What I learned at RWA this year

San Diego ViewIt’s August (for one more day), the traditional time for back to school. One of my memories from the first month of school is the “what I did on my summer vacation” essay. So this is my attempt at recreating that experience.

This summer I attended my second RWA (Romance Writers of America) conference. This year it was in San Diego, California. Last year, I skidded into New York the day before the conference. This year, I went for a week and attended a few extra, smaller, conferences. For those who have never been, or wonder what on earth writers do at a conference, I’ll just summarize it by saying that I came home with my brain as full as my book bag. Here are a few highlights.

  1. I love San Diego. I’m from Arkansas. July is miserable at home. The weather in San Diego made me cry for all the right reasons.
  2. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. (Thank you, Grace Burrowes.)
  3. I have wonderful taste in friends. Last year, my first conference, I knew very few people. This year, my best memories involve reuniting with friends from last year and finally meeting people I’d only met online. (Yes, Inklings and Sisterhood of Suspense, I’m talking about you.)
  4. My critique partner, Carrie Nichols, is a superstar. Seriously. She knows everyone and doesn’t mind introducing me. Not only that, but she can now add a Golden Heart to her list of awards.
  5. Romance writers are an amazing group. Funny, smart, encouraging, and self-effacing. They don’t mind sharing what they do well.
  6. I laughed more in that week than I had since January. Yes, Beverly Jenkins is really that funny, but so is Sherry Thomas, and so are so many other authors (on so many different subjects).
  7. I was really glad to come home. I am an introvert. I can fake extroversion for short periods of time. Apparently about a week.

There are lots more things I could list, but this post is already late. Here’s what I’ll leave you with: If you’re a new author who’s never been to a conference and is terrified to go, don’t be. It will change you in great big, confidence-boosting, ways.

And, if you’re not a writer, or a romance writer, take a minute to talk to a few before you make a blanket observation about us or our chosen genre. You might just be surprised at who you find behind those delicious covers.

Mia KayMia 

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Posted in Happy Days With Mia, Inspiration, Motivation, Networking, Writing career | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

What Fascinates?

Tea CUPIt was, of course, a hot August day when I worked my sweaty fingers over the keyboard to get ideas down for this blog post. My brain felt as waterlogged as the day’s humid air. Dew points aside, and no cool weather front expected for days, I decided to write about nothing.

Writing about nothing lasted as long as it took to type this sentence. Why? Because that devilish imagination of mine popped up with, “You always have something to write about. You’re always fascinated by things.” That led to the question of what fascinates me?

Since I’m a “lister” (one who makes lists), I began to type and ended up with more than three pages, in a two-column format on my computer screen. In other words, lots of things interest me. My list began with subjects and the top subjects and their lists were:

— Space, as in: aviation, astronauts, stars, our solar system, planets, moon, and all things outer space, deep space— plus the technology to get us to the stars and beyond

— Earth, as in: geology, archeology, ancient civilizations, modern technology, oceanography, biology, chemistry.

— Faith, as in: religions, myths, gods, angels, and legends

— History, as in: all things medieval, Roman, Russian, Mayan, Renaissance Italian, and ancient to modern Britain.

When I finally paused and reread my list, it occurred to me that I should make the “Faith” entry part of the Space entry. After all, where else do gods and angels live? And where else does one find a multitude of legends spangling starry constellations across the heavenly voids?

By the time this blog entry is posted, the weather certainly will have changed. August’s Dog Days will have waned, giving over to September, Labor Day cookouts and BBQs, and the kids going back to school. The days shortening, cooler nights, and Autumn in the air. Autumn fascinates and astounds me with the brilliant foliage and a world of russet and orange, pumpkins and pie, and Halloween.

So, what fascinates you?

Catherine

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What’s in a Name?

Romeo 1What’s in a name? Shakespeare asked that question, and I have to admit, before I became a writer, I hadn’t thought much about what people were called. Now, I collect names that I can use in my writing! After all, the names we choose can tell our readers a great deal about our characters: who they are, where they live, who is most important, or how they’re perceived by others.

Let’s face it, you’d find it harder to make a character with an ordinary name like John into a hero. Oh, there’s no doubt it can be done, but everything else about him would need to be extraordinary. We perceive names as being romantic, or not, according to trends. Look at popular girl’s names in 2016 (Emma, Olivia, Ava) and you’ll discover they are a far cry from names popular in the eighteenth century. When was the last time you were introduced to a Bathsheba, Honora, or Lucretia?                                   Romeo 3

Of course, names also tell the reader where your book is set. You’d better have a darn good reason for giving your hero a name that doesn’t fit the area. In my first book, Love’s Guardian, set in England, my hero was named Declan Deveraux. (This was a ‘hat’s off’ to Jude DeverauxJ who wrote my favorite time- travel romance, ‘A Knight in Shining Armor.’) I gave my hero roots in France, and his mother was Irish, where ‘Declan’ is a fairly common name. So it can be done.

name 3 The British, however, took aristocratic names to an art form. Because of all the titles, names can become very confusing. In my first book, Lord Worthington was referred to as ‘Worthington’ by his male friends, Lord Worthington by polite society and Declan by the heroine or his immediate family.

