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

Tuesday, December 25, 2012 | By: The Write Way Cafe
Merry Christmas from The Write Way Cafe!
Friday, December 21, 2012 | By: The Write Way 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:

Love's Secret Fire is available from Apple iBooks, Amazon, B&N, and other e-retailers. 

Friday, December 14, 2012 | By: The Write Way 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

The fascinating Cal Pomes

The memorable William Rosencrans

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: The Write Way 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?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012 | By: Lynn

Respect from Reviewers

Sometimes I blame on Jerry Seinfeld what I see as the current critical-of-everything environment. In my lifetime, he seemed to pioneer the attitude of closely examining everything and everyone for coolness or noncoolness. If you're young enough to experience this Seinfeld phenomenon only through reruns, you may not share my perspective, but you still may be familiar with the comedian's style. It gave us lots to laugh about, and laugh at. I remember the montage of reasons the show's characters listed for not getting involved with someone: too tall, too tan, doesn't have a thick head of hair, man hands, not a good naked, close-talker, soft-talker. Jerry's evaluations got us thinking about trivial things in critical ways.

Critical Thinking is Good
Not only were Jerry Seinfeld's observations good for a laugh, they pointed out obvious redundancies or stupidities. It's not hard to find lists on the Internet of Seinfeld's observations that point out human silliness. For instance, "What's the deal with people who put carpeting on the lid of their toilet seat? What are they thinking? 'Gosh, if we have a party, there may not be enough standing room. Let's carpet the toilet seat, too.' " And, "Would somebody please explain to me about those signs that say, 'No animals allowed except seeing eye dogs.' Who is that sign for? Is it the dog or the person?" And this classic: "Why do we have to pay someone to rotate our tires? Isn't that the basic idea of the wheel? Don't they rotate themselves?" It's a mindset of critical thinking and I firmly believe in the good of critical thinking and discernment, of thinking for yourself, of reflection and having an opinion. But I'm weary of the flippant quip about someone or something. It's feels dismissive and shallow and critical in a "this is not cool" or "you are not cool" way.

We're Not All the Same
So what does all this reflection on Seinfeldisms have to do with writing? It's not Jerry Seinfeld's fault, actually, but it seems like critical thinking has been taken to the far right to morph into extreme criticism. Reviewers have taken evaluation of a book to a place of criticism without respect. Criticism for the sake of taking pleasure in pointing out perceived flaws. It seems like the mentality of a popular kid pointing to another kid in school and hurling insults for the personal fun of it. It makes me cringe.

J. Robert Lenno suggests in a post for  Salon that critical reviews are important, but criticism is not the same as cruelty or evisceration, and there shouldn't be a detectable sense of glee in picking apart the writing. There should be R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

"Even if you don’t like the writer you’re reviewing, not even a little bit, acknowledge, at least to yourself, that some people do, and that this fact is not meaningless. In your review, let your reader know what it is other people like about this writer. If you disagree, say so, in a non-condescending manner. The goal is to explain and persuade, not to hurt," he wrote.

According to Daryl Campbell in a post for The Millions, reviewers have historically delighted in their ability to dissect writing and reflect on its effect on them. But he suggests reviews today have become lackluster, even in their negativity.

"…all of these reviews consist entirely of the initial response and a subsequent explanation, and no self-reflection about whether there might be more to the the book – and to the reviewer’s response – than that initial, emotional decision," he wrote.

 A reviewer himself, he defends the negative aspect of reviews. But I admit, it's hard for me. Almost daily I read about an author's hurtful experience with a review of his or her book. And I wonder, does the reviewer who calls a book "Dumb!" or gives it an "F" really have that kind of authority? Does she speak for everyone's taste? I don’t think so. It's just an opinion. Hopefully it's an informed and some sort of an expert opinion, but it doesn't necessarily speak for me. Nor does it always speak for the masses. Author-reviewers who panned the Twilight series didn't speak for all the readers who put it on a best-seller list. Ditto for the author-reviewers who dismissed The Hunger Games series. Opinions vary, even with agents and editors. What writer hasn't read about editors – arguably experts of a sort – who rejected books that went on to acclaim and even classics status, such as Gone with Wind, A Wrinkle in Time and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as the Harry Potter books. So though standards of quality are important, opinions vary. I'm glad there is room for all kinds of writing or we might have missed, or miss in the future, some lovely books.

On the other hand, the present discussion about Amazon deleting certain reviews points out a possible weakness in the practice of authors reviewing authors. Silly to think authors shouldn't review other authors when they're read the book, but the review can lose value when it's always plus, plus, plus. There needs to be balance.

A Neutral Eye
Reviews and criticism are a part of the landscape for a writer. I know that for a writer, getting a book reviewed holds the possibility of attracting more attention for the book. We all believe in our story and expect that others will see a good story in it, too. It doesn't always work out that way and a reviewer may have a challenge offering a balanced review from a neutral point of view. I wonder why reviewers so often lately can't let readers know what's what with a book and still be mindful that a person wrote it, a writer, and offer a balanced assessment.

As a reader, I find value in getting someone's opinion of a book before I start a new book. It's input. But honestly, I am more likely to pan the reviewer who is disrespectful of a writer's work than I am the book being reviewed. I work as a freelance editor, and sometimes I read writing that I don't fall in love with. But I still can think it has value if it meets my criteria for subject expertise, grammar, and typos don't get in the way of the story, and there is a level of competency in presenting story elements. That I can acknowledge even if the story itself is unappealing to me.

But don't get me wrong, I've been guilty of saying things among my friends and fellow writers about books I have read that I thought stunk. In truth, though, those books had been accepted by a publishing house, had been edited, and had found an audience. So it's just my opinion, for what it's worth, that they were bad books.

Personal Impact
I'm a reader and I read reviews to get a sense of a book, so I believe in the review process. I'm also a writer. I want my books to get good reviews. I want everyone to love my books. But I've been the recipient of a low rating on Amazon. I don't like it. I can say I've learned and improved since that book so I hope my next reviews show that, but it still stings a bit.

