Tuesday, January 29, 2013 | By: HiDee

I Am a Writer, But Who Am I?

Writers are encouraged to develop and promote their brand, even before they have a publishing contract. Websites, blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts are some of the tools available to us. Book promotion often lands on the writers’ plate. By working to develop and promote our author brands from the beginning, writers build a following of readers and supporters.

But before writers can start using these tools, they have to have a name.

Many writers opt to publish under their real names. Many others take pseudonyms, for any number of reasons. Some have real names that are difficult to spell or pronounce. Some wish to keep their personal lives separate from their public lives. Still others wish to write in multiple genres, therefore necessitating different personas.

As an aspiring writer, those options lay before me. Who is my writer self? Who do I want my writer self to be? Should I publish under my real name, or should I choose a pseudonym? What reasons do I have – for either decision?

Choosing a name has not been an easy task for me. Curious about authors I read and enjoy, I started by checking the copyright page of books. How many authors used their real names? How many used their real first name with a different last name? How many had a completely different name? Although it was interesting to see the names, it didn’t convince me which would be best for myself, so I moved on.

Ruling out my real name was easy. Even people who know me often misspell my name. I fear readers would never find me! A family member suggested I write under my birth name, or my adopted maiden name, but I’ve already been those people. They’ve made me who I am today, but they are not who I aspire to be as a writer.

photo by HiDee EkstromMy next thought was to find a name that means something to me. I have considered many combinations of family names – names of my children, my parents, and extended family members – both first, middle, and last. A few resonate with me, and are listed on a sheet of notebook paper for further consideration. But so far, none of these names have embedded themselves in my brain and not let go. None of them have shouted “That’s me!”

Names that resonate are put through the Google test. Many of the names already belong to real people. The name I really like belongs to a comedian I’ve never heard of, but do I want people to associate my writer self with a comedian? The top search result on another name, one I had mixed feelings about, revealed a controversial death. The name came off my list.

A third name returned no results at all. I could create my writer self without any previous connotations attached to my name. But is that name the right name? I admit my two main reservations are 1) that my mother reacted to the name, which pays homage to a favorite relative, with disappointment, and 2) I think the name sounds older. A part of me wants a timeless name, not one that makes me sound older.

Since I am a list-maker, my next step is to make a list of names I like. There are first names I’ve always liked. Many of them are definitely not me, so I will leave them to become characters. There are other names I like, but do they fit the person I envision my writer self to be? Should I use two names or three? Should I use initials in place of a first name? Can I answer to these names? I’ve searched surname listings as well, adding appealing names to my list of potential personas. I have to be able to respond to the name I choose, but maybe that comes with time.

Until I find the right name, I won’t be able to begin developing my author brand. Yes, I know what type of romance books I write. I can be thinking about my tag line. I can explore website and blog themes – maybe a design will speak to me and lead me to my writer self.

There are so many factors to consider in choosing a name. I don't just want to make a choice, I want to make the right choice.

How did you find your writer self? What factors did you consider when selecting your author name? Please share.

Friday, January 25, 2013 | By: The Write Way Cafe
You’re only given a little spark of madness. You musn’t lose it.
 – Robin Williams
Tuesday, January 22, 2013 | By: The Write Way Cafe

An Interview with Lynn Crandall

Today, The Write Way Café would like to welcome our very own Lynn Crandall.  

When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? Was that first thought related to writing romance?
I got the bug when I was very young, but I didn’t do much about it. I wrote a play for church that was performed and I told my little sister stories. Then I grew up and got busy doing other things. About 15 years ago I read a book by John Gardner, On Becoming a Novelist. It blew my mind how much it resonated with my heart and soul. That’s when I decided to write and writing romances seemed like the most likely thing for me.

