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Monday, January 31, 2011

Do We Need a Little Assistance?

I have not used a Novel Writing Software before but have often wondered at the pros and cons of such programs. Right now, I use MS Word and OneNote. Word is where I write the story, OneNote, is where I, well, make notes. I have different notebooks for each series. Within the series notebooks I will sections for each individual novel such as one for research, ideas, edits to be made, settings, and anything else I can think of that I need to remember. With this system, I am not sure how a writing software could help me more.

Besides my trusty laptop, I also have my bulletin boards with notecards, maps and floor plans. An example, behind me on the wall is the floor plan, all three floors, of an Elizabethan Manor house. This is where my current hero is residing. Or, he is living in a similar type of manor because I did flip a few rooms around and gave the gallery an ocean view instead of the front drive, as intended.

But to come back to the question, can writing software be helpful? As I have no experience with these types of programs, I went on a hunt to see what I could find out. All the information used in this blog was taken from the product description at Amazon.com.

NowNovelist 2.0 [Novel Writing Software], can be used with Windows 98, XP, Vista, 2000 and NT. According to the online store, this program breaks the story down into “manageable chunks”. Basically, you can work on any part of your story at any time. You don’t have to start with the very first paragraph, but begin with chapter 5. By the way, I’ve done that. At the time I thought it was the beginning only to learn as I got into the story, more needed to come before. Thus, it became chapter 5. I've also written scenes that I know will come later in the book because it comes to me and I want to get it down. I then just save it in Word until I come to the point where it will be inserted. With NewNovelist, if you don’t feel like writing the story, you can work on characters or plots instead. If you are one who likes organization but wants to be free in your creativity and have everything in one program, this sounds like a good program for you.

Writer’s Dream Kit 4.0 works with Windows 98, 2000, Me, XP, Mac OS X. According to the information on the online store, this is the beginners’ version of Dramatica Pro, which I will describe later. This software claims to help you solve plot and character problems. Apparently it predicts where your story is going based on plot decisions you’ve made. It helps you build your characters, plot your story and develop and outline, leaving no holes in the story or underdeveloped characters. This one does sound interesting, and it makes me wonder how it can predict where you are going. I am a panster and I rarely know what my characters are going to do or experience beyond the two chapters ahead of where I am. I wonder if there is a way that it can predict, without me knowing the prediction, while I continue writing and then compare when I am done if the program was correct. Hmmmm.

Write Brothers Dramatica Pro Win/Mac, available for Windows XP, Mac OS X. This program also helps with character development and helps solve plot problems so you can build a stronger story that can sell, by supporting you from beginning to end. As with all of the programs, I really wish I could spend a little time with each one of these so I can get a better feel for the program, but time is short and all I have to rely on is web information. Still, I am having a hard time at grasping how a program can help you solve a plot problem. If anyone has used any of these programs I would dearly love to hear (read) your thoughts.

Storybase Software for Writers can be used with Windows Vista, 98, XP, 2000, NT, and 95. Besides novel writing, the program can also assist with screenwriters, playwrights and game developers. This program seems to help you develop stronger and more developed characters by putting them into scenarios to see the outcome – “2363 essential Conflict Situations covering virtually every dimension of the human condition”. It also claims to have the only “dictionary of narrative situations.” This program could be very interesting to play around with. At least it piqued my interest. I am very curious what the 2363 essential Conflict Situations are.

Storyist 2 is a Mac OS X product and is used for story development for novelists and screenwriters. It assists in tracking and organizing characters, settings and plot so the writer can concentrate on the story.

Outline 4D, is for Windows Vista, 7 and XP. This one does appear different from the others reviewed in that you use charts and timelines. I can see where it would be beneficial in tracking a story as it develops in the same manner in which many of us use index cards but on the computer screen and in a much more organized and detailed manner. It claims to enhance research, track the story, show connections between events and characters, and reveals the rhythm and pattern of your story. Of all the software programs I took a look ated, this is the one I found to be most interesting.

Power Writer (Novel and Fiction Writing Software) for Windows. It is a story processor for creative writers and allows you to have “every plot point, note, research, story idea, character info, AND your main text right there at your fingertips”. It can manage the diverse elements of a story with ease. Nothing against this program, but I wouldl like to see how this would improve the system I already work with.

Storymill for Mac OS X. This is part word processor and part database and claims to be the “blueprint for bestselling authors”. It will help you tract characters, scenes and settings and has an interactive timeline that allows you to display the story and arrange scenes.

Well, there you have it. I am pretty sure there were some missed, but these are the ones I found. It boggles the mind. I wonder, do I need a writing software program to be more efficient with my writing, research, character development, plots and such. I’ve always thought that programs would be too structured for me, but perhaps not. What happened to the creativity of being creative and just letting the story go where it will. I wonder if a program that solves problem plots, or predicts the story is helpful. How can a computer program predict the creative mind?

Do you use a story writing software program? If so, which one and tell me what you like about it? Or , is there one you want to try and why. Or, do you prefer to write with a simple computer, word process program, notecards and bulletin boards? I would love to hear your thoughts on using software in your creative process. While I am not totally sold on the idea of using a program, I am still very interested in learning more. It may be what I actually need.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Can writing and being a mommy co-exist?

In my household there is always chaos. I have three boys ages 18, 14 and 3 and yet I have to find a way to carve out a little time for my writing every day. Some days it works and others it doesn’t. I have to say it was much easier to do this before I started working full time and now I have to be super mom, working in all kids activities, cleaning, cooking, homework and any personal time into just a few hours every night.