There is a Buddhist principal that suggests we humans should not get very excited about praise or criticism, not give much weight to either one. I’m working on that.

These thoughts are only my opinion, and that changes, too. I'd love to learn what the personal impact of reviews, as a reader and or a writer, have been on you. Have you written a review? Have you found reviews align with your reading experience? Share?

Friday, November 23, 2012 | By: The Write Way Cafe
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
- Neale Donald Walsch
Thursday, November 22, 2012 | By: The Write Way Cafe
We wish everyone a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!
- Lynn and HiDee
Tuesday, November 20, 2012 | By: The Write Way Cafe

An Interview with Robyn Bachar

Today, The Write Way Café would like to welcome Samhain author Robyn Bachar.

How long have you been writing?
According to my mother I wrote my first book when I was four years old, so I think it’s safe to say that I’ve always wanted to be an author. I started writing my first novel when I was in 8th grade. It was awful (there are unicorns, don’t ask), but I still have it stashed in my closet. Every so often I glance at it and wince at the writing. Still, finishing that novel gave me the confidence to write more, and even then I knew I wanted to write romance. It’s important to me to tell stories where the good guys win and love conquers all.

Do all of your books have magic in the storyline? What is your interest in magic?
To an extent, yes. I enjoy writing stories with swords and sorcery—I even have swords in my space opera. I like taking the mundane and giving it a dose of the extraordinary. In Fire in the Blood, Patience owns her own small business, All on Red Consulting. She has an office with an empty fish tank and a computer cluttered with spreadsheets and expense reports. And she has an invisible demon minion who enjoys playing Angry Birds on his iPad while she’s at her desk.

Do the books follow well known information about magic, so to speak, or do you completely create the worlds?
I draw heavily from the magic system in the first edition of Dungeons and Dragons. No, not really, but one day I am determined to have a character attack the darkness with magic missile. One of the nice things about building your own paranormal world is that you don’t have to do heavy amounts of research. (Unless you want to try your hand at summoning demons, though I don’t recommend it. The stains are just murder to get out of your carpet.)

What is different about your latest release?
In a word, demons. Fire in the Blood was a story that flowed for me from beginning to end. It was born out of a single line that came to me while in the shower (most of my random inspiration happens in the shower, apparently my muse enjoys washing her hair). It was a play on a line from the movie “Army of Darkness,” in which my heroine announced, “Good. Bad. I’m the girl with the demon.” And thus Patience Roberts was born, the newest addition to the Bad Witch books. Patience is a summoner, and demons are her business. Patience started stealing scenes in the second Bad Witch book, Bewitched, Blooded and Bewildered, so I knew I wanted to give her her own story. I love writing her, and I love writing her hero, Faust. He started stealing scenes in the very first book. And they’ll both continue to do for the foreseeable future.

Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself?
I think each of my heroines has my voice to an extent. My girlfriend beta reads for me, and she once expressed a suspicion that I have multiple personalities. (I don’t. I only write what the voices tell me to. That’s normal, right?) I do have characters who are inspired by friends of mine. In the Bad Witch books the character Mac was inspired by my buddy Scott. He often asks me how Mac is doing.

Do you face any blocks while writing, particularly your latest book, and if so, how did you handle them? If not, what's your secret?
This was a story that I was very excited to tell, and the only block I had while writing Fire in the Blood was that I started it just before NaNoWriMo last year and had to put it on hold during November. I stopped, wrote the second Emily book, Poison in the Blood, for NaNo, and then picked up again during December. It helped that despite the difference in time periods both books have characters in common (it’s so useful to have immortal characters sometimes).

What have been surprises you've encountered while writing the book and after?
Actually there weren’t a lot of surprises with this book. It went rather smoothly, despite the shenanigans that went on in my personal life while I was working on it.

What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world, your characters?
I learned to never fight a land war in Asia. Just kidding. ;) I learn something new with each book I write, because each experience is different. This is the book where I became enamored with Tom Hiddleston, who is my dream actor for Faust.

What are some of your favorite books and why?
I become obsessed with new books on a regular basis. I’m always updating what I’m reading on Goodreads, so that’s a good place to see what my latest favorite is. Currently I’m in love with Tiffany Reisz’s Original Sinners series, especially The Siren. I’m also addicted to Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series. And Sheryl Nantus’ Blaze of Glory series. And Keith Melton’s Nightfall Syndicate series. Beyond Shame by Kit Rocha is also very good. (Seriously, I could do this all day.)

What are you working on now?
At the moment I’m working on the next Bad Witch book, Blood, Book and Candle, and the next book in my Cy’ren Rising series.

About Robyn Bachar: Robyn Bachar was born and raised in Berwyn, Illinois, and loves all things related to Chicago, from the Cubs to the pizza. It seemed only natural to combine it with her love of fantasy, and tell stories of witches and vampires in the Chicagoland area. As a gamer, Robyn has spent many hours rolling dice, playing rock-paper-scissors, and slaying creatures in MMPORGs.

You can buy Fire in the Blood from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Samhain Publishing.
Website: http://

Friday, November 16, 2012 | By: The Write Way Cafe

Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.
-Lewis Carroll
Tuesday, November 13, 2012 | By: The Write Way Cafe

An Interview with Victoria H. Smith

The Write Way Café is happy to welcome author Victoria H. Smith today.

When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? Was that first thought related to writing romance?
I first had the thought to write a book back in 2010. I had just started grad school and, surprisingly, had a little extra time to read fiction. I went in search for a book about people my age and wasn’t finding what I was looking for, so I decided I wanted to write a book about things I would enjoy reading. I was planning a wedding at the time, so finding the time to actually write a book wasn’t possible. A year later, I bought a book about writing fiction, and three weeks later, I had my first novel.