What was your path to getting this book written and published? What type of research did you do?
The concept of wanting to portray sisters came to me first and I worked out from there the characters of Sterling Aegar and her sister Lacey as private investigators and detective Ben Kirby. I have a background in newspaper reporting so I had knowledge of police procedures, to a degree. I talked extensively to a detective to get accurate information about the field and also to a therapist to be able to portray effectively characters with emotional wounding.

Where did the idea for your story come from?
I like the idea of portraying ordinary people. To me, with my background in newspaper and magazine writing, ordinary people are fascinating. Perfect heroines and heroes are fun to read about, but flawed, vulnerable average characters simply trying to live their lives are more inspiring to me.

Why did you pick the setting you did? 
The adage, “Write what you know,” came into play in picking my setting for Dancing with Detective Danger. I have always lived in the Midwest, so I know it. But I don’t expect that every book I write will be set in mid-size, Midwestern America.

Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself? 
It’s hard to get away from embodying the characters, but they are not me or anyone I know. I feel my research enables me to create three-dimensional fictional characters, and hopefully readers relate to them.

Did you face any blocks while writing the book, and if so, how did you handle them? If not, what's your secret? 
I am always facing blocks of some sort. Usually if I am blocked, though, the solution is to get to work in some way. Doing more research always fuels more ideas and simply putting my writing brain to work opens up ideas, too. The hard part is believing it will happen and getting to it. It’s easy to procrastinate.

What have been surprises you've encountered while writing the book and after? 
Surprise! Promoting the book is a lot of work! When my first book was published things were very different in the publishing world, so with this book I’m learning a lot in terms of promoting it myself. If only I could clone myself and make one of me a publicist.

What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world, working with family members, and private investigators?
Learning has been an ongoing process because I want to write in such a way as to model possibilities for human growth, so I’m constantly exploring possibilities. I’ve learned so much from reading fiction, amazing applications to my own personal growth, so I know it can happen. I started out writing with the idea that I needed to write an epic novel in order to be a serious writer. That was in my own head. I learned to value the writing I do, regardless of outer approval, and that I like what I write. I write romances because I like exploring relationships and I want a happy ending.

I have to do thorough research or my story will fizzle out before I’m done with it and I don’t always have patience for that. I want to sit down and pound out an amazing story. It doesn’t work like that for me.

Tell us about your writing space and how or why it works for you.
I work in a corner of a room in my house. I’ve been working in this space for so long it feels like when I sit down, I’m where I belong. I love to write, so I love this spot. I have everything I need within reach because often my cat is on my lap when I write. So I have a pleasing calendar on the wall, little things that inspire me sitting on shelves, and a laptop, among other things. Outside my window are birdfeeders and two bird baths that attract my attention in warm weather and cold.

What are some of your favorite books and why?
I love classics, like Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, and Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin, but I always have a paranormal romance in my Kindle or in print. I love Bitten, by Kelley Armstrong, and all her other books. I enjoy her story worlds and her characters, a lot because of the imaginary qualities that, to me, have elements of reality.

What are you working on now?
I’m working on a story about Lacey and how she survives and triumphs even in the situation of her husband’s death.

Learn more about Lynn and her writing at:

Website:  http://www.lynn-crandall.com/

Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/author/lynncrandall
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/LynnCrandallAuthor?ref=hl
Twitter:  @lcrandall246

Sunday, January 20, 2013 | By: The Write Way Cafe

Oriental Cabbage Slaw

This salad is popular with the adults in my family and some of the kids. It's a fun, crunchy and tasty alternative to traditional Cole slaw.
- Lynn

Oriental Cabbage Slaw
1 16 oz. bag of chopped cabbage (slaw)
1 bunch of green onions chopped

2 pkg. Ramen Noodles, crunched up (no seasoning packet)
1 small bag sliced almonds
1 oz. sesame seeds
4 Tbl. Butter

Dressing: bring to boil, then cool
1/2 c olive oil
1/4 c white vinegar
2 Tbl. soy sauce
1/4 c sugar

Toss together cabbage and onions in large bowl.  Saute crunched up noodles, almonds and sesame seeds in butter until lightly browned. Make dressing. Let noodle mixture and dressing cool. Add all ingredients together right before serving.