And a good Brit would hesitate to shorten any name without permission, unlike most Americans. I once had a boss who insisted on shortening Dawn to ‘D.’ I, personally, think Dawn is short enough.

Although, the British did sometimes give nicknames to people in their immediate circle. Nicknames are wonderful because they can show a familiarity between two characters, or they can show the disdain one individual has for another. Use them to say something about the characters and their relationships.

Then again, some characters name their body parts, but I think I’ll save that discussion for another day.                                               Highland Yearning _505x825

My latest release shows the importance we attribute to names. In Highland Yearning, my hero hates Sutherlands, so he’s trying to stop his brother from marrying one of the despicable clan. Too bad he unexpectedly discovers a woman who tests his resolve. Ariel Sutherland may well change his mind about ‘what’s in a name.’

Okay, you readers and writers. In the books you’ve read, what are your favorite hero and heroine names?

Posted in Dawn's Offering, Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

SPACIOUS SPACES

Spacious Spaces by Historical Romance Author & Artist Gail Ingis

I was fortunate to be a blogging guest for Susan Hanniford Crowley, of Nights of Passion. Susan gave me permission to reblog my post.

MCP Gail Ingis-3 Color Large Revised

Today I am writing about the real tale of Rork and Leila, and also of spaces built and used by artists. As an artist myself, I know spacious spaces are prized—like lofts and two-story high areas—where we can paint massive canvases.

Tenth Street Studio image

“The Tenth Street Studio, 51 West 10th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in New York City, on the island of Manhattan, was designed by Richard Morris Hunt, and built for artists to have high-ceiling spacious spaces to create their art.

“The story goes–I discovered an amazing work of art where I curate art, Lockwood-Bierstadts studio 10th streetMathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk, Connecticut, a huge painting, Domes of Yosemite, that once hung in the rotunda of the mansion, commissioned by Mr. Lockwood, was painted by Albert Bierstadt in this Tenth Street Studio, a place of importance in my book, INDIGO SKY. This is actually where Albert (Rork) Bierstadt first met Rosalie (Leila) Osborn Ludlow when she and her husband, Fitz Hugh Ludlow, visited the studios for the first time. It was here they viewed Bierstadt’s work. Ludlow was impressed with Bierstadt’s work and wrote several articles in Harper’s, Atlantic monthly, and Frank Leslie’s Weekly, spreading the word of his talent and his art.  Ludlow and Bierstadt developed a relationship that brought them together often and united them as they traveled to Yosemite. Plan was for Bierstadt to sketch while Ludlow journaled. At some point within a four-year period, Bierstadt became enamored with Rosalie. A romance ensued, followed by a divorce from Ludlow, then a marriage to Bierstadt. I was shocked, (Did those things happen back then?) by the entire goings on, and had to write a book, I had to tell the story. Although INDIGO SKY is fiction, it is a historic romantic adventure, inspired by Bierstadt’s Domes of Yosemite, and his life.

Bierstadts studio 2“Brief history about this place: The Tenth Street Studio Building, constructed in New York City in 1857, was the first modern facility designed solely to serve the needs of artists. It became the center of the New York art world for the remainder of the nineteenth century.

“The building helped to make Greenwich Village central to the arts in New York City, drawing artists from all over the country to work, exhibit, and sell their art. These studios were occupied by Winslow Homer and many artists of the Hudson River School, including Frederic Church, Lockwood de Forest and Albert Bierstadt.

“In 1920, in order to forestall a commercial takeover, the building was purchased by a group of artists. From that time forward, a number of New York City artists rented studio space in the building. Hats off to artists that are always on hand to save broken down architectural beauties.

“In 1942 the building’s basement became the meeting place for the Bombshell Artists Group, an alliance of 60 modernist painters and sculptors, many who had studios in the building. Its long history dates from 1857 to 1956, when it was razed to make way for an apartment building. In 2010, a penthouse apartment in the newly constructed apartment building at 45 West 10th Street was purchased by the actress, Julia Roberts.”

