Category Archives: creative writing

The Procrastinator

Thea here, confessing I’m a world class procrastinator. I am distracted at the drop of a syllable, generally by bright and glittery things — like the tv screen.. I don’t know how I get things done.

I only know I have this interior war everyday about what NEEDS to be done, which is: do I write vs do I clean, and since writing is so much fun and I feel so guilty, I lean toward cleaning. But then, cleaning is such a chore and takes me away from writing … so I find reasons to avoid doing that.

Generally, when I’m on deadline, I can with good conscience clear the decks and drive everyone nuts in service of my finishing The Book. I recognize that this is NOt a healthy work habit. I’ve been analyzing my incessant complaints about how I never have time to do anything.

My Mom always used to ask, who’s stopping you?

There’s a rock hard question to stop you in your tracks. How do you explain to a not-writer? The dishes are piling up. The laundry needs to be done. I have to write. Mom would then say, so — load the dishwasher, do the laundry and write.

She just didn’t understand.

I need that time not to do dishes, laundry, writing. And I haven’t read a book in months. I watch too much tv. I’ve become an expert at manipulating my husband and son into the kitchen to make dinner. The day doesn’t have enough hours for me to avoid chores and writing.

Right now, I’m working on revisions for Beyond the Night, the long-awaited sequel to The Darkest Heart.. I promise you, I’m doing them in a timely manner. After I watch Kathie Lee and Hoda. After I procrastinate a couple of hours over this post … By noon. After lunch. Promise.

Anyone else a procrastinator? What’s your excuse?

Thea Devine is the author of over two dozen erotic historical and contemporary romances. Beyond the Night, the sequel to The Darkest Heart will be a September 2014 eBook release from Pocket Star.

Bitter Stew

Jealousy. I’ve never met a single person who hasn’t experienced it in some form or fashion.  Even if we don’t want to admit it to ourselves we have ALL been jealous at one point in our lives. Sugar/Ginger here to talk about professional jealousy and how it affects us all as writers.

I belong to a couple of loops that are for published writers.  Most of the time we talk about contracts, covers  and deadlines. Sometimes we go there to vent to people who understand us, to seek advice. But most of the time we go there for support. There’s a code on these loops. WHAT HAPPENS ON THE LOOP STAYS ON THE LOOP.

But recently I read a few messages that stuck with me.  And they were all about professional jealousy. There’s a writer who has only been in the game for six or seven years who has had much success with her books. Not only is this person a damn good writer, but has been so kind and generous with her advice and support.  She reported that she was being iced out by a group of writer friends that she has had for a long time. One of them saying to her that she got lucky that she hit the NYT and  was nominated for a major award. And she hadn’t paid enough dues, gone through enough hardships to be where she is now.  That she should enjoy the ride because it might end soon.

I’m a sassy girl so I might have told her to shove it where the sun don’t shine, but this writer, this hugely successful writer was really bothered by this. She was hurt by it.

I see this a lot. Maybe most people aren’t as bold as that lady. But a lot of times we aren’t always as happy for others success as we should be.  Especially in writers group where some are getting contracted and others are constantly looked over.

We call it luck, or make excuses or diminish their achievements. We’ve claimed that they changed. That they exclude themselves. That they are divas. But are they really? Maybe some of them are, but I think most find a kind of isolation when they’ve gained success.

I’m a debut author who is just finding an audience and am grateful, infinitely grateful when somebody-anybody buys my book.  But from personal experience I know that people do treat you differently when you’ve been published.Some act like you’ve got a magic secret and automatically know more than mere unpublished mortals. Or they become a little distant. And you can almost read their minds. “I write just a good as she does. Why aren’t I published yet?” People who aren’t writers assume that just because you have a book in a bookstore that you are making loads of money.

I wish I could say that getting that contract doesn’t change you. It does.  Three years ago writing was just something I did. Now it’s become part of who I am. I’m a writer. I get paid to be a writer. But I’m still a teacher too. I’m a teacher first five days of the week. And I’m still a daughter, a sister, and a friend too. My point is that nobody can be inside of anybody else’s career and no one can know each of our individual hardships. Yes, there is luck involved for some of us, but a lot of the time it’s our hard work that got us to where we are.

