The Joys and Perils of Genre Jumping

Hey there, Casey here.

Change is hard. Even when you want to change, it’s still a challenge to teach your mind that what you’re doing is okay. That it will all work out. That you shouldn’t panic!

OSV - Grape Arbor

Last summer, I wrote a contemporary romance called Over Easy. I did it because I wanted to grow my writing skills and to try something new and challenging.

All of my books have been paranormal romances. And while I love the genre (and I don’t intend to leave it all together), I need to stretch myself once in a while. So I had this idea about a woman and a struggling diner in a small town in Vermont.

The idea percolated in my brain while I wrote Mystic Hero and Lachlan’s Curse (which I recently sold – yay me!).  I knew going in that it would be hard to switch from one genre to another. Sure, they are both romances, and in theory, the heart is still a love story. . . but. . .

. . . But here’s the thing. They aren’t the same. With contemporary romance, I wouldn’t have magic, evil villains or explosions to rely upon to get my hero/heroine in and out of jams.

Nope.

I’d have to rely on good, old fashioned emotions. Every day problems. Accessible issues. Hearts and flowers.

Hmmm.

Those were kind of scary to me. In real life, I don’t like drama. I hate confrontations. And I don’t like overly emotional situations. Heck, I’m not sure I’m even that romantic.

Well, personal fears aside, I wrote the book.

It came out too short. And while it was okay and my beta readers liked it (it even placed in a contest), I knew it wasn’t as good as it could be.  So I did what most writers do in that situation.

I let it sit. And sit. And sit some more. Then panic and doubt set in, until it morphed into THE. WORST.BOOK.EVER.

That’s when I knew it was time to ask for help. I’m lucky that my RWA chapter has a mentoring program. And I’m even luckier that my mentor is well-versed in the genre.

After a frank assessment of my work, I have new path to follow. I’m learning how to be less plotty (yes, that’s a thing) and be more real. AND to face all those emotions that scare me. Yup. I’m digging deep. It’s uncomfortable, but I’ll live.

In order to write the best book I can – to hatch a beautIMG_1086iful butterfly – I need to return to the cocoon and start again.

See? Maybe there are some hearts and flowers in me after all.

Has anyone else faced the same problem? How did you deal with it?

Conference Season is Upon Us

Good Day, Scribe Followers,

PJ Sharon here. March is an exciting month for authors. Springtime is around the corner and this year’s conference circuit begins. Since I’ve been at this a few years, now…eight to be precise, I’ve come to learn the value of attending at least a few hands-on workshops and major conferences every year. There are so many great opportunities out there, how does one know which conference is worth the time, effort, and money?  I’ve narrowed down my favorite, and most productive conference experiences. I’d love to share my take on a few of them.

I’ll start with the CTRWA sponsored events. I may be biased since this is my home chapter, but the events planners for CTRWA manage to consistently offer fantastic programming at very reasonable prices. With a smaller, more intimate gathering of authors, you can enjoy getting to know other writers, networking, and learning from such greats as Michael Hague and Kristan Higgins. Michael Hague’s teaching on story structure and the heroes’ journey revolutionized my writing. I can’t wait to hear him speak again this coming weekend! CTRWA also puts on an incredible Fiction Fest conference in the fall. These two events are on my MUST attend list.

This will be the first year I’m attending the New England Conference April 24-26, so I’ll be anxious to see how that one is. I’ve heard good things, and I’m looking forward to presenting, as well as seeing some of my CTRWA pals giving workshops as well. If expenses are tight–which is the case for most of us writers–presenting workshops can be a great way to attend conferences at a discount and also get your name in front of a a good number of people.This will be my first time presenting to a crowd this size, but with a workshop on Ergonomics and Self Care for Writers (Subtitled: Is your writing killing you?), how can I go wrong?

One of the funnest parts of attending conferences is that you never know who you’re going to meet. I rode an elevator with Nora Roberts three times before realizing who she was…my bad. I also got some amazing and very sound advice from Bella Andre at the 2013 National conference. She was open, warm, and honest–just like her books.

RWA2013 me and Bella Andre

Me and Bella Andre at the 2013 National RWA conference, where she rightly told me to set aside the third book in my Lily Carmichael trilogy and go home and finish another contemporary YA romance. I did as she suggested and produced PIECES of LOVE last summer before finishing HEALING WATERS which released in December. In doing so, I was able to keep my contemporary readers happy, add a box set and novella to my bookshelf, and still finish up the trilogy before the end of 2014. I don’t think I would have written and recorded my PIECES of LOVE theme song if I hadn’t been pushed to write that book at that time. I needed that time away from writing the last book in the trilogy to regroup and get organized again before bringing the series to a close. Writing something totally different and using my music in a new way gave me the creative boost I needed and offered my contemporary readers new content.

I’ll always value the opinions of others who have done it before me and done it well. Conferences are rife with good advice from the pros!

