Tuesday, October 29, 2013 | By: Lynn

Influential People

When I was in fifth grade, many years ago, my art teacher took me aside one day and told me she thought I had artistic talent. She wanted to talk to my parents about enrolling me in classes at the local art school. I don’t even remember her name, but that teacher influenced my life in ways she'll never know. She "saw" me and believed in me, and for that I saw myself in a kinder more positive light.

The list of people who have had an impact on my life is long. It includes people who helped me in positive ways and those who hurt me. Both helped me define myself and grow into the person I am today, a work in progress.

As a writer, I especially appreciate the influences that helped me become a better writer. An editor at a newspaper who gave me a chance when I had mainly passion, but not a lot of experience. Under his training, I learned valuable lessons about writing a good lede and the importance of writing concisely. My husband, who has never wavered from believing in my abilities, even when I didn't. Writers who have encouraged me to write through blocks and see possibilities in my latest WIP. And people who have helped me see blessings and opportunities in difficult people and circumstances. Even when I didn't know how important writing would be to me, influential people were helping me to discover who I was and how I wanted to express myself in the world. That's why my children are at the top of this list. They helped me open my heart and appreciate the marvel of love in a much bigger way.

But not all influential people have been walking, breathing individuals. Many good insights in my life have come from fictional characters. Thank you Kelly Armstrong, for instance, for writing women protagonists who had problems and "flaws" that needed self-understanding and room to blossom into useful qualities. And another thank you to Jim Butcher for writing really fun books about a wizard – 'nuff said – but also a character who saves the world over and over again and still suffers feelings of self-doubt and imperfection.

My list of influential people continues to grow, just as I do. And every day is an opportunity to be a positive influence in someone's life, whether we know it or not.

Who is one of your most influential people? What gift did they offer you?

 
Friday, October 25, 2013 | By: Cafe
No two persons ever read the same book. 
– Edmund Wilson
Tuesday, October 22, 2013 | By: HiDee

Seven Lessons from Nancy Drew

My kids and I used to spend hours playing the Nancy Drew computer games. The games were a great way to spend some quality time with my kids, and were educational as well. We learned about movie sets, theatre, the old west, Hawaii, the Mayan culture, and Paris, among other things. The fun method of learning also seemed to stick with the kids. A number of times they would point out something they saw on TV and remind me that they learned about it when we played Nancy Drew.

But the kids weren't the only ones learning. Here are seven things playing Nancy Drew games taught me about writing.

1. Talk to people. Ask questions - everybody has different interests and you never know when someone you talk to might share a tidbit of information that will intrigue you. Don't assume your neighbor Bill is an uninteresting person, just because you never see him doing anything but working in his yard. He might be an inventor who works in his yard to unwind.

2. Make phone calls. Don't be afraid to call someone who might be able to help you. For example, if you're interested in Mayan culture, don't be afraid to call a museum and ask for information or even a tour of their collection. You might be surprised what you learn!

3. Keep a notebook. Write down ideas, thoughts, quotes - even odd things that don't seem to make any sense at the time. Things written here may provide ideas for a new story, or even a quirk for one of your characters.

4. Check out your surroundings. Explore new places. Use your senses to become aware of your location. And if you're in a familiar place, look around. Take notice of little things that you never really paid attention to before. Pretend you're a curious kid and see what kind of mischief you can get into!

5. Call your friends. Good friends will be there to ask questions, offer suggestions and support. Check in with them often!

6. If you mess up, try again. Maybe a scene just isn't working, but you can't put your finger on why it's not working. Try rewriting the scene from another character's point of view. Learn from your mistakes and improve your writing. Be tenacious.

7. Never give up!

Parts of this post are excerpted from an article originally written for Romancing the Prairie, newsletter for Prairie Hearts RWA.


Saturday, October 19, 2013 | By: Lynn

Happy KDD, Nancy C. Weeks!

Congratulations to Nancy C. Weeks! Her book, In the Shadow of Greed, is a KDD today!

In celebration of this opportunity, Nancy is sharing a bit about why she wrote about cyber crime. Nancy, take it away!

Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Nancy C. Weeks, and in writing In the Shadow of Greed, I dredged into the complex world of cyber crime. While I don’t feel I have a technical bone in my body, I have a great respect for those who do. My heroine, Dr. Sarah Tu, epitomizes the dedication the field of cyber security requires to protect information and systems from the growing threat of cyber terrorism, warfare and espionage.

Sarah’s character also represents the struggle all of us have balancing our professional lives with our personal lives. I wanted the readers to not only fall in love with her heart, but be in awe of her mind. I knew I wanted her to be as comfortable in her chosen field as she was breathing. But like most of us, I wanted her personal life to be completely out of control. I also wanted to throw her ordered professional life right smack into the middle of her personal life and see what would happen.

