Kindred Spirits

Greetings Scriblings! PJ Sharon here.

I had the good fortune of attending a few days of the 2014 IWWG Summer Conference this week. If you aren’t familiar with this acronym, it stands for International Women’s Writing Guild. Despite the fact that I’ve been heavily involved in the romance writing community for several years, I’d never even heard of this organization.  Here’s why.

Romance writers and literary writers tend not to associate or travel in the same conference circles. Whether this is due to some misconception that one is better than the other or that the two are diametrically opposed, I can’t say, because my experience with this incredible group of amazingly talented women was nothing but educational, inclusive, and uplifting–not to mention well organized and fun. These ladies write everything from poetry to memoir, creative nonfiction to essays. A few write fiction as well, and many are published, either traditionally or Indie.

Workshops included a study in Metaphor with the fabulous Susan Tiberghien,  a chance to make “mischief” with Kelly Dumar, where we explored our childhood prankster selves and acted out stories of our misspent youth.  I learned some new plotting strategies from the excellent Chris Eboch in the workshop, What I Learned from Nancy Drew,  and Dr. Dixie King’s extremely helpful Nourishing the Writer Within was an eye opener! Dr. King took us through a step by step guide of smart goal setting and challenged us to pinpoint the barriers and limiting beliefs that hold us back from achieving our goals. I was only able to attend two days of the five day conference, but I felt so welcomed and appreciated by the group that I felt as if I’d met some kindred spirits.

IWWG conf. 2In addition to the wonderful workshops and new friends I met, the food was outstanding and the venue at the Wisdom House in Litchfield, CT was absolutely lovely. I even walked the labyrinth at sunset and spent some time in meditation, which is an area of my life I’ve been neglecting and was sorely needed.

IWWG Conf. 6There was an opportunity to showcase my books at the book fair and take center stage to share from one of my stories.  I was completely floored by the quality of each and every writer’s work that was shared. Poignant stories of family,  deep inner journeys, and prose that gave me chills and had me laughing and crying within the same three minute reading. These women are powerful and brilliant, I tell you!

Regardless of genre, we were all writers and all women–sisters of the pen–there to support each other. I feel so blessed to have been a part of this group if only for a couple of days. It gave me just the shot in the writer’s arm that I needed. I learned some important things about myself in the process and hope to meet these lovely women again in the future. My eyes are open a little wider and my heart has been touched by the gift of their words. Thank you IWWG!

Here’s a little about the organization:

The IWWG, founded in 1976, is a network for the personal and professional empowerment of women through writing and open to all regardless of portfolio. As such, it has established a remarkable record of achievement in the publishing world, as well as in circles where lifelong learning and personal transformation are valued for their own sake. The Guild nurtures and supports holistic thinking by recognizing the logic of the heart–the ability to perceive the subtle interconnections between people, events and emotions- alongside conventional logic.

Have you stretched your wings and made some new friends lately? When was the last time you just wrote for fun? Because if you aren’t having fun, what’s the point, right?

Debt-Proof Living by Mary Hunt: A Review

Hello, Readers,

Debt-Proof-LivingTypically, I review fiction, romance particularly. But when I was asked to review Debt-Proof Living by Mary Hunt, I read the book’s description and jumped at it. Here’s what it says:

Your fool-proof guide to paying off debt, planning for the future, and breaking free of our debt-loving culture.

The consumer credit industry wants us to believe that debt is necessary to bridge the gap between our pitiful incomes and the lifestyles we desire. But the problem is not that we don’t have enough money. It’s that we don’t know how to manage the money we already have. And until we learn that, more money will never be enough.

In this life-changing book, Mary Hunt shows you how to live a rich, fulfilling life without any consumer debt. By applying her simple principles and specific methods, you will learn how to effectively manage and maximize the money you have. No more guessing, wondering, or worrying. Just peace and a more abundant life. What have you got to lose?

So, like I said, I jumped at it. What did I have to lose? Nothing, except debt, maybe.