When it came to deciding between RT Booklovers and the National RWA conference this year, it was a no brainer for me. I’ve been to RT twice, and both times found it to be a bit disorganized and chaotic. There were some good workshops and the schmoozing is always fun, but overall, I get much more bang for my buck at Nationals. One caveat, is that RT is a great place to meet readers.

R Fan pic- Marissa pic (2013_06_02 00_59_02 UTC)

The YARWA folks do an amazing job putting together a Day of YA, where hundreds of young readers show up to meet and chat with authors. I might have to go back again for just that event! I took this pic of me and one of my YA readers who actually recognized my name and had read my books! One of those perfect moments I’ll never forget.

Meeting awesome people and rooming with others is one of the greatest parts of conferences for me. I’ve had the best roomies and it saves me a bunch of money! That’s me and my Scribe’s pal Katy Lee at the 2013 National conference below. I’ve had the great pleasure of bunking with some top notch ladies who are always up for an impromptu brainstorming session or a late night cocktail. The hotel bar is a hot spot for agents and editors, so be ready with those elevator pitches and always be professional.

 Me and Katy Lee

Since my focus has shifted a bit this year toward creating visibility, opening myself up to educational opportunities, and writing my non-fiction book, I figured offering my workshop at the National RWA conference in July would be an excellent way to spread the word about my first passion–health and wellness. How much fun will it be for me to share my best life balance and self care tips with hundreds of authors–all of whom are suffering from the sedentary lifestyle syndrome that is sweeping the globe? (My story about how this idea came to be and my celebration of 10 years as an entrepreneur is up at my website, along with my three best exercises for improving posture.)

For those of you who spend hours a day at your desk or in your car, or find yourself imprisoned by your computers and perpetually attached to your cell phones, i-pads and e-readers, you know the pitfalls of the sedentary and chair-bound lifestyle all too well. Do you suffer neck and back pain, poor posture, symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, or even significant weight gain from all the sitting you do? With today’s fast paced, digitized world, we’re all finding ourselves in this predicament and there seems to be no end in sight to the perils of techno-overload and the inevitable decline of our health as a result. Having the experience and knowledge to help others navigate their way back into a health body is a privilege and I take the responsibility seriously. The more people I can reach with positive messages about proper ergonomics and self care, the better.

We won’t even talk about all those gorgeous (and non-ergonomic) shoes we’ll all be wearing! Conferences are a mecca for fashion and glitz…an opportunity to feel like a princess a few times a year.shoe pic

The last conference I’ll attend will be CT Fiction Fest in September. That should round out my year nicely with an affordable way to advance my writing, meet some new people, and hang out with my pals for another fun-filled weekend of replenishing the creative well. I had to skip all the conferences last year in lieu of finishing two books and a novella in 2014. This year, I’ll be making up for it!

Which conferences or workshops are on your MUST list? Any tips you’d like to share about making the most of your conference experience?

It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who You Are: Life Lessons From Winners-Book Review

INWYKBack Cover Copy: We live in a culture obsessed with celebrity. We love winners and we want to be winners. But take it from a man who knows more famous people than most of us will ever meet–it’s not who you know that’s important, it’s who you are inside.

In this inspiring book, Pat Williams draws from over fifty years of brushing shoulders with the greats to help you discover what it really means to be a winner. Through his short meditations on success, leadership, family and friends, impact and influence, and becoming a person of excellence, you’ll meet

· a young singer who messed up the national anthem and shot to stardom anyway
· a coach who sacrificed his time to give his players the edge
· a marathon runner who knew the secret to pacing yourself
· a political outsider who confidently reached for an impossible goal
· a football player who wouldn’t let a broken leg stop him from getting to the Super Bowl
· and many more ordinary people with extraordinary character

These entertaining stories of fascinating people from all walks of life will motivate you to do your best, be yourself, and continually strive to be the person God made you to be.

Katy Lee’s Review:  I decided to review this book because I thought it would make a great collection to my homeschool curriculum as a downtime read-along during our school days.  We couldn’t get to it everyday, but when we did the stories offered wonderful springboards into great discussions.  There were even some stories I had heard before and knew there were videos of some of the people on the web that I could look up.  It really brought the stories to life for my kids.  “It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who You Are” is a book for all ages, and I recommend it especially to parents looking for short stories they can share with their children, but also to show them they, too, can be winners.

Thank you, Revell, for sending me the book for my honest opinion!

Beautiful You!

Hello Dear Scribe’s followers,

I’m here today to talk about beauty! I’d imagine that most of our readers are women, but even if you’re a guy, I’m here to remind you that you are a beautiful person. Each of us as individuals are unique, special, and multifaceted. We are not simply the sum of our parts, but a whole entity, imbued with gifts, talents, and a human spirit that makes us who we are…and that is awesome!

