Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Traditions

I'm no Martha Stewart, but I love to make things for Christmas. One of my holiday traditions is to make stockings for each of my children and grandchildren. They're not huge stockings - just big enough for a candy cane and several pieces of chocolate. I decorate them with whatever strikes my fancy. Sometimes it's an embroidered design, sometimes it's something painted on, and other times it's something pretty tacked on to the side. The kids always take their stockings home, so I don't know if they're kept or not. But they've learned to expect their stockings, and I'm happy to make them.
This year, I have another project I'm very pleased to share. It's my holiday novella, The Christmas Phoenix. It's a story about an overworked single mom and her new neighbor. I picked some unusual occupations for this couple - she's a snowplow driver, and he's an ice sculptor! It's gotten some decent reviews so far, so if you're looking for a cozy holiday read, I'm hoping you'll reach for this one! It's available at Astraea Press, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. Here's my lovely cover, designed by the mega-talented Elaina Lee:

Here's wishing everyone a very merry Christmas!

Patty Kiyono

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Spirit of the Holiday -- Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving! We have a German exchange student living with us for the year. It has been a great experience and it really makes you think! We were talking about the holiday and explaining why we celebrate it because she had never heard of it.

I’m a bit rusty on my U.S. History and all I could think off at first was turkey and then my mouth started to water. (As I smell the turkey cooking now, I’m at the same place and can’t wait for dinner.) I finally pulled my brain out of my stomach and explained about the Pilgrims and Native Americans celebrating their friendship and sharing the bounty of the harvest.

In the spirit of our American ancestors, I want to thank all my fellow Grand Rapids Region Writers for their support, humor and enthusiasm for writing since its inception. It’s a terrific group! I have learned much from each of you.

I’d also like to thank a group of mystery writers who asked me to tag along on their blog tour that starts tomorrow. The Mystery We Write Tour features 14 authors with great books and fantastic characters. My main character, crime-beat reporter Mitch Malone, interviews characters in the books every day and has some insightful and entertaining reactions. You can catch the tour’s line up at W.S. Gager On Writing.

America is a terrific place to live and raise children and I’m grateful for the friendships and freedom to write what I want when I want. I’m also appreciative that we were able to open our doors to another and be able to see things through her eyes. Have a great Thanksgiving!

Award-winning mystery writer W.S. Gager has lived in Michigan for most of her life except when she was interviewing race car drivers or professional woman's golfers. She enjoyed the fast-paced life of a newspaper reporter until deciding to settle down and realized babies didn't adapt well to running down story details on deadline. Since then she honed her skills on other forms of writing before deciding to do what she always wanted with her life and that was to write mystery novels. Her main character is Mitch Malone who is an edgy crime-beat reporter always on the hunt for the next Pulitzer and won't let anyone stop him, supposedly.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thoughts on Taking a Pen Name

Okay, so I think pretty much everyone knows what you see is what you get with me at this point.

Well, except for the name. When I first started considering writing erotic romance, I knew I wanted a pen name. My kids went to a super conservative school and the last thing I wanted was them to be in any way singled out because "their mom writes porn." Middle school is damn hard enough without that crap added to it.

Now that my oldest son has a girlfriend, (eep!) I'm really glad I have a pen name. Most every conversation with her starts and ends with, "I'm gonna die if I don't know...what's your pen name?" The girlfriend is awesome and I adore her, but she has a Kindle and she's a book buying fool. (Which is fantastic - I approve!) However, her parents who are extremely strict would stroke out if they knew what I wrote, and that would be the end of her relationship with my son. Again, I'm not interested in making my kids' lives miserable because of my job.

The great thing is that she asked Killian once for my pen name and his response was, "How much respect would you have for me if I gave away a secret that was important to someone else?" She grudgingly admitted that her respect level would drop. Then she said, "Okay. I get that. I won't ask you again. But I'm totally bugging your mom." He laughed an told her to go for it. So she does. She told me straight out that she hopes someday I'll give in and tell her. I told her I would when she's 18. This didn't make her happy, but oh well.

If other people ask - people that I'd prefer not know - I usually just say something along the lines of "I prefer to keep my personal life and professional life separate. So far, that line is working great.

So what about you? Pen name or no pen name?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Here's a traffic tip for you bloggers out there...

Once upon a time, a very crafty writer came to visit our group, and she told us that every time she talked about Alan Rickman on her blog, her web traffic went up. People would be searching for Alan Rickman, or they would have some kind of psychic alert that somewhere, someone was blogging about Snape and they instinctively followed some kind of migratory pattern to her blog.

