Finding Time to Write

December 3, 2012

Is it really three weeks before Christmas? I’m not sure. I spent Halloween at training in Arizona for my new “real job,” and Thanksgiving was something of a blur. Normally, this time of year, I’m busy wrapping gifts, decorating and my kitchen becomes a cookie factory. Instead, my kitchen is a little lonely, gifts are piling up in the spare room waiting to be wrapped, and the Thanksgiving decorations still grace the mantle and piano, looking a little less than gracious now that it’s December.

But, I’ve finally gotten into a little routine, and I’m making time to write. I get up in the morning, do my chores, occasionally throw some dinner in the slow-cooker, and then I spend some time with my manuscript.

Okay, last week, I spent most of my writing time transferring files from my PC to my laptop, then rereading my previous work, but at least I was able to find the time to write.

I’m learning to reprioritize. It isn’t easy. For twenty-three years I’ve stayed home and taken care of the house, finances, kids, shopping and cooking. Sometimes doing a better job than others! We’re down to just three of us in the house, Hunky Hubby, Middle Son and me. So, I’ve realized that although the housework has to be done…well, needs to be done, I could save 10+ hours a week if I limit or eliminate cooking. Between the shopping, actual food preparations and clean up, I spend a lot of hours in that kitchen.

So, I’m reprioritizing. Writing has moved up the list. I no longer have small children to feed, no helping with homework, no chauffeuring kids to activities. Middle son does his own laundry, and Hunky Hubby is stepping up and sharing the chore load now that I‘m working full time. I’m a little sad about some of that, but it means I can write.

It feels strange when I realize I haven’t made a menu, I have no idea what’s in the food ads, and there’s nothing simmering on the stove, and there’s definitely guilt involved. Yes, in addition to being the Queen of Run On Sentences, I’m the First Lady of Guilt. I’m trying to let go.

I will get those Thanksgiving decorations put away this week, finish wrapping gifts and make a few batches of our favorite Christmas cookies, but Hunky Hubby and I may be grabbing tacos from our favorite taqueria, chicken kabobs from our favorite Mediterranean restaurant, and clam chowder from our favorite diner, so that I can finish this manuscript, get it out into the world, and start on the next story which is lurking in the shadows, waiting to be put on paper.

I know I’ve asked before, but what do you do to make time for your writing? How do you prioritize? And are you baking cookies for Christmas?

Tari

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I’m late writing my post on Second Saturday, but I wasn’t late to the Orange County chapter meeting of Romance Writers of America. Okay, with the start of my new “real” job, I did miss the Pro Breakfast and Ask An Author. I was so exhausted that I overslept, but thanks to Hunky Hubby…who would rather be on a race track…I made it to the actual meeting on time.

OCC’s own Tara Lain, an award winning erotica writer, spoke at the morning workshop about using blog tours and blog hops to promote your book. She gave a clear outline of how to organize a blog tour and/or hop—from timing and finding the right blogs for your book, to what to write. Not only were Tara’s writing and organizational skills and of course her knowledge of using blogs to promote your books apparent, but Tara is an outstanding speaker, comfortable in front of an audience, very articulate, and able to field our many questions. Did I mention she wasn’t scheduled to speak until February, but graciously stepped in at the last minute?

After lunch and much needed social time, we regrouped to listen to Golden Heart Winner and New York Times Best Selling Author Darynda Jones talk about high concept. (I keep telling you aspiring authors, if you don’t belong to RWA you need to join, and if you do, I hope you’re going to the meetings!) So, Darynda spoke about “high concept,” a subject I had totally the wrong concept of…I know, but I couldn’t help it. (Hmm, I managed to end that sentence with a preposition twice, which is only possible if you write in run on sentences and don’t really end your sentences when you should. Maybe I should keep my brand new real job?)

So Darynda made the very murky topic of “high concept” a lot more clear. It is exactly the opposite of what I (and apparently many other people) thought it would be. With high concept, you need a topic that is simple and universal, but with a twist. It should be something you can present in a twenty-five word sentence, although I don’t think that’s a rule. High concept sells. Think Twilight…vampires, but not just any vampires, teen vampires.

