

In its most literal form to inspire means to breathe or inhale.  If we don’t inhale, aren’t inspired, we die quite rapidly.  The same is true with the more metaphoric meaning of inspire.  If an author isn’t inspired, that font of creative juice dries rapidly into a desert, cracked, arid, and empty.  Nothing happens, no action, feeling or mental stimulation in the story, for the reader and no enthralling prose from the writer.  Good authors, dedicated authors, write whether we are inspired or not.  Writing is after all our bread and butter.  No writing = no paycheck. 

Obviously then, not all writing is inspired, and we’ve already seen that inspired writing isn’t always good quality writing.  Inspired writing provides great opportunity for good quality, but the quality doesn’t come from the author being inspired.  The quality arises from the author’s ability to revise and edit each phrase, sentence, paragraph, et cetera, whether that phrase et al arises from inspiration or plain old hard work.  So here’s a challenge, turn my excessive definition of inspiration from the first paragraph into something much more pleasing to a reader. Revise the sentence, concept, idea in any way you believe will improve the quality of the definition.  I’m looking forward to your contributions.

Susan Charnley writes romantic comedy, and as Rue Allyn she writes erotic romance.  You can find out more about her at http://www.SusanCharnley.com or http://RueAllyn.com.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Perfect Simile

Photo from AnnMT

Crafting the perfect simile can take me many attempts over several days, continual mulling even when I’m not typing words into my computer or sometimes the solicited input of fellow writers. One of my favorite similes in my current novel required all of the above.

In the scene, the hero has grabbed hold of the heroine who is torn between fighting him off and yielding to his touch.

I could have simply “told” the reader that my heroine felt conflicted, as in, “She tried to resist him, but couldn’t.” But how boring is that??? I needed more intensity. I needed my readers to experience her push/pull conflict on a sensory level. I needed….a simile.

(Quick grammar reminder courtesy of The American Heritage Concise dictionary: “A simile is a figure of speech in which two essentially unlike things are compared, often using like or as, as in ‘eyes like stars.’”

I brainstormed different ideas. First, I thought about things I try and resist in my life. Things I want, but know aren’t (always) good for me. Like chocolate.

“She tried to resist him, but it was like a chocoholic trying to resist a candy bar.” Hmmm. Not serious enough.

Next, I thought about my heroine (a kick-butt anti-terrorist operative) and considered what things might appeal to her. She’s especially skilled with advanced weapons, so…

“She tried to resist him, but it was like trying to resist the latest double-barreled, night scoping miniature laser.” Okay, not so much.

Then, since my heroine—and entire novel—is action-oriented, I tried out a few ideas in that vein.

“She tried to resist him, but it was like an adrenaline junkie trying to resist base jumping.” Nope.


Finally, I turned to alcohol. Not me, but for the simile.

“She tried to resist, but it was like an alcoholic trying to resist a bottle of whiskey.” Okay, better.

But then I worried, would readers feel I was comparing my heroine to an alcoholic?

I contacted a number of writer friends. No one thought the analogy to an alcoholic was a problem and a couple offered ideas for improving on the simile.

One suggested making it even more specific, “an open bottle of Jack Daniels.” I loved the addition of “open” to describe the bottle because that made it seem all the more enticing. Can’t you just smell the sharp tang of alcohol as well as see the shimmery liquid?

But I didn’t want to use a brand name that might distract the reader and cause them to wonder, “Why Jack Daniels? Why not Glenlivet, or better yet, Dewars? I like DeWars way more than Jack.”

Another friend said to drop “whiskey” and just leave “bottle.”

In the end, I took both their suggestions and made it my own.

“She tried to resist, to tell him ‘no,’ but it was like an alcoholic trying to resist an open bottle.”

That’s it! Simple, but powerful. I don’t know if it’s the “perfect” simile (is there such a thing?) but it’s pretty darn close.

Do you have a favorite simile? Do you struggle to craft the “perfect simile” in your writing? Any tips to share how you do it?

Patrice Kavanaugh writes suspense novels with enough sizzle to give readers a heart pounding mix of danger, action and romance. Her novel, DIE RUN HIDE, placed first in two RWA chapter contests and finaled in the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. She blogs regularly for MVRWA.

Monday, October 3, 2011

In the Public Eye

On occasion, we writers get the opportunity to be put in the public eye. Some of us enjoy the spotlight, while others attempt to ward it off with crosses and garlic. Some of you probably saw/realized that I had an article in the Toledo Blade last week regarding my series and book two which comes tomorrow (my, how time flies):


If you actually got the paper, you'd have seen my mug plastered over half of the front page of the arts/entertainment section. Needless to say, it's both exciting and a bit odd to see oneself presented so. Several thousand people in town have now seen me and know I'm a local author. Hopefully it will spur a few sales, which is one of the main goals for doing such things. Regardless of how one might worry about how the public might view you, it's a professional/career sort of activity that as a writer, you should be willing to take advantage of when the moments present themselves. Needless to say, talking on the phone and having your picture taken is far less nerve-wracking than doing public readings. The paper however will generally reach a larger audience. So, while less immediate, you have far more eyes upon you. Again, writers can/should/need to be able to handle these kinds of situations.

Time and again, it's word of mouth that sells books far more than any other method. This of course requires folks to notice you in the first place in order to actually spread the word. Writing good books is the first and foremost thing to do. Otherwise, the word of mouth action is not so good. No amount of public relations activity will overcome a poor story. We just need to be willing to step out of our caves and go beyond this. Speaking on blogs, local newspapers, readings, they all work to provide that extra little bit of notice, and we all know that there is quite often some mysterious tipping point out there somewhere, that defines that moment between struggle and success. Anything you can do to help push yourself in that direction is good. And really, this public stuff is not as scary as it seems before you actually do it. It's actually kind of fun.