Category Archives: Change

HOW FAR THE BAR?

Greetings, everyone. Thea here today. This past weekend I had the pleasure of speaking at t CTRWA March meeting about writing erotic romance from my perspective. Which admittedly goes back at least twenty years, when one of my historical romances, Beyond Desire, was the first romance to be reviewed as erotic romance — a totally new designation at the time. And not one that publishers jumped on either.

That took the publication of the anthology, Captivated, in 1999. Labelled “tales of erotic romance,” it flew onto the USAToday bestseller list in no time. And even then, the industry sat back and watched as the follow-up anthology, Fascinated, zipped onto USAToday as well.

There were constraints at the time as to what terms you could use, what body parts you could name, how far you could go.

Twenty years later, 50 Shades changed everything.

Now everything is on the table (and in the bed) as far as combinations and sex — front, back, side, upside down, inside out, casual, meaningful, manacled, chained, blindfolded, whipped, flipped, one night stands, one day, one hour get it on and get off, no commitment, scratch the itch and over you go.

So now that there are readers for every sexual taste, where’s your line? How far will you go? You could push the bar even further — male/male, female/ female, triads, quadrads, and any multiple combination of that; bestiality, hard core bondage/domination/punishment, corset discipline, flogging, gagging, needle play, fire play … .

And so my question to you, which I asked at the meeting as well, is — do you feel the need to compete with 50 Shades? To push further? To define the bar rather than straddle it? To be the one to make waves? Or you do have your own strict won’t-go-there parameters?

Thea Devine’s books defined erotic historical romance. She’s the author of 27 historical and contemporary erotic romances and a dozen novellas. Look for “Beyond the Night”, the sequel to “The Darkest Heart,” to be released as a Pocket Star eBook, fall 2014.

Results of Survey

Welcome to my first post in our awesome new home!

PJ here. I hope you’ll find the updated digs engaging, user friendly, and informative. I, and each of my Scribe sisters will continue providing you with twice weekly blog posts, rotating through on Mondays and Thursdays so that each of us will be with you only once a month. The good news is that posts will be left active for the three days in between so more folks will have time to pop in, visit, and leave comments.

So, I’ll be back here Thursday, March 6th with my next post. By then, I’m sure I’ll have something super exciting to share with you!

Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss anything.

Now, for the results of our survey, based on 25 responses:

1)      Do you think blogging is a useful endeavor for authors?

58% said yes, 12% said no, and 30% said maybe.

2)      How many blogs do you currently subscribe to?

52% said (0-5), 24% said (5-10), and 24% said (10 or more)

3)      What types of blogs do you follow?

68% said Writers blogs (tips on industry info), 12% said Readers blogs (from your favorite authors), and 20% chose “other” with responses indicating personal hobbies ie: photography, travel, mommy sites, and such.

4)      What do you like to see on a blog or website?

40% chose an Active site with daily blogs from different authors, only 12% liked the idea of a static site, while 44% preferred an Active site with contests, reviews, and guest bloggers. 36% chose “other’, responding with comments suggesting that 2-3 time per week blogs were plenty. Also noted was that the respondents would like to continue seeing insider industry information, marketing tips, as well as book reviews, entertainment, interactive conversation, and guest bloggers blogging on writing related topics.

5)      What would make you subscribe to a blog?

52% chose “Industry Insider info on self-publishing”, 36% would subscribe to “writing craft blogs”, and another 56% of respondents also chose “A variety of interesting, entertaining, and informative posts.” 12% who said “other” said all of the above and one commented that if they were to follow an individual author they would sign up for their newsletter.

6)      Which of the following would most likely make you unsubscribe to a blog?

Almost 46% said “too frequent posts”. 12.5% said too infrequent posts, while 25% said “inconsistent/unfocused content”.  17% sited ranting, offensive, or boring posts as reasons to unsubscribe, along with posts that are too long, inaccurate, rude, or irrelevant.

And lastly,

7)      What would you like to see at the Secrets of 7 Scribes in the coming year?

We heard everything from “no interviews” to “more interviews”, the “writer’s journey” to “more about how to get published”. Requests were made for posts on “what agents are looking for” and “sneak peeks into the writing process and related topics about each author’s journey.” “Theme weeks/months” were suggested (LOVE that one!), and a few votes for and against holding contests were noted.