When I say that you are beautiful, I’m not talking about just the exterior “earth suit” we inhabit, but the intrinsic goodness that lives within each of us. I suppose one could argue that there are evil people in the world who are truly ugly because of who they are on the inside and the things they do to hurt others, but let’s leave them out of today’s discussion and save them for a “celebrate villains day” should we care to delve into the darker side of humanity. For today’s topic, let’s focus on what makes us beautiful. Why, you ask?

boaw-logo-2015-originalUntil March 1st, I’m participating in the Beauty of a Woman blogfest, where writers from all over the globe share their views on beauty and take time to celebrate women! That’s something I can totally wrap my head around! I even posted a “Dear Teen Me” letter to myself over on my blog  if you care to stop by and check it out. Leave a comment there to be entered to win a copy of ON THIN ICE, and make sure to drop by the events page of the Blogfest to enter to win some great prizes! You’ll also find links to some amazing and inspirational blog posts from some truly beautiful women.

So what is this thing we call beauty?

Can we all agree that it isn’t about having long legs, symmetrical features, or a killer body? Although those are all things to admire, let’s agree here and now that they are NOT what makes a person beautiful. I’ve met some beauties who, through their words and deeds, would not be considered a beautiful person in my book.

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PJ at age 15

To me, beauty comes from the light that shines from the soul of a truly good person. Qualities such as compassion, kindness, generosity, and loyalty make someone beautiful to me. The old woman with deep laugh lines and crinkly eyes from years of sharing her love with others who smiles through crooked teeth…is beautiful. The child who touches the hearts of those around them while they themselves are suffering the ravages of cancer…is beautiful. Any person who would lay down his life for others…is beautiful. Even the teenager who struggles to find something to smile about when tears are just beneath the surface…is beautiful. I could go on and on about what makes someone beautiful to me, and it would have nothing to do with appearances.

So today, I’m going to go out on a limb and say, if you showed up here to support our little blog or share your thoughts with me, you are beautiful! Thank you so much for being part of this crazy writer’s life.

If you had to sum up what makes a person beautiful in one word, what would it be? 

 

February: The Gateway to Spring

Hello Dear Readers,

PJ Sharon here at the end of this brisk and snowy January. I’m happy to see more daylight and looking forward to that first sunny seventy degree day that gives me hope for an early spring. I don’t generally put much faith in Punxsutawney Phil, but we often get enough of a warm up in February to warrant a day trip to the beach.

As I greet the second month of 2015–my official birthday and “gateway to Spring” month–I’m busy working on those new goals and projects I set at the beginning of January. I’ll spend some time this month helping friends promote their books, participate in a couple of multi-author events, and spend my birthday with a few close friends for an Outlander party, where I’ll share all eight episodes of the first half of season one in marathon fashion, serving wine and cheese, and hanging out in my jammies with Jamie, Claire, and the gang. I know…I need to get a real life, LOL, but Diana Gabaldon’s work has been an inspiration to me as a writer and the STARZ adaptation of the book has, thus far, captivated me!

If you’re wondering what kind of multi-author events I have planned, check these out. (Bookmark the following sites and come back to them to enter the giveaways once the events go live, or stop by my website and sign up for my blog or newsletter, and notification will come right to your inbox).

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I’ll be celebrating my mutual love of romance with the authors of Addictive Reads. Between February 13-15th, we’ll be sharing in the Gifts of Love Blog Hop, and offering readers a chance to win a $50 dollar, or one of two $25 dollar gift cards, as well as prizes at the individual author sites. boaw-logo-2015-original

Later in the month, I’ll be participating in the Beauty of a Woman BlogFest, where I’ll be posting on my blog, along with bloggers and writers from all over the world, talking about some facet of beauty as we know it. My post will be a letter with advice from me to my teen self. That should be interesting! You can check out all the blog posts between February 23 and March 1st. Make sure you make the rounds to all the participating author’s blogs for inspiration and prizes.

On the writing front, I’ll be working on my non-fiction book, ERGONOMICS and Self-care (A practical guide for writers, readers, desk jockeys, and couch potatoes). I’m still in the beginning stages, but it’s coming along nicely so far and I’m having much more fun writing it than I thought I would. On the fiction side, I’m planning a series of novellas to go with SAVAGE CINDERELLA, which has almost 3 million reads on Wattpad. My Wattpad followers love, love, love Brinn and her journey of survival. I look forward to revisiting these characters and creating further adventures for her supporters.

In keeping with my health and wellness goals in 2015, I’ll be taking myself to the beach for my birthday and then attending a four day Qi-Gong workshop at the end of the month. The workshop will consist of training in the ways of movement and breath work, nutritional healing, and energy balancing. Since I’m all about the multi-tasking, it will also help me meet my continuing education credits for my massage therapy license. Professional development is at the forefront of my goals this year. Whether attending writing conferences or healing workshops, sharing time with like-minded individuals is always so energizing! I’m sure the workshop will be the perfect opportunity to help me usher in Spring.

What are you up to in this coming month? Are you getting cabin fever? What do you do to beat the winter doldrums?

Secrets, Seven Days a Week

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