Somehow I’m managing to do it all but it’s been difficult. It’s much easier to keep the bigger boys busy than it is with my three-year-old. Needless to say, he commands most of my attention. I’ve had to be creative lately. So I thought I would share some of my ideas in how to carve out writing time with young children in the house during those times that you can’t afford a baby sitter or don’t have anyone else to watch them so you can write.

It can be done but it is challenging. So without further ado here’s a few tips for those of you in the same boat as I am:

First, I own a laptop and can carry it all over the house, so writing at my desk is not necessary. Quite often I will take my laptop into the living room, pile up on the couch with the little one and while he’s watching Toy Story Three, I can cram in some wordage. Movies and cartoons are a great way to get a few writing hours in. Although, they aren’t necessarily educational or recommended but sometimes you gotta do what you’ve gotta do.

Another great idea for us was puzzles. Three-year-olds love to do puzzles. So we sat at the kitchen table and while he worked on his puzzles to his little heart’s content, I managed to squeeze in about forty five minutes worth of writing time. And the best thing is, it really allows him to develop his cognitive skills.

We tend to get at least a half hour of coloring in as well. I print out several pages with numbers and letters on them for him and he has a blast coloring them (if you can call it that lol.)

Snack time is also a great source of quiet time for him. He loves to eat grapes or apples while watching some cartoons. Excellent source of energy and quiet time for mom.

Craft ideas for three-year-olds that he can do himself. I can place a table cloth across the kitchen table so I don’t have to worry about a mess and then toss it in the washer when we’re done. Puppet making is something he can do and loves to do by himself. I buy those paper lunch bags, some washable markers and let him go to town. We can’t always tell what the puppet is so we just call him a monster and make lots of roaring sounds. So fun.

I also staple together a “book” of blank pages and let him color in his own little story. It’s loads of fun when I ask him to “read” mommy the story he created. It’s always different every time he reads it back to me though lol.

“Bowling!” He has a blast with this one and it definitely holds his attention for a bit. Place two or three empty two liter bottles on the floor and let him roll a ball to “strike” them down. Of course, if you’re looking for real quiet time, forget this one. It’s loud with lots of squeals but it’ll definitely keep the little ones busy.

One last idea is to get out your plastic ware and let him sit at the table and “pretend” cook for you. Of course, you must have patience when you have to stop writing every five minutes or so to taste his newest creation but hey, I never said this would be easy lol.

There you go. Writing and being mommy can co-exist at least for a little while. Tell me what other ideas do you have that you could share with the rest of us mommy writers. Trust me I could definitely use more ideas!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Eat your way to a flat belly!

I’m pretty sure I have mentioned before that I do not make New Years resolutions. I do make New Years goals, though. One of my goals for this year is to get back the belly I used to have. You know the tight one that you sport around pre-kids. I swear it can be done because not only have I seen the famous moms in the pages of People Magazine wearing itsy bitsy tiny bikinis, I have seen women at my gym in tiny two-piece swimsuits who I KNOW have had children.

In the spirit of getting back my pre-baby body, I recently purchased a cookbook called the Flat Belly Diet Cookbook by Liz Vaccariello. I have also been exchanging some recipes with a good friend of mine who is also trying to get her pre-baby body back. I was thinking how nice it would be if someone would test these recipes for me and tell me the ones that actually taste good and do not take too long to make. So that is what I have done, and am going to do, for you.

Once a month, I will post two healthy recipes for you that I have made. These recipes will have had to pass the yum test by my entire family. Let me tell you, that is no easy task. My two young boys are very picky. You can be assured the recipes I post here will be easy and quick to fix because I do not have time to mess around in the kitchen.

This first recipe is from the Weight Watcher cookbook. * It’s a bit zesty, so if you don’t like spice don’t cook this one.

Sausage Soup – 20 minutes


Aidells Andouille Sausage – 2 links
One can of 15 ounce fire roasted tomatoes
One can of navy beans
One can of no salt, low sodium chicken broth
Three cups fresh spinach

What to do:
Cut sausage into thin pieces
Bring chicken stock and tomatoes to a boil
Put in navy beans and sausage and cook for ten minutes
Put in spinach and cook it until it wilts.

Chicken Piccata – 15 minutes

12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken tenders
2 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
                                   2 teaspoons capers
                                   Minced Freshly ground black pepper

What to do:
Flatten chicken with a scaloppini pounder to a fourth inch thick
Dredge chicken through flour
Add oil to medium high skillet and cook chicken two minutes per side
Add the lemon juice, parsley and capers to bring mixture to a boil
Reduce heat and simmer for two minutes
Season to taste with pepper
Serve chicken with pan juices

I’d love to get some quick, healthy recipes from some of you so feel free to share something that is delicious!

Have a great day!

Julie Johnstone, The Marchioness of Mayhem

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Week 7: Wishful Thinking Tour of Britain

Portsmouth is a place I’ve long wanted to visit. Aside from London, it’s probably the first town name in England that I remember from my childhood. Why? Because all the ships of the First Fleet that sailed for Van Diemen’s Land (Australia) in May 1787 sailed from Portsmouth.

That First Fleet consisted of:
* Naval escorts - HMS Sirius and HMS Supply
* Convict ships – Alexander, Charlotte, Friendship, Lady Penrhyn, Prince of Wales, Scarborough
* Food and Supply Transports – Golden Grove, Fishburn, Borrowdale

HMS Sirius
HMS Supply

The journey took 252 days in total and I don’t know about you but realizing the food and supply ships hadn’t arrived with the fleet would have made me one nervous convict, if the trip hadn’t worried me enough. (They arrived 6 days behind the convict ships). I don’t know for certain if any of my ancestors came here as convicts, my older relatives all exclaimed we were free settlers in shocked tones. But one day I will get back to tracing the family tree – when I have a year or two to spare. Tracing your genealogy is more time consuming than writing. LOL.

