Tag Archives: family

PIECES OF ME

Today is my younger son’s birthday. I’m away at a conference in Florida and so won’t celebrate with him this day.

Yesterday, someone said to me that he ought to write his memoirs.

Shouldn’t we all?

Or, as writers, don’t we, already?

How many times have you written an incident that’s happened to you? Or used a trait of a relative to define a character? Or made the neighbor next door a peripheral character in a book?

Come on, confess. I’ll start. I made my in-laws major characters in one of my early books. Here’s the thing. Members of my family read the book and nobody recognized them.

Really. There was also a cousin, a neighbor, people I’d worked with — not so you’d recognize them, but I’d written to their personalities or family history, or something in their current livesused

My husband and sons — I won’t go there. Maybe, maybe not. But the cat — I featured our Calico cat in one of my books because I promised her, before she died.

And aunts and uncles — fair game, where I could reorder life with them to my taste and say what I should have said thirty years ago.

Writing, as it were, pieces of my biography entwined with fictionalizing them.

I shouldn’t write my memoirs. I should say, read my books. There, you’ll learn all about me.

Beyond the Night, the sequel to The Darkest Heart is available now as a Pocket Star eBbook.

Up In The BLues

Sometime ago, my husband was buying seasons tickets for the NY Rangers, up in the (then – we haven’t seen the new Garden configuration) blue seats. Those were the ones practically on the ceiling, but I always thought you got the best long view of the action.

But what he found there was not only like-minded fans; he found a comraderie, a Garden” family,” if you will, whom he didn’t need to see or confer with outside the arena, but who he knew would be there week after week and they could share whatever sports and personal information they cared to, and whether they were renewing for the following year

This went on for several years and then — the commute got to be too much, the ticket prices too high, the losses made the whole thing not worth it. But the reminiscences were interesting. It was like the “family” had moved away. They barely knew each other, so there wouldn’t be any kind of contact. And yet the memories of the good times, the great on-the-ice triumphs, the family atmosphere live on and are resurrected every now and again with great nostalgia.

Like family memories of long-gone neighbors, relatives, cousins, friends. People you meet at conferences. Family from whom you’re estranged. Or who are so long distance, you can’t manage any kind of relationship.

Do I not hold in my heart the memory of my Uncle Manny, my Aunts Gladys and Mary? They were not relations — they were neighbors in my toddlerhood who lived across the hall and upstairs. But forever, they will be my aunts and uncle: I never remember or speak of them any other way.

Is it any wonder that “family” is the bedrock of almost every tv drama, movie and novel these days? Arguably, it is one of the most important fictional memes, given how dislocated families are and people feel.

And maybe it’s not your conventional family. Maybe it’s a hospital’s sexy doctors, your office cohorts, a newsroom, an FBI behavioral unit, a quartet of high school girls, the staff of a high powered “fixer.” A group of romance authors. Or your neighbors in a small town in anywhere USA who always have your back.

Rediscovering family, going back to your roots, finding the people who anchor you, coming finally understand the place where you belong — even if it’s “up in the blues” … are powerful underlying themes that will always resonate, themes on which you can build or rebuild a plot, a novel, your heroine’s — or, for that matter, your own — life.

Who’s in your family, not directly related to you? Do you feel that “family” thing in the tv and movies you see?

Thea Devine is currently working on her next erotic contemporary romance — and several other projects. She’ll be speaking at NJRWA’s Put Your Heart In A Book Conference. She was among those honored as a Romance Pioneer by RT Booklovers last year.

Country of the Mind

Thea Devine today. On this past Monday morning, around 11am, we drove into town for the annual Memorial Day parade. Perfect day: bright sun, blue sky, warm weather, fresh breeze — and people. Town was jam-packed with people all along Main Street, two, three, five deep, and there wasn’t a place to park anywhere near. We finally got a spot in a little field about a quarter mile from Main Street and joined a crowd hiking toward to the main event.

It hadn’t started yet, but the staggering number of people lining the street was an event in itself. Kids, parents, teens, tweens, boyfriends, girlfriends, dogs, grandparents, town officials all merging and mingling, looking for friends, space, refreshments, for the parade to begin.

This, I thought, was the essence of why hearth and home books resonate so vibrantly in romance. This is the country of the mind; it is a Norman Rockwell painting come to life, a place that exists in the imagination, in the heart, and sometimes in life.

A place, perhaps, one has been seeking without even knowing it. The place you know is home in a deep visceral way, even if you don’t want to admit it.

In fiction, it takes a good three hundred pages for the heroine to come to terms and admit it. The reader is already there, because those tropes tap into our deepest desire for community and acceptance in a place where everybody knows who you are. Your family, as it were.

