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, December 30, 2011

New Year, New Look

Somewhere along the way this past year my office was overrun by clutter. Papers I needed to read piled up, office supplies were strewn about, and miscellaneous junk that had no other home made its way into my writing space. The small room and cramped furniture felt even smaller.

As I sat there the other day, I realized I was putting off writing and instead was dreaming of the perfect writing space.

Maybe a clutter-free office with great lighting, minimal distractions, and a large desk that had room for laying out my manuscript to edit by hand. Something like this…

My new office at school

Or a room large enough for a seating area that I could curl up on to do a read-through of my latest WIP...

Or how about the classic writer’s office filled with shelves and shelves of books…

Home Office Remodeling Project (25)

Or one with large windows and a desk facing a gorgeous view…

Home Office

No, really all I need to write is my brain, pen, paper, and my laptop. It’s no good when the space you’re in gets in the way of that and becomes counterproductive to the task at hand. I’m pretty good about writing amid distraction, so I knew this had to be bad.

Time to spruce the place up.

Yesterday I sorted through stacks of papers and other junk, purging everything except for the essentials, and rearranging the furniture into a more open layout.

I’m back to loving my office again. Which means I can reclaim it as one of the places I enjoy writing, along with my kitchen table, a local coffee shop, and the library.

My office is back to being one of my favorite spaces in the house.

Where’s your favorite space?

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Because I was born and raised in Michigan and have lived my entire adult life in Ohio, I'm one of those people who hold on to the ideal of a white Christmas.

Even though I now dread the colder temperatures dislike just about everything that has to do with snow, the image of a perfect Christmas still includes a white powder covering the landscape. It completes the idea of a cozy holiday.

The last few years, however, we've spent the Christmas holiday in Florida with my family, and while some years the temperatures are cooler than others, there's never been a snowflake in sight. This year, while spending time with family, I've become more aware of what it is that inspires that warm feeling...and it's not the snow.

It's family.

Friends and casual acquaintances come and go. Who you follow on Facebook and twitter can and will change. Gifts of silver and gold will tarnish, electronics become outdated almost as quickly as you can tear off the paper, but your family will stand by you through thick and thin. Your family will be there for you when no when else will.

And what a blessing it is to be able to spend the holidays with my family.

But that picture of the cabin and tree covered with a pure, white blanket makes me pause and gives me hope. This year, more than any other, I'm looking forward to new year's eve and for the chance to say goodbye to the old and welcome in the new.

To my readers here, I hope you were able to share the holidays with someone you love and wish you all good luck and joy in the new year.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ho, Ho--No I Didn't Meet My Writing Goals

I had big plans, great goals, beautiful intentions this week. I would add 10,000 words to my manuscript. Easy, right? Just fit them in between a few last minute shopping trips.

Peace, Love, Happiness?
Photo by thestarmama

I had a last minute shopping trip every day this week. And then there was the unexpected illness Monday, Mount Laundry and groceries on Tuesday, don't-even-get-me-started Wednesday, and Thursday? Let's just say my drab brown hair yelled at me, and I prioritized by setting my book aside to do a root touch-up and add highlights.

In between the madness, I wrote 1000 words. That's right, 10% of my goal. Not even close to the word count I aimed for.

But, as I write this, I still have several hours to add to my work in progress. I'll push hard and try to fit at least half of my goal in before Christmas.

One reality of my life is that I don't always meet my weekly goals. Instead of thinking of it as failing, I ask myself why I struggled. 

1.  Did I set the goals too high? (This week I can honestly say yes, I did.)
2. Was I avoiding my manuscript because the plot veered off course but I didn't know it?
3. If the writing has been going well, did I assume it would continue to be smooth sailing?
4. Why didn't I make writing my top priority? (Hair, people. My hair came first!)

Another thing that helps me stay on track is to squeeze tiny writing sessions in throughout the week. Even fifteen minutes can add 100-250 words. They add up quickly.

If you've ever been on a diet, you know how easy it is to stop exercising if you miss a day. One day becomes two and before you know it, your progress has stalled. I make it a habit to revisit my book often, even if I'm only adding 50 words. I might lose a little momentum during weeks like this, but my engine still putters along when I keep my book front and center.

Do you struggle to meet your goals the week before Christmas? How do you keep your motivation fresh during the holidays?

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas! Peace be with you this blessed season!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

I’m a closet poet, a traditionalist who craves rhyme, meter and stanzas. Poetry is short writing, but not bare bones. A poem is stripped…right down to the words.

When you’re used to writing 50, 80 or 100k novels, a poem can be a challenge to construct, even if you discount rhyme and meter. Take all the rules of novel writing and apply them to approximately eight stanzas. With the low word count, each word has to carry more freight, thus word choice is crucial. Using the phrase, “the _________ of his mind,” fill in the blank with each of the following words: bottom, depths, vault, crypt, bowels. Each word creates a slightly different mind picture.

Poetry can be specific and/or vague, and it does this through word choice, like the choices above. It takes the reader on a short journey through painfully chosen words, wonderful full-bodied words, words that can resonate in your heart and soul.

Songs are poetry in motion. I’m captured by melody, but also by evocative lyrics. Talented songwriters must earn a special place in heaven for their ability to captivate the listener, earn empathy, tell a meaningful tale that has rhyme and meter, and set it to music that makes you want to sing along, combining elements that forever etch that song into your memory. Think of Francis Scott Key’s “Star Spangled Banner” or John Lennon’s “Imagine.” In less than three short minutes and approximately eight stanzas both songs have the power to move hearts and nations. Words have power.

