A Change of Schedule

May 31, 2012

My peaceful days are numbered. Monday is the last day of school. I dread the change in schedule and the scrounging for quiet time to write. After a while, I’ll adjust, and I’ll adjust so well that when the start of the school year arrives, I’ll complain about another change in schedule (namely waking up early every day and needing to get the kids up and out the door). Change. Why do we fight it? It’s the only constant.

My productivity ebbs and flows with the calendar. I could blame it on my husband’s and kids’ schedules, but I think it’s more complex than that. Certain times of the year I’m more productive. Summer is one of those times—even with the kids home.

So bring on the end of school. I’ll complain for a few days, and then I’ll get back to work.

How about you? Is there a certain time of year when you’re more productive?

Elley

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Letting Go

May 25, 2012

Elley’s post on Wednesday got me thinking about my manuscripts. I’ve been writing a long time, and so I have 15 manuscripts finished. 15 is a lot of love to spread around, but I do love them all in different ways.

However, some just mean more to me. There are different reasons for that, but for whatever reason some I can hide under the bed without too much pain while some I continue to submit, continue to believe in.

This isn’t all about quality, though I would venture to guess that is part of it. After all, the two I am actively submitting right now are my most recently finished manuscripts. It can be because of a character, a topic, a setting that means a lot to me on a personal level, beyond just writing about them. When I have no trouble putting a manuscript away it’s not always because I don’t believe in it, it’s just I realize it’s not ready yet.

Continuing Elley’s child analogy, some of my manuscripts are ready to graduate into the big scary world out there if a good college is ready to accept them, while some might need to go to summer school or maybe be held back a grade (or two).

I just hope I have time to give them all the love and attention needed to get them to graduate.

Nicole

When I was pregnant with my second child—thirteen years ago!—older and wiser relatives told me I’d have no trouble loving another baby as much as I loved my first. I didn’t doubt them so much as I couldn’t imagine how I could love any more than I already did. My first child filled me with incredible amounts of pride and joy. Surely there was a limited capacity to this sort of thing.

Fortunately, as any parent knows, love is in endless supply. Having learned this, I embarked on my third pregnancy, knowing I’d love the next child with an equal passion—the same, but different.

Flash forward several years, and without additional pregnancies, my capacity to love went untested, that is until I finished my first manuscript, all 110,000 glorious words of head hopping, a too-stupid-to-live heroine and a rape-y “love” scene. *cringe* Of course, the manuscript was my baby, so I loved it flaws and all. I loved it HARD, to the point of blindness. I loved it without rationale or reason even after the flaws became glaring. None of which was a problem until love for my first manuscript kept me from writing a second (Ten years!).

Eventually, I wrote another, because like unexpected pregnancies, things happen. And when I finished that second one, I realized I loved it too—in some ways more, in some ways less, which evened out to loving it the same, but different.

Each time I finish a manuscript, I can’t imagine loving another one. I keep waiting to hit a wall where I have nothing more to give—no more love, no more joy, no more excitement for these words.

It’s not going to happen is it?

Elley

There are nine and a half weeks until the 2012 Romance Writers of America Conference. All of a sudden I’m getting excited. The conference is practically in my neighborhood this year. It’s in Anaheim, California, just minutes away. No plane flights or long road trips, although I am staying in the hotel so I can stay as long as I want each night!

Last year the Romantic Times Convention was held right here in Los Angeles, but I was just starting to focus on my writing and found out about it the week it was happening. I attended one day of the convention. That one day boosted my confidence and strengthened my motivation more than I can tell you (and the trip there was quite an adventure!). I didn’t know anyone there. I went to every workshop I could squeeze into one day. Listened to editors, agents and writer’s speak. Took notes like a mad woman and walked away feeling more knowledgeable and prepared to work.

It was a few months later that I joined Romance Writers of America and the Orange County Chapter of RWA. In fact, this month is my one year anniversary. (Woops, time to pay my dues!) Every meeting is like a one day convention, starting first thing in the morning with the ‘Ask the Author’ table. Ask the Author is an hour that members have the opportunity to ask a published author anything they want to know. These authors are generous with their knowledge and have been amazing mentors for me.

After Ask an Author, OCC RWA has two workshops each month, presented by published authors, editors, agents, publishers…important people in the publishing industry. I’ve filled a notebook with notes from these workshops, and emptied a few 10-cent blue ink pens.

Then every month, there is a book signing by a few of the published authors. Like I said, each meeting is like a mini convention.

So, I’ve registered for the 2012 conference, made my appointments with an agent and an editor, and I’m making a list of the things I want to take with me. Not that I couldn’t drive home…or call Hunky Hubby to bring something by if I forget something. Hmmm, I may have to forget something on purpose, just so Hunky Hubby has to drop by to bring it to me! (Hold on a second while I add that to my list before I forget!)