So, we’re in Portsmouth this week for the Wishful Thinking tour of Britain
~ Hampshire
~ 17 miles—25 minutes from our last stop at Fishbourne Roman Palace.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyards
Must see:
* Step on the HMS Victory, the memorial to Vice Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, Britain’s greatest Naval hero. Launched 1765 it is the oldest ship in commission now in dry dock). Visit the Great cabin and the spot where Lord Nelson died

* Come aboard the HMS Warrior, the first iron hulled, armored warship powered by steam as well as sail. Launched in 1860 it is the only surviving member of Queen Victoria’s Black Battle Fleet.

* Walk through the multi-media Trafalgar Experience, part of the Royal Naval Museum’s Victory Gallery, and hear the very latest research on the famous battle.

Portchester Castle
Portchester Castle, a well-preserved example of a mainly Roman fortification, lies on the northern shore of Portsmouth Harbour, approximately 6 miles north west of Portsmouth city itself. The fortification is the oldest building in the region, and formed the traditional hub around which the village of Portchester and surrounding area were built.

The castle in its most recent form consists of an outer bailey with gates and bastions, and an inner bailey with a moat and gatehouse, palace, tower and keep. The site was originally a simple Roman fortification, though the castle was added to during the Saxon and Medieval periods, and also in the seventeenth century. The original buildings have been extended many times to provide the castle that we see today.

The castle was initially constructed for defence, however it has been used for many different purposes in its 1700-year history. The Thistlethwaite family privately owned the castle from the mid 1600’s until 1984. Today the castle is run by English Heritage and is open as a tourist attraction.
Despite our best efforts to capture that winning lottery ticket for our own, luck seems to be eluding us. Oh well, at least I'm enoying using my imagination for the tour. I've found some great inspiration while reseaching these posts. More to come. 

Heather Boyd
~ Lady Wicked

Interested in previous posts on the tour?

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Stroll Through Providence, RI

Last week, I took you, dear readers, on a spring tour of London's green spaces. But this week, I'm bringing it back Stateside. Several years ago, I had the privilege of visiting the great city of Providence, RI, and I was in heaven. This was even before I realized I wanted to be an historical romance author! I've always been drawn to cities that are rife with historical landmarks, so I guess it's no surprise I ended up writing about history. There's something magical about walking down a cobblestone street that you know has been walked on by people who lived hundreds of years before you.

One of the original thirteen colonies, Providence was founded in 1636, and its history has been well-preserved. I don't know all the names of streets or houses below, but I hope the pictures will provide some inspiration for your day!

The oldest Baptist church in America

Can you spot the grammatical error on this plaque??

The interior of the church was beautiful -
it's amazing how well maintained it is after more than 200 years!

A really old house of some great importance -
I believe it belonged to one state official or another.

I loved this street - it truly felt like I was in Colonial America!

I wish I had more pictures from my trip to Providence, but I hope you've enjoyed these and gotten a feel for what a wonderful city it is!

Happy Monday!
-Jerrica, Her Grace of Grammar

Friday, January 21, 2011

Guest Blogger - Sarra Cannon

Is Self-Publishing Really An Option?

It's a question on a lot of writers' minds these days. Last summer, it was a question that kept me up at night. I'd been writing seriously for three years, and I wanted what most writers want - to find an agent and get a publishing contract. No easy task, to say the least.

The industry is in a state of change, like it or not. Many publishers are slimming down. Marketing departments are afraid to take risks. Advances are dwindling. Being a writer these days is far from easy.

On the other hand, self-publishing has never been easier. Or cheaper.

I started to look around at some of the Top 100 lists on Amazon's Kindle store. What I noticed was that several of the writers on these lists were self-published. Writers like Amanda Hocking and Karen McQuestion, who had no previous experience with publishing. These writers were taking their careers in their own hands and they were finding success. No gate-keepers. No rules. Just passion and determination.

Could I self-publish? Was it really an option for me? The more I researched, the more I realized just how easy it is these days. Years ago, self-publishing meant a huge investment in both time and money. It meant ordering boxes of books that couldn't be returned and finding your own distribution. But today, everything has changed. With the growing popularity of eReaders and eBooks, there are several online stores that allow writers to upload their books for sale. And the best part? It doesn't cost a dime.

In late October, I finally took a leap of faith. Along with my husband's help, I formatted my latest book, BEAUTIFUL DEMONS, and uploaded it to Smashwords, Amazon's Kindle store, and Barnes & Noble's newly launched PubIt! store. Other than the small fee I paid a friend for my book cover design, the entire process was free. Within forty-eight hours, my first book was available at the two largest online retail stores for eBooks. Compared to the years it sometimes takes to find an agent, sign a publishing contract, and go through the process of taking that book to print, self-publishing was amazingly fast and easy.

In my first full month, I sold 139 copies. A small start, but it was so exciting! My books were finding their way into the hands of real readers! I was in control of my career, and it was exhilarating. In December, I released a new book, INNER DEMONS, and combined with my first book, sold a total of 989 copies. I was floored. Over a thousand copies in two months? I could hardly believe it.

My sales continue to grow and each day when I look at the numbers rolling in, I know that I made the right decision by self-publishing. My writing is more free and more fun now that I no longer have to worry about whether a publishing house will find my ideas marketable. I get to choose my own titles and make all of the final decisions on book covers, promotion, and content. I get instant feedback in the form of reviews, ratings and sales rank. And I know exactly how many sales I've made on any given day without having to wait for a royalty statement. These are just some of the things I love about self-publishing.