What was your path to getting this first book written and published? What type of research did you do?
When I first wrote The Crimson Hunt, I had no desire to get published. It wasn’t until I let others read it and they told me it was something worth pursuing that I even considered it. Once I made the decision, I did a Google search on how to begin. After I edited a few drafts of my novel, I put it aside and started looking for ways to make it better. I joined the online forum Romance Divas and found a critique partner. While editing with her, I discovered that starting a social media platform was a must, to not only meet fellow writers, but to reach out to readers. I started a blog, joined Twitter, and quickly found other writers. I started building my platform in November about two months after writing The Crimson Hunt. Fast forward to March of 2012, my media platform started picking up steam. The Crimson Hunt was starting to really look good since working with my critique partner, so I started researching small presses and agents. I quickly found out that what I write (fiction about college students), didn’t really exist and agents weren’t looking for it. I focused on small presses since some of them were actually taking those types of manuscripts. While searching, I stumbled upon a contest with a small press who took the types of manuscripts I write. I entered and won. I was signed by May 2012. While working with that publisher, I quickly realized I needed more flexibility, so I actually left and decided to self-publish my book. I am now officially an exclusively self-published author. The lesson I learned is there is no right or wrong way to publish a novel. With my work, I prefer a more hands on approach. I’m a planner and always have been, so I knew self-publishing was more my suit.

Where did the idea for your story come from? Was it always the first in a series? Tell us more about the Eldaen Light Chronicles.
The idea for The Crimson Hunt came from that gap in the fiction market I'd found. I wanted to write a book about college students, something I hadn’t seen in the market at the time. So with that foundation, I started thinking about all the things I loved seeing in movies. I wasn’t a big reader and movies were all I had to go by. I wanted a snarky, Bridget Jones-type character, thrown into a situation with a lot of action. I wanted heavy romance, but I also wanted fight scenes and a suspense/thriller setting. Once I drafted all the things I wanted to see, I put it all together and The Crimson Hunt was born. The Crimson Hunt is book one in the Eldaen Light Chronicles about a college junior who meets a mysterious new coed on campus. The coed quickly captivates the female protagonist with his charm and charisma, but her involvement with him leads to a horrific tragedy. Left alone and without many options, she is forced to rely on his aid, but she discovers he may not have her best interests at heart. She has to decide very quickly who her true allies or the ultimate cost could be her life.

Why did you pick the setting you did?
My book is set in the good ole’ Midwest on a fictitious campus. I chose the Midwest because it was my first novel, and I knew writing what I “know” would be best. Now, all my novels usually start in a Midwest setting. It’s where I’m from and what I know, so I can explain the setting very well. Though the college itself is made-up, it is based on my undergrad college campus, the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself?
My characters are all completely imaginary. I created their personalities based on the level of conflict I could create. I gave all my characters specific quirks, hoping that I could create the best story off their personality types. I didn’t base any of my characters on any specific person, but I did study people in general to find quirks I liked. As far as elements of myself in my characters, they definitely have my sense of humor. My heroine is very snarky and bubbly, and that’s definitely my voice.

Did you face any blocks while writing the book, and if so, how did you handle them? If not, what's your secret?
I, fortunately, did not have any blocks while I wrote The Crimson Hunt. This is because I used the Snowflake Method to write my story. I know my characters very well and researched their world heavily the world. I knew about a hundred things more than I needed to know to make the story. Since I had so much information, it pretty much wrote itself.

What have been surprises you've encountered while writing the book and after?
Surprises I have found while writing is how awesome the writing community is. There is so much camaraderie. Everyone wants to help each other and that’s outstanding. Another surprise? Writing sex is hard! I thought the hardest thing to write would be fight scenes and action scenes. Nope. Sex. Super hard. But once you get the hang of it, it’s the most fun.

What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world?
I learned while writing this book that I actually had a story to tell. I remember seeing all those books on the shelves at my local bookstores, and saying I could never do something like that. But I did, and if I could, anyone can.

What are some of your favorite books and why?
Some of my favorite books are other novels in the new adult category. I love anything by Abbi Glines and Easy by Tammara Webber. Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire is also very good, as well. These are all contemporary, college stories. Outside of contemporary, NA author Lynn Rush has some great paranormal romances. She writes about angels, demons, and vampires, and they always feature twenty-something characters. Outside of new adult, I like The Hunger Games and anything by YA contemporary authors Simone Elkeles and Jennifer Echols.

What are you working on now?
I’m in between projects right now. I’ve decided to slow down and concentrate on editing so I can get my books out. I have a NA short, holiday romance coming out this month, too. But other than that, I plan on getting about three more novels out around the beginning of next year. The sequel to The Crimson Hunt and its novella are among them. They’re already written. Next summer, I plan to finish the series with the final full-length novel and two novellas.

About Victoria H. Smith:  Victoria H. Smith has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. She puts it to good use writing romance all day. She resides in the Midwest with her Macbook on her lap and a cornfield to her right. She often draws inspiration for her stories from her own life experiences, and the twenty-something characters she writes give her an earful about it. In her free time, she enjoys extreme couponing, blogging, reading, and sending off a few tweets on Twitter when she can. She writes new adult romance in the sub-genres of science fiction, urban fantasy, and contemporary. But really, anywhere her pen takes her she goes. Her new adult science fiction romance, The Crimson Hunt, will be published November 2012. 

Where you can find Victoria:


Friday, November 9, 2012 | By: The Write Way Cafe

Everything in the universe has rhythm; everything dances.
- Maya Angelou
Tuesday, November 6, 2012 | By: HiDee

What is Your Weapon of Choice?

To-Do List, Task List, Project Manager. . . It doesn’t really matter what you call it, we all have to find which method works best to help us manage our daily lives.