I love words, and in poetry it’s acceptable to make full use of the English language, including words that often languish in the dictionary, words that as novelists we’re told not to use because the U.S. population is unfamiliar with them. As writers we are wordsmiths telling our stories by putting together strings of potent words. How can we limit ourselves? Look at some classics: Lord Byron’s ‘She walks in beauty like the night’ and Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s ‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.’ The beauty of their words transcends time.

So the next time you pick up your pen or power up your laptop, remember there are reasons certain poems, songs and stories linger in people’s minds. It’s the words they contain.

How do you use words?

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Love of Reading

I took my two youngest kids Christmas shopping last week. Before we left, we made a list of everyone they wanted to shop for. I started off asking them "What do you think this person might like?" Both boys stared at me wordlessly.

I tried a different tack and asked "Tell me three things that this person likes." Oh, this worked out much better. Here's a bit of the lists they created:

Daddy: Writing, Tools, Reading
Sister: Reading, Games, Makeup
Brother: Gnomes, Reading, the Beatles

When I asked each one of them separately about the other, "reading" was also on both lists, as it was on mine (I later found out). I love this. Really, really love this.

Being nine-year-old little boys, not every person on their list is receiving a book this Christmas, but isn't it wonderful they could have? Books and the stories they contain are amazing gifts, and aren't we lucky there are so very many available to us?

I know plenty of folks on my shopping list will be receiving books this year for Christmas. Or...for those who own e-readers, gift certificates to buy books with. But as I sit here this morning, I am so pleased to know I have passed the love of reading on to my kids...personally, I can't think of a better gift to give or to receive.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Cart Before the Horse

Sometimes we all get ahead of ourselves. But this time, I'm WAAAY ahead of myself!

I'm tickled pink that I have another 1NightStand story from Decadent Publishing in the works. Its title is Haste Ye Back and it pretty much wrote itself the moment I sat down on a log alongside Loch Lomond in July of 2007.

Currently, I'm waiting on the first round of edits. In the meantime, however, I have all my other ducks in a row: cover, trailer, swag, etc.

Take a look at this beautiful book cover by Decadent artist, Dara England. She's done all three of my covers and has hit the nail squarely on its head every time!

Looking forward, our next MVRWA Book Lovers' Event is March 24, 2012 a
t Sanger Branch Library on Central Avenue in West Toledo. So, I went to my favorite on-line print house and ordered up a stack of two-sided postcards for our swag-bags for the event. Haste Ye Back on one side, The One He Chose on the other. (Got them for a GREAT deal too!) Along with an impulse buy of two t-shirts with both book covers on them. Don't know if they'll hit the prize pack or end up as Christmas gifts this year.

I always get excited seeing my story in a 'movie' form. MVR
WA member, Katelynn Phillips is an absolute WHIZ with her Apple programs. Clink on this link to take a look at the stunning video for Haste Ye Back.

So, I'm all prepared for the release of Haste Ye Back, whenever that may be. I guess in the meantime, I should get started on another story!

Wendy currently has two works on the Decadent Publishing shelves, a third in editing and 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.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Every Day A New Surprise

I've been madly decorating our house for the last couple of weeks. No, we are not Santa-and-Reindeer central, but when I attack this kind of project a little at a time I find it ends much better. With the house actually looking decorated instead of like Santa threw up on us.

My favorite thing? An advent calendar I bought at a craft show a couple of years ago; the one to the left is very similar. The bebe is just old enough to understand that there are 'prizes' inside each closed door - and also old enough to believe I'm serious when I say we only open one each day. The boxes are small - the perfect size for a Hershey's Kiss or a single Starburst or a penny...so I filled them up with all kinds of little, small things. So every day holds a new surprise for her. Five days into December and every day she wakes up and asks if it's time to open a door, and I love watching the surprise on her face when she sees what's waiting inside.

It's kind of how I feel about starting new books - every sentence, paragraph, page and day sends my characters (and me!) on a little bit of a journey to find a new surprise. Some days the surprise is good, some days not so much...but the surprise keeps me moving forward.

Do you feel that way about new WIPs? Or is the unknown more of a challenge to you?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Procrastination Station

That's where I'm sitting, waiting for the next proverbial Train of Motivation to come pick me up.

I think I hear the whistle, but I might miss this train and have to get the next one because I am playing with my new Droid Razr cell phone.

It's so cool, I love it.

I have a great book I am supposed to be writing...no plot holes, funny dialog...but I just don't feel motivated to even turn on the computer. I think some friends even think I'm avoiding their IMs.

I'm not, just being lazy.

Heck, I'm feeling so lazy I made Bruno Mars' The Lazy Song my phone ringer. Love this video...lol those creepy apes. I watched it twice instead of writing this blog. I should have written it yesterday, but I went out dancing instead...


And I actually cleaned my house the other day instead of writing.

Then I went grocery shopping with a friend. Who does that?

Last Monday I had lunch with my buddy who asked me if I saw the latest Simpsons episode where Lisa writes a book and then procrastinates on her deadline by organizing all her CDs and playing online.....btw I tried to find it on You Tube for you guys but you can watch it here. Its season 23 Episode 6 called The Book Job, and its hi-lar-i-ous!!!.....My buddy said the episode made him laugh because he thought of me.

Okay, now my friends have even noticed what a procrastinator I am being.

Double oops!

So how do I get out of Procrastination Station?

Any tips?

Anything you do to stay on track....ha ha, that's punny, trains, track, ha ha....

I could organize any tips you guys have alphabetically then put them on note cards and place them in strategic places around my house to motivate me when I decide to watch reruns of Supernatural and Big Bang Theory

I really don't mind taking the time to do that. I really don't.

Oh wait, I hear a whistle...it that the train or Bruno Mars again?

When I'm not procrastinating, you can find me on my blog, Facebook and goodreads, Twitter and read my books at Decadent Publishing