Tuesday, February 26, 2013 | By: Lynn

Be Your Own Best Advocate

Don’t give up on yourself.

For me, that is one of those easier said than done things. I don’t know why. Anyone who knows me well knows I have self-doubt. It’s not that I don’t believe in myself, it’s that “parts” of me believe more in the reasons I may fail than in my ability to succeed. It takes a lot of energy to persevere when parts of me are cringing or cowering or yelling, “You can’t do it. Why are you trying? Who do you think you are?"

I don’t have multiple personalities. But I believe we all have parts that have belief systems that run counter to achieving the things we’re capable of. These parts have other agendas, like keeping us safe from criticism or disappointment or toeing some imaginary line, not rocking the boat.

If you don’t relate to this issue, I’m happy for you. But I don’t think I’m alone in having this kind of inner battle. Just recently an article by novelist and screenwriter Chuck Wendig, shared in my writing group, addressed the power of our own inner negative voices. The article, posted on his blog Terrible Minds, quite eloquently discusses motivation and inspiration for writers. He puts success for writing squarely in a writer’s lap and asks that we be our own best advocate.

“You’re the Muse that inspires you. You’re the god to which you sacrifice. You’re the battering ram made of unholy fire that tears down Writer’s Block. You’re the knife that cuts the arm off, you’re the boulder that must be pulverized, you’re the devil in the details. … I can try to tell you how to write. But first you have to be willing to write. You only get the map when you step through the door. It only gets done by doing it. Will yourself to create. Accept no excuses. Brook no fear... .”

The fear factor can be debilitating. But whatever the fear factor is for a writer, chances are very strong that it originates in something internal, making it within his or her ability to deal with and move on to do what we writers want to do – write. 
Inspiring words are helpful. They are a reminder that I’m not going to give up on myself if a reviewer gives my book a less than stellar rating or if I question whether I know what happens next in my story. Rather than listen to the parts that make it hard to write, I can do the things I know support my writing. I can prepare by doing the research I need for my story. I can put the fear in perspective -- it’s not valid and I’m the boss of me, not some reviewer or nay-sayer, real or imagined. I’m going to show up at my laptop and write whatever I can, knowing my skills never fail me. I’m not going to be my writing’s worst enemy. I’m not going to give up on myself. I’m going to be happy with my accomplishments, not regretful I gave up.

I mean, seriously? Am I going to give up on myself?

No.

What kinds of things get in your way of writing? Does fear factor in? How do you overcome it?

Friday, February 22, 2013 | By: Cafe
Life is a game board. Time is your opponent. If you procrastinate, you will lose the game.  You must make a move to be victorious. 
– Napoleon Hill
Tuesday, February 19, 2013 | By: HiDee

Just a Hallmark Holiday

"Valentine's Day is just a Hallmark holiday," my husband claims, his voice derisive. 

He often accuses Hallmark of making up holidays, including Valentine's Day. Any day that encourages men to be mushy and publicly romantic with their women is suspect. 

In over 25 years together, I can count on one hand the number of times he's succumbed to the lure of a store-bought card. When our kids were little, he occasionally let them pick out cards – funny cards and cute cards, never serious cards. He prides himself on being a non-consumer of Hallmark paraphernalia. Instead, he makes his own cards – he says they should mean more than a store-bought version, and they do.  Every Valentine's Day, every anniversary, he selects a card from a deck of cards. On the face of the card, he composes a verse for me. 

He's not into PDAs – I can only think of a couple times in all our years together that he's held my hand. He only buys me flowers on our anniversary. But he'll pick violets from the yard and put them in a dainty vase on my windowsill.  He'll pick wild flowers from alongside a country road and put them in the center of my table. He plucks roses – one at a time – off the bush he bought and planted for me in our yard, leaving them in unexpected places to surprise me. I found one stuck in the keyhole of the bathroom cabinet, and another strategically placed on the dash of my car. What a nice way to start my day!
photo by HiDee Ekstrom
Occasionally we go out to dinner, but he'd prefer to pack a picnic lunch and take me hiking at one of our favorite parks. He knows how much I enjoy seeing deer and other wildlife (minus snakes and spiders) as we walk the trails. We've seen live clams, a skink (lizard), a variety of birds including eagles and an egret, a fox, raccoons, a ground hog, a snapping turtle, and a muskrat momma and baby. I've captured most of them with my camera.