Courtesy of Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenth_Street_Studio_Building

INDIGO SKY AMAZON REVIEW BY SUMMER LEA, 5-STAR:

VICTORIAN AMERICA COMES ALIVE THROUGH AUTHOR’S VIVID WRITING

INDIGO SKY is the poignant tale of a spirited young married woman, Leila, who faces a difficult decision:  live constrained by the rules and expectations of her Victorian society, or follow her heart to happiness.  Her husband (a drug addict) has betrayed her; her waspish mother seeks to dominate her; and the only person who truly makes her feel alive is forbidden territory: Rork Millburn, the handsome artist who heroically saves her life. I felt deeply for Leila’s desperate plight, and I cheered for her courageous determination to live as a free spirit in an age when female non-conformists were cruelly shunned by society — or brutally repressed by their disapproving relatives.

Like the hero in this story, the author, Gail Ingis, is an artist, making her a connoisseur of visual detail.  Throughout INDIGO SKY, she literally paints with words.  For instance, the Catskill Mountains come alive in all their breathtaking glory through Ingis’s gift of vivid verbal description. If you enjoy immersing yourself in historical detail, you will thoroughly enjoy Ingis’s writing.

Back Cover:

indigoSky-Soulmate 505_505x825 (2)In a whirlwind romance, a lovely New York socialite marries a fêted, debonair author. But beneath the charm is a cheating husband addicted to hasheesh. Her dream marriage turns sour and the simplicity of her life runs amok when a handsome stranger, her husband’s business partner, threatens her staunch loyalty to her wayward husband. When she faces the ugly truth about her marriage, her need to finalize her divorce sends her on mad chase across the wilds of nineteenth century America with a handsome stranger—she learns hard lessons of murder, kidnapping and more that almost destroy her.

Webpage with sign up and art & author websites: http://www.gailingis.com

Amazon Author Page with updates and trailer: http://amzn.to/1K4GVQA

Amazon Buy Link: http://amzn.to/29NYE5w

graphics3Formats

INDIGO SKY IS AN E-Book, and Print Book now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. AudioBook coming shortly.
Find Gail with these links:

indigoSky-Soulmate 505_505x825 (2)  INDIGO SKY | “A Triumphant Tale of Courage.” Get this one!” 5-Star

Gail Ingis, Author and Visual Artist | gailingisclaus@gmail.com | Website | Artist Page | Amazon | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter | Trailer | B&N

Amazon Author Page:  http://amzn.to/1K4GVQA

Amazon Buy Link: http://amzn.to/29NYE5w

Artist Page:     http://artist.gailingis.com/blog/

Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/2aBfjvQ

Facebook:       https://www.facebook.com/gail.ingis

Goodreads:     http://bit.ly/29Pem1S

Trailer:            http://bit.ly/29xUJ1H

Twitter:           http://twitter.com/gailingis

Website:         http://www.gailingis.com

Do you want to meet Gail? This is a wonderful art reception and booksigning invitation! Here’s your chance!

Cyclone, Oh What a Ride 12x24 Oil

Cyclone, Oh What a Ride 12×24 Oil

Gail Ingis is exhibiting 38 works of Coney Island, Thursday, September 8th 5:30-7:30pm. You are invited to her art bash at Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum. 295 West Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06850, 203-838-9799 extension 4 to RSVP. A ten dollar donation is requested. Live band, refreshments and a dance demo are included in the donation.

The exhibition will be up until September 30th.

Thank you Gail, for gracing the pages of Nights of Passion. Remember, everyone, this is an event you don’t want to miss!

-Susan
Susan Hanniford Crowley, Amazon Kindle Bestselling Author of Vampire Romance
www.susanhannifordcrowley.com
Where love burns eternal and whispers in the dark.

Posted in Soul Mate Publishing | 2 Comments

Using What the Microsoft Gods Have Given You

CreativityOne of my favorite writing-related activities has to be creating promo memes for my books. It’s a wonderful way to jump-start the creativity when it’s slowed to a stutter or ground to a halt. The very act of creating something fun, informative, and useful always revs my brain and gets me back on track.

And the beauty of it is … you don’t need expensive software to create an attractive, share-worthy meme. All you need is what’s right there in your Microsoft Office suite … namely Powerpoint. Not as fancy as Publisher or other creative software, it gets the job done just as easily with equally beautiful results.

Earlier this year, I put together an ad for The Romance Writer’s Report (RWR) entirely in Powerpoint. The ad/graphics turned out great, both on the computer and in print. I’ve done the same for ads in online e-Mags with excellent results.

