Tuesday, July 30, 2013 | By: Lynn

Take the 30-Day Intuition Challenge

How would you live your life if you followed your heart?

Does that question make you sigh with beautiful thoughts of what could be? Or does it make you agitated because you’ve tried to answer that question and found it’s a nonsense, maybe hopeless question? I fit both those categories.

Like many people, I learned early in life the rules for right living according to someone. I learned it’s important to contain urges and rely on others’ input, usually a parent’s, for direction. That’s a practical way to learn to live in a society. But in learning to conform to logic and reason I also learned to tune out my inner knowing. Without inner direction to guide me, I realized recently, I have little authority over my life. I’ve been walking the path, for the most part, that I was trained to walk and always looking for outer approval or direction to make sure I was doing “it right” in so many circumstances. Trying to do things perfectly can exert so much pressure that I can get stuck just in the trying-to-figure-out mode.

So what does my inner reflection have to do with writing? A lot.

If you’re a writer who is writing regularly, your answer to the question I first posed—how would you live your life if you followed your heart—is that you are; you’re writing. That is major for a writer. But if you break it down further, what do you find? Is the pathway to your heart’s knowing knowable beyond the big question? You can know the answer to the big question, but how do you deal with all the steps in between your life as it is and where you want to be?

That’s my challenge to you for the next 30 days. To pay attention because your intuition is calling. Start acknowledging that you have inner knowing and that that knowing is worth listening to about your writing, but also about your drive to work, what you choose to do with your time tonight, and how you respond to your spouse, coworker, or boss tomorrow. It may not be easy to tap into your intuition for daily input but it will be interesting. You may notice the part of you pop up that has learned so well how to follow outer direction and it will offer compelling reason to tune out your inner voice, to disregard it. But give yourself a chance to develop the ability you’ve always had to steer your own boat—and deal with the results, because you can.

People won’t always support you when you try to live by your heart and live autonomously. They may tell you you’re being rash or foolish. I mean after all, they know better than you what you “should” do.

Why bother? Because all of us are entitled to live by our hearts. But also because our inner knowing is a sure source for inspiration, something that encourages us to keep pursuing our writing goals and our dreams. In tapping into your inner knowing, you’ll find a refreshing source of inspiration that may prompt more interesting writing. And maybe a richer more meaningful life.

What has been your experience with using your intuition?

This post is excerpted from the Romancing the Prairie newsletter.
Friday, July 26, 2013 | By: The Write Way Cafe
We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. 
- Joseph Campbell
Tuesday, July 23, 2013 | By: HiDee

First Born Writer Mentality

I've always believed in WHEN I am published, not IF I am published. Although it's taking me longer to get there than I had anticipated, I am determined to make it. But what drives me?

I am the oldest – the first born, the "boss cow" of my family. Responsibilities and expectations (both real and probably imagined) sit on my shoulders like two little devils, pushing and pulling me in different directions. It's no wonder I hear voices in my head, but writing provides an outlet for them.

A Google search of first born personality traits turned up characteristics like confident, determined, born leader, organized, eager to please, peace-keeper, law abiding and conservative. On the opposite side? First borns tend to be self critical and bad at delegating. Yep, that pretty much describes me.

I believe in my writing ability, but I acknowledge that reaching my goal will take hard work. I'm determined to be like a sponge and soak up all the knowledge I can about writing. I read for the enjoyment of reading, but I also read to absorb techniques, to study how authors build their stories. What works and doesn't work for me as a reader? I can apply those lessons to my own writing.

As a writer, I can be the peace-keeper that I sometimes struggle to be in my daily life. I can write people into my stories and fix them. If someone is driving me crazy, I can make them a villain and direct all my anger and frustrations at them. If someone is just mixed up and needing a little nudge, I can help them overcome their problems and see the way to their future as either heroes and heroines or as secondary characters. Writing through issues that bug me can be very satisfying!