However, since I just finished reading the book, I can’t say I am out of debt already, but I took some of Mary’s eye-opening techniques and have started using them in a day to day spending plan. I haven’t tried all of her ideas. I think with many of these financial books, you take from them what is pertinent to you and leave the rest behind. But, you know what? She’s okay with that. In fact, she says don’t worry about starting this perfectly. Just get started. As long as you are managing your money according to the plan, you will begin to move toward success. It may feel confining at first, which I’ll admit it has, but each day gets better.

Mary’s most important point in the book: “Money is not for spending. It is for managing first and then spending.”

That was one of the many eye-openers for me. I think our society has trained us to see this the other way around. And I thank Mary Hunt for straightening my thinking out. I look forward to living debt-free.

Oscar Anyone?

Don’t Be Guilty of #Word Crimes!

Hey there! Casey here!

Recently, Weird Al released another album which shot straight to number 1 on the Billboard Chart. Not since 1963 has a comedy album taken the top spot. Kudos to Weird Al!

And lucky for us writers, he’ s addressed a pressing issue – #Word Crimes! Please watch the following instructional video.

Be sure to laugh out loud if you feel so moved!

 

And then, please reflect upon Weird Al’s wisdom.

In an age where social media reigns supreme, it does seem like grammar is becoming a lost art. Sure, for us writers, solid knowledge of grammar is a must.  But it wasn’t until I chortled my way through this song, that I realized how many of these  mistakes also drive me mad.

Now, to be fair, before I began seriously writing, I’d forgotten some of those rules too. Comma placement continues to stump me. See the previous sentence – I probably used too many commas.  I don’t always punctuate dialog properly and the distinction between blond and blonde often baffles me (largely because publishers all handle it differently).

I am, by no means, a grammar nit-picker but one thing that does drive me nuts is spelling words wrong on purpose.

I’m looking at you SyFy Channel. For shame!!

I’m curious to know – which grammar mistakes drive you batty?

 

It’s Finally Here!

Hello, my faithful Scribelings! Suze here. I’m too excited for any niceties, so I’ll get straight to the point. FETA ATTRACTION, Book 1 of the Greek to Me Mysteries, has a cover. I think the art department at  Berkley knocked it out of the park, don’t you?

Feta Attraction Cover

FETA ATTRACTION is available for preorder now, and releases on January 6, 2015. I can’t wait to share it with you!

You’ve Got To Have Friends

Hi everyone. Thea, home from National where I didn’t attend as many workshops as I should have. But that gave me the opportunity to catch up with several old friends whom I only see once a year, briefly, and on the run between workshops.

I’m still trying to figure out this friendship phenomenon: that there are people you meet and connect with at conference, and you only see them once a year, and yet, it’s like you’ve seen them often and so only need five minutes or fifteen or a half hour to get updated, and off you go, looking forward to seeing them again next year.

And then there are the more profound friendships that last for decades, friends you depend on in moments of author and personal crisis. Friends in whom you confide your problems and your deepest dreams. Friends you talk to every week, or every other day because you bolster each other, lift each other’s spirits, push each other to go further, do more, not quit, and ultimately succeed.

Each of those friendships is treasured and nurtured because we’re a part of this amazing community of romance authors and the comfort of that cocoon of others, whom we’ve grown to love, sharing that experience sustains us and pushes us to keep moving, keep hoping, keep reaching.

It’s beyond a blessing. I can’t imagine my life without my friends, without their counsel, support, friendship and love, and seeing them yearly at conference, monthly at RWA meetings, talking weekly on the phone carries me forward in ways impossible to define, but which enriches my life beyond any other friendships I’ve ever known.

What about your writer friendships? Are they fresh and new, or of long-standing and can’t-live-without?

Thea Devine is the author of more than two dozen historical and contemporary erotic romances. Beyond the Night, the sequel to The Darkest Heart will be an October 2014 Pocket Star release.

Vacation Inspiration

A common question asked of writers is where we get our ideas for our stories. Some will say it’s the ‘Muse”. Others might say ideas are born from snapshots of characters who speak to us or a seed of inspiration that drops in from the aethers. Both are probably true, but as for me, I believe ideas are born from life experiences.