Of course, it isn't all sunshine and roses. Self-publishing is hard work. I knew I couldn't just list a single book and expect to sell thousands of copies without any marketing or promotion. Being an Indie author is a huge time commitment. When I'm not writing, I spend my days building up my twitter account, making friends on goodreads, blogging and finding other bloggers to review my books. I'm constantly looking for ways to connect with readers. The internet is a powerful tool, but it takes time to establish a presence and help get word of mouth going. Plus, online, content is key. The more quality content an Indie author has, the better. My personal goal is to self-publish five more books in 2011, starting with the third book in my Peachville High Demons series, SHADOW DEMONS, this February. It won't be easy, but I know in my heart it will be worth every moment of hard work.

If you've been wondering whether self-publishing is really an option for you, I say there's never been a better time to take that next step.

Sarra Cannon writes young adult fiction about zombies, witches, and the occasional demon cheerleader. Her first two books, BEAUTIFUL DEMONS and INNER DEMONS, are available in digital format on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Look for Book 3, SHADOW DEMONS, out February 23rd! Connect with Sarra online at www.sarracannon.com or on Twitter (sarramaria).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Do You "Cast" Your Characters?

When I'm getting ready to inhabit a new manuscript with a cast of characters, there is one thing I have to do before I can go very far with determining who my hero and heroine are. I usually only have a few basic facts about them sorted out before I have to be able to see them.

So I hit the internet. I scour through images of actors and actresses, models, musicians . . . sometimes even just stock photos of random people, until I find the one that is calling to me.

Once I have an image of this character in my head, I'm better able to figure out who they are, why they are that way, what makes them tick.

Take my hero from the manuscript I have out on submission right now. I knew his name--Quin. I knew he was going to do some really underhanded things in order to get what he needed, but I wasn't sure why that would be. So I started looking for pictures of Quin, so that I could figure out his back story. A clean-cut guy wouldn't do. He needed to be scruffy and have some sort of a naughty gleam in his eye.

Here's what I found. Keep your vials of hartshorn handy, ladies. Go on. Click over. I'll still be here when you get back.

Now, I have never watched an episode of Lost or anything else he's been in, so I didn't already have a character formed to fit this image. I was able to take what I saw in those dimples beneath the scruffy jawline, and figure out what his life had been up to that point.

That isn't always the case, though. For the trilogy I'm currently working on, I had three heroes to cast. I'd gotten far enough into my planning that I knew a little bit about each of them, how they would interact with their heroines and the like. But I needed to go deeper. I needed to learn more about them. So again, I headed to the internet.

The three actors I chose to fill these roles are three I'm very familiar with. In the case of the first one, some of his personality (or at least his acting personality) melded with the personality of the character I've created. With the other two, very little of what they show onscreen is what you'll see in their parts in my manuscripts.

It was a complete coincidence that they have all played characters in the same show. I only realized that a few weeks later.

#1: What a sweetie. Too bad my vet doesn't look like that.

#2: McSteamy? Yes please.

#3: And a little McDreamy for good measure.

I have to do the same thing with my heroines, to really get a good feel for who they are. I don't just choose actors for these visual depictions of my characters.

Do you need to have a photo of your characters in order to sketch them out in your mind? Or do you keep one handy as you write, as a reminder of their physical characteristics?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Letting Go of Barriers

90% of the time I’m in another world all of the time. That doesn’t mean I’m always immersed in my make-believe world of romance. Sometimes my day job is my focus, even into the evening hours because there is not enough time in the day to do all that I need to do.

Sometimes my world is all about my kids: getting them to birthday parties, scheduling well-child checks with the doctor, replacing the broken bow for the violin, dental appointments, football practice, etc. Lots of times it’s about the everyday basics of living, such as ordering more oil for the furnace, making sure we have something to eat, clean dishes so we don’t get food poisoning, clean clothes even though I’m not going to iron them and maybe won’t even hang them up for days. And sometimes my world is all about my husband and enjoying the relationship I have with him. I should spend more time in this world.

Rarely—read never—do I spend time in Spotless House World. I wish my house was clean and everything in place, but I don’t have a magic genie to grant me wishes. Hmm, maybe if I dusted that old lamp…

But occasionally, I do reside in that OMG-Someone-Is-At-The-Door-And-How-Come-I-Never-Noticed-This-Crap-All-Around-Me World. That happened last week. I completely forgot about the appraiser coming. In fact, I was still in my PJs, which was humiliating enough, but all of a sudden, huge piles of things that required my attention popped up all over the place. It was as if I had an anti-genie.

Then to rub salt into the gaping wound created by my super ego—Thanks a lot, bud. Where were you last weekend?—the appraiser needed pictures of every interior room. Wow! Just what I needed, a record of my inadequacy as a housekeeper.

But shame is a powerful motivator, so now I’m on a kick to purge my house of unnecessary stuff. I started with the kitchen last weekend, because we are preparing for a remodel. It was a good time to get rid of some things, but it’s not always easy to part with personal belongings. Why is that? It’s just stuff. Only it’s not just stuff.

Many items have memories attached to them, or possibly represent aspirations, such as the margarita glasses in the cabinet above the refrigerator. When I see those glasses, I have visions of Cinco de Mayo parties with lots of friends laughing and having a good time, but the reality is there have been fourteen May 5ths come and go since my husband and I received those glasses for our wedding. The truth is I don’t make margaritas. I don’t even like the taste of lime! So, why am I holding on?