Anyway, I’m also working frantically to finish expanding my manuscript and polish, polish, polish.

I only wish that I could get Elley and Nicole to join me. What fun we would have!

But, since they aren’t coming to keep me company, I’d like to know how many of you are going to RWA#12? How many of you have been to one before? Do you have any conference advice to share? I’d love to hear about your experiences or what you’re hoping to gain from going if you’re attending for the first time. Am I the only one counting down nine and a half weeks?

Tari

 

 

Learning Curve

May 18, 2012

I have never been a very patient person when it comes to myself. I worked in daycare and was a high school teacher for years, so I have some amount of patience for others, but when it comes to myself? I want to get it right, do it now, check it off my list.

This is a personality trait that has only become more intrenched in me as I age, and it’s not one that works particularly well for me. If things don’t happen like I want them to, in the timeframe I want them to, I get frustrated. Mostly because I don’t ask for much, I’m not trying to move mountains here, I’m just trying to take care of my family and write some books.

Still, frustration does not get either of those two things accomplished. In fact, it usually ends up with a lot of yelling and/or crying. Not good. Not productive.

My Husband works twelve hour shifts, but days/nights rotate. For the first time since Baby#2 was born, he had to switch shifts. I knew this was going to be a challenge and I knew if I made a plan and got frustrated when it didn’t work out, it wouldn’t be good for anyone. So I went in yesterday with no plan. I went in yesterday telling myself it’ll take a few days to figure out how this is going to work for everybody. I went in telling myself that the kids are going to get cranky, struggle with the change, but ultimately a few days down the road everything would be fine.

And yet…

And yet I got really frustrated last night. No matter how many deep breaths I told myself to take, no matter how I reminded myself that this is par for the course, that it’ll get better, I was extremely frustrated it wasn’t easy. Everyone else makes it look so easy! Why can’t it be easy for me?

It’s not healthy thinking, and it’s not helping me when I think that way, but no matter how I gear myself up for a challenge, there is that whiny part of me wondering why someone else is so much better at this.

I feel this way with my writing sometimes. When the responses don’t come as quickly as they’re supposed to, or with the words I want to hear. I get frustrated. I think about the people who have it easier than me, better. I keep telling myself not to feel that way, but I’ve started to wonder something…

Sure, feeling that way all the time isn’t productive, but sometimes, maybe it is. Maybe it’s part of what drives me to keep writing, to keep trying to be a better mother. Other people can do it, why the heck can’t I? As long as we don’t wallow in it, maybe sometimes these feelings of inadequacy or jealousy or just plain frustration are part of what helps us strive to be better.

Nicole

When we’re writing to ultimately please other people, we need thick skins and open minds. The thick skins help us to withstand the barbs thrown in our direction—you’re heroine is un-relatable, you’re hero is too perfect, you’re story is too depressing, you’re writing is too cliché (and then there are the scathing reviews once we’re published). The open minds help us to understand why someone would say such things in the first place, and eventually we can choose to make changes to our manuscripts based on the feedback. None of this is easy.

But what’s the alternative?

I’ve thought about writing solely for my entertainment and the joy of a few family members and friends. Chances are these people wouldn’t tell me if they hated something I wrote, and they don’t have the experience to critique my manuscripts with critical eyes toward goal, motivation and conflict or with the current market in mind. Still, they’d be warm-blooded readers other than me.

Is that enough?

I’ve thought about self-publishing and reaching more readers. But when I dissect this choice, for me, I realize it’s a kneejerk reaction to my work being rejected. I’m not saying I won’t ever self-publish. I’m saying that whether or not I self-publish, my work needs to be criticized by someone other than me before it’s released to the world. I’m not objective enough to be the sole set of eyes.

So I’m stuck on this wheel, where I write as I climb, and when I put my work in front of people qualified to give a technical opinion, I fall—hard. Up and down. Up and down. Over and over again.

Why do we do it?

We want to be loved. We want our writing to be celebrated. We have something to say. Fill in the blank. The reasons are many.

Becoming our best writing selves is nearly impossible without honest feedback (criticism). If friends and beta readers gush about the wonderful parts of our stories and only glaze over a small negative or two, they’re not doing us any favors.  (Stroking our egos won’t sell books.)

We can do this. We can write what’s in our hearts and heads, send it out for review by people we trust, and handle the criticism. The criticism will make us better. Better books sell. Isn’t that the ultimate goal?