I tried this out myself, and the results were pretty clear. Talking about Alan Rickman is a surefire way to draw blog traffic.

So, I'm going to try out a little accidental viral traffic corralling technique of my own. I present to you, something funny I saw on wikipedia and photoshopped into a higher existence:

Now, it's a silly little joke, it's nothing special, but I can now take this image and pin it to my account. My Doctor Who joke might tickle someone else's funny bone, and they might pin it to their account. And so on and so forth. And anytime someone clicks through to the source, they're going to wind up here. I can do the same thing on facebook. I share a link to this blogpost, someone goes, "Aha, that's funny! And also Jen is quite brilliant and probably a dynamo in the sack," and they share the link.


This is a really simple trick you all can use to direct traffic to your own blogs. Now, you can't do it all the time. But every once and while, you can shamelessly exploit other peoples' interests to align with your own nefarious ends.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dealing With An Age Old Problem by Temple Hogan, author of The Pirate Booty Series, Enchanted Island, Dark Secrets and coming soon, The Black Pirate.

I have a saying I’ve tried to live by for most of my adult life. If there’s a problem, there’s a solution. The solution may not always be what I want it to be, but it’s an answer to a seemingly unanswerable problem. When hit by something that seems to be overwhelming or even paralyzing, I first try to calm down and look at the problem logically. I consider myself a very logical person, although my husband, my knight in shining armor tells me, that ain’t so. Still, I try to hang on to that self-image.
Back to the problem, I try to see what needs to be done to solve the problem and how to go about resolving it. I consider intellect more powerful than emotions. I know it’s not so, but as an emotional person, I have to feel I have some control in my life, so I tell myself intellect will out.
So to my problem. Procrastination. Throughout my life I have seen how procrastination causes problems and exacerbates them, so I try really hard to overcome that fault in my otherwise sterling character. I am given to a love of clichés, but we’re not dealing with that today. I guess that would be my first approach to a problem is to focus on it and see what it takes to undo it. And never, NEVER be too proud to take advice from others, if it’s relevant.
So, the problem I want to focus on is my procrastination and how it affects my writing. Days can go by and I don’t even turn on the computer. But when you’ve made a commitment and a book is due, you can’t do that. You have to produce a not just acceptable manuscript, but a smashing bestseller with every book. That’s what I aim for anyway.
Well, to overcome this very real problem. I had to face my procrastination and admit that in this case, it was nothing more than mental laziness. So I took advice from a friend and added some other gems of advice gleaned over the years and found a formula that works for me.
First and foremost is to study my plot, my characters and what must happen next in my book. If I haven’t developed my characters thoroughly, it’s hard to know how they’re going to react to given scenarios. If I haven’t thought through my plot so I know exactly what my characters will face and how they’ll get through all the conflicts ahead, I can get bogged down with a whimpy beginning, saggy middle and unsatisfactory ending. I don’t think this is a real problem for me, since a reviewer for my second vampire book commented on sexy love scene and a lot of plot. Sounds like a book I would read!
So, if you have your characters figured out and your plot outlined, you should be able to go, but suddenly, it just seems a little overwhelming. I always give myself over achiever tasks, like today you’re going to write 5,000 words and every word will sparkle. Suddenly, writing becomes a daunting task.
A friend, whose output is truly amazing, revealed her approach to writing. She said she sets an easy daily goal for herself and everyday she writes that goal, even if she has to do major edits or throw the whole thing out later. That gets you writing and once you start writing it gets easier. After all, we are writers: that’s what we do. So I gave myself a goal of 1,000 words a day, every morning when I have the house all to myself and my other duties could be shoved aside. Without my self demands to perform, I began to relax. Every word I’ve written is not set in stone. I can change things if I have to. I tend to self edit as I write which can be anathema to your flow. But then the magic began to happen, I looked eagerly to my morning writing, the words came easier, my characters were absolutely brilliant (which meant that I must be) and the book was progressing. I even found I didn’t want to stop writing when my prescribed number of words had been reached. At first I made myself stop. As the author of more than 30 books, I’m all too familiar with burn out, so I approached this new schedule warily. After a time I did allow myself to continue on, but not until I was depleted on thoughts and ideas and words. I stopped at a place where I knew what was happening next and I was eager to write it. That made coming to my computer the next morning something I looked forward to and that brought back the joy of writing.
I know many non-writing friends who think writing is such a glamorous thing to do, those of us who actually write know the truth of it, yet we’re driven to tell stories and create characters and plots. We are avid readers who exalt in the talent of other writers. We aspire always to improve our skills, to reach for greatness in the written word and always it starts with our daily battles to overcome our procrastination and sit in front of our computer and produce.
I just don’t to be anything else than a writer!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