Friday, January 18, 2013 | By: The Write Way Cafe

“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” 
- F. Scott Fitzgerald

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 | By: HiDee

Racing Toward My Dreams

I’ve been so busy being a parent, trying to teach my children about life, that I almost didn’t realize how much I could learn from them.

At the ripe old age of 19, my daughter dove headfirst into her dream: to be a dirt track racecar driver. It’s partly my own fault. We’ve been taking her to the races since she was a baby. When she was about 4, she was running to her dad about 20 yards ahead of me, crossing the fairgrounds to the track. A couple of young boys were throwing a football. It all happened in slow motion and there was nothing I could do: one of the boys threw the football, it hit her in the back of the head, and sent her tumbling head over heels – literally. All I could do was watch – and laugh, once I knew she wasn’t hurt.

I think that hit knocked something loose in her brain, making her crave danger.

To her credit, my daughter has done her homework. She’s been reading racing magazines for years. She drew pictures of cars. She collected racing programs from races we attended, and made lists upon lists of drivers, cars, tracks, and who knows what else. She graduated from the local college with a degree in automotive technology. Facebook has been her friend, allowing her to follow and get to know many of the drivers. They have been openly encouraging her, offering advice and even parts for her racecar.

When she first bought the car, she stripped it down to the bare bones. Piece by piece, she put it back together. A friend who has a graphics business painted her helmet, and created the original designs she wanted on her car. An ex-boyfriend spent hours at the shop with her, welding and helping her learn how to ‘set up’ the car. Being a racecar driver himself, he had connections that could – and did – help her. She survived her first racing season with only minor crashes, thank God. And now that it’s winter again, the car is getting a makeover: new colors, new designs, and new sponsors.

I didn’t get hit over the head with anything, that I know of anyway, but my brain has always craved books. I’ve been an avid reader since I was young, and my desire to be a writer wasn’t far behind.

Writing magazines have been among my reading materials for years. I’ve written stories and poems, articles and manuscripts. Facebook and the internet have allowed me to follow my favorite authors, to search for and learn from other writers via their websites and blogs. Local and online writing groups offer support that every writer needs; they’re like having another family, supporting you in every way.

I learned to write by stripping my ideas down to bare bones. Word by word, writing and revising, I’ve improved my writing. My friends can’t write for me, nor can any old boyfriends, although one old boyfriend recently became the model for my next hero, thanks to a dream that just wouldn’t go away. I’ve survived the writing process, not without some minor bruises, and now that it’s winter, my writing is also getting a makeover. I’m spending more time in my chair focused on writing. New characters, new ideas, new motivations – all geared to improving my writing and pushing me farther along the road to publication. That’s my dream: publication.
Graphic by HiDee Ekstrom
My daughter has taught me that I need to go after my dream with all my heart. I’ve put it aside to raise my kids, and now that they are grown (almost), it’s my turn. Unlike my daughter, I don’t usually dive into anything. I tend to dip my toe first, then inch my way in, getting more comfortable with each step I take.

But sometimes, life drags me in, kicking and screaming. I just have to learn to go with it and keep racing toward my dreams.

How do you approach your dreams, your goals? Do you inch carefully along, or do you dive in all at once? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, January 11, 2013 | By: The Write Way Cafe

"Life is a mirror and will reflect back to the thinker what he thinks into it."  
- Ernest Holmes
Tuesday, January 8, 2013 | By: Lynn

Words We Love to Hate

As a writer I've interviewed a variety of sources for magazine and newspaper articles. I've found that academics, people with higher education and who work in academia, consistently tend to sprinkle their conversation with the phrase, "sort of." I've teased to my husband that there must be a class that teaches how to insert the phrase frequently. It sort of annoys me, but I do it, too.