Elley

I have a Pinterest account. If you haven’t been to Pinterest yet, you should at least check it out. It’s a system of ‘bulletin boards’ where you can pin things you want to save on the internet, great recipes, fashion, home decorating, craft projects… Once you have an account, you can have a separate bulletin board for each of these things or whatever you want to pin. Your favorite books, books you want to read, blogs you love (hint hint), really, nearly anything you find on the internet can be pinned, and if it’s on a website, when you click on the pin, you will be taken to the website the item was pinned from. It’s really a very clever system and a great way to find inspiration.

So, Saturday was my OCC RWA meeting, and steampunk author Jillian Stone was the morning speaker. Her topic was world building, and although it was geared pretty strongly toward fantasy—and I don’t write fantasy—I took a lot of notes and learned some interesting things. Not necessarily the most interesting, but one I will be implementing today, is the way she uses her Pinterest account. She uses her boards as inspiration for her books. There is a board for her book, The Moonstone and Miss Jones, individual boards for some of her characters, and a board for steampunk character inspiration. Maybe you’ve already started a Pinterest account and are using it this way, but I thought it was brilliant.

I have occasionally kept a spiral notebook with pictures cut from magazines and pasted on the pages, little notes about character or location scribbled around the pictures in blue ink…from a ten-cent pen. The pictures are inspiration and a way of making the fantasy in my head more real. As if Hunky Hubby needed physical proof of my insanity.

But, virtual bulletin boards as a way to collect inspiration? This is an idea I love!

Now, I do use some of my Pinterest boards this way, sort of…tentative steps into using Pinterest for my writing, and Nicole has as well. But if you go to my account you will see boards with sewing projects I’d like to try (I’ve actually tried a couple too!), boards with recipes I’m saving for the holidays, boards with home decorating ideas I hope to get Hunky Hubby to implement (thanks Elley for sharing the cute appliance decals! Maybe my laundry room won’t be so dull now!)…and boards with gift ideas for future gift giving events. These are the primary ways that I use my pinboards, and often a way that I sit at the computer and procrastinate on writing tasks.

Jillian Stone has inspired me to use my pinboards as a more serious writing tool, not necessarily a way to procrastinate on writing. I will admit this could be a dangerous tactic to take, but one worth trying!

So do you Pinterest? If so how do you use your boards? Are any of them geared (no steampunk pun intended) toward writing inspiration? Do you think this is just another time waster or do you see some real value? I’d love to know!

Tari

About a year ago, before I became a contributer to From Fact to Fiction, Elley asked me to be the first participant in Writer Wednesday.

Today, my first book releases. It’s been quite a year. I had my second child, turned thirty, and have truly begun to think of writing as my career. This may be my first book published, but I’m determined it won’t be my only.

It’s kind of amazing what can happen in a year, but when I look back at my answers to last year’s post only two things have changed: where I write (now it’s usually one handed on my tablet while I feed my one-month-old) and my worst rejection (an editor viewed a technical glitch (which was totally my fault) as my inability to proofread and rejected what she said was a good story based on that). Why I write is still very much the same. I love it. It makes me happy. It’s a part of who I am. I can’t imagine that ever changing.

All’s Fair in Love & Politics releases today from The Wild Rose Press, and I’m very proud of this book. It’s come a long way from its first draft, and so have I. Also, this was the first book I worked on with Elley as my critique partner. It is absolutely because of her help that All’s Fair has gotten this far.

Here’s a blurb and excerpt. I’ve also blogged over at my own site today about some of my inspirations.  I hope if it looks interesting to you, you’ll consider having a read!

All's Fair in Love and PoliticsShe’s a politician from a political family with big secrets. He’s a journalist for a political magazine. Love won’t be easy.

Blurb: When sexy reporter Doug Kapshaw shows up on Abigail Fortman’s doorstep to cover her state senate campaign, Abigail knows to keep her guard up. Doug’s not after her story. He’s after an expose on Abigail’s U.S Senator father. Though Abigail’s relationship with her father is tense at best, she’s not going to be the pawn that brings Grant Fortman down. Despite his assignment to use Abby, Doug can’t help but be attracted to her mix of strength and vulnerability. When Grant gets Doug fired, Abby is ready to take a stand against her father. Working together to bring Grant down, Doug and Abby can no longer fight the attraction between them. Attraction turns into much more, but while the secrets they uncover promise to revive Doug’s career, the ugly truth poses the biggest challenge to Doug and Abby living happily ever after.

Excerpt: There was something arresting about the picture. Some uncomfortable déjà vu feeling. Which was absurd. She’d certainly never been to the Kapshaw farm, and she’d known Doug for little more than a week.

And yet there was a feeling she’d been there before, watching the cool breeze ruffle the waves of his dark hair, her heart beating quicker as she took a few steps towards the house. A feeling that this was something… important.

Foolish. Ridiculous. Utterly insane. Even as she took the first stair of the porch, her heartbeat still wasn’t steady.