Between ordering sewing machines, learning management procedures and talking to the many customers (sometimes potential characters) in the sewing store all day, I’m thinking about blog tours, high concept, and making it early enough to get to the Pro Breakfast and Ask an Author next month without giving Hunky Hubby an excuse to pretend he’s on the track at Irwindale Speedway again.

Are you ready for a blog tour to promote your book? Do you follow your favorite authors on their blog tours? Is your book high concept? Are you hosting Thanksgiving or going to Mom’s? Seriously, I want to know…

Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

Love, Tari

Acknowledgements

November 5, 2012

Two weeks down on my “real job.” Already two business trips under my belt. No actual writing done, but somehow between waiting at the airport for flights, flying, and staying alone in a hotel room, this week I managed to read Kieran Kramer’s Victorian romance Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right, and it was delightful…right down to the acknowledgements.

Seriously, I grabbed the top book from the stack of unread novels (that I’ve been dying to read) on the bookshelves next to my bed, and squeezed it into my already stuffed totebag (I refuse to check a bag, so I have a totebag and one rolling carry on case to take on the plane) as I was walking out the door to catch my flight. I don’t have to run, because I’m so paranoid, that I prefer to arrive at the airport three hours ahead of time, as they’ve suggested since 9/11, but apparently no one does that but me anymore, because I was through security in minutes and had three hours to read while I waited for my flight…thank goodness I grabbed Kieran’s book! (You already know I’m the Queen of Run-on Sentences, and if you didn’t you do now!)

So, anyway, I love to read the acknowledgements and dedications that authors write in their books, mostly because I fantasize about what I will say in mine. Kieran tells a fabulous story in her acknowledgements about an incident on an airplane before she was actually published. I won’t tell you the story–you need to buy her book and read it–but here I am, on the verge of publication (positive thinking people), about to board an airplane, reading her story. So motivating!

And it wasn’t just the acknowledgements that I enjoyed. They just made me want to read the book even more. Dukes to the Left of Me, Princes to the Right is a charming Victorian romance with a hint of mystery and just the right amount of steaminess (at least for me). Lady Poppy, Keiran’s heroine, is both ladylike and independent, both characteristics that I believe my heroines have. The story made me want to gather up my skirts and race home to my own “Lord of the Manor,” also known as Hunky Hubby!

So traveling for work every now and then may not be so bad…

What about you? Do you read the acknowledgements and dedications in books? Have you run across one that has been really special? One that made you fantasize about the acknowledgement you’ll write in your book? Or have you already written acknowledgments? Please share!

And by the way Spinsters Rule! (Read the book.)

Tari

Yep, that’s right. I got a real job. No, don’t snicker. This time I really did get a real job, full time, forty hours a week, as the manager of the little sewing store where I’ve been working part time, six to ten hours a week, off and on since March.

I started last week, so I haven’t touched my manuscript. Well, I did touch it. I put it in a tote bag to take to my out-of-town training last Thursday and Friday. The thought was that I would work on it when I was alone in the hotel…hahahahahaha…

So I haven’t actually touched my manuscript, and I’m pretty sure I won’t be touching it this week either. I’m working from 10:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. I have an employee drug test to do on my way to work this morning, some errands to run before I go to work tomorrow morning, because on Wednesday, I’ll fly out of LAX to Phoenix for some more training, and I won’t be back until late on Friday evening. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I won’t be doing any writing this week either.

But, I have a plan. I’m a morning person. I plan on getting up with my Hunky Hubby each morning at 5:30 a.m., making dinner in the crockpot, or putting it in the fridge ready for when I get home in the evening, and doing some chores. I’ll get to the mall at 8:00 or 8:30 in the morning, go to the Starbuck’s and write for an hour or two before work.

Then, I plan on eating the low Points Plus lunch that I packed myself in the morning and walking the mall for at least twenty minutes during my lunch break. No, I won’t be distracted by the shopping and stores…or See’s Chocolates.
Hey, stop that! I’m still here. I can hear you laughing!

Alright, it might be a little ambitious, but at least I have a plan right?
So any tips for juggling work, family, chores and still finding time for your dream? Any great slow cooker or make ahead recipes you’d like to share? I could use the help!