I don’t need to tell you that polls like these can be terribly skewed, depending on the questions, how they are worded and the pool of respondents. As such, there was nothing scientific about the survey and most people who responded were probably writers, given that’s the readership we’ve attracted over the years. Taking these factors into consideration,  our results aren’t too surprising, but I enjoyed reading the comments and we have lots of food for thought!

anorexic top 10-4I’ll end by giving a big thanks to all who responded. We heard you, and hopefully you’ll stick with us and see what we have in store for you. We appreciate each and every one of you who engage with us here at the Secrets of 7 Scribes on a regular basis. We hope you’ll continue to do so.

In the meantime, the randomly chosen winner of the critique of a query letter, synopsis, or first chapter was Julie Glover. Congrats Julie!

What do you think of our survey results? Agree, disagree, wondering how you’ll live without our daily posts? As always, we’d love to have you comment and pitch in your two cents.

TCV, TPT, DIY, Brook, D&T 1, D&T2, D&T3

A Brave New Scribely World!

Good Morning and Happy Saturday to you and yours!  J Monkeys here.  You’ve been hearing bits and pieces all week, but here’s the real deal: the Scribes are switchin’ it up!  Who can believe it’s been nearly three years! since we started this baby?  The world has changed, the industry has spun on it’s axis in some ways, and we Scribes have grown as writers.

The Cordovan Vault ebook cover small

Way back in May of 2011 I had exactly one published book, The Cordovan Vault.  

 

TCV, TPT, DIY, Brook, D&T 1, D&T2, D&T3

Now I have seven and counting!

In fact, all of us are in the same boat that way.  We’ve all got lots of authorial stuff going on.   In our new format, you’ll be able to see more images.  And we’ll be blogging a bit less often – we’ve found that when we blog everyday, you guys don’t get enough time to check in. 

But don’t worry, there will still be plenty of Sugar’s delightful snarkiness (honestly, I wait all week for that!), PJ’s indie expertise, Jen and Thea’s wisdom, Suze’s enduring love of history, pop culture and all things Downton, Casey’s craftiness, my randomness, and Katy’s inspiring thoughts.   We’ll continue to host cool authors and you might even find the odd bit of eye-candy.  Plus, if you are looking for content on a particular topic, check out our topic cloud.

Welcome to the Brave New Scribely World!  Tune in next week for my thoughts on Pete the Catniss or One Book, One School, What?!

~ J Monkeys

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

Top 10 Time Management Tips

Let’s face it; we’re all crazy busy these days, right? I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t succumbed to the “rat race” we call life in the 21st century. Americans especially, are overworked, overwhelmed, and out of control. It seems the more we try to make things “easier” and “more convenient,” the more complicated life becomes. Days pass at lightning speed as if time has somehow become accelerated and we are being jettisoned into the future, our hair practically on fire! PJ here, and I’d love to tell you I’m immune to such a condition, but alas, I am not. I see it barreling down like a freight train and yet I feel powerless to stop it. In spite of this stress-inducing phenomenon, I hold tightly to my belief that we are indeed still the masters of our Universe. We CAN manage our time, no matter what insanity surrounds us and tries to suck us in.

You may have heard some of these before, but here are a my TOP 10 Tips for Time Management. I hope you find them useful.IMG_1241

1) Regardless of what your to-do list indicates, there are only 24 hours in a day. Eight of them should be dedicated to sleep. You have control of this. Exercise it!

2) That leaves another 16 hours to do with what you will. Only eight of those hours should be dedicated to work on a daily basis. The other eight are meant for taking care of your own needs and interacting with family and friends. Unless you have a boss who is holding a gun to your head, you CAN walk away from your work after an eight hour shift. Stop letting guilt and an overdeveloped sense of responsibility rule your life! I often think about the old adage, no one on their death bed ever thinks, ‘gee I wish I’d worked more’.

3) During the eight hours you are working, divide your time between MUST do’s and WANT to do’s. Make a list each morning (or at night before you go to bed so you can sleep without the hamster wheel running you ragged in your sleep). You’re list of to-do’s can be as long as it needs to be. Write everything down that you want to accomplish in a day, but agree with yourself to do the top three MUST do’s. If you get those three done, then pick one more…then one more. Whatever doesn’t get done today will be moved to the following day. This is the magic of the proverbial “one bite at a time” trick. Ten things may seem overwhelming, but three are manageable. The to-do list will likely never go away, so chasing your tail to complete it is like rolling a boulder up a hill. Get over the need to complete everything and focus instead on completing one thing at a time. I have weekly, monthly, and quarterly to-do’s that are the action steps to meeting my goals that I set at the beginning of the year. I check in frequently to see how I’m doing, but I don’t attach myself to success or failure when it comes to getting things done. It is…or it isn’t complete. It doesn’t mean I’m a slacker. It simply means the item remains on the list.