Standing on the sidelines and watching the parade — the bands, the old timey cars, the re-enactors, the antique fire trucks, the members of the Service clubs, the staff of the Library, everyone who marched — I turned to John and whispered, I love this place.

I do … love this place. I feel like the heroine who has finally found her home. I’ve had deep yearnings to gather my cousins here, in my place, so we can be as close as our families were when I was growing up in Brooklyn and Sunday was mandatory visit grandma day.

But a visit or an email isn’t quite the same as noisy family dinner on a Saturday night. Like any beleaguered heroine, I never thought I’d miss that after all these years, or wish I could recreate those times. I’m sad my sons will never experience them too.

After the parade was over, everyone poured into the street which had turned into a traffic-free plaza — either to meet friends, or see who was there, or to wend their way to where they’d parked, stopping to chat with neighbors, friends, parade participants, along the way.

I took lots of pictures, grateful this wasn’t the small town of my imagination, or a small fictional town in a future novel I might write. It was my town, here and now, my place, my home.

Did you go to your Memorial Day Parade? Do you feel like you’ve found your place, your home? Is it what or where you thought it would be?

PS re: RT. I’m pleased to say I was one of the thirty- year “pioneer” authors honored by RT at this year’s convention in Kansas City. It was a well attended convention, I heard estimates of as many as 1500-2000 attendees, and there was a spectacular number of workshops to suit every taste, every genre and every level of experience, plus receptions, parties, meet and greets and a special fan event.

The big booksigning was HUGE and swarming with avid readers. The hotel was lovely with lots of places to sit and chat. The 30th Anniversary Gala was fun; we were all asked to say a few words to the attendees after Kathryn Falk spoke about the thirty years that Romantic Times had been a force in the industry.. You might have heard EL James was there — she was, but I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting her. I had a wonderful time.

The Bloggy Blah, Blah, Blahs

Happy Friday everyone. Casey here!

IMG_0990There comes a time in every blogger’s life when you hit the “wall”. The “OMG, what am I going to blog about this week (day, month)?” blues.

It happens to us all. Some more frequently than others. I know that I feel that sharp pang of panic more and more often than before.

We’re all strapped for time. In the case of the Scribes, in addition to being writers (with deadlines/goals), most of us have full time jobs, families and other responsibilities. It’s not always easy to whip up a blog post like a Betty Crocker cake.Cupcakes of Doom

Here it is, at the end of 2012 and I have the bloggy blahs. Yes, that is a technical term! So I figure, what better way to fight the blahs, then to offer some tips for combating total blog boredom:

1. Consider all ideas – no matter how crazy. Generally the Seven Scribes blog is focused on a writer’s journey, but all work and no play make Johnny crazy! It’s okay to deviate once in a while – mix it up. Please.

2. Tell a story with pictures. Some of our more popular posts are about what us Scribes do when we aren’t writing. Share something meaningful (and, no, that doesn’t mean TMI or ranting!)

Me and Scar

3. Utilize guest bloggers. A word of caution – especially for writers – beware of guests who only do promo for their latest book and nothing else. Cultivate questions and encourage them to do more than talk about their latest book.

4. Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s a blog. Chances are it’s not going to change the course of human events.

5. However, do remember that a blog can be meaningful to someone else and may touch them depending on the topic.

6. Celebrate success. We all love to hear good news. Don’t be shy! Share it!Flowers

7. Size doesn’t matter. A blog post doesn’t have to be the length of War and Peace. I appreciate a short, pithy post. If I see a wall of words, I may just skip you (sorry, but there are only so many hours in the day).

And finally, when in doubt, do what I just did, blog about how you’re doing. If you’re struggling with something. Chances are someone else out there is too. Ask for help. Most everyone loves to offer suggestions and maybe you might learn something new or solve a problem.

How do you combat blah-dom? Please share your tips, tricks and suggestions!

We Are Family

Happy Friday everyone!! Casey here.

One of the fun things about being a writer is breathing life into your characters. Imagining a back story, figuring out their goals, their appearance, and so much more. But my all time favorite act is creating the hero and heroine’s family and friends.

Often times, I don’t have to think too hard. They present themselves rather quickly and can be scene-stealers if I let them. Early on, I usually know if the heroine has siblings and whether they get along. Or maybe her parents were overbearing and smothering. Perhaps, they weren’t there at all and she’s been raised by someone else. Same goes with friends, colleagues and pets. My stories have them all!

Coming soon to a story near you!

When I think of my favorite books and television shows, I can’t think of a single one where the main characters don’t have family or friends in their lives. Often times, their loved ones can push their buttons like no one else. And on the flip side, no one understands them better than anyone else.

Imagine how dull and boring Little Women would have been if Jo didn’t have her sisters. Or how lifeless Stephanie Plum’s adventures would be without Lula or Grandma Mazur. Even Ebenezer Scrooge, super curmudgeon, has his faithful nephew Fred to anchor him to his past through his beloved sister Belle.

