Friday, December 28, 2012 | By: Cafe
Ambition is the path to success.  Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.
- Bill Bradley

Tuesday, December 25, 2012 | By: Cafe
Merry Christmas from The Write Way Cafe!
Friday, December 21, 2012 | By: Cafe
Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.
- Truman Capote
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 | By: HiDee

An Interview with Rena Koontz

Today, The Write Way Café would like to welcome Crimson Romance author Rena Koontz.

How long have you been writing?
I think I’ve been “writing” all my life. I used to leave long notes for my mother on the elementary school paper with the two wide lines and the dotted line in the center – remember those? When I was a teenager, I received a one-year diary as a Christmas present but I ran out of pages in May because I wrote so much. I wised up and got a job as a newspaper reporter. They paid me to write!

How long did it take you to write Love's Secret Fire?
About one year from beginning to end but I kept going back to revise it as I received feedback from beta readers and contest entries. My first chapter was actually Chapter Three in the original draft.

What did you draw from to write the book?

This book is loosely based on a real-life arson case I covered as a reporter in PA. I was assigned to ride along with a fire captain one night – the fire and police were patrolling the streets and alleys trying to catch the arsonist. So we crept down back alleys and side streets with the headlights off hoping to come upon him. It was scary and memorable. I’m glad that night wasn’t the night he was caught.

Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself?
Some of the characters are based on real people, especially Jimmy, Bud and Chester who were three of my favorites in the Beaver Falls Fire Department. Hence the name of my fictitious city, Benton Falls. Readers will find an insight into the relationship between twins when they read about my heroine and her twin brother. There is a lot of me and my twin brother, Ron, on the pages.

Do you face any blocks while writing, and if so, how do you handle them? If not, what's your secret?
Some days the words just flow and others, I find myself straightening the papers on my desk, playing with the dog – he’s always right by my side – and generally doing anything but writing. But every day I sit at the computer and type something. That action sometimes opens the floodgates. Other times, it screams delete.

What have been surprises you've encountered while writing the book and after?
I think the biggest surprise has been people, especially a few husbands of my friends, who read my book. I expected my girlfriends to read it but not their spouses and I’m beyond flattered that they did. I’m honored. Even better, they liked it.

What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world, your characters?
I’ve learned so many things along this path to becoming published and I’m still learning. I knew nothing about writing the proper query, writing POV or getting published. I wrote my first book in single-space – I learned that’s a no-no. I’ve still got a lot to learn.

What are some of your favorite books and why?

I lean toward the suspense. I’m a John Grisham, James Patterson fan because I love the workings of a courtroom and as a reporter who covered lots of trials, I’ve been to the inner sanctum. I am a Brenda Novak and Suzanne Brockmann fan because their women are strong. And when all else fails, I pick up my dog-eared copy of “The Flame and the Flower” because the love in that book is so intense.

What are you working on now?

I recently finished another romantic suspense that I hope to publish. It’s about a woman who witnesses a murder and runs from the shooter, who is mob-connected. She runs into the arms of a police officer. I have the utmost respect for police, fire and law enforcement officers and I hope my books can pay tribute to them. This story also is loosely based on a real-life case.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
My high school aptitude test showed I should pursue a career as a skilled mechanic.

For more information about Rena, please visit:
Website:  http://www.renakoontz.com/

Blog:  http://renakoontz.wordpress.com/renas-ramblings/
Love's Secret Fire is available from Apple iBooks, Amazon, B&N, and other e-retailers. 

Friday, December 14, 2012 | By: Cafe
Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.
- Joshua J. Marine

Wednesday, December 12, 2012 | By: Lynn

The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop visits The Write Way Café today, thanks to an invitation from Mary Hughes, whose next big thing is Alphas Don't Wear Bows. Thanks, Mary!

What is your working title of your book?
Dancing with Detective Danger

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I had random thoughts of how fun it would be work with my sisters, which led to the concept of two sisters working together as private investigators. And I liked the idea of the romantic relationship of the main characters having a history and a breakup, but potential for renewal in the present.

What genre does your book fall under?
Dancing with Detective Danger is a contemporary romantic suspense.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
That's a tough one! I lean toward actors who I've watched for years but would be older than my characters. Both Ben and Sterling are fit and agile, strong willed and intense, so I could see Anne Hathaway and Alex O'Loughlin in the roles. That would be so fun to watch!

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Equally headstrong and devoted to being the best at solving crime, private investigator Sterling Aegar and detective Ben Kirby pit wills to crack a case, though all the while Sterling knows danger from thugs and murderers poses no greater threat than the peril she’d suffer if she lets daredevil Ben get too close.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
This book is scheduled for a January 21 publication by Crimson Romance. I do not have an agent.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I'm a pantser, so the first draft of this novel was very rough, but hammered out in about four months. Then it took much longer to revise, edit, and tweak to final draft.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I'd love to say Bitten, by Kelley Armstrong because of the suspense and intensity, but that would be wishful thinking and it's not a paranormal. High Society Sabotage, by Kathleen Long comes to mind.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
That's easy. Life. I love to write, so I'm always brainstorming story possibilities, exploring character possibilities. This particular book was an exploration of what characters who suffer from past wounding do in relationships and how those past experiences resonate in and frame the present.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Dancing with Detective Danger is very much a love story. It's about ordinary characters who are flawed and vulnerable, but don't give up. It highlights the love of sisters who are independent individuals who give each other space to be, but the central story is about Sterling and Ben making their way back to each other.