4) Take power breaks. Chaining yourself to your desk or chair will not increase your productivity. It will more likely leave you feeling exhausted, frustrated, and resentful. Take frequent breaks. Stretch, do a few yoga poses, take a walk, get a drink of water, do a load of laundry–anything to get away from the work for ten to fifteen minutes and clear your head. 010 (2013_06_07 00_53_00 UTC)Then sit down and get back to it. I’m finding great success with working in sprints like this. I’m getting my work done, but I feel as if I have time for other things as well, which leaves me feeling energized and gives me a sense of accomplishment.

5) Delegate. I cannot stress this enough. No man (or woman) is an island. No matter how much we feel that we alone are completely responsible for our households and for keeping life running smoothly for our fellow man, that is a lie of the ego that will keep you feeling inadequate every day of your life. Until we learn to a) ask for help b) delegate responsibility or c) hire an assistant, we will always feel isolated and overwhelmed. I know that hiring someone isn’t an option for many of us, but developing a network of people in your life that you can look to for assistance is essential to your mental and physical well-being. In most cases, we resist this notion because we don’t trust others to be dependable and we believe that we are the only ones who will do the job “right”. EGO is at the crux of this problem, so my suggestion is to check it at the door and be open to help from wherever you can find it. There are many creative ways that we can lighten our load…if we are willing to let go of the illusion of control. Barter, trade, return a favor. Just don’t expect that you can do it ALL alone and remain balanced and healthy.

6) Making time to exercise four or five days a week is non-negotiable. If you are not healthy, strong, and happy, your family life will suffer and so will your work. Training to be the best you that you can be is the only way you will be successful in every area of your life. Thirty minutes a day is all it takes. No excuses!

7) Keep a “time” diary. For one week, keep a diary of how you spend your time. Be honest. You would only be lying to yourself. If you spend four hours a night watching television, write it down. It’s a real eye-opener when the week is over and you realize how much of your life was spent watching commercials or mindlessly wasting your precious time under the guise of “relaxation” or enjoyment of “downtime”. This is equally effective when keeping a food diary for a week or two. Most of the time, we are on auto-pilot. Most of us are not aware of consciously making choices about foods we eat or how we spend our free time. Writing it down brings awareness. Don’t judge yourself too harshly…just notice, and then adjust accordingly. You have CHOICES! Take back control over those parts of your life that seem to be slipping away from you.Change-Graphic

8) It may seem hard to believe that we actually have eight hours every day to take care of ourselves and the needs of our family and friends, but it’s true. And that time should be cherished! Find enjoyment in the little things. A short conversation with a friend, a walk with your dog, a bike ride with your kids, or hanging out with your husband and sharing the events of the day should be highlights, not stolen moments. Be willing to let go of the feeling that you should always be working. I know it’s frustrating when you’re on deadline and HAVE to get that next chapter written, but try to remember what’s really important and don’t let resentment steal your joy.

9) When people talk about time management, they often recommend that we PRIORITIZE. Well that’s easier said than done, isn’t it? When it seems like we have a thousand and one things that have to be done and they’re all hanging over our heads like a cold bucket of water just waiting to spill over if we don’t “get to it, asap,” it’s time for another “P” word…PERSPECTIVE. Try measuring everything on a brain tumor scale of life. Zero is nirvana. Everything’s coming up roses and going your way. Ten is you or someone you love having a brain tumor. If your “emergency” is less than a five on that scale, don’t sweat it. In the grand scheme of the Universe, most of our daily “emergencies” don’t rate the amount of stress we attach to them. We are simply so used to being in adrenaline overload, that every detail of life becomes a life and death situation to overcome.kdp select 1

10) Relax! Breathe! Be in the moment! Time is not the enemy. Experience life and all that it has to offer in each minute of every day. Don’t let stress, work, deadlines, or anything else rob you of your peace of mind. If you are unhappy with your life and feel like time has become unmanageable, take back control. There are choices to be made, and despite your current reality, you can choose how you live your life…and how you spend the time you have here on this planet. Every choice you make brings you one step closer to creating the life you want.

So there you have it, friends. These are only a few ideas. I’m sure you have plenty more! Feel free to share your best time management tips below for our readers, and if I haven’t said so recently, I appreciate you all so very much!! Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to spend a few minutes with me.

Pot smoking teens and other family dramas

Hey readers,

PJ Sharon here on a lovely autumn day in the Berkshires. I’ve actually seen a few patches of yellowed leaves on the trees and the star-filled nights here are getting cool.Crane This crane will likely be taking flight to warmer climes soon enough.