Apparently I'm not the only who gets annoyed by words. According to The Atlantic Wire it's a hot topic. One that prompted enough comments, tweets, and emails that the staff there decided it could a write dictionary, essentially, of despicable words.

According to the site, there are a variety of reasons that certain words raise our ire.

"There appear to be several categories that hate words tend to fall into: Words people hate the sound of; words people hate the meaning of; words widely considered to be or mean something gross or unpleasant; words that are overused or meaningless; and words that reflect something unflattering about the user, often that that person thinks much of him or herself."

One of the most hated words for 2012 was "arguably," arguably because it's essentially meaningless, some people say. As is "essentially," another hated word for 2012. A lot of people don't like the word "panties," and I'm one of them. I think it's absurd. I wrote an opinion piece for a publication many years ago when I felt particularly (another hated word) adamant that it demeaned women. "I do not wear panties!" I wrote. "I also do not wear sockies or shoesies. I'm a grown woman and I wear underwear." N-e-way…I digress, obviously—another nonessential word in a sentence that is hated by many.

So it would seem that picking the right words is really important to many of us, not just writers, though I tend to feel that as a writer and editor my radar is highly tuned to words and their assessment in some way. When someone uses the word "supposably" in a sentence, they lose me. I'm thinking about correcting them. "There is no "b" in supposedly," I want to yell. By the way, it's done enough that "supposably" got included in the list, as did "got." Whatever! Some people feel "got" is never necessary, nor is "whatever" when used with eye rolls.

I don’t want to do that in my writing, send a reader out of the story because I used a fancy word where I could have used something simple and direct. People say they hate that, for instance they listed "utilize" as hated because why not stick to "use?" I also don't want to overuse words, such as "like" or "awesome." People are paying attention to our word choices.

What words or phrases send you off into silent or not so silent rants?

Friday, January 4, 2013 | By: The Write Way Cafe
Dream and give yourself permission to envision a You that you choose to be. 
- Joy Page
Tuesday, January 1, 2013 | By: HiDee

Resolution Frame of Mind

January 1.

Does the date strike fear in your heart? Does it induce a feeling of relief? Maybe it conjures up something different for you.

The New Year signals many of us to leave behind our negative attitudes and refocus on the positives in our lives. It’s a time to reflect on the good and the bad of the past year, to determine how to start over and do things differently; a time to hope for a different outcome than before. 

We could do this at any time during the calendar year, but for some reason, a New Year motivates us to make changes we otherwise might struggle to make. Why? I wish I knew. Maybe taking down the old calendar and putting up a new one signals our minds that it’s time to start over. Look at all those fresh, blank, new days we can fill! Look at the opportunities we have!

It doesn’t seem to take long, however, for us to lose whatever motivates us and get caught up in the spin cycle that was our life last year. Our good intentions fall by the wayside. We feel like failures for not being able to keep going on the new paths we’ve chosen. Our goals may still be clearly visible, but our fervor to reach them has wilted. Were our goals too lofty? Were they wishful thinking? Did we not realize what we REALLY wanted?

For 2013, I’ve decided to take a different approach.  Rather than make resolutions I know I won’t keep, I plan to adopt a new frame of mind based on resolutions.

Reorganize: My life is full, but sometimes unorganized. I waste plenty of time, so I want to come up with a plan that will allow me to accomplish the things I WANT to do. There is space for them to fit in around the things I NEED to do. I’m a visual person, so my plan is to utilize a calendar and a list (oh all right, multiple lists) to prioritize and keep track of all those “things” that fill my life. 