Well, if I lie down on my couch and analyze myself, I think certain objects symbolize what I want more of in my life. Not alcohol or tacos, but joy and friendship. By giving these items up, it feels like I'm giving up the dream. Yet if I’m really, really honest with myself, collectively these things are a barrier to me getting what I desire in my life.

Because my house is cluttered, I don’t want to have others over to socialize. In addition, I don’t have a peaceful environment in which to write because I have these things creating visual noise and oppressive energy. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a hoarder. The show Clean House makes me hyperventilate, and I start cleaning my own house five minutes in. But I think I’m like many others who just have too much stuff that is interfering with complete contentment.

Gee! Thank you, therapist self. I feel much more enlightened now. You’re welcome. That will be $200. Grr… I should have hired a housekeeper instead.

Is there anything acting as a barrier to what you want in your life? Or, if you’ve already overcome a barrier, how did you do it?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Top 5 Reasons to Attend RWA® Nationals

Registration for the Romance Writers of America’s 2011 National Conference in opens today at 8 AM central time. The conference will be held at the Marriot Marquis in New York City on June 28th- July 1st.

If you’re like my chapter sisters, you’ve been talking about Nationals since the last conference ended. Perhaps you are waiting by the computer to reserve your spot. But if you’re still on the fence, here are five reasons to attend:

To Promote Your Work: More than two thousand writers, editors, agents and other industry professionals are expected to attend this conference. Attendees can schedule a one-on-one pitch session with an editor or agent. It’s not every day a writer gets an opportunity like that.

To See Your Favorite Authors: The “Readers for Life” Literacy Autographing is a rare opportunity to meet and chat with hundreds of published authors. Several publishers also have their own signing events where they give away free books.

In addition to all the fabulous authors giving workshops, the RWA website advertises the following:

Best-Selling Authors Steve Berry, Diana Gabaldon, and Tess Gerritsen to Present at Opening Session”


Madeline Hunter is this year's keynote speaker, and Sherrilyn Kenyon is the Awards Luncheon speaker. Meg Cabot will emcee the 2011 RITA® and Golden Heart® Awards Ceremony, and Julia Quinn will speak at the Librarians Day Luncheon.”

The Rita and GH award ceremony is sure to be full of superstars, both established and upcoming.

To Attend the Workshops: While it’s true you can order the recorded sessions on CD after the conference, nothing beats being in the room, seeing the props and slides, and being able to ask questions.

With 100 workshops offered, you are sure to find something new to perk your interest. Although the list of workshops has not yet been released, it’s sure to include something for writers at every stage of their career as well as various workshops on career, craft, and research tracks.

To Discover the Latest Industry Trends: The Publishers’ Spotlights offer a unique opportunity to hear editors talk about what they looking for in a submission and what they’re buying now. If you’re looking for an agent, you can attend a panel session to get a feeling of which one is right for you.

To Make New Friends and Keep the Old: As I look over the previous reasons, I realize none of them are foolproof. You might not get to pitch to the editor of your dreams. Your favorite author may cancel at the last minute. The workshop you wanted to attend might be filled to overflowing.

But there is one constant you can always count on at RWA Nationals, and that’s the wonderful sense of community. There is nothing quite like meeting online friends for the first time or setting out on this adventure with your chapter sisters. Where else can you find two thousand people who share your passion for writing? The friendships you make at Nationals will last a lifetime. And who knows? That nervous first-timer you befriend may turn out to be the next Nora.

So there you have my top 5 reasons to attend RWA Nationals, in no particular order. Did I leave anything out? What is your main reason for going to Nationals? Or, if you’ve decided NOT to go, why?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Santa Brought Me a Dragon

I wonder center beads are blogs. (I wonder if Santa reads our blogs). You may recall that either in late November or early December I blogged about the different voice-recognition software available. At that time I was most interested in Dragon one (strike one) of those I highlighted in the blog. Well, that is what I got for Christmas. Paragraph (new paragraph).

(I)in fact, everything you're reading has been to in (dictated). I have gone back and corrected with italics. I don't want to hide all of the mistakes that were actually in my Dick Tatian (dictation). I have made (played) around with this a lot since it was given to me (and) find I do need work. It turns out I the (talk a) little too quick and not enunciate enough. Of course, it didn't help that I have pulled my (had a cold when I) first started. In fact, I still knew (do). Perhaps I should wait until only the (my head) clears before I really get to know this program.

However there are some happen but (habits) I do need to develop. A good example would be that when you need a new paragraph I need to say "new paragraph". If I would just say "paragraph" I would get the word paragraph.

I also need to get into the habit of sending (saying) punctuation. It is so easy to ramble on our story or any type of document were (we're) dictating without ever putting .,? or Or quotes (period, common, questionmark or quotes). So while the program is fairly easy and very few mistakes made in the long run, I still need to be careful and watch it appears this rain (it appear on the screen) while I am typing. I made the mistake of losing (closing) my eyes and rambling on for a story and when I read the words back on this green (the screen) it was not clear because I was not enunciating.

If you have used Dragon speak or any other voice-recognition software what are your thoughts? Once I get the hang of things I am sure I will be using this quote (quite) in lot in the future or (for) creating a story.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Guest blogger: Liz Fredericks

Our guest today is Liz Fredericks. Liz is an efficiency and employee development consultant who works with public and nonprofit organizations. She has published numerous books and articles on management trends, and recently took up romance writing. After hearing her speak on Value-Driven Time Management, we asked her to share her professional expertise with our readers. Welcome, Liz!