If only I had time to write

If only I had time to write.
You’ve said it.  You’ve thought it.  If only (the dog wasn’t sick, the kids didn’t need a chauffeur, I could blow off this meeting, I didn’t have a headache, my parents would stop calling me; fill-in-the-blank) then I’d have time to write.  I could plot and outline and bust out word count, keep up on social media, and implement that marketing plan I now have time to put together.
Get over it, Ginger, you’ll never have a golden bubble to write in.  Time is a bus, you have to catch it when you can even if it’s not your stop.
I should know.  I started writing when my kids were tweens (don’t you hate that term?)  I swear I had more output than now, when they are living on their own.  Music lessons, swim, Scouts, paper routes, we did it all.  I had a full plate of Mom duties, but I also had a critique group that demanded (in such a nice way) a chapter a week.  I got it done.
The key is not to dream about that far-off day but to take advantage of what you can do now.  I won’t give you a rah-rah speech, or tell you to set goals or any other motivational clichés.  Instead, think of writing as a mission. 
Your mission, should you chose to accept it, is to write from your heart and never forget why you started this crazy business in the first place.  Yes, there will be days (or weeks) when you write garbage or not at all, but that’s okay.  You’ll get back to it, I know you will.  And it will be fabulous, just like you are.  Now stop reading and go write something.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

One of those Mondays

Note: The Turkey Drop for Mel Trotter is happening the same day this post goes live, so I'm writing this ahead of time as I will be doing that and most likely forget...which is why it's about my Monday.  Thanksgiving is around the corner and it always reminds me to be thankful for having a roof over my head, food on the table, people and pets that love me, and my hubby.  He's a Saint, although he'll never admit it!

I'm having one of those Mondays...the kind where you dash out the door with wet hair, knowing full well you'll be late to your first meeting because you just KNOW you'll hit every red light on the way there.  Which was close...I was 10 minutes late, but due to a McDonald's truck who got himself a bit stuck trying to basically make a U-turn out of the McDonald's and onto the freeway on-ramp.  (Drivers in Michigan don't seem to understand that big rigs can't maneuver like cars and have really bad blind spots, yes lady in the Hummer that got in his way, I'm talking to you!)

So, it comes as no big surprise that I accidentally posted today's JC Hanks blogpost on the GRRWG blog and vica versa.  Thank God for cut-and-paste!!  I'm hoping no one wandered by while it was live...not that there's anything to hide, but I think anyone would be confused by my reference to my character's names.

The rest of the day will get better though.  I will finally get my exposed molar covered appropriately with a new crown this afternoon(I wish it was a sparkly one for my head instead!), and I'll get to snuggle up with a blanket and my laptop for some more writing after that.  Plus I have another vintage machine that I'll be doing some work on the bentwood case for and cleaning up the old girl for resale to someone who simply wants her for decoration.  Which is even better as I need to steal parts from her (and why I bought her to begin with).

And in 4.5 days I will be on vacation for the first time in over a year!  I'm not going anywhere, as I have writing to do for NaNoWriMo and ROAR.  But, I will get to see some of my favorite recent college grads while they're in town and have lunch with a few friends that I haven't seen in months.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wiggle Room

By Tanya Eby

Soooo….I took a few months off of the GRRWG blog. Not because I don’t love GRRWG. I do. But I got a little busy/overwhelmed with wedding planning, back to school, and then life in general. But I’m back and trying to figure out, once again, how to balance it all.

I still haven’t figured it out, but I’m trying.

In terms of writing, I’ve decided to take a break from novels for a while. I’ve been writing short stories. I’ve written a literary story, a scary story, and a sci-fi story. (If you haven't read the scary story yet, check it out HERE.) Next up is another sci-fi story with a bit of a Twilight Zone feel to it. It’s so different from my comedic writing, but I’m finding it really enjoyable. I like how finite a story it is. How it’s just a zeroing in on a particular time and place and event. But I think it’s good muscle exercise for novels.

Still trying to find an agent. Still trying to get the new book published. Still working full time and then some. Still a mom. Now a wife too. Still cooking for the family. Still moving on. Still writing in between it all.

I guess it really isn’t a balancing act at all. You don’t have to juggle everything at one time…It’s more of a wiggling act. Wiggle something in this way, wiggle something in that way. Wiggle a little more time for the things that are important.

GRRWG is important to me, and even though I could do a hundred other projects right now, I’ve decided to do my monthly blog. And then I’ll move on to the next thing.