One down-side to being a first born is living the with the self-critical and bad at delegating traits, two traits I haven't been able to outgrow. I am often critical of myself, although I think it's honest criticism. I procrastinate by reading books and magazines, and I take writing workshops. I follow other writers on social media, and surfing the internet under the guise of research. I'm not good at delegating, either. Who was it that said if you want it done right, do it yourself? I get so caught up in wanting to do it right that I don't always get around to just DOING it, and that could be my downfall.

I'm stubborn. I tend to think I can do it all, without help from anybody. Stupid, I know, but such is the mentality of this first born. I like being capable. I like being a go-to person. Well, most of the time... It's hard to put aside that mentality and focus on doing what I need to do in order to reach that goal of becoming published.

How can I use these first born traits to better juggle daily responsibilities and expectations, and still reconcile them with living my busy life? Stacy Wiebe (Tips for Women Who Juggle Too Much) writes that our real need is to learn to live more effectively within our busy lives. She offers suggestions for organizing your life, setting goals, and figuring out what you value most. Says Wiebe, "But we always have a choice. We can run frantically all day, every day, and end up with a bag of used kitty litter or a parcel of unmerited panic. Or we can enjoy our life's journey, realizing there's a place on the path to run, to walk, to play…and to stand still."

I want to choose to enjoy life's journey. How about you?
Saturday, July 20, 2013 | By: The Write Way Cafe

Garden Chicken Pasta Salad

This salad makes a perfect main course dish for summer, served with fruit and bread. But it’s also a great side.

Garden Chicken Pasta Salad

3 cups rotini pasta, cooked and drained
2 cups broccoli flowerets, raw or cooked
1 ½ cups ranch dressing
2 cups (or more if you like) cooked chicken breast, cubed
Dash of Mrs. Dash onion and herb

Toss all ingredients and refrigerate. Serve cold.

Get creative an add a variety of ingredients to your liking. Try chopped pepper, slivered onion, sliced purple grapes, diced apple.
Friday, July 19, 2013 | By: The Write Way Cafe
You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.
- Ray Bradbury
Tuesday, July 16, 2013 | By: Lynn

Wow! Who Was That?

There were two of them. One was tall, blonde and lanky, the other shorter, dark-haired and muscular with darkly intense eyes. My grandmother introduced them to me. I never missed a chance to see these two young men and I day-dreamed about them when we were apart. Today, about a hundred years later, I can't remember both of their names but I do remember the dark-haired one's name. It was Buzz.

I was young, and the feelings I had for these guys were rich and fun. I awed at the lives they lived, always on the road, always grabbing life by the horns, always active, though frequently into trouble, but I didn't care about that. Even though we never met, I knew them well. I had a crush on these guys, the main characters in my grandmother's favorite television show, Route 66. I think we all know that first crushes hit us at any age, and yes, I was very young for this one. But still, this admission really dates me.

Buzz and What's-His-Name were among a long list of crushes I had on people I didn't know. The fantasy of it probably made the crushes more exciting and more fun than if I, at such a young and inexperienced age, had fallen for someone I could actually talk to, sit across from on the teeter-totter, or shoot marbles with. That's one of the beauties of first crushes. They are whatever we make them.

For my oldest son, the light came on for a little girl in his preschool class. My other two sons seemed to watch a lot television programming for the Olympics at the time, but it turned out the attention was for gymnast Oksana Baiul. For my step-daughters, crushes came hard for the boys of New Kids on the Block, my memory tells me.

Crushes are a natural part of development, according to the online source KidsHealth. They're sort of an introduction to adult relationships to come.

"Crushes are a little bit like the romantic love adults feel toward one another. And in a way, a crush can help us think about the kind of person that we want to love when we grow up. They help us understand which qualities we notice and like in another person — and maybe a few that we don't like."

In my defense for falling for pretend people I'll refer to Kids Health again.

"You can't choose your crushes. Sometimes they sneak up on you and — wow — who was that?"