Tari

A Weekend of Romance

October 15, 2012

I was having lunch with a group of friends this weekend, and the conversation to the right was about the best way to kill off a cheating husband…and possibly his accomplice. The conversation to the left was enough to make me blush like a schoolgirl, and at my table we were just plain giddy with childlike excitement. This weekend was the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America’s 31st Birthday Celebration. The group of ladies who put this event together did an amazing job, and I’m so glad to be a part of this incredible group.

The meeting was amazing with three outstanding speakers, lunch, drawings for prizes every writer would covet, followed by pajama parties that were mini workshops, and social events. I know I usually tell you about the speakers, and you deserve to hear about them, but I really want to tell you about the friendships and connections that I’ve made in the last year and a half at OCC RWA. This group of writers has an amazing membership that includes brand new writers just exploring the possibility of writing a book, aspiring writers who have a finished manuscript or more that they are editing or shopping, newly published writers who have finally “gotten the call” that we all hope to get, some very successful self-published writers, NYTimes and USA Today bestselling authors (many of them), and award winning authors. These women… and men, support each other by sharing their knowledge, reading each other’s work, offering advice, sharing their connections, motivating, inspiring and cheering each other on.

I’ll admit that sometimes I’m nervous in this group. I feel like a fraud, like somebody who doesn’t really belong there, but somehow found the golden ticket. After all, I’ve never published fiction, this is my first complete full-length manuscript. My published work is little newspaper and magazine articles, eight hundred to three thousand words, where I don’t make-up the story, I just tell it. Now I’m writing with the big girls, and I’m trying to pull up my big girl panties, but sometimes I’m so busy looking up at the other girls, that I can’t reach down to get them…hmmm, somehow that sounded better in my head.

The point is… and I’m going to sound a little fan girl here, but that’s okay because I am… every month I sit with successful authors, I’ve had them graciously read chapters of my book, help with my synopsis, pump me up to pitch editors or agents. And, when I leave the meeting, they stay in touch on Facebook or on the OCC loops, and in personal e-mails. To think that this is not a dream, that I am actually ALLOWED to be part of this very special group is amazing. I am so honored to share this journey with so many amazing women.

Anyway, thank you to author Charlotte Carter, who first told me I needed to join this group nearly twenty years ago, to Jann Audiss who made me feel so welcome from the very beginning, to author Louisa Bacio for including me in things, and always being willing to help, to authors Tessa Dare, Kara Lennox, and Deanna Cameron who have all helped to improve my writing, to new authors Laura Drake and Beth Yarnall, who have taken time from their own work to share what they’ve learned. Thank you to Joyce, Erin, Sara, new author Nikki Prince, Elena, okay, I’m not going to list everyone’s name here, but I hope you all know how much I love you, and that I’m so glad to have such amazing friends to share this journey with!

And thank you Hunky Hubby, who is not yet an OCC RWA member, and doesn’t write, but I think he wants to join just so he can hang out with these amazing ladies every month…but thank you for making me join, driving me 45 miles to the meeting every month, and reading every word that I write.

Wow, you’d think I just won a RITA award, and all I did was go to a meeting! Maybe I’ll save this just in case.

Who supports you in your writing? Who do you turn to for honest feedback? Who inspires you, motivates you? Who shares your writing journey? Hopefully Elley, Nicole and I are part of that group. You’re part of ours!

Tari

Purging My Soul

October 8, 2012

The weather has finally cooled here along the southern California coast. The last few weeks have been very warm, but it started feeling a little more like autumn this weekend. We did a little fall decorating, the mantle is covered with autumn leaves, hurricane lamps filled with orange and amber candles, mini pumpkins and pine cones scattered all about.

Decorating made me feel very reflective. This last year, okay last two years have been very challenging. Last year I said I was ready for a fresh new year, but this year…I’m a little more cautious.

…and yet, I see so many possibilities, so much good in the future.

So I wrote. No I wasn’t working on my manuscript this weekend. I just wrote. Journal pages really, but no journal, I just wrote on loose leaf paper…pouring out my feelings, spilling my hurt, my stress, my hope and even my love all over the pages with blue ink from my stash of ten-cent blue pens, and lots of tears. It felt so good. I’m not a regular “journaler.” I never have been. Although there are times when I write regularly, most of the time I find a moment where I just need to write, to work through my feelings, to get on with things. It’s cathartic.

