A Runaway Train

Okay, I admit it. I’m a pantser. I’ve tried—I really have—to come over to the logical side of the novel plotting track. But I just can’t do it. The very thought of outlining my plot is like planning to spike my muse’s after dinner drink with hemlock.

I will never be a plotter. An outline, to me, is a medieval straitjacket. Complete with all the steel shackles and chains you might remember from the likes of Fifty Shades of Grey.

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But without all the . . . thrills? Ahem. I digress . . .

I wish I could be a plotter. It would save me from the disappointment, the heartbreak of those promising, though illusive, brilliant beginnings. Those glowing, awe-inspired, first twenty-thousand words. The ones that fall flat, wither, and die way before their time. Those times when I find myself, like the pre- (and post-) neurosurgery laboratory mouse, Algernon. Facing a blank wall, with no way out, and no impetus to even try to find another path to freedom.

No, I’m the kind of writer who’s faced with the conundrum of being at the mercy of the muse’s fancy. I write when she (or he . . . wouldn’t want to be sexist here) is “in the mood.” Although I struggle to maintain a regular writing schedule—a designated target word count for every day—it doesn’t always pan out. Sometimes, the muse flips me the bird, lifts her glass of Pinot Grigio in my direction, and turns away, sauntering into the creative mist.

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She’s a persnickety bitch.

But oh, when she’s on, baby, she’s on.

I find myself hesitating, timidly, to open my work-in-progress every day, wondering what I will find. Will I be totally unimpressed, encouraged, or horrified by what I wrote in those last few paragraphs? Might those words somehow spark to life a story whose trajectory I’m not quite sure of? Or, worse yet, will the characters just stand there, staring at me with a blank expression, saying, “What? What’s next? Where do we go from here? And, (more importantly), why should we (or your readers) even care?”

It’s a daily struggle. But one that I have no choice but to challenge. Every . . . single . . . day. An addiction, like any addiction. One that makes me feel good—sometimes. But other times, its torment is nothing short of emotional hell.

Once in a while, lightning strikes. The planets align. The story elements all start linking together like pieces of some celestial puzzle. I know what to do then. I lift my hands off the wheel (but not off the keyboard)—me, the control freak queen—and I let go. I just let it flow. The characters hijack the page and don’t even look back as they surge on to their futures, leaving me behind, coughing on the dust they leave hanging in their wake.

It’s like being aboard a runaway train. So, what else can I do?

The story’s yours now, gang. Dang, it always has been. I’ll step back. You’re in charge. I’m okay. You just take it from here.

It’s exhilarating, and it’s frustrating. Part of me screams, “I’m the author, damn it! I should be the one in control here!” Yet I feel like I’m not contributing anything at all.