At work, they call me The Boss. I am the power behind the throne. I keep my professors legal and my graduate students from going crazy, and in return, they provide chocolate. Some of my professors are high-maintenance. They think the rules don’t apply to them, and I have to jump through hoops to accomplish their goals while complying with university guidelines. I spend a good portion of every day putting out perceived fires, and somehow in between, I’m expected to also perform the day-to-day duties for which they rely on me. Most of my responsibilities are not one-and-done items; most of them require follow-up. How do I keep track of all of these things? I’ve tried organized piles, file folders, color coding, and stacking trays. I’ve tried post-it notes, task lists, and weekly planners. And still I lack a reliable way to stay on top of all the little things that need done.

My brother is a computer geek and a project planner for a large company, so I asked him to recommend something. I was very disappointed in his “weapon of choice” – Excel. He said I could make my own columns to sort or filter by (Done, Waiting, Pending X, Pending A, etc.), use dates, formulas, or whatever else I needed. I told him that sounds like a story problem, and I don’t do story problems!

As a mom, I make sure my kids are where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be. I practiced tough love with my oldest (who is now out on her own), and a little less tough love with the second one. It wasn’t intentional; I just learned to let some things go, much to the dismay of my oldest. But in order to stay current on school, sporting, and even social events, we have a dry-erase calendar on the refrigerator – a central location to keep all events in plain sight.  Even Hubby has learned to check the calendar before planning anything.

As a writer, I juggle a number of writing projects and responsibilities. My writing projects are given working titles and each have their own folder on my computer. Within the folders, the files have titles and dates. This method of organization works for me – for the actual writing.

Keeping track of writing responsibilities is another story. A calendar is useful for some projects, but not for others. I’ve tried to forgo scribbling on scrap papers and jot things down in a notebook so it’s all in one place, but it’s not organized. I’ve tried keeping electronic to-do or task lists as well, but they’re pretty useless without a smart-phone to access them. Post-it notes with scribbled lists appear in random places around my house – I like them because I can pick them up and move them, or stick them on my purse or on the door so I don’t forget something.

All of these things together eventually help me get my projects done, but it’s not a very efficient system. Whether at work, being a mom, or as a writer, I’m always on the lookout for a better way to manage my life.

How do you manage your life? What is your weapon of choice, or do you have more than one?

Friday, November 2, 2012 | By: The Write Way Cafe
Believe in your dreams and they may come true.  Believe in yourself and they will.
- Unknown
Tuesday, October 30, 2012 | By: Lynn

Time to Write

I write for a living. I also edit for a living. I love my work and am grateful to have it. But it keeps me busy and I have not felt able to devote much time to working on my current WIP…for quite some time. It's been a WIP for longer than I like, but I tell myself it can't be helped. I have to contribute regular income to my household and there is only so much time in a day, week, month. Only so much physical and emotional energy within me to put out. However, there is nothing like getting a book contract for renewing my commitment to my not-yet-completed "next" book. (Pause here for brief happy dance and smiles for my new publisher, Crimson Romance !)

I Got, Got, Got, Got No Time
I’m weary of talking about not having enough time. I'm kind of bored but not surprised with myself that I’m writing about it again. I wrote a post about it last summer and discussed how those of us writers who also work jobs and take care of families need to be creative, something we're good at, in finding time to write. And here I am again, reiterating the challenge.

I'm open to suggestions for how to put time on my side. Here's a thought from Hope Clark in her October 26th Funds for Writers newsletter and website. She suggests taking a hard look at life's demands.

"We have to give up something else to make writing happen. We have selected a crazy hobby/career path/dream that is one of the most time-consuming interests on the planet. It starts as a whim, then a dream, then an urge that grows. You have to do this. You NEED to do this . . . this . . . writing.

So, for every new hour of writing, what other hour of something else will you sacrifice? Give it a name. Cleaning? Jogging? Sleeping? Gardening? Lunch?" she writes.

The P Word
Clark makes a good point, because there really is only so much time to work with. It's a likely conclusion that I have to set my Priorities to, well, Prioritize working on my book. It seems that even though, as Clark points out, we as writers often glow when we talk about what writing means to us, we don't do it. And according to Jennifer Blanchard at Better Writing Habits , being too busy to write, another way of saying not having enough time, is the number one reason writers give for not being productive with the thing they love. She, too, attributes this situation to not Prioritizing.

"Most likely you’re making time for non-productive things, like watching TV or surfing the Web. That means you actually do have time to write, you’re just not making it a priority to write," she writes.

It seems a good, stiff shaking of myself is in order. As Clark, author of Lowcountry Bribe and The Shy Writer, noted and what we all know, we can't do everything. We may have to stop doing something we feel has greater importance than our writing. She's found this out by becoming more successful with her writing.

"As my writing grew, as I had to promote a novel I never had to before, the demand for my other hours grew ravenous for my attention. How could I find more time? There went some of my gardening . . . I saw my chickens less. The house is definitely not as clean. I stopped going to the gym."

It seems obvious but nonetheless mindboggling—I have to pick what I'm going to spend time on. And if I seldom pick writing fiction, I'll not complete my beloved WIP. I have already cut back on housecleaning, so what can I cull? I'll have to figure it out. It's time.

Any suggestions?

Image from Dreamstime

Tuesday, October 23, 2012 | By: HiDee

Stupid, Pointless Annoying Messages

Guten morgen, honey! How are your boobs? 

Apparently my spam filter is male.  It catches and holds messages from girls who want to meet me and companies who want to help me have better sex, but it directed this “boobs” message to my inbox.  Normally I ignore these messages and get on with my day.  But I have to admit, this one made me laugh!

Spam is a slang name for Unsolicited Commercial Email.  Used as an acronym, SPAM stands for stupid, pointless annoying message (folk etymology).  Spam message topics seem to run in cycles: lotteries, speeding tickets, inheritances, online pharmacies, sexual enhancements, mortgage or insurance rates, mystery shoppers, and drugs. Unsolicited?  Definitely.  Stupid, pointless and annoying?  You bet.

