Monday, October 29, 2012

Mary's Thoughts for October

                  It’s late October, a sentimental time of the year. The leaves fall, the weather turns frosty, and the bleak months of winter loom ahead. My mother’s birthday was in late October, and she died on November 1st, making October the last month she lived. So October is personal for me. On the other hand, others must feel the same tugging in their hearts this time of year. How do I know? Barry Manilow.
                  I fell in love with Barry Manilow at a very young age. I loved his voice. I loved his songs. I even loved his big nose. But what I loved the most was the pure longing his songs portrayed. He sang of love everlasting and love lost. He sang of love not found. And with every song he sang, my heart ached right along with his. My mom, understanding my young romantic heart, put up with hours of Barry in the car. She even sang along in her clear, lilting soprano voice.
                  This time of year, I really miss my mom. But I also miss the girl I used to be, a girl with a wide-eyed belief in the sort of love that consumed the very souls of people. And I miss the kind of stories romance writers used to write – the ones where the hero or heroine would move the gates of hell to be with the one they loved – the ones where the hearts of the lovers were more important than the great orgasms they achieved together – the ones where you knew they would stay together forever and still be insanely in love when they were so old they didn’t care about sex anymore. The kind of love you think of when Barry Manilow sings “When October Goes,” or “If I Should Love Again.”
                  Nanowrimo is next month, and for the first time in years, I’m going to take the challenge. I hope some of you will as well. I also hope some of you will put your fantastic talents into creating the kind of story that kindles fire, desire, angst, and hope in the hearts of a reader - the kind of story that makes one believe in love all over again.
Happy writing,
Mary Timmer   

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween Weekend

It's Halloween Weekend- the weekend where we carve pumpkins, get dressed up and go to Halloween parties, bob for apples, tell scary ghost stories that cause chills to run up and down our spines, go to haunted attractions, have bonfires, and watch creepy movies. Trick or Treating of course will be held Wednesday evening this year- so all the children can get dressed up and enjoy the fall festivities too. But what is the purpose for this holiday? Based around Western European harvest festivities and festivals honoring the dead, we now have Halloween.

Many people look forward to Halloween festivities. However, there are a few other groups that enjoy ghosts and being scared year round: Taps, Ghost Adventures, Dead Files, etc. These groups look forward to hunting and having scary experiences each time they go on an investigation.


These are also the people that have caught my attention this holiday season. Instead of worrying about going out and buying lots of candy, carving pumpkins that rot too quickly, investing in Halloween costumes that are only worn once a year, (which I plan to do when I have children) I decided to stay in, relax, and be scared until the wee hours in the morning watching ghost stories. Might I a add, the ghost programs this weekend have been unusually scary. This is what has made my Halloween weekend special.

The great part, these creepy programs also triggered something creative in my brain and I haven't been able to stop writing. Words pour onto the page. My two topics: one a drama/comedy while the other dark/twisted, are turning out to be a different style of writing that I am enjoying. Having writers block for awhile, this is a very refreshing feeling to have ideas and words flowing onto the page.

So, my advice to everyone this Halloween weekend: have fun, be safe, try something new that you don't always try, and who knows what might inspire you. Happy Haunting.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gramps & NaNo