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop continues December 19 at the sites of these wonderful writers:

The magical Robyn Bachar http://robynbachar.com/books

The fascinating Cal Pomes  http://callanprimer.com

The memorable William Rosencrans www.dakotaaworkinprogress.blogspot.com.








Tuesday, December 11, 2012 | By: Lynn

Are You a Plugged in or an Unplugged?

As HiDee pointed out in her post last week, there is a sense among us that our technology is intruding on our lives. While I agree and believe there needs to be balance, when the zombie apocalypse comes and the world of technology falls away, I'll still love my gadgets. I know this.

Last summer I started walking down the steps of my back porch to go outside when suddenly a strange feeling came over me. I felt like I was out of my body, which sounds not quite sane, but as I walked into the back yard I couldn't connect the feel of the ground with my feet taking steps. My heart started racing and I realized what I was feeling meant I might pass out, so I went back inside my house. My husband came home about a half-hour later and we wrestled with what to do – call 911, call my doctor, drive to the emergency room? Ultimately, since my pulse had reached 120 beats per minute and my blood pressure was out of sight, I ended up in an ambulance, which took me to an emergency room, where soon it was discovered that my levels of potassium were depleted.

Turns out, potassium depletion is serious business. The doctor prescribed high-dose potassium supplements and I assumed that since I took the first dose of potassium in the emergency room I would soon be back to normal. Wrong. The next morning I felt fine, so I started my day full steam as usual, grateful the health issue was over. Wrong. What started out as a normal day quickly deteriorated when I started the coffeemaker and a load of laundry. The strange feelings returned and I made a beeline for the couch. Irritated.

Then began my days in a row of being unplugged. Since potassium is utilized by muscles in muscle movement, everything I did, every movement, from breathing to eating to using a mouse while sitting at my desk, elicited the same heart-racing, nearly-fainting sensations I first experienced.

I surrendered. During the two weeks I was recovering I relaxed my incessant checking, answering, and writing of emails related to anything, including work. I admit I kept my smart phone by my side so that a. I could contact my husband and ask him to come home NOW to take me back to the hospital, and b. so I could stay plugged in at a low level. But overall it was a forced unplugged for two weeks. Did I find it relaxing? Yes, because I wasn't connected to anything in which I needed to expend energy and anything or anyone who needed me to do something got ignored because I was out of all loops. Did I find it soothing? No. I discovered that, as I love technology and being constantly plugged, I felt a bit of agitation at its absence, at the silence. This is what advocates of less technology in our lives point to as signs of imbalance in my life.

These advocates of the state of unpluggedness attribute our general fascination with technology with decline in interpersonal skills and attention span, among other things they see as negative results of too much dependence on technology. In a commentary on Christian Broadcasting Network (which I am not in any way promoting), Mark Earley suggests we all take stock of our relationship with our electronics.

"Try this experiment: Shut down your computer, turn off your cell phone, unplug your iPod, hide your Blackberry, and click off the television. Then, pick up a book. Read for an hour. When you’re done, pull out a sheet of paper and write a letter. And then, go for a walk outside. If you find this scenario difficult, you’re not alone," he writes.

For those who are concerned about their imbalance, their "addiction" to cell phones, computers, and game systems, there's an official day to escape. Those who participate in March in the National Day of Unplugging turn off all their technology for 24 hours to reap benefits derived from taking a break from constant checking of all things email, Facebook, and the like, wrote Howard Baldwin in PC World.   

"Their goal is to get the rest of us to—paraphrasing Timothy Leary here—turn off, tune out, and drop off. That is, stop using our cell phones, smartphones, laptops, tablets, PCs, iPods, et cetera, and come back from the virtual world into the physical world where our spouses, children, partners, and pets actually live. For 24 hours, at least, we’re supposed to ignore our compulsions to check e-mail, update Facebook, and generally make our colleagues know we’re still available if they need us," Baldwin writes.

My forced unplugged status was interesting, as an observer of myself, in that I saw the effects of my constant connectedness. I was on alert more than I needed to be – but equally interesting to learn was that I enjoy the stimulation of it. It soothes me in a sense. It's what I prefer. I love technology, even though I can appreciate that it can take over and become a detriment to many things, such as relationships and health and sustaining things we all find pleasurable. Uninterrupted conversation. Full attention on one thing. One interesting observation, though, was related to technology but was all about being a writer. What I knew, but got a glimpse of it more in my face, is that as a writer I am always plugged into my work. Whether I'm brainstorming while riding my bike, or snatching bits of conversation to file away for future use in my writing, or putting words to experiences around me, I'm always working, in a sense. And I find it enriching, just as I find technology attractive.