So next time you think a negative thought about someone’s success imagine how you would feel if you were where they are.

PS. Jealousy isn’t always a bad thing. In my case seeing a friend get offered multiple contracts made me put my ass in the chair and work to become a better writer.

So what do you think? Ever find yourself being all green with envy?

dinosaur_2474599b

Are blogs dead or simply evolving?

Good morning Scribe’s readers,

PJ Sharon here with a few questions for you. I hope you’ll stick around long enough to take the short survey at the end of this post. We appreciate your opinion and it should take less than a minute of your time. The results will be used to help us determine what changes we’ll be making to the Secrets of 7 Scribes in the coming weeks.

dinosaur_2474599bIt has become increasingly clear that the world of publishing–and writing in general–is evolving quickly. Not that good grammar, great content, and entertaining interaction with a like-minded community will go out of vogue, but the way we interact is ever changing. With so many demands on our time and the speed at which communication has progressed, our current attention span has been reduced to about seven seconds per clickable nano-byte of information. In other words, we have about seven seconds to grab someone’s attention and hold it. Which is why venues like Instagram, Vine, and twitter are so popular with tech-savvy readers. It’s also why daily writer’s blogs such as ours are rapidly going the way of the dinosaur.

My Scribes sisters and I are committed to bringing you quality content, but we recognize that we have all grown beyond being writers only. Many of us are now published authors with busy production schedules, deadlines, and the myriad of marketing duties that go along with the job. After three years of daily blog posts, we need to re-evaluate our goals and decide what works best for us and our readership.

Before we make major changes though, we’d love to hear from you about what you’d like to see from us in the coming year. Please take this survey or leave a comment below with your suggestions, questions, or concerns.

In appreciation for your participation, and to thank you for your continued support, I’ll be offering a free critique of a query letter, synopsis, or first chapter of the current work in progress of one random commenter below. Just let me know that you’ve taken the survey or leave us some suggestions of what you’d like to see here, and you’re in the running!

If you aren’t a writer, let me know that too, and I’ll think of some other fabulous prize for you if your name gets picked…hmmm…thinking…signed copy, gift card, or swag…I love surprises, don’t you?

2013 RWA conference pic

Peace and blessings,

PJ

Liberty

Sugar and Ginger Go to the City

Hi, friends! Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe that I’m actually an author. Some authors just have that thing, that spark, where they can pimp their books to everyone, talk about their writing eloquently and network like pros. I’m not there yet. I don’t know if I’ll ever be there.

BUT this week something pretty cool happened that made me feel a little more author-like. I was invited down to the Harlequin offices in the beautiful Woolworth Building in NYC to meet with the team. I’m a newbie and not as savvy as I would like to be about the publishing industry so I didn’t know  what to expect. Luckily my very fabulous agent, Emmanuelle Morgen, was there with me.

I always had this idea in my head of what big New York publishing offices would look like. I thought they would be plush, luxurious. I thought there would be women in power suits and Prada shoes sitting at their desks doing things like plotting to take other publishers down. But it wasn’t like that. The Harlequin office, once you get past the lobby, looks like any other set of offices. Except for the books everywhere. The people were dressed fairly casually, no suits or heels in sight. Everyone was smiling. The office had this calm feeling. They seemed happy to be working there. My editor, Tara Gavin, has been working there for over twenty years. That says a lot for a company. I know editors move houses all the time but there are many at HQN who stay for their entire careers.

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I was there to meet with my publicity and marketing team. Shara, Brie and Lathea. They told me their plans for Ginger Jamison’s LIBERTY. I was impressed, not just with what they were going to do for my book, but how knowledgeable and determined they all were. I didn’t know what to expect, or realize that there was a weight on my shoulders, but after meeting with them, I felt like my book, and my career was in really great hands.

I got to see the cover for JERICHO, my second book in the series and read the back cover copy. I never knew who wrote those over for my HQN Kimani books. But it turns out Brie does. She does a beautiful job. I suck at doing that kind of stuff. But Brie seems

to know my books better than I do and I’m grateful to her for that.

Just read this!

JERICHO

She had no one to rely on but herself. 