Exercise: This is definitely a struggle for me. I’m happy to walk or hike outside when the weather permits, but going to the gym just doesn’t work for me. By day, I’m an office assistant so I spend 99% of my time sitting. Hubby is currently Mr. Mom so when I get home I don’t have to clean the house or do the dishes, and therefore I find myself curled up in a chair writing or reading or wasting time online. I know I should get out my chair and do something, but when it’s cold outside, I just don’t want to. And yes, I would like some cheese with my whine, thank you very much! My goal for 2013 is to spend less time in my chair and more time on my feet, one way or another. I’m thinking about strapping on my pedometer and taking my mini-recorder on walks. I can talk through my plots and not lose any thoughts. Exercise for my brain and my body!

Start something new: I have lots of ideas bouncing around in my head. The New Year is as good a time as any to start new projects. I can put them on my lists or on my calendar and make them a priority. Starting something new often rekindles my passion for writing. It allows me to escape from the bog I might be in on my current project. It allows me to think in a different direction. Sometimes that’s all I need to free my mind to be creative again.

Open your mind: It’s very easy to be set in our ways, and very hard to be open to alternative points of view. Instead of defending your position on a topic, listen - really listen - to the other side. It’s a chance to learn why others are just as passionate but with a different outlook. Be open to new paths. Do you live in town? Go for a drive in the country. Do you only walk in the gym? Go to a county or state park and take a trail instead. Do you only read romance? Pick up an autobiography and give it a try. Open yourself up to new possibilities. You never know what you might discover.

Love what you are doing: I’m one of the lucky ones - I love my job. It makes getting up and going to work every day easy. I also love writing. I love playing with words, rearranging them until they convey my thoughts. I love the challenge of creating characters, settings, and plots and working to make them be books readers will not want to put down. I want to write books that encourage others to love reading as much as I do.

Unplug: This is probably the most difficult. I’m not as plugged in as many people I know. I have a pay-as-you-go cell phone without Internet capabilities, and I have a computer at home, along with a Kindle Fire. I’m not disconnected. But like many others, I struggle to escape the need to check email just one more time, to check Facebook because I might be missing something, or to answer text messages just because I can. The only time I successfully unplug is when we go on vacation. I have my cell phone in case of emergency and I check it each night, but during the day it’s off. I don’t take a computer with me, although this year I might take the Kindle Fire instead of tossing in a few paperbacks. Unplugging does me a world of good. My brain needs the down time. I need to enjoy the simpler things in life, and I don’t need to know what the rest of the world is doing every waking minute. I’m always reluctant to return from vacation, knowing I’m headed back to the frantic pace we live in today. And yet I relish being plugged back in. Go figure.

Try: Try something new just for the fun of it, like a new food. Try different approaches to solve a problem. Try writing your scene from a different point of view.  Put effort into what you want to accomplish. Apply yourself; don’t just talk about it. And don’t give up. Keep trying until you reach your goal, whatever it is.

Indulge yourself: Curl up with a good book by a favorite author. Have a glass of something you don’t normally drink. Light a scented candle. Indulge your chocolate craving. Get a manicure or a massage. Meet a friend for lunch. Go to a movie, laugh and cry - release those pent up emotions. It’s good for your soul. We all need to treat ourselves now and then. I regularly curl up with a good book and chocolate is my main food group, but I occasionally treat myself to the other things. They make me feel good because they don’t happen every day. We all need a treat now and then.

Opportunities: They’re everywhere! Open yourself to the possibilities. Do you want to learn a foreign language? Take a class at your local community college. Want to learn more about your new digital camera? Sign up for the class being offered by your local newspaper photographers. Want to expand your writing horizons? Start a blog or check into writing a weekly column for a local paper. Opportunities won’t always fall in your lap. Sometimes you have to go in search of them. 

No! Just say no!: I lied. Saying no is the most difficult thing to do. We feel obligated to live up to the expectations of others, which puts pressure on us to ignore the things we want to accomplish. I’m not saying you should always say no to others; I think you need to pick and choose based on what is important to you. A word of warning: saying no can be extremely empowering!

Start now! The New Year is here. Take advantage of the mindsets prevalent at this time of year. Break out the bubbly - the New Year is yours to fill with success!