When I was younger I wrote poetry, but now sometimes I write personal essays, sometimes I write journal type pages, sometimes I write letters to myself…or someone else, though they aren’t meant to be sent…and sometimes I write confessions, trying to find absolution for my sins. I file the pages away, occasionally share them, and once burned them when I was done.

When I go back and look at those that haven’t been burned I can often go back to the time when I wrote them, feel the old feelings, not always difficult feelings, happy feelings about meeting my Hunky Hubby, being a new mother, buying our first home. Hopeful feelings as our boys have taken their first steps, started school, graduated, met lovely young women.

Many people assume because I’m a writer I keep a regular journal, and sometimes I wish I did, but this works for me. Writing when I need to, the way I need to…it just works.

I’d love to know how many of you keep a journal? Do any of you write, spilling your feelings the way I do…random pages, random styles? Maybe you find other ways to purge your soul. I’d love to know please share…

Tari

I’m just about there. Although I’ve finished my first draft, I haven’t typed the words “The End,” because I haven’t finished editing. I’m doing the final edits on my first book this week. It’s going off into the world, and I will put it out of my mind, while I start book number two. Okay, I can’t put it out of my mind. I’ll wait hopefully. I’ll worry and fret, almost as I do over my children that have spread their wings and gone out into the world, but I will try not to focus too much on where it is, or what it’s doing, as I start book number two.

I’ve learned so much while writing book number one. I’ve had great mentors. I’ve done workshops and classes. I’ve had epiphanies that have changed my work. I’m not the same writer that I was when I started book number one.

So, what will happen when I begin book two. How will my process change? I’m excited to find out.

Oh, I’m not ready to become a plotter. I love letting the characters tell the story themselves. I love sitting down each day to find out what will happen, just as I do when I read a book. I love hearing their voices in my head as my pen flies across the page, spilling the story in blue ink onto the wide-ruled pages of a spiral notebook. (You should know by now that I’m set in my ways…and yet…) I think I understand storytelling better now. I understand conflict. I see my characters differently. My POV is less scattered. And although I’m not a plotter, there’s more organization to my process.

After years of writing short, succinct, to the point as a non-fiction writer, I’ve learned how important each word is, but now, I’m not afraid to tell the whole story or to explore other stories within the book. I no longer withhold the subplots or other important characters.

How will book number two begin? Although I’ve been focusing on book one, book two has been swirling around in my brain, the characters voices whispering in my ear. I’m ready to find out.

If you’ve already written book one and are on to book two, three…or more, I’d love to know if you think your process has changed? If you have changed as a writer? If so, how? What made the differences? Who influenced you?

If you are working on book one right now, what have you learned that will change the way you write in book two? Do you have mentors that are influencing your writing?

Share your experiences please! I’m off to put the final touches on book one. I’ll be back though. I promise.

And they lived happily ever after…until she started book two.

Tari

Conflicted

September 24, 2012

Something wasn’t right. Her stomach did a small flip flop as he told her his shift had been changed. She had an unreasonable sense of foreboding. After all, what was the big deal? It was just a shift change…three weeks later he came home and told her he was no longer employed.

During that same time period her mother had a standard surgery. It should have been an easy recovery. She should have been back to business as usual within a couple of weeks, but six weeks later, her mother still couldn’t keep any food down, still wasn’t able to leave the house.

Of course, these things weren’t enough. Her youngest son moved out of the house, not a tragedy, but an emotional time for any mother. There were two funerals to attend. She got a new job, after years of being a stay-at-home mom. Let’s add a little credit card fraud, and that wasn’t all…you know how it is, when it rains it pours.

It’s easy to find the conflict in my real life. I read through the paragraphs above and think, hmmm too much, overkill, but that was how our year began, and I didn’t even put all of it in print, just the biggest things. Luckily, just like in any good romance, most of those things have slowly been resolved. Hunky Hubby is back to work—he got a great job. My mother has fully recovered. I’ve adjusted to youngest son’s move, and taken care of the credit card fraud.

With all of that conflict in my real life, you’d think fictional conflict would be easy, but when I finished the first draft of my novel, I knew the conflict just wasn’t strong enough, and it was much too easily resolved, but during rewrites, months of rewrites, I found places for conflict to naturally occur. Things happened, minor characters emerged, subplots were exposed, and I found the conflict.