Until a wounded stranger offered his friendship…and  ecstasy beyond her most vivid dreams. 

Georgia Williams has traveled a hard road from sheltered preacher’s daughter to struggling single mother. Determined to build a secure future for her baby girl, she takes a job as a night nurse at Jericho Military Hospital. But her precarious world shifts yet again when she meets her newest patient.  
A marine who nearly died fighting for his country, Lieutenant Christian Howard is a man of duty, honor…and deep desires. Something about the scarred war hero touches Georgia, awakening feelings she’s tried to keep hidden. One passionate night together changes everything, erupting with consequences neither could have foreseen. Now Georgia faces the most momentous decision of her life. Should she trust Christian—a man she barely knows—with the devastating secrets from her past? Could this be a love that will heal and

 save them both? 

Heartrending and sensual, Jericho tells a moving and seductive story about the power of love to redeem and transform even the most burdened of hearts. 

I’m so happy with it I could cry!

I also met with the team at Saint Martins Press later that day. I met a lot of them at RWA so it was a little bit like a reunion. My editor, Holly Ingraham, is my age and driven and spunky and all the things you want in an upcoming editor. In fact most of the team at SMP are young. But it’s good to see women my age making waves in the publishing world.

Jen Enderlin was there. She’s the boss. She’s got the biggest office. She just has that I’m- -in-charge aura around her. The day I met with her and the team was the day the news about Sylvia Day broke. Of course that was the only thing I could think about when I was shaking her.  And that she has the most beautiful eyes and dark hair. Of course the romance writer in me wondered about her personal life. I bet I could turn her into a romance heroine.

So that was my day. The biggest take away I got was that the people who are in romance publishing love romance. They live romance and they want their writers to do well. I know in the future I’ll probably be one of those hybrid authors but right now, I love where I am.

Use the Muse to Write Your Business Plan

Are you overwhelmed with the “business” aspect of writing? Do you even have a business plan? I don’t know about you, but I had no idea what I was getting into when I began this journey seven or eight years ago. What I’ve learned since then should have equated to at least a Masters Degree in something! Yet, writing a business plan has remained on my to-do list for years. Why? Because every business plan model I’ve ever seen is filled with language I don’t understand or information that appears to have no bearing on the business of writing. Until NOW!

PJ Sharon here, visiting today with Amy Denim, who writes business books for writers and pens contemporary romances in her spare time. She loves hot heroes (like chefs and cowboys) and curvy intelligent heroines (like chefs and cowgirls.) She’s been a franchise sales coordinator, a lifeguard, a personal shopper, and a teacher of English as a Foreign Language. But now she spends her days reading and writing at her local library or in her book cave.

Amy started out her writer’s life scared out of her wits because she didn’t have a business plan, hadn’t yet created an online platform, wasn’t on twitter, didn’t have a Facebook fan page, and had never even heard of Goodreads. Sound familiar? She just wrote books. So

AmyDenim-for-webshe spent a year becoming a publishing industry information fiend and now does consulting for creatives on how to take control of their writing careers. She started Coffee Break Social Media to help writers and artists learn to use SM (social media) platforms effectively (without the scare tactics) but still have time to create. She believes business plans and social media can be every writer’s friend, sometimes they just need an introduction.

Welcome to the Scribes Amy! I’ve been reading your book, THE COFFEE BREAK BUSINESS PLAN, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I can’t wait to get started on creating one for myself! Can you share with our readers how you’ve found a way to use your muse, activate both sides of your brain, and give us a peak into what they can expect in your book?

I’d be happy to, PJ. Thanks for having me today. I would like to start by asking the question, have you thought about putting together a business plan? “But, oh,” you say. “It’s such a long and complicated process.” Ugh. Why bother, when you could spend your valuable time writing.

But, wait, what’s this? A guide to help authors write a business plan on coffee breaks?

Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans copy

Okay, so I find when things get boring and staid that some humor and creativity makes it all so much more fun. And let’s admit that a traditional business plan is anything but fun. But having one can be an important part of taking control of your writing career.

Never fear, we’ll start with your creative side.

The first part of writing a business is often to put together a mission statement. Doesn’t that sound super, umm, boring? Yeah, I thought so too.