Last time I blogged here I shared that my Grandpa wasn’t doing so hot.  He managed to hang in there a while longer but last week on Wednesday he did finally die.  It was a bittersweet situation because of course it was sad to have to let him go, but I was also really glad to know that he wasn’t going to suffer anymore and therefore we weren’t going to suffer anymore either.
His last five days were rough.  They started out on a Saturday morning when my mom woke me up at six am because she was pretty sure he was going to die.  I wrote a blog post about that day on my own blog: Getting Close.  After that he sort of bounced back and forth between us literally thinking he was going to die within minutes to him cracking jokes and being his goofy self.  The last day and a half was the worst though when his breathing pattern was seven breaths in 42 seconds followed by a full minute of not breathing.  He was pretty much in a coma at that point although because he was at home it wasn’t diagnosed as a coma by a doctor.  But finally on October 17th around 1:00 p.m. he finally let go.
I always thought that seeing a dead body in my home and experiencing a death like that would freak me the hell out.  But after sitting next to him waiting for it to happen for days and getting only 3 hour blocks of sleep every so often, it just seemed natural.  We’d sat there so many times thinking that he was going to die and then he didn’t that when it finally happened it was like, “Wow… okay, it finally happened.” 
I haven’t written anything since I wrote that last blog post, but since Gramps died writing has definitely been on my mind.  I’ve been reading a lot which always gets me in the mood to write.  My characters are also popping up in random places showing me that they’re almost ready to play again, so that’s good.
With NaNoWriMo right around the corner I’m faced with the dilemma of to NaNo or not to NaNo?  The last time I participated was in 2010 and I’m still working on that story, slowly but surely. I didn’t even attempt it last year because Gramps had just moved in with us and I didn’t think it would be fair to my mom to spend that first month up in my bedroom trying to write a book in thirty days. 
I remember thinking a few weeks back that there’s no way I could do NaNo this year unless Gramps died before November.  But here we are just a week away from November and he’s gone so I really could give it a try without feeling guilty that I should be doing something else.  Of course, my ongoing problem with NaNo is always that I can’t think of a plot before November and then when the month begins I get seriously blocked.  But I also tend to wait until a few days before NaNo starts to think about plot ideas so I’m actually ahead of the game right now.  LOL  Plus I’ll be attending the GRRWG conference next weekend too which will hopefully shine some motivation in my direction.
So I guess what I’m saying is that yeah, I’m going to attempt NaNo again this year.  I think I owe it to myself to do it, and maybe even to Gramps too.  Who knows, maybe I’ll write about a crazy 97.5 year old guy who lives with his granddaughter, thinks facial hair means a guy has something to hide, and loves Filet-O-Fish sandwiches.  :)
RIP, Gramps!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hunting for inspiration - or what to do when it deserts you

There's a great quote by Jack London about inspiration.

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."

To a certain extent, I absolutely agree with this. If you don't actively go after your goals, you won't achieve them. As much as I wish it would some days, that book isn't just going to write itself. I need to sit my butt in front of my computer and actually work.

However, that said, sitting down at the computer without even a glimmer of inspiration is pretty much pointless for me. And sometimes, that inspiration is really hard to come by. But that doesn't mean that I have a free pass to go do something else. I have deadlines I need to meet, and sometimes the words just aren't there when I'm ready to write, so I need to find my inspiration. To do this, I need to work with what inspires me.

My top tactics involve music, visual imagery, going for a walk or a drive and showers.

Music is a pretty obvious one. Setting up a playlist that goes with the story I'm working on is invaluable.  It can help evoke the mood I want to convey and it comes with the great side effect of blocking out environmental distractions. But there's something even more magical about music. Even if I'm not actively focused on listening to the music because I'm writing, it's still making its way into my brain and creating subconscious connections and ideas that work their way into the story. Sometimes I do fine with music with lyrics other times I need instrumental arrangements. Find what works best for you.

Visual images are also helpful when it comes to story inspiration and why Pinterest is such a fantastic tool for me. Photographs and other artwork are a great jumping off point when it comes to settings, people and objects you might be describing. Now I'm not suggesting that you troll for images and insert those exact descriptions into your story, although, you certainly could. But I am suggesting that you look for images that convey the feeling you're looking to incorporate into your story. Using those images as a starting place can help give your story depth and guide it in new and exciting directions. Keep in mind that Pinterest is a giant rabbit hole that can be difficult to climb out of, so definitely consider setting a time limit.

Sometimes the best thing I can do when I'm looking for inspiration is to get away from my computer. Going for walks or a drive in the country or out to the lake shore is great way to free your mind. One part of your brain is concerned with the mechanics of driving or walking, but it requires a differnt sort of concentration. You're basically on autopilot while in another corner of your brain, your story is tumbling over and over like rocks in a polisher and eventually the polished gems of inspiration are going to tumble out and you'll be able to set them into your story. Now, I'm not suggesting that you completely zone out while you're walking or driving - that's just dangerous. And stupid. And I'm not a fan of either, but it is possible to do both. However, if you get an idea worth writing down, please stop/pull over before jotting it down in your notebook.

The shower is another great place of inspiration for me. If I'm not rushing to get out the door, I get the best ideas in the shower. In our house, we call it visits from the shower faery. It's the same sort of thing as getting ideas while you're walking or driving - your body is on autopilot freeing your brain to roll around and make connections that it might not have otherwise made. Also, there's something about water that helps loosen the subconscious which is why I like to hang out by lakes when I'm working on a book. But the shower is a great substitute if I can't get away. I get so many great ideas in the shower that I actually have a waterproof notepad mounted to the wall in there. It's one of the best gifts I was ever given.

This isn't even close to a comprehensive list of all the things you can do to chase down inspiration (or you know, lure it close enough to club) but these are the things that work for me. I'd love to hear what works for you. How do you get inspired when the words aren't flowing?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Yard Sale? Blinders?