One benefit of wiggling with all these things, I have to say, I’m rarely bored. (Plus, wiggling is stimulating. Especially when you wear tight pants. Ahem.)

Now…time to wiggle in some exercise and then write a little more.

Monday, November 14, 2011

It's a Family Tradition.

I'm much younger than my brothers and sisters, so as I was going though elementary school, they were getting married and having children. My family has always done big family get-togethers for Christmas and New Year's, but Thanksgiving was a chance for all my siblings to visit their in-laws. 

Now that I am the age they were, their children are getting married and they do their own family celebrations. So my husband and I are starting to sort out ours. His family is in Florida and Minnesota, so traveling to visit them, while fun, isn't just a quick car ride. 

Last year we spent the day at home and he smoked a turkey and the kids refused to eat anything. (Ah the joys of small children.) 

This year I don't know what we will do. I am planning to run in a Turkey Trot that I haven't trained for, so that could set the tone for my day at least. I could be tired and too achy to move the rest of the day. 

Despite not having any plans, I am looking forward to the Thanksgiving holiday. Four whole days where my husband doesn't have to work. Possibly picking out a Christmas tree (although we should get a fake one because of my son's allergies. boo.) And finally having time to relax. 

What's your favorite thing about Thanksgiving weekend?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Start and Go!

The hare should have won the race. After all, he had everything going for him: initiative, speed, good intentions. He had the kind of excitement that seizes all of us when we start out fresh, setting goals or writing New Year’s resolutions. Everything is easy at first. It’s after the excitement wears off and a little boredom creeps in that our attention wanders.

Laziness. Procrastination.

Call it what you will. It’s important to start. But what’s most important to the process is sticking with it. Take my marathon for instance. I followed a training plan for four and a half months, walking in the heat of summer, taking my long walks on Saturdays when the heat and humidity were both in the nineties, chalking it up to training. One August walk lasted until after 1am because I wanted to avoid the rain, beginning a sixteen mile walk at 9pm.

I wasn’t looking for speed – I knew my pace would be fine. The day of the race dawned rainy and cool. I packed with extra care, taking two pairs of socks in case mine got wet, protein bars for fuel, my iPod, phone, and sunglasses. (I am an optimist.) I wore cotton gloves to keep my hands warm and a hooded rain jacket that I could tie around my waist if need be.

Picking up my registration packet on the Saturday before the race was dramatically different this year than last. Last year, registered for the half-marathon, I felt like I was walking in a daze. Everything seemed surreal. This year I felt energized and confident – fully prepared for 26.2. At mile 11, I ended up with a severe charley horse that stopped me in my tracks. Walking through the muscle spasm’s pain slowed my pace. I had the option to quit. I did not quit. I walked, sometimes limping, sometimes grimacing, but ended up getting to the finish line while the clock was still up.

It doesn’t have to be a marathon. It can be writing a book or writing a poem. Painting a picture or starting a diet. Take a lesson from the hare and begin with speed and excitement. More importantly, take a lesson from the tortoise. Keep going. Imagine yourself crossing the finish line or seeing your book on the shelf at your favorite bookseller. Whatever your dream, keep heading toward it until you can wrap your arms around your accomplishment and say, “I did it!”

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I Couldn't Have Done it Without...

Our illustrious president wrote a thank you to those who helped make our first conference a success. It really was a great weekend, and couldn't have taken place without so many hands doing so much work. We are fortunate to have many members who are willing to offer their expertise in so many areas - calling and making arrangements, sitting at the computer and creating logos, posters, and other promotional materials, appearing on television and promoting us, stuffing giveaway goodie bags, and then sitting at the registration desks and greeting people as they arrive.

But now that the conference is done, we have work to do. Now the writing begins—or continues. Networking is great, instructional sessions are helpful, and inspirational speeches spark us to go on. But the actual writing has to take place as we sit alone at our laptops. Several members are participating in NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, pledging to write 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30. My goal isn't quite that high, but I plan to work on and complete a project.

This is where we need the help of our personal cheerleaders. In my house, there's a guy who would rather watch his sitcoms all the time but is willing to not watch it once in a while so that I can think in silence. There are critique partners who go over my writing with a fine tooth comb and look for ways to make the writing tighter and more appealing to editors. And there are kids and grandkids ready to cheer me on when I succeed. So I'm thankful for the support I have to pursue my dreams and go for my personal goals.

It's Thanksgiving. Time to give thanks. Remember to thank your personal cheerleaders. Personally.

Patty Kiyono