So I transformed this dull, no fun task into something I could relate to. I understand the muse. Well…when she’ll talk to me. Best way to get her feeling chatty is to strait up ask her for help. I asked her to help me write something to keep me inspired about my writing career.

Here’s what she told me.

Write one or two sentences that sum up you and your goals for a successful writing career. Think of this as your mantra, or the logline for your writing career. Your books have loglines, why shouldn’t you?

Whenever you’re stuck, feeling down about writing or getting published, or need a jump start to your day, get this sentence back out and see if it doesn’t get your imagination running again.

Try to give your muse value. That can mean financial value, but can also be personal values — like family or life philosophies. If being able to support your family financially is an important value to you, include that. If you need to write just to stay sane, include that. If it’s important that your friends and family are proud of you, say that. These are your core beliefs as they relate to your writing career. Include them in your muse statement so that it is valuable to you.

The name of the muse game is inspiration. If you think it, you believe it. If you believe it, you are it. If you use the present simple tense, i.e. I am instead of I want, I will be, or I can, then you’re one step closer to believing you are the writer of your dreams. Another part of inspiration is to use those big dream goals. If you want to be a best-selling author, include that in your muse statement. Whatever your true aspirations are, use them here.

Okay, put your thinking cap/top hat/beanie with the helicopter rotor /tiara on. It’s time to think about what you really want from your writing career.

Here’s an example:

I am a financially successful author who shares award-winning stories of love and adventure with readers around the world.

Be even more specific, and make your goals attainable and measurable. Now try your hand at writing your own. Your muse statement can go through lots of drafts and incarnations. If you add a new dimension to your business plan, you might need to update your statement.

You can have more than one mission statement, too. If you find creating a mission statement motivational, consider creating them for different parts of your life and career. You can have one for your writing career, your marketing efforts, your financial goals, your family life, spiritual life, your health, or anything else that is important to you.

The following questions are to get you started thinking about your goals, but don’t go crazy and spend hours making lists and/or daydreaming about your success as a writer.

I call this the Coffee Break Business Plan. This is all about basic goals, which you can expand on to create a full-blown business plan, so spend only a few minutes thinking about each of these questions. Write a couple of sentences to answer them, or make yourself a nice bullet-point list. If you’d like a template to print out to help you with this exercise, you can download one at www.coffeebreaksocialmedia.com/Books/Resources.

 Grab a cup of coffee and a pen

Write down the answers to these questions.

  • How many books do you plan to write? In what genre?
  • What’s your projected word count?
  • When will you finish each project? Or, how much time will you need to complete each project? (Don’t forget to build in time for critiques, beta readers, editing, and all those other activities… besides actually writing the book.)
  • How will you publish these books? Traditionally, self-published, a hybrid approach?
  • If you’re self-publishing, what services will you need and how much will you spend on those?
  • Who is your competition? Who else writes books like yours?
  • How will you sell and market your books?
  • How much money will it cost you to publish and market? What services might you pay for to help you do that?
  • How much money do you plan to make, and when will you see that revenue?
  • When do you plan to achieve these goals?

There you go. You just created a basic business plan. For real. Laminate that sucker and put it up big and pretty in front of your computer. Every time you sit down to write, take a look and focus on writing to achieve those goals. If the IRS comes knocking, you can wave it in their faces.

If you’d like help expanding your business plan, I can help with that too. Leave a comment on the blog today, ask questions about business plans, mission statements, or anything else you’d like, and one lucky commenter will win a copy my new book The Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans for Authors: The Step-By-Step Guide to Taking Control of Your Writing Career. But, if you can’t wait to win it, it’s available now on Amazon.

Thanks, Amy! And here’s my review of this little gem:

Amy Denim takes the mystery and fear out of writing a business plan.

As a writer, my right creative brain is clearly dominant, making things like business plans and marketing strategies sound like foreign languages. Amy Denim’s step-by-step guide, which focuses on business plans specifically for writers, is set up to be done in small increments…literally on a coffee break. She makes the process simple and totally do-able. Her clear, concise, and entertaining style makes this a must-read for anyone considering writing as a business. Highly recommend!

My Year in Review….. What I learned about my writing self.