Another beauty of the crush on a stranger is the whole-body, out-of-body experience of it, minus any growly temper, bad breath, or inexplicable scratching we don't want to know about. That Hugh Jackman may pick his nose is unimaginable. Sure, Bradley Cooper sweats, but it's beautiful, glistening, and stink-free.

I didn't move on to real people crushes until fifth grade when a boy in my class and I proclaimed our love for each other. That relationship made my life worth living and lasted for most of the school year. He broke my heart when his family moved out of town.

I don't think we ever lose the attraction to people we'll never be able to enjoy a real relationship with. The larger-than-life unattainable guy we love to quietly lust after as we sit on the couch eating popcorn while our boyfriend or husband sit in a chair nearby. "No honey," we say, "I didn't notice his bulging muscles, take-care-of-it attitude, or amazing smile." And when he inquires about our irrepressible smile as we read a romance novel, he doesn't have to know that we're drooling over the hero's lazy drawl and amazing biceps and his way of creating a fireball in his massive hands. All of that is just some spice for us.

So I've spilled about my crushes, how about your first crush? Who was it? When you recall your feelings for that person, do you smile really big?
Friday, July 12, 2013 | By: The Write Way Cafe
However great a man's natural talent may be, the art of writing cannot be learned all at once.
- Jean Jacques Rousseau
Tuesday, July 9, 2013 | By: HiDee

Good Deeds

I stop at Walmart at least once a week, sometimes more.  I like to stop in the morning on my way to work because there are no lines at 8 AM.  I can get what I need and get out in 15 minutes, unless I’m looking for cards or clothes, or better yet – books.  Then I could be there awhile!

During a recent stop, I found a neatly folded $100 bill near the health and beauty aisles.  There wasn’t anybody around, so I picked it up and put it in my pocket, then continued my shopping.  $100 is a $100, and in these economic times, we can all use extra cash.  But I honestly never considered keeping it.  What if an elderly grandmother had lost it and needed the money to pay for her medicines?  What if a young mother had dropped it and it was all the money she had left from her paycheck to buy groceries or diapers for her baby?

When I checked out, I asked the cashier what the store did with lost and found items – namely cash.  She looked at me like I was crazy, but sent me to customer service to speak with a store manager.  The store manager promised to keep the money on the bulletin board in the backroom in case someone came looking for it.  She thanked me for being honest, and told me about a lady who lost over $800 in the store around Christmas.  None of that money was turned in, and the lady was devastated.  The manager assured me if nobody claimed the money, it would be donated to charity.  I wondered how safe a $100 bill would be pinned to a bulletin board, but I left the store knowing I did a good deed.  I did the right thing by turning that money in.

They say truth is stranger than fiction.  I often consider how my characters might react if they were in my shoes.  Their backgrounds and experiences would color their reactions to situations, just as my background and experiences color mine.  It’s what makes each of us unique.

What would you do if you found a $100 bill?  What experiences might color your decision?  How might your characters react and why?

Friday, July 5, 2013 | By: The Write Way Cafe
Never regret.  If it's good, it's wonderful.  If it's bad, it's experience.  
- Victoria Holt
Tuesday, July 2, 2013 | By: The Write Way Cafe

An Interview with Robyn Neeley

Today, the Write Way Café welcomes Crimson Romance author Robyn Neeley.

When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? Was that first thought related to writing romance?
In 2009 and no, not at all. One day after a particularly sad event, I pulled out a notebook and scribbled what eventually became the prologue to my holiday romance, Christmas Dinner. Those words were written as a coping mechanism.

A few months later, I pulled out that notebook and thought what I’d written was pretty good. I brainstormed some ideas and thought it would be fun to create a holiday romance around it. That it’s now part of my book is very special to me and a special tribute.