Thank you Lady Scribes for inviting me to guest blog. In my ‘day job’, I’m a professor specializing in public and nonprofit management. This is my first blog attempt as a fiction writer and I’m thrilled at the opportunity. During the past couple of years, I’ve been delving into a long-term personal goal of writing stories under the pen name of Liz Fredericks. Despite having published nonfiction over the past two decades, I consider myself a fiction newbie and am sometimes overwhelmed at how much there is to learn. Shhh - don’t tell on me, but I have a confession. Writing my dissertation was cake compared to drafting a novel with active pacing, an original voice, a consistent point of view, fresh dialogue, a compelling theme, and riveting storyline -- yikes!

Though the nuances of the romance writing profession are daunting, I’ve relied upon superb commentary from this blog along with advice from my local RWA chapter and critique partners. An important message from these wise women and men is to ‘write what you know.’ What I know in a professional sense (strategic planning, performance measurement, and employee development and discipline) has helped me shoulder through manuscript drafts, and mountains of technical information on the art, craft and business of writing while balancing work, family and – argh – healthy lifestyle changes.

Today, I’d like to share a big scary secret about time management – it’s impossible to manage time, but we can manage our priorities. And if you understand your true bone-deep priorities, then you can carve out a little guilt-free flexibility in your day. Facing our own priorities can be frightening. It means that we should look at what we value as an end, and consider the values we use to shape the process – the how of our lives not just the result.

Years ago, Milton Rokeach, a brilliant social psychologist, developed a list of thirty-six values and divided this list between eighteen ‘terminal values’ (the end result) and eighteen ‘instrumental values’ (the process). He argued that these values transcend culture because people differ most in terms of how we prioritize the relative importance of each value. The rank of values will shift as we redefine our lives with new experiences and opportunities. Most of us cannot control certain external demands on our time, but we can control our own responses. And we can, upon reflection, be deliberate about our priorities.

In a given year, we have 8,760 hours. On January 1, we face a new year and consider all that we hope to accomplish. So much is possible. But those thousands of hours boil down to 168 hours each week and 24 hours each day. If you do an internet search on ‘time management’, you’ll pull almost 500 million hits in a tenth of a second. Most of the tips rest upon the importance of setting specific goals, prioritizing those goals, and setting up a mechanism to evaluate your progress. Sound easy? Maybe, but we all know there are as many ways to self-sabotage as there are types of candy in the world. Not that this is an issue for me. Ahem.

Now, you can find costly calendars and training modules designed to shepherd you through these activities, but I’ve adapted a process designed for large-scale organizational change projects to use for my students and myself. I don’t distinguish between professional and personal goals because success on all fronts comes from my ability to leverage – to mesh being a mom, a wife, an academic, and, more recently, a story-teller and writer.

Use three categories – ‘healthy to’, ‘have to’, and ‘hanker to’. For the year, list a few goals or wishes within each of the three categories, but consider blending ‘what to accomplish’ value-based goals with ‘how to accomplish’ goals.

Next, divide the year into three-month blocks and each month into approximately three ten day blocks. Please avoid using the familiar seven day week. I’ve found that people (and organizations) start to drop off performance unconsciously after Wednesday. A ten day (or so) block ‘tricks’ my subconscious into maintaining momentum.

Then work backwards. Perhaps you can’t devote a major effort towards a goal every day. However, you can commit to doing something to facilitate each goal during every ten-day block. If I diversify those small steps toward a larger goal (e.g., different approaches, but the same path), then I don’t get bored with repeating the same action, but still make measurable progress. The point is that not getting to something during a particular day or hour shouldn’t discourage you from continuing the quest. You’re keeping your focus on a larger block of time.

Finally, you need to evaluate your progress. Rather than do this at the end of the year when it’s a little too late to make amends, I like to review my ten-day block with a more detailed assessment at every third month. Where did the glitches come up that skewed my good intentions? Were there points where I lost sight of a bigger goal as I paid more attention to technique than purpose? Did I ignore my goals about process in deference to an unplanned end?

Thank you for letting me share these thoughts. Would you return the favor? What approaches have worked in achieving your writing goals? What strategies have helped you balance writing with other obligations in your lives? And what’s the secret to writing a novel with active pacing, an original voice, a consistent point of view, fresh dialogue, a compelling theme, and riveting storyline -- yikes!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

When the Going Gets Tough...

When you’ve spent the last few years with a decent writing schedule (kicking out a good two thousand words a day), a goal and the motivation to make it happen - it makes it difficult when life gets in the way. And it will happen. At one point or another in your life, you’re going to have to work through an issue, or a number of issues, and decide what the most important priority is for you and your family.

Writing has been a dream of mine since I was very young. I’ve written off and on for fifteen years and finally got serious about it two years ago. I've developed a tough skin from rejection. I've scheduled time EVERY day to write and planned out a long and short term career goal sheet. I know what I wanted and how to get it. I will be published, of that I am certain.

But life hit me hard at the end of October in 2010. After determining life was going great and I could quit my job to stay home with the little one and pursue my dream of writing in the process, suddenly my husband got laid off. The blow was so unexpected and jolting my husband and I both suffered a little shell shock. But we couldn’t wallow. We had to pick ourselves back up and take care of business. And so must my writing.

I haven’t given up my goals or my dreams. So I’m here to give a short list of advice to those of us who must suffer a little set back in our lives from time to time.

1. I had to realize that this wasn’t permanent. It’s temporary and I will be able to get back on the bandwagon soon enough. Sometimes life is a hard pill to swallow, but when you realize that this too shall pass, it becomes so much easier to bear.

2. Find a solution. Even a temporary one. I had to make quick decisions and one of them included putting off writing until I could reevaluate our lives. Putting aside my writing freed up time to search for a job. I had to go back to work and managed to weasel my way back into my old job. It was a difficult decision to make but make it, I did. This relieved some of the financial burden and stress. Now, weeks later, I can write –even if only a little- stress free.