      My family and friends have come to understand that anything they say or do could well come back to haunt them from the pages of a book or magazine, so much so they have turned to look me dead in the eye and say, "Vegas-okay? Never write about this." Of course that never works, their worst fear is when I say "yep, that goes in the folder." Because they of these days- they will be the star of a chapter somewhere.
     This infamous folder is a virtual Pandora's Box and once clicked, little icons tear across the computer screen in neat lines that a general would be proud of, at least until they start screaming for attention. "Me! Over here-Pick me! Hey writer woman- I'm the one." Some of these little thumbnail shots need smell-a-vision, like the plate of Aunt Eleanor's lemon drop cookies, or the pile of smoldering fall leaves, sending curls of smoke up to wrap around the naked branches, or the tang of salt air blowing in off a stormy beach.
   Others are snapshots of my history that calls out to me. Like the picture of a great great grandmother who spent months out running soldiers bent on taking her back to a community that would no longer accept her, or the one who ran a band of thieves from her drawing room, or the woman who bravely stepped on board a ship bound for the U.S., even though she was terrified of anything more than knee deep water, or the grandma who ran moonshine through pitch black nights on roads that twisted and turned so much it made snakes jealous- just so she could afford medicine. The women filled many slots, but the men were no slouches- there's a shot of my dad and an uncle taken by someone who wanted to show the horrors of the concentration camp they had just liberated, and one of him and a friend standing in our mostly empty in-ground pool giving a gator the stare down as they tried to explain the eviction notice he was getting. There's pictures of my brothers in military uniforms before they went off to wars that no one wanted.
    Album covers have a whole section, a line of a song blaring from my car radio found the magic spot in my head and by the time the singer was finished, I had woven it into a tapestry of characters and gone to places the artist probably never envisioned. And another row or three is things that came from a simple phrase, like "once in a blue moon."
   Yesterday a writer friend called from the beach outside the back door of her Key West home (tough life yeah?) lamenting her lack of ideas. I always look at people who say "I don't know what to write, I have no ideas" as if they suddenly grew multiple heads or a giant eyeball just popped out of the end of their nose- how can they not have ideas?
    Maybe I should hold a weird version of a yard sale and pawn some of my notions off on my challenged friends...or wear blinders as I go about my day? Maybe I just need to add a new file labeled "more bright ideas."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Super Spies are having a Halloween Party!

Hello Everyone! I hope all is well with you today! The Super Spies and some other awesome authors are hosting a Halloween Party and you’re invited! Whoo! Hoo!

Your incredible hosts are giving away A KINDLE FIRE! That’s right a KINDLE FIRE and YOU could WIN!

  The first way to enter is by tweeting and Facebook sharing about the event and posting the tweet or share in the comment section below. Each tweet or share counts as one entry. So, the more tweets you do the more entries you have. :)

The second way to enter is by purchasing one of the participating authors books (any of the books…not just the ones on display) and posting the title and confirmation code in a comment on Lisa Orchard’s blog. This purchase counts as two entries, so if a contestant buys two books, they are entered four times in the giveaway. :)

The winner will be announced on October 30th. I will send them an e-mail and also post on Facebook and Twitter. :)

***Please be aware that the KINDLE FIRE will be gifted from Amazon and sent directly from there. Therefore, if the winner receives a damaged prize, myself and the participating authors are not held liable for any damages. The winner must work with Amazon to get a replacement.

Now let the tweeting and sharing begin! Good luck to all of you! This is going to be a fun party! Some of our very own GRRWG members are participating and below is the link to Lisa Orchard's blog and some bookcovers that might be of interest to you!

Super Spies Halloween Party

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Time is Fleeting

I am so far behind on things!  First, I've slacked in signing up for our GRRWG Conference next month. I've volunteered, it might be nice if I actually complete the registration form!

Also, I'm late on my blog. I don't have a valid excuse, because I have been writing, but on my books, not my blog. Our ROAR contest comes to an end in a little over six, short weeks and I have 4 - yes, that's 4! - books to finish up for it.

NaNoWriMo is right around the corner as well.  that will hopefully drive me to finish up at least one of those 4 books for ROAR, but I won't hold my breath.  You see, I've written myself into a corner with a big scene for one of my books.  I'm kind of stuck in this little side story and can't seem to find a way out of it. With due dates rapidly approaching I may have to just power through this corner, find a way out - graceful or not - and get on with the rest of the story.

The good news out of this recent writing flurry, is that I now have more story lines for my first book series, and another one for my favorite character which involves something with Lincoln.  The bad news, is I simply don't have enough hours in the day to write everything down that's in my head.