It’s also the time of year for the spreading of colds and such.*sniffle…sniffle*

I guess I can’t complain. It’s the first time I’ve been sick in a few years and it gives me some needed downtime to rest and reflect…and write.

As I swim through the murky middle of my current work in progress, PIECES OF LOVE, I’m reminded of my own teen dramas and those of my many siblings. You see, I grew up in a pretty crazy, dysfunctional family. Lots of alcohol, a dash of mental illness, secrets, lies, some seriously scary and frequent catastrophes, and lots of drama! Yes, we all loved each other in our own way, but each person in that house of seven children and three adults, was flawed. As we all are. It’s what makes us human. It’s also what makes us interesting to paint into the canvas of a story.

There’s a reason that I write YA dramas that touch on  taboo topics that encompass everything from grief and loss of a loved one, to teen pregnancy, bulimia, the effects of war, and even sexual abuse. I draw as much as possible from personal experience and from all that I have seen to be true in the human condition.

So when I began PIECES OF LOVE, I wanted to make sure to give Ali’s plight its due. Not that I’ve ever lost someone to an alcohol overdose or been arrested for marijuana possession, but I’ve certainly seen my share of these kinds of family dramas to draw real emotion and conflict from them. Understanding the motivation behind why people do what they do is a key element in making your fiction believable. As is sharing accurate and interesting detail to utilize your setting to enhance your character’s journey. Since I’ve been on a Mediterranean cruise, I have lots of insights into how Ali sees the world anew with each port she visits. It’s been fun and interesting to revisit the places I went and relive it all through her eyes, watching her transformation from self-centered, immature teen trying desperately to avoid dealing with the painful realities of life, to a young woman who learns to appreciate the people in her life who love her.

Here’s the blurb for PIECES OF LOVE:

Sixteen year-old Alexis Hartman wants nothing more than to smoke pot and play guitar. What’s the point in planning for the future? Her world is shattered by her sister’s accidental alcohol overdose at college, and she is arrested for marijuana possession a second time. Her mother’s breakdown is the final straw that forces Ali to spend the summer with her Grandmother in Malibu.

But problems aren’t so easily dismissed. After Ali steps over the line one too many times, she’s certain her life is over and that she’s destined for juvenile detention. Her ‘Malibu Barbie’ grandmother, Maddie, takes desperate measures…a Mediterranean cruise…for seniors. If overwhelmed and motion sick Ali needs further torment, Maddie has decided that her granddaughter’s childish name could use an upgrade and renames her Lexi. Can a new name and a French haircut fix everything that’s wrong with Ali’s life? Maybe when Ethan Kaswell says the name.

Eighteen year-old Ethan, the poster child for being a good son, who is stranded on the cruise when his famous heart surgeon father is kept away by an important consultation, finds Lexi irresistible. Although he’s smart enough to see that there is no future in falling for a “vacation crush,” Lexi’s edgy dark side and soulfully sad eyes draw him like an anchor to the bottom of the sea. As she spirals out of control, will she bring him down too, or was he already drowning? Maybe by saving her, he can save himself. 

Greece2011 224 (2013_02_16 18_14_38 UTC)Visiting such ports as Portofino, Italy; Palermo, Sicily; and Rome. From the Greek Islands to Tunisia, North Africa; and Barcelona, Spain to Dubrovnik, Croatia; you’ll see the sights and walk on sacred ground with Ali as she learns about herself, her family, and what it means to love someone–even when you have to let them go.

Infusing our own experiences, we can create flawed but redeemable characters who are on a journey of self-discovery. The more vividly we can paint that portrait, the more we bring the story to life with their color, depth, and the rich texture of emotional reactionary drama that makes us connect to them in an intimate way. When the character’s fatal flaw forces them to face the consequences of their actions and choices, and we see them grow, it’s satisfying and uplifting. Readers heart’s are touched. It’s what all writers strive for and is so challenging to do, and do well.

One thing I’m sure of is that we can’t shy away from addressing tough issues when writing for teens, but we have to be willing to step fully into their shoes to get it right. Knowing that “pot” is now mostly referred to as “weed” and other such specifics, are important for authenticity, and can only be known if you hang around teenagers and ask questions. It’s been my experience that they are most willing to share their opinions and ideas when I tell them why I’m asking. They seem to appreciate that I’m willing to have an open dialogue and that I’m not interested in judging them. I don’t think any of my teen library group kids are “potheads,” or “stoners” as they call them, but they are fully engaged in the youth culture in a way that I am not.

I’m hoping for the book to be ready for release in the first part of 2014. A cover reveal and the ability to pre-order the book through Smashwords should be coming up at the end of November. I’m also working on recording a theme song for the book–possibly two, written by yours truly!