The first step in the process is the most important. Most magazines, either online or print, require the materials to be at least 300 dpi (aka dots per inch). The standard dpi output for Powerpoint is 96. Nowhere near what you need for a quality product. There are other programs on your computer that can change the dpi of a finished meme/ad. However, while skewing the output, they can also skew the image making it fuzzy and unusable. Your safest bet is to manually change your computer’s dpi settings.

The thought of messing with any of the standard settings on my computer scared the crap out of me so I went to my favorite source for step-by-step video instructions, namely Youtube!

Here is what you need to do in order to change your output:

  1. Exit all Windows-based programs.
  2. Click Start, and then click Run.
  3. In the Open box, type regedit, and then click OK.
  4. Locate one of the following registry subkeys, depending on the version of PowerPoint that you’re using:

Instruction MemeFor PowerPoint 2013 under the “office” folder, choose 15.0\PowerPoint\Options

For PowerPoint 2010 under the “office” folder, choose 14.0\PowerPoint\Options

For PowerPoint2007 under the “office” folder, choose 12.0 \PowerPoint\Options

For PowerPoint2003 under the “office” folder, choose 11.0 \PowerPoint\Options

  1. Click the Options subkey, point to New on the Edit menu, and then click DWORD Value.
  2. Type ExportBitmapResolution, and then press Enter.
  3. Make sure that ExportBitmapResolution is selected, and then click Modify on the Edit menu.
  4. In the Edit DWORD Value dialog box, click Decimal.
  5. In the Value databox, type 300.
  6. Click OK.
  7. On the File menu, click Exit to exit Registry Editor.

You are now ready to go to Powerpoint to create your meme or ad as you would any other presentation. Once created, you want to save as a picture (.jpeg, .tif, .gif, .png). You will be prompted to save entire folder or “this slide only”. My recommendation is that you create no more than one slide at a time, so “this slide only” will be your default. You’ll also want to save your worksheet in the event you want to go back later and make changes (e.g., add buy links once they’re available) and use to create a new/updated meme.

Cover Reveal MemeI often create memes to advertise upcoming books either before I have my cover, or in lieu of a cover reveal. Such is the case with my Egyptian-inspired time travel, Eye of the Pharaoh coming out on October 19th from Soul Mate Publishing.

Prior to my upcoming September 15th, cover reveal, I’ve created three different memes using aspects from both the cover and the text which I happily spread across my social media. I even created this teaser meme to recruit bloggers/authors to assist with the cover reveal.

I guess it’s obvious by now that I love creating memes!

One of the other reasons I stick to Powerpoint for these promotional memes is time management. I’ve had the fancy programs before and, quite truthfully, they’re fun to play with. So much so, I often find myself reluctant to leave. With Powerpoint, it’s easy to get in and get out without the urge to dawdle.

I hope this post has given you some ideas for creating your own promotional materials. If you have any specific questions, please either post them below or feel free to contact me directly at romwriter96@gmail.com.

Until my next stint on the SMP Blog, writers keep writing. Readers keep reading…you are why we do what we do!

Nancy

Posted in Soul Mate Publishing | 7 Comments

Singing the Literary Songs – Elle Hill

computer musicA week ago, I completed a poetry half-marathon. A full marathon asked poor, abused poets to pen a poem an hour for twenty-four hours. Wimps like me who appreciate a comfy night’s sleep could opt for a half-marathon, which demanded one poem an hour for only twelve hours. So, by the end of my stint, I became the proud mama of twelve poem babies.

Since then, I have become a poetry fiend. I pen quick limericks in elevators, wax poetic in blog posts, jot down freestyle verse during lunch. Heck, during a series of endless meetings last week, I wrote pages of poetry bemoaning the uncomfortable, molded-plastic, stadium seating into which the administrators had shoved us poor instructors.

Here’s a haiku I wrote while shifting every five minutes in order to restore circulation to my legs.

Metal-toothed plastic 
Bites my ample derriere.
Classroom seating sucks.

In addition to actually writing more lately, I’ve also found myself pondering the musicality of poetry and, by extension, prose. How do I know when a line or sentence should end? What blend of long and short sounds feels best? How can words, lines, paragraphs and stanzas shape the structure, use, and rhythm of the message?

I’m sure technical words exist to explain the flow, beat, and meter of poetry and prose. I don’t have a lot of formal training in writing and lack access to that vocabulary. All I can say is that poems and scenes in novels have a tempo to them, and words are the written notes that beat it out. I feel the music of the piece, the longs and the shorts, the tense staccatos or the flowing legatos. In this way, poems are songs and novels symphonies.

Writing appeals to me because it so deftly straddles lines between structure and rules and sheer, off-the-cuff inspiration and artistry. Many rules exist about, for example, punctuation, capitalization, and object/subject use, but much of the beauty of writing lies in the spaces in between the rules where creativity, rhythm, tactility, and improvisation live.