So yeah, balance in all things is important. But though I may get twitchy if I'm separated from laptop for very long and I may get glazy-eyed while conversing with someone when I haven't recently checked my phone for messages, I think there are innumerable pay offs for access to the many things technology delivers. And I'm wondering if there are two kinds of people: those who are soothed by technology and those who are not. What do you think?

Image from Dreamstime



Friday, December 7, 2012 | By: Cafe
Living up to a dream is rarely as important as entering it for all it has to teach.
- Mark Nepo
Tuesday, December 4, 2012 | By: HiDee

Is Handwriting a Lost Art?

Office supply stores are one of my weaknesses. In particular, I’m drawn to the selection of pens and paper filling the shelves. If only they were unpackaged so I could try them all. The old quill pens gave me the willies, like fingernails on a chalkboard. Shudder. I don’t want to hear my pen scrawling my words. I prefer using a nice medium ball-point pen with blue ink.

There is something magical about the feel of a good pen in my hand. Words flow more easily from my pen onto paper than words I type on my computer. Maybe it’s because I type faster than I can write, and so when I’m typing, my fingers get ahead of my thoughts. Stopping to think interrupts the flow. But when I write by hand, my thoughts flow ahead, leaving my pen to follow. 

I blame my obsession with pen and paper on my dad. Throughout my childhood he fed my need to write, often giving me half-used notepads and pens he no longer favored. I tried to pass that on to my children. When they were toddlers, I gave them small notepads and pens when we traveled even short distances because it kept them occupied. Today, some of those pages with their first drawings, their first written words, are tucked into scrapbooks I cherish.

My mom has been going through storage boxes and trying to clean things out. She found mementos from our childhoods, and gave some back to each of us. Pictures from when we were babies, all the way up to more recent pictures, were identified with handwritten names and dates on the back. Handwritten school report cards. Newspaper clippings dated by hand. It was fun looking through it all. 

It was personal. I felt an emotional connection. And I fear that the emotional connection we have with things handwritten may one day be lost.

In his book titled The Missing Ink: The lost art of handwriting (and why it still matters), author Philip Hensher explores the value of handwriting. He writes, “Handwriting is what registers our individuality, and the mark which our culture has made on us. It has been seen as the unknowing key to our souls and our innermost nature. It has been regarded as a sign of our health as a society, of our intelligence, and as an object of simplicity, grace, fantasy and beauty in its own right.” 

Is Our Individuality at Stake?
If recent news articles are accurate, our individuality may be at stake. It is being reported that many states are looking at adoption of national curriculum guidelines that as of 2014 will not include cursive handwriting, but will instead require proficiency in computer keyboarding for students completing their elementary education.

The world today is filled with technology. While I acknowledge the importance of kids learning how to use it, I cringe to think of handwriting being more or less eliminated.

Handwriting, in many forms, has stood the test of time.

Caves with Stone Age drawings and symbols adorning their walls fascinate scientists who have discovered them. Handwritten historical documents found and preserved have provided a means for us to learn much about what happened in the past. Coded messages written by military personnel and sent by carrier pigeons enabled our troops to communicate with each other when other means of communication were not available. Handwriting connected people of the world

In the current age of technology, handwriting appears to be a lost art. Kids rarely color or write with pen and paper. Schools require kids to work on computers, to submit typed reports and papers. Many of the students who do write do so in print, rather than in cursive. If they can’t, or don’t, write in cursive, do they know how to read it?

Computers are at the core of many businesses. Employees are required to create documents, to communicate and share correspondence over e-mail and via the internet. Social media entices people to share life details, some of which should not be shared. Cell phones are replacing landline phones, and being carried and used by many. iPads and other tablets are becoming increasingly common tools for communication.

Has Technology Created a Monster?
All of this technology fuels impatience in people. Technology has vastly improved many aspects of our world today, but it has also created a monster: instant gratification.

I’m not against technology. But some days I yearn for simpler times.

I love my computer and I enjoy being able to stay in touch with far-flung friends and family on Facebook. My cell phone is a very basic phone with the capability to call or text; it doesn’t have a camera and it doesn’t surf the web. I just don’t want to be connected 24/7. Conversely, I recently ordered a tablet, which I hope to use for reading and writing on the run. Am I doomed?

I miss the days when kids went outside to play, running the neighborhood with friends instead of sitting on their butts all day playing video games. We had face-to-face relationships instead of cyber ones. We actually talked to people, and we listened to people. Maybe we didn’t want to, but it’s hard to ignore them when they are right in front of you.

I also miss the days when we wrote and received letters. Some of my most cherished belongings are handwritten letters from my grandmother. I’m hoping to one day at least get to read a shoebox full of letters currently not in my possession; letters my uncle wrote to my grandmother during the war. Anticipation is a heady feeling.

With instant gratification, there is no anticipation. We rely so heavily on our devices for communication and entertainment. It’s all at our fingertips, literally. But what happens when our batteries drain, when the power is out or we have no reception? 

Without technology, we are left to our own devices. Some people are so connected they wouldn’t know what to do without their devices. Not me. I have my trusty pen and paper.

Do you also yearn for simpler times, or do you prefer to be connected to technology?