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, March 30, 2012

Personality Tests

So, earlier this week, a friend of mine had me take a Meyers Briggs type personality assessment. I did, and what I found out was that I am, indeed, (for lack of a better term) insane. Yep. I am both intuitive and analytical, feeling and logical, and I am neither right brain or left brain -- I am both.

I'm only joking when I say I'm insane (or am I?), but I would say that my methods of dealing with life can often times be described as odd and counterproductive. At least now, I understand why. For example, I am what is commonly known as a pantser. I am not a plotter or a planner when it comes to writing my books, instead, I rely on feeling and intuition to learn my characters and my story. And as I learn, the books somehow get written -- though there have been several instances where I seriously wondered HOW, but that's another post for another day.

Here's where it gets odd, though. I recognize I'm a pantser. I completely get that I write by intuition and feeling, but the analytical side of me can't just let that be. Oh, no. With every book, I create a very pretty Excel spreadsheet that details how many words per day I'm going to write for so many days, until the book is done. This is logical. This makes sense, right?

Sure, except when you can't promise to write so many words each day for so many days since you write by intuition and feeling. Every book I've written is slow, slow, slow in the beginning and then cranks up past the mid-point. Seriously, the first half of almost every book I've written has been months in the making, but the last half? Weeks, probably. No more than a month, for sure.

So what ends up happening early on in a book is I don't meet my schedule, my daily goals, and I end up feeling as if I've failed. Then, that feeling only grows worse with each day that I "fall behind," when truthfully, I'm not falling behind. I'm following my convoluted process, the same process that has worked for every book I've written. But that doesn't stop the feelings of failure, and it doesn't stop me from creating a pretty spreadsheet for the next book.

But it is counterproductive, because feelings of failure can screw with my brain, and hinder my forward motion. I really need to try something different, if I can somehow find a way to feed that analytical/logical side while staying true to the intuitive/feeling side. Good luck, right? If any of you have any ideas, please share...I need all the help I can get.

For those curious, I tested as an INFJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging). One of the many descriptions of this personality type can be found at The Personality Page. Check it out, especially if you know me. And if you're interested in finding out your personality type, you can take the test I took at HumanMetrics. If you take the test or already know your personality type, post it in the comments and share if you recognize yourself in the description.

Have a great day!

Tracy Madison is an award-winning author who writes contemporary romances for Harlequin Special Edition. You can learn more about her and her books at her website, www.tracymadison.com.

Friday, March 23, 2012

In Praise of Community

Tomorrow, my local Romance Writers of America (RWA) chapter (MVRWA) will be hosting our annual Spring Book Lover's Event. Now several years old, it has morphed and grown into an afternoon of fellowship. Writers and readers spending time together, sharing their love of the written word, and indulging in some amazing food.

It's the type of event that takes a village to put on, and would be near impossible if our group wasn't harmonious and supportive.

It just so happens, that's one of my favorite things about MVRWA.

There are many benefits to belonging to the national organization and a local chapter. Both branches of the organization is a wealth of knowledge on the craft and the business of writing. They forewarn their members of unethical practices and can help a writer to see the warning signs of a scam. For any one of these reasons, my membership is worth the price of admission.

The act of writing, as you can guess, is a pretty solitary activity. It has its pluses. You can go to work in your pajamas at any time of the day or night you like. But when it comes down to putting the words on the page--for the most part--it's done alone. There is no companionship.

That doesn't mean all writers are stereotypical hermits or recluse. That's where our monthly meetings come in.

On the fourth Saturday of the month, we come together, we conduct our business and discuss those topics I mentioned above. We also share our personal and professional ups and downs. We pick each other up and comfort each other through the lows. We applaud achievements and we encourage each other to pick ourselves up and try again when we hit a wall.

We're a community. A support system.

If you are in the Toledo area on Saturday, I hope you will stop by the Sanger Branch of the library between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. Please check out our Book Lover Event page for all the details. And if you've always wanted to pursue writing, check out our meetings page and consider joining us at a meeting.