In spite of my husband's insistence that Valentine's Day is a Hallmark holiday, the United States Census Bureau claims Pope Gelasius declared February 14 as Valentine's Day in AD 496. Hallmark can't even claim producing the first Valentines – that honor belongs to Esther Howland, a Massachusetts native, who sold the first mass-produced valentines in the 1840s. Hallmark wasn't founded until 1910, but their statistics include 10,000 new and redesigned greeting cards each year, with 49,000 products available at any one time. 

Thinking about consumer habits encouraged by companies such as Hallmark, I researched online and found some staggering Valentine's Day statistics:

180 million - the number of Valentine's Day cards exchanged annually
196 million - average number of roses produced for Valentine's Day
14% - percent of women who send themselves flowers for Valentine's Day
$116.21 - amount the average consumer spends on Valentine's Day
11,000 - average number of children conceived on Valentine's Day
Source:  www.statisticbrain.com/valentines-day-statistics/

24.7 pounds - the per capita consumption of candy by Americans in 2010
$880,893,904 - the value of imports for cut flowers and buds for bouquets in 2011
28.6 and 26.6 years - the median age of a first marriage in 2012 for men and women, respectively.
393 - the number of dating service establishments nationwide as of 2007
Source: http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/cb13-ff06.html

Hallmark probably has precipitated some of these numbers, but I won't argue with my husband. His personal romantic touch on our lives makes me happy.

What does your significant other do to make you happy?

Friday, February 15, 2013 | By: Cafe
All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt. 
- Charles M. Schulz
Tuesday, February 12, 2013 | By: Lynn

Set Me Up

List your favorite books in your mind and what stands out as the reason you love reading them? Probably you enjoyed the characters—their personalities and their stories—whether their stories were adventure, intrigue, romance, or all of those things and more. What about setting?

I would put at the top of my list of favorite books all the books in the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong. The first one I read, Bitten, hooked me, to put it mildly. Armstrong wrote strong, three dimensional characters I wanted to spend time with. Throughout the series, the characters remained consistently interesting and the plots were sitting-on-the-edge-of-my-seat good. The characters and their stories were highly engaging, but for me, the setting proved equally satisfying. I realized that a good story, for me, offers a variety of elements that together make a complete and satisfying read, and setting is one of those elements.

If you're a Harry Potter fan, imagine the story without the backdrop of the various settings. Didn't you want to walk down the short stairway into the Gryffindor living space and settle in front of the fireplace—with a good book? Couldn't you imagine yourself walking through the hallways of Hogwarts, watching the movement of the subjects in the many paintings, and finding your way into Dumbledore's office, with all its fascinating objects? The characters and the adventures were large, but the setting was the backdrop of their lives and we get a feeling of being there because it's so well done. We enjoy Hagar's cozy abode and the quirkiness of the Weasley home and we want to come back.

In Bitten and other Otherworld books, the setting for the werewolves includes Stonehaven, the home of the pack's Alpha and essentially home base for them all. Stonehaven is a large, beautiful and secluded, well, haven for the family of werewolves. They can luxuriate in being themselves while being protected by unfailing privacy (from the outside world) and plenty of space, both indoors in the spacious home and outdoors in the surrounding fields and forests. I wanted to live there myself. In Stolen, a subsequent book in the series, though the setting is predominately in an underground prison, when main character Elena finally escapes, she goes home to Stonehaven to recover. The description is so well done that readers can relax, too, in the concept of a place of comfort, safety, and support.