Goodbye 2013. Hello 2014. I’m looking forward to next year. I have four books coming out in 2014. Four. Four full length novels, two of them under the name Ginger Jamison. It’s going to be an exciting year.

This year was exciting. I saw the publication of my first book, Dangerous Curves Ahead. I got offered a contract with Harlequin. I wrote my first novella. I got some really good thoughtful reviews.

I also wrote. A lot. 2013 is probably the year I wrote the most.But I’m not necessarily saying that that was a good thing for me. Three of the four books that are coming out next year I wrote this year. Plus the novella. And I had edits, torturous edits. Though my writing, in my opinion, got sharper and I managed to write upwards of 7000 words a day. There was a time when it wasn’t fun. When it felt like work. Like it felt like I had taken on way too much. And maybe I did. I burned myself out.

I only read five books this year. Five! That’s nothing for me. There was a time in my life when I was reading a new book every other day. But I didn’t read because I didn’t have time to. I had to write. HAD to. My laptop was a permanent accessory. It was chained to my arm. I had no life. I missed happy hours and day trips. I bailed on dinners and wrote for hours and hours on vacation. I was a shitty friend. I was an absent daughter and sister. But I had to put out good books.

Some people would scoff and say “But your published. Poor you, that’s a problem that we all would like to have.” I would tell those people to suck it. A whole other set of stress, problems and responsibilities comes along with that contract. Plus I work. Full time. In a job you can’t half ass. I’m not complaining. I wouldn’t go change anything that happened last year. I’ve had a great experience with both publishers. I’m just telling you my story and  that I learned a lot about myself in the process.

1. When under extreme stress and a deadline I can write half a novel in four days.

2. I have a really hard time writing endings. It might be because I love being in that world so much that I don’t want to leave it. Or it could be because I just suck at writing them.

3. I really, really, really hate being edited. I hate the whole freaking process. I don’t care what anybody says. Yes, I know the book is twenty-five times better when I’m finished with it, but I hate it. I dread getting my editorial letter. I probably always will.

4. People who give me unsolicited advice about publishing and my career or think they know everything really annoy me. (Okay, so maybe I didn’t learn that this year.) (I also have to stop myself from telling people the reason they aren’t published yet is because they spend more hours playing stupid Facebook games than they do writing. And to not bitch about it.)

5. I need to plan my non writing time. I need to be social and hang out with friends and flirt with cute boys.

6. It’s okay for me to take a break from writing. I took nearly two months and not because I planned to, but because I was so fried I didn’t have any other choice. It helped. I needed to recharge my brain.

7. The best way (for me) to get back into writing is just to write. To make myself sit down in a chair and write. And to talk about/brain storm with somebody who’s not a writer. And to be around other writers because they inspire me.

What about you? How was your year? What did you learn about yourself?

SEEKING CHRISTMAS with Brenda Maxfield

Welcome Scribers and Readers, PJ Sharon here. I have with me as today’s guest, Brenda Maxfield. Her short story, SEEKING CHRISTMAS hit home with me since neither of my two sons has a relationship with their dad. Brenda Maxfield’s perspective from the minds of teen siblings, Courtney and Dennis, truly reflected how I imagine my sons dealing with this situation. And may I also say, I LOVE this cover!

Blurb for Seeking Christmas (an Ocean Mist short story Two):

Brenda Maxfield-SeekingChristmasCover

The Christmas season has eighteen-year-old Courtney crossing the state line with her little brother Dennis to rendezvous with the man who deserted them years ago. Courtney remembers him only as the tall man who ran away. Dennis doesn’t remember him at all.

Courtney is furious, but Denny is curious. Will their meeting result in a happy Christmas memory or another miserable disappointment?

I asked Brenda what made her write this as a short story. Here’s what she had to say.Take it away Brenda…

Thanks PJ!

My first thought is that “Short Can Be Sweet”. But there was more to my decision than simply wanting to write a short story. Here’s what happened.

Open Call for Submissions: Such musical words of opportunity to any writer’s ears.

Except when such writer is buried deep in her latest work-in-progress and stretched thin between a day job, family, and uh, well, trying to stay sane!