Many of us who write, I’m sure, also draw, paint, bake, sing, craft, or play a musical instrument. As writers, we are technical geniuses (claim it, baby!), wielding our vocabularies, knowledge of sentence structure, and punctuation savvy. As a mere twelve hours of coffee-slurping and keyboard pounding reminded me, however, we are also magnificent artists that spin, paint, sing, and dance the music and imagery to life within those technical boundaries. 

Posted in Excerpts from Elle!, Soul Mate Publishing | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

A Critique Group, an Author’s Best Friend

The best and most rewarding way to improve your manuscript is to become part of a critique group. I wish I’d heeded this advice or even knew such a thing existed when I first started writing my labors of love. I didn’t have this crucial support and my writing suffered for it. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was stumbling in the dark blindfolded. Oh, yes, I had editors of all shapes and sizes, but even an array of professional editors can’t match the feedback you receive when a true book lover, reader and fellow author takes 20-25 pages of your latest and greatest and reads it with a discerning eye. Nothing compares to it.

In the past, I’d tried a few friends out as beta readers, but let’s face it, a professional writer sees the flaws in a Nano-second, whereas your friends and family aren’t trained to see the flaws. Not to mention that they love you, and often as not, laud your efforts no matter what you put on the page. As they say no pain, no gain.

When you have good critique partners you get the right kind of feedback. The discerning eye will see errors in content, plot, direction, pacing, likability of your characters, POV, choppiness, info-dump, dull dialogue, and too much back story. Those errors stick out like thorns on a rose bush to someone who writes on a daily basis. Where they may not see the problems in their own work, they sure as hell see them in yours. An unbiased reader isn’t in love with your words the way you are. The result is, hopefully, a better book that flows and builds steadily to a climax, leaving the reader wanting more. A story that is easy to understand, one that a reader can relate to and lose themselves in. A book that entertains by driving the events forward with action and becoming what we all seek, a real page turner.

Prior to my finding my small cadre of critique partners my experience was one of working in a vacuum without that all important feedback. I was adamant that I would be losing precious writing time if I began to socially interact with other writers. However, when I met Cherry Adair at the RT Booklovers Convention in Dallas, she took me to church. I’d signed up for a two-day writing workshop with Cherry prior to the convention’s start. One of the secrets she shared, was that she was a participant of a writer’s group in Seattle in which they read each other’s work and critiqued each other’s work. It dawned on me that if a New York Times bestselling author considered a writing critique group to be important, then I was definitely missing the boat. I made up my mind to find a similar group in Los Angeles.

After years of struggling in a void, I finally joined my local RWA group LARA. There I met numerous authors, some published and others striving to publish. At the meetings, I met both PRO and PAN members who were on the same path as me. It was an eye-opening experience. Soon I was shepherded by my fellow Soul Mate published author Susan J. Berger writing as Susan B. James, into an exploratory get-together of authors seeking to form critique groups. I wanted to be part of Susan’s group due to the fact that I admired her brilliance and her writing. Happily, that is exactly what happened. We ended up being three authors who all write in different genres, which makes our critiques very interesting. We made a commitment to meet once a month and critique each other’s current WIP. We decided 20-25 pages would be a doable commitment, and so it began. Since then we’ve added another member to our small cabal of authors, who lucky for us, is also an editor. You might think that 20-25 pages is not much to come up with every three weeks (we now meet every three weeks) but it’s surprising how successful the formula is. During our 3-4 hour meet-up, each member goes over with a fine toothed comb the other author’s work. We take the time from our busy writing schedules and our hectic lives to critique and encourage. It is incredibly helpful. I, myself, have had to rewrite the beginning of my next novel based on the feedback. What I thought was perfect was far from it. After the meeting, we email the pages with the corrections to each other and then the really hard work begins. I spent 20 hours addressing the questions, suggestions, and input that resulted from our latest meeting. What emerged was a much more cogent, entertaining, provoking, and interesting read. My generous friend/authors even take the time to read over the changes and provide feedback a second time. I am grateful for my fellow authors time and efforts in making my manuscript better in every aspect and I know they too are grateful for the time and effort I give their work.

Take my advice and find yourself a group of talented authors on this difficult journey of authorship. Help each other, improve your skills, and hone your talent. Your generosity of spirit and encouragement won’t go unappreciated or without benefit. You won’t regret the input or the friendship that results.

ONE MORE TIME IS NOT ENOUGH (3)

Romantic/Suspenseful/Sexy

 

Posted in Soul Mate Publishing | 11 Comments