On the other hand, the lack of a solid support system is just as telling and can define the character’s actions and reactions. There are a lot of orphans in books – Oliver Twist, Cinderella, Harry Potter, James Bond, Heidi, Clark Kent, Jane Eyre, and Frodo Baggins – to name only a small fraction!

Granted all of the characters I mentioned rose above their orphanhood and went on to perform good and heroic deeds. But none of them did it alone (thank you Ron Weasly and Hermione Granger).

Gather round family and friends!

And that brings me back to family and friends (aka secondary characters). For me, secondary characters are just as important. Like in real life, we would all be lonely if we had no friends or family. We are social beings by nature. Even if your character is mostly a loner, there is usually someone (either human or animal) in his or her life.

If you need inspiration, <ahem>, borrow bits and pieces of personality from your family and friends. Now that we’re in the full swing of the holiday season, there are more people than ever around. If you don’t mind the crowds, people watch!

Life is boring without friends. . . and wine!

So remember, when you’re creating your world, populate it with more than just the hero and heroine. Otherwise, all you’ll have is an empty and lifeless world.

Who are your favorite supporting characters? And without naming names, have you ever “borrowed” traits from friends and family?

Stop Thief!! Beating the Time Bandits

Happy Black Friday! Casey here.

Everyone knows there are only 24 hours in a day. And we all pretty much wish we had more time to get everything done.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t change the laws of physics. So unless you want to move to Venus (where a single day lasts 243 earth days not to mention it’s totally inhospitable), you have to use the limited time you have wisely.

You have to identify and eliminate Time Bandits. In order to do that, you have to be brutally honest about how you are spending your time.

Just like dieting, where everything you put in your mouth can land on your hips, every moment you spend playing on-line internet games, is one more moment where you aren’t writing.

Identifying Time Bandits can be tricky because it’s not alway immediately obvious that you are about to robbed of your precious writing time.

Here’s a real life example. This happens to me frequently on the weekends. It starts with an innocent question from my hubby – “Honey, what are we doing for lunch today?”

I look up from my laptop, where I am clearly at work, yet it is not perceived as work by anyone but me, and say, “I don’t know. Can’t you make a sandwhich?”

This response is met with a derisive snort. “How about _____ (insert, Chinese, Pizza, hamburgers, whatever)?”

Soon, the sons have emerged from their mini-man caves and start to chime in. Next thing, I know, I’m in the car on the way somewhere to eat. I have just lost, if I’m lucky, an hour of writing time.

Hold on. I know what you’re going to say – “just say NO.” And sometimes, I do. But, I also want to eat (hey, I’m human!) and I do like spending time with my sons (before they completely grow up and move away).

Clearly, for me, this is an area where I can combat the Time Bandit. In order to make up for lost time, I have to give up watching television (love that DVR) or not read before bed that day.

So how do you know if you are about to be hi-jacked by a Time Bandit? Please note, I am not adovocating that you must ignore all responsibilities or become a hermit.

1. Mundane chores are appealing. If you find yourself thinking that cleaning the tub (and you normally loathe it) then you have a Time Bandit. If you have teenagers, make them do it (bribes work better than threats) or learn to live with some dirt.

2. Social Media – I know this is obvious. But we’ve all experienced “the promise” where you swear to only spend a half hour and the next thing you know two hours have elapsed. Get a timer. Or in my case, I had to go nearly cold turkey to get back on track.

3. The Boob Tube – yes, I love it too. I have plenty of shows that will gladly rob me of my “precious” (writing, for anyone who doesn’t know who Gollum is). In the last two years, I have gone on a severe television diet. I avoid most shows that may tempt me and only allow a few favorites to DVR (any Haven fans out there?). I’m sorry to say, if you have hours and hours of DVR’d programs or are spending hours watching TV, then you have a Time Bandit.

4. Your family – see my example above. We all love our families BUT in order to be successful as a writer, you have to actually write. Sometimes, your significiant others don’t realize they are Time Bandits. You need to politely call them on it. Of course, there has to be compromise. Perhaps you can agree to have a nice dinner together instead of going out for lunch.

5. You – Yes, you are your own worst enemy. If you peel the mask off the Time Bandit, you might see your own face there (kind of like in Empire Strikes Back, when Luke sees his own face in Darth Vader’s mask). One thing I’ve learned is that if you are waiting around for the Muse to strike you, you’ll be waiting a long time. Treat writing like a job and write something, anything, until you get your brain in the place it needs to be to work on your latest WIP.

If you can write an entire book, then you can come up with creative ways to conquer those Time Bandits.

How about everyone else? Remember, the first step to solving a problem is to admit you have one. Please share your Time Bandits or your suggestions for managing your writing time.