That’s where I found myself a while back when my publisher put out a call for submissions. Sometimes emails are ripped open like paper envelopes showing checks through tiny little windows — and that’s how I opened that one. Yet even while my eyes flew downward over the content, censuring comments such as, “Who are you kidding, Brenda? You’re insane. All you need is another project…” coursed through my mind.

You know how it goes, scolding yourself even as you continue with whatever you were doing. (Hmmm, now I’m thinking about that luscious half-eaten piece of dark chocolate cake. But I digress.) My scolding continued until my eyes landed on the phrase, “Short stories only. No longer than 5,000 words.”

I major perked up. That I could do! That I could find the time for!

I’d never considered short stories as part of my writing career. I love the YA novel, the joy of unfolding a character’s crisis, angst, redemption, and growth over the course of chapters. I didn’t realize the fun of writing a short story: the smaller time frame to completion, the opportunity to give readers a taste of your style, and the possibility for those same readers to get hooked and become fans of your novels.

I did answer that open call and send a short story to my publisher. I’ve also self-pubbed two other short stories. The first was Player, which introduced the characters in Buried Truth. (Writing about two-faced Daniela in Player turned out to be a blast. Oy, I couldn’t stand the girl!) And this season, I’ve released Seeking Christmas, dealing with the aftermath of Cornered, which is releasing in a few weeks.

Christmas in September

I couldn’t bear to let the Christmas season go by without a release. So in September, I started playing with the characters from Cornered in my mind. I wondered what would happen if Courtney heard from her jerk of a dad — the guy who deserted her and disappeared like so much water down the drain years previously. Would she want to see him? Could she swallow her anger long enough to hear him out? And what about her little brother? Would taking Denny to meet the guy result in a disaster? What kind of Christmas would it turn out to be?

The characters wouldn’t stay quiet, yet I knew I didn’t have time to write another full. Thus, the short story Seeking Christmas was born. (It’s @ 8,000 words.)

I loved it. I loved the whole process. We writers are fortunate to have many avenues to get the stories out of our heads and onto the page. Short stories are just one of those ways. I heartily encourage all writers to give them a whirl!

And of course, I’d be totally thrilled if you’d give Seeking Christmas a read. During this season, take a bit of time to curl up with a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate (if you’re in the northern hemisphere) and take a trip with Courtney and her little brother in Seeking Christmas.  I hope you enjoy it!

Seeking Christmas Purchase Links:

Amazon:  http://tinyurl.com/ky7oxzu

Barnes and Noble: http://tinyurl.com/jvktfxz

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/373439

Ocean Mist Books:  http://brendamaxfield.com/ocean-mist-series.html

Author Bio:

Brenda Maxfield author PhotoMy passion is writing! What could be more delicious than inventing new characters and seeing where they take you?

I’m a teacher so I spend most of my waking hours with young people. I love chatting with them and hearing their views on love and life. My students are magical, and I am honored to be part of their lives.

I’ve lived in Honduras, Grand Cayman, and Costa Rica. Presently, I live in Indiana with my husband, Paul. We have two grown children and three precious grandchildren, special delivery from Africa.

When not teaching, I love to hole up in our lake cabin and write — often with a batch of popcorn nearby. (Oh, and did I mention dark chocolate?)

I enjoy getting to know my readers, so feel free to write me at: contact@brendamaxfield.com . Join my newsletter at: http://mad.ly/signups/85744/join. Visit me to learn about all my books and some smart and sassy, clean teen reads: www.brendamaxfield.com  Happy Reading!

Contact Links for Brenda Maxfield:

Website:  http://www.brendamaxfield.com

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/AuthorBrendaMaxfield

Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6570620.Brenda_Maxfield

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/BrendaMaxfield

Blog:  http://www.brendamaxfield.wordpress.com

Email:  contact@brendamaxfield.com

Amazon Author Page: http://tinyurl.com/psj82bj     

Don’t Miss any News! Join my Newsletter Ganghttp://mad.ly/signups/85744/join

Thanks for joining us today, Brenda! Readers, if you have any questions or comments for Ms. Maxfield, please don’t be shy!

How about you? Do you like to read short stories? Have any favorites you’d like to share? Are you reading any wonderful Christmas stories right now? We’d love to know!