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Well, I do help a little. I take notes. It’s a good thing I can type so fast.

~~~

Claire Gem is an award winning author of contemporary romance, women’s fiction, & supernatural suspense. Her debut supernatural novel, Phantom Traces, is available through Soul Mate Publishing. Check our her other titles at her Website or Amazon Author Page.

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Inside An Author’s Twisted Mind

What inspired me to write in the paranormal genre? That’s an easy one: Because there are fewer rules, and the ones that do exist, usually you’re making up yourself.

I started out writing contemporary romance. I had so many ideas bouncing around in my head, I was a writing fool, starting one book after another, finishing approximately 30% of them. And then, one day, I ran out of ideas. In the real world, you have to follow the constraints of the world in which we live, at least enough to be believable. Dogs do not talk in this world. Magic doesn’t exist in the real world (sorry, guys!). Super hot sexy alpha men cannot shift into dragons in our world (really, really sorry, guys!).

But they do in my made-up world. They can do all kinds of things, so long as the writer ensures it all makes sense, that it works and the dots can be connected in the reader’s mind.

That’s what I set out to do in my Twisted Fate trilogy. Create a world that could make sense, so long as I was able to paint a vivid picture in the readers’ mind of this place, the circumstances, the different aspects of the characters I saw clearly in my own head.

Gavin, the annoyed, reluctant anti-hero. He didn’t ask for any of this, didn’t want it, and in fact was cursed to believe he has to be a good guy. Lucky for those of us who fall for the (really) subtle ways he shows he cares, he reluctantly grows from experiencing a forced sense of obligation to realizing this actually is what he is meant to do with his life.

Sydney, the unexpected heroine. She had no idea this paranormal world existed, and then when her stepbrother Bryan tells her she’s part of it? No way. Nope. Uh-uh. Okay, fine, if it’s true, then by God, she’s going to operate by her own rules. That means not believing everything people are telling her and making decisions for herself. That includes this whole fated mates business Gavin keeps spouting. Given his less-than-charming personality, she really has doubts, even if she’s oddly attracted to the frustrating shifter.

And then there’s Bryan, Sydney’s Fate, who she believed was her stepbrother until Gavin forces him to confide in her their true relationship: That she’s some sort of special, rare shifter, and he’s her protector-slash-mentor. He’s also a 200-pound linebacker-sized dude who prefers dresses to pants and he spouts seriously worthy advice in a rather amusing manner.

A few other characters are introduced as you move into books two and three…

There’s Brandon, a shifter with a chip on his shoulder the size of Mt. Everest. He hates Fates because they let his mother die; he hates Gavin because he killed Brandon’s mother (before he was cursed to believe he’s a good guy), and he really hates his own attraction to Prim, the most sensual and high-maintenance Fate he’s ever met.

Prim is utter perfection. Gorgeous, confident, determined to live out her life on her terms, despite all the horror she’s experienced in her long existence (Fates are immortal). Or so she appears on the outside. Which is good, because on the inside, she’s legit losing it. And now Brandon wants her to use a curse she hasn’t used in over 200 years. Because it’s that easy to flip on the switch—without going insane in the process. Or maybe the insanity is a result of her unorthodox attraction to the man who insists he hates everything about her kind.

In book three you get to meet Lily and Matteo. I can’t tell you much about their respective histories because there are a few spoilers if you haven’t read the first two books. But I can say they are polar opposites, every little thing about them. And Lily, who really, truly shouldn’t, develops a serious crush on Matteo. Who, by the way, happens to be one of the bad guys.

Fall in love with the world I’ve created in the Twisted Fate series … Go ahead, I don’t mind!

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Meet Gavin, Sydney, and the gang HERE!

~Tami

 

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One Way to Beat Writer’s Block

 

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The holidays.
The kids’ homework.
The kids’ recitals.
Deadlines.
Standing in lines.
That fine line before I lose my mind.

I admit it. Words are moving in my brain like slugs through peanut butter these days. It’s all I can do to construct a decent sentence that doesn’t include passive voice. (She was happy. He was sad. This sucks.)

Despite my grand attempts to be any level of creative, I grimace and throw the (crappy) words on the page because hey, you can’t edit a blank page, right? With everything going on this time of year and for the next few weeks, how do we creative types handle when our imaginary friends won’t play with us?

One of my favorite ways to get through writer’s block is to play it out in my head in a Carol Burnett scene. For those of you who are too young to know who that is, she’s only one of the most fabulous comedians of all time. Look her up on YouTube, wait don’t because after an hour (or more) you’ll still be sitting there laughing your head off and getting a whole lot of nothing done.
Call it research.

Seriously, if you watch this skit a few times, you begin to play out your own scenes in your heads. In fact, I’ve felt guilty for leaving my characters in the lurch when life interrupts me, but it’s what we do.

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Patricia W. Fischer is a writer, journalist and trying to get her Christmas shopping done before December 24th.

Her book, Weighting for Mr. Right would make an excellent holiday gift.

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Oh the weather outside is frightful…Or not…

Good morning everybody.

How is the weather in your area? Here in my little town in NW Arkansas it’s pretty nice. In the 70’s. The sun is shining, a warm breeze is blowing the leaves from the trees and across the lawn.