3. Perfection isn’t possible. I can’t work full time, take care of the house and the kids, and meet my writing goals. So I had to ask the hubby to take more of the chores off my shoulders and allow me some free time after work to relax and write. It’s okay to ask for help, we all need it at some point in time.

4. Learn to be grateful for what I can do. After work one day last week, I managed to eke out a whopping six hundred words in under an hour. Not much compared to my usual goals but it was more than I’d managed since the life-altering event occurred, and I was ecstatic. If we can’t meet our daily goals every day, accept it and hope for a better day tomorrow. But make sure to sit down and try to write every day.

In the end, only you know what’s best for you and your family, but setting goals and priorities for yourself will get you where you want to be in life. Make decisions and stick with them. Life’s little temporary set backs are just that, temporary. If you remember this and work through them you can have your cake and eat it too.

There’s a little quote I’ve learned to live by... “Obstacles are placed in our paths to determine whether we really wanted something or just thought we did.” By Dr. Harold Smith.

Take an obstacle and overcome it, keep moving in the right direction and you’ll get to your destination no matter what happens. My goals for this year are smaller than last year’s but just as satisfying. I plan to finish my fifth manuscript by the end of April. Finish editing my current wip by the end of March and query at least twenty agents in May and start a new project –number six- by summer’s end.

So my question to you is this what advice can you give when life throws a wrench in your plans? And what are your goals for the new year?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ten Signs Your Writing Is Hurting Your Life

One of my New Years goals – I don’t make resolutions – is to find a better balance between my real life and my writing life. In my ideal world, I have endless hours for time to write. In reality, I have to eek out writing time, and sometimes I carve it out at the detriment to others and myself. For example, last summer I went with my husband and kids to visit my dad and looking back on the trip I realized I spent more time writing than actually visiting. I can’t get that time back, and I really regret letting my need to write take precedence over living my life. You cannot write without living life because in living life you are getting invaluable material to use in your writing. But sometimes it’s hard for a writer who is in the zone to remember this.

So far in 2011 I have done a better job at striking a healthy balance between life and writing, but let’s face it, we’re only twelve days into the New Year. When I woke up today, I had that burning need to write and block everything else out. Yes, my house needs cleaning, I haven’t worked out in several days, I need to go to the grocery store, and I need to file…I need to stop right here, because the list of everything I need to do goes on forever. Regardless of all those needs, I was determined to put all my chores on the back burner and start work on my new book. Unfortunately, my youngest child woke up sick. I gave him all the proper mommy hugs and attention, but I have to admit I felt a little underlying irritation that after three days of being snowed in with my kids my child would not be going back to school as I had planned. I plopped down at my kitchen bar for a good sulk and picked up the Wall Street Journal to read. In today’s paper, there is an article about ten signs whether your technology is interfering with your life. It struck me I could easily write a similar list for whether writing is interfering with your life. So here goes – ten signs to tell whether your writing is eclipsing the here and now.

1. You’d rather write about sex than have it.

2. You bring your computer to bed.

3. You bring your computer on vacation and spend more time in front of your computer than actually doing activities with your family.

4. You’d consistently rather write than spend time with your friends.

5. You never turn off your computer.

6. You sleep with your computer near you, jumping out of bed at various times during the night to key in some words.

7. You’re regularly late for appointments because you cannot pull yourself away from your writing.

8. You’ve had an argument, or several, with your spouse about how much time you spend writing.

9. You write while driving. I’m not talking about in your head. I mean you physically try to write ideas that strike you as you drive.

10. You read this list and are guilty of at least five!

I’m not saying that there are not times when writing should be your number one priority. What I am saying is that without life experiences your writing will not be as good as it could be. Now go out there, live life, AND write a fabulous story! I would love to hear if any of you struggle with finding a balance between work and real life, and what strategies you employ to help you achieve equilibrium.

Have a great day!

Julie Johnstone, The Marchioness of Mayhem

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Week 5: Wishful Thinking Tour of Britain

Ok, this post really should have been week four post on my personal blog but sometimes you just have to step away from the computer when you don’t feel your best. If you pop by my blog you will notice that our travels on this wishful thinking tour (week 2, week 3) have led us to Brighton, and the Royal Pavilion.

Royal Pavilion, Brighton

Royal Pavilion~ Brighton, East Sussex

The Royal Pavilion, or Brighton Pavilion, is a palace designed as a seaside retreat for the then Prince Regent. In the mid 1780s George, Prince of Wales, rented a small farmhouse overlooking a fashionable promenade in Brighton. At that time, Brighton was evolving into a seaside retreat for the rich and famous, being so close to London. The Prince of Wales had come on the recommendation of his physician to try the sea water treatments, sea bathing, for his health.

George became enamoured of Brighton and in 1787, after much pleading and promises to the House of Commons, he engaged architect Henry Holland to transform his Brighton farmhouse into a modest villa which became known as the Marine Pavilion. Later on, around 1808, the new stable complex was completed with an impressive lead and glass-domed roof, providing stabling for 62 horses.

Marine Pavilion

And George wasn’t finished expanding his Brighton home. He was sworn in as Prince Regent in 1811 and, since the Marine Pavilion was too modest a size venue for the large social events that George loved to host, he engaged another architect.

The design of Sezincote House—a stunning example of Mogul architecture—in Gloucestershire encouraged George to think on a grand and lavish scale. So in 1815 John Nash—also responsible for Regent’s Park, Carlton House Terrace, Trafalgar Square, St. James's Park and the Marble Arch—began expansion of the Brighton property. He superimposed a cast iron frame onto Holland’s earlier construction to support minarets, domes and pinnacles on the exterior. No expense was spared on the interior with many rooms, galleries and corridors being carefully decorated with opulent decoration and exquisite furnishings.