Why, when I finally got my synopsis down to three pages, did the conflict disappear?
I was all ready to send off my submissions, to fill the requests I received at RWA2012, when a writer friend volunteered to read my synopsis for me. She sent me a message saying, “We should talk. I’m not sure about the conflict in your story. Maybe it shows up more in the manuscript than in the synopsis?”

So I reread the synopsis. I think I’ve hit all of the key points, but the conflict that is in the story seems to dissipate in the synopsis. The moments are there, but they lose their drama.

Help! How do you keep the conflict clear when condensing nearly ninety thousand words to about a thousand words?

I’m back at my desk, full manuscript spread out with Post-it® notes at all of the major points of conflict, yes I know there are more high tech ways to do this, but I have a new phone that’s smarter than me, and I can’t figure out how to make my Netflix work, so I’m going with the Post-it® notes on the manuscript.

How do you keep the conflict strong in a synopsis? I’d love some tips, some good examples, any advice that you might have. And, hopefully next Monday, I’ll write about how I got the conflict out of my real life and into the synopsis! A little help please?

Tari

Are You Living the Dream?

September 17, 2012

Lately, it seems like my life has been changing in an instant. Something simple that should be meaningless and forgotten by the time I’m on to the next task becomes a life changing event, not to be forgotten anytime soon. A shift change at my husband’s job, an argument with a son over doing the dishes, an e-mail from an old friend, a letter in the mail, just when I think I’ve got my life headed down a certain path, I get up in the morning and find myself facing a new direction.

Some of it is good, some of it challenging…some of it well, let’s just say I believe in denial, and some of it will probably end up in a book someday…if I ever get on to the next book.

So in my dream life, I get up in the morning, kiss Hunky Hubby goodbye as he leaves for work, have yogurt and fruit for breakfast on my rooftop, while watching the sun rise. I head off to  walk on the beach for an hour, then on to my office…okay, I won’t make it a total fantasy…then on to the library to write, lunch at the beach, more writing, home to start dinner and wait for Hunky Hubby.

In my real life, I get up in the morning, kiss Hunky Hubby goodbye (the only real constant in my life), get ready to head to the beach, but a phone call interrupts. (At least I know it’s not the bank about the thirty-day home ‘refi’ that should have ended in June, well, really should have ended in May, but finally ended on July twenty-fifth 5p.m., a day that was life changing in so many ways, and made me late to the RWA Conference, which had started that day in Anaheim.) So the phone rings, and it’s usually a crisis, someone is having surgery, or something broke and it’s going to cost big bucks, or the phone call is fine, but I’m trying to multi task, and while I’m doing laundry, the washer overflows all over the laundry room floor.

Alright, I get off the phone, clean up the mess, finally get out of the house, skip the walk on the beach because I’m already behind on my word count for the day, get to the library to work, and of course, some crazy person decides they have to talk to me about how the government has planted a chip in his brain, and I need to be careful what I say because they are listening…and cough all over my computer. Thank you very much, I finally get rid of the crazy person, get a few pages written, go home to start dinner, Hunky Hubby is late because, well, he does commercial/industrial heating and air conditioning, and it’s 103 degrees in the valleys and I won’t complain because I’m just thankful that he’s working.

I do some chores, Hunky Hubby finally gets home in time to watch our favorite sitcoms, eats his dinner, and in minutes he’s snoring on the sofa. We head up to bed, I check my e-mail once again—never do this at bedtime—and there’s a message from an old friend offering me an opportunity that I hadn’t even considered…well, I had considered long ago, but not longer, and I can’t turn it down because it’s much too good an opportunity, but it will change everything…again, and will definitely slow down my writing. I’ll tell you more about it if it becomes official.

So you all know I write in run-on sentences, and if you ever meet me (or already know me) you’ll find I write the way I speak. But what I really want to know is, what is your dream life? How close is your dream life to your real life? Please tell me, and distract me from the twists and turns of my own.

Tari

Saturday the Eighth was the second Saturday, and you know where I was…at the OCC RWA meeting of course.