But for email users, spam is unavoidable.  Spam messages find their way into my inbox every day.  And more often than I would like, important emails join the spam caught in my junk folder, making it necessary to check all those messages before I can delete them.  Outlook allows users to preview messages in a reading pane, without actually opening them.  I can highlight any message that is not obviously spam and scan the content.  This enables me to quickly determine the authenticity of emails and to avoid infecting my computer with viruses.

Since I need to check the messages, I try to make the time spent checking them worthwhile.

Many spam messages are written with terrible grammar and punctuation.  The sentences often make no sense at all.  I know there are gullible and lonely people in this world, but I hope they are all smart enough not to be sucked in by this stuff.  I have to shake my head and laugh at some of it.  It’s better to laugh than be annoyed.

Do you ever pay attention to who sends spam messages?  I’m sure these are not real people, but I keep a spreadsheet of names (male, female, and surnames) to use in my writing.  This isn’t something new for me.  I started keeping lists of names years ago when I worked at a cap and gown company.  One of my jobs was to check measurement forms submitted by schools and churches to order graduation and choir gowns, making sure each form contained name, height, and cap size.  Any time a name caught my attention, I added it to the list: names I liked, names with unique spellings, funny names.  Over the years, I’ve continued to add to the list, and keeping a spreadsheet is an easy way to keep them all in one place.  Now when I need a character name, I like to refer to this list.

So, thank you for your interest, Mr. Spammer.  While I am not inclined to answer your email, I did get a good laugh out of it, and if you’re lucky, I might name my next villain after you!

How do you deal with spam emails?  Do you mine them for ideas to use in your novels?  Please share.

Friday, October 19, 2012 | By: The Write Way Cafe

There’s never nothing going on. There are no ordinary moments.
-from A Peaceful Warrior
Tuesday, October 16, 2012 | By: Lynn


I was watching a news magazine show recently when I learned I'd missed celebrating Moldy Cheese Day on October 9. What?? How does one celebrate such a holiday, eat blue cheese? I don't think the holiday is celebrating the moldy cheese I used to find in my mother's refrigerator. It's pretty clear how one would celebrate National Vodka Day. That one I missed, too. It was October 4.

What is it about holidays that we humans enjoy so much? Give us a day to celebrate something and we're going to be happy, or at least distracted from the ordinary routine of life, which is something to celebrate.

Holidays for many provide a day off from school and/or work, so of course that makes us happy. Even those of us who love our work need balance, so time off from being productive is welcome. And depending on what we're celebrating, it gives us an opportunity to express ourselves and display our love. We humans enjoy that, too.

Some holidays garner more attention than others, obviously. Stores start stocking for Halloween on the heels of back-to-school products and promotions. And I'm sure Christmas shopping is already in our minds before Halloween passes. But though many feel that Thanksgiving is given short shrift in holiday respect, there is plenty of attention given the holiday and what it means to us. We set aside time to gather with friends and family, eat a lot and celebrate our blessings.

Though each holiday offers a theme – gift-giving, love, beginnings, for example – it's my current theory that they share a common theme – celebrating being alive.

The Pilgrims celebrated that they'd survived, so far, in the New World and that celebration of being alive continues, not just at Thanksgiving but in celebration in general. It's often said that life is a gift, one to be appreciated. But life is also hard, in different ways for all of us, but still hard. We acknowledge that paradox with celebration, and we often incorporate the elements of our living that have meaning to us. These are the things we live for, even in hard times, the things that make life worth living. We want to express ourselves, our aliveness, in ways that matter to us. We want to be with people we love, people we believe we can count on, and in doing so fuel the bonds that ensure not only our survival but our quality of life.

Halloween is approaching. There will be witches and goblins and Darth Vadars and princesses and more, all seeking candy. But underneath is the common theme celebrating being alive. Halloween has its roots in celebration of harvests, but also historically was a time to acknowledge the spirits of the dead, according to Wikipedia, the portal to all knowledge. In our past, humans established a tradition of recognizing that it's possible we endure, beyond the grave, beyond this life as we know it. In a sense, celebrating being.

So yes we all may tire of the commercialization of holidays. But we get on board because, no we're not mindless lemmings, we need hope and celebrating special occasions acknowledges there is reason to have hope. Life is a celebration – of something at any given moment. For instance, just in October there are pages of lists of holidays, including everything from Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, National Reading Group Month and National Rollerskating Month to World Rainforest Week (12-18), Peace, Friendship and Goodwill Week (24-30), and Dictionary Day (16), Wear Something Gaudy Day (17) and Information Overload Day (20). Visit  OCTOBER2012 for the full list and get celebrating!

But if you don't want to overtly celebrate IPod Day (23) or National Magic Day (31), celebrate vicariously by reading about others celebrating a holiday. Do a search on Amazon  for Halloween fiction, for example, and you'll find romance novels to enjoy. You don't have to get costumed up to join in that celebration of being alive. You may not be able to find a novel that incorporated National Moldy Cheese Day or IPod Day, but you'll certainly find plenty of holiday fiction.

Have you written or read a romance novel that incorporates celebrating a holiday? Share?

Image from Dreamstime

Friday, October 12, 2012 | By: The Write Way Cafe
Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. 
- T.S. Eliot
Tuesday, October 9, 2012 | By: HiDee

Follow Through

My son’s varsity soccer program is young. This is their fourth year, and their record so far is 16-3-1 (wins-losses-ties). For the first year, their record was 2-14-2, which could be expected with a new team.  In years two and three, their wins increased to five and 10, respectively. This year, with about equal numbers of juniors and seniors, the team is doing very well. But all the progress they’ve made over the past few years was almost undone by a new, well-meaning but not very bright,  assistant coach. He advised the players NOT to follow through on their shots to score.

Say what?!?!