Constance Phillips lives in Ohio with her husband, two ready-to-leave-the-nest children,and four canine kids. When she's not writing about fairies, shifters, vamps and guardian angels, she's working side-by-side with her husband in their business. Her first paranormal romance, Fairyproof, is coming soon through Crescent Moon Press. She blogs regularly at her website. You can follow her on twitter and friend her on facebook.

Monday, March 19, 2012

3 Ways to Bulldoze Fear

We all have our own cocoon of safety, and that cocoon often morphs as our lives change. Sometimes the safe zone is a good place to be, but other times we can feel ourselves outgrowing it, yet we dig our claws in and cling.

This post originally appeared on my blog, http://jillkemerer.blogspot.com on February 28, 2011. I hope you'll be encouraged by it.

Photo by Canon in 2D

Why is it so hard to leave safety sometimes?

I can only speak for myself, but fear is a big part of it. I've clung to many cocoons over the years--being okay with an extra five pounds because I was afraid of giving up thirty minutes to exercise every weekday, doing chores my children could do because I was afraid of moving into a new phase of parenting, rushing to try to learn everything about writing because I was afraid of being left behind--or worse, quitting.

I still fight those extra five pounds; I still occasionally do chores on my kids' lists, and I still work hard to learn about writing--but I'm no longer motivated by fear in these areas.

We can work through our fears. These concepts aren't new but they are worth reviewing.

1. Focus on the steps rather than the goal.

I'm not saying the end result isn't important--we should have a concrete idea of what we want to accomplish--but the thought of getting there can paralyze us. The goal can feel far away, unreachable. It's easy to give up on "losing forty pounds," or "writing two novels this year," because we don't know if it's possible. We fail before we even try. It's less threatening to "work out on the treadmill at 3mph for thirty minutes," or "write 500 words."

2. Get support.
No matter what your fear-inducing goal is I guarantee there's a support group ready to help you. An Internet search can lead you to forums and professional organizations. It's much easier to keep going when you can share your struggle with someone striving for the same goal. Not every day will be perfect. Not every week will be perfect. But when we have friends cheering us and pushing us forward, we can find the courage to keep going.
3. Stay accountable.
This is the tough one. In order to leave our safe zones and go after our dreams, we have to be honest with ourselves. If we really want to change, we're the ones who have to do the work. We have to carve out time to do new things, some of them scary, and we have to do them repeatedly.
Our precious schedule will have to be adjusted. Our family might fear the changes will affect them negatively. Through all this, we have to stay focused and stay accountable. If you want to lose weight, consider logging your workouts and keeping track of your food. Weigh yourself once a week. If you want to write that book, jot down how many words you wrote or how many chapters you revised. Add it up each week. It will be obvious if you've slacked off. Forgive yourself and move on.

We will always be striving for something. Life never becomes perfect. But when we truly work toward our dreams, we build confidence and we change our lives.

How do you work through fear?

Jill Kemerer writes inspirational romance novels. Coffee fuels her mornings; chocolate, her afternoons. A former electrical engineer, she now enjoys a healthy addiction to magazines, fluffy animals, and her hilarious family. She is a member of ACFW and RWA and also serves as vice-president of MVRWA. Jill is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary Agency.

To learn more about Jill, check out her website, stop by her blog, find her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

Have a wonderful Monday!

Friday, March 16, 2012

When our people are smarter than we are.

As writers it's a given that we're going to sneak bits of ourselves, big and small, into our characters. They like the same foods we like, drink the same things that make us happy, listen to the same music that gets us up and dancing or helps us through certain moods. We might even have them champion the same causes we hold near and dear to our hearts, get fired up over the same political viewpoints and worship in the same spiritual vein.

We get these ideas for stories and start to shape our characters as full-fledged people while we're constructing elaborate obstacle courses for them to navigate. We spend countless hours researching the jobs we want them to have in the places we want them to live and the time periods we want them to live in. But I've found that sometimes, if I'm really lucky, the learning process takes on a life of its own.

No matter how much shaping or molding I put into a character, one of my favorite parts of writing a story is the moment when that person starts to come into their own. Occasionally he or she will let me know that the job I picked out isn't working for them so much and they'd like to be such-and-such instead. Or they're not really a connoisseur of fine wine, they'd rather just kick back with an ice cold beer after a long day of work, thank you very much.