In order to do that, I needed an external conflict, an enemy.

To find my conflict, I began an extensive search in science magazines and news releases from F.B.I and the Department of Homeland Security websites, researching everything from the threat of robotics in international espionage to the code breaking threat of quantum computers. Then one day, my son, who was beginning his master’s degree in cyber security, told me about botnets. He said that they were one of the greatest threats to our national security today and the one thing we are ill-prepared to defend.

Of course, I had never heard of a botnet, but the word intrigued me. I crawled into my research cave and read everything I could find on botnets and malicious malware. I found my enemy.

What took me completely by surprise was that by developing Sarah’s character for In the Shadow of Greed, I discovered that I had been completely ignorant of an entire culture of people, who like Sarah, work tirelessly to make my world safe.

In Sarah’s line of work as one of the leading cyber security analysts in the world, she has dedicated her life to helping the United States government discover hidden messages, decrypt secret codes, help the military communicate in secret, provide anti-terrorism intelligence, and insure that the internal network of Noran Defense Systems is protected. Sarah would be very familiar with concepts like IT security, secure authentication methodologies, and encrypted network communications.

My heroine is a fictitious character and Noran Defense Systems doesn’t exist. However, there are brilliant computer scientists, cyber security and intelligence analysts, and engineers who dedicate their lives minding our fences, constantly monitoring our virtual perimeters, and holding back potential threats to our identities, to our data integrity, and to our national security. They may not fight on a soldier’s familiar battlefield, but left undefended, the battlefields they defend can ruin lives and hold the world's economy hostage.

So the next time you ask someone what she/he does with the government, and they say they work with computers, don’t roll your eyes because you think they have the most boring job on the planet. Thank them for to keeping you safe. In my mind, they are our new unsung heroes.

This post is reposted from the Crimson Romance editor's blog.
Now for a book blurb:

Brilliant cryptologist Dr. Sarah Tu races against time to block the most dangerous Internet malware ever created, a botnet called QUALNTO. While Sarah is closed off in her computer lab, her sister, Hanna, is brutally attacked and left in a coma. As Sarah reels with guilt over not being there for her sister, a web of deception closes in threatening her and everyone she loves.

Hanna’s condition is misleading. In her coma state, she is able to build a psychic bridge with FBI Special Agent Jason McNeil. Her cryptic messages plague Jason to keep Sarah safe.

Tough and street-smart Jason McNeil doesn’t believe in visions or telepathic messages, and he fights the voice inside his head. His first impression of Dr. Sarah Tu is another stiletto wearing ice-dragon on the war path―until he witnesses her façade crumble after seeing her sister’s bloody, tortured body. Jason’s protective instinct kicks in. He falls for Sarah―hard.

When an extremely dangerous arms dealer and cybercriminal discovers that Sarah blocked his botnet, he kidnaps Sarah. Placed in an impossible position, will she destroy the botnet to protect national security or release it to save the man she loves?

Find In the Shadow of Greed at http://amzn.to/H2kPpo.
Friday, October 18, 2013 | By: Cafe
Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realize it’s just an illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into it. 
– David Sedaris
Tuesday, October 15, 2013 | By: Lynn

Stop the Insanity of Negative Self Talk

You know what you want, it’s bringing it to life where you stumble and stutter. It happens to all of us. Whether trying to lose weight, get fit, or create and sustain the desired writing career, we all wonder why we can’t get what we want, sometimes or all the time. If you’re like most people, when you’re struggling with reaching your goals, you may try harder to whip yourself into shape. Unfortunately, if that involves negative self-talk, you may be undermining your progress.

Negative self-talk can seem like the logical thing to do. We procrastinated and didn’t get the number of words written that we planned. Cue negative self-talk: “I really wanted to get 1,000 words written tonight. I just can’t stay motivated. I’m so lazy, so easily distracted. Why can’t I focus?” With all that “feedback” coming at you, pretty soon your subconscious may decide striving to meet goals is just not worth the risk of the onslaught of self-inflicted hurtful words. Trying to fuel your goals with negative thoughts is like trying to make a cake with garbage. You won’t necessarily achieve the results you’re striving for if you’re focusing on your failings, or more appropriately, spinning your humanness into character flaws. The motivation you need to achieve your goals needs energy and enthusiasm. It’s fine to be realistic with yourself and require accountability. But supportive self-talk will more likely inspire you to face the empty pages and bring to life what you want.

Positive support, through ups and downs, is what your fellow romance writers and RWA chapter members can provide. I know I’ve been the lucky recipient of supportive and encouraging words from fellow writers. When I’ve felt discouraged, words like “You’re a good writer. Don’t give up,” have helped me process criticism and discouragement and get back to writing.