I may be nothing more than an enthusiastic parent now, but I played my share of sports and grew up watching other sports with my dad. It doesn’t matter if it’s baseball, softball, volleyball, football, basketball or soccer. What do coaches tell their players? FOLLOW THROUGH. Your throw won’t be any good if you don’t follow through. Neither will your hit, your spike, your shot, or your kick. Following through helps guide the ball where you want it to go. Following through will help you score. And isn’t that a players ultimate goal?

Follow through. The words reverberated in my head.

Follow through. Maybe we want to, or maybe we don’t have any choice. Either way, many of us follow through on family commitments. Sometimes what we need to do is pleasant, and other times it’s not. But we do it anyway. Why? Family counts.

Follow through. We all have responsibilities at our jobs. We have to produce or we won’t have a job. A job is what pays the bills. We have to eat, and we need a place to live. Without a job, those necessities will be difficult to come by so we just do what is necessary. Why? Money counts.

Follow through. Follow through. Follow through. Over and over the words pounded in my mind. Mocking me. Prodding me. Follow through: be the writer you want to be. 

Writers practice just like athletes. We each have our own routines that serve as warm-up exercises. There are drills we perform to tone and define our skills; repetitive motions that become easier over time. We spend hours at our craft, fine-tuning each skill. Are we ever done? Probably not. There is always room for improvement, and we should continue striving to be the best we can be. A well-written story keeps readers turning the pages until the very end. Why? Because words count.

It all comes down to following through. Instead of dropping the ball, it’s time for me to heed the words and follow through, in my life and in my writing, with things that are important to me.

Are you following through, in your life and in your writing? Or has the ball of things important to you been more like a greased pig, squirting out of your hands just when you’re about to score that sometimes elusive goal?

Friday, October 5, 2012 | By: The Write Way Cafe

Opportunity dances with those who are ready on the dance floor.
-H. Jackson Brown
Tuesday, October 2, 2012 | By: Lynn

It's Not Truth, It's Self Doubt

A few weeks ago, I unexpectedly found myself watching a news segment on a Sunday morning television show profiling a day in the life of a famous romance author turned mainstream writer. The show described how she rose in popularity in her career and now enjoys the pleasure of not only writing for a living, but of having a publicist promote her work and seeing her books on best-seller lists. Quite unbeckoned, panic and self-doubt rose in me, shouting, "You don't have a publicist, you don't even do much with social media. You have only one published book to your credit, much less a number of best sellers. You are never going to make it. You don’t work hard enough at your craft. You are not a real writer."

If life is a journey, my road has been lined with billboards prompting self-doubt. I suspect not every writer struggles with this kind of self-abuse and self-doubt, but I think many do. Proof of this malady can be seen in the Letters to the Editor section of Romance Writer's Report and in the tone of issues circulating among the members of RWA.

Pick any month and you'll read someone defending her/his right to recognition in our organization as a legitimate writer. Squabbles erupt over the same themes, like whether a writer should be held to certain criteria to be eligible for full rights in RWA, what kinds of work are recognized as romance novels and genuine sales; do published writers have a responsibility to support unpublished writers, and on and on. Even the endless battle of trying to elevate the stature of the romance genre in general could be viewed as the work of a genre of writers struggling with fears of not only being perceived as a fraud in the expansive world of writing, but of actually feeling like second-class writers.

Now don’t get me wrong. I support efforts to raise awareness of the quality of our writing and to promote professionalism. Sometimes the battles are essential to protect the rights of authors, and I appreciate the value of recognition. At the risk of oversimplifying, I'd just like to suggest we not take some if it too personally. To do so, is to lose sight of the truth, and when that happens, chaos reigns, both inside and outside of our organization, our industry, our world.

Take me for example. When I let a very non-threatening thing, like another author's success, attack my sense of self, I started down the slippery slope of chaos. The self-doubt inflicts confusion and motivates desperate actions driven by fear, not truth. From feeling like a failure as a writer, it's not a far drop further down the slope to feeling like a failure as a woman, as a person. Suddenly time and space presses in and I can feel like I've wasted my entire life. I might as well give up. From the bottom of the pit, my options are limited, so I might slip into depression, from where I may never write another good story. I may resent my husband for not supporting me enough, or strike out at my fellow writers for not giving me the respect and opportunities I need.

But we have other choices, because, as I see it, the truth is there to guide us if we choose it over fear. And the truth is quite simple.

Luckily for me, the truth out-shouted my inner critic that Sunday morning and led me back to solid ground. I don't have to have a publicist, a best-seller, or even another published book to be OK. I just have to follow my soul's purpose. When you can do that, you have nothing to prove and no one can accuse you of being a fraud. Even if they did, it wouldn't matter. Every day is another opportunity to express my soul's purpose and an adventure in experiencing how it unfolds. From that space, all the bickering, all the angst, and even the hoops we're asked to jump through to be considered valued and recognized members of RWA, as well as the writing world, are insignificant.

Follow where your soul beckons, is my humble advice. For writers, that will lead to a story only you can tell. And quite naturally, it will guide you to your best work. That in and of itself is valuable.

This post is excerpted from an article published in the October/November/December 2010 Romancing the Prairie, the newsletter of the Prairie Hearts chapter of RWA.
Friday, September 28, 2012 | By: The Write Way Cafe

Make mistakes, that's the only way you'll find your voice.
- Susan Pocharski
Thursday, September 27, 2012 | By: The Write Way Cafe

Chili Cheese Dip

1 box Velveeta Cheese
2 cans Hormel No-Bean Chili
1 bag round tortilla chips

Cut Velveeta into wide slices or chunks and place in crockpot.  Add 2 cans of Hormel No-Bean Chili.  Cook on high for approximately one hour, stirring often to mix cheese and chili.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012 | By: HiDee

Stranger than Fiction

They say truth is stranger than fiction.  We write fiction, creating unique and different worlds within the pages of our books.  We also create familiar and comfortable worlds, populated with characters readers can relate to, and therefore care about.  But every once in awhile, truth blows us away.  A real life event motivates us to create a story around it, but the idea is so strange that we find ourselves thinking there’s no way anybody would ever believe we dreamed up such a thing, and who would buy it?  And yet the event really did happen.