So if you’re a writer, write what you know, ‘they’ say. I agree. Either draw from your own experiences, or find a way to walk in someone else’s moccasins for a mile or two. Your characters will be so much richer for it! Just be real, and let your characters take the story where it needs to go. You might even experience some healing as you create/or re-create a painful real-life event that still holds you back from being the best you can be–just like your characters.

I often have to remind myself that ‘do-overs and make-believe are not only allowed in fiction writing, but encouraged.’

Today’s unlocked secret: Infuse your personal experiences into your writing to create vivid, authentic, and memorable characters. Don’t be afraid to tackle the tough problems, and keep it real.

I’m heading back to bed for more rest. I have to be better for my trip to Nashville and New Orleans later this week, where I’ll be at my step-son’s wedding and doing some research for book three in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy. I hate getting on a plane and being THAT person who gets everyone else sick. I’m also thinking my sinuses aren’t going to appreciate the flight…uggh!

To happier thoughts and my original statement in this post, I really do love it here in the hills. Our town has the cleanest air on record in Massachusetts, and has one of the healthiest ecosystems. I routinely see lots of wildlife, including a host of various birds here. Although with hunting season commencing, and flight of the migratory bird populations, that will likely be less now. Blue heronI am so grateful to live where I live and feel blessed to be part of my small community.

As such, I’m participating once again at the Granville Harvest Fair coming up Columbus Day weekend (October 12-14). I’ll be hanging out in front of the library signing books with a few other authors. If you’re in North Central CT or Western MA, I hope you’ll stop by and say hello. There’s tons to see and do. I swear, we have one of the BEST harvest fairs in New England!

Do you write what you know, or rely on a mix of research, empathy, and experience? I’d love to hear from you about your process and how you make your characters authentic.

The End of an Era by Vivienne Lynge

Good Morning Scribblehoardersrs!  Vivienne Lynge, here.  Today is a weird day for me.  I’ll be spending the day cleaning house.  Now if you’ve seen my house, you know that I’m just a few giant steps away from being a hoarder, or so it seems with Minx and Jester strewing their toys everywhere.  Cleaning just isn’t my bag.  But today, I’ll be spending the day cleaning someone else’s house.

My grandparents built a house in 1950 when my mom was a toddler.  Mom was an “oops”, as in her 3 siblings were 15, 17 and 18 years older than she.  My mom was really the only one of them to grow up in 1950 House.  Mom married young and divorced young, too.  Just a few years after leaving 1950 House, she was back, with two babies in tow.  The more adorable of the two was me.  :)  So I grew up in 1950 House, too. 

When I was in high school, Mom remarried and we moved out leaving a 75 year old widowed G-Mom at 1950 House.  Mom’s oldest brother had divorced about that time (seriously, who divorces after 30 years of marriage?!) and he moved in to look after her.  Now thirty years later, G-Mom is long gone and Oldest Brother is 85.  He’s moving in with his son and it’s time to clean out 1950 House. 

Mom’s got a lot on her plate these days; a lot of change is coming her way at once.  To be helpful (and further cement my place as top daughter) I organized a family picnic for Labor Day at 1950 House and gave my Dad the number to call for a dumpster.  The cousins and I will be in attendance, our own kids in tow, to whip this place into shape. 

I have no idea what kind of treasures we’ll find.  My last peek into darkened 1950 corners was a decade ago when I uncovered a drawer full of phone bills from…wait for itbugs bunny glassware…the 1950′s.  I’m pretty sure Grandfather’s baseball card collection is long gone, as well as mom’s bicentennial quarter collection.  But I bet the bar still houses the 1973 Bugs Bunny and Friends glass collection from Burger King and I know my G-Mom’s record “collection” is still sitting on the floor of the Dining Room.  These are perhaps the worst sound recordings ever conferred upon vinyl.  And there are about 30 of ‘em.  Sigh.  No Antiques’ Roadshow treasures there.  We’d have to pay someone to take them away.  Can you say “dumpster”?

But no matter what we find, it’s the end of an era.  That house was my first home.  I know that address, phone number and neighborhood better than I know my own.  We’ll be renting the house to family for a while, but still, the time has come to purge 1950 House of the Grandfather I never knew and the G-Mom who was (for good and bad) important to my formative years. 

Today’s Secret: I’m pretty sure that this is one of those life moments that writers are supposed to pay attention to so that we can write them authentically.  It’s a rite of passage for many people, whether it’s a parent’s house or another family member.

Today’s Question: I’ll be spending the holiday weekend on a trip down memory lane.  What are your plans?