 A book's setting doesn't have to be fantasy in nature but it can still be magical if it fuels a reader's understanding of the struggles characters suffer, even when their setting is dangerous territory. A few years ago I read Donovan's Child, by Christine Rimmer. It's a category romance that was an easy read for a variety of reasons, but, in part, because the setting was mesmerizing. Circumstances bring together Donovan McRae and Abilene Bravo on his ranch setting. Again, cozy and comfortable, the setting played a role in the appeal for me.

Though characterization and plot are primary in importance, of course, a detailed and authoritative description of setting can support characterization and plot. In R.T. Wolfe's Black Creek Burning, the description of the heroine's home supports her attachment to family and her ongoing sense of loss. We can imagine how Brianna feels connected to her parents while surrounded by the structure of the home she grew up in, and yet haunted by their absence. The description of setting woven for woodcrafter and hero Nathan supports his expertise of his craft and makes him believable as a caring and sensitive man. In Rena Koontz's Love's Secret Fire there is plenty of intrigue and danger, but when hero Adam Michaels offers heroine Valerie Daniels his hotel suite as a place of respite after a terrible ordeal, his gesture shows us his kindness, but the setting—his luxurious suite—gives readers a place of relaxation and safety to watch their relationship develop. In the setting we can believe that Valerie can imagine letting down her guard.

Whether a writer or a reader or both, don't you find setting is high on your list of things that make a book good? What books have you read where the setting was masterfully done? What about the setting resonated for you? Share?

Friday, February 8, 2013 | By: Cafe

A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous. 
- Ingrid Bergman 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013 | By: Cafe

An Interview with Winter Austin

Today, The Write Way Café would like to welcome Crimson Romance author Winter Austin.


What was your path to getting this book written and published? What type of research did you do?
In regards to research, I belong to a lot of crime writing groups and follow tons of blogs that talk about this aspect. And I’m a huge believer in never watching the crime scene dramas on TV. All my research on serial killers and police procedure came from what I learned online or in books from the experts or by actually talking with them. My favorite 2 conversations were with a former undercover FBI agent and a still working police sniper—this one comes out in book 2.

As for rodeo, I had cousins and my sister-in-law who competed. I’ve attended so many I lost count and am a long time follower of all things Professional Rodeo. My sister-in-law trains and competes on barrel horses. And rodeo isn’t the only thing I cover in the book. Cutting horses take stage now and again, and that’s what my cousins did while we were growing up. Believe me, you’ve never seen anything so pretty as to watch a cutting horse “dance” with a calf. Google NCHA cutters and watch the videos. Those horses are amazing.

Where did the idea for your story come from?
I had been working on what became the book Relentless for many years, going through many different plots and story lines. After hearing some editors say they wanted something more than another woman in jeopardy story I thought: “well, what if it was the guy who was actually in trouble and the woman got sucked in unwillingly?” Thus was born the concept of Relentless. It just grew out of that, I’m a pantser, so the story took on a life of its own and I just followed the path. But from the start, there had always been this need not to get my characters to that final happily ever after. No, their backstories wouldn’t allow it, not right away. I need more time to develop their romance. So by the end of Relentless I knew where they were going and I knew the danger for them was going to escalate. Hench the reason for the series name of Degrees of Darkness.

Why did you pick the setting you did?
I have always been fascinated with Texas, maybe it’s because I was raised on westerns. I’m not sure why it ended up in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I do love the countryside of Fort Worth and knew it was a huge ranching area. Mostly, because that’s where my heroine, Cody took me. She’s always been a Texan and her fiery spirit fits with the Texan mindset. Oddly enough, I chose to throw my hero, Remy out of the bayous and land him a dry area he’s not used to. It’s been fun learning about both the Texas culture and the Cajun culture through both of these characters. Eventually, I get to take my readers into New Orleans and Houma, LA. I went there last summer, and I loved it.

Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself?
Boy Howdy, you bet they have some real life basis. In fact my husband is pretty proud that some of the sayings and mannerisms of my heroine’s best friend, JC Manning, are molded after him. My husband knows and doesn’t want the hero, Remy LeBeau to reflect him, hubby’s not into speaking French, Ha! As for my heroine, Cody Lewis, I think she carries some of my traits, but she is such a mix of so many people—some of them who probably don’t want me to mention them.

What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world, homicide detectives and barrel racing?
Wow, this one makes me think. What I learned about myself, that I was capable of writing a book that carried both a strong mystery thread with a heavy dose of suspense. That I could piece each thread together to keep the reader guessing and toss in a few red herrings I wasn’t expecting.

My process and the writing world, that after many years of hitting brick walls I managed to break through on aspects like Deepening the POV, and showing more than telling and how to create a good balance between the two. This book opened up all faucets that had been turned off to me for some reason. It was great.

As for homicide detectives and barrel racing, that was easy, I met the right people at the right time who helped me learn and create real cops. And I grew up around barrel racing.

Tell us about your writing space and how or why it works for you.
Lately, my writing area has been locked away in my bedroom, propped against pillows with a steaming cup of coffee with my latest creamer fetish, a bevy of research and current WIP info scattered around me, and a blanket to cover up my feet, since it’s winter here. Depending on the mood of the book, I might have music playing, or not. I write there because I’m away from any link to the internet, and I can block out my kid’s voices when they’re home from school. Sometimes I can focus at our desktop computer, but with it being connected to the internet it gets real tempting to surf.

I can write in a coffee shop, but it’s a drive for me some days and our library has a nice reading area I can write in, but the downfall with public writing is people stopping to talk to you—huge time waster for me cause I love to talk.

What aspect of writing gives you the most trouble?
The middle! The horrid worry of a sagging middle has been my Achilles heel. I find myself stalling with every book at this point. But I’m not a true suspense/thriller author if I didn’t just kill off someone. Sometimes that gets me going. A lot of the time, I found I’ve just written fluff and need to go back and delete. I tend to let my characters take me where they need to go, and when I stop listening to them, that’s when the writing blocks come in. I’ve been writing toward publication for a long time, but I’m still a willing and open learner.

What are some of your favorite books and why?
I enjoy Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone series, I’m a sucker for a wounded, confused man who slowly learns how to find himself and he’s always ten steps ahead of the criminals, with the balls to face them down, even on their own turf.

Probably a series most of you have never heard of, but I love, love, love, Ronie Kendig’s Discarded Heroes series. These books were written in the Inspirational genre, but they’re loaded with action, military men, daring women who don’t back down, and tons of explosions! These books and her follow-up series A Breed Apart, are on my must buy and keeper lists.

Recently, due to A&E, I became acquainted with the Longmire series by Craig Johnson. I haven’t been able to read much of this series as my library doesn’t carry the books, and well, my own writing has kept me busy. But I love everything about these, the setting in rural Wyoming, the crusty Sheriff Longmire, and the take no-crap female deputy, and ever-wise Native American friend. I plan to snag all of these books soon, since a new one is slated to release soon.

What are you working on now?
I’ve just completed the first draft of book 3, Revenge, to this series and getting ready to edit/revise it, it’s due to the editor soon. This book I just completed is the catalyst for the whole Degrees of Darkness series and I dreaded finishing it, because I loved the plot so much. And it’s loaded with action. ;)

If you were not a writer, what would your dream job be?
Professional Volleyball player. Totally out of left field, huh? I love the sport, and even coached JR High girls for a few years—though I don’t think I’d mind coaching again. But I’m pretty happy with my other job, being a military wife and the mother of 4 great—loud—kids.

Coming February 11, 2013


Friday, February 1, 2013 | By: Cafe

The groundhog is like most other prophets; it delivers its prediction and then disappears.  
- Bill Vaughn