Is that why so many people are obsessed with reality TV?  Can people or situations presented on TV really exist as they are portrayed?  What’s the attraction?  And why do we care?

The 24th season of Survivor began last week, which means I will be parked in front of the TV every Wednesday night for the forseeable future.  I’m not interested in being a member of the cast.  Are you kidding?  One, I’m not a water lover.  Two, I don’t like spiders and snakes.  And three, just. . . no.  I’m perfectly happy watching from the relative safety of my family room.  I watch the show because of the people.  The writer in me is fascinated with their motivations and interactions. There are obviously different mentalities on how to play the game.  What makes these people tick?  How do their personalities shape their game strategies?  What makes one player “click” with another and form an alliance?  How much trust can you have in anyone playing a game for a million dollars?  My mind churns with character possibilities.

Other than Survivor, I’m not a big TV watcher. I’d much rather curl up with a good book 99% of the time.  But occasionally, as hubby flips through the channels complaining that there is nothing on (again or still), another reality show catches my eye.

Call of the Wildman is unique.  A backwoods kind of guy (Turtleman) travels around removing nuisance critters from buildings and properties.  In lieu of payment, he accepts whatever the owner can pay - ranging from gas money to food to furniture and other goods.  It’s obvious he does what he does because he loves helping people.  He’s funny, but the show is heartwarming, too.  How many people go out of their way to help others and expect nothing in return?

Mantracker pits two people against two trackers on horseback in remote areas.  The people have 36 hours to reach a prearranged spot, 25 miles away, without getting caught by the trackers.  Sometimes the people have wilderness experience, sometimes they don’t.  But their goal is all the same: to outsmart the trackers and reach the spot without being captured.  Many people today are looking for ways to get back to nature. This show offers an opportunity to pit your skills and knowledge against nature and man.

What young girl (and yes, some of us older ones, too!) hasn’t dreamed of being beautiful and skinny enough to be America’s Next Top Model?  Diverse personalities make the modeling world a different and sometimes difficult place, one which not all are cut out to thrive in.  This show provides a glimpse of the hectic pace and the hard work that goes in to being a model.  How far outside your comfort level are you willing to go, especially when your job is on the line?  I vividly remember one episode where the models were expected to showcase jewelry - while “wearing” things like giant cockroaches and tarantulas.  I would have lost that job.

Music and dance reality shows offer people the chance to strut their stuff, to show off their talents and maybe even launch careers.  The Biggest Loser offers obese people the chance to get help with their weight problems and change their lives. Who Wants to be a Millionaire and The Weakest Link provide opportunities for people to match wits by answering trivia questions.  Viewers may envy the singers and dancers their opportunities for fame.  They may watch the Biggest Loser to learn ways to bring change to their lives.  And who doesn’t think they could go farther than at least some competitors on trivia shows?

The purpose of some other reality shows eludes me.  Big Brother – don’t we have enough Big Brother in the world already?  Who needs to live in a house with strangers to experience this?  The Bachelor or The Bachelorette – I know a lot of women who love these shows but they don’t do anything for me.  Fear Factor – um, NO, do not put me in situations you think will make me overcome my fear.  I’ll only hate you for it.

But in my opinion, the worst of them all is Honey Boo-Boo.  Children are supposed to be cute and natural, not made up to look like teen-age celebrities gone bad.  Previews are made to get viewers’ attention and entice them to watch shows, but these previews are downright scary and I refuse to watch the show.  That child is going to be a holy terror as a teenager.  What is that mother thinking?

Reality TV shows represent different worlds, worlds as diverse as those writers create for their books.  Obviously there are people or situations that viewers relate to, or the shows would not be as popular as they are.

What reality TV shows are you hooked on?  Why do you care about the people on the show?  Do they fuel your writing in some way?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, September 21, 2012 | By: The Write Way Cafe
It's never too late in life to spread your wings and fly.
- Kaylee Benjamin
Tuesday, September 18, 2012 | By: Lynn

Foggy Meanings

I'm an introvert, hence I’m someone who naturally goes for the deep meaning, the explanation, the "ya see, Timmy," when things in life go right and when they go wrong. When my children are going through tough times my mind tends to suggest things like, "This experience builds character." If a job opportunity doesn't pan out, my brain may suggest, "There's something better coming."

This tendency goes for my writing, as well. If I don't sell a story idea to a market or my latest book is rejected, once again, I find myself looking for and maybe assigning an abstract meaning to the rejection – it's a sign I'm not meant to write. Maybe this tendency is an influence of my fundamentalist upbringing. Nothing happens just because; there is a message or lesson. It can be exhausting. Such is the life of a member of a self-aware species, an introvert and the survivor of an intense upbringing.

It also can be exhausting to simply be present with what is. It's hard to stay put and persevere when things don't seem to be going well. To avoid the move away to something more comfortable or the quick explanation. If I do that maybe I'll see that my book is crap. Maybe I need to do some serious revisions. I have started more than one story but I can't sustain them, so am I lacking in creativity? I'm struggling with finding an audience, so what does that mean? I have a healthy readership but now I feel like I can't do something different for fear of losing them. If I stay in the place of how situations like this make me feel, what are the implications? Cue abstract message: "Ya see, Timmy, we don't always get what we want."

The problem with moving to some meaning that may not be applicable is it may not be useful for anything other than assuaging the discomfort of the truth. My story is crap. I do need to revise extensively. I need to spend time doing more research so I have more information to draw from. I don't have an audience and how am I going to find it? If I change my writing, I may lose readers, but do I still want to change?

Wise people, people who are not me, suggest that in staying put and not resorting to the ya see, Timmy, writers may find a more meaningful truth about themselves and their writing. It may be an opportunity if we can sit with the situation for a bit and let it tell us more. It may be an opportunity we don’t want to miss.