Head jack downloading technology can't get here fast enough!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Just Write!

One of the best pieces of writing advice that I’ve been given seems simple enough, but I’m having a difficult time following it.

The advice is this:  just write; just get that first draft down on paper.  Don’t worry about editing; don’t agonize over word choice, just the get first draft down.

I feel like I shouldn’t be struggling with this on my current project.  I have an outline, I have scenes plotted out and I know exactly where I want the story to go.  I like my two main characters, so I like spending time with them.

But, I can’t seem to turn off the part of me that agonizes over word choice, even though I know perfectly well that it will probably change during the edit process anyway.  I don’t know if it’s the perfectionist in me, or if maybe it’s a way of putting off letting someone else read it.

Either way, I’m struggling with following this advice.  My original goal was to have the first draft completed by the end of October, but I’m nowhere near that point.

I have a unique opportunity this week to actually write during the day, instead of just in the evening, so I’m hoping I can make some good progress.  Either way, I know I need to just get it down on paper, or the screen I suppose, and worry about the edits later.

Easier said than done, I’m finding out, but I’m not giving up yet!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Author Event at the Grand Rapids Public Library

On October 13, several authors from the Grand Rapids Region Writers Group were part of an author fair at the Grand Rapids Public Library. True crime writer and memoirist, Mardi Link was the key note speaker.

Lori Lapekes with her books, For a Short Time, Secrets of Catalpa Hill, and a new short story , A  Christmas Tree Named Greenie.

Lisa Orchard was very excited to have paperback copies of her latest book,  The Super Spies and the High School  Bomber.  They came yesterday!

Lori Lapekes, Lisa Orchard, and Joselyn Vaughn. I sold all my copies of Hauntings of the Heart.
Representing Astraea Press. Woot Woot!

Tess Grant with Trajectories, Gathering Speed , and edible silver bullets (silver-wrapped Hershey's kisses) in case we ran into any werewolves on the way home.

WS Gager brought her Mitch Malone Mysteries and graciously shared Mitch's favorite  donuts.  I was glad I wasn't sitting right next to her or I would have scarfed them all down. :-)
A fun event and great to see so many Michigan authors.

At Romanticon!!!

Hi everyone!
I'm away at Romanticon, but hey! I'm remembering to blog.  So far, the con has been a blast and I'll post some pictures below, but being here reminds me of my "published author rules for conferences".

1. Remember your promo - and make your promo memorable. At every conference, we get bags and I always make sure I have promo with me as I walk around (and of course at my book signing table). The best thing in the world is to have a conversation with a reader or potential reader then offer them your cool promo item. I have paper products at my book table, but I always make sure to have something "keep-able" for readers to take some. Give things people will take home and not throw away in the hotel room and MAKE SURE it's personalized so they don't wonder who gave it to them.

2. Be friendly and personable, but do not be friendly like a used car salesman. Let's face it, as published authors, we go to conferences to sell books. It's the nature of the beast. But really, when I'm at a conference, I generally act as if I couldn't care less if I sold a single book the whole conference. I am here to meet readers and give them access to the author, the person not the author, the salesman. When readers go home, I want them to remember that cool, nice author they met, not that person who wanted to push books on them then didn't remember their face the next day.

3. I worked really hard to have my pen name and "published author" on my name tag, but a lot of times, particularly at the beginning of the conference, I won't wear my badge. This is because many readers are afraid to talk to me. At every big conference I've attended, I've had lengthy conversations with people before they discovered my name then went all white and stutter-y. I've been told "I would have been too nervous to even talk to you!!!" but by then they feel comfortable with me and we chat the whole conference. That's what I want -- I hope that's what every author wants -- to have readers feel comfortable with them.

I know that I am here for the readers and every author needs to remember that. I genuinely appreciate the people who buy and read and hopefully love my books -- I want them to know it!!!