Oh wait, it just changed. Now it’s in the 20’s. The wind is like a knife of ice slicing through my thick hoodie.

I just blinked. Now it’s in the 40’s. A warm jacket will suffice against the chilly winds blowing the gray clouds across the sky.

Typical weather for Arkansas. Blink your eyes and it changes. And boy does it ever!

From sunny and fall like weather to winter winds roaring around the corner of the buildings to freeze your bones.

Don’t get me wrong. I like cooler weather. The way the air turns crisp and the leaves begin to change. It’s a time for hoodies, pretty scarves, and awesome boots.

But no sooner than you snuggle into winter preparation than here comes the shorts weather again. In December!!

December!!

So you break out a few t-shirts and shorts and make plans to go hiking or bike riding for the next day or maybe the weekend.

Finally the day is here. You step outside and WHAM! The icy breeze almost knocks you over.

Dang it!! Not again…

Oh well, go figure.

So however the weather turns out in your area, it is always smart to be prepared for whatever Mother Nature may throw at you.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to stay warm. Or cool?

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Spread the Merry by Beth Carter

As authors, I believe we have an important job–especially over the holidays. We have unique talents that can help others who are stressed, alone, overwhelmed, and downright grouchy during the Christmas season. How can we help when we’re stressed ourselves? By spreading the merry with our words! I adore writing holiday stories and have three published. More about that below. First, following are ways I believe we impact readers during Christmastime:

  • Authors provide an escape from reality.
  • Our books encourage much-needed “me” time after a day of shopping, decorating, or wrapping.
  • Writing holiday stories might encourage others to up their own game at home whether it’s decorating, baking, or finding time for holiday cheer with loved ones.
  • The jolly covers surely put a smile on readers’ faces.
  • As romance authors, we provide a happily ever after (or at least a happily for now), which hopefully, encourages others to get out of bad situations or expect more from themselves and their partners and to never give up on finding a suitable hero or heroine.
  • Our books make timeless Christmas gifts to be enjoyed year after year.

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I’d like to share some of my Christmas covers with you. Last year, I was honored to be included in Soul Mate Publishing’s eight-author holiday anthology, SIZZLE IN THE SNOW. My novelette, SANTA BABY, is about a single mom who is all alone and giving birth on Christmas Eve. In walks a sexy OB/GYN, and well, you’ll just have to read it along with the other authors’ funny, steamy, heartwarming stories! Last year, this anthology was a Top Pick by Night Owl Reviews and was in the top 100 on Amazon in Canada!

 

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My newest release, MIRACLE ON AISLE TWO, is my first novella and recently received a five-star review from UnCaged Book Reviews. I’m over the moon. Here’s the blurb:

Fired two weeks before Christmas, distraught single mom Madison wonders how she’ll afford to pay for her young daughter’s Christmas gifts and still keep a roof over their heads. Sleigh bells and twinkling lights are the last thing on her mind—until a handsome stranger intervenes.

Successful architect Adam Donovan dives into his work by renovating an elaborate hotel after his wife leaves him. He barely notices it’s Christmastime until he overhears a young mother’s tearful plea. Stepping in makes Adam feel like Old Saint Nick himself.

Will Madison and Adam find holiday joy—and possibly love—after discovering Adam’s secret or will it tear them apart?

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Last but definitely not least, we can’t forget the kids! When I was in a warm, sunny climate over the holidays one year, it didn’t feel like Christmas to me. I’m accustomed to snow and cold in December! So, an idea popped into my head and SANTA’S SECRET was born. Here’s the blurb:

It’s Christmas Eve but George is grumpy. His mother tries everything to get him into the holiday spirit. She sings Christmas songs, bakes cookies and decorates the house but George isn’t having it. He’s convinced Santa won’t visit him. That is, until he discovers Santa has a secret. Unable to believe his eyes, George finally gets excited about the magic of the season. This timeless holiday book is for children ages 3-7.

When I glance at the busy calendar, my chest squeezes tighter as I stare at rolls of wrapping paper on my dining room table. I’m sure we can all agree this is a hectic time of year. Be sure to take time for yourself, read a good book, or buy one or two for gifts. In the meantime, take a deep breath, keep writing, and spread the merry!

After decades in corporate America, Beth Carter shed her suits, dreadful 8 o’clock meetings, and heels (mostly!) She now pens multi-award-winning contemporary romance, women’s fiction, and children’s picture books from the comfort of her home or at Starbucks. Find the author’s titles on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/author/bethcarter

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‘Tis the Season by Rebecca Heflin

‘Tis the season . . . for parties and family. Decorating and shopping. Baking and wrapping. Eating, drinking, and being merry. And writing.

Wait, what?

That’s right, I said writing.

With the holiday season upon us, and our Untitled design (7)dance cards filled with social engagements on top of social engagements, we should still make time to write. But how?

So glad you asked. Two words: Time Management

As writers, we are already familiar with squeezing in writing time whenever we can find it­—during the kids’ soccer practice, in the morning before work, during lunch, or, if you take public transportation to your day-job, during the daily commute. It’s amazing how quickly a few words a day can add up. And getting even a few words a day can help alleviate the guilt or frustration when you’re trying to reach your word count goals.

Here are some additional time management tips for the busy holiday season:

  1. Shop online. I do most of my shopping online. The gifts arrive at my door and all I have to do is wrap them. Huge time-saver.
  2. Make lists and prioritize. I love lists. I make lists for everything, especially to-do lists, and I handle the things on my list based on the amount of time I have at hand. If I only have a few minutes to spare, I handle the quick items on the list, like texts or short emails. The items that will take longer to accomplish are set aside for later when I have the time to accomplish them.
  3. Ditch the multitasking. And speaking of accomplishing items on your to-do list. Focus on one task at a time, especially those that take longer. The more focused you are on the task, the faster you can accomplish it and move on to the next one on the list.
  4. Just say no. It’s okay to say no once in a while. Already have two parties on Saturday? Politely decline the third.
  5. Make time for you. I know when your schedule is already jam-packed, taking me-time sounds counter-intuitive, but when you take a little time for yourself, you recharge your batteries, giving you more energy when you rejoin the happy chaos of the holidays.

And in the end, if you can’t squeeze in writing time during the holiday season, don’t beat yourself up about it. Set aside the season to be with friends and family and feel the love. You can always double-down after the New Year and recommit to your goals and deadlines.

Do you have successful time management tips you’d like to share with the class?

Happy Holidays!

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Why do we Torture Ourselves?

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Today, I decided to head back to my exercise routine–pilates reformer.

I had major surgery in August and it took a little longer than I expected to recover.

Several weeks out from the surgery I had moved from recovery to couch potato. The want to move more than necessary kind of crept in and sat there. Basically, I got lazy and the idea of starting all over again, fix my sagging middle, had to be the last thing I wanted to do.

But I promised myself the Monday after Thanksgiving, I would return. To make sure I’d follow through, I told my friend who runs a pilates studio that I would be there today. I even paid for the month of classes I swore I’d take.

Honestly, I looked forward to returning. Pilates reformer is one of my favorite exercises. I get an excellent workout without beating my joints up. Excitement built and as exhausted as I was from the Thanksgiving holidays, I was happy to go.

The first fifteen minutes of the class went well enough, but the class naturally progressed to increasingly difficult movements. Within a few sets, frustration took over. My core was far weaker than I anticipated and my endurance suffered. Suddenly, I hated that I’d started this class. I hated the class. I hated that I ever wanted to be healthy. I hated that I’d gotten off the couch at all.

2017 11 27 10 second pilatesWhy had I put myself through this torture?

So I did what any woman would do when they are overwhelmed and want to scream at everyone in the room. I went to the bathroom and cried for about a minute. Berated myself for falling so out of shape in the first place. For trying to fix something so weak (me) because it wasn’t just the idea of today, but the work involved in getting to my goals–both short and long term.
After my emotional purge, I told myself to go finish the this one class. Just this one.

For sure I would be clumsy and sloppy, but I hadn’t come up here to hide from my crappy attempts. If I honestly thought I’d be in as good of shape as I was before the surgery, I’d only lied to myself.

I knew full well why I came up here. Simply, to start over. To work on a new project (me) and I knew it wouldn’t be easy.

And I did just that. I finished the class and by the time I was done. I felt better. I felt slightly empowered and I knew I’d begun a new journey to repair my body and my health. I’ve signed up for Thursday’s class and I’m looking forward to returning.

What does any of this have to do with writing? Everything, my friends. Everything.
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We all do this. Build the excitement of a new project, tell our friends, make ourselves accountable through deadlines. We begin the project with excitement, knowing that there will be roadblocks and distractions, but we can do this because we really do have our act together.

Initially, the words might flow freely. Getting the first meeting of our heroine and hero to the page. Again, it might be sloppy, even clumsy, but we get them there.

Then reality sets in. We get to the part of the book and wonder why we ever thought we could write anything remotely close to this. We doubt ourselves, maybe even curse ourselves for reaching so high, especially when we get to that sagging middle.

And yet, when we’re done with that first draft (or tenth), we smile and congratulate ourselves. We know why we do this self-inflicted torture. It’s who we are. We’re writers. 2017 11 27 RomanceWritersActuallyDo

Then edits start and we begin again. Maybe not all over with a blank canvas, but we throw ourselves right back into the mix, only to go through the same process over and over again until that story that’s been nagging us comes to life.

Self-doubt is a constant companion and frustration is a close second, but those of us who have published works have pushed through those roadblocks either through sheer determination or defiance.

Just like exercise, there’s not a one size fits all formula, but the point is show up. Keep going. Push through the frustration and anger and fear of it all. You can’t edit a blank page any more than you can build muscles sitting on your butt at home.

With NaNoWriMo finishing up, it’s important for all of us to remember we do this because something inside of us says, “tell that story.”

The creative torture pays off in the end.

Happy writing.

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Soulmate writer, Patricia W. Fischer, is the host of Readers Entertainment Radio and has a monthly book picks segment on San Antonio Living. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Her books are available at Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble.

 

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