The drive there was a little exciting. Oh, there weren’t any torrential downpours, no car trouble (thankfully…although my air conditioning is out, and in the heat that IS car trouble…and you all know that I’m married to a commercial/industrial air conditioning technician who could fix this and won’t let anyone else touch his stuff…but of course it’s eighty degrees out and the a/c isn’t working). No, the excitement was that I drove myself. I did, I really did.

For those of you who know me, you know I don’t like to drive, especially on freeways, and it takes something pretty special to get me to do it. I had a couple of really bad accidents when I was young…one I rolled my car with all three of my little boys in it, and I’ve never completely recovered from that. (Luckily everyone was properly strapped in, and no one was injured, but the car of course was totaled.)

So, Hunky Hubby was willing to give up his Saturday, as usual, to drive to my meeting, but I knew he had some things that needed to get done, and I insisted I could do it myself…and I did. But I started out by getting on the 405 freeway instead of the 91. I’m driving east in the morning sun, and don’t even realize…because I can’t read the signs the sun is shining too brightly behind them…that I’m on the wrong freeway until it isn’t worth getting off…I miss the exit for the 110 Freeway, which would have fixed the error with very little trauma, see the 605 Freeway, but I’m not sure it will do what I need it to do…I take the 405 all the way to the 57 Freeway before heading North to my meeting…making a 39-mile trip into a 55-mile trip. I arrive at the PRO breakfast, a little late, slightly nervous, but very excited because I drove myself, screwed up but managed to get there without actually getting lost, and with no major trauma, but I do have crazy hair, from driving with the windows down because I have no a/c…Hunky Hubby, where are you? (Oh, but thanks for fixing the washer and building those shelves in my laundry room while I was at the meeting Saturday.) Of course my friends wondered where my usual chauffeur was. I proudly told them I drove myself, took the long, not so scenic route, and please don’t tell Hunky Hubby, or he’ll be afraid to let me go alone again!

Debut author…and one of the ladies I consider a friend and mentor…Laura Drake hosted the Ask An Author before the meeting. She shared some of her favorite writing blogs and websites with us, talked about when in our process we should set up our own websites, how much we all hate writing synopsis…we all do, well I do anyway.

Among the morning business meeting topics was the Romancing the Pages Anthology, just released by OCC RWA. I bought my copy…hope some of you will check it out!

The morning speaker was NYT Bestselling Author Sherry Thomas. Her presentation was on subtext, and somehow she managed to make a very murky topic very clear, and entertain us at the same time. I have a better understanding of the importance of subtext and how to use it in my writing. Thank you Sherry!

Afternoon speaker Neil Shusterman is an award winning YA author, successful screenwriter and television writer. He talked about writing for teens and young adults, and his journey as a writer. He also read excerpts from his books, and is a fabulous storyteller.

Following our regular meeting there was a special Query Writing Workshop with Sherry Thomas. I wasn’t sure I needed this workshop. I feel good about writing query letters. I wrote plenty of them when I freelanced for magazines years ago, but I decided to attend anyway.

I was not disappointed. Sherry has a gift for creating magic in just a few paragraphs. She shared queries that had been submitted to her, and with clever twists here and there, she gave them energy, made them stand out, shared her magic.

I got in my car, rolled down the windows…and got on the right freeway heading home. The traffic was heavy but moving quickly, my least favorite kind of traffic, and of course, I was going west…as was the sun, but I made it home safely.

I pulled into the garage, and Hunky Hubby had the washer working, shelves up in my laundry room, and three loads of laundry washed…in baskets, waiting for me to fold, ironing required. He took one look at me…wild hair, hands clenched at ten and two, and asked how my drive was. Of course, I spilled it all. I was sure he’d say something like, “I should have taken you. I’ll never let you drive alone again.” But no. He said. “Well, why didn’t you take the 605? It would have saved you a lot of miles…or at least the 22.”

So next time, I’m going to pack up his computer, and get him up to take me to my meeting. I’ll tell him he needs the time to study for a certification test he wants to take, and I’ll sit in the passenger seat gripping the hand rest and pushing my right foot through the floor board pretending I can hit the brake…but not driving.

Anyway, how was your weekend? Did you do anything writerish? Did you have a great adventure? Please share it here!

Tari