What was your path to getting this book written and published? What type of research did you do?
It was a long three years of writing, revising and taking classes. I’m a huge fan of Savvy Authors and online workshops through Maryland Romance Writers association. I also took a three-month mentoring class that was hands down the best thing I ever did. The techniques I learned not only help me get an offer for Christmas Dinner but helped me write faster. Destination Wedding was written in four months. I simply wouldn’t have been able to do that without the knowledge I gained from the mentoring class. I highly recommend the investment in an online mentoring program for aspiring authors.

Where did the idea for your story come from?
I knew I wanted to write a fun, romantic comedy involving mistaken identity that began on a plane when a heroine is struck by in-flight panic and doesn’t realize my handsome hero switches seats with his twin. I hate to fly and only wish what happened to my heroine would one day happen to me! I might then not mind flying!

Why did you pick the setting you did?
I wanted a tropical backdrop for all the antics that happen after “the kiss in the air.” Both Waikiki and Maui were the perfect settings for a destination wedding.

Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself?
I’d be lying if I said they were completely imaginary. I’ve planned many events over my career so having my heroine, Kate, be a wedding planner wasn’t a far stretch.

Did you face any blocks while writing the book, and if so, how did you handle them? If not, what's your secret?
I was stumped on how Kate would discover that it was Luke who kissed her silly and not Drew on that original flight to Honolulu. Once an idea finally hit me, it really helped set the stage for the third act of the book. The “incident” on the beach cracks me up every time.

What have been surprises you've encountered while writing the book and after?
How attached readers have become to Drew and Lauren – my secondary characters. The number One question I get is am I writing their story next. (Drew had some words for me on this topic recently on the Crimson Romance blog! Check it out!)

Tell us about your writing space and how or why it works for you.
My writing space is my Dell Ultra Book and my lap. It’s super light so I can cart it everywhere, and I do. My favorite space is my room, with a romantic comedy playing in the background and my kitty nearby.

What aspect of writing gives you the most trouble?
Because I write romantic comedy, internal conflict has always been my Achilles heel. I’m working on giving my characters rich internal conflict.

What are some of your favorite books and why?
The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks (the twist master!), The Blue Bistro and The Castaways by Elin Hildenbrand are three of all my time favorites. If you haven’t read any of Elin’s books, I highly recommend. They are the best summer reads! (Besides my own!)

What are you working on now?
Ooooh! I’m so excited. My current WIP involves magical batter (yep, cake batter!) and a town full of handsome bachelors. I’m hoping to have it completed by September.

Would you like to try your hand at writing a different genre?  Which one and why?
Right now, no. I love, love, love writing romantic comedy with super cute happy endings.

If you were not a writer, what would your dream job be?
I’m lucky! I love my full-time job which is working with college student leaders around the world. I plan an annual convention for 700 attendees each August and have a blast. If I weren’t doing that and writing – well I’ve always thought I’d be an awesome Nancy Drew! Although my detective hunches are usually wrong!

Wedding planner Kate Ashby’s fear of flying is eased by a sexy stranger and one slow lip lock that rockets her into another obit.

CEO Luke Cannon has just traded seats with his identical twin. Little did he know that an innocent kiss while pretending he was his brother would soon create havoc. What happens in the air doesn’t stay up there.

Once on tropical land, Kate believes that the handsome stranger who gave her the best kiss of her life is now her new client, Drew Cannon, fiancé to the beautiful and wealthy Lauren Kincaid. While Kate struggles with the intense feelings she thinks she has for Drew, Luke discovers Kate’s been hired to plan his brother’s destination wedding. He also realizes the initial sparks they shared 30,000 feet up are now mistakenly aimed at Drew.

Can Luke get Kate to realize that the feelings she has are for him? He’s got forty-eight hours in paradise to try.

Purchase on Amazon

About Robyn:  Robyn Neeley is an East Coaster who loves to explore new places; watches way more reality TV than she cares to admit; can’t live without Dunkin Donuts coffee and has never met a cookie she didn’t like. If you have a must read romance suggestion or a fabulous cookie recipe, she wants to know.

Website: www.robynneeley.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/robyn.neeley.1
Twitter: @robynneeley