Banqueting Room 1826

However, due to increased responsibilities and ill-health, George only made two further visits to Brighton—1824 and 1827—once the interior of the Royal Pavilion was finished in 1823.

The Royal Pavilion is no longer a royal property. Queen Victoria is said to have found the Pavilion too cramped so she shipped out its contents and decamped to the Isle of Wight. She sold the Royal Pavilion to the town council for the sum of £50,000. Luckily, many of the original furnishings and fittings have since been returned to the Pavilion and are on display.

Interesting facts:
* During the First World War the Pavilion was used as a hospital for wounded Indian servicemen.
* During World War II, Brighton was heavily bombed but the Pavilion escaped damage.

The Pavilion is open to visitors and is also made available for education purposes, banqueting, and weddings year round except a few days around Christmas and for scheduled maintenance. For specific opening hours visit this website.

Upcoming Event:
Dress for Excess: Fashion in Regency England
5 February 2011 to 5 February 2012
@ The Royal Pavilion, The Prince Regent Gallery

This major fashion exhibition celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Regency Act by looking at the life of George IV as prince, regent and king through fashions of the late Georgian period. Men’s and women’s costumes are displayed throughout the palace exploring themes from George’s life and the stylistic influences of the period.

*Sigh* I really want to visit England in the next year! Whose got a spare scratchy?

Heather Boyd~ Lady Wicked

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dreaming of Springtime (in London!)

As I sit in here my apartment, staring out at giant patches of snow and people rushing to work in layers and layers of clothes, all I can think about is getting myself to warmer climes. It's only January 10 and I'm already desperate for spring. But not just any spring. A London spring! This April it will have been four years since my husband and I took our 10-day vacation to London, and I've pined for it almost every day since our return. When I look at the pictures, I still get teary-eyed. Despite being a large city, London has some of the most beautiful flora and fauna I've ever seen. Everything is so green. And to see a swan gliding across a pond in Hyde Park is truly breathtaking. But enough jabber from me, let's get to some beautiful pictures...

These two were both taken in Regents Park.
The daffodils were incredible, sitting under the shade of a magnificent weeping willow!

This was on Hampstead Heath.
This park has acres upon acres of rolling green hills.

This garden is within the walls of Windsor Castle

I can't remember where this is, but I just love the picture :)

A swan in Hyde Park - told ya it was beautiful! ;)

I couldn't believe how vibrant the colors of the grass and flowers were - this picture in Hyde Park shows it best, I think.

And no London springtime slide show would be complete with a visit
to the banks of the Serpentine!

I hope you're feeling a bit warmer now!
-Jerrica, Her Grace of Grammar

Friday, January 7, 2011

Our Guest: Tamara Gill

Today’s guest, Tamara Gill, loves writing historical romances set in Regency England. Her first publication from Noble Romance, To Sin with Scandal, released on December 27, 2010. When not running around for her two small boys, Tamara likes to dabble in Time-Travel romance or reading late into the night. Tamara is an Australian author and lives in the beautiful Barossa Valley wine region of South Australia.

Where love is worth risking one's reputation...

Tell us a little about To Sin with Scandal.

One night of passion with the notorious rake, Lord Scandal. Every need satisfied, nothing expected in return. All Lady Miranda Fitsimmon has to do is keep her rendezvous with the man secret from the ton and her heart inured to the memory of their past.
Lord Scandal, otherwise known as Lord Sedley, no longer desires such meaningless liaisons in the ton. His taste for bed sport has changed. He only desires one woman to warm his sheets. And when the woman he thought never to see grace his home walks into his library and expects all her desires to be sated, his resolve to redeem himself is tested.
Can one night of sin give them both what they crave the most? Or will past wounds be too deep to forgive and forget?

We are always fascinated by an authors writing process. How does a typical writing day go for you?

I get up first of all *wink*. Once my boys are at school or kindy I usually come home and fluff about trying to make my hubby believe I’ve done something *grin*, then I sit down for a couple of hours and write. Stop for lunch then start again until its time for school pick ups. I’ll stop every now and then to check emails etc but if I don’t get any words down every day, I start to feel guilty. Once dinner is out the way and I check the Vampire Diaries aren’t on TV, I’ll sit and write into the night once my boys are in bed.

What is your favorite form of procrastination, apart from getting lost in research?

Emails and Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook, or I’ll find something to do around the house. Like the laundry, so often neglected by me.

We know To Sin with Scandal is only just released to readers, but what are you working on now, and what was the last scene you wrote on the story?

I’ve just started edits for my Regency Novella, A Captain’s Order – A Duke’s Command due out with Noble Romance Publishing January 24. With Australia in the middle of school holidays my writing process is a little hit and miss atm, so I’m working on another Regency Novella for Noble, with an ugly duckling who turns into a swan type premise but with a twist of course. As for the last scene I wrote, I write in order of the book, I don’t switch back and forth in scenes like some other writers do. So the final scene with the hea was of course the last scene I wrote on To Sin with Scandal, a nice sweet scene.

Tamara has a copy of her new release to give away if you can answer this question. What is Lord Sedley's nickname? Leave a comment, including your email address, with an answer for a chance to win.

The Lady Scribes would like to thank Tamara for blogging with us today. To Sin with Scandal can be found at Noble Romance and Amazon. You can also stop by her website or visit her blog to find out more about this wonderful historical romance author. She loves visits from authors and readers alike.