This parable seems fitting:

A man built his house on a cliff by the sea. He was excited about the view. Soon, a month-long fog rolled in. He quickly hated the place because it pained him that it wasn't the beautiful thing he had envisioned. He moved away. A week after he'd gone, the fog cleared.

I'm frequently the person who curses the fog, not having the patience to wait and learn, and concludes, "It wasn't meant to be." Have you had a situation in your writing life where you needed to wait and because you did, you learned something? Share?

Friday, September 14, 2012 | By: The Write Way Cafe

Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
-E.L. Doctorow

Tuesday, September 11, 2012 | By: The Write Way Cafe

An Interview with R.T. Wolfe

The Write Way Café is happy to welcome romantic suspense author R.T. Wolfe today.

Hello, HiDee and Lynn. I enjoy your blog posts and am honored to be your first guest author! Thank you!

When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? Was that first thought related to writing romance?
Honestly, I never had a first thought of writing a book. I’m a bit of an insomniac. I’m not sure what made me write the first line in Black Creek Burning in the middle of one of those sleepless nights, but somehow the first line turned into the first page and then into the first hundred pages…It was absolutely addicting. The research, editing, revising…I truly love all of it. Nine months later I had completed my first book in the Black Creek Trilogy. As far as your question regarding writing in the romance genre, you mean to tell me there are other genres besides romance? LOL

What was your path to getting this first book written and published? What type of research did you do?
I used books listing literary agents, pitched at a writing conference and found my lovely Romance Writers of America friends. Each has given me equal knowledge. My contract offer from Crimson Romance came from a call for submissions, forwarded to me through one of those lovely friends.

Where did the idea for your story come from? Was it always the first in a series?
I wish I knew. As eccentric as this sounds, I simply don’t. Sometimes when I’m proof reading my work I say to myself, “Where did I come up with this stuff?” So fun. Book two, To Fly in the Shadows, started spinning holes in my head when I was about half way through Black Creek Burning and ideas for book three weren’t far behind. Each book is also a stand alone. It was incredibly difficult to make that work and some of the best fun I can remember!

Why did you pick the setting you did?
Since the heroine, Brie Chapman, is a landscape designer who works outside much of the time, I wanted a climate close to what I’m familiar with. Upstate New York is similar to where I live, although I did plenty of research. I’ve had the privilege of three Master Gardener reviews for Black Creek Burning regarding the authenticity of the mention of plants and shrubs twined throughout the novel. The first review is already on my website. Mostly, I needed seasons. I use subliminal metaphors when I write. The growth of Brie’s character tandems the growth of the plants she works with.

Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself?
The main characters are completely fictitious. However, Brie’s sister is an absolute duplicate of one of my sisters. Her daughters have previewed Black Creek Burning and have commented on how creepy the similarities are. Have I mentioned how fun this is?

Did you face any blocks while writing the book, and if so, how did you handle them? If not, what's your secret?
Ugh! That is such a scary question. I have never experienced writer’s block. There. I said it. Where is some wood to knock on? I’m not sure I have a magic secret. I expect writer’s block will hit me as it does most of us.

What have been surprises you've encountered while writing the book and after?
Agents want something new and fresh. Yet, editors want the work of author’s to fit in a very tiny box. I work hard to listen to advice, but I try to listen to my readers a bit more than the others. After all, who am I writing for anyway?

What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world, woodworking, education?
I’ve learned boat loads about writing, but I’ve mostly been writing about what I know and what I know well. The hero, Nathan Reed, is a woodworking artist. I am knowledgeable on this subject as well as the landscape design and planting references in the book. Book two is about a conservation biologist who specializes in the rehabilitation and banding of eagles. I know a great deal about this, also. Again, however, I have a talented gal from the amazing custom furniture store, Sawbridge Studios, previewing Black Creek Burning and a biologist from the east coast Center for Conservation and Biology previewing book two for authenticity.

What are some of your favorite books and why?
Using all of my senses, I want to be taken into another place when I read. I like to learn new and interesting facets in life. I like books to be realistic with tangible and diverse characters. I only hope to have brought that experience to my readers. Some of my favorite novels include the Women’s Murder Club series by James Patterson, Northern Lights by Nora Roberts (although not the film-ugh) and the Circle Trilogy by Roberts.

What are you working on now?
I am polishing book two for a possible February release. This would be my first self-published book. So, I’m not sure precisely how much time the set up would be for that new adventure. I also have another publishing company interested in taking a look at that one…who knows? I am very close to being finished with book three in the Black Creek Trilogy, Dark Vengeance. My readers are graciously hounding me mercilessly to finish. It’s all so humbling, as well as serving as a guest on your lovely blog. Thank you, once more!

About R.T. Wolfe:  R.T. Wolfe writes romantic suspense stories that manage to touch the hearts of her readers as well as their intellect. She lives in the Midwest and is a loving mother to her boys. She enjoys working in her gardens and spending time training her Golden Retriever and writing in and around each of these.

Black Creek Burning by R.T. Wolfe

Brianna Chapman learns to handle just about anything. Witnessing the murder of her parents had that effect. Knowing the unsolved arson had been meant for her is the one thing she can’t handle. Instead of dwelling, she stuffs her guilt soundly into her subconscious through diving into the teaching job she loves by day and the dirt of the landscaping business she owns by night. Her habit of remaining aloof to personal relationships is, well, working. 

Will her guilt be as easy to keep buried if the killer comes back to finish the job?

In the midst of juggling a scorched yard, dead animals on her doorstep and her vandalized car, the one thing she didn’t count on was the staggering Nathan Reed. A nationally renowned woodworking artist, Nathan and his two priceless nephews move into the run-down historical house behind her and over Black Creek. They have a canny way of maneuvering around her aloof demeanor and into her heart. Will they still want to be part of her life when they discover she is haunted by past memories and hunted by present dangers?

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