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Monday, June 27, 2011

New York, New York!

That's where most of the Lady Scribes are headed, if they aren't already there. *waving from Texas*

In case you hadn't noticed from the majority of our posts of late and the general vibe of most romance writers' Tweets, Facebook status updates, etc.--it is time for the Romance Writers of America's annual National Conference. And since most of the Lady Scribes are going to be present for that, we're taking a brief hiatus from blogging. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming after the Fourth of July holiday.

And if you're in NYC for the conference, look out for the Lady Scribes!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Winter Has Come and Gone!

If you follow me on Twitter, you knew this blog was inevitable.


I’m not sure how many of you have watched HBO’s Game of Thrones, but if you haven’t – you are clearly missing out. Anyone who knows me knows I can be a little finicky in all things – food, friends… Well, everything to be honest. And entertainment is no exception. I think when one tells stories for a living, no matter the medium or genre, one becomes more critical. It’s just a natural occurrence and comes with the territory. “I would have done this differently.” “Hmm. I wonder why they did that?” Or “That was a poor choice.” The days of enjoying movies, books, or television purely for entertainment really are in my past.

Game of Thrones is an exception to that rule. I cannot express how much I love this series. I cannot say it loud enough. Or tell enough people. I want everyone to experience this series and I’ve sort of become an unusual missionary of sorts, converting viewers as quickly as I can. And you know why…? Because I’m dying to talk about it with others. To dissect every well-crafted scene. To speculate on this side-long glance or that beleaguered sigh. In short - to revel in the greatness that is Game of Thrones, over and over and over again.

Last Sunday night, the season finale aired on HBO and I’m all ready going through withdrawals. (It was a fantastic episode, if you had any doubt.) But how will I possibly wait until Spring 2012 for winter to come again? Well, I have deadlines, naturally. And all of the other aspects of my life to attend to. …But…Spring 2012 is sooo very far away. I will miss it dreadfully.

To tide me over, temporarily, I have decided to host a Game-of-Thrones-athon at my house for a handful of my friends next month. I do have all the episodes still loaded on my DVR, after all. So we’ll pile into my living room for a 10 hour fun-filled, nail-biting, laughing, crying, cringing, cheering, gasping fest. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday. We will probably take a break for lunch and maybe dinner to discuss what has happened thus far. And I can hardly wait to share this amazing series with my dear friends.

I can also spend many joyful hours on HBO’s viewer guide – looking at maps, family crests, and family trees. I can learn more about the main characters, and not-so main ones.

I can read Game of Thrones, the first book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. (But not the others in the series. Not yet, anyway. I want to see it on screen before I read the story. Don’t ask me why. I just do.)

What is the series about, you wonder? Martin has created a medieval/fantasy world based loosely on the War of the Roses with the families of Stark and Lannister standing in for the Yorks and Lancasters. It sports a huge ensemble cast where the ideas of good vs. bad can seem very gray, depending on whose eyes you’re seeing the world through. And in the north, there is a great wall made of ice that keeps those south of the structure safe from the wildlings and more frightening creatures on the other side. (For me this screamed Hadrian’s Wall, though that Roman barrier could never have attained the height of Martin’s wall. The structure is so high, it would tower over the Empire State Building.) For a history lover – this series is the most amazing thing since… Well, nothing even compares.

If you’ve wondered why I’ve peppered this blog with “winter” references, the answer is simple. In the land of Westeros where the majority of our heroes and heroines live – summer and winter aren’t just your average seasons. They can last decades or generations. So now I must confess – since there are probably some of you reading this who HAVE watched the series – I do know that winter hasn’t officially come yet as far as the show is concerned. (They’ve been enjoying years and years of summer thus far.) But Winter Is Coming – and when it finally does arrive, I’ll be there to watch every single frame.

Have you watched this series? Are you planning on watching this series? Would you enjoy watching a Game-of-Thrones-athon? If you have watched, who is your most favorite character and why? The most despicable? (I really could ask question after question.) Give me all of your Game of Thrones thoughts. I want to hear them all.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

7 Ways to Spend RWA Nationals Week if You're Not Going to the Conference

So you're not going to RWA Nationals? Me either.

All around me, people are gearing up for the big conference. They're talking about it on writing loops, Facebook, and Twitter. They're debating what to pack, what to wear, discussing when they're arriving, who they'll be meeting up with in the bar, what sessions they'll be attending.

And I can't help but think about all the things I'll miss out on while they're gone and I'm stuck at home.

But I know I'm not alone! There are plenty of others in the romance writing community who will be stuck at home while our cohorts are busy in NYC, taking in all that the RWA National Conference has to offer. So today, I want to focus on what we will be doing while they are sitting in Publisher Spotlights and attending the Rita/GH awards.

Here are X things for the rest of us to do while they're in NYC.

1. Write. (Okay, maybe I'll be revising,and some of us might be in editing mode, but still...) I'll be hard at work on my book, getting in much needed time to pound out those words.

2. Read. This is a perfect time to make a dent in the ever-present TBR pile. I have a few picked out already that I'm dying to dive into.

3. Spend time with family. I don't know about you, but lately, I have been so busy with all of my writing-related activities that I think I've neglected my family more than I should have. So...I'll be taking the Nephew Monster to a movie, and doing a dinner date with Mom and my sisters.

4. Check in through social media with conference attendees to glean what they've learned. I don't know about you, but I follow an awful lot of people who are headed to the conference on Twitter, and I'm friends with them on Facebook. It never fails that many of them will post the occasional tidbit, sharing fabulous new information from a session or a spotlight. I'll be on the lookout for it!

5. Study a new craft book. I've almost always got one sitting around that I'm planning to get to, but haven't yet. This time, while the rest of the romance writing world will converge on NYC, is the perfect time to immerse myself in writing craft and see what I can pick up. They're all going to come back full to bursting with their new information. There's no reason I shouldn't be able to do the same from the comfort of my own home.

6. Relax. You and I don't have to worry about what to wear to the awards banquet. We don't have to plan out a massive schedule so that we can be sure we have two minutes to spend with everyone on our lists. We don't have to debate whether this spotlight would be more beneficial to our career than that session. We can breathe.

7. Plan for a way to attend next year's conference. The time to start planning, at least for me, is now. No, I'm not already trying to book flights or anything like that. I'm figuring out how to work the expenses into my budget. I want to be sure that next year, I can take part in all the festivities I'll be missing out on this year.

If you're not attending the conference, how are you planning to spend those days?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Windup and The Pitch

It’s that time of year. No, I'm not talking about baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie. The RWA National Conference kicks off a week from today. Instead it's agent and editor appointments, pitching, and anxiety attacks. Okay. Maybe that's just me.

My first time to pitch was nerve-wracking. But by my second pitch, I have to say I felt really nervous. You see, I like to know what is expected of me, and I didn't find any books called "Pitching For Dummies". Not that I necessarily needed a book for dummies. I had the dummy part down pretty good. I had no idea how to pitch a story idea. Was I supposed to read my blurb? Would the agent ask me questions? Was I just supposed to jump in the moment I sat down? Forget about preparing an elevator pitch. The thought gave me hives. (Really? The elevator? You're supposed to look at the numbers and avoid eye contact, people. Who doesn't know that?) The part that made me unnecessarily nervous was the belief that this was my one shot. I couldn't blow it.

I’m happy to say I was wrong about pitching being my only chance to gain an agent's or editor's notice. (By the way, my shirt gained more notice than my story. Apparently it had a sense of humor. I'm still not convinced that was a compliment.) In the end, I found a great agent for me, and it wasn't through pitching. Nephele Tempest (The Knight Agency) is smart, hardworking, and laughs at my jokes. What more could I ask for in an agent? And Nephele was kind enough to answer a few questions I posed to her about pitching. We are also fortunate to have a second agent viewpoint courtesy of Scott Eagan of Greyhaus Literary Agency. Scott represents regency historical romance author Julie Johnstone, Lady Mayhem.

The Lady Scribes thank Nephele and Scott for their time and candid answers. We hope this interview will help our followers to feel better prepared for the big day. Good luck to everyone. You’re going to be great. And if it doesn't go exactly as you plan, shrug it off. The most important thing you can do at Nationals is make connections with other writers. You will appreciate those friendships for years to come.

In some agent interviews, the advice given when pitching has been to relax and remember the agent is just a person. An agent is more than just a person to an aspiring writer. He or she represents a bridge to reaching a dream. Considering this angle, what advice would you give to writers going in to pitch a story?

Scott: Personally, I do not agree with this approach. A pitch is a job interview. This is not a casual conversation but a chance to demonstrate that you are the right person for the job. If you are pitching to an editor or an agent, treat it like any other job interview. Think of it this way. Do you go into a job interview telling the future employer that you are new to this and not good? Do you read your resume to the person? Do you demonstrate poor communication skills? Probably not. The same goes for pitches.

Nephele: When we say agents are people, we mean that we have opinions as readers just like anyone. We're looking for a story we love, something that makes us forget we're reading a submission, where we just get lost in the story. And there are stories that are our thing, and stories that just don't push our buttons. Yes, we want a marketable idea from your pitch, and we want you to deliver it in a way that makes us excited about it, but there are going to be times when personal taste comes into play and your story just isn't for us. We also want to work with clients who we feel like we can click with personally, to help them build their careers, and not all personalities mesh. You want the right agent for you, just as we want the right client and not just the right product. It's important that writers try to go into a pitch relaxed, and without considering it their one and only chance--because it definitely is not. It's just a chat about your book, and a chance to meet and for you to ask some questions. You can always submit to an agent the standard route according to their guidelines--and most of us get far more of our clients that way, since ultimately we need to see an example of your writing.

How can an author make the most of a pitch session?

Nephele: Again, relax. Prepare for your pitch, but also maybe have a couple of questions you'd like to ask the agent if there's time leftover. Don't expect to pitch additional projects if you have time; one pitch per person unless the agent asks you if you have something else.

Scott: Do your research. You should know going in exactly what the person is looking for and how your story really does fit that need. You then need to make sure you demonstrate that during the pitch session.

What are some reasons you wouldn't want to see a writer's work at the end of a pitch?

Scott: I have very clear guidelines on my website as to what I want and what I do not want. If I say no, it means either the story is not something marketable, or something that really doesn’t fit my need. If I do reject, however, I do tell the writer what it was that didn’t work.

Nephele: The prime reasons are that they've pitched something in a genre I don't represent, if I'm not interested in the story, or if I don't think it sounds marketable.

How often do you find clients through pitch sessions?

Nephele: Honestly, I rarely get clients from a pitch session. I think one or two of my clients at most.

Scott: I have found writers at conferences. I can’t necessarily pin down a number, but I have found them. I think most of the reason why we don’t often find clients at conferences is that writers pitch to any editor or agent that shows up or one they can get an appointment with. They haven’t done their research, and they would have probably never been a good match.

Readers, do you have a favorite pitch story? How about some tricks to calm your nerves?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How to Pack For Nationals

Do you hear that hum? That buzz of excitement that has been building for weeks, and is now coming to a head? That, my friends, is the sound of over 2,500 romance writers and industry professionals entering their final week before departing for Nationals.

This year, I, along with several of the LadyScribes, will be among those making the trek to NYC next week, ready to soak in all the event has to offer. But, before we can attend those workshops, rub those elbows, and partake in that sketchy conference food, we first must prepare for the journey.

Of all the things to think about, what—and how—to pack seems to be a recurring theme on the various loops and feeds I participate in. As the daughter of a former flight attendant and current pilot (and yes, there is a romance novel in there somewhere!), as well as someone who used to travel frequently with work, I humbly consider myself to be . . . The Queen of Packing. (you're feeling that humbleness, aren't you?)
In a LadyScribes first, I decided to make a video tutorial on how to pack in the most efficient manner possible. If you've ever been subject to the price-gouging of airline bag fees, you might be interested in how to pack for an entire week-long conference (plus four bonus days visiting family) in only one carry-on bag.

In this particular example, that includes over a dozen tops, eight dresses, three pairs of shoes, two pairs of pants, a pair of shorts, a skirt, three belts, a coverup and bathing suit, curlers, makeup, an evening bag, and, last but not least, an awards ceremony ballgown.

[Cracking knuckles] Okay, let's get started. Let's begin with how to whittle down the volume of clothes to pack. The following tips will help you get the most bang for your, er, bag:

1.) Decide on a color palate. For the most part, bottoms should be neutral. Every item that gets packed should be able to be worn with at least 2 other pieces (i.e. shirt that goes with shorts and skirt). By having a common color scheme, it cuts down on how many pairs of shoes, accessories, etc. that you need to worry about.
2) Choose outfits ahead of time. Since conference is only a week away, this means now! Know what you are going to wear each day, and hang that outfit up, including accessories and shoes. If an item gets used multiple times, stick a Post-It note on the hanger in lieu of the item. Then, try everything on as a completed outfit. You want to make sure everything still fits, it is clean, and you like the way everything ‘goes.’
3) Include clothes for a variety of situations. You will need several business appropriate outfits (nice slacks and a blouse, a suit, a sharp dress), at least one or two outfits that can be worn to a nice restaurant, a few casual ensembles, and whatever you do, don't forget a cardigan! I have shivered my way through more than one workshop in the past.
4) The little things. If you don't bring them, I can practically guarantee you will need: Advil/Motrin, blister covers/Band-Aids, travel sewing kit, safety pins, Shout wipes or Tide stick, and eyedrops. So, save yourself the 500% hotel markup and pack them now!

Now that you know what to pack, here is my tips on how to pack:

(This is my updated video, but you can watch the followup of the old video here, which shows all the outfits I can make with the contents of this suitcase:  Here!)

To summarize the tips from the video:
1) Roll clothes tightly. Anything that does not need to be hung up should be rolled, not folded. After they are rolled ….
2) Pack clothes into packing cubes or gallon Ziploc baggies. Not only will it protect your clothes, but you can squeeze out all the air for packing efficiency, and when you repack you can separate the clean from dirty clothes.

3) Hang up dress clothes on 1 hanger. Starting smallest and working towards the bulkier clothes, hang all items on one hanger. You will be amazed how much space you will save without the extra hangers, and it helps to keep items neatly together.
4) Buy a travel-sized Downy Wrinkle Releaser. It comes in handy for fabrics that don't quite need an iron, but could use some freshening up. Also, if you are allergic to perfume like me, it serves to freshen you up as well ;)

1) Pack essentials in your carry-ons. If you can’t fit all items into your carry-ons (and you should, but I am being generous and understanding here), Make sure that at least 2 changes of clothes gets packed in your carry on - as well as pills, jewelry, and electronics.
2) Pack snacks. Bring a bag with breakfast bars and other small snacks for not only the plane but for the entire trip. They usually fit into nooks and crannies and can save you time and money by having on hand.
3) Utilize space inside shoes. Pack smaller items, like socks and underwear, into quart-sized Ziploc bags and stuff inside shoes.

Okay, so that's all I got :) What are some of your tips for packing for Nationals? Are you planning on attending this year?

*UPDATE* - Curious to see all the outfits I could make with the items I packed? Check out the follow up post here!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Guest Blogger: Ciara Gold: A Great Big Mixing Bowl

Join the Lady Scribes in welcoming guest blogger Ciara Gold. Thanks for joining us today. We'd love to hear more about you and your new book Dragon King.
First, I would like to thank the Lady Scribes for hosting me today. When Suzie Grant sent out the invite, I had no clue what I wanted to talk about. And then it hit me – stirring up trouble and mixing genres.
I first met Suzie when I was very green and just learning to hone my craft. That was almost eight years ago. I was very excited to reconnect after having lost touch. The best thing about having a critique group or belonging to a joint blog or participating in loops is that you become one big family. Authors are connected through their love of writing and the many quirks we all share.
My first novel was a historical western and I soon realized I was cramming three stories into one novel so the project quickly became a series of three. But that realization didn’t come easily. While blocked working on Sarah’s Brass Token, one of our crit partners issued a challenge for all of us to enter RWA’s F,F & P chapter contest. All we needed was 15 pages. I needed a challenge and something to take my mind off my temporary writer’s block so I started writing. I’m a pantser, a seat of the pants type writer so I did very little plotting. I barely filled out the character chart, but somehow I managed a chapter that had me wanting to write more. And when I posted it online for my group and the message came back, “OMG,” I knew I was onto something. Celestial Dragon placed in three contests that year and I with much encouragement from my group, I finished the book. Celestial Dragon became my sojourn into the science-fiction arena.
Deciding that I truly liked writing genres that didn’t require the same level of research that a historical might, I started another story. This one was a cross between historical and fantasy and when I finished, I’d written the book of my heart. The Keeper of Moon Haven was released December 2010, but I’d held it in storage since 2006. Why? I wanted to have the sequels for the book well on their way to completion because I write slowly, and I just didn’t feel the time was right.
In the meantime, I was writing in several different genres. I finished the western series I’d started, even adding a fourth to the line-up. In addition, I wrote a Viking time travel. While I was drafting On the Silver Edge of Time, it came to me that I could link all of my books. Okay, that’s like saying I started with meatloaf, but I really wanted spaghetti. Wow – let’s mix the two and see what we get. In other words, I had my work cut out for me.
For one, in order to throw all my books into the mixing bowl and cook up a series that made sense, I had to be creative. I’d already established set parameters within each book. I had to live within those parameters. Secondly, half of the novels have paranormal qualities and the other half don’t. How was that going to work?
Well, I managed to tie them all together, and I did it through two books, Dragon King and The Keeper of Moon Haven. Dragon King is a science fiction futuristic fantasy romance with a hero that really connects with his past; his reincarnated past. The Keeper of Moon Haven introduces a faery realm and the ability to open the door between the faery realm and the human realm.  While I’ve yet to fully connect the paranormals to the westerns, I’m working on a story now in which the hero is from the faery realm but stuck in the human realm during 1887.  So far, I have a cameo appearance from the cast of Kaitlin’s Silver Lining. The point is I’ve opened the door to mix various genres and see what happens. I’m excited about the idea and reluctant at the same time. Excited because being an Indie author gives me the leeway to be more creative and to write what I want to write. Reluctant because it’s very overwhelming to stay true to the rules I’ve established with each book.
I write under the pen, Ciara Gold and have been writing since 2004. Besides writing, I also teach high school art and I’m the art director for a local magazine. Married to the man of my dreams, we have two children, a cat and a dog. To read blurbs and the first chapters of any of these books, check out www.ciaragold.com
Blurb for Dragon King:  For decades, dragons held the essence of magic that fuelled a wizard’s power, but in 1007 AD, evil claims the heart of one such wizard while another seeks to save the magic.
Tucker Bolen considers himself a renaissance man of the thirty-first century and balks at society’s rigid cultural practices. After purchasing and using a reincarnation reader, he not only connects with his past entities, he also suffers their bid to surface and claim his soul. A collector and explorer, one of the entities leads him on a quest for dragons and a journey that ultimately leads to the greatest magic - love.
Cari Barock fears many things; never finding love, an assassin bent on taking her life, and dragons. When a stranger from a distant planet arrives, she is forced to face all her fears.  With her special Deliphit powers, she helps Tucker with his quest, never realizing that she is the key to unveiling his true powers. Will she sacrifice her heart so he can save her world?

Available at Amazon, All Romance Ebooks and Champagne Books

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It's all fun and games...

I’ve been attempting to outline the next story in my series The Devil’s Defiance and to be honest, it’s not going so well. With that said, I decided to do a search for writing games to make the process of plotting a little more fun and I’ve come up with a few things that might make it bearable. I’ll let you know when I get past this particular hump. Hopefully this coming week of outlining and plotting will go much better than the past week has been. Honestly, I’ve replotted this thing three times already. So wish me luck!
Back to writing games, I stumbled across Holly Lisles plotting workshop and found an interesting idea. It’s not a game per say but it’s definitely something that may work. Before you even start plotting write a list of what you, the author, want to happen in the story. Even if it’s over-the-top, even if you never use it, and even if you don’t like it. Write it down. These are what she calls candy bar scenes, the fun and exciting scenes that make you eager to write. Use this as a bargaining tool for yourself. You know you want to write this scene, you’re eager to write this scene but first, you must write to this scene. And once you have, the anticipation will have built so much so that writing these “candy bar” scenes will be a reward all in itself. Great concept.
Magic Hat: Another game I’ve come across is it’s like a raffle type game where you take index cards with a single line summary on each card, toss them into the hat, and when you get stuck draw a scene. And just watch how easily you can weave this scene into your story. It’s fun. You’ll be very surprised at how much linear writing will staunch your creativity and how easily games like this will let it break free.
Free writing does this as well. You can take this same game, write an object on each index card, and see if you can add this object into your scene somewhere. These are great daily writing exercises as well.
Create a character with a character chart, toss in some random traits, and write this character into your story to see if you can spice things up bit.
About Face: Right now, turn around and look straight behind you. Write for five or ten minutes about the first thing you see.
Where to Next? Wherever your story takes place, pick an exotic local or somewhere odd your characters could travel and see where your story takes you. And it’s easy to do this as a panster but even as a planner, you can play these games within your outline. Trying new things out may surprise you and give your story that twist it needs to stand out.
My turn: Pick up your favorite book and pick out a scene, read it and completely rewrite it as you would have rather seen it. Of course, don’t put this scene in your story. This is used to jump start creativity and get the juices flowing. Hopefully, some of these will help with plotting and ideas. These should give you something to work with besides just using the ol’ what if game.
I hope some of these work, both for you and me. Hopefully this will at least change things up enough that it’s not the same ol’ same ol’ for once. I’m looking forward to trying some of these out this week. Do you have any other games or ideas to jump start creativity you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them. And if not share with us you own stories about the dreaded plotting and writer’s block.     

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Making Your Novel Great

I think every writer wants their novel to be considered great by those who read it. Most of us, I would bet, don’t sit down to write a good novel but rather a memorable one that will keep the reader up at night, make them cry, laugh, yell, cheer and turn them into a life long fan that remembers your characters, can quote your lines and help to spread the word to their friends that you are a great writer. 

So what does make a novel great?  I’ve been pondering this more and more lately.  I recently read three novels by three different NYT bestselling authors that I did not consider great.  Personal preference?  Perhaps?  So much in life is, isn’t is?  Some people think Blue Bell chocolate ice cream is great, while others consider Godiva chocolate ice cream to be the best.  The connecting factor to greatness is that both brands contain a key ingredient – chocolate.  The companies may put other ingredients in there, and their process of making the ice cream may differ, but without the chocolate this ice cream would fall flat.

What is the key ingredient in a great romance novel?  Is it the dialogue, the descriptions, the history or the plot line?  I say it is all of these things but there is one element, in my opinion, that any novel chalked full of the previous ingredients would not be great without.  Emotion.  Raw emotion the reader can connect with.

Let me go back to the three books I recently read.  They were good books but were they great?  They did not inspire me to laugh, cry, or stay up late and keep turning pages when I should be in bed.  I will not remember them a year from now, a month from now or even next week.  I even had trouble making myself finish one because I was indifferent to it.  These novels were good enough to get published but, to me, they were not good enough to inspire conversations, be passed along to a friend, or be re-read for the sheer joy of how they made me feel.

Fast forward to this past Sunday afternoon.  I picked up two novels at Barnes and Nobles.  One by Diana Gabaldon, www.DianaGabladon.com, and one by Lisa Kleypas, www.lisakleypas.com.  I started with Ms. Kleypas novel because Ms. Gabaldon’s novel is about four hundred pages longer, and I am saving it for my plane ride to New York.  But I know it will be great.  Ms. Gabaldon is a master of emotion. 

I am not going to tell you which novel I picked up by Ms. Kleypas, I’ll let you try to figure that out for yourself, but I can tell you by page two I was completely, utterly, hooked. Enthralled. Fascinated. I was only going to read a chapter that night. I ended up reading 150 pages, and only went to bed because it was 1:00 in the morning, and I knew I would be having to get up in five hours with my kids.

Ms. Kleypas’ novel that I bought is about a young, high born woman and a lowly, stable boy on the verge of an impossible love.  I don’t want to tell you any more because I don’t want to spoil it for you. 

Ms. Kleypas’ novel packs a punch from the very first line.  “A stable boy wasn’t supposed to speak to an Earl’s daughter, much less climb up to her bedroom window.”  Do you feel the emotions of unfairness, indignation, excitement and wonderment?  What will happen?  How will this love work out? 

Each word we pick when we write our novel needs to be chosen to elicit emotion from our readers.  If you can make your readers care about your character then you have written a GREAT novel, that will be talked about, passed on and probably sit on the NYT bestseller list.  Simple.  Not really. The good news is I think the more you write the better you understand how to draw out emotions from you characters and deliver them to your readers.    

I would love to hear what you think makes a novel great. Do you agree with me?  Is emotion the main ingredient?  If you agree, how do you try and weave emotion into your stories. If you disagree, what do you think is the key ingredient to a novel that will be picked up and read time and time again.

Have a great day,

Julie Johnstone, The Marchioness of Mayhem 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Good Intentions

Like a lot of people, I’m fairly goal orientated. I find it difficult to sit and do nothing for long periods of time and when I do sit still I often fall into another story idea that pleads to be written. To keep up with my overactive imagination I set goals, write them down where I can see them and record my achievements in my diary. It’s a great motivator to flick back over past weeks and see that yes, I did work hard. I often do more toward my writing career than I remember.

It’s a pity though that goal setting doesn’t seem to work for me with keeping in shape.

Despite my good intentions of trimming down prior to the RWA Conference, to make the change from Australian winter cold to New York summer heat more bearable, I’m a little rounder than I should be. At my age, because of family medical history, I should have fewer inches on my middle and be moving a whole lot more.

But the lure of my writing life has proved very difficult to ignore. I’m always tweaking a story, tweeting and checking my email. All activities that tie me to a chair. For lots of reasons, I’m going out less than I used to. Sadly, my inner introvert is pretty happy over that but she’s not helping me stay in shape.

A couple of months ago now I read an article on exercising while working. The treadmill desk is said to help with general fitness while keeping your writing ticking along. I had thought, Yes!, the answer to my fitness problems. I have a treadmill, complete with dust, and hubby constructed a simple desktop to accommodate my laptop and mouse. (such a nice man)

Full of enthusiasm, I started. There was an immediate problem however . . . I have terrible balance and my typing accuracy and speed were shockingly low. I had not fully appreciated my finger’s skill at keeping up with my brain until I physically couldn’t do it. I haven’t taken a typing speed test in a decade but I must be a lot quicker than I give myself credit for. Typing so slowly is horribly frustrating when in the midst of a great writing flurry and I needed to return to the tried and true and continue writing my story from a chair.

So, the plan altered. I wasn’t great at writing a first draft while walking so I tried critiquing and editing. My reasoning was that there would be far less typing involved and the typos wouldn’t take so long to correct. (Although that does contradict the purpose of an edit – to fix mistakes, not make them) At first, critiquing seemed to work well. Until I stayed on the treadmill a bit too long one day. Perhaps it was the angle of my head to the screen, it might have been the twist of using the mouse while walking. But the result was a pretty bad migraine that stopped me writing anything at all for a few days.

I must admit I was incredibly disappointed. Migraines are the bane of my life and while I’ve never pinpointed exactly why I get them, I’ll always run away from potential triggers. Even chocolate. I love chocolate, but it might not be exactly good for me and consumption must be kept to a minimum. So the treadmill is collecting dust again. Poor tready. I’ve never really warmed to you. I should have gone with the rowing machine and although that one hurt in all sorts of places, it never affected my head. Maybe that’s because you have to keep both sides of your body aligned in order to complete the moves smoothly.

Anyway, I had hoped to report promising progress toward sleekness by this time of the year but alas, I’ve flunked out on fitness again. I need someone to create a program like “Write or Die” but with a the opposite effect in mind. Write or die complains when you stop typing and I need one to cheer when I step away from the keyboard. LOL.

Exercise and me have never been the best of pals. Do you have an exercise routine you follow regularly? I’d love hear a very simple plan for staying in shape.

Monday, June 13, 2011

NYC: Eating on a budget in Times Square

Hi all!

Well, the time is drawing nigh! Nationals is upon us…just a few more weeks until 2,000+ romance writers descend upon my hometown of NYC. I can't wait! In preparation, I've been compiling lists of places to eat, places to shop, and things to do while you're visiting us. Hubby and I were on our way to see a show the other day, and I started taking notes of all the great places there are in Times Square and the surrounding neighborhoods. Places that are often forgotten about if they aren't right in front of your face. So, without further ado, here's my list of stuff you might want to know about...

Budget Eating…

Just because you're on a budget or in a hurry doesn't mean you have to eat at McDonald's! Here are some spots that offer what I consider upscale fast food...

Chipotle Mexican Grill - this one is a mere .3 miles from the Marriot! My favorite thing here is the veggie burrito bowl - it'll run you about $7, but you won't have to eat again for 3 days! Ha!

25 West 45th Street

New York, NY 10036

Cosi - This is a great sandwich/soup/salad place that turns into a full-service restaurant at night, with booze and everything. The Signature Salad is TDF, but just FYI - it's not at all waist-friendly! If you're looking for the Weight Watchers-friendly meal there, get the half Turkey Light sandwich and the half soup (I l.o.v.e. the artichoke soup!). .3 miles from hotel...

1633 Broadway

New York, NY 10019

Baja Fresh - .2 miles from the hotel, this Mexican cantina is a favorite from out west! With light, fresh fare, you'll be walking on air as you walk down Broadway!

1441 Broadway

New York, NY 10018

Famous Famiglia - Looking for that famous NY slice? Pop on up to this legendary pizza joint, just .2 miles from the hotel. 1 slice, 1 order garlic knots and 1 diet coke (to off-set the calories in the pizza and knots, of course) and you're good to go!

1630 Broadway at 50th St.

New York, NY 10019

Dallas BBQ - if you have a little more time to spare, but still don't want to break the bank, this BBQ staple of NY is even good enough for this southern gal! My favorite thing here: Quarter rotisserie chicken (white meat, honey basted) with yellow rice and corn bread (slathered in butter, of course.) It's more food than you could possibly eat for $7.50 (plus tax+tip) Oh, and if you want to get your drink on, go for a Texas sized Strawberry Margarita…yum! .2 miles from hotel...

241 West 42nd Street

Jamba Juice - if you're really in a hurry or not terribly hungry or just want to drink your fruits/veggies, Jamba Juice is there for you! It's .1 mile from the hotel, and it's open until at least midnight every night!

712 7th Ave.

The Counter - I've talked about it before, but it bears repeating. This build-your-own burger joint is awesome, and they have a full bar, too! They also have plenty of vegetarian options if you're not a carnivore. .2 miles from hotel...

1451 Broadway

KFC - No, I'm not talking about Kentucky Fried Chicken, I'm talking about Korean Fried Chicken! This amazing double-fried chicken is like nothing you've ever eaten! You'll never be able to look at buffalo wings the same way again! Ask for a sample first before you order a whole thing of the spicy wings, and if you do go spicy, don't touch your eyes until you've washed your hands at least 5 times. Personally, I love the non-spicy wings the best! Be prepared though…you may have sticker shock when you see the prices, but trust me…it's worth it!

Try Bon Chon - 207 W. 38th St. New York, NY 10018 (.4 miles from hotel) orKyochon 319 5th Ave, New York (.8 miles from hotel.) (The atmosphere at Kyochon is pretty great, so if you don't mind the walk, I recommend going there!)

I'll be back soon with the next part of my list…but please feel free to ask me any questions you may have about the Big Apple :)

Jerrica, Her Grace of Grammar

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Finding Your Style

Just like we all have a style (whether we realize it or not) within our fashion choices, all writers have a preferred writing style.

I think, however, many of us confuse it with voice. The two do go hand-in-hand. A writer's style, in conjunction with their voice, can usually tell a reader quickly exactly what writer they're reading. The difference, however, is that voice is what you have to say, while style is how you go about saying it.

Voice has to do with content, message, theme, and a view of the world. Style has more to do with word choices, sentence structure, grammatical quirks, and punctuation.

I've been reading work in a lot of different genres lately, and the styles I find vary drastically from one genre to the next--but they also vary significantly within the genres.

In historical romance, for example, it's not uncommon to find a style that utilizes long, flowing sentences, complex phrasing, parenthetical asides, and some words that might send you to the dictionary. The writing is often soft and fluid, flowing. In a modern crime drama, you'd be hard pressed to find many that don't utilize a lot of short, terse, to the point sentences. Maybe even a lot of sentence fragments. The writing here is often rigid and exacting. No extra words. Nothing that isn't imperative to the meaning.

I'd have to say that my writing style is more fluid. I tend to use long, flowing sentences in combination with shorter, punchier ones. I use all of the punctuation at my disposal. Sometimes, I have to stop myself from using some of them too often. It isn't uncommon for critique partners or beta readers to stop me and ask if I really want to use THAT word, when THIS one is much easier to understand.

I'm reading an author right now who combines complex sentences that are almost to the point of run-on sentences with short, terse, choppy fragments in a way that should hurt my grammar-loving tendencies. Instead, I'm enthralled by the rhythm she's created in her sentences and paragraphs, and I can't seem to get enough of it.

What sort of writing style most appeals to you as a reader? And if you're a writer, do you know what your writing style is?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Apologies to mac users

It appears that our blogger template is experiencing a momentary glitch and refuses to play nice with safari browsers.

We appologise for the inconvienence and the sheer ugliness of your blog view and we're endeavoring to fix the problem as quickly as we can.


Update: We've switched to a new template style but unfortunately that hasn't fixed all the problems for Safari browsers. For the time being, Mac and iPad users will have to scroll down to view our lovely book covers. :o(

Unblocking Creativity

Some of you may have noticed one of the Lady Scribes is missing. After almost a year and a half of consistently posting some of our most popular blogs, the ladies are sad to say farewell to Clarissa Southwick. Clarissa is exploring other horizons and we wish her the best. Her humorous observations, encouragement, and unwavering belief in our abilities to succeed will be missed. Take care, Clarissa. We are cheering for you from the sidelines. Hugs!

This week I am attending the International Death, Grief and Bereavement Conference. I know it sounds like a party in a box—fun not included—but try to suppress your envy. Actually, the conference has been interesting but emotionally draining. (Is it possible for your psyche to become a limp noodle?)

I knew I would get something out of the conference I can use in my social work practice, but I was surprised to attend a session Tuesday that could be useful for my life as a writer. I’ve sometimes pondered how writers continue to produce work when they are getting kicked around by life. There are varying levels of tough times we fall upon as we live. These can be happy or sad events, by the way. The point is these experiences can take up a lot of our mental energy and then how do we have anything left over for writing?

Transition times such as the ending of a relationship, the birth of a child, caring for an aging parent, a child going off to college, or losing a job can affect our abilities to easily access our creative selves. Then there are the shorter term disappointments like a rejection letter, low contest scores, a bad review, or a minor illness that sap our energy.

The presenter of the workshop discussed how he used a journaling technique called Morning Pages to cope with his grief, but in the process, he also awakened an artist within. In the past few years, he has published books of poetry, sculpted pieces and sold them, and does woodworking. Although he worked in a very technical field, he was exposed to art and creative expression through his wife who was a painter. She held classes on creativity at their home and taught from Julie Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way”. http://www.theartistsway.com/

The book is written for anyone of any profession to help them learn to remove blocks to creativity when it is stifled by life events, at least this is my understanding. I haven’t read the book, but I plan to check it out. The conference speaker described the process as “purging” the brain of thoughts and feelings that are blocking creativity.

Here are the basic guidelines for Morning Pages: 1. Pages are to be written first thing in the morning.

2. Write three full pages in longhand each time.

3. It is a stream of consciousness exercise. It’s okay if it’s silly, weird, self-pitying, angry, petty. It doesn’t matter. Just get it out.

4. Write for no one else’s eyes. No censoring. This isn’t meant to be art or even pretty.

5. Don’t go back and read the pages for at least two months.

6. Never skip a day, even if all you write is “This stinks. I hate it. I don’t know what to say.”

7. Morning Pages are not meant to be the only writing you do in this time. If it opens up a door, go with it.

Do you have any methods of unlocking your creativity? Or have you ever gone through a period of time when you found it hard to access your creativity?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tales From Revision Hell

Hello, name is Erin Kelly and I am a critique partner and friend to the LadyScribes, an aspiring Regency writer, and for the last few weeks, I have been in revision hell.

You know the one: hair knotted on the top of your head, fingernails chewed to the quick, eyes gritty from staring at the same blasted ms for hours on end. The one where you find yourself so immersed in mentally hashing the plot, you can’t remember whether or not you already shampooed your hair when you're in the shower, or you accidentally lock your dog on the back porch and then proceed to drive her crazy by calling for her all over the house.

Yeah, that lovely little portrait has been all me lately.

Overwhelmed by the enormity of all the elements needing change, not to mention the short amount of time in which they needed to be done, I wasn’t getting anywhere. But this weekend I had a breakthrough. After hours—weeks, really—of staring bleary-eyed at my computer screen, desperately trying to keep the many versions of that particular ms straight in my head, writing and rewriting the same scenes, deleting and shuffling until I couldn’t remember what had happened when and to whom, I suddenly decided that I wanted to go outside.

I know, not the biggest epiphany in the world, but bear with me. I closed my computer, changed clothes, doused myself in bug spray, and headed for the dock. Since the evening boat traffic had died down, my husband and I decided to take the canoe out and get a little exercise.

As we paddled along, for once I didn’t think about when Evie would discover Benedict’s true identity. I didn’t mull over the timing of their first kiss, or obsess about how much of Benedict’s past to keep a mystery. No, as my oar rhythmically sliced the glassy surface of the secluded creek that feeds our lake, I simply soaked it all in. The perfect temperature, the cloudless sky, the sound of the canoe gliding over the water.

I marveled at the great, overhanging trees whose leafy branches reached to the water like outstretched arms, breathed in the woody scent of the forest and reveled in the near silence around us. Silence that, for the first time in weeks, my mind didn’t race to fill.

By the time we got back, I was happy, relaxed, and exhausted. Instead of dragging the laptop out, I spent a little time with my hubby and then actually got to bed at a decent hour. And wouldn’t you know it, a funny thing happened when I sat down to my computer the next morning. I felt renewed. I had stepped back enough that in a matter of moments, I knew what I needed to fix, and how to fix it. It was far and away my most productive day yet.

So here’s what I think. When we are most mired in the things that need to be done—be it new writing, revisions, or research—sometimes it feels like we don’t have the time to step away and take a moment for ourselves. But next time, try setting it all aside and doing something outside the box. That time we didn’t think we had may end up being the key to actually saving time—and our sanity!

I’m not out of the woods yet, but I no longer feel panic each time I think of what still needs to be done. I’ll get it done, and it will be great, and soon I’ll be on to actually writing new stuff again.

So tell me, have you ever found yourself mired in revision hell? Any tips on how to survive—or better yet, thrive?

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Count Down is On

In just 22 days my plane will touch down in New York City and I will find my way (a way yet to be determined) to Marriott Marquis Time Square for the 31st Annual Romance Writers of America Conference. And, I won’t be alone. The conference has been sold out for at least a couple of weeks.

This will be 4th conference and so much has changed since San Francisco. At that first conference I only dreamed of being published and the only critique partners with me that year became the wonderful duo who makes up Lydia Dare (Jodie and Tammy with whom you are all familiar). The following year, more of us were able to attend in Washington, D.C. and Heather even came from Australia. At this conference, I had a book – woo hoo.

So much can change in a year, or even six months. Especially in the publishing business! But, I would not have three books published if it wasn’t for my amazing critique group. I will be the first to insist that no writer can get ahead without others, familiarity with your genre and an eye for details and grammar, reading over every great, and not so great, sentence you add to that baby you call a manuscript or work in progress.

In May, the Historical Romance Critique Group celebrated three years of being together. Some members have come and gone, but a strong core, who were with us from almost the beginning, have remained. At the time we formed, not one of us was published but we all had big dreams of holding a book in our hands with our name (or pen name in some cases) etched across that cover.

I know I posted on a similar topic about this time last year, but I think it bears repeating. And, I love to acknowledge the successes of the ladies I’ve come to love like sisters. Here is what they have done since joining the group (listed in order of when they joined and in their own words)

Jerrica (co-founder): When I co-founded this group with Amy, I had two completed manuscripts (I think…it’s hard to remember now.) Over the next year, while I queried agents/editors, I completed two more to make up the entire Wetherby Brides Series. A writing contest at the end of that year (which Amy forced me to enter) landed me a publishing contract with Second Wind Publishing. After completely rewriting my first book, I handed it over and A Gentleman Never Tells was published in November of 2009. But 2011 seems to be the magic year for me. Second Wind released the second book in the series at the same time I published books 3 and 4, two short stories and a new novella. I’m thrilled to say that all my works are doing incredibly well, and I owe most of my success to this amazing group of ladies. This critique group may be my greatest accomplishment yet.

Jodie: When I started with the critique group, I had completed 2 manuscripts and had my PRO pin. Since then, I have completed 2 more (solo) manuscripts and 8 joint-Lydia Dare books, with 2 more to go on the current contract. Since joining the group, I've placed in several contests and acquired an agent. I am certain I wouldn't be where I am today without my local RWA chapter and this critique group.

Julie: When I joined the group I had written one ms and was working on my second one, which this group helped me to finish. I had finaled in one contest and had one request before joining up with you ladies. Since then, I've finaled in quite a few contest, had a good number of request, landed my agent Scott Eagan, and finished two more books. I started and stopped two more, and am now working on my fourth book which I WILL finish. I also published three contemporary short stories with the Trues.

Samantha: Oh, wow! Has it been 3 years? On one hand, it seems like we've been together forever, and on the other, it seems like only yesterday. When I joined, I had just written my very first manuscript with no experience whatsoever. Nothing but a burning desire in my heart to write a story. I'm sure it showed. I've written a total of 4 1/2 novels, 5 short stories published in True Love Magazine, and attended 2 national conferences. My debut novel The Ruination of a Rake will be released February 1, 2012 and three other stories in the series will follow. And I have a great agent, Nephele Tempest.

Heather: The last two and a half years with this critique group have been fantastic. When I joined November 2008, I had one mss written, one underway via NaNoWriMo and I was terribly ignorant about the publishing world. Today, I’m an epublished and self-published author (5 books total) and I'm obsessed with writing and learning about the regency era. I'm still writing and intend to self-publish future work. I’m already fretting over my suitcase’s contents again for this year’s RWA Convention in New York.

Liz Cole: I found this critique group in 2009, about a year after I made my first fumbling attempts at writing, and realized almost immediately I had stumbled upon a gold mine! The members are a great mix of new, experienced, and published writers, each bringing their own personal experience and expertise and taking the time and effort to give their honest opinion in the most supportive way possible.
Since joining the group I have published a novella and the first book, in my Reluctant Ladies series for Breathless Press Publishing (both fall into the erotic historical romance genre). Both my novella and first full length have received great reviews, and my full length, Persuading Prudence, recently claimed the #1 slot on WebWire.com’s Best Sellers List under Romance E-books, and I made #5 on their Best Selling Romance Author’s list!
I could not have come as far as I have so quickly without this wonderful critique group. Thank you, ladies!

Suzie Grant: 1. I'd written two manuscripts when I first joined and one will never see the light of day again.
2. Since joining I've completed three more manuscripts, one short story, one novella, published two stories, finaled in a contest and will be publishing another novel and a novella by the end of June. Not as much as others but I've done all this in almost two years time. Lots of progress imho.

Erin: Well, I found the group a year ago in March (I think), and consider myself extremely lucky to have stumbled into such an amazing group. I had just finished my first MS and was rather clueless as to where to go from there. The group gently guided me away from passive voice, head hopping, etc. Within a few months of joining, I finaled in my first contest. Since then, I have finaled in several contests (a total of 4 I think), including the Golden Heart. I would be nowhere near where I am now without the critiques, support, and camaraderie offered by this group of women. In January I signed with my agent, Deidre Knight, and have been working my tail off in revisions ever since :) Next stop—Publication!!

Sarah: I think it's fantastic that this crit group is in existence. When I first joined, it was a year ago--so this is my 1 year anniversary. I know because everyone was talking about Nationals back then, too.
1. When I joined I was a published non-fic author but had never tried fiction. My first attempt was horrible but everyone here was so nice about it--and tactfully pointed out the head-hopping, passive voice, etc.
2. In the course of the year, I finished my first manuscript, signed with an agent, Mary Sue Seymour, and sold my first manuscript to Love Inspired Historical.
3. From here I am supposed to be writing my second novel for Love Inspired, but with my daughter home this summer, we'll see how successful I am. LOL
Thanks to everyone on this group for their help & support—

Louisa: Let me see. I joined the group in February of this year. I had finished three manuscripts and started a fourth. I am working on revising the third manuscript for my agent, Kim Lionetti of Bookends. Since I joined the group my third manuscript - The Price of a Gentleman – won in the Write Stuff, the Great Beginnings and the Duel on the Delta. My fourth manuscript has finaled in the Royal Ascot and the Daphne du Maurier. And trust me, none of those finals could have happened without this group!
Where am I now? Trying my DAMNEDEST to finish these revisions before Nationals! I need to move on to the next book!

Aileen: I’m so new I haven’t finished my first historical novella yet to report on success. But I am in awe of the contracts and wins received by my fellow CPs. I know they’ll bring out the best in my stories.

Lauren: "I am new to this wonderful group of writers. I was fortunate to have come across them while reading a Lydia Dare novel and found the idea of an online critique group to be fantastic. The collection of talented writers who are supportive and helpful has become a lifeline for me as a writer who is wanting to break out into the "published writer" world. The wealth of knowledge that these lovely ladies have on writing, the publishing industry and history itself is just spectacular. I am blessed to become part of this group and can't wait to see where everything leads!"

Christina: I've been writing for almost ten years. It wasn't however, until I began working with the the Historical Romance Critique Goup that (cliche coming!) I was able to take my writing to the next level! The group is made up of such talented, dedicated, and helpful writers who have only improved my craft!
I have received several requests for a submission of an entire/partial manuscript from two major publishing houses and several literary agencies.

Marie Higgins: When I joined this group nearly a year ago, I had been writing and publishing under a different pen name - a name that wasn't getting me anywhere. Amy and Sarah inspired me (whether they know it or not) to try my hand at writing Inspirationals. At the time, I was just finishing a sensual pirate story. Since that time, I have revised my pirate story and made him sweet instead of sensual, I have written one full length Christian romance novel, and revised four more of my sensual stories and made them Christian or sweet. Not only that, but I've published three Christian romances (and I'm working on getting book #4 published by August), and I've signed with an agent.
I had to take a break for a while with this critique group when my life started spiraling out of control, but now that things are back on track, I'm back to critiquing some wonderful stories from very talented authors who I'm thrilled to call my friends! I don't even want to think of where I'd be if I hadn't found this group!

Well, there you have it. I am amazed what what these women have accomplished and I continue to learn from them every day.

Do you belong to a critique group? How have they been a benefit to you?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

It’s just a name...

You all know me as Melissa Dawn Harte here but I’ve recently journeyed into the murky waters of self publishing as Suzie Grant. I’ve carried my original name and steadily climbed this rocky incline to being published with this name for well over fifteen years now. It’s been an interesting trek to say the least.
Self publishing is a new and exciting option for writers but it’s not easy by any means. If you’re expecting overnight success then you’re dead wrong and that goes for both publishing with the big houses as well as Self Publishing. But while you have an army of editors and a team of marketing professionals at your disposal with the big houses, you don’t have that with Self Pubbing. And the road you’re traveling on just got a lot steeper.
But there are both good and bad facets to both options and I’ll save that issue for another day. For now I want to discuss pen names. I’ve lived with the same pen name for fifteen years now. Why did I change it you ask? Well because at the time I was still very much still considering sticking with traditional publishing and didn’t want my self pubbed titles to interfere with my chances to publish traditionally.
While I haven’t given up on it completely, I have decided to set that aside for a while and see how this little foray into Indie publishing turns out. In the meantime, I’ve got two identities suddenly that I’m trying to work with and it suddenly became very overwhelming. So after fifteen years with the name Melissa Dawn Harte, I’ve decided to retire it temporarily and take up my new identity. A new beginning. A fresh start for me. And I’m suddenly very excited about it. And somewhat sad as I’ve packed away the memories of writing under this pen name. I’ve changed my website to reflect my new persona and re-written my bios.
So here I am on the brink of a new chapter, shutting away the dusty door of a different life. And while this post might sound so boring to you I find myself amazed at how much I truly “became” a new person. How attached I was to my persona. My signature. My life as a writer.
So here I am rewriting my life story once again and seeking to learn more about my new name, Suzie Grant. A name I came up with by combining my mother’s nickname and my father’s first name. It’s my special silent tribute to the two people who’ve so influenced my life and my life’s decisions.
I’ve found myself just as excited as when I first started on this uncertain path and I am eager to face whatever new trials await down this new shadowed pathway.
So while you remember me as Melissa Dawn Harte Miss Adventure here on the Lady Scribes I give you the new and improved version Suzie Grant. I am Miss Adventure. Take a deep breath with me and jump into a new world of adventure and romance with me. I’m looking forward to many more thrills with you.
It’s amazing how easy it is for us “to become someone else for just a while”. The human mind and body is an extraordinary piece of art. So how about you? How did you come up with your pen name (if you use one) and how easy has it been to completely adapt to this new, exciting face in your future? It’s funny how much and how often we must put ourselves out into the world under a fake name and for a short while “become” someone else.
My favorite quote seems to fit into this new chapter just as easily as it fit into my previous chapters. “Obstacles are placed in our path’s to determine whether we really wanted something or just thought we did.” By Dr. Harold Smith.
I’m ready for my next obstacle, are you?  

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Missing-lazy, hazy days of summer.

Summer is supposed to be relaxed, right? Someone must have forgotten to text me the reminder.  It’s a good thing I have a seven year old who reminded me of this fact yesterday.  To catch you up to speed, you should know I’m a type A person who finds simply sitting around to relax absolutely dreary.  I will sit to read a book, but the book has to be darn good to keep me in that chair.  With this in mind, I am a planner and I planned out my children’s summer activities, so they would have a fun pact fantastic summer.  Apparently, I get a little over zealous  and I planned so many wonderful things to do and see we have run breathlessly from activity to activity “enjoying” it.  Yesterday, as I dashed from a play date with my two children to hurry home and grab our swim bag I lost my cool and snapped at my children to pick up the speed so we could get to the pool.  My oldest child said, “Mom, isn’t summer supposed to be relaxed?” 


I forced myself to slow down yesterday after his comment and evaluated what I remembered most about the wonderful summers of my own childhood.  These are a few of my memories:  the sound of a roller coaster at Six Flags, warm pool water sliding over skin, dewy grass under my feet, warm sun on my face, cold ice-cream in my mouth, a blue sky as far as I could see, the wind in my hair as I rode my bicycle, greasy, coconut-smelling tanning oil, late night movies, fluffy sleeping bags for sleepovers, waves crashing against the rocks at the beach and the gritty, hot sand between my toes.  Perhaps one of my most vivid memories is running through the corn fields at my grandparents house for hours then coming out to roast marshmallows and catch fireflies.  Ah, the lazy, hazy days of summer!

I have a thousand more memories, but I won’t bore you to tears.  The point is, none of them involve being rushed from fantastic place to fantastic place.  My fondest memories are of simple things.  I am going to make a point to slow down for my children. Today, we are going to go to the pool, bask in the sun with SPF 1000 and eat a belly full of ice-cream.  Tonight, maybe we will go outside and catch fireflies if we feel like it.  Later, we may turn out all the lights, cuddle up in the kids sleeping bags-I hope I can fit-and watch a movie, if we decide we want to. 

I’m not throwing all my amazing planning abilities out the window, but I am going to let the majority of them take a vacation.

I’d love to hear your fondest summer memory.

Have a great day.
Julie Johnstone, The Marchioness of Mayhem