Once in awhile they lead me to something new that I enjoy. I found out I like a handful on not-popular Shakira songs when a heroine of mine wanted to dance around her living room to her, and I didn't know any of her music beyond the couple of hits I'd heard on the radio.

Sometimes they even like things that I do not, as in the hero I have who listens to Motorhead when he runs. Seriously!?! Motorhead? Without getting into the music itself, you'd pretty much have to be Superman to run to it, but there you have it. And as much as I wanted to like Indian food at one point in my own life, I do not. But I researched it thoroughly so the menu was authentic in a key scene instead of forcing them to eat something I knew more about.

I've even had a secondary character come into his own throughout the course of a story to the point that he pointed out a major trait in my main protagonist to ME!!! A conversation taking place between the two of them was just flying off my fingertips, and all of a sudden he said something that seriously made me stop typing and think, Well, aren't you smart, mister?

He's totally getting his own sequel for that.

Have you ever discovered something unexpected through your characters, even if it's something you don't necessarily like?

Thanks so much for stopping by today!
Have a terrific weekend.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Imprisoned Writers

I have been to prison.

I have been relegated to specific tasks at specific times for a designated length of time.

I have been told to be silent, keep to myself, eyes straight ahead, stay in line. Or the 'warden' (aka Shay Lacey!) will mercilessly flog me.

But it was wonderful!

It's a little something the gang at MVRWA calls 'Panera Prison.' It's a gathering of writers who show up at Panera Bread Bakery/Cafe on the weekends and force themselves to be productive and hold one another accountable for productivity for a few hours.

Last month, was a bit of special occasion at 'Prison.' It was a 'Submission Party.' A couple of our members, (including The Warden) were encouraged to submit manuscripts for publication. Filled with unwarranted (IMO) trepidation, they needed the support of the 'inmates.' We gathered around the two submitters, hunkered down in the corner of a Panera Cafe in Holland, Ohio and forced good energy upon them until 'send' was pressed and the works were off into the ether en route to publishers.

We're hoping all that good mojo will mean excellent response from the publishers.

So if some Saturday or Sunday morning you just happen to stop for something oh-so-tasty at Panera, (I recommend either the immense cinnamon roll, warmed with butter on top, or the Cobblestone--don't worry about the calories, just click your heels three times and the calories dissipate!) and you observe an odd group of people hunkered down in a corner of the bakery, discussing strange relationships with shape-shifters, multiple romantic partners or murder, fear not, it's just 'us' putting in our time (happily!) in 'Prison!'

Wendy is a displaced Cheesehead, proud to have been born and bred in Wisconsin. She was a migrant worker for years in the radio business, until she landed in Ohio and refused to leave. She shares her clean, yet perpetually dusty, house with her chef husband and two spoiled rotten cats.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Deposits and Withdrawals

Lately, I've been thinking about creativity as a bank account. Our bank accounts need to have enough money to pay our bills, buy groceries, put gas in the car, and take care of all those last minute, unexpected expenses--such as boy scout uniforms, or new brakes, or a root canal. We need even more if we want to indulge in evenings out, vacations, or a day of beautification.

So, what happens when we don't make consistent deposits to our bank account? We run out of money, leaving us unable to take care of the basic necessities, let alone anything fun. I don't know about you, but when this happens, I'm put into a state of worry and fear. How will we pay for food this week? What if one of the kids needs to go to the doctor?

Therefore, we work to earn money. We work to try to stay ahead of the curve, so we don't run our bank accounts dry. After all, a low (or even worse, an empty) bank account means we don't have the necessary resources to deal with everything that needs dealing with. We budget, clip coupons, look for sales, and hope we can keep it together until the next paycheck--or, in too many cases, until a lay-off ends or a new job is found.

As a writer, I have begun to think of my creativity as my personal account of ideas. Following this train of thought, every book I write is a withdrawal from that account. Even partial books are a withdrawal, because even if that book is never finished, I've still taken that idea out of my account. Each time I do that, I have fewer resources available to me for that next book.