PJ Sharon here, coming to you fresh (or a little less than fresh) off a twelve day road trip up the West Coast. Call it a much needed and long overdue vacation, a visit to celebrate with my eldest son who just turned 33 (Holy cow! How did that happen? I turned 33 only yesterday!), or call it what it was…research. Since my last big vacation–a Mediterranean cruise with my mother-in-law back in 2011 that led me to write PIECES of LOVE, hubby and I were happy to splurge on some time away from our daily rat race.

Despite suffering the usual vacation mishaps, such as a missed flight, the dreaded airplane flu three days in with a side trip to the ER in San Rafael, and a questionable hotel stay or two, we had loads of fun and saw some amazing sights! And yes, I took copious notes and tons of pictures. I’d like to share some of my experiences and how they might serve to inspire me and my books.

The trip started in San Francisco with a lovely four day visit with my son who lives in wine country out there–the perfect backdrop for a romance novel. We did the usual touristy things like wine tasting in Napa Valley and a ride out to Bodega Bay to cruise the coast. In the city, we took a  trolley up to the cable car museum, then ate at Neptune’s on Fisherman’s Wharf, and watched street performers on the Embarcadero. GhirardelliAnd I couldn’t visit San Francisco without stopping by Ghirardelli’s.doing time in alcatraz

When a tour of Alcatraz landed me behind bars, I imagined the desperate souls who were once imprisoned behind those walls, looking out at the world beyond, the distant voices from the city by the bay a  constant reminder of an untouchable freedom.

After a sad farewell to my boy, we headed up the coast, through the rolling green and gold hills of wine country, and beyond to the Redwood Forests. I hugged some magnificent trees, connecting to their ancient life energy. Trees that have stood since the time of Christ and seen generations pass their way. I imagined a native hugging this same tree some five hundred years ago and felt the spirits deep in my soul. Massive creatures 300 feet tall and 30 feet around, whose roots interconnect with one another in a web of underground life. It sounds crazy to people who aren’t sensitive to such things (or creative enough to imagine), but in my minds eye, I see limbs that come alive and faces in every knot and outgrowth. Elementals perhaps? I can totally see this being the setting for a paranormal series, fey romance or historical Native American romance…oooh…maybe a time travel story.Hugging the grandfather treecrater lake oregon

We said goodbye to the giant Redwoods and continued our journey. Next came a detour inland to Crater Lake, Oregon–a sight not to be missed! Formed from a volcanic eruption 7,700 years ago, the collapse created a crater almost 2,000 feet deep. Over time, the bed filled with crystal clear rain water and centuries of ice cold snow melt. Through checks and balances of seepage and evaporation, the lake has found its way. The story possibilities boggle the mind!

Winding our way back to the coast led us to the quaint town of Florence, up through the seal caves, and along the twists and turns of route 101 until we reached Cannon Beach in norther Oregon. This was on my darling husband’s bucket list, so we splurged on a beautiful hotel room right on the Pacific coastline with Haystack Rock outside our door. Every romance includes long walks on a beach and golden sunsets, a glass of good wine, and two people who would lay down their lives for one another. I’m not sure if I could write romance if i didn’t have that in my life.

Not to be underestimated, the power of alone time is also necessary. haystack rock cannon beach. oregonWaking to the mammoth rock, a cool, dry breeze, and the sound of the Puffins nesting high up on the “haystack” shaped stone, I enjoyed my morning meditation and a much needed yoga practice before we walked around the touristy little town, admiring the glass blown art and lovely beachfront properties.

Then it was up through the small fishing village of Astoria, site of fun and famous movies such as Kindergarten Cop and The Goonies. We ate yummy seafood and visited the Maritime Museum–another of hubby’s “must do’s”.