No matter what you encounter, there is always hope if you choose to find it. Encouraging words are more likely to inspire the hope you need, the energy to persevere, and the positive vibes you need to build on.

Where do you find positive input for reaching your goals?
Friday, October 11, 2013 | By: Cafe
If you cannot find happiness along the road, you will not find it at the end of the road. 
- Author Unknown
Tuesday, October 8, 2013 | By: HiDee

The Writing Life

Whether we write with an electronic device or the old fashioned way with pen and paper, “what if” is a staple of the writing life.

Asking “what if” fuels our ideas into full-blown plots, creating twists and turns that hopefully catch readers attentions and refuse to let them go. It leads us down winding paths of thought, inviting us to think outside the box and generate problems or solutions that we haven’t previously considered. Asking “what if’ is what makes our stories flow.

But at some point, the question becomes personal for most writers. And it doesn’t have the same effect as when we use it as a writing tool.

When “what if” becomes personal, the focus is on negativity. The word “if” often indicates restrictions, conditions, or excuses. Sometimes “if” is full of regrets. It takes hold of our brains and paralyzes us.

For some writers, it’s about the actual writing. What if I can’t pull this off? What if I publish and nobody likes it? What if I’m a one-book writer?

For others, it’s about the residual effects of writing. What if my family isn’t supportive of my writing? I’m not good at promoting myself, so how will I ever promote my writing? Or what if I am successful – then what happens?

Can you hear the fear, the uncertainty in those questions? There is enough negativity in the world without focusing on the fear. While it’s natural to have self-doubt, you can’t let it consume you, or you’ll never know what you might have been able to accomplish. You have to get a grip on the negative thoughts and use them to your advantage.

How? Let’s start with “what if” we turn those questions around and put a positive spin on them? Ask yourself: What if readers love my books? What if I’m hugely successful? What other opportunities might I discover? Can I make a difference for someone?

None of us are perfect. We all have room to learn and grow, and we have to find the balance that works for us.

Believe in yourself and your abilities. Be aware that “if” is smack-dab in the middle of  “life” and we all have to face it. So go on – ask “what if” – and change not only your character’s lives, but also your own.

Which "what if" is your worst fear, and how can you turn it into a positive thought? Please share.

Friday, October 4, 2013 | By: Cafe
A writer's job is to imagine everything so personally that the fiction is as vivid as memories.
- John Irving
Tuesday, October 1, 2013 | By: Lynn

The Writing Life

A number of years ago I realized, decided, declared that I wanted to be a writer. Now, years later, I marvel at "being" a writer. My writing life has been interesting, painful, and fun.

Since writing my first clips as a volunteer for a non-profit group, I have been able to carve a career out of writing. I've written for local, regional, and nationally distributed publications about a range of topics. I've interviewed local firefighters and police officers, college presidents and politicians, scientists of international renown, as well as parents, animal lovers and boy scouts. I've had two romance novels published and a third is scheduled for release December 16. I'm excited about things I've been able to accomplish in my writing career. It's all been extremely fascinating. And at times terrifying.

The waiting to learn the outcome of all your hard work can drive a creative like me crazy. Self-doubt can be a hard rock in my stomach that points out I don't know what I'm doing. Less than happy reviews and rejections can feel very personal, like a global statement about my ability. But on the other hand, crafting an article or a scene that feels right is joyful. The writing has saved me over and over from despair, because the process of writing is both excruciating and life-saving. Though sometimes it's hard to sit down at my computer to write, I can always count on writing to be there, I just have to get over whatever is in my way.

Writing for me is more than a career. It's a life. As with probably all writers, elements of writing are always with me. Everywhere I am, writing is with me. It shapes how I see the world. It has been an initiation, of sorts, to a way of accessing inspiration and keen awareness. When watching a movie or television show, my notebook is always beside me, ready for me to scribble something interesting that pops into my senses. In public, I'm frequently a step back from what's happening around me as an observer of human interaction.

For me, the writing life presents a fascinating way to experience life. Writing is an expression of me. When I ride my bike, I take in all the sensations of the riding; my physical state, and the scents and sounds and temperatures on my skin. When I see a large spider in my kitchen sink and carry it out on a paper towel, I set it on the threshold of my back door, then, very in the moment, I tell it, "On my porch or in my backyard, but not in my sink." When a small, young cat wanders into my yard, nearly emaciated, I do what I can to feed it and get it into a home. All the emotions, all the ins and outs of my life get catalogued as not only my experience, but as information to draw on when writing.

The writing life can be exhilarating while gut-wrenching, joyful while scary, and it's one I am very grateful to live.