“Why did you bring me here?” Abby demanded. Something in the way his green eyes watched her added to the unnerved feeling.

“You’d never been to a farm. That’s a pretty egregious disconnect if sustainable agriculture is your pet issue.”

Because he stood there, leaning against the post of the porch just as casual as could be, Abby took the last step, putting herself only inches away from him. Though it did nothing to ease her erratic pulse, she was determined to stand her ground and get to the bottom of this puzzle.

“It’s not your job to correct my egregious errors. It’s your job to exploit them and make me look like a fool.”

His eyes studied her mouth for a moment, and Abby refused to analyze why heat crept through her center and up to her cheeks.

“No, it’s my job to make a story out of you. I only have to make you look like a fool if you are one.”

A voice in her head scoffed. That voice told her reporters lie, all people lie. No one was as good or honest as they seemed. It was her father’s voice, and it was surprisingly weak against the force of her heart that wanted desperately to believe Doug’s words were the truth.

***Elley and Tari would like to congratulate Nicole. She’s the first of the trio to have her fiction published! Let’s hope she starts a trend around here. 🙂

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a job, I mean a “real job,” a regular job, where I’m out and meeting new people on a regular basis. My new little job at the sewing store where I generally work…oh, six to ten hours…I know, I put in a long work week…has been a lot of fun. It can be a little stressful, because I’m learning so much all at once but have to learn it in the few brief hours that I work. So the point is, and what this has to do with writing is, the people, the characters that come in and out of the store. I’m finding them fascinating.

I’m a people watcher anyway—I think most writers are—but working is giving me a different window to look through. Normally, I meet people when I’m the customer. Most of the friends I’ve made have been neighbors, or until recently, other moms at my kids’ schools, or friends through my Hunky Hubby’s work, and of course, other writers in writing groups. I’m seeing other sides of people through my job.

I’m selling sewing machines and teaching how to use them. These sewing machines range in price from ninety-nine dollars to just short of ten thousand dollars, and if you add the price of software to that high end machine, you are well over the ten-thousand-dollar mark. I meet people from mothers who don’t sew and are looking for a machine for their little girls who have been watching Project Runway on television to experienced sewers, looking for a high quality machine to use sewing Quinceanera dresses, prom dresses and wedding gowns. Living in Los Angeles, I meet people sewing theater costumes, renaissance faire costumes and edgy club clothes, fashion design students…and even a fashion designer, which made me very happy, because the heroine in my WIP is a fashion designer.

I’m finding it fascinating to see how different people shop, make decisions, do business. There are those who walk in, know what they want, don’t ask any questions, just pay and leave—one more task checked off their to-do list. Others come in, “I’m just looking.” They carefully look each machine over, sometimes ask a question, eventually let you show them how the machine threads, how it can sew through several layers of denim, or the number of quilting features on the machine. They get up and wander around, think about it, ask some more questions, move to another machine, maybe tell you about their sewing projects, and really consider the purchase. Some customers are excited about their $200 machine, others…well, I had one customer purchase the high-end machine and tell me, “I really shouldn’t do it, I already purchased the top-of-the-line machine (of another brand…also approximately ten thousand dollars) a few months ago, and I haven’t even opened the box!” I just smiled and handed her the receipt, not entirely sure what to say to that. It all gets filed away under character study.

So, some of these things are making it into my story, while others are waiting for their chance. The way one person is slow and methodical in decision making, and another just wants to grab a box and go… The mother who has been shopping with her three-year-old daughter, pushing the stroller, arms laden with bags and a mostly eaten sticky lollipop, grateful to surrender it to my waiting trash can… All sorted through and filed away in my mind. Sometimes I even make written notes.

I’m finding it fascinating and inspiring to my writing.

So where do you meet the characters in your stories? Or at least where do you find their characteristics and mannerisms? Do you go to the park or the beach and people watch? (I do.) Do you meet them at work, school, PTA? Are you constantly aware of the other people around you…or when you’re out and about does someone suddenly make you think…That person would be a great character in a book, or my hero should shake hands just like that?

Where do you find your characters?

Tari

Gut Instincts

May 4, 2012

Elley and I were emailing back and forth this week about some submissions we’ve been working on/have out, and Elley mentioned something that really stuck with me. When deciding where to submit one of her manuscripts, she said she had to go with her gut. I’ve heard this advice before. I remember an Oprah I watched discussing assault/kidnapping, and the general consensus was: go with your gut. If someone or something feels off, it probably is. My Mom gave me this advice a few years ago after a particularly grueling experience. Oddly enough, that “gut” is usually right. When it comes to publishing, I think the same goes. This business is so hard to figure. You really can’t predict what will resonate with an agent/editor/reader. You just have to… Go with your gut. Do what feels best, and then hope it works out.

Nicole