Our final stay was in my new favorite city, Seattle! An entertaining duck boat tour gave us great views of the sky line and a city tour that helped orient us for the short stay so we could decide what we wanted to see most.seattle skyline Pike Street Market Place and the famous Space Needle were highlights as was the people watching in Westlake Center.Pike street market

space needle 2

Mount St. Helens made for a fabulous day trip despite the deep bowl being shrouded in clouds the day we visited. We didn’t have to imagine what the 1981 eruption might have looked like since there were dozens of pictures taken that fateful day in May over thirty years ago. The twenty minute movie that takes you up close and personal with the destructive force of the event was surreal. Nearly every sign of life in over 200 square miles was destroyed that day, leaving a path of destruction and magma that turned the surface of the Earth to a moonlike desolation.mt. St. helens lava flow Acres of trees were flattened or swept away, the nearby Spirit Lake filling with lumber and wiping out much of the water life below. But as with all stories, there came a happy ending when life began to emerge from beneath the ground and under the snow covered mountainside. The current state of new life, growth, and natural beauty give hope for a bright future, made possible by the conservationists committed to preserving the land–a labor of true love if I’ve ever seen it.

Our final adventure occurred on our return trip home. It seemed silly to spend a three hour lay-over in the Las Vegas airport when we could take a shuttle over to the Vegas strip and have breakfast while checking out the scene.mgm 2 I’ve never been to Vegas before but did a ton of research for WESTERN DESERT, book two  in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy. I wished I’d been able to take this trip BEFORE I wrote the second book. It was fun to see the MGM Grand,  but somehow, I imagined the whole strip to be bigger. All the same, Google didn’t do it justice.

Sometimes, the best way to get inspired is to take a road trip.

Have you ever written about a place you’ve traveled to? Where do you find your inspiration?

Self Sabotage? by J Monkeys

Hi there!  J Monkeys here with a confession.  I saw one of those memes the other day.  You know the one – “take small steps toward your goals every day”…or some crap like that.  Here’s one that took me WAY too long  to find on the internet.

goals

Normally, I scoff at that kind of self-help mumbo-jumbo, but this time it struck me.

 

 

 

I know that life is a journey – and like most journeys, I’ve got a destination in mind for mine.  Sure, sure.  I take time to stop to smell the roses and enjoy the trip.   But at the risk of over extending the metaphor, I’m pretty sure that I’m a little lost, or at least turned around.  Completely.

Not only am I not taking steps every day that will lead directly toward my goals, but most days, I’m actively walking in the opposite direction.

I have three main goals in my life right now, the same goals I’ve had for a while,  all of equal importance to me.   1 – Become a successful writer,  2 – Get myself healthier, and 3 – Take care of my family and household.

What road leads to becoming a successful writer?  How about writing every day.  Treating writing like the job it is.  Putting my butt in the seat and doing it.  I have not been following any of those paths.  In fact, I seem to come up with every reason in the world not to write every day, or any day.  Any distraction, every justification, focusing on everything going on in my life except putting my backside in my seat and moving my story forward.  Hmm. 

What roads lead to becoming healthier?  Well, for a person who is probably 70 pounds heavier that they ought to be with a family rife with heart disease, how about eating healthy foods, moving around until I sweat a little and staying away from those substances (ice cream!) that I know pave the path to diabetes and every other nasty thing looming in my future?  Have I been doing any of those things?  No.  I had donuts for breakfast – note the plural.  No water to drink yet today (it’s 11am,)  no exercise (been watching TV since I dropped the kids off at camp.)  And did I mention the donuts?  How about the Rice Krispy treats my sister-in-law made yesterday that are calling my name?  And where will I be getting lunch?  I don’t know, but I hadn’t planned on a salad.  Hmm.

What roads lead to taking care of my family and my household?  To be honest, I can say that while I’m walking in exactly the wrong direction in my journey toward my other two goals, I’m at least on a parallel, if long and meandering path to this one.  But it’s a scenic and not at all efficient road which often intersects with the direct route, but then detours off again.  Hmm.

What conclusion have I come to after this painful self assessment?   I’m on the road to ruin instead of where I thought I was going.  But now, that I’ve gotten directions,  I have to decide if I’m going to turn this vehicle around.  Maybe I’d better think about that.  And get some water while I’m doing so.  Maybe wash a dish.  Or fetch a salad. 

Are your feet on a path toward your goals or are you self sabotaging like me?  Can’t fix it until you recognize it, right.

 

%d bloggers like this: