Thursday, February 11, 2016

Life And Writing: Always Battling For Our Time by Margo Hoornstra

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans – John Lennon

Honest, I came up with the idea for this post about a week ago. Before Barbara and Diane put up similar essays on February 7 and February 8, respectively. Must be a trend. For what it’s worth, here’s my take on the subject.

It was summertime and I was going great guns on my latest WIP. Bound By Duty, book two in my Brothers In Blue series. For about 30,000 words, I cruised along according to plan. My heroine’s problems were set and she was working through them.

Then she hit a snag.

Enter the hero to the rescue—sort of. You see, he has a mission of his own that is in direct conflict with her agenda. The hero wants to help, but has to compromise his principles to do so. What’s more important? His reputation or the woman he’s falling in love with?

One third done, only 60,000 words to go. I got this. Yeah, right. Then life began to intervene. Other writing projects, those on deadlines, took precedence. Family issues too numerous to mention cropped up. Then there was the part-time paycheck job offer I couldn’t say no to. None of the ‘life events’ were particularly earth shattering, but my writing time began to shrink. My word production waned.

Time to set a completion date goal and calculate the necessary words per day count needed to accomplish it.

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

So far I’ve set, and missed, two self-imposed completion dates. I won’t bore you with the gory details. Let’s just say a third completion date failure looms ahead and life has yet to cut me and my writing plans a break.

Granted, I may be down, but I’m certainly not out. Through it all, I’ve been slogging along. All the way to a good solid 62,000 words and counting. Less than 30,000 more to go now. Definitely doable. On the up side (my new favorite term) I did manage to complete a solid 3,000 word, chapter by chapter outline. I know who does what to whom. Even where, when, why and how they do so. I even slipped in a few red herring characters along with their particular who, what, where, when, why and hows, and it’s off I go again.

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.

Okay, this is too – you can’t make this stuff upish – not to share. My beloved sister-in-law, literally flying in to the rescue with some of the family pressures I’ve been under. Read - more writing time for me. Then.....
She gets off the plane, my son meets her at the airport, they collect her luggage and are about to head our way. Through no fault of her own, she takes a header off the escalator. A trip to the hospital, seven hours and fifty stitches around her ear later, she’s here, a little sore, but doing fine. I’m more than happy to take care of her.

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

Don’t worry though. I WILL arrive at the necessary 90,000 words in Bound by Duty and complete three and four in the series as well.

It’s just, I’ve learned my lesson. No more planning for me, writing wise. No more deadlines, for now.

Experience has taught me, life just simply doesn’t work that way. Thanks Barbara and Diane. It’s comforting to know we’ve all been there…and lived to tell the tale.

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.

My days to blog here are the 11th and 23rd. For more about me and the stories I write, please visit my WEBSITE
BROTHERS IN BLUE - Four heroes who met at the police academy to become life long friends. The dropout, the straight arrow, the movie star and the maverick. All share a passion to serve and protect, each in his own unique way.


Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Way back, a long time ago, I lived in Germany for three years. I fell in love with the Alps, the mountain range that belongs to several countries including Austria. A couple of trips to Austria, and I fell in love with Austria, too. And the people. What warm, friendly people!

Hartmut and his wife Uli in Austria
Fast forward to 2016, and I have a book releasing worldwide on March 30, which just happens to be set in Austria. A Legacy of Love and Murder is the third book in my Love and Murder Series.
My love of Austria, and my memories lent much to the story, but I would’ve been lost if it hadn’t been for a special Austrian friend of mine. Not only did he correct my German (the primary language of the Austrian people), helped me with so many other details such as food and dress and geography, but he also supplied me with his name for one of my characters, Hartmut.

I didn’t meet Hartmut when we visited Austria. Harte, came to us years later as one of the hockey players on the Austrian team that played in the Easter Tournament along with my son’s team. We boarded the players, and Harte was placed with us. We became fast friends. It was as if I’d known this young man all of my life. Over the years, he’s visited us several times, and my husband and I visited him and his family in Austria. Such good memories.

I hope my love of his country comes through in my words.

The Art of Love and Murder, Book One is set in Flagstaff, Arizona
Southwest of Love and Murder, Book Two is set in Chino Valley, Arizona
A Legacy of Love and Murder, Book Three is set in Austria

Coming 2016/17
The Power of Love and Murder, Book Four is set in Flagstaff, Arizona
The Deep Well of Love and Murder, Book Five is set in Chino Valley, Arizona

Find all of my books here: 
The Wild Rose Press 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Helping Each Other Out by Diane Burton

One of the great things about a writing career is the wonderful people you meet—in person and online. Writing is a solitary occupation. We hide in our caves, writing away all day. To our families, it looks like we’re doing nothing. When I’m staring out the window, I don’t see the mounds of dirty snow or gray skies. I’m plotting who will be the next victim. Only another writer “gets” that. And only another writer understands when we hit a wall and can’t write.

A couple of years ago, I discovered the Insecure Writers Support Group. It’s a combination blog hop/therapy session. Our purpose is “to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!” Once a month, we talk about our doubts and the fears we have conquered. We discuss our struggles and triumphs and offer words of encouragement for others who are struggling.

Last Wednesday, I wrote about how my writing was in the doldrums. Like sailors in the ocean without wind, I was stuck. I hadn’t written anything on my current WIP (the 3rd Alex O’Hara book) since the beginning of November. I can attribute some of that to finishing the edits on The Case of the Fantastic FiancĂ© (2nd Alex O’Hara novel), getting it published, then promoting it. Then there were the holidays, being in Arizona for six weeks, returning home, recovering from jetlag, and getting acclimated to cold and snow again. Excuses, excuses, excuses.

From past experiences, I know how helpful the IWSG members were, but I was blown over by the help and encouragement. From butt-kicking (definitely needed) to simple suggestions like open the file and read what I’d already written. So I did just that. I opened the file. Since Thursday, I’ve written over 2300 words on The Case of the Meddling Mama. Wow. All because some kind writer said open the file.

IWSG isn’t the only group of writers who support and help each other. A fantastic group called Authors Helping Authors (many of the Roses belong to this group organized by our own Alicia Dean) share tweets and Facebook posts about each other’s books. We also share triumphs and defeats, cheering and commiserating. I also belong to an RWA chapter, Mid-Michigan RWA. We meet face to face as well as online. Another place where writers help each other. Sometimes, just by listening. Each month we (those who want to) do a modified version of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). We set goals and report in. There is something about others knowing your goal that makes you add an extra push to complete it. Again, we're there to cheer each other on and help each other up.

I truly believe if not for the support and encouragement of the members of these groups (and others) that I would have given up by now. Sharing information, celebrating, offering shoulders to cry on and pats on the back. 

What would we do without these wonderful people?

Diane Burton writes romantic adventure . . . stories that take place on Earth and beyond. She blogs here on the 8th and 30th of each month and on Mondays on her own site: 


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Life Happens by Barbara Edwards

Most writers will tell you life happens. The work is going good and instead of creating a great plot, reality plops a load of poop on you. I had that happen. And I haven’t written anything for almost a month.
My husband was diagnosed with cancer. He’s going through treatment and my life has squeezed down to doctor visits, then chemo treatments, and finally the surgery to remove the affected area. 
It’s been a strange journey. As many older men, my husband had to get up to empty his bladder during the night. He complained and I nagged him to go to a urologist. The doctor recommended he have his prostate trimmed and the eurethra opened. Its a family common operation. My husband wanted to wait until we returned from out winter months in Florida. 
I did my usual nag, nag nag. Get it done before we go or you’ll be up every night and complaining all winter. 
He went in for surgery at the end of November. 
The doctor called me from the operating room. He found a growth in the bladder. Did I want him to remove it or wait until my husband woke up, gave his permission and then put him under again. I said go.
So he has bladder cancer. Stage two or three.
Next is have chemo. December is going to the clinic, the doctor, bloodwork and he can’t tolerate the chemo. It’s hurting his kidneys and that’s bad.
So the removal is scheduled. Okay. I asked a to of questions, did research on the web, ask more questions. There’s not much alternative.
So two weeks ago he goes in for major surgery. Take out the bladder, the prostate, two lymph nodes and cut a section from his small intestine to make the new ducts to drain his kidneys.
A major operation, but the area is clear of anything strange and they are doing biopsies of the removed tissue.
The good part? If he’d waited the extra six months, it would have been stage four.
The other good part? He’ll be able to resume his life.
Hopefully I will too. I have three books waiting for me. 
My advice to all of you? I don’t have any. Life happens.

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Writers Owe Readers More Than Word Count by Alison Henderson

I just deleted half of yesterday’s work. Ouch! Why would I do such a painful thing? Word count is hard to come by. The writing wasn’t awful. It added a few character insights. But it didn’t advance the story. And story is the key to satisfying readers.

Most writers I know, especially writers with contracts and deadlines, set daily word counts for themselves. Some post their daily accomplishments on Facebook. I assume they’re looking for a virtual pat on the back or maybe an opportunity to shout out to the world, “I did it!” Whatever their motivation, I usually look at those impressive numbers and hang my head.

I’m currently working on the second book in my female bodyguard series. Since I haven’t written a new full-length novel in almost four years, I’m more than a little rusty. I’ve tried to avoid stressing myself with things like goals and word counts, but I really want to finish the manuscript by Labor Day. I know how long my books usually run, and I’m not laid-back enough to keep myself from doing the math. Only a certain number of words per month (and by extension, per week and per day) will get me there. It’s not an insurmountable mountain of words and it’s not carved in stone, but it will require much more self-discipline than I’m used to.

As I’ve been paying closer attention to my own productivity, it’s got me thinking about the current emphasis on being a prolific writer. We are constantly urged to write faster, but not to write better. We’re told the way to build a successful career is to produce several books a year—keep cranking them out and keep ourselves in the public eye. Our books are a product, our writing “content” that must constantly be refreshed in this age of instant communication and miniscule attention spans. And it’s true. As fewer people read books regularly, avid readers must be nurtured and cherished. Of course they want new books by their favorite authors frequently, so we work give them what they want.

But are we paying a price? Are we forcing them to pay a price?

In the past couple of years, I’ve noticed changes in the work of two of my favorite big-name authors. Their books have always been automatic buys for me, but that’s changing. I won’t mention names, but you’ll probably recognize at least one of these NYT bestsellers.

The first author writes three full-length books a year in three different sub-genres, and I have always loved them—until the last two. In her latest contemporary suspense book, the villain was obvious from the first chapter, and the pace dragged miserably. It read like she was being paid by the word. The second book was the first in a new grand fantasy trilogy. The characters and plot were so flat and lifeless I doubt I’ll read the sequels.

The other author writes in the highly popular, extended family series sub-genre. You know the kind—large families with numerous siblings, each with his or her own romance. I loved the first several books, but the last couple have felt rushed and formulaic.

I think both authors are paying the price of success in today’s market. They are under enormous pressure to produce, and because they’re professionals, they do produce. But their characters and stories are not as fresh and imaginative as in earlier books—the books that won legions of dedicated readers in the first place.

Writers create. We don’t make widgets. Our products need to have magic, and sometimes magic takes time. The creative well must be allowed to refill. Sadly, publishers (and readers) these days are often too impatient to allow that to happen. Because I self-publish, this isn’t an issue for me, but the pressure to write fast and publish frequently raises the risk of burnout for many writers pursuing commercial success. Some will end up not putting their best work out there. And that’s a big disservice to themselves and their readers.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Finding Snow

If you visited The Roses of Prose last month, I posted about wishing for snow where I lived. While there still hasn’t been any major accumulation, I would like to report that I did find some snow this winter!

In my favorite place—Vermont.

I thought I’d share my snow discoveries in a photo montage called “Christine’s Vermont Winter Wonderland. Enjoy!

Have you found any snow? Go visit my author Facebook page HERE, like me if you don’t already, and post pictures of snow you’ve found. I’d love to see them.

Books One to Five in The Maple Leaf Series, available now. Book One, More Than Pancakes is always FREE! 
More Than Peaches, Book Six, coming 2016.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Throw me a great Hook and reel me in! by Vonnie Davis

I love a great opening hook. The quirkier the opening line or first couple of paragraphs, the better.

Once my eyes float over the words Chapter One, widen them with something unexpected. Grab me by the throat and show me I'm going to be in for a great read. Oh, not something frightful...but unexpectedly delightful. Humorous. Passionate. Heartrending. Sigh-worthy. And, baby, I'm yours!

Remember, when we were taught in public school to incorporate who, what, when, where, and why into our openings? Or am I dating myself? Why bog down our opening prose with details that could be sprinkled in later like those pretty multi-colored sprinkles on a cupcake?

I like to think of my opening scene. Play it out in my mind. Hear the dialog or feel the emotion. Watch the character or characters and begin the story mid-scene--at the best part. The part I hope will hook the reader and won't allow them to stop reading. For example, For the Love of a Fireman begins like this:

“Quick! What aisle are the douches in? I’ve got three bitches at the beach cottage and they all stink to high heaven.”

The male customer is talking about his dogs and the female sales clerk thinks he's a dog, talking about his girlfriends. The misunderstanding goes on for pages. This comes from page two. 

The customer lifted his blue ball cap with some kind of marine rescue emblem on it, forked his long fingers through straight hair—bleached nearly pale blond by the sun—and resettled the hat. “You do carry Massengill, don’t you? That’s the best brand, according to my research.”

“Ah…” My God, what kind of man researches douches? A man who goes to bed with three women, Molly. Now concentrate.
Sometimes, it takes two or three paragraphs like it did in A Highlander’s Passion.

Kenzie Denune pedaled the bicycle harder, her thighs burning from the exertion. Thanks to a car that refused to start, she was going to be late fer her job interview at Iverson Loch Manor. Grunting and pounding from the shrubs ahead, near the road’s edge, snagged her attention.

Naked shoulders glistened in the afternoon sun. Back muscles bulged and undulated with every thrust. “Bloody hell. Come fer me. Come.”

In all of Mathe Bay in the Scottish Highlands, only one deep masculine voice had the power to raise the hair on her arms like this. A man with braided russet-colored hair that brushed broad shoulders inked with a bear’s claw marks, woven into an intricate tribal design—Bryce Matheson. Damn him to hell. Who’s he shagging in broad daylight? Out in the open, no less. Has he no shame?

I can’t tell you the number of times I rewrote the following opening hook to get it just right. It’s the first paragraph of Storm’s Interlude, part of a multi-genre romance bundle, benefitting the Wounded Warrior Project. For 99 cents, these five full-length books are a great deal. Here’s my hook:

Someone swaggered out of the moonlit night toward Rachel Dennison. Exhausted from a long day of driving, she braked and blinked. Either she was hallucinating or her sugar levels had plummeted. Maybe that accounted for the male mirage, albeit a very magnificent male mirage, trekking toward her. She peered once more into the hot July night at the image illuminated by her headlights and the full moon. Sure enough, there he was, cresting the hill on foot—a naked man wearing nothing but a tan cowboy hat, a pair of boots and a go-to-hell sneer.