And now...the pics from day one (including a terrible one of me):

Have a fun day!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Small Steps and Big Makeovers

We live in the age of instant. Lives change in thirty minute segments; complete makeovers occur in a single TV episode and that includes commercials. Is it any wonder we feel discouraged if we fall away from our goals or don’t meet deadlines? Unrealistic plans can paralyze us as though we have no plan at all.
Habits die hard.
I’ve read several books lately that suggest the way to get on track is to start small. The Happiness Advantage author, Shawn Achor, tells of Zorro, the famous swordsman. Zorro had to learn to master his sword in a tiny, drawn circle on the floor before his mentor would let him expand his moves. Once Zorro mastered the smallest amount of control, the circle expanded until eventually Zorro had complete self-control and moved with ease. Jeff Olson, of The Slight Edge, talks about improving 1/3% each day, so that at the end of three days we’ve improved 1%. At the end of one year, though, we’ve improved 100%. My favorite, The Compound Effect, by Darren Hardy, explains how our good and bad habits compound over time.
I’ve identified several small steps I want to take every day that will move me toward my goals. Instead of thinking about blogging once a week, which is ultimately my goal, I’m writing and taking notes on a daily basis, even if I only write a single sentence. My daily goal is to write something. A little bit of something will always trump a whole lot of nothing.
Make it easy. I keep my notebook with me so I can jot notes. This is especially helpful because my son and I share a computer now. When I get my computer time, I’m rarely thinking about a big writing project. Rather, I’m looking forward to checking Facebook for a few minutes!
At work, I commit to thirty minutes of email processing each day. Thirty minutes doesn’t sound like much but when I look at my Inbox, I can feel so overwhelmed that I feel hopeless. Now I’m making progress in small steps.
Reality makeover shows are great, but I feel more reward and self-satisfaction when I accomplish something amazing on my own. And that generally takes more than thirty minutes, even without commercials.

What do you want to accomplish? How can you break the project or overhaul into small steps you can manage on a daily basis?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

It's the 10th!

by Suzanne Graham

EEEK! It's the 10th day of the month, which means it's my day to share my infinite writing knowledge or maybe provide some writing tips to snack on or at least give you a funny little writing story to lighten your day.

Hmmmmm...I got nothun'.

What I do have is a recommendation to all writers to subscribe to Writer's Digest magazine. I've been a subscriber for a number of years, and I can't believe how many times it show up in my mailbox with the exact cover story that fits where I am that month. Here's the Table of Contents for the latest print issue.

The best story for me in this issue has been "Overcoming Writer's Block Without Willpower" by Mike Bechtle. I hate the phrase "writer's block", and I hardly ever use it. I understand that my lack of productivity has much more to do with not making mental space and conserving mental energy to allow my creativity to blossom. Bechtle put a slightly different spin on it, by pointing out how distractions in our lives rob us of the concentration needed to be creative.

I love his practical advice under "Brain-Friendly Ways to Handle Distractions", especially this one: "Replace your afternoon coffee break with a 20-minute nap. Researchers have discovered that our brains need a short rest period in the middle of the day for maximum performance. It renews our energy more than caffeine, snacks or energy drinks."

SWEET! Research proves I need to take a nap everyday.

Excuse me while I go catch a couple zzzzzs.

The complete Profortuna series is now available at Resplendence PublishingAll Romance EbooksBarnes & Nobles, and Amazon.

Monday, October 1, 2012

What If...

This past weekend I went to a scrapbooking retreat. I joined about twenty women at a hotel and worked on my photos. I sorted them, arranged them, chose cardstock in colors that coordinated with them, and attached them to the pages in my album. And then I wrote little blurbs of journaling under them so that I would remember where I was when the photos were taken. The photos I worked on this weekend were from my recent trip to France, and it was fun re-living the excitement I experienced on that trip.
Many of the pictures were taken in places rich with history, such as the palaces and gardens at Versailles and Fountainbleau, the Opera Garnier (the opera house featured in The Phantom of the Opera), the Louvre and Monet's home at Giverny. As I attached the photos to the pages, a funny thing happened. I started to imagine the people who have come and gone to these settings. What were their stories? What brought them to these elegant surroundings?
I've read a lot of author interviews telling that their stories began with an everyday occurrence or setting followed by the question "What if..." and started to apply it to some of the photos in my hands. I had a few pictures of the musicians in the subway, playing for the money people put in their open cases. I had pictures of artists drawing portraits of tourists passing by. And I had photos of quaint little cafes and shops. What were the stories behind these people and places? What brought these people to those places?
I looked again at my photos of the lavish ballrooms at Versailles, Fontainbleau, the Louvre, and the Opera House. At one time, they were filled with nobility and the fabulously wealthy. I wondered about the beautifully dressed and coiffed women - were their lives as pampered as I've read? Or were their lives filled with sorrow and conflict?
The next time you look at a photo, take a closer look at the people and items in the background. That sad-looking man on the park bench. What is his story? That harried mom – where is she going and why? That crumbled paper on the sidewalk - is it a Dear John letter, a love letter, or a forgotten lottery ticket?
There are stories everywhere. As authors, we just need to find one, and tell it.