Unless, of course, I am also constantly depositing new ideas into my account. Now, this might sound simple--after all, ideas are free, right? Well, yes. But life can be exhausting. The day job, the husband/wife, the kids, other family, friends, daily responsibilities, appointments--the list goes on and on--and the more exhausted we become, the more difficult it is to find the energy to keep our creativity account high.

But it is necessary, and not only because writing is my job. I am a writer, which means I am a creative person. If I can't create, I don't feel whole. So for my own peace of mind and happiness, beyond the practical aspects, I have to be able to create. And that means keeping my account as full as possible at all times.

How do I do this? In many, many ways. One easy answer is reading, because good books will always inspire the muse inside. Another is television. Some television programs (The BBC drama, Sherlock, for example) are so well done that I am amazed by what I'm watching. The characters, the dialogue, the plots, the overall production value all add to my inspiration, all help to keep my creativity account full and thriving.

I've also learned that indulging in other creative activities can assist in keeping my account full. Sometimes, that is as simple as coloring with my children, or drawing a picture. Other times, that might mean playing a game (yes, a game) that either involves creating a character to role-play with (such as World of Warcraft, Sims, etc), or a building/design game (such as Roller Coaster Tycoon) that will allow other sides of my creativity to flourish.

Of course, we all have different interests, which lead to different keys to unlocking our creativity, and filling our individual accounts. For some, that might be gardening, or cooking, or music. Perhaps it is visiting a museum, or sitting outside on a clear, warm day, or taking a walk with your dog. Maybe (as it is for one friend of mine), it's housecleaning with music blaring in the background. Or it might be as simple as soaking in a hot bubble bath with a glass of wine.

Regardless, as writers, we need to find those moments that will allow us to dream, to think, to fill our creative souls with ideas and possibilities. Even when life is hectic. Even when we're so tired at the end of the day, we believe we can do nothing but go to bed and sleep to power up for the next day. There are always moments, even if they're tiny slices of time, that we can take as our own, that we can use to keep our bank of ideas brimming and percolating.

Learning to do this isn't always easy, but it's well worth the effort. By doing this, I've found that when I sit down to write, there is always something there, some story waiting and wanting to be told. Sometimes, in fact, I have a difficult decision in determining which idea to go with next. As a writer, I can't think of a better dilemma to have.

What about you? What are your tricks for keeping your personal bank account of creativity and ideas full? Or, if you're currently experiencing a low ebb of creativity, brainstorm some ideas for filling your account and share them here.

Tracy Madison is an award-winning author who currently writes contemporary romances for Harlequin Special Edition. Learn more about her at her website, www.tracymadison.com.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Writing for Thrills

“Why do you write?” I was asked this question last Saturday by a journalist who’s writing a story for the local paper about our chapter. While the story’s focus will be on our published authors whom she had already finished interviewing, she tossed a couple of questions my way since I’m the new President. I guess rank does have its privileges!

I didn’t want to recite the same answers that others had already given, even though they’re true for me. Like:

“It’s a way for me to express my creative side.”

“These stories keep running around in my head and I had to get them down on paper…or into my computer.”

“I can’t stop myself!”

But the main reason I write is because I love to live vicariously through my heroine, a strong, smart, kick-butt woman who overcomes impossible challenges to realize her dreams, including the man of her dreams!

Actually, I want to BE my heroine, but without all the blood, sweat and tears that she has to go through on her journey to happily-ever-after.

So, instead of me running down a long corridor in an abandoned airport building while a bomb ticks down the seconds to a deadly blast, I make my heroine do it. And instead of me ramming my elbow into the gut of an attacker before whirling around to jab his windpipe or maybe to kick-snap his knee, I show my heroine taking the guy down. Fun stuff! As long as I’m safely at my computer with all the lights on and the doors locked.

Here’s a video montage of a great fight scene from one of my favorite TV heroines, Sydney Bristow, of Alias. If I can’t be her (and honestly, I’d be scared to death to even try), I sure enjoy the thrills I get from watching. And from writing.

What about you? Do you like to live vicariously through your characters?

PM Kavanaugh writes character-driven thrillers spiked with 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.